Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Costume Capers - Vintage Halloween

Greetings on All Hallows Eve! I hope you've all got suitably spooky things going on this evening or next weekend (or last weekend as I did! Pictures soon)? Or at least, if you live in a highly child-populated area as I do, that you've stocked up on penny sweets to dish out to the costumed urchins? I've actually never been in on Halloween, at least not for about five years, so I've no idea if any trick-or-treaters will come around. We shall see!

Anyway! On the subject of costumes, I was hoping to post this a few days in advance of today, but life (and not actually receiving it) conspired against me. But a few weeks back, I was hired by o2 to style and model some Halloween outfits as befitting a vintage gal (and a few for a chap), all in the name of their Blackberry Curve Red phone and their #lookscary campaign. And here are the results!

The lovely Mat from Southern Retro was my obliging male, model. His looks were as follows...

The suit which came from M&S was meant to be double-breasted of course, but time constraints made that impossible. Find an 80s one in a charity shop! Shirt, tie, shoes and accessories, all Mat's own.

Jeans came from Freddies of Pinewood, the jacket was from ASOS.

This can be done with an apple mask if the makeup option seems like hard work.... all a chap needs is a black or grey jacket or overcoat, white shirt, red tie and a bowler hat!

But what about my costume ideas? Well...

A pinup witch is a relatively easy option, with little black skater dresses widely available. Mine came from River Island last year, but there are similar ones at BooHoo. My belt is by Vivien of Holloway, the shoes are an old number from Remix,  spotty tights came from Topshop, but there are some awesome dotty stockings at What Katie Did at the moment. Hat and broom are joke shop props!

Frida is a look I did for Halloween a few years ago. I loved it and wanted to reprise it for this shoot! The main outfit is merely a gypsy-inspired look rather than one that's specifically Mexican, with a full skirt from American Apparel, a peasant top that came from New Look (I wanted to style it with a Vivien of Holloway blouse but they couldn't rush deliver it, boo), a spanish shawl from an amazing shop called El Mundo Flamenco, Miss L Fire Manderley gypsy boots, and an awesome Day of the Dead/ Frida Kahlo inspired headpiece from GG's Pinup Couture.

This is a 1950s sci-fi/horror B-Movie heroine costume, with the main element coming from the What Katie Did Morticia corset giving that killer silhouette! A plain black top and a long black skirt (similar at ASOS) plus an optional wig... black lipstick and a smouldering look is all you need to complete it!

Yeah... this was meant to be Cathy inspired, but the photographer was getting me to pull these fierce faces rather than the wistful, mournful Victorian ones that I usually associate with Brontë books. Oh well! Another easy one, makeup aside - we simply found an old-fashioned nightie from M&S, covered it in fake blood in the loos and gave some poor woman going into the Ladies a heart attack. I wish you could see the makeup as it was excellent without me gurning and ruining the effect. The talented makeup artist for all these looks was Louise Dartford.

The idea for this was borrowed from Bethan, who painted ants on herself at my Halloween party in 2010. Dali's The Ants has a dead-looking naked lady, which is why I clad myself in a nude vintage-inspired playsuit from Miss Selfridge. This is the outfit I wore to the Vintage Mafia's Ric Rac Club on Saturday! Post coming soon...

Thank you to Mat for being such a good sport, and thank you to o2 for having me! It was such fun and has ensured I need never run out of fancy dress ideas for the next few years at least.

Happy Halloween!

Fleur xx

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Girl's Best Friend - Diamonds galore

Gemstones have always fascinated me. My mum has always worn beautiful jewellery, and she acquired her love of it from my grandmother. My whole family was very widely traveled thanks to my grandad's travel agency (see my last but one post for pictures) and they'd often come back with a gem from some far-flung place and have it set into a ring or pendant. As a result, I have inherited some sparkly bits myself, including one diamond ring with a very strange origin... which I may or may not share at some point.

