Thursday 23 April 2015

Bette does butch

Hello angels and daemons. 

I know, it's been ages again. I'm useless, quite frankly. Life has been far too interesting lately for me to find the energy or inclination to write. 

I've been spending a lot of time tweaking my wardrobe too. I've kind of fallen out of love with "trad" vintage and am feeling the need to mix things up a bit. I'm finally finding my feet back on certain "scenes" and with that comes a certain freeing up of morals, which has inspired a freeing up of dress code. Thank heavens. 

I've been investing in what I guess the fash pack *yawn* might call statement pieces. Still vintage, in the main, or inspired by - but a little crazier, a little more out there and, frankly, a little more ... me. 

A recent party, put on my the delightfully named Amy Grimehouse crew, let me get out of the way an urge I've harboured for some time. To dress as a man. Now, don't get scared, I'm not giving up silk and frills, but I do like a somewhat harder look to my vintage and every girl needs a bowler in her wardrobe. No, really. 

The event was "Bette Davis Night" - at Sutton House. A local Tudor building I have a great affection for as a place of peace and sanctuary. 

I couldn't want to visit the place at night, and get the chance to dress as one of my all time icons. 

I chose this version of the divine Miss D to grace those hallowed halls.   Butch Bette, in full riding gear. 

Isn't she fabulous? 

I paired some gorgeous jodhpurs I found on Etsy, actually labelled with their year of manufacture (1938) with a charity shop shirt , tie and waistcoat, some eBayed gaiters and shoes and a gorgeous vintage bowler from Christys. Oh. And my boyfriend's velvet jacket. He thinks he is getting this back. He may be mistaken. 

I was pretty pleased with it, I must admit. 

I'd be interested to hear how other folk have found the journey away from trad vintage? How do you add an edge to your outfits? 

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Renee Perle - fashion icon

I feel like I start every post with "I can't believe I've not posted in so long" and "I will definitely post more often from now on" and I never do.  I really am a terrible flake.  

The truth is that I've been falling out of love with my vintage wardrobe for a while. I've been struggling to find a style I feel "myself" in.  I adore 1930s fashion but I don't think it is particularly flattering for someone of my size and a lot of it is more girlish than the woman I am now, at this grand old age of 36.  

I'm also decidedly lazy, try as I might I just can't do the girdle and stockings thing every day.  I like to sleep until 8am and have to leave the house at 8:30, so elaborate clothing, hair and make up rituals just don't work on week days, no matter how well intentioned I might be. However, I do still love vintage looks and I can't dress without at least a little theatricality thrown in.  I need something over the top yet casual.  Dramatic yet easy to pull on and go.  What to do, what to do?

I've been trying out different things.  Bringing a little goth back into my look, trying our different looks with trousers, even adding the odd splash of 50s back in; but as usual I've been flitting from passion to passion like a butterfly on buddleia. And with about the same concentration span.  

Actually, that might be rude to the butterfly, for all I know each and every butterfly might have an intellect far outweighing mine, they live, the mate, they die, it seems like they have life pretty well worked out.  Short, sunny, beautiful.  So it is probably somewhat ironic that my new fashion muse was known for a short, sunny and beautiful two Summers in the early 30s.  

When you look at Lartigue's photos of Renee Perle it is somewhat hard to date them.  Yes, the hair is distinctly fingerwaved and definitely 1930s, but the clothing could be modern, the make up, with the smoky eye could be too.  Renee had an avant garde fashion sense for her day - few were the women who would walk down the street in trousers and a t-shirt in 1930. Ah, the confidence great beauty bestows!

Renee met Lartigue in March 1930 and she made quite the immediate impression, as we know from his diary entry:

"Along the sidewalk of the Rue de la Pompe, I see two women standing in the shadow of a street lamp. Are they waiting for someone or... something? One of the women is tall and slender, the other is tiny. An umbrella next to a pot of flowers. Later, in the Bois, the umbrella is in my car between the flowers and me. I look at her profile. A long neck; a very straight, very small nose. A shiny, stray hair lock caresses her mouth. She has gloves on... I wish I could see her hands. Hands are so important!"

