Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in pattern (189)

Tuesday
Aug152017

Animal Prints Through the Decades

Model in leopard-print bikini featuring lacing on the sides, 1955Animal prints have been perennially popular through the last century or so, as you can see scrolling through these images, taken from Style Book – Fashionable Inspirations, by Elizabeth Walker (Flammarion 2010). Real pelts, a symbol of wealth and luxury, were once insouciently worn without any consideration for animal conservation; now prints are worn purely for fashion’s sake – from the beach in Wilma Flintstone style togs, to stepping out in Cannes in glittering sequins.

Most of these fashion images show animal prints only, and mostly faux fur, although there are a very few showing genuine fur, including one eye-opening and rather grim archival image of two women casually shopping for pelts in the 1940s in Africa.

Cheetah and leopard are reminiscent of spots, and although I love graphic stripes too, not even Lauren Bacall (my favourite actress of her era) in a zebra print can reconcile me to the look of it.

(Click on the images for larger versions.)

Actress Ava Gardner in leopard print costume, surrounded by swathes of fabric in the same pattern, 1952Woman in zebra-print bikini, 1955Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor draped in leopard fur shawl, at the London Palladium in 1956Model in leopard-print waistcoat with matching muff and cap all in faux fur, London 1951Actress Lauren Bacall sports a zebra print blouse, 1944Model Jackie Collins mixes zebra and leopard prints matching the car interior; outfit by Car Robes, at the Motor Show, London 1956 Model in zebra tabard by furrier Calman Links, Bond Street, London 1965Men's street style in 1956: a dandy accessorises his three-piece suit complete with pocket-square with a cheetah print flat-crowned hatPhotographer Norman Parkinson wearing an extravagant leopard print scarf, 1970Model wearing sequinned leopard-print gown, Christian Dior A/W 1953A woman in a sequinned gown that owes much to the 80s fashion of Dynasty, at the Hotel Carlton during the Cannes Film Festival, France 1998Flapper style with a circular theme in 1925: leopard-skin coat trimmed with fox furA stewardess in the 1971 uniform of National Airlines: faux fur accessorised with a real baby Bengal tiger In Africa in 1947, women shop for leopard pelts

Monday
Aug142017

Spot the Difference

Vintage cheetah print wool fedora by Laura Ashley; vintage leopard print earringsAnimal prints, while they are an acknowledged classic print in the fashion lexicon, have never been something I have gravitated towards. In part it is because my minimalist leanings find the patterns too visually overwhelming and ‘messy’, but it is also because to me they smack of an old-fashioned as opposed to vintage style.

As British Vogue put it in their 100th anniversary June 2016 issue (below), a scent of trophy wife developed in the 1960s, when wealthy and famous women like Sophia Loren and Ursula Andress adopted the signature print.

British Vogue, June 2016

I don’t mind a touch of animal print in accessories, such as hats and shoes – it’s only when a wall of animal print approaches me that I flinch.

It is the great cats that provide inspiration for the most classic of animal prints: leopard and cheetah print are the two most popular in clothing and accessories. They look very similar to one another, so how does one discern between the two?

Cheetah

The cheetah’s coat is yellow-orange or golden, and the oval or circular spots are dark brown or black. This is the pattern used in both of my hats, although the background colours are quite different. The fedora is by Laura Ashley, and the vintage beret of unknown provenance; I suspect both are from the 80s.

Cheetah-inspired print vintage wool beret; the pattern is actually a bit of a hybrid, with some areas that feature shapes that almost form the distinctive rosettes found on a leopard's coat

Leopard

The pattern on the leopard’s coat is more complex, consisting of black or brown spots that cluster together closely, in a pattern that is called a rosette. The fur in the centre of the rosette is usually a deeper colour than the tawny background fur. The rosette pattern provides excellent camouflage for the leopard.

The vintage earrings I am wearing in the first photo show a leopard print, as do the modern heeled sandals by Guess. The shoes are printed pony hair, as in fact are the earrings (although they may be faux).

Leopard print pony-hair and patent leather heels by GuessVery occasionally one sees other animal prints come into fashion – tiger, zebra, giraffe – but their appearance is usually trend driven and fleeting. Too bold and brash, they simply don’t possess the same vintage pedigree; they are the vulgar cousins of the sleeker cheetah and leopard. But the latter are still a bit wild, not for the entirely tamed woman. As Christian Dior put it, “Leopard print requires a kind of femininity which is a little bit sophisticated. If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it.” Well, there are plenty of blondes who have chosen to wear it, but I’d hazard a guess none of them are sweet.

How to wear animal print

Because animal print is just so bold and statement-making, I prefer it worn against solid block colours, and my choice would be any of the neutrals: black, white, grey, camel. Practically speaking, denim is also a neutral – see Kate Moss in the tearsheet above. Or, if you are a maximalist, and more is more is more, you could pair it with matching boots (see Ursula Andress) or tights and heels like Lola Todd, who I suspect may be wearing genuine fur, which makes it rather bad taste to match it to a live leopard pet! Don’t do that.

