I was recently ogling Rita Hayworth in the film Gilda and whilst transfixed I found myself nostalgically longing for a more elegant and work-shy world. In our present ‘nose to the grindstone’ and ‘pressed for time’ existence we no longer have the energy or feel the necessity for extensive personal grooming. Gone are the days where we have time to set our hair in curlers, draw on eyebrows, select the perfect shade of lipstick to match our carefully put together outfit, let alone make sure our stockings are running straight! When did we all become so lazy with our appearance? Enter the ravishing Fleur De Guerre, owner of perfect porcelain skin and a poise and posture that your mum long ago gave up trying to instill in you.
Fleur lives her life as a vintage pin-up girl. She is not just an authority on 1940’s dressing and behaviour for young ladies but also practices what she preaches. She dedicates herself to her appearance EVERYDAY, and yes, she does also work for a living. It has taken her years to perfect her look: the proper eyebrow shape (which just kind of found itself); the correct shade of red lipstick (Fleur says to check your wrists and see if your veins are of a blue or red hue, if blue you will need a more blue/purple-red, whereas with reddish veins you should use very warm almost orangey-reds); the sturdiest variety of stocking holders (6-clips from What Katie Did and not the usual 4-clip); which era looks best on what body shape (the 1930’s and 40’s is best for slim ladies, whilst the 50’s is better for the more curvy lady); to the perfect way of constructing your victory hair rolls (hot sticks will give you flawless rolls or waves in just 30 minutes).
Fleur has worked tirelessly to be able to earn a living around her chosen lifestyle: she writes articles for The Chap, Milkcow and WWII Re-Enactors magazines; she organizes and hosts mind-blowing vintage events; she models for vintage-themed designers; and to top it all off she has her award-winning blog, ‘Diary of a Vintage Girl’, which she uses to share her fanaticism and also lift the lid on how to make vintage dressing a little bit easier for the likes of you and me. Some people see the tricks of vintage dressing as a secret to hold. Not our Fleur. She is most generous on advice and dishes it out constantly.
I join her for the “Tart” event at 40 Winks boutique hotel in East London and then later at the New Sheridan Club (founded by the originators of The Chap magazine) summer party at L’Equipe Anglaise Club. The monthly Tart event is touted as a ‘Lady’s vintage afternoon in London’ set in the ravishing 40 Winks hotel, which has been described by Vogue magazine as one of the most beautiful small boutique hotels in the world. In the words of the debonair and softly-spoken proprietor David Carter, women come in to the event “looking like a lady and leave looking like a goddess”. There is old-fashioned hair and make-up provided by Lipstick & Curls, cakes by The Vintage Patisserie, angel card readings for a bit of spiritual life-guidance, cocktail-making lessons, massage, vintage dressing up by Naomi of Vintage Secret and short talks on how to maintain your inner vintage goddess look, – all with a flowing supply of fiendishly delicious Hendrick’s gin cocktails served in fine china tea cups. It is an extremely fun afternoon and a good way for Fleur to vent her enthusiasms on the modern woman.
Later on at the New Sheridan Club summer party I join Fleur and a set who like to transport themselves back to the age of the idle rich where ones attire, manners and moustache are of the utmost importance.
|The Chap Manifesto
1. THOU SHALT ALWAYS WEAR TWEED. No other fabric says so defiantly: I am a man of panache, savoir-faire and devil-may-care, and I will not be served Continental lager beer under any circumstances.
2 THOU SHALT NEVER NOT SMOKE. Health and Safety “executives” and jobsworth medical practitioners keep trying to convince us that smoking is bad for the lungs/heart/skin/eyebrows, but we all know that smoking a bent apple billiard full of rich Cavendish tobacco raises one’s general sense of well-being to levels unimaginable by the aforementioned spoilsports.
3 THOU SHALT ALWAYS BE COURTEOUS TO THE LADIES. A gentleman is never truly seated on an omnibus or railway carriage: he is merely keeping the seat warm for when a lady might need it. Those who take offence at being offered a seat are not really Ladies.
4 THOU SHALT NEVER, EVER, WEAR PANTALOONS DE NIMES. When you have progressed beyond fondling girls in the back seats of cinemas, you can stop wearing jeans. Wear fabrics appropriate to your age, and, who knows, you might even get a quick fumble in your box at the opera.
5 THOU SHALT ALWAYS DOFF ONE’S HAT. Alright, so you own a couple of trilbies. Good for you – but it’s hardly going to change the world. Once you start actually lifting them off your head when greeting, departing or simply saluting passers-by, then the revolution will really begin.
6 THOU SHALT NEVER FASTEN THE LOWEST BUTTON ON THY WESKIT. Look, we don’t make the rules, we simply try to keep them going. This one dates back to Edward VII, sufficient reason in itself to observe it.
7 THOU SHALT ALWAYS SPEAK PROPERLY. It’s quite simple really. Instead of saying “Yo, wassup?”, say “How do you do?”
8 THOU SHALT NEVER WEAR PLIMSOLLS WHEN NOT DOING SPORT. Nor even when doing sport. Which you shouldn’t be doing anyway. Except cricket.
9 THOU SHALT ALWAYS WORSHIP AT THE TROUSER PRESS. At the end of each day, your trousers should be placed in one of Mr. Corby’s magical contraptions, and by the next morning your creases will be so sharp that they will start a riot on the high street.
10 THOU SHALT ALWAYS CULTIVATE INTERESTING FACIAL HAIR. By interesting we mean moustaches, not beards.
The evening is full of relaxed frivolity and fabulous frocks. There is dancing, conversation, jazz and such games like “shaving the balloon”.
We can laugh and think all this is just fun and games, a hobby of sorts, an excuse to revel in a bit of fancy dress and show off for the camera, but these people take their vintage lifestyle very seriously. It is an escape and a reaction against the constantly fickle and disloyal fashion trends that we are told to buy into. I’m sure Fleur and Co. get sniggered at in the street constantly but I’m confident they also garner much admiration and inspire many to pay more attention to the finer details of their own demeanour, such which was very evident at the Tart event. I, for one, have already edited my lipstick supplies!
NEXT WEEK’S LONDON INSIGHT:
The Pet Cemetery of Hyde Park