Monday, 9 July 2012

Long Skirts 2.0. 

I love a long skirt as they hide a multitude of sins and can tell you the state of the economy; also the council gets their roads cleaned for free if the wearer is not careful. The heady days of Boho are still foremost in your mind when it comes to long skirts, accessorised with ethnic belts belts and peasant style tops which made Sienna Miller a style icon. Much fun as it was, we have to forget that style and go further back into the past. The 70’s, era of Stevie Nicks, the legendary Timotei and Flake ads or even the ladies of the movie The Virgin Suicides (not sure if it was set in the 70’s, I fell asleep watching it but the actresses looked pretty stylish in the trailers!) are your guides. But I’m only 5 ft 1 or less I hear you cry. Hush, you can still rock a long skirt you have to follow these handy guidelines I’m going to set down.


The more there is of the skirt the sleeker your top half should be. If you are going for the pleated chiffon styles that are in Topshop right now get your top half from Uniqlo men’s as they have the best quality t-shirts and vest at stupidly cheap prices. If you have been smart you will have found / kept all of your gothic velvet skirts from a few seasons ago. If you haven't, quick smart to your local charity shop to snap up velvet things now as this will be huge again for  A / W 2012 /13. Also spotted have been the wiggle skirt, a midi length pencil skirt (Posh and Eva Longoria have been seen in these) in woolen fabrics which are great and offiec smart and wormer for the colder months.

Pattern and colour.

Generally follow the rules of body type. If you’re top heavy you want all the bright colour and pattern on your lower half; if you are bigger below, you want a plainer sleeker darker base. This is only a general rule and not absolute and can be tweaked to suit personal style.


The dressier the skirt, the simpler you dress. The issue of heels and flats is a tricky one, which right now has been solved by the return of “le petite stilleto” or kitten heels to you and me. The queen of this shoe has been LK Bennet, which for many years did nothing else. Happily you can get some awesome kitten heels in New Look, KG, Office and Clarkes, (which had some amazing leopard print sling backs which sold out in a fortnight!) Prada, Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo. Generally if you are wearing a midi skirt that floats mid calf you need any kind of heel to stop it looking frumpy. Ankle and maxi skirts if you want to avoid accidents wear flats but if you need heels opt for a wedge and or platforms. The slim tan belt is still ruling but coming in for the summer is the tie belt or ribbon to emphasise more voluminous styles.

Right now the shops are loving this catwalk look but guaranteed it will be huge, as where Topshop leads other stores will follow but for now check out the pricier end of the high street such as Whistles, Jigsaw, Monsoon and Ghost. You can find sleek stretch jersey long skirts in muted tones at American Apparel. The floaty gossamer ballet styles will feel right when there are blossoms on trees and Pimms in your glass, so if you’re lucky to spot something in the sales long, chiffon, or a 70’s Halston style dress in the sale or something gothic, full of drama and medieval; snap it up now. Go with Glamour.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Buying Prada not Prado

Buying Prada not Prado

As you know I am a seasoned and experienced Charity shopper. The best thing about this is the knowledge of getting something unique and special and as I like to say pre-loved. The second best is getting a bargain, make that the best thing; especially something couture and from a luxury house. Here is a simple guide to ensuring your Prada isn't a Prado.

The first thing is probably the scariest. Go and have a reconnoiter of the clothing in your favorite designer store. Try things on, the staff are friendly and helpful; the snooty ones are new and tend to be weeded out after a while. Feel the fabrics in your hand; check the cut and fit are right and flattering for your body. My tall hourglass shape fits amazingly into a lot of American Designers and not into French houses and surprisingly not into D & G the champions of sexy. Whilst there, look at the details; this is what you pay for.

Check the provenance of the materials and manufacture; "fabrique en France" or "moda in Italia" are your watchwords. Wool garments should have a high wool (laine, lana, wolle) content. Natural materials can include Rayon, as it is a natural fibre coming from plant cellulose but to make it into Rayon; you have to process it extensively. Hmm.

The labels inside and the language they are written in are a give away, Chinese or Asian is suspect. Strange spellings are also a give away on the inside of a garment or item as are incorrect copying of logos. For example Prada has a box banner saying Milano not Milan and the scrolling banner underneath should say DAL 1913 (it means since 1913). A Louis Vuitton logo without a TM next to the LV is a giveaway.

Look at the seams, are they fully sewn flat, or covered and bound? Also are the buttons correct and suitable for the item? Are metal buttons real and not plastic? Check the lining has also the same detailing as the outer fabric. Many houses have distinctive lining, if in doubt; (Burberry tends to change, size, the colour of its red and brown tone of its check) use other markers when considering your charity purchase. Check the inside the pockets, if its designer, the craft work will be everywhere; not just the obvious seams but little ones too.

