I probably over think stuff but…

My Journal – Issue #1

Recently, the Silk Purse Oily Rag team had a workshop/team-building retreat!

Admittedly, it was a one-person team-building workshop.  And I really only retreated to the veranda (so in truth, a lot more like navel-gazing).  But it was something I needed to do to help me find focus and direction for the year ahead.  I needed to re-write my ‘about’, but first I needed to actually figure that out!

What is SPOR really about?  What do I want to say to you all?

Starting with a bit of a brain dump, I jotted down words like ‘authenticity’, ‘resourcefulness’, ‘affordability’, ‘individuality’, ‘ethical & sustainable’, and ‘realistic but aspirational’.  I spun them into a mind map, connecting them all up, to identify relationships between them, like, ‘by encouraging individuality we create greater diversity’.

I also recorded some real gems of phrases too, like ‘style shouldn’t just be something for rich people’ and ‘we’re all a bit munted in some way, but we’re all rather incredible too’.  I thought carefully about some of the more topical, controversial fashion issues like self-esteem, aging and body image. The statement ‘healthy and realistic aspirations for our bodies and our style’ was where I got to on that one.

In the end (and this really is the trailer version of an epic feature-length movie), I managed to condense the Silk Purse Oily Rag message into three tidy statements.  Key messages I suppose you could call them, the guts of my vision and what I want to communicate in everything I do.

Authenticity – Every woman has a unique point of view that is valid and should be nurtured

Perfectly Imperfect – We are all flawed, but extraordinary too

Resourceful & Clever – It is a woman’s intellect, her heart and her effort that gives her style, not her financial means

I road-tested these back against my original brainstorming list, and with a bit of tweaking, they all fit:  Embracing “Authenticity” gives rise to values like personal empowerment, diversity and individuality, while “Perfectly Imperfect” sets the stage for healthy self-esteem and realistic fashion aspiration.  The key message “Resourceful & Clever” gives a context for the importance of knowledge and skills to achieving style on a budget, of making the most of who we are, and for embracing a more sustainable/ethical fashion ethic.

Together, I hope that these messages make for an empowering fashion vision for all women.  One that is a useful alternative to mainstream fashion media.

So what of it?  Over the coming months I plan to share more about these key messages and to encourage discussion about them.  Starting with a fortnightly column, I will look closely at what the Silk Purse, Oily Rag vision is and means, and how it can help women feel better in their clothes and selves.





Gran’s shoes (and Gramp’s pants)

My Style

Men’s trousers (again) and shoes that look like they belong to someone who likes bowls, knitting, cardigans and cups of tea?  Yes, I readily admit my style has an eccentric side.  But it all makes perfect sense to me.  It makes sense, and it feels right.

Styling Notes

Sometimes the creation of a look will be purely organic, simply the result of wanting to wear one thing and then building a look around it.  In this case, a pair of old-fashioned shoes I promised to wear for a My Style post was the ‘seed’.  And the result was a little eccentric:  A pair of men’s trousers, a vintage headscarf, some home-made earrings, my old favourite handbag and a brand new top that I love.  It doesn’t matter that the shoes are no longer the hero…

Start with a single item you really love.  It doesn’t matter if it ends up being a ‘minor’ feature of your overall look! Just let it lead where it will and don’t overthink the end result…

Being a warm, buttery cream colour, I felt the shoes needed similarly rich tones.  In my satin neck scarf I found a beautiful colour palette of those colours, and from there the rest of the outfit emerged.  The rich, golden hues of the paisley print repeated in the pants and top,  and accents of black in my cami, earrings and handbag, all connected through.

I love my new top!  It’s a keeper, by Pol from Shine.  My men’s trousers, shoes and headscarf were all op-shop treasures.  And my earrings too, although they are an up-cycling project of Harriet (my daughter) and I, made from re-cycled beads and broken jewellery sourced from various charity shops!  My handbag is from Trouble & Fox, and my glasses are by Karen Walker from Palm.


‘Forever clothes’ and ‘fast-fashion alternatives’, are words I’m using more and more these days, as I become more focused on sustainable, ethical style.  It’s a work in progress for me, but something Tania has been doing well for many years, at least as long as I have known her…

“Sometimes the things you’ve had forever are still favourites.  My pants and top I’ve had for years.  They have just lasted really well and are the sorts of things you can use as a kind-of backdrop for other stuff.  I’ve worn them a lot this summer mixed with more recent acquisitions.  My shoes were from Andrea Biani, some seasons past now.  I don’t often wear heels, but enjoy them when I do.  these have a solid heel and ankle strap so they’re easy to wear.  I love the colour – I fell in love with them!  They’re great for summer.  Everything else I am wearing I was drawn to for their colour.  The earrings are vintage, a recent purchase actually, from Eclectic.  The scarf, bag and bangle are second hand treasures.  Fun finds that didn’t cost much.  A ‘fast fashion’ alternative!”




