Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Flat-hunting

Posts are a little thin on the ground at the moment, as I am spending all of my time on property websites, trying to find a nice flat to rent. Our landlord wants to sell our flat, so it looks like we are reluctantly moving on. For a dedicated follower of a fashion, it's a trying undertaking - I must have enough storage for my clothes! Right now, and in my previous existence at my parents' house, I have been lucky enough to have a spare room to put my clothes in. It's higgledypiggledy but basically organised. Except when it's not. I don't know if I will be so lucky in our next place - though we can afford a place with enough space, it's simply a case of actually finding it, in the area we want (i.e. exactly where we are now, thank you very much).

The search goes on... wish me luck.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Rainbow warriors

I've always had a penchant for very colourful makeup. At 16 I had a Saturday job in the long-gone but legendary South Molton Street Pharmacy - a treasure chest of Spectacular and Barry M rainbow nail colours, cheap sample-size posh products (Eight Hour Cream for a fiver!), and make-up of every shade, consistency and brand imaginable. You'll be shocked to learn that I amassed quite a collection, and wore absurd eyeshadow every day. At one point I owned four hundred bottles of nail polish. Worrying.

The legacy of this still lives on in my three make-up boxes and tendency to buy everything I think I might ever need. Admittedly in recent years I have been a bit more grown-up about things, sticking sensibly to dark brown liner, soft neutrals and occasional metallics, and buying much less as a result (no-one needs ten grey eyeshadows). Nails are still fair game, although my collection's shrunk to about 40. Lately though I have felt the need to explore colour again. Music videos are a great source of inspiration for me; blame Gaga, Katy Perry or Karen O... either way, it's fun to play with colour.

Yesterday I had a bit of a splurge, as tends to happen when I go into Superdrug. Here's what I got, as well as a few of my regular favourites.



I love Gosh products. I'm wearing the nail polish above on my nails, and the green eye pencil makes a great base for green or yellow powder. I've found the products I've used to be as good as Mac, and significantly cheaper. (I strongly recommend the eyebrow pencil/brush combo.) And they have a great sense of colour - they aren't limited to traditional colours or even the very primary and secondary shades that Barry M use. Lots of weird combinations. Yum!




I'm quite impressed with this colour palette from Collection 2000. Cheap as chips, you get nine superbright shades in varying textures. It's a tiny detail but I also really like the flexible plastic overlay (like thick clingfilm - not shown) that protects all the colours once you open the palette.

And some old favourites:



I'm getting a lot of use out of this Rimmel solo at the moment - a really nice pastel aqua-green powder that's great with pale skin. A nice zing of colour without being too neon or vulgar.



I use this magenta Mac lip pencil lots. A light covering gives a soft, matte look, or it can provide a base for dramatic pink or magenta lipstick.



Regular shoppers at Superdrug will know what a treasure trove it is for affordable and modern make-up. I believe if you know your way around Superdrug you rarely need to even venture near the pricier make-up stands. Sam of make-up artist duo Pixiwoo has made no secret of her admiration for the Sleek colour palettes. I haven't bought any yet (it's only a matter of time) but I have to throw my hat into the ring for BeautyUK. Their muted forest-toned iridescent palette is a modern classic, but this rainbow palette is great fun, and less than £5. You'll get a lot of colour out of each shade, and they wear really well over a good base. I can't recommend it enough.



Best eye quartet I ever ever bought. I bought this Hard Candy quad when I was sixteen. I'm now 27 - and still using it. The pressed powder hasn't degraded at all; it's heavily pigmented and very iridescent with a thick, luxurious texture. The yellow is fantastic with a strong green shimmer and the darker shades are gold-shot. I know you're not meant to keep make up for so long but when it works such a treat, and is so irreplaceable, how can I throw it out?

I miss Hard Candy SO MUCH. I'll probably do a post dedicated to them shortly.



Who doesn't love Shu Uemura? A deliciously pigmented shimmering yellow that I like on its own with black mascara and minimal make-up elsewhere.

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Friday, 5 March 2010

Very excited

This layabout blogger is going to be a paid-up member of society once more. No more daytime television or odd days of work for me for a while... I just landed a very serious executive PA job, starting at the end of the month.

