On Saturday 16th December, I headed off to our capital city to take in the festive sights and Christmas lights. Whilst in London I paid a visit to my favourite museum, the V&A in Kensington. Filled to the brim with different cultures, art and antiquities, the whole place is a feast for your eyes and your mind. In addition to their regular exhibits the Victoria and Albert museum often play host to temporary installations. Though these vary widely, a fond favourite seems to be the ones that relate to fashion, including this one about Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.
The current exhibition, Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto, is an excellent example of this. The collection is expansive and documents the rise of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel right from the start. Each item of clothing is beautifully displayed in order for you to see the attention to detail applied within the construction of each garment. Every sequin glints and every pristine hem is preserved to perfection. The accompanying copy with each item is informative and well presented, I enjoyed myself immensely.
Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel was born in Saumur, France in 1883. She had an impoverished start but managed to make a name for herself. By the early 20th century she had become well established within the industry. She was best known in the early days for her millinery and tailored garments befitting of the era. Moving into the 1920’s she began creating trendsetting silhouettes that challenged societal norms and did away with the constraints of fashions from decades past. Her clothing adorned with glistening beads and eye-catching sequins displayed risque hemlines and plunging backs. She created jewellery which blended precious stones into costume-style settings, allowing the rich to flaunt their adornments whilst leaving the real heirlooms at home. Chanel was also known for her cosmetics and fragrances, with much of her iconic branding remaining unchanged even now. I made sure I was wearing Chanel No. 5 for my trip!
Coco Chanel became synonymous with the Little Black Dress. In 1926 American Vogue even described it as being the Ford of the fashion world meaning it was an accessible style to all. Chanel’s style was distinctive and classic whilst still challenging the designers that preceded her. She became a celebrity in her own right and even made it fashionable to catch a suntan for the first time ever!
In 1939 the outbreak of war meant that Chanel had to close her couture house, at this point she remained in Nazi-German occupied France. She was seen to be having relations with Gunther Von Dinklage, a Nazi officer. Her relationship, coupled with her friendship with Winston Churchill, earned her the code name ‘Westminster.’ After the war she was interrogated over her involvement but was never charged however, this affiliation cast a shadow over the Chanel brand that remains even to this day.
After the war, Chanel moved to Switzerland and didn’t return to Paris until the 1950’s. On her return she once more began to create iconic, luxury clothing and accessories. Many of her designs during this era can still be frequently seen inspiring contemporary fashion. Her tailoring and bag designs are timeless. She continued designing until her death in 1971 aged 87. The Chanel brand remains prevalent and influential to this day.
Twinwood is always the highlight of my calendar year and 2023 did not disappoint. The execution of such a warm and welcoming festival was done in an organised manner with the friendliest of marshals (Ernie, I’m looking at you).
The weekend was filled with lots of music spanning many eras and genres, music hall classics merged into musical theatre for a cockney sing-a-long, rock and roll, jazz, acoustic original bands and even an Abba tribute to headline on Saturday evening. There are many different venues available within the festival, some more intimate, some on a massive scale. Even though the weather was wet and typically British this did not deter those from the outside stages. The partying continued in the rain!
With good music comes dancing and the dance floors were fit to burst. There were many dancing with partners but many strolls offered the opportunity for those dancing on their own, there were also many dance lessons available to beginners and more accomplished dancers alike. I had lessons in Charleston, jive, waltz and the shag. After a few squashed toes, we got the hang of it.
There were lots of great options for food and drink including an onsite pub, the Nags Head. The Split Screen Ice Cream Co. was selling luxury scoops from their classic VW camper and I sampled the Vegan Salted Caramel which was to die for, I also sampled every cocktail from The Tiki bar… just for quality checking of course.
The sense of community at Twinwood really begins on the campsite. Many of the pitches are modern however there are also some classic gems amongst them. There were some great examples of World War 2 tents dotted around showing the quality of manufacture by standing the test of time, there were also several classic air streams including one that was decorated to resemble a beach! One gentleman even towed his rather large vintage caravan with his lovely red Pontiac.
I was lucky enough to speak to him about his Pontiac, it is just one of the many classics he owns alongside his Buick to name one. He has lovingly restored this vehicle himself by sourcing things such as the badges individually and carrying out the mechanical work. He outsourced the paint job and altogether it is a smashing example of a well-loved classic. The Pontiac was lined up alongside a handful of other cars, including my favourite, a Vauxhall Cresta (I’d like one in two-tone pink if anyone is looking for Christmas presents for me.) A Ford Consul, a 1951 Riley, Chevrolet Truck and an Austin Healey were a few of the others on display. I also enjoyed having a look around some US Military Vehicles.
Lots of the attendees dressed up to the nines, many dapper gentlemen in suits of a bygone era and ladies wearing everything from heritage tweed to flapper sequins to fluffy petticoats. I made many purchases including a much lusted-after pair of saddle shoes, a few dresses and a brooch that looks like me! There were vintage items for all and if you fancied something brand new and inspired by vintage fashions, vendors like Rock N Romance have you covered.
All in all a great weekend was had by all and I can highly recommend it to anyone who likes great music and lovely people.
Each year Twinwood Festival hold a pageant where men and women are invited to apply to become Mr or Miss Vintage and I am so delighted to be in the running for Miss Vintage 2023!
We are currently in the voting stage with the final to be held over the festival weekend.
It’s a great opportunity for me to showcase my love of historic dress as well as spread awareness of sustainable fashion.
All you have to do to vote for me is go to the Facebook Post and like my photo.