Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Flamenco Shoe Shopping

You didn't think I went to Sevilla without doing some shoe shopping did you?  Okay officially I am still on a self imposed shopping ban (now five days into my second month), but this is really only on frivolous fashion related purchases and not items that may be necessities.  And my flamenco dancing pursuits give me the most wonderful excuse to call flamenco shoes necessities.  This shop may well look like a candy store to any shoe lover but it is shoe heaven to dancers who are required to buy flamenco shoes in order to practise their art properly.  These shoes have form and function, often two mutually exclusive concepts in fashion footwear.

This is the Senovilla shop in Sevilla which is the brand I almost exclusively wear now.  Years ago big brands like Gallardo and Menkes were my preferred shoemakers, but over time they either outsourced production or changed management and the quality of the shoes really suffered.  A pair of shoes went from lasting me a year to six weeks before the leather would look shabby, the heels would crack or in some spectacular cases (including mortifyingly for me, once on stage) fly right off mid dance.

Around this time Senovilla came onto the scene and their unique selling point was using a different type of wood for the heel which makes a much crisper, brighter sound.  Their marketing slogan is that they are not just shoes but musical instruments!  In addition they offered to custom make shoes in a range of colours, finishes and types of leather and suede unheard of from other manufacturers.  They were one of the first I became aware of to offer an attractive design option in which the wooden heel was exposed rather than covered in suede or leather.  In a world where there was previously a very limited set of designs for your dance shoes, suddenly the sky was the limit.

Other brands followed suit in terms of the range of customisation of design, but what makes Senovilla superior to me, apart from the wonderful sound they make, is the length of time the shoes last.  I still have pairs from two or three years back that haven't fallen apart despite getting a regular beating.  They are not cheap.  A professional pair which has reinforced arches and a stitched sole to give it extra sturdiness will set you back between one hundred and sixty to one hundred and seventy five euros, but the cost per wear is certainly worth it.  And no, the company is not paying me anything to say any of this - they really were noticeabley more durable.

There are men's boots and shoes as well.  All the shoes are either made in suede, a finer nubuck or leather.  Some of the groovy special finish leathers include patent, glittery patent, metallic leather and leather stamped with mock croc or pony skin finishes.  These leopard print pony skin babies nearly came home with me (except I didn't really have a matching costume to justify their purchase!).

You can custom make your own shoes and small swatch sample books are on hand in the shop to help you choose a colour.  You can then match that up with the type of shoe you want, the type of heel (cuban, fluted, classic), the height of heel and the width across the foot.  Oh the hours of fun!  They usually make it up within a month and post worldwide.  I'm looking at this colour palette for a pair to match a specific costume.  Choices, choices...

I have about fourteen pairs of old flamenco shoes in various states of disrepair and from various brands that have been retired out of service.  I can't bear to part with them as they feel like old friends, or a kind of battered trophy gained on your journey as a dancer, their state of damage a testament to your own efforts.  A bit like a ballerina and her nostalgic collection of old pointe shoes (funnily enough I have some of those as well).  My Senovillas however, have yet to join the pile as they are happily still all in service.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Sevillian Street Art

Here is a collation of some Sevillian street art, both old and new. Many years ago I used to associate Sevilla with "old" things. Old architecture, old paintings, the old style of shop fronts, and ancient narrow cobbled streets. This time around however I've been noticing that it is increasingly becoming a city where the old sits alongside the new.

You can still see the strong influence of the Catholic Church everywhere in the countless religious paintings, mosiacs and motifs that are mounted not only outside churches but on building walls over street signs and on the front of people's houses.   It even shows its influence in relatively modern street art, like this painting of a Semana Santa procession on the shutters of a shop.

It's interesting to see street artists take inspiration from the old with details of older architectural silhouettes worked into their paintings.  I liked this refreshments kiosk with its trompe l'oeil wrought iron balustrades and dreamy depictions of the steeples and spires of the Sevillian skyline.

There is even what looks like ancient graffiti on the sides of churches.  From far it looks like modern tagging but on closer inspection it looks rather a lot older.

Turn down a side street and you'll be surprised with something else, an old symbol masquerading as some kind of new statement by whoever thought to put it there.

