Category Archives: vintage

DIY Fashion: Update an Old Blouse

Sometimes you find a vintage or second hand item that has the best colours, pattern and some sweet features (hello collars!) but the style is just a little, well, frumpy.

Recently I was lucky enough to hit the motherload of discounted Japanese vintage blouses. I love everything about this one, but the arms are too long and the whole thing just swamps me a bit.

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If you have a top or blouse that fits the bill, today I’m going to tell you how to give it a quick update – NO CUTTING or machine sewing involved. There’s just a little bit of hand sewing, so it’s totally reversible (good if you’re just borrowing it, hehe).

What you’ll need

  • Blouse (of course!)
  • Matching cotton or polyester thread
  • Sewing needle

For mid-length sleeves, the ultimate quick update you can do to give it a slightly more contemporary edge is roll the sleeves.

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  1. For an even turn up, fold the hem back on itself on itself once, then as many times as necessary to achieve the length you want. It can help to get someone to do this for you whilst you’re wearing it, then pin to make sure you don’t forget.
  1. Now to get it to stay in place. Take a length of thread and tie a double knot in the end and thread your needle.

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  1. Find a spot on the centre top of the sleeve where the back of the cuff meets the sleeve. Sew from the inside of your sleeve out – so your knot is hidden – going through the top of the cuff and back down. It only needs to be a tiny stitch, so it’s barely noticeable. Repeat this 2-3 times. When the needle is threaded inside for the last time, tie off with a double knot.
  1. Repeat on the underside of your sleeve.
  1. Then repeat 1-4 on the other side.

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Finally, another nice touch for summer is to take your blouse in at the waist with a simple knot. If, like mine, your knot won’t stay in place, put in a few small stitches to hold it.

Et voila! One fresh and funky (not frumpy) new blouse to stay cool in this summer.

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I must say, this one looks particularly lovely with my mint green Ladybird Likes heart collar clips.

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TV Review: This Old Thing

It’s not very often that people make television programmes about things I’m really interested in, like yoga, or cats. And I definitely never imagined that someone would make one about vintage clothing!

But with the rise and rise of the craft movement, Kirstie Allsop making do and mending all over our TV screens, and the popularity of The Great British Sewing Bee, it shouldn’t really have come as much of a surprise that upcycling clothes was next on the cards.

Step forward Dawn O’Porter, TV presenter and vintage clothing lover, whose new show This Old Thing: The Vintage Clothes Show debuted on Channel 4 last night (25th June).

this-old-thing-book

Dawn is a gal after my own heart. Dressed impeccably in vintage with her 60s bump ’do, she wants to show the world how repairing, reinventing and revamping your clothes is a viable alternative to shopping on the highstreet. She wants us to buy less but value what we wear more by investing in a few key, unique items. And learning handmade skills to fix up our old threads along the way which, I have to say, ticks all the right boxes for me.

For the main part of the show, Dawn tried to convert a couple of vintage-phobic shoppers, who looked like they’d rather walk down the road naked than wear something someone else has worn before them.

“Old is not good” one of them exclaimed. “They might have diseases on” said another. But both wanted to look unique. And despite spending all their money on current trends, they (quel surprise) didn’t feel like it reflected their individual sense of style… especially when they walked down the street seeing someone else wearing the same outfit as them.

This was a handy segue into some vintage shopping tips – to step outside your comfort zone and just get stuck in, look for patterns and details you love, try everything on you like. And if you love it, buy it, there’s a chance you’ll never see it again (though word of warning, this is the reason I have 50+ vintage dresses!!)

It was great to see their transformation into vintage vixens, especially when one girl was presented with a reworked dress that used to belong to her nan; I actually had to reach for the tissues. But I’m interested to see if this concept has legs over its 6-week run without getting a bit samey. Though if anyone can do it, you get the impression Dawn can.

