High Tea at Vintage Alternative Walking Tours - Enter to Win a Gift Voucher
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I've lived in Melbourne all my life, and have spent a considerable chunk of that time writing about things to do in this great town of ours. But there were times when I looked up from this alternative walking tour
and thought: "Where the hell am I?"
The terrain seemed foreign and surreal. Our tour leader, the aptly named Jessie Alice, seemed a kind of Alice in Wonderland taking us down a rabbit hole where the places just got curiouser and curiouser.
Some were miniscule so could easily be overlooked in the hustle and bustle of making one's way down Melbourne's laneways.
There was the Trink Tank Tank
, Melbourne's tiniest art exhibition space, a mere 20 x30cm glassed in gallery cube in Presgrave Place that is also embedded in ( Bar Americano
) Melbourne's smallest bar. I can tell you how to get there. It is in a lane way off another lane way somewhere in the CBD.
Then there was the shoebox sized (I have large feet) coffee shop called Local Birds
in The Causeway that is officially Melbourne's smallest cafe.
It is operated by the pigeon-pair, Sally Twist and Narelle Ryan, who have known each other since kindergarten.
They probably never realised they would become so close. They literally have to squeeze past each other to get anything done.
This tiny cafe had our tour group intrigued. "How do you get in? How do you get out? How on earth do you turn around?"
When we learned they even have a full-size oven in there and do all their own baking on the premises we were totally flabbergasted.
The tiny cafe has one table and a seat. So keep an eye out and grab it next time you are going past. Or at least grab some of their home cooking as take-away. Their chocolate raspberry brownies are sublime and the pork, for their pork slaw rolls, was cooked that morning in their nest.
The alternative walking tour we attended was put on for writers and bloggers so we could try out one Jessie Alice's tours and report back to our readers.
It wasn't one of her regular tours but a taster special combining Jessie's Vintage Lovers itinerary and her Travelling High Tea.
Everywhere we went we were given homemade treats. At Local Birds, for example, we scored home baked bird shaped biscuits.
Jessie is a young woman with lot's of great ideas. Her interest in vintage started when she was visiting Berlin and friends asked her to buy some vintage clothes for them.
With a love of all things vintage and a general love of fashion she came up with this business idea of alternative walks in Melbourne. She doesn't take you to the usual touristy places but all the unusual tucked away little businesses, often vintage related, where extra ordinary people are doing extraordinary things.
So tourists get to see a very different and personalised side of Melbourne, while locals such as myself, get to see the city like they have never seen it before.
The walks vary depending on the group's interests. Jessie runs vintage inspired cycling tours, walking tours and high tea tours as well as tours for vinyl lovers.
We visited a number of vintage haunts in secluded hard to find locations.
There was Some Like it Hot
in the subway under Flinders St station. I must have walked past it a thousand times previously.
Here you will find, not only women's clothing, but men's 60s suits and pure wool jumpers. There was a range of UK docs, vintage coats and leather jackets. It was great to see so many labels such as Jack London, Alannah Hill, Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, Scanlan and Cue.
For women the emphasis is on great fabrics such as linen and cotton and unique pieces you won't find elsewhere.
There was also costume and rockabilly jewellery, hats and handbags.
Apparently rents in the subway aren't too bad so this keeps prices on these vintage items quite reasonable. Mish will also look out for items for you as well as selling your stuff on consignment.
While we went down we also went up. An old-fashioned squeeze lift took us up to Circa Vintage Clothing
in "Mitchell House" a gorgeous Art Deco building.
Circa has a private salon feel to it. A customer was trying on an exquisite lacy dress when we were there and getting great attentive service from owner Nicole Jenkins. Nicole has a background in collecting and restoring vintage fashion as well as in costume design. She has also worked in hair, make up and wardrobe, art direction and theatre.
So she is highly knowledgeable about fashion and sells to both the those who love to wear vintage fashions but also to collectors.
It felt like we were in a ladies' dress shop from a 1940s movie set.
