Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in mending (15)


A Hat Intervention

A Story in Pictures

I love green and white together. It’s such a summery combination. So when I saw this houndstooth hat on Etsy recently, I immediately snapped it up. Ironically it’s wool, so it’s really more of a winter hat. However, there was something else wrong with it: it had a rose attached to the band. I didn’t like that. Not at all.

It’s not that I dislike roses. Sometimes I like them very much (especially when people bring a whole bunch of them round to my house). It’s all in the execution (if the roses are accompanied by a box of chocolates, even better). 

This fat squishy one made from tweed immediately put me in mind of the Mills & Boon logo. It looked just a little naff on the side of the hat. Twee, even (sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun). And I mean, whoever heard of a fedora with a rose on its side? That’s just so wrong; it goes totally against the grain. Fedoras are hats with attitude. It had to come off.

I really like using a seam ripper. There’s something satisfying about hacking straight through a row of thread. I like the little snapping sound the thread makes when it breaks … 

Pick, pick, rip, rip …

OFF WITH ITS HEAD! Now this fedora is worthy of its name, and can sit up on my head. Fedora, I adore ya.


Morticia’s Little Sister

Many years ago I owned a 1940s black lace frock with a swirly skirt perfect for dancing. It fitted me exactly. For some reason unbeknownst to man (or woman, namely: me), I culled it from my wardrobe. Ever since I came to my senses, I have been trying to find a replacement.

Dresses of that vintage aren’t easy to come by, especially relatively inexpensive, well-fitting ones. I would periodically trawl online vintage boutiques without much luck. Then this past March in Rosebud, a little Victorian seaside town, I visited a vintage store called Broadway Bazaar.

Hanging high on a wall, I espied what was surely a 1930s black lace dress. I asked to have it taken down, and tried it on. There were a few damaged areas where the lace netting was torn, and I discussed with my sister Blossom how best to repair them.

But then we discovered another catch. Several catches actually. The salesgirls on duty that day did not know the price, and the owner of that particular stall was not in, and couldn’t be reached. We agreed they would hold the dress for me, since I was on the Peninsula for the weekend, and they would let me know the outcome as soon as possible. The salesgirl bundled up the fragile dress and placed it on the floor behind the counter, which nearly drew forth a horrified burst of protest from me. (That’s my dress you’re manhandling there!) I barely managed to contain my emotions and tottered away.

The salesgirl bundled up the fragile dress and placed it on the floor behind the counter …

My three sisters and I continued to browse the store, and before we left I learned that the owner had returned the call. But she couldn’t name her price, and wasn’t sure she wanted to sell the dress. “But … but …” I wanted to stammer, “why on earth had she hung the dress up in full tempting view of potential buyers?!” The salesgirl perceived my speechless astonishment and prevaricated.

Some time later she returned and informed me that the owner had been talked into selling the dress, for she’d had it on display (fading in the sunlight) for several months and she should grab this opportunity. She had named her price, and had been further convinced she should slash it in half (the price, that is – the dress was already in tatters). “Done!” I declared, and rescued it from the floor.

Lace netting is torn along the neckline, and in several areas around the hipsIt transpired that we had to return to the bazaar the next day to make an additional rescue: my black onyx bangle had been left behind. Chatting to the salesgirl – a different one this time – we chanced to discover she was the prior owner of my new acquisition. She told me she had been so torn over the decision to sell it because she had hoped to lose enough weight to fit into it one day. (It fits me now, I wanted to reassure her it was going to a good home, but I didn’t want to rub salt in the wound.)

Blossom and I hurried away, before she could wrest it back from me – not that I was carrying it with me this time, but she could have chased us down to the car and rampaged through my luggage to find it. Who knows with these deranged and desperate vintage dealers.

A rare find, a black lace dress – especially of 1930s vintage – is an icon amongst black dresses …

And now, how to explain how after all I’ve said against black, here I am showing off yet another black garment? It is partly nostalgia for that long-ago lace dress I once owned, but it is special in itself – despite its flaws. A rare find, a black lace dress – especially of 1930s vintage – is an icon amongst black dresses, even if it is a Long Black Dress rather than a Little one.

