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Wellington Style Icon: Fandangle Fabulus

FandangleTo start April out right, I’ve returned to my “Making It Happen” series – and I’ve scored an interview with another of Wellington’s style icons. Someone global, yet local, who shows us all the power of creativity, self-determination, and being body positive!

I first met this charmer on Cuba Street, of course, at Fidel’s Cafe. A fedora at a rakish angle over crimson hair caught my eye, along with the glimmer of sequins. This was someone I had to meet. Turns out this unique individual, who I was repeatedly assured was from Paris, was from a tribe associated with New Zealand’s festival of festivals, our Kiwiburn. Not only is Fandangle’s style advice popular online, but Fandangle was a noted presence at the Kiwiburn free clothesline this year, even appearing in the Wanganui Chronicle. With festival style hotter than ever, I knew I had to bring you some style advice from the source. Fandangle came to my house for an intimate tête-à-tête, interview and styling session. Without further ado…Fandangle Fabulus.

Hi Fandangle!

HULLO SADEE! I MUS SAY YOO LOOK LUVLY. BUT YOO CAN LOOK BETTER AND I SHOW YOO HOW IN MAKOVER TOODAY. OF CORSE YOO CAN NEVVER LOOK AS GOOD AS MONSTER BUT WEE SEE WAT WEE CAN DOO.

Oh wow, thank you so much! I do feel very unglamorous compared to you. But to start …how does a young monster become a style icon?

WELL YOO NO IT NOT EESY. PEEPL SAY “WOW FANDANGLE YOO SUCH A NATRAL AT FASHUN” BUT DEY NOT NO HOW MUCH WORK IT IS TO BEE DIS GOOD. I PUT CLOTHS ON AND OFF A LOT. LIKE EVRY DAY I SPEND 8 OR 9 HOURS PUTTING CLOTHS ON AND OFF. JUS SO I CAN STAY FITT FOR FASHUN. MOST PEEPL NOT REELISE DAT WAT IT TAKE OR MAYBEE DEY JUS LAZY. DEY WONDER WY DEY NOT SO FASHNABUL BUT IT COS DEY NOT PREEPARED TO WORK HARD.

 Tell us about you and Paris.

OMG I LUV PAREE AND PAREE LUV MEE! WOW I SUCH A POET!!!!

I ONLEE RECENTLEE MOV TO LITTUL NEW ZEELAND FROM PAREE AND IT A BIT WEERD FINGS SO DIFFERENT HEER. LIKE IN PAREE PEEPL STAY STILL A LOT AND NOT WEER CLOTHS EXCEPT IN FASHUN WEEK. HEER AR PIKSHURS OF SOM PEEPL IN PAREE JUST BEEING STILL AND NOT WEERING CLOTHS:
NakedinparisPEEPL IN LITTUL NEW ZEELAND TRY TO DO DAT TOO BUT I FINK DEY NOT QWITE UNNERSTAND:
5 NZI MISS SO MANNY GRATE FINGS FROM PAREE. LIKE BEEING GEST OF ONUR AT PARIS FASHUN WEEK. DIS MEE SOOPERVISING IN 2013:
-AND I USED TO CLIME I-FELL TOWER EVRY DAY (IT CALLED DAT COS LOTS PEEPL FALL OFF AND IT FUN TO WATCH) AND I MISS TAJ MAHAL AND STONHENGE TOO.

 Have you got a favorite item of clothing?

OMG WAT?????? I LUV ALL CLOTHS!!!!!!!! WELL OK MAYBEE MY FAVRIT CLOTHS AT MOMENT IS DIS WUN:
7 HATT SCRAFIT SOO VERSATIL. IT LIK HATT AND SCRAF ALL IN ONE. AND YOO CAN USE IT FOR TALE WARMER IN WINTER TOO!!!