My father and boyfriend's responses: "Congratulations!" My mother's response: "You'll need to sort your wardrobe out, dear. Not that you don't have wonderful clothes, but I think you might need to . . . er . . . " Yes, Mother, I know. Yours truly will be finally sorting out her tax this month and trotting off out in search of a couple of suitably executive looking shirts. Advice, Londoners? Where will I find beautiful shirts? Thomas Pink's shirts are a bit stiff for me... I need something with a narrow, slightly mannish fit and very sharp but understated collar in fairly thin fabric, nothing that looks like it could stand up on its own. Proper cuffs a bonus.

My mother is desperate for me to buy a silk shirt. I think this has been her ambition for me for some time now.

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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Dress Up

I am very taken with Aussie label Dress Up.



The current collection suggests a preoccupation with a state of undress. Dresses fall off shoulders, or sections are pinned together, baring small, irregular expanses of skin. It's sexy and risque but quite the opposite of the sucked in, va-va-voom of body-con or burlesque's old-school kitsch.




Black, brick red and nude prevails, in degrees of sheer.




The perfect black trousers? Dainty and beatnik with flat sandals or pumps, elegant with wedges, and they'd tuck perfectly into some calf-length boots.




Dress Up are stocked at Liberty - and here's Yasmin Sewell, Liberty's Chief Creative Consultant, wearing the most wantsome skirt I've seen since records began. Photo by the very talented Vanessa Jackman, from her blog.

I also just noticed that fellow Aussie label Shakuhachi are now being stocked at Urban Outfitters. Long have I waited for this moment, Shaku fangirl that I am. I had a peruse yesterday - beautiful, loosely structured grey jackets with zip-off sleeves, softsoftsoft black jersey and drapey nude chiffon. Perhaps what you'd call quirky future classics. Pricey though, mostly £150-£200. All the more reason for me to get a permanent job, stat.

Photos, (c) Dress Up, except last photo, (c) Vanessa Jackman.

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Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Maxi memories

I'm disconcerted.

The maxi skirt has resurfaced. People are actually wearing them - well, in blogland anyway. And I cannot remember the last time an item of clothing made me feel so uncomfortable. The jumpsuit, the 80s shoulder pad, the leggings - these were all remnants of a decade long gone, but for me they held no personal memories. I knew that they were wrong (until they were right again) but I had no personal issue with them. But the maxi is another story.



I'm trying to pin down what it is about this garment that seems so alien, so out of time and place - why does it make me uncomfortable? My first glimpse in years was on another style blog. My first thought - "Why would you do that?" Then on Off the High Street, a member asking how to wear one. And indeed, they have been all over the catwalks, though they escaped my attention entirely. Ann Demeulemeester and Max Mara sent them down the runways last year, and the fall '10 catwalks were awash with swishy skirts, sweeping the dust from beneath the models' shoes.



My memories of the skirt are mixed and frequent.

1994: aged 12, in a long dark green tube skirt with a Chinese print on it. Think there was a matching shirt.

15 years old, still indulging life-long hippy tendencies (now quashed forever) in a purple satin C&A floor-sweeper and vest top. There was also a black jersey version.

Aged 16, seeing one of the cool girls in college rock a ballgown skirt to the Christmas dance, teamed awesomely with pink basketball vest and Vans. The ballgown skirt flounces its way insouciantly through art classes for the next month.

Aged 16, shamelessly copying her in a pale grey jersey Topshop maxi with back slit, Converse and red basketball vest. The look is infinitely less successful on my pale, bony, sort-of-brunette body.

Aged 17, still enchanted by that one look, attempt to team under-netted gunmetal maxi (more ballgowny, see??) with corset at indie/rock clubnight. Oh dear. The end of my career in maxi skirts.

The 90s ends.



And here's Ann Demeulemeester, with a rufflier version of my grey jersey tribute skirt, to remind me of what I did not look like.