Diamonds have not had the best reputation in recent years, though. The troubles in Sierra Leone, where an illicit trade in stones funded conflicts and bloody war, meant that many people swore off new diamonds unless they knew exactly where they'd come from. But now things have improved and Tiffany buys their diamonds from Sierra Leone, while De Beers seems to own half of the world... or at least Africa, South Africa and Canada.

I learned a little about De Beers when I attended the masterclass I mentioned two posts back, given by Diamond Manufacturers last week. The same day I flew out to Amsterdam for five days of parting (fun!) and running (less fun!). But given that Amsterdam used to be the diamond-cutting centre of the world, it was pretty appropriate!

The masterclass itself was really interesting. We learned about the '4 Cs' of diamonds: cut, colour, clarity and carat weight. From looking at two similarly cut stones with different depths and seeing how one sparkled much more than the other, to comparing the two above for colour - one a less valuable yellow diamond, and one a colourless (or near colourless) stone. What's interesting, is that deeply coloured diamonds are very sought-after - we always hear of celebrities having a door-knocker sized yellow or pink diamond - but yellow tinged ones are most definitely not.

There was much peering through the jeweller's loup as well. We were shown two versions - one with very small inclusions, so towards the middle of the scale of desirability - and one with lots. The latter are the kind of diamond you might get in Argos - hold it up and peer inside, and you'll see lots of white marks, smudges, flaws. The guys at Diamond Manufacturers don't touch these with a bargepole.

Of course, it's pretty rare to find a flawless diamond, and it will only get harder and harder to find new ones. Most of those owned by the Queen and described in my King's Ginger blog post a few weeks back are flawless. The other famous stone that I've always wished I could see is the Taylor-Burton diamond. An astonishing 69 Carats, D coloured (the lowest possible) and absolutely flawless, pear-shaped diamond, it was a worthy gift for one of the most beautiful women in the world. It was acquired at great cost and effort by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor in the late 1960s, after first losing an auction to Cartier and being sold it back for an inflated price (on the proviso that Cartier could display it for a while in their store. Thousands and thousands flocked to admire it in that time!). But nothing was too much for him where she was concerned.

Wearing it was rather a palaver though, it must be said. The first time she wore it in public was at Grace Kelly's 40th birthday, and it had to be specially flown from New York to Nice in the company of armed guards paid for by Cartier and Burton. Talk about hassle... worth it though, I reckon. She didn't have it that long - after Burton and Taylor divorced for the second time in the 70s, she sold it for $5million, and used the money to fund a hospital in Botswana.

Elizabeth Taylor also had a 33-carat, emerald-cut knuckle-duster known as the Krupp Diamond ring, which was her first present from Burton in 1968, and the one she wore almost every day for the rest of her life... even while filming.

The glittering tray of diamond rings that Diamond Manufacturers brought along didn't contain anything quite as large and flashy, it must be said. But they were still lovely!

The point of the whole exercise was, obviously, to try and promote the company a bit more informally. The CEO, Vashi Dominguez, got into the diamond trade through a lot of hard work and persistence. He's one of those people who was always going to be successful, opening his first electrical shop in Tenerife when he was practically a child, before deciding his future lay in precious stones. But it's not easy to get into a historically closed and rather incestuous trade like diamonds, and it took him years of travelling to Antwerp (now the capital of cutting after Amsterdam's authorities shot themselves in the foot with taxes and so forth) and essentially begging, wooing and charming his way into the business. It's an inspiring story with a positive ending, and after doing wholesale for a while, he now focuses on consumers but dealing with diamond mines direct, cutting costs dramatically. And I do mean dramatically. Almost too good to be true, if I hadn't been at this talk and met them! I have a ring (the one with the aforementioned story) with a smashed diamond - which surprises people since they're meant to be as hard as... well, diamonds. But they are also extremely brittle, and one whack in the wrong place - whether I dropped it, fell on it or smacked it against something, I have no idea - and the stone is ruined. Mine is pretty small, less than 0.3 of a carat, but I got quoted £300 to have it replaced in a jeweller in my town. Vashi quoted me £40. I will be going in to talk to them in the next few weeks and I'll feed back!