8 TAIL WARMERI QWITE LIK YOR CLOTHS SADEE. I CAN HELP YOO WIV MAKOVER BETTER IF I TRI DEM ON …

Fandanglestyle

We paused to view the many styles of Fandangle. 50 shades of Fandangle…steampunk Fandangle…burlesque Fandangle. Fandangle’s versatility was amazing!

What’s your most recent purchase?

I NOT NO WAT YOO MEEN. PURR-CHASE … DAT SOM KIND OF CAT???

Okay then, moving on…who are YOUR style icons?

WELL I FINK EVERYWUN NEED DERE OWN STILE SO I NOTT ENCURAGE PEEPL TO COPPY. BUT DESE AR SOME PEEPL WIV GRATE FASHUN IDEERS:

theclassics

Of course – the French classics of black and white, classically deployed. Tres chic!

How do you stay so fit and oval? I believe you come from a very athletic family.

LIKE I SAY BEFOR I WORK VERRY HARD PUTTING CLOTHS ON AND OFF FOR HOURS EVRY DAY. DAT HELP MEE KEP MY FIGERR. AS WELL AS DAT I CARFUL TO EET ENUF. SOMTIMES MONSTER CAN DIET TO MUCH:
12 TOO MUCH DIETSo true! It’s all about a healthy balance. You’re very well known as an avatar of “festival style.” What are some great outfits you’ve seen at New Zealand festivals?

OMG! WELL DIS GRATE HATT I FIND AT KIWEEBURN DIS YEER:
13 stockings hattWAT I FINK WEERD THO IS HOW HOOMINS WEER HATTS AS NAPPYS. IT LOOK SO STOOPID! DIS MEE PRETENDING TO BEE HOOMIN WEERING HATT AS NAPPY. HAHAHAHA!!!!!

14 stockingsDo you have any style advice to inspire our readers?

15 BillyI ALWAYS SAY YOO HAV TO KEEP IT REEL. LIKE DIS MY FREND BILLY. HEE WEERING SHIRT WIV COOL LEPPARDS ON IT BUT IT BE MUCH BETTER IF DEY WERE REEL LEPPARDS.

SO YEA. YOO SHOOD ALL REMEMBER:

MOOR REEL = MOOR FASHNABUL!

DON’T WEER HATTS AS NAPPYS!

VoilaThank you so much, Fandangle! We’ll always have Paris!

After we wrapped up our interview Fandangle took the time to style me. Fandangle recommends a palette of black, white, silver, stripes, and crimson, and a bold hand with lipstick. I even had my hair done, and the whole ensemble was capped off by Fandangle giving me my very own monster-made hat. “HATTS ESSENSHUL!” I couldn’t agree more, especially as we enter the cooler weather.

Here I am after my “fabulus” makeover. I think we all agree: it’s a definite improvement.

For your own style tips, you can keep up with Fandangle Fabulus on Facebook. You can also see the rest of Fandangle’s family, Kiwi monsters at large Tangle, Dangle, and little cutie Mangle on YouTube and on Tumblr.

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On Hardly Ever Drinking Alcohol

Has anyone else noticed that Drynuary is now followed by the FebFast, giving us two potential months of abstaining from alcohol? The Guardian had a stab at Drynuary here. Myself, I’m going to discuss what it’s like to not drink alcohol all year ’round.

Women's temperance: pretty badass in 1874.

Women’s temperance: pretty badass in 1874.

For all practical purposes, I’m a nondrinker. I have an alcoholic drink an average of every 3 – 4 years, so rarely that I can remember each individual occasion – a wedding toast, or a friend asking me to try something incredibly special. I don’t mind, because I don’t have a medical or addiction-history reason to not drink alcohol – I just don’t like it much, so I choose not to, as a rule. My choice puts me in the curious company of other liquor abstainers and minimalists: temperance-movement suffragettes, evangelical teetotalers, Mormons, Muslims, “health nuts”, and straight-edge punks. (New Zealand, it turns out, narrowly dodged alcohol Prohibition in 1911!)

