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.

ESteichen 3 475

Posted by Nicole in 1930s, General, New in store, Sale

Today I’m at the shop working on some of the goodies that are going into next Saturday’s garage sale and I have to tell you that there are some great pieces that will be priced to clear, many below cost. Many have never graced the shop before, from the Edwardian era (1900) up to the 1990s.

Here’s one of my favourites: silk georgette evening gown from the late 1930s. Just beautiful.

First in best dressed 475

You can see more sneak peeks of the treasures over at Facebook.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone – and if you’re an AFL fan, may your team win!

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!


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.


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!

Happy 2

Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, Calendar, Talk 3 Comments

Hi everyone,

An exciting event is coming up later this month – I’ll be presenting a talk with a difference as part of the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival. Here’s a little about the festival from their website:

For two weeks from 17 June, Glen Eira City Council will present a range of events that celebrate stories and those who tell them. From brunch with Elliot Perlman at the beautiful Rippon Lea House ballroom to the comics market and manga workshop in the Boyd Room at Carnegie Library, there are events to suit all age groups, budgets and interests.

You can see the full programme here.

My talk will be an interactive one: telling the stories of some of my favourite frocks of the ’20s and ’30s. I’ll be bringing several gowns including silk velvets, beaded silks and printed chiffons. Dresses are very personal and I’m looking forward to sharing their secrets with you.

It’s an honour to present in such beautiful surroundings as the Rippon Lea ballroom so I can’t resist showing you a pic – many movies have been filmed here, and in my ideal world it was where I wanted to get married (well, there and the Spiegeltent).

What: Storytelling through fashion with Nicole Jenkins
When: Saturday June 29th 11am
Where: The ballroom, Rippon Lea house, 192 Hotham Street, Elsternwick
Cost: $25 including morning tea
Bookings essentialbook here.
More information: see the website.

Here are some of the dresses featured in my book “Love Vintage” that I might bring along – all photos reproduced courtesy Tira Lewis.

Posted by Nicole in 1930s, Swimwear 1 Comment

We’re so fortunate to live in Australia, it’s such a beautiful country and pretty good weather, especially when you consider what much of the world has to deal with. Lots of sunny days, and if you grew up here you probably have lots of beach memories – it’s a big part of our lives.

I spent my first nine years in Sydney and my favourite beach was Balmoral– we went to many beaches, but Balmoral didn’t seem like a beach: more like a park with a pretty strip of sand and rockpools at the end. It seemed like we always got a park close by, and there were always lots of kids to play with and if we were lucky, ice creams.

Mum liked to take us to another beach that seemed far away (Dee Why? Chinaman’s?) and necessitated trudging through the sand for miles (or so it seemed to me), carrying the obligatory beach umbrella, esky and lots of bags. It felt like an expedition and there were never ice creams.

After we moved to Perth, I got to enjoy the beaches there: Cottesloe is my favourite and I visit every time I go West, although my relationship with the beach – and sun, and sand – is more complicated that it was when I was a child. I spent my 18th summer doing my best to get a tan and that was it: I don’t have the right skin to tan evenly, or even at all, so since then it’s hats, parasols and daily sunblock for me – now that I’m older, I’m very glad for it because I’ve retained pale and wrinkle-free skin. So far, so good.

The 1930s was the golden era for beachwear and seaside holidays – here are some pics that I can’t resist sharing: everyone is so beautiful, elegant and yet insouciant. Enjoy!

Herbert Matter 1937

Gotthard Schuh 1930

Andreas Feininger 1936

The last three images I found at Livejournal – click here for the link, but be warned there are a couple of tasteful arty nudes.

Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Circa event, fashion parade 1 Comment

A little while ago we put on a fashion parade for the Australian Sewing Guild – this one was a little different to our usual formats, for a specialised audience and we combined the parade with my popular talk on ladies fashions of the ’20s to the ’70s.

