Cornwall Life's fashion writer JULIA MCINTOSH finds it can be fun stepping back in time

PUBLISHED: 15:05 20 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:16 26 February 2013

Cornwall Life's fashion writer JULIA MCINTOSH finds it can be fun stepping back in time

Cornwall Life's fashion writer JULIA MCINTOSH finds it can be fun stepping back in time

It's funny how in my younger years I used to scoff at wearing anything second hand. The very thought of second hand clothing left me feeling queasy. That was in my 20's, of course, when I considered myself to be uber fashionable...

Our fashion writer JULIA MCINTOSH finds it can be fun stepping back in time


Its funny how in my younger years I used to scoff at wearing anything second hand. The very thought of second hand clothing left me feeling quite aghast. That was in my 20s, of course, when I considered myself to be uber fashionable. How things have changed. Ironically I now scoff at the very thought of spending more than a half a days wages on any item of clothing, although I do make an exception with shoes of course

Nowadays most of my clothes are, I do like to admit it, vintage. Its because over the years Ive spent goodness knows how much on fashions that come and go and made way too many fashion faux pas to care to remember.

Of course we are in the midst of a second hand, vintage and retro revolution. There has been a flourish of vintage boutiques popping up across Cornwall. In fact, across the country. People are cutting back on their spending due to the recession which explains the sudden popularity in vintage and second hand clothing.

But our nostalgia seems to be particularly fond of anything 1950s right now. Back then women wore dresses that fitted and flattered. Feminine full skirts with petticoats. Colours were bright and prints were abstract. Stylish halter-neck and strapless dresses were the epitome of high fashion. And nothing said fashion like the full circle skirt, teamed with a tight sweater, a pair of gloves and peephole shoes.

The start of the 1950s was a time of new availability. New fabrics and larger quantities were readily available. The kick start to consumerism after the rationing of the 1940s led to an explosion of excess fabric. Stylish clothing became an important part of culture and a way to express your individuality.

So I was delighted when last summer a letter arrived in the post, an invitation to a friends 40th birthday party. The theme was to be 1950s; it clearly stated that we were to dress accordingly. I decided I would embrace the opportunity to dress up and step back in time if only for an evening.

Fortunately Id recently purchased a dress from Alison Ballard, a Cornish dress designer who runs Silly Old Sea Dog clothing.

Alison specialises in retro fifties-inspired clothing. Her styles are kitsch and slightly quirky. They appeal to anyone with a flamboyant side. Dresses and circle skirts come in an eclectic mix of fabrics and are the mainstay of her collection. Children will also adore her dresses. The fabrics are adorned with their favourite characters from delightful stories such as The Hungry Caterpillar and Winnie The Pooh.

Alison explains: My main inspiration and focus for fabrics stem from my love of the colours and characters of my childhood. I mainly buy these from vintage shops. Its always exciting to find something rare, such as some 1970 Jungle Book and 1950s Rupert The Bear fabrics.

Initially Alisons designs were solely for her university project but it rapidly developed and it quickly became apparent that shed hit upon a niche in the market. Alison is now combining running her business through her online shop with finishing the last year of her degree at Plymouth College of Art.

Alison hopes to expand her business later this year supplying local shops with her designs. Until then her colourful garments are available at her on-line shop: etsy.com/shop/sillyoldseadog

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