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New Book Review – Amber Jane Butchart’s Fashion Miscellany.

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Every now and then a fashion book comes out that piques my interest primarily for the format. I must confess I am prone to a short attention span. I love to learn but I’m not keen on great lengths of meandering theory. Without indulging in a tangent worthy of AA Gill or legendary grot reviewer Chris Nieratko, there is a reason why I studied Law and Languages at University. I am not too fond of fluff or being told that X, Y and Z’s interpretation is more relevant than Z, Y and X’s. While studying A-Level English, I fondly remember arguing more about the relevance of interpretation rather than the book at hand.  I had two teachers: Mr Hill, who gave me straight A’s whilst simultaneously accusing me of truculence (a favourite word ever since) and Miss Thornett, who could barely contain her loathing for me and awarded me consistent E grades. I still remember her scrawl on one particular report: ‘Naomi is blissfully unaware of her surroundings’. I ended up with an overall E grade – I think you can guess who marked that paper. I couldn’t give enough of a shit to appeal it as I had four others that sailed me straight into Sussex. Miss Thornett (I’m assuming its still ‘Miss’?), my next book is due out in September.

For those who like their facts straight up, Amber Jane Butchart has deftly assembled the eponymously titled ‘Amber Jane Butchart’s Fashion Miscellany – An Elegant Collection Of Stories, Quotations, Tips & Trivia From The World Of Style’ (Ilex Miscellany £8.99). It is a slender yet attractive book covered in a tactile binding of peacock blue linen, embossed in gold, classical lettering. General knowledge books are hardly a new genre but taking the subject of fashion, assembling a tome that grabs the subject by both hands and turning it into a veritable font of useful and relevant knowledge is another affair. Amber seizes the opportunity to really flex her considerable fashion historian muscles. It is done with such aplomb that you can’t help but develop a deeper respect for the history of fashion and the anthropological elements that are intrinsically entwined in how we dress and why. I am very much in awe of how much information has been included in what is essentially a fairly slim book. Make no mistake, it is a book for all ages and genders (plenty on tailoring and historical movements from both sides) that doesn’t pander to the superficial nature that can trail behind fashion like an insecure try-hard.

So, without boring you with my own meandering theory and musings – my opener was more of a long-festering jab to a certain eye – my verdict: a book that packs a punch and elevates the academic side to this topic. Economics, politics and of course, the arts all have their ties to fashion, making this an entertaining read that equally lends substantial gravitas to the subject area – there is a reason it made Dawn O’Porter feel clever. It is also great for dipping in and out of…or you can just stroke the linen cover and enjoy the illustrations by Penelope Beech. It may be aimed at the gift market but I would suggest it’s time to treat yourselves first.

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Here’s Heritage – Reading’s Celebration of Nostalgia, 13th and 14th September.

Here's Heritage Fashion Artwork with Naomi

On the 13th and 14th of September I am delighted to announce that I will be participating in the second Reading Celebration of Nostalgia. This event has a very contemporary approach to nostalgia, which I find refreshing. I am excited to be hosting an evening catwalk show based on current trends, a book talk, and there is a chance to see parts of Reading Museum that are not normally open to the public. (In the evening. Squeak!). On Saturday morning I will be awarding some prizes at the fete. I admit I have never been to Reading and am looking forward to discovering the town and working with Alexandra Vintage. Best of all the whole event is free! It will be my first event in a long long time and I hope to meet lots of interesting new people. If you are going or trading let me know in the comments. Hope to see you there!

Here is all the information you need to know:

Alexandra Vintage is delighted to be working with Reading Museum to host the return of Here’s Heritage – Reading’s Celebration of Nostalgia. Forming part of Reading’s 4-day Heritage weekender and following the success of last year’s award-winning event, Here’s Heritage is back and it’s bigger! This year’s programme sees the exciting addition of Here’s Heritage Fashion on Friday 13th September – a vintage style evening with vintage fashion expert and author of ‘Style Me Vintage’ Naomi Thompson who will be talking about fashion across the decades, a vintage catwalk show showcasing the Alexandra Vintage Autumn/Winter 13 collection and behind the scenes access to some of Reading Museum’s hidden treasures.

