Wednesday 27 April 2016

And I Would Have Gotten Away With It, Too, If It Wasn't For You Meddling Kids

Yes, blame me. I'm the idiot who packed away all my winter gear last week and should have known better. The UK has been battered by hailstones the size of golf balls, snowstorms, thunder and lightning ever since. Last night's frost was so severe that our wheelie bin was welded to the path this morning. 

Still, my trusty Smurf fur coat kept the Arctic breeze at bay and I was fine when I went out chazzing in my halterneck maxi dress.

 I made this dress last Summer using a 1971 Simplicity pattern and a £1.99 pair of curtains from a charity shop.  The last time I wore it I was made to pose for countless selfies with lagered-up festival goers.  It again proved a sensation today. Strangers raved over the Scooby-Doo! print, amazed that I'd made it myself. At one point 12 people clustered around me, pulling at the fabric and demanding I remove my coat for a closer look after the sales assistant in the busiest charity shop in town yelled "Look at that woman, 'er made that dress from curtains" across the shop floor. 

And talking of charity shops..... we've been busy. Festival season is approaching (hooray!) and we need as much stock as we can lay our hands on. Unlike the vintage fairs where we specialise in clothes from 1960s and 1970s - and often earlier - our festival stock, like much of the clientele, is more fashion-forward so we include clothing from 1980s & 1990s in addition to cool ethnic pieces.

Here's just a bit of what we found today (I've already filled the washing machine twice) - '90s crop tops, 1970s lurex, boho chic, distressed denim, 1960s tailoring, 1980s sportswear, rayon slip dresses and Indian tunics.

Yes, Jean Paul Gaultier for two quid!!! (Currently in the wash, too creased to photograph in full.)

Isn't this Horrockses whitework camisole beautiful? I reckon its early Twentieth century. Isn't it amazing what you can find on a rail of mostly Primark & New Look cast-offs?

Can you believe it? Another pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes in my size! In collaboration with posh shoe shop Russell & Bromley they're on their website (HERE) for £255. 

I dithered about this large framed Bob Peak print for at least a minute! Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the amazing stuff in charity shops that I go into a daze. Bob Peak was the commercial artist behind loads of iconic film posters (Modesty Blaise, My Fair Lady, Apocalypse Now, The Spy Who Loved Me) as well as advertisements for Ford, Marlboro and 7-Up. This advert for French Line Travel was realised in 1960. It really was £1!

Vintage glassware is ten-a-penny in charity shops and I rarely bother with it but made an exception for these cuties. They remind me of Pippi Longstocking. They're a decent size (I can't be doing with those piffling little shot glasses) and are perfect for our mid-week Lidl white rum and own brand cola. £2.50 for the set.

At £1 I couldn't leave these ridiculously glittery, platform-soled trainers behind. I'll get some laces from Poundland.

Wearing - Me-made maxi, fake fur jacket (£7, ex-catalogue shop, 2011), 1980s Juhani Palmroth of Finland boots, 1950s bag (20p, Car boot sale, 2008), Wooden necklace (Handmade by Tania), Wood & plastic bangles (charity shops)
I'll have earnt that rum and coke by the time I've tackled the gargantuan washing pile!

See you soon (we're trading with Judy's in Manchester on Saturday, come along if you can).

Thursday 21 April 2016

Dreaming The Green

Gardener's Question Time had just started when I turned on the radio the other day. I've just moved to a house with a huge neglected garden and know nothing about gardening, I'm confused by all the advice I keep being given, an audience member told the panel, What the rules do I need to follow?

I better listen to this, I thought, resisting the urge to re-tune to pop-tastic Radio One. With a garden over a hundred metres long containing twenty six trees, fourteen of which have protection orders slapped on them, which means that we can't even prune them without seeking prior permission from the council and, even if that is granted, we have to use their approved (& extremely expensive) tree surgeons unless we want a hefty fine. 

