Friday, 29 April 2011

Happy Royal Wedding Day!

Yes, I watched it, and yes, I loved it! I adore a good love story, so there was never any question of my not watching the Royal Wedding, and it was just gorgeous. Of course the highlight of the day was Kate's fantastic dress, designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Let's be honest it was the dress of dreams! The perfect fairy tale ensemble :)

A perfect combination of subtlety, class and style

If you want to find out more about this fabulous dress then be sure to visit the official Royal Wedding Page for the dress' description. Gertie has also written a great post all about the dress, so be sure to give that a look too :) I also feel that a mention has to be given to Pippa Middleton's bridesmaid outfit, she looked absolutely beautiful in it without detracting from the bride. I don't think you could have found a prettier pair of sisters today!

No thorns between these two roses :)

I decided not to venture out to old London town to visit any of the street parties that have been popping up everywhere, I just couldn't bear all the crowds on the streets let alone the public transport! So instead I stayed at home with my Sweetheart and my family and we watched the whole thing on TV (and after seeing the sheer size of the crowds surrounding Buckingham Palace I knew I'd made the right choice!). I also cooked for everyone, using a selection of recipes from "Bake" by Rachel Allen, one of my favourite cookery books, including a spinach and goat's cheese tart and a butter free cake filled with cream and strawberries. Yummy! And we had a grand old time!

Let's get cooking!

Spinach, Potato and Goat's Cheese Tart - Yes please!

It's not a celebration without Pimm's! Mixed perfectly by my perfect Sweetheart

Main course plated up and ready to munch :)

And onto pudding, let's whip that cream into shape!

Voila! Le gateau parfait! If I do say so myself...

I had a great Royal Wedding Day with my loved ones, flitting about my kitchen, doing my best to impersonate the perfect Mad Men-esque homemaker (or at least just trying not to burn anything!). I do think my cupcake covered apron helped my cooking immensely, as only a cupcake covered apron can :)  

Who says cooking can't be glamorous?

Yes, I made it myself!

I hope you all had a great day, whether it was spent in Royal Wedding celebrations or not. Bye for now and I hope you have a great weekend full of kisses (yes, I just couldn't resist including a smoochy pic!)

Come one everyone, awwwwwww!

My Vintage Hair Diary - Part 1: The Cut

It seems that recently all that's been popping up on my feed reader is stories of people getting their hair cut! Tasha's had a great cut, so has Land Girl 1980, and Gertie's now sporting a fabulous Bettie Page inspired fringe. Well my dear readers, I have to say I just got too jealous and decided to give myself a treat and go for the chop myself! You may remember in a previous post I mentioned my longing for vintage hair styling skills, so this post is going to be the first in a series as I try to teach myself how to achieve the perfect vintage 'do! What hair horrors may yet occur... Let's find out together!

To start, let's take a good look at my hair now. Now, when I was touring I wasn't allowed to cut my hair - I even had to sign a contract saying I wouldn't! - so my hair has just been growing and growing and growing for too long. To be honest it's so curly and thick and long that doing anything with it is physically exhausting, and that's just regular styling let alone trying to get a vintage look! Just look:

Hair, pre-cut - Front

Hair, pre-cut - Back

Now I love having curling hair, but it is difficult to tame, particular when it's this long! So off to the salon I must go. And I decided to really treat myself and pay a trip to The Painted Lady Salon in Shoreditch, home of Belinda Hay, the author of Style Me Vintage!

The Painted Lady, small and snazzy!

"The Painted Lady" is in a particularly fabulous part of London, just down the road from Brick Lane, tucked away between heaps of lovely vintage shops (which I must admit I did browse through on my way to the salon!). It is a very snug set up, the main salon floor has just enough room for three seats plus a seating area and reception desk, but it doesn't feel at all cramped, just cosy. Plus there is a lot more room towards the back of the salon - where you get your hair washed :) - and I'm pretty sure they have a nail salon in their basement, complete with the little fish that nibble your feet into pristine condition (does anyone else really want to try this but also have a fear of the fish chewing off their toes? No? Only me? Ok then...). All in all it's a great place, full of character and kitsch charm. And when I got there I was offered a glass of wine or a bottle of beer so I knew we were off to a good start :)

The salon's foxy friend :)

Now, I always get a little nervous before going to a new hair salon, because in most salon chains - don't get me started on my Tony and Guy experiences! - have no idea how to cut curly hair. I can't even tell you the amount of times I've left a salon with a less than perfect hair cut, having paid an extortionate amount of money to have someone style my hair in a way that would be perfect for straight locks, but looks awful with curls! So I must admit I was tentative when I walked into "The Painted Lady", but the minute I met my stylist I felt so much better!

