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’.  


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.


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. 


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?


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! 


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!


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.


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!


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. 


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? 


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.


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


In the closet with : Jana Bradley


This week, Nelson-based op shop queen Jana Bradley, lets me delve into her eclectic wardrobe.

Although I’ve never actually had the pleasure of meeting Jana Bradley in real life, I’ve admired her sartorial style via social media for quite some time. Those blunt cut bangs! Those effortless poses! That quirky vintage collection!

The mother of two, who works in fashion retail, also has a great eye for home decor too.

Read on to find out more about her ever-evolving style, her love of pillaging her local op shops, her current style crush and more!


exercise bike best 3 (1 of 1)

Cycle chic: Jana strikes a pose on her vintage exercise bike.

exercise bike best (1 of 1) (1)


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

My wardrobe is jam-packed with an eclectic mix of vintage and modern which i have been germinating over the years. My greatest interest is in vintage lingerie and sleepwear.

I am forever exploring and changing up my style and I am known for selling and buying at alarming rates.
If I don’t absolutely love something it usually gets the cut pretty quickly. Life is too short to own items that don’t look or make make me feel my best.
wardrobe best (1 of 1).jpg

Hanging out: Welcome to Jana’s closet.


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

I have to say my wardrobe predominantly consists of vintage treasures, but I have fallen for the odd reproduction and New Zealand-made piece. These sorts of pieces normally hold a modest portion of real estate in my wardrobe.

Fit and quality is of high priority to me and unfortunately a lot of modern-day labels just don’t cut the mustard. Nothing makes me happier than quality original vintage pieces, they just don’t seem to make garments like they use to and its very sad in my opinion. 

 I never will fit into that purist box just because I ain’t a girl who enjoys those restraints. 

necklace best (1 of 1).jpg

Statement piece: Necklaces galore in Jana’s bedroom.


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

I have a couple of Cole Of California dresses I am happy to possess. I love my full-length ’60s gown as seen in one of my photos, it was saved by a dear friend of mine. I feel gorgeous in this and its a bit of a feel good story knowing it got saved from the rubbish heap.

I have a merry widow corset I absolutely adore, I’ve had it for years and I will be taking that to the grave. My vintage exercise bike was a pretty fruitless purchase but I think it looks cool and it’s a conversation starter. 
donej (1)

Checkmate: Jana wears her full-length 1960s gown, salvaged from a rubbish heap.

Any noteworthy recent purchases?

Favourite recent purchase was a 70s terry toweling jumpsuit and a Faux Fur leopard print coat for winter. The coat is immaculate, that in itself brings me much joy! 

How did you first become interested in vintage style?
My family had a huge influence in my first interest with vintage. My siblings and I were lucky enough to have a large dress-up box which contained some of mum’s old clothing. She made most of her clothes as a teen (as they did back in the dark ages) and I still have fond memories of dressing up in them. I feel lucky that she saved these garments and i hope to do the same for my own kids.
I still remember seeing my parents getting ready to go to dress up parties as a youngster, this sort of free expression of individuality resonated with me. I remember having a lot of freedom with dressing myself, and wearing something nobody else is wearing was and still is very alluring to me.
mum and dad betterer (1 of 1).jpg

Free spirits: Jana’s parents were a big influence on her style.

How does it make you feel when you wear it?

I feel like a million bucks when I wear vintage. There is something special about walking down the street knowing your not going to see someone else wearing what you’re wearing. If this was to happen I can only assume we would do some sort of slow high five motion. 

washing best (1 of 1).jpg

Wash day: A colourful confection of undergarments.

What are your favourite eras when it comes to vintage clothes?
I appreciate all eras to be honest. I would say the 1940s-1970s are of most interest to me. I go through phases and right now i am going through a long drawn out 70s phase. This one might stick around for a while.

Where are your favourite shopping haunts?

I love pillaging all the usual Nelson op shops and Savemart. I get a wee thrill fossicking through racks of clothing to find a treasure, it certainly can be a workout.
We have a great antique store here called Eclectic which is a great place to peruse. It’s seriously a vintage collector and admirers dream. I’ve certainly daydreamed about moving in there permanently.
The Nelson Reuse and Recycle Centre is a great place to visit if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty!
painting best- (1 of 1).jpg

Prints charming: Retro pictures hang proudly in Jana’s Nelson home.


What are your general thoughts about op shopping and vintage shopping in New Zealand?


