Yes, it's probably just a figure of speech but I'm sorry, it gets right up my nose when people say, "I'm all about X."
See, for instance, the latest portrait from Street and City Photos. Says the portrayed, without a perceptible quiver of irony, "I'm all about vintage".
Are you? Really? Absolutely all about it and not about anything else at all?
How many seconds before the timed close of a Trade Me auction do bids actually close? I made a last-minute bid on this extraordinary jacket but apparently it didn't register in time to count.
I'm posting its portrait as part of the grieving process.
Atonement screened on television last night and I'm annoyed with myself for forgetting to record it. Not that I thought it much more than a proficient movie, but because I needed to see this gobsmackingly gorgeous dress again. The Keira Knightley character Cecilia wears it to lurk seductively in the library, and its full lusciousness is only apparent when the body inside it is moving.
I'm not the only one whose mouth dropped open at the sight. It and any number of frocks claiming to be replicas are all over the internet. None of them, though, seem able to reproduce the exact wicked green of the original.
A survey for Sky Movies and British InStyle a few years back rated the dress top of the film costume list. Following it, came the white dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch; the little black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; the skin-tight pants worn by Olivia Newton-John, in Grease; the blue gown worn by Kate Winslet in Titanic; the tie and waistcoat combination worn by Diane Keaton in Annie Hall; the satin corset worn by Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge; the stockings and bowler hat worn by Liza Minnelli in Cabaret; the gown worn by Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth; the dresses worn by Vivien Leigh, in Gone with the Wind.
This is a formal farewell to a purchasing mistake. And to the long period of denial that followed it. I saw this item several years back in the window of Ruby in Wellington, long, slinky and gleaming. It had all the hallmarks of potential success - usefulness, shape and fit (I loved its length), a smidgen of glamour. Yet each time I put it on I looked as if I were coming down with some particularly nasty disease of the liver. Which didn't stop me trying it time and again, each time pulling it off in dismay at what it did to my complexion.
Finally admitting defeat, I took it to Melbourne for S. She pounced, but on examining herself in the mirror, couldn't get it off fast enough.
Then, the other evening, the other S tried it on. Et voilà - smashing. Thank god she's taking it off my hands and out of my life.
One weekend, with our second Buenos Aires adventure looming in October, Suzanne and I swooped on The Fabric Warehouse in Thorndon to buy silk. We bought several lengths each, and this Sunday we set out to make up one of them.
I used to be an avid sewer. Back in my teens and 20s, when there was virtually no money for clothes, I never hesitated to make them - for me, for the kids, and even, at times, for the various men in my life (yes, all right, the odd caftan - but I see the error of my ways now, honestly). A good part of the habit was the feeling of creativity and accomplishment sewing gave me at a time in my life when those pleasures were in short supply.
In the last 10 or 15 years, I've virtually given up. I found it easier to earn the money to buy the clothes I wanted than to sit shoulders hunched over a sewing machine. I still love fabric, though - love to see it and handle it, and imagine what I might make with it. Back in the day, I could turn a revere and set in a sleeve well enough to make others exclaim over my skills. So I continued to call myself a sewer.
Until I met Suzanne. Now she is a sewer. Her methods and results so completely outclass mine that I can't put myself in the same category. All I can say is that I know enough to understand just how damned good she is.
And, unlike any number of home sewers, how impeccable her taste. Coats, dresses, pants, hats, bags ... All beautifully constructed, so that to say they are indistguishable from manufactured ones is to downgrade the care, skill and vision that's gone into making them.
And her apartment is beautifully set up for sewing. Behind mirrored double doors in the sittingroom is a counter holding the Pfaff and the overlocker, a stool tucked underneath. Either side are pull-out drawers, and overhead, shelves holding dozens of labelled ziplocked bags of magical fabric, bought here, in Vietnam (she took her machine to Hanoi when she lived there) and elsewhere. Behind the door is a Suzanne-shaped tailor's dummy.
But even she balked at this silk - "It's like sewing water". It constantly slipped and fell and flowed as she worked with it.
I tried to help. And there did come a point when I was indispensible - easing the double-gathered silk to fit the fully stretched top while Suzanne pinned. This excercise was gratifyingly hard on my wrists and arms, requiring several rest breaks and allowing me to feel I was contributing. My only other initiative was to boldly take the scissors to the tank top. Most of the time, though, I hovered and dithered.
By dinner time, the seamstress was laughing wildly over how long it had taken two seemingly smart women to get this far. A mere four hours to attach side-seamed silk to a top! She decided a good night's sleep was a prequerisite for tackling the next stage. Just don't tell us how straightforward it will be!
This great picture is among the latest posted by New Yorker Ari Seth Cohen on his Advanced Style blog. He roams the streets "looking for the most stylish and creative older folks". "Respect your elders," he urges. "Let these ladies and gents teach you a thing or two about living life to the fullest. Advanced Style offers proof from the wise and silver-haired set that personal style advances with age."
His photographs prove the claim. Look at those boots, that brolly, that pose.
"Style," he told a BBC interviewer, "is a reflection of personal vitality." Older women, unlike younger, dress to please themselves, he said; they throw away the rules. He's working on a book of his photos and subject's comments to be published next year.
Thanks to Cheryl for bringing Cohen and his blog to my attention. And thanks to him for being smart enough to shun the "youth is best" obsession.
Another Ackland Street moment ... shoppers and tourists paused to check out the young bride and her groom dodging the trams to get to the other side of the road. She was decked out in the full pavlova - full, white and frothy, with bare shoulders. It took me a second or two work out what was so jarringly wrong with her look. She couldn't stand up straight or walk properly.
The poor girl had almost certainly spent much time, energy and dosh on sourcing the frock for her Big Day, but apparently no one had told her that her efforts would come to naught if she couldn't sharpen up her posture. So here she was, stomping down the street, neck first, shoulders rounded, looking, in spite of the fairytale dress, like she was about to dig spuds.
It takes one to know one. When I started grammar school aged 11, I was swiftly diagnosed with round shoulders, told to miss assembly every Wednesday and go instead to the gym. Here were gathered the halt and lame. The flat-footed edged their way along floor's white lines, curling one foot at a time; the stooped had their shoulders briskly pulled back to their "proper" position by the nurse and spent the time it took for a hymn, a prayer and various announcements, promenading the perimeter to the accompaniment of stirring band music.
You can imagine how helpful this was for improving my posture. Which, I realised years later, was almost entirely due to crippling lack of confidence and large shoulder blades. That well-meaning nurse would have achieved better results by sitting me down and talking to me. I might, if I trusted her, have confessed that there was no way on god's green earth I was going to stand or walk chest first, because I didn't have one, and the best way to disguise this shameful condition was to hunch and keep my head down.
I didn't come of age, posture-wise, for several more decades. One day, I realised it had corrected itself, that I now stood and walked tall because I felt I deserved to. And my big shoulder blades fell naturally into place. Pilates helped. And so has tango.
So, there's a market niche here - teaching prospective brides how to stand and walk in order to carry off that glamourous gown.
I'm a writer. Sometimes I write fiction and sometimes I'd rather do something else, like earn money, travel or dance tango. Whatever I do, I never stop looking. So this blog is about looking to write, writing to see, and seeing to think. I was once the kind of feminist who believed it was wrong to delight in such things. Now I'm the kind of feminist who doesn't believe that at all. I will never, as Linda Grant puts it, go beige into that good night.