I have been head down doing the work, not reporting on the work of late. Have not managed the promised steady stream of updates. But doing the work is after all the most important bit, right? Of course it is.

We now have 115 fabulous pieces available on Victorian Collections. It is sooooo hard to stop at 100! The more we spend time with the collection, the more we find of value. Great stories, great pieces, great characters of Brighton, Melbourne, Australia and beyond. But we must be strong and carry on with our mission as decreed!

I want to share with you some of my personal favourites. Favourites are always personal and variable. For me a favourite is chosen for how this item illustrates an aspect of social history that I connect with.

Here is a selection of some of my favourite pieces from the journey so far.

1. c1890 Pelerine 2. 1917 – 1919 Dress 3. Late 1800s – early 1900s Riding Habit

c1890 Evening Pelerine – A pelerine is a short cape commonly made of dress fabric, velvet, fur or lace and worn over a dress. It sits lightly on the shoulder, often with long points at the centre front and at this time frequently worn with a dress featuring a sleeve with an enlarged shoulder head. Black and red were common colour choices, with black being prevalent due to strict social conventions regarding appropriate dress during periods of mourning following the death of family members. The established conventions varied depending upon the relationship of the wearer to the relative, and passed through several stages each with its own decreed dress regulations.

Here is a simple table from Wikipedia taken from Manners and Rules of Good Society, or, Solecisms to be Avoided (London, Frederick Warne & Co., 1887)

c1917 – 1919 Afternoon dress  – This dress typifies the simplicity and notion of “Less is more” popular at this time. A move away from heavily corseted restrictive clothing towards more athletic, free moving clothing and lighter underwear. The first modern style bra was patented in New York in 1913 by socialite Mary Phelps Jacob. In the years to come clothing would become more relaxed and boyish but considerably more flamboyant as illustrated by the iconic “flapper” dresses of the mid 1920’s prior to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the ensuing Depression era.

Late 1800 – early1900s Riding Habit – For a start the idea of riding a horse side saddle seems absolutely crazy to my modern mind. The strain on a woman spine and hips completely impractical and downright cruel. Of course she would already be in a very restrictive corset and so the natural condition of her torso somewhat compromised but supported by the corset. I find it remarkable that they managed to stay in the saddle. Then there is the issue of covering her legs with a skirt so that she was “modest”, because to see that a woman has two legs and a groin would be “shocking”! This particular skirt features an elastic strap securing it to the riders leg to avoid it flapping and upsetting both horse and rider.

1. c1895 George and George’s Evening Gown 2. c1970 JOT coat 3. c1909 Evening Gown

c1895 George and George Ltd, Federal Emporium, Melbourne Evening Gown. – Later Georges Department store, Collins Street Melbourne, a Melbournian icon that despite its sad closing in the 1990s remains in the heart of many Melbournian’s today. Store motto as published upon the re-opening of the store in 1888  “Quod facimus, Valde facimus” – “What we do, we do well”.

They went on to say:

"We wish it to be distinctly understood that while we shall endeavour to secure the 
patronage of the elite of Australia we shall aim to make our business attractive to all 
ranks of society. In the Federal Emporium will be found a stock of goods unprecedented in variety, unsurpassed in novelty. And a variety of accommodation to customers that has 
never yet been witnessed in the Southern Hemisphere." Advertisement 11 September 1883

First opened in 1880, Georges occupied a difficult retail site on the hill of Collins St perched between churches and away from the centre of the retail hub. A small department store or a large boutique, Georges was a destination of its own and those in the know dressed appropriately to enter its hallowed chambers.

The entrance to the new Federal Emporium of George & George Limited, 1888. From “The Store on the Hill” by Keith Dunstan for Georges Australia Limited, 1979.

