Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in vintage (526)

Tuesday
Oct152019

Winter Favourites

Last month I raced to photograph all my winter outfits before I did the biannual seasonal clothes storage swap-over, and spent about four days over two sessions to get through everything. This meant I had a compressed overview of which items were my popular over autumn/winter.

While it was interesting in hindsight, I was also a bit annoyed with myself for ‘overwearing’ some things considering how many other items in the same categories went unworn, or worn little, especially my hats. I have so many hats I don’t have time to wear them all even if I did wear a different one every day!

But, for what it’s worth, here are the favoured ones.

3 x

Three times wearing this vintage 40s purple hat (above) doesn’t sound like too many for all of autumn/winter, but this was all within a few weeks, and I simply own too many hats for this not to seem like I am squandering opportunities to make use of my marvellous collection.

5 x

This blue ribbed wool cardigan by Australian label is a vintage 1970s piece, and has been a favourite for many years since I found it in a thrift store in Berwick when I went op shopping with my sister, who lives out there. I just love the colour, which is what stood out: one of the gems amongst rack upon rack jammed with dross.

5 x

One of my favourite vintage brooches is this soaring seabird (above); I think it is probably celluloid. Admittedly, I have more than once worn it simply because I have left it on this cardigan – but that just speeds up the process of getting dressed in the morning!

7 x

These black leather Mary-Jane heels with the little bow on the strap are so comfortable and easy to walk in, it’s no wonder I reached for them so many times. On the days I wear higher heels, I walk to work in a flat pair of shoes, which is an extra thing to carry. If I don’t have to, that’s a bonus.

7 x

Simply an outright favourite, I reached for this double enamel cherry brooch many times this winter. Considering how many brooches I own, this is remarkable, but these cherries look good enough to eat. Plus, I must confess, while rhinestones catch my eye in the thrift store, I end up wearing them very little. I have always preferred opaque stones over sparkle – pearls, lapis lazuli, turquoise – and the same goes for costume jewellery. Enamel, Bakelite and wood win hands down over the multitude of rhinestone brooches I own.

And … drumroll … the winners!

8 x

The cherry earrings (photo before the above) just pipped the cherry brooch at the post, beating it by only one wear. I usually wear them together, but once I wore the earrings with a glass fruit necklace. I always love a cherry motif, but these earrings are also so bright and cheerful, and seem to go with so many things. 

8 x

The black pants by Ming (above and below) were worn eight times. I was rather disgusted by that total, as I do own other winter trousers, some of which only were worn once. But these are elasticised at the back, and the sheer wideness and soft wool flannel and suiting combination make them very comfortable and relaxed to wear. I have had them so many years, and had to do more than one repair, but they have proved their worth countless times, they deserve a prize!

Most of these favoured items were found in thrift stores (except for the two brooches and the hat which were bought from vintage boutiques). In fact, except for the red hat, every other item I am wearing in these pictures was also found in a thrift store, so I consider that a pretty good testament to a trained eye, able to spot a good purchase in the jumble of op shops!

Photos: August, September 2019

Monday
Oct142019

What is — and what is not — a fedora

THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO WHAT HAT IS THAT

If you have been reading this blog for a little while, you will know that I love hats. While I am not a trained milliner, I do own a lot of hats (over 300) and books about hats, which I sometimes even read (as opposed to drooling over the pictures). I scour the internet for strange and wonderful hats, and for a long time I have been looking for the perfect 1930s or 1940s fedora. I already own one (pictured above), which I love for its film noir aspect, but I would love one more that has a more exaggerated shape, specifically in a colour I love (not black or brown, which are more ubiquitous).

What I am finding however, is that vintage sellers seem to apply the word ‘fedora’ to any vaguely mannish hat, and I’m not sure if that’s because some of them aren’t really clear on the proper definition of a fedora, or because it is an extremely popular search term – I’ve seen it applied as a keyword for a frothy pink, flower-bedecked garden party hat! Today, however, I am going to clear up any misconceptions about what is – and what is not – a fedora, with a few key, easy-to-remember points to identify these same, same but different hats.

The Fedora

The fedora takes its name from an 1891 stage play, about a cross-dressing Princess Fedora who wears a centre-creased, soft wide-brimmed hat. Traditionally the crease is pinched at the front, forming a point or teardrop shape, but the crease can include diamond shaped crowns, and the positioning of dents can vary. Many other hats have centre dents, but the fedora combines this with a low crown – 4.5” or 11cm – and a wider brim of at least 2.5” or 6.4cm but they can be much wider, particularly in exaggerated fashion versions. The brims can be left raw, or stitched, or finished with ribbon-trim. This is the hat worn by Humphrey Bogart in the film Casablanca.

