Monday, 7 November 2011

High Tea and Visibility

Last weekend Mr V and I were invited by the other V and her mother visiting from Spain to afternoon tea at the Wolseley.  I don't often go to posh afternoon teas in London though from following other bloggers, it seems to be all the rage these days.  I've been made aware of a myriad of places in the capital where one can pay an extortionate amount to drink exotic tea blends poured from silver teapots, eat scones with jam and clotted cream, nibble crustless cucumber sandwiches, admire pretty pastries all carefully arranged on silver plated afternoon tea stands, marvel at how it is all brought to you via discreet silver table service in an extraordinarily beautiful setting and eat and drink it all off the finest bone china.

The Wolseley is certainly a stunning dining hall however I regret that you'll have to do with my link to the venue to see for yourself as we made the mistake of politely enquiring if we could take photos and were very politely refused.  Being polite people we politely acceded as one does in these sorts of polite society situations.  So you'll have to imagine the sheen of the silver teapots, the clink of silverware against china, the cake caddies, the glistening red berries on the tartlets, the fluffy pink and yellow sponge cake and the bright green pistachio macaroons.

It did make me wonder about how other bloggers who happily snap and blog with abandon about their posh tea/dining experiences throughout blog land manage it.  Do they just sneak the SLR out when the staff aren't looking?  I'm not so blog obsessed as to bother with a major stealth operation with the Nikon to get the perfect shot of macaroons and cupcakes arranged just so for the sake of enlivening up a blog post.  We were really just after cheesy commemorative touristy shots of a group of people who hadn't seen each other for a while in a vaguely well known London venue - is that now not permitted either?  What's going on?  Even before the invention of blogs and facebook I was always quite snap happy because I like having mementos of what I've done, who I've been with and what I've seen.

I do wonder what is behind the "put-away-the-camera" policy of some places (I had the same thing at the Royal Exchange earlier this year.)  While there are rumours that some well known London sites remain paranoid about terrorism or keeping pesky paparazzi from pestering their clients (the likes of Kate Moss are known to turn up at the Wolseley), I have a sneaking suspicion that prior to the internet, digital photography and the explosion of social media, nobody would have batted an eyelid if we'd taken photos in most of these places.

While the individual may feel that a digital camera and the internet means that the ease of sharing their experiences in a very public arena with accompanying visuals and honest reviews is a good thing, it wouldn't surprise me if many companies are viewing this phenomena as a massive loss of control of their public relations machinery and their ability to present themselves in the best light possible. So consequently they are scrambling to somehow regain some control.

This is not about courting the free marketing avenues available on the internet via the chattering on social media channels, it is about being visible on the internet on your terms - which is also ironically, an issue fashion and lifestyle bloggers are well aware of and often discuss to the point of hand wringing - for an excellent exploration of what I'm talking about see The Dashing Eccentric's excellent post here.

If the reason behind all this photo banning is really to impose some boundaries around the cyber chat then this is a bit rich really - to see how one sided companies view their marketing interaction with their consumers read the Wolseley's own Privacy Policy about how they reserve the right to use your personal data (collected while you peruse the website) to market to you.  But heaven forbid if you post a blurry picture of a pistachio macaroon on the internet that doesn't do the pastry chef's work due justice and whinge about the Afternoon Blend being too weak.

So these days although the camera might be in the bag when I'm out and about it seems I can't rely on being able to take photos in the most innocuous of social situations even for my own personal memoirs, let alone for a blog, without having to consider beforehand whether it is politically correct to take a photo or not.

What I can rely on however, is that the fashionable other V and her equally stylish mum will turn up immaculately dressed for high tea and I can meet up with them wearing a great dress in the knowledge that I will be in good company.  And they didn't disappoint with Señora V in elegant draped grey jersey and Señorita V in a glamorous faux leopard fur coat and a sequin embellished cocktail number.  But again we couldn't get photos (Nikon battery also turned out to be flat), so you'll just have to imagine!  There is no dress code at the Wolseley but I thought why not dress up anyway?  I do enough slobbing around on Sundays to let a rare opportunity to don a show stopper pass me by.

I took the opportunity to debut this Ruben's print dress by Vivienne Westwood which I first saw in Selfridges and swooned over.  Then I saw the price tag and ran away.  Luckily for me, some online retailer that shall remain nameless obliviously stuck it on their website at a clearly erroneous and massive discount.  On noticing this I can tell you I have never whipped the credit card out so fast! Me thinks the first digit was wrong - quite, quite wrong in fact- totally misread by whoever adds the prices to the website - oh thank you, thank you, thank you, whoever you are!  I wasn't the only one who noticed either, it sold out overnight.

I have been a big fan of Vivienne Westwood for decades but her designs are not for the shy and retiring who want to blend into the background.  You also have to be proud to be all woman because her designs are all about accentuating womanly curves, or lending you some if you're lacking!  I discovered yesterday however, that the painting from which the print is sourced is actually of the "Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus" by Rubens. Not exactly the most PC of prints then.  Got to wonder about the internal workings of Dame Vivienne Westwood's mind sometimes!  However non PC, wearing a reproduction of an iconic work of art on a dress is a quite a statement of intent to be visible so I am linking up to this week's Visible Monday over at Patti's blog Not Yet Dead Style.  Head on over to see the other participants statements of visibility.

