Hello From Lois - Winner of Miss Violet Loves Vintage 2018
Posted on June 01 2018
Hi there, I'm Lois - your Miss Violet Loves Vintage 2018! I still cannot quite believe I have been bestowed with this most incredible (and incredibly fun!) honour, but I would love to tell you a little more about my experience of the contest itself, which was such an enjoyable and positive experience. Alongside Rachel and Iain of Violet Loves Vintage, who are just so lovely, I have met the most wonderful selection of beautiful, talented and exceptionally well-dressed ladies, each of whom could easily have won this incredible prize too. I think that all these lovely new friends have been the greatest prize of all.
It all started with one photo, taken by my partner Dan on the stairs at my parents' house. On my Instagram account (@loisjelise) I love posting about vintage-style outfits and interacting with others with an interest in retro fashion, and I'd asked him to take a few photos of me in a new dress to make a change from the endless stream of mirror selfies I'd been uploading... He took the photo, I posted it, and after that I didn't think much more about it... until one of my followers sent me a link to the Miss Violet Loves Vintage contest, which had a seemingly endless list of fabulous prizes, and suggested that I entered. I looked again at the veritable Aladdin's Cave of prizes: a free dress from Violet Loves Vintage EVERY MONTH (but how do I pick just twelve?!?!), a bespoke fascinator from Peacock Pretties ( there's nothing I love more than sticking something fascinating on my head, and the offerings from Peacock Pretties are truly spectacular!), a coconut handbag from Tikilou Hawaii (it's a bag, and it's a coconut - what more could you want?!?) and... a modelling contract with Rogue Model Management, with a photoshoot with super talented, award-winning photographer Allie Crewe, including prints. This prospect was something which excited, intrigued, and terrified me. The word 'model' carried a strange kind of gravity. It was a word I felt was reserved for other people.
But then I thought for a moment about what I'd been working on recently during my PhD studies. I am researching the interaction between the film and fashion industries, and their effect on audience members as consumers, in Japan during the 1920s and 1930s. In my analysis of Japanese magazines and films from this period, I was surprised (and somewhat saddened) to see the same kind of narratives concerning body image that appear in a lot of fashion-related media today, particularly model bodies presented as "perfect" which are not relatable to the average reader's own in order to sell products. It dawned upon me that this is a huge, global and evidently incredibly old problem. One answer, perhaps, is to present as many different, diverse and wonderful bodies in media imagery as possible - all sizes, shapes, colours, genders! I think fashion campaign imagery is becoming more diverse - which is brilliant! But do many of these images present something that is, well, average? We're seeing more plus size models, but most of these models (as they are throughout the whole fashion industry) are at least 5ft 8 ins tall. They are also generally speaking either not large enough to "register" as plus size in the everyday world (a size 14 5 ft 10 woman looks quite different to one of 5 ft 2!) or at the opposite end of the scale. All of these people are beautiful and doing a fantastic job, and I love the positive feelings the images they are producing are making. But more diversity should mean more diversity, more images that consumers can personally identify with and have that "they look like me!" moment - a moment which motivates purchases, a win for the consumer and the fashion industry. The statistical average woman in the UK today is 5ft3 and a size 16. How many models fit this size? I'm not exactly this size - a bit taller and a bit smaller - but I'm not far off. So in the spirit of never asking someone else to do something I wouldn't be willing to do myself, I sent the photo in to the contest. What was the worst that could happen?
What followed was a round of voting on Facebook, and a chance to see all the other ladies who had entered - I was so impressed by everyone's individual take on vintage style, there really are so many different ways to enjoy this fabulous way of dressing. I was so delighted to see so many stunning ladies of all sizes and from all walks of life, and was very touched by the sense of camaraderie amongst the entrants, many of whom were sending compliments and kind messages to each other - it hardly felt like a competition at all! After a week or so, voting ended, and truthfully I almost felt a little sad - I'd quite enjoyed getting to know some of the other entrants and the sense of excitement that had been building, and I was sure that that would be the end of it all there and then. I nearly fell off my chair when I received notification that I had made it through to the next round, thanks to all of my friends kindly voting for me - thank you so much to all of you once again! A week later, the list of finalists was revealed, with a list of twelve names... with mine squeaking in at the bottom!!!
It was all a bit real now - I was going to be travelling all the way to Manchester (from sunny Windsor!) for the Miss Violet Loves Vintage final! I couldn't believe it, and was so excited to meet other vintage lovers from all over the country, as well as have a good browse of all the beautiful things in the Violet Loves Vintage shop (spoiler alert: I wanted to buy EVERYTHING.) I'd never been to Manchester before, but I'd long been transfixed by the incredible hair styles created by Bethany at the Vintage Beauty Parlour in Chorlton, so I just had to book myself in for a spot of pampering on the morning of the contest. I also booked to stay at Sacha's, a hotel only a minute's walk from Afflecks which has the most gorgeous retro features (and a Salvador Dali-style lips sofa, which has long been the sofa of my dreams!) Add in my dear friend Lucie, who offered to stay over to help me zip up my dress in the morning (cheers Luce!!!) and I was super excited for the ultimate vintage girly weekend ahead!
