Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer makes life worth living

Sunshine makes me happy. Hula hooping makes me happy. Happy day!

Peasant blouse, New Look (last year); Shorts, made to measure in Thailand; Sandals, Marks & Spencer; Bakelite & plastic bangles, various; 1950s hairslide, gift from mother.

Also, anyone near Ealing wants to come along to hula hooping with my lovely instructor Kim it's at Gold's Gym in Hanwell, 1:30pm on a Wednesday. You have to be a gym member, but if you don't want to join I can get a "guest pass" for £15 which is for the whole day, so you can use the sauna, jacuzzi etc. Kim also sells the hoops for £15 each.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Vintage for a Cause

Vintage Shopping – Fashion & Styling Advice – Music from the Three Belles

Love to put a fabulous retro look together but unsure where to start? Then come to Mary's Living & Giving Shop at Primrose Hill this Thursday 31st May, 6pm-9pm, to hear Naomi Thompson, vintage stylist and shopping specialist talk about all things vintage. Naomi will be reading from her new book "Style Me Vintage" which is packed full of fantastic tips. She will explain what to look for when shopping vintage, when to part with your cash and most importantly what to avoid. In addition to signing copies of the book on the evening itself, Naomi and her trusted cover girl, Jennifer Siggs, will be on hand to answer your personal questions - anything from how to buy and date vintage to figuring out the best era for your body shape. No need to book an appointment for a one-to-one session with Naomi or Jennifer, just come along on the evening and pop your name down on the list (first come first served basis).

The sensational 1940s inspired trio The Three Belles will provide live music whilst you shop pieces that have been donated by some of the most coveted vintage stores in London as well as vintage inspired pieces from an A to Z of designers, Allegra Hicks to Zandra Rhodes. Enter the raffle and be in with the chance of winning fabulous prizes including a Tuppence Ha'penny upcycled record bag.

We are expecting a big turn out and are offering VIP QUEUE JUMP entry to anybody bringing a vintage donation. Any donations donated before the evening will also be hugely appreciated.

Whether you want to buy a glamourous frock, learn how to add vintage pieces into your everyday look, or just help support a good cause, this is an event not to be missed. Rumour has it that Naomi will also be donating a few personal pieces from her wardrobe so you never know, you may even find that special something you've been searching for!

Prices: items starting from £10

100% of proceeds from the evening will go to Save the Children.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

So I got a haircut

Those who follow me on facebook and twitter already had a sneak preview, but this weekend a bunch of us headed over to Shona's for a group session with our lovely hairdresser Wendy. After much debate, I decided to take the plunge and go for a much shorter style - quite an adventure after having long hair most of my life (the only time I've had it anywhere like this short was when I was about 11, and I quickly let it grow back out that time).

And the day after...

What do you think? My mother and sister say it makes me look younger. Either way, I'm delighted with it - it's perfect for styling 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s (when Wendy first blowdried it, she gave it a fabulous Jackie Kennedy bouffant - so much fun!). I've been trying out different hats with this new length too.

Now I just need to learn how to style it properly with rollers and things. I've never really been able to do pincurls easily because it's so thick and I'm unskilled, but at this length I might actually be able to manage it - watch this space!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Ballroom Belles Tea Dress

I thought I'd keep the sewing technicalities of this dress separate from my post earlier today on the 1940s Relived event at Brooklands, where it got its debut.

Pattern: Hollywood 1552 from 1939 or 1940, the same as I used for my Big Apple dress.

Fabric: One of my own fabric repros, Ballroom Belles, which was based on photos I took of an original 1940s tea dress. It's available through spoonflower; I got it printed on cotton poplin but it would be lovely on their silk crepe-de-chine or silk-cotton blend fabric.

Notions: Vintage metal zip, amazing vintage buttons (probably dating from around the same time as the pattern, and I had a set of three so it was obviously meant to be), vintage plastic buckle, bias binding (also vintage, as it happens!).

Techniques: Bound buttonholes - I don't have a buttonhole attachment for my vintage Singer so I thought I might as well try bound buttonholes as the pattern directed. They're not going to win any awards, but I don't think they're too bad for a first attempt.

Alterations: Because the original pattern is in quite a large size, I had made significant alterations in its first incarnation, the Big Apple Dress, so I transferred those adjustments to a traced version of the pattern and used that. I used the alternate sleeves on this version, except I gathered instead of darting the sleeve cap because I like the look; I also made a little tuck in the hem of the sleeves to make them closer fitting to the arm and accentuate the puffed shape (sorry I haven't got a close-up photo, but you can just about see the effect, especially in the top pic).

