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The Vintage Guide To London | October 17, 2017

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My Vintage London: Rowena Howie - retro shop owner

This week Rowena Howie, owner and founder of Revival Retro, a London based shop specialising in modern day reproductions and reinterpretation of Thirties and Forties clothing, shares her top tips on vintage shopping and swing dancing in London.

The Vintage Guide to London: Who are you, and what do you do?

Rowena Howie: I’m the owner of Revival Retro, a London based shop specialising in modern day reproductions and reinterpretation of Thirties and Forties clothing. Revival started because I became frustrated after several unsuccessful attempts to order swing shoes over the internet.

Another qualm was how to find a stunning retro outfit that looks great, has a definite Thirtis/Forties style but won’t fall apart when you wear it or try to clean it? Then I wondered why all the really gorgeous vintage clothing was too small for me? Plus how do you avoid yet another unsuccessful foray into moth-balled cupboards at the back of smelly second-hand shops, sifting through endless eighties sequined jumpsuits labelled as ‘vintage’? That’s why I set up Revival.

The Vintage Guide to London: Why do you like vintage – or in other words, what does vintage mean to you?

Rowena Howie: Vintage to me means beautiful items preserved from yesteryear. As a child of the Eighties I find it hard to reconcile my own early wardrobe as ‘vintage’. To me vintage garments are those that have been carefully or luckily preserved over the decades such as early twentieth century dresses that you would be privileged to find. Their scarcity makes them valuable and makes you love them even more. My favourite is fashions of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties.

I am pretty picky about my vintage but I’m also lazy. I can’t be bothered to look through row after row of tightly packed rails. I generally scan for fabric that I like and only pull out items that catch my interest. I know some girls can get lost for days in thrift shops that are packed to the rafters but moth-balled second hand shops are not my idea of vintage heaven. Give me just a small boutique with a few exquisite and rare finds and you have my heart (and my wallet!).

The Vintage Guide to London: What are your favourite London vintage shops?

Rowena Howie: Circa in West London always has several fabulous pieces but with prices to match – though the stuff is in such good condition that I can’t deny it’s probably worth it. I can’t even pass their window without drooling. Putney might be a bit of a mission if you live East but you could make a day of it. If you are shopping with your chap then there is something for him too: the gentleman’s outfitters Old Hat is only a couple of doors along.

I also really enjoy ‘The Girl Cant Help It’ in Alfies Antique Market, Marylebone. There seems to be something for everyone and lots of accessories. There are hundreds of stands in this indoor market offering antique furniture, lighting, jewellery and much more. There’s also a number of shops beside the Market along Church Road.

The Vintage Guide to London: Do you ever go to vintage events? If so, which ones would you recommend?

Rowena Howie: My passion for Twenties, Thirties and Forties clothing accompanies a love for swing dancing! Swing dancing, otherwise known as jitterbug or Lindy hop is what came out of Twenties charleston and was the precursor of jive. Most of the events I go to in London revolve around some element of dancing so there are few chances to wear my very beautiful but quite fragile favourite vintage items. That’s why I often shop for reproduction items that I know I can party in without a worry. It’s the glamour that I love, it’s so decadent to shed your jeans and converse and transform yourself, it can make any girl feel special.