It takes some courage to wear fur, even vintage fur, although most of us wear leather on a regular basis (and cruise the meat isle at the local supermarket without batting an eyelid).  Maria has never been afraid of her truth, which is to acknowledge a place for vintage fur, a topic she discusses in her style story….

“Vintage fur is something I love and always have done for myself and for the shop.  I know that it is a sensitive subject, but I maintain that when it comes to vintage fur, you are not buying into modern exploitation.  I certainly don’t support the trade of anything that represents modern unethical treatment of animals or illegal hunting of endangered species! But with items that are 60 or 70 years old or older, I feel that I am simply honouring a bygone era.  Hiding these things away doesn’t change anything!  This is vintage ocelot fur, and back in the day it was something for film stars and the very wealthy.  I bought the bag from an elderly local woman, some years ago now, and the coat came from a wealthy Auckland estate.  They are both beautiful pieces, and they are real treasures.”

The dress that’s older than what I was when I first wore it

My Style

It’s true.  This dress is older than what I was when I bought it.  It’s the oldest thing in my wardrobe, bought over twenty-three years ago. It’s a dress that has so many memories attached to it, from my first steady boyfriend (bought for his sister’s wedding) to the weddings of close friends and relatives.  It’s been to many a formal dinner, nights out, and a long list of special occasions I no longer remember.

It’s a great example of something that was not ‘in fashion’ when I purchased it, thus it transcended the fickly fashions of two decades.  There are lots of other things about it that have kept it in circulation too.  It’s a 4-season dress that works during the day and some evening occasions, it’s good quality and it flatters my figure.  Mostly it has the X-factor, that undefinable attribute that’s helped it get past every wardrobe edit, personal style overhaul and life-changing milestone since 1996.

Sadly, and somewhat poetically, it breathed its last breath on the day I wore it for these photos!  I blew out the armpit (!) which while possibly repairable, I will not fix.  It is time to lay it to rest…

Styling Notes

If I ever get around to teaching a workshop on outfit styling, there will be sections on principles of styling with ‘colour’, ‘texture’, ‘detail’ and ‘creating a look’.  In this outfit, the first three themes are well covered.

The dress is the hero, and from it everything else flows.  Colours represented in the print repeat, from the cardigan and shoes to earrings and handbag. The floral print itself is repeated too in the patterned hosiery detail and earrings.  Textures of the cardigan knit and patterned hosiery provide a depth and character in a way that ‘flat’ textures would not.

This outfit is simply a collection of items that work well together.  There’s no ‘look’ or theme, just harmony of elements…

About ‘creating a look’, this outfit is not a good example of one.  It’s simply an outfit, which while working well, doesn’t try to emulate a fashion theme or character.  It does not have its roots in any icon, theme or period.  It’s just a collection of items that work well together.

My dress was bought from a Hamilton fashion boutique in late summer of 1996, and the label is David Pond.  My cardigan is one by Elk from Shine, and my shoes were purchase a few seasons back from Tango’s shoes.  My bag is my trusty favourite from Trouble & Fox, my hosiery and earrings were red dot sale items from Farmers.






She’s a careful spender, a clever shopper or strategic wardrobe builder… whichever way you like to look at, a woman with great style who also has budget limitations is thoughtful in how she spends her money.  It’s a case of planned investment and considered choices.

“I wanted to wear my tartan pants today, a nod to my Scottish ancestry.  No, they are not my clan tartan, but I still think of tartan as my heritage and these come out every winter.  I have had them for quite some time.  The jacket is a recent purchase but something that really works my style.  I like anything military, and so the features of this jacket really appealed even though I normally don’t wear black.  I do tend to buy for the long haul, and I will save up over many months to buy things that I think of as an investment.  This bag is an example.  It was a special purchase, a gift for myself I suppose, following the milestone of my son starting school.  It’s too small to hold nappies and all that!  It’s a grown-ups bag!  I intend to have it for many years, eventually to pass on to my daughter”.


One of the things I love the most about the Real Style Project is that I meet women who have a vibrancy for living life well.  It seems that a determinant of great style is spark.  It’s that inner drive to be creative and express their best selves, no matter where they are at in life.  Anthea is one of these women…

“I see clothing as an extension of myself, a way to express my creativity. I love feeling good in what I’m wearing, and I’ve also learnt to love the feeling of having pushed my own style boundaries and getting out of my fashion comfort zone.  Being a mother has changed my clothing choices a LOT. Now it is important that my clothing is versatile and I’m able to move freely and comfortably with my kids. Heels every day have been replaced with flats and wedges. High maintenance fabrics are too hard. I need to be able to wash and wear (minimal ironing please!). I often end up running around in gym gear when I haven’t had time to change, but if I get a 2-3 days a week to spend time choosing my outfit and style for the day then I consider that a win!  I regularly look to Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration and ideas on how to wear something I have in an interesting way”.


Influences on a woman’s style are varied, but one that is most common is that of family.  Our mothers’, sisters’ and grandmothers’ style, and the nature of our relationships with those women, can have a big impact on our personal style.  Nicki talks about a couple of style attributes she inherited from her family in her story below…

“I think we give and take aspects of our style from all of our experiences in life, and yes of course family.  These gloves were my grandmother’s, and I have been wearing them myself for many years now.  I love them.  The quality is amazing!  I am not sure if you can buy anything like them these days.  My lippy is also something I have been given by my family.  As in, my mother always wore lippy, even on the farm where we grew up.  She would wear lip-stick in the paddocks!  And so it’s something I learned from her.  Yes, the details of style are very important.  Like this dress, which has a very simple cut but which has this back detail that I really love.  And the brooch.  It adds something, a detail, and this makes it more interesting”.


