Stockings and Frills was founded relatively recently
by Gary Spires with a view to providing ladies with
an outlet for 40s and 50s retro pinup lingerie with
an authentic twist. These are modern made but based
on the original designs and manufactured on the
Digger talk to Gary about his fascination for retro
and his passion for this burgeoning business.
Good morning Gary:
Can you tell us the background to Stockings and
Frills and why you formed this enterprise?...
Ö Sorry, my phone cut off there! We have had
problems with our Ďphone and havenít got the new
Have you seen these Retro brick phones that
theyíre selling at the moment? It houses your
iPhone or whatever modern phone you have inside the
Ďshellí of an eighties brick phone. Just for fun
and pose value.
(Laughs) Well, we need to get a replacement for our
hands free here. Iíve seen the old round dial
phones that you can get.
Iíve got an original from the thirties Ė itís
beautiful and they have a lovely feel to them and
are very solid but I canít use it for everyday as
itís too heavy to use for long calls!
I remember those from being a kid. Good to see those
So, can you tell us your background?
I have been looking around at various options after
I was made redundant and I always wanted to sell
from a shop. I suppose from the days of watching
Open All Hours and the British being a nation of
shopkeepers. So it was something that interested me
although some of my interests were never a viable
option for doing a shop. So, like any male, I
suppose, I had an interest in ladies lingerie and
that was an area that I did look into. I just quite
like the arty side of it when you see tasteful
glamour and pinup art at the trade shows. Itís
really quite nice.
I love the Vargas pinups and artwork like that. I
have some fifties plates with pinups on them and
Yes, the problem being that
youíre always fighting that fine line between art
and pornography and the definition can be blurred.
Itís very subjective, isnít it? What appeals to
somebody might be totally over the top to somebody
else. You have to use your best judgement in
business so as not to cause offence.
Exactly, tasteful lingerie images always appealed to
me and this year when we were on holiday in Ibiza
and I met a guy out there Ė he is one of the
directors of Stockings and Romance. We got chatting
and it just seemed the perfect opportunity. Here was
a guy from a company who designed their own
underwear and the retro theme came along through
that. There was never any initial intention that I
would get into modern or retro or any particular
genre. It just came along and options like that
donít come along very often.
Have you got any retro passions?
Yes and no. The more Iíve been involved in this
business and getting it off the ground then the more
research Iíve done and the more you find out about
retro. I suppose if I think of the eras which I
would have chosen to go back to, using my kid brain
and getting into a time machine and asking where
Iíd go back to - two eras that I would like to go
back to are the forties and the sixties. The
forties, not because of pinups or anything like that
but because it was an era when young lads were
caught in the war and although I wouldnít like to
live through that war and be a soldier I would like
to be able to pop back.
Like Nicholas Lyndhurst in Goodnight Sweetheart?
Exactly. It would be nice to experience a week or so
and see what it felt like. It was a proper
mechanical age and before computers where menís
jobs were menís jobs.
Although, ironically, women took over most of those
menís jobs in the war and did them rather well.
Thatís right. And my wifeís Nan was talking to
us about this the other day and her experiences. The
other era that appeals is the sixties as well Ė
thereís just something about it.
Youíre too young to even remember the sixties
Yes, I was born in Ďí71. Again, itís an era
when you came from a repressed forties
and coming out of the war and rationing and
austerity into where life started to get a bit
better in the fifties. But it wasnít until the
sixties where life really started to change
I talked to Petula Clark and she remarked that she
remembers everything in the forties and fifties in
black and white and then everything in the sixties
onwards in colour. That surprised me that a star who
lived through those years sees them that way Ė
almost the way we see black and white films being
the norm until colour took over in the sixties.
Yes, we do. Itís just that Iíve grown up always
heavily into music and popular culture and feel
blessed but even in my time Iíve lived through
some big revolutions in music. Iím really into
dance music and you had the early eighties electro
and then hip-hop coming through. Then the acid house
explosion and all that kind of stuff and I was
probably a bit too young but I remember the punk and
disco era. Too young to be going out and doing it.
You missed Glam Rock.
I am a bit too young for it and obviously Iím
aware of it and itís the earlier ages that
fascinate me and they never used to.
Itís a thing that people tend to do as they get
older as well, starting to look back a bit more.
Yes, I think so and itís an appreciation of where
youíre getting to in life as you get older and how
you got here. The progress of technology, music and
clothing and all of that.
What are the main products and services that
Stockings and Frills are supplying?
Predominantly at the moment on the lingerie side
itís the Stocking and Romance collection that is
my mainstay and Iím looking at new products and
ranges. Because Iíve got such a good relationship
with Stockings and Romance and Andy there Ė the
product is good quality and itís taking time to
search out and build relationships with other
suppliers. Itís a modern twist on an old classic
Ė I suppose thatís the best way to describe it.
Girdles, corselets, suspender belts, original
stockings, still authentic from the forties era and
still made on the original machines.
