Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Big Love (Part Two)

Leopard blouse made by me from op-shop dress - $6
Eighties light denim shorts - $3.50 op-shop
Black leather eighties belt - $1 op-shop
Black patent leather wedges - $30 Wittner sale (were $170)

When you think of leopard, or cheetah, or ocelot or any other big-cat-derived print, what comes to mind? I'm betting most of you are envisioning something kind of slinky, maybe a wee bit slutty, a little punk rock or a lot Jackie Collins right now. Something like this:

Yes, think leopard and Beverley Hills Wives spring to mind, not Baptist Housewives - so how do you explain this:

This is one of the strangest dresses I've ever come across for the simple reason that it just doesn't know what the hell it wants to be. The top part is all hard edges and structure, the bottom part is all swishy and shapeless, and the whole thing is made out of a polycotton poplin of a thoroughly serviceable and distinctly non-glamorous nature. And then there's that leopard print.

Maybe, just maybe, if this was made out of some kind of slithery shiny satin I could picture it as the going out attire of some superannuated showgirl - but poplin? Poplin is the fabric for sensible blouses and bank teller uniforms, not aging sex kittens with too much gold jewellery and too many stories about the one that got away (he had a used car dealership, biggest on the Coast, wouldn't leave his wife in the end).

Yep, this frock was a feathered fish*, no two ways about it - so the answer to its confounding multiple personality problem was to divide it into separates. A structured blouse and a swishy skirt instead of one dress which was neither one thing or the other.

That's more like it!

I like this skirt a lot, I forsee it having a future which continues long after the weather cools down and the humidity drops to something approaching a level which supports human life. It has a nice slouchiness which can be quite ladylike, but also a has some "tude" (a truly appalling word, deployed by my husband ironically at our first meeting - but delivered in such a deadpan manner that I completely failed to register the irony and instead just formed an opinion of him as the biggest tool in the known universe.)

I think these giant platform wedges have transeasonal potential too - I can definitely see them with some tights. They have the same duality thing going on as the dress in its original form, but whereas it was a liability for the dress, I think it works for the shoes. They're shiny and super high and they're platforms - but they're also very comfortable and easy to wear, which makes them sensible and practical too. I can chase the little dude down the road in these, but feel like a foxy lady doing it!

Flash photo to show the detail.

Special note must be made of this black eighties top I op-shopped a couple of weeks ago ($2.50), it has an applique flower on it with leaves in...silver leopard print! I always like these kinds of eighties tops with that particular cut which can be tomboyish or pretty depending on my mood, and this one has a nice worn-in floppiness too.

So ends my first foray into the world of the long frumpy frock - although the simple fact that there are more of them in the world today than any other item (and that includes plastic shopping bags) means that I can almost guarantee this won't be my last ...

PS. The other day the little dude and I were trapped indoors all day while a mob of yobboes and hoons (are those words uniquely Australian, or are they more widely used?) rioted in the streets. In an effort to distract my stir crazy toddler I gave him a very haphazard face painting job with my old spare makeup. I almost immediately regretted my actions because suddenly it was like I was sharing the house with either a tiny scary clown straight from the pages of Stephen King, or the littlest jaded 1930s cabaret artiste!

* Read this fascinating article from the New Yorker if you want to know more about feathered fish, and the men who love them. Well not really, actually it's about movie marketing but it does give some insights into the strange, strange (and not a little scary) world I find myself in half of the time - and it does explain the whole feathered fish thing too.

Big Love (Part One)

White dress (altered by me) - $5 op-shop
Green vintage scarf - $1 op-shop many years ago
Red vintage scarf - nicked from my mum long ago
Tan leather platform heels - $30 Wittner sale (were $170)
Little dude wears Paris souvenir tee - 50cents op-shop

There are a few items which are found in abundance in every op-shop I've visited in the last ten years, so if you're in the market for any of the following I advise you to hotfoot it down to your local charity emporium:

- unused foot spas still in the box (I often see those left by the side of the road as well),
- cheap champagne flutes decorated with dates and names in glitter pen, presumably given as favours at weddings "Gary & Leanne 26~02~05",
- Home made quilted country crafts style padded photo frames, gone a bit mangy round the edges,
- lime green and bright orange things left over from the Great Citrus Fiasco of 97/98,
- really cheap looking iridescent dolphin figurines,
- pewter coloured mid-heel clumpy pumps (I don't remember those ever being in fashion, why are there so many of them?),
- long sleeved mesh shirts with pictures of Buddha on them,
- long, frumpy dresses of indeterminate age, indifferent fabrication and nil potential.

