Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in vintage (526)

Wednesday
Aug282019

Marvellous Mauve

A couple of years ago I wrote a story about different shades of purple, and I touched on the discovery of the first aniline dye in 1856 that became known as mauve, the French word for mallow flower after which the colour is named. Originally it was probably a darker shade than contemporary notions of it, as it was first likened to Tyrian purple which is much darker. The first mauve dye was replaced with other synthetic dyes in 1873: a lighter, less-saturated shade that we are familiar with today. As Wikipedia succinctly describes it, ‘mauve contains more grey and more blue than a pale tint of magenta’.

Three shades of mallow flowersHowever, while it was a synthetic dye, in the 1850s it was still quite expensive to process, and if not for Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, taking a liking to it because it supposedly exactly matched her ‘violet’ eyes, the colour might have disappeared. Queen Victoria subsequently gave it the thumbs-up, and for a time it was all the rage, reaching its heights of popularity in the 1890s.

… for a time it was all the rage, reaching its heights of popularity in the 1890s

As with many trends, however, it soon reached over-saturation in the market and eventually it became passé, synonymous with ladies of a certain age. Even in the twentieth century, it was associated with aging, as it was one of the shades white-haired ladies chose to rinse their hair with to remove unlikable yellowish tones. Today of course that trend has been turned on its head and grey hair tinted with pastel shades is all the rage with young people!

Empress Eugenie, 1854, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter – Franz clearly thought, "Pfft, purple eyes, MY EYE!"

Wait, what about the purple eyes?

I was interested in this notion of the Empress’s supposed violet eyes, and some research lead me to learn that Elizabeth Taylor was another celebrity famed for her violet eyes. Paintings are not necessarily true to life, and photographic evidence is obviously unreliable as it is too easy to digitally enhance hues or use colour filters in-camera.

Elizabeth Taylor in 1960 (ph unknown) and 1985 (ph Helmut Newton); she definitely seems to have naturally blue eyes that have been enhanced by the colour processing in the first photoAfter a lot of reading, I can state definitely that the human eye does not naturally come in shades of purple; ie people cannot be born with it. Put simply, the colour of an iris changes depending on how much light reaches it, and can be enhanced by coloured clothing or makeup surrounding the eyes; both Empress Eugénie and Elizabeth Taylor had blue eyes: one wore purple garments, the other purple eyeshadow. [See Further Reading below]

Back to fashion …

Since my original story, I have since found new mauve items in differing shades all from thrift stores: a merino wool jumper, a prettily hand-knitted vintage wool cape, and a vintage angora, pearl-beaded beret. The jumper is modern, but I am not sure of the age of the latter two; the beret was missing pearls when I bought it, but the cape is pristine and could be a modern knit made using a vintage pattern. My printed velvet pants are modern, by the Australian label Charlie Brown.

Scroll down and check out some more mauve outfits from the Victorian era to the present.

Further Reading

The biology behind eye colour in humans

Were Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes really violet?

But wait, Liz Taylor had double eyelashes!

Just how did Lizzie make her blue eyes look purple?

Photos: August 2019

Victorian walking dress, 1896Victorian evening dress, 1896Victorian silk striped walking dressSilk taffeta evening dress, 1860-18651930s fur jacket (sold)1930s bias gown (for sale)1940s catalogue – how I would love to buy this set, especially at those prices!Model Evelyn Tripp, wearing a dress and matching hat, ph Frances McLaughlin-Gill for VogueModern outfitRosie tote in mauve

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

Tuesday
Jul022019

Break the Rools with a Bajillion Jools!

You may have heard of that old adage – attributed to Coco Chanel – ‘take one thing off before you leave the house’ … today I am going to declare war on discretion! I pooh-pooh Parisian chic! I flout thee, minimalism! LOAD EM UP! More is more is more – the more the merrier, I say! Why wear one WHEN YOU CAN WEAR THEM ALL?

I own a lot of costume jewellery – mostly bought on holiday as souvenirs or in thrift stores – and for a long time I have been hesitant about wearing a single strand of beads because it just feels too 90s to me. A much more fun way to wear them I have found is to wear lots and really make them a feature of an outfit rather than a discreet accent.

But there is a secret to wearing a bajillion jools without looking like a Christmas tree, and it is this: pick one hue or theme and stick firmly with it. In these three examples of excess, I have done just that.

The first outfit included a holey wool top, and I decided to embrace the circle theme and wear a jumble of wooden necklaces of similar tones and shapes. In the second example I am wearing three brooches at once, all white, and all birds – note the silver earrings are feathers! And in the last, I am wearing three different green wooden necklaces on a fairly plain cool grey wool dress.

Be mindful to not go OTT with your other accessories to keep focus on just one area. Or you can say hell with that and go all out everywhere! Just be prepared to be goggled at.

Photos: August 2018/October 2018/May 2019

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

Sunday
Jun022019

Bewitched and Bedazzled

Today I bring you another kind of cap: a 1920s wool felt made from stars. How cute is this?! I saw it on Etsy last year and was instantly smitten. The base is white felt, with cut-out stars as well as the large appliqués and tiny sequinned stars bedazzling it. It’s stamped on the inside with the Merrimac Co mark. I own a few other 1920s hats, but this one is really a show-stopper – it may even have once been part of a costume.

I found the star earrings, which are made from shell in a thrift store, and sometime after taking this picture I also found a blue jumper (sweater) patterned with rows of white stars. The label is New Feeling, which I’ve never heard of – it’s made from a viscose/acrylic blend, the little which I forgave because of the stars. The wool dress by Arthur Galan that I am wearing here is also from a thrift store. I’m looking forward to making heads turn wearing all these starry motifs together this winter! 

Photo: September 2018