Make again? For sure - I love this pattern and I'll definitely revisit it again (in fact my sailor dress will use the same pattern, with an altered bodice).

Brooklands 1940s Relived

A week ago last Saturday Daddy, the chap and I joined other 1940s enthusiasts at Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey. Brooklands was the first purpose-built motor racing circuit in the country, laid out in 1907. The site was given over to aircraft production during both world wars, and it's this wartime significance which inspired the 1940s Relived event. I hooked up with Charly, who made her dress - it was her first sewing poject, and she did a great job!

Photo from Incendiary Blonde

I really enjoyed the event. It was like a smaller-scale Goodwood Revival, but feels truly authentic thanks to the site's history; the filling station is the real deal, and there's even an actual pillbox and air raid shelter which were opened to the public exclusively for the event. It was great that so many people also got into the spirit and dressed up in 40s gear - encouraged by the 20% discount on the £10 entry fee.

Photo from Incendiary Blonde

The museum holds planes, bombs and memorabilia from Brooklands' time as a factory. We were especially fascinated by this Wellington bomber. It was built at Brooklands and took part in bombing raids on Germany, but later crashed into Loch Ness after developing engine trouble on a training flight (all the crew got out, though the rear gunner was killed when his parachute failed to open). In 1985 a team of Loch Ness Monster hunters found the plane, and it was recovered and returned to its birthplace at Brooklands.

Photo from Incendiary Blonde

And yes, I persuaded the chap to get retro'd up - doesn't he look handsome?

Outfit details: Ballroom Belles tea dress, made by me; Record hat, made by me; Record bag, made by me; Gloves, vintage fair; Shoes, purchased in Thailand.

The event has already been confirmed for next year, so put the 18th of May 2013 in your diary!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Get the Look: Coronation Year

Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne in February 1952 upon the death of her father King George VI. She wasn't actually officially crowned until June the following year, so this summer's Jubilee celebrations combine the year of her accession with the date of her coronation. So if you're looking to put together your jubilee outfit, here's some inspiration from 1952-53 (with a bonus pic of the Queen from '54).

The early 50s look - especially in Britain - is not, as most people suppose, one of circle skirts and layers of froufrou tulle petticoats (Vivien of Holloway is not an early 50s style). Though Dior's New Look had by then caught on, ongoing fabric rationing meant that vast skirts were impractical for many; skirts on early 50s day dresses mainly took on a full A-line or straight, slender shape, hanging somewhere around mid-calf.


The classic shirtwaist was big news - single breasted, double breasted, small buttons, big buttons or zip-front - and available in just about any fabric you can think of. Oversize collars were quite the thing.



Period-correct sleeve styles include cap, sleeveless, short sleeve and halterneck (though less common in daywear; the halterneck is usually reserved for beachwear).


Sheer fabrics were popular, from the cotton voiles below to diaphonous printed nylons.


Novelty detailing was a la mode, like the two-tone polka dot dress below. Accessories are also key: It was also common for a dress to come with a matching jacket or bolero. Hats tend to be close-fitting to the head, either brimless Juliet caps or wide-brimmed sunhats. And naturally, don't forget your dainty day gloves.


Sheer yokes were popular at the time (often with a prim Peter Pan collar), but this crochet net style is interesting. Also love the dress with matching mini cape.


There was a lot of variety in novelty fabrics in the early 50s. Textured cottons and whimsical prints were popular, and early synthetics (polyester was just starting to become available, but wouldn't have been common in 1952) were gaining ground, popular with a postwar generation eager to embrace the new, the modern, the scientific.


Lastly, here's dear old Queenie herself, photographed in Australia in 1954 wearing this delightfully chic pastel (or white - can't tell in b/w!) ensemble - a simple short sleeved, square necked pencil dress with lace overlay and skinny belt. Loving the long gloves and neatly furled parasol.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

{Sponsor Spotlight} Be Unique Jewellery

Please welcome my newest sponsor, Be Unique Jewellery. Sarah creates adorable jewellery inspired by vintage Britannia. Think bunting flags, prints, teacups and teapots, 50s style, rockabilly designs and much more! I'll hand over to Sarah and she can tell you more about her business in her own words.

Hi there, I'm Sarah and I love creating vintage-inspired jewellery pieces. I studied Fine art throughout my education and have always loved being creative. I opened my shop almost 2 years ago, targeting the lovers of retro, vintage and unique, offbeat fashion.

