In the latter part of 2017 Brighton Historical Society was thrilled to receive a Local History Grant from the Public Records Office Victoria. The project is to catalogue a substantial selection of the most important pieces of its costume collection onto Museums Victoria’s Victorian Collections data base. Laura Jocic and I are honoured and excited to get stuck in, research, record and share these valuable snippets of our history. Passionate about the social history of clothing, I hope you enjoy our work.

After each session I thought I’d offer a little taster of our activities in the way of a reoccurring theme or interesting discovery. Click on the image to be taken to the item on Victoria Collections website.

This weeks theme is Frippery.

The lustre on this oyster coloured silk is so beautiful, and the delicate ruching, pleats and lace create a sweet parfait of elegance. It’s owner was an early member of well known Melbourne Jewish family who also lived in a notable historic house, now a prominent art gallery.

This beautiful hand made lace somehow evocative of spiders webs or timber wheels, both which would have been prevalent at the time of its making. Queen Victoria popularised the wearing of white for bridal gowns upon her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 but the wearing of the lightest of colours was a definite statement of wealth. Laundering of clothing was labour intensive and difficult and so a pure white garment had limited re use.This colour is infinitely more sensible for the dirt and grime it would encounter in it’s lifetime, beyond the wedding day as was common for bridal gowns to be reused for ‘good’.

A lovely woollen four piece wedding gown comprising of bodice, belt, skirt and train. Despite numerous decorative details with fringed ribbons, beading, ruching, lace and bows it remains a very elegant and understated ensemble thanks to its use of a beautiful quality matte wool, matte silks and quartz like beads. A lovely example of texture, and layering of delicate detailing.

A definite favourite of mine for the sheer charm of it. Fancy dress parties were a popular pastime and the “Dolly Varden” style was very popular amongst young women. This ensemble was worn on several occasions including to a Lord Mayor’s ball, possibly on board a ship bound for China…

Dolly Varden was a popular character from Charles Dickens novel “Barnaby Rudge” published in 1841 and inspired a craze of Dolly Varden inspired culture.

As yet we don’t know if there is any significance to the use of lace featuring a Maltese Cross in the design. It might have been a treasure from the travels of the owner’s family. It inspires romantic notions of exotic travel to China, and Europe with fancy dress ball’s enroute in the relative innocence of pre World War One.

Till next time…













Ripponlea and Barwon Park have hosted some stunning frocks in their time. This new exhibition by The National Trust, Night Life – A fashion exhibition of the 1920’s and 1930’s is no exception. A recent bequest of gowns inspired this curation exploring the decadent, ground breaking, jubilant styles of the 1920s and the more sober, practical conservatism of the 1930’s. The post war and interwar periods saw an enormous amount of change in social customs and economic conditions, and clothing is always an incredible barometer of the whole picture of society at a certain  place and time.

Many early 1920’s evening dress features amazing, intricate beadwork with new and exotic materials such as celluloid and gelatine. Celluloid sequins offered the clothed experience a luminosity, sparkle and sound that reflected well the excitement, excess and prosperity of the time. Some dresses featured approximately 2 kg of embellishment carefully stitched to feather light silks and cotton tulle. With the thrashing of exuberant jazz dance moves such as the Charleston in hot sweaty smoky nightclubs it is no wonder that many dresses have not withstood the test of time.  It is a joy and a pleasure to be able to see such well preserved precious examples as these.

As we moved into the 1930’s with the occurrence of The Great Depression and Wall street crash of 1929 as well as ominous political events in Europe, sequins, and beads were abandoned in favour of printed, painted and more restrained styles, more practical in design, less boyish, re-embracing the female form.

Designs also reflect the influence of world events such as the discoveries by Howard Carter in Egypt and the ensuing popularity of Egyptian inspired motifs. Keep an eye out for them. My favourites are the camels. Can you spot them?

If you are an avid student of fashion you will appreciate curator Elizabeth Anya-Petrivna’s informative presentation both in the exhibition and the catalogue. I personally enjoy the notes taken from media of the day and insights into the lives of the owners of these clothes.

It makes me smile to think of what Barbara Wilson Milne’s father thought of her dress and dancing antics.

