Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2016 Art Deco Weekender in Napier, NZ - I'M GOING!!!!

Back in January of 2014 I went on a holiday with my family to New Zealand, and fell in love with the town of Napier.  You can read that post here.  In that blog post I expressed a wish to go to the Art Deco Weekender.  Well, it didn't happen this year, but it is happening next year!

The Tour Master Extraordinaire of the group of ladies that I travel with organised a trip to the weekender in February 2016.  How she managed to find a hotel with 5 available rooms is beyond me!  There were 10 spots available, and they went like lightening.  I was so lucky to get one!

But get one I did.  Now for the fun bit - OUTFIT PLANNING!

As much as I would love to put together an amazing purely vintage wardrobe for the event, I just can't afford to do it.  So I've decided to make my outfits, and have vintage accessories wherever possible.   

The next question to ask is what era to make.  A lot of the photos I've seen of the event show lots of 1920s outfits BUT the town of Napier was rebuilt in the Art Deco style between 1931 and 1934, so I decided to concentrate on patterns from the early 1930s.  Not only is it more historically accurate for the town, its much more forgiving on my figure!

Then there is the question of WHAT to make.  Thank goodness for Evadress!  I wrote down all the events included on the itinerary (even though there are so many other things we might do, this gave me a place to start), and thought about what I might like to wear to each of them as I dawdled through the 11 pages of 1930s patterns, trying to concentrate most of my attention on the patterns from 1930 to 1935.

It was hard, but this is what I've come up with.

Marian Martin 9963

This first one isn't from Evadress.  Its a pattern I've had in my Etsy favourites for a little while.  We are arriving in Napier on Thursday afternoon, so I though this could be my outfit for whatever we get up to Thursday evening.  The fact that it has a little jacket will make it perfect for twilight near the ocean.

Friday during the day we are going to a clothing market and a guided walk of Napier's CBD.  In this outfit I think I will look elegant whilst elbowing people out of the way to get to the bargains.  And then later when I put the jacket on to wander Napier, hopefully people won't realise I'm the same person.

Friday night we are going to a dinner dance, where some poor person is gong to have to teach me how to do the Charleston.  This dress made in a chiffon will be pretty, era appropriate, AND light and floaty to dance in.

Saturday morning is a visit to a church garden fete, or a sale at the Surf Life Saving Club, so I have picked another perfect-to-elbow-in dress and jacket ensemble.  I'm hoping to track down a vintage lace collar for this one.

This next outfit is going to be a frankenpattern based on this outfit.

How beautiful are these ladies!  I'm completely in love with the beach pajama outfit on the left.  Yes the stripes are going to be a complete pain in the behind, but it will be worth it!

I can draft the top half of the beach pajamas, but I have no experience in drafting pants.  Luckily I found this pattern:

Yes its from the 1970s, but the pants look pretty much identical.  So despite the fact that I feel weird about using a pattern from the 70s to emulate something from the 30s, I'll be doing it anyway.  I will also make a jacket (cause you never know what the weather is going to be like) using the Marian Martin pattern above.

I plan on wearing this outfit on Saturday afternoon.  We will be going to the fashion parades and other fun things that will be going on at the Sound Shell, which is right by the sea side - hence the beach pajama outfit.

Saturday night we will be going to the Silver Slipper Ball, so I think a 1930s gown is in order.  I have used this pattern before to make a dress to wear to the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries Speakeasy in Melbourne (see it here).  This time I think I'm going to step it up by making the dress from lace, and wearing it with a nude coloured slip.

Well I thought I was going to do that... then Pamela Smith had to go and show me this.

I now have a bruise under my chin from where my jaw fell open and hit the table.  Isn't it amazing!!!  I've now decided that I will make the other gown, but if I have time before I leave, I'll make this one too.  Then the tough decision will have to be made when I get dressed for the ball.

Sunday is the day of the Gatsby Picnic, so of course I need a gorgeous tea frock to wear!  I'm going to make the one on the left.  I love the attached cape!

