Posted by Nicole in Calendar, Exhibitions 1 Comment

The NGV has an interesting exhibition coming up next month – a subject close to my heart, investigating historical fashion through the clues they contain. From their website:

Fashion Detective takes a selection of miscellaneous garments and accessories as the starting point for a series of investigations. Using material evidence and commissioned fictions as alternate interpretative strategies, the exhibition is an encounter with the art of detection.

From fakes and forgeries to poisonous dyes, concealed clues and mysterious marks to missing persons, Fashion Detective offers a number of cases for close examination. Each suggests a specific path of analysis that encourages us to think differently about what we see and what we know.

Scrutinising fragments of information, Fashion Detective also puts some of Australia’s best crime writers on the case. Speculating on the evidence at hand, a series of new short fictions based around the works on display will introduce plots, characters and narrative to the exhibition in order to reveal fashion’s countless contexts.

Featuring approximately 60 garments and accessories Fashion Detective juxtaposes the testimony of curators, conservators and writers, and acknowledges the interdependence of story and object as well as the public fascination with the social life of clothes.

What: Fashion Detective exhibition
When: 9th May to 31st August. 10am to 5pm every day – closed Tuesdays.
Where: Where: National Gallery of Victoria, St Kilda Road Melbourne.
Cost: free
More information See the official site.

Fashion Detective NGV 475


I’m fascinated by sub-cultures: the ways that a group of people bond, and how they present themselves to the world.

The first sub-culture I became aware of was in 1976. Chocolate brown skivvies were all the rage but the shop wasn’t well lit and mum brought me home a black version. Everyone knew you couldn’t wear black: only Rockers wore black and I was sure to get beaten up for crossing the code.

In my sheltered Perth world there were only two sub-cultures: Mods and Rockers. They hated each other and the rest of us tried to keep out of the way of the carnage that resulted when they met. Think Quadrophenia. I didn’t know any Rockers of course, and never did so I can’t be sure it was true.

In 1979 I moved to Scarborough High School, close to Scarborough Beach where the legendary Snake Pit was home to Bodgies and Widgies. Or rather, it had been in the ’50s. In the ’70s it was all about Surfs and the Snake Pit was a smelly old cafe with pinball machines in the dark backroom. Soon it would be gone, demolished as the strip became upmarket and the beach ruined by a Gold Coast style tower.

I’ve never met a Bodgie or a Widgie but Surfs were so commonplace in Scarborough, I hesitate to call them a sub-culture but Puberty Blues (the original book) was the story of my early teens. Tradition dictated you’d lose your virginity in the back of a panel van in a beach car park. I was very unhappy: it wasn’t my scene. I couldn’t even manage a decent tan despite the daily beach visits. I read that book until the pages all fell out and then I sticky taped them back in.

The Sharpies passed me by – I thought they were a Melbourne only group until Catherine Deveny put up this clip from a Daddy Cool gig in ’75:

If you’re reading this via email, click here to see the clip.

What a dance! I love that this group had their own unique style. Australia generally follows the Northern hemisphere in most things but here was something uniquely our own. It’s an easy to learn dance with plenty of scope for different tempos or levels of enthusiasm. It can be both flirtatious for women and aggressive for men. It’s also rather comical. If you want to see more, just ask youtube for “Sharpie dancing”. There are some great examples.

The Sharpies started off in the ’60s, influenced by English Mods and created by post-War migrants who would bring out European fashions when they arrived in Australia. They had a taste for Italian style, especially in tailoring and knitwear, hence their name: Sharpie came from “sharp” dressers.

Subbaculture from Top Fellas
Sharpies 1972 – from “Top Fellas” by Tadqh Taylor. Very Mod.

As fashions changed through the ’60s, so did they, and by the time they reach the era of their fame, the ’70s, there was a uniform: fine knit jumpers and cardigans with stripes plus high waisted tight jeans or pinstripe trousers. Sometimes very wide legged and long, covering their clomping big boots or shoes: platforms or clogs.

