Posted by Nicole in Calendar, General 1 Comment

A wonderful new exhibition opened on the weekend at the Arts Centre: a sort of “Greatest Hits” of costumes from ballet, theatre and opera of the last, well, many decades.

From the site:
All that Glitters showcases costumes from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection that were designed to create a spectacle on stage. The exhibition celebrates the vision behind these costumes, the creativity and skill of those who created them and the show-stopping performances that brought them to life.

What: All That Glitters – Costumes from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection
When: 16 November – 23 February, 9am until late.
Where: the Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne
Cost: free.

As well as being very sumptuous and sparkly, I found the exhibition to be personally satisfying as it included a beautiful gown from the ’70s production of “The Merry Widow”. My mum brought the programme home after seeing it, and the costume sketches were my first inspiration to become a costume designer. This is the first time I’ve ever seen any of the actual costumes.

It also includes a pair of Baroque style shoes, worn for the ’70s production of “Don Quixote”, a ballet starring Rudolph Nureyev. Like many little girls, I studied classical ballet and seeing this production was a major treat. I was stunned to see a costume from this distant memory, on display.

More information at the Arts Centre site.

All that glitters 6

Gown worn by Jill Perryman as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly!, Gordon Frost Organisation, 1995. Designed by Tim Goodchild. Gift of Gordon Frost Organisation, Cultural Gifts Program, 2001. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Photo Source.

Posted by Nicole in 1930s, General, New in store, Sale

Today I’m at the shop working on some of the goodies that are going into next Saturday’s garage sale and I have to tell you that there are some great pieces that will be priced to clear, many below cost. Many have never graced the shop before, from the Edwardian era (1900) up to the 1990s.

Here’s one of my favourites: silk georgette evening gown from the late 1930s. Just beautiful.

First in best dressed 475

You can see more sneak peeks of the treasures over at Facebook.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone – and if you’re an AFL fan, may your team win!

Posted by Nicole in 1800s, Architecture, Circa event, General 1 Comment

I have a complicated relationship with the past.

It’s always there for me: old houses, cars, furniture, music, books and of course – fashion. It’s my whole life and I’ve never known anything different – I appreciate that there are those who love to have new things but for me, old is where it’s at.

At various times I’ve dressed head to toe in a particular era – like the purists do – and I’ve also moved through many sub-cultures including mod, rockabilly and goth – but underneath it all, always were the vintage clothes. Sub-cultures tend to draw heavily on the past for their inspiration, an irony I appreciate as they’re generally the preoccupations of the young – but that’s a topic for another day.

I like to mix it up – and that’s the fortunate position that we are in, as modern women and men. Never have we had so much access to so many things and we can pick and choose what we want from the past and adapt it to our purposes.

I find those adaptations fascinating and love finding the layers in vintage clothing. There’s a temptation to think that a gown was worn once and then put away, for decades, until we discover it and make it our own but the reality is that most vintage clothes have been altered or updated to suit a new purpose or a new wearer – and the older the piece, the more likely it is to have been re-purposed.

So it is with vintage cars, furniture and architecture.

Yesterday I visited Labassa for a photo shoot – it’s always a pleasure to see the Grand Dame, and I was treated to a personal tour of some of the rooms that aren’t open to the public. I love historic mansions and perhaps my favourite in Melbourne is Labassa, built in the French Renaissance style in 1862. Yesterday was overcast and it suited the dark, faded grandeur nicely.

Most National Trust properties spend time in private hands, the homes of well off families and are handed down through inheritance before eventually finding their way to the NT. Labassa, on the other hand spent most of the 20th century neglected. Like many big old houses, it was broken up into flats in the ’20s.

Thankfully the original features and room sizes were retained but left to fall into disrepair. It provided cheap dwellings for those who appreciated its good location and opulent fittings. Many of the tenants were artists, writers and performers and it’s this period that I find the most interesting.

I like to imagine what it would have been like, living in one enormous room of this fabulous house, perhaps with a rough bathroom fashioned out of a maid’s closet or a lean-to attached to the side of the mansion. Perhaps coming out in that fabulous hallway in the middle of the night to bump into another resident. They must have shared a great sense of community, the people who lived in this rather unfashionable old house with its difficult to heat high ceilings and wide corridors.

Originally the mansion probably sat in the midst of large gardens, as Rippon Lea and Como still do – but they were sold off and developed, so the house is now crowded on a small block with houses around it. It could be worse though – the magnificent frontage used to be obscured from the street by a house. Thankfully there was a campaign to buy it and it was duly demolished.

Image Source.

