Sunday 31 March 2019

Marching on

Time keeps marching on relentlessly and, looking through the photos on my camera, I've just realized I forgot to tell you about the flea market we went to two weeks ago!

The weather was its usual fickle self that day, with sunny spells regularly interrupted by heavy showers. It was quite stormy, with sudden gusts of wind, the kind that chilled the air sufficiently to warrant the wearing of one of the unworn pieces of my Winter wardrobe.

This red textured polyester dress, with its subtle but effective greyish white stripe, was charity shopped back in October. There were a couple of snagged threads in its loopy fabric, which I was able to snip off carefully, but more snags appeared as the day went on. Yes, it's that kind of pesky material!

I added a cropped turquoise cardigan, which closes with one button at the neck. It's trimmed with navy and there's additional red trim at the cuffs.

I used more turquoise for my opaques, belt, necklace and ring, which contrasted nicely with the red of the dress. The vintage brooch, with its posy of embroidered gentians, was found in an antiques shop in Carmarthen back in 2017. It was part of a rather huge haul.

I love the chevron pattern in the bodice as well as the skirt. The only disadvantage is that the dress is unlined, and thus requires a slip worn underneath.

As I know it can be rather chilly inside the flea market venue, I opted for my teal jacket with its grey fur collar, to which I pinned a vintage brooch carved with summer flowers. The floral scarf echoed the colours of the brooch almost exactly. The caramel Burberry beret, a lucky charity shop find from several Winters ago, is my current favourite, and rubs along quite well with my tan ankle boots.

Without further ado, these are the treasures we found at the flea market. They all fit neatly onto the wood effect tray, which by the way wasn't a new buy but has been in our possession for many years.
I often use it for making group photographs of my smaller finds.

I picked up several full cards of vintage flower-shaped buttons, at € 1 each. The green celluloid buttons decorated with dainty flowers were obviously a bit more expensive, but aren't they absolutely delightful?

At one of my favourite stalls, which is always heaped with affordable costume jewellery, I bought these two rings as well as several brooches, although I have to admit that I can't remember exactly which ones. As usual, there were several stalls selling jewellery and as luck would have it I found treasure at quite a few of them.

Favourites here are the flower basket and the souvenir brooch from Holland with its two tiny clogs.

In the middle of the bottom row is an Expo 58 brooch for Jos's collection. 

The carved plastic brooch on the top right is the twin of a pink one I already have in my collection, while the Edelweiss on the bottom left are a scarf clip and a brooch with two small flowers respectively. And how cute is the little mother-of-pearl umbrella?

Different materials but both equally charming: a round painted wooden brooch, featuring a lady sat on a bench gazing out over a lake, and a rectangular Lucite one encasing more Edelweiss.

There's a seller specializing in quality vintage jewellery and I'm often drooling over the brooches displayed on her stall. She usually has one or two Lea Stein brooches which are eye-wateringly expensive. 

I spotted this one at another stall and snapped it up at a very reasonable price. Me happy!

In the week that followed, there was a definite improvement in the weather and, quite uncharacteristically, on the first day of Spring it actually felt like Spring!  

Sadly, I had to work that day and, what's more, I couldn't even enjoy the view. They're cleaning the building's facade and, after putting up scaffolding, which already marred my view, they have now blocked it completely by putting up a huge advertising canvas. That's my office building on the left, before they put up the canvas. I'm on the 5th floor. And on the bottom right is my current view!

I actually had to step outside to snap the cathedral's tower with the sun breaking through the layer of mist which had been hiding it all morning. On the left, another one of Antwerp's delightful street corner Madonnas, which has been recently cleaned up and restored to its former glory.

That same week I had a little misadventure with one of my boots. I was wearing the burgundy pair I picked up at Think Twice last Autumn. While I was at work, I almost tripped up when I got up from my chair, as apparently the sole of one of the boots had become unstuck. 

There was no way I could walk in it and, apart from using a rubber band to secure the sole to the boot, I had no other way to temporarily repair it. So, wearing an emergency pair of ballerina slippers I keep at the office, I made my way to the nearest, reasonably priced, shoe shop, where I picked up this pair of pinkish tan ankle boots, with decorative wicker-like panels.

The boot, meanwhile, has been to the cobbler's, so that this favourite pair can be worn again.

Spring has also arrived in earnest in Dove Cottage's garden by now, and our Clematis armandii is strutting her stuff quite spectacularly, displaying literally hundreds of scented white flowers.

Phoebe clearly is a bit dazed by it all!

