Wednesday 27 November 2019

It's The Little Things

It's not just finding flamboyant frocks and rare vintage pieces that make secondhand shopping so thrilling, it's the everyday items that might not be exactly exciting but to prove to be hero pieces, the perfect thing to pull an outfit together or which tick off the must try and look for one of those list forever growing in my head.

This 1970s Alpnani number, which I wore yesterday, is pretty special already but the silver plated torque I found on eBay (£4.99 including postage) proved to be the perfect length for the kaftan's neckline and looks a damned sight better than the old leather shoelace I usually thread my Indian pendants through.

It's given my entire collection a whole new lease of life.

These are the second pair from Clarks' Orinoco range of boots I've scored in just over a month, absurdly comfy as the previous owner has gone to the trouble of wearing them in and, at less than a tenth of the current retail price, an irresistible bargain. 

I know I could get loads more in my wardrobe if I used velvet hangers but prefer pretty vintage padded coat hangers, they're kinder on delicate fabrics and they stop me trying to cram too much in my wardrobe allowing plenty of space between dresses, so my clothes don't get creased in between wears. These three, painstakingly sewn by hand, were £1 from the charity clearance shop.

Now, if like me, you're a fan of see-thru' gauzy cotton dresses, a flesh coloured slip is pretty much the Holy Grail of charity shop finds and what better than a vintage version to go under my vintage frocks? This 1960s nylon number is by St Michael (Marks and Spencer's in-house label, phased out in the 1990s) and not only does it fit perfectly but also eliminates the need for a bra - £1 well spent!

Here's what I wore today, one of a growing collection of vintage Afghan dresses, my 1960s Go-Go boots and the plum fedora I bought recently. Liz gave me the silver Hindu goddess belt buckle for my birthday a few years ago but I rarely wore it as I didn't have the right belt. Now I do! It was originally part of a Brownie uniform (the original owner's name is written inside) and is the perfect width to accommodate the buckle. 50p from the charity clearance shop.

Here's an item I ticked off the imaginary must try and look out for one those list, a butter dish.
 We've been using a cracked Melamine butter dish for years, no way would either of us contemplate going to a shop and buying something new knowing the right thing would turn up eventually. For £3 I couldn't leave this slightly ridiculous piece behind. It's by Beswick (formed in 1894 just up the road from us in Stoke-on-Trent) and from their 1950s Dancing Days collection. After a Google when I got home I discovered a cracked one listed on Etsy for sale at £35! While I'm not a fan of 1950s fashion I do have a weakness for the kitschy ceramics of the period.

I didn't really need another 1960s genie bottle but I've collected them for years and when they're under a fiver I never say no. I've found both the grey and the amber one in the last fortnight (£3.50 and £2 respectively).

 I didn't need a V&A Museum 1000 piece jigsaw featuring a Victorian doll's house either, but I bought it anyway!

Other small things making me happy this week...

The vet was pleased with Frank's progress when we took him for a check-up and yesterday, for the first time in a month, he was allowed a supervised trip into the garden.

As always, under the watchful eye of Stonecroft's alpha male, 15 year-old Stephen (aka Squirrel).

 Taking Frank into the garden was like introducing a kitten to the wonders of the outside world for the first time, he had to sniff everything and growled at Jon when he picked him up and brought him in after his allotted time.

Now he's had a taste for outdoors he's like a cat possessed. He's sitting next to me while I'm writing this blog post, staring at me and crying so pitifully I've had to play Michael Kiwanuka at full blast (no bad thing) to drown him out.

Not such a small thing either. After almost ten days of hand feeding his appetite's returned with avengeance and as well as a liberal sprinkling of prawns he's eating his way through cooked ham and three sachets of Felix a day. Already a big cat at 5.5kg, he'll be the size of a horse at this rate! 

They drive me daft when they insist on getting me up at 6am but I do love my boys!

Wednesday evenings are the best - rum, cola and The Apprentice. I think that Thomas might be my all-time favourite contestant. 

See you soon and Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!

Friday 22 November 2019

Vix's Tips - How to Find Fabulous Vintage Clothing on eBay

Hooray for eBay! I bought this amazing Rabari mirrorwork and embroidered Indian cotton maxi skirt from my friend Katy's shop last week (link HERE). Although the three year old chazza-shopped black top I wore on Sunday was fine with it, I felt I could do better so I typed "blue bodysuit with sleeves, UK Size 8" into eBay and this once- worn, crushed velvet number popped up. I clicked Buy It Now and two days later Izzy the postman handed it over to me.

