Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Costume Collections, Where to buy vintage

If you care about fashion in Australia you’re probably familiar with the Darnell Collection, the largest private collection of international couture in Australia, curated by Charlotte Smith and frequently put on display at exhibitions and events.

Over the past ten years, the collection has grown and grown and Charlotte is now offering up a selection for your acquisition, so she can focus on the more special pieces.

From the official site:
Theodore Bruce are proud to present the de-accession of The Darnell Collection with over 500 lots of antique and vintage fashion, including garments, accessories, lace and mannequins. Ranging from the Edwardian & Victorian era through to the 1980’s all lots to be sold unreserved.

What: Vintage Fashion: The Darnell Collection
When: 23 November 2014 – from 11am
Where: Theodore Bruce auctioneers, Primary Saleroom : 6 Ralph Street, Alexandria, NSW 2015, Australia.
Cost: free to attend, buy as much as you like
More information: See the catalogue online here.

If you do go to the auction to buy I recommend that you inspect each item carefully for damage, as it greatly affects the value – especially if you want to wear it. I always travel with a tape measure and this can be particularly useful at auctions where there may not be a facility to try things on.

Auctions offer a great way to pick up good things at reasonable prices and there are some very nice items available in this collection. Assume nothing though, as all items are sold “as is”.

I’ve gone through the catalogue and picked out some interesting pieces for you. My best pick is lot 187 – the silk velvet ’20s opera coat. Check out the Deco styling! Worthy of Miss Phryne Fisher.

Lot 187 – An Cream Evening Cape with Contrasting Black Hem Detail with long neck sashes, smot[sic] at back collar, gathered over shoulders, zigzag pattern at back along hem, fully lined; silk; 1920s;

Lot 249 – A Yellow Bridesmaid/Party Dress; comes with an original sketch by grant cowan featured in Dreaming of Dior page 138-139

Lot 256 – A vintage calico cotton travel clothes line with pegs and hooks all original; excellent condition 13cm

Lot 385 – A Victorian ear trumpet ceramic, silk thread, rubber; American

Lot 136 – Two pairs of early 20th century spats and one single civil war spat felted wool, cotton, wool; American

Lot 359 – A Blue Opera Coat with Blue Flower Embroidery Large bow to front, with hook and eye closure, elbow length wide sleeves, knee length; 1960s;

Lot 34 – A Black and White Smock Style Dress sleeveless, collar with covered buttons down front, 2 large pockets on skirt; by Prue Acton (labelled); 1970s;

Lot 48 – A Black and Rust Patterned Cocktail Dress bubble-style skirt.

Lot 91 – A Black and Pink Party Dress with empire waist, wide waistband, appliqued flower pattern at hem with sequin detail, side zip closure, fully lined; by Chelsea Design, Labels still attached; 2000

Lot 159 – A Peach Evening Dress with White Glass Bead Decoration lined, no waist band, round neck, sleeveless with bands of glass beading around armholes, sack shape typical of the twenties; 1920s;

Lot 198 – A skirt and two jackets 1950s

Lot 168 – Five Bathing Suits from the 1950s -1980s various labels

Lot 164 – A Two Piece Seaside Romper Suit sleveless with no collar, button closure to front, has bloomers, unlabelled; early 1900s;

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Costume Collections, Where to buy vintage 7 Comments

I’ve just come back from a sneak peek viewing of a large collection of costumes and fashion that is being auctioned this Sunday. This is the private collection of one person, that was stashed in an historic home in the country Victoria and it’s quite a find.

Aladdin's Cave flyer

What: Costume and vintage clothing auction
When: Sunday October 27th from 10.30am
Viewing: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning.
Where: 17 Wills Street, Melbourne
More information at the Glenelg Auction Centre site and auction Facebook page.

There is a mixture of film and theatre costumes, fancy dress costumes (especially lots of childrenswear) and authentic vintage.

Most of the vintage is from the ’60s to the ’80s with a smattering of early to mid 1990s with some great prints and bright colours. Quite a few military uniforms of different types and eras and leather jackets, skirts and coats. There are a small number of ’50s dresses that have been adapted into costumes and some modern reproductions in the ’50s style.