When Georges finally closed in 1995, I was working just up the hill at the Princess Theatre. I made my way into the packed building for the final auction of fixtures and fittings. I remember marble statues and paintings being sold off, it was heart breaking. Georges didn’t manage to adapt to the times but I do wonder if an era might be coming when a store like Georges with a focus on only stocking the best of things, not necessarily the most expensive, and a no rush, high customer service approach might just be re dawning. Where the experience of the purchase is well thought through with long lasting results.

c.1970 JOT coat – Youth culture makes its way to upper end boutiques such as JOT Toorak, of Toorak Road, Melbourne. This coat’s styling reflects the mid to late 1960’s influences of space exploration in metallic, synthetic fabrics and bold, optical art textile design. Bright, bold and optimistic, in this coat you could not help but be noticed.

c.1909 Acidic yellow and lime green evening gown – This stunning dress belonged to Clara Miller, first wife of Septimus Miller and daughter in law of Henry ‘Money” Miller, financier, politician and reputedly one of Australia’s wealthiest people in his time.

In 1889 Clara and Septimus  moved to their new home Cantala, Dandenong Road, Caulfield. Images of Cantala can be found on the Glen Eira Historical Societies page of Victorian Collections website. Throughout his life Septimus Miller was a key figure in Victorian horse racing circles and the Victorian Racing Commission’s Cantala Stakes is named in his honour. Prominent, wealthy members of Melbourne society I love this dress as it speaks to me of another of my interests, Melbourne’s lost east end theatre precinct. This time was the height of activity with The Theatre Royal, The Mechanics Institute (now the Athenaeum theatre), The Queen’s Theatre Royal, The Princess Theatre, The New Opera House, The Melbourne Town Hall, The Bijou and The Gaiety, and The Alexandra Theatre all in operation, only The Princess, Town Hall and Athenaeum remain. Whilst I do not know if Clara and Septimus ever attended any theatrical performances, this dress would have been appropriate to wear on such occasions.  Clara died young, in 1910 aged 43 and Septimus remarried. Septimus lies in Brighton Cemetery’s grandest and most impressive grave, a Gothic style vault.

Another aspect of this dress which fascinates me is its colour. In more recent times yellow and lime green clothing is quite uncommon but it was extremely fashionable and prevalent at that time. In the mid 1800’s Picric acid was combined with Indigo to create a new synthetic dye, creating this colour. Whilst many dyes at the time were highly toxic to the wearer, I do not know if this dress or picric dye in clothing is harmful. However in the early 1800s many textile and millinery workers and some fashionable ladies suffered horrific death and disease from the prevalence of arsenic to produce vivid greens. Even into the 1920’s a distaste for green at the fashion House of Coco Chanel was a hangover from the colour’s association with poison. Hence I am wondering if the lack of prevalence of this colour in more recent decades has any similar historical roots.

1. 1911 “Dolly Varden” Fancy Dress Costume 2. 1930 Bridge Jacket 3. 1950s Full circle skirt

1911 “Dolly Varden” Fancy Dress Costume – Fancy Dress parties and balls were a popular past time in the 19th century (and remain today). Party goers entertained themselves with elaborate costumes referencing historical figures, literary and theatrical characters and exotic cultures. The ‘Dolly Varden” character from Charles Dicken’s literary work “Barnaby Rudge” was a particularly popular figure at this time. The book was published in 1841 but set in 1780 hence the character’s “shepherdess” style of looped up polonaise skirt over a quilted underskirt. This particular costume’s history is perfectly typical, worn by Ida Burn, aged 21 at a costume party aboard ship en-route to China. Sea voyages were long and finding entertaining ways to pass time a necessity.

1930s Bridge Jacket – Various forms of Bridge or Whist were hugely popular games at this time. As I cannot find any information to suggest why the owner of this jacket reputedly wore this jacket “for Bridge” I suspect it is more to do with being considered her lucky jacket as opposed to any specific function or ritual of the jacket. Many of us have tendencies towards regarding certain objects or concepts as lucky or unlucky and it would seem Mrs Elsie Law was no different. Regardless it is also a lovely example of Art Deco, Asian inspired fashion of the 1930s.

1950s Circle Skirt – The invention of the teenager is typified in this playful full circle skirt with patch pockets and modernistic textile design. Worn with a crisp, fitted collared shirt or form fitting knit and petticoats this playful, youthful design shows the legs and swings with the body. The textile design  speaks strongly of the period with similar aesthetics featured in popular modern materials such as Laminex and Linoleum.

