‘The style lessons my mother taught me’

By Jane Rocca

Thelma Plum.

Thelma Plum, singer/songwriter

Mum [Leiszel] taught me everything I know about fashion. I love slow fashion, vintage and recycling clothing. She instilled this in me from a young age. We didn’t have much money growing up and we’d go to op shops regularly. I remember being eight years old and feeling embarrassed to buy anything second hand. I love shopping at op shops now, and when I’m on tour I make an effort to purchase from them. Mum always said to wear clothing that makes me feel comfortable and good within myself. She always tells me to question where your clothing comes from; she’s very ethical with her purchases. I still have a lot of her clothes from the ’90s and I make a special effort to wear my maternal great-grandmother’s dresses on stage too. Mum taught me that fast fashion isn’t worth it.

Kirstie Clements, former Vogue editor and author of Why Did I Buy That?

Kirstie Clements.Credit:Carlotta Moye

Mum [Gloria] taught me the importance of grooming – to always have a good haircut and colour, your nails and make-up done. She was very glamorous and in the ’70s threw lots of pool parties. She was all about having her hair set, (and heated rollers!) and would have a facialist come to the house who used Lancome products, from Paris, which seemed very lavish in those days in the [Sutherland] Shire. She taught me about skincare and was absolutely militant about sunblock. She was fun and stylish and loved at-home lounge wear too. She had a flared, quilted leopard print jumpsuit that she wore with high-heeled mules. It was very Peggy Lee and camp. She wasn’t a snob, and she was insistent on having nice feet and regular pedicures. She loved shoes and handbags and lipstick and it is an appreciation of things that are beautiful, not necessarily expensive, that I take from her. She didn’t follow labels, there was nothing “fashionista” about her, and if she could only afford one thing then she would make sure she wore it and enjoyed it. She would admire all the things I had access to at Vogue but she’d be just as excited about a $50 pair of shoes too.

Collette Dinnigan, fashion designer

Collette Dinnigan.Credit:Antoine Doyen

My mother Sheila always told me not to wear black in summer. She was a creative person who hand-dyed batiks in the ’70s and loved colour. She wore capri pants, a striped T-shirt and was always quite elegant with a heel or espadrilles – which I like to do myself. She also loved kaftans. She would never be seen outside the house with exercise clothing. She bought me a sewing machine for my 13th birthday and told me that fashion was always about getting the proportions right; she never followed patterns and could look at fabric and know what to do – I learned that from her too. She died when I was 24 but did see my first shop and loved it. I was all about corsetry and underwear as outerwear – nowhere near where she’d dress, but she always encouraged me to be creative. I have a new collection coming next year Collette by Collette Dinnigan which is very much inspired by my mother because I too create my own textiles and fabrics. It has a slight ethic appeal to it with the embroidery, cotton and prints. Mum also taught me about the importance of quality and handmade.

Home Candles By Collette Dinnigan now available at Myer

Nakkiah Lui, Australian playwright

Nakkiah Lui.Credit:Renee Nowytarger

My mother Jennifer Beale is one of the most stylish women I know. She taught me to invest in pieces that last a long time and to keep it simple. I have learned to appreciate classics like a quality pair of jeans or a button-up white blouse – but have learned to have fun styling them as well. She went through a disco and hippy stage and has passed on some quality garments to me and my sister including a few crochet suede dresses. She says investing in fashion is key and always look for iconic pieces when you shop. I was in Bloomingdales with her the other day and saw a tight mesh body con dress – not usually my style – but once I tried it on, she said “Yes, I’m buying it for you.” She is always encouraging and I’m grateful for that.

Maria Thattil, Miss Universe Australia 2020

Maria Thattil and her mother, Nicky.

My mum [Nicky] taught me the importance of confidence and dressing to feel true to yourself. When I was little, she would lay my outfit on the bed prior to going out to a function and style it with accessories, frilly socks and shoes. Now, before I go out, I always hang everything on a rack with shoes and like to see it visually. Mum always stressed the importance of dressing to respect yourself. That means different things to different people, but whether you want to show off a bit more skin or be modest, respect your body by doing what makes you feel most comfortable. She also told me it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. I was so self-conscious as a child when Mum encouraged this, but as an adult I embrace it.

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