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Celia's Vintage Clothing






Celia's Vintage Clothing  Nottingham



Here Digger talks to Celia at Nottingham-based Celia's Vintage Clothing. This business has been established for over thirty years. Celia has seen trends come and go in the 'antiques and retro world' but one trend that has consistently & steadily been on the increase is that for quality vintage clothing and accessories. 







Today, this demand for authentic and genuine vintage clothes and accessories is bigger than ever and with Celia's brand of expertise and experience, Celia's Vintage Clothing has a strong reputation and impressive customer loyalty.




Digger: Can you please tell us a little bit about the background to Celia's Vintage Clothing?

Celia: We started in 1980, which is now over thirty years ago. My mother and I used to go round to antique fairs and we thought "Well, we could have a go at this." So we dived in, totally ignorant...

Digger: What had you been doing before?

Celia: I was a nurse for ten years and went to London and to Australia. I got very disillusioned and that is it really. So this went very well and we did bric-a-brac and furniture. And mother bought a bit of linen, then we bought a collarless shirt and before we knew it we were doing clothing and linen. So we moved into an antiques centre in Nottingham that had opened the previous year. We had a tiny, weenie section in there, selling clothing and linen. We did the fairs too. Gradually, we got bigger and bigger and had a whole floor of the antiques centre and then we moved into our own shop on Derby Road. Then we moved back, because the antiques centre closed and split into two and we had half the antiques centre which was three floors plus a flat. At the same time, probably 1999, we started doing fancy dress. So we did that up until this year and we decided that it was all getting too much - rents went up and overheads went up and it was getting hard work. So I made a decision. I've got brilliant staff, lovely girls who work for me and we had great customers and they loved it but the overheads were just spiralling. So we were going to close, go on The Internet and do fairs, just my brother and I. And the vintage customers particularly were horrified and up in arms. "Celia's closing, have you heard? Celia's closing." So it's just extraordinary how things happen. A very nice little florists shop just five doors up had closed - a pretty little Victorian shop and we thought "Well, let's give it a go." It seemed a shame to give up those thirty years, so, to cut a long story short - we downsized and opened there about five weeks ago, just doing vintage and no more hire.

Digger: And no fancy dress?

Celia: No fancy dress. And all those customers are disappointed too because we've got a brilliant name with fancy dress. But there you go.

Digger: There are quite a few big fancy dress players on The Internet aren't there?






Celia: There are, and in fact in our shopping centre we've just heard there's a huge shop opening in the Victoria centre doing fancy dress so we breathed another sigh of relief and said "Thank God we're not doing that." So we're really feeling quite positive about it all.

Digger: Yes. And what a track record Celia, thirty years.

Celia: This is our 31st year and in fact a lady came in the other day and she said "My husband bought his dinner suit from you when he was eighteen and now he's fifty." Can you imagine how old that made me feel?

Digger: (Laughs) Now he's retiring!

Celia: Probably, yes.

Digger: I get those moments too Celia. I was talking to someone the other days about my first Two-Tone Tonic suits and then I realised it was forty years ago that I bought them. It really does seem like yesterday.

Celia: It's scary isn't it? Because you feel just the same in your head but the body doesn't work quite as well as it used to.

Digger: No. So you must have seen lots of changes over that time. Vintage and retro is very popular these days. Have you noticed it increasing in popularity since you started?

Celia: Well, when I first started there was no such word as retro really. And probably not even vintage actually, thinking back. It was just antique clothing and I think people were really into it or else they just thought it was rubbish.

Digger: One of my clients does retro phones and radios and furniture and they buy them up in poor condition and restore and refurbish them. G-Plan and all that sort of thing. And when their customers go round with their parents they often get older people saying "I used to have one of those. I threw it away because it was rubbish." And now, of course, people appreciate it for what it is. What a shame.

Celia: Absolutely. I think things have just evolved as I've gone on and decades prior have just come in. I can remember turning down seventies big-collared frilly shirts and thinking "Nobody's ever going to buy that." And then, of course, they did. Now they're wearing eighties and to the youngsters eighties is what they call retro. So it's evolved, but quite honestly I think when people say vintage or retro that's not what we're talking about. To me it's Victorian, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties. I'm not really very keen on the eighties and the nineties.

Digger: No and I suppose that's human nature. I'm not saying that you remember the twenties and thirties but when you were growing up, like me, there were lots of references to that period and that's what you're comfortable with, I suppose. 

Celia: Yes.

Digger: And it is a moving target, of course. 

Celia: Yes, absolutely and I'm glad I'm not starting out on it now. When I started you could find more and there was more of it about but now it does get hard to find nice really old pieces. I do tend to hand pick things and I'm not one of these people who buy things by weight or in bales. I cherry-pick and especially now we've got this smaller shop I can concentrate on it and do what I love doing and find the lovely pieces. Like the other day, I found some amazing utility trousers - three pairs and a waistcoat with their original labels and unworn. So those are the kind of quality things I want to do which don't necessarily perhaps appeal to students. Students are more into the Aran jumpers and tartan skirts and things.

