Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Note on Petticoats

Now it may seem that a creature like me could only have sprung fully formed from a (possibly sequinned) egg on a mountain top Monkey-style:

but in fact I do have the usual human parents including a mother who lives in Scotland and is something like Alexis Carrington Colby, but with more corgis and haggis. She was also an actual fifties girl/minx-about-town in the actual nineteen fifties and therefore has quite a store of arcane knowledge and ancient wisdom on subjects including (but certainly not limited to) the lost art of "damping down", how to ballroom dance with a Tongan prince, the correct technique for flirting your way out of a tight scrape - and the proper way to wear a fifites frock. Here is an email I received yesterday regarding that very subject - read it and learn!

Dearest Minnikin

A note re your latest blog.

The fifties look cannot be (and never was) achieved without the
assistance of at least two enormous gathered petticoats (half
petticoats) made of cotton and starched within an inch of their lives.
 And I mean startched!  Not the wussy spray on kind of starch but the
kind you soaked them in for hours, dried them on the clothes line and
then attempted to iron them.  The correctly starched petticoat would
stand on the floor by itself.

When the petticoat was showing below the hemline the discreet comment
"it's snowing down south" alerted to the wearer that there was a BIG

I had one petticoat that was broderie anglaise that used to shred the
back of my stockings when it was seriously starched and the scalloped
edge scraped against my legs.

You undoubtedly know all this petticoat 'lore' but i just thought I'd
mention it due to the pretty 50's number you were wearing.  Won't work
sans petticoats and that's that.  If you have the series 'Mad Men'
showing on TV in Oz they do the 50's look quite well, especially the
pointy bras.

Once synthetic fabrics appeared it all went to hell on a rail of
course. Sadly missed.

Needless to say this was a style (as so many are) that only teenagers
with 18 inch waists could seeriously contemplate.  Fortunately for me
I fitted into that category briefly when the petticoats were at their



So there you have it!

xx (or should that be XXXX)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Things That Just Don't Suit Me - Case File #1

Fifties eyelet frock - $8 op-shop
Andrea & Joen blue patent leather shoes - $10 Bondi markets
Gold plated blue bird locket - $3 garage sale

The blog world is full of girls who look just dandy in a fifties full-skirted frock. They've got the right hats and pumps and foundation garments (for nipped in waists and jaunty jutting busts), the perfect alligator bags and white gloves and cherry red-lipsticked lips. They know how to make a french roll or a chignon or whatever those things are called, and they like wearing stockings, even on sunny days.

And then there's me.

Look at me, all apologetic and schlumpy slumpy shouldered there in what is actually a perfectly pretty little dress. It's so rare these days to actually find a fifties frock in an op-shop, let alone one which is a lovely creamy beige embroidered eyelet, so I felt compelled to buy it. All the while knowing that it just wouldn't suit me at all.


I did try to make it work, I promise you. I put my hair up, and then had to take it down again because it was even stragglier up than down. I put some lipstick on, then wiped it off because it made me look hard and old and a little bit mean. I put on my juttingest bra, then took it off because it made me look matronly rather than jaunty, and I ransacked the back of my wardrobe for the right shoes until I was forced to give up in defeat. The best I could manage were my blue shoes, and (much as I love them) they obviously aren't quite the thing.

I could have kept working at it, tried harder, made more of an effort. I briefly considered having a look for a belt which might give my waist the vaguest hint of nipped in - but one peek in the writhing snake pit which is my belt drawer put paid to that plan. Really though I am far too lazy for outfits which are that much hard work, especially when there are so many things in my wardrobe which I love unreservedly and which feel exactly like me when I throw them on.

Our house and this dress are of just about the same vintage, so (as a last ditch effort) I thought maybe I'd take some photos inside - as though perhaps the pure fifties-ness of the shack would bring out some heretofore untapped ability in me to wear pleated skirts without looking dumpy. The photos all turned out like this, with me blurrily haunting the frame like a disconsolate ghost - condemned to roam the a halls for all eternity entirely without a waist!

There are lots of things which I am, or might be, or would like to be, or could be - but fifties girl isn't one of them. I am not demure and I am not prim, nor am I pin-up girl sexy or seamed stockings sophisticated, I do not have an hourglass figure (nor the inclination to squish myself into underwear which might give me one) and I am far too happy with the wings and eggs and sparkles I wear already - so I'm not quite sure what to do next time I find a little fifties frock hanging on the op-shop rack. What would you do, in my shoes? Leave it in the hope that a fifties girl will find it and give it a loving home before the rapacious secondhand dealers get hold of it, or take it home yourself just to look at?

PS. In another bit of classic Sunday night business I bring to you this tag response. I haven't done one of these for an absolute age - this one comes courtesy of Hammie, not only brave enough to post photos of her spiral permed (and gorgeous) teenage self, but nice enough to tag me with the Q&A meme.