Lots of menswear, some of it quite old and a couple of ’20s wool swimsuits. Hats, shoes, bags and belts. A fine collection of wedding dresses from the late ’70s and ’80s. Ballroom dancing gowns. Some of the costumes are vintage that have been adapted – eg, a ’50s velvet coat that has had ruffles added to make it into a costume piece. Academic gowns and capes, including a couple of cute ’60s styles.

The best bit is that it’s all in good and clean condition: the collector looked after it and so there probably isn’t much work to be done on the pieces.

There are about a thousand lots to be auctioned in one day – which means it will move quickly. Everything must sell so there are sure to be bargains, including a large number of mannequins and a couple of display cases. Some items are being sold separately and some in lots but there are treasures to be found, especially in the lots.

If you’re interested in the more retro end of vintage, or older menswear or can’t resist a sparkly costume for your or your family, I recommend it. Allow plenty of time at the viewing because you’ll need to go through the lots thoroughly as they’ve very mixed – take your tape measure with you too and as always: check for condition.

There is food and drink available at the venue too, which is a nice bonus. Here are some pics of what you’ll see – if you go, I hope you have a good day and pick up some lovely pieces!

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Nicole in 1960s, 1970s, Costume Collections, Designers, Vintage 101 8 Comments

There’s nothing new under the sun, is there?

I’m reminded of this constantly when I see contemporary fashion ranges because they’re always similar to something that has been done before – currently we’re seeing a lot of the late ’70s to early ’80s and a smattering of early to mid ’90s.

For me, all of it was more interesting the first time around so it works best when a new spin or twist can be applied.

Today I read this:

Len Vogue 1974 3

It sounds like the current crisis, doesn’t it? Except that this is old news from The Age in 1974!

I was researching Len Vogue – because I find lots of Len Vogues and I wanted to know more.

Len Vogue opened in 1965 and closed in 1975 and supplied over 1,000 retailers around Australia including their own shops.

They became successful because instead of the usual system of the time, whereby retailers would order from sample ranges and wait for delivery, Len Vogue produced stock daily and kept a large amount available at all times.

They started off as Len Vogue Industries, and developed into Len Vogue Distribution as their grew their list of customers – and had a team of fashion designers and researchers to produce up to 30,000 garments a week from forty factories!

That’s a lot of frocks!

They were based at 31 Wangaratta Street, Richmond, tucked behind the Corner Hotel and a stone’s throw from Richmond Train station.

Because fashion styles go in and out, I really appreciate the certainties in the fashion world and if you can pin down the dates that a label operated, it can be very useful.


I have this Len Vogue ensemble, just listed on the web shop today.

Dress and jacket ensembles came in during the ’30s and again in the ’50s to early ’60s and at first I wondered if this was from that later era? It has the princess seams, and shift silhouette that was popular in the early part of the ’60s but the candy stripe reminded me of this dress in the Darnell Collection, that is featured in my book “Love Vintage” and also last year’s “Fashion Meets Fiction” exhibition.

So I wondered if my ensemble could be late ’60s too? A google through the newspaper archives found the relevant dates so now I’m happy on when it was probably made.

This style is perfect for the races or a wedding, especially with some nice accessories.

Have you found any Len Vogues during your vintage adventures?

Len Vogue label

Update: Shel has sent in pics of her Len Vogue ’60s dress and label – thank you Shel. I love it! Readers, you’re always welcome to send me pics when I post about fashion houses – the more designs we can see of a label, the more it contributes to our knowledge of them.

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Photo reproduced courtesy Shel Wang.

Update: Rachelle has sent in a pic of her Len Vogue early ’70s sundress, and some articles from the Australian Women’s Weekly.

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Photo reproduced courtesy Rachelle Summers.

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Australian Women’s Weekly – 1968

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Australian Women’s Weekly – 1972

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Costume Collections, Exhibitions

The other night, Tim and I went to the launch of the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival at Rippon Lea – and were amongst the first to see an exhibition of ABC wardrobe costumes from many decades, on display in the mansion.

