Thursday, 17 April 2014

Sweet Dreams

 Good evening, readers! Firstly, thank you to everybody who has been following our blog. It's been so much fun to do and we've got some great posts planned for you. Tonight's post is not related to the sunny weather- no picnics or cycle rides on bikes with baskets, or Marilyn Monroe moments in the summer (ish) breeze. Oh no. That would be a wee bit predictable. Instead, we're going to reveal our true colours and show you that we have grouchy pyjama days just as much as we do frivolous floral frocked ones. 
But we couldn't show you that. One, it would be cruel. And not in the least bit interesting. So we decided to do pyjama day vintage style! In this post, we've taken inspiration from Ginger Rogers in Top Hat, and are going to look at what women wore to bed in the thirties. 
Women have a history of dressing up for bed. Anne Boleyn was famously bought a black satin and velvet nightgown by Henry VIII in 1532. In those days, you would greet your adoring public in your privy chamber, so being caught in your nightie was a regular occurrence. Remaining regal and exquisite was an absolute must. But now, let's skip forward a few centuries to 1935, where Top Hat awaits! 

 For those of you shameful lot who haven't see Top Hat, go and watch it. Find it, somewhere, and bask in the wonder that is Astaire and Rogers onscreen together. The scene in which we want to talk about is their 'meet-cute'- the bizarre and beautiful way the couple meet. Staying in the same hotel, Astaire is dancing around his hotel room which happens to be above hers. Woken up by the racket of his tap-tap-tapping shoes, Rogers storms upstairs and complains. Struck by how beautiful she is, instead of stopping dancing, Astaire spreads out sand on the floor of his room...and tap dances her a lullaby. 

And no wonder he falls in love. Just look at her nightdress! To anybody, that could be an evening gown for a grand party. But for the Hollywood screen sirens of the thirties, these extravagant costumes were all about keeping up appearances. The thought of being on-screen and looking anything less than desirable was unheard of. According to Lucy Worsley (bow down to the Queen of Curators), they were put in these remarkable costumes so they would shimmer under the lighting. Then, as these films grew in popularity and the A-line gowns became famous, cheaper, nylon versions were released so that women could emulate these styles. Hollywood began to pop up in the bedrooms of Britain. In fact, Lucy Worsley has written a stonkingly great book on the history of the home, and talks at length about the history of the bedroom wardrobe. Thank you, Queen Lucy! 


Et voila. Whilst Rogers looked sultry, I look silly. But there is a heart-warming story behind this beautifully embroidered, 1930s-style nightdress and matching gown. Three years ago, I was struck down with a mystery illness and bedridden for over a week. It was horrendous, but one day, a parcel arrived. Upon opening it, folds of turquoise silk slithered out onto the duvet, and in it a note from our aunt- 'Saw these and thought of you. If you're going to be in bed, you might as well look beautiful'. 

So, here's to the screen sirens and all those in the centuries before them who make us want to look our best for bed. They might have been replaced with joggers, and why not? We don't always have to look our best. 

But sometimes, when you're feeling blue, it's nice to look brilliant even from the comfort of your own bed, and maybe, just maybe, someone will be there to tap dance you to sleep. 

Sweet dreams and pleasant thoughts, 
The Time Machine Twins 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Topsham Lock Cottage: 2013

These are a few snaps of our most recent stint at Topsham Lock Cottage. I've also included the links to the website, and a great blog post from one of our customers. Enjoy!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

What They Baked Yesterday

Last week I was asked the question “Do you have any vintage hobbies?” I pondered this for a moment, I do the odd bit of sewing, and I’m partial to the occasional lindy hop class, but then someone suggested “Well, you bake, don’t you?”

So that, paired with our Mother’s Day tea party extraordinaire last week, where we showed you a table groaning under the weight of scones, Victoria sponges, lemon drizzles, and other baked goods, prompted me to dedicate a post to the wonderful art of baking.

I don’t bake because it’s vintage. There, phew, I said it. It’s a generational thing; my grandmother was a wonderful baker, my mother is a wonderful baker, and I have been baking (or licking the spoon, at least) for as long as I can remember. I won’t confess to being particularly spectacular, but I can rustle up a decent Victoria Sponge, and spent my summer baking for Topsham Lock Cottage.

