Sunday, May 1, 2016

One Is The Loneliest Number

Two weeks ago I had to make an extremely difficult decision and while I knew it had to be done, it didn't make it any less heartbreaking.    Ginger and Ruby (my beloved pet rats, for those of you not regular readers) have gone to a new home.

When I got them, I knew I would be most likely be allergic to them, but initially, the allergic reaction, which has been primarily respiratory, was manageable.   But then I started getting more and more respiratory infections, and have been suffering from a serious respiratory illness since the end of February.  The coughing became constant, and a couple of weeks ago I ended up in my Doctor's office extremely short of breath.  A chest x-ray and a prescription for 5 days of steroids later, I knew I'd reached the end of the line.   Many people would have make the decision earlier than I did, and I have no other excuse other than I loved them, and in return, they provided companionship, entertainment and affection.  When you have lived alone for as long as I have, you realize that sharing a home with another human being may not be in the cards, but sharing a home with a pet is the next best thing (and possibly the preferred option).

I know they are being well cared for, and I am able to visit them, but it has been very difficult to come home to an empty apartment.  Many of the people I've told about having to give up my pets have responded with "Well, your health comes first", which is true, but these people all live with partners, children, or pets, and don't understand the loneliness that can come with living a solitary life.  It's been challenging to find a new routine that keeps me distracted from their absence, and I haven't felt much like writing, hence the long time between posts.   I've had time to question whether I want to continue my blog, and if so, what that will look like, as I've grown tired of promoting other people's creative work when I would like to spend more time working on my own.  We'll see what happens.  In the meantime, I'm still reading and commenting on other blogs, and I'm enjoying posting to my instagram which is @fcfashionista.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Rites of Spring - the Vintage Edition

On Sunday, April 10th, I took the Greyhound to Toronto for Gadsden's Toronto Vintage Clothing Show, which has become a rite of Spring for me.  The show, which features approximately 30 vendors, is held in the light-filled space of Artscape Wychwood Barns, and can be covered in a couple of hours, which makes it perfect for a day trip.  This would be the fourth year in a row that I have attended this show, and I am very grateful to Wendy Gadsden for her support of my blog and always making me feel so welcome when I come to the show.

 photo by Yank Azman
Let's get the important things out of the way first, ie. what did I wear?  When you're spending 2 hours each way on a bus, and doing lots of walking in between, comfort is equally as important as style.   It was also really cold, which called for layers. 
Vintage faux fur leopard print jacket - Mesh Boutique
Calvin Klein jeans - thrifted
Boots - Beacon's Closet 
1940's hat - The Sentimentalist

I found this vintage handbag at a neighbourhood thrift store for $1, and thought it deserved a day out as it coordinated beautifully with my grey-green persian lamb coat.  I was a little concerned that perhaps the whole package was a bit too "old lady", but I was reassured by a number of the vendors that was not the case.  I haven't carried a purse for years (I wear a cross-body bag all the time) so it was strange having to hold it all the time, and I worried I would set it down and forget it somewhere.

One of the first people I saw at the show was Erica Peck, owner of WILDTHING VINTAGE.  I loved her 60's Mod outfit.  WILDTHING has lots of fun, colourful, and well-priced clothing and accessories.

This fab matador vest is a spectacular statement piece -  a steal at $28, from WILDTHING VINTAGE

At the Spring show, the venue is full of colour - blues and greens, pinks and oranges, and lots of sunny yellow.  Clockwise from left:  Royal Hawaiian dress, beaded cardigan, and embroidered jacket all from WILDTHING VINTAGE; multi-coloured pleated dress from Breathless Vintage

There were lots of pretty spring and summer dresses available, such as the flower print one on the left from Treasure Chicks Vintage.  I was drawn to the grey dress with the subtle contrast stitch detail on the right from Joie de Vintage for its chic simplicity.

This lovely mother and daughter had dressed up for the show

Most of the clothing at the show I like is often too small for me so I tend to focus on the accessories.  I loved the large red and black plastic cuffs on display at Renee Piche's booth (left).  All but the bottom two on the stand were designed by Jean Marie Poinot.  The fabulous copper belt in the upper right photo was at the Dear Hazel May booth, and the colourful hat in the bottom right is from Factory Girl Vintage.