Our garden is almost constantly in the shade, anything we plant has to compete with the trees to get any nutrients from the already over-stretched soil and other than the ferns, wild garlic and feral blackberries, very few plants thrive on the lack of daylight. Neither of us like gardens with neat borders or rows of flowers beaten into submission or fancy being a slave to the hosepipe like our neighbours.

Our wilderness does have its advantages. Despite being just a five minute walk from the bustling town centre in our garden you could be a world away. During the day we're visited by birds, butterflies and bees, the neighbourhood cats bask beneath the trees and I can wander around in my pants if I want to as we're never over-looked. The shady pond is home to frogs and toads love the decaying stumps of trees long dead from natural causes.

At night owls hoot from the canopy of lime trees, bats skitter from under the eaves of the house, hedgehogs amble across the overgrown lawn and the urban foxes have made a home under the tumbledown shed Grandpa built in 1951.

So how did the experts on Gardener's Question Time advise the novice? They told her that there were no rules. She should do exactly what she liked, have fun experimenting and if something didn't work not to be put off & just try again and best of all, to disregard any advice, no matter how well intentioned, if it didn't suit her. This made me happy as its exactly the same approach to the way I get dressed in the morning.

A fashion expert would probably tell me to chop off my long locks (overloaded with static today as I re-blackened them earlier), to make up my eyes or my lips but not both, never to mix gold and silver jewellery and would, no doubt, have an absolute fit over the vintage St Michael nightie and suede boots I wore to Lidl this morning. The way I dress isn't everyone's cup of tea but it suits me & makes me happy and that's all that matters.

Wearing: Vintage 1970s St Michael nightie (£1.99, local Hospice shop), Suede boots (Half price sale, Schuh), Bespoke vintage Murano glass & beaten brass pendant (Jolene Smith, Walsall jewellery maker)
So I'm applying the same non-rules to the garden. I'm creating something just to suit us, a wild space with the feel of a festival arts trail. I've ransacked the clearance rack at B&Q for bargain plants and dug up interesting looking greenery from the garden of the parental home. I've planted things up in broken Thermos flasks, enamel teapots, rusted vintage tins and cracked terracotta pots and I've a plan for a weird and wonderful art installation. If it doesn't work then it isn't the end of the world, it hasn't cost more than a couple of quid.....Watch this (green) space!

PS We're trading with Judy's in Liverpool this coming Saturday (HERE), come and say hello!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.

Monday 18 April 2016

The Coastal Town That They Forgot To Close Down

When I drew back the curtains on Saturday morning I was greeted with a scene straight off a Xmas card, the garden was covered with at least four inches of snow and the purple-blue skies looked decidedly ominous. Was that going to spoil our fun? Hell, no! We dug out our thermals, pulled on our coats, jumped in the van and headed to the seaside.

Being Midlanders we couldn't live any further from the sea, which, as self-confessed beach bums, couldn't be more unfair. Our annual trips to India always involve at least a fortnight lazing on a beach but it must be almost twenty years since we'd last set foot on British sand. When we discovered that Weston-Super-Mare, our closest seaside town, had over twenty charity shops we decided to combine a vintage shopping expedition with some bracing sea air. Despite it only being a two hour drive away from Walsall, we'd only visited once before and never together. My sole visit was hedonistic night out clubbing in the early 1990s and, strangely, I can't remember much about it. 

  I'm just quoting Morrissey in my blog title, Weston doesn't really need to be shut down.
Apart from the odd '60s carbuncle blighting the skyline (what on earth were the council's planning department thinking?) the view was gorgeous and there was no evidence of the snow we had in the Midlands, the skies were beautiful, the Spring sunshine lovely and, if you kept your coat buttoned up, you hardly noticed the Arctic breeze. 

There were two branches of Wetherspoons in Weston Super Mare. We visited the Cabot Court Hotel on the seafront (on the right hand side of the photo, behind the toy train).

A 'Spoons with a view! Could this be the only Wetherspoons in the UK where you can see the sea from your table?