From the National Trust’s site:
As an umbrella event for the Glen Eira Council’s Story Telling Festival, Rippon Lea House & Gardens is hosting an exhibition of 20-25 costumes from ABC programs from decades past. Costumes play an integral part of storytelling on Screen. The ABC has produced and presented some of the best television on Australian screens and this exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view some of the costumes that help transport us into the those filmic worlds.

What: ABC TV – Wardrobe Archives Exhibition.
When: June 17th to June 30th. You can see opening times here.
Where: Rippon Lea house, 192 Hotham Street, Elsternwick
Cost: free with entry to the mansion (adults $15, concession $12, children $9)
More information: see the National Trust website.

There are still a few seats left for my talk next week in the Rippon Lea ballroom, on “Storytelling through ’20s and ’30s fashion”, seating will be at tables and is only $25 per person: perfect for a pleasant morning tea with friends. Book here.

Here are some pics from the ABC costume exhibition – they look surprisingly at home in the sumptuous surrounds of Rippon Lea.

You might recognise number five, one of the Phryne Fisher costumes and be pleased to know that an exhibition of her costumes is coming soon – from September 7th, also at Rippon Lea.

This will be a large exhibition of costumes from “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” TV series and I can’t wait to see them in person. Sure to be very popular, I know many people who have been itching for an exhibition.

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Costume Collections, Exhibitions 3 Comments

I’m beyond excited about the upcoming “Winter Masterpieces” event at ACMI – this is a real coupe for them, the amazing exhibition of Hollywood costumes that has recently finished at London’s V&A museum.

From the website:
Hollywood Costume explores the central role costume design plays in cinema storytelling. Bringing together the most iconic costumes from a century of filmmaking, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the clothes worn by unforgettable and beloved characters in films from The Wizard of Oz (1939) to Titanic (1997), Ben-Hur (1959) to James Bond (2007).

This groundbreaking exhibition unites classics from the Golden Age of cinema, including Scarlett O’Hara’s green ‘curtain’ dress designed by Walter Plunkett for Gone with the Wind (1939) and the ‘little black dress’ designed by Hubert De Givenchy for Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) with costumes from the latest Hollywood releases including Consolata Boyle’s outfits for Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady (2011) and Lindy Hemming’s high-tech Batman suit for Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

Hollywood Costume illuminates the costume designer’s creative process from script to screen and reveals the collaborative dialogue that leads to the development of authentic screen characters. Hollywood Costume is curated by eminent Hollywood costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis with Sir Christopher Frayling and Keith Lodwick.

What: Hollywood Costume exhibition
When: Wednesday 24 April – Sunday 18 Aug 2013, Open daily 10am – 5pm (Thursdays until 9pm) ANZAC Day (Thu 25 Apr) open from 1pm
Where: ACMI, Federation Square, corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets, Melbourne
Cost: Full $19.50 Concession $15.50 more options can be seen at the website.
See more at: the ACMI website.

There’s also a great event programme to accompany the exhibition including films (of course) and talks.

Not to be missed! Here are some images from the V&A exhibition, a taster of what we might see (although I won’t mind if they leave off the actors’ faces, that looks a bit awkward).

All images courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum, also the fabulous pic of Judy Garland from “The Wizard of Oz” is courtesy MGM and the Kobal Collection. Always a pleasure to see you, Dorothy.

Posted by Nicole in Costume Collections, Exhibitions

Recently Rina from Take 2 Markets and I went to see the Fashion Meets Fiction exhibition at Burrinja Cultural Centre in Upwey. I thought you might like to see some pics.

In keeping with the theme of fashion and fiction, all of the displays were to accompany a book: I love reading so this was a pleasure. Whenever I pick up a new book, I always look first to see when it was written, or when it was set, so that I can mentally clothe and house the characters in the correct setting – this meant that there was sometimes a little difference between how I envisaged a character dressing and the display.

The exhibition has thoughtfully been set out in chronological order, so I shall continue that here.

One of the things that fascinates me the most about vintage and antique clothing, are the signs left behind from when garments are altered or updated. Quite a few of the fashions on display showed obvious signs and I itched to turn them inside out and reveal all their secrets.

