Monday, 27 December 2010

A belated Merry Fat-mas to you all

Dear everyone,

Sorry for the lack of posting in the run-up to Christmas. This has been the strangest Chrimbo of my life, not for any one particular reason, I've just never felt so unfestive and unorganised! I bought all my presents late, wrapped them at the last possible second, did none of my traditional festive baking, didn't even get motivated enough to set off for home before dark, and my dad called me up to say not to even attempt it at night, due to treacherous ice. So I spent Christmas Eve on my own, drinking wine and watching telly. Very strange!

The day itself was as lovely as ever, and I got some splendid presents from my family and my best friend. Here's the one and only photograph of the day: me and my brother in front of (and indeed obscuring) the Christmas tree!

I'm wearing an old favourite dress from last year, by Able Grable, with a ribbon belt (which I took off in preparation for eating. Turns out I needn't have bothered, since for the first time in living history, I failed to finish my Christmas turkey dinner! Nor did a single piece of chocolate or cake (or any further bit of food that day) pass my lips. If anyone has seen my appetite, I'd like it back please! But I enjoyed it nonetheless, and fell asleep in front of Dr Who (which I rewatched last night - ace!), but woke up in time for Poirot, hurrah! A relaxing Christmas all round. Here's a snap of the presents my brother gave me - let it never be said that I am a girly girl!

Can't wait to watch the Expendables!

I'm so ready for 2010, my annus horribilis (as far as my personal life goes), to be over. I will try to post again before the New Year, but if I don't, I hope that each and every one of you has a fabulous time. Catch you on the flip side!

Fleur xx

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Winter footwear & a final party plug

I sometimes curse my parents for feeding me so much fluoride and calcium as a child. While it's lovely to be strapping, strong and healthy, I never had any chance of having lovely, dainty feet. If I'd been around in the 1940s, aside from all the other drawbacks mentioned in my earlier post, I'd have been forced to wear men's shoes. It's most unlikely that I'd have been able to afford custom-made ones anyway! So I rely on vintage inspired and repro shoes, of which there are many. Luckily! But it still makes me shed a tear when I see such amazing, original shoes as these...

These CC41, sheepskin-lined, black suede snow boots just sold on eBay for a shade over £100. Worth every penny, I'd say. They are utterly beautiful, don't you think? At size 4.5 (6.5US), there was no chance of me fitting them, even if I chopped off my toes (which I considered)!

Luckily, I was saved from further depression by the fact that I already own some rather smashing, and not entirely dissimilar shoes, made by those purveyors of gorgeous footwear, Miss L Fire.

These Ellison shoes manage to perfectly bridge the gap between 40s chic and old lady slippers, and I absolutely love mine, which are in the above tan colourway. They also come in black and grey... both of which I now want as well!
I bought them from Shudoo, but they can also be bought from ASOS, where they have styled them slightly differently. If you wear them with the sheepskin bit completely unfolded, they look remarkably similar to the original 1940s boots above. Hurrah!

I will admit these fashion shoes are not suitable footwear for those of you who live in places that get serious snow. Nor would I wear them here, if it snows heavily, as the weathermen have been threatening! But they are lovely and snug for when it's cold but dry. If it's icy underfoot, I also have a pair of these, from Clarks; which have a practical, crepe sole and look just as lovely! They are in the sale as well, for just £50 (as well as a couple of sizes in black).

This weekend, I am helping out at the '1940s Demob Ball' being held at posh old London Gentleman's club the Naval and Military (aka the In and Out), but it would be remiss of me not to tell any London-based vintage partygoers about the last Candlelight Club of the year.

Christmas by Candlelight is taking place at a secret location this Saturday 18th. Tickets cost £15.

For this you get:
• A free drink on arrival

• A quirky supper of exotic, Christmas-flavoured gourmet sandwiches, in our basement hideaway specially decorated for the occasion

• Live 1920s ragtime from ex-Royal Flying Corps heroes turned jazz messengers Albert Ball's Flying Aces (if you missed my Hallowe'en event, catch them here! -Fleur)

• Vintage shellac spun all evening by MC Fruity, London's premier vintage DJ

• Our Christmas present for you to take home: a free limited-edition CD of Candlelight Club 1920s music, cleverly fashioned to look just like an old 78 record—this 26-track album will only be available at this event

PLUS a mini bottle of SW4 gin, "The Gin of Champions". In effect, it's a pocket-sized version of the Club, to keep you company this Christmas.

