30 April, 2010

Cute op shops in England

Sadly I did not find any good treasure in my recent forage in English op-shops (sob sob!). I did have luck in the Scottish ones though (see this link for my post on that). In any case, I want to share some photos from the op-shops I visited. The ones pictured are located in the district around Warwick, a town near Coventry in England. Warwick is a pretty town with lovely parks and a huge castle which is very popular with tourists. One of my favourites was the 'Cats Protection' Op shop in Kenilworth which is a lovely little village right near Warwick. I am very much a dog person, but I thought the name of the shop was cute nevertheless!

The shop was fairly typical of many op-shops in England (and perhaps also Australia?) in that there was a lot of contemporary, second-hand clothing, but not a great deal of vintage clothes. It was still very nice to browse in though. What has struck me about English op-shops is that they are generally really immaculate and have great store window displays. The clothes also appear to have been washed, they definitely do not have that musty smell you can sometimes get with donated clothes.

Store window display, 'Cats Protection' Op shop, Kenilworth, England

There were actually a surprisingly high number of op-shops in the area I visited (Kenilworth, Leamington Spa and Warwick). I think I counted about 15 or so, which is a lot for the area's population.

Oxfam, which runs lots of op shops in the UK and Ireland did have some nice vintage treasure in its Kenilworth shop, but it was only clocks and bric-a-brac, which obviously doesn't travel well in luggage to Australia. 
 Oxfam Op Shop, Kenilworth, England - notice the lovely window display

This Oxfam shop had a lovely clock in its window, but it was well-above my budget at 65 pounds (which is currently about $110).

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into op-shops in England - stay tuned for more posts on my travels, including Paris and Dublin !!

28 April, 2010

The most amazing antique-filled hotel in the world

I am in London at the moment and am staying at what I think is the most fantastic hotel I have ever seen. It is called 'Millers Residence' in Notting Hill and is owned by the writer of the 'bible' on antiques, Martin Miller (of Miller's Antiques Guides).

Guest sitting room/parlour - Millers Residence

As you can see it is absolutely filled to the rafters with antiques - fabulous! In the evening, the staff (Mr Miller's daughter Cara) goes around lighting candles and there is an open bar, including Mr Miller's own label of gin. Needless to say I curled up with a big coffee book on 'hip London', a G&T and had a lovely time!

There are lovely touches all around the house - including a vintage chess set, complete with timers, on a table supported by a stack of books - love it!

One of my favourite things was this large ornamental frog which graced the main entrance hallway. It sounds strange to have a frog in a hall way but it really worked - very funky!

The Residence has been used in a number of photo shoots for magazines, including Elle Magazine. In one of the photos they put shoes and bags amongst the antique books - very cute.

My bedroom was also fabulous - all the bedrooms are named after different writers - eg Blake, Wordsworth etc. The name of my room was 'Tennyson' and had a lovely four poster bed. The bed covers were made from a heavy satin fabric and the bed was super comfy (I hate hard beds). It was a pity that my hubby wasn't with me as it was very romantic! (although he is a real minimalist and I think this hotel would be too much for him!)

 'Tennyson' room - divine

 Some of the antiques in the 'Tennyson' bedroom

The hotel is situated in Notting Hill which as you can imagine is very nice - great restaurants and little boutique shops. I was really struck this time around in London at how much better the food and wine is. I also found that in Scotland. I think budget airlines, no matter how much we might dislike them at times, have enabled more and more British to travel to Italy and France and that has really improved the food in the UK. I didn't really get the chance to have a look at the vintage clothes stores on this visit, but my recollection is that the ones on Portobello Road in Notting Hill were fairly over-priced. The same applies to the op-shops. I had a quick look at the op-shops in Notting Hill and they were SERIOUSLY over-priced and did not have any vintage treasure.

If you are interested in reading more about this fabulous hotel, see the website at http://www.millersuk.com/index.html. It was a truly memorable experience, highly recommended!

