Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Boulder holders

Today ladies (and gents), I'm going to wax a little lyrical about brassieres.

This post is prompted by a visit I made to Bravissimo, the underthings shop aimed at the curvier lady, whose bras start at 28D and end up at a KK cup. I can't even imagine a KK cup. Except that it would probably be bigger than my head.

I did get a free set of underwear out of this visit, as the aim was to introduce me to the brand and their (unique) way of fitting: by eye and using a seemingly different sizing scale to most other companies. But there's an impending can of worms about to be opened when the results of a recently conducted bra sizing survey, commissioned by some British retro lingerie brands (notably What Katie Did, Kiss Me Deadly and Ayten Gasson), is published. With (hopefully) some interesting results. I shall keep you apprised of that.

But let me state for the record, that though I do enjoy beautiful undercrackers, both modelling them and writing about them for my fabulous client (the aforementioned What Katie Did), I am not as enamoured of expensive lingerie as many girls. I have never been bought it as a present, I don't often buy it for myself; and only rarely have I ever bought any for the benefit of others. Plus, when I have, it's generally just been some shiny, new and pretty but otherwise inexpensive pieces. Usually from that bastion of British pants production, Marks and Sparks. I'll go a step further with the honesty, and confess my everyday wear consists of these pants (which often come in jazzy patterns in-store) and these bras (which I've just noticed they've put up by two English pounds! The swine!). I often just stick with white, so they always match, but I'm not averse to wearing patterned knickers with a plain, coloured bra that tones. I know! I am so daring! ;)

But I have been wearing the same size bra for a number of years now - 34D. I have always been completely satisfied with the support and fit of my favoured style of bra in my standard size. The cups fit with no gaping or 'triple boob' effect, the band fits without cutting in and causing unsightly bulge. Therefore, I'd not felt any urge to get remeasured. But when the email came from Bravissimo, I was very intrigued. I don't know of a single woman who's been to one of their shops, been fitted, and come out the same size. They always, always, get sized down at least one band size, and up a cup size accordingly. I could only conclude from this, that they were measuring people differently; since there is no way, I thought, someone who is two or three dress sizes larger than me could be the same back size. So, consumed with curiosity about both their sizing and the measuring-by-eye malarky, off I trotted to their store in the West End.

I was shown to my fitting room and greeted by a very friendly girl called Sam, who chatted to me briefly about my size, preferred bra styles and also about all things vintage (since she was curious about my look). But when we got down to the tricky business of sizing, with Sam pinging my bra strap (more gently than the boys at school used to) and studying the fit; I was proved right in my theory... instead of a 34D, she declared that I was more like a 28FF: the band should be very snug, she said, and not have almost 6 inches of give like my old one. Though i could see her point, I was extremely sceptical about this, not least because this size doesn't even exist in good old M&S! But I gamely tried on the bra she brought over, and blow me, if it didn't fit like a glove! Well... I couldn't breathe very easily, but breathing is overrated! A double-F! Corrrr! ;)

Chatting to Sam did confirm that the sizing that Bravissimo use for their bras and the other brands they sell is indeed different to that of most other companies. Actually, it makes more sense: because instead of measuring the band and adding 3 or 4 inches (so a 30 inch measurement is a 34 band size), they measure and simply use that number. And it's easy to see why their method proves so popular... who wouldn't rather say they were thinner than they thought, and a FF cup instead of a D? Well, not everyone, but many would! The trouble is, you can only then buy your bras from selected brands, and small shops like What Katie Did get a lot of headaches from women insisting they are a certain size and thus buying a standard-sized bra they don't have a hope of fitting. But it does mean Bravissimo have a lot of dedicated (and satisfied) customers.

Back at my fitting, I did actually ask to be downgraded to a 30F to make respiration a bit easier; but in all honesty, I actually quite like the fit of the bra I eventually took away, which is aptly called the Retro Plunge Bra, made by Freya. When faced with all the lovely lacy, coloured, patterned and pretty bras on offer, I had a total crisis of indecision and instead went the practical route...being in sore need of a new black bra. And it is very nice (if not remotely retro). I really cannot fault my experience there - it was a pleasure from beginning to end. But I don't think I'll be switching to Bravissimo permanently... sizing restrictions aside, they are just too expensive for my cheap and cheerful undies habit!

