Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in gloves (47)


Autumn Marches In

It was amazing how Melbourne turned on the autumnal weather right on cue. The morning began with grey skies and by the time I was walking to work, graduated to rain. I had to wear a raincoat when the day before I was gallivanting about in a sleeveless summer dress!

It was cool, but not quite as cold as this picture suggests, which I took quite a long time ago, wearing one of my super-jumpers – it’s so warm the cropped length and sleeves are a boon.

The umbrella I’m holding is vintage, probably 60s or 70s, and the periwinkle gloves (it’s difficult to capture that colour on camera, but they are definitely purple-tinged) are 1960s. I find that with umbrellas, it’s a case of they certainly don’t make ‘em like they used to, and vintage brollies are far more sturdy because they generally have more spokes. I’ve never had a vintage umbrella blow inside out, no matter what gale is blowing.

By lunchtime today the clouds had cleared, and tomorrow will be quite warm, and Saturday we will return to beach weather! Ah, Melbourne, as the song says, we really do enjoy four seasons in one day.

Happy autumn!

Photo: July 2016


A Picnic on Valentine’s Day

What could be more clichéd and romantic to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a picnic? What could be more fun (and spooky) than to celebrate it with a Picnic at Hanging Rock, complete with period costume à la the characters in the Australian film of the same name? Preferably ending the day without the disappearing act. Or perhaps you could use it as the perfect setting for a break-up!? Ahem. Maybe not.

I’ve based my picture above on the style of the embossed, diecut greeting cards popular in this era, like those which the schoolgirls in the story would have exchanged.

What could be more fun (and spooky) than to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a Picnic at Hanging Rock?

A couple of years ago I dressed as Mlle de Poitiers, the French teacher character from Peter Weir’s seminal film (based on the book by Joan Lindsay). I was attending a costume Christmas party, and the theme was Australiana. I cobbled together my costume from garments and accessories I already owned: a broderie anglaise blouse that I bought in Barcelona years ago, and a real Victorian petticoat (gasp!) bought from a Canadian Etsy seller.

My accessories I had collected over the years. The parasol was bought in Queensland on a holiday in my 20s, while the boater (of indeterminate vintage), and the 70s or 80s crocheted gloves both came from an op shops. The brown leather boots and the stretch suede belt are both new, bought online. I even carried a cane picnic basket (you can see that in the photo below.)

All my work colleagues loved my costume. It was actually a hot day, so I suffered, and I could only imagine how hot it must have been wearing layers of petticoats in the Australian bush during summer. No wonder Miss McCraw lost her layers in the film!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photo: February 2016 / December 2015

Posing under that Aussie backyard icon – the Hill's Hoist clothesline – decorated in lieu of the traditional Christmas tree.


The Perfect Harmony

While I have been waxing lyrical about not wearing all black (all the time), I do love all grey and all white. Just as great are black and white worn together – they are a classic pairing and you could never go wrong … except perhaps being mistaken for a waiter in a restaurant. That could be rather embarrassing for both parties!

Joking aside, for those who say they like to wear all black because it makes it easy to put an outfit together, it is just as easy to put black and white items together. Coco Chanel was a great champion of this combination. She said: “Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.”

Chanel’s successor, Karl Lagerfeld has said: “Black-and-white always looks modern, whatever that word means.” Timeless, Karl; it looks timeless, so it always looks contemporary. Neither shade is synonymous with any particular decade; they are always in fashion.

 “I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” – Coco Chanel

If pure white does not suit your complexion, try a softer shade of ivory, vanilla, cream or eggshell. Nor does black suit everyone (contrary to popular opinion). According to colour theory, black is not the best shade for light and warm springs, or summers of any description. Click here for more information on finding your perfect colours.  

And if you are not accustomed to wearing colour, then a gentle way to introduce some is by adding a single coloured accessory to your black and white garments, without fear of looking clownish, or the angst of trying to match different colours when you are unpractised.

Fashion Notes

This modern silk blouse, by Decjuba, and Banana Republic skirt are really quite detailed enough on their own – I wouldn’t add more than a pair of shoes and a bag to wear them on the town. But just for today, I have gone all-out fun with adding vintage accessories into the mix.