Sharpie shoes

Sharpie fashion. Photo source: “Skins n Sharps”

The girls (known as “Brushes”) wore jeans, denim mini skirts or pinafores with the highest chunky shoes they could: often with cork bases. Or “treads”, shoes with a sole made of old tyres.

The distinctive fashion item was the striped knitwear called the “Connie”, originally the “Conti” as they were made by Thornbury tailor Mr Conti. Here you could either choose one from the shelf or custom made to the colours and stripes of your choice. They didn’t come cheap – almost a week’s wages for a teenager – but they were very prized.

Punk Journey Sharpie clothing - Peter BRookes cropped

Photo source: Facebook

At Circa, I’m often asked for Connies but sadly, I’ve never seen one to buy. They seem to be kept (hopefully well protected) by their original owners, who still value them. Either that, or perhaps they were worn to shreds, or shrank a little too much in a too hot wash. If I do find one, it will go into the private collection for use in talks etc – the Sharpies are becoming an affectionate part of Australian social history.

The Sharpie style is very similar to the current fashions of the time, incorporating elements of Glam Rock and roller skating culture, but with a harder edge. The ’70s was a very body conscious decade, and they wore the clothes small and tight. The Connies were worn especially small and tight, resembling midriff tops at times, with three quarter length sleeves. The hairstyles were reminiscent of Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust, although when others grew their hair long the Sharpies kept it short.

Music was important to the Sharpies and back then when you couldn’t get band t-shirts, they’d get their favourite artist’s name made up in flocked velvet letters on a t-shirt. Bowie and Slade were favourites (soon to become B wie and Sl de when the letters peeled off in the wash). They loved Aussie rock with Lobby Lloyd and Billy Thorpe amongst their favourites.

The t-shirts also declared the name of their gang based on their suburb or even their street. They congregated in large groups, often at gigs or train stations and were very violent, often scrapping with rival gangs. Apparently even the police were scared of them.

Perfect Sound Forever
Photo source: “Skins n Sharps” Love the lumber jacket in the front: for when the Connie wasn’t warm enough.

Sharpies have been compared a lot with skinheads and there seems to have been a certain degree of overlap – the best site for Sharpie information is “Skins n Sharps” but for me, there was always a difference. Although I didn’t know any Sharpies, many of my friends dressed similarly and some of the girls even danced in that idiosyncratic way – I’ve never seen a man dance like that though. A pity.

Sharpies seemed to vanish in about ’79 just when punks, mods and skinheads were taking over – those were the groups I knew. The skins were very violent and we all knew to keep away from them in groups. I was once chased through the dark streets of North Perth by a skinhead with a knife after I looked at him the “wrong” way in 1984.

So if you do see any Connies, treat them tenderly and stash them away: you’re looking at a piece of Australian sub-culture history. Here’s some Connie style in this House of Merivale striped jumper:

Striped woolen jumper by the House of Merivale, mid ’70s.

Original Connie short sleeved cardigan
Sharps n Skins 1

Photo source: “Skins n Sharps”

The same colours have been used used in this House of Merivale jumper. I love how the stripes only go around the front.


Striped woolen jumper by the House of Merivale, mid ’70s.


Coming up soon is the first Strictly Vintage market for the year.

It’s a simple formula – the best vintage in Melbourne, at the best prices. We keep the costs down for the traders which means better prices for the buyers. All in the fabulous Northcote Town Hall, with a tram out the front and a train down the hill. It’s a winning formula and a great day out.

Organised by Take 2 Markets and Circa Vintage. I’ll be bringing a selection of frocks that will all be $50 each, including some great cotton prints and the lovely frock below – plus handbags, hats, shoes and other accessories priced to sell.

What: Strictly Vintage market
When: Sunday 23rd March 10am to 3pm.
Where: Northcote Town Hall, top of Ruckers Hill, High St, Northcote. Tram out the front, Merri and Westgarth train stations near by.
Cost: $5

Yellow 40s

Strictly Vintage is for vintage fashion & accessories from 1920s to 1980s. NO contemporary fashion. Hope to see you there!

Posted by Nicole in Calendar, events

Hi all,

Very late notice here: apologies for not letting you know sooner, but I’m taking part in an event tomorrow night (tonight if you’re receiving this by email) as part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.

