Monday, 31 January 2011

You Stole My Heart At Seventeen...The Story of a Vintage Love Affair

Stepping into the treasure trove, you pause for a moment to take it all in. All around you are rails upon rails of odd, unevenly placed garments, shelves and shelves of battered, elegantly pointed shoes and heaps of quilted handbags in all the colours of the rainbow. Immediately you are hit with that musty, faded smell which is simultaneously stale and yet somehow strangely comforting- like the soft, enveloping smell of a beloved Grandapent's home that isn't unpleasant and yet, unmistakeably signifies 'oldness'. You move deeper into the dustiness of the shop, running your hands over the rows of hanging fabric, scanning the room for those glints of sparkle or pops of print, the ones that catch your eye and flirt with it outrageously, twinkling or calling at you to touch them, hold them, try them against your skin in the mirror- just to see. You run your hands over age-yellowed lace with delicately scalloped edges, fondle the fronds of the flowing fabric of a 1950s prom dress, feast your eyes on cute-as-a-button pearl embellishment...Welcome to the world of vintage shopping.

    The first vintage item I ever bought was a little red printed sundress from Peekaboo Vintage at Topshop, when I was seventeen, about to turn eighteen. It was sixty five pounds, and it was from the Topshop in Bromley, when the store had only just moved to its new location, and they had one rail on the top floor of vintage clothes. It was my first encounter with vintage, and I fell in love with the uniqueness of the items right away. I thought that the dress was expensive, and it took a big chunk out of the holiday allowance that my mum had given me for my first holiday away with my boyfriend. But I didn't care. I had to have it, and it was worth every single penny. I still wear it every summer to this day.

At the time, the high-street was overflowing with smock- tops and empire line dresses. I'd searched high and low, but for the life of me, could not find a summer top or dress that didn't make me look like I was pregnant. (For the record, I'm not personally a fan of the empire-line). I was desperate, I mean DESPERATE for a dress that cinched in at the waist. Since the revival of waisted belts in 2005, something which I had never encountered before in my life-time, I had fallen in love with the idea of defining my waist. There was always the option of belting a smock with a waisted belt, but it didn't achieve that cute but sexy 1950's hourglass shape that I was after. When I found the row of Peekaboo Vintage clothes, I felt like I'd stumbled upon a little piece of heaven. Ok, so the clothes were pricey, but they were beautiful. They came in all sorts of wacky colours, cutesy prints and figure- enhancing shapes that I'd never really seen anywhere else on the highstreet. These clothes were funky; they were edgy, and best of all, they were just different.

I will never forget the feeling that I had that day after trying on that dress, of milling around Topshop, picking out colourful neon holiday pieces (I was in love with the nu-rave look, and had just discovered electric blue), with the little red sundress flung over my arm. I felt like I'd discovered a hidden gem; I had finally found a dress that showed off my waist and no one else in the whole wide world had the exact same one. None of my friends owned anything like it, and I knew that it would make me feel like a pin-up amid a sea of identical smock dresses. As I picked out the rest of my holiday wardrobe with the money I had over, I could smell my new pink Johnson's 24 hour moisture hand cream. To this day, when I smell that hand cream, I am seventeen about to turn eighteen again, browsing the rails in Topshop in Bromley, an array of colourful clothes hanging off of each arm, and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world because I am about to be whisked off on my first grown-up holiday with my first proper boyfriend.

Since that day, my love of vintage has just grown and grown. I've learned a lot about it too- what suits me, where to shop, and what kind of price I should be paying (you wouldn't catch me paying 65 quid for a cheaply-made sundress these days!) There is something so satisfying about going into a shop and digging out an undiscovered beauty that nobody else has noticed yet, hiding beneath a pile of musty old scarves in the 'everything for a fiver' bin. I am aware of the argument that these days, whilst vintage dressing was originally  a reaction against mass-produced clothing and mainstream style, it has now become so popular and on-trend that it has started to become mainstream in itself. However, I would argue that, whilst you might get girls walking around in Brick Lane with a similar sense of style- no two outfits are ever the same. I don't care what you say about the way vintage lovers dress- you'll never see someone in an identical dress/coat/skirt/top walking past you in the street, or see someone who has put their outfit together in exactly the same way you have. That's another thing- girls you see in East London who dress in vintage are so much more experimental with their hair and makeup, that everyone has such a totally outlandish and unique look.

