Sunday, 19 October 2014

Nothing New Challenge: Formal Dinner



It's not often that I go to a vintage stall or shop and immediately find something I want to buy. I'm sure other second-hand enthusiasts will agree that the rummaging is all part of the fun. However, on Thursday I happened to have a fairytale moment at a weekly market. I went over to a stall which I've visited before, and which I have previously bought a lovely velvet jacket from for just £5. This time around, I immediately spotted the crazy pattern of the coat above.



I spent a few minutes looking around the rest of the stall, still clutching this beauty in my hand, but nothing could come close to grabbing my attention. I was a little unsure whether to buy it at first: would I look silly? what would I even wear it with? But, at just £12 (£10 after I bartered slightly), I decided it was worth the risk.



Already, I know I made the right decision. I've received several compliments on it, worn it both casually and to events, and am generally very pleased with it. On Friday night, I wore it as part of an ensemble for a formal dinner in my college. It turns out, I do have plenty of things which I can wear it with, mainly because I seem to own a lot of maroon things. The dress is something I bought curing my shopping trip to Chichester in a charity shop, and I think it makes for quite a nice contrast to have the different textures of the dress and the coat together. The shoes were a charity shop buy from many years ago.



Have you ever just seen something straight away which you were drawn to? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Friday, 26 September 2014

I Want It! The Grand Budapest Hotel - Mendl's Box Necklace


So I haven't quite refined the rules of my Nothing New Challenge yet, but I'm pretty sure they'll include not being able to buy new jewellery. However, it's not like I can exactly help it if people buy me new things as gifts right?! Well... anyway. Just on the offchance, I may have started building up a little fantasy Christmas list, and this little Etsy beauty is right at the top.


For those of you who haven't seen Wes Anderson's latest film, the little boxes on these necklaces are modelled after the containers for exquisite pastries from the fictional Mendl's, which appear throughout The Grand Budapest Hotel. Saoirse Ronan plays Agatha, who bakes these beautiful treats (called a 'courtesan au chocolat' - you can watch a video about how to make them here). At just £8, this necklace is not only an affordable and adorable addition to an outfit, but also an easy conversation-starter when you meet other people who have seen the film.

Agatha
I think if I had one of these adorable necklaces, I would try to put together an outfit a bit like Agatha's; the sugary-sweet pastels are just perfect for this confectionery-themed accessory! Perhaps searching for an outfit like this will be another mission to incoroporate into my Nothing New Challenge.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Places for second-hand shopping: Dublin


In writing this series of places for second-hand shopping, there will inevitably be a mixture of towns and cities I know well (stay tuned for Winchester and Oxford), ones I've managed to thoroughly explore in a day (like Chichester) and others which really are too vast for me to accurately cover everything. That's the case with this post about Dublin, and I'll have a similar problem when I get round to talking about London.

However, even though I'm sure a local would be more aptly-equipped to tell you about Dublin's vintage/second-hand hotspots, I hope I'm in a good position to advise short-term visitors. Most of my shopping took place on one day, so if you're planning a whirlwind trip, maybe I can be of use with my recommendations, inexpert as they may be.


As a starting point, I searched the fashion blogosphere for information, and came across this post on Dandelion Dreamer. It's from awhile ago, but she recommended the shop Harlequin, and it sounded like there were others in the vicinity, so off we headed to Castle Market.

Before we even made it to our destination, we came across a fashion show - the second one we'd seen in our few days there. As it happens, Dublin Fashion Festival had coincided with our trip. The night before our shopping trip, we had stumbled across the final of Young Designer of the Year at the Bank of Ireland, and clung on to the railings at the edge of the private event in order to watch it! The second show was a public one, and as actually happened to feature an outfit comprised of clothes from Harlequin! Now doubly excited, we continued on.



Characteristically though, Dublin threw up plenty of distractions. For a start, there was a branch of Oxfam nearby, where I ended up buying a red dress (more on that and other charity shops later). Then there was a place called the Powerscourt Centre. Here you can find several (mostly quite expensive) shops in the gorgeous setting of a renovated Georgian (?) building. We didn't stay long enough to have a proper look around (mainly because I was distracted by the lovely stationery in Article, one of the first shops we came across) but if you're interested they have several antiques stores, as well as a rather lovely-looking range of places to eat.