 • A one-off menu of attractively priced Christmas cocktails created by Will Sprunt:

Mince Flip
Homemade mincemeat vodka, sherry, cream, nutmeg
Related to the Alexander cocktail, this concoction is basically Christmas in a glass
Chestnuts on an Open Fire
SW4 gin, Bowmore single malt whisky, chestnut syrup
A fruity, smoky, nutty short
Ginger Snap
Rum, advocaat, ginger beer, Boker's Bitters
Like a spicy Dark n' Stormy cocktail with an extra indulgent richness
Cherry Christmas
SW4 gin, cherry bitters, rosemary tincture, cranberry juice
Long and fruity with an aromatic perfumed twist
Mulled Sour
SW4 gin, port, cointreau, lemon juice, Boker's Bitters
Sweet and sour mulled-wine flavours in a chilled tongue-tingling extravaganza

Do pop along if you fancy it (tickets can be bought here), to support one of London's best and newest nights for vintage enthusiasts... I'm sad to miss it, but I'll be at the first one in the New Year!

Toodle-oo for now!

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Partying like it's 1935

'Tis the season to be jolly... drunk on gin and champagne. Attending two rather splendid parties in a week, first the Chap Magazine's second Grand Anarcho-Dandyist Ball, closely followed by the New Sheridan Club's Back To The Futurists Christmas Party, has left me feeling rather in need of a detox. But, oh! What fun they were!

At Christmas time, it's my yearly tradition to work with my best friend of 12 years, in the posh kitchenwares shop that she manages. The downside of this is that I have hardly any time in which to get ready for the big Christmas parties that I wish to attend. But, hopefully, I pulled it off! Let me show you the evidence.

I didn't have my camera for the Chap Ball. Which turned out to be a good thing, because the gin and tonics were so very strong, and I managed to acquire so many of them over the evening, that I would probably have broken and/or lost it. The only surviving photos are by others, and none of them show my (in my opinion) fabulous gown in all its glory. Oh well - this just means I can wear it again, sooner rather than later!

Here I am at the beginning of the night in a photo by Mark Davies, posing with the Chap's designer Michaela and wearing a 1930s gown. It's made from heavy, double-layered black crepe with cream/white (it needs dry cleaning I think) birds woven into it. The thin straps, neckline and hem are trimmed with ruffled, black silk velvet. I wore a black velvet ribbon as a belt, a coppery gold bird in my hair, gold sandals, and my Able Grable faux fur capelet! In the second photo, I'm with the gorgeous ladies Bethan (who organised the event with The Chap and doesn't have a blog), Gemma Bake Do and Mend, Jeni Yesterday Girl, Lisa Snoodlebug and Penny Dreadful. Photo is from Jeni's camera. I think we all look smashing (and tipsy).

And then it all started to go a bit wonky.

In photos pinched from Penny Dreadful and my friend Russell, you can see the rather epic dancing that went on later. The second one I particularly like, with Sara and I dancing to the 'On a Ragga Tip' part of Mr B. The Gentleman Rhymer's 'Songs For Acid Edward' ditty. Mr B actually launched his brand-new Album 'I Say' on this very night, and I can vouch for its sheer brilliance (follow the link to his shop if you care to).

The rest of the night was a blur of Top Shelf Jazz, Viv the Spiv's tabletop horse racing, Nickolas Grace and general debauchery. Clayton Hartley took some great photos of the Night of a Thousand Waistcoats, which can be found on his Flickr, so do take a look.

It did take me almost the whole week to recover, which I did just in time for the New Sheridan Party. This was a much smaller affair after the 800 attendees of the Chap Ball, full of friends, and much more reserved (for me!). It had an Avant Garde, Futurism theme, and I decided to wear a fairly plain dress, but with some rather snazzy, snowflake fairy-lights upon my head!

