Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in floral (16)


Rococo Romance

‘The Swing’ by Jean Honoré Fragonard is an image I have loved for as long as I can remember. Probably when I saw it first I had no idea of the full connotations implicit in the image; I simply thought how joyous it was; full of such life and frivolity!

The young woman with her impossible yet beautiful skirts, flirting so innocently with her lovelorn admirer – was not so innocent after all, I realised when I was a little older and wiser.

I would love to do a dress-up in homage but don’t know where on earth I would find such an outfit (costume hire is forbidden on SNAP), or such an opulent location.

Well, I wrote that at lunchtime today, and tonight chanced upon this 1930s dress on Etsy. It would be perfect – if it would fit me; my waist is not quite that small
darn it.

But the painting also reminded me of a fashion shoot by Grant Matthews from Vogue Australia many years ago (Nov 1992). Here it is for you to enjoy. (Note the garden swing.)

(Click on images for larger version.)


Poses With Posies

This is my sister Star and me way back in the Seventies. We are in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens on a family outing. Dad was always accompanied by his camera on these excursions and enjoyed taking photos of us standing in front of the local flora. (And fauna when it was available.)

I have to admit I was a bit of a tomboy when I was young: I enjoyed climbing trees and rooves (garages, houses – whatever I could access) and tearing around barefoot. Why walk when you can run? However, that hairstyle was NOT of my choosing. One of my aunts did that to me. I very much disliked the fact that I looked like a boy – ludicrously dressed in a green frock in this instance.

I AM highly amused, though,
by the way I am posing here…

I AM highly amused, though, by the way I am posing here, imitating a fashion model and displaying the sprigged pattern of my dress! I must have felt it deserved particular attention.

I am also enjoying Star’s combination of floral print skirt with photographic print tee. You could totally wear that now with nonchalant cool.

Below, a page out of summers past:

The gum’s all yellowed, and the prints are charmingly stuck down with no care for straight lines, but the sunshiny happiness of my childhood rises as I flip the pages of the family album.


Spring Posies

As the days brighten and become warmer, many of us will be shedding our dull winter cocoons and slipping into something a little more in keeping with the season’s spirit. Spring clothes and floral prints are synonymous with one another, but sprigs of delicate flowers aren’t for everyone.

Which prints does the ungirly girl wear? Brighter colours, harder edges. A small selection, above, were inadvertently hanging together in my walk-in-robe, as they had just come out of winter storage: a vintage 80s batwing silk top, embroidered all over with gold and silver sequins, and roses that remind me of the Mills & Boon logo (I look like a mirror-ball when I wear this out); a geometric chevron print in the bright blue of a new spring sky; large sprigs of flowers toughened by their navy silhouettes, and bands of black at the neck and hem of the dress.

So throw off your coat and out you go into the spring sunshine! And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses on the way.


Vive la liberté!

Aren’t they cute, the pair of them? On the right is Fifi; she is hugging Gingersnaps, who starred in a Bright Young Thing back in November last year.

Let’s start with you Fifi. How would you describe your style in general?

Fifi: Pretty; girly, but hopefully sophisticated. I like the classic French-Riviera style – white stripes with red or blue; and cute outfits like a recent nautical look I put together with a striped Marcs top.

And last time you described yourself ‘casual with a bit of rock n roll’, Gingersnaps. Yet today I find you both in floral Liberty prints! What’s going on?

Gingersnaps: It wasn’t the floral print that attracted me to this dress, although I did grow to appreciate Liberty prints from my time working at Alannah Hill. I remember a very cute pair of frilly knickers with a print of a girl with a poodle…

Fifi: I generally don’t like florals, but this top is a favourite. I really liked the colours, and the cut – particularly the halter neck and tie at the bottom. It’s from Fragile, which is a trés expensive maternity shop in South Melbourne. I wore it for both my pregnancies and loved it so much had it tailored to fit me now.

Gingersnaps: That’s exactly what I liked about my Lush dress: the cut, and the colours. My sister bought the dress first when she was working in the sales shop – all of my sisters and I have worked at Lush at some stage – and I loved it, so I bought one too. We got the last two size 8s.

So it was completely chance you both wore your ‘Liberties’ today? No phone calls in the morning?

Fifi: (laughs) No! It was going to be very hot, so I needed a cool top. The busy pattern needs to be teamed with something quite plain on the bottom – these nice-fitting black trousers are from Coopers St.

And you, Gingersnaps?

Gingersnaps: Yes, the weather forecast was a factor. When the temperature rises it’s time for Liberty prints, bare legs and light fabrics. And as little black as possible.

When the temperature rises it’s time for Liberty prints, bare legs and light fabrics. And as little black as possible.

How long does it take you both to get dressed in the morning?

Fifi: Just ten minutes. With two little ones I don’t have time to try five different looks any more like I used to.

Gingersnaps: No time at all today. It was an easy decision; it’s my coolest dress.

What about your accessories?

Fifi: Although I wasn’t wearing any jewellery today, because of the busy pattern and the high neck, the best accessories are earrings. I need to wear my hair up to accentuate the halter neckline. A chunky bracelet always looks good with this style too as my shoulders are bare. Oh, I also had some gorgeous leather, magenta and silver heels from Jigsaw, made in Spain.

