Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Saturday
Oct192019

Faux Thirties Style

Lapis lazuli is a metamorphic rock of deep blue that has been prized for its colour since antiquity. In Egypt, lapis lazuli was a favoured stone used in jewellery and ornaments, such as scarabs, and Cleopatra herself used powdered lapis as eyeshadow! Not as surprising as it might seem at first, for the same was used until 1826 to make natural ultramarine pigment for paint.

This little trifle I picked up recently in a thrift store is a double-strand faux lapis lazuli choker. It has no maker’s mark on it, and I can’t imagine it was expensive when it retailed, although the fact that it is knotted between each bead is an indication of better quality.

French postcard: (from left) Irene Wentzel, Miss Russia in Paris in 1930; Ingeborg von Grinberger, Miss Austria; Rie van der Rest, Miss Holland. Image from Pinterest

I’m always on the lookout for 1930s style items, and I am more partial to the costume jewellery styles of the era than the fine jewellery, which often seem too ornate for my taste. I prefer opaque stones in any case.

A lot of 30s daywear was high-necked, featuring interesting necklines, collars and sleeves, so very often women did not wear a lot of jewellery, and it is not easy to find pictorial examples. Here are a couple below, however, of Miss Europe candidates of 1930: Miss Russie is wearing a choker; and the April 1930 cover of Vogue magazine.

Vogue April 1930, illustrated by Jean Pages

Photo: September 2019

Tuesday
Oct152019

Winter Favourites

Last month I raced to photograph all my winter outfits before I did the biannual seasonal clothes storage swap-over, and spent about four days over two sessions to get through everything. This meant I had a compressed overview of which items were my popular over autumn/winter.

While it was interesting in hindsight, I was also a bit annoyed with myself for ‘overwearing’ some things considering how many other items in the same categories went unworn, or worn little, especially my hats. I have so many hats I don’t have time to wear them all even if I did wear a different one every day!

But, for what it’s worth, here are the favoured ones.

3 x

Three times wearing this vintage 40s purple hat (above) doesn’t sound like too many for all of autumn/winter, but this was all within a few weeks, and I simply own too many hats for this not to seem like I am squandering opportunities to make use of my marvellous collection.

5 x

This blue ribbed wool cardigan by Australian label is a vintage 1970s piece, and has been a favourite for many years since I found it in a thrift store in Berwick when I went op shopping with my sister, who lives out there. I just love the colour, which is what stood out: one of the gems amongst rack upon rack jammed with dross.

5 x

One of my favourite vintage brooches is this soaring seabird (above); I think it is probably celluloid. Admittedly, I have more than once worn it simply because I have left it on this cardigan – but that just speeds up the process of getting dressed in the morning!

7 x

These black leather Mary-Jane heels with the little bow on the strap are so comfortable and easy to walk in, it’s no wonder I reached for them so many times. On the days I wear higher heels, I walk to work in a flat pair of shoes, which is an extra thing to carry. If I don’t have to, that’s a bonus.

7 x

Simply an outright favourite, I reached for this double enamel cherry brooch many times this winter. Considering how many brooches I own, this is remarkable, but these cherries look good enough to eat. Plus, I must confess, while rhinestones catch my eye in the thrift store, I end up wearing them very little. I have always preferred opaque stones over sparkle – pearls, lapis lazuli, turquoise – and the same goes for costume jewellery. Enamel, Bakelite and wood win hands down over the multitude of rhinestone brooches I own.

And … drumroll … the winners!

8 x

The cherry earrings (photo before the above) just pipped the cherry brooch at the post, beating it by only one wear. I usually wear them together, but once I wore the earrings with a glass fruit necklace. I always love a cherry motif, but these earrings are also so bright and cheerful, and seem to go with so many things. 

8 x

The black pants by Ming (above and below) were worn eight times. I was rather disgusted by that total, as I do own other winter trousers, some of which only were worn once. But these are elasticised at the back, and the sheer wideness and soft wool flannel and suiting combination make them very comfortable and relaxed to wear. I have had them so many years, and had to do more than one repair, but they have proved their worth countless times, they deserve a prize!

Most of these favoured items were found in thrift stores (except for the two brooches and the hat which were bought from vintage boutiques). In fact, except for the red hat, every other item I am wearing in these pictures was also found in a thrift store, so I consider that a pretty good testament to a trained eye, able to spot a good purchase in the jumble of op shops!

