I am so very honoured to be able to call this wonderful woman one of my friends. Miss October is not only a stunning vintage aficionado, successful business woman and mother, but she also has the proverbial heart of gold. So delighted to introduce Miss Kim Schwark as our Living Doll for October.....
What does 'vintage' mean to you?
Passion, excitement, expression, challenge, quality, curiosity and fit.
I love the detail, cut, quality of fabrics and workmanship, and love the stories of it's previous life as I'm quite sentimental.
What was it that first prompted your interest in vintage culture?
I guess I was predisposed to it, I grew up on a steady diet of old movies and musicals from the 30's to the 50's and loved all the glamour. A lot of mum and dad's LPs played at home were swing orchestras, war and show tunes.
I remember when I was about 13 my family had a 50's dress up party to go to and I recreated one of Grace Kelly's outfits , the one with the 3/4 skirt and the capri pants out of To Catch a Thief and nobody got it!!! I had to explain myself all night because I was different and wasn't wearing a poodle skirt.(Story of my life!)
I started expressing myself with clothing at 15 when we hung out with the skinhead scene in Modbury Heights. I bought my first vintage late 50's/early 60's silk wiggle dress with matching matinee jacket and I made my first pair of blue crepe wide leg 40's style 'Katharine Hepburn' pants, capri pants and a tartan pencil skirt that I thought was the 'bees knees'
What is your favourite era, and do you 'live it' every day? In what ways?
I like to play with different eras 20's/30's through to the early 60's (before hemlines went up and they went psychedelic). I did 40's for a lot of the 90's as we were teaching swing/lindy hop in Brisbane but my core look I'm known for is 50's and would definitely be my first love and is probably more dictated by my shape (small waist, voluptuous bottom). I like simple elegant clothing but with details in the workmanship.
During the week for running around I'm sometimes dressed vintage but generally dressed op shop to look 50's with matching shoes and maybe vintage bag and earrings (I guess the trendy word is 'retro'). Strangers always tell me I have an 'old look' about me (which I take as a compliment) and mum's at school question me 'Oh you look lovely, where are you going today, somewhere nice?' whereas I think I'm just dressed casual and it's just another day.
When I'm going out I take it to the enth degree to achieve 'the look' I'm going for which usually includes hats, gloves, bags, matching shoes and may or may not be full vintage as the overall aesthetic is more important to me than being 'precious' about it.
I am used to being over dressed by other people's standards and people looking, commenting and even the odd compliment. I think a lot of people find it intimidating but I reckon "do it anyway if it pleases you!"
Tell us about your favourite item of vintage clothing, kitchenalia, music, furniture or whatever
I have many beautiful dresses but one that sticks in my mind is a cream 50's nylon floral flock dress that I never have or will fit into, but the work in the bodice on this dress 'is to die for', being a sewer I am in awe of this dress I have never seen anything like it, it is cut on the bias with pin tuck pleats and curved tucked sections (it's so detailed I can't even explain it properly, let alone sew it! you see frocks excite me Ha ha)
I have some beautiful evening dresses, the cut, quality and details still captivate me some 20 years later ( I just need more glamorous opportunities and a babysitter to wear them!)
I have boxes and boxes of vintage patterns and magazines with a 'best of' box of each with my absolute faves that I look to for inspiration and ideas. I keep a file of favourite images I come across on the computer for inspiration and another favourite is my 40's pattern/drafting book which demonstrates the intricate cutting/draping techniques of some of these complex styles which I love, love, love but would never attempt to make...... Fabulous!
Can you share with us why vintage culture continues to hold such appeal for you?
Through the dressing, dancing, music and cars we've met and made friends with so many lovely people over the years and because of our shared interests they totally open their door to you.
I love that everyone has a different spin on it which makes us all individual
I find the clothing exciting...(might have something to do with the thrill of the chase?) the cut, fabrics, quality, detail, craftmanship and the stories.
I enjoy the challenge of putting a vintage 'look' together from my favourite images, for me it doesn't have to cost a fortune or be a designer label but if I can pull a Dior style Bar Suit together, tweak a $20 90's lace dress to look 30's, knock up a dress from one of my favourite vintage patterns or find an op shop piece that looks 40's for a few dollars to wear everyday that pleases me and gives me variety.
