Continuing with our theme about vintage clothing with a story I spotted this amazing pink coat on Retro Bambi’s stall at the recent Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair in Bethnal Green, London. It belongs to stall owner Jo and she has reluctantly put it up for sale. She bought this Paul Smith reversible coat on a whim 20 odd years ago and said ‘I don’t care if I sell it because I love it’. She loves it being so pink and fluffy and I can see why she doesn’t want to part with this magnificent coat. You can find Jo, Drew and their fantastic selection of vintage clothing at Peckham Salvage Yard on the 4th March but just don’t expect to see this coat for sale as I suspect it is hanging back in Jo’s wardrobe!
East London has always been the place to find vintage fashion and homewares. I’m lucky to live close to a wide range of fantastic stores and markets that help feed my vintage addiction. Here are my top tips on where to find that must have vintage item in East London (photo above is from our stall on Sunday 12 Feb 2017)
Judy’s started their popular fair back in 2006 and you can still find a queue of people waiting to get in at the iconic York Hall in Bethnal Green whenever Judy’s are in the house. Their fairs vary every few months from kilo sales to furniture flea markets.
You can find Pop-Up Vintage Fairs on a monthly basis all over London but my favourite venue is at the historic Wilton’s Music Hall. It is an annual event and this year will take place on 27th July. Singers and dancers perform in the 19th Century grand hall whilst you shop and of course there is the cocktail bar….cocktails and shopping, what could possibly go wrong?
This intimate store is found on Roman Road, close to the famous market in Bow, E3. It is only open Friday to Sunday and has an edited selection of mid-century furniture and accessories. If you like to rummage for your vintage finds then this place isn’t for you. Each item is displayed clearly and has been lovingly restored by the husband and wife owners. If you are after a teak sideboard then this should be your first stop.
Next to 353 Vintage is the wonderfully eclectic Gina’s closet. The store has been in Bow for years and this is the place to have a good rummage. You can find anything from a rocking chair to a feathered hat.
Just along from the Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green all sales from the store go towards supporting the centre. It is a cheerful shop with friendly staff and they were recently runner up in the Time Out award for the best shop in Bethnal Green. Last month I bought a great range of vintage dress patterns and a large jar of buttons from there. I regretted not buying a gorgeous Nicole Farhi handbag that was very reasonably priced and already sold the next day.
This is another great little charity shop, next door to York Hall. All the profits go to support St Margaret’s House projects such as the popular Vegetarian Cafe and The Create Place. You can pick up anything from trousers to books and nip next door for a vegetarian curry whilst you are there!
The ever popular Peanut Vendor moved to its new home close to Victoria Park from Newington Green in 2015 and you can often find me peering up against the window looking at their mid-century furniture in awe. They manage to find the most unusual pieces and sell them alongside new accessories and furnishings. Items sell out quickly so if you see something, don’t dilly dally, buy it now!
8) Brick Lane
I’m being lazy by listing Brick Lane as a vintage shopping destination rather than individual shops but it is a great place to wander round on a Sunday taking in the atmosphere of the market, gorging on street food and taking it slow (it is impossible to walk fast due to the vast number of people here). At the top of Brick Lane by Bethnal Green Road is Hunky Dory Vintage who have been here since 2008, then head down to Cheshire street and the individual shops that pop up every few months. At the bottom you can find the huge Beyond Retro where you are sure to find a bargain or two.
This is Ruth from Squirrel Vintage. We met at Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair in Bethnal Green on Sunday when I asked Ruth if she had any items for sale that had a story, a past to share with its new owner. She responded by pulling out this classic 80’s floral dress from Laura Ashley. It belonged to her friend Hannah Lou who is a folk singer and she wore it on stage when she sings with her husband Trever Moss. The dress originally belonged to Hannah’s mum who was also a folk singer in the 1980’s. Ruth is organising a vintage fair in Tunbridge Wells on the 18th March and the dress might be making another appearance!
March is Women’s history month, which co-insides with International Women’s Day on the 8th March. The East End Women’s museum have collated an extensive list of events taking place around East London during March. Click here for the full list. I’m already booked in for the vintage wedding dress talk by Kate Thompson at the Museum of London on 31 March. I’ll be heading to Stratford to see Gillian Lawrence’s exhibition of paintings. She interviewed women in their 70’s to find out about the era of wearing headscarves in the 1950’s. I’m also interested the events at Redbridge and Hackney Libraries. East End Women’s museum was set up in response to the Jack the Ripper Museum opening in Whitechapel. Founders Sarah Jackson and Sarah Huws were so angry when they found out the application for a Women’s museum was in fact an excuse to cash in on a serial killer who attacked women they decided to set up their own museum. Sign up for their newsletter to keep up with their progress.
