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.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Last-Week Links: 25 January 2013

A teenage rampage...

Maybe it's because my joints are aching with the cold, or it's a struggle to get out of bed, and each day I seem to see a new line on my face (or, more alarmingly, a white hair in my eyebrow!) but - without intending it - today's links are all teenage themed.

Starting, as you might have guessed, with some material from the Teenage blog which has been on especially good form recently. I really enjoyed their feature on Frankie Lymon, of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. He's mentioned by Ronnie Spector in both her autobiography and the Street Corner Soul series - her mother somehow persuaded him, then Ronnie's doo-woop heart-throb, to come and visit their home. Then, still only in his mid-teens, he apparently stank of booze and made a pass at the young Veronica. He tragically died of a heroin overdose at the age of 25. Forget the booze and the drugs and inappropriate passes and just listen to him sing instead.

Also on Teenage, a young Chloe Sevigny, who was plucked off the New York streets and asked to intern, then model, at Sassy, a magazine I only know by its fearsome reputation. This spread dates from 1992. My main reading matter from my early teenage years (before moving onto Just 17 and the like) was Smash Hits. I owe it a lot: how else would I still know all the words to Betty Boo's Where Are You Baby? This article from a couple of weeks ago reminded me of exactly how funny and brilliant it was and made me miss it heaps.

I've mentioned I was working on a book about Glam Rock. It's meant I've spent a huge amount of time looking at images of the Glam Rock's original poster boy Marc Bolan. Hackney Museum have an exhibition closing this Saturday called Stamford Hill Mods: the genesis of Marc Bolan. It looks at Mod culture in the early 60s in the area. This is where Marc Bolan (then Mark Feld) grew-up, and there's an argument to say Glam itself grew of out the Mod movement. The exhibition is based around the photography of Don McCullin who took a series of images for Town Magazine in 1962. The image to the right is one of Don's and, on the right, is Mark Feld himself.

Thanks to a post on Candy Pop, I found out about the ace Ralph Crane pictures taken of 18-year-old Twiggy on her first visit to the United States in 1967 and seemingly having a lovely time with Sonny and Cher and the like.

See the full gallery (and laugh at some of the crazy party dancing) here.

What other way to finish but with some more Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers? This recording from 1956 is fantastic, and I dig their 'T' tops too. Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Last-Year Reads: Harriet Love's Guide to Vintage Chic

I've seen quite a few blog posts about Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troys's Cheap Chic recently. For whatever reason, it must be "having a moment": the cheapest version on sale at Abebooks is £162 which is crazy money (though it's an excellent read). Several posts also referenced this book for similar style inspiration, Harriet Love's Guide to Vintage Chic which thankfully you can buy for a lot less than £162. Harriet Love opened possibly the first dedicated vintage shop in the United States in 1965 according to this article, and this guide was published in 1982.

Though published seven years later than  Cheap Chic, there are a lot of similarities (Carol Troy even turns up in it, modelling an ivory satin night dress). But if Milinaire and Troy are all about the inspiration, Love goes big on the practicalities: where to find your clothes, what items and materials to look for from each era, how to wash them and how to make sensible alternations - I'm planning on using her instructions on making shoulders fit you properly on my gorgeous but oversized 40s frock very soon.

What's striking is the type of vintage she references. Because she's writing in the early 80s, she primarily discusses Victorian, Edwardian, 1920s, 30s and 40s fashions, with a smattering of 50s - the eras most of us vintage hunters can only now dream about affording or turning up. I was salivating over some of the printed dresses she describes sweeping up on trips over to Britain in the late 60s (sadly it's all in black and white so you have to imagine the colour). "Finding old clothes isn't the cheap thrill it used to be in the sixties", she bemoans - presumably the result of thousands of Milinaire and Troy devotees - though it's hard to find much sympathy when she describes expecting to pay just $75 to $100 for a 1950s Dior ball dress. That's the equivalent of about $240 at the top end now, or £150. Imagine!

It's also fascinating to see how the vintage 'trends' of each era filtered into mainstream fashion. The Princess Di pie-crust collar is exactly like the Edwardian blouses that Love illustrates, while the brightly patterns Hawaiian shirts of the 50s and the padded shoulders of the 30s and 40s she features were echoed by two big looks of the 80s. And it's interesting to see how what's 'normal' in clothing style gradually shifts: at one point she has to implore readers to give 3/4 sleeves, typical of 50s sweaters a go, despite not being the clothing fashion. I think the majority of my high street sleeves are 3/4 length now, it's funny to think this might have ever been an issue.

