Friday, 5 December 2008

The shirking violet

It's been very quiet here of late, and for that I'm sorry. I've been on a self-imposed shopping ban for ages, and work has left me with no time for fashion, so I've had little to write about!

The shopping ban was majestically blown out of the water with Liberty's 50% off sale the other night, though, so I'll post some pictures shortly and normal-ish service will resume.

I'm going to Rome at Christmas, and possibly New York in January, so give me your tips for good shopping haunts.... it'll be far too cold for aimless exploring!



Friday, 24 October 2008

Kate does Debbie


I don't think I will be buying any of the Kate stuff though. I've always loved her style [though it has been well-documented that the past few years of rock n roll uniformity have definitely been a drop in form] but I know I'm not alone in noticing that many of the pieces look stunning on Kate and distinctly average on the rest of us. People buying into the idea of looking like Kate will be disappointed unless they already have her hair, cheekbones, stats and general fashion nous. Much like the rest of the collection, that dress will look like A Dress, not The Dress, on most people.

My only Kate piece is a one bell-sleeved, black chiffon pussy-bow blouse from about 6 months ago. It never looks or hangs right, and has been worn once. Overall it's a nice idea and some of the clothes are pretty but several seasons of KM for Topshop have shown that trying to sell her style so bluntly just diminishes its magic, and doesn't produce anything really covetable.

For those still really keen in emulating her style, I think Topshop's other ranges inadvertently do a far better job. Particularly the Tux Delux range at the moment. I nearly cried when I tried on their beige snakeskin tux jacket. It fits exquisitely, but I cannot bring myself to buy it when I just spent £45 and innumerable visits to the tailor getting my old black second-hand men's tux altered to fit me perfectly.


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Crunch Bunch

An email in my inbox, from a shopping website that will go unnamed [but...uh... if you got it, you know who I'm talking about]:

You don't need us to tell you that this is the time for investment. Forget fast fashion and quick fixes. We're investing in timeless basics that will last year after year and stand out from the crowd.

Don't think me hard-hearted. I know retailers've gotta make a dollar [and no-one benefits from the economy going down the tubes], I know they've got overheads and bottom lines and masses of stock that they need to shift our way. No-one expects them not to. But one thing is being ignored: after you buy this season's timeless classics, there'll be another raft of essential, three-figure long-term buys next season. All of which, of course, will carry us safely through to the good times again.

I know full well that I sound like a mardy cynic, and I truly will try not to rant about any more recession-related idiocy for at least a week. I'm just rather weary with every advertising line now referencing the credit crunch, and with the moronically topical tone they all take.

"There, there. We know you've got no money. [Ha ha! Sucks to be you!!] We know you can't afford to buy your next tin of baked beans, or make rent. Instead of buying that new house, savvy savers will downsize and buy this handy 3-pack of classic alpaca cushion covers. These amazing, dual purpose delights will make your home look up-to-the-minute AND mean you don't need to buy a new house. Take that, credit crunch! The perfect investment to carry you through the recession. 'Er from next door might be sitting on the kerb this morning with the few worldly possessions she has left since the bailiffs battered the door down halfway through Newsnight, claiming their due, but you can feel cosy and cocooned from the financial maelstrom with your timeless soft furnishings. Available now for the inflation-busting price of £159.99."

If I exaggerate, they drove me to it. I'm sick of hearing about it. Give me facts and reportage - the latest bank to crash and burn, our good PM's newest and boldest strategy to dig us out of this apparently apocalpytic mess. But I really don't need credit-crunch themed shopping journalism, ta very much. I've heard of spending your way out of recession, but this bullshit about this being the time for investment, buying something [coincidentally 'on-trend'] to 'take you through' several seasons... It's getting my back right up.

Can we not just be honest about it, and admit that we should be saving, not investing, but that when the spending urge hits you, it's better to buy this product than that product, because "ours is totally... like... BETTER"?


Thursday, 16 October 2008


Miss Dressed & Pressed has tagged me. Eleven things about myself...

1. My pickiness about food means I discover treats really late in life. [Some would say a good thing... delayed gratification?] This autumn I found out about popcorn. I'm now far too keen on the salted variety for my own good.