The moral to my story is what I believe the bra size survey will prove: that a universal standard of bra sizing is probably needed (as well as clothes and shoes... whether this will ever happen seems unlikely). But also that if you want a bra fitting by helpful and competent staff who really know their brand inside out, as well as an ego boost and a bra size that you can feel quietly smug about, Bravissimo is a really great shop to pay a visit. And it is important to get those assets measured, and correctly lifted, ladies. Have you been measured lately, and if so, how did you find it?

I leave you with some smashing pictures of my favourite pieces from all the brands mentioned above, and hope you're all having well-supported and perky weeks ;)

Bravissimo Sally (wish they'd had this when I went in!)

Bravissimo Carly (and this too. Wasn't my season to go in!)

 Kiss Me Deadly Cherie Teddy

Kiss Me Deadly Vargas Girdle

Ayten Gassen Elizabeth


Fleur xx

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Holiday Road

So, my holiday to the South of France. What follows is a fairly short review, with only photos that are either interesting for vintage folks due to either outfits, or amusement factor.... so, if you care to, read on!

This holiday was with five of the best gals a lady could hope to know. I'd never actually been on holiday with friends before, ever. Most of the people I know have been on various girls' or lads' holidays, but I've only ever been away with family or partners. Actually, I tell a lie, I have met up with friends on holiday before, but never have I been holed up in a house with a group of friends. It could have gone horribly wrong... but in fact it was utterly perfect in every way. Amazing food, good wine, a roaring fire, long sleeps and hours and hours of side-splitting laughter made it a trip I will never forget, and just the thing to chase away the last vestiges of the black cloud that's been looming over me since last spring. About bloody time and all!

The five friends were the founding Mafia members, Lisa, Jeni, Bethan, Gemma and Naomi, whose wonderful mum owns the house in which we stayed. We had hoped for some warm spring days, much lazing, some culture (as well as all of the above), and we had an almost perfect record. The first day was mild, if cloudy; and we put on our summery clothing and wandered down to the tiny village of Valbonne, where we caused a huge stir with the locals! Perhaps because instead of being pleased to be on hols, we looked like this?

We found Jeni's lighter with its 'wah' face very amusing...

The weather from then on, sadly, was not so obliging. On the next day, we got ourselves all the way from the office de tourisme in Valbonne, to Cannes on the bus, and spent the day there. I think the tragic events in Japan had a knock-on effect on weather around the world because the winds in Cannes were absolutely insane. Jeni took a picture of me (on her blog) trying in vain the shelter by a tree, as the wind did its utmost to inflate my Revamp vintage trousers (which were of sail-like proportions, let's be honest) and try and blow me away. After a quick turn around a museum, we sheltered in a hotel bar and filled our faces with Nutella-covered waffles instead.

 More amusing things above. We're so mature.

And then it started to rain. Torrentially. A day was spent doing not a lot apart from reading and relaxing. While Jeni and I got hooked on an iPhone game called Sally's Spa, everyone buried themselves in books whilst wearing leisurewear (more on this later). And thus, the Vintage Booky Club was born. But girls can't stay indoors all day when so close to such wonderful medieval towns, so after watching the film Perfume the third night, we then took a trip to nearby Grasse, where we visited the rather smashing perfume museum. Here are some of my favourites...

I especially love the Schiaparelli Snuff' perfume bottle shaped like a pipe...
and the girls' lovely catalogue pose.

Sadly, lovely Gemma had to go home before the rest of us, so she missed the rest of the fun. We did try really hard to have no fun at all without her, but it proved too hard! We got rained in on one more day, but we spent the only truly beautiful, sunny day undertaking a secret project, which will be unveiled on here and the VM network of blogs soon...then we spent the next couple of days inpersonating elderly Russian babushkas to protect our 'dos from the drizzle, visiting the Renoir museum in nearby Cagnes sur Mer, explored the medieval hilltop fort; and then, on our final day, we went back to Grasse to visit the other museums.

