My Vintage London - writer and milliner Mary Jane Baxter
The Vintage Guide to London: Who are you, and what do you do?
Mary Jane Baxter (pictured): I’m Mary Jane Baxter, a London-based writer and milliner with a love of vintage and never enough cash! I’ve just published my first book Chic on a Shoestring (Kyle Books) which is packed with simple to sew vintage-style accessories. The book was born out of my love of making things and a desire to own beautiful stuff which I can’t really afford.
I’m of the “if you can’t have it – make it” school of thinking! I’ve always loved creating things but I first went into journalism. Nine years ago I left a reporter’s job with the BBC in Brussels to train as a couture milliner. I sold my first millinery collection to Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, and have made hats for performers like The Puppini Sisters. I run workshops all over the UK including Liberty and The Fashion and Textile Museum in London. I also write a column for BBC Homes and Antiques magazine called “Style on a Shoestring.”
The Vintage Guide to London: Why do you like vintage – or in other words, what does vintage mean to you?
MaryJane Baxter: I love the cut and feel of vintage clothes and the fact that they have a history. They are often better quality, and the fabrics and colours are unique. I also like the excitement of bagging a bargain – so my style of vintage tends to be more flea-market than couture! I also love mixing vintage with high street and creating my own unique look. That philosophy also extends to my home. My flat is a crazy mix of the odd special buy, high street purchases, stuff I’ve found on the road (literally!), and furniture I’ve stumbled upon at markets all over the place.
The Vintage Guide to London: What are your favourite London vintage shops?
Mary Jane Baxter: I love Drink, Shop & Do near Kings Cross. It’s just such an inspiring and relaxing place to hang out, and a good place to meet like-minded people. You often spot something in the shop you want to take home as well – most things are for sale – very dangerous after a couple of glasses of wine!
High Tea of Highgate is lovely too. The young owner Georgina Worthington has created a soothing retro-style tea shop, and she also sells lovely cards and gifts. She’s got great taste and her homemade tea and cakes are second to none! For clothes I can recommend Rag N Bone in Deptford. The people behind it run a clothes recycling depot – so they get some interesting pieces. Prices are very reasonable too.
I’m a big fan of vintage hair – and have learned to do my own Forties styles by having my hair done at Nina’s Hair Parlour. It really helps create a look if your hair is right – and of course a cute little hat helps too. I’m always on the look-out for vintage hats and fascinators to give me fresh ideas.
Mary Jane Baxter: I wish I had more time to be honest to do these things, but I’m always running around like a headless chicken! I like places where vintage meets modern. I was recently at The Hop Farm Festival in Kent and just loved the clash of clothes being worn – crushed top hats with denim dungarees; tea-dresses with tanned legs; ‘Sixties style fur coats in the sun! It’s very inspiring.
The Vintage Guide to London: What are your favourite vintage places in London?
Mary Jane Baxter: I love wandering the streets off Brick Lane. Princelet Street in particular. Many houses were built in the 1700’s, and the history of the area with its successive waves of London immigrants is fascinating. I also love the historic rose garden in Greenwich park. Rose gardens are full of fascination for me. Spending time on a summers day just taking it all in – you can understand why the flower has such an important place in the hearts of designers and perfumiers the world over. Even the names of the roses inspire me.
The Vintage Guide to London:What’s the one vintage thing one has to do in London?
MaryJane Baxter: You have to go to Deptford market on a Saturday morning. The bit near The Albany is where you’ll find piles of clothes to wade through. Wear wellies and gloves! I’ve found all sorts of treasure – including a wedding dress for £10 and a stunning vintage headpiece with wax flowers for a fiver.