Monday, 29 November 2010

Yeti In the House and Fashion Blogger Challenges

Greetings.  I am the Abominable Snow Woman.

In case you haven't heard the UK is experiencing another Big Freeze with snow and ice over most of the north and a good dose of it heading steadily south.  The north of the country has copped the worst and depending on who you believe it is either a relatively balmy 0 to -2 degrees Celsius in London tonight with some predictions of snow.  Nothing like the mercury hovering around or below zero to send me running to the wardrobe to layer on the shag pile to keep warm.

Now I fully expect that anyone living in somewhere like Canada or North America is probably sneering by now but oh my God!  I am so cold!  Even wearing Uniqlo Heat Tech everything, two cashmere sweaters, a yeti coat, two pairs of thermal tights and suede trousers, I am still cold when I step outside.  Today I actually googled "shearling trousers" with the full intent of purchasing whatever creation popped up on screen, however hideous.  Suffice to say that I was sorely disappointed to discover they don't exist.

Last year I missed the Big Freeze completely having been overseas.  This year it has arrived early and caught me off guard completely.  I was still mid-way through changing over the clothes in the wardrobe from summer/autumn to full on winter gear.  As Sod's law would have it, the week in which temperatures dive to record breaking levels for November would be the same week that our flat's central heating system would choose to spring a leak and cease functioning properly.  A leak that requires all the floorboards being ripped up to find it!  So, not a great week all round.

To top it off my evening's plans have unfortunately been scuppered by the ongoing tube strike which appears to be running past its promised stop time of six thirty.  Yes, in addition to bad weather and an ongoing brutal recession we have half the nation on strike with gradually increasing civil unrest amongst our student population.  Emigration anyone?

I don't really fancy getting the bus looking like the Sasquatch incarnate so I'm staying in and hoping Mr V gets home in time to walk to our local pub for last orders.  At least on the tube there is always guaranteed to be someone dressed way more outrageously than me and it's about ten degrees warmer underground.

You might have guessed my biggest style challenge is dressing for the cold.  I'm a warm weather person through and through.  Below a certain temperature I am completely out of my depth in deciding what to wear.  My proverbial idea of hell isn't flames, it's ice.

Honestly, I normally just give up and stay in rather than suffer or go out looking, well, like a yeti.  Or worse, I pile on way too many layers to be flattering to my small frame (I gain at least ten centimetres in girth) and I wear the same cosy but boring things on endless loop.  I've decided this year my challenge is that the winter is not going to get me in the fashion doldrums though I am still trying to formulate what my goals should be.

And on that note I would like to pay homage to a few bloggers who have really inspired me with the fashion challenges they have currently set themselves and are posting about.  These ladies have my complete admiration because I am essentially a lame and lazy human being that hates having to do things because I have to and would fail if I ever attempted one of these challenges.

There are various interesting motivations for people undertaking this challenges - wanting to get greater use out of their clothes, enhancing their creativity, saving money, reducing clothes related waste going to landfill and networking with other bloggers doing the same challenge.  The results are inspirational and I keep telling myself that if these girls can rise to these challenges then surely I can pull my sartorial self together and brave a few snowflakes in style!

Cynthia of Be Fabulous Daily is taking the GAAD - that is Great American Apparel Diet to the uninitiated.  No clothes shopping for a year.  Gulp!  I thought I was good cutting up a credit card until I came across her blog, which has made me think about my clothes shopping habits.  A lot!

I'm Not Emily Brown is a blog by a lady after my own heart.  Emily has not one, not two, but five pairs of leather shorts! And she has set herself an impressive challenge in this weather to tear off the accusing price tags and wear one pair of shorts a day.  She has some seriously sassy outfits!

Terri of Rags Against the Machine, Katy of Modly Chic and No Guilt Fashion are all doing the 30 for 30 challenge that a lot of American bloggers seem to be doing - basically sticking to thirty items in your wardrobe for a month and remixing them.  I find this an impressive feat to take on in winter!  Given I am wearing ten items of clothing in one outfit at the moment I would probably get through 30 garments in three days!

Although the idea of not shopping for a year, wearing shorts in near zero temperatures or limiting myself to 30 items in my wardrobe all fill me with true dread, I will say that, although I'm unlikely to sign up to these sorts of challenges, all of these bloggers have succeeded in making me rethink about buying something new or how I might wear something I already have.  So hats off ladies!


