Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sally's, Fitzroy

Sally’s Retro Fashion’s in Smith St Fitzroy is a dress-up box filled with lace, hats parasols and beautiful cream nightdresses.

The collection of vintage items literally drips from the walls, as the owner has made the most of a small space by hanging clothes and hats from lattice-shaped blocks connected by wires to the ceiling.

Overall it’s a smallish collection, though the variety and quality of the womens’ and menswear is excellent. The shop is divided into two halves. The front is devoted to racks of some of the softest faux fur coats I have ever felt, beautiful 1940s caps, long black lace skirts and dresses and sweeping night gowns with some of the most delicate embroidery and pearling.

The selection of coats is really something. I indulged in a mid-calf length coat made from brown mohair (that has this wonderful textured feel) and lined with sheep’s wool around the collar ($90 reduced from $125 **) There were also some 70s style tweed and woven jackets with the most delicate gold buttons and a couple of coats made from thick, brown faux fur. Sally's has a smallish collection of dresses, pants and skirts, but there seemed to be a good range of patterns and fabrics. I found plenty of cream and black lace pieces through-out the store, which gave the selection this gothic Victorian feel. There were some beautiful floor-length cream slips with delicate lace and sequinning around the collar.

I uncovered a pair of leopard-print pumps amongst the shoe collection, (shoes hung from a lattice that rested against one of the walls) which could balance/highlight a black outfit. I thought there was a little bit of a lack of colour amongst the clothes in the womenswear section. Everything was very dark and simple (though in beautiful condition), though the colourful range of hats and caps (and bright purple wigs) lifted the mood a little. There is an incredible range of accessories (necklaces, rings, watches, earrings etc) in three tall, glass cabinets at the front of the shop. Long gold chains and a bracelet set with these tiny pearls caught my eye amongst the other jewels.

Menswear is located in the second part of the split-level shop. There is a fantastic selection of hats, bowler, pork pie and wide-brimmed hats. There we some wonderfully thick coats and jackets and a couple of floor-length trenchcoats made of a lighter material. There were plenty of slacks, suit pants, shirts and leather jackets to browse through. I knocked over a “briefcase” from the fifties that was fitted with little items like a razor, mirror and toothbrush holder, which I thought was particularly charming.

Sally’s is a vintage shop and the prices are a little higher than an op-shop. However the condition of the clothes is great and the variety of items is almost incomparable to what you may find in your local op-shop. Most items were around the $40-$90 mark.

** However if you pay cash there is a 15% discount … I also pretended to still be a student and received a further 5% off the price of my mohair coat (eventual price was $75.)

The store owner was polite and left me mostly to browse around alone. Though we did have one rather awkward moment when she snuck up behind me while I was trialling a faux fur coat, cap and leopard print pumps combination.
There were totally some items in this store I would never consider purchasing, such as a pair of vinyl black pants, a hip-length real fur mink coat and a canvas, patterned, cape held together by curtain tassles. But these unique items hinge together this wonderful collection of dress-up box worthy materials and trinkets.

***As a little bit of an afterthought, try to avoid vintage clothes shopping around Gertrude St Fitzroy on a Monday. Wonderful vintage shops like Moustache and Curve are only open Tues-Sat from around 11am-6pm.

203 Smith St, Fitzroy

changerooms: 3 (covered with 50s magazine cut-outs)

music: The Beatles - across the universe

Getting there:

pt: Catch the number 86 tram from Bourke St Mall

parking: a few 1p ticketed car parks up side-streets off smith st

The old post office on Smith Street has been transformed into this wonderfully presented cafe - its worth stopping by and having a coffee there, especially if you are waiting for your tram (the stop is right outfront!)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fringe Festival '09

As a little side-note to the reviews usually posted on this blog, I'm volunteering for a couple of nights at this years Melbourne Fringe festival. I'm going to be working the box office at the North Melbourne town hall, selling tickets and working the door.

I'm also trying to actually make it to a couple of shows this year, "Genius: The Gospel, Soul and Rock 'n' Roll of Br. Ray" (a gospel.rock.caberet style performance based around the music of Ray Charles) and hopefully a couple of others.

