News and Events – Fashion (Archive 2013)

Christmas Meeting

The Fashion Group had a wonderful venue for their Christmas lunch party thank you to Pat.

Everyone brought a selection of finger food and there was more than enough for us all to tuck in to, washed down with a glass of red or maybe white wine for the occasion. We followed with a cup of tea and the Fashion Group Christmas cake that Linda cut, she needed all her strength !

Secret Santa had gifts for everyone and we had a best designed Slipper competition judged by Mary. It was a hard choice as members of the group had put so much effort in to designing their fabulous slippers, however Pam Wood was chosen for the most stylish and unusual and won the prize, which she thought might be a pair of Jimmy Choos ! Alas all she won was Chocolate Chews, not Jimmy’s but she was still thrilled.

It was lovely to see all our members mixing and chatting to one another.
A lovely end to our first half year!

Mary and Ruth

A light hearted talk by Lee Ault

On the 26th November the Fashionistas met at The Quaker House for a talk by Lee Ault (Fashion/Costume Historian). The invitation went out from the Fashion Group to other members of the U3A to come and join us for the talk, which highlighted the period of fashion in the l920s and 1930s. On the day there were 40 members assembled at The Quaker House.  Lee gave a brief synopsis of her life as a Fashion Historian, having worked at the V & A, Tate Gallery, War Museum together with the Historic Houses Association. She was also The Curator of the Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs.

Lee, a very tall elegant lady, started by telling us that the dress she was wearing, a black pure silk floral dress, with matching bolero, had belonged to her great aunt, as many of the other clothes she was about to show had also belonged to her aunt. Her grandparents were quite wealthy and, therefore, could afford to buy high-end clothes.

The 1920s and 1930s was a hectic period in between the wars – either things were very good or very bad. There was The General Strike, The Wall Street Crash, The Jarrow Hunger March.

There were two major French designers at this time – Chapperelle and Coco Chanel. These were two amazing women, who designed amazing wearable clothes with style.

1920/25 there was almost a fashion revolution – different shapes, tube like dresses, no bust, no waist – no shape at all. Waists dropped to the hips and hemlines rose. Hair was cropped, topped by cheeky hats. Not everyone liked what was happening to fashion. Commentators said that loose dress led to loose behaviour, smoking, drinking and wearing make-up.

Lee had a large elegant vintage suitcase from which she began to pluck an array of beautiful vintage clothes. Each item she lovingly described in detail, the feel of the fabric, the weight of the item and where it would be worn.
A 1920s Chanel beaded top made in France weighing 2lb – with hand cut glass beads sewn by hand. A beautiful short gold beaded Flapper Cocktail Dress with fringing – but not for dancing this dress. Just to stand and pose, smoking a cigarette from a large cigarette holder and wearing makeup. Bronze leather, silk lined, diamond buttoned, very costly dancing shoes, given to Lee’s aunt on her 21st birthday.

A very glamorous black velvet evening coat from 1937 which just draped over her shoulders and stayed in place because of the weight of the fabric. Next was a beautiful 1935 crepe georgette dress, cut on the bias, with a floaty skirt and matching bolero.

Next out of the suitcase came the Liberty Bodice, which I and lots of the audience remember wearing when we were young girls. It was very comforting and warm to wear. The only problem was the buttons, which had to be made of rubber, so that they would not break when the bodice went through the mangle. We learned that the rubber button was invented by Mr Dunlop (the famous motor tyre man).

Then there were “Back Flap Knickers” made of cotton which had three buttons and had to be undone before you walked to the “Privy” at the end of the garden.
French silk cami-knickers which were called American Knickers – “One Yank and they come down”

Mary Jacobs, daughter of a very wealthy inventor, did not want to wear a corset. She took two silk handkerchiefs, folded them into a triangle, then tied them together and then tied them around her bust. This was when the first brassiere was born. In November 1914 she took out the first patent on the brassiere.

A deliciously beautiful l920s gossamer like lace Garden Party dress, almost see through, and as light as a feather, which I am sure any young woman would love to wear today.

