An Introduction to Reproduction Vintage

Reproduction vintage (or ‘new vintage’) is dismissed in some circles; true vintage is seen as the most environmentally friendly and socially responsible way to dress, with recreations of the ‘real thing’ viewed as a bit pointless. As someone obsessed with 1930s and 1940s clothing, I deeply appreciate original garments and have enormous respect for those who painstakingly collect, mend and maintain true vintage wardrobes. Of course, though, not everyone who loves vintage style can achieve a wardrobe full of true vintage.

There are so many reasons why 30s-40s true vintage is unattainable – be it the financial cost, availability of surviving vintage pieces in your area (hello fellow Australians!), size availability, or time restrictions and other lifestyle factors. As such, there is an important place for small-scale, ethically produced reproduction vintage pieces and the brands who create them. Reproduction vintage increases the accessibility of vintage style to those who otherwise, for a variety of reasons I have only touched on, would have to go without. Personally, I don’t believe a true vintage outfit would survive my unpredictable and ever-changing chronic illness symptoms. It’s not really practical for me to be wearing a delicate, one-off item when I could end up very unwell, and I’d find it stressful worrying about damaging an item that has survived 90 years and a World War!

Trousers: Vivien of Holloway | Blouse: Freddies of Pinewood | Beret: Collectif | Earrings: Bow & Crossbones

If true vintage is unsuitable, another option available to us is thrifting. There are some amazing people on Instagram who are able to create beautiful, authentic looking 1940s ensembles from more modern thrifting finds, and as an Aussie it’s remarkable to me the discoveries that are made in UK, European and American thrift stores! I personally don’t go thrifting anymore. On my low-symptom days I sometimes feel bad for not having more thrifted items in my wardrobe, but the reality is thrifting is enormously time and energy intensive and, as I live with chronic fatigue and chronic pain, it’s just not how I choose to expend my finite energy.

Blouse & Skirt: The House of Foxy | Shoes: Clarks

Like true vintage & thrifted vintage-look outfits, reproduction vintage does not ‘date’ as modern fashion does – being a classic style that has already stood the test of time, vintage reproduction and new vintage, though being newly produced, still exist outside the world of ever-changing modern fashion. I still wear vintage style cardigans I owned a decade ago, while my ‘fashionable’ clothes from the time are long gone, and would look very daggy by current high street trends. However, it is important to note that not all repro vintage brands are created equal, and poor quality, mass-produced fast fashion type brands do exist within our vintage style sphere. If the garments are high quality, designed and constructed to last the wearer years by ethical brands who are transparent about their business practices and endeavour to improve the sustainability of their materials, I believe reproduction vintage still has an essential role to play in changing the culture of fast, disposable fashion.

Blouse: The House of Foxy | Trousers: Vivien of Holloway

One sticking point remains then for those looking to enter the world of repro vintage style: the cost. High quality reproduction vintage is expensive. Small-scale production, fair wages, safe working conditions, high quality materials and the attention to detail needed to make garments last, justifiably leads to $150AUD blouses and $300AUD jackets. For many of us, myself very much included, there is a lot of penny saving needed to purchase items of clothing from the most reputable and well-respected repro vintage brands. To me they are an investment, that when well cared for by their owners can last decades and become vintage pieces in their own right.

On top of the (very reasonable but slightly incompatible with my Disability Pension) garment costs, the majority of brands providing quality reproduction vintage are based in Europe and the UK. The sometimes eye-watering shipping costs to Australia can make buying a single item at a time financially unviable, but saving up to order in bulk can mean missing out, as these brands can sell out so ridiculously quickly when they release their new ranges! Enter your local reproduction vintage boutiques and stockists, allowing you to source your dream items from these brands domestically.

