Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Last-Year Travels: St Leonards-on-Sea

I like the seaside best (well, the British seaside anyway) when it's the middle of winter. The light is beautiful, the pace of life is wonderfully slow and there's need to queue for your fish and chips. Last Friday a friend and I headed off to St Leonards-on-Sea. St Leonards is a short walk further west on the Sussex coast than Hastings, kind of like the Hove to to Hasting's Brighton.

Most of the town was designed and laid out in the nineteenth-century by James Burton, so there are plenty of grand houses and former hostelries now in various states of dilapidation to conjure up Grand Designs-esque fantasies over. If you squint into the background of this photo you can see Marine Court, a 1930s block of flats built to resemble the Queen Mary ship. Iain Sinclair describes it wonderfully here.

I'd heard St Leonards was good for junk shops, so I wanted to go and have a rummage. What I'd heard was true. Our five hours weren't enough to scratch the surface of the vintage, junk and charity shops in the town. Above is my stash of fabrics bought in Wayward Fabrics, possibly the most beautiful fabric shop I've ever been to. It's all vintage material and the the fabrics they stock are simple and fuss free, lots of cottons and linens and the like. The shop presentation is stunning. Old fashioned cabinets are overflowing with reels of golden thread, for example, or lace trimmings, or boxes full of buttons. I would have loved to have walked in with a specific project in mind rather than desperately grabbing at things because I knew I'd regret it if I left empty handed.

Wayward Fabrics is found on Norman Road, home also to the cake shop-cum-vintage-cum-homewares-cum women's fashion shop pictured above, and a host of other stores selling antiques and vintage in all its many forms.

I got the above skirt and top for less than £20 from a shop called Xanadu, which was filled with fabulous finds. The skirt is woollen and, like most of my skirts seem to be these days, hits mid calf with pockets to pose with. I think I'm in love with the white shirt and its gold lurex piping, with more glitter to be found inside the collar and the cuffs.

The name in the label is meaningless to me but I like it because it shows that even those oh-so-sophisticated Parisians can enjoy a spot of glitter (though maybe in private only).

Clothes, coast and some of the biggest slices of cake I've ever had the delight to be served: I can definitely recommend a day trip to St Leonards.

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