Friday, 27 August 2010

Winds of change

What's happening? Has it turned into Autumn overnight  - leaves falling, a drop in temperature and rain'a'plenty? And that's still in August! However, this has given me a great opportunity to test run my 'new' shearling jacket. Mind you, any long-term eagle-eyed reader might spot that the jacket itself is not exactly new. I featured it on my blog last year  ('The North Wind Doth Blow') in what was one of my favourite posts to date.
A year or so later however, it has a new lease of life - in, namely what seems to be one of the biggest current trends, the eponymous Shearling Jacket. Not having nearly £2000 to spend on one of the highly covetable Burberry ones (complete with waiting list) that kick-started the appreciation for all things aviator (my Amelia Heart-esque hats will also be coming out of the hatbox), I devised a much cheaper, and more unique version instead...
The leather jacket came from a charity shop for the grand sum of £1.25 last year. Not only is it Escada, but it has the butteriest leather, vintage style buttons and a blue wool lining. Why the cheap price?
1.) It had a small rip underneath a button, which was easily fixed by re-sewing it down..
2.) It came from one of my favourite local charity shops, who put out pretty much everything that is donated - be it Primark or Prada.

It was actually my mum's idea to transform this jacket into an updated beauty with the aid of an old sheepskin seat cover that had begun to fall apart. We made a template of the collar and traced this onto the back of the sheepskin before cutting out the shapes carefully and pinning them to the jacket. Then many hours were spent sewing it in place while watching the Fast Show (a British sketch based comedy show from the nineties, and one of the funniest things around.) For anyone who has seen it, I doubt that the actor running around growling "You ain't seen me, roight?" realised that his character's shearling jacket would one day make him a trendsetter. (But let's hope that nasal hair doesn't undergo a similar renaissance!)
I made sure that the new false collar is only attached to the lining, meaning that it can be removed again if needs be.

I felt that if I'd already interpreted the Burberry look so literally, I may as well go the whole hog and style it in a very Burberry-esque manner. I bought the lace dress in a charity shop, and the suede boots were charity shopped by my mum. The big gold necklace was my great-grandma's, and the other belonged to her daughter (my grandma.)

I'm not often one to follow trends, but the Autumn/ winter collections this year seem like some of the most desirable and wearable I've seen  - classic shapes, understated colours and standout works of craftsmanship. From the cult status of Christopher Bailey's designs, to the demi-couture aesthetic of Erdem or the bright ideas of up-and-coming designer Charlotte Taylor, there's more than enough eye-candy/clothes candy to salivate over this season.

My mum took these photos in a small gale. The clouds lowered more and more by the minute, with mum saying, "I can't see your face! It's too dark," and me trying to hold back my hair, as it seemed to be determined to make me look like a yeti. However, the wind added a nice touch, and I was definitely feeling 'Autumnal Vibes' in the cold. And I can happily report that the customised jacket performed its job of keeping me warm to perfection. I think it will be getting alot of use as my "photographer jacket" in the next few months.

I did another behind-the-camera Autumnal themed shoot today (They're starting to stack up on my computer...) with someone else called Roz! It was quite surreal ringing up to confirm the shoot by saying "Hi it's Roz. Is Roz there?"

Autumn is by far my favourite season, and I can't wait for the photography opportunities, design inspiration and wonderful walks it brings. Not that I want to wish away the end of the summer, but it looks like it's been shunted out of place already, and I'm ready to embrace the weather.


Monday, 23 August 2010

Not just in Fairytales..

Way back in May when it was my birthday, I mentioned a certain Chanel dress given to me by a very good family friend - or should that be fairy godmother? I was totally blown away when I unwrapped the tissue to find this grey tweed beauty nestling there. I was already feeling quite Chanel that day, being dressed in men's silk pyjamas (but that's another post!) at an 'MGM starlett's birthday brunch' celebration (hosted by the BFG - Best Fairy Godmother). So the dress was (to borrow a slightly cliched phrase) the cherry on top of the cake. However, I don't like glace cherries, so maybe 'a fresh of the tree cherry' or 'elaborate icing' or 'interesting Bompas & Parr style embellishment' on top of a cake might be more appropriate in this case.

