Sunday, 30 June 2013

Bravo Bare Legs!

Diana Vreeland put the first bare legged model in Vogue. When Jean Shrimpton arrived at the Melbourne Cup with bare legs it caused a scandal. When women go to the office in bare legs there are people who are offended by it! Other women! YOUNG other women!
Legs must be pretty special to cause so much interest and discussion and sure a good pair is worth it but, they're legs! All but the few unfortunate have them. What's the big deal?
Bare legs are very chic. When they are tanned, toned and long they are a sight to behold and they ought to be celebrated. It is unbelievable that people still think they should be hidden like some Victorian mystery.
Women are constantly being urged to reveal their bodies and then to be ashamed of them. Well the world can't have it both ways and nor should they. The female body is a constant source of celebration, admiration and objectification as well as pride and shame. There is no need to hide or scrutinise the leg, just use them.
New york women have it right, they go bare legged summer, spring, autumn and winter. They act in defiance of climate not society. They know that a good pair of shoes on a good pair of legs can't be outdone and is much chicer than a low cut top. We should learn from them.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Vintage Fashion

As part of the Glen Eira Council's Storytelling Festival an amazing event on the stories of vintage fashion pieces was held at Ripponlea House in Melbourne. Never was a more appropriate setting used for such as event. Sitting in the ballroom of a grand house overlooking the pool which had more than a bit of Gatsby-esque charm.
The event was presented by Nicole Jenkins of Circa Vintage. Nicole studied Costume Design for four years after living an adolescence full of criticism for her vintage taste. She inherited a taste for vintage from her mother who had dressed her in vintage clothes since her childhood.
The pieces she showed for the event were from her private collection as well as her shop and focused in particular on dresses and the 20s and 30s. She talked about the innovations used in the pieces such as the lack of openings in the earlier pieces and the development of such construction innovations, even mentioning that when the zip industry was trying to increase it's use and popularity they actively campaigned Elsa Schiaparelli to use them in her designs. The exhibiting of a Schiaparelli gown was a particular highlight of the event a gorgeous deep purple gown with an insert at the front that floated back over itself.
Some of her dresses commented (as fashion invariably does) on the social circumstances of its time. One charming rayon dress had rosette's added to it marking it clearly as a post depression era dress due to the 'lavish' and unnecessary use of extra fabric to adorn the dress with that simple rosette.
She noted with keen observation that in every era of fashion there is a focus on two (no more no less and always this neat equation) parts of the female body which explains why in many instances red carpet outfits go wrong. There is too much, no clear focus and no where for the eye to go.
She also noted that what was happening in clothing was a direct result of what was happening in underwear. As new technologies came along that changed the way underwear was made and what it did to the body, fashion responded. The low back and backless styles of the twenties meant no bra could be worn so nipples were obvious. Perhaps we need to consider ourselves not so modern today after all.
Nicole also mentioned how in Victorian times when women wore empire line styles and cotton was mostly used women would wet their dresses so that they clung to the body more and as a result everything was clearly visible. Not only is this something Jane Austen and the Bronte's left out of their novel but it also sounds like a bad idea in an are when respiratory conditions were common.
This was a wonderful event and I would certainly recommend a visit to Nicole's shop perhaps to try things on or even just for a chat.She is in Mitchell House 358 Lonsdale st Melbourne

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Nothing Taxing about Taxidermy

I love taxidermy. I know that sounds strange and would put a lot of people off but I do, I like it. I like skulls and antlers and skins. I have a cow skin on my floor and a springbok on a cushion and piano stool. the piano stool is especially feting as the springbok skin I bought for it was a male and thus had a beautiful white Mohawk down his rear which now sits up punk-like in my home.
The artist Julia deVille is a favourite. I love her work and visited her collection in a gallery some time ago. My pooch Koko came with me and she had a marvellous time with the stuffed kittens and deer and pigs and ostrich in the exhibition. She did seem a little confused as to why they didn't move...

