Monday 30 October 2017

Rockin' In The Crypt

As a child I could never quite get my head round how Dad travelled the world on business but claimed never to see much of the places he visited. After several years of trading at vintage fairs up and down the country I'm beginning to understand. We travel to fantastic cities most weekends but, other than a glimpse from the van window, we rarely see more than the room the fair is held in, the loading bay and car park.

It was the fourth time we'd taken our wares to Liverpool and as usual were set up in super quick time, the advantage of setting a day aside during the week leading up to a fair and having a dummy run in the garden.

 With half an hour to spare before opening time we set off to explore the venue, Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral Of Christ the King.

The fair itself was held in the crypt and below is where you'd have found us at 8am on Saturday morning, humping twenty-nine sacks of vintage through that doorway.

In 1930 Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869 - 1944) was tasked with designing an appropriate response Neo-Gothic Anglican Cathedral on the newly acquired grounds of a former Victorian workhouse opposite. His plans were ambitious, a massive structure with a dome larger than that at St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, to be funded by donations from Liverpool's working class Catholic population. Work started in 1933 but with the building restrictions imposed by WWII and costs spiraling from £3 million to £27 million, construction was forced to stop eight years later. Work recommenced in 1956 but Lutyens' original plans were considered too costly and were abandoned once the crypt was completed in 1958. 

Accessed by a spiral staircase from a glazed chapel in the cathedral above, Lutyens Crypt is wonderfully atmospheric. Built to withstand the weight of what was originally intended to be the second largest church in the world, the crypt is constructed from six million purple bricks and granite dressings hewn from Cornish quarries. The vaulted passageways lead to numerous side rooms and make for a fabulously dramatic backdrop to showcase the equally fabulous vintage wares on offer.

Following the abandonment of Lutyens plans, in 1953 architect Adrian Gilbert Scott (brother of the architect of the nearby Anglican cathedral) was given a budget of £4 million and tasked with creating an alternative cathedral. His suggestion was for a scaled-down version of Lutyens' but the idea was widely criticised and the plan was shelved.

In 1959 a competition to design the cathedral was launched with just two requirements, the design should allow a congregation of 2,000 to be able to view the altar and that Lutyens Crypt was incorporated into that structure. 

The winner was Sir Frederick Gibberd (1908 - 1984), construction began in 1962 and was completed in 1967. Shortly afterwards the building started to display architectural flaws including leaks in the aluminium roof and defects in the mosaic tiles, leading to the cathedral authorities suing Gibberd for £1.3 million. 

The jury's still out as to whether the cathedral was a success. When we tell people that we're trading at Liverpool's cathedral we often get asked if its the ugly one or the other one. Widely nicknamed Paddy's Wigwam, the American broadcaster CNN placed it at number seven in their top ten of the world's ugliest buildings.

When The Antiques Roadshow was broadcast from there a few years ago I was riveted, it looked unlike any church I'd ever seen and I loved it. 

It's even more breathtaking in real life, Mid-Century design on a huge scale, packed with vibrant colour and stark, modernist details.

Isn't this concrete panel incredible?

Beautiful, awe-inspiring and still causing controversy at 50 years old? Amen to that!

We didn't have a religious experience on our whistle-stop tour (or were we looking for one) but went back to the fair feeling uplifted and refreshed. We agreed that it had been far too long since we'd had the time to do anything cultural but with only two fairs left until the end of the year it's high time we dusted off those NT membership cards and took a trip. Discovery is good for the soul.

JON: Tartan skinnies (charity shop), Doc Marten monkey boots (50th birthday present from me), 1970s lilac dress shirt (nicked from the stockroom), Diesel Black Gold waistcoat (charity shop), 1970s leather jacket (car boot sale)
ME: Vintage Sandine Originals, New York maxi dress (Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair, Bath)
The fair? It was school half-term and fairly quiet but, if we'd never taken the risk and had stayed close to home trading at local fairs in community centres & church halls it would have been a record breaker takings-wise (and we'd have never got to see such a cool cathedral). Next stop, Art Deco splendour at Walthamstow Assembly Hall.

See you soon!