Digger: So you've got back to basics.

Celia: I've gone back to what I've always loved and what people have always known me for.  They know I'm fussy and I only buy nice things and present them well.

Digger: Is there a vintage thing going on in Nottingham with the lace?

Celia: Not really, David. People often say that but I think a lot of it was machine made and in fact the little lace museums and lace shops have all closed down - all the lace factories have gone.

Digger: Yes, the same here in Northampton with all the shoe and boot factories. You wouldn't know that this was once the world centre of the footwear industry.

Celia: No, it's the same thing, isn't it? Everything's gone and made abroad cheaply I suppose now.

Digger: I think we're got one or two hanging on here manufacturing on a very small scale.

Celia: Yes. I think when there was the Royal wedding that made lace more popular again.

Digger: Who are your customers, where are they coming from and what sort of feedback and comments are you getting from clients? It sounds as though they were so supportive they actually stopped you from closing down!  

Celia: (Both laugh) They did, they did. 

Digger: That can't be bad.

Celia: It can't. Well, a huge variety. Re-enactors and obviously the forties is a big thing and we've got a lot of customers who love the forties.

Digger: It seems to be the biggest decade in terms of popularity, doesn't it?

Celia: It does, yes. Museums - I've got somebody coming at the end of the month and they're doing a utility exhibition next year so he's looking for utility items.

Digger: TV and Film? 

Celia: A little bit, because they tend to want such specific things or then they have them made. Our local playhouse has been a good customer over the years although not so much recently with the recession. Students, collectors, people who just want to have a nice coat that's different and not everybody's going to have the same thing. So quite a broad spectrum. Oh, we have a Japanese dealer who comes about every three months because Japan likes the English labels - the Churches, the Burberry's and so on. He comes specially and they base themselves in London and then travel around to the particular people they want to see.

Digger: I used to work for the Japanese for twelve years actually.

Celia: They're very polite aren't they?

Digger: They are very polite but not that friendly - a bit reserved. I was lucky enough to go over to Japan on a business trip and they are very well behaved - pedestrians wait when they should, cars stop when they should, there's no litter or graffiti. The only time I felt at all under threat in the city was in a district where all the westerners were.

Celia: That says it all doesn't it?

Digger: Vintage is environmentally-friendly and good value as well as proven to be well-made...

Celia: Absolutely.

Digger: ...It's hard-wearing, long-lasting and a good investment. Why would somebody
buy new when they can buy retro?

Celia: Like the trousers I just mentioned or a pair of shoes that will be beautifully-made. The tweed jackets - you can't wear them out if you tried, so yes it is recycling in a good way.

Digger: And very good value.

Celia: Yes, we've got a Harris tweed 3-piece suit in at the moment and it's 350. Someone came in the other day and said you'd pay thousands to have that made and there's so few places that make Harris tweed now. So yes, although things can seem expensive I think people have got to understand vintage. A lot of people might come in who don't understand it and think "It's just second-hand." But people have to understand vintage and they're the ones that really appreciate it.

Digger: I suppose the numerous antiques programmes and nostalgic programmes do a
lot to promote vintage too so that people are becoming more familiar with vintage. People like Katherine Higgins who is a big proponent of vintage.

Celia: Is she the one that is sometimes on Antiques Roadshow?

Digger: Yes, with lots of bright makeup and usually wearing fifties or sixties vintage.

Celia: Yes, I know her. 

Digger: What items tend to be the most sought after and the biggest sellers Celia?

Celia: That's a tricky one, because there tends to be such a huge range of stock - as I've said from the 1940s, from the 1950s we have the pretty cotton dresses with the full skirts and the suits. Men's things are always more difficult to find because men's clothes get worn out and shabby.

Digger: Is there an issue with people's size these days compared to back in the day?

Celia: Yes, I think people were smaller in those days. The shoes are small and things like tailcoats are small. We have a big demand for top hats and it's really difficult finding top hats in a good size. You can have a beautiful top hat but if it's only 6 7/8ths then it's not worth a penny but if it's a big size then you're talking about big money.

Digger: They'll never fit me - I've got a huge head.

Celia: We had one the other day which was 7 3/8ths and that's big for a vintage top hat. So they're popular. Pretty blouses - all sorts of things.






Digger: I imagine no two days are the same?

Celia: No, that's the beauty of it. It's lovely and you never know who's going to come in or what's going to be brought into you. That's one advantage of having your own shop. People know you're there and it gives you a focus... and they realise you know what you're on about. Whereas if it's just somebody on the end of a phone or in a paper that's not the case - they feel more secure talking to you. So we buy from the public or do things sale and return.

Digger: Are you still doing the fairs?

Celia: No. What I'm going to do now, because we've got a very nice website, we're hoping to build the website up. These days, with things being more difficult, you've got to have a few strings to your bow so our aim is the shop, the website and we do put a few things on eBay.

Digger: The dreaded eBay!

Celia: I know, I hate it but I just sold some old counters from our shop and we got a good price for them.

Digger: I joined eBay back in 1998 and it does tend to devalue a lot of items. Everybody expects something for nothing on eBay.

