Over the Knee Boots

Boots for shiny red legs. Source
Over the knee boots or thigh highs have been worn by fisherman in the form of rubber waders for generations but as a women's fashion statement, they only began to be worn in the latter half of the 20th century and then only by a confident few.

Those who are interested in fashion, history, and how the two intersect can find info on classes via Online Colleges.

Not for the Fainthearted
Although they expose less bare leg than standard knee boots, thigh boots carry a certain risque connotation, perhaps because they're an extreme version of a boot and thus not totally mainstream. That's not to say you have to work in an S&M den to wear them.

Over the years, they've been featured  in various  designer collections but they're really an item that has too be worn with supreme chutzpah to carry off the look, otherwise it's easy to feel and probably look, faintly ridiculous. However, when they work, they can be strikingly effective.

Clifton Webb

On screen, actor Clifton Webb was as crisp and clear as a freshly pressed sheet of paper  - his well modulated voice, impeccable appearance and sharp wit gave him an edge in Hollywood and although he was not considered romantic lead material, throughout the 1940s and 50s he was rarely out of work.
Clifton Webb. Source

Webb was a fine character actor, much in demand and appeared in a number of classic films alongside some of the screens most beautiful actresses, including Laura (1944) and The Razor's Edge (1946) with Gene Tierney,  Sitting Pretty (1948) with Maureen O'Hara and Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) with Myrna Loy.

Born in Indianapolis in 1889, the versatile Webb began his professional life as a ballroom dancer, while still in his teens. With the encouragement of his mother Maybelle, Webb's creative and artistic talents manifested early, beckoning him away from school and academia, toward a theatrical life.

Craft Projects

Suzie Million's guide to retro crafts
A Hoarder's Delight
Ever wanted to make a bottle cap man? Or maybe a teacup lady flowerpot or a plastic flower pixie? Well if so, Retro Crafts might be the book for you. The author has compiled over forty kitsch retro craft projects to keep you busy on a rainy day.

People who love crafts and being creative may want to look into design classes from accredited online colleges.

We used to be a much less throwaway society - things tended to be kept and were often creatively recycled for another use.The fabulously named Suzie Millions (is that for real I wonder?) is an artist, author and craft enthusiasist, who has delved into  history and come up with some weird and wonderful projects.

Even if craft isn't your forte, it's fun just reading about what can be created with ordinary objects. Plus the book includes an inside peek at the authors intriguingly cluttered house, as well as a host of fascinating images from vintage pamphlets and markets.

Kimba the White Lion

Osamu Tezuka
Creator of Kimba, legendary animator, Osamu Tezuka
Anime, the Japanese style of animation that has garnered a huge cult following worldwide, really took off in the 1960s with the work of a man called Osamu Tezuka. It was Tezuka who introduced the characteristic wide, expressive eyes which are such a feature of Japanese animation.

Although in Japan the term anime covers all animation, in the West it has come to represent a particular style of Japanese drawings, an early example of which is Tezuka's 1960s animation series, Jungle Emporer, known in English speaking countries as Kimba the White Lion.

Sindy and Tammy Dolls

Barbie's Competition 
Mattel's early success with fashion doll Barbie did not go unnoticed across the Atlantic and in 1963 a rival doll was produced by British manufacturer Pedigree Dolls & Toys. "Sindy" was less voluptuous and more wholesome looking than the well stacked Barbie - she had a round, plump face. a 60s bubble cut, an understated figure and an innocent, childlike expression.

 Collette Mansel's  History of Cindy. Amazon
Although Mattel had already offered Pedigree the licence for Barbie, the company had declined due to Barbie's poor performance in market research. It seemed British children found Barbie's very adult appearance hard to identify with.

However, Sindy was not wholly dreamt up by Pedigree; rather she was modelled on a 12 " sweet-faced US doll called Tammy, made by Ideal toys. Tammy was more insouciant teenager than fashion-obsessed babe and her clothes less grown up, though she was marketed as "the doll you love to dress", a tag line that would also be applied to Sindy.

Alas, Tammy's  existence and period of popularity was brief. In the US, the  Barbie machine was a powerful competitor and the Tammy doll folded in 1966. In recent times however, her collectability has risen markedly, particularly in Japan, where she has a cult following.

