Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Who Remembers the Skipping Girl?

This is my homage to a Melbourne icon, the Skipping Girl, a neon sign advertising vinegar, and originally known as Little Audrey. How I loved to see her skipping away against the dark of the night! She always seemed so merry to me. I used to beg dad to drive home along Victoria St just so I could see her, and he always indulged me. 

I was rather chuffed when I opened my pantry yesterday and found a bottle of Cornwell’s wine vinegar – and there was Audrey prominent on the label!  

In May this year the National Trust launched an appeal for public donations so that the sign could be restored to its former glory. Let’s hope Audrey skips again.

Below is an extract of a poem I wrote years ago about her…

Driving in the rainy dark
recalls memories of childhood
cocooned in a small capsule,
gliding through the night,
surrounded by the city yellow
of the lights in an alien street.

Who remembers the skipping girl?
she’s pink and green and red,
jumping up and down
advertising vinegar.

And who remembers
sweeping down the silent roads,
with golden light filling the air
like a haze, the black sky overlaid
so the stars disappeared?

Who remembers tipping their head back
against the seat and looking
at the lights flashing past
on the back windscreen
flashing past like shooting stars,
leaving trails of white and
neon pink and green and blue?

Who remembers the lights
multiplied in every raindrop,
shimmering on the window,
and trickling down the glass
in rivers like colored paint?

I remember, I remember.


Pretty – and unnecessary?

I go second-hand shopping for two reasons: one, it’s fun, because you never know what you might find; and two, I’m saving for a sunshine-and-shopping fuelled holiday in December (will there be op-shops where I’m going?).

Many people make their ‘savings’ at sale time, and you know what they say: a bargain is not a bargain unless you actually need it. Of course, for women this does not usually apply when it comes to clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery, perfume and/or makeup. (Did I leave anything out?) We need those things. However, if we can save a few dollars, that will make us feel both happy and virtuous.

There are several sources for second-hand treasures. I am fortunate in that there are six op-shops and at least five vintage boutiques near my place of employment, and many a happy lunch hour has been spent in the avid pursuit of a bargain. I call it ‘hope-shopping’, because you never know whether you’re going to come away empty-handed or carrying a swag of stuff.

It’s a bit like gambling: riding that wave of uncertainty; not knowing whether I’ll be triumphant or disappointed by the time I return to my desk.

Going further afield there are places such as Camberwell Market; Round She Goes, and of course clothing-exchanges-with-a-cocktail. And let us not forget eBay.

DFO, by comparison, is expensive and certainly does not deliver the same thrill as finding a pair of Veronika Maine linen/silk-mix pants that look hitherto unworn for only $10 – or less, if you’re lucky.

Which brings me to last week’s bargains… an MNG mint-green, cotton cardigan ($5.75), in mint condition. Pretty (almost too pretty for me), but will go admirably with a Veronika Maine diagonally-striped mint-green and white silk dress I bought on eBay. Just fine for summer holiday evenings.

Continuing the green theme, I found a polka-dot t-shirt with the cutest puffed and gathered sleeves you ever did see. I was undecided until I tucked it into the skirt I was wearing that day. Works. Only $4.75. (Both pictured in main photo.)

I also found a navy, rayon beaded scarf (above left) with the tiniest hint of purple in it for $3.50. I’m not sure if I would wear it, but if not, I’m positive one of my sisters would like it. Rayon is a natural fibre based on wood cellulose, but is not as enivoronmentally-friendly as its younger cousin Lyocell is to manufacture.

And lastly, a tomato-red wool knit T by Bracewell (above), for the princely sum of $6.75. Never mind the fact that I already have a VM top in that colour, and am getting rid of a Jigsaw wool short-sleeved knit in the exact same shade of red (a BrandSmart ‘bargain’ which I wore maybe once). Bracewell, I said. It was $6.75. A bargain!

So, to appease my conscience, I am finally going to start selling some outcasts on eBay myself, starting with these gorgeous striped sailor trousers* (above). They were a ‘bargain’, from an Alice Euphemia sale a few years ago. The problem was, they were too big to start with and I convinced myself they wouldn’t fall down, and now that I’ve lost weight from all that martial arts training, they don’t stay up at all. I’m very sad about it (not the losing weight part).   

Secondly, a Phillips sleeveless silk top (right). So, so pretty, but so not me! Again, it is too large. Need I mention that this was another ‘bargain’ bought from Cream, the second-hand designer boutique on Chapel St, in Windsor?

