Friday, 29 April 2016

Taking a detour around central London

Shopping in central London doesn't have to mean going off the beaten track, whilst Oxford street may be one of the busiest high street destinations in the country you don't have to navigate the crowds for a good shop in the city. Just a mere walk down any of Oxford street's side streets will unveil a wondrous world of shopping.

Trying to make your way through Oxford Circus is a little like escaping a zombie apocalypse at times, it is worth braving one of the capital's busiest tube stations though for a selection of some outstanding shops just a mere walk away. Carnaby Street is just around the corner from the tube station here you'll find Kingly Court towards the far end of the street, home to a selection of vintage shops and independent designers from milliners to bridal wear which are certainly worth a visit.

A short walk away from here takes you to Conduit street, worth a visit alone for the rather quaint branch of Starbucks fitted in a mix of Victorian meets modern furnishings. You'll find a wonderful selection of shops down the street from Oliver Sweeney to Issey Miyake, of course on the adjoining corner to Savile Row, where you may be pleasantly surprised to find a few tailors specializing in womenswear including Kathryn Sargent & Richard Anderson.

Another hidden gem worth walking off the beaten track for is Burlington arcade, home to a wonderful selection of antiques, jewellers, perfumeries and footwear in a quaint building. You'll find some wonderful shops here from Crockett and Jones who make a rather fetching brogue, to the infamous Laudree and their exquisite macaroons.

The surrounding streets are full of designer stores from Vivienne Westwood to Chanel, and hidden boutiques which are worth a peek into especially around sale season, the Bond street Ralph Lauder for instance is infamous for it's outstanding sales finds if you can brave the crowds.

There's certainly plenty to unearth taking a walk off the busy tourist laden Oxford Street to find some truly wonderful gems away from the crowds.

Images: I've been there & Burlington Arcade

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A sweet take on a classic : Carrot cupcakes

Celebrate with something a little sweet that pays homage to our favourite puffy-tailed friend, the rabbit.. Gorgeous carrot cupcakes for a dainty take on the classic carrot cake that certainly will appeal.

  75g caster sugar
  225g wholemeal flour
  2 tsp baking powder
  4 eggs
  200ml sunflower oil
  300g grated carrot
  150g dried fruit
  1 tsp cinnamon
  1 tsp mixed spice

For the topping
  125g butter
  125g cream cheese
  275g icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 180c/160c fan /Gas mark 4, and line your cupcake trays.

Beat together the sugar, oil and eggs until smooth, stir in the grated carrot and dried fruit.

In a separate bowl sift the flour, baking powder and spices, add the carrot mixture and mix well.

Fill your cupcake cases and bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

For the topping beat the butter until it is soft then beat in the cream cheese until smooth.

Stir in the icing sugar until it reaches a nice smooth consistency, then simply pipe in onto your cupcakes once they have cooled.

Best eaten: Once the topping has set and formed, that slight bite to the icing is simply delicious.

Recipe inspired by Cooking channel | Left image: Food-micro/Dreamstime Stock Photos

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Classic 50's style today : dressing neo-vintage

The 1950's were certainly iconic for fashion, you'll recognize several of the key styles from the decades that are still as influential today as they were then. Ready to wear clothing made it's debut in the 1950's creating a revolution in the fashion industry with mass produced clothing as we know today making it's first appearance, allowing women everywhere to have a world of choice in their wardrobe.

Key styles in the era included the pencil skirt to capri's, full skirts with petticoats, tight sweaters and of course the iconic Chanel suit. A revival in vintage clothing in recent years has seen these staple styles make quite a return with many companies & designers opting for vintage inspired styles, taking these iconic items on but giving them a modern twist. With staple pieces like the pencil skirt sadly relegated to the work wardrobe until it made a dashing comeback in recent years as part of the 1950's inspired pin up look.

With such a boom in vintage and classic styling it's never been easier to find 1950's inspired pieces, I take a look at just some of the selection of companies and shops where you can find the perfect 50's pieces.

Purveyors of vintage inspired fashion, 20th Century Foxy have a gorgeous selection of 1950's inspired dresses and separates, from tight wiggle dresses incorporating the pencil look to gorgeous swing style day dresses.

An abundance of vintage inspired pieces with a modern fit, from slinky tight pencil skirts, gorgeous capri's and cardigans for the perfect 'sweater girl' look. All limited edition pieces so you can be sure that you've got a gorgeous unique piece in your wardrobe.

By far the largest range of 1950's inspired pieces you'll find, Collectif have a wide range of clothing with plenty of styles to tickle your fancy. Whether you want a colourful swing dress, the perfect tight knitted top, a darling high waisted pencil skirt or denim capri's you'll find it amongst their catalogue of styles.

