Monday 28 August 2017

Never mind

Allow me to introduce you to one of my latest finds!

This macrame rope bag with bamboo handles and sturdy cotton lining is a souvenir from Madeira and was found during a quick dash to the charity shop on Friday last week.

Although probably meant as a beach bag, it's roomy enough for a day out involving a picnic, and with enough space to store any flea market or charity shop finds.

It came with us on Saturday before last, when we'd planned to go to a small flea market on the outskirts of the nearby town of Boom.

I was wearing pastel colours, by way of a Trevira dress in pale blue with textured diamonds in the palest of pinks. I love the self fabric belt with its fabric covered round buckle.

I played around with differently coloured cardies and eventually settled on this coral pink one sprinkled with black dots, and I piled on some contrasting accessories.

Although the sun was shining when we left the house, by the time we'd parked our car, menacingly dark, charcoal grey clouds heavy with rain had once again gathered, threatening to drench us any minute. Just our luck!

We had to cross the park to get to the flea market and were about half way when, sure enough, the heavens opened.We sheltered under the trees, watching the raindrops create a pattern of concentric circles in the park's pond.

Eventually it cleared up and we continued, although we shouldn't have bothered as there were many empty gaps where stalls should have been, and the only thing I found was a € 1 pair of shoes.

On our way back to the car, we came across an adventurous white cat, who was crossing the park's murky pond by way of a fallen tree trunk, which greatly alarmed a gaggle of moorhens which were sheltering among its branches.

We were itching to go on a proper walk on Sunday. The sun was out in full force and it would have been silly to stay inside.

So, off we went, taking the Madeira basket and a picnic. Our destination was the delightful Middelheim Park, which incorporates an open air museum of sculpture, and which I already blogged about before.

Apart from the brooch, there was nothing vintage about my outfit for once.

Most of it was new to me, though. I bought the King Louie blouse for € 5,- in a charity shop, and you might recognize the yellow batwing cardie, originally from H&M, which I found a couple of weeks ago.

All the jewellery, except for the ring, was charity shopped too, and even my watch strap came from a flea market.

I've had the jeans jacket for ages, and it's a real staple of my summer wardrobe, but although it was originally from Mexx, this too was a charity shop find.

The navy skirt was bought in the sales several years back. Apparently it hadn't been very popular as there was a whole rack of them left, which kept being reduced in price. I snapped mine up at € 10, and liked it so much that I went back and bought a second one as well as one in green. Both had been reduced to € 7 by then!

While on our way to the park, the sun once again disappeared on us, but we added an umbrella to the Madeira bag's contents and made a go of it.

In fact, the blanket of moody grey clouds, through which the sun tried to pierce from time to time, made for perfect photographic conditions.

We took a different entrance than usual: this one is actually a work of art called Artiesteningang (Artists' Entrance). It was created by Dutch artist John Körmeling, who managed to make the structure look both futuristic and retro. The names of some of the artists whose work is represented in the museum are incorporated in the canopy.

We then continued past what looked like a ruined building, but is actually also a work of art.

It is called The Passage of the Hours, and is by Portuguese artist Pedro Cabrita Reis, who used steel, brick, glass and fluorescent lamps in this construction measuring 8 x 8 x 24 metres.

The work, which inhabits the border between architecture and art refers simultaneously to a historic ruin and a recent remnant of a conflict.

After entering the park itself, we kept away from the main paths, in order to avoid the crowds, as it was quite a busy day.

Jos took pity on this poor guy (top left) and offered him the use of his hat!

The spooky photo of me (top left) was taken inside another work of art, called Belgian Funhouse, by artist Dan Graham (USA), who creates outdoor pavilions containing  reflective plates of glass in which a viewer sees a reflection of himself and his environment.

By 1 o'clock we were getting hungry and looked for the perfect picnic place, which we found off a barely used path close to the water's edge.

Here, we had a view of the lake, with the open parkland beyond. Seating came in the form of gold and silver painted chairs, which can be found all over the park for people to use and enjoy the sculptures at leisure.

As usual, we gravitated towards the utterly fabulous Braem Pavilion, designed by Belgian architect Renaat Braem (1910-2001), a former apprentice of Le Corbusier, and inaugurated in 1971.

The flying saucer in front of it (bottom right) is by legendary Belgian artist Panamarenko.

We had a look at some of the works by Welsh artist Richard Deacon, who has a solo exhibition, called Some Time, running from May until September.

