One of my Grandmother's favourite sayings was

"There's nothing like a new frock to cheer a girl up"

A couple of months ago, you may recall that I wrote on the blog that my Grandmother had died at the age of 93. She was a big part of my childhood, and an influence in all my families lives. She was quite the wit, and quite the tease - Mr AV used to make a beeline to sit and chat with her at family dinners as you could guarantee you'd have fun with her. She was industrious and busy - she was always volunteering her time running her district Red Cross group, making cups of tea for the blood donors in the blood bank, helping at the "old people"'s homes, manning the church fete stalls (which she largely supplied with her home made cakes, biscuits, chutney and sauces, aprons that she'd whip up on her sewing machine or stacks of babies bibs). She was a superior housekeeper - her home was always immaculate, and you'd always find a tin full of a variety of home made biscuits that would be brought out for afternoon tea if you called in. But of all my Grandmother's characteristics, the one thing I can identify strongly with as an inherited trait was her love of clothes.




My Grandmother was always smartly turned out - Winter would see her in a wool tartan skirt, blouse in a bright jewel tone, and a cardigan or jacket in a solid coordinated colour with a brooch pinned somewhere. She never wore black (it was for "Italian Widows"), preferring Navy instead. Her shoes and bags would always match, and were kept polished to a mirror finish. All her clothes were good quality and would be worn for years. While she would buy new items each season, they were just a few quality additions to the overall existing whole. She was a keen bargain hunter... a bargain was what it had cost originally to what it costs now as a percentage. Not what it actually costs you in the end.... She had a small amount of her own money to spend at her discretion through an Army pension (she contracted uncontrollable asthma during her World War 2 service... which was in a secretarial position in Melbourne's Army Headquarters) and this was used to justify many purchases of clothes, shoes and accessories over the years. 




I feel very lucky that I have a couple of items of her clothing that she gave me many years ago. One is a ball gown from the 1950's in the style of Dior's new look. My Grandmother used a local German seamstress to make it for her. The fabric is a dove grey brocade with pink and grey rosebuds scattered all over it. Around the high waist is a wide pink silk sash that finishes in a large double bow with tails on the back. I wore it to a school formal when I was 15... I'm not sure I'd fit into it now (my Grandmother was very thin in her youth due to her ill health). It's so pretty, so decadent and I just love having such a beautiful thing to look at and admire and remember her with.



The other item I have of hers are her 1930's brown leather riding boots. My Grandmother grew up in Mitcham (a suburb of Adelaide) which was semi rural back then. Over the back fence of her house was a paddock, so she had a horse and used to ride. We had the same size feet (and my mother as well, and we were all the same height too) and she gave them to me perhaps 17 years ago. I had them re-heeled, and still wear them from time to time. Quality does last.

So my Grandmother's sayings have been ringing in my ears over the past few months... with a reasonably arduous renovation to manage, a globe trotting husband buried in an avalanche of work, and little children to wrangle I have had a few momentary lapses on the internet and purchased a few items that I could definitely count as pure "cheer me up" type buys. And of course, my Grandmother and Mother taught me to always bargain hunt, which is why if a beautiful dress is 70% off with an additional 30% off... it's  been clicked into my shopping basket before you know it. I'm blaming it on genetics!

Am I alone in this? Surely my grandmother is right - does a new frock cheer you up too?

48 comments:

  1. I luffed the post, what a gorgeous dress and boots. I still have my Grandmother's old bottles of Chanel no 5 and her silk scarves which I cannot bear to part with.

    Yes, a frock always cheers me no end when the going gets tough. Which ss perhaps why I own over 100 of them.

    I find that really intense gardening and eating lots of carbs also have this calming effect.

    Like your Mum and Gran, I too only buy when things are heavily discounted. No need to pay retail these days.

