A pair of picture hats

Yesterday’s post on the history of picture hats reminded Lynne of two of her family photographs, and she has kindly let me show them to you.

Here are Lynne’s Great Aunt Alice and Alice’s sister, her Grandmother Florence.  Florence immigrated to NZ before WWI as a children’s nursemaid.

Based on advertisements I have seen, and numerous examples of women who came to NZ via this route, there was considerable demand for domestic help, and nursemaids and governesses in particular, in pre-WWI NZ.   It was an easy way for women without a lot of means to have their passage paid, but most quickly married or moved on to other positions once they arrived.  Early 20th century NZ society was much more democratic than its British counterpart, and the strict class system that characterised Britain did not hold here.

But that’s an aside.  Today we are focusing on Alice and Florence.  I already love this pictures, first because they symbolise the sharing and knowledge that the blog world has fostered, and second, because of the similarities and differences of the two sisters.  They remind me of me and my sisters: how we share mannerisms and characteristics, but have our own distinct personalities.

Alice Truman in Devon, England

Florence Mary Truman in Wanaka, New Zealand

I wonder what Alice and Florence were like?

In the photos Alice seems more outgoing: her picture hat is flamboyant, and her pose, legs apart, torso thrust foward, gaze directed straight at the camera, exudes confidence.  In contrast Florence seems reserved: her clothes are beautifully cut but subdued, her picture hat large but practical, and she looks away from the camera.  And yet Florence was the one who adventured, who risked it all and came to NZ.

And I guess my sisters and I are.  I look braver, more outgoing, than the Naiad, but for all her reserve, she faces the world with more courage.

So thank you Lynne, for sharing a bit of your family with me, and with the rest of us.  They are beautiful images, of two beautiful women, in more ways than one.

The Hawke’s Bay

The Naiad’s* time in New Zealand is almost up.  For the last 4 months she’s been chefing at a fancy lodge in the Hawkes Bay.  She’s just finished working, so I flew up to visit her, and to spend a little time seeing the Hawkes Bay before she flies off to spend a year on working holiday in Australia.

I visited the Hawkes Bay when I was first in NZ, and had a lovely time, but other than two slightly disastrous road-trips through in the ensuing years, I really haven’t spent any quality time there.  Time to rectify that!

So what is the Hawkes Bay?  It’s everything between the big curve on the East Coast of the lower North Island of New Zealand and the nearest range of mountains.  The climate is perfect for vineyards, stonefruit orchards, apple orchards, berry farms, kiwifruit orchards, and every other sort of agricultural endeavor, giving it the nickname of the ‘fruitbowl of NZ’.

In other words, Dreamstress heaven.  I’m all about fruit.  And the countryside.  Which is what most of the Hawkes Bay is.

There are two main towns: Napier and Hastings.  Napier was rebuilt after a terrible earthquake in the 1930s and is famous for being the Art Deco capitol of NZ.  Hastings is famous for, well…not much.  Which is really unfair, because it’s a cute little city and its Art Deco architecture is just as lovely as Napier’s.

So what did we, two fruit-mad country girls, do when let loose in the fruit filled country for a few days?

Well, mostly sat at the window and stared gloomily at the rain.  The weather did not cooperate with my trip.

The first day was utterly gorgeous and we went strawberry picking and took the hostel dog for a long walk along a picturesque stream.

Strawberry fields

And then it rained and was grey and chilly.  And we baked strawberry shortcake and braved the rain to take the dog on more walks and went to all the op-shops in Hastings and Napier, where I bought way too many pieces of fabric.

Bailey sniffs a particularly interesting patch of grass

Funny wooly goats

Hurry up! Hurry up! Walk faster!

When the weather wasn’t so bad we did the Hasting’s farmers market and teased the eels in the lily pond (and I bet you thought that your local pond was exciting with a few goldfish in it!).

Eelie needs his caffeine fix too

On our last day we decided to brave the weather so we at least saw some of the countryside.

We went to the Napier botanical gardens, where we foraged for fruit and admired the flowers and ended up in the Napier cemetery, where all the ‘Little Snowdrop’ headstones made me cry, so then we had to go sit in front of the budgerigar cage until I cheered up.

The botanical gardens

Yummy fruit

There is just something about budgies that is so lovely and cheerful.  You can’t help but feel better when you hear them.

Happy budgies

And that was the Hawkes Bay trip: just small, local pleasures, none of the usual tourist attractions.  No Art Deco tours, no walks to the gannet colony, and (not surprisingly, knowing me) no visits to wineries.

My only regret is that we didn’t get to go swimming.

* The Naiad being my next younger sister, a professional chef.

Cutest photoshoot ever




Isn’t it darling?  I just love how it shows off Madge Bellamy’s comic side, rather than sticking to the usual glamour shots.

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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