Filed under: 18th Century, Accessories, Bags, Modern Nostalgic, Trinkets, Uncategorized | Tags: 18th Century, 2013, Anya Hindmarch, Bags, caricatures, cartoon, clutch, designer, Fashion, Georgian, luxury, new, painting, portrait, season, tote
Anya Hindmarch‘s bags have long been lusted after by the fash pack and celebrities alike, but I have only admired them from afar, with the eye of someone who appreciates they are beautifully designed yet remains drool free.
They have always – perhaps unfairly – struck me as bags carried by dainty, neat ladies who always polish their shoes, and therefore obviously not for the likes of me.
Until I espied a rather fabulous tote and the saliva glands began working overtime. A brand new range inspired by beautiful 18th Century oil portraits and cheeky Georgian caricatures? Oh my, get me a hankie. The drooling begins here…
COURTNEY VALENTINE CLUTCH: £395.00
“A new style for this season, the Courtney Valentine clutch captures the naughtiness of the Georgian era by featuring the cheeky images of 18th Century illustrator James Gillray. The zip top fastening is completed with a supremely soft leather tassel, which take eight hours to craft by hand and features contrasting coloured threads. With an internal compartment for all of your essentials, this clutch bag makes an eye-catching style statement.”
I adore the detail they chose to showcase on this Courtney Valentine clutch, it suggests naughtiness just out of sight, and it’s definitely cheeky. I
have a great fondness for accessories that don’t take themselves too seriously while retaining a certain elegance and whimsicality. The tassel really ups the glam factor, too. Tassels are set to be everywhere this Spring/Summer, apparently. I bet Dita’s thrilled.
GRACIE LADY: £795.00
“Inspired by 18th Century oil portraits, the iconic Gracie has been used as a canvas to depict the Duchess of Beaufort; ‘The Lady’. Reworked in printed canvas, this Anya Hindmarch favourite has a jewellery like chain shoulder strap and labelled compartments inside for all your bits and bobs. It is beautifully finished with our signature enamel twist lock.”
This Gracie Lady is so cute, and I’d use it slung nonchalantly over a t-shirt worn with floppy a-line short skirt and (for now) opaque tights and biker boots. Dressing down classics is the way forward for me this season.
EARL BOTTOM PINCH TOTE: £250.00
“A cheeky addition to our Spring Summer collection, the Earl tote captures the naughtiness of the Georgian era through the illustrations of 18th Century caricaturist James Gillray.”
This Earl Bottom Pinch is the one that originally set me drooling, though to be honest, I’d buy it unseen for the name alone. Being extremely keen on Georgian caricatures anyway, this was always going to especially appeal to me, but I just love everything about it. Imagine how bright every day would be if you flounced out the door with this over your arm!
Of course the sad truth is that I shall still have to admire these bags from afar, as they are way out of my (non-existent) budget right now, but instead of cooly appreciating the design, this time Anya Hindmarch’s collection truly has me lusting with the crowd of die-hard fans. More like this, please!
Filed under: History, Modern Nostalgic, Shopping, Vintage | Tags: archive, British, department, design, fabric, heritage, history, interiors, Liberty, London, pattern, shop, store, tour, Tudor
Today was an extra exciting jaunt to Liberty, as myself and a dear friend were treated to a whistle-stop tour of the lesser- spotted aspects of Liberty’s history.
Meeting Anna, the in-house archivist for Liberty at the appointed hour in Customer Services, we were whisked downstairs and across the narrow street to the original frontage of the building (now owned by clothing brand COS), where Anna asked us to walk a little further on and raise our heads to the skies…
Above, barely seen, are huge Oriental style columns and carvings, which marked Liberty’s original raison d’être as an Oriental Emporium; bringing luxury exotic goods to the (albeit well-heeled) masses.
When Liberty opened its doors in 1875, built on a loan of £2,000 from Arthur Liberty’s future Father-in-law, and with just 3 staff, it was excellent timing. Liberty offered its clientele objets d’art, luxurious rugs and fabrics at the height of fashion with the public clamouring for desirable Eastern exoticism mixed with the comforting backbone of British tradition, and a sort of passionate longing for a romanticised Heritage which described the ideals of the Pre-Rapahelite movement.
