Viva Las Vegas #20: Pre-Viva Part 2

Wednesday

We had a bit of a lie-in in the morning then headed back to Makers and Finders for brunch. I wore an old favourite dress from Mars Vintage in Berkley.

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After looking round at some of the graffiti, my better half headed off and I took Flo to The Glam Factory to try on a dress I’d seen for her. I wear a mix of repro and vintage whereas Flo has much more repro in her wardrobe so when I see something vintage for her, I have to show her ASAP!

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The two of us ended up at Rockin’ Bettie ready for our class with His Vintage Touch (Tony). One of my aims in life is to meet as many different hair wizards as possible and Tony is one of the greatest! In a hot room at the back of the store, Flo and I sipped pink champagne as we waited. As a teacher, I’ll admit that I had never seen such a glamorous class of students from around the globe.

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His sweet assistant Ulysses made sure we were all relaxed and well hydrated – I was so ready to learn! I won’t go through every detail of the class but basically it was amazing. Tony was hilarious and totally down to earth. Even though his looks took time, every single one was achievable for an amateur like me (I just need time to practise now). Every model was utterly stunning and coped well with the vast amount hairspray in the air. At the end of the class, we were able to meet Tony. I was so glad about this as I got to thank him for using his voice to support LGBTQ people and people of colour. What an experience!

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Feeling like a boil-in-the-bag meal, we headed back to our hotel to shower and change. I changed into this green Kitty dress by Vivien of Holloway.

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Freshened up, we headed to The Orleans to pick up our wristbands while it was quiet. It was great to see many fellow Viva attendees already milling around the venue.

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As there wasn’t really anything much on for Viva that night, we decided to visit Fremont Street (sometimes known as The Old Strip). On approach, it looked like a sea of bright lights – this was the Vegas I had in my head. It was busy and full of tourists but none of us minded that; we spent the first few minutes gawping at everything around us and staring at the lights. If you ever visit this spot, I recommend finding a place that overlooks the area so you can sit with a drink and take it all in!

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At one end of Fremont Street there’s a container park – we went there for dinner. At the entrance, there’s a Burning Man remnant in the form of a massive fire-spouting praying mantis.

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It’s quite a nice space to hang out and people watch and there are shops open late too. Mexican food in the US is much better than the majority of Mexican food in the UK so I had to have some – the guacamole was just sublime!

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Us just after a fire engine tooted its horn way too loudly!

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Fed and watered, we walked back up the street and headed back to our hotel.

Up next – Thursday’s photo shoot.

Skirt Swishin’ with Susan Phelps Photography

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As my wardrobe’s expanded, I’ve made sure to add more separates. I adore my dresses but sometimes it’s good to get a little more versatility out of my clothes.

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For this post, I took an old  Lindy Bop top and paired it with two different skirts. This first skirt is this lovely monochrome gingham skirt from Vivien of Holloway. It’s a lovely skirt for summer – light and breezy but slightly textured. You can easily dress this skirt up or down, I went for a more casual look.

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For the second skirt, I chose this heavier, colourful, woven skirt from Joy (now sold out). I just love that this skirt has pockets – every skirt and dress should have pockets! The different colours in this skirt makes it really easy to pair different tops.

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Thanks to Susan Phelps Photography for these lovely photos – it was worth going up that ridiculous slope!

Which tops do find easiest to pair different skirts with? How do you mix up your separates?

Viva Las Vegas #20: Pre-Viva Part 1

Preparation

Before we headed off to Las Vegas, I did a bit of prep-work. Normally when I travel to a completely new country or area, I pick up a Lonely Planet guide and read it from cover to cover. I focus on my areas of interest: nature, walks, local and independent places to eat and interesting shopping spots. Once I’ve done this, I make a list including my better half’s picks. Then, we find the location of these places and pin them on an offline Google map – this helps us to get a feel for the area and plan places to go more efficiently. We also look on Google Maps for nearby places, checking photos and reviews to help us make decisions. Now as this was Viva, we also looked through the entire Viva schedule for our top things to do and scheduled them in too.

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As an obsessive list-maker for holiday packing, I also made a detailed packing list. Not included on the list is the extra suitcase we packed for our purchases abroad!

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Monday

We flew out from Gatwick airport at 11am. For the flight, I wore a very comfy vintage dress, a red Vivien of Holloway cardigan and my red Converse. I didn’t want to crush my curls during the flight so I pinned up my hair haphazardly and added this handy turban from Sarah’s Doo Wop Dos. Even though we were tired, we were so excited to finally be going to Vegas. When we landed, we got some food and headed straight to bed.

