Friday, April 24, 2009

Anzac Girls 2009

Commemorating ANZAC DAY, April 25th, 2009

The ANZACs* of 1915 formed a pivotal moment in New Zealand's history as our national identity was forged on the battlefields of Gallipoli, Turkey during World War I. Drawn from a population of just under 1 million, 10% of which served overseas, 2721 soldiers were killed and more than 7000 wounded, the flower of our manhood.

*Australia New Zealand Army Corp

The women during this period, holding the fort at home, have earned my deep respect. When men's presence is required elsewhere, whether it be for protection, provision, or pioneering and exploration, women often have to shoulder tasks that require unaccustomed strength and courage, mental and physical acumen. The challenge was then and still is how to cope with these upheavals whilst keeping our femininity. I wonder, how did the Anzac's women do it?

Over the past decade, it's been amusing to watch the constant fossicking into the past by up-to-the-minute fashionistas. Trends dip into the weird as well as the wonderful, mixing eras in a hodge-podge of fine and freaky, dotting question marks over the distinction between classic, vintage, and historic. Among this season's fashion tableau, I've found a few reflections of early 20th century fashion, but first, so you get an idea of the era, let's look at these newspaper illustrations, circa 1915.

The photographs contrast the dainty, refined woman and the active, outdoor woman. Fashion was adapting to cater for energetic pursuits.

Lady in White

In 1915, a lady of elegance dressed in fine cottons, voiles, and muslins, with white stockings and white, heeled pumps.

Here, women of Wanganui hoe potatoes to raise funds for wounded soldiers. Every single girl wears a white blouse, many with a tie or scarf at the neck. Most hems are above the ankle. This view shows half of the original photograph, in which there were 27 women and only one did not wear a hat.

Below are a selection of dainty whites available from I've popped a swishy April Cornell skirt in the middle for effect. Everything at April Cornell is currently 15% off.

Somersert Ladies Blouse
Cotton voile, pintucked, trimmed with fine crochet
Will need camisole or undershirt
Anna Ladies Blouse
Woven cotton
Caroline Ladies Blouse
Woven cotton in white or pink

Jamie Ladies Skirt - Periwinkle
Cotton voile, lined

The above blouses are designed to be worn with a camisole or undershirt. Here is a selection of camisoles from

Charlotte Ladies Camisole
Cotton voile
Kerry Ladies Camisole
Cotton ambric

Agathe Ladies Camisole
Cotton/linen blend, available in white or coral

The following 2 images are from the latest Annie Lantz catalogue. They're not second-decade style, but they're so cute I wanted you to see them.

Ditto this Donna Vinci ensemble from

Here, Miss Sporty is shod in lace-up leather walking shoes, attractive despite their sturdiness, and utterly 2009 trendy. She wears her skirt clear of her ankles and her knit jacket cinched firmly at the waist, forestalling interfering bulk and providing greater safety and economy of movement.

NZ Ladies Golf Championship, 1910

Heeled lace-up shoe from Stores are stocking this style with a variety of heel heights.

War Brides

Belted coats and knit jackets with wide lapels or collars are readily available this year. The next 2 styles are available from Ezibuy in New Zealand (follow the links) and Australia.

Ezibuy Capture Trench Coat
Available in 4 colours

Ballentynes offers drapey knits to go over a feminine blouse. Note that the sleeves are all quite close-fitting. Sleeve fashion is in transition from form-fitting to 80s batwing (oh horrors), so check that your blouse will sit comfortably underneath.

A year ago I wrote Fashion Forum on the Farm, discussing options for active women. That theme continues to crop up. When life requires you to handle tasks traditionally the responsibility of men in trousers, how do you retain your femininity?

After Christmas Dinner, 1915

It's so easy to slide into convenience, and the slide can be so subtle we don't notice it's happening. When you're handling the hoe or coaxing the cow, driving the Datsun or dicing the dinner, do you still look and feel like a girl? There are no absolutes for what a woman should or shouldn't look like, but let's celebrate the womanhood God has given us. I hope you'll think on that this weekend as we remember the heroic men and women who've gone before us.

To add to your ponderings, here are two snapshots of life that addressed themselves to me this past week:

1) Restroom signs for the illiterate depict a male with a silhouette of trousers and a female wth a silhouette of a dress.

