Monday, 22 September 2014

Into The Valley

So that's it, after eight festivals, this weekend marked the final one of 2014. Life on the road is over for another year.

Wearing: Dollyrockers maxi (Second to None, 2010), 1970 felt hat (Car boot sale, 2009), Huge vintage bronze hoop earrings (the fabulous Pao), Original 1960s Biba dragonfly choker (My Mum's), Bertie brogue boots (car boot sale, 2013)
Grabbing a book to take away with me I spotted one of my favourite reads, How Not To Run A Club on the shelf, Peter Hook's tale of the rise and fall of Manchester's legendary Hacienda, wondering if I'd be substituting club for festival as a possible blog title when describing our weekend. 

Muddled emails and telephone calls requesting information we'd sent weeks previously, trading pals dropping out at the last minute and an inclement weather warning, we wondered whether the very first V Dubs in The Valley was doomed to fail before it had even started but with the pitch paid for months ago it was a weekend away if nothing else.

Our initial misgivings couldn't have been more wrong. The location, a picturesque valley minutes away from the historic town of Bridgnorth, along with the warm welcome we received as soon as we arrived on site, immediately put us at ease. We parked, pitched up and were set up & ready for action (with the first cider on the go) by the time our mates arrived.  

Initially an intimate end of season event for a few hundred VW enthusiasts, demand for tickets was so high that the original location was changed & more tickets released, developing into a sell-out weekend with over 1,200 campers and hundreds more day visitors paying on the gate.

An impressive variety of food stalls, inexpensive booze, live music, an old skool disco, a scooter rally, a large car & bus display and, crucially, loads of immaculately kept portaloos. 

And, for late September, the weather wasn't too bad, either. The mist looming over the valley looked far more menacing than the reality. 

There were lots of interesting traders,

The man with the auto jumble was a dead ringer for Hunter S Thompson.

Great live music,

Some very dapper gents.... 

Wearing: Vintage maxi & stainless steel pendant (both from car boot sales), velvet & rhinestone choker (vintage fair, 2013)

...and me!

It was great to see (hello, Claire!) and to hang out with friends from home after we'd closed for the day. Here's Maxine,

and Jolene with her handmade silver jewellery (HERE).

We've met this lovely couple and their two tiny Jack Russell dogs (the baby is under the table) at previous VW events. I went AWOL for ages chatting to them back at their van.

Taking a book with me? What was I thinking? That was about as misjudged as our expectations for the weekend. V Dubbers are a mixed bunch, people of all ages and backgrounds united over a common love for a brand. A huge cross section of people attend shows and vintage is still rather niche. Luckily having a classic air cooled bus visible from our pitch and having been regulars on the VW scene for over 8 years means we're recognised and visitors love to pop by for a chat, a catch up and a casual browse, often ending up falling for some of the stuff on display.

Under Siege! SOURCE

This was all I read, a couple of articles from this month's Chap magazine over crumpets & coffee snatched before we opened for business, kindly donated by new friend who'd christened our style "Cool as f*ck".

Wearing: Topman skinnies, vintage Wrangler shirt, Original Lee card blazer (all charity shopped), Tootal scarf, tooled leather belt and 1970s Cherry red Docs (car boot sales)
Wearing: 1970s Jersey Masters skinny shirt & gold lurex maxi (Both from my friend Pete @ Chickadooli), Vintage hat & choker (as before), 

And now to the downside, unpacking Gilbert, putting away the stock and tackling the mountainous washing pile.
See you soon!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Charity Shop Gold - The Jean Varon Catsuit

Unlike my fab friend Suzanne, bemused by a blogger moaning about being slim with a large bust, many of our customers don't consider having big boobs a blessing, they have terrible trouble trying to find vintage frocks to accommodate both them and the bra required to keep them in place. Luckily I've never had that problem. Can you imagine trying to wear underwear with this?

