Thursday, 25 October 2012

Queen for a day.

 The very glamorous Bette Davis in the 1930s
I have always been enraptured by old Hollywood glamour and I have the strangest notion that in a previous life I was a socialite Debutante called Ariella Dada who had men hanging on to her every word, quaffed champagne, was invited to all the fashionable parties, wore only the most fabulous, expensive and sparkly jewels plus had all the leading designers of the day falling over themselves to dress her and always looked calm, serene and in control.

Unfortunately I have to admit that I am never going to be that woman who always looks immaculately turned out, it just isn't going to happen.  I am the type of woman who will blow dry her hair, step outside and it immediately goes flat. If it rains I can guarantee that I will be the wettest person around who will stay wet with her hair stuck to her head all day.  If its windy, instead of looking seductively dishevelled, I'll look like I have some weird comb over and if I dare to wear mascara, it always ends up under my eyes instead of on my lashes EVEN if I use waterproof mascara.  No I'll never be glamorous but that doesn't mean I don't like a bit of glamour in my life.

A less glamorous Bette Davis in Now Voyager
That's why when I went along to a Vintage Fair the other week, I was so excited to uncover my latest find.  It made me think of all the glitz and glamour that I once knew ;)

What had I found to make me slip back to my previous life as Ariella Dada? Well I'll tell you!  I found the most gorgeous 1930s handmade costume jewellery.  This wasn't just any old jewellery though, oh no, this was made and worn by a 1930s DRAG QUEEN!!  How completely fabulous is that!

I had made my way to Maxine's stall who runs The Yard, Vintage & Makers Market in Brighton and Duke and Lolly when I spied some sparkle.  I had a rummage and pulled out this lovely paste alice band (I used to wear a velvet one at school).  I have several paste bags from the 1930s so I thought this would fit in perfectly.

1930s paste headband
1930s Headband
I was about to hand my money over when Maxine told me that most of the jewellery in the box was from a Drag Queen from the 1930s.  Well as soon as I heard that, I delved in again and came up with these gorgeous, sparkly creations.

So sparkly, bracelet and necklace
All hand stitched
Simple but dazzling
Pearl and paste choker
Pretty clasp
Gorgeous soft peach with pearls and rhinestones
Choker and cuff
Cuff and belt I think
Rhinestone cuff
Set of 3 bracelets
Gorgeous jewel
Pearls and Lace
So pretty
Pearls and Paste
After I had finished delving, Maxine started to tell me about Paula, an East End Drag Queen and I was enchanted and enraptured by this person I had never seen or met.  Maxine very kindly emailed me a photo of Paula (below) and she was just as beautiful as I imagined.  So glamorous and elegant, the epitome of 30s glamour.

Paula, an extremely beautiful East End Drag Queen

Paula had made all of these costume jewels, I bet they looked amazing under the stage lights.  I think they are very elegant and I would have loved to have seen the costumes that went with them.  I really fell in love with this jewellery and the story that went with it.  It made the pieces come alive which was also helped by the fact that you can still smell some scent on the necklaces.  I bought a few bits and went home but ended up going back again to get the rest as I didn't want to break them up or for anyone else to have them, I felt that they were rightfully mine!

Drag Queens would have had to perform in underground clubs in the 1930s which just adds to the mystique for me. I bet there were a fair few men who got a bit of a surprise when they realised the ladies they were talking too weren't quite what they seemed!

Below are some Female impersonators I found from around the same time.  I think they look wonderful, their costumes, make up, everything!

Albert Carroll - Female impersonator
Albert Carroll - Female impersonator
Femme Mimics - Babe Baker Revue
Barbette - American female impersonator
Laverne Cummings - traveling troupe - The Jewel Box

In case you were wondering I have tried them on.  I enjoyed a good half an hour alone with my jewels, admiring myself in the mirror!   I also tried to think about what outfits would go with what and where I could wear them.  I came to the conclusion that I need a whole new wardrobe, with a few gorgeous numbers from the 30s plus some sparkly shoes and then I need to be taken to only the most fabulous places, like the Paris, so if you're reading this Mark..............

The Ritz in the 1930s


  1. Great story behind some stunning items! Lovely, lovely things & I love the fact that you have the history. Just fab! Lizzie x

  2. Wonderful! Thanks for having taken me back to the 1930s for a moment. :)


  3. Amazing finds Fiona, I don't blame you for going to rescue the whole box (any self respecting vintage lover would do the same) fabulous story behind them. I love the fact that you have a photo of Paula...just wonderful!
    Ali x

  4. Aren't they wonderful! I now have them stored away in one of my favourite fabric boxes so they don't get damaged. Definitely one of my favourite finds :) xxx