I'm always inspired by fairy tales and traditional stories, but I'm still overawed by real life fairy godmother waving a magic wand and sprinkling of Chanel faux pearls in my direction! Perhaps I should just start a little tickbox alongside each post of things I like to regularly mention: Jaeger, Fairy-tales, photography, family owned clothes... Need I go on?

Now, as you know, my style usually tends to consist of charity shop mixed with vintage, a pinch of inherited pieces and maybe the occasional bit of topshop thrown in there. However, that doesn't stop me loving the goods and the greats - classic Chanel being way up at the top. Looking at it up close, you really get a feel for the fabric quality and structure - grey satin linig and all! I'd love to know which collection it's from - does anyone have any idea?
The family friend who gave it to me said she thought it might be a runway sample, as the lining isn't completely even inside. However, this just makes it all the more special and idiosyncratic for me.

With an item like this, where to start with the styling? Who needs a necklace with a neckline as embellished as that? Along with sleeve edges, hem and pocket tops? Luckily inspiration came in the form of a hat my mum bought from the Big Chill, which happened to match the fabric of the dress perfectly. From then on it became easy - grey vintage leather gloves from the much-mentioned box of great-granny's gloves, a faux pearl bracelet (from the same 'fairy-godmother'), one of my favourite pairs of charity shopped shoes and vintage sunglasses I bought in Edinburgh last summer.

My dad took the photos at an amazing beauty spot (on the way back from a day out) Even the striking standing stones complimented the tones of the dress! We were incredibly lucky with the light and visibility, meaning we could see for miles around - possibly one of the most beautiful views in Britain. Luck stayed with us as almost the minute we were back in the car, the rain started spitting down.

I actually have some separate photos that my good friend Flo took of me in this dress on another occasion, but the shots are so wonderful I thought I'd save them for a post of their own, after a decent interval! 

Talking of Chanel, I really want to see the 'Coco & Igor Stravinsky' film. Has anyone already seen it? And if so, what did you think?

I had a lovely holiday, and was greeted on return with a host of very wonderful comments. I always appreciate everyone who takes the time to write, especially on my own photography posts - a few more of which might be springing up soon. I have so many photo projects planned for the next few weeks. The start of a new term is looming its head - time to finish cramming in the creative projects...

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Dressed up for den making

Now, when I got back from the Big Chill, a little over a week and a half ago, what was my first thought? Not "ooh, I actually have a whole house to live in, as opposed to a length of fabric and some poles"? No, it happened to be - let's go and make a den in the garden... Okay, so my brother co-erced me into helping him make it - however it was very enjoyable! There was one major difference though, this would be a den I could stand up in! Nothing like being hunched over for four days to make you grateful for high ceilings.

So, armed with a multitude of blankets and rugs, lots of clothes pegs, the frame of our swing and some not-very-robust gardening canes, we proceeded to create a little 'hang out space' for the afternoon. It was rather idyllic, reclining in there and reading 'The Moomins' aloud to little brother (I love those books!), eating yummy food, reading 'A Room with a View' and roasting marshmallows in the evening. Even having to dismantle the den very speedily ahead of impending rain didn't mar the day.

And (of course!), the den also then played host as a backdrop, with both parents taking photos. However, it was pretty dark in the actual structure, so I had to emerge into the light. I wanted an outfit that would be a total juxtaposition with the setting - so in the end I took a classic Russian princess, mixed with Alexander McQueen A/W 08 (a girl in a 600 hundred year old elm tree sounds like it was made for me! Definitely one of my favourite collections of his) as my inspiration.

