Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Interview: Carys & Amelia of La Vie Inconnue

I was very pleased that Carys and Amelia of La Vie Inconnue agreed to do an interview for me. They have such a delightful blog and amazing vintage style. 

You live in London, are you both from there originally?
Carys-I have lived in London all my life, but my family is Welsh on my dad’s side and Scottish on my mum’s side. The name Carys (pronounced Kariss, because Welsh is spelled quite weirdly) is actually Welsh, it was originally meant to be my middle name, but I liked it so much and I thought its welshness was so cool that I use it as my first name instead.

Amelia-I've never lived anywhere except for London. I rather like this big old grey city but next year will probably be my last year here for a long while. My parents are originally from Ireland, Cyprus and England and I have many relatives in all three places

How are the thrift stores and vintage shops there?
Carys-We don’t actually have thrift stores like they do in America, I am always so jealous of American bloggers! The vintage shops can be quite expensive when you look any older than 1950s, but I often get some good charity shop bargains. If you’re more into retro stuff, like mid 60s and later, it is much more affordable on a student income, and there are some great shops around Brick Lane and Camden with really cool 80s sportswear. If I really want to go on a vintage shopping trip, I head over to the isle of Wight, I never come back without at least one amazing find.

Amelia-The vintage shops here are wonderful but being rather broke most of the time I usually shop at charity shops. It being England there aren't really any thrift stores but the many charity shops sort of make up for it I suppose. It's really easy to live a completely high street shopping free existence in London due to the wealth of vintage shopping opportunities. Some are far more expensive than others and it is becoming harder and harder to snap up bargains but London is still very much a vintage haven.
How long have you known each other?
Carys- Since we were 11. We were once asked to say how we knew the person next to us as a class activity, and as a really weird joke we thought it would be funny to say that we met when we were six in the park because I taught Amelia to ride her first bike. The actual way we met was in year seven. We were basically really weird when we first started secondary school, and for some reason a group of us decided it would be funny to write a musical about our teachers. This was the first time we spoke to one another. The highlight of this creative experience was me in the middle of the classroom holding a sign saying ‘I am Mr Tyler’, Mr Tyler walking into the room, and me just standing there. To this day, I have no idea what he thought of that, or if he even noticed. He never liked me though…

What got you into starting a blog?
Carys-It is a really weird story actually; I was sitting in my psychology class doing a presentation on type A personalities, when suddenly I had this epiphany; I didn’t want to be an actress at all, I wanted to own a vintage shop! I started thinking of how to achieve this (whilst giving the girl next to me a running commentary of this life-changing experience-sorry Anna!), and decided to start a vintage blog! I don’t really know why this epiphany took place, but of all my impulsive decisions, I think it was a good one.

Amelia-I think Carys and I were motivated in part by being bored during a study period at school. I was also inspired by the first few blogs I read before I had even considered starting my own.
What got you interested in vintage clothing?
Carys-I was fascinated by the French street music and chanson of the 30s, and was (and still am) totally obsessed with Edith Piaf at the age of 15. Seeing how much her music, and all music of that time reflected the personal experience and lives of the singers, I wanted to find out as much as possible about the culture in which these songs were written. An inevitable part of this was seeing the clothes-after watching La Vie En Rose, I was just amazed by the costumes. I cut my hair into a 1930s bob within the week, and swapped all my jeans for tweed skirts and berets. I know it sounds quite strange, but something about the 1930s music and consequently the clothes just totally captured my imagination.
I have also always had a typical 1950s figure, which I absolutely hated until one day I saw a 1950s summer dress-not really in keeping with my 1930s-y style at the time-and it fitted perfectly. It sounds quite weird, but not having to have a dress altered was a totally new experience for me. At first I deemed it a fluke (and of course bought the dress!), but then I saw a picture of Elizabeth Taylor in an amazing 50s dress, and decided to branch out into 50s fashion. Every single dress I tried on from the 1950s fitted like it was made for me, and that made me realize that it wasn’t me who was the wrong shape, but the modern clothes I was buying.
There is something quite strange and amazing about putting on a dress from ages ago and realizing that someone my exact height and measurements had been walking around 60 years ago, looking like me. I don’t know how to describe it, I know it sounds a bit weird, but it’s thinking of the memories in the clothes of the women who treasured them that makes me love vintage clothing. When I see a homemade dress, it is definitely the shopping jackpot for me, thinking of the woman who sat down and spent hours making a dress she would then treasure and care for so well that it still survives today.

