Monday, 30 March 2015

A Quiet Patch

A punny title as ever, for a simple outfit post. Haven't done one of these for a while! Basically, this outfit represents the kind of thing I will probably be wearing most days during the spring (at least when it warms up).


The outfit consists of the following. A signature Heyday Fleur dress, which was done in a custom fan print fabric for me a quite surprising number of years ago (maybe 4 years?), a pair of Miss L Fire Bolero wedges and a denim jacket scored from Beyond Retro which I've started to customise with patches.


Welcome to my new obsession - patches!


I have always been into heavy metal but have never owned a 'battle jacket' before. But I recently discovered all these awesome, small businesses making printed and embroidered patches and have now started to collect a variety of them, from both bands and brands.


On my jacket you can (just about) see a patch from British promo Progress Wrestling, an anti-fascist themed patch that actually says ACAB - All Cats Are Beautiful with cats instead of flags, two fab patches from Hallow Society and a black variant patch from Bad Cats Club, which is run by a cat-loving lady who sells things to make money for a brain tumour charity. So a cool *and* philanthropic purchase. I also have the Predator-themed patch above from Futurezine in the US, which I am yet to sew on (it makes your fingers really sore, FYI). I have a couple more on the way as well as a Pantera back patch to sew on. \m/


Oh yes, and my Born a Bad Seed badge (I have two of their tshirts)! Check out my fresh nail job and all. 

So that's my new clothing theme for the season - vintage (/repro) dress and my ongoing jacket project (or my leather jacket, as pictured here many times before). I really enjoy the contrast between girly vintage and my previous life as a boys' jeans-wearing metaller! I leave you with an outtake and a promise to post more again soon... 



Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

PS. In these pics I am wearing a really small hair extension piece that I bought recently - a strip of hair the same length as my own that just adds a fraction more fullness to my thin mane. Will write more about it soon as I really love it and would recommend it to anyone with limp locks like mine!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Fashion on the Ration at the IWM

Tomorrow, a very exciting exhibition is opening at the Imperial War Museum. Fashion on the Ration is the story of everyday people in 1940s Britain, and how style and fashion endured and evolved under the strict rules of rationing. I'm getting a sneak peek tonight as I am DJing at the private view with The Vintage Mafia, and I can't wait!



As a brief overview (please click on over to my pal Jeni Yesterday's blog, she works for the IWM and therefore has the full inside scoop), there are six sections to the exhibition:

Into Uniform looks at how Second World War Britain became a nation in uniform, arguably the biggest visible change to how people dressed at the time. Many key pieces of uniform, both from  the men’s and women’s services, will be on display revealing the pride and even jealousies felt by those stepping into uniform for war service. 
Functional Fashion explores how the demands of wartime life changed the way civilians dressed at work and at home, inspiring retailers to sell innovative and stylish products, such as gas-mask handbags, blackout buttons and siren suits, as well as luminous faux flowers! 
Rationing and Make do and Mend will look at why clothes rationing was introduced in 1941, how the scheme worked and how it changed the shopping habits of the nation. With limited options for buying new clothes, people were encouraged to be creative and make clothes last longer by mending, altering, knitting and creating new clothes out of old material. Items on display include a bridesmaid’s dress made from parachute material, a bracelet made from aircraft components, a child’s coat made from a blanket and on display for the first time a bra and knickers set made from RAF silk maps for Countess Mountbatten. 
© IWM

Utility Clothing was introduced in 1941 to tackle unfairness in the rationing scheme and standardise production to help the war effort. Utility fashion ranges were made from a limited range of quality controlled fabrics and this section will feature a catwalk of pieces, including a lady’s cotton summer dress, underwear, a tweed sports jacket and leather gloves, and a girl’s velvet green winter dress. Clothing restricted by ‘Austerity Regulations’ such as shoes with a maximum two inch heel will also be featured.  
Beauty as Duty examines the lengths to which many women went, to maintain their personal appearance – and the pressure they felt to do so. On display will be adverts promoting war themed make-up such as Tangee’s lipstick for ‘lips in uniform’. Cosmetics and clothing often had a patriotic edge to them as shown in a colourful display of scarves by Mayfair fashion house  Jacqmar, with wartime slogans such as “Salvage Your Rubber” and “Switch That Light Off”. By wearing these items women were able to overtly demonstrate they were doing their bit for the war effort. 
Peace and a new look? This section looks at how the end of the war impacted upon fashion, and considers the long-term impact. On display will be a ‘VE’ print dress worn by the comedienne Jenny Hayes to celebrate the end of the war, and an example of the ubiquitous demob-suit, issued to men leaving the military services. In 1947, the launch of Christian Dior’s ostentatious ‘New Look’ shook the fashion world desperate for something new after years of pared down wartime fashion. 
 I think my favourite thing about it all is that despite wartime being the exact opposite of a barrel of laughs, and even though in the last years of it, everyone felt understandable beaten down, us Brits never lost our sense of humour and that's reflected in a lot of the fashion. The famous novelty Blackout Scarf (based on a poster, I believe) sums it up perfectly!



