Sunday, 30 January 2011

Cloud busting

I know that the term 'tea dress' now represents something of a vintage cliche, and can be found with every label from Topshop to Marc Jacobs inside it - and of course, there are the original forties treasures. However, I like to think of this particular item as my vintage 'Tea Party dress' (and by that, I don't mean a dress that supports Sarah Palin) - worn primarily for the purpose of sipping tea, eating cake/ scones with jam and clotted cream and having interesting conversations.
Along with the leather coat featured a few posts ago, this was another Christmas present from my mum. She  found it on ebay - not that she is an ebay-aholic or anything! As I tore a strip from the tissue paper, I caught a glimpse of its nebulous print. From some angles it looks like blue roses, and from others it resembles shifting clouds. I tend to go more for shape and/ or colour rather than print on clothes, but when the pattern is as mesmerising as this, who could resist the tempation to wear it as often as possible?
After three consecutive plans for today being cancelled, I decided that the only thing to do was write, make brownies and then style lots of outfits for my blog (with both parents taking photos - I have my dad to thank for these ones). This is the first of those ensembles.
Underneath the dress I wore a charity shopped 'Topman' top,  and then added a gold belt given to me by my 'fairy godmother' (she of the Chanel Dress) and a vintage pheasant brooch I bought yesterday from a flea market. The grey hat is my latest  vintage Jaeger acquisition (the collection currently stands at about fifteen pieces!), bought from a favourite local charity shop. The faux fur coat was also bought from a charity shop about a year and a half ago, and I recently purchased this bag from a vintage/ junk shop - imagine my surprise when I bought it home to find that not only was it real leather, but it was also Russell & Bromley! I think my £4 was well spent.. And to finish, my charity shopped vintage Doc Marten brogues - beautiful, and incredibly painful - being a size too small.

The reason for a tea party themed outfit today probably stems from going out for afternoon tea with my mum and my lovely friend Elllen (who I have known since I was three!) yesterday. Back when I was pretty much bedbound after surgery, my mum promised that once I was better, she'd treat Ellen and me to an afternoon of treats. And that promise was fulfilled this weekend!


Thursday, 27 January 2011

Easily eccentric (Part 1)

Continuing with the theme of British Eccentricity, here is my latest behind the camera shoot with my gorgeous friend Caitlin. This was a very on-the-spur-of-the-moment collaboration. Last friday, in our Science lesson, I remarked that I was having photography withdrawal symptoms. She said she might be free to model that weekend, and lo and behold  a plan was drawn up - I had just a day to decide on the theme and six outfits! In the end, I turned up at Caitlin's house with a suitcase, hatbox and carpet bag all stuffed with clothes.
We are both big fans of the actress Helena Bonham-Carter, who I think typifies a sense of English eccentricity - slightly dishevelled, with an aristocratic edge and a (probably very large, family inherited cedarwood) wardrobe now filled with Vivienne Westwood. This shoot was very insired by Bonham Carter's style - both personal, and in her films - meaning lace, tailoring and black galore!
I'm sure many of you saw the pictures of Helena Bonham-Carter at the Golden Globes. If not, take a look at Citizen Rosebud 's beautifully written post about 'red carpet' style analysis (my favourite detail of the evening were Helena's mismatching shoes. I wanted to try and recreate this with Caitlin, but unfortunately didn't have the resources!)

The King's Speech has been nominated for so many awards, and rightly so in my opinion! I saw it last week, and enjoyed it hugely.
The idea of eccentricity fascinates and inspires me. And I don't think the term only applies to elderly women who own hundreds of cats! From Helena B-C to Amanda Harlech, Vivienne Westwood or Isabella Blow, these are women who are (or were) memorable for impeccable, and unpredictable style. I was browsing the web, and found this wonderful quote from a book written in 1866, called English Eccentrics and Eccentricities (by John Timbs):
"Into such headlong excesses our Eccentrics rarely stray; and one of our objects in sketching their ways, is to show that with oddity of character may co-exist much goodness of heart; and your strange fellow, though, according to the lexicographer, he be outlandish, odd, and eccentric, may possess claims to our notice which the man who is ever studying the fitness of things would not so readily present."

Who is your favourite/ most memorable eccentric individual? British or otherwise - real or fictional! I would love to build up some kind of database of percieved eccentricity!

The first outfit is made up of a Jaeger silk shirt from ebay, a vintage lace dress (I had to pin it at the back, as it doesn't have any fastenings) given to me by a lovely local stall holder, a black belt and a vintage white patent belt.

