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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The Glambassador

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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In the Closet with Sarah Corbet

Hamilton-based librarian Sarah Corbet talks to Natasha Francois about why she has a thing for trousers, how a turban teamed with a linen suit turns heads in Countdown and why she’s too poor to be a purist.

“When you work in a library, people almost seem to expect the stereotype of the twinset and pearls,” says Sarah Corbet.

The 43-year-old, who originally hails from Nottingham in the United Kingdom, loves being able to wear her own clothes to work.

Sartorially she looks like a cross between a woman supporting the war effort or one out to smash glass ceilings for girls in the typing pool, and says there’s nothing better than having her efforts noticed by those of a ‘certain vintage’!

“I get a real buzz off the older ladies that come in and tell me that they used to wear dresses like mine and style their hair like mine which is incredibly flattering coming straight from the source.”

Read on for a glimpse inside Sarah’s closet!

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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?

Mostly items from the 40s and 50s but there are also a lot of modern pieces that have, what I like to think of as the “essence” of these periods; clothing that evoke a time period that help to create the overall impression that I am just off to work on my war effort or break some glass ceilings for the gals back in the typing pool.

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

I’m too poor to be a purist and am incredibly jealous of those with both the budget and patience to be one. I am learning to be more discerning when it comes to vintage clothing and try to restrict myself to collecting items I know I will wear well and wear often. A wardrobe full of organza and tulle is fun and beautiful to look at but I’m not a Real Housewife so more day-wear is my current mission.

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

I have a late 1940s Paul Sachs crepe, camel brown dress with chocolate velvet trim that I adore. I also have a 40s pale lemon flocked gown that unfortunately has the dry rot so it now lives on permanent display in my bedroom.

She fits beautifully but is only really being held together by love. A lot of my most beloved pieces are quite delicate as by the time vintage clothes get to a price point that I can afford, they’re pretty thrashed.

I’ve worn somethings to death because they’ve become solid wardrobe staples and it can be heart breaking to have to permanently retire items.

The roulette wheel of vintage clothing can mean you will never see another piece like it, or that if you do, it inevitably won’t fit.

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Held together by love: The 40s pale lemon flocked gown that has dry rot so it lives on permanent display in her bedroom.

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How did you first become interested in vintage style?

I have always been a bit different when it comes to my own personal style. When I was a child I was obsessed with people like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna and how they were both so fearless when it came to their identity. For most of my life music has had an intrinsic relationship with how I dressed.

In the late 80s I started getting into rock and alternative bands and even had a momentary Goth stage when I was about 14. All I would wear was black from head to toe, which I’m sure looked cool when I was sneaking underage into Rock City in Nottingham, but has left me now in later life with a weird aversion to wearing anything darker than navy blue.

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She’s so unusual: For most of her life,  music’s had an intrinsic relationship with how Sarah dresses.

The early 90s were my heydays when grunge arrived and I was at Art College so anything went really. My friends and I were in constant competition to create the most bizarre outfits and it wasn’t uncommon to see one of us wearing a chopped up 1950s wedding dress with a tiara and army boots (Courtney Love was our spirit animal at that time).

I’m ashamed to say that a lot of vintage didn’t make it out of the 90s thanks to me and my friends but even in those days all the more valuable and collectable items were becoming harder to find in charity shops.

I took a break from vintage in the early 2000s because of living the single girl Sex and the City life which meant trolling the high street for Carrie Bradshaw knock offs. Then I found myself in New Zealand which is a whole different story.

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

It’s the aesthetics of vintage clothing that appeal to me the most which is sadly missing from so much of the mass-produced “fast fashion” of modern times. It just feels so much more considered and artisanal and the quality of fabric and tailoring has often left me slack jawed. Wearing something that someone else is unlikely to own pleases the individualist in me also.

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Fiercely individual: Sarah enjoys standing out in a crowd.

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

I’m not an elitist or purist about any particular time period but I do love the classic tailoring of the 40s and 50s, especially the trousers. You can build an amazing look around a good pair of pants. The delicate line between masculine and feminine was manipulated so well at that time and essentially created a look that has endured through design over the past century.

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Enduring style: There’s nothing quite like a classic tailored pair of trousers.

Where are your favourite shopping haunts and why?

