Tuesday, 21 December 2010


I just bought this wonderful fabric from Vintage Fabric Addict in NSW. They have a great selection of vintage fabrics, and postage is free within Australia. Plus, they ship so quickly! I ordered this last Tuesday, and it arrived on Thursday! I think I'm going to make a half-circle skirt out of it, with a centre back seam, so the pattern will be as intact as possible.

Here are some other pretty vintage things with a feather motif...

Love Letters quill sweater guard - $18 from Bombshell Bettie's on Etsy

Peacock feather stockings - $18 from Tattoo Socks on Etsy

6 yards of ostrich feather upholstery brocade - $150 from Vintia on Etsy

late 40's/early 50's Vera feather printed scarf - $35 from Caroline's Curio on Etsy

vintage Volupte powder compact - $20 from Vintage New Hope on Etsy

Silk dupioni purse with embroidered peacock feather - $75 from Paulownia on Etsy

Thursday, 16 December 2010


I was going through old Life magazines online, when I came across this article about a 1948 film called Mr Peabody and the Mermaid. The actress who played the mermaid, Ann Blyth, had to have a custom-made mermaid tail created for her, which cost $18,000 (US$163,000 today)!

Blyth was just 20 when this film was shot, but she had already had several roles in musical films, and also played Veda Pierce, the scheming daughter of Joan Crawford in the 1945 film Mildred Pierce, when she was 17. (Click on the article to see it big enough to read).

A plaster cast was taken of Blyth's legs, and the tail took 14 weeks to make. Each scale was hand-sculpted by Bud Westmore, the makeup and special effects man at Universal.

Blythe wore a waterproofed wig that would look good in the underwater scenes.

The plot of the film is similar to the 1984 film Splash, starring Daryl Hannah as a mermaid. Arthur Peabody is going through a mid-life crisis as he approaches his 50th birthday. While out fishing, he reels in a beautiful mermaid, whom he calls Lenore. He takes her home, and hides her in a bubble bath from his wife, who merely thinks Lenore is a big fish, but she suspects him of having an affair with a singer.

I found this great photo of Blyth being poured into her tail on Dr Macro's High Quality Movie Scans, and there are more images from the film there. I love her hair in this photo, it reminds me of Traci Lord's hair in Cry Baby, but with an even more exaggerated round fringe.

And look what I found, Traci Lords posed as a very 80s mermaid! I bet her tail didn't cost $18,000.

Beauty Alphabet - J

"J" is for Jawline

"Keep your jawline firm, in spite of the calendar, by sensible massage, soft lubricating oils, and brisk astringent lotions.

massage each night with a firm, circulatory motion, from the base of the throat upwards. Your beauty brush should have firm bristles and it should be used vigorously on the neck and shoulders.

Jaw exercises are important, so don't neglect them. To keep your jawline firm, drop the head forward, and let it roll to the right, back, to the left, and round to the front. Repeat this exercise three times night and morning."

(from The Argus, 9 November 1950)

Also from The Argus, this time from 1945, is this delightfully illustrated set of instructions on how to avoid a double chin. Click on the picture to view it full size.

I thought you might enjoy this article on chin exercises from The Australian Women's Weekly 1954, mostly because they advise on how to "wage an unrelenting fight against a slipping chin"!

And finally, from The Australian Women's Weekly 1944, some advice on slapping under your chin with the back of your hand! Wonder if it works?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

100 Dresses

I do whinge about my job a bit, but sometimes working in a bookshop is great. Especially when you get free books. Luckily everybody at work knows I'm obsessed with fashion history, so when we got a free copy of this book, they gave it to me!

It's a collection of one hundred beautifully photographed dresses from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, ranging from a late 17th century mantua, to a dress from Dior's 2005-2006 collection by John Galliano. Each dress has a full page, often with a small shot of some of the details of the dress, along with information about it. I've found some photos on the Met's website of dresses that are in the book, and these are some of my favourites.

This evening dress from around 1884 is just the most gorgeous colour! I'm also fascinated by the size of the bustle, which would have made sitting down rather difficult.

This evening gown, by Callot Soeurs, dates to around 1910-1014. It's made of a net overdress embroidered with sequins, worn over a silk and lace underdress. So elegant.

