Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in style (110)


The Pointless Button

Last year I bought this mohair wrap cardigan in an op shop. I particularly loved the colour and texture (it looks like cotton candy), and also the bishop sleeves that bell at the cuff. The label is Ted Baker. It wasn’t until I was actually wearing it out and saw my reflection in the bathroom at work.

Something was wrong, I saw. My eye instantly went to a dot above my hip. What is that useless button? I asked myself. I loathe buttons that have no function (with some few exceptions on jackets such as on double-breasted jackets, or those on the cuff of a sleeve) … I particularly abominate buttons as jewellery.

The pretty mother-of-pearl button embossed with the designer’s name was purely decorative, and it was an unnecessary detail at that. It somehow threw off the balance of the wrap and tie. This was a design flaw that was easily remedied however.

When I got home, I immediately came to the rescue with a seam ripper and removed the offending item with pleasure*. Doesn’t it look much better without it there? It’s quite remarkable that such a tiny detail could have such visual impact!

*Of course this is poetic licence – I waited to rip off the pointless button until I was able to photograph the momentous event properly.

Photos: July 2016


From Fusty to Funky

I am not hugely into fur – faux, fox or fur real – and am not an advocate of purchasing new fur, particularly of endangered species, but I do own a few vintage pieces that I have picked up over the years from op shops (thrift stores). A more recent find was this plush blonde mink 1950s short cape that was so quaint and such a pretty colour that I couldn’t resist taking it home with me.

But I was a bit flummoxed as to how to wear it without looking like I was in costume, or a dusty and fusty time-traveller from the Fifties. I decided the only way I felt comfortable in it was to update it with modern pieces, dressing it down with jeans and a simple white crepe top.

An extra dash of irreverence was added by way of a navy wool Jasper Conran cap (with a fur pom-pom, incidentally, also bought second-hand) and a costume necklace that spells out ‘love’ in gold script.

Tangentially, I lost this hat last week in an op shop but was miraculously able to retrieve it the next day before it was accidentally sold. I was so sad at its loss, as over the last couple of winters it has become one of my favourite casual caps to wear, always adding a fun touch to an outfit and toning down any formality. As an elderly lady commented to me recently, it’s just so jaunty.

I haven’t yet worn this mink out, but in the cold weather I may have to add a warmer layer and perhaps some gloves as well.

Photo: July 2016


May the Fourth Be With You

On this auspicious occasion who could go past a homage from one princess to another? This is actually a throwback to a photoshoot I did more than six years ago, when I attempted to recreate Princess Leia’s iconic buns. My hair was very long then, and my home hairstyling was a complete failure – I found it harder than expected to twist my hair into buns of the requisite size! This time round I’ve used an outtake from the shoot, and inflated my floppy buns with the aid of Photoshop. Vale Carrie Fisher, and …

Photo: January 2011


Claire au Contraire

Claire was the receptionist at the theatre where I work once upon a time. She has since moved on, and I miss her cheerful greetings and bubbly personality. Claire has a classic English rose complexion, and wore at the time a pixie hairstyle that suited her so well. It also offset the bright colours and prints she favoured – which I highly appreciated living as I do in a city whose citizens worship black.

Her self-confessed rebellious streak often pushes her to invert feminine stereotypes with surprise elements, such as the stomping boots she is wearing on this occasion.

Because a receptionist is always busy, we had only a few minutes to quickly snap these photos in the foyer of our workplace, which happens to be graced by a red sofa shaped like a pair of lips – a piece of furniture recycled from a play – a perfect backdrop for a classic red and black outfit. I interview her over lunch in our cafeteria.

Choosing an outfit for the day can be a fraught process for lots of women, and is usually based on many criteria. What was yours this morning, Claire?

I’m going to the theatre straight after work tonight, so I wanted something that would be nice in the evening, and be comfortable to wear all day.

Claire’s self-confessed rebellious streak often pushes her to invert feminine stereotypes

How did you put this outfit together?

I chose the polka dot dress first – it’s by Princess Highway. Then I wanted a solid block of colour to pop against all that black. As the dress has a waist tie, I needed something short to show off the waist, and picked out a bolero jacket. This jersey knit is by Oasis, a British high-street brand. The tights are Voodoo Voluptuous, made for the fuller figure, as otherwise I find tights have a tendency to fall down.

Originally I was shopping for an outfit for a wedding when I stumbled across this dress, and I bought it ‘just because’ – for fun. It was particularly attractive because of the knee length, which is just right for my figure. I don’t like dresses that are too short.

Those boots are quite a contrast though!

Yes, I wore them deliberately to subvert the femininity of the polka dots and puff sleeves. Also, rain was forecast, and I would be doing a lot of walking, so they are very practical.

Are they Doc Martens?

No, they are an inexpensive UK shoe brand, and were a Christmas present from mum last time I visited her in London. The boots I had taken with me on holiday were worn and a bit holey, so mum treated me to a new pair.

You always look super-cute! And your outfits look well thought out. How would you describe your style?

I’ve found one of the most important things in dressing is flattering the figure you have – I’ve come to embrace my pear-shape. The other thing that comes into play is the feminist in me. While I do wear a lot of ‘pretty’ clothes, I like to add an element of surprise and novelty to offset the overt girlishness.

