5/30/12

Fashion Gets Set for Return of the Roaring Twenties

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Put another pin in your hat, Dot. You’re in for a fast ride!’

– Phryne Fisher

Television can sometimes have an explosive effect on the fashion industry – witness the rage for all things sixties created by Mad Men. The phenomenally successful Downton Abbey has introduced a new generation to high-end Edwardian couture and jewellery, setting off a number of global trends.

Another era 
is currently receiving a much-deserved boost. The Roaring Twenties  the extravagant period that came before the long slog of the Great Depression – changed fashion forever. Its being brought to life for a whole new audience in recent and forthcoming movies and TV series showcasing the sheer larger-than-life glamour of the era.

The twenties was the most revolutionary decade for fashion in the 20th century, says Nicole Jenkins, owner of Melbourne vintage fashion store CircaThis era  has reverberated through the years since.

Nicole,  also a costumier and collector, points to
 revivals of twenties styles in the 1960s and 80s, as well as current revivals by Prada and other design houses.

The twenties has [also] been a perennial favourite for dress-up parties, as the look is so distinctive and easy to put together.’

Two recent Australian television series have already showcased, to great acclaim, Roaring Twenties pizzazz. Underbelly: Razor (pictured below) is a 13-part Australian miniseries set in Sydney. It depicts therazor gangs who controlled the citys underworld between 1927 and 1936 and features truckloads of glitzy, gaudy twenties glamour. According to Wikipedia, the first episode made the show the highest rating drama in Australian history’. The Daily Telegraph ran a competition giving readers a chance to play extras in the series, and was inundated with entries.



Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a detective series set in Melbourne, Australia, in 1928. Oozing glamour and sensuality, wealthy amateur sleuth Phryne Fisher swishes through the staid drawing rooms, foggy back lanes, grimy docks and smoky jazz clubs of the city with her sleek chestnut bob, toting her pearl-studded pistol as she brings murderers to book aided by her handsome colleague Detective Inspector Jack Robinson.

The series has just completed its first run in Australia and a second series is in the pipeline. I couldn’t find information about overseas sales, but I’d be very surprised if Phryne doesn’t make an appearance on the BBC and possibly North American screens at some point.


Phryne – superbly brought to life by the elegant Essie Davis – is a style icon with a conscience, a glamour girl from humble origins who strives to achieve justice for the underdog. She resides in an elegant two-storey Victorian mansion replete with iron lace balconies and wonderful art nouveau decor, supporting a household staff of three, a foster child and a dedicated lady companion, Dot Williams, who assists in her investigations. With a series of exotic suitors and a simmering sexual tension between her and DI Robinson, she epitomises the new sexually liberated woman of the twenties. Her superbly tailored wardrobe delights the eye with its intricate designs, bold patterning and deliciously luxuriant fabrics.

The series is based on the bestselling novels by Australian solicitor Kerry Greenwood. An intellectual heavyweight with a yen for crime, Greenwood has created a larger-than-life heroine, a period female superhero who speaks several languages and is as adept at flying a plane as she is at dancing the tango. Yet Greenwood strives for authentic period settings, and only agreed to the TV series because she was given a say in the design. She was thrilled with the results.

The odd cloche hat makes an appearance, but Greenwood wanted to distinguish the distinctive style of the late twenties both from the flapper fashion that marked the early part of the decade and the very fitted styles of the thirties. At the time, costumes were designed as whole ensembles, with everything matched from underwear through to coats, and fabrics were incredibly fine and embellished. While purists have pointed out historical anomalies in some of the props, the gorgeous locations are apparently in the main true to 1928 and the years before it.

Nicole concurs that the fashions in Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries are distinctlyfashion forward, and not always recognisable as classic twenties. She goes on to suggest that these days original twenties fashion is not always replicated ‘in its true form because styles arent always flattering – yet the era has still been highly influential.

‘The drop waist styles are loose and comfortable and particularly flattering for ladies with slim, boyish figures. Unfortunately, theyre not suited to curvy figures, which most of us have, so interpretations usually involve adding a bit more shape.

More twenties glamour to come

Cloche hats, concave bobs and  sequinned, feathered headbands will certainly be on display in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming extravaganza The Great Gatsby. I’ve only seen the trailer, but that alone suggests that the film will make Chicago look like a Sunday picnic.  It’s to be released in 3D, and will be playing in US cinemas from 25 December and in Australia from 10 January.



Nicole is  looking forward to seeing how Luhrmann portrays the fashions of the time. ‘It promises to be very swish and stylish, stylised even, as his creative team like to produce a hyper-real and creative version of history.

