Melbourne Street Fashion

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.

fashion

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.

fashion

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.

Melbourne Fashion Fail

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.


14 responses

  • I think our tastes are similar, but last time I was in Florida, I was horrified at what was in the shops. I could not find one item that appealed to me. I thought Florida would be the ideal place to stock up on some summer clothes for when I return to Melbourne. I haven’t needed many since we moved to Scotland, and after living here, we find everything in Melbourne expensive. However, apart from the fact that I hated the clothes in the shops in S Florida, I also thought they were expensive. Did you notice that prices had gone up when you last visited?

    • There’s a lot of terrible, cheap-looking clothes in some Miami shops, but if you stick to the major stores and shopping centers, you find good clothing. Stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, etc. are definitely expensive. These are similar to Myer and David Jones. Even chains like Express and GAP shock me at times with their prices. On the bright side, there are stores like Ross that get designer clothing at discounted prices. I wish we had stores like that in Melbourne. I pretty much only shop here during the big seasonal sales.

  • julesdownunder on

    I love every item you put in “what Melbourne does right,” but I too have been so frustrated by the cost of clothing here. I have bought very, very little because I hate feeling like I’m getting ripped off. Where is a good Marshalls or TJMaxx when you need it?!

  • I love fashion here and think that most of the younger women are creative, daring, and a bit edgy. I don’t mind at all, and if I were 40 years younger – heck, even 20 years younger, I would definitely give them a run for their money! As it is, I try to dress in an age appropriate manner without looking like I am wearing my mother’s drapes, which is about the only fault I see in some older women. The majority of women here dress quite trendy and as we are at the beach in Qld., not quite as understated as one might expect for city dressing. As far as the examples you have put up, I really like your ‘go to’ ensemble, like the ’80s’ look, like the tatted girl and her dress (have an opinion about tatts, but if they are already on… make the most of them), do not care for those ‘flowy’ dresses – to me, they look ‘cheap’ (think: tart), but can work for younger women. I would not be caught dead in my husband’s t-shirt and a pair of ill-fitting jeans, but that’s just me. And, totally agree with you, just because one is heavy does not mean they have to wear tents. Myer has a very good larger women’s department. Also, clothes are expensive here, but this is where I think we can use our creativeness, buy on sale, and buy basics which can be teamed up with other clothing that we already have. I do not believe we have to have ‘one in every color’ or 20 pair of jeans. That is far too extravagant in my opinion, but that is just me. I am so over people complaining about the economy when their cupboards and garages are full of food, and closets jammed with clothes! Oh dear… now I’m off on a tirade!! ;-)

    • I’m with you on so many points here. Melbournians are definitely edgy and willing to experiment with fashion and I feel like people are accepting of alternative styles. I think some older women also suffer from the same hide-my-body syndrome some fat women do, but another issue is that most designers are designing for a certain young and slim demographic. Some clothes aimed at older and fat women are just plain ugly. I also agree with you about being creative with your current wardrobe. I don’t have a large closet so I simply don’t have the space for 20 pairs of jeans. I go for quality over quantity and basic pieces that will take me a long way.

  • One trend I hate here that you see when the weather is cooler is for women to wear their professional looking pencil skirts… with a pair of leggings underneath. Leggings are not professional workwear, ever. And it looks terrible. What’s wrong with a pair of stockings or even tights?

    I admit I probably spend a bit too much money on clothes because the only friend I have here is a shopping addict, so that’s what we tend to do. But she does always know which stores are having sales and where to get nice stuff for cheap, so I just follow her around and try not to pay full price for anything. Unfortunately, I’m a size 10-12, which usually means the clearance rack is not an option for me, since everybody else seems to be that size, too.

    • This week I saw a woman wearing a black sheath dress with lacy tights. She looked great. Maybe the reason they wear leggings is because the expect to take them off later? I dunno. It’s not much harder to peel off tights.

      I’m learning with the shopping. In Miami, I wasn’t part of any mailing lists and I didn’t follow any stores on Facebook, but here I do so I can stay informed about sales.

  • I blame Duchess Kate Middleton for popularizing the peplum trend. She started wearing it and then everyone and their mother did too. I don’t like it and it’s not one of those trends that will rub off on me the more I see it. I just don’t get it.

    Right now fashion is going through an 80s revival trend so Australia is not alone in this. I wear leggings under tunics and some dresses. I have never worn leggings as pants but I saw plenty of that in the States, especially in college. The leggings, ugg Boots, and then collared white oxford shirt. If you wear spandex to go running, I have no problem with that. But the leggings as pants thing is only something I would wear around the house and not outside.

    Also all those pictures in the cringe worthy photos look like an ad for American Apparel!

  • I follow some YouTube personalities who are from Australia and the prices they quote for clothes and makeup blow my mind. They make Paris prices seem normal! About the fashions though, I’m with you that some of the ’80s looks are horrid!

  • You think Melbourne is bad- try Canberra! Our prices are even higher, and there are only three shopping malls (nobody uses two of them, however, because they don’t have any good stores and are absolutely minuscule). We have one David Jones and one Myers, a few K Marts, Targets etc… our fashion can hardly be called fashion. Most people my age buy from Tuggeranong Hyperdome (it’s the cheapest of all shopping centers), but there are only 4 teenage appropriate stores there. So we either dress the same, wear the bare minimum during summer, recognize each others clothing constantly or simply not try at all. It’s horrific for me, being well-traveled and interested in clothing and fashion as a whole :P

    • I love shopping online, but I’ve never been big on clothing shopping online. That may change though. I think Melbournians are pretty fashionioable, but there aren’t a lot of options of fat girls like me. Thanks for your comments!


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