Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in colour (59)


“THIS, children, is puce.”

I know that this question has been causing many of you out there a lot of anxiety, so I want to put it to rest once and for all.

Puce is a colour that is difficult to define, (except see picture above for the OED’s definition); few have heard of; and seldom passes colour forecasters’ lips today except in reference to nineteenth century fashion. In these days when dark purple is aubergine, deep red cranberry and blue cloud, puce has no place. Who wants to paint their house flea colour? Or worse, wear it next to their face? It is difficult, period.

But today we shall attempt to clear up the mystery somewhat.

Puce is a colour that … seldom passes colour forecasters’ lips today except in reference to nineteenth century fashion.

I first came across this strange hue in Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances. I imagined – in error – that puce was a pale purplish-grey. Heyer’s stories take place during a period when puce was the high kick of fashion, although it apparently suited few. Here are some quotes*:

Miss Milborne, whose striking beauty could well support the trying colour, was wearing a new gown of pale puce satin and net to the ball, and with this George's violets could not be said to agree. (Friday’s Child) 


…she wore a high-gown of an unbecoming shade of puce; and carried a reticule in one bony hand. (Cotillion) 


He was magnificently attired in puce satin, with an embroidered waistcoat. His wig must surely have come straight from Paris. (The Masqueraders)

It is not stated in the caption, but this gown looks suspiciously like it was made from puce coloured silk. J. A. D. Ingres, The Baroness Rothschild, 1848. From ‘A History of Costume in the West’, François Boucher, Thames and Hudson, 1987 ed. I once owned a lovely Obüs millefeuille skirt in a muted shade of green; as puce is to violet, my skirt was like moss is to emerald. I could not like it. I originally wanted it in scarlet (not red), but Alice Euphemia did not have the scarlet in my size, so I had to make do with moss. One day I decided to dye it. I knew whatever came out in the wash, it was certain to be odd, but I thought it was worth the attempt. I am not quite sure what I was aiming for – perhaps chocolate brown – but with the addition of two different colours, the end result was more than merely odd. It was eccentric.

Years later I realised it was actually puce.

Sadly I could not photograph it for this journal entry as I donated it to charity shortly after the dyeing episode. (I was too disheartened to try again for charcoal.) Fortunately for this exercise I was able to locate another skirt (coincidentally also in the to-be-donated-to-charity bag) in puce, albeit in a less startling shade than my Obüs mishap.

Perhaps it is time for puce to explode back into the world of fashion? I am sure however it will be under another, more marketable, name.

* More literary delicacies here.


Daisy in paisley

Daisy looked gorgeous today in a bright, sunshine yellow frock that looked cool and breezy. Not many people dare wear yellow, although I am not sure why it is any more frightening than other bright hues. It must be this perception, however, that makes it scream ‘look at me!’ that makes most people run a mile from it though. Daisy shares her love for it with Gingersnaps and myself – perhaps we’re all attention-seekers.

How long did it take you to put it together this morning Daisy?

Not long, a few minutes.

That sounds very definite! Why’s that?

It was meant to be hideously hot today – 39° in fact, so I chose the lightest, floatiest thing I could find. Although now I’m regretting it as the temperature has dropped significantly and the wind has picked up. This dress doesn’t mix well with wind.

The dress is basically the whole outfit so that’s where I started; the sandals were a last minute change as I was running out the door. I didn’t fancy walking 20 minutes home after a 39° day in closed shoes!

It’s a very distinctive dress with that giant paisley pattern. Who’s it by?

The dress is by Anu and it was from Phillips on Chapel Street. The sandals I had made a few years ago in Vietnam – they’re a bit tricky to walk in but worth it on a hot day.

I seem to recall that most of the jewellery you wear was given to you? Tell me about your necklace.

This one’s no exception! The rose gold chain and heart locket was a 21st birthday present from my uncle who found it in an antique store. It’s my favourite piece to wear because it goes with everything and is very understated. I wear it most days.

