Ah yes, this explains how quiet I’ve been. We’ve got some Laura Ashley (with an edge, cos it’s a Jacqui Smale – the only other designer who ever got credited on the label!!), a Radley bohemian dream, an Ossie/Radley crepe confection (sadly sans label but who cares, it’s a signature Ossie!), an adorable novelty print smocked mini, TWO – yes two – Lee Bender separates and a gorgeous polka dotted Roland Klein for Marcel Fenez. Phew……and I hope no one is too thrown by the lack of my usual mannequin. She’s still out of action for the time being so Lil the Dummy is taking her place.
“why is stuart maconie presenting style on trial?”
Why indeed dear reader, why indeed. I’ve asked myself the same question, many times.
Has anyone else in the UK been following the programme? The Fifties episode was an absolute car crash of an hour (no offence to Kerry Taylor who is lovely, and knows her stuff. But David Sassoon? That over-excited blonde woman??) They clearly ran out of things to talk about roughly 20 minutes into the programme, and then simply wittered on about Paris, Paris, Paris. London got a hard enough time, but at least it got a mention. But America? Only your style icons got a mention, none of your designers. Where was McCardell? Where was Galanos? Honestly, it’s the most poorly researched piece of fluffy nonsense I’ve ever seen.
Then the Sixties one was only really interesting because of Mr Bates. They [frustratingly] skirted around the mini issue, admitting only that he was doing the shortest, and Mary Quant’s name only got a tactful silence from Bates even when the others were waxing lyrical. Although I did get my chance to have a good giggle when they were discussing the Parisian designers doing the ‘space age’ look, only to have JB murmur ever-so-politely, and I’m paraphrasing slightly here, “Well, I did it first”.
I did wonder why he wasn’t sitting in the centre of the two ladies, as had happened on the previous two shows for the male contingent of the panel. Then I noticed that it would have meant having Ms. Quant’s beeg heed right behind him and in shot every time the camera was on him. That illicited a smile from me as well.
But I certainly learned nothing of any note. Except two things from JB.
1. Mr Fish designed the frilly dress and trousers Mick Jagger wore in 1969 (like many, I suspect, I was under the misapprehension that this was an Ossie).
2. I should never, under any circumstances, wear an Afghan coat in the presence of Mr Bates. Not that I actually own one, or aspire to own one, but it’s a good thing to know.
Again they also spectacularly failed to mention any of the iconic American designers. Gernreich wasn’t mentioned, neither was the Paraphernalia boutique….they simply dismissed America as being massively behind London and Paris and seemingly worthless of any comment. Now I’m very much a British-orientated vintage fashionista, but I’d much sooner have a Gernreich/Paraphernalia piece than a Cardin/Rabanne/Courreges piece. Perhaps that’s strange, but I find their approach more interesting.
I find I have become quite, quite transfixed by these shoes just listed on eBay. They sort of look like they should be hideous. In the wrong hands they would have been hideous. But they’re not hideous. They’re beautiful. They’re green, they’re silk, they’re diamante.
Rayne shoes were of a very high quality, being shoemakers to the Queen and all that. Mr Rayne also made the shoes Diana Rigg wore in The Avengers. So you know you’re getting something good with Rayne.
They’re also about a size too small for Miss Muggins here, but please someone with 5½ feet buy them. I can’t promise you won’t be so transfixed that you’ll find yourself staring down at them all the time and keep bumping into people, but it’s probably a price worth paying.
[A.k.a thrift shops for my American readers.]
I think a lot of people assume I spend vast amounts of time hunting around charity shops for my own clothes and stock. In fact I know a lot of people assume this when I first tell them what I do for a living. “Oh, do you get a lot of it from charity shops?”. It’s a loaded question, because they really want to be judgemental about my prices.
Indeed the days of finding any decent vintage, for oneself or for others, are well and truly over. What I reply, with a suitable tone of disgust, is “Chance’d be a fine thing!”.
Perhaps some people find the idea of talking about rummaging around in a charity shop to be a distasteful concept. But a Bill Gibb, for example, is still a fantastic Bill Gibb whether you’ve got it direct from its fabulous original owner, from a vintage website or whether you’ve found it in amongst a rail of Marks and Spencer old lady dresses. Its fabulousness defies charity shop ‘taint’, as some people might see it.
[Indeed, I speak from experience. My sole Gibb collection piece was a charity shop find. Can you just imagine? Seeing that huge draping sleeve hanging out from a rail of tat, seeing that gigantic beautiful label when you've lunged for the aforementioned sleeve. You just know it's going to be fab.]
As a ‘dealer’ (oh that’s a horridly tainted name for a profession isn’t it? I always imagine Ian McShane when I hear that word, in vile Lovejoy form rather than in his 60s youth when he was quite a hottie!), I would much rather purchase from a charity shop where I know the money will be helping children/people with cancer/ill-treated animals etc etc. The price is irrelevant, I’m happy to pay as big for it in a charity shop as I am on someone’s vintage site. So long as the shop workers are educated properly in labels and eras, I don’t mind the price.
However, in recent years British charity shops have rather shot themselves in the foot. They’ve sanitised themselves. They try to look like a swishy boutique. A step above vintage shops in fact. More like one of those dreadful provincial ’boutiques’ which haven’t updated their stock since 1983 (but they do have the awesome tangerine-skinned mannequins which I slightly covet!).
From conversations with the manager of a former favourite haunt (in my pre-emmapeelpants days) where I found my first Varons and many other beloved pieces I still can’t bear to sell or donate no matter how tatty they get, I know that the people running them had a dreadful habit of chucking out the vintage stuff in favour of tatty, bobbly Topshop jerseys from two seasons ago. Simply because Topshop was ‘modern’ and that’s what they thought people wanted. Au contraire.
