Sunday, August 5, 2012

The End

You may have noticed that things have been very quiet at Digs Frocks and Books for a while and to be honest this has been because I've been working up the courage to say goodbye.

I started out Digs Frocks and Books as a way to get into the habit of writing regularly and the short bursts required to keep a blog going suited me well as I juggled full-time work and a chronic pain condition too. It also allowed me to spend lots of wonderful time researching fashions of the past and connecting with people all across the world of similar interests and I'm so thankful for that. I've met some wonderful people along the way.

Four years down the line and I'm still juggling full-time work and my illness as well as everything else my life has to offer: family, husband, friends, exercise, reading & housework. And instead of spending time on Digs Frocks and Books I've been creative writing instead and I've been really, really enjoying it. I've got about a third of a novel under my belt and another novella too and although I'm unsure whether any of it is any good at all, I'm thoroughly enjoying the process of actually doing it.

In other words it is time to commit to new things.

I'll be keeping the blog archive up as I don't want to lose four years worth of research and writing and you never know, one day I may want to come back to it.

In the meantime there are so many other wonderful vintage blogs out there well worth checking out, some of which are highlighted on my blog roll. And I'll still be talking about vintage and my other passions (literature, feminism) on my Twitter feed. I confess to social media fatigue sometimes but my job as a publicist kind of demands that I keep my finger on the pulse. Maybe one day soon I'll embrace Pinterest and Instagram too. I'm so behind the times, right?

In the words of Scarlett O'Hara 'after all, tomorrow is another day.'
See you on the flip side lovelies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Claire McCardell Summer

You've probably noticed that I post about summer clothes a LOT. That's because I'm a sun baby who lives for the heat on my skin. I like spring and autumn too but the only saving grace about winter is that there is another summer just a few months around the corner. Oh, and I celebrate my birthday.
So as I wish this winter away and dream of my next summer, here are a few classic Claire McCardell pieces to help set the mood. The great American sportswear designer was renowned for her bathing suits and her revealing sundresses that wouldn't look out of place on summer holiday today. You know what is missing from these pictures though? Sunglasses. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Two for the Road

Yesterday I watched Two for the Road with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. Being a life-long Audrey fan I'm not quite sure why I've never watched it before, but I think it must have been because of other fans telling me that it wasn't one of her best. It does suffer from a bit of self-conscious grooviness that afflicts some films from the latter half of the sixties, and I wasn't entirely convinced by Hepburn and Finney's love/hate affair/marriage, but the film does have some genuinely funny and poignant moments, the Henry Mancini score is simply beautiful, and visually it is gorgeous. Set mainly in the South of France it has scenery, cool cars and high fashion galore.

Since becoming a star I believe this was Audrey's first vehicle where Givenchy was not responsible for her costumes. Instead off-the-peg designs from Paco Rabanne, Mary Quant, Andre Courreges and Tuffin and Foale were used to dress Audrey's character as she grew from young travelling choir girl to wealthy housewife. The result is some seriously cutting edge outfits. Check out the black vinyl suit. Or the two evening dresses by Paco Rabanne: the psychedelic shift and that mirrorball-esque silver dress with matching earrings. My favourites from the film though are the swimsuits Audrey wears in the beach and pool scenes (love that pastel one) and the simple jeans and sweater sets she wears in the falling in love scenes. A pair of high-waisted jeans with a sweater and slip-on shoes never goes out of style for weekend wear.

Check out the trailer for the film here. Audrey was 38 when it was made and was as beautiful and stylish as ever.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


The recent Met Gala celebrated the opening of a new fashion exhibition at the Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York called Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations about the similarities and synchronicity in the work of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada. Modern technology means that while all the way over in the Southern Hemisphere I can't get an invitation to the party, I can at least watch the entire red-carpet arrivals live. And it was interesting to hear how many of the celebs in attendance didn't know that much about Schiaparelli, which isn't surprising really. Her fashion house closed in the 1950s so the name doesn't have modern currency like, say, Christian Dior and she hasn't had multiple films adaptations made about her life like Gabrielle Chanel. The reality is, though, that Elsa Schiaparelli was even more of a rule-breaking trend-setter than her contemporary Chanel.
Sure, she is best known for her daring use of prints and her collaborations with surrealist artists like Man Ray, Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali, but did you know that she was also responsible for inventing skorts, culottes, graphic print knitwear, coloured zippers, shocking pink, wraparound dresses, wacky buttons and matching jackets and gowns for evening wear? She also experimented heavily with fabric AND treated her designs as an art form, not just a function. Like a pre-war version of Lee McQueen is it any wonder Chanel called Schiaparelli 'that Italian artist who makes clothes.'

