In the closet with Lady Lou Lou Bell

Buxom beauty Lady Lou Lou Bell tells Natasha Francois how discovering pinup has helped her live her best retro life.

A leopard never changes its spots. Just ask Emma Holden, aka Lady Lou Lou Bell. The Christchurch pinup is addicted to leopard print and her wardrobe boasts at least 20 items which walk on the wild side, however, she also has a love for green and classic black.

Lady Lou Lou Bell cuts a colourful figure on the streets of North Canterbury with her feline-esque winged eyeliner, her ever-changing hues of brightly coloured hair (right now it’s a tantalising tangerine shade, and before that, electric blue), and her bright vermilion lipstick.

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The mum-of-two proudly, who works as a hearing equipment technician, proudly describes herself as ‘fat, freckly and fabulous’. She’s even coined her own hashtag with the phrase. After her birthday in a few week’s time, she can add another ‘f’ to the list– forty!

“I grew up being teased for my freckles but now I embrace them, it cracks me up that they’ve become trendy so that people tattoo them on or draw them on with makeup.”

“It just goes to show the old adage stands that you always want what you haven’t got.”

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Emma fell into the Christchurch pinup scene several years ago after having her hair styled at one of the local car shows and being invited to meet some local pinups. She was instantly hooked. Now she’s a fixture at hot rod and vintage events and a member of the Southern Pinup Belles– a group of Christchurch pinups who put on events to fundraise for charities.

“The New Zealand pin-up scene is so accepting and varied,” she says. “I’m incredibly proud to have been a finalist of Miss Pin Up NZ 2018 and especially for walking away with the title of Miss Picture Perfect,” she says.

Dying to for a peek inside her wardrobe? Read on to see more!

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You seem to have a great wardrobe. Wanna take us on a tour of your closet?

Nobody is going to be surprised when I say leopard print, leopard print and more leopard print.  I honestly have to have at least 20 separate pieces with differing leopard/animal pattern. But there’s also lots of black and green.  I also have quite an extensive collection of cardigans.

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How would you describe your style?

It depends on the day.  Some days I feel more vintage 1940s, some days rockabilly 1950s, then there the other days when I’m in track pants and T-shirts at home with my kids and dogs.  That’s part of the fun of dressing the way we do, do what you feel like on the day, there are no rules. You do you.

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Do you prefer reproduction or true vintage, why?

Both, the accessibility and the inclusiveness of size in reproduction is fantastic,  but there is something very special about vintage pieces that may have survived several decades.  I love to know the history behind pieces, who did it belong to, was it made for a specific event etc.

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As a plus size lady, what are your thoughts on finding and wearing true vintage pieces?

I adore true vintage; the fabrics and the quality are always amazing.  But when I can find pieces in my sizes, they are very rarely in my price range! Etsy is always my go-to for true vintage. If you find it and it fits, it should be worn!

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Which are the most size inclusive labels?

Vixen and la Femme en Noir by Micheline Pitt. My wardrobe is very slowly filling up with more formal and casual pieces from those ranges. My only gripe is that I often have to look overseas to get my hands on the pieces that I lust after.

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

My most prized possessions are my heirloom accessories that previously belonged to both of my great grandmothers.  You can buy another reproduction piece, but once an heirloom is gone its gone forever.

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Any noteworthy recent purchases?

My Collectif Leopard trench coat that was a birthday present last year and my Vixen leather circle skirt are on high rotation at the moment.

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How did you first become interested in vintage style?

I have always loved vintage. I have a vivid memory of trying on my grandmothers vintage cocktail dresses when I was about 11 (sadly I didn’t inherit any when she passed).  My 6th form formal dress was a purchase from Tete e’ Tete from pre earthquake Christchurch.  I felt like it was as close to being Scarlett O’Hara as I was ever going to get.