    See you in about 2 weeks. I'll be the fat one with the collapsing face and dyed blonde 'do x

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    1. 100? You've had some tough days then...! I'm afraid that I feel inordinately happy when The Outnet tells me how much I've "saved" with my purchase. I'm sure I've got my Grandmother whispering into my ear to buy the dresses too.
      Can't wait to catch up. I'll be the one wearing the new dress with the outnet swing tags only just cut off. I will accessorise with bags under the eyes and an eye twitch (as we've now entered the Legal Action phase of the ongoing Window Saga). xx

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  2. Apologies if you already have a comment from me and this is a repeat. I think blogger ate my last comment but you can never be sure...

    I totally agree with your grand mother re the value of a new frock. I think you can further justify your purchases as therapy and hence the fact that they are dual purpose (fulfilling a treatment and clothing role) means they are even more of a bargain.

    Still laughing re the Italian widow comment.

    Hope all is well with you. If a new frock is not enough to cheer you up - buy some shoes as well.

    xx

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    1. I've had blogger eating my comments lately too - it seems to be having hiccups. I hadn't thought of the dresses as therapy... but I think that's a great justification!
      My grandmother loathed our 'black phases' (remember the whole grungy thing?) and I remember she once took a pair of my sister's carefully ripped up jeans and sewed all the holes up for her. My sister was very unhappy.
      Have all ready bought the shoes! Remember my Shoes of Shame. If nothing else at the end of the year I may have an incomplete house, but a wonderful wardrobe full of clothes... ! xx

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  3. I read all the time, I don't think I've ever commented before - sorry about that. Your post about your Grandmother just touched me, she sounds absolutely wonderful. I aspire to have all the qualities she had and those boots!!

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    1. Hi Cybill, she was wonderful, and we were all very lucky to have her. I just wish some of her energy had rubbed off on me, not just the clothes bit! xx

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  4. Beautiful post.....lucky you, I wish I could blame my dress fixation on genetics! Must promise to humour me and have a turn around Collette Dinnigan looking at dresses while we are in Melbourne! Rx

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    1. No problem re Collette Dinnigan, although I'll have to look up where she's moved to (no longer on Chapel Street it seems). Her new collection is sublime. I might have to stay outside the shop...! xx

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  5. They don't make them like that anymore, your gran sounds wonderful, I love the quality of over quantity ethos that she and my mum were bought up with. I cannot believe that those boots are form the 1930's and look so good.
    I don't own or buy many dresses ( because I hardly ever go anywhere) but I think that from time to time, something new raises the spirits no end.

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    1. It's very much a generational thing. I was writing on Wendy's blog about it to some extent - every one was fast fashion these days, things that are cheap and flimsy, which was the antithesis of what my Grandmother liked. She would have turned her nose up at the quality of the fabrics that so many things are made from nowadays.
      I would like to think that I have a higher mind than that, but a new dress does lift my spirits (even if I have nowhere to wear it!) xx

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  6. How lovely. I also had a fantastic grandmother so this just made me smile...my grandmother lived through wars and some tough world events so she always said - eat it wear it hold it get it. Life is too short. I wish I was as immaculate as she was although she did get vitamin infusions until her mid 90's so I did inherit that aspect from her for sure! Love that dress and I am sure your daughter will look as lovely wearing it and those boots are phenomenal! You must model them for us. But shopping for dresses doesn't do it for me. Hopefully it's a phase but having said that I love home stuff art and jewellery so thats an ok substitute right? Xx

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    1. That's very funny Naomi - vitamin infusions? They obviously worked if she lived into her mid 90's in good health too. She was ahead of her times. Actually, my grandparent's had a lot of interesting ideas about food, which are all in fashion now. They probably put more by old school remedies than popping a pain killer for instance.
      I think something lovely for the home gives infinite pleasure. Unfortunately those purchases at the moment just get added to the general mess that is in our front of house and needs sorting out with the reno completing. xx

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  7. What a fabulous dress and riding boots and even more fabulous grandmother! Lovely story x

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    1. Glad you enjoyed! They're really the only things of hers I have, along with the recipe book she wrote for me. Worth more to me than jewels xx