Elsa Schiaparelli also led a fascinating life. Born into a wealthy and distinguished Italian family she very quickly rejected the life of luxury and ease on offer to her, seeking out a more creative and real life in New York and then Paris, where she befriended great artists, started her innovative design house and even got her foot in the door in Hollywood designing costumes for a number of films. The bottle for Schiaparelli's perfume 'Shocking' (a great name for a scent) was modelled on the figure of Mae West.

I only found out the other day that Schiaparelli was also the grandmother of beautiful 60's and 70's top model Marisa Berenson (who is still beautiful and chic and often seen at the fashion shows in Paris and Milan) and the fashion photographer Berry Berenson who sadly passed away in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. What a talented family.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Style Crush: Ulyana Sergeenko

The April issue of Vogue UK has a fabulous story on fashion taste makers - you know, the non-celebrity types who fashion bloggers are enamoured with, snapping away at for street style blogs - and amongst the many fabulous ladies featured (hooray for colour) is Russian designer Ulyana Sergeenko. Her style is a little bit 1940s, a little bit House of Romanov, and I love it.
Her eponymous label is gorgeous too. All sweeping skirts, cinched waists and luxurious fabrics. Here are some examples from her latest look book.

And Ulyana on the street looking pretty as a peach. She really is the best advertisement for her own clothes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Down Mexico Way

Next year I'm going to Mexico for the first time and so my eyes were drawn to these summery campaign images for Paule Ka. Photographed by Venetia Scott, Jessica Stam models outfits that wouldn't look out of place on Megan Draper circa Mad Men series 5 (have you been watching?). And sure, maybe these photos were taken in Acapulco and maybe I'm visiting the East Coast rather than the West Coast, but I can dream, can't I? And in my dreams I'll be carrying a bamboo and leather purse and shading my eyes behind big red sunglasses.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A little blog holiday ...

It has been four years since I started my little blog Digs Frocks and Books and in that time I've never gone more than about a fortnight without posting. Along the way I've learned a whole lot about fashion history - designers, fabrics, styles, photographers, models - and I've connected with fashion lovers (and book lovers) all over the world.
In the interests, however, of pursuing other projects and finding more time (life is so full these days: work, freelance work, reading, friends, husband, family, exercise, house work [yuk!] my lonely unfinished novel) I've decided to take a break from the blog for a month. This is a trial separation only and all the content will remain online. After the break I will most likely be back but if I decide to make the break more permanent it will be because my creative energies will be busy elsewhere. Truly it will be the blogging community I'll miss the most.
Meanwhile happy (Easter) holidays. I'm heading up the coast to spend the Easter weekend with my parents. Vogue tells me I should be wearing belted cardigans over long dresses for autumn and it seems Claudette Colbert agrees. Come to think of it her look from It Happened One Night has never really gone out of style, right?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Marilyn Does Vintage

