zaterdag 17 maart 2018

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

I'm rewinding to last Saturday, when it was time for the famous (or should that be infamous) annual charity shop event here in Belgium, called Retrodag (Retro day), loved and loathed by vintage aficionados in equal measure.

While I'm the first to admit it isn't much fun that throughout the year most of the exciting vintage stuff is put aside, to be sold on this day at often inflated prices, I mustn't grumble, really, as it's still worth having a look at what's on offer.

This year, we weren't looking for anything in particular - we've got more than enough of the Boch dinner services we are collecting, for instance - so we were just browsing.

Here I am posing beside a truck advertising the event, which was parked near one of our local shops.

But that wasn't our first port of call.  Having been disappointed with that shop's offerings in the past, we started at a shop which is usually last on our list, as it has a good, reasonable priced selection, and therefore we have yet to leave it empty handed.

They also have three huge racks of vintage clothing which, apart from the odd exception, they are selling at their regular fixed prices.

I ended up with my arms full of stuff. Just browsing, you know ...

But let me tell you about what I was wearing first.

Mustn't grumble about the weather either. It was quite mild and the forecasted rain held off until mid afternoon - but we were back home by then. 

Fed up with the coats I've been wearing on rotation, I took advantage of the mild weather by opting for the shorter length, three quarter sleeved new-to-me swing coat I snapped up back in February.

There was really no need for the beret, but I love wearing them and have to wean myself off them very slowly.

Although most of my accessories were red, I chose this blue rimmed plastic brooch for contrast. There is a tiny bit of red in it as well!

I didn't even wear a cardigan, but pulled this vintage waistcoat from my wardrobe. It's made from red and white marled wool and knit in a diamond pattern.

The print of the black dress is a riot of colour and pattern. The fabric is smooth and silky and, especially when interacting with its lining, makes a satisfying swish-swish sound whenever I move around. 

I added a red belt, red beads and red opaques. 

The brooch I chose was a big green butterfly, as it needed to compete with the dress's pattern.

A turquoise scarf and navy handbag and booties completed my outfit.

After spending our money at the first shop, we made a little detour to the shop near the park. 

We'd packed a picnic, fully expecting to eat it while sat in the car, but as there was still no sign of rain, we went off in search of a suitable bench in the park.

The green thing I'm carrying under my arm is a picnic rug to put on the bench in case it was still wet. It's from CADW, the Welsh version of English Heritage, and bought when visiting Tintern Abbey back in 2009.

While we were enjoying our picnic, Jos suddenly noticed these two delightfully bushy-tailed red squirrels, who seemed to be playing  a game of tag in a tree. Tiptoeing ever closer, I was able to catch them and their antics on camera. Aren't they the epitome of cuteness?

Now, without further ado, let me show you what I found in that first treasure trove of a shop!

Uncharacteristically, I didn't try anything on as I couldn't face the inevitable queues, nor did I use my tape measure as I didn't have it with me. But I'm happy to report that all, apart from two dresses which I will be selling on, are perfect fits.

First up is this charming lilac frock. While its bodice is rather sparsely patterned, the print gets denser on the skirt. I love lilac paired with orange, so I was delighted to find timid splashes of orange in the print, prompting me to add bright orange beads and an orange belt. 

You can never go wrong with red and white and the bamboo print of this handmade frock, with its simple cut, short sleeves and tie, is particularly appealing.

Navy and green is another favourite, and I love how the skirt is cut on the bias, creating a chevron effect in the front and the back, contrasting with the vertical stripes on the bodice.

Love at first sight for the funky print of this dress, although I am not totally convinced about its neckline, closing with a little tie string, and its puff sleeves. Oh, but that print!

Last to join my wardrobe is this blue and white patterned dress, which still has its self fabric belt. It is hemmed in white with a blue stripe, which also appears on the collar and the placket. 

I couldn't get enough of the funky fabric of the penultimate dress, so that I used it as a background for the jewellery I found lurking on the counter of the same shop.

These two necklaces (the one on the right isn't vintage but I love its colours) came home with me, together with three brooches I plucked from a basket. The large one in the middle is Limoges and was my most expensive find at € 10. 

Finally, among the racks of vintage fashion was this psychedelic print bathing suit, made from a soft, strokeable towelling fabric. I took a chance on it and by a stroke of luck, it fits me to perfection.

