Something old, Something strange…

In this edition of Believe It Or Not Laura Macfehin looks into the strange superstitions surrounding wedding dresses!

Recently I was lucky enough to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film Phantom Thread.

I had been a little nervous that the plot might be a bit Pygmalion-ish (which is one of my all time most hated storylines) but it wasn’t, thank goodness.

Instead it was an obsessively beautiful fever dream set inside a fictional and chilly couture house in 1950s London.

There was, obviously, lots of sewing which was great for me, as sewing is one of my favourite things to do/watch/think about.


Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps in Phantom Thread

Wedding dresses play a central role in the story (as they do in real life couture houses), and the couturier, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, tells his new muse of some of the superstitions surrounding them.

In particular he tells of how his terrible nanny wouldn’t help him sew a wedding dress for his mother for fear that she would not then marry herself, and of how young models don’t wish to model them in case they marry a bald man.

These stories got me thinking of some of the weird superstitions I had heard around wedding dresses, a garment that has been loaded up with some fairly heavy symbology over the years.


Seamstresses prepare a wedding dress fit for a Princess in Phantom Thread

Oh no she didn’t!

First, let us do a little low-key myth-busting.  No- Queen Victoria did not ‘invent’ the white wedding dress as some people put about.  Although she certainly gave it a boost in the popularity stakes white wedding dresses were around before Victoria tied the knot with her cousin Albert (this is just talking about the Western European tradition of bridal wear, because of course Shinto brides have been wearing white for centuries).

She chose white because she wanted to make a feature of the Honiton lace that swathed the otherwise quite subdued satin gown, and support British cottage industries which were suffering at the time. Her gown was hugely influential and the Devon lace-makers certainly benefitted from her choice.


Queen Vic in her wedding dress

She was not the first royal to marry in white.  A couple of decades earlier Princess Charlotte had married in a stunning regency gown of silver and white.


Princess Charlotte’s 1816 wedding dress

And as many (including historical novelist Loretta Chase here) have pointed out- white wedding dresses were already quite in vogue; as these ladies magazine fashion plates from the 1830s demonstrate.



Which brings us to our second bit of myth-busting (or perhaps it is more like myth-tweaking? Anyway).  And that is addressing the idea that the symbolism of white as equalling chastity is an ancient one.  The reason aristocracy (and those wealthy enough to imitate them) had traditionally chosen white was because it is so impractical.  Most women throughout history (and even up until the end of the 1940s) married in their ‘best’ frock.

Even if they had a new dress or suit for the occasion (and sometimes employers would foot the bill or provide a hand-me-down of good quality) it was generally expected by most women that they would get more than one days wear out of their wedding outfit.

In the days before dry cleaners a white silk gown was the height of luxury, because it said to the observer I can afford to wear something new that I never expect to wear again.


A 1950s bride and groom

Historically blue had been the colour that signalled ‘purity’ and innocence-hence Our Lady’s blue garb.  The Late Victorians (wouldn’t you know it) were the ones who got caught up on the virginal brides thing and made the link between chastity and wearing white.

Certainly until the 1950s it remained common to marry in whatever colour you fancied (within some limits as we will see).

It perhaps not a surprise that in the 1950s, a time when both consumerism and gender conformity both spiked, there was a huge uptake on the notion of a white wedding dress as a one-wear garment.


Colour me lucky

Although marrying in a colour other than white was not unusual, that is not to say the were no superstitions around colour choice!

In Scotland, green was considered so unlucky it was not only banned from the bridal party but also from guests and even wedding decor.  As the following rhyme shows there could be repercussions for brides flighty enough to go with their own taste over folklore.

Married in White, you have chosen right,

Married in Grey, you will go far away,

Married in Black, you will wish yourself back,

Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,

Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,

Married in Blue, you will always be true,

Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,

Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,

Married in Brown, you will live in the town,

Married in Pink, you spirit will sink.

Different fabrics have different superstitious connotations as well.  In most traditions silk is lucky, satin unlucky and velvet will result in poverty!
It is not surprising that so much superstition should surround weddings.  In a time before divorces were attainable and property rights for women largely nil, there was a lot riding on making a decent marriage.  Brides really needed luck to be on their side.

I should be so lucky

This is where some of the weirder superstitions come in.  Although I scream inside to write it, it has long been held lucky in English folklore to find a spider inside your wedding dress (one would hope before the frock goes over your head).  This probably dates back to Roman times– the Romans considered spiders very lucky and used to carry spider charms around with them to aid in business transactions.


