Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Thursday
Aug172017

The Scary Shoes

A few weeks ago I bought a pair of Dalmatian print pony-hair loafers in a thrift store for a song. I don’t recall how much, but they were under $10.  They are actually a size smaller than my usual (but only a little tight), so I have been wearing them at home with a pair of thick socks to stretch them out a little.

That is, until, the day my cat noticed them and was terrified, especially when she saw their ghostly reflections in a glass door. She was persistently jumping up onto the kitchen bench in fear, and trying to cower under the wooden dish rack! She had me completely mystified until I realised what was going on, and as soon as I took the shoes off, she calmed down. She is quite disinterested in them as long as they’re not on my feet.

Photo: July 2017

Tuesday
Aug152017

Animal Prints Through the Decades

Model in leopard-print bikini featuring lacing on the sides, 1955Animal prints have been perennially popular through the last century or so, as you can see scrolling through these images, taken from Style Book – Fashionable Inspirations, by Elizabeth Walker (Flammarion 2010). Real pelts, a symbol of wealth and luxury, were once insouciently worn without any consideration for animal conservation; now prints are worn purely for fashion’s sake – from the beach in Wilma Flintstone style togs, to stepping out in Cannes in glittering sequins.

Most of these fashion images show animal prints only, and mostly faux fur, although there are a very few showing genuine fur, including one eye-opening and rather grim archival image of two women casually shopping for pelts in the 1940s in Africa.

Cheetah and leopard are reminiscent of spots, and although I love graphic stripes too, not even Lauren Bacall (my favourite actress of her era) in a zebra print can reconcile me to the look of it.

(Click on the images for larger versions.)

Actress Ava Gardner in leopard print costume, surrounded by swathes of fabric in the same pattern, 1952Woman in zebra-print bikini, 1955Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor draped in leopard fur shawl, at the London Palladium in 1956Model in leopard-print waistcoat with matching muff and cap all in faux fur, London 1951Actress Lauren Bacall sports a zebra print blouse, 1944Model Jackie Collins mixes zebra and leopard prints matching the car interior; outfit by Car Robes, at the Motor Show, London 1956 Model in zebra tabard by furrier Calman Links, Bond Street, London 1965Men's street style in 1956: a dandy accessorises his three-piece suit complete with pocket-square with a cheetah print flat-crowned hatPhotographer Norman Parkinson wearing an extravagant leopard print scarf, 1970Model wearing sequinned leopard-print gown, Christian Dior A/W 1953A woman in a sequinned gown that owes much to the 80s fashion of Dynasty, at the Hotel Carlton during the Cannes Film Festival, France 1998Flapper style with a circular theme in 1925: leopard-skin coat trimmed with fox furA stewardess in the 1971 uniform of National Airlines: faux fur accessorised with a real baby Bengal tiger In Africa in 1947, women shop for leopard pelts

Monday
Aug142017

Spot the Difference

Vintage cheetah print wool fedora by Laura Ashley; vintage leopard print earringsAnimal prints, while they are an acknowledged classic print in the fashion lexicon, have never been something I have gravitated towards. In part it is because my minimalist leanings find the patterns too visually overwhelming and ‘messy’, but it is also because to me they smack of an old-fashioned as opposed to vintage style.

As British Vogue put it in their 100th anniversary June 2016 issue (below), a scent of trophy wife developed in the 1960s, when wealthy and famous women like Sophia Loren and Ursula Andress adopted the signature print.

British Vogue, June 2016

I don’t mind a touch of animal print in accessories, such as hats and shoes – it’s only when a wall of animal print approaches me that I flinch.

It is the great cats that provide inspiration for the most classic of animal prints: leopard and cheetah print are the two most popular in clothing and accessories. They look very similar to one another, so how does one discern between the two?

Cheetah

The cheetah’s coat is yellow-orange or golden, and the oval or circular spots are dark brown or black. This is the pattern used in both of my hats, although the background colours are quite different. The fedora is by Laura Ashley, and the vintage beret of unknown provenance; I suspect both are from the 80s.

Cheetah-inspired print vintage wool beret; the pattern is actually a bit of a hybrid, with some areas that feature shapes that almost form the distinctive rosettes found on a leopard's coat

Leopard

The pattern on the leopard’s coat is more complex, consisting of black or brown spots that cluster together closely, in a pattern that is called a rosette. The fur in the centre of the rosette is usually a deeper colour than the tawny background fur. The rosette pattern provides excellent camouflage for the leopard.

The vintage earrings I am wearing in the first photo show a leopard print, as do the modern heeled sandals by Guess. The shoes are printed pony hair, as in fact are the earrings (although they may be faux).

Leopard print pony-hair and patent leather heels by GuessVery occasionally one sees other animal prints come into fashion – tiger, zebra, giraffe – but their appearance is usually trend driven and fleeting. Too bold and brash, they simply don’t possess the same vintage pedigree; they are the vulgar cousins of the sleeker cheetah and leopard. But the latter are still a bit wild, not for the entirely tamed woman. As Christian Dior put it, “Leopard print requires a kind of femininity which is a little bit sophisticated. If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it.” Well, there are plenty of blondes who have chosen to wear it, but I’d hazard a guess none of them are sweet.

How to wear animal print

Because animal print is just so bold and statement-making, I prefer it worn against solid block colours, and my choice would be any of the neutrals: black, white, grey, camel. Practically speaking, denim is also a neutral – see Kate Moss in the tearsheet above. Or, if you are a maximalist, and more is more is more, you could pair it with matching boots (see Ursula Andress) or tights and heels like Lola Todd, who I suspect may be wearing genuine fur, which makes it rather bad taste to match it to a live leopard pet! Don’t do that.

Photos: August 2016

Tuesday
Aug082017

What I Actually Wore #0134

Serial #: 0134
Date: 29/07/2013
Weather: 19.5°C / 67°F
Time Allowed: 10 minutes

It’s funny to open up the archives and see this outfit, because very recently this dress came back into my life! I had given it to a friend of mine two or three years ago. She had worn it a few times that I had seen, but finally decided that it swamped her a bit (she’s shorter than I am).

She asked if I’d like it back, so I agreed to have another look at it. However, I’m just not sure that it fits in with my style anymore – the best explanation I can come up with is that it’s too girly for me. I’m not sure if it’s merely the velvet bow belt (easy enough to remove), the sweetheart neckline, the tulip shape, or all three at once.

Here though I have worn it with a wool knit (that I still wear with much affection, though it is darned in several places), and a few other accessories that I all still own.

I have always liked pink paired with brown – it livens up what I have always thought of as a rather dull shade. Ironically, I do much prefer chocolate coloured tights – as I am wearing here – to common black (I always think of liquorice legs when I don black tights on the rare occasion).

The 70s inspired patent wedges I still like too, although I rarely wear them these days, but I feel that I must hold onto them for the sake of some female descendent of mine who will adore them in twenty or thirty years.

I am not sure which era this fur-trimmed, black velvet cap comes from. When I pull it right down, it looks very much like a 20s cloche cap, and there are no labels inside to give a clue to its age; it’s definitely vintage though. The hoop earrings are another vintage relic from eras unknown, but I will never part with those.

All in all, I still like this outfit, but I don’t know that I could wear it now. The dress is hanging in my closet, but when I reach for something to wear in the morning, my hand always hesitates over it.

Items:

Dress: Cue
Tee:
Kookaï
Tights:
Voodoo
Hat:
vintage
Earrings:
vintage
Ring:
souvenir
Watch:
Kenneth Cole
Shoes:
Nude

Photos: September 2013

Thursday
Aug032017

In the Purple

A modern violet ribbed knit and wooden necklace are worn with a Tyrian purple lampshade I hated purple for most of my life scarred as I was by a hideous magenta dress that my mother forced me to wear when I was about nine years old, to an older sister’s wedding. Purple is my mother’s favourite colour, and I think she picked out a horrid long-sleeved scratchy magenta dress trimmed in cream crocheted lace simply because she liked the colour. I hated the style of the dress, but the colour unfortunately became tainted by association for me for more than twenty years. I don’t think I started wearing it until my 30s when I discovered jewel tones suited me so well.

Many colours are named after things of the natural world, such as flowers, minerals, foods, and before synthetic dyes began to be produced, they were also made from them. Purple is certainly no exception. There are a myriad shades, including these examples of lilac, lavender and mauve, but violet stands quite apart on the colourwheel …

Byzantine Emperor Justinian, mosaic in St Vitale church, Ravenna, Italy

Tyrian Purple

Purple is the colour most often associated with royalty, most likely because in days of antiquity the production of purple dye – known as Tyrian purple, after one of the coastal Phoenician cities in which it originated – was long, difficult and expensive. It was made from the gland of a sea snail called the spiny dye-murex, and produced varying shades of purple from crimson to magenta to a much deeper bluish hue, depending upon the type of snail and how it was made.