What's more- vintage clothing is so varied and spans so many decades, that it allows you to be so much more creative in the way you put it together. You can go for a top-to-toe vintage look which perfectly emulates the style of a specific decade, mix vintage pieces together from different decades to totally put your own spin on the look, or mix vintage with high-street and/or designer pieces.

To be honest though, I think what appeals to me most about vintage is that it proves that clothes aren't just clothes, as so many people think. All of the clothes that you buy have a story behind them, and vintage clothes especially, because not only do they have your story behind them, but they also have someone else's story before you. Everything in my wardrobe has a story. Everything is special. Maybe it's just me with my romantic ways, sentimentalizing the clothes, and maybe it's because I am a writer and a lover of stories...but it's why I just can't bring myself to throw away the stacks of rainbow-hued, high heeled shoes I have mouldering away in a drawer under my bed. They are all hideously outdated now, not to mention battered and worn, and are actually about a fraction of the height of the heels I wear now (no one embraced the birth of the sky-scraper like I did!) But I can never throw them away. To me, they represent my acceptance of being tall and being proud of it for the first time in my life. Each pair has it's own special story.  It's like a little piece of the magic I felt when I wore them is still encased within each pair, like the magic in Dorothy's ruby slippers. They represent a time of happiness, a time of freedom, friendship, sixth form parties, underage drinking at Amadeus nightclub and hair extensions...I have a whole drawer of ruby slippers, and I can't ever throw that away.  

So, now that I've won you over to the joys of vintage, let me take you on a little account of my recent vintage adventures...

I recently payed a little visit to my favourite vintage shop, Rokit, which is pricey for vintage, but has such an amazing collection of pieces that you don't even have to rifle through to find something decent. I like to think of Rokit as vintage shopping made easy. I get generally the same feeling in there that I do in Topshop and Urban Outfitters, that I love EVERYTHING on the rails and want to take it all home...

 Outside the Covent Garden store

    Inside one of the Brick Lane stores
Moi, showing off my bags of purchases outside the Covent Garden Store way back in the lovely summer (God, I'd actually forgotten what sunshine looked like!)

So here's what I bought: an amazingly sweet white/cream summer dress which enables me to work the all-white trend I wrote about in my last post (plus- it was only £16 in the sale!), a cute headscarf and a faded green blouse.

Here I am rocking the scarf and blouse! I wore it to uni today.
I actually wanted to wear this outfit with sheer black tights- maybe patterned- with little beige ankle socks, and with the blouse knotted, but it's WAY too cold for thin leg coverage and midriff-exposure, so I had to settle for the tucked in option and the good old black opaques. Sigh.

After my Rokit rendezvous, I popped into Urban Outfitters and found this AMAAAZING book on how to do vintage hairstyles! I snapped it up immediately.
How amazing is this book?! I actually feel like it was made for me. Watch this space for 40's victory rolls and 50's peekaboo waves!

After that. I set off home back to Orpington and headed straight for one of the charity shops in the Highstreet I'd popped into a few days before after work. I'd seen an adorable little cream lace blouse in there which was only FOUR POUNDS. It was another one of those things that I saw, left, and then couldn't stop thinking about! I wore it to my night out on Friday to an uber-trendy bar in Brick Lane, called 93 Feet East. What do you think?
Blouse: Charity shop in Orpington Highstreet
Skirt: Topshop
Ankle Boots: Miss Selfridge
Belt: Vintage from Rokit
Bag: Charity shop in Orpington Highstreet
Eyelashes: Mac
Fur coat: Vintage from Ebay.

