Archive for February, 2014

Please, do actually look…

February 27, 2014

Several times lately, I’ve been restocking my stall at Molly’s Den when ladies of roughly my own age have drifted in & rummaged through the clothing, looking wistfully at the floaty 70s maxi-dresses, comfortable kaftans and cheesecloth tops. Then they usually sigh deeply and say to me,

“Oh, I’d so love to be able to wear things like these again! It’s such a shame I’ve put on so much weight; we were so much smaller in those days, and vintage clothes are all so tiny!”

Erm, no, actually. NOT all vintage clothes are tiny. Quite a lot of mine aren’t; they have come from America & Germany, two countries where people have traditionally not been built like pixies. And I’m in great danger of clearing my rails of all the larger sizes and chopping them up to make bags with the fabrics; I thought people would be delighted to find vintage clothes in normal sizes, but actually, they’re not even looking! Now it may be that people are just being nice, and they don’t really want to revisit their youth and float out of the door in psychedelic glory or swathed in cheesecloth, but there are plenty of ordinary-sized vintage clothes out there; maybe not with the nipped-in waists and tulip skirts that we did wear back then, but you’d find plenty to fit & suit you on the rails if you actually looked.

Undoubtedly the sizings have changed several times over the span of years that my clothing covers, and from country to country too. I have clothes & dressmaking patterns ranging from the 1940s to the 1980s. (In case you’re surprised at that, to an 18 year-old fashion undergraduate, which a number of my customers are, the 80s are pretty much pre-historic & certainly count as vintage. They do love a batwing sleeve…) In the 40s a 36″ bust meant you were a size 18, now you’d be a 10. Or so it is in the UK, but not in the US; you’d be a size 6 there, and something else altogether in Europe, where inches are not overly popular anyway.  So I don’t bother with size tags, especially not as a fair number of the garments are handmade; I provide a tape measure & a mirror and there’s a changing room elsewhere.

Quite a few of the top-quality, pristine-looking vintage clothes are in fact tiny. This is because they were bought back then, quite probably in the sales, by people thinking, if I lose half a stone, I’ll be able to get into it. But they never did, so the item has languished unworn at the back of the wardrobe for 50-odd years. However, if you don’t mind that something isn’t completely unworn – and if you did, you probably wouldn’t be looking in a vintage shop anyway – most evening/Sunday best/party clothes will only have been worn a few times, and hence they have survived, when the everyday items were worn & mended until they disintegrated, and may well have been cut up & used for rags or patchwork after that. So yes, the things you see in the windows of the coolest “Retro” shops in the high-rent locations may well be tiny, as well as horrendously expensive, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find anything to both fit & suit you.

So, get yourself down to a vintage shop like Molly’s Den or market near you – there’s one in Boscombe this Saturday, as it happens – and have a good hunt around; you will almost certainly find something to fit you, provided the stallholder hasn’t given up stocking them! And you may well save a vintage treasure from being chopped up & turned into a bag, if it’s been on the rails for 6 months because the customers the right size to wear it have assumed there won’t be anything there for them, and haven’t even looked…

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Catching the moment…

February 9, 2014

It’s halfway through Sunday afternoon & I’m about to drift off upstairs to my new “sewing station” & try my hand at free-motion quilting. On one of my trusty old Berninas, rather than on the beautiful new-to-me Pfaff computer-that-sews, because I don’t have a darning/free motion foot for that yet! So far today, my feet haven’t touched the ground, so I’m due some down-time, although Sunday is a day most people associate with rest. But sometimes you have to make the best of what comes your way, and catch the moment… make hay while the sun shines, sort of!

We’re just back from an invigorating walk in the sunshine down at the riverbank. As we turned for home, we could see the storm clouds piling up once again on the western horizon, but we were ready for anything it could throw at us, wearing wellies & waterproofs. First thing I did this morning on seeing the sun was to whack the washing into the machine & set it off; the clean stuff went out on the line before 10am and came back in at 2pm, dry as a bone in the stiff breeze and early Spring sunshine. Not that it’s at all warm down here! But the bulbs are up & the flower buds are forming, my chickens are laying fit to bust, the garden birds are pairing up and pottering off with twigs and straw, and although there’ll undoubtedly be some icy bits to get through yet, as well as yet more rain, it’s increasingly obvious that the year has turned once again. I’ve cooked a big roast dinner, which will reappear under various easy-cook leftover-dish guises throughout the week, and trotted round to the local market to hoover up £4.50-worth of last-minute-bargain fruit & vegetables to make soups & puddings with, or to dehydrate & use at another time if I don’t have an immediate use for them. There was even a bag of 18 limes for £1; I can feel some Lime Curd coming on, which will use up some of the egg glut, and maybe I’ll also chuck a few limes into the marmalade I’ll be making in the next couple of days with my pristine little vintage Spong marmalade cutter (£5 at the car boot yesterday, works beautifully) and the two boxes of on-their-sell-by organic Seville oranges I found at the supermarket for £1 the other day.

There is a point to all this rambling on, and it’s this: I could easily have justified having a bit of a lie-in this morning, and thought, well, I’ll do the washing tomorrow. I could equally well not have bothered with the market; we have enough F&V in to see us through the next few days. We could have stayed indoors in the warm, rather than hare off down a sodden pathway in the stiff cold breeze. BUT then I’d most likely have ended up drying the washing indoors, possibly even with electrical help, so it didn’t end up going smelly. I’d have had to pay full price for top-ups of fruit & veg later in the week, and I’d have felt very guilty on the exercise front, as well as stir-crazy. And I’d have missed a bargain sewing box full of intriguing vintage sewing, knitting & crochet patterns, not to mention the sparkle of the sunshine on the racing water and glimmering through the golden skeleton reeds. And that’s exactly what I would have done, without even thinking about it, just a few years ago; just stayed indoors, in the warm. My family will tell you I’ve always been a world-class procrastinator & day-dreamer. But somehow I seem to be learning, at this late juncture, to get up & get going

I know I’m very lucky to be able to seize the ideal moment to do some things now – like I’m carving out 5 minutes to write this – and believe me, it doesn’t always work out this way. But it certainly does feel good to think you’re on top of at least some of the tasks in your life, possibly even a little ahead of the game! And it frees me up, in my head, to go & do something now that I actually want to do…

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