13
Aug
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, Architecture, Style icon 1 Comment

In my ideal world, I would live at the Dakota.

800px-The_Dakota_1890b Wikipedia
Archival image from Wikipedia, circa 1890.

Built in 1884, the seven story Victorian European style building graces New York’s upper West Side with bohemian glamour.

Originally there were 65 spacious apartments over seven floors, featuring between 4 and 20 rooms each. Above, under the rooftops were smaller rooms for servants. On the ground floor there was a large dining room where residents could either eat, or have meals sent up to their rooms via dumb waiters. Next door was a large stables (later garage) for the families who called it home.

From Wikipedia:
The general layout of the apartments is in the French style of the period, with all major rooms not only connected to each other, in enfilade, in the traditional way, but also accessible from a hall or corridor, an arrangement that allows a natural migration for guests from one room to another, especially on festive occasions, yet gives service staff discreet separate circulation patterns that offer service access to the main rooms. The principal rooms, such as parlors or the master bedroom, face the street, while the dining room, kitchen, and other auxiliary rooms are oriented toward the courtyard.

Many of the ceilings are 14 feet high (4.3m) and some of the drawing rooms were 49 feet long (15 m)!

My neighbours in the building are all creative people, including most famously John Lennon and Yoko Ono, but also Judy Garland, Boris Karloff, Lilian Gish, Rudolf Nureyev, Gilda Radna, Leonard Bernstein, Bono, Paul Simon, Rosemary Clooney and Lauren Bacall. Of course, everyone interesting who has ever lived there, would still be there regardless of time or events.

Lauren

Vale Lauren – a remarkable actress, one of the greats from the Golden Era of Hollywood. You will always be my favourite ’40s movie star.

Here’s a pic of Lauren in her Dakota apartment – photo from Vanity Fair. She’s just passed away, aged 89. She chose an excellent home.

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I first discovered the Dakota in the Polanski film “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968). The camera pans over Manhattan, Central Park and the Dakota rooftop during the opening credits and I always tune in for this wonderful view –


Click here to view if you’re reading this via email.

Here’s a shot of it covered in snow (from Wikipedia).

Dakota under snow - Wikipedia

The interiors for the film were shot in a studio but for me, this is what I expect the Dakota to look like inside – lots of dark wood and space. Hopefully a little more furniture but sacrifices must be made for a wonderful abode.

rosemarys-baby

Of course, hopefully not the sort of sacrifices that Rosemary and her husband make in the film, but I understand their devotion.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the enthusiasm real estate agents have for selling their properties, I can offer you some actual interior shots from an assortment of apartments – these all come from Curbed, which has a lot of information on the Dakota.

Over the years the original apartments have been split up and subdivided, and large rooms converted into multiple smaller ones – aided no doubt by all the entrances off hallways and interconnecting doors – and additional bathrooms were inserted but beneath the differing tastes in interior decoration and updated floor plans, you can see the bones of this incredible and unique building.

Let’s go inside….
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I once saw an enormous book with plans for the building, including layouts for all of the floors – they’re much changed of course, but it would be wonderful to see how it was and how it’s been altered over the years. If I ever find it again, I’ll have to buy it.

Here’s the original seventh floor:

Dakota plan 475

And here’s one of the modern day apartments: you can see how some of the large rooms have been turned into multiple smaller ones.

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When I went to New York, I was surprised at how small the building is, as it looms large in my imagination. It’s incredible though and you can’t fault the location opposite Central Park. I’m unlikely to be amongst the fortunate to call it home – even supposing that I could afford it, you also have to be approved by the board, but one day, perhaps, I’ll have a peek inside.

If you’re interested in the history of this building, I recommend the book “Life at the Dakota” by Stephen Birmingham, an excellent read. There are lots of great exterior photos at this site too.


26
Jun
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Film, Style icon 1 Comment

Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy – one of the greatest collaborations in the history of fashion.

I’ve been treating myself to some Audrey films lately: first Sabrina, and then Charade. She’s wonderful!

I was travelling on the Metro in Paris, when I noticed the headlines: “Audrey Hepburn est morte”, so for me Audrey and Paris will always go together: I’m sure she would approve. She loved Paris, and Paris loved her – both Sabrina and Charade feature scenes in Paris and it was here that she met the young Givenchy at his first, informal fashion show. Audrey was sixteen but she didn’t forget: “when the time came and she could choose, she thought, ‘That’s the guy.’”

Audrey was impossibly slim and chic, and yet, childlike and joyous. You got the feeling that she would be enormous fun, that she didn’t take herself too seriously and that for her, dressing well was about taste and quality – and then wearing couture like it was the most natural thing in the world!