Here’s Heritage Fashion launches the Here’s Heritage weekender welcoming back its charming, traditional Fete on Saturday 14th September in Market Place, Reading Town Centre. Browse a fete of trader delights, including arts and crafts from local Reading arts charity Jelly, vintage inspired beauty, the latest Alexandra Vintage collection of trend-led fashion & accessories, enjoy a cuppa and delicious cake by Reading market regular Cakeaways, all whilst listening to 40’s music trio Some Swell Sisters live and watching performances by Berkshire’s StageAbility Stage School. A lovely day out for all the family!

 

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Here’s Heritage Fashion Reading Museum 13th September 2013, 6pm – 9pm Here’s Heritage Fete Market Place, Reading 14th September 2013, 11am – 5pm

Third Velo Vintage Ride and Occasion

Late one Friday in June I found myself gazing at the slippery silver bottom of the river Ex, completely changed by the early evening sun, as my train rattled along its banks towards Exmouth. There was almost no distinction between the shimmer of the clouds and the glitter of the river bed. The appearance of the odd boat tipped on its side in the low tide was the only indicator of land versus nimbus.

This blog is ridiculously picture heavy – but it warrants it. These images I am sharing with you are now imprints in my mind, stored in the same compartment that one usually reserves hazy childhood memories of meadows, fresh air and running around. A mythical time before booze and work. Do also check this out.

The sun (and rain) and colours and smells, which unfortunately I cannot convey by the medium of this blog, still linger in my senses…

I had long known of Velo Vintage, the Devon based bicycle ride organised by Sebastian and Alistair Cope, father and son cycling enthusiasts. I had finally got my act together for this one.

It’s the antidote to the traffic and magnitude of London’s Tweed Run, but every bit as fun with the magical addition of being located in Devon.

I had the pleasure of staying with Lizzy Cope (Alistair’s mother) – a formidable hostess, gardener and all round lady you don’t mess with. I was fed, watered, and popped to bed. Water, Devon Magazine, slippers from a cherished trip to The Savoy and fresh grapes all in my room. No wonder her potted plants do so well. I was quite in awe of her. She is the lady in the fur coat with the lovely 50s tulip hair ‘do.

The following morning a gathering of well dressed families and riders began to appear from the side streets of Exmouth. It was really nice to see how many children were participating – what a great memory for them. I watched in awe as the lady from Devon Leather hand stitched a tool roll in age old method that makes the stitch stronger than most. Chapeau! were also in attendance. Both companies product excellent and unique cycling related gifts.

After the assembly of participants, exchanged moments of mutual admiration and some general preening, we set off. I was bestowed the honour of both leading the ride and being Mr Cope juniors’ ‘stocker’ on the back of ‘Hercules’ their 1930s tandem.

Through the small roads we passed thatched houses, fields and the sea. A well deserved break awaited us at the Swan Inn where large platters of pork pie wedges and healthy chunks of creamy cheddar were passed around.

The day then took us to the stunning National Trust property, A La Ronde (photos sadly lacking) and then back to Exmouth for a musical knees up and competition winners. As my best dressed ‘lady’ I selected the young Emmeline whose authentic 50s dress, hair net, period hair and accompanying sausage dog won me over.

The Guvernors’ Assembly provided much amusement though I shall say no more for fear that they may not share their copious amounts of ‘pop’ next time. It was a pleasure to spend time with them and they certainly ‘perked’ up the ride somewhat.

For £12.50 you got a cream tea, a pint of real ale, entertainment and the most magical (and well marshalled) cycle ride I have ever been on. Far too cheap me thinks me Messieurs Cope and Co.  A lot of money was also raised via the raffle for local charities. Bravo!

