Vintage buys: 60s style red coat

Winter coats. Shall we discuss them? Is it late enough in the year yet, or does the idea make you want to run away screaming while clutching the last mojito of summer to your heart?

This topic’s on my mind because of my new/old coat, a bright red 60s style number from a vintage shop in Boscombe, which I bought in July for 28 quid.

Red vintage coat
Now, I’ve got a bad history with winter coats. Not only am I incredibly indecisive, I am also massively tight when it comes to buying shop-bought clothes. But last year I reluctantly concluded that my TK Maxx bargain black pea-coat had given up the ghost after 4 years of hard labour, and I started to look around for a replacement.

Boy, was in I for a massive surprise. Because my shopping brain is still stuck in the early 2000s, I thought I’d get something decent for about 80 or 90 quid. Yeah, that was dumb. Here are the actual choices:

  • Get a designer ‘investment piece’ for 1000 quid and up, as fashion mags are always urging us.
  • Go to a high-end high-street place (Whistles etc) and get a fairly nice wool coat for about three hundred pounds.
  • Head a fast-fashion place and get a poorly sewn, thin polyester blend coat for about fifty to a hundred quid.
  • Make your own. I ruled this out last winter as it would cost 90 quid at least for decent fabrics, and I don’t think my skill level is up to it yet. One day.

Now maybe I’m just naive, or maybe I spent too long living in Scotland, but surely the whole point of a winter coat is to keep you warm. Polyester is going to leave you shivering, no matter how nice the design. So what I ended up doing was wearing my skanky old black coat for another winter. This involved much sewing on of buttons as they kept falling off in a strict rota arrangement, similar to the proverbial painting of the Forth Bridge.

Then this year I went for option 5:

  • Buying a vintage coat in the height of summer when they’re super cheap. Feeling v smug as a result.

I’m not saying this coat is perfect. The sleeves are a bit too short, and the armholes have been torn and carefully repaired. Also, it’s an eye-searingly bright red that brings to mind the evil dwarf’s coat in Don’t Look Now. My camera doesn’t cope well with the red spectrum, so imagine it as being slightly less tomato-y than it looks here.

But I love the silhouette, the pocket design, the pointy collar, and the in-your-face colour. And my absolute favourite thing is that it’s obviously hand-made. I can’t resist home sewn vintage clothing. I feel like I’m rescuing these pieces from the harsh world of vintage shops and bringing them home to be loved and admired.

The original buttons were red and gold and a bit 80s, I took them off before drycleaning. But I’m not sure what to replace them with.

I’ve got three vague ideas. Plain wooden buttons, red plastic buttons with a shank, or self-covered buttons in a co-ordinating red fabric, maybe a faux silk or a linen texture. I think the last one would look best, but it’s also my least favourite idea because it involves the most work (did I mention that I’m also extremely lazy?). What do you reckon?

(p.s. The only awkward thing is that I don’t know if this is actually a wool coat. It feels quite felted and thick, but who knows? In which case all my smugness is for naught and I might as well have gone to Topshop…)

Norwegian mountains and autumn

Well hello there! What did you do on your summer holidays? I’ve just got back from mine, in Edinburgh and Norway. Unsurprisingly I didn’t return with a suntan, but I did manage to consume many cinnamon buns, climb up two mountains, and finally read the whole of Wolf Hall (SO GOOD).

First things first, I want to show you this photo, because what’s the use of having a blog if not to boast about minor life achievements?

This is me and some friends jumping in the air for joy on top of Trolltunga in Norway. I’m second from left, doing a tiny little hop. I was terrified. The worst bit is waiting for your turn to go on (yes there’s a queue – apparently some people do this kind of thing for fun). You can see people sit, peer over, and in one case do a handstand on the edge of this jutting rock. I wouldn’t describe myself as afraid of heights normally but bloody hell, it was scary. Plus, you have to do a 5 hour hike up a really steep mountain to get there.

But I’m so proud of myself for doing it! I’m the least outdoors-y person in the world but I actually enjoyed the experience, everything from wearing horrible walking shoes, camping on top of a freezing cold mountain, eating cold potato bread for breakfast and then doing a four hour hike to get down. Although I have to admit the best bit was reaching the bottom just as the sun came out.

Getting to see views like these is also pretty good.

Norway is amazing, if you get the chance to go then you must. Norwegians do have some strange dietary habits that I never knew about. I think all I have to say here is ‘bolognaise pizza’. They are also obsessed with hot dogs (Pølse). You can buy them anywhere, most notably in every single garage and service station on the road.

My number 1 tip: if you’re going to Norway, buy waterproof shoes. You will not regret it. We did see some sunshine though, as well as more fjords, rocks, and waterfalls than you could shake a stick at.