The exhibition site has a section on wartime weddings, and so I thought I'd re-share this one from my family archives:


Clothes rationing came into effect on 1st June 1941. My grandmother and grandad married on 8th June 1941 - so she must have numbered among the last brides who didn't have to forge wedding dresses out of parachute silk or whatever they could scrounge up! What a dress.

There's also a brilliant book written by Julie Summers, also called Fashion on the Ration (link to the IWM shop) to accompany the exhibition. I haven't read it properly yet, though I have read the first chapter and flicked through the rest - it's very thoroughly researched and very interesting, with chapters that roughly correspond to the sections of the exhibition. I expect to be an authority on the subject after finishing it!



Lovely old adverts!

The centre has colour plates with such gems as the aforementioned silk map underwear!

I can't wait to see the exhibition - if anyone else is going tonight, please do say hello! I'll be in one of my 1940s suits, especially for the occasion.

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The King's Brands

Welcome back to everyone's favourite historical features on my blog, namely, Edwardian history in association with everyone's favourite tipple, The King's Ginger! This time, I wanted to delve a little deeper into the marvels of the Edwardian age. Or rather the products and brands that were invented and launched in the reign of Edward VII and still endure to this day. So, following an interesting excursion to the Museum of Brands in Notting Hill, and the picking out of a few brands with particular significance to His Maj, here it is! I do hope you enjoy.




On a chilly day in late January, I went along to the foremetioned Museum of Brands for a look around. It's a fascinating place, stuffed with old packaging (and new packaging) and snippets of information about the history behind the products we all know and love. Unfortunately, they don't allow photography inside (copyright issues on the newer products), but they do have a very helpful press department and a wonderful book to go with each era of brands in the museum, which I bought, photographed and have reproduced here with permission from the Museum.


It's not really an exaggeration to say that the Edwardian era was a time of unprecedented innovation. The much longer Victorian era did introduce many brands that are still around, but both in the UK and across the pond, inventions and culinary experiments were numerous between 1901 and 1910. (The greatest of all these is, of course, The King's Ginger, first produced in 1903. Hopefully you're all sipping its fiery warmth in snowbound homes across the pond, and slightly nippy ones in the UK, as you read this). It was also a time of great change in British society, from women's liberation and right to education, as well as the suffragette movement - something I'll write more on in the future. Women were even interacting with the King's favourite technology and driving cars! I know! One huge invention that completely changed the life of many women was the motorised vacuum cleaner.


In 1901, Hubert Cecil Booth patented his ideas for the first ever motor-powered vacuum, which rather marvellously sucked dirt up instead of just blowing or brushing it into a different area. A completely revolutionary idea which sent shockwaves through domestic servants everywhere, who feared they would soon be replaced by machinery. Indeed, the adverts used to promote smaller appliances would seem to agree, though the first one was so huge it had to be drawn about the streets by a horse and so expensive that almost no one could have afforded one for their own household. Instead, it would be hired out to several houses at once, parked outside and long hoses fed through windows on different floors. It was so loud when operating that cab-horses apparently went beserk, which led to Booth actually being sued a few times by cabbies!

Outside a Wines & Spirits merchants too! Maybe he even did Berry Bros. & Rudd?!

What's the link, you may well ask? Well Booth's vacuum cleaner was actually used to clean the carpets of Westminster Abbey before Edward VII's coronation. Look & Learn says,

"[Booth's] biggest breakthrough came early, for just before the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, it was found that the blue carpet beneath the thrones was filthy. The word went out: “Send for Booth! Only he can save us.” So into the Abbey went Booth and his operatives and hoses and the result was a triumph. When the King and Queen heard what had happened, they demanded a Command Performance and were so delighted that they bought one cleaner for the Palace and another for Windsor."
Booth's company, the British Vacuum Co. is still going today, although they now make industrial cleaners rather than household ones. A shame, as we could be using his name instead of his American rival Hoover (established 1908) as a verb. 'Boothing' the floor doesn't have quite the same ring, though.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Brands

So what else can we thank the Edwardian era for today? Marmite (which happens to be my favourite foodstuff of all time, no exaggeration) came about in 1902. The way in which it's associated with King Edward VII is convoluted but interesting, so stick with me here. Baron Justus von Liebig was a 19th-century German organic chemist, who invented beef extract. This process was commercialised and turned into a brand - Liebig's Extract of Meat Company, or LEMCO. They then patented Oxo, which I have mentioned here before as they sponsored the London Olympic Games in 1908, during Edward's reign (the Wikipedia page smugly notes that they were the first commercial sponsor of the Olympics, despite claims by Coca-Cola) and the lucky Olympic athletes received fortifying Oxo drinks during their exertions!

