Friday Review: Olompali State Historic Park

Olompali State Historic Park

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What it is:

A state park on the Marin peninsula, just over whatever bridge it is you cross if you drive from Berkeley to Santa Rosa, with hiking trails, picnicking areas, and historical buildings.

The good:

The park is gorgeous, very relaxing, and feels more out in the country than it is. The hiking trails are suitable for easy, light day hikes.

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The best thing about the park is the animals. In one quick visit I saw dozens of turkeys, a handful of rabbits, two deer, and sundry lizards, birds, and attractive insects.

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The historic buildings are pretty neat too, even though they aren’t open and are in some disrepair. The range from early mud-brick architecture all the way up to Art Deco is pretty interesting, and the remains of the Victorian pleasure gardens are fascinating.

This would be a great place to hold a historical picnic. Most of the trails are easy enough that you could do them in costume (I hadn’t brought hiking shoes and did them barefoot with my dress pants rolled up to the knee).

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The bad:

The entrance to the park is a bit weird. You can’t access it heading north on 101, so have to take the first exit after it if you are, get back on heading south, and then get off at the park.

Oh, and the park only has porta-potties. Nuff said.

The ugly:

Prickles in the grass. And I guess some lizards aren’t that attractive.

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My personal lovely little story about Olompali State Park:

I found this park only because I stepped out of my practical, logical, reasonable shell the last time I was in CA, and decided to do something wild and illogical and completely random and drive from Livermore (the last true part of the USA in California) up to Santa Rosa to meet an internet friend.

Wild and illogical it may have been, but it was also one of the best decisions of the trip. The friend was as lovely IRL as online, and the mental escape from Livermore (tltpotUSAinCA) and Berkeley and Oakland and stores and malls was just what I needed. I’m definitely a country girl at heart!

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I noticed the park on the way up to Santa Rosa, so on the way back I stopped and decided to take a wander. And I had an absolutely splendid afternoon, all by myself, limping along gravel and prickle-filled paths in bare feet because my patent leather flats were not the right footwear choice for the trip, and taking hundreds of photographs, and just feeling alive and outside.

And I saw turkeys and rabbits and deer and lizards and attractive insects. And it was lovely!

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Friday Review*: I Do: 100 Years of Wedding Dresses

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I don’t have images, so enjoy Toulmouche’s The Reluctant Bride, who looks more like the ‘Seriously pissed off Bridezilla’ to me

What it is:

An exhibition of wedding dresses at Expressions, Upper Hutt’s Arts and Entertainment Centre, with dresses spanning the period from 1875 – 2006.

Remember how I spent a lovely day a few months ago looking at wedding dresses? Well, these are them, and now you can see them yourself (as long as you are in the Wellington region).

The Good:

It’s an exhibition about wedding dresses? What could not be good?

Beyond the instant appeal of the topic, the exhibition is beautifully designed and curated.

The selection of dresses is inspired, reflecting both the most popular and common dress trends of each era, and a few brides who broke with the trends and chose very unique and individual dresses.

The visual design is lovely: dresses are grouped by period, with each having enough space to stand alone, without feeling isolated. A few special dresses stand on individual plinths, allowing the visitor to see them from all angles, and keeping them from competing with the other dresses.

The centre of the room is occupied by the most extravagant and over the top dress in the exhibition: a ‘princess bride on acid’ confection of gold silk, gold lace, embroidery, applique, lacing, ribbons, bows and matching accessories which could have overwhelmed the exhibition, but is carefully placed to complement rather than swamp the other dresses.

The whole room is tied together with panels of romantic floral wallpaper and ribbons of plain wallpaper, presenting the entire exhibition as a present to be slowly opened.

The Bad:

The bad is that I don’t have photographs (yet), but you can see a lovely article with a photograph here and TVNZ did a little short on it with three gorgeous dresses in their Breakfast programme.

(You just have to get through 2 minutes and 20 seconds of randomness involving a 6 foot tall texting rabbit first, and restrain yourself from trying to reach through the screen and give the newsreader a smack when she grabs one of the dresses.)

The Ugly:

Some of the dresses aren’t quite to everyone’s taste.

But that is good too, because there is something to appeal to everyone, from the minimalist to the maximalist, from the traditionalist to the uber avante-garde.

(oh, c’mon, you didn’t actually think I was going to say “Well, this one dress with the green bows is just beyond hideous”, did you?)

The so good it is bad:

Do I need to say? With all those gorgeous dresses I want to get married again! (to the same person of course). And everyone who attends is going to go slightly dewey-eyed and wedding mad for a little bit.

