Monday, January 31, 2011

The dead will quietly bury the living

It's hot! It's that time of year when offices are actually pleasant places to be - the air conditioning is so cool and dry. 

A small portion of my brain melted today and sadly it was the portion I use to remember my blog photographing obligations. Thus I have no photo of me in a plain black dress that is only marginally different from the other plain black dresses I wear so frequently on a Monday. 

I can, however, tell you what I wore with the plain black dress: 
A Burberry hair clip and English Wedgwood earrings. I bough the hair clip (and in fact another in a rounder, fatter shape) at a sale in David Jones about five years ago. I'm not usually one for this kind of extravagance, but it was my birthday, I had the requisite cash and besides, I'd never had a new really posh hair clip. Also, I had recently acquired a pink silk Burberry scarf; I thought it might be witty to wear the two together. I never have. 

The earrings are part of a range Wedgwood used to release annually. They are Jasper ware, set in sterling silver and stamped with the year they were made (1974). I have lots of Wedgwood jewellery, all from flea markets and eBay. These earrings are my favourite. Vintage earrings for pierced ears are always a find. As you'd know, earrings are the item of jewellery most likely to go missing so it's unusual to find a pair. If you do, and you really like them, they're worth the investment. 

This was my scent for today. It's a very thin, pale scent, quite powdery and flowery like the scent you might catch from an old lady's dressing table. It's perfect for the summer and still smells fresh at the end of the day. 

My melted brain portion is slowly reconstituting so I can let you in on a sneak preview of what I'll be wearing tomorrow: 

Isn't she the prettiest piece of blue glass you've seen a long time? I bought her on Etsy and she arrived today. She's not marked but is polishing like silver, so I'm thinking she's Russian silver (that's 800 as opposed to 925 sterling silver).  She makes her debut tomorrow, possibly with a blue jersey dress, a lot of sunblock and sunglasses as the temperature inches up to around 36 degrees Celsius. 

I might also strap some ice packs to my head. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Then we'll put our dark glasses on

It's been a very hot weekend. 

I still haven't finished packing. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Filling in the missing paint-by-numbers colours

Some days are more satisfying than others. Today was a very unsatisfying day. 

No matter. I fixed it up with a plate of Vietnamese noodles tonight, and then tweaked it with a handful of chocolate, a copy of Lucky and two re-runs of Law and Order. ("You have the right to remain silent." That's a very powerful suggestion. Sometimes I'd like to Miranda people on my bus in the morning. But that's a another matter.) 

I'm continuing my therapy this weekend with the application of a favourite handbag and earrings: 

Note: they're both blue. The earrings are cordierite, or water sapphires. In fact they have nothing to do with sapphires and I'm not sure what irresponsible person dubbed them thus. They're pretty stones regardless, a sort of blue-violet colour. When people ask about them I always get confused and say "They're water chestnuts" which might explain why I don't have many friends. 
The bag is by Anya Hindmarch and was an eBay score. I stalked it for weeks until the price came down. It's perfect for the weekend - pleasant colour, lots of room yet not distracting. 

What was distracting today was the humidity.  I dressed in a plain Jigsaw dress and some Aerosoles shoes I forgot I owned - they were hiding up the back of the back of my wardrobe and were only discovered as I hunted for a pair of red shoes I thought I had (turns out I didn't, unless they're hiding too). And yes, the Mulberry bag which is turning out to be one of my most faithful accessories.  My outfit photo shows me at the end of the day , worn down by the heavy moist air and a head full of curls that will take no direction at all.  I intended the photo to be a sort of a redeeming, explanatory epilogue of the rather unpleasant day but the phone rang and ... well, see for yourself: a woman who needs understanding and a plate of Vietnamese noodles if ever there was one. 
I love the colour of the shoes. They don't really go with anything yet work with everything. 

Perhaps that could be my motto. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

True love could have been a contender

Here are some things I thought about today: 

1. I really have to cut back on the black dresses. 

2. Tomorrow I should wear that white dress with the enamel brooch. 
3. It would be wrong to have brown rice sushi for lunch again.