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  8. I am also having trouble posting a comment so apologies if this is a repeat. The first went along the lines of : I like Cybill have never commented but love your blog. But after a day from hell your post was just what I needed (even to the point of shedding a few quiet tears). I loved both my grandmothers for their different qualities. Whilst I don't take after one or the other (one was short and petite and the other was an extra tall 6' 3" and solid) I like to think that I have a mixture of both. One had style and showed us how to be 'ladies' and the other was the typical nanna who loved me unconditionally and taught me to also be a 'lady'. Both were excellent cooks and I still use recipes that they had hand written out for me, which is always a nice way to remember them when I cook these dishes. I would just like to say that grandmothers hold a special place in the hearts of granddaughters and they all bring things into the family that will make them remember for generations. While I don't have any clothes I do have furniture and china that belonged to both that will be passed down to my daughter.

    We also have special pieces of furniture and other things from both my husbands grandmothers that will also be passsed on to our daughter (our only child) who understands that some of the things we have are of not much value but very special to his grandmothers who fortunately were able to meet her before they passed away.

    My grandmothers both passed on about 17 years ago and both had been in my thoughts this last week and I thank your for memories of your grandmother.

    In regards to the window people, after having a day of 'renovators nightmare' and feral rental neighbours from hell (I don't mean to sound rude about neighbours but enough is enough!!) I am hearing you!! If you have reached the 'limit' of what should be tolerated from manufactures/sub contractors then go for it all guns blazing and let them have it. I might even have the courage to go for it myself.

    Thank you again and good luck.

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    1. Hi Louise - thank you for persisting with Blogger and the comment chewing it's doing at the moment. I loved reading your memories of your Grandmothers, and that's so lovely that you have some of their things to pass on to your daughter. My mum used to speak of her grandparent's all the time, even though they died before I was born, I can remember her little anecdotes about them, and it made me feel like I knew them too. I'm sure it will be the same for your daughter.
      I'm so sorry you've had a day from hell with your reno's! I have just put the finishing touches to the Lawyer's letter. Frankly, in all my years in the building industry, I've never come across a company with such blatant disregard for their legal and moral responsibilities to their client. Generally, standards in building are very low... but they've managed to really scrape the bottom of the barrel, so I really feel that we have no other options at this point, as unpleasant as it is. Wish you much luck and strength with your ongoing renovations - maybe a new frock will help you out too? xx

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  9. What a lovely post Heidi. My paternal grandmother turned 90 this year and is still incredibly glamorous. Sadly although she loved to shop in her youth, she also love to de-clutter so there are not too many hand-me-downs. She did give me three beautiful jean muir dresses from the 1960s which I love but don't wear that often. I'm paranoid about moths so have them packed away. The dresses fit me but really highlight the whole vanity sizing issue as size on the tag is not what I reach for today.
    I think my grandmother was too much of a snob for discounts and last seasons clothes. I most certainly have not inherited that from her as I too always have a basket ready to go on the outnet! Having grown up in Hong Kong where nobody buys anything full price I find it very difficult to buy anything full price. A lot of Brits are snobby about Harrods but if I do want something new season I make a beeline for one of their 10 per cent. off days!
    x

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    1. You're so lucky to have some Jean Muir dresses Charlotte! What a lovely legacy from your grandmother (even if she was a ruthless declutterer). You've obviously inherited your style from her.
      It's funny how things have changed - with sizing and with shopping habits. I'd say it's only the girlfriends of Russian Oligarchs and Middle Eastern Princesses are buying everything full price. I know what you mean about Harrod's... the English girls in my Interiors course used to call it "The Egyptian Bazaar" which was slightly unfair (they all loathed the Diana and Dodi memorial and the Egyptian Hall I gather). xx

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    2. Funny re Harrods or as we call it in London now - "Horrids"

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  10. Blogger why do you hate me so, it did it to me again!! I appreciate your sympathy but it is all sorted out now and a couple of glasses of a good wine helped immensely, though this afternoon I didn't think there could be enough dresses to help. I think to myself that builders/renos can't get any lower and then they do. We live in a smallish country town that we moved to six years ago and lots of people complain about tradespeople but no one ever does anything about them. With yourself being in the industry you would think that they would lift their game a bit because word of mouth is a strong thing and can go either way good or bad, and you selected this company to supply you several hunderd kilometeres away and surely they thought is was a good recommendation and would try their utmost to do the right thing, with future work in mind.

