Posted by Nicole in Shop talk 3 Comments

It’s exciting times at Circa – on Tuesday I closed my retail shop. Lots of lovely people came in that day to wish me luck on the next stage of the journey but to be honest, I’m a little scared.

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I’m focusing on the positives: now I can create a vintage fashion webshop without limits. I love vintage, and have collected a lot of it over the years but a retail space is inherently limited: it needs a certain amount of space and it needs to be pretty. As much as I like pretty, I like practical too and now I can create a space that works for me and the new demands of Circa’s webshop.

Now all those lovely pieces I’ve been buying can come out to play, and be shared with the world – you would not believe how many pieces I’ve bought and packed into a box and sort of forgotten about! For starters, in my stockroom there is brand new ’60s Dior lingerie from a Sydney auction in 1996. It came out in 1998 when I inventoried it, 2004 when it moved to Circa’s Collingwood stockroom and again in 2012 when we relocated to Mitchell House but so far, no one else has seen it. Soon you shall!

It was always hard when you have a retail shop because there’s only so much stock you can fit in, and even though I love rotating stock and bringing new styles in all the time, it never moved fast enough for me. So now I can fit the salon out with shelving and set up a proper backdrop for my photo shoots and…just…go…for…it.

The sad part is that Circa is no longer a lovely space for everyone else to come and play in – today several people rang, asking to be let in but the truth is that already we’re dismantling the shop and today we were doing stocktakes. I like to hit the ground running, as there is much to do for the next stage. Momentum is my favourite word.

The goal is a simple one: I want Circa to offer you the largest range of vintage fashion from one shop in the world.

Pip from Meet Me at Mikes was also taking stock today – and she kindly supplied this list for us all. Here’s where I’m at…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Nicole in Shop talk 2 Comments

Hi all,

There are some exciting things happening in Circaland and I thought you might like to know about them too!

Firstly, I’ll be introducing a page to the webshop about the wonderful people who bring Circa’s vintage fashion to life – it makes such a difference to see fashion modelled by real people, and the people who help me have fascinating creative lives outside of me dressing them up.

Meet George, who is our first ever male model!


You’ll be seeing George in the menswear department, which will now be expanding with suits, jackets, trousers, accessories, all kinds of nice things for the chaps. I really like menswear and I love that now you can browse our selection from the comfort of your couch or desk.

We’re also expanding the webshop and blog with new designs and functionality, so soon you’ll be seeing a new look, with many more unique fashions listed. We’re already one of the largest specialty fashion e-tailers in the world with close to 2,000 products, and soon we will be even larger as the retail shop closes at the end of the month for browsing, to allow more space for the webshop. My specialist advisory services will still be available online and by appointment to help you choose the right outfit.

This will also give me additional flexibility to do more talks and research plus I’m applying to go to university to study history! A very long held dream, it will help me towards my ultimate goal which is to write about fashion history at a post graduate level.

Did you know that Circa’s primary model, Miss Becky Lou is a performer? She’s presenting her solo show “Shake” at the Butterfly Club next month: here’s a blurb:

‘Shake’ is the much anticipated debut solo show written by award winning Australian burlesque artist Becky Lou. Her sumptuous figure, joyous dancing and irreverent slapstick have delighted audiences from Geelong to New Orleans. Come for the shimmies, stay for the stories as being seen and not heard becomes a bit too hard for this striptease queen.”

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I can’t wait to see Becky Lou’s show, it received great reviews when she performed it in Adelaide recently – here’s a sample:

“I really enjoyed Shake. I had seen some Becky Lou’s work over the last couple of years in other shows and I think she has done an amazing job with her first solo show. Full of anecdotes about the “behind the scenes” life of a burlesque performer as well as stories of her childhood, Becky Lou’s casual and conversational tone really draws the audience in, and the intimate venue is perfect for this. Lots of laughs and of course lots of saucy striptease, the show also makes you think, and realise that those bump n grinders sure do have a lot to say!” Rosie R.

Becky has offered a discount price for Circa readers of $27 per ticket – just use the code “Circa” when you process an order through the Butterfly Club’s site: here’s the link. Offer expires next Friday, June 19th.

Hope to see you there!

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Sale, Shop talk

Hi all,

We’re bulging at the seams at Circa, so we’re going to have a little half price sale in the shop so you can pick up a bargain. Here are the details:

What: Half price sale. All ladieswear will be 50% off.
When: Thursdays and Fridays (10am-5.30pm) and Saturdays (11am to 3pm) March 26th to April 24th 2015
Where: Circa Vintage, First Floor, 358 Lonsdale St Melbourne

New stock will be put out each day, so pop back again.
Does not include menswear, jewellery, books or webshop.
No laybys or returns on sale stock and no appointments available during this time.

Thank you!

Sale April 2015 475
1920s quilted jacket.

