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Vintage treasures Rayne

One of the key pleasures in vintage clothes is the moment when you find that treasured item. It may have been once loved, neglected or never out of its wrapper but it’s just right for you now. Usually a bargain adds an extra frisson but at the very least it shouldn’t be overpriced. This discovery could be after 10 empty-handed visits to the same thrift store but therein lies the pleasure, it’s not something that you or anyone else can simply pick from the shelf on demand. Last weekend I had that moment in Salisbury whilst meeting up with one of my best friends (a vintage fan too but on that occasion she had her moment with a bookshelf-quaking pile of second-hand cookery books!)

I uncovered from the window a luscious magenta bag which I thought would make the perfect Christmas pressie for one of my friends. She would be drawn to the shade and, whilst she’s not an everyday vintage wearer, she would still appreciate its 1960s sensibility without it being too ‘period’, way-out or worn (or ‘characterful’ as I’d say).

So it was a vintage treasure. But it was doubly so as I found out it was made by Rayne, the famous shoe company, which I’d spotted earlier in the year at an exhibition about British glamour.

Rayne in the label of the vintage bag.
H & M Rayne was the British monarchy’s shoemaker being granted a Royal warrant by Queen Mary in the 1930s and famously, designing Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding shoes. The royal connections don’t impress on their own but these shoes were hand-made involving 136 processes by a skilled workforce. Watch this video to see behind-the-scenes of royal wedding shoes:

In the 1950s Rayne, fronted by Edward Rayne, was one of the most glamorous shoe brands with collaborations with top couturiers such as Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell and the famous British pottery firm, Wedgwood. At this time, the appropriate accessories were key to the look with Rayne offering matching handbags and shoes in a range of colours to maintain order in the post-war consumer’s outfit. It wasn’t just royalty they’d charmed with their shoes, film star clients included Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead as well as Vivian Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor in their roles as ‘Cleopatra’.

With the rise of youth culture in the 1960s, Rayne extended the brand with ‘Miss Rayne’ to attract a younger crowd pulling on the design talents of Mary Quant, for instance, who created Shirley Temple ankle straps and stiletto heels for them. Another icon of sixties’ pop culture, Emma Peel from The Avengers (played by Diana Rigg) sported Rayne boots, surely a sign of a shoe-maker that was in touch with the times.

However, the Rayne family business did not always mix in such high circles. It was founded in 1885 by Henry and Mary Rayne as a leading theatrical supplier. An Irish immigrant, he changed his surname from Ryan to avoid anti-Irish prejudice.  With flapper fever in the 1920s, women who could afford it wanted the latest styles as worn by their favourite movie stars. To cater for this demand, their son Major Rayne opened a shop in Bond Street to extend the market for their exclusive lines. As an early example of celebrity endorsement, actress Lillie Langtry modelled for this family business. Henry and Mary Rayne’s grandson, Edward Rayne, continued to be a fashion leader and headed up the British Fashion Council in the late 1980s to promote home-grown talent overseas.

I love that this bag holds unknown memories that my friend can imagine and augment with her own, that the person sitting next to her on the bus won’t have this bag and that we can chart British cultural history through a fashion brand from the immigrant experience to the rise of celebrity endorsement.

What vintage clothes treasures have you come across recently? Do you shop in vintage stores for Christmas presents?

Rayne Shoes Logo

And now I just have to be strong and make sure that this bag makes it into my friend’s hands for Christmas…

Vintage bag by Rayne

Fancy finding out more about Rayne?

Visit Rayne’s website, check out Sheep and Chick where Miss Rayne reveals lots of vintage pieces and the showcase at Ballgowns: 50 years of British Glamour.

If you do happen to find yourself in Salisbury in the UK, seek out Foxtrot Vintage for the potential treasures inside!

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Stir-up Sunday

Plum pudding stir-up Sunday

I love cooking but as I’m a savoury fan (and cheese seems the perfect way to end a meal) rather selfishly it’s been my tendency to neglect sweets and cake-making. However, one dessert, that is not only one of my favourites, has also become something of a festive tradition. Around five years ago when my parents joined us in our home to celebrate the holiday for the first time, we decided to try out our first Christmas plum pud.

We were pleasantly surprised that… shhhh it’s not actually very difficult. The recipe we use has not been passed down through either of our families for generations, rather it’s the first one we tried by Dan Lepard and we haven’t strayed from it since. Although this pudding calls for plums, often they do not even contain this fruit and were so-called traditionally because raisins were known as plums.

This year we’ve actually managed to make it on Stir-up Sunday (today)! The practice of stirring up started from the Book of Common Prayer:

“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded…”

On hearing this on the last Sunday before Advent, those responsible for cooking would be reminded to get started on their puddings, which usually have to be left for four or five weeks before their reawakening on Christmas day.

Hopefully this year’s will turn out something like this…

Christmas plum pudding.

I enjoy savouring the pudding all on its own but if you fancy a sauce to accompany yours, check out Come Step Back in Time blog for some help from Mrs Beeton.

As our pudding is simmering, that can only mean the festive season has officially started, so I’m off for a mulled wine (Copenhagen style with almonds and raisins…)

Apologies as it’s way to early to ask but what Christmas traditions do you have? Do you have any delicious recipes that have become a festive can’t live without? Let me know…

Glasgow Girls – the musical

“A letter-writing campaign and a petition to stop child detention in Scotland. It’s not exactly ‘Legally Blonde” is it?”

