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Cuba Libre | A Pinup’s Guide to Cuba

Cuba Libre | A Pinup’s Guide to Cuba

So everyone knows I traveled to Cuba last October. Mostly because I won’t shut up about it ( Sorry not sorry). A year on, with more travel options becoming available to the Caribbean island I’ve been inundated with questions about what it’s really like as a tourist there. With the political changes since my visit some things will have changed, but hopefully most will still be relevant!

While everyone’s experiences will be different, I’ve collated a list of what I loved, hated, and think you should know before your Cuban adventure. As a pinup some of these things might not apply to non-pinups, but most of it will.

A Pinup’s Guide to Travelling in Cuba

  • Don’t Drink the Water

    I repeat, don’t drink the water. Drinking water with unfamiliar bacteria can give you an upset stomach and a few people on my tour got sick. Luckily bottled water is easy to find and relatively cheap. Our tour guide also pointed out which drinks commonly contained tap water or ice made from tap water to help us avoid illness (local knowledge goes a long way). It might be a good idea to consider if foods like fruit and raw vegetables have been washed in unfiltered water too.
    I tried to avoid illness by introducing my body to it slowly by brushing my teeth with tap water every night, and I didn’t get sick, but that’s just me. I still wouldn’t have drunk water out of the tap. I did drink this heavenly sugar cane juice near Trinidad. Highly recommend it.

  • Money Honey

    Money can be tricky in Cuba. You can only exchange your money for CUC’s when you arrive, and there are extra costs associated with exchanging American Dollars. American credit cards like Mastercard and Amex won’t work in Cuba, and some travel cards (including Onesmart if you’re from NZ) won’t either.
    Taking Canadian Dollars, British Pounds or Euros and exchanging them at the airport in Havanna seems to be the easiest and most reliable option.

  • Communication

    Don’t expect everyone to speak English. While Cubans speak Spanish, they speak it with fast a strong accent. I have very, very basic Spanish and understood almost nothing that was said to me haha. Most of the hospitality staff spoke at least a little English, but the Casa owners often didn’t. This isn’t a massive issue if you’re on a tour with an English speaking guide to look after you, but it is nice ( and polite) to know at least “hello, please, thank you” and how to order a mohito.

  • Health and Safety

    Safety Regulations aren’t as strict in Cuba as they are in most developed Western Countries. I found this actually made my trip more fun, but I feel OSH goes a bit overboard on most things these days. Don’t be surprised if there’s no handrail on the stairs, a hole in the floor of the elevator and no 30 minute safety briefing before your cave excursion. Common sense is expected.

  • Keep it Clean

    If you only take one piece of advice, it’s this. Always carry tissues, toilet paper or wet wipes, and hand sanitiser. Public toilets, and even restaurant and bar toilets, often don’t have toilet paper. Sometimes you can buy it outside, but it’s best to carry your own just to be safe.
    You can’t flush anything down most toilets there either, so just be prepared to put paper and hygiene products in the bin next to it.
    Feminine products can be very hard to find in Cuba, so be well stocked if there’s any chance you might need them.

  • Bathroom Basics

    The Casa Particulars I stayed in all had nice bathrooms, always very clean but sometimes very small. Showers will often be cold and have low water pressure. You get used to it, and it makes it super exciting when you find one with good water pressure! Sometimes the hairdryers will be cold too, so take your own if you require perfect hair every day. I was so sweaty I washed or at least rinsed my hair daily, and settled for easy updo’s , big sunhats and hair scarves. As a result I’d take more shampoo and conditioner than you’d normally use.
    PS: it’s super hot and often humid, so maybe don’t insist on perfect hair every day.

  • Makeup

    It’s hot. Like, really really hot. Unless you’re used to a hot humid climate chances are your makeup will melt off your face. I gave up on wearing makeup during the day approximately 10 minutes after arriving.
    Makeup at night stands more of a chance, personally I stuck to face powder, eye shadow, liner, waterproof mascara and lipstick. Matte lipstick lasted better ( my gloss finish one basically melted in the tube). Proper foundation just made my skin feel even more gross and sweaty.