To add to my brilliant day of shopping, I even discovered another gorgeous little vintage-esque blouse in the charity shop which I'd failed to notice before! It was just as cute as some of the blouses I'd seen in Rokit (all £20) but this one was THREE POUNDS! Now is that a bargain or what? Plus, it's for a good cause :-)
Here it is:
I'm still totally obsessed with ice-cream shades in muted tones as a way to ease my wardrobe into Sping, so when I saw this vintage blouse for only a fiver in Beehive today, I snapped it up:
It may not look like much here, but trust me, once I've styled it up, this will look adorable :-)

I hope you enjoyed the story of how my heart was stolen by a vintage dress, and why I've never looked back....

love and kisses,
The Porcelain Princess xoxo

Monday, 24 January 2011

Breezy Summer Days in White

When I first saw these stunning pictures of Simone Rocha's SS11 collection on the popular style blog Love Aesthetics, I guess you could say that I had something of a fashion Proustian moment. In case you don't know, (as I didn't until recently when we did this at uni) a Proustian moment or memory is when something you encounter evokes recollections of the past without conscious effort. In other words, involuntary memory. It could be caused by a smell (the most powerful evocation of memory that we have), a taste, or just anything that triggers off a sense of powerful, unexpected memory or recollection. The term was coined by the French author Marcel Proust. It's like when you catch a whiff of perfume or aftershave that your ex used to wear, and suddenly you are overcome with the feelings that you had when you were with that person, and you feel as though you are right back in that time, in that compartmentalized  memory inside your head that you thought you'd closed the chapter on, that you thought was well and truly preserved as merely a memory, that you'd never have to revisit again. It's like you jumped right back into a photograph from the past, and just for that one moment, when you can smell that fragrance, the past is alive again, and you are there, back in that time, feeling that onslaught of forgotten emotions, back in that place you thought you'd put way back on a dusty shelf in your memory, far in the recesses of your mind.

Well, seeing these photos didn't exactly give off the fragrance of youth or the taste of childhood, but they did take me back to a time, in that summer in 2006 that I mentioned in 'Acid Brights and Summer Rain', when I had an all-white outfit that I accessorized with bright, fuchsia pink lips. I think that that summer was so special to me, not just because it was a time of happiness and of hazy, adolescent dreaming, but because it was also around the time that I really started to discover real fashion. Before that, I had always been a tall, skinny, insecure teen who thought that 'fashion' meant piling on as much bronzer as I could, getting out as much flesh as was decently possible, and trying my absolute hardest to look like the 'popular' girls in school. It was when I got to the age of seventeen that I started to question this desperate desire to blend into the crowd and look like everybody else.

I had discovered Sex and the City at the age of sixteen, and had watched, awed, as Carrie pranced the streets in tutus, outrageous hats, look-at-me knee-high socks and sometimes even ball gowns, with a confidence that made it seem like she owned the city. I had discovered Dita Von Teese, and realized that not only did staying out of the sun and remaining pale-skinned prevent you from premature aging and skin cancer, but also that it was beautiful. Watching shows like America's Next Top model and reading fashion magazines had taught me that being tall wasn't something to be ashamed of, and for the first time, I gave in to my love of heels. Before that, I'd only ever worn flat shoes, and would sometimes even stoop so that I was more the same height as my friends. It also taught me that beauty comes in many, many forms. Weather you're black, white, tanned, skinny, curvy, blonde or brunette, you can find your own way to be beautiful. For the first time in my life, I realized that fashion wasn't about making boys like you or fitting in, it was about being yourself, and most of all- having fun.

I reveled in my new discoveries and growing confidence that summer. I tried new things and dared myself to step out of my comfort zone. I stopped being ashamed of what I'd previously seen as 'flaws' and finally learned to embrace my differences. The models on the pages of my copies of Vogue were tall, willowy and ethereal in their beauty- to me, they looked like something right out of a different world.  I wanted their perfect confidence, their grace and their ability to stand out on the page and make the clothes come alive. It was the first time I learned to take risks, and to try and stand out like my beautiful Vogue models. Sometimes I got it horrendously wrong, and people would laugh at me (like the time I cured my hair into ridiculously tight ringlets that bounced with my every step- BIG mistake) but at least I can look back now and say that I wasn't boring.

