Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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By George!

Agneta Fischer, at the opera, 1931Baron George Hoyningen-Huene (1900–1968) was a seminal fashion photographer of the 1920s and 30s. Born in Russia at the turn of the twentieth century to Baltic German and American parents, he was a true man of the world, for he went on to work in France, England and the United States.

At a youthful 25 he was the chief photographer on French Vogue, associating with the likes of Horst P. Horst and Cecil Beaton. Ten years later he moved to New York and shot for Harper’s Bazaar; produced two art books on Greece and Egypt; then moved on to Hollywood where he worked for the film industry shooting glamorous portraits of film stars.

His subjects in these pictures are beautiful; carved out of shadow and light. Their gazes are averted; their smooth, silky bodies still, recumbent. We are invited to admire their perfection, in awe of the rarefied air they breathe.

For more, click here.

Lacoste bathing suits, 1930

Lelong bathing suits, 1929

Beach fashion, 1940s

The beautiful Lee Miller, 1932

Baroness D'Almeida, 1932

Fashion by Vionnet, 1932


Home and Abroad

Amelia-Jane models some of her favourite garments and tells us about shopping in Tokyo, and at home in Melbourne.

Tell me about that comfy-looking dress.

It is comfy! It’s from Uniqlo, in Tokyo. I bought it on my second trip there, a few years ago. The dress is a wool/cashmere blend. I was really drawn to the shape, and the fact that it’s not fitted. I like the enormous sleeves too, cut like a kimono. Plus – it’s wool, and a dress!

Was that something you were particularly looking for?

No, but it’s hard to find knit dresses that are pure wool. They’re often acrylic.

So what else did you find shopping in Tokyo?

I didn’t have a shopping list. I was just browsing generally for anything that caught my eye. Uniqlo specialises in knits. I went crazy in that shop! Great prices on woollen knits, cashmere and mohair – unlike here in Australia. Cashmere’s the price of wool, around $80 for a jumper. I bought jumpers in wool and cashmere, and they’re both still going strong after two or three years.

I adore pompoms. Where did you find that scarf?

So do I. I bought it from DFO [Direct Factory Outlets]; I can’t remember which store. It’s cotton – natural fabrics are very important – but all the pompoms fell off one by one, and I had to sew them back on individually. But it was cheap, about $12, so no surprise they fell off. I still like it though!

Woah! That's dedication – there are a lot of pompoms on there. Those dark grey boots are a major item. Tell me about those.

I love these boots! I haven’t even worn them out yet. They’re from Cactus Jam, by D.Co Copenhagen. I did a design job for a friend, and she gave me a Cactus Jam voucher. I love grey – it will always catch my eye when I go shopping. Most of my wardrobe is grey, although I like to dress it up with colour.

I hardly ever see you wear colours! Give me one example.

I bought a colourful maxi dress from Country Road. It’s in turquoise, melon and black, and has a splotchy pattern like camouflage. … And I bought a grey dress at the same time!

And did you wear this colourful dress?

Er, no … there weren’t enough hot days this summer. I wore another dress instead.

Sounds suspiciously like an excuse to me. Where else do you like to shop?

Country Road is good for me because they stock a lot of clothes for tall people, unlike other places. But I used to like Witchery, but not lately. Gorman, and Fat (but they’re both pricey). I recently bought something from FCUK, and something else from Country Road.

I like to go off the beaten track normally, but not many shops have inspired me lately. But I have started browsing on Etsy. I’m looking for some sort of neck ornament – a necklace or scarf.

Etsy certainly is fantastic for finding unique items – failing a shopping spree in Tokyo! Thanks Amelia-Jane, looking forward to next time. 


Accessories With Pizzazz

Grey Veronika Maine top; vintage 40s bandeau hat trimmed with beads; pearl grape cluster earrings; vintage chiffon gloves with pearlised button closures. It’s impossible to button the second glove whilst wearing the slippery things! Button first, then slide on carefully.

What makes an eye-catching outfit? Sometimes it is a single outstanding garment, such as an amazing dress, through cut or colour (or both). These might be the garments we wear on momentous occasions: weddings, anniversary celebrations, holiday events.

But what about the every day? Few of us would own enough statement-making garments to wear week in, week out – let alone have the space to store them.

This is a 1920s sleeping hair-band. It was hand-sewn and dyed in a pretty mix of teal, green, blue and plum. Presumably one wore it on the head to protect one’s hair from getting mussed. It makes a cute collar or necktie: perfect for chilly nights and a much more pleasant barrier to vampires than a necklace of garlic.

