Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm going to a [fill in the blank] and I don't know what to wear!

'Behind the Scenes' with Jules Riding in Concert

Remember that 'what should I wear?' wail when you want to dress modestly but you also want to fit in with the crowd? That was me before my Auckland singing debut, the pressure of the occasion magnified by the concert being filmed live for DVD.

Promotional poster: Narelle in concert with Jules Riding

Six weeks before show time, I inquired for the wardrobe mistress. There wasn't one. The best information (given by a male) was: "It will either be everyone in black or wear what you like."

I didn't want to wear black. I could, but I wouldn't look my best. In the absence of a directive, I focused on 'wear what you want' and the angel persona my vocal styling seemed to have garnered for me.

I came up with bright yellow imitation satin with a slight crumpled look, meters of cream lace net, combined in a modesty design experiment you'll hear more about in a future post, to be worn with the ivory mermaid skirt (Backpackers Best Bits #1) and white lattice cork-heeled sandals.

The Friday night dress rehearsal was an extremely stressful affair for all concerned, with fifty cast and crew members struggling to overcome significant setbacks. The lady I'd hoped to ask for advice on my appearance wasn't there. My small requests for nod or nay on my costume dissipated into the dark auditorium along with the fog from the haze machine.

The dramatic swoops of the backdrop were lit in glowing red. I wondered what effect did bright yellow bring to that? As far as I could tell, there was great disparity between me and everyone else. I was worried, but my time on stage required 110% concentration on my performance. I had to leave without my appearance concerns being resolved.

Late Friday night, weary and worried

On Saturday afternoon as I got ready for the concert, I heard that my stage presence had certainly been angelic. The film crew said, "You glowed." The bright spotlights had washed me all into one pale colour and I contrasted starkly with the rest of the cast who turned out in variations of black and blue. I'm so thankful I had another outfit with me.

It was a silky polyester shell top and 6-panel skirt that I made in 1998, one of those unexpected successes that can be worn anywhere. I refitted the skirt in August this year and added a lining. For the concert, I brought the outfit up to date with a kimono tie-belt from Kooky and black heeled sandals. A blue pearl necklace helped draw the eye to my face.

The colours enabled me to blend in the with the team, but the style was very different to what the other ladies chose to wear. I like to be modest and feminine, and that guides what I wear, but as I'm sure you know, sticking to what you like requires a certain amount of courage and grace which can feel like a lot of effort when your coping mechanisms are already working overtime.

I was also shooting for gorgeous. Not able to get a visual of myself on stage or feedback from others was a miserable position to be in. If I looked good, I thank God.

I learned that when there's no-one to ask for advice on the 'what to wear' question, or the answer you do get is unsatisfactory, keep pushing until you find someone with wisdom in matters of apparel. Find a way to deal with the uncertainty so you can focus on enjoying the event.

On the positive side, click on this link to view a five minute video of Narelle's Ten Favourite Things about being in concert with Jules Riding. (We promise the audio quality is better than in the last interview!).

Narelle will join Jules Riding and Acoustic Band on tour in four cities in November. Go to for details.

The album will be available on DVD, CD, and mp3 on and iTunes, and select songs on YouTube. Narelle features in two songs: "In Your Presence" and "Holy God". Release date November 12th.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Backpacker's Best Bits, part 3

Continuing from part 2 of Backpacker’s Best Bits, what item of clothing makes your travels easier?

Navigating the Bundaberg River

My mother and I travelled from chilly New Zealand to the balmy Queensland coast in Australia. The days felt like summer at home, but the nights…well, the temperature plummeted and the buildings are designed to repel heat rather than retain it. I would have been miserable if I did not have a…

Arctic polarfleece lined with polyester, zipped instead of buttoned, three pockets

Like the mermaid skirt [Best Bit #1], I'm so glad I finished this project in time for the trip. I wouldn't have been comfy without it. I wore it everywhere.

