Thursday, 27 June 2013

My Style Icons: Queen Elizabeth II

When @BookishBecca mentioned on Twitter that the Queen was one of her style icons recently, I was jolly chuffed as she's also one of mine. It may seem odd to have an octogenarian style icon, but I guess true style is ageless. Here's why Liz II is one of mine...

No-one does matchy-matchy like the Queen. I know matching one's outfit and accessories is often frowned upon nowadays, but I like it. It turns a collection of garments and accessories into a proper outfit. I also think it allows people to concentrate on the person within the clothes, whereas if everything contrasts people will be constantly looking at your bag, shoes, top, whatever.

Oh, how I love a good brooch. So does the Queen; it's the one really showy item of jewellery that she wears for daytime, otherwise sticking to things like pearl button earrings and strings of pearls. But then, when you've got her collection of brooches to play with, you'd want to keep the other bits simple. People have clearly cottoned on to the fact that she likes and wears brooches, as she keeps getting given new ones. (Hint to the jewel-producing nations of the world: I also like brooches, and she's already got lots...)

The blog From Her Majesty's Jewel Vault catalogues the gems which The Queen has been wearing, and has notes on all the most recent (or most important) brooches. The Queen usually matches her brooch to the colour of her outfit, and also to the occasion, so if she's meeting someone from Australia, she'll wear her Australian Wattle, for meeting Canadians she pulls out the Maple Leaf, and so on. She's been given many by her family, and my favourites are the art deco aquamarine clips her parents gave her for her 18th birthday. She got given some utterly hideous things for last year's Jubilee but, ever the diplomat, has dug them out and worn them once. 
And, in case you're wondering, even if they were all sold they wouldn't fund the NHS or sort out any of the country's budget problems, the national budget is waaaay bigger than that. I'm happy to see the Queen wandering about like a little human glitterball. It's nice to see some sparkle.

The Queen will often wear gifts given to her when meeting a person from the country that gave them to her, but it goes further than that. Some years ago the Fashion Museum in Bath had an exhibition of the Queen's dresses, and among them was a stunning gown she wore for a State Visit to Pakistan in the 50s. It was pure white satin, with a ripple of deep green down the back - the colours of her hosts' flag. She's worn the lighter green of the Ethiopian flag in Ethiopia, embroidered tree peonies in China, orange poppies in California and mayflowers in Nova Scotia. She also wears colours that make her easy for people who've come to see her to pick out. Most of us will never need to go that far, but it's fantastic and fascinating to see; it's diplomacy in fabric. 

The matchy-matchy, brooches and appropriateness all tie together to make a unique, instantly recognisable, look. And that is style.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Local events, not just for local people!

Are you in Wiltshire, or on the Wiltshire/Somerset border? Do you like vintage, steampunk, dieselpunk, or just old tat in general?

I’m currently a tad annoyed that a couple of small, local events I’ve been looking forward to have been cancelled. Now, you could respond, ‘If you don’t like it, why not organise something yourself?’ And that’s a valid comment. I don’t have the time or expertise to organise an event myself – I saw how much work it took my friends to run their steampunk weekend, and I don’t flatter myself that I could do anywhere near as good a job – but I can, at least, help local vintage lovers find the events that appeal to them and help make things that are going on a little more successful. Because of that, I’m starting a small events listing on this blog, just to get information on what’s on out to more people. So please, tell me of the events you’re running in Wiltshire (or close to the borders; I’ll be covering Bath and Frome too) and I can add them to the list.

 In keeping with Crinoline Robot’s eclectic feel, the list will encompass a broad range of events, not just vintage fashion and lifestyle ones, from jazz band performances to classic vehicle shows to dance lessons to re-enactment events. So come on, send me your event details! I want to put bums on YOUR seats! Tell me in the comments or email me at crinolinerobot AT yahoo DOT com.