In my old age I had forgotten to mention JT Wisdom of Bubbling With Elegance and Grace, who is also another blogger I'm following doing the 30 x 30 challenge!
I've also been reliably informed by Katy of Modly Chic via her twitter feed that coats are not included in the 30 x 30 selection which makes it a bit easier.  Phew!  Still find it an impressive challenge though.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Mariachi Jeans and Mongolian Sheepskin Gilet

I've had to up the ante against the cold. London is apparently getting snow in the next couple of days! The jeans and gilet are the spoils of past winter sales. Since wintry weather continues here until about April anything I pick up in the winter sales is far from the end of its useful seasonal life.

I like shaggy sheepskin gilets like this because my hair just blends right on in!

I got the jeans for the lines of gold buttons trailing down the backs of the legs but it's been a challenge to find shoes that work with them as they are a bit long for me. Usually I wear with a high, decorative, chunky heel and split open the last few buttons to show the heel off. My knee is still not happy though so heels are still out. A wedge however, I can do. Last night I tried them with my hairy wedge boots.

These jeans are by Sienna Miller and her designer sister and after I had them for about a year I discovered that they had been inspired by trousers worn by the Mexican Mariachi. I found that quite amusing so last night when I wore them out to go for drinks with a girlfriend I went for a Mariachi lost in Mongolia kind of theme.

I spent a whole day with three Mariachis on a film set once. Some bright spark directing thought that flamenco dancers perform to Mariachi music. Hello? Different countries, completely different musical genres! It annoys me when people who should make more of an effort don't do their homework and lump flamenco into the same bag as a whole lot of Latin American dance and music styles. I can't tell you how many times I've had people ask me to dance flamenco to salsa music, Argentinian tango or Ravel's "Boléro".

The director corralled the Mariachis and I together.  Jubilantly grinning and clicking his fingers to some Latin rhythm of his own invention to show that he knew, and was just so clever at the cultural coup he'd scored for his production, he told us to do our thang.  Lord only knows what strange vision of flamenco dancing he had in mind.  The Mariachis and I regarded each other in faint panic and then had to explain that no such thang would be possible.  They couldn't play flamenco music to save their lives and so I was duly absolved from dancing and spent the day standing around like a decorative pot plant in the background scenery.

I did love the Mariachis outfits though - so marvelously OTT! I should have asked to keep one of the sombreros.

Monday, 22 November 2010

White Wall

My kitchen wall has been repainted white.  Just in time.  With our hours of natural light disappearing fast, expect it to feature a lot in this blog!

Winter has well and truly arrived here and the temperature has really dropped recently so I've been layering up.  Here is what I wore on the weekend to visit old friends in Cambridge where it was bitterly cold - my attempt to avoid both wearing all black and swaddling myself in wool.

I've been wondering how to wear this silky Whistles blouse in winter without freezing.  The surrealist print reminds me of the works of Miró and it feels a bit Dynasty with its draping and big shoulders. My solution was to use it to cover up the boring black turtlenecks that are becoming my uniform in the cold.

Secret weapons under my billowy silk layers are wool rich tights and not one but two wool turtlenecks.  Yes, that's how much of a wimp I am in cold weather.  I also still had to wear a wool crombie coat over everything and accessorise with a scarf and gloves.  Despite wearing an additional pair of socks the cold went straight through the soles of my bikers and I stopped feeling my toes.  I feel this outfit would be better with heels but the cold has brought on a niggling knee problem (can you get flamenco knee?) which is not worth me making any worse for the sake of fashion.  So flats it is.

I deeply regretted not wearing a hat.  If I had a pound for every winter hat I've lost on the London underground I'd probably have enough for a new one.  And hat smchat.  In this cold I need a balaclava!

As a girl my parents bought me one party dress a year and I would get to choose.  Sort of.  My first choice was always vetoed.  It was either too dark for my father's liking as I liked black from an early age or too fancy, i.e. too expensive.  Hmmm... the psychological seeds that grew into my shopaholic ways are probably embedded right there!

So the second choice would be the most colourful, frilly, floaty Cinderella like confection I could get away with.  During winter I would be dismayed to the point of tears when my mother forced me wear thick turtlenecks and tights under my beloved dress to stop me freezing at parties.  I suddenly felt that my dress had been ruined. 

Looking at myself in the mirror with my dress rucked up in unpalatable bulky lumps over rolls of thick wool, it was as if it had also sprouted a neck, arms and legs of different textures and colours, all of which combined to overpower any of the delicate details of the dress I had taken so much care in choosing in the first place.  So began my lifelong battle with winter dressing and layering.

I detest feeling like a turtle and turtlenecks make me feel claustrophobic and strangled.  But in this cold I'm not going to ever get to wear a floaty blouse or almost any type of dress without them.  The little girl somewhere in there still cries at her reflection in the mirror, riling against what she still considers a heinous aesthetic crime but the practical winter battered adult is somewhat resigned to the fact.

