I for one am very excited about the release of the Great Gatsby. The frenzy of hype surrounding the film will soon fade, but appeal of the fashions of the twenties, with their iconic drop waist, deco motifs and intricate detailing, will always endure.
The most defining look of the era is the flapper dress. These were often heavily embellished with beading, rhinestones and sequins and made from delicate materials like chiffon. Garments from the twenties are becoming increasingly rare to find and often due to their age and the nature of their materials aren't pristine. I have a couple in my collection that aren't perfect, but their sheer beauty and the extraordinary amount of work that has gone into them is breathtaking.
You can see some drool worthy examples of heavenly fashions from the era by design icons such as Lanvin and Chanel, in this set
I created from the Met Museum's Collection.
With the clothes of the twenties becoming too fragile to be wearable, the deco revival of the late 60s and 70s can be a great time to find vintage fashion that captures the spirit of the era, yet can still be worn on a day to day basis. Look for heavy beading, triangular and shell motifs and straight fitting garments to get the flapper look.
One of the ways you can bring the elegance of the 20s into your wardrobe is through accessories, as you can often still find originals in good condition. These are a few of the authentic handbags I have for sale from the era. They are all so unusual and unlike anything that is made nowadays. These beauties will be hard to part with...
Another way to capture the spirit of the era is through jewellery. Long beaded necklaces were iconic.
Silver jewellery, embellished with diamonds, marcasites or rhinestones, was the perfect accessory to complete a 20s outfit. If you don't want to shell out £155,000 for the Daisy's Tiffany headdress in the poster above, then these vintage brooches at £10 each are a nice affordable alternative!
Hair was worn short and often finger waved. If you want to create the look, but don't want to take the chop, then there are plenty of faux bob tutorials out there. Team your short hairstyle with a cloche or geometric headscarf and your 20s look is complete!
Et Voila! Here am I doing my best Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan Twenties Flapper impression...
We had a blast at our latest visit to Old Spitalfields Market with our vintage wares. The theme was 'May the Fourth Be With You', as it happened to be on the 4th of May ;-) As well as the usual quality selection of vintage fashion and homewares, there was a galactic vibe and sci fi twist to the market.
Retrovert's contribution to the theme was this gorgeous little sequinned purse - full of glamour yet evocative of galaxies far, far away!
I wore my new Horrockses fruit print frock which is now a firm favourite in my wardrobe. It was impossible to resist the temptations of the other stalls and I indulged in some novelty buttons from Accessories of Old
and picked up a pair of 50s specs from the wonderful Auntie Aviator
. I just need to get some lenses for them and then I'll share them here on the blog in all their cat eye glory!
Our stall was full of spring florals, colourful dresses and an array of stylish handbags and jewellery.
My favourite sale of the day was this 60s 'pixelated paisley' dress to the lovely Amy. She looked so fabulous in it she decided to wear it straight away!
We plan to be back at Old Spitalfields Market over the Summer, but for now we are busy choosing what vintage delights we'll be bringing to our stall at Cambridge Vintage Fair
this Saturday May 18th. Hope to see some of you there!
On last week's episode of the Great British Sewing Bee I was fascinated by the silk map dress that they included in their Make Do and Mend history section. And judging by the flurry of mentions it got on twitter at the time, I'm not the only one that thought it was exquisite. If you didn't spot the dress, you can see it oniPlayer
, at around 27mins.
To the left is a similar example from the Imperial War Museum collection and an original Escape Map. These maps were made from first from silk and then rayon, materials which allowed them to be folded up very small, and thus be concealed more easily. The use of fabric over paper also had other advantages, such as its resilience to tearing and water damage, as well as its 'rustle free' nature. It is estimated that many thousands of British and Allied troops may have used these escape maps to evade capture and return home. More detail about the history of WW2 escape maps can be found here
I have always found maps fascinating. Is it the aesthetically pleasing presentation of information that is so appealing, or perhaps the sense of journey and discovery that is embedded in them?