And so my fellow Australian vintage folks for whom true vintage is not always an option and thrifting proves unfruitful, I would like to introduce you to two Australian small businesses who stock my favourite vintage reproduction brands, and who I have purchased my international reproduction vintage from:

Melbourne-based stockist Call Me Valerie is an Australian home for many highly-regarded international reproduction brands – including two of my personal favourites Emmy Design Sweden and The House of Foxy. Valerie often runs pre-orders for upcoming items to ensure you get your size, which I love. She also offers a ‘Special Order’ service where she can arrange to source your favourite item from a brand she stocks for you. I have purchased through her multiple times, once by ‘Special Order’ which I can absolutely recommend. Special Order guaranteed I received the item I wanted before it sold and gave me a couple of weeks to save up too! She kept me up to date every step of the way, and she is an absolute sweetheart to deal with.

Vivien of Holloway’s sister Christine runs an online website for Australians looking to purchase Vivien of Holloway garments. It is thanks to her that I was able to get my hands on my beloved pair of dogtooth Katharine Trousers, which were gone in a flash as soon as they were released! I always go to Christine when I need the low-down on new Katharines. She is always extremely kind and goes above and beyond to source her customers’ favourite pieces (and puts up with my no doubt nauseating “PLEASE WHEN IS THIS GETTING RESTOCKED YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND I NEEED IT” enquiries). She is based in Melbourne, and you can purchase straight through her website, or contact her via Instagram or the website if there’s something specific you’re after. If you’re in Melbourne town, you may see her out and about at events, so be sure to say hi!

You can find more of my favourite reproduction brands, including some based in Australia, at the bottom of my previous blog posts. This is obviously not an extensive list, so please comment below with your favourite reproductions brands, Australian boutiques and stockists! I hope you enjoy exploring what these small vintage businesses have to offer, please stay safe lovely humans! BB x

My Vintage Wardrobe: 1 Year On

It has been a year since my last blog post, and what a weird, yet occasionally wonderful and surprising year it has been. I have not been nearly as productive as I would have liked and this blog has sat dormant while less enjoyable endeavours demanded my attention, but that is the nature of chronically ill life! The past 12 months have seen my style evolve and shift from a beginner trying a little bit of everything, to something more refined and consistent. I was fortunate enough to expand my reproduction wardrobe to include dream new vintage brands like Emmy Design Sweden, The House of Foxy and Charlie Stone Shoes, as well as more pieces from my early favourites Vivien of Holloway and Freddies of Pinewood. The circle skirts and 50s dresses have found loving new homes, my mass-produced modern clothes have been donated aside from two pairs of jeans and some tracksuit pants. My wardrobe looks far more cohesive, and I am beginning to feel like I have finally found my own personal vintage style.

Dress: The House of Foxy | Hair: The House of Lane

My obsession with 1940s high-waisted trousers has grown, billowy blouses are a must, and more androgynous pieces like braces / suspenders, neckties, tweed & wool vests are becoming high in my outfit rotation. My dresses are less vibrant than their 50s predecessors; faithful 30s – 40s reproductions with a-line skirts and statement-making silhouettes are usually reserved for fancier outings or events. My colour palette has also settled on more earthy tones than my beginner days – favouring browns, creams and blacks with flashes of deep green or burgundy. I have stopped wearing my hair out in waves as much (it’s currently falling out – it does this periodically…), so I tend to opt for updos of messy curls for a less structured look – mastering a perfectly coiffed 40s updo is something I’m still working on! I wear red lipstick more than I used to (which was never until January 2019), and find myself feeling like my dresses don’t look finished without it. When I wear trousers or shorts, I still tend to go without.

My style is still very much 1930s-1940s, but I take small liberties here and there for comfort, practicality, functionality, and because sometimes, for example, I just don’t like a particular accessory from this time period and instead choose items that I like. This past year, aspiring to era-correct style was helpful when I was figuring out exactly what my own style was – when in doubt, what do the magazines of the 1930s say about a particular garment or outfit? When I wasn’t sure if something looked good, I would comb through images from the time to see if I could find a photo of someone wearing something similar. If I couldn’t, I’d search through Instagram to see how others were styling similar pieces. The more confident I become, the less I find myself researching ‘what would they have done back in the day?’ and trust my own taste.