I came home with a suitcase of Ringtons Tea and some new peppery chap related snack that was most pleasant to ingest. The next ride is on the 7th December and I can imagine the scenery will be just as magical in a different way at that time of year. What a fabulous crisp ride that shall be.

On a last note Mr Cope senior is due to set off on an incredible solo journey via a traditional Flaxland canoe and Pashley bicycle to raise money for 3 different charities. Three hundred miles of water, one hundred and eleven locks and three hundred and ninety miles of land! Please sponsor him here. Good luck Alistair and enjoy your adventure.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laura Ashley A/W13, Archive Collection and a Sneaky Infiltration.

 

On Thursday Liz and I were invited to the Laura Ashley A/W13 Press Day and Archive Exhibition Preview. It takes a lot to get me to London these days but this was something not to be missed, for obvious reasons and others less so - which will become apparent later.

Liz and I have both loved a bit of ‘Lashley’ for a while now and I refer to it in my talks on ‘buying vintage’ as the prime example of a British collectable brand that retains its value. We also sell LA dresses in our regular vintage collections. In honour of the archive collection preview we donned our best vintage pieces and arranged to meet at Victoria station. I was wearing a short 80s skater style dress with a daring low back (rather saucy for Mrs Ashley) and Liz being Liz, of course had a mind-blowingly rare 70s number that featured a  dear print on swathes of blue cotton.

We were rather tickled at the reception bestowed upon our frocks on arrival. Before we even got through the door we had been asked to do numerous shots of us walking into to the venue by the camera men who were recording the event. Cue lots of walking a backwards and forwards up the same steps. When we finally entered (Il Bottacio off Hyde Park no less) we were warmly greeted by the social media team whom we had previously chatted to via twitter. I bought a copy of my book as a gift but it turned out they had it already and were fans which made me feel a bit fluttery, as one does when there is a mutual meeting and appreciation of one’s efforts.

After a beetroot and berry smoothie and a strong coffee I set about examining the new collections with determination (more on why later). I had a chat with their new accessories designer who has been at the company for 6 weeks and we discussed future archive inspired pieces and the vintage girl’s love of the wicker basket bags they bring out each season – both the current tan coloured one and the much coveted white wicker version that came out a few seasons ago. Liz and I both honed in on a delectable plum riding jacket which I promptly decided to try on (probably a press day faux pas). The equestrian theme was carried on in a number of garments featuring horseshoes and even horse heads. The rich plum colours almost made me long for autumn. There were fewer dresses than I had expected but a huge selection of tunics, slim fit trousers and cropped jackets.

We proceeded to have a good gander at the archive collection. Liz rapidly became engrossed in a long conversation with their archivist who looks after the Welsh LA treasure trove…I think she had her eye on Liz’s dress. We had a good look around home wares and we both loved the new geometric print wallpaper and home accessories inspired by a vintage 50s (yes 50s) LA scarf (pictured below). We even bumped into the super hot illustrator Emma Block, who I hadn’t seen since my book launch early last year.

The gathering of ladies in the Home dept. were also quite keen to quiz us on our frocks.  We had a good old chin wag with the design team, the buyers, the PR peeps and the Head of Buying. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk to so many of the current creative force behind LA. We discussed what Liz and I do, who we write for…even our secret project that we have coming up. I then dropped a mini bombshell. I mentioned that, two weeks ago, I started working as a shop girl for…yes, you guessed it, Laura Ashley! I currently work in the Southsea store in the fashion floor and was partly there as a sneaky shop girl spy on strict orders to report back on the new collections. Staff AND writer – a pretty unique position to be in, do you not think? I think it certainly threw them a little.