As we re-trace our steps and walk back to the entrance, Anna tells us to look up again at the strange little bridge between the original building and the newer part that Liberty now inhabits. This was specifically built to join the two sides together, but with the written stipulation that “…should one of the buildings be sold and used by another company, the bridge should immediately be pulled down. Which means, of course, that it shouldn’t still be standing,” Anna laughed, “though as it’s been listed, I think it’s pretty safe now.”
The Tudor facade of the building we now think of as Liberty was actually built while the original building underwent refurbishments, so they could continue trading; and was chosen to stand for all that the ultra fashionable householder could desire – the entire building was meant to be a kind of Show Home Par Excellence. And indeed, for a price, you could walk in and have the exact carvings and “draped linen” effect wooden panels in your own home – built and furnished entirely by Liberty. Very nice, too. Put me down for one of everything, please!
Climbing into one of the quirky wooden lifts, Anna remarks that people who work on Liberty occasionally like to gently poke fun at a certain kind of wide-eyed tourist, by loudly acclaiming the wonders of their “original Tudor lifts.” The thought of this amused me greatly, though as we guffawed, I couldn’t help noticing the slightly crestfallen face of the lady standing beside us, and hoped we hadn’t crushed her marvelling at the advanced technology of those Tudor types. Bless.
The dark wooden beams and chunky Heraldic carvings in the 1920’s Tudor style building that so epitomises the Liberty aesthetic were actually taken from two massive ships, the HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan. The frontage of the building on Great Marlborough Street was supposedly constructed to be the same length and width as the Hindustan, though to Anna’s knowledge this has never been absolutely verified. It’s a pleasing thought, so let’s just imagine it’s true and leave it at that.
There is definitely the salty tang of the sea about Liberty’s interior. Perhaps it’s all the creaking timbers and the way it’s laid out, but one can certainly imagine you are all aboard the Good Ship Liberty, a proud galleon of British idealism, all oak leaves and marigolds, in full sail, carrying exotic goods gathered from each corner of the Empire.
Trotting through the store at a cracking pace, startling crowds and scattering tourists as we went, Anna got us to notice the way the wood is treated differently in certain areas – variously varnished, gilded, painted, and (horrifically, in my opinion) bleached with vagaries of fashion and reflecting the changes of what is seen as ‘good taste’ in different eras. “In the sixties they wanted everything modern and new, none of this old stuff, so the thought was that the woods was far too dark. So they either ripped bits of it out or had a go at bleaching it.”
Some of the wood was re-stained, some left as it was, and this adds to that patchwork Make Do and Mend, higgledy-piggledy nature of the place. And this is the way it has always been, the building is constantly changing shape with use, and so it should. This is a living, breathing business, not a museum piece trapped in aspic.
Luckily they didn’t destroy too much if the original carvings, but a great deal of the original plaster work was chiseled out. In a few places you can still see the moulded oak leaves and ornate ceilings that would have been everywhere, but most walls are plain these days.
The tea rooms originally used to be in the basement, the clue to this being the tiled walls, though this now fits very well with the menswear section and traditional style barbershop that now lives here. In what is now used as the hat department, along one wall, is a huge and incredibly ornate safe with a massive lock. “This used to be the jewellery department, and they kept the most valuable pieces locked away.”
Luxury leathers, now full of designer bags, once housed Liberty’s Goods In delivery area. “The street that runs alongside it was once a quiet little alleyway, so perfect for having their deliveries brought into; but when the street became more wealthy and successful, the store had to increase its frontage and entrance ways to entice the shoppers in, so the area became prime floor space instead.”
