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The humble rise of the Prom June 22 2014

It is the season of Proms, when school kids celebrate their last senior year, the girls get to dress in gorgeous flowy dresses and the boys get suited and booted. Over the weekend, I went to wave my niece Olivia and her friends off to their Prom in a vintage bus.

The bus was privately owned and its proud owner gave me a brief history and let me on board to see its original leather and fabric interior with bunting hung inside, it really was adorable. The bus was lovingly made in 1954 and was originally with the Aldershot & District Traction Co Ltd for the London link.

As we ate canapés, chocolate strawberries all washed down with Shloer, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters all got snap happy in taking photos of the excited group of friends.

But how did Proms get started? When I left school, they just had a Leaver's Disco, in fact, our year were so bad, the school opted not to have a Leavers Disco for us!! I also think it may have had something to do with fact that there was a teachers strike going on as well not just we were the naughtiest year in the school!!

Virtually unheard of 15 years ago in the UK, Proms are now the highlight of the school leaver's year, where pupils look forward and start planning their big day way in advance.

So where did it all start? Prom's started across the pond in the US, it was an event to bring together people from all financial standings and heritage. Ever see the film "Pretty in Pink"? If you have, you get the idea!

The word “Prom” comes from the French word, "Promenade", which means "walk" or "stroll". Early in the Twentieth century, it was considered inappropriate to dance with men that you were not married to so the girls would take short and heavily-chaperoned promenades around the block with their dates.

In the 1930s and 40s "Prom" stories of good and bad memories were published by school papers and were taken seriously. By the 1950s and 60s Proms had moved from school gyms to fancy ballrooms with heavy competition for the titles of Prom King and Queen becoming a popularity contest, usually going to the best looking and best dressed couple.

In 1963, President John F Kennedy had to cancel a fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton because the hotel double-booked a school Prom. The Hilton tried to cancel the Prom but luckily for the Senior Highs, the President cancelled his event!

In 1975, President Gerald Ford’s daughter, Susan, got to have her prom at the White House. No stinky old school gym for her!

Today, parents from the US and UK alike complain that Prom's have become expensive and more of a competition of who has spent the most as much as it is a show for the kids. Yes, it can be expensive if you let it but you can buy a Prom outfit fairly cheaply if you shop, around and look no different to someone who has spent a small fortune. It's not necessarily how much you spend but how you wear it.

All in all, the Prom is a wonderful night, for boys and girls to dress up and celebrate the end of their exams and the end of their school years with friends who they have shared so many laughs, tears and experiences with. And as the girls and boys are teetering on the edge of adulthood, the Prom will hopefully, be a night remember.

 

On the Buses from Betsy Blue on Vimeo.

 


The Little Black Dress December 08 2013

There is an item of clothing that I always have in my wardrobe for "that" special occasion and that's the Little Black Dress.

As Christmas is fast approaching, ladies everywhere will be whipping out that little Black number from the back of their wardrobes, pulling together an outfit that will make them look and feel a million dollars.

Its silhouette has changed over the years but the LBD remains supremely chic.

My LBD - AX Paris £25

Many people claim that the LBD as we know it was invented by Coco Chanel.  In 1926, a picture of a simple short black dress by Chanel appeared in American Vogue and was dubbed “Chanel's Ford” after demand for Ford motorcars which were only available in Black, had soared at the start of the century.  The LBD was like the Model T car because it was accessible to women of all social classes.  Vogue said the dress was "a sort of uniform for all women of taste."

Simple in Black crêpe de Chine with long, narrow sleeves, worn with a string of pearls, Vogue proved to be correct in the prediction that it would become a uniform.

Before the 1920s, wearing the colour Black was strictly reserved for times of mourning.  It was considered indecent to wear it otherwise because mourning dresses were symbolic. During the Victorian era, a grieving widow was expected to wear black for at least two years.  Queen Victoria wore her mourning dresses for exactly 40 years!

