Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Is this 50s?

I've been silent for a few days as we've been in That London. We got back today and I had to go and buy food (poor Mr Robot had to go into the office), so took a leisurely stroll round the local charity shops at the same time. I didn't find anything in those, but came up trumps in the house clearance place.

I got this bottle of Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass Flower Mist for £5 and the bracelet and earrings for £19. That's a high-ish price for me to pay as I am a skinflint, but Steptoes are selling a later, 15cc bottle of the same scent for £12.50 and a 25cc bottle for £16.50. I'd estimate there's about 70cc remaining in my 95cc bottle, so it looks like I've netted a bargain. It smells absolutely lovely. I did wonder if it and the jewellery belonged to the same person – if so, she must have been a very chic lady.

Now, the bracelet and earrings. As I said, they cost a bit more than I'd usually pay, but they are just so pretty, and they are a matching set. (I know lots of people into vintage seem to know of magical places where deadstock dresses go for peanuts and there are crates of vintage Coro, but can I find them? No!) Compared to what similar things are going for online, it's a fairly good price.
One of the daisies on one clip-on earring is missing a petal, and there's one whole daisy missing near the clasp of the bracelet, as you can see at the bottom the photo, but as far as I can make out that's all that's wrong with it. All the stones are intact, and the enamel is too. I might see if I can have a go at recreating a replacement daisy in Fimo - at worst, it won't work and I won't attach it, and there's so much going on in the bracelet that you don't notice the missing daisy when it's on anyway. They're unsigned, but I feel they have a late 1950s, possibly early 1960s look. What do you think?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Evelyn Laye, Gaiety Girl

When you’re into vintage now, you ‘filter’, you pick and choose according to later tastes. We all do it. Even if we’re not into everything from our own time, it still has an impact on us. Sometimes we filter out massive chunks of what was actually mainstream in the past. In some cases (sexism, racism, homophobia), good riddance to it, and let’s carry on getting rid of what remains. Sometimes the filtering is aesthetic. Think of 1920s music and most people immediately think of jazz, but that was quite daring for a lot of the decade, especially here in Britain, and other musical styles were at least as widely listened to.

Gaiety Girl is a CD I bought when Duck, Son & Pinker was open. I used to browse the rack of old-time music, and because the CDs were fairly cheap I’d buy a couple on a whim. I like 20s music, so I should like this, right? Wrong. Evelyn Laye was a massively popular actress in musical comedies and operetta, having great success on the London stage in the 1920s, and having parts in some early Hollywood musicals, and these are songs from some of her stage hits. Even if you lived in the provinces, with a gramophone you could hear the stars of the day.

Evelyn has a beautiful voice, but her songs are just not my sort of thing: soaring, warbling showtunes. I suspect it doesn’t appeal to as many people nowadays as sparky 1920s jazz or the personality-packed singing of an Ethel Waters or Sophie Tucker. One song that really stood out was her version of ‘Lover, Come Back to Me’; I love Ella Fitzgerald’s much later version. Evelyn’s was slower, more drawn out, less playful... less fun.

I’ll be keeping the CD, of course, but I don’t suspect I’ll listen to it half as often as most of my others. I have similar problems with Gertrude Lawrence, I think the stage style of the 1920s simply isn’t my thing. Engaging Jazz Filter now!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Vintage perfume workshops

In London? Near London? Want to learn more about the scents of a particular decade? Get thee to Les Senteurs.

I love Les Senteurs. The original branch is a little shop in Belgravia, and although I'd shopped for samples with them online, when I went to buy my first full bottle from them I was terrified. Me, in a place like that? But no matter how upmarket the area, the staff are gracious, the prices are appropriate for their stock, and if your a perfume n00b they will give you lots of help. They recently opened a second store in Marble Arch with more room for events. I was looking at their website earlier (it was hinted to me that work may have got me a voucher for my birthday, and the choosing of perfume is a Serious Business) and noticed that they are doing a series of 'Vintage Scent Sessions' with Odette Toilette.