Margaret Lockwood

Dark beauty, Margaret Lockwood
Queen of the British melodrama, vintage actress Margaret Lockwood was born in exotic Karachi in what was then British India - the daughter of an English Administrator father and an Irish mother. However, the young Margaret spent only the first three and a half years of her life in India, having moved to London's Upper Norwood with her mother and brother in 1919.

Her luscious dark hair and dramatic, smoldering looks made her the perfect romantic foil for the type of steamy potboilers and period romances that were popular in the 1940s.

After training at RADA and some stage work, Lockwood's first significant foray into screen acting was in 1935, playing a supporting role in Basil Dean's, Lorna Doone, alongside John Loder and Victoria Hopper. However it was her appearance with Micheal Redgrave in the title role of  Alfred Hitchcock's The lady Vanishes, four years later, that propelled her to British stardom. The film was a big success, not just for Lockwood, as it also provided Hitchcock with  the necessary impetus to make the move to Hollywood.

Split Enz

Originality was the key to Split Enz's success
The musically inventive and visually theatrical band Split Enz emerged in Australia in the latter half of the 1970s and while we were were more than happy to claim them, the band was in fact born in New Zealand. Enz was  formed at Auckland University in 1971 and the original line-up included Phil Judd, Tim Finn, Noel Crombie, Robert Gillies and Mike Chunn.

When Judd left the band (he later rejoined) the gap was filled by Tim's younger brother Neil and in 1974, noted  keyboard player Eddie Raynor joined the group. In the following year, after garnering a significant following in NZ, they made the shift to Australia, changing their name from Split Ends to Split Enz, as a fond nod to their home country.

White Wall Tyres

Spiffing white wall tyre on a 1957 Ford Thunderbird. Source
Although 21st century cars are no doubt vastly superior technologically to the cars produced in the last century, style-wise there tends to be a bit of a boring 'sameness' about the designs.

There are exceptions of course - the Mini Cooper, the New Beetle and the much maligned PT Cruiser, to name a few. Love them or loathe them, they are at least different. Significantly,  many of the designs which attempt to be different, incorporate retro styling. Looking backward for inspiration may not seem particularly innovative but there's no denying that the early to mid 20th century produced some fabulous designs in automobiles.


The fascinator offers allure and intrigue. From Amazon

A Veil of Elegant Mystery
Modern style fascinators - those frivolous, feathery headpieces that give women the look of an exotic bird and unlike hats, serve no real practical function but are designed purely for adornment - came into vogue in the 20th century with the eccentric headgear of the 1940s, when small, decorative headpieces were often combined with a net veil to give a woman a mysterious sense of allure. I guess they were meant to make us...fascinating.

Classic Motels

An icon of the 20th century...the American Motel. Source
Vintage motel postcard, Tucumcari, New Mexico
America invented the motel and with it a national cultural icon. The word 'motel' was meant to denote a motorist's hotel and they were, in large part, a response to the exponential expansion of the automobile in US society; as road trips were becoming more and more popular,  the weary travellers needed convenient places to stay.

It was an innovative form of accommodation where travellers could conveniently park their cars just outside the door to their room and it wasn't long before motel chains began to spring up everywhere, some of them richly quirky, .such as the tee-pee-shaped rooms of the Wigwam motel on Route 66, where the sign apparently wittily read: When they suggested we stay at the Wigwam motel, I had my reservations.

Dick York

Eternally Darrin
Dick York
Actor Dick York is perhaps best remembered for his stint as Samantha's (Elizabeth Montgomery) husband in the 60s TV show Bewitched. York played the mere mortal -  king of his castle but threatened by his wife's supernatural powers,  pressured at work and belittled by his worldly mother-in-law. In many ways he was the representative male of white, affluent, middle-class America. Not that the average guy is married to a witch but Darrin Stephens was the essence of conservative ordinariness.

Darrin wanted his wife submissive in the kitchen and less powerful than himself -  he longed for normalcy but was surrounded by mayhem. Interestingly, the show was made on the cusp of the feminist revolution, when notions of a wife subverting her natural gifts for the sake of her husband's insecurities would be seriously challenged.