For me taxidermy takes on the quality of children's book characters. We are willing to anthropomorthize animals for children and have them don clothes and do human things but to have them in our home is somehow wrong? We imitate animals in our children's toys, but we can't accept a real one dead?
I love that these animals have not died and gone away. They have remained with us, become something we value rather than lay as waste. There lives go on in our worlds, our homes and become cherished possessions for us.

I would love to have a raven, Poe like in my lounge room to stare into my soul in my darker moments or a companion to chat away to as I bake. I feel it is a charming way of immortalising life not a morbid way of celebrating death and I see nothing wrong with making animals our companions.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Tangible Memories

Two books I have read recently have had me thinking about fabric and the past. The first, Rosalie Ham's The Dressmaker tells the story of an outcast with incredible talents with fabric and the second Stephanie Lacava's The Extraordinary Theory of Objects tells of her real life growing up in France during the grunge era.

These two books have had me thinking about  the clothes that I have worn in my life, some long discarded and now regretted, others thankfully thrown out or left behind when forced to travel light. One item that sticks in my mind that is evoked by both books is a brown chenille cardigan I wore during my own grunge phase.
I wore it over Op. Shop silk slips, with torn jeans and band t-shirts, with navy converse and possibly even with a pair of stove pipe tartan pants that I wore which were probably more punk than grunge. At the time, all I knew was no one looked like me and that was what I wanted.
Now I can't even look at chenille let alone touch it or wear it but hen I thought it was divine. It was thoroughly NOT cool. I'm sure the fabric itself had a lot to do with that but it may have also been the milk chocolate colour of it too. I can't think of anyone then or now who would wear such a garment.
The funny thing was, it was new, not second hand. My mother hated anything second had and when I did manage to sneak into an Op. Shop (usually illicitly with girlfriends) and buy something she would immediately wash and sterilise it the moment she caught sight of it.
I eventually upgraded from the chocolate brown chenille cardigan to a woollen jumper the colour and texture of an old teddy bear. When my mother saw it she informed that some old man had probably died in it. Even that did not deter me from wearing it although the spilt food on the front and sleeve did so I happily handed it over for it's ritual carbolising (picked up at nurses training). and from then on wore it lovingly.
Only some years later when I went to get rid of it did I discover the label 'Pringle' a name that had meant nothing at the time of purchase but adds to its resale value at the flea market I sold it at. That jumper was amazing. It made me more than it cost me, it kept me warm, it made me grungetastic, it replaced CHENILLE for God's sake and it taught me what to look for in an Op. Shop and where to go for the best thrift stores in town.
I am pleased and disappointed I don't have a photo of either the cardigan or jumper to accompany this piece for you. But I will always remember the feel and look of both and each in their own way make me smile.

Ballet Flats

Plenty of us don't wear them, many of us love them. Here are some of the best of them.

French Sole
these are unshaped so that in a pair there is no 'left' and 'right' shoe, just two shoes. Once you start wearing them they mould to the shape of your feet and become a left and a right. This is quiet uncomfortable at first and you might find them on the wrong feet more often than you like. In addition the sole is totally straight cut so if you have even slightly board feet you will overlap the sole and they are worn through very quickly. the colours and varieties are amazing.

Beautifully made Italian shoes, again with so many colour variations. They are very light and like French Sole do tend to wear out quickly but, they are so comfortable.

these might be the perfect ballet shoe. They have a small heel to stop wear and tear and give the sole a little extra something, the leather is soft but structured so that you feel like you are wearing a real shoe. Love them.