According to Odette's website the 1930s session on the 10th of March is sold out, but it's not showing up as sold out on the shop website, so it might be worth ringing them to check. The 1940s session is on the 19th of May, 1950s on the 14th of July, 60s and 70s on the 15th of September, and 80s at a date to be confirmed in November. If I were nearer the Big Smoke I'd definitely go along, as it's a chance to smell some rare and discontinued scents and get a real feel for the odour of an age.

Image: my bottle of Molinard Habanita parfum, which I did indeed buy from Les Senteurs.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

You can have nice things

Yesterday, I bought a bag. As soon as the seller (Penny Dreadful Vintage; she’s got lots of splendid bags on sale right now) tweeted about it and I’d seen it, I asked her to put it on hold, then bought it that evening. It’s 1930s, black, with lovely art deco stepped metal details on the clasp and handle attachments. I can’t wait for it to arrive.

Then I had the usual worries: should I spend that much at once, is impulse buying a good thing, couldn’t I make do with something else, what will Mr Robot say?.. Well, I’ve just been given another batch of freelance work, which is what pays for my bags and shoes and other fripperies. I’ve wanted a proper vintage bag for over a year (see my ‘Building a vintage wardrobe’ posts), so this isn’t an impulse buy, it’s simply leaping on the right bag as soon as I’ve seen it. Mr Robot is far too much of a gentleman to comment on how I spend the money I earn.

So it all comes down to ‘couldn’t I make do?’ And yes, I could. I already have a handbag. But it’s not remotely deco in style. Part of getting back into vintage clothes in the past couple of years has been accepting that I can have nice things too. (Do you ever feel you shouldn’t?) I always have the lingering feeling that these things should be left for younger, thinner, prettier people. And that’s stupid. The only things I should rule out buying are the ones that don’t fit or I can't afford. Getting into the mindset that all I can have is clothes that fade into the background, and that any old bag will be good enough because I'm not young and pretty is ridiculous. Every so often I get mad at myself for internalising mainstream society’s obsession with age and weight and physical appearance. And that makes me grouchy enough to pick up the plastic and say, “Madam, sell me your finest deco bag! For I am entitled to feel fabulous too!”

If there’s something you really want, and you can afford it (don’t go getting yourself into debt for that Faberge egg, y’hear?), have it. It’ll make you happy, and it will make your little bit of the world a more beautiful place. ‘Make do and mend’ is a crap vintage motto. Let’s hear it for ‘Brighten the corner where you are’.

You can have nice things.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Keeping my New Year's resolution

Just a quickie post to prove I am sticking to my 2012 resolution to buy more buttons. I found a lovely seller called Buttonfinder on Etsy, and she's got loads of really nice vintage glass buttons for sale.

These are all about a centimetre across. I've got three of the cream and gold, six of the green, four of the blue cherries and eight of the black embossed ones. The embossed ones have a berry-and-leaf pattern on so they'll be perfect for my black Kasha when I finally get round to knitting it. Buttonfinder has more of both the green and cream (and versions of the cream in other colours). I did buy the cherry buttons to go in a swap parcel, but then I found something more suited to my partner elsewhere so bought that and shall keep the cherries for myself. I don't know why I like them, I'm not at all a 'cute' person, but they are very appealing.

Anyway, I really need to stay off Etsy for a bit as it is horribly addictive, and while one or two orders are inexpensive, it could become a serious habit if I don't watch out! It's like having all my favourite things in one place. I'll set myself a mini-mission of buying my next lot of vintage buttons NOT on the internet...

Friday, 17 February 2012

Vintage camera: in Bath with the Voigtlaender Bessa

Mr Robot and I took his 1930s Voigtlaender Bessa out in Bath on Tuesday night. (Basically, Mr Robot handles the camera because he knows his f-stops from his apertures, while I keep track of photos taken and wrangle the rest of the kit.) We'd been meaning to take it out for a while, so had ordered some 120 film that we wouldn't need to develop ourselves but would go through a standard developing machine.

