I found this blouse at a charity shop that raises money to protect cats, located on Pitshanger Lane in Ealing. It's from Ghost, an iconic British design house founded by Tanya Sarne and Katherine Hamnett in 1984. Praised for its unique use of rayon, the well-known Ghost dress had a crinkled texture making it incredibly easy to wear and pack. The idiosyncratic Ghost look has been dubbed a 'quiet revolution' and considered a key moment in fashion history. In 2006 the label was sold and Sarne left the company. This velvet apparition was given to my friend Susan who first told me about the brand. She wore Ghost in the 80s and has loved it ever since. The label inside this top says 'Made in England,' confirming its pre-2006 status. It wasn't scary at just £5.
Monday, 30 June 2014
Sunday, 29 June 2014
This is my shop; now closed, it's where my London life took shape. While living in LA but longing to be here, I imagined Crimson. To ensure I remained committed to the dream - complete financial and fashion madness - I bought 300 wooden hangers and kept them in the back of my enormous car as a constant reminder of my dream. I'd tell myself, "now that I've got all these hangers, I've really no choice but to open a shop. In London." From this well-hung perch, I met several fellow North Americans livin' la vida London, stylish mates who today are among my nearest and dearest. I met my husband who helped me see how important the past is to one's future fashion choices. And in this shop, I met women who struggled with their style, women who longed to love clothing but found the search for their style a burdensome journey of clashing memories and ill-fitting disappointments. Time Out called Crimson "a flamboyant nugget of a shop..." For me the shop was a dialogue, and while its doors are closed, the vivid conversation continues.
Saturday, 28 June 2014
I love cities; city breaks, cityscapes, city life, city style - it all appeals. I've been to the biggies - NYC, Paris, Rome, Moscow. I live in London but have also inhabited Cleveland, LA, DC, and Harare. I've visited Johannesburg, Krakow, Barcelona, Antwerp, Lille, Venice, Edinburgh, Lisbon and Bruges. I've been to Phnom Penh, Saigon and Osaka. I've seen Tijuana and Bulawayo. But I've never been to Tel Aviv. Rather than Israel's second city, I found this souvenir box in a charity shop on the Kent coast. Turns out Tel Aviv boasts the largest collection of Bauhaus buildings in the world (examples are on the box). Nicknamed The White City, Tel Aviv was the home to German Jewish architects who came to the area in the 30s after the rise of the Nazis and it's they who are responsible for the 4,000 Bauhaus structures in the city centre. This kitschy box is the perfect house for my earrings. It cost £3.
Friday, 27 June 2014
Yesterday, on a walk through Walpole Park in Ealing, a young woman - a stranger - said to me 'really nice glasses.' She was sitting with a friend on a park bench eating her lunch. She wore a bowler hat that suited her down to the ground. I'd almost walked past her when she began nodding her head and then verbalized the compliment. I looked back over my shoulder, thanked her and carried on. I found the glasses - Ray Bans, £20 with case - at the Fara Charity Shop on Bond Street not far from the park. Alas, I've loved and lost 5 pairs of Ray Bans in my life; some new, some used, all gone. Thankfully cool, quality specs are regularly available at charity shops and 2nd-hand haunts. The young woman in the bowler hat sent me off with a smile. A spontaneous thumbs-up from a stranger is like a butterfly landing on your shoulder - a bright, light surprise.
Thursday, 26 June 2014
I found this Tory Burch ribbed jumper in the Octavia Foundation charity shop in Ealing. Tory Burch is an American designer who founded her brand in 2004 with one store in Manhattan. She now has 120 shops and a presence in 3,000 retailers across the globe. Her celebrity fans include Jessica Alba, Blake Lively and Cameron Diaz. And still the Tory Burch label is relatively unknown and under-appreciated in the UK. Tory's got a J Crew pre-Jenna-Lyons vibe, preppy, with a bit of Lilly Pulitzer's moneyed-Miami look thrown in for good measure. TB ready-to-wear is starting to turn up in UK charity shops for peanuts. My mom adores Tory so this will be passed on to her. I should keep it until Christmas but I'll never be able to wait, so pleased am I with this fashion find. Don't tell anyone it cost just £6.
