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Thursday, 30 April 2015

TRY THIS - A Basket Case No More

I find I sweat the small things. With Trojan horse zeal I attack the big stuff but puny annoyances are apt to beat me and none more so than the day-to-day handbag switcheroo. Moving from rucksack on a gloomy Tuesday to straw tote on a sunny Wednesday creates no end of stress for me. At day's end, my Oyster card has ended up in the pocket of my mackintosh and my glasses are now next to my desk. My phone has disappeared entirely and somehow my favourite lippy is hiding in the recess of a dark, forgotten pocket. Inevitably after swapping over to a different bag, I leave the house several essential items light. But with a recent Avenue Vintage & Antique Market find, I think I've cracked the case of switheroo stress. When I arrive home I immediately dump the contents of my bag (and pockets) into this basket. It's wide opening allows me to see my indispensables with ease. Taking it by the handle, I poodle about the house collecting crucial bits and bobs that have strayed during the day. This is now the woven home base for all my vital belongings, ensuring I'm no longer a handbag basket case. Its miraculous daily effect makes it a downright bargain at just £14. 

To read my recent post 
on Henpicked CLICK HERE 

Monday, 27 April 2015

FOUND - Stories Echo in A Silk Scarf

I found this silk scarf at the monthly Avenue Vintage & Antique Market (AVAM) CLICK HERE in West Ealing. It's the product of an American maker founded by a husband & wife team on their wedding day in 1923. New Yorkers Edgar and Theresa called their new venture Echo, an acronym of Edgar C Hyman & Co. Eventually headquartered on 5th Avenue, the scarf maker built up an impressive archive of prints. In 1956, Edgar Haymen's son-in-law had the job of finding the best way of getting the company's product, now made in Italy, to American shores. He chose the newest and much-heralded transatlantic vessel, the Andrea Dora. On the night of 25 July, just off the east coast of the USA, bound for NYC, the ship collided with a Swedish liner, the USS Stockholm. Echo's Fall line of scarves was lost to the depths of the sea. It was the height of summer and the Italian manufacturers were due to close for the season but as a testament to the good will Echo had forged, the factories stayed opened and re-made all of the drown silk accessories.   

In 1974 inspired by a request from the Smithsonian Institute to create a replica of the 1876 World's Fair commemorative scarf, Echo established a custom design division, working with the likes of MOMA and The Art Institute of Chicago. And the Windy City connection would continue when in 2003 Echo opened its first free-standing concession inside the city's famed Marshall Fields department store. This silk, I repeat silk, beauty was just £9 at AVAM. It's relatively new but I like to imagine it washed up on British shores, once a neatly folded passenger on the ill-fated Andrea Dora. Look out for 2nd-hand Echo scarves - they're quality items with a storied pedigree.       

Friday, 24 April 2015

FOUND - Coat From Another Time & Place

I found this cotton jacket at the Cancer Research charity shop near Ealing Broadway. It reminded me of the sort of thing that hung on hook in our garage when I was a kid in small town Ohio. My mom would have pulled it on before jumping in the car to zoom up to the local grocery after realizing she didn't have enough milk or eggs or tinned tomatoes. It's the perfect weekend topper; relaxed tom-boy style. When my husband spotted me wearing it, he said, "Nice Harrington." Not more cockney rhyming slang I thought. But it turns out this jacket is a Harrington, the sort of coat James Dean, Frank Sinatra and Rodney Harrington made famous. Rodney is the fictional character played by a young Ryan O'Neal in the 60s blockbuster TV soap opera Peyton Place. Rodney, a kid from a well-off family falls for Mia Farrow's character, Allison MacKenzie, a girl whose father is in prison. Ryan-as-Rodney wore a jacket not unlike this one, and it was consequently dubbed the Harrington. Not long ago I read Peyton Place, the book-come-film-come-TV show that caused a huge stir in the 50s when it debuted. It was once considered trashy and trite but today on reflection Grace Metalious' novel is nothing short of a classic, much like the jacket it inspired. The price of Peyton Place weekend chic? £10.        

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

TRY THIS - It's A Novel Idea. The End.

