Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Mystery of the Size 2 Shoe

This is no Nancy Drew story.

Sometimes I open my wardrobe and think how did I acquire so many shoes? Then I look at them closely and realise I haven't worn half of them and should really get rid of them. Yet, who would buy a pair of small size 3 shoes? Or an unworn pair of gingham Converse (still in box). It seemed to me that the only shoes I actually wear are my vintage ones.

Now, why is it that people with smaller feet should struggle to get shoes that fit properly? No one caters to this on the High Street, its all size 3 upwards. Yet this is no use to the small amount of us who have petite feet, what are we supposed to do? Walk around in shoes too big? There is nothing more degrading than walking into a shop and asking very politely for size 2 shoes to be told that "you need the children's section."
Not only is this bad service, it also shows a complete lack of interest in supplying for those who do not have average sized feet, the excuse of looking at children's shoes is wearing thin, and to those shop assistants who have told me this, I say to them "how would you like it if I told you to look in the mens section for trainers for girls with big feet?"
It's the same principle. Yes, there is an argument that there are a few online boutiques who provide for petite sizes but how am I supposed to buy a pair of shoes without trying them on first? That is simply ridiculous. Also, why should I have to pay almost double for a pair of handmade small shoes just because they have to be tailored to fit my feet.
I'm not talking about grabbing a pair of sale shoes on a whim just because you convince yourself that they might fit. I'm talking about the Cinderella moment. Stepping into a pair of shoes that really cling to your feet, and make you feel as though you're donning some slippers.
This is why we are forced to turn to secondhand and vintage shoes. I've seen the looks people give me when I tell them that my shoes are vintage "worn before?" (looks in disgust). I don't see what the problem is as long as the shoe fits.

 I will admit that I have quite a few pairs of vintage shoes already, but there's only so many times you can wear them before they begin to look shabby. I bought my first pair from a vintage trader at University and they were completely unworn. She regularly visited the University with lots of big sized shoes and when I asked her about smaller shoes she replied "I have one pair that no one can fit into if you want to see them."
A week later she returned and as soon as I tried them I knew. They were made for me. I think they may be 1950s or early 1960s. Either way they are beautiful dainty shoes and spurred me to find more of the same. One of my favourite shops for shoes is Prim Vintage Fashion in Norwich, and during my time at University I indulged in the variety of stock available. On one visit I found a pretty pair of small pump shoes in cream with the most incredible printed lining. They look as if they have just stepped out of Hairspray (2007 version). Think "The New Girl in Town".
Then when I went to visit a friend in Paris earlier this year I bought a pair of elegant mustard coloured heels by Capriccio which were surprisingly cheap for the quality of them. My love of vintage shoes has definitely grown since then!

Which is why, recently, I have decided to invest in them. At every vintage fair my attention has been diverted to one thing and one thing only, petite size 2 shoes. I do not consider this to be a defect in my development, it has a lot to do with genetics, both my parents have small feet (although not as small as mine) however to be told constantly that nothing is in stock is a real drain.
Then like an avalanche, size 2 shoes began to appear on Facebook vintage groups and shops and I began to build up quite a collection. A trip to London brought a pair of 1940s Harrods "Delamante" shoes into the wardrobe (which are sadly quite worn now due to my wearing them to work on a regular basis) and on a visit to one of my favourite vintage shops, Mela Mela in Teddington I found a pair of gorgeous 1950s silver dancing shoes for just £30 and bought them.
Then I came across a pair of 1950s red shoes by Crespino on the Frock and Roll Vintage Clothing page and bought those as well. When they arrived I was quite surprised by the lining. They are decorated with a figure of a girl in a pretty dress. A search on eBay found a pair of unworn 1960s buckle shoes and I purchased them.
Perhaps my best investment, however were a pair of 1920s shoes by Lotus and Delta, bought as a present for me at The Clerkenwell Vintage Fair. They are without doubt the most beautiful shoes I have ever seen. So immaculate I feel they should be kept under glass in order to preserve them, but what is the use in that if they are my size. Should I wear them?

If not, what should I do?


Has anyone else found it hard to get shoes? I can only suggest that those of us in what I am calling the "Size 2 Club" focus on buying vintage shoes and boycott the high street altogether since they have shown no interest in helping us.

