In today’s hectic lifestyle it has become all too easy to religiously stick to the familiar and reliable; Topshop, H&M, Primark… We troop in, jaws set with determination to find exactly what we’re looking for. We buy it in silence and leave as swiftly as possible, desperate to get to our next vital appointment. The Birmingham Vintage Fair offered a portal to a simpler and better time: before clothes shopping became a chore, rather than a luxury, and before internet retail robbed us of any creative flair and spontaneity when it comes to our outfits. Those who made the journey to the Custard Factory, hands numb and quivering, were not left disappointed.
In the heart of Digbeth the Custard Factory certainly takes some effort to find, but it is more than worth it. The secluded development offers a perfect juxtaposition of elegant, thought-provoking sculptures with colourful and quirky wall art and modern architecture, all alongside musty antique shops, vintage clothing stores and bespoke dressmakers. There is nowhere quite like it, and there is nowhere better for a Vintage Fair to set up shop.
A veritable treasure trove of retro fashion, the fair offered a sea of originality spanning six decades of style. With no two items the same, customers were invited to forage for their fashion – the result was a much more rewarding experience than selecting one of forty identical crop tops in Urban Outfitters. Tantalisingly soft, faux fur coats drew the strokes of tentative fingers. High-waisted, acid-washed jeans were being bought with enthusiasm, and, for the less faint hearted, 80s sequined tops with shoulder pads to rival the cast of ‘Dynasty’ were seized with vigour. There were maxi dresses made of the most luxurious velvet and irresistibly fine silk, adorable floral tea dresses, and lace gowns in rainbow shades. There were ikat-printed capes and fur-lined ponchos, denim jackets and sequined shrugs. For those feeling suitably festive, there was an abundance of Christmas jumpers emblazoned with reindeers, holly berries, and images of ski lodges, all wonderfully soft, and most importantly, wonderfully affordable.
In terms of accessories, there were stunning evening bags in jewel tones alongside rich leather doctor’s bags, floral carpet bags, beaten satchels and mahogany coloured suitcases – all crying out to be bought. Laid out on soft velvet was the most beautiful jewellery; fine gold chains with beautiful pendants, creamy pearl bracelets and ear rings in every shape and size. After their purchases had been made, shoppers were then rewarded for their hard efforts with mouth-watering cupcakes and hot, milky tea. There was undoubtedly something for everyone.
The next time the Vintage Fair rolls into Birmingham, I suggest you go and breathe some new life into those Topshop jeans with a 50s pussy bow blouse, or make your River Island just that bit more special with a diamanté brooch. Let’s make clothes shopping an uninhibited joy again.