The mighty Bosphorus, is a vibrant and turbulent River, as unpredictable as the seething Turkish City of Istanbul. Bobbing along on the commuter ferry, clutching a fish roll that cost AUD $1.50, I crossed the imaginary line from East to West, or Asia to Europe. Istanbul is a city of contrasts, medieval turkish bath houses, and gigantic, iconic shrines of Hagar Sophia proportions . The Grand Bazaar is a labyrinth of streets, a maze of stalls, and a brash collection of hawkers all exhorting you to enter their shops. Turkish Delight, stuffed camels, brass, garishly coloured ceramics, and handicrafts abound. Its a vibrant, alive, city summed up perfectly by the Whirling Deverishes, a local iconic, folk act who twist this way and that in their exuberant, native dance .Home to myriad stray cats and dogs ,homeless and itinerant locals, Istanbul has a pulsating energy, and irreverent view of life .
Stumbling down the main street, I chanced upon the Galata Greek Primary School, one of the venues of the 13th Istanbul Biennial. Titled ” Mom Am I Barbarian “it included many artists, exhibiting in a diverse range of mediums spread over the entire six floors of the venue, including a roof top terrace . The space included short films about abandoned dogs and african miners, intricate drawings, installations and a whole lot more. The exhibits were free, the catalogue a measly $5, and the entertainment priceless. One of my favourite presentations was a series of altered books by a Portuguese Artist, Carla Filipe, who used books damaged by moths to create her altered book series. I spent many fruitful hours gazing at the exhibits, and gleaned a lot of visual stimuli. It ended my visit to Turkey on a high note and I hope, one day to return.
Selale Gultekin owns a Pied de poule ( vintage shop )in Istanbul .
Her beautiful turkish name means waterfall .
Appropriate , as she is quite literally surrounded under a waterfall of clothes.
Meandering around the cobbled lanes of inner city istanbul we chanced on her cache of nostalgia .
The tell tale sign was a 50 ,s lace wedding dress stuck to the door , nestled beside it a pleated chiffon party dress in neon lemon shade .
Two stone steps led to narrow glass doors , and a sign imperiously instructing the bell to be rung to gain entry.
I pressed a clammy finger to it as instructed .
The doors were flung wide , the heady smell of plastic and mothballs escaped , as did two startled blonde , 20 plus Nordic types , looking like startled deer.
A dimunitive , brown skinned lady with wild , frizzy , dyed red hair , and heavily kohled eyes , greeted us .
She was dressed in top to toe modern clothing from her american apparel cotton chinos , double layer topshop singlets , leather esprit loafers , and Blue leopard print gstring clearly visible , above her rounded brown hips .
I am Selale she announced and had clearly scented fresh prey as she beckoned us in gleefully to her cornucopia of earthly delights .
What enfolded was a display by a woman in love with her esoteric collection of finery .
It was also a history lesson of her life , as she recounted events by what each piece was worn to and by whom .
” Oh this is the dress I wore to the ballet ” , holding aloft a magnificent , hand tailored evening gown , with a brown silk top , and green cotton hand worked , lace skirt .
This was my grandmothers, Selale shrieked , as a plastic cover was wrenched asunder to reveal a 30’s flapper dress , the top velvet encrusted eau de nil flowers on sheer bodice , the full skirt a symphony of swirling sheer green silk .
The sweet carnaby st swinging 60’s short green cotton jacket , embellished with large round hot pink buttons , and sweet Peter Pan collar revived fond memories.
Copies of the 50″s two piece suits of fitted jacket & skirts , were used in mad men.
Each garment was lovingly produced and its story told .
This was my mothers , as she proffered a demure , white and brown polka dotted voile , full skirted , sun frock.
She proudly and haltingly shared her history with us in broken English .
My grandmother was the first teacher in Turkey.
My mother was the first nurse in Turkey.
Clearly a milestone in male dominated Muslim turkey ‘s society.
Black and white photos of two impossibly beautiful sultry dark haired beauties were proudly proferred.
Her treasure trove consisted off a tiny room , hall and entry all stuffed with clothing , most encased in plastic & suspended from ceiling hooks . The full length viewing mirror , was through a truculent door , concealed in a dusty lane way.
Every surface was covered in hats , bags , shoes , gloves & jewellery dating from the 30″s to the 70’S .
Selale lovingly chronicled each garment whilst imploring us to try each .
Alas many were too tiny , not belonging to the classical tiny fifty,s era body shape. Unfortunately, our large head and feet , denied us the many dainty offerings on offer.
Eventually a 50’s sculpted jacket , and marching silk shirt plus a sheer nylon 60’s blouse were entrusted into our care . A fair price was reached without much haggling . Selale was happy to release them to a good home .
Sadly she turned her tragic dark eyes skyward and said so many pieces , already I am 60 and still taking more .
Doubtless her only child , a son , shares no interest in her collection and she can only fervently hope for a daughter in law , or granddaughter to take up the reins .
A photo taken , us both emitting the catch cry of 50 plus women everywhere ” let us take our glasses off first ” and we were emitted out into the street , our finery incongruously packed into a cardboard Tommy Hilfiger carry bag .
We had chanced on something special in a back street of Istanbul .
Thank you Selale , we,ll be back for that special occasion dress .