Sunday night we are having dinner at the Masonic Hotel (which is the hotel I stayed in when I was there in 2014, so there are photos of it in the blog post I linked to at the start), and I already have the gown cut out in a gorgeous jade rayon crepe, so I figured why not finish it for this night out?  The Masonic is definitely worthy of an amazing gown.

Monday morning it will all be over, and we will be on our way home.  I would love to make this dress to go home in style, but I have lots of other things to sew!  If I have time I will make it, if not I will save it for another time.

So what do you think?  I've got a lot of work ahead of me, but I think its going to make interesting reading!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sew Retro Rose, Where Have You Been!!!

Its true, I have been absent from this blog for a while.

I have been struggling with my mental health for a while now, and managing everything just got too much for me.  I probably should have let you all know what was happening, but I couldn't manage that either.

And then the holiday that my husband and I had been looking forward to for a whole year was upon us.  A four week long trip to Dubai, England, and Paris.  I've decided for my first post back I should do a holiday summary!

So, on our holiday I :

- Rode a camel in the Arabian Desert

This whole afternoon/evening was a pretty amazing experience culminating in a talk by an astronomer.  We lay around on rugs and pillows in a traditional camp with all the lights off while the astronomer showed us constellations and explained how the Bedouins navigated by the stars.

- Saw a real life Dior New Look suit in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London

I may have stood at the glass with my mouth hanging open for a bit...

- Shopped for my dinner in the Harrods Food Hall

Steve was out late with the cricket team he is part of, so instead of going to a restaurant on my own, I went shopping at Harrods!  Champagne, cheese, a slice of delicious terrine, and some chocolate truffles.  Mmmmmmm

- Drank a magnum of Verve at Lords Cricket Ground (yes, I did share)

In Australia there is absolutely no way you would be allowed to take this much glass into a stadium, let alone the fact that its full of full strength alcohol.

- Got a new tattoo

 Its Miss Stella!!!
Thanks so much to Hannah Calavera for the tattoo and the photo

- Watched my husband play cricket against The Royal Household at Windsor Castle (the Queen drove past, and Prince Phillip stopped his car to watch a few overs)

 It was located in the grounds of Windsor Castle, and we required security clearance and photo ID to get in.  It was a perfect day even though we lost...

- Visited some fabulous English pubs

 I just loved how all the pubs were covered in flowers!  Actually, pretty much everything in England was covered in flowers!!!

- Drank more champagne

 These particular photos were taken at a ground at Broad Half-penny Downs, which was right across a country lane from a pub called The Bat and Ball (where the rules of cricket were first written down) and we drank them out of Verve Cliquot, then we drank them out of Moet, and then we drank them out of Collet (another french champagne).  We were on fire.

- Was lost for words at Winchester Cathedral

Saint George's Chapel at Windsor Castle brought me to tears, but this one just blew me away.  Absolutely incredible.

- Attended a formal dinner in the Long Room at Lords Cricket Ground to celebrate our (the Sydney Cricket Ground XI's) game against the MCC

 Steve had spent all day in the Member's Pavilion at Lords, as the team played there that day.  Being able to join him for a formal dinner was a wonderful experience.

- Wandered around Highgate Cemetery

 I have wanted to go to this Victorian era cemetery since I read a couple of books that featured it.  What an amazing, magical, surreal place!

- Saw the Fashion On The Ration exhibition at the Imperial War Museum

You weren't allowed to take photos of this exhibition (but I took one - sneaky sneaky!), and wonderful though it was, I found it was like going through my friends wardrobes, but with captions!

- Saw Big Ben (or at least, the tower in which Big Ben hangs)

So I had no idea that Big Ben was the name of the bell, not the tower....

- Saw my most opulent room to date at the Ópera National de Paris (don't mention Versailles to me. I am NOT HAPPY about missing it)

My jaw just dropped.  So did my husbands.

