Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in bows (12)


A Real Pill

Along with other iconic Sixties fashions (baby-doll dresses, Peter Pan collars), pillbox hats have been one of my most hated clothing items. I hated everything about this hat style: the straight up-and-down sides, the flat crown, the sometimes bulbous shapes, the stiffness, the way it traditionally sat straight on the head; even the name is unappealing … I could not name a single redeeming feature, and I certainly never imagined I would ever not only own one, but wear it with pleasure.

Then along came this natural straw hat by Mr Individual of Melbourne, which is trimmed with caramel coloured braid and a jaunty, angled bow. I found it in a Salvos op shop (thrift store) and picked it up – in spite of the fact it was clearly a dreaded pillbox – because of the bow, the fineness of the straw, and because it looked in such pristine condition. At $25 it was not the cheapest hat I’ve ever bought in an op shop (never mind the price tag on new designer hats), but it was obviously a quality piece of millinery.

It looks more like an insouciant cap than a formal pillbox.

Luckily it fit well enough so that I could wear it on the back of my head, a more modern styling than the traditional straight on. It looks more like an insouciant cap than a formal pillbox.

Origin of an Icon

The precursor to the pillbox hat was military headgear. It was redesigned by milliners in the 1930s, and is in fact named after actual pillboxes that pills were once packaged in. It is of course most associated with Jackie Kennedy: a style icon in her own right, but this hat became synonymous with her look in the 1960s.

Jackie KennedyAudrey HepburnWhen Jackie was looking for a hat to wear to her husband’s presidential inauguration in January 1961, the American designer Halston decided with her to make a plain pillbox hat that would suit the style of her dress.

‘The simple but stylish hat caused a fashion sensation across the Western world, when many people watched the inauguration ceremony on television. The dent that Jackie accidentally put in the hat as she climbed out of the presidential limousine was interpreted as a special design feature, and the dented pillbox hat was immediately copied around the world.’ (The Century of Hats by Susie Hopkins, Chartwell Books, 1999).

The pillbox hat subsequently became Jackie’s trademark, and she wore them in fabrics and colours matching her outfit. Worth noting: she too usually wore these hats on the back of her head.

Glaser pillbox by Christian Dior, 1960Flamingo velvet pillbox 'Florentine' by Christian Dior, 1961At Tanith Rowan Designs there is an excellent article on the pillbox and how to wear it now in a modern way – this Australian milliner advocates wearing them tilted on an angle. That may not work with mine as it has such a deep crown, but even I am almost convinced!

Photos: October 2016


Solo Sole Fixer-Upper

Who needs a shoe repairer when with sundry art supplies lying about the house, one can do some home cobbling in a jiffy?

Here is a pair of patent leather heels by Aussie label Wittner that I have owned and loved for years. They feature darling little bows that look like farfalle pasta on the slingbacks. One day I brought them down from the high shelf on which they had been stored, and found that the insoles had completely separated from the outsoles. As well, the leather had lifted from the heels. Disaster!

It looked to me like all they needed was a bit of glue and a heavy-duty clamp. I took them to my regular shoe repairer, and he expressed astonishment at their state. “Did you leave them in a hot car?” he wondered. “No,” I answered innocently, omitting to tell him they had been stored on a high shelf near a skylight (heat rises, after all).

I was utterly bamboozled when he quoted me $60 for the repair

He made disparaging remarks about the shoe manufacturing industry, then I was utterly bamboozled when he quoted me $60 for the repair. Sixty dollars! For a bit of gluing! You’ve got to be joking, I thought, and declined availing myself of his services.

I took the slingbacks home and laid out some newspaper and applied glue suitable for leather with a palette knife, then clamped them with several bulldog clips. It took me probably ten minutes to complete the operation; I left them for 24 hours before I removed the clips. Et voila! Le shoes, zey are fixed! And when I wore them they even held together – and still do.

Photo: September 2014


What I Actually Wore #116

Serial #: 0116
Date: 17/04/2013
Weather: 19°C / 66°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

Well I will say this for myself: I certainly made some bold sartorial choices a few years ago! I look like a doll. This is not a compliment; however, it is fun? In hindsight, I think what I most disapprove of now is that velvet headband by Australian designer Alannah Hill. It’s plastered in multiple grosgrain bows, and that is what, in combination with my hairstyle, makes me look like a china doll.  

The silk blouse and pleated skirt are both vintage, and the polka dot combination is quite a fun mix of prints. You can’t see the lilac silk camisole underneath; it had some pretty gathers at the back, but sadly the silk shattered in one place and it became unwearable. Both the blouse and skirt have been retired from active duty since.

I was rather cold that day in this flimsy outfit, despite the lightweight blue vintage 50s coat I wore on top – but at least I looked cute. One must suffer for fashion after all!


Blouse: Milo’s
Clio, vintage 80s
Country Road
vintage 50s
Alannah Hill
ceramic, souvenir from Barcelona
ceramic, souvenirs from Barcelona
Kenneth Cole

Photos: January 2014


A Final Fling

A week into April, summer has finally ended, and it went out with a spectacular bang. Melbourne treated us to a last burst of sunshine and warm weather (29°!) and I decided that I ought to honour the day suitably.

Yesterday morning I considered my wardrobe, trying to decide which outfit should have a final fling, and I decided on cheerful pistachio and Kelly greens. This Phase Eight skirt and Icons top were bought from different thrift stores and months apart, and although the shades of green were slightly different, I was delighted to find that they both tied with jaunty bows at the back.

… I was delighted to find that they both tied with jaunty bows at the back

The straw hat with its raffia pompom is by Australian label Country Road (I fear they copied a Burberry hat from a season or two ago), and the two-tone woven leather slingbacks are by an unfamiliar French label, Bleu.C; I bought them on eBay a few years ago. I spotted a similar pair on Etsy, albeit in garish lime and orange,which states they are from the 1980s.

Fashion editors love to wax lyrical how flattering monochrome outfits are (elongating the figure), and I particularly like to pair slightly differing hues of a single colour, just to tease the eye. I like that out of these two greens one on the warmer side of the spectrum, and the other on the cooler: I think this is much more interesting than simply wearing lighter and darker variations of the same shade.

And now it’s a farewell to summer, and welcome autumn – and hello lovely autumnal layers!

Photo: Yesterday


Nights of Shining Glamour

Yesterday while I was frantically looking for historical images of women bedecked with bows (that I didn’t use anyway), I came across this lovely fashion editorial from a 1987 issue of Australian Vogue. It looks so quintessentially Eighties, doesn’t it, but a more sophisticated style than one usually thinks of – or perhaps that is just a trick of photography?

On the opening page of the fashion section, the fashion editor has written:

“As though by design – exactly what it is – dressing this winter has crystallised into two distinctly different images, as different as night and day, each counterbalancing the other, in an ideal blueprint for a modern woman’s life. There is the pared-down polish of looks made to move upward in corporate realms, to aid you in confronting your day with authority and competence. And clothes for nights of shining glamour, fantasies in taffeta and velvet, tulle and sequins, clothes cut out for nothing but pleasure.

There’s no better way to signal the flip side of your workday self than by the way you look. Shed your corporate carapace and emerge as another kind of creature, more fantastic than earthbound. Your transformation may come as a surprise to those who know you as a no-nonsense competent. Good. Who wants to be predictable? More important still, you may surprise yourself.”

Now I’m imagining a sturdy little caterpillar, working away by day, and a shining butterfly, frivolously beating through the night. Wearing bows, of course.

Tearsheets from Vogue Australia, May 1987; phographed by Claus Wickwrath