Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Festive Ginger Jaunt

Hullo! This is the fifth in a series of jaunts I've undertaken, by and for The King's Ginger. I stayed close to home this time, to visit and explore a part of London I love, one that King Edward himself would have known well. And this time, I took a fancy pants photographer, too! It's time to take a stroll down to St James's.

All the photos in this post are by the talented Hanson Leatherby.

St James's is one of London's most aristocratic areas. Home to many of the longest established and best-known Gentlemen's Clubs, St James's Street itself boasts an array of shops, some of which have been in place for centuries. While the eventual destination was, of course, Berry Bros. & Rudd itself, home of the King's Ginger, some exploring was definitely on the cards first. I've walked up and down St James's many times, and never had an occasion to enter any of the imposing establishments. But that was all about to change! For Edward himself would have undoubtedly have entered every one of these shops, and as I am on his trail, so must I.

The first shop we entered was James J. Fox, the Cigar Merchant, situated in St James's for over 200 years. Since 1787 to be precise.

King Edward was very much partial to a fine cigar. King Edward brand cigars, named for Bertie himself are still available; but when alive, the King would have only the very finest for himself. The shop is quite remarkably exempt from the smoking ban, and in fact has a smoking lounge, so the smell of tobacco enveloped Hanson and I as we entered. As well as being gracious enough to let us walk around snapping and snooping, it turns out they also have a museum in the basement, packed with historical mementos and ephemera.


This box of cigars actually dates from Edwards last years as the Playboy Prince.

Another famous cigar fan - Winston Churchill - was the subject of much memorabilia in the museum. And a rather regal chair and ashtray that I had to try out... of course.

Anyway, all the fumes from the smoke were making me quite lightheaded, so we headed out for some smelling salts. Well, to the chemist a few doors up.

D.R. Harris has also been in its present location for more than 200 years. It sells a vast array of traditional paraphernalia, from shaving equipment to brushes to gentleman's nail clippers and so on; and a carries a huge range of toiletries. Soaps, scents and unguents, all packaged in sturdy, no-nonsense bottles and tubs. A truly splendid place.

Didn't think much of the delivery chap's outfit. Wellies in town... I mean, really.

While they don't have a museum as such (and actually apologised to us for that!), they do have some wonderful old pieces on display, huge old advertising props for perfume and old glass bottles. Plus the antique pharmacist's cabinet above.

The manager didn't have any Bertie anecdotes for me, but I'm sure he or members of his household would have popped in. been Christmas may be over, but this would be a treasure trove of future gifts for grandads, and dads... and any vintage-appreciating men in your life, quite frankly.

Onwards and indeed upwards, for the next stop on our mystery tour was Lock & Co. Hat makers to Royalty, and found at No. 6 St James's Street for more than 300 years.

 The Lock & Co website states that, 'established not later than 1676 to wait upon the Court at St. James's, the business now serves customers from all corners of the earth. Its survival is the consequence of progressive conservatism, of confidence in quality and a demonstration of the effectiveness of persistent personality and individuality in an increasingly mass-minded world.'

Quite true, I would say. Its hats are the best of the best, as demonstrated by the popular radio DJ who was in there buying titfers for his dad and father in law at the same time as us. Hugely fond of dressing well as King Edward was, both before and after he ascended the throne; he would have had his pick of the toppers and felt creations on offer. Lock & Co also made the very first Bowler hat in 1849. A sort of hard hat crossed with a fashion statement, the bowler was a staple in comedy, in banking, and, remarkably, in the Wild West. Presumably due to its practicality when riding... or fighting!

The hat sizes of the Great and Good: Charlie Chaplin, Evelyn Waugh, Laurence Olivier... Lord Lucan even!

The sense of history you get in Lock's is immense. From the antique hats lining the walls to the actual wood of the shop front itself. Three centuries of wear, tear and paint have given it the most amazing texture. You can't help but run your hands over it... quickly in case the shopkeepers spot you! I'm only joking, they were all just as lovely as the others!

Next door to Lock & Co is Lobb the Shoemakers. Another stalwart of the street, Lobb himself was a Cornish farmboy with a limp, who learned the trade and came to London. Such was his skill at his craft that he won all sorts of awards, culminating in the Golden Ticket of the time - a Royal Warrant to make shoes for, of course, Edward, Prince of Wales. Edward's taste for the finer things was truly from head to toe. His patronage ensured the success of the business, as where he went, others followed: 'kings, maharajahs, actors, singers, politicians, business moguls and literati'.

