Posted by: Vanessa Barneveld | May 7, 2009

Fashion Backward

I truly think I was born in the wrong era. There are days when I want to put on a cute little 1950s cocktail dress and trot around in pointy little heels and perfectly coiffed hair. (And why can’t I? Dita Von Teese gets away with it.) Or sometimes I feel like chanelling classic ‘60s Audrey Hepburn – cute ballet flats, three-quarter pants and tight tops. Unfortunately, this combination is totally wrong for a shorty like me, but anyway…

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

My passion for ‘50s and ‘60s fashion began when I was a kid watching old Hollywood movies on Sunday afternoons. While Marilyn Monroe chased after millionaires, I salivated after her incredible gowns. I just adored the wasp waists, exaggerated bosom and flared skirts. This dress designed by William Travilla is one of my all-time favourites:

Marilyn in 'How to Marry a Millionaire'

Marilyn in 'How to Marry a Millionaire'

When my husband went to Italy years ago, he ended up at a fashion museum auction, where he bought me this beautiful ensemble that was last worn on a catwalk in the ‘60s:


The short-sleeved shift dress and coat are made of pure wool. The cuffs, buttons, pocket edges and neckline are patent leather. I believe it’s handmade. I’m looking soooo depressed in the photo ‘cause I’d just discovered a few wretched moth holes in the coat. Waaaah!

But here’s something that made me giggle:

Which fashion eras are you fond of? Do you think you could pull off the look in everyday noughties life?

Ooh, and the winner of last week’s book giveaway is Lesley – yay!!! Lesley, please email your address to ness (at) va nessa. ba rnevel [remove spaces, etc] so I can send you THE CLIQUE by Lisi Harrison.



  1. You have a fantastic husband, buying you that. Nice! I love Audrey Hepburns stylist. I also love Ava Gardiners look from the 40s. I think I’m split between the 40s and the early 60s.

  2. My hubby has fabulous taste! 😉 Ava Gardner – she was such a striking-looking woman. Now, there’s a woman who could pull off daring styles. I love the tailored look of the ’40s.

  3. Vanessa, you don’t look depressed. You look like you’re putting on a model pout.

    I used to have a LBD from the 60’s and wore a lacy cocktail hat with that. Wonder if I can dig up a photo of that ensemble.

  4. Oh wow! I won last week’s giveaway?!! Way cool!! Thank you so much Vanessa!

    Um, my email is a little wonky right now, so I will have to send you my info tomorrow.

    And Vanessa, you are not born in the wrong era. Your style is just Old Hollywood Glamor like Scarlet Johansson! Which is way better than me because I have absolutely no fashion sense!

  5. Oh, well, I certainly felt a little down about the moths! I hope you find that photo, Diane – I’d love to see it on your fashion post!

    Lesley, you’re welcome! Scarlet J is the epitome of old-world glamour. I wonder if she and Dita von Teese are friends – they’d love each other’s wardrobes.

  6. Vanessa, NOOOOO! Not holes in that gorgeous outfit. I remember the first time I saw you wear it – you hadn’t been working with me for long and we had a work dinner. Wow, you were the belle of the ball that night.

    Actually I wish the Renoir style woman and fashions were still in style. I think I’ve got a perfect Renoir figure. Lots of it too 😉

  7. Oh, Anna, you’re too kind! It certainly is a memorable outfit. The dry-cleaners told me to put a few hours aside and hand-stitch the holes – helpful!

    You’d actually look rather fetching in Renoir’s floaty gowns, my dear. 🙂

  8. Vanessa, I love that outfit. I remember being awed seeing you in it and hearing how your husband bought it for you. What an absolute gem of a man!

    I know what you mean about loving the fashions in some of the old Hollywood films. I always get excited when I see Edith Head’s name down on a movie’s credit for the wardrobe. Did you see ‘To Catch a Thief’ and that completely OTT but stunning gold costume Grace Kelly wore to the ball? Wow.

    However, I have to say my wardrobe dreams are tinged by imagining what I’d look like in them. Hm. Maybe I should go 18th century. Long skirts and a fitted bodice with a square neckline to divert attention to the cleavage and away from the hips?

    Actually, I think you and Audrey H have a lot in common when it comes to natural chic. You lucky girl!

  9. Annie, Edith Head was a genius! I have my eye on a recent biography about her, actually.

    You’re so lucky to have the height to wear those long skirts. I can also see you in 1920s flapper outfits.

    Thanks for the lovely words about hubby!

  10. Hi Vanessa,

    I sent an email with my snail addy off to you today. Hopefully my server is behaving. Let me know if you didn’t get it. Thanks!

  11. Got it, Lesley! ‘The Clique’ will be winging your way in the next few days. Enjoy!

  12. Thanks Vanessa! You rock!

  13. What a great outfit! And it so suits you, too.
    I think it’s wonderful when people find their style. it must make life so much easier!

    I have absolutely no sense of fashion, so I always get taken in by weird things like steampunk coats and Harajuku dresses.

  14. Thanks, Kiki. I’m glad to have photographic evidence of the outfit before the moths totally consume it!

    Brave are the Harajuku kids!

  15. You are taking care that moths don’t destroy it further, right?
    Did you fix those holes?

  16. Hey, Kiki. The outfit now lives in a garment bag with cedar mothball thingies. I haven’t got round to fixing those holes – too busy fixing this darn manuscript!

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