Thursday, March 31, 2011

No longer at ease here

Most days I like to believe (or at least delude myself) that I have chosen wisely for my workwear. Granted. my choices often advertise a vast lack of colour, but I work in a conservative office and sometimes in my line of work it pays to be invisible. 

Today I wore a vintage Roberto Cavalli skirt and it felt wrong from the moment I walked out the door. I used to wear it a lot a couple of winters ago; its light wool made it perfect for sunny winter days. 

Today it just annoyed me. 
And that's a pity, because it's a great skirt. I got it for four dollars at one of my favourite opshops and for a while it was my favourite building block for an outfit. The fabric is lovely, and the colour saturation of the print - red, green and black  - meant it would work with so many things. Also, it has pockets. I love pockets. I used to wear my pretty, practical skirt with light coloured knits over sheer blouses and tall black boots. Today I feel I let it down, and I think I let it down because it just doesn't interest me any more. 
 Thank God for blue glass necklaces with interesting silver clasps that one buys from champion barn pillagers in France. Like this one. 

I don't often actively call for comments but I am genuinely interested to learn if you are bored by this skirt too, or if it secretly delights you, or if you can think of another way I can wear it, or if you have a pot boiling over on the stove and the phone is ringing. 

Let me know! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Runcible spoons

Last night night my poor spouse woke at 1am, convinced it was 6am, and was not able to right the mess until 3am. This confused clockage has had me at odds with the world since I woke (at 6.20am). 

Thus today found me needing to dress simply and gently in clothes that I wouldn't be putting straight all day. None of this tugging at belts and smoothing down collars for me, not today. There is only one outfit that brings me such calm and it is a shift slipped over a light blouse. 

Make no mistake - I am besotted with shift dresses. 

Here is today's, the fine-value Target number which of course you have seen in a different, plainer carnation. 
The blouse is a lovely orphaned silk number I thrifted a few months ago. It's been stripped of its tags so I cant' tell you its heritage, but I can say it is silk and partial to a gentle handwashing. 
The crystals are both vintage from local vintage stores and the pendant is a was bought from Jigsaw in London, albeit hanging from a leather strong. I performed a chain transplant. 
And last night this was watching me while I soaked in the tub. 

I swear she is smiling at the camera. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hold the front page

Sydney, 29 March 2011

The unnecessary absence of the blogger Baxter Shilling has been explained.

"Basically I'm just busy and really disorganised," Baxter announced today. "I kept meaning to blog but got stuck in the office, then I had to unload the dishwasher, then I couldn't decide what to wear for nearly four hours .... I'm just really vague sometimes."

Baxter's failure to blog was masked somewhat by good intentions.

"I thought about blogging," she muttered with a sad face. "I mean, I thought about it A LOT. And I took lots of pictures on the weekend at the Rozelle markets.
"See? That's the cardigan I bought at Old Navy in San Francisco, over the Sportsgirl lace tunic which in turn is layered over the Target black slip, which I've teamed with Gap treggings - no, really, that's what they're called - and Aerosole zebra print flats. And the bag is Mulberry."
"I totally bought that belt", she added.

Baxter was less enthused in response to the clothes she wore to the office this week.

"I thought I nailed it on Monday," she confessed, "what with the Prada skirt, the Zara blouse and J Crew cardigan. The colours were great."
"But the proportions were all wrong. I think the skirt needs to be teamed with a more fitted top."

Baxter confirmed that she bough the citrine crystals in New York while the garnet stick pin was a op shop find.
"Ah, stickpins. They're brilliant for keeping skirts closed on windy days." Baxter said as she grew wistful.  "It's great skirt - the colour is exactly the shade of Cadbury milk chocolate. I just wished I'd worn it differently."

Tuesday was only slightly better.

"I do love a black suit. It's comfortable and doesn't distract you when you're glued to desk all day writing  reports.

"This one is a mix of Jigsaw trousers, a Max Mara jacket - remember the one I got in an op-shop? Well, that one - and a thrifted woollen vest and a thrifted T.M Lewin shirt." When asked about the untucked shirt Baxter was repentant.  "I should have tucked the shirt in. It's always difficult for me to remember anything I do or thiink before 10 am but I'm fairly certain I was having what experts call a Jack Kerouac moment."
"The jewellery almost makes up of my lack of polish," Baxter added. "The pendant came from a thrift store in Brooklyn and the earrings from another thrift store in Manhattan. And because I'm a little obsessed with stickpins this week, I wore an amethyst one that I found in Katoomba a few years ago."

Asked if she would be more reliable with her blog this week Baxter grew troubled. "It's diffiuclt to say," she said. "Work is really busy at the moment and I'm just not getting the clothes right. But I'm feeling a high proportion of pencil skirt love so tomorrow might be the turning point."