This one-of-kind sculptural necklace from The Bead Goes On was made by a German sculptor in the late 1960's.

There were some cool accessories for the guys too, like this Renzo Romagnoli "Hemingway" Bar Set covered in Ostrich printed leather from Andrew Zegers Design.

The majority of the items at the show are from the periods between the 1950's - 1980's, but there are some vendors who have pieces from earlier decades, like this stunning embroidered cape from the late 1800's at Gadabout Vintage.

Gadabout also had the 1920's hats (with doll in the top left photo) and multi-buttoned boots (bottom left) that look to be from the late 1800's or early 1900's.  Mother/daughter team Judith Mureika & Julia Wright from Hamilton had hosiery from the 1920's and a package of beautiful beaded appliques from the 1950's.

I so enjoy catching up with the very charming and entertaining Yank Azman, who has a booth with his wife Pulver at the show.

Yank and Pulver had a marvelous collection of handmade leather novelty brooches from the 1930's - 1940's for sale, and even though it's not the style of jewellery I usually wear, I fell in love with this little blue glove holding the leash of two Scottie dogs, and the extremely reasonable price meant it was coming home with me.

While I was chatting with Yank, we spied this woman trying on the orange and green spring coat and orange hat from Gadabout Vintage, expressing delight at finding the perfect orange gloves at a different booth.

Each of the items at Breathless Vintage had been given a name, which added a note of whimsy.

I was so glad to have an opportunity to visit with Samantha Howard (that's her son next to her) at her booth.  She carries swoon-worthy pieces of Scandinavian and Canadian Modernist jewellery and it was really nice to find out she was so friendly.  I felt like I had discovered another kindred spirit, which has become a large part of why I go to vintage shows like these.  I love spending time with other people who are knowledgeable, and passionate, about clothing and accessories from previous decades.

I admired (more like lusted after) this breathtaking Canadian Modernist necklace from brutalist jewellery designer Guy Vidal at Samantha Howard Vintage.

I manage to run into this young woman every time I attend this show and it's always a treat to see what she's wearing. 

How could I not get a closeup shot of her adorable vintage shoes?

You can find dates and locations for upcoming vintage and antique shows run by Gadsden Promotions on their website.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Swanning Around in Stratford

I mentioned in a post back in the fall that my mother had moved to a senior's apartment complex in Stratford, Ontario, which meant it was possible for me to visit her more often as there is a train that runs from London to Stratford .  It was her birthday this weekend so at the unreasonable hour of 7:30 am, I was on a train headed to the home of the Stratford Festival, and the annual Swan Parade.

Stratford's City Hall, built in 1898, and designated a National Heritage Site in 1976.   It was threatened with demolition in the 60's and again in the 70's but was saved by a local citizen's group. 

The swan has been the symbol of Stratford since 1918 when the city received a pair of them as a gift, (there is even a book called The Swans of Stratford, written by Robert Millar) and each year in the April, Stratford hosts a Swan Weekend, the highlight of which is the Swan Parade, where the city's swans make the journey from their winter headquarters down to the Avon River, accompanied by the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums Band.  Above is BJ the Swan, who was greeting people and giving out swan hugs (of course I got one, as the opportunity to hug a swan does not present itself often).  It was below 0 degrees and snowing, his "Keep Calm and Freeze On" sign was very appropriate.  The light snow fall turned into a blizzard about an hour after I took these photos.

Part of the weekend celebration included free horse and carriage rides
The downtown merchants hold a "Swan Quest" in which you could win a shopping spree by voting for your favourite decorated topiary swan.  Optical Design's creation, Elton Swan, complete with hat, cool specs and a keyboard, was my favourite.  The glamorous pearls and curls swan was also very well done.  Just look at those eyelashes!

The actual parade took place Sunday afternoon, and unfortunately, I wasn't able to see it, but here is a professionally shot video of the Swan Parade from last year, when it was obviously much warmer.  It's 6 minutes long, but if you have the time to watch, it shows off part of Stratford's charming downtown, and is a great capture of the parade.