Now, this was the Bessa's first proper outing, and one thing we realised rather late on is that the shutter was slightly sticky. We're pretty sure there won't be any internal rust – the camera's about 80 years old yet has no external rust – so we've been debating whether to use some WD-40 on it. As there's a risk of getting WD-40 on the lens (which is what happened to the 1950s Dacora 1) we'd rather work with it as it is for now. The upshot of it is that a lot of the photos were overexposed.

We haven't done any proper prints yet. Finding someone who could develop the firms was a trial. While the Ilford XP2 Super that we used will go through a machine, very few places actually have a machine large enough. After visting three places, the fourth, on the corner near Blacks and M&S, was able to do it. They couldn't do prints though. The photos you see here have been produced by scanning the negatives and then a bit of Photoshop trickery with the light levels, so it'll be interesting to see what results we get when we crack open the chemicals and make prints.

The difficulty of getting 1-hour developing means we're not going to be able to use the Bessa at Waltz on the Wye as planned. We did consider developing the films ourselves and making contact sheets for people to see while there, but even if we can black out the hotel bathroom, we doubt they'll be happy with us turning the place into a chemistry lab... Still, good to give the old thing its first outing, and we're both looking forward to getting better images out of it in future. Onwards into the past, people!

All images copyright PP Gettins.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Lovely Hotter shoes

I make no secret of what a big fan I am of my Hotter 'Charleston' shoes. Last summer they brought out a lovely summer shoe called 'Quickstep', and in the Autumn a slightly more substantial one called 'Valetta' (the one shown here). I managed to miss out on both – by the time they came into the sales, the colour I wanted was sold out in my size. Well, they're back this Spring!

Hotter shoes aren't cheap, but what I like about them is that they're perfect for a 1920s/30s look, are suitable for work, and they're really hardwearing. If I'm not wearing my hiking boots, chances are I'm wearing my 'Charleston' shoes, so mine have done a lot of walking yet I've only recently had to have them resoled. While they have a heel it's small and sturdy, and I can do a full day's sightseeing around a city in them without getting sore feet or blisters. So, if I get enough books to review or a bit of money for my birthday, I'm getting at least one of these, if not both. I've wasted enough money on unwearable shoes in my time. I want comfort!

(On which note, does anyone want a free pair of Office black 'French Lessons', size 6? Like this but black. Resoled once, but in very good nick. The heel's just too high for me, and since spraining my ankle last summer I've been scared to wear them again!)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

It's finally finished!

At last I've got my project for the Ravelry 'Vintage and Kitsch' swap off my needles. I don't think my swappee reads my blog, and haven't noticed anyone coming to my blog from Ravelry of late, so I'll go out on a limb and post about it.

Are you in the Odd Ducks 'Vintage and Kitsch' swap? Please stop reading now! Read anything else on the blog, just not this!

The person I'm sending to wanted a hooded scarf, so I've knitted 'Miss Laverty's Motoring Hood' from Susan Crawford's book Vintage Gifts to Knit. I've knitted it in some green Rowan Cashsoft 4ply left over from another project.

If you want to learn to knit, this would make an excellent first project because the scarf part is completely straight and the hood part has minimal shaping, and the seams are virtually straight. However, it does depend on your boredom threshold. The whole thing is worked in 1x1 ribbing, which is possibly my least favourite stitch in the world. However, the pattern does work, so it's easy and impossible to mess up.

Of course, a swap box needs to contain a whole pile of stuff, but the thing I'm most pleased with is a Carlton Ware cruet set in the shape of a pear (the one in the pic). My swappee really loves Carlton Ware, and I found the set for under a tenner, so it's going in. (As well as a certain number of handmade items, other items in the box need to be worth about $30US.) The scarf should provide plenty of padding for shipping.

Don't ask about the beige jumper. I'm pretending it's not there. (Well, technically it isn't there, because it's STILL NOT FINISHED, AARGH.)