Farewell it is. Sigh.

* Trousers are not as big as they appear.


I always preferred the first Mrs de Winter

The 20s, 30s and 40s are my favourite periods for fashion; women always looked so glamorous, exuding mystery and danger. Undoubtedly that perception of mine comes from watching a lot of old films from that era. Two that come to mind are Otto Preminger’s Laura and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, both centred on female characters personifying that notion. Gene Tierney plays the title role in the former, and of course the fascinating Rebecca is merely a ghost, terrorising the second Mrs De Winter (whose fearfulness always irritated me).

I like dark interiors for the same reason: they look mysterious, full of promise for adventure. That’s what I like about these four fashion photographs. The shadowy rooms with their grand proportions and their tall, slender occupants hint at some dire impending event that requires equestrienne attire to make a hurried escape. Or perhaps the donning of a diamante belt to gussy up a comfy wool cardi, so that our heroine can infiltrate some high-society do...  Even the lighting in the stills is mysterious, easily evoking the image of the woman to whom these discarded clothes might belong.

In fact, it was this picture torn from an Italian magazine in the early 90s that made me long for just such a glittering belt. Last year I finally fulfilled this ambition, haggling for one from a stall in the steep back streets of Hong Kong. I’ve never actually worn it, but perhaps its time will finally come on the pages of this journal.

Photos: (interiors) William Garrett; (stills) Aldo Fallai.


What I Actually Wore #0002

Serial #: 0002
Date: 26/09/2008
Weather: windy, 25°C
Time Allowed: 5 mins

This was an easy outfit to put together, and very much more my style: minimalist and asymmetrical!

It started with the top, which is a tomato red colour. I love the folded details on the neckline and the way it flares out slightly at the waist. It also has hidden square pockets in the front. I adore this signature look of Veronika Maine in the last few seasons, more sophisticated than Cue. I hope they don’t drastically change direction!

This skirt by Obüs must be six or seven years old, and although it is starting to show its age, I love it still. I bought it from Alice Euphemia when the boutique was quite new, in its original location on Flinders Lane. At the time I purchased another skirt from the same range, heavy cream fabric with a shirred insert at the bottom. I also wear that frequently. At $150 each, they were both half price, which was nonetheless a little expensive for me at the time, but I’ve certainly got my money’s worth! Because they were so original and well-made, I knew I would be wearing them for a long time, so I didn’t feel a twinge of shopper’s guilt.

From different labels, the folds on the top’s neckline and the gathered insert on the skirt nevertheless complement one another.

As for the accessories: the white wedges are patent leather, and were a great find in a Salvos for $10 – I just had to get the soles repaired; the vintage sunglasses were bought on eBay from a Frenchwoman, and the sterling silver hoops feature silver pearls. They match the silver shell of my ring, which looks like a giant bug! A boyfriend bought that for me from the NGV gift shop, and I remember admiring it walking all the way home along the river as the sun caught it and made it gleam.

Here’s a closer look on the sunglasses: the frames are red leopard print, and those lenses really do turn the world rose-coloured! 


Top: Veronika Maine
Skirt: Obüs
Shoes: Scanlan & Theodore
Watch: Kenneth Cole
Earrings: Baku
Sunglasses: vintage


$22 for apples

Ah, what the fashionable toddler was wearing in 1973! (Thanks dad for writing the date on the back.) I believe this fetching red number is a top-and-pants combo, in red knit, accessorised with colour-coordinated lace-ups. My sister is undoubtedly wearing a polyester mini, and her legs are clad in the double fashion crime of white ribs and open-toe sandals! Gold.

What makes me most nostalgic are the hairpins we are both wearing: enamelled apples. Who else remembers those? They also came in cherries, and I recall my sister and I used to wrestle over them. Sometimes she would win (being a brute) through sheer strength, but very often the baby of the family got her way (moi). Sadly these hairpins disappeared along with my baby fat.

Imagine my joy when a few years ago whilst browsing in a vintage boutique on Barkly Street in St Kilda, I discovered hanging behind the counter a large card to which were pinned ten pairs of apple hairpins! When I excitedly questioned the salesgirl, she informed me that these were the original seventies hairpins, imported from Germany, and no, she regretfully told me, they didn’t have the cherry ones. I immediately bought a pair for $22 – a bit steep, but no cost is too high for recaptured youth.

Here they are:

Their only design flaw is that the apples pinned to the right side of my head will always be upside down. A small price to pay.