Super Kawaii Mama By Camille Gower

Clad in a sultry black and white ensemble, framed by pink polka dot patterned wallpaper and surrounded by jars of fairy floss and gummy lollies, Candice DeVille is sugared perfection. Her porcelain complexion is complemented by scarlet lips and dark lashes, while intricate shadows are cast on her face by the elaborate hat perched on her perfectly coiffed hair. At once glamorous and sweet, the Melbourne-based vintage stylist and model is at home in her surroundings – the Love Vintage fashion fair at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building.

She readjusts the vintage black fox fur cape around her shoulders and contemplates where to begin. “Firstly, I should clarify that to me, vintage is a bare minimum of thirty years old, preferably forty,” she says. “Anything from the 1990s is not vintage. It’s retro or second hand, or maybe recycled, but definitely not vintage.”

Here at the Love Vintage fair to hold vintage styling workshops, the

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“Super Kawaii Mama” speaks expressively and decisively about her adoration for vintage fashion. DeVille explains that while commonly regarded as just being old clothes, or being old-fashioned, vintage clothing gives the wearer the chance to show a unique and innovative personal style. She says vintage fashion serves as a beautifully preserved memento of our past. “Vintage clothing is living history. The development of fashion in the twentieth-century coincided with one of the greatest times of design innovation,” she says. “When you actually start to look at those garments and learn about what came at the same time you can learn about technology, you can learn about social trends, about politics – all of these things translate into fashion.”

DeVille notes the quality of vintage clothing is often better than is found in high street designs, which are usually cheap garments made with cheap fabrics, using cheap labour and unoriginal designs. “You can get a great 1950s vintage cashmere cardigan with beading for $90. The high street stores will buy one of those, get it copied in acrylic and sell it for $120,” she says.

DeVille says she believes a lack of knowledge about quality garment production means there is a generation of shoppers who don’t know anything about making a good sartorial investment. “I’ve got no problem with people buying these sorts of things if that’s what they want to do with their eyes wide open. But if you don’t know, you’re being sold a lie,” she explains.

As well as being better quality in terms of fabric and construction,

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the fact vintage clothing is unique to the buyer also means that it causes an emotional reaction. “You might find something like that in the malls, but there will be fifty or a hundred other girls who have that same reaction,” she says. It may be for this reason – the saturation and mass manufacture of lookalike trends – that vintage fashion has such appeal to those with the desire to express individuality through attire.

DeVille has been collecting vintage fashion for 23 years, and says she sometimes buys pieces that don’t fit her, or that she will never wear, simply because she feels she needs to liberate them from a possibly undignified end. “I think, ‘what if someone buys this for a costume party and chops it up?’ I couldn’t live with myself. So I sometimes have to go and save things,” she says with a cheeky smile.

Today, her look radiates vintage charm, but only her cape is actually second-hand. Her white blouse, houndstooth print high waisted skirt, and ‘60s-inspired court shoes are modern boutique or online store purchases. “I wear vintage pieces every day, but not necessarily head to toe. I like to mix it up,” she explains. “I love my vintage. But I also love my Hello Kitty.” DeVille says the concept of mixing and matching eras of fashion is analogous with the spirit of innovation in the 20th century. “Something that puts a lot of people off vintage is the idea that there is this vintage mafia that say, ‘You have to wear it like this,’ or, ‘If you mix your eras then we won’t talk to you’. I think the idea of stagnating in one particular era
isn’t healthy.”

Nicole Jenkins, owner of Circa Vintage store and author of Love Vintage: A Passion for Collecting Fashion, says this fusion style makes it easy to identify a Candice DeVille look. “Candice has a high volume old world glamour look and she creates this using a mix of old and new,” she says. Jenkins explains that there has been a change in the last decade in the way society views recycled clothing. “Every now and then you will get strong streams of nostalgia for the past. The cycle of fashion has always turned and modern fashion is always looking for inspiration from the back catalogue.” She notes that in the past, older styles were copied and later reproduced as modern fashion.

However, with the focus on sustainability in today’s society, the concept of recycling vintage garments themselves is being embraced – bringing an actual part of the past into the modern wardrobe. “For me, the personal history of the pieces is paramount; the secrets they reveal about who wore them, to what occasion,” Jenkins says. Melbourne-based fashion blogger Marianne Rutherford agrees. “It’s amazing to imagine who might have worn it, where to and how they felt about it,” she says. “I love that I can wear something so beautifully made, from gorgeous fabrics, in beautiful prints.”

Rutherford, who has her own vintage fashion blog, Esme and the Laneway, says she loves DeVille’s style. “I think that if someone is wearing an outfit they are happy with, this shines through,” she says. DeVille’s aesthetic is strongly reflected in her clothing choices, which vary from colourful and kitsch to sleek and sophisticated.

She says it’s important to have fun with vintage fashion. “On one hand it’s very serious, because fashion reflects who we are on the inside. But on the other hand, if we don’t have any fun with it, it takes away all the joy. It becomes a chore,” she says. For DeVille, the most important thing in personal style is to do something different – to be creative. “Inspiration doesn’t have to come from other people and their style, it can be music, colours, landscapes, architecture; whatever inspires you to put it together and make it uniquely you.” She points to the banner on the wall behind her and recites, “vintage comes in every colour,” with a smile on her cherry lips.

“Whether you’re seven, seventeen or seventy, vintage is for everyone.”

Camille Gower


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