In the closet with… Miss Mabel May

Welcome to the latest installment of our regular In the Closet series, this week Natasha meets 1940s enthusiast Miss Mabel May aka Jess Hood. 

She’s no purist but 22-year-old Jess Hood prefers her reproduction items to be “as authentic as possible.”

“ It can be so difficult to find vintage in my size that is also affordable and my job can sometimes be a bit rough on my vintage pieces so I like to wear reproduction, as I don’t tend to worry so much about the clothing getting stained or damaged while wearing it.”

The Hamilton-based Records Management Officer has a yen for 1940s-inspired silhouettes and a serious addition to hats and handbags but says you can spot items from all eras- from the ‘20s to the ‘60s inside her closet.

She says always been drawn to history and old things but it wasn’t until she attended the Very Vintage Day Out for the first time that she discovered she adored the fashion and wanted to try it herself.

“I bought several items of clothing there and I quickly turned my entire wardrobe into the vintage style. However, it has taken me a couple of years to refine that style and find the eras that are my favourites.”

Wearing vintage makes her feel happy and beautiful, she says.

“It also makes me feel confident, which is something prior to vintage I never felt at all!”

“I honestly only feel truly myself when I’m in my vintage clothing”, she says. 

Want to see more of her amazing wardrobe? Read on!

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Miss Mabel May

You seem to have a great wardrobe. Wanna take us on a tour of your closet? What would we find within?

When I think of my wardrobe I think of variety. I currently have a lot of 1940s dresses, but you can find items ranging from the 1920s to the 1960s in my wardrobe. Also numerous hats and handbags!

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Hats are my favourite accessory with handbags a close second so you will find an overwhelming amount of these in my wardrobe. There are some that are yet to be worn by me as I haven’t found just the right outfit yet, but each one is special and unique to me!

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Are you a vintage purist or do you wear repro pieces occasionally too?

I do indeed wear reproduction pieces as well. It can be so difficult to find vintage in my size that is also affordable and my job can sometimes be a bit rough on my vintage pieces so I like to wear reproduction, as I don’t tend to worry so much about the clothing getting stained or damaged while wearing it.

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In saying that, I like my reproduction to be as authentic as possible so I love shopping from companies such as The Seamstress of Bloomsbury, as they use genuine 1940s dresses as a basis for their reproductions.

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What are some of your most prized pieces in your vintage collection?

My most prized possessions are the items that have come from family are so special to me. I love knowing the history behind the items and where they have been worn.

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I have a very special hand beaded cape from my Grand Aunt, which is such a treasure and she loved seeing pictures of me wearing it.

I also have a beautiful 1940’s red dress from Lavonne at Tock Tick Vintage. I tried it on at hers and it was like it was made for me, as it fit perfectly in every way!

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Any noteworthy recent purchases?

I have been so naughty lately and buying so much stuff! I managed to get a real bargain in Waihi of a late 1930’s- early 1940’s clutch for $10! I nearly died! I also purchased a lovely milk glass beaded necklace from 1940s Style for You, which is really just a sweet piece.

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How did you first become interested in vintage style?

Well I always loved history and old things, but it wasn’t until I attended the Very Vintage Day Out for the first time that I realised that I just adored the fashion and wanted to do it myself. I brought several items of clothing there and I quickly turned my entire wardrobe into the vintage style. However it has taken me a couple of years to refine that style and find the eras that are my favourites.

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What is it about vintage clothing that appeals to you the most?

I love the history and femininity of vintage clothing. I love the colour choices and being able to dress differently from everyone else, yet still be classic and stylish! I feel beautiful and happy in my vintage clothing. It makes me feel confident, which is something prior to vintage I never felt at all! I honestly only feel truly myself when I’m in my vintage clothing.

What are your favourite eras when it comes to clothes?

Definitely the 1940s, but I also have a sweet spot for the 1920s and 1930s.

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Where are your favourite shopping haunts?

Does Etsy count? I do a lot of shopping online, as I find it difficult to find a lot of what I want in New Zealand. Most of my shopping is done with the incredible Lucy who runs 1940’s Style for You. She finds some amazing vintage and is always reasonably priced.

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What are your holy-grail pieces? Fave labels/ fabrics/ outfit types?

I would love a 1940’s suit! I am yet to find one that fits just right! I’m also dying to get a 1940’s dressing gown! Also a telephone cord handbag, because they are just so awesome!

 

Whose closet do you envy?

Death by Deco from Instagram! I mean she has the most incredible sense of style and her wardrobe is filled with the most divine dresses, coats, skirts and blouses. Her fedora hat collection is a particular envy of mine, as I have only ever managed to acquire one and would love more!

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Who are some of your style icons and influences?

My Great Grandmother was my age in the 1940’s so she is a huge influence for me. She was so incredibly stylish and I only wish she was still around to ask questions to.

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Can you remember the first vintage piece you bought? What was it?

The very first vintage piece I brought was at my first Very Vintage Day Out and it was a gorgeous grey dress from Vintage Mash. It unfortunately doesn’t fit me at the moment, but it is just too precious to part with.

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Does your vintage obsession extend into other areas too such as home décor, car, accessories and other collections?