Jeff Duff is one of the performers in the Ray Charles tribute. I encountered him a little earlier this week at work. I would describe his style as something near David Bowie meets Willy Wonka in wonderland. He had this beautiful cream suit on, matched with cream long socks, loafers and boater hat (that's him in the top left corner.)

if you can, and you're into the music of Ray Charles check out the show playing at the Collins St Baptist Church (174 Collins St Melbourne) from September 24th - 10th October from 7.30pm

Going with the "op-shop" theme of things, if you have a little time Joanne O'Callaghan (from Op-shop Tours Australia) is taking tours around second-hand, vintage and op-shops as part of the festival. It's a little pricey, but its a great way to discover hidden places, shops and finds - and also to be part of the festival. With its "secret itinery " and O'Callaghan's great op-shop and local knowledge hopefully you'll discover something extraodinary. This being said, I always find op-shopping a bit of a sacred, me-time, one person only experience. So if you like to shop alone and avoid competition over clothes/items maybe this may not be your thing.

Tours start on the corner of Queensberry and Erroll St North Melbourne (they run for 4 hours) and cost around $27.

for more info check out:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vinnies, Hampton

one sentence review: The shop is an amazing place to go if you are looking to furnish a house ... I swooned over some old romantic pieces like an oak wardrobe with beautiful old door handles and a full-length mirror that possessed this rich, nutty aroma.

This week I took some advice from a friend and went to have a look at the St Vincent de Paul Op Shop on Hampton St, Hampton. It's a large warehouse style complex on the main rd and it is busy on a weekday afternoon

The shop is an amazing place to go if you are looking to furnish a house. There are full sets of tables and chairs (good quality if only for a couple of minor scratches) in the outside area in front of the op-shop and other miscellaneous items (including one of those deep, old baby bayonets.) The best items are concealed in this covered shed that runs along the side of the op-shop. I swooned over some old romantic pieces like a large mahogany dresser with oval shaped mirrors and an oak wardrobe with beautiful old door handles and a full-length mirror that possessed this rich, nutty aroma (it reminded me of when I used to hide in a similar one owned by Mum when I was little.) There was a newish computer desk and a couple of filing cabinets that would be great if you needed to furnish a small office space.

Inside the clothes seemed a little less impressive, though there was plenty to browse through. The shirts and tops were all beautifully colour-coded, one rack reminded me of a sunset or a tequila sunrise! The selection of warm knits and jumpers was excellent, but there was an alarming amount of ugly suede jackets with faux fur trimmings around the collar and sleeves. I found a pearly, sheer top with buttons down the front and big shoulder-pads and a sheer animal print top that could would match a high-waisted skirt. There was a good quality range of menswear towards the back of the shop, with a variety of slacks and jackets for a more mature-aged guy.

In the next room there were lots of squishy couches, cutlery, linen, quirky painted porcelain, rocking chairs and a bird cage. There were also some more (smaller) furniture pieces, a hat stand and toys for kids. For those nuts who like to ring talk back radio as soon as they see the first Christmas decorations in store, they are definitely out and proud in this op-shop. Big, fake plastic trees, decorations and thigh-high plastic Santa’s' filled the front window/area of the shop.

Operating this op-shop would be no small feat, there is a small army of volunteers working mainly out the back (and through-out the shop) sorting, pricing and selling all the donated goods. The front of house staff were also really helpful, especially one burly volunteer who helped me rope a wall-unit for a tv/dvd into the back of my sedan style car - even after he said it couldn't be done!

You could describe the layout of the shop as spacious, but neat, which really helps you get a good appreciation of all the furniture and other items. Big problem is the number of changing rooms, with the size and popularity of the store they could probably do with a couple more to cope with the demand.

I'd recommend visiting this op-shop, even if it is to wonder around, lie on the couches or hide in the cupboards for an hour.

address: 501 Hampton St, Hampton

changerooms: 2

music: Magic 1278

Getting there:

pt: Catch Sandringham train to Hampton St and walk back towards the intersection of South Rd and Hampton St

parking: plenty of parking down side streets, though be careful to watch for permit zones and small children at the end of school time

food: Alessandro's cafe is a lovely, old style Cafe and Cucina about 20 meters from Vinnies.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Carousel Recycled Boutique, Camberwell

one sentence review: Carousel is comparable to a posh old woman's closet.

The Carousel Recycled Boutique has been "closing down" for almost 3 months. At the top of the hill on Burke Rd, Camberwell it's a bit of an afternote to the flashy thoroughfare of the main shops and eateries on the busy strip.

