Thursday, 15 October 2015

Retro Queens in Sunday Life magazine

A few weeks ago, I was featured in Sunday Life magazine in a story about women who collect vintage clothing from different eras. In the interview, I got to talk about the origins of my vintage obsession, and some of my favourite pieces. Not everything made the article, so I thought I’d share all the photos here, and the stories too!

The photographer was the lovely Bonnie Savage, who is known in advertising and publishing circles for her beautiful food and portrait photography. Bonnie has such amazing attention to detail, it was a pleasure shooting with her, and getting the chance to bring out some of my favourite pieces I don't get to wear too often.

OUTFIT 1: Red mermaid burlesque dress with ostrich feather hem
Back in the burlesque days, I wore this onstage regularly, but for now it just lives in the cupboard. I bought it on ebay many years ago, and the seller had no idea about its history, except that it was from the 1950s. To make the dress even more mysterious, it has no labels, but appears to be a professionally made (and very sturdy) costume. It weighs a ton, and was definitely used in burlesque, because it opens all the way down the front, now with Velcro, but originally it probably had a zipper?

All along the front of the dress, there’s faint stitching lines where it must have been taken in, let out and taken back in again multiple times. Was it a costume that lived in a burlesque theatre to be worn by many different performers? I’ll never know. But if this dress could talk, I bet it would have some great stories.

OUTFIT 2: Green satin jacket by Monte-Sano & Pruzan
This was the outfit featured in the magazine. The jacket was a chance find on ebay, which I later discovered had an interesting history that goes all the way back to Dior. For more details, you can read the whole story in this post.

OUTFIT 3: White fringe top and capris
I bought this outfit from The Girl Can’t Help It, and it’s always so much fun to wear. When I bought it, the storeowner Sparkle told me it had some faint stains on one leg apparently caused by George Clooney. Interesting! It turns out the previous owner was a hostess at an upscale Hollywood restaurant, and George Clooney accidentally spilled balsamic vinegar on the pants when she walked past… Possibly distracted by the swaying fringe? I’d like to think so!

Here’s to hanging out at home in feathers and fringe! If you’d like to read the original article from Sunday Life, you can find it here.

All pics by Bonnie Savage.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

A package from Dita!

Anyone who follows Dita Von Teese on Instagram (which is basically everyone, right?) would know that Dita has started selling pieces from her vintage collection on Depop Market. As a fan of Dita and her enviable wardrobe, I've been following her listings for a while now, hoping to snare a piece straight from her jewellery box. 

Dita's fan base on Depop grows by the day, with over 500,000 followers and counting. That's a lot of competition, so well-priced or stage-worn pieces often disappear within minutes of being listed. 

However, after a few weeks of regular Depop checking, I spotted a piece that would suit one of my dresses perfectly... I was all over it like sparkle on rhinestones! About a week and a half later, this package turned up on my doorstep.

As I opened the box, the first thing I noticed was a delicate waft of perfume, which was no doubt one of Dita's signature fragrances. Inside, I found a small parcel carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and tissue paper... But not just any old tissue paper, the design is the "Toile de Jouy" print created for Dita by Christian Louboutin.

The tissue paper was bound with Dita's distinctive red seal.

Every piece of jewellery or clothing sold in Dita's store is also accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Dita herself.

And here it is! When I saw this pink rhinestone necklace, I knew it was meant to be. They perfectly match the pink rhinestones on this hot pink dress by Mr. Frank of New York. I can't wait to wear them both together!

If you'd like to snare a piece from Dita's collection for yourself, make sure you download the Depop Market app and follow "ditavonteese". You can browse the listings on a desktop computer, but purchases can only be made through the app.

Good luck, and happy shopping!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Ladies' high tea at Labassa Mansion

Today I headed out with my friend Paula-Jane of Powderpuff Boutique to a special high tea for the Miss Fisher's costume exhibition. Held at Labassa Mansion, it featured a special display of 1920s fashions from the National Trust's vintage clothing collection and a talk by the curator.

I'm not big on 1920s fashion, but I never shy away from a wardrobe challenge, so I put together an outfit around this Alannah Hill hat I’ve owned for at least five years and never worn. (I know! I know! This is an issue for many reasons.) I paired the outfit with a silk velvet 40s top, 80s wide pants and a Lucite purse.

Hat: Alannah Hill. Top: 1940s vintage. Bracelets: ebay
Top lightened to show detail
Lucite genie purse: ebay
Not exactly 1920s, but I'm going with it!
Labassa Mansion is huge, opulent and slightly run down, which makes it pleasany creepy, especially in the upstairs rooms. It's also rumoured to be haunted, but the only things that appeared to us today were delicious cakes and sandwiches. No complaints here!

