13
Aug
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, Architecture, Style icon 1 Comment

In my ideal world, I would live at the Dakota.

800px-The_Dakota_1890b Wikipedia
Archival image from Wikipedia, circa 1890.

Built in 1884, the seven story Victorian European style building graces New York’s upper West Side with bohemian glamour.

Originally there were 65 spacious apartments over seven floors, featuring between 4 and 20 rooms each. Above, under the rooftops were smaller rooms for servants. On the ground floor there was a large dining room where residents could either eat, or have meals sent up to their rooms via dumb waiters. Next door was a large stables (later garage) for the families who called it home.

From Wikipedia:
The general layout of the apartments is in the French style of the period, with all major rooms not only connected to each other, in enfilade, in the traditional way, but also accessible from a hall or corridor, an arrangement that allows a natural migration for guests from one room to another, especially on festive occasions, yet gives service staff discreet separate circulation patterns that offer service access to the main rooms. The principal rooms, such as parlors or the master bedroom, face the street, while the dining room, kitchen, and other auxiliary rooms are oriented toward the courtyard.

Many of the ceilings are 14 feet high (4.3m) and some of the drawing rooms were 49 feet long (15 m)!

My neighbours in the building are all creative people, including most famously John Lennon and Yoko Ono, but also Judy Garland, Boris Karloff, Lilian Gish, Rudolf Nureyev, Gilda Radna, Leonard Bernstein, Bono, Paul Simon, Rosemary Clooney and Lauren Bacall. Of course, everyone interesting who has ever lived there, would still be there regardless of time or events.

Lauren

Vale Lauren – a remarkable actress, one of the greats from the Golden Era of Hollywood. You will always be my favourite ’40s movie star.

Here’s a pic of Lauren in her Dakota apartment – photo from Vanity Fair. She’s just passed away, aged 89. She chose an excellent home.

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I first discovered the Dakota in the Polanski film “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968). The camera pans over Manhattan, Central Park and the Dakota rooftop during the opening credits and I always tune in for this wonderful view –


Click here to view if you’re reading this via email.

Here’s a shot of it covered in snow (from Wikipedia).

Dakota under snow - Wikipedia

The interiors for the film were shot in a studio but for me, this is what I expect the Dakota to look like inside – lots of dark wood and space. Hopefully a little more furniture but sacrifices must be made for a wonderful abode.

rosemarys-baby

Of course, hopefully not the sort of sacrifices that Rosemary and her husband make in the film, but I understand their devotion.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the enthusiasm real estate agents have for selling their properties, I can offer you some actual interior shots from an assortment of apartments – these all come from Curbed, which has a lot of information on the Dakota.

Over the years the original apartments have been split up and subdivided, and large rooms converted into multiple smaller ones – aided no doubt by all the entrances off hallways and interconnecting doors – and additional bathrooms were inserted but beneath the differing tastes in interior decoration and updated floor plans, you can see the bones of this incredible and unique building.

Let’s go inside….
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I once saw an enormous book with plans for the building, including layouts for all of the floors – they’re much changed of course, but it would be wonderful to see how it was and how it’s been altered over the years. If I ever find it again, I’ll have to buy it.

Here’s the original seventh floor:

Dakota plan 475

And here’s one of the modern day apartments: you can see how some of the large rooms have been turned into multiple smaller ones.

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When I went to New York, I was surprised at how small the building is, as it looms large in my imagination. It’s incredible though and you can’t fault the location opposite Central Park. I’m unlikely to be amongst the fortunate to call it home – even supposing that I could afford it, you also have to be approved by the board, but one day, perhaps, I’ll have a peek inside.

If you’re interested in the history of this building, I recommend the book “Life at the Dakota” by Stephen Birmingham, an excellent read. There are lots of great exterior photos at this site too.


9
Aug
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, 1950s, Vintage 101 1 Comment

One of the questions I most frequently encounter is that of vintage versus reproduction fashion.

Now, as we know – real vintage is an authentic creation from a previous era. Reproduction is modern, brand new fashion, usually mass-produced and based on the style of a previous era. It can be a little confusing these days as some (contemporary) designers call their wares “vintage” when really they’re repros, and that with sufficient passing of time, the repros themselves become vintage.

