Thursday, 30 December 2010

Now and then

As the count down begins towards seeing out the past year and welcoming in the new, my thoughts turned to the origin of word 'January' which is taken from the the Roman God 'Janus' - God of gates, doorways and new beginnings. Within Roman mythology, he is often depicted with two heads in opposite facing directions. This symbolises his ability to look simultaneously to both past and future. And thus an idea - one that has been brewing for a while.

I mention my extended family (both living and deceased), often in my descriptions of clothes either inherited or given. So I thought it was only fitting to eventually do a homage to one of my most stylish relatives - namely, my very lovely Grandma (Babi). I love my conversations with her, as they will range from philosophy and art to tales of her extraordinary life (especially her and her family's experiences fleeing Czechoslovakia in the late forties) or anecdotes about her acting career. I adore looking through her archive of photos and scrapbooks, and so thought that in the spirit of looking both forward and back, I could emulate one of my favourite images of her.

I assume the original photo of her (second down) was taken during her brief time modelling, or as a professional shot for her acting portfolio. I would love to know more about the origin of it, but I will have to ask her and clarify here if necessary.

To recreate her look I used my favourite vintage suit - bought from an amazing vintage shop over eighteen months ago. It was the most money I have ever spent on clothing, but was worth every penny. I have used the two parts separately on the blog several times, but this is the first occasion the jacket has been united with the skirt! I love the beautiful collar and cut of the suit - sheer quality. I added a little thrifted belt, vintage pearls and brooch and a hat inherited from one of my maternal great-grandmas. The vintage shoes were bought by my mum from a market stall and the vintage umbrella also belonged to my maternal great-grandma.

My dad and I spent a lot of time this morning setting up the shot and getting the pose just right. But I was thoroughly happy with the result. My fascination for images from the past is still strong, and it was an interesting exercise to create a 'new' image in the style of an old one.

I know this New Year post is technically a day early, but I am going to be without the internet for the next three of four days. And besides, all the bells are ringing in my local church (albeit because Thursday is practise bell ringing night!), which makes it feel just as special as if it was already tomorrow night! Happy New Year everyone, and may your 2011 be fruitful, inspired, stylish and full of adventure.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Red minidress seeks cape to complement

I am currently sitting next to our Christmas tree, which is covered in everything from traditional Czech figurines to glass angels and tacky glitterballs. In the last few days I have (to adapt a quote from Alice in Wonderland) eaten much too much of a (good) muchness, now have a new book collection and enough art materials to keep me going throughout the year and several vintage items of clothing and accessories ready to style for my blog. Unfortunately both my parents were pretty ill on the day itself, but we made the best of it and still spent many hours with very good family friends.
So, in the spirit of the holidays, I thought I'd post a vaguely festive looking outfit. You may have seen this red dress once already here back in July, proving how versatile it is whatever the weather. I bought it from a charity shop in Bristol a while ago and it has been incredibly useful in these chilly temperatures.
I love the sixties silhouette, so decided to do a full on Twiggy with a thrifted Zara polo neck and a vintage brooch from my paternal grandmother.
The furry hat is from Kangol - that classic label has been popping up all over the place in my hat collection. Kangol, you are officially my new favourite brand (alongside Jaeger). I 'appropriated' the black leather boots from my mum, and the very beautiful charm bracelet was given to me by the wonderful Pearl as part of a 'get better' package I recieved while recovering from surgery in hospital. It is festooned with little russian dolls and tea pots, and reminds me of a Tom Binns piece. Thank you so much Pearl!
Now, it being winter and all, my favourite outfits tend never to be seen outside as they're hidden under lots of layers. But here this thrifted cape was the perfect final touch. It's reversible, meaning I will probably post the grey tweed side at some point too, and cost the hefty sum of £2.50 from my favourite local charity shop! There's also a Jaeger white cardigan underneath that belonged to my Great-Grandma.

The day I wore this my family and I met up with lovely Jill for a scrumptious lunch and some quick photos before having to cut the visit short as my Dad was feeling ill. So you might see it popping up on her blog soon too!

