Today I’m continuing my mission to share all of my original vintage dresses on here. Continuing from last week when I shared one of my original 1950s dresses. Today I’m featuring another of my very favourite dresses, this time its a Swirl. I talked about Swirl wrap dresses in a post a few years ago, when I wore my black and white one. They are one of my favourite brands to collect and this particular dress is the highlight of my collection.

I spotted this dress at Twinwood Festival back in August and it was love at first sight. I had absolutely zero shopping budget while I was there. I kept coming back to it though. I absolutely love anything with a fruit print and being a big fan of Swirl dresses I knew I couldn’t let it get away.

The stallholders kindly offered to bring it to the Mid Century Market in London the following month and had it waiting for me when I got there. I’m so glad I got to make it mine! I bought it from Shazam, who are best known for their incredible vintage style hair flowers. They also sell original vintage pieces at fair and festivals. It wasn’t cheap at around £80, but this dress is one that I plan to keep forever. Although most of my clothes are bargains, I will invest in special pieces for my collection if I know I will love and wear them for a long time.

I’ve worn the dress with my yellow Miss L Fire shoes, which I can’t stop wearing at the moment. They are such summery shoes, that I pair them up with everything at this time of year. I’ve also added a hair flower and a stack of bakelite – my go to accessories for nearly every outfit! Beppe the cat also wanted to be included, this is his OOTD debut and he I think he poses like a pro.

One of the things I love about Swirl dresses is their distinctive cut and style. They fasten with a button at the neck and wrap around the back, with ties at the front. The basic design of all Swirls is the same, but the finishes and patterns vary immensely. I particularly like the 50s versions which their big patch pockets.

This fabulous advert from the 50s shows how a Swirl is worn. Image from The Vintage Traveller (used with permission)

First produced in America in 1944 and manufactured well into the 70s, the design changed very little. This makes them a great type of dress to collect. Being wrap dresses the sizing can be a little tricky and I have been caught out before buying them a bit too small, so its always worth double checking the measurements.

You can find out a lot more about the company on The Vintage Fashion Guild website and The Vintage Traveller has some really informative posts on Swirls. I decided not to write too much about the history of the brand, as these two sources have done it so much better than me.

Image from The Vintage Traveller (used with permission)

Swirl dresses are very popular and collectible today. They are more common in the States than they are over here, but they do pop up on Ebay and Etsy from time to time. They aren’t usually ridiculously priced and if I see something I really like I’ll often get it from abroad. I find Swirls are generally in pretty good condition, as they were well made from good quality cotton and were designed to be worn and washed frequently. They have definitely stood the test of time and are still a handy and comfortable addition to a wardrobe.I am completely in love with this novelty print Swirl dress on Etsy at the moment, and just wish it was my size so I could buy it!

Heyday is the only reproduction company who do a style similar to a Swirl. Their Fleur dress is inspired by Swirls and comes in a lovely selection of prints. I’m wearing one in this post from a few years ago.

This patchwork print dress from Heyday pays tribute to the Swirl wrap dresses of the past. 

This lovely duck print dress from Heyday shows how both the Swirls and Fleur dresses fasten at the back.

 Writing this post had made me want to dig out my other Swirls and get some pictures, so watch this space and I’ll be showing them very soon as well.

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A couple of weeks ago I returned to Bath for yet another visit to one of my very favourite cities. This time it was to attend a couple of amazing talks for Bath in Fashion as well as a rather fantastic vintage fair. It was the perfect day for me, I love a long train journey where I can gaze out of the window at the British countryside or get stuck into a great book and then look at lots of wonderful vintage clothes.

The day was especially nice because I got to meet two lovely vintage blogging ladies. Knowing we would be in Bath at the same time Sarah from the blog Porcelina’s World invited me for lunch with a couple of her friends and Mim from Crinoline Robot. Both ladies write fantastic blogs and it was great to meet up with two people who love vintage as much as I do. We had a lovely roast dinner at The Bath Brewhouse before rushing over to Bath Function Rooms for the first of the two talks we were attending.

Bath BrewhouseMy lovely lunch at The Bath Brewhouse, we were too busy chatting to get any pictures of us!

The first speaker was Nicky Albrechtsen, avid vintage collector and author of the very impressive Vintage Fashion Complete. Her book is one of the very best I’ve read on vintage fashion and covers so much ground that it is a must read for any fashion enthusiast. I have been planning to review the book for a while now and promise to have it up soon.

