Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in textile (154)

Saturday
Nov242018

Impressed!

A few years ago, my friend Rapunzel bought this vintage 60s suede coat at a vintage warehouse sale for a fairly modest sum. The clothing, I believe, was purchased unseen by the container-load from America. While all the other clothing at the sale seemed to have suffered no lasting damage, this coat looked like it had been drenched in the brink. It was so wrinkled, and strangely textured as though it was encrusted with salt.

My friend, however, never wore it, saying she had never got round to taking it to a drycleaner, and didn’t like wearing coats for commuting anyway, as she tended to overheat, and so she was reluctant to spend a large amount on professional cleaning. She donated it to me.

I was pleased to accept the coat, but it couldn’t be worn in the state it was. I forgot to photograph it in its original state, but I would describe the texture as resembling a piece of paper that had been screwed up into a little ball, then poorly smoothed out.

I would describe the texture as resembling a piece of paper that had been screwed up into a little ball …

I took the coat to my regular drycleaner and asked his advice. With very serious face he examined the coat and remarked that it did look like it had fallen into the ocean. That seemed unlikely, but perhaps it had been splashed at some point in its life. He did not think cleaning it would improve its appearance – the two apparent stains visible on the right side (near the collar and the middle button) were actually abrasions of the leather, so cleaning would have no effect on those. He suggested pressing it instead.

Ironing leather! I have talked before about the importance of ironing, but it never would have occurred to me that it was appropriate to press leather. For a modest sum of $15, I agreed to see if that improved the look of the coat. When I returned to pick the coat up, I was very impressed (pardon the pun) to see the improvement.

This suede, mink-trimmed coat transmogrified from a sozzled 60-year-old harridan into a gently-used dignified dame. Disfigurements became faint scars proudly marking the stately passage of time, and the coat was eminently wearable. Amongst so many coats I already own, I still managed to wear it a few times this past winter, an excellent result.

Photo: August 2018

Wednesday
Oct242018

Domestic Exchange

I haven’t posted a Foreign Exchange story for a long time, and that is sadly because I haven’t been travelling overseas for an equally long time, but this woeful tale has its beginnings in a foreign exchange swapped for another kind of exchange.

The story starts in Vietnam nearly ten years ago, where I had a kimono custom-made for me from sumptuous silk brocade. I took that robe home and wore it to death over ten years, wearing it almost every morning except on the hottest summer days.

The day eventually came when it dawned on me that the kimono was actually starting to look rather shabby. There were worn patches and frayed edges. In denial at the prospect of setting it aside, I decided to ignore this observation and kept on wearing the kimono for a while longer.

I’ve spoken before how ruthless I am about shabby shoes – once they start to look disreputable, I become relentlessly unsentimental and throw the offending shoes straight into the bin without a moment’s hesitation. This is not the case with favourite garments.

… it still hung on a hook in my bathroom where I could gaze upon it fondly and sigh reminiscently.

Eventually, I stopped wearing the kimono, but it still hung on a hook in my bathroom where I could gaze upon it fondly and sigh reminiscently.

One day in a fit of madness, I gathered my resolve and took it to my sister Blossom, who over the many years we have been sisters, has generously made and altered countless garments for me.

She – and her husband, an involved observer one afternoon as she and I examined a portion of my wardrobe that needed rescuing – both assured me that indeed the kimono was too shabby to wear any longer.

I’d had the idea that something could be made of the good pieces of fabric, and I made my revolutionary suggestion … A CUSHION!

I know, brutal – shocking even, all things considered; I did suffer some pangs for a while. But I figured if I had a cushion I would put it on my favourite armchair and lean against it every day, and thus extend the life of the kimono.

The cushion doesn’t match the rest of my interior décor at all, and my yellow gingham kimono, though cheery, is not in the slightest degree exotic, but I don’t regret the loss anymore. I actually have a large collection of vintage dressing gowns, and enjoy sometimes wearing a 60s rayon satin with a stylised floral pattern. (I don’t wear it often for my cat Mimi attacks me in rage when I do – I think because it’s too slippery in my lap for her liking – she’s very opinionated.)