For the record we actually had a lovely time taking high tea and I would certainly repeat the experience - though perhaps I'll pass on the Afternoon Blend next time.

Friday Rubens Print Dress: Vivienne Westwood Anglomania; Draped cardigan: Akiabara; Gold satin and perspex wedges: Prada via Ebay; Necklace: Bijoux Brigette


  1. V, You look fantastic. And, ahem, almost NO Ruben print is PC, but I love him anyway and LOVE this dress.

    I've thought a lot about these issues of digital photography as I head to Paris. A decade ago, I could snap a picture basically anytime I wanted without comment. Five years ago, people respectfully moved out of my lens if I raised the Hasselblad, while digital was being banned. A decade ago I could take pictures in nearly any European museum. Not now.

    I anticipate some resistance to photography, and it disappoints. I just hope that when I pull out the film cameras, it's okay.

  2. Ooooooh your non-PC frock gets a polite nod of approval from me and if you ever feel the need to part with it, I will queue politely along with all the other glamouristas politely gnashing their teeth at your AH-MAZING score!!! I've given up asking permission to photograph in venues - not allowing happy snappers is all about evil, controlling, impolite, PR whoring and they can try and throw me out on the street if they don't like it. I wonder if the staff would have politely asked you to leave if you disobeyed *gasp* their rules - hehe!! Nice one Miss V!! (I am haunting you for that frock) xoxoxo

  3. That dress reminds me of McQueen's last collection too. Also those shoes are fantastic! I don't get it either when I see blogs that use the fancy cameras to take pictures of food at restaurants--I'm embarrassed enough doing it with my little point and shoot!!

  4. Oh that dress looks fab on you!

    Photos are a vexing thing at fancy places. I would have thought that most would be happy with positive publicity in a medium that engages so tightly with niche markets but sadly not everyone sees it the same way.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  5. That dress is way too pretty and I love the shoes too!

  6. @Aesthetic Alterations - "And, ahem, almost NO Ruben print is PC" hahaha - yes you're right!

  7. I quite agree that all of this no-photography palaver is ridiculous. Your beautiful descriptions of the afternoon tea are delightful!

    YOU are spectacular in that bargain couture and I would DELIGHT in afternoon tea (and some steal pics!) with you any time.

    Sarah xxx

  8. WHAT!!?! You did NOT hover around the cupcakes in true blogger mania to get the perfect shot of the icing?! :)) Honestly, I do feel ridiculous sometimes (but it's good training to battle my photographer fears, too). I'm quite a fan of the posh English afternoon tea, and especially when it gives you the opportunity to put on an amazing dress like THIS. It's gorgeous, and suits you so well!

  9. That dress is a beauty! Dame Viv's mind has always been on another dimension, I suppose that's why we all love her so.
    Boo to the Wolesley for banning photography. x

  10. Your dress is making me faint, it is so gorgeous. I have all kinds of responses to my camera as well. I try to use my intuition but I am sometimes corrected by a management type! Thanks for participating in Visible Monday, you look grand : >

  11. What a beautiful outfit. Stunning. Love the shoes.

  12. You look so gorgeous in that dress and I also love the shoes! Interesting about what's going on regarding photography in places. Did you submit this post to IFB Links a la Mode? It's a good one, worthy of a wide audience! XO, Jill

  13. Just stumbled across your blog - so glad! You have such a fun, engaging writing style. :)

    I absolutely love the print of your dress - the watercolor-like pattern is absolutely stunning!

    Great post!


  14. That sounds like so much fun! I would love to go to a high tea. Even when I'm out at an expensive restaurant I do feel kind of ackward whipping out a camera and taking pictures so most of the time I can never get food shots!

    I love that print dress on you! It's so flattering. :)

  15. Very thought provoking post and the dress is divine.

  16. I guess you could have used your phone camera. Maybe not.
    That dress is amazing! That print! That cut! Perfection!
    I totally agree - if you even aren't very curvacious in Vivienne Westwood anything you'll be! I love my Anglomania jacket for giving me boobs. ;)

  17. That dress is fabulous on your figure. Made for you almost.. very very nice! As for the W and the photo policy.. I have noticed that there is no policy for certain guests which aggrivates me.
    I have to go on the 19th for my mother's birthday and I do wander what the situation will be for us. If the waiter is having a snobby day or not!

  18. The dress is amazing! I'm a huge Westwood fan, so I'm just in love with it. The print and the colors - amazing!

  19. The dress looks splendid, you could easily be the modern version of an elegant Renaissance lady! Rubens is baroque, I know, but the colours are more earthly than vibrant. You could be a 'Leonardo' as Cecil puts it in A Room With A View. :) I love the outfit, and I think you're absolutely right in your analysis of the internet-angst some companies/shops/venues suffer from.

  20. the dress is amazing. as for taking photos pretty much anywhere, I just take my camera out and take pictures and wait for them to say something, if anything. To be honest, nowadays with the iphone and all the other mobile device cameras, people are taking pictures no matter what - it can be a little much to pull out the dslr but whatever, I do it and have fun with it.


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