Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Tuesday
May072019

New Bags: Approved!

Two recent-ish vintage finds have been added to my wardrobe: a 1960s snakeskin square-framed bag with a kiss clasp for winter, and a white cane clutch for summer.

The snakeskin bag is by Gold Crest, an old Australian brand about which I can discover nothing. It has quite a few pockets and partitions on the inside, so it is great for organising contents. The white bag has a leather clasp, and is by Laura Ashley – possibly vintage 80s or later.

‘an afternoon bag to wear with city ensembles and slightly dressy outfits’

In A Guide to Elegance (1964), written by French style guru Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, decrees that alligator is only for sports or travel ensembles – I’m not sure what she would think of snakeskin. However, of the bags she approves, the snakeskin bag would certainly fit under the heading of ‘an afternoon bag to wear with city ensembles and slightly dressy outfits’. Renowned Hollywood costumier, Edith Head, says one type of at least three bags should be ‘the ladylike leather bag to wear with suits and tailored dresses’. [From How to Dress For Success by Edith Head and Joe Hyams, 1967]

Dariaux frowns heavily on white accessories, and deems them suitable only for summer in a tropical city; however beige basket-weave for summer is perfectly acceptable: ‘a beige straw handbag, which can be of a rather coarse weave if you spend your summers in the country, or of a finer texture, such as Panama, if you stay in town. … [It] is an indispensable accessory to summery cotton and linen dresses.’

I am going to give myself a Pass.

Monday
May062019

What I Actually Wore #0150

Serial #: 0150
Date: 09/10/2013
Weather: 27°C / 81°F
Time Allowed: 5 minutes

I don’t wear all black like many Melburnians are purported to do, but I do happily wear all white, or white and black together. Here is an outfit born of my minimalist phase, although that enormous vintage 70s cartwheel hat is rather maximalist, as are the gladiator boots. Both of those accessories were problems. But let’s start from the top, meaning clothes first, accessories second.

The white cotton dress was a favourite for many summers. It is by Australian brand Witchery, and I remember buying it in a warehouse sale. It was only retired when it started looking worn. It’s actually a little bit too long for these boots, and that was the problem: I didn’t really own any dress short enough for the boots that was also work-appropriate (some might say the boots weren’t work appropriate, but luckily I work in a theatre, so no one really blinks an eye at what I wear), so I wasn’t 100% happy with this pairing. But I was desperate to wear these new boots that I had paid remarkably little for in another warehouse sale.

I do remember wearing that very light straw hat that day because it was so blustery the hat simply would not stay on my head as the brim is so wide. It behaved like a sail catching the wind. A hat to be worn on dead calm days, I decided.

The sunglasses were also another warehouse find, while the vintage 60s bag, one I’ve owned and used for many years, came from a thrift store. The silver jewellery was from a now-defunct label called Roun, where I bought a few pieces. I loved to double up the concave silver ring with my onyx band on one finger, but tragically the former slipped off my finger one day en route to work. I never saw it again.

Vainly I still look for it even today, with someone’s anecdote in my mind – I think this was my brother-in-law’s mother’s tale – of losing a ring in the bush and stumbling upon it nine years later. So I still have hope: it’s only been five or six years since I lost it after all. I walk to work with fingers crossed now – for two reasons!

Items:

Dress: Witchery
Hat: Josephine Tripoli, vintage 70s
Sunglasses: Calvin Klein
Bag: vintage 60s
Shoes: Zoe Wittner
Earrings: handmade
Cuff: Roun
Ring: Roun (silver), souvenir (onyx)
Watch: Kenneth Cole

Photos: January 2014

Tuesday
Apr302019

Cerberustooth

This houndstooth pattern is so huge I am dubbing it ‘Cerberustooth’ – after the three-headed dog of Greek mythology! Houndstooth is a tessellated pattern of broken checks in two colours, usually black and white, but other colours are employed according to fashion.

The oldest known garment featuring houndstooth, the Gerum Cloak dates between 360–100BC, and was unearthed from a Swedish peat bog in 1920. However, the modern pattern most likely has its origin in the woven wool plaids of Scotland, specifically the Border or Northumberland tartan.

