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Six Questions – Tanis Smith of Gin Poodle

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Tanis is the talent behind Gin Poodle, making authentic 1940’s hair snoods, gin poodles and other handmade vintage items.

As a fan of her snoods, I wanted to get more background on the lady behind the crochet hook.

1. When did your interest in retrospective style begin?

Very young, I grew up with my mum telling me stories about outfits she wore as a young woman, fitted dresses with a matching coat and super pointy shoes. It all sounded so chic. She was born in 1933 so she would have been 17 in 1950. Mum always had her hair washed and set at the hairdressers in an elaborate beehive or up-do, bleached ash blonde with loads of backcombing. I never knew her to wash her own hair, or leave the house without make-up. I love ‘smart’ vintage, it definitely comes from her. She was very proud of being the first person in her London circle to wear the New Look style.

I started collecting vintage brooches as a young teenager and my first piece of clothing was a massively impractical teal taffeta ‘50s evening dress that I never wore but adored.

2. Who is your biggest style icon?

I can’t have just one. I just can’t. I’m a more is more person. Kim Novak in Vertigo. Just perfect. I love Gene Tierney, if you’ve seen Leave Her to Heaven (my favourite film) that is my dream wardrobe. I could watch that film with the sound off just for the costume changes. At the moment I love Lady Hamilton in The Halcyon, she’s my current modern style crush.

Gene Tierney & Kim Novak

3. What is your favourite era?

This is a difficult question for me because I love the style of ‘30s and ‘40s clothes but I’m the wrong body shape. I suit ‘50s styling so if you mean favourite to wear, I’m 1950s. If you mean favourite to sigh over wistfully its ‘30s and ‘40s. Anything that has structured or sharp tailoring for women will reel me in. I love 50’s sack dresses and the volume and detail of the back of coats and dresses in that decade. I’ve made it a rule in life to never do anything that you can’t do in at least kitten heels.

4. Do you have a favourite piece that you have in store currently?

My bright blue snood. It’s the one I wear most often, there is a sparkly version too so any opportunity to wear that and I will. I have blue/grey eyes and it helps bring out the blueness and goes very well with bright lipstick. Blue-toned red lips look fantastic with it and it’s a colour that works well with any hair colour. It works across the seasons because blue isn’t assigned particularly as a spring/summer autumn/winter colour. And it’s pretty without being too sugary.

5. What inspired you to get your business up and running?

I might have inherited my mum’s taste, but not her hair. I have dreadfully thin hair that doesn’t even support using pieces and padding. So much as I love the hair styles they always look a little bit less on me. A snood is the perfect instant retro hair look. It’s so easy, whatever is going on at the front instantly looks vintage if you’re wearing a snood and it covers a multitude of sins. I made my own because I didn’t like what I saw for sale elsewhere. Other people liked them so I started selling them, firstly on eBay but then along came Etsy and I opened my Gin Poodle shop (Gin Poodles are the kitsch bottle cosies that I also sell).

It took quite a long time for me to get a sale on Etsy, several weeks if I remember correctly but the thrill of it when a sale came through, I’m glad I didn’t give up because it’s a major source of joy in my life. This year I am going to expand my range to include hand embroidered items and a bigger range of snood styles, I’m working on it and I’m still refining my original snoods, I’ve made two design upgrades in the last year that no-one else will ever notice but it’s fine details that make me happy that I’m selling something worth having.

6. What do you love most about what you do?

You know when you’re in the middle of a massive cheeky flirtathon at the start of a relationship? That’s what getting a sale feels like. Then the feedback comes through and it’s incredible. People send me photos, or post pictures of themselves wearing their snoods on Instagram and attach them to their feedback, my Gin Poodle customers tell me how people react to receiving a Gin Poodle (they’re usually a gift) and it is really funny. I’ve got a handful that stay in touch and I love them. They’re very cool people. I’ve been really lucky to attract quite a lot of friendly chatty customers. It makes my day to hear from them. So I suppose it’s the connection to people, it’s only a small thing that I do, but it is something I’ve made, by hand, every single stitch, and I’m really picky about quality because someone has had to earn the money to buy it from me and they don’t have to come to me. I send a vintage postcard with every order and try to find one that fits the customer in some way, the cards are usually 100 years old and I include a handwritten note often written with a fountain pen. I enjoy the details. Then they come back to tell you about it. They send photos, they tell me stories. They come back for more. It has made me very happy, not rich, and still an employee, but very happy.

Happy customers, Vicky and Aniko in their snoods.

To get your hands on a snood, get on over to Etsy and get in touch with Tanis.

www.etsy.com/uk/shop/GinPoodle/items

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Anne-Marie Ormsby lives in London, and fell in love with vintage clothing as a small child watching old Hollywood movies. She is a seamstress in her spare time and loves hunting for vintage patterns to make herself new outfits to emulate her Hollywood style icons.