Monday 30 September 2013

Bloggers In The City - Six Go Wild In Brum

Perplexed by that tricky between-the-seasons transitional wardrobe? Simple. Give away one of your favourite coats to a friend so you feel justified in buying a second-hand replacement, put said coat on over a summer dress and swap your boots for sandals - sorted. 

1960s velvet opera coat worn with Dollyrockers silk maxi (£2.99, eBay), Helen brooch (made by Tania) and Office velvet boots (£9, 2011 sale) 
I fell in love with this velvet opera coat last year but walked away and spent the evening crying into my beer. When I revisited the shop on Saturday, almost a year later, and it was still there. My £15 was out of my purse and over the counter in the blink of an eye.

It wasn't the only fabulous thing to happen on Saturday either. Forget Peaky Blinders, Birmingham got a visit from some perky bloggers in the form of darling Curtise, Gisela & Fiona (I'd never met either of them before but loved them immediately) and Liz

Forget your preconceptions. The decaying industrial city littered with 1960s concrete monstrosities that was the Birmingham I knew for the 15 years I worked there has long gone, the UK's second city has evolved into a cool & funky metropolis boasting the largest library in Europe and shed loads of high end shops and fancy eateries....not that we bothered with any of that.

Who needs bank-busting Harvey Nicks and Selfridges when you can laugh at gigantic knickers,  gasp at outrageous fancy dress costumes and marvel at fabulous fabric and cut-price cosmetics at Birmingham's world famous Rag Market?

After rifling the stalls we invaded Digbeth, Brum's vintage and second hand quarter. Here's Curtise in Credit Crunchers, a bizarre mix of cut price vintage, life-sized wooden pirates and Peters & Lee LPs.

91 Allison Street is amazing, it's cheap, chock full of fabulous stuff and Sue, the owner, is an absolute darling. Nearly all of us came out with a bag of swag - including me with my coat and this insane poodle scarf from the £1 box.

Can you believe Fiona didn't buy this gorgeous £15 maxi?

Poor Curtise was struggling with a virus so we headed for the nearest boozer (Hennessey's) for liquid refreshment and a sit down where we were joined by Pippi who got along with us a treat. We raised a glass to Em who'd had a crisis and had to cancel at the 11th hour & Clare who couldn't afford to come - they were missed.

A pint, a goat's cheese and chutney panini and chips later and we were ready to hit more shops.

People knock Cow Vintage for being Eighties-centric, but that's what the hipsters love. If you hunt carefully there's some incredible 1960s and 1970s vintage at good prices (although at £35 this Vix-tastic bag was sadly a bit too much for me).

But at £6 this backless lurex top was a definite yes.

Urban Village is probably the coolest vintage emporium in town and the rack of 1960s and 1970s sale frocks kept us happy for ages. Frankie, the owner, let me pose on his precious scooter whilst some sharply dressed passing mods obliged by taking our photos.

I bought Jon this crazy Nathan Williams 1970s shirt. I had to, the label said 1966 and that's the year we were both born - a sign, surely?

Gingermegs specialises in high-end clothing from the 1930s and 1940s. Gisela fell in love in an incredible rose print day dress for a not-too bank busting £45 but restrained herself.

This Flamenco coat reminded us of dancing queen, Veshoevius. Made in Torremolinos, no less.

My mate, Daron, recommended the Big Bulls Head so we popped in for a swift one before heading back to New Street Station (being papped on the way!)

Spoilt? Moi? In addition to having a fan-bloody-tastic day (marred only by the hour-long delay for the train home due to vandalism on the line) I got presents. A funky St Michael top, teeny poodle and Maudella pattern from Curtise and a peacock print maxi skirt and some beautiful handmade cards from Fiona.

After a quiet Saturday night in, we were up at the crack of dawn and selling our arses off at Pelsall's Autumn vintage fair yesterday.