I doubt if the body suit was particularly expensive to start with but even so, £6, was a steal and I much prefer to buy my clothes secondhand rather than f*ck up the planet further by buying new.

It's a shame the weather's too hideous to show it off in daylight, the joys of living in Northern Europe. I'll just have to pose in front of my me-made patchwork curtains instead. Check out my new-to-me cushion cover, it's Suzani, a tribal textile originating in central Asia. God knows how it ended up in the 50p bin in a Black Country charity shop.

  Isn't my pendant incredible? It's made by Alison, an IG friend, using an antique knife and some vintage embroidery silk, recycling at it's most glamorous! Visit her wonderful Etsy shop HERE.

A few weeks ago the ever fabulous Suzanne Carillo published a blog post entitled How To Successfully Shop Secondhand Online (link HERE) and, as trawling eBay for vintage clothes is a passion of mine, I left a long & involved comment. As I'm often asked how I manage to find so much good - and reasonably priced - stuff on eBay I thought I'd share a few of my secrets. 

In addition to today's crushed velvet bodysuit, these two 1970s Indian-made dresses were this week's eBay buys. As you saw on my last post, I've already worn the embroidered velvet maxi. 

Without further ado, here's how I search for fabulous vintage clothing on eBay.
1. When trawling for something specific, rather than choosing the Vintage Clothing & Accessories option, I enter the description into the "Shop by Category" box at the top of the page and select "All Categories" from the drop-down menu. This means I often find vintage clothes listed in incorrect categories which are less visible to fellow vintage enthusiasts.
2. I try and think of alternative ways to describe the item I'm looking for. For instance, if I wanted a vintage Welsh Wool cape I'd first start searching using that description and then I'd look for Made in Wales Cape, Mod Cape,1970s/1960s Cape, Tapestry Cape, Tweed Cape and Retro Cape. 

Yes, it takes ages but finding the perfect vintage piece generally does - this ain't fast fashion.

3. I always select “UK Only” in the Item Location category on the left hand side of the screen (thus keeping postage costs to a minimum and avoiding any nasty customs charges) and "Used" in the Condition category (filtering out all the nasty imported Chinese sweatshop tat registered at a UK address).

4. I never search items listed as Ending Soonest. It's easy to get carried away in the dying seconds of an auction, not read the description clearly and end up disappointed when you failed to notice that the seller mentioned that there was an obvious fault or that the item needed serious cleaning in your rush to bag a bargain. If you've got a question for the seller, last minute auctions it don't allow adequate time for them to answer. By searching Newly Listed items you've got a week or more to ask yourself if you really need it (I'll often change my mind when I've had the time to carefully consider) and it gives you plenty of time to ask the seller any questions you might have.

5. I don't leave anything to chance. If there's no mention of the type of fabric in the listing - I ask. 
Same with a vague description like "In fair condition, remember that this item is 50 years old and won't be like new". You've only got yourself to blame if the gauzy cotton frock you planned to wear on a tropical holiday ends up to be 100% nylon or that a zip needs replacing and the armpits are hideously stained. No response to your questions from the seller? Step away from the item! 
6. I’m very dubious of vintage sellers who don’t include a photograph of the garment label (if there is one) in their listing. I’ll always message and ask for a photo and failing that, a photograph of the zip and the inner side seams, if they fail to reciprocate it makes me suspect they’re selling modern stuff and trying to pass it off as vintage which sadly happens a lot. 
7. Remember that vintage dress sizes are much smaller than their contemporary counterparts. If an item is listed as a UK size 12 but there's measurements in the listing, ask the seller for clarification before bidding. A vintage UK Size 12 has a 24" waist measurement (the equivalent of a modern UK Size 6) whereas a contemporary UK Size 12 has a 29.5" waist - a big difference!

1970s clothing sizes bear no resemblance to today's!

8. If a listing catches your eye there's a possibility that the seller has similar tastes to you so it's a good idea to check out any other items they have available and if so, message them to ask if they can combine postage before you bid. 

