Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in sequins (56)


Cinderella’s dressmaker

Once upon a time, many days ago (actually, two weeks) a very thoughtful friend rang me and read out loud the words on a flyer posted near his studio (and I paraphrase): VINTAGE GARAGE SALE! ANTIQUES! RARITIES! LOVELY LOOT! TWO DAYS ONLY!

I was so excited when I wrote down the details I could hardly make out the words later, but I deciphered enough so that I and two friends made it down there on Saturday.

We discovered that the fashion designer Karen Merkel was holding the sale. You might think I would be instantly transported into a fantasy dress-up land, but I did not purchase any clothing.

However, I did pounce on a trove of sumptuous fabrics and embroidered trims that are inspiring enough to weave a fairy-tale with, and live happily ever after. All I need is some glass slippers.


Pretty little delicacies of silk

If you have been to the Central Highlands in Vietnam, it is very likely that you’ve visited Dalat, a town touted as Vietnam’s mini Europe. And if you’ve been to Dalat you must have visited Crazy House. It is aptly named, although mere words cannot adequately describe it; a picture is worth a thousand. 

Handicrafts are sold in several of the public rooms, but there is a Mai Anh Craft gift shop in the garden where, much to my motorcycle driver’s consternation, I spent at least half an hour browsing amongst the silk goods. It took a moment to decide to purchase the pretty belt pictured above that fastens with silk cord around the hips. Made of ovals of coloured silk, it is embroidered; appliquéd with silk baubles; and trimmed with sequins.

I was also trying to choose between two silk necklaces. One of them was impossibly tangled up, and it took the salesgirl at least 20 minutes to unravel the knots. Of course no sooner than she had done so and I tried it on, I realised that I much preferred the other: the butterfly and ladybug necklace you see below. I apologised laughingly, for as the Vietnamese are fond of saying it was really a case of “Same, same, but different.”

But I had to be sure.


Spring Posies

As the days brighten and become warmer, many of us will be shedding our dull winter cocoons and slipping into something a little more in keeping with the season’s spirit. Spring clothes and floral prints are synonymous with one another, but sprigs of delicate flowers aren’t for everyone.

Which prints does the ungirly girl wear? Brighter colours, harder edges. A small selection, above, were inadvertently hanging together in my walk-in-robe, as they had just come out of winter storage: a vintage 80s batwing silk top, embroidered all over with gold and silver sequins, and roses that remind me of the Mills & Boon logo (I look like a mirror-ball when I wear this out); a geometric chevron print in the bright blue of a new spring sky; large sprigs of flowers toughened by their navy silhouettes, and bands of black at the neck and hem of the dress.

So throw off your coat and out you go into the spring sunshine! And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses on the way.


A hat retrospective

Father has a business strictly second hand
Everything from toothpicks to a baby-grand
Stuff in our apartment came from father’s store
Even things I’m wearing someone wore before
It’s no wonder that I feel abused
I never get a thing that ain’t been used

I’m wearing second hand hats
Second hand clothes
That’s why they call me
Second hand Rose…”

Unlike Barbara, I do not find it such a tragedy to wear second hand clothes, nor do many others these days. In fact, I would be overjoyed if my father owned a second hand shop. What fun!

A while back a friend suggested I write a post on the difference between antique, vintage and retro. Many people probably don’t know the difference, and possibly don’t care. A few might be interested enough in the question to research it; I can point you in the direction of a succinct article on Wikipedia. For those of you who can’t be bothered clicking on the link, read on.

I decided to illustrate the definitions by comparing apples with… er, hats with hats. I thought about using other items, but as I am obsessed with hats, and actually own many from different eras, they seemed the obvious choice.


First up we have a hat c. 1910. Anything manufactured prior to the 1920s is considered antique. This wool felt hat is trimmed in the original ostrich feather and netting, very tattered. I used to wear it more often than lately, but you can see it here in context. I bought it many years ago in Castlemaine from a strange elderly woman who ran a vintage shop in an old building that was once a stately home, or perhaps a hotel.

My sister, who lived there for a while, took me there, whispering that the old lady kept a doll in a pram, and talked to it as though it was her baby. I found three hats there that I wanted to buy: a black 1920s hat and a gold straw bonnet of unknown provenance trimmed in Parisian roses, the lady told me, as well as this hat. I put this hat on the counter, and continued to look at her merchandise. When I turned round, I found she had put the hat back in its cabinet. I retrieved it. This happened a few times until I finally convinced that I did indeed want to purchase it.


The second hat is from the 1940s, and falls under the distinction of vintage, as does any clothing made from the 1920s to 1980. I can’t recall where I found this little cap, but it’s very sweet and perches just at the back of one’s head. The two little flowers on either side make me think of mini Mickey Mouse ears.


Retro, which is short for retrospective, usually refers to items that imitate those from another era, for example props from a costume department (which is what I guess this 1920s style hat is), or emulations, such as the Art Deco style prevalent in the 1970s. (Just think of Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde: set in the 1920s, but unmistakably made in the 70s.)

In the last twenty years or so we’ve seen every style of fashion from every era inspiring our modern designers. It’s certainly fascinating, and I gasp in awe at the creators and image-makers, but in real life, as much as I love vintage clothing, I don’t want to feel like a stray from a film set. I’ll still mix in some vintage into my wardrobe, but I’ll do it circumspectly. I’ll do it ‘My Way’.


What I actually wore #0015

Serial #: 0015
Date: 26/12/2008
Weather: Irrelevant
Time Allowed: 5 minutes

Boxing Day. Dubai. House party. At last, an occasion to which I could wear the skimpiest of the party dresses I had brought with me! And I just managed to do it by the skin of my teeth, as this was the last full day of my holiday. I had wanted to wear this dress on Christmas Day, as it was so festive, but it was deemed too low-cut to wear out in public.

My other option for this evening’s Christmas-party-for-orphans was my belly-dancing outfit but that is even skimpier, and transparent to boot. A friend of mine was willing to wear a traditional Indian sari if I wore my black and silver jingle-bells outfit, but I had to disappoint her once I tried it on in the privacy of my room and realised just how revealing it was.

Boxing Day. Dubai. House party. At last, an occasion to which I could wear the skimpiest of the party dresses I had brought with me!

I wrapped a silver sequin scarf (a classic stand-by I have owned for years) around my neck and decided that not only my hair had to be up, but earrings were out of the question. I was shiny enough as it was. Ditto for the silver sandals I’d worn the day before, so I wrapped my feet in black heels. Slightly more bondage (or ballet if you want to be nice) than the gladiator styles in this summer.

Made of very soft leather, the evening sandals were a fabulous find in Myer during the sales years ago. It was one of those occasions that one wanders through a department store not looking for anything in particular … which is exactly when one lucks upon some brilliant find. The original price of these was at least $200. They were already reduced to $100 and then had a further 25% slashed off the top. I’ll take those, thank you very much!

There was one last seasonal addition: the cutest Santa hat covered in red sequins and flashing red stars. Just so the other guests wouldn’t miss me.


Dress: Country Road
Scarf: Sportsgirl
Shoes: Urban Soul
Rings: Roun
Santa hat: Géant (not pictured)