Wearing my me-made acetate pants suit under my trusty 1960s velvet maxi waistcoat along with a Mongolian lamb boa and a stack of bastard jewellery

Now I've got to unpack the van.

See you soon!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Psychedelia In Surburbia

Liz had the day off work yesterday so she supervised me through the making of this bell-bottom pants suit.

Before you remind me that I can already sew, I still get a bit jittery about putting the scissors to vintage fabric this fabulous, so it's good to have some moral support.

I wasn't sure whether it was the model's hair or the outfit I loved most on the sleeve of this 1969 Simplicity pattern, so I copied both.

Whaddya mean? Not seasonally appropriate? Bugger the date, it's 23 degrees out and the sun's shining. We'll be condemned to months of long sleeves, bulky layers and closed-in footwear before we know it, it would be a crime to cover up unnecessarily.

Anyway, look at the garden - if neon orange, buttercup yellow, lime green and hot pink aren't the colours of Autumn I don't know what are.

I considered using buttons that matched, but soon came to my senses and used these marvellous Bakelite beauties (rescued from a moth-eaten 1940s day dress) instead.

No Barry M lippie today, I got this 1960s Boots No 7 matt orange lipstick as part of a job lot of vintage make-up from a car boot sale last year. 

If you're not on Facebook you'll have missed me banging on for the last month about a stray cat regularly calling for food and love. We think she's a Norwegian Forest cat and, despite her scrawniness, she's an absolute beauty and ridiculously fussy. She's spending longer and longer here every day and the other two don't seem too rattled. Could she be a new member of the household? Watch this space.

Unlike Stephen Squirrel and Polly Piglet, this little girl seems to adore me more than Jon. We longhairs stick together.

Bell-bottom pants suit made with 1960s acetate fabric (£4, Acorns Hospice) using Simplicity pattern no. 8146 (£2.99, St Giles Hospice) worn with 1960s vinyl holdall (£1, charity market stall), candy suedette platforms (£5, local retail), 1960s velvet & rhinestone choker (£3, vintage fair)

Wednesday night is special, it means rum, coke and Whitechapel.

See you soon!

Monday 23 September 2013

Forget Fashion - Have Fun!

Reading posts by bloggers identifying gaps in their wardrobes, complaining they've nothing to wear and identifying what they need to see them through the forthcoming season is a constant source of fascination for me. I mean, what happens to the clothes they already own? Do they honestly disintegrate and have to be binned or, more likely, are these women simply bullied by the fashion pack into believing that their existing stuff is so outdated they'll be laughed out of town for daring to wear something that isn't deemed bang-up-to-the-minute?

I love clothes, I really do, but who wants to spend all their hard-earned cash on relentlessly keeping up with fashion? Life's for living - not for filling your wardrobe with this year's trends and investing in "classic wardrobe staples". Want a transitional piece to keep you going between seasons? Sod cashmere and squirrel print jumpers,

- stick a shawl on over your favourite frock and save your cash for a holiday.

Having no interest in fashion is so liberating. I simply buy what makes my knees go weak when I see it second-hand, be it a fake fur coat in August or a halter neck maxi dress in the depths of winter. There's no worrying about whether it'll still be in style by the time it comes round to wearing it - most of my wardrobe hasn't been in fashion for the last forty years.

A cupboard filled with clothes bought because they made my heart beat faster means I'm never bored of putting on the same old dress time and time again.

Footwear for A/W 2013? Pah! I've had some of these boots for years and, other than the silver platforms, every pair was bought second-hand (I'm a UK 7/40, I never have a problem finding footwear in my size). I get them re-heeled when necessary (my cobbler charges £3.50 a pair). Are they fashionable? Who cares? I wear them because I like them - not because someone told me a certain style was "in" this season.

These coats have been making regular appearances ever since I started blogging back in 2009, each one at least forty-five years old and in brilliant condition. There's no way I could afford to buy anything of comparable quality new, and why would I want to? They receive no end of compliments when I wear them. They're bright, they're fabulous and, being vintage, it's highly unlikely I'll ever bump into anyone wearing the same thing.

