Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in embroidery (66)

Wednesday
Oct242018

Domestic Exchange

I haven’t posted a Foreign Exchange story for a long time, and that is sadly because I haven’t been travelling overseas for an equally long time, but this woeful tale has its beginnings in a foreign exchange swapped for another kind of exchange.

The story starts in Vietnam nearly ten years ago, where I had a kimono custom-made for me from sumptuous silk brocade. I took that robe home and wore it to death over ten years, wearing it almost every morning except on the hottest summer days.

The day eventually came when it dawned on me that the kimono was actually starting to look rather shabby. There were worn patches and frayed edges. In denial at the prospect of setting it aside, I decided to ignore this observation and kept on wearing the kimono for a while longer.

I’ve spoken before how ruthless I am about shabby shoes – once they start to look disreputable, I become relentlessly unsentimental and throw the offending shoes straight into the bin without a moment’s hesitation. This is not the case with favourite garments.

… it still hung on a hook in my bathroom where I could gaze upon it fondly and sigh reminiscently.

Eventually, I stopped wearing the kimono, but it still hung on a hook in my bathroom where I could gaze upon it fondly and sigh reminiscently.

One day in a fit of madness, I gathered my resolve and took it to my sister Blossom, who over the many years we have been sisters, has generously made and altered countless garments for me.

She – and her husband, an involved observer one afternoon as she and I examined a portion of my wardrobe that needed rescuing – both assured me that indeed the kimono was too shabby to wear any longer.

I’d had the idea that something could be made of the good pieces of fabric, and I made my revolutionary suggestion … A CUSHION!

I know, brutal – shocking even, all things considered; I did suffer some pangs for a while. But I figured if I had a cushion I would put it on my favourite armchair and lean against it every day, and thus extend the life of the kimono.

The cushion doesn’t match the rest of my interior décor at all, and my yellow gingham kimono, though cheery, is not in the slightest degree exotic, but I don’t regret the loss anymore. I actually have a large collection of vintage dressing gowns, and enjoy sometimes wearing a 60s rayon satin with a stylised floral pattern. (I don’t wear it often for my cat Mimi attacks me in rage when I do – I think because it’s too slippery in my lap for her liking – she’s very opinionated.)

Maybe I’ll go to South-East Asia again one day, and then I’ll have another one made.

Photos: June 2009, March 2018

Monday
Oct082018

Delicious Yellow

Let’s return to yellow for a minute. Look at this delicious lemon meringue of a 50s dress that lamentably did not fit me across the shoulders. What a colour! I was drooling over it, and the lustrous embroidered satin fabric. What a crying shame it was too small!

But you can see peeping out from behind the 40s lemon yellow (more acidic than the lemon curd inside a meringue, of course) evening dress I modelled recently. So all was not lost – I scored one yellow dress that day, and a 60s sequin top, the corner of which you can see in the bottom left, as well as a pale yellow cotton ribbed cardigan in another thrift store. It was a yellow bonanza that day!

Photos: August 2018

Tuesday
Sep252018

What I Actually Wore #0142

Serial #: 0142
Date:
28/08/2013
Weather:
22.5°C / 72.5°F
Time Allowed:
10 minutes

Argh! My favourite raspberry red shoes! I am delighted to say that I still have these and wear them as often as possible, although their toe tips have been repaired once already, and are starting to look hacked again. This is one pair of shoes I wish I had bought two of! In fact, I once saw another pair in a thrift store at a very good price, barely worn, but lamentably they were one or two sizes too big.

In fact, I still own all these items but the socks, which have worn out, although the 50s cardigan is in storage somewhere and I had forgotten about it what with the plethora of winter cardigans I own. I do like it though! It has always reminded me of Wedgwood. According to my notes, apparently I had bought this in a vintage boutique in Belgrave, a township at the foot of the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne. However, I have absolutely no recollection of the purchase. 

The linen/rayon skirt I do remember buying, in a Salvos thrift store, and I was particularly pleased at the time because I had a virtually identical vintage 40s wool knit skirt in my Etsy wishlist that was much more expensive. Mine I think is 1960s or 70s going by the design of the label. The plain grey t-shirt under the cardigan was from Kookaï, and was a good basic until it wore out.

