Tuesday, 30 November 2010

that wedding.....a tale of Royal wedding frocks.

On the whole I like weddings, but Royal weddings I am not so sure about. The Queen’s one seems charming in retrospect but that may be my vintage bias. There is something about the fact she felt the need even though quite unnecessary to save coupons towards it that appeals. No doubt there will be much speculation about whether William and Kate Middleton will display recession sensitivity. In one way I hope not, as long as the tax payer doesn’t foot the bill for a gazillion quid dress and larks dressed with gold leaf. The security and whatevers we are stuck with.

Already the moronic womens interest press are wittering on about Miss Middleton’s fashion credentials. She is a modern Sloane in her clothing inclinations and much more, any of the flamboyance that tends to be displayed by the lady art historian has been stamped out if it ever existed. I actually like her best so far in that see-through dress she modeled at St Andrews. No reason however why the woman should be forced to be a fashion ‘icon’, although becoming a walking clothes hanger for British designers might make her an effective if not particularly cheap advertisement for our designers and fashion retail industry.
That.. ahem..dress.
For the next year or so we will have to put up with rumblings about the bridal gown and I must admit that I get sucked into this, merely because I am very very nosy. Thus here in my own small way I contribute to the avalanche of speculative dross on the subject. 

I doubt very much that Kate Middleton will make the mistake that her late mother in law did with that ghastly dress. When Diana first appeared swamped in that huge creased horror of a  frock my late nan and I let out involuntary gasps of horror. She looked like a thin blonde stick that had been pushed into a three day old blancmange, with a skin. Charles, not the most attractive man actually looked quite smart by comparison. I preferred Sarah Ferguson’s Edwardian ensemble, very Downton Abbey and showed off what was at the time a rather good figure. Shame her hair wasn't put up.

Nighty as wedding dress
The worry is that Kate might go to the other extreme and opt for a minimal dress, the kind beloved by all nice middle class girls. Is there anything more boring than these structured tasteful shoulder less dresses accessorized with teensy little jewels, tiny silly flowers, a fake tan and tightly pulled back hair (a Croydon facelift with a bun). Actually there is; the floaty silk dresses that look like nighties.  The dictates of a cathedral wedding should put paid to bare shoulders and access to all those jewels may stop her from looking mimsy, get that tiara on girl! If conventional is chosen I’d rather see a sampling of gran- in- law’s look or even great umpteen times great gran’s look. Nothing wrong with a neat crinoline. I just hate that smug minimal look unless it is accompanied by a simple wedding. And it seldom is. I'd rather have Katie Price excess. 
Royal purple Vivien Westwood, sadly I cannot see it happening although La Middleton would look splendid in this..
Perhaps the original mad granny, Viv Westwood should make the dress. I’d love to see a corseted, sleeved, structured gown with silk. In fact even a high neckline, something a bit rococo or tudor would be nice. (although those tudor Catherines had mixed fortunes).  If we are going to endure all this majesterial nonsense I expect it to be a bit dramatic.  I'd make her carry a small bulldog puppy instead of a bouquet, wear a ruff and have helicopters embroidered on her train. Somehow or the other I suspect I am going to be disappointed and in truth Viv hardly has an unbesmirched rep when it comes to monarchy. In truth she would be a hypocrite if she did produce a royal wedding dress.

Now these are wonderful gowns...
Red legs in Soho’s last word on the subject is that if she was about to stomp down the aisle at Westminster Abbey she’d opt for John Galliano. Whilst he might be working for what is in truth an international corporation he is British and British trained. He also ticks the multi-cultural and hard working boxes. This is a man who understands dramatic grandeur and can create that sense of restrained flamboyance that the good wedding frock should rock. How nice would it be to see a bride resemble one of Beaton’s elegant debutantes with a touch of wicked lady and just a touch of prole. I rest my case. You might not very sensibly actually care, but do you agree? Minn xxx

Galliano, all you need to do is add some sleeves...or a bloody great cape.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Rioting in Camber.

