Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in 1920s (101)

Monday
Aug142017

Spot the Difference

Vintage cheetah print wool fedora by Laura Ashley; vintage leopard print earringsAnimal prints, while they are an acknowledged classic print in the fashion lexicon, have never been something I have gravitated towards. In part it is because my minimalist leanings find the patterns too visually overwhelming and ‘messy’, but it is also because to me they smack of an old-fashioned as opposed to vintage style.

As British Vogue put it in their 100th anniversary June 2016 issue (below), a scent of trophy wife developed in the 1960s, when wealthy and famous women like Sophia Loren and Ursula Andress adopted the signature print.

British Vogue, June 2016

I don’t mind a touch of animal print in accessories, such as hats and shoes – it’s only when a wall of animal print approaches me that I flinch.

It is the great cats that provide inspiration for the most classic of animal prints: leopard and cheetah print are the two most popular in clothing and accessories. They look very similar to one another, so how does one discern between the two?

Cheetah

The cheetah’s coat is yellow-orange or golden, and the oval or circular spots are dark brown or black. This is the pattern used in both of my hats, although the background colours are quite different. The fedora is by Laura Ashley, and the vintage beret of unknown provenance; I suspect both are from the 80s.

Cheetah-inspired print vintage wool beret; the pattern is actually a bit of a hybrid, with some areas that feature shapes that almost form the distinctive rosettes found on a leopard's coat

Leopard

The pattern on the leopard’s coat is more complex, consisting of black or brown spots that cluster together closely, in a pattern that is called a rosette. The fur in the centre of the rosette is usually a deeper colour than the tawny background fur. The rosette pattern provides excellent camouflage for the leopard.

The vintage earrings I am wearing in the first photo show a leopard print, as do the modern heeled sandals by Guess. The shoes are printed pony hair, as in fact are the earrings (although they may be faux).

Leopard print pony-hair and patent leather heels by GuessVery occasionally one sees other animal prints come into fashion – tiger, zebra, giraffe – but their appearance is usually trend driven and fleeting. Too bold and brash, they simply don’t possess the same vintage pedigree; they are the vulgar cousins of the sleeker cheetah and leopard. But the latter are still a bit wild, not for the entirely tamed woman. As Christian Dior put it, “Leopard print requires a kind of femininity which is a little bit sophisticated. If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it.” Well, there are plenty of blondes who have chosen to wear it, but I’d hazard a guess none of them are sweet.

How to wear animal print

Because animal print is just so bold and statement-making, I prefer it worn against solid block colours, and my choice would be any of the neutrals: black, white, grey, camel. Practically speaking, denim is also a neutral – see Kate Moss in the tearsheet above. Or, if you are a maximalist, and more is more is more, you could pair it with matching boots (see Ursula Andress) or tights and heels like Lola Todd, who I suspect may be wearing genuine fur, which makes it rather bad taste to match it to a live leopard pet! Don’t do that.

Photos: August 2016

Wednesday
Mar082017

Wearing the Trousers

Super for the summer: lounging pyjamas in a pretty print with a matching jacket, 1928; a woman wearing a leaf-pattern trouser suit and broad-brimmed sun hatToday a good part of the world’s population is celebrating International Women’s Day.

Not only do we laud the remarkable women of history who achieved great and extraordinary things as human beings, but also as women in the face of incredible odds and sometimes horrific circumstances. We are also celebrating the quiet achievers: our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces (and every other conceivable female relative, pardon the pun) and of course our girlfriends. We couldn’t have done anything without the women who came before us.

One thing I can’t help but think about women’s history in the world is our liberation from strictures of dress – literally. That may seem trivial at first, but being rid of societal strictures about what we wear is a huge gift.

Blonde bombshell: a curvy catsuit with a pleated inset at the trouser bottoms, 1929; American actress, Joan Blondell, a whacky, wise-cracking Hollywood starletTrousers were first adopted in Western Europe the period known as Late Antiquity (the transition period between Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages), but they were mostly worn by men. It was not until the twentieth century that wearing the pants first became acceptable for women, by way of imported pantaloons from the Near East, to pyjamas at home (in place of the traditional teagown), to pyjamas on the beach in the 1920s and 30s (read about the exotic origin of the pyjama here). Of course the First World War had a lot to do with the emancipation of the Flappers, and the adoption of trousers beyond work wear for the war effort.

Beach babe: baggy bell-bottoms, a tight striped top, a spotted scarf and plimsolls, 1932; a girl with a bobbed haircut, dressed for a day out on the boardwalk

Perhaps in another century or two it will be de rigueur for men to be wearing dresses again.

Shockingly, there are still parts of the world where it is a criminal offence for a woman to wear trousers. I think everyone has forgotten that once upon a time everyone wore robes, togas, chitons, tunics, kilts whatever-you-may-call-’em. Perhaps in another century or two it will be de rigueur for men to be wearing dresses again.

Here are some glorious vintage pictures of women wearing trousers, from the 20s to the 70s – so many awesome styles! Enjoy your day, women of the world.