He arranged to meet her the next day:

“Half past five at the Embassy. I wait for my “parasol” from last night. I need a whiskey. I’m very shy deep down, and ready to be furious if she doesn’t show up. It’s my curiosity that would be most disappointed…Five thirty-five. There she is! Can it really be her? Ravishing, tall, slim, with a small mouth and full lips, and dark porcelain eyes. She casts aside her fur coat in a gust of warm perfume. We’re going to dance. Mexican? Cuban? 

Her very small head sits on a very long neck. She is tall; her mouth is at the level of my chin. When we dance my mouth is not far from her mouth. Her hair brushes against both.Romanian. My name is Renée P… I was a model at Doeuillet…” Delicious. She takes off her gloves. Long, little girl’s hands. Something in my mind starts dancing at the thought that one day perhaps she would agree to paint the nails of those hands…”

The recently divorced Lartigue quickly made Renee his live in lover and muse, until they separated in 1932.  Their two years together were spent in the South of France, mainly at Biarritz and Juan-les Pins, and Lartigue spent much of his time photographing the object of his desire in pictures which are, frankly, redolent with lust.

“Tall, slim, a long neck, a shining lock of hair caressing her mouth. I see the reflection of Renee’s beauty in women’s eyes and men’s glances…Beside her, other women look like farm girls.” 

"She is always making scenes," he wrote. "Is it jealousy, or is it madness? Maybe it is the need to be assaulted, to be made unhappy and to cry - all for the sake of a reconciliation? I am far too down-to-earth, too much of a spectator and too bad an actor to fall into the trap of playing the kind of game Renee wishes me to play."

"Certain insects die after having made love, but they make love anyway. Every second of the present counts. I will think about the future later... But there is one haunting thought: with whom can I expect to talk about love after Renee has gone?"

No-one really knows what happened to Renee herself after their break up.  She must have married as there is mention of a stepchild, but no other information exists regarding her later life.  All we have is this butterfly moment, captured under the glass of Lartigue's lense.

For me, her style is perfection - dramatic make up, comfortable clothing, big chunky jewellery.   I'm shamelessly stealing her style, or at least being influenced by it, mixed in with a few other icons I plan to post about over the next few months.

Key to the look are wide leg trousers / palazzo pants.  These are slightly different to the 40s wide leg trousers I am used to, being much wide, less baggy in the crotch and a little lower on the waist.  I have the perfect pair in Navy by Nudeedudee on Etsy.

Paired with these you need your nautical stripes.  Nudeedudee again make some great striped tees, of which I have three, and they wash and wear really well, but you can pick up striped tops anywhere over the Summer.

Add a beret or a veil, a slick of red lipstick and all your bangles and you are done.  French casual chic.  Vintage without fuss. What could be better?

Now just to practise those damn fingerwaves!

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Wot Lisa did...

Gosh. I’ve been gone a long time again.  I just can’t seem to get into the swing of blogging again.  This must change.

Anyway – today I am must dropping in to introduce you a couple of the new projects I’ve been dabbling in. 

This big one really is that I have opened a new Etsy store – over at The Vintage Knitting Shop - Etsy

I am gradually listing my thousands of original vintage knitting patterns as instant downloads – I have so very many to put on, it is going to take a very long time but I have around 20 or so up all ready with new ones being added most days.

I’m not the most technologically minded person and at the moment the process of – scanning, tidying up and posting the patterns really does take me quite some time – so please do bear with me as I work my way through my collection!

I am also posting each pattern on my new facebook page for the shop at: The Vintage Knitting Shop Facebook

There will also be occasional free pattern posts there and lots of knitwear inspiration so it’s well worth a follow if you like that sort of thing! 

My other little toy is also knitting related, but one doesn’t have to be crafter to appreciate its worth – yes – I’ve finally opened a page for Scary Vintage Knitting Patterns! Scary Vintage Knitting Patterns

Believe me, this is a rich vein to mine.  See some of my favourites below:

Anyway - that's all for today - I hope some of you kind souls will see fit to follow my knitting adventures in some way.  


