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A blog with a daily splash of vintage swimwear, vintage fashion, news, designer profiles and all things retro.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

GlamourScoop - Nicole Jenkins of Circa Vintage Clothing

Today we share our interview with you of Nicole Jenkins, owner of Circa Vintage Clothing in Australia. Circa is a retail vintage clothing shop run by Nicole Jenkins. Circa's focus is on mens and ladies wear dating from the Victorian era to the late 1970s.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I own and run a vintage clothing shop called Circa Vintage Clothing, in Melbourne, Australia.

What is your own personal style like?

I like to dress for my figure and age, and as a curvier woman in my 40s, the classic styles of the '40s and '50s suit best. Generally I wear a simple and well cut black or floral dress, a scarf or brooch and lowish heels as I'm on my feet all day in the shop or working with the stock. I always wear a petticoat and stockings.

What was your inspiration for starting Circa?

I've always loved vintage but over the years my career took me in a different direction - in 2003 my job was being outsourced overseas and so I started to consider new options. An opportunity presented itself to buy the vintage clothing shop that I had managed in the '80s, so I set up Circa - my own little piece of vintage heaven.

Can you describe your process for selecting items for your store?

When I'm buying stock, I always check for condition and quality - I don't worry too much about sizes because all of them are needed. I do a lot of restoration but the preference is always for pieces that need minimal work and have minimal stains - if repairs or intensive treatment are needed, I'll usually still buy them if the price is right but I have to factor in what I need to do, and the likelihood of making them saleable - if I fail, the garment will end up at the thrift shop.

For some time now I've been heavily stocked so I don't buy as much as I'd like simply because I lack the space to store it - some things are always in demand though, so I'll buy particular items that are hard to find - eg '40s fitted jackets, '50s party dresses, good mens suits.

The second and more important selection is when I choose from my stockroom, what will go into the shop at any given time. This time I'm looking to meet seasonal demands or fill gaps in my size, style or garment range. The chosen garments are then washed or dry cleaned, ironed and repaired.

You also have an online store, what do you specialize in?

I'm considering setting up an online store but for the moment, I just trade through the bricks and mortar shop.

You currently have a dress from your personal collection on loan for a show, tell us about that.

Five of my dresses have been included in an exhibition on "What Women Wore" at Melbourne's City Museum. It's a small display of dresses from the 1820s to the 1960s and includes my earliest dress, which dates from about 1830. It's one that a magazine collector donated to my collection over twenty years ago and it's the first time it's been on display for the public. Entirely hand sewn of linen-lined silk, it features large leg o'mutton sleeves, a bell-shaped skirt and petal collar which is smaller over the bodice and larger over the sleeves - it also has a high waist and a slight bustle formed by cartridge pleats at the rear. The previous owner worked for an auctioneer, I assume that is where it crossed his path - it's extremely rare to find garments of this age in Australia, as we were a very young nation at that time. In fact, my dress pre-dates the city of Melbourne by five years.

You have recently launched a book called "Love Vintage", tell us why this needs to be on our bookshelf.
"Love Vintage" is the book that I wanted to read when I first started collecting thirty years ago - it tells you all about the styles that were in fashion during each era, the major designers and why their work was important and what every day people were wearing as well as the elite. It talks about fabric and detailing - how to identify and how to care for and preserve your garments. It also includes over 350 colour photographs and illustrations from vintage fashion catalogues. It demystifies sizing and labelling systems and how these have changed over the years - in short, it empowers you to accurately identify the age and origin of vintage garments from the 1920s to the late 1970s. It also has a useful section on garment styles and when they were popular.

Click on the cover image for ordering information.

Of special interest is your upcoming talk on vintage swimwear on The Collectors, December 4th. For those of us not is Australia, is this a television show? Is there a place we can go to watch or hear the program?
The ABC TV show "The Collectors" is screened on Friday nights in Australia - sadly it won't be available overseas but a copy may find it's way onto Youtube.

