Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Tuesday
Dec252018

A Christmas Angel

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
“Glory to the new-born King! 
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled” 
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, 
Join the triumph of the skies; 
With th' angelic host proclaim, 
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.” 
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
“Glory to the new-born King!”

Well, I knew this song had been around for a long time, because they don’t write lyrics like they used to, but I didn’t know that it was written in 1739 by the famous Methodist preacher Charles Wesley. Interestingly, he requested slow and solemn music, and it was not until one hundred years later that the more joyful music still used today was composed by Felix Mendelssohn.

Wesley had based his lyrics on the angelic choir I talked about in yesterday’s Christmas Eve story, so today’s picture is a fitting, if more stylised extension, as I depict the angel heralding the shepherds.

I decided to go for a Renaissance style angel in gloriously colourful and billowing clothes, sumptuously golden wings (large antiqued wall ornaments, borrowed from Hurn & Hurn – which you can actually buy – fantastic!) and a deliciously gold background reminiscent of some paintings and frescoes of the era, or Byzantine icons (another art period I love).

Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful and celebratory day, however you spend it.

~

Fashion Notes

I am wearing a blue top with silk puffed sleeves by Australian designer Lisa Ho, a silk taffeta vintage 70s skirt, beautifully dyed and embroidered fabric that I think must have been a sari as it is so long (I bought this in a vintage boutique in Sydney when I was a teenager!), and a copper metal headpiece of flowers by which label I remember not.

Photo: December 2018

Monday
Dec242018

A Christmas Shepherd

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around
And glory shone around …

Here we are again at this festive time of the year, at Christmas Eve. You may be celebrating another religious festival altogether, or none at all, simply enjoying spending time with family and loved ones. But this is after all Christmas, celebrating the birth of Christ.

I must confess, when I was thinking about what to do for my Christmas stories this year, this carol came into mind, and my thoughts kept diverging to the naughty schoolchild lyrics, “While shepherds washed their socks by night …” I debated doing a humorous picture to suit, but eventually decided to keep it clean (haha), and give you my interpretation of a trio of Christmas carols.

The story of the angel appearing to the shepherds is told in chapter two of the book of Luke in the Bible (verses 8–20), and is recounted just as the song lyrics poetically put it: the shepherds are told of the birth of a Saviour, Christ the Lord, whom they would find in a humble manger. Suddenly they were surrounded by a heavenly choir of angels singing praises to God. After this, the marvelling shepherds hurried off to find it all just as the angel had told them, and they went away telling everyone all that they had seen and heard.

Maybe you’ll be listening to carols tonight, or maybe you’ll be watching a favourite holiday film (mine is The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz), but whatever you are doing today, I hope it is both pleasurable and joyous!

~

Fashion Notes

I’m a lone shepherd here, standing in a field in the Rif Mountains of Morocco (a photo I took in 2011), wearing a jellabiya I bought in Morocco, and over the top a sleeveless jacket by Australian brand Country Road, with thrifted tan leather sandals.

Photo: December 2018

Sunday
Dec232018

What I Actually Wore #0146

Serial #: 0146
Date: 22/09/2012
Weather: 21°C / 70°F
Time Allowed: 20 minutes

I had recently seen the 1927 Clara Bow film Wings, and I had been much struck how in one of the earlier scenes, the actress had worn her scarf tucked into the belt around her waist. That was a nifty idea to emulate, I decided. This day I was going to see a film, and decided the time was ripe for a Clara Bow homage.

My outfit wasn’t exactly the same as hers, but close enough, with slim fitting cardigan and straight skirt. The neutral beige and tan complement the turquoise blue tints of my skirt, silk scarf, jewellery, and sunglasses. About half the items I am wearing are second hand, with the beret and the clutch being the oldest in my possession.

I like this outfit, and would probably happily wear it now – and could, as I still actually have all these items, except for the socks which wore out, and the cardigan, which I deemed too girlish in style.

Actually, while it is retired from my wardrobe, the cardigan is still in my possession, buried in my darning basket after some moths chewed on the end of its self-tie-belt. Here I have set aside the thin belt it comes with anyway, and worn a wider perforated leather belt. (Oddly, the previous owner of the belt scraped off the brand name, though they left the words “genuine leather”.) Recently I pulled a blouse out of a culling bag and started wearing it again, so there’s no saying that I wouldn’t don this cardigan and suddenly decide I like it!

While I generally like 1920s style, though it’s not my favourite era, I think I prefer this less obvious, slimmer silhouette to the typical loose-fitting dropwaist.

