29
Jan
2015
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Australian Fashion, Calendar, Exhibitions, Style icon 1 Comment

There’s a charming exhibition of a local style icon and fashion designer, currently on display in Ballarat. Here are some details from the website:

Fashion director, clothing designer, retailer, philanthropist, world traveller and local style icon, Jessica Simon was a key figure in Ballarat’s fashion history. She played a managerial role in her family’s business, Stone’s Drapery Store (in operation 1860-1965), which was widely considered the place in Ballarat for fashion purchases, in particular wedding gowns. She hosted a fashion program on local television station BTV6, and designed many of the garments for sale in the store.

Jessica was also a great philanthropist, hosting a wide range of charitable events in the region, and was actively involved in the establishment of the Gold Museum.


What:
Stone’s style: Jessica Simon, a life in fashion
When: 26th November – 1st March, 2015, 9.30am to 6pm.
Where: Gold Museum Ballarat, Sovereign Hill, Bradshaw Street Ballarat
Cost: see list here.
More information at the Gold Museum site.

I’ve had a number of frocks bearing the Stone’s label, mostly from the ’40s and they’ve always been excellent quality with a lot of hand-finishing. It’s nice to have an opportunity to learn more about the label.

There was a nice article in the Ballarat Courier about the exhibition and here are some images to give you an idea of what to expect.

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stones exhibition 1

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stones exhibition 5

stones exhibition 6


8
Jan
2015
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1950s, 1960s 2 Comments

In these modern times of off-shored manufacturing, most of our fashions are made in China. The wages are lower there, with less worker protections meaning that here in Australia (and other Western countries) we can benefit from the reductions in retail price and have more of what we want.

Sadly, it’s resulted in a culture that values cheapness over all: quantity, not quality. The term “Made in China” has become a by-word for poorly made, but the factories of China are no different to anywhere else: it’s not that they aren’t capable of making good products, it’s that they’re not being asked to. If the customer wants to pay a lower cost, inevitably the quality will be reduced.

When it comes to vintage fashion there is an idea that “Made in China” means you’re looking at a modern garment – but that’s only half true. The Chinese factories opened up in the early ’90s for mass manufacturing to Western countries, so for most “vintage” with a “MiC” label it will be no older than that, but there were always items made for the tourist market, and those that have survived prove that the Chinese seamstresses and artisans are some of the most highly skilled in the world.

Asian culture has often had a big part to play in influencing Western fashion – you see it in Victorian times through the expansion of the British Empire (Indian culture lending the paisley design, for example) and in the early 20th century it was the Ballets Russes with lush coloured costumes with fabrics borrowed from the exotic East that moved our culture away from the soft pastels of the Edwardians.

If you watch the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries you’ll have noticed how Phryne has a thing for Chinoiserie too: in particular, beautiful hand embroideries.

Here’s a piece from my own collection – a 1920s Chinoise embroidered silk coat. This photo is of Frankie Valentine by Dominic Deacon and is from my book “Style is Eternal”.

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Photo copyright Melbourne University Press.

The cream design is entirely hand embroidered, and would have taken a long time to work – it was expensive then and they’re still sought after now.

Chinoise coat
Chinese embroideries in the ’20s are exceptionally fine and make good collectables too. The crane was a popular symbol, representing longevity and happiness and the peony represents wealth, power and class.

You may recall there were a couple of nice Chinese embroideries in yesterday’s blog post.

You can find more lovely hand embroidery on this nightgown, including a fine satin stitch around all the scallopped edges.

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Although you can find Chinese made nightgowns in the ’30s and ’40s, the tags and rayon jacquard fabric give this one away as being from the ’50s – fashions didn’t change as fast in the tourism end of town. It’s new and unworn – perhaps a souvenir or gift that wasn’t needed once home. I do like when people look after their things for us.

Once you get to the 1960s there’s a positive explosion of Chinese products made for the tourist market – mostly from Hong Kong (which was still a British colony at the time, look out for labels that say something like that) and Shanghai.

Made in China 60s label
Here’s a label from a ’60s cotton dressing gown - there’s that paisley again too.

As well as fine embroideries, the Chinese also produce lovely crochetted items like this summer cardigan.

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crochet label 60s
Here’s the label – apologies for the detail being yellow, that’s instagram’s filters for you. You can tell it’s made for the foreign market because it’s in English as well as Chinese.

Remember all those lovely beaded cardigans and tops you get in the ’50s and ’60s? We can thank the Chinese artisans for those too: here’s a nice example in black (so much work in a heavily beaded piece like this)

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sequin cardigan label

The label from a sequinned cardigan – these were shipped in standard designs and appear under many Western fashion labels.


