sabato 25 luglio 2009


I want to make clear first that I have some obsession for black and white clothes. I have, to make ourselves understood, a white dress with black polka dots, and a black dress with white polka dots; a black skirt with white embroidery, and a white skirt with a black pattern. A black dress with white flowers. A white dress with black and white flowers printed on it. Two white dresses with a slightly different black pattern. A white dress with black borders. A black and white jumper. A black halter top printed in white. Countless black and white gingham items...
Er, I think you got it.

This morning my friend Sara and I put on comfortable shoes, fresh white cotton dresses (they're not fresher than every other colour, but they look like they are), and took some water bottles, fans and sunglasses; we rolled our sleeves up, wore a ferocious expression, and we went out for a raid - er, some shopping at the local market.
When I say "some shopping" I don't render the idea of what going shopping with Sara is like.
More than a hobby, it's a mission: when we go out shopping together, we walk for, at least, five hours, with no breaks, following a schedule that would make Lt. Hartman pale.

Sara, goddamn her!, found out some super cute denim high-waisted Capri (the last pair, *sigh*), and an eye-candy ruffled shirt.
I found nothing.
Well, at least, until I saw this.

There and then, I thought I've never seen anything that reminded me more of Jackie Kennedy.
But I felt shivers down my spine when I realized what I was staring at: the most expensive stall in the whole market.
As usual.
I always like things I can't afford: a gift that I inherited from my mother, who is able to look at an entire clothes shop where everything -from skirts to coats - is half-price, and like the only pair of gloves that are full price.

I shyly took a glance on a random label - and my heart sank: 150 € (nearly 215 $) for a vest?!
What the hell...?

My friend tried to encourage me ("C'mon, don't give up hope... Maybe they have sales"), but I knew she was only trying to make me forget that she bought the last pair of those Capri.
But, unexpectedly, she was right.
Actually, not only they had sales, but the jacket in point was, miracolously, one of those items that, having a little flaw, can not be sold at the full price (someone told me the English for this kind of clothes is "seconds": can someone tell me if it's correct?).

So, I took courage and I pronounced the terrible words.

Nobody was happier than me to hear the answer: 15 € - about 20 dollars!
So, here I am, now. With my brand-new black and white jacket.
Onassis, here I am!

venerdì 24 luglio 2009

The Lost Brigade

A little bit of history, today, dear readers of mine.
My family's one, actually.
But Italian history, too.

Let's start from that ring there: I wear it most of the time, wedging another ring into it to make it the right size - I have ridiculously small fingers, and it's way too big for me.
The ring in point was my grand-grandfather's, Anchise Cioni (The 'C' and 'A' in the front), who died in Greece during the WWII, lefting her wife Elena a widow and his two little daughters, Alberta (my granny) and Vanda, two orphans when they were babies, not even school-age.
Elena was sort of an unusual woman: born in the 1890s in a tiny village in North Italy (population oscillating between 50 souls when the times were florid, to a dozen when times became hard); daughter of farmers, she went to school - quite an eccentricity for a country where, at the time, 90% of people, and nearly 100% of women, were illiterate, - and learned to write and read; then she worked as a maiden for an influent family, whose members, for some funny unknown reason, used to call her "Lena".
She was no beauty, but she managed to marry Anchise, who was more than a handsome man, hiring him away from her much prettier sister; Anchise was named "The English" by friends because of his fair hair and eyes (uncommon in a country where 90% of people have a dark complexion) and tall height.
I inherited no height from him, but people say I have his hair and skin, freckles included.
Nothing is left of him (Even Elena's wedding ring, the only golden thing she'd ever had, was confiscated by the Fascist army to fund the war) except from some books, a blurry photography or two, and this ring - the only thing that won't become dust in a couple of decades.

The medal below has a more interesting story.
It was coined in Vienna in 1863, for the circa 3000 men who were part of the Brigata Estense, that is to say, the private army of Francesco V D'Este, Duke of Modena.
That name does not ring any bell?
Of course not.
It was a damn hard work to find out what the hell this "Brigata Estense" was.
Well, I finally found out that, in 1859, the Brigata Estense gave Garibaldi hell, and made the Italian Unity stagger for a while.
But, as we all know, history is written by the winner - and Garibaldi won, after all.
So, the Brigata fell into oblivion, and not many people even know it existed.
But this is its story.

