At the weekend my Mum and I did our annual pre-Christmas trip to London. We decided to make a real break of it and stay over for two nights and chose an incredibly central hotel to rest our heads. The location of it was great, just opposite Marble Arch, but the service was appalling and we definitely won’t be going back there again. The only thing we had planned was to go to the Fashion & Textile Museum to explore their Jazz Age exhibition, other than that it was just shopping!
Whenever we go to London something surreal always happens and this time it happened almost immediately. We’d literally checked in, dumped our stuff and hopped onto the tube, then as we were heading to the escalator to come out of the tube station someone called my name. It totally freaked me out! Then the voice was joined by someone tugging on my arm and low and behold it was Elaine from the Black Tulip blog! We started following each others blogs earlier in the year and it was such an amazing coincidence that we’d both chosen exactly the same day and time to head to the Jazz Age exhibition!
The Fashion & Textile Museum is very unlike other big London museums, it’s small, tucked away and has no permanent collection. Instead it hosts one entire exhibition throughout the museum, allowing the curators to really focus. It also gives it a lovely relaxed and personal feeling to your visit and the staff are always on hand to answer any questions you may have.
The 1920s Jazz Age exhibition flows beautifully as you walk through, starting off with a collection of fashion illustrations by American designer, Gordon Conway and a small cinema room showing clips from 1920s films. We decided to join a group going around with a tour guide, which was great as it gave us an even more in-depth look at everything.
The main room features a whole plethora of different garments, from opera coats to lingerie and from afternoon dresses to beach pyjamas, each one in amazing condition. None of them are behind glass so you can lean in and get really close to see all the wonderful detailing. Each section tells a story about how life changed dramatically from the stiff pre-war era to a life of leisure, luxury, frivolity and innovation. Many garments feature new techniques and fabrics that had never been seen before.
Upstairs was more about evening wear and the dresses were just incredible. My two favourites are pictured above. The stunning swoop of diamantés across the front and waist of the brown silk velvet dress was just beautiful and incredibly eye-catching. You can just imagine how it picked up the light and drew attention to the wearer on the dance floor.
The Egyptian embroidered coat was absolutely exquisite and was obviously inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamun or Tut-mania as one of my 1930s sewing books refers to it. It looked practically brand new!
The device above caught my eye buried at the bottom of one of the very few glass cases. It’s a 1920s hair removing device called the Tweaker with the original instructions. It’s basically like threading and you’d attach rubber bands to the four different posts and then run it along your legs (or wherever you wanted to remove hair from!) using a scissor motion. It sounds painful but probably not any worse than modern day epilating!
And of course I had to take a billion photographs of the one 1930s outfit on show! This suit is even more stunning in real life, even my mum was going gaga over it and said I just had to make my own version. Well, it would be rude not to, right? I already know the fabric I want to use, it’s a vintage wool in purple and ivory houndstooth I picked up at a vintage jumble sale. I just hope I have enough, otherwise it’ll be back to the drawing board.
These are the stunning shoes they had paired with the suit. They’re incredibly narrow, much more the style of the 1920s than the mid to late 1930s and have a Louis XV heel. However, I love the colour, a completely neutral biscuit colour, which I bet would go with just about everything. If only Royal Vintage Shoes would reproduce them! 😉
At the end of the tour Elaine joined us for a late lunch in the cafe and we had a good old natter. It was lovely to sit and talk about sewing, vintage and life in general with such a lovely like-minded lady. Hope to meet you again some day Elaine!
After we had finished, Mum and I headed up to Oxford Street to have a good look at all the beautiful Christmas lights. It was just getting dark by that point so it was lovely to just stand and have a look around. We then headed down Argyll Street towards Liberty and suddenly it was as if it was snowing! It was such a magical movie moment and everyone was Ooooing and Ahhhing, trying desperately to catch the flakes. Anyway it turned out to be fake snow being blasted out from one of the buildings above, but it was magical none the less!
The next day was another surreal day where we first headed to Alfie’s Antique Market in Church Street (the same road as Joel & Son Fabrics – I resisted!). There we met a seller of the most stunning 1930s homewares who turned out to be the lady who supplied the entire Poirot series with home props! It was absolutely fascinating talking to her and I could’ve spent an absolute fortune with her. However, as most of it was breakable I only ended up buying a beautiful pink Davidson vase for my bedroom.
Once we left there we headed for Portobello Road where I ended up buying a ton of Christmas presents. Yay! I also got stopped about 15 times by foreign tourists wanting to have their photo taken with me!! One lady even asked if I was royalty!! I was dressed similarly to the outfit above but with my brown skirt and navy 1930s shoes, so I guess I stood out rather a lot.
The photo above was taken about 5 minutes before we left the hotel to go home and I said that seeing as everyone else had taken my photo, I probably should too! (I’m rubbish at remembering to take photos!) And yes, that is my completed 1930s jacket. I will feature it properly on the blog at some point, although it’s more likely to be next year now.