*Adopts Rosie the Riveter pose, declares WILTSHIRE CAN DO IT!*

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Real Raw Rockabilly / Red Hot Rockabilly [music]

'Real Raw Rockabilly' and 'Red Hot Rockabilly' are two CD compilations. After the Vintage Nostalgia Show, Mr Robot remembered how much he liked 1950s music (which he was very much into as a teenager), and realised how much more there was still to be explored. When we got home, he ordered a few CDs from Amazon, and these were two of them.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Outfit post: Autumn tones for summer

Playing tourist outside the Pump
Rooms and Bath Abbey
As a former goth who probably first began to think about clothes in the 1980s, I've grown up with a double dose of aversion to brown. Nobody wore brown in the 80s. Nobody who didn't want to face utter ridicule at school, at any rate. It was such a 1970s colour and therefore assigned to the dustbin of history along with flares and glam rock. (Very little stays in the dustbin of history, of course, and I think we've dug it all back out since then!)

Lately I've been trying to work out what colours suit me, and browns do seem to be quite high on the list! Happily, we're far enough from the 80s that the decade's influence on my tastes has waned, charity shopping means it's easy to try different options, and a mistake won't break the bank. Several times this week I've realised that virtually everything I've had on, apart from shoes and unmentionables, has come from a charity shop. This is one of those outfits. It had loads of compliments, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Dress New Look via a chazza, £5
What attracted me was the print - it reminded me of those gorgeous 1930s chiffon dresses that only ever seem to exist with a 22-inch waist and cost £300 nowadays.
Jacket half of my beloved Miss Marple suit, a 1970s tweed Edinburgh Woollen Mill suit, £8 for the suit.
Bag Dents via a charity shop, £8
Shoes Neosens, bought half price in the Sarenza sale, £55
Necklace coral, a gift from Mr Robot
The colours went a bit wonky thanks to the cameraphone; I don't actually have scarlet arms!

I get a real kick out of my charity shop outfits. The things I buy new or from dealers are usually pieces with specific purposes in mind, even if that purpose is 'cover my feet so I can get to work'. Charity shop clothes have the magic of chance. They probably weren't in the shop the week before I found them, and they probably won't be there a week later. It's the magic of finding the perfect thing in the right size for very little money. You don't get that pleasure from picking something up off a rack of 37 identical ones.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Time to dip my toe into the 50s?

The embroidery on the Mr's
bargainous bowling shirt.
Gah! The DS Big Band concert I was going to this weekend has been cancelled. It does mean I can catch up with my friend Tom, however, as Mr Robot had bought the tickets before we knew Tom would be in Bath for the weekend.

I currently have a yearning for a pair of Vivien of Holloway jeans and a blouse for going to 50s/rockabilly-type events. My reasoning is this:

It looks like Mr Robot and I will be going to more events playing 50s-style music
I like to look appropriate
I look terrible in most 1950s styles as I have a 1920s/1960s body type
Dressing up very flamboyantly will draw attention to the fact that 50s is Not My Look
So I may as well sling on something simple and casual, then forget it

I am kind of worried that I will look a bit mumsy in this outfit, but then by my age most women are mothers, so I am going to look a bit mumsy no matter what I wear. (‘Do I look mumsy in this?’ needs to be filed in the same folder as ‘Do I look fat in this?’, the folder labelled, ‘Yes, but it’s you, not the clothes, so stop worrying about it and concentrate on having fun.’) It’s going to be a case of the accessories tipping the balance: a really fab pair of shoes and an eyecatching bag, plus properly-set hair, carrying the rest over into ‘laid-back cool’ rather than ‘mum’s going on a cruise holiday’. Anyway, it’s all academic right now, I need to do a bit more freelance before I start splashing out on new togs. I tend to do a lot of thinking before actually buying anything; having never been into disposable fashion I like to buy something and then get a lot of wear out of it. Plus I haven't worn jeans in 20 years. do I really want to start again now?

Mr Robot has a hair dilemma. He was able to find an awesome bowling shirt in a charity shop for under a fiver, but now is trying to work out what to do with his hair that will look okay for work during the week, but also appropriate at events. I find myself completely floundering when we discuss bloke clothes – there's a whole world of collar cuts and suchlike that I'd never even realised was there. So this rockabilly stuff isn't just fun, it's going to be edumacational...

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Whose crazy idea was this?