All I need now is an occasion to wear it, but with temperatures plummeting back to the sub-zeros, that's not likely going to be anytime soon!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!

dinsdag 13 maart 2018

Go Welsh!

I'm glad to report that the cold snap we've been having has come and gone and that we have clearly been spared the worst of it here in Belgium, with hardly any snow to speak of.  So, I'm putting it down to experience, giving me the chance to wear my warmest jumpers and my fur coat, as I'd already resigned myself to the fact that the latter would go unworn this Winter.

There was no time - and besides it was far too cold to stand still for long enough - for outfit photos, so you will have to make do with the winter fashions some of my vintage girls were wearing.

A raven haired # 5 Ponytail (1960) and a ginger haired Swirl Ponytail (1964) are modelling two versions of the same coat and hat, aptly called "It's Cold Outside", dating from 1964.

The same dolls are now wearing "Knitting Pretty" (1963), consisting of a royal blue skirt and twin set, which came with a bowl of wool and knitting needles as well as the smallest pair of scissors ever, and "Ski Queen", also dating from 1963. From this set, I am missing the skis and ski poles.

Moving on to the "mod" girls now! From left to right, here's Twist 'n Turn Barbie (1967) wearing "Wild 'n Wintery" (1971), a later Twist 'n Turn Barbie (1969), with a shoulder length flip, wearing "Magnificent Midi" (1971), and Twist 'n Turn Christie (1970), whose hair has oxidized to a funky red, wearing "Snug Fuzz" (1968), a hot pink fake fur suit worn with silver lurex tights!

More 1970s grooviness in these two outfits. On the left, a yellow blouse with scarf tie compliments a pair of wildly patterned knit trousers and a long vest. It even has a matching bag! On the right, a bright green ribbed jumpsuit, with a royal blue belt, and a midi length white fur vest trimmed with three rows of floral braid.

The first few days of the "big freeze", it was all fine and dandy, with me proclaiming loudly to all and sundry that really, I wasn't feeling the cold at all.

Then, on Wednesday of that fateful week, the sub-zero temperature was joined by an arctic wind, which made my eyes sting and my sight blurry, while my nose felt like it had been stuck in an ice bucket, triggering a bad headache. In short, I was feeling quite sorry for myself.

Then Jos called me at work, saying that a parcel had arrived for me from the UK. As there was no way that I could wait until I got home, I asked him to open it. It turned out to be from Vix, and it was the most fabulous Welsh wool jacket ever.

Naturally, Saturday's outfit had to feature it.

It had started snowing on Friday afternoon but by the time we left the house on Saturday, thaw had set in, so that most of the white stuff had gone.

Nevertheless, in order to prove that we did actually have some snow, outfits photos were taken in the one spot in our garage's courtyard where it hadn't melted yet!

You have seen it all before: my houndstooth coat, green woolly hat, furry wrap and snow boots.

What you haven't seen yet, of course, is Vix's gorgeous Welsh wool jacket. It is sleeveless and closes with a suede belt with metal clasp at the waist.

It has pockets too, in the same suede as the belt, and the best thing is that it's in my favourite shade of my favourite colour: moss green!

Underneath, I am wearing a dark green dress made from a Trevira blend of 90% polyester with 10% wool, patterned with swirls in orange and greyish green.

For my accessories, I took the lead from the orange in the dress by adding an orange belt and chunky necklace.

The brooch, which also features bits of orange, was a flea market find and Beate has told me that it might be Bohemian.

We were off to the charity shops, not expecting to find much, as the Retro Day was coming up (it has come and gone by the time you read this).

I couldn't resist the shallow box on the left. The box itself is made from stiff carton, with gorgeous black-necked swans on its padded fabric lid. There is no clue of what it might have originally contained. Chocolates or biscuits, perhaps? Or maybe it was a set of napkins or pillow cases?

From another shop, I picked up a small bag of sewing odds and ends, featuring hooks and eyes and press studs in all sizes, as well as a card of plastic belt buckles. Both were € 0,50. There was also another necklace for my collection, which I think was € 1.

Other finds include a  gorgeous 100% wool plaid skirt, a turquoise frilly scarf and a burgundy vinyl belt.

While Jos was browsing the crates of vinyl, I spotted this Welsh language course standing proudly on top of one of the bookshelves.  Now we've really got no excuse not to learn a bit more than things like "bore da" and "diolch". I already started a similar course a couple of years ago, but had to give it up due to lack of time. 

