Friday 29 September 2017

The Joy Of Small Things

So what's blog worthy about this tatty Edwardian curiosity? Well, believe it or not, this tiny lacquered Chinoiserie box, together with its contents (seen below) was the first thing I remember spending my pocket money on. I was six years old.

Most kids went through the Argos catalogue, folding back the toy pages until it resembled a concertina or bought comics or hung around the sweet counter in Woolworth's. My idea of fun was visiting the curio shop around the corner with Mum and excitedly rummaging through the boxes of tat on the step outside. My little lacquered box complete with garish religious scraps and the tiny celluloid doll with the knackered left hip (no wonder I was attracted to it, she was a mini me!) cost me 50p and I get as much pleasure looking at it today as I did when I first opened that little box over forty-four years ago.

In a world where it seems like almost everyone is on some sort of journey, decluttering, downsizing and simplifying, I'm happy to quietly sit, deriving pleasure from the things I bought a lifetime ago.

On the eve of my eight year blogging anniversary (thanks for the reminder, Hazel) I thought I'd share some of the things that have been part of my life since buying them as a weird, antique collecting little girl but, despite being precious to me, have never been featured on my blog.

That Victorian scrap screen was another of my childhood acquisitions. It might be falling apart but it still managed to get included in the Your Home magazine photoshoot a couple of years ago. I love this image, it reminds me of the Johannes Vermeer prints that used to hang on the wall at home.

Despite moving eight times during my adult life, these Victorian dolls have always come with me. Forty years ago you could pick them up at jumble sales (and I frequently did). My Grandma made the floral dress - could that fabric be any more 1970s?!

You'll be relieved to know that they're all wearing knickers.

My Sindy doll didn't have trashy plastic furniture, she was far classier with her Victorian apprentice pieces. I sold all my Sindy & Pippa dolls when I discovered eBay in 2001 and made enough money for two return flights to India. No idea if the furniture is of any value, I keep it 'cos I love it!

 I used to take this Victorian silver purse everywhere with me, dangling it from my little finger. It was probably the poshest dinner money purse in Walsall.

Using this minuscule Common Prayer book at Sunday School was the highlight of the tedious church services I endured until I was 11 and was given the choice as to whether I wanted to continue attending.  I chose atheism but still treasure my tiny Victorian relic, like the purse above, bought for a pittance from a junk shop as a child - Victorian stuff was hideously unfashionable in the early 1970s.
Useful? No. Makes me happy when I look at it? Oh, yes. I'm not one for rules but I'm more than happy to follow the wise words of William Morris, he knew a thing or two about fabulously furnished homes.

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” 

WEARING: Vintage psychedelic catsuit (99p, eBay, 2011), 1970s Jeff Banks for W1 balloon sleeved blouse (50p, car boot sale, 2006), Stuart Weizmann boots (£2, charity clearance shop), Indian tribal jewellery (fiercely haggled over in Indian markets since 1999)

Here's a fairly late addition to our home, Frank. Its been a year since he decided to adopt us and we've pandered to his every need ever since, hence the reason that he's the size of a tank.

We're back at work this weekend, trading with the fabulous Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair at London's achingly hip Bethnal Green, details HERE. We've got so much cool stock that if I didn't already own it I'd be buying it all and bringing it home.

See you soon!

Monday 25 September 2017

I Heart My Sleeves

What with the wide-brimmed wool hat and showstopper of a vintage top worn over a jersey maxi, today's outfit is almost a complete rehash of last Thursday's but I like to keep it real. I've never dressed up especially for my blog - what you see is what you get, which, if you'd bumped into me in Wilko a couple of hours earlier, was exactly what you would have seen me wearing.

Our friends, G &T, have got my taste off to a tee. When we went round to theirs for dinner at the weekend they presented me with this incredible 1970s blouse. Would you look at those effing sleeves!!! 

I bought a couple of these stretch jersey maxis for traveling around India in at the beginning of the year. New from an UK-based Ebay seller, with postage they cost around £5 each (last of the big spenders, me!) and proved perfect on overnight sleeper trains or, with a long sleeved tunic over the top, modest enough for venturing away from the beaten track where a glimpse of my bare shoulder could have caused outrage. They survived being rinsed out nightly in the shower, retained their colour & shape and didn't need ironing - the ideal travel dress. I'd packed them away in my India suitcase but rediscovered them when I was putting away a bikini I'd recently bought. This week's weather has been typically schizophrenic, cold in the mornings but hitting the balmy heights of 20°C by lunchtime, and these boring dresses have come into their own, lightweight and perfect under my collection of outrageous vintage tops.