Blouse: The House of Foxy | Trousers, Tie & Suspenders: Emmy Design Sweden

When it comes to everyday looks, I’d say the solidification of my personal vintage style is influenced mostly by the 1940s silver screen stars Katharine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall, with a dash of ‘a vintage take on Cate Blanchett’s androgynous style’.

Generally speaking, I don’t feel I’m very feminine – I never have. Truth be told, I used to spend an exorbitant amount of time stressing that I looked ‘like a boy’, until my early 20s. As long exaggerated eye-roll -worthy as my teenage existential panic over gender norms was, my achieving an authentically 30s aesthetic is tricky when the fashion of the time is very much split into two camps – the ultra feminine and masculine men’s fashion. Many dresses from the era suit my scrawny frame but don’t suit how I view myself or how I want to present myself to the world. While there were women at the time who broke gender norms and opted for less feminine dress, especially during the war, I was finding the ‘authentic’ label too restricting. I still wear traditionally ‘feminine’ outfits with dresses and skirts that I adore, they just aren’t really what I feel the most at home in, and I am very conscious of being dressed up. I’m much better suited to androgynous, practical, Pasty Sick Girl friendly attire for everyday wear, and that means veering away from strictly 30s/40s fashion, and sometimes adopting a more modern interpretation of that era’s aesthetic. I wanted to be able to borrow a hairstyle from the 1900s, with 1930s men’s style trousers and a 40s blouse with no makeup and specs from the 1910s without the voice in my head telling me I’m ‘doing it wrong’.

Jacket & Skirt: Emmy Design Sweden

I have moved away from the idea that my personal style must be strictly era correct in every aspect, and now that I am more knowledgeable about clothing from the 30s through 40s and have a better sense of what my own personal style is, I feel comfortable adding in earlier or later reproduction pieces that I feel suit my aesthetic. I don’t feel the pressure I felt a year ago to look like I was plucked straight out of a photo from 1940. I have so much appreciation and respect for vintage folks who do recreate that aesthetic down to the smallest detail – it is absolutely beautiful and I admire the time, research and effort taken to achieve it – I just don’t quite fit there. I’ve taken everything I’ve learned about the aesthetics of the time, the fabrics and designs that were popular, and have created my own unique take on the various aspects that resonate with me. My goal is no longer to be era correct so much as it is to be me correct.

Blouse & Vest: The House of Foxy | Trousers: Vivien of Holloway | Boots: BAIT Footwear | Beret: Collectif

So, then, with my style still in the process of being gradually fine-tuned and a drastically changed wardrobe, I will leave you with a list of my current favourite reproduction vintage brands, and my top wardrobe picks, one year on from my last list. Stay safe one and all, lots of love to you and yours! BB x

Emmy Design Sweden was my ultimate vintage outfit dream. Emmy’s focus is on creating signature statement pieces to add that ‘wowzers, where did you get that?’ factor to their customers’ wardrobes. They are focused on providing excellent-quality vintage inspired slow fashion, designed for comfort and constructed to last. Emmy Design is the pricier brand I buy from. I tend to wait for the end-of-season sales to purchase from them (one of the few perks of living so far away in the Southern Hemisphere!), and save to get multiple items at a time to save on shipping to Australia.

For Australians, find them on Australian stockist Call Me Valerie.

My Picks: Their iconic Miss Fancy Pants trousers and suspenders, knitted wool cardigans like the Ice Skater and all fair-isle designs for cosy and snug winters for many years to come.

The House of Foxy is immensely popular in the vintage community. Specialising in reproduction garments from the 20s to the 60s, their designs are the product of meticulous research into the clothing from these eras, using true vintage pieces from their archives, original patterns and photographs from the time. Even those with extensive true vintage wardrobes use House of Foxy pieces to complement their original garments. Their products are ethically made in the UK and Europe, and they are committed to improving their viscose / rayon fabrics to be more sustainable and eco-friendly.

For Australians, find them on Australian stockist Call Me Valerie.