Linking my red and turquoise outfit to Patti's Visible Monday once the link is up!

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Treasure in the attic

Tucked away in a corner of the attic bedroom was a wardrobe, its tacky fibreboard exterior and utter blandness testimony to the fact that it was bought from one of those catalogues back in the 1960s. The boy whose bedroom this used to be had long ago vacated it and left home, leaving an untidy heap of discarded clothes on the bottom of the wardrobe and a scruffy plaid jacket hanging forlornly on its otherwise empty rail.

But wait! Hiding behind its permanently stuck left door, there were two coats which were obviously a cut above the rest of the wardrobe's tatty contents. For the sake of this story, let’s call them Leopard Coat and Green Coat.

These coats obviously hadn’t belonged to the boy. There was a certain dignity about them, which set them apart from the chaos surrounding them. They had been there for many, many years. In fact, they had been there for so long that they didn’t exactly remember how they had ended up there.

While they usually rubbed along just fine, this was a bone of contention between them. One said that they were put there for safekeeping by the nice lady who used to live in the house, while the other insisted that it was the boy himself who’d sneaked them up there to be used as some kind of fancy dress. Thankfully, this never happened, as they were both far too small for the boy.

As the years went by they lost all faith of ever being freed from their wardrobe prison. Hardly anyone ever ventured up into the attic these days. In fact, for quite some time now, the house itself had felt unlived in, and unloved, with dust gathering in every nook and cranny. Huge dust balls had settled all around the wardrobe and there was a thick layer of it on top.

Once in a blue moon, voices resounded in the hallway below, the attic’s ladder was pulled down and someone proceeded to climb it. Up, up, the footsteps came, the ladder creaking ominously under the climber’s weight.

The coats clutched each other in fear. While living locked up in the darkness wasn’t exactly a bed of roses, the thought of their eventual freedom wasn’t an entirely reassuring one either. They’d heard rumours that old, discarded clothes were often put inside black bin liners and brought to places where, if they didn't pass muster, they were cut into rags, after which they would almost certainly end up in landfill. In fact, one day the boy had taken Leopard Coat away and tried to sell her in a second hand shop. They'd taken one look inside the bag she was in and, shaking their heads regretfully, had sent her and the boy away. Leopard Coat had been very upset for weeks afterwards.

The footsteps had reached the ladder’s top rung by now. Having held their breaths, the coats heaved big sighs of relief when they heard the footsteps turn right, instead of left, away from the attic bedroom. There were some rummaging sounds, then the footsteps retreated back down the groaning ladder.

It was a lonely life inside the wardrobe and, with only each other for company, they tried to keep up their spirits by telling each other their life stories.

More often than not, it was Leopard Coat who regaled Green Coat with stories of her glamorous past. If pressed, she would admit to looking slightly down her nose at Green Coat, who was, after all, just an ordinary coat and not a fur. One thing they had in common, though: they were both made to measure.

From l to r: Josephine, the girls' mother Angelica, an unknown lady, and 
Leontine, who was my paternal grandmother

Leopard Coat's owner had been Josephine, who went by the name of Finneke. Born in 1915 into a working class family, she was the youngest of three, with a brother, Charles and a sister, Leontine. The sisters, who often wore matching dresses when they were girls, were quite close, even after Leontine, who went by the name of Tinneke, married an ordinary factory worker called Louis.

Josephine (second from left) and Leontine (far right) in the mid 1930s.
The little boy is my Dad.

The somewhat haughty Josephine had set her sights much higher. Leopard Coat had no idea how and when she met her husband, Joseph, but as he was a senior accountant, this definitely put her on a higher rung on the social ladder. They got married in 1936, but remained childless, often taking Tinneke's son Fons (short for Alphonse) under their wing. This rubbed Tinneke's husband Louis the wrong way, and he would be contemptuous of the couple - and especially Joseph, whom he refused to call by his first name - for life.

Joseph and Josephine on their wedding day in 1936.
On the right is their wedding booklet.

In the years after the war Joseph and Josephine had money to burn! They had their own car as early as 1947. There was a picture of them, posing proudly in it, in the foxed and dog-eared photo album in one of the rooms downstairs.

This album also contained a photograph of Josephine wearing Leopard Coat's ancestor.

Green Coat listened to these stories with envy. Being of far lesser descent, she used to belong to  Alphonse's wife Alice, and could only boast a sheepskin trimmed collar, which she wasn't even sure was the real thing.