Old postcard with a good luck spider

In other animal related luck– if a bride should find a cat eating from her left shoe a week before she is married then that is also hugely lucky.  And, you know, really probable without any highly involved orchestration.

The Evil Eye

Other superstitions built into the choosing and constructing of wedding clothes tend to be more about diverting bad luck.  Much of this is seems to come from people’s paranoia around hubristic displays of good fortune or happiness in public, with a little bit of not counting your chickens thrown in for good measure.

The wedding veil is a good example of this.  Although some point to the veil’s utility in keeping the bride’s face a surprise in arranged marriages, it actually has an older and more talismanic function, which was to ward off the evil eye from jealous onlookers or angry gods.


This 1960s bride easily deflects bad hoodoo with her nifty shoulder-length veil

In the not counting your chickens basket it has been considered unlucky to complete your outfit too far ahead of time.  Ideally the last stitches should be sewn (by the bride’s mother) just before she walks down the aisle.  Some dressmakers still leave a little bit of hem unstitched for this purpose.

When it comes to the construction of wedding dresses there is a whole bevy of superstitions.  Some (possibly dressmakers looking to protect their business) say that it is unlucky for a woman to sew her own wedding dress, and that every stitch she sews will be a tear she sheds in the marriage.





In the seamstress’s workshop

Within the couturier’s workshop there are plenty more superstitions that come into play with the sewing of wedding dresses.  A common one is for unwed seamstresses to sew a hair of their’s into a seam of the dress.  This is meant to ensure they will marry themselves.  Sometimes, to secure the bride’s good luck, they may sew in a hair from the head of seamstress who is happily married.  In other shops they may sew in a good luck charm, like a small cardboard horseshoe or a piece of blue ribbon into the hem or waist stay of a gown.


Once upon a time, long, long ago I myself got married dear reader!  I was lucky enough to have my mother sew my dress for me (she also sewed the dresses for my beautiful best-women) so I avoided the tears that would have come from sewing it myself, but I did sew a red velvet wrap to go around my shoulders.  Perhaps the fact that I was still sewing it the night before the wedding mitigated the terribly unlucky red velvet!

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My mum fitting me for my wedding dress while my sister offers encouragement

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Me sewing my wrap the night before the wedding

So far we’ve stayed married for coming up to eighteen years, so the D.I.Y approach can’t be too unlucky.

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My parents and I on my wedding day

How about you?  Did you or would you sew your own wedding dress?  Do you have any family superstitions or cultural traditions around wedding clothes?  I’d love to hear about them!

Everything but the kitsch-en sink: Emily Twirls

In our fifth installment of Everything But the Kitsch-en Sink, Natasha enters the technicolour world of Emily Twirls.

Despite the decade’s reputation for conformity and kitsch, the 1950s was a wildly innovative time.

With few buildings to design during World War II, architects and industrial designers such as Eero Saarinen and Joseph Eichler turned their attention to furniture that embraced new forms and materials. 

By the postwar years, pent-up demand drove furniture sales, and a new aesthetic — pared down and emphatically non-traditional — was embraced with open arms by the public.

Dubbed ‘mid century modernism’, it was an aesthetic that was imbued with a distinctly American joie de vivre.

Biomorphic design – in which free-form shapes mimicked biological organisms – reigned supreme and resulted in furniture which reveled in organic, curved smooth surfaces, and design moulded into the shapes of kidneys, boomerangs, egg-like ovals and starbursts.

This  era also spawned curiosities such as the Moss Lamp. These outrageous Plexiglas marvels are distinctive for their spinning figurines and spun glass shades and are highly sought-after by collectors today.

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American Emily Rodriguez is one such collector who is obsessed with these unique lamps – although she’s never found one in the wild. She and her husband  love nothing more than trawling thrift stores, antique malls and fleamarkets for anything atomic, biomorphic, futuristic UFO lamps, Heywood-Wakefield furniture and more.

If you follow her on Instagram, where she goes by the moniker ‘Emily Twirls’ you’ll discover that Moss Lamps are not the only thing that spin her wheels….

Her feed is also full of delicious slo’ mo twirls in crisp vintage dresses. But it’s often been the objects in the background of these videos that have captured my imagination. Her collection is insanely good that sometimes I can’t bear to look!