My stylist, Izumi. She's a genius!

Izumi is amazing. You may have seen her featured as the model in some of the shots in "Style Me Vintage", and believe me in real life her style is just as awesome :) I would have to say that she's probably the best hair dresser I have ever visited. Firstly, she actually listened to me when I told her what I wanted. She understood how curly hair changes length not just by how short it is, but how heavy it is and the ways in which you style it. Secondly she checked things with me throughout the cut to make sure that I was getting what I wanted, a luxury that I've never experienced at any other salon! She cut my hair beautifully, and we had a lovely chat about Belinda's book and hair setting techniques, punctuated by other hair stylists and customers. Other conversation topics included Mad Men, swing music and vintage fashion - I was in heaven! Finally, after all our chatting, Izumi apologised that she didn't have time to properly set my hair - something that I hadn't even thought of asking for - and instead she blow dried my hair into pin up curls, painstakingly moulding each curl into the perfect place. My hair has literally never been so coifed in all my life! And she didn't even charge me extra for all the time she spent finishing my hair, just the price of a standard cut and finish. I literally left the salon walking on air, I felt so pampered and fancy, and I have never felt that way after visiting the hair dressers before. Usually I can't wait to get home and hop in the shower so I can restyle my hair the way I want to, but this time I was more than happy to leave it the way it was :) Just take a look:

Hair, post-cut - Front

Hair, post-cut - Back

I couldn't have been more thrilled with my vintage salon experience, I was made to feel like a princess and I spent the rest of my day on a high! You really can't go wrong if you visit "The Painted Lady" I can guarantee you'll leave with a spring in your step :)

I feel very Betty Draper-esque!

Or maybe I'm channeling Joan!

And there you have it, my first entry in my Vintage Hair Diary, and my first step towards perfect vintage hair! I'm hoping to try out some styles ASAP so stay tuned for more hair-themed posts very soon. Bye for now!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Wednesday Wonderfuls #15

Hello there, fancy seeing you here! Well we all know that this week is just going to be stuffed with Royal Wedding-ness, so I thought I'd jump on the band wagon a little bit! I must admit that I'm a little excited about the wedding, a normal girl becoming a princess and everything, but I must admit there is a lot of junk merchandise out there. I have found some wedding themed items, however, that are much more pleasing to the eye. Take a look:


These plates are all unique and specially designed for the big day. I think they're beautiful. I'm a particular fan of Rob Ryan's design below, but I'm just a real sucker for anything Rob Ryan :)

And now for the main event! As it's a wednesday - the day of wonderfuls! - let me share with you some little pieces of wonderfulness from across blogland. Enjoy!

  • Penny Dreadful Vintage has just opened a mini boutique in London, from the pictures here it looks pretty damn awesome! See her blog for details about appointments, I might see about getting one myself!
  • Another Penny Dreadful Vintage link, this time a brilliant list of things to do in London. I honestly want to visit every place she mentioned, it's true that when you live in London you never really SEE it. I think I should do something about that...!
  • Colette patterns have just released two beauties: the Violet blouse and Ginger skirt. They are both sweet and simple, perfect staples for any girl's wardrobe.
  • For my readers who are in and around New York or planning a visit there any time soon, Gertie has posted a guide to the garment district that left me dreaming of a holiday! Le swoon, le sigh...
  • Check out this post on beauty through the ages over at Casey's Elegant Musings. It seems some things stay the same even as the ideal of beauty changes.
  • It's applique week over at Tuppence Ha'penny, these jumpers remind me a little of my dachshund sweater project :)
  • And finally some good advice from A Cat of Impossible Colour, this is how I should live my life!