Friday 25 July 2014

Andale, andale, arriba, arriba!

I’m sitting in the office working whilst waiting, very impatiently waiting, for the delivery of a long anticipated vintage staple.  Yes, I have finally found the Mexican Souvenir Jacket of my dreams and it is being delivered today.

Most vintage lovers have one of these on their list along with green shoes, fur lined winter boots and a telephone cord purse, though it could be argued that the jacket is the most useful. 

Classic red Mexican jacket - AS IS £25

Decent vintage outerwear is hard to find, decent casual wear even harder.  People just wore things longer and a lot of people would either save for a proper overcoat or wear suit jackets.  

I’m a casual kind of girl a lot of the time – as much as I’d love to wear vintage suits every day I don’t have the energy or the job to allow it – I like my jeans (Freddie’s naturally) and my flat shoes for schlepping around town.  Finding a genuine vintage jacket that goes with a casual vintage look is a nightmare. 

All hail the Mexican souvenir jacket.  Usually made of wool or occasionally gabardine (how I long for one in gab – if anyone sees one – holler at me!)  the Mexican Souvenir jacket is both short, casual and fun, plus it looks great with jeans and saddle shoes.

Cream 50s jacket, £32

I do apologise if I cause any offence but I am putting issues of rich Americans culturally appropriating ethnic clothing aside (this is both 70 years ago and the styles were deliberately Americanised rather than aping traditional costume).

These items were made and sold in Mexico from I believe the early 40s and right into the 70s.  I have seen a couple which I would swear are late 30s but these are few and far between.  They were primarily bought by American tourists visiting Mexico and I understand they were often simply sold at the roadside by local women although there are certainly some which are “labels” and would have been available in the shops.  There was even a sewing pattern issued so you could make your own without the need to travel.

Vintage pattern £40

The jackets tend to come in few basic colours and designs, though almost always the same cut.  The main colours are red, green, turquoise and cream.  Black jackets are a lot rarer and you will occasionally see a yellow one or sometimes something in two colours. 

The embroidery usually features Mexican motifs.  These are often scattered horseshoes, sombreros and cacti on the front, often featured on the collar and pockets, then either a very large dancing couple on the back, sometimes with the word “Mexico” sequinned on, or a scene showing small figures going about their day to day business.  These are usually embroidered on using yarn but sometimes appliqué is used as well, especially on more large scale designs. The borders of the jacket are usually blanket stitched in a contrast yarn. 

Jacket with a boating scene £30

Most jackets are pretty brash in their design, which is incredibly fun, and I do want one of these, some however are more muted, the decoration being in just one or two colours.

A much simpler style £50

The very simple cut did not change much over time – the jackets tend to be long sleeved do not have fastenings – though some short sleeved and even poncho versions appeared in the 70s.    Some stylistic details to keep an eye out for are little tucks at the sleeve cap and some are round necked while others have collars. 

I have finally chosen a dark green design, very simple, and unusual for having very muted colours in the decoration – I’ve not seen one like it before.  I cannot wait!

And lo, I’ve been called to reception, it’s arrived!

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Lucky Dog!

In a big city like London there is always something interesting going on.  So much so that I often succumb to apathy and give up, choosing to sit inside with a glass of wine rather than make a decision regarding what to do and where to go.    Still, some things cannot be missed and it is with thanks to this blog that I have managed to get myself onto a few very useful mailing lists and get notified of interesting theatrical events in time to organise myself for a visit.

When an email popped into my inbox for a silent movie screening evening I jumped at it, especially as it was being held at Wilton’s – my very favourite theatre in London .  I hope to visit them for their theatre tour soon.

The Lucky Dog Picturehouse were hosting the event.  Perchance many of you will have heard of them but they were all new to me.  They specialize in screening silent films from the end of the 1800s to the 20s – with the aim of providing an authentic silent film experience.  

I watch silent movies at home but I had never seen one in a cinema with live musical accompaniment.  I have to say it was an incredible experience.  Hearing the crowd gasp or laugh in unison really heightened the drama playing out on screen. 

