Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Monday
May202019

Match-making

PART ONE

Last year when I was shopping in a thrift store off the beaten track, I spotted a Schiaparelli pink grosgrain belt in a display cabinet. It seemed to be composed of a multitude of ribbons, which instantly captivated the more girlish side of my nature (yes I do have a boyish side, admittedly not often seen on these pages).

When it was retrieved for me, I found that it was by the Australian designer Alannah Hill. That discovery did not surprise me at all, for it is a label of extreme sugar-coated, toothache-inducing girlishness. I never shop there, and the only items I own from this brand I bought in thrift stores, most of them being accessories. Just a touch of Alannah is usually enough, I find.

However, when I brought it home, I simply could not style it with any combination of garments. I tried simple shapes, which did not work at all and then moved on to slightly more decorative which was slightly okay (check out my 1940s novelty hat – it has a satin apple on top!).

Then I tried it with a similarly frou-frou polka-dot dress (very much of Alannah Hill ilk, but this is a vintage 1980s dress). I thought, you know, this shade of pink with black is a classic pairing, but I found the combination of the belt with the tiered dress horrible, and I gave up. (My expression in the photo above speaks volumes.)

Disgruntled, I put the belt away and did not think of it again.

 

PART TWO

On another thrifting trip one day, I found a lovely straw hat with a beautiful woven pattern and quirky shape that changes in appearance from every angle. There is no label, but I think it is most likely a modern designer hat – the weave is too complex to have come from a high street brand. The only problem was that the lovely chequerboard woven straw band was broken in several areas. It had such a great shape, and was inexpensive, so I bought it with the plan to refurbish it.

I don’t remember the exact moment of inspiration, but I recalled the failed belt: it could make a great new hat band! Excitedly I pulled it out of a drawer and tied it on, and it was like a match made in hat heaven. The multitude of ribbons put me in mind of an Edwardian beribboned hat, and had the effect of suddenly elevating the straw hat from plain to spectacular. It’s still much less fussy than most Edwardian hats which are loaded down with trim of every description, and that suits me just fine.

it was like a match made in hat heaven

I wear hats all the time, of course, but how perfect would this hat be for someone who does not, and needs a race or wedding hat on a budget? Sometimes it’s worth taking a chance on those items that seem not-quite-right, for a little imagination and some experimentation go a long way.

Photos: November 2018, April 2019

Saturday
May182019

What I Actually Wore #0151

Serial #: 0151
Date: 10/10/2013
Weather: 21°C / 70°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

As always, if I wear a lot of black, I add some pops of colour to brighten it. I wore this black and cobalt outfit to work, with the rhinestone cat ears headband added for evening as I was going to see a play at the Melbourne Festival. My friend, who came with me, was delighted by the whimsical headband.

The black knit top has a subtle lurex thread going through it; it and the skirt are both great basics. The top I bought from a warehouse store on sale, and the skirt came from a thrift store. I still own all of these items, except for the silver ring – a favourite – that slipped off my finger one day (in action like the One Ring, although it didn’t make me invisible!) never to be seen again. As the night was cool, I was also wearing my beloved white leather trench coat (you can see it in this gallery), which I forgot to photograph.

It was a fun night – the play was an enjoyable UK production of Brief Encounter, after the film – and one of the actors even complimented my outfit out in the foyer of the theatre, probably because of that eye-catching headband.

Items:

Top: Country Road
Skirt: Kenneth Cole
Headband: Diva, now Lovisa
Shoes: Mollini
Earrings: self-made
Ring: Roun (silver), souvenir (onyx)
Watch: Kenneth Cole

Photos: October 2013

Tuesday
May142019

Nonpareils

How utterly fantastic are these earrings from Lovisa? I pounced on them as soon as I saw them in the shop because they look like freckles! If you are not Australian, that observation may bewilder you. Freckles are a chocolate drop smothered in hundreds and thousands, or, as I only just learned, nonpareils, as they are called in North America.

I call these earrings nonpareils: delicious candy for your ears! And now I want to eat a freckle as well.