Friday 27 October 2017

New Boots & Panties

I'm off to collect a parcel of pants from Ajay's, the newsagent at the end of the road. Not for me though, I treated myself to a five pack from Marks & Sparks at the start of Summer which, if my previous knickers are anything to go by, should keep me going for the next six years. These are for Jon. A certain French website has got a 40% off everything sale at the moment so he's stocking up on his favourite posh European brand. 

The boots? I thought I'd done well when I snaffled my maroon suede ankle boots in Banardos on Tuesday but, on the way to the till, I spotted these. At first glance the suede looked so pristine I assumed that they were modern but, once I'd taken out the stuffing (about a zillion crumpled up carrier bags), I discovered they were 1970s originals. Despite being a UK 7 they're a tad on the large size but nothing a Poundland insole can't sort out. They're keepers!

It would be a crime to cover my new old boots with a maxi so out came my Tarantella suede suit. If you're into 1960s & 1970s fashion, consider yourself a feminist and come from Walsall then Tarantella is the holy grail of vintage labels.

Edna Kirby's factory, like many of our town's leather workshops, started in the back of a terraced house. Tarantella had a largely female workforce and became internationally famous for their leather gloves supplying companies like Marks & Spencer.

The Tarantella factory

Unusually for the time, Edna Kirby valued her women workers, allowing them to continue working after they married and had children, even providing a crèche. However, in August 1970, after introducing family planning clinics for her workers, the story was picked up by the national press and the workforce was portrayed in a negative light, causing great upset for her female staff. Edna's reasoning behind it was quite simple, she'd lost many skilled workers through unplanned pregnancy, which was a blow to the factory when so much time and expense was lost spent training them. Edna sold the company in the early 1970s after pressure to pay her workers by the day rather than by piece work. The workers were kept on but the quality of the materials decreased and the company closed two years later.

This amazing Tarantella jacket, made in 1969, takes pride of place in Walsall's wonderful Leather Museum (but I'd rather it took pride of place in my wardrobe!) 

Enough about what I've bought, here's what we found for the Kinky rails over the last ten days:

Clockwise from top left: 1970s Astraka full length fake wolf coat (SOLD!); Barbour quilted gilet; 1960s baker boy cap; 1970s fake fur; Lederhosen; 1970s men's suede gloves; 1980s starburst belt; 1980s embellished angora jumper; 1970s fake fur; 1970s Sheepskin mittens; Guatemalan shoulder bag; 1970s bomber jacket; 1980s bow tie. 

Clockwise from top left: 1980s Kangol cap with tags attached; 1970s Dhobi gents raincoat; 1960s Foster Menswear wool pea coat worn with a 1970s deadstock Folkspeare cravat; 1980s hand knit; 1970s leather trench coat; 1980s Jaeger blouse; 1980s pure silk shirt; 1970s Californian label hooded leather bomber jacket; Malaysian batik shirt with tags attached; 1960s Tissavel fake fur; 1980s tapestry Gladstone bag; 1950s hand-rolled Jacqmar silk scarf; New with tags William Morris's Strawberry Thief tapestry rucksack; 1970s nylon blouse with spoon collars; 1980s St Michael bomber jacket; 1970s spoon collar psych print blouse.

WEARING: Tarantella suede suit (Babouskha Vintage, 2014), 1960s St Michael psych print blouse (Joyatri, another much-missed blogger), 1960s Biba Glass dragonfly choker (inherited from Mum), Vintage 1970s purple suede platforms (£6.99, Banardos)
Right, I've delayed for long enough, it's time to get cracking and pack the van ready for trading with Judy's in Liverpool tomorrow.

See you soon!

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Charity Shop Finds - The £10 Fake 1970s Outfit

When the Seventies became the next big thing a year or so ago, many of my fellow vintage enthusiasts had mini meltdowns, fearing that the world and her dog would be walking the streets in maxi dresses, platform boots and floppy hats, leading people to think that those of us who'd always dressed this way would be mistaken for fickle followers of fashion.

But I wasn't worried. Trends rarely last for long and I knew the day would soon come when the fashionistas bored of 1970s repro and move on to the next thing. 

And that time is now! The weather has turned properly Autumnal, the fashion conscious are reinventing themselves and last year's wardrobe has been relegated to the charity shop donation bag. 

