Simply Sublime

On vintage, violets and vanadium


Finally, beautiful weather! I had a fabulous weekend in the sunshine, some friends from Bristol came to visit so we sat in the sun with Pimm’s and patriotic battenberg before watching some Eurovision (I don’t want to admit this but… I kinda loved Jedward. I know. I’m sorry.)

Then on Sunday, we went for a long walk to The Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester.  It’s quite famous I think, or at least a lot of famous people have been there (they seem particularly proud of Rupert Brooke) and it’s really beautiful. Plus, cream tea and deckchairs! What’s not to love? Here I am posing on a bridge on the way there, in another Vivien of Holloway dress (I did wear a lovely vintage dress on Saturday but forgot to take pictures again - I will get better at this, hopefully!).


Anyway, I like repro dresses in summer because they tend to be easier to clean and take care of and you don’t have to worry so much about snagging them on brambles and so forth if you go for a 9 mile trek through fields, and I love this dress particularly because it was one of the first ‘treat’ dresses I ever bought for myself and it make me feel amazing whenever I put it on! 


As you can see, I was really enjoying brandishing my parasol. Not sure how much sun protection it actually provides but I love it anyway. I want to get more in different colours, but I don’t think the boy would approve, we’re short on space as it is and my wardrobe is…. fairly significant. The tanned Amazon next to me is HJ, an ethical fashion expert who is very knowledgeable about all things green, handmade, upcycled etc.  We had some lovely chats about vintage fashion and I now feel quite inspired to dust off the sewing machine, buy some vintage sewing patterns from eBay and get creating! I also feel like I’ll have to do a science-related post soon to balance out all of the recent clothes rambling…

Just to finish off, here is a cow.

I tried to make friends, but it was having none of it…

Vintage Fair!

This weekend the boy and I both visited our preferred places of worship - me, a vintage fair, and him, B&Q. The fair was Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair at the Guildhall in Cambridge and it was pretty fabulous! I did go to one of these events in my first year here, but unfortunately I was extremely hungover (stay classy, me!) so I didn’t really get to enjoy myself much, although I did pick up a gorgeous gold brocade skirt. This time, I was prepared! Tape measure packed, money withdrawn, strict instructions to myself to focus on separates and accessories as I have plenty of dresses already, and so on.

Anyway, I am a terrible blogger because I didn’t take any pictures whilst I was there. I know! Rubbish. I was too busy rummaging and trying things on, and getting a little bit manic because THE BEST THING HAPPENED!! One of the ladies running the event came up to me just after I arrived and told me I had won one of five medals for best dressed, and was being entered into a draw to win £50 towards things from the fair. I was excited enough by the medal (it says WINNER on it!), but then I won the £50 too!! I was amazed, and obviously over the moon. I bought a beautiful green and white summer dress (I know I wasn’t going to buy dresses, but I wasn’t expecting them to be free…), a red and white striped ruffled blouse that I’m absolutely in love with, a pearl ring that reminded me of one Elizabeth Taylor had, and four pretty mismatched vintage teacups with saucers. I almost bought a contraption for slicing eggs into wedges because I absolutely adore kitchenware with one really specific purchase (I already have an apple slicer, a melon baller, and a turntable for icing cakes) but I put it back after a warning glance from the boy…

Anyway, without further ado, here is my prizewinning outfit -

This picture was taken after I got home, so I’m a little rumpled! The dress is a Vivien of Holloway Tea Dress and is one of the very few dresses I own that actually fits perfectly at the bust and at the waist, so I want to get one in every colour! Also it doesn’t need ironing which is such a huge bonus, I hate ironing. I think in future I’ll have to find somewhere a little more inspiring than the patio to take outfit photos… there were some pictures of me taken by other people at the event, I’ll have to keep my eye out for them although I expect I’ll be grinning like crazy in all of them!

The fair itself was much less hot and busy than I remembered (although the lack of hangover may account for that), and there was an area devoted to tea and cake which made the boy very happy, especially after I’d dragged him around various stalls for two hours. The goods on offer were mostly clothes, with a few homewares, prints and accessories - a lot of jewellery but not many hats, which was a shame as I was on a bit of a hat mission! The clothes varied in decade, I think the majority were from the 60s to the 80s, although often older in style.

All in all I had a great time and would really recommend it, particularly for more ‘everyday’ pieces. There were evening dresses available, but most of the clothes were more wearable day-to-day things that could easily be paired with high street pieces to create a unique look, and it really was affordable - some stalls had ‘Dresses £15 or two for £25’ type deals, and the majority of items were under £30. I love that commitment to making good vintage pieces accessible, and I really enjoyed talking to the stallholders, seeing what vintage meant to them and how passionate they were about the things they sold. I was going to take a picture of all of my new treasures, but I think I’ll wait until they pop up in outfit posts - the trip to B&Q was to buy wood to build deckchairs, so hopefully if the weather improves in the near future you’ll get a picture of me sunning myself in my new dress, lounging in my new deckchair with a glass of Pimm’s and a good book! In the meantime, here’s another picture of me with my medal - I’m so proud it’s ridiculous!


