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Cassiefairy's thrifty little lifestyle blog – DIY crafts, sewing, food & fashion – what more does a girl need??

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Tuesday Shoesday ~ a history lesson in 40s footwear

As you know I’ve started learning to swing dancing, including lindy hop, charleston and now balboa, all of which are intrinsically linked to the 1940s era. I’ve been going to hangar dances and I’m attending another 40s dance this coming weekend. I’ve been delighted to find that there is quite a vintage ‘scene’ going on in the area I live so this very weekend I had a choice of four dances to go to on Saturday night! You may have already spotted some of my vintage clothing blog posts, but I’ve hardly mentioned the footwear. This is mainly due to the fact that when I dance, my feet need to be comfortable so that I can bust some moves on the dancefloor so I’ve worn the same pair of shoes every time. IMG_6337IMG_6359

My preferred dancing shoes are a simple pair of plain black low-heel shoes with a baby-doll strap. They are simple but are so comfortable and I’ve owned them for about 8 years – long before my passion for dancing came into being. But even back then, they were my go-to shoes for nights out with my friends as I knew that I would still be comfortable on the walk home, even after a whole evening of dancing. So when I started going to dance lessons, these shoes were the obvious choice and I’ve worn them to every lesson since. I’ve written about them before in my article about taking care of your shoes, and this pair have been reheeled and buffed up to a fine shine many times over the years, which is why I think they have lasted so long. The problem is that I’m starting to worry about the day when they finally fail, when the heel snaps during a speedy spin or when the buckle pings off after a keen kick. I want to find a suitable replacement but have no clue about what type of shoes to go for.

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As you may have seen in my blog post last Tuesday, I have a fab pair of Orla Kiely baby doll heels which I wore to a 40s steam railway event last month. They were comfortable enough for walking around all day long, but these are too heavy with their chunky heels and platform sole to be any good for dancing, plus the t-bar isn’t quite right for the era. So that’s where my research into 40s footwear comes in. I know I want my dancing shoes to be comfortable but I also want them to look good with my choice of vintage attire so I’ve taken a look at what shoe styles were popular during the era. I imagined that the selection of shoes would be quite limited but in contrast I found that there were a large selection of what I would call ‘modern’ styles around in the 1940s so I’m sure that I will be able to find a replica version of these old designs if the originals prove to be too pricey for my thrifty budget!

So first of all I’d like to discuss heel height, and I discovered that shorter stacked heels and chunky square shapes were popular in the 40s. I am rather pleased about this because I prefer a shorter heel and find it difficult to dance in anything over 3 inches so I’m sure that a pair of vintage shoes would be suitable to dance in. I found out that evening shoes were sometimes a little higher, but here’s the thing that really surprised me; wedges were popular in the 1940s! I genuinely thought that this style was a much more recent invention and I spent the whole of my 20s wearing wedges, never realising just how ‘vintage’ I was being! Practical lace-up shoes of the era, such as brogues or Oxford shoes for daytime also featured chunky stacked heels so the women of the 40s were definitely a fan of a little extra height!   1940s shoes styles baby doll slingbacks peep toe

Popular 1940s shoes styles

The Mary Jane shoes or baby doll shoes that I love so much are typical styles of the era. Evening-wear in the 40s usually included straps around the ankle or across the foot and even slingbacks made an appearance. Straps could be added to peep toes, wedges or court shoes/pumps to turn them into jazzy party shoes – again, I thought that peep-toes were a more modern invention – how wrong I was! I think that the addition of straps might have been to do with the energetic lindy-hop dancing the women were doing in the evenings, so that their shoes stayed firmly on their feet during all those jive kicks! 1940s shoes Aldens catalogue from 1949

images from Aldens catalogue 1949

Most of the shoes in the 1940s were black, light tan, brown or olive green with only a few exciting shades of patriotic red, white and blue available. Brighter colours became popular after WW2 as you can see from the yellow shoes in this 1949 catalogue image. Two-tone shoes were popular; not only in Oxford shoes, saddle shoes or loafers as you’d expect, but also around the top of pretty court shoes or slingbacks, so many of these would have contrast stitching or added trim in a different colour. In terms of embellishment, most styles were relatively plain with a little punch-hole decoration in the leather. Bows or flowers in the same fabric or colours of the shoe were added to evening or summer shoes for decoration.

