Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Exhibitions, lingerie

A new fashion exhibition from London’s Victoria and Albert museum has opened at the Bendigo Art Gallery. From the website:

The role of underwear in fashion is pivotal. The majestic shapes of 18th century court dress, the distorted hourglass shapes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and Dior’s cinched ‘New Look’ were all dependent upon elaborate corsetry, technologically complex petticoats, hoops, and padded underpinnings.

It is only since the 1960s that women have been expected to embody the fashionable ideal by way of diet and exercise and without the aid of foundation garments, so understanding underwear is fundamental to our appreciation of fashion history. It is also important for cultural and social historians, to whom it provides a symbol of changing social mores and attitudes to morality, sex, beauty and gender.

What: Undressed, fashion exhibition
When: 19 July – 26 October 2014, Open daily 10am – 5pm
Where: Bendigo Art Gallery 42 View Street, Bendigo, VIC 3550
Cost: see the site for ticketing options.
See more at: the Bendigo Art Gallery website.

Undressed Bendigo

Posted by Nicole in lingerie, Sale, Swimwear 4 Comments

Hi all,

I’ve extended the webshop sale until the end of this week, so it’s your last chance to grab some treasures at greatly reduced prices.

Also included now are all the Kiss Me Deadly swimwear and the Amelie lingerie set: reduced to clear, as this will be your last chance to purchase these styles through Circa. All are available for trying on at the salon.

You can see some of the styles here – click on the image to see our Kiss Me Deadly department. Limited sizes and stock available.

I’ll also be further reducing vintage clothing during the week – if there’s anything you’re interested in, you can also contact me and make an offer. I love vintage but am currently way over-stocked and so appreciate your help.

Posted by Nicole in 1930s, 1960s, lingerie, Vintage 101

This month we’ve been listing lots of new accessories to the webshop – and I’ve added a link to the blog and the webshop so you can see the new listings on Facebook – a downside of having over a thousand products available online, it’s hard to see what’s new.

Vintage hosiery is a topic close to my heart: like Dita it was lingerie that first summoned me into vintage and I bought my first seamed stockings and garter belt aged fourteen. I thought you might like a short history on the subject.

Hosiery goes way back in fashion history, all the way back to the Ancient World but the earliest examples in my collection are from the late Victorian era when ladies would wear cotton, silk or wool stockings under their copious skirts, secured with garters around their thighs.

Early ’20th century versions are also made of rayon or “artificial silk” as it was called at first. Early stockings were “fully fashioned”, or knitted in the shape of a foot and leg and sewn up the centre back creating a seam.

Silk stockings were the finest, most expensive and the sheerest – cotton and rayon were popular for ladies who needed hard-wearing hosiery, like maids. Suspender straps were first attached to some corsets during the Edwardian age (early 1900s) to hold them up but most still wore garters until the ’30s when suspender belts became an essential part of a lady’s wardrobe.

Ladies would darn their ripped stockings using matching threads, available in small packets. I’ve got a number of stockings from the ’20s and ’30s with hand-stitched mends – they were expensive and so looked after, unlike today when we tend to throw them out.

Silk stockings were replaced with nylon versions during WW2, but most of the nylon stockings you see are post 1947. During the 1950s seamless stockings were made on new knitting machines and so seamed and fully fashioned ones became rare.

“Denier” indicates the fineness of the weave: the lower the number, the finer the stocking. 8 is the lowest, 15 denier is the most common and opaques are between 30 and 80 or more.

By the early 1960s almost all stockings were seamless, and stronger types of nylon are introduced including “micromesh”. Up until this point, most hosiery is manufactured in various shades of skin colour, ie, tans and nudes. Blacks were much less popular, mostly worn by older ladies and widows.

With the explosion of colour in the ’60s, hosiery expands into different hues, textures, patterns and prints – and as skirts become higher, ladies felt exposed with their stockings and suspenders and started wearing pantyhose (first invented in ’59).

If you’re unsure if hosiery from the ’60s or ’70s are stockings or pantyhose, keep in mind that during this transitional period packets took care to alert the shopper to the latter, so if neither is identified, they’re probably stockings.

By the late 1970s, stockings had become a nostalgic fashion worn for pleasure rather than practicality as pantyhose have taken over the market, with only old ladies and the odd fourteen year old wearing stockings.

Unlike other types of garment, hosiery fashions change slowly and I’ve found many packets that have been updated as times change, but the product inside remains the same here – here are some examples, now available from the webshop. I love oddities like these.

Click on each image to see the listing – 1930s cotton lisle fully fashioned stockings by Jeanette, repackaged in a 1950s box.

Mid 1960s Kolotex Clings stockings: the cover design has been altered when shoe heel fashions changed (a layer has been added to the carpet to hide the now unfashionable stiletto heel and pointy toe).

