Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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From Fusty to Funky

I am not hugely into fur – faux, fox or fur real – and am not an advocate of purchasing new fur, particularly of endangered species, but I do own a few vintage pieces that I have picked up over the years from op shops (thrift stores). A more recent find was this plush blonde mink 1950s short cape that was so quaint and such a pretty colour that I couldn’t resist taking it home with me.

But I was a bit flummoxed as to how to wear it without looking like I was in costume, or a dusty and fusty time-traveller from the Fifties. I decided the only way I felt comfortable in it was to update it with modern pieces, dressing it down with jeans and a simple white crepe top.

An extra dash of irreverence was added by way of a navy wool Jasper Conran cap (with a fur pom-pom, incidentally, also bought second-hand) and a costume necklace that spells out ‘love’ in gold script.

Tangentially, I lost this hat last week in an op shop but was miraculously able to retrieve it the next day before it was accidentally sold. I was so sad at its loss, as over the last couple of winters it has become one of my favourite casual caps to wear, always adding a fun touch to an outfit and toning down any formality. As an elderly lady commented to me recently, it’s just so jaunty.

I haven’t yet worn this mink out, but in the cold weather I may have to add a warmer layer and perhaps some gloves as well.

Photo: July 2016


What I Actually Wore #0132

Serial #: 0132
Date: 11/07/2013
Weather: 16°C / 61°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

There are some colour combinations that are easy to choose, and never fail: black, red and blue is one of them.

This outfit was put together like building blocks, starting with the kimono-sleeved dress. It’s really a summer dress, so I put a three-quarter sleeve grey top underneath. This is the trick with adding a fourth colour – it would have been too much to choose a matching blue, but the grey is neutral and subtle.

Blue tights printed with white stars add a fun touch; a more obvious – and storybookish – pairing would have been black and white striped tights. Red Dorothy heels, current favourites, sparkle on my feet. They are actually not very comfortable as they are not leather, which is more yielding, but they look fabulous!

The red wool jacket adds warmth, but I also wore on top my 1960s faux sealskin coat, and a velvet close-fitting cap. My jewellery – black onyx bangle and ring, silver bauble earrings, charm necklace and silver watch complement the colour of the clothing.

I had my bangs trimmed that evening, and one of the salon staff exclaimed in delight when she took my coat and saw my outfit. I looked so cute, like a doll, she said. It has never been my ambition to look like a doll, I must confess; I’d rather look like a woman. In fact, in later years on one of my wardrobe culls, the dress, the tights and the shoes all fell victim to my ruthless dictum: anything that could be considered ‘cute’ was immediately cut! I still have the jacket and the jewellery however. The haircut is long grown out, but I’m considering growing my pixie into a bob again.


Dress: Luella
Sock Shop
souvenir and vintage
Bangle, ring:
Kenneth Cole

Photos: October 2013


Grin and Bear It

Melbourne has really turned on the cold weather for us on this first day of winter. There is nothing to do but to rug up and turn up the collar. Winter also is the perfect season to indulge in lots of accessories: hats! Scarves! Gloves! Legwarmers and armwarmers, stoles and tippets! Balaclavas!

But even Melbourne winters are not usually cold enough to warrant wearing vintage fur; this one might turn out to be an exception.

In the summer, I found this tall fur cap in an op shop and was so tickled by it I decided to buy it. I am guessing it is vintage 1960s, since that era was fond of exaggeratedly outsize hats. As soon as I saw it and tried it on, I was reminded of those Queen’s Guards protecting Buckingham Palace, although of course their hats are black.

These military hats are called bearskins, traditionally worn by grenadiers. While the original grenadiers of Europe’s armies of the 17th century wore cloth caps trimmed in fur, by the second half of the 18th century, they were donning high fur hats with cloth tops. The main purpose was to make them appear taller and more intimidating on the battlefield, and impressive on the parade ground. Today these hats are made from the fur of the Canadian black bear, and if well cared for, can last for decades.

My hat is made from rabbit fur – an introduced pest in this country, so I don’t feel guilty. I may not wear this eccentric hat often, but it is certainly a collectible piece of fashion history. It may even keep me warm this winter.

Photo: March 2017


Cotton Candy Autumn

Autumn is nearly over and I have yet to do a seasonal story! I walked past this amazing orange shrub this morning in Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens, and instantly thought what an amazing backdrop it would be for today’s pink outfit – and here it is.

The wool felt platter hat is vintage 1940s, which I bought in a Salvo’s op shop last year for an extremely modest price of around $10. The label inside says Newhaus, by Herta Maria Melbourne. It has such a lovely profile too. (You can see the twisted detail at the back at a different angle here.)

The angora wrap cardigan is by Ted Baker, and like the pearl earrings, was another thrift store purchase. Its sleeves have a pretty bishop shape, also known as a bell or Magyar sleeve. A rare retail purchase from a boutique somewhere many years ago, the fluffy wool scarf makes me think of cotton candy. It’s also extremely warm, which is probably why my cheeks are so flushed!

I decided I could get away with this much pink when I have such a short, boyish haircut. However, the rest of my outfit is in varying shades of brown, so once I slip off the hat and scarf (and the cardigan in the warm office), I present a very altered appearance. Accessories really do make the difference in your outfit.


Fine Feathers

Hats and feathers go together like peaches and cream; pins and needles and bead and button; like sweetness and light and heart and soul. When I first saw this vintage 1950s bandeau in a vintage bazaar last year, I was smitten by its pretty frivolity: lilac satin and net, dusky coloured feathers!

Remarkably, I managed to resist its charms in favour of some velvet toppers (a scarlet one, and an emerald one). But not for long … A few months later I was back at the same bazaar on Sapphire’s and my traditional Australia Day outing, and this time I took it home with me.

One day I will have an occasion to wear it …

Photo: March 2017