  • Protect your skin

    I don’t sunburn easily, and compared to NZ’s harsh sun I didn’t need to go crazy on the sunscreen, but I did find an aerosol sunscreen very handy for walking day tours in blazing sun. However if you have very fair skin, or burn easily you will need it! Some people on my tour were eaten alive by mosquito’s, once again I didn’t have much of an issue myself but it can’t hurt to be prepared with some insect repellent just in case you’re on the mozzie menu.

  • Tours

    I’m 100% glad I went with a tour group. I can’t imagine trying to decipher the in’s and out’s of travelling in Cuba without help! While I went with Locally Sourced Tours and loved being in a small group supporting private Cuban businesses there’s options for whatever your travel tastes are. Our tour guides organised everything, helped us find the shops we wanted to see, stayed out partying with us every night and re-arranged our travel plans disrupted by Hurricane Matthew. They also warned us what would be safe for us to eat / drink and what wouldn’t.


Things you expect in Cuba: sunshine, classic cars, old buildings and rum cocktails



Things you don’t expect: Amazing food, a cinema district and the clash of modern technology with history.

My Favourite Things in Cuba

Swimming in an underground pool in the second level of a cave. Infectious music. The Art Factory gallery turn nightclub. BBQ’d meat and moro (beans and rice) . $2 mohitos. The cave disco in Trinidad. An ocean so warm I can actually walk into it. Mesmerizing art. Constant colour. Hanging out on the Malecon. Dancing in tiny live music venues. 

Tropical painted houses. Ornate buildings that are crumbling on the outside, and beautifully restored casa on the inside

An immense cemetery in Santa Clara full of statues, tombs and monuments

Every form of transport imaginable on the same road
(We’re talking horse and carts, classic cars, men riding oxen, orange shaped taxis, tour buses and aging trucks)

Street life – a little during the day, and A LOT at night

The people. Honestly the people are as warm as the temperature, so passionate, generous and friendly
( I was really slack at taking photos of people, so here’s a snap of two of our tour guides while we were racing bicycle taxis through a city.)

Getting back to Cuba is high on my wishlist, and I hope she hasn’t lost her laid back charm and safe vibe since tourism picked up. If you’ve been recently I’d love to hear about your experiences!

With style & sass,

  Velvet DeCollete



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Jilted Brides and Moldy Cake | Miss Havisham’s Day Out

Jilted Brides and Moldy Cake | Miss Havisham’s Day Out

What do you call a group of jilted brides? A Flock? A Murder?
Let’s go with a Murder, because hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Last weekend a murder of brides descended upon Newmarket’s historic Highwic House for Miss Havisham’s Day Out. Part of the Til Death Do Us Part exhibition currently housed at Highwic,  it was a day of cobwebby cakes, vintage games and wedding gowns themed around the eccentric spinster from Great Expectations!

Dressed in wedding gowns from all eras guests competed in ring finger races and White Wedding lipsyncs ( yes that’s me jamming air guitar in the middle, any excuse really! ), created centrepieces and sand saucers before dining on sandwiches, scones and an incredibly moldy, spider infested wedding cake created by Miss Charlotte Cake. ( I can vouch for it being as delicious as it was spooky!)

Miss Havisham's Day Out | Velvet DeCollete

Miss Havisham's Day Out | Velvet DeCollete

Clementine joined me to model the most feminine of lace foundation garments from House of Satin. Strolling around the manicured grounds in lingerie has never been more glamorous! They’re even giving away a glorious set of lingerie, so visit the exhibition before it closes this weekend to be in the draw!

I had quite a conundrum over which wedding dress to wear ( I have four vintage gowns, plus the gown I was actually married in!) but finally settled on this Edwardian inspired lacy number. Made in the late 60’s or early 70’s this confection of swiss dot tulle and satin was just begging to be worn with a dramatically long veil. The rumpled satin flowers in my hair are made from off cuts of bridal gowns I’ve made and altered over the years.