Lots of gold and green – and Kaye from Kabella Baby suspects that it may have been originally made for a theatre production.  Needless to say Im pretty sure that I was the only one wearing vintage in a sea of shiny, short late 90’s dresses

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Emma at her first Very Vintage Day Out

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

Not looking like everyone else. Putting effort into creating outfits from top to toe.

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

True vintage 40s appeals to me the most.  I especially love the look of classic vintage when paired with the edge of tattoos.

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Where are your favourite shopping haunts?

I’m one of those horrible people that shop online.  But the world is an international market, and I’m fully prepared to buy from overseas if it means that I get a better deal or something that isn’t stocked locally.  Of course the government is probably going to curtail that with the taxes etc that they keep bringing in, but maybe it will mean I’m more selective with my purchases. Maybe.

 

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

A true vintage leopard fur coat in my size is my ultimate holy grail piece.  I know where there’s a few hiding, but I haven’t managed to have a play in Natasha’s wardrobe yet!

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Whose closet do you envy and why?

Definitely The Glambassador for her classic vintage style, her wardrobe (including the hats, bags and accessories) must be immense!

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Who are some of your style icons and influences?

So so many – isn’t Instagram a wonderful thing to be able to find inspiration!  First people that come to mind would NZ’s own Soda Fontaine, and internationally would be Lady Kitty Hawk, Cherry Dollface and Mariza Seita.

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

I have 2 young children and 2 large dogs, so that’s why I cant have anything nice in my house lol.  But my dream home is a 2 storey art deco house.  One day it will be mine.

Anything that you’d never be caught dead wearing?

Never say never but I’m not a huge fan of 1960s and 70s style.

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The Handmade’s Tale: Nana Glamour

In this edition of the Handmade’s Tale, Lisa from Nana Glamour tells Natasha about her vintage-inspired creations made from old cards, tatty books, and vintage magazines.

Lisa from Nana Glamour could happily spend the rest of her life making hex boxes. “It’s actually ridiculous how much I enjoy this craft and never seem to tire of it”, she says.

After spending years toying with the idea of replicating the little octagonal boxes you might stumble across in op shops made from vintage greeting cards , she decided to take the plunge and try making them herself.

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It was during a very sad chapter of her life. Her sister had recently passed away and she was craving distraction. That’s when the enthrallment with her craft began and she’s never stopped.

A lifelong crafter, Lisa’s always had a fascination for all things retro and kitsch. “Looking back through rose-coloured spectacles as the social aspects of the time were not always so great, but seeing all the amazing fashion, jewellery, hairstyles, houses and furniture is just so captivating.”

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She has a penchant for the simplicity of time’s past: “peg bags made from sacking, embroidered pillow cases, dolls made from shells, chocolate boxes to die for…”

So it’s no accident that her business ‘Nana Glamour’ harks back to a simpler time of handicrafts, thrift and frugality; when the mend/ make/ do/ reigned supreme.

Her work is unapologetically whimsical and sentimental. Icons of kitsch are rife: whether they’re such cutesy kittens in baskets, religious figures, chocolate box roses, Disney cartoons, lurid pulp fiction covers, souvenirs,  or tacky Christmas cards.

But there’s a special place in her heart for woman’s magazine’s from the 1950s.

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“The advertisements are laugh-out-loud and the exotic images of legs and lingerie are very appealing. We certainly wouldn’t get away  today with some of the claims they touted back then- such as encouraging housewives to have a nip of  tonic to get through the day, lordy knows what they were imbibing, pleasing your husband and always looking your best..”

 Reading these magazines is a history lesson and a social commentary of the times, although I love vintage, I much prefer living in the present!”

Want to find out more about Nana Glamour? Read on!

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

 I’ve always loved using my hands and attempting to have a go at things.

I remember as a child making dolls clothes and quirky little bits and pieces for a dolls house.  I would have loved to be able to paint and illustrate but this was a complete disaster as I don’t have any talent for art. 