On the front window it boasts "60% off all stock" however be prepared to find a few variations on this claim when you go browsing.

Carousel is comparable to a posh old woman's closet. There are plenty of sensible, good quality pieces; many from labels like Alannah Hill and Chanel. There are a couple of heavy woven jackets with fur linings and trimmings, silk blouses and soft crepe dresses (in pale peach, yellow and pearl shades.) I also thumbed through trouser suits and long cocktail/formal dresses that were neither contemporary or vintage. The highlight of the collection (which is solely for women) was the selection of hats, gloves, fascinators and accessories. I found this gorgeous boat-shaped red cap with a black veil and a couple of feathers for $190, there was also a silk Chanel scarf (in black and white) and designer bags and wallets in one of the display cabinets. There were a number of hats that would be good for the upcoming spring racing carnival on display along the wall.

At the top of the shop a few suits (in the style of the famous woven Chanel two piece) were featured. The shoe selection was ok, the sizes were on the smaller side (largest I saw was an 8), but from good quality labels.

It's a two - tiered shop with most of the clothing and accessories on tables and racks in the front of the shop. A small flight of stairs leads to what I assume are the "high end pieces," changerooms and register. Be warned before shopping, Carousel is really a high-end recycled boutique. The clothes may be secondhand, but the prices are not and the owner is notoriously difficult when it comes to haggling. Jackets ranged between $70- $200, dresses from $30-$100 and accessories $80-$200. There was a lack of unique, vintage pieces, but the clothing and accessories are mostly from designer labels. The quality of clothing is excellent, spacing and layout is good, but the staff can be a little cold and intimidating.

It is worth hiking up the hill because it does give you the chance to touch, feel and perhaps purchase some recycled designer-label items. Though I recommend before purchasing an item (especially if it is labeled as Chanel or Dior) that you ask first about its authenticity.

op shop: Carousel Recycled Boutique, Camberwell

address: 798a Burke Rd, Camberwell


Fox FM

getting there:

pt: catch the Belgrave, Lilydale or Alamein line to Camberwell Station - walk "up" the hill. Otherwise the number 72 tram travels up and down Burke rd regularly.

parking: Parking inspectors and clear-way zones make Burke Rd a bit of a nightmare sometimes. Parking is best in the complex next to Target and Safeway behind the main street. It's worth the walk.

food: Plenty of cafe's and eateries along Burke Rd - Grilled is good for burgers and chips and Georges is good for a coffee and maybe something a little different to eat.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

St Andrews Op Shop Brighton

one sentence review: It has a lot of homely kitsch pieces (such as little statues and crockery) and several dynasty-esque, shoulder-pad fantastic jackets.

The St Andrew's Op Shop operates from a small hall at the rear of the church on the corner of Church St Brighton. It's a neat, airy space, which possesses that real op-shop aroma.

It's staffed by a small team of elderly volunteers who are part of the St Andrew's congregation and its a charming little off-set to the bustle of Church St.

It's a tidy shop, with those quirky old oil paintings and prints of lopsided flowers and sailboats along the wall. It's not the place you would probably come across something really vintagey and obscure. It has a lot of homely kitsch pieces (such as little statues and crockery) and several dynasty-esque, shoulder-pad fantastic jackets. Actually these jackets are something special, coloured angular blazers, puffy shoulder pads and frills, pleats and bows and poker dots, I had to be a little careful not to get carried away. They are always the type of thing that seems really great while I'm trying them on in the shop and pretending I'm Joan Collins, but I seem to have many of these sort of blazers/jackets in my wardrobe that I cannot find anything to match and wear with in an everyday non-dynasty situation.

There was a some really sweet lace and silk nightwear towards the back of the shop. I loved this floaty, soft felt top with a lace trimming around the collar that could be worn to bed or as a camisole. There was plenty of affordable linen, pillows, cushions, table clothes and towels along the back right-hand section of the shop. Items ranged from about $5-$10, and it was really simple to locate some pieces that would look really nice around the home. In the mens wear section there were some good picks, i picked out a couple of reasonably priced Rivers and Gaz man shirts and there was a rack with some well-cared for tweed and suit jackets ($20)

80s pumps, rounded heels and toe, sandals and flats dominated the women's shoe section, and I found these huge, doc martin-esque work boots that were so heavy I could barely life them off the shelf. The was also plenty of kids wear to browse through.