9. Use a sniping tool. This is an application that will place a bid on your behalf in the dying seconds of an auction, ideal for auctions that finish at odd times and/or when you haven't got access to the internet 24/7 (like non-smart phone owning me!) While there's no guarantee you'll win the auction if your bid isn't high enough it'll stop you getting into a bidding war and paying over the odds for something. Many auction snipers are free, others take a tiny percentage from the winning price (I use AuctionSniper which charges 1% of the final fee.) Sharing because I like them - not 'cos I'm getting a kickback.
10. When you're searching eBay and find something gorgeous listed as a Buy-It-Now with a wildly optimistic asking price don't scroll past outraged, watch it anyway. Occasionally you'll get an email from eBay letting you know that the seller has slashed the price and you can snaffle said item without bankrupting yourself. The kaftan below was originally listed for £90, needless to say I didn't pay that much!

Hope this helps and, if you're an eBay virgin, you feel a bit more confident about buying on line.

Happy bidding!

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Life Lately - Cats, Curtains and the Pony Awards

I'm back! 

After a somewhat fraught week we finally got the results from Frank's biopsy. It turned out to be a severe allergic reaction to something - possibly a plant - as there's no chance it would be a cleaning product in this house (we're all natural when we do bother). Anyway, whatever it was penetrated every layer of his skin, meaning now it's abating, poor Frank is bald in places. His medication finished today, he's almost back to his usual inquisitive self (although I'm keeping him indoors for the time being) and he's decided that cat food tastes a lot better when served with a generous helping of fresh prawns - we'll be bankrupt at this rate!  

His shaved tummy from the biopsy is gradually growing back and his face isn't looking so grubby now the abscess has cleared up. As you can see he's back to wrestling with his beloved catnip banana.

WEDNESDAY: Vintage Afghan coat, 1970s Indian-made embroidered crushed velvet maxi, tooled leather bag, Doc Marten "Darcie" boots (all eBay), Plum fedora (new, retail) 

We feel a lot happier leaving the house now Frank's on the mend. Today we popped out for our annual eye tests, which the NHS provide for free as I have a family history of glaucoma & Jon of diabetes. My prescription has stayed the same whilst Jon's has changed. He'll get his existing glasses reglazed in India but, as he didn't fancy waiting a couple of months and his opticians had a two for one offer on, he decided to splash out on a couple of new pairs. While he was getting measured up I spotted a pair of 1970s inspired sunglasses and decided to have a pair made up to my prescription - when I read on the beach I either use my E:reader set to the largest font size or wear a pair of sunglasses over the top of my reading glasses and look like a total loon. 

Here in the UK it's turned icy cold all of a sudden and, as you can see, my precious Afghan coat is being worn on repeat. My heart goes out to the young homeless man who's been sleeping in a tent on Lidl's car park for eighty-three nights. Although Jon & I (and others) are making sure he's warm, dry and not going hungry, what kind of country are we living in when this kind of situation is allowed to happen? 

MONDAY: Vintage Afghan and plum fedora worn with an early '70s maxi dress, original purple suede platforms and a 1960s suede shoulder bag (all charity shopped)

This photo was taken when we were off charity shopping on Monday. My vintage maxi was a charity shop find a few weeks ago. I thought I'd got a bargain at £5 but one of the regular customers told me that I should have haggled as nobody but me would wear a dress like that and I was doing the shop a favour taking it off their hands. Cheek!

Whilst nursing Frank I sat quietly and read, not wanting to disturb him. I finished three books, although can't say I was overly keen on Peter James' style of writing, Twilight was the first book I'd read by him and it was too melodramatic for my liking. 

Once Frank was starting to feel better, and no longer slumped on the landing, I felt like it was okay to start making some noise. On Sunday morning I decided my fabric stash needed decluttering and set about making some curtains for the spare bedroom. The previous pair were ivory with a black joie de toile print, for which I paid £5 from a rather posh lady at a car boot sale when we first moved into Stonecroft back in 2005. I liked them but always felt that they'd have worked far better in a chateau in the sunny South of France rather than a draughty Georgian house in the Black Country. 

Psychedelic patchwork is far more me!

 The cost of my "new" curtains? Absolutely nothing! 

