My mother stills lives in the house where we lived from when I was aged about 9 years. Over time much has changed about the area but one constant is the Help the Aged (now Age UK) charity shop at Highbury Corner. It is still there and is where we used to take the results of our periodic clearouts. On one memorable occasion our mother was a little overzealous – we walked past Help the Aged to find my sister’s beloved Paddington Bear in the window for 50p. We rushed home to gather all our pennies together to buy him back!
Help the Aged (as I still call it) was also the place where I purcahsed my very first vintage items – a men’s white collarless shirt and suit jacket. These were worn with black ski pants (with the stirrups tucked into boots or shoes and not over them). Or with skinny jeans. Which we called drainpipes. And you couldn’t buy drainpipes you had to make your own. To do this you firstly had to buy a pair of jeans so tight that you could just about get them on while lying down – often Levi red tags. When you got home the jeans were turned inside out and pulled on. You and a friend would then pin down each leg making them as tight as possible. You then wriggled out of the jeans and stitched along the pins, removed the pins, trimmed off the excess fabric, turned them the rightway out and – Hey presto custom fit drainpipes.
But that wasn’t all I got from Help the Aged. I can’t remember each item but I do remember shoes. 1950s and 1960s stilletos and kitten heels. Gorgeous. And I was usually lucky as I have quite small feet.
But that wasn’t our sole source of fantastic finds. Kensington Market was an indoor paradise of individual stalls selling vintage, own design, army surplus and all sorts of items. You could go there on a Saturday and lose all track of time. In fact it was when we were coming out of there one day that my sister, a friend and I were photographed and interviewed for an article in The Observer on Sunday magazine. We were thrilled at the time but less thrilled when we saw the article. The photograph was fine but our answers to the questions had been amalgamated in a way that made us sound like gushing idiots. Oh well.
So my first vintage finds were a white collarless men’s shirt and suit jacket from Help the Aged at Highbury Corner. What was your first or best vintage find and where did it come from?