Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in accessories (575)

Monday
Jun172019

Walking Papers

When I was in my late teens I started to wear broad-brimmed hats in summer for protection from the sun simply because I loathed the stickiness of sunscreen and decided I would only put up with it at the beach. From sun hats to parasols was a small step, and I began to collect parasols – because if a hat gave you some protection from the sun, how much more a parasol? (And from summer hats to their winter counterparts was a small leap, and thus a lifetime love affair with hats was born.)

The first proper parasols I found were Chinese and Japanese oiled and plain paper parasols in thrift stores. They were not something I found often, but when I did they were usually inexpensive: under $10, some even under $5. The most recent acquisitions are the two that I am carrying in these pictures. I was thrilled with the flower-shaped one (possibly a Japanese one, with its cherry blossom painting), and the small one I deemed was very convenient to carry in my tote. And since I took this photo, I have found yet another – a green paper parasol.

I did see one oiled paper umbrella once which was priced around $20, but since it wasn’t significantly different to the ones I owned already, I passed on it. A quick look on Etsy ascertains that $20 is a very low price; there are many for $80 or more.*

I always assumed that the coated paper parasols were lacquered, but in fact they are oiled to make them waterproof. As the oiled paper ages it becomes rigid, and easier to break, but with sufficient care one should last for 20 years. I suspect mine are past their use-by date and won’t test them out in the rain, although I’d love to!

Japanese family group, 1920s. (Image found on Pinterest; no original source linked.) Kyoto 1955, by Kansuke YamamotoAccording to Wikipedia, the oiled paper umbrella originated in China, and spread to Korea and Japan during the Tang dynasty (7th–10th centuries). Early umbrella materials were mostly feathers or silks and only later were they covered in paper; it’s unknown when the oiled paper umbrellas were invented. You can read an interesting history about the Japanese wagasa (umbrella) and how they are painstakingly created by hand here. It’s not surprising to learn that the craft has dwindled after WWII, when synthetic umbrellas made their way to Japan. Today production of handmade wagasa is very limited.

If I ever go to China again, or to Japan, a new one will definitely be on my list of desirable souvenirs. I wonder if anyone makes feather ones? What a fashion statement that would be – something else to add to my list of Holy Fashion Grails!

Parasols on the beach, 1920s; click through to the link and scroll to the very bottom of the page to read more about beach parasols in this era.A lovely modern image of a woman with an umbrella in the snow

Fashion Notes

I am wearing a classic Chinese-style silk blouse with mandarin collar and frog fastenings by Sarah-Jane, which I found in a thrift store in country Victoria; the pants are modern, by a French label bought online. My bangles, ring and earrings are cloisonné, also found in thrift stores; the technique of cloisonné had spread to China by the 13–14th centuries where it became hugely popular; to the present day it is one of the world’s best known enamel cloisonné. The fabric necklace of insects and flowers was a souvenir from Hang Nga Guesthouse, popularly known as “Crazy House” for its architecture in Da Lat, Vietnam, and likewise, the beaded and embroidered slippers are a Vietnamese souvenir, bought in the main market in Saigon.

*All prices in Australian dollars

Photos: March 2018

Sunday
Jun162019

Keep Those Peepers Peeled!

Who has Holy Fashion Grails? They are those rare, hard-to-find items – perhaps vintage, perhaps not – that you would give your eyeteeth to lay your hands on. I have a ton of them always lurking in the back of my mind, and they come to the forefront when I am thrift shopping, or trawling online marketplaces. I keep a shopping list for items on my phone to refer to when I am out and about – it can be easy to forget things in the heat of the moment when you come upon something else you didn’t know you desperately wanted!

A little while ago, on two separate occasions, I came across two things that had been on my wishlist for a while: yellow leather heels and a watermelon bag. They may seem strangely specific, but I am always on the lookout for anything yellow, so these patent leather heels by Aldo were an exciting find. I’d been looking on sale sites on and off for a while at shoes very similar to these, but couldn’t justify spending big on shoes when I already own so many. However, a pair of barely-worn shoes for under $10 were irresistible.

I first saw a gorgeous straw watermelon bag in a Melbourne boutique many years ago, but at around $100, I regretfully deemed it too much to spend on such a frivolity. Then last year I spotted one online, and that cost even more, even at the heavily discounted sale price. Then sometime later while shopping in a thrift store and waiting to pay for some other items, I spotted this hard-plastic version sitting behind the counter, waiting to be priced. While it wasn’t the covetable straw, I enquired, and a staff member returned to tell me it was only $9. It pays to keep your eyes peeled! I know plastic does not seem very desirable, but after all, Bakelite is a plastic, and vintage examples are extremely collectable now.

Other things I’m always on the lookout for are any 1930s items, a vintage pink-and-white striped dress, a 30s or 40s Hungarian embroidered blouse in white and red, a new old chenille bedspread, and hats of course.

It’s even more of a bonus when one finds great things in the thrift store: both virtuous recycling and a bargain! So always keep an eye out, you never know what you’ll stumble across when you least expect it.

Photos: July 2018

Sunday
Jun092019

School Lessons

I have rediscovered a novel way to wear socks! Step 1: don big fat long socks. Step 2: scrunch down to ankle to form monstrous ankle warmers. This is how we actually wore socks as a fashion statement during one mad phase in high school, only our school uniform decreed they were white back then.

I don’t actually walk around like this, never fear. On days which suddenly turn warm and I feel like I’m about to pass out from heatstroke of the shins, I take a surreptitious breather under my desk for a few minutes. In fact I did so this very week. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!

Photos: April 2017

Wednesday
Jun052019

Spot the Difference

Every now and then I come across an item of clothing which inspires me to make a homage to a vintage fashion photograph or illustration. This vintage 60s leopard-printed fur jacket and matching pillbox hat reminded me of a vintage Vogue magazine – from November 1939, as it turned out.

The coat and hat came from a Melbourne thrift store, and my corsage is actually a wool felt hair-tie that I bought in Vietnam many years ago. It was a lot of fun creating the look of the cover; the original Vogue cover is here below for comparison.

You can see all my Vintage Homages in the gallery.

Monday
Jun032019

Starry Tights

While we’re on the subject of stars, let me bring your attention to these amazing starry tights I once owned. I have often waxed lyrical about my love for long socks, but once upon a time I went through a phase of “tattoo tights” – that is, nude hosiery with printed patterns that gave the effect of a tattoo. (Imagine tattooing your legs all over with stars!)

I managed to amass quite a collection before my hatred for all hosiery made me abandon tights almost entirely for a few winters. These tights are by Leg Avenue, and not only did I have stars, but polka-dots and fishnets too! I have a strong feeling that I shall be soon investigating the basket of tights in my closet – there are quite a few unopened packages lurking in there. Stay tuned for more stocking shenanigans!

Photos: October 2013