Those of us living in the antipodes can only dream of unearthing such atomic splendour which in many cases never made its way to our neck of the woods so the next best thing is poring over homes such as Emily’s.

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Whether its the abundance of whimsical chalkware figurines that adorn her walls, the envy-inducing selection of fibre-glass lamps, Eames-era mirror- shadow boxes or her hoard of close to 300 Lucite box purses, Ridriguez’s home epitomises the verve, imagination and the pure zaniness of mid-century design.

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Your house/ style is to die for! I’m so jealous pouring over your Instagram feed!! It’s such a killer! You have so many wonderful things that are super hard to find in New Zealand. Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where you’re based, what you do for a job etc?

Originally I was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington.  Not the Vancouver B.C. as many often think or assume when I say Vancouver.  It’s actually a suburb of Portland.

26827723_1914439191917739_565584285_oI moved to San Diego, California in 2007 to dance professionally for San Diego City Ballet.

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During this time I worked for Barnes and Noble bookstores where I eventually met my husband and married in 2015. 

As for life I don’t do anything significant I manage big box retail as does my husband.  What it does give us is quality time off that we spend together picking, thrifting, antiquing, etc.

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You seem to have quite a few different collections going. Can you give us a rundown of some of these?

My original obsession is with Lucite purses of the 1950s.  The first time I cast my eye on one these I was enamored. 

For years both me and my husband scoured the southwest United States for these jewels. No trip was too far and price was always negotiable. Although I no longer purchase as many as I used to, I have accumulated a collection of these rarities nearing the 300 number. 

26772107_1914439561917702_1102760069_oMy best Lucite purse find happened in Mexico City, Mexico: Me and my husband went to a late night flea market– I’m talking flashlights and 11pm– and I found the legendary “Smile” purse in black by Maxim for $5 American dollars. I was hyperventilating when I found this gem as it was in a toy box and I caught a glimpse of something shining that drew me in. 


Next too that I have to say anything atomic mid century. For me late 50s early 60s sums it up at its height. 

The lamps are my current long withstanding obsession that I share with my husband.  Our most prized lamp is probably the pair of matching Moss Lamps in my vanity room. They are rare, original, and they twirl! 

Finding Moss Lamps with original undamaged shades is next to impossible these days but we found this pair in middle of nowhere upstate New York in a town called Binghamtom.  Me and my husband go everywhere possible looking for atomic 50s rarities.

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How did these collections start?

A random walk down a quaint Antique Mall in Escondido, California is where it all started.  I found my first Lucite Purse and my husband found his first Heywood Wakefield piece and the rest is history. 

We definitely started with a hankering for mid-century modern but that eventually morphed into 50s kitsch and atomic.

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How would you describe your particular aesthetic?

 We love anything biomorphic and space age!  If it has a fun shape or some kitschiness the better.  But we definitely go for the atomic look.

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Favourite decades and why?

 Late 50s and early 60s.  Sums up the space age and astronauts!  The cars, tables, curtains, jewelry, planters, etc.  You name it the inspiration was everywhere and we were looking towards the future and the imaginations ran wild.

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Does your fascination for collecting vintage extend into your wardrobe and overall appearance too?

 Um yes!  The hair, costume jewelry, corset, Springolators, etc.  The closer I can get to the look the better.  I have lots of clothes period appropriate. But I do own a lot of repro as well. 

26772420_1914440208584304_425979912_oHonestly I am the laziest vintage clothes shopper. Finding vintage clothes is a *****!  Its easier looking for lamps and furniture.  Vintage clothes can take 10-15 minutes or longer at a shop, lamps and furniture 3-5 minutes in and out. 

I am littered with so many thrift shops in my area I cant hit them all up in one day but if I focus I can get to 45-48 of them.  It’s high velocity for me!

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Would you say vintage is a way of life?

It doesn’t have to be.  If you want to be obsessed like me and husband..then yes.  But so many people enjoy the look of vintage items and don’t go the full 9 yards. 

26771999_1914440491917609_1173826745_oWe love meeting people that have the same drive and appreciation for the decade but lots of cool people can still appreciate it. 

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What are some of your favourite places to find treasure?

 My local DAV in Chula Vista!  Hands down the best thrift store on the planet.  Chula Vista, National City, Spring Valley, Lemon Grove were all suburbs in the 50s and 60s of San Diego.

