Monday, 25 July 2011

REVIVAL repro-vintage in Kingly Court.

Now I have already nailed my colours to the mast concerning repro clothing. I have seen some very catty comments from purists over the years. In my book purists are wonderful when they are the kind of person who shares their enthusiasm and knowledge, but when they are snide they are just another brand of prat. I am delighted to find original items when the are affordable, fit and are in decent condition but this can't always be the case especially bearing in mind modern figures. Rowena (pictured below) hails from the jive scene and has started selling a selection of well known repro brands. Many of these can be ordered on line already from reputable on-line shops however if you cannot wait it is handy to be able to run in, try on and run out with a dress you have had your eye on. 

What caught my eye was that the shop, Revival, is not limiting itself to a certain era. For example there are some lovely beaded 20's dresses (Candlelight Club and Prohibition regulars please note!). The other element is that she is selling shoes. Now I have awkward shaped feet, 80% of the time shoes won't fit me so ordering these on-line is not possible for me, I think selling repro-shoes is a very good idea. She also stocks cute silk and button hair/corsages and is hoping to stock more things from small makers. Adornment for the brain is available in the form of a small range of beautifully bound books by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The shop's range will be extending to include mens wear. She is currently stocking: 

Stop Staring
Trashy Diva
Tara Starlet
Vecona Vintage
Nicole Katherine
Re-Mix Vintage Footwear
Aris Allen Swing Dance Shoes

This now means you could completely kit yourself out in the Carnaby street area: hair by Betty or the Powderpuff girls, make up from the latter, undies from Sugarlesque, frock from Revival and a hat from Atelier Millinery. Details here:

Rowena in the shop on it's opening day.
Detail of beaded 20's style dress.

Some of the dresses on sale.

Long 30's style evening frock.

Now these shoes I really want

Hair decorations/corsages.
Books, pearls and shoes...all it needs is a glass of champagne and some chocolate!

The Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall.

Some friends of mine have bought the Queen Anne pub in Vauxhall (a well known and perhaps the oldest stripper pub in London) and have worked wonders making the most of it's period features to turn it into a tea rooms/theatre. I've watched with interest as many of my family used to live literally next to this establishment and indeed have a bit of a history with the pub (pre-stripper days). Took an inexpert snap but it shows what a lovely venue it is going to be. It will most likely be called the Tea House Theatre although it is early days yet.

Web site: Tea House:

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Chantecaille: Another wonderful vintage shade of red lipstick.

The day of the Chap Olympiad always involves a flurry of organisation, preening, food packing and this year umbrella locating. A late night out with friends in Covent Garden on Friday sharp on a full day of slaving and Bastille night on Thursday resulted in general frazzlement on Saturday morning. As a result something rare occurred; I left the house without lipstick. Now I am aware that this hardly ranks as a terrible crisis in the scheme of things but barefaced lips on Olympiad day? Unthinkable. 

I was planning to catch my taxi from just outside Liberty’s who have only recently enlarged and revamped their cosmetic hall and this seemed the speedy answer to my dilemma. However Liberty’s don’t sell the big traditional names but more boutiquey fashion brands like Nars and Laura Mercier. Don’t get me wrong, they are fine manufacturers but their ranges do not have the strength of pigment or are too sheer for me. Especially as we are in a summer season of caramel, glossy bland at present. I realised too late that I could have headed for Illamasqua or even Boots.

Turtle eyeshadow compact
 Then a make-up brand that is generally under my radar blipped in response to my sheer desperation, I suspect it’s rather clinical bland point of sale display had always underwhelmed me. Then I peered at the lipsticks and noticed that several seemed to be the kind of shade I’d happily wear. Usually you try them on your hand and the colour turns out to be too sheer. I grabbed a bright corally red and tried it: a lovely soupy bright as a post box red with a coral base that seemed to work with my pallor and freckles. So I bought it. It was pricey at £23.00 but I was in a hurry however I must say I wore it all day and loved it.  A  creamy texture but semi matte on, it lasted well and did not feather at all easily. I really liked it. The brand was Chantecaille and the shade I chose was 'Tulipe' in their main lipstick range.

