With her hair in styled victory rolls, perfect red lips and waspish waist, Sally Anne Moss is the epitome of the 1950s pin-up, writes Emily Bridgewater.
But at just 31, and a child of the 80s, she embodies an age she would never have known.
When her partner Stuart Smith arrives at The Vintage Salon where I meet them, he’s fresh from work – and his apparel is more what you’d expect of someone working in the IT department of the NHS.
However, as he rolls up his shirt, he reveals sleeves of tattoos which are a homage to a bygone era.
It was a love of all that’s vintage that brought the couple together after they met at 1920s Lindy Hop dance lessons.
“They were the type of lessons you didn’t need a partner for and I just went along with a friend because I really wanted to learn how to Lindy Hop,” says Sally.
“Lindy Hop is where most modern dances started – all the dances you see on Strictly Come Dancing come from the Lindy Hop.
“I didn’t go there looking for love. I went to learn to dance. But meeting someone was certainly a bonus.”
Stuart, aged 35, also didn’t go to the lessons looking for romance. “My friend Jen wanted to go and I was really interested in learning too.
“You never dance with the same partner, the guys move on and dance with different girls. At first we didn’t really talk much but then we became friends on Facebook after I contacted Sally Anne with the name of a song we’d danced to.”
However, it wasn’t until they went to see a screening of the 1948 film Key Largo, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, that they really hit it off.
“Afterwards I asked Sally Anne if she wanted to go for a drink sometime and it went from there,” explains Stuart, who has family in Willenhall, Darlaston and Lichfield.
That was three years ago and the couple now share a home in Yardley, Birmingham.
“We haven’t done too much to this house as we are looking to sell up and move, although we do have some vintage furniture and lots of vintage radios – but they don’t all work,” says Sally Anne, a reception class teacher in Cotteridge, Birmingham.
“But we want our next house to have a real vintage influence. I’d like a full 1950s-style kitchen, and the lounge will definitely have a Mad Men feel to it. We’d also like some taxidermy – we like the darker side of vintage too.”
Stuart adds, smiling, “I am thinking more gentleman’s club-style with lots of dark wood and a vintage drinks cabinet. I want to convert an old television set into a drinks cabinet.”
The couple’s interest in retro style started long before they met.
Sally Anne began shopping for vintage clothes as a teenager; at markets, charity shops, and later ebay.
“My inspiration comes from old films such as The Killers, Casablanca and Grease – I just love the prom dresses and hairstyles.
“I also love the old musicals like Calamity Jane.”
Stuart adds: “And I am a huge James Dean fan, films like Rebel Without a Cause are really inspiring.”
His interest was sparked when he attended classic car shows. “Some of the people there were all dressed up in vintage clothes and I thought they looked really good. I was also into the music of the era, rockabilly and artists like Johnny Cash. None of my friends at the time were really into that scene though.”
Now the couple have a mix of friends, both from inside and outside the scene. Their choice of holidays is even influenced by their shared interest in retro chic.
“We’ve just come back from Hep Cats’ Holiday Weekender in Somerset where there was Lindy Hop dancing, big bands and vintage fairs.
“It was mainly 1940s and ’50s stuff but there was also some earlier music and then some ’60s stuff too. Everyone there was dressed up and it was great fun.
“We also love America and did Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco. We especially loved San Francisco as it’s got a big vintage scene.”
It was while in San Fran that Stuart got one of his many tattoos – by none other than Doug Hardy, son of legendary tattooist Ed Hardy. He rolls up his trouser legs to proudly reveal an array of colourful inkings – all inspired by films of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s including the original King Kong and Forbidden Planet. And while, during the working week, Stuart’s love of vintage style is only really obvious when he rolls up his sleeves, Sally Anne still looks the part in front of her class of four and five year olds.
“I do wear vintage-style clothes at work and I always have a bandana and red lipstick.
Like Audrey Hepburn, I ask. “More like Hilda Ogden,” laughs Sally Anne.
“I sometimes play the children a bit of Johnny Cash and we do a bit of Charleston dancing too.
“On my birthday last year, all the other teachers held a vintage tea party for me. The women put on red lipsticks and bandanas. It was really lovely.”
In her spare time Sally Anne helps out at The Vintage Salon as a one of a group of sugarbillies modelling hairstyles, make-up and clothes for the salon’s lookbooks, and also promoting the venue at events. It’s through the salon’s owner Lynsey Le Keux, that Sally Anne has worked as a stage maid at Midlands burlesque shows.
“I’m the one who sets up the props for the show, and clears away the stockings and props when the dance is over.”
Stuart adds: “We’ve been to a few burlesque shows and lots of other vintage music events.”
The couple are part of a growing scene. “When we go out to ’40s and ’50s music events, at places such as the Birmingham Irish Centre in Digbeth, they’re packed with people dressed authentically. Lots of guys with the turned-up jeans and the undercut hairstyles,” says Sally Anne.
“The events are getting bigger all the time.”
It’s a view that’s echoed by Lynsey, who has been running The Vintage Salon from its Custard Factory premises for two years.
The salon offers vintage make-up and hairstyling and photoshoots as well as birthday and hen party packages – it’s a one of a kind in the UK.
Lynsey hopes to set up a men’s vintage pop-up shop in November, offering services such as a traditional wet shave barbers, with all proceeds going to the Movember charity.
“We get the whole spectrum of people coming in to the salon,” says Lynsey, from Rugby. “There are people who are all-out vintage and then others who just want to have the look for a day.
“Vintage weddings are also getting more popular, people wanting that traditional, timeless look for their hair and make-up.”
And on the subject of weddings, I ask Stuart and Sally Anne if they are going to tie the knot in vintage fashion any time soon. They smile at one another and Stuart laughs nervously.
“If I do get married, I would love a vintage dress,” Sally Anne giggles, her porcelain complexion blushing.
I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
* Pictures were taken at The Vintage Salon, Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham. More details at www.lekeuxevents.co.uk