Saturday, April 30, 2011


The lovely Leah from Couture Arabesque has just posted an interview with me about Digs Frocks and Books. You can read it here. Check out her blog for gorgeous vintage finds and the best in recent fashions.
In other housekeeping news I've finally joined Twitter. You can follow me here.

Winter 1963: Jean Shrimpton

At the Sydney Antiques and Collectibles Fair a few weeks ago I picked up this amazing scrapbook - one amongst a collection of many - that some devoted follower of fashion collated back in the 60s. The one that I eventually decided to purchase (because I couldn't justify buying all of them) was labeled 'Winter 1963'. Each image is either advertising or editorial, obviously from the best fashion magazines, and the very creative collector compiled them as though they were a catalogue. 'Winter 1963' starts out with fur, then heads into coats, followed by evening wear, accessories and then sleepwear and lingerie. I love, love, love it.
There are so many gorgeous images to scan for you but in the meantime here are just a few of the ones that feature the hottest model of the early 60s, Jean Shrimpton.
Oh, and I just found out that apparently a film is being made about Jean's love affair with David Bailey. I'll definitely be looking out for that one although one does wonder what the fiercely private 'Shrimp' would think about it all.

Is it just me, or is this Verushka in the pink?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dita's Off-Duty Style

Dita favours Elie Saab and Christian Dior couture for her red-carpet appearances but I think it is in her everday style where her real personality shines through. Can you have an 'everday' style when your job is to be stylish every single day? Perhap not. I have noticed, however, that she is either looking particularly cute of late, or getting papped a lot.
She shopped at an LA flea market in vintage and she embraced colour, and all purpose wedges, for the Coachella Music Festival. Pairing one of Dior's South Pacific inspired dresses with a sailors cap provides a lovely finishing touch and suddenly I"m flooded with memories of my own sailors cap that I wore obsessively for months on end when I was 11.
PS Her boyfriend is a little bit handsome. Lucky lady.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

All I Want for Winter ...

Besides good health for me and my loved ones, some time and space to write and blog and *hopefully* a few successful author tours under my belt is a new wool coat (preferably camel), some ankle boots, and that perfect pair of pants that will work on weekends as well as at work. I'm quite taken with both of these from Arnsdorf's new A/W collection. What do you think?

Off to Melbourne tomorrow so fingers crossed I can squeeze in a trip to Alice Euphemia, one of my favourite locations for Aussie designers. I bought my last pair of Arnsdorf jeans there. Oh, and when I was in Brisbane last week I discovered a new vintage store in Fortitude Valley, right opposite my hotel. It is called The Purple Bedroom and the owner helped me discover a gorgeous pencil skirt in that exact same hue of blue seen on the pants above. It is definitely worth checking out her lovely little store.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Autumn Loves Vintage

I've been remiss in my blogging of late as I seem to be working every waking moment. When I do get some spare time I spend it staring listlessly at the television or trying to get some physical exercise so that I feel a little bit like a human being. This is why it is so important that every hotel I stay in has a fabulous lap pool (the one at The Olsen in Melbourne is particularly lovely). Please read this and take it into consideration decision making work people. Anyway, I've been travelling a lot, and tomorrow I'll be travelling again, and meantime I may just miss this seasons Love Vintage Fair at Canterbury Racecourse. But that doesn't mean that you should. If you are in Sydney this weekend, get yourself to thee Fair. I challenge you not to be tempted by something timelessly lovely.
PS I did manage a trip to the monthly Sydney Collectibles, Vintage & Antique Fair in Wentworth Park recently and picked up a few interesting pieces. More on those later.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cate's New Collaboration

Cate has been photographed in Aussie label Romance Was Born for the May issue of Harper's Bazaar. I love what Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett do with their label; it might not always be practical, but their creations are never anything but mindblowingly original and gorgeously colourful. Cate has announced that Romance Was Born will be creating costumes for a new Sydney Theatre Company production, Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness. You can read more about it here. I'm hoping that this frock is a sign of things to come, for both the play and the label, because, is it just me, or do the floral appliques on the bodice resemble the ones found on raffia bags and purses from the 1960s? And the skirt appears to be made of rosettes. My Cate looks lovely indeed.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dress Crush

I spotted this 1940s Sally Milgrim dress over at Timeless Vixen Vintage and instantly fell in love. How beautiful are the appliques on the bodice and the bottom of the skirt? How divine is the big bow at the back? This lovely dress would suit a garden party wedding I think. I just love knowing that pieces this lovely are in existence, whether they ever make their way to my wardrobe or not.
Sally Milgrim had a famous dress shop on the corner of 57Th and Fifth Avenue in New York for many years. She made clothes for many of New York's well-to-do ladies + celebrities too. She famously made the dress that Eleanor Roosevelt wore when her husband was inaugurated as President.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Bevy of Books

