My love of vintage clothing by Karen Bell of Twin and Tonic

When Mitsu asked me to write this blog I thought, do I really qualify to write for this great site? No I’m not Vegan, I’m not even vegetarian! Yet I realised a lot of the issues Mitsu and Sasha believe in I do agree with; doing what we can to save the Environment.

I was brought up in a home where everything was home grown and homemade from food to clothes and jewellery. My dad being an engineer made many things and he renovates old cars. We were brought up with the understanding that if something broke you fixed it, not threw it away. It never occurred to me that our upbringing was particularly environmentaly friendly. I assumed everyone lived the same way. Since moving  home I have realised it’s not so easy but strive to live the same way.

My container home grown yellow cherry tomatoes
My container home grown yellow cherry tomatoes

Being 1 of 4 I’ve always worn hand-me-downs which I never minded. I never felt the need to follow the crowd with designer labels. As a teenager I was fascinated by the 60s and claimed to be a mod so my love of vintage started years ago, before it was trendy. I would scour charity shops and spent much of my youth hanging around Camden. There was so much more vintage available in Camden back then!

Red 80s Jumpsuit from Ebay
Red 80s Jumpsuit from Ebay

For several years I was in an electro pop band so my look evolved into more of an 80s vibe. I found the most amazing red jumpsuit on eBay. It was around this time my Ebay habbit started.

For the past 2 years I have been singing jazz and swing with my twin sister in a band called Twin & Tonic. As the music is from between the 20s and 50s we try to project the old Hollywood glamour of this era with our costumes.

Both dresses from Portobello Market
Both dresses from Portobello Market

My sister Louise is a fashion designer and is an obsessive collector of glamorous vintage dresses.  We explore the vintage shops, markets, vintage fashion fairs and the internet for our outfits. We also dress the boys in the band in smart shirts, trousers, bow ties and vintage hats and waistcoats.

Us with the boys in the band. They love dressing up!
Us with the boys in the band. They love dressing up!

Angels the fancy dress company have huge warehouse sales. Louise and I turned up at 6am to the last one. The queue was already 100 or so people long. We managed to get in with the first lot through the doors. It was a scrum to grab what you could from the hundreds of boxes stuffed full of theatrical costumes and fill your bags. It was so exciting. We came home with 2 large bags of goodies each.

I cherish my vintage clothes more dearly then most of the new clothes I own. Not only are they better made and more durable but I’ll never want to discard them as each item is unique. I don’t understand why people get put off by the thought that “someone might have died in it”. I love imagining who might have owned and worn each piece when it was brand new.

Gold dress from vintage website. Pink dress from Peekaboo, Portbello Market
Gold dress from vintage website. Pink dress from Peekaboo, Portbello Market

As vintage has become more popular it has become rather expensive so we also search for original vintage patterns and make our costumes.

We made all The Blitz costumes for the band. Our dresses are made from original 1940s dress patterns.
We made all The Blitz costumes for the band. Our dresses are made from original 1940s dress patterns.

Twin & Tonic perform at many retro nights such as The Blitz – a 1940s wartime club, The Last Days of Decadance which has a 20s Art Deco Theme and The Tassel Club which is a Burlesque and Cabaret Club with a general vintage vibe. I love playing at these clubs as the whole audience get into the mood of the era. I have also noticed that it is not only the style but also the friendly, openess and politeness of back in the day that emerges.

To join us in our vintage frolics check out our website for gig dates: www.twinandtonic.com

Karen Bell, web designer, musician and lover of all things vintage.


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