From day to day we are likely to be mixing and matching basic separates, with a few non-basic ones tossed in to leaven the neutrals. Here is where the extraordinary accessory comes into play and lifts a perfectly respectable ensemble into truly stylish territory.

Shoes and bags

Well, we need to wear these anyway
so we may as well have some fun
with them.

I don’t know about you but I seldom change my bag during the week; it is far too much bother to transfer the contents. I like to have a weekday bag of neutral hue that complements many outfits. Currently I am adoring a black patent leather bag. When I travel further afield, I take a large white leather tote (it fits my Wacom tablet), with a smaller bag inside to carry at lunchtime: jade-green lizardskin.

Invest in some unique shoes that will perk up your basic wardrobe. I often buy fab new pairs at sample sales as well as end-of-season sales, and secondhand or vintage numbers – all at shoestring-budget-friendly prices.

…the extraordinary accessory comes into play and lifts a perfectly respectable ensemble into truly
stylish territory.

Another little vintage 50s bandeau hat, sculpted into an origami shape from pleated grosgrain ribbon. It’s a little worn, but still so pretty. The Deadly Poppy Field headband is by Alannah Hill, and retailed for $79 – I paid $35 on eBay. On, it looks almost like a hand-woven circlet of real flowers.

But wait, there’s more

Cream cotton is encrusted with pearlised seed beads, opalescent sequins and oblong seashell beads to create a sumptuous looking belt. Unearthed in an opshop.Don’t forget there are also belts, scarves, hats and headbands, gloves and jewellery – even umbrellas! – to add to your arsenal. That’s the fun part about this bitterly cold winter Melbourne has suffered through: so many opportunities to layer.

There’s a time and place for sleek and minimal pieces, but why not have some fun with some really unique finds – new or vintage. Etsy and eBay are fantastic sources for
new and old, or go for a treasure hunt in local vintage stores and eccentric boutiques that stock items from far-flung corners
of the world.

Colour matters

My friend Rapunzel knitted this chain scarf for my birthday. She thought it would be a good idea to throw it into the machine and put it through a hot wash. And it was: it came out nicely felted.

Worried about looking too over-the-top? The secret is balance. Reduce your colour palette to two or three, with one or two of those neutral or subdued shades: black or grey, brown or beige, white or cream. Additional pops of colour can work if they are small items, such as a ring or a pair of coloured gloves.

For more daring fashionistas, go wild and bright with clashing colour by all means (without looking like a clown), but be prepared for the extra attention! Sometimes it is all about context too. For example, I recently wore a bright red swirling coat and a vintage 50s turquoise feather bandeau to the Queen Victoria market to do my grocery shopping. I stood out from a sea of black and navy, and received quite a few compliments, including one from the lady at the cheese stall who told me I looked ‘so glamorous today’. It’s a win-win situation: I livened up her morning, and she made me happy.

The key is not to look fussy and over-done, like an extra from a period film.

The Chanel Imperative

I never wear this many at once. (I did when I was an art student, and distinctly recall the moment when I suddenly realised I looked like a cross between a hippy chick and an old lady wearing the entire contents of her jewellery box at once. I never did it again.) From left: pearl and white gold ring by Autore; chyrsoprase stone and sterling silver ring from Dittoday; mabe shell and sterling silver ring from the National Gallery of Victoria’s giftshop; blue resin rose ring from Etsy.

Coco told us to take a good long look in the mirror and take one thing off before we leave the house. Considering she was fond of wearing yards of costume jewels slung like ropes around her neck, I don’t think she was a puritan about the matter.

However, in the spirit of that sentiment, consider the big picture: big picture hat? Maybe take off the enormous feather boa. It’s the same principle as proportion in clothing – when you wear wide-leg pants you pair them with a slim top: giant earrings shine when your hair is sleekly styled. The key is not to look fussy and over-done, like an extra from a period film.

So go on: experiment and have some fun with accessories. Don’t forget though: your best ones – no matter what you wear – are self-confidence and a smile. 

Things little girls daydream will be in their wardrobe when they are grown-up and a princess: a silver spangled sash. I bought this at the Williamstown Vintage Fair last year. It had no fastening so I grabbed the first ribbon I could lay my hands on: pale pink and extremely long to tie into a big bow at the small of the back. Just to be more princessy still.


The Colour Winter

When I was in high school, maybe grade 8, some of my friends, studying seasonal colour palettes, declared positively one lunch time that I was an Autumn. “How did you arrive at that decision?” I asked, lifting a brow. (Alright, that’s a bit of poetic licence.) Apparently it was the colour of my hair and eyes that decided them, but they didn’t take into account that I was dyeing my hair with henna shampoo, and it was not, in fact, red. 

