Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Birds, the suit and the fan

The films of Alfred Hitchcock are as well known for their stylish leading ladies as they are for their innovative cinematography and suspenseful storylines.  Many of the iconic looks of Hitch's 'icy blondes' are the work of one woman, Edith Head, a titan in the costume design world and 8 time Oscar winner.  For The Birds her task was relatively simple, insofar as the female lead, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren in her film debut) wears only three outfits throughout the movie, most famously a simple green suit for the majority of the film.  The simple wool crepe dress and jacket were the epitome of the classic silhouettes and uncluttered lines Head was famous for.

Anyone lucky enough to attend the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the V&A (2012) would have been mesmerised by a whole section devoted to the relationship between Hitchcock and Head, a collaboration that spanned 11 films (The Birds being the 7th).  The first time they worked together was in 1946 when Ingrid Bergman suggested her as the costume designer of Notorious.  Head took over from Travis Banton as head of the costume department at Paramount, a role she held from 1938 to 1967, before moving to Universal until her death in 1981.

Head with her eight Academy Awards

Edith Head's original sketch

The Hollywood Costume display included the original outfit and explained that it was in fact Hitchcock that chose the colour, Head having expressed that green was a colour the audience would not get bored of seeing.  Eight identical copies of the suit were made, most of which were in various states of disrepair for the scene of Hedren trapped in the room, where she was being attacked by real birds rather than the animatronic birds used for most of the film.

The 1963 film was based on an earlier short story by Daphne Du Maurier.  Published in 1952, the story was featured in the collection The Apple Tree (later renamed The Birds due to the popularity of the film).  The 42 page story with only the device of sudden and unexplained bird attacks in common with the film.  Du Maurier is a personal favourite of mine and across those few short pages, she is able to create such suspense that I actually shouted 'no!' at the climax of the story, turning the page frantically because it couldn't have possibly ended where it did!  If you haven't already, I urge you to both read the book and see the film, they are both brilliant and you'll get something different from each of them.

"It ends how?!"
I have always loved the film and when I was thinking of some new designs for a one-off fan for The VanityCase, I suddenly had a fully formed image in my mind.  Once it was finished, I decided to take the new fan for a little photoshoot and luckily, as I hold dominion over the avian population, I was able to grab a few shots with frenzied birds swopping in the background.
This fan, along with other custom one-off fans will be for sale on The Vanity Case facebook page.  There is only one of these in existence so if you love it, make sure you snap it up!

Also, this giant magpie.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Festival of Vintage in York - when I go shopping crazy (by my standards)

This weekend I, with TheVintage News, made my way up to York from Brighton to cover the Festival of Vintage.  I'd been to the Epsom edition of FOV last year but sadly didn't have any money then so was unable to pick up any goodies.  This time however, I'd put a little money aside so I could splash some cash (in the end I spent less than £70 but I felt giddy with extravagance nonetheless!)

Rather than tell you about the event (you can watch the newsreel when it comes out for that) I thought I'd show you a few of the things I bought.
Oooh, what could they be?

As some vintage fairs (especially ones as large and well curated as FOV) can be quite overwhelming with the sheer amount of nice stuff on offer, I decided to give myself a list so I actually bought things I wanted!  My list consisted of: a dress to wear for my birthday night out (where I will also be judging a twist competition, you know, as you do), a handbag, a novelty brooch and some cream gloves.  As you can see below, I did pretty well!
From instagram, where all the photos live...

The main thing I wanted to find was a dress for me to wear for my birthday next month.  I found an amazing English-made suit by Meredith Couture (and originally sold at Alexandrine Couture in Nottingham - nice to get some vintage that's not from America!).  I think it's late 1940s or possibly early '50s but I'm not completely sure.  It's a velvet halterneck wiggle dress with a matching hip length jacket.  The burgundy velvet is complemented by some cream lace around the collar, pockets and the neckline of the dress.  From the same stall I got a cream beret which as luck would have it, matches perfectly with my new outfit...
I assure you my nails have gold tips and (for once) aren't chipped
I've been needing a new handbag for a while, I only have one and it's bright red so doesn't go with a great deal!  I found this gorgeous cream one from Raiders Vintage, I just love the shape - the crochet ties in nicely with the suit (I can see an outfit forming...)

I saw a (quite expensive and not really worth it) fan brooch earlier in the day and thought, 'wouldn't it be nice to have a fan brooch, considering I make fans'.  And lo and behold, I found this one which was even nicer.

As I was just as I was about to leave, I spotted a plastic box full of bullet bras (at Dreamdate) and was lucky enough to find a black Triumph beauty in my size.  I think it's probably '60s, Triumph changed to Triumph International in 1959 but I can't find out anything more about the exact model (Exquisit Plast. anyone?)