I’ve always known it, that creatives – like artists, performers, designers, musicians – have a stronger sense of their individuality and dress more creatively.  They are less afraid to play and experiment with their look, and have a way of ‘making style’ rather than buying it.  And Judy is the perfect example, a jeweller with a well-tuned creativity that extends to her personal style…

“I have had this shirt for a while.  It used to be a very bright white, crisp, and it had simple, ordinary cuffs and a standard covered button line.  It wasn’t really doing much for me, so I decided to play with it.  Yes I dyed it, although it might not be so obvious in your photographs.  It now has a brownish tinge to it, taking it away from the bright white that it used to be.  I dyed it with coffee.  Yes, that’s right, coffee!  I actually tried tea first, but that didn’t do much!  I also cut along the edge of the cuffs, button-line and hem, and washed it so that it would fray.  It now has that slightly grungy, subversive, ‘anti pretty’ look that I like so much. It’s much more ‘me’.”


When I asked Laura about the inspiration behind her style, she mentioned Faye Dunaway in “Bonnie & Clyde” and Audrey Hepburn in “Sabrina”.   In her first style story, she talks a little more about it…

“I’ve always viewed fashion as a way to showcase personality.  So then of course, my fashion has changed many times throughout the years as I’ve discovered more about myself. My passion is theatre and performance which lends itself to the dramatic.
My aesthetic is usually retro or vintage based with a bit of a modern twist thrown in. I shop almost exclusively in second-hand shops or vintage shops. This started as a necessity because op-shops are cheaper, and I’m an artist.  Cash flow just isn’t there to buy new, but now it has turned into more of a choice because I like one-off items that no one else has. My green and gold wide-leg jump suit is one of the items I own that I did buy new, in India on a trip there in 2018. I fell in love with it and hadn’t seen anything like it before”.


I firmly believe that great style can be found just about anywhere.  It may or may not be ‘designer’, it may or may not be on trend.  It might be a fast-fashion piece from a ‘high-street’ brand, or it might have come from an op-shop.  You might have chosen it for yourself and saved up for months to pay it off, or it might have been offered to you for free by a friend…

“I tend to buy what jumps out at me.  It can be ‘high street’, like this dress, but it’s got to be something special.  But I do try and find these high-street pieces at op-shops too.  I have my staples in my wardrobe, and they are the really high quality things as we spoke of before, like Kowtow cotton items and Standard Issue knitwear.  New Zealand designed brands that are high quality and more sustainable.  But then I will op-shop!  Like in Sydney, the Bondi market, or Paddington St Vinnies.  They have the high quality designer labels there, and I found a nice pair of vintage 501s recently.  My shoes were given to me by a friend.  Yes, I do have a weakness for second-hand handbags like this one”


Leone’s style story (below) is just a fraction of what she actually wrote for me when I asked her a few questions about her shoes, coat and handbag!  Her passion for style is very real and I love that.  I mined a few of the best gems for you here…

“I used to wear big chunky skate shoes, but have realised perhaps they’re not so much my style anymore. I kinda chose them because they were warm and I was feeling ‘casual Leone’ that day too.   I love the bag – it’s from Lady Mux, where I work on Wednesdays, and I have put it aside.  I love it for many reasons; it’s leather, the tassel, and the fact that there’s a leopard print patterning to the leather even if only I notice it!  The essence of the bag just oozes Leone style, do you know what I mean?  It’s hard to explain, it’s that feeling.  My fur coat is one of five I own and this particular beauty has been in my life about a year – leopard print is my jam if it’s the right kind.  I have been on the look-out for second-hand leopard ‘fur’ for about 10 years now. It’s still not my ultimate coat I must say.  One day I’ll find one better and then sell this one!  I have always considered myself pretty ‘anti-fashion’ so it makes me laugh that leopard print is now trendy. It used to bother me when I was a teenager, as in, if something was ‘in’ I would avoid it!  Now I just wear what I like”.



Registrations are now open for my first-ever Silk Purse, Oily Rag style workshop, Second Hand Style – how to develop ‘the fashion eye’!  The workshop is on Sunday 9 June between 1pm and 5:30pm, at the Tasman District Library in Richmond.  Read on to find out more, or click here to register your interest via Facebook.

What’s it about?

How to develop ‘the fashion eye’ is all about passing on my knowedge about successful second-hand clothing shopping.  It’s aimed at helping you to spot second-hand treasures.

In the workshop you will learn how to identify potential and how to make pre-loved items work for you and your wardrobe.  I will be sharing all of my secrets, including loads of practical tips and tricks!  There will be ‘hands-on’ activities too, including developing personal style inspiration boards and some op-shop treasure-hunting with spending money.

How much will it cost?

Single places in the workshop are $65pp, but if you register with a group (two or more) you will each pay just $55pp!

As well as the learning, this fee includes $20 worth of vouchers, a goody bag, a workshop folder with printed course notes and afternoon tea refreshments. 

How can I register?

To register your interest, just send me a Silk Purse, Oily Rag Facebook message by clicking here, or email me at  You may also message me on Instagram @silkpurseoilyrag and I will accept registrations over the phone on 0274809058.

Numbers are limited – first in first served – so to secure your place, you are advised to register and pay quickly!1.jpg