If anyone else shares the same view, I'd like to hear from you.

Holly x

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Nostalgic Loveliness at Vintage Lindy Lou's

When you first think of vintage tea rooms, images of quaint villages and little nooks come to mind. The last place you expect to find such a place is in the suburbs of London. Whilst the South East is not particularly well known for its love of vintage, it seems to have gathered quite an interest in the past year, with shops popping up all around areas such as Sidcup and Bexley.

Although these places are technically London areas they have Kent postcodes, but this is not rural Kent, far from it. Amidst the hubbub of Bexley and its surrounding towns lies an exceptional oasis, known as Vintage Lindy Lou's Tea Rooms.

I visited this dear little cafe after spending a few long hours Christmas Shopping in the adjoining town of Bexleyheath and I needed somewhere to relax. I had heard about it from a relative and it seemed the perfect time to experience it for myself. I drove to Crayford, not really recognised for its "vintage" interests and parked up, looking around for the tea room, which exists right in the centre of a small park with the address as "Waterside."

From the outside the tea room isn't much to look at. A brick building previously used as a pop in parlour doesn't exactly excite anyone, but take a step further, open the door and you step into another world.

This is the era of the late 1940s and early '50s, where tea is served in china cups and tempting cakes await under glass domes. I fell in love with it at once.

The actual building encompasses a dual purpose as a tea room and vintage/memorabilia shop which sells everything from kid gloves, to glassware and vintage novelty cards, I even spotted an Enid Collins bag high up on the shelf. This was an exception to the low-end pricing for the items, at £75, which is to be expected from such a famous designer.

There were also two dresses on display which I was told later had belonged to the owner's mother who came from Italy. The dress is in simply stunning condition and I was very moved by the story that went with it. Another dress stands on a mannequin by the window with a hand painted floral design, it is truly a work of art.

Still, I was there to have the full experience so I settled myself in a large comfy sofa covered with a hand knitted blanket and waited patiently for someone to attend on me. It took about five minutes but was definitely worth the wait. My order was taken, swept into the kitchen and planted on the table barely a few minutes later. What service!

Now, I'm a bit picky when it comes to eating in independent restaurants and cafes. I am generally very cynical of anything that says "home-made" but I can honestly say that the sandwiches (I chose cheese and ham) were lovely and fluffy with hand grated cheese and even a little garnish on the side. The tea was served in a fine old china teapot with a mismatched cup and saucer. This seems to be the theme of the entire room, as everything is very cleverly put together. It is very clear that a lot of thought has gone into the design, and you can't really go wrong with Laura Ashley wallpaper! I also noticed that the owner has paid homage to tradition with portraits of Her Majesty the Queen as many shops used to do back in the 40s and 50s.

I was told later that almost every item on display has either been brought from the owner, Linda's personal collection, or donated by customers. This really does make a difference, and gives the whole place a real sense of home and comfort. I could have gladly sat on the sofa all day with a good book, but alas I didn't have much time so after two pots of tea (the hot water was replenished twice at no extra cost) and a slice of gorgeous Victoria sponge I was approached by the owner who told me all about the venture and plans for next year. All I can say is, make sure you visit during the summer!


A pot of tea
Ham and Cheese sandwiches (served with garnish)
A slice of Victoria Sponge (big slice)

Came to a grand total of £6!

Afternoon Tea at its Finest!
Not only does Lindy Lou's offer great service and delicious treats it is also great value for money!

I would recommend anyone to visit this lovely place, its worth bringing a few friends along to get the full "tea party" experience. They also offer Birthday Parties, Children's Parties and other events can be booked upon request.

It's worth the trek, and definitely worth every penny!

Holly x

You can find Lindy Lou's at the following:

The Willows, Waterside Gardens, Crayford Way, DA1 4JJ Kent, United Kingdom

On Facebook:

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Goodies Galore at The Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair

It's been a while since I last attended a vintage fair and I was determined to make sure that I made an effort for The Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair, which is one of my favourites. The theme for this particular event was Winter Wonderland and although I didn't exactly feel festive in my Horrockses dress and pink 1980s does 50s shoes, as soon as I walked in I knew.