As soon as I spotted the Grecian-style ribbon binding peeking out from a rail in a charity shop yesterday I knew it was something special and wasn't at all surprised to see the Jean Varon label stitched inside. Such was my enthusiasm for buying it that I didn't even realise it was a catsuit until I'd handed my money over.

During my teens I used to get teased for my body shape. The most memorable insult being that I had a figure that was weird and old-fashioned like one of those women in a Bond film. Yeah, I cried all the way home from school after that one (not!). A small bust, angular shoulders, high waist and wide hips with a flat arse weren't conducive to the fashions of the time - padded shoulders, pencil skirts & tapered trousers looked atrocious on me as did pointy-toed stilettos on my long, slim feet.

Vintage St Michael bikini from my friends Gail & John
Thank goodness for the genius of designers like Jean Varon & Ossie Clark who, back in the 1960s & 1970s, created clothes which didn't require restrictive knickers, rib cracking bras or hours of Jane Fonda's aerobics to make the most of a woman's natural shape.

Me in Ossie Clark and very little else

 Jean Varon aka John Bates designed affordable clothes for the groovy 1960s and 1970s Swinging Set. His finest hour was probably designing Emma Peel's wardrobe (including the iconic leather catsuit) for a series of the TV show The Avengers.

Anyone who was anyone wore Jean Varon - Penelope Keith for her role as flashy Margot Leadbeater in The Good Life, Julie Christie in Shampoo, Twiggy, Cilla Black, my Mum. For such an iconic label I'm quite surprised at how I've managed to amass quite a few great pieces for very little money.

The infamous leather catsuit: SOURCE

Want to know more? The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool currently have an exhibition featuring some of John Bates designs.

Vintage early 1970s Jean Varon catsuit (local hospice charity) worn with a feather boa (car boot sale)
Thank to all of you kind enough to express concern over my Dad, his head has been glued back together and he seems pretty much oblivious to the whole sorry affair. You really are lovely.

See you soon!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat......

Where does the time go? One minute its mid-week and next thing you know its Monday. A weekend of back-to-back vintage fairs along with five and a half hours in A&E after my poor Dad got bashed on the head with a Thermos flask by a fellow resident in the dementia unit (at least it was a retro weapon). 

There was a bit of time for leisure. Here's me and the Lizs ready for action on Friday night.

Kitted out Kinky Melon style: Adrian (in a 1970s chores jacket) and Sean (in a vintage Hardy Amies blazer)
Adrian (aka Dr Teeth), his long-time mate, Sean, along with Q on the bongos, played to a packed house at the Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton. 

Back in the day. Adrian's on the far left, Sean's behind him.

Give them a listen HERE

It seems strange not to see a band without the obligatory skinful of ale but we had to be up bright-eyed and bushy tailed for work. Here's us at Stockport yesterday. My floaty 1970s maxi came from a fellow seller at Saturday's fair in Stourbridge. As soon as I got home on Saturday evening it was chucked in the washer and, being 100% synthetic, was ready to wear by 5.30am the following day.

1970s Susan Barry maxi skirt (Darling Curtise), fringed bodysuit & beaded velvet choker (both charity shopped), Showgirl's waistcoat (Skye who used to blog), Vintage Pakistani tote (Jumble sale), 1970s filigree coin pendant (the gorgeous Em)

Kinky is pretty much fully booked with fairs from now until mid-December and, after a phenomenal day of sales at Stockport, the rails are starting to look a bit empty. We're already on the hunt for fresh stock, combining a visit to Dad's nursing home with a scout around the chazzas first thing this morning. We've only got a couple of days free as we're off camping and selling at the V Dubs in the Valley this weekend (so please don't get wishing for Autumn just yet).

See you soon!

Linking to Sacramento's Share In Style

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Duvet Day & The Taming of Ginger Alan

My mum used to tell me that back in the 1960s if a girl fancied a new dress she'd buy some fabric & a dressmaking pattern and run something up on a Saturday afternoon to wear to go out that night. Nifty seamstress or not, if you wanted something badly enough you just knuckled down and got on with it. No posting endless wish lists on the internet, no credit card debt and, best of all, no chance of bumping into another girl wearing the same frock.

