Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

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

steam railway 40s weekend and vintage fashion-6


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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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1940s fashion for men

If you’ve been reading my blog over the past few months (and even earlier this week, because I mentioned it again in my dancing shoes blog post!) I’ve been getting very ‘into’ the 1940s scene and swing dancing. It started when I went to the Mid-Suffolk Vintage Festival back in June for the D-Day celebrations and I couldn’t keep the crazy grin off my face all day. We met a few members of the local lindy dance group there and they invited us along to a dance class the following Friday. Thankfully we decided to go and we’ve barely missed a lesson since!Vintage Festival and D Day Remembrance 2014-9 Vintage Festival and D Day Remembrance 2014-20 Vintage Festival and D Day Remembrance 2014-10

Luckily, there is a thriving 40s culture in East Anglia and I am never short of events to attend – in fact, there are sometimes too many and only next week I have three dances to choose from! I can’t keep up with getting different 40s outfits for each event and I find myself desperately coveting my friends’ circle dresses and tweed jackets.  I’ve shared a few of my photos from recent events and I’ve been particularly interested in what the men are wearing…

I think that finding period outfits for men is more difficult than it is for women – there are plenty of 40s and 50s replica dress companies out there for us and a thriving vintage online market. But there are less specialist retailers out there for men’s vintage clothing, especially as my husband doesn’t fancy going for the whole military get-up. So far he’s been looking rather swish in brogues and braces but I’d like to invest in something a little more ‘dressy’ for the evenings. And that’s where scarves come in!vintage mens fashionI really like the idea of buying my husband a silk aviator scarf from classy menswear brand Knightsbridge Gentleman’s Neckwear and I’ve nabbed a couple of photos from their website in order to show you the type of classic men’s fashion I’m talking about. I’m sure you will agree that it would fit in perfectly with the 40s style we are trying to incorporate into our dancing wardrobe. I also love the combination of braces with a bow-tie so there might even be a bow-tie in hubby’s Christmas stocking this year! I think he wears the look really well and he’s even started wearing braces in ‘everyday life’ so I’m hoping that this smart look might be here to stay ;)


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Googie style & my new dress

Have you every found yourself drawn to a piece of furniture, a homeware accessory or an item of clothing but you have no idea why? Even though it might be the tackiest, most brash, weirdest thing you’ve ever seen, you can’t take your eyes off it and actually kinda want it? I’ve always taken an interest in the concept of personal taste and why we choose the things we do for our homes and wardrobes and this week I’ve been re-watching artist Grayson Perry’s documentary ‘All in the best possible taste’ online, Of course, I’ve found myself yearning for all the things that good taste dictates that we shouldn’t want. Am I an individual, then? One of my favourite things that the artist says is ‘we all like to think we’re individual, that is until we meet someone just a individual as we are’. That sums up the concept of taste perfectly for me and it totally explains why we have the urge to own things that express our own personalities.jetsons-googie

The Jetsons – “home of the future”

That said, this summer I’ve found myself being even more drawn to bright colours and kitsch designs. I’ve been pinning tacky images all over my Pinterest boards and I can’t get enough of 50s and 60s space-age design. If you read back over my blog posts, you’ll see that I’m a big fan of mid-century modern and I’ve even decorated my home to pay homage to this era. But a loud pattern and a splash of garish orange isn’t enough for me anymore. Instead, I’ve discovered Googie and there’s no going back!

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The Googie style of architecture arrived after the end of WWII and demonstrated opulence in it’s size and grandeur, and showed off the optimistic nature of the generation as they watched the space race unravel. If you imagine the Jetsons’ (yes, I’ve been watching the cartoon online too..!) space station home, you’ve got it! That’s the style that I love even though ‘serious’ architects describe it as ‘frivolous or crass’.

The Googie style originated from Southern California and the bright colours and large flying-saucer and boomerang shapes are key elements of this design. I think it’s an architectural style that doesn’t take itself too seriously and I’d love to visit some of the remaining examples of buildings designed in this space-age image. In the meantime, I’ve found myself searching out Googie design in other parts of my life; clothing and homewares, and I found this dress in the ASOS sale.

The pattern contains retro clocks and the atomic designs that are so popular in Googie designs. I would definitely call this patter retro-inspired rather than vintage. The dress was described as grey but is actually more of a lilac shade, combined with bright yellow, baby blue and mint green, so it’s even more Googie than I thought it would be when I ordered it! I wore it the dress on a day out and although I at first felt a little garish, the bright colours and playful pattern lifted my spirits and I couldn’t help but smile as I wore it. Yes, I’m Judy Jetson and I don’t care who knows it!

 

Okay, I know that this style is a little more 60s than I’m used to and I’m not sure that I’ll get much wear out of it at the 40s events and lindy hop dances I go to, but it’s an easy-to-wear nod to the mid-century and reminds me how much I adore Googie style every time I open my wardrobe.


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An interview about my little vintage caravan

Today I’m proud to tell you that I’ve been interviewed about my little vintage caravan makeover project by the fabulous writer Lela from the Simple Caravan Insurance blog. I’m really pleased with how this article turned out (see the original article here) and wanted to share the interview with you to give you a bit more of an insight into my caravan project.

book review of vintage caravan style by lisa mora

What made you choose the caravan model that you did for your makeover?

