Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in textile (159)


Vive la liberté!

Aren’t they cute, the pair of them? On the right is Fifi; she is hugging Gingersnaps, who starred in a Bright Young Thing back in November last year.

Let’s start with you Fifi. How would you describe your style in general?

Fifi: Pretty; girly, but hopefully sophisticated. I like the classic French-Riviera style – white stripes with red or blue; and cute outfits like a recent nautical look I put together with a striped Marcs top.

And last time you described yourself ‘casual with a bit of rock n roll’, Gingersnaps. Yet today I find you both in floral Liberty prints! What’s going on?

Gingersnaps: It wasn’t the floral print that attracted me to this dress, although I did grow to appreciate Liberty prints from my time working at Alannah Hill. I remember a very cute pair of frilly knickers with a print of a girl with a poodle…

Fifi: I generally don’t like florals, but this top is a favourite. I really liked the colours, and the cut – particularly the halter neck and tie at the bottom. It’s from Fragile, which is a trés expensive maternity shop in South Melbourne. I wore it for both my pregnancies and loved it so much had it tailored to fit me now.

Gingersnaps: That’s exactly what I liked about my Lush dress: the cut, and the colours. My sister bought the dress first when she was working in the sales shop – all of my sisters and I have worked at Lush at some stage – and I loved it, so I bought one too. We got the last two size 8s.

So it was completely chance you both wore your ‘Liberties’ today? No phone calls in the morning?

Fifi: (laughs) No! It was going to be very hot, so I needed a cool top. The busy pattern needs to be teamed with something quite plain on the bottom – these nice-fitting black trousers are from Coopers St.

And you, Gingersnaps?

Gingersnaps: Yes, the weather forecast was a factor. When the temperature rises it’s time for Liberty prints, bare legs and light fabrics. And as little black as possible.

When the temperature rises it’s time for Liberty prints, bare legs and light fabrics. And as little black as possible.

How long does it take you both to get dressed in the morning?

Fifi: Just ten minutes. With two little ones I don’t have time to try five different looks any more like I used to.

Gingersnaps: No time at all today. It was an easy decision; it’s my coolest dress.

What about your accessories?

Fifi: Although I wasn’t wearing any jewellery today, because of the busy pattern and the high neck, the best accessories are earrings. I need to wear my hair up to accentuate the halter neckline. A chunky bracelet always looks good with this style too as my shoulders are bare. Oh, I also had some gorgeous leather, magenta and silver heels from Jigsaw, made in Spain.

Gingersnaps: I was wearing a little silver locket on a fine chain, a birthday present from my boyfriend last year. My Giallo ballet flats are just comfy to walk in.

You’ve worked in a few great fashion boutiques, Gingersnaps: Lush, Frauhaus, Alannah Hill. Great opportunity to increase your wardrobe with a staff discount! How often do you shop now?

Gingersnaps: Rarely. I’m too poor to buy what I really like – I have expensive taste. But when I do, it’s never department stores – I tend to wander into little boutiques, like Lush.

What about secondhand?

Gingersnaps: No, it just doesn’t suit me – I can never find anything that fits. I don’t have the patience to sift through the racks of grotty clothing. I do like shopping for secondhand furniture, and knick-knacks.

You mentioned you and your sister both bought this dress. Does this happen often?

Gingersnaps: All the time! My mum and my two sisters and I are all similar shapes, with similar taste which is convenient. Mum loves shopping – she should have been a stylist. We have stuff that passes from mum to sister to sister, so I guess you could say that’s where I shop. We’re good recyclers.

I like to trawl the high streets – you can find anything from Kookaï to Colette Dinnigan.

And you Fifi? How often do you shop?

Fifi: Every day! Just whenever I get the chance I slip into a shop here or there. I like to trawl the high streets – you can find anything from Kookaï to Colette Dinnigan. I’m not snobby either; I’m perfectly happy to go into a cheap store to find a bargain. This time of year it’s very tempting too, with all the sales on.

Guerrilla-style shopping, eh? What are your favourite shops?

Fifi: Cactus Jam – domestic designers and the international boutique. I go to the QVB store as it has a broad selection. On a recent trip there I went looking for a wedding outfit. I bought two options, a third dress, and then a pair of Chloe trousers on sale. I also like Cue, as they do a lot of clothes for petite frames.

Gingersnaps: If I could afford to splurge, I really love Nicola, in Greville St; White Suede on Chapel (great swimwear); Frauhaus; and Hand in Glove. I tend to prefer Australian designers with small runs – it’s more exclusive.

Okay, last question: what new items are you looking for this season?

Fifi: More dresses! And a new winter coat. It needs to be fitted on top with long sleeves. I didn’t like the three-quarter sleeves that were popular last year – my arms got cold. I’m also on the lookout for a jazz outfit. (I do jazz for exercise.) I tend to wear sports clothes, but I want something fun, and pretty. I find leggings and tops abhorrent, and that’s what most people seem to wear.

Gingersnaps: I also need a new winter coat. My Lush ‘backwards’ style coat is three years old. I’d like something black, plain and maybe in a 40s style. It needs to be fitted, not oversized. I’ll know it when I see it. I’d also like some new shoes – flats, from Giallo – that would work with stockings and bare feet.