My Picks: 1940s long and short sleeve blouses in all colours and prints, Whirlaway skirts and Americana Jackets.

Australian brand Charlie Stone Shoes produces high quality, vintage inspired footwear and accessories to compliment the classic outfit styles of the 1920s to 1950s, through to modern wardrobes. Though many of their products are leather, they also offer an ever-increasing selection of stunning vegan alternatives constructed from materials that are made to last.

My Picks: Vegan Roma Flats and Luxe Heels, Luxe New York heels for that touch of evening elegance. Versailles bags for elegant practicality with a vintage flair.

Freddies of Pinewood is a UK-based reproduction brand specialising in 40s and 50s traditional non-stretch jeans. Their products are about as close to the real-deal as reproduction gets. From ‘land army’ style dungarees and war-era work blouses to beatnik jeans and tops, Freddies is your go-to for casual everyday reproduction vintage wear.

My Picks: Their 1940s dungarees in various styles and colours, and all of their work blouses & spellbounds.

If you love bold, vibrant, statement-making reproduction 1950s outfits, you will adore Vivien of Holloway. They offer a wide range of 40s and 50s style dresses, pants, tops, skirts and jackets in every colour imaginable. They are a UK based small business, and the people behind my favourite 1940s trousers – the ‘Katharine Trousers’.

For Australians, Shop At Christine’s is an Australian stockist for Vivien of Holloway.

My Picks: Their signature high-waisted Katharine Trousers in every colour and fabric.

Creating My Vintage Wardrobe

Knit: Lindy Bop / Skirt: Steady Clothing

I’ve talked about how I came to fall in love with vintage style, so I thought for my fellow beginners out there I’d tell you how I started transitioning my wardrobe and my look from modern to vintage! Like I’ve discussed previously, prior to 2017 it had never occurred to me that it was physically possible to dress in styles from the 1930s and 1940s. At that time, I was wearing ‘modern with a vintage twist’ from brands like Princess Highway and Dangerfield. With the hectic lifestyle I was leading working in the film industry with very little down time, true vintage pieces were never an option for me – as much as I would have loved to own a wardrobe of original garments! At that time, I honestly didn’t know vintage reproduction or new vintage brands existed.

After I had to cease on-set camerawork, I returned to university and was working in an awful job at a film camera rental company, pushing through unbearable pain and fatigue to do so. Twice every day on my way to and from this miserable job, I would walk past a beautiful little boutique situated in a gorgeous old building with the most perfect 1940s and 50s dresses displayed in the window. I assumed they were true vintage, and every morning and every evening in my jeans and crew t-shirt I’d pass this store and stop for a moment, admiring the ever-changing displays. I told myself that when I finished studying and became a Neuropsychologist I would have a wardrobe full of beautiful garments like those. During a particularly frustrating week at work, a beautiful 1950s dusty pink floral dress with a boat neck collar and elbow length sleeves appeared in the window. I fell instantly in love, and every day that I passed it I loved it more. That Friday evening on my way home, I decided to go into the store and enquire about the dress. Walking into the store was like taking a trip back in time. Stunning handmade cotton dresses, skirts and blouses in period-perfect tones lined the walls. Incredible shoes the likes of which I had only seen in the wardrobe buses at work sat on displays and shelves underneath the garments. I asked the lovely woman behind the counter about them, and she said they were all vintage reproductions, or new designs based on popular vintage silhouettes. The store was Elise Design, and it was my first introduction to the world of vintage reproduction and new vintage. The gorgeous pink dress was my first reproduction piece. When I decided to start Brighton Bacall, owning a wardrobe full of Elise garments was (and still is) my ultimate dream.

Through Brighton Bacall and the wonderful world of Instagram, I was introduced to all of the incredible small businesses out there like the Elise Design boutique who focus on faithfully reproducing the styles of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, as well as so many other decades. With a couple of stunning 50s reproduction dresses from Elise Design recently added to my wardrobe, I decided to start my transition into full-time vintage style by adding more reproduction separates in with my existing clothes to give my wardrobe a slightly more authentic feel.

