Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in umbrella (34)

Monday
Jun172019

Walking Papers

When I was in my late teens I started to wear broad-brimmed hats in summer for protection from the sun simply because I loathed the stickiness of sunscreen and decided I would only put up with it at the beach. From sun hats to parasols was a small step, and I began to collect parasols – because if a hat gave you some protection from the sun, how much more a parasol? (And from summer hats to their winter counterparts was a small leap, and thus a lifetime love affair with hats was born.)

The first proper parasols I found were Chinese and Japanese oiled and plain paper parasols in thrift stores. They were not something I found often, but when I did they were usually inexpensive: under $10, some even under $5. The most recent acquisitions are the two that I am carrying in these pictures. I was thrilled with the flower-shaped one (possibly a Japanese one, with its cherry blossom painting), and the small one I deemed was very convenient to carry in my tote. And since I took this photo, I have found yet another – a green paper parasol.

I did see one oiled paper umbrella once which was priced around $20, but since it wasn’t significantly different to the ones I owned already, I passed on it. A quick look on Etsy ascertains that $20 is a very low price; there are many for $80 or more.*

I always assumed that the coated paper parasols were lacquered, but in fact they are oiled to make them waterproof. As the oiled paper ages it becomes rigid, and easier to break, but with sufficient care one should last for 20 years. I suspect mine are past their use-by date and won’t test them out in the rain, although I’d love to!

Japanese family group, 1920s. (Image found on Pinterest; no original source linked.) Kyoto 1955, by Kansuke YamamotoAccording to Wikipedia, the oiled paper umbrella originated in China, and spread to Korea and Japan during the Tang dynasty (7th–10th centuries). Early umbrella materials were mostly feathers or silks and only later were they covered in paper; it’s unknown when the oiled paper umbrellas were invented. You can read an interesting history about the Japanese wagasa (umbrella) and how they are painstakingly created by hand here. It’s not surprising to learn that the craft has dwindled after WWII, when synthetic umbrellas made their way to Japan. Today production of handmade wagasa is very limited.

If I ever go to China again, or to Japan, a new one will definitely be on my list of desirable souvenirs. I wonder if anyone makes feather ones? What a fashion statement that would be – something else to add to my list of Holy Fashion Grails!

Parasols on the beach, 1920s; click through to the link and scroll to the very bottom of the page to read more about beach parasols in this era.A lovely modern image of a woman with an umbrella in the snow

Fashion Notes

I am wearing a classic Chinese-style silk blouse with mandarin collar and frog fastenings by Sarah-Jane, which I found in a thrift store in country Victoria; the pants are modern, by a French label bought online. My bangles, ring and earrings are cloisonné, also found in thrift stores; the technique of cloisonné had spread to China by the 13–14th centuries where it became hugely popular; to the present day it is one of the world’s best known enamel cloisonné. The fabric necklace of insects and flowers was a souvenir from Hang Nga Guesthouse, popularly known as “Crazy House” for its architecture in Da Lat, Vietnam, and likewise, the beaded and embroidered slippers are a Vietnamese souvenir, bought in the main market in Saigon.

*All prices in Australian dollars

Photos: March 2018

Wednesday
Mar202019

Colours of Happiness

Today is the International Day of Happiness! And I have spent today and much of the last few days in bed, or otherwise resting, as I have been sick with a horrible chest cold – hurrah! My workplace was having a morning tea in celebration of the day, and we were told to wear yellow; while I didn’t make it to that, I still managed to wear yellow – my kimono is yellow and white gingham.

I shall share instead some pictures from Saturday, when I visited my parents for lunch and wore a new favourite vintage 70s dress – a cotton voile spaghetti-strapped straight dress, belted at the waist. Its standout feature is the gorgeous print, in colours that really do make me happy! The dress is in very good condition; I found it recently in a thrift store. I am also wearing 40s sunglasses, 50s hairclips and am carrying a vintage Chinese paper parasol.

The label is Miss Jo Melbourne, and I surmise that was inspired by Jo from Little Women, the famous book by Louisa May Alcott. I don’t know anything about the label’s history unfortunately, and have only spotted one other dress – a brown polka-dot, 30s style frock – at Le Sourceress on Etsy. With such a romantic name, I’d love to know what else the label produced.

Photos: March 2019

Tuesday
Sep182018

Let it Rain!

In a Melbourne spring, one must be prepared for rain at all times. Melburnians are famous for vigilantly checking the weather forecast no matter what the season, and many of us keep a tiny folding umbrella in our totes, or in our drawers at work against sudden need. I am no exception to this rule, and I own a formidable array of vintage umbrellas in different colours so that I can match my outfits.

