Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in lingo (77)


Pretty as a Picture (Hat)

Today was Oaks Day at the Spring Racing Carnival, which is also known as Ladies Day, and the pink rose is the official flower for the day – it can be purchased from flower sellers near the entrance of the racecourse. Today is also known as my sister Star’s birthday, and I was in fact celebrating the occasion with her and my two other older sisters.

However, this hat (bought in an op shop a few months ago) surely personifies the day’s theme, as it is coloured rose pink and resembles nothing so much as giant flower petals that have fluttered down and settled on the head. It looks different from every angle, as the sinamay has been crumpled into an asymmetric shape.

There is also a large exotic flower on one side which I disliked (such trimmings seem so common to me). It would look so much more elegant and sculptural without it. At first I thought that I would be able to remove it by ripping off the stitches, but unfortunately the milliner saw fit to glue it down to such a degree that ripping it off would destroy the sinamay at the crown. I am trying to reconcile myself to its existence.

the trim, and the wide brim, define this as a picture hat, also sometimes known as a ‘Gainsborough’ hat

In fact the trim, and the wide brim, define this as a picture hat, also sometimes known as a ‘Gainsborough’ hat (after the 18th century painter). The name derives from the way the broad brim frames the face and creates a ‘picture’. Other wide-brimmed hats are called cartwheels (usually worn flat) and halos (usually worn upstanding on the back of the head, like an angel’s halo also as seen in old paintings); both these styles were popular in the 1940s. Picture hats often were lavishly trimmed, as in the Edwardian era, so my single flower is probably quite restrained.

At any rate, it is an entirely frivolous hat, for though the brim is enormous, the loosely woven material would provide zero protection from the sun. But not all beautiful things need to be practical, do they?

Photo: July 2016


A Fistful of Turquoise

One of my favourite colours is a turquoise, a description that encompasses sky-blue, cyan, robin’s egg blue, Tiffany blue and cerulean. Turquoise was first introduced to Europe from Turkey in the 17th century, and that is how it earned its name. The blue tones come from copper, and the green from iron, and shades run the gamut from sky-blue to green – just as that list above illustrates.

The stone itself has been prized for thousands of years for its unique colour, and is associated particularly with the ancient Egyptians and Aztecs. It was in fact one of the first gemstones to be mined: beads dating from about 5000 BC have been found in Mesopotamia (Iraq). These days the colour is mostly associated with Tiffany & Co (although somewhat ironically they mostly deal in diamonds).

I have a small collection of turquoise rings that I have amassed over the years. All of them bear varying amounts of limonite veining, but they are all slightly different shades. The first was gifted me by a friend; the second is a ring I made myself a decade ago; the third is a recent op shop find; and the last I bought in Barcelona many years ago. My turquoise hat is a vintage 1960s wool fedora.

Perhaps I love the hue because it reminds me of the serenity of a clear blue sky (some American Indians associated blue turquoise with ‘Father Sky’). However, I don’t wear swathes of the colour often, using it more as an accent in accessories, particularly jewellery.

Turqouise has through millennia been for different cultures a holy stone, talisman, or bringer of good luck – while I have had bad luck to lose the stone from one ring while wearing it. Good luck chased me down years later, however, and lead me to an almost-exact replica in a thrift store.

Photos: August 2016


Barrette or Hairclip?

I’ve always been a bit confused about exactly what a barrette was. Was it like a small hair slide, similar to a bobby pin? Or was it something bigger, like a hair clip used to clasp a substantial amount of hair? I’ve never, before now, been so befuddled that I was actually prompted to investigate this mysterious lingo. However, investigative journalism lead me to do some research, and I discovered something amazing …

A barrette and a hairclip are the same thing! Revolutionary. It is a completely generic term. It is, of course, an American word, while hairclip, hair slide or hair clasp are British English. I own many hair clips and slides and clasps, including this cobalt velvet number that features a knot design in the centre of the oval.

I’ve always been a bit confused about exactly what a barrette was.

