Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We don't always know the reasons

Last Sunday I went to the local community fair. It was raining and extremely cold, so the walk - and the fact I was meeting my partner who was manning an anti-development stall - were the main reasons I was exercising my boots.

On may way I stopped at the local thrift shops but there was nothing there for me.

The fair, I figured, would not offer more than fried food and incense, so imagine my squealing pleasure when I walked past a community information store that had a table of jumble for sale. The two older ladies who ran the store were having sausage sandwiches and a cup of tea.

And then I spotted her.

She's leather and some kind of indescribable fuzzy but remarkably soft acrylic.

For four dollars.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Bag Lady's Breakfast: a tragedy in four acts

Act one - The Choice. It's 7.35am. A nifty a-frame hand bag is chosen by the baglady. (Black leather Oroton, circa 1985, purchased last year for $6.00 at a local op shop)

Act two - The Breakfast. 7.37am. The bag lady pre-packages her start to the day, to be eaten in the office over the morning papers and the early morning emails. It's a mix of three commercial cereals - little cinnamon flavoured bran pillows, toasted muesli made by a colony of Seventh Day Adventists on the north coast & some bran flakes studded with little jewels of dried cranberry, all contained in a minimalist glossy black container that once held won ton soup.

Act three - The Lock Out. 7.39am. The bag will not accept the breakfast. Tears are shed, the next bus is in seven minutes. A decision must be made.

Act four - The Ride. 7.50am. Another bus trip but the bag lady sits on the other side of the bus, pointedly ignoring any great handbag statements that might be uttered on the bus stops outside. Her large bag smirks to itself as it forms a bruise on the bag lady's thigh.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's in the bag with everything else

That there is my brown silk '40s handbag with the Lucite clasp. It can hold with quiet grace my phone, some lippies, a hankie, a biro, my ipod. wallet, sunglasses and maybe some jellybeans if necessary.
This is the most recent addition to my vintage bag collection. Many of you will recognise it for what it is - a Coach saddlebag from the early 80s. It can hold roughly the same quantity of stuff as the brown bag.

These bags indicate roughly what I carry around on the weekend. Basic stuff.

You've seen my work bag. Here is the edited content's of said bag's stomach.

I say edited because frequently there will also be a couple of newspapers, a magazine, some shoes if I've changed from my heels, spare pantyhose, a piece of fruit, teabags, a cardigan, a bottle of water, several biros of dubious heritage and probably some more lippies in amongst the partly digested contents.

This morning I sat mooching on the bus, crushed under the weight of my handbag, admiring all the women I could see standing at the bus stop down in Annandale. And then I saw her, a tall woman wearing a wonderful combination of black, grey and cream, artfully fossicking for her bus ticket in a handbag. A plain black vintage handbag of modest dimensions, a bag like any number of bags I have stashed on shelves and in cupboards. Ms Black-Greycream was carrying a regular sized bag as her handbag.

After all these years of lugging my giant bags, it occured to me right there that I want what she's having. I want to carry a regular sized bag to work. A smallish bag with the basic necessities. No newspapers, no pantyhose, no freakishly large apples, no extraneous lippies.

I plan to do it tomorrow. I will be the unencumbered cool drink of water up the back of the bus, neat handbag on her knee, travelling on her bare necessities. What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Far from the saddening fruit

Over at Sal's there is an interesting discussion about age appropriate dressing that has struck deep at the heart of many bloggers. Many of the daily-wear posts have addressed the topic with close reference to what they are wearing today. I'm going to do the same but first I want to draw attention to a mandarin that is breaking my heart:

I ate one of its relatives today, or at least tried to, only to end up with a mouth full of tense squirting flesh that tasted of stewed knitting. I left this mandarin where I can keep an eye on it but I don't know that I'm actually going to trust it enough to eat it.

I'm glad we've got that out of the way. Now, clothes.