I have to cull my fake fur collection regularly as I keep finding something else that steals my heart.

Constantly buying new stuff is no good for the planet, your sanity or, let's face it, your bank balance. There's far more interesting things to spend your cash having fun.

Talking of which, there's a blogger meet-up taking place in Birmingham this Saturday.
As usual it'll involve copious amounts of booze, gratuitous fondling of vintage clothing, raucous laughter, bad language and having a right old laugh.

Email me or Curtise if you want to join us.

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday.

Saturday 21 September 2013

London Kills Me

Back in the bad old days of corporate whoredom I had to travel to the capital a lot and hated it. A city full of miserable tossers who wouldn't give you the time of day, barging you out of their way on the tube, slamming doors in your face and looking at you like you were a raving nutter if you dared strike up a conversation with them.

But, with the lovely Suzanne jetting in from New York for a week I couldn't miss the chance to meet her and, when La Dama and Lakota said they'd come too, I was searching the internet like a woman demented looking for the cheapest train fare going so I could meet these wonderful women I've known virtually for years. Finally I snaffled a £20 return and off I went.

The day started off brilliantly,  a couple of ladies on the train loved my outfit so much they moved seats so they could sit and look at me and we had a riot for the 2 and a half hour journey down there.

After we met up at Euston station there was much squealing & hugging & kissing. Lakota took charge. (I honestly don't think we'd have got further than the pub across the road from Euston Station if she hadn't.) 

Armed with a map and a list of cool stuff she got us safely to Whitechapel where we puzzled over maps and posed in alleyways where Jack the Ripper stalked his prey.

We wandered to Brick Lane, oohed and ahhed over architecture, graffiti, random art, shop windows and a cute poodle called Louis. 

We were cat-called, photographed and photographed some more. Traffic stopped, crowds gathered, people came out of shops to say hello, it was like Chesterfield market on acid. 

We plonked ourselves outside a crêperie in Spitalfields, posed for more photos and got complimented by all and sundry. Credit to the staff, we must have sat at the prime table for half-an-hour before even looking at a menu.

The obligatory exchange of gifts amidst much squealing.

Photo by Dora

Didn't I do well?

After lunch we posed like prostis, before hitting the famed vintage emporiums of Brick Lane.

Photo of me by Lakota

I'm not buying any shit, I'd told Dora in an email last week, but we all know I'm a total tart and at £10 there's no way this velvet psychedelic number wasn't coming home with me. (Where did this vicious rumour about vintage clothes being ridiculously overpriced in London come from? I know vintage dealers locally who charge 5 times more).

Photo by Dora

Dora bought bad ass steampunk sunglasses and a 1970s gypsy skirt, Suzanne found a cheongsam in a £1 bin,

Photo by Dora

 Dora bought bad ass steampunk sunglasses and a 1970s gypsy skirt, Suzanne found a cheongsam in a £1 bin, but Lakota turned down this amazing 1980s party dress 'cos it showed her gusset (as if that should have stopped her).

In no time at all it was time to catch the train back to the Midlands and to say our goodbyes. What can I say? Suzanne is feisty and fabulous, Lakota is gorgeous, witty and a brilliant tour guide and La Dama is a work of art and a joy to be with. I can't wait till we meet again.

The journey home was just as much fun even the train staff ask us to pose for photos, I had a laugh with the pinstriped businessmen sitting opposite who kindly shared their samosas and I exchanged email addresses with the chick I sat next to. I've definitely changed my preconceptions of London (well, the East part, at least). I can't wait to go back.

Photo by Dora
I've a house that looks like a charity shop exploded, four dinner party guests arriving in a matter of hours, nothing in the fridge and I'm still in my kimono. Time to get my arse into gear!

Have a fab weekend.