Ceri Heathcote interviews: Vintage Vixen

Posted by Ceri Heathcote Oxfam Fashion blogger

29th Jun 2012

Vintage Vixen Lead

See more from Ceri at the Ethical Fashion Blog

For the second in my series of charity shop blogger interviews, I was lucky enough to catch up Vicky of Vintage Vixen, a fantastic blog with a huge following. Vicky has her own unique style which features some amazing outfits from charity shops, car boot sales and jumble sales.

Early 1970s silk lined Posh Frocks velvet jacket with Leg 'o' Mutton sleeves, psychedelic headscarf and original brushed denim bell bottoms

I love how you upcycle, recycle and repurpose everything from your clothes to household items, why do you do this and when did it start?

Thank you! When I was a teenager, I had a dread of looking like everyone else, couldn't afford the alternative fashion boutiques of the day so I used to go to jumble sales, pick up clothes for pennies and play around with what I bought , shortening or taking in 1950s prom dresses, turning jeans into shorts, tie-dying old tee shirts or hand-painting gentleman's collarless dress shirts, or simply changing the buttons on a blouse or a cardi with those from another second-hand garment.

Many of the things I buy aren't my size or quite right but it never puts me off. Shoes, boots, bags and belts and clothes can usually be dyed,tie-dyed or customised with fabric pain; zips and buttons can be replaced, seams taken in and hems shortened; old band tee shirts, no matter how tatty, can be remade into groovy boob tubes; the sleeves can be hacked off clapped-out fake fur coats and denim jackets worn as gilets. Anything is possible.

My home is an organic process, I can't justify the cost of the fabulous furniture I see in interiors magazines so I make do with what I can haul out of skips on the way back from pubs, stuff friends are chucking out or cheap bits and pieces bought from jumble sales and car boots. Everything invariably looks better with a lick of cheap paint and I've become a bit of a dab hand at reupholstering using jumble sales curtains and braiding, a hammer and some tacks.

Denim halterneck, beaded Navajo-inspired pendant and tooled leather bag

You also mention that you don't follow fashion, why not and what is it you love about vintage?

To me fashion's all about following the herd and conforming to what society deems acceptably cool. Who cares if maxi skirts are out and high waisted trousers are in if you feel comfortable in what you wear? It's so depressing going to a music festival or a club and seeing every other woman in the same dress or identical handbag, I hated uniforms at school so why wear one through choice?

I buy second-hand as it's cheaper, more ethical and there's little to beat the buzz of finding something fabulous no-one else will have . I snap up whatever takes my fancy and makes my pulse race, which more than 99% of the time happens to be vintage as the patterns, styling and fabric are usually way more eye-catching and interesting than their contemporary counterparts.

Do you have a favourite decade for fashion and what do you love about clothes from this time?

The late 1960s through until the early 1970s without a shadow of a doubt. The psychedelic (or just plain interesting) prints and outrageous styling never fail to captivate me. The cut of the clothing from this period work on my body shape and, unlike many of the previous eras, don't require restrictive underwear to create the right silhouette.

House of Lavinia cotton maxi, 1970s Italian-made sunglasses and a Madeira souvenir shopper

Are there any particular shops or locations that you particularly love for shopping ?

Everywhere I visit is a shopping opportunity, high street charity shops, car boot sales, jumble sales, church fêtes or Indian flea markets. It's the luck of the draw, sometimes I'll make the most fantastic discoveries in a town or city but next time I visit I'll come back empty-handed. The beauty of second-hand shopping is that you just never know when you'll unearth a gem.

What is your favourite ever charity shop/ car boot fashion find ever?

Tricky one, there's so many! Recent charity shop crushes are my 1930s velvet coat and the tooled leather owl & acorn bag (see photo).

How would you describe your style and where does your inspiration come from?

"Woodstock refugee meets Rolling Stones groupie with a bit of vintage Bollywood thrown in" , I'm a hippy chick with a sprinkling of rock star glam heavily accessorised with tribal jewellery, black hair and smudged kohl. I'm inspired by the clothes I own, the song playing on the radio, the film I saw most recently, the book I'm reading and 1960s style icons like Cher.

You mention on your blog that, not being noticed and blending in with the crowd is your idea of hell, does your personality match your flamboyant taste in clothes?

As a child I was excruciatingly shy once I left home, got a bar job and had to fend for myself in my late teens I started to talk to absolutely everyone. My outfits are a good icebreaker and strangers often strike up conversations with me, particularly elderly ladies who remember some of my clothes from the first time around. I'm outgoing and talkative, dramatic in my use of colour and dress sense but I'm no drama queen.

Vintage tartan wool cape, 1960s tapestry & vinyl shoulder bag, 1970s Dolcis suede platform boots, contemporary headband

You find so many amazing clothes in car boots sales, jumble sales etc, how do you manage to organise them all?

I have to be ruthless. For every new garment I add to my wardrobe at least one thing has to go otherwise I'd be overwhelmed and it would take hours to get dressed. I pack out-of-season clothes away in suitcases stowed away on top of the wardrobe and only hang clothes in my wardrobe I actually wear (there's no place for things that don't fit or are simply there for nostalgic reasons). Anything in need of repairing, revamping or mending goes onto the sewing pile, there's nothing more frustrating than pulling a dress out only to find that the hem's down or the zip's broken.

Please can you share some of your top charity shopping tips?

  • Go with an open mind, there's no point in having a wishlist, stick to that and you could miss out on something fabulous.
  • Take no notice of labels, forget any preconceptions of shops you don't normally like or the size on the tag. The only person who can reads the label on your clothing is you.
  • If it doesn't set your pulse racing and your heart aflutter leave it behind. Only buy what you love, not because it's cheap or "vintage".
  • Unhappy with the charity shops in your area? Visit the Charity Retail Association's charity shop finder and see what's available in a new town or city.
  • Don't always assume that the poshest places yield the finest finds. I've found some of my best buys in the more down-at-heel areas. Never rule a destination out until you've given it a fair chance.

Crimplene maxi-length wench dress

A big thank you to Vicky for taking part in this interview and sharing her photographs.

You can check out her blog at www.vintagevixon.blogspot.co.uk

Or follow her on Twitter @Vintage_Vix66

Blog post written by Ceri Heathcote

Oxfam Fashion blogger

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