Friday the 15th March, and I race out of work to join my mother Sandra and vintage partner-in-crime Jill, who have everything in the car ready for a quick(ish) change into vintage out at the Horden Pavilion.
I love these shows – whether I come away with one item or armfuls, there’s always a lot to see. The three of us have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking for, and whenever we’re shopping we’re keeping an eye out not just for ourselves, but for others in our extended circle. Sandra and I even took my then six year old niece out to a fair at Randwick – I’d say that was too young for most children, but she is a bit of an old vintage soul and adores watching us when we’re sorting out vintage wardrobes, so we gave her control of the sum of $20 and started teaching her the art of looking for pieces…not to buy something just because you could afford it, how to give the room a quick once over before refining your search, etc – you’re never too young to learn!
Anyway, we arrived out at the showgrounds and joined the queue for entry – feeling just that lovely bit of frisson of excitement, because treasure awaited just beyond the doors. First thing was to get changed, and it’s a good thing the ladies is generously sized, as there were plenty of girls at the mirror doing their hair and makeup! A great atmosphere, though – one girl, thinking I was looking for a space at the mirror, very kindly called out that there was room. It’s a nice vibe to have everyone laughing and talking.
Disaster as I changed – I have a step in teddy, 1920s washable silk, that I use under a lot of 20s dresses…it’s tough as nails, feels good, and has the right 20s shape – and reaches to my knees! But as I pulled it on, one of the straps broke – I realised it was attached to the lace at the top and not the fabric. Sandra usually has emergency pins and sewing equipment, but no luck this time – so she ducked out to our friend Dianne of Online Antiques who had a close-by stall, and she came to the rescue with a safety pin – crisis averted!
I immediately spotted a celluloid dance purse in Coutura that I knew I’d have to have, but first the general sweep of the room and quick catch ups with friends. There were some gorgeous 1920s dresses in Coutura, and Online Antiques had a lovely pink silk dress with lavender beaded fringe/chequer patter at the hem that was just back from the ABC studios after being used in an episode of the Phryne Fisher series – we immediately sized it up as a possibility for Jill.
I managed to somehow lose the other girls, so was doing laps of the hall hoping to catch them (we must have been circling in the same direction) – finally I found my way to the middle, figuring they’d have to wind up there. As I did my circles, my eye kept being drawn by a girl in the most gorgeous, chic, classically beautiful 1920s ensemble. Not just the dress and accessories, but how she’d styled it with the hair and makeup –it was the essence of the lovely, lithe, sleek lines of 1920s style, elegant and so very soignée. I was trying not to stare like a stalker and wanted to go up and ask her about what she was wearing and take a closer look at it, and see if she’d mind if I took a photo, but as she was always engaged in conversation it felt intrusive. I tend to veer between being utterly ebullient and confidently outgoing and not a little shy, and the shyness gripped me.
Of course, I’m a ning nong – I found her blog when I was looking for photos of the opening night, and sent her a note asking if she minded me using a picture from her page showing her in the dress. Nora is an absolute darling! I should have guessed – I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone in the vintage community that wasn’t gracious and warm when you approached politely to ask about their ensemble. I missed an opportunity that night to talk with Nora and learned a lesson – obviously you don’t crash into conversations or behave as if you’re entitled to someone’s time, but people who love vintage love to share that passion with fellow enthusiasts. Nora was there as a greeter at the doors and a judge in the show.
I was so engrossed in chatting to some of the booth holders about the history of my headpiece and their lovely collection of Whiting and Davis bags that I missed the start of the Charleston lesson and had to tap my toes on the sideline…I LOVE Charlestoning. I once proved a theory that you can Charleston to anything when attending a sea shanty singing session late one night below the deck of the tall ship James Craig – the band, using traditional instruments, played their version of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive” and I Charlestonned happily along. Anyway, I joined the group later when they were filming a segment for a live cross to The Project – tucking myself up the back, as I’m so tall in heels that I look like a plump ungainly giraffe with long limbs!
