After my last post on Fashion, I had a few interesting comments that got me a little worked up in reply about the declining standards of dress... the casualisation, if you will, of pretty much all social situations. It irritates me so much, that I thought I'd write a blog post about it. Yes, I ponder the Big Issues on this blog.....

Firstly, I have to say that I love to dress up. There is nothing that signals a fun 'grown up' time to me that putting on something special. I spend my days in child friendly clothes, and one thing that I certainly don't like to do is to wear that sort of thing out when going to dinner with Mr AV, or to the Theatre, or just anywhere out of the ordinary. It has got to a point where Mr AV will nervously tell me that it's 'casual' just in case I turn up far too dressed up compared to the other people we are meeting. He knows that I will frown and get irritated that I have to find something that looks smart enough, but is not too dressy...better my irritation than looking overdressed compared to others he thinks.

One of my pet hates are people who don't adhere to dress codes. If an invitation to something says "Black Tie", then you should be in something that matches to it as closely as possible. It's rude and disrespectful to your host to arrive in something that doesn't - you're sending a signal that you just don't care. There are plenty of ways to be creative and stick to the dress code. If you're a male that doesn't own a Dinner Suit and don't want to hire one, a black suit with a black bow tie will at least make you blend into the crowd.

I went to a friend's Black Tie wedding around 7 years ago, 4 months after having my first child. Needless to say, I didn't fit into any of my Black Tie appropriate dresses.... but I cobbled together something that was appropriate for the dress code, even though it wasn't necessarily an outfit that I looked my best at that time in. But the wedding wasn't about me, so really, no one was looking at what I was wearing with any great interest I reasoned, better to adhere to the dress code than wear something inappropriate but more personally flattering. Mr AV's best friend turned up to the wedding wearing  a navy suit, with an open neck shirt. We asked him if he was going home after the church service to get changed before the reception. No, he was not. He did not like his old Dinner Suit, which had been bought many years before and was now quite unfashionable with large shoulder pads and double breasted jacket. He preferred his nice new Armani suit and open neck shirt combo. Well, he and I had World War 3 over the dress issue for most of the night. His argument was that as he was wearing an expensive suit, it didn't matter if it wasn't a dinner suit. My argument was that you should adhere to a dress code, even if it meant you weren't wearing your favourite thing.... by his argument, expensive designer jeans would be appropriate, because they cost more than a cheap dinner suit.

There are very few places these days where you can legitimately get dressed up for the occasion. There is as argument that it is more egalitarian to allow people to wear whatever they like wherever they like... so if you can't afford a suit, you can wear your jeans to the Opera. Let me say this - if you can afford a $100 ticket to the Opera, then you can afford a pair of trousers or a skirt. I highly doubt the only thing in your wardrobe is a single pair of jeans. And really, what is next? Tracksuits at the Opera?

I've noticed that it tends to be women who like to dress up, and men who don't.... one of our male friends made the comment a few years ago that he was sick of going out and seeing girls with dresses on and hair done looking glamorous for a night on the town, in a group with a bunch of guys dressed in jeans and t-shirts that have been artfully distressed. It just doesn't match.

A week ago we were in the Botanic Gardens on a Saturday when they had set up for three weddings. One of the weddings had some seriously glamorous women attending... how wonderful it was to see some stunning dresses and carefully thought out outfits being paraded on a sunny Saturday afternoon amongst the beautiful setting of the gardens. Even though we were there as garden spectators, rather than dressed up Wedding Guests, it was a nice capping to the day to watch and admire from afar. And isn't that the point? To have a bit of fun in life? If we all dress in boring jeans and the colour black all the time, life just isn't that interesting at all.

What do you think?

all images via my Pinterest boards
Yesterday we went up to Stirling, to my Dad's house for Afternoon Tea. We went for a little walk in the garden, as we always do, and visited the ponies in their paddock.

This is Lucy, she's a Welsh Mountain Pony, and has a friend (he's black) called Gryphon. They're essentially expensive lawn mowers - their job is to keep the grass down in the horse paddock. As you can see by their size, they're essentially barrels on legs. They Do Not like being ridden (preferring their life of ease and eating instead), and they're absolute greedy guts. We fed them carrots and apples, and Lucy also took a liking to my yellow shoes. I got a nip on the toe as she clearly thought they might be edible.