So what was I doing in Wilko*? My life is so damned glamorous! Well, in addition to the fabulously funky top, G & T also gave me a pile of vintage tea towels. As I've already got a drawerful, I turned half of them into tote bags - and managed to bust my last sewing machine needle in the process - hence the reason for an emergency dash into town.

*For non-Brits Wilkos is a family-owned, British high street chain that sells homewares & household goods.

They also gave us the epitome in hippy home furnishings, a macrame pot plant holder, now proudly displaying one of our spider plants (what else?) As you can see I blog in the old fashioned way, on a PC. I'm one of the 15% of adults left in the UK who doesn't own a smart phone and I'm proud to be in the minority.

I also came back from G&T's with a pile of paperback books which are always welcome. I'm a voracious reader - especially when it comes to Scandi chillers, crime novels, spy stories, political thrillers and tales set in Asia. I used to record what I'd read on Goodreads but I've let that fall by the wayside in recent years - I've got the memory of an elephant so I'll always recognise a book I've read. I get through between 20 to 25 books during my month in India and read nine during our trip to Greece (read on my e Reader which I only use when travelling, it seems wrong to use it at home) and I usually devour a couple of paperbacks a week over the rest of the year (unless it's sunny when I'll lie in the garden and read one per day). I rarely keep the books I've read, I donate them back to the charity shop when I'm done.

WEARING: Vintage Lurex chevron stripe blouse (present from friends); Stretch jersey maxi (eBay); Wide-brimmed hat (current H&M via charity shop); Banjara tribal coin belt (bought in India); Coin choker & bastard massive hoop earrings (Punjabi accessory shop)
I hope this weirdly warm weather continues 'cos I've just talked myself into ordering another of those dresses in rust. Oh well, it can always come to India with me if it decides to snow next week!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday and Judith's Hat Attack.

See you soon.

Thursday 21 September 2017

Hey Ho, Let's Go...Charity Shopping! What I Found This Week

We've found some fabulous stuff on our charity shop jaunts over the last couple of weeks & the stockroom rails are positively groaning under the weight of crazily printed maxi dresses, capes, leather coats, tweed jackets and 70s dagger collared shirts but that's work and I'm on holiday so here's what I've added to my wardrobe. 

It's all about me, me, me!! 

I went a bit weak at the knees when I spotted a black velvet sleeve adorned with gold soutache poking out from a rail in the local charity clearance shop, in fact I nearly broke my neck clambering over a Black Country granny's tartan shopping trolley in my rush to get at it. 

This exotic vintage beauty was a mere £3 and matches my favourite bag, a 1970s Pakistani tote I bought for pennies from a jumble sale years ago. I did think of it putting on the Kinky Melon rails...for about a second.... it might be boring old black but it's still a work of art!

I've got a couple of black wide-brimmed hats but neither feel quite right, one is so tight that it leaves a particularly unattractive red crease across my forehead when I take it off and the other is too shallow in the crown which means that if I go out wearing it on a windy day my hand is surgically attached to the brim to keep the bloody thing anchored on my head.

My latest hat isn't in the least bit vintage, its H&M and is still on their website, listed as Premium Quality Wool and priced at £17.99 but cost me just £3. I know £17.99 isn't a fortune but why on earth would you buy something and give it away unworn days later? The £15 I saved is the equivalent of three nights accommodation in Goa or eight pints of lager in Wetherspoons!! Now I've got one well fitting black hat I can donate the other two to the stockroom.

I loved these mad rose gold catseye sunglasses when I saw them on a neighbouring trader's stall over the festival season but, with a collection I struggle to contain in the dressing table drawer, felt £15 was an unnecessary extravagance. Spotting them in the 50p box on the charity shop counter, well....they were meant to be mine!

 Like she needs another bangle, Jon said to the chap behind the counter when I asked for a closer look at the textured silver cuff in the display case underneath. You never know, one day there may be a worldwide bangle shortage and my arms will be naked, I replied, handing over my £2 coin. The 1950s ceramic hand was £1.50 in another chazza.

This House of Fraser 100% cotton, pom-pom trimmed duvet set (sorry, I couldn't be arsed with ironing it) was £2.49! It originally retailed at £80.

How about that then? Last weekend I was trading at Wayne Hemingway's Classic Car Boot Sale and just over a week later I'm in possession of a pair of his Red Or Dead shoes. My size (40), unworn and still bearing the original £65 price tag. Cost to me? £3!

More bangles? It would be rude not to! These are papier-mâché and from Kashmir - I know because every Kashmiri shop in every tourist shop in the whole of India have them in their windows. I couldn't resist the wooden frog earrings either. You never know when you'll need some amphibians threaded through your lobes. I remember the parrot earrings from the 1980s - not that I ever had a pair, I didn't get my ears pierced until I was 25 (in 1991). All three were 50p each.
This zingy 1970s Melamine spice set was still in the original wrapping (not Taunton Vale but a cheeky lookalike) and reserved especially for me by the lovely shop manager when I popped into the local hospice shop. It was £1.99 and will go in Gilbert next Summer. The set came with the original labels but, as you know, 1970s Britain was the land that culinary excellence forgot so only offered the choice of thyme, parsley, pepper, sage, ginger and salt!