Eyes closed as I contemplate Higher Matters.

Those long frumpy frocks are found in plague proportions, and apart from fundamentalist Christian ladies with a yen for a bushel of thrifty modest dresses, I cannot imagine who buys them. Yet they continue to appear, year after year with no sign of abating any time soon. A while ago I decided that I would make it my mission to try and wrestle some of these sorry sacks into submission with my trusty sewing machine and native rat cunning. The first candidate for redemption is this white cotton button-through beast, and with a bit of hem hacking and judicious belting I think it is just about acceptable.

Now one of the things about me is that I am blessed with a torso of magnificent oblongitude, with nary a waist to be seen - and natural waisted dresses really do need a waist to work with (or I suppose they'd be called natural oblong dresses instead). Obviously the belt is the natural ally of the natural oblong, in this instance knotted together from two vintage scarves from deep in the heathen wilds of my untamed scarf drawer.

I used to have lots of vintage souvenir scarves, but I never wore them and over the years they drifted away from the flock, until only these two remain. I seem to have sublimated the urge to collect souvenir scarves into the urge to collect toddler sized souvenir t-shirts instead - the little dude has shekels of them accumulating as we speak, both gifts from afar and scavenged by me.

That's Paris, France in case you were wondering - not Paris, Hilton or Paris, Texas. Among others there is Bali, Tahiti, Sicily, Australia (various), NYC and one just arrived in the mail from Tenerife in the Canary Islands today. I think people consider souvenir t-shirts much too tacky to put on their kidlets, so these are received as gifts then dumped in op-shops unworn to wait for the little dude to bring them back into the fold.

Nothing modest about these little beauties - in fact I'm sorry to say that the narrow heel+chunky platform = stripper equation is in play here. Wearing these today I did feel like perhaps I ought to be wrapped around a pole in a golf themed strip joint somewhere (let's call it The Hole in One) trying to rustle up tips from a bunch of sunburned middle aged guys in plaid pants.

Luckily I had my white dress and a handy toddler nearby to remind me of my proper station as wife and mother!

Tomorrow I will present part two of this revival meeting, wherein another frock will be saved from the fires of frumpishness and the endless damnation of dagginess, so be sure and attend!

PS. Here is one of my biggest (and littlest) loves posing in my spot today - I had to evict him before I could take my photos, and as you can see above my eviction wasn't exactly successful. Possibly an exorcism might have done the trick, but I love my little fiend far too much!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Risky Business

Navy/white spotted dress - $20 Valleygirl (originally $39.95)
Natasha patent heart wedges - $2.50 op-shop

The humidity right now is about 90-95%, so the fact that I'm even blogging at all is something of a miracle, since my fingers are all sweaty and slippery and sliding around the keyboard. All week we've been lying around under the fans like slugs, watching the geckos skitter across the ceiling, and only occasionally rousing ourselves for a swim or a trip into the air-conditioned sanctuary of some shopping mall or other. Apart from bananas, ice-cream and sushi (all for the little dude) I rarely buy anything in my mall wanderings, it's more just aimless browsing in that delicious refrigerated air - but I did manage to break virtually all of my vague shopping rules and bought this frock from Valleygirl.

Those panels in the middle of the dress sort of remind me of the broken mirror effect

Valleygirl is one of those really noxious el cheapo chains, where everything costs ten bucks, is made out of petrochemical by-products, falls apart after a couple of wears and is almost certainly made by slave labour. I once bought a horrible stretchy ten dollar dress in there when I was pregnant and slightly desperate, but that's it in the history of forever. How I ended up with the spotty frock is something of a mystery to me (and I probably should have bought the next size down as it's a little too big), it was probably due to my Dawn of the Dead style zombified mall trawling but let's blame it on the heat!

