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Entries in 1920s (100)


What I Actually Wore #118

Serial #: 0118
Date: 26/05/2013
Weather: 21°C / 69.8°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

It is a mild day, and I quickly choose an outfit for work, starting with one of my go-to skirts for this kind of weather. It is a navy linen skirt that I had bought from an online sale website a couple of summers ago. It features an asymmetrical cut, a style I have always favoured.

I pair it with a purple and red striped Sonia Rykiel knit which, with its skinny tie at the neck, has a 20s flavour. I have always been partial to purple and red worn together; it can be a startling and vibrant combination but really works. I match the top to a red wool felt hat, a modern hybrid of cloche and fedora.

As the morning is not warm, I wear ribbed over-the-knee socks with my patent and wood wedges, and add a 1960s black velvet coat with a fur collar. I spotted that coat in a country Salvos store when I was on a visit with my niece. I certainly didn’t need yet another coat, but I fell in instant love and bought it. I’ve worn it many times, and it is surprisingly warm for a cloth coat. Also from this era is the black patent bag I carry often. For a vinyl bag, it has lasted well. I wouldn’t ordinarily buy vinyl, but it is permissible for a fun vintage item!

One of my work colleagues compliments me, and tells me I look fabulous, very 1920s, which had not really been my intention (the 20s part, not the fabulous part!). I guess a reminiscence of certain eras is inevitable when one is attracted to the style and shapes of particular eras. I love Art Deco, which covers the 1920s–40s, as well as the 70s revival.

Very regrettably, this knit got eaten alive by evil and hungry moths (which happens to me a lot), so I ended up donating it to charity a year or two ago – I had darned the first couple of holes but then even more appeared and in a ruthless moment, I decided it was a lost cause. It must have been a particularly tasty merino wool. The skirt has also retired from active service, but with my new interest in navy, it’s very possible it will make a comeback in the summer.

I don’t normally talk about the watches I wear, but this favourite Kenneth Cole with its chain band was recently repaired, so I am most excited to be able to wear it again! The chain had lost a couple of links and had stretched out, thus becoming unwearable, until I finally got around to taking it to the jeweller to have it repaired (along with two others). I now have four to choose from, which is a bit mad. I’d love to add to the collection a vintage 30s or 40s man’s watch, one with a large round dial and a tan leather band.

Photos: September 2013


Top: Sonia Rykiel
vintage 1960s
Milana (available at David Jones)
silver – Roun (now defunct); onyx – souvenir
Kenneth Cole
Bag: vintage 1960s


The Exotic History of the Pae Jama

Celebrating the Roaring Twenties in a Special Series

Louche and loose, languid and long, classic wide-legged trousers and lounge pyjamas are closely associated with the relaxed style of the Roaring Twenties, but they did not suddenly just appear out of nowhere, or even – as one of the first women to popularise them for beachwear – out of Coco Chanel’s inventive and pragmatic mind.

Their origins lie in the mysterious and exotic lands in the near east of Europe: India, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where both men and women wore traditional loose trousers tied at the waist, usually with a belted tunic that extended to the knees. Pyjamas referred only to the trousers, and were tight fitting through the whole leg, or full and loose to the knee, and tighter at the calves and ankles. The word is Hindi, and comes from pae jama, meaning leg clothing. Similar iterations also appeared in the Middle and Far East.

Pyjamas were worn by Europeans sojourning in these countries, and were brought back home as exotic loungewear. By the 1920s, when Coco Chanel began cavorting on the beach in them, they had adopted the streamlined and loose cut of the Art Deco era, with straight legs and drop-waists.

Louche and loose, languid and long, classic wide-legged trousers and lounge pyjamas are closely associated with the relaxed style of the Roaring Twenties …

Louise Brooks, 1920sIna Claire, 1925; photograph by Edward Steichen (original link broken)Thalia Barbarova, 1925 (original link broken)Pyjamas were considered a fashionable alternative to the teagown – particularly when relaxing at home – and were made from luxurious and printed fabrics; Paul Poiret was an early proponent of these, launching as early as 1911 for both day and evening wear. On the beach their early appearances were quite scandalous and, adopted at first only by the adventurous. By the end of the Twenties, however, they were comme il faut for the average woman.

In fact pajamas were considered elegant beachwear throughout the 1930s, when they began to be cut wider so that they took on the appearance of a skirt. In the 1960s they made another big comeback as palazzo pajamas, and, an enduring style, they still continue to be worn today.

Fashion notes

In my late teens or early twenties, I had my own version of lounge pyjamas made. I purchased a pattern for actual pyjamas and two different fabrics: a paintbrushy floral pattern in autumnal hues of gold, browns and coral on a cream base for the top, and a beautiful goldenrod for the trousers. My sister made them for me, and I wore them everywhere for years (sadly I didn’t keep them), styling them with long pearls, flat Mary-Janes and a classic Louise Brooks bob (my style icon at the time).

In these pictures I am actually wearing modern day pale pink crepe ‘kite’ trousers and a cream silk sleeveless blouse; the pearl beads are vintage 80s.

Photos: March 2014


Read more about 1920s pyjama style at Swing Fashionista and Retro Rover (there are some inspiring images there too). There is also a great article at Fashion History: Love to Know that delves deeper into the historical antecedents of the familiar Westernised pyjama.

Beach pyjamas, 1930s UK; from Swing FashionistaBeach pajamas, 1930s UK; from Retro Rover


What I Actually Wore #114

Serial #: 0114
Date: 05/04/2013
Weather: 25°C / 77°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

I chuckle every time I open up the folder of one of these archival fashion shoots and see some outlandish outfit like this one. It’s so OTT! But I should reiterate at the time I was on a real Ballet Russes kick that year. That ballet company was famous for its extravagant and wildly colourful costumes, many of which featured a multitude of patterns.