4. I should have bought those shoes with the grosgrain ribbon and glass beads at the Salvation Army last Saturday. 

5. I wish people would send me messages via mental telepathy rather than email. 

6. If not brown rice sushi, what could I have for lunch? 

 7. There'll be times enough for fried potato snacks in America. Salads are my friend. 

8. Actually, America! I'll be there soon. What are the chances I'll find a bag like Nat's Kate Spade beauty? 
9. Oh! I have the gym tonight. Salad and cheese! 

10. Why can't I grow roses? Do you need a rose gene to be able to grow them? Can the young plants sense I'm scared of them and then die from fear of my rose-ineptitude? 
11. This day is going more slowly than it should. It's as if midday got caught on a fence post and can't move forward. 

12. My life would be a whole lot better if they made Sunshine Lemon laundry liquid for front loaders. Who could I petition about that? 
13. I'm scared of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. It's going to be like Sacre Coeur but perhaps worse, because I won't be able to sit down to cower in fear. 
14. The Rose Bowl flea market is going to be special. What are the chances I will find the matching cast-iron rabbit? 
15. Oh! An invite to the Consultation thingy. I love those guys. Accept!  

16. What should I blog about tonight? 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Everything sold (to me) is blue again

Blue is not really my colour. I can get away with teal occasionally and sometimes look refreshed in pale blue, but for the most part shades of blue do nothing for me. I mean that literally - grey marle makes me look corpse like, red makes me look as if I'm about to combust and take several suburbs with me, black makes me look cranky - but when I wear blue, nothing happens. I just disappear. 
Having said that, I love this dress. 

It's a piece of silk-cotton polka dot loveliness by local designer Anna Thomas. I found it reduced and reduced and reduced at a sale, and bought it despite the fact it was two (count 'em) sizes too big and navy blue. The size problem is evident at my waist where the best intentions of a belt are thwarted. I don't care. It's soft and light and very comfortable for a day in the office. 

In fact, I liked it so much that when I found a matching blouse from the same range at the same sale (also too big) I bought it too. 

What surprises me is how the colour doesn't ignore or despise me. I've had this relationship with blue lately. We seem to be getting on a little better and subsequently it is worming its way into my wardrobe and affections. 

That's the trapeze dress I hauled back from the seventies last week. She made her 21st century debut with a Petit Bateau tank, a Liberty bag and a pair of preposterous Birkenstocks in - you guess it - 

blue. Though to be fair there is a goodly amount of silver mesh in there too. May I also add that I love having lavender toenails. 
Oh, and before I forget, wearing blue does allow some exciting shoe leeway. I wore the Ferragamos with the Anna Thomas dress: 
Both parties were very happy with the arrangement. 
Sydney sagged in the heat today, about 36 degrees Celsius' worth of melting. (For those of you tuning in from the Fahrenheit regions, that's about 98). Amidst oppressive heat and humidity, I packed my bag for the US.  It's difficult to guess exactly what I'll be needing in San Francisco in February. All the books say layers, all the people who've been there say a coat. I'd be grateful for any clues. 
But look: six dresses, four pairs of leggings, eight pairs of opaque tights, three long sleeve t-shirts and some light silk knit vests ...
...all in one standard carry-on case. Moral of the story: The more you travel, the better you pack and the more shopping you can put in your big check-in luggage. 
Seriously though - San Francisco, Nevada, Los Angeles, February: not as cold as New York, no? A scarf and a trench coat should keep me warm - or not? 

It doesn't even have a name

The news is on in the background.
They say a prisoner escaped,
Slipped through a hole in the the
Fence, piteously dressed for winter.
You shouldn’t approach him. Part
Of me fears the felon who held
A blade at a teenager’s throat while
He robbed the till, who threatened
A neighbour with a mallet. His
Eyes change colour when he needs a hit.

But part of me cheers him on.
We’ve all been caged, staked.
We’ve all been imprisoned by our
Own circumstances and relived
Our bad choices all days after. Who
In the field of their errors and spying
The smallest of holes wouldn’t squeeze their
Shoulders through that desperate exit and bolt
Through the frigid frost in bare feet? 

That's not thunder, that's a drum roll

...and it's for my favourite all time fashion book, The Cheap Date Guide To Style (Transworld Publishers, 2007, Kira Jolliffe and Bay Garnett).   You may remember Cheap Date, a clever, anti-fashion magazine that closed down a few years ago.   Cheap Date was (in my opinion) the precursor of the current raft of style-it-yourself manuals and guides, and one of the earliest magazines to feature vintage clothes styles with more expensive new pieces. 

