Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in pattern (181)

Wednesday
Oct242018

Domestic Exchange

I haven’t posted a Foreign Exchange story for a long time, and that is sadly because I haven’t been travelling overseas for an equally long time, but this woeful tale has its beginnings in a foreign exchange swapped for another kind of exchange.

The story starts in Vietnam nearly ten years ago, where I had a kimono custom-made for me from sumptuous silk brocade. I took that robe home and wore it to death over ten years, wearing it almost every morning except on the hottest summer days.

The day eventually came when it dawned on me that the kimono was actually starting to look rather shabby. There were worn patches and frayed edges. In denial at the prospect of setting it aside, I decided to ignore this observation and kept on wearing the kimono for a while longer.

I’ve spoken before how ruthless I am about shabby shoes – once they start to look disreputable, I become relentlessly unsentimental and throw the offending shoes straight into the bin without a moment’s hesitation. This is not the case with favourite garments.

… it still hung on a hook in my bathroom where I could gaze upon it fondly and sigh reminiscently.

Eventually, I stopped wearing the kimono, but it still hung on a hook in my bathroom where I could gaze upon it fondly and sigh reminiscently.

One day in a fit of madness, I gathered my resolve and took it to my sister Blossom, who over the many years we have been sisters, has generously made and altered countless garments for me.

She – and her husband, an involved observer one afternoon as she and I examined a portion of my wardrobe that needed rescuing – both assured me that indeed the kimono was too shabby to wear any longer.

I’d had the idea that something could be made of the good pieces of fabric, and I made my revolutionary suggestion … A CUSHION!

I know, brutal – shocking even, all things considered; I did suffer some pangs for a while. But I figured if I had a cushion I would put it on my favourite armchair and lean against it every day, and thus extend the life of the kimono.

The cushion doesn’t match the rest of my interior décor at all, and my yellow gingham kimono, though cheery, is not in the slightest degree exotic, but I don’t regret the loss anymore. I actually have a large collection of vintage dressing gowns, and enjoy sometimes wearing a 60s rayon satin with a stylised floral pattern. (I don’t wear it often for my cat Mimi attacks me in rage when I do – I think because it’s too slippery in my lap for her liking – she’s very opinionated.)

Maybe I’ll go to South-East Asia again one day, and then I’ll have another one made.

Photos: June 2009, March 2018

Friday
Aug312018

A Farewell to Winter

I am a long-term fan of tweed for winter. There is something so cosy about this fabric, if it is good quality wool. I particularly love the herringbone pattern and have managed to collect many examples of it over the years, most of which is vintage, or merely secondhand, and a little of which was purchased new. [You can read more about the different types of tweed patterns, and how to distinguish them here.]

A really fun way to wear it, I have decided, is all at once if you can possibly manage it. Even better if they are separates that all differ a little; in this case, a proper suit scores low styling points.

[The coat] clinched my decision that it was time I made another homage to tweed.

This 1970s coat I am wearing has a very amusing label: “Richard Shops – Such Clever Clothes”. I found it in an op shop in the midst of a heatwave last summer. I suffered trying it on, but it was worth it. I certainly didn’t need any more coats, but I loved the tailored shape of it, and the enormous lapels. It clinched my decision that it was time I made another homage to tweed. The occasion of the first homage on these pages was way back in 2009, so it’s about time I reprised the look.

I’ve had the baggy pants for a few years – they remind me of plus-fours styled this way – but going by the drop crotch, they are modern. The label is clearly designer, it’s so difficult to read: white embroidery on cream, which is twisted and folded. I eventually decrypted it and read ESS Laboratory. Established in 2001, the label is Melbourne-born, and the two designers Japanese. (My effort was rewarded, because their bio alone is pleasingly intellectual. You can read more about their work on their blog.)

The Pierre Cardin blouse is a silky herringbone print, also found in an op shop, but in spite of its designer associations, it is disappointingly made from polyester. The cut is too awesome though for the fibre to be a deal breaker.

While the 1950s tweed hunting cap does not have a herringbone pattern, is does suit this outfit very well.

I am happy to say I enjoyed wearing the coat and pants together recently, although with a warm wool knit instead of a blouse, and a different hat. However, that is the last time for this winter, for tomorrow it will officially be spring – hurrah!

Photos: May 2018

Thursday
Aug092018

The Determined Recycler

Anyone who as ever gone op- or thrift-shopping must surely be familiar with that sinking feeling one gets as soon as the shoe rubs or the sweater itches or the zip pinches: That’s why this lovely item was in the thrift store! One either discards in turn, or resolves to repair the issue. This is where we separate the determined recyclers from the dilettantes …

I am a determined recycler. I don’t give up on garments or accessories I really like: like Scarlett O’Hara, I will find a way! (I have not tried making clothes out of curtains yet however.)

