Monday, 29 October 2012

Black Lace

I started this post wanting to write an ode to black lace.  I wanted to say something about how every woman should have something in her wardrobe fashioned from this most delicate, intricate and beautiful of fabrics, and that it should be in black.  In contrast to the symbolic purity and innocence of white lace used so often in religious ceremonies to mark new beginnings - the baptisms, the holy communions and weddings - black lace was more symbolic of a woman's coming of age.

I wanted to say that there is possibly no other fabric that is so emotionally charged.  Worn as an expression of our sensuality, a siren call to potential lovers, it can also be worn to express loss or grief.  In some cultures it is the mark of the enforced solitude of widows, in others a sign of a woman's maturity.  Unlike any other fabric it is particular in the role it plays in signposting the phases of a woman's life.  This significance was not lost on Miuccia Prada, whose much lauded Autumn/Winter 2008 collection was a celebration of how lace accompanies a woman from birth until death and resulted in a lace revival that has yet to die down.

I wanted to say that my awareness of wanting to wear it marked my passing from being a girl to a young woman, and that I remember starkly the first black lace item I decided to buy and wear when my parents could no longer have any say over what I chose to spend my money on, or indeed about what clothing I chose to wear.  I wanted to say that when the day finally arrived when you were able to wear a black lace dress without feeling self conscious was the day that you were finally a woman.

I wanted to say that I love black lace and that love is reflected in how heavily it features in my wardrobe.  It is there in eyelash borders, fine filigree, floral motifs, dark twisted roses, delicate knots and heavy guipure.  It features as yokes and trims on blouses and tees.  It is fashioned into several cocktail dresses as well as a fur collared three quarter length coat.  It is lined in nude, or grey or black.  It even covers a couple of pairs of shoes.

I wanted to ask - is there a woman who does not feel beautiful wearing black lace?  In a search for answers on the internet I was dismayed to find the following article on the Financial Times with readers thoughts on the "Case for Lace",  most of whom are probably very highly paid City workers who could afford the finest black lace on offer.

While I understand that black lace is not generally office appropriate in high end corporate jobs, I certainly didn't expect so many women to be so down on (and in some cases very anti-) such a gorgeous fabric, as well as so unenthused about the interpretations of black lace that have graced the runways since Prada wove it back into our collective fashion consciousness again.  Only a couple of participants brimmed with a delight in its return to fashion that matched my own.  I began to wonder if maybe I was actually in the minority.

To add insult to injury amongst the comments was this barb from one reader: that in her opinion if you are over thirty lace is a ‘no’ at any time, even as evening wear and that under thirty, lace would only be acceptable if it was "subtle and stylish, à la Julia Roberts at an evening business dinner date in Pretty Woman..."
Surely she was not serious? Pretty Woman? Given such a puritanical tone was she being ironic referring to an evening business dinner date when the business in question was prostitution?

Deflated, I then thought that perhaps I shouldn't say anything about my love of black lace at all.  It suddenly felt like I'd been told I was in love with a tainted thing and that I should keep my passion to myself like some dark, dirty secret.

Troubled, I put the question to Mr V. - why would a woman over thirty want to wear black lace?  He immediately said - "to feel beautiful".  That's my man!

I tried hard to imagine what the life of Ms. "No Lace Over Thirty" must be like.  I could only conjure up the blandest and dullest of existences for her.  A life lived without taking any risks, safely within the confines of others expectations of her, with years of frowning disapprovingly of those who didn't do the same stretching before her.  A life free of any drama, frisson or great passion.  I'm sure she's quite happy.  Frankly I'd rather be dead.

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

Black Lace Top: very old Karen Millen; Silk skirt: Chine

Thursday, 25 October 2012

You Should Be Dancing...

Pardon me for being tardy with posts of late.  I've been somewhat busy!  This is what my weekend involved and that pretty much wrote my evenings off all last week with rehearsing.  Thought I'd share some action shots taken by the wonderful Mr. V. of me putting my Senovilla shoes through their paces.  These are a couple of my favourite flamenco costumes, both of which made it out last weekend.  I got them made some years ago in Seville by a wonderful tailor called Fernando.

An audience loves seeing a flamenco dancer in a red dress.  As soon as I step out in this dress you see everyone sit up and whispering and pointing at it with delighted smiles.  I hammed up the red with matching earrings and combs.  Then I promptly broke an earring during a dance by sending it flying off during a turn!  I'm very grateful it was made with plastic beads rather than the real coral it was imitating!