A gorgeous selection of classic wiggle dresses from evening wear to day dresses and slinky knitwear for that tight sweater look.

Home of the classic 1950's circle dress, their gorgeous halter-neck frock is available in so many styles you'll find one for every occasion, of course it's not just about the circle dress you'll also find gorgeous sarong wrap dresses to capri jeans amongst their range of classic styles.

A shop full of 1950's inspired wares from a wide range of slinky dresses, gorgeous pencil skirts and even swimwear cut to classic 50's styles that are perfect for the summer.

A collection of 1950's inspired classic pieces from pencil skirt suits with a nod to the iconic Chanel suit, to swing and pencil cut dresses in classic colouring.

A great selection of more casual 1950's inspired wares, from breton stripe style t-shirt dresses, to tight sweaters and a wide range of jeans in 50's styles.

I've barely bitten off the full selection of 1950's inspired shops here but my list should help you on your way to finding some perfect neo-vintage wares without the fret of worrying about vintage sizing.

Images: 20th Century Foxy & Collectif

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Putting the hair net to shame : a history of the snood

The classic snood may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of a classic vintage hair style but it's certainly one of the most useful hair accessories you can wear. A classic piece of hair wear which dates back to the middle ages, snoods have often been used to hold back long locks of hair. They were even the height of fashion in the 1860's, but we mostly associate the snood from classic war time imagery, being worn by working women.

They're certainly a striking and effective piece of hair wear, often worn pinned to the crown of the head covering the majority of the hair, mostly worn for their practicality. They certainly make for a great way to hold back long hair and look far more glamorous than the nylon hair net for holding back hair in the workplace, the look is often glammed up with victory rolls of pin curls at the top of the hair.

Today the snood has seen a revival and it's worn often to accompany vintage inspired looks, certainly a great way to tuck in your hair on a lazy day. Snoods today are often made in the traditional wool style although some inventive adaptations have been made using vintage scarves to create the same look.

When it comes to styling your hair to fit in with your snood you can choose to create victory rolls, pin curls or create a simple style, I've found some handy tutorials for easy vintage styles to adorn with your snood on you tube.

Of course to create the look you'll need to get your own snood, luckily several retailers stock their own version of the snood today you can find classic wool snoods at Vivien of Holloway,Swing gear & a rather darling bow version at 20th Century Foxy. If you'd like to try something a little different Mrs Bee vintage dressmaker makes a darling vintage scarf version of the snood.

Once you've got your snood you can adapt it in to your day to day wardrobe, you certainly won't shy away the next time you have a bad hair day, you can put together a few quick rolls and pop your snood on, they'll be non-the-wiser!

Patisserie Valerie : Sweet fancies

As a nation of food lovers we certainly can't get enough cake, it's goes perfectly with tea whatever the occasion, whether it's a celebration or simply a spot of sweet toothed indulgence.. With coffee chains taking over the country it's certainly a welcome change of pace to see a chain of cake shops across the UK, Patisserie Valerie is a welcome sweet addition to the city high street with an abundance of indulgent treats and fancies across their menu.

Patisserie Valerie first opened it's doors back in 1926 with their Soho Patisserie, bringing continental treats to London. Naturally the concept took off rather well with further shops following suit, opening up across the UK in the decades that followed. Nowadays Patisserie Valerie stays true to it's roots with an art deco feel to the decor that adorns every branch, Toulouse-Lautrec inspired cartoons adorn the walls with notes of mirrored detail and florals.

Of course it's not just about the decor, the food is what makes the place, famed for their continental inspired patisserie and cakes which stay true to traditional methods of baking resulting in their award winning treats of fancy.

Patisserie Valerie certainly have a wonderful selection of treats, with seasonal menus and subtle differences between each shop resulting in a feast of decadent treats. Their patisserie and cakes certainly can't be beat, with eye catching displays adorning their windows where you can view the days freshly baked offerings, varying from dainty macaroons to generous portions of gateau and fruit tarts. From individual portions available to take out and dine in, to lavish cakes to order, it's certainly worth a dine in to sample their menu of delights which are as scrumptious as they are pretty.

Hearty portions of cakes adorn their menu, their gateau's are certainly one to try, and fruit tarts that are individual works of art, laden with hidden layers of cream, washed down with a pot of tea for an afternoon treat.

Of course you'll also find plenty of other sweet treats on offer from speciality gelato ice creams to cream teas, and if a sweet treat doesn't take your fancy they also have a full breakfast and lunch menu.

