I've been to Melbourne again, this time for a little longer than the last - a whole 48 hours in my former home city. We went for a little bit of client entertaining for Mr AV, and to catch up with friends, and I squeezed in some shopping as well. Usually we go to the Tennis, but it seems the Corporates aren't handing out tickets so readily this year. Boo to that!

Wore this out to dinner on the first night: A black Chloe dress, which I accessorised with some new earrings and clutch bag that I bought at Christine, a gem of a shop in Flinders Lane in the city. The most interesting things happen in the laneways of Melbourne - there are hidden bars, cafes, and restaurants, tiny shops and galleries that you're supposed to be in the know to find. Christine is a shop devoted to accessories. A blink and you miss it entry (just a door to the street, no shop window) and you follow the red tartan carpet down the stairs to an Aladdin's cave of jewellery, hats, bags, scarves, perfume and everything in between. Large selections of Lanvin, Alexander McQueen and Anya Hindmarch compliment other smaller niche designers making for an interesting range. They were having an extra 20% off already reduced prices for the Summer sale while I was there, and I couldn't resist the bargains, so the black glittery clutch bag and earrings came home with me.

My other accessory for the night was this ancient old Chanel belt, which I sit rather on the fence about. I bought it in 1989, and it certainly screams the 80's. It's enormous, shiny gold and worked well with big shoulder pads and the loads of gold jewellery that everyone wore back then. I saved up my clothing allowance and babysitting money for around 9 months to buy it, and it's been living in the back of my wardrobe since around 1994, when the fickle winds of fashion changed and big belts suddenly went resolutely Out.




new earrings - they are very thin and all sparkly 

 So I've resurrected it, but it does seem rather....ostentatious and flashy. Back when I bought it, there was very little brand recognition of Chanel from the average person. Now, everyone is so brand aware that it's instantly recognisable, and frankly, it's hard to miss this belt. It's hardly subtle. Anyway, after dressing, I thought about Coco Chanel's directive - that before leaving the house, you should take one accessory off. So I did as told, and took off the belt. Would love to hear other's thoughts on it....am I being a little oversensitive to the fact that it may make me look tacky, rather than well dressed? Some of my rationale is in the somewhat rambling paragraphs below.


My Chloe dress is all trickily draped, and quite 60's I think with a train thingy that goes from the shoulders to the hem.

Moving on, next to Christine in Flinders lane in the city is the most charming floral artist (or something, they don't call themselves a florist) called Pollon. I took a terribly blurry photo with my iphone of the shop front, as they have moss and flowers going up the outside, and the most incredibly creative window displays, it's all very textured and 3 dimensional. The second photos are from someone who has learnt that it is best to stop walking when you take a photo....


via

Yesterday I had a look around High Street, Armadale, and Beatty Avenue in Toorak, and bought some knitwear (also reduced heavily) from Cable Melbourne I love their knitwear, and have invested for the past 4 years by buying one of the (fairly expensive, but  quite good on sale) knits for Winter, gradually building up a small stash that Mr AV refers to as my "uniforms". It is such good quality - Merino wool, well designed, I really do live in their stuff in Winter. And it's always good to support locally designed, manufactured and sourced product - which I am very happy to do when it is world class. Their summer range is in linen or cotton and cashmere. Perfect transeasonal pieces.