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
I found this little bag at the Fara Childrens Charity shop in Ealing, west London. It's a Le Sport Sac made of a nylon canvas with 3 zippered compartments. There was a marble in one of the pockets, but otherwise this wee girl's accessory has hardly been used. Guess little girls don't abuse their handbags the way big girls do. I love its kooky pirate print and because it wipes clean, it's the perfect makeup bag. Children's 2nd-hand is always worth a quick look, even if you don't have kiddies of your own. Little bags like this, scarfs and if you're small yourself, tiny tops are on offer. I also occasionally find vintage toys that make sweet, unusual gifts. This bag was £1. If you pop round to the Fara Childrens Charity Shop, you'll find Angela Malik's Deli just a few doors down. Stop in for a Wake Up Lassi and a smile. The food and service at Angela's is superb.
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
I found this chunky cotton jumper at the Children's Society charity shop on Pitshanger Lane, Ealing. If you pop up to this charming wee high street be sure to wander into The Pitshanger Bookshop - a well-stocked, friendly independent. My fashion reads, including this Chic Simple Wardrobe book are endless sources of inspiration; so when I found a sweater just like the one on the pages of the book, I was delighted. Let's face it, the cover-up is even more important than the cossie. My find is from the Banana Republic, a brand I've loved since the 70s when it still issued enticing hand-drawn catalogs (prior to Gap take over). The soft but highly textured look of this BR knit was equally enticing - a wardrobe multi-tasker, it will be packed into my suitcase for all future travel. It's a bestseller at just £4.99.
Monday, 23 June 2014
Sunday, 22 June 2014
I find hankies everywhere. An under-appreciated accessory these days, they remain little life savers. In hot weather, there's nothing nicer than dabbing ones 'glowing' brow with a fresh, soft, clean hankie. They look attractive in a handbag, take up no space, and are better for the environment than mounds of fuzzy paper tissues. Cotton hankies wash easily and I always feel a sense of satisfaction after ironing and folding these pretty squares. Ask grandma or auntie if she's got any hankies to give you. If not, you'll easily find them in charity shops, markets or vintage stores. They usually cost less than a pound.
Tags: 2nd-hand accessories
Saturday, 21 June 2014
I found this beautifully cut waistcoat at the Mary Portas Living and Giving shop at 2 The Green in Ealing. (If you stop into Mary's, wander down to Farm W5 afterward for one of their delicious fresh ginger steamers.) This is an Angela Holmes design for the highly-collectible label Droopy & Brown. Starting out in a humble market stall in 1971, D&B grew to a clutch of 8 shops including a bright, airy boutique across the street from The Coliseum in Covent Garden. That's where in the late 90s I bought my first Droopy, a midnight navy column dress featuring a halter neckline that fastened with a huge satin bow. I wore it only once, to a diplomatic ball in Harare, Zimbabwe (long story, don't ask). While the visionary Angela Holmes has passed away and Droopy & Brown shops have all closed down, the brand is still alive and well. Second-hand pieces are wildly sought after, selling for 3 figures on-line. Droopy fans are incredibly committed - with gusto they stalk, buy and collect quality apparel from this classic British fashion house. This piece hit the right note at just £15.
Friday, 20 June 2014
I recently found this terrific read at the Oxfam bookshop in Ealing. Linda Grant's "The Thoughtful Dresser," published in 2009, offers stories about compelling, real life women and their relationship with what they wear, as well as her own personal musings about the clothes on her back. While told with wit and heart, it isn't cheesy or overly sentimental. Grant does her research but her tone is light and more akin to a work of fiction, in fact she's also a novelist. Making a case for caring about fashion, Grant reminds us that what we wear is an act of self definition, a daily endeavor that's a necessary part of a healthy life. The book left me thinking differently about my style, indeed a thoughtful dresser.
Thursday, 19 June 2014
I found this handbag at the Octavia Foundation charity shop near South Ken Tube station. It's Barbara Hulaniki for Coccinelle. The Polish-born, English-raised illustrator and designer is the founder of the iconic 60s/70s label BIBA, a fashion phenomenon that almost never got off the ground. After several failed attempts, Hulaniki and her husband gave it one last try, creating a gingham dress with a round cut-out back. It was a hit, selling thousands, and so began BIBA's success. With David Bowie and Marianne Faithful as regulars, it's no wonder the modest BIBA shop in South Ken grew into a 5 story department store, complete with restaurant roof garden. Coccinelle is an Italian brand founded in 1978 (2 years after BIBA shut its doors). Known for high quality accessories, Coccinelle's partnership with Barbara has ensured the simplicity of their handbag range remains eye catching and fresh. This bag was £24.