Miss Havisham's Day Out | Velvet DeCollete

An enormous thanks to Rose and Glory Days for putting such a wonderful afternoon of high jinks! All the vintage gowns on display at Til Death Us Do Part are available in a silent auction ending this Sunday, with proceeds going to The Aunties, a group supporting victims of domestic violence. Make sure you hop online here, place a bid and hopefully take home a beautiful piece of history while supporting a more than worthy cause.

Photos by
David Watson
Peter Jennings
Charlotte Cake
 Velvet DeCollete
 Sarah Tallentire

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My Top 5 Shopping Day Essentials

We’re busy people. I know your days off are rarer than Louboutins in an op shop. You need to make the most of them, especially when it comes to a hard earned shopping junket.

In a sprawling city like Auckland planning for a successful shopping trip is key. Be unprepared and you could end up heading home in rush hour with a blister, a hungry tummy and three tops you found on sale that you’ll never wear. No one deserves that. Years of experience have left me a shopping mission tactician and here are my top five essentials for shopping like a boss lady.

1. The right clothes.

You’ll need to try things on, so wear something easy to get off (put down the skinny jeans!). Buying off the hanger isn’t reliable when fit and styles vary between new, vintage and store to store. Besides, some of the most flattering things I own looked average on the hanger. Oh, and slip on shoes will save you so much time.

2. A plan.


Scope out all the shops you want to visit and plan or GPS the most effective route. Remember to avoid busy areas in peak traffic times! I always start at the store furthest from home: it’s one I’m less likely to get to another day and I like being near to home when I’m tired at the end.

3. Water and snacks.

Packing water and snacks means you won’t make unplanned stops because you’re getting grumpy from hunger or dehydration. It’s also cheaper. You want to be spending your hard earned cash on shopping, not food!

4. A bag with a strap.

You’ll need both hands free for flicking through those racks or carrying bolts of fabric. Trust me.

5. A list.


Making a list of desired items will keep you on track, ensuring you stay focused on what you want or need – not what you just saw on sale. Getting home to realise you forgot the one thing you really needed is a major face-palm moment. Your face is nice, so let’s not palm it.

Now you have the secrets to world shopping domination, go forth and  plan a retail therapy adventure! ( Then show me what you bought, I want to seeeeeeee.)

May the thrifting gods be with you,

                                  Velvet x

Posted by velvetdecollete in ADVENTURES, LIFESTYLE, 1 comment
Very Vintage Day Out 2016 | Photo Safari & Outfit of the Day

Very Vintage Day Out 2016 | Photo Safari & Outfit of the Day

Apologies on the delayed VVDO post, I’ve been focused so completely on producing the Blue Moon Ball everything else just slipped away. So here, delayed but not forgotten, is a brief outfit review and photo safari images…

In true VVDO tradition the photo safari was organised chaos! Photographers and models vied for unobstructed backgrounds and cars that matched their outfits. There were giggles and goofs as huge petticoats invaded photos and photographers backed into each other – but in the end there were wonderful photographs and killer vintage fashion.

Velvet Decollete vintage style VVDO 16 | David Watson

Velvet Decollete vintage style VVDO 16 | David Watson

The Outfit

When choosing this years ensemble I wanted a contrast to last year’s dark dress and makeup. A glorious blue lurex dress hanging in Tock Tick Vintage answered the call. Ensnared by its sparkle and texture I tried it on and immediately fell in love with how the modest cut balanced the showiness of the fabric. La Vonne found a pillbox hat close enough in colour to match so both came home with me!

Inspired by the clean, coordinated style of Jackie Onassis I chose white accessories to keep the blue dress in the limelight, and pantihose over stockings as a nod to their huge popularity upon commercial release in the early 1960’s.

Outfit Breakdown

Dress, hat + brooch | All Vintage from Tock Tick Vintage 
Petticoat + Glomesh bag | Vintage op shop finds
Shoes + vintage gloves  | Borrowed from my mother
Belt | Forever New
Sunglasses + vintage earrings | Gifted
Columbine Pantihose | Farmers

Velvet Decollete vintage style VVDO 16 | Shifting Light Photography

The Authentic Vintage category finals of the Best Dressed competition ( photos by Norrie Montgomery) were so much fun. Every year NZ pin ups pull out some simply amazing outfits from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. I’m in awe of Natalie Louise’s sorbet coloured ensemble you can see in the background!