Thursday, 9 February 2012

I've been tagged

Perdita of Perdita's Pursuits has tagged me in a blogger tagging game. The rules:

First, you paste in these instructions:
1) You must post 11 random things about yourself;
2) Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post;
3) Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer;
4) Go to their blog and tell them you've tagged them;
5) No stuff about 'you're tagged if you're reading this' - legitimately tag people.

So, here goes. First, 11 random things about me...
1 I designed a pair of socks that got me into the Test Match Special commentary box in Barbados.
2 One of my ancestresses scandalised Georgian Calcutta, to the point where they had to end the subscription dances for a year after she turned up and there was a massive furore. Jane Austen never wrote anything so racy.
3 I went to Communist Youth Camp in Russia.
4 I have mild prosopagnosia. (‘Functional but impaired’ apparently.)
5 I have a talent for finding really good bars and pubs. Or possibly it’s wisdom born of experience...
6 My three favourite books are The Great Gatsby, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Anno Dracula. (When’s the film version of the third one coming out, eh? ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME, HOLLYWOOD?)
7 Part of an interview I did with Ingrid Murnane made it into Pseuds’ Corner in Private Eye.
8 My favourite perfume is Guerlain Mitsouko.
9 The songs I have picked for my funeral are 'Jollity Farm' (Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band), 'On the Sunny Side of the Street' (Ella Fitzgerald) and 'Get Off Of My Cloud' (The Rolling Stones).
10 I love cats.
11 I have never used a PC. Mac all the way, all my life!

Now I shall answer Perdita's questions:
1) What is your favourite flavour of crisps?
Bacon, especially Frazzles.

2) What is the funniest photo of you that you still own?
I don’t tend to keep photos of myself, and avoid having them taken, so there aren’t many funny ones. My mum has one with me with an enormous, highlighted perm. (It was the 80s! We did things like that then.)

3) What would your dream home be?
Huge. With four guest bedrooms decorated in Harry Potter house colours, so I could put people in Slytherin, Gryffindor or whatever. (Yes, I am that sad!) It also has to have a library, and window seats for the herd of cats I will acquire. And a central tiled courtyard with orange trees and a fountain in the southern Spanish style.

4) What are you great at?

5) Who (fictional character) would you go to the pub with? (Extension: pint or bender? Why?)
Philip Marlowe. Full-on session. He’d drink scotch, I’d drink bitter. And he’d probably abandon me for a dame later in the evening.

6) Which takeaway is best?
When you can get proper Italian-style pizza, pizza. However, really good pizza is very difficult to find, so usually Chinese.

7) Explain your plan for the Zombie Apocalypse.
Kill self. Join winning team.

8) Which terrible, terrible fashion do you secretly kind of hanker after?
Stevie Nicks hanky-hem skirts.

9) Tell me your motto.
Just keep going.

10) Who is your favourite villain?
Blofeld. Not only was his name inspired by the Blofeld family, including the great Henry ‘Blowers’ Blofeld himself, he has good taste in pets, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of villainous lairs in appealing locations.

11) Describe your favourite pair of shoes.
Probably my Hotter Charlestons - they’re nothing fancy, just black with a little Louis heel and a strap, but they’re very 20s-looking and comfy enough for me to walk for miles.

And now 11 questions for my taggees:
1) Train or bus?
2) What's your favourite animal?
3) What was the last film you watched?
4) Can you do any dances? Name them!
5) You can only wear three colours for the rest of your life. What do you choose?
6) What was the worst job you've ever had?
7) What was your favourite TV programme as a child?
8) What's your favourite cocktail?
9) Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart? (I can never decide!)
10) Favourite Doctor? (Doctor Who)
11) Do androids dream of electric sheep?