Maybe I’ll go to South-East Asia again one day, and then I’ll have another one made.

Photos: June 2009, March 2018

Monday
Oct082018

Delicious Yellow

Let’s return to yellow for a minute. Look at this delicious lemon meringue of a 50s dress that lamentably did not fit me across the shoulders. What a colour! I was drooling over it, and the lustrous embroidered satin fabric. What a crying shame it was too small!

But you can see peeping out from behind the 40s lemon yellow (more acidic than the lemon curd inside a meringue, of course) evening dress I modelled recently. So all was not lost – I scored one yellow dress that day, and a 60s sequin top, the corner of which you can see in the bottom left, as well as a pale yellow cotton ribbed cardigan in another thrift store. It was a yellow bonanza that day!

Photos: August 2018

Thursday
Sep132018

The Golden Boots I Didn’t Know I Needed

A few months ago I waltzed into one of my regular op shop haunts and no sooner than my eyes fell upon a pair of golden boots in the glass cabinet at the front of the store, where all the best treasures are usually kept, I was instantly seized with that well-known phenomenon: shoe lust. I adore Asian embroidery, in any form, and I immediately enquired about them.

One of the staff said, “I was just about the photograph those for our Facebook page!” I generously suggested she still could, but she laughed and shook her head. She must have divined that I fully intended to purchase them, for they were exactly what I was looking for. (That was the shoe lust talking.)

… I was instantly seized with that well-known phenomenon: shoe lust

She had told me the size, and although they were actually a size bigger than I would normally wear, I knew fabric shoes were often an iffy prospect, especially stiff satin. These were barely worn, and sure enough, they were a little loose though not so stiff after all, and with socks I decided they would be fine. The brand is Sofree, which seems to originate from Asia, possibly Korea, although I can’t find much on them googling.

The first time I wore them I chose a day I was sure it would not rain, and pranced out into the sunshine with them. Not five minutes after I left my house, a passing cyclist exclaimed in delight at the sight of them. Validation!

Some shoes you just have to have, even if you don’t need them.

Photo: This week

Friday
Aug312018

A Farewell to Winter

I am a long-term fan of tweed for winter. There is something so cosy about this fabric, if it is good quality wool. I particularly love the herringbone pattern and have managed to collect many examples of it over the years, most of which is vintage, or merely secondhand, and a little of which was purchased new. [You can read more about the different types of tweed patterns, and how to distinguish them here.]

A really fun way to wear it, I have decided, is all at once if you can possibly manage it. Even better if they are separates that all differ a little; in this case, a proper suit scores low styling points.

[The coat] clinched my decision that it was time I made another homage to tweed.

This 1970s coat I am wearing has a very amusing label: “Richard Shops – Such Clever Clothes”. I found it in an op shop in the midst of a heatwave last summer. I suffered trying it on, but it was worth it. I certainly didn’t need any more coats, but I loved the tailored shape of it, and the enormous lapels. It clinched my decision that it was time I made another homage to tweed. The occasion of the first homage on these pages was way back in 2009, so it’s about time I reprised the look.

I’ve had the baggy pants for a few years – they remind me of plus-fours styled this way – but going by the drop crotch, they are modern. The label is clearly designer, it’s so difficult to read: white embroidery on cream, which is twisted and folded. I eventually decrypted it and read ESS Laboratory. Established in 2001, the label is Melbourne-born, and the two designers Japanese. (My effort was rewarded, because their bio alone is pleasingly intellectual. You can read more about their work on their blog.)

The Pierre Cardin blouse is a silky herringbone print, also found in an op shop, but in spite of its designer associations, it is disappointingly made from polyester. The cut is too awesome though for the fibre to be a deal breaker.

While the 1950s tweed hunting cap does not have a herringbone pattern, is does suit this outfit very well.

I am happy to say I enjoyed wearing the coat and pants together recently, although with a warm wool knit instead of a blouse, and a different hat. However, that is the last time for this winter, for tomorrow it will officially be spring – hurrah!

Photos: May 2018