I Am Loving, Or Am Horrified By, These Things

Caitlin MoranHorrified: In the fashion spotlight: all the clothing we’re not wearing. Ecouterre “U.K. Consumers Own £30 Billion Worth of Clothing They Never Wear” article here, and Vixen Vintage on the new book  Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. I had a clothing swap three weeks ago, and when we were done, we took the remaining clothes to the Lower Hutt Women’s Centre, which continues the swap as women and girls take the clothes directly.

Loving: I’m not the only one to notice the stylish women in tech – see this article. Related: fashionista uses chemical heat pack technology to stay warm in designer clothing.

Loving: Thanks to my friend Phoenix Flame I have joined the legions of fans of Caitlin Moran. Phoenix thrust her book, How To Be A Woman, into my hands. She’s a feminist voice for the Twitter age. A romp of an interview with her is here.

Loving: This lady is my blog crush of the week: Grown and Curvy. I love her use of color and proportion, her beautiful grooming. Her enchanting smile captured me and then I read this post of hers and learned what’s behind that smile, and I’m nearly in tears.

Horrified And Loving At The Same Time: Illamasqua is petitioning to reduce inflated cosmetic prices in Australia. Hey, we have to deal with this here in NZ, too. And…why a petition? Why not just reduce the prices? They’re the retailer, yes?


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Friday Follies: I’m Tired

Hotcha! Burlesque show alert! Caburlesque’s June show is Queen’s Birthday weekend, “A Night With Queen.” If you’re bored with “standard” burlesque, this show is for you, everybody is mixing it up. I’ll be there giving everyone a right royal emceeing-to and a few surprises.

Great post on the etiquette of asking your friends to help with overseas and online shopping.

Another post on when your friends are marketing to you, or you’re marketing to your friends. Hot topic for bloggers!

Lots of my friends are having babies or taking their professional lives to a new level. So for all of us, here’s a song! (Debbie, I promise I’m resting up before June 2nd.)

And finally, discussing with a friend that my Mother’s Day post ignored Mother’s Day for spicy reads, my friend said, “Ever So Scrumptious doesn’t strike me as maternal reading material.” I laughed, and pointed out that my friend is a mom and she was reading it. I’ll do a maternally oriented post a bit later on.

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Make Do and Mend In Action

1940s British rationing propaganda, pretty in pink!Have you noticed that overall silhouettes and color trends are the same as last year? That means it’s a good year to be a fashion cheapskate. So, as we transition into autumn and winter here in NZ,  I went through my closet and thrifting finds with “Make Do and Mend” in mind. This motto still floats around the collective consciousness after its use in Britain during WWII.

After the review, I had three piles; one for the next clothing swap, one for the dry cleaner, and one for repairs. The pile for repairs was dark and gloomy: blacks, brown, gray. New Zealand’s fashion “black out” has come and got me with my wardrobe basics. Seven garments needed repairs or alterations I could do at home: hem repairs, nipping in at the waist, or taking up sleeves/legs.  This wasn’t celebrity-level tailoring, but it does make a difference. Most of the garments were pants – what was with all the hem stitch failures? Maybe dance classes last year had something to do with it.  Knits didn’t stop me, I take knits up and in with the three-stitch knit/stretch stitch on my Janome sewing machine. And here’s how to take up jeans without losing a special hem.

Then, I confronted my raincoat. This coat is a warm, petite-sized, clean-lined raincoat – a valuable Wellington wardrobe component. Unfortunately, last year, I managed to scorch it against a space heater, bending over to scrutinize a drawer full of beaded trim at Three Buckets Full. I was left with an inch-size melted patch besmirching the behind of my coat. DERP. How to fix it?

Raincoat behind before: Sad, sad melted polyester.


Before: Burned rainproof polyester weave.

Raincoat behind after: melted spot is hidden, and what’s not hidden (a small paler area) is no longer the center of attention. A line from a song unites the two birds.

Yes, I do like that song.

After: Say it with me: put a bird on it! The burned spot is hidden under the left sparrow.

That is a lot of black. Maybe some more embroidery?

After: Full length back of coat with embroidery and patches.

