Monday 27 November 2017

Window on the world

The office I spend my working days in is on the fifth floor, with huge windows opening up to a view of Antwerp's impressive cathedral (built between 1352 and 1521), across a jumble of rooftops.

After twenty two years, the excitement of having this unique view has somewhat paled, but it still prompts me often enough to get out my camera.

The weather as well as the changing seasons offer an inexhaustible variety of snapshots which never fail to delight my photographic eye.

The view is flanked by a looming monstrosity of a concrete office building dating from the 1960s on one side, and Europe's first skyscraper completed in 1931 on the other.

When the weather is stormy, the howling wind is amplified by the loftiness of the skyscraper, in whose perimeter there are currents of wind on even the calmest of days.

The rain lashing against the windows makes me look up from what I'm doing and, standing in front of the windows I look out on the soggy streets where tiny people are carrying umbrellas, their heads bent, their bodies struggling against the wind.

Looking westward, away from the cathedral and to the left of the skyscraper, I am regaled by glorious pink and orange sunsets after crisp and sunny Winter days, with a blinding fiery orange sun disappearing below the rooftops and the eternal cranes dominating the horizon.

One of the perks of working in the city centre is that I can make a quick dash to the shops during lunch breaks, although it can be quite busy, especially during school holidays and, of course, in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Another perk is that all three of the Think Twice shops are within walking distance, especially when, as in the week before last, they are having one of their sales.

These were this month's € 4 finds:

I love the print on this blouse, which features stylish vintage-clad ladies. The A-line Tweed skirt was another Think Twice find from a couple of years ago. It's currently in quarantaine, as I find it has become a tiny bit too snug. Not on Angelica though: she's much better at staying off the munchies than I am.

There was another pussy bow dress, which I have a weakness for. This one is  handmade and has a funky pattern in shades of brown.

How could I resist this magnificent wool coat trimmed with faux fur?

Its "luxury loomed" warmth will come in handy as cold weather has been forecasted for this week.

Further finds were a skirt and blouse, both featuring in my outfit of the weekend before last.

When I showed my finds to Jos, it struck me that they would actually make a fine pair, so I built Saturday's outfit around them.

A sparkly turquoise material with a black geometric print made up this gorgeous midi skirt.

The label of the black floral print blouse is so pristine that I suspect it was never worn. To keep the flowers company, I chose the butterfly (or moth!) brooch from my last flea market bounty.

I added a wide black belt with a round buckle, which must be one of the oldest belts in my collection, in terms of ownership ...

The black velvet choker was an impulse buy from a village high street shop and complimented my outfit perfectly.

For contrast, I added an orange cardie, to which I pinned the sparkly ladybird brooch from the same flea market bounty as the butterfly.

I can't remember where I got the butterfly ring, the colours of which compliment my outfit.

You've already seen my trusted Tweed jacket many times before, but as it is the perfect jacket for this time of year, it's getting a lot of mileage. This time I added a gold tone brooch with a green stone encircled by tiny pearls, bought from the Brooch Lady back in April.

While browsing at another budget high street shop in our village, I stumbled upon this snuggly "faux sheep" gilet, which happened to find its way into my basket.

We were off to do some charity shopping, but pickings were not what we'd hoped.

The floral bag is another one by Kitsch Kitchen. While they retail for € 25 or more depending on the size, I paid just € 3 for mine. For some reason, I keep coming across these bags in the charity shops. They are waterproof and so perfect for travelling.

I am always on the lookout for belts with unusual buckles, so these two were no brainers!

Boots are another weakness, but as they are worn on a daily basis in the Winter months, variety is a necessity. These are in perfect condition and only cost € 6.

Meanwhile, the postman brought a parcel from a blogging friend, which I will tell you all about in my next post!

I am linking again to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!

Thursday 23 November 2017

All dolled up

Once upon a time, when I was a right little madam little girl growing up in the late 1960s, I badly wanted a Barbie doll. 

In fact, I guess it was not so much the doll I wanted, but her fabulous wardrobe!

Several of my girlfriends had Barbie dolls and some had Ken too, as well as Barbie's little sister, Skipper. 

The really lucky ones had vinyl carry-cases, which had space for a doll as well as a rail for  the doll's clothes.

I think it's fair to say that the green eyed monster had me firmly in its grip!

