Norwich girls bring the history of style to life

Vintage style has taken Norwich by storm over the past few years. Emma Harrowing meets three women who aim to show you how to inject vintage glamour into your life.

In the late '80s and early '90s people would scoff about second-hand clothes bought from charity shops. In fact the phrase 'you buy your clothes at Oxfam' became a slur and in some cases a bullying tactic of those children in the school playground who could afford to get kitted out at Topshop or Tammy Girl.

Fast-forward 10 years and second hand clothes were rebranded as vintage, a fashion trend worn by celebrities and those who know good fashion. In fact, these days in Norwich the boom of vintage and vintage-inspired boutiques has put our fine city on the vintage fashion map.

While this shift in what is perceived as 'cool' in fashion circles was taking place, three girls lived through the era when secondhand clothes were deemed as 'fuddy-duddy' and played an important part in making vintage cool in Norwich.

Kerry Clark, 35, Gemma Seager, 33, and Lucy Santos, 34, are the faces behind The Historical Sauces, a vintage and vintage-inspired business that aims to 'bring history to life with a sprinkling of glamour and style'.

The Sauces, as they are endearingly known, say they can turn their hand at anything that will bring a touch of glamour into your everyday life from teaching you how to create the perfect red pout to re-creating the fashions of the '20s through to the '70s, to how to create the perfect vintage hairdo without having to sit in rollers for hours on end to throwing a glamorous party.

The girls recently took their vintage paraphernalia and tips to the Fabulous Fifties event at Gressenhall, near Dereham, to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubliee, have held sold-out vintage hair and make-up workshops and have promoted local vintage-inspired makers such as hat and hair accessory-makers Sugar and Hatter at their once-a-month Sip and Shop soiree in Olives tea room in Elm Hill, Norwich.

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Gemma explains: 'The aim of The Historical Sauces is to make wearing vintage easy.

'Vintage is on the fashion radar at the moment but you don't have to wear head-to-toe vintage. For example, you could put pin curls into your hair but still wear jeans or you can mix vintage-inspired finds from the high street and mix with original vintage.'

And Kerry says: 'We can teach you how to inject a little bit of glamour into your life through our style workshops and hair and make-up classes. We will give you hints and tips on how you can cheat your way to look stylish without much effort.'

Lucy adds: 'You can also reminisce about the styles from past decades and try the beauty products from the day as we have an extensive pop-up library of books and vintage beauty products.'

As the three women talk they stop momentarily to take a sip of their coffee, their perfectly applied red lipstick stays intact.

All three are wearing neat, tailored pencil skirts – Gemma wears hers with an emerald green blouse and matching beret which she says 'hides her untidy hair', Kerry wears a royal blue polka dot blouse with royal blue belt that cinches her in at the waist and Lucy wears a bright red knitted short-sleeved top which matches her lipstick. All three make you wish that you can at least co-ordinate your handbag and shoes or wear understated make-up that looks so refined.

'Our Flick and Lips classes show you in a few simple steps how to apply eye-liner along your top lid and how to wear a red lip,' says Kerry. 'We are also starting a hair workshop to show you how you can get vintage style without having to go to the hairdressers. Simple styles such as backcombing your hair at the crown before you tie it into a ponytail or putting a pin curl in your fringe only takes a few minutes to do.'

Gemma says: 'It used to be that mothers would pass down their beauty techniques to their daughters but these days not many do, or not many have a routine as they did in the past. The Historical Sauces is about passing on this knowledge by bringing history of glam and style to life and teaching women how to get a glam look in an instant.

'For example, with your outfit you can simply wear a matching colour hat, scarf and gloves and this will give you instant glamour.'

As well as having a vintage dressing-up box and hosting vintage hair and make-up classes, The Sauces collect and sell original vintage beauty products such as Besame lipsticks and use current beauty brands steeped in history such as Max Factor.

Lucy, whose career background includes working for heritage and educational charities, is The Sauces' vintage consultant.

'I'm currently doing an MA in cosmetic history so this helps when sourcing products.'

Kerry says: 'Besame still does the Carmine shade of lipstick my nan wore. I remember her dabbing a little on my lips when I was a child. Vintage can evoke memories such as these, this is what makes it so special.'

The Historical Sauces is just one of many vintage businesses the girls run in Norwich.

Gemma's alter-ego Retro Chick set up a blog more than five years ago after she gave up her day job to work for herself. Today it is one of the UK's top vintage blogs.

'I set up the blog to promote my online vintage clothes shop and used social media to help get my name out there,' says Gemma. 'I had no idea that it would become so popular. I have always been interested in glamour since I was a child and would aim to look as classically stylish as I could at school which would see me wearing a pencil skirt and a peacoat rather than the current fashion trends of the day.'

A year ago, on the back of the success of her Retro Chick blog, she set up Vintage Norwich, an events website which promotes vintage and vintage-inspired events.

'It was then that I realised that I was taking on a lot and so I called upon Kerry and Lucy to help out. Soon after while we were enjoying a particularly boozy afternoon tea we came up with the idea of The Historical Sauces.'

When Kerry is not working for The Historical Sauces she works two days at Aviva as its social media guru, she has also set up her own blog under her pseudonym Missy Vintage.

All three have a passion for vintage and a love of Norwich. Gemma has lived in Norwich for about 10 years, whereas Kerry and Lucy grew up here.

'It's funny to see that vintage – whether it is rockabilly, '40s and '50s or the '60s and '70s is cool,' says Kerry. 'I remember buying clothes from Oxfam when I was at Earlham High School but having to hide the fact as charity clothes were deemed uncool.'

Lucy agrees: 'I went to school in Thorpe St Andrew and it was the same there, but all fashion stems from designs from the past whether it is a take on a particular trend or whether it is a fashion classic such as a '60s shift dress or a '50s prom dress.'

Today with our mend-and-make-do philosophy, our undying love of vintage and our quest to add a touch of style to our look in five minutes, The Historical Sauces have tapped into a much-needed service. In fact as I leave the cosy confines of the coffee shop I take a peek into a charity shop and find a matching scarf and pair of gloves – well you have to start somewhere.

To find out about The Historical Sauces vintage glamour sessions, pop-up vintage reading room, vintage dressing-up box and future events visit