Then the fashion show – I tumbled up there late as I’d finally found the girls, and Jill shoved a glass of sparkling wine into my hand as I somehow blundered backstage. I love entering vintage fashion comps because if you’re in them you get to see everyone else up close and can examine the detail. And there were some great outfits – one of the girls in particular had a beautiful 1920s dress that perfectly complimented her lovely nutbrown hair and fresh complexion. She naturally had a beautiful vintage look and had accessorised everything perfectly – in particular, she had a fabulous example of a 1927-28 coat that was very popular in the era but of which one doesn’t see that many extant today. She was also an absolute sweetheart – I spent the time backstage chatting to her and another girl in 20s attire who had the most fabulous makeup and finger waved hair and Hugh, whom I’ve met before at Vintage Shows and is always a delight to talk with.
The parade was a lot of fun – it creates a great atmosphere to have an MC who knows and loves vintage and who can highlight the features of each outfit in a really a positive way. I didn’t envy the judges who had to make the decisions, though – I was trying to guess who would win in each category and it’s so difficult with so many wonderful styles, everything from a gorgeous 60s gal who looked like Dusty Springfield to a beautiful auburn haired lass in a 50s prom dress. I did win first place, but I think it could also have gone to the runner up – we were both expressing different facets of the era. I’d gone with the Gatsby theme and had chosen the most exuberant, sparkling elements of the decade I could find, whereas she had chosen a lovely, soft romantic day look. I wanted to photograph her afterwards and she’d kindly agreed, but I became caught up in the having a drink with Jill and the last minute shopping, so I missed her. If by some chance she reads this, or if anyone knows her, I’d love her to know that I really do want a photo of that coat for reference!
After that, it was racing around to do the last minute shopping. Sandra works night duty as a nurse so she’d had to miss the end of the fashion show which was a shame, given how much work she put into restoring the dress – she would have dearly loved to see it win. I found out that, cheeky thing, she’d snuck off and bought the pink dress for Jill from Online Antiques and grabbed the celluloid dance purse from Coutura to give me for my birthday!
Coutura also had a collection of deadstock 1920s bandeaux with pearl beading and diamantes – obviously for use in weddings (this style of bandeau went out by mid decade or so for evening wear, but they continued to be advertised for weddings, both bride and bridesmaid wear, into the early 30s). We spent a while picking out one of them. Then I chose my prizes with the gift voucher from Recycology, which meant a lovely chat to the owner (I went with some vintage style Deco-vibe sunglasses and a red necklace). I dropped in to chat with my friend Jessica in Coco Repose – she’d kindly sent me tickets for the opening, and she always has such beautiful gowns. I grabbed one of her framed 1920s prints from the Atelier Bachwitz, hand tinted…she has more, and was selling them for around $100, so if anyone is looking for amazing Deco décor I suggest getting in touch with her.
We then went back to Online Antiques so Jill could buy a very pretty little white marabou feather capelet (we use the black 1930s marabou capelet all the time, so we know it’s a versatile piece). I’d been pining all night for a pair of Art Deco bookends she had, and gave them a mournful farewell, telling Dianne that if they didn’t sell I’d want to put them on layby. I just couldn’t justify it that night as I’m moving soon.
We game back to Jill’s, and within an hour and a few glasses of champagne I was getting antsy thinking about those bookends. Jill laughed at me – “You won’t sleep…you’ll be waking up in the middle of the night thinking about them!”
I knew she’d be right.
I dived for the computer and fired off an email to Dianne, asking if I could put a deposit on them. She got back to me the next day with an affirmative, and on Sunday Sandra and I headed back out for a final look at the fair and to pick up the Deco Darlings. While there, another 1920s dance celluloid dance purse called out to us from the cabinet, as did a carved bone and black beaded sautoir. So they came home with us as well.
All up, a very successful fair – thank you to the organisers, stall holders and other fair goers for making it such a wonderful experience!