From the in-box:

What do you think about modern companies reproducing vintage textiles? I just sold two excellent print dresses to the lady who runs a popular fashion label and am somewhat concerned/intrigued about the copyright of such images. I wonder if it is similar to book copyright dissolving 50-years after the author’s death. Do you know if designs go into the public domain?

Fashion is considered utilitarian and not subject to copyright except for in exceptional circumstances where a designer can prove that they have created a new innovation. Then they need to spend the time and money to obtain legal protection, whereupon they can defend their design from copyists. This is a fraught process and rarely undertaken (much to the frustration of fashion designers everywhere). It also offers even less protection in the modern world thanks to our global internet driven trade, where what happens in other countries is mostly beyond your control.

It’s almost as if you know you’re succeeding as a designer if someone, somewhere is reproducing your designs, claiming credit for them and selling them for less money (probably at a lesser quality), perhaps even using your images. Awful, isn’t it? Etsy in particular, is trawled by the unethical and considered a showroom for stealing other’s creativity.

There are advantages to the lack of legal protections though, and if you’re interested I encourage you to view this excellent TED talk by Johanna Blakely, which explains it in much greater detail.


Note: if you’re reading this on email, click here to see the video.

Now what of the actual reproductions themselves and how do they compare to real vintage? There are two types of reproductions: the true reproductions and the inspirations.

True Reproductions are where a designer takes an original vintage piece and copies it – generally this means that the design will be very close to the original with small concessions to a modern wearer, for example, shorter skirt length or more comfortable fit.

More noticeably, there will be differences in fabric and construction – for example, here is a ’50s style dress made by J.Peterman.

JPeterman

Whilst this dress faithfully reproduces the vintage print, fabric and style, the skirt is noticeably shorter and it features a centre back invisible zipper and a plain fabric belt – the original would have had a side or centre back metal zipper and the belt would have been made of the same print. The faux-wrap may also be a modern design concession, as you rarely see this in ’50s day dresses (more often in evening wear).

Here’s a dress available through local label Vicious Venus – based on Hawaiian sarong dresses of the ’40s.

ViciousVenus

It looks very authentic but it’s slightly shorter than an original and the “stretch cotton sateen” is a cotton and Spandex mix to give it a little stretch, whereas the ’40s version would be soft cottony rayon like this one.

Another good example of a reproduction label is Heyday and here is vintage fashion blogger Fleur deGuerre modelling a ’40s style dress.

Heyday

Heyday take their vintage seriously and have done a great job of faithfully reproducing this dress including the gingham fabric, vintage style buttons and ric rac. When it was introduced Fleur described how the authentic style was tweaked slightly for modern fit – not that you can tell, it looks very authentic.

I haven’t seen this dress in person but I suspect it would offer a challenge to someone trying to determine if it was real ’40s or not. Thankfully it will have modern labels which will include sizing and care information. If those were removed you could look to modern construction, with overlocking, polyester thread and modern plastic buttons. The seams and hem allowance probably won’t be as generous its WW2 original. If you want to get really finicky, the quality of the gingham also won’t be as good as the earlier version, and may crease a little more (earlier cottons tend to be thicker and more robust) – you can see it’s a little sheer against the sun too, suggesting lightness. It would definitely pass muster for your recreation event, especially if you accessorise it well. Bonus points for UK manufacture too.

Now we have the “vintage inspirations”, which – let’s face it – are almost all fashion out there because thanks to the cycle of fashion, designers are constantly dipping into the past for something fresh.

Designers like to design, and (with the exception of the faithful recreations like those above) generally take something that has been done before and give it a twist, modernise or personalise it. So you see combinations of elements from different eras.

Most vintage reproduction labels fall into this category because although they might call their dresses “1940s” or “1950s”, our grandmothers wouldn’t have recognised them. They also feature modern construction techniques, fabrics and detailing.

Here’s a dress from Stop Staring, worn by fashion blogger Forever Amber – the sweetheart neckline hints at the ’40s whilst the fitted, wiggle shape is a ’50s design. Polka dots and the pale blue contribute to the ’50s look too. The hemline is early ’60s and the cap sleeves are modern.