26828472_1914440101917648_1812641229_oThe cities were all in full expansion and there are trailer parks 55+ every two miles.  This may sound morbid but if there is a thrift shop around old peeps- just wait it out and the gems arrive. 

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Any pieces you dream of finding? What are they?

 I have never found a Moss lamp at a thrift store or flea market.  I have found Majestic’s, Reglor’s, Alfred Shaheens, Lucite purses, Carlo of Hollywood paintings, etc.  But never a Moss lamp!

IMG_20171228_073546865 (2)Any notable recent scores?

In the last two weeks it has to be a Atomic Plaster lamp from WOS antiques. 

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Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to create a vintage home?

A vintage home does not have to cost you a lot of money.  I pick in an area surrounded with mid-century flippers, eBay resellers, and collectors.  Yet I still bring home the loot…me and my husband live under the motto “earlybird catches the worm” I know its cheesey but honest. 


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As for style that may evolve and you have to lend yourself to that…style is organic incorporate what you love.  It doesn’t have to be just 50’s or 60’s…the majority of homes in the 50’s had family heirlooms from times gone by.

As I tell my friends I am an old lady in 1988 that managed to purchase some of my favorite items from the last four decades. 


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Can’t get enough of Emily Twirls? Follow her on Instagram here!

Tell me in the comments: what is your best op-shop/ thrift shop score?



The Handmade’s Tale: Interview with Hey Muchachita!

Welcome to part three of our Handmade’s Tale feature which celebrates crafty and creative women. This week Natasha meets Mexicana-inspired jewellery maker Dani Spadevecchia.

It started with a vintage handbag. It was a beautiful black Italian raffia purse with a crocheted shell pattern, dark wood handle and decorative gold studs – and Dani Spadevecchia had to have it.

Despite agonising over the price, she decided it was an ‘ investment piece’ so snapped it up.

Soon she needed matching accessories for a special event. Nothing seemed right… until she bought some black rayon raffia and fashioned a pair of earrings with dark wood bead detail and the Cha Cha earring was born!

It wasn’t long before she had her own jewellery range Hey Muchachita! which she began selling at vintage fairs and markets and via her own Etsy store!

Today the Brighton-based collector is a self-employer jewellery designer/ maker. And when her hands aren’t tied up in raffia,  she also works as a training co-ordinator for a child safeguarding agency.

Read on to discover how a girl from a mining town in the north of England developed a passion for Mexicana , the process involved in making each of her pieces and the new products she’s planning to roll out in future!

Juke Box Fair 2017

Dani Spadevecchia ‘womans’ her Hey Muchachita! stall.

How did you first get interested in Mexican style?

It’s really difficult to pinpoint, but since I was a teen I’ve been fascinated with Mexican and Latino style, culture, music and dancing, which is quite unusual for a girl from a mining town in the north of England! After taking salsa dance lessons, I was really interested in the Mambo craze of the 1950s, and so my interest and passion for other music and style elements from the mid-century era grew. 

My love of Mexican culture was more than justified after I travelled to the Pacific coast of Mexico on my honeymoon. I loved how aesthetically pleasing pretty much everything was – the traditional dress, food, artwork, architecture, and landscapes. Even the cemeteries were beautiful and bursting with colour. It really is such an inspiring place.

Range of Fiesta Earrings

How did you come to be making your jewellery range? 

I’m an avid collector of 1950’s raffia handbags, which started after I bought one bag in particular – a beautiful black Italian raffia bag with a crocheted shell pattern and dark wood handle with decorative gold studs. Some time later, I was looking for some accessories to match this bag for an event I had coming up, and was frustrated that nothing seemed quite right. So, I bought some black rayon raffia and made a pair of earrings for myself with dark wood bead detail. The Cha Cha earring was born!

When I purchased that black handbag, it was quite pricey and I remember beating myself up about spending so much money on it. I genuinely said to my now husband “it’s not just a bag, it’s an investment”, and it really did turn out to be just that.

Pina Colada Brooch

Tell me about the process involved in making your pieces.

Should I really give away my secrets?! OK then…

For my earrings I use a combination of crochet and weave. The top parts of the earrings are always crocheted, and depending on the style the process for the lower parts vary. Most of my earrings consist of woven raffia around a hoop of some sort, and can be adorned with beading or stitched into. My new Maya earrings however are completely crocheted, meaning no glue is needed at all to construct the earring (apart from to attach the backs of course). I’m pretty proud of them! 