From this research, I have concluded that I should invest in some baby-doll Mary Jane shoes, possibly with a peep toe (and definitely in red or blue!) with a contrast white stitching or perforation pattern around the top. Does anyone have any suggestions of where I can find something like this – original vintage or modern? Please let me know in the comments below! And if you have a favourite pair of vintage shoes yourself, please send me a photo of them, I’d love to see your favourites too :)

 

 


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Tuesday Shoesday ~ My vintage weekend at the steam railway

Back at the end of September I travelled to a fabulous 1940s event at the North Norfolk Steam Railway and really enjoyed the whole weekend. Not only did I get lots of opportunities to dance, (check out last week’s Tuesday Shoesday blog post about my new hobby) but I also enjoyed stepping back in time – the whole town had taken on the 40s theme and it felt like a genuine wartime weekend. We enjoyed afternoon tea with spam sandwiches and hopped on and off the steam trains all day long before shopping in the town and watching the vehicle parade. Here are some of my photos from the weekend:

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It seemed appropriate to use our vintage Holga lens on the camera so please excuse the grainy blurriness of my photos today; most of the photos we snapped at this weekend were taken with this pin-hole-esque lens. It sometimes didn’t work very well, with some images turning out too dark and some too bright, but I liked the random nature of the images and it reminded me of getting a film back from the developers and seeing which photos had printed well and which were over-exposed. Initially, the lens wasn’t working at all and I couldn’t work out why all the images were black – then I realised that the internal lens cap was still on. Blush. Problem solved in one quick unscrewing! steam railway 40s weekend and vintage fashion-6 steam railway 40s weekend and vintage fashion-7 afternoon tea rations steam railway 40s weekend steam railway 40s weekend and vintage fashion-4 afternoon tea at the steam railway 40s weekend steam railway 40s weekend and vintage fashion

Dress from Red Cross charity shop, jacket from Joules, handbag Oxfam charity shop, seamed tights from UKTights and Orla Kiely shoes from Clarks

I relished the opportunity to wear a 40s-inspired look and although I didn’t have a genuine vintage dress from the era, I still enjoyed wearing my spotty shirt dress – which cost only £1 from the charity shop! – and my Joules tweed jacket. I’d recently won a pair of Orla Kiely shoes in a competition and I was delighted when I tried them on with my seamed tights – they looked just right! Plus, they were super-comfortable and even though I was on my feet pretty-much all day long, the shoes still didn’t rub or cause the balls of my feet to ache. I never thought that I could wear such high heels for a day out and I even took a change of shoes with me, but I was able to leave them in the car and didn’t need to change out of my vintage-inspired shoes all day. The chunky sole is a little too heavy to wear for dancing – I do a lot of kicking when I dance lindy hop! – but they were ideal for posing on the station platform and trekking around the town.

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It’s great to find a pair of modern shoes that fit in perfectly with the 40s style and I love the yellow so much – it really makes me happy when I look down at my feet! I will definitely be wearing these shoes as often as possible and I would love to own the ‘Dotty’ Orlas in the black and burgundy colourways too so I’ll be saving my pennies and putting them on my Christmas list – that’s if they haven’t already sold out by then, eek!


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Tuesday Shoesday ~ Strictly Dancing Shoes

I’ve got Strictly fever. I can’t get enough of the sparkles and sequins. I’ve been dancing in my kitchen while baking. I’ve been watching training clips on my phone at every opportunity. I’ve been glued to my TV on Saturday nights and I’ve started to arrange my social life around it. I’m addicted and I don’t care who knows it! It’s not the exciting line-up of celebrities and dancers that is drawing in me, but it’s the fact that this year it means more to me…

If you’ve been reading my blog over the summer, you’ll know (because I’ve been banging on about it) that I’ve started learning to dance. Yes, at my age! I’ve wanted to learn for years and every season of Strictly reminds me just how much I want to be one of those dancers in their princess dresses being whisked around the dance floor. Back in June the universe conspired to give me the opportunity to start learning swing dancing – it was in the right place, at the right time and with the right people – and I am so pleased that I went for it! Now that I’ve started to learn, I can’t get enough of it and I’ve been going to the occasional extra dance class and have even had a couple of private lessons. I’ve been practicing at home and my social calendar is made up of 1940s events and hangar dances. It’s undoubtedly a new passion of mine and now that I understand dancing a little, this season of Strictly Come Dancing has been even more interesting to me.

