Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's fashion, stupid

Last week was New Zealand Fashion Week, this week is WOW I've never attended either event. If I had to choose one, though, it would be WOW. By all reports, it's a great show, a spectacle that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Fashion, on the other hand, can always be relied on to give fashion a bad name.

Thanks to Anne for drawing my attention to the report in yesterday's Dom Post describing the Stolen Girlfriends Club show.

As if knitted shorts weren't enough, it culminated in a mock wedding in which the bride wore a mullet dress, and the groom a suit made in "the label's signature winter print of hydrangeas and ciggie butts".

I might stand accused of not knowing much about Fashion, but I do know what I like and it isn't fag-ends all over my clothes.

But wait, the madness doesn't end there. Beauty Bible describes the show too then goes on to urge readers to "Get the look":
To begin, the hair texture was loosely relaxed in a very natural manner with flat-irons so that it did not look wavy or perfectly straight. The hair is centre-parted and sectioned from a couple of inches back from the front hairline to behind the ears on either side of the head.

In small subsections, this hair was brushed firmly to the scalp with a bristle brush and then sprayed with Kms California Hair-Stay Medium Hold Hairspray on every section to fix it close to the head and behind the ears. This frontal area was then sprayed with Silksheen Gloss Spray for extra contrast.

At the back of the head a square section about 3 inches deep and the width of the head wide is taken below the crown. This area was texture set by light back-brushing and following this with flat-irons in a very loose manner.

This was brushed out and Kms California Dry Wax was liberally sprayed into the hair and the hair was styled with the fingers to simulate a pillow-rub effect.
To finish, various plastic cigarettes and fresh flowers were individually attached in the hair to suit the model and to complete the look.

Or, you could just spend less money on product and more time in the gutter.  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shear Delight

A prize of my own devising to the first person to identify the small town that's home to this hairdressing establishment. It's called Country Cut and Curls. 

You can go to and find dozens of cute names - almost all of cringe-inducing corniness - but nothing beats a sighting in their natural habitat. 

Send in your favourite.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

And now for something really mean

Having a couple of months ago disparaged the personal charms of Donald Trump doesn't do all that much to mitigate the guilt of asking why, when Danielle Steele celebrated her 63rd birthday in August, she looks like this?

We can only assume it's caused by some awful combination of what's eupemistically known as "work", making too much money and marrying too many men. 

Thank the lord I'm quite safe from all three.  

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blue spots (and I'm not talking fashion trends)

A couple of weeks ago, while scrutinising my face in the bathroom mirror, as you do, I noted a blue mark on my upper left cheek. Quite a nice shade of blue it was, actually. Sort of indigo-ish. Assuming I'd inflicted it with a pen, I rubbed. And rubbed. The pinhead-sized mark remained. It was probably visible only to the eye of its new host. But it was almost certainly melanoma. Not for nothing did my friend and colleague Jim dub me Calamity Jane (although she seems to have gained her nickname on the basis of inflicting considerable calamity on Native Americans But I digress.).

I immediately rang the doctor. She had no appointments until the following week, said the receptionist. Was it urgent? I wasn't sure, I replied, even though I was. Just that I've found this spot on my face.

Ah, said the receptionist in a tone that spoke of keeping a clear head in emergencies. Would I like a nurse to ring me? I would.

But the nurse failed to ring. And for the next 10 days I slipped into a denial partly born of knowing that I'd taken all sensible steps and that, since the medical profession was failing to respond, everything was clearly all right.
I exhibited the blue spot to two friends (who probably deserve better) and both suggested it was a blackhead. They were being kind. We could all see it was blue and we all knew I wasn't long for this world. 

Finally, this week, I got to the doctor. She peered closely at the spot for all of half a minute then returned to her computer, keyed something into Google, and turned the screen helpfully towards me, like travel agents do. Turns out I'm harbouring a common blue naevus (navus in the US spelling). Common? But apparently I can put off listing my funeral music for a while longer.

Altered states

Penny at Clothing and Alterations on Willis Street is a marvel. Show her any imperfect-for-you garment and she'll fix it. She can not only take it in or up, she can also suggest fixes for the seemingly unfixable.

For instance, a pair of good quality black Foon leggings bought at the beginning of winter. Fine in the changing room, but the first time I wore them in real life, I was made miserable by their low rise.  The elasticated waist-band (a misnomer because it fell miles short of my waist, but what else to call it?) refused to stay hooked over my hip bones so the leggings kept slipping down. The result - ugliness, discomfort and insecurity. A muffin top that failed to be sleek under what I was wearing on top, and a fear that if what was on top happened to flip up due to Wellington wind or Wellington tango, I'd be in danger of revealing bum cleavage.

I suggested to Penny that we (meaning, she) might be able to add a band of similar black fabric at the top so the garment reached over my hips. She looked doubtful. Her suggestion was to work in a gusset at the crutch that tapered off down the inside of each leg.

So that's what she did, and it works - the leggings are now wearable, and the gusset looks like it was part of the original design.

