Friday, 24 March 2017

Curtain Couture - Backyard Swagger







Yesterday a sun-bleached curtain, today a psychedelic maxi skirt. This is my latest creation, made from the superbly named Swagger, a 1960s screen print by British textile designer, Peter McCullough.


Any sewing aspirations have been scuppered of late. Whenever I've been struck with the urge to make something, I've cracked open the fabric box only to come up with a big fat nothing. Plenty of wild vintage dressmaking patterns to use (this is just a tiny part of my collection) but no funky fabric to do them any justice.


The 1973 skirt pattern on the bottom left is the one I used to make my maxi.

Vintage fabric either doesn't turn up or, like buses, several arrive at the same time or, in my case, the entire bus depot decamps and parks outside the house. Within minutes of abandoning a sewing project due to lack of material up popped an email from my friend Jayne (she of the legendary packages of retro partyware & vintage clothing) asking if I'd like a motherload of fabric she'd found in her grandparents' attic. Within 24 hours I had another email from my friend Nikki, telling me she'd had a clear-out and wondering if I'd be interested in giving it a home.

Vintage fabric? In the words of Tom Hardy in Taboo, I have a use for you.


This is Nikki's donation (which included the Swagger fabric I made my skirt from). The incredible 1960s orange and lavender Marrakesh by Jonelle is going to become the curtains in our ongoing VW campervan rebuild.


Jayne's contribution filled two huge boxes. I'm dying with excitement over the 1970s Mughal photo print fabric.


My stash is too big to fit in my blanket box now, just the way I like it. Not so much a fabric pile as a mountain of endless possibilities. Within a few hours one of these old curtains, bed covers or off-cuts could be transformed into a pair of maxi culottes, a floor length waistcoat, a catsuit, a halterneck sun dress or a bastard massive sleeved mini dress. Watch this space!


Anybody who tells you that dressmaking is an expensive hobby ain't no charity shop shopper. Lots of chazzas have boxes of notions, patterns and thread going for a pittance, as sewing is still regarded as a dying skill nobody uses any more. These five vintage Sylko cottons, metallic embroidery thread and the contemporary uncut Simple Sew pattern I found in town this morning cost me £2.50. I'm not a fan of jersey wrap dresses, they shout middle-aged to me, but I'm curious to see what this kimono dress will look like made up from a funky 1970s cotton bedspread. I've never used a modern pattern before but the Simple Sew website looks great with lots of tutorials and videos to help novice sewers along.

WEARING: Me-made psychedelic maxi skirt, mustard lace-up bodysuit (retail sale, get me!), Vintage tooled leather belt with lion buckle (33p, charity shop)


We've got this weekend off as, inexplicably, the world of vintage comes to a grinding halt on Mothering Sunday. I'm not sure why as not all of us have mothers nor have any aspirations to become them. No matter, it'll be a wonderful weekend of unplugging the PC, sewing and watching TV instead, the rum's already on ice.

See you soon!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Workin' 5 to 9



What A Way To Make A Living!

.......And that's 5am till 9pm, not the other way round.

Sunday took us to Balham in South London, which turned out to be a great day despite the 3.45am start.


On Friday we popped over to the next town to see a friend and had a quick tazz around the chazzas. In a shop we usually dismiss as being hideously overpriced Jon snaffled this 1970s belted wool jacket by Dhobi (which is an odd name for a line of posh vintage menswear as it's the Hindi word for laundryman) from the £1 rail. A quick going over with the car boot sale steamer and it was ready to wear for work.


I thought this radioactive pink chiffon maxi was quite appropriate for my working day. It's labelled "Young Mayfair" and Balham's only 6 miles away from there. Ain't blogging great? After scrolling through some old posts I discovered that the last time I wore this dress was four years ago, high time it got another outing. 


A lot of traders say they find maxi dresses a hard sell. Not me. I wonder if it's because I wear them to work so people can see that they're not something only worn for fancy occasions. How incredible does this gorgeous customer look? She called this late 1960s lace number she bought from us her Hero Buy. It fits like it was made for her.


Of course when you're self-employed there are no set hours. After unpacking the van yesterday,   washing off the make-up stains and replacing busted zips, the inevitable stock casualties from being tried on over the weekend, we were out on the hunt again this morning. While the hours may be long at least I can dress in whatever I want, no more f*ckin' corporate pinstripes, pencil skirts, court shoes or flesh coloured tights. Amen to that! Dressing in happy clothes is good for the soul.