What I particularly love about my two jackets, apart from the oversized pattern, are the interesting cuts. The tan and white cotton jacket by Japanese brand Mash Mania has enormous and dramatic kimomo sleeves, while the cut of the black and white wool blend jacket by Gasp is reminiscent of a 40s cape jacket. It also has a black satin tie that gathers in the hem at the back. Admittedly, the cut of the sleeves on both jackets make them a bit restrictive, in that it’s very awkward to wear a bag with a shoulder strap. But who cares when they look fab?

However, they are nowhere near as mad, dramatic, or restrictive as these oversize houndstooth garments in Alexander McQueen’s 2009 Autumn/Winter collection ‘Horn of Plenty’. Scroll down and see … the cocoon coat is my favourite.

Read more about houndstooth here.

Photos: September 2018

Monday
Apr292019

Bags for Every Day

In modern life, a small handbag is not very practical for day-to-day activities. It is a sure indicator of a leisure occasion, when only the essentials required: perhaps a lipstick, a purse (or loose money or card at least), tissues, a phone.

When I am at work I always like to go out at lunchtime to run errands, or shop, or merely for some air. I don’t like to lug my large work tote with me, so I always bring a small handbag everyday as well. I make an effort to change them daily to match my outfit.

It’s a challenge sometimes, simply because I am always in a hurry dressing in the mornings. I tend to rely on a small selection of practical bags that are easily accessible because they are in regular rotation.

Here is a small selection of vintage and antique handbags that belong in my collection. All of these are woven from a different material, and they were all found in thrift stores. These are bags that are more special, and less practical for day-to-day use, and they are all indicative of an age when women perhaps did not work, and did not feel compelled to lug around her entire life with her every day. Incidentally, nearly all of these would fit that crucial modern-day item, the phone!

The little hat-shaped bag of straw and velvet trim is a particular favourite. When I bought it, one of the staff in the store, a Frenchwoman, told me the bag was antique, and was a specialty from a particular town in France (stupidly I neglected to ask her for details). I’m not sure of its age, but the looped handle suggests 1930s or earlier. The straw is quite soft to touch, and more intricately woven than one generally sees today.

The other rather singular bag is crocheted from silk, and is likely Edwardian. It’s very finely crocheted, delicate, and in pristine condition, and as with the straw hat, I am scared to use it for fear of ruining its shape! Its style is reminiscent of a reticule, a kind of pouch bag that was carried by women during the Regency period (1795–1820), many of which were home-made. 

And though the 70s jute bag is nowhere near as old, it too is fragile. I did carry this a lot as a summer lunchtime bag, and all that carting about has made some of the strings fray – it is in retirement now.

More sturdy are the mid-century structured bags, one of smoke-grey beads, and the other of raffia in robin’s egg blue (one of my favourite colours).

When I bought it, it was filthy and horrid to touch, but that is another shade of blue I love so I was sold. 

The periwinkle blue nylon crocheted bag is practically indestructible, however. When I bought it, it was filthy and horrid to touch, but that is another shade of blue I love so I was sold. A good soak worked wonders. I also changed the original translucent white plastic handles to vintage bamboo handles – after I found another unworthy handbag in a thrift store and butchered it!

Recently I realised I was very boringly carrying the same red handbag nearly every workday, so I have recently been making much more effort to dip into my large handbag collection daily. It’s madness to collect them and never use them, after all, and it makes dressing much more fun.

Photos: March 2018

Sunday
Apr282019

That Gown!

Elsa Schiaparelli, 1939Ah, the 1930s – my most favourite fashion era! It was just so elegant and sophisticated. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate clothes from other eras of course. Last week I stumbled upon – via Pinterest – the Tumblr blog OMG that dress! and spotted some lovely gowns from many eras. Here are a few I swooned over. The striped Schiaparelli is my favourite – I can never go past stripes!

Madeleine Vionnet, 1938-9Jeanne Lanvin, 1937

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