Thursday, August 29, 2013

Crinolines and Cons

There's been quite a number of posts made recently within my blogging circles about what it means to be"Sexy" -  what the media and society says is sexy vs. what being sexy means to us (women over 40).  A number of my favourite bloggers have tackled this topic with wit, insight and surprising candor - read  Melanie's take on what's sexy, inspired by Bella's post on playing pin-up, Vix's reflections on youth vs. maturity, Curtis' smart and sassy take on what being sexy means to her, Tamera's thoughts about fake boobs and tans vs. brains and confidence, and Desiree's words about casting off body image hangups.  Trust me, you'll feel better about yourself and you'll want to hug these women.

I was late to the party (as usual), so have nothing new or particularly insightful to add to the discussion, but I was inspired by my blogger sisters' posts to document an outfit I wore that made me feel sassy, confident and playful, which can all be considered elements of "Sexy".

I'm tired of hearing the word "Sexy" used in contexts where it's obviously being used as a synonym for "attractive", which it is not.  Some people who may not be considered "beautiful" or "attractive" in any conventional way can be devastatingly sexy (consider Rossy de Palma, who has starred in many of Pedro Almodovar's films).  Context is everything, and sexy is in your head.   If I'm getting up close and personal with someone I've got the hots for, or performing in a Burlesque Show (which I did once), then yes, I want to feel sexy and hopefully be considered so by my audience.   I don't want, or need, to feel sexy when I'm at work, or at the grocery store, or doing my dishes.  However, I do like feeling that I'm putting the best possible "me" out there, which means wearing something that makes me happy.  Cue the Crinolines and Cons...

This dress/vest was one of the best clothing investments I've made.  It was expensive, but the shape makes it a great layering piece that adds some "funk" to whatever it's paired with and I've worn it all year round.  Zip it up the front, add a t-shirt, belt, a frilly underskirt, and some fun accessories and I am kicking up my heels. 
vest/dress - Akela Key purchased at From Mars
crinoline - Frilly Lizard (retail)
leather Converse - From Mars

The ribbon and tulle inspired a Can-Can moment

that included a bit of saucy leg-baring
(Photos by Heather)

....and speaking of accessories (we weren't, but no matter), I was very excited to acquire my first piece of Bakelite jewellery - this carved red bracelet!  I have wanted a bakelite bangle for some time, preferably red, and when I saw a photo of this one on the Facebook page for Phantastica, my heart leapt!  It was very reasonably priced, so now it lives with me.

An interesting thing happened when I was on my way home from work wearing this outfit.  I was waiting for my bus, and a man who looked like he was in his mid-thirties approached me to ask where I had purchased my Converse.   He then asked if I had been a "Punk" back in the day, which lead to a very entertaining conversation about Punk Rock, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, and, to my amazement, Kitsch!  He had been reading an article that mentioned someone having a collection of Kitsch, and he thought he knew what it meant, but asked if I would define it for him.  Definitely one of the coolest conversations I've ever had with someone I met at a bus stop.  We got on the same bus, and just before he departed, we exchanged first names, he shook my hand, and  expressed an admiration for my outfit and my style.  I'm thinking he was responding to the positive energy that comes from mixing Crinolines and Cons!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Welcome To The Valley of The Dolls

When I posted photos of some of the dolls in my collection, a number of readers expressed interest is seeing some of the other dolls I have.  I have between 20 - 25, most  falling into the categories of "Barbie" or ethnic dolls, and yet I have never considered myself a doll collector.    I wasn't a big fan of dolls as a kid, except for Barbie, so I'm not sure what inspired me to start picking up the occasional ethnic souvenir type dolls that I would find in thrift stores.   I think I was intrigued by their clothes (what a surprise!) and also by the wide variation in facial expressions.  I had also purchased a few dolls from Ebay, including an Elizabeth Taylor Barbie, and some of the "Dolls of the World" series, again because of the outfits.   I set up a Flickr account several years ago as a place to show my photography and interact with other photographers, and occasionally I would participate in some of the doll and toy-themed photography projects, which led to the acquisition of more dolls, chosen specifically for their photo appeal.   When I started my blog, I let my Flickr account lapse, but I came across some of the doll photos I had created for that forum, so I thought I'd share some of those with you, as well as those of some of my favourites that share my living space.

This was the first ethnic doll I ever owned - she is 4" tall, and was given to me when I was a little girl by a wealthy Great Aunt who brought her back from a trip to China.  I rarely saw the Great Aunt, but I have kept her gift and even though she (she had a Chinese name but I don't remember what it was) is discoloured and frayed from age; she is one of the few items that remains from my childhood.