She became Givenchy’s muse and wore his designs in her films – here are some snaps I found on Pinterest. I love her style, it’s simple and elegant and uniquely Audrey. Fussy clothes would swamp her delicate frame but these allow her to shine.

She said of Givenchy “His are the only clothes in which I feel myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality.” Something tells me that Audrey had copious personality, it was Givenchy’s fashions that offered the freedom to express it.

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24
Sep
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1960s, Calendar, Exhibitions, Style icon

Recently I watched a James Bond marathon with back to back movies, starting with the first one “Dr No” and it revealed a lot about the appeal of the British secret agent.

Unfortunately I gave up once we got to the ’80s films but I’d already decided that they worked best as futuristic style porn – a fantasy world of riches and talent. I particularly enjoyed the architecture, interiors and of course – the wonderful costumes.

James Bond parties are not unheard of, and if you’re going to one I recommend for the ladies to go for a sexy but classy look: glamourous and revealing but still elegant. Emphasise one part of your body and remember that a little mystery goes a long way.

Soon the Melbourne Museum is hosting an exhibition of 50 years of Bond Style – as well as costumes, I hope to see gadgets and plenty of them, plus set designs. Hopefully a car or two – preferably the one from “The Spy Who Loved Me” that was also a submarine.

What: Designing 007
When: 1st November 2013 to 23rd February 2014, 10pm to 5pm daily (closed Christmas Day)
Where: Melbourne Museum, Exhibition Gardens.
Cost: Adult $24, Child $14, Concession $16, MV Member $14
More information here. Bookings recommended.

My favourite Bond films were the ’60s ones which were just glorious escapist confections, where anything was possible and the kitsch was unbelievable.

Here are some snaps – thankfully the latest film, Skyfall has rescued the franchise for me. Daniel Craig makes a splendid Bond and I loved Judy Dench as M. I’m going to have to go back and see some more of their work now.

Daniela Bianchi
Daniela Bianchi in “From Russia With Love”

Dianna Rigg
Diana Rigg in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”

Honey Ryder
Ursula Andress in “Dr No”

Honor Blackman
Honor Blackman in “Goldfinger” managing to combine the appeal of Lauren Bacall and Jane Russell and give it a ’60s update.

You only live twice
Sean Connery and lovelies in “You Only Live Twice”.


14
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in Style icon

As you know, I’m looking forward to this Sunday’s Vintage Fashion Day at Labassa for the National Trust.

I’ll be joining Lady Divine Hats for what will no doubt be a great day. Lady Divine have kindly stepped in to replace the hat display that Paris Kyne was going to host, after Paris suffered a heart attack and suddenly passed away. A great shock as this talented and creative man was full of life and enthusiasm, health and energy. I saw Paris twice in his last days and still find it hard to believe that he is no longer with us.

Paris was a great supporter of the National Trust and the Costume Collection. We worked together for the past few years on the annual vintage clothing sales and the next one will be a sad occasion without him. During his short life he made a positive contribution to many people’s lives: as well as friends and family, those he dressed with his wonderful millinery creations and those he taught, as well as people like me who he collaborated with. We had talked about one day combining my vintage with his hats for an event, but it was not to be.

Here is a pic I took at his Spring Racing Carnival launch in 2011 at Madame Brussels – you can see immediately what a remarkable man he was. He is joined by one of his wonderful models.

Thank you Paris – it was a pleasure and privilege to work with you and through your teaching, your students will continue to practice your techniques and create beautiful works of art.

You always signed off your emails with “Expect to be amazed” and I love that positivity. You are loved and missed. Vale Paris.


2
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, Style icon


Photo courtesy Tim Hamilton.

This is me last night – having the time of my life!

I’ve given quite a few talks about the subjects I’m passionate about: fashion, social history, textiles – but the lovely people at ACMI invited me to talk about my first true love, my love of Marilyn Monroe and her costumes and it was a dream come true.

They provided a slide show of 16 costumes from “The Asphalt Jungle” in 1950 to the last costume MM wore in public – the glittering Jean Louis silk souffle confection she wore in 1962 to sing “Happy Birthday Mr President” to JFK at Madison Square Garden.

Oh what fun! My inner fifteen year old could not believe that after all the years of scouring libraries, ordering in books, waiting for that elusive film to be shown on TV – back in those terrible days when we were at the mercy of free-to-air TV and that was it – sketching my favourite gowns and boring friends silly talking about it – I would find myself in a place where I could share Marilyn’s stories and receive a happy, enthusiastic response!

Happy Day indeed.

