Category Archives: fashion

Old Town

If you stand and listen in the Old Town showroom in Holt, Norfolk, you hear the ticking of the clock and the sound of the sewing machine upstairs, making garments from traditional, hardwearing materials. There is no sleepy electronic beeping or the soft hum of computer fans that  we tend to take for granted.

The list of fabrics they use reads like a hymn to the forgotten glories of British mills – not just Harris Tweed but also corduroy, heavy tactile linens, cavalry drill, wool serge, moleskin and flannel. Shapes are simple, inspired by workwear from the last hundred or so years, and crucially don’t change seasonally. If you find something that suits you can continue having it made for you in summer and winter weight materials.

Old Town started 18 years ago in Norwich as a retro kitchenwear shop, but gradually the clothes started creeping in, and gained a fanatical following.

In their own words “Our single breasted rever collar jacket is an unfaithful copy of one found in a tool locker during the demolition of Stratford locomotive works; locker and contents seen on offer at Lea Bridge Road car boot sale.

Handed in as lost property in 1936, the originals for our style know as ‘High Rise’ were then mislaid behind a radiator in the London Transport Lost Property Office until redecoration in the early nineteen eighties.

Our popular ‘Overall Jacket’ is the mutant offspring of a pre-war lamplighter’s jacket glimpsed on the back of a chair in Coffee Republic at Canary Wharf.”

The Old Town look isn’t a painstaking reproduction of a particular period, but more an exuberant ramble through Britain’s idea of its heritage. Playful references to the Nanny state (the ties you can just see in the photo above), a range of Fair Isle tank tops straight out of an Enid Blyton book, and the dreaded Aertex which sadly reminds me of the smell of my old school changing rooms, all contribute to a jolly air of faded seaside holidays and 1950s milkmen.

Everything both downstairs and up contributes to this feeling – there is no jarring note of  the 21st century creeping in.

Upstairs is a low ceilinged work room reminiscent of those on Saville Row, where everything is cut out and much of it sewn, the rest being sent out to local seamstresses before coming back for finishing. It is the exact opposite of buying semi-disposable chainstore clothes made in the Far East.

So, if you prefer Gill Sans to Helvetica, and paper cones of winkles to plastic trays of sushi, do investigate further. Telephone former Woolworths saturday girl Miss Willey, visit the store in Holt or their fine website, where most of the male models sport estimable beards and the ladies sensible shoes suitable for bicycling through country lanes.

Old Town clothing

Also turn to The Evening Star, their cheerful publication which makes the final demise of pale blue Aertex headline news. Next edition coming soon.

Old Town, 49 Bull Street, Holt, Norfolk NR25 6HP. 01263 710001. (they do say it is advisable to telephone before travelling any great distance).

Opening times Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.


A nautical one night stand

Bo Nanafana Shore Leave poster

Valentines day entertainment for all you 1940’s pin up girls at the Talk in Norwich. It looks like a glorious evening – I’d like to draw your attention to the dress code of Fishnets and Seamen. Find out more on their myspace page.

via All Things Considered
NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Christmas shopping

If you are anything like me, you have sorted out all the easy christmas presents and are worrying about the last few people who are impossible to buy for or you don’t know well. After a panicked saturday afternoon wandering round Cambridge in the freezing rain looking for inspiration that never came, I decided that buying something local and handmade will never go amiss. I’ve had a look round local makers who are selling over the internet and rounded up some of the best pieces in a couple of sensible price brackets.

Credit crunch christmas, under £20

For the woman who has everything, including a tidy handbag:

Silver leaf keyring by Romilly Norman in Ipswich, £19



For the teenage girl you’ve never met who is coming for christmas day:

Peacock photogram by Heidi Burton

Peacock photogram by Heidi Burton  in Cambridge, £5


For people who like to age their bills on the fridge:

Hand screen printed magnets by Summersville in Suffolk, £5.95


For baby’s first christmas:

Hand knitted baby slippers by Willo in Cambridge £12


£20 – £50

You can’t go wrong with a beautiful bowl:

helen_brown_bowlBlackbird bowl by Helen Brown at the Suffolk Craft Society, £38


For modern mermaids:

mermaid_pendant_coryvreckanInspired by a piece of bladderwrack picked up on Southwold beach, seaweed pendant by Corryvreckan, £26


For the cosy and house proud, St Judes screen print artist-designed fabrics, and make up lovely cushion covers:

stjudes_cushion_coversSt Judes cushion covers, £32 each. Also check out their printed notebooks and cosy woolen throws.


For those who appreciate stark winter beauty, this tiny etching:chrissy_norman_winter_willowsWinter willows at Dedham, by Chrissy Norman, who is based in Trimley St Mary in Suffolk, £55


Disclaimer: the local and handmade thing doesn’t work on teenage boys at all. Except for local beers for the later teen years. Or after – what man (apart from my husband) would appreciate socks over hand brewed beer?

The Angels Sale

Edit: If you missed this or got there after all the good stuff had gone, try the calmer surroundings of  The London Vintage Fashion, Textiles and Accessories Fair in Hammersmith Town Hall on Sunday.

See all the details on their website.



This is where I’ll be this weekend. The Angels sale.


Boxes of vintage clothes and costumes

Boxes of vintage clothes and costumes

For those who don’t know, Angels and Bermans is the theatrical costumier’s theatrical costumier… Founded in Seven Dials in 1840, they started by selling second hand clothing and tailors samples from Saville Row, often to local actors looking for costumes. Morris Angel eventually diversified into renting for the duration of a play, and a successful business was born.

It’s still a family business, and they run the gamut from film and tv and theatre costumes, to fancy dress hire from their shop in Shaftesbury Avenue and their warehouse in North London. Their warehouse with 5 and a half miles of rails of beautifully made costumes of every era. 

Angels Warehouse

Angels Warehouse

They have remained at the top of their profession by doing what they do incredibly well – well researched, beautifully made historical costumes, creative costumes with flair, lots and lots of them. Think of a movie and they may well have dressed it – Star Wars, Marie Antoinette, The English Patient, Death on the Nile, Memoirs of a Geisha…

They are selling off old costumes and broken jewellery. There will be a whole room of 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s clothes, laid out in rows of cardboard boxes to rummage through. It’s going to be chaotic, frenetic madness. You pay not by the outfit but by the bag. There is a victorian section, a 1970’s and 80’s section. 

All this is just to try and explain why it’s important to get up up long before dawn tomorrow to drive there for an early spot. Given that in my mind’s eye at least, I look like the women below, this is my idea of perfect heaven and I’m already sharpening my elbows. I think I’ll need a big bag…

(Image from carbonated on Flickr)

If this doesn’t sound exciting enough, they have made some YouTube videos to whip up the frenzy levels. Just the sight of all those full cardboard boxes sends a little shiver down my spine. If it does yours too, do what you can to be there, as this kind if thing happens very rarely.

All the details on the Angels website. Open 9am to 5pm on Saturday 6th December only.

Vintage glamour in Norfolk

On 16th November the Norfolk Costume and Textile Association has organised a Vintage Fair and Tea Dance, which sounds like a lovely way to show off some of their collection of 1930s and 1940s clothing. There will be models circulating in the tea dance in costume, and the attendees will also be expected to be in costume, which they can buy at the fair in the morning.

The Costume and Textile Association is part of Norfolk Museums – this sounds like a lovely way of bringing collections out into the real world.


The Costume and Textile Association presents : Strictly Vintage 

16th November 08

The Halls 
St Andrews Plain 
Norwich NR3 1AU


01379 641187



Marlene image from venusnaturalis 1930s girl image from free parking