Saturday 26th January saw us spending a lovely morning mooching around the vintage fashion fair which takes place six times a year at The Maltings in Farnham, Surrey.
This fabulous shopping event is packed over two floors with fantastic stalls and traders selling great quality vintage pieces ranging from 1900’s to 1980’s
There’s vintage for everyone here including accessories, shoes and textiles, and all budgets are catered for, right through to high end vintage designer pieces. We really enjoyed visiting all the stalls, meeting the traders (some we’d even met before) and coming across some real vintage gems, including a men’s woollen swimsuit from the 1920’s with the label still attached! An amazing dead stock treasure.
The lovely Naomi of Cocker Spaniel Vintage
The event is run by the lovely Nicola and Marilyn, and is currently in its third year at the Maltings. Nicola also trades at the event as Pret a Vintage and she has some stunning pieces!
Now Lara can spot a true 1940’s piece a mile off whereas my vintage radar can sometimes be a bit off, so its always useful to get chatting to the stall holders who can really help you find what you’re looking for, and nobody knows their stock better than they do! They can travel far and wide to pick up the most amazing stock from around the world. It also helps for future shopping experiences if you’re looking for authentic pieces from a particular era.
That said, it can be fun mixing up eras. Fashion is very cyclical and you can often find great pieces from the 70’s and 80’s that really compliment 30’s and 40’s styles so well. So if you’re not sure of what you’re looking for or you’re new to vintage and want to experiment to find your vintage happy place, then vintage fashion fairs like this are perfect.
Just remember to have your hands free to really look through the stock and if you fall in love with something, keep hold of it!
Nothing haunts us like the vintage we didn’t buy!
you never know what treasures you might find. As for us, well we’ll show you what we bought…..
From 1942-1945 the private golf club at Bushey Hall just outside Watford, London was headquarters for the USAAF 8th Air Force Fighter Command.
Today the original site is home to the Lincolnsfield Children’s Centre – a place that offers day or residential trips to Primary school age children to help them learn about life in the Second World War. On the last Sunday of every month this fabulous centre filled with artefacts is open to the public.
For almost two years now we have been volunteers on these open days at ‘The Forties Experience’, enjoying our monthly escape from the modern world.
The 1940s House
Based in one of the headquarters original nissan huts is ‘The 1940’s House’. Rooms such as the bedroom, kitchen and living room have been faithfully recreated using donated items and artefacts. Visitors (as well as ourselves) are captivated by the authenticity – you truly feel as though you have gone back to the wartime era.
Nothing in the museum is behind glass or out of bounds. Visitors can walk around all of the rooms freely and there is even a dedicated ‘playroom’ with original games, clothes and even a typewriter for guests (young and old) to touch and play with!
Every month as we approach the museum, driving down the old, pot holed road, passing buildings that were once part of this important base we have a real sense of leaving the present day behind.
‘Volunteering’ – by Lara
I feel a definite and distinct weight lifting from my shoulders as I enter the site – almost seeing the history come to life around me. Many of us feel the same way about the place – the sense of history is palpable.
Volunteering gives me a regular opportunity to wear original 1940s clothing (from my rapidly expanding collection) as well as practice the 1940s hairstyles that I love. Everything from the shoes to the perfume that I wear is designed to evoke the era – and nothing makes me happier than when visitors comment on how much I remind them of their mothers or grandmothers!
On arrival each month, as I leave my car and walk across the ‘base’ I feel as though the present day doesn’t exist – I feel as though I’ve entered the 1940s, such is the atmosphere of the site.
The day begins with a tea (or for me a Camp Coffee) in the NAAFI to sign in for the day and catch up with the other volunteers, many of whom were children in the Second World War and have so many memories of their own to share. My chosen outfit will generally be scrutinised (and hopefully approved) by one of our most fastidious volunteers Ann, and then it’s off to the 1940s house ready to greet visitors.