Lindesnes lighthouse
Lichen on granite.
Flowers in Stavanger Old Town
Large Norwegian family in Stavanger Cathedral
I love these fishscale roof tiles, they were everywhere
Sunset on the last day

So now September is nearly here and I’ve got that horrible back-to-school feeling, like I should be buying pencils and a shiny new pair of Kickers and frantically finishing off summer maths homework. I guess it’s time to start planning autumn and winter sewing.

I’ve already made a lined skirt in anticipation of tights season beginning. In an unusual display of forward planning, I even bought a new coat in July, a vintage handmade one that I’m going to post about here because it’s beautiful. But I still feel resentful that we have to let go of the summer that never really happened.

This is probably my least favourite time of year but I’m trying to be more positive. Any tips? Do you look forward to autumn?

Leopard print lovely – Burda 9/2011

So guys, I hope we are all aware of the fact that leopard-print is the new neutral? If not, it’s time to get on board. It’s the beige of the 21st century! (yes, I am aware that beige still exists).

Bearing that in mind, I have taken the gorgeous leopard print fabric I got from lovely Claire at the Brighton swap meet-up, and made the simplest/most boring t-shirt pattern in the world, the kimono sleeve jersey top from Burda 9/2011. Previously made and blogged here.

Leopard print kimono sleeve t-shirt, Burda 09/2011

This fabric is so nice. It’s super drapey and soft, but with great recovery. I did the whole thing on my overlocker, apart from stitching down the neckline seam and hemming, both of which I sewed with the stretch stitch on my normal machine.

Nothing fancy about this, it takes about an hour to cut and sew (less if you don’t keep stopping to try it on, as I compulsively do with everything I make. I even drape fabric pieces awkwardly over myself when they’ve just been cut. I hope I’m not alone in this). The only changes I made were to shorten the sleeves and add a double sided cuff, and to reinforce the top of the shoulder seam with some stay tape.


You can see that my overlocker thread is looking a bit loopy and rubbish, but whatever, it worked. I think it’s because I’m using one different kind of thread on the left spool, having run out of white I probably need to adjust the tension or something? Any tips?

Leopard print full length kimono sleeve top

Here I am looking smug because not only did I make this awesome top, I also grew the immense tomato plant you can see to my right there. It’s a total beast, taller than me!

This top hass had a slightly sceptical reception from some people, but I love it. The print is extremely leopard-y, but if you’re going to do animal print, go big or go home, that’s what I say. I really like the other kimono sleeve top I made, but the fabric is sort of cheap and nasty whereas this stuff is bloody amazing.

No idea what gave me the hugely innovative idea to match up this fabric and pattern. I’m sure it has NOTHING to do with the fact that Zoe has a very similar top made from the exact same fabric. Or that Burda put this doppelganger example in their magazine.

Nope, don’t see the similarity. Ahem.

Here is an interesting history of leopard print which you should read! Are you a fan of animal print? Or is it all a bit too much?

Costumes on film and their anachronisms

There’s a brilliant thread on Ask Metafilter at the moment about anachronistic clothes, make-up and styling in period movies. You know the sort of thing I mean. Liz Taylor’s 1963-meets-Ancient-Egypt eyeliner in Cleopatra, for example:

Liz Taylor eye makeup in Cleopatra

Or Steve McQueen’s preppy casual wear in the Great Escape – khakis and a cut-off sweatshirt were apparently standard issue in German POW camps:

Steve McQueen in the Great Escape - preppy outfit
Hair and make-up is usually the prime offender. But don’t get me wrong, I love these kind of images. We all see through the prism of the era we live in. Even fashion revivals are stamped with the distinctive flavour of the decade – people seek out the Biba ’70s does 30s’ clothes not because they are exact copies of 1930s originals, but because have that 70s decadence and drapiness.

It may be impossible to know what Cleopatra was wearing when she clutched that snake to her bosom, but costume designers are entitled to have a good old guess, and make it relevant to contemporary audiences.

For example, how do you picture Tess of the D’Urbervilles? A simple, rustic-looking country lass with straw in her hair perhaps? Beauty parlours were rather thin on the ground in Hardy’s rural Wessex, to be fair. Well here’s what the 1920s thought:

1920s Tess of the D'Urbervilles

And I think this still from Little Women (my favourite sob-inducing Sunday afternoon film) perfectly encapsulates that early 90s shabby chic/Laura Ashley look.

Of course, some people go the other way and become completely obsessive about period detail. When Stanley Kubrick made Barry Lyndon, he not only made his lead actress stay out of the sun for 6 months to develop an 18th century pallor, he also lit much of the film using only candles. He had to use a special lens from NASA to pick up enough light.

Barry Lyndon lit by candlelight - Stanley Kubrick

But even so, if you had to guess from the image below which era this film was made in, wouldn’t you say there’s something a bit, well, 70s about it?