Vintage extends into pretty much all aspects of my life where it can. My home is filled with beautiful antiques, I love listening to 1940’s music on my vintage Bell Colt radio, I try to make 1940’s foods sometimes and if I could afford it I would love to have a vintage car!

Having just moved to a new city, I am in the process of purchasing vintage furniture where I can so that my little home will be as vintage as possible.

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Sneakers or gym pants!

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Everything but the kitsch-en sink with Danielle Korzeniewski 

Welcome to the sixth installment of Everything But the Kitsch-en Sink. This week American collector Danielle Korzeniewski shows Natasha Francois around her marvellous mid-century abode.
While trawling Instagram one day, I stumbled across the feed of Danielle Korzeniewski and immediately fell head-over-heels for her home which is packed to the rafters with mid-century collectables.
The kitsch-obsessed mother-of-five lives in America’s midwest and hoards everything lemon yellow, aqua and pastel pink and her shelves groan under the weight of her collections which include Pyrex kitchenware, fibreglass lamps, starburst-shaped clocks, whimsical poodle figurines and sought-after anthropomorphic porcelain made by the likes of Lefton and Napco!
Desperate to see more of her home? Step this way!
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Although she wasn’t born until 1980, Korzeniewski has a penchant for everything mid-century and lives the vintage lifestyle to the fullest.

A keen thrift-shopper and stay-home mother, Danielle raises five children [ages 2-20] while hubby takes care of the bills. 

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“I collect a ton of different things from the 1950s and 60s. Lefton is a very favorite of mine! I love Miss Priss, Thumblina etc (cookie jars, tea sets etc) . I collect Napco Miss Cutie Pie, blue birds and anything aqua.
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“However I adore all pink, yellow and aqua from the turn of the century, valuable or not.
“My favorite collection is probably my Lefton/Napco/Enesco /Chase Japan tea-sets, while Pyrex comes second, but really I can’t decide.
“I LOVE LOVE LOVE atomic lamps and have a ton! Yet not enough!”
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Pyrex is her first love and is what started the ball rolling.
“When I bought my first piece of Pyrex I had NO IDEA it was so big or even a “thing” to collect Pyrex and slowly I started wanting to do a retro-style diner style kitchen and bought a lot of reproduction offline,” she says.
Thanks to Instagram, she soon realised how phenomenally popular Pyrex was in the antiques and collectables world.
“Seeing other kitschy homes sparked the fire in me and there’s been no turning back.”
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The first piece to start her collection was a 403 Amish butter print that was half DWD [dishwasher damaged] which she bought blindly off eBay (“and paid way too much for”)
From there, she purchased several other DWD over priced pieces not realizing the difference.
“So til this day I have my DWD overpriced eBay collection that started it all.”
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Danielle finds the bulk of her scores via Facebook, Craigslist and estate sales or eBay.
“Very little do I find at thrift stores as it’s become harder and harder,” she says.
With five kids to run around after, she seldom gets the chance to go treasure-hunting anymore, however she remains passionate about her collections and her goal is to be published in a magazine.
Danielle’s home was recently used by Susanna Vestige as the backdrop for a pinup photo shoot featuring Tami Savoy as the model.
Check out the results below!
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“Vintage brings me so much happiness, it doesn’t have to be pink and aqua. I truly love it all! I love the 70s avocado green and oranges too!”
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I would drive 400 miles and I would drive 400 more, just to be the woman who scored these incredible lamps ….

When it comes to some of her noteworthy scores, her husband recently drove 900 miles in order to pick up a highly collectable pair of Leslie China atomic lamps. He then went on to drive a further 400 miles in order to collect a 1957 atomic boomerang couch and chair in mint condition!

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1957 atomic boomerang couch

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Danielle has always had an affinity with “old things- especially children’s items” but it wasn’t until 2013 that she became more focused on collecting vintage.
“I had my first son at 18 and if you look back at his baby pictures you would notice I would thrift a lot of vintage clothes for him and continued to when I could find them easily for all my kids. I’m not sure what the change was exactly…”
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Since then her taste hasn’t changed much with the exception of “weeding out reproduction in favor of authentic mid-century.”
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“My children have all grown up surrounded by breakable items so they are all used to it and are very good about respecting them. Very little has ever been broken (knock on wood) lol. The one living room set up is just a extra room (we have two other more normal living rooms so the kids freely use those. “

 

 

I don’t see any signs of my kids following in our foot steps yet and that’s totally OK if they don’t. They don’t seem to mind it and all their friends seem to love it!”
What do you think of Danielle’s kitschtastic home? Let me know in the comments!
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Behind the seams with Frances Gore of Mintage

This week Natasha goes behind the seams with “the Singer Sewing Machine” Frances Gore from Mintage.

Auckland-based Frances Gore comes from a long line of crafters, makers and artists.

Having collected vintage fabrics since the age of 14, the talented seamstress and singing teacher has always had a passion for making and exploring the tradition, stories and skills behind antiques, collectables and vintage.

Her label Mintage specialises in one-off bespoke garments crafted from authentic vintage fabrics so you can be confident you’ll never find someone swanning around in the exact same dress!

