Monday, 30 April 2012

Identity Crisis

Hello from a sunny England! I was overwhelmed by the appearance of some sunshine after the biblical rain we've had for the last... well, it seems like years. So shocked was I, that I even got my pasty legs out! But before I show you, I have a bit of a confession to make.

Like a mid-2000s superhero, I'm having something of an identity crisis.

Vintage style has been my life for over five years now. Ever since I discovered there were other people who dressed in such a way 24/7 and decided I wanted to do that too, it's been an all-consuming passion. But then, last year, my frankly anal adherence to my aesthetic started to be slightly tempered by my new-found love of running, and I started to scour the 'net for skin-tight lycra and performance fabrics... then found myself wearing my huge, fleecy tracky bottoms around the house instead of my 40s style pyjamas... what a phony I have become! I am semi joking - vintage has been my image, but I'm the first to admit that I've never been a lifestylist or a re-enactor. I listen to modern music, hanker after the latest gadgets and am generally a thoroughly modern girl in every other aspect of my day-to-day life, other than my clothes and general love of old-fashioned design.

But my recent, spur-of-the-moment decision to get a fringe cut has thrown me into the aforementioned crisis. For I have discovered that I only like it straightened, and there's nothing remotely 1940s about it any more.

 Behold! The damage done by years of hot sticking! ... and the fringe.

I can't claim to be drawing inspiration from the 40s collegiate look, as it would need to be more of a pageboy. If I was channeling Paulette Goddard or Barbara Stanwyck then I'd need a bit of a wave. And Bettie Page rip offs needs curls and more length.

While the old me has stuck rigorously to my chosen look, even writing guest posts about how one should always wear the right hair to match the outfit (within reason, I've always paired 50s and early 60s frocks with 40s hair for example), I'm now stuck with a 'do that only looks good (to my eyes) straightened into ultra-modernity, even dare I say trendiness; but yet I still love my vintage wardrobe. Kind of. I'm also finding myself yearning to be a little more... sexy.

I have been secretly buying little short dresses since I got my first one a few months back for my 'ice skater' outfit. I discovered I really like having my legs out... these gams have carried me strong for miles and miles of running - they are toned and taut... they might not be physically perfect but they are darned awesome in what they can do. And they do come out in the summer, when I wear playsuits, but not for a long time have I worn a short skirt in public. And there will come a time, in the not-too-distant future when I will be too old to wear them. I always intend to push boundaries, but not to the point of being mutton (luckily a Young Person told me he thought I was 23 the other day, so hopefully I'm not too haggard yet). And I discovered something that most other women have known for years... men like short skirts! I have lost count of the compliments and chat up lines I have had from the chaps since going out three or four times in this type of dress. And as someone who's been extremely unlucky in love and is yet still a hopeless romantic, then perhaps this is something I need to make the most of this summer, unless being a spinster is my destiny as I'm starting to fear...

But let's face it: with the hair, and the short frock, it's all starting to look a lot like, well. Not me. Not the old me, anyway.

As my readers, it's important to me that you don't abandon me in droves because I've changed my image slightly and become, being deadly honest here, a vintage style hypocrite (NB. I almost put hairpocrite here, but it was a pun too far... even though I have still made it!). Because I will be continuing to wear my beloved vintage dresses as well as these modern styles, but with my new 'do 'ruining' the authentic effect, at least for the time being. And some other, slightly different looks are going to start creeping in. Because I'm at something of a crossroads, both in my life (for various reasons) and my look. But nothing really stays the same forever... can it? Maybe I am just convincing myself here...

If nothing else, after all this time blogging, I have realised you can't always please everyone all the time (read the comments on my last entry to see this in action!) and this is, as it always has been, a document of my life and the trials and tribulations therein. But ultimately, if no one reads my blog because it's lost its way, then it's all a little bit pointless, innit! Whatever happens here, it will be an interesting journey, and it will always involve lots of lovely vintage. This blog will ALWAYS be called Diary of a Vintage Girl, I will ALWAYS wear clothes that come from or echo the eras I love (and which suit me best). And I will ALWAYS do my best to inform and entertain. I do have some really fun projects coming up soon, too. I'm quite excited about this new phase, actually!