Key Points

  1. Low crown
  2. Centre crease pinched at front
  3. Wide brim

Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca; image found on Pinterest

The Slouch

The next hat most commonly confused with a fedora, as far as I can discern, is the slouch hat. This is a style of hat traditionally worn by Australian soldiers (and those of many other nations), and is distinguished mainly with one side of the brim being turned up towards the crown, and one dipped down. The military hat has a fairly low crown, and the turned-up side is usually pinned to allow a rifle to be slung over the shoulder. Fashion versions vary in crown heights, but both feature a centre crease. Where the military hat is pinned up, the fashion hat may simply be decorated with trim on one side.

Key Points

  1. One side turned up, one side dipped down
  2. Crown height and brim width variable
  3. In place of the military pin, fashionable trim

Australian soldier wearing a slouch in 1916; image found on Pinterest

The Trilby

Another ubiquitous hat which can also be confused for a fedora is the trilby. Surprisingly, this is another hat whose inception lies in a stage play around the same time! George du Maurier’s 1894 novel Trilby was translated to the stage in London, and a hat of this shape was worn. Though the hat was worn by a woman, it became popular for men shortly after. It’s often made of tweed, like mine, or in straw for summer, though more properly its short brim is snapped up at the back. It has a much taller crown than a fedora, with sloped sides, and a popular hat with musicians, it is often worn on the back of the head. Sean Connery is well-known for wearing a trilby.

Key Points

  1. Short brim, usually snapped up at back
  2. Taller crown with sloping sides
  3. Designed to be worn further back on the head

Sean Connery wearing a trilby; image found on Pinterest

The Homburg

The homburg is quite a masculine hat that has not really been translated into women’s versions, but this turquoise felt hat I own does not really fall into any other style, so I am using it to illustrate this style, perhaps most famously worn by Winston Churchill. Its most distinctive feature is the pencil-curled brim (which mine does not have at all). The hat is usually made of hard felt, with straight sides and a pronounced and quite wide centre crease. It is still a very popular hat shape for men today – and gangsters of all eras! Michael Corleone of The Godfather, and Nucky Thompson of Boardwalk Empire both present fine examples of the homburg’s sinister aspect.

Key Points

  1. Short, curled brim
  2. Taller crown with straight sides
  3. Wide, shallow centre crease

Winston Churchill was famous for his homburg; image found on Pinterest

The Tyrolean

The Tyrolean hat style is one of my favourite jaunty styles! It originates from the Tyrol in the Alps, in what is now variously Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Its most distinctive feature is the crown that rises to form a point. The brim traditionally was roughly the width of a hand, and the hat was usually decorated with hatband made of coloured cord and a spray of flowers, feathers or brush. However, brims and crown heights varied in different parts of the Tyrol. Also known as a Bavarian or Alpine hat, it was originally made from green felt. Fortunately, fashion versions are not so limited in scope. Mine is navy, trimmed in a wide grosgrain band, netting, and a light blue ostrich feather. Edward VIII stayed in Austria after his abdication and often wore the hat, popularising its style.

Key Points

  1. Crown tapers to a point
  2. Crown height and brim width varies
  3. Decorated with flowers or feathers

Edward VIII made the Tyrolean hat famous after his abdication

In Conclusion

Of course, it must be remembered that these key points are only guidelines for identifying a general style – they are not hard and fast rules. Fashion hats often take inspiration from traditional styles and designers will add their own twist, pushing and pulling them in exaggerated directions, creating hybrids with brilliant details and wonderful new ideas. A hat should be the exclamation point of an outfit, the finishing touch to delight the eye – much more than a conservative tradition. But it’s always good to know the rules before you break them.

Photos: September 2019

Sunday
Oct062019

Sewing Sequins

Last year I struck a vein of hat gold one lunchtime in a thrift store near my workplace: no less than three 1930s hats in one strike! I was very lucky, because when I walked in the door, one of the staff recognised me and called me over to whisper, “There are some hats just in that I think you would like.”

From where we stood, I could only see the topmost hats on the upper shelf, and they looked like spring racing carnival hats made of sinnamay that some rich madam from the hoity-toity part of town would perch atop her coiffure. “Are they vintage hats?” I asked suspiciously in a low voice. The woman nodded conspiratorially, “They are very old,” she said, and thus assured, I sailed off forthwith.

Dear Readers, I couldn’t believe my eyes: it was a veritable BONANZA. A cream wool felt decorated with grosgrain ribbon and cockade; a brown felt trimmed in cream grosgrain, and a sculpted black felt with an enormous, sequinned bow. I immediately hugged the three hats to my bosom in joy.

The only flaw lay in the wonderful black felt: many of the metal sequins were missing, and those left were tarnished. I did not care one jot. Etsy would come to my rescue: I was sure I would be able to find replacement sequins from the same era.

Silver and pink metal 1940s sequins, and glass seed beads that I found in a thrift storeIt did not take me long to find similar sequins from the 1940s. They were a tiny bit smaller than the originals, and there were several colours to choose from. Though the originals were gold, I very rarely wear gold jewellery, and could not decide between the silver and the pink. Eventually I settled on buying some of both as they were from the same seller and there would be no additional charge in shipping.

