Friday, 30 November 2012

Christmas crackers for vintage girls

Goooooooood Friday, everyone!

It cannot have escaped your notice that it's December tomorrow. The month of much eating, drinking and making merry at soirées, and the month of giving and receiving gifts. I wanted to highlight a couple of my newer sponsors in case you hadn't taken the time to click on them, because they are all perfect sites to find a present, be it for yourself as a pre-Christmas party outfit, to give to a loved one, to drop hugely obvious hints to best friends or partners... or to spend your Christmas money swag on after the fun has all passed.

Firstly, Whirling Turban.

This fantasy paradise of a dress emporium is every pin-up's dream, and I was honoured when they wanted to advertise on my blog. I've had a prized and much-worn Petal Bust dress set for years, and the modelling photos I did in about 2008 are still some of my favourite ever. As you can see, they even used them for the advert itself!


If I ever get married, it will be in a Whirling Turban. If you have a wedding coming up, then you should consider it! Or if you're attending a wedding as a guest - mine was originally bought for just such an occasion. While they do still do custom-makes, their off-the-peg styles in the WT boutique are just the ticket for Christmas and New Year, and they are just so helpful and quick to reply. Can't praise them highly enough, really.

My favourite style (aside from the one I already own of course) if the Peek-a-Boo. There is definitely one such frock in my future.

The second shop I'd like to draw your attention to is the divine Betty Blue's Loungerie. I modelled for this lovely lady a while back, and she's got some new colours in her already-perfect loungewear range. Side note: I just typed that as 'lungewear rage', which tickled me probably a lot more than it should have!

The delicious Morgana couldn't be more perfect to model the 1940s style Black Nell Robe. Looks like you can now have yours crystalled all over as well - blimey. Talk about luxe! I suggest you open the page and 'accidentally' leave it in front of your other half in the next week... enjoy unwrapping it on Christmas day!

Last but not least, not so much a sponsor than the talented wife of a friend of mine, has just started up Belle and Vidére, a company making beautiful hand-crafted lampshades from vintage fabrics and antique glass beads.

There are one-offs from vintage off-cuts, repro fabrics and plain shades featuring chenille varsity sweater letters that date from the 1950s to the present day...

...and glittering beaded shades made of Murano glass. Perfect for vintage-lovers and modern interior design aficionados alike. Do have a look at the Belle and Vidére Etsy shop if something home-themed is something you're seeking this Christmas!

Back next week with yet more fascinating posts about clothes and such things, you lucky readers. Have a great weekend!

Fleur xx

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Corsets & Crinolines - Intel Ultrabook ad

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to be cast as a featured extra in a global Intel advert. It has been out for a couple of weeks now, and I've had a number of tweets from as far afield as Australia, asking if the tall, bonneted lady was, in fact, me. It is indeed, and while I got no dialogue and not exactly masses of screen time, it remains the most exciting, and indeed best-paid job of my 'acting' (by which I mean 'supporting artiste') career.

Here's the full advert! It was filmed in Sunderland train station on a chilly nightshoot, and at the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. It's a tried-and-tested (for Intel) concept - their new Ultrabook is so modern and cutting edge that it makes the protagonist go back in time.

Blink and you'll miss me! Seeing the three days condensed into 45 seconds means you miss a lot of the very carefully thought-out detail as well. Do take note of the modern, orange high-vis clad cleaner who becomes the chimney sweep, the newsagent and the policeman, even the bags and the clothing we're all wearing is specially chosen to be the same colours in both eras.

Here are some badly-taken iPhone snaps from the set!

The full costume and bonnet... only just long enough for lanky old me! 

Seeing period-costumed extras on mobile phones is always amusing.
I LOVED the lampshade dress on the right. 

The urchin and I. As much as I like this costume, I definitely think it adds about ten years!

Have you seen the ad on telly yet? Do look out for me!

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Eclectic, esoteric, eccentric!

