Saturday, 19 January 2019

Mad about plaid

It was the last day of the holidays and I was feeling quite sorry for myself. My twelve days of freedom, which seemed never-ending at first, had dwindled to nothing. And what did I do? Exactly, nothing! Or not much anyway.

The weather was commiserating with me by cloaking itself in grey and sending some little black rain clouds my way. I had to run an errand in town, hoping against hope that being out and about would cheer me up.

Now, my hometown isn't the least bit exciting. It's the kind of place which is neither a village nor a town. If it was still somewhat rural back in the 1960s and 1970s, it had grown too big for its boots when I returned after 13 years of living in the big city.

Butchers, bakers and grocers have upped and left one by one until only an inadequate handful of essential shops remain in the High Street, the others replaced by the usual chains stores which seem to have colonized all Belgian High Streets. The only plus is that there are now two bookshops where before there were none.

There are a couple of small boutiques as well, and it is to one of them that I seemed to be drawn like a moth to a flame. Looking left and then right to check that I wasn't being followed by the vintage fashion police, I gingerly stepped inside, and promptly fell in love with a skirt!

Yes, dear readers, I did succumb to the lure of the sales. But don't tell anyone, please! It's our secret, right?

But look at that plaid pattern, which is such a classic! Surely this calls for a little jig! I love its midi length, which against all rules I do think suits my petite frame. And there's enough fabric for a twirl or two!

As I wanted to share my naughty buy with you, I waited until the weekend to wear it. I've included a close-up of the fabric, and the wide self belt which came with the skirt. As the belt is a bit floppy and wouldn't stay in place, I opted for a tan leather belt, which you can see below.

First wear this season of my beloved belted tweed jacket, which I accompanied with a blue beret and - again! - my frilly turquoise scarf. It is my current favourite, and perfect for the mild weather we continued to have. 

You can catch a glimpse of my curry opaques and the navy booties I'm wearing.

Let me show you what's underneath, which was a chocolate brown cardigan edged in ochre yellow, layered on top of a blouse which I will show and tell you about in a moment.

First things first though!  I couldn't resist sneaking in a peek at my vintage slip, one of a couple I charity shopped in the holidays. They both belonged to the same elderly lady who, as testified by the name tags, must have been residing in a nursing home. As they were both crisp and pristine as well as squeaky clean, I didn't mind taking them home, tags and all.

When I returned to work, Think Twice's sales were in full flow and down to € 4. I pounced on this vintage C&A blouse, with its frilly collar and yoke.

In my mind's eye, I could already see it paired with the plaid skirt and, for once, my mind's eye was right. It was a perfect match!

Its high collar called for a brooch, so I added the chunky green glass one I bought in a vintage shop in Middelburg back in November.

In the close-up on the top right, you can see the gold thread which is enhancing the neutral colours of the plaid.

The lovely ochre yellow beaded necklace was part of a late birthday present from my friend Ingrid, which she gave me on New Year's Eve. She'd also crocheted a pair of blue and yellow pot holders to tie in with our kitchen's colour scheme. And then there was a crochet covered clothes hanger which I'll be using to display some of my most precious necklaces.

Phoebe immediately claimed the wrapping paper, which we still haven't been able to take away from her. For some strange, unfathomable reason only cats understand, she loves lying on it.

It was still uncharacteristically warm that first weekend of January. And no, I haven't just thrown in some photos of last Summer's flowers to cheer you up on a miserably grey January day. These flowers, and many more, were still rearing their little heads in the vicarage garden earlier this month!

There was no let-up in the rain, so any walking was off the cards. Instead, and for want of a better thing to do, we did some charity shopping. Oh well, needs must!

I love browsing the nightwear and lingerie rails and couldn't resist this vintage quilted dressing gown with its pretty design of floral baskets and hearts, and its frilly nylon trim at the collar and cuffs.

This velvety hot pink (Sheila would say PANK) jacket still had its tags on, showing its original price of € 89,95. It was mine for € 6 and will make a nice change from my regular denim jacket next Summer. Not only was it a perfect fit, I thought it went rather well with this skirt, which was another one of my Think Twice bargains from the week before.

