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Entries in mary-jane (15)


What I Actually Wore #0149

Serial #: 0149
Date: 07/10/2013
Weather: 18°C / 64°F
Time Allowed: 8 minutes

I was on a minimalist kick at the time, and this is a rare all-black outfit for me, but the best thing about it is obviously the tights. The giant fishnets are not true net tights; the pattern is actually printed on nude hosiery – if they were actual net, I imagine it would be quite a task to make sure all the lines were straight.

I have a love-hate relationship with tights. They are obviously practical in winter, but I find it a bore pulling them up and down – and heaven forbid they are a little worn and saggy! That is the worst. This pair, which I bought online at Ozsale, were quite fragile too, and I ended up ripping them after a few wears. Fortunately, I was able to replace them when they reappeared on the same site.

The dress is by Australian label Saba, and I purchased it at a thrift store because I liked the cut – it had an origami-like fold on the right side. However, I did not like the fact that it was polyester, and it ended up going back to the op shop a year or two later.

Odd earrings – one silver and one black onyx bauble – and two rings of the same materials, and black patent Mary-Jane heels finished off the outfit.


Dress: Saba
Tights: Leg Avenue
Shoes: BCBG
Earrings: handmade
Ring: (silver) Roun, (onyx) souvenir

Photo: January 2014


What I Actually Wore #0146

Serial #: 0146
Date: 22/09/2012
Weather: 21°C / 70°F
Time Allowed: 20 minutes

I had recently seen the 1927 Clara Bow film Wings, and I had been much struck how in one of the earlier scenes, the actress had worn her scarf tucked into the belt around her waist. That was a nifty idea to emulate, I decided. This day I was going to see a film, and decided the time was ripe for a Clara Bow homage.

My outfit wasn’t exactly the same as hers, but close enough, with slim fitting cardigan and straight skirt. The neutral beige and tan complement the turquoise blue tints of my skirt, silk scarf, jewellery, and sunglasses. About half the items I am wearing are second hand, with the beret and the clutch being the oldest in my possession.

I like this outfit, and would probably happily wear it now – and could, as I still actually have all these items, except for the socks which wore out, and the cardigan, which I deemed too girlish in style.

Actually, while it is retired from my wardrobe, the cardigan is still in my possession, buried in my darning basket after some moths chewed on the end of its self-tie-belt. Here I have set aside the thin belt it comes with anyway, and worn a wider perforated leather belt. (Oddly, the previous owner of the belt scraped off the brand name, though they left the words “genuine leather”.) Recently I pulled a blouse out of a culling bag and started wearing it again, so there’s no saying that I wouldn’t don this cardigan and suddenly decide I like it!

While I generally like 1920s style, though it’s not my favourite era, I think I prefer this less obvious, slimmer silhouette to the typical loose-fitting dropwaist.


Top: Kookaï
Cardigan: Nanette Lepore
Skirt: La Gonda, vintage 60s
Hat: vintage 90s
Sunglasses: MinkPink
Scarf: thrifted
Belt: thrifted
Bag: vintage 70s
Socks: Philippe Matignon
Shoes: John Lewis Women
Earrings: hand made by me
Ring: souvenir

Photos: October 2013


What I Actually Wore #0132

Serial #: 0132
Date: 11/07/2013
Weather: 16°C / 61°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

There are some colour combinations that are easy to choose, and never fail: black, red and blue is one of them.

This outfit was put together like building blocks, starting with the kimono-sleeved dress. It’s really a summer dress, so I put a three-quarter sleeve grey top underneath. This is the trick with adding a fourth colour – it would have been too much to choose a matching blue, but the grey is neutral and subtle.

Blue tights printed with white stars add a fun touch; a more obvious – and storybookish – pairing would have been black and white striped tights. Red Dorothy heels, current favourites, sparkle on my feet. They are actually not very comfortable as they are not leather, which is more yielding, but they look fabulous!

The red wool jacket adds warmth, but I also wore on top my 1960s faux sealskin coat, and a velvet close-fitting cap. My jewellery – black onyx bangle and ring, silver bauble earrings, charm necklace and silver watch complement the colour of the clothing.

