Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in edwardian (20)

Thursday
Aug152019

Of the Same Stripe

Bathing suit, c. 1910sI love a stripe, it’s no secret. The other day while browsing on Pinterest, I spotted a nineteenth century black and white striped skirt (below) that was part of a beachwear set, and I was smitten. I would wear this off the beach today if I could but find one!

The skirt that bowled me over: Beachwear, late 1860s–early 1870sStripes are the simplest pattern of all, and when they are bold they make the most graphic and eye-catching statement. I’ll take stripes of any colour, but especially white with either black, blue, red or green.

Here are some other amazing black and white striped garments and accessories to bowl you over.

NB All images were found on Pinterest, but where possible I have traced them to their ultimate source – click each image to jump through.

Jacques Doucet, 1890sParasol, 1897 (image originally from The Met)Petticoat, c. 1900Underskirt, c. 1900Jeanne Lanvin, 1930sEvening dress, Madame Grès, c. 1975

Wednesday
May222019

Did Someone Mention Giant Bows?

Bows are practical, and bows are frivolous. From one’s shoelace, to a pussy-bow blouse, to a multitude of non-functioning bows decorating a ballgown. They just look pretty, especially when they are tied with a luxury fabric. Or they look louche, à la those blouses on the Gucci runway.

My t-shirt is made from cotton and silk chiffon – the sleeves are so delicate and pretty. It is by Bettina Liano, an Australian label that launched in the 1980s and is famous for its denim line. I bought this tee in a thrift store, however, as I did the bow headband for amusement’s sake – I have not actually worn it out.

It is a big bow. Alas it is not quite as big as the giant bow on the Edwardian hat on the cover of Ladies Home Journal that I shared yesterday. I think I would feel more comfortable wearing an enormous bow on a hat than as a headband; or even a scarf tied in a huge bow would fit my style better.

Scroll down for a few bows of the past.

Photo: December 2016

Mon Vignon, Paris, 1860s Bubblegum pink silk two piece, self-fabric bow trim to shoulders and skirt hemLucile afternoon dress, 1917–20Balenciaga, 1951Yves Saint Laurent haute couture, 1983Gucci Fall/Winter 2011-2012
Pussybows at Gucci Fall/Winter 2011-2012

Tuesday
May212019

Feathered Fantasies

Models at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, showing off scandalous new gowns showcasing the S-line (and their figures), and enormous hats of course, Paris 1908During the Edwardian period, the ideal image of womanhood was to look fragile and delicate, and the fashion was for the flattering S-line, with long luxurious hair piled high to show off slim necks. Enormous hats fantastically trimmed were the crown of these ensembles, designed to complement and set off the feminine silhouette.

The years of the Edwardian British period covers the short reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910, although sometimes it includes the years up to WWI. At this time, hats were a crucial part of the dress code for people from all walks of life, young or old, rich or poor. There were different hats acceptable for each strata of society – but all wore hats, all the time. Women changed their hats with their outfits several times a day and would never step out tête-nue (with a bare head) – that was considered a huge social solecism. It was acceptable only for beggars to be hatless.

1909A lady and an assistant settle down to the pleasures of selecting and decorating a stylishly large hat from the befeathered and beribboned collection available at the Paquin couture house millinery rooms, 1909. From ‘The Golden Age of Style’ by Julian Robinson, Orbis Publishing 1976Milliners could and did go to town, extravagantly decorating these wide picture hats with silks and velvets, ribbons and artificial flowers, and after the death of Queen Victoria, bright colours becamse hugely fashionable. The most popular millinery trim of all were feathers, for throughout history, plumes on hats have been a sign of status and wealth. The rich of this time were no exception – some of the hats were insanely huge, even obscenely ostentatious.

Feathers of all kinds were fashioned by the 800 plumassiers in Paris that employed around 7000 people. Anything from little spiky trimmings to boas, tufts and sprays of feathers called aigrettes were cut, dyed and arranged from a wide variety of feathers: cockerel, pheasant, marabou, ostrich, ospreys, herons or birds of paradise. Sometimes even whole stuffed birds perched atop these monstrosities.

Bird of paradiseSuch decorations were extremely expensive; a hat trimmed with natural bird of paradise plumes could fetch a price of $100, a fortune in those days – that is over AU$4,400 or US$3,045 in today’s values. (For comparison I spotted a YSL black rabbit fur felt hat on Farfetch for over $3000 – it does have an elegant shape and details, for example tasselled ties, but that seems laughably overpriced for a comparatively unexciting hat made of inexpensive materials.)

The feathers of the Roseate spoonbill are so gorgeous they almost lead them to extinctionAnother bird that was hunted almost to extinction is the roseate spoonbill – in the late nineteenth century its feathers were literally worth more than gold – $32 per ounce, compared with $20 for gold. [al.com] Their almost total disappearance was one of the factors that lead to the formation of the Audobon Society, dedicated to conservation, eventually leading to the banning of the usage of feathers from endangered species.

