I’ve been determined to visit 40 Winks boutique hotel ever since it came to my attention last year. Their ‘Bedtime Stories’ sessions (have a Google for some reviews!) sound divine, but either I kept missing out on tickets, or the date wasn’t right. But, luckily, I had signed up to 40 Winks mailing list, and a few months ago, a wonderful email landed in my inbox. That email was all about Tart.
In simple terms, Tart is the ultimate girls’ day out. But to say just that would do this amazing event an unforgivable injustice. So this blog post is about my, my friends’, and my marvellous mum’s first Tart experience. And what an experience it was!
When we arrived on Saturday 15th May, we were all wide-eyed with wonder at the beauty and uniqueness of the interior of 40 Winks (all throughout the day, we each would notice something new to gasp and gawp at!), while the friendly, glamourous assistants took our coats and told us where to go first. We made our way down to the cellar kitchen (at which point we were welcomed by the great Mr David Carter, owner of 40 Winks and founder of Tart), where we nibbled on delicious finger sandwiches and yummy cupcakes, accompanied by divine gin cocktails, served in china teacups. I’d never tasted gin before, but after those drinks, I’m a total convert to “mother’s ruin”! After having a chat to Liz Brewer (best known for her etiquette lessons on ‘Ladette to Lady’), we wandered back upstairs to start investigating the wonders on offer. These are two things I learned within minutes…
The first rule of Tart – you must look your glamourous best! No denim or leggings are allowed, and the best way to enjoy the day is to embrace your inner vintage vixen. Don’t worry too much about shoes, though, as they must be left in the hallway, and replaced with slippers. You could always match your slippers to your outfit! Unfortunately, real vintage clothes rarely fit my physique properly, so I had to pay homage to my fashion forebears. My outfit consisted of a cream, puff-sleeved, pussy bow blouse and navy blue sequinned knickers over 110 denier tights (all hail Tabio!), with black patent demi-wedge t-bar shoes, and my black All Saints tailored tail jacket. For jewellery, I wore delicate silver chain earrings, and two one-of-a-kind pieces: my Hoolala ‘fall of Satan’ luxe necklace, and an Eclectic Shock watch bracelet. Both were bought from the ever-tempting Hannah Zakari. Oh, and I mustn’t forget my much lusted after Helen Rochfort ‘Willy Wonka’ metal framed handbag (one smitten kitten asked to buy it from me!).
The second rule of Tart (from my perspective) – get involved! I’ll be honest, me and my group were all a bit worried that it would be full of posh fashionistas, and that we ordinary girls would feel excluded, but that wasn’t the case at all. Everyone, organisers and guests, were so friendly and chatty. Compliments and cocktails were free-flowing, there was a sense of camaraderie, and the sense of girly excitement was crackling in the air. My friends were amazed when I took off my blouse in a crowded room (don’t worry, I wasn’t flashing!) to try on a dress, without giving a thought to the fact that my scars were showing. No one took the slightest bit of notice, and the only comments I received were about how great the dress looked!
On that note, I’d like to say thank you to Fi and Dawn from Fifi Wilson for helping me get into the dress, giving my mum and I their card case to put our sparkly cupcakes in, and generally being absolutely lovely. If you’re on Twitter, give them a tweet here. The dress in question was a beautiful, sky blue Manoush ‘Officier’ dress, and I cannot wait to wear it!
There is such a lot to do at Tart, too, and everything is geared towards becoming a vintage goddess. I adored getting my hair done by the brilliant Lipstick and Curls (check them out!). They lived up to their name, and gave me cute curls to add bounce and shape to my usually very flat hair. Here’s a snap of me and my lovely stylist…
And a gratuitous photo of me posing by the window, showing off my sparkly drawers!
Beautiful belles from Benefit were also there, making guests over and giving advice on how to style make up; they transformed my friend into a fantastic fifties starlet, and had plenty of their products available to buy.
I watched my friends and mum try on corsets with the lovely Katie of What Katie Did fame, and get advice from her about how to adjust to wearing a corset, and which corsets suit which body shapes. Sadly, I didn’t indulge, but I loved watching their wide-eyed looks as the laces were pulled tighter, and all of the ensuing pin-up posing!
There was also a room dedicated to vintage couture, which was available to all guests for the purposes of dressing up, and swanning about like retro royalty! We had a great time with the hats, and a particular pair of vintage glasses, though next time we will make sure to try some pieces on.
Apart from all of the things to do and buy (I also purchased a gorgeous ribbon headband from Katherine Elizabeth), we were privileged to have access to a series of short talks, all of which were on suitably Tart-esque subjects. From making scrummy cocktails (I can’t wait to knock up some ‘English Gardens’, when the summer arrives!), to how to perfect your 1940s hair and make-up, via social etiquette and corseting, we came away much wiser (and better coiffed) women than when we had arrived.
Everyone left with a goody bag, and it was filled with treats, from a vintage china cup and saucer to a Benefit lipstick, held in a great eco-friendly shopper.
From the moment we left, we all said that we couldn’t wait to go back. Our first time was great, but the next would be even better, as we’ve worked out the best way to get the most from the day. I’ll share our plan with you – grab a cocktail, get your hair and make-up done, slip into some vintage treasures to complete the look, and then relax into the talks, general chat, and buying beautiful things. Unfortunately, the once-a-month event is now booked up until at least October, but we will be there, dressed to the nines, and ready to step back in time. We all needed an escape from the cheap, fast everything of modern life, and found that Tart is the perfect place to run away for the day.
And next time, we’ll be ready to hit the town after, and make the most of our rediscovered retro allure!
Tickets cost £60 – this includes all drinks and yummy food, massages, hair and make-up sessions, talks etc. You only pay extra for any bits you buy from the sellers of lovely things there.
Where to find 40 Winks
109 Mile End Road,Stepney Green, London, E1 4UJ
Get in touch with them
Telephone: +44(0)20 7790 0259
Fax: +44(0)20 7790 0259
Go on, indulge…I promise, you will not regret it! xx