It may come as a surprise that we won't actually be going to Wales this Summer, but we will be near enough to nip over the border once or twice, so that we can practice the Welsh phrases we hopefully will have mastered by then!

Now I am seriously craving some Welshcakes, so it's about time that we whip up a batch very soon.

Meanwhile, I'm taking my Welsh jacket over to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!

vrijdag 9 maart 2018

The iced castle

Once upon a time, there was a princess, who ended up living in the smallest of cottages by mistake.

She was mad about vintage clothes and all manner of lovely things, but the cottage was really tiny, and soon it was at risk of bursting at the seams.

At night, she tossed and turned and often woke up in a sweat. Arguably, this could have been just a symptom of the menopause but, either way, she often lay staring blindly at the ceiling with its twinkling second hand chandelier.

What was she to do? Time and time again, she vowed never to go near the charity shops again. Nor Think Twice! She was quite determined: her decision was made!

But then the weekend arrived and it was as if she was being pulled by a huge magnet, so she had no choice but to put on her shoes and her coat and drag her poor, long-suffering husband along for another hunting spree.

The fearsome devils of second hand shopping clearly had her in their might!

One day - it was bitterly cold, and she had to dig out her € 4 vintage snow boots from Think Twice -  a thought hit her.

If she really was a princess, then what was she doing living in this tiny cottage? Weren't princesses supposed to be living in castles?

Surely, there must be an abandoned castle she could move into!

She and the long-suffering husband took the car and went for a ride. 

Soon after they left their village, they stumbled upon a long avenue of tall, centuries old linden trees. In the distance, a shimmering white building seemed to be beckoning them.

They started walking the cobblestone path in its direction and emerged from the tunnel of trees onto a courtyard flanked by two freshly painted white coach houses which, judging from the scaffolding, were currently being renovated.

Ahead, beyond a grey and white railinged bridge guarded by dazzling white lions and sphinxes, was a three-storeyed mansion fit for a princess.

As she walked into the direction of the stone steps and the four columned portico leading to the entrance, she couldn't help thinking of a lavishly iced cake, its finger-licking layer of white fondant brilliant against the deep blue of the sky.

Close up, she could see that the hand of time had left cracked paintwork and crumbling, pockmarked plaster.

But these flaws only enhanced its enchanting details: the portico's elaborately stuccoed ochre ceiling, the bas-relief panels and the scroll topped columns.

There were the most delightful ornamental door knobs shaped like topsy-turvy helmeted knights, while through a gap in the shutters, an exquisitely tiled border featuring water lilies and dragonflies could be glimpsed.

But the doors were firmly locked, and so were those at the back where a crumbling circular set of stairs led up to shuttered French doors slowly rotting away in their frames.

From the gravelled terrace, a glorious view towards the lake opened up. A gap in the railing, watched over by a pair of haughty sphinxes, revealed a set of steps leading down to the water. 

It wasn't hard to imagine a crinolined lady being rowed from here to the thatched summer house nestling under the trees, for a spot of quiet reading, perhaps.

At this point, it was clear that the princess had to abandon her plans of moving in and transforming one of the salons into a huge walk-in wardrobe.

In order to get the lay of the land, she and the husband decided to negotiate the path of frozen mud around the lake where, through the winter bare trees, the castle kept begging for mercy.

Then, a sudden carpet of snowdrops heralded the coming of Spring.

An abandoned boat, its tacky orange plastic decorated with mosses and graffiti, provided a focal point when the bulk of the castle temporarily disappeared from view.

Some of the trees were dead or dying, waiting to tumble and crumble to dust.

The lake's circuit completed, the castle came into full view again, with the steps leading out to the lake on the left, and one of the courtyard's coach houses on the right.

With heavy hearts, the princess and her husband turned their backs on the castle, and returned to the tiny cottage, where the princess continued to daydream (and lie awake at night!), while cramming her newly found treasures into her already full to bursting wardrobe.

