My Godmother runs the most gorgeous little gite in the south of France; (really amazing location and rates, so check it out if you fancy a holiday) and she recently took it upon herself to set up an English language magazine for expats in the area,' Le Quercy'. She asked if I could write something that might be suitable for that audience- so I wrote a piece about Vintage fashion- mentioning my friends and colleagues; Vintage Secret, Mademoiselle Robot, Fleur de Guerre, What Katie Did, and Vivien of Holloway.
Here's the piece if you can't read it properly in the scan above:
Whether we have the recession to thank, or simply the cyclical nature of fashion, Vintage is back. As we enter a new decade, the backlash against both expensive designer dresses and cheap sweat-shop labour high- street wares has only served to increase the demand for retro bargains. Saving old clothes from landfills is both eco friendly and stylish- with vintage chic being pioneered on TV shows like Mad Men and on the big screen by films like Coco- Avant Chanel, as well as on the streets of the most fashionable cities, from New York to Paris and London.
And its not just the fashion that's making a come-back. Bored of the impersonal nature of facebook friends and packed club nights, the vintage scene is bringing back afternoon tea and intimate cabaret shows. Vintage Secret is run by Naomi Thompson out of her London flat where customers can visit to try on clothes from the website over tea and cake- an experience recently recommended by British Vogue. The events page of Naomi's site lists all the latest London happenings, from masked balls, to Blitz parties, to exhibitions of Grace Kelly's clothes at the V&A.
But what to wear to a good old fashioned knees- up?Salvaging your grandmother's gladrags, sifting through the local markets and fairs, or ordering from online specialists, sometimes you need an extra helping hand putting together the perfect outfit. Parisian journalist Leatitia Wajnapel has made a career out of advising people on their style dilemmas, specialising in mixing modern looks with vintage gems. Mademoiselle Robot is the blog she now writes from the UK, alongside Mademoiselle Style where you can buy various styling packages, from an introduction to buying Vintage, to an online lunchtime consultation at your desk. I asked Laetitia about vintage shopping in her homeland;
"The vintage shopping scene in France (especially in Paris) has changed quite a lot since the not so glorious days of the smelly "friperies" of my teens in the early '90s. There are now quite a few good vintage shops in Paris, mainly selling vintage designer pieces at high prices - but that's the norm for collectors' items. Other than these you can also find a few mid-range vintage shops, but they definitely aren't as nice as the London ones; the shop assistants are snooty, the shop floors are over crowded and the clothes are always slightly overpriced. I think there is still a lot to do in Paris in terms of vintage, and Parisian sellers certainly have a lot to learn from Londoners!"
Mademoiselle Robot is one of an increasing number of style gurus showing you how to 'get the look' at home through Youtube tutorials. Its ironic that a movement about everything old-fashioned is thriving on modern technology- from Youtube videos on how to get 40s pin curls, to blogs about how to create your own millinery. Fleur de Guerre is a full time pin-up girl and the face behind the hugely successful 'Diary of a Vintage Girl' blog. Her online demonstrations on how to perfect vintage make-up and hair have gained her a dedicated following amongst the retro scene, as well as mainstream fashionistas simply wanting to add another look to their repertoire.
Despite my love of vintage fashion,I've always been faced with one serious obstacle- size. If you're larger than a size 10, chances are you'll find it hard to fit into the most beautiful vintage frocks. That everyone was tiny in the old days is a myth- but there is some truth in it. Young people were much smaller, and had very differently shaped figures to the modern woman, but people did put on weight as they got older. Sadly though, they also stopped wearing the gorgeous high fashion we associate with their respective eras, so whilst you can sometimes find larger garments, they tend to be a bit shapeless and frumpy. So when Vivien of Holloway set up a business recreating vintage styles in modern sizes, it was a runaway success, whilst Katie Halford launched What Katie Did selling vintage style lingerie, corsets and seamed stockings as modelled by the likes of Claudia Schiffer and Lara Stone.
So now even those of us whose figures are less Coco Chanel and more Bridget Jones can wear the vintage look. Next issue I'll be guiding you through the best online sites to source accessories from both vintage sources and modern designers; unique jewellery,fascinators and handbags from independent sellers.