Costumes are always going to require tweaking to fit the age. People did wear some seriously wacky stuff in the past – I can’t believe some of the colours of the Victorian gowns in the V&A. I guess in my head the Victorians live in sepia, whereas in actual fact they were pioneers of neon (sort of).

To finish, here’s an example of the only time a costume in a film has really annoyed me – the gorgeous red dress Shosanna wears at the end of Inglourious Basterds. It keeps appearing in massive close-up, revealing that the centre back is finished with a big freaking INVISIBLE ZIP – in the 1940s! I don’t know why this irritated me so much when the rest of the film is so deliberately anachronistic, but it just really really did. Here’s the dress from the front as I couldn’t find a picture of the offending zip, perhaps proving that this issue didn’t annoy anyone else as much as me.

Have you ever noticed this sort of thing going on?

Screenprinting an Anthony Burrill t-shirt with Levi’s

Flags on Regent Street – I recognise about 3 of these. That Geography GCSE was a long time ago.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email asking if I’d like to come and screenprint an Anthony Burrill designed t-shirt at the Levi’s print workshop on Regent Street. Awesome designer + screenprinting? I had to say yes! Especially as my boyfriend is a huge Anthony Burrill fan and it would make him v jealous (mission accomplished, by the way).

We’ve got a couple of Burrill prints in our house – here’s a double-sided one that hangs in our living room, reminding me to be more of a ‘glass half-full’ type of person.

And here’s lots of his prints hanging in the Levi’s store, where the print workshop was.

So anyway, this was a really fun experience. Here was the most awesome thing about it, this fantastic t-shirt printing carousel, which is from I want one of these SO badly. Don’t ask me where it would go in our flat. I just need it, okay?

You lay your t-shirt out on the bed, then you swing round the right screen, pull it down and drag the squeegee across to print. As the screen comes down, the arms fit into a special slot so the print is lined up perfectly every time.

Here’s a montage of my t-shirt being printed – the empty bed on the left, then the t-shirt half done, then the last layer being dried. They were using oil based inks which have to be heat-set, the water-based ones dried out too quickly as the colour had to be left on the screen all day.

Levi’s had hired Marcroy and Jim of People of Print (check out their website! it is great) to help everyone with their screen-printing, which thankfully meant that my t-shirt looked perfect and not a massive smudged mess. You have to press down really hard on these screens! I’m more used to printing a large expanse of fabric and not a single motif, so it was brilliant to get a bit of help.

I also had a pic of me and my t-shirt taken in a digital photobooth, which spat out four different shots just like the old-skool variety. They gave me a copy of the prints which I lost on the way home (of course), but here are some other people’s together with their suggested slogans.

And here’s my in my new t-shirt! Thanks guys! (sorry this photo is so blurry – you just can’t get the staff these days).

I’d love to do more printing but never seem to get round to it – it’s so messy to do at home, you really need to go somewhere with all the equipment. But there’s nothing more fun than seeing your design emerge after all the work to expose the screen and set everything up. Thanks to Levi’s for giving me a taster of printing again! (by the way if you’d like to try it and you’re in London, I highly recommend the screen-printing classes at Morley College)

The Olympic Tingle and links update

Hello! How are you? Have you got the Olympic Tingle? I totally do! Despite the horrible logo, the baffling mascots, the dodgy security, and the obnoxious corporate sponsorship, it turns out that the actual sports bit is like, amazing. I don’t know if it’s because everything’s happening just down the road, or because the athletes are so super-human and endearing at the same time, but I’m glued to the telly.

Also, because of the prolonged scaremongering from TFL about how it would be best to stock up on tinned soup and lock yourself in a secure bunker for the duration, everyone in London has scarpered. So it’s incredibly quiet. You can walk down Oxford Street on a Saturday and not see a single person (I only exaggerate slightly).

I’m also loving the Olympic nail art, on a more frivolous level. Apparently there’s a free spa and beauty salon in the athlete’s village, which has resulted in things like this:

And this:

So anyway, in between working and watching every esoteric event from archery to synchronised swimming, I haven’t had any time to update this blog. But I have been reading absolutely tons of new blogs, so I’ve revamped my lovely links list which you can see there on the right. All of them have my personal endorsement, a seal of approval which is right up there with an Olympic gold medal (a fake one from a pound shop, on a polyester ribbon).

Here are three blogs you should check out:

Hello Tailor –  V amusing mixture of commentary on high fashion and costume analysis of superhero movies

Unified Space – really knowledgable about colour. I loved this post about dyslexia and pattern vs. plain

Get Some Vintage-A-Peel – tons of amazing and obscure vintage images, with a focus on the 60s and 70s

I’m always ready to add more to my Google Reader, so I’d love to know if you have any good blog recommendations!