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Entries in colour (50)

Wednesday
Dec262018

Three Christmas Kings

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts, we traverse far
Field and fountain
Moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Oh, star of wonder, star of might
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading
Still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light …

Boxing Day is traditionally – I’m talking about medieval traditions that is – the day the ruling lords rewarded their serfs with boxes of presents. In places of worship, alms boxes collected donations for the poor. I wonder if this tradition could have been inspired by the three kings (or wise men) who followed a star and traversed a vast distance to present their gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby in the manger?

More recently of course, Boxing Day traditions have us all rushing to the shops to buy discounted presents for our well-deserving selves!

The carol tells the story of the three wise men in the Bible who had seen a star in the east and travelled to Bethlehem in search of the baby born King of the Jews. The song – both words and music – was penned in 1857 by the American John Henry Hopkins Jr, and the opening verses are beautifully lyrical. Sung in rounds it sounds both solemn and joyous.

I hope you all enjoyed both giving and receiving gifts yesterday … excuse me now, I’m off shopping!

~

Fashion Notes

Amazingly I actually already owned all these vintage maxi dresses, hats and wigs which were perfect to illustrate three wise (wo)men. On the left, I am wearing a 60s silk dress, with a vintage 40s black and white turban, and beaded slippers by Mollini; in the centre, is a green 70s lurex gown, with a vintage 60s velvet turban decorated with a vintage rhinestone bird brooch, and the slippers are by Sarti; on the right is a vintage 60s striped empire line dress, with a vintage 40s pink jacket, 60s silk petal hat and beaded slippers which were a souvenir from Vietnam. I am standing in front of the entrance to the King's palace, in Fes, Morocco, where I visited in 2011.

Photo: December 2018

Tuesday
Dec182018

In the Mood for Qipaos

I don’t remember what first inspired my admiration for the traditional Chinese cheongsam, or qipao – very likely a Chinese film – but I am sure it had a lot to do with the sumptuous silk embroidered fabric that many are made from. Many years ago I once owned a beautiful example made from oyster-hued silk, embroidered heavily in red, silver and gold. Unfortunately it was a little small for me, and I stupidly culled it from my wardrobe in a mad fit of minimalism in my late 20s, since I thought I would never wear it. Ever since then I have been looking for a new one.

Qipao of the Daoguang Period (1821–1850); Empress Xiaoshen, image from WikipediaThe history of the qipao is long and complicated, and (according to Wikipedia) its origins are controversial. Generally people believe that its origin is in the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), but some scholars argue that in fact the cheongsam was first worn two millennia prior, in a period between the Western Zhou dynasty (1046BC–771BC) and the pre-Qin era (221BC–207BC). Whatever is the truth, the qipao of the Qing dynasty could not be more different from the style common today. It was floor-length and loose, and cut in an A-line that revealed the figure not at all. Only the head, hand and the tips of the toes were visible.

Chinese singer and actress Zhou Xuan wearing a cheongsam in 1930s in Shanghai; C.H. Wong Photo Studio; Image from WikipediaIn China, women’s liberation had as much effect as it had in other parts of the world at the turn of the 20th century, and the Republican period (1912–1949) is known as the golden age of the cheongsam. It is from this era that the cheongsam as we know it took form. Along with the ending of traditional foot binding, women began to bob their hair, and took to wearing this formerly exclusively masculine attire: one-piece clothing called Changshan or changpao. Now, too, the style was influenced by western fashion – the body-skimming bias-cuts popularised by Hollywood stars – hugging the figure, with hemlines gradually rising and formerly merely practical splits running much higher.

While the Communist Revolution virtually ended the popularity of the cheongsam, Shanghainese emigrants and refugees took the fashion with them to Hong Kong and Taiwan, and kept the style alive there.

Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, 2000Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, 2000Wong Kar Wai’s beautiful and bitter-sweet film In the Mood for Love is based on the Shanghai diaspora from the Revolution, and is set in Hong Kong in 1962. Its heroine, played by Maggie Cheung, wears a gorgeous collection of cheongsams – I remember seeing the film in the cinema when it was released in 2000, and I found the costumes no less breathtaking than the cinematography.

I was very excited when I finally found my new cheongsam, on my Day of Yellow Bonanza, the miraculous Saturday a few months ago when I found several yellow items scattered in thrift stores across Melbourne, including a 1940s ballgown. The cheongsam is made from a luminous pale-yellow brocade of chrysanthemums, which is a popular flower in Chinese culture. It is one of four seasonal symbolic flowers representing autumn, and is also the flower of the ninth moon. The dress probably dates from the 60s, and the fabric is rayon. It actually needs to be tailored to fit me a bit better, which is why you see me with hands on waist to disguise the bagginess there. I am wearing it with a pair of patent yellow stilettos by Aldo, also found in a thrift store.

Read more about the history of the qipao here, and about Maggie Cheung’s wardrobe for the sublime film In the Mood for Love here – I am inspired to watch it again.

Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, 2000

Photos: August 2018

Monday
Dec102018

The Sweeter Side of Yellow

What’s in a name? I declare, a yellow by any other name is still distilled with sunshine. Some might argue that, more properly, this shade of acid yellow would be described as chartreuse, a shade of green with a yellowish tinge that takes its name from the aromatic French liqueur. Chartreuse is distilled alcohol aged with 130 herbs, plants and flowers, and varies in colour from green to yellow, with the latter variety being milder and sweeter. This hat is definitely on the sweeter side of chartreuse.