In the late twenties hemlines dropped to calf length. These clothes were still shapeless, no bust darts, still dropped waist – just a plain all in one dress. But the early thirties came in and Madelaine Vernay made beautiful bias cut dresses, which clung to the body and showed a woman’s shape and made them feel like film stars. The Foxtrot, a slow romantic dance was the latest craze and women could dance wearing these floating silk dresses.

Chanel bought in the “little black dress” and Lee showed a pure silk Devore velvet long dress beautifully elegant, which could be worn two ways – low back to the bottom cleavage or low front – it depended how daring the wearer was!

Then out of the suitcase came more and more treasures from this most exciting era fashion wise. There were little beaded handbags, a Devore fringed shawl which was reversible, sparkly fans. A 1924 Camel Silk Bag, with Egyptian Silver frame. Fox Capes from the 1930s. A Sequin bolero circa 1936, a Beret designed to wear with an Eton Crop Hairstyle, tiny leather gloves, Hairnets to be worn with a Marcel wave – dinky curlers, a huge circular 1930s Sun Hat by Chanel to wear in The South of France was featured in Vogue Magazine. A Nightdress Case containing a silk slip type nighty. Beautifully feminine clothes.

The audience were mesmerised, as one after another, these stunning clothes from a bygone era, were paraded before them.

Lee concluded that these clothes were being preserved for future generations to enjoy as we had enjoyed them today. It takes a day to unwrap the clothes ready for a showing and a day to put them away. So delicate are they that they have to be wrapped in acid free tissue paper.
What a lovely way to spend a cold November afternoon. The Fashionistas enthusiastically showed their appreciation and Lee left us all with the feeling of wanting to hear and see more about the history of Fashion through the years.

Barbara Abrams

October 2013 – Shopping Trip

On Wednesday 10 October 2013 eight members of the Fashion Group met at Leigh Station for a trip to a Designer Sale held at Chelsea Old Town Hall. The Designer Sale was put on by Designer Sales UK and they hold sample sales throughout the year. Fashionistas are given the opportunity to grab high fashion and vintage pieces at high street prices.

On arrival at Sloane Square Station our first port of call was for refreshments at a place called Partridges in Duke of York Square, Sloane Street, It is one of the few family run food shops in Central London and it was opened in 1972 by a guy called Richard Shepherd; in 1991 his brother John entered the business. In 1994 Partridges was granted the Royal Warrant as Grocers to Her Majesty the Queen (little wonder the refreshments served there tasted divine!) and, in 2008, John Shepherd became President of the Royal Warrant Holders Association. It really is an amazing place to have coffee, etc. and where we sat that part of the restaurant/shop had been tastefully decorated for Halloween.

When we left Partridges we took a bus down the Kings Road to Chelsea Old Town Hall. Chelsea Old Town Hall is a classic example, i.e.. oflate-Victorian design and elegance with a marbled entrance hall, an ornate vaulted ceiling, marble columns and mahogany panelled walls and is situated adjacent to Chelsea Register Office. It includes a musicians’ gallery and a collection of original oil paintings. Chelsea Old Town Hall is also used for lectures, exhibitions, contemporary works of art and crafts exhibitions.

On arrival we were asked to leave our outer garments in the cloakroom and shown into the hall where various designers including James Lakeland, Pantage, Bittie Kai Rand and Mac Jeans (to name but a few) were on display for sale. Fortunately not too many people were there so we were able to browse and purchase at our leisure without being harassed or crushed. There was a communal changing room to try on garments and there was a good display of different shapes and sizes but for those who wanted advice or help it was a good way of exchanging views when trying on clothes.

Whilst in Chelsea Old Town Hall someone in the group who has a keen eye for people famously known recognised Lord `Charlie` Brocket (do you remember him?) We can only guess that he was there perhaps to purchase a garment/garments for his now partner. For those of you who may not remember him Lord Brocket inherited the family home, Brocket Hall, in 1971 and then took up his seat in the House of Lords. Brocket Hall was turned into THE premier high level conference venue in Europe,hosting numerous political summits and, in 1982, he built the first two championship golf courses.

