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Vintage Advice

A place to find something a bit unusual and stylish: Not on the High Street, an online market place

We’re talking Joan Crawford here with the Joan dress – high-class, not too revealing, chic and stylish

What era conjures up glamour best? The years between the wars, before the world was plunged into darkness and austerity kicked in. Think The Great Gatsby, shimmering flapper dresses, parties that went on all night, the world of Bertie Wooster and his indefatigable manservant Jeeves, the world that Cecil Beaton photographed.

Maybe it’s because we have felt the bite of recession but fashion has been harking back to inter-war years, on the high fashion catwalks, the high street and a place to find something a bit unusual and stylish: Not on the High Street.

Not on the High Street is an online market place for small designers and manufacturers. One of them is Rise, based in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, and they are currently selling a lovely 20s-inspired party dress which has a hand-beaded mesh over a nude lining. It swishes as you shimmy and brings you right back to the Downton years. It’s also available in pink with a pink lining. Team it with some stilettos and dance the night away. It’s just £80 and is available from notonthehighstreet.com.


Frock & Frill are another company that specialises in 1920s inspired dresses, including the Ziegfeld Flapper dress for £145. It has all over embellishment to the body, a scalloped hemline, scoop neckline and chiffon overlay and is available in purple and red from frockandfrill.com.

Moving forward a decade or so, Revival Retro recalls the 1930s and 40s and their style gurus have gone for “style icons who exuded glamour and grace but who also depicted a refined and sophisticated look off screen as well as onscreen. The tailored, refined, well presented look they presented arriving at the studio, stepping out of a car, entering a grand hotel…” We’re talking Joan Crawford here with the Joan dress – high-class, not too revealing, chic and stylish, and only £159. You can add your own accessories to make it yours – a vintage scarf, a pair of heels, or, as here, an Art Deco style piece from Revival Retro for £89.

Vintage shops have sprung up all over the place and some are long-established. If you are in or around Oxford and are heading for a ball, head first to The Ballroom Emporium (established 30 years) on The Plain, just at the beginning of the Cowley Road, or browse Antiques on High on the High Street, where you will find clothes and jewellery as well as silver, ceramics, books, maps and other antiquities.

Pret-a-vintage also sells through fairs and online, and here Nicola Chinn sells dresses, skirts, trousers, tops, coats, you name it, anything vintage and wearable from the pre-1900s through to the 1980s. Among her stock is a dress that was worn in a 1930s Hollywood movie as well as dresses that have been worn by fashionable ladies at parties in every decade from the 1920s all the way through to the 1980s. “Buying vintage is a great way to update your wardrobe with the kind of quality and design that's hard to find on the High Street,” says Nicola.

For a list of vintage fairs coming up soon, visit vintassion.com where you can also buy online. Enjoy a vintage party season.

- Stella Wiseman