For me, baking is therapeutic, I don’t see it as an art, but nor to I see it as a glamorous throwback to the bygone era. I’m under no illusion that the retro photographs we see of women whisking up something special in the kitchen are true to life. All you Downton Abbey fans out there should think of Mrs Patmore for a more realistic picture. Sadly, with my ginger locks I scarily resemble said cook, under the glare of a hot oven, and more often than not covered in flour.

 I’ve heard stories of my grandmother whipping up a batch of scones, whilst entertaining guests whilst keeping an eye on several young children. Nowadays of course, it is, for some, a luxury. I like nothing better than to turn on the radio, pre-heat the oven, and spend an afternoon in a haze of flour, egg whites, and clouds of icing sugar.

I’m not going to bore you with basic sponge recipes. You can’t go wrong with 6oz of everything, 3 eggs, and a teaspoon of baking powder. My top tip, however, for a Victoria Sponge that, quite literally, oozes elegance, is a good helping of Strawberry and Champagne Jam. I would recommend the National Trust’s offering from Lyme Park.  It’s the perfect finish for a Regency-style tea. Just add some fine china and you’re away.

 Grow Your Own, Can Your Own

Now here comes the part a little more synonymous with What They Wore Yesterday, it wouldn’t be the same without looking back to our favourite wartime era, featuring a fashionable twist.

I love seasonal baking, inspired by the Grow Your Own, Can Your Own slogan, so heavily featured in Wartime campaigns. So many people became self-sufficient, a dying trend nowadays, with a supermarket on every corner selling products all year round.

You cannot beat blackberry picking in late summer, wherever you are in the country, you can find them anywhere. Topsham Lock was shrouded in brambles, perfectly idyllic, whilst back home in the city, I have to avoid broken beer bottles, either way, it still makes for a fun afternoon. A Blackberry Tea Loaf is simply divine, and goes perfectly with stewed apples.

Strawberry plants, spread like wildfire, before you know it, they’ll cover half your garden, and in the height of summer make for a delicious White chocolate and Strawberry cake.

 Finally, it wouldn’t be What They Wore Yesterday without something a little stylish for the kitchen. Our wonderfully talented Auntie made these for us, and they really are something else, aren’t they? With their full skirts and beautiful fabric, you could be wearing a pair of jeans underneath and still pull off the perfect vintage look! They’re almost too beautiful to bake it, but only almost, mine has seen its fair share of flour, icing sugar, blackberry juice. If you’re interested in Clare’s marvellous creations, do let us know, and we can put you in touch. They, are, after all, spectacular.

Recipes will hopefully follow, we won’t be straying too much into ‘What They Baked Yesterday’ territory, but do keep your eye out for some teatime treats along the way!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A Very Vintage Mothering Sunday

Retro picture of a woman teaching child to make biscuits

There's something really lovely about Mothering Sunday, or Mother's day, as it's more commonly known now. Even if you only buy her a card and some flowers, just the gesture of showing your mum how much you appreciate all she does for you is good enough. 
  The history of Mothering Sunday is actually quite interesting. It is usually situated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and is actually a christian festival dating far back into its early days, when you visited your 'mother church' to celebrate. However, the festival evolved and particularly by the 19th century, it was established as 'Mother's Day'. During the days when domestic service was one of the most common forms of employment, it was one of the only days that servants were allowed to take the day off, to take home flowers and presents- usually baked goods- to their mothers. 
  So, to celebrate this tradition, we decided to do something extra-special and delightfully vintage, in the form of an afternoon tea celebration! Our very large, very lovely family all pitched in to create a table laden with cakes, sandwiches, tea, and other treats. 
The burst of sunshine meant that Helen's Riviera trousers got a special outing, paired with her trusty pearls, whilst Catherine wore a Cath Kidston tea dress, making its debut on What They Wore Yesterday! Navy blue and decorated with white teapots, its a quirky take on the traditional tea dress that looks oh-so 1940s, especially why you add some trusty harris tweed brogues. 

The cakes were made by our lovely mum and our wonderful aunties, who all provided their collection of beautiful vintage china to celebrate the occasion. If you're looking to host a vintage tea party but don't know where to start, they're the ones you want to get in touch with.