My final Think Twice buy was this forest green maxi dress, with a print of pale green and purple diamonds interspersed with lilac Paisley motifs. I picked up the splashes of lilac by adding my 1980s lilac belt, but I'm not convinced that it works. I will have to style it differently - and wear it myself! - soon.

It's been a manic couple of weeks, what with work related issues, and our weekends still partly taken up by clearing and cleaning the parental home ready for sale. Hence, blog posting might be a little erratic, but please bear with me, as I will return to my usual schedule shortly.

I'm leaving you now with what might possibly be the most hilarious piece of shell art work I've ever come across in a charity shop.

Linking my plaid outfit to Nancy's Fancy Friday and Tina's Pink Friday.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Pleats please!

As the year was creeping steadily towards its end, we spent our days happily doing nothing much at all.

We slept late, which in our case meant getting up past 8 am, and made plans for the day while enjoying a leisurely breakfast. Then, it was time for me to play with my wardrobe. Oh happy days!

On this day at the tail end of December, I had a craving for pleats! The fit and flare frock, with its pleated skirt, was a Think Twice find back in 2017, which I customized by adding a new set of buttons (see here). I love the sprinkling of pink flowers on a cobalt blue background.

Clouds had gathered, chasing away any lingering sunshine, but as there was no sign of rain just yet, we cleared our fuzzy heads with a walk in the park, halting at the new playground for outfit photos.

Gymnastics, particularly of the climbing variety, have never been my forte, so there was no way I was going to climb this rope ladder, especially as there would be much protesting from my bad knee if I did.

Nature seems to be in a state of confusion. She certainly has her seasons mixed up, thinking it is one long Autumn rather than Winter, displaying a profusion of fungi among the mushy carpet of leaves.

Elsewhere, there were early signs of Spring, as some of the bare pussy willow branches were already sporting the first of their furry catkins.

Meanwhile, back at the playground, I was still doing my acrobat impersonation. Rather unsuccessfully, I hasten to add. 

But at least it allowed me to show you a close up of my dress's print, my lilac opaques, blue boots and a bit of my vintage slip.

On top, I added my faithful fake fur, a red scarf, a cobalt blue beret and a pair of golden gloves.

Only the gloves and opaques were bought news. They were both bargains picked up at last Winter's sales. 

Jos is still happily wearing my Dad's coat, this time accompanied by a new-to-him green hat, a € 5 find at December's flea market.

Winter allows the park's bare bones to shine through, with the skeleton trees in a starring role. 

Well away from the beaten path, this heron had found a quiet place for a spot of fishing. But then I came along with my big bad camera. I tried to tiptoe closer but then it took wing.

Mid afternoon, and it was already getting dark. This really is the bleak midwinter, even though we were spared the frosty wind, nor was there any sign of snow.

Actually, it was unseasonably warm and mild enough to wear my coat open and show you my dress, with my snakeskin belt at my waist. The wooden disc necklace was bought from Accessorize, who used to have a shop here in Antwerp many years ago, while the vintage brooch pinned to my cardigan, a grey plastic dog wearing a sugar pink collar, was a flea market find.

We nipped into the nearby charity shop before returning home. My loot that day were a handful of necklaces, a small green evening bag and a blue glass bracelet.

I immediately recognized it as the little sister of the red one I already had and which I bought brand new at the time. I certainly paid a lot more for it than the € 0,50 I paid for its little sister. Their pretty glass beads remind me of one of those Millefiori paperweights!

Another day, another pleated dress! I wore this one a couple of days later. It is very similar in style and shape as the one I wore the other day. Its print has lots of tiny squares in blue, pink, red, lilac and turquoise, and its bodice closes with a row of small red buttons.

I wore turquoise tights and added a wide turquoise belt and a teal and pink cardigan with the cutest buttons ever, both of which were charity shop finds.

Accessories were a funky white metal necklace, which I've had for such a long time that I can't for the life of me remember where it came from, and a fish brooch bought as a holiday souvenir in Ypres.