No strictly a ballet shoe but certainly the chicest flat shoe around. Audrey Hepburn wore them, need I say more? Yes? They are comfortable, come in lots of colours and finishes and there is not a Ferragamo that a foot won't love. Invest!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Winter Closes In

Winter really closed in on us here in Melbourne this week. Some mornings it was still only 1 degree at 9am, a thing totally unheard of in a climate that can be likened to California. My brother was able to scrape down the ice from a slide and enjoy a snowball fight with his two children which is so quaint it makes me smile to think about it.
While they were out making snowballs I have been inside combating the weather in my own ways. the first is baking. In the last two weeks I have made six cakes. Yes, six and if you know me you have probably had the pleasure of eating one or more of these. This is in part aided by the Kitchenaid stand mixer I got for a recent birthday, it makes it so easy to make a coffee, heat the oven and stand and stare as a cake is made before your eyes.
The other thing I do, (and this is my point really) is light candles. I have loved candles ever since I was a teenager when I became interested in the occult, alternative ideas and ways of living an such and my love for them has never really gone away. the only difference is rather than buying handmade, coloured, recycled hippie candles from stores like Ishka I use some of the most heavenly scented candles from around the world. Here are some of my favourites...

These are so beautiful. I love the delicate colouring of the packaging in pastels. I love that they give you a matchbook to light the candle with. I love that they are given the names of goddess women. These are so feminine they make you want to wander the house in beautiful soft lingerie.

I love the Baies scent in this range. I tend to like sweetly scented candles so this one is perfect. The scent from these candles seems somehow able to float from the candle and scent the room even when it is not lit. Of course, lit is so much better and I relax into the cool, calm scent.

I discovered these in the Kit stores here in Melbourne. The smell is something like a fresh baked cake and white chocolate. there is such an intense sweetness to the Caramel scent. The other essential in this range is Sweet pea. normally, floral scented candles are overwhelming and fake smelling but, the sweet pea candle in this range is beautiful light and fragrant. It is floral without being too girlie.

Please always remember that you should never leave candles near children, in low areas near pets or in an empty house or room. Safety is very important when it comes to flames of any size and just because they smell beautiful doesn't meant hat they can't harm you. Please be careful. 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Places to go...Amsterdam

Amsterdam has the reputation of being the destination of the young and looking for things usually illegal in their home towns. It is the city that draws in those wanting to indulge in sex and drugs. But it is so much more.
Amsterdam is a city full of culture and fun. As with many European cities it is built on a human scale rather than an industrialised one. A person can walk from end to end of the city and enjoy every part of it in a day. Of course, the best way to travel in Amsterdam is by bicycle. As far as I am concerned Amsterdam created cycle chic. The provisions for cyclists is outstanding and it is done with purpose but not with speed. You can get from A to B on a bicycle in Amsterdam without breaking a sweat. There is no law about helmets either which is a lovely change from Melbourne and means that your hair will flow daintily in the breeze as you pass.
Amsterdam has wonderful market streets that hark back to days gone by and have existed for many years. It has galleries displaying some of the greatest painters of Europe. It has cheese and coffee and food that is to die for. It is a must to visit a Feebo; these odd little walk in shops with vending machine style hot food. So, for a euro you can get a croquette. And of course the chips, frits and served usually in cones with a little wooden fork and typically with mayonnaise. Divine.
The flowers grown in rich dutch soil is not to be missed either. to see field and fields of tulips and other flowers is such a glorious wonder. So are the water systems and dyke's used to reclaim much of the dutch soil form the sea.
Almost everyone speaks English so getting around and asking for help is a breeze and the dutch are so willing to help. Even if you are trying to practise your dutch as soon as they hear an accent they will courteously switch to English for your benefit.
A shopping must is Hema, it is like Target (I suppose) but has all the sensibility of classic dutch design in its products. To try to explain how beloved this store is I point you to a book written by a dutch ex-pat. the title of which is 'I only miss the Hema.'

Amsterdam is not the only great city in The Netherlands and any visit should venture well beyond the canals of Amsterdam. It is worth a day trip to see Dick Bruner's House and visit the golden Miffy statue in the square outside as it is to go to Den Hague to see works by Vermeer and the International Law courts.
Don't forget to check out some of the icons of Dutch culture and history, delftware, diamonds, Jip and Jannika and the canal houses. They are icons for a reason and offer unique experiences in the city.
There is something so European but also so familiar about Amsterdam, it feels like home but still has a curiously exotic flavor which means that you can still get lost for an afternoon wandering the canals without the demands of home and real life calling you back to reality.
Repeat after me "I want to go to there."

