Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in lace (60)


That Gown!

Elsa Schiaparelli, 1939Ah, the 1930s – my most favourite fashion era! It was just so elegant and sophisticated. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate clothes from other eras of course. Last week I stumbled upon – via Pinterest – the Tumblr blog OMG that dress! and spotted some lovely gowns from many eras. Here are a few I swooned over. The striped Schiaparelli is my favourite – I can never go past stripes!

Madeleine Vionnet, 1938-9Jeanne Lanvin, 1937


Star Wars Day

Padmé Amidala, Queen of Naboo, would like to wish you Happy Star Wars Day! Granted, she doesn’t look very happy but lots of horrible things happened to her: (spoiler alert) her planet was being invaded, her husband turned into Darth Vader, and finally she died in childbirth.

I wore this costume, remarkably cobbled together from items of clothing I actually own, to my work’s Christmas party last year. I work at a theatre, so as you can imagine, most people go all-out for our annual dress-up and try to out-do one another with mostly stellar results. Every year we are given a theme, and last year it was ‘Out of this World’. I immediately decided on the Queen of Naboo, with one restriction laid on myself: to create the costume without spending any (or very little) money.

I knew the most difficult part to recreate would be the hair, and after very little searching for Geisha-style wigs I quickly discovered what a paucity of options there were on offer. I decided that I would have to be creative.

While I left that on the backburner, I turned my attention to the other parts of the costume. You might have thought the headdress would be a stumbling block, but that was easy – naturally I had an enormous feathered hat (once featured in Australian Vogue magazine in the 90s) on hand.

You might have thought the headdress would be a stumbling block, but that was easy …

As for the rest: the gorgeous Chinese silk lace blouse was a recent purchase in a thrift store, and the vintage kimono was a souvenir I had bought in Vietnam many years ago from an antique store. The leather obi I bought new when obis were all the rage in mainstream fashion a decade or two ago.

Two vintage silk skirts layered provided the sumptuousness of Queen Amidala’s wardrobe, and were also purchases from thrift stores. The shot-silk blue skirt is probably 80s, and the red skirt (beautifully constructed) is I think a 70s number. Underneath I wore white socks and black leather ballet flats.

Queen Amidala’s makeup is iconic, and immediately pulls the whole ensemble together – that’s where I spent a small portion of my $15 total, on white face makeup. As for the wig: I decided to utilise a pair of black wool tights, stuffed with polyester hobby filler (the other portion of my spending) and twisted into a fanciful shape. I tried ordinary opaque tights, but the lighter fibres proved to be transparent, so I had to bring out the big guns. The wig is quite heavy and clumsy, and the hat precariously balanced, but good enough for the few hours of a costume party. (That’s when a queenly deportment comes in handy – no slouching!)

I caused a sensation at the office party; one of the most amusing aspects was having to move sideways through the crowds, lest I took someone’s eye out with my hat! There was also a couple of Darth Vaders and a Boba Fett, so there was plenty of opportunity for Imperial high jinks.

May the Fourth be with you!

Photos: Yesterday


Scroll down for some party pics.

Getting ready in the office bathroom (you can see the rear view in the mirror). Queen Amidala always looks so solemn, but her planet IS being invaded after all!Oh, Anakin! How could you!? Apparently I don't know my own strength – I actually nearly strangled poor Darth. Luckily he was forgiving, or maybe that was the sparkling wine.


Summertime Gothic

Time was in Melbourne when many goths wandering like lost souls through the streets were a very familiar sight. Having gone through art college myself, they were never a threatening or repugnant presence to me as they were to some, and I was always intrigued (and entertained) by their bold sartorial expressions.

What a spectacular head dress! (from @mywitchery; outfit @burleskacorsets-blog.)Their mania for emulating the darker aspects of the Victorian period in respect of dress seemed to work well for winter – frock coats, puffy sleeved shirts, cloaks, big boots – but I marvelled that so many seemed at a loss as to what to wear for summer, always a concern for sweltering days in an Australian city, even one so far south as Melbourne.

Melbourne Goth & Victorian Picnic 2017I always felt sorry for them, suffering on broiling days in their multiple floor-length layers. They really needed a stylist I decided, poor things, to help them figure out a ‘summerweight’ goth look. I was sure their angst-ridden expressions had more to do with suffering from imminent heatstroke than affected Victorian anguish.

You don’t see many goths in Melbourne anymore however. Perhaps the old goths of the 90s and Noughties have grown up, or moved to the suburbs and got haircuts and real jobs. Research lead me to discover the goth movement is still going strong in Europe, with many large annual festivals (mainly in Germany) still being held and attracting tens of thousands, with steampunk and even ‘steamgoth’ now entering the field as well.

Melbourne Goth & Victorian Picnic 2017One way to keep cool – not for everyone however; Melbourne Goth & Victorian Picnic 2017In October last year, the Melbourne Gothic & Victorian Picnic was held in the Fitzroy Gardens (north of the city proper), it is pleasing to discover. However a quick perusal of photos shows that most goths are wearing quite heavy garments for mid-spring, with a few concessions in the form of punk-inspired torn lace or lingerie – a revealing look not for everyone.

I’ve long wanted to do a tongue-in-cheek homage on a summer version of typical goth splendour, but have held off until I secured just the right outfit. I finally found it, and here it is to celebrate the last day of summer: a billowing silk, floor-length dress featuring some cobwebby lace in the yoke, a nod to gothic Victoriana for the more modest young lady. The loose skirts, low back and front, and sleeveless cut make it perfect for an Australian summer.

Add a lace parasol (I only had a cream one, but a real goth might prefer tattered black) to protect one’s delicate pallor from the burning rays of the Australian sun, a dour expression, and you’re good to go. For an evening wrap against potential night chill, consider a black lace shawl which can be prosaically wrapped round the shoulders, or draped over the head for that funereal aspect.

Visit A Study of Goth Subculture (2009) for both dissertations and detailed fashion information; a relatively recent story at The Conversation on Goth, Steampunk and the State of Subculture Today (2016) is also worth a read.

Photos: March 2017


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