Her latest triumph was straightening out an Ashley Fogel red silk top that must have slipped past quality control. It's a cut-on-the-bias camisole, and anyone who's ever sewn knows they can be the devil to hem. This one was all over the place - up in the back, where the lining fell too low, down in the front, and uneven at the sides. That's why Deb in Madison Rose let me have it for $30.

Penny had to cut the bottom  off and start again. So now it's shorter but even.
And did I mention how reasonable her charges are? 

Once upon a time I tackled all such projects myself. Now life seems too short. I'd rather do what I'm good at doing to earn the money to pay people like Penny to do what they're good at doing. Besides, lugging the sewing machine out of the cupboard of death is right up there with having to drag out the vaccuum cleaner.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Over yum char today I mentioned (which, I'm afraid, means gloated over) my latest purchase: a pre-loved Judith Malcolm confection. Black lace over bronze satin.

"Wear it tonight", said companion one.

"Mmm ... too over-dressed."  Tonight is the usual Sunday milonga.

"No, it's not," said companion two, notwithstanding the fact that he hadn't clapped eyes on the dress. "You can't be too over-dressed for tango. Tango is for now."

And that's when I realised that I'd automatically slipped into the "keep it for best" thinking I was brought up with.

As a child, my bedroom cupboard and drawers housed a rigid sartorial caste system. Nearly all items of outer wear moved in at the top then, by maternal decree, worked their way down. The most populous category – comprising what we'd now call the default position – were clothes for play. Play was anything not specifically covered by the other two categories (which I'll get to) and a lot more besides: having nothing to do, trying to kill my brother as painfully as possible, climbing trees, choosing sides for cowboys and Indians on the empty plot down the road. Play clothes were old, over-laundered, darned, and often a bit too small. Dresses and shorts for summer, and for winter, pinafores and what my mother called “trews”.

Decent was the next rung up. Fewer decent clothes, and through economic necessity subject to strict conservation measures. Reserved for school, the High Street (though not the corner shops), Sunday School and other minor public occasions, decent clothes had, the minute you stepped in the door, to be changed for something in category one.

At the top of the hierarchy was best. There was only ever one best outfit at a time, and it was almost always the most recently acquired. Best was a dress, in winter or summer style and fabric, depending on which season had thrown up the most recent important event. The last best dress I clearly recall was acquired when I was about 11 or 12. It was royal blue with a fitted bodice, flared skirt and long sleeves. It had white cuffs and a generous white Peter Pan collar. A curious blend of too young and too old for me is how I remember it.

With my best, I wore my least battered footwear. Until I was humiliatingly old this was either brown school lace-ups or Clarks’ sandals with the cut-out on the arch of my foot (mentioned in an earlier blog).  For outdoor play, rain and snow there were Wellingtons.
If the weather was cold or wet, I was instructed to don “your gabardine” – an unyielding item of quasi-military quality, which because of its expense was bought as large as my mother thought she could get away with. For half the coat’s life it touched my body only where it was hauled in by belt and buckle; for the other half, its sleeves didn’t reach my wrists, and my knees froze in the winter. Also in winter, a mitten dangled from each sleeve on the end of a tired length of elastic that travelled up one arm, across the shoulders, and down the other arm. For snow, there were random scarves and hats. For holidays, a swimming costume. And that, wardrobe-wise, was more or less that.

And here I was, a lifetime later, keeping this lovely new dress for best - ie not wearing it. Imagine if I'd fallen under a bus this week and hadn't given it an outing. What a waste.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Man of the week

The one who spontaneously mentioned the Sunday Star Times's "Shoe of the Week" feature. I'd always assumed this fell beneath the radar of a lot of women and all men. Am delighted to be proved wrong.

Someone should put together an online collection. In the meantime, here's a recent SOTW.

And a note for anyone who thinks I must want my head read for imagining such items are wearable - I don't, and especially not by me. They are artefacts, enjoyable for their own aesthetic sake. They don't pretend to have anything to do with the practicalities of Wellington footpaths, driving rain and running for buses. I don't want to own them.  Quite often I don't even like them. But I do need to look at them. Sometimes for quite a long time.

Which reminds me, I must some time tell you the story of M and the most nearly unwearable shoes I have ever bought.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dark desires, pale imitations

"Got some dark desire?" inquires the poster. Indeed I do, although I'm not sure Costume Cave's notion of a can-can girl is the answer.

It comprises a black lace skirt overlaying red and black frills, a sleeveless square-necked black lace blouse and a black corset. There's also a bead choker, elbow-length red gloves, and a comb bearing a black rose and long feathers. I'll supply my own fishnet tights.

The skirt and blouse have definitely seen better days. Strategically placed safety pins are all that holds the skirt up. The corset is made of sterner stuff and to my surprise does approach some previously unapprehended darker desire. S pointed out when we were fitted a couple of weeks ago, though, that since our bosoms are not our strong point, we would have to make the most of our legs. S's go on forever, while C is much more appropriately endowed for corset-wearing.

I needed to do something, though, to make the outfit a little bit my own, so after coffee at La Cloche this morning I ducked into Spotlight. I bought a clutch of red feathers to replenish the weary ones on the comb, and a length of black velvet ribbon on which to pin a brooch for a classier choker.