Like most nondrinkers, I don’t tend to bring it up, because not drinking leads to social weirdness in most Western societies. In one memorable conversation at my first job, I was told that I wouldn’t get far in publishing because I didn’t drink (sure enough, I work in tech today). I was brought up in the USA and lived there until I was 28, and not drinking is relatively common there, 1 in 3 – 4 people, whereas in New Zealand, only 2 out of  10 are nondrinkers. Dating as a non-drinker in New Zealand has been particularly fraught. “If I can’t get you drunk,” said one swain, “how am I ever going to get you into bed?” A statement to make everyone go teetotal right there.

Seeing my friends enjoy wine and cocktails and whiskey, I know I am outside their shared connisseurship of bitter and subtle flavors. Once, I asked a dear friend who is also a globetrotting gourmet, “Do I seem naive, childish, because I don’t drink?” After a tense moment, the confession came: “Yes.” Well, then, so be it.

Courtesy of Lombro Bulmbha via Creative Commons.

Somebody’s got to light that absinthe.

There are a lot of pluses to being a nondrinker. I’m welcome at wild parties – someone has to drive home. Recently, I was the one torching absinthe sugar cubes for other guests with my steady hands. I am also a reliable caberet emcee. One of the joys of burlesque and cabaret for me is that it can be a wicked evening activity without boring alcohol as a focus.

I may seem naive and childish, but so does my complexion. My partner, a light and occasional drinker, has also been touched lightly by time – someone accused me of cradle-snatching him, when he’s 8 years older than I am. The Drinking Mirror App shows what drinking alcohol does to your skin.

ShoesorboozeAlso? The financial benefits of being a non-drinker are insane. Forget the Latte Factor: others have also noted that not drinking alcohol suddenly boosts their budget. I remember being shocked into silence the first time I heard that someone had racked up a $150 bar tab. My house, which I own, I saved up for between the ages of 30 and 35 – it’s the house that No Bar Tabs built. Now that I’m there, nothing ever stops me from driving home to its slightly distant location.

Then there are the aspects that aren’t pros or cons, they just are. Yes, I have fun, but…my standards are different. Some parties in New Zealand are hosted in raw spaces to avoid damage to houses due to enthused drinkers. But I am swiftly bored hanging out in somebody’s garage with a bag of potato chips and drunk people.  Food has to be good – company has to be interesting – I admit, I’ll get off the dance floor sooner – I’m going to admire every detail of your outfit. I remember what I did and said, and what everyone else did, too.

And life has rolled on. Nondrinking hasn’t barred me from experiences or misfortunes. As a nondrinker, I have ridden pillion on a motorcycle at 5 AM through the last of lurid old Times Square, modeled, partied in the Meatpacking District in New York, visited ten countries, been mugged, been divorced, gone urban spelunking, enjoyed world-class cuisine, danced at big band Motown and radical feminist punk concerts, flirted badly, flirted with shocking success, and celebrated getting engaged again.

This month, I support fellow Wellington redheads raising money for the FebFast – please consider donating to help young New Zealanders learn how to enjoy alcohol responsibly.

For a nondrinker’s night out in Wellington with some beverage variety, I happily recommend the delicious virgin drinks at The Library. And at the world-famous Matterhorn, just ask the bartender and they will make virgin versions of their amazing cocktails.

My life as a nondrinker.

In conclusion: this is my life as a nondrinker. From the irresistible Tumblr Babies Covered In Money.

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Monday Follies: Between Friends

I admit it: the last few posts here at ESS were a nostalgia-fest. A friend of mine in the USA had her delightful wedding (sunflowers! Cape Cod! mini-reunion of university friends!), I wasn’t there, and it made me look homeward.

After reconnecting with wonderful Wellington friends over the past two weeks, I am feeling more grounded. This includes Joy from A Charm of Magpies. She of the flying crafty fingers and dancing feet has written a post about her talented Wellington friends, and I’m so honored to be one of them.