St Andrew's Op Shop has a bit of an unusual lay out. The clothes are on racks in the middle of the floor of the shop arranged in horizontal rows (imagine salmon migrating up stream.) It's a little hard to navigate around, but it creates a nice sense of blocking through-out the shop and really helps to distinguish the different areas from each other (i.e mens, women's, kids etc.) It's a fairly small collection, but the space on the racks means the clothes don't get creased, its easy to flick through and you're not overwhelmed by choice. There were even some really nice dresses, especially nice floral floaty dresses that would be good for summer and some patterned and bright wrap around dresses for casual daywear. My pick of the shop would have to be a giant, cream lamp shade, with lace trimming around the side. It looked pristine and was priced at only $8! (I'm a little bit of a lamp fanatic.)

The staff were nice and left me alone to browse around the shop. It was nice to wonder around and listen to all their church gossip and old Perry Como songs on the radio. The prices were very low, I picked up a pair of comfortable leather and synthetic pumps with a small heel for $5.

op shop: St Andrews Op Shop Brighton

address: 17 St Andrews St, Brighton

changerooms: 1

music: Magic 1278

getting there:

pt: catch the Sandrigham train to Middle Brighton Station and walk down the gentle slope until you get to the round -about

parking: Parking can be a little dicey on the main street but Coles and Safeway have big car parks behind Church St, where there are generally spaces

food: Popular restaurant, "the pantry" is opposite the op-shop, otherwise try the adjacent fish and chip shop or Brumby's next door!

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Sacred Heart Mission Op Shop, Balaclava

one sentence review: It's kooky, but not in the cluttered way.

Sacred Heart Mission Op Shop on the corner of Inkerman and Williams street is in on the edge of the Orthodox Jewish community in Balaclava. It's kooky, but not in the cluttered way. The shop is really well ordered and interestingly arranged, which makes browsing around enjoyable. The shop originally must have been the corner deli or supermarket. Cutlery (plates, cups, bowls and coloured tupper-wear containers) are stacked neatly on the shelves of one of those industrial/ shop refrigerators. This only ads to the quirky appeal of this op shop.

The clothes were of good quality and looked really well cared for (no creases and minimal damages or stains.) My favourite pieces were a bat-winger bomber jacket made of leather and green suede. I also had my eye on a tiered shift dress made from a heavy, carpet-like material and patterned with pearly embroidery.

They had a small selection on a-line skirts (good for work), jeans, formal pants and jackets on the floor in the main part of the shop. If you visit this op-shop make sure you don't miss the extra racks of mens and womens clothing/footwear in the back two rooms of the store (navigate your way to the back of the store, past the cutlery refrigerators and down a narrow corridor lined with kitchen appliances.) I think they put their best items in the front of the shop, however I still pulled out a couple of leopard print shirts and some ankle-length boots from the selection in the back room.

The two small backrooms also have clothes for kids, work boots for men (and clothes) and fuller figure garments for women. Ladies, this op-shop is also a great place to visit if you want to find a unique, vintage headpiece or fascinator for this years spring racing carnival. I really liked this peachy round cap with rosettes and a clip in facinator with feathers and a veil. For guys, there were a pair of Nike Air Jordan's in absolutely top condition for $35. The variety of men's clothing is also pretty decent, with a range tweed jackets and coloured slacks (which could look cool if you could carry that sort of look.) There were also a range of cotton and wool made suit and pant sets.

The selection of womens accessories was wonderous. Cute faux and real fur lined gloves, mufflers and fingerless hand-warmers were hung in a cupboard near the front counter. Also, there were rows and rows of necklaces and a glass cabinet filled with all sorts of gold trinkets and chains. It was hard not go past a shelf of old-school SLR and medium format cameras and camera parts. The shop also contained an impressive range of good-quality second hand books (no dog-earred corners or suspicious yellow stains!)

The guys running the shop while I was there seemed really friendly and helpful. It was actually really good to see a couple of blokes running an op-shop and it seemed to be popular destination for locals and regulars on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The op-shop is open from 10am-5pm 7 days a week - which is fantastic for those frustrated by short trading hours in op-shops, especially on weekends. Prices range from about $12 for womens tops, around $20 for dresses and mens pants to $40 to some of the bigger, good quality items (like leather and suit jackets and some of the more intricate hats and baubles.)

op shop: Sacred Heart Mission Op Shop Balaclava

address: 415 Inkerman St, Balaclava

changerooms: 2

music: 80s - Naked Eyes, Always something there to remind me

getting there:

pt: tram up Inkerman is probably your best bet - there isn't all that much in the way of a train stop really close by.

