Digger: Please tell us about your background in vintage
I became interested in vintage at a very, very, very
young age. I actually started wearing vintage when I was
fourteen and fifteen .
Digger: That was very brave because
normally young people want to be part of the pack and
Tessa: I've never been anything like
that. I've always wanted to be unique. I was a punk for a
Digger: Did you get irritated when
people started to jump on the vintage bandwagon and you
weren't standing out as much as before?
Tessa: Not really. Because I think
with vintage it doesn't matter and you're still unique,
aren't you? Everybody has got their own twist on vintage
and I'm not a purist. I love fifties and wear fifties but
I'll go out in a fifties dress, seventies shoes, sixties
handbag and a forties hat.
Digger: I've seen people like you at
the V&A Museum events and there will be all these ladies there
who are wearing combinations of decades. It doesn't really
matter does it? So long as they all look right together as
Tessa: That's it. I've got a friend
and she's a forties purist and her house is forties.
Ah! Has she got a computer and a
Tessa: No. No. She hasn't got a TV
Digger: Oh my, so she is a real purist?!
Tessa: Oh God yes, her house has
actually been filmed on TV and film sets and things like
Digger: I've seen a lady on telly who
lives with her partner and they do both live the fifties
Tessa: Sally is on her own and even
her house is forties - it was built late thirties but
it's very much in the forties style and she dresses forties, lives
forties and even cooks forties.
Digger: Wow, that must be
Tessa: I couldn't do it. My other
half is a Mod and that's how we met because we're both
into Northern Soul music. I was at a Northern Soul do
and I'd actually got a sixties dress on that night. And
he said to his friends "Do you know her? She's wearing
vintage. Isn't that sixties?" And my friend Helen said
"Yes, it's Tessa. She always wears vintage but she
usually wears fifties and I'm quite surprised to see her
in sixties." And that's how me met. And we've been
together ever since. Lee has just sold his scooters -
he had a Vespa and a Lambretta and I've done some sixties
exhibitions. I did one at The Public in West Bromwich and
that was a really, really big exhibition.
Digger: Why do you think
vintage is so big? Even within the last ten years it's gone to a whole new
level and into the mainstream.
Tessa: I think it's just because of
the www and I'm not sure if it has changed that much.
People just know about it more. As far as I can remember
- I'm 52 now and I've always worn vintage and loved
vintage and everybody you speak to, even if it's only an
evening bag, they have something vintage. But I think The
Internet has made it a lot more accessible and you get to
know about it a lot more.
Digger: Do you
think there's also
an element of modern life just not being very
Tessa: Exactly. People need an
escape, don't they? I certainly do and vintage is a form
of escape. I dress up and we go out on Saturdays to
Northern Soul do's, and it isn't that I like to be centre of
attention, but people look forward to seeing me. "Oh my
God, Tess, what have you got on tonight?" And I know
quite a few
people, in fact quite a lot are my clients, who now form
the Northern Soul scene. And even though they've always
been into vintage, some of them are living in Scotland and
places like that where they're quite remote and they
haven't got the resources. They couldn't get hold of the
vintage purely because of the location.
Digger: There are a few vintage
players up there like Saratoga Trunk and Chic and Unique.
Tessa: Are there? I don't really follow other
vintage people - I do my own thing. I've had a business
for a long time and wore vintage but then I was a holiday
rep for Thomson's for a while...
Having to wear their suits?!
Tessa: Yes (Laughs)
Digger: I bet you hated that.
Tessa: Yes, especially the bright
yellow. And how I got into selling vintage was that I
wanted to be a trainer at Thomson's. To be a trainer
with Thomson's Holidays you have to come back and do a
degree. So I came back on sabbatical to do a degree in
2001, as a mature student, doing a degree in Travel and
Tourism Management. Whilst I was studying for my
degree, I obviously needed a form of income as my son was
living with me. So I started selling vintage at local
markets and things like that and then progressed to the
vintage fairs and then in 2006 I opened my first shop.
