Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in shopping (193)


My First Vintage Hats

My hat collection today is rather vast and spans the entire twentieth century, but once upon a time it was a pitiful assemblage of various caps, berets and sunhats I wore as a teenager and new hats bought in the 1990s. I don’t recall exactly when I bought my first true vintage hats – possibly a 1960s cloche in an op shop (thrift store) – but amongst my oldest hats, and earliest purchases is this pair: an Edwardian era navy felt Tyrolean hat draped in an ostrich-feather, and a 1920s black wool felt half-cloche trimmed in wide grosgrain ribbon.

I even remember purchasing these, under rather extraordinary circumstances. I was visiting my sister in Castlemaine, a country Victorian town, and she took me to a kind of magical old colonial house hidden in the centre of town that was seemingly inhabited by a single elderly lady, and her large collection of antiques and vintage fashion. We spoke in hushed tones as we entered the dimly-lit interior in the Victorian style, dark and every space covered in some sort of decoration.

My sister had already warned me about the vintage perambulator, in which the lady kept a baby doll (strangely similar to the late Australian artist Mirka Mora who once told me she often bumped it into doorways, after she saw me do the same with my shopping trolley!). The eccentric owner appeared, and upon learning that I was interested in looking at hats, allowed me to examine some up close.

When she saw just how interested I was, she told me she had many more hats upstairs, in the empty rooms, and she lead me up. What followed remains a hazy memory in my mind’s eye, like a surreal dream as I darted through room after room, gasping at such a treasure trove of hats. They were piled everywhere, on the furniture and gathering dust.

Eventually I settled on three – the Tyrolean cap the owner kept putting away, as though she was reluctant after all to part with it, until I firmly insisted on purchasing it, even at the high price of $90 she asked (in the early 1990s, it was a lot for me).

The third hat was a high-crowned straw, probably 1950s or 60s, painted gold and adorned with black ribbon and three fat roses (you can see that here). You could see the original blue and red straw under the gold spray paint; it might have been a refurbished relic from a theatre’s wardrobe department. Eventually I got rid of that hat, except for the roses which I removed and probably still have stored somewhere. I also bought a 1960s short jacket in a Regency style: it was sky-blue linen with silver lurex braid; that also has long-since departed my closet.

I’m pleased though that these two have lasted the test of time, as I still wear them today.

Photos: September 2019


Shoe Tales Time Tells

Quite a while ago I took these photos of new shoes (new to me that is, they were both bought secondhand), and for some reason I did not get round to writing a story about them while they were still actually new, and now they are old.

This shoe story became so old it transmogrified into a different story: that of shopping habits, knowing one’s own style, and listening to gut instincts.

Time tells its own tale, for in fact, only one pair had time to get old. I can’t recall where I found the shiny black high-heeled oxfords, but it was instant love. They were a perfect fit, looked hardly worn, and were quite inexpensive. I bought them and never regretted it, wearing them countless times since as a good, sturdy winter shoe that fit in perfectly with my favourite 1930s aesthetic.

The other pair tell a different tale, however. I spotted them inside a cabinet in an op shop, and was attracted by the soft blue colour. Upon request to look at them, I discovered first off that they were expensive (for thrift store shoes) at $20, and there was no indication of what material they were made of (they didn’t smell of leather). I don’t like to wear synthetic shoes: they don’t breathe and do not soften with time, so if they don’t fit perfectly, they can rub painfully. An uncomfortable shoe is a pain in the … foot. The soles of these were also quite thin. But, I reasoned, I run through walking shoes quickly because I wear them so much, so it’s always good to have plenty on hand, so against my better judgment, I bought them. That transpired to be a mistake; I had too many misgivings about them, and I ended up wearing them only (ahem) a handful of times before I returned them whence they came.

The lesson: don’t buy shoes that don’t perfectly fit either your notions of quality or personal style, or your physical proportions: unlike garments, shoes cannot be much altered to fit you better. A bargain is not a bargain if you don’t wear it, after all.

Photos: July 2016


Keep Those Peepers Peeled!

Who has Holy Fashion Grails? They are those rare, hard-to-find items – perhaps vintage, perhaps not – that you would give your eyeteeth to lay your hands on. I have a ton of them always lurking in the back of my mind, and they come to the forefront when I am thrift shopping, or trawling online marketplaces. I keep a shopping list for items on my phone to refer to when I am out and about – it can be easy to forget things in the heat of the moment when you come upon something else you didn’t know you desperately wanted!

A little while ago, on two separate occasions, I came across two things that had been on my wishlist for a while: yellow leather heels and a watermelon bag. They may seem strangely specific, but I am always on the lookout for anything yellow, so these patent leather heels by Aldo were an exciting find. I’d been looking on sale sites on and off for a while at shoes very similar to these, but couldn’t justify spending big on shoes when I already own so many. However, a pair of barely-worn shoes for under $10 were irresistible.

I first saw a gorgeous straw watermelon bag in a Melbourne boutique many years ago, but at around $100, I regretfully deemed it too much to spend on such a frivolity. Then last year I spotted one online, and that cost even more, even at the heavily discounted sale price. Then sometime later while shopping in a thrift store and waiting to pay for some other items, I spotted this hard-plastic version sitting behind the counter, waiting to be priced. While it wasn’t the covetable straw, I enquired, and a staff member returned to tell me it was only $9. It pays to keep your eyes peeled! I know plastic does not seem very desirable, but after all, Bakelite is a plastic, and vintage examples are extremely collectable now.

Other things I’m always on the lookout for are any 1930s items, a vintage pink-and-white striped dress, a 30s or 40s Hungarian embroidered blouse in white and red, a new old chenille bedspread, and hats of course.

It’s even more of a bonus when one finds great things in the thrift store: both virtuous recycling and a bargain! So always keep an eye out, you never know what you’ll stumble across when you least expect it.

Photos: July 2018


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.)


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.