"an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Good Vintage!

Spent a pleasant afternoon at the Melbourne inaugural "Love Vintage" show at the Royal Showgrounds yesterday. I saw the ad a couple of weeks ago and thought it might be a good place to see some fashion from my favourite period, the Art Deco era (approx. 1920s-1930s). Remember the Mrs. Bradley Mysteries on BBC? Well, Diana Rigg (of former 'Avengers' fame) embodied the style magnificently. As did the girls from 'The House of Elliott'!
Although I did see some nice pieces from that era, much of the period fashion available was really from the 1950s and 1960s, and I got the feeling quite a lot of it was more or less 'Op Shop Chic'. I wouldn't have been seen dead in some of the clobber in the 1950s either!
On a more positive note, the fashion show highlighted some of the better samples, especially some of the 'flapper' style dresses, which were often made of sheer fabric and heavily embroidered. They're really museum pieces and need to be treated with respect and care, so fragile are some of them. Looking through the racks, I did see some amazing fabrics, even if the dresses weren't all that stylish. There were lots of other paraphernalia, such as shoes, hats, gloves (actual kid gloves!), scarves, handbags, and jewellery. A couple of antique shops specialising in 'vintage' items had some exquisite pieces on show. I was glad to see a good assortment of Leah Stein brooches, even though they were somewhat overpriced. These very distinct Art Deco style brooches are made of a bakelite material, and are very collectable. I didn't have the money to spend on one, but I got myself a little black cat brooch which is in similar style.
One activity I really enjoyed watching was the 'vintage' hairdressing. Two hairdressers turned visitors into screen godesses before our eyes! Remember those elaborate hairdos of the 40s, with chignons, rolls, and piled-up curls? Some of the show's visitors had dressed up in period style, and the hairstyle just added that final touch! Even little girls, with long tresses, were turned into little 1940s poppets!
While rummaging through the garments, I noticed that most of them were for very small sizes; I guess not many people had much to eat after the wars, with rationing and all, and were of small build. Today's average women's size is a 14, in those days it looked more like a 10 to 12.
I had to restrain myself at one of the stands; they were selling a stack of 24 original 1930s hand pieced quilt blocks, enough to make up a queen-sized bed spread! Very tempting, but I remembered just in time the number of UFOs languishing on my sewing table! Instead, I found this adorable little Art Deco Dachshund, which, after taking its coat off, turns into a pocket comb!
And it was made in England!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tut, Tut

Last week, we braved the weather and the crowds to see the Tut-ankh-amun exhibition at the Melbourne Museum. I was very much looking forward to this, having had an interest in this 'nerdy' sort of stuff since I was a kid in school. Archaeology has always fascinated me, and after a brief childhood period of wanting to be a nurse (whatever possessed me?), my career plans were firmly on the path to archeology, until a history teacher nearly bored me to death. I remember reading about Howard Carter's great discovery, read his correspondence with his sponsor, Lord Carnarvon, and wondered about "the curse of the pharaohs"! I quickly got the archaeology bug out of my system, thank goodness, but the interest in Egyptology remained.
Our encounter with the boy king started with a 15-minute 3D movie about mummies, embalming, culture, and religion in 1300 BCE. I'm just a fan of 3D and it ended all too quickly! Then we stood in line for a while to enter the exhibition, with hundreds of others, including school classes. I'd never seen the museum so crowded! They did a good job with crowd control though, and let about 30 people at a time through the doors. Armed with audio equipment, we made our way into the dimly lit space, listening to Omar Sharif's dulcet voice explaining the exhibits. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet, but as soon as you walk in, the atmosphere becomes hushed. There's definitely a sense of awe and wonder as you walk around, slowly taking in the statues, jewellery, and artifacts. The craftsmanship is sublime, and I could weep for not being able to take photos. It's amazing how well preserved some of these items are, considering their age (over 3ooo years) and the way archeology was conducted back in the 1930s.
It struck me that the statues all had a timeless look about them, and I wondered, from an artistic point of view, how this was achieved. I noticed that they all looked straight ahead, the head at a 90degree angle. Usually, artists mark eyes with a small white dot, which makes the eye come alive. The eyes on the Egyptian artifacts were black, and had a large iris. The upper 1/3 of the iris was under the eyelid, leaving a small area of white above the lower lid. This makes the statue appear to look above or beyond the viewer, and, apart from their antiquity, appears to give them a timeless look.
Some of the items on display were quite whimsical, such as a beautifully worked dog collar. Obviously, Egyptians loved their dogs. The other items I liked were the little 'tool boxes', that accompanied the pharaoh's shabtis or helpers in the afterlife. There were some magnificent pieces on display, however, I would have loved to see the famous gold and blue mask of Tut-ankh-amun. Alas, it's in New York, so unless I get to the Cairo Museum, I doubt I'll get to see it in real life.
The museum did a great job with this exhibition, and since it's on until October, I might even go see it again.