Questions and Answers

Hi all,

I get a lot of email enquiries and most of them are fairly similar – here are a few examples received recently. They might be of interest or maybe even answer some of your queries too!?

I’m very happy to receive enquiries and reply as quickly as I can, so please be patient if I don’t get back to you straight away!

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1 – I have a lot of vintage clothing by Australian designers, and I would love to know the history of the designers, when they were most prominent, who they designed for and where they were based. Some of the labels include: Miss Petite, Acorn, Leon Cutler, Arc and Zora.

You might like to read a couple of books: “Schmattes” by Lesley Sharon Rosenthal focuses on the Jewish rag trade of Melbourne’s Flinders Lane – including Leon Cutler and many other local designers/labels. “Australian Fashion Unstitched” is a more recent book and covers a broader history of Australian fashion – I haven’t read it yet but hope to add it to my collection soon as the list of contents promises some really useful information.

You might also like to visit the collections of Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria and Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, as both have good Australian fashion collections. The Powerhouse is also the home of the Australian Dress Register which will document significant dress in NSW up to 1945. I hope to be able to make some contributions.

I’m also starting a Circa database of information about Australian designers and hope to post about them from time to time. I love the old labels, and there doesn’t seem to be as much information available as I’d like on local fashions. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for viewing.

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2 – Who/where do you get your very delicate items dry cleaned? I have a gorgeous rose pink Leon Cutler early 1960s (?) A-line jacket (think Jackie O) made from raw silk, with very intricate and detailed fragile glass beading. It’s very dusty. I thought about going through a ballet/theatre company to see if they knew of some one who dealt with these kinds of items.

I like to hand wash as much as possible, but for your garment dry cleaning would be best. If it’s strong, you might like to hang it outside somewhere out of the sun (eg, a verandah or balcony) for the fresh air to remove some of the dust. Keep it away from the sun though, as it will fade the colour.

I recommend that you mend all garments before dry cleaning, and secure beadwork – look for loose threads and hand stitch the beads. If you pull gently on the surrounding beads you will soon know if further stitches are needed. Better be safe than sorry, as many vintage beads can be hard to replace and if a thread comes undone you might lose a lot! Many vintage beaded garments were sewn with cotton thread, which deteriorates over time and isn’t as strong as modern polyesters. If there are missing beads, it’s best to clean first and then look at replacements – vintage beads can be bought online at sites like ebay and etsy but bead suppliers like Maria George may have modern versions that fit the bill.

Ballet and Theatre companies usually have excellent dry cleaners on file but as experts tend to be costlier and I dry clean a large amount of stock each year, I like to use a local company. For delicate garments you wouldn’t trust your usual dry cleaner with, I recommend Bancrofts. They’ve successfully cleaned beaded silk 1920s gowns for me. No small feat as they can fall apart if not handled gently!

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4 – My mother in law has a short Mink Jacket that she wants to get rid of. She usually donates to St Vincent’s but wondered if there was somewhere where she might be able to sell the jacket as it was expensive when purchased.

I recommend Linda Black in Chapel Street, Windsor. They specialise in vintage furs and skins. You could also try approaching local vintage clothing traders who stock furs and antique auctions.

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5 – I was looking for a pair of gloves. I think that you mentioned on your blog some time ago that you stock new gloves that come in larger sizes? I just thought I’d check before I came in – I have very large unvintage hands!

Sadly, our grandmothers had delicate little hands compared to our modern versions – the numbers you might find inside equate to shoe sizes and usually come between a 6 and a 7 1/2. Occasionally we find size 8s, but for ladies with shoe sizes larger than that (or who have broad hands or plump fingers) your best bet may be stretchy vintage styles like fishnets or crochets. Nylon jersey styles are also good.

Thankfully modern gloves are made of stretchy polyesters, usually satins and are “one size fits all”. At Circa we stock a range of lengths from wrist to opera (shoulder). Colours available are usually cream, white and black.

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6 comments

  1. Hi, just stumbled onto this. Do you give ideas on value of vintage clothing? I have a Leon Cutler coat, made in England, and I can’t find another like it to go off. Cheers, Gabi.

  2. Hi Robyn, I’m yet to thoroughly research Leon Cutler, but if you chase down a copy of Lesley Sharon Rosenthal’s book “Schmattes” (link in the post above) you will find out more about him. Most of the garments I’ve seen with his label are from the ’60s, I think he might have been too young to have been designing in the ’40s but you’re welcome to send me a photo of the coat and I can help date it. I can tell you that he’s a lovely man, he sometimes offers ragtrade tours of Flinders lane.

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