Immediate release. For further comment please click the comment button below.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kisses like moths or butterflies

Look, I know it appears I'm just wearing another black dress but this one is different. It's a very soft jersey yarn and has a lovely panel of pleats at the front so it falls just right and sways just a touch when you walk. 
It's very comfortable and a recent acquisition from Seed, where I spend an unhealthy amount of time. You'll note there's a vanilla slip underneath, stopping the black from draining all the colour from my face. 

And in any case, I called off all dreary-clothes bets by wearing this on my blazer: 
It's a butterfly wing brooch, a beautiful little piece of Victoriana that I found - quite unexpectedly - for six quid in the Knightsbridge Oxfam two years ago. That is an actual butterfly wing, set under crystal and held in sterling silver. My learned friend who moonlights as my technical advisor, photographer, legal counsel and spiritual guide insisted it was out of focus in this shot but I (at my peril) disagree. I think he caught the blue beautifully. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

You will wear hats and gloves at all times

A-Dubs from In Professorial Fashion, which is one of my favourite blogs written by three very smart and funny women, wondered how I could wear tights in hot weather. The answer is Sister Imelda. 

Sister Imelda was one of the more fearsome nuns who taught me during my thirteen years of schooling. Mel - as we all called her when we were certain she was out of earshot - was intractable about correct school uniform. We wore our hats, blazers and pantyhose all year around, including through the Australian summer. 

The result is that even as an ornery aging adult I am still uncomfortable going anywhere important (like work) without a jacket and pantyhose (although I've been able to manage without the gloves and hat). I also hate eating outside, always carry a clean handkerchief and automatically stand up for people on buses, even if they're younger than me. 

So hear I am in my all purpose Target work dress, my op-shop Stephen Collins belt, my current favourite Aerosoles and a pair of Wolford pantyhose. (The blazer is hanging in my cupboard, just out of shot.)
I'd pinned an old Edwardian brooch to it. 
I found that, sans safety chain and working clasp, in a bowl of tat in an op shop. It cost me a dollar - a lot less than what it cost to have it repaired! This pendant is a favourite - a little enamel butterfly from a similar period. 
I love the colours. I bought that from the Bondi Markets a few years ago for five dollars (and added my own chain). The earrings were a cheering-up purchase after I had been retrenched many, many years ago. 
 They're fishtail pearls, which is a cute way of describing badly shaped pearls. I love them.  

None of my accessories would have lasted five minutes with Sister Imelda, who called all jewellery "pagan googars" and would confiscate anything aside from plain gold stud earrings and watches. I never had jewellery confiscated but was once put on a week of bloomer detention. That, of course, is a story for another time. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Glad to have sat under thunder and rain

It's soup season in Sydney. Not lovely bowls of heavy soup dusted with parmesan and served with crumpets but the soupy damp air of late summer that only grows more oppressive when there's rain. The temperature stays warm so you never really dry off. 

No amount of showering makes you feel completely rinsed. 

I was still damp from the shower and the sticky air when I chose my clothes early this morning. 
The dress is a silk floral number I bought from a second hand store in Newtown on half price day so it cost me the princely sum of six dollars. It's made in Thailand, most likely at one of the seven zillion tailoring stores in Bangkok. It has the sweetest little shoulder pads and the simple shape lends itself well to a big meaty belt. In this case the belt is a vintage Laura Ashley that I got at a garage sale for a dollar. The shoes are Aerosoles from my recent US haul and the tights, which are actually the most expensive component of this outfit, are by Wolford. Oh! And there's a slip. 
This one came from Lee Mathews summer sale last year. I love slips under silk dresses, partly because they save a lot grief and clumsy clutching of skirts should there be a gust of wind, and partly because when I get home I can do the Butterfield 8 Thing. 

Best use of a silk slip ever. 

Incidentally I stopped smoking five years ago today. I welcome any kind of praise, sympathy and acknowledgement and am not too proud to advertise for it. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Seriously disjointed

Sometimes I get on Omegle and pretend I'm a ghost. People love finding out how I died. 

And sometimes I wear this silver scarf clip as a brooch. I bought it from the Clignancourt Markets in Paris for a couple of euros from a lovely Turkish man who had a diaspora of junk spread out on a woollen rug. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mists and mellow fruitfulness

Slightly, almost imperceptibly, Autumn is creeping in. It's still warm and damp, the days are still long but the light is changing just a little. The summer fruits are growing less common at the grocery store, the flowering plants are a little thinner. 

Nothing particular happened today. I wore comfortable Sunday clothes and found it difficult to focus on how to display them. 

 I need to clean out the top shelf of my wardrobe. 
And dust the dressing table. 
And clean the mirror. 

