The Big Swish: Secrets of the Boudoir

I signed up for clothes-swapping website Big Wardrobe a while back in the hope of exchanging some of my rarely worn items for something I would actually use, and had varying degrees of success. Everyone seemed friendly enough and all of the users I encountered were completely genuine, however, I did have trouble actually finding something I wanted to exchange for my garments. It may be the case that a lot of people have items that you want, but they’re sadly not always the people who want yours! Essentially, popping along to a swish is the same kind of thing, only you don’t swap directly with one person – it all goes into one big collection for everyone to rummage through later. This sounded like a much better idea so, after missing out on going to a delightful lingerie press event myself recently, I decided to sign up for The Big Swish‘s Secrets of the Boudoir event and sort out some clothes to take along with me.

The information said to bring “party frocks, lingerie, accessories and heels” so, after a rummage, I found some pretty red shoes that I’d worn only twice due to discomfort, a steel-boned corset, a steel-boned waist cincher, a faux-fur shrug, an evening bag and a pair of satin pyjamas. All went into a bag to be taken along to the venue and I was reassured by the rules that nothing in bad condition or from Primark would be accepted, so assumed that I’d be able to grab some similar quality items in return, even if I failed to get as much back. I headed off that night to Amika in Kensington to meet some new people, watch some demonstrations and grab myself some pretty clothes.

Once I’d handed in my items, I treated myself to a Tanqueray and tonic and got chatting to a few of the experts. After a short while, the talks and demos began and we were treated to stockings expert Catherine from Kiss Me Deadly giving us the lowdown on suspender belts plus the differences between stretch, nylon and fully-fashioned stockings. The stunning Bex – face of Velda Lauder and queen of the 18″ waist – showed us how to lace yourself into a steel-boned corset, and also invited a corset virgin from the audience to have a go. There was also an introduction to the key elements of vintage/pin-up style make-up by The Hourglass and I was volunteered by the lovely ladies at Playful Promises to be Nicole’s model for her hair and make-up demonstration.

Despite a severe lack of time and light, she cleverly managed to make some dramatic changes to my daytime look that survived subsequent cocktail drinking and an extremely windy journey home (see photo above). After all this excitement, my G&T ran out and my mood sadly took a downward turn. The start of the swishing was announced and the VIPs were set loose with a five minute head start… proceeding to take everything that was halfway decent before the rest of us were even allowed in the door! This is something I was prepared for as I hadn’t bought a VIP ticket, however, rather annoyingly The Big Swish chose not to grade all items that were brought along to this particular event, so I suspect that many of the people who walked away with the good stuff had actually brought the rubbish that remained on the rails.

However, next came a little something to cheer me right back up again. Organisers from cabaret venue Volupté were there to introduce us to a handful of male burlesque acts to round off the evening, including the raunchy Spencer Maybe and the truly delightful Major Suttle-Tease (if anyone knows the name of the third act, please let me know as I’ve forgotten it!). All of the performers coped spectacularly well with some terrible technical problems from a venue clearly not used to handling such a show, and there were many extremely happy ladies in the audience. All in all, the event was well organised and enjoyable, but I would recommend that The Big Swish reinstate their points system and clamp down a bit harder on their no-Primark rule. I came home with a lovely Kiss Me Deadly suspender belt, but really did wish I’d kept that spotty waist-cincher and faux-fur shrug so I’d recommend never to taking anything really nice to a swish if you want a decent swap.

If you want to get your hands on some pretty things, instead of swishing I’d suggest you get yourself down to the Playful Promises boutique on Bethnal Green road between 3rd and 6th December as they have a sample sale on. I’ll definitely be putting that one in my diary.

First image via The Big Swish. Final image via Spencer Maybe’s MySpace.

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