7
Jan
2015
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Australian Fashion 2 Comments

We have such wonderful resources to find information these days but sometimes what you seek can be elusive.

I love to look up fashion labels, particular when I like the styles but often they use popular words and google can be unhelpful.

Yesterday Becky Lou and I photographed new stock and this style from “Gallivant Coats” caught my eye:

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1940s redingote – “hang on” is that what you’re thinking? “What’s a redingote?”

I’m so glad you asked. A redingote is a light flared coat secured at the waist and based on historical riding fashions and has appeared at many times in the past but is no longer a feature in our wardrobes. A pity, I really like it and it’s perfect for the sort of weather we get in Melbourne, like today, where it’s warm but we also got a thunderstorm.

I’ve got some redingote patterns on the webshop – they’re a very similar cut to the one above.

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Early ’40s redingote pattern on the left

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1943 Redingote pattern.

Here’s the label – isn’t it a darling name, “Gallivant Coats”? “For Smart Wear Everywhere”.

I’ve had a few stylish Gallivants from the ’40s and ’50s (and memory suggests one from the ’30s but I can’t be sure) but a search turned up nothing, perhaps because the word “gallivant” is used in other contexts too. Like actual gallivanting, not just frock-wearing.

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The Gallivant label – you can also see the pintucked neckline detail and the unlined interior with overlocked seams.

“What’s that?” I hear you ask “didn’t overlocking come in much later?” Overlocking (or serging as our American friends call it) has an old history too, much older than this coat. It’s a misunderstood technique in vintage, with some unenlightened souls claiming it’s only found in fashions from the last few decades but I’ll save that for another blog post.

Meanwhile, searching for more Gallivants, I found a few on ebay and etsy – here are some labels.

Gallivant label 1950sFrom a late ’50s nylon frock. Not sure I’d want to be called a “Little Woman”.

Gallivant label late 1970s
From a circa 1981 jacket.

The styles of the more recent fashions are unremarkable, so I suspect that like many fashion labels they got older with their clientele. The quality is middle of the road, but they’ve lasted and they have charm.

Based on the items found, it looks like they were around from the late ’40s, possibly earlier and were still going in the early ’80s. There is currently a “Gallivant Clothing” registered in NSW but they don’t seem to be related.

I did find this from the New York Post 1936 though: unlikely to be the same company but nice all the same:

gallivant

“Gallivant! What an exciting word! Not travel, not journey, just junketing about here and there. New places, strange places, adventure. All that is hinted at in this one word. You may not be going any further than Central Park but as long as you move about, you’re gallivanting, and for this now we have special fashions”.

if you know anything more about Gallivant fashions, please let me know and in the meantime, the Gallivant redingote is now available in the city salon for a lucky new wearer.


13
Sep
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Style icon 1 Comment

Over the last decade I’ve noticed a worrying trend – dressing down to travel.

Now, I don’t know about you but I don’t get to travel enough and it’s always a treat.

Whether it’s for work or pleasure, the way you dress affects how you feel and how you’re treated. I get that you’d like to feel comfortable, but there’s no reason why casual clothes have to be as ugly and unflattering as tracksuits or pyjamas, items which are best kept for private spaces, not public ones.

An article in Slate by J. Bryan Lowder called “Take a One-Way Trip From Tatty to Natty” has the following to say:

When we dress well for travel, we are not only making ourselves look good; we’re also signaling that we are invested in making this shared experience pleasant for everyone around us. Think of it as a kind of sartorial social contract: Honor it and your minor efforts make transit a more pleasing activity; break it, and reveal your misanthropic narcissism to, quite literally, the world. What else to call putting one’s own base comforts above the comfort of all?

Here’s some inspiration from Mad Men – now wouldn’t it brighten your day to arrive at the airport to be greeted with fellow travellers dressed so boldly? Sit me next to any of those people please.

Made Men, season seven

Back in the real world, let’s look at what Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg wore for a flight in 1968.

Gainsbourg Birkin 68

Jane looks relaxed in a short, knit dress with over the knee socks and a long coat over the top. Gold hoop ear rings and simple and fresh hair and make up – her grooming is good, her style comfortable and yet smart, showing off her best feature (thighs to die for). I’m sure she has stylish low-heeled shoes, just out of frame.

Not to be outdone, Serge has a loose suit, open necked shirt and is that a cravat I see? Lace up oxford style brogues are vastly superior to sneakers and look infinitely better whilst not relinquishing much comfort.

They’re both dressed in quality clothes that are versatile as well as photogenic. Upon arrival, they could head straight to an art gallery or cocktail bar. This is an easy look for all of us with a little thought. This look, although from almost fifty years ago still looks pretty good don’t you think?