Nicky Albrechtsen 1930s Cardigan

 Beautiful details on a 1930s cardigan from Nicky’s collection.

Nicky’s love of fashion from all eras really shone through and it was amazing to hear all about her collection and how she had picked up various pieces over the years. She collects vintage from all eras and doesn’t always focus on designer items but more on amazing pieces that are beautiful and timeless. As someone who likes to mix up my eras it was really refreshing to hear her talking about pieces on merit rather than too create a replica vintage look.

She also brought along several wonderful pieces from her collection as well as the stunning striped 1930s dress which is featured on the cover of her book and was rescued by her from a bin! Nicky’s collection of vintage clothing is so extensive that it is housed in a warehouse and is used as a reference point for designers and costume departments.

Vintage Fashion Complete 1930s Dress

Vintage Dresses Nicky Albrechtsen

 Two wonderful dresses from Nicky’s collection. The black one is a CC41 utility dress from the 1940s. The red one is a 1970s Gnyuki Torimaru dress made from a circle of fabric. How beautiful are all those drapes and details!

Between the talks I had a good look round the BathVA vintage fair which featured some really fantastic sellers. I love a fair where the majority of sellers have older pieces and early everything there was pre 1960s. There was also a great mix of home items, ephemera and fashion. Highlights for me included lots of cotton 40s and 50s dresses and some beautiful vintage silk lingerie.

Bath VA Vintage Fair

Vintage Accessories Bath VA Vintage Fair

I was very restrained and only bought two things. I picked up a pair of vintage seamed stockings for £3 and a beautiful vintage girdle for £28. The girdle is absolutely amazing and has some pretty strong boning. It is a struggle to get into but once on the shape is absolutely amazing! I’d been wanting one like this for ages so I was happy to finally get my hands on one in my size.

Vintage Girdle

 My new vintage girdle with some stocking boxes from my collection.

We then returned to the function rooms for a talk by the ‘king of vintage’ himself, William Banks-Blaney. I have followed William on twitter for quite a few years now and I am always blown away by the pieces he finds for his Marylebone shop. William is known for supplying celebrities with the most amazing vintage ensembles for the red carpet and his knowledge of vintage couture is incredible. William travels the world hunting out the most iconic pieces of clothing from some of the worlds most well known designers. The highlight for me would have to be a 1920s little black dress by Chanel which he sold.

William has just published his first book Twenty-Five Dresses. The book looks at the dresses which really changed the history of 20th Century fashion and what the social reasons were behind the designs. The dresses really tell the story of the lives of women at the time as well as the designers behind them. William picked 4 dresses from the book to talk us through and we were all blown away by his knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject. I feel like in the 45 minutes he was talking I learned an incredible amount and I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on his book.

I was really grateful to have been invited to attend the talks by Bath in Fashion and now I can’t wait to go again next year. I might even try and attend the whole week as it really is an amazing series of events.

A few days ago I popped to Bath for the press view of a fantastic new exhibition at The American Museum in Britain. The museum is housed in the beautiful Claverton Manor a stately home hidden in the hills surrounding the city. The museum celebrates the history of the United States through textiles, artefacts, recreated rooms and art. The items on display are quite astounding and the period rooms were a real highlight for me. I was also impressed with the large collection of american quilts dating over several centuries that were on display.

Hatched, Matched, Dispatched - and Patched!

The new exhibition which launched this weekend explores life from birth to death through textile items. The amusing name refers to the birth, marriage and death announcements in newspapers which are sometimes referred to as hatched, matched and dispatched. I was drawn to the exhibition for many reasons firstly my huge interest in fashion and social history, but also all the lace items on display. My own grandma used to buy and sell antique clothing especially lace items and I’ve grown up with a real appreciation for the history of lace, so the christening gowns and lace trim on the bridal gowns was especially fascinating.

The exhibition features historic quilts the earliest dating back to 1700-10, as well as mementos and garments. These stitched memories and treasures have been passed down through many generations and not only have the items been preserved, but also the stories and memories behind them. Some celebrate happy occasions while other hold sadder tales of mourning and lost love. Through the objects on display we can understand the importance of textile items in celebrating the significant occasions that happen through our lives.

The items on display are both those belonging to the museum and some have been borrowed from further afield including from the collections of the Beamish Museum, Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, the Quilters Guild and the Jen Jones Collection.

