Saturday, February 12, 2011


This is Elspeth as Mrs Drudge in the Downstage critics' production of Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound late last year. Knowledge of lines and donning of costume weren't strictly required, but she went to some lengths to get togged up. On her feet are an appalling pair of sheepskin slippers of mine, which I told her I never wanted to see again (unfortunately I now can). That's my feather duster too. I did get that back, for those hard-to-reach places.
The faux 50s, flower-print shirtwaister she picked up for $8 in a Cuba Street second-hand shop, and, after the one-night-only show, passed on to me. Right now it's hanging on a rack at Penny's Clothing and Alterations, and I'm looking forward to getting it back tomorrow, refitted and updated.
Dior's Spring 1951 collection featured a floral shirtwaister; it was one one expresson of the post-war New Look. And for a few gloaty minutes, I thought Elspeth's - now mine, all mine - was the genuine vintage article, because it's so nicely detailed. But reason soon broke through - the fabric, though it looks right, doesn't feel right. It's late-20th century synthetic, a fact swiftly confirmed by Penny, who knows about these things.
I wondered aloud who, in the 80s and 90s, would have bought and worn a new dress so unglamorously old-fashioned. Penny shrugged - her mother, for one, she said.
When I get it back, the bodice will be fitted, the sleeves narrowed and reset into narrowed shoulders, whose pads I already whipped out. It will go so perfectly with my Molly M gray suede wedges that I shall be able, apart from the singing aspect, to pretend I'm an Andrews sister.  

Thanks, Elspeth.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Petals and wings

Vio sent out a birthday party invitation accompanied by six flower fairies. The faithful reader has probably already surmised that I'm not a particularly girly girl, let alone a fairy. But let me tell you, I adore the flower fairies, and when I tracked down this one, my all-time favourite, my eyes filled with tears. Her sweet face and graceful pose, and the costume that so delightfully replicates her namesake bloom evoke all my childhood longings for a delicacy and prettiness I would never attain.

Try, faithful reader, not to puke. And I'll try to dissipate the saccharine effect by telling you that Cicely Mary Barker's depiction of the flowers, if not their respective fairies, was always botanically correct. 

By the time Flower Fairies of the Spring came out in 1923, fairies were already a popular theme in art and literature. The book I owned, A Flower Fairy Alphabet, was first published in 1934, but apparently fond relatives were still giving to little girls in the 50s.
Here's gorse. I had no idea I would eventually live in a country on the other side of the world that regards this as one of its worst noxious weeds.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

At sixes and sevens

Sevens mania has hit Wellington. Its most visible aspect is the clutches of costumed fans around the city. We love to dress up. But we love it more if we can be one of a bunch all dressed the same.
This morning I was driving along a suburban street, minding my own business, when I was flagged down by half-a-dozen oversize pink whoopee cushions. They wanted me to drive them (and their spotty white legs) to the stadium. In their over-excited, over-exposed state, they seemed seriously to believe that I might. 
Later, E was walking on the waterfront when she noticed a red-clad major domo, like the man who opens the door at Kirkcaldies. He was sitting with his head in his hands. Assuming he was weeping, she kindly asked if he was all right. He lifted his head to observe angrily that he couldn't get into the stadium. But wehen she murmured something sympathetic in response, he snarled, "Bitch!"
Meanwhile, The Hound, who normally loves everyone and everything, was throwing a panic-stricken hissy fit at a bemused panda.
Last year's Sevens brought us teams of sperms (I'm doubtful about that pluralisation, but it was theirs) and Elizabeth IIs, any number of policemen, sailors and showgirls, and this Borat horror, which you might relieved to hear has since been banned.