‘Do something a little different than your normal’ is a great style mantra.  Challenging yourself can help you to stay fresh and avoid falling into a fashion rut.  This week Judy challenged the impulse to where her ‘normal’ black boots…

“As you know, I’m not really a girly girl, but I do like dresses, like this one.  No it’s not navy, it’s black but I think the white underlayer lightens it up a bit.  It is a simple dress when you glance at it, but when you look more closely it has all those details I love so much.  Subversive? Yes I suppose so.  Frayed hems, interesting pocket details and that white lining, it’s so cool.  I did have to resist the temptation to wear it with heavy black boots though!  That was my first choice, actually.  Yes I am quite matchy-matchy today which is almost out of character.  But I think if you always do the same thing, it can get a bit boring.  The boots and my bag are from Tokyo, and my dress is from Et Vous”.

What would Karen say?

My Style

As a rule, I’m not a fan-girl kind of a girl.  But I do have a wee crush on Karen Walker.  Not that I own much of her stuff, as it’s beyond my financial sensibility (mine’s all second hand or from end-of-season sales).  But her design aesthetic genuinely appeals to me, and I always look to her campaign images and runway shows for styling ideas.  She’s one part girly, one part blokey, a dash retro-op-shop-girl, and school-girl nerd.  And there’s always something boundary pushing about what she does, as in, ‘a little bit wrong”.  There’s a lot there that resonates with me!

This dress is by Ms Walker, and I wonder, would she approve of how I’m wearing it?  I can’t say it’s one of my finest styling moments – it’s a bit undercooked, and my hat has seen better days.  But it’s what I wore last week, and it’s “me”.

Styling Notes

Needless to say, my look is about the dress.  It has a retro sensibility, a bit 70s, with a stiff zippered collar.  I’m actually looking forward to wearing it when it’s cooler, so that I can wear some layers with it.  But for the now and its ridiculously hot summer sun, white sneakers and a sunhat was where it needed to be.

I actually tried styling it more heavily, with scarves, brooches and different hats.  But somehow a minimalist approach was where it needed to be.  The vintage house coat in all of its chartruese and white boldness created a very crisp contrast with the ‘summer denim’.  I loved the way the two collars ‘interacted’ with each other, kind of geometric, like puzzle pieces.  They didn’t need anything else to distract from them.

Taking a minimal approach to styling is sometimes a discipline – it can be the art of resisting the urge to ‘add  more’

White shoes were a ‘no brainer’, but I chose Keds over anything more formal, keeping the look light and sporty.  The hat and bag were a natural complement to the overall look – light, a little ‘retro’, and summery.  So Karen, what do you think?

The dress is by Karen Walker, and I found it at Karen Jordan Pre-loved Style.  My coat was a real treasure I found at one of Maria Henare’s (from Eclectic) Jumble sales.  Both my hat and basket were op-shop finds, and my Keds were a purchase from Taylors.  My only jewellery is a silver tusk pendant also by Karen Walker – it’s a piece I bought using some of the last pay-packet I received from the Tasman District Council, before I went on maternity leave before our daughter Harriet was born.  It has sentimental value and it’s the most worn item of jewellery I own other than my wedding ring.




I’ve always known that you can buy clothes, but you can’t buy style.  It’s your individual style-sense that leads you to buying the right things, and then your creativity and taste in putting them together, that gives you style. So how do you go about buying right?  I asked Annabelle what she thought….

“Do you know I think that one of the most important things is to find clothes that work with your body shape and your lifestyle.  It’s sort of fundemental really and probably nothing new, but I think a lot of people get taken in by what’s in fashion, and don’t stop to think if it actually suits them or not.  This dress is new and works well for me and my shape.  I need things that define my waist but are more loose and flowing over my hips.  It actually works well for my lifestyle too, the linen look.  It’s something I can wear to work but also when I’m off-duty. My jacket is an oldie and it was bought second-hand.  It’s kind of timeless. One of the things I love about it is what no-one else sees.  The lining and binding on the inside is this pretty fabric.  It’s so sweet.”


