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Update on Neal Barr’s “Threads of Time” and the Accompanying Documentary


Last year I wrote about Threads of Time, Neal Barr’s upcoming two volume set of photographs that will bring to life the fashion of the 1920s, and the accompanying documentary. Exquisitely styled with a keen eye for the design ethos of the period, beautifully photographed on mannequins that evoke the period in every respect from hair styles to body language, the project has excited a lot of interest among fashion historians and 1920s aficionados (and just those who like beautiful photography).

Ethan Boehme, whose film will document the creation of this masterwork (and the story of one man’s passionate love for the fashion of the 1920s and desire to explore and recreate), has brought us an update on the project.

At this stage it is anticipated that the two volume set will go to print in mid-November, and will be accompanied by a text-based book by Neil Barr. Ethan and his team are pushing ahead to complete the documentary for release at the same time as the books, with the indiegogo campaign having enabled them to add important material to the film, so we can expect a lavish visual treat that will explore the story behind these remarkable, beautiful images and the man who made them possible.

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Australian Antique and Art Dealers Association Fair 2016


Lithograph on Tinted paper laid down on board, Exposition Universelle, 1900  Douglas Stewart Fine Books, AAADA Fair

One of my favourite local events for the hunt of vintage and antique clothing events is soon coming up – the Australian Antique and Art Dealers Association Fair. “Antiques and Art” might conjure up a vision limited to furniture, jewellery, and exquisite works by old masters (not to mention a price range out of reach for many vintage clothing wearers and collectors), but the sheer diversity of stalls and objects for display and sale means that there’s plenty of overlap with our interests. And while the rare and exceptional quality pieces will always command high prices, there are still bargains to be had.


Lucite handled bags, Online Antiques

Over the years I’ve purchased pieces as diverse as 1930s enamel bags, Art Deco lamps, celluloid and pressed glass necklaces, a kokoshnik style 1920s bandeau, and more than one stunning 1920s gown. Many of the purchases are made at Online Antiques/Arte Deco and Coutura Vintage, but there are many other stalls to explore and cabinets full of a rich array of goodies to search through.Victorian watercolours, 18th century miniatures, 20th century kitsch, quirky taxidermy, Chinese textiles – so many beautiful, fascinating things displayed in an accessible venue. I do a lot of my purchasing online, but never miss a chance to return to the AA&AD Fair as a highlight of the vintage calendar in Sydney.


Fun at the last AAADA Fair – trying on a green raffia 1920s wig, Coutura Vintage

We’ll be there on opening night, so do say hallo if you’re attending!

7-11 September | Royal Randwick | @atc_races | #aaada

Wednesday 7 September (Gala Preview)
6pm – 9pm

Thursday 8 September
10am – 6pm

Friday 9 September
10am – 6pm

Saturday 10 September
10am – 6pm

Sunday 11 September
10am – 5pm


Coutura Vintage Display AAADA 2015

Gala Preview (7 September)

Tickets – $30
(A preview of the fair that includes champagne on arrival and canapés)

General Admission (8-11 September):
Adult – $20
Concession – $15
Children under 16 free

Tickets available online or at the door  |  Pass outs available



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Randwick Town Hall – Rock Around Randwick Vintage Fair

This was the Sixth Rock Around Randwick vintage fair, but its been a few years since I’ve attended and I was curious to see how it was running. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that the Sydney vintage scene has undergone a slump recently – it didn’t quite tank altogether, but vintage bricks and mortar shops and fairs became much more scarce, prompting us to appreciate even more those that remained.

My collecting interests lie very heavily in the pre-WWII era, and are particularly centred around the 1920s and 30s (although I can never resist a lovely Edwardian hat or a richly beaded Victorian mantelet). These pieces can often be rather thin on the ground, and are really starting to edge more into “Antique” rather than “Vintage” as they approach their 100th anniversary. Many can’t be considered wearable vintage, and that – coupled with their increasing scarcity – means that I don’t really expect to find them in a substantial amount at vintage and retro fairs….but I live in hope. You can still find lovely celluloid handled bags or Czech glass jewellery in unexpected places, and a velvet 1930s coat is not all that unusual to come across amidst the racks 60s-80s pieces.


Hats at Over the Top Vintage

Although not a huge event, the Randwick Fair filled out the town hall with dealers and showed a very good cross section of antique, vintage and retro pieces. The event is free entry, and from the time we arrived at 10.00 am opening there was a good sized crowd. There were plenty of funky and fun pieces from more recent decades in Pucci type prints or OTT 1970s glitz.