- Saw lots of dancing boobies at Moulin Rouge

Great fun show!  Lots of (small) naked dancing boobies.  And feathers.  SO MANY FEATHERS!!!!

...and last but not least
- Kissed my husband on top of the Arc de Triomphe overlooking the Champs Élysées 

There are so many more things that I could have highlighted here.  So many.  But I hope this gave you a glimpse into what I experienced.  I have lots of fun things coming up and some great plans for this blog.  I'm back and I'm invigorated!

Have any of you done or seen what I have?  I'd love to hear what you thought!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Guest Post : Baking Coco-nut Cakes with Melanie

Hi everyone! I’m Mel and Beccie has been kind enough to let me take over a post here at her blog today! Usually, I blog about cooking and baking over at ChocMintCupcake.com, but I’ve been on a bit of a cooking hiatus lately. So I’m using this opportunity to share a nice recipe with you, and to launch a big project that will continue on over at my blog.

Firsty, a bit about me and the project! 

Among many other vintage-related hobbies, I am a collector. But the root of all my vintage obsessions is kitchenalia. While I inherited a love of antiques from my mum, I didn’t really start collecting until I stumbled across a pastel blue Sunbeam Mixmaster online somewhere, then Smeg released a blue retro reproduction fridge and I fell in love with that beautiful duck egg colour. These days, somewhat ironically, the only kitchen items I still need to consider my collection complete are the mixers and the fridge. 

But from this obsession, I acquired a lot of other kitchen-related items, developed a love for baking and cake decorating, and inherited (and bought) many, many vintage cookbooks. At the moment, they make pretty displays on the tea caddy which sits on my (antique) dining room table, form a nice display in a cube full of books and knick-knacks in my living room… and are displayed in the kitchen too.

My favourite vintage cookbook is the Good Housekeeping Cooking Compendium that I bought from Kijaro Vintage last year. But as much as I love it, the closest it’s been to being used is as a prop for a photo shoot. 

So today, in my guest post, I’m making a promise to get those cookbooks out, around once a month, and recreate something from them and blog about it. I’m also going to follow instructions and try and cook the vintage way. This means: no Thermomix, no mix master (unless it’s a book that instructs me to use it). It also means I’ll probably be cooking with more ‘vintage’ ingredients — that is, more ingredients from a can or processed, like tinned pineapple — just to keep some authenticity. 

I also want to talk a little bit about where the books came from, how they’re written compared to modern books and do a little research on vintage cooking. It’s a chance to make sure I can cook without the aid of modern appliances, but also learn about vintage cookbook publishing! 

In the next couple of days I’ll pop some more details up on my blog about how the project will work, but for now, onto the book and recipe I’m starting with…

The book I’ve chosen is one that’s much coveted in my family, The Esk Valley CWA Cookery Book.

This book comes out of the various branches of the CWA in the Esk Valley in Tasmania and I’ve seen a few different editions spread throughout my family. I tried to pinch a more modern copy off a cousin once, but it didn’t work out! Karma was good to me though and I inherited a much older, much more exciting copy from a great-aunt who was downsizing. My research tells me it’s a third edition, and while it’s not dated, I’m pretty sure this is late 50s (the fourth edition was ‘prior to 1966’).

It’s tiny, not very thick at all, but the recipes aren’t set out with really detailed instructions, so there are quite a few per page. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who isn’t familiar and happy to find their way around the kitchen, because the directions assume you know the order to add ingredients to a cake, or make a brine or mince. For example, C. Panitzki’s recipe for Christmas Mince Mean has a list of ingredients and then says: “Mince all together, add a little brandy and put in a jar for a few weeks.”

One of the other things I really love about this book are the ads. Selling ads would have helped with printing costs back in the days where printing wasn’t as accessible as it is now. 

Now as a food blogger, I can tell you republishing recipes without the publisher’s permission is a no-no. But in this case, because these came from housewives’ kitchens with the intention they were shared, and because the way the recipes are written really provide the point of interest, I’m going to give you one. Also, copyright says that if you modify a recipe, it’s okay to share it. I’ve had to modify the measurements from imperial to metric.