I begged and begged my Mum to buy me a Barbie doll, but she wouldn’t budge. She said Barbie had an ugly face, but I suspect it was the fact that Barbie wasn't exactly flat chested which was bothering her ...

In 1970, when I was nine years old, my Mum finally succumbed to my constant nagging and accompanied me to the village toy shop to choose a doll. 

In the end, I did not get Barbie, but Barbie’s friend P.J., who sported a fringe and two pigtails tied with beads. A true child of her time!

In the above photo you can see the boxed P.J. doll, which I bought a couple of years ago. The one I had as a girl was non-talking but otherwise looked the same, except for a different outfit (see below).

I tried pulling the string at the back of her neck (just reachable through a hole in the back of the box), which should get her talking, but I guess the years have taken their toll as she is mute.

Here's the doll I got (not my photos), so that you can see the outfit she was wearing: a hot pink bathing suit with a lacy skirt and an orange vinyl belt.

Isn't her eye make-up gorgeous? And note that she has real eyelashes too!

With the doll came a booklet showing the latest fashions, which I pored over religiously and knew by heart. In fact, when I came across this very booklet when I started collecting over thirty years later, I recognized all the dolls posing in their different outfits as if I’d only seen them yesterday.

Ok, so now I had a doll, but it wasn’t much fun without clothes. My grandmother, who was nifty with a needle, made her some dresses, but they were all of the same basic and frankly speaking boring model. Very creative, she wasn’t. Needless to say, P.J. looked a right frump in them. 

So, the nagging began again, this time for a real Mattel-made outfit.  My Mum, knowing from experience that I wouldn’t let it go, actually allowed me to go to the toy shop on my own. 

In my mind's eye, I can still see the shelves lined with exercise books and paint boxes - the shop doubled as a stationary shop - and smell the lingering scent of crayons. If I close my eyes, the scene is played out in front of me: there I am, not yet ten years of age, tiptoeing up to the counter at the very end of the shop and timidly making my request, and the candy-striped boxes brought out by the shop’s owner for me to choose from.

After much deliberation, I chose an outfit called “Dreamy Blues”, which is the gauzy ruffled dress you can see P.J. modelling here.

On a side-note, this is not the actual doll I had as a child, nor the dress, which first got passed to my little sister and then to the girl next door, but not before poor P.J. had had her hair bobbed.

I was lucky enough to find the doll on Ebay for next to nothing when I first started collecting.

For Christmas, my grandmother, who I guess was getting tired of sewing doll outfits, bought me another set of clothes, called "The ZigZag Bag", consisting of a pair of bell bottoms, a shirt with a wild zig zag print and a red sleeveless jumper.

Up until the early 1970s, all the outfits had names, and quite a lot of the late 1960s, early 1970s ones really sum up the era perfectly. 

What do you think of "Pajama Pow!" (1967), modelled here by Growin' Pretty Hair Barbie, who sported an updo hairstyle and had a retractable ponytail?

This one is from 1968 and called "Zokko!" (with exclamation mark!), and the doll modelling it is a Twist 'N Turn Barbie with the delightfully named hair colour "Chocolate Bon Bon".

One of my favourites is "Smasheroo" (1968), modelled here by Barbie's ginger haired friend Stacey, whose talking version spoke in a British accent!

Oh, and if you think of the colour pink when you hear the name Barbie, you’d be quite surprised to hear that pink did not feature all too prominently in Barbie’s Pre-1973 wardrobe.

Lemon yellow and silver lamé (lah-MAY, as Sheila would say!) were combined in this outfit called Silver Polish (1969).

The doll modelling it is another one of Barbie's friends, called Christie.

Another Christie, whose hair has oxidized to a funky red, is modelling this wild yellow jumpsuit, called "Caribbean Cruise" (1967), while a ginger haired Living Barbie (with movable hands) is wearing a tunic and bell bottoms called "Mood Matchers" (1970).

Here's Stacey again, a blonde version this time, wearing an orange sleeveless dress with a separate lacy top, called "Disco Dater" (1967).

I'm ending this post with Barbie's friend from 1972, called Walk Lively Steffie, who is wearing an outfit from 1973 called "Simply Summery". Look at those gorgeous purple shoes.

