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.]