Review: Wearing the Wild West (Violets in May)

I honestly can’t believe it has taken me this long to buy myself a skirt from Violets in May. I first came across them a couple of years ago on Etsy, a shop full of beautiful, fun fabrics and a range of very fabulous 50s-style clothing. This was however before I fully embraced the novelty print – nowadays it’s difficult for me to avoid wearing something quirky and brightly coloured!

A couple of months ago, I was on the hunt for a decent quality gathered skirt. I’d been let down by a couple I’d purchased from some larger repro clothing stores, and couldn’t justify the shipping costs on top of the purchase price for some Vixen by Micheline Pitt and Pinup Girl Clothing pieces that have been on my lust list forever. I can find plenty of circle skirts, but for some reason a simple gathered skirt seems hard to come by! Until I remembered spotting a couple of Instagram pictures, around Hallowe’en time, of a gathered skirt with bats on. And then I stumbled back across Violets in May, and spent about an hour carefully favouriting almost every item on there – so many fantastic prints to choose from! A choice of a gathered skirt, a circle skirt, or a number of different tops and dresses! And best of all – a choice of a gathered skirt with, or without, pockets. SAY WHAT? POCKETS?? I AM SOLD.

The problem was, after having favourited almost everything, I then realised that my budget wouldn’t stretch to 30 skirts. I had to choose one. Now, I’m not normally a huge fan of bubble-gum pink and my wardrobe has lots of black, red, green and blue in it. I tend to stay away from anything too bright and whilst I have no issue with wearing pink, I am just never drawn to it.

Until I saw this jaw-droppingly unique fabric. I was pretty much sold when I spotted it had cacti on it, but the playful collection of colours and cowgirl pinups was just so strangely alluring, I just had to make it mine.

Violets in May skirt close up

I’ve put on a little bit of weight over the past few months and my waist is a bit bigger now – it is between 28.5″ and 29″ at the moment. The size guide says 28 inches is a size 10 and 30 inches is a size 12. I went for a size 12, thinking i can bring it in with a belt if need be.

Violets in May appears to be a one-woman operation, and so once my order went in, there was a 4-6 week wait for it to be hand-stitched before shipping. Four weeks after putting in my order, it arrived – and (spoiler alert) it is absolutely bloody incredible.

Violets in May skirt, side on view

It arrived beautifully packaged. The material has no stretch to it, but the cotton feels high-quality. I opted for a version without pockets (I know! What was I thinking?!) because I’ve been let down before buying gathered skirts with pockets where the material seems to sit on top of my hips making them look bigger. As my hips is an area I’m quite self-conscious about, I thought I’d try no pockets. I also had no idea what to expect from Violets in May so thought I’d try the very basic gathered skirt to see how I found it. Considering the fit and quality, I am furious at Past Caz for not having the decency to pay extra for pockets as they would have made this skirt a 10/10 for me.

My favourite feature about this skirt is actually the zip at the back. The whole item feels very well-made, and zips always make me feel more secure. I’ve had buttons loosen on me before, so I always prefer to be able to zip myself in.

The sizing is spot on. It’s 26″ in length, which is knee-length on me, at 5’8″. I measured the waist at 29.9 inches, and whilst it’s slightly on the bigger side, I actually prefer a slightly looser fit in gathered skirts as I feel that they sit better, especially with a fluffy petticoat. I am wearing a white Malco Modes ‘Jennifer’ petticoat underneath, which is a medium-full petticoat, and it fills it out perfectly. The skirt fabric isn’t super light either, so it also holds itself in more gusty conditions as well as holding the petticoat in place. Sometimes I find the petticoat can bunch between my legs if the skirt is less full (petticoat wearers, you get me?!) but I had no such problems wearing this outfit to Westfield and back again.

I’ve worn this skirt three times since it arrived, and every time I get a lot of compliments, and a lot of people asking where I got it. It’s probably the most comfortable (and most fun!) skirt that I own, and I can’t wait to buy another one/two/fifteen skirts from Violets in May.

And the best bit? For £60, these skirts are almost half the price of some of the bigger brands – and by buying one, you’re also supporting UK small businesses. What a win-win.