We also like to visit the Peacocks and Peahens and Peachicks, and the chooks (chickens). We'll be getting a few silky bantam chickens when our renovation is finished - they're excellent pets, but in the meantime they live with the other chooks in Fort Knox up at Dad's (this is necessary as the Fox likes to kill them if he has even the smallest chance of entry to their yard). It would not win a competition with Martha Stewart's "Palais de Poulets", but is probably much safer for them.

The other favoured activity when visiting Dad is the Hay ride in the trailer hitched onto the ride-on mower. They do circuits around the drive and the garden paths.... the children can all drive it quite well now, I'm suspicious that Dad is thinking he can use them as free labour fairly soon, as soon as they stop taking out the corners that is...

After that, we popped into the Stirling Pub's Bistro for dinner. The kids ran around on the front lawn as it was a balmy evening, and we enjoyed a few drinks and dinner in peace (highly unusual). I had two glasses lined up as a man in the pub brought me another glass of bubbles over.... I was hopeful he thought I was a particularly attractive young woman (despite Mr AV sitting next to me plus 3 kids running around), but no, he just got a free one by mistake, and thought as I already had one I might like another?! Of course I couldn't refuse...

It's the end of the School Holidays here, and aside from movies, plays with friends, new school shoes, haircuts and trips to museums and the art gallery, I've pretty much spent my time constantly trying to tidy up... a fairly futile exercise. One thing that amuses me constantly is to see what 4 year old E has dressed her mice and bunnies in - they have a little wardrobe of outfits that she puts together rather creatively. This hawaiian shirt plus gingham skirt looks slightly Marni like to me...

Bunny in floral pj's plus shaggy psychedelic waistcoat

This is her dragon who is wearing a floral dolls dress....

Lulu, her favourite doll (not pictured) is currently dressed in a floral dress with a kung fu top over it. Needless to say, E is still highly supervised before I allow her to set foot in public as she currently has a rather... unique... personal style.

On renovation news, they've pretty much laid out all the slab for the concrete pour on Thursday. The hydronic heating has to be put down which will take a couple of days (hydronic heating is the English style radiators or in slab heating system - hot water (gas heated) is pushed through pipes in the slab... very economical to run and a much nicer form of heat). They've taken down the fence between our neighbours house and us as the extension sits on the boundary.

This direction is looking at the kitchen, playroom and laundry

This side is the dining and living area

Things are moving along, and I've still got a lot of drafting to do... I just never seem to get a decent block of time to do it!! Plus procrastination on that front has not helped. But things are now moving so quickly, I have to hop to it so they don't blame me for any hold ups!

Hope you had a great week xx
Today is Anzac Day, Australia's National day of honour and rememberance for the Soldiers who have fought and died protecting our country. This year is the 98th Anniversary of the first battle of the first War that Australia fought under its own flag - the landing at Gallipoli (Turkey) at dawn on April 25th, 1915 at the outbreak of World War 1.

We all know the futile sacrifice that defined WW1 - the row upon row of troops that were mown down in machine gun fire running full pelt at the enemy. Gallipoli now symbolically embodies the Australian spirit - a short 5 week campaign of utter stupidity, run by incompetent British Generals who successfully ensured mass slaughter of Australian and New Zealand troops sent to fight a battle up a steep hill with no tactical purpose. After this, Australians refused to be controlled so completely by the British, and to some extent ran their battles on their own terms. Australians identify with Gallipoli for the heroism of the Diggers, the mateship and courage, the irreverent humour, and the lack of subordination to their superiors - Australians are all equal, with no ranking provided by right of birth. 

My Great-Grandfather was at Gallipoli. He was a member of the 3rd Lighthorse Brigade, who left Adelaide in late 1914 at the outbreak of the war. He was a farmer, handy with a gun and on a horse. They landed at Gallipoli on the 4th May, 1915, my Great-Grandfather was evacuated two days later with shrapnel wounds.