The location was an (ahem) ever so glamorous corner of our garden. My back was hurting and I didn't want to walk anywhere in the ice. Luckily, as I mentioned in my last post, snow manages to make everything look more picturesque.

Among some of the favourite books I recieved for Christmas were: an Alexander McQueen book I had been lusting after, Style Book: Fashionable inspirations (which I heartily recommend to anyone who has a love of either fashion or photography), a book on the role of Vogue during the second world war, a french Van Gogh title, a novel called 'The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox' and an illustrated copy of Cider with Rosie.

I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas have had a happy, warm and festive season filled with good things.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Snow Princess

One of my main frustrations while incapacitated after surgery was the lack of possible photography - I wonder if there is a condition that involves having creative withdrawal symptoms? (I suppose if, according to urban legend, there is a wing of a hospital somewhere in Europe catering for those 'overcome by art' then it wouldn't surprise me!)
However, I was very happy to be behind the camera again on Monday, doing what I enjoy most. This recent snowfall felt incredibly photography-worthy, and luckily my friend, the other Roz, (who lives nearby) was on hand to be styled by and pose for me in -8C for an hour and a half!
We decided to do a little shoot in a local beauty spot. We were both remarking on how Narnia-like the scenery looked. Suddenly a common branch, when struggling under the weight of snow, takes on the guise of a fairy tale.

I like to come up with back stories for photo sequences, and in this instance I devised a little Russian style tale about a princess. I'm sure this was inspired by the fact I've been reading Anna Karenin, and have also recently rewatched Doctor Zhivago!

 This red haired beauty sleeps for the majority of the year, missing out on the picnics of summer or running through the leaves in autumn. Instead, she likes to wait until the first snow fall before emerging from her cosy, green hollow in the foot of a tree. It is then that she is ruler in her own land. Hers are the first footprints imprinted in the fresh snow - and her fingertips brush the icy branches before anyone else.

I wanted Roz to show a mixture of elegance and childish wonder at the scenes around her. We had a lot of fun wandering through the trees, (getting lost a few times) and finding suitable locations for each shot.

Clothes-wise, I decided on a palette of greens,  golds and muted oysters with hints of black. My new favourite fabric is velvet - I have rediscovered it after several years of disliking its texture - meaning I used it a lot in this shoot.

The first ensemble was made up of a green sixties velvet jacket that used to belong to my mum, belted over a thrifted full skirt. The hat is from a charity shop.

The second outfit was comprised of a raw silk thrifted green skirt, a charity shopped gold cardigan and belt, and the other Roz's fur coat. The leopard print gloves were given to me, and the two necklaces belonged to my grandma. I loved the idea of styling Roz like a glamorous Russian heiress from the past.

For the third I put a green velvet skirt (matching the jacket) with one of my favourite cable knit jumpers from the Big Chill. The faux fur hat belonged to my paternal grandfather, the gold gloves from my dressing up box, and the purple velvet shoes are the other Roz's. Necklaces as above.

I thought these snow-filled photos were appropriate to post just before Christmas! The process of this shoot felt like another healing step. I proved to myself that I could do it, and had the required stamina needed. And today I only lay down once or twice! Hopefully the next few days will be full of laughter, love and good food - although unfortunately not for my dad, as he has just come down with a nasty sickness bug..

And if I don't post again before then, Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Long skirts and leather gloves

These photos were taken on the same day as my kilt post, and I suppose this outfit is a natural successor - also with the main focus being a long skirt. I bought this particular one at the one-and-only-jumble-sale-I-can't-stop-mentioning. This was the last item found, after noticing the intriguing pattern peeping out from under a rugby sweatshirt. I knew it was coming home with me when I saw the 'Welsh Wool' label on the inside (I also featured a welsh wool cape on my blog a while ago here) - that label guarantees quality, as well as a slightly wonderful granny chic feeling.
As gorgeous as it is, I found it quite hard to style. It's not exactly a 'goes with everything' piece. However, the answer was found hanging in my mum's wardrobe - a gorgeous wrap around mohair cardigan. I have a bit of a thing for mohair, and am currently wearing a vintage electric blue mohair cardigan that used to belong to my great-grandma.
From there I added a belt my mum has had since she was a teenager, a vintage necklace, my favourite leather gloves (used to belong to my gran) a thrifted faux faur collar and some brown chelsea boots. The 'bag' in the first shot is a wooden case full of paints, inherited from a family member.
The photos were taken by my lovely mum, next to a suitably colour co-ordinating gate!

