Sunday, 28 November 2010

A fair (and freezing!) day out

Yesterday found me at the seaside town of Leigh-on-sea, which is a charming spot on the Thames Estuary and only a short train ride away from me. It boasts a larger-than-average selection of charity shops, antique dealers and craft stores as well as a preserved "Old Town", complete with traditional pub, sweet shop, museum/gallery and several excellent cafes/restaurants. You can also still see evidence of the area's once-thriving cockle-fishing industry and even buy a pint of cockles if you fancy it! Some time ago I discovered local vintage events organiser Betty Blue Eyes, who helps run a quarterly Handmade & Vintage Fair (left) in the town hall, so I thought I'd toddle along and check it out.

Although I awoke to a vista of heavy frost and freezing fog, with the mercury showing 2 below (otherwise known as "brass monkeys"), I decided to brave the elements and headed on out. A 1950s Chevy pick-up parked outside the venue boded well and the place was quite busy even at 10:30 on a freezing cold November morning! I have to be honest, from a chap's point of view there was definitely more handmade than vintage (as the ratio of women to men - and associated items - proved) but there were plenty of things that I'm sure some of my female readers would have liked, such as a lovely 1930s satin red gown, dozens of fur coats and stoles and vintage handbags aplenty, not to mention candlestick cake stands, knitted items and intricately decorated cakes. Local vintage caterers All The Tea & China of Southend provided these and other refreshments. Also on hand were local 1940s hair stylists Hair Raid Shelter, who were busy offering authentic dos for the ladies, all of whom seemed impressed and delighted and rightly so, for they were doing a great job at only £10 a time.

I did manage to find a couple of stalls selling menswear but it was sadly slim pickings and the only things that caught my eye were some wool jackets and fairisle jumpers, a few ties and a couple of 1950s 3-piece suits (a very reasonable £65 each, I thought, but we chaps have just as much trouble as the ladies finding vintage-wear to fit when we're pushing 6ft and 2/3rds of that is leg! Men before about 1965 all seem to have been midgets, from what I can see. Either of the suits on display would have left me looking as though I were back in short trousers!). I ended up leaving empty-handed but not too disappointed; it was a good day out despite the weather and it was great to see the people of Essex in so many numbers at such an event. The local Salvation Army's brass band was out in the town square playing Christmas carols as well, which lent a pleasant festive air to proceedings. Betty Blue Eyes also runs occasional tea dances at the Southend Naval & Military Club and I intend to get along to one as soon as I am able.

Going round the charity shops later I was delighted to find this perfectly-fitting, thick navy wool overcoat (above) for only £5! Not a vintage item per se but nevertheless a timeless design that's just the thing for these freezing temperatures. Winter, do your worst!


  1. Too bad there was more handmade than vintage (that happens a lot here as well), that coat is a great find after all! You've really got me convinced: I really need to start stocking more men's vintage wear in my Etsy shop...but the men's wear (including hats) I've tended to find is definitely as you described...

  2. Baroness: don't talk to me about hats! :-p You're right, they're almost as bad. I'm also cursed with a head that measures 59½cm, which means extra-large 7 3/8 (7½ US) are the order of the day for me - practically impossible to find! ;-(

    The coat was almost ideal (I've a similar one in black, but it's not as heavy or as long - now that our weather's got even colder so must our coats get even thicker, it seems!), all I need now is a similar one in an earth colour to go with my brown suits & jackets... ;-)

  3. That coat is a bargain! My chap is 6ft and leggy so I fully understand what you mean! Sounds like you had a fab time though. I would say £10 for a vintage hair do is an utter steal. x

  4. Very amusing that pre 65 gents were all midgets! I am on the otherside of the Thames Estuary and over a smidge, near Faversham. Apparently there is a load of snow in the Estuary waiting to dump itself just inland later tonight, so you got your new coat just in time. x

  5. Sounds like you had a tip top day out…..The 2/3rds leg thing did make me chuckle! I sort of have the same problem and I say plus fours are the way ahead… but then again, you still have the same trouble- ah well what can you do?
    Tups x


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