Next weekend is one of the highlights of my year, and that's no exaggeration. The Chap Ball, like many other festive occasions, comes but once a year, and passes by quickly in a blur of amazing dresses, heady cocktails and laughs. Two years ago, I was very sad and remarkably skinny (compared to now). But the evening of the Chap Ball still had me dancing and twirling the night away.

And on Saturday, it all happens again.

This is what I wore for the first every Grand Anarcho-Dandyist Ball - which was held to celebrate a remarkable Ten Years of The Chap.

Gorgeous gown by Able Grable, and the photo was taken by O'Malley (who I really must get back in touch with as he is awesome. If you're reading this, Sean - shout!)

A long, flowing 1930s gown of emerald green satin, with a black train and 'wings' on the shoulders. So elegant (unlike my gin consumption that evening).

The following year was the year of the sad me. But I was smiling all night long.

Well, most of the night.

My full-length 1930s gown this year was emblazoned with white swallows and trimmed with rich black velvet (plus a velvet ribbon for a belt, which I added). I might be wearing it again this year, thanks to an eBay-saster.

Last year, I wore a dress of mine that's very old and has since given up the ghost (the lining has shredded). Luckily, it's not vintage. Here's the dress...

And here's the only picture of the night.

Balling in Bloomsbury with Jeni Yesterday

This year, the theme is all about eccentricity. As previous years, The Chap has got together with Bourne & Hollingsworth, the venue is the wonderful Art Deco Bloomsbury Ballroom, and the entertainment is made up of surrealist music hall acts, outlandish side shows, raucous live music and beautifully shaken cocktails. The Gonzo Dog-do Bar Band are headlining, but the other acts will include a real live flea circus, tap dancing ladies, one-armed jugglers and birdsong impersonators. 

Here's the official line on dress code from Chap HQ. 

The dress code for this Night of a Thousand Waistcoats is: eccentric, eclectic, electric and esoteric. Anyone arriving in polyester will be politely asked to stand near a naked flame and handed some tweed.

Anyone else out there going? 

If not, and you'd like to, it's on next Saturday, 1st December 2012 at the The Bloomsbury Ballroom, London WC1 from 8pm-2am.

Tickets are £20 from, and as there are some lovely young folks coming all the way from Australia to be there (OK, so they're on a European tour) I do hope to see some familiar faces there! 

Fleur xx

Monday, 26 November 2012

In which I drink vintage whisky

It's been a boozy few weeks for me. Not that I've been out partying all that much, because I haven't; but I've been to a few different tastings and drinks-related events. And, with Christmas coming up, that time of many colourful and highly alcoholic boozes, it's probably a good time to write about them.

Firstly, a very exclusive event that I was honoured to be invited to - a Balblair Whisky tasting. It took place at the Soho Whisky Club, a veritable Aladdin's cave of the stuff, and somewhere I'd recommend to any fans out there.

The Balblair distillery is purportedly the oldest in the world. It's been going strong since 1790 by John Ross. There are still four members of the Ross clan working there, and two are called John. Strong on tradition, these Scots. Balblair is also the only distillery that exclusively does vintages, and very small batches at that. Others like Glenrothes, which I visited last year, do vintages but they also do blends, you see. Not that there's anything wrong with a blend (my favourite from the Glenrothes trip was just such a blend).

I got to try four new Balblair vintages, starting with the 10 Year Old. It was a bit too harsh for me - you know when you take a sip of a strong spirit and it really hits you? That. But it was fruity, which seems to be a theme with this distillery.

The 1997 was next, and it was distinctly smoother, both due to age and to the first fill American oak bourbon barrels it inhabited all its life.

The 1989 was by far my favourite. Coming from second-fill American bourbon barrels, it smelled of creme caramel, fresh fruits (weirdly, banana) and vanilla. A long sip had absolutely no discernable harshness, even to my relatively untrained palate and it tasted exactly as it smelled... unlike many whiskies and the bloody misleading herbal tea!