I would also recommend going to the op-shop on a Saturday, because its the sabbath there arent many cars around - but watch out for permit zones (especially around Yeshivah college). Otherwise during the week it is a pretty busy area, but you can usually manage to find a park down a side-street.

food: Again, not much in the way of food shops in close proximity, but Carlyle St (roughly the next main intersection if you are heading down Williams rd to Neapen Hwy) has heaps of great little bakeries and cafes.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Fat Helens, Prahran

Fat Helen's on the Windsor end of Chapel st is one of my favourite vintage stores in Melbourne. It's an opulent, pre-Stalinist gem, a crowded but well thought out shop where you are likely to find a smurf in snow ball next to a religious icon from Belorussia.

The sea of vintage goods starts from outside with a jumble of vinyl chairs, floral luggage, old fashioned trunks, tennis racquet's and cushions on the sidewalk. Almost every inch of the space within Fat Helen's is used to store some sort of obscure, wonderful item. Cabinets are lined with collectibles, religious statues and artifacts, accessories, old make-up, cloth patches from the 1980s, vintage wrapping paper, paintings, a box full of mosaic pieces ($35 for the whole box) and vintage crucifixes ($1 each). The glove collection is impressive, a little while ago I bought a pair of brown felt gloves with the softest faux fur lining for $5. A great selection of gloves hang from the ceiling a little further back in the shop, dangle above a small rack of men's vests and shoes.

Fat Helen's is pretty active in its collection of vintage garments and items. The owner (a lovely, but brisk lady with bright hair) takes appointments with people wanting to sell clothes. Be warned though, she has an extremely critical eye and this great sense of garment quality. This well-thought out selection process was evident in quality of the clothes in the store. Most were extremely well cared for, with very little evident damage or wear to the garments. They were seasonally chosen, with lighter fabrics replacing the heavier winter ones from a couple of months ago. In the women's collection there was a good range of 60s shirt dresses with stripes, bold diagonal patterns, more abstract prints (think Jackson Pollock), floral, leopard print and a good mix of fabrics (lace, velvet, sequins etc.) Oddly there was a rack at the very back of the store lined with ankle-length tartan skirts with pleats in red, blue, tan etc.

The range of coats at Fat Helen's is something fantastic. There are softer fabrics like a cobalt blue wrap round coat, a faux fur thigh length jacket, suede jackets with fringing with an impressive selection of leather jackets ($65-$160) in black, patterned, tan and cream. A pair of roller-skates was the highlight of the shoe selection, there are plenty of mens boots and vintage shoes for women.

Because this is a privately owned and run vintage store the prices are higher than what you'd expect if you walked into your local op-shop. Though there is no substitute for the quality and uniqueness of garments, accessories and items available at Fat Helen's. Dresses and tops will put you back around $25-$70 and jackets around the $70 mark. Though, if you look carefully you are likely to pull out something magnificent and pretty reasonably priced. The crowded space makes it a little hard to browse while elbow to elbow with other customers while the store is full.

The "dressing room" is something else. I assume it once was an old, cylindrical hot water heater that has been hulled out. It's extremely difficult to get in and out of and there is no mirror! So to avoid frustration and sweatiness - you may have to try items on over your clothes.

Staff are delightful and you can purchase items on EFTPOS ($15 minimum.)

where is it? 78 Chapel St, Windsor
how do i get there? The Sandringham train to Windsor station
will i have to wait for a change room? ** see above
whats on the stereo? Think Copacabana
i'm hungry? Again its Chapel St, so there is lots of food - but I would definitely recommend Tyranny of Distance just opposite the Melbourne Bowls Club. Its open air (so you can smoke) and there is a bar. Good range of tapas and tea and other good stuff
address: 147 Union St Windsor

can I get a park?
It is Chapel St, so its a bit of a nightmare. All around are permit zones and paid parking. Though if you go up the side street just before fat Helens (heading toward Dandenong Rd) and take the first right there is a little side-street with 2 hour parking most days.

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