Late 1960s Prestige stockings with loose cover added to box, with seasonal Christmas design.

Both of those ’60s packet designs were still being sold well into the ’80s so revisiting them shocks me a little, as you couldn’t get away with selling many other fashion items over such a long period of time. You can see more vintage hosiery here.

Posted by Nicole in Bridal, lingerie, Swimwear

I’m pleased to report that we’ve expanded our Kiss Me Deadly lingerie and swimwear range – KMD has just won Favourite British Designer in the UK Lingerie Awards 2012. Well done to Catherine and her team: very well deserved! We love your vintage inspired lingerie.

Please visit our new Kiss Me Deadly department – all styles are available either online or for fitting in the city salon, in a large range of sizes.

We’ve also replenished our supplies of number one best seller, the Vargas Dress – available now in almost every size – while they last.

Posted by Nicole in Designers, lingerie, Style icon, Vintage Style 3 Comments

Part two of my wonderful day with Christine McCabe – you can see part one here.

After our wonderful shopping and afternoon tea of a day, Christine and I headed off to see Dita von Teese’s fashion parade for her new line of lingerie at Target, “Von Follies” as part of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. We had prime seats: centre front row! So you can imagine how excited I was when Dita sashayed out in her scanties, and posed right in front of us and started to remove her peignoir….

She was teasing of course – she continued her sashay down to the very end of the very long catwalk where she took it off and then returned. Dita is a good customer of Circa, but this is the first time I’ve seen her perform (albeit very gently) and I can confirm that she owned the catwalk. I’ve seen a lot of models but every little move of Dita’s was confident, sexy and in control. She’s very small of course, and some of the models towered over her but when she was on stage, every one else melted into the background. A true professional.

There had been some debate about whether Dita would take to the catwalk herself, to promote her range. She would be there of course, but probably fully dressed and perhaps, talking about her collection. I was wrong – there was no talking, just a pumping vintage burlesque soundtrack (love!) and lots and lots of ladies of all varieties in their/Dita’s knickers. Fabulous!

First they came out one by one so we could fully appreciate their beautiful lingerie, complete with vintage accessories like sequinned boleros, beaded silk capelets, gloves, hats and even the odd whip. All with beautiful seamed stockings (Secrets and Lace?) and very high Louboutin black stilettos. Kudos to the make up and hairstylists too: I loved the modern take on vintage styling.

Speaking of high heels, as much as I love them, many of us find them hard to walk in and I’m a firm believer that to look good, we need to be comfortable. Not ugg-boot-and-track-suit comfortable of course, but you need to be able to concentrate on the job at hand without watching every step. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the shoes are just getting too high for the lovely models to do their job well – not only were some of the models looking anxious as they placed their feet in front of each other, one poor lady lost her shoe in front of me – there were some nice men of course who were happy to help but I’m sure she was flustered. Walking a long catwalk in your underwear in front of hundreds of people is nerve wracking enough without losing your shoes!

Despite there being lots of models (24 I heard), it was over all too quickly and Dita led the ladies back in, two by two like the most glamourous Noah’s Ark from your dreams.

As well as being in-store at Target, the range is also available online – although, it’s not as widely sized as I’d hoped. On the day I went in I failed to find a single bra to fit: perhaps they had already sold out? The range has been very popular.

I particularly liked the sheer knickers with ruching at the back, worn by many in the parade and love the black lace knickers in the goodie bag and wonder how they knew my size? Hmm.

The webshop is also intriguing, with these suspenders displayed as if they’re hipsters – ladies, they should sit higher, just below your waist. Dearie me – in any case, Dita’s range is beautiful and I hope she continues to release vintage lingerie styles for the modern wearer at budget-friendly prices.

Thank you to Tourism Victoria for my front row ticket: a dream come true! I didn’t want it to end. You can see a highlights clip of the parade here: warning, it’s self-starting.

Posted by Nicole in lingerie 9 Comments

Recently I received a request from one of my favourite fashion bloggers: Claire aka Harbourmaster: did we have any fan-laced corsets that she could look at? It took a little while, but eventually we found this one, hidden amongst my corset collection.

We’re currently setting up an online shop for Circa, and this had been photographed for listing, but alas, between me emailing Claire to invite her to see it, and that information being relayed to the shop, one of my glamourous assistants had already sold it – so the good news is that it’s found a good home and the bad news is that Claire could no longer view it. We have photos, however, and I have lots more corsets so when I find some more fan-laced ones, I shall let her know.

As you can tell from the images, this corset was made by Jenyns, an Australian company based in Brisbane that made corsets from 1891 to 1999. Most of the vintage corsets from the 20th century were designed primarily for back support, although reducing the size of the waist is a nice bonus. Usually they’re quite formidable, strong and practical: not really the sexy creations we tend to think of these days. I get a lot of requests at the shop for black vintage corsets but the fact is that most are white, peach or beige, designed to hide easily under every day clothing.

