Friday, July 30, 2010

Elegance in a Suitcase

Conscious of my northern hemisphere readers, here's an ode to the warmth of summer.

Adaptability is one of the keys to travelling light, but it doesn't sound as though it lends itself to elegance, especially the elegance of a modest lady, who requires more fabric per garment than most modern women. I thought I'd test this.

These photos represent my pondering on what to pack for a summer holiday with family in Nelson. Nelson is New Zealand's sunshine coast, its population multiplying by four during the summer months. I could expect it to be hot -- most of the time. I would be babysitting small nephews and niece, and I had tickets to Opera in the Park, a concert I had dreamed of attending for half my life. I flicked through the garments in my closet...and flicked again...

Oh dear, why can't I take it all?!?

My travel pack has only so much space. Press and squeeze as I might, it's still only thus big.

The decision-maker was:
Is it adaptable? Will it serve multiple functions?

I crafted this embroidered polycotton into a skirt for comfortable everyday wear, but the satin ribbon and pretty colour enable it to transition quite well into after-five wear.

A cotton print border helps this stunning checked satin chill out. With a cotton shirt it's perfect for cool day wear. Add the right accessories, and I've got myself another after-five outfit. Bonus: neither of these skirts needs ironing.

I love dressing up, so I ignored my nicely adaptable skirts and packed a dress as well. Okay, I admit that's cheating on the test. The dress is a wee bit too delicate to adapt to childcare wear. My excuse is that I had tickets for two concerts in the Nelson music festival, one in the cathedral, one in the park. I might not have had time for laundering in between!

The dress was crease-resistant and cool, a dainty burnout polycotton. It's transparentness was redeemed with a full length chemise, x2. For extra modesty plus evening bling, I added a Pagani crocheted bolero, around the border of which I threaded beaded ribbon. None of this took up inordinate space in the pack. After-dark chill would be handled with a white denim jacket, which I used during the day to prevent sunburn.

In my opinion, the bulkiest, most awkward items to pack are shoes. They tend to have sharp edges that need to be kept away from other objects. They aren't malleable. In short, they're hard to pack! And how hard to travel with no more than two! My summer solution was jandals (thongs/flip-flops), but not the humble plastic version. This pair of beachfeet sport patent leather thong and faux cork sole. Practical for the heat, pretty for the park. Even prettier if a flower is attached to the junction of each thong.

Top me sweet with a utilitarian cotton sunhat -- to which I would have applied a freshly picked flower with a hatpin if I'd remembered. I demonstrate here with a polarfleece hat and fake flower, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Finally, a cushion and water bottle were stuffed into this delectable, reversible carry-all.

Supposing I hadn't had room in my suitcase for the dress and its liners, the crocheted bolero would have worked magic on any of the outfits you see me wearing in these pictures. If your basic wardrobe is modest and feminine, even if all you can fit in your suitcase is everyday wear, the right shoes and accessories will transform you into a lady of elegance.

Off we go to enjoy the show!

Guess who forgot their sunhats? (Click on image for a better view.)

An absolutely superb program, and a dream come true.
I didn't want it to end.
Ah, summer bliss.

Ladies of the North, enjoy it!
Ladies of the South, it will come again.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Princess Moment

Every girl who's ever longed for a princess moment will understand the sense of victory I felt on 5th July 2009, but my royal triumph rose out of the event falling into disaster at my feet. In our dreams of that perfect Princess Moment, we envision ourselves perfectly dressed commanding our subjects and environment with a perfect smile. How can such a moment arise out of disaster?

No, that's not the organist. This is master of ceremonies, Nick Hill. Nice man.

I was guest vocalist in "Brass from the Past", a concert hosted by the Dannevirke Brass Band in the beautiful St. John's Anglican Church in Dannevirke. I knew I looked great. That in itself was a personal triumph, because no-one taught me to dress well. I've been my own tutor. Creating an attractive hairstyle is the fruit of two decades of trial and error. Confidence in your appearance goes a long way, especially when you have a chronic illness as I do, one that effects everything that makes a voice pleasant to the ear. I have to work very hard to cover that.