The patches are from Calico Jack’s in Wellington, and the patch hot-fixing and embroidery was done by DKGM in Lower Hutt. They were bemused by this non-sportswear commission and worked with me happily. Nowadays, embroidery places can include up to 12 colors in one embroidered design and have about 200 colors to choose from. So go on and challenge them. One caveat: when a finished garment is embroidered, the embroidery goes through the lining, too. Embroidery through the lining bothered me less than a sad melted spot  on my raincoat.

Finally, there were shoes. Wellington’s rain really does a number on leather. Two pairs went for resoling, and a thrifted pair of ankle boots is lined up to have its heel height reduced. Yes, you can have the heel height on a pair of tall shoes or boots reduced – by about 1 cm. Which isn’t a lot, but it can make a difference. It’s not an expensive fix, either, compared to resoling.

As for the rest, I had shoe-polish-and-leather-dye day and it looked like this:

I do actually have shoes in colors but they don't get worn as much

I love that handbag to pieces – the perfect size and shape for me, it was a present from my mother. It’s two years old and after a leather dye touch-up and waterproofing, it’s still going strong.

Later I found two more tins of polish that didn't make it into the picture.

Clockwise from noon: neutral polish, waterproofing spray, beeswax formula, sponge for applying beeswax formula, shoe polishes, a pair of dead pantyhose for buffing, buffing brush, leather dye.

Here is a basic polish technique for plain leather shoes and boots. With tall boots, I generally polish them up to the ankle seam, and only touch up the leg area lightly, if required. You can also shine up patent leather and clean suede shoes.

Any fashion lover who lives in a humid climate has had the awful experience of taking a leather treasure out of the closet and finding it’s been attacked by mold or mildew. I got lucky this time around – only one pair of shoes needed mildew rescue (the dusty-looking pair with the laces in the photo). My preferred fix is cleaning the mildewed leather with a leather conditioner/cleaner (the same kind used for leather upholstery and sofas). Then I place it in a sunny area for a few days, followed by dye touchup or polishing. Light reconditioning is the last step. Don’t condition items too richly in humid climates – that helps mold grow. Don’t store items in humid areas, and check them every couple of months. If a leather coat has that mildew smell in the lining, you are stuck taking it to the specialist leather cleaner.

Now I feel the way we’re all supposed to feel after one of those closet clean-outs – satisfied and reminded of formerly buried favorites. Once those shoes sitting in the sun dry out, I am content.

When winter comes to the Northern Hemisphere, the shoes migrate here in colourful flocks

The Case Of The International Shoe Clones

I was looking at summer shoes to fill a wardrobe gap or two when I uncovered The Case Of The International Shoe Clones, or, Mysterious Isabella.

Mid-height heels and wedges, I like them. And I thought the shoes by a brand called Miz Mooz were eminently fanciable. Some web research showed that these shoes are much beloved by USA style bloggers. Here in NZ, I sighed wistfully.  A few particular favorites stuck in my mind. So when I saw the shoes in real life, I did a double-take. Except they weren’t branded as Miz Mooz, and I wasn’t in the USA. Mysterious shoe clones had invaded New Zealand!

Clone of the Miz Mooz Lyla wedge:

What great wedges...where have I seen them before?

And more clones of the Miz Mooz Salima shoe:

Have you seen this shoe? Because it is awesomeThere may have been other clones in the display.

When winter comes to the Northern Hemisphere, the shoes migrate here in colourful flocksBut these were the ones that struck me.

In New Zealand, these shoes are being sold under the brand name Isabella Anselmi. Which is a mystery brand with a range of different styles and no independent web site. There is, ostensibly, some manufacturing in Australia. Curiouser and curiouser! Especially because Miz Mooz says their shoes are based on their designs, and they do indeed have a strong distinctive look.

Having held them in my hands, poked and prodded them and felt their materials, I happily vouch that these are good quality, comfortable shoes. They are also being sold new at what I consider a reasonable NZ markup compared to their new USA pricing – the mystery 25% extra cost (discussed in an earlier post here) isn’t being applied.  The difference is that in the USA, they are lavished with clever marketing, sent out to bloggers, and discussed on forums. Here, they are stealth branded and have to speak for themselves.

