Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Wednesday
Apr172019

Victorian Glory

Yesterday I was waxing lyrical about my Victorian cape – here it is in all its glory! Isn’t it amaa-aa-zing? I first saw it from the rear, on a mannequin in the window display of a Sacred Heart Mission op shop. I stared at it in amazement and disbelief. At first I thought it was a costume from a theatre perhaps, but when I enquired if I could try it on and swept it away to a changing room, I saw that it was an original piece.

It is wool, with a silk lining and fringe, and cornelli embroidery on the yoke. The label is also still intact, and reads, in gold embroidered script on a cream background: “Mesdames Niblett, Crighton & Burton”, and in smaller text, “75 New St Birmingham”. It does have a few moth bites and holes, which is not surprising considering its age, and a previous owner covered a few up with tiny lace leaves – you can see them in the second picture.

It has a lovely weight to it and a delightful swishy swing.

I am wearing it here with a vintage 1970s mauve dress and 1950s cherry casque, an outfit I wore to my niece’s wedding last year. (I actually wore it with a different cape, one of red cashmere.) On the morning I was very indecisive about which coat to wear, but the red won out as I love that colour it worn with purple. I ended up wearing this cape to the Opening Night of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband – which I thought was an ideal occasion, as the play was written in the Victorian era. I recall it was a cold night, and the cape was very warm – not to mention an extravagant indulgence to wear! It has a lovely weight to it and a delightful swishy swing.

This is the second Victorian cape that I own, the first being a shorter, hooded skating coat of red and white striped velvet, which I bought from Persephone Vintage on Etsy a few years ago. It too has a long fringe, of red and white chenille. I can’t say that I’d want to gad about in weighty Victorian gowns and their even more fearsome foundation garments, but I must say I do enjoy wearing the capes of the era, and how much more exciting than a prosaic duffel coat for example, or some other even more utilitarian coat? Life’s too short to wear a parka.

Photos: July 2018

Tuesday
Apr162019

Some are coats, some are jackets

Summer is long gone, but Melbourne keeps on rolling out the warm, summery weather; I still haven’t done the seasonal Dreaded And Great Closet Swap because of this. I have, however, completed a seasonal cull, but my wardrobe is still crammed! I’ve been contemplating whether I should try to cull even more, or put some of my precious vintage things that are not worn frequently in storage.

So, it is an appropriate time to look at my collection of summer coats and jackets. I must confess that I actually took these photos two years ago, but never made time to edit them as it was such a time-consuming job – almost as time consuming as seasonal wardrobe maintenance! Some of these jackets have actually since been culled, but since I love outerwear so much, they are still part of this visual library for posterity.

I also have added more coats and jackets to my wardrobe, since I can’t resist adding an amazing historical piece, such as 30s and 40s embroidered silk bed jackets; a 40s plush velvet (imitation fur) jacket, and a velvet evening cloak from the same era; an extraordinary cape in animal-print velvet that I think is probably 60s or 70s; amazing 60s and 70s leather coats and jackets; a 1970s brown tweed wool frock coat; a 1970s hot pink marabou bolero; an oyster-coloured modern leather capelet in a Victorian style; a jaw-dropping mid-nineteenth century Victorian wool cape, floor-length, fringed and cornelli-embroidered; a modern cream silk duster that is fantastically embroidered with flowers in pinks and reds … and probably more that I am forgetting!

Who could resist these despite a bursting closet? Most of these items have been found in thrift stores. But, cataloguing these garments has made me realise I have some gaps, such as a peplum jacket, and some Holy Grail wishes: a 1930s winter coat (which would be a lucky find in an op shop – although one would not expect to find a silk-fringed Victorian cape in a thrift store either), an Edwardian Battenberg lace coat, and a 1920s velvet evening cocoon coat with an extravagant collar.

Here are a couple of pictures of the fronts of two items: a 60s or 70s double-breasted sailor jacket, which is a more recent find, and a 50s satin opera cloak, which is one of my earliest vintage purchases. It is trimmed in with brocade ribbon, which you can see in the rear view in the gallery. I found it in a thrift store in a local shopping strip near the art college I attended, decades ago now, and recall it cost me around $30.

You can check out the gallery here – and look out for more, as I shall be adding all my newer treasures soon!

Photos: January 2017

Monday
Apr012019

Tiffany Surprise

Look what I got! A Tiffany & Co surprise! … But wait … No, it’s just a little trifle from a thrift store!

Recently I bought a pair of carved blue shell earrings in a thrift store, and while I was paying for them I expressed my concern that these fragile earrings should not break on the way home. The sales lady agreed, and said she would find a box for me. She disappeared under the counter for a moment and when she popped back up, lo and behold she was holding a Tiffany & Co box in her hand! We were both quite tickled by the incongruity.

I have already worn these once, but I did not notice until after I photographed these today that one of them is actually damaged – one of the flowers is missing a leaf. I suspect the ladies in the op shop didn’t notice either, as the break is quite neat and not immediately obvious. The shimmering, reflective surface is quite distracting too.

I guess I am the April Fool after all! (But I still think they are pretty.)

Tuesday
Mar262019

Fashion Follows Sailor Suit

Late last spring, just as the warmer weather was beginning in Melbourne, I amused myself (and my work colleagues) by adopting a nautical theme for a week. I have long loved stripes – a nautical staple – and the classic colour combination of blue, red, and white which I very often choose to wear, nautical theme or not.

