Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dusty and Dylan

Last Tuesday, after running amok at playgroup for a couple of hours with my daughter (well she was running amok, I was more following and apologising...), I decided to treat myself to a little mooch round the charity and vintage shops in Headingley. My little girl was pretty chilled out in her pushchair and seemed happy enough to point out hats, flowers and inflatable palm trees for fifteen minutes while I rummaged.

I'd spotted new vintage shop on the block Dusty and Dylan ( a few weeks ago and been meaning to make a trip there. It's a pretty sweet little shop selling reasonably priced vintage clothes including a wide choice of dresses, most of which were around the £20 mark, plaid shirts and boots. There's plenty of stuff to keep both girls and boys happy and I plan to make a trip back at some point to pick up some shirts for my husband. As I walked in they were playing the Jenny and Johnny album which instantly made my day. I tried on a few things, including something from the £5 bargain basket which I realised after failing to put it on properly was actually a culotte playsuit and not a dress hence why I'd had such difficulties pulling it over my head. 

I ended up buying this black leather skirt which was £15. It's tulip shaped and I like it a lot...but - what to wear it with? I'm a little late to the party with the whole leather trend that's been around for a while. I think leather skirts look great when dressed down with a t-shirt and flat shoes or trainers to stop them looking too, well, trashy. However I'm a bit wondered that I'm not (whisper it) edgy enough to get away with it. Hmmm, watch this space... 

black leather skirt: Dusty and Dylan, £15

Monday, 4 July 2011

Clearing out the clutter

We've now been in our current house for over a year, which finally makes it the place that we've lived in the longest since going travelling in 2008. We're actually putting down roots. I still spend far longer than I should checking out other houses on RightMove, even though we've promised that this is it, whatever the problems with the house, no matter that with its anaglypta wallpaper and cream carpets it's not our dream house, we're committing to it and making it our home. We've now got to the point at which we're starting to decorate, which is very, very exciting. What's most exciting of all is that we're planning to have our bedroom finished by the end of the summer (we're giving ourselves very reachable targets). I've chosen the wallpaper (Marimekko whose prints I love so much - check it out here: and the next step is to strip the walls and get them plastered. 

I recently re-discovered this silk blazer in a bag of clothes when emptying out the clutter from our spare bedroom in preparation for decorating. I bought it four years ago for £4 from a charity shop in Headingley. The night before, I'd gone out with a group of girls from work and after champagne cocktails, a few bars and two night clubs, the night had ended about 3am with us staying over at a friend's house in Leeds as at the time we were living in Saltaire and had missed the last train by a long way. It reminds me of a time gone by when spontaneous nights out after work were possible and frequent! Now I still see the same group of girls but it's more about coffees, playgroups and trips to the park.

It's definitely French, but I haven't heard of the brand. I love the colours: grey with pink piping round the outside which makes me think of old school blazers. There are also little pink covered silk buttons on each sleeve. Blazers, jeans and Breton tops are some of my favourite things to wear. 

grey silk blazer: Martin House, Headingley
Breton top: ASOS
jeans: Topshop
suede gladiator sandals: New Look
watch: Triwa
bird earrings: Topshop
bumblebee necklace: Alex Monroe
pink resin ring: Dinosaur Designs

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

La Petite Anglaise

When I was a student I spent six months in living in Paris as part of my degree in modern languages. It doesn't feel like it was that long ago but in fact it's nearly 11 years now. I had an absolute ball during my time there: I rented a tiny attic 'studio' (doesn't that word sound so much better than 'bedsit' which is exactly what it was!) up six flights of stairs (no lift) close to the Gare du Nord which I shared with a friend, studied French at the British Institute in Paris where my classroom had a picture postcard view of the Eiffel Tower and, in true Parisian style, spent a lot of time drinking petits cafes (cafe cremes were far too expensive) and being moody in cafes. I'd love to go back and do it all again. I still love the city - it's one of the most wonderful places I've been to. If anyone would like to whisk me back there for a weekend (major hint here) I'd be so happy! 

When not studying incredibly hard (ahem!) I did a lot of window shopping and generally wandering about through the streets of Paris and although I was actually a very skint student so rarely bought anything I developed a real love for French fashion, in particular a few of the high street shops that are probably the equivalent of Whistles over here, Comptoir des Cotonniers and Sandro to name a couple. Some of these brands have since come onto the UK high street to bring a little French chic to us Brits. I love the effortless style of many of these brands: there's something very 'French' about the clothes that's difficult to pin down. I think it's to do with the simplicity and the fact that they are not as 'fashion' focused as many of the UK brands: instead there's an emphasis on style that lasts longer than a season. 