My outerwear consisted of a vintage new wool jacket in a gorgeous shade of teal, with a strokable grey furry collar. I've bought it at Think Twice a while ago, but I seem to have forgotten to mention it on the blog. My fluffy turquoise scarf and raspberry beret completed my outfit, which I wore to run some errands in our village. I really don't need any reason to dress up!

And then it was New Year's Eve, which we hosted this year. 

I initially planned to wear something completely different, but when push came to shove I felt more comfortable and confident in this vintage maxi dress.

It was a very impromptu outfit, which came together without any forward planning. I just threw my yellow, cropped, short-sleeved cardigan on top, and added the lime green beaded necklace I'd found at the charity shop earlier that week. I was also wearing these holographic floral velvet booties, but they weren't caught on camera.

Jos wore jeans and a red striped shirt with a waistcoat on top. The Ascot he is proudly wearing was a gift from Vix and Jon when we met them back in June.

We had our friends Inez, Ingrid and Maurice over. Ingrid provided the appetizers and the starter, a tasty smoked salmon cocktail.

The main course was ours: chicken fillets on bacon, topped with onions, mushrooms and herby butter, baked in foil in the oven, and accompanied by fried potatoes and a salad. But I'd forgotten to take photographs by then, so you'll have to use your imagination!

Inez came bearing marzipan petit fours for dessert, while Jos donned his cook's apron and was having a barista moment.

And of course, the girls had to pose for a photograph like we did last year!

So, that was 2018, done and dusted.

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style when the link is up!

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Stamping ground

A light layer of hoarfrost had descended upon our garden on Boxing Day, sprinkling the winter-green leaves and lingering berries with a dusting of icing sugar.

I was still feeling quite sore from our walk on Christmas Day, as I'd strained my muscles and my bad knee by trying to stay upright on the sticky, muddy steps leading down into the former clay pit.

The weather was still on its best behaviour, even if the sun was slightly veiled by a thin layer of clouds, so that it would have been downright silly to let some minor aches and pains get the better of us by staying indoors.

So, out for a walk we went, but we made sure to stay on level terrain this time.

Same as on Boxing Day last year, our destination was one of Antwerp's most interesting parks, which doubles as an open air museum of sculpture, Middelheim. Those of you who have been following my blog for a while have accompanied me there quite a few times already.

Walk In Like You Mean It. With these words, American artist William Forsythe is giving a clear message to everyone who enters the park through the main gates.

I was surprised that I'd never noticed the inscription before, but then learned it was part of an exhibition called Experience Traps: 16 Artists Lead You Up The Garden Path, which ran from June to September 2018, and in which contemporary artists tried to guide our physical and mental experience. Well, that's what it said in the brochure.

The museum has an impressive collection with a mixture of pieces from different periods. There are sculptures dating back to 1900, but also a lot of contemporary pieces and installations.

The combination of art and nature is quite enchanting and ensures that there is no chance of ever getting bored. We certainly never do.

We love visiting the park in all seasons, so we were actually quite surprised that our last visit was on Boxing Day 2017. We really must do better this year!

This stainless steel structure is called Firmament III, dates from 2009 and is by UK artist Antony Gormley.

We always take a different route, and there's no forward planning involved whatsoever. We just let our feet guide us, while my camera is taking photographs of anything that tickles my fancy.

I rather loved this amorous couple of silver and gold chairs, which can be found all over the park for people to sit down and admire the artworks.

But no matter which paths we take, we always end up here, at the Braem Pavilion, designed by architect Renaat Braem (1910-2001) and completed in 1971.

Its original design, in Organic Brutalist style, dates from 1963, but when permission was finally granted in 1968, it had to be adapted as the original available area was now reduced by two-thirds.

The concrete and brick building, its flowing horizontal lines nestling between the trees, instantly appealed from the moment I first clapped eyes on it. The white colour neutralizes the textural differences of the materials used, which are only apparent up close.

I was wearing the other wool skirt which I found at the same time as the Gor-Ray skirt. This one is unlined and unlabelled, which leads me to believe that it was handmade.

I did have to wear a half-slip underneath to combat its scratchiness, but surely its orange, yellow and green plaid fabric more than made up this minor discomfort.

Casting around for a top to wear with it, I suddenly remembered this vintage one which has all the right colours plus some additional sparkle. As a nod to the holidays, I was determined to wear as many of my sparkly garments as possible!