We were treated to five wonderful films:

Une Homme de Tetes (1898)

George Melies, the actor and magician, using film in an amazing inventive way for the time – by removing his head!  Special effects have been around for a very long time.

The Adventurer (1917)

A Chaplin short I had not had the pleasure of seeing before and probably my favourite film of the bunch.  This was where the audience really started to react as one – the laughter was loud and joyous as the Little Tramp tried to escape the cops.  As usual there is that sentimental side – Charlie saves a beautiful woman and her mother from drowning (though he caused the accident in the first place) and ends up trying to convince everyone that he is a rich yacht owner.

The lovely Edna Purviance co-stars.

Never Weaken (1921)

Ah, Harold Lloyd doing what he does best – stuntwork.  The audible gasps as Harry dangled high above the streets were fantastic to hear.  As usual, Harold’s unlucky everyman is in love and believing his betrothed has agreed to marry another man he decides to kill himself.  Of pourse things don't go entirely to plan....

 Felix in Hollywood (1923)

Felix the cat – in Hollywood – nothing more to add really – Miaow!

Sherlock Jnr (1924)

A Buster Keaton film was chosen to end the night – Sherlock Jr sees a down on his luck Buster working in a cinema.  He day dreams during a film and we are treated to some amazing special effects as his character joins the action on the film he is projecting.

Now, I'm desperately in love with Buster so this just made the evening for me.

Look at that face!

It also features the adorable Kathryn McGuire in one of the most incredible dresses I have ever seen, with a long beaded fringe down the back which trailed as she walked.

It really was a marvelous evening, finished off with a couple of drinks in Wilton’s gorgeous Mahogany bar.  

If you are able to attend any of TLDP events then I really encourage you to do so, they have a couple 

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Easter bunnies (s)hop hop hopping!

I'm warning you now, this is the blog equivalent of inviting your friends over to show them your holiday snaps.

I've been taking a few jaunts out of London recently - I used to love this city but I really am starting to get sick of it now and am taking every opportunity to escape where I can.

I have some catch up posts to do about recent visits to Eastbourne and Poole, but, because I happen to have the pictures here, I am starting with the most recent.  for Easter we decided to go and visit the chap's Mother, who lives in Hemel Hempstead.  I know, not the most glamorous of locations - but it turns out that there as acres of beautiful countryside surrounding the Hertfordshire new towns that I'd never knew of as a child. My mother didn't like to drive, she didn't like much really - but that's another story!

Anywhoo - off we went on the train on Friday arriving just after lunch.  While visiting the mother in law is always fun, I have to admit to my primary aim for the weekend being a selfish one.  It is bluebell season here in the UK and I have always wanted to walk in a bluebell wood.  Off we went in search of flowers and lo and behold, in a section of Ashridge forest known as Dockey Wood, we found them.  

Sadly the pictures don't really do the colour justice, digital cameras being notoriously bad at richness of colour and me being notoriously bad at photography - but it really was gorgeous!

The next day we ambled into Berkhamsted to do a little charity shopping and I had quite the score - three pairs of vintage seamed stockings, a sewing pattern, some fabric with a passably deco-ish print and some crochet gloves - whole lot £20

We then went for the best pub lunch ever at the adorable "Valiant Trooper" in the sleepy village of Aldbury.  After two pints of local ale we needed a walkabout and went wandering.  
The village grew up around the Church of St John the Baptist, which dates to the end of the thirteenth century.

The church is home to the marble tomb of Sir Robert Whittingham and his lady.  This was brought to the church in 1575 and was originally housed at Ashridge.

These tiles are also from Ashridge

I have no idea what this is.  there was a handkerchief and some nails in the sand.  some sort of depiction of the resurrection I assume.

I was also fascinated by the first metal grave markers I have ever seen, from the late 1800s.

Oh yeah - and i also met the sweetest cat!

So all in all a lovely weekend.  Chocolate, food, cats, beer, walking, history, shopping and family time.

Here's to many more jaunts this year!