Sunday 26 May 2019

The Woman In White

Oh, how times flies! I'd love to explain my lack of posts by regaling you with tales of our adventures but the truth is that Jon was laid low with a virus since Tuesday (he's better now) so it's been a week of solo shopping, reading and gardening.

WEARING: 1960s hand embroidered Indian cotton maxi dress (Viv's Vintage, Worcester), Lamani pre-Indian Independence coin belt (India, 2000) 

There was respite in the form of a visit from my friend Claire on Friday when I was able to don the twin of my blue dress (last seen travelling with me around the delights of India's Golden Triangle), stroll around St Matthew's churchyard, have a lazy lunch in Wetherspoons and rifle through the rails of Walsall's chazzas. Claire's a gifted photographer, she was one of the finalists in the annual National Trust photography competition and her winning picture of the Clent Hills is on the inside cover of the official 2019 guidebook.

As she wanted a bit of practice with human subjects I was more than happy to pose for a few photos. And before you ask, of course I've got a disco ball in the garden, haven't you?

You can check Claire's work out HERE.

As I've only been into Walsall pickings were slim this week. A 1970s Sears "Great Looking Dresses" label balloon sleeved cotton blouse (£2) and a £2.99 Greek souvenir bag - also 1970s - which'll hopefully get to see Greece again before too long (Br***t permitting).

A couple of DVDs, Lion (which I've seen before and love) and The Devil's Double (described on the cover as being the Asian Scarface which made it a must-see) - a whopping 25p each! A fabulous twentieth century fashion book (£3) and a box of vintage Tabu soap (£1). I'm no perfume expert - I wear either Lush's Karma or Sikkim Girls - but man, this smells good. Created in 1932 Dana's brief was to "make a perfume a whore would wear" and so Tabu was born. Not sure what it says about me.

Not such slim pickings in the form of Royal Mail parcels which I've recently been treated to.

A gorgeous Anokhi block printed cotton kurta, vintage Indian belt with zardozi embroidery and some brilliant turquoise wooden beads from Veronica.

& some fabulous 1970s dressmaking patterns, including one designed by Jean Muir (on the left) from Gisela.

Lynn sent me Christine's Garden (the down-to-earth BBC gardener's diary) which I finished along with these other books this week. 

And talking of fabulous bloggers, Kezzie has been charting her journey towrads making her life more eco-friendly which has inspired me to make more of an effort to reduce the amount of stuff I throw away. When the council collect our general waste bin fortnightly it's rarely more than half full but there's always room for improvement. As the quote below illustrates, every little helps.

My bathroom shelves carry the bare minimum of plastic packaged products. I wash my face with unscented soap and a muslin cloth and my disposable razors have been replaced by an epilator (nice one, Jon!) We use soap to wash with (no shower gels, liquid hand soap or bubble bath unless bought as a gift) and I take a contraceptive pill which stops periods altogether, so no sanitary products for over two and a half years. When I've finished my pot of cotton wool pads (which I use for eye make-up & nail varnish removal) I intend to investigate a more sustainable alternative. Yesterday, I placed a repeat order for more of Daniel Field's Watercolour natural hair dye and opted for no instructions, no developer bottle and no plastic shower cap or gloves as I've kept the ones that came with my first delivery.

As I'm sure you already know, I'm a huge fan of Lush, the ethical, cruelty-free cosmetic company, and I've banged on about their shampoo and conditioning bars for years. No plastic bottles, no false promises, no gloopy product, just an item that resembles a bar of soap and lasts for months. I use their Jungle conditioner (HERE) and swap between shampoo bars, 'cos I love them all!  (If you do decide to switch to the bars I do recommend buying the metal tins).

I also adore Lush's deodorant bars. I'm not a particularly sweaty person (the menopause hasn't come a-knocking at this door....yet) and they work just fine. Again, no packaging and a bar will last at least 6 months. My favourite is Sunflower (HERE) which I store in a travel soap dish to keep it from drying out. Aromaco is also very good and smells gorgeous. 

My recent discovery is Argan, a solid facial oil. Like the other Lush products I use it is unpackaged and resembles a bar of soap. The smell and how it feels on my skin is amazing. I use my trusty Superdrug Vitamin E Instant Radiance Cream over the top but this gives my skin a bit more of a moisture boost. (HERE)

We don't have a Lush in Walsall so I buy on-line. My order arrives in a recyclable cardboard box filled with biodegradable packing pellets which you can put in the compost bin or use as mulch around your plants. No waste! 