You may be wondering why I’ve returned to ‘work’? Well for a myriad of reasons, starting with the fact that the shop is a sunny seven minute walk from my house.  More importantly, I am enjoying the return to the ‘front line of fashion’. In my short time as the latest part-time ‘LA gal’, I have met some extraordinary people and it is a joy to have them come back in again and again. I get to share the mixture of exhilaration and relief when the perfect outfit is found for an important life event, or a gift has been found for the person ‘who has it all’. It’s the same kind of satisfaction I got from being a freelance vintage personal shopper, except this time there is more than one size! You are let into the intimate details of a person’s life and then it’s up to you to see how you can help problem solve their dilemmas. I get the feeling that, as a trusted British brand, people expect to find what they need and they rely on us to help them achieve that. I hear about their weddings, families, funerals, first homes and once-in-a-lifetime excursions. I also enjoy hearing their feedback, their likes and dislikes, their views on the new collections and their stories of wearing the brand as children. And of course there is the uniform allowance and the discounts, which are rather generous and certainly not to be sniffed at! Furthermore, I get to assist with visual merchandising, which I very much enjoy. All this is seamlessly held together by a harmonised team of like-minded people who all genuinely care about the customers and pulling together to make the shop a success. It can be exhausting and hard work (ahem, Sale time!) but I don’t take my work home at night and have plenty of time to write.

Importantly, it has actually improved my well being. Although I initially found being on my feet hard, it keeps me active and fit – no need for a gym membership. I enjoy the routine and I get to talk to real people about real clothes, rather than working from home and communicating via the internet. As any freelancer or home work knows, the day can easily become lonely and stagnant. As I explained to the Head of Buying, it’s a life style choice. So there you have it. I’m pretty chuffed to be a LA shop girl and I’m delighted to say I will also be producing a blog for the Laura Ashley website shortly. It’s the perfect combination of the two things I love.

I’ll leave you with a selection of pics from the event and you can read more about the new collections here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nomology part 1 – Ditching The Fake.

By the end of this summer, it would have been two years since I left the bright lights and hubbub of London, and two years since I returned to my island home town, Portsmouth. Those bright lights were blinding me, causing me all kinds of aches and stresses. I just wanted to sit in the dark for a bit. I came home to the sea and a very different pace of life.

It dawned on me this morning, that since I became a seaside gypsy, I rarely wear make-up or high heels anymore. I have been in heels pretty much every day since I was 13. I loved that elevated feeling, the way my feet arched – I even liked tottering around. My feet weren’t so keen and rebelled. For a long time I couldn’t wear flats; years of said tottering had shortened my plantar fascia and it felt an ice lolly stick was permanently wedged under my arches.

As for make-up, it never really agreed with me in the first place. It used to fall off my face. It was like trying to apply make-up to a waxy lemon. Wearing the amount I wanted turned into blankness in photo shoots. Enough to make me look preened in pictures translated to feeling like a drag queen in real life. Ditching the foundation was easy. The sea air here has done wonders for my skin. Eyeliner, an absolute staple since the early 90s, was gradually phased out. Now I can see the natural shape of my eyes and my freckles.  I do love a slick of mascara and a product like Benetint or Soap & Glory’s Cheekmate (my one has lasted over 2 years) provides a natural rosy glow to lips and cheeks in one tiny dab. I’ve also started drinking Kiki’s Nature’s Living Superfood which is a pricey powder but probably the best thing you could ever put in your body. I’ve since grown a horse-like mane and get ill much less. I also have my natural hair colour for the first time ever. I like it. It matches my eyebrows.

I don’t feel this is ‘letting myself go’ – I’ve never felt more confident since ditching the add-ons. It makes me think that we are wrongly encouraged at a young age to ‘improve ourselves’ when really we should be enjoying what we have. I shudder when I recall almost getting my lips ‘done’ aged 25. There was nothing wrong with them, I just felt it would make me feel ‘perfect’.

I still enjoy dressing up and glamming up. I had my hair and make-up done for Annabel Beeford’s fantastic book launch and I felt tres slinky. I went to a hot rod and custom car show with my new friend Emma last week and I even dug the hair curlers out. I just don’t feel the need to every day.

Hair extensions (had those), fake nails (ditto), fake eyelashes (ditto again) and plastered on make up  are now commonly seen on teens, all day every day. Are we failing our young with this quest for continuous self improvement?

