Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Red Shoes: costumes

I'm feeling rather guilty about going completely AWOL from the blog recently, mostly because the whole point of starting it was to make myself do more writing, and, um... it's not really happened. However, I do have an excuse - A levels will be well and truly upon me in the next month or two, and I have an offer from Cambridge (eek). This means I have to work my backside off to get the grades they want, and even then I'm not sure I'll do it... Anyway, I'm sure you don't want to hear about that. Onto more inspiring topics!
I rewatched one of my absolute favourite films the other day. The Red Shoes (1948) is a visually stunning film based on a fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, with gorgeous dancing and costumes. As a dancer myself (not a patch on Moira Shearer though), this film has basically everything I think a perfect film needs: amazing costumes, dark fantasy, and a healthy smidgen of dancing.

Because I love this film so much, I'm going to do two posts on it. This one will focus on the costumes, and the other one will have a short creative piece focusing on the dancing. Because of course they are the most important things ;)

Anyway. The COSTUMES. (This is going to be extremely picture heavy, so I'll make them smallish to save you scrolling too much.)

I want her hair.

In all the rehearsals and classes the dancers are in, they wear the most fabulous warm up gear. It's all scarves tied in interesting ways and cotton blouses and extremely short shorts. I feel I should try this for my ballet lessons, although I can imagine all that fabric getting rather annoying.

The stage makeup and costumes for the actual ballet are incredibly inventive and dreamy - a lot of them look as though they could come from a modern musical.

And of course we can't forget the everyday clothes of the characters. If I had Victoria Page's wardrobe I would be a very happy woman.

So yeah. Go and watch the Red Shoes, it's not the most cheerful of films but I can guarantee you will be swept away by its sheer awesomeness. I will be back hopefully soonish with some more of my own stuff! I do have a couple of posts lined up, but one needs some photos and the other needs some writing... I'm sure I'll find the time from somewhere. I think I shall have to steal the TARDIS. That's the only way it's possible for a human being to pass A levels and keep up a semi-functioning social life.

Monday, 5 March 2012


I'm not feeling hugely creative today, so I thought I'd give you all a break from my ramblings, and just share with you a couple of poems and pictures I like. In an attempt to tie them vaguely into the theme of this blog, they're all about clothes and fashion of some sort.

A sweet disorder in the dresse
Kindles in cloathes a wantonnesse:
A Lawne about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring Lace, which here and there
Enthralls the Crimson Stomacher:
A Cuffe neglectfull, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving Note)
In the tempestuous petticote:
A careless shooe-string, in whose tye
I see a wilde civility:
Doe more bewitch me, then when Art
Is too precise in every part.
Robert Herrick

 Out came the sun
And out came the dresses
Girls every one
From tissue recesses
Pulled out the new frock
The yellow, the pink,
The lavender-blue frock
And all in a twink
Each one had got on
Her muslin or cotton
Going all gay on
Gingham and rayon,
Golden as sunlight,
Clear as the sky

White as the wisp
Of the cloud floating by;

All clean and crisp
They come in the hour
Of the one light
That opens the heat of the flower
Girls in their summer gowns
Patterned and plain,
Girls in green dots
And rose-coloured spots
Girls like the rainbow that follows the rain
Brightened the streets of the cities again.
Eleanor Farjeon


 To the woman who would dress to achieve poise,
seek mystery in powder,
create romance with perfume,
and meet adventure by the tilt of her hat.
The dedication from How to Make the Most of Your Looks by Dorothy Stote, 1935


Thursday, 1 March 2012

sneak peek

A couple of weeks ago, I went with my friend Marie to Brick Lane for a little vintage photoshoot. The film photos she took have yet to be developed, so I'll do a proper post with a story once I have them. For now, here is my favourite out of the digital ones:

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Henry Clive

When Sweetheart of the Rodeo posted about artwork by Henry Clive, I just knew I had to do a story on one of his paintings. They're exactly the kind of artwork I love, gorgeously colourful and romantic; they seem to have a sense that the artist was completely caught up in the world he was imagining, which I think is important in any kind of art.

This is what I wish I looked like when I'm writing, although the expression on her face is probably pretty accurate :p

"Sultana" 1925, the picture the story is based on.

I wrote this in about 15 minutes in a rather manic mood, so it's a bit different to my normal style.  This was one of those stories where the character takes control of your fingers and won't let go until you've finished. I don't know why this specific character developed; I suppose it was just an amusing contrast to the elegant serenity of the picture ;p


I've always liked art. Silly, I know, for a girl in my position. Art's not really something I should be interested in; it's for ladies of more money and taste than me. But such beauty, such colours, elegance, romance; it makes my life better. I visit the museums on a Sunday afternoon (when I can afford it) and just sit and watch the paintings. It's proper calming, you should try it.

