Looking back on my most recent fashion escapades, it’s safe to say that I’ve been in quite a vintage mood as of late. From covering Cork’s largest vintage fair to discovering the boutique gem that is Shutterbug Vintage, and then frequenting its incredibly well-attended Kilo Sale in Dublin last week, it’s been a chain spiral of colour-bursting, vintage events that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the outcome of. Therefore, when VintageIreland announced its latest ‘Antiques & More’ fair (featuring a healthy dose of interesting vintage labels) I saw no reason to break the chain, and headed for the coastal port of Dun Laoghaire under clear blue skies to while away a Sunday afternoon productively:
The Royal Marine Hotel’s stunning edifice and luxurious charm resonated perfectly with the fair’s old-time ambience. Walking through to the ballrooms, a gorgeous array of antiques welcomed me, delicate china and jewelled brooches sparkling beneath Art Deco-reminiscent chandeliers. The scene was pleasant enough to make one linger for a while, but my curiosity got the better of me; so I continued on my trail through the large, lushly-carpeted space to the second ballroom, where a plethora of eye-catching vintage garments was the first sight that greeted me:
The first clothing stall I encountered was that of Emili Jean Vintage, a newly-launched, online vintage boutique whose range encompasses vibrant, carefully-selected garments, each with their own story to tell. While browsing the pieces on-offer, I enjoyed how individual the occupants of each rail were, and how you didn’t have to go through a range of mundane, staid items to find that one little gem – every piece could hold court on its own effortlessly. It was the attention-to-detail shown when presenting the garments, however – from the elegant Emili Jean cards fastened onto each hanger, to the vibrant floral heart ornament draped over one rhinestone-encrusted lace dress – that really made me smile, as it’s these little touches that can make one label stand out from all others. This meticulous thought process continued when I visited the website later on, with detailed descriptions and close-up imagery outlining each product; one online feature I particularly liked was the creative moodboards that were individually composed for each piece, as it instantly set the scene for what outfit look and era one could channel with said garments (the style focus for Emili Jean Vintage is very 50s/New-Look inspired, so images of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly immediately spring to mind). It was difficult to pick a favourite on the day – from the summery, buttercup yellow dress to the red lace number cascading over a rich brocade wall – but the main show-stopper was undoubtedly an aptly-named, ‘Grace Kelly’ dress, its gorgeous silk fabric showcasing embellishment that danced over its full skirt and at the base of each strap. My close-up shot really doesn’t do the piece justice; click “here” to see the dress in all its vintage glory (Be forewarned, however, I may have to steal the dress away before you do!) Speaking to Emili Jean‘s owner afterwards, her energy towards the business and the timeless quality of vintage clothing in general was palpable. It’s not an easy task to have that passion come across when dealing with a virtual, non-sensory world (especially having to solely build up a website from scratch), but somehow, she’s managed to break that barrier and show compassion when presenting each of Emili Jean’s coveted pieces. To keep up-to-date with the label’s outgoing vintage arrivals and future events, you can follow Emili Jean Vintage on Facebook, and you can check out the website “here” – with positive acknowledgements having already arrived from reputable fashion insiders, there’s no doubt that Emili Jean Vintage‘s thoughtful approach to online shopping has set the brand on a rewarding path of success.
Continuing my route through the fair, admiring stalls lined with books from bygone eras, immaculate crystal-ware and porcelain teacups, I noted how real the camaraderie was between fellow traders, all chatting away and laughing while still taking the job of showing off their wares seriously. Up to this point I had experienced amicable exchanges from sellers and fellow fair-goers, but little did I know an even more heart-warming experience was in store:
The first stall I came across – at the final destination of my route – was run by a gentle, compassionate woman named Sandra, a creative talent whose artisanal necklaces were surrounded by small pots of vibrant, fragrant blooming flowers. I was intrigued by her pieces and proceeded to chat with her, but before I could get very far with inquiries I was heartily greeted by the neighbouring stall’s owner, a glamourous, vintage fashion connoisseur who also went by the name Sandra, albeit with an entirely different pronunciation (“Sawh-n-drah, darling”). The two ladies had only met that morning, yet their banter-filled exchanges would have strangers believe they were life-long friends. They instantly put me at ease with Sawh-n-dra’s good-natured jibes and Sandra’s infectious laughter, and after speaking with them for a short while it felt as if I’d known them for far longer than mere minutes.