I think op shopping is pretty darn good here. It’s obviously not in the same category as the United States but it’s certainly not too shabby. I have noticed in recent years its become much more popular and prices have skyrocketed.
I worked out pretty quickly that it all comes down to repetition, foraging and luck! Just because there is a vintage section doesn’t mean you won’t find some treasures in other parts. Best place to buy vintage online personally for me has been via Facebook and TradeMe. 
jewels (1 of 1)

The finishing touch: Various jewellery and trinkets.


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

I wouldn’t say no to Vintage Dior or Chanel  but my realistic holy grail pieces would be a Cole of California 1950s leopard print swimsuit, anything Vintage Lee or Wrangler. I am currently searching for Vintage 70s Ringer tees, 1940s jeans and a 1950s Cowboy Cowichan sweater.

I would love to own a few more Warners Merry Widows bustiers. Fabrics I love are Crepe, lace, silk, tweed, leather and denim.

Capture d’écran 2015-10-10 à 12.32.15.png

Style crush: PinkPloyd gives Jana serious closet envy.


Whose closet do you envy and why?

I follow a girl on Instagram called PinkPloyd whom I have a huge style crush on and she gives me some serious closet envy. Her collection consists of vintage American western and work wear.

I have two dear friends here in Nelson that have been collecting for years and I must say I am pretty enviable of their closets. One friend has a vast collection of Rex bags and the other has previously owned her own vintage store, so you can only imagine the puddles of drool when I go visit her! 

Capture d’écran 2015-10-10 à 12.23.06.png

The west is the best: Some of PinkPloyd’s vast collection of western wear.

Who are some of your style icons and influences?


Perhaps a little predictable BUT Audrey Hepburn had such an effortlessly chic and timeless style that I admire. Bettie Page is my biggest influence in terms of my own appearance. I have had Bettie bangs off and on since i was about 3! I’ve even been nicknamed ‘The Fringe’ by fellow friends.
 A modern day style icon would be Vintage Vandalizm, her style oozes confidence and sex appeal, which I am all about! 

Effortlessly chic: “Audrey had a timeless quality to her style.”


Bettie Page’s iconic bangs  inspired Jana to cut some of her own.

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

I don’t really have a memory span that goes back that far to be honest but i do remember buying an absolutely pristine labelled Blue and Gold Brocade 60s dress from the Nelson Hospice Opportunity shop for $20. This was such a jaw-dropping find and I am still upset that I sold it when I was a poor student. I am not sure I will ever stop kicking myself for doing that!


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


I get sweet comments, i can’t say i have ever had any horrible experiences. On occasions i get passing comments like “I love your bag!!” but generally i am on mum duty so i try to dress as casual and practical as possible.  

Various  finds sourced from Nelson’s secondhand shops.

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


I work in fashion retail so people give me a lot of positive feedback when I wear a complete vintage look. I still remember a wee girl asking me why I was wearing a dressing gown to work one day. Needless to say my chic faux fur coat was looked at in a different light after that!
It’s normally very sweet comments and it sparks up a good old chin wag about vintage clothing, who wouldn’t enjoy that!? My fellow workmates are always complimentary when I rock into work.

Jana’s gorgeous kids in their vintage ringer tees.

How did you first become attracted to vintage clothing and style?
When I was a teen I was all about standing out and this of course had to be done on a budget. My older sisters were pretty alternative, one was a metaller and the other a hippie, so i already had the odds stacked against me.
Once I had exhausted fashion options at home I started experimenting with my own style through much trial and error. I can’t say i have it completely figured out yet!  Something I have figured out though, is that vintage clothing truly has my heart and the ‘fast fashion’ i see around me is no longer alluring. I try to purchase as little as possible brand new, hence why buying secondhand suits me down to a T.
 Recently I have started considering even downsizing my collection as I feel like owning a million bangles and never wearing them makes no sense to me– funny that. Vintage is meant to be enjoyed, lived in and shared in my opinion. I love to collect certain things but I’m much more choosy about what I bring home.
painting best 2 (1 of 1).jpg

Ballet fixation: She’s always been drawn to the kitsch aesthetic but wants to focus more on her decor in the future.

Does your vintage obsession extend into other areas too such as home decor, car, accessories and other collections?
Yes, I’m guilty of collecting too many kitsch ornaments and furniture. I have a tiny flat, so its a bit of a problem. I have inherited a pretty groovy 70s leather lounge suite from my late grandparents. I have a modest record collection which I’m trying to build up. 
My decor needs more focus, I have been too obsessed with clothing but I am slowly building up my vintage collection in all areas. 
 Anything you’d never be caught dead wearing?
Croc’s, Jandals, Ugg Boots, Tracksuits, polar fleece, tie dye, fluffy vests, Ed Hardy, and anything fluorescent or from Kmart.
Do you have any pet hates when it comes to vintage shopping?
When people overcharge for items, especially if they aren’t in tidy condition. When something is labelled as ‘vintage’ and it’s clearly from a chain store or the tag has label has been chopped off! Grrrr!!
What do you think of Jana’s awesome style? Let me know in the comments!
JANA collage

A dress a day: Some of the vintage beauties in her collection.