On a scale of Risky Things I Have Done, volunteering to knit a vintage woolly for a bride probably ranks pretty highly. My friend Sarah, who I met at Mrs Stokes’ Secret Tea Party, is getting married in October. Without giving away too much information on her dress, she wants a cardi or bolero from the same era. I sent her some images and ideas from my old Stitchcrafts and other magazines, including the one you see here. I've also sent her links to things on Ravelry and a lady selling PDFs of vintage knitting patterns. It turned out Sarah didn’t have a friendly knitter to do the job, so I have offered my services.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Professor Elemental issue 2 [comics]

He's back! The second issue of the Professor Elemental comic is now out. I bought my issue at the Steamcheese Frome Steampunk Extravaganza, but was too shy to stalk down the Prof and get him to sign it. Still, I have it, and it's even better than issue 1. When I reviewed Professor Elemental comic issue 1, I commented that it felt like a good-quality item. Well, this one feels even nicer. The cover is thick and glossy, and the pages are in a pleasingly heavy paper stock. (My day job's in publishing; I love getting something printed on nice paper. It makes you feel good about an item before you even begin reading it.)

Friday, 7 June 2013

Crinoline Robot's Vintage Week

Oooh, I haven’t done a VW posting in aaaaages, usually because ‘read old books, knitted old pattern’ isn’t especially interesting week-in and week-out. However, this has been a more vintage-packed week than usual.

First though: Trowbridge and district vintage events news! 
Yup, if you’re in this little corner of Wiltshire, there are a few things going on. The DS Big Band are playing at the Arc Theatre on the 22nd of June. That hasn’t had a lot of publicity; I spotted it by chance and we’ve already got tickets. If you like the late 1940s-1950s big band sound, come along. (They sell beer at the theatre...) Then a week later, as part of the Wiltshire Armed Forces and Veterns Celebrations held in the park in Trow, there’s going to be vintage music, weapons displays and, I believe, a vintage market on the 29th of June. (The market's not listed on the website, but I've seen it mentioned locally.) In previous years there have been a few military history groups, re-enactment clubs and former servicemen’s societies taking part in the Armed Forces events as well as serving military men and women, so it looks as though this year they’re building on that aspect a little.

Mr Robot has been rediscovering his love of the 1950s since the Vintage Nostalgia Show, and bought a few CDs. It’s been all rockabilly, all night chez Robot ever since! I like rockabilly; we’ve got a lot of 50s music around the house, and some I love (Julie London, Frank Sinatra) but a lot is just too sugary and teenaged. Rockabilly has a raw edge that appeals to me. My favourite song so far is Vince Taylor’s ‘Brand New Cadillac’.

We’ve been thinking of learning to jive, too. There are jive classes every Monday at the Civic Hall in Trowbridge. It’s modern jive, but we’re hoping to pick up enough to be able to dance without looking totally ridiculous at events. This is really exciting! Hopefully it’s be good exercise as well as good fun.

I still look crummy in 50s styles, though. I tried wearing a nice blouse and full skirt to work. The trouble was, it drew attention to the waist - and mine is really chunky. I looked like a Lego man with a frill round the middle! The problem is that I see things looking lovely on other people, and think they will look nice on me too, even though I know these are people who comment on having trouble finding things with a small enough waist/big enough hips in high street shops. People with the opposite body type to my own narrow hips and thick tum. I need to make myself a Pinterest gallery full of flappers and mods to find inspiration. Gah! Dress for the body you have, not the bodies other people have. I should paste that above my mirror. And, indeed, buy a mirror larger than A4, so my life ceases to be such a succession of Unfortunate Wardrobe Choices. Do you think an elasticated belt would help with waist definition, or should I give in gracefully and accept that hourglass fashions are never going to work on me?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Camping fun at the Vintage Nostalgia Show

main marquee vintage nostalgia show 2013
Lively night in the main marquee
Over the weekend, Mr Robot and I had fantastic fun camping at the Vintage Nostalgia Show in Stockton, Wiltshire. I first saw it mentioned in a tweet by Shona from Heyday, and thought I might be able to talk the Mr into going down for a day, but he liked the idea of camping, so we bought a tent and camping stove and decided to go for the whole weekend. I'm not sure how many years the show has been running; I get the impression that it's relatively new but growing.

