London Fabric Shopping Day Two

by Erin on July 23, 2006


liberty tana lawn first prize

Well, I went to Liberty today, where I drove the salesclerks to distraction by wandering around in circles thumbing the names of fabrics into my Treo (to find them again, in case I wanted to buy them at some later date), and by looking at Every Single Bolt on the sale table and Every Single Cut on the remnant table, before buying three meters of First Prize. (The picture here is to an eBay auction, in case you want some for yourself.) I've often hesitated over the "Buy It Now" button on First Prize auctions before, but it's MUCH nicer in person. I am going to make (surprise!) a Duro dress with it. Dark red banding, I think.

After that I managed, smugly, to find the right bus to the V&A, and (not so smugly) to miss my stop (there's some kind of "How do you get to the Royal Albert Hall/Practice, practice, practice" joke to be made here, but I'm not the one to do it). Thankfully, after I beat my way back against the tide and made it there, my friend S. was still waiting, having not given up on the Hapless Yank, which is my preferred archetype when traveling abroad. We gorged ourselves on the fashion exhibition (there was a little tv documentary from the sixties on "swinging London/Carnaby Street fashion" and the thing that shocked me was that they were smoking! In the stores! How times have changed.) Then we ransacked the postcards and went and had a nice cold drink and a poke round Harvey Nichols to pay a polite call on the Marc by Marc Jacobs line (some VERY cute dresses).

S. kindly got me to the right Tube station and I rushed back for the last part of The Plan of the Day — roller skating. Yes, a city full of theatre and art and every kind of culture imaginable, and I chose … roller skating. It's a sickness. I found my train and managed to be asked for directions which I couldn't give, a favor I returned after I got out of the Kings Cross station and accosted two of what I thought were the most local-looking women around and asked them where York Way was. "We're tourists, dear," they explained patiently. (I didn't find out from where.)

Anyway, I bought directions and a pack of gum (the price of the directions being the pack of gum) at a newsagent's and was soon pointed the right way. I could hear the music pounding from a block away; always a good sign. I was frisked for weapons (I think they did this to everyone, not just people who looked American) and made it in without incident, where I got my rental skates. They were horrible wobbly things with the kind of speed-closures that cheap rollerblades have, so I asked politely if they had any "old fashioned lace-up skates" and lo, they did! I tipped mightily. They were total early-eighties throwback fake-hightop-sneaker skates but they could be laced tightly and their wobble was completely manageable.

The actual skating area was no bigger than what I could probably manage at home if I made my neighbors move their cars out of the garage (which come to think of it might be a pretty good idea if I sweep it out), and the floor was spotted with pieces of black tape which I think masked dents or rough places. I was looking mostly at the tape the first couple of times round until then all of a sudden I saw the boards of the floor. They must have been a cubit wide — I think they probably predated the invention of roller skates by quite a few years. That gave me pause (metaphorical, not literal, although there were plenty of people who felt that the skate floor was a perfectly appropriate place to pause). Sometimes you just don't understand how OLD the rest of the world is, when you come from a place where a house built in 1920 (or even 1950) can be the oldest in the neighborhood.

It was a good night for skating. The music was excellent, although what people responded to was funny — there was an exhilarating Amerie/Beyonce "1 Thing/Crazy In Love" mashup which fell upon a nearly empty floor, but Olivia Newton John's "Xanadu" had all three bachelorette parties rushing to stagger their way around in circles, singing hard. There were quite a few hen parties, which were easy to spot — they were wearing devil horns, or makeshift nurses' hats, or the bride-to-be had a balloon tied to her butt and was being accosted by a male stripper in the middle of the skate floor. No, I didn't believe it either, but since I was the only one who seemed to find it anything out of the ordinary, I sat out that song and got myself something to drink.

There were many more people wearing dresses and skirts to skate in than I see in New York, too, even if you discount the people hired to skate in drag. They (the ones in drag) were dressed in a kind of cocktail waitress/stewardess-of-the-future getup, very shiny, but it looked a little warm for skating. (I took it as more evidence that OF COURSE people who like to wear dresses — who, in fact, go out of their way to wear dresses — like skating.)

I only fell once (trying to avoid someone who stopped stock-still to wave at their mates in a kind of "hey ma, lookit me" moment) and even that was just a skinned knee, so no real harm done, but I figured that even though I was having such a good time that time itself stopped (not really — it was just my watch that stopped, but close enough), I regretfully turned in my skates and left. I walked back to the station and decided to squeeze the last juice from my day pass by getting on a bus, instead of the National Rail. I find that I really prefer the bus to the Tube here in London. I can't really put together the neighborhood jigsaw pieces unless I see where they match up; coming up from the Tube station I might as well be landing on the moon, I'm so disoriented. With a bus (or better yet, by walking) I can stitch them all together so that the disconnected pieces of the city become a whole quilt in my head.

Unfortunately, as with most quilts, I'm going to have to leave the rest of the pieces in a box for a good long time, since I'm headed home tomorrow. Sorry this is so long; I didn't (as the saying goes) have time to make it any shorter!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

eisensim July 23, 2006 at 7:40 pm

Beautiful fabric; I can almost see your dress. And the report was not too long! As a strictly armchair traveler, I thoroughly enjoyed your account of shopping and rollerskating.