The swans weren't the only critters out on the weekend.  Watson's Chelsea Bazaar had some wonderful metal goats and chickens in their window.  I also liked the jointed wood fox seated by the smaller goat.  Watson's has beautiful housewares and gifts, and they also have two store cats, which makes it one of my favourite places to browse.

Another one of my favourite places to visit is Martingale Vintage, owned by the lovely Kelly, whom I enjoy catching up with when I'm in town.   I picked up this heavy cotton jacket from her sale rack for $15.

I also took home this made-in-Bucharest fur hat, and will readily admit that my decision to purchase this was heavily influenced by the fact that it was cold with blowing snow, and I had not dressed appropriately for the weather.  I wore the hat all day, and it kept my head cozy without being too warm.  Kelly and I debated about what kind of fur it was, and rabbit was suggested, and also, because of the colours, we thought it could even be skunk (no smell though).

If those of you who live in other parts of Canada, or other countries are wondering if Spring has arrived in my neck of the woods yet, this photo of the view outside my front door, taken a few minutes ago, should answer your question.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Free to Be....You and Me

There was some buzz that went around my blogging community recently about an online chat that took place between three 50+ women bloggers around the topic of how to go from "Frumpy to Fabulous".  At the end of the discussion, the topic of what messages do we send with our clothing. Specifically referencing women who appear on Advanced Style, the suggestion was made was that women who dressed "loudly" did so because they were "hurting inside" and that they were desperately trying to combat the "invisibility" that can come with ageing by being the "loudest presence in the room".

A couple of my friends, Suzanne and Melanie, addressed this in posts on their blogs, and while I didn't want to duplicate what had already been written, it did inspire me to take a look at some of my recent outfits and wonder, "does this woman look desperate/insecure/in emotional pain?

I felt very chipper in this outfit.  Orange and grey is one of my favourite colour combinations (it avoids the Halloween associations of black and orange).  I think that aside from the colour, this is a pretty tame outfit.  The Biba jacket and Danier skirt were both thrifted.

For the sake of making a less boring photo, I did this.  I would agree that in this photo, I do look like I could be having an emotional breakdown, but I also could have just found out that I won $60 million dollars, and I think this would have been the perfect response had that been the case.

This was what I wore today.  It was cold, so I thought I'd get in one wearing of this wool patchwork skirt I purchased a couple of months ago at a neighbourhood vintage store.  Unfortunately, the owner of the store is not very careful about the quality of the stock she's selling, and most of the clothing, including this skirt, has multiple moth holes (I had it dry cleaned and it's kept in a plastic bag to prevent any infestations).   The hat was a gift from a friend of the Style Crone, the moto-style jacket from Le Chateau and my trusty 1990's raver Swear boots, which still make an appearance now and then.  I got a few side-eyes, but I also got a lot of smiles, which made an already bright day even brighter.  I don't know what the people who smiled thought of me, most likely they just appreciated the whimsy of my hat and its faux dreadlocks.  Or maybe they thought I was desperate for attention.  Who knows,  and more importantly, who cares?

I will agree, I look silly here, but it was because my boxy, cotton 80's sweater and my giant jeans were making me feel that way, and even though it was not one of my most flattering outfits, I felt comfortably visible.   I am even flashing my 54 year old midriff (which was just for the photo -when my arms are lowered, the sweater covers my mid-section). OMG, a woman in her mid-50's is showing her bare stomach on the internet.  Cover your children's eyes, everyone!

 All decorum is restored, except for the fact that the sweater is made of knit strips of different colours, woven together which means there are little squares through which my actual skin can be seen, if you look hard enough.  Who knows what the people in my office thought about me the day I wore this.

My point is, does it really matter what others think your choice of clothing says about you?  In certain situations like a job interview, an audition, or a meeting with the Pope, the answer would be yes.  But on a regular day, most people are too wrapped up in their own life to give much thought to what some over-50 dame is wearing, and if they do, and the thought is along the line of "what crazy shit is that woman wearing?", is that going to make me question my style choices?  No.  I know I'm an intelligent, creative, and interesting person who encourages and supports creativity and self-expression in others.   What is crazy (and sad) is when women publicly question the mental stability emotional well-being of other women because of their non-conformist style choices. 