Not all graffiti tries to rise to such lofty heights of course, some paintings remain cheerfully banal. I don't recall seeing much graffiti in Spain when I first starting visiting fifteen years ago.  In the last five or so years there has been a noticeable explosion, perhaps related to the rise of unemployment and reduced prospects for the young here.  Some of it is just the defacing of public and private property, but some of it can be fun, or thought provoking or even beautiful.

On some buildings you can find elaborate plaques celebrating artists of a bygone era.  This one was dedicated to a singer of Spanish copla who was also an early Andalusian film star.

There is also a parade of animals to be found, old familiar friends, worked into sculpture old and new, mounted on doors and buildings.

As with many an old European city there are rich rewards to be had from looking up.   One can appreciate the handiwork and vision of craftsmen and artists, from the traditional... the truly avant guard.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012


I just got back from a few magical days in Sevilla with girlfriends old and new. Rather than attend London Fashion Week, I decided to attend the flamenco festival that happens every two years in Sevilla instead, the Bienal. So no London Fashion Week coverage from me this time around.  My soul needs feeding from other sources and the flamenco shows, sights and sounds I've managed to digest in my short time in this hauntingly beautiful city were truly inspiring.  As much as I love fashion, oranges are not the only fruit.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Sunday Best

A couple of weekends back I went for Sunday brunch with friends in what I considered was a very posh neighbourhood. I am not in the least bit posh, so I decided I'd better make an effort and dress up in a prim, ladylike, Sunday Best kind of outfit so as not to scare the locals.  A lacy princess coat, pleated blouse with necktie and a demure midi-length skirt and ballet flats seemed to fit the bill.

In the end, looking at these photos, I think I look a bit more like a little girl being packed off to Sunday School.  Or perhaps even her teacher.  And I needn't have bothered either.  Everyone was in sweats, jeans, shorts, tees and sneakers.  In fact so overdressed was I compared to the Sunday morning crowds that I probably succeeded at being slightly scary anyway.  Perhaps I should stick to sleeping in on Sunday mornings in future.

This kaleidoscope print skirt by Acne from the Spring/Summer runway collection was a bit of a sales splurge.  It's hard to know whether embracing a midi skirt is a good idea if you're short like me but I just fell in love with the print on this and the texture of the organza is gorgeous.  The material has a gossamer like sheen to it in the sun and the skirt is slightly translucent.  When back lit it looks like a large, luminous, elaborately painted paper lantern. Sometimes what the heart wants, the heart gets.  And it helps if what it wants is found at 80% off!

Its partial transparency means wearing a slip is advisable or an extra long blouse tucked in as I had to here.  I was dying to wear it out but I think I need taken it up a couple of inches to wear it in the future or just wear it with heels.  Having said that I was actually grateful for the length when a chilly wind picked up in the afternoon!

A less splurgy sales find was this cotton lace coat from Zara.  I just love the texture of this and it was reduced in Spain to twenty nine euros.  I, ahem, did quite a bit of sales shopping actually.  So much so that a couple of weeks ago I put myself on a shopping ban for a month.  I might stretch it out to two months if I can get through the remaining ten days.  Baby steps and all.

It may be Sunday Best but I'm participating in Visible Monday anyway.  Head over to Not Yet Dead Style to see what everyone is wearing.

I'm also participating in the Everybody Everywhere Back to School Challenge.
EBEW - Back To School

Havilland Organza skirt: Acne; Silk pleated shirt: Sportmax; Grey cotton cardigan: Cos; Lace jacket: Zara; Ponyskin ballet flats: Dune; Floral brooch: random boutique in Rome

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

French Hotel

This is where we shacked up on our French sorjourn. Not too shabby indeed!

This handsome house used to be a smart village inn that accepted the overflow from the main village hotel. It fell into disrepair over the ages and now the English family running it have restored it to it's former glory. This was our bed for the night.


I was impressed how the decor matched my holiday wardrobe.


How I wish my wardrobe at home looked like this all the time! Neat, sparsely hung garments on visually similar hangers. So much more inviting than the tangled, jumbled mess that usually greets me at home.

Recently in London I have been living on a capsule wardrobe as everything but a selection of bare necessities has been packed up while our bedroom was undergoing damp proofing works.  However our holidays abroad to Spain and France on separate trips with just a suitcase of clothes means I have actually been living on a capsule wardrobe for most of the summer.

