Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in 1930s (43)

Saturday
Oct192019

Faux Thirties Style

Lapis lazuli is a metamorphic rock of deep blue that has been prized for its colour since antiquity. In Egypt, lapis lazuli was a favoured stone used in jewellery and ornaments, such as scarabs, and Cleopatra herself used powdered lapis as eyeshadow! Not as surprising as it might seem at first, for the same was used until 1826 to make natural ultramarine pigment for paint.

This little trifle I picked up recently in a thrift store is a double-strand faux lapis lazuli choker. It has no maker’s mark on it, and I can’t imagine it was expensive when it retailed, although the fact that it is knotted between each bead is an indication of better quality.

French postcard: (from left) Irene Wentzel, Miss Russia in Paris in 1930; Ingeborg von Grinberger, Miss Austria; Rie van der Rest, Miss Holland. Image from Pinterest

I’m always on the lookout for 1930s style items, and I am more partial to the costume jewellery styles of the era than the fine jewellery, which often seem too ornate for my taste. I prefer opaque stones in any case.

A lot of 30s daywear was high-necked, featuring interesting necklines, collars and sleeves, so very often women did not wear a lot of jewellery, and it is not easy to find pictorial examples. Here are a couple below, however, of Miss Europe candidates of 1930: Miss Russie is wearing a choker; and the April 1930 cover of Vogue magazine.

Vogue April 1930, illustrated by Jean Pages

Photo: September 2019

Sunday
Oct062019

Sewing Sequins

Last year I struck a vein of hat gold one lunchtime in a thrift store near my workplace: no less than three 1930s hats in one strike! I was very lucky, because when I walked in the door, one of the staff recognised me and called me over to whisper, “There are some hats just in that I think you would like.”

From where we stood, I could only see the topmost hats on the upper shelf, and they looked like spring racing carnival hats made of sinnamay that some rich madam from the hoity-toity part of town would perch atop her coiffure. “Are they vintage hats?” I asked suspiciously in a low voice. The woman nodded conspiratorially, “They are very old,” she said, and thus assured, I sailed off forthwith.

Dear Readers, I couldn’t believe my eyes: it was a veritable BONANZA. A cream wool felt decorated with grosgrain ribbon and cockade; a brown felt trimmed in cream grosgrain, and a sculpted black felt with an enormous, sequinned bow. I immediately hugged the three hats to my bosom in joy.

The only flaw lay in the wonderful black felt: many of the metal sequins were missing, and those left were tarnished. I did not care one jot. Etsy would come to my rescue: I was sure I would be able to find replacement sequins from the same era.

Silver and pink metal 1940s sequins, and glass seed beads that I found in a thrift storeIt did not take me long to find similar sequins from the 1940s. They were a tiny bit smaller than the originals, and there were several colours to choose from. Though the originals were gold, I very rarely wear gold jewellery, and could not decide between the silver and the pink. Eventually I settled on buying some of both as they were from the same seller and there would be no additional charge in shipping.

I cut off the pair of original sequins left on one side of the bow The chosen combination: pink sequins with white glass beadsOnce they arrived I dithered repairing the hat for several reasons. By this time, it was summer and the hat was in storage for the season; moreover, I was still undecided about which colour to use and also was yet to find appropriate glass seed beads to attach the sequins on with (as opposed to the usual technique of using the thread to overlap one side of the sequin). I was also a bit nervous of somehow ruining the repair.

A close up showing the original sequins on left, and the first new pink sequin attached (apologies for all the filaments adhering to the hat)Finally, this winter I grew impatient with myself and refused to delay any longer. I made a snap (ahem) decision to use the pink sequins – pink and black are always a classic combination. And sewing them on turned out to be extremely easy: I was amused by how the seed beads literally leapt onto the point of the needle each time!

I was very pleased with the end result, and managed to get in one wear before I put away into storage all the winter hats again. On the day I wore it, I suddenly realised it looked better worn on the back of the head, rather than as a profile-style hat, as seen in the first picture.

And once more I asked myself the universal question, why, oh why do I delay mending?

Photos: June/September 2019

Saturday
Sep212019

A Polka Dot Across the Bow

A couple of years or so ago on one of my more ruthless closet-culling rampages, this very cute 30s inspired nautical knit was one of the victims. It was culled exactly because it was cute. I had decided anything tow which you could apply, “Oh, that’s cute!” was going. Cute was out, sophistication was in. Anything with ruffles, frills, bows and the like were cast aside – even my adored polka dots were under suspicion! I’m not sure how long this rigorous rule lasted, but slowly hitherto despised frills and furbelows crept back into my closet when I wasn’t paying strict attention.

