Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in laundry (23)



A few years ago, my friend Rapunzel bought this vintage 60s suede coat at a vintage warehouse sale for a fairly modest sum. The clothing, I believe, was purchased unseen by the container-load from America. While all the other clothing at the sale seemed to have suffered no lasting damage, this coat looked like it had been drenched in the brink. It was so wrinkled, and strangely textured as though it was encrusted with salt.

My friend, however, never wore it, saying she had never got round to taking it to a drycleaner, and didn’t like wearing coats for commuting anyway, as she tended to overheat, and so she was reluctant to spend a large amount on professional cleaning. She donated it to me.

I was pleased to accept the coat, but it couldn’t be worn in the state it was. I forgot to photograph it in its original state, but I would describe the texture as resembling a piece of paper that had been screwed up into a little ball, then poorly smoothed out.

I would describe the texture as resembling a piece of paper that had been screwed up into a little ball …

I took the coat to my regular drycleaner and asked his advice. With very serious face he examined the coat and remarked that it did look like it had fallen into the ocean. That seemed unlikely, but perhaps it had been splashed at some point in its life. He did not think cleaning it would improve its appearance – the two apparent stains visible on the right side (near the collar and the middle button) were actually abrasions of the leather, so cleaning would have no effect on those. He suggested pressing it instead.

Ironing leather! I have talked before about the importance of ironing, but it never would have occurred to me that it was appropriate to press leather. For a modest sum of $15, I agreed to see if that improved the look of the coat. When I returned to pick the coat up, I was very impressed (pardon the pun) to see the improvement.

This suede, mink-trimmed coat transmogrified from a sozzled 60-year-old harridan into a gently-used dignified dame. Disfigurements became faint scars proudly marking the stately passage of time, and the coat was eminently wearable. Amongst so many coats I already own, I still managed to wear it a few times this past winter, an excellent result.

Photo: August 2018


Gypsy Mood

“You look like a gypsy!” That was what my mum would say to me years ago when I was attending art school and dressed very colourfully in piles of beads and Indian skirts and vintage clothes that I found in the op shops at lunch time around college.

The word ‘gypsy’ has such picturesque connotations: one thinks of nomadic folk living a bohemian, happy-go-lucky and simple life, thriving on the freedom of travelling wherever whim took them – in quaint little caravans drawn by sturdy horses of course. It’s a romantic notion, and undoubtedly they must endure the harsh realities of life just the same as the less adventurous of us.

I’m not nomadic (although I have travelled a little), but I still sometimes dress like a gypsy, when the mood strikes me.

Fashion Notes

In keeping with gypsy values, I am wearing quite a mish-mash of items, most of which is second hand. The most spectacular piece is the silk taffeta skirt of course, which I bought in an op shop last year for around $7. I wasn’t sure if it was silk at the time, and I doubt the staff member who priced it suspected it was silk; there are no labels in it. I just thought it was fabulous.

The organza blouse is by an Australian designer, Carla Zampatti, and is I think a highly amusing relic from the 80s. The silk shawl around my hips was a birthday gift from a friend, and the pink sequin scarf in my hair was another thrift store find. My jewellery is a mix of vintage (a white 40s bead necklace) and antique (Turkish coin earrings, the Afghan bead tassel); second hand from op shops; new retail, and souvenirs (the bangles, from Vietnam) and even a turquoise ring hand made by me.

Fashion Disaster!

The skirt is extremely well made, with every seam inside perfect, and over-locked, so I didn’t want to even snip a piece from inside to do a burn test and ascertain the fibre content. However, something disastrous happened right after this photoshoot. It was hanging in the bathroom and I inadvertently swiped some Lucas Papaw ointment – which has a petroleum jelly base – on it.

I inadvertently swiped some Lucas Papaw ointment on it.

First I tried spot cleaning the stain with dishwashing liquid (which can work on greasy stains if used immediately). Nothing doing. I left it for a few days while I pondered whether to take it to the dry cleaner. Finally, after doing some research I referred back to my laundering app (‘The Stain’ – highly recommended) on how to deal with oily stains. It doesn’t mention mineral-based oils, but I tried the method of sprinkling talc on the stain and lifting it onto paper towel with the application of heat (using an iron). Then I hand-washed it, immersing the entire skirt to avoid possibly leaving a water-stain (in for a penny, in for a pound).

Then something marvellous happened – aside from the stain lifting: once the skirt was dry, the fabric had softened considerably and I knew without a doubt that it was silk. I assume the previous owner had only ever dry-cleaned it, and that accounted for its starchy crispness. Some may prefer that finish for taffeta, but I think it is much nicer to wear now.

Photos: December 2016


The Good Little Hausfrau and The Evils of Bleach

On the weekend I was being a good little hausfrau and doing all my tedious chores on Saturday. For this special event, I pulled out a fresh tee I hadn’t worn for a while – ever since I assiduously and labouriously removed some ink or paint stains (if memory serves me) from the last time I wore this t-shirt without donning an artist’s smock over the top.

You’d think that would have learned me, but no.

I did not don an apron, but went merrily on my way with my chores. While cleaning the bathroom, energetically employing a bottle of Domestos – a brand of bleach – and generously swirling it around the enamel sink, I must have caught a stray drop with my tee (see depressing detail picture on left). I didn’t spot it until much later, when it was far too late to attempt to soak it out.

Dear Snapettes, it was like one of those ‘command-Z’ life moments, when all you want to do is hit the undo button. But alas, it is impossible. The top is clearly doomed to only and forever be a housework tee.

