Sunday, 29 November 2015

Scarfing Up

I am scarf challenged. I am. I love scarves, and surprisingly I wear them quite a bit... now. But I didn't always. In fact I wrote a post a while ago pretty much swearing off scarves in favour of turtlenecks. I adore turtlenecks, and I'm not naturally gifted with scarves. But since the weather here will soon turn cold, I feel the need to prepare for scarf season. And to do that I need some scarf remediation. Or as the Brits might say... I need to swot up on scarves. 

My scarfing skills have improved a little in the past year. I've become quite handy with small silk scarves, and with longer, light weight scarves. And I'm even learning to wear my classic winter woolen scarves a bit more "wrapped up," instead of just hanging them loosely around my neck. Like my favourite burgundy and camel reversible scarf on the right.

Learning to wear scarves again, like this one tied like an ascot: "Scarfing Up" on High Heels in the Wilderness     Learning to wear scarves again: "Scarfing Up" on High Heels in the Wilderness     Learning to wear scarves again: "Scarfing Up" on High Heels in the Wilderness

And lately, I threw caution to the wind and bought myself a blanket scarf. A blanket scarf ... the mother of all scarves. 

What was I thinking? They're huge, hot, unwieldy, hard to make do what you want them to do, and then when you do make them do what you want... they never stay that way for long. At least on me.

But they look so good. So casually insouciant, tossed on, like this soft brown scarf, over a grey coat sweater.

Inspirational looks. "Scarfing Up."
Death by Elocution
Or chic and a bit more polished, like this monochromatic look below.

Inspirational looks "Scarfing up."
Death by Elocution
Or beautifully swathed with a tee shirt and maybe a blazer, like these two looks from

Inspirational looks. "Scarfing Up."        Inspirational looks. "Scarfing Up."

Okay... I know.... I've obviously been suckered by too many images of chicly-swathed blanket-scarved women on the internet and in fashion magazines, and in store windows. All those blanket scarves began to make my little scarf collection look downright puny. And boring. And I began to wish for a blanket scarf of my own. And I began to think that if everyone else could tie a great blanket scarf, surely it can't be that hard. And then when I saw a lovely grey and burgundy scarf at Aritzia, well... I could not resist.  

I know. I know. What... am I fifteen again? Bowing to peer pressure? Not able to withstand temptation? Or am I so competitive that I can't stand it when someone can do something so much better than me? Or all of the above? Huh. Don't answer that.

The salesgirl at Aritzia gave me a great little tutorial on how to tie my new scarf. And of course I mastered it right away. And then promptly forgot everything she said to do when I hauled my new scarf out for a test drive a few days later. 

See what I mean? This effort just looked like I had a bath towel around my neck. 

"Scarfing Up" on High Heels in the Wilderness

This was better. A bit smoother. But when the scarf is folded like this it's really, really thick. But it looked okay.

"Scarfing Up" on High Heels in the Wilderness     "Scarfing Up" on High Heels in the Wilderness

And emboldened by my efforts above, I tried something a bit more complex. Looked good. I could wear my new scarf like this... for about three minutes. Akkkk. I was choking. "Help... my new blanket scarf is killing me."

"Scarfing Up" on High Heels in the Wilderness     "Scarfing Up" on High Heels in the Wilderness

So... since I was going to the mall. And undoubtedly would die of the heat if I was too scarfed up. I settled for a simple over the shoulder maneuver. And it looked ... good, I thought. And lasted for maybe ten minutes in the mall. 

"Scarfing Up" on High Heels in the Wilderness     

I'd just come through the doors when I bumped into two former students, sisters Stephanie and Natalie, and their mum. Such lovely girls. They're both grown up now, and recently married, and of course we talked and laughed, and I waved my arms around as I am wont to do when I get animated. And then I got hot. And well... you know. The scarf came off, the coat unzipped. Phew. That was better.

So... blanket scarves. Maybe they're not for shopping in malls. Maybe they're better for strolling downtown when it finally snows. Or sitting in cold arenas at hockey games. Then again. Maybe it's just me. 

If you're scarf challenged, like me. Try watching this Blanket Scarf Tutorial  on the blog Kelly in the City. Kelly shows ten ways to tie a blanket scarf, very easy to follow. With pictures. In fact, I think I need to read it again. And then go practice.