The dressing room was frigid, I was shaking with exhaustion before I began, then my accompanist altered the tempo so much I struggled to hold my notes. But my joyful, energetic rhythm wasn't the only loss. He didn't even give me coherent note progression. The massive pipes of the organ roared out a stream of fumblings and dischords.

Auditory disaster escalated while I stood isolated on that platform wondering if I should stop and call for him to start over. An echo in my head, something like "The show must go on!" stiffened my spine. I carried on, smiled harder, and hoped that he would get his act together and my vocal skills wouldn't be judged by this Very Awful Presentation.

Somehow, despite the disaster, I sang my heart out and moved listeners to tears of appreciation. I felt beautiful, I handled my environment with poise and grace, and I was applauded. It was a precious and privileged moment, a Princess Moment.



Some girls long for such a moment all their lives and never get it. I plan to create more such moments in my life, but even if that never happens, I'll know one thing. I have the capacity to be that Princess. Provided I carry myself with poise and grace, courage, self-respect, and faith, no matter how dark my days, nor even how lank my hair, cracked my lips, and blotchy my skin, I can be that Princess where it counts, if I choose. Because it's not me that's special, it's the process. Follow the process and you'll get results.

It's as big a challenge to bear oneself with those characteristics in private, where no-one sees day after day and no-one cares, as it is to do so in public. The point is that you will know, and God will know. And perhaps some day in eternity you will discover that someone did see and blessed you for it.

Plan on enjoying that public Princess moment, but in the meantime, live every moment with poise and grace, courage, self-respect, and faith. Let that be your qualification for royalty.

Do you have a dream but you face impossible odds achieving it? Discover 7 keys for making headway in the pursuit of your dream: SONG OF THE CANS AND CANNOTS.

Ed. Note: The full screen video can be viewed at www.YouTube.com/songuine.

Friday, July 16, 2010

If the Shoe Fits

The writing on the wall appeared:

"Narelle is contemplating a pair of red boots. Should I...? Shouldn't I...? Should I...? Shouldn't I...?"


Her Facebook wall suddenly bristled with interest.

"You should," said Deborah.

B'Ethel said, "Very nice. Will it be hard to find an outfit to go with them?"

Monique exclaimed, "You totally should! I adore red shoes!"

Narelle replied, "B, I buy feet to go with my clothes rather than the other way around. Monique, I've been looking for ivory or light brown boots for two years, but I haven't found them yet -- northern trends do look promising for this spring -- so I'm going to go with the red while this style is available. They're designed for narrow feet, which is rare, plus a low but stylish heel, also rare. For me, comfort is paramount, but not at the expense of style. I tend to wait more than I shop.”

Three days later, Narelle spent twenty minutes wandering around in Dannevirke's Ballentynes store wearing the boots. They were indeed beautiful. The colour was great, the style was classy, but the fit...she just wasn't sure. Fifteen minutes into the exercise, she realized that the wide set of the boot ankle allowed her foot to slide forward in the shoe, meaning with a very little walking, she was suffering from scrunched toes.

Walk around. And around. One circumnavigation of the shop probably isn't enough.

At casual glance, the boots seemed the same width, and in fact, the foot shaping of the red boot made it seem smaller than the black pair she already owned. The important difference for her was that the black boot has a stiff tongue supporting the boot leg and holding the ankle firmly in place, whereas the red boot is pliable, allowing for wider ankles to be comfortable or narrow ankles to rattle about.

Narelle went home and wrote on Facebook: "The conclusion of the matter: I SHOULDN'T."

There are few among us who find such a decision easy to make. Narelle didn't, and was thankful that shop assistant Pam was sympathetic to her plight and gave her the freedom to figure it out in peace. Pam understood because she'd once been hurried by a shop attendant into a rash decision.

Monique wrote on Narelle's wall, "Oh that's very sad. But good you didn't get them. I bought a pair of boots in haste one year, and because I'd put out the cash I made myself wear them for two whole seasons, but they were awful! Never again..."