26 April, 2010

Goodbye to Scotland - un-glamorous hiking and a vintage-style guest house

I have just finished a tour of the ‘Isle of Skye’, a pretty island in the west of Scotland. As part of the tour of the isle, I went hiking up a hill (but it felt like a mountain to me). When the guide said it would take two hours I was a little alarmed, as I love to exercise, but only indoors in a controlled environment (the gym and aerobics). I am not used to slogging up a hill in the wind and rain! I am glad to say I made it to the top, and I thought I had to show you this picture of me at the ‘summit’. For a girl who loves to dress up in vintage, this was definitely not one of my style-defining moments. I hope it gives you a laugh!

Vintage Suburbia channelling 'Michelin man'

As you can see, I look like someone on ‘American Wrestling’ rather than ‘The Collectors’. When I saw that photo I thought, ‘Gosh, I really need to lay off those cooked breakfasts’ (bacon and eggs every day is a killer for your hips) but I think my ‘largesse’ can be explained by the fact I was wearing about 6 layers of clothes (yes, I know, excuses excuses).

Before I leave Scotland I wanted you to see the photos of the lovely little B&B I stayed at in Edinburgh. Although it did not have any ‘antiques’ as such, it was decorated in a lovely vintage style. As you will see, the wallpaper was particularly beautiful.

Hallway with lovely faux French art nouveau (?) chair
Bencruachan Guest house, Edinburgh

I think the pattern of the wallpaper might be by a famous Scottish architect/designer/artist called Charles Rennie MacIntosh (or otherwise inspired by his work). MacIntosh made very striking designs using dark blue and green with distinctive leaf and flower motifs.

If you want to know more about this artist, please see the Charles Rennie MacIntosh Society website for more information. His designs really are stunning. If you go to Glasgow, you can go to the 'Willow Tea Rooms' which he designed - the building looks beautiful.

I also loved this statue that the lady owner of the B&B had placed in the hallway – really lovely.

But best of all was that they had a decanter of very nice sherry in each room. I am embarrassed to say that I drank about one third of mine and they had to top it up! My excuse is that I was very cold and needed to be warmed up. I don’t normally like sherry, but this was really nice.

I felt very at home in Scotland, as they even sometimes have whisky in their porridge at breakfast time – what a great country!

Goodbye now from Scotland and stay tuned for the next post.

The beautiful Dunvegan Castle in Scoltand

If you are interested in going to Scotland (and I would highly recommend it - I had a wonderful time):
I stayed at Ben Cruachan B&B, 17 McDonald Rd, Edinburgh http://www.bencruachan.com/
My tour of the Isle of Skye was with ‘Rabbie’s Tours’: www. Rabbies.com

19 April, 2010

Vintage dress shopping in Edinburgh

After my little foray into Op shops in Edinburgh, I still had some energy left for a little trip around the city’s vintage stores(whilst waiting for the volcanic ash to settle in the street outside!). I did my research before leaving Australia and found only six stores (which makes sense given Edinburgh’s population is only around five hundred thousand). I managed to vist four of the stores: Armstrong Vintage (two of their stores), Barnados Vintage and Emily’s Vintage. Armstrong Vintage is the largest of the vintage sellers in Edinburgh, with three large stores full to the brim with vintage of all kinds and eras, including vintage militaria and vintage Scottish costumes.

The main store in ‘Grassmarket’ (a street off High Street) is their biggest store and is absolutely crammed full of vintage. It also stocks wacky costumes. It is very colourful and decorated zanily, but I am not sure how much ‘quality’ vintage was there. There was a lot of 1960’s and 1970’s, but only a handful of 50’s dresses.

                                 One of the shop windows in Armstrong Vintage - I love the sign!

This mannequin hanging in the centre of the shop is also great.

Despite the fact that it is no Circa Vintage (not many places are), it is always fun to browse in shops like these. Not the least because of some of the interesting ways the mannequins are dressed. Notice the ‘necklace’ of gloves in the middle mannequin below? Cute!