I tend to work in a production line type style;  for instance I’ll weave around large multiples of hoops, finish them with glue, and then whilst the glue is drying I’ll crochet the tops. By the time I’ve finished crocheting, the glue is dry and I can move on to finishing details like stitching, before constructing the earring. Et voila!

Cha Cha Earrings Gold

What materials do you use?

The predominant and reoccurring material used in every Hey Muchachita piece I make is rayon raffia. I adore it’s versatility; it’s as easy to work with as yarn, has a beautiful texture and lustre, and comes in a multitude of colours. My earrings are predominantly made from raffia, but I do use different materials when making brooches. For the western style brooches I embroider onto natural denim.

For some of my more Tiki style brooches, I use genuine vintage buttons. I love coming across vintage haberdashery at second hand shops, as simply finding a set of beautiful buttons or beads can inspire a completely new design.

Ranchera Earrings

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I really enjoy selling my products at vintage fairs and events, as it is a great way to meet other like minded people, and I get to meet some of my lovely customers! I’m so grateful to  the internet and social media for being a fantastic platform for small businesses to gain publicity, but it can be quite a daunting and isolating place. I’m really sociable and love interacting with people face to face, so it is nice to come out from behind the computer screen and meet my customers from time to time!

Fiesta Earrings Red and Gold

How has your technique evolved over time?

I wouldn’t say my technique has evolved as such, but I definitely have got neater and a lot quicker over time. I guess it’s like anything, the more you do something the better you become. It’s almost becoming muscle memory now, I’m sure I could make earrings in my sleep! Also, as my brand has become more well known and demand for my products has increased, I have had to adapt my production methods to keep up. Making large quantities of each element of the earring at once is definitely the way forward.

Cactus Blosom Brooch Red

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

I still have so much to explore within jewellery! At the moment I’m working on some ideas and designs for a range of bangles, which will hopefully be coming soon. I’ve had so many exciting ideas for necklaces and hair combs too, it’s just having the time to play whilst trying to keep my existing products in stock! I’d love to explore embroidery more, and have sketched up some ideas for purses and clutches. So watch this space!

Sarahs Doowop Dos with Fiesta Earrings

What are your creative inspirations?

My ideas usually stem from me making products to match some of my favourite vintage pieces, like the handbag I mentioned earlier. Also, I own a beautiful vintage mauve wool jacket with gorgeous cream and brown western stitching, and initially designed my Lasso earrings to match this. I get so much inspiration from my customers however – I love it when I get a request for a custom order in a colour way I hadn’t initially thought would work, because more often than not they look great! When initially coming up with a new concept I tend to use colours that I like and that match my wardrobe, so having suggestions from my customers really helps me to think outside the box.

Classic Carboot Sale Hastings 2017

Were you always crafty/ creative as a youngster?

Absolutely! As a young girl I was obsessed with making and loved to watch the arty kids shows on TV. I saw potential in pretty much any bit of discarded string or card, and my poor parents couldn’t throw anything away without me trying to give it a new lease of life first. Also, I spent many a Sunday afternoon learning to knit with my Grandma. It was being able to knit that led to me being interested in and then learning how to crochet, so I guess Grandma Joyce has played a big part in Hey Muchachita’s set up!

Lasso Earrings on Tamara

Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created? 

I really like the shape of my newest style, the Maya earrings. Personally, I love to wear mine as I feel they are bold and unique, and so eye-catching. I’ve had so many compliments whilst wearing them! But I also feel really fond and proud of my Fiesta earrings, which have proven to be my best sellers by far. I think the versatility of this style, with limitless colour ways and sizes, make them a really popular choice across my wide spectrum of customers.

Maya earrings all colours

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




What do you think of Dani’s handiwork? Let me know in the comments! x


5 forms of entertaining we need to bring back now!

Laura Macfehin looks into past modes of entertaining and makes the case for bringing some back!

There are things folk have done for fun in the past that shouldn’t be revisited.  Staged train-wrecks, mummy unwrapping parties, tours of asylums– all best left in yesteryear. Okay maybe not the train-wrecks one; that sounds awesome, but definitely the other two.

But are we missing out some fine forms of entertainment that simply went out of vogue?

First up:

Church Picnics


These fine people from Vancouver, Canada have put on their hats and packed their baskets and come out to enjoy the spring air.  Obviously picnicking has not completely died out but I feel there could be a resurgence of en-masse al-fresco eating.  One need not be religiously affiliated to enjoy this pastime– any community group, club, neighbourhood or extended family can do it, it caters to all ages and is the easiest way to accommodate different dietary requirements. 

