Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Tuesday
Jan012019

Picnic-Perfect

The first day of January is a perfect day for a picnic, and what is a more perfect picnic outfit than one featuring gingham? There is something just so cheerful about this fabric, and my favourite combination is red and white, although I do have other colours.

Gingham is usually made from cotton or cotton-blends, but the origin of it is open to speculation, possibly originating from the Malay, or from a town in France, or even perhaps from the Dutch. Many women would associate gingham with school uniforms, which may put them off, or imbue it with an affectionate nostalgia. My high school uniform was a green and grey plaid, so I have no such reminders. (I don’t think I’d want to wear a dress made from my high school plaid though – the notion makes me laugh aloud.)

There is something just so cheerful about this fabric …

Perhaps the picnicking connotations has to do with red and white checked cloths traditionally used in picnic baskets? While a picnic did not after all transpire on my first day of the year, I did have a friend visit for afternoon cake and coffee on my balcony, and we went for a walk in the local Botanic Gardens. I was pleased to wear a red and white gingham dress rather than this exact outfit, as it was far too warm for denim.

This blouse was actually gifted to me by the friend I saw today, which is apt, and the vintage 60s hat I purchased on eBay. The adorable heels were purchased from Anthropologie on sale. They were a bit expensive to start with, and I dithered so long over buying them, by the time I finally did they were drastically reduced – hurrah!

It was a lovely sunny day in the gardens (I carried a red parasol), and while my friend and I ambled around, we came across plenty of picnicking parties – a pleasant beginning to the year indeed.

I hope that 2019 brings you joy and fulfillment, and the strength to see any challenges through. Here’s to a fresh new year!

Photos: September 2018

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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Sunday
Dec302018

Auld Lang Sock

On this penultimate day of December, we have at last arrived at that time of year when we start to reminisce fondly of auld lang syne, (or consign those evil days to the devil), and to look forward to a new leaf, a clean slate, a fresh start and all those other clichés.

This is also a good time to give old things their marching orders, such as socks that fall down just as ever so soon as you pull them up, no matter how cute and stripey and cosy they are. These are Evil Socks. Gird your loins, Snapettes, and chuck ’em in the bin!

The New Year is also a good time go shopping for new socks. Hello Chicstocking—hurrah!

Photo: September 2018

Friday
Dec282018

The White Walkers

It was maybe last summer that I bought a pair of as new off-white kid leather sneakers by Camper in a thrift store. Technically they were a size too big, but they were so soft and comfortable and just my kinda sneaks, that I bought them anyway. They became my favourite walking shoes. I wore them everywhere, and I wore them to death.

First they developed the sundry scuffs and scrapes of normal wear-and-tear, but then holes appeared in the outer sides where the leather was thinnest – I was aghast! I kept on wearing them anyway. Then the shoelaces snapped, and I tied them in knots and I kept on wearing them. Then the treads, in patches, wore down to non-existence.

Then, my friend bought a pair of white brogues by Australian brand Country Road – also from the thrift store – but finding them too small for her, passed them on to me. These were also in excellent condition when they were donated. Admittedly they are a little too tight for me, but once they are worn in and their stiffness softens, they will be fine (toes crossed).

… normally I would be embarrassed to be seen on the streets in such shabby shoes …

The only problem was that I was stubbornly clinging to my disgraceful Campers instead of wearing in the Country Roads. Even though normally I would be embarrassed to be seen on the streets in such shabby shoes, I was brazenly continuing to wear them.

Finally on Boxing Day when I gave the apartment a good post-Christmas-rush clean-up, I forced myself to pick up the disreputable shoes and march off to the giant garbage bins – where, wincing, I threw them in. A few, sad tears followed them like the handful of pebbles one casts over a coffin.

I wish I could say I took to the brogues with gusto, but my feet are in mourning still.

Photo: December 2012

Wednesday
Dec262018

Three Christmas Kings

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts, we traverse far
Field and fountain
Moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Oh, star of wonder, star of might
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading
Still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light …

Boxing Day is traditionally – I’m talking about medieval traditions that is – the day the ruling lords rewarded their serfs with boxes of presents. In places of worship, alms boxes collected donations for the poor. I wonder if this tradition could have been inspired by the three kings (or wise men) who followed a star and traversed a vast distance to present their gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby in the manger?

More recently of course, Boxing Day traditions have us all rushing to the shops to buy discounted presents for our well-deserving selves!

The carol tells the story of the three wise men in the Bible who had seen a star in the east and travelled to Bethlehem in search of the baby born King of the Jews. The song – both words and music – was penned in 1857 by the American John Henry Hopkins Jr, and the opening verses are beautifully lyrical. Sung in rounds it sounds both solemn and joyous.

I hope you all enjoyed both giving and receiving gifts yesterday … excuse me now, I’m off shopping!

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Fashion Notes

Amazingly I actually already owned all these vintage maxi dresses, hats and wigs which were perfect to illustrate three wise (wo)men. On the left, I am wearing a 60s silk dress, with a vintage 40s black and white turban, and beaded slippers by Mollini; in the centre, is a green 70s lurex gown, with a vintage 60s velvet turban decorated with a vintage rhinestone bird brooch, and the slippers are by Sarti; on the right is a vintage 60s striped empire line dress, with a vintage 40s pink jacket, 60s silk petal hat and beaded slippers which were a souvenir from Vietnam. I am standing in front of the entrance to the King's palace, in Fes, Morocco, where I visited in 2011.

Photo: December 2018