The concept of ‘Vintage Lifestyle Weekends’ at London boutique hotel the Pelham conjured up two mental images. And I’m not sure which gave this dress-adoring boutique-hotel lover a bigger thrill: the thought of someone presenting stylish finds sans sneeze-inducing thrift-shop foraging? Or the excuse to have a girlie weekend with a dear pal and stay in London at this fabulous townhouse hotel?
I think it was the idea of both being rolled into one big shopping-laden celebration of my hip hometown’s style credentials, both old and new, which had me truly intoxicated. OK, that and the mention of a champagne teatime.
Retro stylist and vintage-dress dealer Ooh La La! vintage is heavensent for anyone after a second-hand steal but wanting to sidestep the usual trawling. The packages at this dedicated hotelier of fashion are tailormade for anyone wanting to combine all the à la mode travel ingredients: luxe for less and eco-friendliness. After all, the added allure of investing in second-hand clothing is it’s a darned sight more environmentally friendly than gorging on disposable high-street fare. Believe me, if I was planning an upmarket hen weekend any time soon, this fantastic fashion-filled experience would be top of my suggested sojourns. And next time anyone needs a recommendation for a special weekend-away with mum, this might just be the ticket.
Our extravaganza began in the Pelham’s candy-coloured library with a vintage masterclass. Where lovelier to get a crash course in couture than in the throbbing heart of South Ken, a mannequin’s throw from the V&A and Christie’s auction house? Acclaimed hotelier Kit Kemp’s witty, pretty Modern British interior design was a fitting backdrop for Tara Munro, Ooh La La!’s founder (left), who talked us through the signature look of each decade of the 20th century. The ‘make or mend’ ethos of WWII was brought to life with a green dress fashioned from snooker-table felt – sure beats Julie Andrews’ curtain efforts in The Sound of Music.
As Tara presented tailoring from Christian Dior’s trademark New Look era, she showed us the neatly edged seams, purring in her silky Scottish lilt that the mark of quality from yesteryear is even visible in the inside of garments.
But it wasn’t just ‘out with the new and in with the old’ that was preached. We were introduced to the innovative Madame Tra La La range of bespoke womenswear, Munro’s collaboration with Alice Prier. These made-to-measure delights have been inspired by key vintage pieces, and came about as a reaction to the fact that the originals are all-too-often incompatible with today’s fuller figures (pictured right, ‘Scarlett Fantastique’, a 1960s Jackie O-style classic shift dress).
As Alice wowed us with a crepe puff-sleeved tribute to the Forties available in all sizes (and as large as you’d like), I lunged past the slimline cucumber sandwiches in favour of a cream cake. No wonder they have that bubbly on ice.
‘Vintage Lifestyle Weekends’ cost from £118 a person a night. This price includes accommodation for two guests in a double or twin room; a Continental breakfast; a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum to see the perennial fashion collections; and a champagne-enhanced Vintage Tea for Two. Ring the Smith Travel Team (0845 034 0700) for more details or to book.
APRIL SHOPPING DATE FOR YOUR DIARY: POP-UP BOUTIQUE
The Pelham’s Spring Collection of affordable and elegant secondhand delights will be opening its doors 24–26 April (10am-6pm) when Ooh La La! hosts a sale of vintage dresses and accessories. (And chaps, don’t feel excluded, indulge any Little Britain-inspired fantasies and stock up on those cinch-waisted Victoriana numbers for your ‘I’m a lady‘ moments.)