Late addition - Kathryn, who is the line of communication to and from my lovely St. Louis fan club (whose members are dwindling as the ancients depart this world) sent me the Weird Mantra today:
Blessed are the WEIRD people.....
The poets and the misfits,
The artists, the writers, the musicmakers,
The dreamers and the outsiders.....
for they force us to see the world differently
and that is how we become real.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

I'll Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

 I've spent the past two weeks knocked out by the flu (this would be the year I didn't get the flu shot) which at least gave me something else to think about besides the Bowie Dance Party -  when you're running a fever for 4 days straight, you stop caring about whether anyone came to your party or not.  Anyway, aside from the lingering cough, I seem to be getting better which meant it was time to write something.
When I first announced I was having a David Bowie Dance party, lots of people told me what a great idea it was, and how they were looking forward to being there.  After all, there are lots of David Bowie fans everywhere, even in conservative London, Ontario, right?  When you are offering treats, prizes, and a great music performance for the paltry sum of $5,  how could people not want to come?  It was promoted all over the media, including two local radio stations, in the Downtown London newsletter, the local paper, and shared all over Facebook.  I put up posters all over downtown and handed out cards advertising the event.

Even though everyone who hosts an event knows there's a risk that no one will show up, nothing prepared me for the moment when it was 15 minutes after the advertised start time of the party, and only three people had turned up.  My heart plummeted to the soles of my platform boots.    Heather kept patting my shoulder and saying "more people will come".   And she was right, but the event I envisioned as an occasion to bring together Bowie fans here in London to celebrate his creative genius turned into a small get-together for the wonderful group of friends who support all (or at least most) of my hair-brained schemes.   Of the 35 people that came, there were a few people I didn't know, including a lovely woman around my age, a fan of my blog, who came by herself and proceeded to dance to every song.  A work colleague brought her 5 year old daughter, who seemed to think it was a great party.  And in fact, that seemed to be the general opinion of the people who were there, so to all of you, who for one reason or another decided not to come, you missed a good party.

I asked Heather to take a photo of my costume while we were setting up, and it turned out to be the only photo I have of me from the evening.  I was The Star(Wo)Man, and although it's hard to tell from the photo, I had silver stars painted on my face.

My best pal, who had spent weeks driving me all over to pick up supplies, was there that night to help with setup and moral support.  She even let me paint an Aladdin Sane lightning bolt on her face, a sign of a true friend who is not big Bowie fan.

The snack table was loaded and ready to go.  I made buttons with Bowie song titles and lyrics for people to take home as souvenirs.

A work colleague made banana brownies for a bake sale we had last fall, and they were sooo delicious, I hired her to make them for the party, and figured if we added a chocolate star, we could call them Bowie Black Star Banana Brownies.   They went over very well, and I encouraged people to take some home for their friends.

Grace Grant and her dad set up her equipment and did a sound check before we opened the doors.  I love that Grace  dyed her hair orange to go with her costume from the "Life On Mars" video.

Jim Telfer, owner of Grafica Event Planners and Splash Home Decor, graciously loaned me a couple of laser lights that created a cool Space Oddity atmosphere.

One of the local roller derby girls brought her daughter Keira, who when she found out there was a costume contest, put together the most adorable Bowie outfit.  She was the hit of the party, and aside from Grace and I, the only other person who came in costume.

Becca did a brilliant job on her Aladdin Insane face makeup which won her a prize package donated by Jackpot Vintage and Shakin Katz Radio.   Prizes had also been donated by From Mars and Grooves Record Store.   

Grace Grant put on a spectacular performance, celebrating the music of David Bowie with a set list that included Space Oddity, Quicksand, Kooks, and Ziggy Stardust.

She channelled her inner Bowie spirit right down to her platform shoes

Thank you so very much to Grace Grant, the people who donated prizes and otherwise helped out, and those of you who came to the party.   Think of the event as a thank you party for all the support you've shown me over the years.

