Friday, June 26, 2015

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries Weekend

As vintage loving gals, I'm pretty sure you will have heard of this show...

If you haven't, you might want to acquaint yourself with it!  This brilliant Australian-made production centres around the enigmatic femme-fatale Miss Phryne Fisher and her cohorts as she fights crime amid the priviledged wealth and gritty backstreets of 1928 Melbourne.  It is beautifully filmed in historic locations around Melbourne and the highly stylised late 1920s fashion fantasy from costume designer Marion Boyce never ceases to inspire me!

An exhibition of costumes from series three was announced earlier in the year, along with a bunch of events - a 'Festival of Phryne' - and my friends and I could not plan a weekend away fast enough!  We chose three events to attend, a speakeasy, a high tea, and the exhibition itself.  We also decided to have a whole 20s/30s themed weekend, staying in a historic hotel and going to see Anything Goes at the theatre!

Here is a photo of our gorgeous hotel

The Hotel Charsfield is a beautiful, incredibly well maintained hotel in Melbourne, but if you want to go and stay there, you need to do it quickly, because early next year it is going to be pulled down and replaced with an apartment building.  So sad....  They are keeping the facade because they have to, but thats just not good enough in my opinion.


After checking in and exploring, we all got frocked up to attend Miss Fisher's Speakeasy at Old Melbourne Gaol.

You might have seen the dress I am wearing on my facebook page.  I made it using this Evadress pattern, and some rayon crepe from

To say I love this dress is an understatement.  I felt so amazing in it, it is now my most favourite dress!

We met more friends at the gaol and drank and talked the night away.

It was nice to see other people dressed up for the occasion.  Some had made a really good go at period costume, but the short skirt/sequined headband/feather boa brigade were also well represented.

The following day was Phryne's Fashionable High Tea at Labassa House.  I had concentrated on making appropriate evening wear for the weekend, so decided to wear one of my favourite 1940s outfits topped off with a 1920s silver fox fur.

Let me tell you a bit about the location for the high tea - Labassa.  It is easily the most beautiful house I have ever had the pleasure of spending time in.  It epitomises all my ideas of 'faded glory'.

This house, originally built in 1862 with 8 rooms, was expanded to its current form in 1889 when the new owner asked the architect to "Build me the most magnificent house in Melbourne".  Labassa was born.  The house grew to 35 rooms,every surface was ornamented, and the grounds swelled from 12 to 15 acres.

Labassa changed hands several times, and in 1919 it fell into a long period of neglect and slow decay.  The interior was scared by its conversion to flats, and the grounds were sold off piece by piece, with houses encroaching on all sides.  There was even a house built on the forecourt where we are standing in the above photo with its back fence just six feet from the front of the house.  And at one point in the late 1970s, it was only the high cost of demolition that saved it!

Thankfully, due to a large corporate donation, the National Trust was able to purchase the property in 1980 and has been working on its restoration ever since, including purchasing the house on the forecourt and demolishing it, so Labassa's noble facade could once more be seen an enjoyed.

Here are the photos I took of the interior.  I spent an awful lot of time looking up.

I just loved the trompe l'oeil painted on the ceiling above the staircase.  Restoring it was an 18 month labour of love, and was well worth it!  If you want to read more about Labassa - have a look here.  I hope it is open when I am next in Melbourne, and I can join one of the guided tours to learn more about the house.

Oh!  I almost forgot!  Labassa was featured in series 2 episode 1, when it was transformed into a gentlemen's club.  Thats the episode where Phryne pretends to be a burlesque dancer to catch the crims, and does an amazing fan dance in the process!

After stuffing ourselves with cake, and taking in the beautiful house, we headed back to the hotel to get ready to go out to the theatre.

