Hello! I’m Carrie-Ann from Something Definitely Happened, and I’ve recently started a new project on my blog, the A-Z of vintage girl in a modern world. Thank you to the lovely Jessica for inviting me to tell you about it!
I could quite easily write hundreds and hundreds of words on each letter (in fact, I do), but if I did that for all 26 in one go, we’d be here for days, so I’ve put together an abridged version of my A-Z for you. Enjoy!
A is for Audrey (and others)
I think it’s safe to say that all of us vintage vixens have a Hollywood icon or two as our inspiration. Me? I have several. I’ve loved Audrey since I saw My Fair Lady aged 7. Rita sparked the first, “Yes, I want to dress like that. Forever and always” when I saw a poster of her hanging in the Glenn Miller Museum up at Twinwood Airfield in the U.K., and Vivien? Well, she gives me serious eyebrow goals.
Since I’ve started dressing like (I’m quoting several friends and strangers here), a 1950s housewife, I’ve never felt more confident in my body. I’ve been (much) skinnier than I am now, and I was so sad and unhappy, thinking I was the ugliest thing on the planet because I didn’t look like my athletic, size 8 friends. I wanted to change everything about myself, from the size of my ears, to the length of my legs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not delighted that I have slightly-larger-than-average ears, or much-shorter-than-average legs (it makes getting things down from the top shelf in the supermarket a bit of a pain), but. I’ve found my groove. I wear the clothes that I want, and that flatter my body shape, rather than picking up the latest high street trend, even if it’s all wrong for me.
And that feels pretty darn good.
Or, as I believe you lovely chums from across the pond call them, yard sales (please, forgive me if I’m wrong). There’s nothing quite as satisfying as rummaging through someone’s old bric-a-brac, and wondering what you might find. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to meet up with some other vintage-loving girls to visit the Classic Car Boot Sale in London, followed by a trip to Cahoots, an amazing bar in an abandoned London Underground station, where you’re transported to 1946. If you’re ever in the area, let me know and we’ll go for some of the most amazing and creative cocktails this side of the Atlantic.
It’s also for dancing, but my wardrobe is much more extensive than my lindy hop repertoire. Apart from two occasions I couldn’t help (a trip to a nature reserve and a trip to a building site), I haven’t worn jeans for six years. I just don’t feel comfortable in them anymore. Instead, give me a swing dress and a petticoat, and I’m in my happy place.
I have a few true vintage pieces, but my wardrobe is mostly made up of reproduction. From a foxy 40s tea dress to a flirty 50s cocktail number, there really is something for everyone.
This is something I aspire to, rather than something I already have (just ask my husband, who looked on in amusement as I fell over three times trying to put my tights on this morning), but I’m often complimented on my elegant looking outfits by people I meet walking down the street.
Just as long as they don’t look too closely and see the wrinkles where I haven’t ironed the skirt properly, or the toothpaste stain that’s been a nightmare to shift.
F is for friends
I feel very lucky. Not only do I have friends who I’ve been with for as long as I can remember and who embrace who I am, what I do and how I dress (my sister arranged a vintage-themed hen party – bachelorette party, if you will – and every single person there wore a vintage-style dress), but getting into vintage has given me a whole new group of chums. It’s lovely. Everyone I’ve met in the vintage scene has been so warm, welcoming and lovely, and on the occasions where I’ve introduced old and new friends, they’ve gotten on like a house on fire.
I don’t talk like I’m from the 1940s all the time, but I am an eager beaver for slang. Blimey, crikey and gosh can all be used in a variety of situations, and I’m often told I talk absolute gobbledygook. Which I take as a compliment.
H is for hair flowers
I cannot get enough hair flowers. I love them. From subtle ones for the office (I use the word subtle loosely, obviously), my favourites are two little navy orchids I bought on a work trip to Minneapolis (the novelty of being in a hotel next to Mall of America didn’t wear off for the whole trip).