So now that I’ve been encouraged, you’ll have to endure more Marilyn content I’m afraid – actually, if the response to the talk and previous posts is anything to go by, most of you won’t mind at all – so today I wanted to share with you some of my favourite MM pics, from what is known as Milton Greene’s “Black Sitting”.

You’ve seen what Bert Stern managed to achieve with three days with Marilyn, imagine what her co-producer and manager Milton Greene achieved in four years? Over that time there were fifty two photo shoots and this may be the best of all – I certainly love it, and it encapsulates what I consider to be essence of Marilyn.

You may recognise the image above – it was featured on the front cover of Norman Mailer’s “Imaginary memoir of Marilyn Monroe” called “Of Women and their Elegance”, a semi-fictional book that like many (all?) fails to capture the real Monroe, but it’s filled with glorious images of MM and other women by Milton Greene.

Worth it for the eye candy although the text made me a bit stabby. Men seem to have difficulty seeing the world through a woman’s eyes, especially when it’s a woman like Monroe on whom people liked to project their ideas. Excuse me if I now attempt to project some of my own ideas on her!

I consider Monroe to be primarily a model: she wanted to be loved, and understood that the eye of the camera was an effective medium to receive mass love. When she first started as a model, she would take home prints and spend hours minutely exploring what did – and didn’t – work in her pose and expression. It was a painstaking process that perfected her art – by the time she was cast in her first film she had a very good idea of how to communicate what she wanted, down that lens to the audience.

Photographers would speak of how strong the connection was, they frequently felt that they were literally being seduced and at any moment she would drop her clothes and magic would happen. That even in a room of photographers, each man would feel as if he alone, could have her.

It was an illusion of course: despite the many stories that paint Monroe as a loose woman, her goal was always to be “fabulous”. She wanted to be famous and loved and her hard work and ambition got her there. If she slept with anyone in the pursuit of her career, it was usually a love match as it was with Johnny Hyde, her first agent.

Much of what has been said and written about Monroe tells us more about the culture she was a part of, with it’s conflicting ideas of who a woman should be. We still have a lot of difficulty with female sexuality and allowing women the freedom to express themselves as men do.

Marilyn lived in a very constricted post WW2 world where women’s primary role was as consumer and home-keeper, replacing the stocks of humans and tending to their needs. She had to balance sexuality with an unthreatening demureness.

These photos show Marilyn at the height of her powers – taken in February 1956, there was a fifty foot billboard of her “Seven Year Itch” subway dress pose gracing Times Square and she had just thumbed her nose at Hollywood by relocating to New York where she was studying The Method at the Actors Studio, turning down more “dumb blonde roles” that she considered below her abilities.

She set up her own production company with Milton Greene and was soon to marry Arthur Miller. Her next film would be Bus Stop, her first serious acting role.

Marilyn Monroe was a movie star – she had worked hard and now she had a level of control over her career and her life.

These photos show a woman who is comfortable with herself and who she is – less of the ’50s cheesecake pin up movie star who yearned for approval, and more of the “eternal woman”. They’re relaxed, sexy, playful and natural – timeless. In many she’s not even recognisable as Monroe.

Milton Greene left us in 1989 and since then, his estate has done well out of the photos – like many photographers, the time he spent with Marilyn made his name, reputation and fortune. A large collection of photos has just been auctioned for $2 million but no images from the Black Sitting were included.

Thank you Marilyn and Milton for leaving this wonderful legacy behind.


5
Jul
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1960s, Style icon 6 Comments

Last week Bert Stern died – the photographer who liked to shoot models best, but received his greatest piece of luck during three days spent in a hotel room with an intoxicated Marilyn Monroe.

It was 1962 and Vogue magazine – who had spurned her for years, considering her to be too low class for their esteemed publication – hired him for a photo session that would change his life.

What would you do if you were Bert? Feed the movie star champagne of course – and keep shooting – 2,500 times.

Six weeks later she was dead and Bert was on the way to making his name and his fortune. He would go on to shoot many wonderful models and actors but never surpass the success of this session – a testament to his art and Monroe’s ability to seduce the camera.

You’ve no doubt seen images from the shoot – named “The Last Sitting” and eventually producing two books worth – one image graced the cover of the book I received for my 15th birthday – Marilyn by Norman Mailer.

This book has been reprinted many times but my copy is still at home, rather scruffy after many, many happy readings and almost fifty house moves. Thank you Jean! Such a wonderful birthday present, well worth scouring all the second hand bookshops in Perth to find it at last at Serendipity Books.

Or maybe you’ve seen the image gracing the cover of “American Dior” – now duly added to my required reading list.