I hadn't heard much about this show to be honest, but who doesn't love a trip to the theatre!  AND they had provided a bit of red carpet for photo ops out the front!
This is the second dress I made for the weekend - from this Decades of Style pattern

Now this has to be possibly the fattest photo I've seen of me in a while, but its the only photo of us all together, so I am posting it anyway.  At least you can see the divine 1920s silk velvet cape I wore!

The show itself was wonderful - great songs, incredible costumes, and wonderful whole cast dance numbers.  There were four seamstresses there (including me) and we were all taking mental notes in our heads on how to recreate our favourites!

Sunday was our day at the exhibition, which was being held at Rippon Lea.  Another amazing property owned by the National Trust that features heavily in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.  Its where Aunt Prudence lives!

Our little group wandering up the drive towards Rippon Lea

Rippon Lea was built on a large parcel of land between 1868 and 1903, but there isn't just a house - there are extensive gardens, a lake (complete with waterfalls and islands, all connected with bridges), a grotto, and a huge fernery.  Amazingly, its all still there!

Some land was subdivided off when the estate was sold on the death of the original owner, but luckily the man who bought it to subdivide died before he could do any more!  There was a close call in the 1960s though.  In 1954 the Australian Broadcasting Commission purchased two acres of paddock to build TV studios for the Melbourne Olympics, and when they wanted more space in 1963, the government announced a compulsory acquisition of 4.1 acres.  Thing is, the bit they wanted to take included the lake, waterfall and grotto - so the most important bits of the landscaping!  The owner of the home - who wanted to preserve it and bequeath it to the National Trust - fought until her death in 1972 to keep the estate together.  When it was passed into the hands of the National Trust at that time, the government gave back the land they had compulsorily acquired.  THANK GOODNESS!

The house is the perfect place to hold this exhibition, as the clothes just look so wonderful in the surroundings!  And so did we!

 Although I did hear a couple of people saying it was wonderful to see so many people at the exhbition 'in costume'....

This outfit is my favourite, and I would love to recreate it for next summer!

 I just love this use of trim.  And while I don't wear coats this shape, this is definitely an idea I could borrow!

This delightful boudoir ensemble started out its life as a table cloth...

There were many many more outfits on display, but I could not possibly photograph every one of them.  And thank fully I didn't have to - I was able to buy the book instead!

After taking in the house and the exhibition, we took a tour around the gardens.  I really am glad they were able to keep the whole place in one piece.

It truly was a magnificent weekend.  I really enjoy spending time with these ladies, some of which I haven't seen for 12 months.  Getting together with like-minded people is something we should all do more of.  Its good for our souls.

So, does anyone have plans to see the exhibition?


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Guest Post : Doris's Jewellery Box

Second up in the series of Guest Posts is the lovely Doris from Switzerland.  Doris and I became friends when she sent me several blocks of lactose free swiss chocolate after I was diagnosed with coeliacs disease.  Who wouldn't love her for that!


 Mid-century hand-carved tropical mother-of-pearl brooch

Beccie was one of the people that helped me a lot finding my own "vintage way of living". She certainly had an influence on my fabric purchases (i.e. hoarding vintage fabrics, thank you Beccie!) and helped me overcome my fear of buying true vintage items. So when she asked us to write some guest posts, I thought it would be an act of friendship to help her, showing some gratitude for all the wonderful inspiring posts she had written for us so far, even in times when she was unwell.

So, what's easier than writing about something you love? I deeply love sewing. But I also love collecting vintage stuff, most of all jewelry. I always had a soft spot for such things. I think wearing necklaces, earrings and such is not only an accompaniment for your outfit, but originates from a primal urge to feel beautiful. (Good excuse for all the ladies who have to discuss their jewelry purchases with their husbands...) Yes, you never can have enough jewelry to wear.

Add some bling-bling to your vintage outfit – true 40s/50s rhinestone jewelry

So please enter - have  look at some of my most precious items. Precious doesn't mean they cost a lot, nor are they made from precious materials, but they are rather special or mean a lot to me.

Part of my Scottie and terrier dog collection. The white one on the right does even glow in the dark... I love them!