UPDATE: We've been contacted by the Collectors and have been told that ABC posts the shows on their website the week after they have aired on TV. So, if you're interested like we are in Nicole's swimwear interview, you can download it here the week after it airs.

What other blogs do you read that you think would be of interest to the vintage community?
One of the best things about the web is that there are so many like-minded people out there exploring their interests. I have a long list, but my favourites are the Vintage Fashion Guild blog, and those by fellow VFG members like Dorothea's Closet, Denise Brain and Fuzzy Lizzie. I also love the blogs of Gala Darling and Super Kawaii Mama because they show how a modern woman can effectively incorporate vintage into their day to day style (although it must be said that SKM has a very old school Hollywood glamour look, of which I approve entirely). For a more traditional vintage approach, I recommend "Diary of a Vintage Girl", the blog of English rose Fleur DeGuerre.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about vintage fashion?
The one I hit the most is the myth that all vintage comes in tiny sizes - at Circa I have everything from a size 2 (Australian, about a -2 US if there is such a thing) to a 20 (about a US 16). Of course, the prettiest frocks do tend to be small sizes, but as I point out to ladies, they were usually worn by teenagers. Modern teenagers are still much smaller than the fully grown big sisters. There are lovely dresses of all sizes, and no matter what size you are, you can't possibly fit them all.

Are there certain eras that you like?
I find that every era has it's strong points - and a figure type that will suit it best. Whilst personally I wear '40s and '50s, you can't beat the '20s for beaded decadence, the '30s for lingerie or elegant evening wear, the '50s for casuals, cocktail and party wear, the '60s for stylish mod fashions and synthetic vibrancy, the '70s for sexy grown up glamour and retro styling the '20s, '30s, '40s and '50s. Every era is wonderful in one way or another (although I'm yet to embrace the '80s).

Which designer(s) gives you inspiration?
There are so many wonderful designers, it's hard to choose - I love the genius of Vionnet and her bias draping, the cheekiness of Schiaparelli, the pleated silk techniques of Fortuny, the wearability of McCardell, as fresh today as it was in the '40s. I love every designer who works with fabric to create a new way of looking at something we think we've seen before.

What do you collect?
In many ways my shop's stock is my collection - a revolving door of several thousand pieces that changes every day. Occasionally I hang on to something (I have my current favourites) but generally everything I have will one day be for sale - clothes like to be worn and shown to the world, in my collection they're deprived of this opportunity - and I want my best pieces to be available for people to buy if they so wish.

When you aren't working on your store, blog or writing books, how do you spend your time?
I have a weakness for computer games, a desire to nurture my garden and hope to return to cooking now that I have more time. My vintage life certainly takes up the vast bulk of my time and energy though.

You'd laugh if you knew this about me.
In 1993 I ran off to the US with a girlfriend to do a "Thelma and Louise" inspired road trip. Unfortunately, it coincided with the Mississippi River flooding and at the last minute we couldn't drive across the country, instead doing the trip by rail - it was wonderful but not what we had planned.

Thank you Nicole for spending time with us today. You can visit Circa online at http://circavintageclothing.com.au/

or visit her store located at:

Circa Vintage Clothing

102 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy, Victoria 3065
Phone : 03 9419 8899

Hours: Tuesday to Saturday
11am to 6pm


denisebrain said...

Love Nicole, and want (and will be purchasing) Love Vintage!! Great interview Pam...with a woman that I selfishly wished lived next door, not halfway round the world from me!

Glamoursurf said...

Nicole is fabulous, she made this easy for me!

Ammie Eliza Davies said...

awwwww :)
nice post!


Elizaaa xxx

sally said...

The have recently read Love Vintage
Great Book
It inspired me to follow my passion and find a 50's cotton swinmsuit for my summer vacation
one that was definetly a 50's styled. Well right under my nose here in Australia i found the My Sister Pat label. I now have the most DEVINE cotton cossie. Love it