Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Fashion on the Ration

Fashion on the Ration at the Imperial War Museum looks at how fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing in 1940s Britain. Often in new and unexpected ways. The exhibition starts 5 March.

Despite the hardships of WWII, fashion in the 1940s was creative and innovative. 'Make do and Mend' was a pamphlet full of useful tips issued by the British Ministry of Information in the midst of WWII, it encouraged housewives to be both frugal and stylish in times of harsh rationing.

Make do and Mend pamphlet

The rationing of the 1940s enforced an era of required minimalism. The shortage of fabric created the popularity of the two piece suit known as a Victory or Utility suit which took on a sleek, military look. Women could mix and match skirts, blouses, and jackets for a new outfit everyday. Even after the war the suits remained popular due to its comfort and practicality.

The Victory suit

Even during the war years, hats were very fanciful. The hat continued to play an important role in women's fashion. It may have been even more important than usual, as many of the materials that went into the making of hats were not rationed although it was commonplace to add a corsage made of fresh flowers or feathers to snazz it up. Many women also owned corsages made of artificial flowers or gathered netting to accessorise a dress.

Leg make-up

The shortage of silk stockings resulted in leg make up becoming a popular choice.  To recreate the look of stockings, a line was drawn along the length of both back legs. If a lady had no money for decent leg cosmetics, she would resort to staining her legs with ‘tea’.

While London was bombed, people also feared a gas attack. Harvey Nichols offered gas protection suits of pure oiled silk in a variety of colors. Many women owned utility jumpsuits which one could put on quickly when the sirens blew. The jumpsuit, a new innovation, was warm and comfortable and featured pockets for papers and valuables.


During this time, there existed a particularly visually rich tradition of propaganda scarves, created for the benefit of an army. Jacqmar of London propaganda scarves were created from remnants of silk fabrics that were used to make gowns. These scarves, depicting militaristic iconography, patriotic flags and maps, were then sold to profit the war effort, simultaneously creating a new class of fashion and very loaded 'conversation’ prints. 

London Wall, designed by Arnold Lever and produced by Jacqmar. Arguably, one of the most iconic propaganda textile images of the Second World War. Offered by Tin Tin Collectables.

The thrifty nature of the 1940s even extended to wedding dresses! The method of creating wedding dresses from parachute silk was customary. A number of dresses made from parachute silk can be viewed at the Imperial War Museum. The dress pictured below was made for (the then) theatre actress, Miss Jean Neville. Be sure to view the stunning intricacy of this dress in person, Fashion on the Ration is on until 31 August.

White silk full-length dress with tie belt made from parachute material. Image taken from IWM website.

If the 1940s is your favourite decade for fashion, make sure you plan a trip to Alfies, we have vintage clothing dealers who stock pieces from this era. Here's a small selection of what you might find:

Large brown 1940s clutch bag with lucite clasp, offered by Tony Durante

Lipstick shape ladies pocket lighter, offered by Tony Durante

Crepe silk dress in burgundy floral print, c1940. Offered by Tin Tin Collectables

Brown 1940s wool felt Cocktail tilt hat, offered by Carole Collier

1940s Ring with ruby and diamond, offered by Connie Speight

Friday, 27 February 2015

A Beautiful Selection At Adire African Textiles

At Alfies we have a large and varied selection of wonderful antiques, collectables and vintage textiles. We are proud to be the home to dealer Duncan Clarke's gallery, Adire African Textiles on our first floor, which has an exquisite selection of vintage hand woven African textiles reflecting the textile traditions of sub-Saharan Africa.  

Vintage African Textiles

There are a large variety of different styles and techniques used to produce African textiles. From the traditional indigo dyed vintage cotton fabrics, made in various parts of West Africa, to beautiful brightly coloured Ewe kente cloths, to rarer and more obscure styles such as the embroidered Akunitan cloths, meaning 'cloth of the great', and worn only by senior chiefs and kings. 

A selection of vintage African textiles

Adire translates as tie and dye and is the name given to indigo dyed cloth produced by Yoruba women of south western Nigeria, who use a variety of resist dye techniques to produce locally woven hand spun cotton cloths, much like those that are still produced in Mali today.

