Sunday, 30 March 2014

Summer- The Lock Cottage

We spend our summer in vintage heaven- working and living at Topsham Lock Cottage, where we baked and made tea for lots of lovely customers for two weeks. It's in the tiny village of Topsham in Devon, and you can only get there by boat. Joined by our best friend, here are some photos from the last two years of what can only be described as a haven. 
Topsham Lock Cottage
Our swans! 

The Lock

Picking Blackberries

A Trip To The Cinema

May 2013 

The sun is out finally, after weeks of practicality, its time to unleash the real vintage spirit. Fifties has been a running theme recently, but today's outfit, hair, make up, and dress up fun is all centred round one of the most beautiful forties beauties of all time: Moira Shearer. I've decided to combine my two great loves: ballet and vintage, and dedicate a blog post to one of my favourite films, The Red ShoesRed headed, elegant, and ballet dancer to boot, her outfits from the 1948 film The Red Shoes ranged from dramatic to delightful, soft and sultry. The ballet film is a must for everybody who enjoys a good tragedy. The dresses are bordering on fifties- skirts are getting bigger, but there is still a wartime simplicity to them that is reminiscent of the decade. Clothes were getting better- more material meant more extravagant. Most of Shearer's costumes in the film are ballet clothes, and they really do make her the belle of the ball- it's hard not to want to dress up in the elegant duck egg blue and white costumes she wears throughout. Perhaps my favourite costume is the evening gown she wears, which is full on-cloak-and-tiara-included decadence! Her character really knew how to grab the attention of an audience.
Back, however, to how we wore it! 
 So, firstly- make up. Barely a scene goes by when (even if it is running down her face) Shearer isn't without long dark lashes, a pale beyond pale complexion, and crimson lips.

 It's the simplest look to recreate, and effectively goes well when dressing for any era. To channel Moira, I started with the make up, making myself a lot paler than usual and my lips quite a bit darker- the more dramatic, the better! Luckily, I, like Shearer, am a red head, so re-creating her hair wasn't too hard- instead of pin curling it, however, I put it in rolls which is a lot easier and quicker than the latter.

   I picked out black and white floral summer dress, which I think is a perfect mix for the end of the forties fashion- tight waisted, flared skirt, but still slightly reserved and plain in comparison to the colourful creations
that were to come (dress was protected by a wonderful fifties style apron whilst baking). The film is set across Europe, and I thought the red neckscarf matched nicely- mixing up films here, but rolled hair and a nice neckscarf really are the perfect summer combination- Just look at Audrey Hepburn in a Roman Holiday, who immortalised the look (whilst on the back of a scooter. Sadly, I'm not in Rome and do not have any handsome journalists to whisk me away on one).

 The fifties/forties dresses prove to be a simple solution to summer outfits, with a dramatic flair fit to impress. As for the ballet shoes? Well, when in Rome....

The Pencil Skirt

May 2013

Ah, the pencil skirt. 
A staple of vintage fashion. 
The best friend of the hourglass figure. 
The giver of curves. 

Today I'm wearing this marvellous tweed pencil skirt, reminiscent of the forties.  The sturdy tweed makes it fantastic for wearing day to day, and the figure hugging shape recreates that famous forties silhouette. 
  The pencil skirt was made famous in the forties by the ever wonderful Monsieur Dior, and those women had a lot to thank him for. The cut created by the pencil suit, as seen above, was a crafty one. It hearkened back to pre-war Edwardian fashion by appearing sensible, prim and proper; but the suit caresses every curve of the female form, so there was no need to lose the glamour of the twenties and thirties. 
   The tweed skirt, however, teaches a valuable lesson about dressing during war time. With the clothing rations and the short supply of material, women could hardly afford to defy the war effort and dress in silks and satin. The change of dress from the thirties is remarkable- gone was frivolous dressing and there to stay for the length of the war was lowering hemlines to last longer, and dressing for practical means rather than for pleasure. The tweed suit, immortalised by screen sirens and Dior models, captures the way in which women managed to channel their pride in dress and incredible style into the fashion of the time. Thankfully, this modern cut requires no corset, as those previous ones did. Teamed with a crisp white shirt, a string of pearls, and that all important slick of crimson lipstick, the tweed pencil skirt channels both the glamour and the practicality of the wartime era. 

