Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in polka-dots (69)


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!


What I Actually Wore #129

Serial #: 0129
Date: 01/07/2013
Weather: 18°C / 64°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

This is a very cute outfit! While there are a lot of quirky items, the minimal colour palette of tan, gold, grey and white keeps it from looking too over-the-top, especially when you remember in the office I would have shed the coat, hat and bag. Nearly all of the items are still in my closet too. The socks wore out, and the skirt I gave away to a friend, and only now that I look at it fondly again do I wonder if I should have kept it.

Because the skirt is quite wild, I deliberately chose to wear a neutral grey jumper, and picked out the pompom bandeau to match the circle print on the skirt. I continued the circular theme with my silver bauble earrings and a pearl ring.

The vintage 70s suede and rabbit fur trimmed coat is a beloved favourite. I’ve told the story before, but years ago I learned from a random stranger on a tram that this particular coat was inspired by the 70s film Dr Zhivago. Apparently it was very expensive, and that stranger had it in red. She was so impressed to see that I had found one in such good condition, and urged me to take good care of it.

The truth was that the coat was in terrible condition when I bought it: the original lining was completely shredded, the fur trim was coming away from the suede panels, and some of the buttons were detaching; I paid only $40 for it.

I persuaded my oldest sister Blossom to remake the lining for me as a birthday present (she has been a seamstress since way back). That turned out to be a labour of pure sisterly love as it was a huge job. I managed to fix the buttons myself, and also the detaching trims (that occurred some time after the coat left my sister’s loving hands) by gluing scrap leather on the reverse to reinforce the weak seams. Fortunately my sister had left the bottom of the lining open, so I was able to access the inside easily.

Now I wear the coat only occasionally in order to preserve its life as long as possible – I just have to wait for the weather to cool down and autumn to finally begin!


Jumper: ink
Philippe Matignon
vintage 50s
Stephen Dattner, vintage 70s
Elise Carrel

Photos: October 2013


The Perfect Harmony

While I have been waxing lyrical about not wearing all black (all the time), I do love all grey and all white. Just as great are black and white worn together – they are a classic pairing and you could never go wrong … except perhaps being mistaken for a waiter in a restaurant. That could be rather embarrassing for both parties!

Joking aside, for those who say they like to wear all black because it makes it easy to put an outfit together, it is just as easy to put black and white items together. Coco Chanel was a great champion of this combination. She said: “Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.”

Chanel’s successor, Karl Lagerfeld has said: “Black-and-white always looks modern, whatever that word means.” Timeless, Karl; it looks timeless, so it always looks contemporary. Neither shade is synonymous with any particular decade; they are always in fashion.

 “I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” – Coco Chanel

If pure white does not suit your complexion, try a softer shade of ivory, vanilla, cream or eggshell. Nor does black suit everyone (contrary to popular opinion). According to colour theory, black is not the best shade for light and warm springs, or summers of any description. Click here for more information on finding your perfect colours.  

And if you are not accustomed to wearing colour, then a gentle way to introduce some is by adding a single coloured accessory to your black and white garments, without fear of looking clownish, or the angst of trying to match different colours when you are unpractised.

Fashion Notes

This modern silk blouse, by Decjuba, and Banana Republic skirt are really quite detailed enough on their own – I wouldn’t add more than a pair of shoes and a bag to wear them on the town. But just for today, I have gone all-out fun with adding vintage accessories into the mix.

From the top: an Edwardian velvet and sequin toy top hat that I purchased from a UK-based eBay seller; vintage 60s polka dot net gloves bought from an American Etsy store; a vintage 1940s black bag with soutache embroidery that I pounced on in a Sacred Heart Opportunity Shop; and a pair of modern Italian-made woven leather heels by Stefano Stefani, which also came from a thrift store, this time the Salvos.

Next time you go to assemble an all-black outfit, why not throw caution to the wind and throw in a bit of white? In the immortal words – echoing Coco Chanel – of the song, ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony.

Photos: February 2016