‘There’s always a backstory’: how a fascinating independent clothing boutique became part of the Derbyshire town community

Lydia, 47, has been part of Clay Cross’ growing indie community for eight years.

Her vintage clothing boutique, Lady Peacock, has its own fascinating story, as does Lydia herself. A strong character, with an honest delivery, she reflects exactly the company she created: a colorful statement of choice.

“From the age of 13 until about ten years ago, as a goth, I wore black all the time. I never had any color on me. So the whole thing with Lady Peacock was like going from this dark shadow, to you know what, I’ve reached a certain age now where I don’t want to be in the shadows anymore. I want to be there to live, to enjoy life, to dress how I want, not to be judged for anything. I can be whoever I want to be. I think I hit my 30s and I thought, this is it, this is who I want to be.

Lady Peacock

Lydia smiled as she said this. You can tell by the look on his face that this was a big step in his life. But her trip to the Lady Peacock boutique took a more methodical approach.

“Over time, I went in small steps, so small premises with affordable rent. A little bigger as incomes increased and needs increased. To try it as a stepping stone to see how it would fit into the community, how I could settle here, because I’m not from here originally, I’m from Manchester.

And did she settle in Clay Cross? “I have become very rooted here. People know me extremely well now. I am the vintage lady. I’ve had people say to me, ‘Oh, why do you want to do this in Clay Cross? And my answer was always: why not? Something a little different, something that I can offer to the community that will be used as a sort of hub, and that’s what happened with each of the locals. I don’t just run it as a business, I also run it as a community space. »

Over her eight years in the community, she has organized several hubs in an effort to bring people together, her choice of location always “somewhere quirky, with a bit of context. I don’t do new builds or anything like that. Because of what I do, there has to be an atmosphere. He must have some kind of connection and roots in the community.

Lydia Watters

“I started with a tea room. At the top of Clay Cross in the old Victoria building, called Vintage Community. Afternoon teas, cakes…and I was also doing workshops, so I was teaching ‘make and fix’, really going back to traditional making and creating. And because Clay Cross has a lot of creative people, I wanted to be part of it.

This “do and fix” philosophy seems to be at the very heart of Lydia, connecting to both her love of history and creation. This also links to his other job as an art and design teacher at a school in Nottingham.

“I’m doing my best to bring back the traditional skills,” she says, nodding. “I’m always proud to say I’m working class. When I work with children, they see that if you are a teacher, you must be privileged, and I tell them no, I come from the same place as you, and I worked very hard for it. I had to crawl, little by little.

When asked where this philosophy of making the most of what you have comes from, she smiles, thinking for a moment.

Lydia in her shop

“My mother-in-law was a machinist and she had a big industrial Singer sewing machine in the back room of the house. There were always piles of tissue everywhere. I was always cutting and pinning pieces together, making stuff, trying out the pedal on the machine without it plugged in just to see how I could do it.

“My mother-in-law made pillows and cushions, and my father was a trader in Salford market, and he sold them. And even if I find it strange in hindsight, I make the connection between my father who ran a small market stand in all weathers, and manufacturing. Lady Peacock didn’t start with the shop, she started with reviving things, making and fixing things.

And this is where Lydia connects her own life experiences to her fascination with the historical, the ‘do and fix’ basis of the 1940s.

“When people had nothing, and how inventive people were. Not just what they could and couldn’t have at the time, the rations they had on food, but also clothing and the social aspects of it. People had to use the skills they learned. They had no money to spend, and now we’re a throwaway society. Back then, they took a dress from the 30s and were like, ‘Well, this hem line has changed, we’re going to change it, this collar has changed, we’re going to change it.’ It got a new life, it wasn’t just thrown away.

vintage handbags

“And when we had that era of the new look at 1950s style, people were still kind of poor but starting to build. We were growing. It’s almost like we’ve taken it back to the basic bones and that we then built a new generation. New building design, new clothing design, new car design, everything. It became a time when people didn’t just say “well, I didn’t nothing more”. No, I’m going to build. I’m going to do.”

And building and crafting is certainly what Lydia did. Entering his shop is an experience. The visual wow of textures and colors, the sweet swirl of jazz swing, the scent of fabric and history, a room filled with stories past and new beginnings. One look is not enough. It seems impossible to understand everything with a two-minute navigation. Each rail a treasure of difference. Each shelf is a unique find. Each drawer a wrapped treasure.

Dresses, suits, shoes, hats, gloves, suspenders, skirts, blouses, neckties, belts, pants, jackets, jewelry, shirts, collars, coats, cufflinks, perfumes, compacts, lipsticks, handbags, underwear, scarves, stockings… all collections covering the 1920s to the 1970s for women and men.

“It could stay here for years until someone comes in. There are things that make me cry here, that make me really emotional. If someone has an outfit that looks perfect, you get that moment of…” Lydia stops, claps her hands, says with a big smile, “Oh my god, that looks fantastic! And I also know how I got these pieces, where they come from, so it’s nice to be able to pass that on.

“So if it’s a 1930s wedding dress, I’ll try to get the wedding photo as well to show who wore it, how it was worn. And then people don’t just buy a dress, it had its own life before. It went through a war, it went through someone’s life. So it’s not just a piece of clothing, it’s not just a piece of cloth. It comes with a story.

Even Lydia’s fitting methods reflect the old school, tailoring “person to piece,” guiding the customer with items that go together by style and era, accessories, and even advice on vintage looks. “Can I have some ideas? Sure! Come get my brains! I have books, I’ll show you the ideas. This is the makeup you need, this is the hairstyle they would have had back then…”

Vintage perfumes

And if Lydia had to choose a favorite outfit, what would it be? She breathes, shakes her head, laughs, and looks around the shop says that’s a very difficult question.

“I like my 40s, but I don’t have the figure of a 40s woman. I’m more in the shape of a fifties to a sixties… but for me, it would have to be the fifties. It would therefore have to be flared dresses, pinched at the waist, free size on the hips. And they’re beautiful, and they’re adorable. And a lot of people say well the 50s is when women were tied to the stove and all that, but that wasn’t the case. It was also a time of freedom, of being able to wear whatever you wanted to wear and not have those constraints. Every fashion era sees people moving closer to independence.

Independent, that’s certainly what Lydia Watters, aka Lady Peacock, is.

Chiffon scarves
vintage accessories
Lady Peacock Vintage HQ
Hats, clothes and necklaces
Men’s vintage accessories
vintage hairstyles
Bags, hats and shoes

About Renee Williams

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