Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Film

I’m looking forward to seeing the new film about Australian costume designer Orry-Kelly – he famously dressed Marilyn Monroe in beaded silk for her film “Some Like it Hot” – and you must know that I’m always pleased to have an opportunity to showcase a photo of my favourite movie star.

MM singing “I’m through with love”, “Some Like it Hot” 1959.

“Some Like it Hot” is a classic Old Hollywood style film, with only a certain amount of authenticity in the period settings: so most of the characters were dressed in ’20s style fashions but Marilyn’s sumptuous curves are very much on display. Which is good, because it would be a tragedy to strap that famous figure down.

Orry-Kelly won an Academy Award for his costumes in the film, one of three he received, meaning that up until very recently – when Catherine Martin followed in his footsteps and dressed Carey Mulligan in beaded silk ’20s – he had won more than any other Australian. He’s long been an inspiration to me.

You may recall that a while ago, I was tasked with restoring Natalie Wood’s costume from “Gypsy” (1962) and I was impressed with the attention to detail.

Natalie Wood in her big number “Let me entertain you” in Gypsy, 1962.

Both of these costumes and a lot more, including his very interesting and fabulous life are featured in Gillian Armstrong’s new film. Here’s a trailer:

Rialto Distribution have sent me a small number of double passes to see the film “Women He’s Undressed” and if you’d like one, all you have to do is place an order through the webshop for the vintage fashion treasures of your choice. First come, first served: good luck!

Posted by Nicole in Contest, Designers, Film, Style icon

Have you seen the new documentary about the House of Dior yet? It’s obligatory viewing of lovers of haute couture, as it gives a view into the makings of a new collection and launching it.

DIOR AND I key art-1

It focuses on Raf Simons’ first collection in 2012 and is wonderful for an examination of how the historical legacy influences his designs, which he combines with his modern aesthetic.

What really impressed me was the skill and dedication of the team behind him – the women and men who have been with the House of Dior for a long time and developed an impressive skill at what they do. These are the people who ensure that Dior produces fashion of the highest quality and stays true to the ideals of the company, regardless of which designer is currently at the helm.

The tone steps confidently between showing the human flaws of the people involved, whilst presenting them in a positive light – and then there are the gowns. The couture market is much smaller today than it was in the ’50s but it’s an important part of the industry and creates fashion in its highest form.

It’s worth the price of admission just to see the glorious walls of flowers. It made me wish we still had smell-o-vision! Christian Dior loved flowers, and reinvented women as floral displays in his designs, so I’m sure he would have loved Raf’s display! It’s a forgotten fact that his ground-breaking collection of 1947, popularly renamed the “New Look” was actually called “Corolle” – “like a flower”.

Dior flower wall

Here’s the trailer:

Madman have sent me a few double passes and several more “two for one” passes – if you’d like one, pop into Circa or order something online and I’ll send one out. First come, first served.

Or – if you prefer – we also have some copies of the wonderful Advanced Style documentary on DVD – here’s my review, I love these wonderful women and their great attitude to dressing.

Just let me know which one you’d prefer and I’ll include it in your order. Thank you Madman.

Posted by Nicole in Contest, Film, Style icon 13 Comments

The other night we were treated to the new documentary “Advanced Style” based on the New York blog.

From the official site:
Advanced Style examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging. Based on Ari Seth Cohen’s famed blog of the same name, this film paints intimate and colorful portraits of independent, stylish women aged 62 to 95 who are challenging conventional ideas about beauty, aging, and Western’s culture’s increasing obsession with youth.


It’s an engaging and life affirming film about some very interesting women and how they choose to dress.

Their age is irrelevant though: these are creative people who like to express themselves, and have fun with their look. For them, it’s not about “challenging…ideas about beauty”, it’s about enjoying life.

I liked Joyce Carpati’s attitude: “I never wanted to look young. I wanted to look great.” I’m sure she didn’t wait to reach age 80 before looking fabulous, it’s a way of life for her: an elegant and classic style, she resembles an aristocratic ballet director. Inspirational. She’s like the glamourous grandmother of your dreams – ladies like Joyce used to run finishing schools for young ladies but now thanks to the internet she can inspire us all.

It’s only the young that are surprised that older people can be interesting and stylish – we get so hung up on age, but you are who you are throughout your life, only more so as you get older. You’ve had more time to experiment, to discover yourself and your strengths. You’re less scared (hopefully) of the slings and arrows of others shallow opinions.

Those who are over sixty remember what it was like to dress in the age of hats and gloves, and knew better how to put an outfit together, to dress for your figure and make the most of accessories. Perhaps they’re better educated, well travelled and have developed more life skills purely from having more time to do so?