From the site:

Take2 Markets presents Blogger’s Banquet where Melbourne’s leading fashion bloggers will step away from their laptops to meet their readership.

Fans can meet their favourite bloggers, ask questions, take photos and indulge at the pop-up shop with fashion for sale direct from blogger’s wardrobes. Come along and get to know the person behind the blog!

I won’t be selling fashion – you can come to Circa to see the full range – but I will be offering free appraisals and advice on your vintage items. You can bring something from home, or something from another stall or better yet, wear it along on the night and I will be at your service to give you the benefit of my expertise!

Plus, I’ll have discount vouchers so you can pick up a special piece later from Circa’s city salon or webshop.

What: Blogger’s Banquet.
When: Wednesday 5th March, 6pm to 10pm.
Where: Northcote Town Hall, 189 High Street, Northcote.
Cost:$5 entry.
More information: see the site.

Hope to see you there!

Banquet poster


It’s on again this year – and it’s bigger and better: from the in-box.

Over this early autumn weekend, Como’s ground floor will be transformed a boutique retro outfitter, laden with 20th century outfits and accessories to add to your vintage wardrobe! With an eclectic range of donated designer garments, haberdashery, accessories, millinery and men’s wear, the Vintage Clothing Sale has something for every taste and style.

This year our volunteer organisers have be inundated with donations, including a very special assortment of haberdashery for all the crafters, makers and collectors. Organised entirely by volunteers the proceeds of the sale will go towards the conservation and display of garments in the Trust’s extensive costume collection.

As with previous years, I’ll be appraising and pricing all the stock and they’ll be priced to sell.

What: National Trust annual vintage, designer clothing and haberdashery sale
When: Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th March, 10am to 4pm.
Where: The Ballroom at Como House, Lechlade Avenue, South Yarra.
Cost: gold coin entry. Be early to snaffle the best bargains!
More information at the National Trust Como House site.

Here’s a pic of some hats at last year’s sale – rumour has it that there are a lot of great hats this year too.

National Trust Sale 1


If you haven’t yet seen the fabulous NGV exhibition on Deco fashion and Edward Steichen photographs, allow me to offer you an additional enticement – I’m presenting a talk on Deco fashion at the NGV:

Join us for an afternoon in the exhibition as we take a closer look at fashionable aspects of the ’20s and ’30s, including hats, shoes and jewellery. Hosted by Paola di Trocchio, exhibition co-curator and Assistant Curator, International Fashion & Textiles.

Speakers include Theo Hasset, bespoke shoemaker; Richard Nylon, Milliner; Nicole Jenkins, fashion historian, retailer & author; Anne Schofield, jewellery specialist and collector.

What: Art Deco Fashion Afternoon: Vintage Glamour
When: Saturday 22nd Feb (2pm – 4pm)
Where: National Gallery of Victoria, St Kilda Road Melbourne.
Cost: free, but entry costs apply to the exhibition and you’ll need a ticket to get in.

Here is a pic I took of some glorious ’20s coats: more Deco fashion loveliness can be found here. Hope to see you there.

Coats 475
Photo copyright Nicole Jenkins


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.

sale 475

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.


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.


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!


Lovely people,

Thank you to everyone for your support this year – readers and customers, vintage lovers all. It’s been an action packed year and as it draws to a close I’ll be listing my 2,000th item of unique vintage or antique fashion to the webshop.

Next year promises much joy: my first book “Love Vintage” is now sold out, and so out of print – but you can still borrow copies from libraries around Australia (much to my great delight).

The good news is that I’m currently working on a second book, more on fashion but with a basis in vintage. For this reason I’m going to have to take a little time off from Circa and so the vintage salon will be closed from Christmas until the 21st of January to give me a big head start. As an extra treat, I’ll also be illustrating it!

The webshop remains open of course, and orders will be shipped on Thursdays via Express Post.

I wish you and your family all the best and look forward to seeing you in the new year.

all the best,
Nicole xxx

Vintage Xmas 475
Image Source

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