Melbournians love to say that Melbourne experiences four seasons in a day. It’s true that Mother Nature is a little schizophrenic here and that sometimes leave you with the dilemma of what to wear when the day begins with rain, clears into a bright, scorching afternoon, and cools into a chilly evening.
Let’s say you’re spending the day in Melbourne’s city center, the CBD (Central Business District). Layers are optimal. My go-to outfit looks like this.
Start with a fun T-shirt. Melbourne has a great T-shirt culture and you’ll find lots of fun graphic tees. Add a shirt with 3/4 or long sleeves and don’t forget a jacket. You can’t go wrong with a pair of black slacks. Jeans are good option too, but might be too hot in the day. If I’m going to be walking around all day, comfortable shoes are a must. I like sneakers, loafers, Oxfords, and comfy trekkers. I carry a bag large enough to fit the layers I’ll slowly peel off during the day as well as an umbrella and a water bottle, which is a must, and other necessities such as my wallet, mobile, sunglasses, and camera. On those days where it’s hot in the morning, hot in the afternoon, and hot in the evening, I may opt for a soft, flowy dress.
Melbourne is interesting when it comes to fashion. There are some elements of it that I love and others that I think should be banished to some remote fashion desert never to be seen again. First, let’s look at what I think Melbourne fashion does right.
Soft and flowy fabrics are a staple of Melbourne street style. It works well in a city as hot as Melbourne can get. It’s easy to find lovely, cool, and comfortable tunics and dresses. The danger here is that, when done wrong, the clothes just look shapeless. On slim women, it’s not too bad, but it’s very unflattering on fat women. Fat women sometimes want to hide their bodies and think that shapeless clothes will make that easier and help them look better by hiding the wiggly parts. I got news for you, my fellow fatties: the jig is up. People know you’re fat. Rather than trying to hide it, look for clothes that flatter your body, and here’s a hint: a tent is not it.
Other trends and styles that Melbourne does well are harem pants (though not everyone can pull off this look), graphic tees, and terrific vintage and rockabilly looks.
But as I mentioned above, there are some trends that make me cringe.
These are the looks that make Americans think Melbournians are stuck in the 1980s when it comes to fashion. I’ve actually seen expats describe fashion here as “cheap 80s”. We have the floral mini and the short cotton dress. These are very short and you’ll inevitable see many a pair of underwear as young women get in and out cars, hop on and off bikes, or as a breeze rolls through. They don’t seem to care about that sort of thing. Along with the loose minis, we’ve got the tight minis and peplum is popular now. The short tanks are also very popular along with the high-waisted, cut-off denim shorts. But the most controversial item of all for American (and some Aussie) fashionistas is the leggings-as-pants trend.
Leggings can look cute under skirts and dresses. While I’m not exclusive of the leggings-are-not-pants school of thought, in general, I think tights are a more attractive option. However, I recognize that there are some class, ableist and sizeist issues surrounding the leggings-as-pants controversy. I’m not going to shame anyone for wearing leggings as pants or anything else that I don’t like or think is fashionable. I have a right to my tastes and my opinions and people have a right to wearwhat they want.
Speaking of class, it’s impossible to explore fashion in Melbourne without considering the costs. The cringe-worthy 80s looks above are cheap(er) and so it’s really no wonder they are popular with young women. I’m still adjusting to the fact that the average cost of a blouse here is three times what I’m used to paying in Miami.
What do you think of Melbourne fashion and street style? Are there certain looks you like and others that make you shake your head?
About the featured image: Photos by Justin McManus for The Age.