12
Feb
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, Calendar, Exhibitions, Talk 1 Comment

If you haven’t yet seen the fabulous NGV exhibition on Deco fashion and Edward Steichen photographs, allow me to offer you an additional enticement – I’m presenting a talk on Deco fashion at the NGV:

Join us for an afternoon in the exhibition as we take a closer look at fashionable aspects of the ’20s and ’30s, including hats, shoes and jewellery. Hosted by Paola di Trocchio, exhibition co-curator and Assistant Curator, International Fashion & Textiles.

Speakers include Theo Hasset, bespoke shoemaker; Richard Nylon, Milliner; Nicole Jenkins, fashion historian, retailer & author; Anne Schofield, jewellery specialist and collector.

What: Art Deco Fashion Afternoon: Vintage Glamour
When: Saturday 22nd Feb (2pm – 4pm)
Where: National Gallery of Victoria, St Kilda Road Melbourne.
Cost: free, but entry costs apply to the exhibition and you’ll need a ticket to get in.

Here is a pic I took of some glorious ’20s coats: more Deco fashion loveliness can be found here. Hope to see you there.

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Photo copyright Nicole Jenkins


21
Nov
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, Calendar 1 Comment

I saw this exhibition some time ago and have been remiss in alerting you – so apologies for the delay, it’s finishing soon. No photos of my own to show you (strictly forbidden) but I can assure it’s well worth seeing, if you’re enjoying the fabulous costumes of the TV series or love ’20s style. Plus: Rippon Lea is a beautiful place and always worth a visit.

What: Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries Costume Exhibition
When: daily until Sunday December 1, 2013. Open 10.30am – 4.30pm (Last admission is at 4pm)
Where: Rippon Lea House & Gardens, 192 Hotham Street, Elsternwick
Cost: Adult $15, Concession $12, $10 Adult, Child $9. Family prices are also available.
More information: available at the National Trust site .

Miss Fisher's costume exhibition
Photo source Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Facebook page

From the National Trust site:
The popular ABC TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries will return to Rippon Lea this spring with a major exhibition featuring the sumptuous costumes worn by the Hon. Phryne Fisher and her cohorts. The house and gardens, which features in the series as the home of Aunt Prudence, will once again be transformed as the doors open to the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Costume Exhibition on the 7th September.

More than 30 outfits worn by the lead cast including Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis), Dectective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) and Aunt Prudence (Miriam Margolyes) from both series one and the soon to be broadcast series two of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries will be showcased in the exhibition.

Visitors will be taken on a journey in to the creation of the many worlds of Miss Fisher with insight from Kerry Greenwood, the author of the Phryne Fisher mysteries series of books, Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox, producers of the popular ABC TV series and Marion Boyce, the costume designer for the TV series.

Thank you to the National Trust for inviting me to see the exhibition – my favourite costume was Jack’s wool gabardine coat with the unexpected red lining. I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed that revealing detail before and now of course, it’s all I see.

I hope we get a third season! Friday nights won’t be the same without my weekly Miss Fisher.


7
Nov
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1900s, 1920s, 1930s, Vintage 101 5 Comments

Yesterday I listed a beautiful 1920s silk velvet coat of purple velvet with grey silk lining on the webshop.

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The quality was self-evident: the lushness of the fabric, the generosity of the cut, the detail in the construction. The silk lining is unbelievably soft: more luxurious than any modern silk. The original label was inside and also, spoke of quality.

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This exceptional piece sold quickly and prior to packing her up and sending her to her new home, I did a little googling about the maker.

We all know that Regent St in London is one of the best shopping destinations – the border between Mayfair and Soho. Home to Hamley’s and the beautiful Liberty, and many other major retailers. Not surprisingly, every building in the street is heritage listed.

A business that occupied numbers 252 to 264 would be a very large and successful one – today these shops are occupied by many retailers including Monsoon and Natwest. It’s right near Oxford Circus, and I walked past these buildings every day when I worked around the corner for a fashion wholesaler in 1992.