And wandering around the more upmarket areas of Melbourne eating at nice restaurants and looking in the shops, buying bits and pieces and doing a bit of people watching (and eavesdropping on snippets of conversations), I was struck by the great contradiction that is that part of Melbourne, and really enclaves of many cities around the world. Friends we caught up with on the other night for dinner were talking about the area they live in (Brighton) and how people at the local community kindergarten had the fees on instalment plans due to financial hardship, yet were living in $3 Million dollar houses, and had their older children at Private School, driving a BMW X5 and toting designer bags etc and yet they couldn't afford to pay around $400 up front for kindergarten fees.... I hear stories all the time about people that look like they have the life, but there is nothing substantial behind it (usually the stories only come out after a spectacular downfall). How stressful it must be to live in a house of cards that will fall down if the financial winds blow in the wrong direction. I am often struck by the way things don't add up as to how people live the way they do with the jobs they have - high debt is the most likely common scenario. The areas I visited verily drip with money. How much of it is genuine is anyone's guess. Side by side with the businesses selling expensive furniture are the furniture hire companies that specialise in antiques - houses in those areas are often emptied of the owners actual possessions and restocked with expensive and unique antiques for the period the house is up for sale. This just exacerbates the cycle of everyone thinking that is the standard way in which others are living. I though quite a bit about the way in which "Luxury" has become normalised for us all in every facet of life, it's expected rather than being something special.

Years ago I watched the excellent documentary "Status Anxiety" by Alain de Botton. If you haven't watched it before, I can't recommend it more highly - it's very though provoking, and will definitely make you think about modern Western lifestyles, and consumption, and the reasons why we live the way we do. We're all guilty of wanting to keep up with the Jones' to some extent, and I know blogs often have a way of making people feel bad about their own lives. A tiny snippet of someone's life is by no means a reflection of the whole, mine being no exception.

If you are embracing Frugal February, and need some motivation, check out the Status Anxiety DVD's (the book is good, but the documentary is fab). And if you're feeling on the back foot compared to your neighbours, or friends or blogs/ magazines you read or whomever or whatever, or that these rambling thoughts of mine are striking a chord with you, it's definitely worth a look too. I guarantee it will make you feel more secure in yourself, and more aware of why you do things the way you do.

So, that was my paradoxical thinking - a bit of consumption/ shopping myself and then contradictory thoughts about the consumption all around me. And a truly contradictory post with the start a shallow ramble about a designer outfit and then my deeper thinking about the normalisation of luxury goods....and about not wanting to buy into that way of thinking.

So, loved the brief trip to Melbourne, and have come back inspired by design, refreshed from not playing slave to my children for 48 hours, and with much to reflect back on. xx

28 comments:

  1. A great post...This is something that I was just talking about last night...knowing people who are happy to live within their means. They work out their priorities in life, and where their money goes...which is not to impress people, but to be happy and enjoy their life in the way they have decided. I have members of my own family who have lived like this and they have chosen life experiences over material excesses. I think they are living the good life.

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    1. I have one friend who prioritises "life experiences", so they choose to live in a more modest house in order that they can travel, go to concerts and have long (unpaid) holidays. I think working out your priorities, and trying not to watch what everyone else is doing does lead to an inner peace too. xx

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    2. Dear Heidi

      A very interesting post - you've raised some sensitive and very important questions. A few comments:

      I'm with those who enjoy "life experiences". Would rather spend money travelling comfortably to favourite OS locations (with shopping money) than live in a high value house in an exclusive suburb. Husband is also a hobby investment analyst and would rather have a return on his money in interest and capital gains than put it into a house with a huge mortgage or an elite car that will depreciate to almost nothing in a few years. Also have an aversion to the samey beige on beige houses in the design magazines. Sadly so many people are so insecure that they try desperately to keep up with the Joneses and have houses just like the boring ones in those magazines.

      One of my friends (a widow) participates in specialist OS tours (not your average Cook's type) about three times a year. She is so bored with people on these tours (usually from Melbourne) asking her what school she went to. As she is close to 70, this seems rather absurd. Usually these people are retired school teachers who went to prestige schools or women without a university education (men don't seem to do this, at least not to women). My friend is super bright and has had a very successful career. She gets really irritated by people with such low level social skills who try to pigeonhole her in this way in their opening conversations. We share the view that this is not an appropriate opening gambit for a conversation, or at any time at all for people over 40. Doubtful if it is ever appropriate except maybe for school kids.