A review of ‘Fashion on the Ration’ on at the Imperial War Museum (London 2016, Manchester 2017)
‘Make do and Mend Life’ is a popular Facebook Group run by Ethical Coach, Jen Gale. But where does the original saying come from? World War II started in 1939 but the ‘Make do and Mend’ campaign wasn’t launched by the British Government until 1942. The manufacturing of textiles, uniforms and general clothes put pressure on the textile manufacturing industry and many factories changed function to essential war work. To ensure uniforms were prioritised for manufacture, the British Government rationed clothing on 1 June 1941. This scheme was also to ensure fairness to consumers as there was a lack of clothing for sale in the stores by this time. The Imperial War Museum held a successful exhibition in both their London and Manchester branches showcasing what people wore during WWII and how they coped with ‘Fashion on the Ration’.
The ‘Make do and Mend’ campaign encouraged British residents to preserve their clothes proving leaflets and lessons on how to darn socks and jumpers or patching jacket elbows for example. This spawned a wave of ingenuity and instead of giving up on fashion, people came up with new ideas in which to show off their individuality. With dress fabric being rationed, people utilised upholstery fabrics for garments and made dresses from tablecloths or suits from curtains. There is a display of beautiful underwear delicately handmade from silk maps. The silk maps were given to RAF pilots and one particular pilot gave his map of Italy to his girlfriend who made it into a cami-knickers and bra set. My favourite outfit of the exhibition was previously a wedding dress that had been shortened and died a vibrant red colour.
As the war progressed, the number of coupons given to families for clothes also decreased. Not everyone during this period had to worry about fashion as around a quarter of the British population wore uniforms whether in the armed forces, medical units or volunteer service. Uniform had a large influence on the street fashion during WWII. Hilary Wayne from the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service recalls ‘There is no doubt that dressing up helps soldiers, as it helps actors, to play their parts. I think we not only looked different we felt different.’ The uniforms on display take you back to that era and you can imagine how smart people looked as they walked about the streets.
Clothes needed to be practical, for housework, digging an allotment and crouching down in the air raid shelter, which led to women favouring trousers for the first time in history. One display showed a pair of dungarees that wouldn’t look out of place on a young woman today and were available without a ration coupon. Another item of similar style to today’s trends was the ‘Siren Suit’. These were all-in-one-suits that people would wear down to the shelter to keep them warm and protect their day clothes from being ruined. The soft fleece suit on display looks like a more fashionable version of the popular onesie from the current day. Although more conveniently, it has a flab at the back to make it easier to go to the loo!
Even though resources were short, new items did become available. I came across a display of silk scarves printed with patriotic quotes from Winston Churchill, maps of the British Isles and quotes from Shakespeare. A full length house coat stands out as it is made from fabric that is printed with seed packets to promote the ‘Dig for Victory’ Campaign, which encouraged civilians to grow their own vegetables. In 1942 the Government hired a group of couturiers, fashion designers and manufacturers to produce what was known as ‘Utility Clothing’. Even though clothes were rationed they were still difficult to come by and after a few years of ‘Make do and Mend’ many people’s clothes were wearing out. The range was well designed, from good quality fabrics with enforced seams and made to last.
At the end of the exhibition there is a short film of quotes from people in the fashion industry discussing the influence WWII had on today’s current fashion industry. I was particularly interested in the comment about how high street fashion today is made to be thrown away after a few wears and we are encouraged to buy new rather than make do and mend. The developments in manufacturing during the 1940’s was the forerunner of mass production of clothing that we know today, making clothes more affordable and widely available. I can’t deny that I enjoy being able to buy ready available clothes at affordable prices but the negative effect it has had on our environment over the decades is a growing issue.
Olive Road is an online shop selling vintage fashion, textiles and haberdashery on Etsy. Vintage is the ultimate form of recycling and I love to use my sewing skills to restore a neglected vintage dress or skirt back to its former glory. If the item of clothing really has seen better days then I make it into a small accessory and give it a new lease of life. I use recycled trims wherever possible and only use recycled packaging. I feel passionate about not using any animal products in the accessories I make and you will never find fur clothing or fur trims for sale at Olive Road.
Welcome to the blog focused on making and crafting, women’s history and fashion exhibitions and exploring reader’s beloved item that has a vintage story. Olive Road launched in September 2014 at Pop Up Vintage Fairs London and is named after the street my Nan and Grandad lived on for 60 years, it holds many dear memories for me and my family.
I’m Sarah Richards and I live in Bow, East London. I’ve had a varied career from studying Fashion Design at the London College of Fashion, working as a Buyer in the retail industry and then undertaking a BSc in Health Sciences:Homeopathy. During and after university, I worked as an Executive Assistant for a national newspaper and then onto a popular retailer’s head office. Thanks for your interest in Olive Road, follow me on Facebook to find out when and where my next stall is or get in touch via the social media links on the footer or sign up to my newsletter here.
Olive Road London Limited, London E3 5SB