I have been through different fashion phases, such as rockabilly, when I used to wear high-waisted jeans with tops tucked in. But as my body shape has changed, I’ve modified my dress sense with it. Like many people, I own many more clothes that fit me! If I lost some weight, I would double my wardrobe.

What kind of shopper are you?

I am very purposeful. I save up my cash and go shopping when I have something particular I am looking for. I’m actually not very good at mixing and matching, so I pay attention to how things are put together in store displays. I’ll often buy the full outfit: dress, cardigan, shoes that match, and then I’ll wear exactly that way. I find it easier.

What are the items you usually gravitate towards?

I like A-line dresses and skirts, and cute patterns or designs always catch my eye, such as polka dots, or animal graphics. I also have quite a lot of cropped cardigans, and the odd black dress.

Do you have any favourite shops?

I like Princess Highway, because they make clothes that work well for curvy women, and Review for their retro style – they reinterpret vintage well.

I already know that you like vintage. Where do you look?

Definitely! I don’t want to buy everything new. When I am shopping in new retail stores, I am very purposeful, but when it’s vintage I am quite a carefree browser. You don’t know what you’ll find, but you’re certain to come across something that is much more unique.  

I mostly shop in my neighbourhood, at Sheila Vintage on Brunswick St (Fitzroy, Melbourne), and also in op shops. I do look online, but it’s too hard to be sure of fit, so I never buy. I own a few vintage dresses that need altering, but I don’t sew, so they just hang in my closet.

You don’t know what you’ll find, but you’re certain to come across something that is much more unique.

A common problem many of us have! Do you have any favourite vintage finds?

Yes, a couple of dresses, a yellow Hawaiian print, and a chequered picnic dress of Italian cotton. Both were bargains at $20 from op shops.

Where do you find your fashion inspirations? Is there anything you’re looking for at the moment?

I look more on Instagram for ideas, rather than magazines. I’m looking for a new winter coat, one with a belted waist. I like the capes coming in at the moment, but it goes against my usual look. I do really need things with long sleeves too.

Ah, coats, I love them. But if you only have one main one, it’s important to get it right. Thank you for sharing your fashion philosophy with us, Claire. It’s been a pleasure!

Now that’s what I call a fairly typical modern shopper with a careful fashion budget: understands her figure, keeps an eye on trends, mixes new with old, and has some irreverent fun too.

Princess Tatiana spoke with Claire in May 2014, subsequently misfiled the photos, and only rediscovered them recently. But Claire still looks good!


Extra Sugar

A few years ago, my occasional collaborator Sapphire and I transformed ourselves into anime girls to create a little humorous cartoon sequence. It was based on the premise that these typically skimpily-clad girls were drawn by male artists, and were TIRED OF IT. They’d had jack of glorified scanties and wanted to wear designer clothes. And they were prepared to fight for them!

Long-time readers of SNAP will not wonder where our costumes came from: out of my closet, which encompasses a multitude of wigs, accessories and sundry oddments as well as a vast assortment of vintage and contemporary clothes – almost anything you could imagine. A 1950s opera cloak? Tick! An 1850s velvet skating coat? Tick! A Victorian woman’s evening top hat? Edwardian underclothes? A pair of over-the-knee leather boots? A long, curly-haired pink wig? Tick, tick, tick! (Those who know my tiny apartment often exclaim, “Where do you keep it all?!”)

Once we’d worked out what our costumes were going to be, the really fun part was putting on our makeup. Sapphire had cleverly done her research and found some YouTube tutorials on transforming our boring human eyes into enormous anime eyes. I supplied an enormous quantity of makeup for the purpose (Sapphire enquiring, “Do you have white eyeliner?” “Yes!” “Liquid eyeliner?” “Yes!” “False eyelashes?” “Yes! I have everything!”). The only thing Sapphire had to bring was a pair of shoes, since she’s a size smaller than me.

Every time I put on false eyelashes for a special event – these ones are black feathers – I think they are such fun that I should wear them every day. Whenever I do wear them for several hours, I am so happy to rip them off as soon as I come home however. Everyone knows the pleasure of wriggling toes upon removing painful heels, but there is the same bliss in removing the weight of sticky curtains from one’s eyelids.

Click for larger versionWhen I opened the folder on my computer I laughed when I saw these out-takes and extras – how awesome we looked! We also took some Hipstamatic photos behind the scenes of the photoshoot: there is even one of me hurriedly repairing a pair of handmade earrings for Sapphire to wear that match her necklace. The red pom-pom headband I am wearing I also made. One of the other amusing vintage garments are the 1960s lace-trimmed petti-pants Sapphire wears under her blue dress. All the clothes we are wearing are secondhand items I sourced from various places, except for the over-the-knee socks, both of which were new, and the pink nylon tutu I have on.

You can see the original story Revenge of the Anime Girls here – I enlisted the help of a bemused male work colleague to do the hand modelling, and he was very forbearing about being kicked by two miniature women. Looking at all these behind-the-scenes photos reminds me how much fun we had. It might be time to book another date with Sapphire!

Photos: March 2013

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