I had such an awful morning with contact lens and eyeliner horrors my makeup could have been better, I’m just glad I managed to get myself together in time! Do any other pinups struggle with the glasses vs contact lenses debate? My daily glasses aren’t retro styled and my milk bottle lenses are far too expensive to buy an extra pair for pinup . As a result I feel obliged to wear contact lenses that irritate my eyes something awful.

The highlight of my day was (as always) the food. Miss Charlotte Cake had the most scrumptious little cakes that looked every bit as delightful as they tasted, while The Tea Ladies put on a much needed cuppa in the afternoon. While there was quite a delay in the high tea service, these things happen and cannot be predicted no matter how hard you work! Overall a lovely way to spend a day!

vintage style VVDO 16 | Velvet Decollete

If you’d like to see more of the Very Vintage Day Out, you find my posts on the 2015 event here and here!

With style & sass,

             Velvet DeCollete



Posted by velvetdecollete in ADVENTURES, FASHION STORIES, PINUP, 3 comments
Thursdays on O’Connell | Ten Days of Fashion Catwalk

Thursdays on O’Connell | Ten Days of Fashion Catwalk

Auckland City has some pretty cool stuff. Like crazy vintage street parties with fashion shows and cocktails. I know. I was there.

I was there because I was walking the catwalk for Hudson, a stylish boutique on O’Connell street. Nerve wracking doesn’t quite describe walking uphill on cobbles, in heels, while trying to look kinda sexy. Clothing is my armour though, so I donned my favourite vintage hat and pearls and had a blast strutting my short-ass stuff.  Plus it was a great excuse to hang out with these babes on a Thursday night.


I think I did an acceptable job of repping under 5.4″ models haha!

I’d never been to O’Connell street before, but I’ll be back. The warming, rich hot chocolates from Bohemein Chocolaterie guarantee it.

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Enter a caption

Strangely Normal kept the crown lubricated at their fab mid century Tiki Bar, while Dr Sketchy provided a pinup sketch scene for the artistically inclined. After changing into my favourite purple ensemble I spent the rest of the night dancing, eating spaghetti and meatballs and admiring Rose’s incredible vintage coat!

Rose from Glory Days Magazine was a driving force behind the evening and I’m ever so grateful she got me involved. Hopefully there’ll be a repeat event next year!

Kate van der Drift  2

Photos | Kate Van Der Drift
(plus a couple of selfies and snapshots)




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The Glory Days Deco Market

The Glory Days Deco Market

New Zealand has some fantastic vintage events, and I’m lucky enough that my job(s) take me to most of them!

Clementine and I had a marvelous time taking the Beckon Couture stall to the Glory Days Deco Market at Highwic HouseHendricks Gin had delicious punch, there was dancing on the lawn and some truly amazing Art Deco garb. (not to mention the most impressive picnic table I’ve ever seen – complete with silverware and gramophone!)

I’ll certainly be attending next year. You should too, considering entry to the Deco Day was only $5 – a bargain considering Highwick House usually charges a $10 entry.

I took some snaps on the day for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy with a gin in true 20’s style.

velvet decollete, 1920s, girl, lady, woma, dome, taxidermy bird, beret

I don’t always have a taxidermy bird, but when I do I pose with it.

This was my first attempt at an art deco / 1920’s inspired outfit and makeup. I don’t think it was half bad!

Outfit of the day

Beret | Gift from my Mother
Beaded collar | Tock Tick VIntage
Sheer blouse | Misery Boutique – Op shop find
Trousers | Alexander McQueen – Op shop find
Glorious velvet peeptoe shoes | Borrowed from my mother

And just for fun here’s Clementine and I making silly faces. Because that’s what we do.

