Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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What I actually wore #0008

Serial #: 0008
Date: 27/10/2008
Weather: 20°
Time Allowed: 5 minutes

Victorian-inspired yet modernised in silk jersey, this dress is very soft and comfortable to wear. It is by Louche, a Western Australian label. (I can’t find proof of their existence online, but Scarlet, one of my Bright Young Things is from WA and can vouch for them.)

Back to the dress: I love its detail: the silk contrast at the neckline that bubbles out; the ruching on the wrists; the sash, another hint of Victoriana.

It is completely transparent however, which makes a full slip imperative. I managed to find a vintage one that is pretty enough by itself to wear as a dress. I suspect it is from the 70s or early 80s, when Victoriana was in fashion. Made from cotton, it is embroidered and features scalloped edges. You can just see the hem where I've lifted up the dress.

The only drawback of the dress is the fabric-covered buttons at the back of the neck, which are hard to slip through the holes. I am always cursing in the mornings since I am always in a hurry.

Embroidered all over, these big clunky mules have a certain bohemian 70s flower-child feel, but they out of all my shoes seem to work best with this dress, as a counterpoint to its daintiness.


Dress: Louche
Slip: vintage
Shoes: Zoe Wittner
Camellias: fallen by the wayside


Evoking scents and sensibilities

From the good old days of Australian Vogue… May 1989. Javier Vallhonrat took these photos; I think perhaps they were first pieces of his work that I saw and I thought these were beautiful. (I still do.) In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that I loved the second image so much I made a painting of it. It wasn’t a bad facsimile, but I shouldn’t have been copying a photograph.

Each image evokes the scent of a perfume; just the names conjure up the 80s for me!

(Left) Sweet anointed nights – the supremely feminine bouquet of Paris (1983) by Yves Saint Laurent. (Right) In the scented evening air, Giorgio (1981), a crush of many precious blooms including jasmine and orange flower.

Paris lingers in my memory chiefly because my cousin used to wear it. I occasionally met her for lunch in South Yarra, and I found the extremely sweet scent of roses far too much for my delicate stomach, competing as it did with the more prosaic aromas of smoked salmon pasta.

I’m amused to note that not only does that page have daubs of pink oil paint smeared on it, but so does the cover of the magazine.

(Left) Worn closest to the skin, a multitude of fragrance chords lightly spiced, in Parfum d’Hermès (1984). (Right) Scented assignations with Byzance (1987) by Rochas, a harmonious blend of woods and spices, fruits and flowers.

I have no idea what the former smells like, but I am delighted to inform you that I actually wore Byzance. I loved the bottle: round cobalt glass, with a round stopper with embossed gold lettering and a pink tassel. It truly conjures up memories of my early 20s. I still have the cobalt blue velvet bag it came in; stuffed in the bottom of my bathroom cabinet, I think I keep curlers in it.

Vallhonrat does not seem to have his own website, but plenty of people have written about him. He made his start in the world of fashion, but moved into art photography. I have recently started to see his work again in British Vogue, which was a pleasant surprise, but before that I was thrilled to find this out-of-print book in Amazon’s Marketplace. The photo I painted appears on the first spread; the editor obviously liked it as much as I did!


When does eccentricity segue into costume?

In theory, I love polka-dots. They are so graphic and playful. I have many fond memories of them. Once, when I was about thirteen and on a summer holiday in the company of two cousins, we all bought matching multi-coloured polka-dot tank tops. We thought we looked ace. In fact, we must have looked ridiculous. (What a pity; I don’t think any of these photos still exist.)

In practice … I am uneasy.

I wore the dress above out once. I felt conspicuous. On reflection, I think it was its prettiness that unnerved me rather than the fact I resembled a walking optical illusion. I am uncertain that orange sunglasses, silver sandals and metallic turquoise nail polish edgify it quite enough. The outfit on the right is obviously pure costume: amusing to look at but utterly absurd as street wear (blue nail polish notwithstanding). The shirt is not only polka-dotted, but it is accordion-pleated!

On reflection, I think it was its prettiness that unnerved me rather than the fact I resembled a walking optical illusion.