My hat is vintage 50s, and I bought that years ago on Etsy when I was on a headband shopping kick. The feathers are shaped to look like a bird perched on the head, a charming notion. The jewellery is a mixed bag, with a chalcedony pendant bought from jewellery store Portobello Lane, and my charm necklace – the charms are collected from many places. The earrings are also chalcedony, and I made them myself, while the turquoise ring is a souvenir from Barcelona.

For this sunny springlike day, I put this outfit together purely based on a monochromatic colour scheme, although I added the raspberry pops in the accessories. At the time, the skirt was new to me (ergo, it had to be worn), but funnily, even this year I have been wearing variations of this outfit, using the skirt as a base. Robin’s egg blue is one of my favourite colours, so when you’re onto a good thing – stick to it I say!

Items:

Tee: Kookaï
Cardigan:
vintage 1950s
Skirt:
La Gonda, vintage 60s
Socks:
ASOS
Headband:
Jospeh Horne Co, vintage 50s
Necklaces:
Portobello Lane, souvenir/vintage
Ring:
souvenir
Watch:
Kenneth Cole
Shoes:
Wittner

Photos: October 2013

Thursday
Sep132018

The Golden Boots I Didn’t Know I Needed

A few months ago I waltzed into one of my regular op shop haunts and no sooner than my eyes fell upon a pair of golden boots in the glass cabinet at the front of the store, where all the best treasures are usually kept, I was instantly seized with that well-known phenomenon: shoe lust. I adore Asian embroidery, in any form, and I immediately enquired about them.

One of the staff said, “I was just about the photograph those for our Facebook page!” I generously suggested she still could, but she laughed and shook her head. She must have divined that I fully intended to purchase them, for they were exactly what I was looking for. (That was the shoe lust talking.)

… I was instantly seized with that well-known phenomenon: shoe lust

She had told me the size, and although they were actually a size bigger than I would normally wear, I knew fabric shoes were often an iffy prospect, especially stiff satin. These were barely worn, and sure enough, they were a little loose though not so stiff after all, and with socks I decided they would be fine. The brand is Sofree, which seems to originate from Asia, possibly Korea, although I can’t find much on them googling.

The first time I wore them I chose a day I was sure it would not rain, and pranced out into the sunshine with them. Not five minutes after I left my house, a passing cyclist exclaimed in delight at the sight of them. Validation!

Some shoes you just have to have, even if you don’t need them.

Photo: This week

Monday
Mar192018

Shanghai Silk

I am a total sucker for anything embroidered. It draws my hand irresistibly like a magpie to shiny things. (I also love shiny things.) This vintage 1960s, exquisitely decorated silk blouse, one of two I own, was embroidered by hand in Shanghai.

The real heyday for such embroidered garments were the 1950s and 60s, when the label ‘Made in China’ did not have the connotations it does today. The labels on both my blouses are written in English as well as Chinese, indicating that they were made for the tourist market. Perhaps they were unwanted souvenirs, for neither look worn.

Embroidery and most other needlework arts are believed to have originated in the Orient and Middle East. Paintings and pictures on sculpture illustrating embroidery with silk thread, precious stones and pearls indicate that Chinese thread embroidery dates back to 3500 BC – no wonder this example is so fine: they’ve been practising a long time! Elaborate embroidery on garments, household goods and religious artefacts has been a mark of wealth and status in many cultures since.

Just look at this detail!While the Industrial Revolution brought machines that replaced hands, and made embroidery more accessible for the masses, freehand embroidery has never died out, and its fineness cannot be contested when it is laid side-by-side with a cheap, mass-produced item. One can only marvel at the skill and patience needed for such fine needlework.

I am lucky enough to own a short-sleeved silk blouse embroidered in a similar style, as well as two other plainer Chinese silk blouses. All of them were found in the same Salvos store on separate occasions. I always wonder: Who gets rid of these beautiful things?

Vintage lovers will also be familiar with the beaded and sequined knits of the same era, and detailed beaded evening bags, most of which declare Hong Kong as the origin – look out for more on these in coming days.

~

I am also wearing a modern silk skirt by Carolyn Taylor, and belt by Alannah Hill.

Photos: March 2018