Here are the guidelines:

1. Respond and rework. Answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your own invention; add a question of your own.

2. Tag eight other un-tagged people.

What is your current obsession? Attempting to make another little dude-type person for our family. Although I'm trying not to obsess about it, because that's not at all helpful.

Good fika place? (That would be coffee to us non-Swedes) - Ok, I'm replacing this one because I don't drink coffee. My replacement question is:

Good yum-cha place? Ming Palace, Broadbeach.

Do you nap a lot? I often nap when the little dude naps, or at least have a little lie down and read a book. I think I should have been born in a siesta-having country, either that or someone needs to convince my fellow Australians that a siesta would really work here.

Who was the last person you hugged? The little dude, when he went to bed just now.

What’s for dinner? Sunday night is povvo night when no one can be bothered cooking, so dinner was canned tomato soup and parmesan cheese toast.

What was the last thing you bought? A mango smoothie. Last fashiony thing was a ruffly silk 80s blouse which I might have to try and post about soon. It is delicious (as the little dude would say).

What are you listening to right now? Geckos chirruping as they run across the ceiling.

What is your favourite weather? Lovely golden afternoons at any time of year.

What’s on your bedside table? Nothing, I don't have one. I just have a little stack of books under my side of the bed.

Say something to the person/s who tagged you. Hammie, hurry up and get that book deal I'm always hassling you about. The parents of the world need your guidance!

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you want it to be? Wategos Beach at Byron Bay. That's not very exotic, but it would work for us really well since it's just down the highway from here. We had our honeymoon there too.

Favourite vacation spot? Anywhere! Although we actually live in a holiday beach town now so every day is a little bit like a holiday.

Name the things you can’t live without. Are people "things"? Little dude, husband, love. Non-peopley things that I can't live without (apart from air/water etc) are black eyeliner, lip balm and books.

What is your favourite tea flavour? I don't drink tea either, but I like those little tubs of green tea ice-cream that they have at the sushi train. Those are pretty good.

What would you like to get rid of? Apart from all the terrible things like cancer and famine and religious fundamentalism of all stripes? I'd like the bull sharks in our lake to be banished so that we could play in the water there and the baby ducks wouldn't be constantly being eaten in front of the little dude.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go? I'd go to Scotland and see my mum.

What did you want to become as a child? An Olympic clown - aka a gymnast. The circus came to town the same week the Montreal Olympics was on TV.

What do you miss? Getting to sleep in whenever I please without any small persons demanding bananas at 5am. I'd miss the small person more than I miss the sleep though, so I can handle it.

What are you reading right now? At the moment I'm re-reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell. I want to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies next.

What's your favourite brand of jeans? I don't really have one, since I am not particularly denim-inclined.

What designer piece of clothing would you most like to own (new or vintage)? Far too many to list here. Probably all the dresses I endlessly pored over in my Women's Weekly Fabulous Fashion Exhibition book - pieces from Vionnet, Balenciaga, Chanel, Schiaparelli and so on.

If you could go back in time and talk to your 17 year old self, what would you say? I don't think I could stand to talk to myself at 17. The drama! The teenage Romeo & Juliet style romance! The attitude (I got on detention for "flouncing" at a teacher once, I wish I still had that detention slip, I'd frame it)! There would be no point talking to me to try and impart my ancient wisdom either, I absolutely positively knew everything when I was 17 and no one could tell me otherwise.

This is my question:

Dogs or cats?
(this particular question led to some rather heated discussion at our little dinner party last night). My answer is cats because they are silly and funny and keep themselves nice.

I am tagging: I'm a bit late with this, so no doubt every other person in the world has already been tagged with it. I'll tag Claerwen, I think!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hippety Hop

Black jersey pants - 50cents op-shop
Black eighties top - $3.50 op-shop
Pink and green tie dye scarf - $4 op-shop
Converse Chucks - $4 op-shop (new)

This is my ninja mama suit, perfectly designed for sneaking round our yard under cover of darkness, impersonating the Easter Bilby and hiding teeny weeny chocolate eggs for the little dude to find. Black is obviously essential for stealth missions, but any self-respecting bilby needs a sugar hit of easter egg pink and green and in between.

Just about cool enough to actually wear a cotton scarf without expiring and perspiring.

Not that there wasn't a mountain of sugar already hanging around the love shack this weekend. For a start I made about a bazillion Honey Joys for the little dude's kindy Easter party, with speckled candy coated chocolate eggs on top (a semi-pitiful attempt at getting them to look like little nests, rather than just sticky corn flake conglomerations).

My brand new op-shopped Chucks added a bit more sickly sweetness to the sugar high. I know that messing with the classics is rarely a good idea, and I'm sure these are considered deeply uncool - but even in ninja mode I need some kooky colour and pattern to keep me hippety hopping happily.

Do you see the little pink bunnies peeking out there?