There must have been a lot of cheering when that came down!

I find it remarkable that so much of the original house remains – I’ve lived in a lot of old houses and flats, and it’s common for features to have been removed. My own home (the Deco War Baby, circa 1942) is unrenovated but previous tenants had stripped everything they could, including light fittings and door knobs. Even some of the doors have been replaced. Thankfully it still has the original fireplace, architraves and picture rails (I’ll post pics one day).

Labassa still has the original wallpaper in many rooms – now faded to brown, it was originally bright gold and some portions have been restored revealing the brilliance. In the ’70s some rooms were covered up with contemporary wallpaper but it has been removed. If you look carefully, you can see the lines where the paper joined. The famous trompe l’oeil ceiling over the staircase was also covered with a false ceiling – that must have been wonderful to discover!

You can still see many signs of the previous residents though – one wall is painted silver (!) and another door has the faded remnants of an union jack paint job. Some bathrooms show fittings from the ’50s. An enormous butler’s pantry is half in one room, and half in another. As much as I love the original features, I also love these more modern adaptations, reminding us of the life that this wonderful house has lived – not just as a museum but as a living home.

When I first saw these tiles, the condition suggested they were ’70s additions installed during the nostalgic revival – but no, they’re the original 1860s tiles, presumably restored. I love the soft colours.

I was pleased to see that I have two small personal links to Labassa – both through poets. I met resident Adrian Rawlings through my husband, Tim Hamilton and my father was a friend of Kenneth Slessor’s, who immortalised Labassa resident Joe Lynch in “Five Bells”.

From “Five Bells”:
All without meaning now, except a sign
That someone had been living who now was dead:
“At Labassa. Room 6 x 8
On top of the tower; because of this, very dark
And cold in winter. Everything has been stowed
Into this room – 500 books all shapes
And colours, dealt across the floor
And over sills and on the laps of chairs;
Guns, photoes of many differant things
And differant curioes that I obtained…”

Labassa is currently gracing our TV screens as one of the settings in “Underbelly Squizzy”, and was also used in “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” and many other productions. A social history of Labassa is being compiled and you can see photos of past residents here – if you have any information please contact Vicki Shuttleworth.

I’ll be appraising your vintage fashion items for a small donation for the National Trust on August 18th, if you’d like to come along and support this very worthy cause and see some of the magnificence of Labassa. I hear that there will be a scrummy morning and afternoon tea too.

Here’s where you’ll find me:

Pic courtesy National Trust – all other images my own.

Posted by Nicole in General 3 Comments

If you’re serious about vintage fashion, or even just a little interested you’re probably already familiar with the Vintage Fashion Guild, an international group of professional traders, writers, historians and other experts in the field dedicated to the education and promotion of vintage fashions. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Currently celebrating it’s tenth year, I’ve been a member for over seven years, and it’s done wonders for increasing and testing my vintage knowledge, as well as a great place for like-minded people to talk about what we love the most – vintage fashion.

My collection has always focused on Australian fashion, because I buy locally – the VFG has taught me about the links between international fashion and what happens here and where they are different. I’ve learnt about styles we don’t get here – the contentious “patio dress”, CC41, fabric types (and what they’re called in different places), all sorts of things.

I’ve been invited to international events and made friends, many of whom I will probably never meet in person but feel like I know quite well.

Here are some of the ways that the VFG can help you on your vintage journey – and best of all, it’s all free for the public, provided by skilled and passionate volunteers who fund it through annual membership fees.

The VFG Forums.
The VFG Label Resource.
The VFG Fur Resource.
The VFG Blog.
The VFG on Facebook.
The VFG on Twitter.

I could spend a lot of time telling you how invaluable these resources are, but it’s best if you just go and explore them.

I’m often asked about what online sellers I recommend and the answer is easy: VFG members have to apply a code of best industry practice, which means that you can buy with confidence.

Today’s news is that I’m pleased to report that as of next year, I will be the new Vice-President of the VFG! I’m really excited about this opportunity to support the international community and a great group of people, who have been a wonderful support for me.

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, General

From the in-box:

“The Historical Radio Society of Australia is celebrating their 30th Anniversary in Melbourne on September 22-23, in the huge Springvale Town Hall. Members are coming from around Australia and the display is open to the public on the Sunday. The entire hall and adjoining rooms are booked out by the Society, to display hundreds, or up to one thousand vintage radios, from Marconi spark radios, to the plastic radios of the 60s.

Be sure to see the vintage working telephone exchange, tear-drop caravan surrounded by portable valve radios of the era, Radio Battery Shop, 19th century Benz car and a vintage TV camera filming and starring the visitors on a glorious Black and White screen.