This is an example of one of the nicer things I found in the shop - what looks like an early 1960's coat (? please correct me if I am mistaken!). From memory, it was around 70 pounds (about $110)

Below is a photo of the men's section, which as you can see, was full of militaria.

The other two vintage stores, Emily's Vintage and Barnados were fairly standard 'cheaper' vintage stores (sort of Lost and Found standard, but very small) - so nothing too exciting to report there.

So all in all, I would not exactly rush to buy vintage in Edinburgh, but its good fun to browse. Goodbye from Edinburgh!
PS apologies if this post is not formatted all that well, I am doing this in a Wifi hotspot in an Edinburgh hostel surrounded by around 50 very loud French students (poor things have obviously been waiting here all day for the airport to open again so I didn't want to ask them to pipe it down!)

A statue outside Edinburgh Castle - beautiful

17 April, 2010

Op shopping in Edinburgh

Hello from Edinburgh, Scotland, the first stop in my little trip around UK and Europe (far away from Melbourne suburbia!). Edinburgh is an absolutely beautiful city – it has wonderful old buildings, including an amazing castle, a relaxed atmosphere, and very friendly people. I would thoroughly recommend it (not the least because it is socially acceptable to have whisky in your porridge for breakfast – I am serious!).

'Old Square', Edinburgh University

Of course, a committed op-shopper such as myself could not visit a new city without checking out the op-shops (or charity shops as they are referred to here in the UK). I am embarrassed to say that rather than visit Edinburgh Castle like any good tourist would have done, I spent my first few hours in the city at a lovely op-shop close to my guest-house. In my defence, I did have to make an urgent trip to the launderette! (I had to pack very light on this trip, which means having to wash clothes occasionally). It was a stroke of genius though, as the op-shop I discovered on my way to the launderette was absolutely delightful.

The op-shop is called St Columba's Hospice Shop and is one of the prettiest, most organized op-shops I have ever visited. It was full of treasure, including 5-6 sets of vintage crockery (the good English stuff – I was heartbroken that I couldn’t take it home with me!), a lovely bevelled edge mirror and a large collection of beautiful linen pieces (embroidered tablecloths and runners – divine). The store was beautifully laid out and the clothes were all in great condition and very clean. I was a bit shy about asking the ladies there about taking photos of the inside of the shop but I did get a photo of the dressing room to give you an idea of its prettiness.

So what treasure did I snag at this lovely place? Five fantastic vintage brooches – thank you very much (who needs to visit Edinburgh Castle when you can buy vintage jewellery)! I love vintage brooches so when I saw one of the volunteers putting these in the window I snapped them up very quickly indeed.

As you will notice from the photo, the prices at this shop were extremely reasonable. Most things in the shop (including these brooches) were in the £3-5 range (which equates to about AUS4-5 – the exchange rate against the pound is absolutely fantastic at the moment). I struck up a little conversation with the volunteer who was putting out these brooches, she was very friendly and interested in op-shopping in Australia . Actually, she made an interesting comment about op-shopping - when I mentioned that I love op-shopping in Australia and how popular it is there she asked me what ‘op shop’ meant (as I said earlier, they are referred to as ‘charity’ shops in the UK). When I explained that it was short for ‘Opportunity shop’ she thought it was great that we called them that rather than ‘charity’ shops. I had never really thought of it like that, and when I think about it now, I guess it is much nicer and more positive to refer to shops as ‘opportunity’ rather than ‘charity’ shops. I had such a lovely time at this store – part of my brain was saying ‘I should really be sightseeing rather than op-shopping’ but it is a lovely way to meet the locals so I am glad I did it.

Unfortunately, the other op shops in Edinburgh did not yield any such treasure. On my way around the city in the next two days I visited several other op-shops in Edinburgh, including Oxfam, Save the Children, Cancer Research, Heart Research and Vets for Pets (there are many many op shops in the UK!). These were located off the High Street so a lot more central than St Columba's and they mainly sold contemporary fashion and had no real treasure. There was one op-shop that specialized in vintage, Barnados Vintage, in the city centre which had some treasure, but this was priced more like a vintage store than an op-shop.