One of the things I love to collect is souvenir textiles. I like the sense of adventure that they have associated with them and I daydream about the exotic trips that they were acquired on. One of my favourites is this 60s Souvenir Of Aden scarf. It is full of spelling mistakes and shown here upside down (whoops!) but I love the vibrancy of the colours.
The interest in map clearly runs in the family. The very first item my Dad bought at auction were these Bartholomew's Maps from the 50s. They are enormous and weigh a ton, but they are wonderfully detailed. I love their tagline 'The Good Companion - For the Wise Traveller'.
The most treasured map I own is roughly sketched on the back on an envelope. It was drawn from memory by my Grandpa, showing the route he travelled from where he was stationed in World War Two, to the beaches of Dunkirk where he was evacuated. I embroidered it onto a piece of textile art that I made about his life, which you can see below.
Do you share my fascination for maps? What is it about them that appeals to you?
Today I thought I'd share with you some of the resources I have found on vintage knitting and crochet, in my quest for patterns to try out myself.
As with cooking from vintage recipes, making items from old patterns is not an exact science and often requires some guesswork. But if you like experimenting, it can be great fun!
One of the most useful collections I have found is the Victoria and Albert Museum's 1940s Patterns to Knit
. There is a nice mix of patterns - from ones that provide an insight into the wartime effort such as 'The Balaclava Helmet' and the 'Fatigue Cap' (which converts to a scarf) and patterns which would still be very wearable today, like the 'Victory Jumper' and 'Fair Isle Gloves'. I've found the patterns are easy to download and follow. I'm going to try my hand at the Victory Jumper as I just love the combination of blue and red.
The Open Library has several books on knitting and crochet that you can read online. The Art of Knitting
has a particularly good section on knitting stitches, patterns and borders that could be incorporated into all sorts of projects.
The Knitting Reference Library at the University of Southampton has digitised the Richard Rutt collection of Victorian knitting manuals
. Though perhaps the patterns are mainly of interest for historical and reenactment use, there are some rather nice patterns for lace shawls and baby boots which might be worth trying out. Many of the books are lovely just to look at, and interesting to read for their historical significance - I rather took a fancy to 'Ladies Work for Sailors' which contains patterns such as Sea Boot Stockings, Steering Gloves and Comforters. Vintage Purls
, a New Zealand yarn supplier has a good section of out of copyright patterns, including some great 50s examples and super cute baby dresses. Subversive Femme
shares free vintage knitting patterns on her blog, as well as selling copies in her Etsy shop
. She is a self confessed vintage obsessive and has a very enviable wardrobe of vintage originals and handmade garments.
The National Library of Australia has digitised issues of the Australian Women's Weekly
from 1933 to 1982 and searches for knitting and crochet return over 3000 results each. There are some real gems to be found in this collection and I think this 50s cardigan
is rather stunning.
As you can see there is a wealth of places to find free knitting and crochet patterns online, but if you fancy an original paper copy then I would recommend keeping your eye out in the local charity shops and having a search on Etsy
I'm halfway through knitting a 1940s lace pattern snood myself. Are you currently making something from a vintage pattern? If not, I hope I have inspired you to try!
This Saturday a lovely vintage market took place in Cambridge. Local sellers of vintage and preloved clothing, retro homewares and handcrafted accessories joined together to create an afternoon filled with unique finds. Here are a few of my favourite stalls from the day:
Charlotte Rose Vintage showcased a range of vintage and designer fashion. The most exquisite piece they had was this 1930s gown with incredible lace detailing.
Trash Chic didn't disappoint with their fun and quirky array of clothing and accessories. The maxi dress, above right, with its authentic Carnaby Street style, was my favourite item in their collection.
You never know what vintage delights will turn up at Funky Junk and Kitsch Bits, but I can guarantee Kat's talents for display will make you crack a smile. As well as the cute kitsch, I loved their divine Stratton compacts.
Retro Junky had an extensive range of retro for the home, with colourful linens and fun figurines. Their vintage sewing patterns were very tempting.