I've been trying to save money recently and only make purchases when necessary but this proved very difficult as there was simply so much to see. First of all I met Alexandra from Alexandra Vintage and purchased a pair of red gloves, before noticing a book on St Michael and the History of Marks and Spencers. For me, this was like hitting the jackpot. I am actually an employee of the company in a retail capacity so it was a great opportunity to read up on the background!

Since it only cost £5 I wasn't too worried about spending too much, until I walked into the next room and spotted small shoes!
As anyone who knows me will say, I have very small feet that aren't suitable for the big bulky shoes found on the modern day High Street and this seemed like a great investment. First of all I tried on a pair of gorgeous boudoir slippers, which looked like actual shoes.

I'd caught the attention of the trader by this time and she began to suggest some items from her collection. I particularly liked a pair of white shoes but they were ever so slightly too narrow. I was thinking of moving on to the next stall by this time and then I saw them. A pair of stunning chestnut 1920s shoes with a thin strap and popper clasp. It took about five minutes to get the poppers to snap open and I tentatively stepped into them. The thrill of knowing that they fit instantly was overwhelming and I couldn't help but try a few moves from The Charleston in them. The trader then explained that the shoes had come from the attic of a former shoe shop on Bond Street and the owner had locked them there when he retired. He'd kept all the original boxes so naturally the shoes could be bought with the original box.

There was no question by now-I simply had to have them. Luckily I have a very generous Dad who bought them for me as I couldn't quite afford them on my own and I wandered off with them in a bag. I couldn't resist showing them off!

I decided recently that instead of indulging in any more dresses or skirts I would concentrate on vintage accessories and as a result have been buying a lot to compensate for the lack of new dresses! These have included a 1950s Jane Shilton handbag, some gorgeous 1950s peach gloves with pearl beading and a couple of scarves and brooches.

So, with this in mind I made my way around the stalls, looking around hopefully for 1950s sweaters or jumpers. They were few and far between, but fortunately I can always rely on the lovely Ginny at Retrouve to provide some of the very best in vintage. Ginny is particularly selective of her stock, she even has a superb woollen Sambo dress which is just slightly too big for me, but I hope it finds an owner soon! She had a lovely array of items, including three gorgeous 1950s sweaters! I tried on a pretty floral jumper and a beaded cardigan before settling on the cardigan sweater, which is exactly what I've been looking for!

Not bad for Vintage on a budget!

Holly x

Thursday, 3 October 2013

A New Fascination: St Michael, A Truly British Brand.

I love Marks and Spencer. I don’t know exactly why, but the brand always seems very homely and a true representation of family and security. Whether its because I spent most Saturdays in my local branch as a child I do not know, however I distinctly remember wandering around the fruit counters and trying grapes!

My Mum's clothes were all tagged with the white and silver label bearing the name St Michael in italic and although I didn't understand it then, I now know it to be one of the best brands in retail history.

Recently I watched a documentary which featured the company and realised that it was quite a pioneer in the creation of the High Street retailer we know today. For example, M&S set great store by trial of new methods and materials, and were one of the retailers who helped in the creation of polyester and “easy wear” fabrics. You only need to look at their rather cheesy yet charming advertisements from the early 1950s and 1960s to see the pride of this.

 "It's new! It's St Michael!"

It was about a year ago when I found and bought my very first piece of vintage St Michael clothing. A skirt with pink roses and a white background, pictures of which can be found on my lovely friend Liz Tregenza’s blog as she owns a duplicate!

I didn’t think much of the St Michael brand until I began to find it at vintage fairs. Before it seemed easily accessible, something I had seen regularly in my childhood whilst shopping with my Mum. It was only when I bought my second piece of St Michael clothing that I realised. St Michael had disappeared, giving way to new brands such as Per Una and more recently, the Limited Edition collections. Research reveals that the label was phased out in 2000 and thus, this information spurred me into wanting to find as much as possible.

The second purchase I made was at the Vintage Emporium in London, a beautiful near-mint mid 1950s dress in royal blue with white stripes. The label on the inside reads St Michael. REGD 12s, indicating the dress was from the petite range. I bought it for a staggering £85 which was quite a lot for me to spend at the time and wore it constantly to many vintage events, including Vintage Nation in Brighton, the hottest day of the year in 2011 and during a photoshoot at Liz’s house. 