On top went a burnt orange cardigan, to which I pinned a cat brooch with sparkly eyes, a gift from Goody. A wide tan belt and mottled brown beaded necklace were my other accessories.

All items vintage or charity shopped.

Apart from its permanent collection, the Middelheim Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions.

The Braem Pavilion is perfect for smaller sculptures and other artworks which cannot be displayed in the open.

We were intrigued by the pavilion's unusual emptiness, which was only interrupted by an installation containing a curving row of 160 stamps with 160 drawings by Belgian artist Dennis Tyfus, who currently has an exhibition of his work, called My Niece's Pierced Knees, spread all over the park.  

For € 10, an empty booklet can be bought, allowing visitors to stamp their own book, making use of the ink pads placed at regular intervals.

If we should decide to return before the exhibition ends on March 17, we might bring our own booklet and try out a few of those stamps!

Meanwhile, you will have to make do with a view of my fur-collared green jacket, which I accessorized with a green beret and yellow fake fur cowl scarf.

Near the Braem Pavilion is this mirrored pillar, offering distorted views of its surroundings. This is also a favourite, as it invites endless photo opportunities. 

We continued our wanderings, meeting all sorts of strange creatures along the way.

Sadly, there wasn't a free table at MIKA, the museum café, so that we weren't able to grab a cup of coffee before returning home.

From the bridge crossing the moat and leading to the café's premises, we could see another one of Dennis Tyfus's works in the distance (top left). 

This one is called The Pogo Never Stops, a nod to the artist's punk roots. It is a nonstop dance performance by thirteen sky tubes, which have drawings of faces and T-shirts of noise bands, its other-worldliness enhanced by the mechanical noise of the blowers driving the sky tubes.

From here, we strolled back to our car, and had that longed-for cup of coffee back at Dove Cottage.

I'll be returning with another round-up of outfits worn in the last week of 2018 soon.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Sparkle and shine

As much as I enjoyed my days away from the rat race, a small part of me is breathing a sigh of relief that the silly season is over and we can all go back to normal.

January has made the quietest of starts but, as the holidays provided plenty of opportunities for taking outfit and other photos, I'll be blogging about the last week of December for a while yet.

So, let's start with the Saturday before Christmas which was, technically speaking, the first day of my holidays. Twelve days of freedom: sheer bliss!  I'm sure you can see how happy I was!

We didn't go far to take these photos. Walking down our street and passing the late 19th Century house which is home to the local history society, we thought its green front door would make the perfect backdrop, and a change from our garage's peeling white brick wall.

Behind the house is a recently established organic garden, which sadly is only open to the public once a year. 

That didn't stop us from making use of its decorative, rusty gate, which complemented my outfit rather nicely. I am partly obscuring the word TUIN, which is Flemish for garden.

The cream, pale blue and brown plaid winter coat, which I charity shopped many years ago, still remains a firm favourite. My other outerwear consisted of a blue crushed velvet scarf and a green beret.

On my feet, my recent, serendipitous charity shop find: a pair of wedge-heeled green booties. Essentials were carried in my good old mock croc bag.

As I was determined to wear some sparkle, I picked this purple and lilac patterned dress, which is shot through with lurex thread. I know it's hardly noticeable in the pictures, so you'll just have to take my word for it. It was a sales bargain from Think Twice back in December 2017, up-cycled by me by changing its buttons. A brooch with a green stone was pinned to its lapel and I chose a green beaded necklace.

My charity shopped hot pink cardigan is edged in lurex too, and I added a sparkly blackbird brooch for good measure. Lilac tights (the package says Lavender) and one of my favourite belts, a 1980s lilac beauty, completed my outfit.

A little word of explanation about the green beret, which I picked up after a visit to my hairdresser the week before the holidays. If you are thinking I already owned a green beret, then you are right, but unfortunately I lost it. I could have hit myself, especially as it took me a while to find this exact shade of green. Needless to say, I was overjoyed to find a new one in a vintage-per-kilo shop near my hairdresser's salon. It's not exactly the same shade, but it will do. The turquoise beret came from the same shop, while the red vinyl handbag came from the Oxfam shop a couple of doors down.