1. c1960-70s Armadillo Handbag 2. c1860 Child’s Shoes 3. c1880 – 1900 Shoes 4. 1920s Assuit Shawl

c1960 – 70s Armadillo Handbag – There is nothing new about the use of animal skins for our clothing and accessories, but somehow the act seems so much more brutal when we see the whole animal. The trade in exotic animals such as armadillos became illegal internationally in the mid 1970s. Being in Australia, and Armadillos being native to North and South America, they are not a common sight. This little thing all curled up and clutching onto itself seems so sweet and charming until I think about what I’m actually looking at. Fashion can be a little grotesque.

c1860 Child’s Shoes – Wooden soled, horse shoe clad and made of very thick upper leather, WWIII would likely erupt if a modern parent attempted to adorn her child in such shoes. Judging by the size of the shoes the child would be of approximately 3 – 4 years of age. Can you imagine the sound the poor thing would have made if indeed it was able to run and play?

c1880 – 1900 Victorian (Australia) Gold Rush Shoes -J.T. Morris was a shoe store located at 306 Sturt Street, Ballarat. Ballarat is a town, north west of Melbourne in country Victoria, Australia at the centre of the Victorian goldfields. Ballarat was largely built on gold in the 1850s – 1860s and has remained an important centre of commerce and society since this time.

J.T. Morris (previously Jago’s Boot Palace) This image was sourced from Flickr where it as listed as being copyright free and in the public domain.

Francis Jago in the 1866 Burgess Roll as a bootmaker in Skipton St, Ballarat. In 1887 he was listed in The Australasian Federal Directory as a boot and shoemaker at 46 Sturt St.  Advertising material is available until 1905. It is likely these shoes date from the later part of the 19th century to the early part of the 20th. As a Victorian, the discovery of gold has had a direct impact on my home city of Melbourne and State of Victoria. Gold either directly or indirectly funded our buildings, built our political system, fostered educational institutions and the arts. Footwear to me is the most fundamental item of clothing. It is the ultimate article of protection from our environment, and its degree of strength and comfort has a direct impact on our health and well being. I would like to know more about the owner of these shoes. As the old idiom goes “Before you judge a (wo)man, walk a mile in (her)his shoes”. The times these shoes hail from were exciting but tough.

1920s Assuit shawl – The discovery of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter sparked great interest in all things Egyptian. Assuit is an Egyptian textile style constructed by passing thread through metal and flattening the metal creating patterns such as plants, people, camels and pyramids. The effect of this textile is shimmering and reptilian, weighted yet floaty. Whilst the fabric production dates back to ancient times its prevalence in the 19th century is due to its popularity as a tourist art for European and American travellers, reaching great heights during the Egyptomania of the 1920s. In this section of shawl you can identify plant forms and people typical of these designs.

As we move to our next section of work, it is sad to leave the process of photographing and cataloguing these wonderful pieces. However I hope that our work will allow greater access to the collection and perhaps in future further support for work to be done.

Please go to Brighton Historical Society on Victorian Collections to view more.



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.





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!



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.



I am ashamed to admit I bought this sweet little purse ages ago. No I really mean ages… I am pretty sure it was in the late 80’s early 90’s. It was in this state at the time and I bought it intending to refurbish its vintage goodness. Ah well, time has ticked on and it has never quite made it to the top of my priority list, until now. I am sooooooooo pleased though that I have finally had an excuse to put aside the time to attend to it. Finding beads wasn’t too difficult although I did have to compromise. I feel fairly certain the original bead was a size 10 and the closest I could get was size 11. The shape is also slightly different. The original bead is more like a doughnut where as the replacement is a bit fuller. I think it is ok though. It can now be used!

Before sml 2

You can see that the old thread is slowly rotting away and this job required securing loose beads as well as rebuilding the original design as closely as I could ascertain from the barely visible stitching marks in the satin. It took a little time but I think well worth it.


During sml

After the beading and cleaning is finished, a very gentle manipulation and some steam to restore its original shape and voila, time to get out into society again.

After sml 2

Next project…..


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.


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….


Can you hear it? Listen for it, after Marion’s laugh. It is the unique sound of beautiful sequinned lace, rustling as it moves, almost like soft rain on a tin roof.

It is a sound that Marion Boyce, award winning Costume designer of crime series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and feature film The Dressmaker is passionately keen to share with others. For Marion, the sound and feel of a garment is just as important as how it looks, creating a sensual feast of nostalgia, beauty and joy.