Top: H&M (old season)

Skirt: Violets in May

Petticoat: Malco Modes ‘Jennifer’

Shoes: George at Asda


BUY THIS:

>The ‘Howdy Cowgirl’ print is available in a gathered and tiered version from £60 (24″ length)


 

Parisian Chic: Lindy Bop’s ‘Bernice’ Dress

Basically, my life on social media goes a bit like this:

Me: gosh that’s a pretty dress

Me: *five minutes later* oh no I’m poor

Yeaahh…since discovering how beautifully other people dress, I now treat Instagram a bit like a curated shopping list. I’ve asked my bank balance to keep quiet about how many impulse purchases I’ve made because I’ve spotted someone wearing something, and at that moment just HAD to have it. And those times where it’s been on my personal wish list for a few weeks? I wait for an offer, and I go a bit mental purchasing all the pretties for a meagre 10% off. And if I pay full price for it? Then it has probably been in my basket for weeks, and I’ve been dreaming about it, and I’ve probably been Googling for reviews so I can verify that, yes, it is absolutely perfect.

The Lindy Bop Paris dress was absolutely one of those dresses that I dreamed about. I’m often reluctant to buy from Lindy Bop, because I find their sizing varies wildly, and in some items, it squishes my boobs whilst gaping around my waist. I’ve returned so many items, having fallen in love with them – only to find that they make me look like a tent when they arrive.

When my lovely Paris arrived, I was a younger and more innocent 50s style enthusiast. I actually laugh out loud remembering the day I bought it, tried it on, and said “oh…it’s a bit – floofy, isn’t it?”

Oh, past me, you are hilarious. You used to think that wearing a very slim petticoat was ‘a bit much’, and that ‘everyone’ might notice. Nowadays, I feel naked without one. I’m sure many other 50s fashion fans would agree; it’s weird how quickly you acclimatise to the style, and how quickly you learn to ignore the sneers/remarks/stares. People: it’s fashion. It isn’t going to come after your children when you’re sleeping.

ANYWAY. So, I bought this dress when it came out last year, and for my sins it lay in the wardrobe, sadly waiting for the day I took it out and showed it the light of day. Luckily, I got over my fear of petticoats and fully embraced the full-flood lifestyle.

In the case of the Bernice ‘Paris’ print – NO REGRETS. This dress has to be one of the best-fitting dresses I have in my wardrobe.

“What’s over there?”

 

How beautiful is this pattern?

 

“OMG POCKETS?!”

 

Jacket: Collectif

Hair flower: Collectif (old season)

Shoes: New Look

Dress: Lindy Bop

I am currently: bust 36″, waist 27.5″, hips 39″, and I opted for the ‘Bernice’ in a size 10. Now, I know that in the past I’ve had trouble with Lindy Bop’s sizing, often where the waist is too big and the bust too small, but this dress fits me perfectly!

There is no stretch to the material, so it’s worth consulting the size guide on this one. It’s lined, which is lovely too, and feels like a good quality dress. The zip at the back is nice, but it does catch a little on the lining sometimes, so it’s worth being careful when you zip up. It comes with a slim white belt too, which is lovely – and more cream than white. I use it with other outfits, so I’ve find it quite versatile. However in this dress I often opt for a wider black belt, as I frequently wear black flats and it looks a little more pulled-together if I can coordinate colours somehow!

I found the bodice to be slightly tight, however in my case I do prefer a more pin-up look with a fitted bodice, but it’s more generous than many other retailers on the bust; it’s nice not ‘bursting out’! I’m a FF/G cup (depending on the brand) so it’s actually quite hard to find dresses that fit me on the chest and don’t swamp me. I was so happy to find that this one fit perfectly, with room to breathe, and the sweetheart neckline is very cute without being revealing.

I had it in my wardrobe for aaaggeesss because I couldn’t figure out how to pair it with anything; white looked a bit too fancy, black looked too stark, and I didn’t have any blue or pink jackets or cardis. Imagine my happiness when Collectif brought out their pink Outlaw jacket for the SS17 season?! I snapped it up immediately, because I thought it would be the PERFECT accompaniment for my Paris dress, and looking at these photos, I feel I might have been on to something! What do you think, does it work?

You can still find the Paris Bernice available on the Lindy Bop website, a snip at £45.

Having fallen deeply and madly in love with the Paris version of this dress, I was lucky enough to snag two other Bernice dresses in a Lindy Bop sale. They are pretty much my go-to dresses when I can’t choose what else to wear, and I definitely think they’ll be a staple in my summer wardrobe!

I wasn’t able to get the red Bernice in my size, but I did bag myself the gorgeous mint colour, with coral flowers, and a turquoise-green with baby pink flowers.

This is the lovely mint colour-way:

Cropped cardi: Doll Me Up (from Deadly Is The Female)

Belt: Collectif (from an old season skirt)

Shoes: New Look

Dress: Lindy Bop

Perfect, I think, with one of the Doll Me Up cardis – this is the Rose Pink in Medium. These cardigans are wonderful, and I’m so glad we have a UK stockist of them as having them shipped from the USA can mean A LOT of import fees.

