Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in vintage (497)

Friday
Jan112019

In Which Case

Many years ago, I bought this vintage metal mesh glasses case in a thrift store, intending to use it to carry sunglasses. Regrettably, it turned out to be a bit too small. I set it aside, forgetting about it until about a year ago, when I received my first pair of prescription reading glasses. I was pleased to find that the vintage style made them small enough to easily slip into it, a much slimmer and more attractive case than the hard shell from the optometrist.

I’ve never come across any similar cases since, and had always meant to share its quaintness here. I finally got round to photographing it early in December last year – ironically, as it transpired. Around the same time I found out from the doctor that I was anaemic, and had to immediately begin to increase my iron levels. Only three weeks later, I inadvertently discovered that remarkably my eyesight seems to have improved! I was in a grocery store and suddenly found I was able to read the tiny text of the ingredient list on a box of cereal. I even turned the text size on my iPhone to smallest and was tickled to find I could quite easily read it.

I can only assume the extreme fatigue I was constantly feeling had also affected my eye muscles, which had thrown in the towel at trying to focus on tiny text. I’m still becoming accustomed to not reaching for my reading glasses all the time – they do still help in low light or when I am extra tired – but as it can take months to raise iron levels to normal, I am hopeful that by the end I may hardly need to use them at all. In which case (pardon the pun) I may end up using this mesh case for sunglasses after all, for the little 30s and 40s sunglasses I bought in the last year will fit as easily as my specs.

Photo: December 2018

Monday
Dec312018

Shine On, Magpie!

If it glitters, you can guarantee my fingers will get itchy and I’ll be drawn to it like the magpie of yore, which explains why I have so many sequinned garments feathering my nest. I can at least justify this excess by the fact that I actually wear them – working at a theatre allows me to indulge in my, ahem, theatrical sense of style.

… sequins are the quintessential party wear, and an excellent choice to ring in the new year …

In the nineteenth century, sequins were made of shiny metal – I have a late 1920s or early 1930s hat trimmed in tiny metal sequins (they need replacing and will be difficult to source), and also an antique Berber rug, originally worn as a cloak (incredibly heavy), that is interwoven with silver metal sequins. In the early twentieth century, flat or faceted to catch more light, they were made of celluloid, meaning they were dangerous to wear as they are flammable. But by some accounts of vintage sellers I have read, they have a special extra-shiny quality not found in their modern plastic counterparts. In the 1930s, there were even electroplated gelatin sequins. Obviously not very durable, these did not stay in fashion for long!

60s pink and white wool tank, silver velvet skirt by Top Shop, 1980s sequin beret; 1960s red 1960s red sequin wool top, modern skirt by Ojay and red sequin bag (era uncertain); 60s white sequin and red bead wool top, modern skirt by OjaySequins have been used in decoration for much longer than this however: the first evidence for them is in the Indus Valley around 2500BC, when gold sequins were used to trim clothing and other ‘paraphernalia’ – possibly for ceremonial or royal use. [Wikipedia] Note that ‘spangles’ are actually made from coiled wire that is hammered flat, though today the term is used interchangeably with sequins, while ‘paillettes’ usually refers to large, flat sequins.

Black sequins two ways: modern sequin dress worn as top with Bettina Liano puff shorts, Victorian miniature velvet top hat, 60s pearl earrings and modern heeled sandals by Wittner; modern sequin dress worn with rhinestone earrings by Aldo and modern red satin pumps by BarkinsThe modern name for these shiny decorative disks comes from the zecchino, a Venetian ducat coin, by way of the French translation, sequin. After Napoleon’s invasion of Italy in 1797, the coin ceased being minted, but the Conqueror carried the name back to France in triumph (okay, I’m romanticising here), and the term sequin came into use in France for the decorative trim shortly after.

Modern Australian flag sequin souvenir dress, 1980s straw beret, modern plaited white heels by Stefano Stefani. This dress made me laugh when I spotted it in a thrift store – a pity it is not a French flag, to match my story better! It was obviously a cheap souvenir dress, and I paid $6 for it, although I haven't found an occasion to wear it to yet!I have been hoarding this shiny story literally for years, but as sequins are the quintessential party wear, and an excellent choice to ring in the new year, this New Year’s Eve seems an appropriate time of year to finally release them into the world.

In fact, I haven’t even included everything in this collection – I also have a miniskirt of giant iridescent green paillettes, a grey tee of matt sequins, another modern sequin tank trimmed in silk chiffon, and a few sundry accessories. Out of this set, I think either the red sequin top, or the cropped robin’s egg blue tasselled top are my first vintage sequinned purchases. They were both purchased online, the former on Etsy, and the latter at eBay auction. I remember I was on a picnic with friends when I excitedly received the notification my bid had won the top! All the other items were found in thrift stores, except for the black Bettina Liano shorts, an indulgent Australian designer purchase.

Whatever old thing you slip off for this evening’s party dress, shiny or not, I hope you bling in a bright and shiny new year! Here’s to a happy 2019.

50s robin's egg blue sequin and bead tassel wool top, modern skirt by Ojay, vintage jewellery; 60s turquoise sequin and star-beaded wool top, modern skirt by Ojay, vintage jewellery; 60s celadon sequin and bead top, modern skirt by Ojay, vintage jewellery; 60s yellow sequin wool top, 1960s linen blend skirt by La Gonda, sterling silver, lemon quartz and agate earrings hand made by me

View all the items here in my new gallery All the Shiny Things.