What do you think?

This morning, wet hair – touch of mascara.

 

 

Velo Vintage Summer Occasion & Ride – Saturday 15th June 2013

 

If you are a fan of old fashioned bike rides then you most certainly have heard of the Tweed Run. Having experienced it twice I can say it really is one for the bucket list. These days though I prefer a more niche jaunt along the coast. No taxi drivers trying to run over the marshalls, which I have seen in London.

It is with sheer delight therefor that I can announce I will be participating in the Velo Vintage Summer Occasion and Ride in June. On the back of a tandem no less. Velo Vintage is a delightful affair run by father and son team Alistair and Seb Cope, who both attended my book launch last year. I can vouch that they are lovely chaps and cycle pros to boot.

The ride will take us through the coastal resort of Exmouth, in the County of Devonshire. We depart at 11.00 am along a route that will take in a short section of the Jurassic Coast. At midday (ish) there is a surprise! And at 2:00 pm (about) we shall arrive at the very beautiful National Property, A la Ronde for afternoon tea. At 4:00 pm we shall find ourselves back in the centre of Exmouth for, well…..something to pick you up a little and some music.

‘The 3rd Velo Vintage Occasion & Ride is set to be a fabulous day with a record number of registered riders, some fabulous venues and splendid entertainment!’

As if that wasn’t sufficient there are some marvellous prizes to be won.

I will  be judging the Best Dressed Lady and the Best Dressed Gentleman competition, which is being sponsored by Ringtons Tea and an additional prize of a photograph taken in the camera obscura being used by Light-Play.

Chapeau have just come on board to sponsor the best tache for gents and ladies! (ladies can knit, crochet, cut out of cardboard or anything else to join in the fun!)

To celebrate the launch of the Anglo-French cycle route, the Tour de Manche, a luxury hamper of French and English goodies will be awarded to the best dressed dame and the best dressed monsieur (and their bicycles) kitted out in the most “fantastique”French costume!

All this for a contribution of 12 Guineas (£12.60 in new money).  Can you think of anything more delightful to do on a Saturday in June?

PS doesn’t Jeni look fab on her Pashley?

!!Festival of Vintage and Book Competition!!

 

 

Did you all have a nice weekend? I felt like it was the busiest of the year. Goodwood Revival, Southsea Fest, London Fashion Week, Strong Island bike ride and the first ever British Beard and Moustache championship (not that I made it to most of those – just the Southsea Fest and bike ride – both immense but knackering fun). All rounded off by a new series of Downton Abbey. I’m a bit broken today to be honest, so I’m going to keep this blog short and sweet.

To start the new week I’m going to have a competition. The prize: a copy of my book Style Me Vintage, Clothes and two free tickets to the Festival of Vintage which takes place this Sunday at Epsom Racecourse.

I’m looking forward to catching up with Lekeux Events who did hair and make-up at Victorious Vintage. My good friend Liz Tregenza will be there also with her giant collection of Horrockses dresses. We will be judging the best dressed competition, and yes we do accept bribes. I gave a talk at the York festival and the shopping and outfits were outstanding.  It’s up there with Revival in terms of quality.

To win tweet me what you would wear or leave a comment below. Competition ends Wednesday!

Bourne and Hollingsworth’s London Fashion Week Retrospective

 

Wah! I’ve just been invited to the first London Fashion Week vintage fashion show but I can’t go as im keeping it local and going to the Southsea Fest. I’ve been sucked into coastal living. It’s quite nice.

Here is the low down: Retrospective is an exciting new London Fashion Week show and party that explores the past to predict next season’s trends. Taking place at Bloomsbury Ballroom on Saturday 15th September 2012, Retrospective will feature catwalk shows exhibiting beautiful one-off pieces from the world’s finest design houses and collections.

Founded by Bourne & Hollingsworth, the creators of the hugely popular Blitz and Prohibition parties Retrospective will be the first event during London Fashion Week to show the cyclical nature of styles and trends, whilst offering the fashion industry the chance to indulge their love of vintage and period design.

