Welcome to the fifth installment of our In the Closet with series! This week Natasha enters the weird and wonderful world of Helga von Tiddlehoffen.
If there ever was a lady more deserving of being featured in this series, it has to be Helga Von Tiddlehoffen!
Yes that’s her in the day-glo lime green tights, gingham frock, mustard heels and badass red leather trench, clutching what looks like a toolbox, but is really a handbag!
No shrinking violet, this 51-year-old describes herself as “pretty loud, sometimes shy, obsessed with old-fashioned manners” and as someone who can not abide arrogance or fakeness.
“I am frequently impatient, big-mouthed, blunt, crass and I swear like a trouper. I have a spastic sense of humour, and am easily irritated and irritating!”
The delightfully eccentric lady first came on my radar about 7 years ago when she blogged as ‘Helga Van Trollop’. I stumbled across it one day, during a time in my life when I felt depressed and hopeless about the world.
I was struck by her bold use of colour/ pattern and devil-may-care attitude. She helped me realise that being over 40 doesn’t mean a decline into banality. And that is super inspiring!
When it comes to her tastes, she’s the epitome of an eclectic lady – her interests veer from opera to metal, from Belle Epoque to 50s glam to 70s chic, from girly sweet to goth (she was a hardcore goth in the late 80s/ 90s) , from chick flicks to cheesy 70s trash….
Some of her own style and life icons include- Frida Kahlo, Mrs Slocombe of Are you being served, Mildred Roper of George and Mildred, Siouxie Sioux, Carmen Miranda, Yma Sumac, Vivenne Westwood and many more.
Just look at that role call of fabulosity, is it any wonder she’s so cool?
Although Helga Von Tiddlehoffen is quite an arresting nom de plume, it’s not her real name, which is the more prosaic Annette Faulkner. She’s a talented singer, voracious reader and lives with her partner G and cat, Mrs Peeps in a riot of colour surrounded by an envy-inducing assortment of mid-century antiques and collectables.
Formerly based in Christchurch, she now calls Oamaru home. However, she’s originally an Aussie (we can forgive her for that) who was born in Sydney, but has been living in Aotearoa since 1989.
Most days she dresses up to the max because it gives her a great deal of pleasure. Besides, she was “brainwashed” by her mother at an early age with a dose of old films, to be overdressed for any and all situations.
Desperate to see more of Helga’s outrageous ensembles? Read on!
You seem to have a great wardrobe. Wanna take us on a tour of your closet? What would we find within?
Within my closet you will find: a great variety! Items ranging from Edwardian to modern – I am never bored in life, but I can get bored with my clothes!
Are you a vintage purist or do you wear repro pieces occasionally too?
I wouldn’t call myself a purist in any sense other than I only shop secondhand. Aside from tights and knickers, I am indeed very purist about that. I make some of my own clothes, and therefore wouldn’t buy repro simply because I would prefer to make it. Or at least think about it!
What are some of your most prized pieces in your vintage collection?
A few Edwardian pieces; they’re difficult to find in a generous size. Aside from a belt, I wear them from time to time.
Any noteworthy recent purchases?
I picked up several metres of ’50s polished cotton at the dump shop – I mean resource centre – last week. I thought that was a nice score…
How did you first become interested in vintage style?
My mother! We would watch allllll the old films when I was a kid. I totally blame her for my matchy matchy inclinations! I might mention that she was born in 1929 and must have worn some amazing clothes in her time but SHE NEVER KEPT ANYTHING!!!! I suppose I’m traumatised by this, as I am a wee bit of a hoarder….
What is it about vintage clothing that appeals to you the most?
Well, one isn’t so likely to bump into anyone at a party wearing the same frock! And the quality-garments are so well made that we can wear them today. I’ll happily wear the odd modern piece, but I know I’m going to have to fix it, likely more than once.
How does it make you feel when you wear it?
I expect I must feel FABULARSE or I wouldn’t!
What are your favourite eras when it comes to vintage clothes?
Each and every one but especially Regency, Edwardian, Teens, 20s, 70s.
Where are your favourite shopping haunts and why?
Op shops because one gets more bang for ones buck, and I’ve never had a huge amount of those besides being frugal by nature.
What are your general thoughts about op shopping and vintage shopping in New Zealand?
Certainly vintage isn’t as abundant in op shops anymore, but I enjoy the thrill of the hunt and am out there almost every week looking.
Vintage shopping is pretty good, but can be expensive. I find the best, most reliable and well priced vintage shop is Two Squirrels, based in Dunedin.
What do you dream of finding??
Nothing really….although I’d shit myself if I were to find a piece of Victorian mourning jewellery, but that’ll never happen!
What are your holy grail pieces? Fave labels/ fabrics/ outfit types?
I like spotting Juliet, an old Christchurch brand, and Estelle Rose, a 70s label. Any New Zealand label, really.
I’m a total Polyester Queen, but I do love linen, cotton and lace. I pretty much only wear frocks.
Whose closet do you envy and why?
Probably Victorian Coke on Instagram-she works in an auction house (or it might be her own) and therefore has all the dreamiest old garments!
Who are some of your style icons and influences?
Siouxsie Sioux forever! (I was a goth in the 80s/90s) The Queen, Mrs Slocombe from Are You Being Served?, Ottoline Morrell, Frida Kahlo.
I am influenced by the books I read, the television I watch, the films I see, art I admire and the town I live in.
Can you remember the first vintage piece you bought? What was it?
No clue. Probably a black early 70s hostess frock.
How do members of the public react to your get-ups?
Over the years I have been admired, scorned, had things thrown at me…very mixed. Mostly good!
Does your vintage obsession extend into other areas too such as home decor, car, accessories and other collections?
Oh yes. My house, built in 1958, is mostly mid century. I basically collect vintage accessories of all kinds, from handbags to scarf rings to brooches…blah blah blah…my partner and I share a passion for West German pottery, mirrors, lamps and religious kitsch, and I am obsessed with baskets.
What would I never be caught dead wearing?
Isn’t she fabulous!
Want to see more of Helga’s fabulous ensembles? Step this way…
Helga’s blog which sadly doesn’t get updated anymore: Colours Fly and Catherine Wheel