Trousers: Vivien of Holloway / Blouse: Revival

I left the hair, makeup and accessories challenges for later and focused on saving for a pair of Vivien of Holloway Katharine Trousers in charcoal. The Katherine Trousers would give me that unmistakable 1940s silhouette, and I had plenty of blouses that could pull off the look. At the time, I was watching Manhattan and channelled Helen’s simple and practical 40s look in my styling – I left my hair long and straight with a couple of simple twists on either side joining to a loose low bun. Paired with my new 40s high waisted trousers, whatever blouse I felt like wearing, and voila! Casual beginner 1940s look achieved. I was so in love with the Katherine trousers and the Hollywood starlet look they achieved, I received a second pair in burgundy a couple of weeks later for my birthday. I also received a pair of 1940s denim dungarees from Freddies of Pinewood, which could also be paired with any of my existing blouses for that 1940s ‘land army’ look.

After I had made a solid start on changing my wardrobe, I moved on to hair. My hair is thin, straight and naturally ‘balayage blonde’. I have never been able to get my hair to hold a curl using heat. I tried pincurls which I found way too difficult with my fatigue and the resulting fine motor movement issues. I finally found tutorials by Miss Victory Violet on wet sets, so I bought a set of rollers and gave it a go. And I failed. Miserably. So I gave it another go. And failed again. It took about 4 attempts before I learnt how to get the rollers sitting tight and neat against my head. It eventually ended in success, but then I had a new problem – the brush out. Months later I am still trying to gain control over my brush outs. A special shout out must go to the fabulous Miss Persephone, who so kindly took the time to guide me through my initial brushout disasters! I still never know how it’s going to turn out and am very much at the mercy of my hair. I am getting better though, and a word of advice – if you’re set on having vintage hair, get a vintage haircut! If you’re in Melbourne, I highly recommend vintage hair-whisperer Kitty Lane at The House of Lane. Her vintage cut made a world of difference, and my sets and brushouts are so much easier to tame now I’m starting with a properly shaped cut! She was also able to give me amazing setting and styling tips as well as advice on how to work with my own particular frizzy mane. If you’re not in Melbourne, have a hunt around for a vintage specialist hairdresser – trust me it is absolutely worth it!

Hair Cut, Style and Photography by Kitty Lane at The House of Lane

While I continued swapping out my modern clothes for reproduction pieces and working on my brush outs, I started on makeup. I’ve never really liked wearing makeup to be honest, and I’ve never been any good at it. I don’t usually wear foundation anymore, because I find it makes my fibromyalgia worse so I normally just use a powder, some mascara, and eyeliner if I’m able (never winged – my hands shake way too much and even with a stamp I am never happy with the result). In the last couple of months, I have started to accompany my vintage outfits with lipstick for the first time in my life. It’s taking a lot of getting used to, especially as it’s a deliciously vibrant orangey-red replica of Marilyn Munroe’s favourite shade from Besame Cosmetics! Makeup’s not something I do every time I head out, it’s only really for my more dressed up vintage looks. If I’m wearing more casual or land army styles, I’ll usually go without.

Now that I have a basic understanding of how to achieve the 1930s / 1940s style I love, I’m starting to focus more on the details – trying to find authentic looking accessories and phasing out some of my less authentic blouses for reproduction blouses.

A really great bonus about the companies that specialise in reproduction clothing is they tend to be small businesses who make their clothes by hand with high quality natural materials (some use true vintage buttons!), and also carry deadstock accessories from time to time. I’m much happier to save up and pay more for a small number of handmade items, or items made from non-synthetic, period-correct fabric and support a small business than I am to buy a greater quantity of mass produced, cheaply made clothes that will only last a year or two of wear. Look, it’s all personal choice, you do you! I will say however that I still purchase wool products despite trying to live as vegan and earth-friendly as I can (again, this is just my choice – friendly almost-vegan here). The reason I do purchase wool products is wool helps calm my Fibromyalgia symptoms more than any medication I have found. I am willing to invest in handmade woollen clothing that will last me a lifetime and help me live a more comfortable life. Again, that’s just me. We’ve all got to live and let live!