The tweed skirt, which comes with a matching jacket, is a northern charity shop find.

Birthday Celebrations

April 2013

We turned TWENTY-ONE! 
Getting older, whilst welcoming new responsibilities and fears and grown up strife is, at the end of the day, just a great excuse to have a good old-fashioned knees up, to combat all the fears of being one year older with a lot of alcohol. I know 21 isn't the age to start worrying about it, but still, what other way to celebrate then having not one, but TWO very vintage affairs? And you know what this means, folks- two utterly lovely outfits from yesteryear, styled, shown off, and snapped for 'What They Wore Yesterday!' 

   The first of these outfits was worn for a pre-birthday bash, and is one of my all-time favourite, go to vintage pieces. This dress has seen multiple vintage fairs, a few posh parties, and, as seen in the photo, an electric heater perfectly positioned to create Marilyn's skirt flying moment- not quite so glamourous as the New York subway grate, but what can you do? Back to the dress. A beautiful re-creation of forties tea dress, the deep crimson colour, elegant cut, and silk make it perfect for formal events- styled with what are becoming my trademark pearls and rolled hairdo, it goes perfectly with red lipstick, some high heels, and a champagne flute...and with a skirt perfect for swing dancing, all you need is a handsome GI on your arm, and the party is complete. 
  And the party was a great success! Everybody threw themselves into creating some great forties outfits, and we hosted the party in our cellar to give it a proper blackout theme. We decked it out with bunting and flowers and cake and lamps and candles in jam jars and all things utterly dreamy. 

The second of our birthday outfits (finally, a post featuring both bloggers!) were taken from the big skirts, fitted waists, and pretty prints of the fifties. Covered in sensible cardigans due to the fantastic English weather, these dresses- which are both high street purchases- worked wonderfully for a quaint birthday tea party! Wearing them took us back to childhood when your really took your party dresses seriously (not much has changed) and for the first time in a while, we ended up in almost identical outfits. Whilst there wasn't much time to go all out vintage for the bash, the full skirts and fifties flare added a good sprinkling of it to the day, which was celebrated, as ever, in style. 
  It was a family and friend filled affair and truly was a day to remember. Here are a few snaps of the wonderful celebrations, including our team of housemates and best friends who travelled up to Manchester to spend the day with us! 

 Thank you again to Laura Turner for her fantastic photography. A lot of vintage love for you! 

The Fifties Frock

April 2013

I'm revisiting the fifties today. I feel like I'm contradicting the fantastic Mad Men post that we had yesterday, that saw women propel out of the kitchen and into the workplace with a fabulous wardrobe to match. Due to a technical hitch, I was forced to dig into my vintage archives today, and found this little summertime gem. It's currently gathering dust in my wardrobe, and I've been staring at it so lovingly for the past few days, willing for the slightest bit of sun to arrive so I can give it a day out. But, alas, we're living in England, and the only way this dress is going to be seen is through a blog post.

So yes, with it's fitted waist and billowing skirt, conservative hemline and floral design, this dress doesn't exactly scream strong, powerful woman. But, as I like to say, it's on the inside that counts, and if you happen to be a strong, powerful woman with a penchant for floral designs, then don't be put off! (I realise that saying 'it's on the inside that counts' on a clothing based blog is a bit foolish - but we'll just move on speedily). We can wear these styles nowadays and yes, they are beautiful, and yes, we do feel glamorous, but they do have a past. 
   This New Look, first introduced by Christian Dior in 1947, has an almost disappointing motive.  You may have noticed by now that my posts always seem to refer to Wartime England, so I'm going to have to apologise for bringing it up once more. Women worked their way through the war, on the land; as we've already seen, in factories, in hospitals. 
 They were forced out of the stereotypical 'angel in the household' roles that were still very much in place at the beginning of the century. It was, however, these styles that emerged post-war that encouraged women back into their previous domestic roles, let's be honest, they may be beautiful but these dresses were hardly practical for the working woman. No, they were much more suited to housewives.
 Let us take a moment to admire the wonderful Coco Chanel, who was prompted out of retirement when she first saw the New Look. "

"Christian Dior doesn't dress women," She said, scathingly "He upholsters them." Beautiful dresses, yes. Wonderful summer style, yes. Excellent motives? Debatable.  Needless to say, I'm siding with Coco. 

