You’d have to be blind to miss the explosion of the vintage scene across London over the past year. What started as a niche movement is now pulling serious weight in fashion circles, and it’s the early adopters who have become the ones to watch.
Step forward Fleur de Guerre, or ‘that 1940s girl’ as her Twitter profile reads. Her blog, Diary of a Vintage Girl, recently won a Cosmopolitan blog award and attracts thousands of readers a day; while her some-time job as a retro pin-up model has made her, quite literally, the poster girl for the vintage movement.
So how did it all start? While the vintage scene has been a long-term love affair, Fleur admits that she fell into the modelling scene completely by chance.
‘I was introduced to a lady who wanted to start up her own boudoir photography business and was looking for 12 volunteers to photograph for a calendar. It wasn’t something I’d ever thought about. I was into vintage quite heavily but I’d never really thought about doing any modelling – I just thought, why not? In the end I enjoyed it so much, it just developed from there’.
She has cut back on modelling in recent years, preferring to concentrate on her writing career, but still does ‘some product shoots for friends’ and is currently planning a film noir-themed shoot – ‘I’ll just lurk around the streets at twilight with a photographer friend!’.
I ask whether the growth of the vintage scene has diminished its appeal for people like her for whom it’s been a way of life for some time. ‘Not at all’, she insists.
‘I like it when more people get involved – it’s nice to see girls taking more interest in clothes that really fit properly.’
The fashion industry’s current love affair with vintage also has some upsides. ‘When something hits the mainstream it actually makes it a lot easier to find clothes you really like. Ten years ago there weren’t many people making vintage reproductions. Now a lot of the high street is very Mad Men inspired. It makes it easier for us to find the clothes we like at a budget price.’
Retro styling seems to me to promote a very positive self-image. Icons such as Dita Von Teese are open about the fact that it’s all about ‘constructed glamour’ – taking what you’ve got and transforming it into something different, without the diets and surgery associated with our obsession with so-called ‘natural’ beauty. Fleur says that the effort associated with putting together a vintage look can completely change the way you feel about yourself, and even means that people treat you ‘differently, more courteously’.
While she often bases her look around old movie stars, Fleur sites her real-life friends as her key fashion influence. ‘When we see each other and the effort everyone’s put in it’s really inspiring. It just keeps as all going’.
Any winter fashion tips for the vintage virgins among us? ‘Most people love winter fashion, but I find it really hard to stay inspired, it can seem really drab. This year I’m all about the high-waisted trousers and fancy blouses. I like seamed stocking as well – but if you wear them a lot they can get expensive!’
One look at Fleur’s modelling photos has given me a serious case of makeup envy. I tell her that my lipstick never usually makes it past the first glass of wine.
‘People do get put off from wearing red lipstick because they think it wears off, but you really do get what you pay for. I only really wear MAC lipsticks – they’re very strongly pigmented and have a very long lasting formula. I wear a shade called Ruby Woo. You also need to line your lips, the ’40s lip is a particular shape, it’s all about slightly drawing a more outwardly curved top lip’.
In London she hangs out mainly in the East, trawling through Brick Lane’s vintage boutiques. ‘My favourite place to hang out is the bar where my friend Ruby works, Lounge Bohemia. It’s like a 1950s living room and they make the most phenomenal cocktails. I spend lots of time visiting my friend Naomi who runs Vintage Secret, a pop-up salon in her home; she dishes out Hendricks gin and sells vintage clothes to people. She’s a powerhouse of all things vintage.’
So will we be seeing a lot more of Fleur in 2011?
Absolutely, if the last year is anything to go by. Her Cosmo blog award win has attracted considerable attention and driven a lot of online traffic to both the blog and her Twitter page. Quite an achievement for someone who, just over two years ago, ‘never read or subscribed to any blogs’.
These days it’s a must-read for everyone from the curious to the seasoned vintage shopper looking for inspiration, tips or simply an insight into London’s hottest underground scene.