Glasgow Girls at the Citizens Theatre Glasgow.

That’s what Amal, one of the eponymous ‘Glasgow Girls’, says when questioning whether their story should be a musical. And thankfully (as someone who has seen Legally Blonde the musical), this isn’t that…

The self-named Glasgow Girls are teenagers who fought against the detention of asylum seeker children and dawn raids in Scotland. From a variety of cultural backgrounds and nationalities themselves (including Somalian, Kurdish, Roma Polish as well as Scottish) Amal Azzudin, Roza Salih, Ewelina Siwak, Emma Clifford, Toni Lee Henderson and Jennifer McCarron started their fight after their fellow Drumchapel High School friend, Agnesa Murselag’s family were removed from their home in the middle of the night and threatened with deportation. The teenagers take on the Scottish Parliament and the UK Home Office, which ruled in 2005 that it was safe for asylum seekers to return to Kosovo. For Agnesa’s family – Kosovan Roma – this was far from the case.

Why a musical?

But as Amal says this doesn’t necessarily seem like the stuff of musicals. Another ‘Glasgow Girl’, Emma Clifford, was surprised on hearing it was to be in this genre:

“Jazz hands does not fit the bill here. But the more I thought about it, music was so much a part of our campaign. Whenever we were celebrating or anything like that there was so much music. It was inspiring.” (BBC website)

After watching Lindsay Hill’s TV documentary Tales from the Edge about the campaigning teenagers, director Cora Bissett, decided to opt for this form as music played such a big part in the girls’ lives but also reflected their different cultural backgrounds.

The music and choreography work to create a vibrancy and energy mirroring that felt in the girls’ campaign; from the exuberance of their solidarity (you’ll be humming the ‘Glasgow Girls’ theme after you leave the theatre) to the threatening in Patricia Panther’s menacing performances as the opposition – police officers, immigration and spin doctors.

The production plays with the fact that it’s “a life-affirming new musical based on a true story”. Throughout the piece, characters question whether their campaign should be a musical (it’s mostly about photocopying) and at the beginning the girls shout down an off-stage “Hollywood” voice-over telling their story.  In the self-aware, happy ‘opening montage’, the girls sing about Glasgow (where it rains all the time except when it snows) and do a routine with tartan umbrellas. The seventh ‘Glasgow Girl’, Tony Lee Henderson isn’t in the play but the characters shout to her off-stage. I am not sure whether they cut her character out because she didn’t want to be portrayed but again this seems like a joke at mainstream cinematic reflections of real life, where the truth is pared down.

The other residents of the Kingsway high-rise flats worked together to stop the dawn raids with an early warning system to help the intended victims evade arrest. The character of Noreen (played by Myra McFadden) represents them. With self-awareness, she claims that she didn’t want to be involved in a musical but she has to stand in for all the others. Again playfully, she questions how you can reflect real life in a Glaswegian high-rise if you are prohibited from smoking in the theatre and urges the girls to give the musical a happy ending as that’s what is expected (unless it’s a very ‘modern’ musical).

This artifice and playfulness actually works to make the play feel “real”. In the second half, there is an invented family seeking asylum, the Chirugoes from the Congo, whom the girls try to help. As a plot device to illustrate the emotional distress of immigration and deportation – a symbol of the girls’ fight – they worked well. However in comparison to the other vibrant characters, they were only really seen as victims or through the local community’s eyes rather than being drawn out more fully.

To a Mouse….

Mr Girvan (played by Callum Cuthbertson), the girls’ teacher, sings Scottish Bard, Robert Burns’ To a Mouse including the lines:

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union…

As a Scot who’s lived in England for 15 years or so… I try not to sentimentalise the homeland too much but I was moved as he sang this folk ballad. It’s so appropriate as Burns, not just a lover of nation, was an internationalist seeking to help the common man. The fight here is not just on racial or ethnic grounds but a fight against those who are crushed systemically. Later in the play, as a celebration the girls dance to this song again but this time it’s intertwined with globally diverse dances reflecting Scottish multiculturalism.

The play also mocks the political system which has lost touch with the people they represent (Dawn Sievewright as Tommy Sheridan at the Scottish Parliament drew a huge laugh from the audience). Scottish First Minister at the time, Jack McConnell is represented as a cabaret singer in a gold lamé jacket who remembers a time when he was like the girls’ idealistic teacher but has now become  just a ‘mac’ down South without real power.

Want to see the Glasgow Girls?

You can still catch Glasgow Girls at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow until 17 November 2012 and then at the Theatre Royal Stratford East London from 8 February to 2 March 2013.

Glasgow Girls was conceived and directed by Cora Bissett and written by David Grieg. The music is a collaboration between the director, Sumali Bhardwaj (Soom T), Patricia Panther and John Kielty.

Want to be a Glasgow Girl?

The play posits that the ‘Glasgow Girls’ aren’t just the seven girls but their teacher, the headteacher, Noreen, all the others in the community… and everyone who gets involved to help in this cause. Here are some organisations which are working to help change the lives of asylum seekers and refugees:

Have you seen any musicals that deal with tough, political issues? Does this story inspire you to get involved? Do get in touch and let me know.

If you would like hear more about the story, watch this Q & A with local Drumchapel residents and documentary filmmaker, Lindsay Hill alongside a real ‘Glasgow Girl’, Amal Azzudin, and her former teacher, Mr Cuthbertson.