I am always struck by the wearability of these periods despite their difference. There are always elements that seem very contemporary. I was struck by the the simple, graphic beauty of this black, white and blue printed silk lining a simple black evening coat and the familiarity of the cloud shaped beading on a simple black dress.

As I walk around the exhibition I can’t help but think of the many young women who would have spent hours stitching these intricate items with tiny tiny beads and sequins, and that is not even thinking about the tiny bits of tin so carefully wrapped onto mesh to create the Egyptian wrap! I have recently finished reading Fashion Victims and I can’t help but feel for their hunched shoulders, and strained eyes. I only hope that some of them had such slender hands and elongated fingers as those on the wearer of these gloves!

Art Deco influences are everywhere in beading and embroidery. This beaded shoulder detail struck me as quite unusual.

The richness of well lit black in velvet, lace, silhouette and some inspired lighting effects.

Shimmer and sparkle in celluloid, tin and gelatine. Just keep away from a naked flame as celluloid is highly flammable! It always make me smile when I think of all these women resplendent in celluloid and the connection with the importance and influence of the film era at this time. Women were watching and wearing the same material.

Floral motifs are ever popular but it interesting to observe the differences in the representation. Here you see them beaded in the 1920’s, painted and printed in the 30’s. 

Embroidery and Asian influences in the 1920’s. These Chinese shawls were a popular choice to the warm exposed shoulders with flapper girls against chill.

A visual feast, informative and a lovely day out in the gardens of Ripponlea.

But did you find the camels? Here they are, plus some Egyptian figures! Thanks to Erica Louise of recycled-fashion for her sharp eyes in spotting them and most of all for taking me as her “plus one”. Thanks also to the National Trust for another most enjoyable event.






Fashion Revolution Week 2017 April 24th – 30th #whomademyclothes campaign in memory of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse on April 24th 2013. An estimated 1138 people died and many more were injured. Fashion Revolution asks for people to participate in many ways. One of which is by telling a love story to an item of clothing in your wardrobe. I told three. This is my love story….

For further information go to and get involved in changing our fashion future..




Did you ever do these doodles in secondary school? I did. I’d fill a whole page with line upon line upon line. As soon as I saw these shoes, I thought oooooooooooo they need some line doodling!

So I did, and I am glad.

I love clothing that has personal meaning. I find it rewarding and long lasting. Slow fashion. The way of the future.

This lovely simple brooch was inherited from my late grand mother a few years ago. She was a woman of modest means but she loved to dress up when an occasion presented itself. Whilst this is a modest 1950’s piece I find it rather charming. When I received it was missing one diamanté with several more following in rapid succession. Hence it has been sitting in my mending box for many years. I recently have been working through my collection restoring and repairing pieces. The hardest thing about this job was sourcing the correct size Swarovski crystal is appropriate numbers. I am pleased with it, and am now looking for the right time to wear it. I do love vintage jewellery!



Here we are again! The next in line of my shoe renovation projects. If you didn’t read the last post, here is a brief recap… I recently set myself the challenge of renovating some modern, locally sourced shoes into looks that are reminiscent of the 1920’s. With costume projects getting the right shoes to match an outfit, in the right time frame and at the right price can be challenging. So of course, being me, instead of just creating one pair of shoes, I have been excited and wanted to try a few different looks. For this pair I chose some Milana label, all leather sandals. I found them at an opportunity shop so it is hard to be sure of their age, particularly as the brand is still current, vintage styles have been fashionable and I am not an expert in knowing what every brand is stocking at any given time! However the elastics on the buckles are a little bit perished so I suspect these are c1990’s. For this project I have not replaced these elastics but that could easily be done.


I confess with this project I have been very focussed on making and have neglected my photo taking. I am using these projects to experiment with different ways of doing things and in fact pulled them apart and remade them more than once to try different things to see what worked best. In addition I chose to use materials only readily available, being dressmakers supplies as the equivalent shoe makers materials are hard to come by and require specialist equipment to work with.

The fabric I chose was horrible to work with, I knew it would be before I bought it but I really liked the finish for the period look I was after. I would continue shopping a little longer next time!