I discovered that in the 19th century this part of Regent Street was the home of mourning dress with many shops dedicated to its wares. Peter Robinson’s was one of the largest – originally occupying the whole block from 250 to 264, and as demand changed, so did the shops: in 1894 they occupied 256-264 and in 1909 it could be found at 252-264. This suggests the garment was made after 1909.

The cocoon coat is such a distinctive style: introduced by Paul Poiret in 1913, this one could be from the ‘teens or it could be the early ’20s – I always date pieces as the most recent possible, to err on the side of caution but the construction, materials and label suggest this one is probably from the earlier end of that spectrum. It came from the wardrobe of a lady who also wore Poiret and Chanel.

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An advert for Peter Robinson’s from the Illustrated London News 1885.

The Victorians were big on mourning and the proper fashion: for a period of up to several years they would wear black after the death of a loved one, followed by a period of “half-morning” when the colours of grey and purple would be introduced. Here’s a half-mourning dress in the collection of the Victoria and Albert museum in London.

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This beautiful – and rather modern looking gown – was worn by Heather Firbank in 1910-1912 and designed by Redfern. It’s featured in the excellent V&A publication “Black in Fashion” by Valerie Mendes.

So with this in mind, the colours of the cocoon coat no longer look like fashion and more likely are to be the later stages of mourning – when a lady is re-emerging back into Society and ready to enjoy herself again. Further information could be obtained by enquiring from the original owner, who may be able to recall or research when family members passed away, helping to pin down a date.

I applied this knowledge to another ensemble in my collection – this luxurious skirt suit, that came to me via the Banana Room, a legendary vintage clothing shop in Adelaide. Like the cocoon coat, it features the colours of purple and pale grey – this time in reverse with a silver grey devore velvet stripe lined in purple silk crepe.

Like many older items, it’s a mysterious suit with style elements from many eras: the glass and enamel buttons look Victorian, the fabric could be too, and it has been meticulously hand tailored by experts.

At first sight I thought it must be late 19th century or early ’20 century were it not for the skirt length: but skirts are often updated when fashions change. Most telling are the large structured shoulder pads. I am not aware of ladies wearing shoulder pads prior to 1933, hence my dating of this suit as ’30s but there is no reason why a fashion innovator could not have requested such a detail earlier: perhaps she had admired those in her husband’s jackets and seen how they could rectify her own rounded shoulders? Perhaps they were inserted in later, although I doubt it as the jacket is so well made and shows no signs of alterations – you can always tell when shoulder pads have been added or removed, because the structure is built to accommodate them. Or not.

Margot Riley of Sydney’s State Library was in recently and recalled seeing the suit in the Banana Room collection: it was originally going to be part of the auction in 2005 but was withdrawn. Margot is of the opinion that it dates to the late ‘teens and is half-mourning. Margot, I think you’re right.

This is what I love most about vintage and antique fashion: there is so much to discover and learn, and how it adds depths to garments that we, in the modern age, can choose to wear as we wish. These were treasured pieces, worn for a transitional time in their original wearer’s lives but they’ve both experienced so much more since then and due to careful care, are now ready to be worn again or enjoyed as beautiful collectables of social and cultural history.

If you’re interested in mourning dress, the NGV had a wonderful exhibition on Black in fashion in 2008 with some great examples of mourning dress. Their publication should still be available from the NGV shop.

UPDATE: I think I have another item of half-mourning dress on the webshop – check out this beautiful crushed velvet purple cape with light grey cotton chenille flowers.


18
Oct
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, Costume Collections, Exhibitions 3 Comments

So last night Tim and I went to the opening of the new fashion and photography exhibition at the NGV. Here are some pics – I wish I’d taken some of the fabulously dressed people though! You should have seen Richard Nylon in his two toned lace up stiletto boots or Fashion Hayley in her bold black and white striped dress: but the social photographers will hopefully make up for it. We’re so lucky in Melbourne to have so many brilliant creative dressers. In the meantime, here are some frocks and coats.