You name it, she makes it; whether it’s a set of Art Deco-inspired beach pajamas, a Dior style style gown, a sixties mini dress or  a piece of 1940s-style knitwear.

“Often, all the customer provides is an image, so its off to our extensive vintage pattern library to investigate. Or it may involve grading a pattern off an existing favourite vintage garment,” she says.

Frances loves the understated but powerful glamour of the 1930s and 40s styles and says that although the patterns may be more complex, there’s no substitute for good tailoring.

Read on to find out more!

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Portrait of a seamstress: By Emmy Lou Photography.

How would you describe your aesthetic? 

Personally, I feel “less is more.” The understated but powerful glamour of the 30s and 40s resounds with me most. However, each customer has their own aesthetic and it’s important to respect that and work with it in their choice of fashion decade, whether its 1920s, 1970s or anything in between. 

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Do you mainly make dresses or do you make other pieces as well? 

We do everything ! Beach pyjamas, dresses, coats – often, all the customer provides is an image, so its off to our extensive vintage pattern library to investigate. Or it may involve grading a pattern off an existing favourite vintage garment. 

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Frances Gore photo by Emmy Lou Photography.

How long have you been making things? Were you always creative/ crafty as a youngster? 

I was very fortunate to have grown up in a family of crafters, makers and artists. We have a long tradition of “makers” going back generations.

My grandmother’s sister was a tailor at Milne and Choyce in the mid 1800s in Auckland , and my grandmother and Mother taught all her daughters to knit, sew and embroider. I drew almost non-stop as a child, in between crafting, calligraphy, and tagging along with my older siblings to art galleries, rock concerts and plays. 

IMG_2350_2How did you learn to sew? Did you study fashion design or are you self-taught? 

I originally trained as a graphic artist, working in the printing industry for 15 years, but always sewed. Much later, creating around the Playcentre table with my offspring, I rediscovered the ever-tempting question… “I wonder if I could make that ?” 

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With the children at school, I did my time contracting and outworking. Then I was lucky enough to work for Gill Ward, mending and altering her amazing garments at Victorian Gilt and producing dresses for her, in her favourite fabrics.

You learn so very much from studying vintage garment construction. My skills experienced a major up-grade, compliments of the amazing Hillary Hines.

Hillary had worked for Anne Barlow, Anne McKay and Phil Brady in the 80’s in NZ and then for Margaret Howell, Nick Coleman and the Katherine Hamnett label in the UK. She patiently showed me the many errors of my ways, and shared her extensive knowledge and skill level.

It was then that friends, neighbours and strangers inquired as to where I had purchased what I was wearing and the orders have been coming in steadily since 2008. Exposure/sales  jumped forward after presenting on Facebook from 2013. 

_MG_0968 How did the idea for your label come about? 

I wanted a name that would reflect our predominant use of vintage fabrics, and the fact that we’re creating a new garment from them. 

One of my daughter’s friends commented on a dress, “oh ! that’s very MINTAGE “- and thus the name was born, along with our by-line ‘ Breathing new life into vintage treasures”

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It’s not until care, attention and love are shown to these wonderful fabrics, that they can start a new story with our customers.

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What are your creative inspirations? 

Schiaparelli, Chanel, Balenciaga, Dior, Claire McCardell,  Miuccia Prada, Madeleine Vionnet, the Bauhaus Movement, 30s Hollywood glamour, my mother’s style in 1940s New Zealand. The Art History studied during Design School stands me in very good stead. 

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How has your taste and work evolved over time? 

I look back at garments I made even five years ago and can see all the things I could have done better. I’m always making notes and reflecting on how to improve the quality and method, researching and referencing vintage originals for this. 

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The “holy grail” of a perfect fit for customers has been 20 years in the making. A series of measurements is just the start; there has to be ‘ease”, ‘negative ease’, the weight and content of the fabric and so many other factors to consider. I want my customers to celebrate their own individual size as perfect, and not to be confined to a mythical construct of size 6- 22. 

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What’s the first piece you remember making? 

An outfit for the favourite teddy bear. (This then had to be surgically rescued by my mother ! ) 

IMG_1430What are your top sellers? 

Probably the 30s and 40s style dresses, the patterns for these are more complex but often more flattering.  Having said that, our bespoke hand-knits that we started offering two years ago have been extremely popular. And then there’s the new brooches …. 

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Are the majority of orders custom made/ one offs? 

Yes. Our customers do NOT want to turn up to events in cookie-cutter vintage. If ever we have enough fabric for two outfits, I check with the initial customer for clearance.

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Usually, there is only enough of the vintage fabric for one unique garment. Finish and quality is paramount. The inside-out should be just as beautiful as the exterior. Often this quality is sacrificed in industry, when a greater number of products is being made at a time.  

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Tell me about the process involved in making Mintage pieces. What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make? 

We work mostly with vintage fabrics that customers choose from our stock. They are also welcome to bring their own chosen fabric. Pattern and fabric choices are discussed and an initial toile is made up in each customer’s size. This helps with future orders. 