I know I've written a lot about Marilyn lately but that's because, since my husband bought me a copy of the fabulous photographic book Metamorphosis Marilyn Monroe for Christmas, I've been a little obsessed. I was so dazzled by the photographs in the book that I was prompted to read Joyce Carol Oates novel Blonde which had been sitting on my bookshelf for about a decade. I've got no idea why I didn't read it earlier - especially as I've been a fan of Marilyn's films since childhood - but perhaps it had something to do with page length (considerable) and false impressions. One can never really know what celebrities are truly like unless you spend significant time with them (I've met enough of them in my time to know) but overall the impression I've had over the last few years - contrary to the 'difficult' persona cultivated by the gossip press while Marilyn was alive - is of someone damaged but also very likeable. Blonde is a novel - it is not a biography - but it draws on Marilyn's life heavily and is a powerful story of celebrity, beauty, sexuality and womanhood.
Anyway, back to the pretty pictures ...
It was only on receiving Metamorphosis that I discovered this amazing set of photographs Marilyn sat for with Richard Avedon for the December 22 1958 edition of Life magazine. Labelled the 'siren' series of photos, in them Marilyn poses as greats from Hollywood's past: Clara Bow, Jean Harlow, Lillian Russell, Marlene Dietrich and Theda Bara.
A letter from Marilyn's publicist Joe Wolhandler in January 1959 (courtesy of the book MM Personal) says the 'issue of Life magazine that carried your picture set an all-time record in sales. More copies were sold of that issue than any other issue in the history of Life. The figure was 6,300,000 and more could have been sold if they had printed more. Life's circulation department tells me that this is the highest circulation figure in their entire publishing career.'
In the latter part of her career Marilyn was very much in control of her own image. These pictures are testament to Avedon's talent and Marilyn's smarts. And they go to prove that retro has always been in vogue for portrait and fashion photography. Even in the 1950s they glamorised the flapper age.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pretty for the weekend

Photographer Amber Grey for Marie Claire China, the styling is uniquely modern but the composition recalls fashion photos from the 50s and 60s. Can anyone tell me who the designer is of those lovely floral frocks? Dolce & Gabbana maybe?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New Purchase: Red Rose Dress

The Love Vintage Fair - at it's new location inside the Hordern Pavilion in Moore Park, Sydney - was on this weekend and I popped along for a sticky beak on opening night. In the process I picked up this lovely white cotton frock with a rose print (see close up) + pretty bows at the sleeve. Thanks Classic and Chic. I might just wear it to yet another wedding this weekend. Tis the season after all.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Grace Kelly Style Exhibition

Last weekend the husband and I drove all the way down to Lorne on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria for my cousin's wedding. On the way back we were lucky enough to make it to the opening day of the Grace Kelly Style Exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery, only hours behind Princess Charlene.
Whether or not you like Grace Kelly as an actress, or you care for royalty or not, you can't deny that Kelly influenced 20th Century Style. When your very name becomes an adjective for a certain type of simple and relaxed glamour - if you hear someone say that a look is very 'Grace Kelly' you immediately know what they are they are talking about - you probably do deserve an exhibition all of your own.
Courtesy of the V&A in London the Bendigo Art Gallery is currently displaying four rooms full of Grace's clothes, hats, gloves, handbags (hello the Hermes Kelly bag) as well as tonnes of photographs and clips from her films. A movie star for a short time before quitting the business, Grace made only eleven feature films in her career but was at the height of her Oscar winning popularity when she met and married Prince Rainier, regent of the tiny municipality of Monaco. The year that High Society was released and she wed her Prince in the 'Wedding of the Century' saw her celebrity reach its peak. Every element of her wedding trousseau was pored over, and many of those dresses and suits are on display in Bendigo, as well as costumes from Rear Window (Edith Head), The Swan (Helen Rose) and High Society (also Helen Rose). There is a replica of Grace's famous wedding dress (perhaps only rivalled by Princess Diana's wedding dress for icon status) - the most expensive dress ever designed by Hollywood costumier Helen Rose - as well as many stunning couture gowns Grace wore once she became a Princess. These had me mesmerised: there is Madame Gres (such as the green suit above), Balenciaga, Givenchy and tonnes of Dior and Marc Bohan. Marc Bohan was a huge favourite of hers; the silver dress in the state photograph above is a Bohan and is on display at the exhibition.

After finishing up at the Art Gallery we took a stroll around the sites of Bendigo, checking out the impressive architecture of the gold rush town. Here's me on top of the town's water tower.

And it was a little chilly for me in Lorne (although not so much for the New Zealanders who made up the bulk of the guests and bridal party) so for the wedding day I chose a dress I'd worn before, to the lovely Pia Andersen's 30th Birthday Party. In this case I paired it with my new Chloe suede pumps that remind me of Neapolitan ice cream and a sweet lime green 1960s purse picked up at the Vintage Fashion Emporium.