Monday, 1 August 2011

Vintage at the Southbank

Well readers, what a glorious weekend it has been, not just because of the weather. It was finally time for a long-awaited and much-anticipated event, this year virtually on our doorstep, oh goody. I do like it when I can stay at home and spend money on frocks instead of travel and accommodation (and still climb into my own bed at the end of the day). Yes, after the excellent Vintage at Goodwood last year, this year, the 60th anniversary of the original exhibition on the Southbank to celebrate the Festival of Britain, Wayne brought his festival to London.

This is how it looked back in 1951. A few of these landmarks are missing now but there's no doubting it's a fantastic location right on the river and still boasting the Festival Hall as its hub. The paid activities were taking place inside the hall but the good news was that everything outside was free. As such, you could access the extensive vintage marketplace and pop-up high street, the funfair (though you had to pay £2 for each ride) and many food stalls and so on for free.

Off we go then!

We headed straight for the vintage marketplace. And oh what a marketplace it was!

There were oodles of stalls groaning with good vintage stuff. It was rather packed, sometimes it was hardly bearable to try and enter the marquees, they looked so busy and were really rather hot. But you know, a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do in search of true vintage!

Obviously, there was the usual gamut of so-called vintage '80s clobber but there was also plenty of real vintage from the '30s, '40s and '50s to interest us. Sometimes you had to search this out amongst all the other "stuff" and then there were the few stalls which were oozing quality vintage where I thought I'd literally died and gone to heaven! My boys were fantastic and very patient whilst I spent the whole day (I kid you not) in the vintage marketplace. Ok, we did stop for lunch!

Fancy a rather stunning Horrockses number with matching bolero? (£150)

Aside from the vintage clobber, there were also many crafty stalls. This lady had made a real effort to dress her stall vintage-style and handmade all her jewellery, down to making the glass beads.

The best, of course, had to be Daniella's, of Acorn & Will with her customarily beautiful display of tempting vintage goodies.

If it all got too much and you were feeling flush, you could rest awhile at the vintage style tearoom.

Mr HenHouse found himself some quality reading. We heard a rather fab little cottage was featured in this vintage issue!

We ended up at the vintage high street where we found our friend Cath K had set up a pop-up shop, complete with Stanley in the window.

The shop looked great and the staff were fab and friendly, a credit to the brand, we thought.

The Munchkin was greeted with much delight by the staff who set about taking his photo. He thought this was wonderful, especially when they also gave him a special Southbank festival bag and badge. I tell you, it pays to be cute!

Nearby was Horrockses, the well-known British brand which is relaunching a bedlinen collection.

They had also done a beautiful job on their pop-up shop.

The staff in here were great too and we spent ages chatting about Horrockses fabulous vintage dresses (see below) and where the brand is now heading. Exciting times for them.

Oxfam also had a pop-up shop, having collected all its best vintage goodies throughout the year. Mr HH had a mooch but we came away empty handed.

After all that, for those with energy, there was still the vintage funfair to visit. I think it was a bit much to describe it as that as the funfair element was not a patch on that at Goodwood last year which had rock 'n' roll dodgems, waltzers, the works. This year, it comprised the helter skelter (admittedly marvellous), a hook-a-duck stand, a mini car ride for toddlers and a coconut shy.

Further along the river, there were gallopers. I love these, however vintage steam powered ones would have been even better.

We didn't actually get time to go on the funfair rides on Saturday as they shut at 8pm and we were still shopping until everything shut. So we headed back for a few hours on Sunday afternoon as we had faithfully promised the Munchkin he could go on the rides and he had been very well behaved on Saturday. So while he chanced his arm at the coconut shy and went down the helter skelter several times, I was content to watch and wilt in the sun!

I really enjoyed this fair even though we didn't even make it into the Festival Hall itself, there just wasn't time. The setting and the fact some parts were free did mean it felt too crowded at times and there was obviously a lot of people just browsing. It was also noticeable how few people had dressed up for the event this year, though certainly there were some splendid outfits and a really nice atmosphere amongst those attending. On the other hand, there were positives in that the Southbank is easily accessible, it was amazing to have such a great day out for free and the setting on the banks of the Thames is really rather special, especially in the setting sun.

And the shopping, ohhhh the shopping. Readers, I sinned. I never thought I would find such a choice of fabulous vintage outfits to fit me and my non-standard-sized form. I think my burgeoning vintage wardrobe will have to be the subject of a post all of its own sometime!

Edit: Here we are (and in the very good company of Ms Flower - thanks for spotting us Donna!)

And here too!


  1. Oh deary me, what a fab day out! London in the sunshine and vintage stuff all at the same time, heaven.
    Love your blog, it is so bright and colourful and full of lovely things, thanks.

  2. What a lovely few days out with lots of temptable goodies! The South Bank is wonderful when most of the trippers have left and you can look across from the London Eye to the Houses of Parliament. I agree the Munchkin does look incredibly cute in his tank top and shorts.

  3. Oh, I wish I had been there... it looks heavenly.

  4. What a wonderful day out! Gorgeous photos ... :0)

  5. Such a fabulous day out! Your boys must be VERY patient with you! All those goodies to mooch through would take hours!
    Love your outfit Helen, you really look the part! Can't wait to see what you bought!
    Rachel x

  6. How fabulous! One of the (very few) downsides of moving from Reading to Somerset is the distance from London and all its events/museums/shops, etc.
    Looks like you had a wonderful time; I look forward to hearing/seeing more about your purchases!