Happy Wednesday everyone, enjoy the rest of your Royal Wedding filled week :)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Vintage Revamp #4 - Hot Pink 1950s style dress (Part 1)

Hello there and a happy Wednesday to you all! You may remember from this post that I recently scored a big haul from the Vintage Kilo Sale, all of which needs a good revamping before I can actually wear it. I decided to start with one of the more simple revamps, the Hot Pink 1950s style dress:

Original hot pink 1950s style dress

As you can see this dress is pretty much perfect already, I love the colour and the little embellishments are adorable, the fit however was not so good! The elastic waist band does fit around my waist, but there was much too much fabric in the bodice of the dress to be flattering. I looked like I was wearing a sinched in tent! I also didn't like the length of the sleeves, and when I removed them in order to adjust the bodice I decided to leave them off completely, perfect for the summer!

Sleeves removed, pinned and ready for sewing

I took in about an inch of fabric on each side of the bodice

I also added two darts to the back so the dress would sit better on my waist

As you may be able to see from the pictures above the lining is peeking out from the adjustments I made on the sleeves of the dress. The dress was fully lined but the fabric is really quite thick and not at all clingy, so I decided that most of the lining was just making the dress too heavy and bulky, to I cut it shorter so that now only the bodice is lined. I also trimmed back and serged the sleeve linings so they no longer show. Finally I chopped off about 6 inches from the hem so the skirt now finishes at my knee rather than halfway down my calf!

And here is how the dress looks now:

New look hot pink 1950s style dress

The dress now fits me - hurrah! - and is at a much more flattering length :) And now for some super close ups of details...

Newly hemmed sleeve, no lining in sight!

Newly sewn darts for a better fit on the waist

Freshly hemmed skirt, done by hand of course!

Now, because of the shortened hem, the pleats of the skirt aren't really behaving themselves and lying nicely as they did before the alterations (you can really see this in the full length picture above). To help resolve this I am using a magical method to make those pleats behave - I'm tacking the naughty little things down!

Naughty pleats now behaving, all tacked down :)

You can see that the pleats are now falling perfectly, so happy days :) I'm going to leave the dress hanging like this for a few days and I will also press the pleats to make sure they stay on their best behaviour.

Beautiful pleats!

Now this revamp is only part one as there are still several things that I want to do to this dress before I wear it. For one I think I want to replace the buttons with white ones rather than the pink. I've been searching for some vintage flower buttons online as I think they would be perfect! Also, I do love the matching belt that came with this dress, but now I'm thinking that a thin white belt might look prettier. Or perhaps I could add some white piping around the edge of the collar. What do you think? I would really like some more little highlights of white on the dress, but how much is too much? I love to hear your opinions!

Stay tuned folks, because part 2 of this revamp will be shared with you very soon, I can't wait to get this dress out on the town! Bye for now!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Two WWII Themed Theatre Reviews: "Betty Blue Eyes" and "Flare Path"

Hello to you all and a very happy Easter too. I hope that you have been enjoying the glorious weather (that's if you are in the UK, I'm not sure how the weather is elsewhere, I am sorry if your weather is awful, I don't want to rub it in!) and have been having a wonderful time doing wonderful and interesting things. I have found myself frequenting the theatre recently and so I thought I'd share some of the gems I've seen with you.

Since starting this blog I have found that my fascination with the WWII era - one that I have had since I was a child when I would play "evacuation" with my chums! - has definitely been rekindled through my interest in 1940s/50s fashion and how greatly these were effected by the war, so can you imagine how excited I was when the West End suddenly seemed full of WWII themed theatre! I am going to guide you through two opposite sides of the theatrical spectrum with the following pair of reviews: the musical comedy "Betty Blue Eyes" and the Terrence Rattigan play "Flare Path".

"Betty Blue Eyes" is set in 1947, when Britain was still feeling the pinch after the end of the war. Food was still a great concern as the country was still on the ration, and with a royal wedding around the corner (of then Princess Elizabeth to her finance Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten) people were unable to even dream of a feast to celebrate the event, as everyone was having to "Make Do an Mend" is every possible way. That is unless you were a member of a particular town council who jointly purchased an illegal pig which they were fattening up for a private wedding feast in honour of the royal occasion. And this pig is, of course, the lovely Betty Blue Eyes.

