The rock’n’roll years

Photo: Alex Knight Photography
Photo: Alex Knight Photography
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Add a blast from the past to your wardrobe with a twist of the 60s. Diane Crabtree meets vintage retailers Purple Rabbit.

The mini skirt, paisley shirts, peasant tops, the bikini swimsuit, bell bottoms, bright colours, vinyl fabrics, and beading and fringing – who could forget the styles of the 1960s? It was the decade that changed the way the world looked at fashion forever. And while some of it is best left in the past, other bits are far too good not to get a second airing, or so say designers such as Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and Victoria Beckham whose retro fashions were a big hit at New York Fashion Week.

The trio have all reinterpreted elegant 60s dresses in their spring 2013 collections and it’s not taken the High Street long to follow suit. Mod dresses in silks, chiffons and lace are everywhere. Some are trapeze shaped with Peter Pan colours or beading, others come in lace and paisley prints, monochrome or bright colours.

Megan Wilson isn’t complaining. The 23-year-old is one of the UK’s youngest vintage entrepreneurs and says original dresses are flying out of her shop, Purple Rabbit, based in the historic Piece Hall in Halifax.

“We are seeing 60s fashion make a big comeback and lots of women are being creative and hunting out original dresses from that era. They can often pick up a one-off piece for a fraction of the cost of a designer dress today,” says Megan who got interested in historical costumes and vintage clothing as a teenager, when she worked in the wardrobe department at Bradford Playhouse.

Megan went on to become wardrobe mistress at the theatre and costumed many historical plays, pantomimes, musicals and films – including a West End production – until its closure four years ago, when she opened Purple Rabbit.

The shop specialises in vintage fashion from the 1930s to the 1960s and also sells accessories, homeware and small pieces of furniture. Megan also rents space in another vintage shop, Space in Harrogate and is a well-known face at vintage fairs across the country. She organises the Halifax Vintage Extravaganza at the Cedar Court Hotel, Ainley Top, Halifax, every May, which attracts around 1,000 people.

According to Megan, vintage themed weddings are a big trend these days with not just the bride and groom going retro, but guests, the decor and the food too. True to style, Megan is getting married on May 26 this year and having a 1950s vintage wedding. She’s wearing a 1950s reproduction wedding dress and guests at the art deco Midland Hotel in Morecambe will be eating and dressing from that era.

A lot of Yorkshire vintage weddings 
are held at Holdsworth House Hotel in Halifax, which is the venue for this retro fashion shoot. The Jacobean Manor House which was built in 1633, is feeling very retro itself at the moment because it celebrates its 50th anniversary this month.

It was opened by the late Rita and Freddie Pearson and celebrities from the 60s regularly stayed there including The Beatles, Cliff Richard, Cilla Black, dancer Rudolph Nureyev, the Maharaja of Baroda and Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield.

One of Britain’s top fashion designers in the 60s, Jean Muir was also a regular visitor when she was in the area buying cloth.

It is now owned by the Pearsons’ daughters, Gail Moss and Kim Wynn. Gail who still has some of her mother’s clothes from the 1960s, says it’s amazing that these vintage dresses have now come full circle.

“It goes to show how iconic the style was 50 years ago. In fact we see lots of women at weddings today that offer similar glamour with intricate beading, beautiful silks, chiffons and lace.”

The Halifax Vintage Extravaganza takes place at the Cedar Court 
Hotel, Ainley Top, Halifax, on Sunday, May 12, 10am-4pm with music, 
vintage beauty parlour, vintage vehicles and free swing jive lessons. Entry £3.50.