We were meant to be going away this weekend, but unfortunately our plans were scuppered by a new snow fall. However, we have decided to make the best of this, and I am really looking forward to the next few days. Activities to do involve making special Christmas cookies (a tradition from my Czech heritage - which also means celebrating both on Christmas Eve and Christmas day), having a tea party with three good friends, decorating the christmas tree, taking lots of walks in the snow with my camera and watching a smattering of good christmas TV - I hardly ever do this, but Christmas is a bit of an exception. I'm already looking forward to seeing repeats of the Railway Children and Annie, as well as the Doctor Who christmas special!

I've also made a decision recently about my immediate future, to do with modelling. As some people may have picked up on, I was represented by Select Model Management (having been scouted by them). They are a great model agency and very supportive. However, since my surgery I decided that modelling is not something I want to pursue professionally at the moment. However, I'm sending big love to Susannah my booker and the team at Select for being so understanding, and also for providing some incredible experiences - one major highlight being travelling to Paris at the beginning of this year. It's also been very useful to learn about photography - something I am now going to try and actively pursue as much as possible. In fact, my main christmas present will hopefully be a portfolio of my best photos. I can't wait to see them printed out.
I feel that I am now starting out on a new path - where it will end up, I have no idea. But 2010 has been a tumultous year, full of trials and opportunities in equal measure. Strange to think I was only diagnosed with my condition at the beginning of this year, and here I am 11 months later, with a new scar on my back and what feels like a new head set on my shoulders.

Friday, 10 December 2010

She was never lovelier (Part 2)

In a return to the sunnier days of early September, here is the second part of my behind the camera shoot with the lovely Zoe. As mentioned previously in part one of this post, my inspiration for the styling and photography here was Hollywood Glamour of the forties and fifties.

I've also been exploring the theme further through recent reading of the film star Lauren Bacall's autobiography. I was captivated by her story and the events she's lived through. She's someone who experienced a great deal of misfortune and tragedy in the course of her life. However, alongside her troubles, she starred in some amazing, classic movies that are now regarded as iconic. Plus, she really does personifies 'photogenic', particularly as she aged. For anyone who is also a Marilyn Monroe fan, then watching them performing together in 'How to Marry a Millionaire' is a must.

The first image of Zoe is very much inspired by one of my favourite Richard Avedon photos that I keep  going back to again and again. I was given a book of Avedon's work for my birthday, and (alongside my Tim Walker book), it takes pride of place on my shelf. I made poor Zoe jump SO many times in those heels to get this picture!

That first outfit is made up of my forties pleated skirt, my favourite charity shopped Jaeger grey jumper and a faux fur collar thrifted at the Big Chill. I bought the hat at a vintage shop in Bristol, the shoes are from ebay and the gloves were my great-grandma's. My inspiration for this ensemble was a 'lady who lunches'!

For the second look, I added a gentlemen's silk shirt (from ebay) to a fifties pencil skirt I bought in a vintage shop. I made the black 'mummy's scissors' necklace, and the belt is thrifted. All the bags either belonged to family members or were from charity shops. Zoe was originally wearing high heels, but this proved a little unsafe once the tree climbing started!

The third outfit is comprised of a black vintage dress that belongs to my mum, cinched with an old belt of mine - origin unknown. The necklace was my grandma's, and the peep toed shoes are from a charity shop.