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Candidly Nicole

Have you been watching this great show on AOL?
Richie has excellent comic timing and her bone dry delivery is so unnerving to her guests that the results are hilarious. She is a very witty woman who has the persona of a spoiled little rich girl who is completely egocentric and yet her awareness of how to get a response from others shows her complete awareness of the world around her and her place in it.
Truly, it's worth a watch just for Richie's sense of style which she clearly has evolved from her more youthful days in Hollywood.
Watching an episode is like sitting down to a cocktail with one of your funniest girlfriends and enjoying an afternoon together. And just like those cocktails and chats, it never lasts long enough with the commitments of the real world calling us back.
Love it!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Style Challenge 1: A Week of Dresses

Typically, my working week starts on a high note with a dress and then slowly gathers momentum downward to end in jeans on Friday. This is followed by a weekend of more jeans and something dressy for a night out.

On Sunday night I was heard to cry 'No more!' and I made a vow to wear dresses for a full week. This is how it turned out...

My morning was made more than the usual tense by my style challenge. I ended up wearing a Friends of Couture dress with a map of Mexico print with black leggings and black boots. This isn't going well...

I remembered to inspect my legs for hair on Monday night (important to remember for a challenge like this) and applied self tan. So, today I wore an orange Gorman dress with black stiletto's. I looked fab and didn't even feel the cold (turns out smugness will keep you warm).

I really hit my stride here. I wore a Gorman dress again; this time a 50s shape in brown, white and navy called Swedish Summer with a blue knit and my gorgeous John Fluevog's. Again, no cold legs despite this week being a real Melbourne winter.

Today was a double challenge; I promised a colleague earlier in the week that I would wear my new vintage cowboy boots...with a dress. So I ended up doing what any Melbourne girl would do, and wore all black. Black cowboy boots, black opaque stockings, a black Gorman kimono style dress and a McQueen scarf.

I was going for a 'casual Friday' feel without being too casual. My normal solution to casual Friday is jeans so I simply dressified jeans. I wore a chambray dress from Gorman with black stockings, my cowboy boots again and a leather jacket.

I was meeting my mum for a little shopping in the city today so I wanted to look nice. I realised that I was yet to wear an H and M dress I had recently bought in America so I wore that with brown Country Road riding boots, a Burberry bag and Burberry trench.

I was heading out to a Biggest Morning Tea event to raise money for the Cancer Council. It was a women's only event and I was after a bit of colour. I again went for Gorman, this time in a multicoloured harlequin print in a 50s shape, bright pink stockings, tan John Fluevog heels and an old favourite Sass and Bide denim jacket.

Please note: These images are the creative work of other very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Monday, 3 June 2013

A change of Scent

With the change of season it is important to change ones scent. The light scents of summer do not nestle into the woollens worn in the cooler months as they did the delicate cottons of summer.

A summer scent should have a playfulness to it, a gentleness that makes it tolerable even on the hottest of summer days. In summer we are so overwhelmed by our other senses it is especially important to keep scent unobtrusive. A perfume such as Jean Paul Gaultier's classic is wonderful for this time of year, it has exotic references in the scent as well as vanilla and florals.

An excellent option for all year round is Chanel's Coco Noir. this is one of their newer perfumes, launching in 2012. Like Jean Paul Gaultier's Classique, Coco Noir contains notes of vanilla and musk but marks its point of difference with the flowers it combines this with. Chanel uses the rose, geranium and jasmine to give a unique smell.

Dior Addict is a perfect winter scent. It has great depth and strength that sinks into the skin and fabrics to produce a smell that begs a lover to snuggle in to the wearer (or try to resist the urge to). It depth comes from the sandal wood and vanilla but is highlighted by the Mulberry flower and Night Queen Flower both offering up strong unique scents. I am yet to meet a person on whom this perfume does not smell divine.

You can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A Love Letter to Baz Luhrmann

When someone gives you a love letter, it's only right to give one back.

