Have a great week,
Just a quick post today to let you know that things will be quiet on the blog over the next week as I'm going off on holiday. As you would expect, even my holidays are vintage themed too, and I'll be going back to the 1500s to recreate tudor times at the gorgeous manor house Kentwell Hall.
I'll be back in a week to share with you my experience and if you're lucky I might even reveal what I look like as my tudor alter ego!
Have a great week,
p.s. I might be going back to the 16th century, but Retrovert Vintage's Etsy Shop will be open for business as usual!
Yesterday I was delighted to see my interview with Lydia Fallon in the Cambridge News. We chatted about how Retrovert got started, what I love about vintage fashion and my favourite aspects of running the business. You can read the full feature below.
'A lifelong love for glamorous eras gone by inspired Sophie Collins to set up her own vintage fashion business. Lydia Fallon meets the young entrepreneur to talk style, the swinging sixties and getting to shop for a living
As I step into Sophie Collins’ gorgeous Cambridge home, I can’t help but feel a little disorientated. A super-modern eco affair, think oak clad walls and crisp, white surfaces, I almost expect Kevin McCloud to step out from behind a door mumbling his latest architectural anecdote. But then, when I look a little more closely, I discover the house has a distinctly vintage feel.
Kitsch Fifties tea dresses hang elegantly on the washing line, slinky evening gowns lie nonchalantly on chairs, and 22-year-old Sophie is the epitome of effortless style in a vintage Fifties white dress and turquoise blue cardigan. “I don’t usually wear white,” Sophie tells me when I compliment her on her outfit. “But I saw this last week and loved it.”
I tell her if I ran my own fashion business, I’d probably end up keeping all the stock. Does she ever experience the same problem? “Giving things away is one of the hardest parts of the job,” she laughs.
Sophie set up her vintage fashion and homewares business Retrovert last year, and has been keeping the fashionistas of Cambridge stylishly-clad ever since. From the avant-garde flapper dresses and pearls of the Twenties to the garish sport-luxe style of the Eighties, Retrovert has something to tickle everyone’s fashion fancy, and has proved a real labour of love for Sophie. “The more involved I am in vintage, the more I fall in love with it really,” she smiles. “For me it’s all about the history, I think there’s something so iconic about the Twenties right up to the Eighties, there’s a style you can see in each decade, whereas now there’s much more a blend of everything.
“I just love that the big skirts of the Fifties are because after the war everyone wanted to rebel against rationing, it’s lovely to be able to own that piece of history.”
Having always had a passion for vintage (“I think it started when I was 11 and took part in a historical enactment of Tudor times,” Sophie laughs), Sophie and her friend Jane set up a successful homeware stall on Cambridge Market back in 2011. The duo sold everything from chintzy china to retro kitsch, but the glamorous lure of fashion was getting hard to ignore. Eventually deciding this was where her expertise lie, Sophie decided to branch out on her own. “I have really enjoyed moving into clothing,” she says. “It’s really enjoyable to find something that suits someone’s personality – it can be a lot more fun and personal.”
For eco-conscious Sophie it has also proven another way to up her green credentials. “Our house is an eco-house, and my mum works in environmental policy, so as a family we have always been very interested in recycling and being eco-friendly,” Sophie explains. “Vintage fits in perfectly with that, because it’s taking something unloved and finding someone to appreciate it again.”
And Sophie admits taking past treasures from the depths of the trash can, and giving them a new lease of life is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. “It’s just so rewarding when you see someone wearing one of the things you found somewhere, and seeing how much it is now appreciated.”
An excuse to spend her days shopping is obviously another added perk. Scouring car boot sales, charity shops and auctions for one-off vintage treasures, Sophie is always on the lookout for something quirky, colourful, and most importantly, wearable today.
“It’s rare to find anything before the Sixties in charity shops and car boot sales, so I enjoy the auctions the most. They are really fun but can be quite risky too, you have to take a chance but you do find some really great things that way.”
And what about her own favourite find? “It changes all the time,” she laughs, before rushing off to show me a recent purchase.
Unveiling a gorgeous Gatsby-esque black evening gown, Sophie admits, that this particular find is going to be incredibly hard to part with. “This one is unusual for me because it is black but with The Great Gatsby coming out soon, I thought it was perfect - so exquisitely made.”
Describing her own style as “eclectic, colourful and comfortable – I wore a purple lace trouser suit yesterday, which was completely mad!” I wonder if Sophie can choose a favourite fashion era? “It’s a toss-up between the Fifties and Sixties. I love the crazy colours and patterns of the Sixties but then with the Fifties it’s the shapes, the fabrics and the way they used to make things.
