Wednesday 26 November 2014

Cat Food Couture

  I've no idea when I'm going to wear it, the girl replied calmly, I only knew I had to have it. When I tried it on, well.........She shrugged, the dress claimed me.  

Isobel Woolf  A Vintage Affair

My heart skipped a beat when I spotted this vintage gown in the window of charity shop last week. Weighing over 2 kg and with its intricately boned bodice, layer upon layer of underskirt and exquisite appliqué & glass embellishments, it wasn't so much a dress as a piece of art. I bought it without a moment's hesitation. Too small to adorn my mannequin, it hung on the bedroom door for six days before I tried it on a whim last night. I was amazed to find that it fitted me perfectly.

But when to wear it? Asda, Lidl and the corner shop have been done before so I plumped for Pets At Home, a pet food superstore on a grim out-of-town retail park. Flanked by Matalan & Farmfoods, if anywhere ever needed an injection of vintage glamour on a wet Wednesday in Walsall then that place certainly did.

Funny, the other customers seemed a bit camera shy. 

One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.
Oscar Wilde

Early 20th Century embellished silk velvet evening gown worn with fake Lita style leopard print platforms (car boot sale), armfuls of second-hand brass bangles and a brass tribal choker from Orissa, India.
Did anyone bat an eyelid? Of course not (or if they did I was far too busy scanning the shelves for bargain cat food to pay much attention). 

See you soon!

Monday 24 November 2014

Mod Mania & Civic Pride

Its often said that Jon & I are the unofficial ambassadors for our town so, when Black Country Echoes asked if we'd help out with the publicity for some upcoming local events, we leapt at the chance. Its not just good for business, its our civic duty.

This Saturday its Mod Mania, a celebration of all things Sixties. Kinky are bringing the clobber, Boomerang Retro are furnishing the room, Barington & Jordi are spinning some original Soul & Ska vinyl and a pro stylist will be photographing visitors arriving in retro attire (or on vintage wheels) and offering a personal shopping service, styling and professional style photo shoot to a lucky few. There's party nibbles, vintage board games, a badge making workshop and a show reel featuring coolly dressed locals from back in the day. 

If that's not enough Vintage Duos are also holding a big vintage & craft fair in the Town Hall next door and there's also the old fashioned delights of Wednesbury to explore.

Here you'll find ancient pubs, 

Fine examples of the Black Country's rich industrial heritage, 

and shops established in the last century and virtually untouched by the internet age.

We've been out this weekend, scouring the West Midlands for some fine examples of 1960s fashion. Even if you don't buy from us do come along, rummage our rails and get your photo taken wearing something vintage. You never know, you might be converted.

In the meantime this week is going to be busy. We'll be tempting our friends on Facebook & Twitter with sneak previews of our latest stock.

Our stockroom aka the empty parental home
After every event labels vanish, zips break and buttons fall off with repeated trying on, necklines get smeared with make-up and hemlines get grubby. We pride ourselves on selling ready-to-wear clothing so our stock is always laundered and repaired prior to sale. Everything is priced 'cos there's nothing more embarrassing than having to constantly ask. 

Whenever we're out and people compliment the way we're dressed we'll always hand out a flier for our next event and suggest they come and shop our style. I'm on the way to blitz the university campus round the corner.

Wearing: 1960s Wetherall of Bond Street cape, vintage go-go boots, leather Gladstone bag, geometric print shirt, vintage suede skirt suit (all shopped second-hand), original 1960s hat courtesy of Zoe and psychedelic leggings handmade in Portland by Kiss Me Kitty
If you can come then please do, we'll be there from 2pm until 6pm and we know that you'll have a blast.

See you soon!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday and Judith's Hat Attack.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Happy Shopper - In Praise of Charity Shops

Yeah, I know that I'm already preaching to the converted but charity shops really are great, aren't they? Take today, for instance. Desperate to wear the suede midi skirt I bought in Burton last week, none of my existing footwear looked quite right. What I need, I thought, is a pair of vintage tan knee high boots. 

