Sunday, 29 August 2010

A Study in Scarlet

The sun made a rare appearance in the city yesterday so we took a trip to Borough Market to get a selection of fancy cheeses to bring along with us a friend's birthday party later that evening.

Recently my boyfriend and I got totally hooked on the excellent BBC series of Sherlock Holmes which is set in modern day London. We watched each episode trying to pinpoint places we recognize. On our way to Borough we drove down the Brixton Road looking for Lauriston Gardens, the row of terraced houses which is the scene of a murder in both the original Holmes adventure "A Study in Scarlet" and also in the first episode of the television series "A Study in Pink".

I can tell you that Lauriston Gardens does not exist but flashes of the Victorian London that Arthur Conan Doyle knew still do. We were attracted to the vibrant colour of the doors of this fire station which has kept elements of its historical facade in good condition. I love the lampshade, the old lettering and the doors which have been kept in good nick with a regular lick of lipstick red paint.

This cosy draped cardigan in navy wool is my best friend in the battle to layer up against the schizophrenic London weather! If I feel so much as a breeze coming on I reach for this to throw over everything else I'm wearing to take the chill off. Its length makes it great as a cover up over maxi dresses and it scrunches up small enough to fit into my bag.


El sol hizo una rara aparición en la ciudad ayer, así que hicimos un viaje al Mercado de Borough para obtener una selección de quesos de lujo de traer con nosotros a una fiesta de cumpleaños de un amigo por la noche.  De recien mi novio y yo nos totalmente enganchados a la excelente serie de televisión de Sherlock Holmes que está en el tiempo presente de Londres. Miramos cada episodio tratando de localizar los lugares que reconocemos. En el camino a Borough conducía por la carretera de Brixton en busca de Jardines de Lauriston, la hilera de casas adosadas que es el escenario de un asesinato en el original aventura de Holmes "Estudio en escarlata" y el primer episodio de la serie de televisión "Estudio en Rosa".

Les puedo decir que los jardines Lauriston no existe, pero los detalles de la Londres victoriana que Arthur Conan Doyle sabía todavía existen. Nos atrajo el color vibrante de las puertas de este parque de bomberos que ha mantenido los elementos de su fachada histórica en buenas condiciones. Me encanta la pantalla, las letras antigua y que las puertas se han mantenido en perfecto estado con un lamer regular de pintura en tonos rojizos.

Este rebeca envuelto de lana azul marino es mi mejor amigo en la batalla a la capa de arriba contra el esquizofrénico tiempo de Londres! Si me siento una brisa alcance para ella a tirar sobre todo lo demás que llevo a quitar el frío. Su longitud hace que sea util como una cubierta a lo largo de los vestidos maxi y dobla hasta suficientemente pequeño como para caber en el bolso.

Striped maxi dress - Warehouse
Espardilles - from Spain
Cardigan - Akaibara
Belt - Cos
Bag - Marc by Marc Jacobs

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Taxonomy of My Wardrobe featured in Links à la Mode: The IFB Weekly Roundup

My post on the inspiration drawn from the Aviatrix in fashion this season has been chosen as one of the 20 best links submitted to the Independent Fashion Bloggers weekly roundup Links à la Mode. I am very flattered, thank you! Please check out the great articles selected by other bloggers by following the links below.

My personal recommendations are Cloud of Secrets reflection on the historical inspiration for Dior's latest advertising campaign, Seven Style Notes lovely vintage photos and an article on fast fashion by Consumerism Killed my Soul.

links a la mode

Looking Forward to Looking Back for Fall

Edited by: Ann of Holier than Now

Every  season begins with looking back: the designers revisit trends of yore,  and we fling open our oversized Tupperware bins and dig through the back  of our closets to see just what it was we wore this time last year.   Despite the thrill of new trends, most of us probably feel that the  first Fall shopping we should do is in our own closet (View from 5 ft. 2 and Your Saving Style inspire on this front).  Next step: after considering your bank account, and perhaps the pros and cons of fast fashion (see: Consumerism Killed My Soul),  a visit to your local thrift store or flea market for vintage finds  might replace that mall excursion you were imagining.  With a wealth of  inspiration from the blogosphere, there's never been a better time to  invest in - or just be inspired by - style from the past.

Links à la Mode: August 26th

Friday, 27 August 2010

Friend Friday: Fall Fashion

Friend Friday is a weekly survey for fashion bloggers run by ModlyChic
To participate email

This week's questions are on Fall Fashion.  That's Autumn/Winter to those of us across the pond!  As the days draw in and the nights get longer fashion gives us a chance to up the ante and pile on the glamour with each new layer.  It is the season when fashion's dark side comes out to play.  The Autumn/Winter collections can always be relied on to deliver the dramatic, the fantastical, the edgy and the ultra glamorous looks that quicken the pulse and set the heart racing.

Despite being someone who lives for summer and warm weather, Autumn/Winter is my favourite season for  fashion.  The sheer pleasure of dressing up against the cold in all those gorgeous coats, chunky knits, boots, scarves, gloves and hats!  And when the weather gets chillier still out come the sumptuous skins: the furry (fake if you please!), the shaggy, the leather, the suede, the shearling.   

1. What new fashion trend are you looking forward to sporting this fall?
The Cape.  Capes aren’t really such a new thing.  If you look carefully at past seasons spanning the last few years there is always at least one designer who will do a fabulous cape in his or her collection.  Believe me.  I love capes.  I have a cape radar! Nothing like a cape to add drama to an outfit.

In past years they haven’t really taken off.  I admit they require a certain confidence to wear them.  This year however, the cape seems to have gained traction and the British high street has really embraced the trend to produce fantastic versions in camel wool, shearling and military styles (see Topshop). 

I already have three black capes which I intend to recycle this season: a wool cape coat, and two vintage cropped capes, one in velvet and one in boucle wool.  In my dream world I would love to wear this belted beauty from Alexander McQueen:

Image from Net-a-Porter

And when I wake up I'll wear the one actually hanging in my wardrobe.  Bought a couple of years ago from the Kate Moss for Topshop range in the sales and also a belted style.  I remember watching as two women in Topshop turned it upside down, tried to work out the armholes and tugged at the belt before tossing it on the sale rail huffing “oh it’s just too weird!”  Reader.  I bought it.

Wool Cape - Kate Moss for Topshop

2. Which item in your closet is most likely to be your go-to transition piece?
By transition piece I am taking this to mean something that will take you through that tricky bridging period we go through from now until the cold really hits.  Believe it or not - it is what I normally consider a very boring but practical item - the parka!  But it is what I wear to take me through from now to winter.

We have been suffering tropical rain, wind and cold for more than a month but it is still not quite cold enough and way too muggy to crack out the furry gilets (vests) or a winter coat yet.  My transitional piece really needs to be something wind and water proof which protects me from the elements as I get from A to B in the city, but easily removed when it gets humid or to avoid meltdown when I descend into the all-year-round inferno that is the London underground system.

Londoners generally cope with the changeable transitional weather by wearing layers.  This is an art and quite tricky to get right without adding bulk and looking untidy.  As someone who really suffers when it gets cold, my biggest fashion challenge is getting this right.  Too often in a panic to keep warm I tend to give up on being stylish and go overboard on frumpy protective layers rather than wear something I actually like - I then spend the rest of the day regretting that I look like a stuffed sausage!  I've been desperate for a solution so I can ditch the frumpy layers and get more wear out of my other clothes.

For me a trench is often too thin and looks clumsy over too many layers.  The parka on the other hand keeps you dry and toasty warm, thus giving you more sartorial freedom to work your seasonal look of choice underneath it using less layers.  Trouble is I've never found a style of parka I feel good in up till now.  I find most parkas boringly utilitarian and their padding makes you look like the Michelin man!  The one I have been putting up with for years is too short to cover the longest hem of my layering knitwear, making my outfits look messy.  If I didn't have to wear one I wouldn't.

But a girl needs to be practical sometimes - soaked to the bone and freezing to death is not a fashion forward look either so a parka seems the lesser of two evils!  I was looking for a new parka that seemed to be the impossible dream - less puffa jacket, more streamlined frock coat.  And I found it this week! Never thought I'd get so excited about a parka.

I love that it is long enough to cover all the layers of knitwear I tend to wear now and pull together an outfit rather than fight it.  It has a satin finish and velvet trims which really aren't done justice in my photos. The insulating layer is thin but warm and there is no quilting, so it looks much sleeker than my old one.  But what really had me sold was its unusual shape -  a nipped in waist with a picked up hem to give the impression of a full skirt.  It reminds me of the silhouette of a Victorian lady wearing a crinoline skirt and bustle.

Long line parka by Iconoclast

3. What item from last year are you looking forward to reinventing this fall?
Many of last year’s trends have been repeated but just given fancy new names so we're spoilt for choice to get extra mileage out of last year's items.  Got a cape? See my answer to question one.  Lace? Easy, it never really went away after that Prada lace season in 2007/2008.  Leather?  It's now being called minimalism or dominatrix instead of Gothic depending on who you believe.  Thigh high boot languishing neglected?  See Burberry Prorsum for inspiration.  The shaggy cover up formerly known here as the "chubby" has been rebranded this season by one magazine as the "teddy bear coat".  And the trusty Mongolian sheepskin gilet is back again this year.  Wear one of these items and you are instantly current so I'll be pulling out all of mine this season.
But if there is one item I am really relishing reinventing it is the “tricky trouser,” as the fashion editors who have turned on it are now calling it.  You know the ones, the harem trousers, the oil slick leggings, peg legs, carrot legs.  Now this will be a challenge.  Let the fashion editors witter on about how they are dead!  I believe that you should just stick with things you like.  

All my favourite online retailers and the British high street certainly don’t seem to agree that their end is nigh and are still offering great harems and leggings this season so I'm still going to be wearing mine.  In fact I just bought a couple of new pairs of harems in luxuriously slinky finishes from the high street to add to my grey suede pair.  Perhaps it was an act of rebellion against having wide legged trousers constantly shoved down my throat.  Thank God for Balmain and Roberto Cavalli! The advocates for maximalism as a counterfoil to all that purity of form, camel and leg lengthening trousers out there this season.

Balmain AW 2010: Image from Style
Roberto Cavalli AW 2010: Image from Style

I recently watched this video on the Guardian website (How to dress: Wide-legged trousers) proclaiming Wide Legged Trousers as the new Party Dress.  God forbid!  I already own a version of every one of the trousers shown in this video as I have worked in conservative offices for years.  I have lived in sensible, leg lengthening, high waisted, wide-legged trousers during my working weeks out of necessity.  Now they are suddenly de rigueur!

Am I supposed to be enthusiastic about wearing a work wear staple in my time off when I could be wearing something more interesting instead??  I totally agree that they are flattering but this is hardly revolutionary.  I already knew where to get this miracle garment before Celine, Chloe and Stella sent them down the runway, and at much more sensible prices.  Now we have fashion editors going on about them as if they’ve suddenly discovered a cure for cancer!  Purleeeze! For my weekends I would like something a bit more rock and roll!

That’s why I love an anti-trouser – it’s the perfect antidote to office induced, sensible trouser fatigue.  I find harems super comfortable and love playing around with their deliberately distorted proportions in an outfit. And no matter how many times a fashion editorial says “Celine,” “ladylike is back,” and “tough chic is dead,” nobody is going to tear me away from my leather leggings any time soon!  Apart from being essential to work the Baroque and Roll Balmain look this season I'm also going to channel Isabel Marant's take on leather trousers by teaming with with a furry cover up or gold bomber jacket.

Isabel Marant AW 2010: Image from Style

4. What is your favorite part about this time of the year?
Although I love all the dressing up for the colder weather my favourite part is actually the food!  It is a myth that Britain has bad food – seasonal eating is so wonderful here.

Autumn for me means going blackberry picking with my boyfriend and later turning our spoils into blackberry and apple crumble to be eaten with lashings of thick clotted cream.  It means raiding our veggie patch for broad beans.  It means trips to Borough Market for seasonal goodies like wild mushrooms, ripening autumnal fruit, pumpkins, colourful autumn squashes and gourds, sweet corn and country game.  It means upgrading to creamy full fat milk from Jersey cows in our morning coffee for a Sunday treat with a full English breakfast.  Most of all I love warming up the flat when the mercury drops by cooking up a big roast or a hearty stew and inviting friends around to share.


5. Will you be attending any fashion events this fall?
I have the good fortune to be attending the trade shows at the upcoming London Fashion Week as an assistant buyer! I am soooo excited!!  I do this occasionally for a friend who owns a boutique who likes having a second opinion on what she stocks and it is always loads of fun.  I will be looking at what is on offer for Spring/Summer 2011 from some mainline European collections as well as several smaller design houses and I will be trying on lots of fabulous clothes.  Call this work?  I should be so lucky.  I intend to take my camera along to post and tweet so check back!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Tough Love

Sam Edelman Studded Embellished Lorissa Peeptoes

Sam Edelman Studded Embellished Lorissa Peeptoes

I am woman! Hear me roar!

Do you think I would command some attention in the office wearing these?  Talk about showing you mean business - this is a whole new angle on the office sharp dress code.  Nothing like a bit of serious body armour to survive in the concrete jungle.  Although you might actually do some grievous bodily harm kicking ass in the boardroom with these!

The spike and gem embellishment makes these shoes seriously heavy and I swear they need to come with a health warning. (Like keep out of reach of children? Keep your personal distance from other people or you risk lacerating them?)  Not for the fashion faint hearted.  Nevertheless I am in luurrrve!

I was dying to see what these shoes looked like when I ordered them online and I was gutted to try them on and find out that they are actually too small.  So this pair by Sam Edelman are going back.  Adieu.  Parting is such sweet sorrow.  Thankfully ASOS still has them in the next size up!

Spiked shoes have been on my mind since pictures of the Louise Goldin collaboration with Topshop were released earlier this year.  There was some accusations that they were copying the spiked designs Christian Louboutin produced for Rodarte.  I am now more at peace with this concept.  Perhaps Louboutin set the trend and the fashion industry followed (see previous post), which means, fortunately for me, that spikes on shoes will still be in the collective fashion designer consciousness for a while.

The Louise Goldin courts for Topshop were originally meant to look like this:

Louise Goldin for Topshop Shoes

Louise Goldin for Topshop Shoes

Louise Goldin for Topshop Shoes

But ended up looking more like this:

Louise Goldin for Topshop Shoes
Image from Topshop
That is to say, a little lacklustre against the original prototypes which were so densely embellished that they gave me the impression the shoes were morphing into spiky alien creatures.  I am sure the issue was just cost but I felt the sparser use of studs and spikes on the actual models that went on sale (pictured above) looked like a bit of an afterthought.

Well this season Sam Edelman managed to convince me (and Grit and Glamour too!) with the densely embellished Lorissa heels.  The combination of the teardrop gems and girly peeptoe with the spikes adds some contrasting femininity to the fierce.

Black Lorissa Studded Embellished Peeptoe by Sam Edelman

Monday, 23 August 2010

Fashion and Copyright Laws

Kelly from Proficiscamur posted this fascinating and informative video on her blog here: proficiscamur!: Fashion and Copyright Laws.

I found it a real eye opener which has turned my thinking on this subject on its head and so I've reposted. After my own musings on the ethics of copying in the fashion industry, I found this presentation extremely enlightening and comprehensive in its treatment of the issue.  The speaker argues that the absence of copyright protection in the fashion industry has forced it to be more innovative and has actually allowed designers to elevate a utilitarian item (clothing) to a form of art.  She beautifully explains how the culture of copying is a factor in establishing trends and contributes to the overall profitability of the industry by generating sales each season.

A staggering comparison is made of the gross sales achieved in high intellectual property businesses versus those with low intellectual property.  The results are surprising to say the least!  Worth watching if you've ever had a guilt trip about buying a designer rip-off!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Friend Friday: Conspicuous Consumption

Friend Friday is a weekly survey for fashion bloggers run by ModlyChic
To participate email

Below are my answers for this week's questions on Conspicuous Consumption which were as follows:

1. Do you think fashion blogs are often just conspicuous consumption? Are some?

Conspicuous consumption is defined as lavish spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth and as a means of attaining or maintaining social status.  I think the conspicuous consumption element varies across blogs.  Some most definitely are.  I don't know how many times I've come across bloggers decked out in head to toe designer gear in outfit posts.  There also seems to be a lot of product placement in fashion blogs aimed at increasing conspicuous consumption.  You know the type of blog with a young popular blogger who could pass for a fashion model posting outfit after outfit featuring the latest designer "it" item which has been "gifted" for promotional purposes.

At some level conspicuous consumption does play a role in most fashion blogs. Even if you are not buying Gucci or Prada, the very idea of buying and wearing clothes in order to be fashionable or stylish, as opposed to purely clothing oneself to meet minimum standards of neatness, publicly decency or to be fit for purpose, is somehow showing you have chosen to spend money on how you want to appear rather than how you need to.  There are plenty of people on the planet who don't have this luxury.

I also think there is a sliding scale involved here that people don't really give voice to.  I do not think I buy clothes to show off status or how much money I have.  I buy clothes because I like them.  To me someone in head to toe Gucci is a prime example of conspicuous consumption.  But this is merely my own belief and perspective from my particular rung on the ladder of human aspiration.  Someone who can't afford head to toe Topshop might also be quite validly looking at my shopping habits as those of a conspicuous consumer too.

There are plenty of blogs out there that are a reaction against conspicuous consumption either consciously or not: those with a message of shopping on a budget, bloggers who only buy vintage or second hand clothing from charity shops, those who give themselves a mission to give up shopping for a year and instead shop from their own wardrobes or customise second hand charity buys.  I think these blogs are the most interesting because they throw into sharp relief the whole idea of conspicuous consumption and make you examine your own shopping habits and creativity with clothing.

Is it really a creative way to dress if you just buy the latest "it" item to get fashion kudos?  My own personal opinion is no - if you have enough money to fork out for well made, well designed clothing it should theoretically be a piece of cake to be stylish but how often does money buy taste?  Most blogs I regularly read are really about style, whatever the budget of the blogger in question.

2. As bloggers do we have the obligation to explain our personal financial status, how we pay for the things we showcase, if we have debt, etc...

Absolutely not.  That is nobody's business except your own and who you choose to confide in.  Do you feel the need to explain your financial status or what you choose to spend your money on to say, colleagues at work who see you dressed every day? Or explain how you bought the items you are wearing to people you pass by in the street?  Well why should you feel obliged to explain it to complete strangers on the internet?  I know that we are sharing what we are wearing publicly but we do that anyway each time we walk out our front doors and we don't have to staple our bank statements to our foreheads to be permitted to do so.

I suspect the background to this question may be related to the idea that fashion bloggers may be leading people into overspending or debt by seeing all this consumption of fashion and clothing promoted online without knowing how its been paid for.  Ultimately it doesn't matter how they paid for it.  It is up to every individual consumer to take their own responsibility and decide what they want to buy, whether they can afford it and how they want to buy it.

We are exposed to the promotion of fashion from many, many other sources and not just through what a particular blogger may be wearing in his/her outfit posts.  Television, fashion magazines, online magazines, we are bombarded with images of celebrities photographed endorsing designer clothing, we are marketed at from every angle and the prices we have to pay for things are out in the public arena in big large numbers for all to see.

3. Critics often say that fashion bloggers should use their money to support more worthwhile causes than clothing themselves in a different outfit daily. What's your reaction to this? 

It may be the broad way this question has been worded but it sounds like blanket criticism aimed at a few super consumptive blogs without any real knowledge of what else is out there in the fashion blogosphere.  There will always be critics of people spending money on things that they want rather than need but fashion always tends to get written off as something stupid, wasteful and frivolous.  Don't get me wrong, I am all for supporting worthwhile causes, but why do the critics seem to think that putting a stop to a fashion related hobby, which is essentially harmless fun for a relatively small group of enthusiasts on the internet, is suddenly going to solve all the ailments suffered by the planet?

Why don't the critics take the words "fashion bloggers" and "clothing themselves in a different outfit" in the above statement and replace with "investment bankers" and "flogging bad investments for self gain" or even "the property development industry" and "developing pointless luxury accommodation nobody can afford".  It might sharpen their arguments and critical thinking somewhat and would be energy better spent because there is much more money at stake in those cases to divert to worthwhile causes than the clothing budget of the average fashion blogger.

Maybe it is because fashion is about personal aesthetics that it easier to take pot shots at it if people show an interest in it.  We are somehow supposed to be above caring about what we wear.  We are all judged by our appearances, women more so than men - sad, hard fact of life.  Our appearances are the first pass filter applied to what job opportunities we get, who befriends us and who selects us as a mate.  No wonder an entire industry has developed around how human beings choose to dress themselves.

I wonder also sometimes if it is because fashion is something that engages predominately women.  Does anyone habitually point the finger at men's spending habits on their flash toys and hobbies and tell them to give to charity instead?  You could tell those who choose to spend money on renovating their house or going on overseas holidays to support a more worthwhile cause instead too.  Hell, why don't the critics suggest that everyone stop updating their social networking sites and spend all those accumulated hours volunteering for a worthwhile cause instead??  We could all do more for charity but selecting one group's interests as folly over another's doesn't really help.

The statement in the questions almost implies that bloggers are buying a new outfit a day in order to photograph it for their blog.  I did see an article somewhere that some bloggers feel pressured to buy the latest thing in order to stick it on their blog - now that is conspicuous consumption.  But some people manage to get a license to drive a car and that doesn't mean they will be safe drivers.  Why tar all the rest of the safe drivers with the same brush?

The majority of bloggers I've seen just seem to be pulling out things that are already in their closet and combining them with the odd new purchase, finding new combinations that refresh an item they already have or interpret a new trend.  I view it as an interesting social anthropological experiment in which people are charting how they get dressed every day rather than one big collective shop-a-thon.  It is a pleasant creative outlet which gives people a chance to engage with others online to swap experiences and ideas on something we all have to think about doing every day.

We all need clothes, clothes wear out, body sizes change or we get a new job - if someone loves fashion then their purchases will be informed by fashion.  And if that person has a fashion blog and posts about what they buy or wear I really don't see why they should suddenly be a shining example of a selfish and shallow individual who should be supporting more worthwhile causes.  They may already be supporting plenty!  In fact there are bloggers who support charity through blogging because they habitually shop from charity shops, post their finds, thus giving those charities a lot of free and great publicity they would not otherwise get.  They also send a subtle environmentally friendly message about recycling and re-use whether they are aware of it or not (see Vintage Vixen for an example of a blogger who does a fine job of promoting her local charity shops!).

The fashion blogging community is a large social network of creative energy that if engaged, presents limitless possibilities to promote worthwhile causes - ethical fashion, green fashion, charities, human rights - they could all get an audience here - some already are.  Why don't critics stop pointing the finger and trying to put an end to it and think creatively about how they could work with it?

4. Since you started blogging, do you spend more money on fashion and beauty products?

Not really - I always have been someone who likes buying lots of clothes and if anything I am trying to cut back - not always succeeding but old habits die hard!  If anything some blogs have given me ideas about how to recombine things I already own into new outfits I would not have thought of before and some have motivated me to look more at alternative sources to the mainstream such as vintage, charity and second hand clothing.

I will say that I have bought a few items that I've seen other bloggers wearing because I liked they way it was styled and I could see that the item in question or a similar item to it would work in my wardrobe.  I see this as being no different to seeing something I really like in a fashion magazine and then buying it.

5. Life is about more than what money can buy. What are the things that top your list of what life is all about?

I don't profess to know what life is about.  I just landed here and am trying to navigate a route as best I can!  What is important to me in my life is love, family, friendship, freedom and to be able to creatively express myself.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


Amelia Earheart
Burberry Prorsum AW 2010: Image from Net-a-Porter
M&S Aviator Jacket: Image from Instyle
As a postscript to my thoughts on high street versions of designer trends I thought I would draw attention to the most copied garment on the high street this season - the shearling aviator jacket - as seen in the Burberry Prorsum AW 2010 collection.  I don't think there is a British high street chain that has not produced their own version.  Christopher Bailey can hardly complain.  Most of the stock of the original version has already sold out at full price!

I personally love the style of these jackets as when I first saw the Burberry Prorsum catwalk photographs I was immediately reminded of those vintage black and white photos of early female aviators from the 1930's in their leather jackets, flying caps and goggles.  The aviatrix Amelia Earheart first came to mind because of the release of the film on her life last year.  Along with their heroic achievements as women in a male dominated field Earheart and her contemporaries are credited with pioneering the original trend for the leather bomber jacket in fashion.  Ever since it periodically resurfaces on the catwalks and is lauded as being a classic, timeless item.

The thirties are one of my favourite vintage periods so I am always excited to see looks inspired by this era come back around in fashion.  Most of the ones on offer on the high street do have a very convincing vintage feel to them but how I'd love to find an original one!  My favourite version is the Marks and Spencer one pictured with its cropped cut, nipped in waist and the way the soft folds of its luxuriously large, stand up shawl collar frames the neck and face of the wearer.  The size of the collar and its shape was a key feature of the most popular Burberry Prorsum model and which most other high street versions have failed to capture as successfully.

I've not seen the Amelia film but after doing a bit of research on the internet I was amazed to find out not only more about her achievements as a pilot, but also curiously, the role she played as a style icon in the 1930's.  According to the articles I found, Earheart was a woman who shunned traditional aviation clothing and created a style of her own.

She also used an understanding of how to wear clothes to her advantage.  Wikipedia claims that during her early aviation training she wore a leather jacket, but mindful of the image she needed to project to her male colleagues who would be judging her, slept in it for three days to get a worn in look.   With a sound working knowledge of sewing and an understanding of the functionality of material and garments gained from her own aviation gear, Earheart was able to release her own fashion line of clothing to help finance her flying expeditions and was probably the first celebrity designer in America.  She appeared in Vogue, wrote for Cosmopolitan and the clothes she designed for women were ahead of their time.  The attributes of the line are described in more detail in Mary Hall's article but they included durable and washable fabrics, suit separates that could be bought in different sizes to suit differing body shapes, practical details such as shirt tails for women and to top it all off, they were inexpensive.

Funny I should stumble across all this today when I had a job interview.  Although you can't always trust old Wikipedia as a source I took a little solace in the story of Earheart having to truss up her leather jacket to avoid looking like an inexperienced rookie and gain acceptance by the boys.  Eighty years on and nothing much has changed really.  Working women have to make careful choices about what we wear to send a message about our abilities as much as a reflection of our personal style.  Today I donned a suit and left my femininity at the door to try to make a good first impression in my interview with a company in a very male dominated industry.

I'd rather wear a worn in leather jacket than a suit any day, but for Amelia Earheart such a jacket probably served the same function for her then as my suit does for me now.  So now, apart from promising to keep me super warm in winter, the shearling aviator jacket also speaks to me of the heroism of female pioneers like the aviatrix.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Seeing Red

cos red dress
Image from Stylist Magazine

Alexander McQueen AW 2010
Alexander McQueen AW 2010: Image from InStyle

Alexander McQueen AW 2010
Alexander McQueen AW 2010: Image from InStyle

Cate Blanchett in Alexander McQueen
Image from Movie Line

Do you think the design team at Cos had Alexander McQueen on their moodboards when they designed this striking puff sleeve dress in this ravishing tone of red?

While flicking through the weekly freebie Stylist magazine on the tube the other day I did a double take when I opened the page to see this dress. This is a dress shape that McQueen returned to again and again throughout his collections, the structured puffed sleeves and shoulders, the waspish waist giving way to the voluptuous bell curve of the skirt. Even the U-shaped neckline looks very similar to that of the gem encrusted dress from his Spring 2009 collection, pictured here on Cate Blanchett attending a movie premiere.

Alexander McQueen remains my favourite designer of all time and enough accolades have been written doing more justice to his innate ability and talent to turn fantasy into reality.

It has been par for the course during the last decade for designers to send signature pieces or designs down the catwalk and for the high street to voraciously reproduce them at more pocket friendly prices for the masses.  I will never own a piece of the last McQueen collection pictured, but for a fraction of the price, I can don some McQueen-esque magic and attribute that to his influence as a designer trickling through to what retailers are pushing as the new shapes and colours to be wearing now.

But is this right?  On some level there is some satisfaction to see the exclusivity of high end fashion democratised.  Is there really anything wrong with providing people the opportunity to buy fashionable well made garments without having to cough up couture prices for it?  But design is not an easy path to make a living.  It was widely publicised that McQueen's label was struggling to turn a profit despite widespread celebrity endorsement and the expansion of the brand to include a more affordable diffusion line.

To build a profitable business while remaining faithful to a truly unique vision must have been difficult enough without having to consider the ease and speed at which copycat versions could be churned out on the high street.

If the McQueen label were to take Cos to court I think they would most likely lose.  Although Design Right is automatically granted to protect the design of the shape of articles in the UK for a maximum of 15 years it will not normally allow designers to stop the production of similar articles by independent creation.

The red dress is probably different enough to any one dress of McQueen's to be defensible - it combines recognizable elements of McQueen's designs but is not likely to be viewed as a direct copy.  Moreover, the historical references that McQueen no doubt drew upon to design his own collections are in the public domain, thus making it difficult to discount the possibility of independent creation by the Cos designers.

The timing here is key - and weighted heavily in the high street's favour.  This Cos dress hits the stores today, just in time for Autumn Winter 2010 and just as pieces from the McQueen pre-collections are still trickling through to retailers.  The McQueen AW 2010 mainline collection (of which two dresses are pictured above) was shown in March of this year, but the garments will probably not be available until September.

Fashion shows are run six months in advance and the images from those shows are now beamed around the world instantaneously.  They can be copied and reproduced cheaply at such speed so as to beat the original designs on which they were based onto the shop floor.

Some years ago the furore from design houses was more vocal with some court cases coming to public attention over design rights: Jimmy Choo versus Oasis, Chloe versus Topshop, and Chloe versus Kookai being a few examples.  The press coverage of these types of cases seem to have died down somewhat in recent years but I suspect it still happens.  The argument, understandably, is that cheap copies damage the designers business by robbing market share and making it harder for designers to sell their products.

But will the availability of a Cos dress "in the style of" McQueen on the high street really compete with the real deal in the sartorial shopping lists of those who can afford to spend four figures on one dress?  How much damage can this really do to a designer brand of clothes which can realistically only be purchased by less than ten percent of the population?

To use another design versus price analogy - Ikea has made good design available widely and cheaply around the globe.  The hidden cost is that many local artisan shops and designers operating in towns in which an Ikea opened went out of business as a result.  And with them also went the quality, craftsmanship, design and originality they could offer the market.  In this case the availability of aesthetics at a lower price point was able to switch demand to devastating effect.

At the extreme ends of the scale there are likely to be both consumers who can afford good design and will continue to buy it and consumers who buy Ikea because they could never afford artisan products in the first place. Presumably however, there were enough people who were buying artisan products, but happier buying a cheaper alternative to make a large difference to the success of a local industry.  But where is this middle ground for high end fashion designers like McQueen?  The market for luxury fashion feels far more polarised when we are talking about price differences of £50 and £2000 for clothing - there are those who can afford it and the rest who cannot and never will.  Even the diffusion lines are out of most people's price range.  It is no wonder that the more savvy ones are falling over themselves to do collaborations with the high street in order to reach a new audience.

I hate to think of a world without the theatrics and drama provided by truly creative designers.  I also feel uncomfortable that by choosing to purchase clothing that derives inspiration from high end fashion at more affordable prices, as I very often do, that I may be somehow contributing to the demise of talented designers.  But what choice do you have if you are part of the market that is excluded on doing otherwise on the basis of price?

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Vintage at Goodwood

Image from the Guardian

This weekend the Vintage at Goodwood festival is happening in Sussex.  Billed as the alternative to the run of the mill summer festivals where unglamourous drunken revelry in the mud is the norm, Vintage at Goodwood offers civilised 'glamping' facilities, an opportunity to dress up all weekend in glamorous vintage with like minded souls and a huge amount vintage clothing on sale.  My idea of festival heaven - except I just cannot overcome my aversion to the rain and go.

I have to admit that I am a complete pansy when it comes to dealing with festivals in the type of rainy weather we are currently having now.  Day passes are apparently still available for tomorrow but I am sure that I would be quite miserable if I was traipsing around in Sussex in the cold and wet this weekend.

Festivals are actually fantastic places to get vintage clothing.  Some of my favourite vintage pieces have come from vintage clothes stalls at festivals.  A black silk top hat, a silk lined gold lame capelet with a scalloped edge, a Victorian jacket in cream watermark taffeta, a forties silk blouse and an Edwardian riding shirt are some of the treasures I managed to pick up in past years.  The stalls are usually run by people with vintage clothing shops in far flung places in the UK with interesting stock at prices that are a bit more wallet friendly than the vintage shops in London.

So why am I not running gleefully down to Sussex this weekend?  Well the forecast is cloudy and rainy this weekend and so I am wimping out.  I had to endure Glastonbury and WOMAD a couple of years back when both sites turned into giant sludge pits.  Glastonbury in particular traumatised me! In a fit of sheer optimism I arrived with a backpack full of my floatiest most hippy dippy festival gear.  The weather was so bad that the only look I managed to work all weekend was mud stained snowboarding trousers, wellington boots and an anorak!  I had developed that well known festival condition of wellington boot shuffle by the end of the weekend.  Comes from spending hours knee deep in mud struggling against the force of such strong suction that often your foot advances but your boot is left behind. 

Such was my horror at the 'facilities' that I stopped eating and drinking for three days so that I didn't need to use them.  I hardly slept the entire time because we were camped on a crowded hillside and I keep rolling off my inflatable mattress.  It didn't stop raining and water was continuously streaming over the groundsheet of our tent making it impossible to keep our stuff dry.  To top it off I would awake in the mornings to find spiders had made webs across the very low ceiling of our tent - not a good discovery if you are arachnophobic!  I was not much of a happy camper before this experience but since then I cannot even stomach the idea of glamping. 

I realise I am missing out big time for this insistence on having my creature comforts in bad weather.  Just check out the Guardian's photo coverage of the festival for the feast of great outfits on display.  Maybe, just maybe, next year the weather will be better and I'll get to Goodwood!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Dyed Pretty

floral printed tea dressfloral printed tea dress
floral printed tea dress
floral printed tea dress
floral printed tea dress
floral wool cardigan
There is one hell of a moody sky over London.  Sometimes its dark and threatening to rain, sometimes it looks like the sun is breaking through.  It was so dark in the flat yesterday that I escaped to the local park in my favourite tea dress and a rose strewn cardigan to catch the last rays of evening sunlight.

I have six tea dresses at last count.  As a garment the tea dress somehow sits tantalisingly on the fence between girlish and womanly.  This is definitely the ditsiest tea dress I own.  I love its vintage feel and the colourful and vibrant floral print.  There is even a faint sheeny polka dot pattern worked into the fabric underlying the print.  It has so much detail - its tiny covered buttons, dainty frills, the pin tucking and little lace epaulettes.

I decided to try and shoot something outside today after being inspired by a post by the wonderful Grit and Glamour about how to take outfit shots and her tips on how she manages to take the very atmospheric shots for her blog in her garden.  I read with some amusement as she bemoans she lacks the "the gritty gloriousness of London" as a backdrop for her photos.  The grass is always greener.  As a Londoner I would kill for a yard like hers to take photos in rather than have to chance that my camera doesn't get pinched by the next hoodie that passes me taking an outfit shot in front of the gloriously graffitied walls in abundance here.  And some Californian style weather wouldn't go amiss to get outdoor shots instead of constant wind and rain in August!  So here I am, in gritty glorious London, trying to get the big back yard effect that Grit and Glamour has right in her own back yard!

Here the grass is so long you can hide away in it and take your photos in peace.  Clouds passing over fields of long grass like these always reminds me of days long past when I used to listen to a band called Died Pretty, whose music has been described as passionate and brooding.  Their Doughboy Hollow album cover used this wonderful image of an abandoned old vintage car and windmill rusting in a grassy field stretching into the distance with a turbulent storm cloud ridden sky overhead.  These were the days when you had twelve inch album covers sporting a glossy picture.  There was enough surface area to make an album cover like this that was beautifully done feel like a piece of art you could frame and stick on your wall.

Died Pretty Doughboy Hollow Image from Citadel

Floral printed silk and cotton mix tea dress by Mango
Rose strewn wool knit cardigan by Marilyn Moore

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

His and Hers

Bonds Y-fronts

You know its true love when you have his and hers matching Y-fronts!
You may recall a scene in an episode of Sex in the City when a loved up Carrie and Aidan are in her flat getting ready for bed and she is wearing a pair of men's Y-fronts.

Where Carrie leads the die-hard fashionista follows!  Thankfully there was no need to raid the menswear department or worse, your man's underwear drawer, because the Australian underwear label Bonds came to the rescue and released these cute men's style Y-fronts for women in rainbow colours.  And of course they have equally loud ones for men as well!  Imitation may be the greatest form of flattery but the boyfriend thinks that mine are just plain weird.

Trying to take photos in London at the moment is like getting blood out of a stone with the incessant stream of dark, grey days devoid of strong natural light.  I happened to snap the laundry hanging out to dry during a rare sunny patch when the rather colourful sight of my underwear sidling up to my boyfriend's on the line made me think of how lucky I am to have him in my life.  Call me weirdly romantic.

Usted sabe su verdadero amor cuando se tiene él y para ella se pongan calzoncillos haciendo juego! 

Tal vez recuerde una escena en un episodio de Sex in the City cuando la pareja Carrie y Aidan estan en su piso y se están descargando listo para la cama y ella lleva un par de de los hombres Y-fronts. Que Carrie lleva el fashionista acérrimos sigue! Afortunadamente no hubo necesidad de buscarlos del departamento de ropa de hombre o peor, un cajón de su hombre, porque la marca Bonds de ropa interior australiana etiqueta de vino al rescate y puesto en libertad el estilo a estos lindos stilo calzoncillos para las mujeres en colores del arco iris. Y por supuesto hay tambien en colores tan vivos para los hombres! Dicen que imitación puede ser la mayor forma de halago, pero el novio piensa que las mías son muy raras.

A tomar fotos en Londres en este momento es como tener la sangre hacia fuera de una piedra con estos días oscuros y grises desprovisto de luz natural muy fuerte. Me paso para sacar foto de mi línea de ropa durante un parche sol rara cuando la vista en lugar de colores de mi ropa interior se alinearon junto a mi novio en la línea de hecho que piensa en lo afortunado que soy de tenerlo en mi vida. Llámame extrañamente romántica.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010



Its dull and grey and raining in London.  So here are some sequins just to brighten up the day.  These are sequined cover ups I've collected over the years.  It looks a bit like the dressing room for Strictly Come Dancing in here once I've lined up the sequined capes, cardigans and jackets.  Just how I like it!

El cielo está nublado y gris y está con lluvia en Londres. Entonces aquí hay algunas lentejuelas sólo para alegrar el día. Se trata de lentejuelas encubrimientos he recopilado durante años. Se ve un poco como el vestuario para el concurso de baile de salon dentro mi amario una vez que he forrado por los cabos las capas, rebecas y chaquetas de lentejuelas.  Y como me gusta asi!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Vintage Fifties Prom Dresses

Vintage Fifties prom dresses

Vintage Fifties prom dresses

Detail Vintage brocade prom dress

Detail Vintage taffeta prom dress

Detail Vintage brocade prom dress

I love vintage clothes and the UK is full of great places to find gorgeous things. My favourite periods are all those from Victorian to the nineteen thirties but I do have a soft spot for fifties prom dresses.

I am not really sure when these two prom dresses were made. From the stitching it is clear that they were both either tailored for a customer or lovingly home sewn for a special event or night out. Those were the days! It is also possible they were made much later than the fifties and just designed in the style of that era.

I bought the pale green and gold brocade dress many, many years ago from a tiny shop near Goldney in Bristol.  It was run by a very sweet, chirpy old lady who had an amazing collection of vintage items all at bargain basement prices - a rare thing in London these days. I came away with this dress, an amazing pair of intricately embroidered flapper dance shoes (which I will post about another day) and two vintage purses - all on a students budget!  I often wonder about the shop owner and if she is still there.

The bright blue taffeta dress with a sweetheart neckline was a gift from my boyfriend's sister who, luckily for me, has an incredible eye for collectible vintage items.  She plucked this out for next to nothing from the rails in a local charity shop in Bath thinking it might fit me - which, hallelujah, it did!  The taffeta is shot with black and gold metallic thread, there is boning right through the bodice to give the wearer that ultra feminine fifties silhouette and it has a very full skirt.

Although I have worn the brocade dress in the past I think it is high time it got another outing, and as for the blue dress, it is as yet unworn so I need to do something about that as well!


Me encanta la ropa vintage y el Reino Unido está lleno de grandes lugares para encontrar cosas hermosas. Mis períodos favoritos son todos los de Victoria de los años treinta pero tengo una debilidad por los vestidos de los años cincuenta. 

No estoy realmente seguro de cuando se hicieron estos dos vestidos de cóctel. Desde la costura, es evidente que ambos estaban bien adaptados para un cliente o cosido en casa con mucho amor para un evento especial o de la noche fuera. Esos eran los días! También es posible que se hicieron mucho más tarde de los años cincuenta y acaba de diseñar en el estilo de aquella época.

He comprado el vestido de brocado de color verde pálido y el oro hace muchos, muchos años de una pequeña tienda cerca de Goldney en Bristol. Fue dirigido por un muy dulce, alegre señora de edad que tenían una increíble colección de objetos vintage a precios super baratas - una cosa rara a encontrar en Londres en estos días. Me quedé con este vestido, un par de increíbles intrincadamente bordado zapatos de baile trampa (que voy a publicar acerca de otro día) y dos bolsos vintage - todo en un presupuesto estudiantes! A menudo me pregunto sobre el dueño de la tienda y si ella sigue ahí. 

El vestido brillante de tafetán azul con un escote corazón era un regalo de la hermana de mi novio que, por suerte para mí, tiene un ojo increíble para coleccionar objetos vintage. Arrancó esto por casi nada de los rieles en una tienda de caridad en Bath pensamiento tal vez me quepa bien - que, aleluya, me queda perfecto! El tafetán se disparó con hilo metálico negro y oro, el corpiño esta de ballenas para darte la silueta femenina ultra años cincuenta y cuenta con una falda amplio.

Aunque he llevado el vestido de brocado en el pasado creo que es hora de ponerlo otro vez, y en cuanto al vestido azul, es aún sin estrenar así que tengo que hacer algo al respecto, así!

Slumming in Soho

It is already feeling like autumn in London.  When the sky is grey and cloudy I notice I reach for grey clothes.  Headed into Soho to meet a friend for lunch and needed to feel vaguely cosy and comfortable to counter the misery of a cold grey day.  Well at least I found it cold - there are a lot of people wandering around the city in shorts and t-shirts still.  I find this incredible as I still needed a leather jacket over all this to cut the wind chill out.

I bought this draped wrap around cardigan from All Saints which is a label I have curiously not bought often.  By rights I should be an avid collector: all that edgy distressed tailoring with an Edwardian or Victorian twist.  Its part gothic, part London grunge, heavily influenced by Vivienne Westwood style drapery and doesn't hold back on rock star worthy details like studs and sequins.

Possibly it is that, apart from being quite pricey, I can find some of their pieces a bit difficult to work out.  Take this cardigan.  I threw it on in a rush to take the photo before leaving the house and realised as I was about to head out that I had it on upside down!  You may notice the label showing - it looks pretty similar but not quite the same the right way up.  And I think this is my problem - I'm usually in the change rooms pondering which end of an All Saints garment I should be putting my head into!!

Draped black wool cardigan by All Saints
Grey suede hareems and black cotton vest worn underneath by Cos
Grey racer back vest by Topshop Unique
Wedges by Reiss

Friday, 6 August 2010

Because I like my Bling

Especially when it costs me less than a tenner!

Multistrand necklace with gems by H&M

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Shopping at Zara - online!

It has been a long time coming but the rumour is from the 2nd September Zara is going to offer shopping online!

As someone who does the majority of their clothes shopping online and loves Zara this news might just change my life.  It is one of my main ports of call for budget friendly yet perfectly tailored workwear with a fashion forward twist.  The only downer is that sometimes the stores don't always provide a great shopping experience.  The shop floors of large Zara stores in Spain and London can be chaotic due to the traffic they get.  Who hasn't been in a Zara store that looks like a bomb hit it by the end of the day?

Now that there is the possibility of browsing the collections from the comfort of home, I feel something between elation that I no longer have to fight my way to Zara through all the tourists taking advantage of the weak pound on Oxford Street and acute fear and dread for the state of my bank account.

Perhaps I should just disconnect my internet connection permanently.  They say ignorance is bliss!

Loving my new Givenchy-esque striped blazer from Zara - even if the boyfriend thinks I look like an extra from Star Trek!

Beam me up Scotty!
Striped blazer by Zara
T-shirt by Cos
Suede shorts by Topshop
Necklace by H&M
Platform Peeptoe shoes by Katia Lombardo

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Lusting After: Lace Biker

Image from Matches

What combination could be more divine than my favourite wardrobe staple, the biker jacket, and my favourite fabric, lace. This sublime creation is by Christopher Kane whose silk cloud print and velvet bikers were also items on my wish list if I ever won the lottery. Sigh! How happy the girl who could afford all three. But at £945 (which seems to be the going rate for a fabric biker from Kane) it is staying right there on the Matches website where I found it.

In the last couple of seasons the high street went silly cutting biker jackets out of all sorts of fabrics and I bought a great one in houndstooth tweed Mango did last winter. I am now kicking myself for not picking up a lovely one which was covered in black lace that they did in the same collection!

I was surprised that Topshop didn't produce a velvet biker last winter, especially as they did that wonderful collaboration with Kane.  Given their past penchant for producing lace blazers the UK high street would be missing a trick if it didn't produce a lace biker this season.  C'mon Topshop production team!  Get it together!


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