Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in asymmetry (17)

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

Thursday
Nov032016

Pretty as a Picture (Hat)

Today was Oaks Day at the Spring Racing Carnival, which is also known as Ladies Day, and the pink rose is the official flower for the day – it can be purchased from flower sellers near the entrance of the racecourse. Today is also known as my sister Star’s birthday, and I was in fact celebrating the occasion with her and my two other older sisters.

However, this hat (bought in an op shop a few months ago) surely personifies the day’s theme, as it is coloured rose pink and resembles nothing so much as giant flower petals that have fluttered down and settled on the head. It looks different from every angle, as the sinamay has been crumpled into an asymmetric shape.

There is also a large exotic flower on one side which I disliked (such trimmings seem so common to me). It would look so much more elegant and sculptural without it. At first I thought that I would be able to remove it by ripping off the stitches, but unfortunately the milliner saw fit to glue it down to such a degree that ripping it off would destroy the sinamay at the crown. I am trying to reconcile myself to its existence.

the trim, and the wide brim, define this as a picture hat, also sometimes known as a ‘Gainsborough’ hat

In fact the trim, and the wide brim, define this as a picture hat, also sometimes known as a ‘Gainsborough’ hat (after the 18th century painter). The name derives from the way the broad brim frames the face and creates a ‘picture’. Other wide-brimmed hats are called cartwheels (usually worn flat) and halos (usually worn upstanding on the back of the head, like an angel’s halo also as seen in old paintings); both these styles were popular in the 1940s. Picture hats often were lavishly trimmed, as in the Edwardian era, so my single flower is probably quite restrained.

At any rate, it is an entirely frivolous hat, for though the brim is enormous, the loosely woven material would provide zero protection from the sun. But not all beautiful things need to be practical, do they?

Photo: July 2016

Tuesday
Oct112016

What I Actually Wore #122

Serial #: 0122
Date: 19/05/2013
Weather: 17°C / 62°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

Surprisingly, this is the outfit I chose to wear to Ikea! That makes me laugh. I must have been shopping for trivial items in the marketplace only. However, I do like it, mainly because the colours are so harmonious and soothing, with the different shades of grey. (The asymmetrical skirt is a blue-grey denim too.)

I’m pleased to see that linen long-sleeved tee – it is still in my closet, holding up well. I didn’t realise that it was this old! I bought two linen tops from Seed on one occasion; this dove grey one and another the same in a French blue. They were quite expensive investments, but it goes to show the value in buying good quality basics because they really do stand the test of time, both in appeal, and in the washing machine. I am also still wearing that grey wool cardigan because it’s so soft and cosy (sadly the label went into liquidation in 2011), but the skirt has had its day.

This is also still one of my favourite 1940s berets, or platter hats, one I bought on Etsy. The red is picked up in my lipstick and the ceramic jewellery, souvenirs from Barcelona.

That favourite 1960s bag is still in circulation, but both the socks and patent shoes wore out from regular wear. Those leather shoes I found in an op shop for around $12 (the label is now defunct). They were hardly worn and I was so chuffed to find them, so I was disappointed when eventually the patent began to become quite distressed. But then, in a thrifting miracle, last year I found another very similar pair, also barely worn, in an another op shop for about $20! The only difference is the leather on those is punched in a brogue style.

In this outfit, the cardigan, hat, bag and shoes were bought used. All my friends always marvel at the things I manage to find in second hand stores. They seem to think I have some extraordinary knack or magic trick, but the only trick is that I go often to browse in op shops. I rarely find what I’m looking for exactly when I want it. I simply go regularly – once or twice a week at lunchtime, and perhaps once a month on a Saturday. It’s not a huge investment in time, but it accumulates enormous dividends – in savings and bargains.