While I do love my red dress, true to my nature, my favourite costume is actually black.  I love pouring myself into this sumptuous black velvet dress and slipping on the little bolero jacket and then stepping out to dance.  I feel at home.  The chiffon frills have tiny sequins stitched on them which catch the light when the dress moves.

Behind me is a very well known gypsy flamenco singer.  I know I mentioned some time back I was going to post about the relationship between gypsies and flamenco for Terri of Rags Against the Machine.  I still mean to do so in greater depth some time in the future, but in short, flamenco plays a big part in gypsy culture in Spain. The singing is part of a vocal tradition of story telling for them and the guitar and dance evolved around accompanying the flamenco song. Many gypsies are renowned flamenco artists, being either singers, dancers or guitarists.

It's a little bit of a come down going back to work on a Monday after doing all this.  Much like this blog, flamenco dancing remains my little secret from work colleagues.  When people ask what I got up to on the weekend I shrug and say "Oh, nothing much..."

Hopefully I'll be able to fit some proper outfit posts in next week.  In the meantime, hope everyone is having a great week!

Costumes: Made in Sevilla
Shoes: Senovilla

Monday, 15 October 2012

Matching Florals

Pardon me while I attempt to blend into the fussy surroundings. I last posted about my new found love of clashing floral prints which I'll be taking from Summer into Autumn and Winter.  I'll also be taking a love of the opposing matching florals with me too.  I love the pyjama feel of this silk floral print trouser suit.  Most days I do feel that I look exactly like someone who just rolled out of bed.  So this kind of aesthetic is right up my street.  At least now I can feel like I've just rolled out of bed and managed to look vaguely elegant and put together at the same time.

I really enjoyed wearing these floral print trousers with the matching tee shirt over the summer.  So much so that when I found the long sleeved, collared shirt in the summer sales, I bought it with the intent of extending the matching trouser suit theme into the cooler months.  Again with some layers over for warmth, warm tights and boots, I think this outfit could see me nicely into the party season.

I say floral print but, as those who are familiar with the work of designer Hermoine de Paula will know, they aren't really flowers, but cleverly painted birds posing as flowers.  The contrasting black collar, cuffs and yoke detail on the black back all work to keep the shirt quite smart despite its romantic and feminine print.

While I was fishing around the internet for a bit of information on the designer I was interested to see that she happens to be a pal of none other than Florence Welsh, and that Florence herself bought this very same outfit!

Linking up to Not Yet Dead Style's Visible Monday!

Silk floral and Trouser Suit: Hermoine de Paula; Shoes: Zara

Monday, 8 October 2012

Clashing Florals

Thought I'd better put something in here about clothes in case people are getting bored of travelling photos.  I was wondering how everyone is doing in their wardrobe transition from Summer to Autumn.  I'm doing particularly badly! Due to some renovations at home I put three quarters of my wardrobe into storage about two months ago including all the Autumn/Winter gear and after all this time it is still packed away.

It has been quite an eyeopener to have to survive on a quarter of what I own and realise I have still had plenty to wear.  It has also forced me to be more creative with extending the life of my Summer wardrobe into cooler weather and so I thought I'd share a couple of outfits I'm taking with me into next season.

This clashing floral print trouser suit from Sportmax has been one of my Summer favourites.  Given the cold wet summer we had, thick cotton trousers and a long sleeved collared silk shirt turned out to be a far more practical combination than floaty dresses and I am still wearing this outfit out now for extra warmth in place of a top and skirt or a dress.  Besides, it seems that florals, clashing prints and in particular statement trousers aren't really going away over Autumn, it is just that the palette is darkening up.

I don't know about anyone else but I'm not ready to revert to wearing everything in dark shades just yet.  Maybe it is because the clocks have not gone back yet and we are still officially on British Summertime. Maybe it is because we've had a few rebelliously bright September days as Summer fades slowly away.  Maybe it is because I still need to wear something colourful and pretty to brighten the days up before the long dark nights of Autumn really set in.  Or maybe it is just because the floral prints of this Summer were some of my favourite looks in many years and I'm not ready to let them go yet.

It was a bit of challenge for me to embrace clashing florals but I found it quite a refreshing change to see myself wearing a lot of colour, head-to-toe.  I wore this outfit to an eightieth birthday party and the birthday boy told me that my "pyjamas were very elegant".

