Brighton Historical Society at City of Glen Eira, Festival of Story Telling: Celebrating Style – 1950’s Fashion in Melbourne

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Unfortunately by the time you are reading this, the exhibition will be over!  Ah well. Due to other commitments both professional and personal I have not managed to get this post published in a timely manner. Never mind.

It was a lovely little exhibition held by the City of Glen Eira as part of their Story Telling Festival and I believe they were very happy with its patronage. The exhibition featured items from the collections of Nicole Jenkins of Circa Vintage, the National Gallery of Victoria, Diane Masters, Di Riedie of Brighton Historical Society and the Brighton Historical Society amongst others. I was very pleased to contribute to facilitating this arrangement on behalf of the Brighton Historical Society.

Diane Masters, a popular mannequin (model) of the day gave a lovely floor talk where she shared some of her very fond memories of the time. I was particularly struck by the stories she told of her good friend Hall Ludlow and the journey his life took from abandonment in an orphanage, through menial service jobs to creating his own fantastic career as a couturier. Over here you can read more from Diane Masters on Hall Ludlow.

Diane Masters in Hall Ludlow

Diane Masters in Hall Ludlow in 1956 Photographed by Bruno Benini.

Nicole Jenkins also spoke which reports tell me was also fascinating. Sadly I could not attend that event as I believe that Nicole is a veritable fountain of knowledge.

The following pieces were selected by the Glen Eira curator, Diane Soumilas, from the BHS collection for inclusion  in the exhibition. With each piece I have included some notes and links that I have recently sourced, just the beginnings of research that might help anyone looking to learn more information about these labels.This collection is important to me as I am fascinated by the snapshot it provides of one particular community, as well as contributing to our broader social history in exhibitions such as this. It holds some interesting pieces which I hope to illustrate to you here. Further research is definitely required for full histories of items and makers.

 

A Colman Hat

A rather smart black raffia and diamante hat. Whilst the hat appears to be of Irish origin, as with all of our non provenanced items its presence in the collection suggests that it was owned and worn by a resident of the Brighton area.

colman hat

A Colman Hat – An item of unknown provence believed to have been made by Fisher’s of Cooktown, Northern Ireland.

With no real maker information to go on and judging purely by style I estimate this piece to have been made in the early 1950’s.

UPDATE: July 18th

I have been in at the society today putting away returns and in the process discovered two hats that have put a different perspective on things.

A Colman Hat David Jones

The way this hat is labelled indicates to me that potentially Colman hats may have been made especially for David Jones, Sydney for the local market. The first Colman hat may have similar provenance. Some unknown person has written 1960 and V. Vetra on the label  which I suspect may have happened when it was initially donated to the society. 

A Crown Hat by Horne

This hat has been labelled in a similar fashion. The only Horne I have found thus far is an American brand from the 1930’s in Pittsburg. I remain curious as to why this hat is labelled this way. Would love to hear from anyone who can fill me in further!

Harbig: Melbourne, New York, Paris

This sweet little floral piece is believed to have been made by Harbig Products of Melbourne. I have not yet unearthed any information to explain the use of the words New York and Paris on the label and would be fascinated to hear if more! Although I did find this news report

From The Sydney Morning Herald Thursday Sept 15 1949. page 7

News of next winter hat fashions was brought back by Melbourne manufacturers, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Harbig, when they returned by B.C.P.A. DC6 last night after four months in America and the Continent studying materials that will be needed for next season’s hats. They predicted: Shapes: Head-hugging cloches to suit short hair, cut away at the back to clear high collars, and built up and out at the front to give height. Materials! Felts, velours, velvets, and a new long-haired fur fabric, flamond. Colours: Muted pastels, few jewel shades, and no vivid colours. Trimmings: Little veiling, hut feathers and feathers and feathers. 

that at least indicates that the Harbig’s were spending substantial amounts of time abroad. It is both head hugging and muted pastel and I therefore I feel we can safely date it to c1950.

harbigI also found these job advertisements for positions at Harbigs, which I find interesting. These professions exist these days in such a completely different manner. In the past you could make a career in a millinery factory in Melbourne. Today most milliners in Australia are skilled artisans working alone or in very small companies, often working across a variety of fields including teaching, fashion, and costume industries.  My maternal grand mother was a milliner, finding these job advertisements has had me thinking about finding out more about her professional experiences.

