Sunday, 7 September 2008

The wonders of vintage fashion

I have always been a people watcher, or maybe just incredibly nosey. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than sitting in a café with a cranberry and orange muffin and a creamy hot chocolate with sprinkles creating stories about other patrons and passers by. Is the flame haired woman in the high heels and maroon pencil skirt an innocent colleague of the navy suited man who is sitting opposite, loosening his tie and adding copious amount of sugar to his espresso, or is their relationship something far more intricate and exciting. The shirt and tie hints at work but the fish nets tell an entirely different story…

Fashion reveals just as much about a person intentions as body language, it become a means of non verbal communication. After all no one has ever come up to me claiming they saw my clever wit across a crowed room, but I have had the odd “cracking dress” comment. Dresses in my wardrobe could tell of dancing in heals, or of finding the perfect scarf to match a yellow trim, or giving my hair a 50s flick because the red top demanded it, there is even a few stories of spilled drinks and dry cleaning too. Vintage shops fulfill my fascination for fashion and stories. Each item is not only unique but has a history all of it’s own. I have an original 50’s green and white dress with black flowers and a thin matching belt. It flattens my stomach a lot more easily than sit ups and has pleats which flatteringly cover my bum. I purchased it from American Graffiti for £20 in the Northern Quarter and I knew instantly it would become one of my most prized purchases. It reminds of Reese Witherspoon’s wardrobe in Walk the Line and I like to believe that over 50 years ago the dress was seen with white kitten heals, leaning against a juke box, with its arm round the waist of a guy who was smoking (as all the cool kids did then) while the owner of the dress was chewing pink bubble. It is such a beautiful dress I refuse to believe it could ever be owned by the leader of a dull life. While my interest in outfits may yearn for the fabulous, original and intricate my limited clothes budget usually demands Primark and Topshop, as well as taking full advantage of the Oasis sale, but there is something incredibly satisfying going out in an item that is not owned by anyone else. It is mine all mine! There is something really gutting about walking into a pub and your eyes being drawn to someone in the exact same dress, and to add insult to injury she has better legs. Being a mere 5foot 2, long leg envy is a frequent occurrence.

Thankfully Manchester is positively over flowing with vintage boutique, just head to the northern quarter and you will then them nestled between galleries, sex shops and bar which are frequented by Manchester musical glitterati. You can’t help but wander in shop doorways after seeing flared skirts and spotty neck ties, stood next to double breasted jackets with paisley cravats. Ryan’s vintage has by far the widest and often cheapest selection, a great place to go if you are mood for retro track suit tops and t-shirts. Or, if you feel fashion should have a social conscience you can visit Oxfam Originals on Oldam St which stocks a carefully selected range dresses, shirts, coats and one of the most impressive range of neck scarves and ties I have ever witnessed. If your taste is somewhat more discerning or you simply like your surrounding to transport you back to a time when knitting was a hobby and the term courting could be used without anyone breaking out into fit of giggles, then Rags to Bitches is the shop for you, which features a collection of couture designs based on vintage designs as well as more upmarket dresses and evening wear. These beautiful items are far too impressive to merely sit in the pub, they demand to be taken out for cocktails, will only sit on leather seats, and must be worn with expensive shoes as well as carefully selected accessories. As well as fashion there is a fascinating collection of jewellery, broaches, bags, shoes and trinkets, which gives the place a very intimate feel.

If you have a passion for 60’s dresses and all things kitsch then Pop Boutique should be your first port of call. I have a beautiful black and white spotty knee length dress from the late 70’s which has enjoyed many a night out after I spotted it in the window with a red flower broach attached to it. Down stairs is filled with home original home accessories which can transform even the most mundane abode into a haven of brightly coloured 60’s chic. And if all that shopping has worn you out there is even a café.

Happy Shopping

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