Thursday, September 30, 2010

I love Old Newspapers

A Couple of Old Copies of The Bay of Plenty Times

Came across a couple of Bay of Plenty Times newspapers the other day and thought you might like to see some of the wonderful images of the 40's. This first one is an add for a Tauranga store: Gilmore Rodgers Ltd, dated 1949 and reads: "Classic springs a surprise with this sun-dazzler in New York everfast sports fabric. Gay candy stripes and awning stripes are cleverly vandyked into a whirling dervish of a skirt. The bra-top is specially fashioned and reinforced to mould and flatter you.

Wow check out those breasts, they look like metal. Perky on aluminium.

Even in soft featherlight underwear they still had a distinctly conical shape.

Look at those tiny corseted waists. The year is 1945, and fashion is on the verge of discovering the new look, introduced by Christian Dior in 1949, with its tiny waists and full flared skirts. Women were being wooed back to domesticity by a love of femininity and sexuality, after the freedom they had experienced during World War II. This is the year WWII ended.

Oh yes the 1940's were very different to today.

The four square man looked like this.

Men wore underwear like this.

We drove cars like this.

And of course women were still Goddesses.

Monday, September 27, 2010

White petals will always remind me of Kate

The Death of a Friend

A friend died today. She was not someone I had known for a long time, or someone I was really close to, but I respected her. She was so vibrant, full of life and love. Spring was a fitting time for her to pass, and as finally the sun came out today after weeks of rain, I wished you were still here to see it. As I left work, white petals were falling from the pear tree, they covered the ground, and I felt it was Kate leaving and saying farewell. It was a strange feeling, I can't quite describe it, but I cried all the way home. I will always remember the hug you gave me Kate, when you found out my cancer was terminal. Go well Kate. I hear Neil is taking you back to Greece, may you find peace there. Falling white petals will always remind me of you.

The Brain-Watkin's House: Front Parlour

The Front Parlour

The parlour is one of the two front rooms of the Brain-Watkins house, the first on the left as you enter the front door. This is the public room of the house, a place to receive visitors during the day, a formal room, to sit and take tea.

Look at the wonderful assortment of furniture, from the Victorian footstool in the foreground, to the curves of the Art Nouveau style of the bentwood chair, and on into the 1930's and the Art Deco fabric covering the upholstered chairs. Almost 100 years of furniture history in one glance.

The room is screened off from outside with delicate lace curtains.

The fireplace surround looks marble but it is actually a paint finish, painted by someone with a sense of humour, as the little faces show.

The luxury of this embroidered velvet cushion, with its vibrant mustard yellow colour, adds to the mixture of styles in this room.

Flowers are everywhere in the house, embroidered on cushions, bedspreads, runners and doilies.

There are plastic flowers from the 1960's or 70's, and delicate gilt flowers on the Victorian style wallpaper as a backdrop. The eclectic mix of styles from the 1880's through to the 1970's, reflects the 100 years the Brain family lived in the house.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The 1919 Coat

Trixie's Coat

Do you remember this beautiful coat, and my quandary of whether to make it for myself or my devoted and loving friend, Trixie. Well I thought you might like to see a photo of Trixie in her younger days, when she was a famous star of the theatre.

Isn't she gorgeous.

So the toile was finished and Trixie arrived for her fitting. For those of you who are unfamiliar with haute couture, and tailoring, the toile is a first cut of the pattern, cut from calico, and used to ensure that the fit and shape of the pattern is exactly right before the pattern is cut from the final fabric.

We were happy with the look of the toile, and I was fascinated by the drape and structure of the coat, which was so different to anything I had sewn before. Making this coat was going to be a great adventure, and seeing the toile on Trixie, I knew that it had to be for her.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Its so nice to get a visitor.

The Hallway of the Brain Watkins House

Hallo once again my dear and precious friends, how I have hoped you would call. It is wet and wild outside as I write, a perfect day to be inside. So step out of the cold and come into the hallway of the Brain Watkins House.

All Victorian Villas had a central hallway running through the house with rooms on each side.

Standing proudly in the hallway with her breasts bared, is a plaster model of Britannica, the majestic warrior woman symbol of the British Isles. Statues like this were imported into New Zealand in the late 1800's, and used by artists to stand in as live models, for life drawing classes. No Christian Victorian young lady would have dared to draw a nude live model. One of the daughters of Mr. Brain, Bessie, was an artist and there are examples of her paintings in the house. Britannica may have been purchased for her.

Over the door, on the glass window, is a transfer, can you see the man beside the river. A very European scene.

Looking back down the hall towards the door.

Standing in the hall you get a glimpse into the pink bedroom, and beside the bedroom doorway is an elegant hat stand, made in the latter part of the 1800's. This was a store bought piece of furniture, a place to hang your hat and put your umbrella on a wet and wild day.

Hanging near the end of the hall are a pair of rich burgundy chenille curtains. Originally there would have been another pair in the first arch of the hallway as well, giving it a feeling of luxury and wealth. One day I would love to see these reinstated, as they are still to be found tucked away in the drawer.

Just above the kitchen door are the door chimes that would have rung when a visitor pressed the doorbell, interrupting the work of the women busy inside. Well that is all for now pumpkin pies, hope you enjoyed your visit, come again and I will show you the wonderful front parlour, with its art deco styling.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The 1955 Dress and the Fabulous 1950's

As I promised my fantastic fashionable friends and lovers of history, here is a little darling from the collection of items at The Brain Watkins House, or as we fondly like to call it - The Brain (sounds so intelligent doesn't it?). The Australian Home Journal was a women's magazine that advertised patterns, and as a drawcard for its readers gave away free patterns with every issue. The free patterns were featured on the cover, and I wanted all the dresses on the cover of the November 1st 1955 issue.

