Saturday, 24 December 2011

Say Yes!

Following on from my last post, I thought I'd put in a very little post about the wonders of social networking and what can come from it.

I'm sure you have heard about Cointreau PrivĂ© .  If you haven't they are a series of themed salons, designed by Dita Von Teese for Cointreau.  The salons are opened sequentially in a series of cities around the world, with the London one having been opened by Dita herself on 29th November.  It was open for just 3 weeks, with limited tickets being made available.

Directly because of meeting my online friends in the flesh at 'Dirndlfest 2011' (see my previous post),  I was invited to attend a private cocktail party at Cointreau PrivĂ© London, hosted by the lovely Dita von Teese herself.  I shall say little about the actual event, other than to say it was a thoroughly lovely evening in truly fantastic company with fun and cocktails had by all.  The important point is that, without the wonders of social networking, and without saying 'Yes!' to meeting up with my wonderful online friends, I would never have had the opportunity to attend such an event.  What do you think might happen to you in the next year if you say 'Yes?'

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Dirndlfest 2011

Firstly, profuse apologies for the lack of posts lately.  To my great surprise, I have developed a consuming social life over the last month, which left me incapable of blogging.

Over the last year, I have developed a lovely network of online friends of the Vintage persuasion.  I have read their blogs, implemented their haircare tips, purchased their frocks, and joined swap shops with them.  But I had never actually met any of them - until last week!

Miss Matilda from Able Grable (left) arranged our wonderful get-together

The very lovely Miss Matilda from Able Grable announced on twitter that she was visiting London, and suggested a meet up, to be held at Katzenjammers restaurant, and to be German themed.  Since it was several weeks til the event, and as I was full of bravado, I decided (and tweeted), that of course I would be attending. With the aid of my wonderful German-speaking Papa,I bought myself a lovely trachtenkleider dress from ebay Deutschland (from this store).  With actual money spent on an outfit I was therefore fully committed to attending Miss M's Bierfest.

Come the day (last Thursday), I began to have a minor breakdown.  What was I thinking?  I wasn't Vintage enough for these people!  One look at me and they would immediately know I was a fraud!  My nails weren't long enough, the varnish was the wrong colour, and my hair wouldn't work properly.   Additionally, I didn't know anything about dating garments by the type of zip they had. I went out and panic-bought new foundation in the hope that it would magically transform me into 'beautiful and fascinating vintage gal'.

My saving grace was that my wonderful husband was coming with me.  He is fantastically funny, people love him, and he had agreed to wear Lederhosen.  I decided I could just hang onto his arm and smile mysteriously while people admired his knees if I couldn't find anything fascinating to say.

Phwoar! Check out those knees, Ladies!

But....what a FANTASTIC time I had!  It was so lovely to meet up with people I had only known on-line. As well as Miss Matilda, I met Landgirl 1980 , Margaret from Penny Dreadful Vintage , Lena from Style High Club, Colin from Vintage Style Surgery,  Shona from Heyday! Clothing, Liz (@hokulele) Gemma aka. Retrochick, and more!  Everyone was so friendly, and I've definately made some new friends.  I can't wait to meet up with them again.

The beautiful Charly - see her blog, Landgirl 1980 here

I am in love with my outfit here!  Check out those puffy sleeves!  Swoon!

If you're new, or newish, to vintage style, and are nervous about meeting up with the like-minded, I say to you - don't be.  To find an event, take note of the events your online friends are attending.  If you don't feel ready to go to a private social function & make conversation, there are many vintage styled events that you can wonder round without having to risk interacting forceably & directly with others!  Goodwood Revivial is the obvious but by no means the only one.  Then maybe progress to more intimate function - I'm currently thinking about attending the Ric Rac Club held bi-monthly by The Vintage Mafia.  Or just take the plunge like I did and go to a private social function  - if they've invited you, chances are they do actually want you there!  Take a friend or partner if you are nervous, dress up to the nines, smile, realise we all have to start somewhere, and go for it! 
I am SO wearing this outfit again!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The best way to iron a shirt...

My OH is an avid diver, and will don a wetsuit with glee at the sight of a small puddle.  So last year, in the spirit of sharing in his passions, I learned to Scuba Dive.
I admit it.  I am an unashamed fair weather diver.  I draw the line at a depth of 36 metres, and preferably only in beautiful areas, say, oh I don't know...The Maldives or somesuch.
However!  There are times when I will brave diving in Britain, and last weekend was one of them.  For it was the world record attempt at EXTREME IRONING! 