I cut off the pair of original sequins left on one side of the bow The chosen combination: pink sequins with white glass beadsOnce they arrived I dithered repairing the hat for several reasons. By this time, it was summer and the hat was in storage for the season; moreover, I was still undecided about which colour to use and also was yet to find appropriate glass seed beads to attach the sequins on with (as opposed to the usual technique of using the thread to overlap one side of the sequin). I was also a bit nervous of somehow ruining the repair.

A close up showing the original sequins on left, and the first new pink sequin attached (apologies for all the filaments adhering to the hat)Finally, this winter I grew impatient with myself and refused to delay any longer. I made a snap (ahem) decision to use the pink sequins – pink and black are always a classic combination. And sewing them on turned out to be extremely easy: I was amused by how the seed beads literally leapt onto the point of the needle each time!

I was very pleased with the end result, and managed to get in one wear before I put away into storage all the winter hats again. On the day I wore it, I suddenly realised it looked better worn on the back of the head, rather than as a profile-style hat, as seen in the first picture.

And once more I asked myself the universal question, why, oh why do I delay mending?

Photos: June/September 2019

Monday
Sep302019

My First Vintage Hats

My hat collection today is rather vast and spans the entire twentieth century, but once upon a time it was a pitiful assemblage of various caps, berets and sunhats I wore as a teenager and new hats bought in the 1990s. I don’t recall exactly when I bought my first true vintage hats – possibly a 1960s cloche in an op shop (thrift store) – but amongst my oldest hats, and earliest purchases is this pair: an Edwardian era navy felt Tyrolean hat draped in an ostrich-feather, and a 1920s black wool felt half-cloche trimmed in wide grosgrain ribbon.

I even remember purchasing these, under rather extraordinary circumstances. I was visiting my sister in Castlemaine, a country Victorian town, and she took me to a kind of magical old colonial house hidden in the centre of town that was seemingly inhabited by a single elderly lady, and her large collection of antiques and vintage fashion. We spoke in hushed tones as we entered the dimly-lit interior in the Victorian style, dark and every space covered in some sort of decoration.

My sister had already warned me about the vintage perambulator, in which the lady kept a baby doll (strangely similar to the late Australian artist Mirka Mora who once told me she often bumped it into doorways, after she saw me do the same with my shopping trolley!). The eccentric owner appeared, and upon learning that I was interested in looking at hats, allowed me to examine some up close.

When she saw just how interested I was, she told me she had many more hats upstairs, in the empty rooms, and she lead me up. What followed remains a hazy memory in my mind’s eye, like a surreal dream as I darted through room after room, gasping at such a treasure trove of hats. They were piled everywhere, on the furniture and gathering dust.

Eventually I settled on three – the Tyrolean cap the owner kept putting away, as though she was reluctant after all to part with it, until I firmly insisted on purchasing it, even at the high price of $90 she asked (in the early 1990s, it was a lot for me).

The third hat was a high-crowned straw, probably 1950s or 60s, painted gold and adorned with black ribbon and three fat roses (you can see that here). You could see the original blue and red straw under the gold spray paint; it might have been a refurbished relic from a theatre’s wardrobe department. Eventually I got rid of that hat, except for the roses which I removed and probably still have stored somewhere. I also bought a 1960s short jacket in a Regency style: it was sky-blue linen with silver lurex braid; that also has long-since departed my closet.

I’m pleased though that these two have lasted the test of time, as I still wear them today.

Photos: September 2019

Saturday
Sep282019

Strong and Bold

In honour of the Australian Rules Football Grand Final match today, I bring you this yellow and black vintage 1950s dress, in the team colours of the Richmond Football Club, a club that has been running for more than a century. They are playing Greater Western Sydney Giants; in contrast, a modern team formed only a decade ago, whose colours are a rather odd combination of orange, black and white.

I don’t barrack for (that’s Aussie for ‘follow’) Richmond except for today, although I live next door to the inner-city suburb in which it was formed, and in fact Richmond East is my local stomping ground.

This is an outfit I wore in the summer of this year, with a 1950s cello hat, a 1960s bag, and modern patent shoes and belt. Richmond’s club mascot is a tiger, and I’m rather pleased the way this dress emulates a tiger’s claw slashes … if a tiger had decided to dip its claws in black paint and do some textile design! Previously I’d thought the pattern reminded me of the grasses of an African savanna, which is also apt.

Today I shall finish with Richmond’s club song:

Oh we're from Tigerland
A fighting fury
We're from Tigerland
In any weather you will see us with a grin
Risking head and shin
If we're behind then never mind
We'll fight and fight and win
For we're from Tigerland
We never weaken til the final siren's gone
Like the Tiger of old
We're strong and we're bold
For we're from Tiger
Yellow and Black
We're from Tigerland.

Go Tiges! Oops, the game is starting, bye!

Photo: April 2019