Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Millinery Movie Moments: The Bishop's Wife

Many classic movies feature phenomenal examples of the milliner's craft, but despite being visual showstoppers, they are not often relevant to the plot. I love it when the hats are central to the action, and even have a deeper meaning.

The Bishop's Wife is my number one pick for classic movie moments that centre around a hat. Early in the movie we first see the incomparable Loretta Young as Mrs Julia Brougham gaze longingly through the store window at the coveted hat. It sits behind a frame, covered in folds of ribbon, a frivolous but beautiful confection.

Julia's other hats in the movie are simple by contrast, although of course she still looks stunning in them. It helps to have her face.

They are both plain felt hats with no trims beyond simple bands. The first is, in my opinion, the nicer of the two, with a cute short brim at the front and turn up at the back.

The other is even plainer, but she still makes it work!

Nevertheless, there is a big contrast between these reserved styles and the glorious bonnet in the millinery shop.

When Julia sees the hat being removed from the window, Dudley (Cary Grant) pushes her inside and convinces the woman trying it on that it doesn't suit her - against the best efforts of the salesperson.

"Not everyone could wear such a daring hat. But of course it was made for madame."

Julia consequently is able to immediately buy the hat for herself, and wear it in a scene that makes us all want to ice skate, no matter how uncoordinated we are in reality.

This hat is a symbol of one of the movie's messages, and the lessons that Julia and the Bishop are reminded of - living life to the fullest and feeling young again. Being a bit more free and enjoying the experiences of life. As the cab driver Sylvester puts it, "You know your destination, but you're in no hurry to get there."

In fact, the hat isn't the only accessory with meaning in this movie. There is the scarf that Matilda gave to the Bishop, that he never wears, so she encourages Dudley to wear it."I'm sure he'll appreciate it once he sees it one me." That line sums up the whole movie!

I also love how both Matilda and Mildred start wearing flowers in their hair once Dudley has arrived on the scene. I only just noticed that in this last viewing.


There are also hats in the background that are worth checking out. The women in the street scene at the start, the lunch crowd at Michel's, and even the formidable Mrs Hamilton have some appealing looks to be inspired by. Not to mention knitted caps on the skaters and beanies and hoods on the children in the snow battle.

Do you have any favourite hats from classic movies? Can you think of any others where the hats play a role in the action?

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season, whatever that means for you. And remember...

The only people who grow old were born old to begin with. You were born young. You'll remain that way.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A Vintage Bridal Look

Today I'm sharing the story of a beautiful bride, an elegant vintage-style wedding in the Blue Mountains, and a little hat.

The bride is my friend Mel, and the little hat is my first ever piece of bridal millinery. You may remember Mel as one of my models this year, and on the day of our photoshoot, she asked me to make her a hat for her wedding. The starting point for inspiration was the cherry velvet 1950s style half-hat, to be made in ivory and with beading to match her wedding dress.


These images are taken by Creek Street Photography. Mel and her photographer have exquisite taste and skill at making incredibly elegant photos! Choosing which ones to share here without making this an excessively long post was very tricky. I may have failed!

The ceremony was at the Everglades gardens in Leura, just as mine was two years ago. Mel chose the Cherry Terrace as the setting for her moment, with the blossoms out and making the perfect backdrop.

Being in the mountains, they made sure to get some photos with one of our many breathtaking views from a local lookout. This one is in Blackheath, I believe. Don't I just live in one of the most amazing places in the world?

The reception venue was the Carrington in Katoomba, in its suitably opulent ballroom.

Congratulations Mel and Alex. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your day by creating this headpiece, and for letting me share these photos. I feel privileged to have contributed a part to such a perfect day.

You can see many more of these gorgeous photos from Creek Street Photograpy on their blog entry about this wedding and I recommend you do go and check them out. If you are dreaming of your own vintage wedding, the photos show so much more of Mel's day, and she took great care in every detail.

Mel and Alex also had their wedding featured in Australia's Vintage Bride Magazine. In the article, Mel tells the story of their relationship and engagement, and her design decisions for the wedding day.

If you are planning your own wedding and are looking for a custom handmade vintage-style headpiece, I'd love for you to contact me. I hope to play my small part in many more perfect days.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tips for an ethical, mostly-op-shopped, somewhat vintage maternity wardrobe

Pregnancy can be a time to sloth around in trackpants and baggy t-shirts, or an incredibly fun fashion experiment. (Not that there's anything wrong with option one if you want to take it.)

