Frockery Talk

  • St Andrews Vintage Fashion Fair, 29.10.11

    October 17, 2011

    The St Andrews Vintage Fashion Fair is to be held in the town's Younger Hall on Saturday 29 October.

    The Frockery has been invited to take part and we hope to see some of our local friends and frockers there. We may even bring Arthur along to help mannequin our stall!

    St Andrews Vintage Fashion Fair

  • Fish finger fashion

    October 12, 2011

    Gok's Clothes Roadshow is currently showing on Channel 4 with a variation called Get the Look for Less and we must say we are disappointed. With his unashamed promotion of mass produced cheap tat, he has gone right off the boil, as far as we are concerned, having headed down the frozen fish finger aisle for an instantly gratifying, but ultimately unsatisfying, fast fashion fix.  Yes, there may be a recession on, but dressing for less doesn't have to involve scraping the bottom end of the fashion barrel. We should know! As frugal frockers, we have been banging on about it for years and started our Fifty Quid Fashion Challenge back in 2007.

    Not so long ago, Gok's affordable high street looks regularly used to trounce the overpriced designer outfits salivated over by his blonde sidekick (you know, the one with the dogs) in his famous fashion 'face-offs'. Yet fast forward to the current series and the high street is being dissed in favour of what we can only describe as fish finger fashion. So it's Brix no more, high end no more, independent designers no more; mid-price high street is no longer hip, and cheap supermarket 'chic' is where it's at. That's really going to help the retail sector, struggling as it is to pay the bills, with many more well known high street names looking vulnerable as quarterly rents fall due.

    Regardless of Gok's seeming enthusiasm for low budget clone wear, we doubt he'd be seen dead in a pair of George jeans or a Primark T-shirt himself. What's more, buying cheap means that producers and suppliers down the fast fashion food chain are being shafted. Ethical policies developed in corporate board rooms and PR'd ad nauseam by faux-caring, designer-wearing, profit-loving professionals don't mean much to exploited child labourers on the other side of the world who are hand sewing sequins on to your landfill leggings.

    There are perfectly acceptable alternatives to fast fashion, which are every bit as affordable to those on tight budgets, such as charity shops, second hand stores, affordable vintage outlets, even the back of your own wardrobe (we found a Marcel Fenez 60s dress in ours last week that we hadn't seen for years!) While you're at it, why not dust off that old sewing machine, look out some knitting needles or crochet hooks and create something original as well as ethical? Students are past masters at dressing for less and can probably teach the rest of us a thing or two about saving money and slowing down to achieve style without sacrificing sustainability.

    Please remember you don't have to abandon principle and become a fish finger fashionista or Tesco trolley dolly just because some stylist said it was cool on the telly. Despite being big fans in the past, we reckon Gok's latest menu is lacking in greens and more cheek than chic. The acronym BOGOF springs to mind.

  • RaRa reopens

    October 8, 2011

    We have been to RaRa's grand re-opening in Dundee today and would like to congratulate Erin on her fabulous refurb of our favourite wee vintage emporium.

    RaRa vintage shop

    Not a lot of people know that this little shop used to be the constituency office of Shiona Baird, the former Green MSP for north east Scotland, and that chief frocker Alison used to work there as a parliamentary researcher. Following the 2007 election, Shiona and Alison refused to admit defeat and went on to celebrate their greenness in different ways, with Shiona returning to organic farming and chairing the Tayside Recyclers project, while Alison opened for business at the Frockery.

    Their old office stood empty for a while and was briefly home to a few fleeting enterprises until 2008 when Erin moved in and put her vintage stamp on the place, giving it a whole new lease of life.  Somehow it seemed appropriate that she should carry on the recycling ethos, and it has been a pleasure to witness the transformation of our old office from a pretty vacant space into a vibrant RaRa and the Pretty Vacant Showrooms.

