Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Flamenca


There's nothing like slipping into a favourite sundress while on holiday!  And these brightly coloured plaster walls with their peeling paint which you find in abundance in many towns in Andalusia are a gift to any photographer.

Here is my effort at the flamenco trend I posted about earlier.  Apart from the earrings and floral filigree crucifix which I found in Mango whilst in Spain the rest has been shopped from the closet.  I've had this diva-like sundress for over a decade now, funnily enough also a Mango find on a trip to Madrid to study flamenco.  After all this time it has many a tale to tell about travelling to sun drenched destinations with me!

I've had a couple of flamenco related requests by readers.  Lisa of Dangerous Curves (love that blog title!) who is a ballroom and bellydancer has asked to be directed to some flamenco costume posts.  So if you missed them and you like frilly dresses here are some old posts featuring my flamenco costumes:

I've also been asked by Terry of Rags Against the Machine to elaborate on what the connection is between Gypsies and Flamenco.  Oooh Terry! How long have you got?  I'm no expert but have plenty of personal experience and anecdotes to draw on to give you my own opinion.  Patience Terry, preparing photos, post coming...

This post is part of Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.  Head over to see what the rest of the Visible Monday crew are wearing.

Dress, earrings, crucifix: Mango; Broderie Anglaise Bolero: Kate Moss for Topshop; Bracelet: Bijoux Brigette; Jewelled Sandals: Zara; Bag: Michael by Michael Kors

Sunday, 22 July 2012

I hear Flamenco is a "Trend"


Like many a good Londoner I am fleeing the capital during the Olympics.  While the rest of the globe is no doubt getting worked up with excitement for the big event, Londoners have spent the last year being harassed by the authorities and their employers to get off every transport system available to us to make way for the extra million visitors arriving.

We are being ordered to work from home, regardless of whether that is an option granted by employers (mine ordered me to consider working from home but also decreed that this was not an alternative to coming in - huh?).  We are being told we should all walk to work, regardless of how far away you actually live from work, and equally get in earlier to avoid the crush.  I'd have to start walking at dawn!  We are also told we shouldn't drive, shouldn't go out, that we should be jolly grateful for the surface to air missile launchers being assembled on residential rooftops in some boroughs by the army instead of protesting about it (oh yes). In short we good citizens of London have effectively being told we should just shut up and make ourselves scarce while the games are on so that everybody else can have a great time.  Sod that, I'm off.  Back to Andalusia!

I often grab a couple of UK fashion magazines in the airport on my way to Spain to bring along to the beach with me so I can catch up on what has been going in fashion. I quite like UK Bazaar for it's moodboards on the latest trends. This season it's been quite amusing to see that flamenco is being touted as a trend and for the last couple of months Bazaar has featured it on their moodboard.

If you've been following this blog for a while you'll know I am a flamenco dancer (hence the frequent travel to the South of Spain).  So with a closet already bursting with flamenco costumes and more than a decade of collecting clothes inspired by them, I feel that if there is one trend I can do this season blindfolded it is this one!

I understand flamenco as an art form and a way of life so sometimes seeing the fashion industry reduce a few outdated stereotypes about what flamenco is down to a trend can be irritating.  I know fashion is not ever really supposed to be a literal interpretation of what has inspired its designs but sometimes I feel like very little thought has been put into putting a flamenco label on something.  Has it got a frill? Has it got a flower? Polka dots? It must be a flamenco trend! Some of the worst misunderstanding of where flamenco comes from is displayed by the bigger glossy magazines.  I've seen flamenco described as Argentina's national dance (yes Grazia, I'm talking to you), confused with Salsa, Latin Ballroom, randomly associated with the flamingo bird and with Mexico.

This season however, I was very excited about the collections and their interpretation. Also dubbed Gypsy Luxe or Uptown Gypsy by the fashion press, designers took inspiration from flamenco without resorting to a pastiche of the flamenco dancer in her spotty frilled dress.

Image Sources: Harper's Bazaar UK June 2012 Edition
Catwalk looks sent down the runway by the likes of Dolce and Gabbana, Antonio Beradi, Valentino, Moschino, Pucci and Balmain were dramatic and beautiful in the way that captured the spirit of flamenco, which is in essence an expression of all facets of life, from the joyful, the sorrowful to the darker depths of anger and despair.