I would recommend the Balblair 1989 as a brilliant gift for Dads, boyfriends, husbands and actually any lady friends who like whisky. Because if I liked it, it means it's very drinkable, nay enjoyable. Buy it from the Whisky Shop, and make a whisky-lover's year. Please note, I'm not getting paid to say this, nor is that an affiliate link! Just a genuine bit of advice after a kind invitation to an event.

The Balblair 1975 was smoother still, coming from American oak sherry barrels this time. I got cereal flavours and a very odd minty sensation from smelling it! I liked it very much, though not as much as the 1989...

The really interesting part of the evening came with the surprise opening of a bottle of the brand-new Balblair 1969 - a very, very exclusive vintage indeed. It had been bottled only a few days before. Its age made it not only a little less alcoholic due to the angels taking their share over the last forty-odd years - a mere 41.1% abv (usually they're around 46%), but the flavour of the whisky was more complex than the younger models. Perhaps due to the different techniques they used for malting and such-like back then. It was really easy to drink, and I'd definitely recommend it as a gift... if it wasn't going to cost around £2,500 a bottle. One day!

Unsurprisingly, there wasn't much left at the end.

I had a lovely time at the tasting, especially since I always meet some really fantastic people at them. If you're a fan of all things booze, may I recommend you take a peek at Gin Monkey (a lady not limited to gin!), Cask Strength (run by my old friend and fellow Chap writer Neil) and The Cocktail Lovers, a very smashing married couple of, erm, cocktail lovers.

Looking at these evenly-gendered links (although it's probably true that most whisky blogs are run by men), do you think it's true that more women are drinking whisky these days? I know Retro Chick would support that theory!

Fleur xx

Monday, 19 November 2012

V&A & Fans on a Frock

On Friday, Miss Bethan Garland and I went to see the Hollywood Costumes exhibition at the V&A. It's been open a few weeks (well, a month) but time and work tends to scupper fun things plans for both of us. But on Friday, we went! It was absolutely brilliant. Obviously, the costumes themselves were fantastic, but the curation and display was excellent - each outfit being topped by a screen with the character's head on it, moving slightly like a cinemagram. Our favourites were the Addams Family and the tiny Pubert, Batman/Cat-woman and Gone with the Wind. Dorothy and Marilyn were strangely drab and anti-climactic! 

Photographs were, of course, forbidden inside the exhibition. But the gift shop was fun! 

And photos can be taken inside the museum proper. Any excuse for an outfit post! 

I recently made a purchase from friend and sponsor Helen of Pinup Parade, who has her own range of repro dresses, Swagger Joint. You may recall I already have a dress with a very similar (though not identical) fan print. But one fan-print frock is not enough for this girl, and so I had to treat myself to the Olivia. 

It's a late 40s/early 50s style dress, not a housedress but a practical cotton number, with useful pockets at the front. It's lined too, so it's quite good in cold weather (particularly as it doesn't go all staticky on stockings)

Nice, huh? Unfortunately, my much-loved and much-worn winter boots, which are now about five years old (or more) are worn through at the side. Nooooo! A finger can be poked through the bit you can see overlapping the sole. Confound it!

If anyone's seen any retro-looking faux fur lined numbers about, please let me know. Miss L Fire ones are obviously the dream, though they come up half a size too small for me, big wah.

Please go and see the Hollywood Costume exhibition if you can, and also go and check out Helen's designs. This dress is a strong contender for Christmas Day outfit . Do you have yours planned yet?

Fleur xx

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Vintage Burger Fiend

I'll own up. Part of the reason why I've gained ten pounds as mentioned in my last blog is that I've become seriously addicted to burgers. I entirely blame my boyfriend for this, since before I met him, I'd only heard whispers and anecdotes about such fabled establishments as Lucky Chip and Meat Liquor, and many of my friends seem to be vegetarian, or simply not quite so piggy. So, despite reading reviews (and dribbling a little bit) and gazing longingly at Instagrams, I'd never actually been to any of the best burger joints in town (except Byron, which is a chain and doesn't really count...but gets an honourable mention below).