The difference in how it was done in the past is primarily location and spread.  Rather than just eating your fish and chips in the park (which is also a very pleasant thing to do) the effort was made to journey to an interesting and out-of-the-way location.  This makes it more of an occasion, as does a special attention to picnic fare.  Look at the size of their baskets!  A basket that size should carry enough for two or three participants.  Cold pies, cakes, delicious fruits, homemade cordials, bags of fudge– basically as much transportable fodder as possible.  It should be mandatory to have lie around afterwards.  Also– hats!

The Tea Dance


High teas have seen a huge resurgence in popularity over the past few years with many hotels offering this pleasant late afternoon meal of cakes and club sandwiches so why not the tea dance?  In the first half of the twentieth century the tea dance was a popular diversion all over the Western world.  Usually held on a saturday afternoon, couples could turn up to a hotel or community hall for light refreshments and the music of a live band.  If hotels are competing with one another in the high tea stakes what about reviving the tea dance too?  All that is required is a dance band or small orchestra and space for couples to take a turn around the floor.

It is true, not so many people can Foxtrot as was once the case, but what a pleasant diversion it would be!  Saturday afternoon with a significant other, a cup of tea or coffee, some scones or an eccles cake and a couple of dances and you’re home by five thirty.  Sounds great to me!  Of course if you know your LGBTQI history you will know that the tea dance took up a special place in Queer culture that outlasted its straight counterpart by a couple of decades.  Of whatever stripe I feel strongly that the tea dance is due a revival.

The Sherry Party


Sherry parties were at the height of their popularity in the 1930s.  The chief advantages were considered to be that they were simpler to host than the more elaborate afternoon tea and their five to seven time slot allowed men in particular to attend after work.  The loosening of previous decades formalities probably also contributed to their being taken up– they could be held in regular living rooms with few props required which made them very appealing the ambitious middle class.  New Zealand newspapers of this time are full of reports of ‘very pleasant’ sherry parties held in private homes and occasionally hotels. 

Lady Troubridge, in her excellent book Etiquette and Entertaining: to help you on your social way (1935) devotes a whole chapter to the Sherry Party.  She espouses an informal approach as both cheap and chic– suggesting that guests be invited by telephone or with “Sherry, six to eight” written on a visiting card and popped in an envelope.   In planning such a party she recommends about twenty guests, half a dozen bottles of sherry, a couple of heavy cut-glass decanters (borrowed if necessary) and some plates of “eats” of the “dry and biscuity” variety– cheese straws, oat biscuits, cubes of cheddar.  This suggests is enough to supply the makings of a “jolly kind of party, with plenty of cigarettes and talk, that will probably last until half past seven or eight”. 

Now maybe you don’t like cheese straws.  Maybe you’ve never drunk sherry.  But we can still learn something from the Sherry Party.  What appeals to me is the narrow focus– two hours after work, one item served and then it’s home for dinner or maybe on to the movies!  If you don’t fancy Sherry and Biscuits what about Port and Lemonade and Portuguese tarts?  Or Vermouth and Tonic and Madeira Cake?  Hell, have a Beer and Nuts party– whatever floats your boat so long as it simple and easy and done and dusted before the summer sun has set!


Movie Night

Between bingeing on Netflix and watching films on our phones we have become somewhat cavalier in viewing practises– but there is something to be said for giving movies their due worth by spending a bit of effort on the watching of them!  One of best Halloween celebrations I’ve had the privilege of being invited to are the movie marathons put on by Simon Lambert of the Spoiler Alert! podcast.  It doesn’t take an elaborate set up really though– a projector and screen is lovely but a big enough telly and comfy seating is all you really need.  Think of a couple of movies you would love to share and some people you’d like to share them with.  Stock up on snacks and bring the excitement of the cinema to your living room!


Party Games

If you are anything like me you hear ‘party games’ and get a full body shudder– visions of audience participation and awkwardly competitive ‘game nights’ might give you an instinctive repulsion to the phrase.  However, I have come to realise there are times when games are not only tolerable but they may actually be a good idea.  Party advice from the past is full of games that could be played to break the ice or ramp up the laughs at mixers of all kinds. 