I've recently discovered Maje but no matter how much I adore their clothes, I simply don't have the budget right now. I have plastering, garden gates and car repairs (ugh) to pay for. How depressingly grown up. Anyhow, someone in the North Leeds area who is conveniently the same size as me clearly is buying a lot of Maje clothes and then kindly depositing them in my local charity shop after one season and as a consequence I am now the proud owner of a cream silk blouse (will post at a later date) and the dress I'm wearing in these photos. I have to admit I saw it and thought acid yellow, really? But I have worn it so much and it's really easy to wear on those days when I have to look a little smarter. I imagine this dress would have cost over £100 new so at £5 it was a true bargain. 

yellow and grey Maje dress: £5, charity shop
cream tuxedo blazer: Twenty8twelve at Urban Outfitters
vintage Danish necklace: gift from my husband
brogues: Next
watch: Triwa

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Forgotten dresses

I have a lot of dresses in my wardrobe (over a hundred at the last count!) and I am only too keen for friends to borrow them and actually wear them. Since becoming a mum, my opportunities for putting on a dress and dancing are not as frequent as they used to be (please do not read this as necessarily being a bad thing!) and as a consequence lots of my pretty clothes are left just hanging sadly on their coathangers, waiting for someone to come and take them out!

A few weeks ago a friend came over and I encouraged much rifling through my wardrobe to find a dress for her to wear for a wedding. She tried on lots of my dresses and this, inevitably, led to me rediscovering a few old favourites that I haven't actually worn in some cases for years. This pink 1950s dress is a case in point. Actually, until my friend tried it on and took it home with her, I don't think I have ever worn it. I think, but am not completely sure, that I bought it from one of the 'Affordable Vintage Fairs' at Leeds University in about 2007, which was the peak of my vintage dress buying era! Does it not strike you as being like the sort of thing Betty Draper would wear in one of the early episodes of Mad Men. There's a cut-out bit at the back which is a really nice detail. It's made out of fabric which is quite thick so the skirt stays quite stiff which really gives it that 50s look. It's handmade by the looks of it too.

It finally got its first outing on Sunday when we went to the christening of one of our little girl's friends from swimming. It was a gorgeous, hot, sunny June day. I'm also wearing a vintage 3-string necklace which is coral and orange but unfortunately it's tucked into the neck of the dress on the main photo and I didn't realise until I downloaded the photos.

pink 1950s dress: The Affordable Vintage Fair ( about £12 if I remember correctly!
coral and orange necklace: charity shop find many years ago, probably cost about £1
suede gladiator sandals: New Look
white beaded handbag: Accessorize
pink resin ring: Dinosaur Designs (gift)

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Dilemmas and details

Saturday just couldn't come around quick enough this week. I think everyone can relate to that feeling. You know it's been a busy week when you fall asleep during Mad Men at 9.15pm on a Friday night after one glass of wine.

Our Saturdays end up being incredibly busy though, despite the fact that we need to rest. We spent the afternoon shopping and sitting in the Leeds Museum cafe with a friend who has just come back from travelling round Asia. It was so lovely to catch up after such a long time. She looks so well and happy - the break has done her the world of good.

This post is a bit of a cheat's post - the only thing that's second hand/vintage is actually my brooch. The fact is I've religiously worn something second hand every day this week but haven't managed to get a photo of it until the evening, when, to be completely frank, the outfits weren't at their best so I haven't been able to post them. Still, at least it's something, plus, you know, it's my blog and I'll be making up the rules as I go along! I will try harder this week, honestly. This brooch is from the 1960s and it was a gift from my mum. She used to wear it herself as a teenager and in her early 20s. I love the slightly moody looking Modigliani-style girl in her slightly moody green, turquoise and brown enamel.I've had it for years now and I tend to wear it on coats and jackets. I quite like the contrast of a vintage brooch on a scruffy, utility-style jacket.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been reading reviews of Observer ethical living journalist Lucy Siegle's new book 'To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?' It looks like something that anyone with an interest in fashion should buy and it seems like it will make pretty uncomfortable reading. While shopping in the city today I felt completely overwhelmed with the sheer amount of, well, STUFF, that we're being encouraged to buy. With both the ethical dilemma of the conditions people across the world work in to keep us up to date with our throwaway dresses and one-season fashions and the ecological impact, surely buying second hand and upcycling are the way forward. Wouldn't it be great to commit to only buying second hand for a period of time, say a year. I'm not sure I'm ready to do that right now but I'm going to buy the book so I'll come back to you once I've read it.