Items:

Top: Kookaï
Cardigan: Nanette Lepore
Skirt: La Gonda, vintage 60s
Hat: vintage 90s
Sunglasses: MinkPink
Scarf: thrifted
Belt: thrifted
Bag: vintage 70s
Socks: Philippe Matignon
Shoes: John Lewis Women
Earrings: hand made by me
Ring: souvenir

Photos: October 2013

Tuesday
Dec182018

In the Mood for Qipaos

I don’t remember what first inspired my admiration for the traditional Chinese cheongsam, or qipao – very likely a Chinese film – but I am sure it had a lot to do with the sumptuous silk embroidered fabric that many are made from. Many years ago I once owned a beautiful example made from oyster-hued silk, embroidered heavily in red, silver and gold. Unfortunately it was a little small for me, and I stupidly culled it from my wardrobe in a mad fit of minimalism in my late 20s, since I thought I would never wear it. Ever since then I have been looking for a new one.

Qipao of the Daoguang Period (1821–1850); Empress Xiaoshen, image from WikipediaThe history of the qipao is long and complicated, and (according to Wikipedia) its origins are controversial. Generally people believe that its origin is in the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), but some scholars argue that in fact the cheongsam was first worn two millennia prior, in a period between the Western Zhou dynasty (1046BC–771BC) and the pre-Qin era (221BC–207BC). Whatever is the truth, the qipao of the Qing dynasty could not be more different from the style common today. It was floor-length and loose, and cut in an A-line that revealed the figure not at all. Only the head, hand and the tips of the toes were visible.

Chinese singer and actress Zhou Xuan wearing a cheongsam in 1930s in Shanghai; C.H. Wong Photo Studio; Image from WikipediaIn China, women’s liberation had as much effect as it had in other parts of the world at the turn of the 20th century, and the Republican period (1912–1949) is known as the golden age of the cheongsam. It is from this era that the cheongsam as we know it took form. Along with the ending of traditional foot binding, women began to bob their hair, and took to wearing this formerly exclusively masculine attire: one-piece clothing called Changshan or changpao. Now, too, the style was influenced by western fashion – the body-skimming bias-cuts popularised by Hollywood stars – hugging the figure, with hemlines gradually rising and formerly merely practical splits running much higher.

While the Communist Revolution virtually ended the popularity of the cheongsam, Shanghainese emigrants and refugees took the fashion with them to Hong Kong and Taiwan, and kept the style alive there.

Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, 2000Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, 2000Wong Kar Wai’s beautiful and bitter-sweet film In the Mood for Love is based on the Shanghai diaspora from the Revolution, and is set in Hong Kong in 1962. Its heroine, played by Maggie Cheung, wears a gorgeous collection of cheongsams – I remember seeing the film in the cinema when it was released in 2000, and I found the costumes no less breathtaking than the cinematography.

I was very excited when I finally found my new cheongsam, on my Day of Yellow Bonanza, the miraculous Saturday a few months ago when I found several yellow items scattered in thrift stores across Melbourne, including a 1940s ballgown. The cheongsam is made from a luminous pale-yellow brocade of chrysanthemums, which is a popular flower in Chinese culture. It is one of four seasonal symbolic flowers representing autumn, and is also the flower of the ninth moon. The dress probably dates from the 60s, and the fabric is rayon. It actually needs to be tailored to fit me a bit better, which is why you see me with hands on waist to disguise the bagginess there. I am wearing it with a pair of patent yellow stilettos by Aldo, also found in a thrift store.

Read more about the history of the qipao here, and about Maggie Cheung’s wardrobe for the sublime film In the Mood for Love here – I am inspired to watch it again.

Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, 2000

Photos: August 2018

Tuesday
Dec112018

Size Matters

Cherries are a delicious fruit, one of my favourites since childhood when I would go cherry-picking in the orchards of the Victorian hills with my family. Who didn’t, as a child (if not an adult as well!) dangle multiple cherries from their ears? The fruit is a popular motif in fashion as well – I have a few accessories featuring cherries, including two quite different necklaces, and these very playful fluffy cherries dangling from my keyring.

While they are certainly fun, and I adore pom-poms, I bought them primarily for their practicality. You may laugh, but because they are so enormous, they are easy to find in my capacious tote bag!

I did discover though, the first time I went to put my keys in an evening bag, that they suddenly are not quite so practical! It took me a while to work that out, as I often go out in the evening straight from work, when I have my tote bag with me and it is not an issue. What I need is a second set of housekeys on a tiny little keyring, which is a perfectly reasonable excuse buy another accessory, right?

Photo: November 2018