There was the purity of white broderie anglaise and macramé, the cheerful bright feria-like colours of canary yellow or sharp citrus shades of lime and orange.  In stark contrast there was the drama of sombre black worked into lace and open crochet work, allowing a darker, more sultry mood to surface. Ornate embellishment was a homage to Andalusia itself - the lavishness of bullfighters' costumes, the gypsies love of gold and self adornment, the candelabras, crucifixes, and rosaries of religious festivals and the visual splendour of Andalusia's rich architectural heritage from its history of being a cultural meeting point for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Bazaar at least got the destination right.  Ole!  If you can't read the text of the article from the top photo it says:
"The Destination: Andalusia
The look: Go for romance with ruffles and florals in bright greens and yellows, accented with dramatic black
Wear it with... shoulder-sweeping chandelier earrings and an elegant woven basket, perfect for a trip to the local market"

So how am I faring this summer on Bazaar's checklist?
  • Destination? Tick! 
  • The look?  Ruffles and florals in abundance (though not in green and yellow) and I can't move for dramatic black in my wardrobe. Double tick. 
  • Chandelier earrings? A large collection.  
  • Elegant woven basket?  This was the only thing I had been missing but on my last trip to Andalusia I met up with one of my dearest friends who is also a flamenco dancer and she presented me with this beauty for my birthday! You can't get a more flamenco basket than that. There is even a local market in the town I visit to take it to.

I was a little disappointed to see Sophia Loren on Bazaar's moodboard. Hello fashion interns at Bazaar! Sophia Loren is indeed lovely but she is Italian! How about some proper real gypsy fire and flamenco figuras to inspire your readership?  So here are my choices of some real flamenco women to inspire you - the wonderful Queen of the Gyspies, Carmen Amaya and the Jerezana singer and dancer Lola Flores from my Pinterest board.



If there is one place in the world you can dress up in flamenco fantasia and revel in it, that place is Andalusia.  You can see my holiday interpretation of the flamenco trend in my next post of which here is a sneak preview...

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Floral Print Bomber


Going through my holiday photos and yep, I was wearing this jacket a lot! Especially at the beach.  It was just the thing to squash up and toss into a beach basket so that when the wind piped up at the beach in the late afternoon I could throw it over my bikini after a swim to reduce the wind chill factor.

This is the second really great floral print jacket I picked up at Zara's "younger" Trafaluc section this season. The other was a white jersey floral print blazer which, since coming back to London, I've already spied on two women I know who are well over forty and who both look fabulous in it. What does that tell you about random age demarcations on collections? I used to avoid the younger themed section of Zara but now I shall be a bit more open minded in case gems like these turn up.

Floral print bomber jacket: Zara; Bikini: Calzedonia; Suede shorts: Kate Moss for Topshop.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Floral Trouser Suit


After harping on about florals in my last post I thought I'd share one of my favourite head to toe floral outfits.  Wearing head to toe print is one of this season's more challenging and outre trends.  To tempt us out of our comfort zone and dare us all to live our lives a little louder, designers have been bombarding our retinas with an onslaught of maxi-dresses and co-ordinating outfits in a variety of the brightest, boldest, most beautiful prints their imaginations could concoct - florals, animal, paisley, retro graphic and scarf prints.  If that wasn't enough, they've been urging us to try mismatching them as well.

A quick internet search on the topic of this trend will show you that opinion is pretty divided over whether this is something that should be tried at home.   To use a now well worn flowery cliché, it sure ain't for wallflowers, or shrinking violets even.  I for one absolutely love it!  There is something quite liberating about going matchy-matchy from head to toe in a beautiful print.  There isn't any of that troublesome agonising about whether your top and trousers go well together in your outfit - they just do!


However, you might just find yourself blending in with any kitsch wallpaper or tiles that may be in your vicinity, as I am attempting here.  This is a corner of the stairway in the casa de vecinos where we stayed in Andalusia, a house which was decked out top to bottom in fabulously kitsch decor - get a load of these gilt furnishings and ornaments, the candelabra, the marble surfaces, the creepy doll, the gaudy plastic flowers, you might even be able to make out the mounted antlers hanging on the wall and reflected in the mirror behind me.  The place was unashamedly OTT.  You've got to hand it to the Andalusians maximalist approach to decor - adorn with enthusiasm and without shame!  So why not take a page out of their book - as in decor, so too in dress!