Trelise Cooper’s sale lines have many items marked down to 60% off and their very good returns policy applies to sale items.  They ship free in NZ and worldwide. Each line has its own sale category. Many of the coats and jackets are a great Steampunk Every Day look.

TreliseJackets

Still available in a size 14 at time of posting at the Trelise Cooper sale: all these jackets.

For Wellingtonians, hidden treasure Harry’s in Seatoun is also having their smashing 50% off winter sale, a good chance to pick up something posh. They stock striking NZ fashion in a range of sizes. Sale goes through Sunday the 13th! Nip into their gift shop for delicious candles and spring preview clothes, and a vintage designer rail plus vintage shoes.

Most adorable new comic book in the world: Lumberjanes! Buy it for your daughters, your sons, and your own sunkissed nostalgia for Bigfoot-chasing summers that never were. Friendship to the max! (Even I knew that Sasquatch wasn’t living in my neighborhood growing up, so I restrained myself to squinting at the skies for UFOs.)

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Making It Happen: Cara Hill, Style Blogger & Best Dressed in Wellington

Cara Hill, herself.“Best dressed” lists can seem remote and unreal. But Wellingtonian Cara Hill, recipient of two best dressed accolades in 2012 and 2013, makes being beautifully dressed sound fun and accessible. Her striking style is just one facet of her expressing herself to the fullest. I talked with Cara about her style journey, being body positive, the practical side of being well dressed, and hating alterations but loving fashion risks.

We’ve all seen you darting around town, the strikingly lovely brunette with the ravishing tattoos and fabulous outfits. But, tell us…who is Cara Hill?

Hmmmm, isn’t that always the toughest question? Let’s see … Cara Hill is a Canadian expat who has lived in NZ for almost 4 years now. I love the theatre and therefore have spent a big chunk of my career working in one. I’m married to the love of my life with whom I have more fun than I ever thought possible. I love tattoos, books, movies, body positivity and feminism. And I love, LOVE pretty clothes!

 And you’re also a published author, of the book Supernatural Winnipeg, which was quite successful in Canada.  I mention it because I think there are lots of misconceptions about women who, as you say, love pretty clothes – that we’re insubstantial or unintelligent —

True, good point. Although, it is a travel guide to haunted places, so that might discredit me!  I kid.

 (five minutes of digression talking about Bigfoot and taniwhas)

We should probably talk about paranormal stuff sometime, but we’re here today to talk about your magnificent sense of style. You run a highly popular style tumblr, ILikePrettyClothes.tumblr.com and you were also voted as Best Dressed in Wellington 2012 last September by the readers of Wellington’s Capital Times. AND you just got cited in Fishhead Magazine this month as one of Wellington’s best dressed.

It’s a bit overwhelming actually, the best dressed things.[Read more]

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Making It Happen: Behome by Emily Davidow

The “Making It Happen” series is back online, conversing with Emily Davidow about moving to New Zealand and starting up a home design emporium.

Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always been a “house” person, enjoying my (sometimes ill advised) attempts to decorate my abode. I’ve always enjoyed home stores, and they are dream businesses for many of us. “One with special things – the kind of things my friends really want,” we say, gazing off into the distant mists, visualizing a design boutique with all of our favorites, or an all-steampunk kitchen store.  So it was a great pleasure to get behind the scenes of a delicious home design emporium with Emily Davidow.

“Emporium” is the right word for the variety at her retail space in Miramar, Behome. Two floors overflow with rugs, textiles, unique furniture, and even some well-chosen garments.

Emily Davidow, center, talks to customers at Behome’s grand opening in June 2013.

Growing up in the U.S.A., her family’s business was home furnishings. After successfully expanding the family business online in the 1990s, and other creative ventures, Emily decided that it was time for a major life change – moving from the U.S.A. to New Zealand. And that led to her opening up Behome in Wellington.

Read on to learn about her story, the vitality of beauty in the home, design Down Under, why things cost more in New Zealand, and good advice for your own business. [Read more]

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One Hundred Years of Girdletude

Do you want to see a 100-year progression of waist cinchers and stocking holders from my vintage clothing collection? Of course you do!