This book is a joy - a great big dressing up trunk full of ideas and suggestions. It's not about buying ten key pieces or a whole raft of new garments in a specific palette.  There's no rules and no strict themes. You'll find a variety of women (Princess Anne, Marianne Faithful, Beth Ditto, Jane Russell, Patty Smith Tracey Emin and  Sophie Dahl to give you an idea) a variety of interviews and a wide cross section of ideas presented in a very low key way. It's like hunting around a flea market, looking for the bits that suit you best. I browse this book often and always close the covers feeling stasified. 

Surprise: Amelia Earhart had great style (I want jodhpurs)
Verdict: Intelligent fashion writing by two intelligent fashion writers. My pick of the bunch. Its out of print but there are lots of copies on Amazon. You won't regret it.  

So that's what I think. 

Tomorrow is a national public holiday which I intend to celebrate by sleeping in, mooching, packing for my upcoming holiday and possibly by taking a late afternoon swim, depending on the weather and my motivation. 

And my blue dress. You should really become acquainted with my blue dress. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Now where were we?

In the middle of a pile of books, if I remember correctly. 

"How to Have Style" (Gotham Books, 2008) is designer's Isaac Mizrahi's first fashion book. He chooses 12 very different women and styles them each according to their tastes, lifestyle and physical appearance. One of the nicest aspects of the book is the inspiration board he asks each woman to construct, and he uses this s a guide in choosing and styling the outfits. It's a lovely book, very warm and a surprisingly good read. I bought this as a treat when I was in New York last year and ended up reading it three times cover to cover before I got home. He has a nice touch, does Isaac, and a genuine affection for each woman he styles. 

Surprise: How much the inspiration boards assist in assessing the women's style. 
Verdict: A very helpful book. 

The jury is always out on Trinny and Susannah - it seems half the world hates them and the other half adores them. Personally, I think they are very clever business women and believe they paved the way for women's interests to be represented and expanded in popular culture (television particularly). Who do You Want to be Today (Orion 2008) is my favourite of their dozen or so books; I've chosen it because of the beautiful layout (the type and art direction are great) and because it encourages you to try all kinds of styles when most fashion books suggest you pick a look and stick with it. Like Isaac, they use a series of every day women (four to be exact) and use each as models for the twelve different types of looks they've devised. The results go along way to encouraging you to try a different look; for example, Rosamund in her late fifties is a beautiful androgynous look, while later in the book she is perfectly styled in boho garb. Inspiration boards are apparently the new black - each of the twelve looks includes an inspiration board and there is a pleasing attention paid to to the use of accessories. 
Surprises: How easy it is to switch from one look to another. 
Verdict: Would be a valuable tool for inspiration or rejuvenation. 

The oldest book in my stash is More Dash than Cash (Hutchison 1982, part of the Vogue franchise) and was written by UK journalist Kate Hogg. The book concentrates on building a wardrobe from all kinds of sources, not just department stores and chain stores. Nothing new now but a very outre view back then.  The photos are dated in some instances, as is the style advice (I can guarantee you I would never consider wearing a pink tutu as a party frock) but no doubt it was all cutting edge three decades ago. Still, most of the pictures are fascinating and there is some useful advice (for example, the hemline of a skirt  is always more important than the shape - find your right length and you're set for life. She's right, you know!) It's a nice archive and a pleasant way to wile away a rainy afternoon with a pot of tea.
Surprises: That the classics really haven't dated at all. 
Verdict: Put the kettle on and grab some bickies.  

And like all slightly compulsive persons, I'm leaving my favourite until last. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Before you know it, it's a habit

On week nights I like to read my serious books at my desk. I sit sideways, feet up, furrowed brow at at a biography or weeping openly at Seamus Heaney.  On Sundays I read the weekend papers at the kitchen counter, often in between toast and sorting the washing, sometimes as a combination of all three. Sometimes at night I read novels in bed until my shoulders feel like lead and I can't keep my eyes open. 
On Friday night I like to sit on the couch in my pyjamas (read: a scrappy nightie), glug water from a bottle and re-read favourite fashion books while we watch re-runs of Law and Order. ("Objection!" "Over ruled!" is one of my favourite exclamations.) 
If you too would like to adopt some aspects of my sloth, here is the first installment of a collection my favourite fashion books. 

