Here are some pics of some of the evening dresses we now have available in the salon – they’re all from the late ’40s to the late ’60s and sized between and 8 and a 12. We have other gowns too, of course, especially of other sizes.
Here are some pics of some of the evening dresses we now have available in the salon – they’re all from the late ’40s to the late ’60s and sized between and 8 and a 12. We have other gowns too, of course, especially of other sizes.
Hopefully you’ll come and visit Circa’s pop-up shop at Southland Westfield shopping centre during the month of May – and if you do, here’s a preview, or if you can’t make it, here’s what you’re missing out on.
Firstly – here’s the shop. You’ll find us on the Retail Bridge, next to the Style Lounge, Metalicus, Strand Bags, Mocha and the Coffee Emporium.
That’s an early shot, soon after we set up – you’ll be pleased to know that the mannequins (who bear a striking resemblance to Scarlet Johansson) now have wigs (although I rather like them bald headed as well).
Meet Becky and Hannah….my new glamourous assistants, who are here to help you choose your new vintage fashions and accessories.
You can pick up a copy of my book “Love Vintage” (they’re selling like hot cakes, I seriously think the print run will sell out at Southland so if you haven’t got your copy, come and see us soon).
Yesterday I met Suzi from “For the Love of Audrey” blog – she looks great in this fabulous ’60s French couture mod frock. Of course, I’d like her to come back and add it to her wardrobe because it’s a good, especially with her new hairstyle. Love the fringe, Suzi!
And here are some more shots of the shop and the beautiful fashions we’ve brought to show you!
Vintage jewellery – great for Mother’s Day presents this Sunday.
Hope to see you soon! Circa at Southland – for a limited time only.
How many swimsuits do I need? Probably not as many as I have – possibly the largest collection in Australia, so I’ve decided that I should share them with the world a bit more.
I’ll be keeping some extra special ones of course, but most of them will gradually be appearing in the shop and the webshop…here are some pics from an exhibition and my Wintersun vintage swimwear parade of styles that are either available now, or will be soon.
Dates vary from the ’20s to the ’70s, mens, ladies, one pieces and bikinis. Sizes vary from 6 to 14. Most will be go to the shop first, but there are already some on the webshop.
Photo credit to Jay Nel-McIntosh for the Wintersun shots (the ones with live models) and the mannequin shots are mine.
Further to my previous post about what sun damage can do to your vintage, today I’d like to enlighten you about iron mordant.
You’re probably thinking….iron mordant? What on earth is that? Well keep reading, and you won’t need to learn the hard way.
I love black floral fabrics – in 1983 I wore a mid ’40s black floral rayon dress and my mum told me that her mother had worn them when she was young. My grandmother died when I was a baby, and there’s not much I know about her, so her love for black florals became a way to connect with her, and I’ve loved them ever since. More recently, they’ve become an easy way to wean myself off my all-black Melbourne wardrobe and get back into colour again.
Over the years I’ve found a few that were suffering from a strange condition: first was the red/white/black floral I bought on ebay and was described as “excellent condition” but when I hand washed it, a whole lot of holes appeared along the shoulders….when I looked closely, it was clear that the holes corresponded with the parts of the print that were dyed black. It was like they had been expertly cut out, as the other colours were fine and intact.
I’ve had a few since then, and the effect baffled me: they couldn’t be worn, washed or sold because the holes weaken the fabric and also make it semi-sheer. I searched for information in books but I didn’t know what I was looking for and so it remained elusive.
Have a look at this dress….it’s a late ’30s black rayon floral with puffed sleeves.
On the surface it looks nice and strong, with beautiful vibrant colours. Here’s a close up of the fabric.
However when you look closely, especially around the bodice and the shoulders, you can see the black dye is eating away the fabric. See how some of the weft (left to right) threads are there, but the warp (up and down) threads have gone, leaving a blank space?
It almost looks nice, and part of the design until you consider that the fabric is being eaten and is now weaker for it. To get a better idea of how bad the damage is, I held it up against a light (the best way to find holes by the way).
Here’s the bodice, near the smocking and neckline.
What’s going on!?!
