After recently reading Liz’s wonderful post from The Vintage Inn blog about her own vintage influences I started to really think about where my love of vintage actually came from. It’s always been in my blood, ever since I was a child, and I can pinpoint a few things that stick in my memory like visiting National Trust houses, being dragged around vintage steam rallies and being brought up on my parents 1950s and 60s record collections. I also still have clear evidence stashed away in a wardrobe of my childhood antique collecting. I was more excited about saving up for an antique dress for my china dolls than I was playing with my Sindy. (I was a weird child.) However, the things that stick with me the most are the TV programmes and films that I would completely immerse myself in over and over again. My video player had a serious workout during the 80s.
Bugsy Malone was my first introduction to the incredibly amazing world of the 1930s and probably vintage in general. I fell absolutely head over heels for this film, especially the costumes. Oh, and Scott Baio, but more about him later. As a quiet, timid girl who never stood out in the crowd I could relate to Blousey Brown but I desperately wanted to be Tallulah. I would watch the scene of her doing ‘My name is Tallulah’ over and over, dreaming of one day wearing a beautiful silk satin bias cut dress and walking down a staircase with everyone watching me.
However, having watched this as an adult I still relate to Blousey but in a much more positive way. I can see that’s she’s strong, independant and someone who doesn’t get taken in by all the glitz and glamour. I no longer want to be Tallulah and I would much rather have Blousey amazing collection of hats than the bias cut dress, at least I’d get a lot more wear out of them.
This film had a really big effect on me that has only recently surfaced. I fell in love with the 1930s because despite the lack of money, living from one penny to the next and, of course, the mobsters taking advantage of it all, they had fun and they looked amazing doing it. I know in reality this wasn’t always the case and many people truly struggled during the Depression, but it was how it was presented to my young impressionable mind and I adored it.
House of Elliot
This brings me on to my other huge influence of the 1920s and 30s, the BBC’s period drama House of Elliot. This series actually had a very profound effect on me as it first came out in 1991, the year I was deciding what to do at university. After watching just a few episodes of this wonderful programme I was hooked and I knew I wanted to do fashion. The problem was I wanted to open my own fashion house in the 1920s! Not really a course most universities offer, so ended up looking at costume design courses before settling on a fashion design degree.
House of Elliot was about two sisters, Beatrice (Bea) and Evangeline (Evie), who decide to set up their own fashion house after being forced into work due to the death of their father and the multitude of debts he leaves in the process. After trying to work for other people they quickly realise doing it on their own is the path they should take. Series 1 starts in the very early 1920s with series 3 finishing in the early 30s and both girls go through the transition from quiet little church mice to full on stylish business women.
My favourite character was always Evie, the younger sister in the last pictures, as she was about the same age as me and had just started her life journey. I also loved her hair and desperately wanted mine like it. This was at the time I had waist length hair and had never really done a single with it so was far too nervous to go for a bob. However, right now it’s pretty close to hers and having just recently rewatched the entire three series (all available through the BBC’s YouTube channel) I am going to have another couple of inches off so it’s just the same length.
Goodnight Sweetheart was probably where I got most of my 1940s influence from. I loved this show, it had all the right elements, brilliant humour, time-travelling, a blundering hero, an annoying wife, a weird best friend, a beautiful heroine and, of course, fabulous period costumes. A lot of people really struggled with Nicholas Lyndhurst as Gary due to them always thinking of him as Rodney in Only Fools and Horses, but I thought he was the perfect choice for a guy who comes across as useless in the modern world but a hero during World War Two.
Phoebe was my favourite character and I loved watching her grow from a timid, obey-the-men type of woman into one who wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself whilst running her own pub and bringing up a child. Her costumes were to die for and she always looked immaculate despite the rationing, just how we imagine the women would have been back then. I hated it when Dervla Kirwan, the original Phoebe, left and was replaced by Elizabeth Carling. She just didn’t pull her character off as well.
A few months ago the Gold channel did a re-run of all six series and I managed to catch most of them. It was fantastic to watch them all again and I loved it just as much as the first time. All the episodes seem to be available on YouTube, so if you’re wanting to catch it all again it’s worth having a hunt around on there.
Breakfast at Tiffanys
I really wish I could remember the first time I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s but I can’t, it’s always just seemed to be a film I’ve known my entire life. It is the epitome of mid-Century style and it has a huge effect on people of all ages, whether they’re into vintage or not. Audrey Hepburn is classically stylish in her Givenchy designed wardrobe and women, and designers, across the world draw on this look over and over again for elegance and timeless styles. I even copied the huge black brim hat outfit from top to bottom one time for a wedding!
