Posted by Nicole in Book, New in store 2 Comments

My new book is out at bookshops on December 1st but I’ve received a small number of advance copies – very exciting! Here are some peeks inside – first, the cover that we all know and love, with a quote from Alannah Hill.

Style is Eternal cover

Here’s the contents – I love how they look like a label sewn into a frock. Please excuse the shadow from my iphone pics.
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There are lots of modern and vintage fashion photos – these are in the glove section, where I talk about the different lengths and types of gloves and how to wear them. Gloves = instant glamour.
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Plus new pics of burlesque bombshell Frankie Valentine in an assortment of styles, photographed by Dominic Deacon – here’s my favourite.
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Plus lots more vintage pics – ’30s rollerskaters! I suspect the tight fitting shorts are made of real rubber and shiny rayon satin, in those pre-Lycra days. Super cute, comfortable and practical too.
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Some of my favourite style icons are there too: love Amy and Gwen x
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There are sections to help you identify different styles of garments, with charming archival illustrations from fashion catalogues:
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We also photographed some beautiful pieces which were generously donated to my private collection, like this late ’30s silk georgette dinner dress with cut steel beads.
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How to overhaul your wardrobe and tips on putting together the perfect travelling wardrobe!
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and in a very personal touch, some original sketches of my own.
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You can pick up an early copy from Circa – only $45 and signed of course! If you’d like a personal message, please let me know. It will be out in bookshops on December 1st. Also – I’m doing some book events!

Sydneysiders can see me talk about the new book at Berkelouw Books in Paddington (very excited, this is one of my all time favourite bookshops and my old stomping grounds from when I lived at Five Ways) on Tuesday, December 2nd. Bookings essential.

Brisbaners can see me at Avid Books on Tuesday, December 9th. This means I can catch the Japanese fashion exhibition too. Please don’t forget to book.

Melbourners can see me at the Strictly Vintage market on November 30th, where I’m presenting a talk on ’30s fashions and signing books. I’ll talk about “Style is Eternal” too and help with your fashion dilemmas.

As an extra treat, many of the pieces featured in the new book are also available from the webshop so you can have your favourite frock with a bit of added history. See here.

Hope to see you at an event soon!

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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 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, New in store

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.

Posted by Nicole in Circa event, New in store 3 Comments

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.

Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, New in store, Swimwear 1 Comment

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.

Posted by Nicole in 1930s, How to, New in store, Vintage 101 5 Comments

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.

Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, How to, New in store, Vintage 101 5 Comments

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.

This particular ensemble is now available from the webshop.

Posted by Nicole in New in store, Shop talk 8 Comments

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!

Posted by Nicole in 1950s, Circa event, How to, New in store, Shop talk 4 Comments

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.

Posted by Nicole in 1970s, Book, New in store, Shop talk 6 Comments

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 enquiries@circavintageclothing.com.au 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.

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