But please do let me know your thoughts in the comments. :)

Lots of love,

Fleur xx

Friday, 27 April 2012

Get Happy

Two years ago, I was pretty miserable. I was reminded (not that I had exactly forgotten) of this recently, when I was rooting out an old picture of me with a particular hairdo. I just look a bit, well... sad. It seems to shine out of my eyes. I don't ever want to be that sad again, and so far, touch wood, life has been a lot kinder to me in the last two years. Not perfect, but not nearly so mean!

I've posted on here several times before about the things I do to cheer myself up if I'm feeling blue - physical things like putting a flower in my hair, wearing red lipstick. You know, superficial things. Don't get me wrong, they absolutely do work. But I recently watched a DVD of The Secretand while some of it was pretty silly (if you worry about the big bills you're about to receive through your letterbox... they'll materialise! No, actually your racking up of said big bills is what will make them materialise, duh!), and it did inspire me quite a lot. Well, enough to write a blog about it, anyway. But there's such a lot to be said for thinking, speaking and acting positive to manifest positive things in your life, and I feel like sharing my newly acquired pearls of happiness wisdom.

In my experience thus far, if you're feeling a bit mopey and someone you know and love (who's aware of said mopeyness) asks you how you're doing, you have two choices. You can open your heart and spill out the sadness therein, and then spend the next few hours going over and over the things that are dragging you down, lamenting that this has happened to you, aren't you awesome like your friends all say you are? When will it all end? Oh woe! Or, you can get it off your chest and then close that chapter for the time being. You draw a temporary line in the sand, step over it and move swiftly on to talking about something more positive, something that will bring smiles and hope. The first option will ensure you'll spend all your time with your beloved friend being all sad, keeping you down, bringing them down, it's just a big down-fest. But the latter leads to sharing, sympathising yes; but then getting the hell out Down-ge. Trust me, it works. I've been made redundant, been dumped, carelessly lost stuff, broken things, crashed my car, been made to feel a fool, and so on, many times over the years. I'm sure we all have experienced some or all of those things. But my new strategy, when faced with a blow, is to wallow in it for ONLY a set and indeed short amount of time, and then move the heck on. Which is not to say that the self-pitying thoughts won't creep back in quiet moments. But try your absolute hardest not to dwell on them. Acknowledge them, but then let them pass. Focus on your ambitions, your dreams, that party, even the awesome dinner you have planned! Write a set of positive affirmations and repeat them to yourself every night before you go to bed. It really works, promise.

As ever, please note that I am not a qualified counsellor and all my advice is anecdotal and subjective, but if it can make even one of you lovely readers feel a little bit brighter when the world is conspiring to make you a misery guts, then I am happy. Hurrah for happy!

I'll leave you with some photos of me in my namesake Fleur dresses. These make me pretty happy at the moment! And now the word 'happy' has lost all meaning as I've written it too many times. Oh well!

(Above shoes from Rocket Originals)

Till next time!

Fleur xx

Friday, 20 April 2012

Poncho chic

Last week, I had the distinct honour of being invited to Future Cinema's much-hyped presentation of Bugsy Malone. The invite came through the fantabulous Bangs and a Bun (thanks Bangalang!) and she got a little group of us Run Dem Crew running ladies together for the occasion.

Now, I've obviously heard of Future Cinema and its big brother Secret Cinema, but I've never been to any of their productions. I have, however, been to the venue before. The Troxy is a magnificent Art Deco gem, fully restored and tarted up inside. It's strange and nice to see an deco interior so pristine... nearly too pristine! I like a bit of patina, after all.

The night began in the alleyway behind the Troxy, where characters roamed around, talking to each other, to us and to everyone. We were being called in to 'audition' for Fat Sam, and there lots of other chorus girls around, a reporter, a shoe shine guy, several gangsters and so on. I'll be honest, I often find these immersive theatre things a bit trying. I adore the scary, Punchdrunk type things, but somehow the lighter-hearted ones are a wee bit painful. That said, all the actors were enthusiastic and the atmosphere was well and truly made by their often slightly-dodgy Noo Yawk accents.

A commotion on the rooftop and a dramatic photo opportunity!

Inside, and we grabbed a table in prime position, and watched the performances on stage. Songs from the movie (which I've never seen), scenes and skits, plus lots of dancing, it was all fantastic. I consumed my body weight in macaroni cheese around this point in the evening.

Fizzy the cleaner took a bit of a shine to Candice!

The film itself soon came on, and I enjoyed it a lot! I felt like I'd badly missed out on a childhood classic, but it was still super fun as an adult. And I had absorbed most of the songs without realising, it seems! It was joyous to hear everyone singing along, and small bursts of live action took place all the way through. I say small... until...