But for me Breakfast at Tiffany’s is more than just the look, it’s a fantastic story too. Admittedly the film is very tame compared to the original book written by the incredibly talented Truman Capote, but it stands up as its own version. I’ve read the book several times and have seen it performed on the stage too, with Anna Friel as Holly Golightly, and I do prefer the grittier version, but Audrey and George Peppard make this film work for them. I can see, however, why Capote was outraged when Audrey was cast for the part. She’s not the obvious choice for a woman who’s basically an escort but I’m not sure Capote’s choice of Marilyn Monroe would’ve stood the test of time quite as well as Audrey.
The other thing I love about this story is that it centres around the luxury jeweller Tiffany’s. I love Tiffany jewellery and particularly the shop in New York, the one where Audrey goes to. It’s my mecca and I’ve been there twice. The first time I went was on a college trip where we got a guided tour around the shop and the workshop, it was amazing. However, I was so overwhelmed by the whole experience I forgot to actually buy something for myself! However, the second time I was determined to treat myself and I bought a beautiful silver ring with hearts cut out of it which I’ve worn everyday since.
My mum was a huge Cliff Richard fan in the late 1950s and 1960s and my dad was a huge fan of The Shadows, they really were a match made in heaven. Growing up I was always bombarded with Cliff or The Shadows songs playing on the record player and I inevitably ended up liking their stuff myself. When my mum introduced me to his films, however, that’s when they all came to life for me and I loved Summer Holiday. The songs were catchy, the story concept was utterly cool (imagine driving across Europe in a red London bus!) and the costumes were just perfect.
As a young girl I wanted to be Barbara Winters, played by Lauri Peters, and I desperately wanted her wardrobe. The candy coloured stripy dress in the clip above stuck in my mind for years and even now I’m still searching for an original vintage version of this. I even came close over the summer when I stumbled across a late 1940s candy coloured striped dress but it just didn’t fit me all that well. Ah well, I’ll keep searching.
There’s also some great actors from this period appearing as back-up characters such as the wonderfully eccentric Una Stubbs, better known these days as Sherlock’s landlady, Melvyn Hayes from the brilliant It A’int Half Hot Mum, which I also loved, and Ron Moody, better known as Fagin from the original Oliver film. Of course, The Shadows pop up now and again, if rather randomly at times, but all in all it’s a fun film that can just be enjoyed on a wet Sunday afternoon.
Who doesn’t love Happy Days? This for me was what the 1950s were all about, an American diner full of teenagers dancing, eating burgers and drinking milkshakes and dressing very unlike their parents. It had the James Dean character in The Fonz, the hapless boys who struggled with girls and a younger sister who desperately wanted to join in all the fun. Oh, and it had Scott Baio in it. I mentioned him before, right? Yes, I loved it when Chachi arrived and I really, really wanted to be Joanie then.
In terms of costumes this probably had the biggest effect on me when I started to dabble into wearing vintage back in my 20s. I loved the whole bowling shirt or cropped cardigan, rolled up jeans and Converse trainers look. It was young, fresh and was filled with that feeling of being in a time when people thought anything was possible. At the time it was so hard to find anything like this in the UK and I used to buy my stuff from the longstanding Daddy O’s in the US and Route 66 in Australia. And I still have most of it!
The thing I most loved about Happy Days, though, was that it felt like I was growing up with the characters. When I started watching it I was about Joanie’s age and I had an older brother called Richard who was not that different from Richie. Joanie experienced all the things I did, including getting into boys and wanting to stay out late with her friends. She was someone I could turn to when I was struggling with all that teenage angst and, of course, Chachi was completely in love with her, lucky girl.
Pretty in Pink
Pretty in Pink had an enormous effect on me as a young girl and it was another big influence when deciding to study fashion at university. I wanted to be Andie, I wanted to date Blaine and I wanted Duckie as my best friend. I still can’t hear Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness without breaking into the whole Duckie routine. It’s ingrained in me. But what I really, really wanted most of all was Iona’s incredible wardrobe.
Iona knew how to explore fashion and had looks from just about every past era which she pulled off so effortlessly. The beautiful pink 1950s dress was the stand out look for me and I desperately wanted it. Even though it was the 80s, an era I was very, very into at the time (yes, I was a New Romantic!), it annoyed me that Andie cut this particular one up to create her own very modern dress. I still can’t bear the thought of doing this to any vintage piece.
However, Andie’s talent for creating a unique look using a mixture of vintage and secondhand pieces mixed with her own creations resonated with me. I loved the idea of walking into a room and knowing that no one would have the the same outfit on as you. Here was an ordinary girl with an extraordinary style and she never let anyone change that. She was my hero.
I could go on, there are many, many other vintage influences throughout my formative years that I have really fond memories but I think I’ll stop there. So, as Liz says at the end of her post, it’s your turn… What are YOUR Vintage Influences?