My parents in the mid 1950s

Alice was beautiful, gentle and had the patience of a saint. Well, she must have had, being married to Alphonse, and having a rebellious elder daughter, Ann!

Suffering from rheumatism from a very early age, she was often in pain, which must have been very debilitating, but still she uncomplainingly kept house and looked after her children. By the time Green Coat came upon the scene in the late 1960s, there were two children, and soon there would be a third.

My parents on their wedding day in 1957, and my Mum with me, late 1961

Green Coat was made by a local seamstress, a single mother struggling to make ends meet, who lived in a downstairs apartment a couple of streets away.

Alice's generation wasn't in the habit of taking the bus into town whenever they needed something new to wear, and shopping as a pastime was practically unheard of. Instead, whenever Alice was in need of a garment for a special occasion, she went to the seamstress, sometimes bringing a pattern she'd found in one of her mother-in-law's magazines. This was duly discussed with the seamstress, material and buttons were chosen and ultimately the garment was made.

A favourite photo of my Mum at my sister's Christening in 1971
with me in pigtails, aged nine going on ten

But for some reason Alice didn't wear Green Coat all that much. Did she regret her choice of colour? Did she keep it for best and weren't there all that many occasions for wearing her best coat? The fact is that Green Coat had felt quite neglected. It was nothing short of a miracle that she was still around and in fact the only reason she wasn't given to charity after Alice sadly passed away was because she was up in the attic wardrobe!

One day, the coats could hear voices again. Alice's three children had discovered Josephine's photo album and the eldest daughter, the one called Ann, had been admiring Leopard Coat's ancestor.

It was then that footsteps once again climbed the attic stairs, and that this time they entered the attic bedroom and made a beeline for the wardrobe. The coats were both horrified when Leopard Coat was taken downstairs, leaving Green Coat on her own, with only the tatty clothes on the bottom for company.

Leopard Coat, meanwhile, was in seventh heaven, as Ann tried her on, and then took her to a lovely new home, where she shared wardrobe space with many other garments saved by her new owner.

Fast forward almost two years later. Green Coat was still pining away in the attic wardrobe.

For the last couple of weeks, there had been rummaging noises in the rooms downstairs and finally the moment arrived when footsteps once again climbed the attic stairs.

Ever since Leopard Coat's disappearance, the wardrobe's key had been lost, but in the end Ann's handy husband was able to open its doors, revealing Green Coat in all its glory. Ann shed some tiny tears upon spying in, especially since it turned out to be a perfect fit.

Since that day, Green Coat has been reunited with Leopard Coat, sharing wardrobe space again, but safe in the knowledge that there won't be any black bin liners for them any time soon.

Saturday 23 March 2019

Sweet charity

We're more than halfway through March, and Spring has officially sprung. I'm usually bored with my Winter wardrobe by now, and this year is certainly no exception.

In all honesty, the season could hardly be classed as Winter in terms of weather. We've only had a handful of frosty days and there was even less snow than usual. Instead, it seemed like one long, grey and wet Autumn (the nasty stage!) merging into early Spring.

No wait, we already had Spring, didn't we? It was the sunny intermezzo we had for two weeks or so in February, which was followed by very windy and very wet weather.

This is the time of year when I'm critically eyeing my Winter wardrobe, looking at any unworn items and putting aside anything I don't think I'll ever wear again. This, mind you, isn't an easy task, as I usually find it hard to part with things I once loved. But I'm learning! Baby steps, though.

The absence of a really cold Winter means that there are quite a few - more than usual - unworn things in my wardrobe. My warmest dresses, woollen skirts and jumpers: I hardly had any use for them and, unless we're faced with a very late Beast from the East, I'm probably done with them for this season.

Last Saturday, as a last attempt to wear any other items which remained unworn, I pulled out this handmade shift dress, which has the grooviest of prints.

When I found it at Blender Vintage Shop, a gem of a shop that's sadly no longer trading, the sleeves had turned-up cuffs closing with two gold buttons.

However, the turn-ups made the sleeves a tiny bit too short and too narrow, which is why I hardly ever wore it. But oh, I loved that print, and pretty much else about the dress, apart from those pesky sleeves. So, I took it out, had a good look at the cuffs and noticed that the finish looked quite alright on the reverse side. Thus, I removed the buttons and moved them to what was once the inside of the cuffs, making the sleeves longer and less restricted in the process. Oh, and I replaced those boring gold ones with ... green buttons!

It's obvious that it's not going to exit my wardrobe any time soon now!

