Monday, 31 March 2014

Putting Together a Prize Winning Vintage Outfit - at Vintage Ireland

So I went to my second Vintage Ireland "Fashion & Decor Fair" back in November, and this time I won the best-dressed prize! I've been meaning to share some photos from the event; but things just have been very busy with my shop and new projects, I've even started designing and sewing my own things again. Now that the new social season (!! I know, social season) has begun and the next fair is less than a week away, I feel it could be a good time for this post, and to put in a few tips towards dressing for a vintage events like this.

The dress that I wore was a 1950s-1960s cotillion/prom style chiffon formal gown in sea foam green, unlabelled but possibly a Sylvia Ann creation (I've since seen a near identical gown marked 1950s and with an original Sylvia Ann tag). Because of a restoration that was done on the dress prior to my acquisition of it, the skirt is slightly slimmer than its original late 1950s/early 1960s full-skirted look.

Photos from Vintage Ireland
Photo by John Coveney

Photo by John Coveney

Pearl & I 
Photo by John Coveney

It was my second time winning a best-dressed prize at an event in just a few months, so it really made my year. As I'm preparing the outfit for the new fair, I'm dwelling on some of the things that I've learned about vintage event dressing, that perhaps you'll also find helpful, especially if you are entering the dress competition whether at the upcoming Vintage Ireland fair this weekend or any other vintage occasion!

Tip No.1: Wear Authentic Vintage
Some events such as Vintage Ireland's fashion fairs require the outfit to consist mainly of authentic vintage (as opposed to reproductions or "vintage-inspired") garments, so it would be absolutely important that you have something vintage on you on those occasions. If the venue doesn't have any requirements I feel that one still holds an advantage by wearing the real vintage thing because it's usually rare and unique compared to most modern reproductions; unless, of course, it's an event celebrating modern retro-style designs or your own sewing which would be a different matter.

Tip No.2:  Consider Choosing a High-Quality Vintage Boutique for Your Main Piece

My own vintage wear come from a number of different sources: charity shops, flea markets, local vintage boutiques, vintage fairs, online shops. I've gotten great things from all these places, but time and time again I've found that the pieces that I can count on to carry off important occasions have come from carefully curated vintage boutique shops that have at least some specialisation in high-end vintage. This is not to say that the clothes from charity shops and flea markets are less excellent (I'd comfortably wear my 20 Euro vintage dresses any day), however the reality is that one is not likely to often find suitable pre-1960s occasion dresses outside of curated vintage boutiques, and when one does find one or two, the lack of choice could affect one's decision-making badly. If you are serious about dressing appropriately and looking your best for an event, then I would definitely recommend checking out some of your local trustworthy vintage boutiques either in shop or at their vintage fair showcase stalls, as well as online curated shops; and putting some investment in your purchase - it doesn't have to break the bank either, as you'll find that generally vintage fashion prices are much less steep than even the average high street shops.

I got my dress from Daisy and Stella Vintage on Etsy which specialises in Early to Mid Century special occasion dresses, and I must admit that it was a somewhat bigger purchase than most of my vintage day dresses and took some deliberation. But I went for it as it was not to be easily found elsewhere, and I felt safe purchasing from a shop with consistent quality, great taste, and strong customer relations. It definitely has a special place in my wardrobe, along with the likes of my precious 1930s Marshall Fields velvet opera coat and 1950s ballet dress.

Tip No.3: Accessorise Well

Accessories are truly a necessity for classic, old-school vintage fashion. I'm finding it easiest to create a clean, effective look by matching a minimum amount of jewellery to the main clothing piece such as a gown, two-part dress or suit. This is by no means the only way (I often contemplate basing my outfit on a piece of jewellery that I really want to wear), but it's what I find works for me the best at the moment. For my outfit here I simply added a pair of 1940s paste rhinestone clip-on earrings (worn also with another dress to Film Fatale's Halloween party), and my Clark black suede shoes.

At times like this it really helps to have a collection of vintage jewellery and accessories such as shoes, handbags, and hats to choose from, which can be slowly built up from small purchases here and there. They don't have to be expensive (I found my earrings from my friend Moira's stall at a vintage market for only a few Euros) as long as you've figured out what you like and works with your general style. I myself am actually still trying to find my way with gloves and hats as well as needing to acquire more of those. I would have further included gloves with the ensemble had I been able to find a pair that was completely suitable. 