The rectangles were cut from tatty 1970s curtains, stained tablecloths, leftover fabric scraps and vintage clothes too knackered to sell. The thread, dressmaking pins and sewing scissors were given to me and I found the sewing machine abandoned in the street. I even used the existing bedroom curtains as lining - zero waste, maximum impact.

If you fancy having a bash at making your own, you'll find my tutorial HERE.

As well as sorting out our leaky shower unit and redecorating the bathroom, Jon's installed lights in my wardrobe so I can admire my clothes on the dark Winter days.

Here's some exciting news - I've been shortlisted for both Vintage Gal and Vintage Blog in the Vintage Pony Awards, 2019 - what an honour!

I've got some stiff competition and to be honest, I'm thrilled just to get this far but, if you are on IG and want to vote, here are the rules... you'll find organiser, Wish Vintage, HERE.

Progress! This afternoon is the first time Frank's curled up on his favourite blanket (crocheted by me) in over a fortnight. 

Thanks for all your lovely comments and messages, you've helped keep me sane.

See you soon. xxx

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Let's Be Frank - Cat Sitting & Other Stories

 Thank you so much for all your kind words and messages about Frank, the last ten days have been pretty hellish. We're still awaiting the results from Thursday's biopsy which really took it out of him, in fact we were so worried about leaving him that we had to cancel the fair we were due to trade at over the weekend and, other than a couple more vet visits, hadn't left the house since I last posted. We've been taking it in turns to get up and check up on him during the night and neither of us have slept for longer than two hours for almost a week. Last night Jon finally tempted him with a saucer of mackerel and he's managed a couple of small meals today. 

If you're not a cat person you probably won't know just how caring felines can be. Stephen Squirrel has been babysitting him today, gently chirruping to encourage him to get better. Stephen's 15 and Frank's about 5, they're not related but they stick together.

Jon had a call earlier from a neighbour asking if Frank was alright as he hadn't seen him for almost a fortnight. Unbeknownst to us, Frank can be found sitting on their doorstep at around 7am each morning waiting to be let in for treats and fuss. Poor Layla (the silver tabby who made an appearance on my blog a fortnight ago) is pining for him.

 On a plus note, having been unable to leave the house and has meant that it has never been so neat and tidy, that saying about people with dull lives having the tidiest homes must be true. Apart from dusting, mopping and scrubbing everything in sight, I've been decluttering like a women possessed, halving my earring & bangle collection as well as parting with a significant amount of bags, scarves and hats.

But never fear, I'm not turning into one of those freaky minimalists, I'm simply refining my wardrobe. This 1970s tooled leather bag, for instance, replaces both a larger vintage tooled leather bag I love but proved cumbersome to use and the Rajasthani leather & fabric cross body bag I've travelled to India with for over a decade but is now so stained and filthy it's an embarrassment. You may remember that I bought a similar hat to the one I'm wearing for £2 from a charity shop recently, a month earlier I'd fallen in love with this one online but it was way over budget.  Randomly checked the website last week I saw that it had been reduced by 30% so I went mad, ordering it in both orange & plum...and subsequently getting rid of four other hats in my collection. 

As most of my wardrobe is vintage, when I have a clear out I simply put my discarded belongings in the stockroom where I'll eventually find them a new home. Non-vintage stuff like cast-off costume jewellery and paperback books go straight to the charity shop and today we allowed ourselves an hour off nursing duties to drive down to the charity clearance superstore with a bag of donations. Needless to say I didn't come back empty-handed....

Clockwise from left: American-made 1980s tweed bomber jacket by Braetan; 1990s-does-1970s revival platform boots (with the maker's tags still attached); Crochet bellbottoms; 1960s Donegal wool coat; 1980s pure new wool lined maxi skirt; 1970s C&A lined wool midi skirt; 1970s BHS chambray lace-up midi skirt (Click to enlarge photo)

Of course, it's all destined for the stockroom although I'm rather tempted with the Gunne Sax-inspired denim skirt. It fits me, 24" waist garments are generally a hard sell and it would look rather cute in Greece. See, I've talked myself into it already!

WEARING: 1970s wool housecoat (present from our friends, G&T back in 2016), 1960s suede and sheepskin trimmed coat (2017, Second to None), Banjara coin pendant (Goa, 2008), 1970s tooled leather bag (eBay), Orange fedora (new, retail!!!)
Thanks again for being so kind, caring & supportive. It means the world.

See you soon!