Digger: So what outlets have you got
Tessa: I closed my shop in March
because, to cut a very long story short, I was fed up with
having to deal with the landlord. I had problems with
the heating which he wouldn't fix, then there were burst
pipes which he denied responsibility for and then he tried
to put the rent up. So I shut my shop because it was so
cold for me and for the customers and then the flooded stock
was the last straw.
Digger: You'll have less
now, which is a good thing.
Tessa: Yes, but I have been asked to
do one project which I can't really say much about because
it's got to go through a committee and that might happen
next year. If it does then that involves running a shop,
although not my own and it's all to do with vintage.
Who are your typical customers Tessa?
Tessa: I don't really deal a lot with
students - I know a lot of vintage shops do but I don't do
eighties and they tend to like eighties and that kind of
thing. Because of my connections with the scooter scene
and the Northern Soul scene, I tend to do a lot of the
sixties and fifties. So I deal with a lot of
scooters, because there are scooter rallies all over the
country every week from April onwards. I deal a lot with
fifties because a lot of my close friends are all fifties
people. They do Rhythm Riot, Twinwood and things like that.
Digger: I was at this year's Twinwood
- it was very good actually.
Tessa: Did you go? I've never done it
although my friend had a stall there.
Digger: Who was that?
Tessa: Secondhand Rose/Toadstool
Digger: I remember them. It worked
very well for stallholders and if you can get down there
I'd recommend it because one person I spoke to sold 75
items of clothing over the three days. You've got a very
captive audience at Twinwood - everybody turns up dressed
up in forties and fifties clothes. They're all very
Tessa: We do a thing here - the Severn Valley Railway and
in July we've got the forties weekend and in May we have
the sixties weekend. I arrange the
sixties fashion show.
Digger: You're on the committee?
Tessa: I'm an adviser if you like.
Digger: Do you like the
forties? That's a big scene.
Tessa: Not really.
Digger: It doesn't float
think the forties was dark and the clothes were drab. I
don't know if it's also because forties clothes don't suit
me - I'm a typical fifties shape, the hourglass shall we
say? And I always look like an old lady in forties
clothes, even if I really try.
Digger: You know what suits
you better than anyone. I notice that with my girlfriend,
I'll buy her one thing and the colour and style really
suit her shape and colouring and buy another and they
really don't. If it's right it really illuminates.
Tessa: I've got lots of friends on the forties scene - Rob
and Lynn sell all the forties stuff. They're called
Vintage and Revival and she's been on telly as well, but
her house isn't forties. They look absolutely great in
them. I've tried, but they don't suit me. The other thing
about forties people is they take it very seriously some
Digger: I know what you
mean. That can apply to people who love the Mod scene or
indeed any scene.
Tessa: Yes it can. I love vintage but...
Digger: You don't let it
rule your life?
Tessa: No, definitely not.
Digger: I wonder sometimes
whether we're just looking back all of the time. But a lot
of people I talk to who are involved in the retro and
vintage scene spend most of their time looking forward to
events and future changes and so on.
Tessa: No, the majority of people who are into vintage are
quite like me and I suppose we must be eccentric in some
respects and we're all a little bit nutty.
Digger: Yes. They've got a
Digger: That's a good thing
when people have a spark and are slightly wacky. That's
Tessa: I like
Digger: Where do you get
all the tips and tricks Tessa?
Tessa: The website is going to be relaunched and it's
really beautiful and I'm really pleased with it. I want to
get all that sort of information on my new website. These
tips and tricks are just things that I've learned over the
years, especially with stain removal and things like that.
I've got a very, very dear friend and she's been into
vintage for as long as I can remember and she's a
businesswoman selling vintage, although she doesn't wear
vintage strangely enough. She's passed on little tips to
me and I've got a lot of them as well from my grandmother.
Digger: That's good isn't
it? Being handed down like that?
Tessa: Yes, like the care of your gloves and stockings and
some of the things my Nan told me about how they used to
wash stockings and how they used to keep stockings. They'd
never keep them in plastic bags, it was always tissue
paper and they would lie them flat in a drawer.
Digger: Never use wire
Digger: Use lavender to
keep pests away.
Tessa: Yes, you can also get stuff now that does the job
and another thing is citrus.
