Archives for category: Savvy Chic

How glamorous is this? A two page spread in the gossip and fashion bile of the southern hemisphere. I am not famous. But damn I feel like it today. Thanks Susie Burge and all the hot chicks in editorial at ACP.


I have to be honest Sydney, Australia is not at all budget minded. Status is still driven by labels. The recession has just NOT bitten down as hard on this economy and many women are still in denial about the nature of thrift smarts. Perhaps as a result I get to scoop up incredible bargains on the best shopping street in Sydney. Vinnies is a second hand chairity store tat has gone mainstream and locates itself on prominent main streets. The Vinnies in Paddington have designer clothes, really HOT 1980s French heels and banal basics at rock bottom prices. Oddly enough they are located directly opposite my bank. So when I stumble onto the street feeling a teensy bit broke baroque I know that the retail therapy I seek is only going to burn a fifty dollar note. I haven’t worn the Charles Jourdan silk faille heels (with $35 scrawled across their soles) but the polyester chiffon maxi dress with the hopelessly 90s front ruffle is in heavy rotation. I love fashion to be a bit OFF. A bit like costume. A bit like a weird drawing. Further up the road at the Red Cross shop a pair of black leather high heeled ankle boots were also $35. Yes. I weakened. And, a few nights later, dancing in the hot summer wind to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in my cheap, hot, high black boots I felt the splendour of vintage rock and roll style: affordable, spontaneous, so, so last year, so so NOW.

This Monday when Grazia magazine, Australia, feature a two page excerpt from Savvy Chic they chose the chapter  that is closest to my heart: QUEEN OF THE FLEAS. On my recent jaunt to New York I confess to visiting  the 26th street flea markets three times and obsessing over a pair of 19th century French enameled candle stick holders. On the third round, on a bone chilling morning of arctic frost, I pounced and bought them. The great thing about the fleas is the education you get with every find. I never knew that enamel production also known as Cloisonne went out of vogue in France for objet because of the prohibitive cost of creating each layer. So, the candlesticks in 1887 might have cost close to what I paid for them, give or take a little inflation. I wrapped them in two football socks and packed them carefully next to my American nineteenth century tea cup (yes I have a problem) and my 1940s pale blue satin rayon and lace twenty dollar nightgown. Leaving the fleas I am carrying recycled plastic bags, stuffed with old newspaper. I feel slightly vagrant. And I have hauled away unbelievable treasures. Old habits die hard.

Anyone creative person loves to get a letter from a like minded soul. Just today I read a letter from a young writer who digs Savvy Chic.

Here’s an excerpt:
“I just wanted to write and say how much I loved Savvy Chic. It’s so strange, i really felt a kindred-spiritidness for so many things you wrote about, and i loved your writing style. I always try to let authors know now, when i love their work (and the illustrations were amazing!), because i know how much i appreciate feedback on my work.
I wonder if it’s in our genes, as Pisceans, to be such gypsies? I’ll be taking your nice teabags and rosewater hydrating spray tips on my long-haul (economy, sigh) flights now. I just loved your chapter on savvy chic travel.”

Louisa Deasey ( is a Pisces with eyes like crystals and here I am outing her lovely face and saying THANKS BABE! I can’t wait to read your book and share my thoughts on this blog.

Seven days to Christmas and the people who are not getting books or artworks are getting….um, the contents of my accessory drawer? Yes, tonight I am getting out all my vintage silk scarves, belts that don’t fit, Kidd opera gloves, tiny old handbags and even hats and having a good long goodbye session, sprucing them up as home spun gifts. Next year I am moving and with me I want to carry much, much less. Happily I know my friends well and I know exactly what they will fancy. Recently I saw an article in Harper’s Bazaar that described the fancy thrift store arcade that Barbra Streisand has built in the basement of her mansion. Well, I don’t have Bab’s stash but I am amazed at what I am willing to part with this year. Do you feel the same? So as to avoid post holiday regret here is my guideline about what to re-gift and why. This year be sure and up-cycle from every corner of your house. It’s not just ‘free’, it deliciously liberating!

What can you spare? Re-gift anything that…

You have not worn for twelve months
Absolutely doesn’t fit and never will
Is an accessory you really REALLY never wear (like a ruffled umbrella or a camisole or a big chunky bracelet that gathers dust on a shelf)
That is still in the box/bag with tags but pretty useless to you
That is deeply personal and well loved (favourite tea cups are great gifts when you have too many)
That needs a younger woman to carry it off (bright red dresses are like that)
That just needs new buttons or a bit of lace to smarten it up (like a lovely cardigan in the wrong shade)
That is a project you will never finish (needlework kit, dress pattern and so forth…)


There is nothing like seeing your book in a store that you love. For years and years I would daydream in the big West Broadway store of Anthropologie in New York’s Soho. I once lived in a cavernous loft on Canal st and slowly filled it up with the ceramics and textiles from their famous sale tables. Silently I swore to myself that one day I would write a book that would suit this temple of tat and ethnic splendour down to the ground. So imagine my delight when i arrived deeply jet lagged from Sydney ans staggered in to find Savvy Chic next to the new Anna Sui and Vera books. Yum! I know, I know I look like a woman who has just given birth: a mixture of disbelief, wonder and exhaustion on my face. So to the gift buyers at my beloved Anthro…thanks a million! You’ve no idea how much solace I have found from your romantic excesses all these years shamelessly scouring the sale’s table for a little bit of beauty.

YouTube is a bad place to make a blooper but the lady in the flower shop called my purple bunch Renunculae. In America these dreamy Victorian looking flowers with satin petals and velvet hearts are called Anemones. I love them either way and I used them in my first Savvy Chic Idea spot episode on You Tube. The ideas I will explore on this blog and on the Tube sprout both from my new book and from daily flights of inspiration.

Yesterday I wanted to decorate a small shop bought cake for my mother. I found a sweet banana cake from the local vietnamese bakery for $7.00 and promptly sliced off the butter icing rosettes to create a nice flat surface to decorate. I then beheaded a lovely large bunch of Anemone (a little spurge at $8.00) and arranged them like a milliner would arrange a 1940s hat for the races. The result reminded me of a Vertes illustration for Vogue. The different shades of purple and violet looked so chic against the cream icing and I let just enough icing pep out on top so that the cake still looked cake like…edible.

Then with a left over half dozen of the lovely blooms I found an unlikely vase. I opened a can of baked beans, scoffed the contents on toast, and rinsed out the tin. I think the classic Heinz British baked bean tin makes the best small vase. For a dinner party or a big boozy breakfast with Mimosas and strong Irish breakfast tea, I would dot these tins along the table, full of bright orange poppies or purple flowers like my beloved Anemone. Another nice (and cheap as chips) alternative vase idea are Italian tomato cans with bright fifties looking labels. It’s all about the label, but not the price darling! Never the price.

When I took my mother the cake she was amazed. It was like getting a bouquet in a box. There was not of that huffy “did you bake it yourself?” and we shared a slice with a cup of lapsang souchong. For more ideas about snazzy, frugal, tender home entertaining look to the pages of Savvy Chic and look forward to my next blog…ODD AND LOVELY PLACES TO PUT FLOWERS.

Yours with more for less!