I decided to have a full perusal of vintage-fashion-Sandra’s stall first, as her clothing rail glistened even from afar and, being an undeniable sequin magpie, I couldn’t resist the temptation of seeing some embellished pieces up-close. The garments displayed were seriously versatile, as while there was a generous supply of sequinned eye-candy on-offer (think sky blue, jewel-encrusted frocks and pearl-embellished, cream lace dresses) I managed to find clothing to suit all occasions, from vivid floral numbers to coloured leather jackets and swallow-print blouses. Two rockabilly-influenced dresses were showcased over a jewellery-covered table, draped vintage scarves and colourful, beaded jewellery with a nickel-free seal of approval. What truly stole my heart, however, was a spectacular, floor-length beaded dress flanking one side of the display table, its turquoise embellishments catching the light beautifully – it was impossible to tear my eyes away from it. At the end of the day, however, I couldn’t decide which was the most charming – Sandra’s colourful pieces or her bubbly, caring personality. The stall was a selection of items from her Mullingar boutique, New to You, which has a plethora of both vintage and new garments for an eclectic mix. You can follow the shop on Facebook for new arrival updates, and you can check out its site “here” for further info – with Sandra’s heart of gold and effervescent ways, you’ll leave the shop feeling like a new person, regardless of any purchases. ♥
Turning my attention back to Sandra’s artisan jewellery stall, I subsequently noticed that she had some beautiful paintings for sale; vivid depictions of locations such as Grafton Street, with crowds of colourfully-dressed painted citizens siting that Sandra is by no ways a one-trick pony creatively-speaking. For additional painting previews, you can follow Sandra on Facebook – I was ever more intrigued when she showed me yet another handcrafted product, however, made by Sandra’s own mother:
A multicoloured array of packaged cards lay in one wicker basket as I perused the stock, each item I came across more unique than the next. As I mentioned, all of the cards are hand-made by Sandra’s mother, and it’s evidently a well-thought-out range, as it covers a multitude of occasions; from birthdays, anniversaries, christenings and apologies to flower-filled options simply but powerfully stating “Thinking of You”. What makes the range even more thought-provoking, however, is the fact that all card sale proceeds go directly to the Little Brothers and Sisters Orphanage in Haiti - while Sandra’s mum does undoubtedly have a gift for crafting these diverse cards ( filled with gorgeous fonts and heart-warming messages inside) the act is a selfless one that makes purchasing one of the cards even more of a heartfelt gesture. I bought one of the pieces myself – a vibrant Happy Birthday card, full of printed flowers and birds, that I’m saving for a good friend of mine – and to know where exactly the money is being sent makes the purchase feel all the more meaningful, since I’m not just buying into a superficial, supermarket brand that doesn’t near match the high quality or significance of these pieces. For any card-related enquiries you can send Sandra a message through her page “here” – the card company will soon be launching their own page, so stay tuned in the meantime. Brands that have a heart this expansive are few and far between, and I can’t wait to purchase another kaleidoscopic card of hers – she’s definitely earned herself one more faithful customer. ❤
As I said goodbye to both lovely Sandras and retraced my steps through the elaborate halls, I left with a beautiful mini bouquet of pale pink and fuchsia shades, silky-smooth roses and cascading flowers in a fabric-covered vase, that instantly brightened the table I’m working at this very moment. To learn more of VintageIreland‘s future events, traders and general info, check out the official website “here” and keep up-to-date through their Facebook and Twitter platforms. Initially founded in 1989 – with a relaunch including vintage fashion additions having taken place in 2009 – VintageIreland’s many fairs allow you to imagine you’ve truly stepped back in time – and, knowing the banes of stressful atmospheres all too well (having started up and strived during two different recessions) they’ve provided the perfect, relaxing antidote to fast-paced environments. ❤