As a history teacher with a passion for this era I have lots to discuss with our visitors, particularly younger ones who are visiting to help with school projects and who can be shown some of the interesting features in the various rooms.
But one of the true joys is chatting with the older visitors as they share their memories of the 1940s and 1950s. My keen interest in the ordinary fashion and beauty of the time means I am often quizzing them on their mothers perfumes, make-up and beauty routines – jotting things down and researching when I get home!
The bedroom dressing table at the museum often spurs memories… the Coty Airspun Powder, the bottle of 4711, as well as numerous other beauty products that have been kindly donated.
‘Volunteering’ – by Emma
My friendship with Lara has certainly opened up a new world for me. She really is the 1940s gal!
I’ve been interested in aspects of World War II since I was a child, but my knowledge has really been limited to books and films.
Visiting the museum for the first time with her was fascinating, and volunteering has offered me a real opportunity to learn about life on the home front, in a replicated home, where you can wander freely and immerse yourself in it all. And I’m lucky to have the most perfect friend to answer all my questions!
I think of myself as more of an eternal visitor than a volunteer, always learning something new and picking up ideas, but I’m quite happy to sit and knit and chat to the visitors or play around with the dressing table and act like I actually live there. Occasionally you may even find me serving in the NAAFI.
For me the museum is a constant learning curve and I love stepping back in time and catching up with the other volunteers.
You can imagine as a pair we can certainly liven the place up with our photo shenanigans and playing house. We do love to immerse ourselves in it all!
What’s to see…
As a visitor (and we both visited quite regularly before volunteering) there is so much to see and experience. Highlights other than the 1940s House include the Blitz experience, military museum, 1940s school room and a Victory garden complete with its own Anderson shelter that the braver visitors can climb down into! As well as regular exhibits there are often reenactors and musicians playing in the Officers club – and no visit is complete without a slice of cake and a cuppa in the NAAFI.
Perhaps our favourite part is the 1940s living room where Emma can sometimes be found knitting (for the forces!) and the sound of Vera Lynn and Glenn Miller come from the gramophone (well, it’s a CD player hidden near the gramophone – can’t waste the needles!)
In this room the table is set for tea and the utility sofa and armchair by the fire create the cosy atmosphere of times gone by.
We are not the only ones that love this room – so many visitors find it brings back memories of either their own, parents or grandparents living rooms. It’s definitely our favourite place to play!
There is so much more to the museum and so many more rooms, exhibits and features to explore. You’ll have to come and see for yourself!
All details of open days are on the museum’s facebook page – click on the link below
You may have read in our recent review of 2018, that we both took part in vintage photo shoots with Pearls Pin Up Parlour and Treasure the Moments Photography at the end of the year.
The photo shoots took place in a wonderful little speakeasy bar in Southampton called Bring and Mix. On arrival you’d never know the bar existed (the whole point of a speakeasy we hear you say). A lamp lit the way above a door in a small street, and after ringing the bell we were greeted by the beautiful Haley and led up the stairs to the secret location revealed from behind a moving bookcase!
Well the room didn’t disappoint. Decorated with period style furnishings that really set the scene for a vintage style shoot, you felt instantly transported back to another era.
Haley and Wayne are so kind and encouraging, taking a real interest in how you would like to present yourself for the shoot and instantly calming the nerves! They took time to talk about the outfits we had chosen to bring and the looks we were hoping to achieve. Lara wanted a 1940’s Hollywood glamour style shoot, whereas I went for a 1930’s look.
The bar accommodated both eras fabulously well as you can see!
Haley is a true marvel with hair and make up. We were both transformed so beautifully, that I almost cried with joy when I saw the beautiful curls she had created. (I have terribly fine hair and was sure she wouldn’t be able to do a thing with it). Lara too had the most amazing 40’s waves. But Haley’s participation didn’t stop there. Together with Wayne, she assisted us in finding the best pose for each shot he took, which helped enormously with our confidence in front of the camera. For me this does not come naturally, but both their patience and encouragement really made us feel like we could do it.