The great thing about these printed co-ordinates is that they are fantastic as separates in their own right.  I've already posted about this tee shirt by Hermione de Paula as a holiday staple, but I have been getting a lot of wear out of her wonderfully surreal trousers too.  It's like someone has turned my legs into works of art.  These have been my favourite trousers for Spring.  The black backs on the trouser legs create an optical illusion that is both leg lengthening and slimming and when worn with the tee shirt the whole outfit made me feel very elegant and glamorous for a evening out.  I've also been dressing the trousers down with a plain white tee or black top for the pub.

When I'm not standing in front of the wallpaper, you certainly can't miss me in this so it's an apt outfit for Visible Monday.  Head over to Not Yet Dead Style if you would like to participate.

Floral trouser suit: Hermione de Paula; Espardrilles: Zara; Belt: borrowed from another dress; Earrings: Mango

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Holiday Wardrobe - Floral Prints


Here is a peek into my Spanish holiday wardrobe.  Emerging proof that if carefully edited there is now quite a lot of colour to be found in my predominantly all-black wardrobe.  I challenged myself to avoid taking black to Spain.  Result?  Not bad going - only one black sundress was the glaring exception amongst silky floral prints, non-black tees, vests and beachwear.   I also managed to pack light for once and my very light and roomy suitcase allowed the acquisition of a few more colourful pieces whilst on holiday.

This season I actually made a promise to myself that I wasn't going to buy anything in black.  Long time followers of this blog will know I've got a serious addiction to black. Years of working in offices with strict and sombre dress codes has also contributed to a closet full of mostly grey, navy and black.  Photographing outfits for this blog since its inception has been quite telling and in particular seeing everything hanging up in the wardrobe.  Post a wardrobe re-order by colour  Mr V. has since frequently commented on the wall of black that confronts us in the bedroom - it's pretty dark in there!  I do love black and I will always love wearing it but I am also actually someone who loves colour.  It just so happens that I have developed a bad habit of reverting to black in cold weather (of which there has been plenty in the UK).

There were also other things that gave me cause to step back and reflect on my increasing dependence on an almost all-black style, a senior colleague at work making negative comments about people who always wear black, turning forty and feeling that there are now times when you've been burning the midnight oil and and black can be more draining than flattering on a tired face.  Maybe it's also something to do with this eternal recession and economic gloom that wearing a bit of colour is a last act of defiance of the oppressive mood hanging over us.  Plus some of my most colourful summer dresses and tops that fitted me beautifully in my twenties and thirties have become too tight for me and have had to be given away.

I'd also say that following many wonderful bloggers of all ages who are not afraid to experiment with colour has rubbed off and I felt a need for a change, at least over this Spring and Summer.  The ban on black has been part of a shift in my approach to dress off late. This past couple of seasons there has been so much colour available in really bright, positive hues and gorgeous prints that I decided I'd better branch out and get some colour in there now while there is still clothing on the rails I like.  

My favourite looks have been the floral prints that have been all the rage.  As you can pretty much bank on floral prints coming around every Summer, I expect I will get wear out of well chosen pieces for several summers to come.  There have been so many great ones to choose from at all price points this season and they have been the main way I have chosen to indulge in colour while off duty.

So how has my challenge gone?  Apart from one spectacular failure (well - I wasn't going to let a black leather biker with spiky gold studs at Zara prices be the one that got away), I've done extremely well on sticking to my shopping promise.  In terms of dressing, I'm still wearing black but far less so.  At work I've been choosing colour over monochrome whenever possible but there have been some pretty terrible cloudy and rainy days when I've caved in.  Amongst my colourful work staples this season there has been a pale pink shift dress from Zara in the shade of a strawberry sundae, my bright blue suede shoes, and a very smart shift dress in electric purple with a printed bodice by Preen that never fails to get a compliment when I wear it.

I've also pulled out the white floral print blazer seen hanging on the far left for work, a real gem from Zara's younger Trafaluc range.  Yeah, sorry youngsters but why should you have all the fun?  Apart from having one of the most gorgeous chintzy prints I'd seen worked into a high street blazer the cotton jersey was so fine and soft it actually converted me over from someone who thought jersey blazers had no place in the office.

Of course this has been one of the worst summers ever in terms of the weather for getting dressed.  However come Autumn Winter, if you've been keeping up with the shows at Fashion Week, you'll be aware that pretty soon we'll all be swathed in layers and layers of black, so there will be plenty of opportunity to pull out the black again before too long.  Until then I might as well pull out all the stops to work some colour!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Birds and Floral Print Trousers


Lest we forget, this is what a sunny day in England looks like.  We have just got back from a few blissful days in the South of France to (surprise, surprise...) cloudy, rainy, grey old London.  It seems that each month we seem to breaking a new weather record since records began, either for it being the wettest Spring ever; or the coldest Summer ever; or for the most rainfall fallen in a month ever; or the worst storms and floods ever; or the least sunshine shone ever; or just the worst of the whole freaking lot of it altogether!  Ever!  So here's photographic evidence, taken last weekend, that there is the odd day of respite.

Maybe it is my advancing years and proportionately decreasing concern about what others think of what I wear, but my trousers keep on getting louder.  Ever since I first ventured into my first pair of printed trousers in a look-at-me leopard print, I am now the proud owner of a growing collection of trousers requiring some volume control.  This season if you were on the hunt for statement trousers you were spoilt for choice, especially if you love floral prints and a more tailored cut.

In my twenties and early thirties I would never have contemplated wearing printed trousers.  Maybe it was because there just weren't any nice ones at the time.  The closest I got was way back in the late eighties when I owned a couple of pairs of printed jeans (a trend I note is also back this summer), one covered in small white diamonds and the other in a pinstripe.  While I now prefer my jeans print free, when it comes to trousers the sky is fast becoming the limit.  They're just kind of fun to wear.  You do get weird looks - some people looked at my legs like they were two aliens that had just landed from outer space, especially the runners in the park in their Lycra leggings and track suits.  But that's all part of the fun.

Of course you can tone the volume down by wearing some plain basics on top in neutral colours to let your fancy pants get all the limelight as I did here.  But I do think the head-to-toe print outfits, either in a matching floral print top and trousers, or the matching pyjama coordinates a la Stella McCartney and Hermione De Paula that have been all the rage this season are great fun too.  You only live once!  I also have the top in this same hummingbird and cherry blossom print from Oasis.  I'm even contemplating wearing them together!


Am I feeling visible in these? Very!  Head over to Not Yet Dead Style to check out the other ladies on Visible Monday.

Bird Print Trousers: Oasis; Nude Leather jacket: Topshop; White t-shirt; Cos; Espadrilles: Spain; Bag: Michael by Michael Kors.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Reflejos


Reflejos: Reflections

I love the sometimes ambiguous nature of language and how open it can be to interpretation.  Take the word reflection for example. The multiple meanings seem to be so similar in both Spanish and English. In noun form, it can be taken to mean the reflection of an image, or the glint or gleam of a shiny object, or the glare caused by harsh bright light.

It can refer to the act of being reflected as in a wave or a ray of light.  Or it can refer to a reflex action (or reaction) for example a movement or in response to pain. The Spanish adjective also means meditative.  Similarly the English meaning in verb form - to reflect, can also mean to think deeply.

One of the things I miss the most about Andalusia is the light out there - so bright, brash and golden.  Where everything is both painterly yet hyper real through the camera's eye.  A photographer's dream.

Sometimes it seems that going away on vacation is the only time you ever have to take time to reflect on your life, to look back through the lens of distance and extra head space at everything you've left temporarily behind, and ponder if this is really what you've always wanted.

I'm still not done with my photos from Spain.  But even before I can post everything I've been meaning to, time has flown and I am now just about to head off on another Mediterranean break.  This time we are going to the South of France for a few days to disconnect again completely, to celebrate Mr V's fortieth with old friends and take some time to reflect on what we want our future to look like.  Maybe you might call it having a mid-life crisis, albeit accompanied with fine French wine and cheese.

Back soon with more photos.

Dictionary definitions sourced from www.spanishdict.com.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Happy Birthday Mr V.


My darling Mr. V turns forty today! So here is a little photographic ode from our recent holiday to the man in my life on reaching the big 4-0. Happy Birthday Honey!

Mr V wears:
Printed shirt: Diesel; Watch: Fossil; Shark print tee: 2K; Denim Shorts: Pull and Bear; Orange long sleeved tee: American Apparel; Sunglasses: Bloc; Board Shorts: Country Road

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