This ad from  The Age July 5th 1961 advertisers for urgently required experienced milliners to do work from home.

In The Age Melbourne, Saturday June 22nd 1963 in the ‘millinery packing room’ at 1 Drill Street Hawthorn and Wednesday August 19th 1964 for “experienced, part experienced or learners, woman wanted for modern millinery department…an interesting and well paid trade’

Hicks Atkinson Melbourne

This dashing black silk velvet and straw hat is by Hicks Atkinson and Sons, Pty Ltd, Collins St, Melbourne. Hicks Atkinson Department Store operated from 1911 until 1963 and both retailed the designs of others as well as commissioning exclusive product. This store was in operation at the time when department stores were at the height of their popularity and this part of Melbourne was a shopping hub with a substantial number of luxury stores.

hicks atkinson

Hicks Atkinson: Melbourne. An item of unknown provenance from the Brighton Historical Society Collection. Hicks Atkinson was at one stage located at 348 – 350 Collins Street, Melbourne.

Hicks Atkinson store

Hicks Atkinson Collins St Store. Taken from an article on oldgenes.net featuring the personal story of Winifred Easter Fasham who worked at Hicks Atkinson in the Millinery showroom and as a buyer. Click the image to go to the article.

Judging by its style this piece is most likely to have been made in the early to mid 1950’s.

Mary H Thomas: Wattletree Rd East Malvern. Phone 505347

A silk velvet and net leaf hat. Unfortunately I have not been able thus far to find any further information regarding this milliner. My assumption is that she may have been a small artisan or couturier milliner, with a smaller less established business. I would love to hear from anyone who could offer me any information regarding her.

mary thomas hat

Mary H Thomas 103 Wattletree Rd. East Malvern phone 50 5347. An item of unknown provenance from the Brighton Historical Society Collection.

Nance Bannon

 

A frothy concoction of net, wire and paper featured above is a hat bearing the label Nance Bannon.

Nance Bannon

In my investigations online I have found a number of references to a society lady Miss Nance Bannon with dates in the mid 1930’s. One of these was on Trove, The National Library of Australia’s digital resource. Trove has a number of newspaper articles featuring promotions of Nance Bannon’s millinery from the newspapers similar to the ones I have linked to below. As yet I am not sure if this society lady in the mid 1930’s is the same Nance Bannon as the 1950’s and on milliner but it seems likely. Miss Nance Bannon is third from the left in the central photograph.

Nance Bannon The Birdcage Aug 1st 1935

Table Talk Newspaper (Melbourne Victoria 1885 – 1839) Nance Bannon The Birdcage Aug 1st 1935 ‘Out at Moonee Valley’ Click the image to go through to the item on Trove.

Trove has numerous 1950’s digitised newspapers featuring ‘advertorial’ for Nance Bannon and her millinery. Articles from both South Australian and Victorian newspapers are featured. It would appear that whilst she was based in Melbourne she may have regularly travelled to Adelaide to show her wares.

Over here you can find two ads from The Age Melbourne Saturday Jan 14 1956 in which Nance Bannon advertises millinery positions: .

Milliner, exp.. model work. Nance Bannon, 174 Collins sc.

“TVfILLINERY, ‘improvers and AP-iTX prentee, Nance Bannon, 174 UQ1IUU bl

This second job description seems quite baffling! I suspect the ad is supposed to read “millinery improvers and apprentice”?

These ads indicate that in 1956 Nance Bannon appears to have been located at 174 Collins St Melbourne.

In this Age newspaper story in 1961 featuring three Autumn / Winter collection hats and again in this story in 1966, in The Age newspaper that features from August 3rd 1966 of four hats from Nance Bannon’s spring collection indicates that she is now located in South Yarra .

In this Age newspaper story from August 9th 1967 we see Nance Bannon featured again (my, she was popular).

From looking at the styles of these hats, the dates of her work, and her business address I estimate  this hat to be c 1956 – 1961.

Misses Mooney

 

Misses Mooney

Label: Misses Mooney of Melbourne. 189 Collins Street Melbourne.

