Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Edge - Following Up and Telling It Like It Is

One of my readers kindly sent me a link to the an article from the Sunday Times (read the full article here). It focuses on women letting jealousy get in the way on friendships, touching also on the issue of competitiveness between women;

"We do give other girls an unnecessarily hard time. These days, it isn’t considered chic to bitch, Dynasty-style – we leave the crude viperishness to the Jordans, the Cheryls and the Poshes. Competitiveness comes in a different guise: an awesomely sophisticated game of one-upmanship. Do you have the latest Mulberry bag? Are you wearing this season’s key shape in denim? Will you go back to work after having a baby – and if so, how long after? Is your baby sleeping through the night? No? Oh, you poor thing."

The author, Jessica Brinton, talks about the work of sex researcher and cultural historian Professor Shere Hite.

"...Hite is expecting us to give up on the idea of being the best, and that’s hard. However much we battle with it, the desire to be Ivanka Trump in the boardroom, Nigella in the kitchen, Angelina in the nursery, and all three in the bedroom, is pernicious. Are we really happy to take a step back and let other women climb the ladder faster, for the sake of getting on..."

If I am totally honest with myself, my answer would have to be no. I am competitive at heart, (I'm a Leo). Not in all respects mind you, Take me fly fishing and I couldn't give a rat's if you are better than me, but in some areas it does really matter to me if I am the best. By being the 'best', my yard stick can be many different things though. It could be being better than someone else, (this tends to happen only when I really don't like the person), or just better than I was at the same thing last time. But even then, that is all subjective. To be better than someone else as a matter of internal competition, I am really my own judge. Therefore, it is only really me saying to myself that I am better, not some official or outside adjudicator. ( I am not referring to actual competitions here). So then, if I am my own judge in these matters, does that make this sort of competition a bad thing? Or is it only a bad thing if it causes me anxiety or makes behave in a manner that would put someone else down? I am vacillating in my answer to this, and today I think that perhaps this is what defines 'healthy competition'.

In saying all that it has made me realise one very important thing. It is the lack of competition between my best friend and I that makes us so. We both always feel free just to be ourselves, to be totally honest no matter what the situation. I remember the day we first met. I eyed her very suspiciously and my mind was suddenly filled with insecurities and a familiar sense of competition / jealousy. We had so much in common that my natural reaction was to feel like I was in direct competition with her, as if there were only room for one of us in the group. If I had allowed that to get the better of me, I would have missed out on my greatest friendship of all times. And there is much to be said for that.

My thanks to the Sunday Times and Jessica Brinton for the use of this article.

** Don't worry, Swanky Panky will appear tomorrow for all your coveting needs. (My word, it is all getting a bit Deadly Sins around here). **

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Edge

How competitive are you? Speaking specifically, when it comes to getting dressed, do you dress to compete with other women?

At school there is always the Alpha girl. She is the one who is the prettiest, the one with fabulous legs, the one who always wears the right brand, or who's father has the most money. Most of us spend our school days either wanting to be her friend, wanting to be as good as her or pretending not to care. I do wonder how much we grow out of this.

When speaking with someone the other day, they said that they truly don't believe that all women are competitive. In my experience I have found that every woman I have met, who has been honest with me, is competitive with other women on some level. I'm not necessarily referring to feeling that they have to look the same, but perhaps it exhibits itself in the form of house, partner, skill envy. Another form of Status Anxiety. (K.Line, I know you'll relate to this).
When I was at the gym yesterday, I overheard this conversation between two women in the car park.

Woman one, " Did X invite you to afternoon tea tomorrow?"
Woman two, " Yes, X is so lovely, she's invited all the kids too."
Woman one, "Yes, she is. I'm not going though."
Woman two, "Why not?"
Woman one, " Because she's always so glamorous and I can't compete with that!"

Seriously, was she prepared to forgo an afternoon with someone she thinks is lovely just because she feels she can't 'compete' with her in a group? It made me wonder just how lonely X must be if this is the general reaction to her generous invitation.