This is one of Diamond Manufacturers' pink sapphire and diamond eternity rings, as compared to my 1940s blue sapphire and diamond ring - a gift from my mum for my 30th. I think the latter was an engagement ring, but it was made bigger (not by me). Which do you prefer? I think I can guess what you'll all say, but the first one is lovely nonetheless.

If you're a chap looking for an engagement ring, and you don't want to go vintage, then please do check out Diamond Manufacturers. They do a reasonably priced ring design service, which, when you consider the savings on the stones themselves is extra affordable, everything is guaranteed and you know you're not getting some rubbishy Elizabeth Duke diamond, full of flaws and worth almost nothing (if you've ever wondered how those things are so cheap, that's why). And they're all ethically sourced.

The diamonds of the world are running out, though. One new mine, discovered in Canada is waiting to have work started by De Beers, but in the next handful of decades, we may well run out completely. They can therefore only get rarer and more expensive as time wears on, mine could end up being my pension in this era when bricks and mortar can't be relied upon any more. Treasure your diamonds if you have some already and look after them... but do make sure you have at least one in your life if you don't yet. Marilyn was right, you know.

Lots more info on the site if you're interested:

Wishing you a sparkly day,

Fleur xx

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Vintage Tea Party Year... party

Oh Angel Adoree. One of the most wonderful, talented, hardworking and generally awesome ladies I know. She's beautiful and successful, with a brand-new and soon to be best-selling book out right now. What a cow.

The Vintage Tea Party Year is just fabulous in every way. From its gorgeous die-cut cover, illustrated to perfection by Adele Mildred, to its mouth-watering recipes and of course, its marvellous models. Yup... I'm in it!

I went to the party last week. It was a joy. I'll let the photos speak for themselves, but suffice to say, as the title implies, it's all you need to host any party throughout the year. Kids, weddings, hen and stag dos, street parties, Christmas and fireworks night, and, the best one of all, picnics.

Wonderful things greeted guests in every corner! 

I sampled all the food. It was all *Homer Simpson drooling noise* 

Well, would you look at that! Woman laughing with pie.

As well as wonderful things: creepy things.

And as for the main woman herself... she's never anything less than a vision.

Nothing but vintage, darling! 

I was going to do a sneak peek into the book, but the spread above with me in it is your lot! Go and buy yourself a copy for a mere £12, give one to all your friends and then await your many invitations to the parties they will all be powerless to resist hosting. You know it makes sense!

Fleur xx

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Things for me, things for you

I get invited to all sorts of weird and wonderful things through this blog. Many, many mainstream fashion events, launches and press days, as well as lots of vintage-y ones. The former I tend to politely decline - though it would probably be fun and result in a goodie bag of delights, it's not something that would probably rivet my readers, and quite frankly you're much more important than a goodie bag and some wine (and canapés... actually, canapés are pretty important. A close second).

I usually go to vintage ones, providing I'm free. The most recent one I attended with bells on was Angel Adoree's Vintage Tea Party Year book launch, which was an absolute delight, and the review of which shall be gracing these virtual pages in days.

But I'm going to one event today that will be as fascinating to me as hopefully it will be to you. You may remember only two months ago, I went to see the Royal Diamonds exhibition at Buckingham Palace. Ever since I pored over a well-thumbed book on gemstones as a child, I've always been very interested in precious stones, so that trip was a dream, and when I received an invitation to attend a masterclass given by fancy jewellers (with a not-so-fancy name) Diamond Manufacturers, I jumped at the chance. I'm going to learn all about these tiny pieces of hugely expensive, sparkly carbon, not to mention getting up close and personal with lots of them. I can't wait, and will be writing it up afterwards, with all sorts of gratuitous links to famous diamond jewellery pieces... Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth and Grace Kelly to name but a few. I have to say, diamonds have had a bad rep in recent years, so I was heartened to read Diamond Manufacturers' ethical policy. Hurrah! No idea if there will be a goodie bag. In the mean time, please look at the DM site and await my blog!