We arrived on Friday night straight from work. We were put in the general camping field - not sure how you get into the vintage camping as it seemed to contain modern tents and vehicles, so I'll investigate that for next year. As we set up our tent, we could hear jazz and swing drifting across from the main marquee. After that, we got ready for the evening. Himself wore a black shirt, waistcoat and jeans, while I changed into my 1930s-style Able Grable Miss M. I'd been out on a photo and videoshoot for work that day and so was a bit sunburned, and the high neck and puff sleeves covered up the burns nicely.

When we arrived at the Ringwood Brewery bar right by the marquee, I felt both over- and early-dressed as people didn't seem to be dressed up, and those who were wearing vintage tended to dress 40s-60s, but a strawberry daiquiri followed by some beers soon took the awkward feeling away...

There were some smashing-looking people, including a very beautiful young lady with hair the colour of strawberry icecream who was wearing a yellow 60s (I think!) frock, another lady in a jade-green-with-white-dots pencil skirt and matching top, and a chap in his late teens or early 20s with perfect 50s hair, turned-up jeans... the complete James Dean package. ("I want to be him!" declared the Mr.)

Sticky Toffee Jazz were performing that evening (I say 'were'; it was one lady plus backing tracks, but she had a lovely voice), plus there was burlesque from Killer Heels, and a DJ to end the night. The music seemed to creep slowly through the decades, so while it started out around the 40s, by the end of the evening it had passed through the 50s and was finishing with a bit of soul.
vintage cars minx sprite
Just a few of the wonderful vintage vehicles

Busy Saturday
The next day was the big day. The weather down here in Wiltshire's been atrocious all week, so I was prepared for a damp and gloomy weekend. BIG MISTAKE. I'd planned to wear a wool tartan skirt with my blue late 40s/early 50s jumper, and that would've looked nicely midcentury without being fussy. However, the sun was blazing all day, leaving me with no choice but to pair said skirt with a vest top, showing off Friday's glowing photoshoot sunburn, and then everyone else seemed to have decided to dress up with furs, full skirts, updos, the works, leaving me massively underdone. Mr Robot had a loud, fun shirt with a hotdog print all over – actually from Tesco, but it fitted in nicely.

We started off Saturday looking at the vintage vehicles, and there were some real beauties. I adored the cute frog-eyed Sprite. There isn't a car that looks cuter or happier! We were really impressed to see an Austin Six, as you often see Sevens (there were a few on show) but you rarely see Sixes. A late 1920s Buick, complete with wooden wheels, caught my eye, while my husband decided he liked any car as long as it was 50s and two-tone.

We were having fun trying to choose our favourite car, and then we saw IT. The car with everything. A silvery Chevrolet Fleetline, with immaculate chrome details. It looked fast without even moving, space age despite being a classic vehicle. It was fantastic. It was like something out of a comic book. That said, the cars and motorbikes were all wonderful. It was a real treat to see them, and their owners clearly love and care for them. There seemed to be groups of specific cars, and lots of gorgeous teardrop trailers (the tiniest, cutest caravans ever!), so I guess a few classic car clubs attended.

Silver chevrolet fleetline
My favourite - a stunning Chevrolet Fleetline

There was a really good selection of stalls, with lots of great clothing, and some very nice handbags. There was plenty for the gents, too, which is always nice to see. We didn't buy anything as we hadn't really taken enough cash, but next year I will definitely take more money, and I picked up some business cards for stalls that had especially nice stock as I'll want to look them up in future. Heyday's stuff was even nicer in reality than it is online; I've bought a couple of things from there and have been considering other items but wasn't sure about the prints, and this event helped me make a decision or two...
The ladies of the Vintage Hair Lounge

There was also a hairstyling stall run by Vintage Hair Lounge, with a group of ladies doing updos and makeup. It was very busy – I booked before noon and got an appointment for 4:30 – but it was well worth the wait. Stylist Gemma turned my shabby, overgrown bob into an amazing beehive, and all around me other stylists were working equal amounts of magic on other visitors.
vintage hair parlour event pop-up
Gemma working her magic - who needs a fairy godmother?