So what did I learn about op-shopping overseas? Essentially the rules are the same as for Australia: visit the smaller, suburban op shops a little off the beaten track and that are associated with a church or other similar organization. I also visited a few vintage stores in Edinburgh so stay tuned for a post on that in the next few days. Goodbye for now from beautiful Edinburgh!

10 April, 2010

Round She Goes and Bon Voyage

Just a reminder that the vintage/second hand market 'Round She Goes' is on tomorrow (Sunday 11 April) at Kingston Town Hall, Moorabbin, full details are as follows:

Time: 10:00am-3:00pm
Where: Kingston City Hall (formerly Moorabbin Town Hall)
979 Nepean Highway, Moorabbin, VIC 3189
Melways Ref: 77 D5
entry: $2 and there is free parking

My favourite Melbourne vintage jewellery seller, Callie, is going to be there, as well as 100 other stall-holders so I think it will be well worth visiting. I know it is probably a bit of a hike for people living in the north of Melbourne, but you could combine it with a trip to Frankston Savers (which is a bit further down south) or a little excursion to the vintage shops of St Kilda. I went to one of the 'mini' Round She Goes at Melbourne Central last year and bought quite a few nice things. There are some photos of past markets at
this link.

Unfortunately I won't be able to make it as I am leaving for overseas tomorrow and will be madly doing last-minute packing. I am travelling to Hong Kong, London, Dublin, Edinburgh and France (Paris and Loire Valley - yaah!) so I hope to bring you some interesting posts on vintage shops overseas and beautiful places to eat and drink.

Sorry this is post is devoid of any photos, I hope my posts from overseas will make up for it! Au revoir for now!

09 April, 2010

Dry-cleaning versus handwashing - avoiding disasters

I know this sounds strange, but I love handwashing my vintage clothes. I find it therapeautic for some reason (obviously I need to get out more!).  I also try to avoid dry cleaning, which is bad for the environment and can also fade clothes over time (I had a friend who dry cleaned a jacket that was part of a suit and handwashed the matching skirt - yes I know you're not supposed to do that - and the jacket faded a lot over several dry cleans). I also had a bad experience recently with a dry cleaner who damaged some buttons on a 1950's jacket - not good!

However, and this is a big however, you do need to be careful when hand-washing. I have had very fortunate luck with my handwashing over the years and cannot recall any disasters, but I had a very near-miss diaster earlier this week when I handwashed this lovely navy vintage capelet:

Because it wasn't lined and didn't 'look' like it needed to be dry-cleaned (there are no labels on it) and it looked and felt as if it was made of wool, I handwashed it in lukewarm water with some Lux flakes. However, the colour ran like crazy and the capelet kind of gave off a very strong wool odour (as if it was trying to tell me, don't wash me you idiot!). I got it out quick smart, rinsed it and dried it in the shade laying flat and it seemed to be OK, then when it was dry I took it to my local dry-cleaner. I realised in hindsight and by comparing it to other clothes in my wardrobe (plus a few mad google searches!) that it is wool crepe which should not be washed (colour runs, it is liable to shrink). Fortunately the capelet doesn't seem damaged at all by my negligent washing so in the end it was all OK, but thought I would pass on my experience to you all so you can avoid such disasters.

I have done a little more research into this so I can be more informed and careful in future hand-washing escapades and found some good resources on line. Nicole Jenkin's Love Vintage book (see this link for where to buy it) has a good laundering section including a chart of recommended care instructions and tips such as using cold water and handwashing liquid for clothes that run (see pp 218-225). I would also recommend the following internet pages:

From what I understand, you basically have to be careful with handwashing silk (colour can run), rayon (as it is made partly of wood pulp so can break in water) and wool crepe (see above!). I think everyone has to take their own approach to what cleaning they use on their vintage, as some people are better than dating clothes than I am. But my personal approach to these three delicate fabrics is to dry-clean them and handwash (in lukewarm water with a mild detergent) everything else. The only other thing that needs dry cleaning are of course suits, which can't be handwashed.