The works exhibited inside the Braem Pavilion include, clockwise from top left, Body of Thought # 2, Like You Know and Alphabet Y.

The exhibition is made up of some 31 works, both monumental works and smaller pieces, which apart from the Braem Pavillion, are on display in different parts of the museum park.

Clockwise from top left, these are called Big Time, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow 'B', Morning Assembly, I Remember (1) and Infinity # 31.

I'm always intrigued by the names of works of art, which I think are an integral part of them, and I'm always let down when one turns out to be untitled.

This sculpture, called Never Mind, is central to the exhibition. It is a key piece from the museum collection and was acquired in 1993. Originally coated in wooden strips, it has been restored and re-coated in stainless steel strips especially for this exhibition.

There were two girls doing a photo session in front of it, so we had to wait our turn and, as lots of people were milling around the sculpture, there was the added difficulty of trying to capture it without people's legs peeping out from under it.

We finished our visit by sitting on a bench contemplating nature's slow but sure transition into Autumn.

Linking up with Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style.

Thursday 24 August 2017

Famous blue raincoat

Living in a country like Belgium, a girl just cannot have enough raincoats.

At my last count, I had no less than five of them in my wardrobe.

There's the chocolate brown vintage one, bought on my first ever visit to Blender Vintage Shop back in October 2013.

It was a warm and sunny day, but I still insisted posing in it. The bag and gloves were bought at the same time.

Next up is a pale beige vintage trench, which I picked up in a charity shop. I don't wear it often, as it makes me feel a bit washed out, but it's such a classic!

It was only after I'd worn it a couple of times that I noticed that the buttons on the cuff and shoulder straps are beige, while all the others are green!

Although there are many examples of glamorous ladies wearing a similar trench coat (Marlene Dietrich, Jackie O, Catherine Deneuve, to name but a few), the one which instantly pops into my mind - and I will say this only once! - is 'Allo 'Allo's Michelle Dubois!

Don't ask!

Oh well, I guess I'll unearth my black beret then!

Both the chocolate brown and the beige coats are made from Tergal fabric and have a Rainsafe label, a brand I could unfortunately find little or no information about.

I've got a short green raincoat one as well, also charity shopped, but new-to-me rather than vintage. You've already seen me in it, as it's the one I'm always taking to Wales to wear with my jeans.

It was at Think Twice that I found this vintage raincoat, in an almost pinkish beige sprinkled with tiny white polka dots.

Although I have no idea of its age, I think it's quite 1950s in shape.

Posing in the rain presented the perfect opportunity to break out one of my vintage rain bonnets.

They came in these cute little doll-sized suitcases and treasure chests, which I came across at a flea market last Autumn. Obviously, I had to buy them in all available colours!

Having been packed tightly inside one of the little suitcases since the 1960s, it wasn't easy to unfold the bonnet itself, as the plastic was sticking together. And surely, one little gust of wind would dislodge it, as it didn't fit snugly at all.

I remember my Mum making me wear a rain bonnet on several occasions, which I absolutely hated.

Then, earlier this year, I came across the raincoat of my dreams, a deadstock 1960s one, in exactly the right shade of green I'd been looking for.

The green is a very hard shade to photograph, and in the photos taken outside it turns out much lighter than it actually is. The actual shade is more like that of the green coat in the vintage pattern below.

The only problem is that it is just a tiny bit too wide, which you can't see in the photo, as I'd nipped in the half belt at the back with a clothes peg. I'm trying to find a more permanent way of taking it in, preferably one I can do myself.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sat at my desk in the office, when it started raining heavily, with wind-driven raindrops splattering the windows, Antwerp's main shopping street strangely deserted and generally looking as if the biblical deluge was imminent.

In other words, a typical summer's day in Belgium!

In spite of having that many raincoats to choose from, I'd left the house in a jeans jacket, having listened to the weather forecast and been assured that it would remain dry. Having come to my age, I should have known better!

Staying inside during lunch break was no option, as it was at the end of Think Twice's sales, when everything goes for the silly price of € 1. It is surprising what can be picked up on such a day, if you are prepared to wade through mountains of tangled and often grubby stuff.

So, I clutched my umbrella and made a run for it ...

And there it was, beckoning me from among a jumble of shapeless and crumpled items: a royal blue raincoat, mid-length, trimmed with white stitching, with white buttons and belt buckle, and with a little split at the back. Serendipity!

I wasted no time grabbing it and as I made my way to the till, having picked up a couple of other items along the way, I realized I had no idea what size it was, nor had I tried it on. At € 1,- I decided to take a gamble, but I needn't have worried as it fits like a glove!