I find I judge books by their covers, not metaphorically but actually. Oh how often I fancy reading a 2nd-hand book because its graphic first impression captures my imagination. The vibe, colour combo, type face, even the size of certain books inspire my style eye. With that in mind, I've decided to accessorize with reading material. Of course the visionary Olympia Le-Tan is making clutch bags that LOOK just like books CLICK HERE, and I'd love to own one. Sadly my purse isn't nearly big enough to afford one of her's. 

Turn the page and at the 2nd-hand bookstalls on London's South Bank I find these bound beauties. Once each is paired with the perfect clutch purse, I've got a book look that I can't put down. Admittedly it's not an everyday style, and the right bag is crucial if it's to work. But occasionally, making a hardback part of your ensemble is easy-peasy in my book.    

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

FOUND - Reflection of One Not Yet Met

I find secondhand gifts from my sister-in-law some of the best I ever get. She's aware of my penchant for pre-owned and so passes on to me little things that belonged to her mother. I never met my mother-in-law. Sylvia died a year before my path crossed her son's. But through small objects - this compact, my wedding ring, a collection of a hankies - I have made her acquaintance. The stories my husband tells me about his mother and family photos help to round out my mental picture of this much-loved woman.  

Sylvia bought this compact from Kays of Worcester, via their once-ubiquitous catalogue CLICK HERENot unlike Sears and Roebuck - an American retailer that started out as a mail order business - Kays sold all sorts of items via catalogue, including ready-to-wear fashions launched in the 1920s. The scratches and worn patches on this fashionable compact are evidence that Sylvia really used it. She would have checked her hair and make-up or removed dust from the eye that looked on her children with constant concern. I wonder what price Kays put on the compact when it was new? Well worn it's priceless to me.     

Monday, 20 April 2015

FOUND - Face to Face at My Place

I find myself surrounded with like-minded women. They're an eclectic group of gals who've been my friends for years. We're a close knit group - I strip down to my knickers in front of them every day. They are the lovely ladies who line the walls of my dressing room.

Framed ink drawings, ceramic busts, old postcards, a needlepoint portrait, a charcoal nude, photographs and more; all images of women that I've found compelling. 

Of course they're secondhand sirens. From flea markets, garage sales, Ebay, car boots and of course charity shops I've tracked down these highly decorative dollies. 

Like mirrors, the images reflect the me I see and the me I wish I could be. My girls remind me that beauty is an expansive word, its permutations endless. 

Faces from places far and wide, the girls mark my travels. I remember the estate sale in Washington DC, the secondhand shop in Florida, the window in Antwerp, the auction house in Chelsea, the antiques barn in Ohio, the roadside stall in Harare. From high art to cast offs, they are the company I keep.

From my dressing room, a self-important name for the room wear I dress, these lovely ladies wish me well. At day break do I hear them remind me I'm special, so special...

Friday, 17 April 2015

FOUND - Blogs Keeping Us in the Pink

This from my pal, actress Gretchen Egolf:

"Recently on my way to see my friend Anmarie’s utterly charming and smart play, RE-TALE, I found I had a little time to kill before curtain-up so I popped into the Marie Curie charity shop just steps away from the Hen & Chickens theatre in Islington. In honor of the play and Huntress London (I'd been surfing the blog that week), I was inspired to buy this scene-stealing Diane Von Furstenberg number. Seen here at a film premiere, I felt picture perfect wrapped in DVF's fuchsia wool winner. The dress was just £40. I'd like to thank the Academy, the charity shop, Huntress London, my family..."

I'm flattered that Huntress inspired Gretchen. Her hot pink pick got me thinking about the blogs that inspire me. There are so many but here's a stylish sampling of what I've been clicking on lately:

Kerry Taylor Auctions website & blog CLICK HERE features an online catalogue that is glorious. KT's latest fashion auction is scheduled for 28 April and even if you can't afford to buy, the viewing days prior to the auction are FREE. The blog itself is full of fash history and style ideas. Read and Learn.  

I'm a big fan of Caroline Jones, of Knickers My Own CLICK HERE. She's wearing clothes from Cancer Research Charity shops for the whole of 2015. That's 365 days of 2nd-hand chic. She's good at it too, Caroline makes charity shop style look easy, modern and cool. In the process she's raising money for Cancer Research - I like to think of her as a sartorial philanthropist.