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My sister was very good and used to draw me my pictures for school projects which I even won prizes for, naughty, but a nice memory.  I have tried leatherwork, jewellery making on a very basic level, sewing, photography etc.

Many aspirations but I have found it is always enjoyable to have a go and find out what you are good at and when you actually achieve something worthwhile you are on the way.

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Styling and photography by Tannia Lee.

Where does the name come from?

It evolved from trying to capture the feel of what I am about.  I chose Nana firstly as most of my work embodies craft from my grandmother’s era.  A simpler time of handiwork and frugality. 

The beautiful and innovative techniques on domiciliary items always amaze me and I appreciate the talent and eye for beauty when you come across a gorgeous hand worked tablecloth or lingerie bag from 50 years ago.

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 The word ‘glamour’ evokes such a nice feeling, dressed up, sophisticated, romantic. I like to be a bit about that too in my work.

Using 1950s images of movie stars and pinups or 1930’s/40’s cigarette card images, it’s all so appealing and resonates with people today.  Hence the name ‘Nana Glamour’.

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How did the idea for your business come about?

Initially all I did was knit. I so enjoyed finding vintage patterns for berets and cloches etc and would spend hours and hours knitting up a storm.  Eventually I had to come up with another idea as I enjoy participating in markets and it is not so easy selling woolly hats on hot summer days. 

40288040_278315369563456_2791812447017631744_nFor years I had toyed with the idea of replicating the little boxes you would sometimes come across in op shops made from the sublime old greeting cards from the 50s and 60s. 

All that glitter and kitschy images got my blood singing and during a very sad period in my life when my sister passed away when I badly needed some distraction the enthrallment with this craft began and I have never stopped making and devising since then.

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Why the fascination with kitsch/ retro?

Everything is so engaging from the fashion to homewares to lifestyles.  It’s probably looking back through rose coloured spectacles as the social aspects of the time were not always so great but seeing the amazing fashion, jewellery, gorgeous hair styles, amazing houses and furniture is just so captivating. 

Then there are simple things like peg bags made from sacking, embroidered pillow cases, dolls made from shells, chocolate boxes to die for.  Everything simple had an allure and enchantment compared with today’s mass produced goods of dubious quality.

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How would you describe your aesthetic?

I refer to my niche as “vintage inspired”.  Having that love and sentimentality for beautiful old children’s books, playing cards and ephemera from previous generations it is all inspired by my penchant for those era’s.

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How has your taste and work evolved over time?

When I started I used old greeting cards as was the norm.  I hand cut the backs and fronts and used contact as a protector.  There were some pretty sad results as often after hours and hours of work I would end up with a wrinkly, ripply box that seemed quite inferior to what I had in my mind. 

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Although I still loved the process I knew I had to improve my techniques and gradually over the years through a lot of time and trial I admit I am now quite a dab hand although I still can easily make an error like punching a hole where I shouldn’t or maybe the picture is not quite straight enough.

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I have a fascination for woman’s magazines from the 1950’s.  The advertisements are laugh out loud and the exotic images of legs and lingerie are very appealing.  I toyed with the idea of using these in my work, a great way to legitimately and productively utilise such treasures.

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We certainly wouldn’t get away with today some of the claims they touted back then, encouraging housewives to have a nip of tonic to get through the day, lordy knows what they were imbibing, pleasing your husband and always looking your best.  Reading these magazines is a history lesson and a social commentary on the times, although I love vintage I much prefer living in the present! 

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What’s the first piece you remember making?

One of my first pieces, and I still have it, is a rather squashy, misshapen box made from a cat calendar.  I just love it as it reminds me of my initial struggles and all the rejections. I have, I hate to admit, finished something then promptly jumped on it and thrown it in the fire I have been so annoyed at the outcome.

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One thing I have learnt though is that even if I don’t think my work is good enough other people are captivated by it and I shouldn’t be so harsh.  I often sell these pieces at a much lower price point and they are always snapped up and enjoyed.  A life lesson there I think.