Johnny Hayes, running the marathon in 1908. Oxo just out of shot.

In fact, the 1908 Marathon course had booths along its length, similar to the water and sports-drink stations in a modern race, offering hot and cold Oxo for the refreshment of the runners. They could also take a flask to sip from along the way! According to the Public Domain Review, 'Many Edwardian trainers believed drinking water during a race was bad for the runner, though a little brandy or champagne was considered a useful stimulant.' *cough* Or King's Ginger! It also notes that marathon day was one of the hottest of the whole summer in 1908, but at least the salt in the Oxo might have brought some benefit to the sweaty competitors...


Image courtesy of the Museum of Brands

Moving swiftly on from hot beef drinks on summer days, Fry's have been making their chocolate cream bar (which surprisingly enough is vegan) since 1866, but in 1902 they launched their milk chocolate and captured a nation's hearts with their 'five boys' campaign. Fry's was taken over by none other than Cadbury in 1919, the latter of course launched their Dairy Milk in 1905! I'd like to think Bertie, who was a connoisseur of all things food, would have also been partial to a square or two of 'C.D.M'! This spread with its sheer range of confectionary would indicate that much of Edwardian Britain had a sweet tooth, to be fair.

Image reproduced courtesy of the Museum of Brands

Typhoo Tea and Perrier all emerged in 1903 - I've touched on those both before. Daddies Sauce was also launched in 1904. Unlike many Edwardian brands, Daddies was not actually the inventor of brown sauce, that honour goes to the Victorian H.P. but they have both endured over a century of production. Though a couple of weeks ago, the Guardian wrote of the falling fortunes of brown sauce... it must be said that the writer is a self-confessed hater, saying of the 'nefarious brown':
'This was the perfect table sauce for jowly, Victorian and Edwardian gentlemen whose palates were so befogged by years of brandy and cigars, grouse and spotted dick, that only this shrill alarm of a sauce could pierce that bleary, weary gastronomic gloom.'
Harsh. Sounds like a familiar figure, though. I wonder which sauce the King preferred?

Edwardian pantry, reproduced courtesy of the Museum of Brands

Now, using 'celebrities' to promote products is something the Victorians kicked off, but in the days before television there could be no nationally-famous superstars to promote tea, chocolate and tobacco... with one exception.

His Majesty the King, of course!

Image reproduced courtesy of the Museum of Brands

Retailers went a little overboard for tie-ins for the Coronation (if you enlarge above, you might see The Peacemaker Whisky and Coronation Butterscotch, even a commemorative box of starch!) and continued the theme throughout Bertie's reign. Imperial this and Royal that, King of all Toffee and Queen Chocolate as well as rather classist names like 'Chocolat d'Elite' and Aristocrat cigarettes. Sadly, these brands were all limited-edition! 


But this leads me onto another of the King's favourite vices - 'gaspers' (also known as cigarettes). He reputedly smoked more than 12 cigars and 20 cigarettes every day, which inevitably contributed to his death in 1910. Unfortunately a lot of the populace probably went the same way, due to the increasingly fashionable pastime that was smoking. The Imperial Tobacco Company was formed in 1901 and in the days before lung cancer (the discovery, not the actual disease), brands like Woodbines were selling an astonishing 500 million a year. It was becoming so prevalent to smoke, with new brands emerging designed to appeal to men and women separately, and children cottoning on, that a clause in the Children’s Act of 1908 was made, forbidding the sale of tobacco to under-16s.

I could go on about a lot more unglamorous brands from the time like Cherry Blossom shoe polish (1903), Brasso (1905), Toblerone (1908) and Persil (1909), but as this is a piece in association with The King's Ginger, itself a most glamorous product, I'll end with a little bit about cosmetics and perfumes.


The ladies of the era like their Victorian predecessors liked both exotic fragrances that evoked the far-flung lands of the Empire and beyond, and more homely scents. So Japanese-inspired Hasu-no-Hana jostled side-by-side with Yardley's April Violet and Plantol soap (launched by Levers to try to oust Pears...it didn't) in the Edwardian toilette. Sadly, I can't see a single perfume in the spread above, other than Yardley's, which is still around today (and The Internet suggests that the latter was launched in 1913, so not sure even about that). 