2) A 4-year-old boy asked his grandmother why she wore skirts and he didn't. How would you respond?

Skirt: Ballentynes [North Island]
Acrylic Cashmere Poloneck: The Warehouse (available now)
Merino jersey: Sally Mac's, Amberley (available now)
Scarf: The Warehouse
Cap: Ezibuy
Suede wool-lined shoes: Mr Strong, the Shoemaker

Friday, April 17, 2009

When Polarfleece Sleeves are Too Short

My arms are longer than is normal for my height. A perpetual shopping challenge is finding sleeves long enough to keep my wrists from freezing or from looking silly dangling out of a garment I've apparently outgrown.

I recently went shopping for polarfleece zipped jackets (The Warehouse, 2 for NZ$40). The choice was to get size Medium which gaped around my torso letting cold air in, but had sleeves of a comfortable length, or to get size Small which fitted my torso but had sleeves 2 inches too short. The cuffs were folded over a wide band of elastic, so I decided to get Size Small and see what could be done to lengthen the sleeves.

When unpicked (the factory used so much thread it took me 40 minutes per sleeve!), I had an additional 1.5 inches in length, but unelasticated, the sleeve openings flapped wide and unattractive. Knowing that polarfleece edges are often left raw (unstitched) because fleece doesn't unravel, I decided to give myself all possible length by not hemming the sleeves, and to remove the extra width by inserting pleats.

Starting with the maroon fleece, I used one big pleat and stitched 3 rows (2 to secure the pleat, and 1 more to turn it into a feature rather than a fix) up as far as the original stitch line (a tight squeeze on my machine).

Click on image for enlargement

I decided this pleat size created more bulk along my forearm than was comfortable, so on the navy one, I used two small pleats.

Step 1: Reinforce the sleeve seam at the cuff by running the machine back and forth a couple of times.

Step 2: I placed 2 orange pins at 3cm apart, and 2 red pins at 3cm apart, with 2cm between the sets. I brought the orange pins to meet each other, folded the pleat flat and pinned. Ditto with red pins. (The black pins are securing the folds.)

Step 3: Top stitched pleats from hem to 4cm up the sleeve.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How to Resize a Hat that Doesn't Fit

Got Hat Horrors? Here's how to turn your headgear into something heavenly. If you struggle to find a hat that fits your head, this article may have the solution you need.

Hat too small?

My sister Sarah, on the outset of another exploration of the Australian continent, asked if there was anything I would like her to bring back for me. "An Akubra, please!" I said, meaning the iconic Australian stockman's hat. She'd acquired such a hat on a previous trip, my father had one, and well, certain members of my family are hat fanatics. = )

Sarah measured my crown -- 56cm -- and off she went. Unfortunately, the hat shop she went to didn't have a full range of Akubra sizes in stock. Feeling she couldn't come home without spending my $60, she decided to get the next smallest size they had available (54cm), hoping that it would stretch or my brains would shrink.

I wasn't keen to endure a headache whilst waiting for a sturdy leather band to age, so was thankful for the outdoorsy knowledge of my shepherding brother. "Soak the thing in water," he said, "and then wear it while it dries. It will adjust to the shape of your head." Uh huh. Another charmingly comfortable concept. I stowed the hat in a cupboard, thinking that was $60 wasted.

Soon afterward, I was gifted a 50 year old metal milliner's form which I initially thought wouldn't help me at all because I wanted to be able to stick pins in it as I fiddled with fabric. However, the equipment has a lever allowing the form to be made larger or smaller, and a measuring stick showing exactly what size it's resting at.

I soaked the Akubra, set it on the form at 54cm, then wound the handle until the pointer reached 56cm. The leather didn't complain, and by the following day it was dry and ready to wear, perfect for my head. I like to wear it on wet or windy days.

Hat too big?

Ladies with very small heads should look for child-sized hats. I've been keeping an eye on the Warehouse's Back to School collection, which featured a summer range in January/February, and now has a winter range of cute cosies coming in. The sizes tend to be ranged by age, i.e. 8-14 means the hat should fit children aged 8-14. I'm the smallest in a family of big heads, and it was a wee bit too small for me, so it would fit a small women's head quite comfortably.

Granted, you won't always find what you want in the children's section, so here are three options for fixing the hat that's too big.

1. Make a pleat or two. While the above example may seem too obviously 'fixed', with the current trend for pleats and tucks all over the place, many designer garments look like a mistake that's been fixed. If you have to make a pleat somewhere, don't tell anyone and the odds are they'll never know it wasn't meant to be there.

2. Make a lining and stitch it to the inside band. You can also do this to make a hat warmer. In this example, I've used polar fleece, which is cosy, bulky, and doesn't need edge stitching (it doesn't unravel).

The cap crown has 6 segments, so I made the same in polarfleece.

The black lining can be inserted into any of my Gatsby caps, meaning I can have cool cotton for summer and then bulk it up for winter, making my hat wardrobe very adaptable.

Sew your lining to the inner band to make the band smaller. If you're just adding warmth and your hat has a hanging hat band inside the crown, tuck the edges behind the band to keep the lining from slipping about as you take the hat on and off.

3. Add an internal band.

Watch an experienced milliner demonstrate the process of making a silk Ascot-style hat. Of particular interest is the silk tube she adds to the base of the crown after the lining (2.51min through video), through which a fine cord or elastic is threaded, allowing the hat to fit multiple sizes.

I have a cotton sun hat that has such a band. Bias binding has been attached to the seam just inside the crown, and a cord threaded through. As in the HatHeads illustration above, this fills up some of the extra space inside the crown, and allows you to make the band firmer if needed. Apart from giving you the perfect fit, it's also an alternative to a chin strap for those in breezy climates.

To cap off this Chanson de Chapeau, I hope your hat days will now be much happier!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter at Ezibuy

Here's your chance to SAVE 25% on EVERYTHING not already reduced online at or this Easter Weekend.

But hurry, the sale only lasts 5 days!
  • Online Only
  • Ends Midnight, Monday 13th April
Happy Passover!

Cheep Chicks Modest Swimwear

Today, Modest Swimwear Solutions made the following announcement.

Our HUGE Spring Sale is here!
But it won't last long! Hurry, they're going fast!

$10 off * almost every ready made swimsuit in our store!

We also have a few pairs of leggings left that have been marked down $16 OFF! They have never been this cheep! Leggings are great for exercising, wearing under a skirt, or just to have an extra pair on hand for your swimsuit. At this price, they're affordable, however you like to wear them.

On top of this, we are still offering FREE expedited shipping on orders of 3 or more swimsuits.

Come and see for yourself.

*Prices in US$.

Note: If you're having trouble with accessing the Modest Swimwear Solutions website, so am I. Hang in there. We'll get it sorted. Their products are worth waiting for.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hats & Handbags - FREE patterns!

A hairdresser wrought havoc on my head this week. Feeling alarmingly bald and boyish, my interest in hats has increased suddenly and passionately.

With pieces of bias-corded pink suede** left over from an elbow cape and shoulder bag (see end of post), I'm sketching and twitching for a blend of the following 3 concepts.

**Original Spotlight price of $59.95/meter which I got for $4/m. = )

Slouch cap from

Polarfleece hot stuff with pin-tucked crown and irregular brim.

Simplicity freebie featured here.

Below is a link to further free downloadable patterns with which you can get creative. If you don't need hats, make them for the little guys. Add lace, ribbons, or flowers to make them feminine. Polarfleece is easy to sew, for those heading into the cool season, and is even cosier when you line the crown (double the fleece, or use a cotton or lining fabric).

Free Patterns from McCalls
available here!

McCalls' free patterns collection includes baby hats, home furnishings, and a variety of gift containers, bags, and purses, a selection of which are shown here.

Journal Cover

Memory Board

A hat with a matching purse can transform a plain outfit. To quote Ezibuy's new blogging fashionista:

"This is a good trick -- spend everything you've got on great accessories and you can get away with the chic-o-nomic garments and still look fierce." Spending $600 on shoes is fierce all right. Well, at least she made us laugh.

Pink Suede Shoulder Bag by Narelle, gussetted and reversible, the pattern based on a decade-old linen Ballentynes shopping bag.

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