Digger: Yes, my mum used to
put an orange in a drawer with cloves stuck in it.
Tessa: That's another way. I've got
lots and lots of really, really old clothing books as well
from the forties and fifties. So I just take stuff out of
there and put it into modern day language, if you like,
and put it on the site. Because a lot of people buy
vintage, especially people who buy it because it's a bit
of a fad and they see everybody else is doing it, and they
haven't got a clue how to look after it really. And I've
got some really good stain removal ideas on the new
website. That's what I'm doing at the moment - putting it
all on the computer. When the new website goes live I want
it to be full and up-to-date.
Digger: Is there an issue
with people being bigger these days?
Tessa: We are, as a race, getting bigger. But in the early
eighties the fashion industry did change all our sizes,
unbeknown to the public, so what was a size twelve became
a ten. We're getting bigger so they wanted us to feel
better about ourselves so a twelve became a ten and so on
up and down the sizes. So I'm a size ten and can wear
anything vintage from a twelve to an eighteen - it's
because the fashion industry wanted to change everything.
Digger: Like when they
change chocolate bar size and don't tell you?
Tessa: Oh God yes. I bought a pack of Maltesers the other
day and there was nothing in there.
Digger: About three of
Digger: I know.
Tessa: I thought "My God!" Because I
haven't bought Maltesers for years and I thought "I'm sure
they used to be bigger than this."
Digger: They did Tessa, I'm
sure you're right. They've all done a lot of sneaky things
with 'new sizes' and so on. They did it with crisps as
well a few years back and now you get a packet full of air
and three or four crisps, which is probably good from a
health point of view. In the old days you got a good
number of crisps in a packet. Can you tell us what do you
enjoy most about what you're doing?
Tessa: When I had the shop I used to love meeting the
people. I'm a people person, I love to see people coming
in, especially when they're wearing vintage. I loved
looking at what they're wearing. Now, obviously I meet
people at fairs but it's not quite the same. So these days
I love it when I get a parcel that I've sourced and have
ordered some stock. One of the places I source from you
just order four bags of stuff and don't get a chance to
see what's in the bag. And I love getting it home and
opening it up to see what delights are inside.
Digger: Just like
Yes, I love that. I used to be like that when I was a
manager for Help The Aged. (Laughs)
Digger: Funnily enough, all
of those charity shops have really got their acts together
and have jumped on the vintage bandwagon in a professional
way. They really understand the value of what they've got
Tessa: Oh God,
Digger: They've gone from
an amateur to a professional footing with the vintage
Digger: So what about the
future then Tessa? You've got the new website...
Tessa: I'm just going to keep on doing what I'm doing,
with the website and then tomorrow and Saturday, for
example, I've got fairs. I have this new project that may
or may not come about.
Digger: You'll tell us
about it if it does?
Tessa: Yes, I can't say too much because it's got to be
discussed more. Also I started working, just a couple of
days a week, with my very dear friend Lizzie and I have
been putting stuff on eBay for her. I'm not a go-getter,
you see. I don't want to be massive. All I want to do is
sell vintage and make enough to make a living and to wear
Digger: And why not?
Tessa: I know some people that I know who are into vintage
and they've done this and they're going to do that and
that isn't me.
Digger: Well, you're making
a living with what you enjoy and that's more than most
people can claim. We're luckier than most.
Tessa: We are. People think I'm quite outgoing but
actually I'm not, I'm alright if it's something I know,
but I'm quite shy. Even when I had my shop I used to get
other people to phone for me sometimes. (Laughs)
Digger: You don't come
across as shy at all.
Tessa: I know. Lots of people don't think I am but I am
when I'm outside my comfort zone.
Digger: Many actors are the
same - when they have to be themselves and are interviewed
they get shy and tongue-tied but put them in a costume and
makeup or mask and away they go.
Tessa: Perhaps that's what it is, wearing vintage. It's my
Digger: Maybe. Whatever we
wear says a lot about us, doesn't it?
Tessa: It does.
Digger: People make all
sorts of judgements based on what we look like. Best of
luck with the new website and with the new venture Tessa.
Please keep us posted.
Tessa: I will. Thanks David.