Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Dress like Natty Smalls at Bettina Scarlett's Mid-Century Market

Natty Smalls?
It's certainly an uncanny lookalike of the
red-headed Polka Dot Dreams heroine at
Bettina Scarlett's last Mid Century Market
at Christmas

If you'd like to dress like Natty Smalls, the irrepressible bullet-bra-clad rockabilly filly in Polka Dot Dreams by Julia Douglas, make a date to attend Bettina Scarlett's Mid-Century Market on April 12.

Who is Bettina Scarlett? In the following article, which originally appeared in Classic American, I found out all about the go-to gal for vintage fashion events management.

Bettina Scarlett
Mid-Century Market

If you went to the Rockabilly Rave last summer - and what sort of square are you if you didn’t? - you may have bopped into the Vintage Fashion Revue and seen a collective of retro cuties wiggling down the catwalk in a selection of dresses and swimsuits like it was 1956.

Elsewhere on site, and at other events like the Hotrod Hayride, you may also have noticed the Atomic Girls, a sexy sextet of 50s-style cheerleaders busy promoting next year’s Atomic vintage festival.

Both the fashion show and the promo girls were organised by former retro pin-up model Bettina Scarlett who operates a one-stop service for the promotion of all things vintage, and who rocks a neat retro look herself.

Although new in business, Bettina was raised on rockabilly. Her dad, the DJ Rockin’ Shades, runs the Fireball Rock’n’roll Club in Lowestoft and the family home was a stone’s throw from such long-established coastal gatherings as the Hemsby Rock’n’roll Weekenders and the Wildest Cats In Town Teddy Boy festivals in Pakefield.

“I saw so many original artists by the time I was 13,” Bettina recalls. “I saw the Comets when I was 12 and that was probably one of the best bands I’ve ever seen.”

When not bopping to her dad’s rock’n’roll records, Bettina watched old MGM musicals from the 40s and 50s with her mum and grandmother. “I always wished I could look as glamorous as the ladies on screen and yearned to have dresses as beautiful as theirs.”

As an adolescent, Bettina explored different music and different looks. “I went through phases of being a goth, a punk, a hippy...” But by the time she was 17, she was into the punk-rockabilly hybrid psychobilly, which took her back to her rock’n’roll roots. Her renewed interest coincided with a fresh injection of blood into the rockin’ scene.

“When I was younger, it was mainly people of my parents age who went to the clubs and festivals. Then, when I was about 18, all these young people started coming and we all became friends. We’d go to Hemsby and Great Yarmouth and then down to London.

“At the time I was dressing rockabilly: leopard skin and cherry print; jeans and bandanas in my hair. Then a few friends started getting strongly into the vintage look. I started looking on ebay, and once you start you get addicted. It kind of went mad from there!”

Enid Collins handbag
-the must have accessory
Among Bettina’s biggest vintage weaknesses is for the ornate box handbags of 60s designer Enid Collins. “They’re really popular with the girls on the scene. I’ve got more than a dozen - and just bought another.”

At university, where she studied fashion promotion, Bettina was the only vintage girl on campus. But she quickly discovered that there’s a rockabilly scene everywhere if you know where to look.
“The first week I moved to Kent, I walked into Chatham town centre and saw a rockabilly band busking. I asked them where the clubs were and they told me about a place where they have bands every week.

“It’s a niche scene,” Bettina admits. “It goes through the mainstream every now and then with singers like Imelda May. But it’s always been extremely popular. When I tell people about the weekenders and how people travel from all over the world, they can’t believe it’s so big.”

Bernie Dexter
- an inspiration
Having always loved the classic 50s pin-up look, Bettina began modelling in her late teens. Among her best-known pictures is the Bernie Dexter-inspired stockings and telephone pose that graced the poster for Hemsby 47.

Bettina counts the American pin-up Dexter as one of her heroines and now a friend - “She supports me in everything I do.” Dexter, in fact, flew 5000 miles to star in Bettina’s fashion revue at the Rockabilly Rave.

During her final year at uni, Bettina organised a vintage fashion show with burlesque and rock’n’roll at Proud Cabaret in London, with proceeds going to the Royal Brompton & Harefield charitable fund. The show was such a success that it prompted her to put her modelling days behind her and go into events management under the banner Bettina Scarlett Presents.

As well as organising fashion revues and photo-shoots, Bettina offers a styling service for aspiring pin-ups and will act as a personal shopper for those in search of the perfect vintage look.
“Just tell me what you’re looking for and I will hunt high and low for the perfect outfit,” Bettina promises.

Don't miss the Mid-Century Market
April 12
You'll find 50s clothing and homeware,
a vintage tea room and rockabilly DJs
- and it's not just for the ladies; there will
be a pop-up barber's shop to
spruce up your vintage bloke
as well as hair stylists to give ladies
the perfect victory roll.
Bettina personally favours the reproduction 50s clothes of OuterLimitz designer Di Brooks. “I wear her stuff all the time. For the last Rave she made me a fringed white pencil dress. Every time I see her at a festival I end up buying something, because she has just the look that I’m going for. I also buy a lot of stuff from Lady K Loves. OuterLimitz do a lot more dresses and evening wear, and Lady K does very good value day wear in the £30 - £100 range.”

Among her genuine vintage items, Bettina singles out “a lovely white circle skirt with a school motif: pencils, noughts and crosses... there’s so much detail it’s amazing. I found it in a car boot sale at the Rave.”

Bettina recommends reproduction for wearability and value, but warns against the inauthenticity of some manufacturers. “You only have to look at photos from the 50s to realise that some things would never have been worn, so why do they make them like that?”

Bettina also suggests studying old photos on the internet when it comes to creating the perfect hairstyle. “Then practise, practise and practise until it looks perfect. Or try hair and make-up companies like Vanity Box and Lipstick and Curls.”

The appeal of mid-century fashion for Bettina is its sophistication. “It’s so glamorous. You’ll never get a dress like you would in the 50s. It was an amazing, outstanding feminine look. Women don’t dress like that now and it really upsets me that people just don’t make the effort in what they wear anymore.”

Make that most people, however. Bettina Scarlett and her fellow followers of vintage fashion make the effort every day.


Treat yourself to a vintage present at Bettina Scarlett’s Mid-Century Market, Saturday April 12 at:
The Hammersmith Club
11 Rutland Grove
London W6 9DH


Polka Dot Dreams
because everybody
needs some
Natty Smalls!
And don't forget to treat yourself to some Natty Smalls! In the form of Polka Dot Dreams by Julia Douglas. Click here to download it on your e-reader or check out the paperback from your local library.

"I love the 50s era and got so caught up in the heroine, Natty's, sense of style that I went and bought a dress just like one she would have worn! A fun romantic read."
- 5-star customer review on Amazon.

Click here to read an interview with Natty Smalls - singing sensation!

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