Friday, 15 December 2017

Dressed To Impress (Yourself)

Catching up with my blog reading after an afternoon spent in the pub, I was blown away by a post Hollie published yesterday which mentioned several of my favourite bloggers / ex-bloggers - as well as me!

Aging is what you make it. There are no laws stating that you can't wear certain things after 30 or 40... just fashion magazines that like to tell you how to dress. 
Their words aren't law and neither are the opinions of others.

I'm not afraid to be myself anymore.
I feel as free and as carefree as the teenaged me who used to wear my grandmother's dresses with glitter painted sneakers and feather boas to school.
 But I also think that naturally, the older I get, the less I care about what other people think of me in general. They're not paying my bills, raising my kids or cooking my dinner so poo poo on what they think.

You ladies blog to help inspire other women your age, but never forget that this little girl has been looking up to you cool big kids for years now. I'm inspired and encouraged to embrace aging by staying true to myself. 

You can read the rest of Hollie's post HERE.

As well as being immensely flattered, Hollie hit the nail right on the head. We blog to inspire other women - we don't tell you what to wear, we simply share how us ordinary women, choose to dress on a daily basis. We don't expect anyone to copy, we just want to show that there's an alternative to slavishly following fashion, to conforming to what is expected of us, that you can dress however the f*ck you want and have an absolute blast doing so. 

 Here's just three of the outfits I've worn in the last couple of weeks. Women often approach me and say that they'd love to dress like me but can't as they're not brave enough. Bravery doesn't come into it. Stand up and be different, don't strive to blend in, be true to yourself and not what the style experts dictate how you should be. Like Hollie says, when you do you'll probably be surprised by how many people greet you with praise and compliments and maybe you'll even start to take offence when they don't stare.

WEARING: Vintage Krist of San Francisco patchwork maxi dress (birthday present from Krista back in 2013); 1960s Go-Go boots (car boot sale); Handmade fake fur jacket with bell sleeves (present from Liz);  Indian tribal necklace (present from G&T)
This is what I wore to tazz around the chazzas of the Black Country this morning, a few people commented on how colourful I looked and a very drunk man asked where I bought my jacket from but that was it, nobody laughed or beat me up although the manager of one of the shops did comment that she knew Retro Lady (that's me) would be the only person that would buy the two foot high plastic statue of the Virgin Mary that had been hanging around the shop for a month. I'm predictable in my tastes if nothing else!

Have a fabulous weekend and let's hope that last night's sprinkling was the last of the snow. My suede platforms are starting to gather dust.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

New Clothes For Old - Travel Packing & Snow Clothes

TUESDAY: 1960s Wetherall of Bond Street wool cape (charity shop, 2004); Vintage fake fur scarf (belonged to my mum); Sheepskin hat (charity shop, 2010); 1970s high heeled wellies (jumble sale)

After what seems like an eternity - but in reality was only six days - the snow is finally melting and I can't wait to chuck the wellies back into the cupboard of doom and unleash the maxis and precarious platforms. Much as I love cheeky mini dresses and brightly coloured tights, I feel far more me in a floor sweeping frock!

WEDNESDAY: Trashy yeti coat (charity shop, £3); Me-made Mini dress made from vintage Tricel using a 1968 dressmaking pattern; Barbarella belt (Birthday present); 1970s Welsh wool baker boy cap (charity shop)

As I mentioned on Monday, it was time to start the travel packing. As usual I emptied out the holiday suitcase I keep on top of the wardrobe and unleashed the heady scent of incense and wood smoke, the aroma of India deeply ingrained in my clothes from years of visiting. I'm taking a few old favourites including my Dollyrockers maxi skirt and the Chelsea Girl block printed wrap-around but, after losing weight, some of my travel staples are looking distinctly saggy. I'd broken my trusty Havaianas flip flops at a festival over the summer, my bikinis were well past their sell-by date, my vintage polarised sunglasses were scratched to buggery and also, as I'm travelling to an area that doesn't see many Western tourists, I've got to consider cultural sensitivities and cover my shoulders. Luckily I'd had a bit of a clear-out, stuck some stuff on eBay and done surprisingly well including these £2 Red or Dead glitter shoes I'd bought back in September. They went for £50! So I had spare cash to fritter!

What to do? Sit yourselves down, long-time readers. I went on-line and bought some stuff! I managed to find a pair of brand new Havaianas flip flops on Ebay for £3. While waiting for our India visa photos to pop out of the photo booth in Boots last week I'd tried on the most amazing pair of sunglasses but at £80? No way. Jon photographed the bar code and I managed to track down a brand new pair on Ebay for £20. I know I've got about a million pairs of sunnies but I really do need a good polarised pair when I'm in India.


