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Vintage Handbag Restoration


I don’t mind admitting that when it comes to my business, I’m slightly obsessed with getting the very best out of my vintage clothing and accessories. That means cleaning and repairing to ensure they reach my customer in the best possible condition, ready to use or wear immediately.

Of course those who love the allure of anything old, appreciate some age patina and wear. It adds authenticity and shows the piece has had a previous life. There are also those of you who simply don’t ‘get’ vintage at all, and whilst I’ve no wish to try and change your viewpoint, I think you’re definitely missing a trick. Vintage provides immense style opportunities and offers something unique and individual to your wardrobe. Still not convinced? Oh well . . . . . vive la différence, as they say!

These handbags arrived with me last week and I couldn’t wait to get started. They look pretty good don’t they?

A selection of 1960s handbags

A selection of 1960s handbags

Well they didn’t look quite so pretty when they arrived. They were all  incredibly dusty with metal hardware that was dull and unappealing. I had to first of all check what the outer fabric shell was made from; three of them vinyl and one genuine leather. I will concentrate my story on the black moc-croc patent handbag (second from left). Here’s some close-up images of how it looked on arrival . . .

vintage patent handbag

Before I got to work on this vintage patent handbag.

I used a clean cloth to remove as much dust as possible, then used Silvo on the metal hardware, being extremely careful not to go anywhere near the lining fabric. Once that had been polished and buffed with another clean cloth, I got to work on the outer vinyl shell. This proved very easy indeed, using a soft sponge, warm soapy water, and one final buff with a clean cloth. And here’s the finished result. Hey presto!

Moc Croc Patent Handbag

Moc Croc Patent Handbag

Now just going back to what I said earlier about appreciating some age patina and wear; well this handbag is a perfect example. It’s now in the best possible condition it could be, and is certain to last its new owner for many more years to come. However, the metal hardware, although strong, robust and clean, still has quite a lot of tarnishing spots.

Tarnishing spots

Good sturdy frame but there are still tarnishing spots that remain.

Would the tarnishing spots bother you? Well I guess that all depends on your preference for old or new. I think it’s unlikely you’d find anything quite so stylish or beautifully made on the high street . . . . but as they say, vive la différence!

Witney Blankets


I recently purchased this lot from an auction house sale. The contents of the box were listed as follows:

4 Whitney wool checked blankets, embroidered and crochet linen (1 box).

Auction lot purchase

Recent auction lot purchase.

Now as my knowledge of wool blankets is practically non-existent, I took a quick detour via Google search and input ‘Whitney blanket’ . . . . well you would, wouldn’t you?

Nothing came up for that particular spelling. However, Google found me lots of wool blankets, all of them labelled ‘Witney‘. This was looking promising . . . . . except for the link that came up for a website dedicated to all things ‘Whitney Houston‘ . . . . No, not quite what I was looking for!

Anyway, a couple more clicks of the ‘mouse’ and I came across an interesting little website all about Witney blankets. Result!

Mental note to myself . . . . . should get out more . . . . .

Witney wool blanket vintage

A nice surprise! Red tartan wool blanket.

Back to the auction house then, to establish the condition of said blankets. There’s little point winning at auction if you’ve no idea what you’re buying. It would be hideous indeed, to open-up my box of goodies, only to find blankets full of nasty holes and stains. Yuk! I’d rather save myself the bother.

Failing to check things beforehand might prove an expensive mistake. Always check the auction house’s terms and conditions;  be sure about what you’re buying, and know what fees you’ll be charged.

As luck would have it, the auctioneer confirmed the blankets were in good order with only a small yellow mark on one. So, I made my bid and won. Yay!

Here are the blankets in more detail. The one shown above right, and below, was a very nice surprise. I hadn’t expected to see any red at all, and this colour combination is a real winner.

Vintage wool blanket

A generous size, this blanket would make a great bedspread – and big enough to sit on top of a standard double, as shown above.

I’ll be keeping two of the blankets – the ones that have the green checked weave as shown below. The neutral tones will look perfect in my lounge, preferably on a dark brown leather sofa, which I haven’t got yet. Hopefully sometime this year!

Vintage wool checked blanket

A keeper! Vintage wool blanket with green and brown weave.