Amelia- There hasn't ever been a time when I haven't worn vintage. I remember being given a duffel coat from a charity shop when I was about five and being so excited that it had already belonged to somebody else. There was sand in one of the pockets and I whiled away many hours imaging the various exotic locations my coat had been taken too before it met me. Since then it's been a wonderful love affair, I just haven't looked back.

How would you describe your style?
Carys-Amelia used to say that I looked like a French orphan, because I always wore berets and my coat had no buttons for a while, so I used to tie it closed with a shoelace (long story). It totally depends on what is going on in my head on a specific day, and often I’ll swear never to wear a certain decade, and then somehow find myself in it the next week. I have a really short attention span, and the only time that comes in useful is with clothes-the only link between my outfits from day to day is that I only wear vintage (or it looks like vintage).

 Amelia-A few years ago Carys told me that my outfit looked like "a sailing granny, in a cool way, I mean a cool sailing granny" and this is still largely true. I guess part Victorian orphan, part geography teacher at the beach, part pensioner and part five year old sailor is the best way of describing it.
Favorite musicians?
Carys-Edith Piaf is basically my favourite ever singer, I don’t think any other music could come close, but I do enjoy a lot of other stuff too. I can be really stuffy and boring about music, but I am not one of those people who enjoy that nice, relaxing background music-it has to really mean something to me. Amelia introduced me to the band Beirut, I absolutely love what they do, I love how much you can hear the influence of other cultures in the music-particularly the French Chanson!

Amelia-I have a tendency to get rather obsessed with a particular band or artist and be able to reel off far too many facts about them for it to be sensible. Then a few months later I'll move on to someone else only to rediscover my earlier favourites. Despite my changeablity Regina Spektor, Beirut, The Smiths, Bob Dylan, The Doors and Jacques Brel will always have a place in my heart.
What are your favorite book or authors and why?
Carys-There are so many! I went through a phase of not reading anything, and it was reading blogs that made me remember just how much I enjoy reading. My favourite books when I was growing up were Harry Potter and Darren Shan, and I still love them and read them today. I actually realized I had never read Lord of The Rings, so I am reading that at the moment and really enjoying it. I found a lot of my favourite books from studying them in English lessons actually. Greengage Summer is probably my favourite of these, it has the most beautiful imagery of the French countryside, I would really recommend it. We also studied Anita and Me, and To Kill A Mockingbird, some more of my favourites.

Amelia-I've always been a bit too bookish, when I was younger I often endend up offending various relatives and friends when it seemed as if I were choosing books over their company. Last year I went through a phase of reading written in or indeed anything to do with the 20s so it was difficult to tear me away from my Evelyn Waugh and F.Scott Fitzgerald. Apart from the continuing 20s obsession I'd count Flaubert as one of my favourite authors. When I'm feeling sentimental I read my chidhood favourites; Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Le Petit Prince.

What are your favorite movies and television shows?
Carys-I don’t really watch tv shows as much as I used to, since I spend more of my free time playing my guitar or Accordion, and blogging, but there are some shows I have really loved. I was so into Ashes to Ashes and Life On Mars (I think they have different versions of these in America?), and I do watch family guy with my sister most mornings, it’s a sort of routine. I know it’s totally childish, but I think Jackass is absolutely hilarious-for someone who falls over so often you’d think I wouldn’t find watching other people fall over, but I do.
My favourite films are Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Batman, Walk The Line, Atonement, Pirates of The Caribbean, La Vie En Rose, La Fille Sur Le Pont, so many! Some films I love for the costumes: Marie Antoinette, An Education. Films are one of my biggest sources of inspiration for clothing.

