Tuesday, September 28, 2010

May as well start at ten

I read a lot of magazines. Well, that's not strictly true - I read some magazines and I look at the pictures in a lot of magazines.

I have read more top ten looks and top ten styles and ten most stylish people articles than I can be bothered remembering. Looks and styles interest me - the top ten stylish people do not. When I read a Shakespeare sonnet, I expect to feel icicles form on my spinal cord. Therefore when I read about someone who has enough money to feed a small country, an army of employees to attend to detritus of life, a team of dedicated professionals training and coaxing their bodies into shape and, AND, AND a raft of designers piling on free clothes, I expect them them to be stylish. How could they not be? I don't know why the resultant style is a worthwhile story, any more than a surgeon performing a successful kidney transplant is a story.

But an every day person with limited funds and a busy life who looks wonderful - that's true style.

So here's the first half of my list of top ten stylish people. I don't have photos, sorry, so you'll have to rely on my memory. And there's no apparent order. They were all fabulous.

1. The young woman in George Street last November. She was maybe 19, had malt coloured hair to her shoulders, no make up, honey skin, wore a simple very closely fitted white cotton shirt dress and a pair of sandshoes. The dress had a defined a-line skirt that just reached her knees. She was gorgeous the way young creatures are gorgeous and her complete lack of awareness of her beauty made her all the more delightful. She was walking towards me along this busy Sydney street and left a domino effect of turning heads - male and female - behind her.

2. The woman in a Sydney department store, Christmas, two years ago: I had stopped to look at a hokey Christmas display that featured an ill-thought out collection of Nativity scenes and toy trains. The trains were running through the manger. There was a tallish woman opposite me who I noticed in sections: YSL chain belt. Beautifully tailed white slouchy trousers. Gentle floral silk Georgette blouse. A throatful of pale Tahitian pearls the size of tulip bulbs. Matching earrings, but black Tahitian pearls. Very closely cropped grey hair. Marc Jacobs bag in the happiest shade of red. Closely matched red lipstick. Flat plain gold sandals. Blue eyes. She was any where between 65 and 75, possibly a little older. We both smiled , tilted our chins at the silly trains and smiled again.

3. The women on a lunch date. I loved this mob. There were four of them, maybe sisters and if not certainly best friends for decades, charging through Martin Place on a weekday. It was mid-winter and they were all in their best clothes - pleated tartan skirts, tights, tucked in blouses, neat blazers, artfully knotted scarves. I can't remember a specific outfit but cam still see the collective palette of moss, oak, molasses, rhubarb and licorice and their laughter. They walked four abreast, each leaning over the line to talk to each other, laughing like schoolgirls, unconcerned about anything but being together. They made my day.

4. The Uni student who caught my bus home a few months ago. She had a deep olive complexion and the sparkling greenish eyes that will sometimes go with it. Her outfit was quite simple - black leather ballet pumps. very dark blue skinny jeans, a long sleeve white t-shirt, a thin, smaller short sleeve pale pink t-shirt over the top and her hijab, also in a pale pink. The young Muslim girls will buy lengths of polyester fabrics from which to fashion their scarves and when they have cut the desired length, they'll wave the flame of a cigarette lighter around the edges so the material will melt a little and take on a corrugated edge. The student had done this and her scarf formed a wavy pale pink frame around her lovely face. She carried a huge canvas bag of books - all biology and chemistry.

5. Auntie Thelma. Thelma - or Tally, as she was known affectionately in my family, was my father's older sister. Dad was quite a bit older than mum so his siblings were quite of a different world. Thelma, in her late sixties when I knew her, was a grand dame of Lady Bracknell proportions with bright blue eyes but old grey photos show a cheeky slender girl with wonderful legs and a head of short amber curls. Thelma would visit every week or so and always come armed with a supermarket packaged lamington cake, a coat fastened with oversized buttons, stout leather shoes shiny as hot tar and a huge brooch fixed to her substantial bosom. Sometimes she carried a neat lady's' hand bag, sometimes she had a shopper because she planned to pick up some groceries on the way home. She sounds sweet and kindly but she was a shrewd, calculating person who you could not risk trusting for even a few moments. She swindled. lied, cheated and stole in different ways all through her life. She loved my dad though and she had, in their miserable poor childhood, looked out for him continuously. They were good mates. When she died she left me two huge old sparkly brooches that I proudly identify as my Thelmas whenever they are admired.

Well, that's five. Still to come - Sharon, Franca, the brown dress girl, the girl at the markets and the lady at the hospital.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We should all be as happy as kings

Today we booked our holiday to San Francisco. I am inordinately excited. City Lights! Raisinettes! Drugstores! Driving on the wrong side of the road! Black and White cookies!

I went to the US earlier this year for the first time ever and was fascinated by so many things. I'm looking forwarded to being fascinated by more things on this trip.

Travelling in the Northern Hemisphere in Winter means I can bring some of my boots out of hibernation early. Pictured in the snow in Central Park are a pair of hard working stubborn Bally boots that, every year, I think should be retired permanently but that I love so deeply, that every year they are re-soled, polished and employed to keep my feet warm and make me look (in my mirror) somewhat formidable for another winter.

And scarves and gloves. I am a very big advocate of scarves and gloves, yet can only use them with any really purpose for about six weeks a year.

And my Blue Coat. Oh, Blue Coat, how I love thee and your little moleskin lined muff pockets. How frequently you have have kept me safe from smarting icy winds and the perpetual London rain.