Sorry about the bright flash! It looks like I'm wearing a jumpsuit here, but in fact, the dress was a brand new black '1940s Maxi Dress', purchased from Warehouse. I had planned to add some kind of art deco beading to it, but ran out of time (and energy), so instead I wore a silver ribbon as a belt, and pinned on a sun-bursty brooch (with matching earrings). Since I don't own any silver sandals, I wore my Rocket Originals Esther wedges. (Psst. Have you seen Rocket's new Lana design? Amazing!). The fairy lights had a substantial battery pack containing three AA batteries, and was really quite heavy and hard to disguise! I did this in about half an hour, and I think I can do better for New Year's Eve, when I intend to wear it again! Perhaps with the bird gown this time. I finished off the costume with silver eyeshadow and nail varnish.

New Sheridan parties are always a wheeze. Jeni, Bethan and I played Shoot the Lobster off the Telephone, which Jeni actually managed to do! We missed the Priest-Dragging completely. I also didn't win anything in the Grand Raffle, sadly, but Bethan and I watched lovely Minna aka Red Legs take home the Bespoke Shirt prize, and Jeni snaffle some delicious SW4 Gin. Hurrah!

Again, there are some more photos of everyone, from Matt the Gentleman Juggler (amazing) to Suri Sumatra's Metropolis themed act (breathtaking) to be seen on Clayton's Flickr stream, so do go have a look.

Phew. That's all for now! Pip pip!

Fleur xx

Monday, 6 December 2010

Vintage Snobbery vs Vintage Failing

Oh, it's been a crazy few days in my world. Or, more specifically, my blog world. It all began way back in the mists of time, aka Friday night, when I posted a long and heartfelt post about how 'rubbish' my life is at the moment, I got some incredibly lovely comments overnight, then on Saturday morning, it was deleted. Basically, it was posted without thought, at a time when it could have potentially further damaged the very situation I was referencing. And if you read it, you would know why I wouldn't want to make it worse! I don't really want to bring it up again at the moment, but I realised today that the post is still showing in some people's Google Readers, and so I have continued to get some amazing emails from people, all around the world. I can't thank you all enough.

But apparently, the act of deleting my post and the fact that people then continued to leave me comments on my last post (which was ostensibly about glamorous party frocks), has offended someone enough for them to leave me a rude anonymous comment. This person feels that since I have no backbone (and no stiff upper lip, or is it that I do have a stiff upper lip - am a tad confused), I couldn't possibly have survived the Blitz, nor could I have coped in the 1940s without my precious lip primer. I am, they say, 'no vintage person'. Contrast this to the last time I received anonymous abuse on here, in which I was roundly trounced for being a 'vintage snob', after I was mean about afro wigs and people in cagoules at a vintage festival. So am I in fact a vintage snob, or am I actually a terrible fashion follower who doesn't care about vintage at all?

Let's look at the good things about the past. It was a much more innocent time.

Borrowed from Silent Screen Queen on Flickr

I think you can take it as read that, to me, the 1930s and 40s represent the absolute zenith of style. From Art Deco furniture to the wonderful shapes and silhouettes of the clothes of the time, I worship vintage style. I also love it for its individuality, something I have been devoted to my whole fashion-conscious life. I hate wearing the same thing as someone else. This is why, although I am happy to wear repro on a daily basis, I will only ever wear vintage, one-off repro or something which I am 99% sure will not be seen on anyone else, to a large vintage event. But what about life back then? In the 30s and 40s (if you discount the War), the news wasn't so full of scare-stories, and there is little doubt that generally people were a bit more civil to each other than now. During the Blitz, people came together to help each other, and yes, in rural communities, people could leave their doors and cars unlocked. For many people, life was nice and simple, I'm sure. People didn't rape or murder each other... as much. Maybe it was just unreported. It does seem as though it was quite nice back then for some people. But I don't want to go back to the past. I prefer the present day.

Let's look at it objectively. How would I have coped during WWII. I haven't the faintest idea. How long is a piece of string?