Fifi: I’ve never been one for shoes really. But I did recently get the cutest green Keds wedges with a yellow bow.

Gingersnaps: I’d also like some pretty tops that aren’t black. I said it before, but I need to Walk Away From Black!

Ah, music to my ears. On that lovely note: happy shopping until next time.

Cloud photos: Antonio Gillo, from


A tale of two jackets

Whenever I shop overseas I always have fun in Zara. It is like a treasure-trove for someone who shops there so seldom.

When I walk in the door, I like to do a little reconnaissance before I return to choose the first armload of items to try on. Then if I am not quite satisfied with my haul, I go back for a second look, minutely inspecting the racks in case some sweet morsel had escaped my gimlet eye on the first round. I regret that last time I did not, after all, snaffle that grey silk blouson with little indigo stars all over it. What was I thinking?

I am unfailingly drawn to jackets and I own more than I could reasonably expect to wear in a single season.

However, I did snatch up a chocolate-brown, cropped jacket featuring a large collar and asymmetrical cut. I am unfailingly drawn to jackets and I own more than I could reasonably expect to wear in a single season. I don’t even want to get onto the subject of storage!

I noticed almost immediately that this Zara jacket was like the summer, or ‘lite’ version of a cropped, puffy, Elizabethan-collared jacket I had bought two years earlier in Hong Kong. Even the fabric was the virtually the same, in look if not composition.

Obviously unpopular with the locals, the puffy jacket was jammed on a rack exploding with its duplicates. I was immediately delighted by it and paid about AU$22 for the privilege of walking out the door with it.

Admittedly it is a little eccentric: a strange lovechild born from 80s sportswear and swingy 50s style. I feel like Sean Young’s character Rachael in Blade Runner when I wear it, yet its cropped length and three-quarter sleeves are impractical for winter.

It was a perfect parka, though, for my 12-year-old niece when she and her dad landed on my doorstep one chilly Saturday afternoon. She needed something to wear to the footy; there is a delicious irony in that.

I adore them both however: one is a perfect topper for warmer months; the other never fails to make me laugh with its frivolity.

Special thanks go to Rapunzel for finding the Wall Street Journal article.


Just tulle-ing around

Let’s face it: tulle is a frivolous fabric. Even Wikipedia has not much to say on the subject, and there is little other information about it. Although apparently there is a town in France called Tulle, which I didn’t know.

All the same, there is something enchanting about it. There is obviously a strange dichotomy going on in my fashion personality, since I am attracted to such confections as this hat; the colour pink (pink and tulle even collide in this instance here); and vintage jewellery – as well as stark, straight lines; all shades of grey; and fierce shoes that scare some of my female friends.

When I first saw this hat in a charity shop I was instantly charmed by it, but doubtful that I would ever wear it in public. It was the polka-dots scattering the netting that convinced me, however. (The sales person who complimented my appearance in it had nothing whatsoever to do with my decision.)

When I first saw this hat in a charity shop I was instantly charmed by it

I knew how I would photograph it: I would wear my polka-dotted blouse, and the black tulle gloves – also vintage – and I would sit at a table surrounded by white.

My other inspiration was this 1957 photograph by Antony Armstrong-Jones. It wasn’t until after the shoot that I found the image in a book, and I realised how hazy my recollection of it was – I’d forgotten the context completely. But how amusing to see the similarity of her dress to my blouse! I am still trying to decide whose expression of delight looks more affected…

Below are some more modern frivolities (how adorable are those thongs, and they would totally go with my pink tulle hat!). You can see more here.

(Second from left, John Galliano for Christian Dior; far right, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel. Other images uncredited.)


Scheherazade's slippers

What is that springs immediately to mind when one thinks of shopping in the exotic souqs of the Middle East? Turkish delight? Dates? Filigree lanterns, Oriental carpet? Gold?

For me, it was these slippers: the quintessential souvenir of Arabia.

Of course now that I have strolled through a dozen souqs in Dubai, Sharjah and Oman, I know what will forever evoke colourful memories: the eternal cry of – no, not the muezzin, but: “Pashmina, pashmina?”

X was more often subjected to “Watch, sir? Rolex?” Once he thought to baffle one such merchant turning his own question on him. At the next opportunity, he responded, “Pashmina?”

“Yes, yes, we have pashmina!” was the instantaneous reply.

I went off into a peal of laughter that is not often heard in the marketplaces, and we hurriedly moved on, avoiding the disapproving looks.

I know what will forever evoke colourful memories: the eternal cry of … “Pashmina, pashmina?”

As for these slippers I left it until my last night of shopping in the markets to purchase them. In the textile souq of Bur Dubai I pounced on this exact pair. Though I tried on black, and grey, I ultimately returned to the pink – that colour seemed to emphasise their frivolity. (Plus they would contrast nicely when paired with my black and silver belly-dancing outfit, I decided.)

When X pointed out it looked like I had slipped them on the wrong way round, I was amused to learn that they do not come in left and right: they just are. The heel of one is malformed, so it has become the right by default. The sizing also is nominal: I merely found a pair that fit.

I adore them.

As for the pashminas – I did succumb, not once, but twice. But I’ll save their stories for another day.

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