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Tuesday

In the morning, Flo had a helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon so @darktechsupport and I headed to the arts district for brunch and mooching. I wore my Vivien of Holloway dress, black Converse and an old M&S denim jacket.

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This area of Vegas is most definitely one of my favourites; it’s quieter, full of independents and pedestrian-friendly. My favourite brunch and coffee place has to be Makers and Finders – we loved it so much that we went there four times during our stay. If you’re ever in Vegas, go there!

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We strolled around lots of spots, picking up some things from Buffalo Exchange and The Glam Factory. Both of us wanted to pick up some furniture from Retro Vegas but the shipping would have been a nightmare!

Once Flo got back from her epic flight, we headed out to explore The Strip. The scale of Vegas is like nothing I’ve experienced before – with the heat as well, it was not easy to walk all over the city. Unlike other places I’ve visited, Vegas doesn’t have particularly cheap or widespread public transport. Staying off-strip meant we had to take an Uber from place to place but we managed to grab a day’s bus pass for exploring the main casinos. We started off with brunch at Roxy’s Diner in The Stratosphere – the malts were so so good!

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After that, we headed off to Circus Circus and watched a balancing act. Then we went to The Flamingo.

Finally, we walked around The Strip taking in some of the sights. If I’m completely honest, this part of Vegas didn’t really do it for me. It all seemed a little strange to me – I didn’t get what was drawing people in. I guess it’s a city based around money so it would be natural for it to feel really corporate – I just don’t think it was for me! Also smoking is legal indoors which I really did not enjoy (my clothes and hair reeked so much).

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Back at the hotel for a bit of a breather, we had a quick change of outfit and headed to Frankie’s Tiki Room. I wore this gorgeous Collectif dress with my new-to-me bag from The Glam Factory.

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I bloody loved this place! The drinks were just delicious (try a ‘Scurvy’ if you go), the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed and there were great tunes playing all evening. After only two drinks, we were quite merry so we headed back to the hotel to get some rest.

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Next up on the blog – Wednesday with His Vintage Touch!

Papow Ponders #9: Lessons Learned From My First Viva

I can’t believe Viva’s been and gone – where did the time go? I’ll be writing a series of posts on everything Viva-related over the coming weeks.

This post reflects on some of the anxieties I experienced before my trip to Vegas, you can read the previous post here.

Lesson 1 – Stop caring about what others think about me
Many of my anxieties are based around approval; I often fear that people hate me or dislike me. During Viva, I only had kind words and friendly smiles thrown my way from so many different people. I spoke to people from all over the world about so many different subjects (not just Viva-related matters). From the pub dance floor to the showroom, I felt such a great deal of warmth and acceptance from everyone around me. In a matter of hours, I stopped panicking and actually relaxed – safe in the knowledge that I was in an open-minded, easy-going space. I felt as comfortable in full pin-up in the evenings as I did bare-faced waiting in an early morning queue. No-one made me feel out of place or uncomfortable at all. Unlike some events, it didn’t feel like a best dressed competition: people wore what they wanted when they wanted. If you wanted to have three different outfits a day with full hair and make-up or t-shirt and jeans, it really didn’t matter. It was just lovely!

Lesson 2 – Talk to people more often
Fear and panic often lead me to become insular and introverted so I don’t have proper conversations with new people. As I felt so relaxed, I was able to natter with lots of people. In lots of cases I forgot to take photos, but it felt so good just to be in the moment – it didn’t really matter. Apart from Viva, I had lots of odd connections with people – from a trainee SEN teacher to a cider supplier to a Reading pub, we just talked about life! These little moments and connections helped me to realise that being sociable isn’t as scary as I normally make it out to be.

Lesson 3 – Take time out from social media
WiFi connections were pretty terrible in Vegas so for the most part I didn’t really check social media. In the morning and before I went to bed, I’d check messages and maybe post something but the rest of the time my phone was switched off. To be honest it was quite liberating. I felt like I could fully immerse myself in the whole Viva experience without focussing on a screen. Yes, I still had my camera round my neck but I didn’t feel the constant need to check it (which I often do with my phone). Instead of wondering and worrying about what everyone else was doing, I was able to focus on my buddies and myself!

Lesson 4 – Be the person you are happy to be
When I first started blogging there was a vintage/pin-up fashion-based focus. As time has gone by, it has developed into a space in which I can talk about a whole range of issues. During Viva Miss Lulu Heart introduced herself to me, telling me that she’d hoped to find me. I felt quite taken aback and then bluntly asked her why she followed me. Fully expecting an answer linked with aesthetics, I instead found out that she enjoyed my point of view on certain issues. This chance encounter made me re-evaluate how I put myself out to the world. While I fundamentally seek approval from others, I also feel so passionate about equality in all forms. Now while my views may make others feel alienated or uncomfortable, I’d rather stay true to my values than pretend to be something I’m not. I am happy being that person and if it causes others to dislike or reject me, then I’m just going to have to deal with it – because I cannot change who I am at heart.