So that’s where I’m at on my vintage journey. Still making changes, still learning, and most importantly – still having fun! If you’re looking to start your own vintage wardrobe, here are some of my favourite 1930s/1940s Reproduction brands to get you started:

 

ELISE DESIGN

Elise Design is an Australian vintage inspired brand based in Sydney and Melbourne. Their elegant and sophisticated garments are a mix of faithful ‘new vintage’ reproductions made from natural fabrics in traditional-looking prints, to more modern designs featuring a vintage twist. They are a small business full of the loveliest family of people, headed by designer Thu Nguyen, and all of their clothing is handmade by members of their team. While you can purchase an extensive range of items via their website and they do ship internationally, there’s far more finds in store. So if you are passing through Sydney or Melbourne make sure you head in store to say hello to the lovely ladies at Elise Design!

My picks: they have 1940s and 1950s style dresses to see you from everyday wear to that glamorous special occasion – and their hand-knitted woollen jumpers and cardigans for winter are a must!

 

FREDDIES OF PINEWOOD

Freddies of Pinewood is a UK-based reproduction brand specialising in 40s and 50s traditional non-stretch jeans. Their products are about as close to the real-deal as reproduction gets. From ‘land army’ style dungarees and war-era work blouses to beatnik jeans and tops, Freddies is your go-to for casual everyday reproduction vintage wear.

My picks: Dungaree Dolls, Home Companions and all of the Work Blouses and 40s Jackets. All. Of. Them.

 

VIVIEN OF HOLLOWAY

If you love bold, vibrant, statement-making reproduction 1950s outfits, you will adore Vivien of Holloway. They offer a wide range of 40s and 50s style dresses, pants, tops, skirts and jackets in every colour imaginable. They are a UK based small business, and the people behind my favourite 1940s trousers – the ‘Katharine Trousers’.

My picks: Katharine Trousers in every colour, Kitty Dresses & Lana Dresses for some extra 40s Hollywood glamour!

 

If you have any questions, thoughts, or want to share your own pieces of advice for beginners, please let me know in the comments section below and I will get back to you! BB x

Vintage Beginnings

I’m not sure I can pin-point exactly where my love of vintage fashion came from, but growing up I always felt awkward in ‘normal’ clothes. I used to play dress-ups for hours at kindergarten, to the point where I had to be dragged away by the teacher and forced to play with other toys, and I absolutely hated wearing pants. I grew up dancing – ballet, jazz, tap – and while I didn’t enjoy being stared at up on stage, I loved getting dressed up and would dance around in my ballet costumes months after the performances ended.

When I was a little older, I remember loathing everything about clothes shopping. Everything on the racks and shelves looked the same. None of it stood out or looked appealing. I used to drive my mum crazy, refusing to pick up clothes and look at them, let alone try them on. What was the point if there was no difference between that top and the one next to it? Clothes were just clothes. I lived in a small country town and went to school in a small country city. We had the big mass-produced clothing brands in Myer and Target, and that was about it. Everyone dressed the same and clothes weren’t something I was interested in at all. I pretty much let mum dress me well into high school. Looking back on those photos, you can see how alien I felt in my own skin.

In high school I started taking drama classes. I remember I was maybe 13 or 14, and we were performing a play about Suffragettes. As soon as I put on the 1910s costume with the high-waisted, long navy skirt, cream blouse, stockings and lace-up black oxfords, I felt transformed. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s the honest truth. I didn’t want to take off the costume once I tried it on. I would sneak it on in my bedroom, marvelling at how at home I felt in those clothes. I wanted more dress rehearsals, more excuses to wear the outfit. However, the performance ended and we moved on to plays set in modern times.