We didn't dare go in, as Hanson and I both have a particular weakness for shoes. It's a truly dangerous place, and if anyone would like to stump up £7,000 so I can have a bespoke pair of snakeskin pumps made, I'd be most grateful.

 Last but not least, it was on to visit the home of King's Ginger itself, Berry Bros & Rudd. I don't think I can do justice to its long and interesting history in such a short space, but I will try.

Berry's has also been in its present location, no.3 St James's Street, for over 300 years. The shop front is unchanged and has that same wonderful texture as Lock & Co.

Founded in 1698 by an enterprising widow named Bourne, the first Royal Warrant was awarded in the reign of George III, in the 1700s. They continue to hold it to this day, but not all Royals have had the honour of having libations created specifically for them. I have related the story of the creation of KGL several times on here, so you don't need to hear it again. But, given the season and its reason for creation (protection from the cold), King's Ginger was much in evidence in the window displays.

Inside, it was bustling with businessmen and ladies buying bottles of aged wine for the festive season, but they let me stand around 'modelling' a bottle of the ginger nectar among the warm wood panelling and random iron machinery. The famous weighing scales upon which famous customers used to record their own weight still stand in the centre of the room.

The sense of history stretching back over the centuries as you stand in Berry's is immense. I thoroughly recommend popping in if you pass - there's so much to look at on the walls and shelves.

If you were luck enough to receive a bottle of The King's Ginger for Christmas, or can pick one up today, even; then here's my top two festive and New Year's Eve recipes.

King's Ginger Mulled Wine

  • 750ml red wine
  • 250ml The King's Ginger
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 lemons zested (plus flesh of 1 lemon)
  • 1 orange zested
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • 1 star anise
The recipe says to 'simmer over a low heat for 3 hours, then double strain with fine sieve', but I heated it up until it was hot... and that was perfectly fine. It's so warming, and very very strong!

When you're getting ready to party, this is guaranteed to get you in the mood...

The Ginger Royale
  • 35ml The King's Ginger
  • 140ml Champagne
'Pour a generous measure of The King's Ginger into a flute. Add chilled Champagne to taste. Then find some attractive friends with whom to share this delicious and efficacious concoction.' Sounds about right to me!

Last, but no least, let me tell you about my outfit!

I'm wearing a halterneck jumpsuit that actually came from ASOS (amazingly, still available!), after I saw it on Retrochick's blog. I am only wearing it on the bottom half, though - I rolled it down and used the neck ties as a belt! A 1930s style jumper that came from a high street shop is underneath a 1940s jacket that's part of a suit. The A-line beige skirt does absolutely nothing for me, unfortunately; but the shoulder and hip detail of the jacket is exquisite. And the cut fits me like it's bespoke. I'm also wearing my winter sheepskin shoes bought from Miss L Fire. Do excuse the rather unstyled hair! Thanks again to Hanson for snapping me.

Happy New Year to one and all of my amazing readers. I am heading to a vintage event locally, it's called Die Freche Muse and it should be fabulous fun. I just can't decide what to wear!

Have a good one, gang! See you next year.

Lots of love,

Fleur xx

Friday, 30 December 2011

Quatre, Cinq, (iPhone 4S)ix

Oh dear. I did warn you that the quality of the photographs may be somewhat lacking in this Twelve Days of Christmas Outfits series. And I'm as good at my word! These ones are almost universally atrocious! But something visual is better than nothing, no?... and they are a good example of my 'just knocking about' clothes.

So, on to my first day back in my flat - a day of errands, of shopping, and banking, and cat fussing. I didn't see anyone that day, and didn't have the time while to was still light to put a self-portrait strategy into place. So a snap in my slightly smeary mirror it is. I did dust it before taking this... honest.

Yes, it's another pair of trousers. Someone had a moan at me in the last instalment, but come on gals. Sometimes shaving your legs and putting on stockings is such hard work. And I was only going to my local town. And I have so many pairs of nice, convenient, warm trousers... anyway. French Navy Heyday trews, a cute and vintage-esque cardigan from Zara, white t-shirt, canvas pumps and hair au naturel. No point styling it before running six miles in the cold and dark (with 3 people, all men, all faster than me. KNACKERED)!