Lesson 5 – Ignore the fear
My pre-Viva anxiety was the worst part of my holiday and that fear is always out to stop me from stepping outside of my comfort zone. I will continue to repeat my Latrice Royale mantra of ‘Good god girl – get a grip!’, whenever I hear that little evil voice talking in my head. If I’d have listened to my fears, I would never have been able to have such an amazing and memorable holiday.

There you have it – a truly positive adventure! I’d like to thank my travel buddies for being the best Viva companions I could have wished for. I’m so grateful for all of the advice I was given, it made for a truly enriching experience!

Keeping Things Casual with Susan Phelps Photography

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Apart from getting some time away from the classroom, I love the school holidays because I get the chance to catch up and shoot with Sue Phelps. It’s been roughly a year since we first starting working together and I just love her more and more!

This pink and white houndstooth dress is a vintage piece from Frock&Roll. When I put it on, I realised it was the perfect casual dress – sleeveless, back zip and massive pockets.

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You could easily dress it up or down depending on what you’re up to. Here I added a white bolero and an elasticated white belt to cinch my waist. My old denim jacket kept the chill off as we walked about.

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For hair and make-up, I tried out a softer dry-set on my hair and my usual flicks with pink lipstick.

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What are your favourite casual outfits? How do you style them for different occasions?

Meet The Maker #1: Vivien Of Holloway

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One of the great aspects of blogging is that it can give you the opportunity to meet some fabulous folk. Having already met Vivien of Vivien of Holloway at few events, I asked if I could interview her for the blog and thankfully, she agreed!

Background

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I started buying dresses from VOH way back in 2009, while I was still at uni. Since then, I found Flo was a fellow fan (and quite a few other friends too). My sister and our best woman wore VOH to our wedding in 2013 and my mum has a few pieces as well.

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In the words of  VOH,

A life-long Fifties lifestyle and fashion enthusiast, Vivien began sewing vintage-style clothes for herself at a mere ten years old. At eighteen, she opened her first shop in the world famous but now sadly gone Kensington Market, selling her hand-made 1950s reproductions to fellow followers of 1950s fashions. Many satisfied customers later, we can fast forward… oh, a couple of years to 2000, when the Vivien of Holloway brand was born, and Vivien’s signature Fifties style soon took the world by storm.

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The Interview

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Vivien centre and fellow VOH fan Kelly

I and so many others have shopped at VOH for years. Why do you think you have such brand loyal customers?

VOH: I think because it’s from my heart and I make clothes that I actually want to wear. I’m not copying anyone – I think people appreciate that.

Vintage reproduction  has really taken off over the past few years, what makes VOH stand out from the rest?

VOH: We were the  first. Our clothes come  from a love of vintage – we’ve not jumped on a bandwagon, which has done us well.

Diversity and representation is incredibly important to me. How does VOH create such broad appeal?

VOH: We don’t design fancy dress; our clothing is authentic and accessible for all. Our cuts are classic and the fabrics speak to a wide range of ages.

Where do you think VOH will go in the future?

VOH: I honestly don’t know. It’s already gone much further than I could have imagined.

There are many people who feel that they aren’t ‘good enough’ or that they can’t wear certain pieces of clothing. I was one of those people. What does VOH clothing do to help people break out of their comfort zone?

VOH: All women inside them have a little girl that wants to be glamorous. We’ve all watched old Hollywood movies. Sometimes people aren’t sure but they choose to come to the shop. All of our styles have been in fashion at some point in history. I make garments that are well-fitting and sexy without being overstated.

The Customers

Although I’ve shared my love of VOH in previous posts, I though it would be helpful to share other customers reasons for why they choose to wear VOH. There were so many responses – here is a small selection:

Margaret C. – I buy VOH because of best quality and best design. They are very flattering and make you look very glamorous. Awesome for jivin’ and dancing and great to wear for any occasion.

Laura W. – The fit is fabulously flattering, the cloth & tailoring is of a quality for a queen and there’s no better way to transform into a vintage vixen than to adorn yourself in a Vivien of Holloway.

Brooke M. – For me, the dresses just make you feel like a woman. My weight yo-yos but whether I fit in a VOH 20 or 24, I have that confidence knowing I look the best I can. The dresses flatter all sizes and are ageless – why shop anywhere else?

