Finding new people to obsess over: Loelia Ponsonby

There I was, reading my 1930s book, learning something new, expanding my horizons… when I fall accidentally into a 1920s trap that I should have seen coming a mile off. DANG, caught out again.

I love Elizabeth Ponsonby a lot – her boozing and cavorting make up a large part of my favourite book about the bright young things – but her cousin Loelia is more of a mystery to me. She is mentioned a fair bit, but only in the context of being a general gal about town, causing mischief and cavorting with other rich young folk.

A bit of Googling has told me more about Loelia – she later became the Duchess of Westminster, lived out her later years in a pink house and sewed needlepoints out of hair. She was a close friend of Ian Fleming and is the basis for Miss Moneypenny – with the character actually named after her in the novels.

She was a talented horticulturist, worked as features editor at Homes and Gardens and was the journalist sent to cover Grace Kelly’s wedding in Monte Carlo.

A favourite quote: “‘Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life.”

Anyway, my discoveries led me to her biography, Grace and Favour,  which is apparently scandal-packed and searingly honest about relationships, society and all those fascinating people she hung out with in the 20s and 30s.

Perhaps more interestingly, there’s another book called Cocktails and Laughter which is mostly personal photographs of the bright young people gadding about. I can’t find any scans of this anywhere online, which leads me to believe that it is perhaps my mission in life.

To be continued…

Tommy Guns takes over twenties salon on Regent Street

Superdry isn’t necessarily a store I’d venture into that often, but squirrelled away in the bowels of their new Regent Street flagship store is a very good reason to change that.

There’s been a barber shop in the basement of 103 Regent Street for more than 80 years and although it’s been abandoned for a little while, Brit salon chain Tommy Guns has now taken charge and restored it to its former glory – sympathetically restoring the space, with just a few modern additions.

Designed and built by Percy Westwood and Joseph Emberton, the barber shop was opened in 1929 within the Austin Reed store – all neon lights, chrome and jade green marbling. I love the huge cream sinks, built-in cabinetry around each styling station and masses of gleaming chrome chairs – which have been retained since the 1930s. Also of note; that awesome serpentine of neon lights circling the middle of the salon.

Sharing the space is nail guru Sophy Robson, whose Nailporn nail art bar has its first permanent home in a luxe beauty parlour away from the main salon floor.  Completing the services is Lash Perfect, who have opened a lash bar offering enhancements and brow treatments in the shared space.

Not only is the salon respecting and retaining its glorious deco interior, but they’re also stocking heritage brands to reflect the space’s history. Agua de Colonia, Marvis and Proraso are just some of the brands stocked – in a really neat little bar-style cove right by the door.

Visiting the salon on its opening night was such a treat – I’ve long admired RIBA’s pictures of the space and was pretty giddy to go and get a good look for myself. The opening party was packed, but I’ll be back to get my hair and nails done very soon – I already have my eyes on Sophy’s gold glitter All Seeing Eye.

Tommy Guns Regent Street is based on the lower ground floor of Superdry, 103-113 Regent Street, London W1B 4HL.

Nails start at £23 for a full-set of nail art, lashes start at £5 for lash gems and hair starts at £30 for a shampoo and finish.

Tender is the Night vibes in Vogue Turkey

I’ve not read anything to confirm or deny this train of thought, but this Vogue Turkey editorial really brings to mind Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night – and not just because I have a one track mind. I’m getting total Dick Diver (Worst Name in Fiction) and Rosemary vibes from this shoot anyway, even if no-one else is. Favourite Fitzgerald book, favourite line in a Fitzgerald book:

“I want to give a really bad party. I mean it. I want to give a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette.”


Considering that the jazz era has been one of this season’s biggest trends, there’s been a disappointing lack of 1920 and 30s editorials for me to get excited about. Is everyone just trying to be subtle? I guess this shoot by Phil Poynter (featuring Ranya Mordanova And Janice Seinen Alida) goes some way towards making amends.

Eltham Palace, circa 1937

Lord only knows how much I love Eltham Palace – art deco AND South-East London… throw in a burger and a pint of Doombar and I’d never go anywhere else quite frankly.

This weekend I came across these pictures of Eltham at the height of its fame – 1937. Kind of makes it even more exciting to see the place in all its deco glory, as it would have looked just after the Courtaulds moved in. The pictures are from the fantastic Country Life archives and while I totally understand that the family probs wanted to do a bit of tidying up before the photographers came round, I’d have loved it even more if you could see some bottles of gin or slippers lying around.

Just glorious! You can see the rest here.

And on the subject of Eltham Palace, there are two interesting events coming up – this month you can attend a lecture on the women of Eltham Palace to celebrate Women’s History Month and then in May the Art Deco Fair returns for another year. Your ticket gets you entry to the palace too – try doing the tour and stop yourself buying everything in sight afterwards. Not gonna happen.

Friday Late: Bright Young Things

I don’t suppose there’s too much point in writing about an event at the V&A which has already happened, but with my brain still frazzled from fashion week and not much else going on, you’ll have to deal with it.