So, to yesterday. I hadn't seen my friends for what felt like an eternity, so after spending most of the day wearing unspeakable leisurewear/pyjamas, I put something relatively smart but easy to drive in, and headed up to East London for a friend's birthday drink. Thanks to the councils closing all the important roads, it took me ages, and I was only in the pub for an hour or so. Bethan and I then decamped to Vintage Mafia HQ, where I stayed until I set off for home, remembering at 1am that I needed a photo for the blog. Et voila!

Bet you're sorry I did this challenge now... what an uninspired outfit! It was actually quite good when I was stood next to Bethan, who'd used her VM telepathy to put on a matching outfit to mine with red Heyday trousers and a black angora sweater. She declined to be photographed.

Re lipstick long since gone, I am wearing a black pencil skirt of undetermined origins, a black sweater that's so old it probably does count as vintage, the red tights I bought for the tweed run, a cute red fakelite bird brooch I bought from Acorn & Will, a red cardigan from a well-known UK supermarket that rhymes with Vesco, and my old faithful winter boots, that originated from New Look. No vintage again, but you can instead admire the ephemera that decorates the VM HQ - old photos, mirrors and repro army bags galore. You're welcome!

And finally, it's today, and the outfit photos were meant to be in a lovely location, and from my proper camera. Except when I turned it on... the battery immediately expired. Sigh.

The setting was a winter wonderland (ie wet and drizzly) walk at Wisley Gardens with my mum and auntie. I often do outfit pictures here, but as it looked like it was about to start bucketing down (and what with the camera battery debacle) we had to do some snaps quickly, and thus the backdrop isn't as exciting as it might be.

 My skirt is a Bettie Page one from my friend Helen at Pinup Parade. Coat, boots, top from yesterday (it's one of the few plain black tops I own and I only wore it for 3 hours yesterday...), so far, so samey. My otherwise monochrome outfit hid a few pops of colour, though. Another brooch purchased from Acorn & Will as above, pink hoop earrings which you can't see, rose pink lipstick. The accessories are a little bit different today, though!

This pixie hat/scarf was made after I watched this British Pathe video about headscarves. Click the picture to see it...

It took a few shop visits before I found one wide and thick enough so it had enough to fold back, and so my point stayed firm and erect! ;) So it's appropriate that it came from the menswear section of H&M. The choice of colours was rather low. Men, you are boring! I'm definitely going to make a few brighter ones if I stumble across some more suitable scarves. Last, but not least, it's the final pop of pink...

Not sure these are entirely period correct... OH WELL!

Back tomorrow with a King's Ginger post to see out 2011, and to wish you all a fun and debauched New Year's Eve! Better go charge my camera...

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

One, Two, Christmas T(h)ree

Oh, hello!

I hope you all had jolly old Christmases. Since I want to spend as little time online as possible between now and the dawn of 2012, I'll spare you the blow-by-blow account and instead just show you the clobber. So, as promised, here's the first instalment of my Twelve Days of Christmas Outfits!  I'm going to do them in threes, and so, here goes.

In case there are any purists reading - look away now!  None of this is real vintage. I did far too much eating, walking and slobbing to wear anything delicate!

Christmas morning and I'm wearing a comfy and (I think) elegant new jumpsuit from H&M. I got it for the princely sum of £15 last week and I felt its deep green was suitably festive and its adjustable belt suitably practical for overindulging. White vintage plastic rose earrings, and no lipstick, for what's the point when I spent almost every waking second eating and drinking...  Not shown - stinky old house slippers I wear at my parents'!

Christmas Day afternoon and it's a woodland walk to get our appetites up for our massive dinner. I'm wearing my old faithful overcoat and a pair of very un-retro boots to brave the mud. It was pointed out that this outfit had a slight Cossack vibe,  so a wee bit of silly posing was done.

 С Рождеством!

Boxing Day and some sombre news from a friend, plus my Dad came down with a mystery virus in the morning that left him in bed for the whole day. But as it is my familial duty to remain brightly coloured to spread good cheer, I put on some RED.

Red dungarees and peasant top are both from Vivien of Holloway at varying times and not often worn together.  They were both given as payment for favours! My old shoes are as before. I went out for another walk later on that day, and though I have no picture, you can use your imagination to envisage an identical 'Cossack' outfit with 6-inches of red leg instead of patterned green!


This rather snazzy brooch was a birthday gift from Miss Minna a few years back. It's evocative of a 1950s B-Movie and thus appeals to both my love of vintage, and my love of sci-fi!

And with that we're on to today and a comfy outfit to drive home. It's been so mild that I really haven't been too cold in light knitwear, and posing outdoors in short sleeves wasn't an issue.

