Monday, 4 October 2010

Recent London Trip: Grace Kelly and Vivien of Holloway

Apologies all for the delay in finishing up the story of my London trip, I've been caught up in jam-making, household cleaning, work dos, volunteer meetings and grabbing any available break in the weather to get outside for Autumn walks!

Grace Kelly
After hanging around the main fashion exhibition at the V&A (article here), I was finally allowed into the Grace Kelly exhibition at my allotted time, and breathed a sigh of relief that I had pre-booked as they had sold out for the day. It's not a huge exhibition - probably about 50 outfits - and it doesn't include her wedding dress, but it was fascinating none the less. I'm a big Hitchcock fan so it was great to see memorabilia from films such as Rear Window. I also loved the story behind the dress Grace wore to announce her engagement to Prince Rainier to the press - a powercut in her hotel forced her to ditch the designer dress she'd planned on wearing as it wasn't ironed, instead leaving her with a home-made dress from McCall's, pattern 3100. So if any of you can find the pattern you could have a dress just like hers!

I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside the exhibition, but got these couple of snaps of one of Grace's dresses outside the exhibition.

Dinner in Clapham
This isn't related to anything vintage, burlesque or even to afternoon tea, but I had to mention that I had a super dinner in Clapham, at The Pavement. Catfish goujons followed by duck with sweet potato mash and spinach. Delicious!

Vivien of Holloway
I'd been looking forward to a visit to the shop for months and so had quite a few items in mind to try on. I knew about their sizings from the website so it wasn't too much of a shock to discover I was a size 16 in their clothing.

I tried on some high-waisted shorts, some trousers, and a skirt, all of which fitted me very badly. I was particularly gutted about the trousers, and will have to try Heyday instead. The dresses however were a fabulous fit on me. I tried on the tea-dress style and the sarong style, and after much deliberation made a purchase of a red tea-dress with the logic that I will wear it more often (pictured here, though buttons and trim are slightly different). I also got an added bonus of a 10% discount for paying cash, which was most welcome. I might have to put a sarong dress on my Christmas wish-list - it was an incredibly flattering style, giving me an instant bombshell look!

One awkward point about the shop is that the mirrors are outside the changing rooms, so you have to come out into the shop to see what you look like. Personally, this is my idea of hell, I felt so exposed wearing their shorts on a chilly September day in front of a shop full of browsers!

Having come all the way from Wales I was possibly a bit excitable and over-enthusiastic at my first visit to the shop, so maybe that explains why I couldn't help feeling that the staff were slightly aloof, despite being professional and polite, but then maybe they were grumpy at having been sat outside the shop for twenty minutes in the cold and rain. When I arrived you see, the shop was still closed and there was a group of retro-dressed people hanging around outside. I assumed that they were customers too but it turned out after the lady with the keys arrived that they were all staff, which surprised me as not one of them had said anything to me, such as "we're opening up soon, hang on for five minutes" or something like that. Again, maybe this is just the difference between being Welsh and being a Londoner?

Anyway, I skipped down the street with my purchase and headed off to find some vintage shops, trying to find Beyond Retro first. It's the vintage shop favoured by Look fashion magazine and I was expecting a bit of a jumble sale with gems hidden within, but alas, there was no sparkle. There was a smattering of pieces from the 1950s and earlier but I have never seen a vintage shop selling such poor quality items - ripped, stained, smelly - just awful, truly awful. I consoled myself with a little visit to the famous Liberty department store, but even a browse in their high-end vintage department couldn't make me feel better because it was over-priced 1980s nonsense.

So, overall a really great trip to London, though next time I'll have to find some proper vintage shops that won't break the bank - I don't know if that's at all possible in London??

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