Some of the ladies in this film are in their prime, and far too young (I thought) to be “Advanced” but the title is a respectful one, even if Ari himself seems to feel as if old age is something that happens to other people. I think it’s easy, when you’re young to feel that there’s a lot of distance between you and your elders but time passes much more quickly than you expect (or would like) and it happens to all of us, assuming we’re fortunate to live that long.

The stars of “Advanced Style” are a reminder that life goes on, and can be as rich as you wish it – they’re a diverse bunch and part of the fun for me was seeing how different they are, and how put together into a group, they’re no more likely to get along than any other bunch of strangers but they share a joy of fashion, a love of colour and texture and are happy to invite us into their world.

Madman have sent me five double passes, valid at most cinemas screening the film around Australia – to win one, please leave a comment about the older woman who inspires you the most – she can be any age, because really, I believe that style is not about age at all, but an attitude. Entries close Saturday midnight and winners will be chosen at random – good luck!

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The stars of “Advanced Style” at the New York premier, photo reproduced courtesy “Advanced Style” blog.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.












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!

Grace couch 475

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.

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Circa event, Exhibitions, Film, Talk

Hi all,

I’ve loved Marilyn since I was a child and now – for the first time – I have an opportunity to present a talk on her costumes and why they’re so fabulous and special. ACMI have invited me to speak as part of their Hollywood Costume exhibition in a one off event.

“The Golden Age of Hollywood” will be hosted by Clementine Ford and include Cinema Fiasco (Geoff & Janet) who will “humorously dissect some film trailers”, plus someone from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mystery will be discussing costuming the ’20s in modern times.

Singer Ilana Charnelle will also be performing songs from the Golden Age (incl a Marilyn song hopefully) and there will be sewing demonstrations by Thread Den and an exhibition bar.

Hope you can make it!

What: Hollywood Costume up late: The Golden Age of Hollywood
When: Thursday 1st August 2013, 6.00 pm – 9.00pm (my talk is at 7.00pm)
Where: Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, Melbourne
Cost: National free. Entry cost applies for the exhibition.
More information: at the ACMI website

Miss Monroe in the gown that was too raunchy for “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” so you only see it – briefly – from behind.

Posted by Nicole in 1920s, Film 3 Comments

I’ll admit it – I was worried. Baz Luhrmann. F. Scott Fitzgerald. 3D.

There’s a lot going on with Baz’s version of Fitzgerald’s most popular novel “The Great Gatsby” so before I stepped foot in the cinema (graciously screened at ACMI, thank you for the tickets) I gave myself a pep talk: Luhrmann was an artist, not an historian. He was also not a fan of literature – to him, the source material would be just that: a starting point for his creative vision.

We need more artists – Luhrmann is one of the few directors working in the mainstream who appears relatively unimpeded by commercial constraints. He surrounds himself with other creatives and brings us a project of his choosing. It is kind of him to share it with us, because it’s always amazing even if it’s not high art.

Interestingly, this poster misspells the leading lady’s name. Tsk.

On the way into the cinema, I suffered a small set back – a display of costumes from the film, part of the Hollywood Costume exhibition. Daisy wore gold ballet flats. “Fear not” I said “Perhaps there is a good reason for why she’s wearing modern shoes (at best, a popular style decades after the film is set)? And really, what does it really matter when you have art?

I knew of course, that gold ballet flats would be a small artistic licence, one of many. Creative. Passion. Vision. Not history. Not literature. Sit back, strap yourself in and enjoy the wonderful spectacular ride that will be your trip to Luhrmannland.

Quite a ride it is, too – especially if you see it in 3D. Once I set aside my qualms I discovered new questions: had Baz succeeded in bringing his vision successfully to the screen? Yes, I believe he has – there is all the expected glitter and movement and excitement, frenetic energy interspersed with (the best bits) the slow, dramatic scenes when his fine cast get to show their worth.

Do Catherine Martin’s costumes do a good job of portraying the characters? Yes, I do believe they do. The costumes are an interesting mix of product placement with contributions by Prada and Brooks Brothers adding a dimension of film as fashion catalogue – you too, can have Nick Carraways’s shawl collar cardigan. Great for those Gatsby parties.

I can’t say that I mind this because despite the plentiful updating to appeal to a modern eye, the costumes are gorgeous and very wearable.

Which is not to say that I didn’t have issues with the costumes – I did, especially with the liberties taken with Myrtle/Isla Fisher and her very un-flapperish push up bra and gladiator stilettos – but more that the film will be much more enjoyable if you suspend disbelief, and embrace the sparkly fabulousness of it all. Consider it a visit to a strange land, where everything is new and exciting.

For those who would like to see Fitzgerald’s story come to life, you will probably be disappointed. An essential aspect of Jordan Baker’s character (her prolific untruthfulness) was forgotten, and the enduring mystery of Gatsby and his origins was swept away. The glamour, for all of Luhrmann’s efforts is a saccharine one, sweet but unsatisfying. This was not my Gatsby.