Tulipe (paraben free)

Inexpertly applied to lips

When I feel a bit more flush I may try some other bits and bobs, certainly another lipstick. The packaging of the lipstick is functional and not at all glamorous but having examined their website I have noticed that some of their products are attractively presented. I much prefer it to my Chanel and Guerlaine so the price is probably about right. Face powder/compacts and lipsticks tend to last so I am less resistant to paying a bit more for them.

Chantecaille mother and daughters.

I had assumed it was a small French company. I was only partially right. It is a company run by a French matriarch Sylvie Chantecaille, her husband and two daughters. But the company is American. Sylvie Chantacaille has form in the industry, she first started buy forming a cosmetic company with Diana von Furstenberg, she of the ubiquitous wrap dress. In the late 1970’s she launched Prescriptives for Estee Lauder and in 1997 she launched her own family business: Chantecaille.

Face powder in rose compact (someone buy it for me please).
The company schtick is avoiding the use of nasty petrochemicals, using high quality natural ingredients and supporting ecological concerns (so pretty much the same as most other cosmetic companies). Quite a lot of their cosmetics include a donation by the company to various wildlife funds and most of their lipsticks are paraben free. But what interests me is that it is a company run by women, something that was quite ordinary in the recent past but is not common now in what is an overwhelmingly corporate industry dominated by men. Also I am intrigued by it's low profile, it does not seem to be going out of it's way to market itself which either means it can rest on it's laurels or it has a firm loyal customer base. Both of which are encouraging.

Now I really want this, it is beautiful.

The website models have scary thin faces and the website is very American in tone and focus but the stuff itself is good quality and a couple of the current seasonal ‘looks’ illustrated have a vintage feel. Chaps out there could do worse than impress ladies they are buying presents for by purchasing something from this range. The Japanese lady manning the Liberty Chantecaille counter (Mitsuko?) was charming, and indeed one of the things I like about Liberty’s is that the service is good so I would be inclined to shop there if you are in the Smoke. You can also buy it in Fenwicks (another lovely store) and Harrods in London. They are also available in Space NK shops around the country.
Butterfly pressed eyeshadows.

Chantecaille's website: 
Liberty website:

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Chap Olympiad.

The internet is now awash with pictures of the Chap Olympiad and certainly the attendees were awash, bejesus it rained.  I expect the majority of people reading this know of this event but if not, my beloved came up with the idea in the pub, when drinking, which contrary to his assertions is not generally his finest hour. Seven years on it is still going. I’ve had a real moan about the mass media hype/hijack of the word ‘vintage’, but if there ever was a scene appended to this curious word, and it was a good thing…its chief jamboree would resemble something like the Chap Olympiad, held last Sunday in Bedford Square.

Redlegs and Naomi of Vintage Secret
This year could become known as the year of the Great Chap Flood, I went fully equipped, in a small straw hat, a pastel blue dress and cream shoes. With the exception of snow I tend to ignore London weather being a strong believer in the efficacy of ‘gin-proofing’ to make oneself impervious to all the elements. My imperviousness extended to refusals to be spanked by Atters (really!) or to compete much. My stab at shouting at the foreigner rapidly descended into hug the foreigner on the basis that said foreigner was too appealing to be shouted at. I’m useless, or a tart, I embraced Bell the Butler too. 

There are several things to treasure about the Olympiad, it is full of genuinely friendly people. It is not elitist but the usual rent a mob with false taches and polyester flapper frocks are largely absent. It is not a place for donning costume but for pulling your absolutely favourite rags out of the closet and wearing them, no matter what they be. People compete in events  Attendees come from all over the place, one Californian chap proposed to his girlfriend in the middle of the swooning tournament. Deckchairs were trashed, butlers baited, ironing boards surfed on and men forced into sundresses to compete. An array of stylish and downright funky dancemoves were displayed and massive amounts of booze and cucumber sandwiches were despatched with barely a cross word during the whole event.

The only very minor irritations were the media, who did at least produce nice film shows after the event, the inclement weather and the drink confiscating chaps who were a tad zealous. The wonderful Chap Magazine produce a wonderful day out…roll on 2012 and the only Olympiad worth two figs (and bit of grated nutmeg).
Meanwhile I’ll leave you with some photographs of the event , gleaned (stolen) from Tony Lee, Fleure De Guerre, Laura D'Alessio, Karen Hendry, Mathew Howard and Manthe Penton Harrap (who will let me know if they are peeved I’m sure) because I left my camera in a case and got rapidly too caught up to use it! They express the feel of the day more than my verbal dribblings can.