There’s not much swing dancing on Strictly – although I have done a bit of Charleston, lindy and jive in my dance classes so it’s always fun to watch these dances – I especially love watching the ballroom dances and now I want to take my dancing further. Yes, I want to be a princess! After being invited to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom to their Strictly Dancing & Afternoon Tea event in November (I’ll definitely be reporting back on this experience, so watch this space!), I needed to make sure that I’d at least be able to dance something on that famous dance floor. So I’ve had a few Foxtrot lessons and I’ve got that giddy grin back on my face!

As this is Tuesday Shoesday I ought to mention the main focus of today’s post and one of the most exciting things to happen to me: I’ve got new dancing shoes! At dance class this week I was able to Foxtrot in my sparkly new ballroom heels and it really made a difference to my performance; I started to point my feet as I danced and the cushioned soles were so comfortable that I was able to dance on tiptoes. I felt so professional and although I’m still learning, I felt that I was one step closer to being the dance floor princess that I’d always dreamed of.

My chiffon dress is from Apricot and my seamed tights are from UK Tights

With no specialist dance shops nearby I’d found it difficult to get hold of the shoes, tights and skirts that I’d wanted to invest in but luckily I was able to access this type of boutique store through the indie shopping website MyHigh.st. This website brings together independent retailers from all around the country and shares their wares through one shopping portal. Each retailer has their own page and my dance shoes were from Jems Party Dance a dancewear specialist in Essex. I probably would never travelled that distance to buy my shoes, but I could get them delivered to my home within only a couple of days.

Initially, I wasn’t sure which ballroom shoes to go for; black would go with everything, and nude would elongate my legs… But then I saw the sparkly shoes section and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from these glittery beauties. Okay, they might be a little over the top for my everyday dancing, but it’s not every day you get to go to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom and, let’s be honest, I wanted something sparkly!

It was a real Cinderella moment when the shoes arrived in their silver box and I first held them in my hands. I put them on immediately and was so pleased with the great fit and how comfortable they were. I got on with my writing work while wearing my spangly heels and I stayed happy all day – just glimping a little glitter was enough to make me smile! At dance class I got a lot of compliments on my new shoes and some of the other dancers even tried them on and took them for a spin around the dance floor. Now I can’t wait until my next lesson so that I can dance in them again. ballroom dancing shoes myhigh

And no, of course I haven’t been putting them on just to watch Strictly Come Dancing on TV…

Shoes for the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 from Hotter-4


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Tuesday Shoesday ~ My shoes for the Cosmo Blog Awards

The Cosmopolitan Blog Awards ceremony is one week away! Yes, this time next week I will be on my way to London to attend the biggest event in the blog world’s calendar and I’ve been worrying myself silly about what to wear. This is a super-fashionable magazine, and hundreds of on-trend fashion bloggers will be attending, so I’m getting all flustered about what to wear. I mean, what if someone photographs me? I’m quite happy to have no one seeing me on a day-to-day basis so to be seen in public is quite a big deal for me! So I’ve started from the feet up and have got myself some shoes ready for the big event. At least I know I’ll be comfortable when I walk into the venue in these little beauties.Shoes for the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 from Hotter-6 Shoes for the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 from Hotter-7

I first met Mel from Hotter shoes when she was a judge in my category at the National Blog Awards. She was kind enough to give me feedback on my blog after the event and I’ve since chatted with the whole Hotter team, so I knew that this would be a good place to start to get advice on what shoes would be best to wear to a dressy event, without being uncomfortable or toppling over (my worst nightmare!). So I got in touch and luckily they were able to point me in the right direction – right towards these gorgeous ‘France’ heels.Shoes for the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 from Hotter-4 Shoes for the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 from Hotter-5Seeing as I still don’t know what dress I’ll be wearing for the awards ceremony, I thought it would be best to choose a neutral shoe, and after finding lots of stunning shoes in taupe, tan and grey on the Hotter website, I asked for their expert help in choosing which pair would be best. Thankfully, they were able to help me whittle down my shortlist and suggested this pair of black, mid-heel shoes. And I have to say that I completely agree with their choice.Shoes for the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 from Hotter Shoes for the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 from Hotter-3Not only are they a stunning black leather in an on-trend round-toe shape, but they are practical too: The t-bar strap will hold the shoes firmly in place to ensure that the shoes don’t go flopping off my feet, and this will help minimise rubbing on the heel when I walk. The soles have Hotter ‘Comfort Concept’ cushioning which keeps the soles of my feet from becoming sore during a night out and the mid-heel means that there will be less painful pressure on the balls of my feet. Shoes for the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 from Hotter-2

All of this will ensure that I can carry on networking, partying and dancing throughout the Cosmo Blog Awards ceremony without wincing at my sore shoes. Now I can’t wait to get there!