Thanks to a recent thread on the Vintage Fashion Guild’s forums, I discovered early fabrics were often dyed with mordants, and black especially used an iron mordant which we now know can deteriorate the fabric over the passage of many years. From the Victoria and Albert museum’s site:
Metal salts were used as a fixative (also called a mordant) and to chemically modify the colour of a natural dye. One such mordant was based on iron, which gave a rich dense black. Over time, the iron salts attack the fibres themselves, weakening them to such an extent that they eventually turn to dust…iron mordants are chemically bound to the textile fibres and cannot be removed.
So the damage will only get worse, especially if washed or exposed to the air or sun. What to do?
Firstly, be aware and check the fabric condition before you buy vintage clothing pre mid ’50s (when synthetic dyes became common). Holding a garment up to the light will easily reveal the truth, and this issue seems to affect the bodice and shoulders more than the rest – although I do have a late ’30s dressing robe that has it scattered throughout the skirt.
Secondly, if you do have something affected, or if you just love it so much that you’re prepared to live with it, know that you will need to strengthen the fabric if you want to wear it. The affected areas could be darned or patched, or you could sew the unaffected fabric together over the holes.
Another option could be to use an iron-on patch or vylene. I don’t usually recommend using adhesives like these as they reduce the value and authenticity, and have the potential to damage the fabric, but this is already a damaged fabric that has lost much of it’s value.
For this particular dress, as it only affects small areas I used a combination of darning and sewing together pieces to make it wearable. Prints are wonderful for hiding repairs. This is only a stop-gap though as the damage will continue and if you wish to keep wearing and washing it, more repairs will be needed.
I’ve been thinking of presenting a series of posts about some of the things to look out for when you collect vintage and antique garments. The irreparable or costly to repair issues: it could include topics like silk shattering, the clothes moth and other insect damage, dyes that eat fabric away, devil dust….and here I have a good example. Sun damage!
Vintage dyes are not as stable as modern ones that are based on petrochemicals. Many are from natural materials and fade or change colour over the years. If you like (as I do) ’40s crepe dinner dresses you may have noticed how the blue ones may turn purple in patches, or grey will turn to brown. It’s a natural process and seems to be speeded up by exposure to air or sun.
My vintage clothing collection started in 1980 with ’50s party, prom and cocktail dresses – by age 20 I had fifty of the beauties hanging from the picture rails in my bedroom. I shudder to remember it now that I know better, but think it was a good thing that I moved often and the collection grew quickly so none of them would have been very exposed to the sun whilst hanging up there – and I was living in art deco apartments too, which tend to be dark.
In modern times many of us hang our clothes on clothing rails too – which exposes one side to the sun, or rather exposes one sliver of one side to the sun. It’s a frequent issue, many older garments have sun damage but this one takes the cake.
Here’s a shot of the dress separately.
And a close up of the jacket.
It’s a stunning ensemble – or rather, was once. Silk chiffon, with hand beaded and sequinned appliques. Fully lined – 1930s. In generally pretty good condition except that an antique dealer put it up on the wall for a display – and a few years later, the colour had completely changed.
Such a pity!
Now, what can we do with such an issue?
Firstly, what won’t work: dyeing. Applying dye to a garment with fade will usually result in a dyed garment with uneven colour, because the dye will not cover the faded spots, it will colour everywhere to the same degree. A possible exception is when a black garment of natural fibres is dyed black, but in this case a professional treatment is recommended because it’s still hard to get a good result (I consider black to be the hardest of all colours to dye, to get a true black rather than a charcoal).
Another issue with dyeing is that not all the materials may be the same: eg, the silk and cotton thread will dye well, but the rayon lining less so. If there have been any repairs in modern times, a polyester thread may have been used which will not dye well either, so you’ll end up with a few different shades (a tip for telling when a garment has been dyed too).
When there are small areas of fade, you could cover them up by applying additional fabric, trims or appliques. Alternatively, you could also remove the affected areas if the fabric is full (eg, in a skirt) and there is surplus fabric.
Another option is to wear your vintage garment and it’s ombre shadowing effect with pride! Many flaws are less noticeable on a garment when it’s being worn, and especially for evening garments where the light is not likely to be strong. Many vintage and antique garments have issues of one sort or another and depending on how bad the damage is, it may not significantly diminish it’s unique and historical beauty.
People often ask me if it’s hard to part with my vintage clothes but I’m happy to see them go to new homes, as it means I can go and buy some more – and no matter how many thousands of dresses you see, you haven’t seen them all.