The LBD maintained its popularity during World War II, due to the rationing of textiles.  It also became a sort of uniform for the droves of women heading to the workplace.  LBD's were popular in Hollywood during the Technicolor craze because a Black dress wouldn't clash with the other colours on the screen as a brighter dress might.

During the postwar conservative era of the 1950s and early 1960s, the LBD took a bit of a social hit.  Though still worn, it was seen as a little dangerous that the woman wearing it wasn't quite so pure as the conservative woman in Powder Blue.

But the Swinging 60s gave the LBD a bit of a revival, with the younger Mod generation sporting the mini dress invented by the fashion designer Mary Quant.  While the older more conservative set, looked to classic styles like the LBD worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.  That Black Givenchy cocktail dress worn in the film sold at auction in 2006 for £467,200!!!

In the 1980s, the LBD experienced a renaissance at the hands of designer Azzedine Alaïa, "the King of Cling".

The LBD has, for the most part, maintained its popularity through the decades since Chanel brought it into our lives in 1926.  Though it's had its stylistic variations from the Mod mini dress of the 1960s and big shoulders and peplum of the 1980s to the grunge in the 1990s, the motivation behind the dress has remained the same.  A LBD makes a woman feel beautiful and glamorous.  It's a long-lasting, versatile and affordable to a large market of women and is certainly here to stay.

We may not yet know how to have it all but it helps to have a reliable outfit that can do it all and will always makes us feel modern, capable, feminine and fun.

Me in my LBD


The History of the Boucle Jacket October 14 2013

The Boucle Jacket is a timeless design that every lady deserves to have in her wardrobe. But have you ever wondered about the history of this chic piece of fashion?

Boucle Jacket -Topshop
Black Patent Chain Bag - Local Boutique
Giant Pearl Necklace - Topshop
1950s Gold and Green Rhinestones Knot Brooch - For Sale on Betsy Blue £23.00

Created by Coco Chanel in 1954, the Boucle Jacket was inspired by menswear, straight and fluid with four real pockets, a trim in matching or contrasting tones, buttons stamped with famous Chanel logo or no buttons at all. 

The French designer had used originally used tweed for her designs in the 1930s because it was cheap and two decades on she was using a buckled tweed for her Boucle Jacket.  It was lined with Silk and a Brass chain that ran along the seam so it would fit and fall perfectly.

The jacket was made up of a multiple of panels so it could be adjusted 2 or 3 sizes up or down to fit every woman according to size.

Coco Chanel paired her genius jacket with knee-length wrap skirts to create an absolute freedom of movement and the jacket has graced our catwalks ever since.

Although the Boucle Jacket was more seen to be worn by the older and wealthier lady, today, young or old, who cares, they are all sporting the look.  You don't have to spend a small fortune for an inspired Chanel jacket.  Topshop, Asos, H&M and even Primark have versions that won't break your piggy bank.  

You can dress it up with a smart pair of trousers or you can dress it down with a pair of skinny fit jeans.  Wear it with a dress or a pencil or full skirt.  You can wear it to a wedding or you can simply wear it for a lunch date with the girls.  However you choose to wear it, the Boucle Jacket is pure class and one day I'm gonna own a real Chanel Boucle Jacket!  I best get looking on eBay then...!

Want to wear a brooch with your Boucle Jacket? Or any jacket for that matter!  There are several vintage brooches from the on Betsy Blue that will brighten up your outfit...

 


Lace & Tweed Vintage Fair June 01 2013

 

After a hearty breakfast in the greasy spoon near where I live, my friends and I went to Lace & Tweed Vintage Fair in Guildford.  "So does anyone know where we're going?" I asked.  "No..." everyone said in unison...  It was lucky that Rachel and I had looked this up on the map the day before because no one had a clue where it was although I had a rough idea.  Up the hill in Guildford town we trundled, up through Jeffries Passage (phnaar phnaar said the Actress to the Bishop) and there on the other side was the Holy Trinity Church with a big sign outside saying "Lace & Tweed Vintage Fair".