Recently I discovered British company &keep and decided to give some of their eco-friendly, ethical and sustainably sourced products a try.

Did you know that every time we use those supermarket synthetic sponge scourers, the plastic fibres are washed down the drain? These fibres are small enough to get through the filtration systems at water plants and often end up in our waterways and oceans. Scrubbies are 100% biodegradable cleaning pads made in the UK using organic cotton & thread, are bamboo lined and hessian backed and can be washed in the machine at up to 40°. When they lose their scrub they can be cut up and composted.  Find them HERE.

You fill Hydrophil's Soap Pouch, which is made from sisal, with a bar of soap (or leftover scraps of soap which normally clog up the plughole) and use it in the bath or shower to scrub your skin. Hydrophil's products are water-neutral, vegan & fair-trade. 10% of profits go to a charity providing access to clean drinking water for people living in the southern hemisphere. Find it HERE.

I've been looking for an alternative to conventional toothpaste for ages, I hate the sweet taste of the mass produced stuff and the plastic tubes are so wasteful. Truthpaste is a handmade, natural mineral toothpaste made with Aloe Vera, Neem, Myrrh and certified organic essential oils. It comes in a fantastic recyclable glass jar and is 100% vegan and cruelty free. I love that it doesn't froth up and the peppermint and wintergreen flavour is so refreshing. Find it HERE.

When I placed the order - which arrived carefully wrapped in recyclable brown paper with no plastic - I was given a 15% code to share with friends (which I consider to be anyone who follows my blog), just enter my name "Victoria Brearley" when you checkout.

***This isn't a sponsored post, I'm sharing 'cos I love and I'd quite like Planet Earth to be around for a few million more years.****

It's another bank holiday tomorrow and I'm hoping for some car boot action. It was cancelled yesterday and it was too wet this morning, third time lucky.

See you soon!

Monday 20 May 2019

Doing The Recycling - My Latest Secondhand Finds

Here's a round-up of the latest editions to my wardrobe and, as everything is secondhand, it's the most exciting form of recycling. To accommodate my finds I had a bit of a bedroom tidy up and did some sums. I'm not sure of the total amount of items of clothing I own but just six were bought new from high street retailers. Everything else was either purchased from Indian fair trade companies, handmade by me using vintage fabric or bought secondhand. After further investigation, out of a grand total of 30 items of footwear, 50% were pre-owned and just two of my bags were bought new. All my underskirts are secondhand as are half of my socks, most of my tights and three out of my six bras. I buy the best quality knickers I can afford (M&S or La Redoute) wash them at 30°C & line dry them which means they last for ages. I've got 22 pairs of pants, the newest being two years old and the oldest I've had for over a decade.

I love shopping, which is why I chose to make a career out of it. I adore trawling eBay for hidden gems and the thrill of anticipation at getting up at the crack of dawn to trudge around car boot fields; the buzz  from rifling through rails of tat to unearth pure gold in charity shops & discovering beautiful artisan-made textiles on my travels in India. My expectations are never high yet I'm rarely disappointed. Every garment in my wardrobe tells a story, the rush of adrenaline when I spot something beautiful on a charity shop rail or crumpled up in the bottom of a suitcase at a car boot sale, an item listed in an incorrect category on eBay which I watch anxiously for a week hoping against hope than nobody else spots it, a one-of-a-kind, perfectly fitting artisan produced dress found in a shop I'd only popped into to escape the punishing heat of the Indian tropics. 

WEARING: Vintage Chinese embroidered jacket (car boot sale) worn with 1960s Dollyrockers silk maxi (eBay, 2011), original 1960s green suede go-go boots (a gift from Vonda, a blog reader)

I hate it when I overhear someone being complimented on an outfit and to hear the response "This? It was only from ______" (fill the blank with a high street shop of choice). I don't want anything in my wardrobe to be only from somewhere, like an apology. My clothes may be recycled, they've had at least one previous owner but I'm proud of everything in my wardrobe. They'll never be an only, they all have a history & a tale to tell.

Take this jacket. We'd been stock-hunting at the car boot sale for ages on Sunday before we saw anything remotely interesting. Just as I was starting to get despondent I caught sight of this vintage Chinese jacket out of the corner of my eye. I couldn't hand my £1 over fast enough. Not only does it match my silk Dollyrockers maxi perfectly but also compliments Ebbie, our 1970 VW 411 LE Variant Type 4.