From the top: an Edwardian velvet and sequin toy top hat that I purchased from a UK-based eBay seller; vintage 60s polka dot net gloves bought from an American Etsy store; a vintage 1940s black bag with soutache embroidery that I pounced on in a Sacred Heart Opportunity Shop; and a pair of modern Italian-made woven leather heels by Stefano Stefani, which also came from a thrift store, this time the Salvos.

Next time you go to assemble an all-black outfit, why not throw caution to the wind and throw in a bit of white? In the immortal words – echoing Coco Chanel – of the song, ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony.

Photos: February 2016


What I Actually Wore #121

Serial #: 0121
Date: 18/05/2013
Weather: 15°C / 59°F
Time Allowed: 15 minutes

The silk kimono dress! My Puss in Boots outfit! Yes, this is how I dress up to go to dinner and the theatre. As you can imagine, the cat ears attract a lot of attention from other patrons – two of whom I work with (at a different theatre) who exclaimed over them.

I remember it was actually a very chilly evening, the kind when you breathe out you see your breath in a puff. I managed to find a pale grey wool top to wear under the dress; it was low-cut enough that it didn’t ruin the neckline of the dress; the black tights are wool too. On top I wore a vintage 60s velvet coat with a warm fur collar, and also vintage eggshell blue leather gloves that I bought on Etsy.

The cat ear headband came from a costume jewellery store that sells cheap, cheerful and very trendy pieces, some of which are simply playful like this headband. Matching perfectly, the little round rhinestone earrings are vintage 40s, and also came from Etsy.

Those tan over the knee lace-up boots were a fantastic bargain I made a few years ago; the original price was around $400, but I managed to snag them for only $75! The other items are usual suspects from closet that I use often and have featured on the pages of this journal many times – testament to the need for good and trusty basics: my black 60s patent handbag, the silver oval shell ring, the round bead silver bracelet, and of course the coat.


Dress: Luella
vintage 60s
vintage 50s
vintage 40s
NGV gallery shop
vintage 60s

Photos: September 2013


The Politics of Accessories and Elegance

Time was that to be truly fashionable, a lady’s accessories all had to match, and the materials they were made from had to be appropriate for the occasion and time of day. Happily, we no longer live in such restrictive times, and today looking matchy-matchy is a horrible insult, a death knell to any pretentions to style.

Looking backwards to the hey-dey of matchy-matchiness, the 1940s and 50s, I can do no better than to quote Genevieve Anotine Dariaux, French style guru, once derectrice at Nina Ricci, and author of the famous book A Guide to Elegance, first published in 1964:

‘The accessories worn with an outfit – gloves, hat, shoes, and handbag – are among the most important elements of an elegant appearance. A modest dress or suit can triple its face value when it is worn with an elegant hat, bag, gloves, and shoes, while a designer’s original can lose much of its prestige if its accessories have been carelessly selected.’

Quite the opposite is true today, when every fashionista rich or poor mixes new with vintage, high with low, with seemingly at times a particular delight in clashing as much as possible.

Elegant woman at Longchamp, Anonymous, 1947 (from ‘Parisiennes’, Flammarion 2007)

Seasonal Sets

Dariaux continues to elaborate on accessories, stating it is indispensable to own a complete set of accessories in black, and if possible, also brown plus beige shoes and a beige straw bag for summer. Ideally one would have every set suitable for sport, and the other dressy. Dariaux is filled with dismay when she sees a woman carrying an alligator handbag with a dressy ensemble, simply because she wishes to get good wear out of such an expensive item. (Has Dariaux not heard of the cost per wear equation?) ‘Alligator is strictly for sports or travel, shoes as well as bags, and this respected reptile should be permitted to retire every evening at 5pm.’

bright coloured shoes should only be worn under electric lights with a long or short evening dress

She has similar damning words for bright coloured shoes, which ‘should only be worn under electric lights with a long or short evening dress’.

All White is Not Alright

White shoes should never be seen on a city street – except for a tropical city, and even then only in summer, and only with a white dress. White handbags are impermissible except for the beach and summer resorts, but provincial in the city, even at the height of summer. Today fashion editors love to advocate white for winter, and I love it. Well truthfully, I love white anytime.

