Monday, 26 July 2010

Booze, Glorious Booze! Part 1

Hello everyone and welcome to this well and truly overdue update! I'm so glad everyone loved the Fleur dress as much as me. Shona and I have some new fabric variations coming up, so stay tuned, especially if you fancy something darker for autumn! This week, however, I'm not talking about frocks. I am talking about Booze!

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of Diary of a Vintage Girl that I am partial to a splash of gin every now and then. So when an invitation come through to attend the launch of a brand-new gin brand, from one of the world's oldest wine merchants (who, it must be said, know their stuff), I hardly had to devote a moment's thought to my answer. So when last Wednesday arrived, I put on one of my nice frocks and toddled off to Berry Bros. & Rudd to sample their No. 3 London Dry Gin.

You may remember the last BBR launch event I attended, for The King's Ginger liqueur, way back in November. It was such a wonderful evening that I had high hopes for the gin tasting, plus I had the added bonus of being able to try more than two cocktails, since I didn't have to drive anywhere. Hurrah!

I arrived at BBR and was immediately ushered down into the vaulted caverns underneath. Down there were three bartenders, famed the length and breadth of the country for their skills in mixology. I did endeavour to sample everything on offer, but sadly fell slightly short! The gin itself was lovely. Although I frequently post about another brand of gin here, it must be said that actually, I just enjoy that particular spirit. I am not going to pretend that I can write a serious critique of No. 3 Gin, but I know what I like! It has a slightly citrus flavour, with the spices just creeping in as an aftertaste. The cocktails on offer really made the most of the gin's unique botanicals, and were all made with wonderfully fresh herbs and fruit, including super-expensive Sicilian lemons. And they were blooming strong!

I must confess, I have still never tried a martini! My favourite cocktail was the French 75s by Alessandro Palazzi from Dukes, which is a marvellous place to visit (although I haven't been there since Christmas 2008). A close runner up was Miles Davis's Aviated Smash. Mr Davies works at the famous Hix Bar in Soho, and his creation featured cherry infused No. 3 and lemon verbena, among other ingredients. Delicious. The canapes were also sublime. But what of the clientele?

I had the pleasure of the company of such fine chaps as Atters and his lovely friend Francesca, Mr Neil Ridley (whose blog Cask Strength is worth a read if you're a fan of whisky), Mr Marcin Miller from Quercus, who kindly invited me along; and of two other sterling coves - Darren The Whisky Guy and Ben the Master of Malt. As you can see, everyone else there knew far more about booze than I! So instead of holding forth (badly) about the flavour of the gin itself, let me instead show you something I can do well - pose! Here are some final photos of me with the (rather stylish) No. 3 Gin bottle and a brand-spanking-new Aston Martin!

The bottle itself was beautifully designed, with a key etched into the front. It's a replica of the original key to No. 3 St James's Stree, also known as Berry Bros. & Rudd! The car was almost straight off the production line, and belonged to the head of HWM, an Aston Martin dealership which is close to where I live (and housed in an amazing Art Deco building). I wore my 1940s Swirl dress for the occasion, paired with my much-loved green Rocket Originals Connies.

Sadly, the evening ended with me leaving empty handed, since all the crazy people who eschewed further free cocktails and canapes snaffled all the goodie bags. I am now awaiting a shipment of No. 3 London Dry Gin to place in my own Art Deco cocktail cabinet, to sample, and just make absolutely sure that I really do like it... ;) Honestly chaps and chapettes, if you enjoy gin, then do give it a try.

I'll be back with one review of one more booze-filled launch - this time the Jacques Townhouse in Fitzrovia. This one is far more girly, too, so expect some pretty photos to look at.

Until next time, adieu!

Fleur xx

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

A dream come true...

Although I know a few people have spotted, and indeed indulged themselves in the frock I'm about to unveil to you all, I shall nonetheless make my very exciting announcement now, as if no one in the world has yet discovered the news. This project has been a good while in the planning, because nothing other than perfection will do, for myself, or for you. But finally, it's here, it's arrived, the realisation of a long-time burning ambition. I am delighted to tell you all that there now exists a dress, co-designed, inspired by and named after yours truly! Can you believe it?

Allow me to introduce...

