"It was 23 years ago that I literally took my first steps into the Vintage World. I was working as a reporter on the Watford Observer Newspaper and had to attend a jive course to write a feature on it.
I turned out to be taught by the amazing Robin and Collette, organisers of the Rhythm Riot, who used to run Maddy’s Jive School. I was hooked by the music and this form of dancing where you did your own thing but learnt all these exciting moves to use.
Once I’d attended the course I began going to events such as the Rhythm Riot, Twinwood, the York Festival of Vintage and to see performers ranging from Lola Lamour to Si Cranstoun at smaller places like the 101 Club. It was then I was really hit by the fashion side of things. I couldn’t believe how gorgeous and feminine all these ladies around me looked.
I began wearing a few items as I was so unsure of what suited me. I bought a few circle skirts, wiggle dresses, sarongs, halter neck circle dresses and the odd petticoat to experiment and try to find my own style. No one I knew had any interest in rock n roll and certainly not the clothing so at first I just wore items when I attended events. I’ve been pretty much the odd one out for a fair few of the interests in my life – I ride a motorcycle, I sew vintage clothing, and I run my own business, Lovingly Labelled which produces personalised gifts. I’ve also spent the majority of my time living in areas where I stand out anyway as a Black woman in a predominately White area. None of that has ever bothered me and in my village I am known as the Vintage Lady! I have never felt embarrassed about wearing my “odd” clothes as part of my everyday look when everywhere you look people conform to the current mode of dress. My mother insists that as a child I was ridiculously strong willed and refused to allow her to dress me because she loved to clash everything! She used to despair over my refusal to throw things together as I insisted they had to complement each other (and this was at age six!) as she loves mixing things up. Thankfully she loves my own style on me – and I have two younger sisters who share her enthusiasm for wildness.
Over the years I discovered Dior’s New Look was the one for me – I adore full circle skirts, swing dresses and big, big, big petticoats (I now own 26 petticoats!). Knitted twinsets and turned up 1940s/50s trousers and jeans with the buttons down the side are also my favourites on winter days. When the V&A museum held the exhibition, Dior – Designer of Dreams, this time last year, I went eight times and literally drooled over his beautiful designs.
It was such a collection of beautiful pieces and my friends who attended shared my enthusiasm.
Discovering vintage and finding Facebook groups like Collectif Vintage Love and Therapy has definitely been one of the best parts of my journey. I have found the vintage world to be so accepting and welcoming. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anyone to start with, by the end of an event you will have made new friends. It really is a case of loving vintage fashion but not the vintage values. Through it I have met some absolutely wonderful women who can be relied upon to share my enthusiasm for shopping at vintage fairs as well as high street vintage stores or meeting up for drinks. It has been lovely to have like-minded girlies
to go to events with that I’d never heard of before, like Pin up Picnic in the Park.
In fact last year I was booked to go the Rhythm Riot for the first time in years, with my hubby who then discovered it clashed with a stag do he wanted to go on. I was so happy that I didn’t need to cancel it because I felt comfortable rearranging with some of the new friends I’ve made. It proved to be one of the best weekenders I’ve attended with a lot of laughter, shopping, chatting into the early hours over toast and crying with laughter. Discovering and sharing our journeys as we work on improving ourselves – everything from unravelling the
mysteries of the best foundation garments to discovering the best rum - could be shared with these lovely ladies.
After wearing repro on and off for years I decided to stop wearing Muggle clothing entirely two years ago after my husband asked me why I didn’t just wear it all the time since I seem so much happier on the days I do! I’ve realised that whilst I’ve never been so covered up – I’ve never felt so feminine either! I work from home and have done for years but had to temporarily close my business during lockdown. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that continuing my usual routine of dressing everyday as if I were leaving the house became an essential part of keeping my morale up.
As I have an Instagram account and a blog I kept them updated throughout lockdown and found I was being asked many questions about the confidence or lack of to wear vintage/repro, coping with being stared at, and the strangest thing of all is people whose nearest and dearest all feel the need to tell them that they don’t like what they wear.
Personally I feel that is emotional blackmail – unless you’re out and about in your birthday suit, which is pretty much illegal in any country, then what does it matter what you wear? I urge people with confidence issues to start small. Whether it’s a dress without the petticoat, or just flowers in your hair, then wear it with a smile. Focus on how you feel when you look in the mirror and wrap yourself in it, take that feeling with you throughout the day. If you’re unsure about where to go, try and arrange a coffee date with a good friend or go for dinner.
Those few hours dressed in your best are a great confidence booster and soon you’ll want to increase the time you spend in your non-Muggle clothing.
My beloved husband has no interest in the 50s except to enjoy live music. We’ve been together nine years and out of the blue two years ago he decided he was going to learn to jive so that he could “twirl me around the dance floor”. I would love to see him in turned up jeans and a Hawaiian shirt but he doesn’t care about the fashion of the noughties let alone the 50s! He lives in shirts, knee-length shorts and flip flops for 3/4s of the year and I’m grateful if he pulls on jeans and a blazer for any important family events (although he can be
relied upon to wear a suit if needed)
As I always dress as if I’m going be on the front page of a vintage mag even if I’m sat indoors, he often asks me if I mind what he wears or care that we’ll look so different as we walk down the street hand in hand. I always reply “If you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing then I don’t care”. By the same token I wear what I want, when I want – which he’s also supportive of - although he really doesn’t like my high waisted jeans and trousers (to which I say “tough!”).
I love getting dressed – the colour co-ordination, the matching my mood or fitting the occasion, and the colour to enhance it, the fun of choosing accessories from hair snoods or ribbons to brooches and bangles which complete the outfit. And let’s not forget the shoes.
One thing I never had any doubt about was my love of reproduction shoes. If I could I would buy shares in Rocket Originals!!
That’s why I love shops like Rockamilly – the ability to have more than one brand to choose from gives great opportunity to try out new styles. Rockamilly was also most definitely a life saver recently with the Erstwilder Woodland release. I was able to achieve that miracle of getting everything I wanted from their stock.
So what’s in store for me? I’m enjoying my daily vintage journey and the challenge of finding that next great accessory! I’m looking forward to once again seeing my friends (and family) in the flesh and jiving the night away. And if there’s one thing that Covid-19 has taught me it’s not to take any of that for granted again!
Love Yana x"