To more elaborate creations for the weekends – I get mine from etsy, Facebook pages and vintage fairs. The ones here are from Sophisticated Lady Hair Flowers and Shazam! Vintage
While my look is predominantly 1950s, with the occasional 1940s silhouette or victory roll thrown in, I also have a growing collection of 1960s’ handbags, and a lot of my dresses are modern reproductions of vintage styles.
To some people, this may mean I’m not a vintage enthusiast. I am. I think it’s important for a vintage-loving girl in a modern world to know that she can take inspiration from wherever the heck she likes. If you love 1920s music, 1950s skirts and 1990s Dr Marten’s, go for it – you do you.
It makes me sad when I hear people being disparaging towards others either because they mix their eras, or they try really hard to match everything up. We’re all as different as the ladies and gents that came before us, let’s embrace our differences, not criticise them!
J is for the jive (and others)
Surely one of the most iconic things about the 1940s and 1950s is the dancing. I’ve had a couple of lindy hop lessons myself, but always let my self-consciousness get in the way. I’d love to go back, and secretly harbour a dream where I can do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahoJReiCaPk
K is for keeping it classy
I think one of the things I love most about the 1940s and 1950s, the eras I naturally gravitate towards, is how they’re always represented as classy and sophisticated. They might not have been – I wasn’t there – and don’t get me wrong, I’ve stumbled out of my share of bars in the early hours, but nowadays, I love an excuse to wear a petticoat, pearls and curls, having a cocktail or two before making a graceful (well, I say graceful, I usually manage to knock something over) exit.
L is for lipstick
Because my face just doesn’t feel complete without a slash of red lipstick. I’ve recently discovered Charlotte Tilbury, after two lovely friends bought me one of her lipsticks as a wedding present – it was love at first sight. And of course, MAC’s Ruby Woo and Russian Red are old favourites.
As I mentioned earlier in my alphabet, the first time I saw Audrey Hepburn was on a VHS copy of ‘My Fair Lady’. My first encounter with Julie Andrews wasn’t as ‘Mary Poppins’, but as a chirpy singing nun in ‘The Sound of Music’. My gran loved musicals you see, and she got me started on them at a young age. While they might not be every vintage girl’s cup of tea, they’re certainly mine. To me, they evoke a sense of occasion, when going to the cinema included shorts and an intermission. It makes popping to the multiplex to watch the latest Marvel film seem a bit dull in comparison.
N is for nostalgia
Some people think it’s odd that I yearn for a time when, not only was I not born, but my mum was only teeny tiny (I won’t say more, as she wouldn’t thank me for sharing her age). While I feel nostalgic for certain elements of the 1940s and 1950s – the fashion and style, knowing your neighbours, the music and the dancing – there are, of course, a fair few things I’m glad we’ve largely left in the past (and I don’t just mean the incredibly labour-intensive housework).
O is for old Hollywood heroes
I’ve already told you about some of my favourite ladies, now let’s look at some of my favourite actors from what’s commonly known as the golden era of Hollywood. Of course, there’s Marlon Brando – my 16-year-old self was hooked as I watched ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ for the first time and heard him scream “Stella!”, while I could watch Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly dance for days.
Then of course there’s James Stewart, who made my heart melt as George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, surely the loveliest man in the whole of Bedford Falls and beyond.
Along with practice, practice, practice! I’ve tried tonnes of setting patterns, setting lotions and pomades, but I think I’ve finally found the one that works for me – pin curls, Lottabody setting lotion and Suavecita pomade.
Queen Elizabeth II is currently between her two birthdays – her actual birthday was in April, and her official birthday is next month. And she’s one of my true style icons. From her outfits in the 1950s to her carefully colour coordinated outfits of today.
Upcycling, re-loving, call it what you will – if you come across a lovely piece that’s lost its way a bit, whether it’s clothing, homeware or something else entirely, it’s always worth looking at it to see if it can be reimagined into something different and fabulous.