The fourth and final is a simple black bandeau dress that used to be my mum's. I think she bought it from a jumble sale. Oh, and the necklace is vintage.

I was saddened to hear yesterday that the rise in University fees is going ahead in the UK. I know I mentioned this a few posts ago, but the feeling of shock over the Lib Dems' U-turn doesn't subside quickly. Sadly, people of my age will be one of the first year groups to be hit. Considering most of us were too young to have contributed at all to the current economic recession, it seems unfair that we will pay for it. Why, instead, aren't the government chasing up the big companies that are avoiding tax - such as Vodafone, or, dare I say it, Topshop? I've just been reading personal testimonies by peaceful protesters and I'm truly shocked to hear about the very violent tactics used by the police at the protests in London. Students knocked unconscious and not being allowed out of the 'kettled' area for medical aid? One protester having a three hour operation for bleeding to the brain, cause by a policeman's truncheon? Students traumatized by the level of violence?  I'm horrified that young people - many my age - seem to have been denied the right to protest peacefully. I was under the impression I lived in a democracy. Now I'm not so sure.

And talking of controversy, for anyone who hasn't already seen this, take a look at the big copyright issue on talented street-style photographer Jill's blog here -

A blogger for Elle Spain posted some of Jill's beautiful street style shots, with no credit to Jill at all - and inferred that she had taken them herself! To top it off, this Spanish blogger hadn't exactly been complimentary about the outfits featured. Among the four pictures 'appropriated' was one of me - nine days post surgery. So to find out that I was described as "cold" by someone who obviously didn't even bother to read the wonderful post Jill had written was upsetting. I wasn't cold - I was in pain. Also, I am technically still a minor - meaning that is illegal for Elle to post a picture of me without my parents' permission.
The page on Elle es has now been taken down, but (as far as I know), Jill has received no apology or explanation for why her photos were used without her permission.
The issue of copyright worries me as a blogger too, especially (as demonstrated above) because I post my own photography - and at the moment I don't have time to watermark every image I put up. What do you think about this outrageous situation?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A taste for tartan

Is it possible to own too many tartan skirts? Well, perhaps I'm just being indulgent by holding onto five of the beauties - all second hand and purchased within the last year. However, there is something quite compulsive not only about the quality of wool and promise of winter warmth, but also the chance to inject three (often clashing) colours into an outfit without even breaking a sweat. And besides, what was good enough for Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood is good enough for me!
This is my current favourite of the five - bought in that jumble sale. I feel like I'm talking about some kind of legend whenever I refer to it. "The mythical jumble sale full of vintage bargains that only takes place every 100 years in an undisclosed rural location.."
It's a proper vintage kilt (and yes, I know technically the pleats are meant to go at the back - let's call this artistic license), only slightly bigger than my waist. It probably would have been the right size when bought, but I think I either lost weight during surgery or my twice daily walk is putting my metabolism into overdrive. It's one of those items one looks at and thinks "Who would wear a full length kilt? And more to the point, when?" Ladies and Gentlemen I have the answer - me, today, in the snow.

I wanted to dress it up 1940s-esque film star style - hence the thrifted short sleeved, ribbed polo neck and vintage gloves (inherited from my great-grandma). I then added a faux fur collar - found in our dressing up box - pinned with a cameo I bought for 25p at a bric-a-brac stall. The little vintage bag was bought at a market and the belt is charity shopped, as are the lace-up boots. The cardigan (worn over my shoulders in one shot) is a genuine great great-grandma hand knit, as that's who it belonged to! Another invaluable item for keeping me cosy this winter.

This is the first time I've done a shoot for the blog since shortly after being discharged from hospital, and it felt quite comforting to be out in the snow, freezing my elbows off and posing almost like normal. Of course, it's not entirely back to the way it was before - that'll never happen. And at the moment walking down the road requires utmost concentration, as I don't want to slip over on the ice. And unfortunately no sledging for me this year.
My mum took these photos in one of our most beloved spots, and if you look back through my archives you might see it pop up a few times (mainly because it's one of the nearest places for a few quick photos)...  I love the way it looks at different times of year.