Were you there? Has your tweed finally dried out? Billet doux and memorandums always welcomed. xxx

Chaps waiting to make chapettes swoon...

My abortive attempt as a competitor.

Evil competitor makes use of midget...

Dancing in the rain...

Chap Olympiad tiffin.

Not playing tennis...

Doing things with hats...the chappist perversion.
Matt of Lewes.
Torquil Arbuthnot fighting off Manthe's ferocious fox..

Where is his hand?
Secretary guarding bulldogs...

T'was wet.

So put on your bathing costume!
Rainbow hued vintage mafia.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Hastings is a wonderful place.

Cast of Foyle's War.
I spent last weekend in Hastings for a wedding. I have heard mixed reports of the place. I had heard it was charming. I had also heard it was run down and full of people claiming their benefits by the sea; a problem for many of our coastal resorts and Hastings has a reputation for being amongst the poorest in Southern England.  Upon first arriving and for the first 5 minutes of our taxi ride the latter seemed sadly apt, boarded up buildings, Poundland shops and dodgy geezers sitting on the kerb with cans of beer. 

Hastings Old Town.
However Hastings turns out to be a city of two halves and as we proceeded along the seafront the atmosphere and look of the place changed dramatically. The Old Town of Hastings is the one, visually at least, that we know from the television series Foyle’s War, at any corner you can imagine running into the melancholy detective and his irritating driver. It has delicately hued houses, leany fishermans cottages and half timbered inns. It also has the crazy golf, fish and chip shops and amusement arcades that as far as I am concerned are the prerequesites of 'English seaside'. So what? I hear you say, so do half of the seaside towns in the country? Well there is something about Hastings that is rather distinctive and edge of scruffy relaxed bohemianism mingles with it's more traditional appeal. It manages to be both very English without being parochial and eccentric without being pretentious.

Old town houses.
On the tourist front it is an unusually mixed looking place. There is a ruined castle nestling on the edge of a cliff and next to that an expanse of green lawn, a park boasting amazing views of the sea and a fine edwardian style hilltop café with a terrace enabling you to drown in ozone from the seascape stretching beyond you.  The resort is edged by stony cliffs, which you can traverse via shanks pony or one of two funiculars. The area known as the Stade, down on the sea front  boasts the unique tall dark brown fishermens  huts built high due to a lack of land. Some are made from the sterns of boats, (apparently they tended to be sawn in half by HM Customs when they found one with a false smuggling bottom) that the ever enterprising locals used as huts.  On this part of the seafront a small shanty town of fisherman’s sheds (some selling what looked like deliciously fresh fish) jostles for space with a miniature railway. I liked the scruffiness of this gaggle of sheds backing on to the part of the shingle beach used to berth fishing boats.  The Stade should really be your last call on leaving Hastings as several fish companies sell very fresh looking fish and seafood packed in chilled boxes that would certainly survive a car journey back to London. Close by is a newly built  fashionable café arts centre. An outcrop of the Jerwood Gallery is (controversially) also under construction.
Picture of fishing huts in the Stade taken in the 50's.
George the cat.
We stayed in the High Street of the Old Town in a B and B called  Gallery 53. Run by a couple of artists in their family home we had a very comfy characterful room and the resident cat George had the good manners to keep his distance from this allergic guest. I’d recommend it if you go. 

Our b and b for the weekend: Gallery 53.
The High Street is a good place to base yourself and has a number of small chi chi gift shops and the tourist information office. It was also a good place to be vintage/retro/antique hunting. The High Street Retro Centre was run by fifties enthusiasts and had a good line in vintage repro, a decent amount of mens stuff and some particularly nice hand knitted jumpers from vintage patterns which I thought were good value at about £60.00. In another shop I found a Lucite glitter metal cage purse for £55.00 and in Little Treasures a handsome embroidered 40's dress was tempting. However due to an uncharacteristic outbreak of fiscal sense I satisfied myself with five 1950’s buttons.
Little treasures vintage clothing, High Street.
High Street Retro Centre, particularly good on fifties style clothing.

