Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in men (14)


Fashion Plates

If you have ever wondered why the photography on this fashion journal looks a certain way, or if there was any inspiration behind the artwork, here it is: antique fashion plates!

The look of SNAP was not a premeditated decision, but evolved out of necessity. Helping out a former colleague with a university project, I wrote and illustrated two stories on sustainable fashion for her. It all happened very, very quickly, and I had to take the photographs in my apartment with no background but a folding screen draped with a calico dropsheet, and I was the model to boot.

Nor did I have any photographic lighting, so to combat the yellow apartment lighting and dodgy shadows, I developed a style that deliberately emulated the illustrated look of fashion plates with strong outlines and tinted back colours.

In magazines, illustrations gave way to photography of course, and the publishing industry suffered a loss. Of course, there has been a slow revival of fashion illustration, and it has become more like art than merely graphic communication, which is all to the good.

However, there is great beauty in these antique fashion engravings, isn’t there? They look delightfully quaint. I also love how the figures have been taken out of their natural context, and stand against a plain background with no, or very few, props – just like a modern studio photography shoot. They inspire me more than ever.

Scroll down for more, including a Regency man attired in very high-waisted trousers!


Le Gendarme Avec Charme

Say bonjour to le gendarme Patrice! Normally he is not a gendarme, but a philanthropy manager at the theatre I work at. But yesterday he visited my desk and his eyes popped out with excitement when he saw my vintage Prada hat sitting on the table. “Can I try that on?” he begged, and as soon as he donned it, he was transformed.

He was already wearing an outfit bought entirely in Europe on his last trip: a Breton striped top from Merci in Paris, navy trousers from Philippa K in Denmark, shoes bought in Zurich, and a watch he adores from Larson & Jennings in NYC, but the crown of it all transformed him into a Gallic gendarme, with charm. Aptly, for the jet-setter he is, he poses by a poster of The New Yorker. Très stylé!  



(Dressed to the nines includes a white tie)

Once upon a time, people used to dress up to go out. Not just on a special occasion – every day was an occasion. There were particular outfits for all sorts of activities, whether a woman received her girlfriends wearing a teagown, wore a pretty pleated white tennis dress to run round the courts in, a smart suit and gloves for a trip to the city, or a dramatic floor length gown for a Saturday night at the theatre. Today you can go from morning to night in the same outfit, and so much glamour has gone out of our lives thereby. Life has become much less exciting.

I have a little theory – which I have not researched at all, but I like it: the cult of celebrity has reached such heights today, with people obsessively following their idols, precisely because their own lives are so dull. Normcore has been western culture’s downfall. People’s own sartorial adventures are virtually nonexistent that they must vicariously live through the wardrobes of the famous. They have nothing much in their own lives to look forward to, so they read about others’.

Noël Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in a scene from his play Private Lives, 1930Fashion magazines and bloggers report celebrities’ fashion follies and triumphs both, with a fanatical degree of attention to the minutiae of a star’s wardrobe. Look at the frenzied degree of interest provoked by the Duchess of Cambridge’s recent tour in the Antipodes. Fashion websites crashed, dresses sold out in minutes after photos of Kate were published online.

Of course not everyone is so dully clothed all the time, but certainly many Melburnians – especially in our cold winters – dress purely for practicality, and in a style that is hardcore normcore. One can venture into the city and be greeted by a sea of black, grey and navy blue.

White moiré dress with terraced shoulders and train, by Maggy Rouff, 1930; illustration by Carl EricksonI work at a theatre, so I am lucky enough to regularly attend shows, and many opening nights. I have found it remarkable that even on opening nights many theatregoers dress casually, even in jeans. Where is their sense of occasion, their sense of fun? Part of the delight of an evening out is the anticipation prior: planning one’s outfit, getting ready in the hour(s) before. It’s what you look forward to at the end of the week.

Earlier this year Volodya and I attended Melbourne Theatre Company’s opening night for Noël Coward’s Private Lives. Cocktail dress was stipulated for the evening, with an emphasis on the Art Deco style of the era the play is set in. My choice of gown was easy: a black satin crepe floor-length backless gown in a style very reminiscent of the 1930s, while Volodya wore a suit (though not the one in this picture). It was lovely to receive many compliments from both friends and strangers on the night. I was still surprised however to see a few attendees completely ignore the dress code and come in casual weekend wear.

