Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Thursday
Apr252019

A Poppy for Remembrance

Today is Anzac Day, an Australian day of remembrance, commemorating Australians and New Zealanders who ‘who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations’.

The remembrance poppy is an artificial flower that has traditionally been used as a symbol to commemorate the war dead since 1921; it was inspired by the WW1 poem In Flanders Fields written in 1915 by the Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (1872–1918). Here is the first verse:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

My poppy is an enamel ring that I found in a thrift store in the last few months. I love enamel jewellery, and poppies as a flower, and today this ring is a perfect remembrance.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

For the Fallen, 1914, Robert Laurence Binyon (1869–1943)

Photo: April 2019

Tuesday
Mar192019

Goody, Two Shoes!

I have been doing some desperately-needed culling in my closet over the last couple of weeks, and have so far completed sorting through all the summer clothing which is currently in my wardrobe, plus the winter jumpers which normally don’t go into storage. (I’ll do the winter clothing either when I bring it up out of storage, or at the end of the coming winter.) I have not yet touched any accessories at all either, so I am not even half way! So with that in mind, when I saw these photos again today, they made me laugh.

I find it difficult to cull shoes, except if they are worn out, or are uncomfortable – or if I suddenly decide they are ugly and wonder why on earth I ever bought them. This happened once, a long time ago, when I wore Birkenstocks for commuting. I was sitting in a park and looked down at my feet and found myself thinking, “Those shoes are extremely ugly.” The moment I returned home, I threw them unregretfully into the garbage. (I didn’t want to donate them so that some other misguided soul would wear them – why inflict that on the world?) These days I wear more attractive walking shoes.

But why do I find myself with two pairs of navy suede pumps? Well, they are not exactly the same, it’s true. It came about that after I threw out a pair of beloved but worn out patent navy Mary-Janes, I was in search of replacements. “Somehow” I ended up with two. At least I can say that they both came from op shops (thrift stores), so I can feel good about recycling.

… what if some mishap occurs, such as a heel snapping off, or muddy rain, then I will be glad I have two.

They are both very comfortable and elegant – one, by Australian brand David Lawrence, features scalloped edges, how cute! The d’Orsay pumps, which I found first, are by Jady Rose; I only discovered recently this is an extremely expensive brand that I could never afford to buy retail. The pairs are slightly different shades of blue, and have different heel heights, so I simply can’t choose one over another. Besides, what if some mishap occurs, such as a heel snapping off, or muddy rain, then I will be glad I have two. So much for the blue.

The red suede T-bar Mary-Janes are by Guess, and I bought them on Ozsale at a huge discount. Despite their deceptively high heels, they are extremely comfortable. I can even run in them. They even stop traffic! Once, as I dodged cars to cross a road (the traffic was stationary), some random woman shouted urgently from her car, expressing her love for them. The rich hue is delicious, the style is a classic.

And then along came the claret coloured Mary-Janes by Nine West, with cute little button fasteners. Some foolish person had donated them to a charity store unworn, so I took them home with me. What would you? (I do have a thing for red shoes.) The colours, and again, the heel heights, of these are so different that clearly it’s necessary to keep both of them for different outfits.

In conclusion: why ration your shoes when you can rationalise? Good shoes come in twos in case of emergency!

Photos: November 2018

Tuesday
Jan012019

Picnic-Perfect

The first day of January is a perfect day for a picnic, and what is a more perfect picnic outfit than one featuring gingham? There is something just so cheerful about this fabric, and my favourite combination is red and white, although I do have other colours.

Gingham is usually made from cotton or cotton-blends, but the origin of it is open to speculation, possibly originating from the Malay, or from a town in France, or even perhaps from the Dutch. Many women would associate gingham with school uniforms, which may put them off, or imbue it with an affectionate nostalgia. My high school uniform was a green and grey plaid, so I have no such reminders. (I don’t think I’d want to wear a dress made from my high school plaid though – the notion makes me laugh aloud.)

There is something just so cheerful about this fabric …

Perhaps the picnicking connotations has to do with red and white checked cloths traditionally used in picnic baskets? While a picnic did not after all transpire on my first day of the year, I did have a friend visit for afternoon cake and coffee on my balcony, and we went for a walk in the local Botanic Gardens. I was pleased to wear a red and white gingham dress rather than this exact outfit, as it was far too warm for denim.

This blouse was actually gifted to me by the friend I saw today, which is apt, and the vintage 60s hat I purchased on eBay. The adorable heels were purchased from Anthropologie on sale. They were a bit expensive to start with, and I dithered so long over buying them, by the time I finally did they were drastically reduced – hurrah!

It was a lovely sunny day in the gardens (I carried a red parasol), and while my friend and I ambled around, we came across plenty of picnicking parties – a pleasant beginning to the year indeed.

I hope that 2019 brings you joy and fulfillment, and the strength to see any challenges through. Here’s to a fresh new year!

Photos: September 2018

Monday
Dec312018

Shine On, Magpie!