Underwater Ironing has somewhat of a cult following among the diving community.  The previous record attempt in 2009 was held at the National Diving & Activity Centre in Chepstow, Gloucestershire.  They broke the record, previously held by Australian divers, for the most people ironing simultaneously underwater in a 10 minute period, and also raised over £14,000 for the RNLI.

Now, diving is not a glamourous sport.  I do not believe that I have ever seen a woman look good in a neoprene drysuit.  No.  Instead, one spends an awful lot of time looking like this....

oh, the glamour....
But in the interests of charity and marital harmony, I decided forgo my lippy and don the neoprene.  And so off to NDAC Chepstow...

This year we were raising money for the RNLI, the Scuba Trust, and Families of the Fallen, and hoping to break the world record again. We needed over 130 people ironing simultaneously within a 10 minute period to break the record. 120 had pre-registered with more turning up on the day, so it was looking good!

It was a beautiful day for a dive.

Me with my tools, ready for some extreme ironing!

In order for our dive to qualify for the record, we had to descend to our boards, and await the clang of the underwater 'bell' (a hammer bang on the underwater ladders), then one by one iron our items of clothing.  A clear photograph showing each of us ironing an item of clothing, with our numbers clearly visible, had to be taken, within a 10 minute time period.  Between the four of us we had one camera.  2.5 minutes per person sounds like it should be plenty of time.  But everything takes so much longer underwater!  We knew it would be important to maintain our bouyancy control, for to not do this would be to risk kicking up the debris on the floor of the quarry, meaning poor visibility for the photos.  We planned our dive very carefully, and despite a lot of fumbling managed to take 3 or 4 photos of each of us within the alloted time!  And you can see the proof here:

My Husband, Lee




Once the dive was completed we celebrated with well-deserved Burgers, the other 3 had a 3rd dive, and then we headed home, exhausted.

I'm not yet sure how much money was raised, as it's still be collected by the organisers.  Sadly we didn't break the world record.  The good weather meant that many who had registered didn't turn up on the day, as they went diving at the coast instead.  Let's hope they all send some money in for the charities nevertheless!

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day.  As an added bonus, it looks as if we're going to be featured in our local press this weekend!  (Don't worry, the fame won't change me)

If only someone would come up with some more ladylike clobber I'm sure I could be persuaded to do this more often!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Not the Goodwood Revival...

Ah, September.  The most vintage month of all months!  Because of course, the Goodwood Revival is on!  I love Goodwood. I love the Aero Club cafe and the interesting people you meet there, I love The Kennels, I love the statue of Douglas Bader. I even love the wind on the airfield, though it ruins my hair.  But I especially love The Goodwood Revival.  Seeing the race track & airfield done out in nostalgic fascias, with the incredible cars & planes, and everyone looking so smart in their vintage, is a wonderful sight.

My husband is a pilot, and flys from Goodwood, as his father did.  So the place has a special magic for us, and as members of the Aero Club we get to cross the barriers and be 'up close' with the planes.  Here we are several years ago at Goodwood.

Please excuse the extremely non-vintage hair here! I was just beginning!

Yet somehow, we always have other important engagements during the weekend of the Revival, and since the above photo was taken about 6 years ago we haven't managed to attend.  This year was no exception as we were invited to the wedding of an old University friend, who had decided to get married in Krakow.

I have to say, I was not completely thrilled about going to Poland.  The trip took up our modest holiday budget for the year, and I imagined it would be cold, and stark, and very former Soviet bloc, and pretty miserable overall.  I could not have been more wrong.

Krakow turns out to be a spectacularly beautiful city, with much to keep you interested.  I could easily have spent a week there and not have been bored.
There is a fanastic antique & vintage market, which was held in the main square every day of our trip:

My husband was particularly taken with this old soviet flying hat! 

Blue skies!  We had 27 degrees on one day!

The city feels really safe at night & family-friendly. Although there is obviously a seedier side to every city (particularly those which have the honour of being great stag do destinations!), it is very well hidden in Krakow.  This may be because of the influence of the Catholic church - we saw a lot of nuns!  I didn't notice any obvious red light areas, though I do know some of our party ended up in bars charging over £100 per bottles of Vodka, in return for the presence of some scantily-clad lovelies!