Stop Staring

It’s a darling, but very different to real vintage – it also features a modern style keyhole cutout back and probably a nylon zipper and no seam allowances.

Even more improbable as real vintage, are dresses like this cutie from Faster Pussycat.

Faster Pussycat

A ’50s style dress with extra short skirt and centre front faux buttons, it includes a ’40s style elastic shirring waistband and is made of chiffon (probably easy care polyester). The real giveaway to its modern origin is the incredible Mexican-inspired print: cameos with zombie skulls, roses and black widow spiders.

This is one of the many things I love about vintage: seeing how it is reinvented and is constantly inspiring new things. We live in the modern world and we’re fortunate in that we can pick and choose what we want from the past.

Repro fashion comes in a range of sizes, probably colours and perhaps fabrics and requires less care to look after than true vintage, which offers better quality, unique fabrics and detailing as well as that lovely thrill of knowing that there’s probably only one of your item and you never need worry about walking into a party to see someone wearing your frock. Also, it’s the greenest of all fashion: more win.

Regardless of whether you’re wearing authentic vintage, vintage reproduction or vintage inspired, the style is only one component – look out for good quality, as cheaply made fashions won’t look good or last the distance.

Personally, I love vintage, real vintage of the sort that was made a long time ago and looked after properly, you’ll still be wearing and appreciating for many years to come. Of course!


4
Oct
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, Shop talk, Vintage 101 7 Comments

Have you noticed that I run a home for lost frocks? Since 1980 I’ve adopted dirty, damaged and downright neglected frocks. Frocks that were once beautiful and have fallen on hard times – abandoned by everyone else, I’ve sheltered them from harm and promised to one day return them to their days of glory.

It’s a good thing that you don’t see them as they come to me – many are in a very sad state. Most of my collection is more than fifty years old and that invariably seems to mean they’ve spent a spell out in the wild – stored in a leaky shed or attic, or perhaps crushed in boxes under beds. As long as the fabric is strong, I can help them though.

There’s an enormous pleasure to be derived from taking something that looks like it’s fit for the rag bin and turning it back into a thing of beauty to be enjoyed.

The last couple of weeks I’ve been going through hundreds of pieces, selecting items for tomorrow’s online garage sale and this little darling was sheltering amongst them.

Dress 6

It had been scrunched up in a ball, and stored somewhere damp. Long since dried out, it shows scars and stains from its ordeal.

The fabric is a sharkskin style shot taffeta, with a self-spot. Silk or rayon, a crisp fabric that needs to be dry cleaned. Generally I send frocks like this straight off to the cleaner but I haven’t had much success in them getting stains out so I thought perhaps it could go into the garage sale instead. I gave it a good pressing, but soon uncovered more issues.

Dress 1

Can you see the issues? It’s a beautiful and flattering dancing dress from the very late 1940s with a full circle skirt. The buttons are missing their rhinestones and the belt is missing too but this is an eminently wearable dress, even in its current condition – would look lovely with a crinoline petticoat for extra swoosh.

Are you ready? Look carefully for the large watermark stains, tinged with yellow and brown.

Dress 2

Dress 3

Dress 4

I can soak all of those out with an oxywash cleaner – warm water, and repeated soaks and they will come out. I’ll remove the buttons first (they already need their rhinestone centres replacing) and the dress will look much better – except that the taffeta will crease and lose its crispness and the dress might become floppy like a cotton.

However, on looking at these photos, you can see that the dress is already very crumpled after its adventures over the past sixty odd years so maybe it’s a risk worth taking? I’m going to give it a shot.

If you’re wondering why I don’t spot clean it, it’s because I’ve had too many bad experiences with the dye fading under modern products so I always treat the whole dress.

So this is one frock that won’t be going into the garage sale, but there are many more – it opens tomorrow, is only online (not in the salon) and I hope you find something lovely. There are sizes 2 to 18, from a hundred years of fashion and even some menswear all priced to clear. If you’d like to save the shipping you can pick your orders up from the shop in the week starting October 15th – Circa will be closed next week.

Dress 5

I’ll let you know how I go with the dress!


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.

Happy 5

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.