Monday
May132019

Pretty Parisian Gowns

Day suit of linen and cotton, spring-summer 1947, Paquin, Paris couture house; Colette Massignac designer, active 1945–49A few weekends ago I visited the Krystyna Campbell-Pretty Fashion Gift exhibition currently on at the NGV International. I had not known what to expect from the exhibition, and was excited to discover it featured garments spanning over a century, and included a remarkable number of illustrations and photography from fashion journals and periodicals from the early nineteenth century onwards.

Dress and cape of silk, c. 1938, Maisons Agnès-Drecoll, Paris couture house 1931–63It would be hard to pick a favourite, but as always the 30s and 40s are my favourite eras. There was a 1930s yellow gown that delighted me, and a cream 1947 day suit by Paquin that made me gasp and exclaim to my friend, “Now, I would wear that!” We approached one mermaid gown by Maggy Rouff and wondered at the odd angle of the mannequin – until we saw the beribboned back of the dress – amazing!

Evening dress of silk velvet and satin, autumn-winter 1937–38, Maggy Rouff, Paris couture house, Maggy Besançon de Wagner, designer 1896–1971

The exhibition wound throughout several rooms, with garments occasionally intermixed with paintings and industrial design pieces from the gallery’s permanent collection. The only disappointment in this was that quite a few gowns were far above eye level, so one could not examine them closely. There was certainly a lot to take in, and happily it runs for another couple of months, and as entry is free, I shall be returning for another tour.

Click here to see the full gallery.

Detail of a lavishly appliquéd 1920s robe de styleA special issue of winter fashion, 1940s

Thursday
May092019

Delicious Apricot

You will not be surprised to read that the colour apricot, like orange, takes its name from the fruit. The word first used in English to describe the fruit was abrecock, from Middle French, but it was not used to describe the colour until 1851.

Orange, on the other hand has been around for a little longer, first coming into use three centuries earlier. But before the descriptor ‘orange’, such shades were described by English speakers as giolureade – ‘yellow-red’*.

Apricots and agate‘Apricot Candy’ rose, and paint swatchesFour different swatches for the colour apricot found in Google Images

Imagine then having to describe pale yellow-red! It’s no surprise that so many colours are simply named after an object – the only problem is that such things can vary in tone. Apricot is no exception – the fruit is variegated, and there are many variations of swatches available, but the shade is generally accepted to be much paler than the actual fruit. It is more yellow in tone than its sister shade, peach.

Apricot is a colour that I have never liked. In fact, the original concept of this story was ‘colours I hate’! For me, as I imagine for many others, it has always had connotations with bland, sickly 1980s interior décor (see below). Hideous – like a nightmare you couldn't wake from.

80s apricot interior design But a funny thing happened one day when I was browsing in a vintage bazaar with a friend. We conceived the humorous plan to each find the ugliest dress we possibly could, and try it on for a laugh. The chiffon apricot 70s dress is what I pulled out of the racks.

Unexpectedly however, once I had put it on, preened in front of the mirror and done a few twirls, it began to grow on me. Even my friend protested that I had chosen a dress that was not nearly as ugly as the one she had picked out (see below). 

My friend Sapphire and I try on some 80s dresses in a vintage bazaar in Geelong

The dress – the label declared it was by Elegance, which I have never seen before – was inexpensive, so whimsically I decided to buy it. I have even actually worn it out to an Opening Night at the theatre, with my pink Victorian cloak.

If you have light skin, there is a risk of looking naked wearing apricot and other such shades (who can forget Carrie and her ’naked dress’ in that episode of Sex and the City?), but there is no danger of that in this dress with its billowing sleeves and skirt. The dress has belt loops which are sadly bereft – I imagine it once had an extravagant sash. 

These sweet and pale tones were favoured in the 1920s to the 1940s for women’s lingerie – in such use, made from georgette, chiffon and satin and trimmed in pretty lace, were apricot and peach at the height of their powers. Delicious!

The colour has been seen in fashion since of course, especially in the 80s, when pastels, and brasher shades of coral and watermelon were the rage. It’s akin to Pantone’s 2019 Colour of the Year, Living Coral, and is already popular in interior design, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a renaissance of full-blown apricot-hued revival soon. I bet you can’t wait!

1930s lingerie1970s jumpsuits, Brooke Shields in the 80s

*From The Secret Lives of Colour, by Kassia St Clair, John Murray 2016)

Images found on Pinterest
Photos: March 2017

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