I'm from the American midwest state of Ohio, so a virtual visit to Kent State University's fashion museum feels like coming home. The Online Catalogue CLICK HERE allows you to browse their collection, and oh my what a collection! Lovely photos coupled with informative descriptions. It's a nice way to wile away a Sunday afternoon. 

Not surprisingly I'm both a regular reader and contributor to the Oxfam Fashion blog CLICK HERE. A relentless team of 2nd-hand style bloggers provide great ideas, content and photos, making this blog an eclectic style read. Contributor Britishette CLICK HERE is a personal fave, and writes her own rather compelling blog as well.  

Clea Broad CLICK HERE is not just a milliner, not just a florist but a style story teller. Her creations have the power to transport you to an imaginary fashion paradise. I love looking in on her, virtually. I'm always uplifted by Clea's latest and greatest.  

What style blogs are you reading these days? 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

FOUND - A Platform for Reinvention

I found these Spring green platforms at one of the Retro shops around the corner from Notting Hill tube station. This cluster of 2nd-hand stores offers to buy and sell your used clothing, accessories and small housewares. One of the bunch is packed to the rafters with pre-owned luxury clothing, 'It' bags and designer shoes but even this unflappable hunter finds its cramped confines an unpleasant experience. I prefer to pop a few doors down to the Retro shops that sell more vintage, less high-end and bit of high-street. That's where I spotted these beauties. 

Platforms can be traced back to 16th century Venice when women wore shoes - of a fashion - called chopines. They elevated ladies to as much as 30 inches off the ground and servants were required to keep the wearer upright. Not surprisingly chopines, often jewel encrusted, were a symbol of wealth and status. But it was the 20th century that saw three major revivals of platform shoes. In the 1930s a wedge platform made of cork became a popular seaside shoe. Later, in the 40s, platforms were made of wood, a practical solution to the war-time shortage of leather. Platforms would fall out of favor until the 1970s, when these green goddesses were made. After the modern, forward-looking designs of the 1960s, the 70s went nostalgic, resurrecting the chunky chopine-esque shoe of the past. The 70s - often maligned but NOW back in vogue - was actually the first era to significantly appropriate from previous decades. Today the reinterpretation of classics is commonplace, but it was the groovy 70s that used retrospection to recreate. My 70s does the 40s clod-hoppers were just £30.  

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

TRY THIS - Secondhand Soundtrack

The Bargain Store by Dolly Parton

My life is like unto a bargain store
And I may have just what you're lookin' for
If you don't mind the fact that all the merchandise is used
But with a little mending it could be as good as new
Why you take for instance this old broken heart
If you will just replace the missing parts
You would be surprised to find how good it really is
Take it and you never will be sorry that you did

The bargain store is open come inside
You can easily afford the price
Love is all you need to purchase all the merchandise
And I will guarantee you'll be completely satisfied

Take these old used memories from the past
And these broken dreams and plans that didn't last
I'll trade them for a future, I can't use them anymore
I've wasted love but I still have some more

The bargain store is open come inside
You can easily afford the price
Love is all you need to purchase all the merchandise
And I can guarantee you'll be completely satisfied

My life is like unto a bargain store
And I may have just what you're lookin' for
If you don't mind the fact that all the merchandise is used
With a little mendin' it could be as good as new

The bargain store is open, come inside
The bargain store is open, come inside

To my surprise and delight, I've found the Huntress London anthem, in fact the perfect theme tune for any 2nd-hand style siren. It's Dolly Parton's The Bargain Store, a sweetly melancholy track released in 1975. I ran across it after picking up The Very Best of DP, pre-owned of course. I'm old school, no music via a portable MP3 player for me, instead I enjoy and endure the sounds of the city when traveling about London. It's while comfortably confined in my own home that I pop in a CD and crank up the tunes. Behind closed doors I can safely dance about the sitting room and warble into a hairbrush. To hear the Dolly ditty that has me singing her praises, CLICK HERE. The Queen of Country's My Potential New Boyfriend and the classic Jolene make this song compilation a must-have costume jewel.