I topped my frock with a burnt orange cardigan, to which I pinned a brown-bodied cat brooch, a present from Goody.  Brown vintage beads and a plastic orange ring with shimmering green specks were my other accessories.

The rain had temporarily stopped, but with a gale force wind blowing, the weather was best suited for staying indoors. However, we did escape for a brief charity shop rummage after lunch.

I was back to wearing my Princess coat and was glad of its warmth with all that wind. My sage green beret came from Think Twice and the orange plaid scarf was a charity shop find.

So were the boots, which cost all of € 2, and which I've been wearing constantly. They are super comfortable, their only disadvantage being that they are pull-on ones. I'm also wearing an old pair of green opaques.

We drove down to a charity shop we hardly ever visit these days, to have a look at the leftovers of Retrodag. I almost got a fit when I saw a vintage handbag - OK, it was a nice one but still - priced at € 50. I actually threw it down in disgust ...

Purely out of habit, I had a look at the jewellery, some of which is displayed in a - very scratched - glass topped drawer built into the counter. I thought I detected a carved celluloid brooch, and if my eyes weren't deceiving me, its price label said € 1.

I wasted no time in asking if I could have a look at the drawer's contents.

These are the ones that came home with me for the ridiculous total price of € 7. I admit I couldn't help gloating just a little bit.

On the top left is the brooch I'd first spied. Continuing clockwise, this one is very similar to one I've already got, but at € 1 I wasn't going to leave it behind. In the end, it turned out to be sufficiently different to justify keeping them both. 

The delicate brooch on the bottom right might be missing some of its little flowers, but € 0,50 seemed a fair price for it. The little holes on both sides of the stag brooch (bottom left) are a clear indication that something is missing from it, although I have no idea what. It's perfectly wearable, though, and at € 1, I was prepared to give it a home.

Scottie dogs were a popular subject for brooches and other novelty jewellery from the 1930s onwards. I'm presuming these two are 1950s.

The twosome of dogs on the left used to have movable heads but age, possibly with the aid of some glue, has put paid to any further movement.

The brown Scottie beating a drum was priced at € 0,5. This in itself was sweet revenge for the ridiculously priced handbag, as I already have two of these brooches. See here. I don't remember what I paid for the plain green one which was bought from an antiques shop in Cardigan, but my blog tells me I paid € 20 (with reduction!) for the black one, found at a flea market last year.

I'm always on the lookout for cheap 'n cheerful vintage novelty brooches. These charming ones were € 0,50 each. My favourite is the one on the bottom right, the girl holding an umbrella over a gaggle of ducks.

Needless to say, I'm very pleased with my haul, as brooch pickings had been rather meagre lately.

Before going home, we stopped at the charity shop in our village, where the Retrodag remnants included six egg cups with matching spoons, still in their original packing, as well as an Emsa party dish.

The egg cups have been added to our kitchen display, while the party dish has already been roped in to house some of my jewellery collection.

So that were our charity shop finds, but I still need to show you what I picked up earlier that week at Think Twice, who were having another one of their famous sales.

It had been quite a while since I had a decent haul there as well.

The floral Diolen frock with its butterfly sleeves was € 5. Its print is very reminiscent of the one in this dress.

As a lover of green, I simply can't have enough green frocks! Isn't this one fabulous? I fell in love with its mix of plain green and printed bodice and its gorgeous chevron patterned skirt. This was € 5 as well.

This plain green dress (yes, another one!) isn't even vintage but from Belgian label Wow To Go. 

Back in 2012, I used to have the same model of dress but in burgundy, with a burgundy and turquoise striped bodice. I dearly loved that dress but it had become too snug, so eventually I gave it away to a friend.

You can see part of it in this photo dating from way back. Note the very short hair and the tiny spectacles. And Phoebe!

As this green version is a perfect fit and in pristine condition, I couldn't hand over my € 4 fast enough.

Meanwhile, I've selected some dresses and other stuff I no longer love and bagged them up ready for our next trip to the charity shops. 

There, you see, I can do it!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Oh no, retro!

Although I keep claiming that my blog is my on-line diary, it sometimes feels as if I'm writing a piece of history, as my posts are constantly lagging behind real life.

So, dear diary, this is what I did on Saturday 9th of March!

It was the day of that yearly charity shop event called Retrodag (dag is day in Flemish!), the day all Belgian charity shops are selling the vintage stuff they've saved up in the past year, often at ridiculous prices, creating what someone on Facebook aptly called artificial scarcity with stuff they've been given for free!