Similar techniques are favoured in these celebrity photos from the ’50s to the ’70s – comfortable but smart clothes, lowish heels, a jacket, coat or cardigan for warmth in air conditioned cabins and good grooming and accessories.

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Roger Vadim and Jane Fonda in 1965. No wonder he fancies her.

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Brigitte Bardot in 1966. Knits are perfect for travel – I’d have my camera out too if more travellers dressed like BB.

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Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in 1966. Luxury glamour – Liz could have anything under that fur coat, even a tracksuit but somehow I doubt it.

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Catherine Deneuve in 1961 – scarves are the ultimate in travel accessories, versatile and fold up in your bag.

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Faye Dunaway in 1967. Product placement, vintage style.

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Grace Kelly in 1950. The perfect coat for travelling, could double as a blanket on cold flights.

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Jackie Kennedy in 1966. Elegant white alaskine (silk and wool) coatdress with bracelet length sleeves.

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Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull in 1969. I love her faux-Victorian style button boots.

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Jerry Hall in 1979 in hand-knitted cardigan and high waisted jeans. A concord flight tag makes a good lux accessory on her overnight bag.

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Jean Shrimpton in 1966 – just beautiful. Surely someone will offer to carry her suitcase?

All photos by Getty - image source here, where you will find more glamour airport fashion.


11
Sep
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Contest, Film, Shop talk, Television 15 Comments

Over the last ten years, there’s a long list of film, theatre and TV productions that have utilised costumes and props from Circa. It’s one of the aspects of my work that pleases me the most – contributing in a small way to creative projects.

Since moving to the city in 2012 and focusing more on the webshop, this part of my business has increased a lot and I like to think that I’m making it easier for costumers around the country to find what they’re looking for. Here are a couple of recent works.

Anna in “A Place to Call Home” wore one of Circa’s ’50s gowns for her wedding.

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Image source, reproduced courtesy Channel Seven.

The locally made science fiction/time traveller film “Predestination” featured many of our original pieces including several ’60s dresses in this scene.

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Image Source.

Costume Designer Wendy Cork was kind enough to name check Circa as a source in this interview about costuming the film – thanks Wendy!

Now I have something for you – we currently have two-for-one tickets to see the new Woody Allen film “Magic in the Moonlight”, set in 1920s south of France (and believe me, the eye candy is wonderful. It almost makes me miss summer). I’m including them in webshop orders but you can pick them up in the shop too.

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Magic in the Moonlight with Colin Firth and Emma Stone.

Also, we have four double passes to the new Nick Cave film “20,000 Days on Earth”. If you’d like to win one, leave a comment on this blog post about your favourite Nick Cave, Bad Seeds, Birthday Party or Boys Next Door track. Contest closes midnight Saturday night, and winners will be chosen at random. Good luck!

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Image Source.

The shop will be closed next week so I can have a short break, and then I will be expanding the shop trading hours to Monday to Friday, 10am to 5.30pm.

You’re welcome to come and visit me any time during these hours for browsing but I encourage appointments if you’re making a special trip or require advice, as I’ll need to fit all my other commitments into them and will sometimes be closed.

This change will mean that I can list more items online, with a wider variety including more accessories and menswear. Anything purchased online can be returned for a refund for any reason, so there’s no risk if you can’t come and try it on.

My book on demystifying fashion, “Style is Eternal” is now available for pre-order from Melbourne University Publishing at a 10% discount and will be released on December 1st. Can’t wait! Hopefully there will be a book launch.

SiE cover 475

Don’t forget to leave a comment so you can see the Nick Cave film!


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!


7
Aug
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s

As my work on my upcoming book is coming to a close, I’ve been releasing many pieces from my collection that were included in my first book “Love Vintage”.

You can see some of these in the shop right now and as they’re ready to go online you will see them in their own category in the webshop.

I’ve had a lot of requests for these pieces over the years, so here’s an opportunity to make one your own, and wear it out for a special occasion.

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26
Jun
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Film, Style icon 1 Comment

Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy – one of the greatest collaborations in the history of fashion.

I’ve been treating myself to some Audrey films lately: first Sabrina, and then Charade. She’s wonderful!

I was travelling on the Metro in Paris, when I noticed the headlines: “Audrey Hepburn est morte”, so for me Audrey and Paris will always go together: I’m sure she would approve. She loved Paris, and Paris loved her – both Sabrina and Charade feature scenes in Paris and it was here that she met the young Givenchy at his first, informal fashion show. Audrey was sixteen but she didn’t forget: “when the time came and she could choose, she thought, ‘That’s the guy.’”

Audrey was impossibly slim and chic, and yet, childlike and joyous. You got the feeling that she would be enormous fun, that she didn’t take herself too seriously and that for her, dressing well was about taste and quality – and then wearing couture like it was the most natural thing in the world!

