Sunday, 21 July 2013

Handmade Country Wedding

In April my eldest daughter, Evie, was married. Her husband, Zack, is a country boy and his parents have a farm in country Victoria so they decided to have the wedding there. Zack's parents embraced the task of hosting the wedding with great gusto. They have two sons, and the eldest was married overseas, so they were thrilled to have a wedding to plan and to be involved with.

I had no idea that when country people say they're going to do it themselves, they really mean it. They hired a marquee and dance floor and caterers, but they did just about everything else from scratch.
OK, so I know that many handy people can sew dresses (we didn't) and even maybe make the cake (Zack's mum, Ros, did that) and most people are involved with decorating the venue to some extent, but did Zack and his father Kym know what they were in for when they had the bright idea of making all the furniture themselves? Kym used all the boards he had pulled up from the floor of the woolshed and combined it with found timber from the property to make rustic and truly original tables and chairs for all the guests. This took them a couple of months, and they were made and stored in the woolshed. Then, a week before the wedding, there was a huge dust storm. I don't know whether you've ever been in a woolshed, but the floor is raised so that the sheep can be penned underneath, and the boards well-spaced for ventilation. The dust blew right through the shed  and up through the floor, covering everything. Guess who got the job of cleaning the furniture? Well, handy farm skill learned, how to use an air compressor to blow off the dirt.

Zack's Uncle Chris is a carpenter and he made all the special pieces of furniture, such as the amazing bridal chairs. Separately, they are halves, together a whole. Chris made all of the outdoor furniture, including a rocking chair.

One week before the event, this was a bare paddock covered with dust from the storm. Kym had lovingly tended the patch of grass for months right through a typically dry Australian summer in a drier country region. Two tanker loads of water and lots more from the mains went into this grass. It was the only patch of grass for twenty kilometres (some of the locals said 200!) Keeping the rabbits and the kangaroos off it was a challenge.
A couple of days before the wedding, friends and neighbours  of Kym and Ros  arrived for the makeover. One day before, in a military style operation, holes were sunk, plants in pots were dropped in and mulched around with sand, temporary fencing erected, a "dunny" built and plumbed for the male guests (the ladies' were getting a Porta Loo), a kitchen built and plumbed in the marquee and all the furniture moved in. According to my partner, Geoff, he and I failed the efficacy test and we were put on manual labour.
Kym and Zack had also built a pavilion for the wedding ceremony in the middle of the olive grove. Three hours before the ceremony, this was trimmed with tulle and plants were sunk around. Of course, they built all the pews for the guest seating as well.

Kym acquired a windmill. As he says, when people visit a farm in Australia, they expect to see a windmill, so they had to get one. Besides, he needed something to mount the lighting on. He also borrowed a third wheat silo from a neighbour to hide the car park from view. (As you do).
Inside the marquee, things were coming together on the Friday. I washed down the tables and we set them up. Evie wanted a sweet stand full of lolly jars, so of course the boys had built one. It was a hit with the adults as well as with the children. My favourite piece of indoor décor were the concrete sheep troughs filled with ice to chill the drinks. Zack and Kym manoeuvred them the ancient way, on rollers.
Evie had spent a lot of time creating beautiful invitations, and she also applied her calligraphy talents to the place settings. She used paper cake doilies for place mats and penned each persons name on them. Many guests took them home as souvenirs. Evie had also spent months hunting in vintage bazaars for old pieces of crystal and silverware, which featured on every table. She also found an eight branch candelabra for the bridal table and longingly wished for a chandelier. Much to her surprise, one appeared overhead on the wedding day. (Thanks Al).
One of Kym's former careers before farming was a florist, and he did all the flowers, with a little help from his mother, Pat. He built the amazing floral stands, then filled them. Of course, he did all the bridal flowers too.

 Zack's mum, Ros, had her army of friends and relations baking for weeks to provide afternoon tea for the guests while the bridal couple were off having photos taken. Afternoon tea was served from the back of Uncle Chris' 1929 Chevrolet ute.
My one small contribution on the creative side was the doiley lanterns. I also collected and supplied 110 vintage white table napkins. The bride and her sister made bunting. Warning! Doiley lanterns are fragile. We had intended to put LED tea lights in the lanterns but forgot to buy them. They looked beautiful anyway.
Evie wanted something more interesting than a chalkboard to display to guests what table they were seated on, and had the idea of writing on an old window. Uncle Chris drove 400 kilometres to get one.
Geoff and I had gone up to the country a few days early with the intention of helping to set things up. We thought this would be a 9-5 job. Kym and Zack worked from dawn to midnight the week before the wedding to get everything ready, on top of months of other work.  Ros held the fort in the background and dealt with various crises, including the florist not having received the flower order!!! We city slickers couldn't handle the pace and fell into an exhausted heap by (a late) dinner time. I went "home" to iron bridesmaid's dresses and various assorted glad rags.
The end product was truly amazing and unique. The bridal couple have beautiful photos taken on the family property and at the neighbouring winery. The weather was perfect.
What a very special wedding