Bar my jewellery, everything I'm wearing came from yesterday's charity shop expedition and set me back the grand total of a tenner. It might all be repro but as I wear my clothes for years (fashions change, my tastes don't) this lot will be vintage before you know it. I still wish I'd held on to the 1970s revival stuff I'd bought in the early nineties.

Dressed in fake 1970s cast-offs from head to toe: Maroon felt hat (Sense, £1), Gingham on steroids (Jon's description) maxi dress (Cancer UK, £2), River Island suede platform ankle boots with leather trim (Banardos, £5), leatherette studded & fringed bag (£2, Cancer UK).

 So what else have I been doing since I posted last week? We had a spa weekend, that's what. Not the schlepping around in a fluffy white dressing gown being massaged by a stranger and paying a few hundred quid for the privilege kind of spa, though (I just can't see the appeal), this was the packing twenty-seven hours of work into two days selling our vintage clobber to the good folk of two English spa towns kind of weekend.

Sorry, Jon's a bit blurred! Next month's eye test can't come soon enough

Saturday took us to Leamington Spa in Warwickshire. The ruffle sleeved top I'm wearing was yet another 1970s-inspired charity shop find, just £1.99 and ideal for winterising my 1970s catsuit.

Sunday was the turn of Bath in Somerset where I wore the exactly the same outfit (1970s Prova maxi & vintage Liberty silk scarf) that I did the first time I traded there 4 years ago.

Mim, Em & Gisela popped in to pay us a visit! Don't we all look print-astic? We also met up with our Cornbury Festival girl gang (and I stupidly neglected to take a photo but we've just found out that Cornbury is coming back in 2018 so I'll see them there next year). Gisela gave me the most marvellous parcel of vintage sewing bits which deserve a separate post.
Papped by the fabulous @estienne_styling

We're trading with Judy's in Liverpool this Saturday (details HERE), hopefully I'll have a chance to share the rest of this week's finds before I've sold them all.

Friday 20 October 2017

India-A-Go-Go! Vamps, Vintage & 1960s Bollywood

Yesterday, when G&T offered me this silver Sixties trouser suit they'd recently found in a charity shop I couldn't take it off their hands fast enough. At first I thought it was a bit Jane Fonda in Barbarella but once I tried it on, H-Bomb Helen, the legendary vamp who appeared in of hundreds of Bollywood films in the 1960s & 1970s, sprung to mind. HERE's a post I dedicated to her seven years ago.

So I put up my hair, applied lashings of matt blue eye shadow (Revlon's Venetian Blue, bought in 2008, now discontinued but you can find it on eBay) and, using a felt pen eyeliner, drew a thick black line both beneath and above my eyes, flicking them out parallel to one another. I used an original 1960s matt lipstick, Max Factor's Teasing Pink (great colour but like all vintage lippie, stinks to high heaven) then added my usual Sleek creme blusher and a pair of cheapo false eyelashes from a discount chemist.

Sadly I haven't got Helen's exotic ancestry (half Burmese, half French) so no doe-like brown eyes, just bog standard British blue ones.

So what's with today's Bollywood love? I'm celebrating! I've only gone and booked our flights to India 'cos there's nothing like distracting yourself with an intense internet search when you've got a full-on weekend of vintage fairs to pack for. Wanna know the best thing? Two Birmingham to Mumbai return tickets with Air France are half the price of the Manchester to Goa cattle class flight we used in January. In fact, at just over £300 each I think they're one of the cheapest deals we've found in 20 years of visiting India (Kayak, I love you). Three months and counting...... 

WEARING: Vintage Carnegie of London, silver Lurex embellished trouser suit (charity shop find by our friends) worn with a pair of early 1970s silver platform sandals by Ravel (Charity shop, 2010)

Talking of India (sorry if I'm alienating non-Brits) but I have to say that last night's new BBC series, Ganges With Sue Perkins, bored the silver lurex pants off me. She seems like a nice enough woman (not that I've ever watched that cake baking programme people seem obsessed by) but haven't celebrity India travelogues been done to death? There's only so many banal comments about cows in unexpected places, interviews with middle class Westerners who've jacked in a corporate life to do something worthwhile and pulling an "ooh, that must hurt" face at bendy yogisYes, Sue's on a quest to achieve inner peace after the death of her father six months ago but having to endure her chucking up due to altitude sickness, moaning about her bones aching and being a bit sarky about the standard of her backpacker hostel don't exactly endear her to me. While the climate change & environmental issues Sue touches on are important I'm inclined to think that if our TV channels didn't show so many celebrity travel documentaries they'd be a lot fewer tourists buggering up far flung places.

