Back in August 2010, I had an epiphany whilst I was attending a marvellous vintage event which, I had no idea at the time, was to be the pivotal point of my career and, in turn, my life. I had been an advertising sales agent for many years, but in my spare time, was a singer in a hobby rock band where we enjoyed relative success on the local pub scene – I adored leading a double life and relished the opportunity to perform whenever I could. The eight years I’d spent working in an office, mainly on the telephone was a career I adored and learnt a lot from my boss Rachel who is an incredible entrepreneur and had built her business from the bottom up. I owe a lot of my business acumen to Rachel and will always hold dear those years learning from the best. However, I began to get itchy feet and couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was I wanted to do.
Could I turn my vintage obsession – mainly collecting clothes and accessories – into a dream business? Could I really take the plunge and perhaps open a shop? After all, I was a natural born salesperson and surely that would help? As I was sipping tea from a china cup and enjoying soaking up the atmosphere of this marvellous vintage event, I looked around me and I realised that I HAD to explore my options and see if I could build a new career in vintage, after all, I was on the cusp of turning forty and they do say that life changing moments happen around this age.
I spent a few months brainstorming my ideas and as the calendar turned a page and 2011 began, I decided to get fit, lose weight and have a complete life laundry. I announced that I would be exploring my career options and my boss Rachel was incredibly supportive for which I’ll be forever grateful – I even had a brief stint moonlighting in a Cath Kidston shop purely so that I could get out from behind my desk and of course I spent most of my earnings on handbags but I did make some incredible new friends and got to dress up in my favourite vintage dresses for work! I turned forty in the March of 2011 and of course celebrated by throwing a fabulous vintage themed party – I spent most of my evening getting changed and redoing my hair! Why wear one era all evening when you can wear three?
As September loomed, I began to plan my outfit for Goodwood Revival and much to my surprise, managed to fit into a tiny beautiful pink original vintage dress that I’d bought many years. I had lost three stone since January through hard training and adjustments to my diet and I felt a million dollars! I will never forget Goodwood Revival 2011 because it was the year that everything fell into place. I was chosen out of thousands as the best-dressed lady and I was completely overwhelmed! I was beaming for weeks and still have my sash and unopened bottle of Champagne, which I will be saving for October 5ththis year. I’ll tell you why shortly.
Within a few days of winning the title, my friend who worked at a local nursing home asked if I’d be happy to pop by to show her elderly residents what I’d worn to pick up the coveted title of ‘Best Dressed’ and of course I was more than happy to do so. However she added that if I could sing and dance for an hour then she could actually pay me as an entertainer – I was puzzled at first because I had no idea this was even a thing; so I borrowed a speaker and pulled together a set of backing tracks of 50s and 60s songs I loved to sing in private and certainly not with my rock band. I thoroughly enjoyed performing for the residents at Hooklands that day, and it soon dawned on me, that not only could I dress up in my favourite vintage outfits, but I could be paid to sing my favourite 50s and 60s songs to people who also loved them – as a job!
Within three months, the word had spread and my diary was filled with similar bookings and my little business Dawn’s Vintage Do was born! I became a full time vintage entertainer and I loved it! It was like a dream come true and all the elements of my career and hobby had come together by complete accident but sat together so harmoniously.
Since 2011, I have grown as a performer and have coached many others in performance and stage presence through the art of burlesque, but something else happened quite naturally, which is that I have become very adept at producing events and shows, to the point that I am now seeing one of my ultimate dreams come true. Back in 2010 as I gazed around at the previously mentioned marvellous vintage event, I allowed myself to dream about one day having the opportunity to be involved with a glorious gathering such as that. However, I had no idea that six years later, I wouldn’t be just helping, but instead I would have my name emblazoned across the whole event and it would be my brainchild under the brand of Dawn’s Vintage Do!
In 2016, I trialled my first three day immersive residential vintage weekender focussing on the 50s and 60s at a kitsch holiday village near my home on the south coast of England in a little town called Bracklesham Bay. It was absolutely exhausting, exhilarating and expensive, but it was a very worthwhile learning experience and really tested my abilities in both business and stamina. My entertainment style and event vision is always centred around customer experience and how to create immersive interaction so that it really feels as if you have been transported back to the 50s and 60s – within the realms of possibility and limitations of the venue. It’s the little added touches that make my events so special and why I go to extreme lengths to get the details right. Following my debut residential Vintage Weekender in 2016, things were all set to be repeated the following year however it wasn’t to be on account of the fact that my venue was sold for redevelopment – a huge blow and such a loss of one of the last remaining original holiday village sites on the south coast. However, I picked myself up, dusted off the pinafore and set about planning for Weekender 2018! I found the perfect venue and cannot believe that after planning for so long – since November 2016 to be precise, that we are now in 2018 and all of my plans and dreams are only months away.
My Weekenders are designed for those who want to dip their toes in the 50s and 60s as well as those who are diehard fans, but in the past twelve months, I have also noticed a huge surge in interest in the era of the flapper and I have myself been employed to perform at speakeasies and Charleston related events and so as an added twist for my ‘Dawn’s Vintage Weekender’, I am adding the 20s element for the Sunday evening after the all day Hotties Vintage Market and will be throwing a decadent Gatsby party to include dance tuition, and of course, a full stage show filled with showgirls!
So I ask that you check out my website for details of how to book for this event and join me as I crack open that magnum of champagne on the opening night! It’s been a long time coming, but this is it! This is the vintage! This is my dream!
Written by Dawn Gracie
Credits: Ash Black Photography (diner pics)