I'd heard of Henry Clive, of course - who hasn't, these days? Not in the big fancy museums, but on the front of practically every magazine cover you see. Don't see why that makes him any less of an artist, though, whatever people say. He picked me out in the street, you know. Said he needed someone with long blonde hair, and was finding it difficult these days, when everyone's having their hair bobbed right, left and centre. I was thinking of it myself, but of course I'm glad I didn't now.

I got to his studio place, excited - I was going to disappear into a wonderful world of colour and romance and beauty, I was sure. He told me he wanted a nude - it didn't bother me, what with no husband or family to care. I don’t think it’s that scandalous, anyway, you see all them ladies in the museums with no clothes on. If it didn’t bother the great painters two hundred years ago, I don’t see why we should bother about it now. It’s only a painting anyway, no-one would know it was me.

But what do you know, it was quite boring! I was a bit disappointed - it wasn't at all glamorous. Hours sat in the same position, not a comfy one neither, with only a silk drapey thing covering me. I was bloody freezing. One arm was out stretched to the side, and he said he'd paint a dove there, perching on my finger. I was supposed to be an Eastern princess, or maybe a harem lady - I'd sort of tuned out, he kept banging on about the context so much. I was wearing some pretty sandals though, so I suppose I must have been rich; I thought they were all barefoot out there in the colonies.

My muscles were aching for days after each sitting, it was that hard work. Who'd have thought it, just sitting around being painted like a lady was so tiring? I'd always thought it was lazy way of making a living, personally. Give me a decent floor to scrub any day.

I saw the final picture, in the calendar, and it was gorgeous - all colours, and flowing drapes and such. He'd put a beautiful palace in the background through the window, and made it all mystical and magic. I certainly didn't look bored or uncomfortable. He'd made me a proper beauty.

He gave me one of the little sketches he'd made at first, but coloured it in and such until it looked like the actual thing. It's pinned on my wall now. Who'd have thought, me, a pin-up?

The calendar's proper successful, too. I didn't tell anyone I was in it - I don't know what they'd say. They don’t know about my liking for art neither. They’d probably laugh at me for being such a wet blanket over a bit of paint. I know people’d talk about the painting, some might say it’s shameful and undignified, and I might lose my situation. It’s probably best to keep it to myself.

Monday, 6 February 2012

she wears the trousers

Caroline stabbed a fork into the roast potatoes. It screeched across the plate underneath, and her mother flinched.
“Caroline, dear, please,” she said, under her breath.
There was silence for a few moments, until Caroline’s grandfather attempted to lighten the mood.
“So, Caroline, what are you planning to do with yourself now you’ve left school?” he asked, looking enquiringly across the table.
“I’m going to university to study physics,” she told him, with a quick glance at her mother. Her lips were pursed, but she said nothing.
“Physics? What’s a girl like you going to do in a physics lab full of men? It won’t get you a job, you know,” he said, grinning.
“Well, times are changing...” she replied, trying to ignore the irritation she always felt when speaking to her grandfather. She knew he didn’t really mean it, was only saying it to tease her, but still... She wasn’t six years old anymore. “I’m going to go to NASA, in America. They say they’ll be the next to get a man into space, the Russians managed it in ’61, and last year they sent a woman up. She wasn’t – didn’t really do any of the proper work though, she just won some kind of competition...  I’m going to work on the moon rockets with them, actually help them build them.”
“Really?” he chuckled. “Mary, you don’t look happy.”
Caroline let out a short, derisive laugh. “That’s an understatement. She thinks I’ll go to NASA, get rejected, then stay in America and become a showgirl or something...”
Her mother blushed. “That’s not what I said, Caroline. You’ve just got to be realistic. I know you’re good at school, but a girl like you is never going to get near any spaceship. Leave it to the professionals, dear.”
Caroline tightened her lips, knowing that if she let her anger spill out it would not go well. Her mother refused to believe that her daughter would do anything remotely unusual with her life. She was so conservative, so backward... There’d even been a fight this morning when she’d told Caroline it was disrespectful to wear trousers to visit her grandfather. What was this, 1930?
“Caroline, dear, don’t look like that. You know I’m only thinking of your future...” said Mary, soothingly, although Caroline took it as more patronising than soothing.
She stood up and pushed her chair from the table, another screech emanating from the rub of its legs against the floor. “I’m going for a walk,” she told them, and strode out before they could call her back.