This vintage 60s frilled umbrella is one of my favourites. I have owned it for a long time. I love vintage brollies for they are generally sturdier than their modern counterparts because their skeletons have more ribs, made from steel unlike the flimsy aluminium contraptions manufactured today. They are therefore much stronger in a high wind. However, mishaps can still occur, and last year they did.

I felt a bit dreadful about this, like a vintage murderer …

First of all, I lost the tip of one spoke, which meant that the covering pulled away. There are no umbrella repairers these days, so I came up with my own solution: find another vintage umbrella in an op shop and cannibalise it for parts! I felt a bit dreadful about this, like a vintage murderer, but I managed to find one – in a vivacious shade of lime green – that was already broken: it was unable to be opened. This made me feel better about hacking off its limbs. (It annoyed me that the op shop was still charging $5 for it, the same price as a functional umbrella, but I supposed it possessed, after all, what I required.)

Naturally, while I was doing this photoshoot and after amputating the silver tips, the umbrella suddenly operated normally! Typical. However, it must have been aggravating for the original owner if the umbrella was randomly becoming stuck – most inconvenient at the sudden onset of a shower. But I had what I needed and repaired the blue brolly, squirreling the remaining tips away.

… some time later another freak accident tragically occurred.

After all these misadventures, some time later another freak accident tragically occurred. One day, when I was walking along the street with the blue umbrella dangling from my wrist by its tassel, an aforementioned high wind suddenly gusted along and bizarrely caught the umbrella against my own limbs and snapped off the handle! Who would even expect such a thing to happen? I was quite indignant.

Fortunately I work at a theatre that has a Props department, and I paid a visit to its manager. He is an amiable man, and was happy to be of assistance. A few days later, my umbrella appeared on my desk, and when I saw him, he told me he had reinforced the shaft with a length of steel, and then had glued the plastic handle back on. What a miracle worker! He warned me to treat it gently henceforth, but it certainly seems very sturdy again – not that I plan a bout of play sword-fighting or anything anytime soon.

Hurrah! LET IT RAIN.

Photos: March 2017, September 2018

Monday
Jul232018

Blue Girl

When I was growing up, I was never into Holly Hobbie. I was of course I familiar with the image of the famous blue girl, mainly through collecting swap cards (the Australian version of trading cards).

Holly Hobbie, the eponymous character of the artist, was created in the late 1960s and subsequently sold to American Greetings who disseminated her throughout the world.

The original Holly HobbieHolly – the character – was famous for her rag dress and giant bonnet, and when I first spotted this patchwork 1970s maxi dress at a giant vintage warehouse sale, I immediately thought of her. The dress tickled my fancy, and although I doubted I would ever wear it in public, I bought it as it was priced at only $10. It is a great pity the belt was missing; I have substituted a silk scarf.

When I recreate these dress-ups, I like to challenge myself to create costumes out of items I already own. My bonnet is actually a modern hat designed to look like a headscarf and bonnet hybrid; my boots are also modern, recent op shop purchases, and my umbrella is vintage 50s or 60s. The umbrella is not authentic to Holly Hobbie, but rather inspired by other cutesy 70s characters – it made a more interesting picture than without.

I’ve owned the dress for nearly two years, and have yet to wear it out. I am trying to make a conscious effort to wear all the vintage clothes and accessories I have collected over the years – it feels wasteful otherwise. Perhaps this colourful dress is simply waiting for the right occasion.

Photo: May 2018

Tuesday
May082018

Birds and Brollies

I love fun and kitschy pins and brooches and am amassing quite a collection. Most of them I have bought in Melbourne op shops (thrift stores); a very few bought online; and a couple are leftovers from my childhood (a crimson enamel and diamante butterfly) and teenage years (a frilled sea-serpent wrapped around a sword and swallowing the red glass pommel).

This pair, which I think are from the 1940s or 50s, I bought last Saturday in two different op shops. I was quite tickled to find the umbrella because I had been searching on Etsy last week for umbrella pins – if you’ve been reading this journal for a while, you know I go through quite a few brollies, so I thought it quite expedient that I should have one in brooch form. I also love birds of every kind, and already have a few others in my set, so the swan is a lovely addition.

I tend to wear brooches more in winter because so many of them are made from heavy metal, and weigh delicate summery fabrics down too much. Now that the weather has cooled at last, they shall come out to play!