Just 18 years later, and the silhouette has changed dramatically. This evening dress from 1928 by Louiseboulanger has a skirt made of individual ostrich plumes knotted together to form longer strands. Imagine how lovely it would feel on your thighs as you danced!

This is the wedding ensemble worn by Wallace Simpson when she married the Duke of Windsor, who had formerly been King Edward VIII of England, but had abdicated to marry her. The floor length dress and matching jacket were specially created by designer Mainbocher for the wedding. Originally the outfit was pale blue, but a defect in the stability of the dye caused it to fade to cream over time.

I adore this Dior ball gown, titles "May" from 1953. It is silk, embroidered all over with wild clover and flowering grasses.

Here's a closeup of the embroidery. How stunning! I really like the way the clover flowers stick out from the fabric, it's almost 3D.

I'm impressed by the sheer size of this John Galliano for House of Dior ballgown, made for spring/summer 1998. Imagine sweeping into a room, or better, down a marble staircase, in this dress!

A shot from the front. The whole thing is made out of silk taffeta, imagine gathering all those ruffles. There are lots of dresses in the book that aren't on the Met website, including a delicious Worth gown, and some more Dior, so if you want to drool over some lovely gowns, check it out.

Underbelly Kasbah

Friday night was the big Underbelly Kasbah Christmas concert at the Thornbury Theatre. It was such a fantastic night, probably the best one I've been to, and there were some amazing performances. I was in two dances, which was exciting, but I was terrified that I'd mix them up in my head!

Here are our Intermediate and Beginner classes, which combined for a veil dance. I'm on the right at the back. We had a sewing day and all made our costumes, and I think they turned out pretty well.

Here we are in action! I love veil dances, it's so much fun swishing the veil around, and it looks quite effective when it's done en masse.

Here are Prue (my teacher), Zoe and I in our costumes for the troupe dance. We ordered the costumes from Lila's Bellydance Costumes so they would all match, and I had a little disaster. I wanted a red one, but they ran out, and by then all the good colours were taken, so I had a choice between pale pink and brown! Needless to say, I picked pink.

This is a picture of the pink costume from their website. I thought I could live with it, but when it arrived and I tried it on, it looked awful on me! It was practically the same colour as my skin, and I felt like a giant pink marshmallow. So I decided to remove all the pink sequins and beads and replace them with red ones. Just look at that costume. There must be about a thousand sequins on it, not to mention all the little tiny beads that keep the sequins on.

Once I had started though, I couldn't change my mind. In the end I used a completely new red bra, and moved all the beads and sequins onto it. With the belt I just took off all the pink stuff, coloured the pale pink satin in with a red Sharpie marker, and then sewed red sequins on over that. You can see a before and after with the armbands below. In the end it took me four packets of sequins and $15 worth of little red beads, and I managed to watch two whole seasons of The Sopranos while I beaded. My cousin Alice came to my rescue and made me a perfect replica of the pink skirt, but in red.

Here is the troupe on the night. We all have different coloured outfits, a bit like the Wiggles. I was a nightmare re-beading, but I'm glad I did it. Everybody worked really hard in rehearsals, and it paid off on the night, although we couldn't have done it without our lovely teacher Prue, who coreographed the dance, and put in so much time and effort helping us to get the steps right, and telling us to "Smile! Look confident! Pretend you know what you're doing" :)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Happy Birthday Alice!

My dear cousin Alice had her birthday last Thursday, and I drew this card for her. It's from when we were at the masquerade ball. Who would have guessed that she looked that good under her skirt as well!

And here she is on her birthday, she whipped up this gorgeous little dress specially for the day. She is such a gorgeous person, and a wonderful friend too. Happy birthday!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Beauty Alphabet - I

"I" for Inches

""Streamlined for summer" is the smart girl's slogan. If you have a good figure you should look after it. If you haven't, you should do something about it.

Don't, in a burst of enthusiasm, launch out into a strict diet. You will finish up with a scraggy neck and find yourself fatigued and irritable. A diet which takes inches off your waistline and the pep out of your step is not a good diet.