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Vintage Fashion Consultant No.1 - My Mother

See my Etsy store: Louisa Amelia Jane

Whenever I find a lovely garment or accessory and I need more information about it, I take it to Mum's and ask her about it. After all, she was a young woman going to dances and dating in the 50s, she made her own clothes, and she worked in a department store selling patterns and haberdashery. She knows what was in, what was passé, and what came later when she was a young mother.

Here is Mum, also known as Lorraine to most, as a young child in about 1940, pictured with her older sister, Joyce.
 She was so proud of her ringlets. She remembers wearing her hair to bed in rags. When she was in Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital with scarlet fever in 1944, she remembers being disgusted when the nurses plaited her hair, telling them proudly, "My mother doesn't plait my hair, she curls it." She was there for seven months, and not allowed to see her mother once. How hospitals have changed, thank goodness. Just look at the beautiful way the girls are dressed. Her parents had very little money, but my grandmother always took pride in having her girls beautifully dressed. Notice their matching embroidered dresses. I love Joyce's shoes that tie with a bow. Whenever I see photos in old knitting books of girls with ringlets in their hair, I think of this photo, and I think early 1940s.

My next photo is not one of sartorial splendour, and my mother always laughs about it. Here she is as a 14 year old, in the Goulburn River on a family holiday. She is modelling some not very gorgeous knitted bathers, on the right. They were daringly two-piece, and my grandmother made her wear her cotton singlet underneath for modesty's sake, as you can see. I imagine that these bathers not only went saggy when wet, but also embarrassingly clingy.

So, therefore we have... two-piece bathers - 1950. Knitted bathers still commonly worn - 1950.

When Mum left school she worked at several jobs, but as an older teenager she worked at Reed's Department Store, on the corner of Malvern Road and Chapel Street in Prahran, Melbourne. Later this store became Moore's, and is now Pran Central Shopping Centre, its distinctive dome a landmark in the local area. In this once grand store, Mum worked in the haberdashery department, and even did the odd modelling job. I was recently chatting to her about Madame Weigel and her sewing patterns, mentioned in the last post. She said, "Yes, they were very popular in the 40s, but by the time I started at Reed's in the mid 50s they were being phased out." Thanks again, Mum - Weigel's patterns - 1940s - early 50s.
Here is Mum at a dance with my father in about 1955 or 1956. Dad worked at Reed's too, also in haberdashery I think. Clearly, it's where they met.

Mum and Joyce made all their outfits themselves. Joyce was a superior seamstress and made quite complicated ensembles, and lingerie. Either Mum or Joyce would have made this dancing frock. You can see it has a halter neck, a ruched bodice and a full chiffon skirt. Mum has teemed it with a light throw and silver dancing shoes (and an enormous corsage, thanks Dad).  Mum loved to dance, but sadly, Dad hated it, so she gave it up after they married.

I love this photo of Mum sitting on a fence, on a date with Dad, (the photographer).

She made her floral print skirt, and probably the high necked blouse underneath. A cardigan was a necessity, of course. I recently showed Mum some garments which I thought may have been either late 50s or early 60s. She resolved the dilemma by pronouncing the dress "60s, because the zip's in the back. All zips, in dresses, skirts or pants, were in the side in the 50s," and added, "and only racy women wore trousers." She never did. Also, a  cardigan I thought was 60s, could easily be from the 50s, she informed me.
Here is Mum as a bride with her father in 1957.
 Her dress was a beautiful damask finished satin. The long sleeves came to a point over the top of the hand. She told me that it was the fashion in the 50s to be married in a full, mid-calf length gown, but she opted for the traditional length. It was also popular for the bridesmaids  to wear the shorter length, and often to wear matching but different coloured dresses, e.g. pink, blue and lemon, or pale green, lemon and apricot.
A friend recently gave me a lovely little straw basket embroidered with raffia flowers. Mum pronounced it "Definitely 50s. I used to sell the kits to do the embroidery at Reed's. They were all the rage. The basket is seagrass, but the embroidery is real raffia."
About some jewellery I'd found, she pronounced, "No, we didn't wear anything like that." Strike 50s, investigate 40s and early 60s.?????
Mum, I've always wondered what I would ever do without you. This consultancy is just adding another dimension to my need.