At which point Narelle could no longer resist the journalist's fashion twitch. This post is to encourage you to take time to be sure that your purchase is right for your feet. If it's not right, have the courage to say no and go home. There are other stores, other styles, other seasons. Wait for a quality shoe that fits your foot and you'll love it for years.

Looking good, but not feeling good.

There was one gentleman who added his thought to the Facebook conversation. He said, "It's a smart woman who values comfort over beauty."


Friday, July 9, 2010

Subtle Colour Changes that Transform You

Argh! I've got nothing to wear!
Which being interpreted means, "None of this allows me to look my best!"

Have you ever said that?

Read on to learn a secret of transforming your closet contents from dull to delicious.

I love teal, but I've discovered that teal doesn't love me. It might make my eyes look blue, but it makes my skin look bluer and my hair darker, end result being I looking cold and sickly, especially on a dull winter day.

I "had my colours done" a year ago, but couldn't affort to empty my closet and start over with a new colour palette. Besides, I'm very attached to some garments...comfy, practical, cute ones. You know how it is.

The trick is to apply something near your face that brings out the best in your skin tone, hair, and eyes.

In my case, I get a lot of mileage out of a bright shade of red. You can tell the right shade for you by identifying if it is yellow-based or blue-based. Ladies with Spring colouring appear their best in yellow-based tones.

First, a scrap of lace, 21cm by 92cm, folded twice widthwise and tied loosely around neck to fill the space between turtleneck and jacket, raising zip until scarf is nicely cradled.

Add hat in similar shade. A touch of lipstick [Neways Angel 9745].

Gloves and shoulder bag carry on the theme.

I could even do boots. [Click on image for link to Ballentynes store.]

Or go funky with headscarf instead of necktie.

Dreary teal transformed, I'm ready to step out with confidence!

Try this for yourself and let us know how you get on!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lint Removers

There are two kinds of lint:
  1. debris attached to fabric through contact with people, animals, and other fabric or textiles;
  2. fabric fibres that have worked loose into tiny balls of fluff, known as pilling.
Removing debris is made easier with the use of a lint brush. This illustration shows two roller brushes, in regular and travel size (with a ballpoint pen for perspective), and a swivel-head lint brush that belonged to my grandmother.

The swivel-head brush is my favourite, although my fingers do get tired from cleaning the lint off the brush. The perforated sticky paper on the roller brushes is disposable, but it doesn't pick up lint as efficiently as the older brush.

Refillable sticky-paper roller brush,
available at supermarkets, department stores, and hardware suppliers.

A tip for lessening the amount of lint on your clothes is to take precautions at the laundering stage.

Precaution #1: Keep towels and other fluffy fabrics in a separate wash cycle.
Precaution #2: Check all pockets for tissues/kleenex before washing.
Precaution #3: Turn garments inside-out before laundering.
Precaution #4: Use a microfibre lint cloth or lint balls in your washing machine to capture lint while it's wet (the easiest time to remove it).

Lint Balls (above) are available at ShopHomeTrends
and on TradeMe.co.nz and Amazon.com.

Pilling can leave sweaters and other clothes looking old and tired long before they show any other signs of wear. Run an electric lint remover over the effected spots and the spinning blade will whisk the fuzz balls away without damaging the fabric.

Heavy Duty Lint Remover, NZ$29.95 at Innovations.co.nz or Innovations.com.au.
Jumbo Lint Remover, NZ$12.90 at MagnaMail.co.nz or MagnaMail.com.au.

While advertisements hint that this is a speedy process, I find it takes about half an hour to do a garment. This green double-merino jersey (below) needs that attention every 3 or 4 months when worn regularly.

The point is, do you want to save time on closet care, instead spending money buying new garments that look fresh, or do you want to save money and spend time keeping your existing garments fresh?

I prefer to set aside a little time to ensure my clothes look great, which in turn keeps me looking great and spending less. How about you?
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