As much as I love this dress I do struggle to get in and out of it, so it will be looking for a new home soon. If anyone is interested, message me.

Gradually I began to build a collection and on the day of my birthday party in London I returned to the Vintage Emporium to find a simply gorgeous blue floral St Michael dress (a vintage size 14s) complete with belt. It looked so lovely that I had to buy it. It is now known as my Hairspray dress as it looks exactly like the ones worn in the 2007 film.


Then, back in July I began my job working at my local M&S in the brand new Shoe Department. This prompted a further investment in more 1950s and 1960s M&S “St Michael” items and I took to Twitter asking for pieces, and received several replies that my best option would to be to buy direct from a vintage fair as no one had any in stock.

Since then I have managed to accumulate quite a few items from eBay. As anyone who knows me will tell, I am very competitive. I always have a rather large collection in my Watch List yet rarely attempt to purchase everything on it. There are usually one or two items I will select as potential purchases and then wait patiently (or rather impatiently) until the auction.

On the first occasion I found a lovely 50s St Michael cotton dress, listed as a plain 1950s dress with no description in the title. However, on closer inspection I noticed the distinctive St Michael label and selected it as a potential purchase, seeing off 9 other bidders to get it for £34.

Then came a pure bargain, a pair of 1960s check trousers from St Michael’s Junior Miss Collection, mint condition, only 99p! This was followed by another dress, which turned out to be a little more damaged than the description and a trip to Reading back in September assured the purchase of a pretty 50s gypsy style skirt in blue with white polka dots from Frock n Roll Vintage:

 I also spotted a dress on eBay which was truly the epitome of girliness. Pink gingham with a lacy trim and pearlescent buttons, it was perfect. Priced at £75 I felt this was too expensive, so after three unsuccessful attempts to sell the dress at various decreasing amounts, the seller withdrew the dress and after contacting them, we agreed a price. The dress was mine and arrived a few days later, wrapped in tissue paper and neat as a pin. It is simply the most stunning St Michael dress!

Whether or not this fad will stay is another matter but for now I am quite happy to keep adding to my increasing collection!

Monday, 19 August 2013

A Horrockses Discovery

Back in 2012 I was taking one of my many visits to vintage fairs at Spitalfields when I spotted a gorgeous gypsy style dress hanging on the rails of Rehab Vintage. It was striking, with a real Autumnal feel to the colouring, and I fell in love with it. Upon close inspection I noticed the distinctive label of that sought after brand, Horrockses. This surprised me, not because of the brand itself but more the fact that the dress seemed a little unusual in terms of its styling. 

The Original Dress from Rehab Vintage

Nevertheless I was captivated and referred a picture to my dear friend Liz who is, quite simply, an expert on this brand. She confirmed that the dress was indeed part of Horrockses designs and I asked the owner of Rehab Vintage how much it was. She had it valued at £95 but I felt that this was too low so suggested that she research the brand properly and work out its value.
With the pictures safely stored on my phone I resumed my shopping trip and it was only when trailing through page after page of 1950s dresses for auction on eBay recently that I spotted it. It had been posted at a value of £250, which seemed more appropriate. With this in mind, I kept a careful track of it.
Fast forward to August. I was looking through eBay on the off chance of finding my favourite brand California Cottons (alas, a rare occurence) and came across a "gypsy" style dress that stirred something in my memory. It was only when I looked at the print that I realised it was actually the same Horrockses dress I had seen for £250. 

In a different colour, and similar print, but still the same dress. The description entailed that the dress was without a label, and was offered at a BUY IT NOW price of £35/ Best Offer. I managed to find the original brown dress on completed listings, which had sold at the full asking price and purchased the "twin" at a bargain price. Yes, it may not have the label, but it fits like a dream and looks and feels absolutely beautiful.

I am so lucky to have found this, it proves that its worth looking into the less conspicuous items on eBay!


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Dancing and Dreams Come True at the War and Peace Revival!