Years ago I saw an amazing-looking girl on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy. She wore a long, slim-fitting black dress. Halter-necked, it clung to the waist and then flowed into a long, swishy skirt that fell to the calf. On her head was a floppy straw hat with an enormous, sky-blue ribbon that tied under the chin (somewhat reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story). She walked with her eyes fixed ahead, gazing into the distance, completely and complacently conscious of the stares. They were her due.

While she did look extraordinary – I had to admire her guts, and I wear hats aplenty – she also looked like an escapee from the set of a bosom-heaving costume drama. All that was missing was a basket of cherries dangling from her fingertips. What she should have done is wear that hat with high-waisted, wide-legged pants in 40s style via the 70s. Maybe some mirror sunglasses. And sharp cheekbones. Offset the sweet and pretty with something defiant or daring.

As suspicious as I am of this dress however, I am not quite ready to say ‘out, damned spot!’ – I just need to find the right scene to wear it in.


Words From the Bluestocking Salon

You might have noticed by now that I rather like stockings. I don’t mean pantyhose. Yuk. I hate the constrictive feel of them around my tush. You feel like a sausage. Even more annoying is when you go to the loo, you have to pull them down and up again caaarefully so that you don’t twist them (urgh, even more uncomfortable!). And you have to make sure patterns are straight, or you don’t just plain old go stick a finger right through those 10 deniers.

Stay-ups or thigh-highs, or whatever is your preferred appellation for them, are traditionally known as ‘stockings’. Stockings, before the invention of nylon and later, Lycra, were held up with suspenders. Men might find them sexy in the bedroom, but have you ever worn them out? The horror when one of the buttons come undone! Surreptitious fiddling, sideways looks … I’ve been there; it ain’t pretty, and I ain’t going back.

Of course, you may have read of my misadventure with stay-ups – I don’t say they always stay up, but they do add a little spice to your day!

I have managed to collect a few different pairs. You’ve seen the red ones, and the black and white striped pair. And now you’ve seen the cobalt blue ones with the saucy bows. Apparently (according to Wikipedia) in the mid-eighteenth century, blue stockings were daytime or more informal wear; however, I won’t be wearing these out in public any time soon.

They were in fact my attempt to locate some like the pair Kirsten Dunst wears as Marie Antoinette in a love scene that is the epitome of sugar and spice, and all things nice.

Once upon a time, calling a woman a ‘bluestocking’ was deemed an insult; aimed at educated, intellectual women. (Of course, that’s been reversed these days with the affectionate term, ‘bimbo’.) There was even a Blue Stockings Society of England in the mid-eighteenth century – women met together to discuss arts and literature. (Select males were invited on occasion.) That sounds rather like fun, especially when you learn that ‘tea, biscuits and other light refreshments would be served to guests by the hostesses’.

Below you’ll find some vintage ads from the 40s and 50s which are gorgeous to look at, even if they hark back to a time when many women were more bimbo than bluestocking.


What I Actually Wore #0007

Serial #: 0007
Date: 20/10/2008
Weather: A deceptively sunny 17°
Time Allowed: 0 minutes – I dressed on the fly

Japanese-inspired and printed in the most demure shades of blue, this pretty vintage scarf demanded something equally soft in colour.

My eye immediately went to the liquid silver of this satin shirt. I like its soft floppiness.

As the scarf is the hero of this outfit, I wore basic grey trousers. A cobalt blue patent belt was added from necessity, and cobalt suede kitten heels were selected at lightning speed. The sterling silver hoops with the dangling grey pearls match my ring, although I bought them from different places.

I purchased the scarf recently as part of a lot on eBay that included a perplexing tulle bonnet/veil; this scarf is the prettiest of the lot. It, and the mysterious tulle accessory, determined my bid. This scarf is also the best quality of them all as I believe it is made of rayon, a natural fibre (although the manufacturing process is not particularly environmentally friendly).

I know I've said it before, but I normally try not to match my accessories too closely; however this is so pretty I even matched my book for the photo!

Scarf: vintage
Shirt: Equipment
Trousers: Miss Shop
Belt: Alta Linea
Shoes: Paolo Bondini
Earrings: Baku
Ring: NGV Gallery Shop
Watch: Kenneth Cole