The older underwear items were acquired in two fell swoops. One group was acquired by me in the mid-1990s from a Philadelphia stocking wholesaler that was closing down. Along with a tiny Victorian corset and some curious garter belts and bras, I also acquired boxes and boxes of vintage seamed stockings, most of which have, over 20 years, been worn to death. A handful of boxes remain in my collection. The second group (eight corsets and girdles!) was scooped up by my sharp-eyed partner at a costume rental store sale in Palmerston North. “I thought you might be interested,” he said. There are lessons here for collectors:

  • If it’s there, buy it.
  • If you see one of something you’re interested in, look and ask for more at the same venue.
  • It can be worth going back a second time.
  • Tell your friends and intimates what you collect and ask them to keep an eye out.

I am donating two boxes of pristine 1950s vintage seamed nylon stockings to the silent auction at Save Our Strangelove. This is a fantastic event fundraising for a New Zealand burlesque dancer who was severely ill in the U.S.A., racking up serious medical bills. It’s got a star-studded performance line up, plus the sexiest silent auction ever, and is well worth attending, especially if you’ve never been to a burlesque show before. Here are the items I’ve donated for the auction:

Hubba hubba!

Two boxes with two pairs of virgin Cuban heeled seamed nylons: one box has black stockings, one box has a white pair and a pale coffee pair with black seams.

A vintage-wise friend of mine, who remembers her teachers wearing these nylons, told me, “The way to see if nylons would fit your foot was to wrap the length of the foot around your fist. If the foot length was a match for your fist, it would fit your foot perfectly.”

And now, on to our girdle timeline!

Victorian corset and dress bodice, probably from the 1860s:

Girdle-VictorianThis black silk Victorian bodice is our starting point, because its wasp waist is going to pursue us to the present day as a compression-attainable goal. (The person who sold it to me at an antique fair told me that it was from Winston Churchill’s family.) Next to it is the saddest, tiniest Victorian corset in the world – small, made of the simplest heavy cotton, stiff with stitching, stained with time, missing an eyelet. A poor servant girl’s corset, or a tween child’s training corset. Here’s hoping the wearer lived to outgrow it.

Jumping forwards in time, here are some 1930s-1960s cotton coutil corset/girdles and some elastic girdles:

Girdleorama

Check out the peach-colored numbers with the lacing. Terrifying, aren’t they? The fan lacing seems to be an attempt to allow the wearer to lace herself with greater ease, but I found them harder to wrangle than the Victorian corset. Their cotton fabric doesn’t stretch at all, though they do have a few elastic gussets. They fasten with hooks that stay in place ferociously – the busks of Victorian corsets are much easier to undo. The orthopedic pink color is probably an attempt to make them harder to see under the lighter dresses of the time. Most of this batch has found new homes – one or two are available. I’m keeping the broader-beamed fan lacing one! For more on girdles and corsets from this period, the web site Corsetiere.net is a wealth of knowledge.

1950s longline girdle:

I’m not sure when this is from but based on the unusual strap adjusters, I’d say it’s a reasonably early one of its kind. Note the zipper.

Longline girdle, mid-20th century:

Everyone seems to find this one particularly enchanting

Entirely elastic! No fasteners! Remember that this, or something like it, is the underpinning of many of the 1950s retro-women images that are widely admired.

Open-bottom girdles, mid-20th century:

Girdle-pair

This is an interesting progression. To the left we have a luxurious number. To the 21st century eye, it seems nostalgic in its use of mocha-pink lace and satin, but, as we can see from the earlier girdles and corsets, such fripperies were not applied to many earlier undergarments before the advent of elastic fabrics. Technology is making luxury accessible, here. A discreet zipper and hooks is tucked to one side. To the right is a space-age girdle from the 1960s or early 70s. The panels fasten with hooks on each side. This is a very efficient stomach restrainer.