Happy 4

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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31
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Customers 6 Comments

Okay, so it wasn’t me or my shop, it was one of our frocks but the story stands – here’s St Clare in one of our cotton print ’50s frocks, with her beau Mikelangelo. If you live in the right Melbourne neighbourhood, one of these arrived in your letterbox this week.

Melbourne Leader

This lovely dress is part of the Empire Vintage Collection – and is available in the Melbourne salon or the web shop. I love it.

Melbourne Leader 2

You can read the article online here. It talks about their current show about Johnny Cash called “Song of the Outlaw” and will next be appearing at the Lorne Festival of Performing Arts – we recently caught it at the Newport Sub-station and it’s worth seeing. Don’t be late though. On our night, a bloke was so unhappy about missing “Ring of Fire” the band performed it as an encore. Lucky him, but it was great to hear it again too.

One of the nice things about working with St Clare, is that I get to dress her for her many events – and she takes excellent care of them. It adds to the unique history of the pieces. Here are some more Circa Vintage pieces that are ready for new homes after gracing the stage.

The following pics are all reproduced courtesy Tim Chmielewski and were taken at the final Tin Star gig at the Corner recently.

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St Clare wears late ’40s silk brocade ballgown.

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St Clare wears 1970s cotton seersucker halter neck dress with fruit print.

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St Clare wears late ’60s fringed suede lace up vest.

St Clare TSG

St Clare wears cotton voile ballgown with ruched bodice.

To even up the balance a little – here’s Mikelangelo in a black self-tie bow tie from Circa. Tying lessons available on request.

Mikelangelo bow tie

Photo reproduced courtesy Mikeangelo. If there’s a more glamourous couple in Melbourne: please introduce me!


29
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, 1950s, Vintage 101 3 Comments

When I ran Sydney vintage clothing shop “Albert and Gladys” in the late ’80s one of the biggest sellers were ’50s rope petticoats – and they’re still the biggest nostalgia item at Circa, as older ladies see them and get taken back to another time.

They seem to have been de rigueur for a certain era, and were more popular than the big, boofy nylon tulle crinolines trimmed in lace and satin. If you’ve worn both types you’ll know what I’m talking about – the tulle petticoats are lovely but the scratchy nylon puts little rips into your stockings so it’s best to wear a slip underneath them, plus they tend to rip easily.

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They do look fabulous though: here’s a nice example from Mags Rags – I’m sure this one won’t hurt your stockings.

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Image source

We have one at Circa we use for photo shoots and it often needs little repairs. Vintage versions are often shabby if they’ve been worn – I still have all of my old crinolines, that I wore under floral cotton dresses in the ’80s but they’re no longer in good enough condition for resale, so I keep them for old time’s sake.

Cotton rope petticoats on the other hand, are incredibly robust – ladies boiled them up and starched them so they stuck right out, and even when you ripped them badly, they were easy to mend or patch. I’ve often wondered why more haven’t survived, but during the ’60s they were probably thrown out.

Rope (or corded as our American friends call them) petticoats are very full and have rows of rope sewn into casings, to produce a stiffness. They were an early form of hooped petticoat, and go back a long way, as rope has always been an easy to acquire product and they’re simple to make – ladies wore them during the Renaissance and Regency/early Victorian eras before steel hoops came in but in modern times, they’re associated with the late ’40s and ’50s.

One row of rope will give weight to a hem, which will then hang straightly but swing out when dancing, as evidenced here in this late ’40s ballgown worn by Candice DeVille in a fashion parade for the launch of “Our Girls” a book by Madeleine Hamilton.

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I’ve sewn many rope petticoats and dresses, and the key is to sew the rope in very tightly. If the casing is too loose, the rope becomes floppy. Sometimes you get many rows of rope, sewn together in parallel rows – as in this re-enactment petticoat found on Pinterest.

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For mid century petticoats the ropes are generally further apart in as in a tiered peasant-style petticoat, as they are in this late ’40s skirt, now available in the web shop.

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Wearing petticoats feels wonderful, you just want to swish around in them – and dancing is even better. Once you’ve tried it, I guarantee you’ll want to wear them more often!