Elizabeth W. – I only found my waistline as a direct result of wearing VOH – my silhouette is invisible in modern tailoring.

Charlotte S. – Of all the vintage brands, I find VOH fits better and is more flattering than any other. The clothes are beautifully made and, unlike other brands, I don’t have to worry about seams or zips going after only one or two wears. If I have a really special occasion coming up, I tend to treat myself to a new Viv because I know that I will look my best in it.

Marion N. – I wear VOH because I just love all the designs and the quality. I know that every purchase will fit me. I struggle with self esteem and body esteem, and every time I wear my VOH pieces I feel better, I feel incredible and I feel beautiful. And I think that in the retro market, VOH is one of the most authentic in design.

Rachel H. – I wear VOH because the fit is amazing! When I wear one of my dresses I feel like I’m being transported back to that era of classic beauty and it makes me feel gorgeous!

Lottie B. I wear my Vivs to school where I’m a singing teacher. The girls in particular love them and I always get compliments! I also put all my bridesmaids in them – we had a huge range of shapes, sizes and colourings and it was great being able to put them in different styles to suit them. The shop is also amazing, the girls are lovely and customer service excellent.

Thoughts

I think the customers  have said it all really! This post wasn’t sponsored – I just wrote it because I finally plucked up the courage to ask Viv for an interview and I’m also a real fan of the brand.

If you’d like to try out VOH, you should know that there is a huge 50% off sale in store from 13th – 17th April!

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Papow Ponders #8: Battling My Brain

Well, tomorrow I’m off to Vegas with Flo and @darktechsupport for my first (and possibly only) Viva Las Vegas. Since my school holidays never really line up with Viva, we made sure to book tickets when the dates actually worked. We’ve been planning this trip for well over a year and the excitement has been building and building. In preparation for the whole experience, I turned to social media for a little education. To say I’ve been overwhelmed is an understatement.

I’ve watched tons of YouTube videos, read blog after blog and flicked through Instagram – now I feel totally out of my league. I’ve started to question myself a lot.

  • Am I too big?
  • Am I polished enough?
  • Do I seem approachable?
  • Will people judge me if I dance badly?
  • Are my clothes appropriate?
  • Will people think I look ridiculous?
  • Will my anxiety become too much?
  • What if my hair and make-up skills aren’t up to scratch?
  • What if I don’t have enough accessories?
  • What if I have a meltdown?

I am by no means a perfectionist in my day-to-day styling but I’m one of the only people in my town to dress the way that I do. Going from my comfort zone to a 24/7 glamour onslaught is becoming quite intimidating.

Now, the logical human in me is saying, “Good god girl, get a grip!”,  but my insidious, anxious brain is screaming so much louder.  It’s telling me that I’m inadequate, that I’m a waste of space and that I shouldn’t even bother leaving my flat. Starting to pack this week has left me with a tight chest and sweaty palms. Boy, do I know that there are so many more important issues worldwide – but my brain has the terrible ability to make mountains out of mole hills.

When I’m with people I know, I don’t feel so paranoid and I can relax. With big, new groups, my head swims with insecure thoughts. Usually after a meet-up, I have a day after to mentally unwind. Knowing that I’ve got four straight days is adding to my nervousness!

Why put myself through it? I know I’ll regret it if I don’t – it’s an opportunity that may never come again. I’ll be spending time with my better half and my pin-up wifey doing the things we love to do: exploring, eating, mooching, laughing and making memories. Why let my brain ruin it?

To prevent meltdowns and panics, I’ve given myself a positive action list:

  1. Drink plenty of water (I find it helps my brain take a break).
  2. Go for a stroll.
  3. Listen to loud music (the shoutier the better).
  4. Repeat the mantra – I am a stone in a stream (this got me through uni finals).
  5. Tell Flo or @darktechsupport if I’m feeling anxious.
  6. Locate quiet spaces to go to if I need them.
  7. People-watch (my favourite activity – makes me less concerned about what I’m doing).

I’ve had a great deal of advice and positivity from friends and people on-line which I’m really grateful for! As we head off for our little adventure, I’ll do my best to focus on the good stuff – life’s too short not to.

Sunshine, Flowers & Tea For Three

Sometimes you meet people you just click with – there’s nothing false or forced, just a comfortable understanding of one another. In the vintage/pin-up world, two people I always feel relaxed with are Kelly and Rhina.

I met Kelly at a Vivien of Holloway sale; she had a great sense of humour and a shared love of shopping. Rhina entered my life at the Tiki Christmas Pin-Up meet-up – she was just a ball of joy and colour. Since then, I’ve chatted to these two online and met up with them as well. Although the three of us share a love of vintage/pin-up style, it’s not the foundation of our friendship. Together, we talk about highs and lows, put the world to rights and support one another in our endeavours.