The Fleur dress is inspired by the vintage wrap dresses that I love so much, and is based on a dress in my collection that's actually handmade, but in the same style. Our inaugural, limited edition version has been called 'English Rose', and the design has a late 40s silhouette, with a gored skirt that's not too full. Shona and I wanted to find a print fabric that works for ladies who love the 40s and the 50s, and with this lovely quality, 100% cotton, scattered with lush roses, we think we clinched it. The Fleur wraps from the back, fastening with a single button (which will change with each design, and in this case is a perfectly matching rose design), and closes with two long ties that can be fastened in a bow at the front, or the back, depending on your mood! It has two crescent shaped patch pockets, and features tucking at the pocket tops and neckline; and should fall somewhere around mid-calf, for a truly authentic 40s look.

Although the originals were mainly worn as house dresses, as you all know, I will happily wear them out shopping, to parties, to nightclubs... it's all about how you dress it up or down. We wanted to create something versatile and easy to wear for all shapes and sizes. The Fleur costs £80 and is available in sizes XS (about a UK size 6-8/US 4-6) to XL (UK 20-22/US 24-26). And I'm not just saying it, but they look fabulous on ladies at both ends of the spectrum, as I have seen with my own eyes!

So, what do you think of our first Fleur, ladies? Head over to Heyday for a closer look if you like! But do hurry if you fancy owning one of your own, because we only did a small run this time, and we anticipate them selling out quite quickly. As far as future designs go, the possibilities are almost limitless, and we certainly have some spectacular ideas in the pipeline.

I may have a further update for you soon, including a possible exciting opportunity. So stay tuned!

Fleur xx

PS. All photos by Tony Nylons. And just by the by, Shona has taken Heyday and her stock of Fleurs to the War and Peace Show this weekend, so any gals heading there can go and try one on!

Monday, 19 July 2010

When Chaps Attack...

Happy Monday to all my blog followers and droppers-by. I hope you all had splendid weekends? Mine was the very best in recent memory. Or, at least, the Saturday was, because it was the long awaited, 6th Annual Chap Olympiad 2010! Held in Bedford Square Gardens, it's in Central London, but tucked away from the unwashed masses and the hoi polloi. As I told all and sundry, I was supposed to be recording the scores this year, reprising my role from 2009, and since I actually wanted to participate in some events this year, I had devised a cunning plan. Basically, in true Chap fashion, I would name myself the winner of any event in which I took part! Clever, non?

But it was not to be, since Mr Temple, editor of that fine periodical, The Chap Magazine (the organisers, of course), forgot to bring my chalkboard. So I was merely a punter this year, although I did make use of some distinctly underhand tactics. More on this later.

After a week of changeable weather and rain, it was actually the perfect day for the Olympiad. Not too hot, not too sunny, but not too cold or windy. No rain either, thank goodness. Nonetheless, I had to keep my cardigan on all day, and I'd taken the precaution of an updo to save my coiffure from disaster. I was wearing a vintage 50s cotton frock (with victory rolls, oh well!), my white Dixabilly bolero and white Remix sandals. And fully fashioned seamed stockings from What Katie Did, as it was not too warm. Hurrah! On to the photos!

After the lighting of the Olympic pipe and the opening ceremony, the first event I entered was the Martini Relay. The aim is for a team of four to use their cumulative skills to mix the perfect dry martini, compered (as was every event) to perfection by Antony Elvin. My task was to do the shaking, pouring and garnishing the finished drink with an olive. My 'rival' was Miss Minna aka Red Legs, and we employed our womanly wiles, showing the Mr Temple our stocking tops to try and persuade him ours were the best. I have no idea who actually won!

I snapped a quick picture of Naomi Vintage Secret and the lovely Lisa, but here you'll see me showing off with my martini, and our team, which comprised New Sheridan Members The Chairman, The Colonel (who'd flown all the way from Last Vegas to attend), myself and the Whistling Tailor.

I then took part in the Cucumber Sandwich Discus. I didn't win. Neither did The Chairman or W. Tailor. Close came last year's Bronze Cravat winner, then Louise Quatorze, this time rechristened as 'Heidi Heil' the evil Chappist Fuhrerin. It's very utterly British to have a pantomime Nazi villain, so I hope no one will be offended (I have experienced this before, but chalk it up to cultural differences). Heidi threw her sandwich then ran ahead and snatched it up on the first bounce, ate it and then goose-stepped back to the starting line.