The bars & cafes around the main square have open-air tables, so provide blankets in the evening to ensure you don't get cold:

Since Poland has not yet adopted the Euro currency, it is cheap to eat out - more so in the restaurants off the square.  An enormous main meal, with wine & beer set my husband and I back the princely sum of £14. There are a good variety of restaurants, but my recommendation is to head for those selling local food, which is delicious.  So long as you like plenty of meat & dumplings (which with my European ancestry, I do!).
After a meal, head to a cafe for some vodka tasting...

A selection of flavoured Vodkas set us back all of £4
Then move into the main square to the cafe which sells only puddings.  Try the Sultans Spaghetti (not pasta, as you can see!).  It's made up of caramel ice cream, with figs, prunes, sultanas, tonnes of cream & various sauces.  Enough for about 4 people!

The cream clogs your arteries, but the prunes keep your regular!

I was disappointed not to be there long enough to visit Auschwitz, which is fairly nearby and very affordable to get to.  It seemed a real shame to be so close and not to take advantage of visiting such an important site, but it was not to be as we simply didn't have the time.

We took the spirit of The Revival with us, and added some good old-fashioned glamour to the weekend.

On Friday night, we met up with our friends for drinks, and one commented that we looked as if we'd stepped out of the 1940's.  Well, duh!

For the wedding,  I wore my red M'lady dress by Able Grable.  I had this made earlier in the summer, as a present for my birthday.  It was the first of the design to be made in Red silk, and I am completely thrilled by it.  I cannot sing the praises of Miss Matilda Grable enough! 

I received so many compliments on the dress, mainly of the 'ooh, wow! You look like a film star' variety,  (shh, don't tell them, but this is what I was going for!). I still have a way to go with mastering my 30's hairstyle, but it did me for the day!  I was thrilled on my return for the designer, Miss Matilda, to ask to use one of my photos on her website in October (not one shown here - you'll have to go to in October to see it!)

Not to be outdone, my husband wore his grandfathers evening suit from the 40's, swapped the jacket for a vintage velvet jacket, and use his new steampunk-inspired pocket watch to time his MC duties.  He was very dashing.

We already know that next year we will be attending another wedding  which will again clash with The Revival, - but this time nearby in Hampshire, so we'll definately be at Goodwood in 2012 for at least one day!

It was a shame to miss another year at Goodwood, but really who could complain about spending a few days in such a beautiful city, in the company of good friends?  It was a thoroughly spectacular weekend - even if there were no other vintage chaps & chapettes around, and not a Spitfire in sight! 

All that remains is to say Congratulations to the happy couple - ladies & gentlement, please raise your glasses of Polish Vodka to Neil & Susannah!  Cheers!

Monday, 5 September 2011

What Katie (and Lidia and I) did....

Those of you 'in the know' will be well aware of the fabulousness that is 'What Katie Did'.  For those of you who don't know - it is the most fantastic lingerie company, specialising in retro-styled undies and lovely corsetry.  They have a boutique in Portobello Green just off the Portobello Road, an online shop, and now a new store just about to open in LA.
Knowing my prediliction for yummy undies, you can imagine my joy when I saw, via their facebook fan page, that they were having a little soiree to honour their new Autumn/Winter 2011 collection!  Quicker than you can say 'circle-stitch-bra', I pressed the 'Attending' button.  (Well, actually I pressed the 'Maybe' button, but this is my blog and I'm allowed some artistic licence).

Since it was certain to be a glamorous affair, I decided to test out a new hairstyle from my recently arrived book 'Vintage Hairstyling', by Lauren Reynolds.  After a whole hour with my hands behind my head, a lot of curling, and even more hairspray, this is what my version of 'one for the boys' looked like.

From the back...

...& from the front (sorry for the blank stare & lack of smile)

Since it was supposed to be a lovely day, I wore a recently purchased nautical dress from Collectif clothing, and some retro-styled heels bought for a fiver from a local charity shop.  And then it started raining, so I donned a leather jacket to give me a 'rock' edge.

My friend Lidia met me at Waterloo and together we circumnavigated the extensive works currently blocking up the London Underground, and arrived at last at What Katie Did.

Oh, the joy!  The yumminess that is the store!  The corsets, the peach & black undies, the stockings!  There were a lot of retro-chicks already in residence, and it was getting pretty warm from all the body heat.  So we cooled down with some Gin cocktails, natch.  Oh, and stuffed our cakeholes with the yummy cupcakes.  Any store that gives you free booze and cake is alright by me!

We watched a fashion show of some of the new A/W 2011 lines, shown off to full glory by some burlesque lovelies including Miss Miranda, who has the most porcelain skin I've ever seen.