But back to Saturday. Browsing our most local charity shop, I found this striped wicker basket. Even though the round bamboo handles are giving it a certain vintage appeal, it is quite new, as its (hot pink!) lining has a pocket for a phone. It's in perfect condition, and for just € 2, it is now mine.

The clothing rails, which at this particular time of year are full of party frocks and winter woollens, were a disappointment at first, until I happened upon not one but two plaid skirts.

Upon closer inspection, this one, in a black and white plaid and with a single pleat, both at the front and at the back, turned out to be made in England, and I was happy to see the Gor-Ray label.

The Gor-Ray company was established in the 1920s as a manufacturer of top-quality skirts and trousers, specializing in pleated, classically tailored skirts. Originally named C. Stillitz & Co., after its founder, its name was changed to Gor-Ray Ltd. in the early 1930s following the success of its leading product, a gored, sun-ray-pleated skirt.

Historically, pleats had been styled by folding and pressing the material, meaning that pleats inevitably lost their form and had to be periodically re-pressed in order to hold their shape.

Gor-Ray introduced new methods of permanently pleating material, whereby pleats would last as long as the garments themselves, technologies which are still relied upon in skirt manufacturing today. 

By the time we returned home and had parked our car, we were greeted by a fierce looking sky with a gathering of ominous rain clouds.

They were a prelude to Sunday's miserable weather, which I spent organizing my brooch collection. But I've already told you about this in a previous post.

Thankfully, it had stopped raining by Monday. If one looked carefully, there might even have been some patches of blue sky. But as it was Christmas Eve, we wisely avoided the crowds of last-minute shoppers by staying within Dove Cottage's confines and limiting our activities to some lazy pottering and reading. 

The dress I was wearing has always reminded me of Christmas, with its print of festive greenery and what looks like holly berries. The white flowers could even be Hellebores (Helleborus niger), commonly known as Christmas rose. 

I know I should get over these Yuletide connotations and wear it at other times too.

I added moss green tights, a red and white beaded necklace and my red beret, not that it was cold, but simply to hide the fact that my hair needed washing.  

Adding to the festive feel, I wore a frilly red knitted scarf, with its pink, green and blue stripes, as a stole.

Watching the sun go down from our sitting room's window, I quickly snapped this photo of the bands of pinkish clouds floating through the pale blue winter sky.

And then Christmas Day arrived and the sun was out in full force.

Aw, look at lazy Phoebe soaking up the sun's rays!  If the fabric covering the footstool looks familiar, it is the 1950s tablecloth I brought home from my parents' house the other day.

Sadly, it turned out to be too narrow for our dining table, so I had the brainwave to use it as a plaid.

When I was looking through an album of old photographs a couple of days later, I came across this one with the tablecloth in a starring role. The birthday girl cutting the cake is me, aged 5. Next to me is my paternal grandfather, who was also my godfather. 

But I'm digressing! Although we usually lounge around in our pyjamas all day on Christmas Day, the sun streaming in through our windows made us reconsider, so that after lunch we got dressed and went for a walk.

Dressed in a sparkly shift dress, with a crazy yellow, orange and acid green print on sky blue, I must have made quite a contrast to the other, fleece clad, dull-coloured walkers.

The only concession I'd made to this walking lark was a pair of worn-down old boots.

You've already seen the photos of our walk, but I wanted to take you through what I was wearing.

The dress was a lucky find in a vintage-per-kilo shop in Antwerp, its pristine label confirming that it must have been deadstock. It's from the Swedish Aspens brand, and the fabric contents shown as Asplene, which I presume is a relative of Crimplene, and Sildorex, its name suggesting that it might be responsible for the gold specks in the material.  

Although it is ever so slightly too big, there was no way I was going to leave so much fabulousness behind. Accessorized with a stretchy blue belt, a fluffy fake fur vest with a starburst brooch pinned to it and a statement necklace found at a flea market, I felt on top of the world that day.

I will be back with more holiday outfits in my next post.

Linking my sparkly purple, lilac and pink outfit to Nancy's Fancy Friday!