Kerry McNamara talks passion and process of fashion

Kerry McNamara has become a regular on this blog, I thought it was about time we found out where her passion for fashion came from. © Lorrie Graham

Kerry McNamara has become a regular on this blog, I thought it was about time we found out where her passion for fashion came from. Also read about some of her tips to finding amazing vintage …. Kerry’s creativity and resourcefulness are inspirational. She could have been our very own Grace Coddington!

“Passion for fashion

“I think it comes from my working class roots where everybody made stuff .Every woman in my family circle could knit or/and sew .In my Dad’s family also but the boys were also clever with their hands .

Mum was a bit unusual in that she didn’t like following patterns and instead created. So I grew up surrounded by people if they wanted something you made it .From all my winter jumpers to the bed I slept in ,and even paintings on the wall ,done by mum copying calendars using house paint .Her design outlook was to the future as compared to my grandma’s which was post war .

Sewing was an activity in primary school I loved the independence of making my own clothes .But I also loved the activity of making .For influences of design and social upheaval and change reading Life magazine sent by mum’s american penpal was a highlight .

Vividly remember the photo of Jean Shrimpton at Derby Day in Melbourne when I was about 9 .She looked so fresh and free compared to everybody else .
As a young adolesecent clothes became an expression of rebellion and I could make midis and maxis and hotpants because I didnt need permission to buy these things .Material was often from my mum’s stash .I read Dolly from cover to cover . Fashion was exciting ,worldly & seem to say anything was possible.Had it’s downside the twiggy shape did mental harm to my mum who naturally was a Sophie Loren body type .”


Well I sort of broke a silly rule I had about not wearing all Chanel . But why not wear sequins with a classic houndstooth skirt ? The sequin top is from 2000 collection and the skirt is from 2007 .The skirt is lined in silk .Both from the Real Real and both was in my obsession list for a long time while I waited for the price to drop .Sometimes though if you see something that is unique you should grab it .I regret not buying the unique lace blouse I was watching for over six months .
The shoes the same
The sunglasses were a special buy from Pretty Dog when it had a physical store in Newtown .Tanya was being very kind to me .The lion necklace is from


At 17 I discovered second hand -skirts sewn from old silk scarfs ,little fur capes ,old 1940’s crepe dresses ,long evening gowns and beautifully beaded blouses .I would wear a full velvet early 1900’s skirt with a chamois halter laced at the back .

In my 20’s I would buy paper patterns by paris designers ysl ,balmain ,lanvin and I loved reading british and french vogue
When my daughter was little I made her and mine clothes with fabric from Linda Jackson ‘s prints or Bruce Gould or Tiwi islands .The shape was simple to show off the print .
Shopping secondhand & making went hand in hand .

Today with the internet it has made it possible to source good quality second hand clothing .I have made suits before so love good tailoring .I love quality fabrics and lined skirts and trousers . I probably narrow my search by looking at Chanel primarily ,I’m aware of my sizing in Chanel though occasionally have been caught out but am getting better at it .I know the object will be beautifully made ,same goes for Hermes .And when I look at the price of new items and look at how they are made I know I’m getting better value .I take into account the cost of fabric in my decision making .The labour alone in beading the Valentino trousers make the $150 I paid for them worthwhile

What I buy has evolved .Now I only add to my collection if it is something missing from my wardrobe or a colour I do not have . Sometimes I want something specific .At the moment it’s wide corduroy trousers to go with the blazer I picked up second hand in Japan .A man’s tailored in East Germany (how did it end up in Japan?).

The sequin top had been on my obsession list for a while .At the time I felt I needed pink and glam to add to my wardrobe .But I had to wait till it was the right price
By sticking to a couple of websites I know their rhythm of doing business ,when they offer credits,bonuses,free shipping ,massive discounts .
These days I like to reinvent old clothes by wearing them in a new way . I think fashion should be about play and enjoyment and once you put on the clothes you can forget and just enjoy the wearing


I think these Valentino trousers are amazing .Yoox had their once yearly big sale .When I bought them I was unaware they were beaded all over .I couldn’t tell from the photo and the sizing advice was they were large for their size .So surprised when I felt the weight of the box when they arrived .Free shipping and free returns meant I could gamble a bit with Yoox unlike Real Real where shipping is expensive and you have to pay shipping back .
They are lined and that weight makes them fall just right ,luckily they were of the right length because I think they would be troublesome to take up .But I love them

The vest is a man’s vest from Nigel Cabourn ,a hand-me down from my daughter who bought it second hand in Japan .I wear a lot of men’s things from jeans ,pants ,shirts ,jackets and shoes .My favourite half boots are a pair made in Tokyo .I needed ankle support after falling over and twisting my ankle at a sake bar in Kyoto
When trying to decide what to wear with the trousers I went to my red drawer ( I’ve coloured coded my tops) and found the vest ,I like the stripes in the back .
And a piece of black ribbon just because
Shoes the same


Valentino shirt -was looking at Outnet where it was for sale at $400 ,was surprised to find it at Real Real for about $60 .I liked the way Valentino had used the shirt shape and length with a transparent skirt and very short shorts .It was a colour and shape I do not have and will resurrect and give new meaning/fun to some older clothes .
The shorts I made and the white collar is a gift from a friend who braved the Opera House fire sale .From the opera Aida .
Shoes are about 15 years old .

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Comments 4

  1. Also I loved the acessability of your designs -remember the drafted pants for a tabard and top & pants in Women’s Weekly .Must have been around 1982 -1983 .The bag I used at the maternity hospital was seen with your squiggly designs from the tabard

  2. Great memories!! And I Love hearing stories about the making of children’s clothes in those early days! One of my dear friends had 3 daughters all dressed in Bush Kids ..but her daughters had 3 boys but lucky ..now there is a very cute grand daughter to grow into the well loved LJ colourful prints. Thanks Kerry and Lorrie. X

  3. What wonderful words and memories of a childhood when kids ‘did’ things rather than sitting in front of screens. Where passion was applauded. Where an independent spirit was revered.

    Thank you Kerry for your words.

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