It has been a while since I've done a 'what I've been reading lately post'. Most of these books I've read in the last few months, although in the case of Freedom (Fourth Estate), I actually read it last July in proof form (thanks Jane!) whilst on holiday in Fiji, and now rather belatedly I'm joining the chorus of readers espousing the virtues of this book. Franzen's novels might only come around once a decade, but they are quite seriously literary crack. I've had nine months to ruminate on the fact that I enjoyed Freedom even more than The Corrections and I think that was because I found it more hopeful. Despite 9/11, despite the GFC, despite the tragic/comic events that befall Patty and Walter, this book has a lot of heart. It is both hilariously funny - I actually had to read some parts aloud to hubby - and moving. It is ambitious in scope and unflinchingly honest; it reads as though it was written without any pretension or fear. Fingers crossed novel number three isn't another nine years away. Oh, and it was great conversation fodder at my office for a few months. There was a lot of hype about this originally self-published book, Anthropology of an American Girl (Allen & Unwin) by a young American writer. After some success it was picked up by a mainstream publisher, edited somewhat, and released to the wider trade. I started it on a Sydney-Perth flight and couldn't put it down. It probably could have done with some further cuts, but one reviewer called this book 'literary crack' (which is what I called Freedom when I was reading it) and it isn't hard to see why. Set on New York's Long Island in the eighties, the book follows the romantic adventures of a young heroine, Eveline, from high-school into college. The plot sounds kind of generic but the execution is entirely original. Some of the language lapses into pretension, but some of the passages are truly inspired, and the picture of first love that Thayer Hamann creates is scarily authentic. Remember when you were so in love that you thought you might die? My main frustration with this book, apart from some of the too flowery language, was that Eveline is not an entirely sympathetic character. Of course she doesn't have to be, that's just the way the author imagined her into existence, but I did find myself occasionally wanting to throw the book at my tiny (plane) window because of her passivity. Eveline just kept letting bad stuff, and bad men, happen to her. Having said that I thought the young male characters in this book were some of the best developed and truest I had read in a long time. The author 'got' the bravado and competitive nature of young men down pat. And I couldn't stop thinking about this book a long time after I finished it. I'll be very interested to read what Thayer Hamann does next.

Ever since I read Brooklyn I've been completely in love with Colm Toibin's writing, not to mention the fact that he is absolutely adorable. I went back in time and read his novel based on the later life of Henry James, The Master. I lent it to my Mum afterwards and we both agree that it is an almost perfect book. I'm serious when I say reading his prose is a bit like listening to The Beatles White Album or gazing at one of Van Gogh's later paintings; the beauty of it warms your soul. I also read Toibin's latest collection of short stories The Empty Family (Picador), which had me weeping on a plane. I can't gush enough about how much I love Toibin's writing. The Pleasure Seekers (Bloomsbury) is a gorgeous first novel about a blended British/Indian family. In the late 60s Babo heads to London to study and work, and his family are initially horrified when he declares that he is determined to marry his Welsh girlfriend Sian. The book then follows Babo and Sian and their families over the next thirty years or so and the cast of assembled characters are delightful and funny and richly drawn and were very hard to leave when the book finished. I love, love, loved this.

In the book world we call Maggie O'Farrell a literary/mass market cross-over author. In other words, she's hugely popular, and with her expert plotting and sympathetic characters, it isn't hard to work out why. Her latest, The Hand That First Held Mine (Headline) has two separate but interlinked stories; the first follows a young woman, Lexie, and her love affair with an older man in the 1950s London art scene and the second heroine is a present-day young mother and artist, Elina, who is struggling after the traumatising birth of her first child. I got quite teary at the end of this book, which I read in one wonderful weekend.

And now to a book that hasn't come out yet ... The End of Everything (Picador) is being published in the middle of the year, but it has already done the rounds in our publicity and marketing departments. Unanimously my colleagues and I loved it. The author, Megan Abbott, is an award-winning crime writer, but this is a bit of a 'literary' departure for her, but it does contain crime elements. Told from the point-of-view a thirteen-year-old girl whose best friend goes missing one summer, it reads like a cross between Virgin Suicides and The Lovely Bones. It has an almost retro feel to it, even though it is contemporary, or perhaps it is just because it is set in childhood. It is very perceptive about that age when sexual feelings first begin to stir, but in heart and mind you are still a child. The sense of menace Abbott builds is very powerful and it has a great ending too, quite controversial. A good book for reading groups methinks.
In between all the books I read for work (and you can read more about them in this interview with me at The Australian Literature Review) I've also read David Vann's sad but beautiful Legend of a Suicide and Caribou Island (Penguin), Alex Miller's romantic Lovesong (Allen & Unwin), William Boyd's Any Human Heart (which is about to be released as a mini-series with Matthew McFadyen) and his great spy novel Restless (Bloomsbury) and I took a trip down memory lane recently and revisited Gone With the Wind, which I hadn't read since I was 15!

At the moment I'm thoroughly engrossed in Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge (Penguin) which is a historical romantic saga that reminds me a bit of Doctor Zhivago. For a first time novel from a young American writer it is pretty darn impressive, and its a real page-turner as well. In fact I might get back to it right now, but meanwhile I'm happy to take recommendations for other books. I find personal recommendations are still the best way to discover new books and authors, particularly as I await patiently for Jeffrey Eugendies new book The Marriage Plot (Fourth Estate) to hit shelves later this year. Squeal, squeal! I've already been promised an early proof.