Burgers have historically only ever been an occasional treat for me - my mum made really good burgers with a hint of fennel seed and a dash of Tabasco, but they (and the knock-off ones I make with her recipe) are made simply with steak mince, sometimes with a bit of crushed Weetabix or egg to keep it bound together. Nothing like the carefully measured mix of chuck, short rib, fat and what have you that burger chefs seem to use. Burgers are MASSIVE right now - often in size and definitely in trend terms. I've certainly not sampled all the delights that London (and the UK) has to offer, but I've tried a fair few now and there are several I would recommend to anyone who is yet to try their fattening but oh so delicious offerings. It's definitely not a 'Top 5' of all the burger places in town since I haven't been to all that many! And there are technically only four anyway as two are run by the same company. But either way, if you fancy a burger, you would not go far wrong with a visit to any of these.

Lucky Chip

While I've never eaten from the original van at Netil Market, I've been to both the Slider Bar at the Player (once) and the Sebright Arms (at least three times), and while the former is very nice, the latter is exceptional.

The burgers at the Sebright Arms are all named after movie stars - The Kevin Bacon, the Tom Selleck, the Daryl Hannah (a fish burger, of course) and the Bill Murray, to name but a few. I tend to go for the Tom Selleck. It has a sesame bun, an onion ring, pineapple and spinach. The burger inside is fat, medium (of course) and tastes amazing. The burger itself is the messiest of all those I've tried (with the possible exception of one, below) and as you eat it, the juices WILL run down your hands, arms, and probably face. Forget looking glamorous - your Lucky Chip burger will defeat even Maybelline 24 Hour Superstay (the vintage burger eater's lipstick of choice). Definitely do not go here on a first date.

The chips are always lovely as well, and I've had a hotdog here before, also delicious. Prices range from about £7.50 to about £9, I think. It's worth noting that they have a traffic light inside that lets you know when you can order - red for when the kitchen is too busy, and green for go (obviously). It does get busy, but the light is never red for too long.

At the Slider Bar, I had a couple of minis of burgers I hadn't tried before - the El Chappo with aioli and jalapenos, and the double cheeseburger. It's definitely not quite as good, plus the small bottle that came with my chicken bucket starter was filled with a gravy that was the temperature of molten lava, which went on my hand and actually scalded me a bit. So BE CAREFUL.

Meat Liquor

Arrive hungry, leave drunk is their motto... pretty accurate. I've been here twice - once on a whim and once last weekend as it was their first birthday, with anyone who brought a balloon getting 50% off their bill. I had a Bloody Mary which was absolutely massive, so I lived up to the aforementioned motto. First time there, I stuffed my face with a bacon cheeseburger and deep-fried pickles with blue cheese dip, AKA the food of the gods. The meat is the real winner at Meat Liquor (unsurprisingly), the buns are a kind of brioche and do hold together much better than those at Lucky Chip. I can take or leave the fries though - they're nothing exciting, even when covered with copious cheese.

The decor is quite dark, with 'blood' stained abattoir plastic strips, and 'graffiti' everywhere. The toilets say 'Chicks' and 'Dicks' on them.

At the weekend, I had a Dead Hippy burger, which is like Meat Liquor's take on a Big Mac - two layers, cheese, lettuce and 'special sauce'. I managed to try this one from the travelling Meatwagon at Bestival, where I queued for half an hour to do so... which brings me to the queues at the restaurant. If you go at peak time, after work, you might have to wait outside for about an hour... so try to go about about 5.30 or about 9pm if you don't fancy lurking about in the cold! Worth it, though. Burgers are around £8, I think (why do none of these places have working menus online?).

Meat Market

This is a sister joint to Meat Liquor, but it's very different - set up like a fast food chain rather than a restaurant, with  a counter and high tables, plus slicker signage (albeit still with rude words on it).