Enjoying my Kermit Permit

It was
  • a cool climate outdoor coat over several other layers (it's winter in NZ);
  • a warm climate chill-evader (south Queensland winter temperatures can be expected to range from 8 to 24 degrees Celsius in a 24-hour period in June);
  • practical for travelling -- lightweight in the pack, inner pocket for passport and transit papers;
  • and it functioned well on night duty -- dressing gown, extra in-bed layer (especially on the night we found ourselves slumming without blankets).
Sunrise on Lady Elliot Island

Bring on the next trip!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Backpacker's Best Bits, part 2

Continuing from part 1 of Backpacker’s Best Bits, what items of clothing make your travels easier?

I say, the right shoes. Comfort is paramount for travel footwear. You need a good walking shoe that still enables your foot to breathe in the heat.

Best Bit #2: SHOES
Mary Janes from Innovations, surprisingly labelled “Emma Shoes”
Available from or
Full grain leather upper, hard-wearing rubber sole
Dressy casual, can be worn with or without socks

God bless gas stations with free wireless internet. This was the night we had both accommodation and transport troubles. I would not have wanted sore feet added to that equation.

The Emma Shoes come with a leather insole with built-in arch support. The arch didn't quite fit my foot, so I removed the insoles and replaced them with synthetic orthotics. Nevertheless, they’re the best shoes I've had in a long time.

They are
  • classy enough to wear to a party;
  • practical enough to roam a beach in or climb up to a lighthouse;
  • and comfy enough for hours seated on planes and trains and beach-front cafe recliners without ruffling my sense of well-being.

Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, Great Barrier Reef

I wish them long life and many journeys.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Boutique Narelle on Auckland Stage

We interrupt the "Backpacker's Best Bits" series to make an announcement.

Boutique Narelle is only one string on Narelle's violin. Songuine is another, and it's about to make a lot of noise. Nice noise, we promise.

Narelle loves that her music gives her opportunity to explore the creation of modest, gorgeous garments. This video interview gives a couple of hints about the apparel she's been working on for the last two months and details of where she'll be wearing it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Backpacker's Best Bits, part 1

Have you ever been exploring in a foreign country? What was the best item from your closet that you took with you?

I've done a lot of travelling around New Zealand and four ventures across the Tasman Sea, but it's taken a long time for me to learn what to pack so I can relax and enjoy my adventure.

Yes, that's travelling light for me! I didn't have a car to tote all my extra might-be-useful objects.
However, I did fit in a wetsuit and a computer.

For three weeks in May and June I was researching a novel in Queensland, Australia. (See here for more details on that.) It called for travelling light and packing for convenience and adaptability.

I had one major thing in my favour -- a temperate climate. Laundry would dry fairly quickly if there wasn't too much humidity, and I wouldn't need bulky winter layers. I hoped.

BUT I'm a girl who likes to be prepared for every situation. You know the type? Then you know that travelling light is no mean feat. I'm pleased to announce there were only three items of clothing that I didn't use. There were two good excuses for this.
  1. It didn't rain.
  2. Ninety minutes before I expected to leave for a party, my brother said, "We're leaving now", so I went in what I'd been wearing all day.
I took one skirt and packed a second one to wear while the first was being laundered. The first one turned out to be...


Boutique Narelle mermaid skirt in printed stretch cotton with polyester lining.

I just got it finished in time for the trip. It doesn't require pressing after laundering, and I could wear it for a week and it still wouldn't look creased.

It was
  • classy enough to wear to a party;
  • practical enough to roam a beach in or climb up to a lighthouse (being fitted over the thighs and full from above the knees, it gives kick room without exposure due to gusting breezes on beach or train platform);
  • and comfy enough for hours seated on planes and trains without ruffling my sense of well-being.

The original lighthouse at Burnett Heads, just north of Bundaberg.

Pardy duds, Brisbane

The skirt looked good enough that a woman stopped me in Bundaberg Library to say how much she liked it, and Aussie film legend David Ireland came across the restaurant on Lady Elliot Island to say "Nice dress." Yep, I'll definitely pack that dress again.

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