Bairbre Power seeks out old-school glamour for the modern-day vintage fan
Designers find inspiration in the most unlikely places. For John Rocha, it can be fishing in Alaska or holidaying in France.
Coco Chanel was inspired by men's clothing, while Charlotte Cargin from the Irish label Charlotte & Jane had a family full of stylish women, including her grand-aunt, Oscar-nominated actress Geraldine Fitzgerald.
The feisty red-haired Dubliner was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award in 1939 for her role in the Hollywood classic 'Wuthering Heights', quite a feat for her first movie in Tinseltown.
"I was always very excited by the stories of Geraldine's movies, Oscar and Emmy nominations, cabaret performances on Broadway etc," says Charlotte, who designs vintage-inspired dresses in Kinsale, Co Cork, with her business partner Jane Skovgaard.
The problem with being purist about vintage is that women's body shapes have changed considerably since the 1930s, '40s and '50s, decades which are very much back in vogue.
A lot of fabrics have failed to survive the passage of time -- another headache for vintage fiends who now look more to modern-day interpretations of the classics.
Charlotte and Jane have enjoyed considerable success in capturing the look of style icons such as Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.
They celebrate a woman's curves with nipped-in waists and offer clever advice on how to balance out figures without losing the vintage nostalgia.
Charlotte has wonderful memories of Geraldine's wardrobe, in particular a mustard dress that she has recreated in a lightweight wool, suitable for all-year wear.
"Geraldine was effortlessly stylish and incredibly elegant, yet wonderfully fun, vivacious and easy-going, and we like to think of our dresses this way," says Charlotte.
"She always stayed in The Shelbourne, and I remember her, on one occasion when we met, glowing in a mustard outfit.
"Our 'Geraldine Fitzgerald' dress this season is made in a wool specially dyed for us by Kerry Woollen Mills. It feels wonderful to have designed an outfit inspired by and named after Geraldine. I only wish she could model it, as I know she would adore it and work it so well," she adds.
Geraldine's son, by actor Orson Welles, is the director Michael Lindsay-Hogg. He directed videos for the Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and the series 'Brideshead Revisited', and this shoot has all that faded glamour and old-world feel.
Good grooming is essential for the vintage look, in particular gloves.
For big-busted gals looking to do vintage, Charlotte suggests keeping all detailing above the bust in order to bring the eye up. Those who are heavier on the bottom can opt for wider collars, "which give the illusion of a smaller waist".
The tricks are there -- it's just a case of knowing how to use them.
Charlotte & Jane are taking appointments for fittings at Killenure Castle, Dundrum, Cashel, Co Tipperary, on October 6 and at the Old Schoolhouse Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin on October 20 and 21
All clothes are available to order online at www.charlotteandjane.com or customers can visit the designers at their Kinsale Studio. Photographs by John Allen.