One of the things I like about the webshop is that after a dress has sold, I still have the photos and it’s nice to have a little piece to remember it by. Usually the garments that come into the Gertrude Street shop don’t get photographed, so I thought you might like to see a few of the new ones to come in during the last week. These are all available for new homes.
If you hover over each image, it will tell you the date of each, and the size – click on it to see the image in full. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
It’s been a busy week – it feels like a short week, although Circa was open the usual four days, I took the opportunity to have Monday and Tuesday off and spend them with Tim. Usually we only get Sundays, because I work Saturdays and he works Mondays, so Easter is a rare treat.
The big task of the week was to get some more hats into the shop and webshop – we started with about fifty or so, and went through cleaning and repairing them. Dates are from the late ’20s to the mid ’70s. Most were also crushed (hats really need proper storage) and so next up is steaming and reshaping them – using a vintage hat block of course! Here’s Esther sorting out the first batch:
I must say that they already look a great deal better than this, and when they’re done I’ll photograph a few for you to see – plus the labels! All the hats are bought locally so most have labels from Collins Street, Kew or Malvern milliners – my favourite is “Mister of Melbourne” with an illustration of a bejewelled black cat (and yes, I am biased because I have two beautiful black cats).
I now have a big bag of woollen hats in my van to freeze – they showed signs of moth activity and I don’t want to take the risk of moths in my shop so I freeze anything of concern. I really should post some time about moths, as they’re a major enemy of good quality vintage. They’re fussy though, so all you have to do is check the finest silks, wools, furs and feathers and if you have moths – that’s where they’ll be. Rayon is a distant favourite and they almost never eat synthetics, but cashmere appears to be their preferred meal.
You may recall my post about Mary Jane shoes and my search for the comfortable and good looking shoe – Melanie from Turnips and Toile recommended that I look at the shoes from Flamenco World and as a result ordered a custom pair of the Gallardo Yerbabuena model with a slimmer heel. Yesterday they arrived and they fit perfectly!
The two inch heel is high enough to look good with a frock but not so high that I hurt after wearing them whilst standing on my feet all day, and the tie accommodates my high arches. They’d also probably look good with trousers if I ever decided to renounce (or dilute) my frock-wearing ways. So I’m chuffed! Thanks Melanie
The same day I got the new NGV Gallery magazine and it’s official – I’m introducing a Gregory Peck film in June and presenting a short session on menswear of the ’50s-early ’60s. I get to talk about Don Draper – more on that later, but I can’t resist sharing the article. It’s free entry too!
The week was also peppered with glamourous ladies applying for the part time job. Whilst applications officially closed today, you’re welcome to send me an email (see details on that link) as the truth is that I’m about to go off-duty and so won’t go through them until early next week. Thank you to everyone who’s applied, it’s going to be hard choosing only one new Circa lady.
Lastly but not leastly, this afternoon I presented the first in a series of talks for the National Trust at Como House. This was on ’50s couture and was a lot of fun. It was also in the grandest location ever, the Como House ballroom, under a wonderful antique chandelier.
Here’s the rack of frocks and suits I brought along to illustrate the changes in fashion…it includes a US prom dress, an ’80s Prue Acton (to show how enduring the ’50s style is on other eras) and a selection of Australian fashions of the ’50s including two couture suits (one silk, one cashmere). Labels represented included Le Louvre, Hartnell of Melbourne, Kiva Creations, Pretty Girl, Elegance, Germaine Rochas and House of Youth.
The next one is in two weeks and promises to be even more fun – 1960s Melbourne fashions and will cover the early ’60s (think Mad Men) to Mod and Space Age and onto psychedelia and ethnically influenced bohemia. From long skirts to minis and back again.
Usually I’m working in the stockroom with Esther on Thursdays, repairing and restoring vintage as well as admin and webshop tasks – but now I’m in the shop every day, so rather than work there by myself, and Esther work in the stockroom by herself, I thought it would be nicer if we could still work together but now in the shop.
So today I set up enough sewing materials for Esther to join me at Circa – and the result is that we got lots done, whilst looking after customers at the same time. One of the items mended was this smashing leopard print rain coat from the 1960s – it’s pure cotton, and reversible, so if you get tired of the leopard you can turn it into a camel coloured coat instead. Here’s Esther – and the coat is now available in store:
As well, I picked up the latest Shop til you Drop magazine – which includes a guide to buying vintage online, complete with a shot of our Prue Acton silk frock, late ’70s (also available in store).