If these don’t convince you to see it post haste, you just don’t appreciate fine fashions sufficiently. It’s on until March 2nd.

Also, don’t forget my talk at the NGV tomorrow on Deco fashions – it’s free and also speaking are William A Ewing on the history of fashion photography and Todd Brandow on photography.

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15
Oct
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, Calendar, Exhibitions, Talk 2 Comments

This Friday the new exhibition of Edward Steichen photography and Art Deco fashion opens at the NGV – the following day they’re running a number of fun programmes includinga film, tour, charleston lessons and a panel discussion about the exhibition and I’m on the panel!

From the NGV’s site:
Join us as we explore the innovative and glamorous fashion photography of Edward Steichen, as well as art deco fashion from the 1920s and 1930s.

Keynote: William A Ewing, independent curator, formerly director of the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland, and specialist in the history of fashion photography; Todd Brandow, Executive Director, Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and exhibition co-curator; and Nicole Jenkins, fashion historian, retailer & author of Love Vintage: A Passion for Collecting Fashion (2009) .

What: Forum: Edward Steichen – the image maker
When: Saturday October 19th 2-4pm
Where: Clemenger BBDO Auditorium, NGV International, St Kilda Rd, Melbourne
Cost: free, although an admission cost applies to the exhibition.

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26
Sep
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, Vintage 101 7 Comments

Tonight. Quick – what to wear?

I get a lot of people coming to see me because they are looking for help for a ’20s themed event. The real 1920s authentic fashions are wonderful but a little problematic: firstly, they’re not that easy to get. Circa is one of only a handful of shops in Australia that stock original ’20s. Secondly: we might not have the style you’re looking for – or in your size or preferred colour.

This is the downside of authentic fashions – we’re limited to what people wore, and how well it was preserved and how well we can restore it now. Fashions from this decade are almost a century old – we wouldn’t expect to find a Model T in our local car yard and so it is the same with ’20s fashions. Even if you find that Model T, it may not be up for a night hooning around with your mates. Fashion is the same: they’re often fragile or easily damaged and deserving of gentle treatment. You can wear them (and I do my best to make my ’20s wearable) but it’s not the same as wearing modern clothes.

For this reason I generally recommend two things for parties:
1 – Costume Hire.
2 – Creating the look with ’20s style items from other eras, especially accessories.

I love dress up events and I have a little advantage that most people don’t have: a vintage shop to dip into – here are some ways you can create a ’20s look without investing a lot in an outfit that might be in shreds by the end of the evening, and enjoy yourself at the same time.

Firstly, there are two things to consider:
1 – What does the event call for? Where will it be held? Inside or outside? Is there a theme? Day or evening? Will you be sitting, standing, dancing?
2 – What would you feel good wearing? There’s no point dressing up in something you feel terrible or uncomfortable in – the whole purpose of these events is to enjoy yourself, so you still need to preserve an aspect of yourself, even if it’s only a little one.

For my event tonight, it’s a Murder Mystery hosted by Secret Squirrel Productions set in 1927 Chicago. Yes, there will be gangsters! It’s held in a Fitzroy cocktail bar and there will be drinks and canapes – I imagine there will be places to sit but we’re probably going to stand for a lot of the evening, so I need to consider my shoes and how comfortable I will be in them.

My character, Marjorie, is a brothel Madam – so she’ll probably be wearing something dark, something sexy but business-like. Her style will be mature and glamourous. Being the ’20s, her dress will be fairly shapeless, with no cleavage or waist and the emphasis on the hips and legs.

The character suits me, but the ’20s style does not suit my figure – I like to emphasis my curves, not downplay them. I’ll create this look by using a dark but glitzy colour palette.

Firstly – research: I reached for my convenient copy of “Jazz Age Beauties” with many beautiful photos by Alfred Cheney Johnston, and I posted a few nice ones to Instagram.

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Then I bobbed my hair. Don’t worry, I wanted to cut it short anyway, so this was a good excuse.