Next up, bikinis. Usually, at this time of year, the choice is pretty poor - full price glitzy things from the big companies or strange looking Chinese imports from Ebay so I had a look at the website of the Manchester-based company website who use internet legend Baddie Winkle as a model and found a couple of dreamy string bikinis for a tenner apiece. They arrived within 24 hours of placing my order and fitted perfectly.


I know there's loads of elegant looking older women on the internet but Baddie Winkle's the woman for me.  Just look at how much fun she's having. I want to be just like her when I grow up. What a genius idea to use her to advertise clothes rather than some scrawny, miserable looking teenager. It certainly worked for me, I'd probably never have looked at the website without her at the helm!

As an alternative to the too-big skirts I usually wear to walk to the beach in Goa I fancied a dress I could throw on - like the rainbow maxi I wore daily in Corfu back in June but in darker colours that don't show off the dust - I do wash my clothes when I'm India but I'd washing that dress every day. India's for adventuring not wringing out frocks in the shower. I also needed something lightweight with sleeves for exploring Gujarat. I'd toyed with my Adini maxi (HERE) but decided it was too precious to take and also considered the amazing Hawaiian maxi Goody sent me (below) but as the cotton is such good, heavy quality, I worried it would tip me over my internal flight baggage allowance of 15 kg (but the more I look at it, the more I'm tempted to take it, I could always travel in it). I'd searched on Ebay but all the suitable vintage options were ££££ and the last thing I wanted to do was shell out a fortune and ruin them trawling around India.

So, with a maxi dress with sleeves and a lightweight, dark-coloured maxi that slips on and off with no fussy fastenings on my virtual shopping list I visited another website, a company I'd previously dismissed as being cheap and nasty but, after I'd bought a pair of their bell bottoms in a charity shop, I was pleasantly surprised at the fit, the fact that they were manufactured in the UK and, on checking their website, that they had a transparent ethical policy. A day later, both dresses arrived (plus another I was tempted with at the last minute, perfect for swanking around the hip and happening joints of downtown Mumbai), two were perfect, the third too big - but luckily there was a smaller size left in stock and I was able to return it for free. Did I mention that all three were reduced to clear and cost me in total, with next day delivery, just £24?

Aren't I naughty? Let's just hope the new stuff doesn't fall apart after a month of dragging it around the subcontinent.

Here's the final cut. Obviously there's sandals, bags and jewellery to be added to the pile but just looking at it makes me squeal with excitement. I'll show it you in more detail soon.

It's Wednesday and it's my favourite night of the week, rum and The Apprentice. I'm hoping the rest of the snow has been washed away by the rain by the morning, we've got a boozy lunch date tomorrow.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow

The discovery of this Welsh wool cape in a charity shop on Friday couldn't have come at a better time. The temperatures were icy, we'd already had a few inches of snow overnight and weather warnings had been issued for the mother of all snowstorms, expected to hit the West Midlands early on Sunday morning.

It had been over a fortnight since we'd dedicated a whole morning to charity shopping so, as you can imagine, I was itching to get rummaging. Our first stop was the overpriced and quite frankly, pretty rubbish chazza where we hardly ever find anything and, guess what? I found something. My cape! It was labelled at an insanely low £8 (I've seen Primarni shoes with trashed down heels in there for more). I'm pretty sure it's been hand-made as there's no labels inside. I loved that the person who sewed it opted to line it in red satin and chose big, bold and in-your-face emerald green buttons as opposed to playing it safe with boring neutrals. My kind of dressmaker!

WEARING: Vintage Welsh wool cape with me-made mini dress made from vintage psych fabric; Nuclear green tights & 1960s nylon gloves (both car boot sales); Vintage sheepskin hat (present); 1970s high heeled French-made wellies (Jumble sale)

For once, the weather people got it right. The snow started in the early hours of Sunday morning and continued all day. By 6pm we'd had over 20cms and, despite being told that it would stop today, there's been more snow this morning.

I made this cardi last week - another old blanket (from a charity shop ages ago), I deconstructed and sewed back together. It's cosy!

After a day spent indoors yesterday, this morning we layered up, swept the step, broke up the ice in the bird bath & replenished it with fresh water and topped up all the bird feeders. After looking a bit forlorn yesterday, our feathered friends are having a right old party now.

I'm not a practical dresser, I've never owned a fleece, a quilted jacket or a waterproof pair of trousers and even my (vintage) wellies have got high heels. The snow's pretty but it doesn't half play havoc with my wardrobe. Maxis are pretty much useless when the snow reaches past your knees so it looks like minis will be featuring strongly in my outfit choices for the rest of the week. Fortunately for me, the amount of shorter clobber in my wardrobe increased slightly when I snaffled this repro '70s patchwork number from the charity clearance shop within minutes of finding my cape.

