Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in 1930s (36)

Monday
Oct012018

When the Heart Flutters, Buy

As has been firmly established by now, red is one of my favourite colours. I make a beeline for it whenever I see it, as I did with these two handbags that I bought last year.

The first one I spotted in a thrift store by the beach. (Because what do you do after spending a good part of the day at the beach? Why, fit in a spot of op shopping of course!) How cute! I thought when I saw it, round and twinkling at me from inside a cabinet. How perfectly it would go with this sequin top I am wearing, I thought. Did I need it? Of course not. But it does.

The second little bag is made of silk satin and chiffon, and in addition is studded with rhinestones. I spotted this one unerringly at a vintage fair, and had to wait quite a long time for the stallholder to be free to answer my questions about this mystery bag, for it looked completely unused. She seemed unsure as to the age, and doubtfully offered up an era I cannot recall, but I felt sure that was too recent. “It looks 1930s to me,” I said to her, and she conceded it did, excusing her first answer on the grounds of its pristine condition.

I am not sure exactly what shade of red to call it; it is lighter and orange-tinged, but not orange. I like to refer to the Wikipedia pages on colour for their names and descriptions, but the screen representations are poor. By its description it could be scarlet, or cinnabar, both of which are orange-toned reds.

Of course I did not need this bag either, but its ruffles had made my heart flutter, and the fact that I had nothing in my wardrobe to grace this with mattered not a whit. It is still pristine, for I have not taken it out yet either – it is enough to know that it exists, and it resides in my closet. Sometimes the mere fact of beauty is enough. When the heart flutters, buy.

Photos: March 2018

Wednesday
Jul252018

Head in the Clouds

I often go about with my head in the clouds because I am usually daydreaming as I gaze about the world around me. But this morning I really had my head in the clouds because I was wearing a new 1930s marabou headscarf that had just arrived the day before. It is very fluffy, and light blue, and made me literally think of fluffy clouds.

Then as I walked out into the glorious sunshine of a crisp winter’s day, the beauty of the blue sky – covered all over with feathery white clouds, stunned me! How perfectly perfect, I thought. Here I am in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens on my commute to work – the gardens as well as the sky make a lovely backdrop.

The scarf came from the aptly named shop A Flair for Drama on Etsy, and looks every better in real life than in photos. It is a delightful thing to wear (and very warm as well), and it’s just as pleasing to put a smile on other people’s faces too.

Life’s too short to wear a baseball cap! (Unless you’re going to the baseball.)

Photos: Today

Friday
Apr142017

Hat Roll-Call

This past year has been a very good year for finding vintage hats in op shops at bargain basement prices. And, I decided, Easter is an eggcellent time to parade some before you (sorry, that was irresistible). These summer hats coincidentally all feature bows.

First up is what I suspect is a 1930s navy and natural straw hat found on one lunchtime spree at a store near my workplace. It does not have a label on the inside, but I am estimating it to be from this era because of the shape and materials that are very similar to another straw 1930s hat I own. The lining of the brim was torn from the crown – easily fixed – and otherwise it is in very good condition and was a steal at $10. It looks very elegant on, and the other great thing is that it fits very tightly, so even a high wind was unable to whip it off my head.

The second hat is possibly from the 1980s. It is a huge cartwheel of natural store, and tied with a black jacquard taffeta bow at the back. The fabric has the distinctive moiré pattern of that formal fabric that was so popular in the Eighties. This does threaten to take flight on a windy day (a hat elastic fixed that), but it offers great shelter from our strong southern sun. A $4 bargain from a little charity store.

Also from the 1980s is this black straw closely-fitting visored hat that I found at the same time as the Prada kepi, in a huge vintage warehouse in Geelong. The deep crown features a black grosgrain ribbon that forms a bow at the back. The visor provides great shelter, though not so at the back clearly. Perhaps I should be wearing it 80s style, with a giant white shirt with the collar turned up to protect my neck? This was another cheapie that cost only $4 (reduced from $8).

I do hope you are all having a very Good Friday!

Photos: March 2017

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

Monday
Mar062017

Grecian Draping

Two notions come to my mind on hearing the word ‘goddess’: Ancient Greek deities, and screen sirens of the Hollywood’s golden era. Both are evocative of unearthly or extraordinary beauty, creatures with the power to utterly charm and bewitch ordinary mortals.

Thus the ‘goddess gown’ is associated with the garments of the Ancient Greeks – chiton, peplos, and tunic – as well as the sweeping 1930s gowns worn by the likes of Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Norma Shearer, and Rita Hayworth.

Greek clothing was very simply cut. The loose-fitting and free-flowing chiton, worn by both men and women, was basically two rectangles of fabric joined at the shoulders and sides. Lengths and additional shapes – such as circles or triangles – varied, while different looks were achieved through arrangements that created elegant draping. The most common fabrics were linen and wool. Additional decoration came in the form of pleating, embroidery, belts and jewellery. The result was a style of dress that both revealed and concealed the human figure.

Jean Harlow, in a gown by costumier Adrian; designed for the film Dinner at EightBy contrast, the goddess gowns of the stars of Hollywood’s golden years were slender and form fitting, especially in the bodice, and were often backless. Cuts were more sophisticated; linen and wool had been replaced with silk and lamé. But they still had the yards of fabric, the columnar fluidity, complex pleating, and asymmetric draping in common with the Ancient Greeks who inspired them. Where before Paris had lead fashion, now Hollywood began to take over in the popular imagination; many of these fantasy gowns were designed by the famous costumier, Adrian.

In short, these were sexier gowns really meant for goddesses, not the hoi polloi.

In short, these were sexier gowns really meant for goddesses, not the hoi polloi. It’s no wonder these silver screen stars were named for the sirens of Greek mythology, who lured sailors to death with their seductive singing.

Madame Grès (1903–1993) and Madeleine Vionnet (1876–1975) were both French fashion designers who were proponents of Grecian dress.

Grès’s minimalist gowns were wrapped and draped in the most masterful way – that she was trained in sculpture is obvious when one looks at her designs. One of her gowns could take up to 300 hours to create, with pleats sewn by hand, and the cloth draped so that the body shaped the dress – far longer than the Ancient Greeks one imagines.

Gown by Madame Grès, 1940; ph George Platt LynesGown by Madeleine Vionnet, 1933; ph George Hoyningen-HueneVionnet is known for popularising, if not inventing, the bias cut to create sleek and flattering dresses that skimmed the body languidly. Her gowns were soft, floating freely, and did not distort the natural curves of a woman’s body. She used more unusual fabrics for women’s clothing in the 20s and 30s, such as crepe de chine, gabardine and satin, and always ordered two yards extra for each dress to accommodate the draping.

Both Grès and Vionnet have continued to inspire fashion designers to the present day.

Today, we still see the classic goddess gown on our screen stars, but it is also a favourite style of wedding dress (one of the few occasions when ordinary mortals don floor-length gowns), as an alternative to the classic 50s-style princess gown of strapless-boned-bodice-and-big-skirt ilk. … And above all other days, one should feel like a goddess on one’s own wedding day.

Key Characteristics

•  columnar, bias-but
•  fluid draping
•  pleating
•  asymmetry
•  floor-length

Fashion Note

My very simple grey jersey goddess gown is by English label Karen Millen, and features characteristic asymmetry, draping, and an interesting cut to the back.

Photos: January 2014

Scroll down for more images. Links have been provided where available.

Bette DavisCarole LombardGowns by Madeleine VionnetGown by Madame GrèsNorma ShearerGown by Madeleine VionnetRita Hayworth