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Are you mainly making boxes or do you make other pieces as well?

To be honest I LOVE making hex boxes and I would make them all day every day if I could (and my body would allow me to). The lovely curved panels and how it all fits together is so engrossing for me – it’s actually ridiculous how much I enjoy this craft and how I never seem to tire of it.  I think it’s all the possible materials and combination’s that could be used and the outcome of a perfectly shaped and constructed box. 

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My workroom is chock full of material for future work and my lovely husband has built me a shed for storage.  My best days are spent crafting away in my work room with a talking book playing and my glorious collection of old wall paper books, wrapping papers, old scraps, vintage magazines and gorgeous old books that have seen better days. 

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I also make tissue box covers which is a good way to utilise the lovely playing cards of pinups and movie stars as you can use more of the image than in a box panel. I have a process of scanning them in then dropping them into a a wonderful Printshop I use to blow up and print out for me.

This is a very expensive process but I think the results are worthwhile and it’s not something I can do myself. I am thinking a basic graphic design course would go miles in helping me with my work and this is something I will consider down the line.  

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I am currently making Christmas decorations from old greeting cards, the images are just superb and a fantastic way of prolonging the life of these beauties.  I make bookmarks, fridge magnets mainly from old scraps (cat and bunny images are the favourite), also reusable notebook covers from sewing patterns etc and needle case covers.  My favourite thing to make though is my hexagonal box.

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What are your top sellers?

Definitely my boxes are at the top of the list.  Sometimes I have a run on the pinup or movie star tissue box covers but I think it is the nostalgia of my boxes that fascinates my customers. 

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At every market I have numerous comments from people about a mum or aunty who has made these boxes and where they are now and what is stored in them.  A little anecdote of their life and it feels good to jog these memories and make them smile.

Are the majority of orders custom made/ one offs?

All my work is originals.  I love the variety and choice of what I make.  I am happy to to make things up for people using their precious old cards or children’s books but time is a constraint as I still work and have other commitments.

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I love starting a project and mulling over during my walks whatever I am keen to try out next. My brain is usually focussed on either my family or my craft, sometimes I think I need to get a life but I love reading and watching Crime Noir and Scandi thrillers although I have to knit rather than make boxes so I can concentrate on the sub-titles.

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Tell me about the process involved in making Nana Glamour pieces. 

Usually I go to my workroom and forage through my resources for inspiration.  Sometimes I lean towards using a Woman’s Journal from the 50’s or 60’s.  They have the most devine fashion plates in each issue which are a joy to use. I am always on the look out for these.  Other times I may have come across an old book in the recycling that has amazing images. 

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The one I am currently thinking of using is all about trains and the illustrations have the subtle hues of vintage colour and such charming train related pictures I can’t wait to use it for a box. I get quite excited. 

I love pouring through my stash of vintage greeting cards, the gaudy, glorious, overtly cheerful depictions of flowers, houses and people are so wonderful.  I have been blessed to have awesome people in the vintage trade who are aware I love these and let me know if they come across any. 

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Vanessa and Warren from Two Squirrels have been amazing and bestowed on me marvellous scrapbooks and collections of these rare treasures.  I use templates I have constructed for each type of project, these are traced around over the images I want to use, then laminated. I then hole punch around each panel, crochet every side, then stitch the whole piece together.

It is extremely important to finish my boxes and other work with a lovely lining.  I gather scrap-booking pads for this purpose and there are some beauties out there.  I have gone a bit mad and have a huge pile to choose from but I also love using wallpaper and wrapping paper. I try in my mind to keep a theme going so there is cohesion in the finished project. 

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I love the pop of colour when a box is opened and you see what is inside.  The other important component is the crochet cotton which actually hinges the whole piece together.

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I have a rainbow of colours on hand and once my panels are all stitched I group them together to see what I have in my stash that would work best.  I love using gold, raspberry pink, bluey/greens and red the most.  