We used to make a day of it, starting out early and taking a picnic, driving from one shop to another. Disenchanted with the same old-same old overpriced stuff on offer, we have lost some our initial enthusiasm for the event, and only visit some of our favourite shops.

We were both feeling a bit tired as well, which rather put a damper on it all, but as I didn't want to give in and have my day spoiled, I decided to go for full-on colour therapy.

What about coral? I've had this dress in my wardrobe for absolutely ages, but I don't seem to wear it much anymore, as I've sort of gone off polka dots lately.  Still, it is getting at least one outing a year, and I thought this was the perfect day for it.

I'm struggling what colour to wear with it and always seem to end up pairing it with shades of blue. This colour has clearly got me stumped!

So, blue it is then. I picked cobalt blue opaques, then dug around in my suitcase full of belts, where I found this matching leather one. My beaded necklace and plastic flower ring, both in a similar shade of blue, were flea market finds.

The charity shopped cardigan with its two-tone chequered print provided a welcome contrast to the dress's polka dots. Still staying within the colour scheme, I added an orange vintage brooch bought from the Brooch Lady in November 2016. One of the advantages of blogging is that I can now track down what I bought where, and when!

The first shop we were headed to always has a huge rail of vintage clothing. I picked up armfuls of stuff to try on, eventually settling on a skirt suit, a dress and two skirts.

The handmade skirt suit has a wide flouncy skirt and a short, fitted, wide-lapelled jacket. The main part of both the skirt and the jacket is black sprinkled with tiny red flowers, while an explosion of blowsy Summer flowers adorns the skirt's hem and the jacket's lapels and cuffs.

The dress, with its tropical white, chartreuse, orange and yellow print, is handmade as well. It has three-quarter length sleeves, a V-neck with a neat little collar, which in the pictures is a bit lost in the print, and a single pleat at the front. 

The first of the skirts is a midi length one and has a blue and white flower print on a dove grey background. Angelica is wearing it with a short sleeved yellow knit jumper, to which I pinned a blue butterfly brooch, and a yellow belt.

The second skirt is knee-length and its print has a profusion of moss green, orange-red, white and brownish flowers. Angelica is wearing a coral openwork knit jumper and a sage green belt with it.

While queuing at the till, I spotted this set of jewellery, consisting of a brooch and clip-on earrings.

They are stamped on the back with the words "Il Etait Une Fois" (the French equivalent of "once upon a time"), which after some googling I discovered is a contemporary French jewellery company, established in 1987, which produces pewter jewellery plated with silver or gold.  I paid € 5 for the set, which turns out to be more than a good deal, as I found a similar brooch on its own, priced at € 35, on their website.

Then we drove down to our second shop, where we had a car picnic, after which we decided to clear our fuzzy heads and make a quick circuit of the park.

The groovy boots I'm wearing were actually picked up on a previous Retrodag event back in 2017.

I bought the vintage plaid swing coat at our most local charity shop a couple of years ago and it has been a firm favourite ever since. I love its shorter length and the half belt.

The frilly blue scarf was another charity shop find, and if I remember correctly the beret was from Think Twice.

The weather was another disappointment, which was a first for this event. Looking back at the previous years, which my blog enables me to do, we had gorgeous spring weather for three years in a row.

It was chilly and a fierce wind was blowing - a prelude to the storm we'd be having on Sunday - and the park was looking a bit forlorn, as if it had suddenly been shifted a couple of weeks back in time.

On closer inspection, February's springlike temperatures combined with the recent lashings of rain, had triggered a growing spurt in the park's vegetation.

I was happy to discover a good-sized clump of Oriental hybrid hellebores with delicate pink veined flowers.

There were daffodils in bloom as well: apart from the usual little yellow daffs which were dotted around the park, there was a host of cheerful white, yellow trumpeted, ones.

Pink blossom decorated some of the shrubs which were bare only a fortnight ago, while ground-hugging Vinca minor was sprouting new shoots and opening the first of its violet-blue flowers.

Rain was imminent, so we briefly nipped into the charity shop, but we shouldn't have bothered, really.

Or should we?

Halfheartedly browsing the bookshelves, my eyes suddenly zoomed in on a pictorial travel book with a familiar name on its cover:Victoria. Picking it up for closer inspection confirmed that its subject was indeed Victoria, British Columbia in Canada.

Why all the fuss, you might wonder? Well, I actually know someone who lives there. It's my fabulous blogging friend Sheila, who blogs over at Ephemera! It goes without saying that I bought the book, especially as it's got a chapter on Sheila's castle!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday over at Not Dead Yet Style, as usual!