The venue lends itself to so many possibilities for posing, with beautiful furnishings and of course the bar itself. You can even lie on that!… or just perch…
Sip a cocktail, pour a drink or even lounge seductively on the sofa in your vintage stockings and smalls if it takes your fancy. You can take along your own accessories like we did -(Lara took her great aunts compact and I took a vintage train case), or use the variety of props from around the room itself. However you decide to play it, Wayne will make sure you feel happy and comfortable with whichever pose you choose, to get the most flattering shot.
Later Wayne will pick the best shots and email them over, along with a disc of higher resolution copies for printing that he sends through the post.
If you are thinking of trying a photo shoot and you feel nervous or unsure, then we cannot recommend Haley and Wayne highly enough. From beginning to end they were so welcoming, encouraging, attentive and professional, we soon felt completely at ease and have some wonderful pictures to remind us what a fun time we had and just how glamorous we can look!
Just 9 months ago we set up this blog to share our vintage days out and experiences in the vintage world. And what a fabulous time we’ve had!
The initial impetus for entering the blogging world was to review our spring trip to Berlin which we had meticulously planned and researched. Everything from the fabulous Weimar guesthouse we stayed in to the places we visited we wanted to share.
From there we started to plan visits to exhibitions and museums as well as vintage events. 2018 saw us enjoy our first ever visits to the Black Country Living Museum and the Twinwood Festival as well as seeing the glamorous ‘Liners’ exhibition at the V&A and ‘Night and Day’ at the Fashion and Textile museum.
We returned to some our favourite events such as Brooklands Relived and The Watercress Line ‘War on the Line’ as well as continuing to volunteer each month at ‘The Forties Experience’
As our confidence grew we took tentative steps into the re-enacting world representing the WVS at several events and we have developed some lovely relationships with people we have met along the way! In particular we have had some fun with photographers Dave Clarke and Simon Burgess who have taken some brilliant photos of us enjoying our vintage days out!
Posing for Simon Burgess
We also both took the plunge and booked a vintage photoshoot experience – a joint venture between the lovely Haley of Pearls Pinup Parlour and Wayne of Treasure the Moments photography.
There is a blog in the works to review our respective experiences at this shoot!
Speaking of new blogs what else is to come…….?
This year we have already booked some interesting new vintage experiences.
In March we will be travelling to Bruges on the P&O Vintage Cruise! This came highly recommended by some lovely people we met at BCLM this summer and, although we are managing our expectations, we can’t wait to don our finest each night on the ship (ok…ferry) and can’t wait to review it for you!
As the 1940’s event season draws to a close we decided to give our WVS Summer dresses one last outing of the year!
For the second time this year we attended Bletchley Park’s 1940’s weekend – and whereas back in May we went at the end of the Bank Holiday (read our earlier blog!), this time we were determined to see the event at its best by attending on the Saturday.
The weather forecast was good and so our WVS dresses would be suitable for the sunshine – and in the absence of handknitted WVS cardigans, we managed with fabulous Voodoo Vixen ones from their current range – the perfect colour! and we felt that as we were both wearing the same we represented the ‘uniform’ of the WVS!
We arrived just after opening which was a good thing, as not long after, queues of up to an hour had formed with visitors trying to get into the event! If you’re planning to visit next year bear that in mind!
This being our third visit in a year we wanted to focus on the event and what it had to offer rather than revisit the museum exhibits – and there was lots to see!
Outside the mansion were numerous homefront displays, a favourite being the ‘Family at War’ where the lovely Ria Jefferies gives fabulous cooking demonstrations with her mum, as well as selling her wartime home bakes (she kindly set aside two of her delicious rose cakes for us to enjoy with a gin later!). She also sells a wonderful range of vintage packaged tea, coffee and cocoa – as well as her own ‘Ration’ chocolate (the challenge is for Emma to survive on a week’s ration – she didn’t look convinced!)
