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!