Beyond the Pale

Love Is Boutique: Bloggers & Press Day

A veritable Tardis of designer goodies, Love Is Boutique has always been a must-visit destination for the bargain-hunting fashionista, but there have been subtle changes afoot since I last visited and now I had heard it’s EVEN BETTER. Along with a few other invited bloggers and press peeps, I sashayed along to see just how this could be so.
If you are on heart medication of any kind, you may want to dose yourself up before walking through the doors of Love Is Boutique, as every rail, each shelf and cabinet the eye rests on is bulging with temptation in the form of DESIGNER BARGAINS.

Be still my rapidly beating heart. Hopefully not literally.

“Umm… Is that a Phillip Lim evening dress sparkling on the wall? Can that be a Chloe Paddington bag hanging up there?” your brain asks your eyes. “Just next to the several immaculate Louis Vuitton bags and adjacent to the cabinet of handmade couture Manolo Blahnik shoes…” your eyes nonchalantly reply.


At this point, your palpitations are going to kick in, so it’s really handy if you have remembered that medication or have your inhaler to hand. Or a hip flask of gin, whatever gets you through. Yup, it’s all true, this place is piled up with the kind of high-end designer merchandise normally only sighed over in the glossy pages of Vogue, Harpers and their ilk. Only at VASTLY reduced prices.

Paula Fry, the owner of this treasure trove, invited me, along with several other bloggers and members of the press, to come and see the changes Love Is has undergone. It’s always been good – the kind of Best Kept Secret you only tell your best girlfriend. And maybe not even then – so how could things get even better?

“We’ve got a lot more picky about what we accept to sell for customers, now.” Paula explained. Love Is works as a dress agency, with clients gaining a percentage of whatever the boutique sells the items for. “We can afford to be really choosy because our reputation has spread, and the stuff people bring in for us to look at is unbelievable! One lady came in with her collection of Louis Vuitton bags. ELEVEN of them, all real!”

Paula has become something if an expert at sniffing out fakes “Most of them you can spot a mile off, because the shape or size is wrong, the stitching isn’t right. Some are a bit more difficult, but there are experts you can refer to, and the big brands are all very happy to verify their own merchandise if you’re really not sure.”

Having built up their name, hosted hugely successful events and fashion shows, and been featured in Vogue magazine as a “must visit” destination, Love Is now boasts a celebrity clientele – “Top Secret, I absolutely cannot name names!” – who buy and sell their designer swag here. “Often the chauffeur comes and drops stuff off,” Paula whispers, “and oh my GOD it’s such amazing stuff…”

Perhaps the most noticeable change is the fact there’s far less vintage stock in the boutique these days. It’s getting harder and harder to get top quality vintage to sell, and people put a ‘vintage’ tag on any old thing and expect it to be desirable, so I think this is a clever move on their part. Plus, in a wealthy area and with celebrities emptying their wardrobes, you may as well focus on the goodies surrounding you!

The vintage pieces are still to be found: really cute little fifties fur collars, dinky enamelled bug brooches and incredible unique handbags from all eras, along with select clothes, but here the designer investment pieces now jostle with the very best high-end High-street items, so there really is something for every budget.

It’s really interesting to note that real classics like the Mulberry Bayswater bags are flying out the door – “We just can’t get enough of them, as soon as we have them through the door, they leave again on someone else’s arm!” Iconic designer pieces such as Alexander McQueen scarves and tailcoats are also in high demand, as customers invest in designer stand-out pieces which won’t date, mixing these with far cheaper high street trend items.


On this visit, I was quite selfless and restrained, buying an unusual necklace for a friend’s Christmas present, though I took rather a shine to the Bally, sheepskin lined ankle boots on the back shelf here, and may have to pop back in to, um, visit them. Yes. That’s it. *cough*

I also have a massive regret that I didn’t get the beautiful enamelled ladybird brooch purchased by fellow bargain-snaffler, Bettina, AKA Mrs Anke (of Ladybits blog fame: she has a gin cocktail named after her, and that’s a REAL measure of fame, my friends). Que Sera, as Doris Day was wont to warble!


Adored this darling little bobble-trimmed dress, too. Oh, and the cosy hooded cloak and the bauble charm bracelet and about five coats upstairs and… Uh, no, I mean it’s all awful and you wouldn’t like it at all so don’t go before I’ve got my mitts on all the goodies I saw, there’s nothing there. Yup. Convincing, eh?