Amelia-Despite trying to cut back on TV of late I could never abandon Peep Show, Doctor Who, Curb Your Enthuiasm, anything made by Louis Theroux, anything made by Chris Morris, anything made by Charlie Brooker, and QI.

Favourite drink?
Carys-I am such a typical English person, it would have to be a cup of tea.

Amelia- My hot chocolate obsession is well known but I also love any fruit juice especially anything to do with raspberry. I'm also a big milk fan.
What do you do for fun?
Carys-Play my Accordion or guitar, I recently took up the harmonica, thinking it was so small I could take it everywhere with me and never be bored, but it just made my friends slightly hate me. To be honest, there is nothing I enjoy more than blogging. People ask me if it affects days out, if I feel like I have to put on a complicated outfit, and stop to photograph myself doing whatever it is that I’m doing that day, rather than just enjoying myself. I did wonder about this, but then I realized that the blog actually makes me do much more fun stuff. I used to be quite lazy, sitting around my house and wishing I could be bothered to go out, but now I have to constantly find new locations, new things to post about, and it makes me more adventurous, and I have discovered how much I actually enjoy things I never thought I would.
I often have to travel quite far to find good places for photos, which is difficult during schooltime, but it is so worth it. Since starting blogging, I have able to just sit and read my book outside for hours after taking my photos, which I would never have done otherwise.

Amelia- Aside from thrifting and vintage I love to read, go for walks, watch films, eat lots, make cakes, attempt to alter clothes I bought at times when I overestimated my sewing abilities, I'm also a bit of a photography nerd. In fact I'm generally quite nerdy about most things so you'll find me in front of BBC 4 or carrying far too many books.

How has your fashion sense changed over time?
Carys-Although looking back now to when I first began wearing vintage styles, it was much more modernized 1930s than I wear these days, it was my first deviation into any sort of unusual fashion, I had always dressed more or less like everyone else, so to me it was a massive and very sudden change. I feel like my vintage outfits are more accurate these days-I much prefer wearing the everyday fashions of the time which normal women wear than the glamourized versions seen in period films. For example, the 30s is remembered for the silk bias-cut gowns and the 20s for the sequined flapper dresses, but I much prefer the simple, crocheted dresses of the 30s, or the canvas beach shoes of the 20s.

Amelia-I'd say that the only major change is that I now approach what I wear with more of a sense of humour and fun. I still wear the same sorts of things that I have done since my parents begrudgingly allowed me to choose my own clothes. Being quite young I expect that my sense of style will definitely change in the future, perhaps finally becoming somewhere near grown up at some point.
What are some of your favorite pieces in your closet right now?
Carys-It changes every day! Right now, I have a dress I got recently in a blogger swap which I want to wear all the time but the weather is too hot for it. I have the most amazing 50s ballgown ever, it is gold and floor-length, and it looks like something I imagine princesses would wear. I also got an amazing coat recently, it is burgundy, and has a hood-which I for some reason find very exciting-and it is the one thing consoling me about the end of summer. I found some really weird clogs in one of the charity shops in the isle of wight, they are actually carved out of wood, I can’t describe how amazing they are! They are a little big, so I was going to sell them, but I can’t bring myself to do it, because I know I’ll never see anything like them again. Even though they make the loudest noise due to the metal nailed onto the heels, and they’re so heavy I constantly lose my balance, I love them!!

Amelia- At the moment I'm still living in summer dresses and ankle boots but my favourite pieces are a 50s blouse that my mother bought as vintage herself when she was 14 or so. I'm also rediscovering the brilliance of shorts during summer.

What styles are you planning to wear this fall?
 Carys-I have a beret for every day of the week, and I wear them in the winter a lot. I love the idea of layering knitted jumpers with wool tights and knee high boots, and going for long country walks.

Amelia- I can't wait for the colder months, I'm looking forward to wearing greens and reds and cable knit jumpers and warm socks. I'm planning on wearing lots of folk prints and patterns as well as dressing a bit like a farmer. I also have my army jacket from the Berlin airlift that is just perfect for autumn.

