Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Wednesday
May292019

The Cap Sleeve

Today I am starting a new special feature on sleeves. While I enjoy the sleeveless garment in the heat of summer, I love to don an interesting sleeve as soon as the weather allows for it. I confess I particularly adore a puff sleeve – the bigger the better – and that is one reason why I love 1930s fashion, which focuses strongly on the shoulder line.

Serving both function and decoration in a garment, sleeves come in a multitude of lengths and shapes – here I shall cover as many as possible (as many as I own and can photograph!), beginning with the shortest: the cap sleeve.

The cap is a style of short sleeve that is cut and seamed to fit on the shoulder, and tapers to nothing underneath the arm. It is not usually loose-fitting, but is fitted to just cover the shoulder. It can add flair to an otherwise plain sleeveless top.

I’ve created a Sleeve Styles gallery under the Look Books menu, where you’ll easily be able to refer to the different styles as I add them.  

~

I am wearing a vintage 1950s blouse with an ikat-like floral print from my closet, which I have sadly culled from my closet since I took this picture. (Sometimes I am too ruthless for my own good.)

Tuesday
May282019

What I Actually Wore #0152

Serial #: 0152
Date: 19/10/2013
Weather: forecast 26.5°C / 80°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

It was a Saturday evening on quite a warm spring day, and I had a date with a friend to see the 1945 film Brief Encounter in a pop-up outdoor cinema at Federation Square. I had not planned to dress up, but my friend insisted I had to, so I wore a new secondhand dress I had bought on eBay, by Australian brand Witchery.

I have long liked woven ikat fabric, and also watered silk, and this dress combined the two effects prettily. It is a rather shapeless tunic and I wore it with a grosgrain ribbon as a tie-belt as a leather belt felt too heavy for the delicate silk fabric. Although it was still balmy, I took a wool cardigan just in case – another eBay purchase. It has Juliet sleeves – that is puffed in the shoulder and then tight to the wrist – and delicate patterns down the front. (My knitting knowledge is practically non-existent so I don’t know what that technique is called.) I omitted to photograph it on, but you can see the cardigan here.

As I was walking, I needed a pair of comfortable shoes, and I chose this ice-blue pair of wedges and took them on their first outing. I ended up giving them away to a different friend as they were too big for me. Sadly this is another brand that has since closed down.

I still own my other accessories: chalcedony earrings and pendant necklace, the turquoise ring which was a souvenir bought in Barcelona, and the green eelskin bag, which I bought from a thrift store. I was carrying it so much during this time that one of the straps became detached – it’s been languishing in a basket for quite some time, awaiting repair. The dress though, as much as I loved the print, I ended up giving away as I just didn’t like its shape. I do like the summery sorbet of colours in this outfit though.

Items:

Dress: Witchery
Cardigan: Nanette Lepore
Bag: vintage
Shoes: RMK
Necklace: Portobello Lane
Earrings: self-made
Ring: souvenir

Photos: January 2014

Monday
May272019

Sweater Clips DIY

I have always wanted a pair of sweater clips, for those times you want to draw your cardigan close, but not button it up, or for those garments that do not have closures, such as vintage 50s outerwear. I’ve searched in thrift stores to no avail, for they are an item one just does not see in Australia. Maybe they simply were never a popular fashion accessory here. I have searched online of course, but with such high shipping costs (when buying from America in particular), they became ridiculously expensive.

So I decided to make my own. First I found a pair of giant 1980s pearl clip on earrings. Then I scoured op shops for a suitable chain. And I waited patiently. And I scoured some more. Finally I found a gold necklace that had a more interesting chain than the usual link. I already had some suitable gold findings from a previous repair, and at last I set to work with some jewellery tools.

I’m really pleased with the result. It’s been a very mild autumn in Melbourne and I’ve yet to break out my vintage cardigans, so I am looking forward to using the clips now that the weather is finally becoming cooler.

Wednesday
May222019

Did Someone Mention Giant Bows?

Bows are practical, and bows are frivolous. From one’s shoelace, to a pussy-bow blouse, to a multitude of non-functioning bows decorating a ballgown. They just look pretty, especially when they are tied with a luxury fabric. Or they look louche, à la those blouses on the Gucci runway.

My t-shirt is made from cotton and silk chiffon – the sleeves are so delicate and pretty. It is by Bettina Liano, an Australian label that launched in the 1980s and is famous for its denim line. I bought this tee in a thrift store, however, as I did the bow headband for amusement’s sake – I have not actually worn it out.

