Monday, 20 August 2012


London is a city which oozes history at every turn, from the iconic Routemaster buses to the stunning architecture to the endless galleries and museums; which is why, since the origin of Lesley's Girls Vintage stems partially from our love of history, we are blogging our recent weekend trip to the city (Susannah, the 'non-blogging' half of Lesley's Girls kindly looked after our children while Simon and I enjoyed a break).

Living fairly close to London, as we do, quite often you find that you don't pack things into a break in the city, so a lot of our weekend involved walking around and simply soaking up the atmosphere; much of London was still in Diamond Jubilee and Olympics/Paralympics celebration mood.

One of the first things we did was to make a trip to the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth.  I have never been to this museum before, which looking back surprises me as it is the sort of thing I would have imagined Dad would have taken us to when we were children (we regularly went to Duxford when we were growing up).  This is, without doubt, one of the most moving places I have been to.  The museum itself is free admission (amazing given the quality of the displays and the amount of work that must go into the upkeep of the exhibits); and upon entering you are met by the sight of several twentieth century planes suspended in the atrium of the building, always a jaw dropping sight.  There are a number of planes and vehicles you could get right up close to and, sometimes, climb inside (one tank in the museum made me think of my Grandpa's war stories).

The exhibits on display were arranged into various sections, including World War I, Word War II, the Cold War, Modern Conflict and the Family in Wartime section.  The last section resonated because my favourite vintage fashions are from the 1940s, and it hits home that much of the fashion was born of necessity; what we consider elegant and classic styling, the inspiration of hundreds of vintage parties, was so very real for people at the time.  Clothes were altered from hand-me-downs, wedding dresses were made from enemy parachutes - because that was all they could do.  This was not the generation of throw away fashion, this truly was the age of make-do and mend in the truest and proudest sense of the phrase.

Due to my interest in historical fashion, I was drawn to one particular exhibit; a dress with a 'peter pan' collar. I wondered why it was there and who had worn it (how infrequently I know the previous owners of our stock and how often I want to know, as the stories behind items adds so much to the appeal).  This particular dress had been worn by a lady, Yvonne Cormeau, who was working for the French resistance.     She was shot whilst escaping, fortunately she survived and the dress bore the bullet hole from the incident; having managed to escape, the bullet hole was repaired and the dress worn again.  Fashion is often seen as superficial and unimportant, but it is when you see and hear stories like this you see that you see that clothes, although not the backbone of our lives, are the silent witnesses of it, which is yet another reason for our love of vintage as it celebrates and remembers the lives of those who wore the garments.

The Holocaust exhibition was intense, appropriately so.  Always emotional and at times harrowing to view, but if you visit the museum (perhaps without very young children) then it is well worth visiting.  A horrific part of all too recent history that must be remembered to honour the millions of lives lost, but also to make sure the lessons are never forgotten.  It was the part of the museum we spent the longest in, and it really took you on a journey- from the entrance to the exhibition where Jewish life before the holocaust was explained, to the rise of Hitler in the early 30's when the manipulation of views and propaganda began, to the painful Nazi "solution" and finally to the survivors.  Oddly, or perhaps understandably, not one person spoke in this part of the museum; it is one of the hardest things I have seen, but although I could have walked away any time I wanted- I would not and could not, it is right that such an exhibition is here for us to see and that we should never forget.

As we left, we both felt quite emotional (I have to say it is hard to even write about such a weighty subject), and we spent the next couple of hours almost drifting around London in the heat and absorbing the sights and sounds, seeing the lives that people lead safely and with the expectation of safety, before getting ready for our night out with close friend of Lesley's Girls, Mel.

A night out in London inevitably (in my experience anyway) leads to the question of where to enjoy a drink- there are always too many places to choose from.  But we found a lovely restaurant (sitting outside luckily due to the sweltering temperature), followed by a few well chosen bars in Soho (thank you Mel for some preparatory bar research!), although on this occasion we missed out on Simon's favourite 'gin palace', the Salisbury (a stunning interior and great atmosphere).  I ended the night dipping my feet in the cool water of Trafalgar Square fountain, perfect bliss.

The following day we headed back to Trafalgar Square and took in a visit to the National Portrait Gallery.  I have been there dozens of times but it always draws me in for some reason.  This time it was a little different.  We got there as it opened, there were more staff than patrons at that time, I have never been 'alone' in the gallery before.  Today it felt peaceful and alone, I say alone....really there were hundreds of eyes following me around the rooms, quite eerie in truth but all the more enjoyable for it.

After that it was a swift return home, passing the Olympic stadium en route; although we didn't get tickets to go to the Olympics (and we are struggling to get Paralympic tickets) at least we got a feel for London in the summer of 2012, complete with the obligatory photos of official mascot, Wenlock.

I'm not sure if readers and shop-lovers are aware but we are fast approaching our first anniversary in October (it is already exactly one year since Susannah and I began discussing plans to set up a vintage business together) and we are preparing some exciting anniversary ideas: including the long awaited Upcycled launch, a vintage giveaway, an anniversary sale and for us..... a well earned night out, well in Susannah's case not a night out, but a new baby due around the same time- this I am most excited about of all.  The arrival of the newest member of Lesley's Girls would be the best way to celebrate

Credit: SJRPhotography for (almost) all the images.


  1. No matter the topic you're covering, dear Janine, I always find your posts deeply enjoyable and love how you often intersperse images throughout your writing. The collective amount of time I've spent in London in my life (and the bulk of this was at Heathrow) would maybe total a day or a day and a half at most, which is almost funny in a way because I lived in the ROI for two years, but never got a chance to explore the UK when I was neighbours with it. Oh well, hopefully one day, as I truly do what to become far better acquainted with it firsthand.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. You are a darling! Thank you so much. The blog started as more about the shop and now it's more a diary of our lives and interests. My husband takes most of the photos, and he is always has a quick look at the posts before hand suggesting moving images here and there, so I'm sure he'll be pleased you enjoy them!

      London (and the UK) is amazing- definitely recommend a visit some day. But I have never been across the pond to Canada (although My Uncle and Aunt and some close friends live there) and I have a similar desire to come across your way... perhaps we should swap for the day ;-)


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