And the A380. I love all planes - even those terrifying little rickety fellows with propellers - but the A380 is special. I often see it lumbering on take-off in the morning when I'm waiting for my bus. It's like seeing a tidal wive or a dinosaur in the distance, something fantastic and very important.

We're driving out to Yosemite too. The guide book says sternly that we have to take chains for the car. I've never seen car tyre chains. Such a thing smacks of wild sophistication and adventure. It must be a lovely sound, the sounds of cars on the road, all wearing chains.

Friday, September 17, 2010

If wishes were fishes, dresses might talk

Well, that's how I look in the catalogue but I don't quite look like that on her.

We had our first outing today and it wasn't quite as successful as I'd hoped. It started alright - she'd had a warm shower, her skin temperature was 37 degrees exactly and she'd used a plain oil as a moisturiser which sat well against my fabric. Fabrics are very well versed in chemistry - what you wear on your skin is important to us. We're also very vulnerable to careful handling. Actually you might want to remember that - it hurts us when you tug at zippers or open buttons roughly.

When she buttoned me up (nice and gently) we looked at each other in the mirror. "Well, I don't really do bows" she said to our reflection, and replaced my sash with a medium width belt of thick leather that had been dyed with vegetable dyes (yes, we can tell that too. Clothes are smarter than you think.).

The belt looked better but I don't think her shoes worked - flat black suede Aerosoles. No heels - I could taste traces of codeine and sour analgesics in her skin leftover from yesterday's migraine, so flat soft shoes were the best she could do. And only big fat pearl earrings - no pendants or chains which disappointed me because I've seen a black jet locket on her dressing table. I want that locket near my collar.

Her perfume was English and smelt of cedar and moss. Perfume is very important to us - we absorb it and it can become part of our fibre for all time, so we appreciate wise choices. It's still a little cold so she wore a trench coat and folded my collar outside. I liked that, and I liked the trench coat too. Trench coats are invariably good company. Quiet but nice manners.

At her office two people commented on me; both were curious about my heritage ("Lands End? Is that American?") and one actually gently rubbed the fabric of my hem between his fingers. "Nice cotton!" he said. I am nice cotton, it's true, I don't crush. His shirt was Italian and ignored me. Because we were stuck in her office all day I didn't get to meet many other clothes, just a few pieces of suiting that glanced at me but didn't say much. Still, it wasn't all bad - her seat is upholstered in a good quality wool, thankfully, and she managed not to drip her lunch-time soup over my bodice.

We're still not sure what we think of each other. I'm in the washing queue at the moment, both of us thinking that we may work together more harmoniously once I've had a wash. She has a large bottle of APC's delicate fabric washing liquid that was made by Aesops cosmetics and I'm pretty certain I will be sluiced with that. Finger (and seams) crossed - it smells divine.

And this came in and sniffed at me yesterday. It smells of fish and grass seeds and a certain endearing smugness:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

By thinking about things you can work them out

I love the look on his face. I'd had just told him my best joke - the one about the deaf drinkers - and he couldn't stop laughing. But that's not why I've called you here.

Like most women tapping away in the blogosphere, I read Sal's Already Pretty daily. I like her thoughts, her writing and the way she poses in the middle in the road. I also like - very much indeed - her Land's End shirt dress.

In fact, it got to a stage where all I could think about was the Crimes Act (1900), whether I had any rides left on my bus ticket and how I could get a Land's End dress like Sal's and wear it with the same confident prettiness.

It might seem like a simple thing, to like a dress and just get one but the day my life gets that simple is the day I adopt someone else's complex personality.

So I hung around the Land's End website for a while. It's very welcoming in a home-cooking American way. They have bedsheets and school clothes and slippers as well as the dress. I'd lurk and pine and covet, then I'd go and check my bus ticket or confirm the maximum penalty for manslaughter and not buy the dress. (Twenty five years if you're interested.)

But the other night I stared at the dress for so long I became hypnotised and clicked purchase before I'd even decided to actually buy it. (This is why I'd never go and see a hypnotist. I'd be the woman who gets turned into a chicken and can never be reversed.)

It arrived yesterday in a big white bag that said LAND'S END so there was no turning back. My dress, the dress I had see on another woman I've never met and wanted not because I needed another dress but because of how it seem to make her life wonderful, was here.

My new dress is black and pristine and we're both rather shy of one another. I'm not sure how to wear her and I'm not entirely certain she wants to be worn by me. I feel like we should be formally introduced before I can start wearing her properly. Anyway I've hung her on the outside of my wardrobe so she can talk to some of my work dresses and see my shoes.

Maybe we'll get a little more used to each other over the coming week.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Before you know it

Opening tonight's post is the most untrustworthy cat in Sydney. She is pictured here masterminding a credit card fraud operation.

You don't get much of a winter in Sydney. Even when the nights start getting cool in May, you can still feel the sun during the day. After June 22 the days start getting longer and by the end of August the single digit Celsius coldness has gone for another year. In late August or early September you get your first warm day - we had it today - and by October you've usually had one unexpectedly hot day. On the October long weekend everyone packs aways their jumpers and scarves and blankets, just in time for a brief return of cold days, and by the time they've fished them out again there's another hot day. And then they just keep coming and don't really stop until April.

I manage the hot weather by buying frocks. And by going to Coalcliff, like this:

There's a pool and a beach at Coalcliff. Plus starfish, if you're really lucky.