Although by now we were on William Street South, and therefore just a few steps from Castle Market, where Harlequin is located, we still managed to find something to be diverted by. this time it was another vintage shop. From the outside, The Dublin Vintage Factory, a basement store which you have to go down an iron staircase to reach, looks like it could be a bit weird (and not in a good way). However, once inside, it's a haven. Neatly organised with a front and back section, it's a pleasant store to browse. I'd almost say that they've gone too far in terms of ease of access, and don't actually have enough stock on show; although I find some vintage stores too cramped, I also enjoy the rummage through racks of items to find that one hidden treasure. This shop is still certainly worth a visit though, as it's very cool and also quite affordable.


After this, we at last ventured into Harlequin. It did not disappoint. Not only is there plenty of stock, there's also a lot of space. Spanning two floors, they hold a huge range of dresses, tops, jackets and sunglasses. On that particular day, everything upstairs was half-price, so I bought this cute white top for €10. As you can probably see it has a slightly odd hem where I think someone has (badly) shortened it at some point, so I'm considering either unpicking and re-doing that or even cropping it a bit more.


Now onto Drury Street, we went to another shop recommended by Sorcha of Dandelion Dreamer: Jenny Vander. This has some lovely pieces, and a lot of gorgeous jewellery, but it isn't really the kind of place I would shop at. It's probably more of a destination for serious collectors and those with high budgets for special occasions. After a brief look around, we crossed the street and went to Om Diva. 



This was a lot more my kind of thing. Upstairs they have new clothes with a distinctly retro feel which, though they are off-limits to me because of my Nothing New Challenge, were nice to have a look at. Then downstairs is a girly paradise of a vintage shop. There are a lot of pretty lampshades and pastel tones around, to the extent that you might be worried it would look tacky. I can assure you though that, for me at least, the effect was just comforting and fun, like you're in the living room of a particularly artistic old lady.



The pieces ranged in price from everyday buys to very special occasions, and the changing-rooms were so pretty I just felt I had to try something on, so I went for a €220 beaded dress. Although it was a couple of sizes too big and way out of my price range, I think an important principle of vintage shopping is trying on things you think you'll never buy. It can just help you to get a feel for what styles do and don't suit you, and figure out whether you'd be comfortable wearing a heavy 1920s gown or leather 1960s miniskirt. Plus it's always fun to fantasise about the day you'll be able to afford that stunning piece.



Ambling along, we came upon George Street Arcade. This was nice for a wander through, and we had a look at some of the vintage-sellers set up on stalls here. We also went to a self-service fro-yo place, the likes of which I haven't been to since I was in Tacoma, Washington! This was a good place for us to stop, recharge, and use the arcade's free Wi-Fi to share the news of our fro-yo discovery with the world.



Once on the other side, we didn't have much idea of where to go next, so just continued up South Great George's Street, then went back along Exchequer Street to the top of Drury Street. On the corner we spotted another cute-looking shop called Carousel. At first it looked like it just sold pretty retro-style new clothes, which really tested my resolve since a lot of them were just my kind of thing. But then, as my travelling companion Holly was going downstairs to find the changing rooms, she popped back up and called me over: "There's lots of vintage down here!"


And so there was! In fact their range was mainly dresses of all different colours, but mostly of the same price (usually €49). Much like Om Diva, they had a lovely atmosphere for trying things on, with plenty of changing booths and a chaise longue on which to recline in the middle of the room. This is probably a really good place to go if you are a little daunted by the thought of vintage, because it's all very nicely laid-out, with nothing too outlandish, but still with that unique air you can only get from second-hand clothes.


Now that I've rounded up the choicest stores in that area (basically the streets which you can find leading off from Exchequer Street), I'll say a little bit about charity shops. We didn't come across a whole lot of variety, but there were several well-stocked branches of Oxfam. I bought my red dress from the one on King Street South, and we tried on various items in the one on South George's Street. We even visited a branch in Malahide, when we visited the castle. Although you may well find a lot of the stock is fairly similar to other charity shops, there's still a chance you'll find something interesting, which you can then confidently proclaim you "bought in Dublin".

My red dress, second-hand A-Wear
Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter. I'd love some suggestions for other towns and cities I can explore in search of excellent second-hand finds, so get in touch!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Nothing New Challenge: Private View


Something I'm already learning from my Nothing New Challenge is that, even if you think you've got nothing to wear, you can still probably find something. Taking away the option of popping into Primark or H&M to grab a new dress from the rails means you have to be more ingenuitive.

