Wax Works

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATop: Miss Shop @ Myer

Skirt: Anna Devine

Belt: Modcloth

Shoes: Comfortview via One Stop Plus

I’m a huge fan of the bold, and brightly coloured wax prints that are so synonymous with the fashion of of West Africa. The incongruous and irreverent patterns really speak to me, and I’ve been delighted to watch them start to hit the mainstream market. Where the saturated bright colours and big prints might overwhelm slight figures, they seem to particularly suit bigger bodies which provide a larger canvas to play with.

I’ve been a bit too anxious about cultural appropriation, and aware of my own ignorance about the political and sociological history of Ankara, or wax printed fabrics, to wear it before now. I didn’t want to be the (mostly) white girl wearing something in ignorance, like the people wearing Native American head-dresses to music festivals.

I was at the Finders Keepers Market in Melbourne a few months ago, and came across Anna Devine‘s stall of beautiful wax print skirts. I was stopped in my tracks, and meandered over to have a little fondle. Anna overheard me telling my friend why I couldn’t wear the prints, and she told me the revelationary news that “African” wax printed fabric is actually considerably more global than that.

The leading manufacturer of Ankara fabric is Vlisco, a Dutch company that started producing wax print fabrics in 1846, after being inspired by the Indonesian Batik brought back to Holland by the Dutch East India Trading Company. There’s a fascinating article on Slate about the history if you’re interested in reading more.

The fabrics usually have names – this one is called “Record” – most with stories behind them, which you can read on the Vlisco website (I got a giggle out of “You Fly, I Fly” which depicts a bird escaping an open cageĀ  and is worn by newlywed women as a warning to their husbands!).

The skirt is very full, and the fabric is quite stiff, but I believe it softens with repeated wears and washes. It’s 100% cotton, and gorgeously bright. In all honesty I had a little trouble finding something to wear it with – Anna suggests a plain black tee, and I’ve often see the bold prints paired successfully with crisp white shirts, too. This plummy roll-sleeve t-shirt from Miss Shop works fine.

I was so glad to discover I could wear the big bold prints of Ankara fabric without offending anyone’s culture, or treading on anyone’s toes. I’ve since bought a second skirt (from Prodigal Daughter in Canberra) and I’ve got my eye on a few other pieces I’ve seen around the traps.

 

Tit for Tat

Frocks and Frou Frou Frocks and Frou Frou Frocks and Frou Frou Top: City Chic

Skirt: Target

Shoes: Carla Milani

Tonight we ring in a new year, hoo-bloody-rah! It’s a good time to take stock of the previous twelve months, to gird your loins for another year, and to set yourself some resolutions if that’s your thing.

My friends R, JC and I have always preferred to set a theme for the upcoming year rather than individual goals. Themes like “Expand Horizons”, or “Take Chances”.

My theme for 2013 was “Survive”, 2014 was “Rebuild”. I’ve done both of those things, and I’m in a much better place today than I was twelve months ago. My sister is well, I’m surrounded by a network of incredibly loving and supportive people. I have a home that I love and a job where I feel challenged and valued. New people have come into my life who are enriching it every day. I’m happy. Hopefully 2015 will continue on the same trajectory, so my theme for the year will be something along the lines of new growth, building momentum, having direction.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that a few months ago I gave myself something to remind myself to value the person that I am.

I call myself Lilli, but most of you know by now that the name on my birth certificate is Lian. It’s a Chinese name in honour of my Chinese grandfather, and it means “The Graceful Willow”. This is a bit of a running joke with me, because I’m not particularly graceful, and I’m certainly not willowy. At the start of this year I discovered a Chinese constellation called The Willow and it inspired me to research what my name actually symbolised.

It turns out my Mum got it right. In Chinese mythology the willow tree stands for strength, but it’s a strength that comes from being able to bend without breaking. It’s a tree that can withstand great storms and survive. It also symbolises resilience, because it has deep roots that allow it to recover even after it’s been cut back.

I thought about it for a while, consulted some friends, did a few preliminary sketches, and then finally handed everything over to the talented Melanie Knight at Forgotten Son who designed and inked this wonderful, permanent reminder of something I should be very proud of having: Strength and resilience. An abiding and unwavering sense of self. Deep convictions. A strong network. The ability to withstand challenging times and recover from setbacks.

Frocks and Frou Frou Starry TattooSo. That’s the serious stuff done, now on to the fashion! Do you like my top? I somehow missed it on the City Chic website, and it wasn’t until I saw it being worn by someone on the Aussie Curves FB page that I spotted it. It reminds me so much of this Marlies Dekkers bra that I couldn’t resist. It’s sexy and strappy, and a bit edgy, and not something I thought I’d be able to pull off, but I really like it.

Frocks and Frou FrouI’ve worn it today in an all-black ensemble with a floaty skirt from Target and some great new Carla Milani flats that I bought en-masse from a little stall that had set up shop in Melbourne Central.

Carla Milani FlatsThe guy who served me was a total riot, and I ended up walking away with three pairs of ballet flats, but they’re soft, leather, kid-lined (no socks required), cheap, and he promised they wouldn’t give me blisters (which they haven’t) so I don’t feel too guilty about it.

My bangle is very important to me too. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about why yet so I’m just going to put up a photo of it and let you admire it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHappy New Year, my lovely readers, and here’s to a wonderful and fulfilling 2015 for all of us.

Love, The Graceful Willow.