In the closet with: Angela Carter


“Fashion is a language. Some know it, some learn it, some never will – like an instinct.”
– Edith Head

Whangarei-based artist, blogger and seamstress Angela Carter shares her sartorial secrets with Natasha Francois.

With her sharp tailored silhouettes and angled  vintage hats, Angela Carter is one of those women who simply oozes style. She’s certainly one of the most ‘authentic looking’ vintage ladies I’ve ever seen at events. She looks like she could have just stepped out of a Dior advertisement or a gritty 1940s film noir.


The most amazing thing about her wardrobe however, is that it’s largely self-created. The couture-obsessed fashion fiend is sewing her way to her dream wardrobe, one vintage pattern at a time.

Read on to find out about her enviable wardrobe, why modern patterns don’t do it for her, and the power of a good hat. 

Vogue 273 full length skirt.jpg

Femme fatale: This film noir gown is one of her favourite dresses she’s made.

You have a great wardrobe. Wanna take us on a tour?
Thank you! I have a host of garments I have sewn, op shop pieces and ready to wear I have bought and looked after, way back when I was in regular paid employment, almost 10 years ago now, including quite a few hats, vintage gloves and scarves.
I have a few original vintage garments, a classic trench, a deep green wool coat, a full length leather coat, a couple of suits and dresses that I enjoy, but most of the time I’m wearing me made, supplemented with op shop finds.
My accessories are mostly vintage, I have way too many vintage gloves, scarves and items of custom jewellery, and hats! For me, I’m keen on a good design, good quality, and you can get that with some reproduction pieces.
Bolero Simplicty 2269 and skirt 3114 v6.jpg

Look sharp: Angela wears a bolero and skirt suit she made last year.

You’re also a keen sewer, do you make most of your clothes?
Yes! I make enough to kit myself out for most days, I have staple garments that get a lot of wear, like my favourite ’40s slacks, variations on some elegant McCalls dresses, a classic 50s-shaped shirt, and some jumpsuits, which are my current favourites to wear.
I can’t resist making cocktail frocks though!
Dresses I have sewn
How long have you been sewing?
I used to sew as child, making doll clothes, toys, but found sewing at high school so boring, and so I dropped it as soon as I could.
I started again around 9 years ago, properly, when I realised I could create a wardrobe I would enjoy more that what was available to buy.
My vintage suit sew along tall looking down nice shot

Angela’s project for the Vintage Suit Sew Along.

My vintage suit sew along tall looking down (1)
I had also had my first baby, and I was pretty sick of seeing off-the-rack clothes that were heavily marketed to surly looking teens and middle-aged women.
I just didn’t see myself in those clothes, so looked at styles that were fabulous and more individual.
I also had a limited budget, so started sewing as it was the most affordable way I could create my own style.
It helped that my mum still had my nana’s sewing machine and, as it turns out, quite a lot of fabric and haberdashery items.
Three special makes.JPG

Three special projects.

Do you make your own patterns or use vintage ones? 
I know the basics of pattern drafting, but I use vintage patterns, often making style adjustments, flaring a pant leg or lengthening a sleeve to create a more varied wardrobe.
I can drape and shape well, but I have an extensive collection of patterns to work from, so that makes it easy!
I have a couple of patterns that I use at starting point if I need to grade up or down, I am fortunate that I am mostly standard proportion, so my adjustments are minimal.
I just love working with my old patterns, they are so beautiful.
dresses she dreams of making.JPG

A few dresses she dreams of sewing.

What are you working on at the moment?
I work on multiple projects at a time, this year I plan to finish some garments that have been languishing on the shelves of my sewing room.
At the moment, I’m completing a Vogue Couturier pattern I started last year, which has some finishing details that have been challenging, mostly due to the fabric choice, a luxurious cream wool crepe (op shop score!).
Also on my ‘to finish’ list is a jumpsuit in black, a pair of slacks, to match a classic swing jacket I made this summer, on my ‘new projects’ list are a pair of pyjamas from a pattern that belonged to my nana, with a mandarin collar and ‘one piece’ pant legs, and a Vogue Special Design sheath dress using some soft upholstery fabric I picked up at an op shop – if I can can make it fit the small piece of fabric.
Vogue Special Design up next.JPG

“If I can make the pattern pieces fit, I plan to make this dress in this fabric I found in an op shop.”