During the Umbrella Jousting, Heidi Heil got her comeuppance as her opponent knocked her to the floor and snatched the British flag from her evil grasp. W. Tailor disarmed the dastardly Atters - you can see the remains of his weapon to the right...

Shown here is the Tug Of Hair, sponsored by the splendid Bounder Wax. Not-so-sharp-eyed readers will see Mr Wax himself in the top right there. Bottom left is the eventual victor and Gold Cravat winner 2010, The Great Colonesse, who cheated outrageously by using his ridiculously cute daughter to distract his opponent in the Pipeathlon. I gave W. Tailor a piggy back during the same event, which consists of a 10-yard saunter, 10 yards on a bicycle, and 10 yards without one's feet touching the ground, all the while maintaining a fully lit pipe. We took a tumble but came back fighting. Sadly, we were opposite Heidi Heil, who used a carpet of living men to walk back to the finish line. No contest, really.

Here's one final collage featuring yours truly and a selection of spiffing sorts. You'll see me here with the Whistling Tailor, with that cad Atters, with the Butler, and with the gorgeous Retro Chick! I loved meeting you lady, if you're reading! I'll stop boring you all now, but instead say that if you'd like to see more photographs, including Mr Ridley's extreme bicycle stunts, plenty of action shots and chaps in tweed; head over and view my Flickr set here.

I leave you with some video links... watch me in the Cucumber Sandwich Discus (and hear the cheer when I am announced :D). Brits can watch this totally inaccurate review from London Tonight (chaps only events? What rot!). Lots of videos cropping up on One's Tube as well.

Can't wait for next year now.

Chin chin!

Fleur xx

Edit: RegLegsinSoho has explained the whole Heidi Heil thing, which has caused some small controversy, far more succinctly than I.

"It was intended in the same way as Chaplin's film The Great Dictator. To ridicule fascism is the most effective way to demean and reduce it. The very opposite of hero-worship."

There's nothing much more to add.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Ravishing vintage repro

Back at the end of May, I was privileged enough to do a shoot at the simply beautiful house of a friend of mine, Jenny. She and her husband are regulars on the swing scene, and I'd heard rumours about how gorgeous their house was. So when another mutual friend, Shona of Heyday, got in touch about a shoot for some new products, we asked Jenny if it would be ok to do it there. She said yes, and I got to prance about in her stunning garden for the day. :)

I was shooting some new lines for two of my biggest supporters, and friends, Heyday (of course) and Rocket Originals. A few other fabulous vintage companies will also pop up, so keep your eyes peeled! But as always, it's such an honour to work with these fabulous British brands, because these are the clothes I actually wear, day in and day out. The pictures were taken by another friend, Tony Nylons, whose magazine Glimpse is really worth checking out. So forgive this for being rather sponsor-tastic, but do please remember that I only promote companies I love, and not only do I love them, but they help me out immensely.

First up, we have Heyday's new french navy swing trousers, which are the perfect summer shade - not too dark so they aren't hot, and not too light, so they're perfect for picnics! The new fabric she's used is slightly linen-like in appearance, but is very crease resistant. They are gorgeous, and I have worn my pair so much already! I'm wearing it with a Natasja tie blouse with a lovely tiny floral print. Can't see it on the site, so get in touch if you would like one! My shoes are the Rocket Original Kate in navy blue. The leather on these is so soft! I've lived in mine since the shoot.

Next in line is this lovely 1940s style fairisle jumper from Rocket. It's cream with a brown and navy blue pattern, and so authentic looking. I now have two of these and actually can't wait till autumn to wear them (although I would like the sun back in time for the Olympiad on Saturday please)! I'm wearing it with brown Heyday trousers (which are mine) and now sadly discontinued Rocket Originals Connie wedges. The smashing vintage sunglasses are from Dead Men's Spex!

A better look at the blue Kate wedges, worn with a fetching navy blue squareneck sweater, also from Rocket.

These Moss Green Heyday trousers are another shade that works all year round. Worn with the tie top in Elly May green gingham. Now, on the right hand side, you'll see me holding a rather super handbag. I'm so overdue to show this bag off to you, so I hope dear Julie will forgive me! But it's the limited edition Leilani handbag from Lily Bamboo! I've never been one for big handbags, but this one has me well and truly converted. It's spacious and well designed, with beautifully carved wooden handles and a fruit embroidery that would do Carmen Miranda proud! For such craftsmanship they are incredibly good value too. Do check out the Lily Bamboo site, and tell them Fleur sent you!