Topped with my turquoise leather coat (and with thermals underneath) this was today's charity shopping outfit. It got loads of love and brought some chazzing luck, too - we found some cool stuff.

1970s Tori Richards, Honolulu maxi (last seen HERE), Vintage Mary Quant scarf (jumble sale), Gold leather boots (retail, in the sale), 1960s plastic earrings (Car boot sale), Pink cat's eye glasses (Retro Bambi)

So what do we do when we want a break from vintage? A large rum 'n' coke, a cat or two for company and some quality viewing...like The Lunchbox.


This wonderful offering is currently available on the BBC i-player and is utterly captivating. It's Bollywood but not as you know it, there's no singing and dancing, just a beautifully written story, romantic without being mawkish or overly sentimental. You might recognise Irrfan Khan from Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire & The Darjeeling Limited.


I'm itching to get out in the garden but whenever I have time to spare it's either chucking it down (yesterday) or bitterly cold (today). There's definitely a hint of Spring in the air though, I spotted this Snake's Head Fritillary in the garden when we were taking photos earlier.


Right, I'd better crack on, today's charity shop finds need sorting out and washing before the cats decide to make a bed out of them.

See you soon.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Buy Buy Love - This Week's Secondhand Finds


For a woman who spends a large part of her life shopping I rarely end up keeping any of it. Take this slinky 1970s number I picked up in a chazza today. It ticks all the boxes - snake print, halterneck, maxi length - the drawback? It's at least three sizes too big (the sides are pegged) and a foot too long. One for the rail, then.


Or this Kati for Laura Phillips maxi my friend Lynn found me at Sunday's Vintage Village at Stockport. I love the paisley-printed gauzy cotton, the velvet bodice and the massive Edwardian-style sleeves.  Yet again, it's too bloomin' big. The row of pegs I've got running down the back make me look like a stegosaurus. 

Vix 0 - Kinky 2

I don't know how many times visitors to vintage fairs tell me that they only made dresses in small sizes  in the 1970s and that it's impossible to find larger sizes. Almost every bugger I like is always too bastard big and honestly, I'm not that tiny.


Success! Finally, a new addition to my wardrobe in over four months.The first frock of my fifties! I bought this Genesis of London maxi from a fellow trader at Judy's in Cambridge last Sunday and before you accuse me of nicking all the good stuff before the doors open and the general public get in - I spotted this beauty 10 minutes before closing time.


Unlike my Leo Narducci maxi, other than a dress and blouse on Etsy, I can't find anything out about this label so I'm guessing it was a boutique brand that disappeared years ago.


While we were out trawling the chazzas this week I did find a few keepers of the non-clothing variety like this vintage turquoise feather boa (a girl can never have too many) and the 1970s navy felted wool wide brimmed hat. 


As you can see from yesterday's middle-aged s*elfie, I had my hair up so, as we've got similar sized heads (big!), I got Jon to try the hat on. We were in an unfamiliar town and were already attracting interest from the natives so a big bald bloke in a woman's hat was probably the talk of Gloucestershire.





I've been whinging about the sorry state of my fabric stash for ages so was thrilled to discover a bolt of vintage green lamé for £7. Indian or Egyptian? Either way, it's fabulous.


I'm a sucker for a vintage dressmaking pattern illustration. Look at the girl's hair in the maxi! Even if I never get round to making the dress (although it would look pretty good in that new fabric) I'm inspired to do mine like that. 


I always snap up books with an Indian theme. Vikas Swarup wrote Q & A, the book on which Slumdog Millionaire is based and both that and Six Suspects were brilliant reads. I'm already halfway through Saraswati Park, set in the area around VT Station in Mumbai it's an area I know like the back of my hand (see it HERE). A Wedding Man is Nicer Than Cats, Miss is a brilliantly titled work of non-fiction written in 1971 by a teacher working with Indian and Bangladeshi children newly arrived in Britain with their families.


I couldn't resist this grumpy 1950s Tiki vase for 49p.


I've already got quite the collection of these psychedelic 1970s Beefeater plates but a couple more won't hurt. I've seen sets of six sell for silly money on eBay (£245!). I don't think I've paid more than £2.



How fortuitous. I also found an unused pack of 1970s cloth jam covers and sticky labels - perfect for the cucumber pickle I've been making this week (at only £1 for 3 cucumbers I have to buy them!)