2. I envy men sartorially. If reincarnation exists, I'd like to come back as a very wealthy international playboy. I would never ever wear shorts [however long], combat trousers, a parka or a football shirt. I would be a beacon of masculine style. I would live a James Bond lifestyle [without the nearly-getting-killed-every-other-day antiperk], get exquisite suits handmade for me at Henry Poole, and indulge in technogadgets [a posh Omega watch, perchance the new qwerty Prada LG phone, and definitely the shiny new Macbook - the only Apple product I have ever shamelessly craved that iniquitous bunch of bastards can fvck off, everything I've owned by Apple has broken repeatedly. FURIOUS ANGER.]. Fashion-wise, women do certain things far better than men [underwear, bags, hats], but men pull off tailoring and technogadgets much more suavely and convincingly than women, and of that I am jealous.

3. Seeing birds in cages upsets me. I looked in a pet shop the other day and saw rows of cages with tiny white birds and magnificent, personable blue parrots. I wanted to buy them all and send them back to their natural habitats, but of course they'd just get caught and sold again. Or eaten.

4. I collect gloves and umbrellas. Friends and regular readers will know of my umbrella craving, but I also have a drawer full of beautiful gloves, mostly Italian, in every colour leather, suede and silk I can acquire. I get them in Rome, at airports, and second-hand from Blackout II. My favourite new pair are diagonally striped in black leather and black patent. I like them with black cigarette pants, a black mohair cardigan with a ribbon-tie at the waist and very high heels.

5. I love Home & Away. But I'm never at home to watch it. Sniff.

6. I take great pleasure in fancy dress.

7. I have never been in debt.

8. I have never managed to save much money either. I am what you might call a break-even gal.

9. I hate the free London papers but really like Shortlist [the free men's paper they give out on Thursdays]. This week they had a story about high-rolling multi-millionaire gamblers, the swankiest hotels around the world, and a good piece on George Clooney. Again I think it taps into my penchant for the James Bond aesthetic.

10. I get really vexed by poor spelling or bad pronunciation/grammar. Particularly when it's done by People Who Should Know Better - journalists [Vogue let the side down this month], news readers and the like. I don't know whether it's technically bad grammar or not, but I really hate the American way of saying 'I'm excited to see/do whatever'. I always think it should be 'I'm excited about seeing/doing etc'. And though I am unhappily as guilty as the next person, I HATE 'like'. It's, like, the most over-used word in existence.

11. I am fairly competent with most technology, but there has never been a printer I was not able to break. They hate me, and I hate them. So much the worse for our relationship if they are a printer/fax - we will never be friends.

And now I tag the ever engaging Sister Wolf, Luxenoir and Knight Cat as I am a new reader to her blog and something of a fan.


Wednesday, 15 October 2008

And what's more... an addendum to the other day's post about the fashion press's response to the credit crunch, I really like this month's Bazaar.

How timely to run an issue of icons, of people that never go out of style and clothes that never lose their cache. It's rather comforting to flick through the pages of their '40 classic pieces' article. It could have been dull, but typically for Bazaar, there's enough elegance to the pieces they suggest and enough sense to their arguments for them, to make me return to my own wardrobe and remind myself that I really don't actually need to add to it right now.

Is it just me that isn't at all impressed by Peter Blake these days though? Oh, British institution, fiddlesticks. Sgt Pepper is all well and good, but what's he up to now? 'Designing' the cover of the magazine with Swarovski crystals by sticking them in doltish stars at obvious points on the photo? Yes, very good, well done. Pfft. There was another piece of his in the magazine, I forget where, but if I'm sufficiently annoyed when I get home this evening, perhaps I'll scan it in. Not impressed.


Thursday, 9 October 2008

The credit crunch / the recession / the impending depression / the end is nigh

Curious that as the media blare shock-and-awe headlines about the credit crunch, fashion is unapologetically back on the mainstream radar. Compare fashion coverage seven or eight years ago with the frenzy now. [Maybe this has something to do with fast fashion, Topshop, Primark, the accessibility of good design etc]. I remember as a teenager feeling awkward among my peers for liking Fashion with its designers, fashion houses and iconic history, while my friends were more tribal about the clothes they wore.

Now fashion is in fashion again [is that like black being the new black?]. Every day it's all over the free London papers and the TV [Gok, the Fashion Show, the incoming Frock Me with Alexa & HH], and every teen seems to know her Miuccia from her Marc Jacobs [and own some of it, too. Jesus!]

And as governments bail out reckless bankers, on we shop, from Primark bargains upwards. Meanwhile the fashion press contextualise clothes economically, analysing designers' responses to the crunch via their collections, and telling us how to style and save at the same time.

