Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in shopping (191)



Over two years ago, one blissful Saturday afternoon I was shopping in a Sacred Heart Opportunity Shop and unexpectedly hit the jackpot. Against the rules, I had taken so many promising garments into the change room (only four were ostensibly allowed) and was frantically shedding clothing as speedily as possible in case there were impatient customers waiting outside and champing at the bit.

One of the items I was excited to find was this silk pleated dress by Parisian brand Suncoo. (At least the label boldly states Paris.) It had never been worn, for the label was still dangling attached. It was priced at a pittance, a mere $10. I adored the colour, and I adored the flouncing pleats, the pin tucking, the details on the cuffs – everything about this dress I adored! I wore hearts for eyes. That’s probably why I didn’t notice one important detail …


I did not notice this frivolous circumstance until the day I desired to wear it to work for the first time. There it was, a little innocuous white bowling-pin-shaped receptacle of indelible ink obstinately attached. I wore something else.

Some time passed before it occurred to me that the lovely and clever ladies and gentlemen of the Wardrobe department at work might be able to assist in ridding me of this embarrassment. I took it with me one day and sheepishly explained the situation while they grinned at me. Another colleague walked past at that moment and scoffed at my protestations of innocence.

The learned costumiers scratched their heads and confessed they had never seen this particular style of device before. So probably it was from France, and I was forced to wonder whether the original owner had liberated the dress from a store (they are excessively fond of liberté in gay Paree, after all). Wardrobe declared confidently, “Leave it with us.”

Happily for me, one brilliant seamstress had the idea to unpick the stitches at the waist, ease off the device, and then sew the seams back together. It was lucky the device was attached to a seam, for miraculously this shifty operation worked! Voila! they said triumphantly.

But the story does not end here. I took the dress home, and the next time I decided to wear it, I discovered that some of the stitching on the back had torn, and the concertina effect was ruined. What next! I despaired, and I repaired the stitches.

What next! I despaired, and I repaired the stitches.

What next indeed … Pleased, a couple of years later I finally got around to photographing the dress in order to write this story, and after the shoot as I was lifting it over my head, what should I do but smear scarlet lipstick on the front?! Hélas! What a series of unfortunate events! Was the dress hand-washable? Would I ruin the pleats (as I have done before) by willy-nilly ignoring a ‘dry clean only’ instruction?

Hélas! What a series of unfortunate events!

But the dress was indeed hand-washable. After applying an oil-free make-up removing tissue to the stain, removing as much as possible, and leaving a large oval-shaped mark on the panel of buttons, I hopefully washed the dress. (This useful tip I gleaned from a make-up artist once upon a time.) I cringed a little as I immersed it into water.

But hey presto! The stain came out, the pleats did not, and finally, finally, the dress is prêt-a-porter!

Photos: February 2016


What I Actually Wore #122

Serial #: 0122
Date: 19/05/2013
Weather: 17°C / 62°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

Surprisingly, this is the outfit I chose to wear to Ikea! That makes me laugh. I must have been shopping for trivial items in the marketplace only. However, I do like it, mainly because the colours are so harmonious and soothing, with the different shades of grey. (The asymmetrical skirt is a blue-grey denim too.)

I’m pleased to see that linen long-sleeved tee – it is still in my closet, holding up well. I didn’t realise that it was this old! I bought two linen tops from Seed on one occasion; this dove grey one and another the same in a French blue. They were quite expensive investments, but it goes to show the value in buying good quality basics because they really do stand the test of time, both in appeal, and in the washing machine. I am also still wearing that grey wool cardigan because it’s so soft and cosy (sadly the label went into liquidation in 2011), but the skirt has had its day.

This is also still one of my favourite 1940s berets, or platter hats, one I bought on Etsy. The red is picked up in my lipstick and the ceramic jewellery, souvenirs from Barcelona.