My heart might belong to Barry M but I'm not adverse to trying new make-up if I find any decent colours in the 3 for £1 bargain basket. All the lipsticks were still sealed - not that I'd be bothered if they weren't. I've bought secondhand make-up ever since I was a teenager and I've yet to contract Syphilis, Bubonic plague or whatever else the hygiene freaks are scared of.

I can't resist a souvenir doll especially a raven haired, kohl-eyed Spanish senorita. My Dad used to bring them back for me from his business trips abroad. As soon as I got a new one I'd get it out of the box, inspect the construction of the skirt and check whether she'd got any knickers on. I wonder if that's where my passion for foreign costumes came from?

WEARING: Vintage kaftan (Age UK, £3); Maroon jersey maxi dress (Bought to travel around India in last year, new from eBay, £2); Stuart Weizmann suede ankle boots (Cancer Research, £2), Pakistani soutache tote bag (25p, jumble sale): H&M wool hat (£3, Scope); Vintage brass bangles & rings (mostly belonged to my Mum)
Another weekend off, another date with friends. I could get used to being a lady of leisure!

See you soon!

Monday 18 September 2017

What I Wore To Wetherspoons

I lived like a normal person at the weekend - a leisurely breakfast eaten at the kitchen table, The Guardian Weekend read from cover-to-cover, a few hours spent pottering around the garden and an evening hanging out with friends in 'Spoons. 

This is what I wore on Saturday night - a 1960s silk Dollyrockers dress, a psychedelic mu-mu worn as a coat, vintage suede go-go boots, a charity-shopped 1980s raffia clutch pimped up with Poundland pom-poms and a stack of secondhand plastic bangles collected over the summer.

Apparently some branches of Wetherspoons have a dress code (see HERE). If you're not a Brit this probably won't mean a thing to you but, if like me, you're a fan of the super cheap pub chain, you'll be cackling away to yourself. Unlike the pubs themselves, often found in historic town centre buildings, usually rescued from dereliction and the bulldozers - Walsall's boozer, St Matthew's Hall (see photos above, courtesy of 'Spoons) was the town's first permanent library, built in the Greek Doric style in 1830 - the clientele aren't quite as stylish. You might get a better dressed crowd in other pubs but I'll put up with the saggy jogging bottoms and grubby trainers for £1.80 a pint.

And, 'cos I'm not at work until 1st October I'm off for another cheeky session this afternoon. 

Today I'm wearing a 1970s dead stock Horrockses cotton maxi skirt, a pressie from Curtise and not seen on the blog for a couple of years - it's taken that long to get back into the 24" waist. A lady in a charity shop refused to accept my 99p when I tried to pay for my 1960s vinyl handbag last week, saying that I could have it for free 'cos it was rubbish!! I wore the charity shopped fringed body on Friday but I doubt the 'Spoons clientele are bothered. 

Cheers & see you soon!

Linking to Patti & The Gang for Visible Monday.

Friday 15 September 2017

Little Green Apples

What's this, three posts in a week? A sure sign I've got loads of stuff to do and can't be arsed to get them done. Blogging is a wonderful distraction.

There's an abundance of apples on our trees this year and the freezer is full to bursting with blackberries I've been picking since the end of July. The berries should see us through till January, whizzed up with natural yogurt and served with fresh fruit for our breakfast. I had to laugh at one of the neighbours who came over to see why I was in the avenue up a stepladder, Why are you bothering picking blackberries? They're only £1 in Tesco. There's no hope for some people, is there?

But what to do with the apples?  Other than some cereal bars (you'll find my recipe HERE), the odd apple oat crumble (bearing in mind that I'm not keen on sweet things) and a few jars of chutney, I'm a bit stuck. Goody suggested drying them which sounded like a good idea but there must be an easier way than slicing 1.5 kg of apples at a time and sticking them in the oven for six hours, the only recipe I can find. The electricity bill might bankrupt me! 

Chutney making back in 2013

Using last year's crop.

Kitchen dilemmas aside this week I've reorganised the stockroom to make room for the motherload of vintage gear I picked up at the Classic Car Boot Sale last weekend. This is the womenswear (Mim - check out that trio of 1960s Tricel shifts!) We also bought a 1960s Dhobi tweed overcoat, an extravagantly ruffled dinner shirt in red and a chocolate brown braided dinner suit by Mr Harry (now residing in Jon's wardrobe).