June 11, 1859.
Sun has yet to rise when Francesco V, last Duke of Modena, jumps on his horse, hardly restraining emotion - a solemn departure that fits his romantic soul.
He has just been defeated by the Piedmontese army, and he has to abandon the city imediately, and for ever.
But he does not flee alone. He is the only sovereign who is followed by his army into exile.
Those soldiers follow him in Mantua for nothing else but devotion - the Duke is unable to pay them, luck is bad, and their future, more than precarious.
In addition to that, Garibaldi tries everything to convince them to come back: they're making a fool of him in front of his men, and in front of Austria. If the Duke is still in charge, the Italian Unity is in danger.
He tries to buy them, then to threaten them. But, for the following four years, those young men stay by Francesco's side.
He himself tries to convince them to go back home, not wanting them to be punished, or their families threatened.
He discharged the troops, but only 172 people, out of 3000, choose to go back. The others stay.
Meanwhile, about 1000 people come from Modena and ask to join the Brigata. The story of its courage and loyalty is spreading fastly through Italy.

But the destiny of the Brigata is doomed. In 1863 Francesco and his wife, Aldegonda - whose eyes are tear-filled, and who burst into tears before the ceremony is over - decorate every man with a medal, whose back beared a sentence.

Fidelitati et costantie in adversis.
Loyalty and constancy in adversity.

And there I come into play.

About one year ago, I was ransacking my grandmother's attic looking for a mourning veil that was my grand-grandmother's, when I run into this little dusty metal disc. There and then, I though it was some old tin cork or something. When I found out it was a medal, and that old, I was sure it was some worthless modern reproduction. What a surprise when I asked an antique dealer for information, and he said that, being a fan of the Brigata story, he had been looking for a copy of it for nearly 20 years, and he offered to buy it from me!

I never found out who was the brave relative of me who followed his prince that morning of June 1859, but I have a feeling that he was Sante Cioni, my grand-grand-grand-grand-father, born in 1840, dead in 1927.
But, whoever he was, he had to be nearly my age when he left his home, his family and friends and maybe his fiancè, and everything he had, to go far and away for who knows how much time.

Once I made researches to build my family tree: I found out that four generations of people was born, and died, in the same mycroscopic village, Camatta; population: about 300 people in the 1850s (Wiki).

We, modern people, used as we are to travel here and there everytime we like to, probably don't understand what it was like, in 1859, to leave one's house for a place, Mantua, that was 70 km (44 miles) far: at the time, when everybody born and die in the same town, in the same house, and never see another place, in a whole life, it looked as distant as the moon.
But Sante, or whoever he was, left everything behind and followed his leader, on his feet, for 70 kilometers, and remained where his leader was - a foreign country, where everybody spoke German and stared at them as they were a crowd of country bumpkins - for more than four years.
I wonder if anyone, now, would even think about doing something like that.

giovedì 23 luglio 2009

Random hearts

Just some random clothes mixing, including my new jacket-y.
Yep. I was bored. Too hot and sultry to do anything useful, today...
And my parents stole all my new books to read 'em while they're on the beach - yeah, now my family (mum, dad, two younger brothers) is in Croatia on holiday (with my new books, and I repeat it, in case someone didn't notice - they were *my* books, including Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Stieg Larsson's trilogy, my beloved Lolita and Cats in the Belfry) and I'm here, home, with 43°C (about 110*F), four cats between my feet.
And working like a modern Stakanov.
Or Cinderella.
Or both.
You know, I have to drive for 44 km (like, uhm, 27 miles? I'm no good in interpreting conversion tables) every morning , and when I finally arrive to the office, no matter what I wear, I'm bathed in sweat and nervy as a cat.
I don't like driving at all, by the way.
And, you know, it's not easy to look impeccable, when the back of your white-linen dress is crinklier than a Neapolitan mastiff and your hair - the same hair that in the morning looked flawlessly curly and shiny after their nighthly pincurls threatement - look like you've survived the sinking of the Titanic.
Too bad for an elegant 1940s secretary wannabe.