She became Givenchy’s muse and wore his designs in her films – here are some snaps I found on Pinterest. I love her style, it’s simple and elegant and uniquely Audrey. Fussy clothes would swamp her delicate frame but these allow her to shine.

She said of Givenchy “His are the only clothes in which I feel myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality.” Something tells me that Audrey had copious personality, it was Givenchy’s fashions that offered the freedom to express it.

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27
May
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Contest, Film 7 Comments

Next week sees the opening of new film “Grace of Monaco” and Entertainment One Australia have offered some double passes to Circa readers.

Grace Market 475

“Grace of Monaco” is a fictionalised version of events in Princess Grace of Monaco’s life in 1962. Six years after Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier, she was mother to two children and sought to return to Hollywood for the Hitchcock film “Marnie”.

I read a fascinating biography of Grace once, and her life was a complicated and enthralling one. She was an interesting woman. I also enjoyed the exhibition a few years ago of her personal wardrobe that was on display at the Bendigo Art Gallery – the trailer reveals a beautiful film full of luxurious and historical settings and costumes.

If you’d like a double pass to see this film, which opens on June 5th, simply leave a comment on this post about your favourite Grace Kelly film and why you like it – and the winners will be the best responses. There are four double passes to win and entries close Saturday May 31st at 9pm Melbourne time. Passes are valid at most screenings in Australia.

Good luck!

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Grace Poster 475

I also have several two-for-one tickets for “The Broken Circle Breakdown”: “the story of Elise and Didier, two unconventional star-crossed lovers, who fall for each other despite their differences. He talks, she listens. He’s a romantic atheist, she’s a free-spirited realist”: just come into Circa and request one. Opens May 22nd.


28
Nov
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Designers, Vintage 101 1 Comment

The other day I listed a new frock on the webshop, a beautiful and very well made dress by Sharene Creations.

Sharene Creations dress 1950s 475

I’ve seen a few Sharenes and it’s an unusual name so with the help of Lesley Sharon Rosenthal’s excellent book “Schmattes” and the internet, I learnt a thing or two about the owner, Simon Shinberg.

He was “mature, worldly, sophisticated, well groomed and elegant” and “a lively energetic person” according to the young model who later became his wife.

Shinberg’s parents were well established with their own fashion business “Paulinette”, which had shops in Howie Court (Melbourne), Chapel Street (Windsor) and Carnegie. Simon started designing costumes for the Princess Theatre in the ’40s and then set up his first label “Simonette” in the back of Paulinette’s Chapel Street shop.

His first styles were the “shortie” swing coats that were fashionable in the late ’40s and he sold them to major department stores in Sydney like Mark Foys, Snows, David Jones and Farmers.

His father suggested he learn about making dresses so together they set up a manufacturing company called “Shinberg Manufacturing” producing tailored fashions for the Kay Dunhill label at the Myer Emporium, amongst others.

In the early ’50s Shinberg opened his next label – Sharene Creations.

Sharene Creations label 1950s

In 1957 he produced costumes for the British performer Sabrina for her Australian tour and she was photographed many times in his fashions – here she is in one of her Sharene Creations gowns.

Sabrina (Norma Sykes)
Photo source and more information here.

Mr Shinberg travelled to Paris, and like many young designers visited the couturier shows to learn about the latest styles. With the help of a capable pattern maker, he was inspired to interpret the trends for Australians.

He was amongst the first to bring Givenchy’s new style “Le Sacque” to Australia and David Jones sold 8,000 of his Sack dresses in 1958! The Sack dress was a major change in silhouette from the heavily waisted dresses of the ’40s and ’50s and the waistless silhouette came to dominate the next decade.

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The Age, 1953 – the dress on the right has a very similar silhouette to my dress, with the sloping extended shoulder sleeve and skirt.

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The Age, December 1957 – Sharen’s Sack dress on the left won the top prize in the wool awards.

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Australian Women’s Weekly, 1961. Wool Gold Medal Award Contest: You can win a 350 pound wardrobe! You can see by the prices that Sharene was a quality label.

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The Age, 1964

In about 1964 Mr Shinberg started up a third label called “Mr Simon”, which produced the young and groovy fashions sought by the daughters of his original Sharene wearers – Mr Simon grew and became a major label through the ’70s and ’80s.

Mr Simon 60s label
Late ’60s label, photo courtesy Wendy of Mint Condition vintage boutique.

I was sad to discover that Simon only passed away a few weeks ago – he certainly left his mark on our cultural landscape. His clothes were beautiful. I’ll add more Sharenes as I find them, and you’re welcome to send any pics you have of your Sharenes too. In particular, I’d love to find a sack dress!


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