If I am honest with myself, I know that I have a very competitive streak that rears its head now and then. When it comes to getting dressed, I don't dress to directly compete with other women I socialise with, as none of them really have my aesthetic. I tend to compete with myself. This perhaps comes about as I have a very small and limited social circle at present, and I find that I am at my best when in competition of sorts. I like to be motivated, driven and pushed to achieve something new and, to my eyes, better. Competition can be a double edged sword. Forcing us into places of anxiety, worry and debt. It can also make us strive to achieve our best, giving us that kick up the arse we need on our off days.

How much, if at all, does your competitive streak kick in when you are in front of your closet in the morning?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Daily Outfit

Red Leopard top - Etsy, Jeans - Target, Stilettos - Hot Options, Make up note: Lipstick- Sangria by Avon (for all those who keep asking).

My Red Leopard top from The Coveted on Etsy arrived today. Thanks to Wendy B for pointing this one out. It is has fabulous puff sleeves and ribbing at the bottom, which gives it a different silhouette to the standard cardi. I love it! I have so many outfits to work this into but I didn't really have time to experiment today, so it was just on with the jeans and then heading out. I think it would look great with a slim black pencil skirt and some killer heels. Possibly also short culottes and stiletto boots. Any suggestions?

Can't you tell I'm pleased as punch?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Keep Out Of Reach Of Children

Queenie - Artist and creator of Pocket Full of Posiez

There are lots of things I have no real use for, but I still have to have. Fur coats, stickers, Hello Kitty seat belt covers; but probably one of the most difficult thing to buy for yourself when you have girls, is dolls. I have quite a little secret collection put away in the hallway cupboard. I sneakily get them out on occasion when the girls are asleep, as the whining and tears that would follow their discovery is just not worth it. My eldest daughter has already inherited many of my dolls, including a fully furnished dolls house that is taller than her. But there are still some lovely dolls out there for which I can barely contain my wallet.

I love the Pullip dolls for their huge eyes, wonderful outfits and not least the quotes on the boxes.
” Radical but noble. The happiest moment in the world, the perfect aesthetic sense…feel like so. “ WTF??

I particularly like a little irony to my dolls, which is why I am completely in love with the work of Queenie at Pocket Full of Posiez. I love their fragile, dark faces and acerbic wit.

With decadent and deadly dollies; delicious artwork and t-shirts to boot, Pocket Full of Posiez will most likely be on the receiving end of my cash very soon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quietly Celebrating

Today I am quietly celebrating this, my 100th post! I can't tell you how much I enjoy this blogging lark, and there are so many more surprises to come. I am currently fleshing out some surprises to reveal over the next month, that should make this experience even more fun and interactive for you all. If you have any special requests for posts or information you would like to see, ask away.

I had a lovely day today. Not expecting anything special, just a trip to the pool and the usual tasks, I was pleasantly surprised by some lovely packages in my mail box. My best friend who lives on the other side of the world, sent me a lovely card and a pack of gum; just to make me smile. She knows me so well.

My latest Ebay purchases also turned up and I am now the proud owner of a rhinestoned, 80's knitted cocktail dress. I can hardly wait to wear this baby. It is soft, warm and sexy all at the same time.

While doing the most banal sort of shopping, I found this lovely little vintage re-released Golden Book, "Nurse Nancy" from 1952. I just adore these illustrations and it makes bedtime stories so much more fun for me.

And of course, I couldn't leave you without a daily outfit. It was layering (again!) today, as it is 16 degrees outside but about 38 degrees inside at the pool. Quite the wardrobe challenge.

Red top - Miss shop, Black asymmetrically zipped jacket - Viviennes Collection, Vintage Kilt - Ebay, Black thigh highs - Sock Dreams, Shoes - Wittner, Skull earrings - Diva.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Daily Outfit

Pink Boucle Vintage Cardigan (part of a suit) - Ebay, Skirt - Boo Radley, Black OTK's - Johnathon Aston, Stiletto Boots - Joanne Mercier, Red Houndstooth head band - Groove.