I'll address each tome in no particular order. 

I Love Your Style (Amanda Brooks, Harper Collins 2009) is the most recent. The book is divided into ten themes (Vintage, Classic, Eclectic and so forth) which are split into three more sections (definable style, indefinable style and shopping.) It's logical but not necessary - the text and illustrations are so absorbing you'll soon be interpreting the material at your own pace and noting it against your own style. The author opens with an detailed chapter on her style and continues this personal approach to all her varied topics and explanations.  Ms Brooks relies heavily on the personal style of a muesli of women, some expected, others overlooked for decades: Marlene Dietrich, Kate Moss, Margherita Missoni, TV presenters, rock stars. It's warm, accessible and the illustrations are inspiring. It's a good book for those of us (probably most of us) who have a wardrobe full of interesting things and would like some stimulus to set us re-styling and reinventing.  
Surprises: There are lots, not least the three shots of a teenage Jodie Foster circa late 1970s looking very preppy chic. 
Pleasures: You'll frequently find the same woman under different headings, proving it's not so much what you wear as the way that you wear it. 
Verdict: If you only buy one fashion book in your lifetime ... 

The Parisian Woman's Guide to Style (Virginie and Veronique Morana, Universe 1999). Disclaimer: I love France. Each time I visit I am more besotted with every baguette crumb, every awning, every rose at every florist, every little well groomed dog that struts by me on a leash, every French person and every perfectly curled vowel of the beautiful language. And yes, I love their style and I love their clothes.  This book is not a manual as much as an explanation - how one suit can last a lifetime, how you can wear one colour head to toe and look phenomenal, how to acquire the few basics that French women rely on season to season. It's written, styled and modelled  by a mother and daughter team who sell their jewellery in one of the posh parts of Paris; their advice and insights are friendly and provide a good understanding how Parisian women manage to look great all the time. Personally I think you have to be French and live in France in order to have their advice work for you one hundred per cent, but you'll still pick up some interesting pointers with this book. 
Surprises: that Virginie and Veronique look like sisters. 
Pleasures: The feminine, refined chapter on underwear (sorry, lingerie!) 
Verdict: Twelve years old but hardly dated (except for the chisel toe shoes). A lovely read, beautifully illustrated. 

Vogue Modern Styling - How to Achieve It (Charlotte Du Cann, Guild Publishing, 1988). I found this Vogue franchise publication in an op shop for two dollars. The illustrations are great and (with a couple of Gecko exceptions) very applicable today. Lots of shoulder pads to be sure, and lots of long limbed models, but the styling is great and the photos are lovely. You're probably not going to learn huge amounts from the text ("The Little Black Dress is the epitome of Gamine chic") but you will start thinking of how you might use a tuxedo jacket or re-think your application of floral skirts. The illustrations I've used here are from a series  of colour plates in the centre of the book - most of the photos are in black and white but still very inspiring.
Surprises: The celebration of English eccentric dressing. 
Verdict: A nice picture book to enjoy with crumpets and checked jarmies. 

So that's three - tomorrow night I'll conclude with three more and possibly a big finale for my all-time favourite. Meanwhile, checkout the English rose on the right - I've never wanted to thread my hair with bracken so badly as when I gaze at that picture. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Little by little, glance by glance

It's not been my favorite day. Yesterday I wore high heels for the first time this year and today the muscles in my legs feel like they have been crocheted from barbed wire.  This evening my head remembered the whole migraine thing (Oh! That's right! We do this five time a month!) so I have another one. This rendered the gym impossible. 

And I don't like today's clothes. They seemed fine when I left the house but by mid-morning I felt squat and misshapen: 

It's the shirt, I think. It's a little too stiff and to date is not acting a like a white shirt should.  When I was getting ready for work  I was hellbent on a plain, unobtrusive outfit and wavered between a number of blouses. I should have gone with first choice, a diaphanous grey silk thing with splats of weeny flowers. 