This was the very first trendy burger bar burger I ever tried (OK, so the boyfriend isn't entirely to blame... I hadn't even met him yet), I went on my own and I'm glad... it was very nearly as messy as a Lucky Chip offering. I ate a Black Palace burger, not on the menu at the main ML. It's full of drippy, gloopy, caramelised onions. It's amazing. It was the first burger I Instagrammed. Sorry, world. They don't do deep friend pickles, rather these jalapeno cheese popper things... not as good but quite nice in their own, spicy right.

Mother Flipper

These guys are normally at Brockley Market, a food extravaganza that I've never visited due to geographical limitations combined with a lack of desire to get up early and traipse in, out and across town. But they're currently doing a pop-up residency at a pub in Camden called the Black Heart, which is a cool pub in itself, and one I happened to be visiting recently.

I had a bacon cheeseburger. The bun was another of these brioche-y numbers, the burger patty was delicious and cooked perfectly, and all in all, it was excellent. The man placed it at position number two, after Lucky Chip. I thought Meat Liquor's Dead Hippy had the edge. But the Mother Flipper chips were the best I've had. Just look at this uninspiring photo that looks like nothing, but is obligatory for any burger-eating Instagrammer.

Last, and least as well, because they're good but not as good as the places above, is Byron.

I've been to Byron loads, it's easy and there are loads of them around. Notable experiences were the first time I went with my beloved Bethan and tasted the deliciousness that is their courgette fries. Heavenly, they are.

The standard Byron is the burger I have eaten every time I've been there, with the exception of the second notable experience, which was when Byron Camden ran out of buns at 9pm on a Saturday. We actually went (with permission) and bought some ciabatta rolls from Sainsbury's and ate that way! A normal Byron burger looks like this. Unexciting, but tasty.

Plus, pickle spears are always a winner in my book! Last time I went to the Islington branch with Bethan, I broke from the norm and had a Mo Burger, which was even nicer than my usual, and it benefits Movember, too. All the male staff of Byron are participating in Movember, plus with all their other donations, you can feel virtuous as you eat your delicious, unhealthy burger. 

Looking at all this, it's a ruddy miracle that I have only put on ten pounds.

Go forth my readers and eat burgers (whilst wearing stretchy dresses and indelible lipstick) but more importantly, tell me where your favourite joints are, so I can go eat there. As a treat though. Only as a very special treat from now on. Promise!

Fleur xx

PS. In case you were thinking this isn't a very vintage post, burgers were invented in like 1904. So they are totally vintage, OK?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Vintage Inspired High Street

How do you feel when vintage becomes popular and creeps into the high street?

Actually, scratch that... I'm not sure exactly why I'm asking it as a theoretical question when vintage as a look has been 'in' consistently for the last few years. Admittedly, the main high street brands are full to bursting of a very different kind of 'vintage inspired' clothing - carbon copies of the kind of things I wore in the mind-90s. It's made me realise why people get het up about 70s and 80s being considered vintage, when they lived through it the first time. I'm not that old, I swear.

Awwh... I'm old. :(

That aside, anyone who's ever read this blog knows that I am not averse to picking up a bit of high street fashion to supplement my real vintage and authentic repro. Providing it isn't a complete rip-off as these things can so often be, that is. So I was quite pleased to find these basic, long-sleeved pencil dresses from Topshop - only £24 and available in some good dark colours and a few jazzier bright ones. Add a belt, seamed stockings and a cardigan, and they are super comfortable, practical and flattering! I must actually confess at this point that I am unable to wear around 99% of my considerable wardrobe due to putting on weight... something that I am addressing and hope to resolve before it gets really cold. I do not intend to buy anything bigger - it's something that no-one should ever do!

The good thing about these cheap and cheerful but comfy dresses is how easy they are to throw on at a moment's notice and still look put together, smart and (hopefully glamorous). I had to do just that yesterday as I had to rush out to a forgotten-about engagement at the Winter Fine Art and Antiques fair at Olympia.

I'm wearing a jersey midi dress, which doesn't seem to be on the Topshop site any more but this jersey tank dress is similar (I have it in charcoal); with a Freddies of Pinewood dolman sleeve cardigan and really old shoes from Naturalizer (plus What Katie did stockings, of course). Vintage-esque, even with my hair basically unstyled, and ready in milliseconds!