Lastly, any excuse for a bit of Art Nouveau, which was used to advertise everything from biscuits to books in the 1900s. I recommend the Museum of Brands' founder Robert Opie's Edwardian Scrapbook this is reproduced from as a fabulous bit of Art Nouveau inspiration! 


In summary, there are many, many more brands that were contemporary of King Edward VII that I could have written about today, but I shall leave it there. If you're interested in these things, do visit the Museum of Brands if you can, I thoroughly recommend it... though there is one brand conspicuously missing... 

Side-note, been styling my hair in a softer style lately - what do you think? 

May I therefore take this opportunity to recommend a certain cockle-warming recipe to you all, if you have decided that this is the time to give the old KGL a try!

The recipe for the Kings Mulled Cyder can be found here

Happy historical supping!

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Vintage tattooing x 2015

Hi everyone! Happy New Year to you all! It's far too late to be saying that, but since haven't posted since before Christmas, then it still applies. Hope you all had the most smashing holidays and haven't been suffering too much being back at work, as I have.

In my last post, I showed off my new arm tattoo by the talented Tracy D, the latest photo of which is above. It has started something of a slippery slope to wanting more and more work! I love traditional style/old school tattoos and had a vague idea that after my Art Nouveau masterpiece is finished on my left arm, that I would go down the traditional route for the other. Pirate ships, roses, a roaring panther, that sort of thing. But since I have promised my mum (hi Mum!) that I won't get my other one done, I have had to think laterally. Well, vertically. To my leg, to be precise. More on that later.

All these pics © Chris Lambert Tattoo

I have become fascinated with tattoo history recently, while researching for a future King's Ginger piece. It seems the headline that we always see about tattoos 'becoming popular', variations on the old, 'tattoos were once only for sailors and bikers, now they can be found on sophisticated folks everywhere!' type of story have been being rolled out for centuries. King Edward VII and quite a lot of historical aristocracy had them, and the contemporary newspaper articles on the subject were just the same! Anyway, more on the latter soon, in the meantime, I thought it would be a fun and interesting blog post to put my interest into an interview with a London-based traditional tattooist who knows his vintage tattoo history. So here it is!

Chris Lambert is one of my darling boyfriend's oldest pals and also a very talented chap. He has been tattooing for six years now and very recently moved from Leeds to the Big Smoke, currently working with Horikitsune in his studio in Central London. The fact I know him socially as well meant that he was the perfect person to have a long chat to about tattooing through the ages!

Chris told me that he initially fell in love with the tattoo-inspired art that often appeared on the album covers of the bands that he used to listen to as a teenager. A trip to Japan soon cemented his love of tattoo culture, and particularly irezumi, (Japanese traditional tattooing). There, he saw people who had made a career out of tattooing irezumi, doing some amazing work. Compared to some of the incredibly young tattooists that are around in abundance today, Chris came into the tattooing game quite late at 27. Due to a medical condition, doctors advised him against getting anything himself, but after visiting Japan that first time and deciding he was going to make a go of tattooing, he got two traditional swallows on his legs for his very first tattoos. "And to my surprise they both healed perfectly!" he told me. The rest is history.

Have a read of my interview with Chris about that history (both his and tattooing in general), below!


Firstly, tell me about your path to professional tattooing! 

The realisation came after visiting Japan, and when I got back to England, I decided to find myself an apprenticeship. I put together a portfolio of paintings and drawings and starting getting tattooed by local artists in my area, this naturally led to me being offered a spot as a shop apprentice in Leeds. After a couple of years of sweeping floors and cleaning tubes, I finally started to progress and travelled to other shops as well as overseas to America when I had reached a certain standard and was considered decent enough to do so.

Chris has been back to Japan several times since!

You specialise in traditional tattooing (as well as Japanese styles). What drew you to the old-school rather than more modern styles?

Travelling to America led to my discovery of the American traditional tattooing that had its heyday from the 20s to 40s and originated mainly amongst the servicemen in the Navy. I love the simple, bold designs that look great even when you're older. Back then, the tattooists only had a limited colour palette (this is before you could buy your inks from a company in a catalogue... These guys had to make their own inks!), and I find that this limitation creates a style that I really like. It captures the nostalgia of the period. I also love the Japanese style for its history and incredibly striking, timeless designs. The reason I love these styles the best is exactly that - they are timeless. They also tend to age very well to due to their boldness. I like being able to tell what a tattoo is from across a room, rather than the more colour-centric, realistic styles of the modern era.