I am very fond of my workhorse clothes and accessories. I've already shown you my current work bag and one of my favourite pendants; today I present the dress I will invariably don when I feel & look like I have been eating bowling balls or when my skin is the colour of ash and infection or when I am running twenty minutes late or when I need to look capable and when I want to be comfortable but still wear a rather nice frock.
This is from Jaeger in London. It's made from a beautiful silk jersey, has very empowering shoulders and deep pockets that keep safe pens, stray business cards and some life saving almonds. I bought this dress the same day I bought my red Bayswater. I wear this dress so frequently even my drycleaner recognises it. The only thing I don't like about it is that I didn't buy two for that one day this one will disintegrate from the constant wear it endures.

I love Jaeger for a number of reasons, not the least being it's where Sylvia Plath went shopping when her benefactor sent her a cheer-up cheque after Ted Hughes & she separated. Jaeger is the one label I believe addresses the needs of a woman of any age with complete respect. There is no patronising advertising, no shrill dresses designed for one type of excitable teenager, no dowdy hide-me clothes that are so often manufactured for women who have a few decades under their Celine belt and no fuss made of the fact that their clothes will suit & delight women of any age. Also, they use fabulous fabrics and are not afraid of the big button.

Finally, my learned friend who kindly took the Jaeger dress photograph suggested that I feature too many feet in my posts. It smacks, he hinted, at a sort of foot obsession. He is of course right. Here are his:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So much love and it's everywhere

Isn't this fabulous? Its my uber-stylish friend Nat who was married on the Saturday just gone. The dress is Chanel, the tights are Wolford and ...

...her phenomenal shoes are Pierre Hardy. It was a wonderful wedding, although Saturday was an unseasonably cold day for Sydney in October. I had to re-think my wardrobe entirely and alas, did not wear my orange dress.

Instead I wore a pearl colored Armani dress and a velvet coat I got in the Salvation Army on Third Avenue for ten dollars last March. My partner in crime wore his Good Suit. He had been very busy decorating the car (which was used to transport the gorgeous bride to the ceremony).

While he measured white ribbon, much industry was being undertaken in our bathroom.

It was all very lovely. We had both had fiendishly busy weeks and usually our Saturday mornings are filled with chores, exhaustion or, in the worst case scenario, more work. Driving out to a heritage harbour homestead and watching a simple and very meaningful wedding ceremony was a lovely tonic. The ceremony was beautiful and the food included fish and chips (which I haven't shut up about. They were glorious.) Best of all, the wedding cake wasn't big and lumpy and marzipan infested but small and dainty and festooned with stars:
The bride made them all herself, the day before the wedding! She said they helped keep her calm. Another lovely feature of the wedding was Mary's shoes:

Aren't they fabulous? Mary is a friend of the groom and she bought these shoes for the wedding. She wouldn't have been able to if I had seen them first. Nat's sister Nic also had some excellent shoes - a pair of Chie Maharas that she snapped up on sale for 75% 0ff.

I cried during the ceremony because true love and kindness always makes me cry. While I reached for my hankie I thought how every couple's wedding is their own personal history that they share with their friends and family. Everyone's is different. What is the best wedding you've been to? If you're married, what's was your wedding like? Was there cake?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wishes being fishes

I'm 90 and I've been worn once. My fabric came in a large paper parcel from England; I sat on the docks of Sydney in the heat in February and was loaded on a train that took me out to a town where everything smelt of coal. The seamstress who made me was rough; the girl I was made for didn't want to wear me. "I'd rather white!" she whined in her rough voice, "White or cream but not this ugly orange!"

The seamstress smelt of cloth and unspun wool and was rougher still when the girl whined. She disregarded the measurements on purpose so that when it came time to be worn I could barely stretch over the girl's head. "She's made it all wrong, the stupid thing, it's too tight!" the girl whined to her mother and sister. "But you look lovely, Dot," her mother assured her, "the colour really suits you."

It didn't. I drained all the tone from her pale skin and made her soft rat brown hair dull. Her mother smiled with tight lips and tried to compensate, dabbing some violet water behind the girl's ears. "Ew, it stinks," the girl whined but I liked it, savouring the thin scent that sank into my fibres.