My learned friend took the photo in the one section of my office that is not festooned with newspapers and files. The trousers and the shirt are from Jigsaw and the jacket is Veronica Maine, working overtime in this warm Summer week. The shoes are obscured and that's probably for the best - they are not yet dead but certainly coughing blood and won't be around much longer. They are, however, sublimely comfortable for someone whose legs are filled with barbed wire. 

It wasn't all bad though - there were good bits today as well. A writer friend took me to lunch and regaled me with wonderful stories. I ticked a large number of tedious tasks off my to-do list. The sun was shining, everyone outside seemed to be in the best of moods. 

And when I sat down to blog, dinner was prepared and presented with grace and humility. 

Brown rice and vegetables with a keyboard garnish. Bliss. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I thought they were gone forever

Most people would agree that fashion is a cycle. There is no need to be outraged or nervous that jumpsuits or long skirts have reared their hipster heads recently  - all styles and shapes have been in our wardrobe before and will no doubt come back again in our lifetimes, just like a Saturn return which I believe occurs about every thirty years. 

What we should be really happy about is that fabrics are now soft and wearable. 

On Monday I travelled to a rural city and stumbled across an amazing vintage and collectibles store. I was hurrying to my first meeting but spied a rack of clothes up the back. It took me a few seconds to check it out and while I was appreciative, there was nothing there for me. 

As I was leaving the nice man at the counter said, "There's more clothes upstairs!" Be still my thumping heart. 

Three meetings and one business lunch later, but with a good sixty minutes before my train was due, I rushed upstairs. There were certainly more clothes. 

Seven full racks, to be precise. Now the harsh Australian sun has cast a very bright glow on all my pictures, but I'm pretty certain you will still be able to feel the crackle of polyester and acrylic as you peruse these highlights. 

It was an amazing collection of clothes and all very reasonably priced. I was surprised how many were made in Australia. I'd forgotten that we'd once had a thriving textile and clothing industry. Who amongst the Skippies remembers Exacto tshirts? They'd been erased from my memory, replaced by schedules, Petit Bateau and to-do lists, yet I found one here on rack number three. The other pleasing observation was how many, like the startling gunmetal lame number above, were homemade.  Before Net-a-porter and eBay, home made dresses and hand embroidery were staples in the well-dressed country girl's wardrobe. 

I bought some silk scarves ...

...and a wonderful denim trapeze dress with gingham trim, straight out of 1976 and still singing Maxine Nightingale songs.  She (the dress) is having a bath as we speak but I hope you can meet her soon. 

My own choice of clothes was decidedly less obvious and largely cotton, a blessing considering the heat and that I had to sit on a train for a total of seven hours.  

The silk top and cotton jacket are both Veronica Maine while the jeans are very sedate meeting-appropriate J Brand. The long journey allowed me to read all three papers and spy a lot of local birds. Mountain lowries and black cockatoos are glorious but my favourite bird was on the red acrylic skirt that you can see in full in the above photo. Here's a detailed shot for any lurking ornithologists.  

 Chain stitch! I haven't seen that for...well, since the seventies. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Greetings from Planet Bork

The good news is I got some great scarves yesterday while on a business trip. The bad news is I get migraines and I have one tonight.  Please forgive me the lateness of my post and forgive me again if the blog becomes unintelligible. 

The migraine is unexpected. I used to get several a month but lately it appeared my body forget this because I haven't been afflicted since November.  No reason, though, for you not to see my latest photos. My rather splendid spouse offered to take the Saturday shots; I agreed on the condition he make me look like Charlotte Rampling circa 1982. "But you already do," he said without cracking a smile. 

 Simple Saturday clothes: Levis 504s - pennies on eBay, cotton crochet tunic - on the $29 dollars rack at Sportsgirl, Jacquetta bag by Mulberry and purchased in London, 2007, Birkenstocks via eBay. 

I especially love the bag. It is quite the warhorse and has many scars but it has maintained its marvelous milky-plum colour. 

You may also notice I'm wearing some jewellery, or in fact guessed that I'm wearing jewellery because I always do. 

I'm rather devoted to dress clips and have been known to clip them to any garment. I also set old clip-on earrings to work in the same way. 

The pendant is rather special too - a whole chain of little silver roses from the early twentieth century and a very clever silversmith: 
And here's a scoop - I've found where the 1970s went and will present proof tomorrow. Hint: they're pretty close to here: 

I'll show you the scarves too.