The moral of this sad tale is of course, wear a housecoat, or even better – pay some cleaners to do the dirty work.

Photos: Yesterday


Hell For Leather

I have a love affair with all accessories, but especially unique, vintage items. However—and this should be obvious—vintage textiles can be very fragile, and require more care in wearing, storage, and laundering than new things.

The definition of vintage includes items that are more than 20 years old, while antique items are at least 100 years old. Most of my belts are either new or secondhand, and probably not older than ten years, so they are one accessory I need worry less about. Or so I thought …

What Not to Do

I used to keep my belts neatly rolled up in a drawer, which worked fine for quite a while, until my collection began growing, and the drawer began shrinking. Over a period of time the drawer began to resemble a jumble sale that had been enthusiastically rummaged through.

The disgraceful drawer-cum-jumble sale in question – you can actually see the belt in question in the centre, with one piece of leather already coming away from the buckle! A portent of tragedy to come … and I never noticed at the time.I am always hurrying in the morning to dress, and one day, keen to wear a new secondhand plaited leather belt with a lovely rectangular silver buckle, I went to pull it from the drawer. I could see its end sticking, snake-like out of the tangle, and I pulled. It resisted, and I tugged harder – and a moment’s impatience made this as-yet-unworn belt snap in half! Cue lamentations …

a moment’s impatience made this as-yet-unworn belt snap in half! Cue lamentations …

The belt had clearly become brittle during its short lifetime, and it could not stand the pressure I had put it under. I have since tidied up the drawer, and hung my belts on hooks in my closet, which is much more practical, and less wearing on them.

How to care for leather

Leather can deteriorate if left in the sun: it will dry out and become brittle, making it prone to cracking and eventually breakage, which is probably what had happened to my belt. Combat this by regularly moisturising the leather with a dressing or cream.

Always store leather items in a cool, dry place to prevent mildew growing on its surface (mildew loves a humid, wet basement). Don’t keep leather in plastic either – it needs to have some air to breathe.

Keep abrasives from it that will scuff or mark the leather as much as possible –although wear is inevitable, so there’s no sense in obsessing over it.

Don’t stretch leather (such as over-stuffing a wallet) as it will not go back to its original shape.

You’ll notice the stretching of shoes made from especially soft leather. I had a beloved pair of wedges by Australian label Habbot made from Italian glove leather that eventually took on the shape of my toes! Rather unsightly. That was after they had suffered from water damage after an unexpected shower too.

However, I am firmly of the opinion it is better to use and enjoy these delicate items for as long as they last than to keep them forever wrapped in cottonwool. Let them have their time in the sun – just not too much sunbaking!

Photos: December, August 2015


Keeping Up With the Ironing

My third New Year’s resolution this year was to keep on top of my ironing – rather than letting it pile and pile into monstrous proportions for months on end. I am happy to report that my habits have improved (cough, cough) to the point where they pile up for only weeks on end. The garments in this picture taken in January, for example, have long since been pressed and put away.

At least we can be thankful irons have evolved from this cast-iron monstrosity from 1850! I once lifted an antique iron and it was incredibly heavy – you really would have got a workout using one of those!Ironing is such a boring chore. I know many people who find it so boring they don’t even bother with it at all. But I hate to wear wrinkled clothing, especially to work. It looks so slovenly. (Sorry, but it does.) Click here for an object lesson. Others (fashion editors) swear by the efficacy of hanging unironed clothing in the bathroom while they shower, saying that the wrinkles magically drop out with the steam. Pfffft! That is an outright fantasy. I’ve tried it, and it does not work at all.

A work colleague swears by her steam iron, a magical laundry gadget judging by her description. Sadly, I do not have room in my tiny studio apartment to store such a piece of machinery, although I suppose I could consider a portable version. 

Making ironing look beautiful: A Laundry Maid Ironing, Henry Morland 1716–1797This Victorian woman uses an iron similar to the cast iron version pictured aboveObviously a good iron is preferable, but one thing that really makes a huge difference in completing this tedious business is a high-quality ironing board that doesn’t wobble and threaten to collapse with every movement, and which has a good cover on it with plenty of padding. Little padding beneath the cover means quite often you can iron the grill pattern of the board into your clothes.

one thing that really makes a huge difference … is a high-quality ironing board

Once I determine to tackle one of these big mothers (as above) though, I set to with a will. Often I will put on a DVD for entertainment relief, although it’s better I choose something I have watched before, so that I am not pulled into the story and distracted from the main task at hand. This was how one year I got through all the documentaries and commentaries on The Lord of the Rings. I’m vaguely interested in the commentaries, but I certainly don’t want to sit down and watch them exclusively. Another time I found myself rediscovering that old classic, Dirty Dancing very late at night. I hadn’t watched that film since I was a teenager!

Sometimes I will simply listen to quiet music while I iron, and find that combined with the hush and hiss of the iron put me into a soothing, meditative state where my mind wanders down pathways I seldom visit during busy days. It’s a great way to do some creative thinking.

Even Ava Gardner did the ironing (in heels of course)!I have this childhood memory of my mother doing the ironing in the lounge room in the evenings: she would turn on the radio to the old 3AK radio station, an easy-listening music station, and work at one end of the L-shaped room under the lights, while I would lounge on a couch at the other end of the room in the dimness, daydreaming in a somnolent state prior to going to bed. There is something very comforting about that memory. That’s probably why to this day I prefer to do my ironing late at night, with the lights turned down low.

Speaking of which, I just happen to have one of these monsters breeding on an armchair: something I should tackle this weekend. I will wear slippers however.