It's not just trends of the future that are hinted at in this book, it's stars too. The eagle eyed may have spotted that's Geena Davis wearing the dress on the left in the dresses spread, and looking sultry on the cover. On p.126 there's also, an as then unnamed but soon-to-be mega star, Madonna looking effortlessly cool in an Adrian jacket (an Adrian jacket! Let's imagine again...).

Though bound to evoke huge quantities of jealous, there's lots in this book that remains invaluable for serious vintage collectors. Just make sure you buy it now, before the price for this book shoots through the roof too.

Buy this from Last-Year Girl Books on Etsy

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Friday, 18 January 2013

Buy a slice of Studio 54

I haven't done a round-up of links this week, mainly because most of my 'spare' online time has been taken up by a new time-consuming hobby: looking at auction catalogues online. Thrilling, huh? I can only conclude I get some kind of voyeuristic pleasure of scrolling through pages of other people's stuff and speculating about their lives. An auction of a collection of someone I already knew a little about is happening in Palm Beach tomorrow, in a sale called 'Studio 54 - Steve Rubell & Important Modern'.

Steve Rubell was the charismatic co-owner of the legendary Studio 54 (along with Ian Schrager): the place to party in New York between 1977 - the top image is the poster for its opening - and 1980, and this sale gives a fascinating snapshot into this infamous brief hedonistic period.

There are lots of black and white photos for sale revealing the great and the good and the not-so-good who visited the club, each photo with suggested bids of around $200. There's Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Brooke Shields, Halston and many more, snapped in some brilliant juxtapositions (almost as good as awesome people hanging out together). I particularly like Lot 57, Bjorn Borg and Bianca Jagger, taken in 1978 and Lot 372, Salvador Dali and the model Apollonia, visiting the club. There's also some Andy Warhol polaroids taken of the clientele, with suggested bids of $2000 each attached.

Warhol was also one of Studio 54's regulars and there's a fair bit of Warhol-related goods in the sale too, including a contacts book for his Interview magazine, and this metal sculpture believed to be made especially for Rubell. As you might expect, that's expecting bids of many $$$$$.

This book looks very unassuming but held great power. It's the front door's reservation book holding names of approved guests and, perhaps more controversially, who would need to pay to get in. Perhaps this will be snapped up by some Seventies star trying to preserve their pride.

There's lots more in the auction, including some fantastic bits of twentieth-century furniture design (not from the Rubell estate but wonderful anyway). You can even register to bid online and scrolling through the catalogue, if not hedonistic, at least offers a bit of escapism for a snowy day.

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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Last-Year Shops: St Cyr Vintage, Camden Market

Given that Camden Market probably looms large in many people's first experience of buying second-hand clothes in London, it's amazing how sniffy people can get about buying second-hand clothes in Camden Market. I'm clearly talking about myself here and was guilty of more than a touch of sniffiness about the place until I went back up to reacquaint myself for the Rough Guide to Vintage London. Okay, there's still masses of stalls selling nasty T-shirts or 90s sportswear or nasty noodles, and I wouldn't really want to venture there on a weekend but I did discover some great new places. My favourite was the hither-to unheard of St Cyr Vintage which has quickly catapulted itself up my list of favourite vintage shops.

St Cyr is set at the back of the Stables Market under one of the railway arches. That makes it a bit of a mission to get to but once inside it is (joy!) spacious and (more happiness!) calm. If one of the things that depresses me most about Camden is the huge amount of tat for sale, this shop is the opposite of that: good quality stuff, which is clean, well laid-out and reasonably priced. It stocks anything from the 1920s to the 1980s although when I visited it was a selection of beautiful patterned 50s frocks that caught my eye.