I was made for a dance but it rained and the celebration in the local Town Hall never really started. Only a few young people came. One man followed the girl around, from corner to wall to corner. "I love your orange dress, Dorothy," he told her but she was uninterested. "Is Morrie coming?" she asked the man but he said no, Morrie was gone down to Sydney. "D'yer wanna dance?" She walked away, pretending not to hear and he grabbed me, tearing my tiny pleats. He frightened us both.

When we got home the girl told her mother that Morrie had gone to Sydney. I could taste resignation on her salty poorly washed skin. It was a relief for us both when she jammed me a box and slid it under her bed.

She got me out a few times over the years and showed me to some little girls. "That's dress I wore the first time I danced with your daddy," she'd tell them and they'd smile, feeling my embroidered hem as if I might be magic. It's so pretty, they'd tell their mother and she'd agree but when the little girls lost interest she'd slide me back into the dark.

It was dark until last year and I found myself handed over to a woman in a stall full of dresses in a huge market in the same Town Hall, the same room where they had the dance decades before. I hung amongst other unwanted dresses, most of whom had been in the dark for a long time too.

Dozens of hands passed over me but no one looked until some pale fingertips rubbed my fabric, gently lifted me out to and stared shrewd-eyed at my colour. She bought me straight away and took me home to soak the dirt of age out of my fabric, hung me to breath deeply in the fresh air outside. The next seamstress who handled me gently sewed up my tear and made a gentle cut at my neck. Now I fit over the new head with the help of a tiny shell button.

On Saturday we stared at our reflection in the mirror. I'm clean and fresh and my fabric looks new. The man here peered around the door and smiled. "Is that for the wedding?' he asked and she nodded. "You like?"

"I do," he said. "The colour really suits you."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My moon's in Cancer too

Weekends without too many plans are my favourite. I'm able to spend the free time doing a whole raft of largely unsatisfying chores that will invite a relatively trouble free week - reading all the papers, six loads of washing, the resultant ironing, buying the groceries, making my lunch for the week:
And if you make a good list and stick to it, you have time for to play too. On Saturday I had lunch with a friend who has the best sense of humour, but not before I went to a flea market where I paid twenty dollars to take possession of this:

It's an English Waldybag. It has the most beautiful enamel clasp, and is made from a delicately embroidered satin:

Waldybags were very popular during the 1940s and 1950s. They even had a Royal warrant. This is my third Waldybag and my smallest. Kate kindly agreed to help illustrate the bag's dainty dimensions.

The same market provided two very handy old ceramic bowls, both of which were made in local potteries in the 1950s. They minded the more savoury ingredients for this week's lunch.

It was a great weekend. Everything was in colour, and everything was finished. The week ahead is packed with a whole raft of dreary tasks, meetings and things that will never be finished on time but at least I'll be doing them in clean ironed clothes. And let's not forget lunch.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Allies with wings

Yesterday A-Dubs over at In Professorial Fashion posted details of an upsetting encounter she had with a bully. I thought about it a lot today. All of us have had these encounters and can cope with them. Still, I think we'd all admit too that, grown up and scary as we are, they upset us more and for longer than we think they should.

It is my fervent hope that one day it will be all men will ensure that women are not subjected to violence or bullying, not just the men who campaign against violence with us now. Until then, I reckon we need to get this woman on our side:

Here's a close up. You can see she means business.
I don't know her name, or who sculpted her. I can tell you she stands outside a hotel in Melbourne, Australia, and pedestrians become meek when they pass her. I love her and am comforted by the thought that she might intervene in any situation where a man was threatening a woman. I like to think that once she's chased him off (just a few flaps of those awesome wings should do it) she could throw her medicine ball after him.

She brings me great comfort - she looks like she's on our side. Do you know who this wonderful woman is? Any clues or guesses would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It would have to be silk

We had this for dessert at Sunday lunch at my house. I want a dress in these colours.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Are we there yet? Five more to go.

The last post was rather dense with text so I thought I'd break this one up with some photos. Not related photos mind, but pleasant enough, I hope.

Here's my work bag:

She's a red Mulberry Bayswater. I bought her in London two years ago. She is a workhorse and a lady. Probably the only other things I need to confirm here is yes, I have a white squirrel on my window sill at work and no, my desk isn't always that tidy.