After his recovery, he was a part of the infamous charge of the 3rd Light Horse at The Nek, and somehow survived when most of his comrades were slaughtered. 

"Four of the finest Anzac regiments were shattered in this glorious charge, but they created an imperishable impression

"As for the boys," wrote Captain Bean, "the single-minded, loyal Australian country lads, who left their trenches in the grey light of that morning with all their simple treasures on their backs..... the shade of evening found them lying in the scrub with God's wide sky above them........of a deed of self-sacrificing bravery which has never been surpassed in military history - the Charge of the Australian Light Horse into certain death at the call of their comrades need during a crisis in the greatest battle that has ever been fought on Turkish Soil."

After the disbanding of the remains of the 3rd Lighthorse, he joined the artillery and was sent to the Front in France. Shot in the head amongst the mud and carnage at Ypres in 1917, he somehow survived again, and made it to the end of the war, returning home to his small country town, life as a farmer and the 5 year old son he had never met.

But his life story isn't that of straight forward heroism. I often feel that the Myth of the Anzac Digger has taken over in recent times.... yes, there was a lot of heroism and sacrifice, mateship and individuals that displayed immense courage, but the idealisation of the Digger has airbrushed over the reality. Like any extreme life situation, facets of personality are brought out in sharp relief. My Great-Grandfather was a very flawed individual, his War story probably one more of survival, rather than actual bravery. But who knows what he would have been like without the defining event of the War that shaped and changed the World forever - the men with promise who were lost, the men who came back irreparably damaged, the shadows this created in families for generations to come.

This week the State Library of South Australia put online photographs from their archives of troops taken before embarking on their journey to the unknown. Image upon image of young, hopeful men setting off to see some action on the other side of the world, many of whom never came home from the faraway shores where they were slain.

Lest we forget

image sources via State Library of South Australia
Clicking through my inbox and deleting the junk mail today, there was an email from Oscar de la Renta. Not a personal email mind you, just an invitation to view his new bridal collection (and I'm obviously not in the market for bridal gowns). Now, I'm not sure how I originally signed up for emails from his website, because I've never bought anything from it, nor have I bought any Oscar de la Renta from any other internet source (as it's not available in any Australian stores). But I do like to have a little peek at what's on offer for some that live a gilded life. I love the overall aesthetic of Oscar. There's a very ladylike look to his designs, there's simplicity of line in many of his garment designs, but detail enough to take the clothes into the special realm. And then there's the workmanship.

Something like this dress with its beautiful cut out and appliqued embroidered flowers and its belt with sparkly bow buckle.


So beautiful.

The email reminded me that I hadn't posted my review of the Oscar de la Renta collection for The Outnet. This was a small collection that launched in February. Usually The Outnet just sells discounted designer clothing from seasons past. This collection was a collaboration with The Outnet, a first, and Oscar's team trawled their archives selecting fabrics from past runway and cruise collections and reworked them into new designs. The clothes were around 1/3 - 1/4 the price of full priced Oscar, so my expectations were that there would be a "simplifying" of the overall quality in general. I also thought it would likely have a label in the back that said "Oscar de la Renta for The Outnet", just like when you buy something from Target that's been a collaboration with an upmarket designer.

I was quite wrong on both those points.

Firstly, the navy and white Ikat dress. This is a pretty sundress with a boat neckline, made from very thick woven cotton fabric (like a slightly stiff cotton canvas in feel). It is unlined, but it was one of the cheaper dresses, so this makes sense - it's sort of like a cruise collection piece. I loved the print, and thought it would be a great Summer dress, and it's already been worn a couple of times with my favourite orange patent wedges out to dinner. It has concealed pockets, and the fabric has a stiffness to it that makes the skirt stick out a little and hold its shape.

Probably due to the lower price point, plus the fact that Olivia Palermo was used in the campaign wearing this dress, it sold out very quickly. I picked up one of the returns a week later.

This next one was one of the dresses used for the main ad campaign, and one that I completely fell in love with. It's made from a beautiful silk brocade - lots of roses of varying tones of pink are scattered over it, and it has a very 50's silhouette. The fabric is stiff enough to hold its own tulip style shaped skirt without the need for netting underneath, and it's beautifully finished with a silk lining. It's got concealed pockets in it too, and has little turn ups on the elbow length sleeves.