(It wasn't all me... me....me we found some decent vintage stock, too.)
WEARING: 1970s Genesis of London chiffon maxi, Lamani coin belt (India) and hoop earrings (50p Indian jewellery stall, Walsall market)
The slinky snakeskin dress, the Kati maxi and lots of my own clothes (Vix's wardrobe rules - one in, at least three out) will be adorning Kinky's rails (HERE) this weekend.

See you soon (if we don't see you in Balham!)

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Leo & Me



A day without dressing up is a day wasted says me. Today may have been spent unloading the van from the weekend, washing, pickle making and grocery shopping but doing mundane tasks while slobbing around in skanky trakkie bottoms? Hell, no.


Although I've worn this dress countless times since buying it last year, for some bizarre reason it hasn't featured on my blog until now. I'm not sure why. Although it's obscenely comfortable I feel insanely glamorous the minute I slip it on.


The label was unfamiliar to me, as always I bought the dress solely because I loved it but, like all good vintage geeks, I was itching to do some research into the origins. It turns out that Bonwit's Espresso Shop for Young Sports (is that not the best name ever?) was, from the early to mid-1960s, a department within Bonwit Teller, a luxury department store that was torn down and replaced by Trump Tower (gah!) on Fifth Avenue, New York.  The Guy D line was sold between 1963 - 1965.

Leo Narducci SOURCE

The handsome Leo Narducci grew up in the clothing industry with his family owning a contract garment making factory in Massachusetts. Although under no pressure to join the family business, from an early age he dreamed of becoming a fashion designer and, under the tutelage of his babysitter, was able to make clothes from patterns by the time he was 15. After serving in the air force in Korea he enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 1960.

1963 Harpers Bazaar shoot for Leo's collection for Guy D. SOURCE

Leo joined Loomtags, a successful American sportswear company, where he learnt marketing. Within a few years he was submitting fashion editorials to magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar and was hailed as one of the top five designers in America. In 1965 he was awarded the Coty Fashion Award For Young Designers.

Ellen Harth (centre and left) & Marisa Berenson (right) modelling Leo's designs  SOURCE

Over the years Leo's name has appeared on dresses, loungewear, swimsuits and even a range of Vogue patterns (there's loads of them on Etsy). He's still involved in the fashion industry today, as a mentor to the students of Rhode Island School of Design, the college from which he graduated.

Leo Narducci photoshoot for Look magazine, 1967 SOURCE

People who are too into fashion end up being too cartoony. People with style take from fashion and add it to their style. And they usually mix things up. - Leo

One of Leo's sketches SOURCE

I think the artist should be true to him or herself. That’s a big responsibility. Not to self-indulge but to lay out the ideas in a palatable way for people who are going to be viewing it and wearing it. Not to make something ridiculous. I’m referring to clothing but I think in many ways art can be a little more daring than clothing. 
I think its important for the artist to realise what they do has responsibility and integrity and mustn't lose that. I didn't want to put my name on every darn thing people asked me to. It’s probably why my ten minutes of fame didn’t turn into an hour. I keep my focus on what I do.
-Leo

Leo and model SOURCE


I think fashion is of the moment. Style is personal and, for me, far more important than fashion. Style is not just what they wear, but how they wear it. Fashion comes and goes, and a person’s style extracts from that.  - Leo

Window display for the Lord & Taylor department store, 5th Avenue, New York SOURCE

The greatest surprise for me has been the longevity of everything I’ve done and still doing.  I don’t think in the past but I think about tomorrow. I think about the future. It’s strange considering my age. I get up every morning and I never stop and say, 'I wish...I wanted to...Why didn't I?' I think, What do I want to do tomorrow and the next day and the next. - Leo


The chap I bought my dress from isn't on the 'net and thought my dress may have been a 1970s purchase from a cruise. When I saw him again he was amazed to hear that, dating from between 1963 - 1965, it was even older than me. Not only is it made from the softest most luxurious cotton ever, it's fully lined, has pockets and cost considerably less than a pair of sAdidas (thanks, Becky!) jogging bottoms.

Leo Narducci for Guy D maxi dress (vintage fair, Leicester), silver space boots (retail sale buy), Tribal jewellery (India, car boots, charity shops)

In other news we had a great day trading in Cambridge on Sunday and it was fab to met Sally for the first time. Yesterday was mostly spent in 'Spoons and the rest of the week is set aside for vintage hunting as there's gaps on the rails that urgently need replenishing before our next Judy's fair in Balham, South London on Sunday. We've got a road trip planned for tomorrow and I can hardly wait.

