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.


Tuesday, 22 July 2008

When in doubt, make stuff

I have been off work for the last week, for medical purposes, and have not been wasting my days. In between work emails [I can't just leave it all alone, the sky will fall in if I do...] I have spent much time at my sewing machine and dress form. The combination of that and my continuing lack of a camera cable is not helping my blog's cause, and for that I apologise. BUT! It will not all be in vain.

I am making:

- a backless mauve silk top, slightly 1930s style - a little like the top half of that dress that Keira Knightley shags about in for a couple of scenes in Atonement

- a crinkled mauve and green silk dress - initially documented here, it has been modified and will soon be finished. I toy with the idea of putting epaulettes on the shoulders, to lend structure and bash a bit of the softness out of the dress

- a Japanese silk drawstring purse, to replace one I lost last week. More people should carry their money about in pouches, for to fling them at surly innkeepers and tavern wenches in return for their mead or silence. There's a medieval elegance to it that's sadly missing in our shiny, seedy society.

- The trousers to end all trousers. A while back I waxed lyrical about these Paul Smith beauties:

On Sunday I bought several metres of beautiful pinstripe wool-cashmere. Unfortunately I was fleeced, and paid over the odds - had I waited a day, I could have bought it in Shepherds Bush for a quarter of the price. Curses! Still, I got my lining nice and cheap, and saw Henry Holland mooching about in A1 Fabric Stores looking very VERY quiffed and blond.

So that's what I'm up to for the foreseeable. No expensive nights out for me... just hard graft over a hot sewing machine. The credit crunch, they say, is a-coming, and by God I'll be ready and well-clothed when it does.


Friday, 11 July 2008

Patent and silk, satin and ribbons

Four things very dear to my heart.

Unfortunately for my attempts to save in this darkest of recession-shadowed times [--Side note - is it just me that's really not gotten into the spirit of the incoming poverty panic that's sweeping the nation? Is it unpatriotic of me? Perhaps as someone in a not well-paid or secure job who is hoping to buy a house in the next 12 months, I should be hiding behind the sofa right now, but I can't shake the thought that if I just keep saving and secreting £50 notes in envelopes around my house, I'll be okay...--]

Phew! Sorry about that. Where were we?

Ah yes. My inability to keep my debit card in my pocket in the face of shiny shiny patent. I've already got a pair of nude patent shoes [and blue patent shoes... and black patent shoes...] and really didn't need these, but there was something friendly-looking about them, and when I buckled them onto my feet, my tootsies smiled and introduced themselves to the leather with surprising cheer. Plus they remind me of Chloe shoes, though I'm sure I don't know which particular style, and that makes them more appealing, being as I certainly can't afford Chloe shoes.

At this point I must apologise for the shocking photo quality. Phone photos, as my camera cable is lost in the ether, post-house-decorating. There's official photos as well so you can see what they really look like.

Until I put them on and fell in something like love, they were the fallback option for these, which are ridiculous.

I never thought I'd succumb and buy something as patently [ho ho] ridiculous as satin shoes ["Ughhh! RUIN my satin shoes, why don't you?!?!?"}, particularly a pair of open-toed monstrosities spewing forth a froth of silk ribbon at the ankles, but then, I'd never seen these.

I can't work out whether they're pretty or pretty horrific. I've got 21 days to make up my mind, but unless I invite all my friends around to my house to help me with the decision, I'll have to decide on my own, because once I touch them to outdoor concrete I'm stuck with them.

For now, though, I love them.

Also, they have patent heels and ribbon-ends and a teensy-weensy little bar of patent over the toes. It's like a textural free-for-all... patent and satin and silk, oh my!

I think I would like to try living in the eighteenth century, when I think my taste in shoes would have been highly regarded throughout the land.

Thank you, Kurt Geiger. Thank you, Carvela.

P.S. Within my own, slightly oval sphere of logic, I can justify buying two pairs of shoes at once, because I also bought a book of sheet music this week for Chopin's nocturnes, and once I learn to play them all, my soul will be repaired and I will be a worthy individual again.


Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Seven favourites

I've been tagged by luxenoir...

The Rules: List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your summer. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

- Rihanna - Take A Bow

How Rihanna went from that bratty , whiny-voiced kid to this sleek, self-assured madam with a rack of great songs, I have no idea. All I know is it has something to do with Jay-Z and umbrellas. I love this song. It sorts a few things out for me right now, and I love the video - very simple, but she looks magnificent in it. Cutting her hair: a wise move.

- Magnetic Fields - California Girls

A very pretty, dreamy, fuzz-laden reverie about California girls, and creeping up behind them with an axe because you're so sick of their coke-snorting, rockstar-fucking, moneyed airhead ways. This song should have been the theme music for Laguna Beach and The Hills.