I wanted to go for something small for a start, and I’m a confident cake baker, so I chose H.J. Heathcote of Campbell Town’s ‘Coco-nut Cakes (1).’ Yes, there are two hyphenated coco-nut cake recipes in the book!

141 grams self-raising flour
85 grams of sugar
70 grams of butter
1 egg
Pinch of salt
Desiccated coconut for rolling (I used around a ¼ of a cup)

The verbatim instructions say: “Mix well, roll in coco-nut, put on buttered tin and bake until light brown, about 15 minutes.”

My more modern instructions to you would be: 
  • Soften your butter slightly so it’s easy to incorporate, then mix all ingredients together.
  • Roll into small balls (around a teaspoonful of mix) and through the coconut.

  • Place on a spray-greased cooking tray (or baking paper if you prefer not to use spray oils)

  • Bake in a moderate oven (mine is electric, not fan forced and I went at about 280 degrees Celsius) until light brown, which is around 15 minutes

Be warned, they spread quite a bit!! So while I made mine quite big, you might like to reduce your mixture down for a more delicate cake.  

What they come out like is more like what my late Nanna would have described as a rock cake; something between a biscuit and a cake. They’re light and delicious, and go really well as a light morning tea.

If you’re interested in The Esk Valley CWA Cookery Book I found quite a few links to various editions on like this one on Amazon and other second hand book sellers for around $10-20 AUD.


Thank you so much for your post Melanie!  I'm off to pre-heat my oven and make a pot of tea...


Friday, June 26, 2015

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries Weekend

As vintage loving gals, I'm pretty sure you will have heard of this show...

If you haven't, you might want to acquaint yourself with it!  This brilliant Australian-made production centres around the enigmatic femme-fatale Miss Phryne Fisher and her cohorts as she fights crime amid the priviledged wealth and gritty backstreets of 1928 Melbourne.  It is beautifully filmed in historic locations around Melbourne and the highly stylised late 1920s fashion fantasy from costume designer Marion Boyce never ceases to inspire me!

An exhibition of costumes from series three was announced earlier in the year, along with a bunch of events - a 'Festival of Phryne' - and my friends and I could not plan a weekend away fast enough!  We chose three events to attend, a speakeasy, a high tea, and the exhibition itself.  We also decided to have a whole 20s/30s themed weekend, staying in a historic hotel and going to see Anything Goes at the theatre!

Here is a photo of our gorgeous hotel

The Hotel Charsfield is a beautiful, incredibly well maintained hotel in Melbourne, but if you want to go and stay there, you need to do it quickly, because early next year it is going to be pulled down and replaced with an apartment building.  So sad....  They are keeping the facade because they have to, but thats just not good enough in my opinion.


After checking in and exploring, we all got frocked up to attend Miss Fisher's Speakeasy at Old Melbourne Gaol.

You might have seen the dress I am wearing on my facebook page.  I made it using this Evadress pattern, and some rayon crepe from fabric.com

To say I love this dress is an understatement.  I felt so amazing in it, it is now my most favourite dress!

We met more friends at the gaol and drank and talked the night away.

It was nice to see other people dressed up for the occasion.  Some had made a really good go at period costume, but the short skirt/sequined headband/feather boa brigade were also well represented.

The following day was Phryne's Fashionable High Tea at Labassa House.  I had concentrated on making appropriate evening wear for the weekend, so decided to wear one of my favourite 1940s outfits topped off with a 1920s silver fox fur.

Let me tell you a bit about the location for the high tea - Labassa.  It is easily the most beautiful house I have ever had the pleasure of spending time in.  It epitomises all my ideas of 'faded glory'.

This house, originally built in 1862 with 8 rooms, was expanded to its current form in 1889 when the new owner asked the architect to "Build me the most magnificent house in Melbourne".  Labassa was born.  The house grew to 35 rooms,every surface was ornamented, and the grounds swelled from 12 to 15 acres.