As you can see there's a veritable archive of vintage clothes dating from the 1930s through to the 1970s....with labels including Ricci Michaels of Mayfair, Liberty of London, Selfridges, Fenwick, Veronica for Rembrandt and good old 1950s St Michael.

I'm dying over that emerald green embroidered cotton maxi dress by Gonzalo Bauer for Girasol - if only it was a few sizes smaller. Still, I suppose finding two perfectly fitting Mexican designer dresses in a week is a bit too much to expect.

In other news I've managed to knock up another batch wired headbands using fabric from my stash and clothes too tatty to sell (currently awaiting Jon & his wire bending skills) and I've customised ten gents' waistcoats - which I'd love to share with you but want to get them to out to our next vintage fair without my idea being pinched before we get there. I've also taken advantage of the end of the season sales by snaffling a fabulous crochet bikini and four bottles of our favourite Once A Day sun screen - next on the to-do list - find our flights to India!! We've also managed three charity shopping expeditions, the washing machine feels like it's been on non-stop and if I have to replace another button on I might not be responsible for my actions. I'll have to show you what we found next week, right now the rum is calling!

WEARING: Fringed body (£2.49, Age UK), 1970s printed cotton maxi skirt (99p, eBay), Native American turquoise & copper pendant (A gift to my Mum by a boyfriend in the early 1960s), Topshop bejewelled Indian belt (present from the lovely Kelly)

For the first time in months we living the life of normal people this weekend, meeting friends in the pub and going for a curry. I'm beside myself with excitement, I've forgotten what a Saturday night out on the town feels like!

See you soon.

Wednesday 13 September 2017

¡Ay, Caramba! Vintage Couture For A Fiver

Unlike elsewhere in Blogland, you won't find any Autumnal fashion or earthy toned outfits in tweed and wool here. They may look great on other people but they aren't for me, it'd be a dull old world (and a bloody nightmare for the second-hand shoppers amongst us) if we all liked the same thing.

No, I'm quite happy to live on my own happy little planet of seasonably inappropriate, flamboyant cotton dresses and bare legs, worn until my skin turns blue and I'm forced to bust out the thermals and fake fur coats.

Remember me mentioning buying rather a lot of vintage gear at last weekend's Classic Car Boot? Well, here's the first of my finds. Browsing a sale rail (naturally!) some extravagant ruffled sleeves in a vibrant shade of turquoise ribbed cotton caught my eye and, on closer inspection, the label intrigued me. Although I wasn't familiar with Mexicana I knew Lower Sloane Street to be a posh part of London and when the seller told me that the dress was £5 I handed my cash over like a shot. 

Needs TLC wasn't an understatement. With questionable stains and ripped-to-buggery side seams, the dress was crying out for attention but, to my surprise, the marks sponged off easily and sewing it back together was a doddle. 

My next job was to research Mexicana. God bless Google!


Created by couturier & sack dress innovator, John Cavanagh (top photo with model) and celebrated fashion illustrator, Alfredo Bouret (the handsome devil in this photograph by Norman Parkinson), Mexicana was said to have been home to some of the most fabulous dresses of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Here's Dollyrockers model Patti Boyd wearing a Mexicana dress
Born in Mexico in 1926, Alfredo Bouret's love of fashion and illustration won him a scholarship to Paris during the golden age of couture. His illustrations were in high demand and he attracted the attention of the greatest designers of the day, creating work for such luminaries as Balanciaga, Valentino, Chanel, Dior and Pierre Balmain. 

Even if you don't know his name, I'm pretty sure, like me, you'll be familiar with Alfredo Bouret's illustrations. 

Although I couldn't find any, Bouret was widely admired for his illustrations of native Mexican costumes and, during the 1968 Summer Olympics, held in Mexico City, many people become interested in having the country's textiles referenced in their clothing.

During this time Alfredo was working for British Vogue and was approached by John Cavanagh, who asked him to assist opening the Mexicana boutique on Lower Sloane Street which went on to delight the London set for many years.

This 1960s pin-tucked Mexicana dress can be yours for £3,800 (SOURCE)

I'm not one of London's smart set, I'm just a vintage wearin' bird from the Black Country.

As opposed to my Great-Grandmama's pearls I'm wearing my Mexicana frock with a Frida Kahlo pendant (handmade by much-missed blogger, Tamera)......

My latest Frida earrings from good friends, and End of the Road trading neighbours, Shilpa Silver....

Vintage Mexicana frock (Kings Cross Classic Car Boot) worn with 1960s lime green suede go-go boots (from blog reader Vonda)

...and shaking a pair of maracas bought from a jumble sale.

I'd celebrate my £5 bargain with a shot of tequila but I hate the stuff - a rum and cola after my tea will have to do.

See you soon!