Frances Morton's 70s suede Christian Dior dress, left, and 'David Bowie' jumpsuit, right. Photos: Meek Zuiderwyk

Into the blue: Frances Morton's life in clothes

Frances Morton has been listening to people tell her about their life in clothes for Metro for the last four years. Here, she signs off with a look at her own wardrobe.

My grandmother Nancie Morton made this green dress (below) when she was a young teacher in Auckland in the 1930s. Her mother was a seamstress and taught her to sew. It has incredibly fine embroidery and would have been saved for special occasions.

I remember Grandma kept some dance cards from that era with gentlemen’s names lined up in neat handwriting. She ended up marrying a farmer and living in Papamoa. He died when my dad was young, and my dad died when I was young, so I didn’t know either of them, but I’ve always been surrounded by strong females. Grandma had very firm ideas about a lot of things, especially clothing and quality. The dress is so delicate I don’t dare wear it, but I love to look at it. It belongs in a museum.

Morton doesn’t dare wear this embroidered dress made by her grandmother, but she loves looking at it. Photo: Meek Zuiderwyk

I grew up in Tauranga, so had the great advantage of having to leave home to go to university. I went to Victoria, and my friend David Benge got me a job helping him run Orientation Week 2000. I’ve kept the crew t-shirt ever since. It reminds me of picking Supergrass up from the airport and smoking spliffs as we drove around the bays, or putting on Shihad’s first gig at Wellington Town Hall. Recently, I worked with David again at Vice New Zealand. That job was mostly editing a website and making documentaries, but we put on some fun parties, too.

One semester break I went to Montreal on a student work programme and ended up in Mexico. I was on an all-night bus trip and as dawn broke, the bus smashed into a ute filled with workers and sent them down a ravine. Horrific. My first instinct was to write about it, which I think has something to do with me becoming a journalist — trying to process a situation to make sense of it. I bought this bangle (main photo) from some villagers after the crash and I’m amazed I’ve never lost it.

I call this (main image, right) my David Bowie jumpsuit. I got it from a secondhand shop in Los Angeles when I was a new mum. My husband, Michael Duignan, is a filmmaker and had some business there, so when our daughter Ramona was five months old, we moved over for a while. It’s a time of your life when you don’t get much sleep, but every day was sunny, we ate salad for dinner outside, and went to Echo Park Lake a lot. It’s a crazy, colourful, velour jumpsuit and reminds me that although parenting is full on, you can still have fun with it. I interviewed Erykah Badu around then and she told me having a baby meant “just another chicken wing in the soup”.

I bought the gold python shoes in the East Village to wear to my wedding, on the morning of my wedding. Michael and I already had a kid and a house and every time we talked about planning a traditional wedding, it didn’t feel right. New York is a special place for us and we were in town for me to run the marathon, so we got in touch with some friends and said, “What are you doing Friday? Do you want to come down to City Hall?” I had a 1930s satin gown from a vintage place in Chelsea, but no shoes. Luckily, there was an Italian shoe shop downstairs from where we were staying. The shoes happened to be lined with turquoise so they were my ‘something blue’. They’re not very comfortable. I don’t know how I lasted singing karaoke until late in them.

Getting married overseas meant that a lot of dear people couldn’t be with us. We made sure we had a wedding party to celebrate with family and friends back home later on. It was at the Leigh Sawmill Café and Bailey Wiley performed. I wore the dress, but I didn’t wear the shoes again.

This blue suede dress (main image, left) is my latest find from the Go Jo Recycled Store, my favourite shop in New Lynn, where I live. It’s Christian Dior, made by El Jay in the 70s, back when El Jay had the exclusive licence to produce Christian Dior originals in New Zealand. I’ve featured Jo Bratton, the owner of Go Jo, in this column before. Jo has the most wonderful approach to dressing. She says it’s all about creating an emotion. I’m going to blame this dress for this being my last My Life in Clothes column for Metro. I wore it to a job interview the other day and got the job, which means I won’t have time to continue. It’s been a privilege to delve into Aucklanders’ wardrobes over the past four years and I’ve learned something from every single person I’ve featured. I’ll miss it.

This piece originally appeared in the September-October 2019 issue of Metro magazine, with the headline "Into the blue".

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