I’m pretty happy with the result. I’d like to thank my ever patient, cooperative and attentive shoe model Ms Devon McKenzie for her excellent work. I did ask her to model more than once as I wanted to record the different results of different treatments. I have only included the images of my preferred finish.


I had intended to add extra embellishment to the vamps with some hand beaded mesh to emphasise the geometric Art Deco look. However I am planning another pair which will have lots of embellishment and I think this pair work well as is. Knowing when to stop can be a challenge….

Here is another link to the post of my last pair, embedded in this post is also a Pinterest Gallery of 1920’s looks for your enjoyment!


I hope you liked them!


The Inner Truth Project is a complicated passion project that I am dabbling with. To save repeating myself I have provided a description of the project over here. After completing this first portrait I have had a number of people put their hand up to be involved in the project. As I go along, I will include small posts here to share snippets of the portraits but not the finished product. We will see how this develops and what becomes of it. At some point I will share the collated works.

For my first portrait I asked my good friend Juliet to be my subject. She was the perfect choice as I already knew her well and we had already completed a number of personal styling sessions together. Juliet is an intelligent, sensitive, passionate and artistic person with a huge well of complexity, just perfect for investigation and development. As an artist she is possibly more self aware of these elements than some others might be, however I strongly believe that we all have a great deal of complexity and it is just a matter of finding the ways to delve the depths to find treasure.

The Portrait

Juliet cares passionately about the role of women in our society, most particularly about what she feels is the under valued role of caregiver, a role most often filled by women. Juliet on a personal level strives to provide nourishment, both physical and emotional to those in her care whether they be family, friends, students or the foster kids she welcomes into her home. In her professional endeavours, as an artist and teacher she advocates for women and their many guises. Her inspirations in life and art show evidence of both her fine art and science education.

Born in Scotland, Juliet came to Australia via time in the U.S.A but her Scottish blood and traditions remain integral to her sense of identity.

Look closely and see what you can find, what is your interpretation of these elements?

Every aspect you see in these photos has meaning and been selected deliberately from the smallest item in the setting to Juliet’s custom body armour. We decided to portray Juliet as a modern day Boudicea, nurturer and protector of her people. A fearless woman of keen intellect, with a wild strength of spirit. She is surrounded by her tools of trade, her inspirations and symbols of her values.   At the next stage of this project I will share the symbols and their meaning, the finished portrait, plus more.

But for now…. here is Juliet.



To learn more about Juliet, including a gallery of her insightful work please visit her website.

I’m looking forward to my next portrait.

What do you do if you need 1920’s shoes to be worn and withstand the rigour of an event? Well real 1920’s shoes are not that easy to come by any way, particularly not in any state to be worn. So I accepted a challenge to create a pair of 1920’s shoes from shoes that I could source today.

In the 1920’s skirt hemlines had risen giving new emphasis to now visible legs, shoes and hosiery. Flesh and soft pastel coloured hosiery slowly replaced the dark hosiery of previous times. The female silhouette had morphed from the mature bosomed, hipped figure into a more androgynous, small busted, small hipped, youthful, athletic figure. It was party time, the jazz era, the roaring twenties, oriental influence and metallic decorations abounded. T bar or instep strap sandals and pumps with rich embroidery fabrics, tooled or painted leathers and even heavily ornamented diamante heels. Heels were shapely but sturdy and vamps relatively high on the foot, often with cut out details.

Check out my Pinterest board to see lots of examples of gorgeous 1920’s shoes.

So here is the base I started with:circa-1970s-opshop-shoes

I chose these shoes primarily for their toe shape, forefoot strap, heel height and shape. In creating these shoes I had to make decisions around which compromises I would make in order to achieve the closest result I could, on a budget and in a timely fashion. An authentic  1920’s era shoe would be higher on the vamp (forefoot) and the heel may have a slight outward turn. I was very fortunate to find these little babies waiting for me to discover them and give them a chance to shine!


I wanted to cut proper patterns for these shoes rather than doing the quickie You Tube methods available. By cutting a proper pattern I could be sure that I would have the placement of the fabric design exactly where I wanted it, matching on both feet, no gathers in the fabric and with nice neat seams at the back.  By cutting a proper pattern I could also work out the design and placement of the extra detail to give the shoes a more complete look.