One that's certainly worth a visit if you have a rather sweet tooth and can't get enough of delicious cream filled cakes.

With branches across the UK you won't find yourself too far from one of their patisserie's, alternatively you can have Patisserie Valerie bring the cake to you with options to order available on their website you can find a full list of cafes across the country.

First time at Patisserie Valerie? Treat yourself to one of their fruit tarts and a pot of red berry tea for a fruity treat.

Images: Patisserie Valerie

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The boozy chocolate cupcake : Baileys cupcakes

The classic chocolate cupcake gets all grown up with a touch of boozy frivolity. Classic irish cream liqueur adds that sweet and creamy contrast to a classic chocolate cupcake, why have just chocolate when you can add a touch of tipple! I won't blame you if you eat them all..

  55g butter
  55g dark chocolate
  a pinch of coffee granules
  2 tsp baileys
  100g self raising flour
  50g plain flour
  15g cocoa powder
  a pinch of bicarbonate of soda
  120g caster sugar
  1 egg
  25ml milk

For the buttercream topping
  100g butter
  200g icing sugar
  a lashing of baileys to blend to the consistency of your choice

Pre-heat your oven to 160c/Gas mark 3 and pre line your cupcake tray with paper cases.

Place the butter & dark chocolate into a large bowl to melt over a pan of boiling water. Stir until it has melted and leave aside to cool.

Sift the flours, cocoa & bicarbonate of soda together in a separate bowl, adding the caster sugar. Make a well in the center and add the egg, milk and your cooled chocolate mixture, beat well.

Add a pinch of coffee granules and the baileys to the mixture, beating well.

Fill your cupcake cases and bake for 30 minutes, or until they are springy to the touch.

Leave your cupcakes to cool whilst you prepare the buttercream, blending butter with icing sugar to a stiff mixture. Now start adding small quantities of baileys at a time to soften this mixture until it reaches a soft consistency.

Simply pipe onto your cupcakes once they have cooled down and you should have a delightful boozy dozen of cupcakes.

Best eaten: As soon as possible, the chocolatey boozy consistency tastes delightful when the cupcakes are a touch warm.

Recipe adapted from Good to know | Images: Yulia Davidovich/Dreamstime Stock Photos

Friday, 15 April 2016

Vintage fairs : Not just a load of old boot

Vintage, retro, nostalgia; call it what you will, but the British public seem to have taken quite a shine to all things vintage of late. Whether it's a desire to look back to the past in a whim of nostalgia, a preference for vintage clothing and home wares, or simply a case of lovingly restoring vintage items and treasuring past trinkets, vintage seems to have made quite an impact on British culture in the past few years.

As the vintage boom has grown the vintage fair has certainly begun to take over our city halls on the weekend and it's not just big cities taking a shine to the vintage fair, towns and villages across the country can be found holding vintage fairs in abundance. But what exactly makes a fair a vintage fair? Can anybody throw up a spot of bunting, cake stands & tea and turn any old craft fair into a vintage fair? Certainly not, but you will find a large number of craft fairs turning towards more of a vintage flair.

The vintage fair tends to comprise of vintage goods, there is a fine line between vintage and second hand goods admittedly but the majority of large run vintage fairs tend to stick to strict settings for what differentiates a vintage stall from a second hand stall. Your vintage stall generally tends to consist of vintage goods which can range from clothing (usually up to the 1980's era), costume jewellery, kitchenalia, home goods and assorted bric a brac, from those 1970's Jackie annuals to tea strands. Generally vintage goods tend to, and in my option should be, of an excellent quality, items that have been looked after well in their past life alongside a dash of the kitsch for good measure.

There does tend to be a vague difference between fairs and vintage traders in terms of what constitutes as vintage, although in general most tend to stick to the above when classifying vintage goods.

When it comes to shopping vintage admittedly there are items where a fine line can be drawn, the thought of wearing vintage footwear does leave me a little befuddled when you can find such a great selection of reproduction wares on the market nowadays, but there are great treasures to be found at a vintage fair. Items such as costume jewellery, home wares, accessories and even bric a brac can be lovingly restored, and more often than not found in impeccable condition, I've found many a brooch, handbag & even tea set at a vintage fair that have become firm favourites in the home and my wardrobe.

What can one expect when attending a vintage fair? There is often little difference between the big boys of the vintage market as it were, fairs such as Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair & Discover Vintage tend to set up home in a number of institutions across the country from town halls to race courses where the stalls fit in well alongside the decor. It's not a messy jumble sale, you'll often find rails of clothing lined up by stall section and tables of jewels to browse. When visiting a vintage fair for the first time allow plenty of time to take everything in, you'll often find an overwhelming amount of stalls to view but if you're arriving with an intended item in mind such as perhaps a vintage table to restore, this will make browsing a little easier as you can view the room and find the stalls that you're after.