This dress from the 1850s was an interesting one – although the cotton fabric is original, the bodice shows signs of being a replacement, perhaps made out of the excess skirt fabric (crinoline skirts from this era have an enormous amount of fabric in them and a metre or two would not be missed). The indications were a bodice that is completely unstructured at the back, with no seams or darts, a strangely modern neckline that looks like it needs a collar, or fastening to stop it gaping open, and short sleeves that have been top-stitched with added lace trim.

I would have expected this gown to have longer sleeves, perhaps pagoda style. It also lacked the distinctive shoulder seams of this era, suggesting it was sewn much later, probably post-Victorian era. The skirt shape isn’t quite wide and full enough either, but that’s a display issue, perhaps the proper petticoat wasn’t available – they really were enormous, I have one that I made when I studied costume design, it’s seven metres around and makes you feel like an enormous tea cosy.

This beautiful gown from the 1860s was of a lovely floral silk fabric (hence why you’re seeing a close up). I like how you can see the waist darts have been taken out, perhaps when the wearer’s figure altered or it was adjusted for a new wearer. If you look closely, you can see two sets of darts, and both have been taken out.

This dress also had wonderful fluffy tassel buttons – sadly, they’re hard to see but perhaps it will encourage you to go and see for yourself?

One of the delights of the exhibition is being able to get up close to the fashions – not touch of course! We were there on a quiet morning, so we almost had the exhibition to ourselves. It was wonderful and a joy. This fabulous ensemble is from the early 1890s.

This ensemble from the 1880s is really interesting – if it wasn’t for the bustle, I would not have believed the dating correct. It features a lovely silk paisley fabric insert, probably from India hinting at the British Raj or colonialism. Orientalism started to have a big influence of fashion in the 19th century, with it’s bold colours and rich textures. This one is to illustrate “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”.

Phryne Fisher and her adventures are a feature of the exhibition, and it was wonderful to see some of the original book illustrations included with this sumptuous opera coat of metallic lame and silk velvet – the colours are wonderful! It reminds me of a Margaret Preston wood cut.

Author Kerry Greenwood is speaking as part of the accompanying events calendar, on February 8th.

This was one of my favourites – I just love these floaty tea gowns from the 1930s and this one with it’s soft blue on white print is a darling. They’re so wearable today, if you can find one in good condition, as they’re delicate and need gentle handling.

This one features floaty sleeves and the distinctive bias cut of the era – I love the inverted “v” on the bodice, with the gathering into the neckline. These were meant to be worn quite loosely, and this one shows signs of updating – the somewhat clunky self-belt that hides the lovely seaming of the centre front, and on the back there’s an alteration to the back of the neckline to presumably make it less wide of neckline – perhaps it wasn’t modest enough or was altered for someone smaller?

It’s so kind of exhibitions to enable us to see behind a garment – thank you Charlotte and everyone who set this one up, I really appreciate being able to see all around if I can.

How fabulous are these sleeves? I just love the sleeves of the 1930s, and these are particularly extravagant – how could you not feel wonderful wearing something like this?

Many of the books have been made into films and films are often set in different time periods – it was a little jarring to see “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (written in 1958 and filmed in 1961) displayed with this skirt suit – it wasn’t something I could imagine Holly Golightly wearing – she would have considered it matronly and too grown up and preferred something younger. Perhaps it could have been worn by Patricia Neal’s character instead?

Still, the rest of us are probably delighted to see a real Dior New Look, made of silk faille with velvet trim, late 1940s. I know I was! It was all I could do not to lean forward and touch the silk.

Now here is a dress I covet – it was sold recently at Leonard Joel’s, and I’m sad to say that I bid unsuccessfully on it. Seeing it here makes me wish I had succeeded. It’s made by local couturier Lucy Secor, and comes with it’s own matching stole. I’m pleased to see it’s found a home with the Darnell Collection.

Now here’s a gown to make an impact – beautiful bodice detailing too.

Here’s a close up: the cashmere cardigan is featured in my book “Love Vintage” but I love the diamante clip and fur collar, and the skirt worn with it is sensational – a rich silk satin, printed with an abstract design and flocked in a lace design. I haven’t seen a fabric like this before. Another one I had to restrain the urge to stroke.

A late ’50s printed sundress by UK company Horrockses. I say this all the time, but I can’t get enough of these dresses. This style has been copied a lot by modern designers this season and it never fails to please: fitted bodice, nipped in waist, full skirt. Perfect for a hot day.