Posted by Nicole in Shop talk

I’m in the fortunate position in that I’m offered a lot of stock – at least once a day, someone will ask me if I “buy from the public” – yes I do! Buying vintage is the best part of what I do and I love it!

For most of the last thirty years I’ve spent the bulk of my disposable income buying vintage fashion – originally it was just my wardrobe and then I’d find nice things that weren’t my size but perhaps I knew someone who might like them? Wherever I went, I would find and buy nice pieces of fashion or textiles.

The result is that I have an awful lot of stock: as a collector I used to have about 500 pieces. Then for my shop I bought another 10,000 in 2003-4. Since then I have an excuse to buy as much as I like but it’s much easier to buy than it is to sell – a collection of vintage might include hundreds or even thousands of pieces and it can take me many hours to individually clean and restore each piece and then find a home for it. I do my best but I only have limited resources of money, space, time and energy. Sometimes I can’t restore it so I donate it to the opp shop or if it’s in too poor condition, take it apart and use it to restore other pieces.

It’s a blessing and a curse: I want to save all the lovely things.

I’m always buying certain things, but as my collection is very large (currently about 15,000 pieces) I need to justify the purchase by demand and the price needs to reflect what I have to do to it to make it saleable: hand wash or dry clean, stain removal, fix damage and restore the fabric. Plus I have to add a margin to cover the costs of selling: rent, wages, tax, electricity etc. It would be nice if I could include a little in there for my work too. Then pieces can get dirty and damaged from being tried on – so there’s more work.

It’s a laborious process and I love what I do, but it’s hard work, especially compared to modern fashion where you can sell a piece many times over. Everything that I have is unique and special and deserving of respect.

Whilst I can’t always offer you money for your items, there is another option – you can donate your clean and good quality items to the annual National Trust vintage clothing sale, which raises funds to support their wonderful costume collection.

Contact Libby on 9819 4831 or Nance on 9889 1042 or Deborah on 0418 334 475 and they can arrange to pick up items.

Here are some sneak peeks that I took recently when I visited – the next sale is on 14-15 March and they’re accepting donations now. You can see more information here.

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1950s dress pattern

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1920s hand embroidered piano shawl

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Detail from a 1920s hand embroidered Chinoise coat

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Fabric from a 1940s cotton seersucker house dress

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Fabric from a 1930s tea dress

Posted by Nicole in Shop talk 1 Comment

It’s been quite a year here at Circa – the highlight was my second book “Style is Eternal”, which was released to a great response – it was simply wonderful on Christmas morning to think that many people would be unwrapping a copy of my book and enjoying it!

Here’s a quote from a reader:
“The book is beautifully illustrated with gorgeous colour images…it will guide you…it will inspire you! So if you love fashion, or just want to whip your wardrobe into shape, I can highly recommend this book…it will become your fashion bible!”
Thank you Sarah from Zinc Moon blog.

In particular, the book has been warmly received by those who cherish my first book “Love Vintage” which is great. I like to think that the two books are sitting next to each other on bookshelves around the country, as they are on mine.

Most importantly, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my vintage shop Circa over the last year: who bought an item online or came to see me at the shop because Circa is the foundation of all that I do.

Circa provides me a home away from home, filled with many of my favourite things and a lovely place to work. A desk to write and needles with which to sew. It funds the research and writing that I do, and allows me the freedom to offer specialised advice to all who come seeking it.

Without your support I wouldn’t be able to pursue my passion and share my knowledge.

I wish you all a wonderful 2015 and in the words of Mae West: “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!”

Happy new year Mae West 475

See you next year xxx

Circa is open throughout the festive season, only closed for public holidays. Here are some vintage New Year’s images that I’ve found that you might like – and I like the idea that all of these old images were once fresh and new, and looking forward to a new year that for us is now far in the past.

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 Media, Shop talk, Television 3 Comments

You may have noticed that the blog has been a bit quieter this year – now that I’m through most of the recovery, I’ll confess that I had an accident with my bike and a car in January and the worst part was breaking my arm. My dominant arm, which has made all manner of tasks tricky, not least of all typing.

Now that I’m back to speed (almost), I’m way behind with my writing – the book (code named Stella) is still on schedule but it’s meant a lot of juggling and cancellations and no additions to the dance card until it’s completed, which should be the next few months – and hopefully publication later this year. It’s also meant that Saturdays have gone “by appointment” but we’ll be open again as normal as soon as I can – and in the meantime, we can arrange a time.

There have been quite a few changes too – firstly, we expanded the salon and shrunk the workroom, which means there’s more room to play at Circa – here are some pics.

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This meant more room for dresses, and more room for menswear too. My wonderful assistant, Esther who has helped me for more than five years headed off to other roles – mostly costume designing. I’m pleased for her of course, but sad to see her go. Here’s Esther:


We’ve also got a new model – meet Becky Lou

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She’ll soon be appearing on the webshop – here are some sneak peeks.

