Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in hat (308)

Monday
Aug192019

When Wearing Stripes Becomes Optical Art

If any of my readers want proof of my devotion to stripes, behold this dramatic dress of striped jersey!

The dress, by Olivaceous (a brand I’ve never heard of) has a halter neckline formed by two extremely long ties that lift to create the bodice, cross my back, wind around waist a once or twice and then tie in a huge bow at the base of my back – and the ends still dangle to my knees! In addition, the maxi skirt is so wide and long that I have to carry it like ladies of yore so that I don’t trip and fall on my face. I like to think it evokes 1930s style a little. 

Maximum drama makes it the perfect dress to wear to an Opening Night at the theatre last January, and making doubly-sure I turn heads, I pair with it a 1940s black and white satin veiled pillbox hat. The fabric is made of viscose, so it has flows beautifully; almost mesmerisingly. I feel like a piece of Op Art wearing it!

Photo: April 2019

Wednesday
Jul312019

The Little Red Cap

Red is one of my favourite colours, and has been since childhood, and I am instantly attracted whenever I see it, from clothes and accessories to interior décor and make-up. There is something so delicious about this rich hue: perhaps it reminds me of cherries and raspberries and the rosy apples of Snow-White fame.

Last year I missed out on purchasing a 1940s knit cap that sported two large crocheted pompoms by the ears, creating an effect of Princess Leia hair buns! It was adorable, and I adore pompoms too.

Then early this year this hat – also vintage 1940s – popped up on Etsy at Scarlet Willow Vintage, and I was immediately reminded of the knit cap, except in this instance this hat had two large bows by the ears instead of pompoms. It also featured the same kind of criss-cross lacing at the back of the head as had the other cap.

I lost no time in claiming this one for my own. (Interestingly the seller had photographed it upside-down, but I immediately recognised how it would look worn correctly.)

I own a lot of hats and try to wear as many different ones each season as humanly possible, but still I have managed to wear this one a few times already over the autumn and winter. There is something so delightful about its neat design – wearing a hat like this makes the day magical. It is such a source of wonder to me that hats are largely out of fashion and that more people never experience the joy of a topper  – but equally, that leaves more vintage hats for me!

Photos: June 2019

Saturday
Jul062019

The Luxury Hat

Felt is an ancient fabric, and perhaps the first made by man: it is made rather easily as it is not woven and does not require a loom. According to legend, in the Middle Ages a wandering monk named St Clement – destined to become the fourth bishop of Rome – happened upon the process of felt-making quite by accident. It is said that to make his shoes more comfortable, he stuffed them with tow (short flax or linen fibres). Walking in them on damp ground, he discovered that his own weight and sweaty feet had matted the tow fibres together into a kind of cloth. After being made bishop (with the power to indulge his whimsy), he set up a workshop to develop felting production … and thus he became the patron saint for hatmakers, who of course use felt to this day.

Parisian costume, 1826Men and women’s beaver top hats, Gentleman’s Magazine of Fashion, 1876Today most felt is made of wool, but in the past, animal fur was used to make a high-quality felt. Animal fur has tiny, microscopic spines which lock together much like Velcro when heat and moisture are applied. Beaver was the superior fur because its spines were prominent and helped produce a high-quality felt; hats made from it date back to at least the sixteenth century, and they were a staggeringly expensive luxury item. Naturally, to reduce the cost of fur felt, other furs were used such as rabbit or hare, camel, and angora (mohair).

Men wearing beaver hats, 1886But it was another type of hat altogether that toppled the beaver from its luxury perch at last: the silk top hat. First invented in 1797 and scandalising the general public with its fearsome appearance, by the mid nineteenth century, the silk top hat cost half the price of beaver, and overtook it in popularity owing to changes in lifestyle which meant the hardy fur felt hats were not needed.

50s hat of angora fur felt; authorised reproduction of a Claude Saint-Cyr designI was initially attracted to this red 1950s pixie hat because of its dramatic shape, and the pearls (which I love) sewn all over it. It is made with Melusine, a felt made from rabbit fur. Melusine has long, fine fibres that are brushed to create a silky long-haired finish. In the past I had presumed ‘fur felt’ was a misnomer, and that such fabric was actually made from wool to look like fur. I was a bit sad when I realised this hat was real rabbit fur; however, at least it is vintage and recycled.

