I moved to Melbourne when I was 18. Fresh out of high school and ready to start life as a city slicker, I thought I was a pretty stylish gal.
But moving to the Big Smoke from a small country town met me with some confronting realisations:
- I knew a lot less about fashion than I thought I did
- In order to assimilate I was going to need to get educated
- The stereotype is not a myth. Melburnians wear a helluva lot of black
As my weeks in Melbourne turned into months, my curiosity for the city’s dress code grew. I wanted to know more about the trends embodied by this tribe – like why were there so many men with buns? And why did they all need a fixie to ride?
If, like me, you’re moving to Melbourne, knowing what to pack can be rather overwhelming. I arrived with a suitcase full of florals and tracksuit pants. These now lurk ashamedly at the back of my wardrobe (except I did resurrect the florals for a fancy dress dance).
I might not be native, but after living in Melbourne for a few years I’ve learnt a thing or two about the city’s orthodox style. So in order to make your shift from tourist to local as smooth (and suave) as possible, here is a list of Melbourne's most fundamental styling tips:
All black errything
Obvious? Yes. Cliché? Yes. But it would be un-Melburnian of me to begin with anything other than black. Love or hate it, you’ll learn to embrace it. And no matter what subculture you align with, I guarantee it’ll be the dominant hue. My advice? Don’t fight it. I promise it’s not as depressing as it seems. Black is practical, professional and sophisticated, and inherently easy to match (with black).
Culottes (or cool-lottes)
Is it a skirt? Or are they shorts? Neither, they’re culottes! These hybridised bottoms are my number one sartorial revelation since migrating to Melbourne. Mine, and every other Melburnian lass’– although apparently they’re not as popular with the lads. Who cares. These things fuse the comfort of a wide-leg with the sophistication of a skirt. They’re revolutionary, and even better because you can take them from play to work.
Before we progress any further, there’s something you must know. It’s a phenomenon called Gorman, and the city’s wearing it from head to toe. Perhaps a reaction to Melbourne’s bond with black, Gorman girls dress in raincoats, jumpsuits and statement socks in poppy patterns and vivid tones. If you see a girl (or guy) wearing a seagull, watermelon or pretzel with legs, introduce yourself and compliment them on their Gorman threads. I guarantee you’ll make immediate friends.
Moving to the dudes, it won’t be long before you notice the Melburnian man has a serious fondness of facial hair. Whether it’s a beard, moustache or dainty little man bun (also referred to as ‘Mun’) Melburnian dudes love a good mane. So much so, their growth often rivals that of their girlfriend. They might even spend more money on shampoo. You might not understand it yet boys, but don’t be surprised when you want to start growing your ’do.
Embracing the oversized
Another pivotal lesson: in Melbourne, it’s all about the ‘oversized’. Sure, the city might champion this style because it’s perfect for disguising last night’s five-course feast, but if I can swaddle myself in voluminous fabrics and call it fashionable, it’s a trend I’m willing to take on. Three sizes too big never looked (or felt) so good.
Socks and sandals
You might also notice the local ladies wearing their sandals with socks. I promise, it’s not because their toes are chilly (although in a city that endures four seasons in one day it is an awfully practical statement) – it’s actually a trend. Aim for the most sparkly, frilly and downright awesome socks you can find (Gorman). This statement is all about what’s on the inside. Why should your hosiery need to hide?
Perhaps less chic, but just as crucial, is the importance of an AFL kit. Don’t follow a team? Doesn’t matter. If your brother, mother or significant other owns any piece of football merchandise, I’d advise getting your paws on it pronto. Upon moving to Melbourne, you WILL be invited to a football match, and you WILL need something to wear. The beanies and scarves became my go-to game-suit.
There’s no way to pledge allegiance like carrying a tote. Especially popular within the student crowd, whether it bears the brand of your favourite label, bookstore, café or club, these (usually stained and smelly) pieces of calico are both a sartorial statement and clever advertising tool. Rule of thumb: wear it with pride, and wear it until it can be worn no more.
Finally, perhaps the most affordable yet fundamental accessory you can carry in Melbourne is a takeaway coffee cup. Holding one elicits an immediate understanding between you and the stranger sitting opposite on the tram: you’ve spent ten minutes of your morning waiting in line for a specialty brew, thus you’re Melburnian through and through. But be careful, you’re choice of cup size and café says a lot about you. A colourful KeepCup says ‘sustainable/cool’, while a 7-11 takeaway says ‘I need a dolla, coz I spent my last on caffeine, fool.’