As the Champagne was quaffed and more people arrived to gawp and gossip (three of my favourite things to do, right there: quaffing, gawping & gossiping) I had to grab my purchase and get a wriggle on, sadly. Having ogled their latest wares, I shall be back again very soon. They have all manner of gorgeousness arriving every single day, so there’s always a good reason to pop in again.

Just to look. Obviously…


UPDATE: I have now been back and purchased the Bally boots. Quite by accident.


Where Liberty [print] is, there is my country…

“Where Liberty [print] is, there is my country.” – Slightly adapted from a quote by Benjamin Franklin.


One is supposed to harbour a seething hatred of the monstrosities one is forcibly dressed in as a child, though it’s easier to live with when your mother was a fashion buyer, I suppose, and therefore seemed to escape the deepest realms of hideousness that several of my contemporaries endured while growing up in the 1970’s.

– Page from the Liberty Book of Home Sewing.

One of my favourite items of clothing as a child was a Liberty Print pinafore dress, which had puffed ‘leg o’mutton’ Victorian style sleeves. As I rather fancied myself a Victorian Urchin at the time (one of my favourite games, being already obsessed with the era, though perhaps for authenticity’s sake, urchins of any era tend not to have access to legally obtained items from Liberties of London); it quickly became my most beloved dress. I still have a hankering for most things Liberty Print, and I especially like the way many contemporary designers and clothing brands have incorporated the prints into their ranges.


I just adore everything about this satchel by Dr. Martens, featuring the iconic Strawberry Thief print. It’s a design classic and VERY much on my Want List.


Again by Dr. Martens, these floral Liberty Print boots take me right back to my days as an English student, swishing about the bluebell woods in long skirts, flower pattern DM’s, white shirts, pinstripe waistcoats and a huge silver fob watch I worse on a long silver chain around my neck. I was obviously a neo-Steampunk. ;P


I’m not generally a fan of trainers, but would definitely wear these beautiful Nike ones, exclusive to Liberties. They manage to be pretty without being twee or reminiscent of the kind of trainers that sports brands bring out imagining all women want to look like Barbie while playing sport/working out. Or at any other time. I don’t require everything to be pink just because I’m female, thank you, because I’m no longer 4 years old – and I didn’t much like it then, either. I can feel my Disposable Razors Aimed At Women rant coming on, so shall gloss over the topic and move swiftly on.


Talking of trainers, Nike have designed a pair of their Zoom Victory Elite trainers exclusively for Team GB Olympic hopeful, Perri Shakes-Drayton, who’ll be proudly wearing them for her 400m hurdle event on Sunday. Combining ultra-modern design with a striking heritage ‘Mirabelle’ print first introduced in the 1960’s by Liberty, they form part of an ongoing collaboration between the companies that goes from strength to strength. I’m always drawn to the designs that happily mix the the old with the new, and the work Nike and Dr. Martens are doing with Liberty is an outstanding example of how it should be done. Bravo!

“Life without Liberty [print] is like a body without spirit.” – Slightly adapted from a quote by Khalil Gibran.

Jack & Gin: Victorian Style

I have no shame in admitting that I’m already planning my outfit (and accessories, of course) for a party that’s not due to take place until February next year!

This poster is very apt for the occasion and, quite apart from loving letterpress type (being a bit of an old font/type nerd), I heartily condone the sentiment. Also loving the name of their shop!

Letterpress Gin Poster by A Two Pipe Problem: $16

The party in question is not your run-of-the-mill kind, but the third incarnation of Gin & Whores: a semi-regular affair held by Mme Guillotine for various reprobate friends who share her passion for Victorian Ladies of The Night, Gin and Jack the Ripper.

Spooky Shades have various items to tempt those seeking unusual lamp shades, but this is one of my favourite. I really like the overlaying of medical illustrations with one of the infamous letters purporting to be from Jack the Ripper.

Jack's Anatomy Lampshade by Spooky Shades: $59

The wonderful Hoolala has been featured a few times on my blog – they do a number of Jack the Ripper themed items, but the one I most covet also happens to be the most expensive. Typical. It’s this luxury pocket watch charm necklace, based on Alan Moore’s brilliant Jack the Ripper graphic novel, From Hell.