There were beautiful grounds and on fine mornings you could take your French breakfast in the garden - coffee, juice, delicious fresh French pastries direct from the village patisserie and even a home cooked English breakfast on request.


There were some lovely colourful deckchairs to take in the sunshine but you had to be quick to get one.  Those Gallic cats certainly had the right idea.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

Here are some snaps of the sun drenched fields of France.  I write this from the UK now where the end of summer is nigh.  The days are getting shorter and cooler and the nights chillier.  The September issues of the fashion magazines are out, everyone in blogland is fawning over Autumn/Winter collections and Autumn pre-collections are already on the racks in the shop.

And yet it feels like summer never started here.  I'm sure I am not alone in clinging to the last days of summer and praying against all hope for an especially long Indian one.  Apart from a couple of hot weekends this summer in England was the worst in living memory for me and officially the coldest and wettest in a hundred years!  Although I've been back with nose to grindstone in London these past few weeks, I've preferred to post about sun drenched days from my French and Summer holidays without which I would not have felt like I had a summer at all.

The one plus of the awful summer here was the sales starting early and pretty hefty discounts being given quite quickly.  I picked up some great bargains in the summer sales as part of my challenge to add more colour to my wardrobe.  I bought things I think will last me a long time.  These navy lace shorts, as well as a hot pink trouser suit (which looks better than it sounds!), were part of my summer sales picks from Whistles.

I've been having an enforced wardrobe organise due to some works at our flat and it has made me dependent on a capsule wardrobe for a few weeks. Having to pack up and store my entire wardrobe away was eye opening! I had to severely limit what I could keep out which was hard.  I ended up with a selection of my favourite summer trends I wanted to eke out as I cling to the last days of summer and its made me take stock and reflect on what I've been buying and wearing this season.

The prevalence of pastels this season gave me a chance to pick up items in colours that suit my skin tone that I don't often find.  The one bit of advice I took away after doing a seasonal colour consultation many years ago was that when shades of colours in your palette come into fashion it is a good time to buy items of clothing in those shades, as these pieces will always be flattering on you no matter what happens to be in fashion.

This summer I was very excited about the return of pale, icy shades of blue and green and it gave me an excuse to rediscover this lace trimmed aqua top.  I badly wanted to add some mint green to my wardrobe this summer and was spoilt for choice.  My favourite mint green purchase has been an ice mint leather tunic top from Cos.  Whilst in Spain I also picked up a pale mint embroidered eyelet tee and a mint blazer in soft jersey.  Now if the summer would just drag out a bit longer so I can enjoy wearing them a bit longer!

This post is part of the Visible Monday series over at Not Yet Dead Style.

Aqua lace trim tee: Chine; Navy lace shorts: Whistles; Sandals: Zara

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Links a la Mode and Swimwear Giveaway Winner

I'm very happy that my post about body image as we get older and being free to choose to wear a bikini got into this week's Links a la Mode over at IFB (Thank you Jess!).

And while we are on the topic of swimwear, Mr V has drawn out the winner of the Simply Beach giveaway over morning coffee from a hat, and the winner is Sabine Menzel of Psynopsis! Congrats Sabine and thanks to everyone who entered.

Onto Links a la Mode - check out this week's fab links below!

Summer Lovin’ Fades to Fall

Edited by: Jess of Fresh Jess

With IFBcon, Fashion’s Night Out and NYFW kicking off next week, it’s clear the first signs of fall in the air. The mornings and nights are a little crisper, and the shelves are stocked with September issues. This week’s Links a la Mode shows a wide range of emotions about the transition to fall. While some are welcoming the season with open arms, others are squeezing every little bit out of their summer wardrobe. The conversation around body image is still strong, as well as that over copyright and content ownership. We have all that and more in this week’s roundup, and next week at IFBcon! Hope to see you all there.


Shopbop : Koral, Ete, Vince, Costume National, Auden, APC, Max Kibardin, Clu, Acquaverde, Smythe & True Royal

If you would like to submit your link for next week’s Links à la Mode, please register first, then post your links HERE. The HTML code for this week will be found in the Links a la Mode widget on the right side of the blog, and will be published later today. ~ Jennine


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