And now I am going to tag...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Captain America: The First Avenger [film]

As comic heroes go, the overtly patriotic ones are the ones I have most trouble with. I never seemed to buy the 'cool' comics other people went for anyway; while my friends at university were reading Sandman, I was happily collecting Morbius the Living Vampire and treasuring a nearly complete run of 1980s Thundercats. (And I'm still looking out for the issues of Dragon's Claws that I'm missing...) Anyway, I'm not a comics fan, certainly don't have room to collect them, but I have vague knowledge of, and enjoy my comics. Captain America was a character who'd never appealed to me. I feared jingoism.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Annette Hanshaw, I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling [music]

I've been a fan of Annette Hanshaw for years (see my review of the CD Lovable and Sweet) and this Christmas my mother-in-law gave me another collection of Annette's songs, I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling. Only a couple of songs are on both CDs, so the two make a good pairing.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Tomorrow's telly: The Cricklewood Greats

Peter Capaldi! There, now you're interested. Tomorrow (Sunday 5th of February) BBC4 is showing The Cricklewood Greats, a spoof documentary about a made-up British film studio, covering its history from the early days of film right up to the 1980s, when an overblown Terry Gilliam film brought the studio to its end. (Gilliam also plays a part in the programme.) You can't make a programme like this without having a deep knowledge of the thing you're spoofing, and Capaldi, who also wrote the script and directed the programme, genuinely loves British film. It sounds like a programme for anyone who loves the history of the British film industry, that splendid melting pot for the theatrical, the tawdry the and genuine genius.

I watch a lot of telly and haven't seen a single trailer for it, and only realised it was on listening to last night's What's So Funny? on 4Extra (hey, I was waiting for Elvenquest, that's the only reason it was on...). From WSF? I got the impression that the programme uses footage from real films pretending they're from Cricklewood Studios, but from press releases and so on it appears the film fragments are also done for the spoof. I shall wait and see!

There's an interview with Peter Capaldi about the show over at the Daily Telegraph.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Save Bridport's vintage quarter

What could be nicer than a historic area, stuffed with vintage shops, in a small town a few miles from one of the loveliest stretches of the south coast? A new housing estate in the same location, apparently. Bridport's vintage quarter is going to be demolished and new builds put up in its place.

I blogged about how much I loved that area last year (sorry, lips of death appear to have struck again). It's going to be a real shame for Bridport if the vintage quarter goes, as it's one of the things that makes the town more interesting and lively than so many other equally pretty places along the Dorset coast. If you've never been there i still recommend it, but it looks like you'd better go there quickly.

Find out more about the campaign to save it on Facebook – and if you're going to sign up, do it quickly as there's only a couple of days left to have your say. I have already left my comment on the Council's website.

(Photo is of West Bay, where I stay when I'm in the area. I don't have a photo of the vintage quarter!)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Help me, Internet Kenobi, you're my only hope

I'm trying to find an outfit to wear to the ball at this year's Waltz on the Wye. I've decided to go full-on dieselpunk (if you're interested mainly in vintage and don't know what dieselpunk is, think art deco science fiction, 1930s Flash Gordon or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.) I'm more than sorted for daytime outfits but, as ever, evening wear eludes me.

So, do you have any recommendations for 20s/30s-style eveningwear that won't break the bank? I'd prefer 20s as that's kinder to my apple body type, and would rather avoid satin as I'm not convinced that's my tummy's best friend (although one of the organisers does seem keen for me to show up in something 1930s and bias cut!). I'm keen to buy new as there's a good chance I'll be doing the conga in it, and I'll cry for days if I wreck a genuine, irreplaceable, vintage piece.

For some reason I have a real mental block when it comes to custom-made, and I don't know why – I shelled out a three-figure sum for my ball outfit last year, and had to pay customs charges on top, so getting something made to fit isn't likely to cost much more. It's as though I feel I don't deserve custom-made somehow... But that is an option. I keep looking at Able Grable and not being 100% convinced I can carry off satin, even though I love my (matte, sample) dress I got from there and know full well I'll be pulling out all the shapewear stops for the ball.

Help me, Internet Kenobi, you're my only hope!