Whenever I walk past the display cabinet she is in, I somehow have to think of Vix, who I guess would love this gorgeous halterneck maxi!

The story of how I came to be collecting these dolls, featuring more gorgeous outfits dating from 1959 until the early 1970s (I literally have hundreds) will be for another post.

Sunday 19 November 2017

And when it rains all day ...

Last weekend was a quiet one and, apart from a visit to my friend Inez, involving coffee and apple pie, we hadn't anything planned at all.

We couldn't even go charity shopping on Saturday as all the shops were closed: November 11, Armistice Day, is a public holiday here in Belgium!

By a stroke of luck, though, the weekly market in our village was trading so, still on the lookout for the elusive burnt orange tights, I ventured outside. The rain we'd woken up to had diminished to a light but persistent drizzle by then, but it was still wet enough to warrant carrying an umbrella.

Sadly, the hosiery stall is discontinuing my favourite range of coloured tights and they only had some leftovers from previous years. But, hurray: they still had some burnt orange ones (actually called caramel) in my size, and I stocked up on a couple of pairs in rust, moss green and olive as well!

I'd been waiting to wear the striking aubergine blouse sprinkled with colourful spots for quite a while, but didn't hit on the right skirt to combine it with until I started pulling out my Winter skirts and found this one, in beige and brown polyester. Not really my colours and frankly speaking a bit boring: I'd actually forgotten about this skirt completely!

Once I had the skirt on, accessorizing was easy. I started by adding a brown belt with a round tortoiseshell buckle, and chose olive green tights and ditto cardigan.

The first of my brooches, a cameo, was pinned to my blouse, then a cream and brown plastic brooch, one of last week's finds, went on the cardigan. I also wore orange beads and a green plastic ring.

I have dozens of these plastic rings in different colours, picking them up whenever I find them, so they are a mix of high street and flea market finds. I store them in this 1970s orange party set, next to my collection of necklaces, so that they are within easy reach when I'm dressing.

On went the boots I can't say goodbye to and which I'll probably wear until they fall apart completely.

I wore the jacket I bought for € 2 at last week's flea market. It's dark brown with small multicoloured bobbles, which makes it less stark. I felt it needed a belt and added a dark ochre one.

My final brooch, a gold tone starburst with a large pearl at its centre, was pinned to the jacket.

I completed my outerwear with my yellow crushed velvet scarf and a red beret. If there's one thing I like about the colder weather, it's the fact that I can wear my berets and woolly hats. I've vowed that I'm not going to lose one this year, so I'm being extra careful with them!

The weather continued to be fickle on Saturday but at least the soggy periods were interrupted with a couple of dry ones, with the sun making a shy appearance now and then, especially at the end of the day.

One thing is certain: sunsets can be quite dramatic this time of year!

Sunday was a total washout, with the rain beating against our windows, daring us to go outside.

In the end, we only briefly went into the garden for these outfit photos. It started to rain again while we were taking them. I was shivering, although it was one of the rare occasions when I was wearing a jumper.

I picked up the woollen skirt for € 2 at one of the last Think Twice sales but again it took me a while to find a suitable companion. As it was cold enough to warrant a jumper, I decided on the lightweight yellow one. It was bought new in the sales a a couple of years ago, and I love its pattern and the little bow.

The blue from the skirt was repeated in my tights and accessories: belt, beads, brooch and ring, and I couldn't resist wearing the yellow beret.

Although I'm quite happy with how it turned out in the photographs, I somehow didn't feel great in this outfit, finding it too bulky on my hips, which are not really my favourite feature at the moment.

The rest of Sunday was spent pottering inside Dove Cottage, one of the other things I like about this season.

I was disenchanted with the shelves of Lourdes memorabilia in our bedroom and whittled them down to just the upper shelf, which is now crammed absolutely full of the kitschy stuff.

The other two shelves now contain a mix of old favourites and more recent finds. You might recognize the two tins bought at last weekend's flea market.

I also rearranged the mantelpiece in the spare room to make space for the latest "head" to join the collection, charity shopped for just € 1 a couple of weeks ago.

Nameless for the time being, she's already looking quite at home at Dove Cottage!

Once again, I'm taking my outfit to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Sentimental journey

No rest for the wicked!

After the antiques fair of Saturday before last, we weren't able to put our feet up on Sunday either, as we had a flea market to go to.

