Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in 1940s (104)

Monday
Aug192019

When Wearing Stripes Becomes Optical Art

If any of my readers want proof of my devotion to stripes, behold this dramatic dress of striped jersey!

The dress, by Olivaceous (a brand I’ve never heard of) has a halter neckline formed by two extremely long ties that lift to create the bodice, cross my back, wind around waist a once or twice and then tie in a huge bow at the base of my back – and the ends still dangle to my knees! In addition, the maxi skirt is so wide and long that I have to carry it like ladies of yore so that I don’t trip and fall on my face. I like to think it evokes 1930s style a little. 

Maximum drama makes it the perfect dress to wear to an Opening Night at the theatre last January, and making doubly-sure I turn heads, I pair with it a 1940s black and white satin veiled pillbox hat. The fabric is made of viscose, so it has flows beautifully; almost mesmerisingly. I feel like a piece of Op Art wearing it!

Photo: April 2019

Wednesday
Jul312019

The Little Red Cap

Red is one of my favourite colours, and has been since childhood, and I am instantly attracted whenever I see it, from clothes and accessories to interior décor and make-up. There is something so delicious about this rich hue: perhaps it reminds me of cherries and raspberries and the rosy apples of Snow-White fame.

Last year I missed out on purchasing a 1940s knit cap that sported two large crocheted pompoms by the ears, creating an effect of Princess Leia hair buns! It was adorable, and I adore pompoms too.

Then early this year this hat – also vintage 1940s – popped up on Etsy at Scarlet Willow Vintage, and I was immediately reminded of the knit cap, except in this instance this hat had two large bows by the ears instead of pompoms. It also featured the same kind of criss-cross lacing at the back of the head as had the other cap.

I lost no time in claiming this one for my own. (Interestingly the seller had photographed it upside-down, but I immediately recognised how it would look worn correctly.)

I own a lot of hats and try to wear as many different ones each season as humanly possible, but still I have managed to wear this one a few times already over the autumn and winter. There is something so delightful about its neat design – wearing a hat like this makes the day magical. It is such a source of wonder to me that hats are largely out of fashion and that more people never experience the joy of a topper  – but equally, that leaves more vintage hats for me!

Photos: June 2019

Monday
May132019

Pretty Parisian Gowns

Day suit of linen and cotton, spring-summer 1947, Paquin, Paris couture house; Colette Massignac designer, active 1945–49A few weekends ago I visited the Krystyna Campbell-Pretty Fashion Gift exhibition currently on at the NGV International. I had not known what to expect from the exhibition, and was excited to discover it featured garments spanning over a century, and included a remarkable number of illustrations and photography from fashion journals and periodicals from the early nineteenth century onwards.

Dress and cape of silk, c. 1938, Maisons Agnès-Drecoll, Paris couture house 1931–63It would be hard to pick a favourite, but as always the 30s and 40s are my favourite eras. There was a 1930s yellow gown that delighted me, and a cream 1947 day suit by Paquin that made me gasp and exclaim to my friend, “Now, I would wear that!” We approached one mermaid gown by Maggy Rouff and wondered at the odd angle of the mannequin – until we saw the beribboned back of the dress – amazing!

Evening dress of silk velvet and satin, autumn-winter 1937–38, Maggy Rouff, Paris couture house, Maggy Besançon de Wagner, designer 1896–1971

The exhibition wound throughout several rooms, with garments occasionally intermixed with paintings and industrial design pieces from the gallery’s permanent collection. The only disappointment in this was that quite a few gowns were far above eye level, so one could not examine them closely. There was certainly a lot to take in, and happily it runs for another couple of months, and as entry is free, I shall be returning for another tour.

Click here to see the full gallery.

Detail of a lavishly appliquéd 1920s robe de styleA special issue of winter fashion, 1940s

Tuesday
Apr232019

The History of the Easter Bonnet

1940sIn Australia there is no tradition of wearing Easter Bonnets, except for young school children making their own hats in the classroom and parading them for the benefit of their local community.

As you could imagine, these chapeaux were generally a horribly kitsch conglomeration of brightly coloured eggs, bunnies, and chicks that are rendered charming only by the knowledge that someone’s cute offspring had earnestly and excitedly stapled it together.

So I was most amused to discover that adults were equally adept at assembling hideous Easter bonnets – albeit with more skill and imagination – to parade at Eastertime in America.

1940sMorecambe UK, 1959

The famous Easter Parades had their origin in the 1870s, when people would stream out of churches following the Easter Sunday service, dressed, of course, in their very best. Naturally a magnificent hat topped their ensembles. The very first parade along Fifth Avenue seems to have been an impromptu event, as the upper echelons of New York society poured out of St Patricks Cathedral and strolled up the street. With each successive year, the Parade became more popular and drew hundreds and thousands of spectators.

Easter Parade New York, 1922Easter Parade New York, 1922Prince George and Jane Erdmann, Easter Parade New York, 1933Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, 1948Early on, people simply showed off their most stylish and newest spring garments, but as the parade grew in popularity, grandiose themed pastiches began to appear – similar to the kind of hideous hats sensation-hunting women sport at various racing carnivals around the world.

1920sOn the other hand, Easter was an opportunity for more aesthetically-pleasing fun: Easter bunny hats or complete outfits. Personally I would prefer to don a pair of rabbit ears than crates of eggs precariously balanced on my head!

For a more detailed history of the Easter Bonnet, visit The Eternal Hedonist; and visit Today for a slideshow of more vintage images of the Easters of Yesteryear.

1920s (my favourite)1940sActress Ruth Roman, 1940sA modern bunny ears rendition

(Imgages from The Eternal Hedonist, Today, Daily Mail UK and Pinterest)

Saturday
Apr202019

Easter Violet

The Easter bonnet series continues with this amazing 1940s pixie hat made from purple velvet. It embodies so many things I love in a hat: a sculptural shape, bold colour, sumptuous materials, originality, and whimsy. It is the embodiment of all that a hat should be!

This pixie hat is just so much fun. The main body is constructed of one long spiral of silk velvet, and the profusion of grosgrain ribbon at the top resembles an orchid or other exotic flower.

It is the embodiment of all that a hat should be!

I bought it last year from a collector, The Golden Age of Vintage on Instagram. I suspect it was never worn, not only because it is so pristine, but as there was nothing to indicate how it was held on the head. I sewed in a hatband, and attached an elastic to it, and took it on its first outing to the theatre. I’m looking forward to wearing it again this autumn/winter.

Photo: September 2018