Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in 1940s (102)


Animal Prints Through the Decades

Model in leopard-print bikini featuring lacing on the sides, 1955Animal prints have been perennially popular through the last century or so, as you can see scrolling through these images, taken from Style Book – Fashionable Inspirations, by Elizabeth Walker (Flammarion 2010). Real pelts, a symbol of wealth and luxury, were once insouciently worn without any consideration for animal conservation; now prints are worn purely for fashion’s sake – from the beach in Wilma Flintstone style togs, to stepping out in Cannes in glittering sequins.

Most of these fashion images show animal prints only, and mostly faux fur, although there are a very few showing genuine fur, including one eye-opening and rather grim archival image of two women casually shopping for pelts in the 1940s in Africa.

Cheetah and leopard are reminiscent of spots, and although I love graphic stripes too, not even Lauren Bacall (my favourite actress of her era) in a zebra print can reconcile me to the look of it.

(Click on the images for larger versions.)

Actress Ava Gardner in leopard print costume, surrounded by swathes of fabric in the same pattern, 1952Woman in zebra-print bikini, 1955Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor draped in leopard fur shawl, at the London Palladium in 1956Model in leopard-print waistcoat with matching muff and cap all in faux fur, London 1951Actress Lauren Bacall sports a zebra print blouse, 1944Model Jackie Collins mixes zebra and leopard prints matching the car interior; outfit by Car Robes, at the Motor Show, London 1956 Model in zebra tabard by furrier Calman Links, Bond Street, London 1965Men's street style in 1956: a dandy accessorises his three-piece suit complete with pocket-square with a cheetah print flat-crowned hatPhotographer Norman Parkinson wearing an extravagant leopard print scarf, 1970Model wearing sequinned leopard-print gown, Christian Dior A/W 1953A woman in a sequinned gown that owes much to the 80s fashion of Dynasty, at the Hotel Carlton during the Cannes Film Festival, France 1998Flapper style with a circular theme in 1925: leopard-skin coat trimmed with fox furA stewardess in the 1971 uniform of National Airlines: faux fur accessorised with a real baby Bengal tiger In Africa in 1947, women shop for leopard pelts


Cotton Candy Autumn

Autumn is nearly over and I have yet to do a seasonal story! I walked past this amazing orange shrub this morning in Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens, and instantly thought what an amazing backdrop it would be for today’s pink outfit – and here it is.

The wool felt platter hat is vintage 1940s, which I bought in a Salvo’s op shop last year for an extremely modest price of around $10. The label inside says Newhaus, by Herta Maria Melbourne. It has such a lovely profile too. (You can see the twisted detail at the back at a different angle here.)

The angora wrap cardigan is by Ted Baker, and like the pearl earrings, was another thrift store purchase. Its sleeves have a pretty bishop shape, also known as a bell or Magyar sleeve. A rare retail purchase from a boutique somewhere many years ago, the fluffy wool scarf makes me think of cotton candy. It’s also extremely warm, which is probably why my cheeks are so flushed!

I decided I could get away with this much pink when I have such a short, boyish haircut. However, the rest of my outfit is in varying shades of brown, so once I slip off the hat and scarf (and the cardigan in the warm office), I present a very altered appearance. Accessories really do make the difference in your outfit.


Easter Parade

This Easter Sunday evening I have a veritable parade of vintage 1940s hats to show off. (Is that the collective noun for hats? If not, it should be! … I just checked and it informed me that it is either a millinery of hats or a fascination of hats. The former is boring, and the latter very cute; I still like parade however.)

Again, all of these hats are recent acquisitions, bought in op shops (thrift stores) over the past spring and summer for quite piddling sums – not as piddling as my straw hats, but almost, which I consider quite a feat here in Australia. Genuine vintage hats are not easy to come by, and those available in boutiques or fairs are often $80+, with 20s–30s hats very much more. These four hats ranged between $10–20.

First up is a black braided wool felt beret. It features a circular ribbing effect created by the braid that has been stitched together to form the hat foundation. It is quite stiff, and definitely needs the attached satin band to keep it on the head (fitting around the head, on top of the hair); this is finished with a satin bow at the back, just above the nape. It has a quite jaunty look! There is only the remnants of a label inside, unfortunately.

There are myriad styles of 1940s hats. While some have definite names (berets, fedoras, cartwheels etc), others do not have distinctive appellations. This high-crowned red velvet hat is somewhat reminiscent of a turban, or perhaps it has some antecedents in historical military hats. It could be described as a toque, which is simply a hat without a brim. It has a smooth curve to the back, and two little red bows above the ears. The colour is certainly fantastically vivid, and the fabric plush. The label states it is a Phyl Clarkson Exclusive Model, from Rondel’s of London, New York, Sydney.

This pink wool felt hat is a platter with a twist (literally): it is gathered up at the back with a little bow as though the brim has been twisted, creating the effect of flower petals. It is a glorious shade of deep rose, and the label says Newhaus, Herta Maria Melbourne.

I am not sure quite how to describe the last hat, a navy wool Parisian model, by Georgette. It has a bow of matching wool piping and is trimmed with an ostrich feather where the brim has been turned up. Worn at a tilt it puts me in mind of nineteenth century riding hats – women often wore feminine versions of men’s hats such as bicorns, tricorns and toppers. This hat has only one side turned up however. Perusing various resources on 40s hats has not been of much assistance either – even contemporary fashion journals unhelpfully described some hats simply as ‘hats’. (Vintage Dancer has a great article, but even they stop at twenty types.)

Hats were one item that were not rationed during the war years, so milliners were really able to go to town with materials, trims and styling – only their imaginations were the limit; there are some really extraordinary shapes out there. I feel lucky enough to own just a few crazy 40s hats. I am looking forward to winter to wear these at last!

Photos: August 2016


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


Wartime Knit Kit

The 1940s is one of my favourite eras for clothing because I love the silhouette, and the mix of minimalist, military-inspired tailoring with soft draping fabrics – the wool suiting, the knits. It’s a pretty rare thing to find original 40s knits in Australia, however. Happily, the look of the era comes in and out of fashion, so it is relatively easy to find contemporary clothing with the same or similar silhouettes.

This short knit jacket is one such example showing a Forties influence: the collar and lapels, the puffed sleeves and the pockets are all telltale details. I really love the short sleeves too – they’re not often seen in modern jackets. Below are two original jackets from the era that show the details that inspired mine.

Tailored double-jersey mock rib jacket features wide reveres and a darted sleeve head, by John SmedleyThis jacket is cut along military lines, with metal-buttoned patch pockets and a high neckline; by John SmedleyOf course the Second World War had a huge influence on the types of clothing worn in the Forties, especially with hand-knitted garments, tailoring, and military styling. The War introduced a ‘previously unknown democratisation into fashion. Notions of class-based and elitist styles were overturned as civilians and the armed services dressed alike.’ [Vintage Fashion Knitwear, by Marnie Fogg, Lark Books, 2012)

The other key looks of the decade in knitted garments were knitted jackets, the Sweater Girl look, shoulder pads, American leisurewear, draped jersey and fitted styles.

By the end of the decade, the military influence and tailoring becomes more relaxed, shown below in an outfit I covet: a jersey shirt with an exaggerated collar and plunging, broad placket worn tied (with an awesome giant shoelace!) at the waist over a pleated black skirt, both by Carolyn Schnurer. It’s such an elegant look that would not seem out of place on today’s streets.

Photo: August 2016

Jersey shirt and pleated skirt by Carolyn Schnurer, 1949.

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