That summer I remember reading in Vogue or Elle that lipstick was making a comeback. I was so excited by the idea of wearing bold, matte colour on my lips, that was so different from the translucent, shiny lip-gloss I was used to wearing throughout my teens. I remember reading about how you should team your bold, fuchsia lipstick with pale skin, powdered to perfection, and a lick of black mascara for a fresh, minimalist take, and the words to me sounded like poetry. I remember telling my best friend about it in a random, old man pub we'd managed to sneak into one summer night, and how she laughed and told me I was talking too loud because I was drunk, and that everyone was looking at me sitting there raving about pink lipstick.

The Simone Rochas SS11 collection reminded me of the bright pink of that lipstick, and an all- white outfit I'd picked out to perfectly compliment the look. I had teamed together little white shorts from Zara, and a long, flowing, white top from Topshop that swung in the summer breeze when I walked.  Seeing the Simone Rochas SS11 collection and the white with neon pink accents makes me recall that summer with a perfect clarity. The heat, the freedom, the excitement, and the feeling of being just seventeen years old like the Dancing Queen, and of having the whole world at my feet.

This summer, I cannot wait to re-rock this look. Here are some more images that are inspiring me right now:
The beautiful Carrie in the first SATC movie

Classic Carrie in a white vintage- looking sundress. I want her sun parasol!

Carrie in the opening scene of SATC 2

I love the way the Simone Rochas collection is made up of simplistic, deconstructed pieces layered under gauzy, billowy fabrics with pops of fluorescent pink accessories in futuristic shapes and plasticky materials (pink plastic box bag, I covet thee.) The collection was inspired by traditional Chinese mourning, when everyone wears white. Simone Rochas described in an interview how "I visited my grandad’s grave in Hong Kong and it was stark white but had highlighted flowers and that’s where I got the colourful accessories from and the pink clothes. It’s tough but with a feeling of romance." (If you want to read more of this interview, go to

Although this idea may seem slightly creepy, I actually think that it's kind of beautiful, if you think about mourning as a way of showing love and respect to lost loved ones. I like the idea so much more than wearing black. There's a purity to wearing white and decorating graves in bright, cheerful pink that to me seems to be more of a celebration of the person's life and your love for them than just sadness at their passing. I think the idea behind this collection is really unusual and beautiful- what do you think?

It wasn't just at Simone Rocha that white clothes were seen on the runway. White was also seen at Dolche & Gabbana and Stella McCartney.
  I love the floaty sheer dresses, pretty white cotton bloomer shorts and puff-sleeved blouses as seen at Dolche & Gabbana.
Long fluid silhouettes were seen in white at Stella McCartney.

Since I first read the Simone Rochas post on Love Aesthetics, I've been scouring the internet for pieces I can buy to take on the look. They're just ideas at the moment so I can decide what to buy come summer. Here's what I've found so far...

All the above are from
white vintage dress from

Also from

I love these sunnies, from

I've not managed to find many bright pink accessories yet, but I'm on the hunt! Come summer, I'll be strolling down memory lane in some of my bright pink lippy, for some more of those breezy summer days in white...

Please comment and let me know what you think :-)
The Porcelain Princess xoxoxo

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Oh Sugar, Oh Honey Honey.

As promised, here are the pictures of me modeling my sugary sweet, 'all that glitters' look...

Here are some close up shots of my makeup. The lashes are Cheryl Cole (the best false lashes ever!) and the lipstick is my new Barry M in shade 52.

The title of this post is just because I can imagine that song playing when I look at these's such a cutesy, sugary-sweet look, that I can just imagine this song playing as I wear it, popping my foot in my leopard print heels and shimmying in front of the mirror whilst pouting and fluffing up my hair...

Well I hope you like the pictures anyway! Lots of love,
The Porcelain Princess xoxo