How are you at scarfing up? Any problems with your blanket scarf... and its potential homicidal tendencies? 

Linking up this week with:Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style,  #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun

Friday, 27 November 2015

One Twist Over the Line... or... Problems Only Book Lovers Understand

Sometimes the life of the dedicated book lover is not an easy one. 

Like that fact that there are so many wonderful books to read. I remember an interview on CBC radio years and years ago; Vicky Gabereau, the wonderfully witty and engaging interviewer, was speaking with Robertson Davies, the wonderfully witty, erudite, and engaging icon of Canadian literature. And he said something to the effect that his one regret in life was that there were too many books to read. I've always loved that answer. So yeah. There's that. Keeping up with my constantly accumulating "to read" pile... that's hard sometimes. Good thing I'm retired.

her interview with Robertson Davies was a classic
Vicky Gabereau source
And then there's the opposite problem. Finding good books to read. Especially when many of one's favourite writers in a genre have died. Like P.D. James, and Ruth Rendell, and Reginald Hill. And Canadian novelist L.R. Wright, her mysteries are wonderful. Don't get me wrong; there are lots of wonderful writers out there... the problem is finding them. 

I get lots of ideas for new books and new authors from book review sites, and yearly lists of recommended books from book reviewers and editors, and long lists and short lists for awards. And great suggestions from readers of this blog. And even from former students, like Sarah Weinman whom I taught many years ago. Sarah's a writer and critic in New York now. And recently, I subscribed to her newsletter The Crime Lady. It's filled with all kinds of talk about books, and links to other articles about books. I also read writer Adrian McKinty's blog The Psychopathology of Everyday Life where he talks about books, the ones he reads and the ones he writes. You might recall that I've mentioned (here and here) how much I enjoyed his "Troubles Trilogy." But, you know, all this searching for book ideas takes time. Good thing I'm retired. 

And then I find a writer I like. Whose work interests me. Who is talented, and inventive. Whose books are well written stylistically, which is important to me. Who does his or her research, and as a result, their books have that "value added" thing I talked about a while ago, where the reader learns about all kinds of new and interesting things and places. And I'm excited and really enjoying their books. And then they let me down. Not me personally, of course, but me as a reader. 

Problems only book lovers understand
Sharon Bolton  source
Someone like, say, Sharon Bolton. Whose work I've read with interest for a while now. She's a talented writer. Her settings are so well drawn that you feel like you are right there. Her characters are interesting, if a bit overly angst-filled at times. Even the secondary characters have intriguing back stories. Her plots are suspenseful and well crafted. That is until Bolton throws in that final plot twist that spoils it for me. And instead of surprise, I feel only incredulity. Really? Really? 

Let's take Bolton's latest book Little Black Lies as an example. Set in the Falkland Islands, it's a story of loss and revenge, of two women who are life-long friends, one of whom has lost her sons in an accident caused by the carelessness of the other. The novel skilfully recreates life in the sparsely populated Falklands twelve years after the war, breathtakingly beautiful but bleak, with a society that is isolated and inward-looking. Bolton deals with the aftermath of the Falklands War, when Britain can't decide what to do with this "relic of empire." Former soldiers cope with PTSD, local conservationists deal with the harshness of nature, and amidst all this, children begin to go missing. The story moves deftly between several narrators. I was fascinated by Bolton's picture of the Falklands, and by her depiction of the lives of the three main characters who have been so damaged by war or by happenstance. And how they cope, or do not cope with tragedy. Until the end. The end really pissed me off... if you'll pardon the profanity. It was an end unworthy of the rest of the book, in my opinion. 

Little Black Lies is based on a great concept but is a flawed book.

I hate it when that happens. A weird plot twist that "stretches the imagination a bit too far" as one reviewer puts it, an unexplained loose end, gratuitous violence that clearly panders to the "best seller" market but adds nothing of value to a book... all of these really put me off a writer. And their work. No matter how talented they are. 