      Have never really gone for obvious logos, particularly on handbags. Would never buy a bag or T-shirt with big logos. In France they call these items the "show-off bags, etc" and most French women wouldn't dream of buying them. Was once given something (genuine, not a copy) with huge logos and passed it onto an Op Shop as I'd never wear it. Despite that I have to admit a weakness for the more subtle CC logos in jewellery and I even liked your belt with the dress. It looked fun, young and had pizzazz, while with the plain black belt the dress looked very serious and older - and also really elegant. It just depends on the effect you're after.

      Despite my aversion to big logos, I'm a bit of a free spirit and belong to the "put one (at least) more thing on type than the "take one thing off" group. Really it depends on your personality and personal style and also the destination of your outfit.

      On the "where do you come from question" I attended a funeral and wake for an elderly relative in Brisbane last year and was belittled and verbally attacked because I live in Canberra. I was stunned by the outpouring of vitriol from complete strangers because of where I live! And this was before I'd even had an opportunity to say anything apart from answering their question! This would never happen in Canberra. People here tend to be very polite and really friendly and would never treat a stranger in this way.

      Last word on your belt - wear it if you like it, and enjoy - without worrying about what others will think. Wear what you like and be who you want to be!

      Best wishes, Pamela

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    3. As always, a very interesting and insightful comment Pamela. Firstly, I can't believe your friend gets asked what school she went to at the age of 70 - that really is ridiculous! Perhaps she needs to go on a tour with more of a mixture of people, like the Martin Randall ones? Although I have heard (from my parents and in laws) that you can get a few painful Aussies in the mix on most of them as well!

      I agree that I like the subtle logo on the buttons or whatever, I'm just not really sure I like to be so blatant about where I get my things from that it's obvious at first glance. It's just a little bit in your face. I have only one real designer handbag, and it's so subtle it has the name stamped into the leather in one place, and is hard to see. I like it because it is beautifully made and superb quality. Funnily enough, I was going through the back of the desk drawers today and found a bunch of LV accessories (wallet and key holder) which were gifts to Mr AV by his old work. He hated them as he felt they were a bit obvious, and that he was 'typed' by using them, and the quality is the same as any other reasonably well made leather good - the gold still rubs off, the corners get tatty with use.

      People like to denigrate Canberra, but I have three family members who moved there by choice, and one who moved to Sydney then back again as she didn't like Sydney by comparison. It's a beautiful city, and I've always enjoyed my visits there. Sure, there aren't as many restaurants as Sydney, but it more than makes up for it with the beautiful gallery and museum, and the generally well educated (and polite) population. xx

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    4. Sorry to disillusion you but friend does go on Martin Randall tours - and others of that ilk!

      She is a great globe trotter - during her career she travelled v. frequently for work, sometimes to extraordinary places. But at her age now, and as a widow, she likes the security of being part of a group. Says there are usually nice people as well as the old school bores. Best wishes, Pamela

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    5. Oh, how funny Pamela!! I remember hearing about one or two annoying ones that were best avoided on the tours our family members did.... frankly I think you do tend to get them regardless, law of a group that there are always one or two painful people amongst the rest! xx

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  2. What a great post Heidi.

    On the issue of keeping up with the Js, I agree with you, and I see alot of it here in Adelaide, maybe even more so. There is the "where do you live?" "where did you go to school questions?" - which immediately make me dislike a person with a passion; and then there is the Eastern states chip on the shoulder issue - which I have never understood. I really truly believe that we have the best of everything here + ease of lifestyle; and everything we don't have is a 30 min flight away.

    As to the the belt. I love the belt and I thought it looked amazing with the frock, but I am quite a conservative dresser so I think I probably would have had a word with Coco myself and done the same thing. I would definitely wear it though, just somewhere you feel "safe" and with people who will embrace it for what it is, a fabulous belt and nothing else.

    Finally, I will be searching for the doco. That sounds right up my alley. I have very strong opinions on one's need to keep up with the Js. I could go on and on, but I must run. My arse is huge and my 40th is but a heartbeat away. Kx

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    1. The "What school did you go to" is just as bad in Melbourne. Such a loaded question. As to the whole looking down on Adelaide/ Tasmania/ anywhere but Sydney and Melbourne .... I tend to find the people that disparage it admit that they have never actually been to the place they're belittling. I think being on the other side of the world has created a sense that you have to live somewhere "Important" like a major city. In other countries around the world people prefer to live in villages, rather than the cities.