I used to wear two or three at a time and once had trouble at a party, when my skirts were too wide to fit down the hallway of a Newtown Victorian terrace house. Ah, that was a great night :)


11
Jun
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, Interiors 10 Comments

It was my birthday on the weekend and my mother-in-law gave me a slow cooker! Like a good ’50s housewife, this was exactly what I wanted, so I was pleased at Carol’s psychic abilities.

Unfortunately, a slow cooker requires a kitchen bench to sit upon and here we have a problem – our kitchen (like the rest of the house) is authentic, unrenovated 1942 style and has no kitchen benches.

Let me describe it to you: black and white checkerboard lino over floorboards, green porcelain small and low sink (made for petite WW2 ladies) under the window, a built in pantry and a cupboard underneath the sink. Very old stove, prone to anti-social behaviour.

We also have a green ’50s kitchenette, and a ’20s Jacobean dining table and chairs – the room is big and quite pretty with yellow walls and tiles, but just short on benches and cupboards. Obviously we need to update our kitchen – but in keeping with the rest of the house.

As inspiration (and hopefully make up for the fact that I’m not showing you our own WW2 kitchen) here are some pics of similar kitchens from around the same time – all of which conveniently share the same colour scheme. A lot has changed in kitchen fashions since the ’40s!

The last pic is 1946 and it looks so much more modern than the rest: the benefits of the post-war era.
Image source


9
Jan
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, Vintage 101 1 Comment

This week I’ve had the pleasure to work on a beautiful gown that was recently purchased from an Australian webshop, and needed a little TLC.

This dress came to the Australian webshop via the Rose Bowl markets in L.A, and probably dates to 1940 or early 1941, before the US joined WW2 and full length dresses were seen as too wasteful with all their fabric. Later during the war, even these long dresses were shortened so they’re hard to find in their original length.

The bodice, sleeves and pockets are decorated with a fancy cotton braid, a technique sometimes known as “Cornelli” or “Soutache”, it’s a type of passementerie and particularly popular in the ’40s (it had a brief resurgence along with other ’40s design elements during the 1980s).

The fabric is one of my favourites: a rayon knit sometimes called “Celanese” in Australia (perhaps because it was the Celanese company that wove rayons amongst other other products, much as Manchester factories produced linens?).

You see a bit of it during the ’30s and ’40s and it has lovely soft draping and breathability – it’s also quite a robust fabric as long as you don’t get any holes in it, upon which, like other knits, it can start to develop bigger holes. One of my tasks was to darn the holes, and secure the cornelli work where it was starting to unravel.

Notice how the bodice is drooping a little on one side – that’s because the seam from sleeve to almost the waist was ripped open.


This pic is a little clearer – a very brave lady would be needed to wear this gown!

Here are more rips – now, the difference between a rip and a tear: a rip is where stitches are missing along a seam, and a tear is where the fabric is has been damaged. Rips are easy to fix and in this case when I found more than twenty, I realised it would be more effective to resew every seam.

Back before synthetic textiles were invented in the ’50s, all garments were sewn with pure cotton (or sometimes silk) thread – and as wonderful as that is, over time the natural materials deteriorate. Many dresses from the early ’40s still have strong stitching, but when you see random missing stitches like this it’s usually a sign that the thread itself needs replacing.

From the ’50s to the ’80s, thread was generally a mix of cotton and polyester – and in more recent time, threads are pure polyester. Now as much as I dislike poly, I have to admit that it’s much stronger than the earlier materials and comes in a great range of vibrant colours, that don’t fade.

Here’s an example of a tear at the neckline – someone has probably been in a hurry to take the dress off and has tugged at the neckline, tearing into the fabric. To fix this, I unpicked the neckline a bit, ironed the opening flat, stitched the two broken sides together and then resewed the neckline a little over to one side, to take the stress off the weak spot. In this case, with the ruching at the neckline you don’t see the repair. Neckline rips are common, but straightforward to fix.

If you’re reeling at my mention that I restitched every seam, I’ll show you another reason why it was a good idea: the gown showed signs of many previous repairs – and not only were they not done very well, the thread colour didn’t match.

Inexpert hand sewn repairs can often be lumpy, and ruin the line of a seam – I carefully unpicked every repair and restitched by machine. As well, I replaced the lumpy shoulder pads with smooth modern versions (WW2 shoulder pads are often misshappen) of a size preferred by the client, and secured the neck and sleeve facings by hand.

