Carrie-Ann Dring is a vintage fashion and style blogger at She particularly loves the 1940s and 1950s, and has a bit of a thing for hats.

The Mr & Miss Vintage finals are one of the highlights of Twinwood Festival in the UK, and this year’s competition is already open for entries. Regular readers of Vintage Life will have seen the beautiful photos of Miss Vintage 2016, the lovely Laura Hollowell (and if you haven’t seen them, you can find them on the Vintage Life Facebook page, or grab yourself a back copy in the online shop).
But what’s it like, being in the final? I am in the incredibly privileged position to be able to tell you, having been a finalist last year. So, whether you’re thinking of entering this year or just fancy hearing a bit of behind-the-scenes gossip, read on…

Before the final
First of all, of course, there are the nerves. My butterflies started approximately seven minutes after I received the email telling me I was through to the final, and a particular highlight was standing backstage and feeling like there was a very real possibility I was going to be sick. Or cry. Or both. Luckily, the other finalists were absolutely wonderful, providing me with water and soothing noises, and I made it to stage.
Then there’s the frantic search for a show-stopping outfit. Being a volup size put me in rather a tricky position, and there are several beautiful dresses – ordered online – hanging up in my spare room that are too beautiful for me to want to sell, but just don’t fit. It was only a last-minute intervention from a lovely friend (who found a fabulous 1950s suit in a Folkestone charity shop and has since become known as my vintage stylist) that I wasn’t walking onstage with a dress unzipped to the waist with a jacket over the top in a make-do-and-mend fashion.

And a huge sense of pride when what feels like your entire family decides to buy tickets so they can come and cheer you on, despite never having been to the festival before and asking you zero questions about it.

The final
You can expect a healthy dollop of stress when the rain starts (you can set your watch by the rain at Twinwood. It starts mid-afternoon just as everyone’s gearing up to strut their stuff on the dance floor) and you’ve just had your hair done at the pop-up salon. (The very lovely hairdressers saw me on the verge of stressed out tears and immediately redid my do. See, lovely).
Once you reach the stage (backstage secret: there’s a wonderful lady who helps you up the stairs) and look out over the crowd, you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed; I was excited at showing off my vintage finery, proud to have made it through to the final in the face of some pretty glamorous competition, and felt a little jolt as I realised how lucky I am to have incredibly supportive family and friends; they may not all get what I do, but they packed out the front row and were dotted around the room cheering me on. (Special shout out to my sister, who acted as my personal assistant for the day – carrying things, soothing nerves and generally being awesome. Seriously guys, she’s amazing).

Oh and let’s not forget the embarrassment as my worst nightmare came true and I realised my hat was oh-so-slowly slipping off my head as I chatted to Lola Lamour and Dusty Limits. They were very kind about it though.

And then, there’s a twinge of sadness. There was for me anyway. A bit of background that I should have mentioned earlier – I’m a Twinwood Festival devotee. I first started going with my grandad, where we used to volunteer in the Glenn Miller Museum (if an elderly but sprightly gentleman ever took you on a tour of the museum and told you a story about the door Glenn Miller used before his final flight, that was Gramps). I used to wear jeans and a hoody, and look longingly at all the beautifully dressed people, telling Grandad I’d ‘wear clothes like that one day’.
Well, one day, I did – and that was that, really. Grandad died in 2014, and I’m so sad that I only really started dressing in vintage afterwards; he would have loved my style, and would have loved telling people he was the reason for it even more. So part of the decision I entered Miss Vintage (apart from being an utter show off) was to honour my grandad – to go back to where I started, sort of.
Once everyone’s been interviewed, you troop back off stage (where that helpful lady is worth her weight in gold) and breathe a huge sigh of relief behind the scenes.

Ah, the relief once it’s done! The winners are announced, everyone cheers, and then it’s time to enjoy the rest of the festival. But long after the weekend, the warm glow of having done something terrifyingly awesome and having met some truly lovely people will linger for a long time – I promise. Totally worth the nerves and stressful bits.
If you’re reading this, I hope it’s encouraged you to get your entry in – you’ll have a whale of a time if you do.
So, what would my advice be to finalists this year? Prepare, prepare, prepare, bring a brolly and for God’s sake remember your hat pin.

Lisa Harrison
Written by Lisa Harrison
Lisa is the Deputy Editor of Vintage Life Magazine and Publisher at Dragoon Publishing. She is avid bookworm, collector of vintage homeware, loves travel, lazy weekends away and eats way too much cake!