And just to show you, look at the labels - it's completely normal, which was a big surprise to me.

 Lastly, I blogged about the disappointment of buying the floral skirt a size too small a few months ago - well, I managed to find one returned in my size, so switched it over and now have this one, which fits (as in, I can actually sit in it). Silk and silk lined.

So my assessment was that the clothes were exactly as you'd expect for something much more expensive - as in, just like his normal line (although I have no personal experience with it). All the extras - concealed pockets, silk linings, special fastenings made these items good value, despite being (for me), still quite expensive items. Here in Australia we can spend similar amounts of money on items from local designers that fall far short of the quality and fabrics that this collection produced.

I think any future Outnet collaborations with other Designers show some promise of being well worth looking at based on what I saw of this collection. Certainly the quality and designs were quite lovely.... on the back of my raves to my Mother in Law, she went online and bought one of the other dresses and was amazed at how well it was made too.

At any rate, after this little splurge on the sale, I have kept out of the shops for a few months to balance it all out... but it was definitely worth it! I much prefer quality over quantity, and these pieces are definitely of the type that I'll keep and wear often for years to come.

Last week I wondered whether Autumn would ever arrive, but look what I'm wearing today...

Wool. It's cold and has been pouring with rain all day. 

Fortunately the concreters got Mr AV's Cave/ Home Office finished during the week, and they've now started on the actual living area extension slab. Lots of heavy machinery noises from the back of the house. My 2 year old now does a very convincing truck reversing sound  beep....beep....beep. Here's some photos for the heavy machinery fans out there. 

I made sure to throw some coins into the concrete for good luck as tradition dictates. The concreters tried to convince me that a few hundred dollars would make for very good luck. I threw in $2... I'm far too stingy.

Yesterday we had a family picnic in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we haven't been through the gardens in a long time. 

I love the Palm House, which is one of the original Victorian structures in the gardens imported from Europe. It's thought to be one of the last two left that were originally made by the German manufacturer - the others were all bombed during WW2. The other one is also in Adelaide, in the grounds of a private house.

Found some more Rainbow Lorrikeets (the breed of parrots that are hell bent on destroying my garden) - they were having a bath in the enormous Victorian fountain.

I ducked away from the family for a few minutes to look at what can only be described as garden porn in the Botanic Gardens shop. As I wrote in a previous post, the Diggers Club have taken over the shop, and it's full of the most beautiful things for gardeners, as well as a lot of essentials - seed propagation boxes, seeds and bulbs, excellent tools, books... managed to avoided temptation. 

I also wandered into the Museum of Economic Botany, which was founded in 1881 and is the last of its type in the world. It's in a sweet little Victorian building, with the most beautiful painted ceiling. Inside the specimen cases are displays of all the types of plants that could be grown in the South Australian climate and their uses - the purpose of the museum was to show the early settlers what could be grown successfully in the state. More recently they have installed screens by Khai Liew, the renowned South Australian Furniture maker, the modern design counterbalances the original Victorian specimen cases with their contents nicely. 


With the much colder and very rainy weather today, I've been cooking. Last night we had a roast chicken, a Barossa Chook, reared by Saskia Beer (daughter of Maggie). Once you've tried one of her chickens, you can't go back - they taste like a chicken should, full of flavour just like in the Olden Days. I think they lead very pampered lives before they wind up at the Butchers. As they're rather expensive (but worth it), I like to use every little bit up, so I used the carcass this morning to make chicken stock. Some went into the freezer, and some made the most delicious roasted broccoli and blue cheese soup.

I also made this potato and fetta tart out of Simon Bryant's Veggies cookbook. I'm trying to do a few days without meat in our household.

I'm wrapped up in layers tonight trying not to turn on the heating, although as I have been fairly disorganised due to the school holidays and Mr AV being away in New York again for the week, I've only just got the Winter weight doonas off to be cleaned (they'll be back in a week)... and it's definitely feeling a little cold in bed at night!

Hope you had a good week too xx
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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
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