On the June long weekend I’ll be making the trip up to Byron Bay for a friend’s wedding. In what I think is a genius move, the wedding is 1950s themed – so on the weekend we went trawling for outfits from the era.
Our first stop was to a store we’d accidentally discovered a few weeks ago while visiting the Rozelle markets. Called “Mint Condition”, this shop is a treasure trove of frocks, hats, shoes and accessories from delicious decades past. Petticoats hang from the ceilings, racks gleam with sequins, and every nook and cranny holds an item with a story. There are gloves that could surely have only fit doll’s hands, saucy disco playsuits and wigs from who-knows-when.
The racks are grouped by style rather than era, so there were delicate 50s cotton print frocks alongside 80s numbers with shoulder pads worthy of gridiron players. Fabrics are the best indicator of a garment’s age – pieces from the 50s in this kind of condition are wicked expensive because, well, they’re nearly six decades old. When they were made, zippers were just being invented. Many items were handsewn rather than industrially manufactured, and thus don’t have tags or care instructions. By the sixties, synthetic fabrics are all the rage, zips are no longer a novelty, and most garments have been mass produced. Colours get brighter, prints get crazy, hems get shorter…. and then promptly drop again for the maxi-dresses of the 70s.
But the most striking lesson we learned about garments from the 1950s was that women were much smaller then!
I fell head over heels in love with this baby-blue lace dress. It was just perfect. Except, of course, for the fact that the zipper wouldn’t even begin to do up. Granted, I am a bit of a giant, and the shopgirl tried to comfort me with the fact that back when the dress was made most women would have been sucked into girdles and corsets. After a few disappointments with gorgeous 50s dresses, some of which didn’t even fit over my shoulders, I swallowed my pride and hit the “plus size” rack.
Jackpot! This dress was definitely in mint condition – unworn and still with tags attached from the 60s or possibly 70s. It’s the kind of effortless tennis dress I imagine Margot Tenenbaum would wear to the country club, were she a bored Hamptons housewife in the 1960s; fur coat and martini optional.
I had to have it; but it still wouldn’t quite fit the 50s theme, or June weather for that matter. So I found a really simple black floaty dress, with a beautiful drape and hemmed at just the right spot below the knee. Clearly it belonged to some obese, but very glamorous, woman in the 1950s. Thank-you m’am!
And that’s why this week is all about Mi Goreng noodles and whatever is left in the fridge until pay day!