Wednesday, 18 June 2014
I found this silk purse at a sale in Bath, courtesy of Vintage to Vogue (www.vintagetovoguebath.co.uk). Holy cow, does it tell a story! Jim Thompson, who gave his name to the brand, was an American visionary and world traveler. In the 30s he worked as an architect in NYC and became interested in costume design while a board member for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. After serving his country in WWII, Thompson settled in Bangkok. Fascinated with the artistry of silk, by 1950 he founded a majority Thai-owned silk design and production company. His fabrics had a devoted following among interior decorators, couturiers and costume designers. The spectacular clothing featured in the 'King and I' was fashioned from Jim Thompson Thai silks. In 1967 Thompson disappeared while vacationing in Malaysia. The search to find him was epic, the media coverage vast, but he was never found. The purse was bought at a vintage sale where for £20 buyers could fill a shopping bag with 2nd-hand goodies.
Thanks to www.jimthompsonfabrics.com for some of the facts in this post
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
This is the frayed sleeve of my classic Burberry mac. I found it 12 years ago at a stall in Camden Market. I'm not a strictly vintage hunter, there are any number of up-scale contemporary labels that I covet. But even if I were loaded to the gills, I don't think I'd buy high-end brand new. I find lightly worn up-scale fashions far more interesting than those that are pristine and untouched. Along with this beloved Burberry, I cherish my soft cashmere jumpers that boast neat, tiny repairs, my Mulberry bag that's worn where for years it's rubbed against my side and my 2nd-hand scuffed up Gucci loafers. Each posh but lived-in piece retains its fashion status while hinting at a more mysterious story, a checkered past. Don't summarily dismiss damaged goods - some flaws are invaluable assets.
Monday, 16 June 2014
I found this statement necklace at Spitalfields Market near Liverpool Street Station at a weekDAY antiques stall. Spitalfields is a popular weekEND shopping extravaganza; vintage, handmade and weird, wonderful new items abound. But Monday to Thursday the stalls go quieter, as a handful of antique dealers pitch up beneath the soaring glass canopy. This is unlikely to be real coral and pearls, it would cost a pirate's ransom if it were but it's still a quality piece. The silver clasp is marked '925.' Pure silver is impossible to work with so another metal is added to the mix - 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper is high quality. England hallmarks silver with little symbols but in the USA and other countries '925' distinguishes the best silver. The necklace is cold to the touch indicating it's made from a material found in nature. Maybe not pearl or coral but stone, marble or shell. I bargained it down and shelled out a cool £28 for it.
Sunday, 15 June 2014
Saturday, 14 June 2014
I found this Lola Rose bracelet at the Trinity Hospice charity shop on the Fulham Road, London. Hunting through charity shops that appear hopeless, messy and untended makes my heart race. The thrill of a find permeates the air, the atmosphere buzzes with uncertain excitement. But there are beautifully organized charity shops, those that creatively merchandise their stock, shops every bit as inviting as the finest 5th Avenue boutiques, and the Fulham Road Trinity Hospice is one of those. Staffed by friendly, helpful women who know their designers, its a high-end paradise. This shop also, over time, marks it stock down - they don't let merchandise hang forever, over priced and unwanted. My friend Susan and I were there at the weekend; she bagged a Cavalli dress (£120), wool Sonia Rykiel trousers (£45) and Max Mara rain coat (£85), all mint condition. My find by UK jewelry designer Lola Rose, known for its semi precious stone baubles, came in a pink velvet bag. It's heavy and cool to touch, the natural, smooth stone lovely against the skin. It cost £20.
Friday, 13 June 2014
It's easy to mindlessly criticize - haven't we all sat on the tube judging the fashion choices of the woman opposite us? But picking at the threads of a stranger is a futile exercise; we learn very little while mentally dressing down another. May I suggest "people watching for the positive?" I work at a large London theatre full of people so I often commit myself to noting the complimentary rather than critical. "Her posture is so regal" or "Those flats give that dress a cool, relaxed feel" or "The red tint in her hair brightens her whole face" are typical mental observations. Actively looking for what works becomes an exercise in training your eye. Engaging your sartorial imagination for the good allows you to see better, to appreciate more, to embrace change. A glass-half-full approach to fashion is the easiest way to grow your style nous. I found a set of these lady glasses at a 2nd-hand shop in Tequesta, Florida. Small US towns are real hot spots for cheap, interesting pre-owned goods. The 4 glasses cost $12.