What was waiting for me in the very first charity shop we visited this morning? Only these British-made leather beauties by Trueform. Due to their age the rubber heel tip had perished but, at just £3.50 to replace, our local cobbler can sort them out while I wait tomorrow. 

Picasso pendant (20p, car boot sale) threaded on my Afghani turquoise beaded necklace, a 35th birthday present from a friend (almost 13 years ago!)
After we'd cleaned the house ready for Monday's photo shoot I mused, we need something to add a bit of colour & interest to the floor space running from the hallway, through the middle room toward to kitchen. 

What did Jon spot in amongst the bric-a-brac at one of our favourite charity furniture shops this morning? Only this stunner of a vintage tribal kelleghi for a tenner! 

Of course you'd be a fool to walk around with a wishlist of stuff you wanted to buy second hand. Shop with a fixed plan and you'll end up missing something spectacular like these incredible vintage evening gowns I found today.

This is so beautiful its almost museum worthy, handmade from black silk velvet with Baroque appliqué work, sequins, a boned bodice, metal zip and a net underskirt. It weighs a ton!

How such an amazing dress ended up in a tiny Black Country town I'll never know.

This satin number was from the same shop, languishing amongst the endless rails of George at Asda and Primark. What a sorry end for the poor thing! The construction is astonishing. Its like something you'd see some celeb wearing on the red carpet.

Remember the bag I bought from Burton last week? My dear friend Sarah, who I bought my Pucci dress from, tells me that its a groovy Scandinavian textile, Glimminge by Mona Björk, Borås Cotton, 1967. Cool, eh?

1970s suede midi & tote bag (both St Giles Hospice, Burton), vintage boots (British Heart Foundation) worn with animal print top (Topshop via charity shop) and fake fur jacket (£7, catalogue clearance shop, 2012)
We've got another weekend off but then it's well and truly back to the grindstone, kicking off with a groovy Mod/1960s event we're helping to host for the Black Country Echoes Festival. In the meantime I'm going to scare myself witless with series 2 of The Fall, stupendously good drama from the BBC.

See you soon!

Tuesday 18 November 2014

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille! Surviving a Pro Photo Shoot

Back in July a professional photographer snapped some test shots of our home for possible submission into an interiors magazine and a few months later, national monthly publication, Your Home said yes

After inspecting the pictures, the magazine didn't want us to change anything, but to look its best a thorough clean-up was a given. The Kinky Melon stock, rails and all (previously dominating the middle room) was shifted over the road to the empty parental home, where it was rehung and reorganised in its entirety - not helped by inquisitive neighbours popping by to see what we were up to. Leaves were raked up (and, with 27 trees in the garden, that's a bastard massive task) and every pot & planter on the terrace emptied out and re-potted with colourful pansies, cyclamen and ivy. 

Stonecroft scrubs up okay, doesn't it?
Nick knacks were taken down, washed and replaced; pictures & chandeliers dusted; cobwebs flicked from ceilings; bedding, cushions and curtains washed; rugs beaten; floors swept & mopped; furniture polished, mirrors buffed and any excess clutter stuffed into cupboards & wardrobes safely out of sight. By Sunday night we were so knackered we could barely speak, other than to dial a huge pizza.

Colin, the photographer, arrived at 10am bringing with him all manner of props including fresh flowers, luxurious wool throws, fancy toiletries, fake food and fluffy bath towels and, other than popping upstairs with the odd cup of coffee, it barely felt like he was there.

A bit too naughty for a family magazine!
After lunch our services were required, the TV had to be moved (ugly looking things hated by magazine editors) and a couple of pictures repositioned (bare breasts are a tad controversial). I posed with one of my patchwork creations, perched on the settee and then the pair of us sat at the kitchen table, deep in pseudo conversation, with a platter of fake scones taking centre stage.

The feature will be published in the April 2015 issue so the photos had to be seasonal. Jon's wool polo neck was exchanged for a shirt (less Wintry) and a huge lamp positioned outside the kitchen window to give the impression of hazy Spring sunshine. (See above!)

A final portrait of me done (for the magazine's directory page) Colin left at 4pm and life reverted back to normal, clutter, piles of tat and cats lounging in inappropriate places.