The success of this venture led `Charlie` to build up one of the world’s biggest collections of Ferrari’s and Maserati’s. Unfortunately in 1991 there was a collapse in the car market which led to financial problems with the Ferrari car company, leading to Lord Brocket making a fraudulent insurance claim. Despite the claim being withdrawn and there being a `misdemeanour` the political issues at the time meant an example had to be shown and this resulted in Lord Brocket being imprisoned for a seven and a half year sentence and a tour of Her Majesty’s Prisons.

After we had spent a lot of time and money at the Sale we met at a local Restaurant called Le Pain Quoitidien where we had a superb lunch in great surroundings. After lunch we had photographs taken by a lady diner who kindly offered to `do the honours`. When we left the Restaurant the Fashionistas thought it may be a good idea to also have photographs taken on the steps of Chelsea Old Town Hall and, again a friendly passer-by was asked if she would take a photograph of us with our bags of goodies which she kindly agreed to do. (WAGs eat your hearts out – we U3A girls know how to do it!!).

A great day was had by all and we look forward to our next get-together.

Jan Maiden

Mich & Makeup – Airbrush makeup for all occasions – September 2013

What a lovely afternoon we had at Mary’s house – twelve ‘fashionistas’ out to have fun and in with a chance to feel extra glamorous. A name was drawn out of a hat for the lucky lady (Linda) to have Airbrush makeup applied by Michelle (aka Mich), the lovely make-up artist specialising in vintage and retro looks for any occasion, especially weddings – any U3A weddings coming up? – functions, events, maybe New Year’s Eve!

First of all – what is Airbrush makeup? It is makeup sprayed onto the skin using an airbrush instead of being applied with sponges, brushes, fingers, or other methods. It is popular in film, theatre, and sunless tanning; although systems designed for personal cosmetic use in the home are also available.

Mich quickly set up her tall Director’s chair and Linda climbed on board ready for her treat. Mich uses vegan, oil free products. The first stage is really about preparation of the skin, especially eradication of oils. Ideally skin should be exfoliated prior to the session. Useful tip – bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice works wonders as an exfoliator, but only once a week. Tea tree oil and witch hazel help to calm skin.

The primer was then sprayed on to the skin which settles the skin. Mich paid attention to any lines and open pores – of course Linda didn’t have many. The foundation colours were then mixed. Useful tip – we all tend to stick to the same colour throughout the year, but colours can be mixed according to the seasons. If the veins on the back of the wrists are green then there is a tendency towards yellow olive skin tone. If blue, then the person has red overtones.

Next stage was contouring – in Mich’s words “pushing back what you want to disappear” and “accentuating the positive”, e.g. jawline, central part of the nose. Then a highlighter was used with emphasis on the cheekbones. Final stage is to apply a blusher and a dusting of translucent powder, really the ‘icing on the cake’.

Everyone was very admiring of the end result. Linda looked lovely. Mich gave some tips on eyebrows, how to shape them, using a pencil and eye-shadow for colouring. It was time for tea – talking of cake we finished off the afternoon with some lovely cakes – one very appropriately decorated for the makeup theme. The airbrushing technique is waterproof and can last for up to three days, providing you don’t wash!

We all learnt so much – a wealth of beauty tips to take away and practice plus an idea of useful products to buy – remember you don’t always have to spend a fortune on brushes or powders.

For your shopping list, or perhaps Christmas list!

• Duo fibre brush for lightweight application and blending of face powder – recommended website

• Useful tip – an artist brush can be used to remove flecks of unwanted makeup

• Translucent powder – Corn Silk from Boots – less expensive and just as good

• Eye liner – Maybelline Eye Studio Gel Liner

Shirley Britten

Fashion Group’s trip to Bacchus

On Tuesday, 27th August 2013, the Fashion Group met at Bacchus in Alexandra Street, Southend for afternoon tea.