I continued to feel like an imposter in my own body right through my teenage years, until I moved to Melbourne. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Melbourne, it is a bustling multicultural city known for its art and culture, live music and nightlife, hidden coffee shops in cobblestone laneways, street art and hipsters… basically it is a little pocket in an otherwise quite conservative country where self-expression and uniqueness are encouraged and celebrated. ‘Anything goes’. When I arrived in Melbourne at 17 years of age, it was the first time I’d ever been exposed to the idea that clothing can be an extension of your personality, of who you are and what you love. There were goths and emos, groups of people walking the street in ‘steampunk’ and ‘Lolita’ outfits… as well as people dressed in every decade from the 1910s to the present day.

I realised that it didn’t matter what decade I lived in, fashion isn’t restricted to one period of time. There isn’t some rule that says once a certain decade is over YOU CAN NEVER WEAR THAT FASHION EVER AGAIN. Really, this had genuinely never occurred to me. So I set about an awkward period of fashion experimentation. I wore a mish-mash of kookie looks, trying to find what made me feel like *me*. Eventually I discovered a clothing brand called Princess Highway, which back around ten years ago was producing dresses and cardigans in 1930s-1950s styles. I started to buy a few pieces, and slowly started to feel slightly more human, and in turn slightly more confident.

At this time, I was working in the camera department on TV shows and the odd feature film, spending around 60-70 hours a week in dirty ripped jeans, free t-shirts and the world’s heaviest tool belt. While that may not sound particularly inspiring vintage style-wise, I was fortunate enough to work on a number of period dramas. Seeing the incredible costumes and HMU designs coming onto set every day was just awe-inspiring. Walking through the worlds created for the screen – 1880s slums and opium dens, 1700s convict settlements, the opulence of 1920s mansions, dusty remote 1950s country towns or a 1960s street protest – it was magic.

I started swing dancing (1920s-1940s social dancing) and fell in love with 1940s fashion in particular. I was introduced to Foyle’s War through a film school friend and discovered all the great movies set during WWII. I started trying to emulate the looks l’d seen at work and on these shows whenever I was out with friends or at events.

In 2011, my health took a turn for the worst. I’ll talk in more detail about this in another post, but long story short, my heart was being a bit of a drama queen and the stress of that switched on all these other fun autoimmune / inflammatory chronic illnesses. I spent from 2011 to 2016 battling with my body, doctors, family and basically the entire world, trying to prove that I wasn’t a hypochondriac and making everything up. I stopped dancing and withdrew from the world for a while, stopped doing the things I loved as I became sicker and sicker without treatment, and eventually stopped working too. In 2016 through 2017, I finally got my answers: Fibromyalgia, Dystonia, Adenomyosis, PCOS with suspected Endometriosis. It took a while for me to come to terms with the reality that there would be no cure, no quick fix that would see me working and dancing again, and as my symptoms continued to worsen, I fell into a deep depression. In late 2017, I decided something had to change. I began learning to accept my new life and find peace with past years. I started focusing on finding something to be happy about every day – no matter how bad my symptoms were, or how defeated I felt. I focused on building strength in my body to help it fight, the food I was fueling my body with, but I also began focusing on something that seemed at the time a bit superficial and trivial.

Every day I used to wake up knowing that it would be a completely different day from the one before – a different location (different ‘office’), different sets, different builds, a different story, new colleagues to work with … now I was still waking up knowing that it would be different from yesterday, but wondering which symptoms would be most prevalent, whether it would be a ‘good day’ or a ‘bad day’ or a day where I just existed. This can be pretty disheartening, so, most importantly for me, I tried to focus on having fun whenever and however I could.

I started dressing ‘modern with a vintage twist’, mainly in Princess Highway 50s-style dresses, blouses & skirts or pedal pushers, with my long hair twisted up on both sides and back into a low bun. Being dressed up made me feel normal. It got the serotonin flowing and boosted my confidence when interacting with people out in the real world, something I wasn’t used to anymore.