The Spam hash Ria cooked up was so delicious and we took the recipe home to whip up for our families another time.
Another fascinating display inside the mansion was the ‘Weddings on the Ration’ – a beautiful collection of wedding gowns including CC41 and Double 11 owned by Peter and Marie Bainbridge. Their collection is truly stunning and they take it to various events so keep an eye out!
One thing we remembered from our previous visit to this event was that the shopping was excellent and the selection of stalls offered quality 1940s pieces. Lara broke the record purchasing a suit within two minutes of entering the shopping marquee from one of our favourite sellers Debbie’s Vintage World. In addition there were beautiful corsages and hair flowers from the lovely Miss Bella’s Blooms and some superb hats from Karen Back of the Heritage Milliner.
We were also excited to see Sarah Dunn again and we both treated ourselves to new turbans – knowing that these days you have to set a timer for her Etsy restocks and often your item is sold before it even reaches your basket!
And that’s one big difference we noticed from our last visit here to this one – the number of people that we knew and that we got to say hello to!
Back in May The Vintage Tourists were fairly new but in the 4 months between events we have gotten to know so many wonderful people through Instagram and Facebook and it was a great social occasion for us as much as anything else. The vintage community is a very welcoming one and it was so lovely to meet other enthusiasts whether they be 1940’s reenactors or just vintage loving people! It was a pleasure to meet other WVS reenactors – some in dresses made by Rachel too, and see all the wonderful outfits worn by the visitors of the event who really make an effort.
Later in the afternoon we sat by the dance tent, listening to the sounds of the 1940’s whilst enjoying a delicious beverage from the ‘Gin Nook’ and the rose cake that Ria had saved for us!
It’s a lovely event that we will undoubtedly return to again and again. If you are thinking about it for next year, you may need to allow at least two days if you want to take in the museum as well as the event itself – there is SO much to see. Luckily a ticket for Bletchley Park gains you entry for the entire year and so you can always return to see the bits you missed another time.
Ever since we began The Vintage Tourists, the one festival that we heard the most about and the one we most wanted to visit was Twinwood. But having already blown our annual ‘tourist’ budget on our earlier trip to Berlin (read about it if you haven’t already!) how were we going to manage it?
Held every August Bank Holiday weekend at the historic airfield site, Twinwood is a festival packed with music, dancing and shopping. The site opens on the Thursday until Tuesday with 3 full days of entertainment (not even counting the Friday night). We knew that one day would not be enough and also that we were going to be pushed to afford tickets for the amount of time we wanted to stay for. And we didn’t want to wait for 2019!
So, as luck would have it Twinwood organise a Mr and Miss Vintage competition every year and offer free tickets to those who manage to make it into the finals – worth a shot we thought!
The competition has several rounds, the first being an online Facebook vote. The contestants who make it into the top 30 based on votes get through to the second round where the organisers of Twinwood choose the 10 that they want to put into the finals (a show on the Sunday in the Colonial Club).
Despite having reservations about putting our mugs out there on social media to be judged we did it anyway, and we were relieved to see only positive comments made… and even better, lots of votes!
First round photos…
In fact both of us made it through to the second round (yay!) along with a good friend of ours who we work with at the Forties Experience when we volunteer there.
Although we never like to compete with one another, the fact that we promised to take each other meant we only needed one of us through – the odds looked good.
Given that we are writing about Twinwood goes to show that one of us made it through and so we hurriedly rearranged Bank Holiday plans and sorted childcare and imposed a summer shopping ban on ourselves so that we could justify a big shopping spree at Twinwood! (and boy, did we!)
Arriving first thing on the Saturday morning the sun was shining and we had no idea what to expect. We had decided to dress casually for the day (there would be enough outfit stress on the Sunday for the comp) and after a quick coffee we got stuck into the stalls around the main arena. In record time we had made purchases (I snapped up a lovely blue sweater from Cherry Retro and Emma found a beautiful 70’s does ’30s dress).
