Friday, December 28, 2012

Boxing Day madness

Regent Street on Boxing Day morning
 Boxing Day is the day after Christmas. As traditions go, it's the day that servants and other service workers would receive a 'Christmas box' from their employers or betters. We Americans don't really go in much for this class based culture (although don't kid yourself that class isn't part of American culture..) Yet we can certainly embrace what Boxing Day has evolved into here in the UK - a mad shopping day where everyone scrambles for bargains.

Crowded Oxford Street on Boxing Day evening
Something about traveling makes you abandon common sense. Back home in the US, I would never dream of going out to bargain hunt on Black Friday, which is the American equivalent of Boxing Day. But here in London, I quite blithely boarded the number 8 bus and rode out into the morning, right into the belly of the beast - Regent Street, one of the major shopping streets in London's West End.

The corner of Oxford Street and Regent Street must be the World Capital of shopping, and as the bus approached, I could look down from the upper level to see the crowds on the sidewalk, already queuing up behind police barricades before stores like H & M and Zara and The Gap.

Liberty of London at Great Marlborough Street
I was here for one sale, and one sale only - the Boxing Day sale at Liberty of London, the venerable old department store established on Regent Street in 1875. Liberty is known for its textiles featuring the then-avant garde Art Nouveau designs. And although the store now sells high-end couture from contemporary designers, it is famous for its textiles, including silk scarves.

The store is a stunning Tudor Revival pile fronting on Great Marlborough Street. When you come off Oxford Street down Argyll Street, it dominates the view at the end of the block.

Carnaby Street
When I arrived, there was an hour before the doors opened, so I strolled nearby Carnaby Street - famed for its role as the center of the Mod scene during the 1960s. Now it was home to small boutiques and international fashion chain stores.

Lines at Liberty
Fifteen minutes before the doors opened, I joined one of the queues at the door. While less frenzied than the crowds at The Gap, they were still firmly focused.on the task at hand. When the slim, black-clad sales assistants opened the doors, they pushed aggressively into the store, some people even running past the elegant display counters.

I headed for the "Hall of Scarves" because my goal was a Liberty Scarf. I had been given a wool challis Liberty Scarf as a young woman, and had been impressed by its beauty. The on-sale scarves were arranged in bins on several tables, and were surrounded by crowds of women, heaving and clawing, snatching the lengths of cloth out to inspect them, then turning them aside for another. There were so many beautiful designs it was hard to decide which ones to prize. I chose two - one with a bright floral design and another with Liberty-inspired Art Nouveau swirls, and proceeded to the cashier, where the total cost for these two scraps of silk exceeded the nightly price of our hotel room. But my purchase was modest compared to the dozens of scarves bought by a Japanese tourist behind me.

Cotton yard goods at Libery
On another floor, designer couture was sold, including a department where vintage clothing - Chanel suits - were displayed. A lovely boucle skirt-suit was tagged at only fifteen hundred pounds.

Thread and yard goods
 I went upstairs to the floor where Liberty's famous textiles and yard goods were sold. The displays were beautiful and colorful. In another set of bins, yet more shoppers snatched and grabbed at remnants. For a much more economical price of twelve pounds, I bought a scrap of cotton lawn, in one of Liberty's whimsical prints.

Satiated, I left the store and headed for the pub down the street. I called [The Man I Love] and our son, and went on to our new adventures.


Gilly said...

You look like you are having a great time in London, even if we can't provide any decent weather! Did you pick up any bargains? Its usually total madness in there!

Gilly said...

Thought I'd just add that Macclesfield, where I live, just south of Manchester, was known as the "Silk Town" as silk weaving more or less began here in, I think the 17th century, making silk buttons. There were dozens of mills making silks of various types, though the mills later specialised in Jacquard silks. During World War II many of the mills made silk for parachutes.

But I envy you that Liberty scarf!!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I would have waited in the pub, too!

Back in my tie-wearing days, I wore a lot of Liberty ties.

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

I love Liberty of London! I am NOT a shopper but, like you, would have happily waded into the madness for a Liberty sale. Fabulous!

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

And I keep meaning to tell you how much I love the new header on your blog with the red "you are beautiful" building. Love, love, love!

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

The newly-awoken quilter in me is salivating over those fabrics.
I hope you will be sharing photos of you wearing your new scarves!