I used to be a die-hard op shopper and there are plenty of those here in Hamilton but finding vintage out “in the wild” as they say is so hard these days. I used to get a lot of great pieces from Sarah O’Halloran when she was running Bellavintage but now that she’s shut up shop I have to do all the hard work myself (shakes lazy fist at world).

Eclectic in Nelson has the most beautiful vintage items if you’re ever lucky enough to be in that part of the country so when I am I like to treat myself and worry about paying rent later… TradeMe still occasionally throws up some treasures if you’re prepared to wade through all the “super rare” 1980s Dynasty dresses, but of course there’s always a bit of a bun fight for the good stuff.

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Sarah channels Katherine Hepburn.

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

I love the Kiwi tradition of not throwing anything away if it’s still useful, which I guess comes from being in such an isolated part of the world. This means you’re never far away from an op shop or an antiques dealer, but in terms of vintage clothing you really have to look overseas, especially America and Europe for the truly fabulous stuff. The Internet has made the vintage market a lot more accessible here in New Zealand but it’s still a thrill when you stumble upon some unexpected treasure at the Sallies.

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Whose closet do you envy and why?

I LOVE Jessica Parker, (@noaccountingfortaste), whose outfits are a huge inspiration for what goes into my wardrobe. I’m also a big fan of a lot of drag queens because they have that fearlessness about them which I find inspirational.

Violet Chachki is the re-incarnation of every Hollywood starlet smashed into one tiny waist. Their whole life is just being a glamorous doll that people love to dress-up and that’s something I can totally relate to, she says writing this in her pyjamas.

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Glamour guru: Violet Chachki

Who are some of your style icons and influences?

I love trousers so it has to be Katherine Hepburn with a bit of Lauren Bacall thrown in. I’ve never been a girlie person so women that have a slight masculine edginess to them light little vintage fires inside me. Did I mention I love trousers?

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Masculine edge: Sarah likes to tread the delicate line between masculine and feminine.

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

It is a handmade 1950s dress made with a green, repeating rose design, cotton fabric. I bought it when I was about 16 years old for, I think, about nine pounds which in those days would have been a lot for me as a poor student. I still have it so it comes out occasionally for another showing each summer. And, yes amazingly it still fits! RIP my dreams of ever getting boobs.

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Librarian chic:  Sarah looks effortlessly elegant in her vintage threads.

How do members of the public react to your getups?

I do get a few compliments every now and then with the, of course, predictable “are you going to a costume/fancy dress party?” etc. Because I’m not trying to exactly recreate eras with what I wear or make historically accurate statements, it seems to be less jarring for most people. Although a turban with matching lipstick and a 1940s linen suit will turn heads in Countdown.

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

I’m really lucky that I get to wear my own clothes to work. When you work in a library people almost seem to expect the stereotype of the twin set and pearls. I get a real buzz off the older ladies that come in and tell me that they used to wear dresses like mine and style their hair like mine which is incredibly flattering coming straight from the source. Although none of them have yet to donate to me said dresses I still live in hope that one day there still exists out there the mother lode of vintage with my name on it. A lot of the little kids just think I’m a Wiggle.

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

My home definitely reflects my taste for old used things which wasn’t really thought of as “vintage” back in the day; it was just buying second-hand. I’m a bit of a nomad so moving around a lot does prevent accumulating lots of collections of things but it also means you have to be selective with what you own and you can’t be too precious about stuff. I’ve settled in Hamilton for now but thanks to rental inspections and a housemate I haven’t been allowed to hoard my house to the rafters with doilies and knick-knacks.

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Anything that you’d never be caught dead wearing?

I think history has shown that I will give most things a try so who knows what my next vintage sartorial phase will be. I kind of like the idea of entering an “Elizabeth Taylor during her second marriage to Richard Burton” era where I wear nothing but kaftans and diamonds but I guess we’ll just have to watch this soon to be bejewelled space.

Follow Sarah on Instagram– where she goes by the moniker @professional_spinster

So, what do you think of Sarah’s sartorial style? What is your favourite outfit pictured? Let me know in the comments. 

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In the closet with Labretta Suede

Welcome to the sixth installment of our In the Closet series! This week Natasha steps inside the exotic wardrobe of Labretta Suede and the Motel 6 frontwoman Labretta Suede.

