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Come join me for a Garden Party Salon

It’s mid-January, and once again I am madly sewing 1920s fashions…but not for Art Deco Weekend.  This time I have something even more novel and exciting – I’m a featured speaker at the Glory Days Salon at the Hamilton Gardens’ Mansfield Garden Party.

The Mansfield Garden Party (Sunday 7 Feb, 10-5) celebrates New Zealand’s most famous author (and one of my personal favourites) and one of her most famous works: The Garden Party (if you haven’t read it, do, it’s wonderful).

If you are in Hamilton or driving distance (come down from Auckland for the day!) do come along to the Salon (book tickets through the Glory Day’s link above).

I’ll be talking about garden party fashions in the first two decades of the 20th century, from the dresses Mansfield wore to garden parties in Wellington in 1907, like the one she wrote about in her story, and garden party styles in the early ’20s, when she wrote her story.  And, of course, there will be models!

Come and learn, admire, and be admired!  And bring a picnic!

Fashions for May 1918

Rate the Dress: Wartime stripes & tassels

Last week I showed you a floral 1880s dress with a modest but-revealing silhouette, and some rather unusual trim choices.  It got compared to everything from real-life steampunk, to Star-Trek does 1880s, but overall, the lace insets and velvet bows were NOT a hit, and the dress scored a pretty dismal 6.1 out of 10.  Slightly better than the week before, but hardly brilliant.  Can this week’s frock do better?

This week I’m showing you a dress that has many of the same themes as last week: a demure and almost restrained silhouette, a simple fabric, and a few touches of quirky trim.

This Harvey Nichols dress from 1916 (from the Helen Larson collection that the FIDM Museum is hoping to purchase – hop on over to their blog to read about and support their fundraising efforts) is typical of the mid-teens WWI influenced fashions.  The dark colours reflect the dye shortages (Germany was the primary dye supplier for most of the world immediately prior to WWI), the shorter, fuller skirts a more practical silhouette and conservative mindset.

While the restrained colours and simple shape are very much a product of the times, so are the whimsical details that bring a bit of interest to the outfit, without compromising practicality, or using a great deal more fabric.

The perky little collar and cuffs add colour while using very little dye, the tassels add movement, and the dress takes full advantage of the stripes placement across the pockets and belt.  Finally, an extravagance of buttons gives interest to the back view.

What do you think of this bit of wartime luxury?  Elegant and fun, or drab and childish?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.

Clamdigging shorts in Dunedin, thedreamstress.com14

Clamdigging shorts (with asides)

In Dunedin just after New Years, my host asked if I would like to go clam-digging.  I’ve never been clam-digging before – there are no clams in Hawaii, and (as far as I can tell) very few within a reasonable drive of Wellington.  I am extremely enthusiastic both about new experiences and foraging for food (Mr D says “It’s so weird being with you in Hawaii.  You just go into the bush and find stuff and eat it), so I was quite excited.

Dunedin has clam beaches (clam fields?  What do you call an area where one goes to harvest clams? (harvest?  catch?  what do you call the act of collecting clams?)) a reasonably short drive from the city centre, so we headed out away from the city to find one.

Out and about around Dunedin, NZ,

We drove out along the coast, around still bays and past rocky islands, by spreading sand beaches, and between cone-shaped volcanic hills.

Out and about around Dunedin, NZ,

Out and about around Dunedin, NZ,

Finally, we came to our chosen bay, with stretches of sand and shallow sea-grass islands revealed by the ebbing tide.

Out and about around Dunedin, NZ,

Just a few meters into the water were the clams: solid lumps that shifted under the sand as you walked.

Having dipped my toes in the frigid water at the main beach in Dunedin, I was significantly less than enthusiastic about wading about calf deep in water feeling for clams with my toes, but I needn’t have been worried.  In the shallow waters of the bay, the temperature had increased to very comfortable levels, and I quickly decided that 1) I love clam-digging and 2) I wish I had brought my togs!

All too quickly we’d accumulated a sufficient haul of clams (30 – well within the 150 per person daily quota), and returned any little ones to the sea.

Clamdigging in Dunedin,

Then it was time for fun: exploring the beach and enjoying the sea and sand.

I found this little cutie in the crystal clear shallows:

Clamdigging in Dunedin, thedreamstress.com09And kung-fu hermit crab a little further along the beach:

Clamdigging in Dunedin, thedreamstress.comAnd if you are wondering about the wadge of seaweed in my hand, that’s my other exciting find.

Clamdigging in Dunedin,

It’s a NZ seaweed, and I was sure that it was basically the same as limu manauea (limu ogo) in Hawaii.  I was right – it turns out that it is indeed the local New Zealand gracilaria seaweed (look at me, just tossing out scientific names like textile terms!)

Clamdigging in Dunedin,

Just like Hawaii’s gracilaria varieties, it makes a delicious seaweed salad.  This Hawaiian girl was extremely happy for the next few days!

Between the sea, the sand, the sun, and finding food and friends, I was in absolute heaven.  And I had the perfect outfit for it too (look at me, cunningly bringing it back around to sewing! 😉 )

Clamdigging shorts in Dunedin, thedreamstress.com14

I am constantly on the lookout for a good shorts pattern: one that sits high enough on my hips, but not all the way at my true waist, and is low enough on my legs, and has enough curves to fit my curves, and is roomy enough to accommodate all the crazy things I want to do in a day, and has BIG pockets to hold all the interesting things I accumulate in a day.

Clamdigging shorts in Dunedin,

Having failed in my attempts to find such a pattern, and completely failed in my attempts to just suck it up and buy shorts (not a happy experience), I just made my own pattern.

Clamdigging shorts in Dunedin,

I’m going to tweak it a teeny tiny bit next time, but basically, I love them.

Clamdigging shorts in Dunedin,

This pair is made from the same fabric as my Hepburn in Hakatere trousers.  I had exactly enough left over.

Clamdigging shorts in Dunedin,



(dang it, now I really want to go swimming!)