Now I haven’t been away on a weekend thingy for a long time and when I did it almost definitely involved The Cure, tents, trying to look gothic in the rain and too much cider. Now my dotage approaches I regard the idea of tents with horror. And the festivals of today with a few exceptions are full of childish badly dressed people and corporate to the nth.  For the past few years I’ve been tempted by the ‘weekender’.  This has several advantages over its skanky festival cousin. It generally involves chalets, toilets and facilities (never underestimate the importance of ‘facilities’). More pointedly whether car, sixties, Northern Soul or discofied they are focused and tend to attract a more committed kind of attendee.

Sadly there is, as yet, no weekender for the thirties or forties fan inspired by music and style (rather than re-enactment). I like the ‘Home Front’ stuff, it just isn’t my idea of a weekend of fun. Perhaps it is the military hardware, and the ghosts. The next best thing for me is the fifties, and fortunately that period is well served by weekenders with Hemsby and the Rockabilly Rave amongst others.  Additionally the music is likely to be  good, the cars are actually interestingly decorative and my collection of tatty fortiesish clothing might just about past muster.  So last weekend I found myself revisiting the scene of many a childhood away- day: Camber Sands. Or rather, Rhythm Riot at Pontins in Camber Sands.  I’d been wanting to go to this for years, partially because I knew some nice people who go, the best sign you can have of quality and partially because Lady Luck have a night and people like Top Shelve Jazz were playing so I knew there was crossover with the scene I am perhaps more used to.  I was sharing with two friends I’d known for a while and a couple I hadn’t met before (who turned out to be complete stars).

Once there it was clear that this had something of a reunion about it, people clearly came every year and were in the know (torches for the bootsale as the room is so dark). There were also contingents who had travelled from other parts of the globe.  The Dutch contingent were very unimpressed with their accommodation but in our case the doom laden tales of cat pee scented chalets and dirt proved unfounded: the chalet was warm, clean and comfortable enough. Perhaps because we’d opted for the ‘luxury’ option. 

The journey down was fun, how nice to be surrounded by victory rolls, quiffs and red lippy and be in the majority for once. Pontins was already full when we arrived of wonderful old cars ready to cruise through Rye on the Sunday. I was very struck by the atmosphere, it was strongly redolent of a school trip, perhaps that is because I remember South East London’s school kids descending on Butlins out of season. Except the trippers were older, carrying cans of beer around and festooning their chalets with lines of washing and the decoration du jour: bunting. I was particularly impressed by the tower of popaddoms in one of our neighbours chalets, and it is clear that some were serving as impromptu mini party venues.  This amiable atmosphere continued through a weekend of incessant music, d.j.ing ,vintage bargain hunting and dancing en masse. Due to illness I hadn’t been able to brush off my dancing shoes and learn enough to join in but watching was good enough. It was a chance to catch up with a few friends and put faces and characters or to names heard or friends previously only encountered on line. The weekend included a walk on the beach, dinosaur shooting, air hockey, trying to re-learn the stroll, rooting through tables of bric a brac (sorry ‘vintage collectables’) eating dirty fried chicken and listening to a wide range of R&B (the real thing), bluesy, rocking, country, swing sounds. I also learned what figging is, although I could have done without that….

As a newbie I hadn’t known what to expect but the Rhythm Riot exceeded my expectations on the sheer laugh factor.  It is easy for things attended by devotees to have an element of cliquishness or exclusivity but the Rioters where clearly there for the music and the cars and the company. If I had been able to dance and had not been such a semi-invalid it would have been even better. How expensive it is depends on you really, I wish I had had more money to spend in the vintage and repro market or to get  Miss Betty to style my hair (you know you are onto a winner when your hairdresser is also there) but generally it was as inexpensive or expensive as you chose. Pontin’s is sadly going into administration although the rumour is that the Riot is fine for next year, and hopefully many years after that. This blog is illustrated with assorted photos from the weekend.


Sunday, 14 November 2010

Why do we do it!?