Liberty has changed to meet the world around it, too, then, just as it has changed internally over the years. As we cautiously peered over the railings on the top floor, Anna bade us look right down to the ground below. It’s a rather dizzying sensation, I can tell you. Next, she showed us another section in which a floor had been inserted in the 1960’s, again to maximise floor space, which is understandable but rather regrettable, like much of the Sixties architectural choices, if you ask me. She said, sounding like Prince Charles. ;-p
When I’m usually in Liberty, my eyes are darting from one one thing to the next, there is so much to see you quite literally don’t know where to look next. It’s quite wonderfully exhausting, just trying to take it all in; every surface laden with goodies.
My favourite throughout the whole tour was the way Anna would suddenly pause and point out the things you normally miss amidst the sumptuous offerings. “Look, there’s one!” she exclaims, and we creep closer to the window she’s pointing at, peering at the tiny fragment of stained glass the window pane had been patched with.
“There are simply loads of these scattered through the whole of Liberty’s,” Anna explained. They would buy up antiques and old windows in auctions and patch the glass whenever a bit got broken or damaged.
Anna explained this informal way of displaying goods for sale was quite revolutionary. Instead of just relying on special cabinets and shop fittings, Liberty revelled in the backdrop of the building itself to best display their wares: rugs draped over wooden railings, fabrics arrayed over antique tables, baskets arranged in fireplaces – just as they are today.
Fabrics must be what Liberty is most famous for selling, but in fact the rug department is the only original link to their true beginnings as an Oriental Emporium. The rugs are still draped nonchalantly over the wooden railings, as though awaiting the attentions of the maid and her brush.
I love the cosy homeliness of Liberty – albeit on a grand scale. The fact that around every corner peeps a carved wooden figure, peeking through the Liberty Print shirts, mischievous little links to the past. Anna’s favourite is the Elephant “It has really odd, strangely human ears, don’t you think?” My favourite has to be the lion, as it looks really worried and a bit scared. A cowardly lion, perhaps? This playfulness only adds the charm and character of the place.
At the moment, Liberty is festooned with elegantly naive Christmas decorations, the golden chains harking back to the crepe paper ones of childhood, and hug from the original carved beams, some of which are from the ships that never made it to sea, some from the specialised wood turners Liberty employed, who would also make them to commission for your house, if you had sufficient funds for the task.
The awe inspiring chandeliers which drop almost the full height of the building are always there, though these obviously aren’t original. “They replaced them in the 1990’s as the weight of the previous ones were found to be pulling the ceiling down!” Anna chuckled. “These are far lighter, and were chosen for their airiness while retaining that same grandeur.”
There are far older chandeliers in the building, like this one which dates back to the opening of the 1920’s section, and according to Anna “…was once the longest chandelier in Europe. Or maybe it still is, I must admit I don’t know for sure.”
The glowing ice-crystal like droplets really are magnificent, and I like the fact they are obviously very modern but with a splendour that seems to belong to an earlier age. This very much fits Liberty’s clever balance of strikingly new designer ranges and the incredibly classic patterns and designs they built their name on.
Now when I come to Liberty, as well as gazing in awe at the thousands of Wondrous Things to buy, as I always have, I shall definitely be looking at the building itself a lot more. “There’s always more to see, I find new things all the time that I’d never noticed before, even more patched windows!” Anna tells us. She is based over at the Wholesale building across the narrow alley (that runs under the infamous bridge), but is in the Tudor-esque bit very often, on one fact finding mission or another. “People write to me from all over the world, sending me scraps of material from their bridesmaid dresses and trying to trace the pattern’s name.”
It was a pity the Heritage Suite was still being used at the end of our tour, Anna had hoped it would be empty by then so she could show it to us. “It used to be the Director’s dining room,” she explained, “but is now hired out for various functions, meetings or events. Ooh, and if you ever have a beauty treatment here, you must get them to show you the room off the makeup hall which is all gold panelled and was used to formally receive Queen Mary!”
Although there are several department stores around the world that have become tourist attractions in their own right, there can surely be few where the actual building and interior is so vitally important to the ethos of the company and the very goods they sell. Liberty sell you pieces of the dream you’re standing in.