We liked the seaside themed interior which included classic naughty postcards and vintage swimwear. The beer garden looked like a fantastic sun trap (although we were horrified by the number of parents allowing their kids to wee in the prettily planted gardens rather than taking them to the toilets.)

 The Neo-Georgian Winter Gardens Pavilion opened in 1927. Some of the final scenes from The Remains of the Day were filmed here. 

Nothing more life affirming than the sound of the waves and a huge sky.

I quite fancied a ride on the Wheel of Weston but Jon put his foot down, he's terrified of heights.

There was quite a queue for donkey rides.

But by far the most popular method to travel around Weston Super Mare was by mobility scooter, obviously Somerset's answer to Benidorm (apologies to non-Brits, it's a sit-com about holiday makers on the Spanish Costas). 

You took your life in your hands trying to avoid being mown down on the pavements and had to clamber over row upon row of them parked outside charity shops. Amazing how ones ability to walk miraculously improves when there's a £1 clearance rail...

These seagulls were massive. We chose to eat in Wetherspoons, if one of these bad boys took a fancy to a bag of chips eaten on the seafront you wouldn't stand a fighting chance.

Obviously a day at the British seaside means taking home a couple of sticks of Weston rock. 

So what were Weston Super Mare's famed chazzas like? Plentiful and well priced, mostly modern stuff but a lot of it was the nicer High Street stuff - Laura Ashley, Boden, Monsoon, White Stuff - rather than endless rails of tatty fast fashion. The vintage we found was pretty good - there was a fair amount of it but we only buy what we really like not just because it's old. Not all vintage is good vintage.

Here's what we bought - an Indian block printed kaftan and some red leather clogs.

Two vintage scarves (one acetate, hand rolled & made in Japan, the other by St Michael), St Michael peasant blouse and a block printed triangle tie sun top by Indian Imports of Rhode Island, NYC.,

An Indian embroidered cheesecloth tunic, Nepali brass pendant and Nepali 100% wool poncho.

Worsted wool trousers, Bri Nylon leisure shirt, Christian Dior bow tie & Tootal scarf.

1950s photo album (makes us want to take Gilbert off to the South of France just so we can fill the album), Spanish dolls (I've got a plan) and a ridiculous album from 1964 which claims to help you to recapture your holiday memories of the Continent with tunes from Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, France and......Calcutta (!)

Wearing: 1950s Snuggle car coat (charity shop), Cotton On skinnies (car boot sale), Tootal scarf (Vintage fair), Leather Baker boy cap (End of the Road Festival), Vintage glasses (reglazed in Goa)
Weston Super Mare was super. Charity shops, cheap pubs and a beach and, if you want to stay down there, hotel rooms start at £22.50. A bargain hunter's ideal destination!

Wearing: Psychedelic maxi (jumble sale, 2010), Saluki 1970s fake fur (car boot, 2011), Leather boots (charity shop), 1960s sunglasses (Vintage fair)

Linking to Visible Monday with Patti and the gang.

See you soon.

Friday 15 April 2016

Charity Shop Finds - The £1 Miu Miu Cardi

A black cardi, probably the least exciting item of clothing to have ever featured on my blog but darlings, this isn't any old knit, this is a silk & cashmere cardigan by Miu Miu which retailed at the mind-blowing price of £385 (but currently sold out) ..... and mine for a quid!

Mundane it may be but it does feel amazing. As I ran the back of my hand across the rail of charity shop knitwear the quality stood out a mile, a different league entirely to its neighbours, overwhelmingly nasty acrylic & over-washed high street tat. I must admit that I'm a tad disappointed that the buttons are plastic, at almost £400 - I've paid less for return flights to India - I'd have expected Mother of Pearl at the very least*. Isn't it sad that it was manufactured in Romania (infamous for poorly paid labour) rather than by workers earning a decent living wage?

*They are shell after all, I hadn't looked properly!