And just as an aside, after I'd interviewed the lovely Anastasia from V&OAK magazine, I was flicking through the latest copy and I saw not one but three pictures of one of my fans!  I painted it a few months ago for Naomi Thompson and Liz Tregenza's upcoming book (another in the hugely successful Style Me Vintage series) and had forgotten all about it so it was a lovely surprise to see it in print.

 It was lovely to meet some of you in York.  Who else was at the Festival of Vintage?  Did you pick up any bargains?

And a gratuitous shot of my mug

*I did a photo shoot today wearing most of my new purchases, I'll post a link as soon as they're ready!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Amber Butchart's Fashion Miscellany - a review (I know, two in a row)

In advance of interviewing Amber Butchart later this week (more of that below), I was lucky enough to be sent her new book, Fashion Miscellany.  Before even opening Fashion Miscellany, you are struck by how beautifully it is presented, with a gorgeous hardback cover (in dare I say it, cerulean) and traditional gold lettering.  The book is organised much like a glossary and as such is easy to dip in and out of.  It is full of so much interesting information and covers all areas of fashion, from youth subcultures to tailoring terms, and fashion documentaries to Karl Lagerfeld's cat!  The tone of the book is very conversational, like a friend imparting a fact they've just learnt over tea and cake.

The book is also dotted with quotes regarding fashion and style from luminaries such as the ever quotable Coco Chanel and Oscar Wilde.  One of my favourites is "Style is the simple way of saying complicated things", said by Jean Cocteau (I also love Sophia Loren's "A woman's dress should be like a barbed wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view"). 

So if you are interested in fashion history, learning more about the terms used or want a comprehensive index of the most influential fashion photographers throughout the past century, then this really is the book for you.  It was a joy to read Fashion Miscellany, and I'm sure I'll be looking up some of the facts now and again.  Congratulations to Amber as I hear Fashion Miscellany has almost sold out and is going into reprint and after having read it, I'm not surprised! 


I'll be interviewing Amber this Friday at Puttin' on the Glitz at the British Library for The Vintage News, at a talk she is giving (along with Christopher Laverty of the Clothes on Film blog) on fashion in the 1920s and '30s.  There is also a cocktail party afterwards, hosted by our good friends The Vintage Mafia with entertainment from The AlexMendham Orchestra and hair and makeup from Pretty Me Vintage.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The eyes have it... A Bésame review

I've long had my eye on Bésame goodies since I first saw the gorgeous art nouveu packaging in What Katie Did.  I occasionally use the cream rouge (which is lovely) but had thus far not used any of their other products, so when I was sent their new Mascara, Eyeliner and Eyebrow Cake Colour, I was excited to try it.

Available in brown or black (I chose brown), and inspired by a 1930s cake mascara, the colour comes in a little palette that you must activate with water before applying.  It comes with a double ended brush - one side is a mascara wand, the other an eyeliner brush and it usually retails for $25 (not sure about the UK price).
I'm always slightly dubious about products that claim to 'do it all' and I think this does very well on two of the three counts.  After getting the consistency right (it took a while to work out the right amount of water to use) and trying not to get it all over my hands, I first used the wand to coat my lashes with a fairly thin but even layer.  I'm used to wearing black mascara with a thicker consistency, so it was a much subtler look than what I would normally wear.  I think it would particularly suit someone with a very fair complexion or someone that wanted their lashes to be slightly enhanced but remain natural looking.
I look so grumpy...
This is after doing my lashes and my eyebrows
Next I tried colouring my eyebrows.  I wasn't really that keen on the effect, I didn't feel that I could get as accurate a shape as I would've wanted (especially as I like to change the shape of my 'brows with my makeup). 
I really liked the application of the eyeliner (and more so the brush). It did take a few layers to get opaque coverage, but it was very easy to get a nice shape.  Because of when I put it on, I didn't wear the makeup for that long, but I did give it a quick rub to see if it stayed put and I must say it did pretty well.  It's a nice and gentle formula and I had no trouble taking it off with makeup remover wipes at the end of the day.
It's handy to have one little box that can sort out your eyeliner, lashes and brows, especially when travelling.  I think the eyeliner in particular is really good, however, I probably wouldn't use it for my eyebrows unless I was in a real fix.
The mirror got quite messy after only one try!
Have you tried the cake mascara, or any other Bésame products?

* I haven't edited the photos at all so you can get a good idea of the colour

Thursday, 20 February 2014

An update and a few tattoos

I have been quite absent from the world of blogging recently, but all for very good reasons!