A very early ’60s evening gown, love the beadwork and wide cummerbund.

Another personal favourite, this striking late ’60s gown is also featured in my book. I took several shots this time, it looks great from every angle. The hat is great too.

The strength of the Darnell Collection is the couture but there’s also some lovely examples of more every day wear, like this lovely circa 1970 knitted dress. I can imagine it worn with chocolate brown knee high boots, with a bit of a platform.

I hope you enjoyed the pics – this is only a small smattering of what’s on display, and the exhibition is on until February 17th. More information can be found at the official website.

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Costume Collections, Exhibitions

A new exhibition of fashions from the Darnell Collection has opened in Upwey.

From the website:
“Fashion meets Fiction is an exciting and innovative exhibition concept that brings together our love of popular fiction and its many famous colourful characters with the cultural trend towards high-end fashion, and particularly period pieces.

In partnership with Eastern Regional Libraries and celebrating the National Year of Reading, this exhibition travels through time and the popular culture and fiction of the periods, drawing together the threads of character, period, fashion and finery.”

What: Fashion Meets Fiction – the Darnell Collection
When: 9th November to 7 February 2013, Tue – Sun: 10:30am – 4:00pm
Where: Burrinja Cultural Centre, 351 Glenfern Rd, Upwey
More information at: the website.

Here are some pics I took when I was there for the media launch.

Charlotte Smith, curator of the Darnell Collection

Posted by Nicole in Costume Collections 2 Comments

Last night was a wild and woolly evening, and by the time I’d spent two hours driving v-e-r-y slowly through storm and traffic jams, I was quite frazzled and fully expected to be late. As it was, I was the first one to arrive at Loel Thomson’s amazing costume museum. Many of us didn’t make it though, so if you missed out, or would like to come and see the collection on another day (or perhaps live on the other side of the world) here are some pics from her latest exhibition.

Loel’s museum is amazing: I can’t emphasize this enough, and her collection is available for group tours or as a resource for students – just call her on (03) 9852 1794 to arrange a visit, as she’s not there all the time.

Loel usually starts off with a talk about what she does (social history through fashion), and we learnt that the oldest piece in her collection is from about 3AD, a Roman fibula – but as her focus is Australian fashion, the earliest piece from the colony is about 1790, not long after settlement. Her most recent may well be a pair of Crocs! I was surprised to see them on display with those other piece of footwear you’re unlikely to ever see me in, thongs and Ugg boots. The Doc Martens were more my style and I’m now on the hunt for a pair of the 20 eye boots, if you have a pair going wanting, Loel would love to add them to the collection.

Onto the photos – as always, click on an image to see in full – this is only a small part of what she currently has on displays. Exhibits including “A Summer Afternoon”, with fashions from the 19th and 20th century, lingerie, duster coats for driving, many 19th century tableaus, history of sewing, accessories, jewellery, buckles and endangered species. You’ll see some selections below. I particularly loved the knitted wool section with a knitted swimsuit, dresses and jumpers. Enjoy.

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Costume Collections, events 3 Comments

An evening visit to Loel Thomson’s amazing collection of period dress has been organised for next month:

What: The Costume Collection, talk and tour.
When: Thursday 16th February, 2012 – 6pm – 8pm.
Where: 39 Greenaway Street, Bulleen.
Cost: $5 which Loel donates to a local nursing home.
Bookings: call Circa on 9419 8899.

Loel is a private collector who has dedicated her time and resources to the collection, preservation and display of over two hundred years of Australian fashion. Many of her pieces were included in my book Love Vintage.

I’m sure that she has the best collection of Australian fashion in the country, as well as jewellery, accessories and lace. There’s also an impressive tea cosy collection!

Here’s a pic that I took at a previous visit – Loel uses vintage mannequins and styles the hair according to the date of the clothing.

Regency era – 1820s.

For those who are interested in social history, the history of fashion or just beautiful clothes, I thoroughly recommend this visit. Numbers are limited and RSVP is essential. Please call the shop on 9419 8899, if you get the answering machine, please leave your name, phone number and how many people you would like to book.

Hope to see you there!

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