Koala Swapcard

An Iconic Swapcard
Koala swapcard
Trading pictorial swapcards was a very popular activity among primary school children in Australia the 1960s, particularly for girls. In fact it was a pastime almost exclusively enjoyed by girls. Although boys may have trading football cards, the pretty picture cards were girls territory.

Single cards with plain backs could be purchased for 2 or 3 cents at the Newsagency but often the cards in circulation would have players marks on the underside, having at some point been commandeered from a deck.

Every recess, the swapcard girls would form a concentrated huddle in the playground and flip through their card stack - some girls had piles three or four inches thick, which they sometimes kept in purpose designed boxes or more rarely, in albums.

Deciding whether or not to swap was a serious business and of course, some cards were more desirable than others. Horses were very high on the list followed by cats, puppies and other cute furry animals. There were literally hundreds of designs in circulation - animals, people, places, toys, novelty pics etc.

The mother and baby koala card featured here, from a mid-century deck, was one of the desirables and widely traded on the swap card circuit in the 60s. It's significant in that it was one of the few designs that was uniquely Australian and likely to stir a nostalgic ripple in the memory of  anyone who was into swapcards in the 60s.  The koala card is still floating around on ebay and various places - selling for around $3.

The Grey Gardens Cult

The Bizarre Beales
Grey Gardens on DVD
Take a pair of financially strapped, mother and daughter socialites...aunt and cousin to the Bouviers (Jackie O), a ramshackle East Hampton country house, some highly eccentric behaviour and you have the subject of a much discussed 1976 documentary called  Grey Gardens. Since its airing three decades ago the bizarre Beales, both called 'Edie' -Big and Little,  assumed a kind of cult status and though they are now dead, they still have their fans. The story of the two Edies eventually spawned an HBO film,  a Broaday musical and various Grey Gardens fanclubs.

Articles in the early 70s and the low budget, Mayles Bros. documentary had incited much curiosity.   For one thing, viewers wanted to know how a family with such wealthy connections could be living in such extraordinary squalor? Yet it was perhaps, the very juxtaposition of this squalor with the still retained but badly peeling patina of former glamour and wealth that was so oddly compelling....like looking at a chipped Ming vase lying abandoned on a junk heap.

Dr Martens: Boots, Shoes and Accessories

In the fickle fashion world of youth culture, there are few footwear manufacturers as iconic as the British brand, Dr Martens or Doc Martens as they are often called. Since the 1950s, Docs have been worn by such diverse groups and subcultures as skinheads, punks, yuppies, hippies, housewives and teens.

In Australia we had a young politician who regularly wore Dr Martens - a trivial fashion detail the media made a feature of, emphasizing the shoes as indicative of her youth and 'grooviness' level. The politician...Natasha Stott Despoja, claimed her chunky shoes "generated more comment than my political policies". How did this distinctive shoe style come about and why did it take off? Are they still hip or has popularity made them too mainstream and thus passe?

The Original Blob

It's indescribable It's indestructible! NOTHING can stop it! Beware of...

The Blob
It creeps...it crawls
The atomic-age 1950s was a great era for science-fiction films. Space exploration was a reality, the moon landing was just around the corner and there was a  general positivism about the achievements of science and technology in the 20th century thus far. However, the awe and wonder at mankind's own cleverness was tempered by a few kernels of fear. It was also the beginning of the cold war and political paranoia and developments in science sparked trepidation as well as awe - the widespread devastation wrought by the atom bomb was still fresh in the memory of the post-war 50s generation.

Science fiction allowed the 50s obsession with science, technology, space travel and political threats to be played out on screen - films such as IT Came from Outer Space (1951), The Thing from Another Planet (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and The Day the Earth Stood Still meshed with that decade's mindset by touching on the fears and concerns of the 50s psyche.  It's often been suggested that some sci-fi stories were metaphors for something bigger or deeper.


Never did a servant understand his Boss so well, nor get the better of him in so many ways... 
Rochester..aka, Eddie Anderson
Eddie Anderson
As the infuriating but highly likable 'Rochester' - Jack Benny's wise-cracking, domestic employee and foil - actor and comedian Eddie Anderson was a consummate performer and, at his peak,  one of the highest paid African-American entertainers in the industry. Anderson's squawky high-pitched voice and  riotous one-liners made him a favourite with audiences. It's hard to imagine Benny without him and to his credit, Benny knew what he had, as it was an association that was to span many years. "Rochester' joined Jack on radio, TV and film,  continuing with the Jack Benny troupe into the 1970s.