Photos: August, September 2019

Monday
Oct142019

What is — and what is not — a fedora

THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO WHAT HAT IS THAT

If you have been reading this blog for a little while, you will know that I love hats. While I am not a trained milliner, I do own a lot of hats (over 300) and books about hats, which I sometimes even read (as opposed to drooling over the pictures). I scour the internet for strange and wonderful hats, and for a long time I have been looking for the perfect 1930s or 1940s fedora. I already own one (pictured above), which I love for its film noir aspect, but I would love one more that has a more exaggerated shape, specifically in a colour I love (not black or brown, which are more ubiquitous).

What I am finding however, is that vintage sellers seem to apply the word ‘fedora’ to any vaguely mannish hat, and I’m not sure if that’s because some of them aren’t really clear on the proper definition of a fedora, or because it is an extremely popular search term – I’ve seen it applied as a keyword for a frothy pink, flower-bedecked garden party hat! Today, however, I am going to clear up any misconceptions about what is – and what is not – a fedora, with a few key, easy-to-remember points to identify these same, same but different hats.

The Fedora

The fedora takes its name from an 1891 stage play, about a cross-dressing Princess Fedora who wears a centre-creased, soft wide-brimmed hat. Traditionally the crease is pinched at the front, forming a point or teardrop shape, but the crease can include diamond shaped crowns, and the positioning of dents can vary. Many other hats have centre dents, but the fedora combines this with a low crown – 4.5” or 11cm – and a wider brim of at least 2.5” or 6.4cm but they can be much wider, particularly in exaggerated fashion versions. The brims can be left raw, or stitched, or finished with ribbon-trim. This is the hat worn by Humphrey Bogart in the film Casablanca.

Key Points

  1. Low crown
  2. Centre crease pinched at front
  3. Wide brim

Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca; image found on Pinterest

The Slouch

The next hat most commonly confused with a fedora, as far as I can discern, is the slouch hat. This is a style of hat traditionally worn by Australian soldiers (and those of many other nations), and is distinguished mainly with one side of the brim being turned up towards the crown, and one dipped down. The military hat has a fairly low crown, and the turned-up side is usually pinned to allow a rifle to be slung over the shoulder. Fashion versions vary in crown heights, but both feature a centre crease. Where the military hat is pinned up, the fashion hat may simply be decorated with trim on one side.

Key Points

  1. One side turned up, one side dipped down
  2. Crown height and brim width variable
  3. In place of the military pin, fashionable trim

Australian soldier wearing a slouch in 1916; image found on Pinterest

The Trilby

Another ubiquitous hat which can also be confused for a fedora is the trilby. Surprisingly, this is another hat whose inception lies in a stage play around the same time! George du Maurier’s 1894 novel Trilby was translated to the stage in London, and a hat of this shape was worn. Though the hat was worn by a woman, it became popular for men shortly after. It’s often made of tweed, like mine, or in straw for summer, though more properly its short brim is snapped up at the back. It has a much taller crown than a fedora, with sloped sides, and a popular hat with musicians, it is often worn on the back of the head. Sean Connery is well-known for wearing a trilby.

Key Points

  1. Short brim, usually snapped up at back
  2. Taller crown with sloping sides
  3. Designed to be worn further back on the head

Sean Connery wearing a trilby; image found on Pinterest

The Homburg

The homburg is quite a masculine hat that has not really been translated into women’s versions, but this turquoise felt hat I own does not really fall into any other style, so I am using it to illustrate this style, perhaps most famously worn by Winston Churchill. Its most distinctive feature is the pencil-curled brim (which mine does not have at all). The hat is usually made of hard felt, with straight sides and a pronounced and quite wide centre crease. It is still a very popular hat shape for men today – and gangsters of all eras! Michael Corleone of The Godfather, and Nucky Thompson of Boardwalk Empire both present fine examples of the homburg’s sinister aspect.

Key Points

  1. Short, curled brim
  2. Taller crown with straight sides
  3. Wide, shallow centre crease

Winston Churchill was famous for his homburg; image found on Pinterest

The Tyrolean

The Tyrolean hat style is one of my favourite jaunty styles! It originates from the Tyrol in the Alps, in what is now variously Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Its most distinctive feature is the crown that rises to form a point. The brim traditionally was roughly the width of a hand, and the hat was usually decorated with hatband made of coloured cord and a spray of flowers, feathers or brush. However, brims and crown heights varied in different parts of the Tyrol. Also known as a Bavarian or Alpine hat, it was originally made from green felt. Fortunately, fashion versions are not so limited in scope. Mine is navy, trimmed in a wide grosgrain band, netting, and a light blue ostrich feather. Edward VIII stayed in Austria after his abdication and often wore the hat, popularising its style.

