where 2 wear it

Arty New Zealand

Being something of a bookworm, I always like to read an author relevant to my travels. So down in Wellington, at the southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island, it has to be Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) – her pithy short stories are brilliant for all those hanging about moments inevitable when you’re on the road. Her childhood home in Tinakori Street has been turned into a delightful museum of domestic life in the last years of the 19th century.


Katherine found it unbearably stuffy and boring and couldn’t wait to get out! She left in 1903 to go to school in London and later became part of the Modernist group of writers and artists.

I plan to use this portrait of her in a bold red dress, painted by her friend Anne Estelle Rice, as an inspiration for an Alice & Co pattern.


A breezy three-and-a-half hour ferry ride west takes us across the Cook Strait and through some evocative mountain scenery where I daydream about being a pioneer. Although I don’t think I would have been a very good one as I enjoy my creature comforts too much!


Docking in the South Island at Picton, we pick up a hire car and take a short drive to Blenheim to spend the night in the nearby Marlborough Lodge. Originally built as a convent, the entire building was split into five giant pieces and moved a few miles down the road where it was re-assembled and renovated to its present grandeur.


That’s how they like to move house in New Zealand! While they were at it they also moved a dear little chapel and put it in the garden – a perfect venue for a wedding!

Such endeavours deserve a matching sartorial effort and my asymmetrical AFTER SIX DRESS feels just the ticket. This is so-named because it’s something I can happily wear in the day but which also looks great when you continue to drinks and some after-work fun at 6pm. Click here if you’d like to make one for yourself.


It’s perfect for sipping some of those fine Marlborough wines!


An hour’s drive west brings us to Mahana Estate up above the Tasman Bay and close to the Abel Tasman National Park, where wine and art come together in perfect harmony!

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You can visit  for a cellar door tasting, a long lunch, or really push the boat out and  spend the night in the luxurious modernist villa. Here there are so many fabulous works of art it’s better than spending the night in Tate Modern!

My ARTY PARTY DRESS is a fine match for this composition of multi-coloured slates by Winston Roeth. The dress has only one seam and relies on a striking fabric for its effect. These silk stripes came from Misan in Berwick St, Soho, London, where they always have some tempting pieces. Click here for details of how to get the pattern as a PDF.

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I’m not sure of the artist of this piece but I find its simplicity and colours appealing and it’s a fine match for a photo of my TOUJOURS TROUSERS and TOUJOURS TOP . Click here for details of how to download the PDF pattern to make up yourself.


There’s also an inspiring  Richard Long – made with his own enormous hands straight onto the wall using Mahana mud. Don’t try this at home!


I’m drawn to this sculpture by Christine Boswijk, one of New Zealand’s foremost ceramic artists. Here giant clay eggs made of coiled clay balance on tree-trunk plinths. These are slowly assimilating themselves into the landscape as nature takes over by spreading them with lichens and moss.


It’s difficult to tear myself away from this mesmerising  place but on the way back to the airport at Nelson there’s just time for a stop off at the World of Wearable Art Museum. Home of the international annual competition known as WOW, which explores the boundaries between art and fashion, this attracts hundreds of entrants competing for substantial prize money and internships with international designers. Maybe I should have a go!


This is one of last year’s winners – perhaps not for everyday wear but certainly food for thought!

All images © nigeltisdall.com

Please get in touch here if you’d like to order an Alice & Co made to measure outfit or download one of my PDF patterns to make something yourself, whether for travelling or staying at home.

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