As Michele Peckham says in her review of Bolton's earlier novel, Dead Scared, Bolton's work is definitely "worth reading if you like psychological thrillers and don't mind suspending all common sense." And sadly the blog The Literary Lawyer has similar comments about Bolton's book A Dark and Twisted Tide, calling it timely, unique, well written.... but flawed, even venturing into "the bizarre and the bone headed" as far as plot goes. 

Interestingly, neither of these reviewers has given up on Sharon Bolton as a writer. And neither have I.... yet. Despite my criticism, I think her books are worth reading. I just think it's a shame that someone as talented as Bolton doesn't have an editor who will read her the riot act and help her to produce work that's worthy of her abilities. 


I felt the same about Val McDermid's book The Vanishing Point. Strangely enough it deals with one of the same themes as Bolton's Little Black Lies, namely missing children. But it also explores the world of ghost writers, the celebrity autobiography, and the reality TV industry that manufactures these celebrities. I found McDermid's exploration of the life of a trashy, but deviously brilliant, reality TV star, turned mother, turned media darling fascinating. Until, like with Bolton's book, I started snapping it shut, thinking, "Really? Really?" Come on, Val. The supposed 'Queen of Tartan Noir' can do better than this. And yet, I finished the book because I wanted to know what happened. And what happened pissed me off even more.... if you'll pardon the profanity... again. I couldn't find a reviewer on-line who agreed with me, not really. You can read a couple of those reviews here and here.  Except on Goodreads, where it seems that several reader/reviewers felt the same as me. Kind of cheated.


Both Sharon Bolton and Val McDermid have new books out this year. And I'll probably read them. But I won't be happy if their plots have one too many twists over the line... of credulity... so to speak. 

That's because as an avowed bookworm, when I read, I forget that I'm even reading. I'm holding the book, and my eyes are moving across the page, but I experience the story as if there's a movie playing in my head. And when something that I can't "buy" happens, a character steps out of character, or the writer makes a major mistake, the movie stops. I totally lose my "suspension of disbelief" as my grade ten English teacher used to say. And I realize that I'm not in the Falkland Islands, or nineteenth century Yorkshire, or on a cliff on the island of Lewis... I'm just sitting in my sun room, holding a book, and those black squiggles on the page are just.. black squiggles. And I hate it when that happens. 

But that's just one of the many problems with being a dedicated book lover. Sigh. Life is tough, people. 

Now have a look at this video from Buzzfeed with LeVar Burton. Someone passed this onto me a week or so ago, and I can't stop watching it. 

If you love books, you'll totally understand. 

See? The life of  the dedicated book lover is not an easy one. Too many books, not enough books, books that promise you will love them and then let you down. And then there's all those people in your life.... who just keep getting in the way of your reading. 

Or if you're my friend Jane, two ginormous dogs who want to share the sofa with you when you all you want is a moment alone to finish that darned book. 

Jane and Hugo... reading. Thanks for the photo, Jane.

Do you have any book lover angst you want to get off your chest? Come on.... we're listening.

Linking up with: All About You Link Party at Mama and More

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Further Adventures in Vintage... or... Well Hatted

I still have vintage on my mind these days. I'm still trying to get lots of wear out of my vintage brooches, still pinning them onto my sweaters and blazers before I have to cover them up with a winter coat. Still mentally drooling over all the lovely frocks and coats I saw at the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show two weeks ago. Fifties style dresses seemed to be big this year. See. 

Assorted fifties dresses from Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show
Assorted fifties frocks at the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show
Doesn't that white dress, above, look a bit like the one Marilyn Monroe wore in Seven Year Itch? And even more like the one Elizabeth Taylor wore in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? I love Taylor's movies, especially that one. Because...uh... Paul Newman. But also because I love Tennessee Williams' plays, deeply depressing though they may be. And seriously, no one could rock a white dress better than Liz Taylor. Not even Marilyn.

High Heels in the Wilderness: Further Adventures in Vintage
But the Vintage Clothing Show was about more than dresses. I saw lots of interesting little jackets that could turn a simple pair of black cropped pants into a fab party outfit. And there was even an Hermès booth this year that would have had my friend Barbara shedding some cash. She is an Hermès scarf aficionado. This blue one was lovely, if a bit too pricey for me. And of course there were piles and piles of jewellry to be sifted through. 