I find most of my items online. I live in Switzerland, and it's very difficult to find vintage stuff from my preferred periods  - the 40s and 50s - in my country. I'm not sure if all the nice stuff is still hidden in some cellars, family collections or wherever, or if people threw those things away. Fact is: It's almost impossible to buy pre-60s vintage items in general and vintage jewelry in particular.

Reproduction jewelry made by The PinkBungaloo
(Thanks Doris! I've just added her store to my favourites - Beccie)

Of course I could buy reproductions, 80s does 40s stuff and such. Most people wouldn't know anyway. And I DO have some very nice today's reproductions I bought from talented people who recreate 40s style bakelite-type jewelry at affordable prices. But I really love to wear things I know are true vintage. They have a history, and it's thrilling to find something in almost new condition or even dead-stock (why was it never worn or sold?), or a certain piece that makes you wonder what happened to it's previous owner. True vintage items all have their own history. I'm a historian, and it's my weakness for the "little man's history" that adds a lot to my jewelry collection. It doesn't have to be a precious necklace with rubies and diamonds, but rather a pair of brass earrings with rhinestones, a matching set with earrings and a brooch made of shells, a wooden Scottie dog brooch or one of those many souvenir brooches made of celluloid. 

Mid-centrury souvenir brooches made from celluloid and early plastics. I love the amazing details!

1940s celluloid bow brooch

But jewelry is not only a fashion item, it's a reflection of history in general as well. Historic events, social and economic changes certainly all had an impact on the designs and materials used in jewelry. 

In the early 20th century, the middle-class developed a demand for affordable jewelry, and the industrial revolution contributed a lot to the rise of jewelry mass-production. After the great depression, jewelry had to be even more inexpensive. Base metals, rhinestones, lucite and other types of early plastics as bakelite and celluloid were the main materials used. The war in Europe and later the Pacific led to a shortage of resources. Many metals were used for war time production and couldn't be used for jewelry. On the other hand, early plastics allowed new jewelry designs. During WW2 there was a strong military influence on costume jewelry: insignias, airplanes, tiny soldiers or sailors, but also designs that showed the wearer's support for a husband or a son in service were a common sight.

WW2 Victory brooch with Morse code for V, and  WW2 inspired jewelry I made from vintage findings

During and after the war, natural materials as raffia and shells were used in jewelry. Many servicemen brought tropical jewelry home to their loved-ones. Due to the developing tourism industry, travels to exotic destinations like Florida, Hawaii or the Bahamas became affordable for an increasing number of Europeans. No wonder many women owned some of the typical shell jewelry during the late 40s and the 50s.

Mid-century bone earrings and shell jewelry

Mid-century Christmas shell jewelry, still in box and mint

Enamel flamingo brooches

Of course, jewelry worn by the film stars was always a source of inspiration for the jewelry industry. I like especially the impact Carmen Miranda's rather exotic outfits had on the many types of fruit salad jewelry.

Czech fruit-salad inspired glass earrings

I have found so many wonderful things browsing the internet for those special finds matching my taste and my wardrobe (and my purse!). In the meantime I have far too much and sell many pieces to like-minded friends. From time to time I find dead-stock parts that allowed me to recreate "new" jewelry items made from true vintage materials. It’s an amazing feeling to bring those findings to life, so they finally, after so many decades, can fulfill their original purpose: contribute to a womans beauty and style.

Enameled jewelry, 1950s brooch with clip-ons, and 1940s screw-backs

1950s jewelry, made from metal, plastic (vinyl), rhinestones and faux pearls

Asian inspired 1940s "Faux ivory" molded celluloid clampers and screw-backs

Maybe some of you would like to share your jewelry boxes with us as well - I would be delighted to see them!


Wow Doris!  Thank you so much for showing us a few of your favourite pieces, and teaching us a little about the history of costume jewellery.  I am envious of your collection!