    If it comes down to lawyers and litigation then the bottom has been reached, I wish you all the luck and hope that you sort this out soon.

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    1. Wine does help too... I'm on my second glass tonight!! It's amazing that word of mouth in a small town doesn't give them a bit of a push in the right direction. I think part of the problem is that you're dealing in building with a lot of people that are small businesses... and they don't necessarily have any customer service training or actual business knowledge. The guy at the window company clearly doesn't understand the basics of Contract Law, because what we are dealing with is literally the basics.... and he seems to think that being a smartarse via email and not taking calls will make us go away. Oh well... he will now learn his lesson. We have tried hard to reach an amicable solution, but sometimes these things have to be done. I'll write a blog post about it once it's all sorted.

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  11. I'm sure I commented earlier.... Oh blogger you are a beast!
    What a wonderful post - your grandmothers sounds amazing, and her boots and dress are utterly wonderful - how incredible that those boots are from the 1930s! Now that really is vintage!
    So sorry to here that the windows are causing so much grief. Sue the bastards and be done with it!
    But seriously, I hope things get sorted very quickly and your stress levels go down.
    I'll be bothering you soon for Melbourne recs.... Just tell me if you're too overwhelmed to think!

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    1. Oooh - would love to give you recs for Melbourne. No problem at all! Generally at night I find TV dull and have no attention span for anything much, so I don't mind firing off an email full of info. I'm off to Melbourne in a fortnight, and then return a fortnight later for a wedding, so I'll have lots of things fresh in my mind!
      It's actually most irritating that my husband is so offhand about the window situation. He just says to me "don't worry about it it'll work out fine"... which it probably will, but my God it's stressful at the moment (plus he leaves it all up to me, so it will work out fine for him regardless!!). We had a pane of glass actually FALL OUT last night. Not good. At least no one was hurt. xx

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  12. A frock is a definite cheer-up and if a bargain also does zero harm! I lost my Nana at 93 this summer and it's been difficult, she was a bright light and also gave me my love of clothes. I have her mohair coat from the 1950's that is a treasure. I do think of her when I buy a dress, I really do. The week she was dying I had just purchased some Tory Burch frocks and good timing too, I dressed up every day and I know this pleased her.
    That dress and those boots are totally amazing. Your grandmother sounds like a woman I would have admired very much.

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    1. I remember your post on your Grandmother Dani - she sounded just wonderful. I know she left a big hole in your life. I really think it was a generational thing, the love of quality over quantity, and thrift born out of an era of financial instability (being children/ adolescents during the Depression). I do think you absorb your life lessons from your loved ones... even if it is on something seemingly trivial like clothes. How lovely that you have your Grandmother's 1950's coat xx

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  13. Those boots are absolutely beautiful! I have been looking for a pair like those for ages and to think, made in the 1930's fantastic! Lucky you to have had such a wonderful woman in your life.

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    1. They've got a very lived in appearance though... but I do like a bit of patina! I was very lucky to have had my Grandmother for such a long time in my life. xx

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  14. Hi Heidi - such a timely post my nanna's 84th birthday is tomorrow and your description is so familiar - i think there was a certain expectation of women in the past to be polished industrious and accomplished but without any expectations for such achievements. I appreciate the time I have with my Nanna she is the single most determined person I have ever met and finds it so hard to sit still. Dressmaker by trade she is still immaculately dressed even if she is tending the garden. Several years ago she gave me a tiny parfumerie bottle in its original yacht shaped box "night in Paris" by bourjois that my grandpa gave her in about 1945 before they were married. Love treasuring something she has kept for so many years especially as he is gone - I think we need the anticipation of something new from time to time and the thrill of locating a bargain can be even more exciting.