The blanket below is the largest of the four. Neutral creams and browns makes it easy to coordinate with almost anything!

Vintage wool blanket in neutral tones

Vintage wool blanket in neutral tones.

Vintage wool blanket in neutral tone

The large size is perfect for single or double bed.

Vintage wool throws look very smart in any room setting. I love the warm tones used in this elegant bedroom. Draping the blanket at the end of the bed, gives the room an extra cosy feel.

Tartan wool throw

Tartan wool blanket adds a cosy touch to this elegant bedroom. Source.

Handbags of the 1920s

Winter accessories, 1929

A selection of fashion accessories from Woman’s Pictorial, January 1929.

The handbag became an increasingly important fashion accessory during the 1920s. No longer were they simply used for carrying everyday essentials, but they were designed with a total look in mind, and made especially to coordinate with your latest outfit.

Handbags became more streamlined and less fussy during this decade, with design influences taken from ancient civilizations in the form of geometric shapes and patterns. In addition, popular dances of the day, such as the Charleston and the Tango, required a smaller bag that could be easily held in one hand, usually with the help of a wrist strap.

The feature, shown here on the left, is taken from Woman’s Pictorial, dated 5 January 1929. The range of accessories includes a rather handsome bag complete with wrist strap. Please click on the image, then click again, for a super-sized view.

A copious “carry-all” after your heart’s desire – made from an Arabian prayer mat and mounded on tortoiseshell.

New materials and technologies, brought innovation throughout the 1920s, which infiltrated fashion in the form of product design. 1926 saw the first production of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic, which made it possible to imitate expensive natural raw materials, such as tortoiseshell and ivory. This process enabled bag manufacturers to produce more affordable ranges for the mass market.

Below is a lovely example of an evening bag from the mid-1920s which uses a faux tortoiseshell frame and chain-link handle. This is from my own collection of vintage handbags, but unfortunately, now too frail to use as the silk has disintegrated somewhat over the years. I love the fabric with its contrasting colours and abstract design. And did you spot the little elephant charm? This bag must have been quite ‘fashion-forward’ at the time.

Silk evening bag c.1920s

Silk evening bag c.1920s

And just take a look inside – all those pretty blue rosebuds which run along the inside of the frame. Such attention to detail. The frame fastens securely with a push-button (press) closure.

Blue rosebuds adorn the inner frame

Blue rosebuds adorn the inner frame

What parties has this pretty handbag attended over the years, and who owned her I wonder?

Maylor Vanity Set


It was my birthday recently and one of the gifts I received was this smart vintage vanity set by Maylor. It dates c.1930s and comprises two glass bottles for storing perfume or toner, three small glass pots with screw-top lids, and one large powder pot including, what appears to be, an unused powder puff labelled ‘REX’ Fifth avenue.

Maylor Vanity Set

Maylor Vanity Set

Maylor vanity set

Sturdy leatherette case with carry handle. Perfect for a gal that likes to travel.

Maylor vanity set

Golden tooling showing the maker’s name, MAYLOR, London.

Maylor vanity set

A nice large mirror sits inside the lid.

Whether the powder puff is original to the set, I really couldn’t say – it certainly fits perfectly inside the pot, although ‘Rex’ was an American compact brand. Perhaps ‘Maylor’ produced the case and ‘Rex’ produced the glass jars and pots? I’d really love to hear from you if you know.

Maylor vanity set

Unused powder puff by REX Fifth Avenue, measuring 3″ diameter.

There’s an informative post from The Powder Keg which talks about Rex Fifth Avenue powder puffs. Please click here to find out more.

V&A Gallery of Fashion


It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I’ve been suffering, like most people this Christmas, with flu – the type that lingers on forever it seems! Anyway, I’m on the mend now so want to get back into the swing of things by starting some regular posts on my favourite topic, vintage fashion.

I’m lucky enough to have a sister-in-law that’s always on the look-out for fashion books, and this Christmas was no exception. This gorgeous book is the V&A Gallery of Fashion and it’s my idea of the perfect gift!