WEARING: Fake 1970s suedette mini with a 1960s suede coat (Second To None); Big sleeved top & Aldo hat (both charity shopped); Dents cyclamen leather gloves and 1960s snakeskin & Stainless Steel choker (car boot sale); Original Biba boots (belonged to my mum): Tights - bought 11 years ago from Topshop sale & still going strong!

I wasn't sure if the skirt looked a bit cheap so I asked Jon. It is cheap, he said, It's £1 and told me to get it 'cos the colours were amazing. He wasn't wrong. I was so preoccupied with the weird feel of the fake suede that I hadn't really noticed the colour. It wasn't until after I'd posted this photo on Instagram and a friend had commented, No chance of getting mown down by a snow plough in that outfit, Vix, until I realised just how bright it was.

Here's almost everything we found - there were a few bits of menswear but they're still drying. I'd stick them in the tumble drier but that would involve me having to leave the window open and it's far too cold for that! 
Clockwise from top left: Welsh wool cape; 1970s handmade jumper; Suedette patchwork mini skirt; Julien MacDonald tote; Handmade shawl; 1970s Salisbury's basket; Zara choker; Biba suede platforms (reserved); 1970s acrylic midi dress; 1970s leaf green slinky midi dress; Burn-out velvet scarf by Nadia Mahmood - a Birmingham-based textile designer who incorporates Islamic & British motifs into her work.

The council gritters can only reach the main roads so not a single vehicle has driven past the house this morning, the school around the corner is closed and even public transport has been cancelled. Birmingham airport was shut for most of yesterday and it felt odd not to hear a plane fly overhead. I'm rather enjoying the silence although I expect the novelty will wear off after a couple of days and I'll be pacing the house like a caged tiger.

I'm linking to Patti and the gang for Visible Monday then I'm off upstairs to pack my India bag. I can dream of dusty villages, fiery sunsets and baking heat even if it's less than zero degrees outside.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Lamani Love - The One Where I Share My Tribal Collection

It's all a bit grim here today, heavy snowstorms and positively Arctic temperatures with weather warnings issued for the weekend, even our schools are closed. Time to start thinking about our escape to warmer climes. 

When I first went to India twenty years ago I expected to see beautiful women in saris - and I did. What completely took me by surprise were the Lamani women (also known as the Banjara) I encountered in Goa. The Lamani are nomadic tribe, originally from the Northwest belt of India - from Afghanistan to the state of Rajasthan - but now spread out through the entire subcontinent. Many settled in Karnataka, Goa's neighbouring state, travelling across the border during the tourist season to make their living.


The Lamani women specialise in lepo embroidery which involves stitching fragments of mirror, coins and decorative beads on to their clothes. Their jewellery is a mish-mash of scrap metal, old tin and cutlery and obsolete coins, pierced or bashed into shape and strung on scraps of fabric and old rope. Every toe is adorned with a ring, they wear bells in their hair, huge nose rings and heavy bangles. You can usually hear them before you see them.


From the moment I saw the Lamani I was transfixed. I wanted to own some of those amazing pieces. The trouble is that although the women are often traders, hawking their goods around the tourist hot spots of India, they mostly sell tourist trinkets. The clothes & jewellery they adorn themselves with are their own, painstakingly hand-made and highly prized.


It's taken me almost two decades to build up my small collection of Lamani costume and that's through getting to know the ladies personally, helping out with their kids' homework or just sitting and chatting by the roadside. Although they're made from scrap metal, the jewellery can cost hundreds of pounds from specialist tribal selling sites - not that I'll ever sell mine.  

Three of my coin belts.

Two armlets and a pair of heavy metal ankle bracelets (I got luck with the armlet on the left of the screen, I found it on another trader's stall at a Judy's Vintage fair).

Ring made from obsolete Indian paise coins and a trio of Rajasthani toe rings.

Late 19th century Century torque and three vintage tribal coin necklaces, all originating from Karnataka.

The bust detail on this blouse indicates it was made in Gujarat.

Hand embroidered sleeves with mirrored inserts.

I found this Gujarati scarf in a charity shop dump bin for 50p recently. It's decorated with a thousand year old tie-dye technique.

 Even if our British weather isn't always good enough to wear the clothes, I try and wear a piece of Lamani jewellery every day.

I wonder which pieces I'll be packing to take back with me next time? I think that blue blouse might be a strong possibility.

