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Entries in style (110)


Summertime Gothic

Time was in Melbourne when many goths wandering like lost souls through the streets were a very familiar sight. Having gone through art college myself, they were never a threatening or repugnant presence to me as they were to some, and I was always intrigued (and entertained) by their bold sartorial expressions.

What a spectacular head dress! (from @mywitchery; outfit @burleskacorsets-blog.)Their mania for emulating the darker aspects of the Victorian period in respect of dress seemed to work well for winter – frock coats, puffy sleeved shirts, cloaks, big boots – but I marvelled that so many seemed at a loss as to what to wear for summer, always a concern for sweltering days in an Australian city, even one so far south as Melbourne.

Melbourne Goth & Victorian Picnic 2017I always felt sorry for them, suffering on broiling days in their multiple floor-length layers. They really needed a stylist I decided, poor things, to help them figure out a ‘summerweight’ goth look. I was sure their angst-ridden expressions had more to do with suffering from imminent heatstroke than affected Victorian anguish.

You don’t see many goths in Melbourne anymore however. Perhaps the old goths of the 90s and Noughties have grown up, or moved to the suburbs and got haircuts and real jobs. Research lead me to discover the goth movement is still going strong in Europe, with many large annual festivals (mainly in Germany) still being held and attracting tens of thousands, with steampunk and even ‘steamgoth’ now entering the field as well.

Melbourne Goth & Victorian Picnic 2017One way to keep cool – not for everyone however; Melbourne Goth & Victorian Picnic 2017In October last year, the Melbourne Gothic & Victorian Picnic was held in the Fitzroy Gardens (north of the city proper), it is pleasing to discover. However a quick perusal of photos shows that most goths are wearing quite heavy garments for mid-spring, with a few concessions in the form of punk-inspired torn lace or lingerie – a revealing look not for everyone.

I’ve long wanted to do a tongue-in-cheek homage on a summer version of typical goth splendour, but have held off until I secured just the right outfit. I finally found it, and here it is to celebrate the last day of summer: a billowing silk, floor-length dress featuring some cobwebby lace in the yoke, a nod to gothic Victoriana for the more modest young lady. The loose skirts, low back and front, and sleeveless cut make it perfect for an Australian summer.

Add a lace parasol (I only had a cream one, but a real goth might prefer tattered black) to protect one’s delicate pallor from the burning rays of the Australian sun, a dour expression, and you’re good to go. For an evening wrap against potential night chill, consider a black lace shawl which can be prosaically wrapped round the shoulders, or draped over the head for that funereal aspect.

Visit A Study of Goth Subculture (2009) for both dissertations and detailed fashion information; a relatively recent story at The Conversation on Goth, Steampunk and the State of Subculture Today (2016) is also worth a read.

Photos: March 2017


What I Actually Wore #0136

Serial #: 0136
Date: 05/08/2013
Weather: 16°C / 61.5°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

This outfit is making me sad, because I’m looking at the list of items and seeing just how many of them broke or wore out: almost everything! What is left and still in circulation is the vintage 40s hat (I love its detailing; you can see it in the close-up below), the Chinese red carved jade bangle and ring (featured just recently) and the grey wool jumper – although the boutique I bought it from closed down a few years ago, which is a shame, because they always had a great selection of Australian and international labels.

The wide-leg wool pants with the self-tie belt were a favourite of mine for years, and just became too worn and threadbare in patches, so they were culled, and of course the brogues which I wrote about a couple of days ago also wore out, but here they are in all their beribboned glory. (I noted the outfit started with the shoes in fact, as I wanted flat shoes because my calves were tight from martial arts training.)

Not seen are two other items I wore that day: my white leather trench, and a white leather tote – I was actually donated the bag only a couple of weeks ago, as not only was the leather very cracked and worn, but the zip had broken – you can see it in the A Few Things I Heart picture gallery. I’m never sure whether I should donate such items, but someone might have a use for them instead of adding them to landfill. I’m doubly sad over the bag because the label is now defunct too.

I am actually still quite fond of this outfit, which is inspired by 40s fashion, although the pants are very low-waisted rather than high, in proper 40s style. There are a lot of bow-ties in this outfit too, which amused me – on the hat, the jumper, the pants and the shoes. Also funnily, four years on, I am wearing my hair like that again. It is curlier however, because of the layers from the grown-out pixie cut. My style in general really hasn’t changed a great deal since I wore this outfit.


Jumper: ink
vintage 40s
vintage 70s, Leda Spain by Gropper
Bangle and ring:
Elise Carrels


End of Winter Celebration

Red wool, cashmere and rabbit fur trim cape, bought comparatively expensively for $300 from a vintage boutique in Melbourne to celebrate winning a new client.Today is officially the last day of winter – hurrah, hurrah! It was in fact gloriously sunny enough to be the first day of spring, and I certainly did not need a coat to go outside today. In truth, we Melburnians know we won’t be shedding the woollen coats just yet, but the promise of spring makes a huge impact on one’s joie de vivre.

