The Goodwood old days: a retro weekend - Halong Junk Cruises

The Goodwood old days: a retro weekend

Goodwood Motor Circuit on the first day of the Goodwood Revival Meeting 2011.
Leaders of the pack … back to the 60s at Goodwood.
Photograph: Alamy

The 21st century is already so last week. My friend Kate and I have unplugged ourselves from the present for the weekend and are driving down to Goodwood Hotel in Sussex. With the top down on the car, we’re attempting the headscarf-and-sunglasses trick that Grace Kelly made look so effortlessly chic. It is not, perhaps, so elegant on the M25, but no matter – we’re soon pootling through leafy countryside and once we arrive at our destination, glamour will be our watchword.

We have booked the hotel’s Vintage Treasures package – which means that we will be ditching our jeans for a retro makeover, borrowing a dress from Goodwood’s archive and having our hair and makeup primped to match. It’s a dressing-up party for adults, and it’s in the perfect location.

Each September, the Goodwood motor racing circuit takes a step back into its own golden age, from 1948 to 1966, when it was one of the country’s foremost racing venues. At the Goodwood Revival (12-14 September), vintage cars and motorcycles speed around the track, and visitors are encouraged to look the part, too. If you don’t have a classic Mary Quant mini or full-skirted New Look gown lurking in your wardrobe, there are market stalls and pop-up shops where you can find the necessary gladrags – and salons where experts will set your hair and paint your nails.

Pam, left, and Kate in their retro gear
Pam, left, and Kate in their retro gear.
Photograph: PR

The Goodwood Hotel’s vintage package is designed for those fashionistas who can’t wait for September to come around. Including dress hire, makeover, champagne afternoon tea and dinner, it would make for a decadent hen party – but Kate and I are just here for a break from 2014.

Judging by the number of enamelled Goodwood racing badges pinned to the tweed jackets of gentlemen rustling their Daily Telegraphs in the bar, we’re not the only ones who yearn for past glories. And this hotel is all about heritage – from the 17th-century fireplace in the aforementioned bar to the sleek art deco-inspired models of twin-propeller planes that decorate our room.

In fact, whether or not you’re into history, or racing, it’s worth making time to explore before getting dressed up. Goodwood House, home to the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, is open to visitors, and use of the hotel’s health club and pool is included in the package.

An occasional buzz in the air reminds us how close the aerodrome and racing circuit are – and the sight of a vintage plane overhead helps to roll back the years. Warbirds and Spitfires are a regular sight over Goodwood, we’re told, and even if you’re not watching the skies, the art deco airfield and racetrack is a must-see.

The Goodwood Hotel
The Goodwood Hotel.
Photograph: PR

It’s over at the airfield, in fact, that Goodwood’s wardrobe is stored, under the supervision of costume curator Sue O’Donoghue, who provides outfits for the in-house theatre company, and for special events including the Goodwood Revival. The collection runs to thousands of items, from a few genuine Edwardian summer dresses to shelves bursting with hats, handbags and sunglasses.

We were asked to submit our size and era preferences (1940s, 1950s or 1960s) before arriving, so a rail of choices could be sent to our room. Kate tries on a floral shift with a bow on the bust. Worn with a gorgeous 1950s swing coat in bottle green with a deep pink lining, it’s suddenly very chic, perfect for a posh garden party. I pounce on a 1960s geometric print frock in indestructible polyester that swings like the very decade itself. Though it’s 50 years old I would pick it out of a shop window any day of the week. A soft caramel-colour leather trenchcoat on top adds an enjoyably sleazy Soho vibe. I’d better be on my best behaviour for afternoon tea.

(A word to the wise: the hotel quite rightly recommends that you bring your own footwear; vintage shoes can be delicate and not suitable for jaunting about in.)

Before we are fit to be seen, our hotel room is converted into a temporary salon. A trio of beauticians arrives to add the finishing touches: hair, make-up, nails and a glass of chilled elderflower fizz. Kate’s hair is backcombed into a plumptious beehive, while mine is tucked into a neat little quiff, and we are both given eyeliner flicks that Amy Winehouse would have coveted.

Goodwood's extensive wardrobe.
Goodwood’s extensive wardrobe.
Photograph: Ivan Kyncl/PR

Sartorially, no one can deny we have made the effort for our afternoon tea, though I suspect we raise a few greying eyebrows with our vintage get-up. Luckily the coronation chicken and cucumber sandwiches are as old-school as our outfits at the Kennels Club, where we take our Earl Grey in squashy leather armchairs in the library. There is champagne too, and we particularly enjoy the fruit scones with jam and cream. The shelves are heavy with cricketing almanacs and the memoirs of renowned sportsmen, while the chatter around us is of classic cars and hefty sums in foreign currencies.

Grand as it is, this is the social club for the estate’s sporting activities. When it was first built, in 1787, it was home to the Duke of Richmond’s hunting dogs, but since 1914 it has extended its welcome to the golfers of Goodwood instead (there are two golf courses here) – whose needs are catered for in style by two dining rooms, comfortable changing areas, and a club shop that sells Ralph Lauren gear. There’s even a valet to take care of your shoes while you’re out on the course. We bump into a large group of female golfers in matching polo shirts who seem pleased as punch with the combination of links and luxe on offer.

And as we blot the last cake crumbs on our tea plates, we happily realise we are ladies of leisure until our next appointment – dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, the Richmond Arms, so there’s plenty of time to order another glass of bubbly, read and relax. It’s a smart establishment serving dishes in which our vintage alter egos recognise a modern flourish – the chips that accompany the steak are two inches thick and stacked Jenga-style on the plate. We feast happily there, smiling most on a silky soufflé (made with cheese and milk from the Goodwood home farm) and a slice of local mackerel, smoked and served with yoghurt and bergamot.

In the morning we’ll comb out our hair, hand back the dresses and return to the modern world, but we’ll linger a little longer in the 1960s yet.

Vintage shopping near Goodwood

You can travel to Brighton and the famous Laines for vintage shopping, but there are some tempting options far closer to Goodwood, in Chichester, just 10 minutes’ drive from the hotel.

Vintage and Very Nice
Regular vintage markets are held in Chichester and Arundel, selling furniture, clothes and accessories. The next markets take place in Chichester Assembly rooms (today) (6 September) and then on 4 October.
vintageandverynice.co.uk

Hutson & Grey
This recently opened boutique sells vintage furniture, home accessories and gifts. The owners will teach you how to titivate your new purchases at regular furniture painting workshops where you can also learn the secrets of “distressed” effects.
• 8 The Hornet, 01243 696625, hutsonandgrey.co.uk

One Legged Jockey
Don’t forget the chaps. One Legged Jockey stocks a range of vintage menswear and accessories. There’s also a branch in Southsea.
• 9 Crane Street, 01243 527708, Facebook page

Vintage@Chi
Selling genuine vintage clothes and accessories, this pretty boutique also does fabulous hats. Sharpen your elbows for the pre-Goodwood Revival rush.
• 2 St Martins Street, 01243 773644, Facebook page

St Wilfrid’s Hospice Retro & Vintage Shop
A charity shop with a stylish twist, this place stocks retro and vintage gear donated by supporters. You may bag a bargain, and you’ll definitely do something worthwhile with your dress budget. The charity also hosts an vintage fair at Chichester Assembly Rooms every August.
• 11, Eastgate, stwh.co.uk

The trip was provided by Goodwood (01243 520156, goodwood.co.uk); the Vintage Treasures package costs from £193pp, including hair, make-up, nails, costume hire, champagne afternoon tea, dinner and accommodation (price is based on two sharing)

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