Betty Blue Eyes

Along side this story runs the journey of married couple Gilbert and Joyce Chilvers, a chiropodist and his wife, both of whom (well her in particular!) want more out of life than they are currently getting. Gilbert dreams of his own practice on the parade in town, and Joyce of being more than just a nobody, wanting to be someone who is the first to know everything and is invited to every private function. Throw this together with an obsessive destroyer of illegal meat, 74 year old "Mother Dear", an ensemble of incredible talents, a score that will get your toes tapping, dancing that will take your breath away and a pig that's as pretty as a picture and you're starting to get the idea of what "Betty Blue Eyes" is like!

The show has some really great moments. It's very, very funny and both of the leads - Sarah Lancashire and Reece Shearsmith - have impeccable comic timing, Lancashire with her brilliant straight faced delivery of lines like "And when you get back sexual intercourse will be in order", and Shearsmith with an array of hilarious physical reactions that will leave you in stitches. There are some fabulous numbers in the piece too. Memorable songs include the rousing solo "Nobody" in which Joyce makes the transformation from housewife to glamourous show girl and back again in the comfort of her own living room, and an incredible 1940s high energy dance routine that will, I guarantee, make every member of the audience long for swing dance lessons! It's a real heart warming piece of theatre that will raise your spirits and see you leaving with a smile on your face :)
The fabulous Sarah Lancashire
Dancing that will knock your socks off!

Of course I wouldn't be me if I hadn't been watching the costumes for the whole show! And this production really does have some gems! Sarah Lancashire has some of the most beautiful pieces, including a sweet house coat and a fabulous hot pink dress in the second half, but my particular favourite is the outfit below. She looks so classy in her gorgeous plaid wool coat with brown leather gloves and matching felt hat, an example of how post-war women still strove to look chic even in the hardest of times. And, of course her hair is a dream, but I that's what I would expect from a wig ;)

Could I borrow your coat, Sarah?

Of course the show couldn't have come to London at a better time - considering that we are currently coming out of recession so everyone is feeling financially vulnerable, and we have our very own royal wedding around the corner! - so this may have been part of why I related to the characters so much and therefore enjoyed it so greatly. I also loved how quintessentially British the whole piece was, very stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on. But most of all I liked how even though it's fun and, let's face it, a bit bizarre and silly, it still shows that what got our country through such difficult times was our nation's spirit and determination, something that I find sadly lacking in our modern age. I guess I'm just a sucker for a good nostalgic piece of theatre! 

If you are a fan of the WWII era, and are looking for an evening of giggles, I really couldn't recommend "Betty Blue Eyes" more. It is unashamedly and simultaneously, daft, kitsch, silly, charming and ridiculous,  whether or not you think that is a bad thing is personal opinion I guess. But I thought it was marvelous :)

Royal Wedding anyone?

And now for something completely different! I can safely say that the only thing "Flare Path" has in common with "Betty Blue Eyes" is the era in which it is set (although "Flare Path" takes place in 1942, in the thick of the war). The manner in which the story is told, and the story itself, couldn't be more different. 

"Flare Path" takes place at the Falcon Hotel, just around the corner from a RAF air base, in which several members of the RAF are preparing to spend the weekend with their wives. Before they arrive, Hollywood film star Peter Kyle turns up at the hotel and it soon becomes clear that something has been going on between him and Patricia, an RAF bomber pilot's wife. The play covers the following two days in which people arrive and depart, many events occur, including a dramatic and emotional climax that no one could have predicted. Sorry for being so vague, but if you intend to see this play I would be horrified if I spoilt a single moment for you! It really gives the audience member the most heart wrenching, beautiful and intense experience, so I don't want to elaborate in case my telling you the ins and outs would take that away from you as a viewer! I'll just say that if you can get through the play without both laughing out loud and crying your eyes out you're a better man than me :)