Weigel%27s pjs up next.JPG

“I’m looking forward to some really snuggly pyjamas.”

Are you a vintage purist?
So far, I only sew from genuine vintage patterns, so that might make me a bit of a purist when it comes to my source patterns, I just prefer them now. I started sewing garments (as an adult) with a couple of early 60s and 70s patterns, and I haven’t looked back!
The 60s pattern I started with was a simple kimono sleeve wriggle dress, on unprinted pre-cut tissue paper, with different sized holes to represent the seam allowances, darts, straight grain etc.
I still find unprinted vintage patterns ideal to work with, no visual overload, and once you get your eye in, it’s easy. I also know the pattern companies various fit and style components that suit me, so basically, I use what I love and what works for my lifestyle.
Modern patterns just don’t do it for me!
What are some of your most prized pieces in your collection?
Oh so many! I think of my ‘vintage collection’ so broadly, I have the pleasure to sew on my nana’s old Bernina, notions and a few stunning pieces of very vintage fabric inherited from both nanas. I have a couple of patterns I inherited from my nana, and some Couturier patterns that I scored on TradeMe a while back.
Nanas patterns.JPG

Some of Angela’s nana’s patterns.

Vogue couturier design patternsVogue Couturier Design SuitsThese are really hard to find, and would fetch top dollar, so ‘investment’ pieces (cough) you could say.

As you might expect, Vintage Couturier and designer patterns were pricier, are rarer, have the most unusual features, they are sometimes very complex and well, they are so stylish!

Sewing from the Couturier patterns I have has been challenging and very rewarding.

Vogue Paris Original and Couturier patterns.JPG

“Stunning Vogue Couturier Patterns, I love the way these women don’t give a damn!”

I also have a number of precious printed posters that my poppa screen printed in the 50s and 60s, these are so special, as I also worked in the signage and print industry in my twenties, there is a family connection there that makes them more special.
There are other random treasures too, like a globe, some pressed glass and other odd bits that remind me of family.
Cool vogue women who remind her

“I love these women, they remind me of my mum, she used to draw women like this when she studied sewing at high school.”

Any noteworthy recent purchases?
Ooo I am on a bit of a ‘downsize’ the sewing room at the moment and I haven’t had any dream finds come up for a while.
Earlier this year I did pick up some stunning patterns, I have sewn up one, and have others on the ‘to make’ list.
I love this dress, and hope to make one of these coats for winter but I’m a little late starting. 
Butterick up next (1).JPG

Angela shows off a recent op shop score.

How did you first become interested in vintage style?
I used to be sort of anti-fashion, I am a bit shy, and internalised stuff about not attracting attention to myself, so other than being a bit of a goth teen, I was not that into fashion or clothes.
But growing up with two nanas who sewed, a mum who sewed, and loving all my grandparents old stuff, some of which I inherited, and are now special pieces to me, it was only a matter of time before it became a bit of a passion.
I got some of my angst out and started to think more about what I wore, I had had my babies, and had reached a point, where I knew myself, and was a bit ‘life is short’ I’m going to embrace the styles I love!
I was also out of the paid work force, I knew how to sew, fabric was easy to come by in op shops, so I just started sewing clothes I liked, learned along the way, found my style, and didn’t stop.
Fabulous forties patterns (1).JPG

Fabulous forties patterns.

How does it make you feel when you wear it?

I love to wear my makes. Most days I’m wearing something I have made, like my slacks from my most used 40s pattern, so comfy, and a great style.

I’m still working on that perfect fit, though most of the time, my clothes fit me well, and I chose fabric and colours I love.

McCalls black dress swirl copy

“I finished this dress this year, just in time for my nana’s funeral, sad days.”

McCalls black dress skirt copy

“I’m wearing vintage gold gloves, op shop score, my VVDO shoes, black, read and gold brocade, and my other nana’s flower brooch.”

Since I have been sewing my own, I rarely go to clothing stores, and when I am in malls (which I loathe!) I look around and wonder, how many people have sewn their own clothes? Or have a connection to what they wear?
Vogue 6435 blue hat back.jpg
What are your favourite eras when it comes to clothes?
I gravitate to the 30s and 40s, I love jump suits, and the shapes that were popular during the war years, utilitarian yet chic.
There are so many things to love about past fashion trends and styles, so I dip into what I enjoy in the moment, sometimes that reflects what I’m reading or watching.
Vogue 3435 and black and white fabric
Vogue 6435 blue waist long groovy

“One of my jump suits, made with a 60s Vogue pattern.”

