Monday, February 28, 2011

The nomination for the two blackest dresses

I woke up this morning wondering what colour patchouli lipstick might actually be. Patchouli is a very dark oily colour but this lipstick is much more gentle and very wearable. 

I'd already allocated my day's worth of mental elasticity to the lipstick so had to make my wardrobe choices quick and easy, which is code for black: 
The dress is from Gap on Rodeo Drive (you have no idea how much the irony of that pleases me), the tights are from Wolford and the shoes are from Aldo (and part of my most recent haul).  

The pendant is from a vintage clothing store in Haight-Ashbury. My learned friend, who has now what can only be described as a free range lens farm,  has managed to create a photo that appears to have been shot in daylight but is in fact in my office. I don't know how he did that. 

Nat was out in solidarity with me in black, but more as a sartorial nod to the Oscars. Her dress is Marc Jacobs, the tights are Wolford too and the shoes are Chie Mahara. 

I came back to 812 emails. By the time I left this evening I had it down to 33. Email is no doubt one of the great enhancements to modern business but not so much as the delete key. 

And on the way home, we planned our next trip for (hopefully) January. Same hemisphere, different country. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

All this, and so much more

The warning signs that the holiday is over are all here - my lunch is packed, I've ironed my clothes and got my shoes on stand by. 

This final weekend was spent in the nicest way on my stamping ground. I started with a pedicure. 

On Saturday evening we went to the Rugby Union.  This might not mean much to those of you in the Americas. It looks like this: 

And there are hot chips. For the locals may I add that this household is a proud Waratah household. I don't dress up for the games...

... but I always carry a special bag. This week it was a particularly favourite vintage Gucci. 
I have a bit of a vintage Gucci bag collection. If anyone is interested, please make your feelings known and I will do a dedicated post on them. In fact it would, in this immediate vicinity at least, be deemed a public service if you let me rabbit on for a few paragraphs. 

I also ate a lot of no-fat Greek yoghurt, which I enhance with sultanas. It is quite a delicate procedure: you tip the sultanas into the yoghurt, stir them and then refrigerate the pot for about twelve hours. The yoghurt is ready to eat when the sultanas have restored themselves to grape-like proportions and are cracking the surface of the yoghurt in their plumpness. 
You arm yourself with a spoon, tell anyone who's listening "I'm just going to have a couple of spoonfuls", then proceed to eat the entire pot. 

I am looking forward to seeing my learned friends tomorrow and trust Nat will be ready to delight me with an outfit like this, which she wore on Friday. 

Those are Marni sunglasses. I believe the trousers Marc Jacobs and the boots are Sergio Rossi. 

It's been a good break. I'm well rested and dazzled by the happy wardrobe choices before me over the next few weeks. I'm already planning the next holiday because I think life should be a series of anticipated events and happy memories, like this one. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Who buys this stuff?

Finally - I finished unpacking. There was a lot of stuff. I wondering if perhaps I didn't clear out Zara's entire US inventory, including this very interesting silk top  which I bought in Hollywood. I tried it on because I was genuinely curious to see how the ridiculously small hem would fit around the tops of my thighs. 

Turns out it doesn't - it drapes around your waist! This causes a lovely, pleated flowing effect in the prettiest colours. So, when people look at me on the street, they won't be privately judging my cake-distended abdomen. Instead they'll say, "Saints save me, that doughnut-munching woman is wearing a cleverly constructed silk blouse in a divine botanical print and there are silk rosettes artfully placed over her right lung!" 
Which is exactly the kind of effect I hope for from my clothes. 

There was posh makeup too. 
You'll note the shade of one of those lippies is Patchouli. Here is a weird fact: I don't know what that colour is. There was no tester and I haven't opened it. I have saved it for a surprise on Monday morning when I have to go back to work. I will be wearing Patchouli lipstick on Monday (unless it turns out to be a grey-sludge kind of colour, in which case the services of the reliable Jersey Road will be enlisted). 

There were a couple pairs of shoes too. 

Okay, twelve pairs of shoes. In my own defence can I say that my record is actually sixteen (London, 1998) and in any case we don't have Aerosoles in Australia. 

And more Zara blouses. This spotty number has a meeting scheduled with a charcoal pencil skirt next week. 
It has pintucks and spots, the two main requisites by me for work blouses. 

And there was a souvenir that I'm surprised wasn't confiscated by the Taste Police when we collected our stuff from the baggage carousel. 

The next time you're visiting a gift store in an exciting foreign city and wondering who actually buys this stuff, now you'll know: me. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

If the court pleases

This week has been a lovely one. I've unpacked very slowly, watched loads of washing dry in the warm Sydney sun, re-arranged my wardrobe, talked at length with my cat girls, dusted surfaces with extra care, read about life for young priests in their first year at a catholic seminary, found a handbag I thought I'd lost, run myself into a sweaty, aching, grateful mess at the gym and had breakfasts and lunches with friends I adore. And there were pancakes. 

I never get to do these good things during working weeks. 