I want a wise teapot friend…

Last weekend I went to see Beauty and the Beast 3D. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite Disney films (The Little Mermaid is my absolute favourite, and The Lion King and Aladdin are pretty high on the list) so I was very excited! It also gave me a nice opportunity to wear a dress I picked up recently on eBay which I am a bit in love with even though I should probably steer clear of shoulder pads. 

Here I am dancing around on my patio, trying not to take any deep breaths in case the middle popper bursts open! This happened quite a lot during the evening, I think I’m  going to have to unpick it and sew it back on a little closer to the middle. The poppers in between the buttons means that the dress fastens very securely, and it’s thick wool too so nice and snuggly! Very important seeing as cinemas seem to be absolutely freezing these days, I had to put my coat, scarf and eventually gloves on during The Avengers a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I’m just getting old!

I’m also wearing a really pretty hair flower but I promptly lost it. I meant to go hunting for it the next day but came down with tonsillitis and have spent most of this week in bed! Still, the film was lovely and I’m very happy with the dress. My boyfriend isn’t too keen on my hair rolled under like this, but I quite like it. I think the key is to keep it fairly loose, with not too much hairspray or it gets a bit helmety and starts veering into Margaret Thatcher territory - something I generally try to avoid at all costs!

Beauty Essentials - Hand Cream

I don’t think I would have considered hand cream a beauty essential before I started working in a lab. More of an afterthought, I’m fairly sure I didn’t tend to buy a separate cream for my hands, just rub my hands together after moisturising my face. Now I’m an addict, keeping a big bottle of Vaseline Hand and Nail Lotion in the office (which everyone helps themselves to) and saving my lovely L’Occitane hand cream for myself. I bought the Vaseline lotion from the local chemist, mainly because it comes in a large bottle so would last a bit longer, and it’s fairly cheap. I like it because it’s not too greasy and it doesn’t have much of a smell so boys are happy to use it too, but it isn’t very intensive- I don’t think I would use it as my only hand cream. When you wash your hands ten times a day and handle solvents which dry your skin out, you need a pretty serious cream, which is where this comes in…
My hero, L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream (Travel size). From the reviews and awards it’s won it seems that a lot of other people also consider this cream a beauty essential!

I got this for my birthday and I absolutely love it. At £8 for the 30mL travel size it’s a bit pricier than I would usually go for, but I think I’ll have to reinvest when I run out - it feels so luxurious, all thick and silky, with a lovely buttery scent that isn’t too overpowering. And it does the job! Last winter my hands got very chapped and sore, but this year they’ve been much better. It seems to last quite a long time too as you can use it quite sparingly, so it probably works out well in terms of cost-per-use (I am very good at finding justification when it comes to buying things I want!). Obviously cost wise it would also make sense to get the bigger size…


Easter nibbles!

This Saturday the boy’s family came to visit before he dashed off to Switzerland, so I wanted to bake some Easter treats. My first thought was homemade hot-cross buns or chocolate cornflake nests with mini eggs (classic), but as soon as I mentioned simnel cake to the boy he went nuts - seriously, I think he has a marzipan problem. Then again I can’t really talk, sometimes all I want to eat is mustard. Face-burning, delicious mustard. 

I decided to make these simnel cupcakes rather than one big cake, and because I think they look adorable.
They were very popular on Saturday, I’m not always a fan of fruit cake and these were very dense and sticky but the size made them manageable and they were perfect with tea. I also really liked just cutting discs of marzipan for icing, very quick and it looked so neat (and made the boy very happy). I would consider doing that with normal cupcakes as sometimes buttercream or cream cheese frosting can be a bit much, and marzipan is very easy to colour and shape. It’s a possibility anyway. I hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend! I’m a little disappointed it wasn’t sunny enough for a picnic, I’m determined to have one soon…

What Katie Did

So, last weekend I went to Southampton to see my best friend, which was amazing. We drank Cava, ate Caribbean food, watched Black Books in our PJs and then on Saturday evening went to see a Michael Bublé tribute act! It was really good fun, and when she gets back from France and sends me the pictures I might write about it in more detail (partly because it was fun and partly because I got loads of comments about my outfit and hair!)

On the way back to Cambridge on Sunday I popped by Portobello to see another friend from Uni, and used the opportunity to visit What Katie Did, a lingerie store specialising in reproduction vintage styles.

The Marlene bullet bra, suspenders and knickers - want!

I’d looked at their website in the past and several times almost bought one of the gorgeous bullet bras, but stopped myself because of some uncertainty with the sizing. They don’t stock my normal size, and I didn’t want to order the nearest equivalent and then have the hassle of sending it back. Also, I think with bras it is important to try them on, particularly if it’s an unusual shape or style. I was very excited to go to the store and was determined to leave with a bullet bra, even if I had to wrestle myself into it - I love beautiful lingerie and shapewear anyway and having the right underpinnings can really make a look, both in terms of creating the right shape and in making you feel more authentic (and sexy, obviously!). 