With handbags the artisan who made it may leave a number or name on the inside stitched somewhere, limited edition pieces also have an edition number inside them too. Leather when in your hand will warm up if it feels cold, its raw edges have irregular flaking and fluff; pleather stays cold to touch, on closer inspection looks like fabric and the edges smooth.

Companies that have buckles or special logos, check these are genuine, made of solid metal pieces not plastic. For example the Gucci bridle on bags and shoes, every part of it is movable and not a molded one piece; Versace's Medusa head has clear features and her profile is 3D.

Armed with this knowledge gleamed from your store visit, you should be able to tell the Gucci from Guci when next you visit your charity shops.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

That special item found

Connecting Collectors

If you just happen to be a fan of a particular author, or on the lookout for a valuable book at bargain price, the Cornwall Hospice Care in Falmouth is well known for its first editions and signed books.

With the help of local book expert Nigel McLusky (thanks, Blogger, I've checked his surname spelling) who prices up signed and first editions donated to the shop, the Cornwall Hospice Care in Falmouth has featured rare book finds for 18 months. Manager Chris Harmer finally got through red tape to become the official manager of this store after starting in a similar capacity in March 2011.

This is a first edition from 1955
Literary Landscape

Nigel McLusky, book expert, is active on the local literary landscape. He organises a regular Pose and Poetry night at Mawnan Memorial Hall for people who would like to hear some live literature from local talent.

Anyway, why am I writing this? (No, I'm not putting questions into your mouth). (Yes, it's meant as tongue in cheek. No, I don't think you're thick. OK, I'll shut up). Last week I saw a picture of a rare, signed first edition of Laurie Lee's poems that I thought might be of interest to someone I knew. I photographed it and emailed it to him.

It would retail online for £90
Fan of Laurie Lee
Paul Murphy is a fan of the works and life of Laurie Lee and, to mark the centenary of Laurie Lee's walk across Spain, Paul is currently preparing to make the walk and write about it in time for the 100th year anniversary in 2014. Not surprisingly, he was interested in the book and went to investigate.

Double Significance
The book turned out to have a double significance for Paul Murphy: He was born in 1955.

Paul searches for certification
The manager of this shop branch of Cornwall Hospice Care, Chris Harmer, tells us about the expertise of local book man Nigel McLusky who is brought in to value the rare books that are donated, says Chris Harmer, 'from all and sundry.'

Poetry and Prose

It then transpires, through the local paper, The West Briton, that McLusky organises poetry and prose nights at Mawnan Memorial Hall.

Shop manager Chris Harmer
tells Paul about Cornwall Hospice
Care's reputation for rare books
Newspaper Cuttings 

The book contains newspaper cuttings left by its previous owner, all of which can help Murphy, who said he once attended an auction to buy a typewriter once owned by Laurie Lee which sold for £600, get to know the writer in whose footsteps he aims to follow.

If you or someone you know is looking for a rare, vintage or retro item, why not post about it on this blog? If you see something someone else is looking for, also why not post it up? You could do your 'good deed' for the month. This is the ultimate feel good factor. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A Dress Worth a Mention

Front of dress
Perhaps some men rue the day when trousers were invented. If you know the expression 'before he was in long trousers' or have a predilection for dramas about Ancient Rome, or you're Scottish, you may be used to seeing men in skirts.

However this is very much a lady's dress for a lady, to paraphrase Little Britain.

This charity shop are keen on the idea of a charity shop fashion show. Looks like I might have a use for my roller skates after all.

Back of dress in Posh Pants

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Rollerskates, power pants and vintage trunks

Catch It While You Can
Yesterday was an interesting day in Falmouth's Charity Shops. Not only were there two new wedding dresses in Pants and Cornwall Animal Hospital - each with an option for a peach coloured bridesmaid's dress - but there was a pair of rollerskates in my size. These were the type I had dreamed about in my childhood with white leather shoes attached. I never even saw those in my size in the 1970s or 80s. Very Noel Streatfield. Well...maybe not.

You Never Know
A lady was overheard talking about a book she wanted to read - Wolf Hall - and a friend had seen two copies, in Barnardo's and Cornwall Animal Hospital, so she went to buy a copy. It's worth the ask.

Wonder Pants
If you have been inspired to write in a superhero character by recent dramas exported from America, then maybe these types of pants might be of interest, found in Falmouth's Barnardo's charity shop.

Summer is Hurtling Towards Us
As Spring Flowers have already sprung up in Cornwall, while parts of England lie under snow, it seems timely to remind those over 40 with brothers of the type of swimming trunks boys wore in the 70s. These might be all the rage at a beach near you soonish.

You Had Me In Stitches!
There was also a children's nurses uniform for a mini me character for a hospital drama (yes, I'm kidding), or a good old fashioned game of doctors and nurses. Is that still allowed?

As mentioned, there are new wedding dresses on the wedding dress page, plus a very elegant dress, which is on sale in Posh Pants in Falmouth (where I bought my roller skates).

Roller Disco anyone?