Trying too hard – is it so wrong?

After years of being a low-maintenance miss and laughing at the likes of Victoria Beckham for being coordinated to the hilt, I feel like changing tack. I’m starting to wonder if trying too hard could be a good thing. It’s partly to do with my musings of mutton dressed as lamb, the older I get, the more I ponder this age-old conundrum. Like, just because you’re old, why can’t you have fun with fashion and play dress-up? Why should it automatically mean dressing in Bottega and playing safe? SJP did it on Sex & The City and Madonna has always pushed the boundaries of fashion and taste whatever her age and now Patricia Field (not a quiet dresser herself) has even hooked up with good old M&S to bring her bonkers mutton-madness style to the masses.

So I’m spearheading a new campaign to make Trying Too Hard a trend. Bring on the head-to-toe designer labels! Say ‘yay!’ to Victoria Beckham’s earnest efforts at elegance via the over-coordinated shoe-bag-sunglasses look! Let’s applaude Nancy Del Olio’s daring ways with animal print and red! I think while the economy’s in freefall, we should try to keep fashion fun. I’m planning to make a concerted effort to match at least two colours in my outfits. Red bag with red lipstick? How very Paloma Picasso. Yellow belt with yellow watch? Subtle but fun. Pink T-shirt and pink socks? Why ever not? Go crazy people! When I was in Hermes last week helping a friend buy a tie for the Ivor Novello lunch, the very helpful salesperson was already ahead of the game. ‘Match your pocket square to your jacket lining!” He implored. “It will look so chic!’

Cassie Mercantile

While some vintage stores are bailing out, others are doing perfectly fine, thank you very much. The sublime but secretive Cassie Mercantile is a vintage clothing dealership with a showroom in genteel Holland Park. Owner Graham Cassie is a shy Scot who spends his days sourcing post-war Americana, love-worn army surplus and the odd spool of vintage haberdashery trim on his travels around the globe. He sells to upper-end designers on the lookout for inspiration as well as scooping up the perfect beat-up suitcases and just-threadbare-enough old flags to fashion into Japanese shop window displays. On my recent visit he wouldn’t let me get too snap-happy (frankly, he doesn’t need the publicity) but allowed these gems. Clearly, there’s some mileage in vintage threads yet.

Out with the old…

What is going on with London’s vintage stores, they’re all dropping like flies! First we lost Steinberg & Tolkien, then Cornucopia is about to go (though no date has been confirmed) and now The Antique Clothing Shop on Portobello Road is closing next month. Is it the competition from websites like Ebay that is forcing these places to close? Or high rents from landlords? It’s a real shame as I often get so much inspiration from browsing these dusty little dressing up boxes. When I got talking to Sandy at The Antique Clothing shop on Saturday she explained she’s been doing it for decades and just needs a rest now. I do understand but it’s still a terrible shame and in this case it’s a double blow as she’s closing her other shop The Vintage Home Store too. All’s not lost however. If you don’t get the chance to raid the shop between now and 20th June, the remaining stock will be auctioned in September by Kerry Taylor’s Auctions. But my advice is try and make it down in the next couple of weeks (note: it’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays) for some heavily discounted Victorian blouses, twenties wedding dresses and fifties silk scarves.