Last but not least, Jenny lives right next to a river, and we immediately got rather excited about doing a few nautical shots. Sadly, getting the boat actually into the water proved far too much like hard work, so we just pretended... ;)

Ahoy there! You'll see I'm back in my navy trousers, but this time I'm wearing one of my very favourite purchases ever, a white cotton bolero from Dixabilly. It goes with absolutely everything, especially in summer when I mostly wear white shoes. Ooh it's smashing. I also have on a lovely bakelite and silver anchor pin inthe right hand picture, which belongs to Jenny. And her husband's hat. I had to give it all back, sadly. ;)

So there we have it. A bit of shameless promotion of some companies I love. Thank you Jenny, Tony, Shona and Kaye. The very best is still to come, but the eagle eyed may spot it if you follow all the links. Untill next time... avast ye landlubbers!

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Keeping your vintage cool

Huzzah, an informative post for once! This is the full version of a short article recently published in Milkcow Magazine. Much of it is probably teaching vintage girls how to suck eggs, but newbies on the scene might find it of interest. Either way, enjoy!

We're currently in the height of summer (or so the calendar says), and although this doesn't necessarily guarantee us good weather here in the UK, there's no doubt that it's been rather warm recently. Of course, as fate would have it, this post is going to go up on a dreary grey and drizzly day in the Home Counties, but it's still on the muggy side!

We all know that vintage ladies never sweated, only glowed; and the same can certainly be said today. I never sweat, no siree! But in case you find yourself 'glowing' rather a lot, as I *ahem* tend to do, here are some of my top tips for keeping your cool, and maintaining your pinup porcelain complexion!

Firstly, I've professed my love of cold cream on this blog before, but I must confess I find it far too much in the summer. I switch to a lighter organic cream cleanser to keep my skin bright and clear, but still with my beloved witch hazel as a toner. Sweeping a cotton wool ball loaded with witch hazel is a fabulous summer refresher, too, although you may have to reapply your foundation afterwards!

I can't wear sunscreen on my face – I've completely failed to find one that doesn't look like I've thrown a bucket of chip fat over myself, so instead I rely on Lily Lolo mineral foundation, which contains a natural SPF, and makes you look radiant in natural sunlight. I find it's good enough for the UK summer sunshine. However, thanks to riding my vintage bike about, I have had to go up a shade from Porcelain to Blondie!

Try to keep your hair off your neck – Betty Grable-inspired updos, plaits and rolls are perfect for this! The rat that I use in my faux bangs tutorial can be used at the back of your head for a quick and easy vintage 'do.

The rat-roll! I just start at the bottom and roll up, sticking lots of bobby pins in to secure. Simple! Do rolls or faux roll 'twists' of hair at the front.

Two plaits wrapped over the head is quick, easy and very 1930s Teutonic!

Invest in some chiffon headscarves to tie around a French pleat for a super quick, easy and cool (in the temperature sense) 'do. And procure yourself at least one of those absolutely essential vintage accessories – a parasol! A few years ago (at least in the UK) you would have attracted looks of disdain for carrying a cute paper parasol around, but I've spotted many 'normal' ladies sporting umbrellas as sunshades recently – you're more likely to be complimented than criticised these days! They're a particular must when you're bargain hunting around car boot sales, with the sun beating down relentlessly.

(Do excuse me just posting pictures of myself to illustrate these points, but I am too lazy to search beyond my own Flickr photostream today!)

A hand fan is also an absolute must-have, especially if you're unlucky enough to have to use public transport...ever! Vintage souvenir fans can be picked up on eBay for small change, and fragrant sandalwood ones are a fabulous alternative. I have bought quite a few parasols and hand fans from this UK store, Exotic & Oriental. They don't seem to have many paper parasols in stock, but they do have lovely fabric ones.

Finally, a tip from those who are more averse to machine washing vintage cotton frocks than I. My theory is that vintage housedresses are meant to be laundered, and all mine are absolutely no worse for multiple washes. I halve the spin speed though... it's the high speed spins that put strain on seams and fabric. However, if you have more precious pieces, do invest in some dress shields. My granny, being a lady of the 1940s, was also an advocate of bathing once a week (having a wash around the key areas every day, of course), and cleaning her clothes much less often; and she swore by dress shields.