      Definitely look up the documentary, even if you have to buy it - it's such fascinating viewing. Good luck with the exercise. I'm supposed to embark on a new program myself when school goes back....which is this week. Worse luck! xx

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    2. I think the "where do you live" question will always come up. Even in rural WA ( so definitely not Sydney/Melbourne!) it is an issue. Some farming areas are seen as being more stable and hence more "old country money" than others. I went to an engagement party when I first met my husband and was completely interrogated by an older lady as to where I came from and who my family was.
      I think some people get more concerned about the size of the fish as opposed to the size of the pond.

      I really liked the belt but like yourself really struggle with very obvious designer labels/logos. Some things just feel wrong to me when I wear/carry them. As if I chose the item for the logo, not the quality or fit. I particularly struggle when people have their children smothered in designer labels.

      Having said that I am probably a little hypocritical as I have just checked a huge number of suitcases on our trip home from NYC as I definitely shopped for Australia! I guess we all need to find the level of consumerism we are happy with. And how much that contributes to our sense of self worth.

      Best go and deal with the logistics of getting small children out of an airport lounge and on to a plane! One more long haul flight to go........

      Take care Heidi.

      x


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    3. Good luck with the flight, and I'm looking forward to seeing all the bargains you no doubt picked up!

      I think you hit the nail on the head with why I always hesitate with wearing the belt. I think I'm also a bit over the logo thing due to all the asian fakes that wash around in Australia too. And then so many people think that an ugly outfit/ terrible quality clothes are redeemed by a real designer bag. Brain washing by fashion magazines perhaps? The dress is really, subtly beautiful and drapey, and I felt like the belt overshadowed it in the wrong way.

      That's v. funny about the where do you live question, and it's connotation in the country with the established squattocracy. That's always the number two question in the city I think. I had one of those painful conversations with someone on Monday, a girl who was trying to establish a connection by asking where I went to school, and where I lived. Then where my children went to school. Arrrrgh!

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  3. I'm a big fan of Alain's work....tried to go to the School of Life in London yet couldn't get the child free time. How invigorating having 48 hours child free respite......it does wonders for the brain! So no belt....fascinating choice! Rx

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    1. That would be very interesting to go to....what a pity the children hamstrung you! Child free time was crucial at the end of the school holidays, although an early start this morning has wiped off the glow....back to normal life with a big thud.

      I tend to feel the belt wears me - I feel as if eyes immediately go to it (it's very large). I don't feel this way with other things, like my Hermes clic clac bracelet. Maybe I'm just paranoid (and over thinking it). I have worn it a few times in the past year, just not this time. xx

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  4. Great thinking Heidi!!

    One of the reasons that I have loved living in Australia for the past 8 years, is that I am totally free "of all that". Even though we are older and these social pressures seem to wain with the years, status anxiety was a definite reality in Cape Town during our 30's and 40's and to a certain extent in our 50's. I think that we shouldn't worry too much about what others think and that wearing a beautiful vintage Chanel belt, carrying a fabulous designer handbag does not define who we are and if we are judged otherwise, then that's too damn bad!! There is always a balance in life between indulging in the pleasures that we CAN afford, and living our lives with thought, care and sensivity to others.... one of Wallis Simpson's platitudes comes to mind - " Women can never be too rich or too thin"!!! ... how superficial is that!!! Jennyxxx

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    1. It's a world wide thing, isn't it! It must be nice to be outside all of that in Sydney as well. I quite enjoyed that about living in Melbourne - people would ask what school I went to, and of course it didn't mean anything to them as I was from Adelaide. Funnily enough, one Melbourne girl in my mother's group asked me if I went to a certain girl's school in Adelaide, and I was quite insulted - you do tend to type people based on their school, and I thought she was thinking I was the typical type from that school!! Obviously I had given her a certain impression.... Agree that balance is key. And you can most certainly be too thin, and the too rich seem to have fairly miserable lives as well xx