'Alll yours! Babooshka, babooshka...' etc.

 But on the last night we thought it would be really, really funny to put on our matching leisurewear (which we bought especially), and take some silly photos. It was hilarious, though I suspect you probably had to be there...

Matalan's finest cherry pop art jumpsuits could never want for a better advertisement...
And finally, when the wine, bread (baskets), babooshka scarves and jumpsuit intoxication became too much, it all went rapidly downhill.
Oh, dearie me. 

Au revoir until next time! ;)

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Sherry Picked

I have returned! Did you miss me? ;)

I will do a holiday update, though you'll have seen some pictures of it already around the blogosphere... but there's something else I want to mention first, not least because it finishes at the end of the week!

A few weeks ago, I was approached by Focus PR on behalf of Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry, a very classic British brand; to design a vintage garden stand for the Ideal Home Show. This huge event has been going on for donkey's years in Earl's Court (the Internet says since 1908!), and this year, Harveys are the main drinks sponsor. They wanted a little stand in the Ideal Gardens section, from which to sample their sherry with ice and a slice of orange, and to promote the idea of the Harveys Half Hour. They wanted the garden to be relaxing and nostalgic (just like the sherry!), and I was very happy to oblige, but I also wanted to get a little bit of a quirky feel into it. Vintage and just a little bit eccentric... just like me!

I spent a frantic few days visiting a wholesale plant nursery, garden centres, begging favours from my garden designer aunt Fiona Stephenson (who has the same name as a fabulous pinup artist!), planting up everything I'd bought, and buying things online and at the big local antiques fair. I went in a disguise of leggings and a fleece to try and get lower prices... think it worked (and let me tell you, spending other people's money is also excellent fun)! I then turned up at Earl's Court on the day before my holiday, dressed in my trusty overalls and ready to get my hands dirty!

Ta-daaaaa! Do excuse the fact that I haven't done a thing to my hair... we can't all be perfectly coiffed every day, can we? ;)

The finished garden! It looks very crowded from this angle, so let me show you some of the individual elements...

My trusty bicycle has a starring role, alongside an old watering can and some planted-up vintage fruit crates and containers; as well as lovely Gemma's deco-inspired wellies, which she kindly lent to the cause!

I chose lots of grasses, ferns and crysanthemum houseplants in the hopes they'd survive 17 days without sunlight... hope the sampling people are watering them!

We had a potting shed to store the Harveys and ice (with more fruit crates, which should now be filled with oranges), and my favourite bit: a dead tree adorned with feathers and tiny bells, with vintage sherry glasses suspended from its branches!
I asked my aunt what I should buy that would be cheap and twiggy, and she said, 'Well, I have this dead plant you can have...'

I decorated the shed a bit with some 'bunting' made from antique french seed packet labels, spray-mounted on little envelopes and pegged to a strip of lace trim. Thanks are definitely due to various style bloggers including Casey for the inspiration behind that idea...

Last, but not least, on the beautifully weathered wrought iron table, I placed a doily and home-made cake stand filled with quirky bits and pieces: buttons, flower brooches, odd earrings, shells, coins, keys, glass curios and so on. Something for relaxing samplees to look at while they sit and watch the busy show.

The Ideal Home Show is still on until next Sunday 27th March, so if you're going along, please do go and have a look at my Harvey's stand, inside the Ideal Gardens section (though the layout has apparently changed slightly for ease of sampling). It looks to be an amazing day out, with a full-size reproduction of Coronation Street as well as a vast indoor lake, thousands of stands and much more. And don't forget to try some sherry, and let me know what you think! I have developed a definite taste for Harvey's and Lemonade now, perfect for a deliciously sweet summer drink!

Back soon with talk of bras, books, frocks and jumpsuits, though not all at the same time!

Fleur xx

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Prohibition meets pop

Last weekend, the vintage world met the modern one in a big dance off, featuring much whipping of hair. My five best vintage girlfriends (also known as the Vintage Mafia) and I had a big night out, which was supposed to be a sort of farewell to lovely Jeni's old flat (even though we only got ready there, before collapsing in bed at 4am...).