Aren't they fabulous, it just makes me want to put my kid gloves on, drink a martini and stand beside my washing machine looking incredibly happy. The yellow floral number grabbed my attention first, and I decided to make it. I had some fabric and of course buttons from the 50's, so I put it together in a couple of days. It was a wonderfully simple pattern and the directions were simple and easy to follow.

So here I am wearing my new dress, and I have to tell you, its kinda weird, but I feel transformed in my new dress, its almost like wearing drag or dressing up in the clothing of some anarchist subculture, and its kinda wicked cos its so deliberately not "in fashion", and yet it captures the femininity and friviolity of the 50's. Franni says I look like I'm wearing old lady clothes, but you know what, that's ok, cos I am. This dress design is older that me.

Here is one of the buttons I used, they are made of a hard white plastic, that feels almost like glass, they are whiter than they look in this photo, the sun was going down when I took it, and the buttons were bathed in yellow light.

So I am addicted and I feel a rush of dresses from the 1950's coming on, so if you read this and you have a stash of 1950's fabric tucked away, please let me know. Until next time, love and cocktails, Jo Jo.

The Brain Watkins House

In Tauranga city in the centre of town is found a little house that the city has grown up, all around. Built in 1881 by Mr. Brain, a boat builder by trade, the house called a Victorian Villa, was lived in by members of his family until 1979. I love this little house, built of kauri timber, and still filled with furniture, pictures, china and all sorts of interesting treasures, that were owned by the family, and tell the stories of their lives. I wanted to show you this little villa, as I have featured a pattern and a magazine that belong inside, thanks to the kindness of the Tauranga Historical Society who own and care for the house, so I thought it was only fair that I introduced you to the place where they live to this day.

Just down the road from the house is a domain, and these are the gates, the Memorial gates, built to record the names of those brave young men who had fallen in World War I. You may wonder what they have to do with the house, well my historically inclined darlings, they were built by Mr. Brain, in 1921, as the plaque on the wall shows.

So one day soon when you open this blog you I will take you inside this wonderful little house, so come back and see me another day soon, and until then may the world treat you kindly and fill you with joy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Lounge of The Brain Watkins House

My Favorite Room

This is the lounge, found at the back of the house, a more private area than the front parlour. I love this room, it has a feeling of faded elegance and suited a more formal style of entertaining than most would find comfortable today.

The walls are hung with paintings and sketches, some by Bessie Brain. All are very European in their inspiration and style, and similar to what would have hung on the walls of English houses in the same period.

The pale pink wallpaper with its decorative floral strip, gives the room a feminine feeling.

The gorgeous ceiling, is made of pressed tin.

Don't you love this 'Deco' tea trolley, with its castor feet. " James, where is our tea? Oh and don't forget the sponge cake with cream and strawberries for my darling friend, who doesn't call nearly often enough."

Flowers are everywhere in this room, almost the only decorative motif used, a girl can never have too many flowers.

And look at this lovely little detail, the edges of the curtains have been finished with a hand-worked crochet trim.

The china cabinet is stuffed full of tea cups, and the drawers are full of doilies, table centers and runners.
1960's floral Axminster carpet, saturated with flowers of every type and colour. This room is so full of floral detail, and yet somehow it all seems to work, in a wild eclectic sort of way.

Plastic flowers are found in the vases in the lounge, and they are so different to artificial flowers today. I would guess they are from around the 1960's, and they are completely made of plastic, not very life-like, and some of the fruit on the cake stand is made of wax, the mandarin has melted and stuck to the plate.

This beautiful lead-light glassed cabinet holds silver and china treasures, and a plastic flower bouquet from the wedding day of the youngest Brain daughter, Elva. You can just make it out on the bottom shelf, see the Lilly of the Valley flowers. Elva did not marry until the age of 72, and married William George Watkins who was aged 68, (this is the reason for the name of the house, Brain-Watkins ). So there you go girls, you should never give up on finding Mr. Right, if you are a patient darling he will come along eventually.

A fern stand with another plantar full of plastic flowers, and look to the lower right, see the ashtray on the wooden stand, that would have sat beside a lounge chair, so you could smoke in comfort.

Chinese lacquer plate, inlaid with mother of pearl and abalone.


For me though it is the chandelier that sums up the feeling of this whole room. The desire for a style that suggests, wealth, luxury and European taste, a fantasy chateau full of glamour and glitz.

And now for some textiles, I love the table cover on the small round pedestal table, with its hand crocheted circles and pom-poms. And the applique lillys on the green velvet upholstery of the wooden chair.

The vibrancy of this chair would have been much brighter, before the velvet pile wore off.

Oh my darlings, I do need better lighting don't I?

This motif is everywhere in the house, on cushions and bedspreads. It has such a youthful feminine feel don't you think. A feeling of abandoned joy and abundance, flowers and sunlight in fields of long grass blowing in a gentle summer breeze.

So I really must leave you now, I hope you enjoyed a little peak into the lounge, one day I will show you the treasures in the lead-light cabinet, there are some wonderful stories contained in the objects there, of massacres and lovers killed, but these, my patient darlings, will have to wait for another day.