That favourite 1960s bag is still in circulation, but both the socks and patent shoes wore out from regular wear. Those leather shoes I found in an op shop for around $12 (the label is now defunct). They were hardly worn and I was so chuffed to find them, so I was disappointed when eventually the patent began to become quite distressed. But then, in a thrifting miracle, last year I found another very similar pair, also barely worn, in an another op shop for about $20! The only difference is the leather on those is punched in a brogue style.

In this outfit, the cardigan, hat, bag and shoes were bought used. All my friends always marvel at the things I manage to find in second hand stores. They seem to think I have some extraordinary knack or magic trick, but the only trick is that I go often to browse in op shops. I rarely find what I’m looking for exactly when I want it. I simply go regularly – once or twice a week at lunchtime, and perhaps once a month on a Saturday. It’s not a huge investment in time, but it accumulates enormous dividends – in savings and bargains.


Cardigan: Satch
NGV gallery shop

Photos: September 2013


Barrette or Hairclip?

I’ve always been a bit confused about exactly what a barrette was. Was it like a small hair slide, similar to a bobby pin? Or was it something bigger, like a hair clip used to clasp a substantial amount of hair? I’ve never, before now, been so befuddled that I was actually prompted to investigate this mysterious lingo. However, investigative journalism lead me to do some research, and I discovered something amazing …

A barrette and a hairclip are the same thing! Revolutionary. It is a completely generic term. It is, of course, an American word, while hairclip, hair slide or hair clasp are British English. I own many hair clips and slides and clasps, including this cobalt velvet number that features a knot design in the centre of the oval.

I’ve always been a bit confused about exactly what a barrette was.

Years ago, when I was in China, I went on a frenzy of buying, and trawled every market and shopping centre in search of interesting clips. I’ve also invested in some higher-quality French-made clips by Paris Mode; the French stainless steel is much stronger than that of more inexpensive brands. (Check them out online – the prices are waaay cheaper than in retail stores. I think the website is new, for last time I looked it didn’t exist.)

Since I am seriously thinking about chopping off my hair again, it behoves me to get lots of wear out of them while my hair is still long. It’s the only thing I lament about cutting off my locks – not being able to put them up!

Photo: August 2016


Just Like Kate

I know I have posted a lot about shoes lately (anyone would think I love them more than hats), but these ‘So Kate’ silver pumps by Christian Louboutin are so worth another shoe tale.

I bought them the day before yesterday, for the princely (or princess-y) sum of $4, from a local thrift store. Yes, FOUR DOLLARS. You can imagine I nearly fainted on the spot. Obviously the store staff did not know the label. There was also a pair of Gucci sandals priced at $25, but I didn’t like the look of them.

They routinely hide the second pair of good shoes out back at this store to prevent theft, but considering they had priced these so low, I’m not sure why they bothered.

There was a moment of fear when two staff members went to ferret out the second shoe that they wouldn’t find it, but happily it was unearthed. They were in very good condition, with only a very few scuffs. When I tried the pair on and they fit perfectly, I felt like Cinderella just like Kate.


When Time Stood Still

It’s no surprise to anyone that we in the Western world live in a throwaway culture – it’s much easier to replace broken or torn things than repair them. It’s especially convenient because it gives us the excuse to buy something new, something more up to the minute, because we were bored with that old thing anyway.

Of course, treasure-hunters and thrift shop thrill seekers are very grateful for this rampant consumerism! I was very pleased to find this Anne Klein watch in a Salvos Store. It wasn’t working, but the sales staff assured me that if it wasn’t easily fixable with the replacement of a battery, then I could bring it back. It was only $10, so I took the risk. Fortunately, a new battery (which cost $15) had it going like clockwork.

I do wonder why someone donated it to charity. Were they really just too lazy to visit a jeweller? I think it’s quite pretty, with its bracelet band and the row of diamantes around the rectangular dial – it’s a nice watch to wear when I’m going out in the evening. Still, their loss is my gain.

Photo: August 2016

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