I'm not in the mood to do some serious shopping for Autumn yet either with all the doom and gloom being bandied about the economy and when there are beautiful things I could be wearing from my own wardrobe.  Shopping ban still officially on (although I'm not going to lie, there have been two black marks!).  To warm up this outfit for colder weather I've been adding tights, black ankle boots, a black wool blazer or knitwear, topped with a black coat and imagine I will continue to do so for a while yet.

I particularly like the studded collar on this shirt which is removable and can be replaced with a plain floral version.  Alternatively the detachable collars can be left off totally for a Grandad style collar instead. Three versions of the same shirt in one!

That is not my baby grand piano by the way.  That is Mr V's grandmother in the picture frame though.

How are you doing with the changeover from Summer to Autumn?  Are you eking out the Summer wardrobe as far as you can or have you packed it all away already and brought out the Autumnal gear?

It is also Visible Monday so head over to Not Yet Dead Style to check out the other Visible Monday posts.

Silk floral print shirt and floral print trousers: Sportmax; Shoes: from a shop in Sardinia

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

El Rinconcillo

A casual visitor to this blog might assume that I am permanently on holiday! Before I can get all my pictures up from one I am off on another. Rest assured, it is more impression that reality. I'm actually forced to take short holidays more often over the summer than I would otherwise as I have to negotiate with senior staff with children for annual leave and usually lose. I do actually work without a break for long stretches of the year but I generally keep work related chat on this blog to a minimum.  Besides, holidays are more interesting!  Wasn't it fashion first lady Diana Freeland who said "the eye has to travel"?

I wanted to share a wonderful bar I visited whilst in Sevilla. Recommended by my accompanying foodie friends, El Rinconcillo was founded in 1670 and is reputedly the oldest bar in the city. We went on Sunday morning hoping to get breakfast but on arrival found the graffitied shutters still down. Come back at one o'clock we were told.

Once inside you enter first into a handsome bar with high ceilings, heavily mosaiced walls, tiled floors and an ancient wooden bar above which are hanging several legs of cured ham.

In front of the bar is an area kitted out with sherry barrels serving as tables on which to take tapas.  Normally in Spanish bars there is a standing area by the bar to eat slightly cheaper tapas, essentially snack sized portions of what is on offer on the menu.  To sit down, there is often a restaurant section with tables and chairs but you won't be able to order tapas but will have to order larger plates called raciones and often there will be special dishes that are not available in tapas size.

Sevillianos eat late. At one o'clock we were first through the door as people generally start their lunch at two.  We were greeted by a very charming waiter who served us our drinks and talked us through the menu.  So charming was he in fact that he convinced us to sit down for a meal in the very inviting neighbouring dining area.

On the wall was an enormous antique poster advertising the 1929 Feria.  The Feria is celebrated in many Andalusian towns in early Spring and originally began as a cattle fair in the mid nineteenth century.  A small mini-town of casetas or tents will be constructed for the week's celebrations and are usually run as a pop up restaurant or bar by local businesses or church groups where people can eat, drink and dance.  Traditionally people came dressed up for the occasion with the women wearing a traje de gitana, a frilled flamenco style dress. Over the years the style of the traje de gitana has changed with whatever was deemed to be fashionable at the time.  Sevilla has always produced some of the most beautiful Feria posters.  My favourites were produced between the 1920's and 30's and reproductions can sometimes be found in tourist shops.

In some bars in Andalusia you can still see signs stating "prohibido el cante".  The sign was actually referring to a ban on flamenco singing during the years of Franco when he repressed flamenco, gypsy culture and indeed most forms of regional song and dance in Spain.

Some pan (bread), jamon (ham) and tinto de verano con limon and I'm happy.  Tinto de verano is a mix of lemonade and red wine and tinto de verano con limon uses lemon flavoured Fanta.  It sounds like a horrendous abomination of red wine! But it is actually surprisingly good on a sweltering hot day.  In addition we had small clams in white wine and garlic, and spinach and chickpeas.

Below is another bar we went to in another part of town. I liked how they made the large clay vats where alcohol was traditionally stored a feature of the interior.

We also spent early evening having a drink at a fancy hotel which has a rooftop bar where you can watch the sunset over the cathedral.  How is this for a sundowner view?

Hope everyone is having a great week!


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