Monday, March 31, 2008

Observation of the Day

Thought for the Day

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Challenges of Street Photography

Ever since I discovered Walker Evans' photographs of people on New York subways, I've been interested in street photography. Evans rigged up a secret camera inside his shirt so that his subjects didn't know they were being photographed. It's a hugely interesting voyeuristic experience looking at these people, lost in their own heads. I've featured a couple of my favourite images from this series above.
When I was in New York recently, I longed for Walker's Secret Camera. I spent my days trawling up & down Fifth Avenue oggling at the street life whilst fumbling with my camera. It was quite a feat to keep my fake fur hat from falling into my eyes, hold my gloves & adjust the zoom all at the same time. I was constantly fearful that someone would come up & accuse me of invading their privacy, & knock my Canon to the ground. Fortunately that never happened. Most people seemed oblivious to the fact that they were being photographed, probably because I mostly only managed to snap them from behind; so unless they had eyes in the back of their heads, they wouldn't have noticed.
I was desperate to photograph really stylish or interesting looking women swathed in designer clothes striding confidently into Bergdofs or Prada. Instead I got more of a Mixed Bag. But isn't that just Life?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Age Management

On the Ides of March I turned 55. If I had bothered keeping with my old superannuation scheme, I could retire now. But of course I didn't. I don't even think I could get a 'Seniors Card' because I'm employed. Thank God, I say. What would I do all day as a 'Retired Senior' - wear disgusting beige clothes & travel all over the place on free public transport?
Anyway, it's only now after 26 years (on & off) that I'm starting to get the hang of teaching. Why would I want to give it up now?

But I'm certainly interested in The Ageing Process & v. glad that others are too. There's all sorts of blogs & articles & books written by disgruntled Baby Boomers outraged by the plain fact that they are beginning to look a real lot like their Mothers in Middle Age. I know when I was in my twenties I had this totally insane idea that I was going to age like in a Hollywood movie - you know, stay exactly the same shape, but have really flattering grey hair & a few tiny lines around the eyes. In my dreams!

One thing I don't have & you may not believe me is I DON'T HAVE ANY GREY HAIRS! My hair stayed really blond until my forties & then it went a kind of sad, dark blond. Now I just spray the top of it with 'Sunnin'. I'm sure it's my Scandinavian roots, which I may or may not have, but will never know, because I'm adopted.
The two pictures above are of me & my best friend Margaret. The one on the left was taken in 1982 & the other one was taken last weekend at my birthday dinner. I don't think we look too bad now, but I can't stop looking at pictures of Young Me. Why didn't I realise that I was THAT good, I keep asking myself. Why did I trudge around back then feeling like a sack of potatoes & falling for idiots?
I'm going to drag out all the really fabulous photos of Young Me & narcissistically post them here & once & for all prove to myself that I REALLY DID look like Marianne Faithfull!
p.s. Go read the wonderful blog, The Thoughtful Dresser, by writer, Linda Grant. She makes me feel better every day!

Thought for the Day

Not only did I think that I looked like Marianne, but also Hayley Mills, Patti Boyd & Sandra Dee as 'Gidget.' Just to name a few.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Remembrances of Easters Past

It's almost the end of the Easter Long Weekend. I always have mixed feelings about Easter. Everything shuts in Sydney or at least it feels like it. When I was a child, everything really WAS shut except the Royal Easter Show. When we would return to school from the Easter Break, the wicked Nuns would make the girls who went to "The Show" as it was called, on Good Friday, stand up & be Publicly Villified. Fortunately I never had to stand up. I would have lied anyway. The Nuns idea of Easter was spending the whole time inside the Church attending some ghoulish re-enactment of The Cruxificion or staying up all night for the "Easter Vigil". Pukesville.

Thank God those times are over! Things are still shut, though. No cafe, gym, supermarket or thrift shops. The only thing to do was to try on a whole lot of outfits before selecting the Perfect One to socialise with friends & family! What a trial.
Here's a couple of pics of Me , Daughter & Boyfriend in all our Sartorial Splendour.
Oh, talking of 'Sartorial', The Sartorialist was shut over Easter, or at least there were no fresh postings. Rather like Sydney in 1965.

Thought for the Day

Friday, March 21, 2008

Food & My Daily Life

These are two images from Food & My Daily Life.
I work at a wonderful Catholic girl's high school where I am constantly surrounded by tempting treats. Girls often bring homemade cakes for a recess fund-raising stall. During Lent, the playground has been awash with cupcakes & chocolate crackles. Sometimes I've cracked & eaten some, but this time I just took pictures, which was fun & guilt-free.
The other photo is my local cafe, 'Zinc'. It's positioned about 50 metres from the school's entrance, so every morning I get the same thing: skim latte, savoury muffin & fresh orange juice. I mostly leave without paying, building up a subtantial tab over the week which I eventually pay. Peter, 'Zinc's' cheerful owner, pictured far left, often reminds me that it's not really a tab. Thanks.

food & me

food & me
Originally uploaded by middleagedteacher
This snap, taken this week at the Sydney Art Gallery weirdly sums up my attitude towards food. I'm standing next to a painting by one of my favourite Australian painters, John Brack. You may notice how stick insect like the naked seated lady is. Stick-insect has always been my ideal vision of womanhood. Obsessively trawling through the pages of 'Vogue' since I was fourteen gave me the idea that Stick-is-Good!
Sadly, I didn't seem to have Stick genes. I'm adopted, so I don't have much idea about my genes except for a couple of brief meetings with my Birth Mother many years ago. She was excessively short & round at the time. I'm short, but not that short, & not too round.

So, I tend to see food as a barrier against attaining Stick-ness. I'm not brave enough at this stage to mention menopause & it's effect on weight, I'll save that one till later. But about eighteen months ago, I lost about 6 kg - 14 pounds, & have managed to keep it off, which I find a miracle!
Not to keep going on & on about The Sartorialist, but just about all the people who are snapped are Stick or close to it. So Stick-Still-Rules!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Everyone's a Street Photographer Now!

Not only am I voraciously reading all the comments posted in The Sartorialist, I'm now BECOMING The Sartorialist. Maybe I can become known as 'Sartorialist Lite'. I started taking street photos in New York this past January, mainly of busy fur-clad stick-insects scurrying in & out of 'Barney's'. It was such fun if a little scary, because I felt at any moment one of the stick insects might come up & smash my camera.
But I didn't feel this way this morning when I was ambling down the street on my way to work & spied an ex-student of mine, Talisa. She looked amazing & I gushed all over her. Talisa very graciously allowed me to take a photo of her baby-doll outfit & a detail shot of her vintage tan bag with a lovely shoe party favour hanging off the side. If only all my ex-students would look this good!

Snow Matron or Bag Lady:The Verdict

In yesterday's post, I went on about the two extremes of 'Senior Womanhood' seen on the pages of The Sartorialist. One, The Snow Matron, prompted oodles of comments about how chic & stylish she was, & how everyone was just dying to grow old so that they could look like her. 
The other, The Bag Lady, received a more mixed bag of responses. Some fashion insider types gushed about what a trailblazer she was & others praised her 'courage' for going out in the street looking like that. But the field really belonged to the Cynics, who flatly said that no one would want to take style advice from someone who looked like a bag lady. 
Perhaps they're right.
But after carefully studying both ladies, I think I lean more towards the Bag Lady. Even though she looks a bit stern, it would certainly be fun to wear all that. You'd have to be so disciplined to look like The Snow Matron. And the creme would be a nightmare to keep clean. 
And who can forget Brassai's glittering 'Bijou', the Bag Lady's Bag Lady!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Snow Matron or Bag Lady?

I'm always trawling through  The Sartorialist. I used to just look at the photos, but lately I've taken to reading through the comments as well. It makes fascinating reading. The comments can be placed into a number of handy catagories, e.g:
1. Gushy gushy,"Oh Sart, you are fab" etc vomit;
2. Cold Criticism, "She looks like a bag lady"; 
3. Know-All, "The lady, who has been a fashion inspiration for decades, is after all wearing Dior".
There are other catagories that I will explore later. 

Yesterday I read through hundreds of comments, all the time with a little voice in my head baying, "Stop stop, get a life". I chose to ignore her.
But right now I do have to go attend to my life. But while I'm wandering down the hill to work I'll ponder on the two ladies I've posted below & wonder which one I prefer. Does it really matter?

Snow Matron or Bag Lady?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

'Beatniks & Bohemians'- The Holy Grail of Thrift Shops

Beatniks & Bohemians
Originally uploaded by middleagedteacher
This is the Holy Grail of thrift shops for me. It's part of the Wayside Chapel in Sydney which looks after the homeless , drug addicts, & people with psychiatric challenges. There's always plenty of the above in the shop as well as stylish locals like the wonderful polka dot wearer in the photo & an interesting array of local identities. The great scourge of the place is the brigade of dealers who swoop into the cramped shop, emptying the racks of all the good stuff, haggling over the already incredibly reasonable prices & pretending they're buying for 'their granddaughter/friend/girlfriend". Then they sell the stuff for really hefty prices.
Gabe, the main lady who seems to run the place, has a knack for spotting the dealers & often removes the good stock just before they have a chance to get their grubby hands on it. Or else, she hikes the prices up just for them. Bravo, I say! All the more for Me!
Just about everything I wear (including shoes) is from this magical place. It's like a Bottomless Pit of Cast-Off Treasures.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rediscovering Shape: The Aftermath

Things were going well in the quest to rediscover my shape.
During the week, I'd had some fairly flattering photos taken fully clothed wearing my new belt & was feeling quite confident.
Then came last weekend. It was my daughter's 20th birthday & it was time to celebrate at the beach. Why not drag out my wonderful vintage "Cole of California" swimsuit I bought many years ago at a vintage clothes shop in Santa Barbara? I hadn't worn it in years, but with  renewed confidence, I slithered into it & scampered off to the beach. 
I certainly stood out like a Bird of Paradise amongst all the seaweed & Speedos. It's quite challenging for anyone to wear canary yellow, tangerine, emerald green & hot pink together, but what the hell, I was up to the challenge!
It has an amazing aeronautically-engineered built-in bra that creates big pointy tits & built-in huge undies - perfect for storing lumps of sand! In my mind, I'd become Sally Field in 'Gidget'.
But then I looked at the photos. Not quite the movie that was going on in my head. Never mind. At least it wasn't a bikini.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rediscovering Shape

Can't stop having photos taken of me & this belt. It's all part of me trying to be 'out & proud' of my middleaged figure. 
Talking of figures, Trinny & Susannah, the originators of 'What Not to Wear' have been touring shopping centres in Sydney. You could only see them if you won a ticket & since I never win anything so didn't bother entering, I didn't get to see them.  I've always been a sucker for really posh English Sloany accents & I'm absolutely gobsmacked by their supreme self-confidence & belief in their own judgements. Trinny looks like an incredibly stylish stick insect & Susannah, has a slightly hefty-horsy look. They've recently done a survey of women's bodies & come up with maybe a dozen body 'types' - apple, pear, column, cornet, brick, cement block, bowling ball & lettuce were some that I remembered. I spent hours (maybe 5 minutes but it felt longer) pouring over the descriptions of each 'type' but couldn't for the life of me settle on one that best described me. The closest was  'brick', but you had to have big calves, which I don't have, to really qualify. 
I'm not quite sure what the point of all this is - maybe once you know you're say, a cornet, you can start dressing like one. What fun!
Meanwhile, I'll continue to Have Fun With Belts.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Where's My Waist Gone?

Since I joined flickr's wardrobe remix I have suddenly become interested in belts. Maybe there's subliminal messages planted in the pool, I'm not sure. But I've seen so many fairly ordinary outfits transformed into something special by the inclusion of an interesting belt.
But there's a slight challenge when you reach a certain age.
Where's my waist gone? 
It's just not there anymore. Maybe there's a slight indent, but it's not the same. Countless hours, 'opening up the side waist' at yoga classes may help, but it's a fight against nature every day.
Of course it's not just women who feel the loss of their former glory. That's why I've included this snap of B. in his 'budgie smugglers' swimming outfit. Yesterday, he bought yet another set of scales as he keeps breaking them. Despite rigorous workouts at the gym, torturous soft-sand running along the beach & endless laps of the pool, he finds it hard to keep tummy growth in check.
It's lucky we weren't both Supermodels in our youth. We'd really be in the poo now.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My Life's a Blur

Death of the Camera
Originally uploaded by middleagedteacher
Today I have felt like a little child whose favourite toy has been taken away from her.
As you can see, the camera doesn't work. The image is clear in the middle but then goes completely blurry in the top half. I have taken it as a Personal Insult. How could the camera do this to Me? I have spent the day, in between teaching, boring everyone to death about it, endlessly fiddling with it & asking for advice.
But it didn't stop The Wise Twin from taking my daily photo, although I could see she was anxious to get off to Touch Footie training.
I did so want to show off my freshly made new necklace.
Faux 50's vintage frock thrifted from St. Vinnies remixed; genuine Scout belt & sandals from The Wayside Chapel shop, remixed; wooden cuffs.
But I guess I should take advice from birthday girl daughter, Billie-Mae who will be 20 on sunday, who always says, "Suck it up, Mum"

Death of the Camera Part 1

These images, taken over the last twenty-four hours sum up my mood: Slightly Sour. It's because my camera won't behave. I know it's childish & petulant, but I've become ridiculously dependent on it. Earlier tonight I was watching a horrible tabloid news programme about people with gambling addictions who put their entire wages through the local slot machine in twenty minutes. I was internally sneering at them & thinking how weak they were until I realised that I probably have a small addiction of my own. I wonder if there's a local branch of 'Photographer's Anonymous'? 
And I haven't even learnt to take a proper photo yet.
The series of four images at the top were taken last night at my weekly visit to The Art Gallery. The painting on the top left is a detail from one of my favourite Australian paintings, 'The Lacquer Room" by Grace Cossington Smith. The dame at the table sums it all up for me at the moment. Next to her is a snap of one of my own homemade necklaces, called "False Teeth". That more or less sums it up for me too. And then there's the Crown of Thorns on the bottom left, featuring my hand/wrist with faux Aboriginal motif bangle from the '80s & a Pop Art ring from 'Diva'. That also sums it up. The lonely little pair of bags featuring a appliqued woman's head, newly thrifted from The Wayside Chapel & a faux Chanel purse adds to the despair. 

As for the delightful duo in the other photo - they're really having fun! This morning I began to show my senior extension English class "Orlando", an amazing film from 1992, starring newly-Oscarred star, Tilda Swinton. It is partly set in 1660, & the Wonderful old Queen Quentin Crisp played the miserable, ageing Queen Elizabeth I, in a performance that was a far cry from Cate Blanchett's recent heroics. That's Queen Quentin on the left. I'm on the right looking sour. I was so wanting to show off my newly-made "Fiji" necklace but the camera just went all pear-shaped. Try & imagine what it would look like.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Men Never Make Passes at Glasses

Just before my photographer, The Wise Twin, took this photograph, the School Captain insisted that I wear my reading glasses because it brought out the red in the dress. As usual, I took her advice.
I bought the dress at a vintage clothes shop, "Kookaburra Kiosk", a few years ago for my daughter. She didn't wear it, so I've taken it over. I wore a black bubble skirt underneath because it was a little short for me. You can just see my Royal Blue footless tights peeping out from under the skirt. Creme & red sandals thrifted from The Wayside Chapel Shop; blue plastic bangles, & one of my favourite African necklaces bought many years ago at Rozelle Market.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In the Grotto