As well as convincing fast fashion addicts that vintage clothes don’t smell of dead people, the show also focuses on a particular fashion ‘moment’ – this time the 60s shift dress and mini.
I liked how they did actually show how such trends can be worn and styled without straying into fancy dress territory, which I know is a big fear for vintage newbies.

But, unsurprisingly, perhaps my favourite bit of the show was the bit where clothes actually got reinvented.

Of course, Dawn and her crack team of tailors, dressmakers and costumiers have the benefit of working in a lovely, light, well-stocked workshop that any seamstress would dream of, where they run a sort of walk-in clinic for the kind of eBay purchases you only make when tipsy (no? only me then).

Laura, who bought her red leather dress for a few quid on the internet is a prime example of what can happen when you get a bit eBay happy. But with a few cuts and a bit of ribbon and a zip it was turned into a snazzy little jacket and a matching clutch.

All in all I really enjoyed the show and I’m looking to see how it progresses. There’s also a book to go with the series that I can’t wait to get my mitts on, and a page over on the Channel 4 website where you can learn lots of handy sewing and dressmaking skills as well as styling tips.

Did you watch the show? What did you think?

Thrifty Thursdays: Vintage Florals

As I seem to spend every spare moment I get trawling charity shops for hidden gems, visiting at least once a week, I’ve decided to start a regular feature where I show you what I’ve found.

I love seeing what other people have found on their travels. It’s inspiring to see what cool stuff is out there just waiting to be found. But I think mostly I just like being nosy, so I hope you do too.


In the last few weeks, I’ve been trying not to buy so many clothes. But I have set myself a little goal of making a couple of pieces of clothing this summer, so I’ve been on the lookout for some fabrics.

It appeared to be fate then when I found so many amazing vintage floral sheets in the space of a week. Now my only quandary is which to cut up and which to use for their original purpose. Decisions decisions.

vintage-sheets-1

vintage-sheets-2

My best fabric find, however, has to be this little beauty. I picked it up just because I liked the mint and pink paisley pattern, and the fact that it was £3 for almost 2 metres of fabric (enough to make a small dress).

liberty-fabric

But it was only after I got it home I clocked the remnants of what looks like an old Liberty of London logo. I can’t know for sure, but what a bargain if it is!

liberty-label

My other collecting obsession right now, other than sheets, are scarves. In particular Jacqmar scarves.

jacqmar-scarves

jacqmar-label

Jacqmar was a quality British brand, though their scarves were produced in Italy. What I love about them is the shape and length, just long enough to style in a multitude of ways. Plus they come in so many sweet patterns. Their silk scarves can command tens or even hundreds of pounds, but you’re more likely to find polyester numbers like these for about £10-12 online. However, you can still pick them up in charity shops like I did for just a few quid. This is my favourite way of wearing them…

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Have you picked up any vintage bargains in the charity shops recently? Let me know in the comments below, or link up to a post if you blog about your finds too.

What does vintage really mean?

I thought I’d kick off my new vintage fashion blog with a post about why I love the old stuff, but then that got me thinking – what exactly is vintage? Is what I mean when I say vintage the same as everyone else?

I looked to good ol’ Wikipedia for a definition…

“Vintage clothing is a generic term for new or second hand garments originating from a previous era”

Helpfully vague, don’t you think? So I thought I’d try and outline popular thinking around vintage, and add in my own two pence worth so you know what I mean when I talk about vintage on this here blog.

Antique or vintage?

Wikipedia states that anything pre-1930s is seen as antique, but I’d say that as time marches on, the thirties themselves are moving into that category, with the forties close behind. For example, you’d be hard pressed to find a genuine 1930s frock for under £100 these days. They really are collectors’ items.

Vintage 1910s Dress | Antique Dress Wedding Gown Edwardian Downton Abbey XS X Small Extra Small | Sailor Knot Dress

1910s antique dress from Millay Vintage

The antique label suggest an element of rarity and historical significance. By this token, everything will surely become vintage and then antique eventually.