Being environmentally and ethically conscious is not just about buying second hand.  It’s also about buying right when you buy new.  Dusa has a great attitude to buying new, taking a long-term approach to what she spends her money on…

“Yes, a lot of my wardrobe is second-hand, that is true.  In the past it wasn’t really about the environment and sustainability, it was more about getting interesting things.  These days I am so much more conscious of where my clothes come from.  Both my top and my leggings are from Kowtow.  Kowtow is a NZ designed, ethically and sustainably produced brand.  The quality is amazing, and their designs are timeless.  When I buy new, I try to go for designs that are about longevity and will work well for my lifestyle and figure.  Funny, but I just realised now that I’ve had these shoes for 20 or more years!  They were trendy then, and they’ve come back in again!  Yes, this is an off-duty look for me, for when I want to look nice but also be casual and super comfortable”.

Man Pants (and other eccentricities)

My Style

My style has always been influenced by menswear.  I do love mannish looks, and the ease and swagger that menswear brings to my style. It’s a look that works well with my boyish body shape – I have wide shoulders, narrow hips and no waist or boobs to speak of.  I  also suspect that, at least in part, it’s a style that’s emerged from a childhood spent as a tomboy, side-stepping anything girly and feminine.  And for all of you arm-chair psychologists, I also think that masculine style brings power and strength to how I feel in the world, and it creates a bit of distance between me and the pressure to conform to the feminine ideal…


Styling Notes

It’s true, these trousers are actually men’s trousers, real-deal polyester slacks from the 1970s.  Groovy retro perfection!  And they are the hero of my look, all attitude and no apology.

Using the tartan pattern as the colour palatte, I’ve repeated the two tones of brown in accessories, my watches (yes, I’m wearing two, black and brown), glasses and leather belt.  The boots are black pony-skin ankle boots with a cowboyishness that works fantastically with the slight flare of the trousers.  Again, there’s a bit of masculine swagger in the boots, making them the perfect complement.

While my look is masculine, there are always feminine touches.  Balance is key…

The scarf is an addition that breaks the colour-palatte up a little. Although repeating all of colours of my outfit, it also introduces off-white, deep olive green and highlights of orange.  This contributes a little sass to the outfit, and helps to lighten the look up a bit, so to tie in the rattan of the hat and add the smallest hint of feminity.

My fabulous trousers are men’s pants bought from Eclectic in Nelson, and both my boots and bag are from Trouble & Fox.  My hat was bought from Nelson designer Cheryl Mackie, and my top is a Shine one, by Julian Danger.  My glasses are by Karen Walker and were bought from Palm in Nelson.  All other pieces are charity shop finds, including my fabulous wooden faced watch and rayon scarf.


There are lots of things to love about Maria’s style.  One of the ones I admire most is her fearlessness.  She inspires me always to trust my gut and not be afraid of drama.  In her style-story this week she shares some wisdom on how she dresses this way, without fuss, on a day-to-day basis.  It’s great advice…

“This gown is actually a vintage lounge-wear robe, a boudoir gown.  I am not sure what the fabric is but it’s very high quality and from the 1940s.  It’s from a time when women of means would dress elegantly around the house.  I love it because it’s something you can wear and it makes you look and feel instantly glamorous, but essentially it’s fuss free.  It’s my go-to for an evenning out, when I don’t necessarilly feel like getting dressed up.  I will wear it like I am today, over plain black separates, which also form part of my core wardrobe.  Yes, I suppose it’s an approach that I apply a lot.  You have a simple, easy base but then you add something exciting or interesting like this, and some statement jewelry or whatever, and you’re set”.


Leone’s style is poles apart from my own, but I absolutely love it.  Envy it, even, as a representation of the punk-rock rebel girl who sometimes rears her head as an alter-ego!  As always, I wanted to find out more, to dig more deeply into what shapes such a style…

“My style, that I now proudly call my own, has morphed so much throughout my life when I look back.  Music and certain musicians have played a role in what influences my style for sure. At age five, Michael Jackson was one of the first, in his amazing outfits!  Then there was Gwen Stefani in No Doubts first music videos ‘Don’t Speak’ and ‘Just a Girl’ when I was about eight. Their sense of style, charisma and freedom to express themselves through how they dressed blew me away! I also found the punk era was a great time for fashion that I found both shocking and inspiring – safety pinned clothing, fishnets, leather, tartan, leopard print to name but a few.  And I love old things, I think because they have a history and a life before they come to you.  For example this tooled handbag,  which cost me a mighty ten-bucks from the Nelson market, is one of my favourites. I suppose these days it’s all a mishmash of where I have been and what feels good, paying homage to my life and times thus far.