Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in victorian (24)

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.

Wednesday
Feb282018

Summertime Gothic

Time was in Melbourne when many goths wandering like lost souls through the streets were a very familiar sight. Having gone through art college myself, they were never a threatening or repugnant presence to me as they were to some, and I was always intrigued (and entertained) by their bold sartorial expressions.

What a spectacular head dress! (from @mywitchery; outfit @burleskacorsets-blog.)Their mania for emulating the darker aspects of the Victorian period in respect of dress seemed to work well for winter – frock coats, puffy sleeved shirts, cloaks, big boots – but I marvelled that so many seemed at a loss as to what to wear for summer, always a concern for sweltering days in an Australian city, even one so far south as Melbourne.

Melbourne Goth & Victorian Picnic 2017I always felt sorry for them, suffering on broiling days in their multiple floor-length layers. They really needed a stylist I decided, poor things, to help them figure out a ‘summerweight’ goth look. I was sure their angst-ridden expressions had more to do with suffering from imminent heatstroke than affected Victorian anguish.

You don’t see many goths in Melbourne anymore however. Perhaps the old goths of the 90s and Noughties have grown up, or moved to the suburbs and got haircuts and real jobs. Research lead me to discover the goth movement is still going strong in Europe, with many large annual festivals (mainly in Germany) still being held and attracting tens of thousands, with steampunk and even ‘steamgoth’ now entering the field as well.

Melbourne Goth & Victorian Picnic 2017One way to keep cool – not for everyone however; Melbourne Goth & Victorian Picnic 2017In October last year, the Melbourne Gothic & Victorian Picnic was held in the Fitzroy Gardens (north of the city proper), it is pleasing to discover. However a quick perusal of photos shows that most goths are wearing quite heavy garments for mid-spring, with a few concessions in the form of punk-inspired torn lace or lingerie – a revealing look not for everyone.

I’ve long wanted to do a tongue-in-cheek homage on a summer version of typical goth splendour, but have held off until I secured just the right outfit. I finally found it, and here it is to celebrate the last day of summer: a billowing silk, floor-length dress featuring some cobwebby lace in the yoke, a nod to gothic Victoriana for the more modest young lady. The loose skirts, low back and front, and sleeveless cut make it perfect for an Australian summer.

Add a lace parasol (I only had a cream one, but a real goth might prefer tattered black) to protect one’s delicate pallor from the burning rays of the Australian sun, a dour expression, and you’re good to go. For an evening wrap against potential night chill, consider a black lace shawl which can be prosaically wrapped round the shoulders, or draped over the head for that funereal aspect.

Visit A Study of Goth Subculture (2009) for both dissertations and detailed fashion information; a relatively recent story at The Conversation on Goth, Steampunk and the State of Subculture Today (2016) is also worth a read.

Photos: March 2017

Thursday
Aug032017

In the Purple

A modern violet ribbed knit and wooden necklace are worn with a Tyrian purple lampshade I hated purple for most of my life scarred as I was by a hideous magenta dress that my mother forced me to wear when I was about nine years old, to an older sister’s wedding. Purple is my mother’s favourite colour, and I think she picked out a horrid long-sleeved scratchy magenta dress trimmed in cream crocheted lace simply because she liked the colour. I hated the style of the dress, but the colour unfortunately became tainted by association for me for more than twenty years. I don’t think I started wearing it until my 30s when I discovered jewel tones suited me so well.

Many colours are named after things of the natural world, such as flowers, minerals, foods, and before synthetic dyes began to be produced, they were also made from them. Purple is certainly no exception. There are a myriad shades, including these examples of lilac, lavender and mauve, but violet stands quite apart on the colourwheel …

Byzantine Emperor Justinian, mosaic in St Vitale church, Ravenna, Italy

Tyrian Purple

Purple is the colour most often associated with royalty, most likely because in days of antiquity the production of purple dye – known as Tyrian purple, after one of the coastal Phoenician cities in which it originated – was long, difficult and expensive. It was made from the gland of a sea snail called the spiny dye-murex, and produced varying shades of purple from crimson to magenta to a much deeper bluish hue, depending upon the type of snail and how it was made.