Thankfully Cos has made an extremely thin wool one with unfinished seams that avoids adding the bulk that normal thermals do and hopefully four or five layers will now look a bit more like three or four.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Friend Friday: Copying

Image courtesy of Image.  Photographer: Moi!

This week's Friend Friday questions are about copying.  Friend Friday is run by Katy at Modly Chic.  To participate email

Nothing is more culpable for less and less original material doing more and more rounds of the Internet than those two functions on our computers, COPY and PASTE! Just the other day I googled "Rachel Zoe Pregnant" - (I'm so excited to see what she wears!! Can you imagine the maternity range? It's enough to prompt one to concieve!) - I was sorely disappointed to find that with each link I clicked on, I just kept reading the same text copied and pasted, in many cases verbatim, from one celebrity gossip site to another.  In many cases the same pictures were used as well.  These were some suprisingly well established sites and yet nobody writing for them had anything new to add to their take on the news, nor even it seems the time to do some paraphrasing to avoid copyright infringement cases being taken out against them.

Now copying is a hot topic for fashion bloggers too.  I'm going to copy and paste (ha ha) Katy's Google groups header to give you a flavour of the breadth of things she's highlighting:

"This past week I encountered the topic of blogger copying twice. The first time was as I scrolled through the numerous bloggers doing the 30 for 30 challenge. I realized that after one person poses with an umbrella dozens others will. Or as Kendi poses in a parking garage suddenly 20 other bloggers appear in a parking garage. And then I was talking with Kinsey about some of favorite blogs and she mentioned seeing a blogger post a DIY recipe and two weeks later another blogger posted a very similar DIY recipe complete with the same wrappings. That got me thinking... how much of blogging is coming up with your own content and how much is mirroring what we see others doing"

1. What are the 'unwritten rules' about copying content that we bloggers should all abide by?

Always credit your sources for anything you use on your blog be it images or text you are quoting and link back to the source.  If there are notices on someones blog that they require permission to use their material or to be credited as the source then abide by their requests.  And if you are lifting material copyrighted by corporates without at least crediting them you risk being sued!

Some bloggers even reference another blogger if something the latter posted gave them the inspiration for their own post, which strictly speaking is probably not necessary but it's a nice thing to do.  For instance when Courtney of Those Graces posted about blowing her wedding outfit budget it gave me the inkling for my Spring Wedding Outfit post and I worked a mention of this in the introduction.

Now let me turn this around and throw a question out there because I would like to have some advice on an issue bugging me about crediting content.  What about material in the public domain?  For example you might find a picture of Kate Moss or SJP or even Billy Halliday on someones blog and wish to use it. But if it is obviously an iconic picture that has been kicking around both printed press and the Internet for eon's who are you actually obliged to credit?  The blogger is obviously not the original source of the image and has him/herself lifted the image from elsewhere.

Any thoughts?
Who do I credit? HBO??
2. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. But when is a post imitation and when is it copying?

I think this is a grey area as there are millions of fashion blogs out there with millions of minds behind them interested in the same thing: fashion, style, clothes.  Statistically people are bound to find that their original ideas intersect precisely with those of others.

Take for example my personal experience.  Months ago I took this picture of my style guides neatly stacked up with the intention of writing a post reviewing my bedtime reading material.

In the time lag before downloading the photo and writing my post I stumbled across some rather fetching images of books stacked up in Cloud of Secrets' blog posts "Book Niche" and "Chasing Scarlet".  Here also was a blogger whose captivating photography of objects reminded me very much of some of the imagery I was trying to achieve in my own blog and prompted me to become an immediate follower.  I then also discovered she had beaten me to reviewing Style Clinic, one of the books I'd intended to review!

So how do two women living in London and Wisconsin come up with the same ideas without previously being aware of each other's existences?  I imagine it is nothing more than our common interests of style, fashion, photography and aesthetics narrowing down considerably the kind of images and subjects that pique our interests as bloggers.

My post remained unwritten because it suddenly didn't feel original anymore and I certainly didn't want to give a blogger I'd newly followed the idea I was copying her.  But say I had written my post anyway? Could you really say I was copying or even imitating?

Another example was when I wrote a post about Amelia Earhart's influence on the Aviator jacket trend, itself hardly original as loads of people made the connection and posted about it.  A little birdie at that online institution responsible for the shrinking of all journalism sources, Wikipedia, gave me the idea for mentioning the legend of her sleeping in her leather jacket to make it look more worn in in order to gain acceptance amongst her male peers.

A couple of days after my post was published I was bemused to read another online article about Amelia and the Aviator jacket written by Jess Cartner-Morely of the Guardian fashion column in which the very same story was mentioned.  Both articles use Amelia's mythical tactic to have a sly dig at the hoops that women have to jump through in life compared to their male counterparts. (Yeah Jess I noticed!)

Should I have challenged Jess to a showdown of keyboards at dawn? Of course not.  Though she didn't credit her source it's hard to justify throwing down the gauntlet when in all likelihood she looked up Earhart's history on Wikipedia too.  In addition with Big Brother Google in charge of what we see first when we google keywords in our online research for blog topics, you and thousands of others are being fed the same information to reference for your posts, effectively reducing all our chances of being truly original.

Given all this I think that unless a blogger has copied and pasted word for word what you have written or used a photo that is obviously taken by you originally then proving the copying of ideas for posts would be very difficult.

3. Taking another blogger's idea (perhaps for an outfit, or DIY tutorial) is pretty common in the blogging world. Do you think it is necessary to credit the original source?

They say all art is theft don't they?  I feel this is very much like the argument of trying to copyright fashion design.  In order to lay claim to an idea you would have to have re-invented the wheel and prove nobody else had done it before in order to be able to claim it was yours.  Its like trying to argue who to credit for the design of sleeves or skirts - where do you draw the line?

I think common sense should prevail.  It would really depend how original the blogger's DIY or outfit was or whether it was something that was already pretty common knowledge or a current trend already doing the rounds.  If I were following some very original DIY or outfit tips to the letter and posting about it then yes I think it is necessary to credit the person from whom you benefited from gaining that knowledge.

But if your post uses an idea but takes a different approach or represents your unique of view on something then I don't think you would have to.  Nothing is enforceable here and I don't think you would have to change too much before you could claim you've added enough to the "prior art" to make it a new body of work.  (I've written patents before and was staggered at how little had to be added to an idea before you could patent it as a new one.)  But as I said in question one, it's just a generous thing to do as part of the fashion blogging community.

For example I've seen several bloggers doing outfit posts with leather shorts as they are in fashion at the moment.  It has reminded me that I own a pair, should wear them more and could also do an outfit post at the same time.  I'm unlikely to credit every blogger I've seen posting on leather shorts for prompting me to get them out, even if I wear some top and heels combination like many outfit posts out there, because that's just a fashionable look that is around at the moment.  Who can really say they came up with the idea first? Vogue? Alexa Chung? Or the Germans in their lederhosen??

But say I see some combination I find unusual or original - like Angela's combination of a polka dot candy pink blouse with her leather shorts at Everyone Love's Lipstick which I liked very much.  After seeing her post I thought maybe I should try pairing some polka dotted blouses in my closet with my shorts.  If I then did an outfit post, even though my outfit won't look the same as hers, I would credit her for the inspiration.

4. How have you improved your blog by comparing it to other bloggers? Have you made changes due to something you have seen others doing?

I increased the width and made the images bigger.  Did anyone notice?  I'd been playing around with HTML and tossing up as to whether to do it or not for a long while but after Pearl of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom did it I finally took the plunge.

5. Have you ever had one of your posts copied by another blogger or publication? How did you handle the situation?

I had part of a post quoted on another blog but the blogger in question did me the courtesy of referencing me and linking back to my post so it was fine.  I was actually pretty flattered.

I've seen some nasty stories about bloggers discovering entire posts from their blogs lifted and used by online or print magazines.  I think this is unacceptable and makes it important for bloggers to at least have a statement (which I have recently added) about their policy on third parties using material from their blog.

I take my answer to the last question back.  After reading other Friend Friday posts and seeing how many other people had come up with issues of being copied I thought I'd do a more in depth check to see if maybe I was being a bit lax and thinking my blog was too under the radar to be copied.  I was wrong! 

I found my post about my mother copied and pasted word for word on what appears to be a scraper blog which just trawls the internet and lifts content off other blogs.  I'm furious obviously and have contacted the service provider.  Just goes to show it can happen to anybody.  Oh and any advice appreciated from those with similar experiences!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Meet Mum

Meet my Mum! Regular visitors will have already seen that she scrubbed up pretty well as Mother of the Groom.  While I was in Australia she had another wedding to go to (for which she also made the wedding cake) and this is what she wore.

This dress with a polka dot bodice, three quarter length, flamenco frilled sleeves and a darling corsage of red roses is by Wheels and Doll Baby.  She snaffled it for a song when it went on sale in the local store.  Yep, my senior citizen mother shops at Wheels and Doll Baby, it's one of her favourite labels and guess what? She looks great in it.  I'm always so proud of her when I accompany her shopping there and the sales assistants gush over how lovely she looks in their retro inspired dresses and wiggle skirts.

Flamenca mum preparing wedding cakes.

As many mothers tend to do Mum spent a good two decades putting her own fashion needs to one side whilst rearing her brood of four. Mum has always loved shopping but never had the money while we were growing up to buy nice things for herself.  She lived in hand me downs from relatives for years in order to provide for us and often used her sewing skills to make lovely clothes for my sister and I, including red carpet worthy ball dresses for our annual high school balls.

To say clothes, shopping and sewing defines my relationship with my mother may sound ridiculous but as fashion conscious teens growing up in a poor suburb that was a fashion wasteland, a cheap form of entertainment was to go fantasy clothes shopping in nice shops with Mum.  Important sewing and garment construction knowledge was imparted on these trips as she would turn clothes inside out to teach us what she understood from her own sewing skills and she was instrumental in developing an eye for good design in her daughters.

It was Mum who taught me how to copy a designer garment I couldn't afford when she took to recreating the ball dress of my broke fifteen year old dreams.  I remember our sneaky, repeated visits to the boutique together where the dress was tried on, dissected and every last detail then reproduced by her at home for a fraction of the cost.

I have a book which is a guide for shopping for vintage and in one section on recognising garment quality the author wistfully wishes that she had had a mentor whilst growing up that could have explained to her whilst clothes shopping about things like rolled hems, invisible seams and zips, the importance of lining on certain garments.  I remember thinking that the mentor she was describing could have been my own mother!

Now that she has more time and money for herself these days, she's not going to let a little old thing like being over sixty get in the way of having some fun with fashion and dressing up when the opportunity arises.  In the last few years she has taken more fashion risks than she ever did when she was younger and every time I visit I find covetable new items in her closet and she will be working a fresh new look.  Years of providing for a large family on next to no budget, she has honed the art of sniffing out a bargain.  She approaches clothes shopping with military precision often staking out and stalking her prey for weeks and pouncing when it's been reduced to clear.

Mum keeps in shape by regularly going to the gym so she can wear a lot of things women half her age might shy away from.  The nice thing about being in a family of three women who are all the same dress size is that being able to wear each others clothes triples our options!  She still needs a bit of encouragement from time to time to push the envelope as she worries about what the self appointed fashion police in the family might think of what she is wearing. (Does anyone else have some of those types in their families and how do you cope with them?).

For instance she wanted my opinion on the Wheels and Doll Baby dress which she desperately wanted to wear out as it had been languishing in her wardrobe unworn.  (Sound familiar? Are wardrobe neuroses inheritable genetic traits?) She was however, worried about wearing it to a family wedding because she was sure certain relatives would look down their noses at her.  Why oh why do women do this to each other?  Grrrr! I can't tell you how cross it makes me that someone can make a lovely looking woman like my mum insecure about wearing what she damn well pleases because of these daft and inflexible notions of what is age appropriate.

After my blood pressure returned to normal I told her to forget about what anyone else thought, to wear her red shoes to complement her corsage and handed her my black ruffle chiffon jacket from Topshop (pictured) to stop her feeling cold in the evening.  And she looked absolutely fabulous!  If there is anyone that reassures me that you can still enjoy fashion in your sixties it is Mum.

I love styling my Mum because she loves clothes and is a pleasure to dress.  For my brother's wedding she wanted a jacket for the evening but couldn't find anything locally that she liked.  So I played Rachel Zoe and hijacked Mr Veshoevius' weight allowance, stuffing five evening jacket options (as well as five pairs of heels) into the suitcase.

The black chiffon jacket she wore above was one of them, a nude lined black lace jacket which was a gift from me to her was another, as well as a silver sequined cardigan and an embroidered beaded cape by Kate Moss for Topshop.  On a whim, the last thing I tossed in just before zipping up the suitcases was a black lace jacket with grey lining from Karen Millen.

How is this for fashion genetics?  She had no idea I had this jacket and independently without me knowing or seeing it, she bought this grey, lace embellished dress from Karen Millen with which the jacket went perfectly.  The day before the wedding she also managed to pick up a pair of very inexpensive, grey satin courts with little bows that matched the grey lace.

Bro 1 (groomsmen), Mum and Lil' Sis.
Mum wearing her Karen Millen dress and my lace jacket, also by Karen Millen.

And a final note on the part my wardrobe played in my sister's outfit pictured above.  In the end Lil' Sis scored the moral fashion high ground on me and shopped completely from her own closet.  The ruched, frill trimmed corset with spaghetti straps she's wearing with her satin puffball skirt and diamante kitten heels is a recent hand me down from me!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Fashion Tag Tripled

I have been tagged recently by three lovely ladies: Sarah of Cloud of Secrets, Ginta of Hunting and Gathering and Devillishly Pleasurable!  So without further ado here are my responses:

1. Why did you create the blog?

For fun and my own personal pleasure.  I love writing, photography and fashion and wanted to create an online visual diary to explore all three.  I was reading a lot of blogs and they inspired me to give it a shot myself.  I was feeling for some time that I needed a creative outlet for these interests as I have usually worked in number crunching, suit wearing environments.

I wanted a catalogue of my wardrobe and once I finished a paper version I thought it would be fun to do it in the form of a blog.  I also did it to challenge myself to wear more of the clothes I have as there are too many unworn items!

2. What kind of blogs do you follow?

Whatever takes my fancy and inspires me.  It ranges from the fashion forward, the quirky, the photography focused, the well written and the informative.  I like variety!

I follow some famous bloggers because I like the outfits, the blogger's sense of style or the photography is impressive.

I also find bloggers with either a unique or very disciplined sense of style or a strict shopping ethos interesting - like those who only buy and wear vintage, budget shoppers, those committed to wearing colour or equally all black, or those who adhere to a rigorous code of dress honed through years of disciplined styling.  I'm sure this fascination is due to to my own lack of direction and discipline in all these areas!

3. Favorite makeup brand?

MAC!  I use it almost exclusively.  Though I have bought a couple of items from Shu Umeura and I buy my mascara from Lancome.  I always bring too much makeup with me when I travel.  Below was my travelling kit to Australia!

Coffee by my Dad, who makes the best flat white in Perth!

4. Favourite clothing brand?

Hard to say as I'm an eclectic shopper that pursues all avenues available!  I do enjoy what the British High Street has to offer.  I get enthused about different brands for different reasons but I rely on trusting my own eye, the quality and how it fits rather than the label.  Based on volume occupying my closet Topshop, Mango and Cos are front runners in that order.

5. Your indispensable makeup product?

By far it has to be lipstick or lip gloss.  If I skip all other make-up I will treat my lips to something, even if it is lip salve.  I love strong lipstick colours and am a big fan of red lipstick!

6. Your favorite color?

I don't really have one.  I am drawn to different colours at different times depending on my mood.  Every year or so I get one or two new flamenco costumes made and whatever colours I am into at the time tends to be charted by the colours I choose for them.  In the past it has been red, chocolate brown, black, lilac, cream, blue and fuchsia.  This year it was maroon and dark purple.

The latest addition to the costume wardrobe.  Photo by Mr Veshoevius.

7. Your perfume?

I choose my perfumes like I choose my wine.  If the label says there are hints of chocolate, vanilla, coffee, tea, spices, flowers or citrus I'll try it.  I avoid anything too overpowering.  Scent can be powerfully evocative so I think getting a perfume that suits you is important.  Perfumes are like clothes, you should feel like you are wearing them and not like they are wearing you.

A male friend of mine who hails from Paris once told me that you have made a scent yours when someone else sees your face on smelling it.  On a joint perfume hunting trip to Sephora he wanted to know which was my regular perfume.  I spritzed some Angel for him and he declared "Oh yes! You can see the face!"  Frenchmen - you've gotta love 'em!

I've been wearing Angel and Angel Innocent by Thierry Mugler for the last fifteen years as I love its chocolate and vanilla notes.  I bought my first bottle of Angel on a visit to Paris and it has became a perfume that people I have known for a long time associate with me.  Funnily enough some years ago I discovered it was also the perfume of one of my favourite flamenco dancers, Eva Yerbabuena.

In the last couple of years I've branched out a bit and will alternate to some lighter scents such as Victor and Rolf's Flowerbomb and Origin's Ginger Essence.  I also loved L'Occitane's White Tea but they discontinued it!

8. Your favorite film?

Difficult to choose.  I have a soft spot for period films with sumptuous costumes and loved all those Merchant Ivory productions of E.M. Forster's novels like A Room With A View, Howard's End etc... I also loved Orlando which provided a visual feast of costumes spanning several centuries.

And I never tire of watching Carlos Saura's Flamenco.  The opening segment, of which a snippet is provided below, is filmed in the train station of the town I lived in for a couple of years and features the talents of members the local flamenco community, many of whom I have been privileged enough to meet in person.

The clothes are important here!  I love that the film showed flamenco's roots where people just get up in whatever they happen to be wearing and just dance.  No costumes, no big frilly dresses or specialist shoes.  Just themselves and their art.

9. What country would you like to visit and why?

Visiting Cuba has been a age old dream of mine.  I would love to see the decaying splendour of Havana and I love Cuban music.

Image from TravelViVi

I would also like to visit the United States.  My sister just visited Chicago and really enjoyed it.  I've only ever been to Houston Texas and I don't think it is representative of the country.  Funnily enough my curiosity has been stoked by the amount of US based bloggers I've come across via the blogosphere.

10. To be chosen by the blogger.  
What are your favourite novels?
E.M. Forster's novels Maurice, A Passage to India, Maurice, A Room With a View, Howard's End and Where Angels Fear to Tread; Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels.  Currently trying to finish An English Patient which is wonderful.

I've noticed quite a few bloggers have been tagged with the same questions recently.  The idea is to tag ten others so I've tried to tag some new people I don't think have been tagged already.  If you are game to respond and you appear below I'd love to see your answers:

Friday, 12 November 2010

Spring Wedding Outfit

Choosing outfits to wear to weddings can be such a minefield.  The rules change for every country, across cultures, between climates and whether the tone of the wedding is formal or informal.  It can also be expensive!  After reading a post by Courtney on her blog Those Graces, where she showed how quickly the budget can be blown in accessorising an outfit for a wedding, I resolved not to fall into the same trap in the run up to my brother's wedding.  I mean a flight to Australia is budget unfriendly in itself!

Such lofty notions of self restraint are all the more difficult to live up to when you come from a family in which the women love to shop for clothes and for whom there is nothing like a family wedding to provide the perfect excuse to acquire a new outfit.  My mother was talking about and shopping for her outfit at least ten months in advance!  I even brought five jacket options with me for her and she ended up with a choice of two outfits for the day.  Prior to leaving England my sister sent me strict instructions via my father to keep the Saturday after I arrived free to go shopping with her for a new dress, upping the ante immediately from her previous convictions that she would be shopping her own wardrobe for the event.  All this before I have even touched down on Australian soil!

The tendency for the womenfolk of my family to launch into shopping overdrive at the mere whiff of a wedding invitation may also have something to do with the sheer number of weddings they have to attend and that they would rather die than be seen wearing the same outfit again to a different wedding in front of the same crowd!

The problem I sometimes find with shopping from my wardrobe is that I can end up with quite an eclectic mix of items thrown together which can either be startlingly original or haphazardly ill thought out.  The beauty of going out to buy a new outfit from scratch is that you can find a head to toe look which is the result of a focused effort, although perhaps at the risk of looking a bit too contrived.

So how did I fare on the wardrobe versus new purchases?  I'm proud to say I managed to wear a dress that I haven't worn before! This nude pink strapless ruched number from the Kate Moss for Topshop range has been languishing unworn in my wardrobe for a couple of years.  I've had the strappy gold Carvela sandals for about seven years and they have seen me through a good few summer weddings.  The gold embellished cuff, the earrings, the hair clips and fake snakeskin clutch are also all wardrobe finds.

However I did also buy a couple of things.  I decided a simple strapless dress needed a bit of bling and took advantage of a fifteen percent off voucher to buy this statement necklace from Banana Republic with gold, silver and glass beads.

Spring evenings in Australia can be quite cool and for an outdoor wedding and reception it's essential that you have something to cover up with.  I found myself in a bit of a pickle selecting a summer weight jacket from my wardrobe to go with this dress.  Then just before leaving for Oz this beaded and fringed devoré cape by Kite and Butterfly went on sale at My-Wardrobe.  I'd been eyeing it for a while, seduced by the twin peacocks on the back and couldn't resist when it got reduced by fifty percent.  It arrived the day before I left.  I threw it on over the dress as an experiment and found the tones of pink in the flowers picked out the dress colour so into the suitcase it went.

The acutely observant may also notice I am wearing what has been recently termed by the fashion cognoscenti as "American tan tights", albeit toe-less ones made for wearing with sandals.  These above all else, dear reader, propelled me into the giddy heights of the fashion forward, for tan tights have apparently been rescued from their previous status as a fashion faux pas and declared a new fashion trend for Autumn 2010.  And since I effectively travelled back in fashion time to attend a wedding in Spring 2010 my fashion forwardness was amplified even further!

But really, who is responsible for making these ludicrous announcements?  There are clearly people on Planet Fashion with perfect pins and a heated taxi on call.  Lucky them who can go bare legged, free from the worry of feeling cold when night falls or about the appearance of scars and varicose or spider veins, sneering at the rest of us who need a bit of nylon coverage in our chosen shades of faux pas tan when we don't feel like wearing opaque tights.  Then suddenly one with an internship at Grazia notices Carla Bruni-Sarkozy wears flesh tone hosiery probably for all those reasons that the rest of us were already aware and viola! A trend is born.

Now my first experience with tan tights was when I was about six and had to wear a pair playing the part of an onion in an end of year school show sing-a-long about a stew.  I recall they were in a vile shade that was much browner than I was and very effective, along with an onion shaped sandwich board worn over my shoulders, at making me look both onion-like and stewed.  Working the look of ingredient in vegetable goulash aside, I admit that the wrong tone can seriously detract from your look.

I have, over the years since this defining incident, managed to reconcile myself to the more practical virtues of flesh tone tights.  If they work with your skin colour they are great at hiding flaws on your legs if you want the bare legged look without the angst.  They also keep them warm enough on a cool Spring evening so you can wear a dress in a colour that suits bare legs rather than black tights.  Besides black is a no-no at some weddings and I'm trying to get away from wearing so much black these days!  The tricky bit though is to get tights that match my skin colour and it took three purchases of local Aussie hosiery brands until I found one I was happy with.  Even so my naked toes aren't quite the same colour as the rest of my legs!

There were also grooming costs.  Whilst Mum and lil' Sis booked to have their make-up professionally done I saved money by doing my own.  I did however pay for a manicure and pedicure as I can never sit still enough to do my own nails.  My total bill excluding flight was two hundred and twenty pounds Stirling prior to arrival and then another one hundred Australian dollars.  So much for good intentions!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

I am one of four siblings of an incredibly large, extended family.  Until last week all of us had been the only ones in our generation that have chosen to buck the trend of entering into a traditional marriage in a church and having children before our mid thirties.

As we have all always been quite content with our choices most of the family had all but given up on any of us even going down that path, in fact the pressure to have the type of big blowout weddings that have been the norm for our relatives has always baffled us. I may not be Greek but the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" still struck many, many chords!

This time around the person in question getting married turned out to be our youngest brother, which did come as a surprise since he and his partner had been living together for many years without so much as a hint that wedding bells would be on the cards one day.  Perhaps we shouldn't have been so surprised as he is notably the biggest party animal out of the four of us!

Whatever misgivings on weddings the rest of us may have otherwise this was not a celebration we were going to miss for the world.  The couple did however choose to end their years of living in sin with a lovely and memorable ceremony that was anything but traditional.

The ceremony was held outdoors in picturesque grounds by the river and the couple were married by a female celebrant, exchanging very touching vows they had written themselves and that had more than a few teary eyed and reaching for a tissue.

The groom, best man and groomsmen shunned morning suits and shiny leather shoes to channel Miami Vice in slick silver grey suits worn with Converse All Stars.

The bride and her bridal party arrived at the venue by speedboat, kindly lent by one of the groomsmen.

The groom did his own hair on the day despite sending his best man and groomsmen to the hairdressers for a haircut the night before!

The couple released blue helium balloons that carried a love poem away over the river and beyond.


The longest standing family wedding tradition that was kept on was that my mother made the wedding cake as she has done for all our relatives for more than two decades now.  Though she too steered away from a traditional cake and designed a mad hatter's shaped sloping tower covered in flowers, seashells and pearls that featured effigies of the bride and groom as well their pet parrot rendered in icing sugar! She even put in details such as my brother's converse shoes and pony tail!

Everyone who attended turned up looking fabulous too and the day's fashion parade is undoubtedly going be the subject of future posts!

It was a wonderful and momentous occasion for the families and friends and the party afterwards was a hoot. They always have been a beautiful couple and it was lovely to see them both radiant with joy that day.  May they be happy always.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


This is what Spring showers looks like in Perth, Australia: patches of moody cloud drifting across a bright blue sky, short lived showers between spells of strong sunshine that means it is still warm enough to wear t-shirts.  I still carry a cotton jacket with me to cover up against the refreshing sea breeze that comes in every afternoon, affectionately known here as the Fremantle Doctor.

Thought I'd crack out this quilted floral cropped jacket from the Kate Moss for Topshop range to celebrate that it is both Spring and wildflower season over here.  Remove the label and this jacket is actually fully reversible.  Two jackets for the price of one!

Mr Veshoevius is always a bit nervous about great white sharks that cruise the coastlines here and make the headlines occasionally, especially when he goes windsurfing on the Swan River.  This is despite my assurances that they don't make it up the river (I try to gloss over the fact that bull sharks do).  So I bought him this t-shirt as a form of aversion therapy a couple of years ago.  This morning however, he read this perplexing snippet out to me from an article in the local newspaper:
   "Professional shark fisherman agree shark numbers appear to be rising warning that there are so many big sharks off WA that beachgoers "wouldn't dip a toe in" if they knew the extent of the danger."

Might need to add an electronic shark shield to the t-shirt.


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