By the way, a good way of testing the colour fastness of a garment is to lightly press a slightly damp (not wet) cotton bud/cotton wool pad on an inconspicuous part of the garment (eg inside seam or hem) and see if any colour transfers on to it.  I actually did this with my capelet (after the near miss disaster and it was dry cleaned) and the cotton bud got navy colour on it straightaway so had I used this technique at the start I could have avoided the colour run in the first place!

Happy washing and please let me know any of your laundering disasters or tips!

05 April, 2010

A 1960's mustard yellow trench

As the cooler weather is slowly starting to make its appearance in Melbourne, I have had great fun getting out my autumn trench coats and putting away some of my summer dresses. Being of Irish origin I simply love winter so I am eagerly awaiting wearing my scarves, coats, and my vintage skirt suits. I was given this mustard yellow trench coat by a cousin (twice removed I think, I am not good on the family tree!). It is 'true blue' vintage made in the UK.

I have to say I was a little hesitant about wearing this trench as I have never really liked yellow, and especially not mustard yellow (just the name itself turns me off!). However, I have to say with the right blouse underneath it looks quite nice. I have also tried the trench with a grey scarf and that seems to work too. I wouldn't have though grey and yellow went together, but the right shades do.

I really like the gold tone buttons on this trench and the matching belt - very classy. The label says 'Aquascutum', Made in England, Regent St, London. Don't you love a label that says that says Regent St, London? From my knowledge of vintage (which I have to say is not expertised) I understand that the UK did not make masses of clothes in the 50s due to the effect of WWII but you can find some great 60's English clothes.

Finally, just a quick shot of the vintage blouse I wore underneath. It is 'new/old' stock from etsy USA. The tag, still attached, said 'Laura Mae'. I am not familiar with this manufacturer/brand, but because the shirt is polyester I am guessing late 1960's, early 1970's?

1960's yellow vintage trench, made in London a gift
Blouse etsy USA
pants Basque Myer (ages ago, I try to avoid Myer now, had enough of rude sales assistants!)

01 April, 2010

An unusual 1950's suit

This is quite an unusual 1950s summer/spring suit that I purchased from 'Top Hat' vintage store in High St, Thornbury (873 High St). I saw it on the mannequin when I walked in, and had to try it on, as I have never actually seen anything like it before. I was a little worried it was 'too much' as the pattern and colours are quite bright. But I put a silver flower brooch and earrings with it and it seems to work.

Notice my unkept garden - I am not a good gardener I'm afraid!
Look at my white legs for goodness sake - they are almost as white as my shoes!

If you haven't been to Top Hat in Thornbury before, you must pay a visit. It is owned by a lady called Michelle and she is a real character. Her shop is chock-a-bloc with vintage goodies. The day I went there I bought four dresses and this suit, I just couldn't resist. it is a bit more 'ramshackle' than some other vintage stores and the changing room is a bit of a problem (a very small space at the back of the shop with a curtain across it) but its great fun. I don't necessarily think the prices are much cheaper than other places so don't expect bargain prices just because its a bit further out than Fitzroy, but the sheer volume of stuff is great. Plus, there is a great second hand bookshop across the road (and an okay cafe next door). See an earlier post to see another 1950's pink dress (with a bolero - I love boleros!) which I also I bought at Top Hat.

The suit is made of a lovely cotton material so is very breathable. There is no tag on it, so I think it may have been home-sewn.

 This picture below shows the colour and detail of the suit and the brooch and earrings a bit better:

Finally, a close-up of the brooch - I love these 60's flower costume brooches that are very easy (and cheap) to get on ebay. I forget exactly how much I paid for it, but I think the set (with earrings) was about $25. The set is in pristine condition, looks like it has never been worn.

outfit details
1950s suit Top Hat, 873 High St Thornbury (tram from the city stops outside)
brooch and earrings etsy USA
shoes Myer (years ago)