And this below is absolutely lovely – a turquoise-green Bernice that I love to pair with my cropped leather-look jacket! Don’t tell Paris, but this might even be my favourite outfit of all time. Shhhh.

Jacket: Deadly Dames (via Pinup Girl Clothing)

Belt: Lindy Bop (comes with the dress!)

Bag: Accessorize (old season)

Necklace: Sugar and Vice

Shoes: New Look

Dress: Lindy Bop

Seriously, how cute is that little rocket necklace?! Sugar and Vice make THE BEST jewellery. I’m also really sad that Accessorize don’t sell these little bags anymore as I often get asked when I wear it where I bought it from. Everyone looks quite sad to hear that I picked up this beauty in about 2015 – I saw it in the shop window, and impulsively ran inside and bought it immediately. Obviously I don’t recommend this approach, but in this isolated case it turned out very well indeed!

My search for the perfect vintage winter coat

Summer in London last year stretched until September, and I managed to kid myself that it was still summer until about mid-October. Realising that the temperatures were plummeting pretty quickly, i reluctantly pulled out my navy trench coat out from the back of the cupboard. But – disaster. It no longer fit me.

I’ve had this problem quite a lot over the past year and a half; thanks to what seems like as-yet undiagnosed medical complications, I lost a significant amount of weight. Most people might wonder why i wouldn’t feel pleased about that, and my answer is two-fold:

  1. I never set out with any aim to lose weight, my diet hasn’t changed, and I made no efforts to change my figure. I have body dysmorphia, and my changing body has made me less able to rely on the ‘safe’ clothes I wear when i have bad days – even my old safe clothes don’t fit now. I no longer know, or trust, my body, and that causes some level of psychological difficulty. Readjusting is hard, when you spend your life pretending you’ve adjusted.
  2. If you’ve shrunk out of all your clothes, replacing everything gets pretty expensive. Literally nothing fits. I have spent so much money on clothes, and I really need to learn how to sew.

I struggled through November and December layering cardigans underneath a denim jacket, or my favourite jacket (a faux leather bolero I bought in my first ever purchase from American retailer Pinup Girl Clothing!) with a couple of scarves and a pair of gloves, but I got to Christmas and I realised it just wasn’t enough. If i wanted to survive until summer, I needed to find myself something warm to wear.

And here the anxiety starts – I love pinup style clothing, but I find shopping a stress, and I hated the idea of trying on hundreds of coats or panic-buying one that didn’t fit. You can’t really hide if a coat doesn’t fit you. I’d already tried on all the coats in M&S and Next, but the only sizes that fitted my waist were a size 6, and they hardly accommodated for my, um, ‘generous’ curves. They also lacked a vintage aesthetic. It struck me that I could have a look around for some coats I liked online, that accentuated the waist and flowed out across the hips, and try and hook one on the Boxing Day sales – it would mean spending less, and perhaps even justifying buying two and then sending them back if they didn’t fit.

Because I am a little sad and take my research VERY seriously, I drew up a list of requirements:

  • It needed pockets. I am so fed up of coats with pretend pockets in them – if you’re not going to bother putting them in, don’t pretend you thought about it!
  • It needed to be warm; I love the Pearl Collectif coat but i felt it might be too long-waisted for my figure. However, I was in love with the cuffs and the lovely faux-fur neckline!
  • It needed buttons at the front, so I can cocoon myself inside it and button away the cold. None of this zip rubbish, and forget coats that don’t even do up at the front! I’m freezing just thinking about them. Brr.
  • It needed to accentuate my tiniest part, my 27.5” waist, with about an inch to move around in so I can layer with jumpers and cardigans.
  • It needed to be generous enough to accommodate both my bust and my hips (37”, and 39” respectively) and preferably skim over my hips.
  • It needed to have enough of a flare in the skirted part to allow me to wear my ploofiest petticoats underneath, and still close over them!
  • Preferably, it needed to be vintage compatible, so it didn’t look out of place with my 1950s wardrobe.

What a list.

I spent some time (okay, about a week) studying size guides, assessing reviews and generally shortlisting, and came across a number of beautiful coats that seemed to fit the bill:


Collectif: ‘Gina’ coat

image of Gina coat

I saw this one on the Collectif site and absolutely fell in love! The leopard-print cuffs are so perfect, and it ticked all the boxes. I wondered about the skirt though; would it be full enough to manage my gorgeously fluffy Malco Modes petticoat? And the sizing tip suggested sizing up if layering – did that mean it ran small, or would I need to size up? So many unknowns…

  • Price: £116.50 (from Collectif)
  • Pros: Warm cuffs, size guide suggests perfect fit
  • Cons: Unsure about the sizing in reality, and whether this coat could tame the petticoats!