This was achieved with a long lace skirt from a charity shop stall at the Big Chill, along with a big underskirt, and my favourite blue fifties jacket from a local vintage shop - the crafted tailoring never ceases to amaze me. I then added a faux fur stole (also from the same charity shop stall at the Big Chill!), beige and dark blue t-bar shoes from ebay and a silk scarf from the much-mentioned hatbox full of inherited scarves. The blue ring used to belong to my great-grandma, who collected costume jewellery.

I've been doing my hair in this style quite a bit recently, after working out how to do it in three minutes. The method is as follows:
1.) Take a thin silk scarf or length of fabric and tie your hair in a top knot.
2.) Bunch the leftover fabric in your hand and wrap your hair around it to create a loose bun shape.
3.) Keep in place using a lot of kirby grips and some big clips.
4.) Tie a silk scarf under it.

Et voila! Hair a la Audrey Hepburn in a matter of minutes.. I am very low maintenance, so this suits me fine. A reader recently asked if I might describe my beauty routine, so here it is:

I use an exfoliating facial scrub on my face every now and then, and that's about it in terms of beautifying! Make-up (if I'm wearing any) comprises of brown Body Shop eyeliner, a bit of mascara and either vaseline or lipstick (Rimmel does great shades of reds and golds). Sometimes I use Too faced 'Liquif-eye' liquid eyeliner if I want to dress up.

Hair wise, I use Tresemme shampoo and conditioner and my morning routine usually consists of brush-and-go! I very occasionally curl my hair, but try not to use any styling products or hair appliances regularly, to avoid damage. I combed it straight recently, and it's nearly waist length!

Talking of questions, I've been thinking about maybe doing a Q&A post soon - so please do fire away, the quirkier the better!

This is my first atttempt at a scheduled post (being away on holiday right now, which might explain a noticeable lack of response. This summer has been so unbelievably action packed!), so I hope it's  all gone according to plan. I'll look forward to catching up when I get back.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Alice Through the Ages

"When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!"

"Burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after the white rabbit, and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole."

"My name is Alice, so please Your Majesty," said Alice very politely.

"Take some more tea," the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

"Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have to them to be otherwise."

"Alice said nothing: she had never been so much contradicted in all her life before."

"Tied round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words "DRINK ME," beautifully printed on it."

"Alice began looking at everything about her to pass the time"

"She would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright with many a strange tale, perhaps even with a dream of Wonderland of long ago... remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days."


I am loathe to write masses about this post, as I feel that the quotes (all credited to Lewis Caroll's ever wonderful 'Alice in Wonderland') and photos speak for themselves. However, you know me - lengthy posts are my forte!

As you have probably guessed, this is my latest behind-the-camera and styling venture, with a new model - my gorgeous friend Caitlin. The premise for the shoot was 'Alice through the Ages' - how Alice might appear in each decade, from fifties to eighties. I had to improvise slightly, but I hope you can get a feel for each 'look' I tried to create.

I know that Alice in Wonderland has been a very popular source of inspiration ever since the Tim Burton film came out (which I finally saw recently), but it's been one of my favourite stories since childhood. Surely after seeing three different film adaptations, listening to it on repeat as an audio book and reading both 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Alice through the Looking Glass', the next logical step was an Alice inspired photo project? And I think this inspiration source is far from used up - you can draw ideas again and again from Caroll's surreal story, like one can draw treacle from a treacle-well. (Well, according to the doormouse at the tea-party.) Reading through the book for suitable quotes filled me with the desire to complete an even bigger and more ambitious Alice shoot. (Are you up for Alice pt 2 Caitlin?)

I especially loved the concluding few pages of the book (see the last quote) which gives a wonderfully evocative description of all that is golden about childhood - of imagination, fairytales and the ability to believe the most fantastical things. That's the kind of aesthetic I humbly hope I might capture a little of with my photography...

The idea with this project was mainly to focus on the Alice dresses, so only a few props were included (such as the 'drink me' bottle and tea set). We used the area surrounding Caitlin's house (she lives even more rurally than me!) as the setting, and had a day full of running around, dressing up and climbing trees.