But UK Elle's November issue is the proverbial straw on my imaginary camel's poor overloaded back. I can deal with repetition of a theme, but I can't deal with being sold idiocy under the guise of 'top tips!!'. The running theme is 'beating the credit crunch', bargain shopping, sneaky savings etc; timely and helpful, one might think. Sadly, quite the opposite, to a laughable degree.

They're not encouraging us to stride defiantly into our nearest Tiffanys and and load jewelled diadems on our cards. Nor are there helpful ideas to maintain some style when all your money is going on bills and basics. No 'More Dash Less Cash' here.

Rather, empty & idiotic advice; the hypocrisy of encouraging a fashionista spending habit under the guise of saving money. Plenty of us do this, but I don't need to read journalism to the same effect, without writers even questioning why. Their advice is the equivalent of giving someone a fiver and asking for five pounds change.

If November Elle is a joke, the punchline sees their Mademoiselle columnist venture into Zara [a little-known, backwater boutique the eagle-eyed among you might know] for the first time in years and registers surprise at their stock and prices. These people live on another planet.

Buying a K by Karl Lagerfeld sweater because a diffusion range is cheaper [an actual Elle tip] than the main line is not saving money! Nor is buying £135 men's indoor slippers instead of a pair of shoes, or a new bag because, thrills!!!, you can use it both day and night. I know they have to be seen to sell, but not one shred of their style advice this issue practically encourages the reader to spend less or observes that fashion can be fun without costing much.

Vogue has never made any pretence about affordable fashion - they separated the cheap from the luxe with their occasional Cheap'n'Chic features, and are thoroughly and honestly aspirational - and a good read for it. By contrast, and of all the real glossies, Elle always seemed like the credible, accessible option - couture here, high street there. If they want to encourage people to lavish their way through the current times, fine, but this kind of journalism is insulting.

A double page spread about the psychology of shopping in the high street supplement, based on an Elle survey, notes that despite the crunch, we're shopping as much as ever. The tagline led me to hope it might explore why we all seem so shopping addicted, and ways of replacing it with a less costly kick. Sadly not. Just a handful of statistics and cheerful 'Off you shop!' encouragement.

It can be done, and it can be done well, from individual blogs to mainstream TV. I liked the observations over at Make Do and Mend, on the reality of living on a real budget [as opposed to a diffusion-range-only budget] and how she does it, and Twiggy's Frock Exchange on BBC2 the other night, if a bit WI-esque and sugary, proved a joyful hour of swapping, out-of-town thrifting and reinventing, with not a penny spent by the 100 women that participated.

If Elle let me write an article on saving money, I'd advise:

- sample sales through Fashion Confidential et al
- recon high street missions - as soon as you see the new season's clothes, if you must shop, hit the high street with no cash/cards, just a notepad and camera. Try things on, note who does the best versions of high-end clothes, note prices, and work out what you really need.
- smalltown charity shops [and charity/2nd-hand stores if you happen to be abroad too - almost always cheaper than UK ones]
- identifying what you will never wear again. What you can't sell on eBay/thriftstoreuk etc, alter - especially if you'd have thrown it away anyway. Success = new clothes, failure = nothing lost.
- part-exchanging good quality unwanteds for vintage goodies in shops like Bang Bang
- clothes-swap parties with similarly-shaped friends
- learn to dye your clothes [practice on unwanted bits], choosing and mixing subtle hues to avoid the limited high-street palette
- make clothes if you can, or befriend the dressmakers/tailors in your local dry cleaners. [I did this tonight, potentially to great effect.]

It's not exactly rocket-science, but when Elle's advice amounts to 'spend hopelessly and pretend you didn't', I wonder how much grasp they have on common sense.


Thursday, 2 October 2008

I confess

I've been a little lazy. I could give you a string of excuses about my working hours, other commitments, etc etc, but it simply boils down to: I haven't had the time to post lately.

Anyway. Steps are being taken and posts will follow. Many photographs have been uploaded this evening.

Here is a photo of my favourite, favourite sort-of-new jacket. It's Paul Smith Women, and was a gift from the exceptionally kind Sister Wolf. She dispatched it across the pond in the mail a couple of months back, and the other day I figured out exactly how I want to wear it - either with wide, high-waisted trousers and my favourite old hand-me-down cream and navy striped jumper [very English, what? My mother's. I like it because it makes me think of cricket. Even though I hate cricket. Ridiculous.] or with black skin-skimming trousers, bitch heels, cobwebby neutral layers and hair up, up, UP in a kind of Glenn Close quiff. Sadly I do not have a photo of the latter, but you may take it for granted that I greatly enjoyed wearing it.