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The other hugely important tool in my workroom is my laminator.  I have blown up 4 or 5 through over use.  I have learnt to manage and condense my use so that I don’t have the expense of replacing this vital machine too often. 

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After doing everything by hand and not really liking the result my precious laminator caps off the process and just gives such a great finish to my work. 

It’s been extremely investigative over the years and I have learnt what is the best weight cardboard (cat food boxes), heat setting and laminate gauge to use.  It has been like a science with lots of hard fought study to get to this stage of expertise.

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Each piece takes a few hours or a couple of nights work. I don’t think of the time involved too often, to me there are never enough hours in the day for all the things I would like to do and life just seems fly by, I am never ever bored, lucky I know.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Everything, I love all the stages and processes of what I do.

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

I love walking, reading and movies. And a bit of baking. But to be honest my craft is a huge part of my life.  I am just lucky I have a husband that helps and supports me by ferrying me to markets out of town and helping on my stall. 

My family has always given huge support also, my three daughters (and their boyfriends) at some stage have been my market helpers also critiquing and advocating my work.  They have had to live with the distraction and clutter of a crafty person but it makes me happy and it’s my life and I would be sad if I couldn’t do it.

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Finish this sentence: Handmade is best..

Because in every piece is a small amount of the makers heart.  (It is nice to earn some revenue from what you to do but for me it is all about the making and you never ever break even)

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

I have a Facebook page Nana Glamour and I also use Instagram. I have sold a lot of work through queries on this social media. As I sell most of my work at markets, it is difficult to also have website sales as you are taking those items online to the markets and you need to be onto what has sold as you don’t want to be advertising something that has already gone.

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From time to time I load up some hexes on Felt but this is very slow for me as I think my work is much better received when it is seen.  I would love to be more savvy with my on-line sales but I need to get better at photographing etc and advertising as I know I have quite a unique product to offer.

Travelling to markets can be tiring so I guess I will have to give it some serious contemplation eventually if I still wish to keep “making”. 

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For now, I love attending markets and have plenty of bookings to keep me going from Christchurch to Nelson to Central Otago. I would love to really branch out and hit the North Island at some stage.

 I love a weekend away, spending time with family, visiting opp shops searching for treasures and seeing the sights.  I feel blessed to have this life.

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Styling and photography by Tannia Lee.

 

 

In the Closet with Miss Hero Holliday

Welcome to the nineth installment of our In the Closet with series! This week Miss Hero Holliday takes Natasha for a stroll in her colourful closet.

With her overflowing wardrobe packed with sought-after mid-century novelty print skirts and dresses, her perfectly coiffed scarlet hair, and carefully curated Instagram feed, Amy MacLaine is not your average accountant.

The 26-year-old Aucklander, who goes by the monniker Miss Hero Holliday, is a Instagram sensation, a fashion plate, an actress by night….and a financial accountant for the country’s major magazine publisher by day.

You might have even spotted her on the telly a few years back when kooky reporter Tim Wilson from Seven Sharp featured her on his ‘Take me home’.. segment.

A regular performer in the annual Summer Shakespeare festival, Amy borrowed the name ‘Hero’ the character in Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ which she played a few years ago.

The ‘Holliday’ part comes from Audrey Hepburn’s character in Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

“Her name is Holly Golightly, but in the book her full name is actually ‘Holliday Golightly’. So I thought since I really love Audrey Hepburn that would be a good fit, and something different as I didn’t want to use Audrey.

“I think she’s very classic and very glamourous and so really wanted a name that alluded to her as those are things I strive for,” she says.

Want a glimpse into Miss Hero Holliday’s closet? Step this way..

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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? 

Thank you! In my closet you’ll find a mixture of day dresses, party dresses, florals, and novelty prints, plus a rainbow of petticoats, cardigans, and heels. And a couple of bodies, but please don’t tell anyone about those. 

