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Entries in couture (31)


Gaultier’s Wonderland

Odyssey (nautical striped and mermaid themes)

The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier
From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

Ahead of my forthcoming visit to the NGV’s exhibition 200 Years of Australian Fashion in a couple of weekends, I suddenly remembered I had never reported on the extraordinary exhibit of Jean-Paul Gaultier’s oeuvre that showed in Melbourne in October 2014–February 2015: The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier.

I don’t think I’ve ever before seen such a mind-blowing array of fashion! When I opened the folder of images my heart literally fluttered with excitement as once more I beheld that French visionary’s work. On Sunday I saw the excellent and fascinating documentary, The First Monday in May, the man himself declared (as did Karl Lagerfeld) that he didn’t consider himself an ‘artist’, but simply a designer [of a commercial enterprise]. I don’t know … I think I may beg to differ! Some fashion certainly is ordinary and practical or even pedestrian, but some designers take it to such a high level that their skill and vision is comparable to art.

Punk Cancan (intricately woven leather boots)The travelling exhibition featured over 140 pieces of Gaultier’s work, from his first dress created in 1971 to his latest haute couture and prêt-a-porter collections, as well as costumes and gowns worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue and Nicole Kidman, and the famous cone-bra lingerie sported by Madonna.

The exhibition design was wonderful and brought the garments to life in seven rooms, each designed to showcase different themes in Gaultier’s work: Odyssey, The Boudoir, Punk Cancan, Skin Deep, Metropolis, Urban Jungle and Muses (you can read about them here). Some of the mannequins had animated faces projected on them (amusing and eerie); there was a moving catwalk and enormous graffiti murals in Punk Cancan; an incredible hall of mirrors in Metropolis; and sculptural effects using stretched white fabric with shapes pushed through in the final Muses room. The audio-visual guide was also excellent, providing much additional information.

Overall, the exquisite detail and construction (and deconstruction) of so many of the garments impressed me the most …

Metropolis (a jaw-dropping, floor-length feather headdress)I asked myself what I might consider my favourite pieces, and I would be hard-pressed to choose. Overall, the exquisite detail and construction (and deconstruction) of so many of the garments impressed me the most: beading, embroidery, delicate lace, intricately woven leather-work – all just so amazing. Not to mention the wonders of Gaultier’s imagination. I did find that I happened to take a lot of photographs of each of the all-white outfits, which does show a clear preference of mine. The Skin Deep (red-lit) section was the smallest, and many of the garments were displayed on a second level, so it was impossible to see them up close – fetishistic gear is probably not my favourite style anyway!

Urban Jungle (an extraordinary headdress made from antique Spanish mantilla combs)Urban JungleI took nearly 200 photos, but I have managed to edit them down to 130 in a gallery that will give you a great overview of all there was to see. I am looking forward to the Australian Fashion exhibition, so stay tuned for a report – and a big gallery no doubt – in a few weeks time! In the meantime, enjoy viewing Jean-Paul Gaultier’s breathtaking work.

Muse (if memory serves me correctly, this was a gown worn by Nicole Kidman


Grass Roots

I am not sure if it is the connotations of summer that I love so much about woven accessories, or if it is the very tactile pleasure of the texture beneath one’s fingertips. I prefer them in more natural, neutral colours than dyed brightly—although further down this story there’s a pair of Hermès tomato red wedges that I might we willing to put on my feet, if I was willing to pay the trifling sum of $1,355. I also love the fact that these very solid objects have been constructed from such seemingly flimsy materials.

Weaving is a beautiful technique evocative of ephemeral nature made to last …

Weaving is a beautiful technique evocative of ephemeral nature made to last, of admirable dexterity and artistry. Traditionally a distinctly feminine craft, it alludes to tribal histories, to earth mothers (and experimental couturiers) keeping ethnic crafts alive, by appealing to acquisitive fashionistas of more urban jungles.

It really seems such a simple, elemental and practical craft, but it is amazing to see what can be achieved with a good eye for design, nimble fingers and patience. It’s also simply beautiful.

A few of my own favourites

I was delighted when I spotted this vintage basket case (ha!) in an op shop (thrift store) a few weeks ago, for the princely sum of $3. Two of the hinges at the base were completely broken, and I had to repair them – I was in a hurry to use this as part of a costume for a fancy dress party, so I used what I had nearest to hand: some twine that camouflaged well. It wasn’t easy to weave it through the flush hinges, but waxing the end did help. My original intention was to use it for storage; scarves perhaps.

The hat I pounced on last summer at Country Road, recognising it for its—ahem—‘inspirational’ source: a hat by Burberry (see below). I do love it though for a fun sunhat: it’s far more edgy than a regular floppy cartwheel, and much less common than a fedora.

I purchased the slingbacks on eBay from a Frenchwoman who told me although she liked the shoes, she couldn’t wear them because they were too low! They feature a pretty, geometric pattern in black and natural straw. I have a sneaking fondness for the kitten heel, which often seems to get a bad rap in fashion magazines simply for not being as sexy as a stiletto.