It's definitely a Minnie Mouse sort of dress, this one, so I think these heart embellished shoesies are their perfect match. A little bit silly and girlish and entirely suitable to today's visit from the little dude's step-great-grandmother - a lady who appreciates a cup of tea, a slice of cake, and a nicely pulled together outfit!

Jane Lamerton navy/white silk wrap dress - $15 op-shop
Mimco opal crystal studs - $40 sale
Taupe leather eighties heels - $4 op-shop

My recent op-shopping efforts have been pretty half-arsed, and my general commitment to the cause decidedly lacking, but this week I felt the spirit moving inside me (despite the heat). I went out to scavenge with some measure of renewed vigour and my efforts were rewarded. 100% cashmere jumpers, tan eelskin eighties flats, the perfect high-waisted chambray eighties shorts, and all kinds of other stuff, all for those magical sub-five-dollar prices. It felt good! The heart shoes were also part of the haul, as was this silk wrap dress and those taupe pumps.

Where the Minnine Mouse dress is perfect for great-grandmotherly visitations, this wrap/shirt dress is made for serious grown-up occasions. You know the kind of thing - funerals, wreath laying ceremonies, openings of municipal buildings, meetings with bank managers - all those events where green leopard print skirts-as-dresses or purple silk jumpsuits are not going to send precisely the right message. It will be no surprise to you that I have nothing else in my wardrobe appropriate for hobnobbing with civic officials or trying to impress people with my respectable solid citizenhood, so this dress is therefore a very welcome addition.

There is about 20 metres of fabric in it too, which means that is very tempting to go the swirl.

I'm not usually a wrap dress advocate - they work against my naturally oblong shape and generally make me feel frumpy and unsexy as hell. This one actually makes me feel a wee bit devilish, which I'm fairly certain is a consequence of the gorgeous slithery silk fabric and the shirt dress styling. Nothing like a shirt dress to give an air of respectability and a frisson of vixenish wickedness all in one go!

Disclaimer: the colour is definitely more peach and less tangerine than these photos would indicate.

Yes, lest you think I have turned entirely into some kind of sweet little wifey poo in my navy and white frocks, I present you with my new favourite pet. The nicest, lightest oversized silk shirt ever, and all for $7. I'm going to put an extra button on the bottom (it's just pinned there at the moment) to prevent the world getting an eyeful of my special private lady places, but it really is long enough to wear as a dress. With flat sandals it looks a lot less risky business, but why spoil the fun? Besides, these taupe pumps and I are having a little romance as well and I am quite unwilling to take them off my feet once they get on there!

Do you have an outfit in your wardrobe which confers instant respectability - or maybe you're in the reverse situation with a cupboard full of conservative sophistication and one crazy outfit which you pull out once in a while? It does make me feel strangely secure to know that I now have a fall-back grownup outfit again (my old one was a black shirt dress which died just before the little dude was conceived), just like it's good to know I have a nice winter coat or a well fitting swimsuit - it's an essential.

PS. Sorry for lack of blogging and patchy commenting - definitely one of those weeks round here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Op on Pop

White Swan brand t-shirt - $4 (new) op-shop
Silk zebra skirt made by me from eighties dress - $8 op-shop (years ago)
Studded suede leather sandals -$24 Sportsgirl sale

White t-shirts are one of those classic basics which are held up as the cornerstone of every human's wardrobe (man, woman, child and all points between), but which I have a conflicted relationship with. My general need for unnecessary embellishment and excess means I feel strangely undressed in a plain white tee. The only ones I've ever really liked are the eighties staple "Swan Brand" which were once widely available everywhere in Australia (here and here are a couple of archival examples I found), but are now an endangered species available only in odd Asian grocery shops, ramshackle army disposal stores, lucky op-shop scores and suchlike.