Garter belts and bras, mid-20th century:

Girdles-modern

Another interesting progression. This dainty cotton garter belt has a small elastic section here and there. Compare it to the gleeful 1960s/1970s all-stretch turquoise garter belt. And this modest cotton bullet bra is more utilitarian than modern bullet bra reproductions, with a touch of elastic at the back and front – the shoulder straps, cups, and side areas are stiff, fine cotton. In the middle is a lace and satin 1950s bra with a metal hook and eye fastener and, again, very little elastic. The exquisite strapless 1960s bra to the right revels in its lycra.

Which brings us to the end of our hundred years…

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Orange Ambivalence

Love it? Hate it?Apologies to my Dutch friends, but I’m on the fence about whether or not I like vivid orange.  Usually, with strong colors, I know where I stand – and I bet you do, too. Ultramarine cobalt and I are good pals. Chartreuse/acid yellow and I are totally married – my friends send me links to chartreuse items. And my hatred of of hot pink is so furious that, in Casa de Scrumptious, only the Japanese body-scrub cloths are allowed to be pink. With orange, I was traumatized in 2002 – 2003 when I worked for a startup that had Very Orange Offices. But it irresistibly draws my eye – look at the image I picked for last week’s Friday Follies post. Red hair (which, as with many redheads by choice, is in the orange range), orange lipstick, orange feathers. Made you look, didn’t it? Does it mean that I like a color if I can’t stop looking at it?

At least I have plenty of company – this fascinating article about color psychology says that orange is the least favorite color of 30% of people. We think orange is cheap and trashy – but it’s also fun. And, next to red, we can’t stop looking at it. And Teal and Orange: Hollywood, Please Stop the Madness links this insidious orangeness to changes in movie color technology.

Vivid-to-neon colors are still around. Especially orange. I’m guessing that there has been some technological advance in the past ten years enabling all these supersaturated colors, especially with leathers, but I’m not able to find anything about it.  Gazing at a rack of incredibly orange clothes in a store recently, I asked the cashier, “Are people…buying that?” She said that they were and that she always recommended wearing orange with black. Orange with black? Isn’t that…Halloween?

It seems to not be an association down under – witness this gentleman pairing orange and black without evoking the Great Pumpkin – but I’d be more inclined to wear orange with greys, beiges, whites/creams, and sages. This post by The Dreamstress shows how they were styling ultra-vivid orange when it was Louis XV’s favorite color in the 18th century – if you must orange, this is a great guide to how to do it. Use orange accessories against neutrals, or force your children to wear it in large quantities!

Pigeonwood berries in the NZ forest.

Pigeonwood berries – just a tiny shot or orange against the vast green NZ forests.

Things that are orange, and it’s OK: the blog Whorange. And The Orange Cone’s Twitter.  The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. Occasional pieces of insane vintage. And items that are, in nature, naturally orange, like sunsets,  pigeonwood berries, the beaks of kereru and the undersides of kea wings,  the insides of conch shells and, dare I say it, oranges.

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Eight Nights of Stylish Presents

Ah, the holidays. The time of year when feminine women are subjected to….loads of awful tat. “It’s pink and sparkly! I thought of you!” Mmmm, you shouldn’t have. You really shouldn’t have. What femme hasn’t forced a smile when presented with a jereboam of petroleum-product based moisturizer, a so-not-you necklace, a cheap perfume?

It’s also a time of year when, for me, being half-Jewish comes up. More about that in a minute. So, here, on the first of the eight nights of Chanukah, are my recommendations for eight nights’ worth of stylish and modestly priced gifts that won’t wind up “regifted” by June.