Who is Bob Hope?

For those who don't know - this is Bob Hope
A couple of years ago I was in the audience at a Judith Lucy (an Australian comedian) gig. In her cynically witty way, Lucy, as per usual, was railing against the vagaries of aging and the great exponential roll of time. To prove a point she zeroed in on a couple of youthful audience members - primary school teachers who were in their early 20s...
"Who's Bob Hope? she asked, with a forceful lunge toward the front row seating where the teachers sat twitching expectantly. "Was he a politician?" said one of the teachers, in a loud but not entirely confident voice. "A scientist!" said another, as if it were a revelation.
Although the audience shrieked with laughter, my first response was one of profound and disturbing shock...how could anyone not know who Bob Hope was? I mean Bob Hope! The man was positively an icon, whose presence was ubiquitous for a large part of the last century. Hadn't they seen any On the Road movies? It was I suppose, my first really painful realization of the great and inevitable divide between a shrinking older world and a new rising one, to whom vast chunks of 20th century culture mean little.

Rotating Dials Watch

Retro Modern
Retro Modern watch from S-tech
The square-shaped modern watch with the interesting inner circles at right represents a stylistic fusion between contemporary design and retro disc mechanics...or at least the look of them. The triple rotating circles meet up to reveal the time in the little silver tab on the side.

It's quite a cool design but I'm wondering just how easy it would be to read the time in a hurry? The mechanism seems a tad fiddly but I suppose you'd grow accustomed to it. Caught my eye anyway...

Rudy Vallee

Me and my Megaphone
Rudy Vallee and his megaphone
Musician, singer, screen actor, radio star and comedian Rudy Vallee was a bit hit in the 1920s, 30s and 40s - with his softly intimate voice, tousled hair and non-threatening, boyish features, he cultivated a distinctive crooner image and personality that made him stand out from the regular popular singer crowd.

'College boy' Vallee had been a bandleader and saxophonist in the 1920s, who made a name for himself by singing through his trademark megaphone, often in a university sweater and singing Ivy League ditties such as the Yale drinking song, Whiffenproof.

The Eternity Man

2000 Olympics fireworks display over Sydney Harbour
 When the evocative word 'eternity' lit up the Sydney skyline during the harbour fireworks display at the close of the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympics,  not everyone realised the word was a homage to a long deceased Sydney resident and local legend, Arthur Stace - a down and out, non-conformist, hard drinking WWI veteran. However while the man himself may have been humble, he possessed one grand concept that he clung to with an obsessive grip - eternity.

Hoop Earrings

Large stainless steel hoops from Amazon
Hoops are probably one of the oldest style of earrings in the world, having been worn by both men and women in a variety of cultures throughout human history from diverse locations- including Ancient Sumeria, Egypt, Spain, the Middle East and among African tribes people. Later, small but chunky gold hoops had been popularly worn by European sailors for generations - custom dictated that the earrings were a kind of insurance payment, in exchange for a decent burial for the sailors who wore them.

Steptoe and Son

London, Junk and Family Relations
In its heyday, which was the 1960s, the British comedy series Steptoe and Son was a ground-breaking tour de force, watched religiously by Brits and devoted fans in several other parts of the world as well. The show followed the exploits of two aging 'rag and bone' men - junk dealers who sparr and bicker amid the detritus of their lives. Harold; Steptoe the younger, is irrevocably tied to a kind of paternal umbilical cord - a cord that stretches dangerously thin at times but never actually breaks.


Too nice
Sugar and Spice and all Things Really Nice
Niceness is  a pretty concept but it has its critics. On the one hand it seems straightforward. What could be wrong with 'niceness' and what it represents? - congeniality, manners, consideration, cleanliness. All admirable qualities.

Yet,  niceness has its dark undertones. Over the last few decades the word has suffered a considerable PR problem, to the point where in some quarters, to be referred to as nice is a downright insult. In a cynical world, niceness is often regarded with suspicion.

