My friend D and I have a tradition. Whenever we get together, we drink and shop. It’s not a very long-standing tradition, just about 6 years or so, but it is one I intend to continue for the rest of my life.
D lives about 2 hours drive from me so we usually either meet in London or she comes to me for the weekend. Earlier this year we went to Venice – we kidded ourselves it was a “photography trip” but there was a lot more Prosecco than Photoshop! We went for 4 days and, accidentally, stayed for 5. But that’s the subject of a completely different post.
Now I’m not a great vintage buff. I have dabbled a bit in the past, and you know how I love rooting through the Italian markets for second-hand bargains, but I’m not really into the fifties lindy-hop fashion and my body is not designed for flapper dresses. I do love old bags, hats and shoes, and just show me a fur-lined pair of gloves from the forties and I’m sold.
Anyway, last weekend D came to stay with me and we had a “Vintage weekend”. She’s going through some big challenges in her life so, on the pretext of cheering her up, I invited her to join my Hens Dancing outing to the Front Row Fashion Show in Bexhill.
We met up with the other ladies for a sneaky little Italian and vino before heading over to the De La Warr Pavillon for the show. I love this place. All art-deco, glass, sweeping staircase, galleries, views – it’s my absolutely favourite venue on the South coast.
There were squeals of delight when we entered the lobby to find rails of fur coats and old evening dresses, tables laden with hats, shoes, bags, scarfs, and jewellery and people dressed in weird and wonderful outfits.
As with all the best marketplaces, women were grabbing stuff off the rails and heading for the loo. There was no time to be bashful. Outfits which had taken hours to perfect were strewn on the floor as jostled for position at the mirror. There were coos and gasps, lots of “breathe in”, “that looks amazing”, “if you don’t want it, I’ll have it”, and gales of laughter as someone emerged looking outrageously ridiculous.
There was some great stuff but, as usual, most of it swamped me, so I concentrated on the accessories. I bought this unusual handbag which is slightly reminiscent of a small Gladstone bag. As usual, I bartered and managed to knock it down by 20%.
D was luckier with the clothes. She found a lovely black tuxedo-style jacket which fitted her perfectly. Unfortunately, by this time, she didn’t have enough money to buy it! Not one to be easily put off by a trivial issue like this, she tried to beg, borrow or steal but couldn’t raise the dosh because we were all out. Her tenacity knew no bounds and she managed to elicit the stall holders movements for the following day and made her promise to reserve it for her.
Which is why, at 10am on a bright Sunday morning we were rooting through acres of tat at a Vintage Fair in Rye. D got her jacket and we managed to resist everything else although I very nearly bought a Vogue Book from the 1950’s.
Working up an appetite, we dismissed the hotels and coffee houses and headed straight down to the Cafe on the Quay for a big, greasy breakfast. Surrounded by big, hairy bikers we felt rather demure and ladylike as we squeezed HP onto our baked beans.
As we sauntered around Rye, we noticed lots of people dressed in various vintage costumes. Girls with pin curls and swing dresses, men with sideburns and aviator jackets, old biddies with cigarette holders and old men in hawaiian shirts. Holy cow – we had walked right into a “Rhythm Riot” weekend.
Getting into the spirit of the weekend, I found a lovely old clutch bag to add to my collection and discovered a great little second-hand shop I had never seen before. D loved Rye, and, as always, I discovered more on my own doorstep when showing a visitor than I ever do when rushing through on my own.
Happily I also discovered this pair of Olivia Morris shoes in a tiny second-hand boutique. They are very pointed but I just love them. I always feel so much more feminine in high, narrow shoes with pointed toes. I may be crippled in later life, but now I’m happy!
After a cheeky large vino in The Standard. we joined the multitudes watching the Classic and Custom Car parade. Now, I’m no car buff – I like comfort , speed and getting there, that’s all I demand from my wheels – but even I had to admire the beauty and class of these brutes. The American classics were there – Buick, Chevvy, Mustang – along with old English coaches and little jeeps. The shine was awesome.
Back home for a quick fashion makeover in my Style Studio (D never leaves without a new outfit), and off she went.
Happy with my weekend purchases, I wasn’t planning any more spending but the gods were against me. When a meeting on Monday was put back 30 minutes I had time to dash into “Too Chic”, the dress agency in Cranbrook. Within minutes I found a pair of JB Martin ankle boots size 3 at £40 which fitted perfectly. I paid and was just going out the door when this gorgeous red patent clutch bag by Claudio Fericci caught my eye. At £33 it was too good to lose.
So, 3 bags, 1 shoes, 1 boots and some great memories. We’re already booked for next year.