An aqua blue rayon wrapped ribbon turban from the late 1950’s. However, it is of note that the label on the hat looks more modern than the label on the dress. Hence the hat even date into the early 60’s.  Please note the colour in the label image is more accurate.

The fashion label Misses Mooney was operated by two sisters from the premises at 189 Collins Street Melbourne. The label was established in 1932 and closed in 1972. It is unclear if it operated from this address for the entire time. There is little information available regarding this label, although at that time this part of Collins Street held a thriving industry of dressmakers and associated trades. The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney holds a Misses Mooney ensemble with some useful contextual information here.

The Brighton Historical Society has a former volunteer who once worked for Misses Mooney who provided an oral history she called ‘Memories of Another Era’. This oral history can be accessed by contacting Brighton Historical Society.

The following are some points of interest from her history from her time working for the Mooney’s c1944 – 46.

  • The business Misses Mooney was owned by two sisters Nell and Ida Mooney, situated in a very narrow shop front beside The Regent Theatre in Collins Street Melbourne and open five and a half days per week.
  • Above the shop on the first floor worked four seamstresses plus a supervisor Miss Foulds in cramped conditions.
  • Miss Foulds also attended to the fittings of garments with clients and any alterations when necessary.
  • Further up Collins St in a seperate building on the third floor and in cramped workroom conditions were three machinists who made garments for special clients. Wages were approx. 2 pounds for a 40 hour week.
  • This lady recalls working 44hr days with Ida. Work began at 8am until 5 pm with 1/2 hour for lunch.
  • Close to this workroom was a milliner Dorothy Gringod, a “sprightly, friendly lady” who created the headwear and supplied the Mooney’s shop with some of her creations. Dorothy would make headwear for the girls from Miss Mooney’s at half price when they needed something for an event.
  • This lady recalls seeing Japanese prisoners of war being driven up Collins St past the store as she was out getting lunches.

Brighton also holds a beautiful 1950’s Misses Mooney dress not featured in this exhibition

Misses Mooney dress 1950's front Misses Mooney Dress 1950's detail

Raoul Couture Dress

A stunning cream silk and lace creation of pleating, ruching and delicate construction this Raoul couture dress is just lovely, and rather tiny. Raoul couture was a highly respected fashion house based in Flinders Lane, Melbourne from c 1955 until 1963. Head designer Leonard Legge later worked for another prominent Australian designer Prue Acton.

preparation

Very carefully steaming the Raoul Couture dress prior to transportation. It will require further attention prior to dressing the mannequin. Three vintage petticoats for layering under the dress.

raoul couture dress

Raoul Couture cream silk and giupure lace early 1950’s cocktail dress.

All boxed up and ready to go.

All boxed up and ready to go.

exhibition compilation

Till next time….

Cheerio!

2 Comments on “Brighton Historical Society at City of Glen Eira, Festival of Story Telling: Celebrating Style – 1950’s Fashion in Melbourne

  1. I so thoroughly enjoyed reading this article as I worked at Misses Mooney as a junior salesgirl aged 15 in 1963. I felt very grown up working in Collins Street Dress shop However I found out it was much more than that There were dressmakers and milliners on sight making altering and we the sales girls were selling I would say it was quite a busy shop.A funny thing I remember was everybody smoked the clothes must have been smelly but nobody must have noticed because everybody smoked.We had a lot of staff there were The Misses Nell and Ida whom we were scared stiff of at least 4 senior sales ladies 3 juniors plus office lady Miss Kendall who handled the money and probably 8 in the sewing room and a Tea Lady I remember running up and down Flinders Lane getting Jap silk Satin and Taffeta swatches to match the wool crepe, floral and other fabric for linings which always matched perfectly.We the junior sales girls even delivered boxes to clients Cliveden Mansions and to addresses in Malvern Hawthorn and South Yarra catching the trams.My most favorite memory was picking up pins from the fitting room floors on our hands and knees would be unheard of today and dusting the blacks all the black coats suits and dresses were systematicly dusted every week with clothes brushes
    Anyway Thank you for the aticle
    Regards Maureen Daff

    • Oh Maureen, thank you so much for your wonderful response! My apologies that it has taken me a while to get to it. I will take great pleasure in sharing your extra information with others.

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