I am quite taken with the burnished metal look I managed to achieve for the heels, strap and decoration.

In this photo I have had a bit of fun playing around with filters for a more moody look. Many thanks to my gracious foot model.


Next project!



This is a project I actually completed a little while ago. I was putting together a gallery of my work and whoops (!), discovered that when I had transferred my blog across from “The Art of Costume” this post had not come with it. So this is a reiteration, please forgive if you have read it already.

Have you ever seen an item of clothing and it sticks in your mind forever? When I was working at the Victoria State Opera many years ago there was a woman who owned a vintage leather jacket that had a belt just like this one. For some odd reason, I loved that belt and coveted a vintage leather jacket with that belt. So when I saw this one in an opportunity shop, I bought it. However it was in pretty sad condition and so I decided to give it a facelift.

Here is an abbreviated representation of the work.

The lining had previously been replaced and was inappropriate fabric for the purpose, soiled and worn out and actually didn’t fit the jacket properly. So I needed to remove it and cut a new pattern for the lining. I was very lucky to find some great, vintage lining from a film costume designer selling off some of her collection, which was just perfect.


The leather needed to be well stripped to remove old paint, dirt and any substance that would inhibit the adherence of new paint. I ordered special paint from my favourite supplier (you know who you are!) and got to work.

It took several coats of paint, and cans of paint, but we got there. This is not a project to undertake to save money! This is about wanting to achieve a specific look, practice skills, learn and have fun.3-repainting

The jacket had lost a button and a very unusual choice made and some of the buttons had been stitched replaced without their supportive button at the back. All buttons needed to come off for repainting so I removed, and replaced properly with new buttons.

The jacket was a bit too long to be this boxy on me so a little extra shaping was required. Fortunately I have the skills and equipment to work with leather although this jacket is sheepskin so it is very forgiving. The bull dog clips may look silly but are helpful to get the exact placement and fit.4-repainted-thinking-about-shape

Check out this gorgeous lining! It’s perfect, I love it. Such a lucky find.


All of this for a belt?

Yep ‘fraid so. But I also had a lot of fun.

P.S you can see I changed my mind about the shaping…bull dog clips, useful. 6-finished-jacket

Hope you enjoyed.


There is something special about family heirlooms that has nothing to do with monetary value. Somehow in knowing that one of your forbearers wore and valued an item of jewellery it gives you a connection to the past that is quite special. Jewellery is an especially personal item and pearls have been a valued commodity in fashion for many decades. My family were not wealthy and so Great Grandma’s pearls are quality faux pearls not real. Despite their faux status they are actually quite lovely as each pearl has an irregularity to its shape rather than being perfectly round. The pearls also have a creamy lustre with some depth not like modern fake pearls. They may be glass as they are quite heavy and tinkle loudly when dropped into a ceramic bowl.

When they were passed on to me by mother they were as she received them, broken, tied up in knots and fairly soiled. It’s hard to imagine how they came to be in this state. I know that she will have received them when her father died many, many years after the premature death of her mother. I can only imagine that he saw no value in them and they were in the back of a drawer or cupboard for many years since my Great Grandmothers death or at least Nanna’s death. I spent some time gently unraveling the strings before taking this first photo. You can see that the clasp and French wire are corroded and strings broken.

After counting and measuring I gave the pearls a gentle bath and the improvement in their lustre was quite heartening! Then began the restringing.

I had to work out the balance of the pearl numbers on each string to achieve the correct design and then restring with silk thread and French wire. Whilst these pearls were not originally individually knotted, as they are quite lovely and to improve their aesthetic I have chosen to restring them in the traditional manner with individual knots between each pearl.



Now I just have to have a think about how to rock three string pearls without actually looking like a Nanna!

I was really hoping my Aunt who is the keeper of old photographs in our family might be able to find a photo of Great Grandma in her pearls to accompany this post. Alas, none is to be found. Perhaps I should add a photo of one of my daughters wearing them in time. That would be fitting.