(Really interesting story of how Alan Moore actually met the lady behind Hoolala, by the way – clock on the picture below to be taken to that page & read more…)

Jack the Ripper From Hell Charm Necklace by Hoolala: $125

For now, I have just purchased this necklace (featuring a silver Gin bottle label. HOW could I resist?) in preparation, and now can’t wait for it to arrive. I get terribly excited about this sort of thing.

Gin Necklace by Kat Designs NYC

Obviously, this one isn’t available anymore (ha ha), but do have a look at the other pieces in the collection (click on the picture to be whisked to the shop) – there’s a very similar Brandy one.

You cannot beat a bit of fingerless mittens action for adding an element of Victorian sauciness to an outfit, and these, by Hypericumfragile are just the ticket.

Evening Secret Gloves by Hypericumfragile: $35

I had to add this saucy greeting card by Coquinette (all the cards are very amusing, using risquΓ© contemporary images and distinctly modern text).

Naughty Victorian Greeting Card by Coquinette: $5

Gin & Whores basically involves getting togged-up in Victorian-esque outfits (some guests go for historical accuracy, whilst others opt for modern re-interpretations of Victorian outfits or accessories), drinking Gin and cackling with laughter in locations around London’s seedier locales.

This pretty lace-edged, raw silk bolero would be just the thing.

The Paris Romance Bolero by Mary and Angelika: $83

Usually we frequent pubs dating from the Victorian period are preferred, those public houses which (in our wildest imaginings) may have served a glass or two to some of Jack the Ripper’s victims, or even [shivers of macabre excitement] Jack himself.

Antique Leather Doctor's Bag at Nacho Kitty: $375

That antique Doctor’s bag is just the sort of thing one imagines Jack the Ripper would carry about the place, don’t you think?

It possibly sounds a bit odd or mawkish to the casual observer, but we all have enormous fun and it’s all very much tongue-in-cheek. Much like this amusingly saucy Victorian ladies’ fridge magnet, by Pink Burlesque (who are based in Bristol). Really like all their items, actually!

Vintage Picture Fridge Magnet by Pink Burlesque: $2.99

In honour of the occasion, and my outfit hunting, I put together this themed collection of various favourites as an Etsy Treasury, I do hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek!

Direct links to all the items shown are available by going to the treasury’s page, HERE. Enjoy browsing all the lovely shops, but don’t blame me if you want everything, too. πŸ˜‰

Until next time, duckies,

Miss Nightingale


Modern Nostalgic: Wearable Victorian Style

I am always drawn to Victoriana in fashion & design but am fully aware that, in our modern times, many styles can look hideously over-the-top or as though you have just finished giving your Mrs Lovett in a low-budget am-dram performance to which nobody came.

[IF you were dressed as per Helena Bonham Carter, I would absolutely forgive you, as I think she looks utterly divine].

Anyway. My point is that it can be a bit overwhelmingly scary or Dressing Up Box to the untrained eye, so the best thing for nervous types is to follow this (very general) rule:

If the main part of your outfit is historically influenced [a dress, skirt, top, coat etc] then balance it with modern or dressed-down accessories. If the accessories [boots, hat, jewellery, scarf etc] are vintage-inspired, go for a modern or dressed down item for the main. πŸ™‚

I think these teal boots are utterly fabulous and, if I had wonderful legs (which I do not) I’d opt for a short skirt & opaque tights (perhaps in a clashing colour on a braver day, or dark chocolatey brown for a toned-down look).

Madeira Teal Suede Boots, by Duo: Β£245

Not the cheapest boots around, of course, but oh-so worth it. I hear many, many good things about DUO and have lusted after several styles for some years, now. One day, one glorious day, I shall have a pair of my own!

Another aspect of DUO I love is the really useful styling advice they offer. They dress these boots, for example,Β  in a modern but relaxed way – exactly what I had in my head when I saw them, and exactly the point I wanted to make in this post:

Madeira DUO Boots Styling Advice

The other alternative is to dress head-to-toe in every single one of my picks and swan around a-la Bonham Carter. Which is equally acceptable in my book!

Utterly adorable – this peacock cocktail hat is just dreamy, and so drop-dead chic. I love the idea of styling it with the bright pillar-box red dress (and hair), but would also be divine for making an outfit out of an otherwise boring Little Black Dress. HOW fabulous would it be if also teamed with the DUO boots (above), though? Very. That’s how.