I am sure over the intervening years I must have tried to once or twice decipher these mysterious codes, but at some point I worked out on my own which colours suited me. I used to prefer slightly dirty colours – until I figured out they actually look awful on me. In fact, they make me look sick and sallow. I always disliked pastels too; perhaps they reminded me too much of the early 80s. As for pink – waaay too girly for me.

Hot pink was another epiphany. Cobalt blue quickly followed on its heels…
I was disgusted: all these 80s
jewel tones!

Icy pinkAnd guess what? Yep, it’s bright colours that suit me best. I discovered that pure white looks brilliant on me. (I once read in a magazine of a bridal designer who declared that pure white suits hardly anyone, only girls with dark olive skin. I immediately decided she had no clue, and pitied her poor clients.)

Icy lavenderHot pink was another epiphany. Cobalt blue quickly followed on its heels, and emerald, and amethyst (there I am above, decked head-to-toe in it). I was disgusted: all these 80s jewel tones! So I rebelled, and limited my wardrobe to a colour palette that I actually liked: mostly white, grey, taupe, and a limited amount of black (because I’m from Melbourne and like to buck the trend).

I like to terrify innocent passers-by with fierce yellowsFor colour I added bright reds, oranges, and turquoise, and a bit of green and purple. I never wore them with black though – that also was too 80s – but with other neutral hues. Some time later I developed a new-found love of bright sunshine yellow – a colour which has often provoked both fear and admiration whenever I have worn it.

Icy blueWhen I started researching this story however, I learned that I am a ‘cool, clear, bright’ winter. All the colours I wore were actually in that colour palette, as well as all these icy pastels – which makes sense, since they are bright whites with a hint of colour. And there is a veritable carafe of reds, pinks and purples! That explains how more and more shades of pink had managed to creep into my wardrobe. That had always bemused me.

Some favourite colours: periwinkle, turquoise, tomato red, magenta, pink and raspberry. I usually combine these with neutral greys.

So if you’re curious to test this theory out yourself, click here to visit College Fashion for an easy diagnosis, based on hair and eye colour, or drop in to the Personality Café for another take (although I think some of their eye colours are a bit simplistic – I have never seen anyone with natural violet eyes, for instance, and though I am certainly a ‘clear winter’, my eye colour [hazel] is not listed). The Chic Fashionista’s not bad either, and has a troubleshooting page too. Mail Online has a story that breaks it down simply. And here’s a good one for men. Any one of these will help you.

Anything that makes your skin
glow and your eyes sparkle most likely suits you.

You don’t need to buy a colour palette swatch book either: just go through your own wardrobe (or a boutique) and hold different items to your face. Anything that makes your skin glow and your eyes sparkle most likely suits you. They’re also probably the items you were wearing when you received lots of compliments. Remember, if there are colours you really love that you find aren’t your best, you can always wear them away from your face: in skirts or trousers.

And if, like me, you always deeply appreciated reading through your older sister’s or mum’s Avon catalogue when you were a kid because the colour names were so hilarious, click here for a multitude of colours, some with very perplexing names (grullo, anyone?).

Happy colouring this Easter!


Stylish Steps

It is not difficult to be stylish. Even just a little bit of effort goes a long way.

A case in point: this morning I saw a young woman, wet hair hanging limply to her shoulders and her fringe skinned back. Not a scrap of makeup adorned her pale face; and the dreary grey of her ill-fitting, non-descript suit did nothing to improve her complexion. She looked as unhappy and grey as the weather.

Yet her problems are so easy to remedy.

  1. Never underestimate the importance of a good haircut – or hairstyle. By the latter I mean styling hair variously, eg, high ponytails, French twists, chignons etc. Another excellent idea is to apply a comb to it occasionally.
  2. Wear some makeup. You don’t need to go out in full battle regalia, but perhaps some under-eye concealer and blush. They are of particular assistance in suspected case of unflattering clothing shades. Optional extras: mascara and lippie.
  3. Add an accessory!* Or two, or even three. (You have to wear shoes anyway, so they don’t count.) But don’t go overboard. Remember what Coco said: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”

In the case of the young woman mentioned above, a colourful scarf** would have gone a long way to improve her look; maybe even a coloured bag and shoes. Not to mention drying her hair.

And what you don’t wear is as important as what you do: try to leave the scowl at home.

* Want more on accessories? Look here.
** Need to know how to tie a scarf? Look here.

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