The cotton is thin, the neck is round, there is no ribbing to be found. If anyone has a reliable online source for these, I'd love to hear about it!

I bought the silk eighties dress that skirt is made from well before the little dude was even thought of, and it's been hanging around in my sewing bag ever since. It was mostly a lovely dress with little shoulder pads and a tulip skirt, but an unfortunate circular ruched panel in the midsection made it unwearable in its original form. It gave the unsettling impression that the wearer had been set about by some knife-wielding maniac who'd performed haphazard adhoc abdominal surgery then stitched it all back up again the wrong way around. In any case I finally just gave up on all the elaborate plans I had for it (it was going to be a strapless dress, then a paper bag waist skirt) and whacked on a bit of thick black elastic as a waistband. Et voila, the lazy sewer's skirt!

This little eighties vest ($3.50) caught my eye on the racks of the Coolangatta Salvation Army store mostly because of the contrast between the black and the print - but I bought it because of the exaggerated and elongated cut at the front. I've actually been wearing this almost constantly since I bought it a week or so ago, it's surprisingly versatile and somehow those roses go with everything. In fact, the actual outfit I wore today was the skirt/tee/vest combo not just the skirt and t-shirt.

I haven't done an op-shop round-up post for an age - truly continents have formed and then drifted apart again since I last laid out my op-shopped purchases for your perusal. As ever, a few factors are to blame:

1. Lack of motivation to op-shop as have millions of summer clothes already,
2. Lack of motivation to op-shop as the beach calls to me instead,
3. Lack of motivation to op-shop as tis the season for sale shopping instead!

So this is a sort of aggregate post of random bits of stuff I've picked up here and there over the last few weeks of half-hearted occasional op-shop adventures. There are a few things in my alterations pile, but this is the actual (rather paltry) rundown of what I've picked up lately.

This Mexican vest ($8) is one of those things which I occasionally buy, then ruminate over for a while before deciding whether it works or not. It has a distinctly late-seventies-Doctor-Who-costume-department vibe about it, and I mostly bought it just because I'd been to four different op-shops that morning and found nada, but I do kind of like it. Not with this outfit though, that's just for the sake of quick and easy photo taking.

The Gold Coast is one of those places where there are lots and lots and lots of retirees (and golf courses), and consequently the op-shops are chock full of senior citizen wear. The racks are clogged with slack suits, sensible blouses, bowls uniforms and orthopedic shoes - and they do a roaring trade among the thrifty elderly locals. Not so much joy for me though, unless I muster up a bit more commitment to the op-shopping cause!

This little blouse ($4.50) is borderline sensible seniors-wear, but something about the jade green colour, the perfectly floppy fabric, the embroidered seashells and the myriad cut-outs gives it a little edge. I had trouble getting a decent photo of the colour - imagine something somewhere between all three of these and you'll just about have it right.

No need to imagine the colour(s) here, this technicolour yawn effect is very true to life. This washed silk blouse ($3.50),

is probably what we'd have to call non-sensible seniors wear, and since I'm all in favour of anything from the Endora school of older lady fashion I approve!

See, she likes the blouse too!

In summary, I'm going to have to seriously up the ante when it comes to my op-shop endeavours. I have the distinct feeling that there is a goldmine of fabulousness lurking out there and I need to get out there and comb the garage sales, car boot sales and op-shops with a renewed hunger. I have no need of new (old) clothes right now, but I have started to get those first tiny glimmerings of interest in wintry things - and those can only be assuaged with some mighty, mighty op-shopping magic...

PS. I don't know what the final verdict on the shoes from my last post was, there were so many differing opinions I think I'm going to have to do some kind of complicated spreadsheet/graph/pie chart analysis before I have the results!

Shoed I Stay or Shoed I Go?

Leopard print playsuit - Topshop online sale, price unknown*
Hussy wedges - $15 (new) from the Village Markets

Yes, that is a very, very, very bad pun up there. In fact I'm not sure if there is such an animal as a good pun, or even an indifferent pun - I think they might all be bad to the bone. I occasionally deploy them and then feel a little bit ashamed of myself, but what the hey!