Yet fashion is so contextual, and even now, seeing the new maxis with fresh eyes and surrounded by new opinions, I have no idea what I think of them. I recoil, but not with a familiar "Ugh, how ugly" reaction - I think it's just simple, personal confusion - "Why is it back?" How did I actually feel in my long skirts? I think I felt elegant, flowing, otherworldly, TALL. All the things I was not when I was an insectoid teenager. Looking back, I know I was merely deluded, and the thought, and these reminders, leave me uncomfortable. (Maybe I tried so hard to make this skirt work, with such rubbish results, that I resent its return.) Could I feel elegant now in a skirt like this?



And could I get through the day in one? Floor-length feels all wrong in this bustling city. I'm not Sienna Miller, nor do I have a meadow to frolic in. Even my beloved long grey strappy chiffon Jigsaw dress, bias-cut and perfect with a tough brown belt and flat red sandals, feels bizarre in smoky London. What would I wear a maxi with? How does one look defined and sharp in one, without losing half one's shape or looking out of one's time? Fashion has become so sexualised, culminating in last year's body-con; am I ready to sartorially silence half my anatomy?

No, I do not trust the maxi skirt.

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Monday, 1 March 2010

Two to read

Some interesting thoughts about the future of thrifting over at No Signposts in the Sea and The Girl Who Married a Bear (and some bewitching old photographs at the latter). They make an astute point - for those of us who adore second-hand shopping, what future are we storing up for ourselves with the new purchases that, in theory, will populate charity/vintage shops in twenty years - if they make it that far?

Worth a read.

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Friday, 26 February 2010

Giddy stratospheres

So kitten heels are replacing vertiginous spikes are they? Not on my watch.

I love an improbable heel, the more jawdropping the better. I still moon after those Chanel gun heels, and in an attempt to move on from the McQueen/Gaga shoes that I posted about a few days ago and will never ever get to wear... I stumbled across the work of Chau Har Lee, as documented by Susie Bubble recently.



Magnifique!

The heel-less heel is a much-done thing, yet this feels fresh and jawdropping.

As some shoes look blissfully comfortable, and others make one recoil in horror about how painful they must be to hobble about in... these fill me with curiosity. I can't imagine what it feels like to wear a shoe like this!



Perhaps it is beautifully supportive.



Perhaps it would leave indents and stripes across my feet for days.



I long to find out!

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Thursday, 25 February 2010

Perhaps I'm overthinking this

...is it just me that feels the impulse to dress a certain way for a certain part of town?

A lunchtime walk in south Kensington (to gaze at the Chanel, Joseph and Coco de Mer windows in Draycott Street) left me feeling distinctly shabby in my purple H&M coat and stompy brown riding boots. Particularly when a very tall young marquis (probably) strode past in a modish black jacket, floppy ginger hair and, truly, a white cravat.

When I passed two old gents on the same street in impeccable tweed and dapper silk scarves, I felt that I had really let the side down.

And I feel altogether too dull if I don't make some sort of artfully indifferent, clever effort for certain bits of east London. Constructing a look is half the fun of it.

Don't get me started on what happens when I go abroad.

Perhaps I'm too self-conscious - but as I am not the type to cultivate a monochrome capsule wardrobe or breeze through life in one pair of ripped jeans and perfectly rumpled hair (I wish), I always feel as thought I ought to give some sort of nod to my intended surroundings...

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Hello new world

This year I turned my back on the career I had pursued for the last three and a half years. They say January is a time for fresh starts - ain't that the truth! Starting anew presents myriad challenges, not least financial. The one challenge I didn't think about is the sartorial.

For almost four years years I've scurried about in performance venues, carrying the amps and guitars of bands from Wichita, Wyoming and Wolverhampton, welcomed terribly posh clients ahead of their 50th birthday gala banquets, told a rather well known broadcasting company where they can and can't film, lugged cases of beer about the place, and looked after music industry from the green & nervous to the hardened - as well as all the accompanying correspondence and paperwork. Behind a bar one minute, behind a laptop the next, be it 8am or 3am. It demanded a very hard-working and versatile wardrobe - it paid to be all things to all people. Well-heeled corporate clients appreciated serious presentation; bands were put at ease by a scruffy chick in jeans, flatties and checked shirt. The more unusual clients (including one fabulous and infamous drag-wearing stylist/designer) were impressed by a more creative and colourful approach to one's clothes - and whoever the client, my clothes had to allow physical work. The only wardrobe style I've not cultivated in the last few years is the most obvious - officewear!