I also absolutely adore this lovely little woven handbag. It too came from an op shop, and my guess that it is someone’s travel souvenir, bought on a whim then discarded in a nonplussed moment. I really like the intricate design in the weaving of this one, and the handles are plaited – a pretty, extra little detail.

When to Wear

If it’s not enough to say such materials are too (visually) synonymous with summer to wear in winter, then at least, while I don’t subscribe to prescriptive fashion rules (such as no white after Labour Day – which is American anyway and doesn’t apply here in Australia but still sounds ludicrous to me), one must be pragmatic about straw, grass, raffia, cane, et al. They are not suitable for winter simply for the fact that any sudden downpour is likely to ruin them! Obviously, they won’t keep you very warm either.

High Fashion

Weaving has enjoyed a season in the brilliant sun of high fashion in recent seasons, with Salvatore Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbana and Burberry all taking a hand. Some of these garments are deliciously impractical and incongruous, such as the sculptural and quite surreal D&G corsets and dresses, but I enjoy them all the more for it. I adore the Burberry trench too (above), but really, when is it suitable to wear? Not in winter surely, and such a closely-fitted coat (probably silk-lined to boot) in warm weather? Or am I merely forgetting the chilly realities of what the British humorously term ‘summer’?

Scroll down for some couture inspiration. (Admittedly these tearsheets are probably a year or two old, but I still love them.)

Photos: December 2015


Alice Blue

I’ve had a very strange and surreal May, so to celebrate it I’m sharing Annie Leibovitz’s beautiful photoshoot inspired by Alice in Wonderland, for US Vogue’s December 2003 issue.

Natalia Vodianova models unique gowns by eleven designers, each of whom appear on the pages with her as different characters from Lewis Carroll’s famous story, which I have loved since I was a child. The gowns are wonderfully imaginative, not surprisingly all rendered in the blue made famous by Disney’s animated film. It is one of my favourite shades of blue.

The book was written in 1865, and it has stood the test of time, inspiring so many – from children whose imaginations are sparked by this magical tale, to Hollywood master storytellers.

Scroll down and be transported along with Alice. (Don’t forget you can click on the images for larger versions.)


Double Exposures

Louis Vuitton :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashA while back I posted some 1940s photographs of shop windows – many of them were taken from the inside looking out. Even more fascinating that the window displays were the glimpses of the people on the street, ordinary people in their day-to-day clothes juxtaposed against high fashion. So I was inspired to take my Hipstamatic to the streets of Melbourne, experimenting with different combinations of lens and black and white ‘film’. I knew I wanted something that looked both vintage, and captured detail with clarity. 

Although it was a bit hit and miss as far as the reflections were concerned – depending on the time of day, the cloud cover or lack of it, who or what was passing in the street – that is what I enjoyed: the surprise element in the result. I am especially pleased with the Louis Vuitton hot air balloon pictures.

Louis Vuitton :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashLouis Vuitton :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashChanel :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashChanel :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashChanel :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashReading about Eugène Atget recently, I discovered that the Surrealists very much admired and respected his work, especially his shop window photographs for the surreal effect they created. Atget himself did not consider himself an artist however, but a documentarian.  

I love both points of view, the often strange convergence of reflection with consumer goods, like a double exposure, and the documentation of current fashion that one day decades from now I will look back on in fascination. 

Gucci :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashHermès :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashRalph Lauren :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashPrada :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flash


Cannes Do White

Petra Nemcova wearing Emilio PucciWhite was big at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and the fashion world is encouraging brides to look to the red carpet for inspiration. I love wearing white myself, and declare Women unite! Let’s reclaim this non-colour from the brides. Why should they have all the fun?

Tanya DziahilevaAfter all, white has only been a tradition since Queen Victoria’s wedding day – prior to the dowdy monarch donning white silk satin for her big day, brides wore whatever colour they fancied. Vicky’s choice was considered unusual in fact. I, as a bride-to-be once, never intended to wear it to my wedding. As much as I love white, I had bought a vintage 50s dove grey dress instead.

Most of the dresses on the red carpet of Cannes that caught my eye were white, black, or black and white – with a few brilliant shots of colour. Graphic cuts, fluid lines, beads, sequins or appliqué make them interesting. Here are my favourites.

Visit UK Glamour’s selection of the best ever Cannes red carpet gowns here

Marion Cotillard in Alexander McQueenDoutzen Kroes, in Calvin Klein CollectionJessica Biel, in MarchesaErin Heatherton, in Roberto CavalliCarey Mulligan, in Vionnet, with Brian Atwood shoes, and Justin Timberlake, in BalenciagaEmma Watson, in Chanel Haute Couture, with Repossi jewels, and Sofia Coppola, in Louis VuittonMilla Jovovich, in Chanel Haute CoutureDelphine ChanéacLiya Kebede, in Roberto Cavalli, with Boucheron jewelsJessica Chastain, in custom Givenchy Haute CoutureZhang Yuqi, in Ulyana Sergeenko CoutureAudrey Tatou in Prada