And back to my top ten stylish people:

6. Sharon Giles. Sharon was in my year at school and I am certain she - or at least a girl like Sharon - was in your year too. Sharon was pretty, slender and wholesome, a good sports woman and competent student and the owner of the most envied wardrobe in our year. Sharon, I think, was the first person I knew who had true individual style: she wore black jeans with white singlets and black sandshoes years (decades!) before Kate Moss, she wore long floral dresses with short pale socks, cobalt Mary Janes and her father's brown v-neck jumper (it look fantastic) and in summer, loose Thai fisherman's pants with little coloured vests she bought in the kids' section of a department store. She moved in and out of different trends, tried them on, picked out what worked for her and moved on. We all copied her slavishly and one by one, the lucky ones amongst us learnt that what worked on the Sharons of the world didn't necessarily work for us. I like to think I got my early sense of style - and a willingness to experiment - from Sharon. I don't know what happened to her but wherever she is I bet everyone's saying, "Love your dress! Where did you get it?"

7. The lady in hospital who I'll call Rachel. She was in her eighties and ran a huge clothing business in Sydney. Rachel was born in Germany and her family had been very fortunate to escape Berlin in the late 1930s. She was only a wee thing when they did. Even though I only knew Rachel the few days we shared a hospital ward, and we only ever saw each other in our nighties and dressing gowns, I learnt very quickly that she was a LADY. Not prissy and sour, mind, but well mannered, intelligent, courteous and very well groomed. She had the most beautiful feet I have ever seen - dainty and smooth with ten pearly little nails. She talked at great length about different outfits she had worn in her life and recommended that I, about to start my working life in earnest, buy a suit and discussed quite gravely with me the importance of ironing all my clothes weekly. Nothing makes you look older than rumpled clothes, she warned. I think she's right. I still love suits and the weekly ironing has become one of my favourite rituals.

8. The brown dress girl: she got my bus to work the other day. She wore a plain brown jersey dress, a wide gold belt, black snub nose pumps with preposterously high heels and carried a big squashy clutch. It had obviously been a frazzling morning for her because she had rushed to catch the bus and her hair was a little too mussy to be deliberate. She looked great and smelt of roses.

9. Franca was one of the senior librarians in my first serious grown-up job. She was the daughter of an Italian diplomat, spoke five languages and had studied at Cambridge and the Sorbonne. She met an Australian teacher on a train in London and left her large world willingly to come and be his love in a small Sydney beach suburb. Her sister, despairing Franca's self imposed penury, sent huge care parcels of clothes from Milan every season. Needless to say, Franca always looked superb. She favoured graceful blouses tucked into sunray pleat silk skirts, a scarf around her neck, rigidly lacquered hair and a very wide swipe of thick jammy lipstick. Her shoes (also from her sister) were very high heeled pumps, dull and severe but beautiful quality. Her perfume was Ma Griffe, which translates as my style, my stamp.

10. Tia at the markets. All of us, the faithful little flea-marketing band in Sydney, have seen Tia. Her creamy, straight-out-of-a-movie 'fifties style is legendary. My jaw drops every time I see her, not only because she wears such incredible outfits but because her hair and make-up, picture perfect as it is, must take hours yet Tia, like all good flea-marketers, is prowling the stalls at sunrise. Usually Tia is in tight waisted, full skirted dresses but once I saw her in wide legged dark denim jeans, a red gingham blouse that matched her lipstick exactly and a her white blonde hair in a slung high in a perfect pony tail. You don't need me to tell you that it was tied with a red bow. It would have been just another one of Tia's great looks but this time Tia was accompanied by a little boy (her son? Nephew? Neighbour?), a little boy in dungarees, a checked shirt, red sneakers and the most perfect brylcreem cowlick ever combed into place on a little boy's head. He held Tia's hand and looked amongst the stalls with her. They were great mates what ever their relationship and Tia, I thought that morning, took out the random Stylish Person's cup by turning a young companion in to an endearing fashion accessory.

And to soothe you after that huge parcel of text, here's the Oberon Valley as seen high up on the Duckmoloi Road. I was out there last week:
And here's how I recover from a heavy dose of blog: