Tom will be at the fair Saturday and Sunday with a talk about “How Melbourne became the Fashion Capital of Australia” and you will be able to meet Tom at stand 16 and bring your Vintage Fashion piece to find out the history.
CHARLOTTE AND THE SPY WHO LOVED HER
“Charlotte was an Architecture student at the famous Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany in the 1930s, but had to flee the country once the Nazi’s came to power and shut the school down. Her travels took her to Constantinople (Istanbul) where she found a job, but as War ravaged global economies, she found herself homeless and begging on the streets.
It was with great fortune that a dapper gentleman passed by, commenting on how such a pretty girl shouldn’t be left in such a state, so he offered to get her some food as she was malnourished. She took up his offer and ordered a milkshake which she promptly vomited up as her body couldn’t deal with it. The gentleman refused to let her go back on the street, and he told her to move in with him and his partner in an apartment across the road from where the Embassies were.
Months later, Charlotte and Wiltold (Willy) fell in love and he left his partner to start a relationship. Little did Charlotte know, she fell in love with a spy for the British Empire. It wasn’t long before Willy was reposted and Charlotte lived in various Army Barracks, where in all her spare time, she taught herself how to sew dresses.
After the war was over, Willy and Charlotte decided to marry and settle down, they had heard great things about Australia so they ventured forth and it wasn’t long before they found a home in Heidelberg in the North Eastern suburbs. Introducing herself to the neighbours, all the ladies in the street found out they had a talented dressmaker on their hands and many took up the opportunity to have one made.
Charlotte impressed her ambitious husband so much, he told her she needed to start her own label, and he would be the one to promote it. So he hired out the ballroom at the Savoy and Charlotte took to designing her first collection. The night before the show, Charlotte was preparing her garments when she accidently left the iron on and burnt much of the house and all her garments with it. Oh well, Willy wasn’t going to let this get in the way of his wife’s career, so they fixed the house back up, and Charlotte designed a new collection.
In thinking of what to call the label, Charlotte had always dreamed of seeing New York and the famous 5th Avenue of fashion. So, Charlotte Fifth Avenue was born and it was an instant success. It wasn’t long before Willy was spreading the word everywhere, and to Charlotte’s great surprise, her gowns were picked up by American stores and her dream came true. She travelled to America, and there on 5th Avenue, in the display windows of Bonwit Teller, where her gowns.
Whilst it sounds like it all happened so fast, Charlotte was indeed one of the most talented designers to emerge out of the Melbourne suburbs. She became a naturalised Australian and won many awards for her designs. Sadly, the legend of Charlotte Fifth Avenue is mostly forgotten, but she did put Australian couture on the map in the USA back in the 1950s.
So why Charlotte X? Well, nobody knows what her maiden name was, not even her own daughter, Gina Goldsmith (married to the late nightclub king Brian Goldsmith). Charlotte never spoke of it, nor did her husband Willy, and it can’t be traced on any birth/death records. So who was she before she fled Germany? That is a mystery.