We decided that we would “dress up” and wear dresses, hats and gloves for the occasion. Ruth and I were so pleased that everyone who attended had made a very special effort and all our ladies looked very glamorous! As each person arrived there was much “oohing” and “aahing” over each others’ outfits.

As it was a very hot afternoon and we had been laced under the glass roof we asked if we could be moved, which caused a bit of a stir – but eventually we were settled in another area of the room. We then relaxed and were served sandwiches, scones and cakes and plenty of pots of tea.

Many photos were “posed” for and a good time was had by all.

Thank you to our members who attended and contributed to a very enjoyable afternoon.


Fashion Group’s trip to the V&A 30th July 2013

Oh what a lovely time we had, the day we went to the V&A! Some nine intrepid “fashionistas” (some a little damp, thanks to an impromptu shower) met at Leigh station last Tuesday to see the exhibition of fashion from the 19th century through to the present day. We gazed in wonder at wasp-like waists (all down to extreme corsetry we assured ourselves!) of court dresses, enormous bustles created by yards of underskirt on hoops, beautiful hand painted fans and delicate shoes, made from finest silk on leather.

We noted the influence of the orient and the gradual transformation to more modern modes of dress, arriving at the 20s and 30s, when fashion discarded the cumbersome shapes and tortuous underwear in favour of shapeless shift dresses, which disguised the female form, thus becoming very liberating. This was the era of the Charleston, after all! The look was further enhanced by boyish haircuts; so easy to manage.

Onwards to the 50s and a return to more conventional displays of femininity. Tiny waists again the order of the day- oh those hour glass figures and what elegance, with forties was the era of Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Schiaperelli; think Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.

In with the 60s, 70s and 80s and the arrival of the catwalk designers, King’s Road and shops such as Biba. Vivienne Westwood heralded the arrival of the punk era and other designers, such as Balenciaga, produced clothing that was rarely seen beyond the catwalk or adopted by the wider public. The introduction of man made fibres
meant that fabrics became more fluid and versatile, although these were sometimes mixed with natural fibres, such as wool and silk.

After a great lunch, thanks to Mary, who had done some careful research of nearby restaurants, as well as organising our outing, we found a great place to eat and all
enjoyed a variety of beautifully presented salads, not to mention a very welcome glass of wine!

Suitably refreshed, we returned to see the “Club to Catwalk” exhibition, which brought us bang up to date with a collection of night club wear. By four o’clock, we had completed our visit and made our way back to the station, happy and contented with a day well spent and in good company.

Many thanks Mary!

Fashion Group first meeting

Nine members attended the inaugural meeting of the Fashion Group on 25 June 2013 in the sunshine on the balcony of Ruth’s apartment. There are currently fourteen members in the group and, as some of the meetings are planned to be held in members’ homes, it is considered that this should be the maximum number.

Everyone was asked to share their interest in fashion and what they were hoping to gain by being a member of this group. All wanted to share their experiences and continue their interest in fashionableclothes, accessories and make-up, and exchange ideas and places to shop. Several members would like to research the history of fashion.

We had been asked to bring an item of clothing/accessory from our past, if possible, photograph to accompany it, and tell its story. Several lovely leather and lizard skin handbags, pretty Italian bags, high wedge heeled sandals, stiletto heeled pointed toed shoes, circular skirts, fox furs, lace and leather gloves, velvet evening
dress, 1970s dresses and Biba trouser suit and short Biba dress with their accompanying stories made for a very entertaining afternoon.

Ruth has already contacted a speaker for a talk on the History of Fashion but the fees are prohibitive for a small group and it was suggested that the talk should be open to all members of Leigh Estuary U3A or as a topic for the monthly meeting.

Ruth’s protestations that she couldn’t cook scones) Ruth and Mary took the group through the programme they have drawn up for the next few months:

Any ideas and suggestions for future meetings would be appreciated and Jenny Joseph’s poem ‘Warning’ (When I am an old woman) was suggested as a background for a future fun ‘at home’ meeting.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and, from the conversations as we left, think everybody else did too.