Fellow Cam City WI member and Etsy shop owner Claireabellemakes showcased her handmade accessories on her beautiful stall. I loved her sewing themed fabric covered rings and her new range of cufflinks. You can check out her post about Off the Rails over on her blog Claireabellemakes
Claire took some fab photos of me and my stall and has very kindly let me share them below.
My stall clearly demonstrated that my penchant for vintage bags is verging on a buying obsession, as I managed to fill an entire table with my recent finds. (I arrived home to find seven more evening bags waiting in the post, and have twenty more to pick up from a recent auction so I think it is probably time to say "I'm Sophie and I'm a Vintage Bag - aholic!") Thankfully, other people seem to like my vintage bags too and the lovely Collette from Crafty Glitten
picked up a classic 60s handbag from my stall.
Our vintage jewellery was also much admired and my favourite Ballerina Clips
were snapped up on their first outing.
I also said goodbye to a simply fabulous late 50s early 60s blue suit that just oozed Mad Men glamour. I was sad to see it go, but I know that it will be treasured by its very stylish new owner.
I managed to resist buying anything for myself on the day, but there was plenty of temptation! I tried on this horse novelty print skirt and would have snapped it up if it was a different colour.
A massive thanks to the organisers for the work they put into this event and all the lovely visitors and customers that came along. I hope to see you at the next Off the Rails!
This week I have found lots of beautiful items of vintage jewellery to restock my little red vanity case.
I love them all, but if I had to pick the item I like best for this week's favourite find, it has to be the ballerina cape or cardigan clip.
I love all things novelty, and have a real fondness for dancing, so you can see why I like it. It looks great pinned on to a collar and is perfect for adding a touch of quirky vintage detailing to an outfit.
All these lovely brooches, from classic to kitsch, are £10 and under and will be up for grabs at tomorrow's Off The Rails
event. If you're free and local to Cambridge, I hope to see you there!
It seems like all things sewing and dressmaking are seeing a massive resurgence in recent years, and the popularity of the Great British Sewing Bee certainly looks to propel it even further.
I've recently embarked on a mission to improve my sewing skills through making a garment for myself each month. I plan to mainly use vintage fabrics and upcycled materials, and to recreate patterns and looks based on garments from the past.
For my first project I thought I'd start with something nice and simple - making a 50s style circle skirt from a 60s floral tablecloth. It was a joy to make and I have learnt a lot along the way. Here's how I made it I you fancy having a go too...
First find the centre of your circle by measuring the halfway point across from edge to edge several times.
Next, you need to do some more maths, but I promise it's not too scary! Measure your waist circumference, then divide it by pi, and again by two, to find out the radius of the circle you will need to cut out of the fabric for your waist. If that all seemed like gibberish then here is an example using my measurements:
Waist = 24 inches
Divide waist measurement by pi - 24/3.14 = 7.6 Diameter
Divide diameter by two - 7.6/2 = 3.8 Radius
To mark your waist seam on the fabric simply draw a circle with this radius centred on your mid point. I used the trusty 'pencil tied to some string' method to draw mine. Next mark your back seam for the zipper from the centre point, straight down to the hem. I didn't allow for seam allowance at the waist, as I found this was equalled out by the take up in circumference by the radial seam need for the zip.
You are now ready to cut your fabric along the lines you have marked and move onto the sewing. Zigzig along your zip seam edges, or overlock them if you're lucky enough to have the equipment ;-)
This was the very first project I've done involving a zip and I used this tutorial on Make It Love It
. Basically, you sew up the entire seam, tape on the zip (I hand basted it for extra security), then sew either side of the zip close to the teeth, and then unpick the seam from the top to reveal the zip. I found that though this took more time than other methods, it resulted in a good finish.
To finish your skirt you can edge the waist with bias binding, or you can make a waistband like I did. Cut a strip of fabric (with seam allowance) longer than your waist measurement and double the width you want your finished band to be. Cut a matching piece of interlining or stiffening fabric. I embroidered my waistband for added detail.
To attach it to the skirt you can either pin it and sew right sides together and then 'stitch in the ditch' all the way round, or, as I did, hand hem the inside raw edge, so that no stitching is visible. I then finished the waistband ends by hand and stitched on two hooks and eyes to complete the skirt.