Certainly take time to go around the room a few times, it's easy to miss those hidden gems the first time around. Above all remember to take plenty of cash with you for those purchases. Certainly make a day of it and take on other avenues of entertainment at the same time, with the larger city fairs most are located near to shopping areas so you can make a full day of shopping out of your trip.

Most importantly check over any items you are considering purchasing to ensure that you are happy with the quality and condition before you part with your cash, I wouldn't want to come away with a new frock that needs a lot of repair! With vintage in such a huge boom there's never been a better time to take advantage of the flurry of vintage fairs on offer.

Looking for a fair to attend? I recommend the following:

Clerkenwell vintage fashion fair : London's utmost designer vintage fair, if you fancy trying your luck at finding a vintage YSL frock here's the best place to start.

Judy's Vintage Fair : the original touring vintage fair, visits most UK cities every few months.

Discover Vintage : If it's vintage home wares you fancy they run The vintage home show in Manchester & London which are well worth a visit.

Alternatively a visit to vintage will reveal hundreds of fairs across the country

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Buy little & buy well made

In these times of austerity we're all snipping our budgets down in not so necessary areas of our life, the 'buy low & buy more' approach on the high street is still rife but in these times when funds are tight surely we should be encouraged to shop less where we can.

The problem with low priced attire is that it's never long lasting or well made, how many times have you tried on a dress on the high street that's been so ill fitting you couldn't get your arms or hips inside? Sadly too many high street retailers and even some big name designers are trying this tactic of late. Instead of settling for less why not settle for well made, long lasting attire? You'll find a great wealth of independent designers and tailors in the UK who are more than worth saving up those pennies for.

If we all turned towards buying less and instead buying well made items then we'd surely help to start a change, even the great Vivienne Westwood herself campaigns for buying less and she's behind one of the biggest designer labels, telling us to "Buy less, choose well, make it last,". By doing this we'd be helping to boost business for a vast range of well deserving retailers and tailors, surely at a time of austerity we should be supporting independent business over the big boys of the trade.

Choosing quality over quantity certainly makes sense, not just in times when money is tight but as a life long decision. The benefits you'll find of buying well made, long lasting attire will adorn your wardrobe for decades rather than a mere couple of years and that is more than a reward in itself for pennies well spent.

So next time you find yourself hovering over an item online, or taking an arm full of clothing into the changing room ask yourself do I really need these? Take time to examine the quality of those items you so desperately need and you may be surprised. Why not stop buying clothing for several months and save those funds that you would have spent aside to treat yourself to something really outstanding for your wardrobe.

Images: Flickr Commons

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Plucking those brows : it won't pinch, much!

Mention plucking your own eyebrows to some and they'll wince at the thought of it, others like myself think nothing of it, when you've been self-plucking for over 15 years you tend to develop an 'insensitivity' to it. But self-plucking is an invaluable skill and once you've mastered the art of plucking those brows you won't feel the need to rush to the nearest salon whenever your brows need taming.

The most important thing you'll need is a good set of tweezers, too blunt a pair and you'll barely pluck the hair out, a good quality sharp pair of tweezers will last a lifetime. A good brow pencil or kit is a great tool for finishing off, you'll know from experience which you prefer so it's best to try a couple of brands out, for me E.l.f's Studio eyebrow kit is a little miracle worker, the brush makes it easy to both style and shape those brows.

You'll know what style you like, when trying to self pluck for the first time its best to let those hairs grow out a little so you know where to pluck around your preferred eyebrow shape. If however you'd prefer to start from a step by step guide, this tutorial by Va Voom Vintage is a great starting point.

To start brush your brows with an eyebrow brush this will give you a better indication of where needs plucking, it's an unwritten rule of sorts that you should never pluck above the brow you want to concentrate underneath the brow, this will give your brows that defined shape.

It's best to start plucking after a bath or shower as the heat will open your pores making it easier and far more painless to pluck those hairs, it you find a few hairs a little troublesome pull your eyebrow slightly and pluck but a good quality tweezer should remove those hairs effortlessly.

Remove your hairs using a light plucking motion, concentrating on those rogue hairs to re-define your shape. Take time to stop and examine your handy work this also ensures that you don't get pluck happy and over pluck, believe me we've all done it from time to time..

Don't rush to apply your make up straight away after plucking, I find it's best to pluck my brows an hour before applying make up to give them time to rest. Although applying moisturiser afterwards is a great way to soothe the skin whilst sticking to your daily regime.