Filed under: Etsy, Fashion, Jane Austen, Modern Nostalgic, Weddings | Tags: dress, Fashion, floaty, Jane Austen, long, maxi, muslin, Regency, Roman, silk, summer, Wedding
If wafting around in a floaty silk maxi dress, clutching your pearls and pretending you’re in some undiscovered Jane Austen novel or an overblown Gothic melodrama are your sort of thing – and frankly, if they’re not, you’re reading the wrong blog, sweet cheeks – I definitely think this next dress will appeal to you.
Designed and made by Idea 2 Lifestyle, I wanted to show it as part of my [NOT a Wedding Dress] Wedding Dress Ideas series, as it perfectly encapsulates the sort of thing I’m looking for: something that could be easily worn again, has the possibility of being styled in various ways and isn’t too $pendy, for the Bride on a Budget.
The dress is £64.10 in GBP, which I think is an absolute bargain, considering what some people pay for a dress that has that magical money-quadrupling word of “Wedding” attached to it! Idea 2 Lifestyle will also work with you to change the look of the dress slightly (making it longer, shorter, and to your size), which may incur a further cost, but that cost is $10 or so depending on what you want changed, so hardly anything to quibble over.
I love the silver-grey version as an alternative Bridesmaid dress, or even black worn with bright pashminas and flowers woven through their hair – so pretty! I like the loose, unstructured body of the dress, too. I think it would lend itself well to being worn with a really pretty under bust corset over the top of it for that Wench look, or perhaps a simple thin belt worn high on the waist, for more of an Empire line, all the better to woo your Regency gent.
I rather fancy myself in the white version, dancing about in a meadow eating homemade bread and cheese from a nearby farmhouse and proclaiming giddily over bunches of wildflowers while wearing my Marie Antoinette-ish huge straw ‘peasant’ hat… but we all know the reality would be me treading in a cow pat, being chased by by wasps, stung by nettles and noisily attempting to retrieve the blasted hat from the tree into which it’s been blown.
Ah well, a gal can dream… 😉
Perhaps it’s better – after The Big Day – to save it for wafting about in town on hot, sticky days (like today!) or with a roughed-up denim jacket and studded gladiator sandals for that off-duty rockstar look. Just not worn with cowboy boots while canoodling with someone else’s husband, okay? Because friends don’t let friends get mistaken for Sienna Miller.
Filed under: Accessories, Bargains, Fashion, Modern Nostalgic, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Shopping, Uncategorized | Tags: ASOS, bath melts, bubbly, cake truffles, Fashion, Fashion's Night Out, Kent, Laundry, Little Treats Bakery, Love Is Boutique, Nature's Finest Cosmetics, Shopping, soap, Sybil Stanislaus, The Guardian, tunbridge wells, Vintage, Vogue
You certainly didn’t have to be shaking your tail [or wing] feathers in that there London last night for Vogue Fashion’s Night Out, ho no!
Love Is Boutique threw open their doors and welcomed local bloggers, along with actual members of the public, with the promise of free-flowing bubbly and that golden glow that only designer and vintage BARGAINS can bring.
Featured recently in Vogue magazine [oooh, get them!] who described them as “…a treasure trove” and in The Guardian [show offs!] time spent browsing the rails here was recommended as “a perfectly indulgent day out”, so even without the lure of discounts and alcohol, the temptations to nestle at the bosom of Love is Boutique are manifold.
After what I can only describe as a somewhat testing week (involving falling over, nearly dislocating my elbow on a kitchen cupboard, everyone – including myself – in utterly foul moods, discovering a leak in the bathroom & pouring boiling soup over myself) an indulgent evening out was exactly what the fashion doctor ordered.
Housed in a beautifully restored building that dates from 1862 and used to be the Old Romary Biscuit Factory; Love Is Boutique draws visitors on heritage trails as well as the fashionista bargain-hungry crowds. Last night the two worlds collided as a large crowd of enthralled tourists & history-loving locals were entertained outside the building, as we guzzled delicious treats and glasses of bubbly inside.
I can’t go much longer without mentioning the cake truffles by Little Treats Bakery, actually. Stacked on vintage cake tiers, my colleague & dear friend, Sallie, were only more than happy to sample them, um, a few times. Just to make sure, you know. We are very professional about such things. I know you’re proud.