Tyrian purple became the favoured colour of the wealthy: kings, nobles, priests and magistrates all around the Mediterranean. It is mentioned in many works of literature of the ancient world: Homer, Sappho, and the Old Testament of the Bible.

Cloth dyed with Tyrian purple‘In modern times, Tyrian purple has been recreated, at great expense. When the German chemist, Paul Friedander, tried to recreate Tyrian purple in 2008, he needed twelve thousand mollusks to create 1.4 ounces of dye, enough to color a handkerchief. In the year 2000, a gram of Tyrian purple made from ten thousand mollusks according to the original formula, cost two thousand euros.’ [Wikipedia]

Violets

Violet

Violet is actually a spectral colour in its own right as it has its own wavelength, unlike purple, which is made up of two spectral colours – blue and red. It also sits on the colourwheel between purple (next to crimson) and blue.

As my birthday falls in February, my birthstone is amethyst, and my flower is the violet. My mum grew these shy and tiny flowers in her gardenbeds, and they were always special to me for this reason, as well as their divine and subtle scent.

Interestingly, this violet ribbed jumper (sweater) of mine was very difficult to photograph. In reality it is distinctly an almost luminous shade of violet, but the camera captured it almost as cobalt – I had to colourcorrect it in Photoshop. This curiosity may have something to do with the ‘Bezold-Brücke shift’: when violet brightens, it begins to look more and more blue; the same effect does not happen with common purple.

Vintage 60s wool hat and gloves are worn with modern items

Lavender

Another subtle shade of purple is lavender, also named after a flower. While there is a myriad of shades used by designers of all kinds, the colour is most associated with the actual flower, a medium purple or a light pinkish purple. The word was first used in English to describe a colour in 1705.

The colour is also associated with decadence, in the sense of a lifestyle devoted to enjoying aesthetic sensual pleasures such as art, music food, and wine. Lavender-coloured roses are symbolic of love at first sight.

A modern pale lilac knit worn with a pink wool scarf and vintage pleated skirt

Lilac

The lilac flower is another of my favourite flowers because of its gorgeous beauty and scent. How heavenly it would be to have a lilac tree growing in one’s yard! I remember one of my uncles had one when I was a child. The colour obviously takes its name from the flower, but shades can vary of course, from more bluish to more reddish tones. The first recorded use of lilac as a colour name in English was in 1775.

Lilac

My knit might be described as ‘opera mauve’ (first used in 1927) and the bag as ‘mauve taupe’ (first used in 1925)

Mauve

Mauve is the newest colour of the lot, and the most interesting history. It was first created in 1856 by a young scientist named William Perkin. Perkin was experimenting with coal tar in an attempt to synthesise quinine (as a cure for malaria), when he stumbled upon a process producing a bright purple liquid. He had once dreamed of being an artist, dipped a piece of silk in a beaker of the liquid, and realised he had created a light- and wash-proof dye.

He first named the colour Tyrian purple, but soon after adopted the French name for the mallow flower: mauve. Ironically, it was a dye that was also difficult and expensive to produce, just like its original namesake.

Mallow flower, called mauve in French

However, in 1857, after Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, discovered the colour and decided it was an exact match for the colour of her eyes, the dye became a hit. Queen Victoria took note, and wore a dress of rich mauve velvet to her daughter’s marriage. In August 1859, Punch declared that London was ‘in the grip of the ‘Mauve Measles’, and by the time Perkin was 21, he was a rich and well-respected man.

Mauve was extremely popular during the Victorian period. Frances Adeline ‘Fanny’ Seward by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, early 1860s

Dress (afternoon bodice), 1860s Jessie Benton Fremont, American, MFA Boston

Half-Mourning

Interestingly all these floral shades of purple are also associated with half-mourning, being one of the acceptable colours (along with grey) worn in the final stage of mourning, after black. And as the Victorians aged, the popularity of the colour also went into a decline, becoming forever associated with the older generation.

But now, more than a century later, when young women are doing the previously unheard-of: adopting lavender rinses (and pink, blue, green – errr, every shade but their own!), perhaps these hues will have a renaissance?

Photos: July 2016


Silk tulle dress made for Queen Alexandra, Henriette Favre, French, 1902