Hell Bunny: ‘Isadora’ (was ‘Elvira’) coat

Image of Isadora coat

 

I saw a review by Miss Amy May and instantly wanted to buy this! The addition of a hood is just too cute for words, and then I saw Miss Victory Violet in it and I knew this was a coat I had to track down. Then I saw the price. Eep.

  • Price: £167.99 (from Hell Bunny)
  • Pros: Hood! Fluff! Pockets! Ahhhh!
  • Cons: Bloody hell it’s expensive.

Banned Apparel: ‘Vintage Style Leopard Collar’ coat

Image of Banned Apparel leopard trim coat

I spotted this one on Tiger Milly, and loved the cut of the front. I wondered about the sizing though – and it seemed a little shorter than some of the other coats too. I want all the warmth I can get…

  • Price: £99.99 (from Tiger Milly)
  • Pros: Cheaper than the alternatives, lovely fluffy neckline
  • Cons: Sizing guide wasn’t perfect for me, and might have been a problem for my bust, and it also looked a little shorter than I’d like

 

Just before the sales were announced across most of the vintage retailers, I had a long think (about five minutes) – and I decided to go on an online hunt for an Isadora/Elvira coat. The sizing guide for it seemed to fit my figure best, and I loved the generous swing of the skirt. And that hood!!

Hell Bunny were offering 20% off over the festive period, but I felt this still made it a little dear. Collectif generally hold 50% sales in the first days of the New Year, and I knew the Gina was likely to be up for grabs.

Whilst I was perusing the various sites for a third party seller that had an Isadora/Elvira coat, I actually unexpectedly came across this beauty on eBay:


Hell Bunny: Vivien coat

Image of the Vivien coat

It was in a camel and black colouring, rather than the blue and black that are still available on the Hell Bunny website, and it blew my socks off. Not just because it had the pockets, the fluff, but – it was SO CHEAP! I spotted it on eBay, as new, by a seller who clearly hadn’t realised what a vintage repro diamond they had on their hands.

  • Price: £29(!!!)
  • Pros: A lovely fur collar, two horizontal waist buttons, and deep pockets – with a very generous swing skirt
  • Cons: No hood

To be honest, with no hood being the only real con I could find, I wondered whether such a low price would be a con. Despite worrying about whether it was legit, I felt that this was a deal I could NOT leave behind me! I pressed the ‘buy it now button’ and prayed that it would be the miracle coat I hoped it would be – and if it didn’t fit, I could always pop it back up on eBay. For £29, it seemed worth the risk, and a lot better than the £99 retailing price.

Whilst I waited for my coat to be delivered, the Collectif sale arrived. And I spotted the Gina – down to about £40. There was a worry in my head about there being an issue with the Hell Bunny coat, and I pondered for about an hour with the Gina going in and out of my shopping basket. Then I just took the risk – and figured, I could always return it if there was an issue, right?

Let’s fast forwards to April.

Short story: the Hell Bunny coat is the most perfect coat there has ever been. I’ll do a full review later. And the Gina coat arrived too, and the skirt is less generous as I had thought, but it fits like a glove! So…I kept both. Considering that at full price these would have cost me about £220, and I bought them both for less than £70 (a mere 31% of the original price!) it seems worth it to not have to go through the ho-ha of finding the perfect winter coat for another couple of years!

Longer story: luckily, the size guides for Hell Bunny and Collectif are pretty accurate, if not a little generous, and DEFINITELY follow them if you’re unsure on sizing. The other thing I’ve learned is that vintage repro coats are quite rare to find on eBay, despite finding my wildcard Vivien on there, and I recommend waiting for the Collectif sales to pick up one of their gorgeous pieces at a discounted price, and look out for third party sellers for Hell Bunny. You can sometimes pick up some discounts throughout the year, just after New Year, around Easter, in about August, and around Black Friday in November. Definitely save up, and splash out when it comes to sale time, if you are flexible with the pieces you’d like to buy. I heartily recommend that you have a look at Miss Amy May’s blog too, where she often shares discount codes for items.

So – Vivien and Gina are hanging in my hallway, and I have survived the past four months without dying of frostbite. Hurrah! It’s worth noting that my Hell Bunny coat is incredibly warm, and I always get compliments when I wear it, so if you’re thinking about investing in a coat do have a look at their collection. They’ve also just released a line of gorgeous summery skirts I’ve got my beady eye on – like this orange somerset apples skirt!

What has been your go-to vintage coat to get you through the winter months?

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