Yes, you're quite right. The jumper does have moth holes in it. Quite a few in fact. And the neckline needs mending. [A job for tomorrow]. I shall continue to wear it nonetheless. Lovely, dear jumper.

I think the jacket might also look sharp with a dark, clashing tweed tulip skirt & graphic tee, and some new suede heels that I will post tomorrow.

I love the old fashioned pockets - two on one side, one on another, the four-button cuffs, and the amazing three different linings [the sleeves are my favourite]. And I love the fit at the back - something that is problematic for me with most jackets. It's this sort of detailing that is maybe why I rarely buy high street jackets or blazers - coats, certainly, as the high street does snug & chic very well, but on a little tailored jacket you'd never get the perfect cut or attention to detail like this in high street shops.

[A case in point: I so NEARLY bought this angular tailed riding jacket from Todd Lynn for Topshop the other day.


£130, and it was so chic - the pointy cuffs, the velvet collar, the sharp lines. But the fabric feels cheap, it doesn't sit quite right around my tummy, and I know I'd be wriggling about it in all the time, pulling it this way and that. A jacket - even a sharp, tight one - should be easy and let you forget you're wearing it - except when you see it in the mirror.]


Monday, 22 September 2008

A funny old week

I emerged at 7.30pm tonight after an extremely odd weekend involving drawn-on moustaches, new shoes and new friends. Don't think me slack, but I'm wiped out, and far too tired to post all of the details now. But photographs will follow - Coco de Mer's new opening in Chelsea on Thursday with a ridiculously decadent gang of cocktail-hatted, risquely-attired revellers, and a pirate party last night beneath the murky depths of the Thames riverbed. I will hunt for my camera cable tomorrow and document all the shenanigans as soon as possible. For now, back to bed - my hangover rages, and I have only myself to blame. I just bought some beautiful new Liberty bed linen, and need to cocoon myself in it forthwith.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Kate Moss and the House of Blue Eyes

It's been all over the papers by now - Kate's first catwalk show in 4 years.

It happened at the venue where I work now, and was the climax of a party that went off the end of the Richter scale. No-one was expecting her to walk... we thought she'd just sit back and enjoy the show.

Kate aside [well, she did look superb], it was a great party in its own right. The guests looked phenomenal - a friend of mine turned up in a coat made of stuffed toys, Bishi was there looking elegant, and I saw the most convincing drag queen I've ever witnessed - s/he was tall, very slim, with a pretty Louise Brooks face and hair, a tiny cupid mouth, and a very sharp but restrained 1930s style suit. I was admiring how pretty she looked, when she opened her mouth and out came this bellowing, unmistakeably baritone voice. Gosh! I wish I'd had my own camera on me to capture some of these wonderful creatures.

The party launched stylist Johnny Blue Eyes' label House of Blue Eyes, a punky collaboration with several designers he knows, including Giles Pearson, Carol Wiseman and others. His background is mainly in styling music videos and bands [including Scissor Sisters' 'Filthy/Gorgeous' and the amazing 1930s-swimsuit dancers in Take That's 'Shine', and that showed on the night - Ana Matronic hosted, Beth Ditto catwalked and sang, and the guestlist was longer than a life sentence.

I spent the night on four-inch heels [thankfully my own - I was offered some 1970s de Havilland shoes to wear but there's no way I could have stayed on my feet all night], helping our besieged bar staff, generally trying to control the chaos and keeping Miss Moss in alcobooze.

But my favourite bit of the whole thing wasn't so much the party as the preparation - Johnny styled me and our bar supervisor for the night, so I began the day in a dressing room in Goldhawk Road surrounded by improbably tall, thin boys and girls in various states of undress, with two hair-stylists setting about me with hairdryers. A very strange way to commence work for the day! I don't have any photos of my outfit yet - a lady did photograph me, so I'm hoping she'll send me the photos. I wore my Mango/Yousefzada dress, a little 1940s veiled hat, some black suede peep-toe platforms and an amazing necklace - a huge [fist-sized, truly] brass lion's head pendant on a metal and suede chain. Our bar supervisor looked like Jessica Rabbit in a vintage black & gold high-cut swimsuit and Brigitte Bardot hair... wonderful!

Roll on the next party...

