Sunday, July 23, 2023

Modern Modest Elegance Goes in an Art Deco Parade


This weekend was the Napier Art Deco Winter Festival 2023, an event that people travel from overseas and around New Zealand to participate in.

A storm was forecast, but happily it cleared up in time to allow for the street parade in honour of first responders and everyone else who has chipped in to help in the recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle, which devastated the region and prevented the summer Art Deco Festival taking place this year.

Following the parade, folk wandered through the streets enjoying live music, dancing, games, vintage car rides, and a host of other events. Many were dressed in costumes of the Prohibition and Depression eras (1920s and 1930s). There was much to see, and it was lovely to meander slowly, stopping to chat with any friendly person I encountered, acquaintance or stranger, taking time to offer praise for costumes I particularly appreciated.

As I was leaving the Soundshell, the always dapper "Bertie", Art Deco ambassador for Napier, approached me with a light in his eye, saying, "You look wonderful, darling." (He addresses all women like this.) "Why did I not see you in my Fashion Flaunt?"

"I'm sorry, I arrived late and you were halfway through."

"I would have stopped the show for you," he said gallantly. "Where did you get your hat?"

"I made it."

"I like it very much."

I chuckled. "The first time I met you, about twenty years ago, you were hosting a beauty pageant at the Municipal Theatre. I was there as a journalist. We met on the steps and had a wee yak. I was wearing a hat and you liked that one too. You told me I should have been in the competition."

He laughed. "That was a strange show."

"Yes, it was. I was sitting centre front, fourth row back. I got sprayed by the flammable liquid from the fire eater on the stage." I didn't get to hear what aspects he thought were strange, because he had to rush off to compere another event.

Near the archway exit from the Soundshell, I met a picturesque Gary in vintage motorcycle garb, keeping an eye on his shiny red Indian motorcycle parked across the road, which was attracting a lot of attention. He crossed the road with me as we discussed motorcycle things, like how many cycles can you fit in a standard garage in comparison to the narrow-chasis Model T Ford like the one chugging past us giving rides. Gary owns twenty motorcycles.

A lady clad in pleated wool cullottes with a white fox around her neck asked to have a sit on the bike. Gary coached her in the best riding position, and invited her to try the horn. We bystanders chuckled and shook our heads at the rude sound. I said, "That would get annoying very quickly."

An eager Asian man stepped up to me. "Please may I have picture with you?"

"Sure," I said, wondering who was going to take the picture for him. He stepped in beside me, up in the air went his phone, and click!

"Thank you!" he said.

I smiled, blinking in astonishment. A tourist just took a selfie with me!

Next thing I knew, a tweedy-looking gentleman was saying, "Hullo!" like we'd met before. Which we had, but I didn't know he was an Art Deco tour guide. While we were discussing the interesting combination of four tweed patterns in his outfit, a man with a large modern camera hanging around his neck said, "Excuse me, may I film you?" We obliged, and adjusted our position so he got the best background to represent the Art Deco capital of the world.

"I love the colour you're wearing," he said to me as he filmed. "By the way, it might be on TV. Would you like me to take some photos of you with your phones?" We presented them, and he quickly took a series of pictures on both phones at once, looking like he'd done it many times before.

After that, a group of ladies gathered me into their company and took me for a leisurely browse at the Antiques Fair and then Decorum Vintage Store (Decorum of Art Deco Napier New Zealand) where we considered aspects of vintage feminine apparel and how to orchestrate them for modern comfort and delight.

When I do Art Deco outfit parades like this, I use regular items that are already in my closet. Modern clothing styles abound with vintage influences. It's not hard to dress with echoes of times gone by, but PLANNING IS KEY if you want to pull it off with pizzazz.

When putting together an outfit, especially when you want to look spiffy and leave a good impression, give yourself a trial run. Put on all the pieces you intend to wear and photograph yourself in them. Looking at the photos will help give you a "third eye" perspective which will make it easier to see if you've got the combination right. I photographed four versions of this outfit to find the right combination.

I hope you found some inspiration here today.

Until our next Deco Dally, wishing you a Happy Hattitude.




Sunday, May 28, 2023

Modern Modest Elegance Goes to an Arabian Nights Party


This evening I had the privilege of attending a party in a stunningly beautiful setting. The birthday girl is a skilled decorator. Look what she created for her Arabian Nights theme. 🤩

I didn't have much time to come up with a costume for the occasion. I went with a refit of a #BoutiqueNarelle bridesmaid dress (what a good thing I put some flexi in those seams!), and the simple strategy of 👑Princess Up👑.