An amazing pink fur felt reproduction Regency hat, by Jane Walton, 2019I have a few other vintage hats also made from melusine, all from the 50s and 60s. While wool felt is certainly more common these days, you can still buy new fur felt hats (some sources nebulously state the fur is a ‘by-product’) – even top hats made from beaver that are worn by top cats at Ascot – and they are still quite expensive.

Photo: June 2019

Wednesday
Jun262019

Reach for the Stars!

Here is a re-cap of my starry sequinned 1920s wool felt cap, teamed this time with the blue starry knit I bought more recently, and the same mother-of-pearl star earrings. The star shape or polygon is a not only a great graphic, but holds significance in many instances of art and culture, and regardless of how many arms the star has, impressions of astronomical stars provide the term.

I was amused to learn that in heraldry a mullet is a straight-sided five-pointed star – it seems to bear no relation to the favourite men’s hairstyle of the 1980s. Nor the fish. (The dictionary does not even include the hairstyle so I can’t ascertain its etymology.) Sometimes the mullet it is referred to as a ‘golden five-pointed star’ … On the other hand, a star with wavy rays is called an estoile, which is a much prettier word. More regally however, the mullet is an ensign of knightly rank, and the symbol is incorporated in some way by every order of knighthood, which raises it above its other more unpleasant associations.

Above all though, the star – especially employed en masse – conjures up the heavenly sphere, bejewelled and twinkling; Cecil Beaton’s celestial visions in the 1920s; and delightful paper moon photographic backdrops. Irresistible!

Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star for the Galaxy Ball, by Cecil Beaton, 1929Unknown sitter, by Cecil Beaton, 1920sPaper moon in the Victorian eraPaper moon in the 1920sPhoto: June 2019
Other images found on Pinterest

Monday
Jun102019

What I Actually Wore #0153

Serial #: 0153
Date: 23/10/2013
Weather: 16°C / 61°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

I wore this outfit to work, and to Cinematheque, a club for cinephiles in the evening. I was glad of the coat and scarf going home, for it was freezing.

I like to sometimes dress in almost all monochrome – as long as it’s not all black, which is very un-Melburnian of me. If you’re not confident about mixing colours, going monochrome is a nice easy way to put an outfit together, with perhaps one or two other complementary colours in your accessories, such as the red I have used here. Black and white are of course non-colours, and they go with everything.

Whenever I do a story on these archival outfits, I amuse myself discovering how many of the items are still in my closet. (I am photographing current outfits, but I am running years behind!) In this case, some of these items are still in my closet, and the others have replacements.

I still mourn the loss of this vintage 70s white leather trench coat that I won for a song maybe a decade ago on eBay ($40) – I wore it out until it looked more grey than white, not from dirt but from actual wear. I still sort of regret culling that, although I would not wear it even if I still owned it, so that’s silly. (Call me sentimental.)

The red wool beret was a gift, but it was actually too small for my head; maybe it was a child’s hat. I have replaced it with another from the thrift store. The shoes, which I originally bought in an op shop, wore out, but I found a pair by the same brand that were almost exactly the same except for having a punctured brogue pattern – also from the thrift store, and never worn. Such a bonus because this Aussie shoe brand no longer exists: some kind of fashion miracle! These socks were a favourite cashmere blend; while I darned the toes several times, they eventually wore out beyond repair.

All the other items I still own, although the cardigan (note the Juliet sleeves) has been in a darning basket for some time, with moth holes in the tie belt that need repair. Emptying that basket out is one of my winter resolutions, so this picture is a timely reminder.

Items:

Top: Kookaï
Cardigan: Nanette Lepore
Skirt: Celia Vela
Coat: vintage 70s
Hat:
vintage 80s
Scarf: souvenir
Socks:
Philippe Matignon
Shoes: Scooter
Earrings: self-made
Necklace: souvenirs
Ring: Roun

Photos: January 2014