Labassa mansion. Image via Flickr
Posing in the main room with its incredible fireplace. Paula-Jane's dress: Doll Deluxe
1920s fashions from the National Trust collection. All garments were owned by local women and donated to the Trust.
No ghost here. Only sneaky dining room selfies
Still life with tasty treats, red lipstick and lucite purse

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Satin, spots and Si Cranstoun

Last week, a group of us headed out to see Si Cranstoun at a huge hall about an hour's drive from Melbourne. I had no idea what to wear, but since it was more of a rock 'n' roll dance, I opted for a full skirt dress I've only worn once before. I bought it a few years ago on ebay, and I've never seen another one like it. 

At first glance, it looks like a gold dress with black polka dots, but when you look closely, the fabric is actually cream satin with gold flecks and flocked spots made up of tiny little velvet dots. My husband took great joy in pointing out that I'd "left all my buttons undone" but they're purely for decoration!

I imagine the dress must have been pretty expensive back in the day, as it has two labels. One for the designer, Campus Juniors, and one for the boutique where it was sold - Frank R. Jelleff of Washington D.C. Imagine how beautiful that store must have been!

I didn't take many photos at the gig itself, as it was very dark and very packed. Si Cranstoun's voice sounded great, and the crowd absolutely loved him, especially when he sang anything by Jackie Wilson! I also appreciated the decorations around the hall itself, which looked like something out of a Wes Anderson film.

Si Cranstoun and his band. Set design by Wes Anderson. 

Here's to Saturday nights filled with Jackie Wilson songs, and fancy dresses with two labels!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

For the love of Lilli Diamond

Photographer: Peter Coulson

As many readers would know, I recently tracked down the amazing Lilli Diamond and wrote a story about her in Frankie magazine! I had to keep quiet about the whole thing until the magazine came out, which was tough… It was the biggest secret I’ve ever had to keep.

Since the story came out, a lot of people have asked why I started collecting Lilli Diamond dresses in the first place. In short, it’s because of burlesque!

I performed with Hi Ball Burlesque for ten years, and while I never wore Lilli Diamonds on stage, I still needed a lot of dresses to wear to the fancy parties and events we attended. We truly believed that our performance began when walked into a venue, not just when we came out on stage. We wanted to uphold an image of vintage glamour at all times, even when we weren't in costume.

Wearing Lilli Diamond backstage, at events and as a bridesmaid.
Back when burlesque was really booming in Melbourne, we were performing all the time, so we needed cocktail dresses and plenty of them! Luckily it was also the early days of ebay, and they weren’t too hard to find. I would just bid on things that caught my eye, which was usually ruched chiffon, illusion lace or claw-set rhinestones. (Preferably all three at once.)

After a while, I noticed my favourite dresses were all Lilli Diamonds. And now, after learning the history of the label, it makes complete sense that the dresses were created by a man who loved women... We love you right back, Al Diamond!

So that's how I came to collect Lilli Diamond dresses, and it was also burlesque connections that led to the Lilli Diamond exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. It was only one day, but it was an important day, because it gave me the motivation I needed to track down the lady herself. 

At the NGV exhibition. Anna Go-Go wears a rare daytime Lilli Diamond!
A selection of Lilli Diamonds in front of the National Gallery's iconic water wall.
Lilli Diamonds everywhere!
To read more about my search for Lilli, you can pick up a copy of this month's Frankie magazine and check out the new site I created about Lilli and the history of the label. It's a story that's been waiting 60 years to be told.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Vintage western at the Starliners 25th anniversary

Last night was the special 25th anniversary show for Australian western swing band, The Starliners. This called for westernwear, and the ladies certainly delivered... Come to think of it, so did the men! 

I wore a 1940s J Bar J western shirt I bought recently on ebay. It was pretty dirty and had a couple of flaws, but I took a chance and got it cheap. Lucky for me, the dry cleaner did an amazing job of removing the stains, and the only flaw now is one of the front snaps is missing a back. I just pinned it to wear last night, which worked fine. I haven't always been so lucky, but more about that later. 
Shirt and gauchos: Ebay. Belt: Target. Earrings: Forbidden Charm

The venue was absolutely packed... Even the band were short on space, so they performed in a line! It was great to see so much love for such a talented band.  

Space-saving Starliners 
There's only one Hank Ferguson!
Another highlight for me was seeing all the ladies representing Forbidden Charm in their holster earrings. It always makes me so happy! The winner of Best Outfit Effort goes to Michelle from Mikala Design (far left) who rescued this pink western shirt from the brink of extinction.