    Here is how the interior looks now. Cool, eh?

    vintage clothes


    vintage clothes

    And here is Alison helping Erin behind the retro cocktail bar counter (which Johnny Frocker managed to miss out of the pic - you can't get the staff these days). This space used to be our meeting room, complete with sunflower wallpaper (that did Alison's head in) and pea green paint (we kid you not).

    Erin and Alison at RaRa vintage

    So what are you waiting for? Get on your retro green scooter ....

    vintage scooter

    ... and get on down to

    RaRa vintage shop

  • It's nice to be niche

    September 23, 2011

    Just like It's hip to be square, it's nice to be niche; in other words, it's cool to do your own thing, regardless of what the fashion police might seek to impose on the hapless shopping sheeple. As far as we're concerned, embracing individuality is every bit as important to businesses as it is to individuals and, while many high street retailers are undoubtedly suffering the effects of the economic downturn, there is evidence to suggest that niche independents may be bucking the trend.

    A Business Zone article which dropped into our inbox earlier today, headlined Why now is a great time to start a retail business, suggests that this feeling is not misplaced and that independent traders are well placed to take advantage of a perceptible shift in shoppers' expectations. It seems that the cold and clinical, predictable, big store 'factory' retail model is gradually giving way to the more personalised customer experience offered by niche retail outlets, which provide both excellent customer service and individualised products and services. So small may yet become beautiful again, as it was in the 60s and 70s.

    Growing up in the small Angus town of Montrose in the 70s, chief frocker Alison used to buy her clothes in the several small fashion boutiques that were dotted in and around the high street. She vividly remembers buying an emerald green batwing sleeved smock dress (which, with the benefit of hindsight, was truly hideous) in one such boutique. In another, she purchased a very distinctive (but a lot less hideous) black velvet two piece adorned with red stars, which she wore to her 18th birthday party with red shoes (on which she subsequently threw up after too many double vodka and pineapple combos). Her excuse is that Ziggy Stardust was big at the time!

    The Boutique Elvira, which eventually metamorphosed into the Headline hair salon (currently run by a vintage hairdresser who cuts Alison's hair and still has a collection of 70s splash patches in his attic) was a particular favourite, stocking some amazing pieces of funky frockery. This poem, Tie-Dyed T-Shirt, by Fiona Ritchie Walker (an old school friend of Alison's), evokes distant memories of Elvira's and other old familar places.

    Occasionally, small town and country dwellers would make a special trip to Aberdeen, Dundee, or even Edinburgh, to sample the delights of  big city shopping. Back then, there was still a strong independent retail presence, from smaller boutiques to big department stores like Dundee's Draffens (long since gone) and Edinburgh's Jenners. Retro Dundee has a wonderful collection of images which capture the essence of the city in past decades, including this picture of  City Square and High Street in 1970, and provides an enjoyable nostalgia trip for locals of a certain age.

    dundee city square and high street 1970

    Although The Frockery has no immediate plans to make a move to bricks and mortar from its exclusively online presence (with the odd vintage fair thrown in throughout the year) we are always more than happy to recommend independent vintage retailers who have 'visitable' shops.

    Talking of bricks and mortar, one of our favourites  - RaRa and the Pretty Vacant Showrooms, based in Exchange Street, Dundee  - is undergoing a major refurbishment right now, but we are hoping to go along and help celebrate its re-opening in the near future. It stocks an ecelectic range of fabulous clothes, accessories and curiosities from bygone eras and is run by the lovely Erin, who is as passionate about vintage as she is about showcasing emerging new designers.

    Another small vintage boutique we like is in Forfar, just round the corner from The Frockery. GladRags is run by a very knowledgeable and friendly female duo and stocks some fabulous pieces, both vintage and contemporary. We were musing the other week that Forfar is fast becoming a vintage lovers' paradise as no less than three small antique and collectables shops have sprung up in the past year to complement an already enviable range of independent retailers. The regular Farmers Market also features gourmet epicurean and gift products, from Cairn o Mhor (say it out loud!) fruit wines to farmyard inspired ceramics from our friends at Eeksy Peeksy. How cool is this cake stand!

    cake stand eeksy peeksy

    In our experience, independent retailers not only want to go that extra mile for customers but also want to support each other in business. You could say "we are all in this together", but in a nice niche way!