Monday, February 22, 2016

It's My Party & I'll Cry If I Want To*

*AKA Event Planning 101

There were certainly tears shed all over the world when David Bowie died.  New York declared a "David Bowie Day", Arcade Fire and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band held a Second Line for Bowie in New Orleans, and Toronto's Choir!Choir!Choir! sang their arrangement of Space Oddity at the Art Gallery of Ontario (you can watch the video here)  I wanted to do something here in London, Ontario that would bring local Bowie fans together to celebrate his life and music.

In the four weeks since I made the decision to do this event, I've learned a lot about successful event planning.  I'm sure there are books, websites, etc. dedicated to this subject, but for me, I just went with my instincts, and it went like this...

1.  Get an idea
2.  Tell yourself it's a great idea, and there is no reason why you can't pull it off.
3.  Make a list of everything you have to do, buy, etc.
4.  Be surprised and grateful when all the people you ask for help say yes.
5.  Spend a lot of time and money
6.  Promote, Promote, Promote
7.  Pray to whatever deity you believe in that enough people show up so you can cover your costs.
8.  Hope everyone has a good time

And that's where I'm at today, after spending last night cutting out giant paper stars to decorate the wall of the venue, and still have to put together my own costume.

I wish all of my blogging friends could be here to join in the fun.  If you're in London, Ontario, come out and dance, and try a Bowie Black Star Banana Brownies (I'm not kidding).   Of course I will take photos and there will be a blog post once I recover (and hopefully there won't be any tears).

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hot Stuff for a Cold Winter Night

 *warning - this post contains photos of sex toys (not being used, just displayed) which may offend
those with delicate sensibilities*

We've had an entire winter's worth of snow over the last few days, and the temperature dropped to minus 20 which made staying inside with books, blankets, and netflix the activity of choice this weekend.  However, an artist I chat to regularly at Roller Derby games was having an art exhibit at a  "high end" sex shop on Friday night, and I decided to bundle up and check it out.

The shop, called Spot of Delight, is located on Richmond Street, and owned by a London couple.  London has has not had a non-cheesy place to purchase high quality sex toys since the much missed Libido on Talbot Street closed several years ago, so Spot of Delight, which opened in September, is a welcome addition to the downtown community.

Artist Nic DeGroot paints in acrylics, and the work on display that evening, which had been painted during the last 5 years, celebrated the female form.  The event also included a live painting demonstration by DeGroot, and offered an opportunity for people who had not visited the shop before to browse some of the merchandise in a non-threatening atmosphere (most of the stock had been put away to make room for the exhibit).

The shop put some of their glass and stainless steel toys, many of them objets d'art themselves, on display beneath DeGroot's paintings.  I thought the painted glass and feathered butt plug, in the top right photo, was almost too pretty to hide, so to speak.

 Left - "Hot Winter Night" Right: "Cool Summer Night"

Although the paintings are advertised as "erotic" art, the artist doesn't see them that way.  DeGroot says he sees the subjects of his paintings as strong, powerful women.

I liked the impressionistic rendering of the figures in DeGroot's work, which tricks the eye into believing it sees more detail than in actually there.  In most of the paintings, the eyes of subjects do not engage with the viewer - there is a feeling of introspection created by their gaze.

"The Bashful" by Nic DeGroot

DeGroot's paintings have interesting contrasts in texture - in some, the subject is raised with a smooth, shiny surface against a rough background, and in others the reverse.

This painting was displayed on the wall to your left as you entered the store, and was the largest piece in the show.

This detail of the above painting shows the texture and different colours used in the background

DeGroot's model for the evening was one of the women behind Catstache, and their vulva jewellery is available at Spot of Delight for the month of February (they will do custom colours if you ask)

DeGroot does live art performances, and does commissions (for which he charges per square inch) and can be contacted via his website.   Spot of Delight offers an excellent variety of body-safe, high quality sex toys, as well as lingerie, leather accessories, and educational workshops, and is located at 426 Richmond Street.  For shop hours and more information visit their website.