Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in victorian (26)

Thursday
Aug152019

Of the Same Stripe

Bathing suit, c. 1910sI love a stripe, it’s no secret. The other day while browsing on Pinterest, I spotted a nineteenth century black and white striped skirt (below) that was part of a beachwear set, and I was smitten. I would wear this off the beach today if I could but find one!

The skirt that bowled me over: Beachwear, late 1860s–early 1870sStripes are the simplest pattern of all, and when they are bold they make the most graphic and eye-catching statement. I’ll take stripes of any colour, but especially white with either black, blue, red or green.

Here are some other amazing black and white striped garments and accessories to bowl you over.

NB All images were found on Pinterest, but where possible I have traced them to their ultimate source – click each image to jump through.

Jacques Doucet, 1890sParasol, 1897 (image originally from The Met)Petticoat, c. 1900Underskirt, c. 1900Jeanne Lanvin, 1930sEvening dress, Madame Grès, c. 1975

Saturday
Jul062019

The Luxury Hat

Felt is an ancient fabric, and perhaps the first made by man: it is made rather easily as it is not woven and does not require a loom. According to legend, in the Middle Ages a wandering monk named St Clement – destined to become the fourth bishop of Rome – happened upon the process of felt-making quite by accident. It is said that to make his shoes more comfortable, he stuffed them with tow (short flax or linen fibres). Walking in them on damp ground, he discovered that his own weight and sweaty feet had matted the tow fibres together into a kind of cloth. After being made bishop (with the power to indulge his whimsy), he set up a workshop to develop felting production … and thus he became the patron saint for hatmakers, who of course use felt to this day.

Parisian costume, 1826Men and women’s beaver top hats, Gentleman’s Magazine of Fashion, 1876Today most felt is made of wool, but in the past, animal fur was used to make a high-quality felt. Animal fur has tiny, microscopic spines which lock together much like Velcro when heat and moisture are applied. Beaver was the superior fur because its spines were prominent and helped produce a high-quality felt; hats made from it date back to at least the sixteenth century, and they were a staggeringly expensive luxury item. Naturally, to reduce the cost of fur felt, other furs were used such as rabbit or hare, camel, and angora (mohair).

Men wearing beaver hats, 1886But it was another type of hat altogether that toppled the beaver from its luxury perch at last: the silk top hat. First invented in 1797 and scandalising the general public with its fearsome appearance, by the mid nineteenth century, the silk top hat cost half the price of beaver, and overtook it in popularity owing to changes in lifestyle which meant the hardy fur felt hats were not needed.

50s hat of angora fur felt; authorised reproduction of a Claude Saint-Cyr designI was initially attracted to this red 1950s pixie hat because of its dramatic shape, and the pearls (which I love) sewn all over it. It is made with Melusine, a felt made from rabbit fur. Melusine has long, fine fibres that are brushed to create a silky long-haired finish. In the past I had presumed ‘fur felt’ was a misnomer, and that such fabric was actually made from wool to look like fur. I was a bit sad when I realised this hat was real rabbit fur; however, at least it is vintage and recycled.

An amazing pink fur felt reproduction Regency hat, by Jane Walton, 2019I have a few other vintage hats also made from melusine, all from the 50s and 60s. While wool felt is certainly more common these days, you can still buy new fur felt hats (some sources nebulously state the fur is a ‘by-product’) – even top hats made from beaver that are worn by top cats at Ascot – and they are still quite expensive.

Photo: June 2019

Wednesday
May222019

Did Someone Mention Giant Bows?

Bows are practical, and bows are frivolous. From one’s shoelace, to a pussy-bow blouse, to a multitude of non-functioning bows decorating a ballgown. They just look pretty, especially when they are tied with a luxury fabric. Or they look louche, à la those blouses on the Gucci runway.

My t-shirt is made from cotton and silk chiffon – the sleeves are so delicate and pretty. It is by Bettina Liano, an Australian label that launched in the 1980s and is famous for its denim line. I bought this tee in a thrift store, however, as I did the bow headband for amusement’s sake – I have not actually worn it out.

It is a big bow. Alas it is not quite as big as the giant bow on the Edwardian hat on the cover of Ladies Home Journal that I shared yesterday. I think I would feel more comfortable wearing an enormous bow on a hat than as a headband; or even a scarf tied in a huge bow would fit my style better.

Scroll down for a few bows of the past.

Photo: December 2016

Mon Vignon, Paris, 1860s Bubblegum pink silk two piece, self-fabric bow trim to shoulders and skirt hemLucile afternoon dress, 1917–20Balenciaga, 1951Yves Saint Laurent haute couture, 1983Gucci Fall/Winter 2011-2012
Pussybows at Gucci Fall/Winter 2011-2012

Wednesday
Apr172019

Victorian Glory

Yesterday I was waxing lyrical about my Victorian cape – here it is in all its glory! Isn’t it amaa-aa-zing? I first saw it from the rear, on a mannequin in the window display of a Sacred Heart Mission op shop. I stared at it in amazement and disbelief. At first I thought it was a costume from a theatre perhaps, but when I enquired if I could try it on and swept it away to a changing room, I saw that it was an original piece.