While you might blanch at the idea of insisting on balloon volleyball or pass-the-orange at your next house party, there are social gatherings when games work.  These are events when several generations are present, and there are long spells between stuff happening.  I’m talking about Christmas day.  The way to get people to play games on Christmas day is first to have the right kind of games prepared.  These are games where people can work in small teams and a range of skill levels can be applied.  So charades, simple quiz games, puzzles and stuff like making hats out of newspaper. 

Secondly– on no account make the game playing mandatory.  Ask “who would like to play a game?”; generally only the smallest children will respond in the affirmative.  Then pair these small people up with older people.  In this way intergenerational hilarity will ensue and you can get on with making the salad.  In these moments you will be very pleased you looked up ‘vintage party games’ on Pinterest.


These are a few hospitality ideas I’d like to see reinstated- but what about you?  What do you wish would make a comeback- something you remember or something you’ve always wanted to try?

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!


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

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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?

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.
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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. 

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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. 
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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.
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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. 

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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!
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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. 
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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.

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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! 

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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.
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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!
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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. 

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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.
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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.
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Angela’s project for the Vintage Suit Sew Along.

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

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“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.
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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.

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


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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.
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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.
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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.”

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5 things our grandmothers did with bananas (that we don’t do now!)

“Forty-four times more nutritious than a potato!” Laura delves into the horrors and delights of vintage banana recipes.

There is a lot that could (and has) been said about bananas. They have a cultural history loaded with vastly differing attitudes towards race and sexualities that could (and has) filled up many chapters. They have also become iconic as a comedic prop – having the perfect combination funny, somewhat suggestive shape and that slippery peel have made them ripe (!) punchline material.

banana cartoon

If you have ever perused cookbooks from the first half of the 20th century you will have noticed something else about bananas—they apparently mystified Western cooks. There are whole books dedicated to ‘how to serve bananas’ and some of the solutions are enough to make the most ardent banana fan shudder.


To be fair, I think that most Westerners had a fairly good idea about what to do with bananas — you peeled them and ate them raw. After cereal was invented you cut them up and put them on your cornflakes. When they went brown you baked them into cakes or banana bread. But the 20th century was the time of the test kitchen — with magazine editors and marketing boards challenging their home economics expert to come up with something new and interesting. So what did the professionals suggest?


Unknown couple drink beer and peel bananas

We’re Jammin’

 It is not something that you see on the supermarket shelves today but in the 1930s newspapers and magazines were awash with recipes for banana jam. In the Commonwealth bananas must have been relatively cheap because they are often offered up as a thrifty solution for home cooks. Often heralded as a sort of wonder food with the same nutritional benefits as potatoes and even beef steaks they were seen as something you could offer invalids and children and which helped your budget go further. As preserves were part of the thrifty Depression-era lifestyle banana jam was often suggested for when ‘stores were depleted’.


The most common recipe involves oranges and lemons and a good whack of sugar. Not having any oranges on hand I though I’d try another version which appeared in a March 1932 edition of the Auckland Star. Scaling the recipe down I ended up with:

1930s Banana Jam

6 bananas

3 pears

450 gm sugar

juice of two lemons

a tsp of ground ginger

Boiled up on the stove this made about three small jars worth.

*Prepare to a soundtrack of Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? on a crackly valve radio and your neighbours rickety kids making a palaver out of having whooping-cough.


Bananas not being the cheap fruit the once were there probably won’t be a huge comeback for banana jam (I guess there would have to be a huge comeback of jam-making in general as well) but I recommend trying this one out sometime. It would make a nice cake filling. It is very sweet, but it goes very nicely with peanut butter on toast. Elvis would approve.

Soup’s Up!

I know! ‘Banana Soup’ sounds like the name of that kid’s book you are tempted to surreptitiously throw out because you have been forced to read it too many damn times, but this was actually a serious suggestion. My Whitcombe’s Everyday Cookery (which is undated but probably from the late 30s) gives a recipe that hints at this outlandish dish’s origin.


The inclusion of curry powder and Worcestershire sauce (which was the result of an early English attempt at making a curry flavoured sauce) tells us that this is an abortive attempt at making a banana curry. Banana curry recipes are, of course, many and delicious in Indian cookery, but for some reason English cooks instead of asking for an actual recipe tried replicating them at home without the knowledge or proper ingredients. I’ve seen one recipe that involved Marmite. I’m not recreating these because wasting food is a sin and I’d rather eat a proper curry.

