I’ve always been a little reticent about shopping for vintage. For one thing, I am a lazy shopper when it comes to clothes, preferring to walk into a boutique with a few rails and find exactly what I’m looking for laid out in front of me. What’s more, I’m convinced that vintage clothes are so small I will find myself falling through the dressing room curtain ripping a seam as the shop owner looks on in disgust.
So I was rather curious when Naomi Thompson of Vintage Secret invited me and some members of the H&A team for a vintage shopping trip in East London. Naomi has started a personal shopping service, taking clients out to her favourite haunts around Brick Lane and showing them which eras suit their shape and how to brave new styles.
‘Quite often people are scared to try things on,’ she says. ‘It can be quite overwhelming wading through racks of clothes. I want to dispel the myth that vintage is for a certain person. Everyone can wear vintage.’
Arriving wearing a patterned 1950s day dress, Naomi meets us at the Vintage Emporium & Coffee House just off Brick Lane where we start off with the obligatory tea and cherry pie in the upstairs café before heading down to the basement which can only be compared to a fashion museum. Exquisite flapper dresses, top hats, fur coats and Victorian bodices fill the rails and line the walls. It’s time to play dress-up.
At first we reluctantly pull on dresses Naomi picks out for us - making faces because it’s not anything we’d usually try. We’re surprised when they fit and look better than those we would have opted for ourselves.
‘Due to your height and straight figure, you really suit 1930s and 1970s dresses,’ Naomi tells me. For H&A houses editor Katie Hallett, bustier and with more delicate shoulders, she suggests 1940s. Meanwhile, stylist Kiera and designer Kirsty look fabulous in Fifties.
There’s not much give in vintage clothes (made long before the days of elastic) so it’s quite an art wrestling them on, but Naomi stays on the other side of the curtain in case you need some help.
‘No one gets stuck in a dress when I’m around,’ she says, as she deftly frees my head and arms from the confines of a homemade dress (golly, these women must have been tiny). Many dresses don’t have sizes, either, but Naomi can tell by eye.
Before too long, we’re all wiggling our way in and out of dresses and cooing ‘that’s so cute’ like proper retro ladies. If only I could have a personal shopper every time I hit the shops.
Rosanna Holmes, staff writer