But these pleasures come at a price - I've not been able to see what my friend and colleague Nat has been wearing. There are days I only go to work to see what Nat is wearing.  I've mentioned Nat before; she is an exceptionally accomplished lawyer, a creative soul who is blessed with exquisite dress sense and the most perfect taste. Yesterday she was in court and, in a sea of black robes and steel pinstripes, stood out like a hummingbird against a mob of starlings and not only because of her sharp mind. 

The Crown's submission: 
Black mohair blend Orla Kiely top with silver peter pan collar (from London) 
Marni silk skirt (from Harvey Nichols in London)
Jonathan Aston tights (London again)
Black Chie Mihara mary janes from eBay 
Not in shot but you can picture it: black Marc Jacob bag from NY.  

The photograph was taken by my other learned friend,  the Shillings staff photographer who is close to earning his royal warrant for services to keeping my blog illustrated and relevant. 

Ah, friends. Is there is anything in life quite so wonderful? Well, okay, that Marni skirt, but you know what I mean. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I've always liked that dress on you

She kept singing, in a preoccupied way, while she gave close attention to her lips and eyelashes. Then she was silent and held her breath as she drew on the new dress. It was good to her. There was a reason for the cost of those perfectly plain black dresses. She stood looking at herself in the mirror with deep interest, as if she watched a chic unknown, the details of whose costume she sought to memorize. 

- Dorothy Parker
The Lovely Leave

So tell me ... which fictional character's wardrobe do you admire? 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An absence of colour, all colours combined and chocolate

The was a time ( a very distant time) when I used to do a lot of interviews. These days I remember few details of any of them, but I do remember interviewing the colour consultant, mostly because she admired the colours I was wearing at the time and assumed to me that I had already "had my colours done." 

I had not - I was just wearing my favourite combination of work colours: black (skirt) cream (tee shirt) brown (jacket). I still wear this combination in blocks and am given to slight over-excitement when I see them combined. Now you understand why I bought this J Crew cardigan in Las Vegas ...

...and this vintage Carlos Fiori bag at the Alameda markets in San Francisco. 

 That Conan, a tireless retail associate at the Small World Books bookstore at Venice Beach, comes in my colours is a happy coincidence. I would have patted him what ever his colours but I can't stop thinking how good he'd look in my office when I'm wearing a black dress. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

That's going to need three coats

It takes a special kind of genius to leave the Southern Hemisphere summer and fly to the Northern Hemisphere winter without a coat. I am that genius: I remembered to pack hankies, four different shades of lipstick, six different dresses, two pairs of boots and eight pairs of tights but neglected to take a coat.

I realised my omission when we were flying over New Caledonia. Too late to rush back home and grab the trench I had set aside especially. 

However, San Francisco was sympathetic to me and put on the loveliest spring time weather for our first couple of days. This gave me time to re-group and concoct several reasons as to why I might need to get more than one coat.   

My first coat came from Old Navy. It was marked at fifty dollars but after the myriad of discounts that seem to be routine at American checkouts, it cost $29.40. It is the best $29.40 I have spent - this cotton coat with its big pockets, imposing zip, secure press stud fastenings and sliver of blue floral lining kept me warm, dry and looking a little mysterious for the whole trip. 
What's more, it is featured in this month's Real Simple. I love that magazine and spend an unnecessary amount of energy wishing my life would resemble the clean and uncluttered style that glows from every page. And now, of course. it does.  

 Coats became a bit of an obsession for me. At the J Crew outlet store I came across this lovely peach number and decided that if Scarlett O'Hara was alive today she'd probably want this coat. Or maybe not - frankly it made no difference to how much I liked it. It was marked down from $160 to $80 but again at the counter that amazing discount thing happened and it was mine for $39.00. 

I've included a shot of the interesting vertical pocket where I will be able to stash liquorice allsorts, bus tickets or incubate plovers' eggs. 

Both these wonderful garments are cotton, light weight and feature hoods. I hate carrying umbrellas so the hoods are a very important feature for me. 

The last coat is a trench from Target. It was made in China, perhaps by a gay machinist. The boat on which is shipped over was no doubt manned by some gay people and I'm certain that gay people worked at the loading dock and at the distribution and the trucking companies who helped get this garment in to the store to be sold to the wider community, all of whom invariably have contact with gay people every day and some of whom who are gay themselves. 

So I was  saddened to learn today that US Target funded a political campaign that subscribed to anti-GLBT sentiments. Not cool, Target. You sell great stuff and the staff that helped me in your stores could not have been more respectful or friendly. I hope in the future you'll remember all your staff, customers and the communities in which you operate when you buy into political campaigns. 

It's a great coat. Every time I wear it I'll be making a donation to the one of Sydney's gay charities, as well as sending positive vibes to US Target to re-think their views and value the equality of the hearts and passions of all the millions of people who are connected with their stores. 

And a big kiss and a bunch of lotus to Sydney's Gay and Lesbian community who will celebrate their Mardi Gras party on my birthday. I hope it's perfect for you all! 

It's the little things

Next to hearts, my favourite symbols are stars. I love starry skies, I love to see a starry brooch on a coat, I love to see stars doodled on message pads. 

