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« Picnic-Perfect | Main | Auld Lang Sock »
Monday
Dec312018

Shine On, Magpie!

If it glitters, you can guarantee my fingers will get itchy and I’ll be drawn to it like the magpie of yore, which explains why I have so many sequinned garments feathering my nest. I can at least justify this excess by the fact that I actually wear them – working at a theatre allows me to indulge in my, ahem, theatrical sense of style.

… sequins are the quintessential party wear, and an excellent choice to ring in the new year …

In the nineteenth century, sequins were made of shiny metal – I have a late 1920s or early 1930s hat trimmed in tiny metal sequins (they need replacing and will be difficult to source), and also an antique Berber rug, originally worn as a cloak (incredibly heavy), that is interwoven with silver metal sequins. In the early twentieth century, flat or faceted to catch more light, they were made of celluloid, meaning they were dangerous to wear as they are flammable. But by some accounts of vintage sellers I have read, they have a special extra-shiny quality not found in their modern plastic counterparts. In the 1930s, there were even electroplated gelatin sequins. Obviously not very durable, these did not stay in fashion for long!

60s pink and white wool tank, silver velvet skirt by Top Shop, 1980s sequin beret; 1960s red 1960s red sequin wool top, modern skirt by Ojay and red sequin bag (era uncertain); 60s white sequin and red bead wool top, modern skirt by OjaySequins have been used in decoration for much longer than this however: the first evidence for them is in the Indus Valley around 2500BC, when gold sequins were used to trim clothing and other ‘paraphernalia’ – possibly for ceremonial or royal use. [Wikipedia] Note that ‘spangles’ are actually made from coiled wire that is hammered flat, though today the term is used interchangeably with sequins, while ‘paillettes’ usually refers to large, flat sequins.

Black sequins two ways: modern sequin dress worn as top with Bettina Liano puff shorts, Victorian miniature velvet top hat, 60s pearl earrings and modern heeled sandals by Wittner; modern sequin dress worn with rhinestone earrings by Aldo and modern red satin pumps by BarkinsThe modern name for these shiny decorative disks comes from the zecchino, a Venetian ducat coin, by way of the French translation, sequin. After Napoleon’s invasion of Italy in 1797, the coin ceased being minted, but the Conqueror carried the name back to France in triumph (okay, I’m romanticising here), and the term sequin came into use in France for the decorative trim shortly after.

Modern Australian flag sequin souvenir dress, 1980s straw beret, modern plaited white heels by Stefano Stefani. This dress made me laugh when I spotted it in a thrift store – a pity it is not a French flag, to match my story better! It was obviously a cheap souvenir dress, and I paid $6 for it, although I haven't found an occasion to wear it to yet!I have been hoarding this shiny story literally for years, but as sequins are the quintessential party wear, and an excellent choice to ring in the new year, this New Year’s Eve seems an appropriate time of year to finally release them into the world.

In fact, I haven’t even included everything in this collection – I also have a miniskirt of giant iridescent green paillettes, a grey tee of matt sequins, another modern sequin tank trimmed in silk chiffon, and a few sundry accessories. Out of this set, I think either the red sequin top, or the cropped robin’s egg blue tasselled top are my first vintage sequinned purchases. They were both purchased online, the former on Etsy, and the latter at eBay auction. I remember I was on a picnic with friends when I excitedly received the notification my bid had won the top! All the other items were found in thrift stores, except for the black Bettina Liano shorts, an indulgent Australian designer purchase.

Whatever old thing you slip off for this evening’s party dress, shiny or not, I hope you bling in a bright and shiny new year! Here’s to a happy 2019.

50s robin's egg blue sequin and bead tassel wool top, modern skirt by Ojay, vintage jewellery; 60s turquoise sequin and star-beaded wool top, modern skirt by Ojay, vintage jewellery; 60s celadon sequin and bead top, modern skirt by Ojay, vintage jewellery; 60s yellow sequin wool top, 1960s linen blend skirt by La Gonda, sterling silver, lemon quartz and agate earrings hand made by me

View all the items here in my new gallery All the Shiny Things.

Photos: (black set) March 2014, (Australian flag) February 2016; (pink and green sets) March 2018

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Read more about the history of sequins and spangles in this excellent article by The Dreamstress.

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