Vintage finds #1: Birdcage boutique dress

IMG_3428Despite many years of buying, selling and wearing, I seldom come across those vintage gems that others seem to find so effortlessly. It’s possibly my fault for being lazy (I can’t always be bothered to trawl through rails and rails of clothes) or maybe I’m just unlucky. But I’ve had a couple of strokes of luck recently and have found some pieces of clothing that I’ve been really excited to add to my collection.

One find was this simple blue and white striped cotton mini dress by ‘Birdcage Nottingham’. You may or may not not have heard of Birdcage – I won’t go into too much detail as it’s already been extensively covered in Marnie Fogg’s Boutique, and there is also a really informative post on the Sweet Jane’s Pop Boutique blog – but, basically, it was one of Nottingham’s hippest boutiques in the 1960s and the place where Paul Smith started his career in fashion. And I’m think I’m correct to say that 60s Birdcage items are as rare as hens’ teeth 🙂

IMG_3436It did cross my mind that the dress might actually be a shirt, but the ever-helpful people over at the Vintage Fashion Guild were certain it was a dress and dated it to about 1966. The shape and style certainly fit in with the trend at this time for looking young and doll-like. Also, a friend recently sold a Twiggy label dress in an almost identical style and the ‘Twiggy Dresses’ range sold from 1967-69. So I guess we’re looking at around 1966-68.

IMG_3430More about the dress: it’s made from a lightweight shirting cotton with blue and white vertical stripes of varying widths. It’s unlined, so feels quite flimsy. The length is mini, measuring 32 inches from neck to hem. The collar is a buttoned ‘Grandad’ style and down the front of the dress runs a ruffled jabot. It has a button-front opening, so you can step into it or pull it on over your head. The sleeves are long with buttoned cuffs and the shoulders have quite an exaggerated puff, which, unfortunately, doesn’t come across too well in the photos. A couple of bust darts give the dress a little bit of shape, but not too much. Underneath the Birdcage label there’s another small, faded label with the dress size – I can just make out ’10’, which in terms of 60s dress sizing runs pretty small.

I found the dress in a shop in Nottingham itself, so it was likely donated by a local. It’d be great to know about its history – who originally owned it, where they wore it and what they wore it with. I’d also be interested in seeing other Birdcage items, so, if anyone has any, please get in touch!







Happy 50th Birthday, Petticoat!

Petticoat, issue 1, 19th February 1966

Fifty years ago today, the first issue of one of my favourite 60s fashion magazines appeared on newsagent shelves across the UK. Petticoat was a spin-off of the hugely successful Honey magazine, and was specifically aimed at a younger teenage market.

The magazine offered its readers a weekly, tabloid-sized blend of fashion, beauty, celebrity, fiction and advice, all delivered in a bold, bright style suited to the times. Its fashion editorials featured young models of the moment, such as Twiggy and Jenny Boyd, and clothes from the most fashion-forward young designers, including Foale and Tuffin, Biba and, of course, Mary Quant.

Issue 1 came with free false lashes: this article showed you how to apply them.

Unusually, the cover of the first issue didn’t feature established models but two friends who’d been specially chosen as the faces to launch the magazine: “Girls like you. Bright, enterprising and full of go”. This clever piece of marketing was designed to appeal to the normal girl on the street: the lifestyle that Petticoat promoted was easily attainable.

Party like it’s 1966!

Alongside all the latest celebrity and fashion gossip, the first issue featured an interview with rising star Michael Caine (“What I like is just having a good time…Smart restaurants, good food and gorgeous women.”), an eight-page fashion spread on the latest acid-toned brights (although, disappointingly, half of the feature is printed in black and white), a preview of the new James Bond film Thunderball, a guide to throwing better parties, and tips on how to perk up a tired-looking bedroom on a budget! Unfortunately, my copy doesn’t have the free gift – “fabulous false eyelashes” – but, never fear, there’s a step-by-step guide to applying lashes to create the latest heavy eye make-up look.

Advert for Polyblonde hair dye. Dig those shades!

One of the things I really love about vintage magazines is the adverts and this issue has some good examples for ‘Polyblonde’ hair dye (right), Crimplene fabric and Celtex sanitary products (“Be miserable in comfort”). Similarly, vintage mags feature some great illustrations, and Petticoat is no exception. Notable contributors over the years included Malcolm Bird and Kasia Charko (Biba), but there were many fantastic uncredited illustrations too, including the example from issue 1 below.

Beauty illustration, uncredited

I have a few more copies of the mag from 1966 and later years, but would love to get hold of a copy of issue 2 and eventually build up a complete set for that year.

Do you have any copies of Petticoat? Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a complete set! Let me know in the comments.