Saturday, October 8, 2011

Shopping in Gent: The Julie Andrews Connection

This catchy Mary Poppins tune has been going through my head all day, and only now I realise why. I was shopping with two friends today and they took me to the most wonderful little store in Gent. It's an amazing thing, living in a city for 6 years, thinking you know it through and through and then stumbling upon a completely unknown delight - a category Spoonful of Sugar definitely belongs to.

If you happen to walk by the store (located in the Bennesteeg, a very romantic street), don't let the exterior fool you. You see, it looks like a regular kids store - a very cute one, but still. I like kids, but I haven't exactly got the habit of buying clothes for my imaginary offspring, so it's really no wonder I had never noticed it before. The inside is very child friendly as well, but the racks are dotted with grown-up candy. You'll find some fine quality dresses (made by Vivetta, amongst others) and sweaters in fifties-style, next to a quaint selection of rings, earrings, broches and necklaces. And if that weren't enough, I spotted a few Cambridge satchels. I've been lusting over these for quite a while, so I was glad to be able to ogle one up close. Three spoonfuls (i.e. a broche, a necklace and a gift cheque) later we were out on the street again, rejoicing in all the cuteness.

Also in the Bennesteeg and never visited before was a shop called Solar. It didn't look like much from the outside (apparantly the shopkeepers in this street like to diffuse their public), but I've got this thing for tartan these days, and there was a nice patterned dress on display, so we took a chance. Solar is a Polish brand, and I had absolutely never heard of it before. The shop assistent is Polish as well, I think, because she talks with a faint accent. It's nice, a little juicy. She was very sympathetic - I asked her whether she was the owner of the store and she said she was, but I'm not sure if she heard the question. They had a pretty inconsistent collection - some very nice pieces, but also a few awful cloths - synthetic and rough wool. (I'm very sensitive about texture, just thinking about it sends shivers up my spine.) Still, it was cool to check out this kind of obscure brand, and they did have quite a lot of excellent skirts and dresses. They had some nice accessories as well: gloves, bags, scarfs. I bought a beautiful bird-patterned scarf and I'm looking forward to using it now the days are turning cold. So all in all, definitely worth checking out.

The tree looked like it could use a nice bird-patterned scarf.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Shopping in Brussels: Gabriele Vintage

... is without a doubt the mother of all vintage shops in Brussels. It's not exactly dirt cheap, but wouldn't you sometimes rather spend a little more money in a nice environment than go through heaps of synthetic clothing just to find one nice piece? That's the one selling point of good boutiques, isn't it? You might pay a little more, but in exchange you get individuality, a carefully picked selection and an inspiring setting. And believe me, if you leave Gabriele Vintage uninspired, you're either a die-hard modern minimalist Jil Sander-kind of gal, or you're heartless.

Winter window displays.

What can you expect at Gabriele Vintage? The clothes were all made somewhere between 1920 and 1980. Meaning that there's lots of variety style-wise: from twenties glamour to fifties girl-next-door to eighties neon. Always wanted to go to a party in an old-style prom dress? Eat your heart out. If you cross a small patio, you'll find a small boudoir with the really glam dresses. Girls planning on getting hitched soon might even stumble upon their perfect wedding dress. Vintage sizing is tricky (plus you can never tell if you'll fit into a garment or not), but Gabriele is very obliging and can tell in a flash whether something will suit you. She's very knowledgeable, and you can rely on her with any questions about origin, style and alterations.

The best thing about Gabriele Vintage, however, are the accessories. She has shoes and purses, and they're pretty much your typical vintage selection. But if I were to own such a collection of hats, jewelry and gloves, I would be compelled to play dress up all day every day. Feathers and pearls and lace everywhere! Seriously, I wouldn't even go outside. I'd just order some fancy china on the internet, organise fancy tea parties and recite Oscar Wilde to whomever would be crazy enough to show up. I'd be like a character straight out of Fay Weldon's debut, The Fat Woman's Joke. Only slightly less fat and disturbing. But just as lazy and greedy. I have no problem with lazy and greedy. So anyway, if you haven't visited yet, plan on it. I mean it!