White handbags are impermissible except for the beach and summer resorts …


But what does Dariaux say of gloves? They are best in neutral shades, and the most elegant of all are glacé kid. Suede and antelope are her second choices. Surprisingly, she gives good-quality thicker nylon gloves the thumbs-up.

She also believes gloves ought to be devoid of trimming, which I don’t at all agree with, while very long black gloves are the most elegant to wear with evening gowns. I own dozens of pairs in many colours and materials, even own a pair or two of crocheted lace and transparent nylon, which are both particularly despicable to Dariaux. Stylishly trimmed gloves I think are fun, and even an elegant woman can have fun sometimes!

The entrance to the Paris Ritz on place Vendôme, Anonymous, c. 1948 (from ‘Parisiennes’, Flammarion 2007)

The Politics of Fashion and Elegance

Today of course most of us don’t wear any of our accessories in our day-to-day lives because they are ‘proper’ or traditional, but simply because we enjoy them. And of course the definition of elegance has changed slightly from Dariaux’s day when it was a stifling; it still means timeless chic in most lexicons, but there is a little more leeway for wit and daring, especially when it is employed with restraint.

In 1958, Claire McCardell, an American designer of the same era as Genevieve Dariaux, says:

‘Accessories are the signatures of your special tastes, clues to the type of woman you like being. Each is an idea in itself and you will quickly learn that you can’t wear too many ideas at the same time.’

This is permission to experiment a little more generous than that of Dariaux. The latter’s restrictive rules seem ludicrous to modern ears, but it wasn’t she who laid the law down: those fashion bills were passed with Christian Dior’s New Look in 1947, and the entire world imposed them on women who held any pretension to elegance, glamour – and worse than that: womanliness.

Unpublished variant of a cover image for American Vogue, bu Erwen Blumenfeld, 1950

Marnie Fogg, editor of Fashion: The Whole Story (Thames and Hudson, 2013) in the section ‘Daytime Decorum’ explains in a nutshell:

‘It was a perfect storm of events that resulted in the housewife of the 1950s becoming deified. Targeted by government policies, the fashion industry and advertisers, both she and her home were buffed, groomed and venerated. Liberated from the privations of wartime rationing, her clothing celebrated femininity with strict fashion discipline. A façade of perfection had to be upheld at all costs; to leave the house without a hat was little short of insurrection.’

Alligator is correctly worn for travel or sport, according to Genevieve Dariaux. Wenda Rogerson, by Norman Parkinson, Vogue 1951Women’s liberation stalled after World War II, when American politicians advocated the return of women to their former role of homemakers so that homecoming servicemen would have jobs to return to. Instead, it was a woman’s job to be the perfect housewife. The social, moral and economic stability of the United States was entirely ‘dependent on men returning to their role as head of the household. Fashion played a significant role in this process by restoring the notion of traditional feminine clothing and making the business of dressing complex, with style diktats for every social and domestic function.’ [Ibid] It would take the next generation to change the world in the 1960s, when the fashion industry was turned on its head.

Matching v. Monochromatic

While I feel quite passé if my accessories match too well, I do think it fun to wear an entirely monochromatic outfit, especially all white. Black is my only exception for I find it dreary if it is not leavened with at least one other neutral. Kim Kardashian as we all know is very fond of wearing all beige, but I think it’s just because she likes that it makes her look naked.

Monochromatic outfits can be quite startling and eye-catching when one has become accustomed to the current popular trend for mismatching, which, with the encouragement of the fashion industry, many positively gorge on and glory in. Clash your prints! Mix and match! These are the clarion cries of this movement, and so often it is not done sympathetically. Wearing all one colour can in fact be soothing to the eye for just that reason.

I do not dispute that there were beautiful fashions in the post-war era, but today we have many more options than such rigorous and stifling rules and regulations. We can have fun, experiment – matchy-matchy or not according to personal preference – for even if we do commit some grave sartorial error we can take heart: the Fashion Police still can’t put us in jail for insurrection.

Photos: April 2016