Thursday, 12 June 2014
I found this silk Celine scarf at a Cancer Research charity shop in Ealing, West London. Husband-and-wife team Richard and Celine Vipiana founded the label in 1945 and their first shop in Paris began life as a children's shoe store. In 1967 Celine's current logo was unveiled; a horsey pattern based on an 19th century American engraving that Richard found in a book. Gallop ahead to 1997 when Michael Kors takes over as lead designer at Celine, duties that today fall to Phoebe Philo. Consistently a red-carpet favourite, Celine finally opened its first London flagship in March 2014. Some charity shops know the difference between a horse and a hole in the wall. And some don't. Either way charity shops are consistently a happy hunting ground for high-end scarves. This one rode in at just £2.65.
Wednesday, 11 June 2014
The personal language of fashion is often as carefree and breezy as a day at the beach. My mom calls cropped trousers pedal pushers and my grandma called a handbag a pocketbook. My Aunt Midge referred to a winter scarf as a muffler, and in the American Midwest trainers and plimsolls are tennies (short for tennis shoe). My favourite phraseology however is a word my sister coined. Since she was a kid she's called a bathing suit, a baiding suit (rhymes with raiding). In my 20s, fresh from university and feeling incredibly superior, I said to my little sister, "You understand the correct pronunciation is actually baTHing suit?" I expected her to say "yes of course." Instead she replied, "Bathing suit, why? You don't wear it in the bath tub." That was me told. To this day when I'm visiting my sister on the shores of the Florida coast, I say baiding suit. It's a special word, full of holiday memories, sun oil and sand, culled from the language of our childhood. I wonder if you've your own fashion vocabulary?
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
I found this once-strapless bustier at a charity shop in Richmond - a picturesque riverside spot with loads of charity shop choice. I don't do strapless for two good reasons...but I knew I could rework this Banana Republic top to suit my figure. My husband often buys vintage neckties in job lots so he's always got a bag of rejects on the go. From the bag, I retrieved 2 ties similar in colour and weight. While wearing the bustier AND a bra that clasp behind my neck, I pinned the neckties so they covered the undergarment. I then took my pinned top to the tailor, who sewed the necktie straps into place. This customized garment is perfect, a lovely shoulder bearing look that nicely hides the necessary uplift underneath. If you're in Richmond shopping, plan lunch at Stein's on the river CLICK HERE. While sausages are their specialty, they've something delicious for everyone. The bustier was £8 and my tailor charged a fiver to affix the straps.
Monday, 9 June 2014
Sunday, 8 June 2014
This is one of my favorite tops - a Max Mara that's been with me for 15 years, soft silk, versatile black and cream stripe, and the first thing I ever bought (on sale) at Selfridges. And I ruined it. I'm embarrassed to admit I was eating a dounut (wait, it gets worse), while driving (there's more), and plopped raspberry jam onto the front of this beloved blouse. I took it to the dry cleaner, who only made it worse. Now there was a red jam stain and the fabric around it was faded. Heartbroken but determined, I had to save my marvelous Max Mara. So I bought some brocade ribbon at VV Rouleaux (www.vvrouleaux.com) on Marylebone Lane in London and asked a tailor to carefully sew it over the jam damage. Once placed properly the ribbon served to enhance the blouse as well as hide the stain. No one knows it wasn't made this way. Suffice to say, I no longer drive. Sadly I still eat dounuts.
Saturday, 7 June 2014
I found this Kate Spade leather pencil case in Arcadia, Florida. Like much of small town America Arcadia once thrived, tiny but prosperous enough. It's inland so doesn't benefit from the tourist trade and over time, as people moved away, the area faltered. But Arcadia fought back, transforming itself into a hunters paradise as every shopfront from the opera house to the old barbers are given over to the sale of pre-owned Americana. Be sure to visit the Oak Street Deli while you're there - expect freshly-made sandwiches and delicious potato salad. In reality you may never get to inland Florida, but the point is small town USA is a goldmine for good used fashions. If you visit Miami, NYC, Chicago, LA or any American metropolis, venture outside the city limits and your efforts are likely to be rewarded. In the 1800s young Arcadia Albritton rewarded city father James Madison Hendry with a cake. It must have been delicious because he named the town after her. This posh pencil case takes the cake at just $4.