I had such trouble whittling down the photos to only two per outfit - I have so many more shots I would love to share... I don't know how professional photographers and magazine editors manage to select only the one! Maybe they just have that innate ability - I can personally imagine Anna Wintour nonchanantly looking at a row of photos, pointing her perfectly manicured finger and saying "that one" before striding off, high heels tapping on the polished floor. However, I think my trouble is that I take pictures of the same outfit in several different locations, making the editing process so much harder for myself.

  • 'Fifties Alice' is made up of a favourite blue dress from Beyond Retro, an apron my mum bought from a charity shop, a vintage necklace inherited from one of my grandma's and a watch that used to be my mum's.

  • 'Sixties Alice' is wearing a blue vintage dress I bought on ebay, a clock necklace also bought on ebay, various vintage watches from different sources and a silk ribbon that came with a charity shopped vintage shirt.

  • 'Seventies Alice's ensemble is comprised of a vintage floral dress I bought in a Bristol vintage shop, a vintage white belt that used to belong to my grandma (look at Caitlin's teeny waist!) and a necklace from a charity shop.

  • 'Eighties Alice' has been put in a vintage charity shopped silk shirt (the one the ribbon came with - Caitlin wanted to steal this from me!), an electric blue leather pencil skirt from Beyond Retro and necklaces inherited from family members.

Shoes - model's own. On that note, thank you Caitlin for being such a willing subject and for a very enjoyable shoot!

I also made a four page moodboard for this project, but forgot to scan it in...

Thank you for the wonderful response to my Sunday Times feature, and a special thank you also to the ever-lovely Citizen Rosebud, who not only gave me a blog award, but also always leaves such sweet, eloquent comments!

Edit: And just to clarify, none of these photos are altered/edited on the computer. I try to keep them in the original format, apart from the occasional crop...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Laced into the landscape (Pt 1)

In 1933, when my great-great grandfather was presented with this brown gentlemen's leather case, I doubt that he could have imagined either that 77 years later his great-great grand-daughter would be standing with it in a corn field, or how the world that he knew would have changed. The notion of computers, the internet and, of course, blogging would have seemed like the stuff of Science Fiction. And yet here I am! But then some things never change - the passing of the seasons, harvesting of crops, temperamental weather (can we have his kind of summer back though, pretty please?) and human nature.
I know I touched on this in my last post, but I especially feel that pieces like this with a specific history and story deserve to have another life. In this case, as a rather attractive clutch bag!

I wanted to create a modern outfit to go with the 'clutch', that also acknowledged the history and eras that this case lived through to before finally entering my room. Luckily, my search for lace skirts in local charity shops has yielded two or three fabulous results recently! (Ergo the 'Pt 1' in the title - watch this space..)
I 'thrifted' this cream lace skirt, and am planning to use it for lots of Helena Bonham Carter-esque outfits under long skirts. The boater (possibly vintage, no label to ascertain) was from the same charity shop. Maybe they were just meant to be put together! A very good family friend gave me the vintage fifties bolero. I love that particular shade of duck egg blue. However, as it is cashmere, it was overwhelmingly hot in that cornfield - not the best material for a sultry summer's evening of photography! But I'm a big fan of visible stitching, so it is most definitely my cup of tea. The much featured brown leather belt was my mum's when she was a teenager (we recently came across an old photo of her wearing it). The gold t-bar shoes were second hand on ebay and I was given the faux pearl necklace by my great-grandma. I made the bracelet out of a miniature negative film wheel, a broken watch base and a large vintage button.

I got back home from the Big Chill on Monday morning, having seen some amazing bands and artists this year - my highlights being Paloma Faith, Newton Faulkner, Massive Attack and Morcheeba. I also discovered a new rising artist called Beth Jeans Houghton - one of her tracks is currently playing on my iPod as I type. My camera never left my side. Honestly, if I had a papoose, I'd carry it like a baby!
For a charity shopaholic like me, the Big Chill was dangerous ground - as there were two amazing charity shop stalls on site. Lets just say I left with my pockets a little lighter, and unable to zip up any of my much heavier bags!