On the subject of bargains here's the unworn Stuart Weizmann suede ankle boots I bought from the same chazza for £2 last month. They're super comfy even after a 16 hour vintage-selling day. Again, the quality is fantastic but with a price tag of £399 I'd expect nothing less. The only explanation I can think of for such posh stuff ending up in our local chazzas, one of the most deprived areas in the UK, is the high number of Premiership football teams in the vicinity. Maybe the partners of men who get paid tens of thousands of pounds a game can afford to give away clothing that costs more than most women earn in a week.

I haven't shared any vintage finds with you for ages and the stockroom is full to bursting. The festival season is just six weeks away and we're hunting hard, we need a fully stocked pitch to see us through the Summer.

 These beautiful accessories came from the family of a lady who, like many of my Grandma's generation, rarely left the house without a hat, gloves, a matching handbag (always with a hand mirror & a lace handkerchief tucked away inside) and a pair of flesh coloured stockings. Back in those days clothing was expensive and therefore treasured. The bags and gloves were wrapped with their original packaging, manufacturer care labels and store receipts.

The hats were stuffed with tissue paper, some with a matching neck scarf, many in their original carrier bags (the bags themselves are a history lesson in British retail - Van Allen, Prova at British Home Stores, The Co-operative, Rackhams & Beatties).
I can't wait to find new homes for these treasured accessories but it won't be until next week.

Wearing: Miu Miu cardi (£1), Stuart Weitzmann boots (£2), Aztec print bustier (£1.99) All charity shopped. Maxi skirt (made by me from a 1960s Heals screen printed curtain bought from a jumble sale in 2010) Lamani coin necklace and belt - India
We don't have any vintage fairs booked this weekend so tomorrow we're off on a road trip, vintage hunting in pastures new. Google reckons that there's at least 20 charity shops in the town we're visiting as well as two branches of Wetherspoons so hopefully the trip will live up to our expectations!

See you soon!

Monday 11 April 2016

Visible Monday (and Friday, Saturday and Sunday!)

Bloody internet! Our connection has been on the blink for the past week and an engineer can't get out to us before Thursday, bang goes any catch-up TV, eBay bidding or an involved blog post. As it's just about working this morning I thought I'd go old skool and share some of the outfits I've worn over the past few days before we spend the afternoon drinking cut price ale in 'Spoons.

On Friday I unveiled my freshly pimped-up denim jacket, enhanced with the batik panel I made in last Tuesday's workshop. As I don't do cardis (although I did snaffle a not-too-shoddy £395 Miu Miu silk & cashmere cardi from a chazza for £1 on Thursday) my 50p cropped denim jacket is great for popping on over a sleeveless maxi when it's not quite warm enough to go completely bare-armed.

Bronson of California flares (eBay, 2014), tiger print top (Topshop mini dress, bought from a charity shop, cropped and hemmed by me), Fake fur (£7, long-gone ex-catalogue shop, 2011

On Saturday I wore trousers to pack the van ready for Stockport. I don't own jeans (they just don't make me feel fabulous enough) but bastard massive canary yellow 1970s flares, that's a different matter entirely. The neighbourhood tom, Bentley, approved.

Dollyrockers maxi (Second To None, 2009), Huge sleeved velvet jacket (Liebchen Vintage), Biba dragonfly choker (My Mum's), Panda of London hat (Birmingham Settlement charity shop)

For Sunday trading I wore Dollyrockers, velvet and a crazy hat from my collection. Vintage Village is held in Stockport's Victorian covered market hall and it's blinking freezing. The outfit got lots of love from the Northern vintage lovers but I wished I'd worn thermals.

1970s maxi (£10) worn with a vintage felt hat (Cancer UK charity shop, 2014), Lamani coin belt worn as a pendant (India) and 1960s leather & suede Victorian lace-up boots (Car boot sale)

Today's outfit is a cotton maxi with a handkerchief hem bought from Ripe Vintage, fellow Stockport traders. I'm not sure if the clientele at Wetherspoons will appreciate me wearing a new-to-me frock to join them for a cheeky afternoon drinking session but it makes me feel good.

 Normal service will be resumed shortly, I hope. 
See you soon!

Linking to Patti and the gang for Visible Monday.