- Chet Baker - I Get Along Without You Very Well and You Don't Know What Love Is

If Chet Baker doesn't reduce some little, still-soft part of you to a jellied mess, the likelihood is your heart hasn't been switched on yet. You should get that checked out by a doctor, because there's all sorts of associated health issues just waiting to happen there. You Don't Know What Love Is has the only trumpet solo [that I've yet heard] to make my bottom lip wobble.

- Haddaway - What Is Love

You remember this. Yeeaah, you do. C'mon.

- Sun Ra - Nuclear War

The combination of avant-garde jazz and a bloke slurring 'whatcha gonna do... without yr ass? You lost yo ass, you got no ass', by way of a guess at what might happen if El Presidente ever presses the big red button, is an outside contender for 'most giggle-inducing song ever recorded'. Yo La Tengo have at least two different versions of this song. Their versions are also very good and worth tracking down.

Subgud - Kameleon

I don't know how many people will appreciate this. I really like it. I bought the record this hails from on import from a Norwegian site about 5 or 6 years ago, because one of the songs had vocals by the singer of another Norwegian band I really liked. Anyway. This is a strange, pulsing electronic, maybe a bit housey song with all sorts of mysterious and possibly mistranslated lyrics going on [example: We're by the moon and the sun / Tonight the stars drive limo...]. Like most good electronic music, the louder you play it, the better it sounds.

So now I tag thesearchforchic, enc at observationmode, makedoandmend, sister_wolf, and my little bruv. That's only five, but it's late and it'll have to do.


Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Deep thoughts

I'm sorry. This has nothing to do with fashion or music or indeed anything I intended this blog to be about. But two news stories have caught my attention, and I have to share.

First: Chess Boxing.

This is so much poorer than it could be. Two blokes play chess, then get up and slug each other, then sit down and play chess some more?

It would be far better if they took it back to the game's routes, and actually took their places on a gargantuan chessboard [or... someone's chequered kitchen floor?], and the pawns bashed each other in the face as they took each other... and the knights roundhouse-kicked each other, whizzing through the air like ninjas... and the rooks charged headlong at each other, like old-skool jousters. Maybe the queen could be armed with all sorts of ferocious weapons... nunchukas and African hunting knives and a spiked ball-and-chain... perhaps a Gladiators squashy pugil stick. Why can't people do things properly?

Second: 13 people hurt in Pamplona bull run

Seriously, I find it hard to get my head around this. Bull runs through streets chasing people... people get hurt... presumably they do it all again next year. Spanish culture has much to recommend it, but the whole fixation with bulls... something funny's going on there.

Normal service will resume shortly...


Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Ten Years Younger

It's been a while - work and other circumstances have kept me rather preoccupied and away from the blog. Thank gawd, then, for Channel 4's Ten Years Younger, always on hand to give me something to rant apopleptically about.

This week, a lovely 44 year old lady who's spent years sunbathing. Oddly, instead of looking like your typical perma-tanned, orange leather visaged Majorca matron, she looks like a lady who's spent her life rambling about the Cornwall countryside, getting the sun on her face and mud on her boots. She's got lines and wrinkles, slightly stringy blonde hair - and a really kind looking face. That's the first thing you notice - how kind she looks. She has a face you could paint, all history and expression and character, with pretty pale blue-green eyes and a sweet smile. The lines look like laughter lines and smile creases - hardly the worst thing that can happen to a face over the decades. She pads about in pale, baggy clothes - long skirts, boxy fleeces.

The five children she's spent her life bringing up say they're 'embarrassed' to be seen with her, in her quite ordinary, fleevy oversized beige jacket. If she was Mad Hippy Mum, resplendent in violent tie-dye, or I'm Just Like You Gals Mum, bandaged in skintight Topshop, maybe their embarrassment would have some basis in reality.

An hour later, they've stretched her skin, squeezed her into tight purple clothes with constrictive - and horribly cliched, already dated - waist-cinching belts, high heels that obviously hurt her from the outset. They ignore her skintone and obvious colour preferences, and dress her up in colours that just make her look like the stereotypical older woman, trying to look younger.

She does look older than her years, and some simple changes would have made a great difference. If they had any sense, they'd have picked up on her warm skin, gold hair and outdoorsy nature, and stayed with the white and cream she's used to, livened up with gold, nut browns, marigold, tan, burnt orange, and maybe the odd safari print. They'd have put her in soft, flowy summer dresses with light gold jewellery rather than the cheap, tight satin monstrosities they decide are necessary.

But then I suppose that wouldn't make good tv. Changes must be made, and they must be drastic.

The haircut they give her is pretty, but the colour is dubious. Her skin, lined before, now looks like it's been stretched like a balloon - the texture's unnatural. No-one's skin is like that! Even before they put makeup on it, it shines like rubber. The colours they put her in... ye gods. The only really good thing they did for her was improve her teeth. The rest would have been far more effective if they'd taken it only halfway.

At the end of it, her children are finally proud of her. It's good to see that after 18 years of bringing up your brood, it's your new-found 'stylish' [read: high street of the traddest, least personal nature] look that will make your children express their pride in you, their mother.