It's back to London tomorrow for my six week post surgery check up. In some ways those six weeks have sped by, and in others it feels more like six months. I'm just going to reiterate how much it has meant to me to have such support from my blog readers, and thank you for every single lovely comment.

Take a look at the newest pair of mummy's scissors, created by the lovely Jazz of Jazzabelle's Diary. I'm still amazed by all the variations and creative approaches people have taken.

I really enjoyed reading the many insightful comments on my debate about the writing of poetry - and talking of poetry, I've just finished reading 'Resistance' by Owen Sheers (a poet turned novelist). For anyone who is a fan of Laurie Lee's descriptions or just enjoys beautiful writing and thought-provoking subject matter, I would highly recommend it.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Blue and Pink I think (plus mini debate)

It seems strange to be posting pictures of trees with green leaves (from way back at the end of September) on the same day that I had an (albeit gentle) snowball fight with my brother and the temperature is averaging somewhere around -3C. The living room, complete now with a constantly burning fire, has suddenly become the vital organ (or should that be heart?) of our house. I only retreat into my bedroom for clothes, books and sleeping as it is now icily cold there. However, I can't actually wear any of my nice, warm vintage winter coats at the moment as they are too heavy for my shoulders - typical! The minute they could have some actual use, they end up being confined to the coat rack outside my room! 

However, two or so months ago when heavy coat wearing was possible, I decided to put on this grey vintage beauty - bought from a local market stall. There's just something about the sheer quality of the details, from the well cut collar to the fabric covered buttons, that makes it feel special. This was also the first time I wore this forties blue pleated skirt. I bought it from a vintage market stall in Bristol, promptly forgot about it and left it there at my friend's house, before remembering several weeks later and having to ask her to scour her room for a supermarket plastic bag (my clothes travel in style!) and send it to me. I only noticed after putting it on how the powdery blue contrasted with the pink silk lining of the coat. I also added a little thrifted top (Next originally), some grey ribbed long socks, a charity shopped belt, gold t-bar heels from ebay and a briefcase from the jumble sale I waxed lyrical about a few posts ago. The necklace (barely visible) was my grandma's.

As is often the case with my locations, the landscapes in the above images were taken advantage of during a family walk. So it was just a quick change from wellies to heels, and voila - abandoned houses and stone walls providing perfect backdrops. I suppose I often take this beautiful area for granted, but I get moments where I am so grateful for having this on my doorstep. I've had to take lots of walks in the past few weeks to help strengthen my back, and whether it's a snow covered silent hill (as it was this afternoon), or a fog filled valley, the views I've seen are enough to make any landscape photographer leap with joy. Or in my case, sulk, as I still can't carry my heavy camera for that long!

Apologies about the slightly crude rhyming of this post's title. However, I thought it might lead into a little mini debate. I spent an evening a few days ago lying on the sofa, writing, redrafting and refining a poem. Please don't groan now, skip the next paragraph and go, "Oh God, another teenager who thinks she can write a poem.." Because if I wasn't writing this, I might just join you! It seems that there are certain art forms that inspire derision if anyone other than a professional attempts them - maybe writing is a prime example because anyone can pick up a pen or tap on the keyboard. What distinguishes the cliche from the crafted? Perhaps the problem, particularly with poetry, is that it gets set so often as a school writing exercise. Maybe as a result,when push comes to shove, many people assume they can 'write a poem'. Unlike fashion design or master cabinet making, it's not an activity associated with apprenticeship or a long-learned craft.
Any thoughts on this matter/ musing? I'm sure I read a statistic somewhere saying poetry writing is the most popular hobby in Britain. I certainly enjoy both the reading and writing of it.

Finally, thank you so much to the wonderful Dylana of Nana in Wonderland, not only for her featuring a pair of my Mummy's Scissors, but also for writing about her own experience of scoliosis and spinal surgery so eloquently. I feel very glad to have found her through our mutual love of fashion and style blogging.
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