Friday, August 14, 2009

Setting the foundations...of your wardrobe

The modern underwear of choice for most of us is a lightweight cotton/lycra bikini brief, but once upon a time, every great outfit started off with cast iron foundation garments.

During our fossick we found many an example of these instruments of torture. This full girdle was absolutely beautifully made and would have come apart into a thousand different pieces I think. I sold it on Ebay, and as I recall, it went to live in America.
It seems vintage Hickory underwear is quite collectible. We found several brand new items still in their box, including these two bras below which still had their receipt included. They were purchased from Myer at Brookside in 1982.

The bra, above right, still had its tag and boasted a 9"separation??
Aside from the fashion for a moment, I recently came across a page ripped from an old notebook. It's headed 'With the compliments of The Sailors and Soldiers'Church of England Help Society'. In pencil handwriting, dated 1940, it has this little gem:
"Chemical Analysis of a Woman
Element: Woman
Occurrence: Found wherever man exists, seldom in the free state, with few exceptions the combined state is preferred.
Physical Properties: All colours and sizes. Usually in disguised condition, face covered with film of composite material. Baulks at nothing and may freeze at a moment's notice. However, melts when properly treated, very bitter if not well used.
Chemical Properties: Very active, possesses great affinity for gold, silver, platinum and precious stones. Violent reaction when left alone. Able to absorb expensive food at any time. Sometimes yields to pressure. Turns green when placed beside a better looking specimen. Ages very rapidly. Fresh variety has a very great magnetic attraction."
Now, that's all very funny and cute, but alarming also. Until now, I had thought I was just imagining that I was ageing rapidly!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fashion plates

Being young and reasonably moneyed, Doris and Gwennie dabbled in fashion, as you'd expect. In the house we found garments from the early 1900s right through to the early 2000s. Some have already been sold, some I'm keeping, and some will make their way to Ebay (will keep you posted).

Gwennie had many of her clothes made by a lady who lived at Kangaroo Point. She was obviously a beautiful dressmaker. Gwennie had a fav style of dress which you may pick up on. It was dropped waist with a bow on the hip. I lost count of how many of these dresses we found.

Sorry this is so higgledy-piggledy but I hope you have fun looking.

This crazy acid pink nylon blouse was highly flammable, and it still had the tag on it.

These are a pair of lovely old swimmers. We found these, plus two pairs of black ones. They'd be from the 1930s when the girls were in their 20s.

I loved this fabric - pink with a little gum tree print on it (linen).

A fur, not sure what kind. Paws but no head.

Wedgwood blue silk (?) 1930s evening gown, which also has a little bolero jacket.

Lots of things had this beautiful hand beading.

Above left, a 50s (?) dress with overskirt made from a beautiful fine cotton with a slight sheen. Right, a 1930s evening gown.

Left, a beautiful brown wool capelet.

A classic orange & black Miss 60s, above.

Below, classic Gwennie, drop waist & bow.

Below, something more comfy for nights in front of the tele. Still had tag.