Retrospective has teamed up with the best vintage experts in London to create a show that features fashions from the 1920s right through to the 1980s. From shops like Lucy In Disguise, vintage suppliers Peekaboo Vintage and costumiers Violet’s Box, the brands involved in Retrospective are all well respected within the fashion industry and well known in the public consciousness.

Retrospective will be open to the public, allowing ticket holders a glimpse into one of the most exciting events in the capital’s calendar, and offering high fashion for all. The evening begins with a reception of cocktails and canapés. Then guests will be seated to enjoy catwalk shows featuring designs from names such as Mary Quant, Givenchy, Ossie Clark, Chanel and Dior. Mixing gowns, accessories and casual wear from over 50 years of fashion, each look will be selected and styled to reflect the current and future trends being showcased during London Fashion Week.

 After the show, Retrospective will move the party from catwalk to dance floor with a dazzling event that celebrates the finest fashion moments from the last century. With cocktails from Bourne & Hollingsworth, and music courtesy of the finest DJs and bands in London, Retrospective will combine style and spectacle to present a LFW party like no other.

Throughout the party will be a programme of floorshows that captures the key moments in fashion history. Using exciting performers and dancers – from flapper flash mobs to Studio 54 dancers on horseback – Retrospective’s live re-enactments of the most iconic and influential events in the fashion world will amuse, provoke and inspire.

Whether it’s an original Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking or your Nan’s favourite fur coat, a one off Schiaparelli gown or that amazing prom dress you found from a Hackney charity shop, throw on your finest finds from the last 10 decades and join Retrospective to celebrate the fashion of the past and the future.

 

Tickets priced at £30 for Cocktail Reception, Show and Party or £20 for Show and Party Only

 Tickets are available through the Retrospective website or by calling 020 7724 1617

                                                                             Reception from 8pm, Show and Party from 9pm

What is a Vintage Personal Shopper?

Today I thought I would share with you some insight into one of things I do to earn a living: vintage personal shopping. I am going to explain how I got into it, what are the key skills and also explain a little bit about how I personally operate.

So here goes. Like most things I currently do, I am completely self-taught, but with lots of experience. However I didn’t just wake up one day and think ‘I am going to charge people money to dress them in old togs - yes that seems like a cool thing to do’. No, what actually happened is I had the idea when I was thinking of styling work that didn’t involve lugging around large quantities of clothing and kit. After years and years of dressing people at my old flat in London and at events, I realised I had a developed an quick eye for what was going to work on someone (or not). Let me explain more: I used to have rails and rails of vintage clothing and bits of costume that lived pretty much all over my little home in London. I also collected hats, capes, shoes, and headdresses, anything that took my fancy really. I loved bits of old theatrical costume and absolutely pillaged the Angel Costume sale a few years back.  I was also an avid networker and would often invite people over for tea (well gin, actually, thanks to Hendricks who used to send me a drinks’ trolley’s worth each month). As a result of this I would have stylists drop in looking for items for shoots. I had everyone from Dazed and Confused to the Guardian via buyers from Net a Porter looking for dominatrix style pieces. Japanese Madame Figaro came to shoot it and when I had my leaving sale Time Out featured it. Then came the friends who were singers, performers, all looking for that extra special item for a show or music video. I had quite the coterie of now world famous burlesque dancers wanting silk 20′s kimonos for after shows, and smart 50s wiggle suits for walking around town. I also had a list of regular buyers who I would shop for purposefully. What this all boiled down to was an ability to know, at a glance, if something was going to fit or fail. I also got to know with pin point clarity how vintage cuts would sit on the modern woman. Vintage clothing seldom features elastic, and the cuts are very specific so either it will look great or terrible. Combining these skills I could rapidly pluck a dress out of a clients grasp and replace it with a fail safe alternative that would delight rather than depress. This threw up an interesting point: often the stranger the dress looked on the hanger, the better it looked on the person. If I had a pound everytime someone said, ‘ghastly, I don’t even want to try it on’ only to find it fitted like a (posh) glove then I would be typing this from my gin palace in Fiji. Taking all this in hand I thought ‘why not teach people how to shop and buy vintage?’