“But if I had to choose the Sixties would probably just edge it,” Sophie decides.
Sophie currently runs Retrovert as an online business, as well as selling her wares at various local fairs and markets, and with vintage still very much a boom market, business is thriving for the young entrepreneur. “I think TV shows like Downton Abbey and Mad Men have definitely had an effect,” Sophie says. “People will come in and buy a Sixties suit because it’s ‘just like on Mad Men’.
“I also like to think as an independent business, when customers come to me, they know I’ll do my best to help them personally.”
One day, extortionate Cambridge rents permitting, Sophie aspires to have her own shop. But whatever path the business takes, she’s just happy doing something she truly loves. “It’s so much more than just getting to shop for a living, it’s finding things worth treasuring again.”
We think Retrovert is one local business definitely worth treasuring.'
The feature also included an extract from my blog How to turn a Vintage Tablecloth into a Circle Skirt, so was the first time my very own words appeared in print.
A huge thanks to Lydia for writing such a lovely and interesting article, and to Duncan for taking such great pictures of me and my stock.
I love seeing what other people wear, and have long admired the style of fashion bloggers like Vixen Vintage, Diary of a Vintage Girl and Everything Looks Rosie. Inspired by them, I thought I'd start sharing my own outfits here on the blog and show how I like to incorporate vintage clothes from my own wardrobe into my everyday life.
I took these photos last week when we had a day of brilliant sunshine, and what could be better than a classic cotton Laura Ashley dress for doing a spot of gardening. This is one that I originally bought to sell, but decided that as it had been altered and wasn't in perfect condition, I'd keep it for myself. That's my excuse anyway! The fact that it is an unusual print and an early vintage dress by Laura Ashley with their Made in Wales label, might have also convinced me that it was a keeper!
One of the things I love most about our house in Cambridge is the garden. It extends right around the house and you can go on a short circular walk through the different sections that we have created. Here, you see me the wooden stepping stones in the 'jungle' which is full of hot colours and exotic plants. I went for a late 60s early 70s gardener look and accessorised my billowy print dress with long amber beads and a battered old watering can. For added authenticity to the hippy style I am of course barefoot. Somewhat risky though as our resident grass snake has a penchant for sunning himself in this part of the garden!
The cold spring has had one redeeming feature this year by reducing the number of pesky pests that like to nibble at our plants. This ornamental rhubarb has never before reached these towering heights.
On the other side of the house we have a small meadow and our vegetable patch. The rambling floral and moth print of my Laura Ashley dress goes rather well with the wavering grasses and wildflowers.
I'm of the view that you should never miss an excuse to wear a hat, and a sunny day is definitely one. I picked mine up in a charity shop and it is a late 70s straw hat by Marida. And finally, here I am in my favourite spot to sit - on the swing seat in the shade of our Liquidambar tree. Right now it is a vivid green, but in the autumn in goes bright flame hues which you can see in last year's Autumnal Inspiration post.
So there you have it - my first vintage outfit post. Do you have any Laura Ashley treasures, or a favourite dress to wear in the garden?
Yesterday I visited the Cambridge Town and Country Show on Parker's Piece. Now in its 7th year, this local event prides itself on having 'something for everybody'. Well it certainly looked to have fun, food and entertainment aplenty, but I wanted to find what it had to offer a vintage addict like me! Here's what I found:
First I spotted these vintage sewing notions to fuel my haberdashery habit. This cute little sewing box came home with me, along with a collection of buttons and an unusual double ended crochet hook.
In the craft tent I came across a rail of dress made from old kimonos. This is the one I liked best with its classic oriental print.
I also found the fabulous Tweed Vixen, fellow exhibitor from Cambridge Style Week, and her contemporary twists on classic tweed. These colourful notebook cover were bright and modern, yet the fabric gives them a vintage feel.
Over in an outside stall I discovered this antique remnant. Isn't the jet beading exquisite? My guess is that is was a strip cut off the hem of a Victorian gown.
The same stall also had this fun flamenco table. I love pictorial coffee tables like this and I can picture it being the focal point of a retro 50s room.
The show also had plenty to offer for those fond of vintage transport. From this vintage inspired cargo bicycle...
...to this iconic midcentury microcar...
...and of course a few classic steam trains.
So as you can see the show had plenty to keep me and my vintage obsession entertained. Anywhere that you can find vintage novelty buttons gets a tick in my book!
The Cambridge Town and Country Show continues today (Sunday 9th June) so if you're local why not head on down! And don't forget to let me know how you get on ;-)
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!
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!