Something else which I most definitely need to tell you about is the return of the Vintage Mafia's Ric Rac Club! We're doing a Halloween party as is traditional (I've hosted one every year for the last four!), and it's at an exciting new venue!

The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker played host to the Tweed Run party earlier this year, and it's a lovely pub. We want this do to be fun and cost virtually nothing, so tickets are a mere £5. Those of you going to the Candlelight Club Halloween special may be interested to know that it finishes at 12am, so you can always stagger a few hundred yards down the road to us and continue the party! We will even let you in at a reduced price if you come after.

Join our Ric Rac Club: Help! A Zombie Ate My Girdle Facebook event page or buy tickets from our special ticket handling emporium. I am so excited, my costume is blinking awesome (I think).

So this post is not simply words (albeit with some words in picture format), here are some rather brilliant old family photos I'd like to share. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen some of them already.

My grandmother in the 1930s

My mum (second from the left), my grandparents and aunts at the Taj Mahal (I'm guessing late 60s?)

My grandad's travel agency in the early 60s! Amazing. 

Granny in the 40s. I have loads more I will share later! 

Wishing you all wonderful Wednesdays.

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Edwardian Egyptomania with the King's Ginger

Once more into the gingery breach my friends! It's a new tale of Edwardian excitement brought to you by everyone's favourite 109-year old tipple. Join me as I embrace Egyptomania and take a trip with my trusty bottle of the King's Ginger Liqueur to the time of the pharaohs. Well, to the British Museum anyway.


Egyptology was something of a craze in Victorian England, to say the least. The late Victorian period was when it peaked, during the days of Flinders Petrie, the man who is credited with pioneering modern archaeology techniques and who has sadly been all but forgotten. Mr Flinders Petrie did, however, train up the slightly more well-known Howard Carter, he of Tutankhamun (and inspiration for Indiana Jones) fame. But he was only a mere boy of nine when a certain other famous figure travelled to Giza to climb the pyramids and marvel over the... marvels. Bet you can't guess who!

Egyptian stuff, Egyptian things.

It was in the early spring of 1862, that the future King Edward VII set off on an educational expedition to the Near East and Palestine. Prince Albert had just died and it seems the grieving queen wanted to be left alone. so off he went on what must have been a truly exciting adventure for the twenty-year old Prince of Wales. An except from his diary reads:

"We then proceeded on the dromedaries (not at all an unpleasant mode of conveyance) to the celebrated Pyramids of Ghizeh - They quite exceeded my expectations, & are certainly wonderful mementoes of our forefathers. We visited the Sphinx just before sunset, which is also very curious and interesting. We had a charming little encampment just below the Pyramids where we slept for the night.' (Prince of Wales's diary, 4 March 1862)

At the time, the customary way for anyone to ascend the Pyramids was with the help of three locals - two pulling and one pushing! But not so for our hero, who earned great admiration for climbing to the top completely unaided. This was in the days when he was slim and sprightly, of course. 

Treasures and creepy mummies a-plenty!

He visited again six years later, in February 1869, this time with Princess Alexandria. They partied up the Nile on a royal barge and, in the words of one J. Castell Hopkins in a 'profusely illustrated' 1910 biography of his Majesty, "[f]or two days, ending February 19th, the heir to a thousand years of English sovereignty wandered amidst these tombs and monuments of the rulers of an African empire which had wielded vast power and created works of wonderful skill and genius three, and five thousand years before. The great hall and colonnades and pillars of Karnac, the obelisk of Luxor, the famous tombs of the Kings, the Temples of Rameses, the colossal statues of Egyptian rulers, were visited by daylight, and, in some cases, the wondrous effect of Oriental moonlight upon these massive shapes and memorials of a mighty past was also witnessed." Well, quite. The Prince also had a jolly time shooting things, as he was so fond of doing; in this case, crocodiles. The Royal party ascended the Pyramids again, and explored the burial chambers, in between lavish dinners and soirées. It sounds like a dream.