Years ago, when I was in China, I went on a frenzy of buying, and trawled every market and shopping centre in search of interesting clips. I’ve also invested in some higher-quality French-made clips by Paris Mode; the French stainless steel is much stronger than that of more inexpensive brands. (Check them out online – the prices are waaay cheaper than in retail stores. I think the website is new, for last time I looked it didn’t exist.)

Since I am seriously thinking about chopping off my hair again, it behoves me to get lots of wear out of them while my hair is still long. It’s the only thing I lament about cutting off my locks – not being able to put them up!

Photo: August 2016



Recently my niece Bluejay and I decided to have a Twin Peaks marathon, ahead of the new series being released next year, especially because we had done one nearly twenty years ago (Bluejay is only four years younger than me). Yesterday we had our first session, managing to get through the entire first season. It was so much fun!

As far as style goes, Audrey Horne is – as she probably is for many others – my favourite character. Her cute, preppy look has become iconic over time. As Bluejay asked yesterday evening, “How is it that though Audrey wears the same kind of clothes as everyone else, she looks much sexier?” I laughed, and we decided that it’s because her clothes are closer-fitting, and her sweaters are mostly plain, rather than emblazoned with hideous 80s patterns. Any hint of subversiveness lies more in her character than in the demure clothes she wears.

“How is it that though Audrey wears the same kind of clothes as everyone else, she looks much sexier?”

The iconic Audrey Horne of David Lynch's Twin PeaksIt was very entertaining to see the fashions everyone was wearing – so sloppy and dowdy! So many enormous sweaters in earthy, muted tones. And the big hair! I asked Bluejay in astonishment, “Did we think they were dowdy back then?” I couldn’t remember wearing such clothes – I was at art school when Twin Peaks was first aired in Australia. “We didn’t dress like that,” Bluejay answered, “it was weird.” Well of course the whole show was weird! The fashion just gave it an extra dimension of strangeness.

The fashion just gave [Twin Peaks] an extra dimension of strangeness.

I’ve managed to put together an Audrey-esque outfit from existing items in my closet: I actually own a great many plaid pleated skirts, although I wouldn’t say I dress preppy at all! However, I do have a sneaking fondness for the look. Nor do I currently own any brogues or penny loafers – I had to make do with a pair of very high brogue-inspired heels.

Bobbysoxers are just so darned cute! Click the image to find out more about bobbysoxers and their entertaining origins.Interestingly, earlier in the week while researching 1950s daywear, I came across another section in my book Fashion: The Whole Story (Marnie Fogg, Thames & Hudson, 2013) about bobbysoxers of the 1940s, who wore skirts with sweaters, and the eponymous bobby socks with loafers. These rebellious teens were surely the inspiration behind Audrey’s look, along with shades of the 50s and 80s.

I was amused to note the first close-up of Audrey’s penny loafers as she enters her father’s chauffeur-driven car to go to school: black and white, and worn without socks – a saucier rendition of the look.

Her hair and makeup are also reminiscent of the 40s (the lack of bangs and side part) and 50s (the short curls). I pinned up my hair at the back and curled the shorter layers to emulate Audrey’s do, but her hairstyle is giving me some much-needed inspiration.

I can’t wait to see what David Lynch has in store for us – narratively and sartorially – in the new series!

Photos: This week


Prussian Tiers

I really love this tiered wooden necklace! Its chunkiness makes it akin to sculpture. It’s another piece of jewellery that I bought from a thrift store, and like many pieces I’ve found, I wondered why on earth someone would toss it forth into the world. But their loss is my gain.

This lovely shade of blue, with the tiniest hint of warmth to it, I’ve decided is Prussian blue. The nuances of colour – in chemistry, nomenclature, symbolism – are quite fascinating, and the history of this particular hue’s creation, in 1706, is equally so. It is prepared from cyanide salts, but because they are tightly bound to iron, the pigment is non-toxic.

From the beginning of the 18th century, the colour was worn in uniform by the infantry and artillery regiments of the Prussian Army, and therein lies the origin of its name. Prussian blue can also be used in engineering work, and as a medicine! It is used to treat poisoning from heavy metals. Amazing. It was also used as a replacement for Egyptian blue after the loss of knowledge regarding its synthesis after the Roman Era – but that’s a whole other story.

Photo: July 2016

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