Ah November! The month when I flounce out of the High Street declaring that everyone will get a thrifted or homemade gift for Christmas. I don’t always come up with the goods but at least I made gift tags last year from thrifted playing cards.
Vintage Fairs are a great place to go for Christmas goodies and with quite a few in London it’s useful to have a mental list of what you’re shopping for and how much cash you’re willing take - larger fairs will accept cards, smaller outfits can be cash only.
I was optimistic as I headed for the fair that was the precursor to the Inaugural Vintage Throwback Night at Bloomsbury Lanes in West London. The 1st class retro bowling venue had opened its doors to vintage vendors from 12pm til 5pm to get everyone warmed up before a spectacular line up of retro music, talks and burlesque in the evening.
Entrance to the Vintage Fair was only a quid and a stamped hand guaranteed a discount to the club night later. This was good; sometimes parting with upwards of a fiver on the door can leave a bitter taste if I come away empty-handed. A good shopping experience means plenty of stock and a great atmosphere - happily the Bloomsbury Lanes had both.
There’s nothing like shopping for timeless stuff in a retro environment - the bowling lanes under the Tavistock Hotel tell of times gone by with retro graphics on the wall, a fully functioning diner and great music. The lanes were open and the rumble and scatter of pins being bowled over was a cool backdrop.
The place was dark and labyrinthine with stalls crammed shoulder to shoulder, but the traffic flowed once I got into the belly of the place. The Lipstick and Curls girls were there if you needed a pampering, I saw one guy having his ducktail seen too and another shopper came away with a head full of fabulous curls pinned into place. Sustenance is essential - I need to punctuate my rummaging with constant coffee top ups so thankfully there were cupcakes a plenty and very reasonably priced rolls and wraps if you didn’t fancy the full on burger and chips experience at the diner.
I’d come to this Fair with my vintage loving daughter and we both have different agendas, to her vintage speaks of gaudy 80’s knits, altered skirts and ankle boots whereas I am most definitely a 50’s throwback with a 40’s vibe. It is so much harder to find good quality mid century clothes at vintage fairs these days that aren’t out of my price range - a different tale to the early 80’s when I stuffed my wardrobe with full skirted frocks Doris Day would have died for at only a few quid.
The stalls had a reasonable variety of clothes and accessories. The Fair was just the right size - a huge fair makes the whole experience a bit of a chore, too small and I come away frustrated. The ladies toilets were decent enough size for try ons and vendors were happy for you to examine clothes nearer mirrors with more natural light .. a good co-operative vibe with reasonable prices, excellent food and bowling to boot made the afternoon extremely enjoyable.
My daughter bought the most, I bagged some smaller pieces of jewellery as gifts. Naturally the worst thing about buying vintage as gifts for others is all the stuff that I want for myself…
Honestly - I did need a pair of winter boots. So rather than pay over the odds for overrated slippers I nabbed a bargain with a pair of 80’s does 40’s fur trimmed black leather ankle boots - so tacky they’re cute and only £15!
Ever wondered what to do with all those fabulous postcard flyers that vintage vendors hand out at these events? Watch this space.