[All photos: Lucy Johnston]


Friday, 5 September 2008

Another day, another dollar

I have a long post to write about the fashion party the other night - albeit rather late, given it was all over the front page of the papers the next day, with everyone excited about Kate Moss's impromptu catwalk appearance. I'm waiting to see if I can use some photos for the post, though - so many people looked amazing it'd be a shame not to include the images.

Today, meanwhile, another catwalk show - though this is a private one, for a video shoot. A bit of a strange one - it's for a bingo advert. The models look great, though. It's all graduate fashion, and much of it is covetable. The girls are wearing stunning cream structured coat-dresses and space age pillowy white clothes with inflated shoulders and hoods by Min-Kyung Kim, a 2008 LCF graduate; here's the dress as seen in her graduate show -

[It looks better on the model today though, it sits absolutely straight on her, the effect is killer.]

...And the pillowy stuff:

[Photos: Christopher Moore]

Some of it intrigues me - it's like fencing outfits for ballerinas. Very beautiful structure.

For the final walk, the girls are in stupendous black drapery - backless dresses that gather up at the front and what looks like papery cut-out swimsuits under harem pants that are tight to the knees and extravagant at the hips. I will be making enquiries when all this is over, about where I can lay my hands on the garments. The film crew didn't mind me snapping a few shots, so this is roughly what's going on behind me...

Apologies for the awful photos, my cameraphone really is pretty unacceptable.


Monday, 1 September 2008

A short, pictureless update

Time on my hands: none. My poor camera hasn't been out to play at all lately.

But I found a chic little navy and white Pierre Cardin handbag this weekend, hidden in the unlikely corners of a tiny second-hand stall at Offset Festival. I will photograph it shortly. I love Pierre Cardin. My favourite pair of jeans ever were Cardin, a hand-me-down from my cousin, five years older than me. I grew out of them when I was fourteen though. It is sad that my jeans ownership peaked at such an age, but perhaps it is for the best. The cult of denim is something that mystifies and depresses me a little.

Tonight I am trying on some likely very colourful Terry de Havilland heels which I am being loaned for a party tomorrow. I get first pick out of a suitcase full of vintage TdCs. This is not something that happens very often, or indeed ever. We're hosting a dizzyingly colourful, queeny party for a stylist, with a catwalk show, two very famous ladies hosting and performing, and some NYC djs playing 'bitch-house'. Our lovely bar supervisor has gamely agreed to don a vintage 70s high-cut black & gold swimsuit and gold lurex tights for the occasion [and she carries it off, too]. Me, I'm sticking to the safety of this Mango/Osman Yousefzada dress with geometric tights and the most startling rings of blue kohl I can come up with. There will be hairdressers, and they will give me Veronica Lake hair. Maybe.

It's going to be a glorious day.


Monday, 25 August 2008

You talk like Marlene Dietrich and you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire

When Peter Sarstedt sang 'Your clothes are all made by Balmain, and there's diamonds and pearls in your hair', it's a pretty safe bet his muse wasn't wearing tartan bondage trousers and a lame singlet [much as I very, very much love Balmain's most recent offerings]. I want to live an elegant life like his St Moritz-hopping, Picasso-robbing heroine!

I like to think she would have looked like a cross between Grace Kelly and a Rene Gruau drawing.

I've become fixated on Gruau's drawings since a friend bought me a charming Gruau-illustrated birthday card the other week. They look the way I wish, WISH I could draw [and look] - all nonchalant, fearless brushstrokes, cigarette holders, inkpot eyes, insouciant, pointed little chins and ingenious bolts of colour. These are not chicks, girls, ingenues or even women - these here is LADIES.

He was the son of an Italian count and a French aristocrat - after they separated, he spent his childhood travelling Europe with his mother before pursuing a career in fashion illustration. Throughout the 1930s and early 40s he worked from Paris & Lyon, drawing for Marie Claire, L'Officiel and Vogue. After WWII, a meeting with Christian Dior injected his career with new energy - he created the inimitable image for the Miss Dior fragrance, and immortalised the New Look of the 40s & 50s and the designs of Dior, Balenciaga, Balmain, Schiaparelli and Givenchy. Right up to his death he was still illustrating for Elle, Figaro and Vogue - he never seemed to run out of inspiration and ideas.

[Images: Operagloves]

1910-2004. What a life!


Saturday, 23 August 2008

All quiet on the western front

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Just started a new job and it's keeping me busy. I've got a bit of a backlog of posts to put together, so normal service will resume shortly....


Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Belgian shopping

This wasn't quite the angle with which I expected to approach my stay in Belgium, but an interesting point on Make Do & Mend set me in mind of it.

It was a four-day trip and I stayed in Ghent, making day trips to Antwerp and Bruges. It became something of a shopping frenzy, as the soon-to-come photos will attest to.

I was really struck by the superb layout of their stores, particularly the smaller boutiquey ones. As Kate of MD&F rightly observes, many British stores really self-sabotage by cramming in so much stock that you can't see the wares for the trees, so to speak. One thing I like about Belgium is its pace, and this seemed to translate to their shopping - there's none of the frantic rail-to-rail nonsense that makes shopping an ordeal. In many of the stores I went into this week, boutique or chain, there was floorspace a-plenty, and goods wisely and pleasingly displayed with enough surrounding room to let them breathe and entice people. Some honourable mentions:

- Eva Bos, Ghent

Eva is apparently a teacher at Ghent's fashion academy and this is her own personal fashion display case. There's a mirrored golden pole outside the front door, and the interior is equally yummy. McQueen shoes, a small display of jewellery from the reasonable [45 euros] to the very expensive [800 euros], and perfect dresses [vintage couture and new designs] in black, red and powder pink, all in a low-lit jewelbox of a space.

- Iki, Bruges
My favourite second-hand shop in the world. Another ancient tiled floor, and the minimum of merchandise - one rail of clothes, a low wall shelf of bags and shoes, a cabinet of 30s and 40s jewellery, and occasional other pretties dotted here and there. Everything's shockingly inexpensive [10 euros for a sweet black suede 40s purse? 5 euros for a fetching short navy paisley men's scarf? Gosh...] and very well chosen - not one dud in the place. First time round, I bought out nearly the whole shop. Sadly it was closed on my return visit, but re-opens on August 14th.

- Bruphils, Bruges

An average-looking, well-laid out chain for elegant workwear at first sight, with a fairly pricy main collection and a younger concession range, until you notice the expertly cut sailor-waisted trousers and the oh-so-shiiiiiny patent boots, and the little garden out the back. Also, I enjoyed the awfully heavy, lime-green felt curtains on the changing rooms - a wee spot of well-placed childishness in an otherwise very grown-up store.

- Au Bon Marche, Ghent
A screamingly delectable little place with an antique tiled floor... a glass cabinet housing pretty snap-close purses and wallets made of such soft-looking leather, nothing less than 'succulent' describes it... eye-wateringly pricey, delicate handmade jewellery and funny little stationery and curiosities. Everything is far too expensive [triple-figures for the tiny diamante bracelets], but it's all so pretty and so well-displayed, one can't leave without spending at least 50 euros anyway.

- Episode, Antwerp

[Image: FashionFillers]

Pretty well known across blogland. Londoners know the Chalk Farm Road branch, with its orange shop front and somewhat unremarkable Camden-y 'vintage' stock. Antwerpers have it so much better. Imagine Mint of Covent Garden, but much large, better organised and with dramatically slashed prices, and a really nice, airy space lit by skylights and left to breathe. Again, ample space between the carefully ordered rails - relief! Some second-hand places are an explosion of headachey colour; this one's a rainbow. An hour and a half later I was still trying things on, to the probable chagrin of the staff who were too polite to request I leave so they could go home. I redeemed myself at the till with my debit card.

I can't wait to go back to Belgium and explore more. I can see myself moving there one of these days.


Monday, 11 August 2008

Missing the point which your correspondent veers off course, incensed by inadequate arguments in Richard Dawkins' futile documentary.

Brit readers might have just finished watching episode two of Dawkins' The Genius Of Charles Darwin. Such a promising programme, much as my agnostic mind detests Dawkins and his misfiring attacks on religion as a whole. Such a disappointment, in the end - he doesn't tackle any of the things you hope he might [or even, in the end, talk a great deal about Darwin]. He just uses Darwin's theory to state the obvious - not even covering the whole of it - and it's so unsatisfying.

Tempting as it is in this context, I won't launch into my own opinion on evolution, religion's place in society etc - suffice to say as someone pitched between agnosticism and atheism, I think its existence - as a construct in the human mind and society - is wholly logical and simply badly used. I'll save the full lecture for the day I get to sit down in a room with Dawkins and tell him I think he's a reasonably clever idiot.