In fact some of my greatest satisfaction has come from re-working dresses that no-one wants to take on as they are too far gone, an ugly dress, but gorgeous fabric with potential or just plain too much work. I look at them for what they can be rather than what they are and I have some lovely dresses bought cheaply, and with a bit of creativity they have a second life and are worn and loved again.
Our wedding was a good example of this(back in the 90's when Op shopping was worthwhile!) We were on a budget as we were building a new house at the time and I was never going to find the style of wedding dress or rainbow bridesmaids dresses I wanted in the shops anyway!. Everything including shoes, gloves, veil were bought op shop, the guys pin stripe suits were the most expensive but cheaper to buy new than hire and the guys had new socks (ha ha). I re-worked all the dresses into the same style and had to make the mauve one from scratch. My dress was the most expensive @ $50 and the yellow one the cheapest for a $1 from the bargain bin (with rust spots). In the end I kitted out the whole wedding party for under $500 and a bit of effort, I am still proud of that and wouldn't change it to this day!
Just last year I pulled out my very first 50's wiggle dress and matinee coat I bought at 15 and thought 'how can I re-work this so that I will wear it again?' The dress was alright but a bit boring, I re-made the matinee coat into a 3/4 wrap around skirt (very Grace Kelly), I love it because it now looks haute couture (and is based on one of my earliest favourite images in my head), and I will wear it again now as a set for the very first time. It's funny how things come full circle!
Do you have any tips for anyone starting out in the vintage scene?
Don't take it too seriously, we all have to start somewhere and as you learn more you do better. Play, experiment, practice new hair and makeup styles at home, then you'll be ready to present that look to the world whatever it may be.
Learn to sew if you can't already, you will need these skills to fix/maintain and pull complete vintage outfits together. If you can't sew you are probably more suited to reproduction clothing and/or an expensive relationship with your dressmaker.
Learn how to care for vintage fabrics or ditto .... you will have an expensive relationship with your dry cleaner!
Remember, there is always more than one way to do something, never stop learning or playing, nobody is an expert or knows it all.
Lastly, the internet is an amazing resource with lots of original movie clips and tutorials on hair and makeup available on youtube.com (some good, some bad) Ebay and etsy.com will be your best friends (use in moderation for the sake of your bank balance)
Now is your chance to provide us with an overview of who you are and what you do.
I'm a mother of two who chose to leave a 20 year career in advertising to stay home and raise kids and give them a similar upbringing that I was privileged to have. I had to reinvent myself to cope with the mental boredom of staying home with littlies, I work part-time and several hobby based businesses have been born from the need to 'use my brain'.
The most recent venture was created from my desire for a glamorous vintage holiday (because everything should be glamorous in my head!) The inaugural LA Vintage Shopping Trip was born, 11 fabulous days vintage and reproduction shopping. Luxury accommodation, cocktails, glam nights out, limousines ... more cocktails and nostalgic sightseeing.
You'd think 20 ladies shopping together would cause conflict but that is the beauty about vintage everyone was looking for something different from 40's through to modern quality clothing and we were all different shapes and sizes, so we helped each other with finds we came across.
It truly was the holiday of a lifetime, and to quote one of the ladies on the trip (Marianna) " I haven't done my trip inventory yet but I do know the best things I got from the trip and it wasn't all those vintage handbags. It was making friends with lovely, amazing and fabulous women who just happen to share the same vintage interests. Thankyou ladies for the trip of a lifetime".
If you're interested in the next trip join our page
and if you'd like a full itinerary email me: email@example.com
Finally, what or who inspires you and why?
I've always taken inspiration from old movies and books as the internet wasn't invented when I started on this journey.
Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn .... for their grace and style.
Dior for the fabulous style and glamorous silhouette he created.
My mother who was honest, kind, loving, strong, taught me to sew, made me believe I could do anything and cultured the essence of who I am today.
Quieten your mind and observe... there is inspiration everywhere!
Thank you for the opportunity to share a bit about myself
with your readers.