This was a hat I spotted on Etsy and drooled over for quite some time before I finally succumbed to temptation and bought it from the shop Mel’s Vanity. It is vintage 1940s, and is a kind of elongated boater, trimmed in sumptuous silk ribbon, with roses above and below the brims. Yes, brims plural. I love that it has four layers! I have never seen such an extravagant feature in any hat before.

There is also the remnants of a very beautiful taupe-coloured, patterned silk veil which is unfortunately very deteriorated. This is the main reason I have not yet worn the hat out – that, and the fact the hat arrived in the winter, which clearly meant it had to await warm weather. But I haven’t yet discovered any replacement netting of equal beauty, and I can’t bring myself to snip off the existing remnants. Maybe I will just wear it tucked up.

The hat has two small combs inside which are obviously meant to fix it to an up-do, and in the 40s it was probably worn atop a victory roll, and tilted forward. Unfortunately achieving that effect is impossible with my short hair. Regardless, it looks so pretty, and different from every angle, which you can see in the pictures below – I particularly love the bow under the brim at the back. Bring on the sunshine!

Click image for larger version

Photos: October 2018

Tuesday
Oct302018

Shopping for Robin’s Eggs

It’s no secret to regular readers of this style blog that robin’s egg blue is one of my favourite colours – if not the favourite. It’s a colour I am always drawn to whenever I see it, and so when I saw this necklace in a sale on Facebook from Rosebud Vintage Bazaar that is evocative of actual birds’ eggs, I knew that I absolutely had to have it.

The vintage 1950s feathered hat is an absolute marvel as well – I bought it many years ago on Etsy, and have worn it a few times on special occasions, such as Christmas Day celebrations and going to the theatre. I love it paired with this necklace though!

The only thing that would make this outfit more amazing would be a silk dress featuring a bird’s egg print …

A tall order, you think?

I actually came across such a dress in a thrift store just over a month ago, and was bowled over by the print. I was not, however, bowled over by the price of $80 attached to it. Come on, I thought. Especially when they had not even bothered to present it nicely. It was as wrinkled as though it had just been withdrawn from a bag in which it had been screwed up into a ball and jammed with many other items. No, no, no.

However, I might have accepted the price for the print if it had been cut into anything other than an ugly shirt-dress. I loathe and abominate shirts. Always have. And shirt-dresses are even worse; I don’t find them flattering at all, at least on me. I look like I have just crawled out of bed wearing a man’s shirt. Hideous!

I look like I have just crawled out of bed wearing a man’s shirt. Hideous!

I thought about having the hem tailored to get rid of the shirt slits, but I was too annoyed at the prospect of spending another $30 or so on top of the $80 purchase price. $20 okay, or $30 even, but $80 is just too much in a thrift store for a modern dress that looks like a rag, in my view. I was recently chatting to a thrifting diva from the US, and she was shocked when I quoted her some average prices from Aussie op shops. Many of them are not really ‘opportunity shops’ any longer, unfortunately.

That being said, I am quite willing to pay much more for unique or rare vintage items such as the necklace, or feathered hat, even when I find them in an ‘op shop’.

Photos: September 2018

Monday
Oct292018

What I Actually Wore #0143

Serial #: 0143
Date:
30/08/2013
Weather:
19°C / 67°F
Time Allowed:
7 minutes

Aww! These pictures make me nostalgic! All these items, except for the beret, wool knit top and some of the jewellery have completely worn out and are long gone from my closet. On this day it was a mild and rainy, and almost spring so I dressed suitably in woollens for the weather. I do still really like the colour combinations here: beige, red, white, black – you can’t go wrong.

The loss of the 1970s vintage leather trench coat makes me the saddest. I loved that coat to death, literally. When I bought it on eBay, years earlier, it was pristine. By the time I had finished with it, it was so worn that it looked grey and dirty. I took it to a professional cleaner and he shook his head sadly: nothing to be done about it except have it ‘recoated’ in white paint (no pun intended).

I already knew this was a dubious option because I’d had the forethought to purchase a replacement white leather coat on Etsy (similar in style, but with a fuller skirt, which is not as cool), but the seller never told me it had been refurbished. Tragically it sheds white spots of paint every time I wear it that looks like DANDRUFF! The horror.

The loss of the 1970s vintage leather trench coat makes me the saddest. I loved that coat to death, literally.

So the coat was donated to a thrift store, as was the beloved white leather tote, which suffered the same fate from wear. The silk camisole got shabby; the well-darned wool/cashmere socks eventually became holey beyond rescue; the watch chain-strap hopelessly unraveled; the shoes wore out; and another favourite item, the wool skirt, was chomped through by an evil and hungry moth. What a litany of sorrows!

At least I can reflect that I really did get good wear out of these garments. The beige wool knit, which originally came from a thrift store, has definitely been an excellent basic in my wardrobe. And while the shoes wore out, I actually found replacements in a thrift store that are exactly the same except they are brogued versions. I’m pleased too because both were by a brand I always liked, Scooter, which now seems to be defunct.

I still own all the jewellery, even the broken watch, which awaits the patience of a jeweler when I remember to take it for repair. And the armchair: I still have that!

Items:

Camisole: Enamel
Jumper:
Kookaï
Skirt:
Anthropologie
Socks:
Philippe Matignon
Hat:
vintage
Coat:
 Leda Spain by Gropper, vintage 1970s
Earrings: handmade by me
Ring: souvenir from Vietnam
Watch:
Kenneth Cole
Tote:
Elise Carrels
Shoes:
Scooter

Photos: September 2013