But how has this particular knit boomeranged back into my closet, you wonder? I actually gave it away to a friend, and forgot about it for a long time. One day I thought to myself, “Hmm, maybe I should have kept that … Never mind, at least it went to a friend,” I consoled myself.

Then recently, while working on culling my current winter wardrobe before I put it in storage, I mentioned this knit in conversation with the same friend, and said, “No pressure, but if you ever want to get rid of it, I’ll be happy to take it back.” To my surprise, she confessed that though she still liked the top, somehow it just didn’t work for her, and she would be happy to return it to me! That was last weekend, and I have not had a chance to take it out for a spin once again, but it does look nice paired with these wide-leg denim pants.

What, you may wonder again, is my culling criteria this year? Thirties style is my main mantra, although not everything I am keeping is strictly of this era or style: I’m leaving room for some other things I love. I am also being prudent this time and planning to store my culls for a little while, in case of change of heart!

Photo: September 2019

Saturday
Aug312019

Winter Takes a Bow

Hooray! It’s the last day of winter! I farewell the cold season with this charming 1930s black wool felt calot – a cap that sits on the back of the head – featuring a bow on the front, and decorative top stitching in gold thread on each side. It is simple, but stylish and versatile since it goes with multiple outfits. I found this hat last year in an op shop (thrift store) for only $5! Hat bargain of the year.

Goodbye Old Man Winter, we won’t miss you.

Photo: June 2019

Wednesday
Aug282019

Marvellous Mauve

A couple of years ago I wrote a story about different shades of purple, and I touched on the discovery of the first aniline dye in 1856 that became known as mauve, the French word for mallow flower after which the colour is named. Originally it was probably a darker shade than contemporary notions of it, as it was first likened to Tyrian purple which is much darker. The first mauve dye was replaced with other synthetic dyes in 1873: a lighter, less-saturated shade that we are familiar with today. As Wikipedia succinctly describes it, ‘mauve contains more grey and more blue than a pale tint of magenta’.

Three shades of mallow flowersHowever, while it was a synthetic dye, in the 1850s it was still quite expensive to process, and if not for Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, taking a liking to it because it supposedly exactly matched her ‘violet’ eyes, the colour might have disappeared. Queen Victoria subsequently gave it the thumbs-up, and for a time it was all the rage, reaching its heights of popularity in the 1890s.

… for a time it was all the rage, reaching its heights of popularity in the 1890s

As with many trends, however, it soon reached over-saturation in the market and eventually it became passé, synonymous with ladies of a certain age. Even in the twentieth century, it was associated with aging, as it was one of the shades white-haired ladies chose to rinse their hair with to remove unlikable yellowish tones. Today of course that trend has been turned on its head and grey hair tinted with pastel shades is all the rage with young people!

Empress Eugenie, 1854, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter – Franz clearly thought, "Pfft, purple eyes, MY EYE!"

Wait, what about the purple eyes?

I was interested in this notion of the Empress’s supposed violet eyes, and some research lead me to learn that Elizabeth Taylor was another celebrity famed for her violet eyes. Paintings are not necessarily true to life, and photographic evidence is obviously unreliable as it is too easy to digitally enhance hues or use colour filters in-camera.

Elizabeth Taylor in 1960 (ph unknown) and 1985 (ph Helmut Newton); she definitely seems to have naturally blue eyes that have been enhanced by the colour processing in the first photoAfter a lot of reading, I can state definitely that the human eye does not naturally come in shades of purple; ie people cannot be born with it. Put simply, the colour of an iris changes depending on how much light reaches it, and can be enhanced by coloured clothing or makeup surrounding the eyes; both Empress Eugénie and Elizabeth Taylor had blue eyes: one wore purple garments, the other purple eyeshadow. [See Further Reading below]

Back to fashion …

Since my original story, I have since found new mauve items in differing shades all from thrift stores: a merino wool jumper, a prettily hand-knitted vintage wool cape, and a vintage angora, pearl-beaded beret. The jumper is modern, but I am not sure of the age of the latter two; the beret was missing pearls when I bought it, but the cape is pristine and could be a modern knit made using a vintage pattern. My printed velvet pants are modern, by the Australian label Charlie Brown.

Scroll down and check out some more mauve outfits from the Victorian era to the present.

Further Reading

The biology behind eye colour in humans

Were Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes really violet?

But wait, Liz Taylor had double eyelashes!

Just how did Lizzie make her blue eyes look purple?

Photos: August 2019

Victorian walking dress, 1896Victorian evening dress, 1896Victorian silk striped walking dressSilk taffeta evening dress, 1860-18651930s fur jacket (sold)1930s bias gown (for sale)1940s catalogue – how I would love to buy this set, especially at those prices!Model Evelyn Tripp, wearing a dress and matching hat, ph Frances McLaughlin-Gill for VogueModern outfitRosie tote in mauve