1960s trousers - etsy
Blouse - vintage at southbank, last year
Cardigan - charity shop
Shoes - matalan

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


This is a sort of draft/plan that I wrote for my Little Monkhams story. I often write a plan like this before typing it up, editing as I go along. This was on a tiny scrap of paper that was all I could find in a boring French lesson :p I thought it made a nice picture.

Posts may be few and far between for the next couple of weeks as I have exams :(

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Winter sunshine

This is what I wore when taking pictures of Little Monkhams yesterday. It was a truly glorious day, with my favourite weather: quite cold, but brilliantly sunny.

I think I'm going to have to get better at taking pictures of myself that aren't quite so universally unflattering. Try as I might, I could not get a full outfit picture in properly, so you will just have to imagine :p

Jumper, belt, skirt - charity shops

Scarf - vintage

Tights - Forever 21

Shoes - New Look

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Little Monkhams

About 15 minutes walk away from where I live, there is an old house called Little Monkhams. When I was little, I used to walk past it every day to get to school, as I do now to get to my current school. It was a gorgeous old white house, apparently dating back to the 16th or 17th century, and the scene of many a local ghost story. Once I could swear I saw an old rocking horse in the window, but the next day it was gone...

However, a lot has changed since I was at primary school.

I was unable to find any pictures of how it used to look, but this is how it looks now:

About 4 years ago, a developper whose name shall not be mentioned applied to turn Little Monkhams into a block of flats.

I'll let that sink in. A BLOCK OF FLATS.

Obviously such a suggestion provoked a strong outcry among its neighbours; directly opposite is a small part of Epping Forest, and a block of flats would just not be right, quite apart from the fact that the house itself was such a gorgeous piece of history. The council refused his request.

He then replied he would "rub their faces in it properly", essentially because he planned to build some flats that were completely out of keeping with the aesthetic of the area.

A few months later, the house caught fire at 2.00am after a week of heavy rain, and could not be put out until a substantial amount was destroyed. The cause of the fire was said to be a fault with the wiring. This is in a house that was not connected to the mains. The developper's application was to be reviewed the very next day.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions, shall I?

What makes me sad is that I could find no pictures of this house as it used to be. All of that history, the lives of people who had lived there - gone. This is my poor attempt to do justice to this once-beautiful building.


The old house groaned, creaking out of years of slumber. Bricks heaved, rooms expanded, a rigid structure made soft by oncoming warmth. It remembered.

There were people once. Rooms full of soft, swishing fabric, sadness, laughter. Fireplaces roared in winter, competing along with the sound of voices. Warmth - but not only physical warmth - the warmth of home, of comfort, that soft, yellow feeling.

And later, when flashes of burning white smashed into its neighbours, in the whine of aircraft and the deep, low booms that caved in the windows, when all around was a panic of anxiety and fear, it stood tall. Proud and calm on its hill, it welcomed them in, enveloping them with strong, safe, reassuring brick. Come and shelter. There are deep cellars, and comfort.

Even in the years that followed, the cold years when no laughter rang through the ancient passages and time and squatters peeled the wallpaper, there was still pride. It said: look at me, and remember. I was once great.

But now - a reawakening - a call; and it called back, welcoming the presence of another person, a fresh, new spark.

But a wrong spark. A spark of true heat, fire burning out the insides. Beams split, creaks ran through the timber of the roof. A sliding, roaring, tumble of a crash as the tiles escaped from the burning roof and smashed, as one, on the wet ground.

But it was tired, and glad to go. No-one was there; no-one cared. Only the lingering glory of past days was left, embodied in the steadfast, reaching chimneys, reaching up to the grey skies above with a silent plea.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

A promise of things to come

Apologies for the absence of creativity in this post, I am snowed under with A level coursework. I have a few posts lined up, including a trip to Spitalfields market with my friend Rebecca and a ghost story about a haunted house near where I live; unfortunately posts are not going to particularly frequent as I am in the midst of my A levels. I will attempt to post at least once a week though.

A lovely vintage blog that I have just discovered is Annie Pancake and the Time Machine. She's holding a giveaway "Vintage Girl's Starter Guide" to celebrate 100 followers. I can only hope I will get there too one day!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Adventures in Paper

Look what I got for Christmas!

This is Charlotte...

...and this is Patricia.

As a child, I used to spend hours playing with paper dolls that could be bought from the Museum of London shop (I think I received the first one as a gift, and then was determined to find the rest of the set). They were all from different historical periods (Roman, Medieval, Tudor, Regency and Victorian) and formed the basis of my understanding of history for a long time.