Hatched Matched Dispatched Patched Christening Gowns

The exhibition which is housed in a separate building beside the main house, walks us through the life cycle starting with Hatched which explores items associated with birth. There is an exquisite collection of beautiful christening gowns featuring intricate hand made lace.

Hatched Matched Dispatched and Patched Christening Gowns

Other items on display include elaborate lace baby bonnets and cot quilts. The quilts are all beautifully hand stitched and feature many different techniques and designs.

Hatched Matched Dispatched and Patched Baby Quilts and Christening Gowns

My favourite piece from this section was a precious little pin cushion. Pincushions carefully decorated with elaborate patterns were a common gift after the birth of a new baby. In Colonial New York births were announced by hanging pin cushions on door knockers. This functional gift became less popular after 1878 when safely pins were invented.

The pin cushion on display dates from 1821 and features a beautiful poem, the decoration is absolutely lovely. This pincushion required lots of conservation work as over time it had become very damaged.

Hatched Matched Dispatched Patched Welcome Little Stranger Pin Cushion

Moving on from birth we look at Matched, this section houses bridal garments, shoes and quilts which were all made to celebrate the happy occasion of marriage. Some of the quilts on display are absolutely exquisite. The log cabin quilt shown behind this lovely wedding dress (top right) was constructed between 1863 and 1886. It features thousands of tiny pieces of fabric and was made by Ellen Bryant in preparation for her marriage in Vermont. The backing was made by her sister and was completed several years later.

Hatched Matched Dispatched Patched 1970s Wedding Dress

The exhibition shows off several significant garments relating to engagement and marriage. One of the most beautiful pieces is the daffodil dress, which although stunningly beautiful conceals a tragic story. The gorgeous silk dress was embroidered by Hennriette Leonard as part of her bridal trousseau. Shortly before her marriage she traveled to Europe and sadly contracted an illness and died. She never got to wear her beautiful dress and it appears to have been packed away by her family and safely stored in her memory.

Hatched Matched Dispatched Patched Daffodil Dress

Another dress was worn by Agnes Lucy Hughs on her wedding. She was Wallace Simpson’s mother in law on her first marriage. Her dress is absolutely beautiful and features beautiful lace and pearl details.

Hatched Matched Dispatched Patched Agnes Lucy Hughs Wedding Dress 1887The bridal dresses are all exquisite, I loved looking at the beautiful lace and the lovely details. Modern wedding dress designers could definitely take inspiration from these lovely designs.

Hatched Matched Dispatched Patched Wedding Dress, veil and shoes

Hatched Matched Dispatched Patched Wedding DressFinally the saddest part of the exhibition is Dispatched. This area explores the process of grief and morning through clothing, jewellery and quilts. One of the most interesting things on display are the burial skirts. Some women would make these quilted skirts to be buried in. They are very rare as most examples would have made it to the grave. However one of the skirts on display was made by two sisters who left it behind when they moved.

Htached Matched Dispatched Patched Mourning Clothes and Burial Skirts

There is also a considerable amount of jet jewellery and beading on display. Jet is a common embellishment of mourning clothing because of it’s colour. I have a beautiful piece of Whitby Jet in my collection which was passed down to me from my grandmother.

Hatched Matched Dispatched Patched

One of the finest quilts on display is the Album Top Quilt which dates from 1862. It features several quotations from psalms which are commonly read at funerals indication that is was made to commemorate a death. It is likely that the deceased was a victim of the American Civil War due to several appearances of Lady Liberty holding the Union Flag.

Hatched Matched Dispatched Patched Album Top QuiltA final very sad piece is an embroidered table cloth dating from 1944. This was embroidered by the British fiancé of an American soldier. It was embroidered in the months leading up to D-Day and features the names of several British women and American soldiers. Helen Slater embroidered the signatures of her friends onto the plain linen tablecloth. The tablecloth remains eternally unfinished and the threaded needle left halfway through embroidering a name. She abandoned the project after hearing that her beloved fiancé had been killed. She shut it away in a drawer with a book he had given her and kept it safely hidden for 70 years until her own death. A poignant reminder of the heartbreaking stories that these moments of the past can represent.

Hatched Matched Dispatched Patched, Table Cloth and book

I absolutely loved this exhibition, as well as being fascinating it also touched me on a personal level and gave a tantalising glimpse into the lives of the long gone owners of the items and their personal histories. The pieces on display were exquisite and from a historical point of view they are all real treasures. I would highly recommend making the trip to see the exhibition which runs until 1st November 2015.

Find out more on The American Museum Website.