Clothes to hide in

My Style

How I feel and what I wear are closely related. I don’t think I am alone in this.  There are days when we feel stronger, more confident and attractive.  On these days we are more brave and daring.  And then there are days when we feel more vulnerable, ugly, fat or old, or more of whatever our particular insecurity might be.  On these days we may hide, play it safe stylistically speaking, and seek to be more physically comfortable.  This week’s outfit was chosen for a day when I didn’t feel like being seen (much less want to be photographed!)  It’s an uncomplicated, loose-fitting outfit with ‘distracting’ features to draw attention away from me.

Styling Notes

My ‘hiding’ clothes are long and baggy.  But not inelegant!  I chose this cute denim dress to help me feel secure without being dowdy.  While the shape and fabric were safe choices, the coloured straps and cute yellow buttons set a happy, encouraging tone.  They chat away quietly with colours of my bag.

And the bag is definitely the hero of the outfit, a hand crocheted bag made from up-cycled t-shirts!  It was made by New Plymouth based creative and ceramics artist Marita Green, who also made its ceramic button closure.  It’s a wardrobe favourite, something that appeals to me on many levels: It’s big and practical, cute, environmentally sustainable and ‘interesting’.  Most of all it’s great because Marita is my big sister!  That makes it even more interesting.

Being interesting is important to my style.  It’s a concept best defined by what it’s not. I don’t want to make predictable, sensible style choices all of the time.  I want to choose things that are a little bit different or unexpected…

‘Interesting’ is also the defining factor in my choice of vintage Christian Dior sunglasses – while I might have gone for more sensible, mainstream sunnies, there’s something crazy about these frames that make them the perfect foil for a day when I don’t want to be noticed.

I might well be a walking advertisement for Shine in this outfit, as my shoes, dress and long-line cardigan were all purchases from there!  My bag and earrings are both by creative and ceramics artist Marita Green (on Instagram and Facebook as @maritagreen).  My sunglasses are indeed Christian Dior vintage frames bought from a second-hand store many years ago.  I love them even though they are kind-of-bad 1970’s craziness!



Is it possible that our style can be a tool for creating more good in the world?  If certain clothes incline us towards doing more of what we love with those whom we love, then maybe, yes.  Catherine’s skirt helped her to go dancing with her daughters, and this is good…

“This is my dancing skirt!  No, it’s not new.  I have had it for some time, but never quite knew how to wear it.  Actually I was a bit scared of it.  But then I put it on to go dancing with my girls and now it makes me want to twirl whenever I wear it, it makes me smile.  My style used to be all about vintage inspired looks, especially that 1950’s aesthetic.  Although I have moved on a bit from that, it’s a style that still appeals to me a lot.  And it did inspire this look.  The white skeakers and neck-scarf have that rock-and-roll edge, and the cats-eye shape of my glasses was so fashionable in the 1950s”


There’s lots to love about Paula’s approach to style.  Where possible, she makes her own clothes, and only buys new when she cannot make it herself or source it second-hand. She’s such an inspiration to me for sustainability and creativity…

“My jumpsuit is my own mash up of two amazing Papercut Pattern designs (a talented Nelson pattern designer). The top is from the Meridian Dress and the bottom is taken from the Sierra Jumpsuit. Both great patterns on their own as I have made them both too!  I have a thing for forest green at the moment so was happy to find this fabric.
My Jelly sandals I purchased from a friend, and the pouch bag is from a new Auckland designer Outliv. I love how environmentally conscious they are, with the belief that fabric should not be so easily disregarded and disposed of. They also contribute a percentage of their profits to an environmental organisation.  Yes, the bag is made from re-cycled materials”.


Jacqui is inspired by post-WWII fashion, an era during which her Grandmother was a young fashionista.  It’s fitting then that Jacqui should inherit a few of her Grandmother’s favourite things, and adapt them for her own contemporary sense of style…

“The blouse is from my favourite store ‘Princess Highway’ and the skirt is from Uniqlo – both from Melbourne.  The shoes were from an op-shop.  The bag was my Nanas, and yes she is a personal icon! I took inspiration for the whole outfit from the post war era.  I love the femininity of big long skirts – this one makes me feel like doing a girly twirl!  The silhouette suits my body shape too.   I commissioned the gold spitfire necklace by local photographer and artist Martin de Ruyter.  It’s my favourite plane & symbolises ‘Grace & Gallantry’ & ‘an unwillingness to be bullied’.  It is a symbol that has given me strength in recent times.”

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.”