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Diane July 24, 2006 at 12:31 am

Back in the late 80s we lived in Italy and flew Alitalia back to the states. Not only were passengers smoking but the flight attendants would walk up and down the aisles puffing away. Smoking is still quite popular in Europe. Silk and Leather are to Italy what Liberty is to England. Good times!

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Helen July 24, 2006 at 4:08 am

I can’t believe that you were in London the one weekend that I was out of it!! Went to brother’s wedding this weekend and my sister, mother and I were all in vintage dress patterns. Knocked the socks off the boring ‘mother of the bride’ outfits! So sorry to have missed you in your fabric shopping splendour, would have suggested loads of places to visit. Glad you enjoyed your Albion weekend.Hxx

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bani July 24, 2006 at 4:33 am

About ten years ago some Spanish tourists lit up a cigarette inside a bookshop (I live in Sweden). The SA was so shocked she really didn’t know what to say at first. The times they are a-changing…I loved your report!

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Raven July 24, 2006 at 6:43 am

Love the fabric! Great colors. I haven’t been to London in years, and your posts have made me miss it so.It’s funny, I prefer the Tube, because all the people and sights of the bus make it easier for me to get lost. I need the lines and the dots and the emerging from the ground, which are my pieces to figure everything out.Loved hearing all about the trip, and any post involving London (or any of Europe for that matter) could never be too long.

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the dame July 24, 2006 at 9:12 am

I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves to shop for fabric! I was fabric shopping this weekend and did the same thing – I must have gone through every bolt in the store and carefully scoured the discount racks. I ended up teetering around the shop with 7 bolts balanced precariously. When the salesperson finally started following me around looking concerned, I decided it was time to stop and purchased my fabric. I came home triumphantly announcing that I had purchased everything in the store and that we would never be without fabric again… my boyfriend was not nearly as impressed with this revelation as I was.

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the dame July 24, 2006 at 9:13 am

I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves to shop for fabric! I was fabric shopping this weekend and did the same thing – I must have gone through every bolt in the store and carefully scoured the discount racks. I ended up teetering around the shop with 7 bolts balanced precariously. When the salesperson finally started following me around looking concerned, I decided it was time to stop and purchased my fabric. I came home triumphantly announcing that I had purchased everything in the store and that we would never be without fabric again… my boyfriend was not nearly as impressed with this revelation as I was.

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melissa July 24, 2006 at 10:42 am

I’ve just made the connection that fabric shopping and music shopping are essentially two sides of the same coin. There was a brilliant observation in High Fidelity where real hardcore music fans will walk slowly through a record store, taking hours to peer through all the racks, until finally, at the very end, they’ll shoot over to one section, grab a record, and check out then and there. It’s because the whole time they’ve been browsing, inside their head has been the commentary “well, if I don’t find what I’m actually looking for, I’m going to grab XXXX by YYY band so at least I don’t go home empty-handed”.As a music and fabric fanatic, I find myself doing this ALL the time, and it sounds like you may have at Liberty. Glad you enjoyed London!

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Anonymous July 24, 2006 at 11:08 am

Skating in London, how cool! I know there’s a big skate scene there (yeah, I have been known to read roller-skating sites, she says geekishly). I think they do a lot of outdoor roller skating, with scheduled meets and whatnot. I am off to my skating class tomorrow–I am learning the glide waltz and the tango, which is awesomely fun!The fabric is super gorgeous, by the way.Robin

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patsijean July 24, 2006 at 1:42 pm

I followed the Roller Skating link and low and behold was an ad (in French, which I do not read) for adjustable, clip on skates with an ankle strap. I lived on these skates as a child during the 50′s. Every once in a while the toe of a sneaker would come lose and over I’d go. No matter, just put them on again, and away I’d skate.

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. July 24, 2006 at 5:47 pm

I think you learn more about contemporary people at a roller rink than at a museum extolling their history. Much more fun to see the folks at leisure and then, later, see their noble accomplishments on display. Compare and contrast.

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Becky O. July 25, 2006 at 6:24 am

I do love your travelling accounts!I love to take the bus in London when I visit. I sit above the driver, in the doulcle decker, and use it as my own personal sightseeing tour.I am another one who was fabric shopping this wekend. I visited Mood yesterday as well as, it seemed, every other doorway crammed with fabric ion NYC. I was after Asian fabric, Kitty Craft style, but found none. I know it must be here, but the garmet district got all me money this time.Love the Liberty print you finally chose and keep up the play-by-play skating fun.

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Laura July 26, 2006 at 12:31 am

Speaking of England and Duro dresses, Boden has a dress in their autumn collection that looks very Duro-esque to me: http://www.bodenusa.com/col.asp?segname=Women&styid=WH071&segid=6&gpname=Dresses&desname=Chic+Tie+Back+Dress&gpid=6&gen=#

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Anonymous July 26, 2006 at 9:21 am

Ah! I don’t suppose the skating place you went to was Canvas? Just behind Kings Cross Station? I’ve been there, except our skating night was 60′s/70′s themed. I have also drooled over all the fabric in Liberty’s and the amazingness of the building itself. London is great!

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Floridaprincess July 26, 2006 at 8:25 pm

Cute fabric. I perfer the tube to the bus. I always took both whatever got me there.kew-on line has intersting looking duro dress. Kew is and english company. I want to go to this Moods fabric place so bad its killing me!!!

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anneland22 July 27, 2006 at 12:59 pm

Thanx for sharing your skating fun…makes me want to make my way to a rink and spin right round in my Rostichery dress. ;)

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