Dressing Dolly :: Obi and Chocolat

 

I am about seven years old, standing in a suburban Christchurch store gazing at a selection of Sindy doll clothes. All of the narrow boxes contain a few items of clothing, stitched into a flatlay behind the cellophane.  I’m deeply impressed, ’cause you can mix and match different things together and everything goes with everything else!  I can’t wait to try every possible combination!

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This inspired moment must surely be the origins of my love for fashion and all things coordinated! I’m a girl who likes to get up and know that she has at least five outfit options to choose from, all of which have matchy-matchy potential.  I think this is why I love wearing black, or mixing it up with variations of colour or print. It truly does make dressing so much easier. It makes me calm.  When my first baby was born, I used to lay out the whole weeks worth of tiny little pink outfits in readiness. Ah Sindy. You were onto it.  Mix and match is a phenomenon designed for girls like me.

 

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Yesterday I had one of those very cool “is this my life?” moments.  I was at a bloggers event run by High Society, one of New Zealand’s biggest NZ made fashion houses.

The room we were ushered into had been decorated by the very clever Xanthe, with spools of thread and ribbons, the table runner hand-drawn as an oversized measuring tape. Along the table were little beribboned boxes, one for me (!) and one for each of the bloggers sitting beside me.  We were there to meet the designers of High Society’s fashion labels, Chocolat and Obi.  I could see the new summer ranges hanging on the wall beyond them.

 

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Kylie Niovara-Dave and Jon Dyball took us on a tour of their design studios, their cutting rooms and machining floor. I met Dolly, the clothes horse with the extra added boobage, who helps Kylie and John with their plus sized pieces. She made me think of my Sindy dolls all those years ago! I could imagine how dressing dolls could evolve into dressing people. Of course, both designers use real-life fit models also and are passionate about creating clothes that truly work for their customers.

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John spoke first, with great enthusiasm, about his creative process and the influences on his summer collection. You can expect from his label Obi, an attention to luxe prints, luscious fabrics and pieces that will work for their pricetag. I loved his passion for all things Japanese, the variations in texture and interesting juxtapositions. John has a gift for finding beautiful lines, colours and textures and weaving them together into a soulful, interesting collection.  I loved all of the pieces he showcased, here is a small selection, just look!

 

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Avise, Vigeur, Joliesse. We bloggers sat transfixed as he talked us through the ins and outs of each piece and how he makes sure his customers are catered for. I was particularly delighted that he understood the issues we (ahem) over forty ladies have with hot flushes!  Many of his items are sleeveless but with coordinating throw over options for coverage. There is a focus on the comfort + style equation, with flat fronted side elasticated waist bands. As he said “we’re over being fashion victims”. Yes, John, we are! I’m all for fashion that I can feel at ease in.  In trademark Rachie style, I did gush a bit (sorry fellow bloggers, I’m working on cooling that down!)  It’s just so hard to shut myself up when I am excited about something!  See? All these exclamation marks… oh my life.

 

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Nicky, Monique, Taylor and Becca; fashion bloggers.

Then it was Kylie’s turn.  Kylie is just how you imagine a clothing designer to be, she is wearing layers of edgy black mesh and her hair is a razor cut work of art. When she begins to talk about her collection, I am impressed with the confidence she has in knowing what her customers want; she listens closely to the feedback that comes directly from their retailers. She is loving the sense of ownership that is developing in this, her second year with the brand. Chocolat caters more exclusively to the Plus Size body and it shows in her cleverly constructed garments. I listen to her intently.  She is a creative powerhouse who thinks deeply about detail, drape, line and print and colour. Her collection speaks my language.  There is (happy sigh) lots of black, with a painterly print I just can’t get enough of, and a marimekko-ish finer print in the more structured corporate styles. Her colours are ‘lickable’ brights, orange tang, slushy blue, k-bar green (those are my names for them, because they speak to my eighties inner child)!  My eye is drawn to a super cute black and white spot jacket. It is adorable and I think it will do happy things for my waist. Kylie took me down to the factory floor to try some of her pieces. It was, dear reader, a little bit of fashion heaven!

 

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When I have been browsing stores before, I can find it hard to get a good grasp on a whole collection. Lookbooks help, so I do sometimes scroll through those online before shopping, just to get the gist. But yesterday, seeing whole collections displayed on the rails really captured me. I could see Kylie’s collection as an entire work of art, how each piece works with the others. It inspired me to find a way to shop more items in a collection than I ever have before.  In fact, 5 awesome pieces came home with me yesterday. Is it possible to have more than one ‘favourite’?!