So, this brings me to today's not-really-at-all-second-hand-total-cheat's-outfit. My hair is completely in the 'growing out a short cut' zone but at least I am a blonde again, having thankfully waved goodbye to those dark days of brunette locks (bad pun totally intentional).

khaki coat: Gap
black cardigan: Gap
blouse: Topshop
skinny jeans: Topshop
gladiator sandals: New Look
green necklace: Marrakech souk
gold bag: Sydney markets (gift)
brooch: 1960s (gift from my mum - thanks, mum!)
bare-looking flower bed: Erm, yes that would be ours. Think we're letting down the street a little)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Vintage by the kilo

I'm very embarrassed to admit this as I am somebody who is normally top to toe in SPF 30 with the merest hint of a sunny day but today I got sunburnt shoulders. Pretty badly sunburnt shoulders. It's been amazingly warm here and I dutifully slathered SPF 50 all over my daughter but forgot to do my own shoulders. I'm feeling pretty sheepish about it, particularly as I was berating my dad earlier today for being proud of his holiday tan. 'A tan is simply your skin showing sun damage', said I, smugly, unaware of the state my shoulders were getting into as I spoke. Anyway, there's not much I can do about it now, but there's definitely a lesson in there somewhere. Or even two: don't be smug and always put sunscreen on your shoulders. Live and learn, people.

I recently went to a vintage kilo sale over in Headingley, through a tip-off from a friend who is always beautifully and vintagely attired. After queuing in line for about half an hour I joined the masses of bargain hunters with sharpened elbows to delve through racks and racks and boxes and boxes of vintage clobber which is then paid for by the kilo (£15 per kilo in fact). Brilliant, I thought, having absolutely no concept of how much a kilo is in terms of clothing. It's actually about 4 items of clothing, which makes it pretty bargainous in anyone's books. So, being completely honest, it wasn't the greatest experience ever. There were a LOT of people there and there was also a lot of 'vintage' that was clearly not. However, there were gems to be had and this jacket was one of my finds. It's made from wool, French and, according to my internet research, from a 'leading ready to wear label in the 1980s'. It's incredibly versatile and I have been wearing it quite a bit recently as a change from my black blazer. I also got a coral puffed-sleeve tunic, a fuschia blouse with black buttons and a very strange polyester purple and turquoise thing, the latter of which was, in hindsight, a mistake. Perhaps there's a third lesson there?

These photos are not the greatest as I was running out of the house to my sewing course. Also I seem to be having a bit of a bad hair week at the moment due to the trials of growing out a short hairstyle. And yes, yes, yes I know, more leggings and tunics.

Wool jacket: Vintage Kilo Sale
stripey dress: French Connection
gold sandals: ASOS
cream belt: birthday present from my sisters

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Rain, names and stars

I bought this dress from a vintage fair at Fringe Bar in Paddington, Sydney. There seemed to be some sort of vintage/second hand/handmade fair there every Saturday and there were always great things to be found. My husband and I spent 7 months living in Australia in 2008/09 during a year out from our jobs. We had planned to travel round the world, but after taking in Japan and arriving in springtime Sydney we kind of didn't end up getting much further. No regrets though - one of the main reasons for us not moving on was that I was pregnant with my little girl and South America got a lot less appealing and was pretty much vetoed by my Doctor. We're saving that particular adventure for another day now.

Paddington is one of my favourite Sydney suburbs and we spent a lot of time mooching about the shops, cafes and markets there. I can't remember how much this dress cost, but I imagine it can't have been more than a few dollars. It's orange silk with little short sleeves, a kind of macrame neckline and a white star print all over it. For some reason it caught my eye when I opened my wardrobe this morning. I'm totally in my uniform today: dress, jeans, ballet shoes and a blazer. We spent the afternoon at my sister and her boyfriend's house with the rest of the family to celebrate lots of birthdays. The plan was to have a barbecue but the rain scuppered our plans.

I've just had a big rummage in my box of jewellery which lives under the bed and came across this long-forgotten Tatty Devine necklace with my name on. I tend to wear either my Alex Monroe Bumblebee or my Karen Walker necklace which has a little girl with a napsack on it every day so I often forget about my other jewellery. This necklace possibly falls into the 'am I too old to get away with this?' category as perhaps responsible grown ups don't go round with their names round their neck (apart from SATC's Carrie Bradshaw of course). Like I said yesterday, I'm not worried.

I tried to get a better photo but my camera battery ran out. I look a bit shocked as we had a lie-in until 9AM this morning as the little girl decided to sleep late. This is such a rare treat but I now feel tireder than ever. So weird how this is often the case. Any sleep experts care to explain this phenomenon?

silk dress: Fringe Bar vintage fair $10ish
black jeans: Urban Outfitters
cream cardigan: H&M
black ballet shoes: New Look
name necklace: Tatty Devine
rainy day: UK's finest