V&A Gallery of FashionSpanning four centuries, the V&A’s Fashion Collection is one of the most significant and comprehensive in the world, housing unrivalled collections of dress, accessories, shoes and hats from the seventeenth century to the present day. This concise volume perfectly encapsulates the collection, from rare eighteenth-century gowns and exquisite eighteenth-century bodices to 1930s evening wear, post-war couture and show-stopping ensembles by contemporary designers.

'Zamire' evening ensemble (jacket, skirt, bodice and under-petticoat) by Christian Dior, Autumn/Winter 1954-5.

‘Zamire’ evening ensemble (jacket, skirt, bodice and under-petticoat) by Christian Dior, Autumn/Winter 1954-5.

Christian Dior often made reference to historical dress in his collections. ‘Zemire’ was named after the opera Zémire et Azor (Beauty and the Beast) by André Grétry, first performed at Fontainebleau in 1771. The play bill features a fur-trimmed jacket and full skirt, which may have inspired Dior’s striking design, originally created in grey satin (see image above left). Photograph taken in Paris. Synthetic silk, silk and net. Worn by Lady Agota Sekers. Read more about the ‘Zemire’ ensemble here.

Evening dress by Charles James c. 1938. Paris or London printed silk. Textile designed by Jean Cocteau.

Evening dress by Charles James c. 1938. Paris or London printed silk. Textile designed by Jean Cocteau.

Evening dress by Voisin c.1925

Evening dress by Voisin c.1925. This fine silk velvet flapper dress has orange and peach velvet streamers fringed with gold bugle beads designed to enhance lively dance movements.

Fashion plate from The Young Ladies Journal 1887

Fashion plate from The Young Ladies’ Journal, February 1887 (England, Hand-coloured engraving).

Some Early Christmas Shopping


On our way out for a meal last night, we stopped by some local shops on Burton Road, West Didsbury. We’re so lucky to live here as there’s so many independent shops and eateries on our doorstep. I always buy gifts locally if I can, especially if there’s something tempting in the window to draw me in.

One shop I really love is David Gavin Design Ltd. The window display never fails to impress, especially at Christmas time. Okay, so we’re not quite there yet – but it’s only a couple of weeks ’til the 1st December!!

David Gavin, a local interior design shop, has been a constant favourite over the years. This display is particularly sumptuous . . . love!

David Gavin Interiors

David Gavin Interiors Ltd, Burton Road, West Didsbury, M20.

Bright and cheery Velour reindeer

Bright and cheery Velour reindeer £12.95

Vintage style baubles

A selection of vintage style Christmas baubles.

Large quilted foot stool

This large quilted footstool would look nice in my lounge!

As we drooled over the window display, my daughter spotted a rather gorgeous mohair throw. She’s only 11 years old but clearly has an eye for beautiful things.

“Oh mummy! That would look amazing in my bedroom. I’d really love to have that!”

I’m sure she’s forgotten all about it, but I returned to the shop this afternoon in the hope that it was still available. And here she is . . . . . a beautiful pastel coloured throw by John Hanley & Co Ltd.

John Hanley Throw

Large pastel throw: 70% mohair, 30% wool by John Hanley, Ireland.

It will be kept safe, and away from prying eyes, until Christmas Day. I believe the John Lewis department store was selling John Hanley throws for an eye-watering £160.00 (doesn’t surprise me). This one wasn’t cheap at £95.00, but the quality is stupendous and I’m sure it will be loved and cherished for many, many, years to come.

Click twice for a super-sized view . . .

John Hanley mohair and wool throw

Soft and luxurious, the colours are so pretty.

John Hanley & Co Ltd was established in 1893. They design and weave fabric and accessories such as scarves, throws and rugs which they sell all over the world. They also have a varied customer base from small craft shops in Ireland to high-end department stores such as Barneys, New York and Liberty of London. Here’s a short film about John Hanley & Co Ltd – click here.

hanley6Now feast your eyes on more from the window display at David Gavin . . .

Window display at David Gavin

Pretty window display at David Gavin, Christmas 2014


Unusual light fitting, obscured somewhat by the reflection through the window – sorry!

David Gavin wallpaper

Wallpaper to die for . . . . .

Father Christmas and sleigh

Father Christmas and sleigh . . . . .

gavin9Find David Gavin Interiors on Twitter and Facebook.

