Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in polka-dots (66)


Polka Dot Homage

Polka dots are a perennial print favourite. Even if they’re not precisely in fashion, they will never look outré. They are a classic pattern, especially in black and white, or white dots with some other neutral, such as navy or brown – even red could be almost classed as a neutral.

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in ‘Pretty Woman’, 1990One of the most iconic polka dot outfits I can think of is Julia Robert’s brown and white dress she wore to the polo match in the 1990 film Pretty Woman. Who could forget that one? It was memorable because it was such a elegant and classic outfit unlike many of the others, which were trendier – and not least because the scenes between Vivian and Edward held so much charm. I recently watched the film again for the first time in years, and that is definitely my favourite outfit of Vivian’s – not at all the red dress she wears to the opera, which is cited all over the internet as iconic.

Quite a while back I came across a brown polka dot dress completely by chance in an op shop. It wasn’t the same as Vivian’s dress – it was a silk wrap dress, in a different shade of brown – but it certainly reminded me of it, although I do prefer the more cinnamon shade of brown in her dress.

I am accessorising it with a vintage boater sporting a polka dot tie (not original to the hat); vintage 50s broderie anglaise gloves; a vintage Laura Ashley cane bag; and Italian woven leather heels. In the film, Vivian’s shoes were of an appropriate heel height for walking on a playing field, unlike mine. I know nothing about the sport, but if I ever attend a match, at least I’ll have an outfit!

Photos: March 2017


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


Words of Wisdom

On this International Women’s Day, I give you a homage to a woman who hardly needs an introduction: Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993). As famous for her grace and beauty of spirit as her chic appearance, Hepburn was a model, an actress and a humanitarian, working with UNICEF in her later life.

Here are some of her words of wisdom, always and forever relevant:

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!

Paris is always a good idea.

Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina (1954)About a year ago I cut my hair super-short for the first time since my early twenties (quite a while ago!), in a pixie-cut. And although I don’t think I took any reference pictures of Audrey to my hair stylist, I was later reminded of her pixie cut during the filming of Sabrina in 1954. So here I am, emulating a publicity portrait of her with gloves.

I hope you have had time to celebrate the day with your best women friends, for in Audrey’s words: ‘The best thing to hold onto in life is each other’.

Photo: March 2017


The Scary Shoes

A few weeks ago I bought a pair of Dalmatian print pony-hair loafers in a thrift store for a song. I don’t recall how much, but they were under $10.  They are actually a size smaller than my usual (but only a little tight), so I have been wearing them at home with a pair of thick socks to stretch them out a little.

That is, until, the day my cat noticed them and was terrified, especially when she saw their ghostly reflections in a glass door. She was persistently jumping up onto the kitchen bench in fear, and trying to cower under the wooden dish rack! She had me completely mystified until I realised what was going on, and as soon as I took the shoes off, she calmed down. She is quite disinterested in them as long as they’re not on my feet.

Photo: July 2017


Claire au Contraire

Claire was the receptionist at the theatre where I work once upon a time. She has since moved on, and I miss her cheerful greetings and bubbly personality. Claire has a classic English rose complexion, and wore at the time a pixie hairstyle that suited her so well. It also offset the bright colours and prints she favoured – which I highly appreciated living as I do in a city whose citizens worship black.

Her self-confessed rebellious streak often pushes her to invert feminine stereotypes with surprise elements, such as the stomping boots she is wearing on this occasion.

Because a receptionist is always busy, we had only a few minutes to quickly snap these photos in the foyer of our workplace, which happens to be graced by a red sofa shaped like a pair of lips – a piece of furniture recycled from a play – a perfect backdrop for a classic red and black outfit. I interview her over lunch in our cafeteria.

Choosing an outfit for the day can be a fraught process for lots of women, and is usually based on many criteria. What was yours this morning, Claire?

I’m going to the theatre straight after work tonight, so I wanted something that would be nice in the evening, and be comfortable to wear all day.