There are a plethora of vintage blogs out there on the information boulevard. The ones I enjoy,and this includes not just vintage blogs are those where the author’s character shines through the text. Effectively the best blogs are diaries, I really don’t like the PR/Sales pages masquerading as blogs. You can see through them in a nanosecond and it is disappointing how many of these faux blogs get recognition, especially when you can see the PR  media rewarding it’s own and thinking the idiot public don’t cotton on. That’s why it is nice to see sites such as Diary of a Vintage Girl, Retro Chick and Katie Chutzpah  , because behind everyone of them is a distinct personality. If blogs are essentially egotistical you want the egos behind them to be interesting. I’m happy with commercial bloggers if they are supporting some kind of customer community or rewarding loyal interest, it is just those tedious ‘this is really great!’ (I’m not flogging it, really I’m not) sites that peeve me. The only one’s that peeve me more are those ‘pictures of people on the streets looking kool’ ones. Sheesh!

Community blogs are good too, my favourite is Retro to Go, trawling through the retail world looking for cool things so I don’t have to. I get the impression that the bods behind this know what they are talking about unlike some. I would also like to say that I like the very occasional blogger as much as the prolific one, one interesting post in two months is great.  I do sometimes wonder if the cartoon below applies to me!  For some follower numbers are a competitive thing. I am surprised and grateful any one follows this blog (thank you!) but would probably persevere even if only 20 people bothered although I appreciate it and wish I had more time to communicate with people who make contact in this way. I write to feel in some small spare moments, and I type quickly so for me this is a time-filler as much as anything else.
Where is this blog coming from though? It is not technically ‘vintage’ in the popular sense. I am not part of the new retro scene, it appeared like a magic beanstalk when I was abroad. Before going and in the eighties I knew the same group of  people; re-enactors, jive fans, rockabillies, Goths and the willfully eccentric who now get pigeonholed generally in this nebulous amorphous vintage thing. Some are annoyed by this and you can see it in the anti-burlesque feeling that seems to be circulating.

I’d like to say I am coming at it from the grumpy forty-something Londoner on the loose direction and cannot make any claims to charm, particular erudition or style. I do however know the bits of the city I know very well. This can be a source of annoyance, if only to myself. It is nice when people discover things and share them, but not when they rave they have discovered somewhere that has been known to Londoners forever. It isn’t intentional, it’s the way journalism tends to be now: new, new, new.  I like the old, old, old. Boring farts like me remember how much Francis Bacon smelt, , that Norman in the Coach could sometimes be quite nice and which stool in which pub a famous serial killer used to favour.  People like me must  sometimes be tedious, the 'yawn, been there, did it before you and did it better' brigade.  But to be fair you natural get really irked to read some fellow blogger describing a wonderful 'vintage' place that you personally know has been utterly ruined, in a recent refurb or listing a useless list of ‘vintage’ events and suggesting even crappier shops.  Of course it is all relative, my shit is someone else’s treasure. But still you want to twat them sometimes, but don’t  verbally or otherwise because there is really no excuse for rudeness and an opinion is an opinion. But nontheless...grrrr!
What Redlegs aspires to...
Mind you I am old fashioned and like nice chatty friendly people, anywhere, dressed in any way and anyone like that will get a Redlegs thumbs up even if they are all wearing Abercrombie and Fitch. But I like places, restaurants and bars with character and pfizz. They don’t need to be clean or glamorous. I like old baggishness in men and women (a state of mind rather than an age) and a touch of bad behaviour. I just hope to connect with this kind of person. My aversion is to shiny young unquestioning minds (not peeps) perhaps because I used to be a teacher and hated dealing with that kind of child. I preferred the ones who made fart noises and giggled. That probably sums up my approach to life: live it with fart noises and giggles, and if possible nice shoesies, a bottle of rum and an accommodating person on your arm.
More often he reality...
I’d like to know what motivates other bloggers to blurb on blogs? Is it wanting to meet people, a time-filler, to help their business or to hone their writing skills? Why do people read blogs? I am nosy.. I want to know!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

New Sheridan Club Christmas Party...

The hadron collider did something with neutron-bits and speed the other day. Has it impacted on real time without our knowing? I don’t know about you but this year the acceleration of time between now and Christmas feels quite unnatural. Not that I am complaining, after spending years in Asia in a country where Yule doesn’t take place I am happy with mince pies in October and Reindeer the moment the smoke from the fireworks clear. The tinny strains of jingle bells emanating from plastic Santas in the pound shop (I am so classy) remind me that plans have to be made and presents bought.