Celia: That's true. But there's nothing like a shop where they can come and see it. I wouldn't want to buy vintage clothes on eBay, because one person's description isn't the same as another's and they may say good condition and it's dirty and smelly. So I don't think you can beat having a proper shop.

Digger: No.

Celia: And the other thing I'm doing is the big antique fair at Newark where I did my first fair for many years and I stood there. I'm hoping to build-up a clientele there where I can say we've got a shop in Nottingham.

Digger: And obviously you can network with other people there too.

Celia: Yes you can. But that's one thing with the shop - you get a bit insular and don't know what's going on in the big wide world.

Digger: Do you do Twinwood Festival?

Celia: No, I am a bit Nottingham-centric and that's why, now I've got the smaller shop, I'm hoping to travel a bit more. I've heard about it.

Digger: It's at Bedford so it's not a million miles away. A three-day event with vintage hats, clothes, dancing shoes, paraphernalia. 

Celia: I don't want to stand or get into doing fairs in a big way because having the shop is enough, really.

Digger: It's a weekend event and it was in September. A lot of the people you'd recognise were there. Mainly it's forties and then fifties rock and roll and the great thing is that people dress up. It's fantastic.

Celia: They do have a whale of a time, don't they? All of my forties customers have such fun.

Digger: Yes.

Celia: It's a way of life not just an interest.

Digger: It's ironic that one of the darkest times in our history is also one of the ones that we hark back to so much.

Celia: That's true. I hadn't thought about that. It's nostalgia for us, isn't it?

Digger: Yes, we only remember the good stuff - we don't remember the dropping of the bombs. We remember the music, the fashions and the good spirit.

Celia: I always think that our parents' generation were a special generation that went through that war and when they've all gone it will be a sad time because they were special, coping with it all and keeping cheerful.

Digger: Hopefully that Britishness is still there.

Celia: I hope so.

Digger: What impact has The Internet on what you do? A huge one, I suppose?

Celia: I don't think so with the vintage. With vintage I don't think it has because there's only going to be one lovely 1940s nipped-in jacket in such-and-such a colour so I wouldn't say that The Internet has been a big thing for us.

Digger: That's unusual because most people I speak to, and obviously I'm speaking to various retro-related business, would say things have changed because they've now got a big international audience.

Celia: Yes, I suppose from that point of view. I was thinking more in terms of the competition. Yes, with our website we had a lady who saw us when she was in Australia and came over here to buy a dress because she'd seen it on the website. 

Digger: The man in Japan probably found you through The Net as well.

Celia: Probably yes. That's why it is such a good thing having a website, because you are only going to have so many people walking into the shop whereas anyone can look at the website.

Digger: Where do you see the future for Celia's Vintage Clothing and where would you like to be with it?

Celia: I hope that we can keep this lovely shop going, have more customers and build up this lovely stock, do the website and get that better and (laughs) me get better at photographs and things. I haven't got huge ambitions as I'm coming to the end of my working life, but I can see myself doing this for a good few years but enjoying it now.

Digger: That is a big ambition I would say. Some people would say 'living the dream' now that you've got back to basics and are enjoying yourself once more.

Celia: I never thought when I started "I'll have a shop and sell vintage clothing and fancy dress." The whole thing evolved from the circumstances, even down to getting this last little shop. At the time it was really good but it came to a natural end so now I'm quite happy again. But this is much less stressful running a little shop.

Digger: A client of mine who sells jukeboxes downsized and he's really happy. He's getting just enough business and he's back maintaining the jukeboxes which he's not done for a long time. He'd ended up being the frontman rather than the guy who fixes stuff which is where he started. He's making a living in a recession and you can't complain about that.

Celia: No you can't. I suppose that's another good thing with my business. As I've been around for so long - I wouldn't like to be starting now, I think that would be very hard. Hopefully I'm well established now and can keep going a bit longer.

Digger: Celia, it's been great and thank you for that. A fascinating and fun story and nice to hear that your passion for vintage has worked out for you.

Celia: Thanks David.






Celia's Vintage Clothing 


Women's Vintage, Victorian - 1920s, 1930s - 1940s, 1950s - 1960s, 1970s - 1980s, Lingerie, Stockings Men's Vintage, Accessories, Childrenswear, Haberdashery, Collectable Items

Celia's Vintage Clothing was established  in 1980,  from small beginnings in Nottingham's antique centre on Derby  Road, selling collarless shirts, Victorian underwear, linen etc.

Our customer base is large and varied, from students to collectors, museums to dress designers, re-enactors to theatres  Many of our customers are fiercely loyal  and return to us time and again for that reliable service and unique one off item.

Celia's Fancy Dress started in 1999, with 2 floors of high quality costumes to hire. We also sell  a large range of  new accessories.

Our strength is in the quality of both departments. Everything is hand picked, clean, and well presented. Our knowledgeable staff offer a first rate old fashioned service, and we bend over backwards to help and advise. 

Telephone: 0115 9473036 

www: Celia's Vintage Clothing 






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