Dress: Cath Kidston. Accessories: Cath Kidston.  Boat: Not mine, sadly. 

The Mad Woman

In my posts, I talk a lot about how clothes document the growth of gender equality and how they have become a symbol of women's liberation from social restraints. After the swinging sixties post and the marvel of Catherine's glorious Office bargain, I thought I'd try my hand at dressing for the sixties, with a sprinkle of social revolution on top. 
 The sixties weren't just about mini-skirts and the magical mystery tour. It was a time of social revolution, and in once more, it was a time of massive upheaval and independence for women. As we've seen in previous posts- cometh the woman, cometh the brand-spanking-new wardrobe.
Today, I am channelling Joan Holloway's fabulous style from Mad Men. From a woman in the 1960s work place to a woman trying to get a degree to get into the work place, power dressing is important. Gone were the impractical full skirts and tight bodices of the 50s- women were starting to be taken seriously, and so seriously they dressed. 
The character of Joan is ballsy, classy, and sassy. Pretty opposite to the trophy wife image, which is why her style is perfect to emulate for this post. 
  This dress is definitely not your average day to day wear, but the fit is fantastic, and it be dressed up with the perfect pair of courts, or dressed down with a good pair of ballet pumps or boots. Personally, I think its the perfect tribute back to the serious side of the sixties, when women were breaking out of the fifties stereotype of being a perfect housewife and breaking into the workplace. 
So thank you, Mad Men, and thank you Joan Holloway. You may be beautiful, you may havethe most incredible figure on the planet, but you're a working girl.
And we love you for it.

Sixties Shoes

April 2013

I know, I know, I'm not technically focusing on a whole outfit today. However, these bad boys deserve a post of their own. Capturing the 'sole' (forgive me, but it had to be done) of the Swinging Sixties, these shoes are a staple in my vintage wardrobe. I tend to stick to the forties, or the thirties, because I like the practicality and the comfort these clothes offer at the same time as being wonderfully glamorous. There's something about the sixties, with the mini dresses and the knee high boots, that I've never really been comfortable with. 

This is why I'm keeping it simple, and focusing on a pair of shoes. The monochromatic style is reminiscent of David Bailey photographs, and oh so fashionable check print. Chic and understated, they work perfectly with a mini dress.

The point of this post, however, is this. I'm not good at working the Sixties look. There is one simple explanation for this, and it's a sad truth. I don't look like Twiggy. Rather, I'm quite the opposite. Women with curves aren't going to suit boxy shift dresses and knee high white boots. It's just not going to happen. Give us pinched in waists and blouses any day of the week. But that doesn't mean you can't capture the essence with one simple, statement piece of clothing. Be it a checked scarf casually flung round your neck, a pair of oversized circular sunglasses, or a pair of fantastic monochrome shoes that have you shuffling around the room in time to The Beatles. You can make it work. 

Here's a photo of these shoes in action. And a cat. 

Shoes - a bargain in the Office sale. Cat - found in a Devonshire village. Unfortunately couldn't keep it.  

The Riviera

March 2013

I'm not going to lie. Writing this particular post is pathetically exciting for me. This is perhaps my tip top favourite ever vintage outfit. When I wear it, I feel that Caro Emerald should be serenading me as I walk down the street, and Gregory Peck should come round the corner a la Roman Holiday and sweep me off my feet. Yes. It's one of those outfits. 
  Considering it is raining buckets today, this outfit might not seem particularly appropriate. After braving the rain in wellingtons, I arrived home into the warmth and immediately decided to add some decadence and delight into what was shaping out to be a dreary day. 