From the forties…

1940's rose pink , day dress, WW2 , Crepe,vintage dress, lace , tea dress,app size 10 , By dotty's Vintage on etsy

1940s rose pink dress from Dotty’s Vintage

So that leaves us potentially with six whole decades of clothing and trends to wade through. And what trends there have been, shaped by social, political and economic changes and the sub-cultures they inspired. I find them all fascinating in their own way.

That’s the great thing about the vintage scene – it is so varied and that is what makes it such an interesting thing to be a part of as it embraces differences and champions the unique.

To the… nineties? Is it vintage?

A few years ago I’d have screamed “the nineties is not vintage” until I was blue in the face. Though that may just be because I am a child/teen of that decade and I don’t want to face the fact I’m getting old. Surely people 10+ years older than me felt the same way about me wearing something from the eighties 10 years ago and telling them it was ‘vintage’.

vintage 90s dress blue plaid print overalls babydoll grunge mini dress M

1990s plaid dress from Huncamunca Vintage

But now vintage shops are full of floaty dresses, tie dye and high-waisted ‘mom’ jeans. And I have to admit I don’t entirely hate the trend. I’ve even been having some kind of nostalgic urge to own a pair of jelly shoes! (Just don’t try to bring back skirts over trousers or I might lose it).

And, if we go by the definition, the nineties is a “previous era”, and it was one with a number of interesting sub-cultures. One thing that the late nineties did herald, however, was an increase in overseas mass production and often a decrease in quality. So there are some understandable concerns about the increase of ‘bad quality’ vintage.

Deadstock – is it vintage?

This is a bit of a bone of contention. Deadstock, or new old stock as it is sometimes known, is clothing (and bags, jewellery and other accessories) that was manufactured in a previous era (usually 80s and 90s, but occasionally 70s) but which never made it to market. So it has quite often been sitting in a warehouse on the other side of the world before it makes its way to your local vintage store.

New Old Store DEADSTOCK 70's/80's SEXY Secretary UNWORN Vintage Dress Size Medium

1970-80s striped deadstock dress from Incogneeto Vintage

In my personal definition of vintage and going by my ethical approach to dressing, I have no problem with deadstock. The clothing is there, it was made in a different era to a different style and often has really interesting unique patterns. They may be a bit, uh, too funky, but they are a great starting point for modifications and I find it infinitely better to create something new from something old than to use natural resources creating new materials.

But, they are often seen as the Primark of vintage clothing, if you like. Because they are sold and distributed in bulk to vintage businesses across the land, you may see the same dress three times in the same city, which doesn’t make it quite so unique. Plus, because it hasn’t been worn, there is no real ‘story’ to them.

Whilst I have plenty of deadstock pieces in my wardrobe that I wear regularly and love, they’ll never have the same place in my heart as my mum’s handmade dresses or a 1950s wedding dress I bought from the previous owner’s daughter.

What ISN’T vintage?

There is probably a bit more consensus over what definitely isn’t vintage. This includes anything that is new, or manufactured/in the style of the last 15 or so years.

Unfortunately online marketplaces are awash with people trying to pass off last season’s high street threads as ‘vintage’, which can be misleading to people who don’t know better. Fortunately, chances are if it says the brand name you probably know what you’re getting.

not-vintage

Just to confuse things, you may also see the word ‘retro’ used. While the terms vintage and retro can be and often are used interchangeably, it is generally understood that retro refers to vintage style or reproduction clothing, often made with high skill from classic patterns. You’ll often find reproduction clothing at fairs, and they’re very much part of the vintage community. But any good repro or retro clothing maker will label their products as such.

Reproduction mod mini dress by Dig for Victory

So there you go. I haven’t really cleared up much have I? But what I hope I’ve got across is what a wonderfully eclectic place the world of vintage is. Whatever your style, you’re bound to find something to suit your tastes.

What do you think? Do you have a clear definition of vintage?

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