Tip No.4: Be Yourself and Dress What You Like
After all the technical stuff, it's time to return to the most important thing: what you really want. It's easy to get lost in a mountain of vintage styles and to feel pressured to assume a certain look, but don't forget that whatever look you are trying out, you can bring your own personality to it and you don't have to replicate anyone else either from the past or now! And at any time if there's a look that appeals to you, I say, go for it. When I first attended the Vintage Fair last spring, I wore a 1980s does 1950s floral cotton day dress (a bit Laura Ashley style) with a boater hat which got me a spot prize though didn't win a place in the competition, but that was what I was feeling comfortable in, and I don't have any regrets about my it. It's my personal joke that I'd wear practically any style for modelling projects, but when it comes to dressing for myself I'm really quite stubborn with what I happen to like. Recently, for example, I'm most inclined towards the 1940s Film Noir look and that's what I'll probably stick to.

(The next Vintage Fashion & Decor Fair by Vintage Ireland is happening on Sunday April 6, 2014, 11:30 am - 6:30 pm at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire near Dublin. You can find the event page on the website here or the Facebook event here. It's 7 Euros in and a special rate of 5.50 Euro is available with the coupon either on top of the Facebook event or here. Highly recommended for an afternoon of shopping, lounging, vintage make-over, music performances and prize-winning!)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Halloween Speakeasy with Film Fatale

Dublin Film Fatale organised a 1920s Speakeasy theme Halloween party back in October; and I must have been one of the first to book tickets as I was hoping to get out this Halloween, and the idea of an alternative Halloween event, based on Art Deco decadence and silent films, really appealed to me. Also - it was to be at a secret venue! The description on the event page was extremely enticing, with promises of Charleston tunes, silent movies, burlesque acts and an invitation to dress up Old Hollywood style (we can still read it here).

I had been getting into a bit of 1920s dressing recently while modelling for my vintage shop, but I somehow didn't feel like going Flapper this time; so as the Prohibition Era kind of lasted into the 1930s, I went with a more 1930s full-gowned look. Another consideration was what people in the 1920s and 1930s would dress up as for fancy balls, when not in their everyday trendy wear. The fairies were a popular theme, which was quite what I had in mind. I will probably do a post of the inspirations later as well.

I used a vintage 1970s Candi Jones white dress in 1930s style, which was a recent purchase from a little Etsy shop of the quirky name The Atomic Squirrel.We got some photos with the party's Paper Moon prop- very 1920s! I fancy that my gown goes nicely with the moon...

Vintage Candi Jones white dress, paper moon picture 
Candi Jones white dress fairy costume
Film Fatale Halloween Party
(Photo courtesy of Ronan McCall from Film Fatale)

And here are two on the stairs for the full length:
(I can't believe how I actually accomplished the new hairdo [it's a variation of the Civil War "Luana Braid"]; best I have done of it so far, seriously.) 

Vintage Candi Jones dress
Vintage Candi Jones White Dress

The end result is a bit ambiguously between fairy (A Midsummer Night's Dream Titania fairy queen kind), Vivien Leigh's ballet costume in Waterloo Bridge, and maybe just a 1930s Hollywood lady dressed formal; which was good with me as I was actually trying to avoid dressing up too specifically. The accessories included my favourite, currently overused big drawstring bag (it looks old-fashioned but is a modern reproduction), 1960s white ruched nylon gloves from the treasure trove Lucy's Lounge in town, a 1920s (1920s!) Art Deco pattern gold-tone jewelled clamp bangle, and lastly but most sparkly, 1940s rhinestone clip-on earrings found at my friend Moira's stall at the Purevintage Fair.

vintage long white gloves, rhinestone earrings, and drawstring bag
Vintage 1940s rhinestone earrings
The entrance to the secret venue was on Wicklow Street in City Centre with Charlie Chaplin as gatekeeper, leading to a restaurant that had been converted to a Speakeasy den for the night. We had quite a queue in, so I took some photos while in the line; it looked like boarding Titanic?

