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.

Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, How to, Vintage 101 10 Comments

On Sunday I made a snap decision and flew to Sydney for the day, to bid on an amazing collection of ’20s and ’30s from the archives of fashion designer Lisa Ho.

It was a hard decision to make because right now, having just moved and still sorting out my enormous quantities of stock, I need more like a hole in the head – but this was an incredible collection, the like of which I’ve never seen in my 32 years of collecting. Pieces of this quality are rare in Australia and the auction hadn’t been widely promoted so I felt that there might be an opportunity to pick up some items for good prices. I was right.

There are good and bad things about buying vintage at auction: firstly, there are only a small number of auctions held each year by a few specialist auction houses. You can sometimes find older pieces included in general antique auctions or sometimes a collection will be sold, as was the case with the collection of Chris Jacovides in 1989 (one of the best weekends of my life, so much fun!) or the Banana Room in 2005. Auctions can be exhilarating and exciting – but you need to keep a rein on your budget.

Personally, I find the combination of being in a room with like-minded people, and possibly friends, sharing a passion and bidding against each other to be a wonderful experience. Auction houses are generally very professional and restrained and you’ll need your best poker face to get the best buys: show too much enthusiasm and others will wonder what makes it special too. Dealers in particular, are prone to buying out of their comfort zone if you give them cause to think that something is worth more than they do.

If you have friends in the room, you probably won’t want to bid against each other – and that can be tricky, although I once made a good friend after winning one lot of shoes and afterwards we discovered that I wanted the ’30s heels and she wanted the ’70s platforms: splitting the lot enabled us both to get what we wanted and reduced the costs.

It’s a good idea to inspect the lots carefully beforehand – especially with clothing, condition is a big part of their value, and catalogues are often light on detail. For example, on Sunday, I found an ’80s Thierry Mugler dress mixed in with a lot of ’30s dresses. Often catalogues won’t even give you eras or labels so investigation is required. Two of the best pieces in the Lisa Ho auction had major condition issues that weren’t evident in the photos, so it’s no surprise that in both cases they went to absentee bidders, who perhaps weren’t aware of the damage.

Another thing is that you should read the terms and conditions carefully – in this case I was dismayed to find that I had to wait until the next day for the invoice, and I was back home in Melbourne by then – and they had to post my winning bids, which was going to take two weeks or more (!) so I ended up hounding the auctioneer so that I could pick them up. Had I known, I would have stayed in Sydney an extra day.

On Sunday I was so excited to be in the room that I took a series of walks, firstly past the room, doing a big circle – then into the room but just sweeping past the racks so I could work out where to start. Then I took a third walk by, looking in a little more depth – it was the fourth walk where I started to look at individual garments – that’s how excited I was, I needed to relax and take it in gently, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do my job properly!

In the end, I ran out of time and just gave the racks of ’30s petticoats and nightgowns and wedding gowns a cursory look – my time with the 200 plus lots took almost two hours. My loss, as it meant that I couldn’t effectively bid on those lots.

Vintage wedding gowns.

1930s lingerie: petticoats and nightgowns.

For this auction, I expected the usual suspects to attract the highest bids: beaded ’20s dresses frequently go for $1,000 plus – and there were lots of them. Other expected big ticket items were the incredible ’20s lame’ coats, cloaks and jackets. These are popular because the fabrics are incredible and they’re usually sized generously.

Beaded ’20s silk dresses – so pleased to see them lying flat on tables, rather than hanging although there were other ones on hangers.

But I was after the ’30s floral dresses and the ’30s evening wear and the ’30s jackets and coats – can you sense a theme? I’m currently loving this decade, especially the wild florals. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one – and so missed all these lots despite bidding often, my budget just wouldn’t get me where it needed to be.

I can hardly complain though, as the ’20s went for lower prices than I expected. My final haul was six dresses from the ’30s, two pairs of shoes, three beaded ’20s dresses and a ’20s lame’ jacket. The lovely auction people are posting them to me and I can’t wait for my new treasures to arrive.

1930s floral dresses.

I didn’t want the viewing to end and the beauties to be split up. Lisa Ho is a lady with superb taste and I hope she’s not too sad for her collection to be dispersed like this, at least she can be reassured that the pieces I bought will be treasured and restored.

Thank you, Lisa – I’ll be using some in my talks and so can share them with other vintage lovers! Here are some links for auction houses that sell vintage clothing on occasion:

Lawson’s – Sydney
Leonard Joel’s – Melbourne
The Collector – Melbourne

The most unlikely auction house can feature though, so best to check the listings in Saturday’s newspapers.

Posted by Nicole in 1930s, 1950s, 1960s 1 Comment

Last Friday night, Tim and went off to see Mikelangelo and the Tin Star with Saint Clare and a cast of talented friends for his send off at the Regal Ballroom, prior to heading to the Edinburgh Festival and the Famous Spiegeltent.

An extra special treat, was Circa dressed Saint Clare for her three outfits – a ’30s evening gown, a ’50s party dress and a ’60s picnic dress.

Here are some pics by Jess Rizzi – good enough for the pool room, I think!

Thank you Jess, Saint Clare and Mikelangelo for letting me share them: it was a pleasure and I hope we can do it again sometime soon.

Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, art deco, Calendar, Circa event, Talk 1 Comment

Next month I’m presenting a talk on accessories of the Art Deco era, for the Caulfield Library.

What: Art deco influences in fashion by Nicole Jenkins
When: 7-8pm, Wednesday 8th August
Where: Glen Eira Town Hall — Caulfield Cup Room, level one, corner Glen Eira and Hawthorn Roads, Caulfield
Cost: free, but bookings essential – call 9524 3623 or book at a Glen Eira library.
More information and bookings: see the Glen Eira website.

UPDATE: It looks like this talk might already be booked out, if that’s the case, ask if you can go on a waiting list; it’s a big room and not everyone might turn up.

Image courtesy Glen Eira council.

Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Circa event, Exhibitions 1 Comment

Earlier this week I bumped out the “Fashion through the Decades” exhibition at Australia on Collins: if you missed it, here are some pics.

It was well received and with a bit of luck, hopefully we’ll be able to stage another one some time.

The 1940s lady is dressed head to toe in items from my own wardrobe! I wore the clown print dress to Charlotte Smith’s event at last year’s Writer’s Festival and the art deco style brooch usually graces my ’50s wool boucle jacket. Such a pity there wasn’t a pink wig to complete the ensemble (not very 1940s, I know).

This is the first time Circa has exhibited fashion from the ’90s but don’t get excited: I’m not ready to consider the 1990s as old enough to be “vintage”, just that it helps with the context of this exhibition.

Thank you to Australia on Collins and Kinc Agency for offering Circa this opportunity and Kelley from the Lindy Charm School for Girls for her assistance. Most of all, thank you to everyone who came along and saw the displays.

Posted by Nicole in 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, Shop talk 1 Comment

As you know, Circa is currently on sale – about half of the shop is currently half price or more and as we get closer to Circa’s closing date next month, more will be reduced.

You can pick up some of these bargains:
Scarves $10
Belts $10
Dresses from $35
Handbags $30
Hosiery $10
Coats from $60
Brand new 1950s raincoats in assorted colours from $55

Here’s a sample of what’s available – with modelling by Hannah. Hover over each one for details, sizes and prices.

These dresses are only available in the Fitzroy shop, and there’s only one of each – we have lots more of various sizes and eras too. Come and see us and snaffle a good and beautiful vintage buy for your wardrobe!

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