Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in stripes (114)


Words From the Bluestocking Salon

You might have noticed by now that I rather like stockings. I don’t mean pantyhose. Yuk. I hate the constrictive feel of them around my tush. You feel like a sausage. Even more annoying is when you go to the loo, you have to pull them down and up again caaarefully so that you don’t twist them (urgh, even more uncomfortable!). And you have to make sure patterns are straight, or you don’t just plain old go stick a finger right through those 10 deniers.

Stay-ups or thigh-highs, or whatever is your preferred appellation for them, are traditionally known as ‘stockings’. Stockings, before the invention of nylon and later, Lycra, were held up with suspenders. Men might find them sexy in the bedroom, but have you ever worn them out? The horror when one of the buttons come undone! Surreptitious fiddling, sideways looks … I’ve been there; it ain’t pretty, and I ain’t going back.

Of course, you may have read of my misadventure with stay-ups – I don’t say they always stay up, but they do add a little spice to your day!

I have managed to collect a few different pairs. You’ve seen the red ones, and the black and white striped pair. And now you’ve seen the cobalt blue ones with the saucy bows. Apparently (according to Wikipedia) in the mid-eighteenth century, blue stockings were daytime or more informal wear; however, I won’t be wearing these out in public any time soon.

They were in fact my attempt to locate some like the pair Kirsten Dunst wears as Marie Antoinette in a love scene that is the epitome of sugar and spice, and all things nice.

Once upon a time, calling a woman a ‘bluestocking’ was deemed an insult; aimed at educated, intellectual women. (Of course, that’s been reversed these days with the affectionate term, ‘bimbo’.) There was even a Blue Stockings Society of England in the mid-eighteenth century – women met together to discuss arts and literature. (Select males were invited on occasion.) That sounds rather like fun, especially when you learn that ‘tea, biscuits and other light refreshments would be served to guests by the hostesses’.

Below you’ll find some vintage ads from the 40s and 50s which are gorgeous to look at, even if they hark back to a time when many women were more bimbo than bluestocking.


I'm seeing spots!

This photo has always fascinated me. A bed in the field! Children romping in shortie dresses — that may be my second oldest sister on the far left. I love the plethora of patterns: stripes and florals, spots and plaids. I love the baby (my cousin) in her little white bonnet. There seems such a story to be told in this candid moment, but there is nothing even written on the back. I am sure I must have asked my mum why there was a bed in the field but I can’t recall what she answered.

That is my aunt in the wild print dress which dates the photo to some time in the fifties, although her hair looks distinctly thirties style with the marcel waves. My mum is wearing the polka-dot scarf and numerous layers (the topmost of which is spotted too). Seems safe to say she was not the fashionably-minded one in the bevy of sisters!

However, she continues to be enamoured of spots, as you will see in the photo below. This is 1967, making my sister in her spotted dress nearly four years old. I bet that dress my mum is wearing is made of polyester, and I like to imagine the print is purple, as that is her favourite colour. Note the sensible loafers both women are wearing.

I know hardly anyone prints their photos anymore, but I adore the deckle edge of these, and the slipshod, off-centre printing; the spots and scratches. They need to bring the deckles back and then they might see a resurgance of photo printing the world over. Everyone loves a bit of instant nostalgia.


Who Remembers the Skipping Girl?

This is my homage to a Melbourne icon, the Skipping Girl, a neon sign advertising vinegar, and originally known as Little Audrey. How I loved to see her skipping away against the dark of the night! She always seemed so merry to me. I used to beg dad to drive home along Victoria St just so I could see her, and he always indulged me. 

I was rather chuffed when I opened my pantry yesterday and found a bottle of Cornwell’s wine vinegar – and there was Audrey prominent on the label!  

In May this year the National Trust launched an appeal for public donations so that the sign could be restored to its former glory. Let’s hope Audrey skips again.