Vintage jackets, Hermes scarf and assorted jewellry, Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show
Two jackets, one fab scarf, and assorted jewellry at Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show

I snagged myself a bracelet for ten bucks at a booth that was having a "Going Out of Vintage" sale. That was a find for me; I'm a hard fit. My wrists are really thin, and most bracelets simply fall off me unless I keep my arm bent. Maybe I should take up smoking again? I bet Lauren Bacall never had any problem keeping her bracelet on when she was holding her cigarette. Still there is the whole health thing, and the anti-social thing. And it will be thirty-one years next week since I quit. So... nah. Forget I said that. 

High Heels in the Wilderness: Further Adventures in Vintage
There were all kinds of accessories at the show, other than scarves and bracelets. Like some seriously cool sunglasses from the sixties and seventies. Okay, I will admit they looked kind of dorky on me. But still, it was fun to try them on, snap a picture, replace them, and then walk away... quickly. 

assorted sunglasses at Ottawa Vintage Clothing Sale
Just messing around with my new ap on my i-pad. Trying to up the cool factor...Ha!

But the best thing about the Vintage Clothing Show for me is always the hats. I'm crazy for vintage hats. I already own several. Some are quite dressy, one might even say a bit showy. Some are more casual like my brown beret from the forties, below. I love my beret. Especially the Bakelite brooch that came pinned to it. At under ten bucks, this was a find, considering what one has to pay for Bakelite jewellry these days. When the hat falls apart, I'll remove the brooch and wear it on its own.

Vintage 1940s beret with Bakelite pin, Gap turtleneck, Holt Renfrew scarf
My brown beret with the Bakelite brooch, Holt Renfrew scarf and Gap sweater. 

And this year, I managed to snap up another great hat for my collection. See. It's an odd little thing, really. It has a puffy brim, and pears and leaves appliqued onto the crown and covered in netting. And a sweet little brown feather. 

vintage hat
My newly acquired odd little 50's beanie.

It's part 1950s' beanie. 

High Heels in the Wilderness: Further Adventures in Vintage
Part Elizabethan boy's costume. Like you might see Tybalt or Mercutio wear in Romeo and Juliet. Seriously. Have a look at this shot from Franco Zefferelli's 1968 film ... which you have to admit is the definitive R & J movie. 

High Heels in the Wilderness: Further Adventures in Vintage
But no matter that I look like I might break out into sword-play... I love my new hat. And it goes perfectly with my green tweed blazer and this really old green silk scarf, that I've had since university. Making it vintage as well... sadly. 

Max Mara tweed blazer, vintage silk scarf, vintage hat

Max Mara tweed blazer, vintage silf scarf, vintage hat

After last week's post... that's me done paying homage to vintage for a while. And hat satiated... for now, anyway. I do admit to being very well hatted, when it comes to vintage. Maybe a bit too well hatted. Maybe I had better start finding places and events where I might wear some of my hats. 

Any ideas? High tea with the Governor General's wife? A winter wedding in old Quebec City? Roller skating? I need some help here, people. Where does one wear vintage headgear these days? I mean besides the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show, that is? 

Linking up this week with:Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style,  #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs, and All About You Link Party at Mama and More .

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Maggie and Me... That's Atwood, not Thatcher

On Monday night, I set off with my friend Susan to see, and hear, my old pal Margaret Atwood. Sponsored by the Ottawa Writer's Festival, Atwood was speaking at the Southminster United Church, a beautiful old building that's part of the historical and cultural fabric of Old Ottawa South. Kind of a fitting venue for someone who has been such a big part of Canadian literature for so long. You could say that, like this old church, Atwood has become part of the fabric of Canadian culture. 

Southminster United Church during Ottawa Writers Festival
I'm a big fan of Atwood's work. A big fan. And of her in general, I guess you could say. She makes me proud to be a Canadian, if that doesn't sound too fawning. 

But, as Elizabeth Bennet (kind of) said of Mr. Darcy... I didn't always love her as much as I love her now. Atwood's early novels that I read in the seventies and eighties, The Edible Woman, Lady Oracle, Bodily Harm, left me a bit cold. But I absolutely adored Cat's Eye when it came out in 1988, and cherish my signed copy. Ditto Alias Grace, The Robber Bride, and Blind Assassin. I think that Blind Assassin is a masterpiece. It's my favourite Atwood work. 