Peacock Creme De La Creme Cocktal Hat, by Jade Rose Designs: $175

Another “considered purchase”, but this dress is a modern twist on a classic, that will just go on for years to come. Having a bit of a teal moment with the tights, too. πŸ™‚

Black Evelyn Dress, by Madeline Wood: $245

Emma Sommerfield does it again – an incredible modern piece that actually looks as though it could have been handed down throguh the generations. Wear with a tunic dress, leggings & biker boots!

Lace Knitted Scarf, by Emma Sommerfield: $90

How whimsical is this darling Victorian-esque yet thoroughly modern brooch? Great gift for a friend who’s off to far-flung adventures. Or, y’know, yourself.

The Traveler Brooch, by Munieca: $14

I would be sorely tempted to waveringly raise this magnifying glass necklace to my eye and in booming voice intone: “A haaaaaaaaaahnndbaaaaaag?!” at everyone I met…

Magnifying Glass Necklace, by Crumpet Cake: $23

Hurrah for spats! Eminently versatile for dressing up tired or sad looking footwear. Peacock feathers are always a plus.

Couture Peacock Spats, by Jared Gold: $55

There’s something incredibly nostalgic in the influence behind this headband by a talented Lithuanian designer – it reminds me of Victorian mourning styles. Wear it with a simple dress or even jeans and a t-shirt for an instandt hit of vintage glamour.

Beaded, Hand-Embroidered Victorian Style Headband, by Babinka1981: $28

These bloomers are just adorable – I particularly like the choice of fabric & colours. Great for slouching around the house in (with over-the-knee cashmere socks) or worn over the top of opaque stockings/tights or leggings & stompy boots. You pretty much have to be younger, braver and less cake & gin-enhanced than me to successfully pull off this look for Outside Wear, though, I fear!

Floral Bloomers, by La Belle Fairy: $45

I don’t usually ‘do’ small or dainty bags – mostly because I can’t fit the huge amount of Really Desperately Important Crap I trug around with me on a daily basis, and also because they can very often be a bit twee.

THIS wristlet is glorious, though. Most definitely not twee, and really quite refined. I adore the colour, and the way it it reminds me of a Victorian ladies’ purse but with a modern touch. Want!

Pewter Cow Hide Wristlet, by Pretty Girl Handbags: $28

How incredibly jaunty this Victorian circus poster necklace is! Wear it to work with a staid blouse (unbuttoned as low as you dare) to brighten up an otherwise dull day.

Pierrot Acrobat Necklace, by Mama's Little Babies: $25

Lovely and quite unusual purse with a delightful Victorian walnut tree print in gold. Pretty and practical (and very reasonably priced for such a unique item!)

Upcycled Leather Change Purse, by Midnight to Six: $11

The modern, sleek line of this magnificent cuff, combined with the vintage-feel lace & leather, is really beautifully done.

Leather & Lace Silver Lined Cuff, by UNEARTHED: $50

Hurrah – have made this post into an Etsy Treasury, so do feel free to browse by viewing it here, too – including the items I didn’t have room for here, but which are equally gorgeous and I will have to blog about tomorrow if I have time! (It will expire some time on Monday). πŸ™‚

Oh yes, and GOOD NEWS:

I found my engagement ring!

Well, a nice handyman called Rupert (who was very posh and whom we fully expected to turn up in a tweed boilersuit) found my ring. And it was under the floorboards of the bathroom, as feared/expected. Phew. *waves of relief still washing over us*

Until next time, darlings,

Miss Nightingale

What to Wear Now: Liberty Prints & Biker Boots
October 7, 2009, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Accessories, Autumn, Boots, Etsy, Fall, Fashion, Fripperies, Necklaces, Trinkets

Every morning is a battle in my wardrobe: what the HELL to wear when – in my little spot in the Garden of England – the Autumn weather currently goes something like this: Misty raining raining raining SUNNY HOT stormy raining WARM blustery COLD misty drizzle mizzle WINDY cold warm raining raining… and all within a single day!