  7. Oh how I wish I still lived in the London area!
    Julie xxxxx

  8. I am seriously envious. So wish I could have been there but ... needs must, so I was selling at the Bridport Vintage Market instead!
    M x

  9. Love your blog. What a remarkable vintage festival this was. The clothes and fabrics were gorgeous. We spent lots of time on the South Bank in 1999 seeing theatre. Thanks for your great photos.
    All the best,
    Dana Fisher

  10. Looks like you had a lovely day. I was there on Saturday and agree the vintage market place was AMAZING! Although you must have had more persistance than me - I didn't find much in my non standard size!
    We paid for tickets and so were in the RFH most of the day. I'm surprised you didn't think people were that dressed up - maybe because outside there were lots of people who came across the market by chance. Inside I would say at least 90% of people were dressed up - some with really amazing outfits. And by the end of the day almost all the girls had amazing hairstyles courtesy of the free vintage makeovers. I didn't get as many pics as I would like but I might put some of them up now you have inspired me!
    Glad you had a lovely time (and sorry for my rambling comment!)

  11. Hi Hen

    We went too yesterday! We had a lovely few hours (ok I did!) looking around the vintage marketplace while hubby was happy taking pics of the goings on along Southbank. I loved the pop up tea room, so pretty. I was rather shocked though at how much the vintage china etc was selling for when you can pick up the same at carboots and charity shops for a fraction of the price (unless of course I am missing something?!). It did get a bit overwhelming at times with the heat and amount of people trying to get at the stalls. I came away with some Cath K goodies and a little bit of china that I got for a good price :)

  12. Sounds like a good day out for one and all.
    The Horrockses dresses are lovely- especially that one with the matching shawl/coat- I remember their adverts from my childhood,used to look at them wistfully and decide which dress I would choose...assuming,of course, I was grown up and elegant....

  13. Dear Hen,
    Pretend this is a real, paper letter.
    Reading this morning's post, I realise how much I enjoy your blog. You always share fun, positive experiences. You never complain about your health, your child, your spouse or your impending move. And I love seeing what outfit you've dressed up in, as well as those of your spouse and the "munchkin."
    How I wish my Sailor son had been posted to your part of the world (he's going to Japan!) so I could come share tea with you.
    Thank you for a brief respite from complaining bloggers.

    --Your Aunt Martha (because *everyone* should have an Aunt Martha)

  14. Lovely report of your day! Looking forward to seeing your new clothing.

  15. Marvellous!! We were in London the day before! But I had thought that the whole thing was about £60 - didnt realise there were some free bit too! Never mind, I can share your excitement!

  16. i was there on saturday - in my wheelchair(broken foot)!!

  17. urghhhh looked amazing, some very pretty outfits indeed, good for you, a girl should have a splurge every now and then! LOVE you sunnies and hat too!
    Nattie x

  18. We are trying to decide whether it is you and Mr HH featured in 2 different articles! Check out The Womens Room and The Daily Telegraph fashion section.
    If it's not you two, then I think someone is doing their very best to impersonate you both!
    Z xx

  19. Penny blossoms - it's definitely not us - we've not got our free bus passes yet!
    Hen x

  20. How wonderful - the lovely Festival of Britain logo drew me in, and then I really enjoyed your photos and story. I got to the festival exhibition on June, with some other bloggers, and I would have loved to have got to this one. I thought of you as I read the details, hoping there would be good 'real' vintage stuff - so glad to hear there was. Horrockses!!! Wow.

  21. Oh Hen.. how fun that must have been! Did you buy that wonderful granny square blanket? I wonder how much it was!?
    Come to my blog for my giveaway!
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  22. What a super day out; all those vintage goodies in one place (and sun too!)- no wonder thats why the Hen Family looks so happy!

  23. It does look great. I am envious that you went. We had an amazing time at Goodwood last year. Must say that I hope they repeat it there as we had such a fun few days camping with all our vintage finery! Looking forward to Goodwood Revival though. Wonder if you go to that. x

  24. what a delightful blog! enjoyed my first visit, and have big plans to return.

  25. Your pics from the festival are absolutely lovely!

    I see that the seller with the purple Horrockses dress dropped her price! when i was there she was asking £170 for it. I did advise her that it might be a bit too much to ask at a fair (although she would get that much on ebay probably). In my collection of 22 Horrockses I have a Horrockses in this print but an ever so slightly different style!

  26. i went on sunday, and as i was walking around i was keeping a look out for the three of you as i was sure you would be attending, but alas i didnt spot you ! lovely pictures .

  27. What a wonderful day out - you must have been delirious with pleasure at all that gorgeous retil therapy - I knew I should have gone!

  28. Wish I could have attended this grand fair. So many exquisite exhibits! Thanks for posting so we could all attend via you ;-)

  29. I can see you were in heaven Hen! What a wonderful day, you look fabulous, and munchkin steals the show, he looks amazing, and I'm so impressed he loves to join in with the 40's spirit, what a special young gentleman. I'll be going to hunt for H and A mag today to see your cottage, how exciting! And please do show us your dresses, that sounds wonderful! Vanessa xxx

  30. Hi Hen, thanks for the vintage dressmaking advice. I did think about making something but even with a multisized pattern I have trouble fitting my ample boobage as you can see in this post on my blog

    I must say, I'm looking forward to having a rummage through your vintage wardrobe though, teehee, get typing!

    Just going to forward a link to this post to my wonderful man. I'm drip feeding him vintage. lol. I'll get him hooked in the end.

  31. What a great fun day you had! Everything looks fab. Wish we had festivals like that around here.


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