Completion time is dependent on the complexity of the pattern. Our busy order schedule is also a factor. Some pieces might be two – three hours work, but the Palm Springs tiki competition outfits for a lovely couple took a lot longer ! It really depends on the type of commission. 

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What do you enjoy most about what you do? 

Seeing the surprise and joy of customers who never realized what bona-fide tailoring could do for them. There’s also an intense satisfaction in nailing a particularly difficult make. The standard benchmark question in the workroom is: “does this garment say “HELLO ! “ to you ?”

I believe that focused attention generates a “sound,” as does the amazing Vintage fabrics we work with. It’s that, that speaks to you when you look at a well-made garment. 

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What do you do when you’re not making things? 

Standard family joke – I am the “Singer Sewing Machine”, I also teach singing. I’m a huge fan of art song, musical theatre, jazz and contemporary. 

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Finish this sentence: Handmade is best because………..

the agency of touch, fine attention and love is communicated through this skill. “Where the hand goes, the eye follows, where the eye goes, the mind follows, where the mind follows, the heart follows, and thus is born expression”

Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces? 

Visit us on the MINTAGE Facebook page or contact us on 021 255 0241.

We run on an appointment basis to provide customers an individual and optimum personal service. 

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The Handmade’s Tale: An interview with Audrey Moorehead from Tee-ki Togs

Welcome to a fresh installment of the Handmade’s Tale–a regular series in which we celebrate crafty ladies! This week Natasha meets international jetsetter, DJ and jewellery designer Audrey Morehead from Tee-ki Togs.

Audrey Moorehead might hail from California but her work takes her anywhere the tiki winds blow.

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Born to be wild: Teeki-Togs designer Audrey Moorehead.

Raised in Downey, California, her childhood was a whirlwind of luau parties, lava fountains and trips to local alohawear store, Peg’s Tiki Togs. She even grew up in a Polynesian-themed apartment complex!

“I’ve been interested in loud and vibrant clothing since birth, she says. “My mother was quite the fashion plate and always wore the coolest clothes.

“Rudi Gernreich was her favourite. She also loved ‘Fumi’s’ [a vintage Hawaiian clothing company] because of the great colours and styles they made.”

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This is me wearing a Bosko Pendant and my model Sharon [Pinup Little Bit] wearing a Tiki Tony pendant

So when the time came to create her own business it felt natural to take the Tiki Togs moniker, tweak the spelling… and her jewellery line Tee-ki togs was born!

Inspired by the outrageous jewellery worn by 60s icons such as Edie Sedgwick, Audrey crafts her pieces using a variety of chains, beads, resin and acrylic parts, glass, ceramics, plastic and wood.

Her mantra is ’round, shiny and plastic’ and nothing is too wild or crazy in her book.

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Punk icon Jello Biafra wearing one of Teeki Togs’ collaboration pieces- a Bosko cat

It was in the 1980s that Audrey experienced the first wave tiki revival while working on a 1960s -style TV show with her longtime friend Domenic Price.

Together they’d sit in his bedroom surrounded by his tiki mug collection, listening to exotica masters such as Les Baxter and Martin Denny while they worked on the show.

Price then introduced Audrey to none other than tiki archivist and urban archeologist Sven A Kirsten and  it’s been one long cocktail party ever since!

Read on to find out all about Audrey and her handcrafted jewellery line Tee-ki Togs!

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What is it about tiki style that appeals to your particular aesthetic?

For me it’s the boldness of the colors and patterns! Like my mother, I am drawn to the pure design and colors of the Aloha wear. I’ve been wearing it forever because it was the loudest most psychedelic clothing I could find here in California.

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How did you come to be making your jewelry range?

My jewelry role model is Edie Sedgwick, she had the most outrageous earrings ever, and also Paco Rabanne. My mantra is “Round, Shiny, Plastic” I just love those elements! I used to make my own earrings and then repaired many of my vintage items and often elaborated on them to make them wilder.

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I have a background in Graphic and Interior Design. I also took jewelry design but that was completely useless because I wanted to repair things not cast things in gold and silver.

I wanted to work with plastic! Over time my styles have evolved to BLEND with the Aloha wear that my friends wear but I would love to make mod jewelry again.

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Tell me about the process involved in making your pieces.
 
So many things I see inspire me. I get an idea, then start looking for the right hardware for it, how much I can manufacture myself, or search for vintage jewelry that needs to be reworked into a more wearable design.

Some pieces are hand painted, some are found, other artists make some pieces and some are designed by me and manufactured by someone else, like my acrylic parts.

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What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

I use a variety of chains, beads, resin and acrylic parts, glass, ceramic, plastic, wood. Each piece varies in the time it takes to make it just right. Some pieces take 10 minutes, some take hours.

It’s a labor of love with some pieces that I cannot charge enough for the amount of work that went into it but the pride I get from seeing someone wear my jewelry outweighs the time and money I put into it.

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Tee-ki Togs model Pinup Little Bit.

 
What do you enjoy most about what you do? 

The freedom to go where I want, that I am able to make something people love, but mainly the joy of seeing customers wearing my designs. I was at a party and there was 8 ladies dancing and they were all wearing my earrings!! I got a little emotional from that.  I felt so loved.