We began by heading to Time Out's favourite new 1920s themed night, the Candlelight Club. Tickets to this previously underground event (literally and figuratively, for it has moved from a cellar to a ground floor venue!) are now as rare as hen's teeth, as it's infiltrated the mainstream. This meant we were almost the only people dressed in vintage in the entire place. But, on the other hand, we weren't dressed 1920s, so we can't make any claim to greater authenticity!

I wore a frock from my lovely sponsor 20th Century Foxy. It's a Trashy Diva number, called the Olivia Dress; and it features an amazing sequinned bird in pink and purple, on a black heavy silk. Absolutely lovely, despite being a bit on the short side for lanky old me!

Excuse the background of Jeni's semi-packed flat! The foam hand was causing us much hilarity, but you probably had to be there...

At the Club itself, a small contingent of New Sheridan members joined us as we drank some red wine and had a bit of a boogie by candlelight.

Photo by Elisabeth Blanchette

Jeni, Gemma, Lisa/, Naomi, Bethan and I were on our best behaviour and in our best frocks. And then the wine kicked in.

Crab claws!

The aim was to have a sensible evening, to get up at 9am the next day and help Jeni move house. Well, we did manage the last two, but the early night eluded us as we headed off to a house party full of beautiful, unavailable boys...

And Winnie!

Bethan has a tendency to 'go ghetto' in sweat pants and hoodies at these soirees
(it's hard to dance to pop in vintage!).

Gemma did a dance routine, which I will not reveal... you'll have to ask her! But just look at the expressions of glee and naked envy on the faces of the audience...

And with that I must dash, because the girls and I are embarking on a week's holiday in beautiful Nice. I shall eat nothing but cheese and drink nothing but red wine for an entire week... goodbye waistline! If, for some crazy reason, you would like to see more silly photos of our night out, then do visit my Flickr set.

V.M. yo.

A bientot!

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The wily, windy moor...

I was certainly out on it! Last week, I was honoured and privileged to have been one of a group of four journalists (a term that can only be loosely applied to me, let's be honest) on a whirlwind, two-day press trip to the highlands of Scotland. The aim was to introduce me to a single malt whisky with a lot of history, The Glenrothes. This brand is owned by Berry Bros. & Rudd, who also make the King's Ginger, one of my favourite gins, No. 3 and lots more. Now I'll admit, I have never been a fan of whisky. Perhaps more so the bourbons of the world... I've drunk a fair bit of Jack Daniels in my time. But blended stuff, yuck. Turns out The Glenrothes is used to make these blended whiskies, and, having tasted it during this trip, it seems rather a waste!

In the distillery's stylish Inner Sanctum, I tried some vintages that would make a real whisky connoisseur weep - the Select Reserve and Alba Reserve, as well as stuff from 1966, 1978, 1988 and 1998... the first and last were my favourites as they tasted distinctly vanilla-y, with hints of citrus. Not to sound like I know what I am talking about as a whisky critic, because I don't. But I know I liked it! But since this is a vintage fashion blog, you are all dying to know what I wore on the tour of the distillery... aren't you? ;)

Well, as mentioned previously, I wore my warmest, thickest tweedy Heyday trousers! And crikey, was I glad I did! It was beautifully warm in the 'cathedral' where the magic happens (and where this photo was taken by the splendid Marcin Miller, who organised the trip). I paired it with a white, handknit cardi (and a navy, long-sleeve top from Phase 8, nothing particularly vintage, but warm!), my co-respondent shoes and a cream bow on me 'ead! Some scene setting because the gleaming brass machinery was so wonderfully steampunk - even the control computer had a riveted metal surround...

We also had to do taste tests on whisky taken straight from the barrel and guess how old it was. I failed! Here I am making like a customs man from yore and using what was basically a giant metal straw to remove the precious spirit from a barrel... just like bartenders use to test cocktails, although very much bigger!