I've launched a new, atomic inspired collection over on my etsy shop, and blog namesake - The Vanity Case...

The lovely Jeni with the 'Atomic Baby' fan
My fans have been featured in a photoshoot with Frantic About Frances and Acid Doll (photos to follow shortly)...

Some of the new designs that were featured...

I recorded a tutorial on how to get a big ol' beehive, you may have seen a few photos in my last blog post.
My giant egg of a hairdo

I've recorded another show on mixcloud, this one is all about the birds and the bees...


There are some very exciting plans afoot involving The Gin Slingers and The Vintage Mafia, so watch this space...

One of Hanson's pictures from Rhythm Riot (sadly missing Tiny Flopsy).
We beat up a rival gang after this was taken.

So, as I haven't posted anything on here for such a long time, I thought I would put up a couple of photos from the Brighton Tattoo Convention which I attended at the weekend for The Vintage News.  There are more photos here if you like what you see


Shades. Inside. Getting a tattoo. Too cool.

Hopefully, I'm going to have a bit more spare time coming up so I'll try to get back to posting more than once every 6 weeks how many other bloggers have said this...?)

Did any of you attend the Brighton Tattoo Convention, did you get any work done? I was tempted, but not this time...

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

All ratted up like a teenage jezebel

I have a dream when I close my eyes, I wish my hair was 10 feet high...

I had to stop for food while I did mine. Back-combing sure takes a while!
Those of you who follow me on instagram *waves*, you may have seen my hair looking a little bit... bigger than usual a few weeks back.  It was all in honour of a screening of Hairspray (1988) at the Komedia in sunny ol' Brighton which was followed by a bop for all the hair-hoppers and trashy teens (including myself, Hayley and Becca).  Well, after a few Christmas cocktails beforehand we actually managed to miss the screening (woops) but I've seen it so many times, I didn't really mind (I do love a bit of John Waters kitsch-o-rama).  The dance put on by the Big Itch boys afterwards was well worth the trip out in the rain though.  Becca and I even managed to make it into the final two couples of the dance competition - and we got to crack out the Madison!

But anyway, I'm here to write about what I wore, and of course, the hair.  When I heard that there was going to be a John Waters/Hairspray party my first dilemma was, do I go as a Drape from Cry Baby (who doesn't want to be Wanda?!) or one of the teenage jezebels from Hairspray?  Then I decided that I actually just wanted massive hair, so Hairspray it was.  I'd like to say that I had an elaborate plan with detailed setting patterns, paddings and lotions, but in truth, I just back-combed my hair and hoped for the best.  Inspired by an interview with John Waters where he said that all of the actresses' hair in the film was their own i.e. no hairpieces (although I imagine he's not including Debbie Harry's wig-bomb at the end) I decided that just using my own hair was the way to go (also, I have no hair pieces or wigs so that helped make up my mind!) 
Mid 'feathering' as Tracy would say. My arms were getting tired by this point
 So, with quite dirty hair, I set about back-combing as if my life depended on it.  I even took a photo half way through because I'd got bored as it was taking such a long time (an hour and a half from start to finish).  When I had finished creating this halo of hair, I smoothed it down into a beehive with a few curls left down - all held together with A LOT of hairspray.  And here's the finished result...

Sadly, the Christmas decoration wasn't attached
I thought the brooch looked like a suitably festive wreath
The back was pretty messy
but I was just shoving pins in and guessing really
I thought these looked pretty atomic
(they're actually for wrapping presents)
 I wore the same dress that I'd previously worn to Singing in the Rain as I thought it was just on the cusp of late fifties/early sixties, much like the film...  As the party was just before Christmas, I thought I'd be a little bit festive, so I had some foil decorations in my hair and a lovely wreath-style brooch from the '60s.  I also wore deadstock 1960s stockings and some plain white plimsolls.  I think kitten heels would've completed the look, but alas, I own none.  My makeup was a bit bolder than usual, with darker brows and frosted eyes and lips.
You can see my makeup and the sweater-guard a little better here
Dress - handmade early '60s
Cardigan - Zara
Brooch - '60s (a present)
Sweater-guard - made by me from some '60s jewellery 

I want to try more '60s styles in the future, especially as once I'd finished the back-combing, the style didn't take that long.  It did also have the benefit of lasting, completely intact until the next day.  Let me tell you, the brushing out was not fun!  
Are there any styles you think I should try or any spectacular 'dos you've had success with?

Penny and Tracy in all their glory
And before you ask - there are no 'roaches in my hair - this girl's a clean teen.  Well, teen might be pushing it...