Set in a beautiful Anglican Red-brick church in the centre of Guildford, the Holy Trinity was built on the site of a Medieval Church that collapsed in the 18th Century.  It is thought the foundations of the church are Norman.  There were so many beautiful things on first sight, it was difficult to know where to start looking.  The first stall I stumbled across was a stall selling the  most beautiful 1920s and 30s dresses, some with their tags still on, having never been worn!

Musicians and a live DJ played on the stage and a backdrop of Black and White movies were being played.  We sifted through rails of clothes and mounds of jewellery.  Rhiannon had found a vintage scarf and I had spied a vintage brooch.  Lorna was umming and ahht's really hard going to a ring about a dress and Rachel was meant to be looking for a birthday present for her friend but ended up buying for herself!

With so many pretty things to buy and reasonably priced too, it can be all too easy to get carried away and spend a small fortune on stuff that you don't even want!  I was very good and managed to contain myself but then that's because I have trip to New York coming up and I was saving all my pennies for a trip to Brooklyn's flea markets and thrift shops.  Oh my God, I can hardly wait!!!

There was a hair and beauty pop-up parlour and Lorna said she wanted to have her hair and make-up done so we eagerly watched while she was made up 1940s style with me snapping away with the before and after shots.  For £10, Lorna had eyeliner flicked on her eyelids and Victory Rolls put in her hair and Lorna became Lana, a beautiful starlet from the 1940s!

Aww look how beautiful Lorna looks!

It was a unusually warm day today (yes I know it's the first day of June and June is in the Summer but it had been cold and raining that week) and Rachel and I were gasping for a drink, a cold drink.  Handy there was a large vintage tea room then!  I'd say this was the biggest bargain of the day because for £2.70 we got a cup of tea and plus a top up and a large slab of homemade cake!  Lemon Sponge, Carrot Cake, Victoria Sponge, Scones with Jam and Clotted Cream, Chocolate Brownies, the list went on...  There was even homemade lemonade!  After a hard morning of mooching, supping tea and scoffing cake was well deserved.

And best dressed goes this lovely lady...


Oh I do love to be beside the seaside! April 24 2013

After my ordeal from the weekend before doing the 5k obstacle run in Devon, I had marked in my diary the Bournemouth Vintage Fair for the following weekend.  I was still feeling pretty poorly and yes, you may laugh about how feeble I was being but I really was not well, I can only describe the pain as if flu were in my bones.  I think I may have even had slight hyperthermia from that day in Devon and still hadn't fully recovered because I just felt rough all week.

My friend Sarah and I set off in the morning down the M3 to be by the seaside for the day.  The fair itself was in the Pavillion which was built in the 1920s and had the splendour of Art Deco architecture and décor.  It is set just a little off the beachfront and was already very busy by the time we got there.

The Ballroom was where it was all happening and it was heaving with stalls selling their vintage wears.  Despite feeling poorly, I could hardly contain my excitement, there was just so much to see and I wanted to see it all there and then!  Sarah had to reel me in a bit and said, "We need to do this in an orderly fashion or we may miss out on seeing certain stalls and you don't want that."  "Er, yes..."  I replied, "You're right..." And she was.  Sarah's sensible, I’m not so sensible and we started to do the rounds!

As music from yesteryear blared out through the speakers, we mooched around at the vintage bags from the 1950s, we tried on sunglasses from the 1960s, we “oohed” and “ahhed” at the pretty vintage glass perfume bottles, we stared at the fur stoles from the 1940s and of course we made a beeline for the vintage brooches!

I had saved my pennies especially for the day and I managed to pick up three lovely brooches.

After a lovely afternoon, we had seen all that had to be seen and so we headed for the beachfront to blow the cobwebs away and by golly, did it blow!  The wind was so strong it could have swept you off the pier into the sea never to be seen again!  At that point, we decided to head off the Harry Ramsdens for a well deserved dinner of Fish and Chips.  Well, Scampi for me as I don’t do battered Cod!