I chose this particular caravan for my project partly because of the low price (it was only £100!) and also because the Sprite has a cute curved shape. It was the kind of caravan that I’d conjured up in my mind’s eye as a “vintage” caravan, and I knew that it would look considerably nicer once it had been painted.

When conducting your makeover, did you have a plan from the get-go?

The only plan I had at the start of the project was to strip everything back and start from scratch with an empty shell. The old interior was so badly damaged that only the bases of the seats could be salvaged so once the interior has been removed I could see exactly where damp was coming in and what needed to be done, and only then was I able to make a to-do list. The design of the interior wasn’t planned out at all – all of the makeover decisions were made based on cost! The paint colours were chosen because I’d managed to pick up some end-of-line pots of paint, the wallpaper patchwork wall was made from ends of rolls, off-cuts from friends’ decorating and I even reused old paper that had stripped off my mum’s walls while she was decorating. All of the furniture was bought from charity shops or rescued from a skip, while my fabric was mostly thrifted – the seat covers are my in-laws’ old bed sheets! 

cassiefairy's original caravan

What has been the most difficult part of your caravan makeover so far?

The most difficult part of the makeover was replacing the window trims. It was easy to remove the old window seals because they were crumbling off and letting in a lot of leaks! But adding the new window trims took an entire-day because I needed to move the caravan in order to get access to the rear window and stretching the trim around the frame was complicated – no sooner than I had smoothed one piece into place than another piece would pop off! To make matters worse, I discovered that the side window was held in place with silicone and once this had been removed to fit the window trim, the glass started sliding out of the window and very nearly smashed on the floor! It has now been refitted but I still can’t open the window and it would be good to get it working, so that’s next on the ever-growing list!

 If you did the makeover again, what would you do differently?

I would possibly decorate the space differently, choosing coordinating wallpaper and paints for a more professional finish rather than throwing everything I could get my hands on at the walls! I think this would make the space more desirable if I were ever to sell the caravan in the future. But then again, I’m not intending make a profit nor am I ever planning to sell it, so I’m happy that is becoming ‘my’ space and it is very personal to me. As the project is still evolving I can continue to decorate it and add bits to my patchwork wall as I find them – I doubt it will ever really be ‘finished’!

cassiefairy - my little vintage caravan

What will be the primary use of the space?

 My initial plan for the caravan was to use it as a work space. It would be my version of a garden shed where I could keep all of my sewing equipment and an office space to run my blog Cassiefairy.com from. I use the table as a sewing and writing desk and am currently working on adding more storage space for fabrics and crafts. A second use for the caravan has emerged over the past year: it’s become a spare room. Our house doesn’t have a guest bedroom so when we have visitors either my husband and I will camp out in the caravan (and very cosy it is too!) or my visitors will ask if they can stay in the caravan. So it’s become a very useful second bedroom! It is a also a great space for family meals, because we can’t fit a group of 8/9 around our dining table indoors, but there’s plenty of room in the caravan for a long table and we’ve had many meals out there all year round!

The only thing that I don’t think it will be used for again is towing away for a holiday. This is a shame because I’d love to camp in it, but we needed to remove all the electrics when the caravan arrived (they were rather dodgy) so it would need a complete overhaul of lights for towing, as well as fitting a new electric hook-up point. Also, I’m worried that removing the interior fittings might have destabilised the structure because there is no internal bracing now that the cupboards, kitchen and wardrobe have been removed. I don’t know how much this affects the usability of the caravan but I think it’ll take a lot more work to get it back into towing-and-camping-condition!

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What is your favourite feature in the caravan?

My favourite feature in the caravan is the back window. This may sound like a strange favourite to choose, but it runs across the whole width of the caravan and it opens upwards on hinges to let in a lot of fresh air (a must when I’m working in there on hot summer days!) and I love listening to all the sounds of birds chirping in the garden. It lets in plenty of light so that I don’t need to plug in lamps and when you’re lying in the double bed at night you can pull back the curtains and see a wide-angle view of the stars.

What is left to do? Have you stuck to a timeframe or set a ‘due date’?

I have lots more left to do – some of which I’ve already mentioned: fix the side window so that it can be opened, build in some fitted storage for fabrics etc, paint the interior of the door (I like the idea of chalkboard paint there), add a chest of drawers for guests who stay in the caravan, lay slabs outside the caravan and plant a few flowers, find some steps to make it a little easier to hop in and out of the caravan and, if I’m being picky, I think the outside of the caravan need repainting already because it’s not looking as fresh as it did this time last year!

 Is another caravan makeover on the horizon after this one?

I certainly hope so! I’m completely hooked on caravans – I subscribe to Vintage Caravan Magazine and am always daydreaming about getting a caravan that I can actually tow and take away on holiday. I actually want a smaller caravan; just a little two-berth would be perfect for hubby and I to go away in for a weekend. I’ve found plenty of vintage caravans for sale that have already been renovated but I enjoyed the process so much that I’d like to get my hands on one that hasn’t been touched for years and give it a new lease of life.

Vintage caravan makeover project on Cassiefairy blog-6