Monday, 13 April 2015

TRY THIS - You May Kiss The Bridesmaid

Once again my friend Alma - actor and frequent guest blogger - offers her insightful 2nd-hand style observations to Huntress London readers. I Do - love a wedding. Don't you Alma?   

"I find myself cast in an unexpected role, not on stage but in life - I am a bridesmaid. Maybe it's a role I should have considered sooner, but growing up in Italy it really wasn't a star turn I ever contemplated. As a little girl, dreams of the perfect wedding weren't something I imagined. My debut on a West End stage, yes, many times; a walk down the aisle, never." 

"So when one of my best friends asked me to be her bridesmaid, I entered a highly unfamiliar world. I love this girl and I'm really excited for her big day, because in her case this is a dream come true, so I'm keen to embrace the wedding-sphere." 

"Unfortunately, our first bridal mission did little to win me over to the white side - a wedding fair at the soulless Excel Centre in East London where the first stall to welcome the bride-to-be was hosted by Weight Watchers. I could bore you with 5 paragraphs on the myriad ways in which that stall galls me, but this is not the place. Instead, I want to tell you about the perfect antidote - The National Vintage Wedding Fair CLICK HERE." 

"The venue, lovely Stoke Newington Town Hall, looked picture perfect decked out in well-chosen vintage stalls. The fair was small, friendly and full of good ideas. The exhibitors were approachable and everyone had a chat with us without a hard sales push. Offerings ranged from photographers to prop hire, wedding dresses to stylists, all with a vintage angle, naturally."

"Where at the Excel the entertainment was provided by a woman in a wedding dress singing the Disney anthem 'Let it Go,' here we were delighted by the dulcet tones of Rose Lancaster CLICK HERE and effervescent wartime trio The Victory Sisters CLICK HERE." 

"We had a long chat with self-proclaimed "professional hoarder" Mandy of Something Borrowed Something Vintage CLICK HERE who, apart from having THE best business card ever (attached to a tea bag), hires out vintage china and other items to give a special touch to any wedding venue. Lula & Rye CLICK HERE offer a similar service with a hipster edge if that's your style."

"My personal favourites were the dresses. To my mind they were simply stunning vintage dresses - right up my street - that just happened to be white. If you don't mind your special dress being worn ahead of your big day, then you can expect to find a beautiful, unique and affordable frock. Bristol-based Heartfelt Vintage CLICK HERE stocked beautiful lacy dresses, Vintage Trousseau CLICK HERE offered rather elegant looks and Sally Lacock CLICK HERE really caught my eye."

"All in all we had a lovely day and came away with a few useful contacts and good ideas. I'm certainly feeling steeped in wedding spirit after seeing things through rose-tinted, vintage glasses."

"As I said to the bride, it will be just like putting on a fabulous show. The next few months will be spent sorting out costumes and props and on the day, as a bridesmaid, I'll help the leading lady get into costume, hair and make-up. I've got to remember my blocking and make sure no one misses their cue. Seems as a bridesmaid, I'm perfectly cast."  

For more information on National Vintage Wedding Fairs CLICK HERE.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

TRY THIS - Ladies, You've Been Framed

I often find the graphic designs of album covers sing with style, and none more so than these. Bought several years ago at Ealing charity shops - La Traviata from Oxfam and Madame Butterfly (below) from Fara (both less than a fiver) - they were framed only last week at the Accession Community Shop & Picture Framing Studio in West Ealing CLICK HERE. Accession is an interesting local enterprise, a partnership between Ealing Council and West London Mental Health Trust. It seeks to support over 80 individuals with mental health and learning disabilities through opportunities to work. The West Ealing Accession shop, nicely laid out and filled with quality secondhand chic, also features an open plan framing workshop. There, people are learning this useful craft. Thrilled with the result, I'll hang these pleasing portraits in my dressing room. The framing cost was a rather reasonable £28 per album cover. Thanks Accession! 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