Friday, 6 June 2014
I found this silk dress at a flea market in Rome (for market info see post, 31 May 2014). The stallholder was a young Italian guy wearing ordinary trousers, a white t-shirt and masses of eyeliner and mascara. In a lawn chair in front of his stall was a small, older woman with yellow cotton candy hair. From her perch, her feet didn't touch the ground. My passion for the dress was apparent from the get-go, so I gave him his asking price quick as a bunny. He then said "It was my mother's dress," and motioned to the little lady in the chair, now beaming with pride. I thanked her profusely in English, rabbiting on about how much I loved 'her' dress. She simply smiled happily in Italian. Note to self: always ask about the item you're buying or listen when told about it - your find may be full of sartorial secrets. Once home, I took the dress to the tailor to have it lengthened (its previous owner was at least a foot shorter than me). I found, folded inside the hem, the horizontal stripes you see here; stripes that make the changing graduated pattern of the fabric even more exciting and for my money, Prada-esque. The dress cost 10 euros.
Thursday, 5 June 2014
Wednesday, 4 June 2014
I found this Lilly Pulitzer cord blazer at Bang Bang on Goodge Street, in London (www.bangbangclothingexchange.co.uk). At any of Bang Bang's 3 London outlets, they'll buy your in-season mint vintage and interesting contemporary brands for cash or trade. I don't recall what I offered in exchange for this cord cutie - proof that fashion love affairs are fleeting. This Autumn fabric (corduroy) + its Summer hue (hot pink) = a Spring-in-London Style Savior. I'm keen to welcome the warmer weather but it's still cool in June; this jazzy jacket invites Summer but wears like Autumn. Pieces fashioned from heavier fabrics in bright, saturated colours are must-haves if you live in a fickle weather zone. I call it 'season-ful' dressing, as London experiences all 4 in a single day. Great satisfaction comes with 'trading in' clothes at a place like Bang Bang, and while there are others like them, this lot have real sartorial imagination. At Bang Bang they don't turn up their noses if a piece is unbranded. They want good condition items with personality. So try trading, it's a great way to go green (or pink).
Tuesday, 3 June 2014
Yesterday I found this unworn silk and wool Oscar de la Renta scarf, still in its charming Lord & Taylor box. A high-end men's neck warmer designed by a Dominican and made in Japan, vintage 80s, originally purchased at an American department store ends up in a charity shop for Polish orphans in West London - this scarf has wrapped itself 'round the globe. While researching the distinctive L&T rose logo and packaging, I found out that a woman named Dorothy Shaver was President of Lord & Taylor from 1945. She was the first woman in the United States to head a multi-million dollar company and is credited with much of the east coast retailer's success. She was an early proponent of American designers over the more ubiquitous French fashion set. Dorothy began work for Lord & Taylor in 1921 when she was hired to lead its Comparison Bureau, the arm of the company tasked with spying on other big retailers (the original "secret shoppers" I'd say). For more on the rise of the modern department store, read Emile Zola's novel "The Ladies Paradise." This slash of scarlet silk will be perfect tucked into the neckline of my black coat come winter. I'll have to keep up standards as now that I've made her acquaintance I wonder if Dot isn't "spying" on my style? The scarf and box cost £5.
Monday, 2 June 2014
I found these Church's white brogues at Trinity Hospice charity shop, Bute Street near South Ken Tube Station, London and the black Italian-made oxfords were found on-line at ASOS Marketplace, £90 and £30 respectively. These men-styled shoes are lifesavers for me, comfortable and super stylish. But it was my friend Susan who helped give my fab flats some extra kick. Apparently there's a little "shoe string" shop in Lille, France and on her recent visits there Susan's brought me back coloured laces (sweet gift idea). The black Oxfords came to life when I replaced their severe black laces with a pop of purple. And while I thought my Church's were simply perfect, replacing the white with baby-blue laces gives them the sort of detail Scott Fitzgerald would envy. If you can't get to Lille for laces you'll find them easily on-line - a super cheap and marvelously effective finishing touch.
Sunday, 1 June 2014
I bought these belts 2nd hand, 5 of the 6 in West London charity shops, all in the last 3 years. From left to right they are a Ralph Lauren horse bit belt, a Paul Smith brown leather, an Etienne Aigner with a lovely horn-like buckle, a brown suede number from Jigsaw, a big buckler from a 2nd-hand shop in Krakow, and an unbranded black suede favourite. I can't remember the last time I bought a belt brand new. They're a great buy-it-when-you-see-it item. I always quickly peruse the belts in any flea market, charity or 2nd hand shop. Quality examples consistently turn up. Very often they've never seen a waistline or show few signs of wear. But if they do need a small repair, it's generally the sort of thing your local cobbler can fix easily and inexpensively. I buy wide belts with chunky buckles to toughen up my full skirted, feminine dresses. None of these belts cost more than £20. I wonder if there's anything you NEVER buy new?