It's remarkable that the rose fascinator matches the dress so well, because I created it long before my sister's wedding was in sight. I was delighted to get a chance to wear "la belle fleur" tonight. It's one of my favourite fabric flowers, inspired by a rose in my grandmother's garden which I've never seen anywhere since. 

I was in my early teens when Grandma moved in next-door and planted dozens of rose bushes. As I was walking along her garden path one day, this enormous lemon bloom caught my awed attention, and I moved in for a sniff and a closer look. I've never forgotten it. Maybe one day I'll find out what its name was.

I hope you've found something beautiful and inspiring here today.

Fiat lux!





Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Melon Lace Dress: Smart Fashion Tricks for Modest Women on a Budget

Two Ways to Wear One Short Shift Dress, including Five Tips to Make Your Outfit Smarter

It's Spring and I currently spend much of my time getting grubby amongst plants, so it was nice to have an opportunity recently to dress up a bit.

My parents came to visit on the day the latest lockdown lifted, for which exciting event I planned a special outfit. I woke up to see the sun shining on it...

This thriftshop dress is cotton lace with gold plastic buttons. It came with a matching nylon chemise which the factory had sewn in back-to-front - probably why the previous owner gave up wearing it. It was a simple task to detach it from its moorings with an unpicking tool.


The forecast temperature was a bit chilly, so I chose to wear a long-sleeved tee shirt underneath, a white chemise over top of it, and white spandex trousers, keeping all the under layers unobtrusive.

The jacket is a cheap and baggy fleece I've had in my closet for a while and not liked very much other than the colour. To improve the fit and add some class, I pinched a pleat at each side of the back of the jacket, and sewed a pretty button on top. I think I shall like it a lot more now.

My mother liked my outfit so much that she wanted to take photos of me. I'm happy that my clothing choices brought her pleasure. Other people have to look at me far more than I look at myself. I like to know that what they see is a well-groomed and attractive picture, a good representation of a King's daughter.


Here are five fashion secrets that can upgrade the classiness of nearly any dress.

If underlayers can't be hidden, but without them you feel exposed, you need a change of plan. Here I've ditched the tee shirt, and switched to the matching melon chemise which blends seamlessly with the dress and hides the waistline of the trousers.

Instead of underlayers for warmth, a tailored hip-length jacket or longline coat will maintain warmth as well as style.

Choosing a pair of tailored trousers adds a more formal touch to the outfit. The stiff, wide drape of these trews works well with the slimline pencil dress, and the textured stripe is a stylish contrast to the soft lace fabric.

Granted, any shoes will look dressier than socks, although dare I say bright pink socks are rather snazzy. Choosing a chic pair of sandals or heels will immediately elevate the smartness of your outfit.

Carry a pretty purse and viola! your outfit upgrade is in the bag. It was a simple task to transform this plain gold gift bag by gluing on a strip of craft card, adding an interesting swing tag, and attaching a fabric flower. The flower has a crocodile clip on the back, which slides onto a tab which I glued on the front of the bag.

I hope you've found something beautiful and inspiring here today. Now you know some simple fashion tricks for creating different outfits using the same dress.

Look out for more Boutique Narelle posts detailing liberating modest fashion techniques.

Fiat lux!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Discover the Potential of a Multipurpose Shirt: Smart Fashion Tricks for Modest Women on a Budget

Do you have a solid wardrobe staple that you're tired of wearing? Let these ideas bring fresh inspiration and help you love that garment again.

one shirt or tunic

worn at least three different ways

This Boutique Narelle tunic is made from a quality quilting cotton which has proved durable and held its colour well. I bought the fabric at an Everything Half Price closing down sale, paying an extravagant NZ$13/m when I would normally look for yardage in the $6-$8 range. It has proved worthwhile.

The cotton is soft and breathable, comfortable to the skin, good protection from the harsh southern sun. The dark colour with subtle floral print is feminine without seeming impractical for the outdoor adventures I've worn it on, yet easily adapts to more elegant occasions.

This was one of my early explorations of tunic styles. Princess seams have remained a favourite for the classic streamlined look they give. Other features recommended for a classy look are topstitched seams and lots of buttons. As trouser leg fashion has narrowed, I've lengthened my tunic hems to maintain a balanced silhouette. This length works well with wide-leg trousers.

Recent photos show the tunic with pleats over the shoulders. When an overzealous washing machine tore a hole in the shoulder, I decided that pleats would hide the rip and give me a better fit at the shoulders, which were a bit wider than I needed.

You can increase the styling contrast with:

  • different hats
  • different shoes
  • hairstyle changes
  • carrying a purse, wallet, or bag
  • rolling up the sleeves
  • buttoning up the collar

I hope you've found something beautiful and inspiring here today.

Look out for more Boutique Narelle posts detailing liberating modest fashion techniques.

Fiat lux!