Instead of me just standing up the front and showing dresses, the dresses were worn by models, who strolled around and let the audience touch the fabrics and see them up close.

It was a great success and I loved the opportunity to focus more on the fabrics, the construction techniques and the detailing than usual – here are some of the frocks as worn by our lovely models Apple, Carolina, Lola and Carley. Esther helped behind the scenes with dressing.

Here are some of the many frocks that were paraded: we took a few liberties with accessories: they’re not all period correct, but I think they’re suitable for each era to help create a look.

Carley looking very chic and summery in 1920s fuji silk day wear.

Apple in 1920s silk crepe with cutouts and embroidered detailing.

Carolina, stunning in 1930s silk evening gown – now available in the salon for purchase.

Carley in my WW2 Red Cross nurses uniform.

Lola in cotton print 1950s sundress – coming soon to the webshop.

Carolina in 1950s silk ballgown – this one is featured in my book “Love Vintage” and I now suspect it was made by Sydney couturier Beril Jents.

Carley in 1960s polyester dress with machine smocking – now available in the salon.

Apple in sheer floral party dress, early 1970s – coming soon to the webshop.

Lola in early 1970s cotton print Laura Ashley – everyone loved this one especially, we all seem to have worn something similar at the time!

A surprise finish was not a dress at all but Carolina in a silk pantsuit! Now available in the salon.

My favourite photo – the happy audience! The parade went really well and the feedback I got was wonderful. Here are some words from the National Newsletter about the event:

“Nicole spoke on the history of fashion and fabric through the 20th century and with four beautiful models paraded clothes from the ’20s to the ’70s…there were a lot of gasps of joy and no one wanted her to leave. As we said our goodbyes the audience were slow to leave, wanting to savour the moment a little longer”.

Thank you to Fay for inviting us to be a part of your event and sharing these great photos, the lovely models, Esther for dressing and Sue, the editor of the Newsletter – it was a lot of fun and a great to meet like-minded people. I hope we can work together again!

Posted by Nicole in 1930s, 1960s, lingerie, Vintage 101

This month we’ve been listing lots of new accessories to the webshop – and I’ve added a link to the blog and the webshop so you can see the new listings on Facebook – a downside of having over a thousand products available online, it’s hard to see what’s new.

Vintage hosiery is a topic close to my heart: like Dita it was lingerie that first summoned me into vintage and I bought my first seamed stockings and garter belt aged fourteen. I thought you might like a short history on the subject.

Hosiery goes way back in fashion history, all the way back to the Ancient World but the earliest examples in my collection are from the late Victorian era when ladies would wear cotton, silk or wool stockings under their copious skirts, secured with garters around their thighs.

Early ’20th century versions are also made of rayon or “artificial silk” as it was called at first. Early stockings were “fully fashioned”, or knitted in the shape of a foot and leg and sewn up the centre back creating a seam.

Silk stockings were the finest, most expensive and the sheerest – cotton and rayon were popular for ladies who needed hard-wearing hosiery, like maids. Suspender straps were first attached to some corsets during the Edwardian age (early 1900s) to hold them up but most still wore garters until the ’30s when suspender belts became an essential part of a lady’s wardrobe.

Ladies would darn their ripped stockings using matching threads, available in small packets. I’ve got a number of stockings from the ’20s and ’30s with hand-stitched mends – they were expensive and so looked after, unlike today when we tend to throw them out.

Silk stockings were replaced with nylon versions during WW2, but most of the nylon stockings you see are post 1947. During the 1950s seamless stockings were made on new knitting machines and so seamed and fully fashioned ones became rare.

“Denier” indicates the fineness of the weave: the lower the number, the finer the stocking. 8 is the lowest, 15 denier is the most common and opaques are between 30 and 80 or more.

By the early 1960s almost all stockings were seamless, and stronger types of nylon are introduced including “micromesh”. Up until this point, most hosiery is manufactured in various shades of skin colour, ie, tans and nudes. Blacks were much less popular, mostly worn by older ladies and widows.

