I've tried to prod and coax and nag the reason why these perfectly normal, conservative people suddenly decided to dress both themselves and their houses like opiated nightmares but no one really seems to know. Rejection of postwar austerity yeah yeah blah blah; all that academic rationale gets us no closer to the empirical truth.
Whatever it was, it began my lifelong love affair with lurid organic design.
My wardrobe is made up of black and the vintage print and ethnic items I find on local auction sites and in thrift shops etc. I either make or customise a lot of my own garments due to the expense, embarrassing homogeneity and arse-chapping crappiness of most contemporary fashion. And the fact of my somewhat heroic personal dimensions, which are pretty much dude with bewbs.
New Zealand was, until very recently, a great place to pick up vintage gear. That's changing with local designers and students getting into repurposing and modding, though, and I now count myself lucky if I can snatch up something decent in the $50 to $100 bracket, which is almost out of my price range. A couple of two-three years ago I paid under $20 for almost everything you see here.
^ This guy is possibly still my favourite. Like most of these lengths, it's made it into a sleeveless dress that suffers regular remodelling.
According to the selvage it's a Viyella (wool + cotton) milled in Japan which means it is beautifully soft, both warm and cool, astoundingly hardwearing and looks as good as the day it was cut from the bolt. Japanese midcentury production of everything from fabrics to guitars is famously high-quality so don't hesitate to pay a bit extra.
> Rayon sounds super-synthetic but it's actually organically-derived from wood pulp and feels like fine, limp and slightly grainy silk, making it a fucking godsend on a sweaty day. This lightweight merlot, candy pink and Fanta-orange piece is now a dress that works with every single lipstick I've ever owned.
Prove me wrong.
> This piece horrified me when I pulled it out of the postbag (the vendor used some Phosho magic in her listing, the shifty bitch) but it has grown on me like... Satanic sputum, or possibly some sort of intergalactic fruiting body. There's a lot of wool in it which makes for a cosy winter experience.
< Out of all the prints in my current rotation, this classic Indo-Persian paisley gets the most public love from weirdly effusive strangers. I paid about $12 for two metres, cobbled it into a knee-length number and rock it with my bluebird earrings.
It's a cotton/synthetic mix, has a weird linear twill texture, was possibly intended for curtains but is just as happy draping arsecheeks. Such is life.
< Quite a little saga behind this lapis, turquoise and camel Viyella, a jewelly cousin to the first example. I was outbid for four meters on a local auction site and nursed that grudge like something lurking in a well until lo and beholding the very same piece for sale a year later at a third of the original price. On it like a fly on poopies! Tremendous gloating exultation!
Until I got round to making it up. Close, nongloating inspection revealed that it was lightly but liberally stained throughout by what looks like sewing machine oil. I console myself with the notion that someone else took the wallet punch. Fellow black clothing aficionados will know the principle darkness conquers (almost) all. Well, so does explosión de colorido because I'll be fucked by shiny violet leprechauns if I can see that nameless splatter from a polite distance.
Awesome scale and colour attracted me to this piece. The dyes are vibrant and well-registered and the largest white daisy is about ten cm across! Scored about... is it thirteen metres of this rather pristine midweight cotton and will sell some, so if you're in the market for up to ten metres of gorgeous, spacious retro floral abstract, hit me up via Contact. I'm happy to cut it to smaller lengths and will post overseas (at cost).
I feel we should throw this stuff up online as a resource and a bit of insurance against such batshit design heritage being lost to landfills and natural attrition. Feel free to use the pics in your projects if you'll be kind enough to include a link back to this site. I've got a bunch of other prints all squished up in my stash and I'll get round to posting those as a second instalment in this series in the fullness of time.