Years ago, looking back at my old photos, I could not help but be impressed how people dressed. We left the boat in Fremantle in 1956; all dressed in Sunday’s best. It was a Sunday, so that might have been one reason! However, at that time, women dressed in flowing frocks, wore seamed nylons suspended from jarretels; men wore button down jackets, nicely creased pants and lovely shirts and ties. Both sexes wore hats as well. The public pulling up of a stocking that had slipped out of that little button higher up a female thigh’s girdle was then as erotic a sight as anything available staring for hours at shavedporn.com of today.
Presently, this has all changed into an astonishing fashion indicating a kind of hobo homelessness made cool- chique. The more worn out the cool people dress, the better and the more expensive it will be. At no stage during the history of fashion have holes in material cost that much. It has to be suitably threadbare. Isn’t there a fashion label by that name? On the train today there were many men and boys in singlets and thongs, coke in one hand, mobile or apps in other. Girls and women dressed in terribly worn out looking shorts or raggedly dresses, also some in singlets with bodily parts swinging hither and dither, as well as thongs and mobiles. I am informed that those shorts don’t come cheap and that the impoverished look is deliberate. There I was, thinking to get out needle and thread and offer to do some repairs. Mothers used to work their knuckles to the bare bone preventing kids to look like Charles Dickens’ urchins. Now it is high fashion to look poor, bare boned and homeless. They all utter and talk a kind of threadbare English as well, with, ‘and like, oh my god,’ or even better, a resolute ‘stuff like that’… it all falls into place, even makes some sense.
At the back of the railway line where we live is a huge Salvation Army shop. It is situated in a semi industrial zone next to a large rural produce store. It is so big one can hardly see the end of it. It has three huge industrial fans blowing circulating the air which has a barely concealed air of stale perfume. The very high corrugated ceiling and steel framed structure gives it all a rather theatrical feel, making browsing very pleasurable. On offer are all those fascinating items from glorious pasts donated for a good cause and hoping for a revival in a good home.
Here one can find the discarded and sometimes fashionable items from yesteryear. The second hand dresses are especially intriguing. Who wore this silk dark dress, size 46 with a single strand of long blonde hair still clinging forlornly at the back of it? Was she tall with that flaxen blond hair and did the tri-coloured sash next to it drape over it or did she tie it around the waste? Did she talk a lot and was she happily married? Where did she live and did she treat others with consideration? I would have thought that wearing this beautiful dark dress and sash could not have been worn by a fish curer from Woolloomooloo. You never get that sort of feeling of historical haute couture looking at the endless cloth racks of David Jones or Myers.
At The Salvos, ‘at the back of the railway line’, were many other items that would have cost a fortune in the sixties or even seventies. There were top fashion label lingerie frilly items including brassieres that would have cost a fortune new. I couldn’t help myself and felt inside the cups of a ruffled cashmere bralette made in Italy. The ticket said ‘new over $ 260.-. It was a steal for $5.-. What lovely breasts had nestled there, I reflected pensively? No one would ever do this with new items. There is just no point to it, is there? New clothes are sterile; no living has occurred in them yet, let alone warm breasts.
In my shared wardrobe and for many decades now hangs a pure woolen jacket I have worn many times in the past, especially weddings but lately more funerals… It is as good now as it was fifteen years ago. It is a dark blue-black colour and was given to me by my son who found the arms a bit short. It fits me still perfectly and even though I have not found much use for it lately, I’ll keep it forever. The jacket was first given to my son and rumored to have been originally bought by a well known lawyer. Inside the jacket at the back of it is the label: Designed by Pierre Cardin ‘Paris’. Another label pronounces in smaller letters, exclusively tailored in Australia, Berkeley apparel.
It will most likely end up at the Salvos as well…eventually. A steal for just $3.-