What are your general thoughts about op shopping and vintage shopping in New Zealand?
I have seen prices rise, and quality in secondhand and op shops drop, over the last ten years especially.
I think it’s a combination of rising rents (particularly in Auckland), op shopping becoming more trendy, and sometimes people forget that they are selling used goods – and that buying new all the time, is not an option for plenty of people, especially families, so it bugs me a bit.
Butterick 6299 finished and hem dropping.jpeg

“A recent make, using a new to me vintage Butterick pattern, using fabric my nana gave me.”


Butterick 6299 finished tall.JPG

The finished result.

The drop in quality clothing, speaks to the huge problem of fast fashion, garments are not made to last, and are of low quality fabrics, they are less well cared for, most of the time, they swamp the op shops. That makes the special vintage finds even more exciting though.
I enjoy op shopping, you never know what you may find, but it requires a level of commitment, time and regularly visiting, that I don’t always have!
My grandparents and mum used to get up early for Saturday morning garage sales, which were great for bargains and meeting your neighbours, it’s a bit of a shame that is no longer a past time.
I have a great green wool coat I scored at a garage sale, took out the shoulder pads, and voila! one of my most worn garments.
Do you have any holy grail pieces? 
My holy grails are usually the rarer Vogue Couturier or Special Design patterns, I would love more 30s and 40s, they are hard to come by if you’re a bargain hunter like me!
I limit my buying to local auctions (like TM) though some really nice patterns can be found on eBay and Etsy, the cost of shipping from international sellers is prohibitive.
Whose closet do you envy and why?
Actually, none! I’m pretty happy with what I have.
Vogue 273 full length back buttons.jpg
Who are some of your style icons and influences?
I love the work of Edith Head, she dressed a number of women on screen, so superbly, including some Hitchcock films I enjoy such as Vertigo, To Catch a Thief and Marnie, she used dress so cleverly to communicate.

Costume designer Edith Head.

Diana Vreeland was a very interesting person, and I think she knew how to dress, and be herself, I admire her for her work and how she wasn’t just all about traditional beauty.
I find collaborations really intriguing, Isabella Blow and Alexander McQueen, and Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, these relationships seemed to help define a personality through dress.
How do members of the public react to your get-ups?
 You know, when I’m out, I forget that I might look a bit different. I often receive compliments from people, especially if I’m wearing a jumpsuit, I see a few onesies around, but jumpsuits, not so much!
If I go all-out hat, dress, pearls, people stare, and sometimes rush up and say, “Oh my god I have to say you look amazing!”
That’s the power of a good hat for you.
Does your vintage obsession extend into other areas too such as home decor, car, accessories and other collections?
Absolutely. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a child, and loved their old stuff, I learned about quality and care, and many of my memories are associated with their homes, the textiles and homewares that we used.
The fact that these items can still be found in use is a testimony to the quality of such pieces.
I use Crown Lynn for my tea and coffee, we listen to records, occasionally use a reel to reel player, we have a bit of a mix of analog and high tech, for movies and music at home.
We shop second hand for almost everything, so we chose carefully and go for mid century pieces of furniture when budget permits.
                       My make of Butterick 7653, my nana’s fascinator, and gloves.
My love of vintage is also about knowing where I come from.
I love history and the social~political side of dress, and how various social movements have been reflected in fashion. Like the move to evacuate children out of London during WW1 brought into the public eye the scale of poverty that many families were coping with, the clothing they wore said it all.
Vogue jump suit hat in mirror.jpg
I am a bit of a sci-fi nerd and collect and read John Wyndham books, and when I can put aside the glaring chauvinism of the period, I get into 40s-50s sci novels, by writers such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clark.
And film! I love classic cinema, noir film, Hitchcock, and 60s science fiction series like Star Trek TOS, and Batman, so awesome! I have spent a couple of months binge watching Batman with the kids, and the costume design and set design is spectacular.
I also love a good classic cocktail…that counts doesn’t it?
See more of Angela and her amazing style at the below links:
Advance 6190 complete bodice necklinedetail

“I love this dress, such great detailing in the sleeves and back, I’m wearing a hat I that I picked up at an op shop for $3, it had a terrific shape, but was a little dull and faded. So I revamped it with some black fabric and it comes out more now.”

Advance 6190 complete  tall outside (1).jpgAdvance 6190 and fabric (1).jpg