1920s floral evening coat

Even more pleasing to me was the presence of older pieces as well, going back into the Victorian era. Keith and Fiona Baverstock are well known for their extensive collection of Antique and Vintage stock, and their business, Seams Old, is a staple of the Australian vintage scene (in fact, I purchased my first 1920s piece from them many years ago at an antique fair…I was looking for Edwardian clothing, but was seduced by the rich, vibrant colour and texture of a 1920s silk velvet jacket). Keith was on hand to discuss all their stock and was happy to bring items out of the showcases and from where some of the more extravagant pieces were hanging on the walls, and we were very pleased to pick up a lovely 1920s floral cape lined with lamé from their stall. The cape is covered with a fine spiderweb of gold metallic thread – a very unusual treatment. We also bought a large beaded 1920s bag with a faux tortoiseshell celluloid handle from Seams Old…its generous size made it a practical piece for those vintage events where you’re carrying more than your powder and a sovereign! Finally, we bought a German made Art Deco manicure set – all original pieces in their original box.


Glennis of Over the Top Vintage

Other stallholders also had some wonderful Deco era pieces. Glennis of Over the Top Vintage is another familiar face to Sydney vintage lovers, and after a bit of a brief hiatus she has returned to selling with a great variety of pieces. Her hats in particular are a joy to behold – if I hadn’t already done my dash with the cape, I would have very happily purchased a beautiful 1910s toque in Autumnal, coppery colours with a velvet flower trim.

Elsewhere, we found a 1930s purse with soutache embroidery – a little worn around the edges, but for an excellent price. I was also completely bemused by a snake bracelet set with rhinestones – the style itself is very familiar from the celluloid or carved horn bracelets in the same design, but it is either carved wood or resin. I’d never seen one quite like it, and – acting on the principle of collecting that prompts me to buy unusual pieces that pique my curiosity – I bought it. More research needed!


1920s beaded bag with faux tortoiseshell celluloid handle

On the way out we looked at the display of wedding gowns through the ages. One of the most delightful things about it was seeing a grandmother explaining the styles to her granddaughter, and looking through all the photos on the table to see if they could identify which gown belonged to each era. Seeing that sort of audience engagement is always a pleasure when you work in museums, whether it be for a huge blockbuster exhibition or a small display in a town hall.

A very successful day from our perspective and, I hope, from that of the stallholders – it’s good to see the Sydney vintage scene alive and humming.


Wedding Dress display

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The Sydney Fair 2016 Review


The Arte Deco / Online Antiques Stall


1920s celluloid rhinestone pendant with jet beads

We attended opening night at The Sydney Fair – it was evident as soon as we entered the Byron Kennedy Hall that the benchmark set during previous years’ events was being maintained, with a very high standard of exhibitors and objects for sale. I had planned to make my way straight to a couple of my favourite stalls at the back, but was waylaid by some fabulous pieces along the way, and made slow progress! One of the distractingly beautiful displays was by The Antique Guild of Brisbane – among many lovely pieces was a breathtaking Art Deco duette brooch of rubies and diamonds, and a captivating 1920s Assuit shawl that was so densely set with metal it looked like a sheet of liquid silver.

We made our way to Coutura Vintage, where I was immediately smitten with a sequinned and beaded 1920s evening cloche and a Chinoiserie headdress, both from the estate of a former MGM film star. As it was impossible to choose between them, they both came home with me.


1920s green raffia wig and dance purses, Coutura Vintage

I have seldom been as close to coming home with an unexpected piece of furniture as I was at the Arte Deco stall, where my heart was stolen by a wonderful Art Deco carved sideboard. Showing uncharacteristic restraint and concern for my budget, we instead walked away with an absolutely lovely celluloid pendant.

One of the most pleasant aspects of attending Sydney vintage and antique events is that, because we’re a fairly small community, there’s an excellent chance you’ll run into collectors and dealers that you know. As always there were familiar faces and a chance to have a quick catch up with people like the Recycology gals, who we realised we last saw in Napier at the Speakeasy event on Saturday night, where they happened to have a nearby table. There were some other great encounters as well – it sometimes takes a bit of effort to remember you’re not just there to socialise, but also to look for new pieces to add.

We had our friend Emma with us for her first Antique fair, and she proved to quickly have an eye for the quirky and interesting items, finding a funny little taxidermied owl with a pincushion crown – just one of the odd little gems to be found (I noticed when I returned on Sunday that it had been sold).

Thank you again to the organisers and the dealers who participated – we’re already looking forward to next year!


