This article originally appeared in Time Out in 2011
With lipsticks rather than guns in their garters, The Vintage Mafia are perfectly preened party molls on a mission to make London’s huffy vintage nightlife scene more accessible. The capital is drowning in swing-tastic soirées, but they can intimidate those who haven’t mastered pin-curls or lack an encyclopedic knowledge of rockabilly. ‘Elitism goes on at many vintage nights and some people feel too intimidated to dance,’ Mafia member Miss Bethan Gwenllian Garland observes.’
We asked these scene queens where else they like to twirl their full skirts on a vintage night out in the city. So, from left to right as pictured…
Miss Bethan Gwenllian Garland
‘A bit of an odd choice, but this is one that all the girls and I really enjoy, even though it’s not a vintage night: Feeling Gloomy. All of us came from an alternative background and grew up listening to that kind of music. I’m a Smiths fan, so I love to hear “Cemetery Gates” and a bit of Suede. They’re very open to how people want to dress at Feeling Gloomy. We’ll go in all our vintage finery – no one bats an eyelid and we have a good old dance.' See more details on Feeling Gloomy.
Miss Gemma King
‘There are swing dance lessons from Swing Patrol at Passing Clouds every Wednesday and bands upstairs, normally of a vintage jazz ilk, from the Cakewalk Café. Every time I’ve been there, there has always been a good crowd, and you are never short of a dance partner or two. If you want to go to a vintage night but not get swamped by people who have been into the scene for years, it’s a good one. I had my birthday there and it was great because my other half could watch the bands while I had a dance!’ See more details on Swing Patrol Dalston at Passing Clouds.
Miss Jeni Yesterday
‘It’s got to be Hula Boogie at South London Pacific: a celebration of 1950s kitsch tiki culture. Think Elvis in ‘Blue Hawaii’: brightly coloured cocktails, bamboo and palm trees everywhere and hula girls. I went to see [tribute act] Black Elvis there – and I won a Blue Hawaii cocktail! The night is all about 1950s jive and rock ’n’ roll – don’t expect any swing or lindy hop. Although it’s for vintage aficionados and people who know how to jive, you’ll often find lots of curious newcomers who want to go to an interesting venue.’ See more details on the Hula Boogie.
Miss Naomi Thompson
‘The Blues Kitchen is doing Stumblin’ Slims - a new event at Village Underground. It sounds like it’s going to be a bit naughty: a dirty 1950s prom meets garage meets rhythm ’n’ blues meets rock – the sound of the American underbelly of the time. There aren’t many good new ’50s nights – and many are just aimed at serious dancers – so this sounds fun and fresh. I’m interested to see what everyone is wearing: the ’50s is characterised by the teenager so maybe Capri pants and cardigans, bullet bras and sweaters – and hopefully some full dresses. I hope people will go to a bit of effort.' See more details on Stumblin' Slims.
Miss Lisa Smuterella
‘I love The Candlelight Club. There are lots of speakeasy-type events but this is very classily done. It’s nice to be somewhere that feels authentic and sophisticated. Most of the nights when we girls all get together are hazy, but here you can sit and talk as there are lots of tables. It’s a good place to meet different strands of the vintage community: there’s everyone from hipster types to the more serious vintagistas. See more details on The Candlelight Club.
For a big one head to The Grand Anarcho Dandyist Ball
Miss Fleur de Guerre
‘This only happens once a year, but it is coming up: The Chap’s Grand Anarcho Dandyist Ball, in a 1930s ballroom in Euston. They always have the best-dressed people, bands and fantastic cocktails from the 1930s to ’50s. We’re big fans: we had a Vintage Mafia team at this year’s Chap Olympiad, for which we had matching dresses in all the colours of the rainbow. The whole aim is “cheat with panache”, so we rigged it by being extremely eye-catching. We competed in Ironing Board Surfing: Miss Naomi Thompson was on the ironing board and we carried her up and down – and, of course, we won!' The Third Grand Anarcho Dandyist Ball is on Dec 3 at The Grand Hall.
For information on The Vintage Mafia visit www.thevintagemafia.tumblr.com.