I have said before that I have many coats, and a while back when I was culling a few because they were worn out, I decided I had to photograph the entire collection for posterity. It took me a whole day, and even then I forgot a couple, and I have since added a couple more. But I was shocked to learn the total: more than 60! Even I find it hard to believe I have space to store them all.

Camel wool coat – a holy grail find in an op shop that set me back $30.Nearly every single one is second hand, I am proud to say. One is a genuine antique from 1850, and the next oldest is from the 1930s. A few more (including ones I forgot to photograph) are from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s and then quite an armload of them are from the 1970s.

I do try to wear as many of them as I can, but some of course are only for special occasions, such as the 1850s striped velvet skating coat – I don’t wear that when know I am going to indulge in risk-taking behaviour such as drinking red wine, or consuming melting ice creams in the dark.

This navy cashmere French-made coat was bizarrely inexpensively priced at $12 in a Melbourne op shop (I think the staff member was suffering from concussion when they priced this) – and then I found $2 in one of the very deep pockets!This last Melbourne winter has been so cold that I mainly wore only the big guns: my longest wool and cashmere coats, along with a few short ones that I broke out when I was going out and about only during mild days. I have a couple of long leather trench coats, but I didn’t feel they were warm enough for days under 10°C – it does not get cold enough in the city to actually snow, but those Antarctic winds sure do blow!

Many of these capes, coats, and jackets were purchased in Melbourne op shops (thrift stores) and a handful of vintage boutiques, but a few I bought online from mostly America.

Vintage 60s pure wool short jacket, found in an op shop for $6! This has such a great shape, and I love the bracelet-length sleeves.I really love tweed, and was pleased to find this wool jacket for around $10 in a small op shop on the fringes of Melbourne, when one of my sisters took me on a tour of all the op shops in her area. It is missing its belt, but I have found quite a few stand-ins. I had always wanted a baseball jacket, and what better than a vintage 50s one? This wool Dodgers jacket does up with buttons, not a zip. I bought this at a Unique Vintage warehouse sale for about $45. These six coats and jackets I have showcased here are the ones I have worn most often this winter, but there are other ones I adore, such as the 70s Dr Zhivago suede and fur coat, the leather of which has become quite fragile in parts. I am a bit scared to wear it for fear of irreparable tears forming. I have already repaired some of them myself.

As the weather becomes a little less icy, I hope to start taking a few more lighter-weight coats on outings. Meanwhile, the first week of spring is due to return to winter weather, although Melbourne is honouring the occasion with some sunshine forecast for tomorrow.

You can see the entire collection in my new autumn/winter gallery, in A Glory of Coats.

Photos: January 2017


C’est La Vie!

Bonjour! Look what Facebook Memories threw up at me a few days ago! I had forgotten about this t-shirt that I wore for a little while. It lasted for so short a time in my closet I am surprised and pleased that I actually managed to capture it on ‘film’.

C’est la vie is one of my favourite sayings – except I like to whimsically destroy the French and pronounce it as ‘sest la vye’ (much to the mutual bemusement and amusement of French and French-speaking friends over the years). So when I spotted this in a window display of the chain store Rivers, I very excitedly rushed in to purchase one.

It was quite inexpensive, and the main reason I eventually culled it from my wardrobe was because it was polyester/cotton, and it was a slogan – I had segued into a minimalist style at the time. But after I shared the memory on Facebook, mourning its loss, my sister Star popped on to comment that she had inherited it!

I was glad it had gone to a good home, but if ever it should find itself unwelcome … hint hint. I feel no shame in casting such hints at my sister, the one who baldly states, “When you die, can I have that buffalo hide handbag that you bought in Hong Kong years ago?” She has coveted it for many years, and every time she sees me carrying that bag she feels impelled to remind me that she would like a mention on my will.

The day these photos were taken I was lunching with some male friends at a Vietnamese restaurant after our karate class. An extremely dubious shot of my chest was also taken by one of them. Or I guess it might have been me trying to take a selfie back in the days when the Hipstamatic app had no front-facing camera – I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt!

Photos: August 2014


In the Purple

A modern violet ribbed knit and wooden necklace are worn with a Tyrian purple lampshade I hated purple for most of my life scarred as I was by a hideous magenta dress that my mother forced me to wear when I was about nine years old, to an older sister’s wedding. Purple is my mother’s favourite colour, and I think she picked out a horrid long-sleeved scratchy magenta dress trimmed in cream crocheted lace simply because she liked the colour. I hated the style of the dress, but the colour unfortunately became tainted by association for me for more than twenty years. I don’t think I started wearing it until my 30s when I discovered jewel tones suited me so well.