Beautiful Sheridan Smith

I have to say that the star of the evening for me was Sheridan Smith. Playing Doris, a normal East Ender who has become a Duchess through marriage to Polish Johnny Skriczevinsky, she breathes life into the play, presenting a character who is instantly likable and relatable. Her look on the bright side attitude must have been one shared by many woman of the era, particularly those with spouses in the force. She is commented on as being "very brave", to which she replies: "Brave? Oh no, I'm just ready." You can imagine these words being a mantra for thousands of wives of the time. Smith portrays an entire generation of wives of the armed forces and does so with grace, humour and heart, I simply couldn't fault her. Her relationship with her husband (played by Mark Dexter) was particularly beautiful, as they communicated with difficulty, her very colloquially and him in broken English, and yet they always understand each other where it really counts. (Incidentally, this play was so riveting that I didn't just sit there admiring the costumes, but Sheridan Smith did have the best outfits by far, I mean just look at the beautiful red outfit with the gorgeous dress clips! *swoon!*)

Mark Dexter and Sheridan Smith

Of course the main story line is a love triangle, a will-she-won't-she kind of deal, but "Flare Path" is so much more than this. I found that I was not focusing on this story at all, I was rather fixated on the lives of the men of the RAF. This play really gives the audience member a peek into what it must have been like for the men who fought for us in the Second World War. We get a taste of how these men behaved around their friends and family - comforting those around them, caring for civilians even outside the battle field -  and with their fellow RAF members - the camaraderie and brotherhood they shared - but we are also given a glimpse of the terror that must have filled so many fighters every time they were called out.  We are given a look at World War Two that is extremely personal and therefore extremely poignant. Perhaps the strongest portrayal of this kind of emotion is given by Harry Hadden-Paton as Teddy, in an intense exchange with Sienna Miller as Patricia. 

Sienna Miller and Harry Hadden-Paton

Unlike "Betty Blue Eyes", "Flare Path" does not just play on a feeling of WWII nostalgia with a bit of fun and kitsch, it gives us a very real look into real lives of real people and therefore it produces a very real response from it's audience. You can really tell that this piece was written in 1941, actually during the period in question, because every speech and reference has the weight of real people's hopes and fears for the future. Unlike "Betty Blue Eyes" this is not new theatre, and it shows in the best possible sense. This play is so moving I really cannot explain, you literally feel like you have been transported to another time and are living these people's lives with them. If you are looking for a real WWII experience then you will love this play. It's practically perfect in every way. See it and then let's talk about it ok? :)

Flare Path = Perfection

So there you have it, two very different pieces of WWII themed theatre, each brilliant in their own ways. I would recommend both of them for different reasons - "Betty Blue Eyes" for some nostalgic light hearted fun, "Flare Path" for a perfectly delivered WWII experience - but I would recommend them both wholeheartedly. If you are in London in the near future then see these shows, believe me you will not be disappointed!

Do let me know if you do see either of the shows, I'd love to discuss them with someone :) But for now, Happy Easter and I hope everyone in the UK is enjoying the bank holiday weekend!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Briar Rose Knit-Along Update #2

Well hello there :) I hope you've all had a marvelous week and are all geared up for your Easter weekend. In the meantime I thought I'd give you an update on some of my older projects.

In between the many vintage revamps that I've been planning recently I'm still managing to make some good headway on my Briar Rose knit along. With all the great weather we've been having here I'm starting to worry I might not get the chance to wear this sweater if I don't finish it soon! Lucky for me I've already finished knitting up...

... the front:

 ... and the back:

And I've spent the last two days blocking them:

Having a little swim in the sink

Drying in the sun, all nicely blocked :)

I spent most of this afternoon tackling the mammoth job of adjusting the sleeve caps for my version of the Briar Rose - with the help of Tasha's epic post! I must admit that the whole process did give me a touch of brain ache, I shouldn't have been doing all that maths when the sun was shining so brightly! But luckily after much head scratching I finally got it, although as you can see...

... it took a while, and lots of scribbling! But as you may or may not be able to see on my computer screen below, I've finally filled in the final blanks in my knit along pattern! Hurrah, huzzah! Once I've knitted up the sleeves, and also the collar and little pocket, then I'll be done :)

I've already started on my first sleeve and I think I'm on a roll because I've nearly finished the rib work already!

Pretty rib stitches :)

So watch this space my friends, because pretty soon they'll be a lovely sweater for me to share with you!

But in the meantime, TTFN :)
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