Although we’ve been friends for well over a decade, my first memories of Labretta Suede go back to my teenage years in the early to mid-90s. 

Even then she still rocked her trademark look which was part Ronnie Spector, part Bettie Page and part Poison Ivy. 

There was the same enormous black beehive, winged liquid eyeliner, ripped fishnets and short shorts –and the same raucous laugh that could be heard several blocks down the road!

More than 25 years later and she’s barely changed style-wise. As the diminutive but feisty frontwoman of Labretta Suede and the Motel Six (read our interview with the band here), she’s notorious for appearing on stage in outrageous, barely there ensembles. However what you might not know is that Labretta is a longtime lover of vintage clothing and has amassed an incredible collection thanks to many years touring the USA and the world.

Alongside her hubby Johnny Moondog, they’re also the proprietors of Cockspurs Vintage, a boutique specialising in true Americana vintage (catch them vending on the second floor of the Rebel Roundup markets this weekend).

Read on to find out why she prefers to be a purist, how she developed her signature style– and why you should never leave a good frock on hold at the thrift store! 

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You seem to have a great wardrobe. Wanna take us on a tour of your closet?  
 
Home invasion much?  OK – I’ll give you a sneak peek then. Come on! Down the rabbit hole we go….  

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Photo by Megs Moss.

 What would we find within?  
 
Lingerie and corsetry, feathers, bullet belts, ripped fishnets, leather things with zips, pristine 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s evening dresses. Authentic 60’s dresses and  playsuits, Las Vegas show girl sparkly dresses, cowboy boots, 1950s -1970s short-shorts, 1940s – 1970s Westernwear, 1910- 1960’s Hollywood glamour night slips, all the way through to custom-made Spanish flamenco dresses from Barcelona that I bought when I was 19 years of age.

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Photo by Megs Moss.

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Photo by Megs Moss.

 Are you a vintage purist or do you wear repro pieces occasionally too?  
 
I am more purist than repro. I tend to not buy newly made items of clothing. The world is over flowing with too much cheaply made, slave labour clothing and junk as it is. Consumption needs to stop!  

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Not to say that all repro is cheaply made, as much of it is not and I have a few custom made pieces from high-end repro designers. I think many of them are brilliant and it’s nice to see quality fabrics and beautiful styles reproduced again. Especially when I see someone in the mainstream wearing it and I can finally not be offended by bad fashion. Ha!  

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Growing up as an artist with my love of the bizarre has kept my heart true to indiviual asthetics. I am horrifed by this era of comformity and lack of imagination when it comes to expression, or rather lack there of.  

What are some of your most prized pieces in your vintage collection and why?  
 
Hmm.. tricky. I have some amazing pieces that often are too sentimental and valuable to me to ever see the light of day. Although, my go-tos are my old beat up leather jacket which has seen me through many an escapade.  However, my short-shorts collection, my on-stage, two-piece outfits and my sparkly dresses have been what I am most famous for.  

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Then there is my handbag, purse and clutch collection.  My love for wicker hand bags is a bit out of control. My fur and velvet handbag/hand warmer muffs. Mmmmm…. Nothing like good accessories.  
 
My sterling vintage Amercian Indian jewelery keeps me grounded and provides endless facination in my day-to-day when meeting people. Again, some never see the light of day as it’s too dear to me and I have lost many a family heirloom at shows/gigs and mosh pits. So, perhaps this punkabilly has learned a few things over her years around the moon.  

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Any noteworthy recent purchases?  
 
The last trip to Melbourne took the cake. While mincing around in one my favourite stores, I hear my husband say while pointing to a garment hanging on the wall, “check that out! You have to have that and I know that it will fit you”. He then frantically asks the shop attendant to pull it from the wall and the tag said ‘on hold for Sally’.

My husband was adament. “Whose Sally? Has she put a deposit down?” The shop attendant called the owner as I tried on the dress. She hung up with a very unconclusive answer …until, she saw the dress on me and said “WOAH! You said you were playing a show right? Ok, I agree you have to have it”   So, I handed over very little- in my opinion- for the dress and boy were we excited. My husband more so.  
 
Here it is!