Labassa changed hands several times, and in 1919 it fell into a long period of neglect and slow decay.  The interior was scared by its conversion to flats, and the grounds were sold off piece by piece, with houses encroaching on all sides.  There was even a house built on the forecourt where we are standing in the above photo with its back fence just six feet from the front of the house.  And at one point in the late 1970s, it was only the high cost of demolition that saved it!

Thankfully, due to a large corporate donation, the National Trust was able to purchase the property in 1980 and has been working on its restoration ever since, including purchasing the house on the forecourt and demolishing it, so Labassa's noble facade could once more be seen an enjoyed.

Here are the photos I took of the interior.  I spent an awful lot of time looking up.

I just loved the trompe l'oeil painted on the ceiling above the staircase.  Restoring it was an 18 month labour of love, and was well worth it!  If you want to read more about Labassa - have a look here.  I hope it is open when I am next in Melbourne, and I can join one of the guided tours to learn more about the house.

Oh!  I almost forgot!  Labassa was featured in series 2 episode 1, when it was transformed into a gentlemen's club.  Thats the episode where Phryne pretends to be a burlesque dancer to catch the crims, and does an amazing fan dance in the process!

After stuffing ourselves with cake, and taking in the beautiful house, we headed back to the hotel to get ready to go out to the theatre.

I hadn't heard much about this show to be honest, but who doesn't love a trip to the theatre!  AND they had provided a bit of red carpet for photo ops out the front!
This is the second dress I made for the weekend - from this Decades of Style pattern

Now this has to be possibly the fattest photo I've seen of me in a while, but its the only photo of us all together, so I am posting it anyway.  At least you can see the divine 1920s silk velvet cape I wore!

The show itself was wonderful - great songs, incredible costumes, and wonderful whole cast dance numbers.  There were four seamstresses there (including me) and we were all taking mental notes in our heads on how to recreate our favourites!

Sunday was our day at the exhibition, which was being held at Rippon Lea.  Another amazing property owned by the National Trust that features heavily in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.  Its where Aunt Prudence lives!

Our little group wandering up the drive towards Rippon Lea

Rippon Lea was built on a large parcel of land between 1868 and 1903, but there isn't just a house - there are extensive gardens, a lake (complete with waterfalls and islands, all connected with bridges), a grotto, and a huge fernery.  Amazingly, its all still there!

Some land was subdivided off when the estate was sold on the death of the original owner, but luckily the man who bought it to subdivide died before he could do any more!  There was a close call in the 1960s though.  In 1954 the Australian Broadcasting Commission purchased two acres of paddock to build TV studios for the Melbourne Olympics, and when they wanted more space in 1963, the government announced a compulsory acquisition of 4.1 acres.  Thing is, the bit they wanted to take included the lake, waterfall and grotto - so the most important bits of the landscaping!  The owner of the home - who wanted to preserve it and bequeath it to the National Trust - fought until her death in 1972 to keep the estate together.  When it was passed into the hands of the National Trust at that time, the government gave back the land they had compulsorily acquired.  THANK GOODNESS!

The house is the perfect place to hold this exhibition, as the clothes just look so wonderful in the surroundings!  And so did we!

 Although I did hear a couple of people saying it was wonderful to see so many people at the exhbition 'in costume'....

This outfit is my favourite, and I would love to recreate it for next summer!

 I just love this use of trim.  And while I don't wear coats this shape, this is definitely an idea I could borrow!

This delightful boudoir ensemble started out its life as a table cloth...

There were many many more outfits on display, but I could not possibly photograph every one of them.  And thank fully I didn't have to - I was able to buy the book instead!

After taking in the house and the exhibition, we took a tour around the gardens.  I really am glad they were able to keep the whole place in one piece.

It truly was a magnificent weekend.  I really enjoy spending time with these ladies, some of which I haven't seen for 12 months.  Getting together with like-minded people is something we should all do more of.  Its good for our souls.

So, does anyone have plans to see the exhibition?