  • Under $10 – Quality natural lip balm –These are the flash drives of our beauty kits, you can never have enough of them.
  • Under $20 – Scullys rose or lavender hand creams (a favorite with my friends overseas).
  • $15 to $35 – Interesting tights – peach-toned fishnets, Iwi stockings, a chic shade of Columbine opaques. A We Love Colors gift certificate is great if you’re not sure of the size.
  • $20 to $45 – An eyeliner brush, a good one. $45 on an item slimmer than a pencil? I  use this wee brush almost every day.
  • $25 to $60 – Vintage bead necklace – 18 inches is a great wearable length. Graduated beads, i.e., beads that go from small to large, are more polished looking. Look for glass and semiprecious stone, in a favorite or classic color.
  • $40 to $60 – FranceLuxe hair clip or other hair ornament. My caramel FranceLuxe claw clip is 8 years old and still going strong.
  • Variable – Something truly personal that deviates from the mall stereotypes of ‘a gift’. Last year two young men gave me a squeaky rubber chicken that delighted me far more than ghastly moisturizer.

Some families have a Chanukah tradition of giving the children a gift each night. Note that a kazoo is an appropriate gift for the lady or gentleman in your life for all occasions – Christmas, Chanukah, Valentine’s Day.

Ah, being half-Jewish. In this era of Sarah Silverman and Palestinian recognition, being half-Jewish remains awkward – at one point an Orthodox Jewish boyfriend broke up with me because I wasn’t Jewish enough. Apart from that, my flash point of awkwardness is the December holidays. Where I was brought up, in the Northeast of the US, Christmas and Chanukah were on an even footing – or so it seemed to me . Because my mother was (is? Mom, any updates?) Anglican, we were on the Christmas side of the festivities. Our Jewish friends came over to help decorate the tree and join us at Christmas dinner. Later, I moved to New Zealand, and … something wasn’t right. I felt it most in December, despite an incident one October where I said, “I made a challah for Rosh Hashana,” and the response was, “You made a what for who?” No outdoors menorah lighting? No Chanukah invitations? NO LATKES??? I acquired my own menorah and the Joan Nathan Jewish Holiday Cookbook, and took it from there…alternating annually between Christmas and Chanukah parties for my friends. After all that, it’s a Christmas year at my abode! But I’ll be making a few latkes and lighting some candles soon.

A heartwarming moment from Santa’s First Chanukah with the team from Geltfiend sweaters. Click to view more.

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Adorn: Costuming Up Close in Wellington

Saturday, I was at the intricate costume show Adorn, and you should be, too. It’s at The Roxy theater in Miramar here in Wellington, a free event until October 15th.  Saturday was the “soft” opening – the costumers had just finished setting up the exhibit, and were enjoying relaxed conversation with the wide-eyed attendees.

Now that everything is on the internet, there’s still power and charm in seeing special clothing and jewelry items up close – their richness, fragility, and craft. I especially enjoyed seeing Claire Prebble’s ethereal silver filigree corsets and wearable sculptures, and close-ups of Cathy Tree Harris’ work – the details on her corset ensembles are heartbreaking. Flo Foxworthy’s voluptuous ostrich-feather fans were a crowd favorite.

Glorious leathercraft by Nadine Jaggi

Look at that silk and sequin detailing on this corset by Cathy Tree Harris!

Silk and lace corset by Flo Foxworthy

Flo Foxworthy said that even though they are well known as costumers, they are all open to commissions from those who won’t be wearing their works on stage. The full list of exhibitors is:

  • Flo Foxworthy – From burlesque and circus costumes to utterly delicious bikinis and lingerie for everyone.
  • Cathy Tree Harris – World-class corsetry, exquisite fascinators, and more.
  • Clarie Prebble – Glimmering silver, crystal, and pearl jewelery, from bridal to haute joallerie wearable art. This World of Wearable Arts winner had some lovely silver pieces there for sale.
  • Nadine Jaggi – Ornitho Leather Creations – Along with incredible masks, she also does chic feathers-carved-from-leather jewelery.

Wellington has a love affair with costumes, and it comes to the fore at two times of year: February, for the zany Sevens sports event, and September, when The World of Wearable Arts show is in town. This show, intelligently, dovetails with World of Wearable Arts.

A wearable art ensemble by Cathy Tree Harris.