Indigo was the foundation of many textile traditions throughout West Africa. Long before the introduction of synthetic dyes, the art to transform everyday white cotton into beautiful deep blue cloths was a mysterious and highly valuable skill which was passed on by specialist dyers from generation to generation. 

Adire hand woven cloth from south western Nigeria. Circa 1960
Ewe kente cloths are greatly valued by collectors of African textiles due to the advanced skill used to make them and the variety of styles they display.

Selection of beautiful hand woven vintage cloths

Ewe Kente cloth with figurative motifs framed by pairs of weft faced blocks. Circa 1930s to 1940s

Akunitan cloths worn only by senior chiefs and kings display spectacular designs and creativity. They include intricate motifs depicting proverbs and royal imagery such as this superb Akunitan cloth below which is embroidered with a peacock, tortoise, fish, chameleon, lion, elephant, porcupine, crocodile, and an umbrella with guns. All are motifs representing proverbs and ideas about Asante power and chiefly regalia.

Circa 1960.

Adinkra cloths from Ghana are unique fabrics, hand printed with black dye patterns using stamps made from calabash.

Large man's adinkra with stamped motifs on a white background. Circa 1960s.

Vintage West African cloth strips.

13-25 Church Street
NW8 8DT London 
T: 07710791497
For more information visit 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

London Fashion Week: Stay ahead of the trends at Alfies

Unless you've been hibernating for the past fortnight you'll know that London Fashion Week is upon us for another season, showcasing over 250 designers to a global audience of influential media and retailers. Most of the fashion squad will be congregating at Somerset House as usual, and key trends for the season seem to be the 1970s, texture and fringing, monochrome and floral. Ahead of the action - which runs from tomorrow Friday, 20 February until Tuesday, 24 February 2015 - we look at the trends for SS15 and some #LFW inspired pieces available here at Alfies.


Pair of Black & White 1950s Table Lamps. From The Moderns.

1930s Cream Vellum Suitcase. From Tin Tin Collectables.

1970s/1980s German Phillips Wall Clock. From Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary.


1970s Dress by Lee Bender at BUS STOP. From Tin Tin Collectables.

Decorative pansy design brooch 1930s to 1940s. From Moe Heidarieh.

Floral Design Brooch from the 1930s/1940s. From Moe Heidarieh.

Best of the 1970s

1978 Ant chairs designed by Arne Jacobsen. From Francesca Martire.

1970s glass bead necklace. From Velvet Atelier.

1970s helmet color television. From Thirteen Interiors.

18c Gold and Pearl earrings and ring set. From Gareth Brooks.

1970s David Rowland 40/4 Stackable Chairs. From Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary.

1970s Dress by Sharons Shoppe. From Tin Tin Collectables.

Friday, 13 February 2015

A Vintage Valentine's at Alfies

Saint Valentine's Day, also known as Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine sees card shop sales booming and men all over the world rushing out to late night garages for a bunch of less-than-fresh roses. 
14th February first became a celebration during the Roman Empire and was started by one of the earlier Christian saints named Valentinus. Popular legend says that Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell. Today, Saint Valentine's Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church.
Geoffrey Chaucer first linked the date with romantic love in the Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. Then, during 18th-century England, the day evolved into an occasion when lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). 
Nowadays Valentine's Day symbols are hearts, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
It's certainly a time of year where everyone gets soppy again. Still, your Valentine's gift needn't be a cliché! Alfies offers a variety of weird and wonderful items that would make the perfect gift this St Valentine's Day. Here's a selection of the staff at Alfies' favourites:

Welsh Love spoon - these spoons used to be carved in one piece by the boys for their sweetheart, offered by Paola & Iaia - The Originals

Pair of 1950s earrings. Offered by Paola & Iaia - The Originals

Early Victorian or late Georgian cut steel hair comb set on a tortoiseshell comb. Offered by Gareth Brooks

1940s Italian micro-mosaic pendant with tiny pieces of glass intricately arranged into mosaics. Offered by Paola & Iaia - The Originals

1960s Disney Valentine's cards, from Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary

9ct Gold Victorian Cufflinks. Offered by Gareth Brooks

Metal & celluloid ornament - usually called No Trump and used by Bridge players
in the 1930s - offered by 
Paola & Iaia - The Originals

A selection of Limoges heart boxes, offered by Hayman & Hayman.

Finish off your gift shopping with a heart shaped scone in Alfies' Roof Top Kitchen. Aww!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Royal Doulton, A Fine Figure

At Alfies we have a beautiful collection of Royal Doulton figures offered by our dealer Chris of Janes Antiques. 

Royal Doulton started in 1815 producing tableware and collectables. Operating originally in London, its reputation grew in the pottery industry, where it was a latecomer compared to Royal Crown Derby, Minton and Wedgwood. There are some little known facts about The Royal Doulton Company, below are some of our favourites.

During the 1840s the company saw considerable success and was said to have made a small fortune by manufacturing and supplying products that are vastly different to those which they're known for today: sewage pipes!

The 'HN' on the serial number represents the initials of one of the figurines' painters, Harry Nixon, which started to be used as part of the labeling system way back in 1913.

Although Royal Doulton figurines look rather fragile they are actually quite strong as they are made from cornish stone, china clay and calcined bone ash.

Here is just a small selection of what there is on offer from Janes Antiques:

'Autumn Breeze' HN 194.

'The Laird' 1970, with 'Hunting Dog With Pheasant', HN 1029

'Rowena' 1950, HN 2077

'The Parsons Daughter' HN 564

'Fleur' 1967 HN 2368

'Thank You' 1982, HN 2732

'Good King Wenceslas' 1952, HN 2118

'The Wardrobe Mistress' 1953, HN 2145

Friday, 30 January 2015

Knot Just A Scarf

With winter well upon us it's time to wrap up and keep warm. But why just keep warm with a plain coat or hat when you can add a touch of style and class with a fabulous neckerchief. Here at Alfies you can find a beautiful array of silk, designer and illustrated vintage scarves available from Tin Tin Collectables

Here are just a few Alfies have to offer;

A 1950s scarf by Jacqmar (artist unknown) of the R.M.S. Queen Mary. Heavily detailed with great costume references.

“Jacqmar Presenting”  has sketched images representing various BBC Home Service programmes. The message on this scarf was to encourage people to listen only to the BBC. 1940s rayon scarf by Arnold Lever for Jacqmar.

Founded by Joseph “Jack” Lyons and his wife Mary in 1932. The couple felt that J H Lyons did not sound classy enough so they combined their first names and Jacqmar was born. Based in a very elegant house on 16 Grosvenor Street in Mayfair, the company was originally a supplier of fine silks to the London and Paris couture houses but discovered that being left with fabric remnants was not cost effect, together they worked on the idea of producing scarves made from the left over fabric and today are one of the most famous producers of silk scarves.

A 1950s scarf ‘Pennies from Heaven’ by Marcel Vertes.
A 1942 scarf ‘Combined Operations’ was formed by Churchill to bring together the best of British Military. 

The 8th Army Air Force scarf by Arnold Lever. This scarf contains the names of bombers and fighter planes of the US 8th Army Air Force.

The WW2 propaganda Jacqmar scarves designed by Arnold Lever are some of the most rare and sought after scarves to be produced. So much so that some of his designs are now collected as museum pieces. His amazing designs show an insight into life during the war. Although silk could not be used during WW2 it wasn't long until the scarves came back into production and ladies were able to purchase again from 1945.

A 1943 propaganda scarf depicts Winston Churchill with his iconic cigar and extracts from his most famous speeches.
A 1950s scarf depicting the interior of the Royal Opera House Covent Gardens. Printed by Jacqmar - artist possibly Arnold Lever.
The Lullington Silk Scarf

This signed Arnold Lever scarf depicts the Lullington Silk mills. The background is mulberry leaves with a silk loom in the foreground, the whole machine being operated by a ‘crowned’ silk worm. Lulington silk famously produced silk for Queen Elizabeth's wedding dress.

'All around the underground’ a 1950s humorous scarf by Arnold Lever depicting images of the underground seen from different stations.

The company carried on throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s with continued designs of scenic renderings, bold colours, and geometric shapes. Today Jacqmar remains one of the most sought after designers leading the way in designing and producing silk scarves.

For more information and to view the full range available pop in for a visit and speak to Tin Tin Collectables on our ground floor.

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