The Blind Assassin is not universally well loved. But I was captivated by the story of sisters Iris and Laura, as told by a cranky, and now impoverished, eighty-two year old Iris. I love the way Atwood weaves the past and present together, with flashbacks, and newspaper articles, as well as the story within a story, the pulp- fiction tale of "The Blind Assassin" as told to Laura by her lover. One review I read called the characters "bloodless." Remorseless, scarred by tragedy and abandonment, coerced into 'behaving' by a rigid and oppressive society obsessed with respectability... certainly. But not bloodless. Iris, an old lady of apparent ruthlessness and lack of emotion, retelling her life story, actually reminds me of that other iconic Canadian fictional character, created by that other Margaret. Namely Margaret Laurence's character of Hagar in The Stone Angel. If you're not familiar with Canadian fiction and some of its earlier stars, you should read Margaret Laurence. Stone Angel is her best known novel, but I prefer A Jest of God. I seriously love that book. 

The last time I heard Margaret Atwood speak was in 2013, when she was touring her recently published book  MaddAddam. She was brilliant. Ascerbic, funny, telling stories in her deadpan way, poking fun at how old she was, and how young the interviewer was. Afterwards when my friend Nancy and I were standing in the very long line to get our books signed, and the host strolled by, I quipped, "That must have been stressful!" Atwood is a notoriously "difficult" interview. He laughed ruefully, "I had a whole list of questions, and I only got to ask two." And then we both laughed. Atwood had taken over the show and had gone on and on from one fascinating story to another. Thank God. The host's questions had actually been pretty bad. 

While I was researching this post I watched a charming interview on CBC with George Stroumbouloupoulos following the publication of MaddAddam. George is lovely, and it's clear that Atwood thinks so too. Have a look.

I'm just now getting around to reading MaddAddam, which as you probably know is the third book in her post-apocalyptic trilogy. Oryx and Crake came out in 2003 and The Year of the Flood in 2009. I loved Oryx and Crake, couldn't put it down, in fact. Have a look at this insightful analysis of the novel on the blog Fiction Unbound. Oryx and Crake depicts a not too distant future that we can all imagine. Atwood merely exaggerates the narcissism, corporate greed, and "unfettered consumerist debauchery" we see today, and combines it with "endemic social and economic inequality" and "catastrophic climate change" to depict a world that is willfully blind to its own impending apocalypse. Definitely not light reading. Oryx and Crake both begins and ends with the apocalypse. The Year of the Flood covers the same ground from a different perspective, that of the outsiders. Characters in this second novel do not live in the gated and heavily secured world of the wealthy, all-powerful corporations, but on the fringes of civilization, in the violent, poverty-ridden Pleeblands. In this world if you're not part of the corporate aristocracy, you're a "pleeb."


MaddAddam picks up where the first two books end, uniting the survivors of the apocalypse, a mix of characters from both of the first two novels. As one reviewer says, this third book deals with the question of "now what?" Emma Brockes wrote a wonderful article for the Guardian in which she and Atwood discuss MaddAddam, Atwood's career, and her views on everything from women writers to the life of bees. You can read the article here. At one point in her interview, Brockes says the author replies to a question in that "Atwoodian tone of steely levity." I love that description. 

I haven't finished MaddAddam yet. I'm struggling with it, reading in short spurts. Don't get me wrong; it's a wonderful book. Brilliant. Funny, in a darkly ironic way. It's just that it is so dark. And I think that I'm not entirely in the mood for dark these days. 

This is a shot of my friend Nancy and me, with our buddy Margaret, in 2013. She signed our books, and then her assistant took our picture with Nancy's i-phone. I was planning all manner of intelligent things to say, but it was getting late. We'd been standing in line for an hour. Margaret looked exhausted. In the end we just giggled and said thank-you. 

Nancy and Maggie (Margaret Atwood) and me...October 2013

On Monday night I took along my copy of Atwood's newest book The Heart Goes Last, but by the end of the evening I couldn't face another hour long wait in line. So I came away with it unsigned. Ah well. That's okay. I'd enjoyed Atwood's conversation and her stories. As I always do. 