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    1. I think you're right Rebecca, and it may have been a generational thing. Your Nanna sounds wonderful, and how special that she kept that bottle of perfume from your grandfather and gave it to you. I imagine that if she was a dessmaker she would hate the horrible fabrics that are around the shops these days too xx

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  15. I love this dress and the boots! As soon as I saw the picture, I was swooning! I think we have gotten away from having things made for us properly! When I was at the fabric store the other day I saw so many gorgeous silks and cottons. I am going to see out a pattern and have a lovely frock made for me this winter, in a couple of fabrics and lined with silk or cotton for warmth! Just love this post!

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    1. I think you're right Wendy, things just aren't the same any more in terms of quality. When i buy a properly made dress (such as my discounted 70% off with another 30% off that), the difference is quite amazing - all the little tailoring details, and the fabric quality are so lovely. Then again, you can still get a dress that is lined in poly and was quite exxy to start with. I do love fabrics - will look forward to seeing what you come up with and create! xx

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  16. What a remarkable woman your grandmother was and how lucky to have had her in your lives for so long! Adore her ball gown too! She was a wonderful role model for you and your sisters.
    My grandparents all died quite young, most when I was still a very small child so have very little memory of them. Maternal grandfather was killed in a road accident just before retirement and grandmother never properly recovered. She looked after me for an extended period as a small child when my mother had serious health problems - but sadly I remember her as a rather cranky old lady, so it must have been very difficult for her to be responsible for such a young child - who tended to be too outspoken and adventurous (I seem to remember hearing "Don't answer back" and "Children should be seen and not heard". She was very clever with her needle and made lovely doll's clothes and a beautiful pink silk taffeta dress with ruffles (I thought I was Christmas!) for a fancy dress party at primary school. But she was also an old school tough love grandmother and I don't remember her ever being cuddly or affectionate. Before she died she gave me a beautiful old family locket, gold set with rubies and real pearls. I wore it as a bride, as the girls in the family had done for years. But so sadly it was stolen when our flat was burgled in London.
    I think of these things so much since I've become a grandmother. Our little ones are completely adorable - they know they have my absolute unconditional love. I adore sitting with them and listening to them talk, helping them with their homework. They love to try on my jewellery and scarves and handbags and talk fashion. I hope they'll remember me as a Nonna who always loved them completely and who would always listen with full attention to their discussions of their interests, their friends and any worries - and who encouraged them always to do their best in whatever they attempted and to be kind to each other. It's wonderful but challenging to be a good grandmother.

    Also, Heidi, good luck with your windows. It does sound a real trial and so stressful, especially as you're having to bear the brunt of it. Hopefully the threat of legal action might change their attitude and improve their work. Best wishes, Pamela xx

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    1. She was a wonderful role model! We all have such fond memories of her. I'm so sad for you that your family heirloom was stolen - so sad with that being one of your only links to your grandparent's. It sounds like she had a hard life, and that this perhaps reflected on the way she interacted with you... but that sounds like its made you a wonderful influence in your own grand children's lives. My mother just loved being a grandmother and used to make such a fuss over my children. It makes me so sad that they won't have many memories of her. I talk about her all the time to them so they can still know what she was like. Luckily my Mother in Law is a wonderful grandmother too, and very involved with the children. They adore her, especially S who is looking forward to her return from an overseas holiday.
      Thanks for your kind words re the windows. Hopefully it will sort out quickly next week. Fingers crossed! xx

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  17. Thank for this wonderful post - what a lovely tribute to your grandmother. She sounds like she was an amazing person. The dress is so pretty and the boots are incredible! I can hardly believe they are from the 1930s! Quality indeed! It's so true, there's nothing like a new item of clothing to cheer oneself up, especially if it's something pretty (as opposed to a wardrobe staple like a pair of jeans).