I bought the shirt in question for myself a few years ago, and it was another grubby-but-cheap purchase. It had vinyl horse head appliques on the front and back, which were a little stiff, but presentable.

Anyway, the shirt was so dirty, I had no choice but to have it dry cleaned. The fabric came up fine, but the vinyl appliques completely cracked and fell off. It looked terrible. I didn't know what to do with it, so I gave it to Michelle because I knew if anyone could save it, she could. Michelle chain-stitched new horses onto the shirt by hand, and added claw-set rhinestones too. Now that's dedication!

Hats off to you, Michelle... And here's to rescuing vintage treasures!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

A quick tour around my wardrobe

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited take part in a new project from photographer Garth Oriander. Titled ‘What Makes Them Tick’ it’s a series of portraits and interviews with advertising creatives with unique interests outside the industry. 

Since the main things I collect are vintage western, Hawaiian and cocktail attire, we chose one example of each to feature in different locations around my home. Like most collections built up over a number of years, each piece also comes with a story which I thought I’d share here.

1. Connie western suit
I once had a boss who was um, a bit difficult. He was always calling meetings and then disappearing, so nobody ever knew what was going on. As a result, I spent a lot of time waiting at my desk with absolutely nothing to do. On one such day, I decided to take a sneaky look at ebay and found this suit by Connie of Denver. It had just been listed with a cheap buy it now, so I pounced on it without even reading the description properly. I am so lucky my boss chose that exact moment to disappear.

2. Pink ruched rhinestone cocktail dress
This dress didn’t really have an interesting story until I happened to wear it to see Marti Brom last year. I was just watching the show, minding my own business when suddenly Marti pointed to me and said, “You! You there in the pink dress! Come here!” And I was like, “Whaaaaat? Am I in trouble or something?” The venue was packed, and people were craning their necks to see what I’d done to make Marti take a break between songs. (I didn’t know either!) So it turns out Marti had spotted my dress and remembered she used to own one just like it, which she’d sold to Stutterinmama, who listed it on etsy, which is where I bought it. Yay, my dress is famous! And since hundreds of people were watching while we worked this out, it’s even more famous now.

3. Surfriders Sportswear rayon sarong dress
I bought this dress within hours of arriving in LA for the first time. It was just sitting there in the first store I went into! I ended up buying a few things from that store, so my first impression of LA was that vintage was cheap, amazing and everywhere. That was a long time ago, but that feeling has never quite left me. I’m still somehow convinced that rayon sarong dresses lurk around every corner in Los Angeles!

Here’s to outfits with a past, and sneaky ebay purchases! If you'd like to read the whole story, it's live now at What Makes Them Tick.

All images copyright Garth Oriander.

Monday, 2 March 2015

LA Vintage weekend 2015

This year, I was lucky enough to be in LA for the biggest weekend of vintage shopping ever! For the first time, LA Vintage Weekend brought together the Vintage Fashion Expo and Inspiration LA under one roof. And with the Rose Bowl market on the same weekend, there was more shopping than I could handle. And I can handle a lot.

The weekend kicked off with Inspiration on Friday afternoon. Now in its seventh year, Inspiration is growing from its mens’ workwear roots to welcome high-end vintage women’s wear as well. It’s still mostly denim, leather, beards and pomade, but hey, I never heard any ladies complain about that.

I went to Inspiration for the first time last year and had no idea what to expect. It’s part clothing fair, part expo, part festival. It’s like a huge party for well-dressed people who love looking at cool stuff. There’s also free drinks on Friday night!

The Sneaky Tiki booth had some amazing Hawaiians
Lewis Leather was looking expensive but impressive
Yes, free drinks!

Every vendor puts a lot of care and attention into their displays, there’s eye candy everywhere. It can actually be hard to shop because you’re too busy looking! The merchandise is generally the best of the best, and the prices reflect that, but there’s a few bargains here and there. A lot of fashion designers come to shop and be inspired... Apparently Ralph Lauren was there to make some purchases, but I didn't see him!

The PF Flyers stand was so beautifully curated. So much to look at!
Vintage knick-knacks everywhere
Hanging out with the ladies

The next day, we were back at the LA Mart for the Vintage Fashion Expo. Having spent all my money at Inspiration the day before, I didn’t buy anything, but the ladies and I had a lot of fun looking. It was also great to see Dita Von Teese, who was wearing a beautiful felt circle skirt by Juli Lynne Charlot.

I know everyone will want to see the weekend haul, so here it is… Two jackets, a rayon blouse and a Hopalong Cassidy sweater.

Want to see more fabulous people at Inspiration? Check out the image gallery on the Inspiration website. You won't be disappointed!