Bought within minutes!
These stalls were just the tip of an amazing shopping iceberg!! Some of our favourite sellers were there including The Heritage Milliner, Pin Up Curl and Deborah’s Vintage, as well as House of Foxy and What Katie Did.
A particularly exciting moment was spotting a display of the American cosmetic brand Besame on the Voodoo Vixen stand (they are now UK stockists!!), and we saw for the first time the full range of beautiful products and lipsticks, walking away as proud owners of the 1941 shade Victory Red! Another shopping ‘coup’ was getting a full head turban by Sarah’s Doo Wop Dos! Anyone who has ever set their timer for her Etsy restock will appreciate how lucky we were to peruse a CHOICE of items on sale at her salon!
After a few hours our arms were aching with purchases and we had to do a ‘car drop’ so that we could relax in the afternoon!
Entertainment at the festival is fantastic offering something to suit all vintage tastes. Numerous dance classes are offered around the site for all levels of ability and we enjoyed a lovely cup of tea in the Colonial Club watching a beginners class.
The main arena has some incredible acts and visitors to the event bring their own chairs to sit and enjoy the various performances – a highlight for us was enjoying a gin and tonic watching the fabulous Glenn Miller band!
Evening entertainment is equally varied and there are so many venues to choose from. We chose the Casablanca Club – an intimate seated venue with atmospheric lighting where we enjoyed some wonderful music by the fabulous Sara Spade before heading to bed ready for the Miss Vintage finals the following day.
MISS VINTAGE FINALS
Sunday brought with it heavy rain, but having spent a fortune the previous day we were happy to dedicate Sunday to prepping for the Miss Vintage finals.
I had booked into the hair salon run by Sarah’s Doo Wop Dos to have my hair done (too many stressful hair calamities have made me run late to events before!) and Jess did a fantastic job of a 1940’s page-boy type style that would go well with my hat. (She can be found on FB and IG as ‘Rock’n’Rolla Hairstylist’).
I had chosen my outfit to represent the aspect of history that I find most interesting – fashion for the ordinary 1940’s women. This era was all about utility and austerity, and although a risky choice for a competition like this I could only be comfortable in an outfit that meant something to me.
The dress was an original 1940’s piece (sourced on ebay) and had all the features of the ‘make do and mend’ era. The collar had been re-stitched numerous times and the skirt section was decorated with embroidered flowers which in fact hid moth holes and damage. I loved that the original owner had worked hard to keep the dress going – and had done such a good job that I was able to wear it in 2018, still in good condition.
I needed a hat and decided (since hats were never on ration anyway) to have one made. I have long admired the Heritage Milliner’s pieces and Karen, the owner, made me a fabulous black felt hat with orange stitching to match the dress.
Bag and gloves were original pieces from Etsy sellers The 1940s Shop and Glitx and Pieces.
Being in the finals involves a rehearsal early on in the day to mark places on stage and go through the order of the show. Due to the rain and the number of people sheltering in the marquee we had quite an audience for this and it was good preparation for what was to come!
The other finalists were all lovely ladies and as we got ready in the dressing room (not as glamorous as it sounds!) it was great to see so many lovely vintage outfits and eras represented. Emma was there keeping me calm and stopping me from having a third gin and tonic (I’d already sunk two rather quickly in the hour before the show for some ‘Dutch courage’!) as well as reassure me that my outfit was good enough.
Then on to the show…
Lining up backstage were a lot of very nervous ladies ready to strut their stuff. I kept thinking ‘whose idea was this again?’ but show organiser Sarah Dunn (yes, of DooWopDo’s!) was so lovely and supportive I managed to make it up the stairs and on stage!
The Crowd! (spot the Vintage Tourist!)
I can’t quite remember what I said as I was dazzled by the lights and the huge crowd but hosts Lola Lamour and Dusty Limits were very supportive and I got through it somehow! It was comforting to look out into the crowd and see my fellow vintage tourist waving (and stressing even more than I was!!)