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  5. 1. taking one thing off is Ludicrous

    2. I LOVE the belt

    3. You should have worn it!

    4. I am the only kindy mum at the kindy who doesn't drive an X5 but the kindy always emails us about some parents not paying their fees

    5. I never care when anyone asks me where I went to school or where I live

    6. we are having frigging tornados here!!!! x

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    1. You're having tornados???? What on earth is going on? Meanwhile, no meaningful rain here for almost 3 months... hope your roof stays on.

      Laughing at point 1. I think you'd be reinventing her advice to add one more thing before leaving the house! Interesting about the Kindy fees and the X5's... I recently had to explain to a new school mum who has moved here from England that everyone leases their expensive cars for tax reasons, and it's highly unlikely that they actually own them. She had no idea and thought everyone was super wealthy at the school as you can't do that over there. I should post the belt to you. I know it would be much happier in your home then up the back of the cupboard at mine! xx

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  6. Great post! People can lead fickle lives and its sad that products become so important to have that people will take out loans for them! Ridiculous! Somewhere along the way they lost sight of what was really important. Belt looked fab but I can understand why you didn't wear it!! X

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    1. Thank you anon- this has been a very highly viewed post, with very low comments by comparison, so I've been wondering what most people are thinking about it. The belt has been given the thumbs up by most of the comment makers, so maybe I shouldn't be so over sensitive about it! xx

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    2. Lovely that you've had these comments though as it is probably a rather uncomfortable subject for some people. Talking of comments... What's the secret!!! xxx

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    3. Aha Jenny, I'd say two things help with comments - one is to take off the word verification on your comments (it's under the blog settings section). It usually takes me at least 3 goes to get mine to publish on your blog, sometimes I'm not sure if it's actually gone through either, so others too may be thinking their comment has gone through when it hasn't on your blog. The word verification is now so difficult, that I often can't even read the numbers/letters to type in the first place as they're so blurry. You do get a bit of spam, but you can easily delete it in the comment moderation process. It also might be the blog template layout? When I set up my blog, I had been reading blogs for quite a few years, and I find the type I have the easiest to read, where a post in its entirety follows the next post and so on, rather than clicking to open up the previous one. It means the comment tab is clearly visible at the end. Aside from that, I probably spend too much time commenting on other people's blogs, as usually they'll come back to comment on mine! xx

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    4. Thanks Heidi... I will certainly try to remove this little demon!!... I had no idea!!... I have been writing my blog for just under a year now and am amazed (as I'm sure you are) at seeing readers from all corners of the globe!!. I have very few comments though and sometimes it is just a little difficult writing to a seemingly faceless community. Having said this, I want to take this opportunity of saying how much I enjoy reading your posts. I really enjoy your candor, and your sharing of delightful bits and bobs!.... I am also really enjoying reading about your developing home and your ideas. I am about to change the name of my blog... we are leaving the farm on 26 April which I am very sad about. I must get on with this name change. Have you investigated Wordpress? Perhaps I should get someone professional to help me... but it feels kind of 'over the top'!? Enjoy your post school holiday serenity!! xxx

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    5. I love the connection that I've had with so many others from all over the world by writing the blog. I'm always wondering why people are reading my blog - some of my posts rate through the roof, and others hardly at all, with no rhyme or reason to it. It also entertains me endlessly to see the google searches that lead people to my blog. Someone keeps typing in "and I have much in" and gets my blog that way?! Otherwise, it's all Linoleum searches, or similar.

      I'm not sure about Wordpress, although I think it's the more 'professional' way to set up a blog, but if you're planning to rename your blog etc, you should definitely get someone in to help - they'll be able to move it all across for you so you don't loose all your posts. You'd be surprised at how cheap it is. I had a blog revamp done by a girl I chose on Etsy, she is in Saudi Arabia, and it cost me $30. It was fairly basic though (more a template), but it can save you a lot of angst in the long run xx

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  7. This was a fantastic post Heide, and kudos to you for posting it! More people should speak out about this modern insanity.