Come on, fellow bloggers, cry for me.

mercoledì 22 luglio 2009

Straight Jacket

Or, how to revamp an old jacket and come to enjoy the thread and needle.

Have you ever tidy up your wardrobe, and found some pieces of clothing you don't remember when, where or why the hell you have bought?
To me, it happens on a daily basis.
Maybe because I have too much clothes. Maybe.
Or maybe because my closet is some sort of junk shop where I use to gather everything, even remotely similar to an item of clothing, that I stumble into.
things that I recover from my relatives' wardrobes (my aunts and cousins seem to have quite a good taste in clothes, quite a bad proclivity to put on weight, and some interesting tendency on giving everything they can't wear any more to me - so that everytime they buy some fine skirt or dress, it seem to always end up in my closet);
shirts that were my mother's in the golden days;
clothes that I find at second-hand markets;
and, obviously, things that I bought when I was in high school: and that now I wonder what I had in mind when I purchased something like that.

Well, I recently found out that, apart from a disquieting amount of clothes, in the deepest profundities of my closet - buried under tons of polka-dot fabric - layed also a wondrous gadget: a sewing machine.

After some idle practising on socks and handkerchiefs, I decided to put myself to the test and try something more challenging.
I took one of the countless clothes that I didn't know what to do with - a white, anonymous, squared cotton jacket, and I revamped it - well, sort of - in a (very approximate) imitation of a circa 1940s jacket I've seen in Bologna, into the most expensive vintage store in town.
Here's the result.

Now I'm taking a proof on an old black-and-white two-piece suimsuit.
Who knows what it's going to crop out from it...

venerdì 10 luglio 2009

Whoops. I did it again!

I just finished to say I've got too many shoes.
Definitely too much shoes.
Keep that in mind, folks, because they're my famous last words.

Yesterday I casually ended up into that lovely little shoe store - that by accident had women's shoes 50% off sale.
By accident, I said. I did not keep it under strict surveillance waiting for the yellow posters to come out. I didn't, and don't look me that way.

Well, what was I saying? Oh, yes.
Casually I dropped on into this shop - that coincidentally sells ballroom dancer shoes for tango, swing and Charleston dancers.
Gorgeous dancer shoes, I have to say.
I was walking around pretending to be highly disappointed by every single pair of shoes in here - and slightly disgusted by some of them in particular (primarily to hide the fact I was literally drooling on half the shop)... And then - then I saw them.

It was love at first sight.
Those blurry photos do not do them justice.
I am actually pretty ashamed by how much did they actually cost, but oh, well: those two little orphan beauties needed a home. And I watched Scandal at Scourie too many times when I was a child to stay cold in front of their need.
They deserved a cozy house, and I gave it to 'em.
Am I a charitable person, or not?

martedì 7 luglio 2009

The glove collector

Today I was on a one-day-long holiday, and, what do you think I've done all the time at home?
Did I tidy up the house, that is in a great need to?
Did I drive out dust bunnies (now bigger than my own cats) from under my bed?
Did I clean the bathroom, where limestone is creating stalagmites under the sink?

Oh, no. No. Too easy.
Are you wondering what I did?

I filed my shoes.
And hats.
And gloves.

And, guess what? I found out that I have really too many shoes.
And hats.
And, of course, too many gloves.

But at the same time (while dust bunnies went on growing under my bed, and stalactites kept on forming suggestive landscapes on my basin), I recovered these two little beauties from the early 50s. Aren't they cute? And I had them for free!
The hat is made of plain cloth, the gloves are cotton cloth ones, I think.

Hello Bluebird

Nice dress, isn't it?
I found it at a local monthly antique market, and I firmly believe that, for once, I stumbled on a true piece of vintage (1950s or early 1960s, maybe).
It's made of thick, blue polka dot cotton, with nice white Dorset buttons and a heavy metallic zip on the side. No label, no size. It was too large and long for me, but somehow I managed to make it fit - the belt is an addition (the original one was a blue threadbared one).
Don't you think that hat (a present from a good friend) goes well with it?