Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ugly-chic polyester dresses from the 1970s


Excuse my bad hair day. I've had this obsession with semi-ugly, semi-chic retro dresses when thrifting of late. Ok, maybe not an obsession, but I've def been attracted to them, and I've been seeing them at Goodwill stores across Toronto in the past week.

Last week I tried on a  semi-scary looking dress at a Goodwill in north Toronto that looked like it would melt if it got too close to a flame. It fit me like a sack, so I left it there. But yesterday on my way home I popped into my fave Goodwill in Toronto in Flemington Park. This retro polyester dress from the 1970s, I'm guessing, called to me. It was $6.99.


When I found it my first thought was: fugly. But on a second glance I was somewhat intrigued. You know I'm a sucker for Paris (and Italy) labels, so into the basket it went. I can't deny that the green colour and funky pattern were major plus's for me. On closer look I saw that the deatils were quite nice. Sturdy stitching and the polyester - though undeniably polyester - was impressive, of a good weave ... know that sounds like an oxymoron but there you have it.


Just look at those buttons. Enameled. You would never find buttons on a dress like that today, unless, of course, it was couture or something. I'm only guessing as I don't buy couture, of course.



Here's the final look! Worn with a pair of Nine West shoes that I have had for - wait for it - TEN years! They never go out of style and I STILL get compliments on them - I just fix up the heels at the shoemaker's every now and again and voila: new shoes!

I'm wearing the dress with a cashmere wool cape thrifted for probably under $10. It was made in Ireland and in superb condition. I absolutely LOVE capes for the early fall weather - very chic and can be worn with everything from dresses to jeans.

Thank you lovely followers

Just like to post a quick hello and thanks to all you lovely readers and followers who check in with the 'ole Grunge Queen and make her part of you day. Today we've hit the 100 follower mark, a modest number by some blogging standards, perhaps, but a thrilling number for me! But I also know, through the emails I receive, that there are many who pop in who aren't official followers. So thanks to one and all, followers of every kind - it truly does make my day to know you like reading this here little blog!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Ow. My aching back. I spend 7 hours Sunday on me little re-org, and this little grungy girl is sore!

Here's a sneak peep at my new desk.


This little stack of papers represents the new direction my desk is taking: neutrals with little splashes of bright colour.


Here's the "new" old living room. I'm still tweaking it but I am liking the somewhat pared down look - yes this minimalist pour moi! I like the idea of doing away with the coffee table for now as the look is sleek and clean. Let's see if it's functional!

I tried to make things cozy with the lighting - I'm not just the Grunge Queen; I'm also the Lamp Queen and have over 20 lamps, most of which are thrifted!! I change them up often to create different looks. The wee wall lamp (thrifted for a mere $4.99) is perfect for snuggling on the loveseat reading, as is the higher placement of the brass lamp (picked up new for a fiver at my fave Toronto lighting store, Consumers Lighting on Dufferin St. and Castlefield Ave.). I'm so tired I think I'll flop down and do a little reading right NOW!


I love the John Lander print above the couch. I found it for $4.99, I think, at my fave thrift shop, Stretch Thrift. The glass was broken and it broke even more on the way home, so I just did away with it altogether. Now it's much easier to hang sans glass!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Books, books, books, in and out of my apartment


Books. In my apartment.


More books. In my apartment.


And yet more books, in my apartment. But these are the ones I'm keeping.


These are the ones I'm donating, six bag full, as part of the biggest Grunge Queen apartment re-org to date.

Yes, I am decluttering massively. A former English major, I amassed a whack of books in the past - books which I have hung onto and faithfully moved from apartment to apartment, but books which I've never opened since completing schooling a decade ago.

So bye-bye 18th century novels, Canadian Confederation poetry volumes, and good books I've read once but will never read again.

This is only the beginning.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Celtic pendant a la Goodwill

I'm having pretty good luck finding bling at Goodwill.these days.


Then there were several other retro baubles for $10 and under.

This medallion-like pendant with wonderful chunky chain: only $3.99. 

Anyone know what the design means? I tried looking it up but there are so many symbols.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Glittery bathroom trends in England


My charming host took me to Matalan while I was in northern England. Matalan, so you know, is a cross between a department store, a Walmart, and a Costco.

We hung out in the bathroom section so he could pick out some towels.

Talk about glitter!

As you can see here, bejeweled soap dispensers and Kleenex boxes is where it's at in Jolly Old. Perhaps they need the glitz because of all of the rain, tee hee.


How about this glitter bathmat? Pretty disco eh? I kinda like it. To me it epitomizes the Brit philosophy that can exist alongside or independent of the 'proper' deadpan Brit: don't take yourself too seriously and have a sense of humour! Love it! But we left the glitter there.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Italian suede slouchy boots with semi-thrifted outfit

Further to yesterday's post, today I'm showcasing a pair of Italian suede boots I thrifted last year for $14.99, again at Stretch Thrift, my local thrift store.

They're in mint condition, right down to the soles. I wuv them. I can wear them tall or slouch them down with my skinny jeans, as I have here.