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This one has already gone to a good home, a lady who loves mermaids, but I love the pic – gorgeous beaded top.

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This mint green chiffon cocktail frock is a size 10 and is currently available in the shop, and will soon be online.

In other news, thanks to your support Circa’s webshop was included in Lulu’s annual vintage shop awards – this year we won in not only the People’s Choice, but also in Lulu’s Personal Favourites– and she interviewed me too. Thanks Lulu! It’s a great honour to be listed amongst so many great international shops.

We were also featured on the Urban List’s best Melbourne Vintage shops – where they kindly called me “the premier vintage fashion expert in Melbourne”. Hurrah!

Tanya Ha also interviewed me for the current Green Lifestyle Magazine, talking about vintage fashion and I’m talking about investing in vintage fashion in an upcoming episode of Channel 10’s “The Living Room” with Jason Cunningham. Here’s a pic from the shoot, of me, Marlene in her ’50s showgirl outfit and Jase.

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Keep an eye out for the Living Room – I’ll post a screening date when it’s available.

Posted by Nicole in 1980s, Calendar, Sale, Shop talk

Thank you to everyone who came and visited Circa this week: not surprisingly, it’s been the busiest week we’ve had since moving from Fitzroy, and I’ve loved meeting you all, greeting old friends and sending out so many vintage pieces to happy new homes.

As a result, I’d like to continue the in-salon sale for another week of half price bargains. New stock is getting added every day. Come see us Tuesday to Friday, 12noon to 6pm or Saturday 11am to 3pm.

There will be final markdowns on the last day – Saturday – with tops and skirts from $10 and dresses from $20!

Plus – I’d like to extend the sale to the webshop. Everything on the webshop for the following week will be 20% off – everything including wedding gowns and rare antique items. The discount will be automatically calculated as you go through checkout. This also applies if you’d like to purchase any webshop items in the Melbourne salon.

It includes all new arrivals – see here for the latest vintage styles. More will be added during the week. Webshop sale closes 2pm next Saturday Feb 15th.

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Hope to see you either at Mitchell House or online! Shipping for web orders is a flat $15 per order, Express Post. This is refunded if you’d like to pick up from the salon.

Thank you for your all your support.

Posted by Nicole in Sale, Shop talk

Hi all,

I have some lovely pieces in next week’s half price sale – so here are some sneak peeks.

10th Sale 10
1940s dancing dress size 8, on sale for $95

10th Sale 1
1930s blue linen dress size 10, on sale for $72

10th Sale 2
Early 1960s evening dress with matching jacket size 16, on sale for $92

10th Sale 3
1930s floral silk georgette tea dress with collar and bow, size 10 on sale for $97

10th Sale 4
1950s silk taffeta party dress size 6, on sale for $92

10th Sale 5
1970s nightgown or petticoat, new old stock size 14, on sale for $32

10th Sale 6
1920s silk lace and satin wedding gown size 10, on sale for $245

10th Sale 7
All accessories and jewellery are also on sale – this 1950s handbag now $42

All menswear also half price including suits, braces, ties, waistcoats, trousers, shirts, cufflinks and hats. Hope to see you there – Circa Vintage, first floor Mitchell House, 358 Lonsdale Street (corner of Elizabeth Street) Melbourne – Open Tuesday to Friday, 12noon to 6pm and Saturday 11am to 3pm.

Everything half price Sale runs for the first week of February only.

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Shop talk 1 Comment

Golly, the last decade has gone fast – this weekend is ten years since Circa all began, with a vintage clothing stall in Chapel Street Bazaar.

Within a week I realised that I wanted something bigger, where I could help people choose the right frock for their needs and so a few months later my first proper shop opened in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. Since then there has been the addition of a webshop, and more recently, relocating into the city of Melbourne in the beautiful Art Deco building Mitchell House.

To celebrate this milestone, we’re going to hold a half price sale – everything in the city salon will be half price for the first week of February!

What: Circa Celebrates Ten Years – with a half price sale.
When: Tues-Friday 4th-7th Feb (12noon to 6pm) and Sat 8th Feb (11am to 3pm). NOW EXTENDED TO SAT 15th FEB!
Where: Circa Vintage, 1st floor, 358 Lonsdale St Melbourne – cnr Elizabeth St.

10th anniversary sale copy

The sale includes menswear, ladieswear, hats, bags, jewellery, scarves and other accessories. Items from the ’20s to brand new but in vintage style. Some items are from the webshop and some you’ve never seen before – most are below cost. Prices from $2.50. Highly unlikely to ever be repeated. Webshop is not included.

UPDATE: Half price sale continues in store for another week – finishing 3pm Saturday February 15th!

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