I especially love finding them in thrift stores, like these large silver earrings from the Out of the Closet thrift store in Los Angeles. They were in a basket on the counter with some scrunchies, a couple of plastic bangles and a broken headband. True, they're not really my style, and they were very tarnished, but I picked them for silver and could see they were made by hand, probably from a sheet of silver rather than moulded. I gave them a good polish this morning and rather liked their emphatic celestial statement. Not one I'd make every day, to be sure, but one I enjoyed on a hot bright Sunday.

 Nearby on the same counter, there was a plastic dish filled with cheap jewellery. I found this brooch in amongst the clatter. 
I thought it was excellent value for a dollar and am fairly certain it will find itself pinned against white or navy blue clothes in the near future. 

The best op shops always have a box or bowl of those little touches that you'll wear for years. A couple days later in the Goodwill store in Culver Hill (maybe?) I spotted this old gem under the counter, biding its time amongst a range of pendants and necklaces. 

Yes, the enamel is chipped and the brass is dull, but the design is beautiful and the wear she's endured makes her all the more lovely to me. Eight dollars was a lot (well, based on her intrinsic value) but I know I'll never see another like her. I wasn't sure how I wear her but I knew I couldn't leave without her. She would, I was certain, add a touch of history and romance on something I own sooner or later. 

I love the little touches. Everyone has their own little touch in some area of their life - adding garlic salt to their minestrone, finishing their grooming with a swipe of creamy beige lipstick,  wrapping a present with two different coloured ribbons. In all the blogs I read, it is the little touches that intrigue and inform me most. 

Another thing I've learnt about on the US blogs is Target. We have Target here but not as our American cousins know it. Our Target is safe and reliable and its range is limited. Last year I enjoyed the Target Liberty pop up store in Times Square but this year I found giant Targets on a our little road trip and did some serious Target trawling. I was mesmerised by the quality and range US Target offers. I found lots of little touches there, including this : 

It's the perfect spotty Saturday bag for keeping safe sunglasses and purses while you haul a huge bag around for groceries and vegetables. Better still, it was very receptive to a little touch of its own. 

Brooch + spotty bag = nice touch. 

The American thrift stores were good to me. In St Matthews Thrift store in Santa Monica (well worth a visit: great range, extremely well priced) I found three silk scarves that cost me a total of $2.50. 

The drug stores were just as helpful. Walgreens offered me touches of two of my favourite cheap cosmetics. 
I love both these products - they render my skin and hair quite pleasant to the touch. 

While the holiday is still fresh for me, I have to say - home is good. It's been nice, unpacking everything, allocating the space in the wardrobe, sleeping in my own bed, making my own breakfast with my own special touches. 
I miss the side order of toast with grape jelly, and I really miss sweet potato fries, but my sister-in-law (an accomplished artist and fabulous cook) made sweet potato salad today that more than satisfied that craving. 

There's beetroot, carrot and beans in there too. The recipe is from Neil Perry's book, but the almonds are her idea. I thought they were a lovely touch. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Did you pack this luggage yourself?

There are many thousands of things I love about the US. I love their excellent roads (logical and well kept), I love their friendly and respectful citizens, I love the little tubs of raisins and brown sugar that accompany bowls of steel cut oats in diners and I love the colour and history that you can find with a little effort at every window, every truck stop, every corner. 

There are two things I wish I could bring home from home from the US and install here - the fabulous thrift stores and the Alameda Markets. 

We flew in yesterday and I, in a comforting shroud that can only be had after five Valium  (yes, five - I am a great person to sit next to on a plane, quiet and still) began to unpack. In my sweet unfocused haze, I thought you might like to see the vintage jewellery I collected on my travels. 

I'll focus today on my haul from the Alameda Markets. 

  It was all beautiful. Like this Czech pendant, Wedgwood brooch, amber glass brooch (that can also be worn as a pendant) and sash pin. 

Or this small carved plastic flower pin, or the gold lined brooch.  
Or these two glass Czech necklaces. 

Or this fabulous pair of matching glass brooches. They are bright and detailed and consequently hard to photograph but they are going to be so much fun to wear. 

It wasn't all rhinestones and clasps. There were many gorgeous dresses I had to leave behind, but did manage to find some light, easy to pack things, like  these four silk scarves. I am particularly in love with the zebra number. 
But not quite as in love as I am with this unbelievable creamy silk blouse from the forties. I believe this blouse was waiting for me. It was hiding under a pile of heavy table clothes and made itself known when I slipped my hand amongst the cloths, looking for silk. I bought it on spec without trying it on, and it fits like it was made for me. 
It is hand made, and even features tiny quilted removable shoulder pads. Look at the detailed sternum: 
Then this dress, which the dealer had marked for $60 but sold to me, for no reason I can discern, for thirty dollars. It's art silk, (hand wash! No drycleaning!) probably from the late forties, and is in perfect condition. She's a little roomy in the bosom, but nothing a good belt and fitted jacket can't fix. 
The dark patches you see on the chest area are two tiny beautifully smocked pockets. 
This little bark cloth bag is also hand made and cost me eight dollars. It has a split personality - meek and pastel...
... or crimson and dramatic. 
I like both. 

So that's one tiny corner of my luggage. Coming soon - Volume Two: the thrift shop hauls.