Let's go in for a closer look. Aren't they fab? Again if you are thrifting for shoes, minimal wear and good soles, and generally a good make (made in Italy ranks pretty high in my books) are a must.


I'm wearing my Tudor Rose pendant I thrifted at Goodwill this summer, along with a velvet Club Monaco blazer I thrifted for $10. I wasn't sure about the blazer at first as it's kinda 1990s (like the shoes yesterday), all shiny velvet and all, but I do rather like it now.

As with the boots it's multi-functional. Can dress it up for the holidays or prep it out with a pair of jeans.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thrifted shoes from Spain

I hope you can see these shoes well enough; they're brown faux croc square-toe shoes with a nice big chunky heel. I thrifted them last year and wear them in the fall.

I almost didn't get them as I thought they weren't current enough - they reminded me of a pair of black shoes I had in the late 1990s. Then I realized they're actually a pretty timeless, classic shoe.

It also helped that they were $6.99 at my fave local thrift shop, Stretch Thrift.

They're made in Spain, something I associate with quality, perhaps mistakenly. But they look brand new and haven't been worn at all, a definite prerequisite for my buying thrifted shoes. You may not believe it but I've found some fab shoes and boots thrifted at great prices and in good condition, including Kenneth Cole, Nice West, Italian suede boots and more.

Generally I look for minimal wear and classic as opposed to trendy styles. Well-crafted shoes with great soles is another no-brainer. I stay away from the stinky worn ones that look like thay have no support.


Now I realize there are some style issues with slightly clunky shoes such as these - that's why I opted for some sexy fishnet tights I snagged at a sample sale last year - NOTE: tone on tone (in this case brown fishnets with brown shoes) is the best way to go for a stylish look EXCEPT I would definitely say to never, ever do that with black fishnets. In fact trash the black ones altogether unless yo are dressing up for Halloween.

With the exception of the handmade scarf and the handcrafted purse, this whole outfit was thrifted, btw. The velvet TeenFlo brown skirt was part of a suit I found for $10!! Thrift victory!!

PHOTOS COURTESY my good pal Parmjit and the best PR gal in Toronto, Montana Ridge

Friday, September 17, 2010

Goodwill dig

Today was 50 percent off at Goodwill Just so you know, I never do the 50-off sales. I can't stand the pushy peeps and the lineups and fighting over stuff; I'm more of an unobtrusive thrifter who  prefers taking her time and doing a careful, thoughtful dig.

So I I did a Goodwill dig two days before the sale and found some great gems. You can't really see it but this black fitted cropped vest with fab buttons and manderin collar was only $2.99 (the Nine West booties were thrifted at Value Village years ago and I just keep fixing them up every year at the shoe makers, and the Jones New York wool lined skirt was also thrifted years ago. The glittery tights: spring sample sale, DIM, 5 pair for $20).


I also found this wool-silk blend blazer that I've already worn two days in a row, with a skirt here but also with jeans. Price: $7.49. I'm a pretty happy camper. and I think most Goodwills are open til 9 p.m. tonight, so if you want to get in on the action and don't mind a bit of frenzy, pop into the nearest one near you and tell me what you get!

Obsolete red phones & boxes:


These red phone boxes are becoming increasingly rare in England, just as the enclosed telephone booths are here. So natch we had to snap a piccy of this iconic structure when I was there a few weeks ago. I guess they're not that practical anymore given the more portable, non-enclosed versions of public telephones, but the old-fashioned gal in me reverences the telephone booth: to me, it harkens back to a time when we valued personal space, generally and in the public realm. Today we carry on highly personal conversations on our cell phones in public, blog about our lives to people across the world, and Twitter with peeps we've never met face-to-face. We're not just a disembodied culture; we're so accustomed to putting ourselves out there we've completely eroded our own privacy. The sacred and increasingly absent space of the telephone booth is one small sign of that collapse, methinks.



This rotary phone, also red, is another icon I feel slightly nostalgic over. I grew up with a black rotary phone and loved that self-satisfied feeling when you just dialed the crap out of the phone. And the quaint bring bring! bring bring! noise when it rang - love it. I used this phone for a short while but had to unplug is at as I couldn't access my voice mail with the old phone. Now I'm thinking of doing away with a land-line phone altogether. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

1970s skirts from English flea market

So I went to town on this rack at the flea market I told you about a couple days ago. Actually I could have done more damage, but my suitcase was only so big! What I loved about this rack: lotsa lotsa great 1970s styles!

Ok, so maybe this polyester floral dress was a bit much, but there was still heaps of items that caught my eye - namely, the long full skirts.

Here's what I DIDN'T get, though it was from some fabulous unheard of brand (the label was bragging) and the skirt had a really high waist that would have looked good on me. 

I ALMOST picked up this long semi-full tweed skirt. It fit me perfectly and would have totally jived with the semi-preppy look I'm grooving on for this fall. Do you think I made a mistake not getting it?


But I couldn't leave this one behind, a wool Made in Britain full skirt with these 1980s jewel-tone colours - I just love it. My choice has raised some eyebrows, but I've assured the naysayers I can make it look very glam chic, like a Charlie perfume ad ....