It is early evening and I have had the great pleasure of accompanying Erica of recycled-fashion.com to meet Marion and experience the new accessories designed for her Miss Fisher Collection – Marion Boyce. Even better, our meet and greet takes place at dusk in the beautiful grand Victorian National Trust owned Labassa Mansion.

Its not hard at all to comprehend that Marion has a great deal of love for both the fashions of the late 1920’s early 30’s and the 1950’s particularly Dior’s New Look. All fashion is representative of the time in which it evolved, and in this instance both periods were times of celebration, and new horizons coming out of the hardship of World Wars. This joy manifested in beautiful fabrics, innovative cutting, essentially clothing as art. Marion’s passion for these periods is evident in the meticulous and loving detail of the garments of the Miss Fisher series set in the 1920’s, The Dressmaker set in the 1950’s and now The Miss Fisher Collection. Read More

By Kenton Greening (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A mosaic of Roman women playing sport, Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily.

What a difference a few metres can make. It’s summer in Melbourne, and for many that means sun, sand, and salt, spending time on our bay and surf beaches. I was in Rye the other day. For those who don’t know it, its on the Mornington Peninsular, south of Melbourne. As you travel south towards the heads of Port Phillip Bay the land narrows (peninsular!) and the long stretches of beach are only a few metres from the shops and houses that line the beach road. On a hot day the beach and streets are buzzing with people enjoying the relaxed summer vibe. Whilst I was in one of these stores in walks a young woman in a string bikini. As I notice her I am struck by how NAKED she looks. Context is everything. If she had of been a few metres away on the sand she would have looked distinctly less NAKED. So what’s the go here? It struck me that clearly there is a generally accepted consensus  that when you leave the beach you add a little more to your body. There were definitely other woman around wearing very little, perhaps just a pair of short shorts, a skimpy singlet top, even just a pair of thongs. Yet there was still a big difference between how NAKED they looked and how she looked. The other influencing factor here is body size. She was very normal. Not terribly over weight, but definitely not thin. A voluptuous girl. It’s pretty unusual to see a woman shaped like that naked in the streets. Another consideration is the amount of fabric that constitutes the bikini, this one had a rather minimal amount. I’d love to include an image, to illustrate my point BUT do you know it’s really, really hard to find an image of a girl in a bikini that is available to use AND appropriate! That might be another blog post…

Now I personally (in hindsight – I was a little taken a back at the time) think she should be applauded for being so comfortable in her own skin. There is no way I ever could have walked around like that. Yet she was clearly completely comfortable and unapologetic. Realistically, it would be amazing if we were all as comfortable and accepting of ourselves as she appeared to be. Another part of this I find interesting is that we are all quite accustomed to seeing complete strangers nearly naked in media and advertising. Whilst I do recall hearing of the odd billboard that has been forcibly removed due to the nature of its content being potentially incompatible with safe driving practices, in general we still see a fair amount of skin in every day life, out and about. But it is sooo different when it is hot, sweaty, and jiggling next to you, isn’t it?

I listened for an accent too – Australian. Reason being for this is when I Iived in Bondi years ago I would see many tourists similarly clad (or unclad!) fairly regularly, also when I traveled through the Mediterranean regions. This just illustrates how different cultures have different unwritten codes around what is the social norm. Yet we all have them. We have them because these codes provide a degree of comfort to the majority. But society and social conventions are constantly evolving. I remember when I was a small girl that it was very common to see males walking around with no shirt on. Now with our understanding of skin cancer that it relatively rare, although not exactly head turning. I hope she had tons of sunscreen on!

So what if this had of been a guy? Walking around in one of those European man-style thong bathers?  Now that would have turned heads!



I consider myself to be relatively in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to my own body image. As a child, teenager and in my twenties I spent more time thinking about my body shape than I do now. I think that’s probably pretty normal. Whilst I have always stressed about the size of my thighs, my lack of a waistline and heavy arms, I never got involved in dieting to extremes, somehow still having an inner picture that whilst I didn’t look like a model, I was still ok.