She has also worked in IT and apparently has the largest online range of vintage ladies wear in the country (as well as some menswear) and as she explains when she talks to our group it is all Australian.
Nicole is also the author of Carter's "Love Vintage" and showed us the proofs of her latest book "Style is Eternal" - published by MUP later this year. Her new book is all about making the most of your wardrobe, mixing different eras and looks.
Nicole even wrote the Wikipedia entry on vintage fashion!
You can find out more about Circa here.
Afterwards we hopped on a tram and did a few more places in Fitzroy.
One of the most interesting was Emma's Bespokey Corsetry
. A blink-and-you'd-miss-it shop in Brunswick Street, where the shop front is actually out the back.
The moment we entered the scene was set. You have to think floaty draped ceiling here and satin covered chairs and being poured a glass of champagne. More boudoir than shop.
The doll-like Emma had a straight back and a synched waist that anyone would be in awe of. Corsetry apparently takes a couple of inches off most women's waists and Emma was already slim to begin with.
She is the creator of all the corsetry which isn't just worn on the inside of clothes but as an outer garment as well. "They make outerwear look incredible and are unbelievably sexy all on their own" she said.
One of her corsets on display she hand sowed with a zillion pearls. See image below. Certainly something you would never hide under your clothes.
Emma makes corsetry for brides, show girls, burlesque performers, vintage lovers and everyday curvaceous women.
While a lot of women love their vintage they forget about the silhouette needed underneath and these foundational items give you the total look you crave.
One of our group tried on a corset over her dress and we watched while Emma laced her up. The wearer's verdict was that it was not restrictive and incredibly comfortable.
You can buy online
but Emma also makes one off pieces that are handmade to fit the client. And half the fun would be going into this boudoir for a fitting.
I also liked the story of how Emma developed her love of corsetry. Apparently after making a few for theatre people she made one for her own mother. She says: "she was always 'mum' the one who made me lunch, went to work, picked me up from school – but when I laced her in to that corset, suddenly something changed.
The way she looked at herself in the mirror, the way she stood, the expression on her face as she was laced in, smoothed out, lifted and flattened – she wasn't just mum anymore; she was this spectacular embodiment of 'woman'. That's how corsets make you feel, luxurious, glamorous and sexy." For the full interview click here
While these are some of the stops we made on our day out with Jessie Alice the tours are subject to change. Jessie stays in the loop and finds out about markets and pop up vintage events and these often make it onto her itineraries.
We finished our tour at Grace Cafe
which is near the Rose Street Market.
Like the ending of a good old-fashioned Enid Blyton story we all sat down for afternoon tea.
Although I'm not sure if the kids ever got it so good. We had high tea with three tiered stands stocked to overflowing with goodies such as smoked salmon and dill and egg sandwiches, as well as various cakes and fruit.
All crockery and cutlery was suitably vintage and I lost count of how many types of tea there were to try. But certainly pots and pots of it.
Part of the novelty was that the high tea was held in a shipping container in the back yard.
You can find out more about Jessie's Alternative Walking Tours by clicking here.
They range from 2 to 4 hours depending on your preference and include the Vintage Lovers Tour ($69), Vintage on Wheels (cycling) Tour ($149) and the Vintage High Tea Tour that includes the best of vintage and then a high tea. There is also a Record Store Lovers tour for vinyl enthusiasts ($89).
For your chance to win two Express Tours
Gift Vouchers (for you and a friend) send an email titled 'Alternative Walking Tours' to [email protected]
and let us know in 25 words or less why you want to experience an Alternative Walking Tour. Make sure to include your full name and postal address, so we can send the gift vouchers to you. The Express Tour offers a bite-sized piece of vintage touring heaven!
This is the perfect way to spend a vintage morning in Melbourne. Get familiar with some of the more unique areas of the city and discover treasure troves of unique vintage wears in Melbourne's laneways and back-street cafes. With this tour wrapping up at midday, you'll have the rest of the afternoon to explore, fully equipped with the best of local tips. Please note the gift vouchers are valid till the end of August 2014. Competition will close on 1 August 2014
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