As predicted, the Bright Young Things event at the museum was fantastic – music, booze, 1920s shit, a guest-list that read like a who’s who of my Twitter mates… what’s not to love? I made a smashing slogan badge (ably modelled above), drank Prosecco and Old Fashioned-s and generally had a top night.

Not really a review,  but points to take home from the evening:

  • Dom James and his Dixie Ticklers are a really fantastic band! They were in the main hall all night and played some fantastic rousing jazz numbers – you can find out more about them (and listen to them) here. I’m pretty sure they played the Jeeves & Wooster theme tune for me, but that could have been the booze talking.
  • The pop-up Cecil Beaton Photography Studio allowed you to pose in a mock-up of his famous (and my favourite) photo of the ‘Soapsuds‘ group. You can see everyone looking swell here – obviously there’s not one of me, seeing as how I’m allergic to photographs.
  • Jealous of my badge? You can learn some neato 1920s slang of your own here and then, I guess, craft a badge with it printed on.
  • One of the highlights of the evening was a reading of Cecil Beaton’s diaries – I know, how rude. I used to get in big trouble for reading other people’s diaries as a child and now it’s sold as entertainment? You can read the diaries yourself (and they’re dead worth it) by investing here.
  • Warwick University are putting on a production of Vile Bodies later this year and the dress rehearsal took place on the night. I only saw the last few seconds (too busy boozing, eh?) but the cast have a blog about the production here and if you happen to be in Warwick over the next few days, you can buy tickets for the play here.
  • Hugo Dalton’s floral illustrations were projected all over the V&A on the night – delightful stuff, which you can see more of here.
  • The next Friday Late is themed around the Spring Equinox. Bodacious. Why would you want to miss out? Find out more here.

Shoe-horning my way into 1920s clothes

It’s a cruel twist of fate that the era whose style I’m most enamoured with – the 1920s, duh – is really the only one I can’t emulate. Flapper dresses are all about dropped waists, slim silhouettes and long, lean lines – none of which are particularly wearable when you’re short and ~curvy.

I think it’s worth remembering that the reason why most women in the 20s and 30s were so slim and flat-chested is because they’d survived the Depression and World War I – two events which didn’t exactly allow for much in the way of food, drink or merriment, you know? Selfish, selfish history.

Anyway, I can’t wear flapper dresses and that sucks for me. I’ve got a smashing cloche hat and a few nice deco-ish bits of jewellery and handbags – it’s close but no cigar, to be honest.

With the 1920s trend just about everywhere this season, it’s a painful reminder of what’s not meant to be. The latest dress torturing my soul is the Jessie from the Fusion range at Monsoon – not a shop I’d usually visit, but the detail on this is just beautiful and it caught my eye. I tried it in for a laugh anyway, and laugh I did. It looked awful. Hilariously so. I would have loled, had it not been so tiresomely predictable.

It’s not all bad news though. Monsoon also has a blouse version of the dress – how cool is that? Exactly the same, just cut off at the waist for a slightly cropped shell-shaped top. I wish every shop would sell blouse and skirt versions of their dresses, it’d make life a lot easier for me. Anyway, dead happy with this – the attention to detail is surprising and lovely, like the flower buttons and scalloped sleeves and silk collar. Just dead nice all round really.  Oh, and I have a pleated skirt the same shade, so I can essentially DIY my own version of the dress except with a more flattering shape. I WIN!

You can get your matching outfit here if you want to be more like me.

A bunch of books I got for Christmas

Not quite a Christmas ~haul post, but I did get rather a lot of books for Christmas and as I always enjoy seeing what people are reading, I figured I’d share.

Clearly I haven’t read all of them yet… Actually half of them are still in Sheffield because books = heavy, especially in a suitcase which is also stuffed with Christmas cake and cheese. I actually can’t remember what all of them are, but here’s what I’ve got from memory – and don’t forget you can follow my IRL-time progress on GoodReads.

1) Good Evening, Mrs Craven – Mollie Panter
A collection of essays covering a housewife’s life during wartime (this ain’t no party),  originally published in The New Yorker and now republished by Persephone.

2) Art Deco Complete – Alastair Duncan
Possibly the heaviest book I own, this glorious tome is packed with art deco porn. It’s coffee table stuff, if your coffee table can stand the weight.

3) The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice, Countess de Janze – Paul Spicer
I really, really like biographies of rich women in the 1920s and this one ties in with another favourite ~scarlet woman – Idina Sackville, who was profiled in The Bolter (and in several Nancy Mitford novels). I’m quite into the Happy Valley business, so this should be a treat read.

4) 1920s Britain – Janet and John Shepherd
I’ll be honest. I added this to my wishlist in a bid to fulfil my desire to own every book about the 1920s on Amazon, without really reading much about it. I mean, it’s nice, but it’s basically a school textbook.

5) Westwood – Stella Gibbons
I’m well aware that this is a classic I should have read – forgive me, I’m on the case.

6) Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Yes, and this. My step-dad was vaguely horrified at my lack of Stella Gibbons reading, until I pointed out that as the person who raised me it was kind of his fault. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

7) Kitchen Essays – Agnes Jekyll
Another Persephone compilation, this time featuring a series of recipes and food essays written for The Times in the 1920s.

8) West End Front – Matthew Sweet
I’ve wanted this book for a while (since November 11 precisely) and it’s next on my list to read. If you’ve missed hearing about it, it’s essentially about life behind the scenes at the Ritz and other posh London hotels during the war – PROPER SCANDAL. If you like posh scandal, I also recommend a favourite trash read of mine – Stately Passions: The Scandals of Britain’s Greatest Houses by Jamie Douglas-Home.

9) The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Another classic I’ve somehow missed along the way. Added bonuses; it’s about a butler and it’s set in the 40s.

10) Miss Hargreaves – Frank Baker
I added all of The Bloomsbury Group series to my wishlist and got four, which is a superb start. It sounds like a combination of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day x Mary Poppins, so looking forward to cracking on with it.

11) The Thirties: An Intimate History – Juliet Gardiner
In a bid to move on from my 1920s thing, I’ve got a book about the 1930s see?

12) The Brontes went to Woolworths – Rachel Ferguson
Another one from The Bloomsbury Group series – it just so happens to be a trio of sisters in a bohemian London family in the 1920s, that’s not my fault.

13) Love’s Shadow – Ada Leverson
Another Bloomsbury book! This one shows the slightly OTT covers they all have, which I’ve been attempting to disguise. Pretty sure anyone observing me reading this will assume it’s shit chicklit, when in fact it’s an Edwardian novel about a London couple. IN YOUR FACE, IT’S OLD-TIMEY-CHICKLIT.

14) The Penguin Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford
Well, you all know what this is. Of course as a Mitford monster I have read ‘em all, but my life wasn’t going to be complete until I had this doorstopper-sized anthology too.

15) Henrietta’s War: News from the Home Front 1939 – 1942 – Joyce Dennys
A final Bloomsbury book – this one is described as a 1940s version of Adrian Mole, so I can only assume it will be amazing.

16) The World of Jeeves – PG Wodehouse
Well, it wouldn’t be Christmas without some Wodehouse.

17) Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City – Stella Dong
The Wallis Simpson biography I just finished got me pretty interested in Shanghai in the 1920s and 30s and a bit of searching threw up this book as a good source of stories. This is what I’m reading at the moment and while it is mega interesting, it’s less about casinos and opium and glamorous hotels, more about gangland murders and finances. Still, I’m only half way in so we shall see – it is totally fascinating though and a dead good read – again, my fault for not reading more reviews.

18) Straight on Till Morning: The Life of Beryl Markham – Mary S. Lovell
Mary S. Lovell wrote arguably the most famous Mitford biography, so this should be a good read. This book looks at one the most famous female aviators of the 1930s – check out some of my other favourite female fliers from the era here!

19) On Booze – F. Scott Fitzgerald
You’ve heard me harp on about this before – still amazing to get it!

20) The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
One more classic which I haven’t read before – I KNOW, guys. The real question now is, when will I ever be emotionally stable enough to read it? By the way, don’t panic – I have read other Greene, I’m not a total heathen.

Cocktail frock masterclass with me and TK Maxx

Despite what the naysayers would have you believe*, party season is right around the corner and that can mean only thing thing; copious excuses to get dressed up and have a good time. Even if your mantlepiece isn’t heaving with stacks of elegantly gilt-edged invites, December is basically 31 days of free reign to wear what you want on a night out – whether that night out is knocking back cocktails at the Savoy or supping pints at your local.

I love any excuse to get dressed up in frivolous outfits,  so when TK Maxx asked me to choose my pick of their best party dresses I jumped at the chance. My love of TK Maxx knows no bounds – I’ve bought half the Spring/Summer 2009 Luella collection thanks to their Gold Label section, and the opening of a new branch just down the road in New Cross Gate has made my Sunday morning grocery trip far more fun.

Anyway, less about me and more about partying.

The 1902s look is set to be a huge trend in 2012, thanks largely to Baz Luhrmann’s impending remake of The Great Gatsby and also, perhaps, the fact that it’s my favourite era. Flapper frocks are perfect for parties – all heavy beading, sparkle, movement and, uh rouged knees and rolled stockings.  TK Maxx has a top range of cocktail dresses, ideal for any budding Nancy Cunard or Elizabeth Ponsonby – here are my favourites.

TK Maxx 20s Look

TK Maxx 1920s ii

1920s tk maxx iii

Everything you see above is from TK Maxx, including various pieces of Hilfiger, Costume National and Paul Costelloe. Check out the entire range of TK Maxx party dresses online and in store now – you can also pick up selected pieces from the Gold Label range online, which is only feeding my Luella habit further. Oops.

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*I love you Tamsin!