Traditional sailor suits … influenced the design of the new bathing suits and other clothing …

Nautical fashion has for many decades been popular for the warmer seasons, with its obvious link to seaside activities. The fashion first took off in the mid nineteenth century, when ‘sportswear for the new woman’ first started being produced. Traditional sailor suits, ie, naval uniforms with flap collars, stripes and bellbottoms, influenced the design of the new bathing suits and other clothing designed for regattas, yachting, boating and seaside promenading.

Coco Chanel in the interwar periodFrench sailors; the marinière or tricot rayé (striped sweater) is a cotton long-armed shirt with horizontal blue and white stripes, characteristically worn by quartermasters and seamen in the French navy.Coco Chanel was another enormous influence after adopting the sailor-collared top (as opposed to Breton striped tees) worn by the local fishermen and sailors in the resort town of Deauville, where she opened her first store on the coast of France in 1913. At the same time, ‘Middy’ blouses, inspired by the uniform of midshipmen were worn by school children for gym activities; by the 1920s they were a huge women’s fashion trend.

1920s middy shirtFashion in the decades after followed suit, adopting the look not just for sportswear, but for daywear, and to the present day we are still wearing nautical influenced garments (although it still seems chiefly only for daytime). Every nautical motif once can think of has been deployed by fashion designers in both blatant and subtle iterations, from the triumvirate of the three most popular colours of blue, red and white; stripes and flag graphics; middy tops and sailor collars; neckties and pussy bows; every type of nautical hat – boaters, fisherman and sailor caps; high-waisted bellbottoms; to naval trim such as gold buttons and braid, and rope, anchor and sailboat motifs. 

It’s fun, it’s sporty and casual, easy and breezy, and denotes summertime and carefree holidays so very particularly – no wonder nautical fashion has remained popular!

Click through to view my gallery of all my nautical looks of the week, and keep scrolling for nautical looks throughout the decades.

Read more about nautical Fashion

Stories on nautical fashion by Vintage Dancer and Blue Velvet Vintage are worth a read – both include some great images from different eras.

Genealogy Lady has written a short history on the middy blouse.

Frenchly reveals that Coco Chanel did not make Breton stripes a thing!

For seaside fashion of the nineteenth century, visit Mimi Matthews.

Nautical fashions through the decades

Victorian era, c 1890sEdwardian wool bathing suit1920s swimsuit1930s nautical daywear fashions1940s dress (LIFE magazine)1950s1960s1970sMarch 1982February 1992, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington wearing Ralph Lauren on Vogue's coverLes Indes galantes collection, Lascar dress, Haute couture, spring/summer 2000, Jean-Paul GaultierZuhair Murad, RTW Spring 2016All images found on Pinterest unless otherwise indicated with direct links.

Tuesday
Feb262019

Hello, Hats!

This enormous red straw cartwheel has no label, but it is probably a modern hat. I purchased this in a thrift store while on a beach outing, and quickly discovered it threatened to be carried off by the slightest breeze. I subsequently added a vintage navy satin ribbon, which answered the problem effectively.I have taken a long but unintended hiatus from posting on these pages, but I promise you I have not slacked off in fashionising! I’ve been hunting high and low for new old treasures over the summer, and I have stumbled over so many wonderful things I couldn’t list them all, but they include vintage hats (naturally); 1950s and 1970s skirts, dresses and ballgowns; quite a few 1930s style items (my favourite fashion era) and an incredible hand embroidered modern silk coat.

One of the most heart-stopping of the 1930s style accessories is a pair of handmade green leather heeled sandals, by the label Jolie – a holy grail item for me! I haven’t heard of the brand (and can’t find any information on it), but the swirling script logo on the insole looks very 1970s. I must confess they are a half-size too small, but I can squish my Cinderella’s sister’s feet into them, and there was no way I was leaving them behind in the thrift store where I found them! Someone had had them resoled, but subsequently never worn them.

Another thrift store find and also lacking a label, this 30s-style conical or coolie style hat is hard to age definitively. It's in such good condition, I suspect it is from the 70s or 80s.But here are some of the hats I have worn in the last month or two – some of these are very new to me, some not, but I don’t think any of them have appeared on these pages previously. Information on each one is within the captions of the photos. I’m still looking forward to taking more summer hats on outings – though the season is nearly over, it doesn’t look like Melbourne is going to cool down any time soon.

Photos: December 2018, January 2019

With an unusual clamshell shape, this hat also features black and white cord trim and a black bead decoration that emulates a hatpin. This 1940s straw hat also came from a thrift store in Albury, a large country town in NSW just over the Victorian border. I spotted it for $12 and couldn't snap it up fast enough!I bought this cute little red straw 1930s derby hat from a Facebook seller named Bonita Markwick. The hat is trimmed with black bows at the back and net.Yet another thrift store find, this modern cloth beret with trapunto stitching is by the Australian label Mimco. Another purchase from the Facebook seller Bonita Markwick, this whimsy hat of black net with red silk roses is vintage 40s. I am wearing it here on Christmas Day with a deep red 50s knitted ribbon dress, bought from Birthday Life Vintage on Etsy.This 40s raffia and straw pom-pom hat is by Sally Victor – another holy grail find for me! I purchased this on eBay.