Most excitingly a package arrived in the mail with stickers from the Independent Publisher’s Awards – you may recall that I won a bronze medal for my book “Love Vintage”, and now at last I have the medal stickers to put on the book’s covers! It was really nice to be able to put them on at last…
If you’ve got a copy of “Love Vintage” and would like a sticker to put on your book, please email me at email@example.com with your postal address and I will post one out to you, so your book can have a nice shiny medal on on it too! I’ll be contacting the bookshops and vintage clothing shops that stock the book too, so that as many as possible can bear a replica of the medal.
Today was one of those days that make me very glad that I do what I do – it was filled with fun stuff and interesting people.
First up, I went to a wholesaler to pick up 28 long strands of “pearl” glass beads. I felt nice and special because these were sent from Sydney just for Circa – and I was so happy with them I posted a quick pic to Twitter:
Then I went to the stockroom to set up the day’s mending – Esther comes in on Thursdays and helps me with all the repairs and restoration. I wrote up my to-do list and planned the day, processing three wholesale book orders and checking the Vintage Fashion Guild forums.
At 11am Vic opened the shop so I went up to show her the new stock lines (armbands, self-tie bow ties, and a new rack of winter coats) and the new stock from the dry cleaner. I was in the shop for about an hour and then went back to pick up two vintage mannequins…they’re Gossard lingerie models from the early ’40s.
Aren’t they beautiful? Thank you Andrea, I’ll give them a very good home!
In fact, during WW2 Gossard stopped making lingerie to help with the war effort so my dating of about 1940-41 is probably pretty accurate. They have strangely flat bottoms, presumably so the girdles don’t have to work hard to shape their solid papier mache bums! The logo isn’t in the VFG label resource, so I’ll be submitting it for inclusion.
I took them straight to Mannequin Revolution and Phil was excited as I was! It’s so good to share interests, especially when they’re so niche. Actually I think he might be a little jealous, but he’ll do a great job of fixing them up. I can’t wait to have them in the shop, but it will be some time – he still has four of my vintage mannequins in various stages of work (if you’re interested in this at all, I’ll be posting in more detail soon, as I got some great photos from his workshop).
Later I did some more admin, some more errands and ended up back at the shop where Tanya Ha from ABC TV’s Catalyst wanted to try on a ’30s gown for the Logies – it looked great but you’ll have to wait for the Logies to see how fabulous she looks in it! Tanya’s passionate about the environment and the sustainability of fashion (amongst other things) so it was great to have a good chat. Can’t wait to see the red carpet photos now
At Circa, we’ve all been working hard to put lots of goodies up on the webshop for your perusal – there’s actually close to 800 different vintage items up there now, with about another 300 on the way: mostly ladieswear, vintage patterns, haberdashery, childrenswear and a bit of menswear. It’s quite a process – I’ll take you through it…the item is….
1 – Mended.
2 – Hand washed or dry cleaned.
3 – Checked for damage and mended again if needed.
4 – Measured and the particulars written up on a product sheet (if it’s a pattern we also check all the pieces are there)
5 – Photographed.
6 – The photo may be edited if needed, and is also renamed.
7 – The photos are loaded online.
8 – The content is added to the photos.
9 – More photos may be taken if details or damage have been overlooked.
11 – The item is published!
12 – If I really love it, I may post it to Facebook or Twitter too.
This process takes around 2 hours for each item and all four of us who work at Circa will handle it at some point as we all have different roles. Not surprisingly, there are currently lots of items that are at some point in the process so not all 1100 are published but quite a few are – if you’re looking for something and you can’t see it yet, stay tuned because every week more are being published.
Simply put, I’m aiming for the biggest vintage clothing webshop in Australia with an assorted of garments from the 1800s onwards. Circa’s collection currently numbers somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 items (which is why I’m not buying, I already have lots!).
Without further ado, here are some of my favourite things currently online – you can click through the photo to see the full listing if you’d like to give it a new home:
My favourite era is World War 2 – I just love how resourceful our grandmothers became when faced with very harsh realities. I love that when metal jewellery was not available because all the metal went to the war effort, these ladies sat down and made pretty things out of buttons and bread dough and plastic piping and all the bits and pieces they had available. These ornamentations have little monetary value but they speak so much of the spirit and the desire for glamour, how when times were tough they weren’t prepared to go without their trinkets.