Despite the numerous campaigns highlighting the damage fast fashion is doing to our planet (HERE) it doesn't appear to have made much of an impression judging by the mountains of cheap high street tat in the Staffordshire fields yesterday morning. In fact I think the problem is getting worse. Most of the traders we saw peddling their unwanted gear had so much of the stuff that they'd simply dragged their overflowing black sacks out onto the grass and left the public to sort it out. Even at four items for £1 nobody seemed interested meaning that it will inevitably be dumped at a charity shop and then, as the chazzas are already drowning in discarded fast fashion, it will probably get sent to Africa where our cast-off clothing has contributed to the collapse of the traditional textile industries (see HERE) or, if the sellers can't be arsed to drive to their nearest shop, it'll be dumped in landfill where those plastic-based synthetic garments will still be rotting down when we're long dead (see HERE).

If you don't think our buying decisions have an effect on the fashion industory then read this excellent article Stop buying crap, and the companies will stop making crap. Make no mistake, we, as consumers, DO have the power to eradicate the brands that are destroying the planet and exploiting their workers.

WEARING: Vintage bastard massive sleeved maxi dress, bought from a charity shop last week.

I read countless excuses given by bloggers for buying cheap new fashion as opposed to shopping secondhand first I haven't got the time, there's nothing available in my area,what's the harm of buying a few things when everyone else is doing it?....I could argue till I'm blue in the face instead I choose to unfollow any blogs promoting fast fashion or sponsored IG pages - it may sound harsh but liking or commenting just serves to encourage the rampant consumerism. If they unfollow me and I get fewer visitors then so be it, we clearly didn't have anything in common in the first place.

If there's no decent secondhand shops in your area go further afield. If you're in the UK have a look at the Find a Charity Shop section on the Association of British Charity Shops website and go on a road trip. As you know, we visited a popular tourist town an hour away last week and still managed to find some beautiful and reasonably priced clothes (including the dress I'm wearing above) despite the hoards of visitors. If you're short on time eBay is open 24 hours a day and, trust me, there's some incredible bargains out there if you look properly. Facebook is also brilliant for bargains and if you join your local selling group you'll be able to pick your purchases and save on postage costs.

Talking of eBay, here's a new-to-me Dollyrockers frock to add to my collection. British designer, Samuel Sherman's Dollyrockers label (1965 - 1975) was a range of hip & happening clothes showcased by George Harrison's then girlfriend Patti Boyd and a major part of Swinging London's Youthquake movement of the 1960s. Some vintage traders (not me!) charge between £100 - £200 for their dresses. This one was £20. Why so cheap? The auction finished on Sunday lunchtime when it appears most Brits are stuffing their faces and not hunting for vintage frocks. Stodgy roast dinners or psychedelia? I know which I prefer. 

WEARING: Vintage Dollyrockers dress worn with go-go boots (as before) and a vintage Indian rupee coin necklace I made myself

I was thrilled when it turned up. I've got a yellow one in the same style but it's slightly too big (so off it goes to the stockroom.) This one is the perfect fit and was made to be worn with my 1960s lime green suede go-go boots.

WEARING: Vintage Jody T of California maxi dress with Lotta from Stockholm clogs, 1960s Alfred Tricker Crafts stainless steel and snakeskin choker (car boot sale, 2010)

You may remember this dress from a previous post. I found it on eBay last Autumn with a Buy-It-Now price of £8 and didn't have to think twice before clicking the Buy Now button. How I love a Buy-It-Now! There's an ILGWU label inside but no maker's name but a friend on Instagram tells me that she has the same dress in her collection and it's by Jody T of California. I found the 1970s Dolcis bag in the charity clearance shop last week for £3. I nearly put it in the stockroom, in fact I did - for about an hour. What was I thinking? It's perfect with my apple green clogs.

I love clogs. My heart belongs to Lotta from Stockholm (a Swedish family business producing handmade clogs for over 100 years, using sustainable wood) and I'm more than happy to buy them at full price but if I find other brands of clogs going cheap in a charity shop I'll always give them a go. Last year I bought some Swedish Hasbeens for £1.99 but they rubbed my feet to ribbons so last week I donated them back to the shop. Just as I was leaving I spotted these TopShop black nubuck clogs priced at just £2. Sold!

As I share a surname with the inventor of Sheffield Stainless Steel, Harry Brearley (1871 -1948), I've a bit of an affinity for the stuff especially the groovy modernist jewellery of the late 60s and early 70s. Emma, an IG friend picked up this collection from a car boot sale but didn't notice until she got home that most of the stones were missing from the choker. I offered to give it a home and substituted the abalone with some turquoise beads from my stash. 