Who wouldn't want to buy it all?
By this point I was, ahem, 'glowing', and I felt really bad about trying on their lovely undies as I was likely to get them all sweaty & grim.  However, fortified by more Gin, I threw caution to the wind & went into the dressing room. I was helped to get into the right sizes by the very lovely Vicky. 

A quick word on Vicky.  She may just about be the nicest and most helpful person I've ever encountered in a shop of any kind.   Often I find sales staff in high street stores unhelpful & judgemental.  Vicky & the other staff at WKD are the complete opposite and I don't even mind them seeing my wobbly bits.  Added to which Vicky has the most amazingly beautiful tatoos I've seen, that I just want to sit and stare at her like she's on a plinth in the Tate.


I came away with a Maitress bullet bra & a waist-cincher.  It really is worth going into the boutique to try these things on if you possibly can.  My bra size is usually a 34D, but I vary in the WKD bras between a D & DD depending on the design.  I'm a high-street size 12-14, but going by the vintage sizing on the WKD website, I should also take a WKD 16 in their shapewear.  What I've actually ended up with is a size 10 in the waist cincher (smug? moi?), and a 12 in their underbust girdle.  That said, if you can't get into the store, and you do find you've ordered the wrong size from their website (as I recently did), they are really helpful in exchanging it for the correct size. You can even email their all-female team photos of you in the item so they can help you judge the correct size.

After the delights of WKD, Lidia & I needed a brief come-down before the trip home, so we wondered around the vintage market outside the arcade for a bit.  The most fascinating stall had old photo albums full of sepia prints, obviously from the home of someone recently passed, who had no one to pass them on to.  There was also a handful of photos of Adolf Hitler, together with some kind of medal.  Really interesting. 

Lidia trying on a particularly fetching hat

Fortified by a felafel wrap (discounted by 50p!), from the farmers market, we watched the 2nd WKD fashion show then headed home.

By some miracle, (and about a hundred-weight of hairpins), my first all-day vintage 'do' remained intact, despite being rained on, as you can see.
Tired but still looking good after a long day!
A big thumbs up to What Katie Did for a throughly wonderful launch party - and good luck with your LA store!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Back to the beginning...

So.....lets start from the beginning.

I've been thinking about when it all began, my love of 'vintage' and retro style, and I'm pretty sure it's down to my mum.  Mum was born the year World War 2 broke out (we've always joked that it was her fault).  She would recall how clothing packages from America would arrive after the war ended, containing such gems as a circle-stitched bra. Growing up as the oldest in a family of 10 children, with post-war rationing still in force, these packages must have been like parcels of treasure.  Mum saw her older female relatives in the feminine clothes of the 1940s & 50's, hunting out seamed stockings, saving their rations for new clothes, altering existing clothes to update them, and setting their hair on a daily basis.  My overriding memories of mum when I was a child involve her in a beautiful, french nightie & negligee made from extremely delicate silk.  She looked incredible, like a silent film star.  From her, I learned that you should wear silk, satin, lace, and all things wonderful whenever possible, and preferably at all times!

My love of feminine dressing wasn't immediately apparent on the surface, but I adored lingerie from the time I started needing to wear it.  Even through my teenage uniform of baggy jeans & BIG shirts, I always wore matching lacy bra & panties.  Frankly, if I could swan about all day in silkie pieces of nothing wearing marabou slippers and a Hollywood robe, I would.

The fact is, though, I can't.  My husband and I run Window Cleaning business (yes, I know this is called Dr G's vintage, and I am in fact a Dr, but that's another story).  The only people I see during my working day are window cleaners.  Glamorous it is not.  And it's been so easy to slip into the standard uniform of jeans and a t shirt.  Slowly, I've lost myself under a uniform of denim and cotton.  Yuk. So this year I said 'Enough!' to myself.  Its time to stop hiding my style under my clothes and start wearing it on the outside!

In my head, I'm attending glamorous soiree's on a regular basis.  Thus I have a tendency to purchase a plethora of cocktail dresses and such like, which I then wear on rare occasions.  My only 'real' vintage dresses are currently all cocktail dresses, and most of my repro clothes would be considered suitable mainly for smarter occasions.

I'm having to re-educate myself to 1) buy more 'everyday' vintage clothes, and 2) re-define my concept of 'everyday'.  Because why shouldn't you wear stockings and 4 inch heels even when you run a window cleaning company?