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Tee-ki Togs model Pinup Little Bit.

How has your technique evolved over time? 

With time you become more discerning, find better quality materials and of course you become more skilled in your assembly and production.

 

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Tiki Tony shows off a collaboration piece created in conjunction  with Teeki Togs

I notice you’ve done some great collaboration with fellow Tiki artists. Can you tell us about some of them and which has been your favorite collaboration? 

I started making jewelry for BigToe and then Tiki Tony, both wonderful artists, of course they all are or else I wouldn’t work with them! Odd Rodney has even put my logo on the back of his Moai for me!

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Buzzy Meeker and Bosko make some great stuff that I love to work with. GoGo Tiki makes me wonderful ceramic pieces and so does Mikel Parton. I can’t say any of them are my favorites because I am honored to work with all these talented artists and feel grateful that they allow me to use their creations in my work!

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Collaboration with artist GoGo Tiki

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Any plans to branch out into other areas/ products besides jewellery?

I originally was going to make cute summer dresses and hats, along with men’s jackets. I still may get back to that! 

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Tee-ki Togs model Pinup Little Bit.

  
What are your creative inspirations? 

LIFE! I love to watch people and nature, I see what my friends are wearing and I think to myself, now what’s missing from that outfit is some outrageous earrings! Many of the Hawaiian dresses are very high necked so I sell mainly earrings that add that pop of color and compliment the dress. For men, I usually make natural colored pendants to pop on their colorful shirts. Lately men have wanted really bright stuff too and I love that!

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Have you always been a vintage jewelry lover/ collector? 

Yes! My aunt Candy said I would always play with her plastic jewelry when I was a baby. I was drawn to that instead of the silver stuff. My father was a plastics engineer so I think it runs in my blood!

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Reagan Foy wearing my Floats

Were you always crafty/ creative as a youngster? 

I loved to draw and thought I would become an artist growing up, but I was more into my motorcycle and my dogs as a kid.

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Tee-ki Togs model Pinup Little Bit.

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created?  

I do love most of what I make because it is an extension of what I am feeling when I make it. Usually when I make something really special for myself, someone falls in love with it and I sell it to him or her. I don’t regret it because it will bring that person so much joy and I can make something else!

I do love my Tiki Tony “Markesan Sun” pendants, I will be making more soon. I also really loved how my collaboration with Mikel Parton (MP / Thrift Emporium) came out.

His mid-century ceramic fish with my “bubble chain” works perfectly with his pieces. My customers loved them too so much that I sold out the first time I showed them! I will be making more of those soon.

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Mikel Parton ceramic fish

 
Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?
 
Come see me at events such as Tiki Oasis, Tikiland Trading Company, Tiki Trader, Shipwrecked, The Hukilau, even out at the new “Malihini” in Kansas City. I bring my newest and most unique pieces to shows to ensure that my customers get first choice for coming to see me. If you can’t see me at a show, I have an Instagram page where I post everything (@teekitogs), as well as a Facebook business page (facebook.com/teekitogs). 

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If my followers see pieces on my Instagram feed that they want, I am happy to make custom pieces to sell direct or post in my Etsy shop. Business has picked up and I am often away selling at shows, so sometimes I don’t have time to list the newest things in the shop. But I am always happy to do so if an item is requested. It’s a pleasure to create for my customers!

Thanks for reading!  Go and follow Audrey on Facebook  or Instagram now!

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In the Closet with Frith Wilkinson

Welcome to the eighth installment of our In the Closet with series! This week Natasha steps inside the wardrobe of painter Frith Wilkinson.
Golden Bay, a remote community in the South Island, is well-known as a haven for alternative lifestylers, artisans and folk living off the grid, so it’s no surprise that self expression and eccentricity are embraced there.
 
Despite the alternative fashion and hippie style that abounds, it’s still pretty rare to see locals decked out in head-to-toe vintage – except for 47-year-old watercolour artist Frith Wilkinson, that is!
Her Instagram feed is awash with spellbinding vintage ensembles with a particular emphasis on 1930s and 40s tailoring, turbans, vintage knitwear, high-waisted trousers, interesting necklines and lush silk velvet evening dresses.
 
Frith’s been dressing up in some way or other since childhood (she used to dress as a boy when she was young) and has never been one to worry about fitting in.
When she first upped sticks and moved to the country, she swore she’d never wear gumboots, but she’s now a convert! As an artist, she spends a great deal of time in overalls but loves to don vintage in her down time.
 
” I definitely don’t wear vintage while painting. I’ve never felt pressure from other artists to dress down, in fact it’s the artists I know who tend to be the ones who like to dress up, although not necessarily living in vintage.”
 
Although she considers herself an introvert, she believes dressing up is the perfect foil to her other, more earnest pursuits of art, reading and film.
 
Read on to see more of Frith’s “masculine with a feminine edge” style!
 
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You seem to have a great wardrobe. Wanna take us on a tour of your closet? What would we find within?
 

I have been collecting vintage clothing for over two decades now so I have a fairly large collection which consists mostly of 1930s, 1940s and some 1950s clothes, accessories and shoes.  There’s seems to be a disproportionate amount of green, it’s my favourite colour…in all hues. There are also a lot of 1930s and 40s knits…it’s an obsession.