    I get so tired of the whole 'Keeping Up With The Jones' game, and we deliberately avoid some social circles because they're all about it. Alain de Botton is right. It's mentally exhausting. It's not healthy - for the soul, the spirit, the self-confidence OR the bank account. And, quite frankly, it's not polite. We're still asked which schools we attended, even in our forties. Ironically, my partner went to a private boys' school right in the middle of Adelaide while I went to a small, relatively unknown girls' school (the same one as Jennifer Byrne), and we were the only siblings in our families who did have this wonderful privilege, yet neither of us are in the impressive jobs and salaries our public-educated siblings are! We also both drive older cars, we've stopped shopping for consumer 'stuff' all the time, we like hearing about the 'hottest' new restaurants but don't rush to them, we don't live in Brighton (I moved from South Yarra because a call girl and her Lexus-driving pimp moved in next door), and we try to befriend people who are similarly down-to-earth in their values and outlook. Half our friends are uber-rich but wear Gazman and drive cars that look like the 'befores' on Pimp My Ride! Okay, I do love a bit of Chanel and Dior, but buy it at Catherine B in Paris, where it's cheap. I have saved $100K for a rainy day but did it by NOT buying clothes all the time. Maggie Alderson talks about this. Women buy too many clothes. Our only luxury is travel, but we don't waste money on five-star, Four Seasons-style places but search out the more gorgeous, more affordable places under $200/n. And as for those people who use the phrase 'gallivanting around the world' to describe their so-called 'jet set' lifestyle... (such as one famous NY blogger). Don't get me started on how pretentious THEY sound!

    Okay, shall come down off the high horse now. Phew. That feels better! No wonder Alain de Botton wrote a whole book about it!
    xx

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  8. PS The Chanel belt is beautiful Heide, but only because you have the taste to wear it with an understated black dress. It actually looks fab with that outfit. x

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    1. Oh Janelle, you've made me laugh! I think if you have an ounce of good taste you can live well without spending $$. One of my close friends is fairly poor in a financial sense, but you'd never notice it from the way she dresses, her house (which is immaculately clean - always makes things look better I've noticed!) which will have lovely simple arrangements of say, seed pods in a bowl on a side table, and beautiful Danish modern furniture she picked up in junk shops. The beautiful art on the walls she does herself. Her family eat well (she is an excellent cook) and have a good lifestyle, and live within their means. I think you don't have to spend a lot of money to have the good life. Certainly you'll have a bad life if you've got the bank knocking on the door. I'll have to go and look up the Maggie article - love what she says. Thank you for your vote with the belt. I think maybe I've been a little oversensitive to it, everyone that's commented said I should have worn it. xx

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  9. Love this post on so many levels

    keep the belt - you can pull it off and i quite like the ironic 80's fun touch offset by a simple dress

    status anxiety disorder - i live in london - let's not go there...

    although i know melbourne is no longer the place it used to be - it used to be sooooo relaxed but now not so much.

    my friends kids go to one of the private schools and i hear that the kids themselves compare houses during playdates - at the age of 8 - not a good sign. really sad in fact.

    i would have thought this recession would have killed off some of those things but i suppose it really hasnt affected Australia as much so it is still rampant there.

    Fab post with food for thought - you have a new follower!

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    1. The recession definitely hadn't affected Australia much - a few have felt the pinch, but the majority have not, so it's not changed much from the boom times, it's been slower to catch up with the rest of the world. Thanks for following xx

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  10. Hi Heidi,
    I loved the belt but I think the grecian drape thing at the back of the dress called for something more understated. If the dress had been just a black sheet - fabulous! You can certainly pull it off. Enjoy the belt and give it a run. Its pretty classic. Love your post and first time I've commented. Going through renovations here too and feel your pain. (not as big as yours though.)

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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