Thursday, 27 June 2013

Vintage booze with Vintage News

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a Vintage Mafia (with honorary man) road trip!

I drove... I didn't take this picture!

Our destination was Brighton and the birthday party of the beautiful Sadie, of Vintage News and the Vintage Vanity Case fame. This lady is just a doll - she is excellent at what she does, a lovely person and so supportive of our Vintage Mafia club nights, often travelling with the equally wonderful Hayley Stella to London from the coast to attend the Ric Rac. We wanted to return the favour and help her celebrate turning one year older (and yet still so young) in style.

The birthday girl! 

The venue was the Black Dove, a really lovely, quirky pub with a great booze selection. I wasn't drinking, of course (boo!).

Sadie and DJ extraordinaire, Stella of Cotton Tail Club!

These Brighton cats know how to swing.

Obligatory VM pose!

Thanks for having us at the seaside, Sadie! We'll be back for some fish and chips on the promenade when it's finally become summer...

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Pink, peach and a perfume bottle

For my King's Ginger post a couple of days ago, I took some photos in the lovely little wildflower garden at the Natural History Museum and it seemed a shame not to record my outfit as well. This is an entirely modern outfit, perfect for casual days walking about on an assignment, although I am wearing some vintage accessories!

Today I am wearing...
Skirt: Topshop 
Peasant top: Primark
Shoes: Swedish Hasbeens high-heeled clogs c/o Spartoo Shoes

These are new Swedish Hasbeens Heart Sandals that I couldn't be more delighted to have as I have worn my tan ones to death - they are now distinctly tatty, although I'll still wear them for knocking about in! The skirt is a couple of years old - I love the deco/atomic swirls! And as for the top - I wear these alllll the time, you're probably bored of seeing them! 

My hair flowers are two separate vintage millinery pieces, given to me for my birthday by my dear friend Bethan. One is peach and one is pink - I'm wearing both to tie the peach swirls on my skirt with the pink shoes! My lipstick is Revlon Cherries in the Snow. 

If I look a little peaky in these photos is because my upper back is entirely covered with clingfilm from the tattoo I had done only a couple of hours before. It was a coverup of a little black tribal I had done when I was 18. 

Tattoo by the amazing Tracy D at King's Cross Tattoo Parlour.
Follow her and see her amazing work and even more amazing French Bulldog Mulberry
on Instagram:

You can just about, sort of see the tribal in the middle of the swirl but she's done a brilliant job of disguising it. What do you think?

Fleur xx

Monday, 24 June 2013

Whisky adventures: the Ardbog Ardblog

Not so long ago I went on another whisky adventure. This time it was to celebrate Ardbeg's Ardbog Day. Sadly, I wasn't invited up to the distillery in Islay but I did get to go along to the London celebrations where I sampled some amazing Ardbeg cocktails and got to dig around in a real* peat bog.

*OK, it wasn't actually real.

Ardbeg is a great brand and isn't afraid to not take itself too seriously. Its fans, however, are some of the most serious whisky geeks around - you kind of have to be to be that into Ardbeg. It's a super peaty, smoky whisky, to me it tastes like an actual mouthful of peat when drunk neat. But put in cocktails, it's a delight - the flavours are so interesting and unlike anything else, really (other peaty whiskies excepted).

They always have such fun things at their events too. Exhibit one: the Arbeg Chopper.

Side note: I was booted off by a burly security guard moments after this was taken.
The Chopper's for looking at, not for sitting on. Whoops! 

I went along with my friend Beatrix von Bourbon so it was only right to have a girl-on-girl wrestle in the peat bog. Actually, we just participated in the game, which was to locate as many coins buried in the bog as possible. Both being fairly dressed up, she in Vivienne Westwood and me, coincidentally in Vivien of Holloway, we were given protective Arbeg boiler suits.

And armed with shovels...

...Before being let loose!

The ref looked fetching with her horns...