I've already broken my rule of not wearing the same trousers again, but never mind...

The sweater is a hand knit I got from eBay back in my very early days of buying repro. It must be a good 5 years old. The trousers are Heyday as before and my shoes... enough about those! Hair is newly washed and thrown into a loose bun. The same earrings as Christmas day... and FIN.

Next this week - trying to decide what to do for New Year and trying to re-flatten my stomach! Stay tuned.

Fleur xx

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Chrimbo felicitations one and all!

Well hallo there! I promised I would be back before Christmas and by Jove, here I am! Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post - I have got some really wonderful feedback to go into the next year of plans and dreams. Rest assured though, that nothing is really going to change much. Only the layout and hopefully, the frequency of posting.

Anyway, to get back into the swing of it, I am going to do my best to do a '12 Days of Christmas Outfits series', to encourage me to wear something different for each of those days. As opposed to, say, the same trousers for four days' running, just with different tops, as I am often found to do. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Just not what you want on a fashion/lifestyle blog, innit.

I will however, be sticking to my annual Christmas tradition which is known as 'Not Going On The Internet At All For A Full 48 Hours', so I'll do a bumper Christmas Day and Boxing Day post on the 27th. Do be aware that some of these outfits may be snapped on an inferior *cough iPhone* camera. And since I might as well start as I mean to go on, here is my outfit from today!

This is me performing my other yearly Christmas tradition of working in my best friend's shop on Christmas eve - selling almost any gadget you could possibly want for the kitchen. It's called The Kitchen Shop... catchy, eh? I couldn't EVEN be bothered to put on stockings today, so it's Heyday trousers which I have had for literal years, and a very festive jumper (sweater) which was courtesy of Rocket Originals (I modelled it for them back in the summer). My shoes are super oldies that I picked up one year at Rhythm Riot and have been resoled several times.

Holly in the hair, and some red plastic clippy hoops (not bakelite). Now if only Santa could bring me some thicker hair, that would be great, thanks. I also did some Christmas nails last night!

Barry M Instant Nail Effects in Gold Foil on what are, I confess, false nails. Mine are in an atrocious state!

Anyway, I better nip off and load the car with outfits, presents and foods for the next two days. Be good while I'm away, won't you!

Hope you all have absolutely smashing Christmases, eat, drink and be merry, watch crap telly, keep warm (or, if you're in the southern hemisphere, wear plenty of sunscreen!) and enjoy yourselves. Catch you on the flip side!

Festive mistletoe kisses,

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

I, Spy.

Well how the devil are you all? It's been a while, hasn't it. I wish I could say it's because I've been caught in a whirlwind of excitement, but actually, it's just because I haven't felt like I've got much to say at the moment. So no life-update posts. And the outfits I've been wearing haven't been particularly note-worthy, so no fashion shots. And someone had a moan at me about my blog the other week (which may have been justified and may not... I haven't the strength for a debate!), so I lost my confidence a little bit. Hence a lack of posts.

Is it the weather? You all know I lose my sparkle in the winter, at least as far as outfits go. I'm generally pretty cheerful at the moment, but the end of the year does just seem to bring automatic exhaustion, no matter how long I try to sleep and take it easy; and I will admit that I've been getting more sleep than I have in years.

Next year will bring some changes to this blog, and my life in general. I'm going to redesign this place to have slightly more of a 'site' feel - with tabs for such things as work portfolios and suchlike. I have been surviving as a freelancer for two and a half years now - I'm super proud of myself, but surviving it has been. I haven't earned enough to put anything into savings, rather I've slowly depleted my existing savings so that I'm getting dangerously close to having no emergency cushion should things go wrong. But the big news will be that I am moving into London proper early next year - and will be selling my little flat in the suburbs to become a renter once again. This is as exciting as it is terrifying, and I will have to become more organised and earn a little more money in order to be able to survive in the Big Smoke, I may need to get a part-time job in addition to becoming better at hustling for work as a writer, or a model, or any of the numerous things I have turned my hand to in the last two years.

Next year, I will also be trying to get a book deal, but it will not be a book on 'Vintage', there is already a much better one on the horizon than anything I could do! :) And I'll be trying to make this blog more professional, by which I mean streamlined and businesslike, WITHOUT compromising the personal touch I take pride in. I'm really quite scatterbrained about such things as sponsorship and advertising, slow to respond to PR requests and so forth, and I need to overcome my life-long lack of organisation! But I'd like some feedback from my army of amazing followers as well. I do ask for, and occasionally receive constructive criticism, but it does smart when people are negative about things I have worked hard on, so I want to make sure that my readers are happy. You might not pay to read a blog, but without you, said blog is nothing - just a load of words shouted out into the ether with no audience.