The forthcoming third series of Downton Abbey is also set to provide sartorial thrills. The show has become a cult hit in the USA, with Sunday night viewing parties and themed merchandise. MSNBC’s Today show has given fans advice on how to dress like the Downton Abbey ladies and produced a collection of unauthorised Downton Abbey jewellery that it was later forced to pull.

The third series is already creating plenty of buzz. Airing in the UK from September, it will be set in the post-war era and will feature twenties fashions. Below are some examples of the Edwardian styles that have made such an impact.


As far as twenties fashion goes, it seems that the unassuming Dot Williams is not the only one in for a fast ride in the next few months   I cant wait!

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you might also like Wanted – An Annie Hall for the 2000s.


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5/14/12

Three Frugal Tips So Obvious You Probably Haven't Thought of Them

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Getting serious about saving money can seem like an onerous task. But it starts with simply changing your attitudes to money and the way you approach spending it. Here are three new frugal tips that are so obvious you may not have thought of them yet!

1. Assume you don’t need anything

Apart from the basic necessities (food, housing, energy, transport) we often say we ‘need’ new items. What we really mean is that we believe our lives would be easier, happier and better overall if we had those items.

When we go shopping for a particular non-basic item we start from a default position that’s so drummed into us we don’t realise it – that we must buy whatever it is we’re looking for. We feel deprived and somehow inadequate without the item.

One way to decrease your spending is to assume that you already have everything you need apart from basic necessities. Then, when a fresh need comes to your attention – a new smartphone; a pair of Mahno Blahnik shoes – you start from the assumption that you don’t need it and work backwards.

Assuming you don’t really need it, ask yourself if there’s anything you already have that could substitute for it. Alternatively, could you borrow it instead? Find it secondhand? Swap something to get it? Or, when you give yourself time to think about it, do you really have enough of that kind of item already?

Of course, at any one time there’s a fair chance that you don’t have everything you need. I often recommend people write a list of things that they intend to buy to put some boundaries around their spending.

The beauty of starting from a default ‘no needs’ position is that you exhaust every other possibility before buying the item. Then if you decide you do really need it, you can buy it without guilt. The real, genuine needs will emerge from the dross of your many wants like shining diamonds, and you’ll find the right items easily at the right time.

2. First things first

I used to be in a 12-step program, and if there’s one thing that is plentiful in these programs it’s wise sayings. Some might argue there are too many, but they can sometimes be quite profound. One of the sayings that has stuck with me over the years is ‘first things first’.

There are two useful ways you can apply this to your spending. The first one is simply allocating enough money for the basic necessities of life (food, housing, energy, transport) before buying non-necessities. Of course, there are many ways you can reduce your spending on these necessities so that you can save more money or buy something you really need.

The other meaning of the saying is even more straightforward, and involves how you spend your time. Shop for the necessities first, and then do any leisure shopping you want to do. If you’re prone to overspending, getting your priorities right in this regard could help you reduce the amount of leisure shopping you do, and therefore your spending. Instead of tacking your food shopping onto the end of a spending binge, take the time to think about what food you’ll buy, where you’ll buy it,  and how you can buy the healthiest food to look after yourself. Changing your priorities in this way is a signal that you’re looking after yourself, and this could also have benefits for your spending. 

You could also look more carefully at other basics like the transport you use to get around, and how you use electricity and gas. Putting time and energy into thinking about those things that you might otherwise spend, say, shopping online could not only reduce your carbon footprint but give you a more mindful experience of life.

3. Look at your familys money history

You’re not stuck with the spending habits that were instilled in you – it is possible to change your attitudes, and looking at how you came to develop them is a great way to start.

A useful exercise is to sit down and write a history of your family’s attitudes to money. Ask yourself:

How did my parents and grandparents spend money?

What were the attitudes to money that lay behind their spending habits?

What are my attitudes to spending?

How have the attitudes and habits of my family helped form my own attitudes?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be able to look at your spending habits much more objectively and start to get some distance from them. And you’ll begin to understand that you don't have to be stuck with them!

After taking a serious look at my parents’ attitude to money, and those of my maternal grandparents, I now have a completely different approach to saving and spending from the rest of my family. 

Have you found that you gained more control over your spending after changing some of your basic attitudes? What were your original attitudes and how did you go about changing them?

Until next time!


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5/3/12

Search for Organic Kids' Clothes Leads to Online Business

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When Liane Shannon had her daughter, Emma, she was concerned about the effects of synthetic and non-organic fabrics on her skin. But finding childrens clothes that were made from natural fibres and also fashionable and vibrant was much harder than shed anticipated. So she decided to create them herself, and founded an innovative company in the process! 