Photos: (black set) March 2014, (Australian flag) February 2016; (pink and green sets) March 2018

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Read more about the history of sequins and spangles in this excellent article by The Dreamstress.

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Wednesday
Dec262018

Three Christmas Kings

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts, we traverse far
Field and fountain
Moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Oh, star of wonder, star of might
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading
Still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light …

Boxing Day is traditionally – I’m talking about medieval traditions that is – the day the ruling lords rewarded their serfs with boxes of presents. In places of worship, alms boxes collected donations for the poor. I wonder if this tradition could have been inspired by the three kings (or wise men) who followed a star and traversed a vast distance to present their gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby in the manger?

More recently of course, Boxing Day traditions have us all rushing to the shops to buy discounted presents for our well-deserving selves!

The carol tells the story of the three wise men in the Bible who had seen a star in the east and travelled to Bethlehem in search of the baby born King of the Jews. The song – both words and music – was penned in 1857 by the American John Henry Hopkins Jr, and the opening verses are beautifully lyrical. Sung in rounds it sounds both solemn and joyous.

I hope you all enjoyed both giving and receiving gifts yesterday … excuse me now, I’m off shopping!

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Fashion Notes

Amazingly I actually already owned all these vintage maxi dresses, hats and wigs which were perfect to illustrate three wise (wo)men. On the left, I am wearing a 60s silk dress, with a vintage 40s black and white turban, and beaded slippers by Mollini; in the centre, is a green 70s lurex gown, with a vintage 60s velvet turban decorated with a vintage rhinestone bird brooch, and the slippers are by Sarti; on the right is a vintage 60s striped empire line dress, with a vintage 40s pink jacket, 60s silk petal hat and beaded slippers which were a souvenir from Vietnam. I am standing in front of the entrance to the King's palace, in Fes, Morocco, where I visited in 2011.

Photo: December 2018

Tuesday
Dec252018

A Christmas Angel

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
“Glory to the new-born King! 
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled” 
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, 
Join the triumph of the skies; 
With th' angelic host proclaim, 
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.” 
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
“Glory to the new-born King!”

Well, I knew this song had been around for a long time, because they don’t write lyrics like they used to, but I didn’t know that it was written in 1739 by the famous Methodist preacher Charles Wesley. Interestingly, he requested slow and solemn music, and it was not until one hundred years later that the more joyful music still used today was composed by Felix Mendelssohn.

Wesley had based his lyrics on the angelic choir I talked about in yesterday’s Christmas Eve story, so today’s picture is a fitting, if more stylised extension, as I depict the angel heralding the shepherds.

I decided to go for a Renaissance style angel in gloriously colourful and billowing clothes, sumptuously golden wings (large antiqued wall ornaments, borrowed from Hurn & Hurn – which you can actually buy – fantastic!) and a deliciously gold background reminiscent of some paintings and frescoes of the era, or Byzantine icons (another art period I love).

Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful and celebratory day, however you spend it.

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Fashion Notes

I am wearing a blue top with silk puffed sleeves by Australian designer Lisa Ho, a silk taffeta vintage 70s skirt, beautifully dyed and embroidered fabric that I think must have been a sari as it is so long (I bought this in a vintage boutique in Sydney when I was a teenager!), and a copper metal headpiece of flowers by which label I remember not.

Photo: December 2018

Sunday
Dec232018

What I Actually Wore #0146

Serial #: 0146
Date: 22/09/2012
Weather: 21°C / 70°F
Time Allowed: 20 minutes

I had recently seen the 1927 Clara Bow film Wings, and I had been much struck how in one of the earlier scenes, the actress had worn her scarf tucked into the belt around her waist. That was a nifty idea to emulate, I decided. This day I was going to see a film, and decided the time was ripe for a Clara Bow homage.

My outfit wasn’t exactly the same as hers, but close enough, with slim fitting cardigan and straight skirt. The neutral beige and tan complement the turquoise blue tints of my skirt, silk scarf, jewellery, and sunglasses. About half the items I am wearing are second hand, with the beret and the clutch being the oldest in my possession.

I like this outfit, and would probably happily wear it now – and could, as I still actually have all these items, except for the socks which wore out, and the cardigan, which I deemed too girlish in style.

Actually, while it is retired from my wardrobe, the cardigan is still in my possession, buried in my darning basket after some moths chewed on the end of its self-tie-belt. Here I have set aside the thin belt it comes with anyway, and worn a wider perforated leather belt. (Oddly, the previous owner of the belt scraped off the brand name, though they left the words “genuine leather”.) Recently I pulled a blouse out of a culling bag and started wearing it again, so there’s no saying that I wouldn’t don this cardigan and suddenly decide I like it!

While I generally like 1920s style, though it’s not my favourite era, I think I prefer this less obvious, slimmer silhouette to the typical loose-fitting dropwaist.

Items:

Top: Kookaï
Cardigan: Nanette Lepore
Skirt: La Gonda, vintage 60s
Hat: vintage 90s
Sunglasses: MinkPink
Scarf: thrifted
Belt: thrifted
Bag: vintage 70s
Socks: Philippe Matignon
Shoes: John Lewis Women
Earrings: hand made by me
Ring: souvenir

Photos: October 2013