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Monthly Archives: July 2017

  • Bagging a retro handbag: choosing the most essential accessory of all

    Good grief, where would we women be without our handbags?  Where else we would keep all our essential items when we’re out and about? Our purse, our keys, our make-up and, yes, our mobile phone – they all go in the handbag. This impossible-to-live-without piece of kit to store essentials in is itself utterly essential. But just because it’s so necessary doesn’t mean it shouldn’t look good.

    Yes, it doesn’t mean it can’t complement your outfit; it doesn’t mean it can’t be colour-co-ordinated with that natty little jacket; it doesn’t mean it can’t be as stylish as those new boots. And it doesn’t mean it has to be totally ‘on trend’; it doesn’t have to be at the cutting edge of fashion. If you like, it absolutely can be vintage. It can be whatever you want it to be, so long as it combines functionality with looking great. But, given all that then, how on earth do you actually choose the retro handbag that’s right for you?

    One design to rule them all?

    One way to approach selecting a vintage handbag, should you have not dipped your toe into retro-styled accessories before, is to play it safe – to choose one that’ll serve as a ‘staple’ bag. One that’s handily universal and will pretty much go with everything; practically every possible outfit you choose to throw on in the morning and whatever else you combine with it – shoes or boots, scarf or jewellery and so on.

    Selecting one of these pretty much requires opting for a bag whose appearance isn’t too ostentatious and whose colour’s fairly neutral – for instance, keep to the wonderfully elegant black and brown satchel types; keep away from rockabilly-esque animal prints and ’60s-ish boldly coloured efforts. That said, the one you plump for doesn’t have to be staid. Why not up it a notch via such a bag topped off with metallic styling or subtle print detail?

    retro handbags1

    One size fits all?

    Of course, when choosing a ‘universal’ vintage handbag, abiding by style concerns is all very well, but don’t overlook the importance of size. If you’re going to be perusing through a whole host of retro handbags to find the one – the one and only – it’s got to be of a suitably universal size and shape. Nobody wants to walk about with an enormous bag weighing them down; that’s neither comfortable nor does it look good. Although, walking around with an overstuffed handbag’s probably even worse. Not the disagreeable look or in-transit handicap you want from your handbag.

    And, it may sound silly, but it’s worth thinking about – just as you would with any clothes you’d consider buying, when browsing for a vintage bag don’t overlook the fact it needs to fit you physically. If you’re petite of frame, a big satchel type (despite however elegant it may be) probably isn’t going to be a goer. By contrast, if you’re tall or broad, a tiny, coquette-ishly boxy bag probably isn’t going to be right either.

    Or… just go for it!

    Finally, though, let’s be honest, it’s likely you already own a plurality of handbags (most women do, after all), so why not throw a little caution to the wind and buy the bag that truly catches your eye – or the one you’ve fallen for? You only live once, right? After all, going retro when it comes to fashion (especially in clothing) is all about bucking the modern trend and going for the look, style and form that appeals to you. So why not go for that animal print number? Or that bright pink effort with the natty studded finish and chunky buckles?

    Indeed, given its vintage nature (you may or may not be looking second-hand, but this is still relevant either way), the bag you’ll be eyeing isn’t going to cost the earth – we’re not talking a Gucci or Versace accessory here. So you could splash out a little more and buy one bag that’s fun and frolicsome for casual-about-town days/ nights-out and then one that’s a little more demure to go with office-wear and formal occasions. Remember, though, overall the most important thing is you opt for something you like. A handbag’s an essential accessory – it’s with you all the time, it’s very visible and it becomes an ‘extension’ of you. So go retro by going for something that’s both functional and looks great!

  • Getting hitched in vintage? Terrific retro wedding dress designs

    Like it or not, planning a wedding can quite quickly turn into a minefield of decisions and second-guessing indecision. Indeed, unless they have a dream style in mind for which they’ve long harboured, brides-to-be challenged with choosing the right wedding dress can find it hard work – there’s so much choice out there. But here’s an idea – why not go vintage on your big day? Why not look to wedding-dress design of decades past for your dressing dress of today…?

    Vintage Wedding dresses1The ’40s

    Lest we forget, for the first half of this decade, war raged throughout the world; thus, materials – most pertinently here, fabrics – were scarce. This affected clothing in general, of course, but what it meant for the wedding dresses of the time were a more practical look. It was all minimal accents; less lace and sequined embroidery. Like women’s suits and other dresses of the time, broad-ish shoulders and clinched waists were the order of the day – was this ‘masculine’ look down to women, while their fiancés were away fighting, taking on more manual labour-based jobs and, thus, becoming more assertive? Perhaps. This sort of look came back in the ’80s – a time when women once more rivalled men in traditionally masculine workplaces. Don’t go away with the idea there was a lack of elegance to 1940s’ wedding dresses, though – after all, have you seen pics of The Queen in glorious garb on her big day? She was married in 1947.