Gingersnaps: I was wearing a little silver locket on a fine chain, a birthday present from my boyfriend last year. My Giallo ballet flats are just comfy to walk in.

You’ve worked in a few great fashion boutiques, Gingersnaps: Lush, Frauhaus, Alannah Hill. Great opportunity to increase your wardrobe with a staff discount! How often do you shop now?

Gingersnaps: Rarely. I’m too poor to buy what I really like – I have expensive taste. But when I do, it’s never department stores – I tend to wander into little boutiques, like Lush.

What about secondhand?

Gingersnaps: No, it just doesn’t suit me – I can never find anything that fits. I don’t have the patience to sift through the racks of grotty clothing. I do like shopping for secondhand furniture, and knick-knacks.

You mentioned you and your sister both bought this dress. Does this happen often?

Gingersnaps: All the time! My mum and my two sisters and I are all similar shapes, with similar taste which is convenient. Mum loves shopping – she should have been a stylist. We have stuff that passes from mum to sister to sister, so I guess you could say that’s where I shop. We’re good recyclers.

I like to trawl the high streets – you can find anything from Kookaï to Colette Dinnigan.

And you Fifi? How often do you shop?

Fifi: Every day! Just whenever I get the chance I slip into a shop here or there. I like to trawl the high streets – you can find anything from Kookaï to Colette Dinnigan. I’m not snobby either; I’m perfectly happy to go into a cheap store to find a bargain. This time of year it’s very tempting too, with all the sales on.

Guerrilla-style shopping, eh? What are your favourite shops?

Fifi: Cactus Jam – domestic designers and the international boutique. I go to the QVB store as it has a broad selection. On a recent trip there I went looking for a wedding outfit. I bought two options, a third dress, and then a pair of Chloe trousers on sale. I also like Cue, as they do a lot of clothes for petite frames.

Gingersnaps: If I could afford to splurge, I really love Nicola, in Greville St; White Suede on Chapel (great swimwear); Frauhaus; and Hand in Glove. I tend to prefer Australian designers with small runs – it’s more exclusive.

Okay, last question: what new items are you looking for this season?

Fifi: More dresses! And a new winter coat. It needs to be fitted on top with long sleeves. I didn’t like the three-quarter sleeves that were popular last year – my arms got cold. I’m also on the lookout for a jazz outfit. (I do jazz for exercise.) I tend to wear sports clothes, but I want something fun, and pretty. I find leggings and tops abhorrent, and that’s what most people seem to wear.

Gingersnaps: I also need a new winter coat. My Lush ‘backwards’ style coat is three years old. I’d like something black, plain and maybe in a 40s style. It needs to be fitted, not oversized. I’ll know it when I see it. I’d also like some new shoes – flats, from Giallo – that would work with stockings and bare feet.

Fifi: I’ve never been one for shoes really. But I did recently get the cutest green Keds wedges with a yellow bow.

Gingersnaps: I’d also like some pretty tops that aren’t black. I said it before, but I need to Walk Away From Black!

Ah, music to my ears. On that lovely note: happy shopping until next time.

Cloud photos: Antonio Gillo, from


Evoking scents and sensibilities

From the good old days of Australian Vogue… May 1989. Javier Vallhonrat took these photos; I think perhaps they were first pieces of his work that I saw and I thought these were beautiful. (I still do.) In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that I loved the second image so much I made a painting of it. It wasn’t a bad facsimile, but I shouldn’t have been copying a photograph.

Each image evokes the scent of a perfume; just the names conjure up the 80s for me!

(Left) Sweet anointed nights – the supremely feminine bouquet of Paris (1983) by Yves Saint Laurent. (Right) In the scented evening air, Giorgio (1981), a crush of many precious blooms including jasmine and orange flower.

Paris lingers in my memory chiefly because my cousin used to wear it. I occasionally met her for lunch in South Yarra, and I found the extremely sweet scent of roses far too much for my delicate stomach, competing as it did with the more prosaic aromas of smoked salmon pasta.

I’m amused to note that not only does that page have daubs of pink oil paint smeared on it, but so does the cover of the magazine.

(Left) Worn closest to the skin, a multitude of fragrance chords lightly spiced, in Parfum d’Hermès (1984). (Right) Scented assignations with Byzance (1987) by Rochas, a harmonious blend of woods and spices, fruits and flowers.

I have no idea what the former smells like, but I am delighted to inform you that I actually wore Byzance. I loved the bottle: round cobalt glass, with a round stopper with embossed gold lettering and a pink tassel. It truly conjures up memories of my early 20s. I still have the cobalt blue velvet bag it came in; stuffed in the bottom of my bathroom cabinet, I think I keep curlers in it.

Vallhonrat does not seem to have his own website, but plenty of people have written about him. He made his start in the world of fashion, but moved into art photography. I have recently started to see his work again in British Vogue, which was a pleasant surprise, but before that I was thrilled to find this out-of-print book in Amazon’s Marketplace. The photo I painted appears on the first spread; the editor obviously liked it as much as I did!