Wednesday, 29 June 2011

What to Wear On a Film Set

Here's a weird way in which a blogging network can impact on your "real life".  Some time ago I got an email from Dusk, who lives all the way on the other side of the globe in Australia, asking if I would be interested in an advertisement she had seen online for a flamenco dancer required for a short film to be shot in London.  I applied.  I met the director more than a month ago to discuss the project and never heard from him again.  Suddenly last week he rang and said he needed to shoot it within the week.  Always the way!

I'm not a movie star by any stretch of the imagination but in my time I have done the very occasional bit of film work as an extra with special powers - those powers being looking vaguely authentic as a flamenco dancer when done up in the costumes, and the ability to actually dance flamenco.  None of the work has ever been well paid and is never likely to have been seen by the general public at large as they are usually small, obscure, fringe projects and I'm usually playing such a small role, I just blend into the background.  But seeing how the whole filming process works and the creative process of directors is very eye opening.  And hey, I just love getting my hair and make up done!

This time however we were talking no budget. So it was just two guys, a camera and me - dancer with hair and makeup capabilities rolled into one.  I was not being offered anything in payment terms other than the possibility of some good footage for my own promotional purposes if I was lucky.  It's kind of how the fund starved fledgling arts industry is supposed to work - you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. But man cannot survive on back scratching alone. That's why some of us keep our day jobs.

What do you wear on a film set?  Well, when the film set was described to me as an industrial wasteland I decided on grunge, comfort and ease of getting changed quickly as my starting points.  And wasteland it certainly was.  The space was a warehouse occupied by squatters and had been converted into a makeshift nightclub the night before.  The floor was covered in beer bottles, rubbish and mud. I decided it best not to touch anything but grabbed a couple of snaps of the place before I left.

The photos of the set were taken after the guys cleaned up a bit. This is "gloriously gritty London" to coin a term by Grit and Glamour's Vahni at its grimiest.  Grit and glamour indeed - plenty of grit par excellence here with the only glamorous things on set being my flamenco costumes.  It's a myth doing this kind of thing is always glamorous - unless your idea of glamour is trying find space to attach false eyelashes on the only semi-clean surface in a dark and dingy corner with only just enough light to see what you are doing.

By coincidence the botanical print on my tee shirt kind of complimented the makeshift decor on the wall.  I should have taken a photo against it (except I was trying not to touch any surfaces!)

Harem trousers: Kaylee Tankus; Wrap cardigan: All Saints; Monochrome floral print tee shirt: Christopher Kane; Leather biker gilet: Oasis;  Boots: Gap

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Actually, I do have one hot pink dress!  And when I wear it I get to work fringing and fuschia at the same time!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Friend Friday: What do you mean? I always dress like this....

I've recreated this outfit I wore to the cinema for Mrs Bossa whose hilarious post about strange style influences struck a chord.  I was going to see The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  My style influence for the night was Captain Jack Sparrow.  Well you would, wouldn't you?  And I'm totally convinced that to get his style inspiration for Sparrow's persona and wardrobe Johnny Depp studied another of my style icons, Adam Ant.  Nothing like a bit of tongue and cheek pirate chic after a week of sharp suits, savvy?

And on that note, this week's Friend's Friday topic is exploring whether being a fashion blogger has changed your attitude to fashion, shopping and dressing.  Which came first the chicken or the egg?  Does being a fashion blogger feed into your style or is it your personal style that feeds your fashion blog?  Well in my case I don't think I would have started this blog if I hadn't already been fashion crazy and a bit of a wacky dresser by most people's standards.

1.      Since you began blogging do you notice a change in the types of things you gravitate towards while shopping?

Not really.  I was always into shopping for clothes and dressing up.  I've always been one of those who buys the latest fashion magazines to see which trends are coming in, work out which ones I love and find out where I can buy the clothes to work them.  I love stopping by my favourite shops on my way home from work just to see if new stock has been delivered and I spend far too much time "window shopping" online.