Generally I dress from the shoes up, especially if I’m likely to be standing a lot – I love Mary Jane style shoes and have lots, so it was easy to pick out a couple of pairs.

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But these are the ones I’d really like to wear: Edwardian style lace up boots. Custom made when we were in Paris last.

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Perfect for a contrast stocking underneath, so you can see all the lacing – ideally I’d like an Edwardian style stocking with vertical stripes but alas, not in fashion currently so I bought a selection.

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Now that I had my shoes and stockings sorted, I added some headwear: this piece was made by Louise Black who has a wonderful sense of dark ’20s style.

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Lots of beads are needed too…..

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I’m going to wear a simple black dress and the accessories will do the work, but I need something to go on top – perhaps one of these jackets, now available from the salon, and coming soon to the webshop.

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Or a silk knit ’20s cardigan.

If you need a dress, you could wear a ’20s revival dress from the ’60s or the ’80s – here’s one available now from the webshop.

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Lastly, here’s what I wore to the NGV Deco exhibition opening – can you believe this was more than five years ago? I’m wearing a black silk ’20s dress, ’30s silk velvet jacket and Deco dress clips…and blonde hair! Sometimes I forget that pink isn’t my natural colour.

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The important thing with your ’20s party is to look fabulous and have a wonderful time! If I can be of service in helping create your look, come and see me.


20
Sep
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, Calendar, Exhibitions 2 Comments

I’m beyond excited about this upcoming exhibition at the NGV – I’ve had a sneak peek at some of the gowns and the catalogue and there are some incredible photographs and fashion to see in this one. From the NGV’s site:

“Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion comprises over 200 photographs and more than 30 garments. This stunning exhibition captures the sophistication of the modern woman and the elegance of high-end fashion from this golden age of fashion and photography.

From 1923 until 1938, Steichen was chief photographer for fashion’s most influential and glamorous magazines, Vanity Fair and Vogue. During this time Steichen created images that were imaginative documents of glamour, talent, and style. His work revolutionised fashion photography, and influenced generations of subsequent photographers.

The exhibition will also showcase Art Deco fashion including garments and accessories from the 1920s and 1930s which express characteristic Art Deco motifs and introduce the modern forms of twentieth and twenty first century dressing. The development and changes in the slip dress and coat through the 1920s and 1930s will be shown with examples by leading designers of the day including Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Madame Paquin and Callot Soeurs. ”

What: Edward Steichen and Art Deco Fashion
When: 18th October 2013 to 2nd March 2014, 10pm to 5pm daily (closed Tuesdays)
Where: National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne
Cost: Adult $12, Child $6, Concession $10, NGV Member $9
More information at the NGV site.

The NGV have asked me to present a couple of talks as part of the programme, so more news will come about that – in the meantime, pencil this one into your dance cards because you won’t want to miss it!

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6
Sep
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Shop talk 11 Comments

Are you excited about the federal election tomorrow? I’m not.

I’ve been involved in almost every election (state and federal) since 1977 due to my unusually political family. At one stage or another, for one reason or another, I’ve campaigned and handed out how-to-votes for the Liberals, the ALP, the Democrats and the Greens.

My personal political leanings don’t change, more that I like to support friends and family, who have previously included a senator and currently include a couple of MPs. I even stood myself once, for the local council!

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Around half of the population is going to be disappointed tomorrow, as their candidate or their party fails to get elected. I remind myself of this because it will hopefully soften the blow as I expect to be one of those people and not winning is never a nice feeling.

The fact is that I live in a fringe world, with fringe interests – and until the majority of the population get over their perception that vintage (because most of it has been worn before) is undesirable and until we can stop buying $5 new dresses made by exploited workers in other countries and until we wake up and realise that we can’t just keep producing new things, filling up landfill forever…well until then, I will continue to dwell happily in my little fringe world caring about things that are unimportant to many.

So it should come as no surprise that most of Australia thinks, and votes differently.

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Like me, if you’re feeling a little sad about what tomorrow might bring – here are some ways to make life a little easier.