I’m sure that I now know the gown inside out and it’s probably the most attention it’s had since the original seamstress did her work! Thankfully this is a beautiful gown, and looks wonderful on her new wearer and its now strong enough to last many years and hopefully grace many lovely events.

These dresses are getting harder to find, but if you fancy whipping one up for yourself, I have a similar pattern in the webshop. It would be great in a nice silk jersey.

As an aside, I’d like to mention that if you do receive a damaged garment from an online trader, regardless of any policies they might have saying “No Returns”, they have a responsibility to provide a garment that is fit for its purpose, ie, wearable – and under Australian law you are entitled to a refund, or happy resolution.

I like to think that all traders seek satisfied customers and are keen to resolve any issues, so I always recommend bringing them to their attention so that they have an opportunity to do the right thing.

And if you do have a frock that needs some love – I’m at your service!


3
Jan
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Sewing, Vintage 101 5 Comments

Learning to date vintage clothing is one of the challenges that the vintage lover faces: unfortunately, unlike vintage cars, clothes don’t come with VINs to help you on your mission – you need to read and interpret the clues in the style, fabric, construction and detailing. If you’re lucky, you’ll have some provenance too, but if incorrect that can send you in the wrong direction.

Books can be a great help, as can magazines, newspapers, films, TV – and the more you expose yourself to the fashions in their original settings, the better you get at it. When I was learning, I used to visualise which Golden Era of Hollywood movie star I could see in something: is it a Jean Harlow outfit (’30s), or more Rita Hayworth (’40s) or perhaps it’s something that Marilyn might have worn in “Bus Stop” (’50s)?

It’s not an exact science, and that’s why you often see people identify an item using a decade or more, but I’ve discovered that with skill, you can often narrow it down to a year or three.

Thankfully there is one easy tool at your disposal – some sewing pattern companies print dates onto their products. Also, you used to be able to order patterns through certain magazines and newspapers, and some had them as supplements too, so if you have the original publication or post-marked envelope, you’ll have a date there too.

Today I’ve been listing vintage patterns onto the webshop, and I like to play “Guess the Date” with the styles – and then I can turn it over and find out if I’m right.

Here are some for you to test your knowledge with: keep in mind a few things – the patterns all give you bonus clues with accessories, hairstyles, make up, poses, and style of graphic. Sewing patterns are rarely fashion forward, and generally represent popular designs that have already sold well in the community, so can be sometimes a little behind the times. Also: if the pattern sells well, and fashions haven’t changed much, they still might make it for a few years. The date should be from when it was first printed though.

Clicking on each pattern will take you to the webshop listing and you can see how accurate your guesses are! Good luck.









































7
Dec
2012
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, Shop talk, Style icon 4 Comments

My vintage mannequin collection is one of the most important parts of what I do: whilst many shops make do with reproductions, the real deal have a soul and integrity that I find is lacking in their modern mass-produced cousins.

A few years ago I found this little early ’40s cutie at Leonard Joel’s and I knew she had to come home with me.

We’ve been putting her to good use recently, photographing hats for the webshop, but realised with astonishment that we’d neglected to name her! Cue a roll call of ’40s movie stars – Rita? Judy? Joan? Veronica? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Veronica Lake was known best for her peek-a-boo hairstyle, later borrowed by Jessica Rabbit, perhaps the sexiest fictional character ever – part Veronica Lake, part Rita Hayworth.

Veronica famously changed her trademark hairstyle after her wartime fans were risking their lives operating factory machinery with their locks falling in front of their faces. Ms Lake joined a campaign for womens safety: practicality first, glamour second!

You could cut glass on those cheek bones.

Here’s a safety film she made as part of her war effort – suddenly all those fabulous ’40s updos and snoods make sense.


(If you’re reading this on email, click on this link to see the video).

Meanwhile, back at Circa you can now see our Veronica modelling hats for your consideration – here’s my current favourite, from the ’30s with a sequinned calla lily motif.

She looks equally smashing in a 1950s straw with upturned brim.

Click on the images to see more about the hats.


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