Due to the fact that our Edward was the Prince of Wales, he was afforded far more freedom than most other tourists, and some of the stunning photographs from his two trips can be found in the Royal Collection. But he also collected some souvenirs of his own, and one thing in particular was what I came to the British Museum to track down.

The King owned a Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Nehjmet, which he donated to the British museum. It's a big old thing at over four metres in length, and was apparently to be found in the Reading Room. Except, the exhibition had finished over a year ago and though I scoured the whole Egyptian section, I couldn't find it. Alas! So here are some alternative Book of the Dead specimens! Plus a cat mummy for good measure.

 Cats were sacred animals in Ancient Egyptian times and reverently mummified after death. Even when the death was deliberate, it seems! 

The Prince was not alone in his passion for Egyptian artefacts. Egyptomania swept England, with the first ever package tours going there in the late 19th Century, and 'mummy unwrapping' demonstrations drawing huge, sell-out crowds. It's hard to know how to feel nowadays about it all, since countless relics must surely have been lost, thanks to lack of knowledge on preservation, not to mention a lack of careful handling. It was the aforementioned Flinders Petrie who, after being appalled as a small boy at the rough handling of a Roman excavation near his home, changed the way archaeologists worked. The standard, painstaking uncovering of buildings and their contents in situ is entirely thanks to him. On a side note, I will be heading to the Flinders Petrie museum at UCL at a later date, for certain to find out more about him. But I loved poring over all the mummies, statues and other antiquities at the British Museum (even if I couldn't find the Prince's donation).

Those ancient Egyptians were big and mean! 

2,000 year old flip flops included for those that claim these shoes not to be vintage enough ;)

And of course, no King's Ginger post is complete without some (more) larking about. 

Today's outfit consists of:
Vintage frock
Jacket (in first photograph) - present from Heyday
Shoes - replacements bought hastily from Primark to cure ruined feet ;)

All this has really achieved of course, is to heighten my desire to go to Egypt and visit the Great Pyramids, Saqqara, the Sphinx and all the rest of it. Has anyone ever been? I'd love to do something non-touristy, should such a thing be even possible.

Oh, and before I go, I recently did some filming for some rather fancy KGL cocktail masterclass videos! Look out for those, coming to a computer screen near you soon. In the meantime, stay spicey, you lot (and visit the King's Ginger website).

Fleur xx

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Colour Consultations x Vintage Girl

Do excuse the very unstylish hangers... and the fringe isn't back - I took these a while ago!

Colour is a very important thing when it comes to clothing. I've written about it here before, because it's probably even more relevant to vintage as it is to modern fashion. Back in the 40s and 50s, designers (and the people wearing the garments) were so much braver about colour, which many don't realise due to the fact photos are so often in black and white. In reality, ladies fashion was a riot of colour - you only need to look at vintage feedsack fabric and pattern packets to see. Every few years a modern magazine or label will extol the virtues of 'colour blocking' (or, wearing two bright contrasting shades together) like it's a brand new phenomenon. But really it's just because it's long been the norm in mainstream style to pair a bright colour with a dark or neutral one to avoid looking 'over the top'. I'm even guilty of it myself sometimes (though not often. More is more, after all).

Being brave with shades and bold with my style choices is not something I've ever struggled with personally; from my grungy teenage years to my vintaged twenties and thirties, I've never shied away from pairing coral and turquoise together, yellow and blue or emerald green and fuchsia. I've also never not bought a vintage dress because I wasn't sure if the colour suited me. Unless it was beige – I'm a bit of a beigist. But dark brown, mustard tones or grey – all these muted shades have a place, albeit dressed up with a brighter tone elsewhere in the outfit. I've never been afraid of colour, or of wearing certain shades.