 

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Are you a vintage purist or do you wear repro pieces occasionally too?

I’m not a purist, although I do prefer true vintage as one of the things I love about vintage clothing is the history of the pieces. I like to imagine the lives their previous owners have lived. But I do have some reproductions. They’re mostly made from vintage fabric and wool using vintage patterns.  Also, true vintage pieces are often unaffordable for me nowadays.

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These shoes are from the 1940s.

 

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What are some of your most prized pieces in your vintage collection and why?

I have quite a few favourites so it’s hard to choose.

One would be a 1930s knitted dress in a dusty salmon pink with embroidered flowers called Olive. I purchased it off Vanessa from @twosquirrelsvintage. It’s called Olive after the woman who knitted her.

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Another are a 1940s dress and top made by a local woman, Thelma, and gifted to me by her niece who still lives in Thelma’s house. They are exquisite and beautifully made.

Also a knitted bolero and matching beret set made, designed and gifted to me by the lovely @squidneyknits who I met through Instagram.

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Frith wears a late 1940s suit.

Any noteworthy recent purchases?

I love my 1930s silk velvet dress with embroidered arms which I purchased for a song (which is rare nowadays). I mended some of the embroidery which had disintegrated, and now it’s like new.
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My 1930s silk velvet dress with embroidered arms

 How did you first become interested in vintage style?

I first became interested in the 1980s when I was in my teens. You could wear something unique and it was so cheap. There were still a lot of great vintage scores then as it wasn’t popular like it is today.

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What is it about vintage clothing that appeals to you?

What appeals the most is the cut, the beautiful fabrics, the stories they hold, and that it’s better for the environment. Also, nobody else will be wearing the same thing as you.

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How does it make you feel when you wear it?

I feel very comfortable wearing vintage as it suits my body shape. It is a little like fantasy as well, I have a nostalgia for the fashion and the way women dressed in the past, and I feel altered and transported in a way when I’m wearing it. It makes me happy.

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“This is one of the pieces local woman Thelma made in the late 1930s.”

What are your favourite eras when it comes to vintage clothes?
 

My favourite eras are the late 1930s to mid 1940s. I also like aspects of the 50s, but prefer the less “pretty” styles. I tend to like clothes that are feminine but with a masculine edge  to them.

 

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An example of an out fit made from original 1930s rayon crepe (trousers) and vintage wool using 1930s patterns 

Where are your favourite shopping haunts?
 
My favourite places to shop (other than Instagram and Etsy) are Ménage a Trois in Christchurch. It’s like an old-school vintage shop with lots of treasures, and Shelley is just lovely. The Mayfield Store in Mayfield, South Canterbury and Eclectic in Nelson. 
 
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What are your general thoughts about op shopping and vintage shopping in New Zealand?

 

 It seems to be harder each year to find good vintage in New Zealand and the good pieces are usually unaffordable for me now. You still find some gems occasionally though.

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What are your holy grail pieces? Fave labels/ fabrics/ outfit types?

Not sure about holy grail pieces or labels, but I do love vintage rayon crepe, cold rayon , wool crepes and silk velvet. My favourite outfit types depends on my mood. Usually something 1940s with a bit of a masculine edge.

I love high-waisted 1930s and 40s trousers, they’re my go-to and a staple of my wardrobe. I nearly always wear a hat of some type, either a beret or turban/headscarf. And I adore vintage knits from the 1930s and 40s.

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Whose closet do you envy?

I don’t know if I could say I envy anybodies closet as I’m happy with my own, but I love Katherine Hepburn style.

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Who are some of your style icons and influences?

I really don’t have any style icons. I do love old clothing catalogues like Sears though. Also old patterns and magazines.  They  have great suggestions for outfit styling. 

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Can you remember the first vintage piece you bought? What was it?

I think the first vintage piece I bought was a 1940s rayon jersey dress from Tasman Traders in Christchurch. I must have been about 14 or 15 and I wore it for years.

 

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How do members of the public react to your get-ups?
 

Most people are lovely and really appreciate someone dressing up. I really only get positive comments. The only thing that I use to find annoying was when I worked in a wee chocolate shop, people often asked about my costume, which is kind of understandable really. I often get stopped by strangers who like to complement me on my style.

 

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Do you wear vintage to work as well? What do you do and how is your style received in the workplace?

No, I work as an artist so I mostly live in overalls. I do open my studio to the public in the summer months and so I’ll dress up then.

 

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Does your vintage obsession extend into other areas too such as home decor, car, accessories and other collections?
 

Not really. I live in a tiny house with a very small budget, so I just stick to clothing. Although most things in my home are second hand or thrifted  If I could, I would definitely fill my house with beautiful old things and drive an old car.

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This knitted set was knitted for me as a gift from Sydney (she lives in New York) of @squidneyknits. Having never met me before, she decided that she wanted to design and knit something for me..it’s one of the loveliest things anyone’s ever done for me. I’ve met so many lovely people on Instagram who have a shared love of vintage. Since this, Sydney has also knit me a gorgeous vest for Christmas from a 1940s pattern.