Would I have breezed through it, with nothing more than a few nights in an air-raid shelter and minimal discomfort? Would I have had to leave my family and gone off to work in a factory? Would I have been a lady pilot? Would I have lost everything I own to a bomb? Would I have lost my boyfriend or husband or brother in the fighting? Would I have lived in a lovely rural village, eating way more than my ration book would have allowed? There is absolutely no way to know. I consider myself to be quite a strong person, but the fact that I'm seemingly not immune to depression has made me realise I am not a superhuman with no emotions, funnily enough. But I am still here, just as friends of mine are, who have had broken hearts, lost parents, had serious accidents, suffered abuse, and other such awful things happen to them, far worse than has happened to me. I'm sure that if the worst had happened, I would have got by. And even if it had been relatively painless, I'm sure I'd have had a good old moan and whinge to my friends about sleepless nights and weeing in buckets. And about not being able to get any new lipstick or a new frock. Because let's face it, we'd each have had a couple to our names, with maybe one more for best. And no stockings. And the same amount of cheese that I eat in one bite, to last a whole week. Rubbish.

If I had lived back then, would I have dressed like a Victorian, in order to express my individuality? No - if I had, I'd have been sectioned. People didn't do things like that unless they were vastly wealthy and a lovable eccentric. I certainly would not have fallen into the wealthy category then. I may even, as others of my friends pointed out, been a servant. I wouldn't have been to university, I probably wouldn't be living on my own, making a living as a freelance writer. Well, I *might* have been. Who knows? But one thing is for sure, I don't believe I was 'born in the wrong era'. Snoodlebug just posted an excellent rant on the subject, as have others on my blog roll in the past. Generally, with a few exceptions, most of the people of my acquaintance feel the same. The past would be a nice place to visit (and buy all the frocks, shoes, furniture, whatever, that we please), but most of us wouldn't want to stay there. Not unless we were in the Bertie Wooster set.

I have been brought up to have old fashioned manners, and I always hold doors open, say please and thank you, treat others with the courtesy and respect that I wish to be afforded. Of course I lose my temper sometimes and I can be critical. But being mean about false moustaches or cheap, tacky costumes is part of Chappist culture. I've said over and over that I enjoy spending my time with likeminded folks, just as most people do. When people make a mockery of your lifestyle, it does sting a bit. And as Red Legs points out in the moustache rant, people wouldn't go to a soul event blacked-up, so why come to a decadent, dandyesque event in a joke shop moustache? Before people get critical, I realise it's not in the same league as racism, but I am making a point. None of it is life or death, but forgive us for having a moan about it!

On a serious note, one of the main reasons, perhaps, that I don't have a rosy-tinted view of the past, is that my own relatives didn't have such a lovely, carefree time back then. My maternal grandparents married just before my RAF bomber-pilot grandad was shot down in 1943, and he spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. He came back rather scarred, mentally, from his experience, and when my grandmother gave birth to my mum in 1946, treated her absolutely atrociously. They never divorced, because it was not the 'done thing', but my goodness me, they should have done. My grandmother spent 30 years on strong barbiturates that the doctors told her she should never come off, because they knew of no other way to deal with her depression. My grandad died in debt, leaving a second life that no one knew about, to be discovered later. And his experiences in the war made him like that, I have no doubt.

My paternal grandparents were a little younger during the war. My grandad drove a fire engine in the Blitz. He had a nervous breakdown. He was 18 years old.

So judging by my own family's reactions to their wartime experiences, I might well have not had that purported stiff upper lip after all. I might, in fact, have been a total mess. Just as I am now over something that is in essence far more trivial than going through a World War, but which has nonetheless shaken me to my very core. So I am eternally grateful that there are other, nice things, and lovely people in my life keeping me sane. And that I am not being bombed every night, or lacking in nice frocks and lipsticks. Here's to modern materialism! ;)