I do hope we see you at the next event. If you know of any fun vintage outings let me know, any excuse to wear something pretty !

              Velvet x

PS: All those fake cucumbers in the first montage were for a cucumber decorating competition. You heard me. Cucumber decorating. It was adorable.

Posted by velvetdecollete in ADVENTURES, FASHION STORIES, 0 comments
Birthday Snaps | A Retro Luau Party

Birthday Snaps | A Retro Luau Party

Remember that lost weekend between Christmas and New Years Eve? The one when everyone (hospo staff included) are on holiday and nothing opens. Nothing.

That’s my birthday weekend.

So this year I celebrated in true pinup style with a vintage inspired Luau at home!

It started with cool drinks on a hot day and ended with burlesque dancers lip syncing the Chicago soundtrack under disco lights. Lei’s and fruity cocktails for all!

Here’s some candid poolside snaps so you can see how it went down. Plus a bonus picture of my not-quite-one-year-old niece dressed like the island princess she is. Because she’s a cutie patootie.

(I forgot to take pictures of the idyllic decorations my awesome lover set up, but trust me, they were amazing )

pinup girls tropical2016-15-2--22-14-01luau, tiki party, tropical, cocktails, drink station, fancy, fruit, garnish, hawaiian, party, pool party2016-15-2--22-22-59




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A Classics Museum Carnival

A Classics Museum Carnival

The Classics Museum 3rd Birthday Carnival fell on a sweltering New Zealand summer day.
Normally I’d be happy to swap my petticoats for sarongs in the heat – but after setting up the Vintage Amusements carnival in the midday sun I threw on a cute carnival outfit.

(I managed to win Best Dressed from the lovely ladies at Glory Days Magazine too!)

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Photos | Tiffany Curtis Photography

Outfit breakdown

Top | Forever New
Skirt | Custom made by me – Beckon Couture
Petticoat | Bought online somewhere
Shoes | Number One Shoe Warehouse
Bangles | Thrifted
Flowers | Equip
Parasol | Gift

Scroll down to see some sassy best dressed contestants and me being a cheese while receiving my prize!

best dressed, competition, classics museum, jukebox diner, glory days, pinup

Photo | Tiffany Curtis Photography


Photo | Tiffany Curtis Photography

pinup girl, parasol, pinup, summer, petticoat, flash, dance, pink petticoat, blue flowers, vintage, pinup, style

Photo | Tiffany Curtis Photgraphy

Velvets Tips for Summer Pinup Dressing

  1. Keep your fabrics light and try to avoid too many synthetics – They’ll make you sweat!
  2. Keep your hair off your neck. a beehive, cute ponytail or poodle ‘do is a lifesaver.
  3. Deodorant and spray on sun screen. Lots of both! I find spray on sunscreen less sticky and less staining on my clothes.
  4. (a very personal tip) tuck a cotton pad – like you use for toner or makeup – into the front of your bra to catch any chest sweat and prevent unsightly patches on the front of your top or dress!
pinup girls, kissing booth, velvet decollete, betty rage, monique sweet, pinup, style, blog, jukebox diner, classics museum

At the Kissing Booth with pinup babes Monique Sweet and Betty Rage


James and I cooling off with a well deserved cold Coke


The Jukebox Diner | Tiffancy Curtis Photography

Posted by velvetdecollete in ADVENTURES, OTHER, 0 comments
The Pinup Honeys: Congrats to Miss Victory Violet

The Pinup Honeys: Congrats to Miss Victory Violet

For those of you in the pinup world, you’ll know the glorious Miss Victory Violet took out Miss Pinup at Viva Las Vegas this year. For those of you not in the pinup world – that’s a super big deal and we’re all very proud of her here in little old NZ. Pinup or not you should check out her blog and show her some love! She’s an ocean of knowledge in all things hair, makeup and retro fashion related.