Now I find I'm grateful to have my evenings back - three midnight finishes a week will take it out of you if you do it for long enough, and with a new domestic situation I'm glad to get home of an evening. So I've joined the ratrace, seeking to try my hand at a normal day job. In the search for my next adventure, I am yo-yoing between interviews and the second oldest profession - temping. Every job I go for is of the PA/admin variety. The work is easy, the people amiable. Yet, unexpectedly, the clothes are a challenge - because right now I never seem to be in one place for more than a week.

Initial impressions are the first thing. Interview or first day, you want to look professional. But if you are there for more than a day at a time, you want to be liked, right? You don't want to look cold and unapproachable. I like to look chic and modern, but want to be taken seriously, so fashion's extremes must wait till after-hours. My last temp job was a success, and I was encouraged to apply for a permanent job at the company when such a thing comes up. I want that hit rate with every job - someone give me a permanent job! A sharp suit works for day one, but then my creative juices kick in and I want to introduce my personality into the mix.

And of course every company is different. Sharp-shouldered, razor-haired city slickers populate one office, while the PA in another place trots cheerfully about in jeans and boots. The challenge is finding the right vibe in the few days that I'm there, while trying to look smart and memorable. Of course I want my work to be the thing that sets me apart from the rest of the crowd, but it doesn't hurt to leave a visual impression too... right?

I don't own a suit so for smart days I've opted for black suit-y separates - the McQueen trousers (creased just so down the front) and a Tara Jarmon blazer with a tiny waist and three folded corners at each shoulder. I own two white shirts - a very stiff twill-cotton Thomas Pink shirt with a rebellious that I fear carries Harry Hill connotations (sewing the collar firmly in place diminished it, but still...) and an ivory Chloe shirt with a frilled collar - very pretty but difficult under a suit. A recent swishing event furnished me with two more shirts - a pinstripe one I've decided I loathe and a useful white tuxedo-front thing that I can wear with cufflinks. Otherwise I'm opting for knitted dresses, a trusty black Uniqlo pencil skirt, sorbet-coloured Topshop Unique dresses and Mascaro ankle boots, with bits of posh knitwear (Rykiel/Pringle) to cheer things up a bit. Yet so far I never feel I've quite hit the mark...

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Monday, 22 February 2010

McQueen

I'm sure that every self-respecting writer in blogland will have paid tribute to the late and unusually great Alexander McQueen in the last few days. Quite right, and I'd like to do the same. It's sad when anyone passes but I have not felt so personally saddened by the death of someone I didn't know as I did when I heard the news about Lee McQueen. There are plenty of crassly overused adjectives (genius, artist et al) that fly around when someone well-known dies, but the aptest word I can think of for McQueen was "magician". He took the materials that every designer uses and created entire narratives, worlds, ideas, sculptures and statements out of them, moulded around the female form in a way that made thousands of us want to wrap ourselves in them.

He was totally out of my price range, but I got lucky at a sample sale last year, and my haul included some exquisite, tall nut-brown heels which work wonders on one's ankles...

...a pretty strapless black silk dress with pockets in a tulip skirt, the only perfect black work trousers I've ever owned, and the corsetted black satin pencil skirt to end all corsetted black satin pencil skirts. It was comforting to know that the designer who sent feathered wonders down the catwalk could also produce some of the most wearable clothes I've found - clothes that truly justify the accompanying designer price tag.

My favourite recent memory: the magnificent shoes donned by the equally magnificent Gaga in the Bad Romance video.



I can't think of a better muse for McQueen's fearless work. Too early lost - RIP Lee McQueen.

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Sunday, 21 February 2010

Hello again

Life has changed a lot in the year or so (!) since I last posted. I miss having an outlet for my thoughts, and I'm going to try and post here more often. Things are in flux a lot for me at the moment but either way, I hope some interesting posts will come out of this.

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