Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in leather (43)

Monday
Nov142016

A Tan for Summer

I have always loved a good, strappy Roman sandal, probably because I was brainwashed at about five years of age when it was part of our summer school uniform at my primary school. I remember in the 80s as a young teen I had a white pair, which, because I was in the sun a lot in those days, left very amusing tan marks all over my feet.

These days I stick to classic tan, which are for me the perfect casual summer sandal as they go with everything. In the somewhat Romanesque setting of a heritage house in Sydney (above), I am wearing a pair that were punctured in a brogue style; I loved them. But alas, they died, and their successor was this thong pair with contrast hot pink stitching on the toes.

At the close of this last summer, I had to regretfully bin the second pair too, for the soles had come apart and were beyond repair. It was time to hunt around for their replacement. I found them a few weeks ago, a strappy, woven leather pair. I’ve already worn them once, though I found it more comfortable to tie them in front for ease of walking. Okay summer – I’m ready for you now!

~

Read more about the origin of Roman sandals here.

Monday
Oct242016

Sandal Scandal

Last summer I had to regretfully throw out some beloved sandals because I had worn them to death, but at least I could reflect that they had served me long and well. They were so worn out they couldn’t possibly be donated to charity – they went straight into the bin.

But what makes someone get rid of a perfectly good pair of designer sandals that they had just had re-heeled? A temporary leave of sanity? I cannot else answer this question.

I spotted (pun not intended) these Gorman chocolate brown and cream pony-hair sandals in a Salvos Store three weeks ago. Admittedly they are a size too big for me, but done up on the tightest hole they are wearable – not to mention very cute on! They are in excellent condition, with only one bit of faint wear along the edge of one vamp, and the heels had been completely replaced. (I must own I have cleaned up the insoles in Photoshop for the picture, but they also are not too bad.)

When I showed these to one of my friends, her jaw dropped slightly as I told her I paid $15 for them. “You got a bargain,” she told me, having tried them on new in Gorman. “They were very expensive.” That information does not surprise me. I normally don’t even bother entering the portals of this famous Australian designer store, for I can’t afford to shop there myself (neither can my friend – she was just in there admiring, but I prefer not to torture myself in such a needless fashion).

How to Clean Second Hand Shoes

A lot of websites will tell you to clean with rubbing alcohol, which is iso-propyl alcohol, and can be difficult to find in Australia. Methylated spirits (ethanol, or denatured alcohol) are perfectly adequate for the job. My sandals, being open and not much worn, did not need more than a wipe out with the methylated spirits.

For detailed information on how to deal with problem shoes (sneakers, or closed, smelly shoes), visit Wikihow.

Photo: This month

Thursday
Sep292016

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 …

Gloves

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

Tuesday
Aug092016

True Crocodile Tears

If you’ve been reading fashion magazines for a little while, you will have come across – at least once – some fashion editor’s declaration that owning a crocodile leather bag (preferably the Hermès Kelly, or the Birkin at a pinch) is the pinnacle of style perfection to which any self-respecting fashionista must aspire.

The Kelly bag was named after Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco. [Click through to read about the history of the Kelly bag in greater detail.)Why is crocodile leather considered such a luxury item, I wondered? Is it because these giant reptiles are so lethal that once upon a time dispossessing them of their hide was to endanger life and limb? A little research leads me to discover that though these days crocodiles are farmed, it does not necessarily negate the danger. Of course it is to luxury goods manufacturers’ benefit to tout the beauty and exclusivity of exotic-skin products … just as the ivory from elephant tusks were once so prized so that elephants became critically endangered.

A modern Kelly bag in orange crocodile leather – but what is the truth that lies beneath this exotic skin?A very little research also leads me to discover the horrific conditions some crocodiles suffer under – not all are humanely stunned before they are killed. (If you have the stomach for it, read more on the Daily Mail.) Whatever your stance on the wearing of leather and fur, it must be acknowledged that cowhides at least are a by-product of the meat industry, whereas the market for crocodile meat is very small. Crocodiles are farmed and slaughtered exclusively for their skin, which is then reproduced as $40,000 handbags by designer brands of the likes of Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada – and they will accept only the top ten per cent of crocodile skins. To help prevent abuse, each crocodile skin needs a certificate proving it is not in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora [businessoffashion.com].

Well, I am very happy and relieved to report that my crocodile accessories are vintage.

An average handbag can be crafted from up to two crocodile skins (for each of which a farmer may receive $600). The wait for an Hermès Birkin bag can be years-long, but if you’re very impatient and have the cash lying around, you could possibly pick one up on eBay for between $39,000–$150,000. “There are women who don’t care about money that love the beautiful things,” said Gianluca Brozzetti, CEO of fashion house Cavalli. “Demand for crocodile and alligator is large because I think it is one of the trends that never ends. It is a classic.” [businessoffashion.com]

VINTAGE CROCODILES

Well, I am very happy and relieved to report that my crocodile accessories are vintage. The tote bag, which I myself bought many years ago on eBay to use as a shopper (though lately I have been carrying it every day as my work bag) cost me the princely sum of $40. The tiny purse, which fits just enough plastic cards, banknotes and a few coins, was also bought secondhand just a few months ago, from a thrift store for – wait for it – $6. I love it more for its diminutive size than the fact that it is crafted from luxury leather. They are both a little worn, but I don’t care. I love both items because they are pre-loved, and I am glad and proud that I have not added to the burden of tears this world holds already.

Photos: July 2016

Monday
Aug082016

Ensemble Disassembled!

A few weeks ago when I was visiting my sister in the hospital I experienced an unfortunate outfit malfunction: one of the two buttons holding up my suede wrap skirt detached!

“I don’t have a safety-pin to give you,” my sister apologised, but I waved that off, as I would not want to pierce the suede anyway. “Don’t worry,” I declared insouciantly, “I’ll be fine! It’ll stay up.” I tucked it in firmly.

Shortly afterwards, I left her room in the ward to go home and discovered my optimism was misplaced. As I entered the lift, I saw my reflection in the mirrored back wall: the skirt had already come down as demonstrated in the photograph above. Horrified, I quickly hauled it up, hoping none of the other passengers entering behind me had seen me come undone.

Then I remembered what was in the tote bag I was carrying: that morning’s secondhand purchase, a grey wool dress by Australian designer Arthur Galan. I can’t ordinarily afford to shop in that store, so I was quite pleased to have found this merino wool dress in a Red Cross op shop for a fraction of what must have been its retail cost. (Red Cross op shops are one of the more expensive chains however, so at $30 it wasn’t super-cheap, though inexpensive for what it was.)

While I have long loved pleats and draping, I had been a bit hesitant about this purchase, as the dress was baggier than I would normally choose to wear. But, I reasoned, it was wool, and warm and a stone grey that I liked (grey is my black) and its roomy fit made it a good choice for those days when one desired a comfortable, relaxed silhouette. So I bought it. I certainly didn’t expect to be so grateful so soon! I made a quick change in the bathroom on the ground floor, and luckily the dress worked with the other elements of my outfit.

Grey dress to the rescue indeed – thank you very much!

Photos: July 2016

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