I am proud to say that I was victorious in our wrestle... er, battle. Here's the evidence, which was taken on the far more picturesque side (in case you thought the location was a building site!)

Thanks Ardbeg, or more specifically my always amazing friend Marcin Miller for inviting me and, more importantly, for taking numerous silly photos of me scrabbling around in a pretend peat bog. I salute you, sir!

Fantabulous new cropped gypsy top from Vivien of Holloway
Boiler suit Ardbeg's own!

I might pioneer this part glamour, part workwear look for A/W 13, what do you think?

Do visit to find out lots more about this fabulous whisky.

Fleur xx

Friday, 21 June 2013

Ginger Winger

The time has come my friends... for another King's Ginger post! This one is about a subject close to my heart - fashion - and the story about how the styles of the times led to some drastic intervention by a very altrustic Edwardian lady, whose actions soon met with approval and the award of a royal warrant by His Majesty King Edward VII. Phew, that was a long sentence, better fortify myself before carrying on. Here goes!

It's probably fair to say that up until around the 20th century, we cared far less about the welfare of wildlife than we do today. Mankind has wiped out so many different species due to recklessness, greed or outright indifference. We killed off the Great Auk in the 1840s-50s, the dodo in the late 17th century, and we decimated the giant turtle in the 16th century onwards because we ate them almost entirely to death. But there was one animal that suffered a great deal at the hands of the Victorians and Edwardians, all in the name of fashion. Millinery, to be precise. Birds, to be even more to the point.

As the clothing of the later Victorian and early Edwardian periods got slimmer, more streamlined and generally less fussy, the hats got more and more outrageous. The more standard feathers and bright plumage, which had been used in millinery for centuries, gave way to wings, heads and whole, taxidermied birds. Pairs of birds, even.

1904 hat with full bird of paradise

Edwardian hat with full exotic bird

Pigeons - less exotic but no less worthy of saving

No one really worried about the birds themselves, since, they figured, they were all species that were so abundant as to be impervious to any threats. How wrong they were! The egret was one species highly prized by milliners in London and New York - it had gossamer feathers that became even more prominent in mating season. This meant, sadly, that plume hunters targeted them during this time, orphaning the hatchlings and wiping out several generations in one go. London, once descrived as 'the Mecca of the feather killers of the world' went through about 130,000 egrets in one nine-month period in the late 1880s. Terns, herons, spoonbills and other wading birds, including flamingos, were the most popular. Birds of Paradise, hummingbirds, parrots and all manner of exotic species were also en vogue and thus soon threatened with extinction. According to Astor Place Vintage, in 1903, an ounce of fashionable feathers was worth more than an ounce of gold, with each ounce amounting to four dead birds.

In lieu of a trip round the world to see these birds in their natural habitats, to show why the Edwardians prized the feathers so much, I went to the Natural History Museum. As well as destructive millinery, the Victorians & Edwardians also loved taxidermy. These are all birds typically used on hats according to my research but here they are stuffed whole for display, which may or may not be any better.

Clockwise from top left: Himalayan pheasant, egret, bird of paradise, quetzal

The Museum of Nova Scotia has a page that is actually vintage (since it was last updated in 1998), that details an order to a 'plumassier' of London: "The demand for feathers reached epidemic proportions. In 1892, a single order of feathers to a London dealer included 6,000 bird of paradise feathers, 40,000 hummingbird feathers and 360,000 feathers from other East Indian birds (McDowell, 1992). By the turn of the century, hats piled high with feathers were all the rage—so much so, in fact, that feathers themselves were no longer enough." Hence the move onto bird heads, wings, tails and entire bodies.

Clockwise from top left: The tail of a bird of paradise from a Victorian study case,
two hummingbirds from one of the saddest and most magnificent things in the Natural History Museum
 - a huge case containing hundreds of tiny, stuffed hummingbirds, a painting of an egret, a roller

Ostrich feathers, which were deemed OK, even in the wake of a final ban;
and a crowned pigeon head, for study rather than fashion, though!