Well, your silhouette is certainly understated, but that pattern is a great contrast! Thanks for making our day brighter Daisy.

The backdrop in these pictures is part of one of the princess’ suites in Bao Dai's summer palace in Dalat, Vietnam.


It’s all blue hues for Sapphire

Inspired by Katherine Hepburn, my friend Sapphire (aka Pure Gin) tends towards a masculine style, and would love to wear three-piece suits often if she could. (“I only own one! Wish I had more though,” she tells me.) She’s in the market for a vintage-style suit for starters.

On weekends she is more of a jeans and t-shirt girl, but likes to dress up for occasions, inspired by different fashion eras. Heels are usually worn only for going out on the town. Sapphire has tried to go for feminine, flirty things particularly this past summer, but she just does not feel quite herself in them, which is something I can totally relate to, having several fluttery summer dresses languishing in my wardrobe.

It’s Australia Day on the day I interview Sapphire, and quite warm though not hot. My own original outfit has suffered a disaster (the zip split open on my dress) and we both kick back on the balcony with wine from New Zealand and anti-pasta from the Vic Market.

You’re all in blue, Sapphire; how appropriate. Tell me about your outfit.

The shirt is vintage. There’s no label, so it could actually be homemade. I bought it from Shappere on Chapel St, which sells refashioned vintage clothing, such as old shirt dresses turned into tube dresses. The shirt actually has a small hole, and was discounted because of it. I really like it because it’s cool and breezy, and the colour is a great contrast with my hair. I’m longing for more blue in my wardrobe!

I know you like vintage clothing; do you ever go op-shopping?

I prefer to shop in second hand boutiques, rather than op-shops. The culling and sorting has already been done. Although I wish I did make an effort go to op-shopping more often – but I have to be in the mood or zone for it. I’d like to shop more on eBay too.

Oh, I love window-shopping on eBay when I’m bored! I often have ten things on my watch list and then don’t bid on even one.

I prefer to shop in second hand boutiques, rather than op-shops. The culling and sorting has already been done.

I don’t often see you in skirts. Where is that one from?

It’s from At Store [an inexpensive boutique in Chapel St], she tells me sheepishly.

I wouldn’t normally shop in there, but sometimes you can find some gems hidden amongst the more trashy stuff. I bought it on sale, and I like it because it’s not an ordinary denim mini-skirt. I like that it’s high-waisted.

I like the pocket details, with the triple flaps. What about your shoes?

They are from Zomp, by the Zomp label. They are a copy of a Miu Miu shoe, and I quite like the square cut.

And lastly, your jewellery?

Both the bracelet and the ring were gifts. The glass bead bracelet came from MOMA, New York. A friend of my mum's sent it for my 15th or 16th birthday. At the time I didn’t really like it, by the time I was in my 20s I loved it.

My dad gave me the enamelled, sterling silver ring. [Not visible in the pictures, it’s 60s-style geometric, with little squares and stripes of colour.] Dad used to stock up on knick-knacks such as jade horses and chain-mail fish; stones; and jewellery from Thailand and Hong Kong if they could be made into gifts. He was travelling through Asia in the 60s and 70s.

Well thanks Sapphire – and if your dad happens to have any sapphires amongst his treasure-trove, you should have some earrings made to match your eyes!


Out of black, into the pink

Melbourne, it’s spring! It’s time to shed those dark layers and wear something pretty and light. It doesn’t have to be girly, or frivolous and frilly. It doesn’t have to be this colourful, and you don’t have to be that brave! But for goodness sake, let’s put an end to this tiresome rumour that Melburnians wear black all the time!

If wearing top-to-toe colour seems a trifle frightening to you, why don’t you try swapping the black for dark grey, or even – gasp! – light grey? In fact, I think this lovely neutral looks even better teamed with colours than does black, which seems a very eighties combination to me.

I know! I have a wonderful idea… why don’t we start a fashion revolution and give Sydney a run for its money?

(And if a pink sash is not enough for you, try a pink coat on for size…)

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