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Photo by Megs Moss.

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Photos by Megs Moss.

How did you first become interested in vintage style?  
 
Being that I am vintage in age…teehee… I still own and wear those items I first bought which are now deemed vintage. You could still buy cool punk labels right off the racks with stores like Bluebeat and Vivian Westwood. 
 
I still own them but I always had a very unique style from when I was young and I have pretty much looked the same since I was about 12. Winged eyeliner, pale face, red lipstick with a punk/goth/country style and themes throughout my dress code. I have always been tiny but curvy, so have had to be creative about fashion.

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As newly made off-the-shelf clothing never fit nor did it suit me and admittedly still doesn’t. Ever since I was a child I would always go thrifting and op shopping with my mother and I would chop and alter things to fit me. My mother to this very day sits and helps me come up with outfits and creations. She gives me ideas on the best way to sew or cut the fabrics. It’s still some of our favourite bonding time.  

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What is it about vintage clothing that appeals to you the most?  
 
The quality of the fabrics, the styles, the patterns and cuts. They are feminine and flattering and oddly most vintage fits my slight but shapely physic purr-fectly. 

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How does it make you feel when you wear it?  
 
Being that I wear it most everyday I guess that is a loaded question.  Different outfits give you different super powers. Some can be drop-dead sexy, where others can be wholesome and cute. I do love my dangerous bad girl outfits but the next day could be wearing a gorgeous 1930s evening dress that gives me that same sexy dangerous feeling by with elegance. By in large I like to feel outside of society, as I do like the exotic and other worldly….  

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What are your favourite eras when it comes to vintage clothes? 
 
Well, the era’s that truly suit me are the 1910-20s burlesque style, a touch of the 1950s more casual styles, with cuts that are high waist but I feel I can be a bit small for 50s styles and they tend to look a bit matronly on me. The 1960s are super cute on me and late 70s punk are my go-tos.  
 
As a musician and in my early career as a burlesque performer I have had a great affinity with the 1860s- 1930s burlesque styles. I have a big crush on the broken down Hollywood glamour look but for me it’s not about singling out one era.  

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Where are your favourite shopping haunts and why?  
 
Most of mine are sadly not in New Zealand. They are mainly based in the USA with a few in Melbourne, Australia. These shops are eclectic and I get giddy with excitement just knowing we are going to visit. Stopping in to visit these stores are as important as our shows and gigs when we are touring the globe. 

Sadly, many are closing down or do not have the calibre of quality anymore, due to the vintage trend spiraling into the mainstream. Although, this is only part of the issue. It is just simply getting harder and harder to source as we move away each year from those finer eras.  

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What are your general thoughts about op shopping and vintage shopping in New Zealand?  
 
You can definitely find some good finds in New Zealand when it comes to kitsch household items, deco mirrors, retro furniture and curios. 

However, New Zealander’s have always been fairly casual when it comes to fashion and design. Thus, the design was never as detailed as clothing or furniture made in the USA or Europe. When my parents first arrived to NZ in the 60s from Greece, they looked like the mafia with their beehives, A-line dresses and three-piece suits.

My parents still giggle about how New Zealander’s would wear stubbies and jandals just about anywhere. One of my fathers friends got sick of seeing him in a suit and cut his tie right off his neck at a party. So, I think I definitely acquired my sense of style from my lineage.  My grandfathers were both shoemakers too.  

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Photo by Carlos de Treend from The Juice Lab.

What are your holy grail pieces?   
 
Not telling…. A gal needs some privacy in her long lost search.  Ie: back off bitches it’s mine! Teehee!  
 
Fave labels/ fabrics/ outfit types?  
 
Leather is a true love for me. Sorry vegans but for the most part it is vintage. Thus, saved from the landfill by being reglamourised by yours truly. I have never been a label basher, or rather labels have never concerned me. I like what I like and it’s all in the hunt and the find.  unnamed-1
 
Whose closet do you envy and why? Who are some of your style icons and influences?  
 
It would have to be a combined envy of Bettie Page, Siouxsie Sioux, Zsa Zsa Gabor and a little of Daisy Duke.  

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The Queen of Curves: Bettie Page.