Once I decided this was a skill I could impart on a professional basis, from beyond the confines of my home I set about deciding the format. It’s is very important to me that following is achieved:

1)      Enjoyment.  A day with me is about having fun and I try and make it as relaxed as possible. For starters I wear vintage in an everyday wearable style, and I tend to turn up dressed quite simply, so as not to create any preconceived perceptions of what I am going to suggest. Only 10% of my clients want an era specific look anyway, and I’m not here to try and make you look like a 40s land girl, unless that is what you are after. This personal style development, not following the crowd.

2)      Education. The truth is vintage shopping or even just shopping for a new style can be a nightmare. During the day I try and impart as much of buying knowledge, as practically as possible so that you can speed learn my skills and come away feeling a little savvier. I also been told that learning about vintage styles and shapes has made high street shopping easier as well.

3)      Value. It is crucial that all my clients find bargains that look great and will last. A garment must tick all the boxes bellow before I make any whiff of a purchase suggestion.

-          It fits, looks great and is a 110% wearable condition. I also look carefully to see how many washes it will last and if I think there are stress points that will shortly give way.

-          The price is right. I have never been in the market of telling people to part with large sums of money just because a dress looks great on them. I value it myself, along the lines of my own criteria and if the price matches what I would pay for it (or less) then great. I actively only encourage a purchase if I believe that the client could resell it for the same price or more.

So who comes shopping? I’ve had everyone from 20 year old Swedish fashion bloggers to ladies in their 60’s. Mothers and daughters, sisters, groups of friends from New Zealand. Interestingly I don’t think I would have predicted how many 50plus ladies would be interested in my services. I am delighted about this as it broke down my preconceptions of who would enjoy wearing vintage. The very best feedback which makes it all worthwhile comes from women who feel like they rediscovered their shape, and what suits them. This is the joy of veering away from trend based high street garments and having the luxury of picking out simply what YOU like. I will never ask a client their age or size beforehand either and people are welcome to bring a friend, chaperone or relative. It’s about feeling comfortable.

People often ask me if I have ever had a nightmare client. The answer is no. That’s not to say I haven’t had some difficult ones. Is it easy? No, it’s extremely exhausting. You have to be 100% on the ball for 6 hours – there is no turning around and saying ‘sorry there is nothing here for you’. I usually feel so drained by the end that I can barely speak. The satisfaction, though, is immense. I am so proud of the testimonials I have. Knowing that you helped someone look and feel special with non high street clothing is quite unique.  I am also passionate about helping people discover their waists. Vintage clothing can seriously enhance a figure and its wonderful seeing women discover their shape. This is part of my secret ploy to reverse the muffin top inducing damage of recent fashions.

I also now consider all the shop keepers my friends. This wasn’t an instant process, and the trust I am now given took a long time to build. You don’t just let anyone walk off with a large armful of precious one off pieces. I wrote a whole chapter in my book on how to get into vintage clothing without damaging it, so I make sure their garments are handles with the utmost care. They now welcome my business, and I in turn am delighted to help support them. They also give my clients extra special love.

Highlights:

-          Taking Jane Garvey shopping for Women’s Hour.

-          Taking a young girl shopping who loved all her new clothes so much that she wore them straight away, and got papped 5 minutes later by legendary Vogue photographer Candice Lake.

What are the key skills:

- patience.

- an ability to size people up very quickly.

- a good knowledge of what is quality vintage and what isn’t.

- an understanding of fabrics.

- a 6th sense that a garment will suit and fit.

- the foresight to see how these garments will work out in their day to day life (this is why we have lunch first)

- good communication skills, and not being afraid of convincing people to step out of their comfort zones.

Top tip: build excellent relationships with your shops. This can result in a whole range of perks from discounts to early opening times.