Liane is now the Creative Director of Master and Miss, an Australian children’s fashion label that offers clothing made from certified organic cotton from size 0000 up to size 5.

My earliest memories are of my mother at her sewing machine making clothes for our family, and following in her footsteps seemed like the natural thing to do.

As well as being organic,  Liane was determined that all the clothes would be designed and manufactured in Australia.

I interviewed Liane about why she started the company, the state of play with sustainable clothing in Australia, and what the future held.

When did you start Master and Miss? Was it a solo venture?

I founded the company in May 2011, but had started doing my research about six months earlier. Master and Miss is a solo venture but I do have some great support from a friend who is very experienced in web design and SEO. Without his help and guidance I would have been at a total loss as I have no experience in this area.

Could you describe the situation you found when you started looking for organic clothes for your daughter, and how you responded?

As a baby, Emma would get red spots all over her skin that weren’t food related.  I found that organic cotton and clothing made from natural fibres reduced this. When I started looking for organic cotton clothes I just couldn’t find what I wanted, ie good basics that had a bit of style to them. I could find lots of clothes that I loved but they weren’t organic, so I decided to make my own.

I sourced plain organic cotton, which is what I’ve used in my first collection, but moving forward you will start to see a lot more prints and patterns. One of the aims of Master and Miss is to be able to provide mums with key pieces, like leggings and skirts, that they can buy year after year and then pair the latest T-shirt with, so that customers get lots of wear options.

Has Australia been slow to take up the promise of sustainable clothing?

I think that more people are becoming aware of the impact that we are having on our environment. Just look at how far recycling has come – we all have recycle bins now, but when I was a child this was not common practice. Solar energy and water-saving devices are becoming standard in new homes. I think all this has a knock-on effect – sustainable clothing will only continue to get more exposure and this will hopefully lead to more companies looking at organic and natural fabrics. It’s all about educating people and giving them good quality choices that are not three times the price.

What was most satisfying to you about the process of designing the clothes?

I get such a thrill in seeing a design that has been in my head become a reality, and then when I get to dress my own daughter in one of my designs, the thrill is doubled!

What were some of the challenges of setting up a sustainable clothing business in Australia?

The lack of choice of fabrics available in Australia. I would love to add more details like trims and ribbons, but this would mean using non-organic or importing from overseas. The dilemma I face is: will consumers mind if I add these non-organic features, and will it take away from what the brand is all about?

What were some of the advantages of setting up the company, eg ability to sell clothes online without a middle person?

The main advantage of selling online is being able to reduce overhead operating costs like renting premises, electricity and insurance. Plus I can increase my customer base to include not only the whole of Australia but the world. The disadvantage is that people don’t get to feel the quality of the clothes and see how well they look on.

Why was manufacturing the clothes in Australia important to you?

I love the fact that I am creating jobs in Australia, and I love being able to deal face to face with people and be hands-on. If I manufactured clothes overseas I would not be able to do this. I would also be helping another country to prosper when we should be looking after our own backyard first.

Is there any particular highlight or landmark that stands out for you in the process of setting up or developing the company?

People had told me how hard it is to have your own business, and how costs and so on can get blown out or not go to plan. I thought I had covered every eventuality, but there were so many UNEXPECTED teething problems that I seriously thought that this was all going to be too hard. But you have to believe in yourself and back yourself all the time and I have surprised myself at how resourceful and driven I have been. I LOVE Master and Miss, I am so proud of what I have achieved in such a short time and I can’t wait to see where it will be in five years time.

How do you see the future of sustainable clothing in Australia?

Hopefully BRIGHT! As I mentioned before, I really think people are much more aware of the decisions they make. With brands such as Master and Miss providing consumers with more choices and at reasonable prices, I’m confident that consumers will choose a locally made, organic cotton garment over an imported mass-produced one.

Do you sell your clothes internationally?

While Master and Miss does not have any overseas distributors we ship internationally. If you're looking to place an order and want confirmation of  postage or shipping rates, please email enquiries@masterandmiss.com.au

25% discount offer to all Inspired Shopper readers!

Master and Miss have kindly offered a 25% discount on their entire range for Inspired Shopper readers. To receive your discount you need to login to the website or register as a user. When you reach the checkout, you need to enter the code INSHOP. Hurry, as this offer expires 30 June!

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you might also like Shop with Your Children without Having a Nervous Breakdown: Nine Great Tips.



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