I was in a bit of a silly mood this morning. The sun was shining and I was feeling good. I had one of those weekends where I got lots of my To Do list done, and the sense of accomplishment that brings always leaves me with a glow. ( I know, I am a little strange)

For your enjoyment, here are a few images that made my day today.

This beautiful little poppet is from Style and the City's blog. She looks so simply stylish, not like so many of the be-spangled mini Lindsays I see around here.

My thanks to Susie at Style Bubble for the introduction to the wonderful photographs of Heather and Ellie. I am in love with all of their work, but this shot is my favorite. It gives me the feeling of a subversive Alice in Wonderland.

And I love this shot of Mademoiselle Molly Fryxell's kitchen bench from Flickr. Beautiful fashion is at home anywhere.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How to Lose 10 Years in One Day - Part 2

Following on from my post of the other day, I have decided to post a few photos of myself over the years. While it was not my intention to start a guessing game, moreover to express my confusion, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to make a comparison between me then and me now. When I was younger, people were always mistaking me for much older. Much to his surprise, my first boyfriend thought I was 20 when I was 14 at the time. These sorts of encounters went on for many years, and came in quite useful in there own way. Getting me jobs way beyond my years, and also getting me into trouble. These days, it seems as though the pendulum has swung, and suddenly I am being mistaken for someone younger. I guess I can't complain. It is this very thing that makes the anti-wrinkle cream companies millions.

This first shot is me at 12 on a School excursion. Note the natty way I matched the cat motif on my sweater to the white loafers.

This is me on a family holiday at 14 with my baby brother. My mum made me this dress to my specifications and I remember feeling so sophisticated.

On my Sweet 16th, I chose a period costume for a themed party with all my theater friends. I still use any excuse for a costume party.

Lastly, this is me at 19. Not a costume party, but still a formal occasion. Once again, my infinitely talented mother made the dress, and the hat is my one piece of custom made millinery (to date).

You can probably tell by now that I have always had a love of fashion and a love of drama. No occasion was safe from me and my fantasy dressing. And that's still somewhat the case.

Daily Outfit

Coat dress - Ebay, Indigo wide leg jeans - Target, Stiletto boots - Joanne Mercier, Vintage Silk Scarf - Oroton

The coat dress is a navy taffeta with a bubble skirt effect and brass buttons. I love this one, (although, being taffeta it has that ability to announce your presence before you even reach the room). It is such an easy and stylish go to when I'm in a hurry. I can thank my Mum for this one. We both have a habit of buying things that either don't quite fit, or aren't quite right for each of us, and then swapping.

The scarf was a complete bargain for 20 cents at the Op shop, pure silk and just the right size. As for the jeans, I have had many over the years, and while I have loved my Sass and Bide ones to death, I find it very difficult to get just the right cut, colour and fabric composition. I like my jeans with a wide leg, but still fitted, not oversized; and have found that Target do some great little numbers with just the right amount of stretch and not too low cut on the waist. When you spend so much time bending around after kids, there is a great danger of looking like a tradesman.

So it is off for Sunday Brunch today. Heading out for Eggs Benedict and pancakes with my girls and my man. What lovely relaxing things are you doing for yourself this weekend?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Swanky Panky

One of the things you will learn about me is I am obsessed with decorating, and then re-decorating. I work room to room and then once I have finished I am likely to be inspired all over again. We moved house just over twelve months ago, and as I was heavily pregnant at the time, I didn't do much in the way of decorating. So I have been living in a passable, but fairly nana-ish environment for the better part of a year. As I slowly work on the Master bedroom, (I spent today re-painting furniture in a kind of Gothic Burlesque theme), I am busy thinking about how I would like to redo my kitchen. After seeing these very cute photos from Johanni, (you really must check out her photo stream. She has THE MOST amazing personal retro style) I am all inspired to paint my cabinetry in the same blue as her walls, and inject a little humor to the room.