The princess was wearing:

Knitted skirt, acrylic striped jumper, boots, coat and woolly turban: Think Twice
Scarf and orange cardigan peeking out from coat sleeves: charity shopped
Necklace: the great late Blender Vintage Shop 
Brooch: flea market
Opaques: market stall
Fingerless gloves: retail

maandag 5 maart 2018

Dear diary

Way before I started blogging, which feels like eons ago, but is actually only 2 years to the day, I was already in the habit of taking my camera everywhere. I just love taking photographs as a scrapbook of my life, so it was only natural that at some point I would virtually take up pen and paper and start adding words.

That day of reckoning was 5th March 2016, which means that I'm celebrating my second blogiversary today!

The days that I kept an actual diary - a couple of innocent looking exercise books to deter my Mum's curiosity - were short-lived. It was between the ages of 15 and 17 that I meticulously filled their pages with my girly handwriting with its unnecessary curves and curlicues.
When I left home to start a life of my own, I got rid of my diaries, thinking them childish and forgettable. Oh, how I mourn that decision! But for one look into the soul of my late 1970s self.

But I digress, even if only just a little.

Blogging has, in all honesty, changed my life. Ever since I typed those very first words and hesitantly pushed publish for the very first time, not only have I finally taken up a diary again - and a well-documented one at  that - I have met many kindred spirits to share it with.

Yes, I mean you, my dears!

So, as a way of celebration, I am looking back over my second year of blogging, dipping into my posts and photographs, and selecting some highlights. Which wasn't easy, believe me, so that this post is rather picture heavy.

The first photo transports me right back to the very first Springlike day last March when, strolling through our favourite local park, it was mild enough to pose in my folksy dress.

One month later, on a fine April's day, we visited an antiques market at a castle and afterwards walked through the castle grounds. I was wearing a hat I'd just scored and, sitting down on that weathered log, I felt totally at peace with the world.

In May, I posted about my maternal grandmother, Bertha, and tried to emulate her marvellous style. I was wearing a pair of my Mum's glasses, and a hat I'd recently found at a flea market. 

A particularly hot day in June and the perfect opportunity to wear this 1970s cotton sundress trimmed with rickrack. 

Our holiday in Wales was one of two halves, with a difference of about 20 degrees Celsius between them. These photos were taken on our first day, with the whole two weeks still in front of us.

But the weather changed after less than a week and by the end of our holiday the only thing left to do was shopping. We visited all the charity shops and antique centres in the area, one of them yielding a Pirate's bounty (I'm quoting Beate here) of brooches. 

July brought a couple of outdoor flea markets, and we even participated in one, right outside our front door (above), where my stock of vintage clothes sold like hot cakes.

One week later we found treasure at another flea market (below) where my maxi skirt was duly admired.

Rain was very much on the agenda in August, prompting me to do a raincoat post, and engage in some cosplay, emulating 'Allo 'Allo's Michelle Dubois! 

The weather gods were a little bit more lenient on our week's holiday in Belgium's west country in September.

Look, even had lunch outside one day! 

On another day, we nipped over the border to France and had coffee in a café where time seemed to have stood still. Well, it certainly did for those flies!

Back at home, we were treated to some glorious late Summer days.

At the end of September, we celebrated Jos's milestone birthday with a day out in Antwerp, visiting the MAS museum in the old port area.

Indian Summer continued in October and my colourful frocks had a hard time competing with the brilliant Autumn leaves.

Here comes the rain again! In November, I reminisced about the 1980s, wearing a bat wing dress gifted by the lovely Gisela!  Photos were taken on a rare sunny break between showers.

Later that month, you were given a glimpse into my vintage Barbie doll collection, with a promise of more to follow.

December was dismal and dark, with lots of rain, as well as a tiny bit of snow.

A rainy sunday took us to the wonderful Expo 58 shop, where we were welcomed with a delicious cup of hot chocolate.

Then the Christmas break was upon us. On Boxing Day we walked in Middelheim sculpture park, crossing Ai Weiwei's Bridge Without a Name.

Another year, another bridge! January continued to be gloomy but we grabbed every minute of sunshine to go for a walk, like we did that Sunday at the blue bridges.

Then, February arrived with lots of sunshine, but with a sting in its tail courtesy of the Beast from the East.

About half way through the month, I had the honour of doing twin posts with the fabulous Beate, one of the absolute highlights of my blogging year!

And so, a new year of blogging begins, the diary's empty pages waiting to be filled with new adventures, great and small.

A big thank you to all my readers and followers, you're what's making it all worthwhile!

Now, without further ado, I'm linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style.