Anything that you’d never be caught dead wearing?

Stilettos or a bikini.  
Can’t get enough of Frith’s style? Follow her on Instagram now!

WE WANT YOU!

Do you have a killer vintage wardrobe and would like to be featured on the blog? Contact us now!
 
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This is one of the pieces local woman Thelma made in the late 1930s.

 

In the closet with: Helga von Tiddlehoffen

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! 

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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!

26653225_1908675042494154_1688948780_o.pngWhen 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.

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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!

26692501_1908675179160807_1452267100_oYou 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!

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26692620_1908677902493868_539942827_o-e1515462969336.pngAre 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!

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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.

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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…

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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….

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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.

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How does it make you feel when you wear it?

I expect I must feel FABULARSE or I wouldn’t!

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What are your favourite eras when it comes to vintage clothes?

Each and every one but especially Regency, Edwardian, Teens, 20s, 70s.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

My new 1920s bf ♥️ I just wish his lil ensemble fit me 💦

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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.

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Can you remember the first vintage piece you bought? What was it?

 No clue. Probably a black early 70s hostess frock.

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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!

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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.

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What would I never be caught dead wearing?

Crocs!

Isn’t she fabulous!

Want to see more of Helga’s fabulous ensembles? Step this way…

Instagram: @vonwinklehoffen

Helga’s blog which sadly doesn’t get updated anymore: Colours Fly and Catherine Wheel

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In the closet with Heather Benzie

In part four of our ‘In the Closet with’… series, Heather Benzie spills her sartorial secrets to Natasha Francois.

Vintage doyenne Heather Benzie has a knack for crafting authentic-looking 1940s and 50s high fashion outfits using a hodge podge of vintage, retro and modern items.

The Christchurch-based apparel manager happily mixes eras and has a particular interest in retro pieces which recall earlier eras such as 1930s does 70s items or 80s does 40s or 50s.

But you wouldn’t know this from looking at her. From head to toe, she’s the epitome of elegance and tailored perfection. She’s certainly no vintage snob but by the same token, doesn’t own a single piece of  ‘purpose-designed’ reproduction clothing.

Read on to find out about her eclectic wardrobe, her passion for formal day-wear and skirt suits, and why she believes 1980s clothing is the ‘vintage of the future’.  

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Being ladylike, as I do sometimes for fun, faking the 50s in a modern op shopped blazer. A good blazer is a good blazer, really.

Are you a vintage purist or do you wear repro pieces occasionally too?

I don’t think I own any actual purpose-designed repro. In general, manufactured reproductions and retail shopping don’t really interest me. What I like is the quirky, the individual and the fortuitous. I love to go hunting and see what I find and be inspired by it. And I do value my true vintage for age and authenticity: I suppose I like things that are a bit rare and special.

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The green and white ‘Snow Drop’ post, in a pretty polyester 60s blouse on a chilly early spring day …

But I am definitely not a vintage purist either. If I am wearing a good vintage dress or suit I like to keep my fairly accessories in keeping, but for every day I will happily mix up vintage, retro and modern items to create a look I like, and it might or might not be a historically accurate effect that I am after. And I am really interested in retro pieces which in turn reference earlier eras, like 30s-influenced 1970s fashion and 80s fashions which are similar to styles from the 40s or 50s. For one thing they are handy because you can wear them either way, but I am just fascinated by the overlaps and circularity of fashion. 

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A beautiful Chloe jacket I bought at the Recycle Boutique in Auckland – more expensive than vintage but exquisite really. The vintage of the future.

What are some of your most prized pieces in your vintage collection and why?

I have acquired a nice Lilli Ann suit and some lovely 1950s and 1960s dresses and suits which are always nice to wear for special occasions. They are always elegant and glamorous. One of my favourites is a teeny black silk velvet cheongsam which I will probably never squeeze into again … thank goodness for the everlasting photographic record of the internet! If I am buying proper vintage I try to follow the same guidelines I would for buying a new piece of clothing: is it beautiful or stylish (in my opinion), well designed, and well made of quality fabric?

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I love a little fierce 40s style: actually 80s vintage jacket and veiled hat. Don’t you just love veiled hats?? I do. Hurrah for 80s does 40s!

Any noteworthy recent purchases?

There are a couple of dresses I picked up recently which are quite different from each other but both of which I love. I recently added to my collection a long silk evening dress, maybe 60s, with a stunning Chinese style water lily print. It’s very elegant. And I bought an amazing 1980s velvet cocktail dress with amazing oversized shoulders and puffed sleeves which I love because it is so ’80s’ but it has a real high fashion flair to it – elegant too, in a different way. It’s what I call the vintage of the future: when the rest of the world catches up with me in appreciating 80s fashion I will have the market cornered! 

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One of my nicest things: an ivory cocktail suit. Tres Dior, non?

How did you first become interested in vintage style? Can you remember the first vintage piece you bought? What was it?