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    1. They are so well made Louise - it really is hard to believe that they are from the 30's, but I know that after the War she never rode, so they are definitely that old!
      Jeans just do not cut it as a treat - it has to be something special to give you a little lift xx

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  18. No a new frock doesnt cheer me up at the moment cause I feel too fat.. but loved hearing all about your grandmother and seeing her dress and boots. My grandmother born in 1906 in St Kilda liked clothes too and used to have silk shirts made in Hong Kong with her intials on them. She died in 1980 and I wore those shirts to death (so to speak)

    However on Sunday my best friend passed her grandmother's camel hair Jaegar coat onto me, very nice but given our warm winter are coats are thing of the past in Sydney ? hope not

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    1. You're too funny smr! Love that you wore your grandmother's shirts, they would've been good quality if they were tailored in Hong Kong. A Jaeger coat? Hang on to it! Maybe for an overseas holiday (or just a trip to Melbourne in Winter time?) xx

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  19. BTW good luck with the window saga...the thought of dealing with building in any way shape or form scares the hell out of me. Finger scrossed...I'll join you in the celebratory champers..thinking positive of course !

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    1. There'll be a case of champers emptied when we finally have the reno finished!! xx

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  20. Totally Agree! This is the most stunning frock ever! You have to find somewhere to wear it. I want to see loads of photos of you when you do.I have loads of Dr's appt today and my first impulse is to head to the shops afterwards, totally justified. The boots remind me of when I worked in Gloucestershire and I went to a wedding and my friend's boyfriend was wearing some lace up boots from his Grandpa from WW1! Wish Grandma from Manchester saved her clothes though she was 4ft nothing and rail thin.

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    1. I'm a bit scared to try it on Jody - might need a rib removed... I was quite skinny back when I was 15 and my shape has changed with babies (ribs are bigger now)
      If you have a mass of Dr's appointments, then definitely head to the shops after. Or something to eat you wouldn't normally always does the trick too.
      Boots from WW1? Well, I spose if they were made to survive the trenches of the Somme, they would've lasted in the English Countryside quite nicely. xx

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  21. I don't feel so neurotic now that other people are having their blogger comments eaten up while on your blog Heidi. I have mentioned it before, but cannot resist the opportunity for another whinge about it (just in case Blogger are listening and actually do something about it....well I did say "neurotic"....)

    Anyway, onto more important stuff...your grandmother sounds like one classy lady who had much influence on her gorgeous granddaughter....cannot believe how fabulous those boots are from the 1930s. And the dress is thoroughly glam. I thoroughly concur that quality over quantity is the cheapest in the end...xx

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    1. Funny Virginia!! I'm having my comments eaten on other people's blogger blogs at the moment too. Plus I'm getting a lot of spam as well which is annoying.
      Oh I agree with you about the cheaper in the end thing, plus it looks better and makes you feel fab. I think it's just that we all have that desire to have new all the time... somewhere there is a balance where you buy quality, but just enough to feel you have options xx

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  22. I also love the boots...They always look so good in the entrance hall.. and the fact that they were your grandmother's makes them extra special... It just brings home to me the very special role a grandma plays in the lives of her grandchildren. My three little girls are under the age of 3 and are just becoming little 'people'.... Wish you'd shown us a pic of your 'pick-me-up' dress! xxx

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    1. Grandma's do play a very special role in their grandchildren's lives. I have friends who have parent's that say to them "My babysitting days are over" when they have their children. I think it's so sad.. when do they have that one on one time with their grandchildren if they won't spend time with them?
      I bet you're a fabulous Grandmother to your three little girls. Will show a pic of the dress when I've had the usual alterations performed (!!). Hopefully it will have a reason to go out for dinner soon! xx

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  23. Lovely post and gorgeous dress and boots!
    The only love I received when I was a kid was from my grandmother!
    Unfortunately I don't have anything that belonged to her. I only have one medal she gave me when I was a kid!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Have a nice weekend.

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  24. Your Grandmother was absolutely right. We all know about 'retail therapy' and the benefits of a real shopping trip or a special online purchase! She sounds like a wonderful, interesting lady with such a sense of style. How amazing that you have the beautiful ballgown and those boots. I do believe that we inherit a love of clothes. I suppose it's about growing up with someone who appreciates fine clothes - I'm sure that's why I absolutely love shoes and handbags!

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  25. Lovely post, although am now craving home-made biscuits (which I never make, on account of I eat them as fast as I bake them). I inherited a similar pair of boots from my mother (circa 1950s). I much prefer an item sourced for a bargain.

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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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