I know this session so well and have seen images pop up on flyers for vintage sales, cafe openings and blogs across the world. Bert did very well out of them, even selling the images that Monroe herself crossed out with a red texta, indicating that they had been rejected and were to be binned.

Even the rejects look fabulous. I want one.

Monroe had been so generous with herself: she leans towards the camera with a mix of yearning, love, confidence and vulnerability – “I’m yours!” she cries and whispers – “you won’t hurt me, will you?” MM had been hurt and the next six weeks promised more betrayal but she was still hopeful, still professional (even at her drunkest) and still incredibly photogenic.

There are those who will tell you that Marilyn was a mess at this point in her life – she had been fired from her film “Something’s Got to Give” and spurned by her lover, President John F. Kennedy. He had passed her onto his little brother Robert, who was also seeking to extricate himself from her bed. She was allegedly mostly drunk or out of it on drugs – and in many of these images you can see that she’s had too much but still. Still. Fabulous.

There are those who will tell you that she was fat – the poster child for overweight beauty but these images show the truth: at 36 years old her face reveals lines, her body is wounded but she makes no attempt to hide her scars. Still fabulous.

Monroe was a woman who was comfortable in her own skin, indeed felt at her best when naked and it was an open secret in Hollywood that she preferred not to wear knickers, would never wear girdles and only wore bras to bed (to preserve the perkiness of her famous breasts). Her maid complained that she would greet visitors in the nude.

She shocked Clark Gable when she eschewed clothes for a scene in “The Misfits” where he kisses her in bed – and let slip the sheet so that his hand touched her breast. Her last (unfinished) film included a nude swimming scene – the first time a major star appeared nude in a film. Not surprisingly, she’s sans clothes in a large number of the Last Sitting images. Utterly fabulous.

Thank you Bert and thank you Marilyn – these images form a bridge between 1950s glamour and the realism of the 1960s. They reveal why Marilyn, in the 21st century continues to speak to us.


7
Dec
2012
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, Shop talk, Style icon 4 Comments

My vintage mannequin collection is one of the most important parts of what I do: whilst many shops make do with reproductions, the real deal have a soul and integrity that I find is lacking in their modern mass-produced cousins.

A few years ago I found this little early ’40s cutie at Leonard Joel’s and I knew she had to come home with me.

We’ve been putting her to good use recently, photographing hats for the webshop, but realised with astonishment that we’d neglected to name her! Cue a roll call of ’40s movie stars – Rita? Judy? Joan? Veronica? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Veronica Lake was known best for her peek-a-boo hairstyle, later borrowed by Jessica Rabbit, perhaps the sexiest fictional character ever – part Veronica Lake, part Rita Hayworth.

Veronica famously changed her trademark hairstyle after her wartime fans were risking their lives operating factory machinery with their locks falling in front of their faces. Ms Lake joined a campaign for womens safety: practicality first, glamour second!

You could cut glass on those cheek bones.

Here’s a safety film she made as part of her war effort – suddenly all those fabulous ’40s updos and snoods make sense.


(If you’re reading this on email, click on this link to see the video).

Meanwhile, back at Circa you can now see our Veronica modelling hats for your consideration – here’s my current favourite, from the ’30s with a sequinned calla lily motif.

She looks equally smashing in a 1950s straw with upturned brim.

Click on the images to see more about the hats.


24
Oct
2012
Posted by Nicole in Film, Style icon 2 Comments

In many ways I feel that fashion in the 20th century can be split into two portions: until the 1960s fashion was received from up above, the glamourous world of Haute Couture, when a lady needed to be grown up and over thirty to be elegant and then, from the ’60s when most style influence comes not from top designers but from streetwear: what young and creative people are wearing, what boundaries they’re pushing.

In turn that can inspire a great designer to introduce a new style, but they’re unlikely to be the originator, more someone who is sensing the mood and commercialising it. An example is Mary Quant with mini skirts. She might be credited with “inventing” them, but hems were already rising and would have continued to do so regardless.

I mentioned recently that we went and saw a talk on Leigh Bowery – a great example of style coming from ordinary people who are doing something different, who then inspired artists like Boy George and Alexander McQueen. Perhaps it’s only fitting that we went then saw a film on the Haute Couture and one of fashion’s great personalities.

Diana Vreeland lived an enviable life: as a child she watched Nijinsky leap across a Parisian stage in the Ballet Russes, married a man with matinee idol looks, had two beautiful children and counted some of the most fascinating people of the last century as friends. She had money, style, intelligence and culture – and lived in interesting places at interesting times. Most of all, she loved the fresh and exciting.