Many colours are named after things of the natural world, such as flowers, minerals, foods, and before synthetic dyes began to be produced, they were also made from them. Purple is certainly no exception. There are a myriad shades, including these examples of lilac, lavender and mauve, but violet stands quite apart on the colourwheel …

Byzantine Emperor Justinian, mosaic in St Vitale church, Ravenna, Italy

Tyrian Purple

Purple is the colour most often associated with royalty, most likely because in days of antiquity the production of purple dye – known as Tyrian purple, after one of the coastal Phoenician cities in which it originated – was long, difficult and expensive. It was made from the gland of a sea snail called the spiny dye-murex, and produced varying shades of purple from crimson to magenta to a much deeper bluish hue, depending upon the type of snail and how it was made.

Tyrian purple became the favoured colour of the wealthy: kings, nobles, priests and magistrates all around the Mediterranean. It is mentioned in many works of literature of the ancient world: Homer, Sappho, and the Old Testament of the Bible.

Cloth dyed with Tyrian purple‘In modern times, Tyrian purple has been recreated, at great expense. When the German chemist, Paul Friedander, tried to recreate Tyrian purple in 2008, he needed twelve thousand mollusks to create 1.4 ounces of dye, enough to color a handkerchief. In the year 2000, a gram of Tyrian purple made from ten thousand mollusks according to the original formula, cost two thousand euros.’ [Wikipedia]



Violet is actually a spectral colour in its own right as it has its own wavelength, unlike purple, which is made up of two spectral colours – blue and red. It also sits on the colourwheel between purple (next to crimson) and blue.

As my birthday falls in February, my birthstone is amethyst, and my flower is the violet. My mum grew these shy and tiny flowers in her gardenbeds, and they were always special to me for this reason, as well as their divine and subtle scent.

Interestingly, this violet ribbed jumper (sweater) of mine was very difficult to photograph. In reality it is distinctly an almost luminous shade of violet, but the camera captured it almost as cobalt – I had to colourcorrect it in Photoshop. This curiosity may have something to do with the ‘Bezold-Brücke shift’: when violet brightens, it begins to look more and more blue; the same effect does not happen with common purple.

Vintage 60s wool hat and gloves are worn with modern items


Another subtle shade of purple is lavender, also named after a flower. While there is a myriad of shades used by designers of all kinds, the colour is most associated with the actual flower, a medium purple or a light pinkish purple. The word was first used in English to describe a colour in 1705.

The colour is also associated with decadence, in the sense of a lifestyle devoted to enjoying aesthetic sensual pleasures such as art, music food, and wine. Lavender-coloured roses are symbolic of love at first sight.

A modern pale lilac knit worn with a pink wool scarf and vintage pleated skirt


The lilac flower is another of my favourite flowers because of its gorgeous beauty and scent. How heavenly it would be to have a lilac tree growing in one’s yard! I remember one of my uncles had one when I was a child. The colour obviously takes its name from the flower, but shades can vary of course, from more bluish to more reddish tones. The first recorded use of lilac as a colour name in English was in 1775.


My knit might be described as ‘opera mauve’ (first used in 1927) and the bag as ‘mauve taupe’ (first used in 1925)


Mauve is the newest colour of the lot, and the most interesting history. It was first created in 1856 by a young scientist named William Perkin. Perkin was experimenting with coal tar in an attempt to synthesise quinine (as a cure for malaria), when he stumbled upon a process producing a bright purple liquid. He had once dreamed of being an artist, dipped a piece of silk in a beaker of the liquid, and realised he had created a light- and wash-proof dye.

He first named the colour Tyrian purple, but soon after adopted the French name for the mallow flower: mauve. Ironically, it was a dye that was also difficult and expensive to produce, just like its original namesake.

Mallow flower, called mauve in French

However, in 1857, after Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, discovered the colour and decided it was an exact match for the colour of her eyes, the dye became a hit. Queen Victoria took note, and wore a dress of rich mauve velvet to her daughter’s marriage. In August 1859, Punch declared that London was ‘in the grip of the ‘Mauve Measles’, and by the time Perkin was 21, he was a rich and well-respected man.

Mauve was extremely popular during the Victorian period. Frances Adeline ‘Fanny’ Seward by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, early 1860s

Dress (afternoon bodice), 1860s Jessie Benton Fremont, American, MFA Boston


Interestingly all these floral shades of purple are also associated with half-mourning, being one of the acceptable colours (along with grey) worn in the final stage of mourning, after black. And as the Victorians aged, the popularity of the colour also went into a decline, becoming forever associated with the older generation.

But now, more than a century later, when young women are doing the previously unheard-of: adopting lavender rinses (and pink, blue, green – errr, every shade but their own!), perhaps these hues will have a renaissance?

Photos: July 2016

Silk tulle dress made for Queen Alexandra, Henriette Favre, French, 1902

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