A sudden scramble under our table to find our complimentary, and very stylish, plastic ponchos, which we all had to fling on with utmost haste. Because any second now, a devastating splurge gun massacre was about to take place! Elle, Candice and Bangs were rocking them.

I managed to protect my deco finery (also known as a jumpsuit from ASOS!), but my phone got very heavily splurged. Luckily, shaving foam isn't too damaging! ;)

Pure carnage.

The show closed with a huge, poncho-clad, mass dance-off on the stage and on the floor (gets very hot dancing in plastic, let me tell you), and then we all dispersed into the wilds of Limehouse. It was an absolutely brilliant event, and I encourage you to get dressed up and go along if you can - I believe it closes at the end of next week. But I do hear that they're doing La Haine next... though how the gritty urban film will work in the deco splendour of the Troxy, I can't imagine! But I'm very interested to find out.

Fleur xx

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Sorry for that rubbish pun title. But I've had the chop! It was inspired by the mini shoot I did last week, for which I fashioned a faux bang for the first time in ages. My hair had reached that stage where the bottom three inches were basically dead. I permed it two years ago nearly to the day and the split ends were just getting worse and worse. I also had a completely frazzled front part from when I bleached it for my 30th birthday, the best part of a year ago. It didn't look too bad though, at a casual glance. Allow me to now show off these pictures!

These fabulous black denim capris are by Bernie Dexter, though a word of warning. I got these in the blue in a size small and they are absolutely perfect for me, but there is much less stretch in the black colourway. As a result, they are under much more... um... strain, shall we say. If I replace these in the future, I'll go up a size. But they are so fab and so flattering... they work wonders on your bottom, ladies. Mine is pretty ample, too.

But what about the hair? Clearly a fringe suits me... I even had a real one for a year or so when I was about 24.

Well, I'm being a bit of a cliche, but I decided to make some changes in my life, to go forward with a little bit of transformation, so it was time for a drastic haircut.  And here it is, straight from the hairdressers (and no proper pics yet, only phonecam!).

It's not quite a Bettie Page - it tapers down slightly at the sides instead of up. I haven't played much with vintage styling yet and I am definitely still adjusting, and am not 100% sure... I hope it'll grow on me!! Grow! LOL etc ;). Touch of 'fremorse', you might say.

Anyway, let me know what you think. Unless you think it's horrible, then don't let me know at all. ;) One thing's for sure, I can certainly make it look totally unvintage - rather extremely East LDN trendy!

Oh, and HAPPY EASTER! Hope you're all overindulging in chocolate, as is traditional.

Fleur xx

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Chrysalis to Butterfly - the first step

A wise person recently told me that 'everyone has an interesting story to tell'.

It got me thinking, a lot. I can't disagree with this theory at all. It's more than a theory, it's undoubtedly true. But the conversation that prompted that insight came from me acknowledging that I rarely, if ever, get talking to strangers - whether out in a bar, at a party or even out at the shops. I don't necessarily mean starting a conversation but if someone tries to talk to me, I often don't really respond beyond polite acknowledgement before high-tailing it out of the conversation, or bar, or area.

How many interesting stories have I missed out on in my life, simply because I haven't taken the trouble to talk to someone I've not yet met?

Bethan and I... not talking. ;)

When I was younger, I was quite introverted and wrapped up in my own little world. And actually, I've recently come to realise that I still am, a lot of the time. I came out of my shell a lot as a teenager, embracing dressing alternatively and growing my little circle of friends and acquaintances, but in recent years after going through some hard stuff, I think I've gone back into it... a little more each time I've been hurt. With friends (most of the time - see below), at work events (when I have to put on an 'act') and online, I'm fine. But put me in an unfamiliar social situation and I quite often am not.

Two separate people I am very close to recently told me, independently, that they often see me clam up and that I can be terribly hard work to talk to sometimes. That instead of interacting, I just sit wrapped up in my own thoughts and let them talk until they run out of steam (or give up on trying to get me to join in, whichever comes first). It sounds pretty exhausting, to be fair. I also occasionally get social anxiety that results in me sitting in a corner, trying and sometimes failing, not to cry/run away/both. And even when I'm not feeling anxious, I'm just not that great at making small talk with complete strangers or even casual acquaintances or friends of friends, often leading to people thinking I am unfriendly or aloof.