And just when you thought I couldn't find anything crazier in a charity shop this week than a pair of suede Lederhosen.....ta-dah! A vintage showgirl costume found yesterday for the princely sum of two quid!

Just what every 50 year old needs in her wardrobe (well, this 50 year old does, I can't speak for the rest of you!) Perfect for dancing around the bedroom to Piya Tu Ab To Aaja.

We're doing the double this weekend and trading back-to-back with Judy's Affordable Vintage Fairs at two gorgeous English Spa towns - Leamington Spa on Saturday (details HERE) and Bath on Sunday (details HERE). It would be fab to see you (and I promise not to dress like middle-aged Bollywood showgirl!)

Tuesday 17 October 2017

I Left My Lederhosen In Wetherspoons

Yesterday was one of those days when we popped to the pub to meet a friend for a few drinks and lunch, only to stagger out eight hours later singing Smiths songs, arm in arm with a total stranger.

What I wore yesterday: Vintage 1970s elephant & Indian temple print maxi (courtesy of Curtise), flashy but trashy coin choker (eBay), metallic space boots (TopShop, January 2017 sale)

It was a strange day, what with the unseasonably warm temperatures (apparently the hottest October day since UK records began) and, due to Saharan sand blown over with Storm Ophelia, the sun cast an eerie orange glow in the sky. Over the weekend hundreds of fans went on the rampage after a boxing match at Walsall Town Hall went bad, tragically culminating in the fatal stabbing of a 19 year-old spectator (link HERE). As Wetherspoons is next door to the town hall the beer garden was cordoned off while the police continued their search for the murder weapon which, understandably, led to a rather sombre air but, despite this, the pub was full to capacity, more like a Friday night than a Monday lunchtime, as two of the other town centre pubs had been closed due the ongoing enquiries.

What I'm wearing today: Vintage 1960s Crimplene maxi dress (Clothes Show Live, 2009), Vintage 1960s go-go boots (Car boot sale, 2010), Antique velvet jacket (£3, charity shop, last seen HERE), Plum wool trilby (£1.99, Aldo via the charity shop)

As usual, the time flew. We bumped into a pal we'd last seen at a festival over the summer and chatted to a day tripper from Birmingham who we bonded with over 1980s indie music, obscure films and vintage clothes. We contributed to a collection for a floral tribute to the murdered young man started by Manjit, one of the (unofficial) 'Spoons Monday Club and, as usual, giggled at the inebriated pensioners declaring their undying love to me, Bab, you'm* the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. I devoured vegetarian sausages with mash and peas whilst Jon attacked a huge burger and chips. Our last pint for the road ended up as another two and a half more.

*You am - Black Country dialect for you are.

We walked back braving the ferocious gale force winds and were home just in time to catch the last part of the BBC's gory time-lapse thriller, Rellik (sadly, the ending was a bit of a let down) and afterwards, having a quick tidy up before bed, realised that I couldn't find the bag Jon was carrying earlier in the day. With a jolt he realised that he'd left it under the table in 'Spoons.

A frantic phone call later and the bag was located by the shift manager - What's in the bag? Just so we know we've got the right one She asked.  A pair of extra large brown suede lederhosen, Jon replied. Funnily enough he was otherwise engaged this morning so I had to call in to collect the bag from the manager's office in 'Spoons on my own. I don't think the staff will ever look at us in the same way again. 

Just for the record we don't usually walk around with plus sized Bavarian clothing in our possession but if you spot something in the chazza shop opposite the pub, you've just got to buy it when you can, haven't you? 

Storm Ophelia's managed to bugger up our boiler and the crucial element needs to be ordered in. Bloody typical now the temperature's dropped, isn't it? Never mind, the wood burner is on and we've still got a few wet wipes left over from the festival season. I'm sure we'll survive!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.

See you soon.