Inside cabaret and burlesque performances awaited. Miss Truly DiVine (I first knew Miss Truly DiVine when I too was playing at The Ferocious Mingle Market a few years ago, though I'm not sure if she remembered me until more recently, as I might have grown a bit older since then) was putting on her Marlene Dietrich song act. 

Truly Divine as Marlene Dietrich, Film Fatale Halloween Speakeasy party 2013
Truly Divine as Marlene Dietrich, Film Fatale Halloween Speakeasy party Film Fatale Halloween Speakeasy party 
Film Fatale Halloween party

And pumpkins.

Pumpkin lantern, Film Fatale Halloween party

I have missed Film Fatale's December movie It's a Wonderful Life, but am thinking about the February screening of The Artist which is also a celebration of FF's third birthday - the only problem is that I have already seen it in the cinema before! Oh well, I suppose I might give in and go...I could imagine tickets must be going fast!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Castletown House with the Irish Historical Costumers Group - Part II

Finally to put up the rest of my photos from our costumed visit to the Castletown House in Celbridge Kildare! Here's a group shot outside the stables (now visitors' entrance) at Ireland's largest and earliest Palladian style house and home of Thomas Conolly, an 18th century Speaker of the Irish House of Commons.
group shot Victorian and Regency costumes Castletown House

 And a close-up of Laura in her pretty hat.
Laura Thorp, blue Victorian bustle dress, Castletown House

Then into the house led by our tour guide Linda. This shot is behind the original main entrance, which is now generally kept shut.
tour guide Linda, Castletown House

Get the cameras out:
tour Castletown House, Victorian costumes

It was fashionable in the 18th century for well-to-do ladies to set aside a small room and decorate it with meticulously collected cut-out prints. This Print Room in Castletown House, decorated by Thomas Conolly's wife Lady Louisa Lennox Connolly and her friends, is a fine example of the English 18th century style. I have since read a bit on the subject from the Regency Redingote blog, quite interesting!
18th century English Georgian print room, Castletown House Kildare
18th century English Georgian print room, Castletown House Kildare

The formidable bed.
18th century Georgian bed, Castletown House Kildare
Apparently this would have been the place for a governor to hold court in the morning, sitting in the bed (I hope I'm remembering it right), although I seem to recall hearing Linda saying also that Conolly didn't actually use it - alas, I'm afraid I haven't come away as enriched with historical details as I should have, being not so good at multitasking after all, when I was being distracted with photo opportunities (poor Linda did give us permission to let our eyes and minds wander a bit, as we were in costume and couldn't help taking pictures of one another; I did feel very ashamed).

For instance, I had to beg Miss Marja-Kristina to model for me. Isn't it quite "Country House"?
window at Castletown House Kildare

I also liked these portraits, which I think are likely to be of Thomas Conolly's relatives (he had no direct descendent and the house was therefore passed to his nephew in 1729).
portraits at Castletown House Kildare

 Mainly because of this:
conjoined twins or ghost portrait, Castletown House Kidare
At first glance, I definitely took it for more than what it is!

We took a stroll outside after lunch. There are our new friends Valerie and her niece at the near back here, who shared the tour with us.

And did I mention that the we were given our own changing room for our group tour at Castletown House? Nice.

 Now changed back to day outfit.

I would definitely recommend Castletown House if you are planning a day out with something to see, whether coming from locally or outside of Ireland, and especially if you are in the least attracted to historical establishments or Georgian architecture. The entrance for adults is just 4.50 Euro, and it's only about 30/40 minutes by bus from Dublin city centre, which is so convenient much nearer than I had expected. There are plenty of space outside and extensive grounds for sitting or walking around (we were hoping to do a picnic, except the weather let us down slightly), and the local Celbridge Village looks like a great place with little shops and restaurants. The food at the cafe/restaurant leaves a little something to be desired, but it's still very decent (the pecan brownies were pretty good) and it's a lovely bright space.

I've been wanting to visit again but now have to wait until next March, as the House is closed for the winter months (you can find their schedule on the visitors website). However, I will be seeing the ladies from the Historical Costumer Group very soon - this Saturday actually! We are having tea at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire - costumed, of course. Please have a look if you might be interested to join this one or any future events.