Granny, looking a little like Ingrid Bergman here!

It's these little wonders that enable one to go a whole week in a single frock, as this nifty little video demonstrates. Though I do still believe that Lancelot might be slightly put off if you leave your date until Sunday after a hike or a bike through the country on Saturday! There's only so much a dress shield can do!

Put all of these things together, and hopefully you'll manage to beat the heat, even in your most exquisite 40s dress. And that, in a rather long nutshell, is that.

Fleur xx

Friday, 9 July 2010

Catch-up once more

Hello everyone!

Popping my head in to let you all know I'm still alive and muddling through. Glad you all loved Miss Hannah's photos in my last post. She's really rather fabulously talented, don't you think? She's just bought a Flickr pro account, so do go and check out her sets over there - you won't be disappointed!

So what's new with me. Well the kitty is improving, though it was over a week until some signs of healing appeared. Fingers crossed it's plain sailing from here.

I was honoured to be asked by Vivien of Holloway if I would model their brand-new pin-up shorts and 3/4 sleeve blouses. I did the 'official' shoot with Tony Nylons of Glimpse Magazine and general pin-up photography fame, and you can see them if you follow the links; but here are some more candid shots I did with my dad. :)

I am getting to keep a couple of pairs in return, so expect to see me out and about with them on!

The big thing on the horizon that I'm looking forward to immensely, is the annual Chap Olympiad 2010, which takes place next Saturday, July 17th. If you toddle over to the link, you'll see a video of last year, in which I appear twice! I really cannot wait. I shall be looking after the scoreboard again this year, giving the victors in each game the recognition they don't deserve for their sporting unprowess and general inebriation. Do come along if you're free... but hurry - last year was a total sellout! Now to decide what to wear... I wanted to sport my pink bow Swirl that I wore on my birthday, but sadly the Whistling Tailor has it for repair after its mishap, and I don't think I'll have time to grab it off him before next Saturday. Outfit Plan B still to be devised! Here are a couple of snaps I took last year.

Myself, Stefanie and Naomi Vintage Secret

Atters looking up the skirt of yours truly

Atters and the Tug of Hair (a giant moustache)

Last year's Gold Cravat winner Farhan and partner doing the Three-Trousered Limbo

Torquil Arbuthnot and Miss Minna (do read her much more eloquent Olympiad post on her blog)

It's always a wonderful day, though you can easily spot who's a Chap and who's a tourist... first time visitors do not grasp the concept fully, and race off their marks, and take it all far too seriously. At the Olympiad, you get more points for fiendish cheating and louche style than you do for speed and accuracy!

You'll find my full review, and many more pictures from last year's Olympiad right here, and I hope to return with similar such photographic evidence of this year's revels, to entertain those who are unable to make it.

Do head on over the The Chap's webular site for more information, though I believe tickets should be purchased from site itself. See you there!

Toodle pip,

Fleur xx

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Less talk, more photos

Last Saturday, my best vintage girlfriends and I were invited to a shoot at Cosmopolitan Magazine.

They were writing a piece about groups of girls getting ready to go out for the night, and they picked us; some Geordie lasses with blonde hair extensions, fake tans and long talons; some students; and some upper class debutantes. They picked us up from our homes, drove us there, shot us, gave us a slap-up lunch and drove us home. If only all shoots could be the same! It was a lovely day, and the results will be in the September issue, which comes out in August.

Here are some utterly fabulous photos taken by the one and only Hannah Asprey.

Naomi from Vintage Secret

Darhling and Ally

The talented Hannah herself, who is a vintage graphic designer.

L-R: Me, Darhling, Faye (shoe designer extraordinaire), Naomi, Ally, Hannah and Lisa

Thank you all for your kind words on my last blog post. My luck has not yet changed, sadly, because my remaining kitty, Inigo received a terrifying puncture wound in his eyeball on Sunday. My poor little man was so scared and sore, and the car journey to the emergency vet was awful, me crying and him yelling all the way there! Thank goodness he is insured because it's already cost me almost £600 in vets bills! Luckily it's looking very likely it'll heal fine *touch wood*, with no loss of eye or sight... or beauty. He is, however, taking his confinement like a man (cat) and whinging and whining from morning till night. (Thanks again to Hannah for the analogy!)

Please save your kind thoughts for Ini this time, he needs them more than me. :)

Fleur xx

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