Which is exactly what I did today. I had an urge for something different to wear, a free morning and a new-to-me Maudella pattern.

The envelope claimed to be a quick sew and it was, completed in two hours and costing less than a quid to make. The 1970s jumble sale duvet cover was already in my fabric stash, the zip salvaged from a tatty old dress destined for the rag bag and the hooks & eyes and thread donated by a friend. 

Barry M Cyan nail paint - day four and still chip-free.

Meet Ginger Alan.

This young & tatty tom cat first appeared one evening in July, staring up at the house and howling plaintively. A proper feral feline, he ran off every time we went near so, in the end, we put out a bowl of food and a dish of biscuits and let him get on with it.

Since then he's returned daily, gradually allowing us to get closer. A fortnight ago he allowed me to stroke him and last week it was Jon's turn. He chats to us, raises his tail in greeting and is partial to a bit of fuss.

We tried shouting various names at him but Alan is the only one he responds to. What is it they say about dogs having owners and cats staff? We're already in his employ.

Duvet dress worn with leather and wood platforms (50p, car boot sale), 1970s Madeira basket (£1.95, Acorns Hospice), Original 1970s Polarised sunglasses (£8, Moseley Vintage & Retro Fair), silver jewellery (India)
Mad cat lady? Mad cat couple, more like.

See you soon!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Made In Walsall

If you've read my blog for a while you'll know that I'm from Walsall, a large industrial town in the Black Country, once the manufacturing heartland of the UK. Even if you've never heard of my home town you'll be very familiar with something made here, the Launer handbags the Queen always carries. 

Known for its leather industry since the middle ages, Walsall's craftspeople manufactured and shipped saddles throughout the entire British Empire and at one time the town was home to almost a third of the UK saddlers. There are still over ninety thriving leather manufacturing companies in business and the town even has a leather museum.

What I didn't know was that during the 1950s we manufactured an iconic sports car, the Swallow Doretti,

 Along with the Gadabout, an incredibly cool scooter.

As part of the Black Country Echoes Festival Kinky Melon, along with a handful of other local indie businesses, was invited to take part in Vintage Vehicles and Views, a celebration marking their 60th anniversary.

Built between 1954 and 1955 just 276 Swallow Dorettis were built at the factory at Aldridge Airport.

The groovy Gadabout was made from 1946 until 1951. This model used to retail at £103 in 1948.

Liz took quite a fancy to it.

These gorgeous delivery lorries were manufactured by Guy Motors in Wolverhampton which closed in 1981, the Black Country's longest surviving powered vehicle manufacturer.

I wouldn't mind having that John Lewis van as a pop-up vintage shop.

Or the chieftain mounted on Gilbert.

As well as some sexy motors was a hand-built, wood fired pizza oven doing a roaring trade. 

 And a local wood carver, Rustic Woodcraft, demonstrating and selling his wares.

Inside Top Hanger were an amazing variety of locally made handmade toys (from Dragonflies Den), silver jewellery (Jolene Smith), felting, painted furniture, home-made cakes & preserves (Hetty's Heavenly Treats), art and printed advertisements & printing blocks from Huxley's, a Walsall printing business founded in 1891.

Liz had a pitch opposite us with her Izzybird bags, corsages and honey from her hives.

I love an industrial setting, bare brick and concrete floors, corrugated metal and steel girders. I'm a townie through and through.

The salvaged cable reels with mismatched chairs and jam jars filled with wild flowers, brambles and berries were a lovely touch.

 There were some great local bands on, too. This was The Brave Boys blasting out a bit of 1950s rock 'n' roll. All in all, a fabulous FREE event for every age group.

 If you live in the West Midlands go to the website and download a programme. There's absolutely loads of interesting FREE stuff on from now until December with everything from art, films, canal trips, exhibitions, visits to temples and houses, events and parties. 

Wherever you live, learn to love your home town instead of moaning about it. We do!

See you soon.

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday.