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Alice Pollock

Phew! That was a long break. I’ve finally got the first batch of Autumn/Winter clothes up over at Vintage-a-Peel, and there are some KILLER items for you. I’m very excited to be offering Ossie Clark, Alice Pollock, Aristos, Biba, Terry de Havilland, The Chelsea Cobbler, Janice Wainwright and two incredible hats by Edward Mann (and those are only the big names!). Plenty more to come, so stay tuned and, meanwhile, enjoy!!

Hilary Floyd
Aristos of Carnaby Street
The Chelsea Cobbler
Pussy Cat by Carla Jane
Ricci Michaels
Terry de Havilland
A Downs Model
Ossie Clark for Radley
Edward Mann
Frank Usher
Edward Mann
Janice Wainwright for Simon Massey

I like you verrrrrrry much

Please excuse the daft title. This amazing Annacat dress is so brilliant and ruffled and exotic it can’t help but make me think of the divine Ms. Carmen Miranda. Not that it will immediately make you look like her, I hasten to add, unless you wear some fruit on top of your head. Although you may wish to, and I would certainly applaud you if you did. Anyway, here’s my occasional blog about some new listings of mine. There’s the aforementioned Annacat, a Jeff Banks for Clobber dress, Ann Reeves & Co, Pam Hogg, Janice Wainwright for Simon Massey, Miss Mouse, Joy Stevens, Polly Peck, Kati at Laura Phillips, Paraphernalia, Mary Quant, Petals and Concept by Samuel Sherman. Phewwwww. That’s a lot of gear.

Listing a little bit to the side…

…over on that there website, Vintage-a-Peel. So if you need anything to wear whilst listing a little bit to the side, due to brandy/mulled wine/champagne consumption over the festive season, please do take a look and see if there’s anything you might fancy over yonder. We’ve got an amazing Janice Wainwright trouser suit, John Bates for Jean Varon (feathers a go-go!) Sixties dress, a fun fur Lulu jacket and a stunning sparkly Frank Usher shimmy dress from the early Sixties. There are some cheaper day dresses and separates as well, including a super early Top Shop dress in distinctly Biba style. Go! See!

Inspirational Images: Janice Wainwright in Vanity Fair

In my previous post, I mentioned lounging around in a blue panne velvet Janice Wainwright for Simon Massey dress. Well, I didn’t mention that I have a photo of the aforementioned dress in Vanity Fair magazine (above). I might have to scan in the entire issue, partly because it’s falling apart and partly because it’s one of my favourite issues of anything, ever.

Photo from Vanity Fair, October 1971. By Elisabeth Novick.

Miss Peelpants goes to Penzance

Well, I am returned from my holiday. Refreshed but cold, naturally. There was no amazing mystery about where I went, I just try not to get too excited about things before they happen. Otherwise I worry they won’t happen at all!

In particular, I was slightly panicking about it not happening at all due to flooding. The special place was The Abbey Hotel down in Penzance, which is owned (and was formerly run) by iconic former model Jean Shrimpton. She has since passed the management to her son Thaddeus, but the antique-filled Georgian building definitely has the unpretentious, warm atmosphere of the distinctly unpretentious and quirky Ms. Shrimpton throughout.

This was a holiday based around not very much at all, and I certainly enjoyed some serious mooching, lazy mornings (I’m not a big fan of the full English so I’ve long since given up trying to please b&b owners by still having it anyway…) and reading/talking by the crackling open fire in the lounge. Which, amazingly, was always empty. Those sturdy, fleece-wearing ‘other guests’ must have been out and about trying to get lots of things done. The fools! (And thank goodness for that…)

No fleece for me, you’ll be pleased to know. Plenty of velvet (a Janice Wainwright for Simon Massey blue panne velvet maxi, in distinctly medieval style, was perfect loungewear), chenille and assorted other goodies I was too damn [unashamedly] lazy to photograph. Ha!

The room was beautiful and entertaining in equal parts. They have, ingeniously, made it ensuite by installing a bathroom in a cupboard, and a sink/mirror in another cupboard. I suppose if you were high-maintenance it might not be to your taste, and I suspect it’s unique within the hotel, but it was highly amusing and became quite normal quite quickly….

Some brisk beach-walking in St Ives. Peter Lanyon at the Tate. Mouthwatering duck at The Bakehouse on Chapel Street. Window shopping at Kitt’s Corner vintage shop and a truly eclectic antique shop further up which is only open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The Christmas Dalek!

Saucy records picked up en route back.

Palm-printed tumblers.

Groovy printed storage jars in the weirdest small-town charity shop I’ve ever been in (think, League of Gentlemen).

I wish I was still there, but there are beautiful clothes to be photographed and a ballet to work on. I don’t get much holiday time over Christmas, so I’m very lucky to have been able to have such a wonderful holiday beforehand. Thank you to Cornwall, The Abbey Hotel (all of the staff were charming, helpful and relaxed) and my gorgeous companion. Even the slightly scary snowfall on the way back was beautifully atmospheric and exciting.

Back to normal service tomorrow!

Scannin’ some Bourdin’in

Dress by John Bates at Jean Varon

An amazing Guy Bourdin photoshoot from Nova, December 1972.

I’m missing a precious Annacat/Ossie page (don’t even get me started on magazine sellers again…) but what’s left is still pretty amazing. Honestly, modern fashion photographers can only hope to come close to such works of art created by innovators like Bourdin.