The shop itself was lovely, small but not at all cramped and elegant in an old Hollywood sort of way - I wish I’d taken a picture but I was feeling a little self-conscious, being the only customer and a bit shy in the presence of all these saucy knickers. They also sell Bésame cosmetics which I’ll probably talk about another time, they deserve a post to themselves! One thing that I think is great about the shop is that the prices are really reasonable for niche products, with the bullet bras (including the Harlow bra used recently to add some period authenticity to the costumes in ‘My Week With Marilyn’) priced at £29.50, about the same as a decent normal bra from Bravissimo or M&S. They also have an ebay shop where they sell of end of line or slightly faulty products at discounted rates, excellent for the thrifty shopper. I’m also expecting the bra I bought to last quite a long time, it seems well made and less elasticated than most high street bras, so hopefully less likely to give up after a couple of months!

My one (minor) criticism was with the service. The two girls in the shop were helpful when I spoke to them and obviously knew what they were talking about, but it was very much up to me to approach them. Usually I am a fan of hands-off service, but in this case the products they sell are fairly niche so it would have been helpful to have someone explain and discuss the different styles and options. Also I felt as if I were interrupting their conversation by asking about the products, and when they suggested a size for me to try I thanked them and went off to rummage around the shelves only to return sheepishly a few minutes later to mutter that I couldn’t find any bras in that size, at which point they chose to mention that they don’t put larger sizes out on the racks. Helpful. However, once I found some things to try on they were able to advise me knowledgeably about fit, which is the most important thing, it isn’t a big complaint but if I had gone in just to browse I might have found the service a little off-putting and scurried away fairly quickly. Back to the positives, the changing room is super glamorous, I left with a bra and girdle I am very happy with and the shopping bags are very chic and reuseable, always a bonus! I would definitely go back and have joined their mailing list to keep up with any events and new products (and am already saving up for that Marlene set, so pretty!)

The shopping bag, sorry about the shoddy picture but you can see how cute it is, love it!

I didn’t mean to write this much, obviously I have a lot to say when it comes to underwear!


Experiments with Hair

I’ve recently been trying to put a bit more effort into my hair. I used to experiment a lot with different styles when I was at school, and in the last few years I’ve tried a few different colours and lengths, although I tend to return to ‘long-ish and red’ fairly quickly, and I always think of a myself as a redhead. Since working in the lab I have fallen into a routine of just scooping my hair into a quick bun in the morning, a scruffy and low maintenance look that fits in with my scruffy, low maintenance work clothes. It isn’t chic or flattering, but it keeps it out of the way! My party hair of choice tends to be curls from hot rollers brushed out into 40s/50s waves, a style I absolutely love but which would require getting up about an hour earlier every day to do properly, which I’m not really ready to commit to.

Anyway, following on from my recent ‘I won’t be working here for much longer!!’ epiphany and the related wardrobe overhaul, I’ve started to get up a teeny tiny bit earlier to play around with some hairstyles. A little bit of effort goes a long way! This morning I decided to have a go at a Carmen Miranda style bumper fringe, using a hair doughnut thing from Boots that I cut open. 

The inspiration…

My version wasn’t perfect by a long shot (the edges of the doughnut thing were still visible from some angles, and I didn’t quite get the ‘horseshoe’ shape), but I quite liked it overall and it got lots of compliments, including a lady stopping me as I walked home to tell me she really liked my hair. I tried to take a picture but it turns out it is super difficult to photograph yourself! After I discarded all of the pictures in which I am in the corner of the frame/have the mad eye/look like I’ve never seen a camera before and am horrified at the very idea etc this is what I had left, hopefully it gives a decent idea of what I was going for!

Bonus - I have a rogue elbow sticking out from my head 

Also, flowers are very handy for covering up hairdo imperfections! They are on my list of things to invest in in the coming months! I’m going to Southampton this weekend to catch up with my BFF and see a Michael Bublé tribute act (I know!! We’re living the dream!!) and I’m possibly going to try some WWII style victory rolls - we’ll have to see how that works out!

Cycling Chic

So, this weekend I bought a bike! It’s something that’s been on my list for a long time - The Boy is very into his cycling and I’ve been wanting to explore more of Cambridge and the surrounding cutesy villages. Also, it’s a great way to stay healthy AND get to visit loads of different pubs.

My first proper ‘Spring’ outfit! I felt very romantic with the skirt fluttering around my knees as I rode along, although I did also worry about it getting caught in the wheels, so perhaps not the most practical cycling clothes!

On Saturday we went on a picnic, and on Sunday it was 17 miles all around Cambridge, along the DNA pathway and then to a well-earned pub lunch in Grantchester. I was tempted to hit the Pimm’s, but it wasn’t quite warm enough to warrant that (still, G&T in the sunshine was excellent, and the food at the Green Man was lovely). Really looking forward to getting out and about on my little bike this summer! 

The DNA pathway

In other news I sold most of the clothes I put on eBay and spent this evening wrapping things up prettily ready to be sent off. It felt surprisingly good, I like the idea that things that no longer have a place in my wardrobe will fit perfectly in someone else’s, and will hopefully make them happy. I also just like wrapping things! I chose lilac tissue and purple ribbon, receiving things in pretty packaging generally makes me unfeasibly happy so I hope the recipients enjoy it!