Claire’s self-confessed rebellious streak often pushes her to invert feminine stereotypes

How did you put this outfit together?

I chose the polka dot dress first – it’s by Princess Highway. Then I wanted a solid block of colour to pop against all that black. As the dress has a waist tie, I needed something short to show off the waist, and picked out a bolero jacket. This jersey knit is by Oasis, a British high-street brand. The tights are Voodoo Voluptuous, made for the fuller figure, as otherwise I find tights have a tendency to fall down.

Originally I was shopping for an outfit for a wedding when I stumbled across this dress, and I bought it ‘just because’ – for fun. It was particularly attractive because of the knee length, which is just right for my figure. I don’t like dresses that are too short.

Those boots are quite a contrast though!

Yes, I wore them deliberately to subvert the femininity of the polka dots and puff sleeves. Also, rain was forecast, and I would be doing a lot of walking, so they are very practical.

Are they Doc Martens?

No, they are an inexpensive UK shoe brand, and were a Christmas present from mum last time I visited her in London. The boots I had taken with me on holiday were worn and a bit holey, so mum treated me to a new pair.

You always look super-cute! And your outfits look well thought out. How would you describe your style?

I’ve found one of the most important things in dressing is flattering the figure you have – I’ve come to embrace my pear-shape. The other thing that comes into play is the feminist in me. While I do wear a lot of ‘pretty’ clothes, I like to add an element of surprise and novelty to offset the overt girlishness.

I have been through different fashion phases, such as rockabilly, when I used to wear high-waisted jeans with tops tucked in. But as my body shape has changed, I’ve modified my dress sense with it. Like many people, I own many more clothes that fit me! If I lost some weight, I would double my wardrobe.

What kind of shopper are you?

I am very purposeful. I save up my cash and go shopping when I have something particular I am looking for. I’m actually not very good at mixing and matching, so I pay attention to how things are put together in store displays. I’ll often buy the full outfit: dress, cardigan, shoes that match, and then I’ll wear exactly that way. I find it easier.

What are the items you usually gravitate towards?

I like A-line dresses and skirts, and cute patterns or designs always catch my eye, such as polka dots, or animal graphics. I also have quite a lot of cropped cardigans, and the odd black dress.

Do you have any favourite shops?

I like Princess Highway, because they make clothes that work well for curvy women, and Review for their retro style – they reinterpret vintage well.

I already know that you like vintage. Where do you look?

Definitely! I don’t want to buy everything new. When I am shopping in new retail stores, I am very purposeful, but when it’s vintage I am quite a carefree browser. You don’t know what you’ll find, but you’re certain to come across something that is much more unique.  

I mostly shop in my neighbourhood, at Sheila Vintage on Brunswick St (Fitzroy, Melbourne), and also in op shops. I do look online, but it’s too hard to be sure of fit, so I never buy. I own a few vintage dresses that need altering, but I don’t sew, so they just hang in my closet.

You don’t know what you’ll find, but you’re certain to come across something that is much more unique.

A common problem many of us have! Do you have any favourite vintage finds?

Yes, a couple of dresses, a yellow Hawaiian print, and a chequered picnic dress of Italian cotton. Both were bargains at $20 from op shops.

Where do you find your fashion inspirations? Is there anything you’re looking for at the moment?

I look more on Instagram for ideas, rather than magazines. I’m looking for a new winter coat, one with a belted waist. I like the capes coming in at the moment, but it goes against my usual look. I do really need things with long sleeves too.

Ah, coats, I love them. But if you only have one main one, it’s important to get it right. Thank you for sharing your fashion philosophy with us, Claire. It’s been a pleasure!

Now that’s what I call a fairly typical modern shopper with a careful fashion budget: understands her figure, keeps an eye on trends, mixes new with old, and has some irreverent fun too.

Princess Tatiana spoke with Claire in May 2014, subsequently misfiled the photos, and only rediscovered them recently. But Claire still looks good!