But back to the task at hand: shoes and jewels: 

The top/tunic/dress is from the sale rack from a local hippy store. The jeans are J Brand and the green cami is from Target (in Sydney). On my feet we have Birkenstocks and Opi's Cuckoo about the Colour on my toes. There's a french scarf clip attached to a silver chain and my sybils on the longer chain. My wedding ring is on that chain too. I always wear the sybils when I travel on planes. I figure that if there is a tragedy they could use them to identify me. 

On Sunday I read the weekend papers, fold washing and, should I go out, carry a big bag. This one is co-production from Liberty of London and Jigsaw (Australia). 
I love the fabric. So pretty. 
And there's the groceries. I make a concerted effort to take my own lunch every day and my kindly spouse looks for suitable, unexpected ingredients to prevent feeding-boredom. This week is was relishes, a new olive oil to use when saute-ing vegetables and some rose petal jelly. 

Rose petal jelly! I had no idea such a thing existed. I summonsed my finest, freshest sour dough to learn more. 
Nice, but sweet. It needed a balancing flavour. 
Peanut butter - perfect. Rose petal jelly is certain to keep this week's eating interesting. Bonus: it contains real rose petals. They're surprisingly chewy. 

Lunch tomorrow (and Tuesday) features roasted beetroot, parsnip, swede, onion, potato and sweet potato and a specil guest appearance by some vegetarian sausages that are made from beans and grains. I've had a sneak preview and they are scrumptious. 

And that's it really, except for Kate, undertaking her ablutions on the window sill. 
I hope you all have a lovely start to your week. 

It's a theory, not a disability

There's lots of talk of feminism on the lady blogs at the moment. I see many bloggers defining feminism, shaping it, putting their own blogs in context amidst the definitions of feminism. 

It's all very interesting. I don't use my blog for airing my political views but tonight I thought I might. 

I'm not just a feminist, I'm a rabid feminist. I'm am entirely humourless and immobile in my views when it comes to women's rights and equality. Regrettably I don't have anything interesting to argue or or any level of analysis that hasn't been splayed and  dissected a thousand times before by persons more clever than I. 

However, I've been a feminist for a long time and can share some handy hints for those amongst you who might like to be a feminist. If you already are a feminist, you might wish to disagree with my points. I welcome all views. I'm running a broad church here and welcome any discourse. 

If you agree with me, you might just like to look at the pictures. 

*Read  A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. It's an essay and it makes a very salient point - that basically a woman needs her own space and her own income. With that she can achieve a lot. This piece is written expressly for women as writers, but I think the lesson is valid for women in all fields. 

Reading is a powerful tool, Women who can read can learn about their health, make informed decisions about legal and spiritual matters, find employment, use their money wisely. Consider giving to a charity that supports literacy programs. If money's tight, see if you can spare an hour or so a week to help teach literacy skills at your local community centre. 

* If you live alone, you do all the housework. If you share a home, you share the house work. This is never as easy as it sounds. Men hate housework and rightly so - it's tedious and never ending. I have a theory that men climb mountains and risk frost bite and avalanches, travel to places like the moon and embark on journeys around the world on solar power mopeds to avoid house work. It is also my contention that they have structured the world's commerce around the 9am - 5pm period because that's when the bulk of house work gets done. This is why it took so long to get equal rights in the work place. Men didn't want women there because it meant the house work wouldn't get done and they might have to do some themselves.. Tough luck, gentlemen. You have to share. There is no argument. Go pack the dishwater and while you're up, fold the washing. 

Here's our laundry, drying inside while it Sydney is drenched under March rains. My husband sorted and washed. We'll both fold. I'll iron tomorrow while he gets the groceries.  The respect he pays our home and me makes my heart sing. 

*Don't waste time with faux-feminist arguments. Example: should the toilet seat be left up or down? Answer: Who cares? If you leave it up, I'll put it down myself. Same things goes for opening doors, giving seats on buses and laying your coat in a puddle. They're nice gestures but they aren't going to help any woman who's hitting her head on the glass ceiling. I don't have time to waste on whether or not men realise women might use the same toilet and might not want to sit on Arctic porcelain. Gentleman, we need your help and support in many more important areas like equal pay and safety for women at night.   

And speaking of toilets reminds me that everyone should have a glass of hot water with the juice of one lemon first thing every morning. Its a good way to rehydrate after sleeping and especially beneficial for your liver. A healthy liver means a strong, empowered woman. Chin chin. 

*Take time to consider all the unpaid labour that women have contributed to the world. It is worth billions. Image how much a team of management consultants would charge to wash, cook, clean and raise three children. 

This bag was made entirely by hand by a woman in her fifties. She made it to sell at a church fete. How much was Fendi selling their needlepoint bags for last year? $3000? 

She didn't miss a stitch. 