Tyrian purple became the favoured colour of the wealthy: kings, nobles, priests and magistrates all around the Mediterranean. It is mentioned in many works of literature of the ancient world: Homer, Sappho, and the Old Testament of the Bible.

Cloth dyed with Tyrian purple‘In modern times, Tyrian purple has been recreated, at great expense. When the German chemist, Paul Friedander, tried to recreate Tyrian purple in 2008, he needed twelve thousand mollusks to create 1.4 ounces of dye, enough to color a handkerchief. In the year 2000, a gram of Tyrian purple made from ten thousand mollusks according to the original formula, cost two thousand euros.’ [Wikipedia]

Violets

Violet

Violet is actually a spectral colour in its own right as it has its own wavelength, unlike purple, which is made up of two spectral colours – blue and red. It also sits on the colourwheel between purple (next to crimson) and blue.

As my birthday falls in February, my birthstone is amethyst, and my flower is the violet. My mum grew these shy and tiny flowers in her gardenbeds, and they were always special to me for this reason, as well as their divine and subtle scent.

Interestingly, this violet ribbed jumper (sweater) of mine was very difficult to photograph. In reality it is distinctly an almost luminous shade of violet, but the camera captured it almost as cobalt – I had to colourcorrect it in Photoshop. This curiosity may have something to do with the ‘Bezold-Brücke shift’: when violet brightens, it begins to look more and more blue; the same effect does not happen with common purple.

Vintage 60s wool hat and gloves are worn with modern items

Lavender

Another subtle shade of purple is lavender, also named after a flower. While there is a myriad of shades used by designers of all kinds, the colour is most associated with the actual flower, a medium purple or a light pinkish purple. The word was first used in English to describe a colour in 1705.

The colour is also associated with decadence, in the sense of a lifestyle devoted to enjoying aesthetic sensual pleasures such as art, music food, and wine. Lavender-coloured roses are symbolic of love at first sight.

A modern pale lilac knit worn with a pink wool scarf and vintage pleated skirt

Lilac

The lilac flower is another of my favourite flowers because of its gorgeous beauty and scent. How heavenly it would be to have a lilac tree growing in one’s yard! I remember one of my uncles had one when I was a child. The colour obviously takes its name from the flower, but shades can vary of course, from more bluish to more reddish tones. The first recorded use of lilac as a colour name in English was in 1775.

Lilac

My knit might be described as ‘opera mauve’ (first used in 1927) and the bag as ‘mauve taupe’ (first used in 1925)

Mauve

Mauve is the newest colour of the lot, and the most interesting history. It was first created in 1856 by a young scientist named William Perkin. Perkin was experimenting with coal tar in an attempt to synthesise quinine (as a cure for malaria), when he stumbled upon a process producing a bright purple liquid. He had once dreamed of being an artist, dipped a piece of silk in a beaker of the liquid, and realised he had created a light- and wash-proof dye.

He first named the colour Tyrian purple, but soon after adopted the French name for the mallow flower: mauve. Ironically, it was a dye that was also difficult and expensive to produce, just like its original namesake.

Mallow flower, called mauve in French

However, in 1857, after Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, discovered the colour and decided it was an exact match for the colour of her eyes, the dye became a hit. Queen Victoria took note, and wore a dress of rich mauve velvet to her daughter’s marriage. In August 1859, Punch declared that London was ‘in the grip of the ‘Mauve Measles’, and by the time Perkin was 21, he was a rich and well-respected man.

Mauve was extremely popular during the Victorian period. Frances Adeline ‘Fanny’ Seward by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, early 1860s

Dress (afternoon bodice), 1860s Jessie Benton Fremont, American, MFA Boston

Half-Mourning

Interestingly all these floral shades of purple are also associated with half-mourning, being one of the acceptable colours (along with grey) worn in the final stage of mourning, after black. And as the Victorians aged, the popularity of the colour also went into a decline, becoming forever associated with the older generation.

But now, more than a century later, when young women are doing the previously unheard-of: adopting lavender rinses (and pink, blue, green – errr, every shade but their own!), perhaps these hues will have a renaissance?

Photos: July 2016


Silk tulle dress made for Queen Alexandra, Henriette Favre, French, 1902