Or rather, they don't think it. I probably am being unfriendly and aloof.

See? Keeping my distance.

Sometimes it's genuine shyness. And even when it isn't, it's not that I have the conscious thought that talking to a particular person doesn't have any 'value' to me, but in hindsight it might well be that - I very often don't talk to people who are much older, younger or just plain different to me as I think I won't have anything interesting to say to them, or them to me. Or I'm scared they'll think I'm a loser or a dork (which I am). And when I do get into an exchange with someone new, even if I think we could get on, I will likely guard my conversation for the same reasons, offering up very little of myself and thus not giving nor eliciting much information, probably putting off potential new friends or lovers in the process. And missing who-knows-how-many of the aforementioned interesting stories.

I did an experiment yesterday and made conversation with a random middle-aged man at a swimming pool. He turned out to be a fencer. I need my fence fixing. I took his details and will now get a good deal on some fencing (cash job, innit). OK, it's not an 'interesting' outcome, but it's a bloody useful one!

I know without any doubt that I want and need to change myself for the better. I am carrying around a lot of baggage from life events over the last couple of years and I've no doubt at all that said baggage has had an adverse effect on my behaviour and thus my life, perpetuating the baggage. It's like an M. C. Escher infinity of baggage. Now the word baggage looks weird. Anyway!

People can't alter their personalities easily but I planned to be a better me this year. On the more superficial side, I've lost 7lbs (must do an update on my blog about health from a while back!) and got back into running recently. I've bought some new (and new vintage) clothes for the first time in ages. But most crucially, I've made an appointment with a very highly-recommended lady who will hopefully help me talk through my fears and unpick a brand new me from the tangle of the old one. A phoenix from the ashes of my old self. Or a butterfly from the chrysalis of the person I can be. Let's see where it takes me.

I know this is meant to be a blog about vintage and I don't often go too much into my personal life, but I just felt I had something a bit different to say today. I would love to hear any stories or anecdotes about psychotherapy from any of you readers out there as it's something that holds much more stigma in the UK than it does in, say, the US, where it seems as normal as going to the dentist. I'm scared but I'm also excited.

Are you strangely reluctant to chat to strangers and sometimes even your own friends or family!? I'm sure it can't be just me.

Fleur xx

Monday, 2 April 2012

Angel things

Last Monday was no ordinary day in the life of me. For one thing, I touched up a tree...

No but seriously, I had some really exciting things to do. The first was to film a very important piece for a forthcoming documentary. By important, I mean silly, and by documentary, I mean it's a spoof one, following The Chap Magazine's Olympic Committee as we made plans for the summer's Games. The Chap Olympiad this year is rather special, for there's a rival event in town and therefore we've had to seriously up our own game (pun intended). We're extending it to a rather bonkers two days, over the 7th and 8th July, with the second day informally known as the Para(lytic) Olympics. I may be running a race the morning of the second day. Should make it... fun.

It was super amazing to be doing some acting, and it was quite a challenge for me to talk about how dreadful sportswear is and how I'd never dream of wearing it; all the while plotting a trip to Nike Town to buy some new running shorts. Anyway, I won't spoil it any more - I'll of course let you all know when the film is out. But my outfit, for the record is very un-athletic - my amazing Jitterbuggin Bybee dress, lots of bakelite and Rocket Originals shoes. Perfect for our spring weather.

I'm posing outside the  Zetter Hotel, where I went afterwards to accompany my dear mum to a launch event. You may know, if you're a long-time reader, that my mum does angel stuff. Well, the talented chap who did all the artwork for my mum's books, Richard Rockwood, has put his hard work, well... back to work. He's teamed up David Watson to produce a line of silk scarves, each one using one of his lovely illustrations. It's not exactly standard Diary of a Vintage Girl fare, but worth mentioning, both to support my mum and her friend, and in case you have friends that do like such silky wonders. The website is called Epiphany Angels and you'll hopefully be seeing the scarves in a department store near you - each one coming in a lovely box with a feather inside.

Here I am showing you how to model a green Nadiel scarf in a suitably vintage way.

Grace Kelly eat your heart out! ;)

Have an angelic Monday everyone.

Fleur xx

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Gardening leave

First of the month and time for my eighth trip to obscure yet interesting places for The King's Ginger. I've been wanting to do this one for a while, and with the arrival of both some unseasonably lovely weather, and some almost unreasonably nice new frocks, it was time. West Dean House was my destination!