Mr DiCaprio looking like a grumpy but tasty sweet treat.

This is just the latest in a long line of interpretations of Mr Fitzgerald’s novelette and will surely not be the last. The book – like his other works – conjours up an extravagant lifestyle in a crazy era of decadence and social change and it is this aspect that appeals so much to film-makers, along with the universal themes of obsession and redemption.

I felt little for this Gatsby as he can have what he wants, if only he will compromise but his dream is a rigid one doomed for failure. Even the object of his desire can not sway him from it. He is not so much the “great” Gatsby, as the “flawed” Gatsby and his character comes out of it all no better that that of Daisy, whose choices seem understandable in the context of who she is and the times she lives in.

In many ways, she’s an old fashioned girl, a pretty doll to pose and admire “a pretty little fool” – in contrast to the refreshing modernity of her friend Jordan.

Please Jordan…just kiss him. He needs kissing.

I love this shot because Elizabeth Debicki looks like Kristin Scott Thomas, that most elegant of actresses. I foresee great things for Elizabeth.

I recommend that you see the film, and see it on the big screen to enjoy it as Baz intended – be overwhelmed by it, but don’t think too much, or expect too much.

It’s like a visit to the dessert buffet, a soothing balm for a unkind world where even the violence is easy on the eye, and afterwards you find yourself wishing for something a little saltier next time.

Posted by Nicole in 1960s, Film, How to 7 Comments

It’s been movie stars all over the place at Circa lately – and Natalie Wood holds a special place in my heart.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to purchase some costumes from the film “The Mystery of Natalie Wood” – I still have some, but most went off to happy homes including a Kimbra film clip for her song “Settle Down” and Candice DeVille’s personal wardrobe.

A costume from a film about Miss Wood is one thing, but an actual costume she wore in one of her major roles is another thing entirely.

Then Peter walked in the door with a box full of sparkles – the costume that Miss Wood wore as Gypsy Rose Lee for the finale in “Gypsy (1962)”. Here she is:

And here she is strutting her stuff and singing “Let Me Entertain You”.

If you’re reading this via email, click here to see the video.

The costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly, the Australian who had previously won three Academy Awards including one for Marilyn Monroe’s beaded dresses in “Some Like it Hot”.

Any excuse for a MM pic.

I wish I’d known about Orry-Kelly when I was a costume student: he would have been my idol. Plus he lived with Cary Grant for a decade! He received a fourth Academy Award nomination for “Gypsy” and according to Wikipedia, when he died two years later “His pallbearers included Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Billy Wilder and George Cukor and his eulogy was read by Jack Warner.” That’s one heck of a supporting cast to see you into the next world.

Back to Miss Wood – I can tell you that there are four pieces to the Gypsy costume: essential for a strip tease… to undress in stages – and here is the order that Miss Wood removed them – the skirt, the jacket, the high waisted knicker and the strapless bra. The set was split – the undergarments were sold last year. Rumour has it that Dita von Teese now owns them.

An example of what they would have looked like on, if you weren’t as petite as Miss Wood: the bra and knicker should meet, so that it looks like a one piece garment. It’s a pity the set was split up but so it goes. The best pieces are still the jacket and skirt.

The jacket is tiny: it has a hook and eye at the dazzling rhinestone encrusted collar and a pair of big press studs to secure at the base – Natalie wore it crossed over about three inches, but the modern size 8 mannequin is too enormous for her costume. There are half-sleeves, and a big train that hangs down almost to the floor, with a beaded tassle and more rhinestones.

Then the skirt – it wraps around, secured with a large hook and eye, producing a draped effect over her hips. There are more hooks that perhaps attached to her undergarments – she must have been quite curvy for her tiny frame, because the skirt fell down when I put it on my vintage mannequins.

The skirt also has a tail, capped with a beaded tassle and rhinestones – plus several weights to keep it down, and a loop so she could pick it up and play with it. She must have done this a bit, because the skirt “tail” had the most damage.

Are you wondering why the mannequin is standing on a yellow sheet? This was so I could pick up all the beads and rhinestones as they fell off. It was my task to secure the beadwork, mend the holes and generally restore the costume so it could be displayed without endangering the condition. Everything I did was on the sheet, to capture all of the beads.

Tell me more?
The ensemble is made of silver bugle beads machine sewn onto silk jersey in feathered lines and partially lined in fine nylon. Then additional bugle beads were hand sewn in areas that needed to be more heavily ornamented (like the bust), or perhaps they were repairs? Then thousands of rhinestones of various sizes were glued onto the fabric. Additional glass crystals set in prongs were hand stitched on too.