I had my bangs trimmed that evening, and one of the salon staff exclaimed in delight when she took my coat and saw my outfit. I looked so cute, like a doll, she said. It has never been my ambition to look like a doll, I must confess; I’d rather look like a woman. In fact, in later years on one of my wardrobe culls, the dress, the tights and the shoes all fell victim to my ruthless dictum: anything that could be considered ‘cute’ was immediately cut! I still have the jacket and the jewellery however. The haircut is long grown out, but I’m considering growing my pixie into a bob again.


Dress: Luella
Sock Shop
souvenir and vintage
Bangle, ring:
Kenneth Cole

Photos: October 2013


Who are you Mary Jane?

Celebrating the Roaring Twenties in a Special Series

Multi-strap patent leather Mary Janes by WittnerThe classic shoe of the Roaring Twenties must be the Mary Jane. Not to be confused with the T-strap (which was introduced in 1922), the Mary Jane was a broad, comfortable shoe, with a single flat strap across the instep fastening with a button on the side. The original Mary Janes flappers donned, unlike the modern versions today, were low-heeled – one to two inches high only – the more comfortable to dance all night in.

Traditionally, the Mary Jane was a child’s shoe that was worn when a toddler took his or her first steps, and was in fact worn by boys and girls alike. Alice in Wonderland and Christopher Robin are two characters in children’s literature that wore them, and they can be seen even as far back as in Tudor paintings of the 16th century.

An innocent-seeming pair of suede flat Mary Janes, from Quick Brown Fox In 1902 a comic strip named Buster Brown about a group of mischievous children, including Buster’s sister Mary Jane, and his dog Tige, was published in the New York Herald newspaper. By 1904 the cartoon was so popular it lead the Brown Shoe Company to licence the characters and to take a troupe of costumed actors across America, visiting department and shoe stores. It was not until 1909 however that Mary Jane’s name was immortalised, when it was applied to single-strap children’s shoes. In the years following, the shoe gradually became associated solely with girls, and disappeared entirely from boys’ wardrobes. 

Flapper style was evoked by slender, boyish youthfulness, the quintessence of fashionable trends of the era, and the Mary Jane was adopted as the shoe of choice: Fashions of the 1920s deliberately rejected any hint of the matron, and the Mary Jane shoe, the most childish of shoe shapes, was a perfect foil for this fashion. [Vintage Shoes, by Caroline Cox, Carlton Books, 2008]

By the end of the decade however, Mary Jane shoes had become more sophisticated. Heels were higher and more tapered (particularly for evening) and they were constructed from more luxurious materials, with satins, brocades and hand-painted silks reserved for evening. The rest is history.

Read the history of Mary Janes in more detail, from Vintage Shoes, by Caroline Cox, Carlton Books, 2008
Comfortable Mary Jane shoes for dancing, from Vintage Shoes, by Caroline Cox, Carlton Books, 2008


What I Actually Wore #0060

Serial #: 0060
Date: 25/12/2011
Weather: forecast 29°
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

So often I build my outfits around my shoes. Sometimes the weather, but mostly the shoes or the hat. Christmas last year was no exception. I bought the red glittery Mary-Janes especially for the day. Of course I loved them anyway: red, glitter, 20s style, Wizard of Oz – need I say more?

So it was an easy decision to wear a white dress to truly offset the red shoes. I love the contrast of red and white together – such a joyous combination, probably because it makes me think of holidays and sunshine, and beaches. The dress is something I’ve had in storage for a while. I’d been thinking of selling it, but I decided to give it another go. It’s a kind of broderie anglaise or cutwork type of fabric, for there are tiny holes cut out in a grid-like pattern all over.

On the day, I proudly pulled out the red heels, only to find out the girl in the store had bagged the wrong pair! She had sold me a size too small! Naughtily I wore them anyway, for I wasn’t about to let her be the Grinch to spoil my Christmas. On Boxing Day I made sure the soles weren’t scratched or dirty and took them back to the store for a swap. The shoes weren’t a cheap purchase, but I have worn them countless times, and every single time I wear them, without fail, someone exclaims in delight at the sight of them. It’s always nice to bring a little bit of fashion happiness into other people’s lives too.


Dress: Jigsaw
silver baubles, eBay
Earrings: silver baubles, handmade
Ring: pearl ring, Autore
Watch: Kenneth Cole
Shoes: Zoe Wittner