Preparing this post, I mentioned the International Shoe Clones to a few people, and they brought out their own stories. The shirt they found at a modest midrange store in New Zealand that they later saw being sold for 300 pounds in London. The web site based in China that was selling the OTHER Nikes.  “The life of a shoe is an exciting one!” says Miz Mooz. And the paths that garments take from the factories of Asia to Western consumers are strange and convoluted.

I don’t think anybody’s going to send me any shoes to review after this post…


Living in NZ, Shopping Overseas: Apology Necessary?

Why are quality clothes and cosmetics notably more expensive in New Zealand than in other Western markets? Should I feel bad about shopping overseas and having items shipped here?

A substantial amount of my wardrobe, and most of my shoes, comes from overseas, i.e., retailers outside of New Zealand. There are three reasons: sizes, selection, and “economies of scale.”

Everyone has a size rant, and you don’t need to hear mine. Selection is not a necessity to put clothes on one’s back, but a desire for a first-world luxury. But let’s take a closer look at those “economies of scale.”

Math: still this glamorousOutside of the importing retail giant The Warehouse, clothing and cosmetic prices are comparatively high in New Zealand. Blame is often laid on NZ government tariffs. But these are, according to NZIS (PDF document here) set at 9.5% for clothing, 6.5% for footwear, and 3.5% for fragrance.  That is…actually not that bad. Blame is also laid on shipping – and the costs incurred by outside NZ vendors shipping independently to New Zealand show that this, also, doesn’t account for the full story behind inflated prices. For example, let’s look at this pair of Naya shoes, originally priced at $140 in the USA. When we convert that to NZ currency, they are currently $165 NZD – let’s apply $10 tariffs, $15 shipping – let’s round it up a wee bit for stocking/processing and say $190 NZD.  But they’re for sale in downtown Wellington boutiques for $260. An MAC lipstick, about $15 in US, is currently $18 in NZD, with a tariff of – I can’t give it anything less than $5 and maintain my sanity – and minimal shipping. Again, let’s be generous and account for staffing/stocking and say $30. Instead, it’s $40. MAC is only sold via large corporate outlets, with counters in stores or as standalone stores themselves. So we have two items, in different retail settings, that average a mysterious 25% additional cost.

Math was never my strong point, but something seems wrong.

Are these higher prices perhaps a hangover from days when the NZ dollar was weaker? It’s been on the high side against the US dollar for a good eight months now, so for these new-season items, should we be seeing reduced prices?

If any NZ retailers out there have something to say about this, please, comment! Keep it clean and polite – we really want to know.

Meanwhile, in the past two years many international retailers have discovered it wasn’t the end of the world to ship to the end of the world. The response amongst NZ ladyconsumers is that links are being swapped. Endless for shoes, Strawberrynet for cosmetics, Asos for everything in all sizes. Ebay and Etsy sellers are in on the game.

For me, the occasional downside of buying mail order and overseas is getting stuck with lame ducks. Online reviewing reduces this tremendously, I find.  But what’s the downside for NZ and my local economy? I’m sucking money away from that.

I know brick and mortar stores have their costs, and the minimum wage in NZ is a living wage.  And I know local makeup artists. They are lovely and helpful. They get a bit if I buy from their counters. Personally, I feel there is a tackiness to trying colors at their counter, then running away and buying online.

In the USA, where online shopping has advanced tremendously, the retail landscape has been transformed. Borders Books has gone through a global collapse. In San Francisco on Valencia Street, every third boutique seemed emptied  by year 3 of a recession combined with the punch of Etsy as a quirky retail juggernaut. Here in NZ, we are seeing the retail impact of online shopping begin with the antique and vintage places that have shrunk and vanished, often citing online sale/auction sites.

To end on a slightly encouraging note, here are a list of NZ made items that are well priced and great quality:

  • Leather bags and wallets from Konev. I could go on all day about how great, sexy, and durable these are.
  • Thunderpants fun, amazing underwear and clothes.
  • Frutti on Cuba Street in Wellington stocks a range of affordable retro-flavored delights, mostly made in New Zealand.
  • Art and clothing from – note this lovely dress from Pixie Pocket! And this other one from coolitdaddyo! Made to your exact size, even. NZ vintagistas are ordering a lot of dresses from China-made ChicStar and retro-repro purveyors in the USA. You can see that we have price-competitive local alternatives.