Oh, I see, modern manufacture on the original
Yes, still made to the exacting standards on the
original machines they used and thereís not many
about. So obviously thereís a lot of imitations
about at the moment but Iím quite pleased to say
that what weíre selling is proper stuff and as it
was back in the day. So thatís the main range of
underwear and then thereís the new range of bullet
bras coming out which have been kept to standard and
again are in the forties style.
What sort of response are you getting from clients?
Very good. We get some repeat business and thatís
good to hear, knowing that customers are coming
back, but itís been quite a steep learning curve
getting a shop open and getting it up and running
properly. We had a few teething problems, which
didnít help, but as far as the site is concerned
itís fully operational now so itís just a mad
race to get it advertised and up there. And things
like Twitter and Facebook, even though Iím into
computers, they werenít an area that I was ever
too keen on getting involved in on a personal level.
But on a business level youíve got to use it so
that was also a steep learning curve.
Good experience as well, because then you can do it
for other businesses as well as part of your
Exactly, and again thatís something that Iím
looking into. But as far as the main Stockings and
Frills site is concerned, Iíve got some shows
coming up where Iím going to be trying to find
some new products and trying to move more into
clothing in the style of the site.
Are you focusing on the ladies and not going for the
gents as well?
At the moment Iím going to concentrate on the
female side. My main selling point is obviously
the underwear and what Iím trying to do is
find items which complement the underwear. So what
we have now is a range of shoes from a supplier in
America which are very pinup-esque in their design.
Thatís been a really good addition to the site. So
what Iím trying to add now is some swimwear. I
found some good manufacturers of pinup-style
swimwear. The key to the site is keeping that retro
theme. Itís a really good niche market. Itís
probably been a Godsend finding Andy at Stockings
and Romance and the retro theme because the problem
with modern underwear is that youíre up against
some really big boys.
No, you need a niche. Retro is a big market.
Thereís a lot of sites out there selling underwear
but a lot of the stuff out there has a look and feel
of a high street sex shop and thatís not what I
want to offer. Iím sure they make good money out
of it but retro is a good niche market and itís a
One of my clients the other day said thereís
vintage, thereís retro and then thereís rubbish.
I think a lot of people wouldnít dream of spending
real money on something genuine or original or
authentic and so they will be happy to go for
cheaper imitations or modern pretenders. It
doesnít matter to them and theyíre happy with
that. Other people have to have the originals at all
costs and theyíll pay for it and there are other
people who are in between.
The thing with garments is that they may look to the
younger generation like something their granny would
wear but the garments we sell are just as sexy as
standard lingerie, theyíre just slightly
The forties and fifties clothing was incredibly
smart and incredibly sexy. A lot more sexy than the
recent times where itís all too obvious.
From initial looking at products and where I wanted
to go into I have to freely admit that I didnít
know too much about that era. But itís something
that really pleasantly surprised me the more I got
into it. One programme that used to fascinate me was
Bewitched and I had a thing for the lady in that.
Youíre up on all this, arenít you?! It was one
of those programmes I loved and I thought she was
She was lovely. My friend Tom Murray photographed her
professionally and they were great friends.
The sixties TV Ė a very sexy lady without being
sluttish or anything like that. She was a very
classy sexy lady.
Iíve got a signed photo of her so Iíll send you
a copy of it.
Fantastic. The only thing that let down the sixties
era was when they went into the super skinny thing
Ė you know, in the forties and fifties women
actually had curves.
Thatís important I think. Girls looking like boys
makes no sense to me.
No, a woman should look like a woman. That was the
only thing Ė the Lulu and Twiggy and Cilla look
which was very skinny.
But we also had Marianne Faithfull and Helen Mirren
flying the flag for the more shapely woman.
Yes, again very sexy ladies.
What are your best sellers and who are your
Itís been such a spread, to be honest with you, of
young and old, men and women. I honestly thought it
would attract an older woman and I got it completely
wrong. The youngest on there is early twenties and
the oldest seventy seven. But again, on the back end
of the shop they choose to fill in their details,
age and gender and so on and you get a feel for who
your clients are. Not everyone has chosen to enter
but most have and the spread has been very wide.
It is. The trend is slightly more towards women than
Itís good to know that your client-base isnít
just elderly people as you might end up losing them
No, and also we get clients from America and
Australia, France and all around the UK.
You being Internet-based then thatís gratifying.
Yes, itís something that Iím starting to
investigate Ė targeting specific audiences and
geotagging. Itís an online shop and I can ship
worldwide but thatís another thing to add on the
list of what to learn about.
Have you got your name, address and phone number on
Yes, I have.
I wanted it to be as open as possible and one thing
I canít stand when you go onto a site is when they
have things like Yahoo email addresses and no
contact details or phone number. No definitive way
to contact them. It makes it a little bit faceless.
I also think it makes it a little bit suspect.
It does. It leads me on to where do you go with
payment options? People trust Google and Paypal, but
Iíve been looking at merchant account options to
give people more choice and more security. I want to
increase options and make it more attractive and
easier for people to do a transaction.