I'm in my thirties, and style guides tell me I should have worked out "my look" by now. I don't think I've got a look, and if I do, I'm not completely happy with it. Whether you have your look defined or not, pregnancy is likely to force you to rethink it for a temporary period. You may as well have fun and embrace it!

My approach to ethical clothing is mostly to buy second hand. While op-shopping allowed me to buy some clothing at very cheap prices, my focus wasn't primarily on saving money.

Realistically, I spent quite a lot on clothes I only needed for a short space of time. But, I would say that I spent the equivalent of buying a small, focused maternity wardrobe of new clothes. New maternity clothes are not cheap!

What op-shopping allowed me to do was to spend that money on building a large and varied maternity wardrobe, taking fashion risks, trying out new styles, colours and patterns, and splurging a little on extra-nice and vintage pieces. 

I could buy things, outgrow them, and donate them back. I could buy clothes for winter, then buy some more for spring. I could experiment with a style, then go out hunting for more items like it. I could buy things that seemed big enough, then go out again to buy more when I got even bigger.

It was fun, and I have rarely enjoyed clothes as much as during my pregnancy. Here are my tips to help that happen for you too!

1. Try things on.

There were some things that even I was surprised I took into the changeroom, but I came up with some winners that way.

Your body is a different shape, and you no longer know what suits you, so be open. Also, I found sizes were very hard to pick, and I took a few fitting risks that paid off too!

2. Belts. All the belts. And try things on with belts.

I feel like some kind of idiot that I didn't understand about belts before. I wore them occasionally to hold up my jeans. My post-pregnancy wardrobe is going to be revolutionised by this discovery.

For pregnancy, they were, if not a life-saver, certainly a dress-saver. I am very used to having a waist. It wasn't always as small as I'd like, but it was always there. Smaller than my bust. Smaller than my hips. Lovely.

Then, suddenly, the waist was no more. Having another point to draw clothes in at made me feel a lot more elegant and shapely. I went with the "above the bump" belting option, and I love it.

This vintage dress needs its waistline hitched up a bit and a belt, and then I love it!

Make sure you take a belt into the changeroom to get the best impression of a dress or top.

This was a "I can't believe I'm trying this on", but I was drawn to the colours and the fact that it appeared to be handmade. But otherwise, basically a sack with buttons. A belt can do some wondrous things.

3. Wear Short Dresses as Tops/Over Pants

Things get a lot shorter when they have a big bump to cover. I wore almost everything over leggings or jeans. Dignity maintained.

Like this short 1960s dress. I paired it with a skirt, capri pants or short jeans.

This one required a quick zip with the sewing machine to lift the waistline and ties up to my raised belly height, but then it became an easy comfortable maternity staple for me.

4. Balance Your Volume

I think I only remember one piece of fashion advice my Mum told me. It was to have volume at one end of your outfit, but not both. Pregnancy forces you to have volume at the top (well, in the middle I suppose), so for the most part I accepted that, and tried to keep to skinny legs.

I did, however, buy one pair of baggy maternity pants, so I tried to wear them with slimmer tops. Here's a look based on baggy pants. I aimed for a 1930s-feel, since they loved their giant pants then.

5. If You Can Sew, Make Adjustments. 
(But be realistic with yourself. You've got plenty of other things to do.)

The main adjustments I made: taking up a bit of fabric at the shoulders of tops or dresses to raise the neckline or waistline.

For this dress, I was willing to go a bit further and shorten the hem so it made a top instead (another example that without the belt is just a tent).

And for the sake of having black capri pants, I put in my time at the sewing machine with a pair of black maternity pants that were pretty hideous in their previous form.

6. Accessorise. Feel pretty.

I started losing my jawline somewhere in the second trimester. My skin was a mixed bag. I chose not to dye my hair. I chose to start growing out my hair. I sprained my ankle. I felt more uncoordinated and awkward than usual. I started making noises when I got out of chairs.

Clothes were a way to compensate for the negative things I felt.

Accessories can draw attention to good things or away from the things you'd rather not think about. They also helped with my hair situation. While my hair was long enough to pull back into a ponytail, but not into a GOOD ponytail, I bought some scarves to cover the back, wore some hats, some hair flowers, and designed a ponytail-flower-cage to cover up the mess.