My friend Issy recently hosted a small viewing of her art project - entitled 'Fledge' - in her garden. This was a chance for her to create a piece and show it to friends and family before flying off to Central Saint Martins later this month! Although there was no dresscode and it was a very casual evening, I wanted to make an effort for the occasion.


Everything in this outfit was already in my wardrobe, but it also happens that all the components were from second-hand sources anyway! The skirt was a random buy from my local charity shop in Oxford, Sobell House. It's a fantastic place because it's so nearby, has plenty of stock, and once something has been there a few weeks it gets marked down and goes on the sail rail. Initially I didn't think I'd be able to wear it with anything other than black, but when I tried matching it with this top I was pleasantly surprised; I think the beaded pattern works nicely with the jacquard on the skirt. I bought this a few weeks ago from Fab Vintage in Winchester - a frequent stop for me and my friends when we're in town. It has a £5 box where I found this lovely thing! It's a little delicate but has already served me well for a couple of wears, including this event and a friend's birthday party.


All monochrome so far, I decided to add a bit of colour with a yellow clutch bag. Unfortunately, I can't remember for the life of me where I got this from! I know it was a few years ago and am pretty sure it was about £3. I don't get to use it an awful lot, because I find clutch bags quite impractical (it ought to have a chain but at some point before I bought it this has been lost).

L-R Holly, me, Issy
You'll also see in the picture at the top that there are two little crochet birds. These were part of Issy's installation but could be untied at the end, and each of us were allowed to take one or two home. She said that the bird motif symbolises taking flight and leaving home, so I'm going to take mine with me when I go back to university in a few weeks.


If you're interested in seeing a little more of the piece, Issy has a video up on her Youtube channel (embedded below) and you can see some more of her art on her Facebook page.



That's it for now. I've just got back from Dublin so I'll be posting about my vintage-shopping adventures soon and will also be lining up a few things aside from this challenge.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Places for second-hand shopping: Chichester


A great thing about my Nothing New Challenge is that it gives me an excuse to search out new places to go shopping, all of them far more interesting than my all-too-frequent Primark/H&M/Zara haunts. In the course of my quest, I've decided to share with you some little guides to the best places for charity and vintage shopping. This time, it's the lovely Sussex city Chichester.

This turned out to be a very good place to get my challenge off to a good start, and I suspect that this may be due to the fact that the whole city seemed to be preparing for Glorious Goodwood Revival. In case you haven't heard of it, this is a weekend at Goodwood race course (near Chichester) celebrating all things vintage. Everyone is expected to don their best vintage fashions, so it makes sense that most places in Chichester are readying themselves to provide whatever the retro-seeking attendees are after. This mean that even the charity shops tended to have separate vintage corners and had placed their best 50s frocks enticingly in the windows.


Now I have to confess something: I think I actually prefer charity shops to vintage shops. Sure, you are far less likely to find a 70s fur stole or a 20s flapper dress, but what you will find will be much cheaper. There are also so many treasures to be found in charity shops and, although they don't have quite the same atmosphere as vintage stores, with their warm 'shrine to the past' air, you may well find what you're after.

In Chichester, you can hardly walk ten metres without coming across another charity shop. The selection includes Cancer Research, British heart Foundation, Oxfam, two branches of Barnardo's, and local charity St Wilfrid's Hospice. It amazed me that you could have so many second-hand stores in one place and for them to all be quite so well-stocked; perhaps the big ones are sent stock by head office. Cancer Research had a really good section at the back where they had gathered together big coats and clothes in dark tones to form an Autumn/Winter collection. Some of it was a bit pricier than you'd expect to pay in a charity store, but in fairness, I spotted a few brands (LK Bennet, Coach, etc.) which you would hand over a lot of money for if they were new, and these were all in pretty good condition.


Most of these shops can be found on South Street, East Street or North Street. However, we found a particular lane which was just a second-hand paradise. Crane Street, off North Street, not only has FIVE charity shops but also a vintage store called One Legged Jockey. I didn't buy anything this time round, though did really enjoy the feel of the emporium, with classic music playing and huge amounts of stock. It reminded me a little of my favourite vintage shop, Radio Days in London, where you can hardly move for leather jackets and ballgowns!


I visited one other vintage store, Vintage@Chi. Another small shop, but with rather more room to move, this one had more the impression of catering to the woman who is after a special outfit for a party, whereas One Legged Jockey has a lot more everyday stuff.

