Luxurious wool, softest silk, crisp cotton and other natural fabrics, used to create classic clothes in decades gone by, are Linda Chivers’ passion.
And this love for stylish, retro fashion is something she enjoys sharing, thanks to her delightful ‘boutique’ on the first floor of the Arundel Bridge Antiques Centre where she specialises in recycled and vintage textiles.
Here she lovingly displays elegant dresses, jackets and garments of all kinds which, although they were made yesteryear, have stood the test of time and are just as wearable today.
Linda, who lives in Barnham, stresses that she aims to have a wide-ranging stock of clothes that are not just for ‘dressing up’ for special occasions such as the Goodwood Revival – they are great to wear every day and she herself is always dressed in vintage style.
It all stems from her abiding love of beautiful, natural fabrics and individual designs which began when she was just a youngster.
“As a teenager, I wore clothes from the 1930s and 1940s, things like lovely silk blouses and woollen jumpers,” she explains. “In those days they weren’t hard to find, but nowadays clothes from those decades aren’t so easy to come across.
“Since then I’ve always worn and bought vintage clothes, not from any particular era, just things which were stylish. It’s because I like nice textiles, and also because vintage dresses had lots of fabric in the skirt, had proper seams and hems and were generally much better made than many things nowadays. They had attractive buttons and real individual style. And I love the prints from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
“I am really enjoying watching Call the Midwife on television, just to see the fashions from then and the lovely detailing on some of the clothes.
“In the shop, I don’t do polyester or other man-made fibres – nearly everything is wool, cotton or silk. And although I do have some earlier pieces, most of the styles are from the 1950s or 1960s because I can get hold of them.
“Things from the 1920s through to the 1940s are difficult to buy in nowadays and if you can find them, they are expensive, not at prices I could sell them for. They are very much a specialist market now that retro fashion is so popular and some people charge crazy prices, but I want to keep my prices affordable for everyone.”
CHARITY SHOPS AND AUCTIONS
Linda sources her stock from charity shops, car boot sales and auctions, but not via the internet as she wants to see and touch items before she buys. Because she is now well-known locally for her vintage clothes, people also bring things along to her at the antiques centre.
“A lot of the summer dresses I sell are hand-made because in those days people did make a lot of their own clothes,” she says. “My granny taught me to sew when I was about ten and I made my first dress then.
“I have labels like Jaeger and Vogue and they were so well designed and made because they were bought by people who were comfortably off and could afford them. I can remember when I was about 14, the first boutique opened in Chichester and my mother took me there, only to be told there was nothing for me as the clothes weren’t made for younger people.
“I went into Top Shop recently and although there were some really lovely things there, to me the fabrics were horrible and they had skimped so much on the materials – those things definitely aren’t intended to last for any length of time.”
Fashions from the 1950-60s are the mainstay of Linda’s stock but she also occasionally buys vintage Monsoon and Laura Ashley designs from the 1980s, and these can be seen along with vintage silk and mohair scarves, the occasional perky hat and pairs of elegant shoes.
“I also love children’s things from the 1950s – that’s when I was a child and I think people like to see things they had in those days, or possibly things we didn’t have as a child but would have wanted in those days.”
Linda says that occasionally she has been told that things which are only 50 or 60 years old are not really ‘vintage’, but she believes the true definition of vintage is that it is a good example of the year in which it was made, a classic of its time.
And while some of the items bought from her will be seen and admired at Goodwood Revival or similar events, she hopes many of them will be worn by people going about their everyday lives.
“I would like to think I stock things that people would like to wear anyway, at any time,” she says. “My son got married last year and I wore a pretty vintage summer dress. Obviously if something is an heirloom, you wouldn’t want to go out in it, but otherwise my clothes are there to be worn.
“My customers are all ages and I often tell some of the younger ones that a vintage dress or jacket can look fabulous if you wear it over a pair of jeans – it means you have a really individual look.
“I keep my prices as reasonable as possible – jackets are typically around £20 and the most expensive item I have at the moment is a gorgeous silk dress with fabulous detailing – that’s £70 but it’s exceptional and I’ve never sold anything for as much as that before.”
Space at the antiques centre is limited but Linda also has a huge stock of vintage clothing at home so if someone is looking for anything in particular, she will be happy to bring in other items for them to choose from.
To find out more call Linda on 01243 553537, email email@example.com or visit her at Arundel Bridge Antiques.