Suzanne Tamaki and her daughter modelling Tamaki's designs.
0 comment

Style at the Maori Art Show

This weekend, a friend and I went to the Maori Art Market, and we saw some serious style in the crowd. Men were peacocking with tailored coats incorporating Maori fabric, custom-tailored vests, and heirloom jade and bone jewelry. There was a fashion show, and a display by this woman artist shown below.

Suzanne Tamaki and her daughter modelling Tamaki's designs.Artist and designer Suzanne Tamaki and her daughter were head to toe in Tamaki’s designs, including her silk tie belt-wraps and quasi-Victorian jackets and top hats. In the background, “Blankets for sale – WE trade for land, beads, or guns” is embroidered on wool, stabbing at colonial land-grabbing via the needle. The pair are posed in front of Tamaki’s stunning photograph For Maori, For Sure, with its Maori seamstress about to reclaim all the flags – click here for a full view.

Here’s more of Tamaki’s deliciously deconstructed work – blanket labels are incorporated into the outfit on the left.

Tamaki's wearable art.

Also, seen in the crowd, this Pakeha lady had a vivid orange jacket that I loved – she moved among the artworks like a piece of art herself.

Hot jacket, lady!

There were two women wearing the moko who I wanted to photograph -  I think the women’s moko tattoos are attractive and stylish, and their outfits set off their moko like the tattoos were heirloom jewelry – both jewelry and moko tattoos are taonga, treasures. But…I felt shy. There’s been controversy about fashion houses appropriating Maori tattoo imagery. And I note that Maori-generated pages online about ta moko that discuss women’s moko do not include images! So, if you see a lady with a moko in real life, appreciate that you’ve had a glimpse of a taonga.

0 comment

Friday Follies: Did Somebody Say Boudoir?

1927 evening gown, as drawn by Vera of on "Draw This Dress"

Draw This Dress or, fashion from old people Delightful blog where talented artists draw vintage dresses.  I’m very taken with Vera Brosgol’s work – her prints are for sale here.

From the webcomic Dresden Kodak – mad science girl’s path to “gaining a diseased mind fit only for science.” I too went through the “Sign Your Name Only In Tengwar” phase.

Crusin’ Australia has vintage repro shoes and does $12 shipping worldwide. Sizes 5 to 12. Made of leather. Suede dancing soles available. This pretty much solves all my shoe whining issues.

Dunbar and Sloane, the Wellington auction house, is having a significant “vintage costume and boudoir accessories” auction.  Massive online catalog is available, in-person viewing starts from Sunday August 7th. I don’t need anything but I’ll go along to see.  “Finesse Emerald Green Leather Clutch Purse together with green kid Gloves.” Hmmm. “Three Vintage Unopened Pairs of Stockings together with Priestley’s velvet talcum powder tin, unopened.” Awww! “Selection of Vintage Sewing and Knitting Patterns.” Hwaaaaa! Thanks to Tamara of Seven is a Journey for this hot tip!



Displaying a Hand Fan

The hand fan, as a woman’s daily accessory, is dead.  In its heyday, it was the equivalent of the cellphone. A device associated with expense and prestige, used to send messages, and to display wealth and popular culture, via its materials and adornments. For us today, an antique fan is a pretty, old-fashioned thing to look at. A new fan is, at best, a cute finishing touch for a goth or rockabilly ensemble, a clever wedding favor, or a dance accessory.

But there is nothing wrong with a pretty, old-fashioned thing to look at. Many old fans have a “stick” or two damaged. This reduces their value, but they’re still fine to display.

Fans should be framed to protect them from dust and UV light. A fan just stuck in a rectangular frame is a sad thing, and it is best displayed with some consideration for its shape. Good solutions include:

My British grandmother gave me a simple old Canton ivory fan. I’m not sure if she used this to cool off during her Hong Kong days, or if one of our earlier ancestors did. I was very taken by the butterflies. (Moths? Let’s say butterflies…) It had a broken “shoulder” stick, which I glued to the neighboring stick with an ivory-appropriate epoxy, and I’ve had it framed to hang in my bedroom, using Fan Framing Solution #3 above:

Old Canton ivory fan, , framed in a shadowbox with a specially cut mat. The frame is actually 1 inch deep.

The fan’s not perfect but I’m just loving it – I lie in bed and gaze happily in its general direction through my myopia. Here’s some of the detail on the fan. No way can I see this without help from my optometrist!

Canton ivory fan detail. Moth or butterfly?

Frame done by Petone Frameworks – they specialize in shadowboxes and they do laser-cut mats. (Disclaimer: I paid. Mentioning them by name because the specialty-cut mat is pretty unusual around here, and they were super lovely. The cinnabar background mat was their suggestion.)

To conclude: everything you ever wanted to know about hand fan construction and restoration. And an excellent book, The Fan: Fashion and Femininity Unfolded by Valerie Steele.  Which contains the agreeable quote, “Women are armed with Fans as Men with Swords, and sometimes do more Execution with them.” – The Spectator, 1711.

0 comment

Butterfly Girls

I’m on my way to a burlesque dress rehearsal after a rather serious week – politics, work, health issues for my Little Old Lady. But there’s a time and a place for a little frivolity, yes? And with that in mind I was irresistibly reminded of a favorite Nell Brinkley drawing and text. Sentimental as all get-out – perhaps this is why the Victorians and Edwardians, living in grim times and the shadow of industrialization and the workhouse,  found consolation in sentimentality, too. The text below the picture is typed out for your reading pleasure.

Butterfly Girl by Nell Brinkley, from Trina Robbins' "A Century of Women Cartoonists."
Butterflies go with the ending of summer – butterfly girls go with the ending of the gay night that is their lives. Butterflies grow rare and at last do not flicker gold anywhere, when the sumac turns scarlet and the aspen on the far hills changes into little golden coins; butterfly girls are no more dimples and sparkle and laughter when there is no more fun to have, when the lights are out and real work comes. But I love a golden butterfly in the sun, and who doesn’t enjoy to watch the butterfly girl dance her way through the sober faces and the earnest!

Somebody said, “A butterfly lives but a day – AND WHAT IF THAT DAY IS RAINY?” So, little butterfly girl, whose day is so short, may it be sunny and clear.

Face detail of the pretty, pretty butterfly girl by Nell Brinkley.

Technically public domain but known to me thanks to Trina Robbins, writer, cartoonist, artist, and herstorian!