Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in coats (21)



A few years ago, my friend Rapunzel bought this vintage 60s suede coat at a vintage warehouse sale for a fairly modest sum. The clothing, I believe, was purchased unseen by the container-load from America. While all the other clothing at the sale seemed to have suffered no lasting damage, this coat looked like it had been drenched in the brink. It was so wrinkled, and strangely textured as though it was encrusted with salt.

My friend, however, never wore it, saying she had never got round to taking it to a drycleaner, and didn’t like wearing coats for commuting anyway, as she tended to overheat, and so she was reluctant to spend a large amount on professional cleaning. She donated it to me.

I was pleased to accept the coat, but it couldn’t be worn in the state it was. I forgot to photograph it in its original state, but I would describe the texture as resembling a piece of paper that had been screwed up into a little ball, then poorly smoothed out.

I would describe the texture as resembling a piece of paper that had been screwed up into a little ball …

I took the coat to my regular drycleaner and asked his advice. With very serious face he examined the coat and remarked that it did look like it had fallen into the ocean. That seemed unlikely, but perhaps it had been splashed at some point in its life. He did not think cleaning it would improve its appearance – the two apparent stains visible on the right side (near the collar and the middle button) were actually abrasions of the leather, so cleaning would have no effect on those. He suggested pressing it instead.

Ironing leather! I have talked before about the importance of ironing, but it never would have occurred to me that it was appropriate to press leather. For a modest sum of $15, I agreed to see if that improved the look of the coat. When I returned to pick the coat up, I was very impressed (pardon the pun) to see the improvement.

This suede, mink-trimmed coat transmogrified from a sozzled 60-year-old harridan into a gently-used dignified dame. Disfigurements became faint scars proudly marking the stately passage of time, and the coat was eminently wearable. Amongst so many coats I already own, I still managed to wear it a few times this past winter, an excellent result.

Photo: August 2018


What I Actually Wore #0140

Serial #: 0140
3.3°C / 38°F
Time Allowed:
15 minutes

This evening I was going out to the Astor Theatre, an Art Deco cinema, to see (aptly) the very enjoyable Clara Bow film Wings of 1927. And in fact my choice of outfit was in response to a story I had written that day in homage to Coco Chanel.

I never wear all black, but I almost did this evening, except for my favourite white leather trench coat and white beret. The outfit, otherwise, was chosen for warmth, as the apparent temperature was a chilly 3.3°.

I wear a cowl neck jumper with a tank top underneath for warmth, along with wide-leg wool pants, another wardrobe staple of mine. All my accessories, apart from the aforementioned hat, are also black – except for my tan socks, and one of my bauble earrings. I had deliberately worn one black onyx, one silver, but my notes say I was disappointed that no one noticed!

I still really like this outfit and would definitely wear it today, except I think a few of the items were retired after becoming worn out. Most sadly, the trench coat became so worn it looked grey and dirty and I tearfully donated it to the Salvation Army. But years ago I’d had the foresight to hunt down another 70s white leather coat on Etsy that is almost as nice. It is cut more along princess lines with a flaring skirt, and that is what I don’t like as much. Amusingly, the hat is one I bought in the early 90s, and have owned ever since – it has become vintage since then – and suddenly I feel old!

The shoes have since been replaced by similar patent heels – coincidentally by the same brand, both of which I found in thrift stores, and the French socks became holey and retired to the sock afterlife (le trashcan). The trousers, hat and gloves I certainly still own, and I think the bag is packed away in my closet somewhere too. Perhaps this time I should do an homage to my own homage to Coco?


Jumper: David Lawrence
Philippe Matignon
boutique, vintage 90s
Leda Spain by Gropper, vintage 70s
vintage 60s

Photo: October 2013


What I Actually Wore #0137

Serial #: 0137
Date: 25/03/2013
Weather: 14°C / 58°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

It was a cold and very windy day, with gale force winds forecast for the afternoon. I had a hair appointment after work too, so I knew I had to dress warmly as I would be making my way home in the evening.

My old favourite Sonia Rykiel wool sweater! I loved how the stripes on the attached scarf tie were narrower than the body of the top. Sadly by this time the sweater was quite worn, and had a couple of holes in it that I had darned – one of the reasons I layered the cotton tee over it; the other was for extra warmth. And how I adore this vintage suede and rabbit fur coat, the ‘Zhivago’ as it was called in the 1970s – one of my all-time favourites.

I pulled my outfit together quite quickly, but as I had just written the accessories story for the Ten Commandments the night before, I deliberately thought about how I matched my accessories. I originally wanted neutral socks, but my favourite French brown ones were in the laundry basket, so I went with the red. A bit more lurid than desired, but only a little of them would be glimpsed (and you can’t see them at all in the photos). They annoy me all day as they’re supposed stay-ups that don’t stay up! The earrings are striped ceramic (they are not visible either, sadly in this case) and the ring turquoise – they were both souvenirs from Barcelona.

The tan leather lace-up boots are old favourites. My oldest sister has told me that in the 70s, lace-up boots really were lace-ups: there were no cheating zips up the sides like today. They took forever to take on and off, so you didn’t remove them until you had to.

At my hairdresser, the receptionist raved about my outfit – she said I looked gorgeous, like a little doll, and so creative. Hmm, not so sure about the doll part, but gorgeous and creative I’ll take! I still have all these items except for the two tops, but I actually still like this outfit.


Tee: Oxford
Sonia Rykiel
The Sock Shop
vintage 70s, Stephen Dattner
Kenneth Cole
Joanne Mercer

Photos: October 2013


End of Winter Celebration

Red wool, cashmere and rabbit fur trim cape, bought comparatively expensively for $300 from a vintage boutique in Melbourne to celebrate winning a new client.Today is officially the last day of winter – hurrah, hurrah! It was in fact gloriously sunny enough to be the first day of spring, and I certainly did not need a coat to go outside today. In truth, we Melburnians know we won’t be shedding the woollen coats just yet, but the promise of spring makes a huge impact on one’s joie de vivre.