1920s Evening Cloche and Chinoiserie Headdress

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Frock Around Randwick Vintage Fair

It’s been a while since I’ve been to one of the Frock Up events at Randwick Town Hall, and – if my current feral cold decides to abate enough tomorrow to allow me to attend – I’m looking forward to seeing how it has evolved.

While on a much smaller scale than some of the big fairs we used to have in Sydney, when I last attended I picked up a few nice pieces. I’m very keen on the idea of supporting out local vintage fairs.


Randwick Town Hall, Avoca Street Randwick

Saturday 30 July 2016 10am – 5pm

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The Sydney Fair May 26-29 2016


Two questions I’m asked all them time – firstly, where do I buy my vintage pieces and secondly, where in Sydney can we see good quality vintage pieces older than the 1970s?

The answer to the first is complicated, as I have to source a great deal online from overseas, but is also partly answered by the second. The vintage scene in Sydney has taken a few blows in recent years with some of the best fairs and dealers either downscaling or disappearing, notably with the hiatus (hopefully to be lifted) of Love Vintage and the closure of the Sydney Antique Centre and its vintage stalls, but there have been some shining lights that have seen us through. These include both the sellers that continue to operate their bricks and mortar stores, and events like the wonderful Sydney Fair.


Deco Diva delights

Since it debuted in 2014, The Sydney Fair has become the talked about event for lovers of Art Nouveau to Art Deco design (with some very notable inclusions of decorative movements outside that era). Walking into the Byron Kennedy Hall is like walking into a cave of wonders for those of us who love the design of this period – be it fine art, interior decorating items, furniture, jewelry, fashion or accessories. Everything beautifully selected and displayed with some of Australia’s best dealers (and some overseas visitors) – and because the organiser, Dianne, has a passion that includes furniture, art and fashion, she creates an environment for the very best dealers and experts in all these areas. She sets the tone with the Arte Deco/Online Antiques display, which lavishly showcases everything from soft furnishings to gowns. Those who exhibit here have a passion for their areas of expertise that makes not only viewing their pieces but also talking with them as delightful as it is informative – people like the owners of Deco Diva who sell a collection of Deco sculpture and furniture that can usually only be found in such quality and quantity in heavy coffee table books, or Lena of Coutura Vintage whose care and skill in selecting and displaying vintage clothing and accessories a visual delight.

We’ll be there on opening night to revel in the best of high style Art Deco, and also – we hope! – to find the pieces that will bring us such joy for years to come. In the past, we’ve walked away with Art Deco figural lamps, Russian style bandeaux, flapper beaded dance dresses, lamé capes, velvet lined 1920s coats, Czech Egyptian revival necklaces and other such delights. If you wonder where the good vintage pieces are to be had in Sydney, they’re here under the one roof.

The Sydney Fair Facebook Page

Byron Kennedy Hall

Moore Park

26 – 29 May 2016


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Lucile Ltd Belt on loan to Guelph

Some years back, I was lucky enough to acquire a belt by Lucile Ltd. I was thrilled not only because of her role in fashion history, but because it also tied into my interests in the Titanic. Indeed, the address on the label is for her premises at 37 & 39 West 57th Street New York – it was preparations for the move into these larger showrooms that necessitated Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon’s travel to New York in April 1912.


Lucile Ltd belt, c. 1912-13

Thanks to the work of author Hugh Brewster, supported by Duff Gordon’s biographer and leading expert Randy Bigham, the Guelph Museum in her home town of Guelph, Canada is hosting an exhibition, the first of its kind in Canada. I know Randy and Hugh through our shared interests in Titanic research (I reviewed Hugh’s Gilded Lives book for the Encyclopedia Titanica website when it was published back in 2012, and Randy and I are old cronies). When it came to sourcing gowns and accessories for the exhibition, Hugh, Randy and the team from the Guelph Museum looked to private collections as well as institutions, finding pieces as far away as here in Australia where the Darnell Collection has beautiful examples. Randy also knew about my own modest Lucile piece, and I was only too happy to lend it. It’s a small object, but rather dazzlingly beautiful – as Randy explained, Lucile pioneered the sale of such accessories for separate purchase from couturiers. With its prong set rhinestones and rich embroidery of seed beads, bugle beads, gold thread and faux precious stones, it’s a little gem of a piece, still sparkling brightly.

Lucile: Fashion, Titanic Scandal runs May 7 to November at the Civic Museum (52 Norfolk Street, Guelph, Ontario N1H 4H8 Canada)

Website LucileInvite