See you soon!




Friday, 10 March 2017

More National Trust Adventures - Exploring Croome Court



It's been ages since we last visited a National Trust property. Time to put that right! Today we headed an hour down the road, to Croome Court in Worcestershire


Croome has an interesting history. After he inherited the family estate in 1744 becoming the 6th Earl of Coventry, George William (1722 - 1809) employed landscape gardener Lancelot "Capability" Brown and architect Robert Adam, the pioneer of Neo-Classical taste in Britain, to transform the old family home into a place of artistry and beauty. The project was finally completed in 1751.

In 1942, Defford, the local airfield, became a secret radar development base and throughout the Second World War Croome was occupied by the RAF. There's an RAF Museum on-site.

In 1948 the Coventry family fell on hard times. The property was sold, the contents auctioned off and Croome became a Catholic School for disadvantaged boys.



In 1979 Croome was bought by Hare Krishna devotees (an annual Krishna festival is held here every year) and served as a commune for fifteen years. It was then sold to a succession of property developers but the cost of the upkeep spiraled out of control. 


In 1996 The National Trust acquired the overgrown parkland, embarking on the huge task of restoration then, in 2007, the Croome Heritage Trust bought Croome Court and leased it to the Trust enabling it to open to the public in 2009. The property was repaired to make it watertight and structurally sound and is now in the process of being restored.


Although unfurnished, Croome is wonderfully atmospheric and without contents you can really appreciate the fine architectural details, the epic proportions and the spellbinding views. In fact, we felt quite at home here. Built in 1750 our house is almost Croome Court's twin and still very much a work in progress.


I've got a real thing about antique fireplaces (I spend even longer drooling over them on eBay than I do 1970s psychedelic maxi dresses) and Robert Adam's marble masterpiece in the Long Gallery took my breath away. Despite it being worth a few million we were encouraged to touch it and trace the incredibly detailed carving with our fingertips. It's a miracle it survived the inquisitive hands of schoolboys for years.


 We loved the Chinese Room. When Croome was sold the owners were advised to remove the original hand-blocked Chinoiserie print wallpaper so this is a reproduction.


The skies may be grey but the temperature is definitely Spring-like. The Dollyrockers silk maxi dress I'm wearing under my leather coat is sleeveless. 


The marvelously opulent hand painted cornicing and plaster work in this room reminded us of some of Maharajah's palaces we've visited in India.


This exhibit, The Golden Box, showcases some of Croome's extensive porcelain collection within a gold mirrored capsule.


Remaining true to George William's passion for nurturing new talent in artists and designers, Croome hosts a number of art exhibits (including a display of Grayson Perry's tapestries in 2016). 


Plum Lines is inspired by the story of the 9th Earl of Coventry's plum jam factory and the formation of the local Women's Institute.


 After a taste of Spring yesterday, today was a return to grey skies and drizzle but with so much to admire on our two mile stroll around the grounds, we hardly noticed. Is this the best greenhouse you've ever seen?


I wonder what the neighbours would say if we commissioned a couple of these Coade stone sphinxes for the gates of Stonecroft?


What a beauty!


There was an abundance of snowdrops and daffodils in the beautifully manicured gardens.


Sick boy (it's his fourth cold in as many months) was well wrapped up against the elements in his vintage wool Swedish military jacket and the Doc Martens he found in a chazza last week.


That's the Ice House, the 18th Century answer to a fridge. 


Capability Brown built the Rotunda within the shrubbery between 1754 - 1757 as a relaxing garden room. On a clear day there's some wonderful views of the neighbouring Malvern Hills.


The Chinese Bridge is a recent addition, it replaces the missing original designed for the 6th Earl of Coventry by William Halfpenny in 1749. 



The Mary Magdalene church, designed by Robert Adam and consecrated in 1763, replaced the ancient Medieval church demolished by the 6th Earl during his remodeling of the estate and landscape.


Behind was a charmingly dilapidated graveyard. Several of the inscriptions on the tombstones commemorated people who'd lived well into their 90s and, in one case, 101 years old.  Croome must have been a great place to live.

Croome Court, High Green, Worcester WR8 9DW


Hope you enjoyed your virtual trip as much as we enjoyed our real one! Click on the photos for bigger images.

We're trading with Judy's in Cambridge for the first time on Sunday (details HERE). If we don't see you there, we'll see you on the other side.

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.