  • Red shoes, ruby slippers

    September 23, 2011

    ruby slippersImage credit: Hollywood Reporter

    A pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in the 1939 film Wizard of Oz, is to be sold at auction in December.  Described as “one of the greatest pieces of pop culture in existence” - and who doesn’t remember Judy clicking these heels together to get back to Kansas? - they have a pre-auction estimate of between $2 and $3 million.

    Fortunately, vintage footwear from the Frockery comes at a much more affordable price! And despite, or perhaps even because of, the age old “red shoes, no knickers” adage, which apparently connotes a degree of raciness or flashiness on the part of their wearer, we just adore red shoes.

    These 70s vintage strappy red shoes have eminently clickable heels!

    70s vintage red strappy shoes

    While these 80s lipstick red leather court shoes from Bally are sure to turn heads in the Railway Arms.

    80s bally red shoes

    This cute pair of 70s vintage red slingbacks have just arrived and will shortly be listed in the catalogue.

    70s vintage red shoes

    To get back to the Frockery shoe department, just click these heels!

  • Slow fashion: winning the race for hearts and minds?

    September 16, 2011

    Twitter, we have found, is not only a wonderful way of interacting with customers, but is also a great medium for connecting like minds, who will frequently signpost followers and friends to articles and websites of mutual interest.

    As our regular readers will know, one of our passions is for 'slow fashion' and so it was natural that we should follow Slow Fashioned on Twitter. Being sometimes lazy frockers, we are grateful to other tweeters for highlighting relevant links and, thanks to @slowfashioned, two media articles caught our eye yesterday. Both are well worth reading if you are a fellow proponent of slow, sustainable fashion.

    The Guardian focused on the growing inflationary pressures on fast fashion, as identified by the ONS, under the headline Rising cost of clothes could signal end to 'cheap chic'.

    The days of "cheap chic" and throwaway fashion could be numbered, because the cost of clothes is rising at its fastest rate for nearly 15 years.

    The "fast fashion" trend, where T-shirts sell for £2 and jeans are priced at less than a fiver in supermarkets, is being battered by big increases in the cost of cotton, labour and transport.

    Some especially scary statistics cited in the article came from research at Cambridge University which found that:

    "...as clothing prices have come down, the number of garments bought has soared fourfold. The study found that the average British woman buys half her body weight – 28kg (62lb) – in clothing every year".

    Eek! It's surely time to hit the production and consumption brakes before we have no more land to fill with textile waste comprised mainly of throwaway fashion  (one million tonnes a year and rising).

    Another short but incisive article on the Atlantic website, Slow Fashion: Reconnecting Production and Consumption, also had us nodding our heads in agreement as it pointed to the unhealthy disconnection between production and consumption, mourned the loss of community and deplored the replacement of tradition with profit. It gave much food for thought about the undesirability, and ultimate unsustainability, of the fashion for 'fast' everything.

    Awareness of the environmental impact of human activities is growing. For food, it means buying more organic, local, and seasonal products. For fashion, it should mean more organic, local, and less seasonal. A piece of clothing should last for decades. Like a recipe passed down from generation to generation, we should pass our clothes down to our grandchildren.

    Amen to such sentiment! As the slow fashion movement gathers pace, thanks to a combination of consumer awakening and economic constraints, the growing prevalence of articles like these demonstrates that the times may well be a-changing for the better (and slower).

    And it's always reassuring to know we are but one voice among many for whom slow is every bit as beautiful as small. We've said it before and we may as well say it, and link to it, again: Landfill fashion: what a waste.