Gladstone Gander

             Lucky Gladstone Gander
The Lucky Guy
Some people are just lucky. Annoyingly so. They seem to sail through life with nary a ripple of aggravation - no calamities come their way, they never seem to be in debt or trouble, their clothes are always impeccably neat and their hair is always perfectly in place.

In Gladstone Gander,  legendary cartoon artist Carl Barks, created a character that represented the eternally lucky guy.  The golden Gander also provides a striking contrast to the hapless Donald Duck - where Gladstone is perpetually lucky, Donald suffers one misfortune and mishap after another. Gladstone, with his curly hair, spats and walking stick, is dapper without even trying, whereas Donald always appears frazzled, no matter how hard he tries. Much to Donald's chagrin, Gladstone always falls on his feet. If there's a lost wallet to be found, Gladstone will find it.

Kitsch Kitchen

The Joy of Liberace
Was Liberace into cooking? Michael and Karan Feder's Joy of Liberace purports to contain recipes from 'America's kitschiest kitchen', which sounds enticing, however I'm wondering what a kitsch recipe might entail....

Saveloys in skirts poking through  pineapple rings? Pink marshmallow cake with red marzipan love heart embellishments? Nothing so restrained at that. Looking at the cover picture, it seems like the recipes are far fancier - grand pianos cakes with edible candelabras.

The book promises to be a visual treat full of edible extravaganzas with plenty of colour photos and step-by-step recipes put together by the culinary staff of the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

It's also an insight into the table tastes and food  penchants of one of America's most out-there entertainers. See, if you really must, 'Liberace's personal entertaining style come to life' but don't blame me if you suffer a sacharine overload.

Sue Lyon: Lolita

Sue Lyon was just fourteen when she beat off 800 other hopefuls and was chosen to appear in Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film, Lolita, yet young as she was, she was still two years older than the character on whom her role was based.

Money, or lack of it, was an issue in the Lyon household - Sue, already working as a model,  was the youngest of five children and her widowed mother worked as a house mother at a  hospital. The financial opportunity the film afforded, as well as the career potential, must have seemed too good to miss.

My Friend Flicka

My Friend Flicka
In the early to mid 20th century, there was a spate of successful films and books that explored the close relationships between animals and children - National Velvet, Black Beauty, Flipper, Rin Tin Tin, Skippy, Lassie, to name a few. Many of the children in these stories find themselves, establishing their  identities through their interaction with their animal companions.

My Friend Flicka was originally a book written in 1941 by American author and screenwriter, Mary O'Hara. Although horse stories have a strong girl association, this particular tale follows the story of Ken Mclaughlin, a ten year-old boy, his life on a remote farm in Wyoming and the comfort and satisfaction he finds  in a  friendship with a wild filly, Flicka (Swedish for girl). Ken is the wistful type, who has a tendency to aggravate his authoritarian father with his daydreaming nature and unusually sensitive attitude.

Top Hats

Silk top hat from Ascot Top Hats
I'm puttin' on my top hat
Tyin' up my white tie..
Dancin' in my tails!

There are some fashion items that never seem to date....then there are some that date but are later retrieved, taking on a whole new style cachet for another generation. Then there are some that date and stay buried, never to return to the limelight or even the low light ever again, despite the fact that in their day, they outshone the rest.

The top hat is one such item - perhaps because it just too formal an item in a society that has largely eschewed dressing-up as an art form and valued convention, in favour of the comfort and convenience of the casual. Mind you, as fashion items go, the top hat is a fairly out-there item.. a trifle silly in its English eccentricity, at least from a contemporary perspective.


Duchamps, Nude Descending a Staircase #2
My Heart Belongs to Dada
The predecessor to surrealism, the 'anti-Art' Dada movement, which encompassed art, literature and design, swept to prominence in the early 20th Century on a wave of exponential modernism and change that was to reshape Western culture.

Reputedly, the name Dada meaning "hobby horse" was picked at random from a dictionary, which seems appropriate for a movement which framed its raison d'etre  in the wilfully non-sensical.

Although  art was already in a great period of transition, Dadaism was a new and radical, somewhat nihilistic movement initiated in Zurich in 1916 by sculptor, painter and poet, Jean Arp, along with Max Ernst and Alfred Grunwald and others. From there it spread and  was in large measure a reaction to the Great War (WWI) which permeated everything, including the art world and with which the Dadaists were in revolt.