Whilst shopping is one thing, what really grew on me was the atmosphere of the place itself.  There is something non-conformist about most of the towns on or near that coast. Rye’s arch literary history, Brighton’s louche menace and Lewes’ revolutionary fervour all reflect this but at the same time those towns have a little too much yummy mummied Cath Kidston styled Notting Hillification going on.  Hastings has elements of all these places but seems more genuinely eccentric than any of them and more mixed, it's comparative poverty means it will attract artists, those who value their lifestyle over their income and that the local working class population can still afford to live there. So, in a sense, whilst being very genteel it is also rough around the edges.  Its main cultural obsessions seem to be with pirates, drinking, relaxing and things wiccan, this the home of the Jack in the Green festival every Spring. Like Lewes it has an active bonfire society, never underestimate the Kent/Sussex obsession with burning things. There seem to be an unusually range of cultural interests and people in  the place.
Jack in the Green festival, a very amiable if priapic green man.
Bonfire night,on the beach obviously.
The place is, for want of a better word, very English. People wish you good morning as they pass on a Sunday morning, including the local vicar.  Locals ranging from hippies to tattooed bikers walk dogs, seemingly only ever in pairs or trios and ribaldry is alive and yelling at you from a pub garden.  I suspect this is down to the area’s history as not only the first line of defence in the face of invasion  over the centuries but a history of evasion, largely from tax. The wedding I attended included a spirited rap on the subject of ‘motherf*****g vat’ from the groom.

I liked the place a lot, I can see it really going places when the recession lifts, although I am not sure I would want to see it prettified to the extent of nearby Rye. The pier is derelict due to fire and it is a terrible shame this has not been rectified (surely the lottery could grant it some money?). Quite apart from the fact that it has shops to meander about and a shed load of very well patronised pubs there is quite a lot to do. Nearby Bexhill on Sea has the De La Warr pavilion, St Leonards is another genteel seaside town, Rye is close as is Brighton and Lewes. At night you can mix with the marauding hen nights and the drinking crowds on George Street, having a vodka in Revolver, or you can tuck yourself in the corner of a venerable old pub like The Stag, admire it's mummified cats and quaff real ale.

An hour and a half from Charing Cross, less than £30.00 return rail fare and a very good weekend option for a weekend away from London. We all need a dose of sea side, marauding seagulls and fish and chips every so often. Not to mention a little piracy....

George Street.

Revolver Vodka Bar.

Hastings pirates.

View of the Stade from above.

Fisherman's hut selling fresh fish.

Another view of the Stade.

One of two funiculars.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Amateur Millinery

Materials, sisal hat base, vintage abalone buckle, grossgrain ribbon, vintage pansy trimming and elastic.

Some of you who know me personally are aware that I am far from being a homebody, my efforts to knit have been pointless as I lack the patience, I'd like to be able to sew but am intimidated by the effort required to learn. I find baking to be a waste of time although perversely I am more than competent, it is just dull (unlike eating which is positively exciting). I can even throw a pot as well as a tantrum however none of this will help me to dress myself in things I have made, my sole talent being basic embroidery, which you cannot wear on its own. So it was quite brave of me to attempt to make a hat considering my grade  A level in cack-handed sewing. However I could not find the kind of hat I wanted: not a fascinator, not a little feathery thing, not moth bitten and not £200. So I decided to dip my toe in a little very very basic amateur millinery. I was helped by the fabulous Georgina at Atelier Millinery who gave me advice and equipped me with the basics, which you can see above.

Step 1 was to sew a few pansies around the hat just using a robust sewing needle and cream thread. I was planning to wear it at a tilt and concentrated on one edge.

Step 2: I then made a bow using the grossgrain ribbon and sewed it over the pansies hiding their stems which I had trimmed previously, I also attached a few stray pansies to make it look a bit more girly.
Step 4: I added some elastic under the brim so it could be affixed to the side of the head.

I am not sure the effect is quite what I wanted, perhaps it is a little fussy or would be better with some net veiling. Also it was a fiddly job although it only took me a couple of hours. This is the reason why, money and time permitting using a professional milliner is the way to go. Really this wasn't hat making so much as assemblage. On the positive side there was nothing in any mass retailers that had the same feel and there is the opportunity to pick colours and trimmings to fit your own sensibilities. I love pansies, particularly mauve ones and although I could have done a better job it doesn't look too bad. 


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