So of course, off I went to the treasure trove that is the internet, looking for inspiration and lovely things to fill my kitchen with. So this weeks Swanky Panky is a little kitsch for the kitchen.

I just love this poster, so cheeky!

But this one is probably not such a good idea with a highly suggestible 3 year old around.

When things get a little too hot to handle, this trivet from The Vintage Kitchen should do the trick.

The tiles I have in the kitchen are a fairly non offensive cream colour, but I'm not so keen on the feature tile. It is very Australiana, a galah hanging from a gum leaf branch. (My fellow Australians will understand this cringe) So I was thinking of having them re-sprayed, but it costs a lot and may look quite shabby, so I am instead thinking of covering them with something like these decals.

I am not really into reproduction canisters and things (so over done!), but I do have some of those multi coloured Nally ones, just like my great grandmother had. Come to think of it, they could have been hers as I bought them from her local op shop, (although Great Nana dies many years ago). When I came across this vintage one on EbayI thought it was perfect for storing all chocolate and other treats in. A perfect reminder of what will happen to my arse should I choose to indulge.

And while I'm doing all this, I could recover the kitchen chairs too. I think that this Dick and Jane fabric from Repro Depot would work particularly well on those guests that go secretly ferreting for the cooking sherry after dinner.

** Re: Dressing your age from yesterday - I am going to track down some photos of my at about 19 for comparison. That should be interesting. **

Friday, May 23, 2008

How To Lose 10 Years in One Day.

How old do you think I am? A while ago, during a heated discussion with someone, I was handed what I decided to take as a backhanded compliment. "XX years?" they said, "You're not even XX years old!" Now this person had only just met me and had based their opinion purely on the way I was dressed. While I realise that I don't dress in the same manner as many of the mums, (or other women for that matter), around here; I do wonder what age I project.

So I wonder, what 'should' I be wearing at my age? I have no plans to change the way I dress, and I certainly don't base my style on trying to fit a mold, but I don't see how I dress as inappropriate for my age. Before I left my last job to have baby number two, I had some very shocked clients as they thought I was about 10 years younger than I actually am. They couldn't believe I was leaving to have a baby, let alone that I actually already had one!

I think that perhaps it is less that I don't dress my age, but perhaps that I dress with more exuberance than many my age. I guess it is all in the eye of the beholder and, for that matter, what your own social reference points are.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Daily Outfit

Black top - Trussadi Jeans, Skirt - SES, Black Corset Belt - Designed by me, Scarf - by me, OTK's - Target, Shoes - Hot Options

Just back from seeing Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. What wonderful costumes and locations! If you are needing to add a little fabulous to your day, I highly recommend it. The story is just a bit of fun, nothing heavy, but I could watch this one many times over for the visual feast it is.

This evenings outfit was based around this gorgeous pink fabric which I turned into a scarf this afternoon. It is freezing here at present, not snowing but we don't get that in the city. The OTK's are just a little too big, and probably not warm enough, but the little pink bows on the false seam were just too cute to pass up.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Style Icon - One Hot Mama

It seems that there are really only two types of Mums around here. Either you fit the mold of the Stay-At-Home mum, wearing your 'good' jeans for play dates and hair in a scrappy pony tail every day, while hanging out for a little 'me time' to do more scrap booking. Or those trying so (obviously) hard to be a 'Yummy Mummy', wearing so much bling they can barely lift their arms, and with acrylic nails so long it is surprising their children still have their eye sight. Now, I'm not knocking these mums for what they are (maybe just a little), but it can be a somewhat lonely journey as the only one wearing a fur trimmed coat and 4 inch Westwood style heels, to a winter play date. I do see some wonderfully stylish mothers in blog land, and in the fantasy that is celebrity-ville, but where are the rest? Should I be the only one at the supermarket with children in tow that doesn't look like I have been dragged backwards through a hedge?
Women of the past seemed to manage having children and dressing up in the same breath. What happened? It seems that comfort has become the enemy of style.