One of two expensive dolls I own is a doll I purchased from one of the shows at Dollirium.  She's just under a foot tall, made of polymer clay, and is named Beth (I don't usually name them) after her creator, Beth Robinson.  There was something about her sweet yet creepy look that appealed to me, and she now hangs inside my front door, where she looks after the place while I'm gone.  As you can see, she's not afraid to get into a scrap while on guard duty.

 This is the other doll that cost me some bucks - a Japanese Pullip Doll named Lola.  She was featured in a number of photographs in my Flickr page.  For a while, she took on the role of my alter-ego in captioned photos like the one above.  I used to spend countless hours with backdrops and lights shooting these types of photos and at the time it was a satisfying creative outlet for me.

One of my other creations, using thrifted Barbie and Woody dolls

For a while, I was bringing home blonde Barbies from thrift stores and using them to create photos like this one

This saucy Flamenca, who is about 10" tall, is one of my favourite dolls.  I took lessons in Spanish Flamenco dance for a couple of years, and was fascinated by the dresses and attitude of the professional dancers.  When I saw this doll in her incredible dress on Ebay, I had to have her.

I found this Geisha doll at a thrift store in my neighbourhood that seems to have a pipeline to some of the more interesting ethnic souvenir dolls I've ever seen. This one is about 14" high, and her outfit is beautifully detailed, from her elaborate wig, to her kimono and obi, and her traditional Geta shoes.  She was made in Japan by Nishi and Co.  The only ethnic dolls I  purchase are ones made in the country they are made to represent.

This is another doll I found in the same thrift store as the one above.  She is kneeling on a pedestal, and there is no indication of her country of origin, but I would guess somewhere in Eastern Europe.  Again, she has a marvelously detailed costume, complete with a necklace that if it were human-size, would be part of my accessory collection.

I had seen stuffed dolls depicting storybook characters like Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, where you turn the doll upside down, flip their skirt over and you have the second doll (a reader informed me they are called "Topsy Turvy" dolls), but I had never seen a politically incorrect version until I found this one at Value Village.  As they are both wearing the clothing and head wrap of a typical "Black Mammy" character, it doesn't seem like they are meant to be a Plantation owner's wife/slave combination.

The doll on the left is from Cuba and I'm not certain of the origin of the paper one on the right.  Most likely it was a Latin American country because of the skin colour and outfit.  Someone put a lot of time and care into her creation - she is made entirely of heavy paper (except for her face) that has been folded and sculpted with great skill.

I like to think that I have rescued these dolls from their thrift-store abandonment, and provided them with an opportunity to live happily surrounded by kindred spirits (which is what we all want, is it not?).  If you want to see more of my pre-blog photography, (including cats, Las Vegas, Paris, and Roller Derby!) you can find my Flickr page here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sweet Treats - Eye Candy and X-Rated Doughnuts

It was a beautiful day last Saturday - the perfect day for a downtown walkabout.  I made a few stops at some of my favourite places to have a browse and a chat, and ended up with a few photos of some great eye candy....

Chris, owner of Uber Cool Stuff, was wearing the fabulous Hawaiian shirt he had purchased from Jackpot Vintage.  The pattern says "Tropical" without being tacky, and the colours are gorgeous - it even matches the paint on one of the walls of his store.

I spent some time in Jackpot Vintage, the business that shares space with Uber Cool Stuff, and there were lots of pretty things to ogle, such as the purple velvet maxi dress in the above left photo.  It's difficult to see in the photo, but there are large covered buttons down the left side of the skirt.   I loved the rich colour and empire waist, but it was too small for me, for which I (and my wallet) was immensely grateful.  The 60's bubble hat, above right, is a shape that is awkward to wear, but the woven ribbon crown is definitely a piece of art, as is the purse made of wooden beads.

I arrived at my next stop, From Mars, just in time for the unveiling of this gigantic (5 lbs worth) box of doughnuts that a friend of the store's owners had brought from Toronto.  I don't get excited about doughnuts - they are too much dough and sugar for me - but I was admittedly very impressed by the crazy assortment of toppings and flavours (including Pina Colada, Bread and Butter, and Viva Puff).  

Yes, those are hickory sticks on top of that chocolate doughnut.   I may have to make a stop at that doughnut shop the next time I visit Toronto.  Of course, the name of the doughnut shop is a major part of the appeal....

