Thursday, 18 April 2013

Clifton Hill Costume & Textiles Re-opens

I have finally reopened the door to Clifton Hill costume and Textiles.  It’s a great feeling to have gotten to this point, though I am by no means anywhere near done with the sorting.  Thanks to regular markets and fairs I have worked my way through plenty of the clothing already but alongside the remainder of that there are all the curtains and boxes of fabric, and haberdashery still to finish.  Having invited some friends to the shop on the Friday I had imposed a deadline to get it looking respectable, and with a lot of help from Tom, Mike and Ibi, we got there, contrary to my earlier thoughts.  A few ‘tours’ and glasses of wine later I had banished those thoughts of working through the night!

Saturday came and went with visitors, lots of compliments and a malfunctioning till.  I must remember not to play with keys and buttons quite so much.  Sunday I actually managed to relax, though I’m sure we still visited the shop at some point! There was still a lot to do to get shipshape, and still is but you really could continue sorting that place forever.

I have found a few prize boxes as I have been filling the shelves.. from the ‘WAR’ suitcase we have some WW2 era items including canvas boots, woollen mittens, vests, also a couple of gorgeous suspender belts.  The Edwardian / Victorian era boxes which proved to contain a far sight more, have now been sorted and I have put together a lot for the next Textiles auction at Dreweatts.  I also put in some 1920’s/30’s costume, a beautiful lot of lace panels (The shop has an unbelievable amount of all kinds of lace) and some Royal Collectables.  This has created a little space but I’m still struggling- though mostly with the curious layout of the shop since the refurb.   An architect’s bizarre solution for moving the entrance to the stairs closer to the front door- wasn’t quite thought out, and impacts impacts greatly on my floor space!  My day job is as a draught- person working on structural and building plans and layouts so I am wholly preoccupied with this dilemma. Not wise, then, is my full on furniture move four days before the launch!! Ah!

I am so pleased with how this has all come together and really looking forward to having the time to go on  a few courses in sewing and pattern cutting, Corset making ( at Heart Space), getting to grips with the auction process and doing more textiles markets (Liz from ).  Then there are my own hobbies that have been put aside for far too long- Origami, accessories and making pin cushions!  The prospect of getting back to normality (or a new version of it) is tantalising close!

So it is now Wednesday- The official launch is just a day away.  My new sign, designed by my very talented brother, is being painted by Dapper signs ( )  and looks amazing!

 The shop has been receiving some excellent coverage from all sorts of places, and my good friend and photographer, Ibolya Feher, has posted up a lovely time-line of images from when we both used to work with Gill, through the refurb and storage, to the moving back in.  Check it out here

And lastly, thanks to everyone who has offered their help and support, expertise and skills.  To Tom who has been amazing doing everything from poster design to making my A-board to last minute display cabinet dressing not forgetting putting up with me and all the chaos over this 2 year process . To Ali Cook ( ) and Sue Fyfe-Williams ( ) for their taking on the Launch event with such verve, despite having very busy events schedules of their own.  I can’t wait!!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Finally a bit of order!

Since January I have re located storage units and am embarking on clearing the last of the clothing and textiles from the shop… I anticipate that this may still take some time! The process of packing, freezing down and then unpacking at the other end is long but ultimately very rewarding when I find myself pulling out a fine sequined top or gorgeous ‘mother of the bride’ ensemble that I’ve never seen before- didn’t I put them in the bag?
It’s been a real boost doing various events during this process.  As well as clearing pockets of much needed space as I sell bits and pieces at markets, I have met some great people; general public and local designers and makers, many of whom have had visited Clifton Hill Antique Costume and Textiles in the past and are hotly anticipating it’s reopening.

So as I unpack the last of this week’s sacks and assemble the remaining rails, the welcome site of the floor means I can now get on with picking the stock for the weekend’s markets.  I am very excited to be taking part in the first of the Tobacco Factory’s monthly Retroville, it will be held the first Sunday of every month and show case a selection of local vintage sellers.  As I live just around the corner, this is a market I attend most weekends for a snack and a browse and I can’t wait to get involved.   The second event this Sunday is the ‘Marry Me In Somerset’ wedding fair that will be held in Yeovil’s Westland Leisure Complex, where I shall be showing a selection of wedding dresses, mother of the bride outfits, evening gowns and party costumes alongside some of my beautiful Babydoll/ Mad Men style nighties, dressing table sets and accessories.

Out and About in Spring 2012

Research well underway and the shop four-fifths emptied, the time to start trading had come.  The amazing response from people who had dropped notes through the door in the last year or just happened to be passing when I was on a ‘shop day’ meant I had a small contingent sworn to come and support my first ever market at  Ashton Gate Flea and Vintage Market.  I had been to this market a couple of times previously and had managed to spend  my week's (ahem) allowance pretty easily, so if everyone that attended had the same reaction as I did, then I should be guaranteed to sell a few garments or textile pieces and start spreading the word! 
Deciding on what to take proved much harder then I had imagined.  Armed with a few of my favourite issues of World of Interiors, Elle Decoration, my new John Peacock Vintage study ‘bible’ and the new issue of Vogue, I took to the storage unit and stared around hopelessly.  Apart from everything still being hidden away in the sacks I transported them here in, what kind of range should I take?  If you had a seemingly limitless supply of curtains, tablecloths, doillies, lace and netting, buttons, buckles, shoes and clothes for all tastes then you’ve got to leave a few things behind.  I decided for the first event, to take a few doillies, tablecloths and bedspreads, concentrating on the war time embroidery and tapestry pieces, and then a mixed selection of nighties, jumpers, dresses, coats and shoes. (Oh and a few hats for good measure).  I had a fab response from the public and many of those who said they would pop by came along with friends.  That first event was a great experience, and I met many other first time stall holders as well.  On the back of that market I got several offers of help; another monthly market spot (at the Tobacco Factory’s forthcoming Retroville); and a couple of potential trade customers. All in all a good day.  I see many more early Sunday mornings to come.