People watching was great fun. Attendees dressed up with varying degrees of authenticity – quite a few women paired full-skirted 50s-style dresses with 40s-style Victory rolls, for example, which may not have been period-accurate but looked fab. There was a general midcentury feel. Chaps seemed to wear anything from tweed suits to military uniform to retro-style car club jackets with jeans. One lady dressed Audrey Hepburn-style, in a 60s shift dress with big sunglasses, while we both adored the toddler running round in his dungarees and flat cap. Thumbs up, too, to the boys dressed in vintage boy scout uniforms, who looked fantastic. We did a fair bit of dog watching too; the Vintage Nostalgia Show is a pooch-friendly event so lots of people brought their pets. My favourite was a longhaired Akita, which has to be the most fantastic dog I've ever seen. I want one. It'll look great in a Chevrolet Fleetliner...

Would you go home with this man? I did!

For the evening Mr Robot wore a grey suit with his fedora, and I wore my ivy 'Vivienne' dress from Fever with my 1950s atomic diamante jewellery. We wear these things to work, but people seemed to like them! It's always when you make the least effort that people like your clothes... The Roadhouse Roosters were the first act on, and they were great fun, with a very traditional 1950s sound that got people dancing. I loved the second group, The Obscuritones. They had a nicely dirty 50s-60s sound, just rough and edgy enough. Both acts were let down by the sound system, which was a tad ropy, but the evening was thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless, and as before took a slow DJ-driven trip towards the 1960s before ending.

We didn't see the whole of the Sunday, just taking a quick whizz around the site and seeing the new cars before packing up our tent and heading home. But we'll definitely be going back next year.
There were lots of these gorgeous little teardrop
caravans. (The tree was floodlit, hence the pink!)

Good things! 
The music, the stalls, the excellent choice of food at decent prices, the funfair for the kids (lots of families were on site, and it was wonderful to see so many children having a great time and not being bored stuck doing grownup things – if you've got kids, this is a fantastic event to bring them to), the cars, the weather, the fact that the portaloos stayed usable throughout...

Not so good things! (But nothing was actually bad
The sound system could have been better.
Because it's in a field, if you have mobility problems it would be worth contacting the organisers, I reckon – we wouldn't have been able to get the mother-in-law's lightweight scooter round, but heavier ones and wheelchairs seemed to get round okay.

Lessons learned 
Take lots of wet wipes (I did), and always have a 'pocket pack' of tissues in your bag.
It's in a field, so don't wear your best shoes. A little cowpat goes a long way!
Take clothes for bad weather and for good.
Take plenty of cash. If you don't spend it on clothes, CDs or homewares, the cocktail bar will take care of it for you!

Monday, 3 June 2013

New shoe bargain bliss

1920s style brown shoes Neosens Rococo 769
These will look gorgeous as part of a
20s-style or steampunk outfit.
'Oh good grief,' I hear you mutter, 'Is she still banging on about shoes? It's been over two months!' Well, not for much longer because I have had a very good stroke of luck. After ordering a pair from Agnes and Norman and having to send them back because they were too narrow for my fat little feet, I was a bit downcast. I'd been eyeing up a couple of Neosens styles on Sarenza... and they knocked both styles I'd wanted down to half price, so I could afford both!

The black ones are all leather, and the brown ones a mix of embroidered fabric and leather. (I'd expected embossed leather, so that was a bit of a surprise, but they are very pretty.) They do fit my feet, too – I wear a 5.5 when I can find brands that do half sizes, and these are wide enough, and the right length, with a little room in the heel (but not so much that the shoes slip) so they should keep their shape.

black neosens Rococo 805 shoes with louis heel and openwork detail
Ideal for work: just high enough, just ornate enough.
I was very pleased with the service I got from both firms. If you have narrow feet, I recommend looking at Agnes and Norman as their styles are beautiful and the workmanship is fantastic. I got my refund quickly. They used Royal Mail for delivery, which is my preferred option anyway as I can collect my parcels from the sorting office at the weekend when I'm in town. Sarenza use a courier, Yodel, which was not quite as convenient for me, but next time I order I will get the courier to go to Mr Robot's office as he is able to sign for parcels at work. The delivery took a little longer, but was not overlong, and I was able to track the items' progress online.

As always, I pay for my things! No freebies. So I was jolly chuffed to get these in a sale, and I shall cease to bore you about footwear for a few months.