• Do you mind that I post my monthly King's Ginger sponsored articles? I love working for such a friendly, historic and supportive company, and I don't intend to stop until they no longer want to work with me (and I can only hope that day is a long way off!), and I put a lot of hours into each post to ensure that they are not just adverts and actually interesting and fun to read in their own right. But I want to know if they're inspiring such annoyance as to make anyone stop reading, so I can make the necessary adjustments.

• Do you mind that I do outfit posts that feature items I have been sent as gifts? I know this is pretty par for the course in fashion blogs, but I worry that it makes my blog seem like it's just full of ads. The truth is that I only ever accept things I genuinely love, and I can't afford to buy many new things these days. Outfit posts would be way more boring without occasional freebies, and if I can direct new potential customers then I am glad to do so.

• Do you mind that I post the odd blog about my newfound love of sports and active things? Because I will be doing more of that next year as I start training for more half-marathons and triathlons. It is now hugely important to me and thus will be reflected in my posts. But not too much - just enough to be inspiring without being boring and preachy. I hope!

• Finally - what would you all like to see?? A revival of the Vintage Inspired Buys series, where I track down retro stuff online? More outfits? Less outfits? More motivational stuff? I always intend to do more of the latter, but then my good intentions fall by the wayside as I put my other work first. This will change along with my newfound organisational skills. *hopeful face*

I know I've asked this before and haven't necessarily come through with all the goods, but I always do my best, and I really do want to get this blog back on track in 2012. I hope to take you all with me on this journey and attract lots of new readers in the process.

I'll be back again before Christmas, but I hope you're all having lovely weeks and are all set for next weekend. I am most certainly not! And just do it's not just waffle, here are some photos of me as captured by the super Hanson Leatherby - there will be more to come this week!

Being a spy (in a beret) at the New Sheridan Club Christmas Party

The Maf sans poorly Naomi at the same party. Miss Minna was blowing raspberries at us and I was doing a mock-stern face at her! ;)

Jeni and I at the Chap Ball

Dancing with my pal Viv the Spiv. Happy face!

Pip pip for now!

Fleur xx

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

House Proud

Yesterday morning, Miss Jeni Yesterday and I were commissioned to do a quick photoshoot in a rather splendid location - the Imperial War Museum. Jeni works for the museum, and they needed a pair of suitable models for a special job...


The Children’s War exhibition has been running fo a while at the IWM, and looks at the home front in Britain and the impact of the Second World War through the eyes of the children who lived through it. The 1940s House is one of the most popular parts - it's a recreation of a house of the time, complete with genuine furniture and props. Given the time of year, it's been dressed up in authentic Christmas decorations - paper chains and crepe tinsel, with cards, presents, and even mince pies in the oven!

But this is its last hurrah, because the exhibition is due to close on the 2nd January 2012. Boo!

Gawd save 'em!

Domestic goddesses, we are.

The whole museum is worth a visit, of course; but the house is especially lovely. Here's some seasonal sales blurb...

Families looking for something different to entertain the kids this holiday season should head down to IWM London for Christmas in the Wartime House family activities. From 17 – 23 & 28 – 31 December at 11.00am – 12.30pm & 2.00pm – 4.00pm, visitors can find out how Christmas was celebrated during the Second World War on the British home front. At a time of rationing and shortages and no guarantee that families could be together it was still possible to celebrate. Join the learning team to find out more about a creative Christmas in wartime Britain and take part in a rolling programme of festive activities. Free drop-in activity suitable for all ages with parental supervision.

This is going to be Jeni's and my joint Christmas card - Royal family style.

Oh go on, just a small drop.

Do go along if you're looking for something interesting to do this festive period, once it's gone, it's gone! The shop does contain some truly excellent gifts though, perfect Christmas presents for vintage-loving friends.

Thanks to the IWM for having us, it was an absolute honour to step beyond the ropes and be snapped in the 1940s House!

Fleur xx

PS. Because loads have asked already on Facebook, my dress is from Able Grable a couple of years ago, but it's not available any more... Jeni's is vintage, of course! And my shoes are from Office.

Take a look!

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