Now there's a little demon at the back of my mind whispering I should have a red one as well ...

I am finishing this rainy post with a photo showing a group of friends back in the early 1950s, posing in the rain on a visit to Bouillon in Belgium.

My Mum and Dad are on the far right, both wearing beige raincoats, and I could swear my Mum is wearing a rain bonnet!

Linking up with Tina's Pink Friday!

Sunday 20 August 2017

All mixed up

As the weather continued to be all mixed up, we were kind of at a loose end on Saturday before last.

There is only so much charity shopping you can do, so in order to get our weekly vintage fix, we drove down to the town of Geel, just under 60 kilometers from where we are, where there's a delightful shop selling all manner of vintage and retro goodies, called Expo 58.

The dress I was wearing was picked up at a charity shop retro event back in 2014, when I plucked it from a mannequin after I'd fallen in love on the spot with its groovy pattern.

It is handmade and fully lined, and it's got a little slit at the top, which is not serving any purpose at all since it shows more of the same fabric. The skirt has got an inverted front pleat and there's a self fabric belt with a round blue buckle.

There are two reasons which keep me from wearing it to death. One is that it's cotton and needs ironing. The second is its rather annoying high collar which starts bothering me after a couple of hours' wear.

In order to break up the monotony of the pattern, lovely though it is, I added a white pearly brooch and a pink double string of pearls which belonged to my Great Aunt Josephine.

I think this three quarter sleeve mustard cardigan is perfect with it, adding a contrasting colour. Wearing a cardigan means I can add another brooch, and I chose a large, early plastic one with carved flowers.

I'm taking tentative steps towards pattern mixing, following the example of the queens of pattern mixing, Beate and Goody, by wearing a black and white checked jacket on top. It came without its belt, but needed one to give it more shape, so I added a fuchsia pink belt and pinned a large fuchsia flower corsage to its lapel, both tying in with the pink in the dress.

Burgundy Clarks shoes and a small reddish brown handbag were the final touches.

Oh, and did you notice my watch strap? The watch's original strap needed replacing when I suddenly remembered this strap, part of a lot of original 1970s watch straps found at a charity shop about two years ago.

Back to our little trip! We have been to the shop before, the last time was in December, when I blogged about it here, and we never leave the shop empty handed.

Lovely owner Stefanie is one of my readers too, which I'm really chuffed about!

There was a rail of vintage clothing in the shop's entrance, and I'd already chosen an armful of dresses to try on, when Stefanie noted all the commotion and came out to say hello.

Three of the dresses came home with me, and I'll be making a point of wearing the two summer dresses before the summer is out.

The third dress, a red plaid long-sleeved one, was actually made in Belgium. Look at that lovely label! I didn't like its buttons, and have already changed them, so that it's ready to wear. If the weather keeps going downhill the way it does, this may be very soon ...

Other things we bought are:

A delightful yellow wicker basket.

A box of stain remover, to be put into our kitchen display cabinet with our other vintage packaging.

Two paper grocery bags advertising La Vache Qui Rit (a.k.a. The Laughing Cow) and Spa mineral water.

We have framed them and hung them up in our kitchen.

Finally, a mystery object made from sturdy carton, featuring two Scottie dogs. I'd not idea what it was until Stefanie told me it was a backboard for hanging a daily tear-off calendar.

Sunday brought a mix of clouds and some sunshine, with a couple of showers thrown in.

We stayed at home and I continued with my mending. The upside of the unseasonable weather is that I have actually reached the bottom of my mending basket. Yes, you have read that right! I even finished shortening the lining of a winter skirt which had been waiting since, well, last winter!

This is one of the other things which had been languishing in my mending pile.

Right, that's a funky piece of fabric, but what is it?

I won't leave you in suspense for long: it's a maxi skirt!
It was far too long, so  needed shortening, and as it is lined, I needed to shorten that as well. Quite a job, as I've been doing it all by hand, having yet to master my Mum's sewing machine.

Isn't that print absolutely fabulous?

I did some more pattern mixing by wearing it with an orange polka dot shirt. Not very adventurous, I know, but I'm still learning ...

On top, a blue linen mix jacket I charity shopped a couple of months ago.

Oh, and the fringy suede shoes were a present from my friend Ann.

We met on the bus (one of the perks of public transport) and she lives nearby, and last Friday was her very first visit to Dove Cottage, where she joined me for coffee and cake and a catch up!

Oh, and linking to Patti's Visible Monday!