Photos from: Style Book – Fashionable Inspirations, by Elizabeth Walker, Flammarion 2011

Stellar and smouldering: in a Spencer Tracy suit, complete with brogues, 1938; American actress, Katharine Hepburn sitting on the arm of a chair smokingLand-girl looks: dungarees in bold checks, more Chelsea than cabbages, 1941; clothes for A Coupon SummerWorld War wear: crisp in white cotton with a classic rolled hairdo, 1943; a woman wearing coveralls examines designs on a drafting tableShock horror: collegiates in trousers, men’s shirts, bobby socks and even loafers, 1947; American students in Heidelberg, Germany, astound the local ladiesSexy siren or beautiful beatnik, a cinched-in waist and huge hoop earrings, 1955; British actress Joan Collins feeding a parrot in a big birdcageBoyish and yet beautiful, a sailor sweater with jeans, topped off with a pixie haircut, 1965; a portrait of American actress Jean Seberg sitting cross-legged on a stoolMatching moments: a cropped top, flared loons, topped off with a little beanie hat, 1971; a model wearing ‘Lollipop’, from the Mary Quant spring collection, LondonJust a gigolo: clubbing in a classic jacket and trousers with a fedora in hand, 1978; American model and occasional actress, Lauren Hutton at Studio 54, USAFighting fashion: snowballing and stripes, and very Flashdance legwarmers, 1982; knitting from head to toe protect a girl from the wintry weather

Sunday
Feb192017

What I Actually Wore #128

Serial #: 0128
Date: 24/06/2013
Weather: 12°C / 53°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

This outfit amuses me, nearly four years on. I was still on my Ballet Russes kick, but I remember the sheer number of colours in this outfit was a rebellion against my own edict of not wearing more than 2–3 hues at once, as well as being inspired by a life drawing I did twenty years before in art college.

I remember somewhat quixotically selecting two fluorescent soft pastels that were amongst a 12-pack I had bought cheap. (Reduced probably because no one else had wanted to buy it.) I chose hot pink and lemon yellow. As a testament of my drawing teacher’s trust, she did not comment until I was close to resolving the drawing, after the additional introduction of cobalt and neutral shades. Then she told me that she had been very dubious at the outset, but admitted I had successfully pulled the drawing together. It was even framed and exhibited at the end of the year.

And here is the same colour palette rendered in cloth! All the garments are contemporary; only the hat and earrings are vintage, a 1920s cap with feather pom-pom, and woven cane hoops which are possibly 70s or 80s.

The hot pink long sleeved tee is a woollen merino knit, one of Kookaï’s trusty basics; the acid yellow top is by Veronika Maine, a favourite Australian label; and the linen skirt I bought in Spain. My other accessories include a cobalt Italian patent leather belt I bought on sale in David Jones, a local department store, French over-the-knee socks I wore to death, and a pair of wedges I bought from an online sale store.

Unusually for me, I put the outfit together the night before, and even ironed it then! I really liked it then (my notes say), and it still makes me smile, especially because of the inspiration behind it.

Items:

Tee: Kookaï
Top:
Veronika Maine
Skirt:
Celia Velo, souvenir from Spain
Belt:
Alta Linea
Socks:
Philippe Matignon
Hat:
Merimac Hat Co, vintage 20s from Etsy
Earrings:
vintage
Ring:
souvenir from Vietnam
Wedges:
Finsk

Photos: September 2013

Tuesday
Jan172017

The Original Candy-Striper

When I was a little girl, I loved the English children’s storybooks about Milly-Molly-Mandy. They were written and illustrated by Joyce Lankester Brisley, and were set in about 1920. The stories are set in a quaint English village, and follow the simple, every-day adventures of the title character, who lives in ‘the nice white cottage with the thatched roof’. Her full name is Millicent Margaret Amanda, which is shortened for ease. (According to my Oxford Dictionary of First Names, Molly was actually an alteration from Mally, a pet form of Mary.)

The original illustrations were darling, as was Milly-Molly-Mandy’s seven year old style. She wears a simple pink-and-white striped dress, a straw boater, white socks and black Mary-Janes – a children’s unisex classic shoe that in the Roaring Twenties transmogrified into adult women’s shoes and have never gone out of style since. (Check out this gorgeous children’s outfit at Sewpony, made by a modern mum who lives in country Victoria.)

I wonder if here is the genesis of my long love of the short bob, Mary-Janes and striped clothing? Inspired by one of my childhood heroines, I’ve styled an outfit for the grown-up Milly-Molly-Mandy, who now of course insists on being called by her proper name. She’s grown her hair out, but she still loves pink and white stripes.

~

Fashion Notes

The short-sleeved seersucker blouse is from Australian high-street store Witchery, the pleated skirt is by Moschino, the punctured brogue-style, patent T-bar heels by Scooter, and the striped elastic belt is, I think, vintage 80s. I can’t believe I forgot to include the boater however! All of these items I bought second hand.

Photo: December 2016

Monday
Aug222016

You’re Mad on Dances

CELEBRATING THE ROARING TWENTIES IN A SPECIAL SERIES

I’m not going to give you a big history lesson on the Charleston dance except to say it is the most famous dance associated with the 1920s. It was named after the harbour city of Charleston in South Carolina, and was first composed in 1923 for a Broadway show titled Runnin’ Wild. The peak years for the Charleston’s popularity were 1926–1927.

Wikipedia describes it thus: ‘At first, the step started off with a simple twisting of the feet, to rhythm in a lazy sort of way. When the dance hit Harlem, a new version was added. It became a fast kicking step, kicking the feet, both forward and backward and later done with a tap. Further changes were undoubtedly made before the dance was put on stage.’

Josephine Baker perfoming the CharlestonThe dress I am wearing, being quite short and skimpy on the bodice, is vaguely inspired by flapper dresses with its drop waist and gored skirt. It is grey silk chiffon, by Australian high street store Sportsgirl. I purchased it on eBay and was rather disappointed by its brevity once the package arrived and I saw it in person (and on my person!). I thought it was fine for a homage to the dance though, and had fun kicking my patent navy heels to an album of original Charleston recordings, including an amusing George Gershwin song performed by Fred and Adele Astaire:

FRED:
I've seen for days that you've got
The ways that must be checked
In you I never can detect
The slightest signs of intellect
You’re mad on dances, think of the chances you neglect
You never seem inclined to use your mind
And it's quite plain to see
That I'm the brains of the family …

[Read the full lyrics here, and watch a period video of the dance below.]

Photo: March 2014