Yes, you need to get people at the time they want to
buy and make it as easy as possible for them. They
are very impatient and want to do it in as few
clicks as possible and without filling in lots of
Itís hard, but the siteís in its infancy and
Iím getting steadily rising visitor numbers each
day. I can see the variations on how theyíre
getting into the site. I chatted with Andy for some
time from Stocking and Romance for tips on how to
cater for searches and how to market the site and we
were chatting about what forums to go on. The items
that we sell, even though theyíre not fetish,
there is a fine line between what people wear the
garments for. From Ďnormalí people who like to
wear this stuff to the voyeuristic people who like
to go out and do stuff and even to the point of men
buying lingerie for themselves.
Whatever floats your boat, as they say.
A lot of the products we sell are available in large
sizes and if thatís what you like then thereís
absolutely no problem at all with that. And thatís
the thing, how far left of the line and how far
right of the line do you go in advertising the
stuff? Thatís been quite an eye opener.
Itís down to where you want to position yourself
and where you feel comfortable. Itís your business
and in the end you donít want to upset any of your
Iím very open-minded to be honest.
You donít want anybody to go into your site and be
No, thatís the thing. The marketing and keywords
Iíve kept above the counter. Itís not a site
that I want to be pornographic and I want to be
tasteful and include swimwear and clothing. You can
still advertise on lots of forums to get your site
And what about the future?
Weíve got a trade show that weíre going to in
February where weíre trying to bring on board some
new products and Iíve got a couple of suppliers
that Iím in discussions with. At the moment itís
dresses and skirts with a retro forties, fifties
look and slowly moving toward that sixties era as
well. The underwear did change in the sixties. And
then weíll introduce the swimwear in the next few
Skinny Dip and La Luna do some great retro swimwear.
Iíll look out for them. The shoes are quite niche
Ė not high street shoes and not everyday but more
glam and for going out. Those fun nights in the
bedroom. But theyíve all got that nice pinup feel
It sounds like youíre on an adventures here and
enjoying what youíre doing?
Do you know what? Itís been hard work but really
enjoyable as well because itís opened my eyes to a
whole new interest. The thing is that my wife works
full time, so I have been able to concentrate on
this as a full-time job. And sheís given me the
chance to sit down and spend a good bit of time
researching and looking at things and learning about
that era. Itís a good find and Iím so happy that
Iíve stumbled into it. I love to do research and,
in fact, itís part of my nature to be inquisitive
The good thing about my website for you is that that
there will be dozens of good contacts on there who
might be able to help you in one way or another.
Good sources of stuff or people who can sell on or
put you in touch with clients.
Iíve been looking around the music sections.
Thatís a big favourite of mine.
When we interviewed Dame Vera Lynn we were able to
include about thirty websites and businesses who
have a forties focus, like forties shows,
re-enactors, tributes, forties clothing and forties
Dame Vera is a national institution and if you say
her name to anyone theyíll know who she is.
And what she represents.
Yes, you canít get much bigger than that. As big
as Winston Churchill and she probably does carry
that sort of standing.
She had a huge impact on morale in the war.
She certainly did and Iíll be reading that one in
Sheís a lovely grand lady. So, it looks as though you are all
set for success Gary.
I have bypassed a couple of opportunities or not
been able to follow them up in the past. It got to
the point in my own mind and for my own self
assurance Iíve got to give this a go. And it has
to be now or itís never going to happen. If, in
three years or five years, I look back and say for
whatever reason it didnít work out then at least I
I imagine that even if it doesnít work, and I
think it will, it will lead to something else and
youíll meet somebody at one of these shows or in
the course of what youíre doing. Something will
happen that will spark an idea or a relationship and
youíll be doing something else retro or something
else that takes advantage of the experience youíve
Even in the eight months or so itís taken to get
this off the ground, and finding your site.
Sometimes I donít have enough time to go through
everything Ė your site for example is like a
Wikipedia of information. Thereís a hell of a lot
there and thereís forums Iíve been joining and
have become active on and Iím meeting people
there. And you throw ideas around and listen to
other peopleís ideas. Itís been absolutely
thereís a whole community out there and thereís
been some brilliant advice and thatís opening up
opportunities. You wonder where youíre going to
find products to sell and then something clicks into
place. Youíre exactly right, itís going to be a
progression. Maybe some other business ideas or
developments of this business.
I wish you all possible success Gary.
and Frills - Lingerie inspired
from the Pin Up Girl era of the 40's and 50's
Stockings, Bullet Bras, Corselettes & Cinchers,
Girdles, Gloves, Nylon Stockings, Retro Panties,
Stockings and Frills is an online lingerie store
specialising in retro underwear inspired from the
40's & 50's Pin Up Girl look. All our garments
have been designed and manufactured by 'Stockings
& Romance', most are made here in the UK, and
all have been manufactured to the highest standards.
and Frills are proud to offer this unique range of
Retro Lingerie, all items are exclusive in design,
and have been made with the Pin Up Girl in mind.
us on 0843 289 4420.
(Available between 08.30am & 5.30pm Monday to