    The ’50s

    Compared to the ’40s, matrimonial wear in the ’50s was all about glamour. Fabulously feminine, flattering designs in ivory were very much en vogue – you must have seen the iconic images of Grace Kelly as she married Prince Rainier of Monaco; she looked like a fantasy princess becoming a real princess, no question. Lace was back in and gloriously so, but it was all about accentuating a woman’s femininity; although prettiness and wholesomeness was important (it was the 1950s, after all), there was often an appealing hint of sensuality to many a wedding dress design. And, emerging from an age of war-driven austerity, mass communication and mass media was quickly becoming commonplace, ensuring women – those of them who had the money to do so – were calling the shots more; they weren’t just choosing designs from fashion magazines but taking a more bespoke approach to their dress design, which ensured wedding dresses were a little less uniform, a little more unique and individual.

    Vintage Prom dresses2

    The ’60s

    Everything changed in the ’60s when it came to wedding dresses, you may not be surprised to learn – given just how many things began to curl up at the corners in society this decade. Although there were now many more designs sported by brides as they skipped down the aisle (some mini-skirt-inspired, scoop-necked efforts), to say it was far more individual and far more bespoke than in the ’50s may not really be true. The reason being that it was in this decade (when mass consumerism first caught the UK in its vice-like grip) that ever-changing high-street fashions informed women’s wedding dress choices. So while, for many a young bride, adopting such a ‘mod’ look for their big day was all about freedom of expression; they were, in effect, following the herd, albeit modishly and excitingly, just as those in decades before them had. All the same, to opt for one of these 1960s-inspired vintage wedding dresses would still make a stylishly cool fashion statement today!

    The ’70s

    Finally, as the ’60s drifted into the ’70s, the (what would be today considered) somewhat boho, even hippie-ish maxi-dress look worked its way into the church, as it was produced in white and ivory, ensuring a blissed-out, blushing bride of the ’70s looked cool and comfortable, fabulous and fashionable as she exchanged her vows. In fact, they’re yet to make a nuptial comeback, but pant- and dress-suits made their debut as wedding dresses this decade – Google the 1971 wedding of Mick Jagger to his wife Bianca and check out her outfit and (admittedly, just a year too early) what Diana Rigg wore in the wedding scene in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It still looks dynamic, daring and ever so edgy in a very appealing way; perhaps because we’re yet to see its like again in the wedding chapel – something that’ll surely be put right one day soon!

  • Designer decades: step back in time for prom dress inspiration

    Proms are becoming ever more popular up and down the country – and so it’s becoming ever more imperative to find the right inspiration for your choice of dress. Do you really want to look like everybody else on your big night? To merge into the background like a wallflower on the edge of the dancefloor? Or do you want to stand out from the crowd and mesmerise by looking fantastic and simply timeless? If the answer’s the latter then you might consider looking back for inspiration – that is, to one of four decades that proved utterly iconic in the fashion stakes…

    The big band bopping look of the ’40s

    First off is a decade-defined style that, on the surface, may seem a little out of leftfield for prom dresses. The 1940s was the era of fabric shortages (hence hem lines got shorter) and colours became more primary (although floral designs came back with a bang in the second half of the decade following the end of the Second World War). And yet, when it comes to dressy women’s fashion, the ’40s were also a time of big band dances; an opportunity to let your hair down and throw yourself about in figure-hugging garb that also allowed for full freedom of movement on the dancefloor. In that sense, you may conclude, what could be better as a unique but figure-showcasing and unrestrictive prom dress?

    Vintage Prom dresses

    The fitted but fun elegance of the ’50s

    The 1950s is a great decade from which to take inspiration for a prom dress – and that’s because it boasted more variety than you might imagine in terms of women’s fashion. Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ dress started a revolution – it’s maybe the ultimate party look with its fitted waist but then fabulously generous and fun mushrooming-out dress beneath. Offering just as much physical freedom as a ’40s number, this style also smartly understates thighs and hips but accentuates curves – in the right places! By contrast, the ’50s also delivered the far slinkier ‘wiggle’ or ‘pencil’ skirt/ dress (think Marilyn Monroe) and, at totally the other end of the scale, the rock ‘n’ roll-associated pin-up look – a style for a real alternative but intriguing approach to vintage prom dresses, for sure!