Photos: August 2016

Monday
Jul032017

Plaid: A Blanket Term

Plaid or tartan, what is the difference? Nowt indeed! Tis but semantics: plaid is the American term for the traditional Scottish fabric, but, funnily enough, in Scotland a plaide is an accessory to the kilt – a piece of tartan fabric slung over the shoulder – or a plain blanket.

Tartan is a multi-coloured pattern of criss-crossing horizontal and vertical lines. The different coloured pre-dyed threads – originally wool, but now encompassing many other fibres – are woven at both warp and weft at right angles to each other, which creates diagonal lines where they overlap. Here they appear to blend and create additional colours. The repeated pattern of squares and lines are called a ‘sett’.

Tartans should not be confused with gingham (a simple check pattern usually in white and one colour), or houndstooth (a tweed pattern of broken checks; learn more here), as they commonly are. And a windowpane check is just a check.

(Left) Soldiers from a Highland regiment, c. 1744: the private on the left is wearing a belted plaide; (right) a man wearing tartan, c. 1875Today we are familiar with the notion that tartan patterns are associated with particular clans, but before the nineteenth century, this was not so. The distinctive patterns were associated with geographic regions, and the colours with the natural dyes available in that district. Chemical dyes were non-existent, and transport of different dyes from other regions was prohibitively expensive.

The word ‘tartan’ is most likely derived from the French word tartarin, meaning ‘Tartar cloth’, which sounds dubious to me as the Tatars were a Turkic-speaking people living in Asia and Europe. Seemingly more plausible is the theory that the word has its origins in the Scottish Gaelic tarsainn, meaning ‘across’.

Black Watch tartan, worn by a couple with a very cute story (click through to read)!I prefer the more generic description ‘plaid’ as it has little apparent association with an ethnic tradition (since I have not an iota of Scots blood in me). The traditional Scottish plaide, meaning ‘blanket’, first referred to any rectangular garment worn on the shoulder, which was often a plain weave, and sometimes a tartan. (And here the origin of the classic plaid blanket for the bed!)

The ubiquitous Burberry plaid, designed in the 1920s.I must confess I do love plaid, and have managed to amass quite a collection of different plaid garments (and blankets). I prefer the simpler colour combinations, with red and white being a particular favourite. Some of the most famous tartans are Royal Stewart, Black Watch, and of course the ubiquitous Burberry check, which was created in the 1920s. My favourite red and white appears as Clan Menzies. (You can scroll through a long list here.)

Tartan upon tartan! The Royal Stewart is the mainly red plaid on the topmost layer. (Image from Pinterest.) My vintage 70s wool jacket is made up of navy and yellow on a cream background, and is a fashion tartan. When I decided one autumn that I needed to acquire a wool plaid jacket, I luckily came upon this one within a week or two. I do love it, but at thigh length it doesn’t cut the mustard for this cold snap Melbourne is currently suffering through. I do however have a very warm, heavy wool skirt in cream and navy large plaid pattern, which, considering the etymological origin of the word blanket, I very aptly dubbed my ‘blanket skirt’!

Photo: July 2015

Tuesday
Jun062017

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.

Items:

Dress: Luella
Top:
Kookaï
Jacket:
Muii
Tights:
Sock Shop
Earrings:
handmade
Necklace:
souvenir and vintage
Bangle, ring:
souvenirs
Watch:
Kenneth Cole
Shoes:
Wittner

Photos: October 2013

Tuesday
Apr182017

What I Actually Wore #0131

Serial #: 0131
Date: 03/07/2013
Weather: 16°C / 61°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

On a chilly day I decide wool is necessary. A new Anthropologie dress is the easiest choice; I had recently purchased it secondhand on eBay. I had picked it out because of the geometric pattern, which was very Art Deco, even if the minidress had a more modern shape. The knit is quite thick and sturdy, and surprisingly warm. I like the belt which is made in the same fabric too. Matching belts are one thing that so often go astray from their dresses in op shops – it’s maddening! Contrasting ones sometimes never look quite right.

Underneath the dress I wear what I always thought of as my black Guinevere knit, because it had a medieval look with the little puffed shoulders and fitted sleeves. I purchased this Max Studio top in Hong Kong in, I think, 2006, so it had been in my closet for a decade before being culled at the end of last winter. The stockings are also wool for warmth, and my sparkly red Dorothy heels add a splash of colour.

Over this outfit I wore my beloved but fragile vintage 70s Zhivago coat, suede with rabbit fur trim, a vintage velvet and fur-trimmed cloche cap, and carried my black patent vintage 60s/70s handbag. It’s quite a vintage look, but once the coat is off this is a fairly simple outfit, which I like. My hair looks freshly-bobbed too. As it’s growing out now from my current pixie cut, I have been wondering whether to get a bob again, but I am a long way off from this length still.

Photos: July 2013

Items:

Dress: Alice + Olivia for Anthropologie
Top:
Max Studio
Coat:
Stephen Dattner, vintage
Stockings:
Columbine
Hat:
vintage
Watch:
Kenneth Cole
Jewellery:
souvenirs (bangle, ring), handmade (earrings)
Bag:
vintage
Shoes:
Wittner

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