Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Day Trippers

Armed with our National Trust family membership card and trusty Sirram picnic case, Monkeychild and I decided to have a couple of days out last week visiting some local NT properties. The gorgeous Newark Park near Wotton-under-Edge was our first destination.

Newark Park was originally a Tudor hunting lodge, being remodelled over the centuries into the current structure. The below photo shows the façade of the original lodge, with its bay windows fitted with leaded panels. 

The NT took over the house in 1949 and later rented it in 1970 to an American architect, Bob Parsons, who had been in search of a historic property to restore. This choice of tenant was very lucky for the fortunes of Newark Park, as Bob lovingly restored both the house and the gardens. 

NT properties are a lot more child-friendly than they were in my childhood, with plenty of activity sheets to keep the young 'uns busy and in Newark Park's case, an enviable dressing up wardrobe. Monkeychild chose a long dress (I suspect that it was made using a 1970s sewing pattern) and we had fun trying to create spooky looking photos...

After the picnic where we were invaded by crumb pecking hens...

...we went for a walk around the grounds. The adjacent woodland was full of wild garlic, clumps of primroses and scatterings of violet and wild cyclamen; and we had the perfect warm spring day to enjoy it.

If Monkeychild had her choice, she would have happily smuggled the (albeit struggling and squawking) peacock home, whereas I could easily have found a place in the garden for this peaceful hound...

The next day, we travelled north to Broadway and out to the small village of Snowshill and another NT property: Snowshill Manor.

Dating from the sixteenth century, Snowshill Manor is home to the very eclectic collections of Charles Paget Wade, who brought the manor house after serving in the First World War. An architect by profession, Wade's love of curiosities and collecting items of quality that met with his criteria of "colour, design and craftsmanship" is reflected in the house, as virtually every room is filled with a collection of treasured items. 

Wade gave each room its own name such as 'Hundred Wheels' where his collection of 'boneshaker' and penny-farthing bicycles and model haywagons are kept, and the 'Turquoise' room with its hoard of oriental lacquer ware and cabinets. In fact, Wade didn't live in the main house, preferring to live in a smaller building just hidden behind the house to the left of the above photo.

The gardens were laid out as a series of 'rooms' by Wade and M. H. Baillie Scott, the influential Arts and Crafts movement architect. As you can imagine, there is something to capture the eyes at every turn...

A downpour meant that we had to eat our picnic in the car, yet we both enjoyed our day out and are looking forward to the next.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

'Style Me Vintage - 1940s': Book Review

Following hot on the heels of last month's book review from the Style Me Vintage series, is Pavilion Books' latest offering: Style Me Vintage: 1940s by Liz Tregenza.

Liz's academic background in fashion history and love of vintage is evident throughout the book as it thoroughly covers all aspects of 1940s fashion; both the obvious elements and those that are less familiar. In her Introduction she writes: "I wanted to dispel some misconceptions with this book. 1940s style isn't all victory rolls and drab, masculine suits brightened up with flashes of red lipstick. The 1940s was a hugely diverse decade in terms of style...". In this book she certainly achieves her aim.

The first two chapters covers make-up and hair respectively, providing some step-by-step guides to achieve a period Forties look; from a full face of make-up through to various hairstyles such as Veronica Lake-esque waves and a braided up-do.

Photo from Style Me Vintage: 1940s
The following chapters take an in-depth look at the decade's style, starting with the British government's ubiquitous Utility clothing and 'Make-do and Mend' drive, Women's Services uniforms and also civilian clothing. The focus then shifts to what contemporary styles were being worn overseas, with America leading the way in the style stakes. The book includes some truly beautiful dresses with the below being one of my favourites; just look at all that beaded detail and the cut: gorgeous!

Photo from Style Me Vintage: 1940s
Liz completes her assessment of the decade's style with a thorough look at accessories and post-war fashions; discussing lingerie, swimwear, shoes, jewellery and bags.

Photo from Style Me Vintage: 1940s
One aspect that I particularly like is the 'Brand Spotlight' feature where Liz identifies certain brands that epitomise the decade's style such as 'Trifari', 'Lilli Ann' and 'Horrockses'. Here she gives a pocket history of the brand, generously illustrated with garment and accessory examples.

Photo from Style Me Vintage: 1940s
Liz rounds off the book with a selection of her top tips for searching out original 1940s pieces and also includes source lists for buying both vintage and reproduction clothes and accessories; a handy resource for anyone wishing to recreate a period look.

Photo from Style Me Vintage: 1940s
Style Me Vintage: 1940s is lavishly illustrated throughout with a superb array of vintage clothing from the decade, all thoughtfully styled to add to the book's visual delight. The quality of the vintage clothing featured is jaw-dropping and it amazes me how many pieces have survived in such immaculate condition. A nice personal touch are the black-and-white photographs dating from the 1940s of Liz's family and their friends showing examples of the clothes that people wore for a variety of occasions; from weddings, to a day at the beach or just relaxing with friends. 

Would I recommend this book? Yes if the fashions of the 1940s are your thing or you just enjoy reading about twentieth century fashion history. Style Me Vintage: 1940s is a worthy addition to any vintage lover's library.

Friday, 3 April 2015


Thanks to catching Monkeychild's lurgy I've been feeling unwell, hence the lack of action here at VK Towers. However, the Postie brought me something the other day that immediately lifted my apathetic gloom: a preview copy of my first book, Vintage Knitting, 18 Patterns from the 1940s - eek!

I spent a lot of time last year working on the book; researching, writing various drafts, collating source material and proof-reading. All this has culminated in Vintage Knitting, which is based on a knitting book first published in 1941. 

It was a really exciting project and gave me the opportunity to raid the VK archives for source material...and a good excuse to add more! 

This post is just a taster, as I'll do a proper one about the book when its released on the 10th May. However, there's a preview available here and below are a few images taken from it.

Writing has taken up quite a bit of my time recently as I've been involved in a seven-part series about the development of fashion between the 1900s and 1970s for Her Vintage Life Magazine. The current April issue covers the '40s and I've just finished the '60s article, which should appear in the June issue. This series has been a lot of fun to write and I'm sorry that it's going to end soon as I'm about to start on the final piece covering the '70s (one of my favourite decades). However, at least the series will end on a high note as the '70s article will feature some amazing photos courtesy of Vix. 

Also, Ali from Love Vintage Adidas recently asked me to take part in a post about top tips for finding rare vintage items. As we're all looking out for those bargains and the other bloggers involved have put forward some handy hints, I thought I'd put up a link to Ali's site here.

Now I'm back in the blogosphere, its time to catch up on reading your blogs!

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