When styling your brows afterwards it's best to follow your brow line, simply follow the shape you've plucked and they'll define themselves. If you're using an eyebrow pencil give your brows a slow brush over to define the shape.

The first few times you self pluck it may seem a little painful and hard especially when looking in the mirror at yourself plucking each hair out, but after time it will become easier, you'll get to know what methods you prefer and develop your own regime.

Images: Flickr commons

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Ed's Easy Diner : Americana on your plate

With a love of vintage sweeping the country we're taking a shining to everything that reminds us of the good ol'days, where better to explore your love of 50's kitsch then an American style diner. Ed's is a little slice of 50's culture, an American style diner which first opened its doors in Soho over 25 years ago, since then they've been slowly taking over the country, with diners opening up from Cardiff to Cheshire.

So what makes this slice of 50's kitsch so well loved? Ed's have certainly got the 50's look down to a 'T', all of their diners are filled with vibrant red booths and stools, adorned with vintage coin juke boxes on tables, tissue dispensers and even 50's styled artwork on the walls. The look is certainly what you'd expect from a 50's diner.

Of course the look is just one part of the experience, Ed's menu is choc full of classic American diner dishes, from the staple hamburger to cheese fries and chilli dogs, even their signature milkshakes. If you've got a 'hankering' for classic 50's food you won't be disappointed.

Their burgers are a treat that has to be sampled, all done medium well giving them that juicy but crisp taste, with classic toppings as an accompaniment from griddled onions, cheese and barbecue sauce for a sweeter taste, to a generous portion of lettuce, tomato & dill pickle for a tasty crunch, you certainly won't be disappointed. If you prefer chicken or a vegetarian option for their burgers they've got that on offer too.

Their hot dogs are by far the tastiest I've found, albeit a bit messy but that's all part of the experience! And for side dishes their Atomic fries must be tried, a large portion of their chunky fries are served with portions of cheese, chilli, sour cream, guacamole & their signature jalapeno jelly on the side, a tasty dipping experience.

Top that off with their signature milkshakes, by far the creamiest I've tasted and the most generous portion I've ever had, delicious malts and coke floats (it's a pudding and a drink in one!) and you've got one tasty, filling treat. Did I mention that their milkshakes are also available as boozy alco-shakes?! For that weekend tipple treat!

A trip to Ed's is certainly an experience worth trying, you won't be disappointed.

Ed's Easy Diner has locations across the UK with five London diners including the original Soho's diner, as well as diners from Birmingham (Selfridges) to Swindon, visit their site to find a diner or shake stand near you,

First time at Ed's? Try one of their combo plates with some of their burgers & hot dogs on offer alongside some tasty sides.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Dr Sketchy's : Art with a touch of "oh la la!"

Art is whatever you make of it, it's something that you shouldn't be afraid to take part in and it should be enjoyed by all, perhaps this is why the global phenomena that is Dr Sketchy's has taken over the world with such success.

Dr Sketchy's is an art class with a difference, founded by artist Molly Crabapple in 2005 in New York with the concept of drawing glamorous performers in an atmosphere of boozy conviviality, a wonderful extravagant and tipsy art class, I was sold as soon as I saw the description.

The wonderful thing with Dr Sketchy's is that all are encouraged to take part, not just keen artisans, so you can be a complete novice at drawing and still attempt to turn those random lines into something visual. Of course the only real restriction is the age limit on the door, for me though that's another bonus as you won't find any lusty pre-teens lurking in the background.

It's in a nutshell, a life drawing class with a difference, the models are usually burlesque performers in an often themed outfit, from tea parties to absinthe fairies and lotus flower beauties, so instead of those awkward blushes at drawing naked strangers you get to draw a (mostly) clothed burlesque beauty, adding a spark of creativity to the class.

If you've barely put pencil to paper before it's a wonderful introduction to the art of drawing, as well as being an entertaining night out, with neo-burlesque taking such a stronghold of late it's a perfect combination of cabaret meets art class, so you can still feel a little arty in between the performances and sips of g & t.

Since those first few classes Dr Sketchy's has become a worldwide empire, taking over 100 cities across the world, from Tokyo to Vienna including a mammoth 20 branches here in the UK alone. It would seem that us brits have taken quite a shining to the Dr Sketchy's concept with classes in most cities from Leeds to London, so it's rather easy to find a local branch where you can join in and partake of a boozy evening of sketching.

To find your nearest class take a gander at the Dr Sketchy's UK branch list, who knows it come become a regular social outing on your calendar.