Therefore, while having my 'colours done' was something I had chatted about with a good friend, who'd herself had an assessment a number of years before, it wasn't something I had ever considered doing myself. Not seriously enough to actually take the plunge, anyway. So, when said friend gave me a surprise birthday voucher for a consultation of my own with a company called Colour Me Beautiful, I was very intrigued and went along with an open mind (despite my vow to still wear colours that apparently 'don't suit me' if they're part of my beloved wardrobe).

The lady who was my most local Colour Me Beautiful consultant is called Anita Feron Clark (she has her own style consultancy as well), and she was herself very well dressed, as well as perfectly coiffed and made up, which of course helps. I arrived makeup free, and after a bit of a chat to work out why I was there (I think most people buy these consultations for themselves as they honestly have no clue) she sat me in a chair and draped me in white for a completely neutral start. 

We quickly establish that my dark hair, dark eyes, and pale skin makes me someone with 'Deep and Cool' colouring. I'm told I should be wearing jewel tones, lots of greens, blues, purples and blue-based reds/pinks. I shouldn't be wearing pastel tones next to my face without something darker to offset it, like a cardigan in navy or charcoal grey. I watched Anita place swatches of different coloured cloth under my face as she showed me my ideal shades, and I nodded knowingly whilst not really being able to tell the difference. Well, that's not strictly true - it's obvious when shades really suited me, but less obvious that the paler ones didn't... if that makes any sense. After we finished the colour profiling, she put a little bit of makeup on me, just so I could see some shades that I perhaps wouldn't wear myself. She didn't do a hard sell, for which I was grateful, though the makeup was lovely and seemed good value. But I'm definitely happy with my current slap supply! 

All in all, it was a great experience and very interesting to anyone who, like me, is a bit of a colour matching (and general style) fanatic. It's not really made me vow to ditch any of my paler coloured garments, but I have made a conscious decision to try and pair them with darker colours. 

However, pictures are worth a thousand words and, as a result of this and after looking through the colour swatch booklet I received, I did decide to conduct a photographic experience to let you, dear readers, be the judges. Actually, it was just an excuse to get out some of the frocks I hadn't yet been able to wear over the summer.

These frocks are apparently all a no-no for my colouring, so it's a shame I own so many of them!

I concede that these shades do make me look a little pale... but hopefully interesting?

It might be that it's the lack of lipstick. This is a pastel yellow dress that shouldn't suit me. I still wear it! 

This lipstick that's also 'wrong' as it's not a shade that's meant to flatter me, and it's also a little pale (it looks more subtle in real life, I have to say).

What do you think? Personally, I think I can just about pull it off, though it's probably fair to say that these pale frocks don't grab the eye as much as some of the stronger coloured and patterned ones I own. So let's look at some of those.

Is darker really better?

These dresses are the ones that should technically suit me best, and perhaps they do. The evidence follows...

A dark forest green (not forgetting the rainbow stripe/plaid/whatever it is trim) western inspired dress from the 1940s ticks all the right boxes for me. Plus it looks much more striking. So there may be something in this after all. But with pale lipstick, it's still not quite right to my eyes!

This is the jackpot according to my colour consultation. The 'right' dress and the 'right' lipstick. It's an all-time absolute favourite of mine, despite being technically a house dress. It's even more of a dressing gown than a dress - wrap front and with a tie. But the pattern! Look at its amazingness!

It probably helps that this favourite dress of mine has all the colours that apparently suit me best! I've been subconsciously doing this right for years. ;)

And finally... this is the colour swatch booklet that came with my consultation. If you're coloured similarly to me, here are your best colours! They are the ones I gravitate towards, naturally.

What say you, readers? Do you think I should stick to the darker shades, or try to make pastels work for me with strong lipstick and accessories? And have you ever had your colours done?

If anyone would be interested, I'll do a post summing up the different 'types' and what is meant to suit each, so do let me know if you'd like to read something along those lines!

And until next time, have a lovely week.

Fleur xx

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