Forgive the rushed pictures - we didn't take any shots of the stands as it was not really done... but they were full of the most fascinating things. Not within my budget, but if these things are in yours then do go (or just go and marvel as we did).

Do you buy vintage inspired stuff for everyday wear, or are you still a die-hard vintage and repro devotee (as I used to be, and may be still again... when I've lost ten pounds...)?

Fleur xx

Friday, 9 November 2012

A Toast to the King

This month's post marks a very special occasion indeed! Please join me in wishing a very many happy returns to his Majesty, and a toast with the one and only...

Today is King Edward VII's 171st birthday. I like to joke to people who attend our events that he's still going strong thanks to his regular intake of King's Ginger, not to mention its highly medicinal and health-giving properties. That's a fib of course, but unlike the king himself, KGL is only one of many Great British brands that came into being during the reign of our Bertie, and are still going strong today.

Typhoo Tea was launched in 1903 by John Sumner. The name derived from the Chinese for 'doctor', and it was chosen for its uniqueness as well as the ease of which it rolled off the tongue. Perrier came into being in 1903 as well, when Sir St John Harmsworth bought the spring from its French owner and started to bottle in in glass modelled on the Indian clubs he used for toning his manly biceps (a popular exercise at the time). Cadbury’s Dairy Milk was first produced in 1905. Notable for its higher milk content than anything else made by Cadbury's, it became hugely popular in the King's lifetime, and by 1913 was the most popular chocolate product the company produced. The famous Dairy Milk bar, has been essentially the same size and shape since 1905... until last month when Cadbury's decided to update it. Sigh!

 Personal favourite spread Marmite was started up in 1902, and Oxo also popped up just before the end of Edward VII's reign, sponsoring the 1908 Olympics (as mentioned on here a couple of months ago, they even provided the athletes with fortifying drinks during the marathon), with the famous cubes appearing in 1910.

But what about the meals we were eating back then? Well, there was a heavy focus on meat. Meat at every meal was not unusual. As well as oysters, terrines, patés, potted shrimps and fish pastes, sautéd kidneys... all manner of stodge. If anyone ever saw the programme 'Edwardian Supersizers', they told Giles Coren that he'd be dead at 42 if he'd eaten like that all his life. So, really, our hero did pretty well to last to 69. One of King Edward's favourite restaurants was Rules in Covent Garden. Established in 1798, it has the honour of being London's oldest eatery and it still served up exactly the same kind of food that he would have eaten when entertaining Lillie Langtry (and he frequented it so often that the restaurant had a secret door fitted so that he could enter and leave without being observed by restaurant diners). Game, oysters, pies and puddings are the standard fare at Rules, with all the meat sourced from their own estates, everything is fresh, seasonal and British.

So there was only one place to celebrate the King's birthday really, wasn't there?

I was extremely sad not to have made this historic event - when I found out the confirmed date, I was already booked on a location film shoot the same night (which was probably the coldest I've ever been, oh for a meat pie!), so the fab pictures are all I have to go by. But look who did make it!

Dapper, suave, beardy - the likeness is uncanny! ;)

The dinner was, naturally, held in the King Edward room, itself full of interesting portraits and memorabilia from its long history.

Much King's Ginger punch was served, and spirits were high.

What's a birthday without a cake? This one is particularly brilliantly made, I'm sure you'll agree.

Spot the lovely Ms S from the Cocktail Lovers on the right there - always a lovely lady on his arm!

No pictures of me at the event due to the reason above, but what I CAN offer you is an actual video! Here is yours truly in the first of the King's Ginger Cocktail sessions, this time making the Autumn Cobbler. Please let me know in the comments what you think about it, as I haven't actually watched it yet!

If I suck, then please feel free to just fib and say I'm awesome anyway. and as always, please visit the KGL site, and please follow us on Twitter - so many tastings, events and fun happening before Christmas so if you want to get involved, then, er... get involved.

Fleur xx

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