A beautiful old ruffle below. Very old & sold!! Don't know what I was thinking getting rid of this one.Below, my very fav, the blue velvet slinky.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The rainy day that never comes
Let's talk about Gwennie. Firstly, I don't call her Gwennie because of any sort of cheeky disrespect. Her proper name was Gwennie May (same middle name as me), although Mr Baby tells me she wasn't fond of it.
Gwennie passed away at the end of last year at the age of 96. She did well for herself. She lived to a ripe old age in the house where she was born. From what I understand she never would have suffered any financial stress, she travelled, she worked and she shopped.
I imagine having no mortgage or rent, and no children or dependents, her disposable income would have been substantial.
Gwennie worked as a secretary at various offices in Brisbane city including the office of McDonnell and East Department Store in George Street. She worked well into her 60s.
The first room of the house we began to sort was Gwennie's bedroom. I'm not sure why because it is neither at the back, nor the front of the house, it's in the middle.
I discovered things about Gwennie as I delved into each drawer and cupboard. I learnt that she loved clothes, jewellery, bags, hats, shoes and..... golf.
Gwennie was a long time member at Ashgrove Golf Club. I even found the letter in which she regretfully forfeited her membership when she was no longer able to play.
I wondered what a stranger may learn about me if they had to catalogue my possessions. I'm messy, I often buy the same thing over and over. I keep broken things obviously planning to fix them at some stage, but there wouldn't be any evidence of my ever actually having done that.
Going through her things, I felt sad that I had never taken the time or made the effort to get to know Gwennie. The day I had stopped to talk to her, I'd said that I would slip my phone number into her letterbox in case she ever had an emergency, but I'd never gotten around to doing it.
It's not that I had forgotten, but more that I was worried she may call me for every tiny chore she needed doing. I felt worse. I felt that I had missed out on something.
We found many photos of Gwennie. I found large framed baby photos of her, and ones of her playing golf, at the beach and tennis parties. In the most recent photo, she looked much smaller and frailer than when I had met her. Her hair was white and sitting on her lap was oddly, a lamb.
Gwen was a mad keen shopper, no doubt because she had the income to do it, but also because she worked in a department store.
On the couch in the living room we found several plastic shopping bags still with their contents and receipt inside. They looked as though they had only just been placed there by the shopper, while she went to get a drink in the kitchen, after a strenuous afternoon in the city.
I lost count of how many pairs of long white pants I found, all brand new.
There were top and skirt ensembles, purchased in the early 2000s still in their shopping bags. Some priced at over $150, and never worn.
In the sleepout, on a spare bed, I found another pile of shopping bags. They'd been there so long that the bags had actually deteriorated into shreds, so that the contents appeared to be hidden under a pile of feathers. I didn't even know that was possible.
Whenever I buy something new I wear it almost immediately, which may explain why I can be so often inappropriately dressed.

I'd love to ask Gwen, 'why'?

In Doris' room we also found underwear, pyjamas and nightgowns, still boxed with the tag on. Obviously, that 'good' occasion never arose.
Possibly their wardrobes were just so extensive that inevitably, some of it went unworn - like the Paris and Nicki Hiltons of their day!
I'm going to spend the next several blogs taking you through the fashion. I'm not sure how to go about it, whether to just go decade by decade or in categories; hats, shoes, underwear, evening, etc.
I'll work it out.
In the meantime, if you are saving something for a rainy day, for heaven's sake, wear it now. That rainy day may never come.
P.S. I don't have anything on Ebay at the moment, but when I do I'll be sure to let you know.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The old trunk

As you've probably noticed, I'm not good with headlines. I try to think of witty play-on-words, but it just doesn't happen for me. I sit for half an hour trying to come up with something and....nothing. So please excuse them.
One day when I thought I had made nearly every discovery, I dragged an old metal trunk out from under the house. With blog in mind, I photographed it before I moved anything.
Once outside on the grass I took everything out and laid it on the ground. An interesting mix, including a little old jar of bullets.

As you can see there were old milk glass lightshades, ropes, the large glass flagon, strings of old cotton reels (not sure what I can do with them), an ornate metal stand with sharp pokers hung on it (see right hand side), and a chandelier.

Now, this is very funny that I should find a chandelier because years ago, in about 1996, I saw a picture in a magazine of a clawfoot bath with a chandelier over it. This image opened up a whole new and modern use for the chandelier for me, but alas, at that stage, they weren't so universally popular and I was never able to find what I wanted. Now you can go into Beacon Lighting and get a fantastic reproduction chandelier for $250.

I've also found that whatever I wish for, it appears. Like magic. I found the pearls, then there's the piano, a lovely dinner set, anodised aluminium goblets, the gas lamp and now the chandelier.

Technically speaking, I think what I have found may be called a gas helper. It's not really a chandelier, but a suspended gas light with ornate metal and crystals.

The crystals are in the leather pouch in the bottom of the
picture - they're not very shiny at the moment!

I've only spent an hour trying to piece it together so far, and
haven't gotten very far. I can't really even find a picture
of one to make it a bit easier.

I'll keep you informed of my progress with this project.