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Wardrobe woes

After Mr. S. and Phoebe, my wardrobe is the love of my life, but still there are mornings I am stood in front of my full to bursting wardrobe not knowing what to wear.

I blame this on circumstances beyond my control, such as the weather. Mainly the weather.

The main culprit, of course, is that I've got so much choice, and so little time to wear it all.

This is especially true in Summer, let's say from May to early October (if we're lucky). One way or another, the summer season, as in warm enough to wear frivolous summer frocks, is far too short. We can fake it a little, by wearing tights and a cardigan (both of which I therefore have in abundance) but all too soon the day will come when the summer stuff has to be put away in favour of one's winter wardrobe.

So, there is no time to lose as, even in the best circumstances there will still be lots of unworn stuff by the end of Summer.

I am making a concentrated effort to wear those things which haven't been worn for a while. These can be things I'm not or no longer sure are me or that for one reason or another have slightly gone out of favour. I think I owe them at least another wear before making any drastic decisions.

Take this Diolen dress, picked up at the much missed Blender Vintage Shop a couple of years ago. I like the print, its cut and especially its collar. But it is lined, making it too thick for a hot day, and I think it's a tiny bit too short on me.

Out it came anyway, on Saturday before last, and at first I was sure it would be a goner. I added a belt: better.  A butterfly brooch on the collar, to keep the flowers company. A lime green necklace and ditto ring: not too bad. Still, I wasn't totally convinced ...

It was too chilly outside to go it alone,  so I needed to add a cardie. As the dress is rather short, none of my cardigans looked right, and believe me: I tried a lot of them. Then I pulled this green cropped cardigan out of the wardrobe, charity shopped and completely forgotten about. Problem solved!  I added not one but two flower brooches which seem to grow naturally along the cardie's neckline. My favourite green shoes and a tan handbag bought in Wales, and I was ready for some charity shopping. What else?

Wonder if the charity shop gods were good to us again?

This kitschy souvenir is from Scherpenheuvel, a famous Belgian place of pilgrimage, which we visited last November. Someone has written the date on the back, May 1961, and it says it was a gift from a grandmother to someone called Liliane. I find such things quite poignant and cannot help but embroider some story, ending with the sad fact that in all probability Liliane isn't around anymore and that her relatives saw no worth in keeping in what essentially is just a piece of varnished and decorated plywood.

I also found two pairs of blue shoes, a pair of peep-toes and a pair of sandals. As lately I'd been lamenting the lack of decent blue shoes, they were lucky finds, really!

Then there were these two bags.

Other buys were a yellow batwing cardigan, originally from H&M, and two belts.

While we were queuing at the till, I spotted this gorgeous plastic vintage brooch among a jumble of stuff in a display case.

On our way home, we passed the Art Deco water tower which is a favourite place for a picnic. We had the place to ourselves and sat enjoying our sandwiches and a cup of coffee in the sunshine, which had briefly appeared out of nowhere. While I was taking photographs, I saw dark clouds gathering in the distance. Minutes later, we had to flee to our car, dodging the first drops of rain.

We even had to wait out the worst of it in the car, while parked in front of our second charity shop of the day. A wasted trip, I should add, as there was nothing remotely interesting to be found.

Summer returned briefly on Sunday and what's more, we had a flea market to go to.

After some deliberation, I chose this dress, which came from Vintage Styling, another shop that is no more. It is, in effect, a black dress with a print, but the flower pattern, in reds and pinks, is so abundant that I tend to forget the black. It's got a tie as well as a self fabric belt, and it's one of those frocks I feel totally at ease in.

To start with, I was wearing a pink cardigan but it soon became too hot for it. I got my sunglasses with me, but wasn't wearing a hat, whereas Jos was wearing a hat but had left his sunglasses behind in the car, so that the first purchases we made were of a practical nature.

This simple straw hat served its purpose and can always be jazzed up with one of my flower hairbands.

Jos's solution was buying clip-on sunglasses, which were buy one, get one free.

In spite of a profusion of stalls, pickings were meagre, with stall after stall selling toys, children's clothes and retired household goods, so that we were more than bored by the time we reached the end.

Still, I spied a couple of brooches (yes, I know!) ...

...and a handful of rings!

To combat the feeling of defeat brought on by the uninspiring market, we finished the day by going for a little walk.

Nothing too strenuous, as my knee is still playing up. I really shouldn't have climbed up there ...

It's a good thing there were some conveniently placed tree stumps to rest the weary legs!