Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in bows (15)


What I Actually Wore #0141

Serial #: 0141
14°C / 57°F
Time Allowed:
10 minutes

It is a sunny but chilly day, and I build my outfit around my over-the-knee socks this morning! I could not bear the thought of wearing tights again. Horrid things. Tights that have lost their tightness and fall down are the worst, aren’t they? Usually I choose my outfit rapidly, often deciding what I’ll wear while I’m showering.

The super-soft cashmere blend socks were a pair by French label Philippe Matignon that I bought on a sale on the website Ozsale. I always wished I had bought more than one pair, for one of them I wore completely to death over the years. These dark browns I still own, and since my sock collection has grown vastly, I wear them sparingly now. I have to purchase most of my socks and tights online, as the socks available in retail stores in Australia are utter, utter rubbish. I cannot emphasise that enough. The selection is really poor, mostly black and navy, with the odd bright fashion colour making a brief appearance. I don’t know why this is so. I know our market is smaller, but our buyers, I believe, suffer from extreme lack of imagination. (Yes, I’m passionate on the subject, but onwards!)

The other driver of this outfit is the vintage 1940s hat, which I purchased on eBay because I fell in love with the magnificent bow. The cool grey and mauve I match with a softer mauve knit, and a warm grey asymmetrical skirt by now-defunct Melbourne designer label Ammo. I bought that knit on sale years ago because I fell in love with the epaulets; I’ve since stopped wearing it, mainly because I dislike the ribbon trim on the shoulders, and am contemplating butchering the epaulets and attaching them to some other knit.

The suede heels by ZU – another vanished brand; it closed in 2015  – in what I’m flatteringly calling donkey brown have since been donated to the charity store, but the jewellery I still own and wear.

I do still very much like this colour combination – I like to mix varying warm and cool shades of one or two tones. It’s more interesting than exact matches, and an elegant change from contrasting hues.


Tee: Kookaï
vintage 40s
Philippe Matignon
NGV museum shop

Photos: October 2013


Brogues, Pt 1

Brogues with Bows

I have loved brogues for a long time. I don’t know from whence this love affair sprang, but it has mostly to do with the punctured leather they are made from: decoration that belies practicality.

While the word ‘brogue’ derives from the Norse brök (leg covering), the shoe itself has its origins in seventeenth century Scotland and Ireland. They were designed for walking the peat bogs of those countries, the tiny holes perforating the leather allowing water to drain out.

A guide to brogued shoes (illustrations from Toni Rossi)They started out as very rudimentary shoes made from raw hides with the hair inwards, to leather tanned with oak-bark. By the eighteenth century they had evolved into a heavier shoe with hobnailed soles, and in the following century the shoe gained a second layer which was pinked to allow water to drain out, with an inner layer that was not, preserving water resistance.

Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, popularises brogues by wearing them as golfing shoes (image via Pinterest)In the twentieth century, it was Edward, Prince of Wales, who took these traditional shoes out of the countryside and into the city, playing golf in them in the 1930s and thereby making them exceedingly fashionable. Women’s versions soon followed with the addition of a heel. Half-brogues, hybrids of Oxford and brogue, were next, with heels rising higher and higher in the first decade of the twenty-first century, making the most practical walking shoe less so. But they sure look good!

When I purchased this pair of dark taupe brogues by label Urge online from a sale website, I was quite surprised when they arrived sans shoelaces. I decided that I wanted nothing so prosaic as that. I had seen brogues tied with satin ribbons before, and liked the look – there is something storybookish about them. Immediately I seized a ribbon out of my sewing box to test out the look.

The tiny eyelets were a hindrance, but I dealt with that by wrapping the ends of the ribbon with sticky-tape and thread it through. I liked it (though not so much the mauve colour, which inadvertently matched my carpet)!

It is almost impossible to purchase non-polyester ribbon in this paltry town (unless presumably one is a denizen of the fashion industry and has secret sources) so I went shopping on Etsy. A natural fibre would be more flexible and fall more prettily. I found a peach rayon ribbon and waited impatiently for it to arrive. Once more I went through the tedious process of threading the eyelets, but I was very pleased with the result.

After all that effort, I must confess that the shoes themselves were not the most comfortable, being a little narrow in the toe. But wear made them give a little and they became more comfortable for commuting to work in, which is what I bought them for. Unfortunately, these fashionable brogues did not possess hobnailed soles, and after a winter or two of hard wear, I ruthlessly (but sadly) put them in the bin where their holey-ness belonged.

Unfortunately, these fashionable brogues did not possess hobnailed soles …

I’ve since owned other brogues, and this past winter have been often wearing a pair of dark tan vintage 70s oxfords, with a two-inch stacked heel, that I found in an op shop for around $12. They were in pristine condition and had even been resoled by a previous owner. I have already roughed them up a little on toes and heels, but that’s what shoes are for – and then it will be on to the next pair!

Photos: July 2012
References: Shoes, by Caroline Cox, New Burlington Books, 2012; Shoes, by Linda O’Keefe, Workman Publishing NY, 1996


Hat Roll-Call

This past year has been a very good year for finding vintage hats in op shops at bargain basement prices. And, I decided, Easter is an eggcellent time to parade some before you (sorry, that was irresistible). These summer hats coincidentally all feature bows.

First up is what I suspect is a 1930s navy and natural straw hat found on one lunchtime spree at a store near my workplace. It does not have a label on the inside, but I am estimating it to be from this era because of the shape and materials that are very similar to another straw 1930s hat I own. The lining of the brim was torn from the crown – easily fixed – and otherwise it is in very good condition and was a steal at $10. It looks very elegant on, and the other great thing is that it fits very tightly, so even a high wind was unable to whip it off my head.

The second hat is possibly from the 1980s. It is a huge cartwheel of natural store, and tied with a black jacquard taffeta bow at the back. The fabric has the distinctive moiré pattern of that formal fabric that was so popular in the Eighties. This does threaten to take flight on a windy day (a hat elastic fixed that), but it offers great shelter from our strong southern sun. A $4 bargain from a little charity store.

Also from the 1980s is this black straw closely-fitting visored hat that I found at the same time as the Prada kepi, in a huge vintage warehouse in Geelong. The deep crown features a black grosgrain ribbon that forms a bow at the back. The visor provides great shelter, though not so at the back clearly. Perhaps I should be wearing it 80s style, with a giant white shirt with the collar turned up to protect my neck? This was another cheapie that cost only $4 (reduced from $8).

I do hope you are all having a very Good Friday!

Photos: March 2017


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