On the day of the contest, I was so excited - if a little nervous, particularly as I had never done anything quite like this before. Lucie zipped me into my dress - a black and red Spanish-inspired 1950s-style wrap dress set by Pinup Girl Clothing - and I was off to The Vintage Beauty Parlour. Bethany is nothing short of a true artist - I watched in awe as she sculpted my unruly yeti hair into the most incredibly architectural rolls and waves, and she even so kindly stuck my false eyelashes on for me (unfortunately I'm deadly with a pair of tweezers). This was easily the best hair day of my life! Then it was into a cab to Afflecks, which is such an enchanting selection of independent shops, all in one place - I found it difficult not to get terribly distracted en route to the competition!
When I arrived, the shop was everything I expected it to be - an explosion of fabulous vintage-style colour, frocks and frills! Was I nervous? To begin with, yes - but as all the other entrants (and in many cases their friends and family, which made it all the more lovely!) filed in I immediately felt much more at ease. Everyone else was feeling equally as nervous as me, and we all quickly began to chat about our own love of vintage style - in all honestly, once we all got chatting (helped along by the delicious prosecco and cakes distributed by Rachel, Iain and Rex!) it just felt like a fabulous party! This party mood was definitely helped by the fantastic vintage singer Carrie-Anne, who had us all up dancing to the classics - her energy was incredible and didn't wane for a moment throughout the whole event, she was an absolute joy both to listen to and to watch. Photographer Anthony Cartwright was on hand to document everyone's looks and we all had a lot of fun striking a pose in the Violet Loves Vintage changing rooms, which are so gorgeously decorated (perfect selfie spots too, just saying). A common theme that came up in many of the conversations we had was the feeling that some of us felt a little isolated sometimes, not knowing many people who live near us who are into the same fashion style, and what a treat it was to be all dressed up with so many others who love this style. Ladies had travelled from all over the country to participate, and it is such a delight to now have vintage-loving friends up and down the entire country.
I think I was one of the last contestants to be interviewed by the judges, and I was pretty nervous about meeting them. The other ladies reassured me that the chat itself would pass incredibly quickly, and that the judges weren't as scary as I was probably imagining (a definite relief!) When my time did come, and Rex led me downstairs to the cafe where they were waiting (which smelled amazing by the way - I was so chuffed when I later discovered that Rachel had included some of their brownies in the finalists' goody bags!) I was so relieved that the other ladies had been absolutely correct. The chat felt like it was over in a flash, and it was actually surprisingly enjoyable - I got to chat about vintage style, my favourite vintage eras (and how I believe that every era has something for everyone, and that it's even more fun to mix and match your own modern vintage look!) and my thoughts on modelling and body image with people who have such a rich understanding of these areas and who were actually very approachable and kind.
When it came to the winners being announced, there was a definite buzz of excitement amongst all of the ladies, their friends and family. Everyone was hugging each other and wishing each other luck - it was such a positive atmosphere. When the gorgeous Katherine Allen and Elaine Stott were announced as joint runners up I was absolutely overjoyed for them both - they are both just so lovely. But truly, the moment when I heard Rachel say my name, while holding that purple sash, are all a bit of a blur - it was truthfully the last thing I ever could have expected, and I just remember taking a gobsmacked, sharp intake of breath and everyone giving me hugs, gesturing to me to go up to the front to take the sash. I've never worn a sash in my life, and thought I'd probably only ever wear one on a hen do at some point! Everyone was so lovely during the entire competition - I wish I could have shared this prize with all of you, and thank you so much to everyone for all your kindness. Katherine, Elaine and I each picked out our prize dresses (I am just so in love with my Banned Apparel dress, with its print of pinup ladies doing their makeup!), and I picked out my choice of Tikilou Hawaii coconut bag - it was so difficult to choose, but eventually I opted for one with a beautiful pink painted lily design. I then met with Emma Shortland of Peacock Pretties, photographer Allie Crewe and Sue Rogers of Rogue Model Management to discuss the other incredible prizes I had won. I was still shaking, I just couldn't believe it. I am just so grateful for these truly spectacular prizes, and am so looking forward to the year ahead with Violet Loves Vintage (and all those dresses!!!!) and my year's modelling contract with Rogue Model Management - what an incredible opportunity, with such a well-known and reputable agency! I am just so lucky. I'll be coming back up to Manchester to visit Violet Loves Vintage again at the end of June and to have my shoot with Allie Crewe, whose work is just so beautiful - I can't wait!