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

A large part of my wardrobe is vintage, though I do love well-made repro pieces too. Most of my tops and cardigans and all of my shoes are repro as I’ve found those are harder to find at a good price and/or in good condition when they’re vintage. I definitely wouldn’t call myself a vintage purist but I do gravitate more towards it when shopping.  

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

My giant rose prints and novelty prints, especially on panel skirts, are all so precious to me. They are the ones so dreamy that I’m almost scared to wear them. I love the big prints most, probably because I’m really short-sighted and if I can’t make out what a print is easily then I’m not so keen on it haha! 

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Any noteworthy recent purchases? 

Love letters, Si & Am, and all three colourways of the giraffe skirt from Back to the Future. Also a gorgeous Juli Lynne Charlot velvet appliqué skirt. Ooh and an out of this world space print which I can’t show off yet as my hubby has bought it off me to give as my birthday present. I’ve been very lucky lately – sadly for my bank balance all the good stuff comes at once! 

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How did you first become interested in vintage style? 

I started op-shopping over a decade ago, but I’d just for random things I liked rather than sticking to a particular era. A few years ago I discovered that 1950s clothing suited me best, which was already a silhouette I was gravitating too, and from there I looked for more true vintage online to build up my collection. 

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

The quality and construction is so good; when pieces have stood the test of time for 60+ years then they must be something special! Feeling like I’m wearing a piece of history and/or artwork makes planning my outfits an adventure and finding new gems is such a thrill. Some of my favourite pieces are those I’ve got from people who’ve had them a long time, when they’ve already been so well-loved and looked after and it’s an honour to get to continue that. 

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

Definitely the 1950s! It’s what I feel most comfortable in and I love the elegance and extravagance of the styles. Everything was so colourful and fun, which is how I love to dress. And I can’t go past a big poofy skirt; I feel naked without a petticoat these days! 

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Where are your favourite shopping haunts? 

I used to buy a lot from Sarah at BellaVintage before she closed her store, and I’d trawl through Savemart for hours but with their recent bad press and crazy pricing I’m not keen on them anymore. So I mostly shop online now, although I always seek out vintage when I’m away, like at the Portobello Road markets on vintage Fridays or Koenji in Japan. 

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

I’ve resigned myself to not finding anything ‘in the wild’ in NZ anymore, though it’s been a nice surprise when I have. It’s sad that not a lot pre-1960s can be found anymore without it coming from overseas. I do admire the vintage sellers still in business who have gorgeous and carefully curated collections and stores, those are the best places to visit! 

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

Currently my ultimate holy grail is the gold love letters skirt, of which there is only one known to be in existence and it’s all letters, no roses. Otherwise I’m always hunting for the panel skirts, novelty prints, and large floral prints that always seem to be in short supply – but if they were easy to find they wouldn’t be worth hunting for! In terms of labels I would love to have more Horrockses and Jonathan Logan pieces in my wardrobe, both labels churned out some exquisite stuff.  

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Who are some of your style icons and influences? 

Audrey Hepburn is a longtime style icon of mine (the ‘Holliday’ in my pinup name is from her character’s full name in Breakfast at Tiffany’s), and before her it was Gwen Stefani. Otherwise I get most of my inspo from the fabulous vintage ladies on IG, seeing their gorgeous pieces and how they style them is always a delight! 

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

My first 1950s dress (or 1950s in style, it could have been handmade) came from the Sunday school cupboard at my church! I don’t know how or why it was there but I had a school ball coming up so it appeared at just the right moment. It was sheer pink fabric over black, covered in black pin dots, and it had a sweetheart neckline and big poofy skirt. I still have it and it probably still fits! 

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

Generally they’re quite positive, and my outfits do make for a great icebreaker. It’s always nice to be told by people that they used to dress like me, or that I dress how their mother or aunt did – that’s always such a huge compliment!