When it comes to stylish Mama's, one of my favorite gals is the indomitable Esther Williams. While she has a long list of film credits to her name, it is her private life that interests me more. Married four times, Esther was not shy is chasing what she wanted. Her autobiography, "Million Dollar Mermaid" is a wonderful read into the scandalous and surprising world of Hollywood at the time, (I highly recommend it). But not only is Esther an actress, world class swimmer and stunning beauty; she is also a mama to three. She is a wonderful example of just how glamorous a mother can be, while still having fun with her kids. Even while teaching them to swim she still manages to look gorgeous and put together. Although I have to admit that she has a lot of practice at looking fabulous in the water.

These days, at 86, Esther is still a model of polish and poise. I can only hope I look this immaculate at her age.

So my call to all the mamas out there is this. Having children does not negate you having a sense of style. Whether you wear cashmere or cotton, you will still get cereal on both, but only one will make you feel like a million dollars. So worth the extra laundry.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mama's Night Out - In Which I Fall Just a Little Bit In Love.

My Mum, Dad and I.

Last night I headed out with my family to Manchester Lane in Melbourne. A small Jazz club with a wonderful little restaurant attached. My Mum, being a lover of all things Deco, had organized the evening to see a great 1930's style band, The Cairo Club.

With their fabulous band stands and fez wearing musicians, they really were all that Jazz. (Why do Fezs' keep on appearing in this blog?) And while both the food and the music were fabulous, what really made my evening was this dandy chap.

He strode into the room wearing a black, fur trimmed over coat and white opera gloves. As he arrive at his table, he removed his coat to reveal a beautiful old style tuxedo with white tie, matching waistcoat and a carnation in his button hole. Joining his companions, he laughed gaily, remarking wittily on some anecdote from his day. In a room where only myself and my table were 'dressed', he was a beacon of style. Others had earlier hit the dance floor, and while they could dance up a storm, they were wearing jeans?! I mean really, why would you go to all the effort to learn to Tango like Gomez Addams, then arrive in jeans and a wind cheater? So it was in this environment that I saw this Gentleman, and unable to contain my delight, promptly made my way over to his table to request his photograph.

After I had introduced myself and asked to take his photo for my blog, I was met with an, "Oh I'd be delighted!" that Noel Coward would have been proud of. He cut quite the rug with his various partners (only let down by their appalling choice of attire), and had me marveling at his mannerisms all night. It was almost as though he was out of his time, and had me enthralled with his authenticity as I overheard him commenting to his companions on the "Huns". And so I am just a little bit in love. Not with a man, but with a character, and all the wonderful fantasy he brought to our evening.

Monday, May 19, 2008

How To - Wear Red Lipstick

In response to the requests of my delightful readers, I have decided to post a series of 'How to' articles. To start the ball rolling, today I am covering a topic near and dear to me; "How to Wear Red Lipstick". While there have been a plethora of magazine articles covering this topic over the years, my advice comes from personal experience. Red lips, in their varying shades, have been my trade mark since I was about 15 years old or so, and I have had all manner of nightmares and successes.

Before we begin, let me say that I am in no way paid to endorse any products mentioned here, I only mention them if I have personally tried them and found them to be successful.


Preparing your mouth.
While I have read articles touting the colour correcting benefits of certain red shades on stained teeth, I do not believe this is the case. If your teeth are stained, then using a particular shade of red to balance the colour, may trick the eye when in comes to the teeth; but if it is wrong for your skin tone, it is WRONG.

I suggest using whichever teeth whitening method is within your budget. Whether that is as simple as a whitening toothpaste, having bleach trays made by your dentist, or going the whole hog and having the laser smile thing done. Just don't over do it, you don't want to cause cornea damage every time you smile at someone.