Today was a beautiful day, so I decided to take photos of my outfit in the garden of my school. Most people are really used to me taking photos all over the place but I just wondered then what I would have said if the Principal had suddenly appeared. What would I have said?
 "Ah....I'm just standing in the middle of the grotto taking a photo of my blue toes." Fantastic. A model teacher. 
Can't stop taking photos of the toes. It's becoming an obsession. Next week I'll wear shoes.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Originally uploaded by middleagedteacher
It's Monday morning, & first up I'm trying to deconstruct a Wordsworth poem.. The moon descends & the poet is worried that his girlfriend will die someday. Everyone yawned.
I'm wearing one of my favourite retro frocks, bought a few years ago at the Surry Hills Market in Sydney. It only gets an occasional airing because I don't want to ruin it.
I love my new yellow footless tights from 'Sportsgirl'. They match my yellow cuffs from 'Diva'.
Red shoes also from 'Sportsgirl'.
I'm wearing newly made by me necklaces. One of them features a woman's head that I stuck on a shell. You can see a close up of it in the photo below. I always like to name my creations. This one's called 'Top Draw Tina'.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I'm obsessed with the weather. It's not doing what it normally does. Today was coldish & overcast. We had a heater on in our beach house until mid-afternoon. I uncharacteristically stayed indoors & didn't venture to the beach to do my hugely difficult soft-sand walk which I usually do both days on the weekend. I used to love long walks along the beach, but since I've moved up to the soft sand bit to give my legs a work out it's become a bit of a chore bore. 
Anyway, I stayed in with my large collection of jewellry bits & pieces & set to work. I made one plain strand from vintage bakelite & old plastic, & two others with faces on them. You can see Cameo No5 in the picture above.

Cameo No 5 closeup

Cameo No 5 closeup
Originally uploaded by middleagedteacher
Here's a closeup of the necklaces I made today.
I've done a lot of super-gluing, creating a layered look to the pendant. There's a mixture of red enamelled metal, faux silver filigree with the black & white cameo on top. I like to think that the number 5 is a reference to Coco Chanel. The creme vintage beads are a mixture of bakelite & old plastic. They're actually two separate necklaces.
I've always wanted to own a genuine 'Chanel' jewellry item, but this is the next best thing!

Blue & Green Toes

Ever since we've had the Vietnamese Invasion of Nail Artists in Sydney everyone's been a lot more Toenail Conscious. I certainly have, although I tend to leave it a little too long between visits. The big nail shop is 'USA Nails'. I love the name. It says it all, don't you think? 
The toes on the right were my 'Holiday' toes & the Yves Klein Blue toes are my current ones. Can't decide where to go next? Orange? Purple? 
Perhaps not purple as I'm careful not to look too much of a slurry. 

Love Lollies

It's been a challenging Wardrobe Week. I've spent most of it outside of the comfort zone of the classroom at the Annual Swimming Carnival, at a depressing suburban 'Aquatic Centre' & then three days at a senior 'Retreat' at a pastoral location outside Sydney surrounded by enormous Alpacas (I think that's what they are: huge wooly animals that look like a cross between a camel & a horse) & a large quantity of high spirited 17 year-old girls. It was  full on: supervising a dizzying array of spiritual/personal growth activities interspersed with huge carb meals all to an Enja/John Denver/Cat Stevens soundtrack.
It was one of those Wardrobe Moments when I really have to dress for practicality & warmth. Sydney has been experiencing some unseasonally cold/rainy weather not seen in my lifetime which I'm sure is related to some horrendously depressing Global Warming Issue. This explains my rather bag ladyesque leg/foot attire. My feet were so cold, I couldn't feel them. So I loaded up with animal print leggings, thick black men's sox (stolen from B.) & polka dot flats newly bought from 'Target'.
But I had to wear some jewels. I thought my diamante 'LOVE' necklace suited the theme of the retreat & the multi-coloured beads added some colour. I can't go anywhere these days without a whole armload of little armbands mainly featuring religious icons. Everyone else seems to be wearing them too. But I don't care. I'll wear what I like!