I’m not sure that a career in the fashion magazine industry was really what she would have chosen: she would have excelled at many things, this self-described “lazy” woman who worked tirelessly and exhausted those around her. It is to our benefit that she did though – transforming the industry with her ideas and energy.


Diana in the ’30s.

Her career started in 1937 writing a column for “Harper’s Bazaar” and soon she was fashion editor – a role that saw her directing some of the major fashion photographers of the day including Louise Dahl-Wolfe who said:

“Fashion editors are of great importance before the photographing begins. If they have an eye for color, style, form, taste and individuality, they can pull together a ready-made dress in no time at all. Very few of them have the outstanding creativity of Diana Vreeland.”

Photograph of Diana Vreeland and husband Reed Vreeland, by Irving Cantor 1930s

Photograph by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, 1942


Photograph by Louise Dahl-Wolfe 1953

Diana really hit her stride in 1962 when she became fashion editor at Vogue – and the ’60s had arrived. She recognised the spirit of rebellion and freedom having seen it as a young woman in the ’20s and relished the opportunity to stretch her imagination with fresh and wild fashion editorials that created the lush look we now recognise in “Mad Men” and other jetsetting adventures of the modern age.


Photo by Mark Shaw, mid 1960s.

“Going to meet her was like going to meet the Queen. She was over the top, and would go on about how she ‘adored’ me. I know I probably owe most of what happened in New York to her.” Twiggy, photographed by Richard Avedon in 1967.

Diana in the late ’60s, Photograph by: Jonathan Becker

“Red is the great clarifier – bright, cleansing, revealing. It makes all colors beautiful. I can’t imagine being bored with it – it would be like becoming tired of the person you love. I wanted this apartment to be a garden – but it had to be a garden in hell.”

Diana Vreeland in her living room, Photograph: Horst P. Horst, 1979

I loved this film: Diana makes for an enthralling subject, so full of life and wit. She was one of those people who gained momentum through her life, a whirlwind of enthusiasm and passion. We have so much to thank her for.

“Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel” opens soon in general release. All images and quote shameless borrowed from dianavreeland.com.

EDITED TO ADD: Here’s the Australian poster, with thanks to Michelle from Madman.


16
Oct
2012
Posted by Nicole in 1980s, Style icon 2 Comments

We had a wonderful Melbourne Festival night on Saturday – part one was “Life, Art and Leigh Bowery”, a talk presented by Richard Watts, Le Gateau Chocolat, Paul Capsis and Boy George.

I first met Leigh Bowery in early 1986, flipping through the pages of the latest Face magazine. I couldn’t help but notice – he was rather striking in his self-made costumes!

As a costume student, I loved that – and over the years he turned up from time to time with his amazing fashion designs, some of which are now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, and probably other places too.

I wish I had thought of him when I lived in the UK, in the early ’90s: it’s quite amazing to think you could go out to a club and see someone so fresh and unique as Leigh, a living artwork pushing boundaries and probably offending people. As someone wrote in Wikipedia “he was no wallflower”.

Unfortunately, he left us in ’94, an all too early death – depriving us of one of the boldest, most outrageous personalities of modern times.

Many people do not even realise that he was Melbourne born and raised, and studied fashion at RMIT for a year before finding his natural home amongst the London alternative and gay club scene.

It’s great to see him receiving recognition for his brave cultural contribution: certainly he’s influenced many from Boy George to Alexander McQueen.

We really need people like Leigh to go where the rest of us are too shy and well behaved to go.

What particularly impresses me, is that no matter how many images you see of him in action, the person beneath the make up and amazing costumes remains elusive.
Truly androgynous, he managed to erase all traces of gender. It’s even hard to see his facial features in many images.

Leigh Bowery’s confident and colourful persona represents some of the best parts of the 1980s, even whilst being confrontational and crass. I don’t like vulgarity but sometimes artistic integrity can trump it.


3
Aug
2012
Posted by Nicole in Style icon 4 Comments

Golly that was quick – our new salon is now open!

You can find us in the salubrious Art Deco surrounds of Mitchell House, first floor, 358 Lonsdale Street (on the corner of Elizabeth Street) Melbourne.

Proper photos will be forthcoming but in the meantime, here are our new retail hours:

Thursday 12noon to 6pm
Friday 12noon to 6pm
Saturday 9am to 12noon

Other times by appointment including webshop and bridal fittings! We’ll be ready to start taking appointments next week.

Here’s a flyer:

And here’s what we’re currently doing: gin, tonic and cupcakes to celebrate!

Hurrah! Please excuse the gratuitous exclamation marks – after eight years I feel like I’ve finally created the vintage shop of my dreams: come and visit! There may or may not be gin or cupcakes but there will certainly be fabulous vintage.


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