I started the blog more to kick start my love of dressing up again as I had gone through a period where I had stopped making the effort so much and I was collecting clothes faster than I could wear them.  The blog was a kind of challenge to myself to actually wear them.  My taste in clothes has changed with age more than anything else.

I will say that following other bloggers whose style I admire has prompted me to go shopping for items I have either liked in an outfit shot or because the blogger has given a good shopping tip about a product.

2.      Do you find, as a fashion blogger, that you dress differently from your family and friends? Do they comment on that?

I have always dressed differently from my family and friends, even before the blog, nay, make that the Internet, was invented!  I've just always been into clothes and I like dramatic dressing more so than most of the people in my life.  People comment on how I dress a lot and this predates the blog.  I find if I make the effort I almost always get a comment, even from strangers.  But I also get given plenty of strange looks as well!

At high school people thought I was pretty OTT.  I started reading Vogues at thirteen and trying to find or sew garments that emulated the looks.  I have always loved period costume and often dabbled in recreating period looks with modern clothing, something I still love doing today.  At university I would swan around the campus all dressed up with nowhere but a lecture theatre to go to.  So much so that the one day I wore jeans and a sweater a friend of mine didn't recognise me!

For my 21st birthday I dressed up like a musketeer complete with plumed hat and some of the things I've worn to balls include an iridescent velvet cape I got from Camden market, a Beville Sassoon Renaissance style gown sewn by my mother and a Venetian mask from Venice.  I'm the sort that swans around a summer music festival in a vintage top hat and a vintage Victorian jacket.

While studying at Cambridge I took every opportunity to dress up for all those black tie events that are a frequent part of the student calender year.  I was able to attend a black tie event every week if I wanted to and so I quite often did.  Then there were summer balls and garden parties too.  My college friends used to quip that I had a full costume wardrobe in my room as I had a box stuffed with feather boas, glittery jewellery and long gloves as well as a hatstand full of hats, both of which I regularly raided for these occasions.  In many ways my dressing has toned down dramatically since those idyllic student days.

My sister and I have always had similar tastes in clothing up to a point.  We both have the same definition of what constitutes cute, love a pretty dress and beautiful prints but she would draw the line at wearing pirate boots, harem trousers or leather dresses and trousers.  While she retorts in disgust at Carrie Fischer's more outlandish outfits from Sex and the City I'm busy researching suppliers.  When I first arrive in Australia visiting from London she will let curiosity get the better of her and pull out the more edgy garments from my suitcase going "what's this strange thing?" but equally will coo over something she finds which she loves.  And she and my mother are always scandalised by the height of my heels!

3.      What’s the weirdest fashion that you secretly like, even if you aren’t bold enough to wear it?

I think I like some pretty weird things that I wear already! If I like it then I am almost always game to try it.  Double leopard? Leopard with polka print? Leopard print with tweed? If Dolce and Gabbana put it down the catwalk I'm there! I mean leather motorcycle trousers for someone who doesn't ride a motorbike regularly are pretty out there if you think about it.

4.      Looking at current trends – what would you like to try but need to build up the courage to do?

I don't really work like that.  If I like I trend and I have the money and time to shop for pieces then I'll try it.  If I don't like a trend I won't bother.  What I need to build up the courage to do is wear more of the fabulous things I own more often even if I know I'm going to stick out like a sore (but well dressed) thumb!

5.      Toot someone’s horn – what fashion blogger out there inspires you with her bold fashion choices? 

Oh so many yet so little time!  The lovely ladies who dress up to the nines in vintage even if they are popping to get the milk or hang up the washing are a constant inspiration.  If you haven't discovered them already meet the amazing Desiree from Pull Your Socks Up and Vintage Vix whose mantra that "a day without dressing up is a day wasted" I now chant to myself when choosing something to wear.