Most of them are larger sizes: the one above is actually a size 10 (28 inch waist), but a 12 or 14 would be able to reduce her waist several inches by wearing it. It’s made of a nice cotton jacquard and would be quite comfortable to wear because the fabric breathes and it was probably custom-made to fit a particular customer. Like many vintage corsets, it’s in excellent condition and looks as if it’s hardly been worn.

Looking at the back view, the four wide elastic straps don’t seem to connect to anything so it’s likely that there were buckles or something to attach them to, perhaps like the ones on the side. You can see how wide and long the boning is at the back too. Jenyns were unusual with their fan-lacing in that they were the only company to use fan-lacing over the stomach: usually it was around the back, where it is easier to hide under clothing.

Like many orthopaedic corsets, this one is an under-bust. The wearer would have worn a separate bra and perhaps a slip underneath. Corsets can be tricky to date: this style is reminiscent of the 1930s but they’re not as subject to fashion as much as other types of underwear. The mention of lycra on the label makes me think it’s fairly modern: no earlier than the 1970s (lycra was available overseas earlier but that’s when it started to appear in Australia).

More on Jenyns.
More on fan-laced corsets, especially Camp corset brand.

Posted by Nicole in lingerie, Where to buy vintage

Gayle (aka sewing machine girl) is a Brisbane costumier and fellow Vintage Fashion Guild member who trades on Etsy. She specialises in brand new vintage, complete with tags attached, and over the years I’ve gone to her for lingerie, as it’s hard to find in pristine condition.

She’s currently offering a nice 10% discount to Circa readers, off her already very reasonably priced vintage. All you have to do is mention Circa and the code words “Rose Seidler House” when you buy the item. Do not proceed to checkout as Gayle will send you an invoice with the discount!

Here are some cute things she has currently listed:




Shop at Sewing machine girl’s etsy store. Remember the code words and wait for the invoice before paying! This offer will run until midnight this Sunday, eastern Australian time.

Posted by Nicole in lingerie, New in store 3 Comments

A new product line has arrived – pure nylon black seamed stockings from UK company Kiss Me Deadly.

These are similar to original vintage stockings, and have little stretch – so are available in five sizes, three of which are currently in stock (sizes 1, 3 and 4).

Stocking-loving ladies, if you’d like to pop in and tell us what you think of them, it will encourage me to order more and (when they’re available) stock the full range of sizes.

The stockings go particularly well with the Van Doren suspender belt, available at Circa in black or white – and yes, that is an excuse for another lovely shot of Morgana, my favourite lingerie model, in her vintage peignoir (looks ’40s to me, very nice).

All photographs reproduced with the kind permission of Kiss Me Deadly.

Posted by Nicole in lingerie, New in store 2 Comments

We’re slowly expanding our Kiss Me Deadly range of beautiful vintage-inspired lingerie.

Just in – more of the gorgeous and popular black six strap garter belt. Six straps to hold your seams nice and straight – you’ll find them strong and comfortable and wonder how you ever got by without one. Available in small, medium, large and extra large for $68.

New to Circa we now have black Alouette waist cinchers in small, medium and large ($120) and a small number of Vargas Girdle dresses ($145). Catherine from KMD tells me that we’re currently the only retailer in Australia stocking these lines and you best be fast – the first girdle dress was snapped up before they were even ticketed. I’ll be ordering more, but the full range of sizes won’t be in until October.

Here are some lovely images courtesy Kiss Me Deadly.

Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, lingerie 4 Comments

The way we wear clothes has changed a lot in the last few decades, in particular with regards to underwear and accessories – the overall casualisation of clothing isn’t always a good thing, I think.

Vintage clothes were designed to look their best with vintage foundation garments – these days, you don’t have to strap yourself into corsetry, suspender belts or girdles unless you want to, but we can all benefit from the goodness that is a decent petticoat.

Our grandmothers understood it well: a nice petticoat will make your clothing fit and look better as well as add to your comfort. It also makes dressing more of an occasion – walking around whilst you get ready of a morning (or any time you change outfits) is easier and more glamourous whilst wearing the equivalent of a sexy, sultry slip of slightly sheer fabric that covers and enhances your assets. After all, has Liz Taylor ever looked better than she did in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or Butterfield 8?

Circa is currently closed so I can’t show you any of our beauties, instead here are some lovely examples from other vintage shops: far too nice to be limited to your boudoir, many will happily double as evening frocks, especially for the hot summer nights ahead.

Clicking on each image will take you to the full size version (and believe me, they look much better in full size) and there is a link below each that will take you to each shop for more information. All photos remain the property of their respective websites.

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