This handbag is a little like that – maybe snakeskin wasn’t available, maybe it wasn’t affordable, so this bag (which is made by a local plastics company) has been painstakingly painted by hand to imitate the real skin – to me, that makes it a lot more valuable than something that was made out of an animal’s skin. It makes it truly unique, from a time when we weren’t as fortunate as we are today.
Six years ago I was in London. At the airport I bought a copy of Time Out and by the time we got to our hotel I knew what I was doing the next day – going to the Battersea Vintage Fashion Fair! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven – it was the first time I’d gone to a big, proper vintage fair and it was everything I had hoped for. I think I spent over a thousand pounds that day, mostly on shoes and corsets (the two things hardest to find in Australia). Here’s a pic I took at the time:
and some of the shoes I bought….Inger, you might recognise the gold and black pair!
It was such a wonderful day – I also bought a late ’30s purple silk velvet dress for myself, that I wore until it fell to bits (sob) and a sheer black ’30s silk dress that went to one of my favourite customers.
My biggest purchase of the day was a lush velvet ’20s coat with a massive white rabbit collar – you can see Fay wearing it in the icon for Circa’s twitter account. It was amazing – and very expensive, but so special I posted the contents of my hand luggage back to Australia so that I could pack it (the rest of my purchases were posted too). I had to take it with me on the plane because of the fur collar, I’d heard you couldn’t bring fur into the country but when I declared it at customs it was fine. I sold it to a lady who really loved coats and had an amazing collection, but part of me wonders if I’ll ever see another so fabulous?
I also bought this corset – the lady who sold it to me told me it was Edwardian and for a long time I thought so too: it’s an old fashioned style, quite ornate with beautiful metal clips to the suspenders. It has a row of 1920s lace around the top, and as it’s so old I left it there where normally I would remove it but when researching it for the webshop I read about Gossard in the Vintage Fashion Guild’s label resource and discovered that they only started making front laced corsets in 1926 so it can’t be any earlier. Aren’t facts wonderful?
Those who know me well, know that I used to draw the line at 1965 – when hems went above the knees and ladies threw their hats, gloves and stockings away. Fashion all went to hell in a handbasket and it was all down hill from there, so downhill that in the modern era it’s acceptable to wear gym gear and thongs pretty much anywhere, even the Races. This is the dress that changed it for me.
I buy all my stock locally – mostly it comes to me: through Circa’s front door or through my networks. There’s a lady who wholesales to my shop and others: she knows what we like and she’ll tailor the selections accordingly. One day she didn’t have any ’50s frocks but I was curious: what was in the bag? She had some ’70s things “but you won’t be interested in them”.
There were two little frocks from Katies, one blue and this one, green. They may have been made in the early ’70s but they had classic ’40s styling – simple and well cut, comfortable with day-time elegance. In these dresses you would be both cool and look good! I love the contrast polka dot fabric on the collar with matching belt and the same colours in the striped fabric on the pocket and the shoulders. It’s a very wearable dress you could almost wear anywhere and yet you can chuck it in the washing machine. I’ve since discovered that mainstream label Katies made some really cute vintage-inspired designs in the ’70s.
We put both in the front window (they made such a cute pair) and the blue one sold in minutes. The green one somehow survived not being bought at Circa and now it’s available in the webshop.
My true love sent to me….a stripey cotton 1960s dress like ice cream, with two rows of front buttons, pockets and a matching sash. Size 14, it will suit smaller sizes too due to the wrap style (buttons could be easily moved if desired).
This dress is half price for one day, a bargain at $72. Tomorrow it will go back to it’s usual price and there will be a new dress marked down to half price.
Click on the photo for more information, and to buy.
Please note that orders placed at the Webshop (including half price frocks of the day) will be posted next Wednesday, December 29th, as I’m off to Perth for Christmas.
My true love sent to me….a bright yellow gown from the 1930s, with ruffles and puffed sleeves and a full skirt – in a size 8. Kind of reminiscent of a milking maid perhaps….?
Normally for sale at $245, now available for only $122 – click on the photo for more details, and to buy. This frock is half price for one day only and tomorrow there will be a new frock.