Fashions at LongchampFashion from Paris – Les Modes February 1907c. 1912 Jane Renouardtc. 1900 The Bonita Hat – Huge oblong circle shape made of black plush with flamboyant turquoise lining that shows. It is trimmed with black and turquoise ostrich plumes. There is a turquoise and purple ribbon and velour 'grapes' on the ribbon. Originally sold on Ruby Lane.Three out of four hats featured feathers or whole birds, such was the popularity of plumage in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Today, feathers are still popular of course, but milliners have become more creative with the feathers from farmed ostriches, pheasants, ducks and cockerels.

During the militant phase of the Suffragettes and Blue Stockings around 1908, fashion began to simplify, and while hats were still de rigeur, they too fell in line with Reform fashions, for not even Suffragettes would cease wearing hats entirely – they were reluctant to outrage the establishment so utterly. Huge bows in sumptuous fabrics became more favoured for trimming, with the first cloches appearing in 1917, heralding the way for a vastly different style of hat in the 1920s.

Simpler hats of the latter Edwardian years, top right 1910, all others 1912Hat featuring a fabulously huge bow, Ladies Home Journal, 1910

Photos: Vintage images found on Pinterest; I have tried to include information and original links where available.

Additional reference: The Century of Hats, Susie Hopkins, Chartwell Books 1999

Monday
May202019

Match-making

PART ONE

Last year when I was shopping in a thrift store off the beaten track, I spotted a Schiaparelli pink grosgrain belt in a display cabinet. It seemed to be composed of a multitude of ribbons, which instantly captivated the more girlish side of my nature (yes I do have a boyish side, admittedly not often seen on these pages).

When it was retrieved for me, I found that it was by the Australian designer Alannah Hill. That discovery did not surprise me at all, for it is a label of extreme sugar-coated, toothache-inducing girlishness. I never shop there, and the only items I own from this brand I bought in thrift stores, most of them being accessories. Just a touch of Alannah is usually enough, I find.

However, when I brought it home, I simply could not style it with any combination of garments. I tried simple shapes, which did not work at all and then moved on to slightly more decorative which was slightly okay (check out my 1940s novelty hat – it has a satin apple on top!).

Then I tried it with a similarly frou-frou polka-dot dress (very much of Alannah Hill ilk, but this is a vintage 1980s dress). I thought, you know, this shade of pink with black is a classic pairing, but I found the combination of the belt with the tiered dress horrible, and I gave up. (My expression in the photo above speaks volumes.)

Disgruntled, I put the belt away and did not think of it again.

 

PART TWO

On another thrifting trip one day, I found a lovely straw hat with a beautiful woven pattern and quirky shape that changes in appearance from every angle. There is no label, but I think it is most likely a modern designer hat – the weave is too complex to have come from a high street brand. The only problem was that the lovely chequerboard woven straw band was broken in several areas. It had such a great shape, and was inexpensive, so I bought it with the plan to refurbish it.

I don’t remember the exact moment of inspiration, but I recalled the failed belt: it could make a great new hat band! Excitedly I pulled it out of a drawer and tied it on, and it was like a match made in hat heaven. The multitude of ribbons put me in mind of an Edwardian beribboned hat, and had the effect of suddenly elevating the straw hat from plain to spectacular. It’s still much less fussy than most Edwardian hats which are loaded down with trim of every description, and that suits me just fine.

it was like a match made in hat heaven

I wear hats all the time, of course, but how perfect would this hat be for someone who does not, and needs a race or wedding hat on a budget? Sometimes it’s worth taking a chance on those items that seem not-quite-right, for a little imagination and some experimentation go a long way.

Photos: November 2018, April 2019

Monday
May132019

Pretty Parisian Gowns

Day suit of linen and cotton, spring-summer 1947, Paquin, Paris couture house; Colette Massignac designer, active 1945–49A few weekends ago I visited the Krystyna Campbell-Pretty Fashion Gift exhibition currently on at the NGV International. I had not known what to expect from the exhibition, and was excited to discover it featured garments spanning over a century, and included a remarkable number of illustrations and photography from fashion journals and periodicals from the early nineteenth century onwards.

Dress and cape of silk, c. 1938, Maisons Agnès-Drecoll, Paris couture house 1931–63It would be hard to pick a favourite, but as always the 30s and 40s are my favourite eras. There was a 1930s yellow gown that delighted me, and a cream 1947 day suit by Paquin that made me gasp and exclaim to my friend, “Now, I would wear that!” We approached one mermaid gown by Maggy Rouff and wondered at the odd angle of the mannequin – until we saw the beribboned back of the dress – amazing!

Evening dress of silk velvet and satin, autumn-winter 1937–38, Maggy Rouff, Paris couture house, Maggy Besançon de Wagner, designer 1896–1971

The exhibition wound throughout several rooms, with garments occasionally intermixed with paintings and industrial design pieces from the gallery’s permanent collection. The only disappointment in this was that quite a few gowns were far above eye level, so one could not examine them closely. There was certainly a lot to take in, and happily it runs for another couple of months, and as entry is free, I shall be returning for another tour.

Click here to see the full gallery.

Detail of a lavishly appliquéd 1920s robe de styleA special issue of winter fashion, 1940s