I recently had the great pleasure of visiting the fabulous Valentino exhibit at the Brisbane Museum of Contemporary Art. When the second week of our October school holidays turned raaaather soggy, we aborted our plan to go camping, and decided it would be more fun to go to our closest city Brisbane, for a few days. Valentino The weather alternated from rain to light drizzle to ‘Irish mist’. The sun didn’t come out once. But we had some fun even though we did a lot of walking and forgot our gum boots. We stayed near the Botanic Gardens in the heart of town. We walked along the river through the gardens, along the mangrove walk and over the river to South Bank via the fantastic footbridge. We went to the Maritime Museum and saw a beautiful reconstruction of a ship from the 1700’s (more on that in another posting) and the kids made their third visit to the Science Museum. Since I took them the first two times, I volunteered Max to take them this time. Max’s eyes widened (it is a veeery noisy museum), but as he slowly nodded, I hastily seized my moment. I hoofed it quick smart to the Brisbane Museum of Contemporary Art to see the Valentino exhibit. My sister had raved about it and declared it was well worth the $20. I am NO fashion buff. But I do like to look at pretty things and this was really sumptuous.  My favourite piece was the ensemble pictured.

Valentino | Evening gown (detail) | Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2008

I stood gazing at it shoulder to shoulder with several other women. (98% of the people viewing the exhibit were women). I made an an admiring comment to a pair of older women near me and they smiled warmly. One said to her friend and I, “It reminds me of the story of the woman who wore a boring old grey coat everywhere. She looked very drab to everyone. But when she opened her coat, the inside was a stunning red. But she rarely showed anyone the inside.” “I suppose it reminds you not to judge a book by its cover…” she continued. Then I realised something that hadn’t dawned on me, that if you closed this coat up, the outside would look gorgeous, but relatively plain- as all the spectacular detail was on the inside. We chatted a bit longer and the women moved away. As I pondered the Grey Coat story I had just been told, I thought of another very different coat story- the traditional Jewish folktale ‘The Tailor’ or ‘The Blue Coat’. I love best the version by UK teller Hugh Lupton’s  on his ‘The Story Tree’ CD. I have recorded a version inspired by and very similar to his retelling. It is a beautiful and simple circle story, very easy to retell. It has many themes or layers to it which can be explored: growing up, family love, the story of storytelling, valuing possessions and even recycling. It works for all ages, but is particularly fabulous for the very young. If you would like to read the script of my retellingread below. I will try to add a link later to the recording I have made- if I can figure out my itunes account.