It’s now the end of March and I’ve had three markets at Ashton Gate, with two more in April & May before they concentrate back on their Bath Racecourse event.  I have had a number of people who have attended the market in search of me, which is a really great feeling.  It’s good to know you are doing the right thing and that people are behind you.

And remember, until the shop opens, it is hard to bring along everything to a market so if you are looking for something specific in textiles, haberdashery or costume that you think I might have drop me a comment or email to and perhaps I can bring the right thing along for you or arrange a viewing. 
Visit the Facebook page www.fb.comcliftonhillcostumeandtextiles to be kept up to date with events.

Monday, 13 February 2012

How I met Gill & The Last 6 Months..

Gillian Hodder, the heart and soul behind the wondrous Clifton Hill Antique Costume & Textiles, passed away early in 2011. Her store, just off Jacobs Wells Road, opposite the QEH School (near The Triangle) was a treasure trove of antique/vintage/retro garments, hats, accessories, textiles and haberdashery that never ceased to surprise even the most seasoned of visitor!
Customers of Clifton Hill will remember that it often took weeks if not months to establish a mutual appreciation with Gillian for that 'objet d'desire', and you knew that moment had arrived when she directed you- shelf by shelf or rail by rail- left a bit, nearly there, down one... and behold! Once you had proved your tenacity, it was like a bed of oysters had opened up before you, and no matter if you were local or from far over seas, your next visit would be rewarded.

When I met Gillian, I was working part time and looking for something that would support my more creative pursuits of making Origami jewellery and accessories . A friend of mine, Phoebe, told me about a lady looking for help in her vintage costume shop which, it turned out, I had taken some of my Mother's clothes to the previous summer. I spent many Saturdays with Gill over the next couple of years, arranging and rotating stock, unpacking entire drawers to hear stories about the contents, airing blankets and reams of fabric and measuring up curtain material- and of course looking for that allusive dress up item for the weekends party or latest creation. In 2010, when my friend Ibolya Feher was also helping out in the shop (by this point Gillian was only opening on Saturdays) we decided it would be great idea to make a facebook page or blog of the amazing things we kept coming across, but firstly to document the shop at that moment- and as Ibolya is a brilliant photographer - that was her task. You can see some of the lovely picture on the facebook page.

By winter 10/11, Gillian's health had worsened and though we were still opening at the weekends, she was not coming to the shop (it gets very, very cold in there!), so I would take up various boxes that I had been sorting and she would tell me about them then direct me to some other nook in the shop or basement for the next installment.. That winter was rather informative! In March I went travelling for a couple of months, and a few weeks before I was due to return we received the sad news that Gillian had passed away.

To have been asked how we could continue Gillian's legacy- her passion- was the start of a snowball of ideas and excitement for myself and the many people I have met during the cleaning/ sorting out at the shop, and for those who I have contacted as previous customers and now talented designers.

By late summer I was able to get into the shop to start investigating the condition of the stock and the basement walls. First to tackle the worst of the moth eaten fabrics- rescuing what portions I could as samples of the print or for quilting etc. The stock fills 6 rooms over 2 floors and every time you clear a rail, a brimming suitcase or wall of packed shelving reveals itself- and I have learnt not to take things at first appearances- what may look to be an ominous mouldy and damp trunk may actually be full of easily cleaned war time safari shorts, early machine-knit gloves, and some fine lingerie! Box after box of dusty shoes- home to spiders and moths have been taken home and hoovered and polished and stuffed with paper for a bit of reshaping. In September I convinced a small army of friends to assist me over a week of holiday I had taken from work- they kindly took it turns to spend a few hours to arrange hangers, sticky roller (my new best friend) and brush down a basement full of dresses and coats in preparation for a trip to the newly acquired chest freezer.

Currently, I am between the shop, a 200sqft storage unit and the dining room in my house (to the joy of my flat mates) and completely in awe Gillian's collection.. not to mention the amount of rails and drawers still to organise.

Some of my favourite collections so far that I will post about soon;

Domestic wear; two boxes of 1950's aprons and housecoats; two sacks assorted styles of Edwardian and Victorian service maids and ladies maids aprons.
Nightwear & Dressing Gowns; Large box of 1960's babydoll nighties and similar probably 1970's, full cotton nightdresses, quilted bed jackets, silk and cotton kimonos, mens lightweight dressing gowns, smoking jackets...
Lingerie; suspender belts, mid century tights and stockings, Victorian split bloomers, knickers.
Dressing Up; an unbelievable array of items covering every decade of the last century that was available to hire.