So that brings us to the start of 2018, when I started Brighton Bacall. Initially, it was just a private account only I knew existed where I’d post my ‘good day’ photos to look at on bad days to try and focus on the fun I would have on my next good day. Eventually I plucked up the courage to make it public and started meeting other likeminded people whom I was able to learn from and share my love of vintage fashion. It was through Instagram that I learnt that there were actually people out there who dressed like those silver screen stars I’d quietly idolised in my teens. And they didn’t just dress like that sometimes, but all the time. That was just what they wore! And there were so many of them, all over the world! My mind was completely blown. It was possible.

I slowly started to learn how to wet set my hair and do a brush out, how to do period makeup, where I could find reproductions of the clothes worn in those eras, all in an environment where there was no pressure to be immediately perfect. It was ok to be learning, it was ok to ask questions and it was ok to try, fail and try again. I slowly started learning to put the perfectionist mentality aside, and do something purely for the enjoyment of it regardless of the outcome. I followed the examples of other vintage women and posted both my successes and failed attempts, which helped me take the pressure off myself immensely. It also opened the door for me to begin talking about my health in an open and honest way, and I have to say the amount of love and support I receive when I discuss my life behind the scenes of Instagram has been truly overwhelming. Being able to talk about my struggles as a little ‘in case you’re interested’ side note on my Brighton Bacall account has also helped me reach people I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. Every now and then, someone will tell me they were diagnosed after learning about the condition from my page. That alone makes this whole thing worth it.

Through my participation in the Instagram vintage community I was also able to be on the receiving end of some crucial life lessons: my choice of fashion, style and self-expression is about and for ME, no one else. I can wear lipstick and a brush out with a tight red wiggle dress to the grocery store at 9am and still be a strong female who knows her worth. (Also, and this is very important non-vintage folks – DRESSING VINTAGE DOES NOT MEAN YOU LIVE BY OR ENDORSE THE VIEWS OR MORALS OF SOCIETY AT THAT TIME. Got that? Good. Moving on.) Dressing vintage and being part of the vintage community opened my eyes to some other unexpected but incredibly powerful lessons – body confidence and body acceptance. I am learning how to see my body as something that fights for me, not something to be fought against. I really owe so much to the global vintage community, as embracing body positivity and actively practicing self-acceptance and self-love has been the key turning point in my existential crisis. I realised I didn’t have to strive to be more than I was. I was enough. Just existing and experiencing the world was enough. Everything else was a bonus to be celebrated.

So, as I started taking more good day outfit photos, falling in love with vintage style and connecting with other vintage people, I began to really regret selling my 5D and professional standard lens kit when I stopped working. Photography was something I really loved, but I didn’t have a social circle to take photos of anymore and I hated using myself as a subject. The sicker I got, the less my cameras saw the light of day. When my savings ran out and I fell into medical debt, I reluctantly sold my DSLR cameras and lenses, feeling quite honestly like I’d given away a little piece of my soul. How was my luck that a few months after selling my kit, I’d be taking outfit photos of myself on my iPhone and enter a world of fabulously photogenic people who didn’t mind having their photo taken?

A couple of months ago I was going through another serious health scare and was feeling quite stressed and depressed when I received a message from my dear friend telling me they’d just bought me a DSLR camera kit and lenses. I was speechless. And then I cried for about 20 minutes. I was happily showing them the shots I’d taken a couple of days later, when they said that they honestly didn’t expect it to make me so happy. They were expecting the kit to sit in storage most of the time, to be occasionally pulled out and played with. I was surprised by that. They’d spent hundreds of dollars on me for something they thought I might maybe use once or twice?

It was having a professional camera again and being able to combine my love of photography with my love of vintage style that prompted me to start a blog and really start seeing where this whole crazy thing could go. Having a tiny little thread connecting me to ‘the old me’ has been the final piece in the puzzle of accepting my new life. I hope you enjoy my vintage journey, whether it’s through my blog, Instagram or Facebook. I will occasionally post health-related blog posts, please feel free to disregard these and just enjoy the vintage posts if it is not your thing. BB x