It is, I think, made entirely from silk, and with such lovely details: pintucked panels between the lace sections, blouson sleeves, and a gorgeous mermaid hem that swirls when I twirl. It’s made for dancing, even if at present I feel like Morticia’s little sister dressed in cobwebs. But one day I shall take it to the ball. 


How to Deal With Cat-astrophes

I have a cat. Sometimes, against my better judgement (because she is gazing adoringly up at me with her big green eyes and looking so cute), I pick her up even though I am wearing some garment that would be utterly ruined if she got her claws into it. In these cases I usually try to hold onto her paws under guise of caressing them. On the odd occasion a sudden frenzy overtakes her (you know how cats get those) and she must be up and doing IMMEDIATELY. That’s when accidents happen.

This could be an unmitigated Catastrophe (depending upon one’s degree of love for said garment) or merely a minor vexation (if garment weave is loose enough to repair). Here’s how to deal with it:

  1. Find thread-picker. Spread garment flat.
  2. Carefully draw pulled thread through to reverse side of garment.
  3. Flip garment back and admire handiwork.
  4. Tell cat off. Resolve never to pick animal up again unless one is wearing plasterer’s overalls or similar.


When Needle and Thread Don’t Cut It

Sometimes, when something sinister occurs to a beloved accessory, a needle and thread just won’t cut it.

Such as when one is wearing a new favourite wooden necklace of rings all linked together, and one rises from one’s desk suddenly without realising said necklace has hooked around a protuberance in one’s drawer, and said wooden links … SNAP!


Selleys Multi Grip to the rescue! A dab here, and a dab there, and one’s wooden necklace is ready to adorn one’s neck once again. Hooray for Selleys, your friendly household glue.


The Lady in Cherry Red

Bedecked in red. Do not actually go out into the street like this.

The colour red follows a close second to robin’s egg blue (aka turquoise, tiffany blue) as my favourite colour.

When I attended TAFE in the year after high school, and prior to college, I used to wear a red tracksuit on painting days. This was in the days before Juicy Couture, but it’s not as horrible as it sounds. The top and pants were loose but not enormous, and the top had satin shirttails. I also carried a bright red folio – no boring black portfolio for me to carry my life-drawings around! One of my fellow students called me the lady in red.

I’ve moved on since then. I don’t wear tracksuits, and I am never completely decked out in monochrome. Fashion magazines advise it as a slimming technique, but I would feel a right fool going about in public like that.

Six shiny new buttons, and one of their predecessorsA little while ago I found this cute cropped wool jacket in a charity shop (for only $8!), but it was missing some buttons. The originals were covered in the same fabric, but I bought six new buttons, as shiny as boiled sweets. They were originally $5 each, but I managed to snaffle them during a sale, and paid only about $7.50 for the lot.

I find mending a tedious chore, and put it off as long as possible…

Now, I find mending a tedious chore, and put it off as long as possible. I had a visit with my family scheduled for last Sunday, and I knew I’d be sitting and chatting for a good couple of hours after lunch. This was a prime opportunity to undertake the boring chore. It was a rather cold day, and deliberately I took only this jacket with me so I knew I would have to sew the buttons back on in time to wear it home in the early evening when it was cooler.

Success! I sewed all the buttons back on in plenty of time. Ah, the lengths I have to go to psyche myself up for mending…

The three-quarter sleeves mean that my forearms get quite chilly, but these vintage leather gloves do the trick. The velvet hat is also vintage, by Otto Lucas Junior, and the leather belt I bought overseas, from Mango.

So, several lessons today: do sew (trick yourself into it if you have to); don’t wear all one colour (lest you feel silly); do wear ¾ gloves with bracelet-length sleeves; and do shop on sale. I probably don’t need to tell you that last one.