When the results came I was honoured to be placed third and took home some fantastic prizes from the show and its sponsors.
Can I recommend entering Miss Vintage? Yes, if you have nerves of steel! Despite the backstage terror I’m so glad I entered and that we were able to attend this fantastic festival. We met so many amazing people, in particular some Instagram friends that we were delighted to catch up with for the first time.
The lovely Felicity!
This is an amazing event full of great entertainment and truly wonderful, friendly people. We’ll definitely be back!
We just want to take a moment to talk about vintage styling and what it means for us. The vintage world is like a sweet shop. There are so many eras to choose from and within those eras there are many many styles. The 1950’s wasn’t all about circle skirts and petticoats, just as the 1940’s wasn’t all victory rolls.
We’re always very touched when people comment on our style/ outfits or hair. But it isn’t always something that comes easily and for one of us in particular it can feel like a battle at times (not with each other, we never do that)!
We both have a love for the 1930’s and 1940’s but we really enjoy experimenting with other era’s too, and I confess to having a little place in my heart for some 60’s and 70’s polyester at times.
But wearing true vintage, particularly from earlier eras can be tricky. It’s hard to find, and the choice of sizes can be very limited.
I often find that it’s much harder for me to find true vintage pieces to fit my shape and so I rely more heavily on reproduction. Although we are not polar opposites in size, we are a good 2 dress sizes apart and that definitely helps Lara to have a more authentic 40’s look. However… don’t fall into the vintage snobbery trap, where only true vintage head to toe is acceptable. Vintage is inclusive to all, and if you love the cut or shape of an era but you can’t find an original piece to fit, we can give you a whole list of amazing retailers who produce beautiful garments, tailored right down to the smallest historical detail. Or others that produce gorgeous outfits ‘in the style of’ – anything goes in the vintage world. We’ve listed some links to some of the websites at the bottom.
On to hair…Although we share a very similar colour, Lara’s hair is thicker, more malleable and easier to style. Mine is fine and straight. It can’t hold a curl for more than a day and is in danger of looking greasy and lank if I use too much product. It’s hard work styling it and it can be frustrating and disheartening at times. But I’m learning that it’s ok not to wear it in victory rolls or waves all the time. Women back in the 40’s had different hair types then too! So just go with what suits your face shape and your hairs styling ability. I’m currently sporting a very short bob! We love that together we create a great look and can show others that are interested in vintage that there are many ways to embrace it.
Some people will always seem more authentic than others. Some have more time and money to spend on their passion and others just love the look and feel of it. It’s NOT a competition. It’s about enjoying dressing in the eras we love, whether it’s all out head to toe, or those little touches that can turn a modern day outfit into a vintage styled look.
We admire many women (and men) for their vintage looks, and they all come in different shapes and sizes, wear different interpretations of the styles they love and just enjoy playing their part in the vintage world in their own ways…Just like us!
So…. Our top tips for vintage styling?
Wear what you love , enjoy it, experiment, never compare, and just be you!
Some of the online shops we love:
(Click on the links to view their ranges)
The House of Foxy has beautiful pieces – you can even view their range by decade on their website: House of Foxy
Rock n Romance stock other brands as well as their own fabulous items. Our favourite Hawaiian vintage style dresses are from here: Rock ‘n’ Romance
Vivien of Holloway – A beautiful range of 1940’s and ’50’s style dresses – we love her tea dresses in particular : Vivien of Holloway
Pretty Retro are linked to House of Foxy but have a more ‘affordable’ range – we both shop here often!: Pretty Retro
Heyday are another brand that produce very authentic reproductions: Heyday
And for shoes….. the ultimate reproduction footwear comes from Rocket Originals – their styles and ranges vary each season. If you have your eye on a pair don’t hesitate! (They also have a Etsy page that is worth keeping an eye on) Rocket Originals