And here I am modelling it in all its glory! It must say I am rather pleased with it and it does twirl beautifully. The fullness of the circle also creates a lovely drape.
So there you have it! What do think of my first foray into dressmaking?
Have you made any clothing recently? Don't forget that the second episode of The Great British Sewing Bee is on at 8pm tonight... Enjoy!
This Saturday sees the return of 'Off The Rails', a vibrant market of vintage and handmade wares.
Lots of lovely local sellers I know are taking part and I'm looking forward to trading alongside: Claire from Claireabellemakes, who makes beautiful handmade accessories; Lady Fen from Trash Chic who sells fun, quirky and affordable clothing; Jane with her cache of kitsch from Retro Junky , Sinead from CharlotteRoseVintage with her stunning apparel and Kat and her eclectic retro homewares from Funky Junk and Kitsch Bits.
Come and see me and all these great traders and more at St Andrew's Baptist Church Upper Hall, Cambridge, this Saturday April 13th from 2 - 5pm. It's free to get in and I can guarantee a fun afternoon of shopping indulgence!
I'll be bringing along a selection of my quirky and quality vintage fashion, accessories and jewellery. I've found some real gems in the last week which I can't wait to show off. Here's a few photos to whet your appetite...
Today I managed to find time to visit A Soviet Design for Life at the University Library. There's such an array exhibitions on our doorstep here in Cambridge, but I must confess I always tend to miss them. But, I managed to make it to this one in the nick of time. If you're local and haven't been yet I'd recommend it - it's on until the 6th April.
I've always had an interest in typography and constructivist design, so the exhibits didn't disappoint. Unsurprisingly, red was used in a lot of designs and it was quite striking to see this colour in such abundance. Here are a few of the items that appealed most to me. Please excuse the noisy pictures as it was quite dark!
The abstract forms and complexities of constructivist works intrigue me. You can find out more about the movement here on MOMA
The exhibition was put together from the University Library's Catherine Cooke collection. Cooke devoted her academic life to the study of Soviet design, and one of her major focusses was on the works of Chernikhov, a graphic designer and constructivist. His work 'Fantasy no.87', above right, appealed to me with its complicated abandon. I find that looking at constructivist designs makes my mind want to try and create something coherent and 'construct' something from the chaos. What do you think of it?
Items were grouped into categories and were juxtaposed across times. I particularly liked these items of paper ephemera from the 'Food' section - Leningrad ration coupons from 1947 and a pea soup packet from 1973.
With my love of all thing atomic and midcentury design, it's not surprising that these two postcards celebrating the Soviet space programme stood out for me.
And finally, my favourite piece in the show was this fabric design from the 20s-30s. I can never resist a 'novelty print' and would love to have been able to seen the rest of the designs in the book.
If you'd like to find out more about the exhibition you can visit it's dedicated site here
and if you've been already then I'd love to know what the highlights were for you!
Happy Easter to you all!
I hope you've all had a chance to enjoy the holiday and perhaps do a little bit of vintage shopping over the weekend. I've been away helping my sister move house (which is why this recipe post is coming to you a little bit late!), but I still managed to find a few treasures while I was gone.
The move was exhausting and I'm glad I had done some baking to fuel the packing frenzy. I think I must have eaten about 20 of these biscuits over the course of two days!
I found this recipe for Easter Biscuits in my classic 'Economical Cookery' book from the 1940s. I rather like this cheeky chappy that adorns the front cover...
What I like most about cooking from vintage recipes is the uncertainty they involve - not knowing exactly how to cook them, how they will look, how many there will be etc. It's all a bit experimental really!
They turned out pretty good though and I would definitely recommend them and make them again. If you do give the above recipe a go, make sure to add the sugar to the butter, which I spotted was missed out. I found they took about 15 minutes to cook and made 42 biscuits. Eagle eyed readers will spot that there's less in the first picture - they were so good that I'd eaten four by the time I took the photo!
Did you do any baking over Easter?