Images: Dr Sketchy's New York

A spot of tipple : Watermelon gin spritzer

Fancy a spot of tipple that's also rather refreshing? Why not try this fruity take on the g & t, remarkably tasty and a little bit different.

 20g watermelon
 shot gin
 tonic water

Slice your lime into wedges, squeeze one of these wedges into your cocktail shaker.

Slice the watermelon and add this to your shaker along with some ice cubes and shake.

Add a splash of gin and mix, strain and pour into your glass then top up with tonic water to your preference.

Decorate your glass with a squeeze of lime around the glass rim & a dainty sprig of mint.

Best drunk: why, straight away of course!

Image: Tablespoon

Friday, 8 April 2016

How clothing sizing has changed over the decades : the modern ladies sizing dilemma

In this modern day and age you can't be sure whether that top hanging so daintily in a shop window will fit you, and if it will what size will you have to get. It's not a simple case of every designer and company following the same size guide, in the modern world we have a silly thing called vanity sizing which has quite frankly done away with common sense when it comes to clothing sizes.

It didn't used to be that way though, clothing sizes were completely different going back to the 1940's as an example, what we view as an industry standard size 8 today was a size 14 then. It's astonishing to see how sizing has changed over the decades, some would say in a pace to keep up with growing body sizes and trends. The average woman in the 1940's would have had a 27" waist and 39" hips compared to an average of a 34" waist & 40" hips today, the difference does seem quite vast and although most statistics can always be a little off, it may still go some way to explaining the difference in sizing today. Even looking closer to the 1970's what's regarded as a size 10 today would have been closer to a size 14 then with a 4” difference in the measurements.

This change to 'vanity sizing' certainly has thrown much confusion into the fashion industry with no two retailers sticking to the same sizing guide, a size 8 with one company may be a size 10 with another. It also throws another spanner in the works, the issue with the fit of clothing which as most women have experienced at one time or another is never perfect, statistically speaking around two-thirds of women fail to find clothing that fits perfectly, with the change in sizing it would also appear that many in the industry just can't get the average women's size right.

If vanity sizing were to be thrown out of the window and an industry standard sizing stuck to we may just see a wonderful change in the industry, sadly it seems nobody is a rush to fix this but at least we can trust some companies and independent designers to get our sizing and fit spot on. It's certainly astonishing to see the difference in sizing over the decades, a simple rummage through the rails at a vintage shop will reveal a wide range of sizing differences from history.

So how does the modern lady ensure that those new items of clothing will fit? The best advice is to try a variety of sizes closest to your sizing, some retailers do stick to and display the industry standard of sizes so you can find your size and go from there. If you're shopping online check those size guides, and where you can look for retailers and sites who list the exact measurements of each item, not everybody does this unfortunately but there are some wonderful retailers who do and it certainly saves disappointment when an ill fitting item arrives in the post that you couldn't check the measurement on prior to ordering.

For now it seems as if sizing is still a landmine to navigate where we have to make the best of a rather confusing sizing situation.

Images: Flickr commons

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Classic hair styling : The Fingerwave

One of the most iconic styles of the 1920's, a method that was created to style hair, named so after the process which involves pinching the hair between the fingers and combing the hair in alternating directions to make a wave shape. This iconic style was developed to add style to, and soften the hard appearance of, the bobbed hairstyles which were well adorned during the period.

Certainly a perfect technique to try out on short bob styles but one which also works well on mid to shoulder length hair styles, the finger wave technique does take a lot of time and patience to master but the hard work is certainly worth it for the eye catching end result.

So how you create this classic style? You can certainly find plenty of tutorials online to guide you through the process like this handy video tutorial by the hair pin which will walk you through the process.

If you prefer to use more modern tools to re-create this look you really can't go wrong with trying out this tutorial at a practical wedding which shows you how to set the look using a curling iron.

For a more traditional approach why not start with my handy guide. You'll need a few basic essentials to get started:
 A rat-tail comb
 Hair mousse or gel (to your preference)
 Spray bottle of water
 Section clips 

This style is best created with wet hair prior to shampooing, so a quick towel dry should suffice so your hair is still wet but not soaking through. Part your hair ready for styling and start to section it off into three parts, both front sides & the back.

Starting with the smallest front section comb down by about an inch, keep the comb in place but start to pull this part forward whilst keeping hold of the ends, this action will start to create your first wave so it should move the section with the comb in forward ahead of your roots and the ends.

Keep hold of this part at the inch placing where you have combed in forward, holding it all down from the root to the section to keep it in place, remove the comb and comb the ends out straight. Just below your fingers where your are still holding the section in place, comb your hair an inch back which will create the finished wave shape, then simply place a clip in place to hold the shape.