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The comments about whether I’m going to a party (especially a costume party), how long it must take to get ready in the morning (it doesn’t, I’m not a morning person so I’ve got my routine down), or people coming over to pat the faux fur on my coat or lifting my skirt to see my petticoat do get quite frustrating, but I’ve learnt to deal with them and most people do mean well.

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Having people randomly snap my picture is quite weird and creepy though! And I find it amazing in New Zealand how brazen people are in their staring; I recently went to Japan and found it refreshing it was that everyone was too polite to stare.  

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Do you wear vintage to work as well? If so, how is your style received in the workplace? 

I do, every day! I spent the first three and a half years of my full-time working life as a corporate auditor in a Big 4 firm, and I was lucky that my bosses and clients really liked how I dressed. I’m now in a more creative workplace and while I still stand out and I definitely don’t feel quite so different here. I do like breaking the mould for how people expect an accountant to dress though! 

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

I wish I could have all of those things, but really outside my clothes and accessories my only other vintage collection is records. I don’t have a huge amount but there’s a lot of favourites in there including just about every Fleetwood Mac album. 

What do you make of Miss Hero Holliday’s style? Do you have a favourite outfit? Do let me know in the comments!

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Vintage Beauty from the Roaring Twenties

Laura Macfehin takes a looky-loo into what made a flapper flap.

In November 1921 Archbishop Kelly of Sydney penned and published a pastoral letter strongly condemning the latest women’s fashions, saying that “the devil’s snare is found to be set surely and fatally in the allurements of attire”.  He begged clergy and laity alike to be vigilant in preserving Christian doctrine by repudiating new and immoral fashions.

Not long after a British doctor made headlines condemning the use of “modern rubber belts” (he was thinking– probably too much– of girdles) these he claimed gave an “unnatural, boyish figure and prevented the expansion of the hips essential to happy motherhood” thus constituting a “national danger”!!

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What was it about these fashions that was so threatening?  As with most fashions it was what they signalled rather than the clothes themselves that were the problem.  After the First World War young woman seemed less concerned with the conventions of the past.  They weren’t going to wait for a chaperone, or wait to be asked to dance– they adopted individual dances they could do in a group or on their own.  

In fact, most of these changes were fairly superficial– most women were still going to end up wives and mothers or working in fields prescribed as feminine, but the possibility that they might not, and the potential usurping of authority from traditional sources like doctors, churchmen and parents by film stars and the like was obviously worrying enough to condemn the frocks and accoutrements of the flapper!

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The original ‘It’ girl– Clara Bow.  She was considered rather uncouth by the Hollywood elite.  She managed to fight the slanderous rumours about her love life but the town wore her out and she retired to a ranch not long after.

Yes Sir!  That’s My Baby!

These days the word ‘flapper’ is what most people think of when they think of the 1920s, and you can see it attached to some very dubious costuming choices around Halloween and school ball season, but what was a flapper really?

The term actually predates the 1920s, but really took off when silent movie stars like Olive Thomas, Colleen Moore and Clara Bow became popular. Films like ‘The Flapper’, ‘Flaming Youth’, and ‘It’ spelt out what it meant to be a modern woman. Modernity was key here—this was the gay abandonment of previous generation’s rules and values. The flapper valued fun—dancing, motoring, flirting—everything was meant to be done at breakneck speed.

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Hair we go! 

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Louise Brooks and her iconic bob

So if you had just come out of the local picture palace and decided you HAD to be a flapper too—what was the first thing to be done? Get your hair cut of course!

The 1920s was the first time shorter hairstyles for women really took off. They were somewhat risqué because they could be quite androgynous, and they also suggested a hastier, more carefree lifestyle (although in practise the cutting and dressing of these styles were just as time-consuming as longer ones).

The three main styles of the flapper were probably the shingle, the bob and the Eton crop. Women could now go to professional hairdressers who specialised in the latest cuts, as well as marcel waving and singeing, so you no longer had to have a lady’s maid to achieve the latest look .