Of course, the main reason I spend all my time shopping is to keep Kinky Melon's Retro Boutique stocked up. Once the festival season kicks off we'll be on the road for two months so won't have any time to go stock hunting. Here's this weekend's additions:

US Marine issue woodland camo smock; 1970s Winfield (Woolworths) western shirt; 1980s fringed suede jacket; 1970s dagger collared shirt by STUD; Bolivian waistcoat; 1970s Charles Anthony dagger collar shirt

Vintage Chinese silk brocade quilted dress; Chinese quilted jacket; 1960s Italian embroidered wool cardigan; 1970s suede mini skirt; 1960s Crimplene mini; 1960s knit mini; 1960s turquoise suede dress; 1980s brocade bustier; 1970s suede midi skirt

1970s suede mini skirt; Chinese embroidered satin wrap; 1960s deadstock Crimplene mini dress; 1980s hippy tunic; 1960s St Michael Young Miss cotton mini dress; Vintage silk cheong-san; 1960s Claude Amos mini; 1960s suede mini skirt; 1960s suede mini skirt.
Needless to say, the Kinky shed is bursting at the seams!

Right, I'm off to Wetherspoons in my new old dress shortly, putting a whole new spin on the saying, taking the recycling out.

See you soon!

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Road Tripping - The Medieval Streets of Tewkesbury

A few years ago we traded at a festival held on the riverbank opposite Tewkesbury Abbey (HERE) and said that we'd have to cross the river and explore the town but never got round to it, that's until a friend shared a photo on Instagram of an amazing trompe l'oeil decorated door. That was just the push I needed, I can resist anything but a fancy doorway so today, we finally went to Tewkesbury.

 Situated in the county of Gloucestershire in the gorgeous area known as the Cotswolds, the Medieval town of Tewkesbury is just an hour's drive from Walsall (I know, it's so close, why on earth hadn't we been before?) The town stands on the confluence of the Rivers Severn and Avon and the name comes from Theoc, a Saxon who founded a hermitage here in the 7th Century. The Battle of Tewkesbury, on 4th May 1471 was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses. 

Tewkesbury is crammed with fine Tudor buildings and is deservedly popular with tourists.

The Wheatsheaf (above) was built in 1500 and was used as a pub until 1956.

The age of this old inn (now a hairdressers) speaks for itself.

The Ancient Grudge Inn (now an estate agent) was built in 1471, the name refers to the enmity between the houses of York & Lancaster, the cause of the Battle of Tewkesbury.

Tewkesbury is famed for these little alleyways. They're all so enticing.

The tourist information centre is situated in a building built in 1694. The beadle's hat suspended from the first floor is a leftover from when the building was used as a hat shop.

Oh dear, my underskirt's showing - the shame!

A relic from the War of the Roses?

Historic inn, the Royal Hop Pole is now run by Wetherspoons and was mentioned by Charles Dickens in the Pickwick Papers. When the new owners were refurbishing it they uncovered the remains of a previously forgotten Medieval dining hall.

It would have been rude not to partake in a spot of lunch and a beer or two in the sunshine (lager shandy for the driver). 

Planting inspiration - I need a whopping great clump of Irises outside Stonecroft.

Built in Norman times, Tewkesbury Abbey is the town's major claim to fame. Originally part of a monastery, it was saved from Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries after being bought by the townspeople for the price of the lead on the roof.  The church has the tallest Norman tower still in existence.

I'm fascinated by these remembrance plaques. The one on the left honoured a 34 year-old man who'd drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Ceylon in 1806.

WEARING: Vintage 70s Mexican cotton dress (birthday present from Curtise, 2016), Lotta, Stockholm clogs and a 1970s straw bag by Dolcis (charity shopped last week)

Replay Vintage was lovely, the owner greeted us with a smile and the prices were very reasonable. Did we buy anything? No! We'd already found loads of vintage treasure in Tewkesbury's charity shops.  From Edwardian granddad shirts, groovy dagger collar shirts, a reworked sari with bastard massive sleeves & a 1970s sailor collar raincoat to some incredible cotton dresses including an orange maxi with sleeves so good I nearly passed out when I found it! 

Historic buildings, brilliant charity shops and a posh 'Spoons. I think we need to visit more often!

Thanks for the well wishes, Gilbert didn't pass his MOT (luckily we've got more than one vehicle) but the bits that need doing aren't too complicated, Jon should have him fixed for his retest on Friday....I'll keep you posted.

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.