Something Fishy

As with the above mentioned banana curry there are many delightful ways to cook bananas and fish together. Despite this, magazines and cookbooks from this era tended to focus on tinned fish like anchovies and sardines, coming up with new! and surprising! ways to combine them with bananas. Bananas were often offered as a ‘fun way’ to ‘jazz up’ your cold salmon or shrimp ‘shape’. In this era of cookery a ‘shape’ was a gelatinous mix of aspic and the featured ingredient set in a mould.


Sardine ‘boats’ were also a popular suggestion at this time. So simple to prepare they simply involved cutting your bananas lengthwise, arranging them on a plate, gently resting a tinned sardine on each banana half and suppressing your gag reflex while you hoped others were able to do the same.


My favourite fish and banana combo are ‘Banana Toasts’ from the NZ Herald in October 1932.

Banana Toast

This sounds like something ‘bohemians’ would be eating in Punch satire on the Dadaists. I’ll leave it up to you to imagine whether or not I did try this one or whether I just imagined the kind of attic garret I’d be entertaining in, with my stockings rolled down and my poet and painter friends making bombs and waiting for the banana toasts to be ready. I will say this though — anchovy paste isn’t as easy to come by as it once was.

Banana Beauty

Women were of course expected to maintain some standards of appearance while plying their families with nutritious foods — and what better to use than — bananas! Bananas appear frequently in homemade beauty solutions in the first half of the twentieth century. In some highly dubious beauty advice from the Horowhenua Chronicle in 1932 bananas are promoted as everything from sunblock to foot salve.

bananas for beauty

One of the most popular suggestions from at least the 1940s on is the banana face mask. Sometimes they are mashed up with strawberries, or yoghurt, or honey or oats, but always they promise returns in the form of taut, smooth, youthful skin.

My recipe gleaned from the pages of 1970s magazine is as follows

2 mashed bananas

1 tsp honey

1 tbsp green clay powder

and enough rolled oats to make a gloopy mix that will stay on your face.

This makes enough for about three human-sized faces.



It is best if you have staff to apply this while you recline, Norma Desmond-like in your turban and house coat. Unfortunately I had to rely on my staff to take the photo as well, so it is a little blurry. I can report that this does make your skin feel very nice and soft, but also that it does attract bees, so maybe use indoors with the windows closed if you mind the tickly little fellas walking all over your face.




 After the Second World War salads were Big News in cookery. Having been famously missing from British fruit shops for the duration bananas were reintroduced as a symbol of post war plenty. In the rest of the world banana companies like Chiquita and the Fruit Dispatch Company threw their efforts into promoting bananas with cookbooks, jingles and of course singing cartoon spokes-bananas.


Many of these ‘salad’s were simply bananas arranged on a plate with a lettuce leaf and some mayonnaise, and some other random ingredient to distinguish them from the other banana salads.

These have all been forgotten by the majority of modern audiences. Sometimes though, a salad comes along that imprints itself so deeply on the collective psyche that it will never be wholly forgotten. Such is the CANDLE SALAD.

candleAs you can see, these gay suppertime treats involve simulating a lit candle with a just ripe banana. To our modern, depraved minds they seem highly suggestive (of penises) but for past generations this was either not at all apparent or one of the longest running in-jokes in church-lady cookery of all time.   Here are instructions to make yours at home.

Make your own Candle Salad!

First select a nice, straight banana. No one wants to deal with a bendy candle! Cut it off at the bottom so it will sit up nice and proud. Place two or three pineapple rings on a plate, and insert the banana into these—this will keep the candle erect. Now pierce the tip of the banana with a sharp knife and insert a half a maraschino cherry – this represents the cheery little flame! Lastly dribble some whipped cream down the shaft of the banana, simulating the melting wax of the candle. Ta da! This is sure to pique the most jaded of appetites. Here’s one I prepared earlier.


And as an added bonus, and because our fore-cooks were not all insane slaves to the test kitchen insanity, here is a very recipe for Banana Cream Pie—the type you can buy giant slices of in Hawaiian diners to have with your bottomless cup of coffee or pint glass of sweet iced tea. This one comes from my 1952 copy of The Complete American-Jewish Cook Book.


As you can see this one came out a little runny but that was only because it knew I was going to take a photo of it. It’s actually a really good recipe.


Whaddaya think?  Any of these take your fancy?  What do you do with your bananas? Let me know in the comments!

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