Saturday's rain had been replaced by a cold spell, and I hadn't chosen wisely when I selected this lightweight and unlined green charity shopped jacket. I am posing outside our garage for a change, and I am actually standing in a puddle, which wasn't very wise either, as my boots - a pair I just can't seem to say goodbye to - aren't exactly waterproof!

The dress I'm wearing was charity shopped as well: a lucky find just weeks before last March's retro event. On top, a light brown cardigan, and a scarf in similar colours as the dress. You can see a detail of both below.

My accessories were a brooch (on the cardigan) with multicoloured stones bought in Wales last year, green beads and a gold tone ring with a heart of sparkly yellow glass. The classic brooch, with its gold tone leaves and row of tiny pearls was pinned to the collar of my jacket.

The flea market in question is the famous indoor one in Mechelen, about 20 kilometers away, which is being held monthly from September until June. This year, we have taken out a membership card, saving us quite a bit of money. That means, of course, that we actually have to go now, no excuses! As if we need any incentive ...

In the top photo you can see Mr. S. in conversation with the other member of our party, my lovely friend Inez!

My first find was a jacket for the princely sum of € 2, but you'll get to see that in my next post.

Then, this empty lemonade bottle caught my eye! It dates from the 1960s, which I know for a fact as it was the lemonade my Mum always bought when I was growing up.

Although I had forgotten what the bottle looked like, I still clearly remembered their slogan, which ran "Ordal, best van al" (best of all). As I didn't like the taste of that lemonade at all, I always said it should have been "slechtst van al" (worst of all)!

I was charmed to see it even had a complete poem extolling the brew's merits on the back of the bottle. Wouldn't have convinced me, though!

Next up were these two small snuff tins, probably dating from the 1920s. The round one even still has a small amount of the vile stuff at the bottom, which I'm not going to sniff any time soon!

Talking of tins, I was very taken with this fabulous souvenir tin of the 1935 Brussels World Exhibition, in typical shape and colours of the era.

From the same stall came this tin advertising Belgian chocolate and biscuit factory Victoria.
They were established in 1896 and until 1938 their logo was a portrait of Queen Victoria, after which they switched to the marching British brigadier beating a drum, instantly recognizable to people of a certain age in Belgium!

The company finally stopped trading independently under the name Victoria in the late 1970s.

The market itself was huge and we browsed for almost four hours, only interrupted by a spot of lunch and a well-deserved cup of coffee or two!

But wait, no brooches?, I can hear you say ...

Well, it actually took me until the very last aisle to finally spot my first brooch, which was the butterfly, although I rather suspect it's a moth!

At a stall directly opposite, I found the gold and blue brooch with the chain. It wasn't priced but after thinking long and hard, the seller's verdict was € 1!

Then, a couple of stalls further on, the little dog and the pearly ladybird were waiting for me!

Four brooches wasn't bad a all, of course, especially as I'd bought six of them the day before.

But that was before I came across the stall heaped with costume jewellery I blogged about here. I'd promised a photo next time but guess what? I forgot!

The seller is the complete opposite of the Brooch Lady with her neat folders, but actually at least as much fun, as I love a good rummage. The result were no less than eight brooches for which I paid a total of € 22.

I'd taken the Monday after this two day bonanza off. However, we still had to get up early-ish to collect yet another buy.

We'd been looking for cups and saucers of a Boch dinner service we'd started collecting after we'd been given a couple of dinner and soup plates for free. Pure nostalgia for Jos, as it was the dinner service he'd grown up with.

After many years, we finally found cups and saucers - and much more besides - on a Belgian Facebook page called The Vintage Market. Asking price, a ridiculous € 25 for the lot!

We have been told by several people in the know that the cups and saucers are quite rare.

We also learned that at the time this particular dinner service could be saved up for by collecting loyalty stamps when buying a range of products, called Fort, at the grocery shop.

I remember their catalogues full of stuff to spend the full booklets of stamps on, and in particular the ones which were issued this time of year, full of toys to ask Sinterklaas for.

When emptying my parents' house, we came across this booklet of stamps which somehow never got completely filled, possibly because the company in question stopped trading in 1987.

So far, this trip down memory lane!

Even though it's Tuesday, I'm taking my outfit to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style.