I also bought this black fitted full skirt for about the same price, also made in Britain. Don't light a match near me 'cos I'll blow! Or melt: it's all nylon and polyester. Not sure if you can see the "V" detailing on the belly, but it's quite slimming. 

Now, my only concern: on the plane ride home, my sad little self watched Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, and after seeing Helen Bonham Carter's Queen of Hearts-y HUGE head, I'm wondering if the skirt isn't so slimming that it makes my head look a wee bit, well, largish, shall we say??

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Simplify simplify simplify

Perhaps it's the awe-inspiring simplicity of the Lake District in Northern England that's inspired me, but I feel it's time to do a little Grunge Queen makeover on this little blog. And why not? The urge to simplify my digs has been growing progressively more pronounced over the last year and has manifested itself in numerous apartment re-orgs, so I figured I'd extend that same philosophy with this blog. The look is still a work in progress, so bear with me. I'll return to regular Grunge Queen programming tomorrow, and though the blood and guts of it all won't change the look still may!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Antiquing in England

When I was in England my charming host took me to an antique market called Bygone Times.

We beetled around for a few hours through three entire buildings of stuff.

Alas, I didn't find any vintage costume jewellery, but there were a few things of note:

I collect retro Fairy Tale books.

This one looked OK but I left it there as it wasn't special enough (if it was a beautifully illustrated 1960s Hans Christian Andersen or Oscar Wilde's book of fairy tales, I would have snatched it up).







I loved this mirror, but there was no way I was going to lug it home! Besides, it was already sold ....













No head vases, alas.

And though I like Art Deco, I wasn't about to start collecting wall plaques in the shape of heads just for the hell of it.

The big one with the white scarf, to the left, was 695 pounds!!







Lots of pretty floral 1970s frocks - but really, where would I wear something like this??













Mmmm.

I really rather liked this.

Think I'll take it home with me!

Will let you know on my next post what I actually bought!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

English windows

One thing I noticed about England: everyone puts fresh flowers in the windows. Here's a lovely example.

Not that I was snooping around inside people's houses or anything.

But driving along the streets as my generous sweetie pie host chauffeured me around lovely northern England, I couldn't help but peep at the picturesque houses. A huge wack of them had flowers right on the window sill, so you could see them from outside.

A rather civilized idea, if you think about it: peeps both inside and out can enjoy the blooms!

Whereas the north American custom, or certainly the Canadian ideal, is to put flowers on a hutch or in the middle of a dining room table - wonder why that is? Do we entertain more as a nation?

Anyway I love the idea - and I love those big English windows. Wish my ledges could handle flowers on 'em but the kitty cats would knock 'em down for sure. And come to think of it my windows are pretty dirty/ugly.

Guess I'll have to move to England, tee hee.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Toronto vintage - in northern England!

Do I look like the cat that ate the canary?

Horrid expression, sorry.

But I was pretty pleased. I traveled all the way to northern England, and found some fab Toronto vintage!

The story goes like this: a met lady, let's call her G, who used to live in Toronto in the 80s, when she acquired all sorts of vintage dresses from Queen Street West.

When she moved back to Jolly Old she kept 'em, and they've been languishing in suitcases for a couple decades.

G kindly let me go through her stash. This style dress, which nips in at the waist and flares out in a wide skirt, doesn't normally look so hot on my thin frame.

But the cut of the neck in the front created a bit of a V illusion that you can't quite see here.

And the back is so darling isn't it?

Thanks G. Neat to know your dresses will have come full circle back in Toronto!



This one isn't as fitted, but perhaps with a few pounds and a belt at the waist I will fill it out slightly more.

I can see myself funking these out a bit. Sure I can do the trad cocktail thing with kitten heels and a retro purse, but how many cocktail parties do I really go to?

Some funky tights and booties with a couple great accessories could make these looks more appropriate for day, I bet.

Thanks to my perfectly charming photographer (let's call him N), who is very sweet to read my little grungy posts every day.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thrift Shops in England!


So who would have thought? Turns out there are HEAPS of thrift shops in northern England!

It's true: every main street in every little village is peppered with second-hand shops, each of which is tied to a specific charity with all or most of the shop proceeds going back into the charity.

Here I am in Lytham, Lancashire outside the Barnardos shop, where I picked up a cashmere-blend sweater for about three pounds (about five bucks).

Some of the shops have better stuff than others. But in my honest assessment, I must say, I was slightly disappointed in the wares found therein - and here's why:

Thrift shop culture (or charity shop as they say in Jolly Old) is so ingrained in English culture that it has, from my outsider's viewpoint, become almost mass market.

Translation: the shops are hyper clean (completely bereft of that sickly sweet thrift shop smell I know so well in Canada); they're also quite corporate looking (as you can see from the outside of the British Heart Foundation shop) - but there's a but.

The downside is there's not a lot, hardly any, good vintage duds. Most of the apparel is contemporary mass market labels like Marks & Spencer and main street - or as they say High Street - brands. Jewellery is new.

Hate to be negative. As I am having a perfectly glorious time here. Went to a vintage market today and have much to tell, soon, dear readers, when I"m back on my home turf in a day or so. Ciao for now!