The average diet should take off about a pound a week. Problems that require more drastic treatment should be handled according to a doctor's directions.


Daily exercises are essential. Here are some you can do in bed.
  • Lie flat on the bed and stretch out your toes ten times
  • Pedal your legs as if riding a bicycle for two minutes
  • Revolve your feet to keep ankles trim, ten times in each direction
  • Finish with ten deep breaths before an open window
(from The Argus, 9 November 1950)

Here is a diet from 1955, the Slim Gourmet Diet. It's a calorie-counting diet, similar to Weight Watchers. I was suprised at how sensible it is! The authors explain that the amount of calories each person needs depends on how active they are, so "a woman tram conductor needs more than a stenographer".

They go on to offer the following tips:
  • The way to become slender is not to deny yourself the pleasures of food, but to take still greater joy in eating. When you enjoy your food you are able to eat less.
  • The three hand-maidens of food enjoyment are taste, variety, and naturalness. If you eat a frankfurt [!] for its taste, slowly and with pleasure, you are satisfied; if you do not consciously enjoy the frankfurt you may take a second and third, until you are stuffed.
  • No single diet can be prescribed for all. Each of us is born with a clear and unchangeable food personality. We love some foods, abhor others. Some of us eat heartily in the morning, others at lunch, others not until dinner; some can and some cannot eat between meals of before bed. Follow your habits - don't fight them.
  • No food is fattening in itself. The only two restrictions are: Fix your calorie allotment and tailor the size of your portions accordingly.
  • Your main weapon in the fight against quantity-eating is quality-eating. Cultivate the pleasure of taste, making use of variety, and bringing to the fore what I believe is a basic instinct for simple, natural dishes.

Then there is a calorie chart. It's interesting to look through this and to get an idea of what foods were commonly eaten in 1955. I suspect that this is an American diet, as there is a whole section for pies, including apple, apricot, banana custard, butterscotch, lemon meringue, fruit mince, peach and rhubarb. Puddings include the very 50s tapioca pudding, junket, rice custard, bread pudding, banana custard, and fruit gelatine shape (which is listed separately from jelly, so perhaps this is jelly with fruit in it?). There's a section for fats too, including bacon fat, chicken fat, dripping, and lard.

And finally a daily calorie recommendation, based on your ideal weight for height and age, and taking into account whether your work is sedentary, fairly active, very active, or heavy. This will give you the number of calories needed to maintain your ideal weight. They recommend cutting that number by 500 calories a day, to lose a pound a week.

I've never counted calories before, and I was interested to see what they thought my ideal weight should be. At 29 years old and 5'5", with an average frame, I should apparently be 132 pounds, or 60 kilos. This seems very reasonable, and is in fact the weight that I feel healthy at. For some reason I thought a 1955 me would be expected to be lighter!

I would take any 1955 advice on diets with a pinch of salt, but it wasn't as crazy as I thought it would be.

(from The Australian Women's Weekly, 12 October 1955)

Monday, 6 December 2010

Australian Fashions from 1950

For this week's inspiration, a selection of Australian-manufactured (not designed) fashions from The Australian Women's Weekly, 30 September 1950. Click on the pictures to get a full-sized image that you can actually read the text on. I like the blue dress on the left, described as a "short evening dress of taffeta with a form fitting bodice and white silk braiding." The clothes on these pages are described as inexpensive, but in today's money, this dress would cost $606! I'm sure the amount of fabric and the work that went into it justifies this price, but I wouldn't describe that as an inexpensive garment.

These very demure swimsuits are described as having "a good bra-line and firm figure control". They are priced at between $127 - $255 in today's money.

I adore the little fitted suit up in the top right corner. Made of shantung, it would cost $427 today. Do you think that is expensive? Could one buy a silk suit for that amount today?

I'm not mad about these styles, although I think the idea of a detachable button-on apron, seen in the dress on the bottom right, is an interesting idea. These dresses are priced from between $481 for the gold crepe suit in the middle, to $706 for the black pleated dress with the white collar.

I'm so inspired by the spotted dress above, I love that off the shoulder ruffle. I'm going to make myself one like that!

Hope you enjoyed this selection of 1950s fashions!