I don't consider myself to be lax when it comes to dressing vintage, but as I was travelling to Folkestone to The War and Peace Revival at the Racecourse, I noticed that I was surrounded by immaculate vintage fans in their complete 1940s apparel. Usually I am one of the first to don my favourite dress and co-ordinate a whole outfit, but on Wednesday I decided to forgo the usual look and opt for a more subtle approach. By subtle, I mean, Closet by Dorothy Perkins dress, Vivien of Holloway belt and badly done Victory Rolls. (Thanks to Natasha from Pretty Me Vintage who soon put those right!)

To be honest, I felt a little out of place at the Revival. When you're surrounded by people who have taken a long time to choose an outfit you tend to feel a little awkward. I hadn't realised that the Revival would be so popular!
I met up with my contact for the day, Shona Van Beers of Heyday Vintage who is absolutely lovely, and was whisked off to the neighbouring stall "Dress Circle Vintage" to find me two outfits to parade at the fashion show. This was my first "debut" as a vintage model and I think it went well.

 The lovely Rosy Apples

I chose a beautiful homemade 1940s summer suit for the "War" part and a gorgeous 1950s dress for the "Peace" part. I then met with my fellow models, including Burlesque artiste Rosy Apples, her cute little Teacup Yorkie Hattie, and Tori and Laura. We had lots of pictures taken and I will be posting them once they have been uploaded. We shared a dressing room in the Victory Marquee with a Californian act, The Satin Dollz who were also really friendly.

Once the fashion show was over, I took the opportunity to walk around the stands and stalls at the event. It was extremely hot and after a quick refreshing glass of Crabbies Ginger Beer I returned to the Victory Marquee to watch the afternoon acts perform. It turned out that Rosy's boyfriend Adam was performing Dean Martin songs and as someone who loves swing and big band, this was the perfect way to spend the afternoon. Adam is extremely funny and very witty at playing to the audience, if you get the opportunity to see him perform, it's definitely worth it!!!

Mr Adam Hoffman, Singer and All Round Entertainer!

Then came Miss Luna Nightingale, who sings the hits of the likes of Billie Holiday (complete with fake cigarette in true jazz style). This girl has an astounding range, and blew me away with her vocals!

The lovely Miss Luna Nightingale

I also got to meet all the acts in person including Mother and Daughter duo Sincerely Yours, from Staffordshire, who also gave a brilliant performance of 1940s hits.

 "Sincerely Yours" Copyright Colin Baker.

It was then that I realised my yearning to get back on stage. As a former musical theatre student, the performance element never really leaves you, and being there made me realise how much I missed it.
Luna gave me some sound advice about what to do if I wanted to do something similar and with a little encouragement from both her and Adam, I agreed to perform at the Jazz Bar on Friday.
We adjourned to the said Jazz Bar and Adam performed a few more tracks whilst I danced with a real American, who was dressed in full 1940s army uniform! At which point all the old quips about the "Yanks" came out, and thankfully all were taken in good humour!
 With the day sadly drawing to a close, I bade my goodbyes and headed home, with a promise that I would return on Friday.

On the Friday I got up bright and early, dressed in my finest California Cottons dress with pink ribbon and floral print and took the train once more from London Bridge with seconds to spare.
The journey was very pleasant and I took the opportunity to make the most of the empty carriages by doing vocal exercises to ensure that my voice would be in condition for singing. The fashion show passed quickly and even standing on that stage I could feel panic setting in. I would be singing in front of people again, why didn't I feel happy?

I can't tell you how nervous I was when I stepped up onto that podium and sang those three tracks. I started, quite literally, with shaking legs and a matching vocal for the classic Dusty Springfield hit "I Only Want to Be With You", followed by "Smile" by Nat King Cole and my personal best, "The White Cliffs of Dover" by Vera Lynn. This one received the most applause and according to Luna, it was the best of the three. I was then approached by a gentleman who had been watching who said "Thank you for singing that, my wife loves that song," which brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.

I watched the professionals doing their routines, and met with Laura, one of Luna's friends who later joined me on a shopping trip around the vintage stalls and watched me make a purchase of a pair of cute unworn 1950s plaid Capri pants!
The whole event was an amazing experience, and has given me the confidence to pursue my ambitions. Overall, a thoroughly perfect way to spend two days!!!
Now off to book tickets to "War and Peace Revival, 2014..."