Key Points

  1. Crown tapers to a point
  2. Crown height and brim width varies
  3. Decorated with flowers or feathers

Edward VIII made the Tyrolean hat famous after his abdication

In Conclusion

Of course, it must be remembered that these key points are only guidelines for identifying a general style – they are not hard and fast rules. Fashion hats often take inspiration from traditional styles and designers will add their own twist, pushing and pulling them in exaggerated directions, creating hybrids with brilliant details and wonderful new ideas. A hat should be the exclamation point of an outfit, the finishing touch to delight the eye – much more than a conservative tradition. But it’s always good to know the rules before you break them.

Photos: September 2019

Monday
Oct072019

What I Actually Wore #0157

Serial #: 0157
Date: 21/11/2013
Weather: 22°C / 77°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

My cousin, with whom I worked at the time, suggested I had donned a safari look this day. While the garments themselves aren’t suitable, the colour combination of white and tan certainly are evocative of safari ensembles. I don’t think it was my intention, but I have always been fond of mostly, if not completely, monochromatic outfits, and white is a particular favourite shade.

I still own all these items, except for the wool knit, which I think either became too big for me, or perhaps was damaged in some way, as it has long vanished from my wardrobe. I’m not sure where it came from, perhaps the thrift store, nor can I find anything out about the label. Those leather faux lace-up boots (they have a zip on the inner side) are always admired whenever I wear them; they were a good investment. I’m not sure how old the belt and earrings are – I bought them in a thrift store, but I don’t think they can be older than ten or fifteen years.

I see here I am wearing my beloved Kenneth Cole chain watch – the stretched-out chain near the lug is visible in the close-up. I’ve had this repaired twice already: the first jeweller cursed me and practically threw it at me when I went to pick it up, but the second was more polite in his disgust; I haven’t yet dared to take it back to him, and it’s been years! It’s currently languishing in a jewellery box full of other watches that also need repair. I’m down to one functioning watch, and I do like to have a few watches to match to different outfits. Time to bestir myself!

Items:

Top: A.M. St
Skirt: Witchery
Belt: op shop
Boots: Joanne Mercer
Earrings: op shop
Watch: Kenneth Cole
Ring: Roun

Photos: January 2014

Sunday
Oct062019

Sewing Sequins

Last year I struck a vein of hat gold one lunchtime in a thrift store near my workplace: no less than three 1930s hats in one strike! I was very lucky, because when I walked in the door, one of the staff recognised me and called me over to whisper, “There are some hats just in that I think you would like.”

From where we stood, I could only see the topmost hats on the upper shelf, and they looked like spring racing carnival hats made of sinnamay that some rich madam from the hoity-toity part of town would perch atop her coiffure. “Are they vintage hats?” I asked suspiciously in a low voice. The woman nodded conspiratorially, “They are very old,” she said, and thus assured, I sailed off forthwith.

Dear Readers, I couldn’t believe my eyes: it was a veritable BONANZA. A cream wool felt decorated with grosgrain ribbon and cockade; a brown felt trimmed in cream grosgrain, and a sculpted black felt with an enormous, sequinned bow. I immediately hugged the three hats to my bosom in joy.

The only flaw lay in the wonderful black felt: many of the metal sequins were missing, and those left were tarnished. I did not care one jot. Etsy would come to my rescue: I was sure I would be able to find replacement sequins from the same era.

Silver and pink metal 1940s sequins, and glass seed beads that I found in a thrift storeIt did not take me long to find similar sequins from the 1940s. They were a tiny bit smaller than the originals, and there were several colours to choose from. Though the originals were gold, I very rarely wear gold jewellery, and could not decide between the silver and the pink. Eventually I settled on buying some of both as they were from the same seller and there would be no additional charge in shipping.

I cut off the pair of original sequins left on one side of the bow The chosen combination: pink sequins with white glass beadsOnce they arrived I dithered repairing the hat for several reasons. By this time, it was summer and the hat was in storage for the season; moreover, I was still undecided about which colour to use and also was yet to find appropriate glass seed beads to attach the sequins on with (as opposed to the usual technique of using the thread to overlap one side of the sequin). I was also a bit nervous of somehow ruining the repair.

A close up showing the original sequins on left, and the first new pink sequin attached (apologies for all the filaments adhering to the hat)Finally, this winter I grew impatient with myself and refused to delay any longer. I made a snap (ahem) decision to use the pink sequins – pink and black are always a classic combination. And sewing them on turned out to be extremely easy: I was amused by how the seed beads literally leapt onto the point of the needle each time!

I was very pleased with the end result, and managed to get in one wear before I put away into storage all the winter hats again. On the day I wore it, I suddenly realised it looked better worn on the back of the head, rather than as a profile-style hat, as seen in the first picture.

And once more I asked myself the universal question, why, oh why do I delay mending?

Photos: June/September 2019