Now with the explosion of vintage on eBay and the WWW, they realise their dreadful mistakes of 5-10 years ago. But with fewer pieces even being donated in the first place (even the most elderly of ladies will realise she can get a few pounds if her daughter puts them on eBay), and the best stuff being siphoned off to Oxfam online and their ilk, they have little vintage of any value or importance. But because it’s ‘old’, it’s now valuable. So no-name polyester maxi nightmares are priced at £25 with ‘VINTAGE’ scribbled on the hang tag in a written ‘up yours’ to anyone who might like to question the pricing with the manager.
Strip lighting, modern shop fittings. It’s all so nasty and commercial, but without the goods to back it up. And who is paying for the refits? It’s either the charity or the shopper with those inflated prices. To be honest, I so rarely visit charity shops anymore because so few have remained as they once were. In fact, there are more vintage shops I know which have retained that shabby, aladdin’s cave glamour of charity shops past….. I don’t want to be assaulted with nasty lighting and colour-organised rails, I want to rummage in dark corners and come out triumphantly clutching something I love.
I would never have been able to keep afloat as a vintage business even if all charity shops had remained like this, my other sources have always been more important. But I got a personal thrill from the charity shops. As a vintage girl, as someone who likes to wear something old, something different. That buzz, that flutter in the stomach when you feel a sliver of moss crepe as you rifle the rails. Most of my charity shop gear ended up in my own wardrobe anyway, there’s something about having discovered something yourself which means you become far more emotionally attached anyway! I still fondly remember a black velvet jacket I bought for £2 when I was 14 and wore until it literally fell apart. I couldn’t throw it away, but my mum did it for me (a regular argument we used to have was about her tendency to throw away the tatty things I thought I might rescue one day!)
The reason I’m ranting about this now is that today I wandered up the road from my flat, a direction I rarely need to go in, because I was dropping off some dry-cleaning and I sauntered into a charity shop I’ve been past countless times on the bus and never entered. This time I entered and I felt like I’d gone back in time. This was a proper charity shop. No fancy fittings, just the beautiful shabby interiors of whatever shop it used to be. Rails and rails. No organisation. No sizing. No colour coordination. Trunks full of ‘stuff’. You get the feeling they pretty much put out anything which gets donated. It had that dusty, musty atmosphere. The lighting was low. They’d cobbled together a gorgeous little changing room at the end with draped scarves and one of those fancy net drapes for your bed. They had old film posters on the wall beside the stairs up to their backroom. One of them was for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which I’m very tempted to go back and ask if it’s actually for sale.
It wasn’t exactly vintage heaven. I found two dresses. One was a Pierre Cardin which I put back because it was terrible, but I bought the other one. And that was another revelation. The pricing for the non-vintage, non-designer stuff is standard. They can’t be bothered to price everything individually, takes too much time and therefore they’re able to put out much more stuff than other charity shops. I tentatively asked about the vintage rail which she said was ‘slightly more’, cue that sinking feeling of dread in my stomach. It was going to be £25 for anything vaguely vintage wasn’t it? Oh no, they have a bit of a look over the frock and give you a very reasonable price.
It’s a lovely yellow plunging Jean Allen. And yes, it’s going in my own wardrobe
It takes a lot for me to be impressed by some modern starlet in some modern outfits, but Lily Allen has apparently been out and about wearing a lot of covetable pieces lately. I’ve been a bit behind since before Christmas, mind you I’m usually 30-40 years behind anyway, and have been attempting to catch up lately. Nothing really impressed me until I saw Lily in the cream jacket (wantwantwant). Then my friend said she’d seen a photo of her in a jumpsuit I would just adore (even my non-vintage friends know me all too well…..”hmmm, a jumpsuit, better tell Liz!”).
Then I did a bit of searching and found the lovely blue chiffon number AND the awesomely 80s-esque black mini with some seriously avant garde styling. Team all this with a super cute haircut and well done make-up and you’ve got a mini style icon in the making. I’d be more impressed if they turned out to be vintage, but they’re probably repros. Sigh. Well, you can’t have everything can you?
I’m still no fan of her casual gear, but I’m going to ignore that for now…..
Some of you may have caught last week’s first edition of Style on Trial on BBC Four. I would have blogged about it earlier had I not been so caught up in the ballet….
Style on Trial is part of a season where the “great” British public will choose their favourite era of style from the Forties through Nineties. I have put inverted commas where sarcasm is intended, since we all know how stupid the GBP can be when it comes to voting for things. [Just look at Tony Blair. Boom boom!].
Anyway, so far so typical. But what’s this? There are slightly lacklustre line-ups for the main panel-based programme, presented by Lauren Laverne and Stuart Maconie [now them's two style icons if ever I saw 'em.....yes, sarcasm intended again....], in the Forties and Fifties categories (presumably limited by life expectancy).
Only if they had invented time-travel and fetched Ossie Clark for the Seventies edition could I have been more pleased with their choice.
It also throws up the interesting conundrum of how they will approach the whole mini skirt hoopla. The usual Mary Quant nonsense will surely incur the polite disdain of Mr Bates in the studio, so will they actually dare to mention this in one of the footage films which connect the panel discussion? I’m intrigued…..
The Eighties edition will probably find me melted into a puddle, in amongst cooing at the New Romanticism of it all.
Oddly, my own beloved Seventies era is slightly underwhelmingly represented by Zandra Rhodes, Wayne Hemingway and Terry De Havilland. All of whom I think are fab, but none of whom make me go ga-ga.
I’m waiting to see all the programmes before I decide which might be my favourite era. Frankly I love them all, but they all have their drawbacks as well. Do I offer my loyalty to Mr Bates or Mr Taylor? Or do I refrain from making that decision and go with Zandra and Terry? Decisions, decisions…..