Those dresses by themselves probably would have been worth a return visit but can you guess what really made this shop a favourite? Books. Yes, hundreds of fashion books. Supplied by The Old Bookshop, a specialist fashion and textile bookseller, St Cyr sells everything from how-to guides to back issues of Vogue and old sewing patterns. Classic fashion texts on their shelves included Cecil Beaton's The Glass of Fashion, biographies by Diane Von Furstenberg and Pierre Balmain and it's also where I bought my copy of The Magic Names of Fashion. I could have bought an awful lot more. Camden, I can only apologise for judging you so harshly.

Images are from the St Cyr vintage website

Friday, 11 January 2013

Last-Week Links: 11 January 2013

My little experiment of a links round up seemed to go alright last week so here are some of the bits and pieces that have been rattling round my head this week.

I'm still working my way through James Baldwin's Another Country. The novel is seemingly soundtracked by the blues of Bessie Smith throughout. It's the sound of the restless, those thousands of people ain't got no place to go". The song perfectly captures feeling at odds with your environment and is also a, perhaps too successful, soundtrack for a spot of self-indulgent January melancholy.

Still in New York, but several decades later and I finally and mournfully finished Mad Men season 5. Not wanting to give any spoilers away if you've successfully avoided them thus far, let's look instead at the beauty that is Megan's outfit choices. I love this blog post which links them back to a 1966 Vogue. I also did what any 21st century devotee would do - immediately created a fan art board on Pinterest. In the process, I lost a lot of time admiring the pop culture inspired illustration of Nan Lawson.

More mid-century fashion inspiration as Overlook are reprinting Claire McCardell's 1956 classic style guide What Shall I Wear? meaning her excellent advice is once again accessible (the original edition now sells for about £150). Susie Bubble did a lovely post on Tuesday about McCardell which is definitely worth a read. As a bonus, you might also be able to find a somewhat gushing comment I left over there.

And also on the matter classic American style, I discovered Amanda Brook's I Love Your Style blog through her post about my most recent read, The Fashion Makers. I'm really pleased that I did. Alongside beautiful scenes of an idyllic England, she posts great style images, be it the The Shrimp in Scholl's or "The Women We Wanted to Look Like" or the bohemian style of Michelle Phillips, shown above.

And finally, moving closer to home though still a pretty alien environment (despite all the episodes of Strictly Come Dancing I've consumed) is this 'Last Tango in Blackpool' clip shown on Taken from the forthcoming Ballroom Dancer film, it features possibly the most tense bit of make-up application I've ever seen...

Hope you've all had good weeks!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Last-Year Reads: The Fashion Makers by Barbra Walz and Bernadine Morris

The Fashion Makers is a great snapshot of the American fashion industry in the late 1970s. Subtitled 'An Inside Look at America's Leading Designers', Bernadine Morris provides the words and Barbra Walz provides the fantastic original black and white photographs for profiles of 50 different designers.

This book was published in 1978, that seemingly odd period of fashion discussed in Kennedy Fraser's 1982 The Fashionable Mind or the "confused state" described by Ernestine Carter at the end of her 1980 Magic Names of Fashion. Barbra touches on the shifts in this period in her introduction when she says that the public were reacting to designers "on a new level - they had become celebrities ... Designers were in magazines, on the radio and in television commercials and were making not only clothes but sunglasses, umbrella, luggage, shoes, jewellery and cosmetics."

But this confused state is more apparent in the selection of designers. Old timers, such as Edith Head and Lilly Daché (pictured doing her best for the glamour cause on her exercise bike), rub shoulders with the next bright young things like Donna Karan. Couturiers such as Arnold Scaasi and Charles James (shown looking louche outside the Chelsea Hotel) are next to those such as Betsey Johnson who are determined to keep fashion fun and prices down. She remarks, "this stuff at high prices would be wrong".

As the fashions themselves seem to be being pulled in all directions, there are some designers featured who perfectly capture the micro trends of the era. Take for example Joe Famolare's "Get There" shoes, made with a wavy platform sole, which - at the time of the book - were taking $100 million worth of sales a year. Or Aldo Cipullo who was launched off the back of his "Love Bracelet" for Cartier, basically selling the hippy philosophy to the masses back for thousands of dollars.