As you can probably tell, I'm still secretly 9 years old, because pretty much all I did on Boxing Day was cut them out. I think I may do a sort of series on Charlotte and Patricia and their lives, so I can show off all their lovely clothes (15 full outfits each! That's a lot of stories.) I love the 1920's (so elegant!), but there are two reasons why I concentrate my everyday style on the 30s, 40s and 50s:
  1. I don't have the figure for 20s clothes - you need to be tall and willowy, which I definitely am not!
  2. Anything older than 1930s is generally damaged and/or far too expensive for a student budget. Oh well.
Petal details on the hat...

...and clover pattern on the blouse.



“Oh for goodness sake, just knock on the door, Pat,” rang an exasperated voice from the street as Patricia dithered on the doorstep, her hand hovering over the door. She looked round, and saw her sister gesturing impatiently. “Just knock! I want to get inside!”

“I can hardly knock on the door when I’ve got a suitcase in each hand, can I, Char?” she snapped, trying to cover her moment of uncertainty. Rolling her eyes, Charlotte paid the cab driver and came up the steps. Tossing a fold of her elegant black cape over her shoulder, she knocked smartly on the door.

“Leave the bags, someone will get them. They don’t even have a proper knocker...You really should get one of these box capes, you know, they’re much better than that old thing,” Charlotte murmured, with a glance at her sister’s sage green travelling coat. Her foot tapped on the doorstep. “Where the blazes are they?”

A sudden click, and the door was opened by a woman wearing a flowered apron and a disapproving expression. Frowning at Charlotte’s language, she looked at Patricia and broke into a smile.

“Patricia, dear, how are you? And how is your dear mother?”

She ushered Patricia into the house, chivvying her along the hallway into a small drawing room, complimenting her on her ensemble. Patricia, bowled over by the sensations of the new, would normally have been indignant about the woman’s tight grip on her arm; but was suffering from the slight nervous excitement she always felt on entering a new place. It was a place to transform, re-invent her personality; the people here had no idea who she was or what she was like. Not listening to Mrs Griffiths' attempts at conversation, she concentrated on gaining a thorough first impression of the place. She smelt the mustiness from the carpet and felt the flocked wallpaper under her hand, and decided that this would be a much better place for her  - she could become her own person here.

There was one who did know exactly who she was, however, and who might well hold her back from her new and fabulous beginnings.

“Excuse me, Pat, Mrs Griffiths? Where is the manservant, to take our suitcases?”

Mrs Griffiths turned back in the direction of the haughty voice from the front doorstep. “We only have one servant here, and she is at present preparing tea for your sister in the drawing room. Why don’t you take the suitcases up yourself and then go and join her?” she said coldly.

Charlotte was left with her mouth open in outrage in the threshold, as her sister and Mrs Griffiths clattered into the drawing room. The door clicked shut. Shaking her head in disbelief, she picked up one suitcase in each hand and began to struggle up the stairs.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Straw hat

This is my straw hat, for something completely inappropriate for the time of year; a bit of escapism from the rain that was trying to drown London on the day I wrote it. I have no idea how old it is, (well, my best guess would be at least over 30 years old), but for the purposes of this story I'd like to think it's from the late 1930s.


Laura stands by the window, a tear of frustration rolling down her face. The coolness left in the tear’s track catches her attention for a moment; it is a gorgeous contrast to the heat filling the air. She longs for a glass of water and the sweep of a winter wind across her face.
She leans out of the window, hand to her hat, for the third time in as many minutes, even though she knows she will hear the car before she sees it.  Squinting down the road into the sun, she sees nothing but the familiar view: Mrs Keel is outside next door's talking to the cat as she fiddles with her keys; and in the distance a tractor buzzes and grumbles over newly cut wheat. Her heels knock on the boards with nervous irritability.

Unable to stand it any longer, she turns around and flings herself across her bed. Why doesn’t he come?
Her hat flies off with the force of her frustration, hitting the wall with the whisper of a crunch. Another tear escapes, and now they are flowing freely, first hot, then colder as they cool in the air. Her desperate attempt to quench them, dabbing frantically at her eyes with a handkerchief, only serves to spread new mascara over her cheeks. She picks up the hat from the floor and sobs.
It's a simple hat, useful for keeping the sun off her face in this stifling weather, but it's already one of her favourites. She’d sewn a ribbon on, thinking it was a little plain without it, and now it really was hers; the stamp of individuality well and truly there.
But the effort would be wasted if he didn’t arrive. She hadn’t spent two and six on a new hat for nothing: everything had to be exactly right (even though she already had a summer hat that would do just as well). Stupid boy; he obviously didn't care about what hat she wore, and even less about her.
Straw hat - etsy
Circle skirt - handmade by me
Blouse - charity shop
White lace tights - Forever 21