It is wool, with a silk lining and fringe, and cornelli embroidery on the yoke. The label is also still intact, and reads, in gold embroidered script on a cream background: “Mesdames Niblett, Crighton & Burton”, and in smaller text, “75 New St Birmingham”. It does have a few moth bites and holes, which is not surprising considering its age, and a previous owner covered a few up with tiny lace leaves – you can see them in the second picture.

It has a lovely weight to it and a delightful swishy swing.

I am wearing it here with a vintage 1970s mauve dress and 1950s cherry casque, an outfit I wore to my niece’s wedding last year. (I actually wore it with a different cape, one of red cashmere.) On the morning I was very indecisive about which coat to wear, but the red won out as I love that colour it worn with purple. I ended up wearing this cape to the Opening Night of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband – which I thought was an ideal occasion, as the play was written in the Victorian era. I recall it was a cold night, and the cape was very warm – not to mention an extravagant indulgence to wear! It has a lovely weight to it and a delightful swishy swing.

This is the second Victorian cape that I own, the first being a shorter, hooded skating coat of red and white striped velvet, which I bought from Persephone Vintage on Etsy a few years ago. It too has a long fringe, of red and white chenille. I can’t say that I’d want to gad about in weighty Victorian gowns and their even more fearsome foundation garments, but I must say I do enjoy wearing the capes of the era, and how much more exciting than a prosaic duffel coat for example, or some other even more utilitarian coat? Life’s too short to wear a parka.

Photos: July 2018

Tuesday
Mar262019

Fashion Follows Sailor Suit

Late last spring, just as the warmer weather was beginning in Melbourne, I amused myself (and my work colleagues) by adopting a nautical theme for a week. I have long loved stripes – a nautical staple – and the classic colour combination of blue, red, and white which I very often choose to wear, nautical theme or not.

Traditional sailor suits … influenced the design of the new bathing suits and other clothing …

Nautical fashion has for many decades been popular for the warmer seasons, with its obvious link to seaside activities. The fashion first took off in the mid nineteenth century, when ‘sportswear for the new woman’ first started being produced. Traditional sailor suits, ie, naval uniforms with flap collars, stripes and bellbottoms, influenced the design of the new bathing suits and other clothing designed for regattas, yachting, boating and seaside promenading.

Coco Chanel in the interwar periodFrench sailors; the marinière or tricot rayé (striped sweater) is a cotton long-armed shirt with horizontal blue and white stripes, characteristically worn by quartermasters and seamen in the French navy.Coco Chanel was another enormous influence after adopting the sailor-collared top (as opposed to Breton striped tees) worn by the local fishermen and sailors in the resort town of Deauville, where she opened her first store on the coast of France in 1913. At the same time, ‘Middy’ blouses, inspired by the uniform of midshipmen were worn by school children for gym activities; by the 1920s they were a huge women’s fashion trend.

1920s middy shirtFashion in the decades after followed suit, adopting the look not just for sportswear, but for daywear, and to the present day we are still wearing nautical influenced garments (although it still seems chiefly only for daytime). Every nautical motif once can think of has been deployed by fashion designers in both blatant and subtle iterations, from the triumvirate of the three most popular colours of blue, red and white; stripes and flag graphics; middy tops and sailor collars; neckties and pussy bows; every type of nautical hat – boaters, fisherman and sailor caps; high-waisted bellbottoms; to naval trim such as gold buttons and braid, and rope, anchor and sailboat motifs. 

It’s fun, it’s sporty and casual, easy and breezy, and denotes summertime and carefree holidays so very particularly – no wonder nautical fashion has remained popular!

Click through to view my gallery of all my nautical looks of the week, and keep scrolling for nautical looks throughout the decades.

Read more about nautical Fashion

Stories on nautical fashion by Vintage Dancer and Blue Velvet Vintage are worth a read – both include some great images from different eras.

Genealogy Lady has written a short history on the middy blouse.

Frenchly reveals that Coco Chanel did not make Breton stripes a thing!

For seaside fashion of the nineteenth century, visit Mimi Matthews.

Nautical fashions through the decades

Victorian era, c 1890sEdwardian wool bathing suit1920s swimsuit1930s nautical daywear fashions1940s dress (LIFE magazine)1950s1960s1970sMarch 1982February 1992, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington wearing Ralph Lauren on Vogue's coverLes Indes galantes collection, Lascar dress, Haute couture, spring/summer 2000, Jean-Paul GaultierZuhair Murad, RTW Spring 2016All images found on Pinterest unless otherwise indicated with direct links.