Anywho, The Pinup Honeys Social Club decided to have a wee shindig at the luxurious Langham Hotel Auckland to congratulate her on all her hard work. We dressed nice, we drank fancy cocktails, we posed. Alot. (you would too, don’t deny it).
pinup, nz pinups, elegant, pinup model, evening dress, retro, vintage, style, gloves, fashion, ballgown, evening wear, roller sets, pinup social club, velvet decollete, couch, sofa

I didn’t have a gown quite formal enough so I whipped up a classy black iridescent ballgown from fabric left over from my bridesmaids dresses! I just knew it would come in handy, even if it’s 5 years later haha!

Outfit Breakdown 
Dress | Beckon Couture
Gloves | Vintage – Salvation Army Op Shop
Pearls | Vintage – Op shop
Shoes | Wild Pair
Stockings | Pretty Pins from Farmers
Hair Flower | Borrowed from my mama <3 

retro, vintage, man, duke de bonair, suave, charming, suit, waistcoat, style, fashion, bowtie, classic,My partner in crime and love of my life Duke De Bonair looking suave

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pinup, nz pinups, pinup girls, pinup models, evening dress, retro, vintage, style, gloves, fashion, ballgowns, evening wear, roller sets, pinup social club, soda fontaine, miss charlotte cake, velvet decollete, miss rouge
Posing with some of my favourite dames Soda Fontaine, Miss Charlotte Cake and Miss Rouge. I love how we look like a sassy pinup Girl Gang.

mermaid gown, classic, monroe, starlet, hollywood, pinup, runner up miss pinup nz, soda fontaine, lilac, romantic

Couldn’t resist sharing this snap I took of the effervescent Soda Fontaine. She’s such a starlet!

pinup girls
pinup social club, pinups, nz pinups, group photo, retro, vintage fashion

The Pinup Honeys Social CLub – we’re a well dressed bunch dontcha think?

Photos | Velvet DeCollete, Duke De Bonair + David Watson

Posted by velvetdecollete in ADVENTURES, 1 comment
A Very Vintage Day Out | Pt. 2

A Very Vintage Day Out | Pt. 2

Very Vintage Day Out Part two (read part one here)! The part where I bombard you with photos from all the rad Photo Safari photographers I posed for at VVDO. Two of the photos were even judged Runner Ups in the VVDO photo comp – Proof that hard work pays off ya know.

Velvet DeCollete, kennedy style, 1960s, madmen, retro, pinup, black and white, 60s, beehive, gloves, car, model, nz pinup, very vintage day out

Photo | Byard James

retro couple, vintage couple, 1960s, style, fashion, pinup, model, car, gloves, beehive, hat

Photo | Jeff Yu – Awarded Runner Up in the VVDO photo competition

pinup,portrait, Velvet DeCollete, makeup, lipstick,car mirror, classic car, nz pinup, retro, vintage, style

Photo | Froger

1960s fashion, Velvet DeCollete, vintage reproduction, style, kiss, pinup, retro, vintage, sexy, black and white, lady, girl, car

Photo | Reese Waters – Awarded Runner Up in the VVDO photo comp


pinup girls, car, driving, three pinuops, very vintage day out

Photo | Photo by Alyssa

classic car,portrait, Velvet DeCollete, pinup, nz pinup, model, girl, lady, vintage, retro, hair, fashion, beehive, gloves, clothing

Photo | Reese Waters

yellow car,Velvet DeCollete, purple pinup dress, gloves, retro, vintage , pinup

Photo | Jeff Yo

black and white, retro, winggle dress, retro, vintage, portrait

Photo | Diana Vollmerhausen

Photos | As credited
Model | Velvet DeCollete
Wardrobe | Bespoke Design by Velvet DeCollete

These are the Very Vintage Day Out Best Dressed competition finalists! I was humbled to stand alongside such awesome girls and fab retro fashion. Isn’t Georgia the cutest with her diner girl tray!

vvdo, very vintage day out, best dressed, finalists, velvet decollete

Photo | David Michael Photography – the Best Dressed Finalists!

As always, I’d love to know how you spent the day if you attended, there was so much on that I missed!

With style & sass,

                Velvet x


Posted by velvetdecollete in ADVENTURES, FASHION STORIES, PINUP, 1 comment