I started working out in the school gym as soon as it became available. This was partly due to a shy nature, it was a good way to keep myself occupied in a constructive way at lunch times, and partly due to the threats of one of our sports teachers. I will never forget Miss Moore. Athletic, deeply bronzed olive skin, petite in height and frame, swinging thick black hair and a take no prisoners attitude. Intimidating in many ways. I’m sure she had good intentions. However when she told my year 11 class that in her experience and opinion by the time we were a year or two out of secondary school most of us would be overweight and unhealthy and it was all down hill from there, I was alarmed. As a young woman with increasing body consciousness it struck fear deep into my heart.

I developed an unhealthy and unrealistic vision of the body that I wanted to achieve and started working out. Now when I say the body is unrealistic and unhealthy, well that all depends upon your perspective. If I was able to achieve that body, I feel quite sure that I would be very healthy and fit. However from the starting point that I had, and my genetic make up, it would take a good deal of hard work, dedication and discipline.

Over the years I have realized that whilst I have continued to work out, take care of my health and desire to improve my health and physique, I have never had the depth of desire that would drive the levels of effort and discipline necessary to achieve that body.

In the mean time I have traveled, worked, played and generally lived. A lot of the time there were elements of life that negatively contributed to the state of my health or fitness. Late nights, unhealthy meals, alcohol etc. All very normal, nothing extreme, but all an important part of my journey.

In my late twenties and early thirties I had children and whooo man. What a challenge that can be! I became enormous! With the first pregnancy, I was comfort eating for two, in shock about the impending changes to my life. With number two, well I never really lost a lot of the weight from the first pregnancy and then she was a huge baby. So by the time I had finished pregnancies, births and breast feeding my body barely resembled my body from before.

I found this time immensely challenging. I was exhausted, over weight and to be honest depressed.  Around this time,  I trained as an Image consultant. Learning about body shape and creating a more desirable body shape through clothing spurred on my desire to change, this time with a different focus on maximizing my ability to dress the way I wanted to. In my head it was less about my health and more about my perfectionism in crafting a look.

After a few years with this approach I started to become aware of the messages I was passing on to my girls. Some of the thoughts that emitted their lips alarmed me. In respect of them, I won’t share but it made me rethink some of my choices in life.

Over time I believe I have managed to get myself back into exercise and an acceptable level of fitness. I have been very fortunate to have the support and encouragement of not only a great partner but some wonderful fitness professionals. I no longer hit the gym five times a week, realistically I only manage three at best. But I believe my attitude to my fitness and my body is more sustainable.

However, I am no pin up girl. I still have a considerable spare tyre around my waistline as well as excess kilos all over. What has changed is that I now accept that. I know that I could be fitter and slimmer and have a pretty clear concept of what would be required of me to get there. I continue to look after my diet and exercise but what has changed is the nasty little voice in my head has got quieter.

So here is the thing that has subdued that nasty little voice.

I have two beautiful, intelligent, delightful daughters. Like most mothers I try to be the best role model I can, to guide and encourage them to recognize and value their uniqueness and to understand and accept the diversity of people in their world. I have tried hard to raise them with a healthy diet and a healthy attitude to sleep, exercise, food, indulgence etc etc.

But what they have given me through no fault or intention of their own is acceptance of myself. In my experience most parents at some point realize that their children are fundamentally different from one another. Whether that be through genetics or environment and a desire to differentiate themselves from one another and their parents, over time they develop their own interests, personalities and…. physiques.

My girls are both lean and muscular. Not highly motivated in competitive team sports but both very active and more interested in personal goals and achievements. One has definitely inherited genetics from her father with a very small frame, lean muscle and little body fat. The other, it’s harder to pinpoint but she is also developing a lean muscular frame. The differences in their frame were pointed out to me by a pediatrician when they were 3.5 and 2 years respectively and I struggled to see the difference at the time. Now its obvious.

The point is they are who and what they are as a result of many different factors, genetic and environmental. Despite living in the same house, with the same food and parents they are increasingly different. They are both just as beautiful, healthy and lovely as one another. Just different. And so am I.

To finish, as a women there also comes a time that when you realize that if your very slim, narrow hipped, 13 year old has moved into size 8 ladies jeans, then it is perfectly reasonable that your 40 something, curvaceous, muscular, post two children butt will best be accommodated in something substantially larger. And that’s OK.