Clark Gable and Constance Bennett in After Office Hours, 1934Volodya and I had a few amusing wardrobe misadventures that made the beginning of the evening memorable: first the bottle of soda water I opened at home burst into a fountain all over the front of my dress breast to thigh; then Volodya discovered a button on jacket was hanging by a thread so that I had to resew it on; on the way to his car my favourite dainty black heels broke and I had to run back upstairs to find inferior replacements; and finally after we exited the car, I spotted a stubborn white mark on Volodya’s rear, which I had to remove with the aid of a bit of spit and a tissue. Fortunately we both have a sense of humour. It was like a sitcom, but only the prelude to a hilarious evening with lots of laughter.

So go on, dress up – and live the movie of your own life.

Coco Chanel’s 201 gown from 1933; illustration by Carl Erickson


Aussie Men Are Not Afraid of Your Handbag

Some time last year I read an article about handbags in British Vogue. There is nothing particularly extraordinary in that occurrence, except to note that the writer opened with a declaration that if one wanted to reduce a British man to cringing mortification, one had only to ask him to hold a lady’s purse in public.

I read this and was truly astonished. Really? Are British men really that spineless and so afraid of having their manhood impugned? I was pretty sure that most Aussie men would be completely unfazed by this request. I conducted a straw poll and was gratified to find my good opinion of the Aussie male was justified.

I made a general call-out to my male Facebook friends with this question: ‘Who among you would be unfazed to hold your female companion's handbag in public?’ Here is a sampling of their (and their partner’s) comments:

‘All the time – I don't even blink.’

‘Completely unfazed.’

‘All the time, I take the role of humble servant or camp gay friend, depending on the bag she wants me to hold.’

‘I do it all the time.’

‘My husband does it a lot, no dramas!’ (Several women said this.)

There were quite a few ribald comments along these lines:

‘Depends on the colour, has to match my outfit too.’ And, ‘Only if doesn't clash with my outfit.’

‘Sometimes I meet my lady at the train station just so I can carry her bag home.’

‘And who would hold mine whilst I was holding hers?’

A single gentleman was agreeable with one qualification:

‘Marmaduke says he has no problem as he likes my handbags. If they were gaudy or frilly or something he may feel differently.’

And only one was uncomfortable with the proposition:

‘Never done it. To be honest I would put it on the ground and stand next to it, not hold it.’

I therefore come to the conclusion that most Australian men are so comfortable with the representation of their manliness that to be seen in a public street holding what is patently a woman’s handbag could not ruin their image – it could only enhance it. They are man enough.

Thank you gentlemen.

Many thanks to Volodya, who nonchalantly agreed to model for this shoot, and held not one, but two handbags with complete sangfroid.


Fine and Dandy

Dandies, also known as beaus or gallants, have been around for a long time. A dandy’s raison d’être is Style – through ‘physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies, pursued with the appearance of nonchalance in a cult of Self.’ [Wikipedia]

George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell, caricature in watercolour by Richard Dighton, 1805Though not the founder of the movement, Beau Brummell (1778–1840) epitomises the notion of the dandy in English society, and was the arbiter of fashion in Regency days (think Jane Austen for you non-history-nerds). He was elegant, immaculately dressed and groomed, and despised the extremities of fashion as worn by the outlandish ‘Macaronis’ of earlier decades.

Fond of plain, dark suits worn with perfectly starched linen and accessorised with an elaborately tied cravat, Beau Brummell instituted a style of men’s dress that has reigned for the past two centuries. He was one of the first celebrities, famous chiefly for being famous, as a ‘laconically witty clotheshorse’. A socialite of olden days in fact. 

This fashion shoot elegantly photographed by Jurgen Teller for Arena Homme in the 1990s is inspired by the dandies of Evelyn Waugh’s era. There is an elegance in these pictures, with a dash of subversive wit to leaven them. The (mostly) black and white photography with faint echoes of René Margritte and the minimal set are immaculate, and the styling and art direction clever.

Enjoy this wonderful homage to the dandy of the twentieth century.

Click on the images for larger versions.