While tattooing has never quite been the sole remit of sailors, it's true that today it's a lot more mainstream than 70 years ago. What was the life of a tattoo artist like in the 30s, 40s and 50s?

In the US at that time, most tattoo artists didn't tattoo as a full time job. The most well documented and famous tattooists of that era were servicemen in the army and (mainly) navy. They would work full-time on the ships and when they had leave from their duty, for maybe 24 hours to two days at most, they would tattoo all the other servicemen who were also on their leave, sometimes tattooing for two days straight! This is where the simplicity of the style comes from, it was all about speed: how many folks can they get through the door before they have to report back for duty.

There were also tattooists at this time that were still travelling around with the remaining circuses of America, (a well known character famously documented for starting in the travelling circuses is a guy called Stoney, featured in a great documentary called 'Stoney Knows How', also starring Ed Hardy). These guys also didn't tattoo full time, usually. In the circuses of the late 1800s to (possibly) 1940s, it wasn't unusual to find women tattooing. Half of their time would be spent tattooing and their other role would be as an attraction, 'The Tattooed Lady'. Not a glamorous job, as it was usually just a seedy excuse for men to go and paw over a scantily-clad woman, who happened to be tattooed!

Was there much difference in the UK and US tattoo scenes back then?

Tattooing in the UK had its heyday at the turn of the century when Japan opened its doors to trade, the rich and wealthy came back to England with souvenir tattoos of oriental design. When Chinoiserie and Japonisme became the height of fashion, a small amount of tattooists began to tattoo the upper classes and royalty with these oriental, Masonic and trophy designs. The style was more fine lined with less black under-shading at this point. Tattooing eventually trickled down into the military classes and found its way to America where traditional tattooing was refined.


Many will know about Sailor Jerry already, but who are some other classic artists you admire?

I love Bert Grimm who had an impressive collection of flash. I think one of my all-time favourite tattooists of this era has to be a chap called Cap Coleman. Again, another guy who was ex-army. He had an shop in Richmond, Virginia.


Sailor Jerry idolised Cap Coleman and he reworked many of his flash designs. I like the fact that Coleman used to draw all the flash he had on the walls a little wonky so that if people came trying to steal his designs they wouldn't get it quite right if they didn't know what they where doing haha. The old guys used to do this so that you were even more pleased with your tattoo when finished as it looked better than when you picked it off the wall. Haha, sneaky!

Original Cap Coleman flash sheet from the mid-30s that Chris owns!
Electric tattoo machines were invented in the late 1800s - how did the technology change between then and the 40s, and the 40s and now?

Well, the rotary was the first type of machine to be invented, then the coil machine modified from an Edison invention came along after that, and to be honest... it hasn't really changed since. You may get the odd fad machine, but it's like trying to reinvent the wheel, they never last. Yes, we don't have to solder our own needles every day if we don't want to, but the actual machines haven't changed much at all. In fact, vintage machines are highly sought after, especially if they were made by a particularly good maker.

I personally think actual 'vintage' tattoos (faded 40+ year old designs on elderly folks) look pretty cool, but do you think that techniques have improved so that by the time our generation are elderly, our work will stay more intact?

I agree!

Nowadays, we have better quality inks, with no heavy metals or toxic ingredients, and the pigments are much better - they don't tend to 'blue' as older black indian inks did. This will certainly help our tattoos to age better to a certain degree. But it's mainly down to the design you have chosen which will determine how your tattoo will age. Always stick with solid black outlines, this will ensure the design will age well and still be recognisable later on down the road.

Unlike 90s tribal, traditional tattoos never seem to really date. Why do you think that is? 

I think very much like the fashions of the time, (30s and 40s), these designs will always appeal to us as they come from a timeless era. They will probably continue to be reinvented into the future, but we will always end up coming back to the classics.

Fascinating, huh? And what about my own little foray into traditional tattoos? Ta-da! I adore it.


If you fancy getting your own piece of traditional tattoo history from Chris, you can contact him through his website, at chris@chrislamberttattoo.com or on 07967 333521.

He also sells a range of excellent prints, badges and plugs of all gauges featuring his designs on UK Custom Plugs.

We have this very print at home!


He told me that UK Custom Plugs will also soon be releasing an old school tattoo colouring book drawn by him as well, in case any of you fancy trying your hand at whip-shading!

On a side note, Chris drew this fabulous poster for his partner Colette, who is about to launch her own tarot-reading site. If anyone would like their cards read by a wonderful lady, drop her a line at ladypeonytarot@gmail.com!
Hope you enjoyed reading my foray into interviewing!

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

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