Now, we've established before that our dear friend King Edward VII had something of an eye for the ladies. Beautiful, feisty, witty and Scottish, Alice Keppel was the last in a long line. She was Edward's favourite mistress from the moment he met her, in 1898, to his death in 1910, and was known to have supported him immensely, both in his personal and political life. While Edward's mistresses were never kept a secret (royals having taken them for centuries), the couple were nonetheless not welcome to stay in the King's haunt Goodwood House, and so, an alternative nearby venue was sought, and found, in West Dean House.

West Dean manor has been around at least as far back as the Domesday Book, which was 1086, fact fans. But the flint mansion you see before you was built in 1804 by Sir James Peachy, who was also responsible for planning and planting the arboretum and the earliest incarnation of the amazing gardens. But the period we're interested in begins in the last days of the 19th Century. William Dodge James made his fortune from American industries, married a wealthy Scottish socialite and settled in West Dean, extending the original house and filling it with treasures from across the world, taxidermy and paintings.

William Dodge James also knew how to throw a hell of a party, all year round; but especially during the partridge and pheasant shooting season. It was these parties which King Edward, who never could resist a good shindig, would regularly attend with Mrs Keppel.

The House itself is now a college, and tours are only rarely given. I was allowed to have a look in the foyer, but no further, and it meant I couldn't check out the infamous King's Room, which is now nothing more than a conference room, but which once housed Bertie himself. There's apparently a small door concealed somewhere, which is where his lady friend would be smuggled in... how I'd loved to have seen it! But imagining it is fun, too.

Outside of the House is the main attraction these days, from the stunning Victorian pleasure gardens, to the walled Kitchen Garden and the arboretum.

Everywhere we turned there was a wonderful ancient orchard tree (wild or trained into a fabulous shape), a lovingly tended bed, or some gorgeous wrought iron from the time when such things were designed for aesthetics as well as function.

This little museum of a gardener's cottage was full of interesting bits!

There were some beautiful Victorian glass houses and hothouses too, holding vines, orchids and more.

And while I don't imagine King Edward strolling around the kitchen gardens, there's one place I can easily picture him: the 300-foot pergola, which absolutely captivated me (besides being the perfect place to pose!).

Willie James's son, Edward James, was King Edward's godson. He had something of a troubled relationship with his mother Evelyn Forbes. She was the one who gave the enormous house parties so typical of the Victorian super-rich, attended by King Edward (both as king and as Crown Price); often with a full orchestra playing music for dancing into the night. Evelyn was, by all accounts, something of an unconventional lady for the time - aside from being a complete party animal. I found this fascinating biography, which relates a story of how, in 1896, she was 'reported to have bicycled through the night with twenty-three of her house guests to watch the sun rise over the Downs. One of the male guests had to offer his jacket to stop her from freezing, as, it was noted, she was wearing "next to no clothes."' The article also tells how, when asked by her maid which of her children she'd like to accompany her to church, she replied, “Whichever goes best with my blue dress". Not the most loving of mothers then, and no wonder Edward James was not entirely immune to scandal.

He inherited the estate in 1912 at the tender age of five, two years after Edward's passing, so you might be forgiven for thinking that that is where our quest for knowledge ends. But James Junior apparently later claimed to be our King Bertie's grandson, born of a dalliance between the former and his grandmother, Lady Helen of Newe. If Evelyn's mother was anything like her daughter, it's not too difficult to imagine that she was a high-spirited lady of exactly the type adored by his Majesty.

Anyway, all that promenading was thirsty work, so we retired to the lovely West Dean House cafe for a thirst-quencher. I picked the rather appropriate Fentiman's Victorian Lemonade, and blow me, if it doesn't contain a hint of ginger. I happened to have just the thing to perk it up a little bit further still...

My day out at West Dean House was interesting, revivifying and just plain wonderful, just like our old friend KGL itself. Do visit the King's Ginger website if you have a mo, and treat yourself to a bottle to mix up with lemonade this summer. I'll be giving another bottle away soon, too! How exciting is that? I'll show you...

Springy, gingery love to you all!

Fleur xx

PS. This is indeed the second of the two new Fleur dresses in their classic floral gingham stripe. This time, it's PINK! I took lots of lovely photos (the backdrops helped), and they will be posted on here and the Heyday site in the next few days. So forgive seeing the same outfits again, twice. You'll just have to let me off for being so proud! :)

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