If you like anything radio, the HRSA RadioFest is the place to be in September!”

What: The Historical Radio Society of Australia presents Australia’s largest Radio Display and Market.
When: 10.30am to 3.00pm, Sunday September 23rd.
Where: Springvale Town Hall, 397 Springvale Rd, Melbourne, VIC, 3131
Cost: free for members, $5 for non-members and $15 for non-member families.
More information: at the official website.

Photograph by Max Dupain, supplied by Kevin Poulter of the HRSA.

Posted by Nicole in General 3 Comments

It’s that time again: Lulu Vintage is tallying up the votes for the most popular and best Vintage clothing webshops around the world.

Last year, Circa’s first year, we came fourth in the people’s choice category! Thank you to everyone who supported us, and if you could kindly vote for us again this year, it would be greatly appreciated.

Click on the image to go through to the page: add your vote in a comment. You can support up to ten vintage clothing webshops, but only vote once per person or IP address please.

Please write “Circa Vintage Clothing (Australia)” to differentiate from the wonderful London shop “Circa Vintage” who are also nominated.

With so many fabulous vintage clothing webshops, it’s hard to choose but here’s my top ten – all are fellow members of the Vintage Fashion Guild of course. I’ve bought from most and can recommend them for good quality vintage and service.

– Dorothea’s Closet.
– Pinky A-Go-Go.
– Denise Brain.
– Poppy’s Vintage Clothing.
– Tangerine Boutique.
– Glamoursurf.
– Meloo Vintage.
– Past Perfect Vintage.
– Couture Allure.
– Circa Vintage Clothing (Australia).

Voting ends on Friday, July 27th. Lulu will tally up your votes and announce the 2012 People’s Choice Top 10, as well as her 2012 Lulu’s Top 10 on Tuesday, July 31st,2012.

Thank you for your support!

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Circa event, General, Talk 2 Comments

I’m giving a talk next week for the University of the Third Age, about mens and ladies fashions from the 1920s to more modern times. As usual, I will be bringing along a selection of garments from different eras, and revealing their secrets: what they say about the people who wore them and the times they lived in.

What: Talk on 20th century mens and ladies fashoins.
When: Thursday 15th March, 1pm to 230pm.
Where: Melbourne Multicultural Hub, 506 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne (opposite the Queen Vic markets).
Cost: $2 gold coin donation includes afternoon tea.
Bookings essential: phone 9639 5209.

More information can be found at the website Hope to see you there!

Posted by Nicole in General 2 Comments

From the in-box….if you print off the flyer, you’ll get a free gift when you go in!

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, General 1 Comment

From the in-box: this Saturday…

What: Victorian Button Collectors Club presents Buttonfest 2011
When: Saturday October 15th (9am to 3.30pm)
Where: Burwood Heights Uniting Church, Cnr. Burwood Highway & Blackburn Road, Burwood East
Cost:$3 (under 12 free)

It’s time for Buttonfest, an annual exhibition and sales day presented by the Victorian Button Collectors Club. Buttonfest is a celebration of all things buttons, providing a unique opportunity to see, buy, collect and marvel at buttons and button paraphernalia from the 19th Century to the present day.

A highlight of Buttonfest will be the antique button displays, featuring a dazzling array of buttons and related items made from all manner of materials including precious metals, mother-of-pearl, enamel, tortoiseshell, bakelite, glass, organic materials and early plastics. Button collectors will be on hand to answer general queries and help further your knowledge.

For more information – Contact Trish Davis on Mobile: 0412 499 800 or trish302@msn.com

Posted by Nicole in General 3 Comments

As well as being ANZAC Day and Easter Monday, today is also my mother’s birthday. Denny was born on a rare occasion of ANZAC Day falling on Easter Sunday, a date that her family considered auspicious – unfortunately she didn’t live long enough to fulfill her promise, leaving us almost 25 years ago. I was in my final year of studying costume design and ill prepared to lose the most important person in my life.

She gave me a sense of appreciation for old things, an eye and an aesthetic. She taught me that beautiful things do not have to cost much money. She told me to be kind (I still struggle with that one).

Denny always wanted me to complete my education and follow my path and I hope that she would be pleased and proud of what I’m doing with my life – my first book is dedicated to her.

As well, Circa is dedicated to her and to all the other mothers and grandmothers out there, who gave us this wonderful heritage of hand-made clothing and textiles.

We have a responsibility to preserve and protect these precious artifacts, so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.

Mum and I, circa 1965 – photo courtesy Brian Jenkins.

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