Bettie Page for her risque, wild but always sweet sensibilities. Siouxsie Sioux for her extreme dark edge and uniquely appropriated fabrics.  Zsa Zsa Gabor for that always overly dressed hollywood sparkle and style. Daisy Duke for her sexy hillbilly casual charm.  

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Daisy Duke

Can you remember the first vintage piece you bought? What was it?  
 
Growing up in a immigrant family with four children there were a lot of hand me downs that I appropriated and being the only girl I got my mothers cool hand me downs. I would ritualistically sink them in a boiling pot of black dye. Mmmm…. that smell but they never did come out black, Always charcoal, deep purples and deep blues, which made them more interesting still. I certainly stood out at high school in a sea of Guns & Roses T-shirts.  

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Labretta and Johnny Moondog  with members of the Hallelujah Picassos.

I remember my high school outfits fondly but as for my first purchased vintage item, it must have been a leather jacket or some kind of undergarment. As I do remember spending years looking for just the right leather jacket. Or maybe it was records? I was and am still a vinyl junkie.

How do members of the public react to your getups?  
 
It’s a swinging pendulum really. I either get complimented all day about my style or people take a wide berth. I prefer the latter. Not good with compliments. Thanks New Zealand for that affliction.  

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Do you wear vintage to work as well?  
Yes!  

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How is your style received in the workplace?  
 
Mostly people are intrigued as to what I will wear the next day. I seem to be a bit of a runway model for many and a person of interest. It’s healthy and fun and gets most people out of their workplace modes and opens up some really fun conversations. So, I feel I get to know a lot of my co-workers on a deeper level.  

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Photo by Carlos de Treend of The Juice Lab.

Does your vintage obsession extend into other areas too such as home decor, car, accessories and other collections?  
 
Yes, my husband and I are lifers. We have 1950s-built home, decor is broken down Hollywood glamour. I have owned my 1963 Dodge for over 15 years and my husband is a fan of vintage cars and motorbikes too. Complete with two red dingo Kelpies …one is vintage the other a newby.  It’s a colourful household!

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Anything that you’d never be caught dead wearing? 
 

Gray marle and sweat pants.  

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Catch Labretta Suede and the Motel 6 live at the following gigs:

February 17 and 18, Rebel Roundup, Pukekohe Park, Auckland.

March 1st, Stiff Little Fingers, The Powerstation, Auckland

March 17, St Patrick’s Day, Kentish Pub. Waiuku, Auckland.

 

 

In the closet with: Helga von Tiddlehoffen

Welcome to the fifth installment of our In the Closet with series! This week Natasha enters the weird and wonderful world of Helga von Tiddlehoffen.

If there ever was a lady more deserving of being featured in this series, it has to be Helga Von Tiddlehoffen!

Yes that’s her in the day-glo lime green tights, gingham frock, mustard heels and badass red leather trench, clutching what looks like a toolbox, but is really a handbag! 

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No shrinking violet, this 51-year-old describes herself as “pretty loud, sometimes shy, obsessed with old-fashioned manners” and as someone who can not abide arrogance or fakeness. 

“I am frequently impatient, big-mouthed, blunt, crass and I swear like a trouper. I have a spastic sense of humour, and am easily irritated and irritating!”

The delightfully eccentric lady first came on my radar about 7 years ago when she blogged as ‘Helga Van Trollop’. I stumbled across it one day, during a time in my life when I felt depressed and hopeless about the world.

I was struck by her bold use of colour/ pattern and devil-may-care attitude. She helped me realise that being over 40 doesn’t mean a decline into banality.  And that is super inspiring!

26653225_1908675042494154_1688948780_o.pngWhen it comes to her tastes, she’s the epitome of an eclectic lady – her interests veer from opera to metal, from Belle Epoque to 50s glam to 70s chic, from girly sweet to goth (she was a hardcore goth in the late 80s/ 90s) , from chick flicks to cheesy 70s trash….

Some of her own style and life icons include- Frida Kahlo, Mrs Slocombe of Are you being served, Mildred Roper of George and Mildred, Siouxie Sioux, Carmen Miranda, Yma Sumac, Vivenne Westwood and many more.

Just look at that role call of fabulosity, is it any wonder she’s so cool?

