Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in handbag (43)


How Now, Brown Cowhide

Many years ago – maybe ten or fifteen – I bought a cowhide bucket handbag from a market in Hong Kong. It was quite an expensive purchase, but I rationalised that it was such a classic leather and style, I would be able to use it forever. Well, it hasn’t been quite forever yet, but I think I have justified my belief by now.

Then last autumn, when I was hunting high and low for a classic tote bag to use for work, I came across a cowhide version on the online sale site, Ozsale, and was instantly struck by how similar it was in looks to my old bucket bag. I don’t remember the name of the label, and there is none inside the bag, but it was a homewares brand that used recycled wood and canvas from vintage French army and postal gear.

My main stipulation – besides being stylish – was that the prospective tote had to be large enough to fit my office shoes, my lunch, iPad and other sundry items I deemed necessary to schlep to and from work every day. I also wanted to be sure that the colour would complement most outfits, without resorting to something boring like – ugh – black.

It’s like those tents in Harry Potter … I can just keep putting things inside without it bursting at the seams.

This tote was enormous – the biggest one in the sale – and looked tough and hard wearing, suitable for Melbourne’s winter weather. It would work for summer too, except that I had already found a large straw bag to use in the warmer months. Even better, I had some credit owing me on the sale site, so I was able to purchase the tote for very little extra.

I’m happy to report after several months use so far, the tote has measured up to my expectations, even exceeded them. It’s like those tents in Harry Potter – deceptively enormous. I can just keep putting things inside without it bursting at the seams. I love that I can slot in even a longish umbrella through the end because the zip hasn’t been sewn down all the way to the ends. So much do I like it I haven’t even swapped over to the straw tote yet even though we are well into spring!

Photo: August 2018


When the Heart Flutters, Buy

As has been firmly established by now, red is one of my favourite colours. I make a beeline for it whenever I see it, as I did with these two handbags that I bought last year.

The first one I spotted in a thrift store by the beach. (Because what do you do after spending a good part of the day at the beach? Why, fit in a spot of op shopping of course!) How cute! I thought when I saw it, round and twinkling at me from inside a cabinet. How perfectly it would go with this sequin top I am wearing, I thought. Did I need it? Of course not. But it does.

The second little bag is made of silk satin and chiffon, and in addition is studded with rhinestones. I spotted this one unerringly at a vintage fair, and had to wait quite a long time for the stallholder to be free to answer my questions about this mystery bag, for it looked completely unused. She seemed unsure as to the age, and doubtfully offered up an era I cannot recall, but I felt sure that was too recent. “It looks 1930s to me,” I said to her, and she conceded it did, excusing her first answer on the grounds of its pristine condition.

I am not sure exactly what shade of red to call it; it is lighter and orange-tinged, but not orange. I like to refer to the Wikipedia pages on colour for their names and descriptions, but the screen representations are poor. By its description it could be scarlet, or cinnabar, both of which are orange-toned reds.

Of course I did not need this bag either, but its ruffles had made my heart flutter, and the fact that I had nothing in my wardrobe to grace this with mattered not a whit. It is still pristine, for I have not taken it out yet either – it is enough to know that it exists, and it resides in my closet. Sometimes the mere fact of beauty is enough. When the heart flutters, buy.

Photos: March 2018


Clear Gilt

On Monday, after I completed some errands in the neighbourhood, I happened to pass a thrift store on my way home. Naturally I had to go in.

I saw on a shelf what looked like a giant bottle of Chanel No. 5 and was exceedingly amused to discover that it was a hard plastic handbag! It came complete with a faux gold label and chain strap, and aptly, the stopper was the clasp. There’s no visible branding, so likely it was a whimsical but inexpensive purchase by its original owner.

It is a guilty purchase for me too, I must admit, for while I have always had a sneaking liking for transparent handbags, they are not very practical, and lose their aesthetic appeal when filled with an evening’s accoutrements – unless they happen to be very, very beautiful. That’s probably why it was in the thrift store in the first place.

Aptly, I have photographed ‘Chanel’ bag with bottles of French perfume, and it does look very pretty, oui?

Photo: Yesterday


A Tribute to Turquoise

I’ve often rhapsodised about one of my favourite colours, turquoise, on these pages; it is such a summery colour for me. Scrolling through my archives of fashionistamatics, I was amused to see quite a large number of items that had not yet seen the light of day: here are five of them, to celebrate the waning of the season.

First up is a picture of me on last Christmas Day, wearing a 1960s sequinned wool tank top (despite the how sunny the photo looks, it was not excessively hot that day in Melbourne) and a 1950s feather bandeau. I had decided to go full Christmas, and am wearing these with a red silk skirt, red heels, and candy-cane jewellery (my diamanté earrings are actually candy-canes!).

The woven straw bag I think is 50s or 60s and was a recent purchase in a thrift store, and the next snap is a detail of another beaded and sequinned 60s top, this time in a t-shirt shape. (I actually have a third as well, which has tassels, because why stop at one or two?)

The patent heels are a favourite pair of summer sandals that have that strange property of some hues that seem to change tone depending on what they are worn with. These, when paired with a slightly different shade of turquoise suddenly seem green – quite a magical effect! These shoes were bought on a sale website.

Finally, the little leather wallet was something I actually purchased retail. I loved the colour so much (unfortunately not captured very well on the iPhone 3S), and its convenient tiny size, I willingly paid quite a lot for it. I wore it out until the lovely turquoise turned grey – a bit like summer skies changing to autumn.

Photos: December 2017, February 2018, January 2018, May 2013, December 2011


Twice Vintage Bag

Three years ago, on June 1st, I bought a vintage 70s handbag made from stripes of genuine snakeskin from some op shop – I don’t remember where now. But I do remember I fell in love with it, as much for the plastic tortoiseshell frame and link strap as the patent leather.

I immediately began using it, but alas, tragedy struck exactly four weeks later, and one of the plastic links that attached the strap to the bag snapped in half! I was very disappointed, but at least it would be relatively easy to repair with a new strap.

I sourced some new and very similar chain link on Etsy, but there were quite a few different styles, and I could never decide which ones to buy. Then while I dithered, they would sell out, and I’d have to conduct a new search. I put the bag aside for a while, and forgot about it. I have no shortage of other bags after all.

Then nearly exactly three years later – on June 3rd – in a different op shop entirely, I found a scrap of chain link with a few little wooden, leather and mother-of-pearl doodads attached. Immediately I saw the possibilities of repurposing this remnant as a bag strap. It would be easy to take off the charms.

In the end, after reattaching the new strap, I decided I liked the dingle-dangles – they add a touch of whimsy. It’s quite possible it was actually a strap in a former life, as the charms are all quite low so that they don’t impede the shoulder. The bag is now a shoulder bag rather than hand-held, and looks quite jaunty.