Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Monday
Jun172019

Walking Papers

When I was in my late teens I started to wear broad-brimmed hats in summer for protection from the sun simply because I loathed the stickiness of sunscreen and decided I would only put up with it at the beach. From sun hats to parasols was a small step, and I began to collect parasols – because if a hat gave you some protection from the sun, how much more a parasol? (And from summer hats to their winter counterparts was a small leap, and thus a lifetime love affair with hats was born.)

The first proper parasols I found were Chinese and Japanese oiled and plain paper parasols in thrift stores. They were not something I found often, but when I did they were usually inexpensive: under $10, some even under $5. The most recent acquisitions are the two that I am carrying in these pictures. I was thrilled with the flower-shaped one (possibly a Japanese one, with its cherry blossom painting), and the small one I deemed was very convenient to carry in my tote. And since I took this photo, I have found yet another – a green paper parasol.

I did see one oiled paper umbrella once which was priced around $20, but since it wasn’t significantly different to the ones I owned already, I passed on it. A quick look on Etsy ascertains that $20 is a very low price; there are many for $80 or more.*

I always assumed that the coated paper parasols were lacquered, but in fact they are oiled to make them waterproof. As the oiled paper ages it becomes rigid, and easier to break, but with sufficient care one should last for 20 years. I suspect mine are past their use-by date and won’t test them out in the rain, although I’d love to!

Japanese family group, 1920s. (Image found on Pinterest; no original source linked.) Kyoto 1955, by Kansuke YamamotoAccording to Wikipedia, the oiled paper umbrella originated in China, and spread to Korea and Japan during the Tang dynasty (7th–10th centuries). Early umbrella materials were mostly feathers or silks and only later were they covered in paper; it’s unknown when the oiled paper umbrellas were invented. You can read an interesting history about the Japanese wagasa (umbrella) and how they are painstakingly created by hand here. It’s not surprising to learn that the craft has dwindled after WWII, when synthetic umbrellas made their way to Japan. Today production of handmade wagasa is very limited.

If I ever go to China again, or to Japan, a new one will definitely be on my list of desirable souvenirs. I wonder if anyone makes feather ones? What a fashion statement that would be – something else to add to my list of Holy Fashion Grails!

Parasols on the beach, 1920s; click through to the link and scroll to the very bottom of the page to read more about beach parasols in this era.A lovely modern image of a woman with an umbrella in the snow

Fashion Notes

I am wearing a classic Chinese-style silk blouse with mandarin collar and frog fastenings by Sarah-Jane, which I found in a thrift store in country Victoria; the pants are modern, by a French label bought online. My bangles, ring and earrings are cloisonné, also found in thrift stores; the technique of cloisonné had spread to China by the 13–14th centuries where it became hugely popular; to the present day it is one of the world’s best known enamel cloisonné. The fabric necklace of insects and flowers was a souvenir from Hang Nga Guesthouse, popularly known as “Crazy House” for its architecture in Da Lat, Vietnam, and likewise, the beaded and embroidered slippers are a Vietnamese souvenir, bought in the main market in Saigon.

*All prices in Australian dollars

Photos: March 2018

Sunday
Jun162019

Keep Those Peepers Peeled!

Who has Holy Fashion Grails? They are those rare, hard-to-find items – perhaps vintage, perhaps not – that you would give your eyeteeth to lay your hands on. I have a ton of them always lurking in the back of my mind, and they come to the forefront when I am thrift shopping, or trawling online marketplaces. I keep a shopping list for items on my phone to refer to when I am out and about – it can be easy to forget things in the heat of the moment when you come upon something else you didn’t know you desperately wanted!

A little while ago, on two separate occasions, I came across two things that had been on my wishlist for a while: yellow leather heels and a watermelon bag. They may seem strangely specific, but I am always on the lookout for anything yellow, so these patent leather heels by Aldo were an exciting find. I’d been looking on sale sites on and off for a while at shoes very similar to these, but couldn’t justify spending big on shoes when I already own so many. However, a pair of barely-worn shoes for under $10 were irresistible.

I first saw a gorgeous straw watermelon bag in a Melbourne boutique many years ago, but at around $100, I regretfully deemed it too much to spend on such a frivolity. Then last year I spotted one online, and that cost even more, even at the heavily discounted sale price. Then sometime later while shopping in a thrift store and waiting to pay for some other items, I spotted this hard-plastic version sitting behind the counter, waiting to be priced. While it wasn’t the covetable straw, I enquired, and a staff member returned to tell me it was only $9. It pays to keep your eyes peeled! I know plastic does not seem very desirable, but after all, Bakelite is a plastic, and vintage examples are extremely collectable now.