 

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I’m off to the Victorian Derby Day with my brother next weekend and the theme is black and white. The short jump across the ditch isn’t a big packing challenge, but I like to be organised. I’ll be away in Melbourne for two nights and three days. Stay tuned for the outfits I have picked out from this beautiful Chocolat summer range, mixed in with a few other faves. I know I’ll be able to wear and wear every piece, and like my old muse, Sindy, mix and match to my heart’s content!

You can buy Chocolat and Obi’s new collections online or in store at Magazine or Zebrano. So gorgeous. Every single item.

Wanna play?

 

pssst…. check out these bloggers…

Oh She Writes :: Taylor

Dressing Up :: Monique

This is Jolie :: Beth

This is Meagan Kerr :: Meagan

The Style High Club :: Nicky

 

Standing, still. Moving forward.

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The lights cast a soft whiteness across the photographic back drop. The studio is quietly humming. The equipment pops and flashes for each shot. Nods and short sentences between the photographer and stylist. I’m standing there, in my tenth outfit of the morning, swishing one way and another, a small dip of the head, a smile at some imaginary friends, a little on-the-spot walking action… it’s a sequence of movements like a slow motion dance. I am handed a bag, someone teases a rogue section of my hair.  Someone else adjusts my sleeve so the wrinkles will fall ‘just so’. I am modelling.

I smile at the lens, my mind racing along with the shoot, keeping up but in a parallel reality. I’m stunned by the surrealism of it all. I find it hard to compute that I am here, doing this. I’m not sure how long it will take me to adjust to feeling this way. Only 6 months ago I was struggling to manage daily life. Standing was my nemesis. Yet I have been on my feet for two hours straight… and I can still smile. Flash!  Pop! I feel my calves flex to keep my balance in my size-too-small prop shoes. I’m really doing this. Still standing.

“That’s it, we’ve got it!” smiles the photographer. The stylist and makeup artist give each other a high five. We. Are. Done.  Everyone thanks everyone. I change back into my own clothes. And just like that I clock off from another shoot as a curvy model. It’s such a fun and affirming thing to do. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I’m being paid to try on clothes and show people how they really look on a curvy body. I’m contributing to the kind of online shopping environment that works for curvy girls. I can’t count the number of times I have not purchased online, because the model looked too small for me to really understand how the clothes would fall. It makes me happy to think that there are DD-cup+, curvy girls out there who will purchase clothes this season because my boobs and bum provided some realism to help them with their shopping choices!  Here’s to the bootylicious bods out there, and some fair representation!
Here’s a grainy phone picture of me all glammed up, on my way home from yesterday’s shoot:

I’m really doing this. I'm still standing.(2)

But besides the representation of plus-sized bodies, the glamour and the fun of doing a shoot, there is always something running along underneath, for me. An incredulity. An awareness that just standing is still a dream for so many of you, just as it was for me, not so long ago. I remember how that felt, longing for a body that could do the normal stuff; every present moment is echoed with the contrast. I carry my past with me, I carry a knowledge that I can never forget.

And it is precisely because of all those years that I am seizing the day! I am doing what I can, because I CAN! But I have not forgotten you, out there. I stand for you as much as I stand for me. With every health win, every symptom I walk away from, with every medication I wean off, I am laughing in the face of Dysautonomia. Take that!  See this? Wham. In your face mother plucker! I so hope that if you have been following my journey, you feel me carrying you into everything that you cannot do. Into all of my upright hours, through all of my busy days. You are with me, in spirit if not in body. Your own body biding it’s time, battling it’s own way through the maze. Hanging in there.

I stand for you.

I stand for a world that is kinder to people like us.
I stand until you can.  I will stand as long as I can.
Hang in there my friends.  Hold tight. Never, ever let go of whatever it is pulling you onward.  Because if this can happen for me, then that means, it is possible.  If I have this reprieve, this time of plenty, this freedom to be who I always used to be, then why not you, too?

It’s a paradox, but nonetheless, here I am standing still and moving forward.
Kia Kaha.

*the necklace in the image above is from Uberkate. She ran a competition last year for women to nominate their friends/sisters/mothers using one word for the pendant.  My friend Nettie nominated me and chose the word ‘standing’. My sister in law Cathie seconded the nomination.  And they won it for me! It is a necklace I treasure.  I wear it every day and it draws me back to my purpose every single time I look at it. Thanks Nettie, thanks Cathie, and thanks Uberkate!
** Nettie has a blog called I Give You the Verbs. Which tickles me, because in winning that necklace for me, she literally gave me the verb! 😉