*I cannot truthfully say how much that playsuit cost me because I bought it online on Christmas night after many delicious alcoholic beverages (and with Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket), and although it was on final clearance sale I'm pretty sure the currency conversion would have been a bit of a massacre. I just hit "complete transaction" on Paypal with my eyes closed and hoped for the best. Luckily it fits and is made of lovely swishy viscosey stuff which makes me feel like I'm wearing a big op-shopped old ladies leopard print scarf cunningly fashioned into a ruffly romper. Result!

The first shoes in question here are these suede wedges which I bought (reduced from $275 or something like) from our lovely local markets a couple of weekends ago. They are very lovely to wear, and I love the big chunky concealed platform and the smooth sweep of dark wooden wedge, but the colour (called "creme" on the Hussy website) is problematic. I'm also a little unsure of the ankle straps - are they perhaps a little bit tarty? Or stumptastic? Hmmm, I feel sure I've asked those questions before, about other garments. It seems I have some deepseated fears about appearing stumpy and/or tarty - yet I am quite sure I look like a slutty hobbit on a regular basis without a second thought. Interesting!

Here are the shoes without the ankle straps, what do you reckon?

Conventional wisdom states that the ankle strap is an automatic enstumpifier, and should be avoided by anyone who isn't at least 90% leg. When I bought the wedges I just assumed that I'd never even bother putting the ankle straps on, yet somehow I kind of prefer them - which leads me to my first question for your consideration. Straps or no straps?

The other question I have about these shoes is in regard to the colour. They're cream coloured suede and that means that:

a. they will get really grubby within about 5 minutes
b. they go with nothing in my wardrobe
c. I am rather leary of them due to my long-held and deepseated prejudices against light coloured shoes (and the wearers thereof).

They are suede, which means they would suck up some coloured dye like thirsty little vampires (or the newborn little dude in a crazed milk frenzy), so I'm very inclined toward painting them another non-"creme" kind of colour. So that's question number two. Should I dye them, or should I leave them in their off-white original shade?

I know this is all blurry, but I am very amused by the way the breeze picked up the ruffle/sleeve so it looks like I've rigged it up with fishing line or similar!

Which of course leads us logically to question number three - if I was to dye them, then what colour should I choose? Black is the obvious frontrunner due to versatility and trans-seasonal factors, but I keep being tempted by thoughts of jade green, fuschia or hot purple. Advice and suggestions not only gratefully received, but demanded!

Black pleather bootie things - $2 (not a typo) Rubi Shoes sale

Shoe Number Two is a much more straightforward proposition - should (or "shoed") they stay or should they go?

They're pretty pleathery, plasticky and all round nasty and come from a super el cheapo mall shoe store chain which smells noxiously of bubble gum and the toxic fumes belched out of unregulated Chinese factories. I bought them when I was hunting for accessories for my eighties theme party costume (husband refused to wear the pants by the way, despite the poll results), they were the freakishly low price of two bucks and I entertained notions of spray painting them white for the party.

I cannot for the life of me decide if they are ok or not. They are actually quite comfortable, but the pleather factor does put me off - not to mention the fact that they are some kind of unholy boot/shoe/biker boot/gladiator sandal hybrid the existence of which goes against all natural law. My other PVC/PU boots are my wet weather standbys, water resistant and impervious to destruction (and obviously with a half-life of 40,000 years), but these aren't going to be much use in the rain with those big cutouts in the sides.

So tell me, should I stick these in the charity donation bin under cover of darkness, or are they acceptable for openly wearing during daylight hours? As ever, I turn to you for guidance in these vital matters!

PS. The little dude has been hitting all sorts of milestones and rites of passage lately, including getting his first haircut. His crazy baby curls got fried by swimming pool chlorine and turned into frizzy matted semi-dreadlock disastrousness, so we were forced to take drastic action. Little dude very pleased with his new big boy hair, parents gradually getting used to more mature appearance of small ferret about the house!