Plans for the season  for me always include what to wear to the New Sheridan Christmas party customarily held in the twinkly and festive Punch Tavern. This year it falls on the 11th of December. One of the joys of this event is the determination of the organisers to avoid obviously festive themes. Over the last four years we have had an Agatha Christie like murder theme at which I won the raffle booby prize: an axe. Torquil has now hidden this, admittedly I do have a bad temper. The next was 'The Kredit Krunch Kabaret 'in which the Club presciently chose to return to the Wiemar Republic and we all had fun shooting a capitalist. Last year’s 'Yes we Can Can' party saw an outbreak of Entente Cordiale and something to do with pinning a moustache on someone.  This year they have announced an Avant Garde theme with a futurist, expressionist, any damn ist theme. This is a fine choice, between the wars London’s bohemians and artists had a series of art balls with Avant Garde themes often held by the Chelsea Arts Club. My favourite was the Dazzle ball celebrating the mad yet strangely effective geometric shapes applied to battleships. Details of the 'Back to the Futurists' party can be found here along with lots of other interesting events.

One fun thing about the NSC parties is the dress up opportunity. The options are wide, jeans and trainers would frankly be silly but every thing else from a low key suit, to a sequin suit, to a birthday suit would be happily accepted.  The events are smallish and very friendly, most attendees know each other. People who turn up for the first time will find those at the party are accessible and welcoming. Overall the guests are fans of the past: Victorian to fifties with the 30’s and 40’s aficionados being probably the largest group. The membership are a real mix in background, profession, enthusiasms and political leanings. The latter is very marked, everyone from Marxists to the Libertarian right. I can always someone to bicker with. I’m also amused by the range of professions: journalists, the priest hood, policemen, poets, librarians, artists, musicians, tailors, writers, plumbers, retailers, designers, loafers and students. The NSC party's also have their parlour games, performers (up close) and a raucous raffle.They are smallish convivial events and my Christmas wouldn’t be quite the same without one. Hopefully I'll see a few of you there? xx

Yes we Can Can Party
NSC Far Pavilions Party.
NSC Kredit Krunch Kabaret Party

Monday, 8 November 2010


It’s good to try something new. On Saturday I was heading out to first of all the Bram Stoker Dinner and then afterwards to quickly hook up with friends at the Mouthful O’ Jam night in Haringay.  I wore a vintage early fifties black satin crepe bolero with my emerald satin Vivien of Holloway circle dress and anticipated the usual long hair set. However it was blowy, possibly damp and I was feeling lazy and tired. So I popped into Soho on the way out and got Amy at Powderpuff to give me a ‘do’.  I resisted the usual pull of victory rolls and thought channelling Madmen might be a good change, and hopefully I’d end up looking like Joan Holloway’s ageing great aunty. I have that lady's embonpoint and hair alone sadly. This really left me with a choice between up-flicks at the end or an up do and I plumped for the queen of all retro-updo’s: the beehive 

Audrey's Hive
 My do was a medium height soft  puffy beehive, of the French pleat variety. I wouldn’t go for it if I had a short fringe and haven’t worn one for several years. You do feel like you are wearing a beehive, it is such a statement. That would have needed to be on someone younger or you risk looking like an actress out of an early sixties kitchen sink drama. I like this style when it is long enough to sweep across your face or tuck behind your ears. There are examples plenty of the beehive looking elegant, my favourite is Dusty Springfield although the most famous hive is the strangely conservative one donned by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I recall that in 2008 Amy Winehouse’s beehive was voted the worst celebrity hairstyle. I was cross about that, our Amy might have her skanky moments but that hair is a big style statement. I’d have voted in a whole army of R & B star mingingness or Wag ironed extensions. The Beehive I believe has a retro appeal of it’s own and infers retro glamour and class, or soul diva, or sixties starlet or uber housewife or at it’s very worst (which is still appealing) Bet Lynch Barmaid chic. If this hairstyle had a sound track it would be an all girl Motown one.

