Thursday, July 15, 2010


Not all vintage is created equal. The evil polyester patio dress, exuding the faint whiff of armpits past, for example, has zip in common with the diaphanous silk chiffon 1930s tea dress, the one with the lace trimmed petal sleeve.

There are all sorts of rules and distinctions about what should be termed vintage and what antique, what designer second-hand and what just plain out of date, but I think the main point, for me anyway, is that whatever it is, this faded relic of fashion's history that you've decided to rescue and introduce into your own style future, it must be beautiful and very old indeed.

I rarely meet 1970s vintage to salivate over, although I do possess a precious Chantilly lace Thea Porter blouse (though lesser known, Thea was a London style set peer of Ossie Clarke and Bill Gibb). My personal tastes tend towards the 1920s and 30s. But I wouldn't kick an Edwardian blouse out of bed, would you?

So it was with a glad heart that I went to visit the actor, director, and vintage hoarder Beth Armstrong in her elegant Annandale abode. Beth collects, and sells by appointment, antique and vintage treasures under the banner of The Travelling Dress. These treats take the form of unbelievably beautifully preserved and wearable art deco evening dresses, slips and robes; natty little 1940s suits, jawdropping beaded belle epoche accessories and a whole range of blouses from the 1850s to the 1930s.

All Beth's pieces, which mostly come from Europe (it helps to have antiques dealer parents) have been carefully selected, are in fabbo top notch nick and have been washed, mended and handled with love and magic so you can pop them on right away with your favourite jeans and look the bee's knees, and not costume-y at all. For looking like an extra from Little Dorrit is as much Beth's pet hate as it is mine. Get vintage right, and you look fiercely modern.

I didn't mean to spend the mortgage money at Beth's but it was hard to resist. To make me feel better, she agreed to hand over a collection of her spoils each season for us to sell at Mrs. Press. Hurrah.

From top: Victorian cotton blouse; 1930s peach silk slip and piano shawl; 1920s lace petticoat; 1930s silk top and art deco purse; hand-beaded Victorian cape. All by The Travelling Dress - selected pieces now available at Mrs. Press.

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