Friday, 6 May 2016

Catwalk VIP to Charity Shop Hop

When my friend Michelle asked a few weeks ago if I'd like to go 'VIP' to a fashion event, there was always only going to be one answer.  I've never been to a real live catwalk show before and although I've always taken a huge interest in what goes down the runways from the world of high fashion and couture, it's always been a you-tube experience for me, not being a celeb-style fashionista and all that.  

It was Nottingham Fashion Week, and there was a live catwalk event on Saturday, showcasing an edit of the high street looks right now, ranging from Primark to Jaeger, Whistles to H&M, open for a modest ticket price for anyone to attend and get a taste of the Anna Wintour experience.  There were also a couple of vintage and pre-loved items on show too from local shop, Braderie.  A real mix of styles for men and women included themes like nautical luxe, botanicals, think pink and monochrome, gave us a flavour of this season's popular looks.  There were some classic pieces too, including the ubiquitous wedding outfit inspiration ('tis the season after all for the wedding guest outfit quest) and a section showcasing boho looks and festival inspired styles.  Boho, gypsy style is not my bag I admit, (even so I thought one cropped, bottle green lace jumpsuit just looked just wrong on every level to me) but most interesting to me were the different ideas on styling.  

I loved this combo below.   Simple Breton stripes, bomber and narrow jeans for him.  Gorgeous pleated red midi skirt for her with a sports-luxe style cropped top and bomber.  With some tweaks (taking the quite so cropped top out of the equation) I already have a similar skirt that has been unworn and unloved for some time, so may be resurrecting it and blatantly copying this look.

Also these caught my eye.  Pleated satin pantaloons anyone?  Not sure what they are actually, (plus fours?  knickerbockers? breeches?) but I thought they looked really fresh and I could visualise them a bit more grown up with a little fitted jacket on the top, rather than denim.  

The jury might still be out though.  They might bring to mind a Vivienne Westwood 'pirate' punk vibe, but I'm willing to concede they may be veering more into Gem from Swashbucklers, children's tv presenter territory (for those who have CBeebies aged kids). I have no idea if I could even begin to make these, I mean where to start with pleated-all-over trousers?  But I'd be tempted to have a go.  Even if they ended up in the kids dressing up box.

So what did we do next?  Track down the best pieces in the high street shops for a retail splurge?  Raid the racks of contemporary pleated plus-fours?  No, we hit the charity shops.  Oh yes!  Thus inspired we had a happy afternoon nosing around the thrift shops in Hockey, Nottingham.  One of my favourite haunts for vintage and pre-loved clothes, there is always a good chance of finding real treasure here.  

Sue Ryder offer a whole dressmaking section of their large shop too, which is packed with vintage patterns, fabric, trimmings and sewing ephemera.  A whole haberdashery in itself, with buttons and ribbon, lace and thread, bolts and scraps of fabric as well as books for inspiration.  I could quite honestly have run amok here, for this reason alone.

A dangerous, trunk load of temptation indeed!  And more so because the shop assistant encouraged me to take as much as I could stuff in my bag.  I came away with £2.50 worth of an eclectic mix of quite large scraps, and also a few nice lengths of black cotton poplin and lining materials.  Some pale pink satin moire and 70's style printed cotton flannel also made their way into the swag bag. Most notable though was this huge length of what I am pretty sure is sari fabric in grey poly-mix.  I love the smokey shades and drape and although it is a bit damaged, there are at least 3 metres of it with a nice panel design on either end, so plenty to play with.

Another good find lurking in the trunk was an old, faded linen table cloth. Clearly having been washed a zillion times it has a lovely soft and worn-in feel to it.  If I can manage to squeeze a little summer top or shorts out of this former table cover I will be very happy.  More of that another time.

The second treasure that I unearthed was in Oxfam; this navy blue short sleeved shirt.  I'm not usually drawn to cute prints or novelty fabrics.  They look nice on other people, but they're just not my style.  This shirt with a mandarin collar and embroidered design came home with me for a whole three pounds sterling, and I love it.  It doesn't have label, apart from a small tape inside showing fabric content (rayon), but it has been nicely constructed and well cared for.  

I mean, who could resist a shirt with tiny, Chinese gymnasts on it, perfecting their poses in cross stitch?  Well not me.  There are even flying birds, splashing fish, temples and mountains in the embroidered design, mirrored perfectly on either side.  Sweet.

I think I was drawn to it partly because I was wearing my Chinese, panel print Rigel bomber jacket on the day.  (What was I saying about not wearing novelty fabrics?  Ok, clearly that's a big fat fib then so I take it back!)  I wore this bomber particularly to the fashion event as I wanted to show off something I had actually made, and to fly the flag for handmade garments and recycling fabric in a world of fast fashion.  There has been much talk recently in the online and offline fashion world about bringing more attention to where our clothes come from, who made them, what conditions are like for those people and where fabric is being sourced.  Fashion Revolution was asking people to question, back in April during their week long campaign to raise awareness, "who made my clothes?"  It's a good question.  Even for those of us that can say proudly "I did" for some of the time, it does prompt further enquiry into where fabric comes from and how it is made, dyed, shipped and sold on.

This little golden jacket was made over a year ago, was the first thing I ever blogged about that I'd made myself, and is constructed from a satin bed spread.  Don't get me wrong, I love the high street and don't think I could ever make from scratch my entire wardrobe.  But I absolutely support home-making, up-cycling, reusing and remaking as part of the every day mix.  

Now, pairing this with a breton stripe may be a pattern clash too far for some I accept, but a classic breton goes with anything right?  It seemed like a good idea at the time anyway, early in the day with the sun beams beaming and spring in the air.  That was before it dropped about 10 degrees and started snowing again by lunchtime.  Oh dear, clearly a bit of a wardrobe fail there on my part.

So altogether (blizzard conditions aside) a great fun and a very inspiring day, from catwalk to charity haul.  Ever made or re-designed something purchased from a charity shop?  I'd love to know!


  1. Mmmmm, some interesting fashions on the catwalk, and lucky finds in the charity shop. And yes, I've altered some charity shop finds - cut down trousers which were two sizes too big but beautiful quality linen and lining, reduced padded shoulders on jackets, added another button and buttonhole on a jacket so it fits better, shortened sleeves, I could go on.....well worth the effort on a super quality garment that doesn't quite fit. Look forward to seeing what you do with your finds.

  2. A good effort in wearing the handmade jacket to a high street fashion event, such a shame it got snowed on! Hope you enjoyed wearing it though and have a few more projects 'in the pipeline' now. RC

  3. Thank you AWR and RC! I get the feeling AWR that you are an experienced up-cycler and refashioner of clothes. Totally agree that good quality finds are worth the effort. Sarah