Atwood is such a wonderful writer. I love that she's so smart, and so wide-reaching in her interests, and her causes. And so open to new ideas and experiences, even those that her publishers tell her are "beneath her." But she does them anyway. Like writing about zombies. Or hair. 

If you haven't heard, or read, about #hairgate ... you must. Atwood's article "Hair Is in the Election Season Air" for the National Post was a tongue-in-cheek jab at Stephen Harper and the Conservative party's attack-ads which commented on Justin Trudeau's hair. For those of you who don't follow Canadian politics, the ads painted Trudeau as a light-weight and then ended with the comment, "Nice hair. though." Atwood wrote the article, then the Post pulled the article, and then all hell broke loose on Twitter. You can read about all the kerfuffle here. The whole thing was such a hoot.

Like George Stroumbouloupoulos said, Margaret Atwood "makes this country a better and more interesting place." You got that right George. 

Yep, Maggie and me... we go way back. Although, I guess I shouldn't be so disrespectful as to call a literary icon 'Maggie.' Or Peggy, or Mags. I should just stick to Margaret. Much more dignified. Especially since she doesn't know me from Adam. Or even from MaddAddam. Ha! Sorry... but I've been waiting days to make that terrible pun. 

P.S. I haven't even started reading Atwood's latest book The Heart Goes Last. I'll no doubt get back to you when I've finished it.

Are you an Atwood fan? 

Linking up with All About You Link Party

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Fall's Homage to Vintage

Every season, it seems, fashion designers and editors and stylists look to the past for inspiration. I have no quarrel with this. None at all. I'm always looking to the past for inspiration, or understanding, or solace. 

See the vintage inspired brooches on that gorgeous Max Mara coat on the left below? Or on the Prada teal and navy coat on the right? These images warmed my little vintage-loving heart when I spied them in Vogue earlier in the fall. Brooches seem to be everywhere, and are definitely not just for grannies anymore. So I've been wearing mine regularly. Make hay while the sun shines, I always say. Jump on that trend while you can, especially if it doesn't cost you anything. Particularly if it's a trend that doesn't make you look like mutton dressed as lamb. Miuccia Prada often seems to mix vintage-looking pieces with very modern prints and colours, doesn't she? Not to mention those gloves, which are lovely in a quirky Prada kind of way.

Max Mara coat, Vogue September 2015     Prada Ad, Vogue September 2015

And Chanel is showing some vintage-inspired looks as well this season. Tweed skirt suits that might have sprung from a 1940's "look book" if it weren't for the skirt length. Not that I'll be wearing a form-fitting tweed skirt suit any day soon. No, no, no... tweed skirts are most definitely not forgiving of middle-age middle. Still, the brooches are wonderful.

Chanel ads, fall 2015
I loved these two looks below when I saw them in the November issue of Vogue. The green Greg Lauren army greatcoat with the pale blue collar and cuffs is the picture of edgy chic, if a bit too distressed looking for me. But I love the slim cut and the length. So 1930's. Or even 1920's. And I really like the proportions of the outfit on the right. The short coat with the narrow midi-skirt and flat shoes is very vintage-looking and at the same time very, very modern. The mink coat is made by Gucci, and the leather and suede striped skirt by Derek Lam. Not that I can afford a Gucci mink coat, or for that matter, a Derek Lam skirt. But a girl can dream. 

Greg Lauren coat, Vogue November 2015      Gucci coat and Derek Lam skirt, Vogue November 2015

I had never heard of Greg Lauren until I saw that green coat in Vogue. So I looked him up. Apparently he's the nephew of that other more famous Lauren, Ralph. In her review of Greg Lauren's fall 2015 Ready To Wear Collection on, Emily Farr describes his "aesthetic" as "post-apocalyptic urban." Lauren himself says his clothes are "part artist, part nomad, part soldier." Well, they are interesting, if you're a fan of sci-fi, and want to channel a sort of vintage Mad Max vibe. I kind of like Lauren's stuff, though. It reminds me of being a teenager in the seventies when the very coolest kids bought military coats from the Salvation Army store. And my older sister, Connie, snagged my step-father's old khaki army shirts from World War II. Here's the same coat as above styled for Lauren's show during New York Fashion Week. 