*Feminism is a political theory. Its tenet is simple - that men and women are equal and therefore are entitled to equal rights. There's no rules to what kind of person can subscribe to feminism: feminists can shave their legs, grow avocados, breed ferrets, paint chapels, drive tractors or unicycles, wear ribbons in their hair, own jewellery, decorate their house with amber bowls, cast iron cats ...
...and little twee wooden birds. They can collect stamps, horde tapestries, carve likenesses of 1950s film stars from small pieces of soapstone, make soap, construct scale models of Georgian town houses from matchsticks, ride horses and  maintain a pointless collection of old coloured bowls. 
They can also have too many magnets on their fridge. The point is, there is no look, type, personality or descriptors for feminists. They are simply people who believe men and women are equal, much the same way socialists (who believe all wealth should be distributed evenly and the all services provided by the state) or capitalists (who believe in privately enterprise unfettered by competition from free state services) don't have a look or give off any signals. Incidentally, feminists can be socialists or capitalists too. They can also be evangelists, anarchists, traditionalists, fundamentalists and fahionistists. 

Feminists read (and write for) women's magazines. Note: they don't always agree with them. 

*Look after yourself. Get some exercise, maintain an a regular bathing schedule and eat lots of nourishing food. These kinds of seemingly bleeding obvious suggestions are actually huge privileges for women in poorer countries so count your blessings every day when you're having a run, eating a good breakfast or having a hot shower with nice soap. Lots of women can't. Lots of women will die from not being able to eat, keep clean or exercise. 

And yes, feminists can wear flowery trainers. I bought these Liberty Nikes precisely to make this point. Whenever I wear them I wonder about the woman who sewed them. Did she get to have breakfast? Was she allowed to have a lunch break? Were her kids okay while she worked twelve hours a day? 

You can make your point a different way. There are lots of ethical sellers trading on line now, selling goods they have bought for fair trade prices or manufactured using labour that is treated fairly and paid properly. Oxfam is a good start. 

So there you have it - a Shilling's worth of a feminist manifesto. Was it helpful? 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Satellite dressing

Do you have spare shoes in your office? A spare cardigan, or a handy shawl to pop on in case the air condition causes glaciers to pass through the corridor? 

Lots of women at my work have mini wardrobes stashed in their offices. You have probably gleaned that I work in a large legal organisation. This means the great majority of employees are regularly in court. Ergo - lots of charcoal, grey, strict structure and high heels. These clothes look great but they aren't always comfortable. You can't go for a walk at lunch time in vertiginous heels. You can't go for a big girly lunch down at the excellent cheap provincial Chinese cafe in a tight pencil skirt and white silk blouse. (Well, I can't. I would come back with a skirt that resembled a too-tight bandage and a bouquet of audible chili stains spattered over my bosom.) 

So there are lots of little satellite wardrobes throughout the building. Under some desks you'll find a selection of heels because the occupant wears runners to and from work. In others you can open the cupboard to find a barrister's gown and three suits. One very active person runs to and from work with a trip in the gym in between - they have a full rack of their work clothes just behind the door. 

I love the organic work wardrobes. Mine's limited to a shawl (our inconsistent air conditioning causes a lot of penguin temperatures in my corner of the floor) and some shoes because I love heels at work ...

...and I really like to walk home too. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Any colour but

Maroon is not my favourite colour, which is a pity because it is a noble shade that can be blended to great affect with other neutral and primary colours. 

It was the colour of my school uniform and I wore it, pleated and belted, for my six years in high school. I wore a maroon beret, maroon tunic and a maroon tie against the incongruous backdrop of a fawn blouse and cream tights. 

I can say with confidence that I haven't worn maroon since I sat my final matriculation exam. Except this, which I love. 

I think she warrants an exception. 

What colour don't you wear? 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A miracle of rare device

The colour red always makes me feel better. This dawned on me this afternoon when I was staring in abject sadness at my bloodless brown pinstripes. Don't get me wrong - I love this dress - 
but it would look better with a little starburst of red somewhere. A pendant maybe, or even a red cardi.  The dress is a very handy pinafore (with pockets! Love pockets) from Veronika Maine, the cardi is a wonderful knit of cotton and a bit of cashmere by Saba and the identity/security tag was issued by the nice guy in Human Resources. But no red. 

The thing is, I don't have many red separates. A couple of skirts and a trench coat, maybe a scarf, but that's it. Accessories though - well, that's a another story (or a fairly plausible segue). 

This is the stopwatch Gucci, named on account of its clasp. 
The clasp opens like a little watch. Apparently they did a whole range of these in the early eighties. This bag, as you can see by the light scratches, is used frequently. She's perfect for carrying a lippie, my wallet, a phone and my ipod if I'm walking. I love putting my hand inside that trapeze shaped torso. 
It's soft as a bunny's belly. And it fits nicely over my shoulder. 
While the strap is detachable, the shape doesn't let itself to a clutch that is easy to carry. But as little tomato coloured, cross-body worker bag to supplement a big shopping bag when one is flea marketing  - perfect. 

And the colour always makes me happy.