I also follow two inspirational stylish mothers of young children, I'm Not Emily Brown and No Guilt Fashion, both of whom refuse to let motherhood get in the way of their commitment to personal style, even rocking trendy looks like leather shorts ten weeks after giving birth and denim shorts while pregnant.  Oh and not to mention how they manage to work and juggle blogging as well. Ladies I salute you!

And I must pay homage to the inspirational goddesses of bright colour Franca, of Oranges and Apples, and the lovely Dusk, both who boldly go daily on the colour spectrum where I fear to tread.  Ladies you might just get me wearing hot pink.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Vintage Embroidered Bolero

It was a friend's birthday on the weekend and he decided to celebrate at our local pub. It has been raining non-stop in London so it was a bit of a conundrum deciding what to wear as the state of our bedroom attested to after I got dressed. Does anyone else do this whilst getting ready for a night out? Pull out item after item in panic and toss it on the floor/bed in haste after trying on and rejecting it, leaving a big messy pile of clothing to be sorted out once you get home? Make that - once you get home really late, slightly tipsy and just not in the mood to hang anything up to boot.  Is it just me??

I finally decided on a bit of retro glam clashing the thirties and the seventies. I realised I hadn't worn this vintage bolero jacket in years. I saw it in a vintage clothing store in Bath and it was love at first sight!  I wore it incessantly at one point, and took it with me when I went to live in Spain where it somehow looked at home, like a cousin of the richly embroidered shawls worn by the Andalusian women to attend wedding ceremonies.  It was all I needed to cover up my bare shoulders on a hot balmy evening and to turn an ordinary outfit into something special.

On my return to England, a series of poor summers and bitter winters relegated adorning oneself as being less important than keeping warm, and it soon became a forgotten item. It's too good to be left languishing in a drawer so I decided to go a bit more dressed up than I normally would to the pub and give it a long overdue outing.

I also managed to wear two unworn items from the wardrobe, the jeans and the shoes. These black denim flares are too long for me so I paired them with these Wisteria wedges from Topshop which seemed like they would be high enough to do the trick of lifting the hem up. Even with the shoes on I had to spend ages safety pinning the hems up even further and yet I'm still managing to do that Rachel Zoe flared-hem-to-the-floor look.  The hoops one has to jump through when one is short!

This jacket was sold to me as being from the thirties but who knows what its true vintage is. I'm certainly no expert and would be happy to hear opinions from the vintage clothing gurus out there! It is made out of a soft crepe and the intricate embroidery is done in a multicoloured thread (ranging from yellow, apricot and pale pink and blue) and actually looks like it was sewn by machine rather than hand. It has a metal hook and eye and a metal press stud to fasten it closed.

Now I've rekindled my love for this bolero I feel like wearing it again!  I'm quite pleased I managed to combine this peice with items I haven't worn it previously - I feel like I've activated an unused pathway in my brain.  Now I see why the 30 x 30 outfit planners enjoy the game so much.  Anyone else recently rediscovered a gem lurking in their wardrobe?

1930's embroidered bolero jacket: Vintage to Vogue; Belt: Vintage; Pendant: Wallis; Earrings: Warehouse; lace insert camisole: Mango; Draped cowl neck top: Tokito; Black flared jeans: JBrand for Topshop; Chiffon tie platform shoes: Topshop

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Village Inn

I follow a couple of bloggers who from time to time serve up some wonderful interiors inspiration either from their own apartments or curated from difference sources (see Pink Bow and Penny Dreadful Vintage).  I love getting a peek into other people's houses to see how they are decorated so I thought I'd share some French rustic interior inspiration with you.

These photos are not lifted from the French edition of Homes and Gardens, but are in fact pictures of Mr V's parents holiday house in Alet.  Just over twenty years ago they bought the old village inn, a building dating from the 13th century and still marked on maps as l'ancienne hostellerie.  When they bought it, the interior was a complete wreck and over the years they have lovingly restored it to its current glory.  Mr V's mother is a woman of impeccable taste with an amazing eye for beauty and simplicity.  She managed to furnish the house with market finds and discarded antique furniture that complemented the character of the house perfectly.

Original characteristics of the building were restored like the stone mullioned window (fourth picture) which was completely blocked up when the family bought it.  The tower dates from the 13th or 14th century and houses a wonderful granite spiral staircase and an ancient dovecote.  There are still some of the original painted terracotta floor tiles in some of the rooms as well as the original fireplaces.  The window shutters still have little cast iron figures of French soldiers to hold them in place once they are opened.  The top floor of the house is an old granary which features wooden beams in the ceiling.  A foundation stone in the back of the house suggests it was rebuilt during the time of the French revolution.

It was lily of the valley season while we were there and on the mantle piece you can see a vase of these tiny bell shaped, creamy blooms.  Just behind this you can just see an old black and white photo from the early 20th century which features Mr V's great great grandfather, a descendant of French Huguenots who migrated to East London to escape persecution in the 17th century.

And in the vase by the window is a posy of mountain wild flowers.  

Friday, 10 June 2011

Friend Friday: Summer Trends

This Friend Friday is about Summer Trends:  We were asked "what are the top five Summer trends that you are looking forward to wearing this season?"  Friend Friday is run by Katy at ModlyChic.  Pop her an email if you would like to participate.

I just commented on MJ's blog over at Fierce that like her, it didn't feel that long ago that I was answering that question for Spring! My how time flies! I haven't even had time to register that it might be Summer!  I have had a mad, mad May which was so insanely busy with full time work, teaching dance classes three times a week and gigs practically every weekend that I am still playing blog catch up well into June (which is just as busy really but minus the gigs!).

To be honest not much has changed weather wise between Spring and Summer in London so there is not going to be a large change in the sorts of things I'm going to wear either.  It's still cool in the morning and evenings and this week it has been bucketing down with rain!  In fact I think the weather since Easter has only gotten worse not better!  Rather than plough through the list again here is a visual show and tell from a combination of retrospective outfit shots, as well as some outfit posts in draft.  Basically these are five Spring trends I have been wearing and will continue to wear through to Summer if the sun ever decides to show it's face again!  (Otherwise I might just have to distill the five trends down to raincoat and wellington boots.)

Spot which trends I am wearing in combination!

1. The Biker Jacket
2. The Maxi
3. Floral Prints
4. Oriental Prints
5. The Seventies

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A Tale of Two V's

Meet another Miss V close to my heart! V is one of my oldest friends having known each other for going on fourteen years. We met back in the same college and department studying at Cambridge and have been gal pals ever since.

I remember spotting V in the dour engineering department because she stood out a mile in brightly colourful knitted dress against the sea of jeans and tracksuit hoodies favoured by the other students. "Now this girl" I thought to myself as I checked out her outfit, "I just gotta meet". And happily, I did, when I bumped into her at a college meet and greet. What ensued was an academic year of blissful girly time where there were plenty of coffees drunk, plenty of parties attended, plenty of gossip swapped, plenty of clothes shopping trips together and a ton of fashion magazines bought, exchanged and read - so many in fact that we once made a tower of them in her room which was the source of amazement of her fellow hall residents.

We've been through all the things girlfriends go through together - the hell of thesis submission (okay maybe that's an odd one), boyfriend breakups and get togethers, career woes and career highs. We both took "Eat-Love-Pray" career breaks down the line, she to India to become well practiced in yoga and I, funnily enough, to her native Spain to become well practiced in flamenco.

Sometimes by virtue of our Alumni status we get invited to student reunions in posh places in the heart of the City of London. Last Friday was one such event where V and V took advantage to don skyscraper heels and fancy Friday frocks to drink wine and eat canapes in Mansion House.

Mansion House, I discovered, is more than just a stop on the London Underground. It's an actual house where the the Lord Mayor of London lives and here is what the interior looks like:

Nice to know where my tax is going!

