If you know my family in 'real' life, chances are you've heard the tales of diamond rings and bags of rubies being passed around the living room for us to 'oooooo' over before bedtime. Growing up with a gemologist in the household has probably given me unrealistic expectations of what jewellery should look like. I don't have much in the way of 'real' jewellery myself but it doesn't stop me lusting over a beautiful piece when I see one.Read More
A male friend once said to me that the word 'brooch' was one of the wonderful words starting with 'B' that he associated with the fairer sex. I'm pretty sure at the time, I just raised my left eyebrow at him and gave him a scathing look (as I have been known to do, ahem). But when he elaborated, I could see his point and years later, his comment has stayed with me. Like blondes, breasts and Brigitte Bardot, the brooch is undoubtedly feminine, womanly and glamorous.
I've been collecting and wearing brooches for longer than I can remember. I inherited my great Aunt Betty's collection of costume jewellery to play dress-ups with at the age of about 7. Later, I also inherited pieces from both my grandmothers' collections and ever since, my stash of sparkly pieces has slowly grown. Charity shops, eBay, car boots and antique fairs, are all ripe picking grounds for pretty new additions. I'm fairly selective these days, only truly sparkling pieces or unusual shapes tend to catch my eye.
I don't have any pieces that are really worth anything very much. No diamonds and pearls. Nothing that would make the chaps at the Antique's Roadshow get excited and in a fluster. But I love my little brooches all the same. I like to wear several at a time, usually a couple of bigger ones paired with a teeny one or two. I used to worry about making permanent holes in soft fabrics with the pins but then I found this handy make-up sponge tip!
Pictured is only a small portion of my collection. I'm currently in two minds about how to display them. I used to hang them on these homemade Liberty fabric hoops but found they were a pain to take down when I wanted to wear them. I'm thinking a box frame like these might be the solution. At the moment they are pinned to a black velvet square in a box in my drawer.
Unlike my silk bed jackets and vintage nightwear, I do wear my brooches. Some have sadly lost a stone or two along the way but I know I'll get them repaired. I think they look best on black velvet, a heavy wool winter coat (or cape!), or dressing up a denim shirt. Do you wear brooches? Or are they too granny chic for you?
When I was just a small girl, I had a china collection. Little ceramic squirrels, a tiny tea set (with a teeny teapot, obvs), dainty vases and other little pieces. I was taught from a young age an appreciation of beautiful things. When my great Aunt Betty passed away, I was given her costume jewellery collection of paste sparkly brooches, clip-on earrings and random other pieces to dress up in. They weren't worth anything money wise, but to me they were treasures.
Around the time grunge came along, I was a sullen teenager, obsessed with Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. (I still look a tad sullen in this photo. It's just that I'm rubbish at photos!) Inspired by Love's baby-doll dresses and torn tatty slips (with good dose of my own gothic tendencies thrown in), I spent my weekends trawling Auckland's charity shops and markets looking for vintage clothing (in-between trips to the record shops). From the gorgeous old lace dresses to the nylon slips that I wore paired with fishnets and my Babes in Toyland t-shirt, it was a fun obsession and that's never really gone away. While I pass over anything nylon these days and I no longer wear slips as skirts, I'm still fairly obsessed with anything old and lacy. Unlike my teenage friends who wore ripped jeans and flannel shirts during the grunge years, I still have some of my more precious dresses packed away in boxes at my mother's (along with that Babes in Toyland t-shirt).
My sleepwear collection started with an incredibly delicate bed jacket in the softest pale blue silk, trimmed with cream lace. I found it tucked away in a tiny antiques stores in the historic small town of Akaroa, way down in New Zealand's South Island. London has obviously fuelled my obsession no end. Antiques markets, junk stores, charity shops, overpriced vintage stores - I'll always have a good rummage for the perfect piece. My eBay watch list is full of silk sleepwear - bed jackets and nightdresses, slips and sleepwear. The majority of my sleepwear and slip collection is from the 1930s through to the 1950s. Embroidered pieces in the palest of blush, peach and dreamy cream are my favourites.
"That's your colour," the old man on the antiques stall said to me when I recently bought a 1930s slip in pale rose. Made with the tiniest of hand stitches, miniature buttons, teeny tucks, hand embroidery and the prettiest laces. Old labels from New York, London or Paris only makes each piece even more charming. Some have never been worn. Others have tiny holes or marks. All are very much adored
I'm still looking for a pair of peach tap pants to add to my collection, although vintage underwear kind of grosses me out a bit. Preferably they'll be unworn, thanks. Do I wear the pieces from my collection? Rarely. If I do throw on a bed jacket like a blouse on a balmy summer's day, I spend most of it in fear of someone (probably me) spilling something on it - red wine, beetroot, coffee, makeup.
I know they should be worn. They're too beautiful to be tucked away in a drawer. Maybe I could just wear them I get up in the morning? Couple of problems there. 1. The majority of the time it's too cold in England to wear anything but a cosy robe first thing, and 2. then I'd definitely be guaranteed to get coffee or makeup on it in my half-awake state. Maybe one day, I'll have an old dressmakers dummy for displaying my treasures instead... What do you collect? I'd love to know! xx
The modern collector is a series about the treasured items we love and collections we keep. Less stamps more vintage lingerie.Read More