But I find it so frustrating the way he totally misses the point. He preaches the basics of evolution to a viewing audience who, if they've settled down to watch the show, likely already agree with him and know the theory of evolution. The show might have been better if it involved a panel discussion between intelligent people of varying - moderate & otherwise - opinions. We might then have learned something.

He begins conversations with people of opposing beliefs with deliberately inflammatory, rhetorical questions [asking a creationist bishop in Africa "Are you an ape?" - of course the guy's not going to say "Yes, Richard, yes I am - how kind of you to notice", is he??] designed to start an argument before expanding into a lecture. [The fella, to his credit, clarifies his argument peaceably, and then has to listen as Dawkins lectures him on the basic mechanics of evolution.] It's not a dialogue - he picks out people he believes less factually or intellectually equipped to argue with him [e.g. the bishop, who appears to have been unaware of the finer points of man's relation to other primates], and bashes them about the head with his version of the world.

He launches into his ideas about altruism, and terminates his argument at the conclusion that it is exists solely to make creatures sexually attractive and to enable friendly relations among familial groups, and remains in humans as a throwback to this, much like the sexual instinct existing alongside contraception. I wish he had considered the idea that maybe as our brains developed and we think about the future of our species, the altruistic instinct remains as a sensible mechanism [the better part of human nature vs the fear/mistrust/destruction instinct?] to promote harmony [and therefore longevity] to our species and the world we live in.

I'd like to take him by the shoulders and shake him.


Girls on film

I find I have been drawing out my birthday over as long a period as humanly possible, and to that end, I will be celebrating at the end of the coming week with a costume party [I will be a flapper, if I can find a cigarette holder]. And I just spent a week in Belgium, enjoying its many shops and birthday-gifting myself. More of that later, when I've photographed what I bought.

Meantime, here is a picture of the unutterably fetching birthday present a close friend gave me yesterday. I am more charmed by it than I can describe. It just remains to be seen whether I can find the requisite 4x4 127 film [some places in Canada still make it...?], flashbulb and funny looking flash battery and capacitator. If not, it will just be the prettiest ornament I ever did see.

Beautiful, beautiful 1958 Sawyer's Mark IV twin lens reflex camera. You open the top and look down into the camera, and out through the top lens [the bottom takes the photo]. Sawyer's was the American branded version - it's basically a Japanese camera, otherwise known as the Primo Jr.

I can't find a picture of the superb flash unit, but it's basically a version of the below, except not Ricoh - Sawyer's, like the camera.

The camera and flash unit come prettily housed in brown leather cases. I'd so love to request a photopass for a generic indie gig, turn up in the photopit with this and catch the looks on the pro photographers' faces. They'd be pitched somewhere between "WHAA" and "LOL".

For now I will put it next to my old Russian Zenit camera and let them pose it out in a walk-off. Zenit can be Stiller, and my Mark IV baby can be Wilson.


Friday, 1 August 2008

Though you were just a little swirl, you understood every word

A lady on Livejournal posted this photo in a list of her fashion inspirations for this season, as part of the new romantic [soft goth? I hate that label but that is, if one is to adhere to Vogue's lexicon, what they're calling it] look.

It has just occurred to me that I used to dress almost exactly like that when I was eight. I don't think I had the high heels, but velvet shorts, black tights, hippie-ish brown top, pendant - check, check, check, check. My hair was much shorter and distinctly mousy, but I was only eight, so... fcuk all y'all.

Now I know there's something of a nineties revival going on, but was this actually in fashion back then? I don't remember it being so... or if it was, I don't remember being aware of it, though I do remember there were always piles of Vogue and Harpers & Queen in our house. I was eight, and all I wanted was to be a mysterious looking hippy-goth. It is doubtful whether I succeeded. Whether Peaches succeeds now or not is, perhaps, a separate discussion entirely.


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Birthday shopping

I needed a new pair of trousers, something skinny and cigarette-like. So naturally on my birthday at the weekend I went shopping, and bought a bunch of dresses and a jacket. Let it never be uttered that I am not possessed of logic and wisdom.

Sadly my camera was uncharacteristically uncooperative, so some of these photos are somewhat overexposed. Man Ray I am not.

I love this knit dress by Japonica. The bow detail is cute and it's unbelievable easy and comfortable, even in sticky weather like this.

Belted with an ancient Liberty silk scarf [sadly my camera wouldn't pick up the pattern detail, it's very wispy and delicate]. The bump on my leg is me realising I need to be careful which lingerie I wear with this dress - anything involving knots and ties clearly won't do. Live and learn...