  Et Voila! To beat the British blues, I've gone back to the 1930s and channelled some of their summer styles. I was inspired by all those high society aristocratic women, who, in the heat of the French Riviera summers, wore similar light, white, and floaty materials to keep cool. These trousers are always a winning summer item, not only for their comfort, but because they just ooze decadance, and wouldn't look out of place on a summer yacht of the 1930s, or in an Agatha Christie novel set in some exotic country. They can be dressed up, down,become gloriously femme fatale or simply primrose pretty.
These trousers have travelled with me to Europe, been worn to weddings, on National Trust days out, to VERSAILLES nonetheless, and even been perfect comfort clothes when heartbroken or on gloomy days. I love them with all my heart, and I'm dreading the day that they fall apart from too much wear.
Though the trousers are so feminine and deliciously glamourous, there's still that hint of avant-garde that we saw in Suffragette look. Trousers had always belonged to men, and I adore the idea that women were adapting them as their own, with a playful, vivacious, dramatic, and very literal flare. 
I've added a silk, pearl-collared blouse and pearl in earrings to add even more elegance, and the flowers in my hair...well, why ever not?

Trousers are a high street find. The blouse was hunted down in a Devonshire vintage shop, and the earrings were a gift. 
Cup and saucer also a vintage fair find! 

Thank you to the extremely talented Laura Turner for her wonderful photography skills. I owe you cake and cocktails. 

The Tea Dress

March 2013

The tea dress. The glorious tea dress. Queen of the vintage dress. 
Today, we've gone back to my favourite era; Wartime England. This floral dress, combines the practical wartime dress with something a little more elegant. The silk material certainly gives it a more glamorous touch, but it's conservative length, practical shirt style and comfortable fit keep it in line with the utility wear of the forties. It works with either sturdy brogues as day wear or a pretty pair of heels for the perfect afternoon tea outfit.                                                                         
This dress belongs in the British countryside, with tea, scones, and homemade jam but this image is, of course, an ideological one. Rationing and restrictions were the harsh reality for those dreaming of sunny days filled with cream teas and Glenn Miller. Air raids, food shortages, the loss of family, friends, and husbands were a painful truth. But, as propaganda found in posters and songs tells us, the good old British spirit of keeping one's head up and carrying on was essential. This dress  then belongs in the midst of that Wartime spirit, spinning round the kitchen to the wireless and the hopeful sounds of "I know we'll meet again some sunny day..."

This isn't a vintage buy - the dress is actually from Cath Kidston. The print and cut of the dress are so spot on that you could be fooled into thinking it was an original. These dresses are great for capturing that day to day vintage look, and what's more you don't have to worry about your unique, 40's dress getting ruined.

The Suffragettes

March, 2013 

Suffragette March, London 1911

We realise we are going back a few years from the forties and fifties but March is the month of International Women's Day, so why not celebrate by stealing the style of the Suffragettes? 
  Women's Suffrage is a cause close to our hearts, as it should be to every woman's. Mrs Pankhurst, the leader of the British Suffrage movement, was born and raised in our hometown, practically around the corner, and her fight and struggle to help women win the vote is an inspirational and courageous tale. 
  Suffering all seasons at once this week, so today it's an outfit that looks lovely in rain, shine, and snow. I've taken my inspiration from the ever heroic, marvellous Suffragettes, whose elegant and practical outfits always stand out as an emblem of Edwardian fashion. Though they were famous for their white dresses and stand-out sashes, I can't help but love the image of an everyday woman in her everyday clothes, campaigning and supporting the cause.
I've chosen to combine the straight, black skirt and white blouse to capture the look of the Suffragettes. These fabulously sturdy, leather lace-up boots just scream Edwardian, and give the outfit an antique twist. As you can tell, they are on their last legs after many years of trekking through northern snow/rain/sleet/puddles. Not only a weather-defying look, but there's something about looking like an early anarchist that makes you ready to face the day. 

  Women's fashion moved away from the wide skirts and corsets of the Victorian era- the straight skirts and plain blouses of the women echoed a more androgynous look; it appears solemn, but really, the decline of the frivolous, frilly and overtly feminine frocks is so symbolic to the rising role of the woman. 
  Every woman knows to look her best at all times, but fashion isn't the only way to express yourself. Women were finding their voices and making themselves heard loud and clear without the need of fancy dress.

 I find a cameo brooch, pinned to a lapel or collar, adds a wonderful Edwardian or Victorian twist to an outfit.