Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in pattern (189)


Scarlet speaks frankly (and gives a damn)

Scarlet’s style is fairly classic. She likes things simple, but a little off the beaten track, with minimal embellishments. The blacks, whites and creams she often finds herself wearing complement her usual slim silhouette, although she professes that green and purple are among her favourite colours.

But there’s a whiff of seventies; an eighties vibe. Scarlet says she inherited her enjoyment of vintage things from her mum, who has filled her house (and Scarlet’s former bedroom, much to her dismay) with eBay bargains.

Princess quizzes Scarlet about her outfit:

What were your first thoughts when you were getting dressed today?
I wanted comfort; something free-flowing – in case I had a big lunch! Then I wouldn’t have to worry.

Did the weather forecast influence you?
It was a funny Melbourne day, about 20°. I hadn’t worn that top for a long time, and because it’s polyester and doesn’t breathe, it keeps me warm.

How long did it take you to put it together?
About two seconds!

Tell me more about that top. It has a great print.
It’s a vintage seventies tunic, which I bought from an op-shop for $4. It’s a bit big for me, so needs to be cinched. Today I used this new eighties belt – also second-hand – made of grey, woven elastic. It has a lion’s head for a buckle.

And the jeans?
I love skinny jeans! I always buy them from Sportsgirl. These ones are high-waisted. I have bought about five pairs over the years, because they are a perfect fit on my body type.

You have a magpie’s collection of jewellery there, and that watch has a beautiful turquoise face. Tell me about the pieces.
My rose ring is new, from Diva. It’s a bit big, but I loved it! The necklace was a recent birthday present. It’s a sterling silver dove on a chain by Allan Ryerson from Body. I had my eye on it for a while, but then my friend Georgie surprised me with it. I absolutely adore it! One of the bangles is a sentimental hand-me-down, and the other is Tiffany & Co, a present from my mum; so were the earrings. The watch is DKNY, and was a 21st birthday present.

You're decked out in presents! I can see the sunglasses are by Bollé. Where are the shoes from?
Yes, the sunnies are vintage and belonged to my mother in the eighties. The ballet flats are from Payless!

Well… lesson learned: girls, don’t ever write off your mum’s – or other people's mums' – wardrobes. Thanks Scarlet!


Point me to the boulevard, s'il vous plaît

I call this my hybrid Belle Époque–vaguely forties–with a touch of Helmut Newton’s sixties–new look. I have never worn this outfit on the street before, but there is a strong possibility I will one day: in my fantasy I am strolling down some seaside boulevard under a blazing summer sun. The light sparkles on the waves of the ocean, a breeze ruffles across my arms…

It all began with the serendipitous discovery of the peplum-style top.

As delightfully frivolous as it is, this top is by no means perfect. It is, for starters, a size too small. This unfortunate defect necessitates much undignified gyrating and jumping up and down just to do up the zip.

Each time I put it on and wrestle for grim death with the zip, I mutter through gritted teeth: “I’ve done it up before; I can do it up again!”

When finally I tug it all into place I understand the difficulties women had breathing when wearing corsets. Notwithstanding the constrictions of my ribcage, the plunging neckline gapes somewhat as I lack the physical endowment to fill it out.

On the pro side of the list: it is adorable! I like the colours, the geometric pattern and most of all the peplum-like balloon shape. Its exaggerated proportions demanded a contrasting lower half. I remembered the very long and narrow, navy linen Donna Karan skirt I had put aside, unworn.

I had not yet tried the outfit on, but it put me in mind of something a Belle Époque beauty might have worn whilst taking a turn on the promenade in gentlemanly company. That evocative picture plainly required the presence of a hat to complete it. And I had just the one: an enormous red saucer by Mimco. Uncrushable, it can be moulded into any shape.

It still left an expanse of bare flesh that demanded decoration; so on went half a dozen bangles that I never ordinarily wear (they hamper me), and a necklace handmade by myself from golf-ball-sized translucent beads. Green platform heels by Mollini were the last accessory to complete the ensemble.

Below are the vintage originals that evoke the spirit of my strange hybrid.

Both fashion plates possess different but similarly exaggerated proportions. At the turn of the 20th century, long narrow skirts became fashionable, called the ‘hobble-skirt’ – because women did, of course. It wasn’t enough to restrict their breathing!

The wasp waist and enormous skirt of the forties’ New Look translates into my tight empire-line waist and billows of fabric. Mini peplums (above left) and narrow skirts were also popular. These two looks below are from the fifties.

Quite different to mine, this hat (left) is also large enough to hide the face and retain a sense of mystery – and of course shelter one from the blistering rays of the Australian sun.