I'm not sure whether I have answered my own question about whether I am a snob or a fake, but I'm going to stop wittering on now. To sum up, there are many aspects of the past that I enjoy, the clothes and style being one; the perceived politeness and courtesy towards others that may or may not have existed (depending on where and who you were)... the things we all believe to have disappeared in the modern world. The things I have no time for are primitive health knowledge, lack of civil rights, lack of deodorant, so on and so forth, etc, etc. I like my car, my laptop, my internet, sushi, nice shoes that fit (if I'd lived in the 40s with size 8/10US feet, I'd have been in men's shoes), not having bombs dropped on me. Basically, anyone who is a normal person, and not a troll, will, I am sure, get what I mean. I have no problem with those that hanker after the past, as long as they also realise that they're hankering over an idealised version of it. In the mean time, I shall continue dressing in vintage, reading books about it, and learning about social and fashion history without actually wishing I could go back. Actually, hang on... there were more men with real moustaches back then, weren't there?! I think I have changed my mind... ;)

That is all.

Fleur xx

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Sponsor Spotlight - Foxy Party Frocks

I originally posted this last night and took it down and posted something in its place. That's now gone as well. This is probably not making much sense... basically I'd like to give my wonderful sponsor 20th Century Foxy their opportunity in the limelight at the top of my blog, and will promise my lovely readers that I will ensure this blog is filled with more than just sponsor posts in the New Year. Thanks for bearing with me :)

Ahoy from my snow-bound living room, where I am sitting wearing an outfit that can in no way whatsoever be described as vintage, being made up of many layers and a *gasp* fleece monstrosity that belonged to my Dad... but I am warm, so who cares! I am saving all my glamour up for tonight's Chap Ball, and still need to repair a moth hole in my gown and glue a hair accessory to a clip before I can truly say I am prepared. I hope to see lots of gorgeous Chaps and Chapettes there! But on the subject of parties and outfits, I would just like to draw my readers' attention to a fine emporium, who have been one of my sponsors for a couple of months now.

20th Century Foxy is run by a very savvy lady called Clare, and her shop strikes the perfect balance of dresses and separates that embody the slinky, wiggle skirted vintage-inspired looks, and those authentic reproductions. She stocks pieces by British label Tara Starlet as well as US-based lines Stop Staring, and Trashy Diva, saving you the hassle and extra customs fees of ordering from America. At this time of year, I don't know about you,but I need little encouragement to dress up to the absolute nines, and 20th Century Foxy has so many lovely party-appropriate dresses, that I've decided to do a feature on those!

The aptly named Party Dresses section has some lovely, shiny, wiggly numbers. I love a shoulder detail, and here there are three possibilities! The one-shouldered Ava, the satin swag-shouldered Harlow and Tara Starlet's shoulder-embellished 40s gown in a lovely, wearable shade.  I also added the femme fatale-eque Lolita dress, which can be dressed up with some contrasting red accessories! Stop Staring dresses are very sculpting, and really make the most of one's figure. It's a look I don't often go for myself, but one I admire very much on others!

Regular readers will know that I am particularly fond of day dresses, and have no qualms wearing them to parties. All of the above frocks are in 20th Century Foxy's Day Dresses area, but they would all be perfectly appropriate to wear to any fancy soirees (with the exception of black and white tie shindigs). I think they are all from Trashy Diva's line, one I've mentioned here before. Their designs are always lovely quality. The Jenny dress is the ideal little black number, with the perfect 1940s length, a fitted midriff and some natty seaming. The navy Halterneck Circle dress in resplendant in navy, broderie anglaise-looking cotton, looks super on amply proportioned girls, as the model ably demonstrates. Pair with red and white accessories for a patriotic look, or persimmon orange for a really authentic colour combination! Every girl should have a spotty frock, and the 40s style one above is perfect, taking you from tea to the tiles! And I love the yellow and black bow print of the cleverly draped 40s dress above - pencil-shaped at the back with authentic-looking swags at the front. Really, really, good repro in quality rayon.

Brits and ladies of Europe, please do take a moment to peruse 20th Century Foxy, because in addition to the lovely clobber, they also do some smashing accessories, shoes and even lingerie, to help you get that perfect silhouette under your new frock! And a little bird told me they will be getting in some new styles in a matter of days... happy frock buying!

Fleur xx

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