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 sonya@silkpurseoilyrag.co.nz.  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





Something happens when I regularly photograph the same woman over a period of time.  I learn what makes her smile and relax, and what brings a spark to her eye.  In Catherine’s case, this means chatting about finding beautiful fashionable things – clothes, designers, brands, looks – that make her feel happy. And dancing…


“Gregory is a label I have recently found, that really appeals to me.  It’s grown up, but still very modern and edgy from a design perspective.  I now have a few pieces from them.  This dress is by Gregory, and it’s become a favourite, although I can’t really wear it with flats or I look a bit ‘mumsy’.  It needs the heel to lift it.  No my heels are not new.  I have actually had them for some time, and they are by Doc Martens, although you wouldn’t call them “Docs”!  The dress is actually very dark blue… apparently!  But I think it looks black to me, and when I wear black I like to mix in non-black things.  It keeps it interesting.  Like the shoes, and the bag.  The bag’s an old favourite by Deadly Ponies”.


I caught up with Amy a few days before Nelson’s Fashion Revolution event.  We talked about individual style and being aware of the impact of shopping decisions.  We also talked about re-living unfulfilled teenage fashion-fantasies, such as owning a pair of Doc Marten boots…

“My style is really a mix of the more expensive and ‘cheap and cheerful’. But being more environmentally sustainable is something I do think about a lot more these days. For me, sustainability is about buying mindfully. Like this skirt, which was a cheapie from Zara. Everything else I am wearing is high quality and I plan to have for a long time, but the skirt is a fun piece that I know will probably date. I will wear it a lot for a few seasons, but I know it wouldn’t be a ‘keeper’.  Why spend $600 or more on something that won’t stand the test of time? My boots, which are Doc Martens, are keepers and I know they will last and be loved forever. Yes, I can see why you might say they aren’t entirely in keeping with my usual style. But they are still very me! As a teenager I really wanted them but could not afford them. But now is my time.”