The look of now, on the beaches; a back bared beautifully to the waistline, and the stunning counterpoint of a hat as wide and sheltering as a beach umbrella. This one, in mango pink straw, is anchored against lifting sea breezes with a wimple of nylon marquisette. Weedmans, Brisbane and Surfers Paradise, 84s.

Main photo: original photograph of backdrop by Robin Lowe.
Illustration credits:
(Top left) Fashion plate, 1912-13, Dresa, from A History of Costume in the West by François Boucher; Thames & Hudson, 1966. (Top right) Pochoir fashion illustration Dieu! qu'il fait froid by Georges Lepape of a fur-edged coat by Paul Poiret, for La Gazette du bon ton, 1913, from The Fine Art of Fashion by Julian Robinson; Bay Books. (Middle left) ph: Henry Clarke, 1953; (middle right) ph: Henry Clarke, 1951; (bottom left) ph: Irving Penn, 1959; (bottom right) ph: Henry Clarke, 1956; all from In Vogue, by Georgina Howell; Condé Nast Books, 1991. (Left) Australian Vogue,  Summer 1960; ph: Helmut Newton.


What I Actually Wore #0004

Serial #: 0004
Date: 01/10/2008
Weather: Fine and mostly sunny, 24°
Time Allowed: 5 mins

All day everyone was exclaiming how they liked my 1950s look. It began with the skirt, an easy pencil style with asymmetrical stitching in rust brown on a beige background. It was the bright spring weather that dictated once more I must wear some colour, and this sky-blue top seemed particularly appropriate. It’s also a nice combination with beige.

The geometric-print, silk scarf seemed far more interesting than a necklace, and the faux pearl earrings, also vintage, look like a bunch of grapes. I bought those at the Salvos for $4 and have loved them since the instant I saw them. A classic pump style, the shoes are made interesting by their strange colour: a purplish-brown that is really only obvious outdoors. Another vintage accessory: the purple 70s sunglasses with gold arms were bought on eBay.

This outfit is patently all about the accessories, so here’s a close-up below:

Now, back to the scarf. I know these pretty young things today like to be practically strangled by their enormous scarves. The former are simply and loosely wrapped around the neck, but if you are going to wear a thin silk scarf, you need to know how to tie it properly. I wore mine in a basic square knot, but there are dozens of other styles if you want to experiment.

Just don’t get strangled like Isadora Duncan


Top: Portmans
Skirt: Veronika Maine
Shoes: Zoe Wittner
Scarf: vintage
Hair clip: Paris Mode
Earrings: vintage
Watch: Kenneth Cole
Ring: NGV Gallery Shop


What I Actually Wore #0001

Serial #: 0001
Date: 25/09/2008
Weather: sunny, 24°C
Time Allowed: 5 mins

Knowing that today’s temperature was forecast at 24° and time being a factor, I speedily decided this morning that a dress was in order. Fortunately my wardrobe is organised (by item, colour etc) so I was able to quickly grab this dress from the rail. It is completely sheer so a full slip is imperative. I don’t have many transparent dresses, so I hang the dark blue slip with it, which makes it easy to find rather than wrestling through a lingerie drawer every time I want it. [On a side note, the dress originally came with a slip sewn in, but it was very poor quality and developed runs after a few wears. I unpicked the stitching and discarded it. Although I originally intended to dye a plain white slip, I was lucky enough to find a blue vintage one with pretty design details.]

I bought the dress from a quaint vintage boutique on Greville St (the last survivor) last summer on a whim. It was inexpensive, and the colour looks great on me, although I was dubious about the style – bit girlier than I ordinarily go for. The dress had also come with its own matching patent vinyl belt, which I immediately discarded. I have since found a cobalt blue leather belt (thanks David Jones stock-take sale!), but this morning chose to wear it with a tan leather belt and suede sling-backs as I didn’t want to go overboard with cobalt – I also own two different pairs of cobalt suede shoes! (I deliberately did not wear the belt over the cardigan, as the latter is too short for that look to work.)

TIP: Hang your full slips with the dresses you normally wear them with to save time in the morning.

I briefly toyed with the idea of wearing my beautiful, oatmeal-coloured linen coat that my sister had made for me from a Montana Vogue pattern. I decided I would be far too warm in it, and with about 30 seconds to contemplate the options I grabbed this cardigan as it was nearest to hand.

Bit too much blue, I thought in the rush to leave, but at least I hadn’t also gone for the blue belt and shoes – that would have been ridiculous!

I’ll call it a forties-inspired look. I generally don’t like to mimic any particular era, but the outfit has the virtue of not being black at least, on such a lovely spring day!


Dress: Lovelygirl
Cardigan: Cotton-on
Belt: Country Road
Shoes: Urban Soul
Watch: Kenneth Cole
Earrings: hand-made by myself from Indian beads and sterling silver
Sunglasses: Roc

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