The other so good is that there are going to be floor talks on Sunday the 13th from 2-3 and Thursday the 17th December from 10.30-11.30 by a local costume historian, and I hear they are going to be very good (I hope!). Maybe I’ll see you there?

*I know this is a bit late for a Friday Review, but this exhibition isn’t on for very long, and is so utterly lovely, that I want to give you as much of a chance as possible to see it!

Friday Review: 10th Edition

Last Friday I got to put on a little black pencil skirt and a swish blouse by NZ label Blak (out of Tauranga of all places) and sit in the front(ish) row for Massey Universities School of Designs 10th Annual Fashion Show – 10th Edition.

What it is:
An annual show featuring the work of graduates in Diplomas of Fashion, BAs in Textiles and BAs in Fashion from Massey Universities School of Design.
Massey has one of the most respected fashion and textile design programmes in New Zealand, and the annual show one of the best places to get a heads up on future fashion and textile designers.
The Good:
As always, some of the collections were breathtaking, some merely amazing, some good but not spectacular, and some completely forgettable.
Some of my favourites include:
Amy Gough’s Distorted Vision maxi-dress and static cling sheath were simultaneously fun and elegant thanks to her fab fabric. I instantly coveted the maxi-dress, and the friend who came with me is still talking about the sheath.

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Tessa Stevenson’s Fade away dresses were infinitely wearable and extremely flattering, and managed to be sophisticated but still youthful.

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Illandre Bester’s Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless South Africa) collection was all about strong colours, wearability, flattering cuts, and innovative designs. I particularly love the green cape/jacket and am tempted to see if she would let me buy one.

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Alice Howard successful melded the 1920s and 1960s with her brightly coloured coats in her Jack’s Diary collection.

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The award for most cohesive and best thought out collection goes to Beloved, by Sally Doughty. Her jackets in oversized plaid and lacy shifts were the perfect balance of feminine details and structured ease: neither too frilly nor too restrained, and with a challenging yet appealing colour palette.

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Ceryls Dallaway’s Dated 1957 collection of brilliantly floral frocks and coats was a close-runner up, let down by a slightly less than flattering jacket. The rest of the garments evoked the saturated colours and sleek-lines of the late 1950s and early 1960s without being derivative or cutesy-vintage.

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I’m a sucker for a fun runway show, and Jasmine Perrson’s Pure Vibe collection brought a smile to my face as the models bounced and danced down the runway in joyful clubbing clothes with a ruffled-pink twist.

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Other looks I loved but couldn’t write fast enough to note the collection and designer include these:
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The Bad:
One of the designers sent her Irish Setters down the catwalk with the models. Don’t put dogs on the catwalk. 1) It’s not fair to them. The dogs were clearly confused and overexcited and kept trying to jump on the models. 2) It just distracts from your clothes. Everyone can remember the designer who included dogs, but does anyone remember what the clothes looked like? Nope. They are just a blur.

Tier upon tier of ruffles or pleats or balloons of fabric does not a designer garment make. Yes, they are momentarily exciting and visually dynamic, but are they new, or innovative, or particularly attractive? Not in most cases.

The Ugly:
Ummmm….synthetic net curtaining turned into clothes? I feel OK in pointing this out only because the designer who did it has won lots of awards, was clearly very talented, and clearly meant this collection to be more about art and concept than clothing and wearability.

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So – Moonhee Han’s dickinson’s room was beautiful as an art piece, effective as a design, stunning as a catwalk show (especially the ballerinas as models), but ugly, ugly, ugly the minute you try to think of them as real garments. Shudder.

The so-good it is bad:
The bridal designers. Wedding dresses are ridiculously frivolous and impractical, but I am such a sucker for them, and some of the 10th Edition collections were particularly innovative and covetable. They made me want to get married again (hence the bad part).

Hayley Jewell’s self-titled collection of calla-lily inspired frocks touched a soft spot of mine – I have a whole collection of calla-lily inspired wedding dresses I drew when I was 15. Obviously the concept isn’t particularly unique, but Hayley’s structured petal skirts and pixelated colour gradations represented the most innovative and developed take on the concept that I have ever seen.

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Ghazaal Wafa’s sophisticated wedding gown from her Double Take collection was delicious. I believe she was aiming for a Muslim market, but her flowing gown and Princess Grace jacket will be a breath of fresh air for any bride tired of the mind-numbing array of strapless gowns out there.
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Eleni Kristea’s Love-in-Idleness collection of frothy, flowing flower adorned frocks awoke the romantic in all of us. Perfect for a spring wedding under flowering cherry trees.

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I do apologise if I have wrongly ascribed any garments to a designer, or mis-spelled anyones name. Contact me and I will rectify it immediately.
All the photos are by Brady Dyer, from snapstar.co.nz
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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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