And here's another even more "post-apocalyptic" look. Now this one's too weird even for me. Part army coat, part army blanket. Maybe an uber-cool twenty year old might like this. But priced at over three thousand dollars, who but the well-heeled could afford it? Now.... if I were twenty again... I'd hive off to the Salvation Army Store or to Value Village, buy myself a couple of old coats, find a few pieces of old horse harness in our barn... and commence being creative. Seriously, I would.


But for true lovers of vintage fashion, nothing beats the real thing. Like these ladies striding down a street sometime in the 1930's, perfectly hatted, coats swinging. I love this picture. 

1930s street looks, Camerique/Getty Images
Camerique/Getty Images

And this one below from the forties. I love the perfect fit of the glen plaid jacket on the far left, and the dress with the short-sleeved bolero and contrasting belt. And hats and gloves all round. My mum used to say that, when she was a girl, a lady did not go into town without her hat and gloves. This shot is from the exhibit "Fashion on the Ration" that opened at the Imperial War Museum in London last winter. War made fabrics and materials scarce, but invention and creativity triumphed. Women made over and made do, believing that their appearance affected their morale, and low morale was bad for the war effort. I'd love to read Julie Summer's book Fashion on the Ration which accompanied the exhibit. There's a great article in The Telegraph about the exhibit and Summer's book; if you're interested, you can find it here.

1940s street looks, Imperial War Museum

This is a shot of my mum's two sisters taken sometime in the forties. My aunt Gwyneth has fashioned a "turban" to match her trench coat. According the the Telegraph article, turbans became popular during the war when women working in the factories tried to cover their hair in creative ways. Born out of necessity, they became all the rage. 

Marion and Gwyneth Sullivan, 1940s

Here's a shot of my mum and her buddies on a day out. My mum said that they rode their bikes all the way from Fredericton to Gagetown that day, a not inconsiderable distance. That's Mum second from the right in her sunglasses... and her turban. Yep. Even if I didn't know that was Mum, I'd recognize those skinny ankles anywhere. Sullivan family feature, those ankles. The guy in the uniform is the local bus driver who decided to get into the shot. I just love old photographs. I look at this photo and I wonder who the girl is on Mum's right. And what her plaid jacket looked like in real life. And if she reapplied her lipstick just before the shot was taken. 

Mum and her chums, 1940s, Fredericton New Brunswick

I think it's great that designers, like Miuccia Prada and Greg Lauren, and fashion editors, like Camilla Nickerson and Tabitha Simmons of Vogue, look to our past for inspiration. Their work is an homage to those that came before us. A kind of fashion "Remembrance of Things Past," if you'll pardon my borrowing from Proust. Although... actually... Proust's original title was À la recherche du temps perdu  (In Search of Lost Time.) So I guess his translators or maybe his English publishers borrowed that line from Shakespeare's Sonnet 30, before I borrowed it. Homage after homage. 

And speaking of homage, last weekend I went off to the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show, where I worshiped at the temple of all things vintage. And... I may even have made a couple of judicious purchases. But I'll save them for another post, wherein I will pay my own homage to those wonderful looks from the past. 

WWII ambulance driver, Imperial War Museum

I know there have been all manner of terrible events happening in the world this weekend. Especially in Paris. I chose not to talk about them in my post. And I felt a little guilty about that at first, a bit shallow. But then I saw this shot from the Imperial War Museum's exhibit, of a young WWII Air Raid Precautions staff member reapplying her lipstick. And I thought of the comment in the article that "fashion survives and even flourishes" during difficult days. And so I went ahead anyway. 

What about you dear readers... any thoughts on vintage you might want to share? Or thoughts on anything, really. 

Additional Photo Credits: Max Mara coat: photo by Mikale Jansson, styled by Tabitha Simmons, Vogue, September 2015; Prada coats, Prada print ad in Vogue September 2015; Greg Lauren coat and Gucci mink coat with Derek Lam skirt: photos by Patrick Demerchelier, styled by Camilla Nickerson, Vogue November 2015.

Linking up this week with:Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style,  #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, What I Wore at The Pleated PoppyStyle Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs, TBT at Happiness at Midlife.