Gallery of Costume: Part 1


It’s been a while since I visited the Gallery of Costume in Fallowfield, Manchester. I took my daughter with me when it re-opened early in 2010 – she was so little then!

Gallery of Costume 2010

Gallery of Costume 2010

Now we find ourselves in 2014, and also nearing the end of the half-term holidays, so a visit to the gallery is perfect. I took lots of photographs so will share them over the next few weeks. I hope you’ll stay tuned.

The Gallery of Costume is housed in the elegant surroundings of Platt Hall, an 18th century textile merchant’s home, and houses one of the largest collections of clothing and fashion accessories in Britain, containing over 20,000 items.

Platt Hall, Fallowfield

Platt Hall, Fallowfield

The elegant staircase inside Platt Hall

The elegant staircase inside Platt Hall

The current exhibition, which runs until March 2015, is entitled Something Blue: Wedding fashions 1914-2014. On display are a total of eighteen bridal gowns, all but one of them have not been on display before. The gowns were worn by an array of British brides including mill workers, wives of Lieutenants in the Royal Navy, as well as the wedding dress of Kathleen Soriano, an independent curator and broadcaster, currently Director of Exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Previous exhibitions have included:

  • Ossie Clark, a British fashion genius, 1967-1977
  • Christian Dior: Designer in Focus
  • Knitted Elegance: Creative Fashion since the 1950s

And without further ado, here are some of the wedding frocks currently on display . . .

Three-piece wedding dress in white soft tulle and appliqué feathers. Made by Jean Jackson Couture for Vogue Fashion Night Out in Manchester in 2013 and has been worn by actress Mischa Barton in a recent photoshoot.

The headdress is made from combined white roses and white ostrich feathers. Designed and made by David Jayet-Laraffe at Frog Flowers, Manchester


Soft tulle and ostrich feather wedding dress

Soft tulle and ostrich feather wedding dress

High-waisted, cream, polyester mini-dress 1968

High-waisted, cream, polyester mini-dress c.1968

High-waisted, cream, polyester mini-dress, entirely covered in guipure ‘daisy’ lace with matching short-sleeved bolero jacket, labelled ‘Durant Model’.

Worn by Helen Hughes, who carried a bouquet of red and yellow roses, for her wedding to Alan Powell at the registry office in Preston, Lancashire in July 1968.

Helen’s mother found the dress in a fashionable boutique in Preston. Helen loved it as she was a fan of the mini skirt style. She thought it very well made, with ‘a lovely weight to it’, and it made her feel special. She always wore her hair down but her sister, a hairdresser, did her hair up for the wedding.

Ivory wild silk wedding dress 1994

Ivory wild silk wedding dress c.1994

Ivory wild silk wedding dress worn by Heather Benzie, carrying a bouquet of white lilies, for her marriage to Graham Woods at Briggswath Methodist Chapel, Sleights, near Whitby, North Yorkshire in June 1994. Having seen a dress she wanted in a magazine but with a £1000 price tag, Heather’s mother suggested she bought some material and had a similar dress made.

The silk was bought from a shop in York, and the dress was made by one of her mother’s friends from church. As she was serving in the Air Force at the time, Heather had limited time for fittings, only trying the dress on twice before it was finished.

She had decided to have her hair up for the wedding and had been growing it for a year or so in preparation but in a last minute change of heart, inspired by another magazine, she had it cut short in a bob on the morning of the wedding.

White cotton Nottingham lace wedding dress c.1958

White cotton Nottingham lace wedding dress c.1958

White cotton Nottingham lace wedding dress labelled ‘Alexandrine’ with a full skirt, boned bodice, and matching lace jacket. Worn by Shirley Chell, who carried a bouquet of pink and mauve roses and gladioli for her wedding to John Crowther at St Peter’s Church, Littleover, Derby in August 1958.

The couple met as undergraduates at Manchester University. Shirley’s bridesmaids, one blonde, one brunette, and one redhead, wore pale pink flocked nylon dresses made of fabric from Lewis’s Manchester, and carried posies of sweet peas.

The dress was advertised in the March 1958 edition of Vogue magazine at a price of 39½ guineas.

Stay tuned for more from the Gallery of Costume.

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