If it glitters, you can guarantee my fingers will get itchy and I’ll be drawn to it like the magpie of yore, which explains why I have so many sequinned garments feathering my nest. I can at least justify this excess by the fact that I actually wear them – working at a theatre allows me to indulge in my, ahem, theatrical sense of style.

… sequins are the quintessential party wear, and an excellent choice to ring in the new year …

In the nineteenth century, sequins were made of shiny metal – I have a late 1920s or early 1930s hat trimmed in tiny metal sequins (they need replacing and will be difficult to source), and also an antique Berber rug, originally worn as a cloak (incredibly heavy), that is interwoven with silver metal sequins. In the early twentieth century, flat or faceted to catch more light, they were made of celluloid, meaning they were dangerous to wear as they are flammable. But by some accounts of vintage sellers I have read, they have a special extra-shiny quality not found in their modern plastic counterparts. In the 1930s, there were even electroplated gelatin sequins. Obviously not very durable, these did not stay in fashion for long!

60s pink and white wool tank, silver velvet skirt by Top Shop, 1980s sequin beret; 1960s red 1960s red sequin wool top, modern skirt by Ojay and red sequin bag (era uncertain); 60s white sequin and red bead wool top, modern skirt by OjaySequins have been used in decoration for much longer than this however: the first evidence for them is in the Indus Valley around 2500BC, when gold sequins were used to trim clothing and other ‘paraphernalia’ – possibly for ceremonial or royal use. [Wikipedia] Note that ‘spangles’ are actually made from coiled wire that is hammered flat, though today the term is used interchangeably with sequins, while ‘paillettes’ usually refers to large, flat sequins.

Black sequins two ways: modern sequin dress worn as top with Bettina Liano puff shorts, Victorian miniature velvet top hat, 60s pearl earrings and modern heeled sandals by Wittner; modern sequin dress worn with rhinestone earrings by Aldo and modern red satin pumps by BarkinsThe modern name for these shiny decorative disks comes from the zecchino, a Venetian ducat coin, by way of the French translation, sequin. After Napoleon’s invasion of Italy in 1797, the coin ceased being minted, but the Conqueror carried the name back to France in triumph (okay, I’m romanticising here), and the term sequin came into use in France for the decorative trim shortly after.

Modern Australian flag sequin souvenir dress, 1980s straw beret, modern plaited white heels by Stefano Stefani. This dress made me laugh when I spotted it in a thrift store – a pity it is not a French flag, to match my story better! It was obviously a cheap souvenir dress, and I paid $6 for it, although I haven't found an occasion to wear it to yet!I have been hoarding this shiny story literally for years, but as sequins are the quintessential party wear, and an excellent choice to ring in the new year, this New Year’s Eve seems an appropriate time of year to finally release them into the world.

In fact, I haven’t even included everything in this collection – I also have a miniskirt of giant iridescent green paillettes, a grey tee of matt sequins, another modern sequin tank trimmed in silk chiffon, and a few sundry accessories. Out of this set, I think either the red sequin top, or the cropped robin’s egg blue tasselled top are my first vintage sequinned purchases. They were both purchased online, the former on Etsy, and the latter at eBay auction. I remember I was on a picnic with friends when I excitedly received the notification my bid had won the top! All the other items were found in thrift stores, except for the black Bettina Liano shorts, an indulgent Australian designer purchase.

Whatever old thing you slip off for this evening’s party dress, shiny or not, I hope you bling in a bright and shiny new year! Here’s to a happy 2019.

50s robin's egg blue sequin and bead tassel wool top, modern skirt by Ojay, vintage jewellery; 60s turquoise sequin and star-beaded wool top, modern skirt by Ojay, vintage jewellery; 60s celadon sequin and bead top, modern skirt by Ojay, vintage jewellery; 60s yellow sequin wool top, 1960s linen blend skirt by La Gonda, sterling silver, lemon quartz and agate earrings hand made by me

View all the items here in my new gallery All the Shiny Things.

Photos: (black set) March 2014, (Australian flag) February 2016; (pink and green sets) March 2018

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Read more about the history of sequins and spangles in this excellent article by The Dreamstress.

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Tuesday
Dec112018

Size Matters

Cherries are a delicious fruit, one of my favourites since childhood when I would go cherry-picking in the orchards of the Victorian hills with my family. Who didn’t, as a child (if not an adult as well!) dangle multiple cherries from their ears? The fruit is a popular motif in fashion as well – I have a few accessories featuring cherries, including two quite different necklaces, and these very playful fluffy cherries dangling from my keyring.

While they are certainly fun, and I adore pom-poms, I bought them primarily for their practicality. You may laugh, but because they are so enormous, they are easy to find in my capacious tote bag!

I did discover though, the first time I went to put my keys in an evening bag, that they suddenly are not quite so practical! It took me a while to work that out, as I often go out in the evening straight from work, when I have my tote bag with me and it is not an issue. What I need is a second set of housekeys on a tiny little keyring, which is a perfectly reasonable excuse buy another accessory, right?

Photo: November 2018