Shhh. I also do ‘normal’ personal shopping. Its actually A LOT easier as you have a range of sizes, but I am a glutton for a challenge so vintage wins every time :)

If you have any other questions please ask away in the comments.

Introducing:

If there is one thing i’ll champion till the cows come home,  it’s the independent vintage shop. In fact indie shops of all types should feted, nurtured and cherished.  In my job as personal shopper, with the exception of one solitary place, I always take my customers to owner-run shops. Why? Well the difference is considerable. It’s like being cooked for by a friend rather than eating a drive through Mac Donald’s.  Take my favourite shop in London, Hunky Dory Vintage. Ian and Ian (or ‘Ian Squared’ as I refer to them in my head) hand pick all their clothes from France and Italy, know their stock inside out and  give me and my clients a discount, and the run of the shop. Last year I went to Ian B’s 50th birthday and both of them came to my book launch. It’s quite simple, once you get to know each other, a relationship forms which brings with it many benefits.

Independent shops don’t always have the easiest of times. In London, especially, rents are on the rise. The trend I have seen is for an area of independent shops to be over taken by multinationationals once that location has been deemed ‘on trend’ only for those interesting shops to move elsewhere. The aforementioned Hunky Dory did just that from Greenwich to Brick Lane. Some established merchants are fighting back. This is what happened when Abercrombie announced their intention to set up shop in Savile row. With all this in mind, it makes me very excited to share with you a new and utterly different online vintage shopping concept. How on earth does this tie in with the above I hear you ask? Okay, bear with me…

A couple of months back I met Bahareh to talk about her new on-line selling platform Voutique. I wasn’t convinced on paper and I wanted to find out more. I adore the connection between tech and selling vintage and it had piqued my interest. Over tea at Browns we discussed how they were going to bridge the gap between the online world and the physical world of buying vintage and I learnt about an incredibly novel new website that is going to help showcase the very best of independent shops and give them the online presence that is missing with so many businesses.

So what exactly is Voutique all about? Ok so here is the skinny. It’s a website featuring beautiful handpicked items from a number of independent boutiques. They are currently selling mens, womens and furniture (with wedding dresses coming soon) all sourced from some of the best vintage businesses in the UK.

I have seen a preview and the items featured are gorgeous. So many 50s dresses at very reasonable prices and also exciting Victorian items from Rebecca Sweeting’s L’Oublie collection. During our chat Bahareh touched on a point that I agree with: many websites list items of poorer quality alongside prime items. Whilst it is good to have a price range, the time and resources involved in making an item available to buy over the internet are considerable. Internet shoppers are primarily convenience shoppers. They want you to do the rummaging, sorting and cleaning, and they want it sent to their door. They are time poor, and generally have the money to splurge if they are looking at your site. This is why I have no qualms with online vintage being a bit pricier, as I know that work that goes into making it convenient and easily available.

Another bonus is the most shops I know don’t have the time or the inclination to market themselves online, and Voutique does exactly this by providing a shop profile.  Countless times I have wanted to write or tweet about a shop and had nothing to link them to. There is also a business support and courier services offered. I’ve seen their current list of collaborators and it’s impressive. If you own a shop and would like to get involved there is still time. There is a 6 week free trial period after which a very modest fee kicks in.

For the online consumer this will give fresh access to a veritable treasure trove of quality items. I have been informed that there will be very nifty search options so that you can find exactly what you want. You can also sign up to a service where you register your interest in a particular item. When it’s been found you will be the first to know. They are also working on shooting all the clothes in-house to harmonise the images.

As an ex seller and avid buyer I sit on both sides of the fence and to me its seems like a win/win situation and with a founding member being a tech wiz this is one project that I shall be following with interest. Voutique goes live today. Happy shopping!

Here are my top 4 buys:

 40s embroidered evening dress from Hide Out Classics

Stunning polka dot 50s dress in bright colours

Late Victorian mint green coat

 Reluctant to put this one up as I want it so much

 

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