Anyway, the cake truffles are ruddy lovely and you should all go and treat yourselves to some, they make such a nice change from run-of-the-mill chocolates. What a perfect idea for table favours at a wedding or at a vintage tea party. Also, because they just melt in the mouth and are so light, you feel a bit virtuous for not having a whole slice of cake. Practically diet food!
If you have never been to Love Is, I shall attempt to describe it for you – a pretty little building with a bay window and a huge wreath on the door, once you enter you realise what a tardis of fashion it is – every time you think you’ve seen it all, another area opens up begging to be explored, each nook and cranny sheltering a wealth of designer names and vintage goodies.
There really is something for everyone, with a large range of sizes, styles and prices. Pieces range from just a few pounds to several hundred for the Big Name Whoppers as I rather unglamorously call them – the big fish that you have to be quick to snag before some other complete cow reels in her line and claims it as hers before you do!
A really good tip for beating those utter cows (I mean this in a flattering way, obviously) to the prize pieces is to add Love Is Boutique on Facebook and/or Twitter, as the gorgeous Paula and Lynne often give their followers a head-start by announcing the plum picks they are adding to the shop or their ASOS online boutique selection. That way you are more likely to be holding your Manolos high or swinging your Chanel bag and shouting “In your face, biatch!” than crying over your laptop’s keyboard and very possibly causing an electrical problem. The choice is yours, dearie.
Sallie was looking for a drop-dead cocktail dress for her husband’s incredibly swanky work do. Not that she exactly needed a new dress, but she’d had a bit of a poo week, too, and how dull life would be if we only purchased what we needed!
Firstly, Sallie was rather taken by a quirky little vintage bag with chunks of semi-precious gems set into the front, which you can see her modelling rather wonderfully, below.. However, once she had stroked the silk of the lace-hemmed (and brand new) Laundry dress she’s spied for £BARAGIN pricetag, she completely lost her heart and the dress won the day.
Of course I completely failed to get a picture of it as I’m rubbish, but take my word for it – it was amazing. We also managed to hunt out a vintage Venetian glass flapper necklace, and lo, the classy cocktail outfit was complete.
This is a similar necklace on top of a jaw-droppingly gorgeous dress and sweetest little velvet jacket we also loved. The colours really doesn’t come out well on my phone’s photos, but it was soft, luxurious and wonderful. You really are spoilt for choice when searching for a special occasion dress, here.
I found a darling little heather silk top by Belgravia-based designer Sybil Stanislaus with jet beading embellishment on one side of the hem, dangling jauntily over one hip and also quite reminiscent of a flapper-style outfit.
Perfect for dressing up a boring old skirt for a night out, or wearing with jeans and a leather jacket to spice it up a bit.
After making sure we had seen and touched every item in the shop at least twice, we joined the queue to pay for our treasures, all the while guzzling those cake truffles and gossiping with the lovely Love Is gals. We decided it should be against the law to own Chanel bags (or anything lovely) and not use them regularly. AGAINST THE LAW! We’re tough but fair.
As we left, clutching our purchases, we had goody bags forced upon us, if you can imagine such cruelty. Inside, we were treated to the most fabulous smelling array of Nature’s Finest Cosmetics.
Mine included an amazing French Twist soap with soothing oils of lavender and invigorating coriander, and bath bombs that looked good enough to guzzle.
I am not always the biggest fan of bath bombs, as some lesser companies seemingly make them of chalk scented grit, but these Bath Melts feel soft and waxy to the touch and are packed with moisturising shea and cocoa butters and natural oils. Simply divine, and the best way to end a stressful week I can think of. Bliss!
Thank you so much to everyone involved for all your hard work – it was much appreciated by everyone who attended.