The three of us convene at 7 to lace each other up. This may well prove the most fun part of the evening.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Emergency wear

For several days now I've been stepping around two big plastic lidded boxes on the kitchen floor. The X and I bought them a few years back to contain our earthquake survival kit, but suffered a loss of interest before the kit was completed and the boxes stowed, out of sight and mind, in the shed. (The X survival kit I had to put together myself a couple of years later.) 

"Shed" is a grand term for what amounts to a small metal box with sliding doors that don't. The first quiver of a tectonic plate and it'll be tumbling down into the bush. I'll just have to tumble after it. Fortunately, where it stops tumbling will be where the nearest water supply is.

I duly downloaded a list of what I needed in my kit and at the supermarket today made up the shortfall. I do wonder, though, how long it will be before I'm compelled to raid the box for the Whittaker's Peanut Slabs and the coffee.

The emergency clothing, on the other hand, I'm in no hurry to reclaim:

The centrepeice is a 25-year-old Swandri, still in excellent nick. I bought it for my first foray down to the West Coast (a vain attempt to blend in?) and it was sold as boyswear.

I shall accessorise it with a disgusting old black wool Glassons jersey that it's too depressing to wear even for gardening. Old track pants ditto. Three pairs of clean, albeit tatty, knickers.  One pair of flowery gumboots from No 1 Shoe Warehouse.

If that doesn't put the rescuers off, nothing will.


From Jenny Diski's latest London Review of Books blog:

"Act now and sign up for the Facebook Group not-so-snappily entitled Subversively Move Tony Blair’s Memoirs to the Crime Section in Book Shops  There are coming up for 10,000 members so far. For this alone the internet and Facebook must be considered a good thing. There are other creative options. Fiction, obviously, Fantasy and Fairy Tales. But you are not just confined to book sections. Someone moved A Journey in Tesco to the Wet Wipes section. In Asda it’s to be found among the Cat Litter. And there’s a suggestion that perhaps the meat counter is the most appropriate place. Go to it."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010



This is the sort of thing that gives fashion - and anyone or anything to do with it -  a bad name. 

If the mere sight doesn't provoke contempt, consider the fact that, should you be mad enough to want to buy it, it will set you back 570 pounds.

Distressed, they call it.

They're not kidding.

Emergency fashion

Earthquake was, not surprisingly, the topic of conversation in a local dress shop this afternoon. Did we each have an earthquake kit, and what was in it?

A young mother was trying on one of those diaphonous aprony things that wrap around whatever's underneath. She said canned baby food, although her baby hadn't yet moved on to solids. Part-time assistant K confessed to a couple of cans of baked beans and a malfunctioning torch. Her boss - another young mother - said an Ashley Fogel sundress. 


An Ashley fogel sundress.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Golden lads and lassies must ...

Those trees in blossom brought to mind A's 21st birthday party a couple of Saturdays ago. Her father's house was filled to the brim with lovely young things - fresh faces, bare arms and shoulders, shiny hair, sweet frocks and dizzy shoes. Here's the birthday girl, photographed by Steve Payne

It reminded me of a wedding I attended in Morelia, Mexico, 10 years ago. It was held at a country venue, the guests seated under a vast awning out of the harsh sun. The bride and groom were the centre of fond attention, but the real stars were a bevvy of young unmarried women in long brightly coloured dresses. The couple were loved and congratulated, but these blooming girls were regarded with unadulterated joy. The occasion was at least as much a celebration of their youth and beauty as it was of a marriage.

A few nights before the wedding the X and I were taken to The Hummingbird Club. Its speciality was the traditional Morelian dance you can see here
The men hobbled on in a crocodile, leaning heavily on sticks, a hand on the shoulder in front, wearing gruesome old-men masks. They stumped around like this for some time then suddenly whirled into the clog-clacking dance you can see on the clip.  Eventually, they tottered offstage the way they had entered.

Mexicans don't shy away from age and death, which means they don't glorify and, therefore, resent, youth. They rejoice in it, their pleasure heightened by knowing how fleeting it is. Seeing a beautiful young woman is like catching a tree in blossom. You only get so many in the course of a life.

Friday, September 3, 2010

On the road

Ken Kesey in a campervan - minus the drugs. Which meant a week sans hairdryer, makeup, decent clothes and, god help me, tango. Yet I can report that I had a lovely time, and that there's a lot to be said for putting appearances behind you once in a while. It was already spring in Hawke's Bay and Gisborne, though, and the trees were dressed to kill.

First stop was Greytown, where I plunged into Minx shoes and discovered a sale.

As you can see, I have a lot to learn about photographing shoes on my own foot. Still, aren't they delicious. I would never have put royal blue and purple together, but since they're both colours I wear - albeit separately - I've decided these count as a sensible buy. Plus they work for tango.

The warm daytime temperatures went to S's head. Here he is heading for the Pacific Ocean at Wainui Beach, just north of Gisborne.

The old Gisborne Gentleman's Club - a series of wood-panelled rooms entered through grand doors with elaborate cut-glass handles - now operates as a cafe (the coffee is excellent) and shops. Among the latter I found a room crammed with Turkish stuff, including a lovely array of crazily cheap pashminas.

No, they're not all for me.