I have said before that I have many coats, and a while back when I was culling a few because they were worn out, I decided I had to photograph the entire collection for posterity. It took me a whole day, and even then I forgot a couple, and I have since added a couple more. But I was shocked to learn the total: more than 60! Even I find it hard to believe I have space to store them all.

Camel wool coat – a holy grail find in an op shop that set me back $30.Nearly every single one is second hand, I am proud to say. One is a genuine antique from 1850, and the next oldest is from the 1930s. A few more (including ones I forgot to photograph) are from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s and then quite an armload of them are from the 1970s.

I do try to wear as many of them as I can, but some of course are only for special occasions, such as the 1850s striped velvet skating coat – I don’t wear that when know I am going to indulge in risk-taking behaviour such as drinking red wine, or consuming melting ice creams in the dark.

This navy cashmere French-made coat was bizarrely inexpensively priced at $12 in a Melbourne op shop (I think the staff member was suffering from concussion when they priced this) – and then I found $2 in one of the very deep pockets!This last Melbourne winter has been so cold that I mainly wore only the big guns: my longest wool and cashmere coats, along with a few short ones that I broke out when I was going out and about only during mild days. I have a couple of long leather trench coats, but I didn’t feel they were warm enough for days under 10°C – it does not get cold enough in the city to actually snow, but those Antarctic winds sure do blow!

Many of these capes, coats, and jackets were purchased in Melbourne op shops (thrift stores) and a handful of vintage boutiques, but a few I bought online from mostly America.

Vintage 60s pure wool short jacket, found in an op shop for $6! This has such a great shape, and I love the bracelet-length sleeves.I really love tweed, and was pleased to find this wool jacket for around $10 in a small op shop on the fringes of Melbourne, when one of my sisters took me on a tour of all the op shops in her area. It is missing its belt, but I have found quite a few stand-ins. I had always wanted a baseball jacket, and what better than a vintage 50s one? This wool Dodgers jacket does up with buttons, not a zip. I bought this at a Unique Vintage warehouse sale for about $45. These six coats and jackets I have showcased here are the ones I have worn most often this winter, but there are other ones I adore, such as the 70s Dr Zhivago suede and fur coat, the leather of which has become quite fragile in parts. I am a bit scared to wear it for fear of irreparable tears forming. I have already repaired some of them myself.

As the weather becomes a little less icy, I hope to start taking a few more lighter-weight coats on outings. Meanwhile, the first week of spring is due to return to winter weather, although Melbourne is honouring the occasion with some sunshine forecast for tomorrow.

You can see the entire collection in my new autumn/winter gallery, in A Glory of Coats.

Photos: January 2017


Spot the Difference

Vintage cheetah print wool fedora by Laura Ashley; vintage leopard print earringsAnimal prints, while they are an acknowledged classic print in the fashion lexicon, have never been something I have gravitated towards. In part it is because my minimalist leanings find the patterns too visually overwhelming and ‘messy’, but it is also because to me they smack of an old-fashioned as opposed to vintage style.

As British Vogue put it in their 100th anniversary June 2016 issue (below), a scent of trophy wife developed in the 1960s, when wealthy and famous women like Sophia Loren and Ursula Andress adopted the signature print.

British Vogue, June 2016

I don’t mind a touch of animal print in accessories, such as hats and shoes – it’s only when a wall of animal print approaches me that I flinch.

It is the great cats that provide inspiration for the most classic of animal prints: leopard and cheetah print are the two most popular in clothing and accessories. They look very similar to one another, so how does one discern between the two?


The cheetah’s coat is yellow-orange or golden, and the oval or circular spots are dark brown or black. This is the pattern used in both of my hats, although the background colours are quite different. The fedora is by Laura Ashley, and the vintage beret of unknown provenance; I suspect both are from the 80s.

Cheetah-inspired print vintage wool beret; the pattern is actually a bit of a hybrid, with some areas that feature shapes that almost form the distinctive rosettes found on a leopard's coat


The pattern on the leopard’s coat is more complex, consisting of black or brown spots that cluster together closely, in a pattern that is called a rosette. The fur in the centre of the rosette is usually a deeper colour than the tawny background fur. The rosette pattern provides excellent camouflage for the leopard.

The vintage earrings I am wearing in the first photo show a leopard print, as do the modern heeled sandals by Guess. The shoes are printed pony hair, as in fact are the earrings (although they may be faux).

Leopard print pony-hair and patent leather heels by GuessVery occasionally one sees other animal prints come into fashion – tiger, zebra, giraffe – but their appearance is usually trend driven and fleeting. Too bold and brash, they simply don’t possess the same vintage pedigree; they are the vulgar cousins of the sleeker cheetah and leopard. But the latter are still a bit wild, not for the entirely tamed woman. As Christian Dior put it, “Leopard print requires a kind of femininity which is a little bit sophisticated. If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it.” Well, there are plenty of blondes who have chosen to wear it, but I’d hazard a guess none of them are sweet.

How to wear animal print

Because animal print is just so bold and statement-making, I prefer it worn against solid block colours, and my choice would be any of the neutrals: black, white, grey, camel. Practically speaking, denim is also a neutral – see Kate Moss in the tearsheet above. Or, if you are a maximalist, and more is more is more, you could pair it with matching boots (see Ursula Andress) or tights and heels like Lola Todd, who I suspect may be wearing genuine fur, which makes it rather bad taste to match it to a live leopard pet! Don’t do that.

Photos: August 2016