Although Helga Von Tiddlehoffen is quite an arresting nom de plume, it’s not her real name, which is the more prosaic Annette Faulkner. She’s a talented singer, voracious reader and lives with her partner G and cat, Mrs Peeps in a riot of colour surrounded by an envy-inducing assortment of mid-century antiques and collectables.

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Formerly based in Christchurch, she now calls Oamaru home. However, she’s originally an Aussie (we can forgive her for that) who was born in Sydney, but has been living in Aotearoa since 1989.

Most days she dresses up to the max  because it gives her a great deal of pleasure. Besides, she was “brainwashed” by her mother at an early age with a dose of old films, to be overdressed for any and all situations.

Desperate to see more of Helga’s outrageous ensembles? Read on!

26692501_1908675179160807_1452267100_oYou seem to have a great wardrobe. Wanna take us on a tour of your closet? What would we find within?

Within my closet you will find: a great variety! Items ranging from Edwardian to modern – I am never bored in life, but I can get bored with my clothes!

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26692620_1908677902493868_539942827_o-e1515462969336.pngAre you a vintage purist or do you wear repro pieces occasionally too? 

I wouldn’t call myself a purist in any sense other than I only shop secondhand. Aside from tights and knickers, I am indeed very purist about that. I make some of my own clothes, and therefore wouldn’t buy repro simply because I would prefer to make it. Or at least think about it!

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

 A few Edwardian pieces; they’re difficult to find in a generous size. Aside from a belt, I wear them from time to time.

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Any noteworthy recent purchases?

I picked up several metres of ’50s polished cotton at the dump shop – I mean resource centre – last week. I thought that was a nice score…

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How did you first become interested in vintage style?

My mother! We would watch allllll the old films when I was a kid. I totally blame her for my matchy matchy inclinations! I might mention that she was born in 1929 and must have worn some amazing clothes in her time but SHE NEVER KEPT ANYTHING!!!! I suppose I’m traumatised by this, as I am a wee bit of a hoarder….

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

Well, one isn’t so likely to bump into anyone at a party wearing the same frock! And the quality-garments are so well made that we can wear them today. I’ll happily wear the odd modern piece, but I know I’m going to have to fix it, likely more than once.

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How does it make you feel when you wear it?

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

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

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

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Where are your favourite shopping haunts and why?

 Op shops because one gets more bang for ones buck, and I’ve never had a huge amount of those besides being frugal by nature.

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

Certainly vintage isn’t as abundant in op shops anymore, but I enjoy the thrill of the hunt and am out there almost every week looking.

Vintage shopping is pretty good, but can be expensive. I find the best, most reliable and well priced vintage shop is Two Squirrels, based in Dunedin.

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What do you dream of finding??

Nothing really….although I’d shit myself if I were to find a piece of Victorian mourning jewellery, but that’ll never happen!

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

 I like spotting Juliet, an old Christchurch brand, and Estelle Rose, a 70s label. Any New Zealand label, really.

I’m a total Polyester Queen, but I do love linen, cotton and lace. I pretty much only wear frocks.

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Whose closet do you envy and why?

 Probably Victorian Coke on Instagram-she works in an auction house (or it might be her own) and therefore has all the dreamiest old garments!

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

@victoriancoke on Instagram

Who are some of your style icons and influences?

 Siouxsie Sioux forever! (I was a goth in the 80s/90s) The Queen, Mrs Slocombe from Are You Being Served?, Ottoline Morrell, Frida Kahlo.

I am influenced by the books I read, the television I watch, the films I see, art I admire and the town I live in.

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

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

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

Over the years I have been admired, scorned, had things thrown at me…very mixed. Mostly good!

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

 Oh yes. My house, built in 1958, is mostly mid century. I basically collect vintage accessories of all kinds, from handbags to scarf rings to brooches…blah blah blah…my partner and I share a passion for West German pottery, mirrors, lamps and religious kitsch, and I am obsessed with baskets.

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What would I never be caught dead wearing?

Crocs!

Isn’t she fabulous!

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

Instagram: @vonwinklehoffen

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

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In the closet with: Angela Carter

WELCOME TO PART ONE OF A NEW SERIES ABOUT WOMEN AND THEIR VINTAGE WARDROBES

“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!
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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.
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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.
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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:
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“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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