Fashion influence from a life in costume

By Zoe Walker

Viva chats with actress Mia Blake about life in costume.

Actress Mia Blake with her Jimmy D necklace. Photo / Babiche Martens
Actress Mia Blake with her Jimmy D necklace. Photo / Babiche Martens

Actress Mia Blake plays the glamorous Amanda Prynne in the Silo production of Noel Coward's comedy classic Private Lives. She performs opposite Matt Whelan as "love-to-hate-you divorcees" who find themselves honeymooning with their new spouses at the same hotel. Blake follows in the footsteps of Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins and Maggie Smith in playing Amanda and wears costumes chosen by stylist Charlotte Rust including a sensuous silk robe from Wellington based label For Every Minute, a gown from Zambesi and a silk romper from Miss Crabb. "Performing in Amanda's wardrobe has been a change from track pants and jeans. It is such a treat to be wearing such beautiful clothes and not worrying about little grubby hand prints all over them!" jokes the mother of two. Blake has her own distinct off-stage style, with a preference for vintage, beautiful shoes and local designers. She tells us more about her style history.

My love for fashion began when I was four or five, maybe even younger. I used to get changed into three or four different outfits a day.

I had a white princess outfit with high heels and a green and red sari with diamonds that I was particularly fond of.

I love New Zealand fashion because it is unique to us and constantly evolving. My favourite designers are elegant without being pretentious.

My first New Zealand fashion purchase was a Zambesi outfit. A long stretch denim skirt and a cream silk handkerchief top. Okay, my description sounds a bit off but it was amazing. Honest.

Combining fashion with motherhood is challenging. Practicality, functionality and a lack of time can sometimes conspire against looking anywhere near half-decent.

My love of vintage began in Wellington and on a budget. I just couldn't (and still can't) walk past a striking vintage dress. With shops like Ziggurat and Hunters and Collectors I was spoilt for choice.

My favourite type of accessory is definitely a strong piece of jewellery like this beautiful Jimmy D necklace. Other favourites are jewellers Anna Wallis and Ross Malcolm. I am a bit of a sucker for a great pair of heels too - I am currently in love with my black Beau Coops booties.

My style was shaped by images from the 1940s and the strong women in my life, my mum, my sister and of course my granny.

My earliest fashion memory is me deciding which holy communion dress to wear. It was the norm to wear a white frock but I wanted a blue velvet dress with a white sash. Lucky for me my mum was not only a great seamstress, but also an obliging one.

I look my best in bright colours and with a smile on my face. I love the colour of this Company of Strangers dress. Dress and colour equals happy me.

I'm at my happiest when my man, our kids and I have a sunny spot at the beach with nowhere to rush to, fresh fish and chips and icecream to follow.

The most treasured item in my wardrobe is actually my jewellery. I am lucky enough to have my grandmother's engagement ring and I love thinking of that connection when I wear it.

The most worn thing in my wardrobe is my Miss Crabb jacket. Just the right weight for an Auckland winter and goes with everything.

The designers that I respect the most are Kristine Crabb, of Miss Crabb. I love the relaxed elegance of her clothes. They feel so divine to wear and she manages to retain a sense of fun while also being grown up. And Zambesi - their cuts and fabrics never fail to impress me. Whenever I wear Zambesi I feel strong and feminine. We are so lucky to have them.

My approach to beauty is eat well, sleep well, have some great skin care and always wash the make up off. Failing that, smile as much as you can - it's contagious and makes you feel good!

In my makeup bag there is concealer, mascara, blush and gloss. All the elements for a quick makeover.

* Private Lives, until September 29, Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, City. Tickets from qtheatre.co.nz or ph (09) 309 9771.

- NZ Herald

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