Petal & Pins

Month: November, 2012

Ugly Chic

© Sandra Alcorn 2012

© Sandra Alcorn 2012


I would have loved to see ‘Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations’ at MOMA in New York earlier in the year but when you live oceans away the next best thing is delving into the book that accompanied the exhibition, it’s a fascinating read with wonderful images.

In the chapter ‘Ugly Chic’ Miuccia Prada says an important part of her work is exploring what beauty means today and deconstructing conventional ideas of beauty. She gives her Fall 2010 collection as an example – an analysis of women’s obsessions with feminine details such as bows and frills but using colours that might be considered by many as ugly.

The French have an epithet  – jolie laide, literally pretty/ugly  the dictionary definition being ‘a good looking ugly woman’. The book describes a jolie laide as “an erotic alchemist whose potent allure – an elixir of nerve, will and ardor – transcends her homeliness”. The examples given being Maria Callas and Schiaparelli’s muse Maria Casares.

I would say the fabulous Diana Vreeland was a jolie laide. Working at Harper’s Bazaar from 1937 to 1962 and then Vogue from 1963 to 1971 her work and style often challenged and expanded ideas of beauty.

One of the exhibitions I did get to see this year was ‘Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland’ which was on at Palazzo Fortuny when I was in Venice. A new documentary  movie about her has also been released – Diana Vreeland:The Eye Has To Travel – so I’m looking forward to seeing that.

Purple Posie

© Sandra Alcorn 2012

© Sandra Alcorn 2012



Petals Like Feathers

© Sandra Alcorn 2012

I add feathers to some of my bridal and evening designs – they are wonderful mixed in with lace and silk chiffon – blurring edges, and adding lightness to the slightest gesture.

The petals of  ‘poor man’s orchids’ create the same effect for the Garden Fairy’s Wardrobe.


© Sandra Alcorn 2012

Violet sundress from my Garden Fairy’s Wardrobe ‘High Tea’ card set.



Almost Summer

© Sandra Alcorn 2012

I’m fond of Forget-Me-Nots the whimsical name is as enchanting as the tiny yellow centred blue flowers. As a small child I helped my father plant a punnet of the seedlings.

I don’t remember them being so prolific in Sydney as they are here in Hobart, but they are not so good when they start to go to seed with a curly haired dog who likes to explore the garden beds – the trick is to pull them out before they do.

Inevitably you think you’ve got them all then Agnes will appear with evidence you haven’t, and living up to their name – the following year a swathe of blue will appear again at the onset of summer.


Yesterday’s rain made the roses sparkle with droplets of water in the sun. I wished I’d picked a bunch in the morning but looking down on them from the sunroom window gave me an idea. I pulled out the cotton yo-yo flowers I’d made with no particular project in mind – in my imagination they have been a quilt, embellished numerous things and been teamed with vintage bamboo handles for a bag.

Patchwork and I have always had a lot of false starts – the only ones I’ve ever finished have been for gifts as baby quilts – I wonder if it’s because I’ve had a finite size and deadline to work within? Mostly I enjoy the process of playing with colour and pattern, by not making the pieces into something gives the opportunity to play again.

Yesterday’s idea is the perfect way to use them – on display to enjoy but easily rearranged and re-imagined.

Aquilegia, Agapanthus & Sugar Flowers From Paris.

dress made out of Aquilegia flowers

© Sandra Alcorn 2012

It’s a year to the day that I created my first Garden Fairy dress so it seemed apt to do another using the same flowers. The aquilegias in the garden are in lots of shades of pinks and purples. They line the garden path to my front door and have self seeded into the cracks in the paving down the side of the house. In the first dress a year ago I also used the leaves but this time I combined the flowers with some of the seed pods that have already started to form.

One of the pleasures of having a garden is sharing – so this week I swapped some grape hyacinth bulbs for some agapanthus. Another pleasure is the surprises they bring – the colour of the agapanthus are unknown so time will tell if they’re white or blue!

Well, a year on the fairy’s wardrobe has grown considerably, found a home in this blog and I’m pleased to say the first edition of the gorgeous Garden Fairy’s Wardrobe cards are now available through my Petal & Pins shop.

There are two collections in the first edition – ‘High Tea’ which includes chrysanthemum, lilac, aquilegia leaf, fuchsia and violet dresses and ‘Spring Gala’ which features rhododendron, plum blossom, iris, paper daisy and peony gowns – only a few of which you will have seen on this blog.

How will I mark the occasion? I’ll plant the agapanthus and bake a cake – perhaps decorating it with the tiny sugar flowers I bought in Paris.

Hippy Chic

© Sandra Alcorn 2012

© Sandra Alcorn 2012

Mademoiselle Cécile Brunner

Cécile Brunner

© Sandra Alcorn 2012

I love these little roses, they last for ages and the bushes will flower from now right through to autumn. Tiny vases of them are scattered around the house and posies given to friends and clients. I’ve sugar coated them to decorate cakes and always try to slip a petite bunch into my bag for my mother when traveling to Sydney.

Cécile Brunner posies

%d bloggers like this: