I spend not an inconsiderable amount of time (and a reasonable amount of money) buying old stuff and if you’re reading this, I guess you might too. Boasting about your possessions isn’t attractive, so consider post this more of a shopping audit.
I’ve gone a bit cool on vintage fairs since my trip in the spring to Judy’s Vintage Kilo Sale. I might have had a different experience if I’d arrived early in the morning, but arriving just after lunch, I felt faced with quite a lot of stuff that I personally think wouldn’t make it into my local charity shop – I couldn’t find a kilo on which to spend my £15. (I also didn’t like that business buyers got first pick before the general public were allowed in.) One vintage fair that is worth a look, though, is the Funk Fair.
It was just chance that I came across the Funk Fair – there was a sign outside one of my local churches as I walked back from Tesco on a Saturday morning. It looks like the Fair alternates across two Edinburgh locations and also does sessions in Dundee. Its traders are local and cover clothing, accessories, furniture and bric-a-brac. There was really high-end stuff when I went, but you could also go with a fiver and still come out happy. I spent more than that, but not that much more, and came out with some experimentally-dyed underwear, a 1959 women’s magazine, a tea towel and colourful adverts from old magazines.
Yes, I’ve worn the – PREVIOUSLY UNWORN – red pants.* They are perfect Edinburgh pants: warm (what with being massive and thick) and they hold your stomach in (for the winter comfort-eating, which goes on 11 months a year in Auld Reekie). The now-blue open girdle – style 762R from Berlei’s Gay Slant range – reduces me by nearly a dress size, but combine it with heels and you may as well just wear manacles on your ankles. The magazine pages and tea towel are now in IKEA frames and brightening up our kitchen – thank you to Rhian Wright (AKA Rhian Wright Illustration) for the idea. Finally, the magazine provided a couple of evenings of interesting bedtime reading, but my favourite part is where someone has scribbled reminders on the front about the recipes (cod with banana stuffing, anyone?) and food adverts inside.
I really get a kick out of things which document household history, so one of my best finds this year was a copy of Better Home Making from a stall at the Meadows Festival at the start of June. The Meadows Festival is probably the closest thing my bit of South Edinburgh has to a village fête and it’s a good place to pick up old household items, books and clothes as well as a burger and some face painting. Better Home Making is an encyclopaedia of almost everything you might wish to know about running a house or raising a family if you were doing so around 1960. I paid around £3 for the book, which is slightly over the current going rate, but it provided me with some great pictures and insights for my earlier post “Single-Room Living”.
In preparation for my summer holiday in Greece, I did a bit of Ebay-ing. I’ve got an original 1950s sun dress that I wear to death in the heat – its full cotton skirt is cool and it’s not so skimpy as to make me self-conscious – so I tried to find another one like it. In the end, I opted for this white dress, which is made out of heavy linen and embroidered in blue – the embroidery was what attracted me. It was too big for me, and had quite a high neck and short sleeves that I didn’t like, so I took the sewing machine to it. I did think twice, but the dress is fairly crudely home-made anyway, so I guessed it would probably be quite forgiving of my efforts. I made a scoop neck out of the high V (I used a dinner plate as a guide), removed the sleeves and took in the bodice, adding a popper fastening on one side (previously, the dress just pulled on over the head). It’s not a fantastic piece of tailoring – if I was more skilled and patient, I would have added bust darts and tweaked the yoke – but it did the trick and the dress fulfilled its purpose.
A few weeks ago, at the start of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I picked up yet more postcards, this time at a stall in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket. I really can’t help myself when it comes to old postcards with messages on, but at 3 for £1, I guess there are more harmful compulsions. I’ve already written about one of them in my post “Father and Mr Thom”, so here are the other two:
13th June, 1923
just arrived in auld Reekie this morning weather sunny [?] and awfully windy. expect to see Mull Tomorrow. so will have my sky and kindest regards to all xxx
As always, help deciphering the writing I’ve transcribed as ‘XXX’ is very welcome.
13th August, 1910 [?]
The picture and colour on the second postcard are just great. Who were (or was?) the Huntly Johnnies?
Finally, last week, I saw something I would like to own in order to display all my shopping finds – a cabinet of curiosity. This seems to be a kind of lavish, portable museum that has been around for hundreds of years, one of which has recently been recreated by the University of Aberdeen. The Aberdeen reproduction has been inspired by the Augsburg Art Cabinet, shown here:
The University of Aberdeen is now loaning their cabinet out to Scottish schools so that pupils can curate their own collections of objects. What a brilliant opportunity is that?
* Gussets, like toothbrushes, should never be shared.
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