Photo by Himynameisbalthazar

Photo by Himynameisbalthazar

I actually love that kind of jumbled-up weather (good job, living in the UK!) but it can make dressing appropriately a little tricky. The answer is, just as your mother told you, to layer. You can still wear a floaty summer dress, but team it with leggings or thick tights underneath, perhaps even a VEST. Yes, your mother was right about that, too. Or a long sleeved t-shirt for those that wouldn’t countenance the merest vestige of a vest.

Pair up a pretty Liberty print number with a boxy velvet jacket or, to toughen up the whole ensemble and for one of my favourite looks ever: ditzy florals with a leather jacket (even an oversized or man’s jacket) and biker boots. It says effortlessly sexy at just about any age, I think (given the correct proportions) and if it gets a little steamy, take the jacket off. Pile on the mis-matched scarves & floral accessories, too, to cheer up a dull day!

Liberty & Leather 1Liberty & Leather 2

Direct Links to Items Shown, Left to Right…

First Row: 1) Sweetnellie, 2) Hen and Chick, 3) Sleepy King

Second Row: 1) Artifactory, 2) Groovin Tuesday, 3) Scarlet Ribbons UK

Third Row: 1) Clever Nettle, 2) Alice Caroline, 3) M Holland

Fourth Row: 1) Vintage Jones, 2) Mavis and Frank, 3) Hellcat Vintage

Liberty prints are forever the queen of florals and have been going strong since the actual Mister Liberty – Arthur, to his pals – began creating the iconic patterned fabrics in London’s Regent Street in 1875. Each season, new fabric designs are produced for the Liberty collection, the designers “…drawing inspiration from art, architecture, lifestyle, personal experiences and the extensive Liberty archive.”

By the way, forgive a gal the whimsy, but I just had to use these cutely aloof dolls/soft toys as the faces of this ‘look book’ selection. I am not generally a fan of dolls and gave up my soft toys some time ago, but these ones have such character I want to adopt them all!

Liesel by Sweetnellie $24

Liesel by Sweetnellie: $24

Liesel is a portable little snoot, 7.5 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide.

Her head is crocheted from a blend of wool and mohair and the front of her frock is a Liberty of London, cotton lawn.

She has two button eyes, accented with tiny embroidered eyebrows and a wool beret atop her head.

Liesel is finished with a wool felt backing, a heartfelt sentiment and a bit of Midori ribbon around her neck.

(Due to the small bits, Liesel is not recommended for young children).

Cutie Pie by Hen and Chick: $29

Cutie Pie by Hen and Chick: $29

This little lady is looking for a good friend. She loves to tend her flowers. She likes to swing really high on the swings. And most of all she likes to make a fort with chairs and blankets. Her little green pea coat is fully removable, fastens with a snap, and keeps her warm while crunching through leaves.

This doll is made with new and recycled fabrics. She is 19 inches tall and she has orange felt hair, green eyes and black painted shoes. She has a cute green dress with purple and orange flowers, and purple tights. She is safe and appropriate for all ages. Her beautiful face is hand painted with a pensive and kind expression. She is one of a kind and bound to be a devoted friend.

Bon Bon the Blushing Squirrel by Sleepy King: $23

Bon Bon the Blushing Squirrel by Sleepy King: $23

Instead of playing with the other squirrels in the giant oak tree, Bon Bon spends most of her time baking acorn pies and doing crossword puzzles.

Measures approx 9 inches high.

This item is made to order especially for you! Please allow 3-5 days for completion and shipping.

Bon Bon is made from clean recycled tweed wool (wool colors may vary, but they are always brownish/gray), fleece, safety eyes and stuffed with new poly fil.

Of course we shall be wearing our blackberry lip stains or our bright, pillar-box screaming red lipsticks with this look – along with a metric ton of eyeliner, pearls, layered chains (masses of them) or statement bib-style necklaces. Comfort with a raw edge. Wonderful. πŸ™‚

By the way – if you are utterly allergic to any hint of floral patterns – as I was for many years, bearing the scars of a 1970’s flower-patterned childhood – you can still get the look by wearing one of these far more subtle Liberty bracelets or necklaces, as shown above, by Mavis and Frank. I can think of lots of people who wouldn’t necessarily wear a floral dress but would love these accessories…

Scarlet Liberty necklace by Mavis and Frank: $21

Scarlet Liberty necklace by Mavis and Frank: $21

Yours flowered-up biker-chickishly,

Miss Nightingale.