I had read about this doughnut shop when it opened in Toronto a year ago, and I'm sure that the racy name is a large part of the draw for first-time customers.  If you are not familiar with the meaning of the phrase "Glory Hole", by all means, Google it, but best not to do it at work.

After the Glory Hole doughnuts, it was hard to focus on anything else, but these fabularse A.S.98, Italian-designed boots, were a definite rival for my attention.  The greenish black leather, matching spats, and wire inserts in the cuff to allow for shaping all made me weak in the knees, as did the price, so these babies stayed at the store (they didn't have my size anyway).

Lots of cool stuff, and none of it came home with me - Let's hear it for will power! I am still thinking about the Hickory Chocolate doughnut though....

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Trouble With Angels

Yes, I believe I'm feeling the wind beneath my wings...

More "plucked chicken" than Angel (according to my photographer)

Don't let that vacant expression fool you - I'm planning the next bit of trouble I can get into.  

Indian cotton blouse - 69 Vintage (Toronto)
pants - The Gap (marked waaaayyy down)
Earrings - Candice Sheriff (CandyDice designs)
two silk scarves to give that "double-bow" effect
Sandals and leather cuff - Sunfest

I wasn't crazy about Haley Mills, but I loved Rosalind Russell, and as a teenager found this film, and its sequel, rather entertaining

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ms. Fashionista Decorates Her Dream House

Alas, this is fantasy decorating, but still fun nonetheless.   When I was in Montreal, I spent a long time drooling over the Liliane and David M. Stewart Collection of International Design at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  The collection features about 7,000 items created by leaders in contemporary and modern design during the period of 1935 to present day.  It is an awe-inspiring collection of furniture, graphic design, jewellery, metalwork, glass, ceramics, textiles and plastic, and certainly inspired this woman's imagination.   If I could decorate an apartment using items on display in the exhibit, what would I choose?

The centre piece of my living room would be the La Cova sofa, designed by Gianni Ruffi in 1973.  I don't know how comfortable it would be, but oddly, I don't care. I would nap in it, surrounded by squishy egg cushions and pretend that I'm an exotic bird.

This chair, made of painted polyurethane foam, designed by Piero Gilardi in 1971 would be my movie-watching chair.  I love the colour, and the organic shape.

This "Architecture Secretary", from 1950, will go against one wall.  It was designed by Gio Ponti and Piero Fornasetti, both from Milan.  I'm beginning to see a pattern here...

detail from Architecture Secretary

When I have my friends over for dinner, we will eat off of Jane Timberlake's Wild Mannered Dinnerware

There's not much room in my bedroom, but this compact dressing table set from the late 1930's, by Quebec designer Marcel Parizeau should fit just fine.

Of course, every woman needs a few statement pieces of jewellery on their dressing table.....

 like this silver Trumpeter brooch from 1952 by American designer Sam Kramer
This silver necklace designed by Daniel Kruger in 1999 will go with everything!

 My showpiece would be this amazing copper "MKC43 Collar" designed by New York designer Arline M. Fisch.  For a better idea of how it would look when worn, go here.

This funky dresser, designed by Tejo Remy in 1991, could be mounted on the wall in the living room or the bedroom

And of course, the most interesting homes have eclectic objects scattered throughout that reflect the resident's personality ....

I will find the perfect place for my "Streamliner" Remington typewriter....

...and this amazing porcelain figurine by Canadian artist Shary Boyle, titled "Snowball"

and this beautifully carved double-latch lock, from 17th Century Germany

And on a practical note, to help keep the dust bunnies from taking over....


This fabulous aerodynamic Compact Electra vacuum cleaner - probably from the 50's?  Strangely enough, I used to have a turquoise one of these, the exact same model, that I purchased from a friend about 15 years ago.  When I moved two years ago, it still worked, but it was heavy to drag around and the hose was falling apart so I left it by the curb.  Who knew it was museum-worthy?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dames and Dolls

I have been inspired by the Vintage Vixen's recent posts where she is all dolled up in pink here and here, and the amazing pink "Barbie" print fabric she found.   Pink is a colour that I hadn't had much of a relationship with until this past year when the odd pink item of clothing made its way into the fortress of black, grey and red that was my closet.  By the time I brought home the Shoes of Total Awesomeness, pink seemed to have established a foothold in my wardrobe.