Check your upper lip. If it is seen to be wanting, get thee to a beautician. When you draw all that attention to your mouth, you don't want a soup-strainer getting in the way of your new found glamour.
Give your lips a gentle exfoliation with a soft tooth brush to remove any dead skin cells.
Apply a good quality lip balm morning and night. I like to use one by L'Occitane, as I find the preparation works well alone or under the lipstick without getting sticky or causing the lipstick to 'melt'.

Small lips? Most advice will tell you to steer clear of red lipstick. While I don't advocate drawing in oversized lip lines and then filling them in, I do think there is still a place for red on the less well endowed lip. Two things are your friend. Lip plumpers (the Avon Beyond Colour lip plumper is a great cheap fix) and sheer reds, not gloss mind you, but sheer red lipstick. It is less intense and doesn't require a hard lip line.

Choosing a colour.
This is the hardest part for most people. Simply, you need to know whether you skin is a blue based or yellow based skin. I suggest using the old colour consultant trick and holding up a piece of fabric under your chin. Using a true yellow and a true blue fabric, hold each one alternately under your chin. Then see which colour makes you look more rested, more awake and your skin more alive. You will know straight away. Then which ever colour was best, is the base colour in the red that is right for you.

When shopping, if you are having trouble determining which is a blue red and which is a yellow red, rather than relying on the consultant, keep a little swatch of your fabric in your bag and hold the lipstick against it. Blue based reds will just look 'right' against the blue and visa versa. I test the colour on the inside of my arm as I find this is the closest skin colour match to my face.

Chosing a formula.
There is every kind of stay-on red lipstick out there, but I am yet to find one that truly does stay on, without making my lips feel like the Gobi desert by the end of the day. They are either sticky, drying, bleed or make my lips peel. Even the much touted 'lip seal' that Marilyn Monroe allegedly wore, doesn't work for me in the rigors of my day. So here is what I do. Chose a formula that is moisturising, creme not pear,l and with a good pigment. Getting a lipstick with good pigment is the key to a longer lasting look. They can all look red, but varying degrees of pigment is added in manufacturing and you need something with a higher pigment to wax ratio. When you are testing the colour on your skin, see which one leaves the most red stain on your hand after a quick wipe off with the tissue.

Choosing a Liner.
You'd be surprised just how important this is. I spend more money on my liners than on my lipstick. Many of the cheaper liners are either too hard (impossible to draw with) or too soft (melt and bleed into all the lines on your lips). I find almost all of the twist up liners to be too soft and have a low melting temperature. My best lip liner is by YSL, not too expensive, and always works a treat.

You have research, shopped and prepared your lips; now you want to add your perfect red lipstick. Apply your lip balm, then using a good quality liner, outline you lips, starting from the outside of the lip and working in towards the bow. This helps prevent you from creating a super sharp point on the top of the bow.
Use the lip liner to colour in the lip about 2/3's of the way. It will give the colour more staying power. Fill in your colour. You can use a lip brush to apply the colour, but I find this really makes no difference to its staying power and takes longer to apply. (Some say it gives better control, but if you aren't controlled enough to use a tube without getting it all over your face, then red lipstick really isn't for you!) Blot on a tissue and apply a little more. To avoid getting any on your teeth, pop one finger in your mouth allowing the lips to blot around the finger. It saves any embarrassing moments later on.

Take a stunning compact and your lipstick out with you to reapply after lunch. Learn to eat without your lips touching your fork, and avoid greasy food and hamburgers. That's all you have to do for a sirens red lips for the day.

While this may all sound like a lot, the process only takes one minute. It is all in choosing the right products. And while I could have given you a long list of choices, I hope I have rather given you the information to find the right products to suit you budget.

So now you know how I do it, if you haven't already, give it a try. Your inner Vamp is just waiting for her moment.