Clearly, this could not in any conscience, go on. Or so thought Emily Williamson, who formed 'The Plumage League' in her kitchen in Manchester, in 1889. There were two simple rules for membership to the League:

  • That Members shall discourage the wanton destruction of Birds, and interest themselves generally in their protection
  • That Lady-Members shall refrain from wearing the feathers of any bird not killed for purposes of food, the ostrich only excepted. 

They campaigned fiercely against the plumage trade and in 1891 joined forces with the Fur and Feathers based in Croydon to form the Society for the Protection of Birds.
In September 1899, Queen Victoria confirms an Order that certain regiments should discontinue wearing 'osprey' plumes.

Protesting gents ©RSPB

What does this have to do with King Edward VII, you may well ask. Well, in 1904, the Society had gained such influence and momentum that it was granted the Royal Charter and became the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In 1906, Queen Alexandra declared that she would no longer wear exotic plumage on her hats (or outfits).

Finally, in this tale related to his Majesty, the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Bill was introduced to Parliament in 1908, though it was not passed until 1921. Still, it is so heartening to know that despite his fondness for shooting things on his own hunting trips, our hero knew a good cause when he saw one, and we can perhaps thank him in no small way that many of these species threatened by fashion are still with us today.

The NHM goes well with KGL!

I didn't want to leave my field trip there, so to make it even more interesting, with two possible sources of gems in close proximity, the only thing for me to do was to head up the road to look at both Edwardian costume at the V&A!

I mainly wanted to see if they had any bird-based hats. They sadly did not. They had two examples of the more streamlined Edwardian outfits that led to the increasing fanciness of hats. They also had one chapeau. This one was a post Queen Alexandra swearing off feathers number.

Dried flowers are beautiful as well as being entirely cruelty-free, unless you believe flowers are sentient (of course you don't, you aren't a loony).

I hope you have enjoyed this little story from the time of King Edward VII. Since none of these articles is complete with a bit of posing, here are two more shots of me in the beautiful wildflower garden outside the Natural History Museum, which I like to think is a little slice of England of old anyway - perfect setting for a wee bottle of King's Ginger.

New clogs! are Swedish Hasbeens from Spartoo Shoes - full outfit deets next time! 

Outfit deets coming in a separate post! 

Since I haven't done it in a while and this is brand-new, I shall leave you with this gorgeous new King's Ginger cocktail, dreamed up by the Cocktail Lovers (who are also brilliant) which you should most definitely get yourself a bottle of KGL and try...

The Royal-Tea Cup from The Cocktail Lovers


  • 40 ml The King's Ginger
  • 15 ml homemade rhubarb syrup*
  • 25 ml Twinings Lemon & Ginger tea**
  • 10 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 25 ml English sparkling wine
  • Fresh ginger, raspberry and small sprig of mint to garnish


  • Place two big ices cubes in a tea cup. Add all the ingredients except the sparkling wine and stir.
  • Carefully top with the sparkling wine and gently stir again. Garnish with a thin slice of ginger, raspberry and the mint sprig secured with a cocktail stick.

* Homemade rhubarb syrup:
Chop two sticks of rhubarb into one inch pieces. Place in a pan and cover with one cup of water, two tablespoons of caster sugar and a dash of vanilla extract. Bring to the boil and simmer until the rhubarb is mushy. Leave to cool then strain through a piece of muslin or strainer into an airtight jar. The liquid will keep for a few days in the fridge.

** Lemon & Ginger tea:
Pour boiling water on to a single Twinings Lemon & Ginger tea bag. Leave to infuse for two minutes. Remove tea bag and allow to cool.

King's Ginger is available all over the place. Look here for where you can buy it!