Most of the furniture in our house is a mix of inherited pieces from grandparents (including a cracking set of utility chairs) and re-loved pieces from a fantastic seller I found on Facebook. And my parents recently bought me a sewing machine for my 30th birthday, so I’m itching to rip some of my old clothes up (no idea what they’re still doing in my wardrobe, I never wear them) to make a nice set of cushion covers.
S is for stockings
Now, a lady shouldn’t go into detail, but a nice pair of stockings often makes my vintage outfit feel complete. But what’s a girl to do when she pulls one on, and ‘ping!’, a ladder snakes its way halfway up her leg?
Well, if you’re anything like me, you curse, then root around for a spare. BUT, I have a tip! If the ladder isn’t too bad, try clear nail varnish, or hairspray. Both work a treat to stop the ladder from getting any bigger, allowing you a bit of breathing space to find somewhere that sells replacements!
T is for Twinwood Festival
One of my favourite weekends in the whole year. Twinwood Festival is a music festival in the U.K., with tunes from the 1920s-1960s. People dress up, there are traders a-plenty and dance lessons, and everyone walks around grinning at each other for three days. I used to volunteer with my granddad, and adored how everyone dressed up. It’s also where I saw that Rita Hayworth poster, and something sparked in me and I thought, “I want to do that too.”
Or, as I supposed we should call it, foundation wear. Whether you’re wearing true vintage or reproduction outfits, wearing the right underwear can make you feel a million dollars, and it gives you the most amazing, smooth shape. My bridal set was from What Katie Did, and makes me feel awesome. The corset makes me feel like the most gorgeous woman on the planet.
Well, this is quite an obvious one. Given my measurements, finding true vintage clothes can be tricky, but I’m building up a nice collection of handbags and jewellery, along with a few dresses from vintage fairs, etsy, eBay and Facebook sellers. You can sometimes need to do a little rooting, but it’s totally worth it!
I can’t be alone in having a job where it’s inappropriate to dress in full-on vintage fashion every day. While I’ll happily rock red lipstick and sling on a swing dress, pin curls aren’t really appropriate for the office. Which, for me, makes weekends even more special. Finishing my wet set before wrapping it in a scarf on a Friday night starts the weekend for me, and I have a whale of a time experimenting with new looks!
Ok, I cheated with this one a little bit, but I had a bit of a mind-blank and couldn’t work out how I could make xylophone or Xena, Warrior Princess work (if you have an answer, please, let me know!).
Just as I was starting to get into the vintage scene, I had burlesque lessons. My teacher was amazing, and had a big focus on being confident in yourself, and that, combined with finally embracing my inner vintage vixen and meeting my lovely husband, who encourages me to embrace the things I love, did wonders for my self-esteem.
Y is for yes!
This isn’t exclusive to vintage, but I think we should all learn to say yes more. My first vintage event I went to apart from Twinwood Festival was a film night, that I thought about, decided I didn’t want to go to on my own, then decided to go before discovering tickets were sold out. One became available at the last minute, so I snapped it up before I could think twice about it.
I went, had an awesome time, and met two brilliant girls who I’m pleased to call proper friends (they love Doctor Who and vintage as much as I do, and I adore them). So, embrace the nerves, plaster a big grin on your face, and go say hello to people. You’ll have a blast!
Zzz – learning to sleep with a wet set
Oh my word, sleeping in rollers/pins. Wet sets look ruddy awesome once they’re brushed out (well, mine are still a work in progress), but learning to sleep in them was certainly a challenge. Some tips from me: a thick scarf or turban pads everything, making it a bit more comfortable. I find sleeping on my back is most comfortable as it stops everything from pulling, and if all else fails, just close your eyes and think how awesome you’ll look in the morning!
I hope you enjoyed this whistle stop tour of being a vintage girl in a modern world. If you’d like to read more, pop over to my blog (www.somethingdefinitelyhappened.com). I’m still quite early on in the alphabet over there, so there’s plenty of time to change up some of the letters – let me know if there are any topics you’d like to hear about!