On Monday, we met up at Kew for tea and talking. As it was the end of term, Kelly and I weren’t feeling too fabulous. Rhina had been working all day too. However after a long afternoon together, we all headed back home uplifted and with smiles on our faces

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Outside Kew Gardens station

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Entering The Palm House

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Kelly wearing a VOH dress and cardigan
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Collectif dress

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Sculpture by Henry Moore
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My favourite door for outfit shots
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Rhina – a spring flower

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High Tea at The Maids Of Honour
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Jam then cream

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Passionfruit Cheesecake

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They made me pose on the ground

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Ninja Poser

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As much as I usually want to hibernate at home, making time for friends is hugely important to me. Sometimes they help me ignore my negative thoughts – sometimes they just make me giggle uncontrollably. Whatever happens, I come away happier. Thanks to Kelly for walking miles and miles with me around the gardens and thanks to Rhina for a ridiculously yummy tea. Here’s to the next one – I can’t wait!

Cake At Kew #2: The Write-Up

I had such a fab response to the previous Cake At Kew blog post – all down to the brilliant photography skills of @darktechsupport!

As a follow-up, this post features my amateur photography and a little commentary on the day.

OOTD

Let’s start off with my outfit (photos by Kelly). I’m terrible with theming for an event so I chose this old Laura Ashley butterfly dress. For warmth, I added my new Vivien of Holloway cardigan.

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The Day

We had such good weather for our meet-up – just a little too windy for my hair! To start off with, we visited The Hive (an amazing architectural space inspired by bees).

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After listening to the gentle buzzing and staring at the sky, we settled down for our picnic.

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With full tummies, we took a stroll over to The Palm House. It was so hot and  steamy but I loved it – a stunning space!

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To top off our day at Kew, we had a full tour of the gardens in a ‘land train’. Late sun streamed through the trees and the whole place was covered in a golden glow.

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When our time at Kew ended, Kelly, Rhina, @darktechsupport and I headed to a nearby pub. We ate burgers, talked for bloody ages and put the world to rights. A great end to a wonderful day.

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Reflections On The Day

As I’ve shared about my social anxiety previously, I’m often asked why I put myself through these meet-ups and how I cope with them.

If I’m totally honest, I have a huge fear of missing out on things. When I haven’t gone to a meet-up or an event, I get so frustrated and angry with myself. Going gives me the ability to say “at least you went” to myself. At work, I push myself out of my comfort zone all the time so I end up applying that to my social life. Usually I end up exhausted the next day and hibernate! My main methods for coping are as follows: taking my husband along, people-watching and sticking with a small group (I don’t know why but it works for me).

Friendship is the main reason I go to these gatherings. I’ve never been the kind of person to have a huge number of friends but I love it when you find someone you really click with. Through these meet-ups, (apart from fellow fashionistas) I’ve met a passionate teacher, a multi-lingual nature lover, a loud-mouth political ally, a lover of eighties music and a shopping addict. If I’d never have plucked up the courage to talk to these people, I never would have known what great things we have in common – that makes all the anxiety, stress and exhaustion worth it!

I asked some of the other attendees what they get out of meet-ups. Here are their responses:

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Kelly M It was fantastic to meet up with so many lovely ladies, who were not only beautifully dressed but beautiful people too! Everyone was sharing everything from picnic nibbles they had made to stories of vintage finds, I even found some fellow Disney fans! The weather was perfect, the company even better and I felt like a Kew VIP thanks to our fabulous host Rhina.

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Holly in the centre

Holly FI love days out like this, with so many lovely people. There’s something really magical about having a picnic at a country estate, it’s an escape and when you have good company there’s nothing better!

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Leanda L I loved organising this get-together with Amelia and Rhina. The pin-up scene is a niche and it’s nice to meet like-minded women, who don’t just enjoy vintage style but also body positivity, diversity, female strength and swearing like a sailor (ok, ok that last one is just me).

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Rhina DAs a non-native speaker, it is a great opportunity not only to meet amazing like-minded ladies but to learn more about the vintage / vintage reproduction scene, to share some nice beverages and food and to learn lots and lots of new vocabulary!

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Amelia on the left

Amelia MI like how these get-togethers result in a beautiful bubble of colour, style and like-minded women appreciating each other’s efforts. I always come away from them feeling like I’ve reached peak positivity – I smile for days afterwards!

Thanks to everyone that contributed to the post – it’s always good to be able to find out other people’s perspectives. Here’s to the next one!