    The swinging invention of the ’60s

    The notion of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ passed into legend almost as soon as the 1960s ended – and endures to this day and, no doubt, will forever. An era of liberation like never before (most of all for the disposable-income-enriched young), it’s fair to say that fashion truly exploded in this decade – you may even say it went a little crazy. But why not? It was all about experimentation, with a real ‘anything goes’ attitude. The Mary Quant-esque mini-skirt was ubiquitous, of course, but when it came to dresses, geometric prints in bold, dynamic colours dominated in swing-style trapeze/ tent designs (think all those iconic snaps of Twiggy). Offering flattering silhouettes and designed to go along with big eye-catching earrings, chunky-heels and a ‘beehive’ or ‘pixie’ haircut, such dresses would make for an unforgettable prom look; don’t doubt it!

    The eye-popping looks of the ’80s

    And, finally, here’s a nod to the looks – like it or not – from the era that’s sometimes referred to as ‘the decade that taste forgot’. To be fair, though, it’s surely a little harsh to describe the ’80s in those terms, given how much of today’s catwalk clobber and high street fashion quite obviously takes inspiration from its styles. A prom dress look influenced by this era would definitely be all about glamour; we’re talking bright, vibrant shades and sequins galore with high-heeled stilettos – or, taking it down a notch or two, a slightly more demure look with t strapless satin numbers accessorised by long opera gloves (think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman). Alternatively, take your lead from early Madonna and properly mix it up – blend the ’50s pin up look with ruffly mini-skirts for that punky but oh-so cool take on the prom dress. Desperately Seeking Susan? Seriously looking sensational, more like!

  • Vintage for the win: 4 great reasons why you should retro

    Living in the past’s generally considered a bad thing. And, let’s be honest, for good reason. We all surely have to live our lives in the present while looking to the future, more than constantly dwelling on times past – and yet, in some ways it’s as well to look back. After all, how else can we learn and not repeat past mistakes – as individuals, societies and the world as a whole. And, when it comes to less lofty matters, it’s fun and enjoyable to indulge in things of yesteryear; it brings comfort, familiarity and a healthy appreciation for the indisputable fact that not everything worthwhile, let alone best, is always brand-spanking new.

    Timeless items

    And practically everyone knows that’s undoubtedly true when you’re talking fashion. Now, from some quarters, vintage clobber often gets a bad rap, but why is that? Let’s face it; mostly because the driving force of the fashion industry is the need to make money and so the latest trends have to be pushed to produce and maintain interest. This means we live in an age of ‘fast fashion’; things can feel like they move intolerably quickly and great looks and quality clobber falls out of fashion all too quickly. Is that fair? Well, people have different opinions on that, sure; but one thing’s certain, it’s great to revisit past styles, looks and lines because some things are simply timeless. In which case, why shouldn’t you go back to get ahead?

    Back to the future

    Ah, remember that classic ’80s movie? They were on to something there; because fashion pretty much always goes in cycles – what goes around comes around. Eventually, practically everything seems to come back into fashion. There’s also a saying that, in reality, there’s only ever been seven different stories (every other one is just a variation of one or more of the original seven); you can look on fashion in a similar way – there may only be a limited number of fantastic fashion ideas… and we have seen many of them already! No question then, great looking trends will come back sometime soon – so why not get ahead of the curve by going the vintage route and be ready for it when one of them comes around next and hits the high street again? Plus, lest we forget; terrific timeless looks simply, really never go out of fashion – they’re always en vogue. So you can always pull off such vintage touches as part of an outfit – in fact, they help you to look the best dressed on the street, in the office or out on the tiles come the weekend!

    Vintage Clothing UK

    Quality never goes out of the fashion

    Unquestionably, this is one of the reasons why timeless looks are always in – they tend to be properly tailored, made to last and always look good because their materials and manufacturing process are quality, through and through. And this goes for whatever vintage clothing UK you’re talking about – second-hand items you spy in specialist retro outlets, used bits and bobs you pick up in flea-markets or, indeed, new clothing in vintage styles you purchase online from retailers like Maggie Ann Vintage. The ‘make do and mend’ mentality comes from a different, earlier age definitely – but it ensures durability, clothes with proper lifetimes and overall quality you can depend on.

    Freedom of expression

    Finally, when it comes to fashion; there’s always the (somewhat counter-) argument that you shouldn’t follow the herd. You should find your own groove; your own way of doing things; your own style. Just because you’re wearing clothes to look good, you should feel comfortable in your own skin. As Ray Davies suggested in that unforgettable tune from the Swinging Sixties, there’s many a dedicated follower of fashion, but how many of them are really doing their own thing? How many are expressing themselves and who they really are? If you’re more drawn to vintage styles, looks, lines and accessories, why compromise? Why be a sheep? Allow yourself to dress how you want and experiment and stand out from the crowd – however much you feel like doing – by going the vintage route. The likelihood is, once you’ve started with vintage, you’ll never look back!

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