Bernadine Morris's text is succinct and business-like, whether talking about profits or parrots (in the case of Mr. John's profile). It outlines the designer's educational background and some of their style philosophies. There are also some interesting comments from designers responsible for shifting attitudes in the fashion industry, whether due to their ethnicity (Scott Barrie: "My mother told me 'It's hard to break into that field ... blacks don't make it there' ... We changed all that.") or their gender (Diane Von Furstenberg: "I know what I am, and what women can do. I know what women want. There's been a big change in women in the last few years. It's not a question of age or background ... Being liberated doesn't mean being ugly, looking like a truckdriver. It means being free to do what you want to do, to be productive, to be honest.").

While plenty of names profiled in the book may have fallen into relative obscurity over the last 35 years, it's striking how the image of those who remain household names remains fairly static: Calvin Klein is perfect American simplicity photographed in a plain white top against a bare wood building, Ralph Lauren is shown at home surrounded by his family, while there's a spread devoted to shots of Halston partying with the beautiful people. Is this, as Barbra suggested, the birth of the designer as their own 'brand': ready to transfer that brand to a perfume, a lipstick or a lifestyle? While, in the introduction, she says she sought to break through any stereotypes, in fact Barbra's photographs have ended up reinforcing each of these personal brands, and have help make our own image of the fashion makers. But, remarkably, somehow the profiles still manage to look authentic, unposed and - unthinkable today - unfiltered by any PR. Perhaps that's why they manage to still look so fresh.

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Friday, 4 January 2013

Last-Week Links: 4 January 2013

Dear readers, welcome to a little experiment. It's that time of year after all. This is an attempt to report some of the things I've come across on this week's internet adventures. Perhaps it'll become a weekly thing - who knows? How very exciting. Buckle your seat belts.

Predictably I fell down a Ronettes internet hole after finishing Ronnie Spector's biography. Number one on my hit list at the moment is this fabulous necklace from EC One which I featured on Retro To Go this week.

I spent a long time looking up all of Ronnie's more recent collaborations which included this rather lovely 'Ode to LA' done for a band I'd almost completely forgotten about - The Raveonettes. I've enjoyed rediscovering their contemporary interpretations of the 60s girl group sound.

Onto another female heroine. I was delighted to see Cher Horowitz named Coveteur of the Year. For more teen movie nostalgia, my old pal @housetoastonish pointed me towards the Beyond Clueless kickstarter project: teen movies PLUS Summer Camp. Oh my.

New year, new projects right? The gorgeously twee cover of the 50th edition of Frankie made me want to pick up my needle again. I'm looking forward to starting back at my clothesmaking class next week, and also doing a couple of textile printing sessions later in the month.

There are always fresh clothes to lust over. I love the crazy cats that grace the Peter Jensen for People Tree collection (though can't help thinking his soldier print is a touch too Boden - what do you think?).

Finally, it's always great to discover new blogs. The above image comes from the gorgeous Candy Pop, found through Lobster and Swan. THIS is what I want my dressing table to look like, rather than the cluttered mess you can see in any shots I take in front of my mirror.

And the gorgeous Katie-Louise Ford, found through Yours Truly. She's got one of the most inspiring wardrobes I've seen for a long time, and I'm lusting over the House of Eliott worthy bob. I'm looking forward to reading more from all these ladies over the coming year.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Last-Year Sales: Carvela, Converse, Banana Republic and Traffic People

This time of year always feels like a bit of a show and tell in blogs: what did you get in the sales? Well, I'll tell you what I got. Not masses this year but a few bits which I hope will cheer up the start of 2013.

A pair of new sandals from Carvela for an occasion that's definitely cheering up the start of 2013: I've booked to go to Cuba next month. Coffee, cocktails, music and BEACHES; I can't wait! I'm hoping by the end of that holiday my feet will be looking less deathly English pale and more like they belong to someone who has been lucky enough to see the sunshine at some point in her lifetime.

I couldn't resist this collaboration between two of my favourite brands: Converse and Marimekko. Look at those lovely spots. Just one thing bothering me, red or white laces?

Inspired by two wonderful vintage style icons, Diana Vreeland and Lilly Daché, I felt this might be the year I should finally get some of what is often referred to as 'statement jewellery'. My first attempt at such a tricky beast comes from Banana Republic worn here, in this not-at-all-hungover-honest photo taken on New Year's day. And I'm also wearing my turban - an unexpected find in Traffic People and very handy for keeping me toasty for the New Year's Eve fireworks. 2013: the year of the turban. Who would have thought it?
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