1 – Join the political party of your choice and get involved. Each has a process for members to influence policy, and the more that agree with you, the more of a difference you can make. It’s hard to achieve much when you’re yelling from the sidelines.

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2 – You don’t need to be a member to help out with the campaign. You can even turn up on polling day and help out the volunteers of your preferred party. It can be quite fun on the booth, with a sense of camaraderie and it’s refreshing to find that the how-to-voters get on well, regardless of their political differences. You all share one important thing: you care about the result and are doing your bit.

I’ve met some great people on different sides of the spectrum that I would never meet normally. Minor parties (or major parties in electorates where they have small followings) are generally short of volunteers and thankful for extra helpers. Befriending the people helping other parties means that they might cover you for short breaks too – and (if no one is looking) even hand out your How-to-votes. I’ve done that several times.

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3 – There’s nothing better than the feeling that everything’s going your way – but if your party isn’t winning it can be a challenge – remember that your turn may come again with each election and that lending your support can help increase this likelihood, and even when you don’t win, you’ll feel better to have been involved.

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4 – Many polling booths are hosting sausage sizzles and cake stalls – check this site to make your voting experience a little nicer, and perhaps come home with a souvenir of the day, all whilst supporting your local community.

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5 – Why all the frocks? Because when you’re not feeling so happy, do things that make you happy – go for walks in the park, eat Italian gelati whilst gazing out to sea, visit the NGV or watch an escapist film. Drink gin or champagne (in responsible doses of course!) in the company of like-minded loved ones.

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Lucky me, I’m enjoying taking pics of beautiful St Clare in vintage, so here are some of my current favourites. I hope you enjoy them regardless of what tomorrow brings!

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4
Sep
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s 5 Comments

When I read the news this morning, I got excited because the Victoria and Albert boutique must be a vintage shop surely?

But no: Victoria and Albert designed their own range of contemporary fashion starting in North Sydney in 1964 and moving to Double Bay soon afterwards, where they traded for forty years.

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If you know Sydney, you already have a good idea of what sort of stock a North Sydney shop in 1964 and Double Bay for 1965-2004 is likely to have – they picked up a youthful clientele in the swinging ’60s and then probably catered to them as they got older. I would expect classic but conservative clothes, in very good, even couture quality.

Like many fashion designers, they kept historical clothing in their archives for inspiration -and (along with the groovy ’60s frocks), this is what I would be most interested in: see below for images of an amazing velvet cloak with matching bag, and beaded ’20s dress.

Auction Details
Sunday 15 September 2013 at 1:00pm
Shapiro Gallery, 162 Queen St, Woollahra, Sydney
Woollahra Hotel Function Room, 116 Queen Street, Woollahra, Sydney

Catalogue available online.
More information here. Images reproduced courtesy Victoria and Albert boutique and Shapiro Auctions.

I haven’t seen any vintage clothes with the Victoria and Albert label, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for them.

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13
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1970s, Shop talk

Yes – nine years ago we opened at Gertrude St, which also makes it a year that we’ve been at Mitchell House in the city. Hurrah!

If you’ve with been us all the way, you might remember this lovely lady, who graced our first shop post cards – meet Dolores Costello, grandmother to Drew Barrymore and wife to John Barrymore. This image is from 1921.

To complete the circle here is Clare St Clare in Ossie Clark moss crepe circa 1972, with a Celia Birtwell print called “Floating Daisies”. I’ve used this frock in a few talks, notably the Art Gallery of Ballarat and today we ostensibly photographed it for the webshop but well, I’m not sure that I’m ready to sell this one.

People often ask me if I’m reluctant to part with vintage, but generally I find it a pleasure, as I love dressing people but sometimes there is a piece that I want to keep. The Ossie falls into this category. I’m sure that one day she will arrive on the webshop, looking for a new home but in the meantime I shall keep her safe and warm.

Sometimes, the piece is too special to part with.

Happy birthday Circa! May you have many, many more.


Unless stated otherwise, all content © Circa Vintage Clothing 2004-2014. ABN 37 840 548 574.
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