What fashion trends do you wish would never come back?
Carys- Fur. I never, ever wear real fur, not even vintage, and would never sell it either. Any fur you see on my blog is fake. I do understand why many people wear vintage fur, since it isn’t increasing the demand as buying modern fur does, but I personally never would. I always think ‘oh god, why did anyone ever wear that?’ about many trends-basically the whole of the 90s-and then I see someone else wear it and look amazing. Basically, my style up until the age of 14 should probably be hidden away never to return.

Amelia-The only thing that I think should never come back are silly high platform shoes. This is partly because my feeble ankles stop me from wearing all but the most practical shoes but mainly due to the inherent dangers of such frivolities. I mean imagine the effects of falling over or tripping up. Being far too clumsy this is of especial concern to me.
For vintage clothing what is your favorite time period and why?
Carys-I tend to wear mostly 40s and 50s, but I will always have a love of the 30's French street culture and clothes. I think that 30s-early 60s clothes suit my body shape best, but I do have a few 70s maxi dresses I bought while I was in a summery mood. I love the 20s because of the cultural significance, how the styles represent the freedom of women from the strict Edwardian society.

Amelia-I love the 20s but unfortunately I can't really wear anything from then without looking rather rotund. I wish I could pull of the grown up structuredness of the 30s or 40s but I'm too clumsy and silly so I'd have to opt for the 60s for winter, the 70s for summer and the 50s for spring.

What are your tips for finding good thrift finds?
Carys-First of all, the best thing you can do is go to places where vintage is unfashionable. Firstly this means that people will write it off as being weird or unfashionable as they don’t know the value of it, and just give it straight to charity shops. And secondly, nobody buys it, so it ends up in the bargain baskets and you can get it nice and cheap! Another thing I have found helpful is to look for newer revivals of old styles. For example, the empire line shape of dresses in the early 40s was repeated in the 80s, many 70s separates had a very 1920s feel to them. I now have three dresses from the 70s and 80s which look really 20s, for a fraction of the price, and they are in much better condition. Lastly, being short. Many vintage clothes are quite small, so being little enough to fit them is a massive bonus. You can often get stuff cheaper too because not many other people will fit it (since most people, unlike me, grow after the age of fourteen). Being able to fit very old clothes is the one thing that consoles me about the fact that I will never be elegant and statuesque.

Amelia- My main tip for thrifting would be to never be afraid to ask questions of the people working in the shops. My second would be to remember to take some answers with a light dose of salt. As always I suggest wearing practical shoes. My usual downfall is buying anything cheap just because it is cheap rather than on the basis of quality. I hyprocritically advise against this. Finally stick to the old Scouts' code; Be Prepared.

Don't forget to check out their wonderful blog, La Vie Inconnue.


  1. They're so cute and I enjoyed reading their answers! Thanks for introducing me to their blog!

    -Shoeless Simone

  2. ah, I loved it! I loved the interview! I loved them know!

  3. PS...the link to their blog at the bottom didn't work for me :(

  4. What a great interview!!! I love these girls! Their blog is amazing as is their personal style. It is always super interesting to learn more about the people behind the blog! Thanks!

  5. thanks simone, I'll fix it right away.

  6. I think this is the most entertaining and fun to read interview. They have such wonderful answers and such a wonderful blog. Ahhh, I loved every part of this. Thank you for featuring them.

  7. I always admire friends that do blogs together. I bet it's a bit of challenge, but the results are brimming with inspiration.

  8. Great interview -- I will be checking out their blog ASAP!

    xoxo ~ Courtney

  9. Wow, I never could fathom that London girls would be jealous of American thrift stores. That's a very well documented interview. Great job! :D

  10. inspiring interview! thank you for sharing!

  11. I don't know how I missed this post. Great interview Lisa. And they've got great style. Now I've got another new blog to follow.

  12. They're so adorable! I love their blog.

    I am happy to have found your blog through their blog as well!


  13. Amazing interview and great pick for a feature!

  14. I like your blog and your pictures are so funny ;)

  15. Fantastic post!!! SO SO fascinating! Thanks for this. LOVED the answers. Now I have an intense desire to go hang out with these lovely ladies!

  16. I love their blog and style, thanks for this interview !

    See u §


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