I remember from quite a young age loving the the glamorous high style of the old movies which were still pretty standard fare on the telly. As a teenager in the 1980s I got interested in current fashion – it was the age of Madonna, British New Romanticism and punk, so a really fun, eclectic time. There was quite a strong retro element in popular culture, and my friends and I loved visiting the local op shops and mixing up our Glassons stuff with vintage 50s and 60s items, among other things. I used to wear my pencil skirts with op shop 60s cardis and my mother’s gloves and pearls or a silk cocktail jacket and brocade shoes from my Nana. I don’t think we called it ‘wearing vintage’: it was more just a way to stretch our small budgets and wardrobes with nice things!

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The closest I ever get to that immaculate pinup style! – pretty 60s wool frock from Dunedin Savemart, and a hat to minimise my naturally chaotic hair.

What is it about vintage clothing that appeals the most?

I am mostly driven by aesthetics and a kind of curiosity about fashion in general. I love a good outfit of any era and style and really appreciate when anyone puts thought into what they’re wearing. Vintage gives me opportunities to try out different aesthetics. I love co-ordinating all the elements from top to toe: it is like a puzzle you can put together in different ways. Sometimes I want to look smart, or cute or romantic or whatever, and sometimes I am just mucking around.

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I was inspired by Kate Bush’s video for The Hounds Of Love to photograph this romantic 80s Thornton Hall ball gown this way ..

Given that, the question of whether my clothes are a form of self expression is complicated. It is true that wearing different clothes makes you feel different (if you are interested Google ‘enclothed cognition’) and the fact that I experiment with lots of different looks probably indicates that I am happy with being several different people! I have said before that my clothes mostly express a desire to make the everyday just a little more fabulous and interesting!

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This lovely silk 70s wedding dress reminded me of the White Witch in the original Narnia illustrations, with its austere medieval styling.

My photographs are really important to me as a creative outlet. I don’t have time to do many at the moment and it makes me sad! When I have time I really love to photograph some of my clothes in a creative way. I am trying to show some cultural or even an emotional association of the clothing for me. For example, I styled a 1980s ballgown in a photo shoot inspired by a Kate Bush album, as an attempt to illustrate the new romantic spirit. It’s a very personal and impressionistic interpretation, though; not a documentary.

What are your favourite eras when it comes to vintage clothes?

I wear clothes of lots of different eras: more than favourite eras I have favourite styles or genres that I gravitate towards. I adore formal daywear and love to wear a skirt suit with all the accessories – from any decade from the 40s to the 80s. The sharper and more glamorous the look, the better, so I do have a special yen for that high drama, fierce 40s, 50s and 80s style.

I take any opportunity to get dressed up in eveningwear too. I have a lot of elegant 50s and 60s frocks but I have started wearing more funky late 60s and 70s dresses, and of course I can’t resist a good 80s number!

For casual wear I mostly revert to various forms and eras of what you might call romantic and boho style, from 40s looks to current ones. 
If I were going to sum up my preferred style, it is either elegant and formal, or colourful and romantic. With a hint of preppy and the odd cute moment. Go figure. 

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A ravishing gold satin 50s gown against the golden autumn beauty of the Port Hills here in Christchurch.

Where are your favourite shopping haunts and why?

I do the rounds of my local op shops when I can, buy a few things off Trademe and always visit Overflow in Mayfield when we head south. I don’t buy a lot of ‘retail’ vintage only because I’m tight with money. Some of my best things have been bought from friends in the vintage community, because I trust them. 

Do you have any general thoughts about op shopping and vintage shopping in New Zealand?

Well, it is easy to get envious about the seemingly bottomless pool of amazing vintage you see on overseas sites. But paradoxically the small size of the vintage community and stock in New Zealand keeps prices down, which is nice for a collector. I have bought beautiful true vintage suits and dresses off Trademe for a fraction of what the would sell for on an overseas site. And you can definitely still find bits of true vintage in the op shops and fairly inexpensive second hand shops. Sometimes I can’t believe what I find that has been overlooked or consigned as valueless. You do need patience, sharp eyes, some knowledge, and a bit of luck though.

Whose closet do you envy and why?

Marilyn Monroe’s maybe? Ava Gardner’s? 

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Ava Gardner

Who are some of your style icons and influences?

So many influences! I have certainly been influenced by the beauty and glamour of the classic movie stars of the 40s and 50s. My favourite designers are pretty diverse: Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Lauren and Yves St Laurent spring to mind. Fashion advertising and pop culture of all sorts in recent decades interests me.

I don’t really follow any bloggers or such but I totally love Leandra Medine, aka Manrepeller, for the way she has divorced an interest in fashion from conventional notions of femininity, prettiness and sex appeal. I think that is my position, to some degree. Looking pretty is not, in and of itself, particularly interesting to me these days.

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Leandra Medine aka ‘Manrepeller’

Anything that you’d never be caught dead wearing?

Nude lipstick. Trackpants. Activewear unless I am actually running. Any form of imitation Ugg boots or boot slippers. Leggings as pants. Chunky gladiator sandals. Makeup modelled on that of a Khadashian. But that’s only me and what I personally consider attractive or suitable for me. I don’t care what other people wear: we are all different! That’s a good thing. 

What do you think of Heather’s vintage style? Let me know in the comments! xx

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