Amy Winehouse dons a wig yet the beehive is not actually that difficult to style. Much easier than rolls or a set and I can make a decent fist of it when I try. A lot depends on the texture of your hair. If it is normal to thick it will stay up well once back combed and shoulder length hair works well. Mine requires no rollers or volume beforehand   The trick is in the backcombing, this style is a ‘construction’ and it is all in the preparation. This isn’t for those who treat their hair like a precious piece of cashmere. Begin looking like beetlejuice with you hair on end and it is easy to pin and the back and then gently brush and smooth back into the hive shape at the front.  It takes less hairspray to hold in shape than a 30’s or 40’s set and was remarkably impervious to blasts of wind. Brushing out at the end of the evening has to be brisk and tough and you do end up looking like Beetlejuice again.
Yours truly captured on mobile phone.
 It attracted far more attention when I was out than my usual sets or styles, we forget how ubiquitous thirties and forties styles have become. The beehive is still largely relegated to repeats of Heartbeat and the odd sixties revival event. Quite a few people wanted to pat it, a couple of others wondered if it were my own hair and this is despite the fact it wasn’t the full Marge Simpson. I wouldn’t have it all the time, but for a night it was fun to have big hair. I liked the fact it was so dressy and it sets off earrings, necklaces and long necks beautifully. It also entertains anyone lucky enough to see you at the end of the night in the process of brushing it out. Or scares them. Depending…
The aftermath!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Here's to the Night!

On Saturday Fruity played some gypsyish accordion ditty. It made you want to be sitting in a Paris cafĂ© by night, hugging both your absinthe and a sailor. Well it would have made me want to be there if I hadn’t been at the Don’t Dali with the Devil party.
Brassai photograph.

Night is a world lit by itself.  ~Antonio Porchia,

People are cat or dog people. They are hate/love Marmite people and they are Day or Night people. I’m a dog/hate/night person. It’s physiological if nothing else, some people don’t really catch up with being awake until, oh, about 3pm. Even when well getting out of bed before nine am is like pulling myself from a vat of treacle. Fortunately my chap is the same, unfortunately unless I choose to be a waiter, actress or night bus driver most of the world isn’t.

For the happiest life, rigorously plan your days, leave your nights open to chance.  ~Mignon McLaughlin

Biology aside it could be upbringing, or being brought up properly. Until they are about nine most children need to be in bed well before that hour. For myself and a few others this was terrible, the adults had the best television and the best fun when we were dismissed. Being an adult I now understand the necessity of getting downtime from brats but then it was just cruel, especially as I really really wanted to watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus sooo much and it came on just after the deadly strike of the clock at eight. So the evenings are a time of promise, and dusk (the most beautiful time of day to me) heralds all the best kinds of fun. Not for me  larks, yomping and breakfast.

‘Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o'clock is a scoundrel.’  ~Samuel Johnson

I'm romantically drawn to the night and three ideals appeal. One is the Paris of the twenties as shown in Brassai photos. All those deranged art students, hard drinking plebs and stylishly skanky ladies of the night. Lots of gypsy accordion music there. Then I like the idea of the West End in the late 20’s and early 30’s, supper clubs, dazzle balls and grand dinners all converging like a scene from an Anthony Powell novel, laced with dangerous foreigners, looming wars, glamorous cars and furious dancing. Finally Soho in the 40’s and 50’s, dingy bohemian and clever. Spivs, painters and nutters roaming through the streets looking for liaisons, free drinks and a clever quip. All at night. 

Chelsea Arts Club Ball.
 Night is the other half of life, and the better half.    GOETHE

We look better and sound better by night. It doesn’t matter so much how young and fresh you are, a few sequins or an old little black dress goes a long way in the inky twilight and where and who you know are more important than daddy, your job or your income. The night is mysterious, the later it gets the less boring the people become (or possibly the drunker you get). And when the night does end it comes with the challenge of the journey home: classic black taxi if you are flush but lairy night bus more usually boarded. My life  so far and most of the best memories are a combination of nights, it’s where you make and break romances, meet your best friends and your best enemies. The thing I most begrudge work is it’s curtailment of my nights and the imposition of mornings.  Should I win the lottery I imagine mentally the parties I’ll throw, the places I’ll drink, the clubs I’ll open. The worst aspect of my illness at present is the fact that I tire and retire at a stupid time. Everyone will know I am well when they see me careering down Greek Street at 2am with a stupid grin on my face reeking of tequila. Here’s to the night! xxx

Soho in the fifties.


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