Anyway, this is just supposed to be a quickie post to say hello and wish everyone a lovely lazy long weekend, so I'll go and leave you all guzzling your stockpiles of chocolate in peace. Let this be a warning though, this is what can happen when you have too much sugar coursing through your bloodstream (I'm sure by 10am today I already had at least 75% sucrose running through my veins):

PS. Here's my little bunny dude ready for some serious egg hunting action, closely followed by some serious egg chomping action, followed by many hours of chocolate-fuelled crazy toddler antics.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Monsters vs Aliens

Swan brand t-shirt - courtesy the likkle gurl who wurves pwetty things
Gorman farmer pants - $5 Bondi markets
Lanvinesque necklace - $5 Diva sale rack

Mollini navy sequin ballet flats - $5 op-shop (new)

The rain keeps coming down here at the moment, torrential sub-tropical downpours for days, interspersed with brief moments of sunshine and intense humidity, wild winds and flash flooding. As an antidote to acute stir craziness (toddler variety) today we took the little dude, a bag of grapes and a pile of cushions to the movies to see Monsters vs Aliens. Trips to the pictures are a bit like air travel - grappling with messy packaged food, sitting still for hours at a time, being chilled to the bone by arctic air conditioning - so I tend to dress accordingly and keep it simple. If I was one of those people who get interviewed for magazine articles about travel I would probably take a cashmere blanket to the cinema, and sit there wearing an eye mask and ear plugs and spritzing myself with Evian water while awaiting my pre-ordered vegetarian kosher meal and slathering my hands in La Mer foetus/placenta cream. Which would be a shame because I would have missed out on scarfing down a bucket of popcorn, watching a bunch of 3D animated ridiculousness and hearing many toddler belly laughs!

To avoid being snap frozen, frostbitten or goosebumpified from the super-cooled refrigerated air in the cinema my new peach silk bomber jacket ($3 op-shop) was just the ticket. It is oversized to precisely the right degree and has the rounded ovoid silhouette which I've been fixated on for a while now. I've been admiring all the "strong" (fashion-speak euphemism for "big") pointy structured shoulders around, and experimenting with them too, but the rounded shoulder boulder shape is the one which I have a hankering for.

A recent 2am nostalgia-and-Bailey's fuelled downloading rampage (husband away, mouse will play) yielded the video clip below, which I loved in 1985 as an impressionable teenager (and obviously still love as a drunken adult). I think my bomber jacket love and rounded shoulder lust can possibly be traced all the way back to this - although the tutu tail thing, white skivvy and giant head bow didn't stand the test of time. I really wanted to look like Dee C. Lee or Sade (or dare I say it, Whitney Houston), but since I was a snub nosed little blonde surfie chick chipmunk I had to be content with Belinda Carlisle as style inspiration instead...

"See the Day" Dee C. Lee (not to be confused with the HORRIBLE Girls Aloud cover version from a few years ago). Bonus nostalgia points for any aged Australian readers in the Gavin Wood Countdown voiceover at the start and finish of the clip.

This clip was playing in my head when I op-shopped this violet washed silk bomber jacket the other day - it has the perfect rounded shoulders/sleeves that I had in my mind - but sadly it's just too big for me. A big step beyond oversized into overwhelmed by fabric.

The photo doesn't come close to getting the colour right - it's lush and luscious and scrumptious and I wish, wish, wish it fit me properly. Instead it is going off to The Village Markets with me tomorrow to try and find a new home. The Village Markets is our local little cool fashion market, and if the torrential rain can hold off for half a day then I'll be there tomorrow having a bit of a jumble sale of stuff from my wardrobe. If anyone on the Gold Coast is reading this and feels like coming down to Burleigh tomorrow for a bit of a rummage, I'd love to meet you!

More purple foolishness - this time a scrunchable silk taffeta ball skirt which I bought for the fabric a month ago but cannot bring myself to cut up. I was in the op-shop the other day having a little chuckle to myself at the teenage costume geek girl who was trying on a HUGE poufy silk shantung wedding dress with much twirling, swirling and breathless exclamations along the lines of "It's Sarah's dress from Labyrinth! It couldn't be more perfect!". The little old op-shop ladies were watching her in bemusement, and I must admit she was borderline annoying, but the sheer giddy excitement she was in the grip of made me love her a little bit instead. Besides, how can I mock anyone for swirling and twirling when I have this flying purple people eater hanging in my wardrobe! Here are an array of nauseating poses where I tried to capture the spirit of teenage costume geek girl, see if you can spot the elephant, recycling bin, stroller and rubber flip-flop which are all hiding somewhere in these photos:

Barf! The coy shepherdess one is the worst, I think.

Last of all, I present the little dude in his new purple deadstock seventies shirt ($6 op-shop), which I bought at the same time as the purple silk bomber jacket. Perhaps it wasn't Dee C. Lee playing in my mind that day after all, but Prince instead?

PS. Sorry, I really have been completely dreadful lately with not updating etc. Must try harder!