Baby Face

Once your hair had been singed off and marcelled into an appropriate shape it was off to the cosmetics counter. This really was the decade when make up became overt and a truly artificial look became fashionable again.

Now (mostly) lead free face powders could be applied without fear of madness or your skin slipping off. A grease paint foundation was around but as the name suggests it was mainly utilised on stage and screen. Most women would have used powder, rouge, lipstick in a push-up tube, kohl pencil and cake mascara.

In general the fashionable complexion was still very pale, although the popularity of Coco Chanel’s tanned look and Josephine Baker meant their was at least some acknowledgement of darker beauty.

On top of a heavily powdered face the flapper would draw on thin eyebrows (plucking didn’t really take off until the thirties) that sloped somewhat downwards towards the temples and a heavily ringed eye with mascara brushed onto the lashes. Rouge was applied in rounds on the apple of the cheeks to enhance the general moon-face affect, and then a small dark cupid’s bow was drawn onto the lips, generally a little within the natural lip-line. If you had trouble getting this right, you could purchase lip-stencils to guide your hand.

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Magazines like Photoplay took advantage of the huge interest in movie stars and makeup by printing tutorials on how the different stars achieved their looks—their beauty routines and favoured products.

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Putting on the Ritz

Before you go out dancing you will need to put something on – but what?  Obviously fashions changed over the decade but the three watchwords of the jazz age– youth, modernity and action were present throughout.  In general this meant hemlines rose (although not above the knee– sorry trashy online costume shop) and waistlines dropped.  Evening clothes were made to accommodate wild dances and day clothes were designed to allow sporting pursuits and working in offices.

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So did flappers really “rouge [their] knees, and roll their stockings down“?  Well yes, actually they did!  Stockings were rolled down to just under the knee, with the rolled top working like a garter.  The bare knees could then be rouged if you wished to draw attention to their bareness– remember hemlines were still lower than this so these cheeky knees would only be seen if you were flinging your legs about in a Charleston or Black Bottom frenzy.  

The rolled stocking also suggested that you were too modern and carefree to wear the kind of girdles and garters the previous generation went in for (although many women still wore girdles and even corsets to try to achieve the fashionable boyish figure).

Silk, rayon and cotton stockings were all available at this time, as well as ‘cut’ stockings which were cut out of very fine fabric like chiffon and incredibly flimsy.  Cotton stockings were considered a bit utilitarian and rayon was a bit shiny– ladies were known to powder their stockings to dull them down a bit.  Silk stockings in a pastel shade to match (or clash!) with your evening dress were the cat’s meow!  

Some came with a little rosette at the top which hid a mirror and compact, or a pocket into which you slip cab fare and your front door key.

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Evening wear was often constructed out of light weight fabrics like silk chiffon, voiles or crepe de chine

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Practical cotton dresses for working around the home

Designers of the 1920s invented styles that have been regularly repeated on runways ever since.  Coco Chanel brought a slimline, sporty silhouette while Elsa Schiaparelli went in for flights of fancy inspired by surrealist artists like Salvador Dali.  In America ‘Prohibition dresses’ featured a hidden pocket for your flask.  Madeleine Vionnet popularised the bias cut, that allowed figure skimming styles while Jean Patou was famous for his ‘cubist’ cardigans with matching scarves, gloves and hats.

There is a reason why stylists and designers continue to come back to this era for inspiration– as well as dripping glamour like so much monkey fur and fringe, it seems to embody a sense of liberation and fun.  Which makes me think– if the essential element to flapper style is attitude then those tacky ‘Gatsby‘ costumes with sequined headbands and cheap boas might possibly be the perfect thing– especially if they make toes of a forty-two year matron like me curl!

If you are enchanted by the look of the 1920s you can recreate your own jazz age at home.  Companies like http://mrsdepew.com/ offer authentic 1920s sewing patterns for the home sewer while https://besamecosmetics.com/ has period accurate make up like cake mascara.

Break out the gin and 78s and be the bees knees!