I even dressed nice for the gardening sometimes! (Except for the shoes, of course.)

The other great thing about accessories is that they will still be good post-pregnancy, so you can feel even less guilty about buying them (if you're the guilty-feeling type).

7. Be Willing to Make Mistakes

I bought some things that were not a good idea. But they cost me a few dollars. I can shrug that off.

I bought some things that were a great idea at first, but showed my ignorance of just how big I was going to get. That's ok! They were cute while they lasted. Some have gone back to the op-shops, some have stayed for post-pregnancy.

8. Explore all Vintage Eras, and All Sources of Inspiration

If you like vintage styles, maybe you have favourite eras already, but why not use pregnancy as an excuse to try some others? Your shape is changing anyway, so you may feel differently about how they suit you.

And although there are some cute vintage maternity styles, don't just focus on them. Look at non-maternity outfits and translate them.

I decided to have a bit of fun channeling this outfit from my great-grandmother in the 1920s.

I think I did ok! Long strand necklaces, however, don't hang very gracefully over third-trimester tummies though, I have to tell you!

Bonus tip that I DIDN'T follow but should have: 9. Buy Maternity that Works for Breastfeeding

At about 7 months I realised that since I was planning to breastfeed if I could, I might actually need to access my breasts. Probably something I should have though of earlier! It would have made my maternity wardrobe a bit more lasting.

I mean, it gave me an excuse to buy more clothes, but I wasn't as energised for shopping by that stage, so it would have been better to have thought about it back when op-shopping was all I wanted to do.

Luckily some things are going to work anyway. Like this dress that actually does untie completely at the front there.

For some more maternity style, with a vintage flavour, I recommend checking out the following blogs:

Betsy's Baby - Gorgeous vintage maternity outfits, including many outfits sewn from vintage patterns. Also, now that the baby has come along, she's showing off post-baby looks, and wrote a great post on shirtwaist dresses for breastfeeding.

Lavender & Twill - Bonita is currently pregnant and looking adorable and chic in vintage and vintage-style outfits. Great inspiration!

Do you have any maternity style tips to share? Or op-shopping tips in general?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

My handmade maternity tops: 4 versions of McCalls 6576

I mostly sourced my maternity wardrobe second-hand, but I did buy one vintage pattern and have a go at sewing it. I flipped through dozens of vintage sewing patterns at a shop in Canberra and found what I wanted - a maternity pattern in my size. (I actually got a bit bigger before I made it, but there was plenty of ease and it still fit well.)

I made the middle view. Here is my first version, in classic cherry-print cotton.

This one is still probably my favourite and got the most wear! I pretty much always paired it with this red belt and cropped jeans, but played with other accessories a lot. Below I'm wearing my dad's 1971 "Winter Swimming Club" jacket. Go Cronulla Polar Bears!

Despite some struggles understanding the facing steps and learning how to sew a blind hem and a lapped zipper, I was very happy with how this pattern turned out.

It was, however, a bit pinchy around the arms by the end of a long day. In version two, featuring strawberries, I tried enlarging the armholes.

Somehow they seemed to be still much the same, and in any case I realised that my maternity bras sit very snugly in that area anyway, so I went back to the original armholes in version 3.

I made a plain black version because I was inspired by another vintage maternity pattern to wear this over a black-and-white polka-dotted blouse in the op-shop just that week. To make sure the blouse would show at the neck, I lowered the neckline. This adjustment worked, but not over the blouse! Still, the neck is much more comfortable in this version. So I kept that change for version four.

Version four is the bright, springtime look! I love this too, although the fabric was a bit harder to work with, and the facing doesn't like to stay flat and well-behaved like the others. Maybe that explains my sour face here!

At this stage, I could only just get my growing hair into a stubby little pony tail, so I made a flower cage to cover it up! It was pretty much impossible to wear this top without some kind of hair flower.

Aww family photo! These are my gorgeous siblings.

I did buy more fabrics, and even contemplated trying one of the other views, but as I was looking at only having a couple of months left to wear them, I decided to stop myself!

So, if you can't tell, I loved this pattern. If there is a next pregnancy, I look forward to wearing these again and making some more!