Below is an extract of a poem I wrote years ago about her…

Driving in the rainy dark
recalls memories of childhood
cocooned in a small capsule,
gliding through the night,
surrounded by the city yellow
of the lights in an alien street.

Who remembers the skipping girl?
she’s pink and green and red,
jumping up and down
advertising vinegar.

And who remembers
sweeping down the silent roads,
with golden light filling the air
like a haze, the black sky overlaid
so the stars disappeared?

Who remembers tipping their head back
against the seat and looking
at the lights flashing past
on the back windscreen
flashing past like shooting stars,
leaving trails of white and
neon pink and green and blue?

Who remembers the lights
multiplied in every raindrop,
shimmering on the window,
and trickling down the glass
in rivers like colored paint?

I remember, I remember.


Pretty – and unnecessary?

I go second-hand shopping for two reasons: one, it’s fun, because you never know what you might find; and two, I’m saving for a sunshine-and-shopping fuelled holiday in December (will there be op-shops where I’m going?).

Many people make their ‘savings’ at sale time, and you know what they say: a bargain is not a bargain unless you actually need it. Of course, for women this does not usually apply when it comes to clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery, perfume and/or makeup. (Did I leave anything out?) We need those things. However, if we can save a few dollars, that will make us feel both happy and virtuous.

There are several sources for second-hand treasures. I am fortunate in that there are six op-shops and at least five vintage boutiques near my place of employment, and many a happy lunch hour has been spent in the avid pursuit of a bargain. I call it ‘hope-shopping’, because you never know whether you’re going to come away empty-handed or carrying a swag of stuff.

It’s a bit like gambling: riding that wave of uncertainty; not knowing whether I’ll be triumphant or disappointed by the time I return to my desk.

Going further afield there are places such as Camberwell Market; Round She Goes, and of course clothing-exchanges-with-a-cocktail. And let us not forget eBay.

DFO, by comparison, is expensive and certainly does not deliver the same thrill as finding a pair of Veronika Maine linen/silk-mix pants that look hitherto unworn for only $10 – or less, if you’re lucky.

Which brings me to last week’s bargains… an MNG mint-green, cotton cardigan ($5.75), in mint condition. Pretty (almost too pretty for me), but will go admirably with a Veronika Maine diagonally-striped mint-green and white silk dress I bought on eBay. Just fine for summer holiday evenings.

Continuing the green theme, I found a polka-dot t-shirt with the cutest puffed and gathered sleeves you ever did see. I was undecided until I tucked it into the skirt I was wearing that day. Works. Only $4.75. (Both pictured in main photo.)

I also found a navy, rayon beaded scarf (above left) with the tiniest hint of purple in it for $3.50. I’m not sure if I would wear it, but if not, I’m positive one of my sisters would like it. Rayon is a natural fibre based on wood cellulose, but is not as enivoronmentally-friendly as its younger cousin Lyocell is to manufacture.

And lastly, a tomato-red wool knit T by Bracewell (above), for the princely sum of $6.75. Never mind the fact that I already have a VM top in that colour, and am getting rid of a Jigsaw wool short-sleeved knit in the exact same shade of red (a BrandSmart ‘bargain’ which I wore maybe once). Bracewell, I said. It was $6.75. A bargain!

So, to appease my conscience, I am finally going to start selling some outcasts on eBay myself, starting with these gorgeous striped sailor trousers* (above). They were a ‘bargain’, from an Alice Euphemia sale a few years ago. The problem was, they were too big to start with and I convinced myself they wouldn’t fall down, and now that I’ve lost weight from all that martial arts training, they don’t stay up at all. I’m very sad about it (not the losing weight part).   

Secondly, a Phillips sleeveless silk top (right). So, so pretty, but so not me! Again, it is too large. Need I mention that this was another ‘bargain’ bought from Cream, the second-hand designer boutique on Chapel St, in Windsor?

Farewell it is. Sigh.

* Trousers are not as big as they appear.

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