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Tuesday Shoesday ~ Autumn swatch

Today seems to be the ideal time to start talking about autumn. There’s a bit of a chill in the air and over the weekend I spotted that the trees have started shedding their leaves. Have you noticed that the nights are already drawing in? I’m so easily affected by the weather and daylight that it makes me want to go to bed earlier each day! I’m sure it won’t be long until I put my heating on and start snuggling up under blankets on the sofa. In fact, we are only about a month away from the end of daylight saving – the clocks go back on the 26th October - and that’s when I really start feeling the cold from the impending winter. So before I start talking about Christmas again (!) it’s time to appreciate autumn for all it has to offer and I’ve come up with a list – a swatch – of textures, colours, feelings and activities that only autumn brings.autumn colours and leather boots-9

  • The vivid oranges of pumpkins and squashes. My mind conjures up an image of a traditional harvest festival with straw bales, and it is the colours of these bright fruits along with the strong greens of marrows and courgettes are that form the starting point for my autumn swatch.
  • The colours of autumn leaves as they turn trees into a flaming skyline. The dry crunchiness of leaves on the ground before the rain comes leads to the inevitable trip to the park to kick-up the leaves with my nephew while it’s still warm enough to play outside.
  • The rich brown leather of autumn boots, which are a staple part of any wardrobe at this time of year. It’s not yet knee-high snow-boot weather, but I certainly can’t get away with summer shoes or pumps either. A little extra warmth and protection is needed and soles with a good grip ensure that slippery wet leaves underfoot are not a problem. I love warm brown leather and enjoy buffing it to a conker-like shine.
  • And that conveniently brings us on to childhood; so many aspects of autumn remind me of childhood, such as conkers, new term school satchels and piles of leaves. This weekend I taught my nephew about sycamore seed ‘helicopters’ and he was mesmerised by them twirling to the ground. We’ve been collecting conkers and I’m thinking about trying to grow his first conker into a tree.
  • Rust – what an excellent representation of autumn colour. It describes all of the shades that autumn leaves progress through throughout the fall and it represents decay.

  • Woolly blankets, jumpers and tweed jackets are essential at this time of year. Just a thin extra layer helps to keep you warm and even though the itchy fabric irritates your skin, you don’t mind because you’re feel snuggly and cosy beneath the wool.
  • Plums, damsons, blackberries and sloes are ripe for the picking and this is the season of jam-making and preserving for me. These purple shades coordinate well with the browns and oranges of autumn, and at Halloween it seems to be the witches’ preferred shade, as fancy dress shops are packed with purple cloaks.
  • Burning sunsets of pink, red and gold are so bright and warm that you want to stay out in the fields until the sun goes down. The colours make the sky appear to be on fire, and the burning skies reflect all the fireplaces around the country that are being lit again for the first time this season.

Each of these autumnal elements reminds me of feeling warm but with a chilly nose, wearing gloves and sunglasses at the same time, and laughing with friends and family. This time of year brings the excitement of back-to-school (that I mentioned last week) and I love shopping for this seasons essentials, such as my ankle boots from Pavers which you may have spotted in the photos above. This rich chocolate shade is one of the top colour trends for A/W14 along with ox-blood and navy so I’m delighted to find an affordable – but most importantly, comfortable – ankle boot in this colourway.

Adding these boots to my autumn wardrobe means that I can go stomping through piles leaves and splashing in puddles without worrying about getting wet, cold or slipping over, because they have soles with excellent grip and are lined with a cosy faux-fur. Plus the buckles, straps and zips are key elements for this season’s footwear collections. I’m so pleased to have found a pair of boots that combine form with function; they are totally on-trend yet are completely practical with a cute low heel that doesn’t make you feel unsteady and are super comfortable – I can wear them all day, go for long walks and kick up the leaves yet my feet still feel fine when I slip them off at the end of the day.

I hope that my seasonal swatch list has made you feel a little more autumnal and please get in touch if you have anything that you’d like to add to it. Do you have an interesting memory about autumn from childhood or can you think of any particular colours or textures that always put you in mind of this season? Please leave me a comment below or tweet me @Cassiefairy – chat soon!