Following up our recent feature on a student who wears Fifties fashions every day, Hilarie Stelfox meets a Huddersfield woman who designs outfits inspired by original patterns from both the 1940s and 1950s
THIS has been the year of the tea dress – an iconic 1940s style enjoying popularity once more.
It has also been absolutely the right time for Huddersfield entrepreneur Clare Quartermaine to design and launch her own collection of 1940s and 1950s fashion.
By adapting original patterns for the fuller figures of modern women, the Scapegoat Hill mother-of-three says she has captured the essence of vintage styling and made it more accessible.
Her small collection, So Foxy, is manufactured both locally in Calderdale and in Fife, Scotland, and sells on her website www.20thcenturyfoxy.com
What is most remarkable about the reproduction garments is that Clare is a marketing executive by day and started her vintage and burlesque clothing business without any prior experience in the fashion industry.
She began by simply retailing ranges that she bought in for customers who wanted to dress up for rock and roll nights, burlesque evenings and 1940s re-enactment events. However, she always planned to create her own outfits.
Clare said: “I have no formal training in fashion design at all but I contacted the Textile Centre of Excellence in Huddersfield and found a mentor called Sue Taylor.
“Then I had two days of intensive pattern cutting training.”
Using contacts gleaned from her marketing agency, which is based in Huddersfield’s Media Centre, she got her designs off the drawing board and into production.
Her first garment was a jersey shrug or bolero.
She said: “I designed this because ladies like to wear short-sleeved dresses but want to cover their upper arms.”
Other designs now include an early 1940s tea dress in Rayon, a 1940s evening dress in viscose jersey, a below-the-knee pencil skirt from a 1950s pattern and a pair of 1940s high-waisted trousers in wool from a Dewsbury mill. It is important to Clare that her venture supports British fabrics and manufacturing.
“A lot of my customers are vintage enthusiasts but I’d also say a lot are women who just want to feel elegant,” says 35-year-old Clare who has worn vintage clothing since she was a teenager.
“Current fashion focuses on young, thin women, but I have found that my best sellers are in sizes 12 and 16. I tend to get left with the very small sizes.
“I think the reason why women like 1940s and 50s clothes is that they are ultra-feminine. The cut is all about enhancing the natural waist, which is far more flattering than the low-slung fashions of today.”
Clare launched 20th Century Foxy two years ago and says that it has so far weathered the recession. By this time last year she was turning over £4,500 a month and since then turnover has actually doubled.
“In a recession people want something to cheer them up and are looking for classic fashion that can be worn again and again,” she explained.
“I want the business to be sustainable and it’s just me and my husband Jonathan who run it at the moment. I’m still not taking a full wage from it but, for me the satisfaction I get from the business is greater than the money.”
Clare, whose children Erin, Freya and Aidan are now seven, five and three respectively, downsized her marketing agency to concentrate on family life and runs her clothing business from home.
In her spare time she goes rock and roll dancing with Jonathan which offers her the opportunity to showcase her reproduction circle skirts and rockabilly clothes.
Clare will be taking part in a Vintage Beauty Day at the Cedar Court Hotel on December 10, for 1940s and 50s enthusiasts. The event will include workshops on how to achieve vintage hair and make-up looks.