I'll leave you with these incredible photos taken by Michael Lange. Even without colour, aren't they a beautiful tribe? 





Counting the days until I see my friend Laxmi again!

Time to light the fire and crack on with the birthday rum.

Have a fab weekend, folks!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Trust In Me - Georgian Splendour In Sleepy Shropshire

A rock gig and a boozy Wetherspoons all-dayer, what my birthday week was lacking was some culture so this morning, wrapped up in big coats, hats and thermal undies we headed across the border to the county of Shropshire.

Warning - it's been a while, we were excited - this post is photo-heavy!!!

Attingham Park was the seat of Noel Hill, 1st Baron Berwick and Whig politician, who was awarded his title in 1784 by William Pitt the Younger in gratitude for assistance given in the restructuring of the East India Company. Hill already owned a property on the site of Attingham Park called Tern Hall but, with the money he received in addition to his title, he commissioned architect, George Steuart, to design a new and grander house to be built around the original hall.

Work on Attingham Park was completed in 1785 and is the National Trust's fourth most visited property. Within the estate there are five Grade II listed buildings, including the stable block, the toll house and a couple of bridges that span the River Tern. There are also twelve Grade II listed structures which include the retaining walls of the estate, the bee house (photos below), the ice house, the walled garden, the ha-ha and the Home Farm.

The Regency Bee House, one of only two known to have existed in the UK

Attingham Park has had rather a colourful history, originally a family home, during the First World War, Thomas, the 8th Lord Berwick, lent the property to a Dutch American family, the Van Bergens, who established Attingham as a hospital for soldiers wounded at the front. by 1916 it had sixty beds and an operating theatre. During the Second World War it was home to a group of evacuated schoolgirls from Birmingham. It was gifted to the National trust in 1947. From 1948 until 1971 it served as an adult education college.

The walled garden

After exploring the organic garden we took a gentle mile-long stroll along the banks of the River Tern then headed for the mansion house. For most of the month of December there's a 1940s Xmas theme - two of my favourite things, NOT! But, gaudy ornaments and the Andrews Sisters backing track aside, there was plenty of spectacular Georgian furniture, glorious architectural detail and fine art to distract me. The vintage clothes on display were pretty special, too - especially the midnight blue velvet gown in the drawing room (photos below).

Check out those knitted patchwork blankets draped across the sofa in the East Ante-Room.

I'm pretty sure Lynn's got a 1940s cotton pinny very similar to this one. 

 I'm not sure if Noel, the 1st baron Berwick ever travelled to India but there's lots of Indian art on display including two large murals depicting a particularly unpleasant tiger hunt.

The boudoir, a love token from the first baron to his wife, was hand painted by French painters.

The showcase of stuffed exotic birds was pretty horrible.

 The picture gallery was designed by John Nash in 1805, the glass roof flawed from the beginning as it leaked. 

The second baron went bankrupt in 1827 and the contents of the house were auctioned, although many were reacquired in later years.

I loved this Italianate table. Those chaps look like centaurs - the birth sign of us Sagittarians.

I adored the portrait of the exotic looking lady with the white blouse. The bench with the winged lions makes me go weak at the knees - gorgeous!

The decoration on the walls was completely original, not looking too bad for over two hundred years old. 

The rooms on the first floor were unfurnished. They currently house exhibition space and details of the on-going conservation work.

WEARING: Super bright vintage maxi by Honeycomb (amazing birthday present from Ann), 1960s sheepskin & suede coat (Second to None), 1970s tooled leather bag, Stuart Weizmann boots & felted wool hat (all charity shopped)

 I always love the kitchens in stately homes. This black range is a beauty. There's a modern gas hob on the top of the stove as the local WI were running a cookery demonstration during our visit. 

Note the original Camp coffee label - now changed so the Sikh solider is sitting next to the British officer and no longer waiting on him. How odd are those blue Kit-Kats?

The table laid for tea, 1940s style. Loving the vintage coat on the rack.

We were in two minds about renewing our National Trust membership following a member's vote which allowed trail hunting to continue on their lands but, as a number of people have pointed out, if all us antis revoked our membership then the pro-hunters would have free reign to do whatever they wish. So we shall continue being members and object, veto and complain at every opportunity.

On the subject of old houses bit of exciting news - there's now a SOLD sign outside The Cottage! Sadly the lovely lady's offer was too low but the couple who're buying it absolutely love all the original features, don't want to change a thing, have already sold their house and are renting locally. Can we have the sale done and dusted before India? Keep everything crossed!

Thanks for the birthday love, you lovely people! I'm looking forward to cracking open the birthday rum in a couple of hours time.