Anyhow, for the ticket price we paid, a glass and a half of wine and three small canapes the size of a ten pence coin left us both quite tipsy and ravenously hungry. So we decided to go to the Royal Exchange for dinner as it was rather conveniently, at tottering distance from Mansion House.  The Royal Exchange is the tall, majestic building with tall Corinthian pillars that stands at the junction where Cornhill and Threadneedle Street meet.  It is often mistaken by tourists on exiting Bank station to be the Bank of England.

This is what is the Royal Exchange looks like on the inside - swish shops selling lots of expensive diamond jewellery and a rather nice bar and restaurant.  Apparently photography inside is forbidden. Tish pish! Here's a photo anyway!

Since our student days it's quite a marvel to me sometimes to think that both V and I have ended up living in London and working in the City.  She still loves her colourful clothes though and is often to be found wearing  brightly coloured pieces like this fabulous coat.

Though these days she's able to treat herself to some proper bling!

Step outside the Royal Exchange and turn left to Cornhill.

Turn right for the real Bank of England!  And yes the sky really is that blue late at night on a glorious summer evening!

Though you might not tell from the photos V has European size 34 feet or a UK size 2.  That's proper dainty, Cinderella-fits-the-glass-slipper kind of feet.  They are so tiny that she can shop in the children's department for shoes.  Of course, being as much of a shoe lover as I am and with very sophisticated taste that was always the problem.

At the time nobody catered for grown women with child sized feet and designs for children did not reflect the fashionista or woman she was.  Smart work courts or cocktail worthy stilettos from the children's department anyone?  Certainly it seemed that shoe designers were missing a trick here by not providing for women who fell off the small end of standard shoe sizing ruler.  Shopping for shoes appropriate for her lifestyle was just always a nightmare for V as a result and her only options for classy footwear was to buy it from specialist shoe shops abroad or pay the likes of Jimmy Choo a small fortune for a bespoke pair.

That was, until she discovered the Pretty Small Shoes company who make shoes from a teeny size 32 to a size 35, and in styles that reflect cutting edge fashion appropriate for women and not in styles watered down in order to be child friendly.  What's more they are available in the UK.  On the website they offer an impressive range of high heels, platforms, gladiators, boots and flats which are all big on style and sex appeal whilst remaining small in size.  I was very impressed with a pair of studded biker boots she bought from them and on Friday she was sporting these very D&G floral numbers adorned with a gorgeous nude satin heel, trim and bow.  When it comes to a woman's love for shoes, let size not stand in her way!

Jacket, Preen Line; Dress, Helmut Lang; Shoes: D&G

Dress, Reiss; Coat, from Spain; Shoes, Pretty Small Shoes; Necklace, Tiffany's

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Picnic Blanket

The weather in London was simply glorious on Saturday!  Hot, balmy with a warm breeze to cool you whilst you took in the sunshine.  So Mr V. and I went for an impromptu picnic in our local park.  So impromptu in fact, that all we managed to rustle up for our non-existent picnic hamper was two bananas, a bottle of mineral water and two Magnum ice cream bars.  Ah the simple joys of being...lazy and disorganised.

Mr V. did however, gallantly produce a picnic blanket from his backpack to lay out in the long grass so we could soak up some rays in comfort.  It was an old colourful tartan blanket that he used to have on his bed in the student digs he was living in when I first met him.  It was a present to him from his mother, who happens to be the owner of a rather lovely, upmarket clothing boutique.  This blanket has been kicking around our flat for years on sofas and on the bed.  Recently it got relegated to the car boot as an emergency source of warmth in winter should we break down on a journey in sub zero temperatures.

Mr V:  Here's the picnic blanket!
V: Where's this been? I haven't seen it for a while.
Mr V: Oh in the boot of the car.
V (suddenly spying label):  Honey do you realise this is not actually a blanket?
Mr. V: What do you mean? Of course this is blanket.
V (tugging at fringing in sudden realisation): No it's not! It's a scarf! Or a shawl.
Mr. V: Don't be silly, it's never a shawl.
V: It's not just any shawl - it's a Max Mara Weekend shawl! Probably from your Mum's shop.
Mr V (disbelieving): Nooo... it can't be.
V (showing Mr V. label): Yes it is! Made in Italy out of the finest merino lambswool apparently!
Mr. V (sheepishly): Oh - no wonder it's so nice and warm to sit on...