Top: Sheilagh Brown for Coopers, Bottom and below: Janice Wainwright

Janice Wainwright

Dress by Bill Gibb

Top: Sheilagh Brown for Coopers, Bottom: John Bates for Jean Varon

Dress by Gillian Richard

70s Style and Design

There are many reasons to slobber and pore over Dominic Lutyens and Kirsty Hislop’s superb book 70s Style and Design, but the most spectacular image, for me, is the incredible shot of Noosha Fox which opens this review. I really do struggle to do ‘regular’ book reviews; I just want to scan the pretty images and gush most tragically over the contents. Assuming the contents are gush-worthy, but you needn’t worry about that with Seventies Style and Design.

From start to finish there are more lush visuals on offer than any other book tackling the era. It suffers, if suffering is exquisite, from the same problem as Marnie Fogg’s Boutique book in that, frankly, you’ll probably read it about twenty times before you actually come close to reading the text. I sat down, determined to read it from cover to cover for this review, and my determination was flagging after the midway point because I just wanted to gaze at the images. Which in turn got me thinking about the potential of a ‘double book’ where you have a separate tome dedicated to the images, and can sit down and properly concentrate on the written word; clearly researched extremely well and full of ‘new’ information, which just gets lost or swiftly forgotten amongst the visuals. Tricky, but well worth it, I reckon.

Biba in Nova

My gushing only hesitates at two issues, which is quite amazing for picky little me. The first is probably too general to explain properly, the second is horribly specific.

Firstly, the ‘theming’ of the subject matter into edible chapter-sized chunks (Pop to Post-Modernism, Belle Epoque, Supernature and Avant Garde). I completely understand the motivation behind this, and the themes aren’t your average “chapter one: Psychedelia, chapter two: Glam Rock” type. Thank goodness. Thought and care has gone into them. But it’s always going to struggle a bit in an era which the authors even admit was something of a ‘free for all’ in its style and design themes. You could be forgiven for exiting from the last page with an idea that the Seventies was relentlessly fabulous, iconic and glamorous in its appearance. They even make punk look mouth-wateringly elegant. It is wide in its coverage, but it still orbits only in the atmosphere of what is now perceived to be interesting, beautiful and/or iconic. Which is a curious kind of Russian doll trap, given that the chapter on the Art Deco revival goes into the very interesting notion of cherry-picking from the Twenties and Thirties.

“A defining characteristic of all this Biba fuelled nostalgia or ‘retro’ – a word first coined, appropriately, in the 1970s – was that it wasn’t purist but pluralist. Many of its fans were too young to have witnessed these eras, and so interpreted them in whichever way they fancied, usually viewing them through rose-tinted lorgnettes and blithely glossing over such crises as the 1926 General Strike and the Great Depression.”

Page 73, 70s Style and Design

I’m not sure how self-aware the authors are, but it amused me to see this in a book which itself contributes to the modern synthesis of the Seventies into a more glamorous, louche and decadent era than most ‘average’ people who lived through it would recall. I know I’m guilty of much the same thing, especially when writing my blog and listing my wares, but I’m also deeply attracted to the more mundane, everyday primary sources. I love dull, contemporary documentaries, unfunny and borderline-gloomy sitcoms, films and dramas, pictures of slightly iffy looking people in iffy looking clothes and naff interiors and objets. It can’t always be high-gloss, high-sparkle.

I know examples of bad taste are ‘clichés’, but many great aspects of the Seventies are in danger of becoming as much clichés themselves. See the likes of Lady GaGa. When one becomes tired of Bowie, has one become tired of life? Sadly, I have found myself pondering this lately.

Saying that, it’s always wonderfully refreshing to read a book about Seventies design which doesn’t set out to sneer or incite howls of I-can’t-believe-people-dressed-like-that laughter.

Amanda Lear in an advert for paint

Plus, high-gloss and high-sparkle are exactly what we need these days. And I don’t blame anyone choosing to jettison Gloomy Style and Design from their research, not least because the book would be twice the length and half the fun with those things included.

A waitress at ‘Mr Feed’em’

My second criticism, and it really is horribly specific, is the omission of Janice Wainwright. There! I said it was specific. If you want a pure-as-the-purest-spring-water example of the best of the Seventies aesthetic, I would say she was high up amongst the greats. Ossie, Biba, Mr Freedom, Bill Gibb are included, certainly, but Janice remains as yet unsung. In a book which gives us references to Universal Witness, Antony Price’s Plaza, Manolo Blahnik’s Zapata, Strawberry Studio and Kitsch-22, it seems a shame to leave anyone out!

Mouth-watering textiles

What I love about the design of the book is that there are plenty of full-page, high quality images which have never been seen before, interspersed with a more scrapbook-esque mish mash of visual references. Adverts, photoshoots, posters, labels; some are annoyingly small but it’s just so nice to see them all included without any detriment to the written word. The inclusion of many lesser-known designers and characters is quite wonderful; I hadn’t encountered Thea Cadabra and her incredible shoes (see front cover) before, and now I’m a bit obsessed.

Also, any book which contains a half page reproduction of a Malcolm Bird illustration, the aforementioned full page photo of Noosha Fox and which uses the word ‘splendiforously’ is always going to take pride of place on my bookshelf.

Highly recommended for any vintage wishlist this Christmas (and beyond).

Malcolm Bird’s illustration for Biba


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