In other news, (and apologies to any of you who've already seen it!), I was extremely honoured to be featured in the Sunday Times Style supplement in a section titled 'What are you wearing.' Here is the actual photo used, courtesy of the lovely Sunday Times photographer Rick Pushinksy,plus a copy of the text used.

Time to deal with the flotsam and jetsam of clothes, also known as my new acquisitions from Big Chill, lying like so many stranded Jellyfish all over my floor! It'll be nice to remember to what colour my carpet is again.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Turn and turnaround

On the same day that I went off afternoon-raspberry picking, I also unearthed this beautiful pleated, reversible skirt in a local charity shop in the morning. This got me thinking - the thrill of finding raspberries, and discovering a new item for my wardrobe share some similarities. It's that sense of accomplishment, of bringing something home that you took the initiative to find. Maybe some things, such as the urge to forage, just never change. Whether we're searching for wild food (there was nothing more thrilling as a child than to find a cache of blackberries to gorge on. As Seamus Heaney put it - "... sweet/ Like thickened wine: summmer's blood was in it.") or clothes, are we just still driven by our primal urges - in whatever guise they now appear? What do you think?

So maybe it's apt that as I write, with a cup of coffee to hand, the smell of simmering raspberry jam is wafting up the stairs...
Back to the clothes - the item in question 'foraged' here is a vintage skirt, checkered on one side, striped on the other. It;s a clever design, as whichever way you're wearing it, the other pattern peeps out from the pleats. It also fits perfectly and gives me a distinctive fifities feel.
Here I added a vintage thermal vest layered over a grey t-shirt. Oh, for the days when even thermals were stylish! And that's before I even start rhapsodising about silk knickerbockers, camisoles and slips from bygone eras...
 The belt is my mum's, bought in a charity shop and the gold necklace was from ebay, as part of a bundle of clock-related jewellery. I have a slight fascination with accessories that integrate time-keeping into their structure - give me a vintage watch or a white rabbit-esque pocket watch over a Rolex any day! (Even if the vintage watch doesn't actually work!) The cardigan slung over my shoulders in one shot is my favourite for warmth (another local charity shop.)
The gloves are from the the large collection (mentioned many times before) amassed from various late family members and the vintage red vanity case was given to me by my paternal grandma. It  was probably one of the first retro items to infiltrate my room - though my foraged collection has now completely taken over! I think my clothes may be planning house-hold domination if  any more are acquired. It's like continental drift, the tide is already lapping at the landing.
I know I've said it before (and will most likely say it again) but I really love the fact that some of my late relatives live on in the items of theirs I now wear - I'd say they account for at least a quarter of my wardrobe and accessories. I may not have known them in person, but I know what they wore, the fabrics they preferred and the styles they liked. It's a very tangible connection to my family tree.

These photos are a mix of both my mum's and dad's endeavours behind the camera, at one of our favourite local locations - complete with china teacups and beautifully old books!

Talking of books, I've finally started  'As I walked out one Midsummer Morning' which I am thoroughly enjoying. The imagery is sheer poetry in its use of surprising descriptions of settings and people. I've also just finished reading 'Lord of the Flies,' I found it an intriguing mix of gripping and bleak. I'd love to hear any opinions or responses to it.

I'm off to the Big Chill (music festival) tomorrow. Very long time readers will recognize this as my second year in a row! Last time the highlights included seeing LAMB, Emmy the Great and Marina and the Diamonds - in a comparitively small audience - she's now one of the 'new big things'. Marina Diamandis had an amazing stage presence, and I can imagine that, from the viewpoint of a photographer, she would make a fascinating subject infront of the lens.
So apologies for another dose of non-responsiveness in the next few days. I have had so many wonderful comments that I want to take the time to reply to properly once I get back. Promise!

An additional note - also enjoyed spending time yesterday styling and taking Alice in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass photos of a good friend of mine. Can't wait to sift through and post them!
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