40 Winks has been noted 'the most beautiful small hotel in the world' according to German Vogue. Nestled in the bustling East End of London it is home, showpiece and exclusive guest house of fantastical interior designer, David Carter and often used for style and fashion shoots. Additionally, he runs several monthly events including 'Tart'.
So imagine, you've been invited into one of the most eclectic and evocative townhouses in London. The door closes on the grey world outside and for the next 4 hours you enter a grown-up girl's Wonderland of dressing up, fine cake and gin cocktails served in vintage bone china. It's another time, another place. You are requested to arrive promptly at 2pm, leave your shoes by the door (given slipperettes to wear instead) and "Do please make sure you all dress up and look your glamorous best for the occasion. Mr Carter is very strict about such matters and suffers from a terrible allergy to jeans, leggings, sweatpants and anything synthetic."
Curiouser and curiouser ...
Saturday morning I dressed in a midnight blue cocktail dress, my favourite foaming red petticoat and pearls, then made the grimy trip to London.
Naomi Thompson and Miss Severina greeted me with a special Tart cocktail. They gave me a tour of the beautiful house, an opportunity to discover it's witty details and decadent charm. Rather than showing little mobile phone snaps I'd rather you see it photographed professionally in it's true finery, so please visit http://www.40winks.org/
Every room held a little promise of the afternoon to come. The basement kitchen presented a delicious afternoon tea from Vintage Patisserie and Hendrick's Gin cocktails served in dainty cups. I was introduced to style and fashion designers from Figoli and (No) Smoking in the salons above, and then led to meet top vintage hair and beauty experts, Lipstick and Curls briefly peeking in a bedroom brimming with vintage clothes from Naomi's collection. Upstairs I found angelologist and author Angela McGerr and couture designers from Roy Storch, the nimble fingers of Xhilarate and pin-up & Forties enthusiast Fleur De Guerre who was on hand to offer advice. I then met the softly spoken dandy, Mr David Carter, who welcomed me to his home.
I began by having a much needed makeover more suiting to my retro style dress. Experts instructed how to properly apply red lipstick (without getting it over my teeth, rest of my face, everyone else's face) while 20 or so other ladies arrived in groups. Later, Fleur gave a talk on embracing your inner starlet and a mixologist demonstrated the art of fine cocktail making (with much tasting, of course.) I won't go into too much more detail of the whole afternoon because if any of you, my dear readers, decide to book I would love you to enjoy it with the same element of delight and discovery as I did.
However, I must tell you about the clothes. Naomi kindly brought along a rack of vintage gems for us to try on whilst offering valuable styling advice. There was a little moment towards the end of the afternoon when the room became free of other ladies and when much gin had been nervously quaffed, so I took the opportunity to have a less self-conscious look. As a child I was raised on the Hollywood Musical. There's a scene in 'Gypsy' where the tom-boy heroine is finally allowed to dress as a woman, about to make her leading stage debut. She tenderly touches the mirror reflection of her blue satin dress and says with surprise "I'm pretty Mama, I'm a pretty girl". Well, a little shimmer of peacock blue caught my eye on the clothes rail and within moments I was standing before the mirror in the floor length gown, (serendipitously in my ...ahem... ample size) with a silent gasp. That dress stayed on for the rest of the afternoon!
The events came to a close with the presentation of the Queen of Tarts prize - a bespoke corset from What Katy Did, bequeathed to the girl who made the best transformation from Cinderella to Starlet and we were each given an über gift bag of goodies to take home. And so I found my way, once more, blinking and slightly tipsy on the steps of the white rabbit hole hotel. "Wow" greeted my husband, clutching a Halford's carrier bag. He had spent an afternoon of Yang to my Ying in a nearby cinema watching The Expendables and man-shopping.
Thank you so much to everyone involved with Tart at 40 Winks for making me feel so welcome.
Would I recommend? Hell, Yeah!
Photos of some Tart!