Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in french (64)


Le Gendarme Avec Charme

Say bonjour to le gendarme Patrice! Normally he is not a gendarme, but a philanthropy manager at the theatre I work at. But yesterday he visited my desk and his eyes popped out with excitement when he saw my vintage Prada hat sitting on the table. “Can I try that on?” he begged, and as soon as he donned it, he was transformed.

He was already wearing an outfit bought entirely in Europe on his last trip: a Breton striped top from Merci in Paris, navy trousers from Philippa K in Denmark, shoes bought in Zurich, and a watch he adores from Larson & Jennings in NYC, but the crown of it all transformed him into a Gallic gendarme, with charm. Aptly, for the jet-setter he is, he poses by a poster of The New Yorker. Très stylé!  


In the Purple

So here is the violet hat I bought last week in favour of the ugly ruffled number. This hat contrasts on every possible point: size, colour, style quotient. The enormous brim, which can be easily turned up or down (for more serious coverage) in any direction, makes it eminently practical on a hot day, completely shading my face and neck. And the vibrant and dramatic colour gives it huge style points.

The label is Le Panier (French for basket), and is designed in France for adults and children. The hats are handmade from the leaves of the pandanus, raffia and rice plants that are found along the coastal regions of Madagascar, Mauritius and Rodrigues. They also design beach bags and a limited range of homewares.

This particular style – the Capeline – is made from raffia and comes in an array of colours. I also love the striped Demi-Capeline.

Check out their website, though stockists are not listed there; according to their Facebook page, they are currently selling at various markets in Australia – or op shops, if you’re lucky!

Photos: Two days ago


Grecian Draping

Two notions come to my mind on hearing the word ‘goddess’: Ancient Greek deities, and screen sirens of the Hollywood’s golden era. Both are evocative of unearthly or extraordinary beauty, creatures with the power to utterly charm and bewitch ordinary mortals.

Thus the ‘goddess gown’ is associated with the garments of the Ancient Greeks – chiton, peplos, and tunic – as well as the sweeping 1930s gowns worn by the likes of Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Norma Shearer, and Rita Hayworth.

Greek clothing was very simply cut. The loose-fitting and free-flowing chiton, worn by both men and women, was basically two rectangles of fabric joined at the shoulders and sides. Lengths and additional shapes – such as circles or triangles – varied, while different looks were achieved through arrangements that created elegant draping. The most common fabrics were linen and wool. Additional decoration came in the form of pleating, embroidery, belts and jewellery. The result was a style of dress that both revealed and concealed the human figure.

Jean Harlow, in a gown by costumier Adrian; designed for the film Dinner at EightBy contrast, the goddess gowns of the stars of Hollywood’s golden years were slender and form fitting, especially in the bodice, and were often backless. Cuts were more sophisticated; linen and wool had been replaced with silk and lamé. But they still had the yards of fabric, the columnar fluidity, complex pleating, and asymmetric draping in common with the Ancient Greeks who inspired them. Where before Paris had lead fashion, now Hollywood began to take over in the popular imagination; many of these fantasy gowns were designed by the famous costumier, Adrian.

In short, these were sexier gowns really meant for goddesses, not the hoi polloi.

In short, these were sexier gowns really meant for goddesses, not the hoi polloi. It’s no wonder these silver screen stars were named for the sirens of Greek mythology, who lured sailors to death with their seductive singing.

Madame Grès (1903–1993) and Madeleine Vionnet (1876–1975) were both French fashion designers who were proponents of Grecian dress.

Grès’s minimalist gowns were wrapped and draped in the most masterful way – that she was trained in sculpture is obvious when one looks at her designs. One of her gowns could take up to 300 hours to create, with pleats sewn by hand, and the cloth draped so that the body shaped the dress – far longer than the Ancient Greeks one imagines.

Gown by Madame Grès, 1940; ph George Platt LynesGown by Madeleine Vionnet, 1933; ph George Hoyningen-HueneVionnet is known for popularising, if not inventing, the bias cut to create sleek and flattering dresses that skimmed the body languidly. Her gowns were soft, floating freely, and did not distort the natural curves of a woman’s body. She used more unusual fabrics for women’s clothing in the 20s and 30s, such as crepe de chine, gabardine and satin, and always ordered two yards extra for each dress to accommodate the draping.

Both Grès and Vionnet have continued to inspire fashion designers to the present day.

Today, we still see the classic goddess gown on our screen stars, but it is also a favourite style of wedding dress (one of the few occasions when ordinary mortals don floor-length gowns), as an alternative to the classic 50s-style princess gown of strapless-boned-bodice-and-big-skirt ilk. … And above all other days, one should feel like a goddess on one’s own wedding day.

Key Characteristics

•  columnar, bias-but
•  fluid draping
•  pleating
•  asymmetry
•  floor-length

Fashion Note

My very simple grey jersey goddess gown is by English label Karen Millen, and features characteristic asymmetry, draping, and an interesting cut to the back.

Photos: January 2014

Scroll down for more images. Links have been provided where available.

Bette DavisCarole LombardGowns by Madeleine VionnetGown by Madame GrèsNorma ShearerGown by Madeleine VionnetRita Hayworth


Homage to Her Royal Majesty

It was a sad day last August when iconic French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel passed away (from complications of Parkinson’s disease). She was a fashion legend, and was the inventor of the Poor Boy Sweater, which features high cut armholes and a shrunken fit that makes it cling to the body. It was her own solution to finding stylish clothes to wear during her pregnancy in 1962. Italian-made, and sold through her husband’s store, it was eventually featured on the cover of French Elle magazine. And so the Queen of Knits was born.

I own a few knits from her label – two with pom-poms – which have featured in this style journal over the years, but this striped sweater with the skinny necktie was my favourite. (You can see it better here.) Sadly it developed quite a few holes that I darned, and continued to wear until it looked just too sad. I think I eventually donated to charity, and now I wish I had kept it as a Comfort Sweater to wear around home.

In these photos from three years ago, I am wearing it with black wide-leg trousers and a red wool beret. (I love my hair here too!)

Photos: August, 2014


Fine Feathers

I am suspicious of unnecessary embellishments. I regard bows with a jaundiced eye most of the time, and only occasionally accept them. However, I love pompoms in all their guises, and also tassels. Sometimes embellishments acquire a new lustre when they pass from tastefulness, safely skate over twee, and enter a new over-the-top realm of sheer and utter ridiculousness where they become, simply, AWESOME.

Such is this Yves Saint Laurent dress (A/W 2008–09). It is covered, smothered, in a gazillion feathered spangled tassels that jiggle with every wiggle; you couldn’t quibble: it’s irresistible; collectable!

This is a fun, new twist on a black and white dress to ruffle a few feathers. It’s extraordinarily frivolous and full of joie de vivre. The feathers are like a more tactile rendition of polka dots. In fact, I’m just dotty for it!

Page from British Vogue, December 2008

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