A cute shirt-dress from whereareyounow. Most shirty things on me look a bit stiff but this one is made of really nice, almost degraded cotton. Soft soft soft.

I had told myself I would not indulge in the trend for stars, as it can look quite teenage, but gosh I love this Reko dress. I can wear it anywhere, and the top part is double-lined so it holds its shape well and doesn't feel flimsy.

Dreeeeeeeeeeeeam. I have wanted a leather jacket for years, and never ever found a second-hand one that fit me [they're all cave-like on my frame]. God bless Topshop for this butter-soft little lovely.

I don't want to take it off. I wore it to lunch today in the clammy afternoon heat, and it was gorgeously comfortable, not too warm at all.

The odd one out. I didn't get this necklace at the weekend - got it a few weeks ago at a vintage fair in Notting Hill but haven't had much chance to wear it yet. It's good with silky camisoles and lacy/crochet v-necked tops. Not as heavy as it looks...


Tuesday, 29 July 2008

If you steal my sunshine...

It was my birthday on Saturday. In past years I've had very silly picnics and booze-a-thons, but it's been a pretty difficult few weeks and I just felt like spending it with my family.

And shopping.

I'll post my purchases later, when I've photographed them. Meanwhile, a post about my lovely dad's birthday present to me - I spent a happy hour in my favourite umbrella, swordstick, cane and life-preserver emporium, choosing my present.

I picked out two umbrellas - a big one for dark, rainy days, and a small one for toting about town when the weather is less inevitably filthy.

The little one:

It makes me think of Gustav Klimt paintings and the endless joy of school days at the back of the classroom, armed with a shakeable gold pen and a shiny new exercise book.

And the big one:

The photo doesn't do it justice - it's got a nice weight to it, with a wooden shaft and exquisite thick silky fabric which shimmers beautifully in the sunlight.

Two of my favourite things about JS&S:

- they can put together a semi-bespoke umbrella for you, for little more than the standard brolly price, because they keep the heads and frames in their workshop downstairs. I very nearly plumped for a Quant-patterned brolly with a crimson resin parrot for a handle, but they hadn't the parrot head in stock.

- they stamp their larger brollies with their beautiful silver nameplate:

I think I should start naming my umbrellas.

This concludes my umbrella geekery for this week.


Friday, 25 July 2008

"Help me to be sensible!"

For my friend Ian's birthday this week, a bunch of us took a trip to see the live production of Brief Encounter at the Haymarket. It's truly magical. From the time you go in, it's era-perfect - a little skiffle band playing around the auditorium as you enter, uniformed attendants serving refreshments. The same people get onstage and turn out to be the cast, and then provide the intermission entertainment. It's tickle-me-pink funny and unbearably sad, and the staging is so inventive and gorgeous. If you're a Londoner, I recommend it heartily.

They are apparently taking it to Broadway, and Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick will play the leads. Ugh. I imagine Sarah Jessica Parker will relish the opportunity to be TERRIBLY! DRAMATIC! AND! OVER! THE! TOP!!!!!!!!! OH! WOE, WOE IS SHE!

Rather you, dear New Yorkers, than I.

Anyway, we thought we'd have a jollier time if we dressed up, so dress up we did. I can't really do 1940s very well, because I have neither curl-friendly hair nor pneumatic bosoms. So I went for a marcel-waved 1930s look. I know I look like Olive Oyl - it doesn't need saying, so don't say it.

And here we are with the lead actor, Tristan Sturrock. He seemed much taller onstage, but then he wasn't dressed like an emo mime at that point. Still, a very nice man, stripes or no.


The Sewing Chronicles - part the first

So, I have a sewing cupboard full of assorted silks. A box with 5 different kinds of scissors, thread in every colour, needles of every size, two tape measures and numerous pots of beads, buttons, sequins and sundries. £85 worth of beautiful English pinstripe wool. An unfinished silk backless top for which I have just found some suitable lining, and some purple dye & white silk just in case it isn't all that suitable after all.

I chickened out, and spent a day making a purse out of my old scarlet silk-satin dressing gown.

The underside isn't perfect but I kind of like it. Mostly hand-sewn, lined in the same silk, so it's as tough as old boots.

The ribbon is part of a whole roll of antique ribbon that I got for £2 in Notting Hill the other week.

I'll attempt the next week.