Filed under: Accessories, BBC, Costume Dramas, Fashion, Modern Nostalgic, Vintage | Tags: BBC, Claire Foy, Lady Persephone, Mitford, Upstairs Downstairs, vintage style
The recently screened new series of BBC drama, Upstairs Downstairs has been a huge hit with audiences and critics alike; despite the fact that fans of the original had been anxiously biting their lips, with some getting ready to spew forth poison if their golden memories were tarnished. Thankfully, it was beautifully written, wonderfully acted and with many a sensitive, respectful nod to the past.
One of the greatest treats for viewers (well, certainly for this viewer) were the lust-worthy costumes – many being original vintage pieces of the period – which just shone from the screen and quite made one sigh with envy. It’s a very particular British kind of glamour – all aristocratic complexions, matte lipstick, clicky heels and that clipped Mitford-esque brittleness which defines the period for me.
The two sisters had most of the envy-making ensembles, with Lady Persephone (played by Claire Foy) wearing a particularly memorable outfit in one scene, consisting of a scarlet red bias cut silk gown worn with a fur stole.
Even though I don’t personally like fur, one could not help but gasp at the effect: she looked absolutely stunning.
I adore vintage clothes, but many of the delicate fabrics of this period can be too fragile to wear without fear of spoiling them forever, along with the fact that women were, generally speaking, far more petite than nowadays, so the sizing can be an issue. With this in mind, I wanted to re-create two of the most memorable looks from the series, using contemporary clothes and accessories but echoing that vintage look as closely as possible.
The first outfit I’ve re-created is that of Lady Persephone – I do hope you like it!
$75 – endless.com
Ak anne klein jewelry »
Filed under: Autumn, Fall, Fashion, Fripperies, Modern Nostalgic, Modern Victorian
Ever since their latest brochure arrived, I’ve been obsessing over Wrap’s Autumn collection. Every time I turn the page, I find a new item to lust after – they really have outdone themselves!
Their silk empire-line dress strikes just the right note of grown-up whimsicality. I would have one of each colour and wear them with my omnipresent biker boots (or, I suppose, Victorian button boots to go with our theme).
The above dress also caused palpitations in my dear friend Melanie (writer of the Madame Guillotine blog and brilliant historical novelist to boot). I mean, honestly – a silk velvet dress styled with fingerless gloves and boots for instant [what we like to call] ‘Victorian prostitute chic’. What’s not to like? Both colours are gorgeous, but smoky grey shall forever win my heart.
Love everything about this outfit. Although I actually (again) prefer the smoky grey option, the mix of colours is winning me over, here. I really like the sprinkling of sequins on this jacket – particularly as they’re matte, so not too ritzy-glitzy to team with jeans, should you wish. And I would.
The dress worn under the jacket is this one… and I want every single option. Again. Yes, I’m greedy; but if forced at gunpoint to choose (an unlikely situation), I would plump for the aubergine. One of my favourites from the whole collection – I feel this would work especially well on those of us blessed with opulent bosoms and chunky arms…
Another combination I covet all examples of – silk, merino, stud and frills: a marriage made in my personal heaven. The cardigan manages to be both cosy and sexy (a rare pairing) and the top (shown below) is the perfect length and reminds me of my grunge days. In a good way. 🙂
These have to be my highlights from Wrap’s Autumn collection, but it’s simply bursting with wearable pieces with something special about them. Go and feast your eyes (and sign up for email alerts – their sales are amazing, too!)
Filed under: Fripperies, Jane Austen, Modern Nostalgic, Regency, Trinkets, Weddings | Tags: Fashion, Jane Austen style, Topshop, weddings
Bonnet optional. 😉
In my continuing series – styling Topshop dresses for various unusual weddings – I thought this one was perfect for a Regency romp in the country. Rosy cheeks & just-bitten lips complete the look!
I love the simplicity of this dress – it could also be great for a really casual beach wedding accented with a bright silk stole and long necklaces. Or for a holiday, come to that. I do like a bit of versatility!
There’s something adorably Alice in Wonderland about that teacup necklace, too. Or, in this instance, tea on the lawn of one’s stately pile. I could totally handle that.
$28 – yesstyle.com
25 GBP – giftshop.janeausten.co.uk
Until next time, my dearest ones,