Items:

Cardigan: Satch
Top:
Seed
Skirt:
Obi
Hat:
vintage
Socks:
ASOS
Earrings:
souvenir
Necklace:
souvenir
Ring:
NGV gallery shop
Bag:
vintage
Shoes:
Scooter

Photos: September 2013

Tuesday
Sep062016

What I Actually Wore #120

Serial #: 0120
Date: 15/05/2013
Weather: 15°C / 59°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

Oh, this jumper! Why did I throw it out? That is the first and most important question I must demand of myself. I cannot offer any sensible answer. Unless perhaps it had become a little worn and pilly. But the colour! Heaven. Literally. It’s sunshine personified.

I actually still like this outfit, although the white toes of my socks make me laugh. I find them a little disruptive, but that is nitpicking. I still own and wear the skirt, and the shoes (I love my Finsk shoes!). The Melbourne designer, Ammo, sadly closed its doors a few years ago, and this is one of the items I still own; I also have a blue silk dress. I always liked Ammo for its interesting and asymmetrical cuts.

The enamel (I have a fondness for enamel) cat earrings are souvenirs from Vietnam, and the pearl ring is a souvenir from a past relationship. I also wore, as it was a cool day, my vintage 60s black velvet coat and a matching hat. I’d still wear this outfit now – abeit with plain black socks or tights – it’s my take on minimalism with a vintage twist.

Items:

Jumper: vintage
Skirt:
Ammo
Socks:
ASOS
Earrings:
souvenir
Ring:
Autore
Watch:
Kenneth Cole
Shoes:
Finsk

Photos: September 2013

Tuesday
Aug162016

What I Actually Wore #118

Serial #: 0118
Date: 26/05/2013
Weather: 21°C / 69.8°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

It is a mild day, and I quickly choose an outfit for work, starting with one of my go-to skirts for this kind of weather. It is a navy linen skirt that I had bought from an online sale website a couple of summers ago. It features an asymmetrical cut, a style I have always favoured.

I pair it with a purple and red striped Sonia Rykiel knit which, with its skinny tie at the neck, has a 20s flavour. I have always been partial to purple and red worn together; it can be a startling and vibrant combination but really works. I match the top to a red wool felt hat, a modern hybrid of cloche and fedora.

As the morning is not warm, I wear ribbed over-the-knee socks with my patent and wood wedges, and add a 1960s black velvet coat with a fur collar. I spotted that coat in a country Salvos store when I was on a visit with my niece. I certainly didn’t need yet another coat, but I fell in instant love and bought it. I’ve worn it many times, and it is surprisingly warm for a cloth coat. Also from this era is the black patent bag I carry often. For a vinyl bag, it has lasted well. I wouldn’t ordinarily buy vinyl, but it is permissible for a fun vintage item!

One of my work colleagues compliments me, and tells me I look fabulous, very 1920s, which had not really been my intention (the 20s part, not the fabulous part!). I guess a reminiscence of certain eras is inevitable when one is attracted to the style and shapes of particular eras. I love Art Deco, which covers the 1920s–40s, as well as the 70s revival.

Very regrettably, this knit got eaten alive by evil and hungry moths (which happens to me a lot), so I ended up donating it to charity a year or two ago – I had darned the first couple of holes but then even more appeared and in a ruthless moment, I decided it was a lost cause. It must have been a particularly tasty merino wool. The skirt has also retired from active service, but with my new interest in navy, it’s very possible it will make a comeback in the summer.

I don’t normally talk about the watches I wear, but this favourite Kenneth Cole with its chain band was recently repaired, so I am most excited to be able to wear it again! The chain had lost a couple of links and had stretched out, thus becoming unwearable, until I finally got around to taking it to the jeweller to have it repaired (along with two others). I now have four to choose from, which is a bit mad. I’d love to add to the collection a vintage 30s or 40s man’s watch, one with a large round dial and a tan leather band.

Photos: September 2013

Items:

Top: Sonia Rykiel
Skirt:
Kokomarina
Coat:
vintage 1960s
Hat:
Milana (available at David Jones)
Socks:
ASOS
Earrings:
handmade
Ring:
silver – Roun (now defunct); onyx – souvenir
Watch:
Kenneth Cole
Bag: vintage 1960s
Shoes:
Aldo