I was thrilled to see pencil marks under the bugle beads indicating that they had a beading machine to apply a specific design but then realised – this is Hollywood! Of course they had a beading machine, they wouldn’t just pop down to Clegs and buy it by the metre like us plebs.

Working with two sizes of needles (a sharps and a thin beading needle) I moved my hands gently over a section at a time, searching for loose beads, loose threads and loose rhinestones – the latter fell off and were collected. The first two were secured with the required needle on the underside. I used pure cotton thread, like the one that was used on the original costume (even though polyester thread is stronger, I prefer authenticity if I can get it).

It was a painstaking process and I limited myself to 45 minutes at a time, because my eyes would start to go funny after a while. I’m surprised I wasn’t dreaming of rhinestones!

Here’s a close up of the fabulousness – you can see the different types of beads and rhinestones, the prong set ones sit up higher than the glued ones, which sit flat. The dark misshapen bits are the remnants of silvered backing from absent rhinestones.

I tried gluing the dropped rhinestones back on but it didn’t work of course, they needed their intact backing and it had crumbled away. This is why sewing will always last better than glue, but back when Orry-Kelly inspected the finished costume, I’m sure he wasn’t thinking of the people who would still be admiring his work more than fifty years later.

The costume will be going on display in a couple of weeks in Brisbane – you can see it (if you’re over 18) at Club X, 160 Brisbane Road, Booval, Queensland.

Posted by Nicole in Film, Style icon 2 Comments

In many ways I feel that fashion in the 20th century can be split into two portions: until the 1960s fashion was received from up above, the glamourous world of Haute Couture, when a lady needed to be grown up and over thirty to be elegant and then, from the ’60s when most style influence comes not from top designers but from streetwear: what young and creative people are wearing, what boundaries they’re pushing.

In turn that can inspire a great designer to introduce a new style, but they’re unlikely to be the originator, more someone who is sensing the mood and commercialising it. An example is Mary Quant with mini skirts. She might be credited with “inventing” them, but hems were already rising and would have continued to do so regardless.

I mentioned recently that we went and saw a talk on Leigh Bowery – a great example of style coming from ordinary people who are doing something different, who then inspired artists like Boy George and Alexander McQueen. Perhaps it’s only fitting that we went then saw a film on the Haute Couture and one of fashion’s great personalities.

Diana Vreeland lived an enviable life: as a child she watched Nijinsky leap across a Parisian stage in the Ballet Russes, married a man with matinee idol looks, had two beautiful children and counted some of the most fascinating people of the last century as friends. She had money, style, intelligence and culture – and lived in interesting places at interesting times. Most of all, she loved the fresh and exciting.

I’m not sure that a career in the fashion magazine industry was really what she would have chosen: she would have excelled at many things, this self-described “lazy” woman who worked tirelessly and exhausted those around her. It is to our benefit that she did though – transforming the industry with her ideas and energy.

Diana in the ’30s.

Her career started in 1937 writing a column for “Harper’s Bazaar” and soon she was fashion editor – a role that saw her directing some of the major fashion photographers of the day including Louise Dahl-Wolfe who said:

“Fashion editors are of great importance before the photographing begins. If they have an eye for color, style, form, taste and individuality, they can pull together a ready-made dress in no time at all. Very few of them have the outstanding creativity of Diana Vreeland.”

Photograph of Diana Vreeland and husband Reed Vreeland, by Irving Cantor 1930s

Photograph by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, 1942

Photograph by Louise Dahl-Wolfe 1953

Diana really hit her stride in 1962 when she became fashion editor at Vogue – and the ’60s had arrived. She recognised the spirit of rebellion and freedom having seen it as a young woman in the ’20s and relished the opportunity to stretch her imagination with fresh and wild fashion editorials that created the lush look we now recognise in “Mad Men” and other jetsetting adventures of the modern age.

Photo by Mark Shaw, mid 1960s.

“Going to meet her was like going to meet the Queen. She was over the top, and would go on about how she ‘adored’ me. I know I probably owe most of what happened in New York to her.” Twiggy, photographed by Richard Avedon in 1967.

Diana in the late ’60s, Photograph by: Jonathan Becker

“Red is the great clarifier – bright, cleansing, revealing. It makes all colors beautiful. I can’t imagine being bored with it – it would be like becoming tired of the person you love. I wanted this apartment to be a garden – but it had to be a garden in hell.”

Diana Vreeland in her living room, Photograph: Horst P. Horst, 1979

I loved this film: Diana makes for an enthralling subject, so full of life and wit. She was one of those people who gained momentum through her life, a whirlwind of enthusiasm and passion. We have so much to thank her for.

“Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel” opens soon in general release. All images and quote shameless borrowed from dianavreeland.com.

EDITED TO ADD: Here’s the Australian poster, with thanks to Michelle from Madman.

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