FOUND - Scenes Set in Aquamarine

I found this Aquamarine ring at Avenue Vintage & Antique Market in West Ealing. The semi-precious gem is the birthstone for March, and while my birthday is in February, I can't resist the sparkling lucidity of this sky blue jewel. An incredibly hard stone due to a high iron content, the watery hue is a particularly appealing pastel. The earrings were actually mined near Zimbabwe and set in Harare - my home from 1998 to 2001. Memories of my Southern African adventure are the greatest gift the country gave me. From the hot wet spray off Victoria Falls to the wide Jacaranda-lined streets of Bulawayo, from the soulful sounds of native son Oliver Mtukudzi to the piercing, lyrical words of writer, my friend, the late Yvonne Vera, Zimbabwe lives inside me. Her people, troubled but eternally optimistic, burn bright in my head and heart. Zimbabweans deserve so much more than they've been given by their so-called leader. Uniting my Zimbabwe gems with the matching secondhand ring feels like connecting the dots of my life. With flawless clarity they represent my love of Zimbabwe and my life in London. I don't recall how much the earrings cost but the ring was just £20.   

Monday, 6 April 2015

TRY THIS - Book Your Place in Style

I find I'm in need of confession. Forgive me but I bought a glossy fash mag. Huntress London preaches the pleasure of fashion books rather than glossy pulp but over the weekend, in a moment of madness, I gave in to the fleeting allure of April's Vogue. The day before I'd picked up Shoes, a good-looking little read from Ealing Oxfam, so nestled on the sofa with a cup of coffee, I prepared to spend the afternoon style surfing. I dove into Vogue, enjoying a feature on author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (loved the dress she was pictured wearing, her own creation) and cut out a useful compilation of UK vintage shops courtesy of woman-in-the-know Harriet Walker. Otherwise, the magazine was the Cara show. No less than 5 adverts, 8 pages of editorial, as well as the cover featured Ms Delevingne. Please Alexandra Shulman, give us different faces, bodies, shapes, skin colours and attitudes. Cara is stylish but we're saturated, thank you. 

I moved on to my little book. From the Renaissance to the Swingin' 60s, from button-up boots to Doc Martens, from Chuck Taylor to Imelda Marcos this publication is packed with facts, illustrations, photos and inspiration. Did you know that between 1927 and 1960 Salvatore Ferragamo produced 20,000 shoe designs and Charles Jourdan is credited with creating the stiletto? 

Lesson learned. Practice what you preach Huntress! Secondhand books provide far more fashion inspo and info than the predictable pages of fash mags. And my solid shoe book was half the price of the latest but lacking Vogue.  

For more style book recommendations read 
Huntress London for Oxfam Fashion CLICK HERE 

Friday, 3 April 2015

TRY THIS - Cracking Krakow Vintage

I find I'm thinking of Krakow as Easter approaches. It was there that we picked up these beautiful hand-painted wooden eggs. They come out in Spring to mark seasonal renewal and ubiquitous bunnies. The vintage belt is also a product of Krakow - a fab find from one of the city's 2nd-hand shopping spots (sadly now closed). Vintage is new to Krakow, it's a growing fashion habit that's offering young women in particular a way into small business ownership. Odra - embossed on the gleaming gold belt buckle - is a river, a football club, a computer brand and a village in Poland. Secondhand that's word perfect. It cost about £8, and is a stylish souvenir of a long weekend in cracking Krakow.  

Thursday, 2 April 2015

TRY THIS - Blossom With A Posy Brooch

I find I'm ready to wear Spring styles but the weather's not keen to cooperate yet. To mark the seasonal change (and remain warm), I've recently pinned this boutenniere to my outerwear. A gift from my step-mom, a seasoned secondhand shopper herself, my posy holder blossoms on a tweed or tartan coat. The useful accessory is inspired by the Victorians who carried hand-held posy holders similar to this; the flowering nosegay gadget masked unpleasant personal and street odors. Called a "Tussie Mussie," they were tiny, often silver vases with bone handles. A woman holding a Tussie Mussie was also signaling that she was enjoying the attentions of a gentleman caller. Today these are proper antiques, Victoriana that any collector would be pleased to own. They're also pricey. But brooch-y posy holders like mine, stylish and wearable, can be found in vintage markets and charity shops if you keep your eyes peeled. They're Flower Power with Purpose!