Time for a trip to the dry cleaners...

Floral quilted jacket: Kate Moss for Topshop; Pocket tee shirt: Cos; Pendant: Vintage; Denim shorts; Zara; Picnic Blanket: MaxMara Weekend

Friday, 3 June 2011

The Bishop's Palace and Vacation Packing

This weeks Friend Friday is about vacation packing.  How pertinent!  I thought I'd share some more photos with you from my recent vacation in France to illustrate.  See ModlyChic for posts by the Friend Friday crew.

Make no mistake - I am the world's worst packer!  Since cheap European airlines cracked down by imposing strict weight limits on suitcases with fines my European holidays have been satorially ruined for me.  Gone are the days of packing everything and the kitchen sink for a summer holiday with an outfit a day, makeup and beach books all in there.  These days we are all trying to squeeze dressing for our week away into a ten kilo limit and a bag small enough to store in the hold of the aircraft to avoid feeling ripped off for having to pay £20 to check in another bag.  I personally can't deal.  I am one of those types that needs everything with me.  Like Rachel Zoe - I need options!

Clearly such extravagance isn't possible anymore but that has made the process of choosing what to take a nightmare for me.  So it usually gets done at the last minute and badly.  This time I actually planned ahead and checked what the weather was going to be like and the forecast was for four days of rain.  As you can see from the photo - not a raincloud in sight.  So all those cool, wet weather options taking up valuable bag space didn't get used and I was restricted to the few items I had that were suitable for sunny, warm weather.  I felt ripped off!  And I could only take three pairs of shoes with me!!

This is where we stayed while in Alet les Bains, the Eveche hotel which in centuries past was the Bishop's palace and once the site of important meetings in the Christian church.  It's said that Nostradamus was a guest on such occasions.

In the hotel grounds are ruins of the old cathedral.

We had a room with a view! The foothills of the Pyrenees are in the background.

I like decorating any hotel room I stay in with my bits and pieces to make it feel a bit more like home.

The grounds and gardens are stunning!  The gardens back onto the River Aude.

For those who are not in Europe one of the most annoying things you will have to endure packing for a European holiday is the current requirement to stick your handbag in your hand luggage bag when you check in and go through security.  So you have to remember to leave enough space and weight allowance for the handbag you plan to bring with you.  If you are a big bag lady that means making enough room for something like this!

Needless to say if I want to do any shopping when I get to my destination I can't avoid coughing up to check in a bag. Of course it helps if you travel with someone who tends to travel light so you can steal their weight allowance...

And now to the questions:

1. When it comes to packing for vacation what’s your mantra?

If you are not risking a fine for blowing your weight allowance then you haven't packed enough.

2. What are your must packs?

Does not compute.

3. What are you happy to leave behind?

Usually I'm never happy leaving anything behind - I wish I could take everything and the kitchen sink with me.

4. Any packing secrets that help you get everything into one suitcase?

Leave it to the very last minute until you have to just jam everything into, zip it up and run out the door without giving it too much more thought. I find sitting on the gear before closing up helps! Buy a suitcase with one of those expandable zippers - they are lifesavers.

Also if you can't pack it wear it.  London is usually cool enough even in the summer to get away with layering up with things like knitwear and outerwear that would otherwise fit in my suitcase.  I stick small but heavy things like cameras, mobile phones and chargers, Ipods and keys in my pockets so they don't get weighed when checking in.

5. Beach reading… what are you taking with you to read in the sand?

To me a book takes up the precious weight allowance of extra clothing options. Instead I buy local fashion magazines to take with me to the beach. It's a way in which I get inspiration by understanding what is fashionable in other countries and acts as a heads up as to what goodies I can find in the local shops.


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