I am a determined recycler. I don’t give up on garments or accessories I really like …

I really liked the colours in the pattern of this vintage 1970s tweed jacket. The herringbone is made up from chocolate and caramel shades of brown with cream, and scattered amongst the chevrons are minute flecks of blue, yellow and red. The effect is very subtle. I bought the jacket a couple of winters ago during a day of op-shopping with my sister, despite the fact that it was a little too big for me, and it was missing its belt. I felt sure that I must be able to find a belt in my huge collection that would work with the jacket. A long flexible leather tie-belt, perhaps.

In fact, I knew that I did not own any such tie-belts, but very fortuitously I found two in subsequent op-shopping trips shortly thereafter. This was promising! It was certainly unlikely that I would ever find one that exactly matched – that would be a thrifting miracle. What else could I pull out of my hat?

The first belt I tried was a thin tan stitched belt. While I liked the colour, I immediately saw it was too insubstantial for the bulk of the jacket.

Next came a vintage stretch red and white belt, with a leather and brass buckle. I liked how the stretch belt really pulled the waist in. This contrast was rather good, and unexpected! It also put me in mind of Gucci, which is not a bad thing – even better without its brash designer logo emblazoned everywhere.

Perhaps another patterned fabric belt might work? I had a houndstooth wool tie-belt, but that looked terrible. Scratch that idea, I instantly decided. Sometimes I like mixing patterns on patterns, but these two did not harmonise at all. Next!

A very long black leather tie-belt also looked quite good, I decided. It was so long, wide in the central area and tapered to the ends so that I suspect it was designed when obi fashion belts were the trend. The leather was supple and soft however, and the black was a pleasant counterpoint against the tweed.

The last belt I tried was the other leather tie-belt, this one a khaki-tinted brown. Unfortunately that shade clashed somewhat, and it was not as long as the black one, so did not form as nice loops. It transpired that this belt worked very nicely with a pair of tweed pants that need cinching, so the belt stays permanently on them.

That left the black leather belt, and the figure-flattering red stretch belt, the unexpected alternate winner. I tend to wear that one more often than not. The only drawback with it is that if I undo the belt, it won’t stay in both belt loops, so I have to keep an eye on it so as not to lose it. But compared with not wearing a likable jacket at all because it’s too shapeless, it’s a small ask. The Determined Recycler wins again!

Photos: July 2016

Monday
Jul232018

Blue Girl

When I was growing up, I was never into Holly Hobbie. I was of course I familiar with the image of the famous blue girl, mainly through collecting swap cards (the Australian version of trading cards).

Holly Hobbie, the eponymous character of the artist, was created in the late 1960s and subsequently sold to American Greetings who disseminated her throughout the world.

The original Holly HobbieHolly – the character – was famous for her rag dress and giant bonnet, and when I first spotted this patchwork 1970s maxi dress at a giant vintage warehouse sale, I immediately thought of her. The dress tickled my fancy, and although I doubted I would ever wear it in public, I bought it as it was priced at only $10. It is a great pity the belt was missing; I have substituted a silk scarf.

When I recreate these dress-ups, I like to challenge myself to create costumes out of items I already own. My bonnet is actually a modern hat designed to look like a headscarf and bonnet hybrid; my boots are also modern, recent op shop purchases, and my umbrella is vintage 50s or 60s. The umbrella is not authentic to Holly Hobbie, but rather inspired by other cutesy 70s characters – it made a more interesting picture than without.

I’ve owned the dress for nearly two years, and have yet to wear it out. I am trying to make a conscious effort to wear all the vintage clothes and accessories I have collected over the years – it feels wasteful otherwise. Perhaps this colourful dress is simply waiting for the right occasion.

Photo: May 2018

Friday
Sep012017

Spring has Sprung!

This is it! Spring is here, at last. How glorious! Just the thought makes me want to leap into the air and click my heels together, to break into song. The days are getting longer, blossom is blooming everywhere, the sun is shining, and the breezes are balmy.

It’s time to throw off the woollens and embrace vintage printed pleats instead. I don’t demand they be florals by any means, although this pinky-mauve 1940s skirt is printed with a black floral pattern. The off-pink and black are a less sweet alternative to traditional pink pastels, especially when worn with a sassy black backless halter and high suede peeptoes.

I actually have an array of 70s printed dresses that I am looking forward to wearing in this inbetween weather – most of them are polyester so they won’t do for really warm weather. Many of the prints are geometric rather than floral, but there is something so cheerful about graphic prints they suit this uplifting time of year.

Of course, Melbourne is traditionally quite rainy in the springtime too, so one must carry a brolly under the arm and be prepared for four seasons in one day – that’s why we love this town.

Photo: March 2014