It was absolutely blooming freezing in the warehouse, and though the weather was unseasonably fabulous for Scotland in early March, with beautiful blue skies and glorious sunshine... it could definitely not be said to be warm. I was glad of my winter coat, I can tell ye! I bought this from eBay, but it's from high street shop Oasis - another V.I. bargain from a few years ago. If only it were a few inches longer it would be perfect.

After a delicious dinner and short sleep in a very comfy bed that I never wanted to leave, we four guests had to prepare breakfast for our hosts. In true Scottish style, it was almost entirely fried. But we needed good sustenance for our trip to the aforementioned moors! Never have I had such a manly morning... shooting targets with a 'sniper rifle', driving a landrover blindfolded around a course and tearing about on something called an ArgoCat. It was unbelievably good fun, and I have to boast that I was brilliant at all of it. ;) But sadly, I did have to wear a very un-stylish green fleece under my coat in order to keep warm...

Photos by Marcin Miller

You'll notice all other elements were the same... turns out skirts and thin stockings don't cut it in the Highlands in very early spring... who knew!

In short, it was an amazing trip, and I definitely acquired a new-found appreciation for single malts... if you're a fan and see The Glenrothes at a bar, do give it a try. I personally recommend the Select Reserve as being very nice to drink... especially when mixed with the other Berry Bros. & Rudd classic, The King's Ginger liqueur... I didn't feel the wind much after a few nips of that concoction, that's for sure.

All the whisky tasting did have one unpredictable side effect though... I have somehow found myself signed up to run the Islay half-marathon this August. Gulp! Islay is a beautiful Scottish island, also known as The Queen of the Hebrides. I have a horrible feeling that it will also be queen of the midgies in August, but maybe I can run through them and not get bitten too badly...

But seriously, I have not done much in the way of running since I was about 15, so this is a serious, serious challenge. 13.1 miles! But, well, I turn 30 this year, and I think it will be a real achievement for me. So please do egg me on over the coming months as I begin training. The marathon is (of course), sponsored by a whisky distillery, but I will be running for charity, so look out for announcements. I will also be running the marathon in as close an approximation of the Women's League of Health and Beauty outfit from the 1930s as I can manage. Probably in reality some stetchy, shiny American Apparel high waisted shorts and a tshirt though...

I should probably expect some chafing as a sacrifice for my art... but one thing I will absolutely *not* be being silly about is my shoes. If anyone has any recommendations for serious marathon-running trainers then please do shout. So far Asics seem to be the highest recommended ones, though they are all absolutely hideous. Oh well! I am going to go to a running shop and be analysed properly. Wish me luck...

Over and out for now!

Fleur xx

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Dressing down, vintage style

Another quick and dirty outfit post while I put together some more informative ones. In no particular order, coming soon will be a round-up of my Scotland trip, a post all about bras and my experience with them (will be semi-vintage but hopefully interesting), and some other booze-related shenanigans. But since I always get a nice response from outfit posts that show my daily wear (rather than super dressy), then here are some pictures I took the other day when I visited my parents to do my Victory Rolls tutorial (do watch if you haven't already).

With the exception of my Heyday trousers (and brooch), everything in this outfit  is bought from the high street and cost quite little. This means it is both easy and pretty darned cheap to get a retro look as long as you have some key repro/vintage separates like trousers and skirts (which are very hard to replicate without going direct to a specialist repro brand).

Trousers: Heyday (my favourites, hence they are seen here often!)
T-shirt and cropped cardigan: H&M
Shoes: Clarks sale
Hair flower: What Katie Did boutique
Brooch: Vintage
Mother of pearl bangle: Accessorize
PS. That is a CD you can see dangling... it is meant to put deer off eating my mum's roses
(with limited success) and I am too lazy to photoshop it out...

And just to give a realistic impression of how I look after a day of hard sitting and typing at a computer...

...anyone got a trouser press? ;)

This updo, which you've seen before; is one of my quick and easy current favourites. I did a mini follow-on tutorial showing how I did it, which I'll upload soon.

By the by, some of these photos and a longer and more informative guide to dressing vintage using high street buys will actually appear in the next issue of Milkcow Magazine.

Happy Monday blogchums!

Fleur xx

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