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Entries in 1950s (97)


The Truth About Persian Lamb

I am not sure how I feel about this vintage 50s tall toque, which is made from astrakhan, also commonly known as Persian lamb, with a ring of mink on top. The label states it is ‘created by I. J. Ellemor, Furrier Melbourne’.

When I bought it in a thrift store (and when I photographed it), I knew the mink on top was genuine, and assumed the lamb fur was faux, but on closer examination – and with better light to read the label – I realised the astrakhan was genuine. Black is the most desirable colour too.

Generally I am ok with fur when it is a vintage item, especially when I am recycling a garment and giving it a second life, but knowledge of the realities of the astrakhan fur industry taints this hat somewhat.

Astrakhan is the curly fleece of Karakul lambs, a breed originating from Uzbekistan. Wool is not so bad, you might think for a moment, but it is in the manner that these beautifully and tightly curled fleeces are produced that is particularly horrifying: ‘the pelts come from Karakul sheep that are either fetal or killed and skinned before they reach three days old when their pelt remains tightly coiled and luxuriously soft’. []

On the other hand, I’m not vegetarian, and I do eat lamb; however, astrakhan that is produced today is unregulated and not a by-product of the meat industry (read more if you dare at the above link). The Victorians and Edwardians were particularly fond of the fur, and it continued to be popular in the 1920s and 30s through to the mid-century. Were they less ruthless then; did they at the very least utilise the whole animal? It’s some consolation this hat is vintage, but if I wear it, it will be with a little sadness.


Read more on the history of astrakhan in this excellent article at the The Dreamstress.

Photo: July 2018


Polka Dot Homage

Polka dots are a perennial print favourite. Even if they’re not precisely in fashion, they will never look outré. They are a classic pattern, especially in black and white, or white dots with some other neutral, such as navy or brown – even red could be almost classed as a neutral.

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in ‘Pretty Woman’, 1990One of the most iconic polka dot outfits I can think of is Julia Robert’s brown and white dress she wore to the polo match in the 1990 film Pretty Woman. Who could forget that one? It was memorable because it was such a elegant and classic outfit unlike many of the others, which were trendier – and not least because the scenes between Vivian and Edward held so much charm. I recently watched the film again for the first time in years, and that is definitely my favourite outfit of Vivian’s – not at all the red dress she wears to the opera, which is cited all over the internet as iconic.

Quite a while back I came across a brown polka dot dress completely by chance in an op shop. It wasn’t the same as Vivian’s dress – it was a silk wrap dress, in a different shade of brown – but it certainly reminded me of it, although I do prefer the more cinnamon shade of brown in her dress.

I am accessorising it with a vintage boater sporting a polka dot tie (not original to the hat); vintage 50s broderie anglaise gloves; a vintage Laura Ashley cane bag; and Italian woven leather heels. In the film, Vivian’s shoes were of an appropriate heel height for walking on a playing field, unlike mine. I know nothing about the sport, but if I ever attend a match, at least I’ll have an outfit!

Photos: March 2017


I See Red

Red is one of my favourite colours, it always has been. I think it may have started when I was a child. For proof, if you look through my Out of the Album section, you’ll see red features big, starting with me as a very cute little toddler in a red and white wool suit, and matching red shoes. (Is this why I love this combination so?)

Red bags and shoes in particular have been like fashion candy for me. This plump little bag that I use very often is made from buttery soft eelskin; the brand is Amorni. When I bought it second hand it looked as though it had never been used.

While my glove collection will never reach the proportions of my hats, I am beginning to amass quite a few vintage pairs. These red cotton Simplex gloves are vintage 50s, and feature decorative stitching forming a leaf pattern along the cuff and down the back of the hand.

The inexpensive Timex watch I bought purely for its striped wristband, but I bought it just in time (pardon the pun) when all my other watches were out of commission, requiring new batteries, or other repairs.

All of these items were bought in op shops – the red bag was what I refer to as a Holy Fashion Grail find: one of those desirable things one dreams of finding in a thrift store. But the colour red in general will always draw my eye – there are no connotations of anger for me when I see red!

Photo: May 2018


Go-to, tally-ho!

Here are a couple of hats I bought late last year. One of them I call a ‘go-to’ hat because it’s so versatile and easy to wear – that would be the pink 70s-style oversize newsboy cap. It’s one I reach for often on casual weekends when I run out the door to go shopping for instance, because it seems to go with lots of my outfits and I don’t need to think about it.

The other hat is a vintage 50s hunting cap (with a visor on front and back), complete with ear-flaps that can be tied down under the chin with the grosgrain ribbon. It is quite amusing and cute, but definitely has a louder personality!

These were both bought in thrift stores for a song or two, and each bring a lot of colour to dreary winter days – that’s what makes hats so much fun to wear.  


Carnations for Mums

I am sure I remember back in the day florists were pushing the slogan ‘mums for mums’ – chrysanthemums that is – as a proper floral offering for Mother’s Day. But I learned this week that in fact it was once carnations that were synonymous for mother love in Australia and New Zealand.

This tradition of gifting carnations was in fact borrowed from the US, from one Anna Jarvis who in 1908 revived the movement to establish an official Mother’s Day – and white carnations were her mother’s favourite flower.

More than a hundred years later, we traditionally show our appreciation for our mothers and make them feel special, celebrating with gifts or outings – but most importantly time, if we are able. However, the origins of Mother’s Day lie in quite a different cause: an anti-war movement during the American Civil War in the 1870s. Originally it was a call to mothers to promote peace and protest the killing of sons by other sons, and was started by activist Julia Howe.

Decades later, Jarvis wished to honour her own mother who had been active during the war, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson formally established the day. Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in over 100 nations.

Maybe carnations simply went out of fashion, as did chrysanthemums. I’ll be giving my mum Christmas lilies, one of her favourite flowers, but here I am in a photo out of the archives wearing a vintage 1950s velvet half-hat decked with silk carnations. The flowers look extraordinarily realistic.

However you show your love for your mum, I hope you have a beautiful day!

Photos: September 2012

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