Adorn was the first outing for my new camera, by the way…hope I did the works justice!

 

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Loving A Designer, Loving A City

Betsey Johnson, a designer who once stood for femme 80s/90s quirk, files  for bankruptcy! Like a bite of some oversweet rose-scented madeline, this has propelled me a la recherche au temps perdu.  Johnson herself is 70 this year and, admittedly, the brand has stopped being as revolutionary as it once was. But in the 80s and 90s, she was one of the femmiest femmes out there designing, and I could regularly be found up to my elbows in the sale basket at the the Philly Betsey Johnson boutique. I even got married in a Betsey Johnson dress of deep red velvet.

Loving a designer is an ambivalent experience. Aspirational, expensive, worrisome. Will they go away? Will their construction go down the tubes? Will you grow apart? The best that can come of it is confidence in the present day and memories later on. The blogger Gala Darling did a lovely post with glimpses of Betsey’s mercilessly feminine apartment and links to more about her.

Alas, poor Betsey. I knew her, Horatio

Some recent Betsey Johnson rufflage.

Pinpointing that former boutique, and looking at some older Betsey Johnson clothes – in retrospect, much plainer than I remembered –  unleashed a wave of nostalgia for my Philadelphia years. Did I love the clothes, or where I was when I was wearing them? I was young and clumsy and dorky when I rifled through the sale baskets at 18th and Walnut. I didn’t make a lot of money, but  in 1994 Philly, you didn’t have to. Chasing temps perdu online, I found out that the tiny building where I had my first-ever apartment, on Quince Street in Philadelphia, is for sale. I already knew that one of the three miniscule apartments in the building (the one directly below mine – I was on the middle floor) got profiled on Apartment Therapy. I left a long and delirious comment.

To blow my mind further, somebody recently did a video praising Quince Street as a favourite place in the city. I could walk back down the uneven cobblestones of Quince Street today, shaded by slow-growing gingko and pear trees, and it still looks exactly the same as it did in 1994.

 

If you’ve never loved a city – I feel sorry for you – it’s like never having loved a person, or an animal. What is it like to love a city passionately? I felt like I knew everyone, or a subsection of everyone – a delicious fallacy. I checked out the alleyways and the scary-looking restaurants and bars, carrying away new places to go as urbanite trophies. On my rambles, I learned to love vintage: quirky unchanged lunch counters, stoop sales with Art Deco fragments and old magazines, closing-down stocking wholesalers selling me 1950s boxes of seamed nylon stockings for $3 apiece (“Nobody wants them anymore” they said). I huffed the smell of the sidewalks in the rain. I had my heart broken in that real-estate way, with an apartment broken into at one time, a bad encounter that shadowed the street where I lived another. Still, when I was coming back, I’d see the skyline and smile, involuntarily.  And then one day I was done, we were over. Even the sidewalks stopped having their gravitational pull. I realized that I’d lived in that town and its environs for ten years and spent a sum total of eight weeks away. The rest of the world beckoned.

In the present day, I love Wellington, too, though not with that first-urban-love intensity. (Also, I live in the ‘burbs, and Wellington is ruthless towards its surrounds.) As a sign of my being at home in downtown Wellington, I felt a twinge when the Calendar Girls strip palace took over from the former Garden Club. The Garden Club was one of those large, indifferent, but available-for-burlesque venues. Its backstage stairs were horrible to high-heeled performers, its barnlike size didn’t encourage after-partying, and the seating was plentiful but good views weren’t. Nobody liked it much, until it wasn’t ours anymore. At least it’s ending on an interesting story. I think that in the age of Internet porn, there is something to be said for human beings leaving the house to look at and speak to actual women instead of airbrushed pixels. Those “dirty” urban zones were part of what gave Philly its rough-edged flavor. Will Calendar Girls be successful in this city and era, or, two years from now, will we be pouting at a glossy, dull fusion restaurant and saying “That used to be a strip club! Remember the time we…?”