It is a big bow. Alas it is not quite as big as the giant bow on the Edwardian hat on the cover of Ladies Home Journal that I shared yesterday. I think I would feel more comfortable wearing an enormous bow on a hat than as a headband; or even a scarf tied in a huge bow would fit my style better.

Scroll down for a few bows of the past.

Photo: December 2016

Mon Vignon, Paris, 1860s Bubblegum pink silk two piece, self-fabric bow trim to shoulders and skirt hemLucile afternoon dress, 1917–20Balenciaga, 1951Yves Saint Laurent haute couture, 1983Gucci Fall/Winter 2011-2012
Pussybows at Gucci Fall/Winter 2011-2012

Tuesday
May212019

Feathered Fantasies

Models at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, showing off scandalous new gowns showcasing the S-line (and their figures), and enormous hats of course, Paris 1908During the Edwardian period, the ideal image of womanhood was to look fragile and delicate, and the fashion was for the flattering S-line, with long luxurious hair piled high to show off slim necks. Enormous hats fantastically trimmed were the crown of these ensembles, designed to complement and set off the feminine silhouette.

The years of the Edwardian British period covers the short reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910, although sometimes it includes the years up to WWI. At this time, hats were a crucial part of the dress code for people from all walks of life, young or old, rich or poor. There were different hats acceptable for each strata of society – but all wore hats, all the time. Women changed their hats with their outfits several times a day and would never step out tête-nue (with a bare head) – that was considered a huge social solecism. It was acceptable only for beggars to be hatless.

1909A lady and an assistant settle down to the pleasures of selecting and decorating a stylishly large hat from the befeathered and beribboned collection available at the Paquin couture house millinery rooms, 1909. From ‘The Golden Age of Style’ by Julian Robinson, Orbis Publishing 1976Milliners could and did go to town, extravagantly decorating these wide picture hats with silks and velvets, ribbons and artificial flowers, and after the death of Queen Victoria, bright colours becamse hugely fashionable. The most popular millinery trim of all were feathers, for throughout history, plumes on hats have been a sign of status and wealth. The rich of this time were no exception – some of the hats were insanely huge, even obscenely ostentatious.

Feathers of all kinds were fashioned by the 800 plumassiers in Paris that employed around 7000 people. Anything from little spiky trimmings to boas, tufts and sprays of feathers called aigrettes were cut, dyed and arranged from a wide variety of feathers: cockerel, pheasant, marabou, ostrich, ospreys, herons or birds of paradise. Sometimes even whole stuffed birds perched atop these monstrosities.

Bird of paradiseSuch decorations were extremely expensive; a hat trimmed with natural bird of paradise plumes could fetch a price of $100, a fortune in those days – that is over AU$4,400 or US$3,045 in today’s values. (For comparison I spotted a YSL black rabbit fur felt hat on Farfetch for over $3000 – it does have an elegant shape and details, for example tasselled ties, but that seems laughably overpriced for a comparatively unexciting hat made of inexpensive materials.)

The feathers of the Roseate spoonbill are so gorgeous they almost lead them to extinctionAnother bird that was hunted almost to extinction is the roseate spoonbill – in the late nineteenth century its feathers were literally worth more than gold – $32 per ounce, compared with $20 for gold. [al.com] Their almost total disappearance was one of the factors that lead to the formation of the Audobon Society, dedicated to conservation, eventually leading to the banning of the usage of feathers from endangered species.

Fashions at LongchampFashion from Paris – Les Modes February 1907c. 1912 Jane Renouardtc. 1900 The Bonita Hat – Huge oblong circle shape made of black plush with flamboyant turquoise lining that shows. It is trimmed with black and turquoise ostrich plumes. There is a turquoise and purple ribbon and velour 'grapes' on the ribbon. Originally sold on Ruby Lane.Three out of four hats featured feathers or whole birds, such was the popularity of plumage in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Today, feathers are still popular of course, but milliners have become more creative with the feathers from farmed ostriches, pheasants, ducks and cockerels.

During the militant phase of the Suffragettes and Blue Stockings around 1908, fashion began to simplify, and while hats were still de rigeur, they too fell in line with Reform fashions, for not even Suffragettes would cease wearing hats entirely – they were reluctant to outrage the establishment so utterly. Huge bows in sumptuous fabrics became more favoured for trimming, with the first cloches appearing in 1917, heralding the way for a vastly different style of hat in the 1920s.

Simpler hats of the latter Edwardian years, top right 1910, all others 1912Hat featuring a fabulously huge bow, Ladies Home Journal, 1910

Photos: Vintage images found on Pinterest; I have tried to include information and original links where available.

Additional reference: The Century of Hats, Susie Hopkins, Chartwell Books 1999