Simply repeat this process to create as many waves as you like, if you feel your hair has dried out in places during the process simply use the spray bottle of water to re-dampen your hair. Leave the clips in place for 2-3 hours, as with pin curls you can cover your hair up with a scarf whilst the style sets.

Give a quick spray over with hair spray prior to removing the clips, take the clips out and style, some loose hairs may need a quick set over with mousse or gel to re-style, then re-spray with hair spray to set.

A wonderful look once perfected, practice will certainly help as you'll start to develop your own method after time.

Images: Flickr commons & Diario de una Pin Up Frustrada.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Hopkinson : Nottingham's vintage emporium

Nottingham certainly knows it's stuff when it comes to vintage, you can find an abundance of shops across the city but why traipse around to find those elusive vintage wares when you can find them all under one roof, that's where Hopkinson, Nottingham's vintage emporium comes to hand.

Established in 1880 H. Hopkinson Ltd was originally an Engineers Merchants selling to factories, collieries, textile mills and the engineering industry. The building has been home to the vintage emporium for some time since the original building closed it's doors and in fitting to the building's heritage it was re-branded as Hopkinson in 2010.

A hub for local independent businesses, vintage and antiques sellers, Hopkinson offers four floors full of finds ranging from rare vintage pieces to gorgeous handmade wares, taking on the atmosphere of the department store in an independent fashion.

You can find Hopkinson rather easily, located on Station Street just opposite the train station and nearby the tram line. An impressive building with a window adorned full of collectables drawing you in. As soon as you enter Hopkinson you'll be greated by their darling little cafe, great for a stop off after all your shopping.

Beyond that is an abundance of finds, you'll find shelves and drawers turned into display cabinets for their wide range of wares, presently a mixture of vintage, re-claimed and handmade items, so you really will find a bit of everything in store.

It's certainly surprising what you'll find inside, my rummage around the store unveiled some outstanding finds from cameras to gorgeous fur hats, bakelite picnic ware and even lovingly restored radios. A treasure trove of vintage collectables and finds to adorn.

A wonderful little stop off to visit on your way into the city centre, it really couldn't be better located. It's simply marvellous to see a historic building lovingly restored and re-used to house vintage wares, showcasing the cities rich history whilst also supporting local independent businesses.

Why not visit on your next trip to the city, you can find Hopkinson easily from Nottingham station's Station Road exit. Alternatively visit them online to find their latest ebay auctions, bringing the finds to you without having to leave the house.

Images: Hopkinson

Hope and Greenwood : A world of sweet treats

As a nation with a sweet tooth we can't get enough of delightfully sweet confectionery, whether it's retro favourites from our childhood, or sweets with a cheeky grown up touch. Hope and Greenwood certainly have got nostalgic sweets 'spot on' with an abundance of confectionery treats which stay true to classic recipes but with a gorgeous grown up make over.

A delightful abundance of nostalgic finds await you when you visit their Covent Garden shop, shelves packed with jars of favourites from Rhubarb and Custard to bon bon's, even as an adult who should know better you really can't resist the lure of a jar of lemon bon bon's.

A treasure trove of sweet delights that certainly make you feel nostalgic, when was the last time you had a flying saucer or chocolate mouse? You can tender to your sweet tooth with their ranges of pick and mix and jars of delightful retro sweets.

Of course it's not just sweet nostalgia that Hope and Greenwood do well, they also have their own range of delightfully grown up sweet treats with a touch of glamour. With a range of grown up classics including gorgeous caramelised scorched almond nibbles, birthday cake boiled sweets and magnificent strawberry jellies.

To extravagant treats from bars of apple pie chocolate and delicious turkish delight.

Certainly creative when it comes to sweet concoctions as their afternoon tea boiled sweets show, a bag of tasty cake inspired boiled sweets suitable for an afternoon tea, have you ever craved a cherry bakewell sweet? Theirs simply has to be tasted.

You'll simply be spoilt for choice when you view their selection of tasty treats which go beyond mere nostalgia to create a gorgeous range of inventive sweets.

You can find their Covent Garden store at Russell Street, alongside a store at North Cross Road. If you can't make it to either of their London stores fret not you can shop a wide range of their tasty treats online at

Images: Hope and Greenwood

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Afternoon tea : It's origins & the modern revival

The traditional afternoon tea has had a bit of a revival of late, with tea rooms opening up across the country and many a high street cafe turning their hand towards afternoon tea it seems to be derigueur nowadays, but how did the humble afternoon tea begin, and why has it's currently revival taken off so well?

The Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in 1840, she complained of "having that sinking feeling" during the late afternoon, at the time it was usual for people to take only two main meals a day - breakfast, and dinner at around 8 o'clock in the evening. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon, this soon became a habit of the duchess who began to invite friends to join her during her 'afternoon tea'.

Taking afternoon tea soon caught on with other social hostesses quickly picking up on the idea, before long all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon. However it was only when Queen Victoria engaged in the afternoon Tea ritual that it became a formal occasion on a larger scale, known as ‘tea receptions'.

Traditional Victorian afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches, scones served with clotted cream and preserves with cakes and pastries. Tea grown in India or Ceylon is poured from silver tea pots into delicate bone china cups.
Interestingly, scones were not a common feature of early Afternoon Tea and were only introduced in the twentieth century.

Nowadays the modern take on afternoon tea still stays true to it's origins with most afternoon tea's staying closest to the Victorian tradition, with often a choice of black teas such as early grey, darjeeling and assam. Although you will find some places adding their own blends of teas and a variety of non-traditional cakes and pastries also, as well as those serving a cream tea as an afternoon tea (a cream tea is traditionally scones served with clotted cream and preserves with a pot of tea).

The revival of the afternoon tea seems to have sprung up just as the cupcake has taken a stronghold, as coffee shops and patisserie's serving cupcakes have sprung up across the country it would seem that the afternoon tea has shortly followed thereafter. That said traditional afternoon tea's have long been at the forefront in some of Britain's well loved tea rooms, hotels and restaurants, from Fortnum & Mason to Claridges, it's revival to more modern venues and new tea rooms though has certainly been more recent.

The afternoon tea is seen by many as a special treat more so than an afternoon essential as it's origins were, maybe this is why it's taken off so well with many taking on an afternoon tea for a special occasion.

As the afternoon tea has taken across the country to quaint new tea rooms and department store cafes it's certainly welcome, one no longer has to traipse across the country to find a spot of afternoon tea and it's certainly a delectable adventure seeing the little quirks that each venue has taken on for their own afternoon tea, I can only hope that it's current revival isn't merely a trend that would result in afternoon tea switching for the current taste, now that would be a devastating loss.

Images: Flickr Commons.

Monday, 4 April 2016

British lingerie : a very modern affair

The British lingerie industry is booming, not just because of Mary Porta's campaign to revive the industry, but because of a handful of visionary designers who make it their job to see that modern women are well dressed in their exquisite lingerie. As interest in the vintage and the neo-burlesque have brought about a revival in classic style, interest in classic inspired and 'pin up' lingerie has boomed.

As the British lingerie industry has grown I've been keeping an eye on some of my favourites at the forefront of industry, ladies you're about to get an education in lingerie designers..

An exquisitely named label, Kiss Me Deadly have been creating lingerie of beauty since 2006. Taking inspiration from classic glamour, you could easily imagine Jane Russell lounging about in their signature girdles & corsets. With pieces draped in lace, satin & mesh and collections named after pin up artists and burlesque starlets, there's a perfect dash of cheekiness to their designs.

Often hailed as one of the first British companies to start the 'vintage inspired lingerie' revival, they've helped bring the seamed stocking back as a British staple, whilst also helping to get British lingerie on the screen; did you know that their lingerie was used in My week with Marilyn?, I could easily imagine Ms Monroe draped in their exquisite lingerie!

With a range of classic essentials, from the humble bullet bra to corselettes their collection is full of glamorous essentials for any modern ladies lingerie drawer.

A wonderful little find, a designer run operation Frantic about Frances is relatively new on the scene, having been in business since 2011, but they've already made quite a name for themselves with their colourful and kitsch designs adding a much needed pinch of cheekiness and cuteness to the British lingerie industry. From liquorice all-sorts prints to polka dots and strawberries, your lingerie drawer certainly won't be dull with these assortments of sweetness added to it.

A quaint British label which prides itself on making their lingerie in their own studio, using British materials including Nottingham lace, well you can't get more home-grown than that! With designs ranging from the classic, to the sumptuous and well just plain cute, certainly worth investing in a set of their handmade lingerie.

These designers are a mere tip of the lingerie iceberg as it were, a quick visit to online stores such as Rosebud & Salve and Joanna's Wardrobe will reveal even more British designers, it's certainly wonderful to see that the industry is bustling (if you'll pardon the pun!) and that a wealth of lingerie designers are out there.

Images: What Katie Did & Frantic About Frances

NB: This post was originally published in 2013 on the Tweed & Tea site, so some of the named lingerie collections and designs may no longer be available.