No entry till April! Dress last seen HERE
We've seen the pictures and they really are amazing, like looking at the place we've called home for over 8 years through a stranger's eyes. I'd have ripped them out and put them in my inspiration folder if it wasn't already our house. Sadly we're sworn to secrecy so I won't be able to share any of the photos with you until after the publication date but please do click "Our House" in my blog sidebar if want to see more (albeit with amateur photography). 

Colin Poole's website is HERE. If you're UK based and have an interesting, innovative or quirky home please do get in touch, he's very keen to photograph more unique homes. 

Tomorrow, its the journalist's turn to visit. See you soon! x

Friday 14 November 2014

Not Only Here For The Beer - Adventures In Burton On Trent

Burton On Trent in Staffordshire is renowned for its brewing industry and, at its height, a quarter of all beer sold in the UK was produced there. The town still has eight working breweries as well as being the home to both Marmite and Bovril.

Its also within an hour's train ride from Curtise, Tania and me. So, when they paid us a flying visit in Nottingham last weekend, we hatched a plan to meet there yesterday.

I'd been once before but they never had, so we were dead excited to explore.

Easy to get to and stuffed with charity shops, perfect! Bizarrely, Burton is teeming with mobility scooters, the pavements are littered with them. 

Lots of trying on, posing and cackling ensued. Curtise's Therapy navy sequined mini was fab but a bit too baggy round the hips,

The brand spanking new leather studded ankle boots were a perfect fit.

The pristine St Michael green velvet blazer got a resounding yes

 ...unlike the pinhead-sized '70s pimp hat or the Vintage seaman's cap.

Once Curtise had worked out how to get into it, the Welsh Tapestry cape soon got snapped up.

I'd have killed for this cool sideboard, a real bargain at £40. A customer, amused by us stroking and taking photos, said that someone trendy down London would probably pay £200 for it but people round here don't understand retro and that it had been stuck in the shop for months, ignored and unappreciated.

Don't you just hate it when charity shops state the blinkin' obvious? 

A market has been held in Burton on a Thursday since King John granted a Royal Charter in 1200.

...and look who has a regular pitch, only Walsall's very own Pom-Pom king. He was very surprised to see us. Sajid, I'm not stalking you, honest!

How grand is the entrance to the indoor market? After a £1.5 million refurbishment project lasting 18 months it reopened yesterday.

After stocking up on trimmings and raiding the chazzas Wetherspoons called.

 But not before a quick photo opportunity.

Superfood Pastas all round

Located in the former Woolworths, Burton's branch of Wetherspoons is called The Lord Burton, after the founder of the brewing dynasty. There was a frisson of excitement when we entered the premises but we found a booth to keep us safe from the amorous advances of frisky pensioners. 

After lunch we realised that Selfies, booze and women of a certain age didn't mix.

We left Wetherspoons for another wander and some ridiculous photos in a eerily deserted shopping centre (one of three).

Shopping opportunities of Burton thoroughly investigated we returned to 'Spoons for a cheeky bottle of wine. We cackled, gossiped admired each others finds before heading back to the station to catch our trains home. Curtise & Tania were on the same one and mine only left 2 minutes later, just in time to bid a hasty retreat from a couple of love-struck teenagers, You is so beautiful, innit.

What did I wear? 

Why, Pucci, darling! This was a treat to myself from my friend Sarah's shop, Tin Trunk at Stockport's Vintage Village. Its a negligee from the collection Emilio Pucci designed in the 1960s for Formfit, but in my opinion its far too fabulous just for indoor wear.

What did I buy?

An old skool 1960/1970s track suit top,  vintage scarves galore and some bright green 1960s nylon gloves...

A groovy suede panelled 1970s midi skirt, pom pom, pom poms and more pom poms and a huge handmade psychedelic shopper.

What a day! I wonder where the next blogger day trip will take us?

See you soon!

I was going to call this post Going For A Burton but, on reflection, its RAF slang from the Second World War for dying in action and no bloggers were harmed in yesterday's adventure!