With the explosion of colour in the ’60s, hosiery expands into different hues, textures, patterns and prints – and as skirts become higher, ladies felt exposed with their stockings and suspenders and started wearing pantyhose (first invented in ’59).

If you’re unsure if hosiery from the ’60s or ’70s are stockings or pantyhose, keep in mind that during this transitional period packets took care to alert the shopper to the latter, so if neither is identified, they’re probably stockings.

By the late 1970s, stockings had become a nostalgic fashion worn for pleasure rather than practicality as pantyhose have taken over the market, with only old ladies and the odd fourteen year old wearing stockings.

Unlike other types of garment, hosiery fashions change slowly and I’ve found many packets that have been updated as times change, but the product inside remains the same here – here are some examples, now available from the webshop. I love oddities like these.

Click on each image to see the listing – 1930s cotton lisle fully fashioned stockings by Jeanette, repackaged in a 1950s box.

Mid 1960s Kolotex Clings stockings: the cover design has been altered when shoe heel fashions changed (a layer has been added to the carpet to hide the now unfashionable stiletto heel and pointy toe).

Late 1960s Prestige stockings with loose cover added to box, with seasonal Christmas design.

Both of those ’60s packet designs were still being sold well into the ’80s so revisiting them shocks me a little, as you couldn’t get away with selling many other fashion items over such a long period of time. You can see more vintage hosiery here.

Posted by Nicole in 1930s, 1950s, Bridal

One of the pleasures of our new city salon is the discovery of how well suited it is to one-on-one attention that is required when shopping for a special occasion dress. In the short time since we relocated, wedding and ballgowns are proving our most popular styles.

Here are some beautiful images by Finessence, featuring some of our vintage gowns – hair and make up is by Candice DeVille. Ladies, if you’re looking for someone to help you with your event I can recommend both businesses.

1950s silk organza and lace gown modelled by Hannah (now sold).

1950s lace and taffeta ballgown modelled by Dolores Daquiri (more information about the gown here).

1930s silk bias cut gown modelled by Marianne of Esme and the Laneway (more information about the gown here).

If you’d like to make an appointment for a personal fitting to try on our range of wedding gowns and special occasion dresses, please call us on 9606 0776 or send me an email – we have lots more at the salon too!

Thank you to Finessence and Candice DeVille for granting permission to reproduce the images.

Posted by Nicole in 1930s, Shop talk 10 Comments

Welcome to my new vintage salon – just as ladies in the ’40s and ’50s would visit a salon in a beautiful city building, so now you can visit Circa in her new central location. In these modern times we call it “vertical retailing” but as with many other things, our grandmothers were ahead of us.

You’ll find us on the corner of Elizabeth and Lonsdale Streets – in Mitchell House, an elegant Art Deco building designed by architect Harold Norris and built in 1936 in the Functionalist/Moderne style. Since then, the owners have been smart enough to keep it original and it’s an aesthetic I greatly appreciate. Isn’t she glorious?

Walking down Lonsdale Street, up towards the hill you will soon see the beautiful entrance to the lift lobby….Circa Vintage is on the first floor.

Turn right out of the lift, down the hallway, and if it’s during trading hours you’ll find the door open. If you’re here for an appointment outside of retail hours, just knock on the door and we’ll be with you soon.

Come inside….how great are those high ceilings?

You’ll find our collection of wedding gowns all ready for you to try on.




We still have menswear too.

Say “hello” to Marlene and Faye, who find the new salon to be much to their liking.

The tiger print faux fur curtains are back too! Along with new red velvet wingback chairs from the ’20s.

Hope to see you soon!

Our new hours are Thursday and Friday afternoons plus Saturday morning – and other days and times by appointment. Contact us on 9606 0776 to arrange fittings for webshop and bridal vintage fashions. I think we’ll be very happy here.

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