Back when I found my love for the 50s there was very little on the market for a woman of my unique taste (short of trekking into Camden Market at any given opportunity), so I decided to create my own jewellery designs inspired by vintage fashion. This quickly became an addictive hobby for me and I soon found pearls, swallows and vintage beaded earrings and necklaces spilling out of my jewellery box.

I soon found that others loved my work too! I was approached by a work colleague who requested that I make a custom made necklace for her and I remember it well: A filigree heart locket with freshwater pearls and a silver swallow. This prompted me to start my Etsy shop, and Be Unique Jewellery was born.

Currently I am working on a new collection "Gallery Glamour" in my Etsy store. These designs are all hand drawn by me with ink on shrink plastic and brought to life with silver chains, beautiful beads and more! The idea behind "Gallery Glamour" is the combination of my love for art, vintage and jewellery design, all in one unique little piece that you can wear whenever and wherever. Because they are individually hand drawn, each item is unique.

My favourite piece in my collection by far is my floral teapot and teacup necklace, inspired by Cath Kidston and Great British picnics! I love the vintage style teacup and pot and adore how beautifully the pattern comes out after it's baked and varnished.

My most popular item is the bunting flag necklace which was inspired by the upcoming Jubilee and vintage Britain. It features 4 bunting flags decorated with gingham, candy stripes, polka dots (of course) and the Union jack which has been decorated in a unique and vintage style.

Why not take a gander at my collection on Etsy and let me know your thoughts. I enjoy creating custom pieces and would love to hear if you have any design ideas that you would like to see me bring to life.

You can find me via:
Twitter: @BeUniqueJewels
Google Plus:
and follow our blog:

I will also be exhibiting at The Boileroom Vintage Clothing and Accessories Fair on June 16th at the Boileroom, Guildford. You’re all invited, so come along and say Hi.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Fruit Salad Sundress

The tea dress I was working on (post to follow) is a somewhat labour-intensive pattern and I wanted some quick gratification, so I checked my sewing list and started work on this sundress before finishing my previous project. I'd had the material in my stash since my last trip to Thailand, and the pattern about as long. I bought the pattern because it's similar to one of my favourite vintage dresses - the look of a shirtwaist without the bother of buttonholes!

We've just got back from a long weekend camping in Devon - we stopped off in Exeter on the way back yesterday; my sister is moving there in the summer and had some house viewings arranged. The sunshine was perfectly glorious - first actual hot day of the year - and I had an enjoyable mosey around Exeter, discovered the local vintage clothing shops, bought a 1940s straw sun hat for £15 (yay!).

I'm painfully aware that I'm a bit fat at the moment - need to be more disciplined about going to the gym and eating less cake (by the way I'm not saying this so that people tell me I'm not, but rather to somehow excuse my not-so-slender frame, by way of saying "this isn't the real me". Although in my head the "real me" is about 8 1/2 stone, while realistically I'm unlikely ever to attain that!).

Fabric: Cotton fabric purchased in Thailand. 3 metres at something like £4 per metre.

Pattern: Butterick 6431, 1953 (coronation year!).

Alterations: I replaced the four-gore skirt with a full circle for extra swish. The bodice I made exactly to the pattern except to add 1/2" to the lower edge of the front piece (graded up to the sides so the seam would match up with the back piece), because boobage always raises the front waistline slightly.

Make again? Yes! It's such an easy pattern and I really like the fit. I want to make one in red and white candy stripe (perfect for the jubilee weekend!), and one in my clotheshanger chevron repro fabric.

Dress, made by me from a 1953 pattern; Record handbag, similar available in my etsy shop; Shoes, purchased in Thailand (most comfortable shoes ever!). I should have been wearing bangles and done something more with my hair, but I didn't pack bangles or hairspray: glamping fail.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

{Style Inspiration} Early 40s Lingerie

This week's Sunday inspiration is all about underthings! I'll take one of each, please.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Personal Matter: Toothpaste

Following up from my underarm freshness post and continuing my "unglamorous ads" series, I bring you a brief history of toothpaste advertising!

Jewsbury & Brown's Oriental Tooth Powder, 1913

Maclean's, 1938

Phillips, 1942

Solidox, 1943

Pepsodent, 1945

Kolynos, 1947

After the war Kolynos reverted to their pre-war "spotlight on charm" advertising theme, but during the war they replaced this slogan with "spotlight on service", featuring women in war work - I'll share those ads in a separate post.

Gibbs, 1948

I imagine this was part of a series, but only this one example crops up in my magazine collection.

Odol, 1948

Pepsodent, 1948

Colgate, 1949

Colgate, 1950

Pepsodent, 1951

Pepsodent, 1952

Colgate, 1952

I think this one's hilarious!


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