Baz, I love you too.
I have known for the past seven years that we were meant to be together. From the first time I read The Great Gatsby I knew the three of us were destined to be together, a manage a trois of creativity.
As I re-read Gatsby each year (yes, I read it once every year) I got to know Gatsby and his cohort better and with increasing intimacy and in knowing them my resolve that you were the only man who could realise them grew.
I knew that you would know that Gatsby was an uncertain hero, that his strange behaviour was not born of ego but rather insecurity. I knew also that you would know that Daisy was not a vapid fool, but a woman who had been beaten down by disappointment and betrayal and saw a chance for adoration.
Baz, every scene is a caress, each costume a kiss, every scripted word taken from the novel a declaration of your love.
No other man could have satisfied me as you have. You make every gesture, turn and utterance perfect. When I first saw you with Gatsby last night I was enchanted. I literally punched the air for my mates at times, you did it so well.
Loved it. Love you. Couldn't love it more!

Don't forget to follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Go Bespoke

When you know what is just right for you or just what you want down to the finest detail it can be hard to find something to your exacting standards. This is when having something custom made is a joy.
A few winters ago I wanted a striped scarf in two shades of blue/grey. My mother is a talented knitter and a huge tennis fan and so she takes on a project each year when Wimbledon is on. Prior to it's beginning we went tot he amazing Wool Bar in Albert Park and found just the right wool for my project.
It took her no time at all and it was just what I wanted. Or so I thought...
The gorgeous scarf that was just what I wanted sat in a drawer for two winters unworn. It was just what I wanted but it wasn't right somehow.
In preparing for my brothers wedding earlier in the year I went through all my scarves and came across this unworn beauty. But looking at it now something struck my immediately. This scarf needed pockets!
I took it back to Mum and had her sew up the ends on both sides and I now have two very convenient pockets that I use constantly for my phone, keys and money. When I get the inevitable winter cold it will be a joy to stuff those pockets with tissues for use throughout the day.
My point is this. Just because something is just what you want doesn't mean that you got it right the first time. Give yourself time to consider it and make adjustments when you need to.
Everyone needs a team of people who are masters of clothing. Most important is someone who can sew for repairs and adjustments, you need a person who knows how to care for clothes to advise you on hand wash and when not to steam or dry clean and if you have another who can knit, crochet or embroider then you are really in luck.

You can see me more of me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

My store IS Myer.

If you get the chance to visit Myer and have a private viewing of their brand new International designer collection you should take it.

Myer take V.I.P. treatment to the next level and make the experience something very special. They have thought of everything from the invitation to the very personal customer service.
In Melbourne, you will be assisted by Maria or Simone, both are wonderful women who exhibit great style of their own. These women will provide you with a rack to fill with everything your heart desires from the very latest European ranges, all you have to do is wander through the showroom, pick out your pieces and place it on the rack.

While you are doing this, one of the women will bring you a drink to sustain you. Without even asking you your size they will let an unseen assistant know what you want and your size and it will be prepared for you to try on. again, their attention to detail is excellent, every item, from every designer is exactly right for you, they know at a glance what size you will need.
Simone doesn't miss a beat at any level, if you've arrived in a dress and are trying on a top or two, she brings you a pant to put with it so you get a better sense of how it would really look. The same with a  skirt, she'll provide a top so you can get an accurate perception of the look.
You then spend a luxuriously long time trying everything on. The entire change area is yours to wander through. there is a couch for relaxing, natural light and mirrors everywhere to allow you to see every angle. The mirrors and the lighting are very flattering and you are never caught off guard in bad light. Of course, with such expensive items, care is important, your change room will have a scarf for you to drape over your head and face when pulling garments on. this will protect your hair and make up as well as the clothes, for every body's sake, use it.
At the end of all this, your items are prepared for you with no muss or fuss. It is the quintessential retail experience we all long for but few receive. There is no pushing of the product, no hovering at the change room curtain. You are given full free range to chat and compare with a companion if you brought one and at no time do you feel pressured to buy anything. But then, when the clothes are this good, who needs to be talked into buying them?
Please note: Not all the images are original, some are the creative work of other very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.