I have a bunch of new updates to post - a few photoshoots, outings and events, including the wedding. Can't wait!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Castletown House with the Irish Historical Costumers Group - Part I

Castletown House Kildare Ireland visit
Two weeks ago I went on a day trip with The Irish Historical Costumers Group to Castletown House in Kildare, about an hour from town. It was awfully nice and did not fall short of this one-line introduction on our event (and also on the Castletown House website) that got me excited about the visit:
'This I believe the only house in Ireland to which the term palace can be applied. ' -Richard Twiss, 1775
Built in the 18th century, it's Ireland's largest and earliest Palladian style house. My first photo probably doesn't show the house to its full advantage; here I quote a photo from the official website for a front look:
Castletown House front view
(Photo from
The long avenue leading up to the house, surrounded by the extensive estate grounds, was most delightful and I wished that I had the time to walk up more leisurely, as I had to run as soon as I got off the bus so as not to be late for our appointed meet up time.

As it had been more than three years since I was last involved in a costumed re-enactment and I hadn't been either making or shopping for historical costumes, I dug into my vintage dress collection and brought up this 1980s iridescent red taffeta costume-y dress by Ronald Joyce, that I sort of call my Black Tulip Dress; which, although by no means historically accurate, is very much in the shape of an 1890s ball gown, with the puffed sleeves and accentuated waist followed by a more voluminous skirt:
vintage red taffeta Victorian dress, Castletown House, interview with the Vampire
(Photo by Andrea Waitz)
(Pretty inappropriate to be wearing an evening gown in the early afternoon, but circumstances prevail!)

1890s evening gowns, late Victorian dresses, fashion plates
(1890s evening gowns. Pictures from Vintage Victorian)

1890s evening gowns, late Victorian evening dresses with puffed sleeves, 1896 fashion plate
(1896 evening gowns. Picture from Vintage Victorian)
And here's a preview of the rest of the tour!

The costumer ladies:
 A Living Room, I think:
Castletown House living room

I was quite taken with this wall paper (?) motif in the unfinished room:
Castletown House Kildare Ireland tour

Isn't Laura's dress train lovely?
blue bustle dress ruffles, Laura Thorp, Castletown House Kildare Ireland

 (I got the vintage Ronald Joyce dress some two years ago in a charity shop [only two years ago?]. The clip-on dangle earrings were made from vintage chandelier pieces, and I'm also wearing a late 1920s bangle. The black beaded bag is a modern reproduction but delightfully goes with almost anything from late Victorian Period to the 50s.)

Monday, 5 August 2013

Bin Kitten Is Me

I've been shying away from actually writing a "personal" blog for a long time; but after constantly straying off the topic to talk about random things while keeping a musician blog and a blog for my online vintage boutique, that were supposed to be somewhat business, I'm finally embracing the idea that my poor roaming mind will benefit from having a space to put down those non-business related thoughts and images, and will perhaps create something good in the process.

My name is Lute, and I live in Dublin Ireland though I'm of "various extractions". I'm really more of a vintage person than anything else nowadays, and both my fiancé and I are hugely into Old Hollywood, show tunes, ragtime numbers, and dressing up fancy when we can. I'm also forever reading Victorian literature.

This looks a little like how I feel at the moment (taken at Castletown House last week):
Photo by Mike Smith
Though I think this is how my mother would rather like to envision me (stay 50s Vogue! she says):
(From a shoot for my shop, Pretty Bones Jefferson Vintage)

But this is how I'd feel the most comfortable:

And I'm probably going to start wearing shorter skirts/dresses again, especially when I'm modelling for my vintage shop:

But having shown you these "looks", what I'd really do is play music, which is what I am - I'm a musician (or more specifically a singer-songwriter, to use an easy term!).
(At The Back Loft earlier this year, photo courtesy of Ciarna Or Duc)
So what's going to be talked about at this space? I think - artistic inspirations and art/fashion projects. I'm thinking about book/art/film/fashion reviews, fashion and costume designs and photoshoots, vintage tutorials, and maybe from time to time some random talk on things like my local restaurants and broader topics of social issues.All in good time, and I'll try to keep things in order.

The next post will be costume-y...