Other things I’m always on the lookout for are any 1930s items, a vintage pink-and-white striped dress, a 30s or 40s Hungarian embroidered blouse in white and red, a new old chenille bedspread, and hats of course.

It’s even more of a bonus when one finds great things in the thrift store: both virtuous recycling and a bargain! So always keep an eye out, you never know what you’ll stumble across when you least expect it.

Photos: July 2018

Thursday
Jun132019

The Straight Sleeve

The most common or ordinary type of sleeve is what I define the ‘straight’ sleeve – most other sources simply define them by the length – short, three-quarter or long. The other defining characteristic is that they are ‘set-in’, which is to say they are set into the armscye of the bodice where the sleeve is joined. The sleeve head is curved and adjusted to the roundness of the shoulder. They can be fitted to the arm, or slightly looser.

The armscye is simply the technical term for the armhole opening of the bodice, to which the sleeve is joined. On an interesting sidenote, the origin of the word is Scottish, in folk etymology literally as it is pronounced: ‘arm’s eye’. [dictionary.com]

The other main type of sleeve is constructed in one piece with the bodice, such as kimono, dolman and batwing – very popular during the 1980s. There are also raglan sleeves, which join the bodice with a curved seam – they are most familiar in casual, sporty types of tops; often the sleeve will be of a different colour to the bodice, to accentuate the cut.

Straight sleeves can seem boring compared to the plethora of other imaginative cuts, but they can be saved from severity or plainness with the addition of interesting details or fabrics, such as in these three examples here.

My short sleeves here are made more decorative with the scalloped hem, just enough to offset the decorative front of the vintage silk blouse (probably 1950s). The three-quarter sleeves nod to warmer weather, if the spring-like floral pattern does not imply it enough; the blouse is by Zara. The long-sleeved All Saints blouse made of striped silk chiffon is of a very unusual design, a backwards wrap top! I’ve never seen this before. I bought the blouse in a thrift store, and was flummoxed for a while as to how it was worn, as the wrap at the back is quite low and gaping when worn reversed.

Keep up to date with sleeve lingo or for a quick refresher, visit the Sleeves Style gallery, which I will update as I go.

Monday
Jun102019

What I Actually Wore #0153

Serial #: 0153
Date: 23/10/2013
Weather: 16°C / 61°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

I wore this outfit to work, and to Cinematheque, a club for cinephiles in the evening. I was glad of the coat and scarf going home, for it was freezing.

I like to sometimes dress in almost all monochrome – as long as it’s not all black, which is very un-Melburnian of me. If you’re not confident about mixing colours, going monochrome is a nice easy way to put an outfit together, with perhaps one or two other complementary colours in your accessories, such as the red I have used here. Black and white are of course non-colours, and they go with everything.

Whenever I do a story on these archival outfits, I amuse myself discovering how many of the items are still in my closet. (I am photographing current outfits, but I am running years behind!) In this case, some of these items are still in my closet, and the others have replacements.

I still mourn the loss of this vintage 70s white leather trench coat that I won for a song maybe a decade ago on eBay ($40) – I wore it out until it looked more grey than white, not from dirt but from actual wear. I still sort of regret culling that, although I would not wear it even if I still owned it, so that’s silly. (Call me sentimental.)

The red wool beret was a gift, but it was actually too small for my head; maybe it was a child’s hat. I have replaced it with another from the thrift store. The shoes, which I originally bought in an op shop, wore out, but I found a pair by the same brand that were almost exactly the same except for having a punctured brogue pattern – also from the thrift store, and never worn. Such a bonus because this Aussie shoe brand no longer exists: some kind of fashion miracle! These socks were a favourite cashmere blend; while I darned the toes several times, they eventually wore out beyond repair.

All the other items I still own, although the cardigan (note the Juliet sleeves) has been in a darning basket for some time, with moth holes in the tie belt that need repair. Emptying that basket out is one of my winter resolutions, so this picture is a timely reminder.

Items:

Top: Kookaï
Cardigan: Nanette Lepore
Skirt: Celia Vela
Coat: vintage 70s
Hat:
vintage 80s
Scarf: souvenir
Socks:
Philippe Matignon
Shoes: Scooter
Earrings: self-made
Necklace: souvenirs
Ring: Roun

Photos: January 2014

Sunday
Jun092019

School Lessons

I have rediscovered a novel way to wear socks! Step 1: don big fat long socks. Step 2: scrunch down to ankle to form monstrous ankle warmers. This is how we actually wore socks as a fashion statement during one mad phase in high school, only our school uniform decreed they were white back then.

I don’t actually walk around like this, never fear. On days which suddenly turn warm and I feel like I’m about to pass out from heatstroke of the shins, I take a surreptitious breather under my desk for a few minutes. In fact I did so this very week. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!

Photos: April 2017