I picked up this fuschia linen tunic from the 70% off rack at From Mars last year - it was the age-old case of "too good a deal to leave behind" but I couldn't figure out how to style it.  It was too short to wear as a dress, and kind of boxy.   Pink and green has always been one of my favourite colour combinations so I thought the green obi belt I purchased on Etsy and a long skirt might be the solution.   Not bad, I think.
skirt -retail
leather obi belt - SmpliAnwi on Etsy
sandals - Riker, retail
sunglasses - courtesy of

A friend gave me this pink and white bit of 70's polyester goodness, which kind of reminded me of tops that my mother used to wear.   I decided to banish any mother-related associations by pairing it with funky pants, Docs and head scarf, and a cheeky attitude.
blouse - gift
pants - Material Girl (retail, on sale)
shoes - Doc Martens
scarf - purchased from The Style Crone

Pink conjures up images of childhood, princesses and Barbies.  I loved my Barbie doll that I had in the 60's, who had a red bubble hair cut.  I guess I didn't love her so much as I loved her clothes, and I was able to live out my own wardrobe fantasies through her.  I kept her, even though her fingernails had been chewed off and her makeup faded, and about a dozen years ago, I had an opportunity to be immortalized with her when a friend photographed us for an exhibit of photos of Londoners with their favourite toys.

Above is a print of the photo of Barbie and me that appeared in the exhibit.  We are both in fancy dresses, and this remains one of my favourite photos of me - I'm wearing a gorgeous vintage dress that I no longer fit into, and my face looks relaxed and happy, which is not its usual state.   Photo by Ron Tucker

And speaking of dolls.....

A few from the collection:  clockwise from top left - plastic chinese doll; "I Love Lucy" Barbie Doll wearing the outfit from the famous Vitameatavegamin commercial; Japanese cloth dancer doll; plastic nun doll with eyes that open and close

Do you still have any of the dolls from your childhood, or ones you've acquired as an adult?

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Pour Yourself a Drink, Put On Some Lipstick, and Pull Yourself Together"*

 *great advice from the Dame of Dames, Elizabeth Taylor

A sunny Saturday, and the company of a good friend means quality gal time, doing gal stuff

Gal #1
Tank top - Joe Fresh (retail)
skirt, re-shaped by me - From Mars (retail)
necklaces - thrifted and gifted

Gal #2
Derby t-shirt - Forest City Derby Girls
reversible snap-wrap skirt with attached mini-bag - Sunfest
be-ribboned boots - Doc Martens Store Toronto

And we drove this.... just kidding  (that would have been awesome!) This lemon-y luscious car was parked at the Western Fair Farmers' Market. The Market was packed with people stocking up for the long weekend so we didn't stay long.  If you know what make of car this is, please tell me in the comments.

Gal #2 had a need for lipstick that would last through an entire Roller Derby Game, so obviously a trip to Sephora was required.  Both of us tend to avoid the shopping malls as much as possible, but until London gets a stand-alone Sephora store, we had to brave White Oaks Mall on a Saturday.  Even though I've purchased enough makeup in my lifetime to know that the marketing campaign and the reality don't jive, there is something so seductive about the pretty packaging, bright colours, and promises of "soft, kissable lips", "seductive eyes" and "radiant skin".   I have no illusions that finding the "perfect" shade of lipstick is going to have a significant impact on my life, but I will continue to look for it anyway.  What is it about lipstick that can change the entire look of a woman's face, and makes it the one item that so many women never leave the house without?  For me,  I feel that my face is somehow "unfinished" without that bright slash of colour on my mouth.  I remember several years ago, on a day that I had forgotten, or neglected, to wear lipstick, being asked by a colleague if I was ill.  Whether her assessment of my health based on my lack of colour was harsh, or rude, I've never forgotten it.

The right lipstick can make you feel like a Queen

or a super shiny lipstick-shootin' bandito!

We spent almost an hour trying lipstick, nail polish, and other girly stuff.  All the Sephora brand nail polish was half price so I added yet another colour (this one is called "On Stage") to my already enormous collection.  And of course, we got our free samples - I'll let you know if the Lancome "Eye-Illuminating Youth Activating Concentrate" makes a noticeable difference. 

 Still life with Sephora bags and pretty coloured juices.  

Gal #2 did find some stay-put lip colour and test-drove it at a game on Saturday night.  I did not have such good luck with the eye-liner I purchased, which stayed on my hand quite nicely in the store, but then smudged all over my eyelid, even with an application of primer.  I am obviously not meant to wear eye makeup, as this was the umpteenth different eye-liner I have tried, and even waterproof doesn't last.  Same with mascara.  For me, the smoky, seductive eye will always remain a pipe dream, but I'm a lipstick girl, now and forever.