I remember buying that Anthropologie cardigan new on eBay (and we still don’t have a brick-and-mortar store here in Australia). I deliberated for a long time because it was quite expensive, but I did love it. I’ve teamed it with a classic black and white striped t-shirt from Zara (bought in Portugal while on holiday to replace a previous iteration that just became too worn), and a vintage 1920s navy straw hat that has a striped effect by way of the velvet piping. There are pearls scattered over the hat too, and two little velvet bows at the back. I bought it on Etsy from an American seller.

Black patent T-bar heels (by Scooter, a brand that no longer seems to exist) and bag (vintage 60s), grey over-the-knee socks, and sterling silver and enamel earrings complete my accessories. I made the earrings myself, from small sterling silver ridged beads, and larger beads that are enamelled in blue with silver stars. The design is a variation on my favourite simple style of a dangling single round bead – I call them bauble earrings.

The effect of the whole outfit is quite doll-like, and far too cute for me to wear anything remotely resembling that these days. The cardigan has since been donated to charity, the linen skirt as well I think (or it may only have made it as far as a bag of prospective donations, in storage) and the shoes also wore out and were trashed. The other items I still own – a 50% retention rate is not too bad, I suppose.


T-Shirt: Zara
vintage 20s
hand-made by me
vintage 60s

Photos: April 2013


What I Actually Wore #113

Serial #: 0113
Date: 02/04/2013
Weather: 19°C / 61°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

Still inspired by the costumes of the Ballet Russes, prints were a big part of my wardrobe back in winter 2013. I used to pair prints with neutral items and colourful and quirky accessories.

I adored this silk blouse that I bought second hand in a Red Cross op shop, especially for its dramatic lantern sleeves with the gathered cuffs. I did love the print and colour too. For most of my life I hated purple (because my dear mother, whose favourite colour it is, foisted it on me at too early an age), and only started wearing in the last few years. Lilac with red is a particularly lovely and startling combination to wear.

The only sad thing is that the blouse has torn away from the back seam – I put too much strain on it one day stretching perhaps. It is repairable, but it will make the blouse a little narrower.

Interestingly, this vintage 1920s velvet cap that I bought on eBay from an English seller a few years ago is actually supposed to be worn sticking straight up, like a garden gnome. When I first received it, I was doubtful, assuming surely it wasn’t worn that way, but I have since found contemporary photographic references of hats in similar styles indicating that indeed they were! Not a hat for a wallflower …

Apart from the blouse tragedy, all the items are still in my closet – shoes, bag, jewellery – all have been stayers. The earrings have remained particular favourites. The vintage 60s coat I still like, though I have not worn for one or two winters (I own so many coats they all go in and out of regular wear). This one is a velvet designed to imitate sealskin, but the fur collar is real.

As fun as it is, I am unlikely to wear this ensemble in its entirety these days however; my outfits are a little more minimal. If I thought about it, I’d probably split this outfit into three different ones, which would be an interesting exercise in itself – perhaps for another time.


Coat: vintage 1960s
Veronika Maine
Blouse: Target Limited Edition
vintage 1920s
vintage 1960s
Bracelet & Ring:
souvenirs (Barcelona and Vietnam)
Kenneth Cole

Photos: April 2013


Scarf Mania

The magic suitcase!Nearly a half-year has gone past! How have I done with my New Year’s resolutions? Well, I passed resolution one with flying colours: I did not get sunburned. My second resolution had all to do with wearing scarves.

I know this sounds extremely frivolous and ridiculous, but the fact is I love scarves and shawls and have such an enormous collection. Many of them are vintage – and I so rarely wear them. Though I already own more than enough for three of me, I keep buying more whenever I stumble across one I find irresistible – especially when it’s some lovely scrap of coloured silk, or a square of cashmere, or Scottish angora plaid. I’m a moth to a flame.

My problem is twofold: I am always in a hurry in the morning to get ready for work. When I think accessories, they are not the first items that come to mind – they are a non-essential extra. Choosing a scarf and knotting it properly always takes extra time that I can’t spare.

These vintage square silk scarves both feature square motifs.The other problem lies in that old adage, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. I do have a scarf rack – one of those nifty contraptions bought in Ikea: a vertical hanging rack of circles that are crocheted together. You thread the scarves through the loops. It hangs on a wall in my closet, a convenient display, but the trouble is that the circles are too large to thread small square scarves onto them (they would slip out), and so all these are stored away in a vintage suitcase, along with a number of large shawls that I would simply not thread on the scarf rack at all.

That’s a New Year’s Resolution FAIL!

So exactly how many times during the summer did I wear a scarf? Exactly once. Uh-huh. And I made a special effort to achieve that! That’s a New Year’s Resolution FAIL!

A silk shawl I have actually worn – victory! This is a vintage 1920s navy piano shawl (bought on Etsy a couple of years ago), thickly embroidered in white and featuring a deep knotted fringe. It's so huge it would trail on the ground if I draped it around me like a cloak. I saw a 1920s film a while back (the name of which I can't recall) and the lead actress flung her shawl around her shoulders exactly like that.I am doing better during the winter, because scarves of course are a necessary extra layer of warmth on a chilly day, and these long winter scarves are too fat for complicated knots – I usually wrap them across my chest under my coat, or loop them around my neck over the top of my outerwear.

So what is the answer to this sartorial dilemma? I know what it is: I have simply got to get up earlier. I ought to have made that my first New Year’s Resolution!

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