In the end, I bought two dresses, both from the same branch of Barnardo's. It would have been three, but a particularly cute tea-dress didn't fit me; that's one of the major drawbacks of second-hand - you can't just ask if they have the next size up. I'm sure I'll have the chance to show them off properly in future posts, but for now here's a shot from my Twitter, in which they are laid out like the spoils of war on my bed.


I'd say that Chichester is the place to go if you're up for a good rummage through the charity rails, and have the patience to search for that hidden special piece. It's also worth visiting in the run-up to Glorious Goodwood, because everyone seems to have amped up their vintage/retro game. One other thing is that, if you're in Sussex, Chichester makes for a slightly subversive alternative to Brighton's famous lanes, and you can tie it in with a trip to the cathedral or Priory Park as well!

I'll be posting more updates soon, so stay tuned! If you think there are any particular places I should go while I'm doing this challenge, let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Nothing New Challenge: Party Dressing


And so it begins.

In case you missed it, I've taken up the challenge of not buying any brand-new clothes; as in, I can buy 2nd-hand and vintage, but no designer or High Street. Last Saturday was my first big event to dress for: a friend's birthday party.

This was not however an ordinary party, it was on a docked boat in Southampton, and the dress code was "tropical". Now I love dressing for parties. Whether they have a theme or not, I like hunting down that perfect outfit which I'll always recall as being "what I wore to 'X' event". But of course, my options were restricted this time. Ordinarily my first port of call would probably be ASOS, and indeed their customised adverts have become increasingly enticing now that I know I can't click on them. Instead, however, I headed for the charity shops.

In a branch of Age UK, I stumbled across what may well be one of my favourite second-hand finds ever. It's a floaty maxi dress with an elasticated waist and a cutout section in the back. Originally from Papaya, I don't think this would have been particularly expensive when it was first on sale, but I'm pretty pleased with the price I got it for (£8.99). It's really easy to wear, and is perfect for taking on holiday because it doesn't crease at all!

On board with my friend Livvy 

The dress has this subtle but also quite striking print, somewhat reminiscent of grasslands, which I thought made it fitting for the theme. On its own, however, it didn't look greatly tropical. I added some wedge sandals which I've had for years and originally bought from a British Heart Foundation shop! Then I went in search of some jewellery to brighten things up. After a little bit of rummaging in shops around town, I found a fun necklace with parrots and watermelons on it in the same branch of BHF. It was just £3.99.


After that, things quickly came together. I added a couple of rings and bracelets from my collection, and the flower in my hair was actually cut from a plastic orchid I got from Ikea a while ago! To top it all off, we were presented with Hawaiian-style flower garlands once we got there. Perfect.

So all in all, a grand total of just under £12 went into this outfit. Not bad at all, especially considering that the dress is so versatile I'm definitely going to wear it a lot. This is looking like a pretty auspicious start to the Nothing New Challenge.
With Ed, whose shirt also came from a charity shop!
Stay tuned for more posts about my progress with this challenge, and make sure to follow me on Twitter where I'll be doing brief, instant updates on the hashtag #NothingNewChallenge

Monday, 18 August 2014

Links a la Mode: The Nothing New Challenge

My newest post 'The Nothing New Challenge' has made it into IFB's Links a la Mode! I'm really excited about this challenge now, as the reaction has been very positive; from friends I see most days to other bloggers in the online community, everyone seems very supportive. I'll be posting some updates on how I'm doing, and also putting together the tips I'm gathering along the way, so if you're interested in making a move towards buying more second-hand, stay tuned. Make sure to follow me on Twitter as well, as I'll be tweeting new purchases and shop recommendations under the hashtag #NothingNewChallenge

But for now, enjoy the rest of this week's roundup. As ever, it's a fantastic collection. My particular favourites are Fierce in the City's 'How to wear backless clothes' (useful for me, since one of my new 2nd-hand purchases is a backless maxi dress) and Madame Ostrich's 'Let's Talk About Leather'.

lalam0814

What Really Matters

This week has been rough for a lot of us. The news is full of terrible things. Sometimes it's hard to focus when the world seems to be descending into chaos. But, at the end of the day, we all have to show up to our regular lives. Family, friends, work, creating the best life possible. Sometimes fashion seems, well, not the highest on the list of priorities, so sometimes you just have to return to the basics, the classics to work for you while you get your life on track. It's not all about the clothes.

Links à la Mode: August 14

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