Tairua’s Jean Clarke created an entire fashion show of 50s outfits using items from the op boutique. Photo / Alison Smith.
Tairua’s Jean Clarke can achieve Audrey Hepburn style from second-hand duvet covers – a superpower showcased in a one-of-a-kind fashion show like no other.
The former hairdresser and secretary who never had a professional training in tailoring spent hundreds of hours designing 1950s fashion worn by glamorous icons from Hepburn to Marilyn Monroe to Elvis.
But these are no ordinary copies of the glamorous originals.
“The brief was ‘everything must come from an operations store'”, explains Jean.
Jean and fellow society member Auriol Farquhar began searching hundreds of photos online to find styles worn by a handful of well-known 1950s celebrities before perusing op shops in Thames, Tairua and Waihi.
“There were looks that I was almost able to recreate with just a bit of adjustment, but I just couldn’t find one of the items, like a jacket in a Doris Day outfit. So that was back to square one”, explains Jean .
“Other times I’ve used a duvet cover because it had this beautiful spray of pink flowers and I was like, ‘That’s going to make a Princess Margaret dress’.”
Jean used the fabric on the back of this quilt for another dress, working for several hours almost every day for three months to sew the entire collection.
Half of the original items came from Tairua Op Shop, where the team of female volunteers set aside clothes for the cause when they saw something they thought would be useful.
The 82-year-old seamstress has recreated the looks of Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Margaret, Doris Day, Audrey Hepburn and an unknown 1950s starlet.
For men, she sewed the outfits of Elvis, Bing Crosby, Rossano Brazzi and Humphrey Bogart.
There are cigarette pants, swing dresses, a wedding dress, ball gowns, as well as four legged outfits, teddy boy outfits and a classic Elvis costume.
Contrary to the Scottish proverb, you can’t make a silk handbag out of a sow’s ear – which means you can’t create a quality product from inferior materials – Jean has created beautiful outfits and used her imagination to see the potential of many op shop elements.
Models from the Tairua Heritage Players acting group have been kitted out for several weeks and warned not to lose or gain weight ahead of the event, which also features celebrity chef Jo Seagar as a special guest.
The fundraising retro fashion show at the Tairua Bowling Club on November 19 is one of four events hosted by the Tairua Heritage Society from November 17-20, including a series of Roaring Twenties plays on Thursday November 17, a reserved dinner, the fashion show and afternoon tea. on Saturday November 18 and an antique tour on Sunday November 19.
Jean began sewing with the encouragement of her father and her aunt’s borrowed Singer sewing machine which had a hand-turned handle, and sewed her own wedding dress.
She says sewing is a great asset to have in life.
“It’s very satisfying when it’s over, and there’s a bit of pride that I did that. When I look at all the outfits, I’m like, ‘God, did I really do all that?’ “
Limited tickets are available from the Tairua Information Center on 07 864 7575 or email [email protected]