Sounds delicious. Goodbye from me and my new friend the Cock of the Rock. ;)

Fleur xx

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Gadding about in gardens

Here's a fairly straightforward outfit post for your eyes! I took my mum to east London for a fun afternoon of viewing flats and eating food (ie the real fun bit). We had some time to kill before the flat viewings so we ambled around Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch. It's a fab place which has room set-ups from middle-class homes from 400 years ago to the present day - all fascinating stuff.

The gardens are also beautiful, and that's where I got my mum to take a few pictures so you can see my standard vintage casual outfit du jour. It was a bit chilly for a cotton frock and still is most days, so jeans are featuring heavily in my outfit choices at the moment.

Peasant top: Vivien of Holloway
Shoes: Rocket Originals

When Vivien of Holloway told me they had resized their peasant tops to make them more generous, I immediately bought two - red and black. They used to be teeny, and their size L was a bit on the small side for me but they are such a great staple for everyday wear. I do have a bit of a gypsy style fetish as well! The jeans are much older but wearing well, and I have a black pair now though they haven't featured on here yet. I like to tightroll them instead of doing a big, vintage-style turnup, a slight style clash, but that's what I'm all about these days. The Rocket Originals are old faithfuls. I love that I'm entirely dressed in British repro!

I am getting loads of wear out of my new glasses, as you can see. I'm not sure if I bragged about it already, but I actually got these free from Specsavers. Nothing to do with blogging, simply because I buy my contact lenses from them on Direct Debit! I nearly fell over when I took them to the counter to pay (just on a whim, I fancied a change from cat-eyes) and they told me they were free! I had no idea but weirdly have now heard ads on Spotify telling me about the deal. Still. If you get your contacts from Specsavers then go and get your free specs (or heavily discounted if you get expensive ones) post haste!

Not sure why I chose not to wear lipstick today. I don't wear it every day. Do you?

Just for good measure, here's one I took of my lovely mum, the most caring, patient, generous, amazing lady in the world. Long-suffering as well... when it comes to taking photos of me and many other things. Love you, mum! 

I recommend the Geffrye Museum highly for all your cultural or indeed time-killing in East London needs!

Fleur xx

Monday, 17 June 2013

Elegance & Gowns - Glyndebourne Festival

Oh hi there!

If you cast your mind back in time to a fortnight ago, you may recall I did a preview post about my upcoming trip to Glyndebourne, the festival opera. And go to Glyndebourne I did, so here is my review of the day. This is an account of what my eyes saw!

After the drive down, my lovely mum and I were greeted by a friendly PR, then treated to a glass of champagne before being given a mini tour of the grounds and house.

Let it not be said that I shy away from dressing up. Rather, I embrace every opportunity to get gussied up to the nines and go over the top. It's not really possible to go over the top with glamour at Glyndebourne though, everyone is supremely elegant. It was just as I imagined, ladies in gowns and stoles, gents in tuxedos at every turn, strolling and picnicking in the lovely gardens.

Carefully tended to by a very small army of gardeners, the flowers are truly gorgeous!

The perfectly manicured lawns play host to loungers and picnickers

Look at the lovely borders! Not me, the borders!

Some folks probably sit in the same place, year after year. Here, they overlook the lake and even bring candelabras!

Dapper attendees strolling in their finery

The old pile, looking majestic in the hazy evening sunshine, is slightly dwarfed by the new opera house, which I didn't photograph. But we did go into the wonderful, 600-year-old house, most of which is closed off due to still being a family home.

The organ room contains what you might expect... but it's for display only and not connected in any way! The flower arrangements are, of course, taken entirely from the grounds. There's also a kitchen garden which supplies the produce for the restaurants and the food for the performers, who all live on site during the festival and use the house and grounds as their own. We were told a great tale about Pavarotti - when he came to perform at Glyndebourne as a very young man, he was torn between being a professional opera singer or a footballer. After he spent his downtime playing football in the garden... he was told by his colleagues to stick to the singing. Haha!

Above, you can see the founder of the Festival Opera, John Christie and the lady he created the whole thing for - Audrey Mildmay. She was a stunning and talented opera singer, he fell in love with her and the rest is history. The first opera was staged in 1934 and was the Marriage of Figaro. Side note: my mum hates that opera and was very grateful I wasn't taking her to see it this time!

This is a doorstop. Pugs are a motif that features throughout the house. Apparently the family have always historically had them!

There is also lots of lovely art dotted around the house and grounds, including a sculpture trail.

So, after this tour, we went into watch the first half of Ariadne Auf Naxos. What a fun and strange opera! I had to read up the synopsis afterwards to make sense of it since the subtitles weren't clear from our seats. The first half (of this 1940s-set production) takes place in a country house during WWII, where performers have been hired to put on a show - one a burlesque troupe with clowns and one 'proper' opera singer, each with their own composer. The butler comes in and informs the two groups that they must now perform together and much clashing ensues. Then a bomb falls and everything blows up. The costumes are fabulous and the singing is just wonderful - they are all such skilled performers. The second half, usually on a desert island, is set in the same country house, which has been requisitioned as a field hospital, with most of the characters going completely mad and lots of impassioned goings on take place. The nymphs are brilliant as nurses and all are still in fabulous costumes and doing wonderful singing! All I can suggest is that if my vague and confusing description intrigues you, have a peek at the Ariadne video which I just discovered is streamed on the Guardian site. I might watch it again!

In the middle of each Glyndebourne production is the famously long interval - an hour and a half in which to eat, drink and relax. Much of the audience retires to the gardens to eat their picnics - you can bring your own or have one provided by the company. My amazing mum very generously treated us to dinner at 'Nether Wallop' - a carvery restaurant on-site which is where my grandfather used to take the family when they went in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Apparently it's changed a little since then (unsurprisingly) but the food was still delicious. You can't really beat a roast dinner.

Obligatory roast beef with a little side of salmon en croute, since I asked the server nicely.

This lady. ♥

Onto the vanity bit, then. My outfit in minute detail!

I bought this amazing 1940s evening gown for the Chap Ball, but it didn't arrive in time. I then managed to somehow get a tiny spot of white paint on it, which teleported itself across the room when I was redecorating. You can see it near the bottom. Luckily the worst is on the inside! What an eedjit I am. Anyway.

As you can see, it has a rather glorious side swag/drape detail and a short split, in addition to the sunburst beaded neckline. I adore it, even if it's probably an inch or two too short and so I opted to wear it with flat gold sandals instead. Not very 40s but I think it still works! 

My handbag is a gold 1950s one with leopard print accents. It's not a clutch bag at all, and the reason I'm holding it like that is because the strap broke as I walked towards the event. Such is life with vintage accessories! My flowers are two I got from that most chainy of all chain stores - H&M and my earrings are simple trashy gold hoops from Claires Accessories. So glam, you guys.

In summary, Glyndebourne is a very unique place and I had a great time. In some ways, it's still a very traditional sort of organisation with lots of long-held customs and ways of doing things; but they are trying so hard to bring it up to date with things like live streaming to cinemas and modern art - to draw in Bright Young Things and keep it alive for future generations without driving off their older, long-term clientele. Not an easy job at all and they're doing it well! Speaking for myself, it was magical to go there in the afternoon, promenade around the house and the flower and art-filled gardens and around the lake (which I failed to photograph), before watching an opera. Then, dining in the twilight, before having another little walk before the second half and the end of the evening. It can be expensive - the top priced seats would stymie even my most well-paid friends, but there are some more affordable seats as well, with the magic of the whole affair making up the rest of what is truly a wonderful experience. I hope I get to go again and even if I don't, I will be the one telling my kids about that time I went to Glyndebourne, wore an evening gown and fur trimmed coat (which again, I didn't photograph, silly me), and saw the opera in style!

Until next time...

Fleur xx

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