The second ensemble is comprised of a black Oxfam thrifted lace dress, a charity shopped hat, my favourite Jaeger grey jumper, vintage gloves (used to belong to my great-grandma) and white leather heels. The majority of the vintage brooches (and the necklace) are family owned - however, the lovely Pearl gave me the jewel encrusted duck brooch. Thank you once again for your kindness Pearl! And by the way, do take a look at the utterly extraordinary Vivienne Westwood jacket Pearl is currently showcasing on her blog!

For the third, I put my charity shopped lace skirt with a vintage Radley button up (with lace detail) that used to belong to my mum. The gloves belonged to my maternal great-grandma, and the necklace was family owned.
Oh, and one additional note. Something struck me when reading this excellent article by Style Bubble (a thoroughly modern eccentric who I admire greatly) about Christopher Kane's latest collection. The collection has been dubbed 'Princess Margaret on Acid' but - and correct me if I'm wrong - wasn't that nearly identical to the title of Luella's ss09 show (Princess Anne on acid)? I'm sure I can't have been the first to notice this... What do you think? Inadvertent plagiarism, great minds think alike, or a deliberate homage to Luella - who incidently has just written a book on British style and eccentricity! Or perhaps it is now a phrase about various-members-of-the-monarchy-on-intoxicants, that has entered the fashion lexicon?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Long lines

There is something about a grey day that immediately makes me want to dress in the brightest colours possible, and that was the thinking behind this outfit. Although it was sunny when my dad took the photos of me, I  had dreamed up the combination while drizzle peppered the windows of my room a few days previously.
These photos were taken in London, just before my most recent post-surgery check up (which was reassuring - I'm now allowed to start doing physio). I love visiting Primrose Hill - it is surely one of the most beautiful spots in London. Nothing like taking in the panoramic views before strolling down towards Regents Park...

My lovely mum bought this beautiful leather coat for me for Christmas, from the local antique/ flea market stall that we often frequent. She told me that she had purchased it in early autumn, and at that point had thought it might be too long - even for me! However, sometimes surgery can prove useful, especially if there is a height gain involved! As usual, it's all the details that make this coat special to me. From the very soft leather, to the splits up the side, black edging and collar shape, it is all rather delicious. Underneath, I was wearing a look inspired by an idea of English eccentricity.
The culottes are charity shopped, vintage Marks & Spencer  - I think that the 'St Michael's' label (as it used to be known) is now very prevalent in my wardrobe. I bought both the orange cardigan (worn over a Next grey top) and original sixties hat on a rather fruitful charity shop expedition over the christmas holidays. My mum and I decided to make a day of visiting some renowned, but quite far away charity shops. When we arrived, the two we had specifically made the trip for were closed. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the treasures yielded by the others in town... On top of the items shown here, I managed to acquire a (brand new) Laura Ashley dress, a vintage Orla Kiely-esque blazer, vintage green shoes, a black lace skirt and yet another tartan kilt.
To this ensemble pictured, I added a gold top that used to live in my dressing up box, my great-grandma's pendant necklace, another great-grandma's pair of never-worn driving gloves, a charity shopped belt and my mum's boots.

When I was recovering from surgery, I spent a lot of time with my bed covered in magazines and clippings, ready to form moodboards. I thought the two I made below (a typical 'here's one I prepared earlier' moment) sum up my oufit pretty well. I'm going to make another one this evening, ready for a behind-the-camera shoot with a friend tomorrow!


Monday, 17 January 2011

Not how I planned it

Let's forget the winter cold for the moment - instead cast your mind back to that elusive season known usually as 'summer'. Or if that feels like too much of a stretch of the imagination in this miserable British rain, then maybe just think of a mild autumn day? As in, mild enough for bare legs.
I have a cache of photos on my computer, taken a few months before my surgery, that need to be posted. And at least in my part of the UK, this post is sunny enough to make me forget that I had to walk through a minor flood to get home today.

However, when this outfit was photographed by my dad back in late August 2010, it turned into a slightly awkward venture. The original styling plan had involved high heels, a bag and more jewellery. However, once at the location ( a family favourite of ours), I accidently dropped one of said heels in a small pool. So au revoir Faith wedges and hello bare feet! And then there was a general thinning of accessories until I was only left with what you see in the photos.

This beautiful green velvet dress was given to me by one of the nicest stallholders I know. There is a local vintage market stall that I often frequent, and from which I have bought numerous vintage coats and other items. The lovely woman who runs it sometimes gives me things she can't sell. Other treasures she has passed on to me include a blue and gold bound book from the fifties called 'The Importance of Wearing Clothes', and faded pink satin shoes with diamonte heels. This particular item is vintage Monsoon, and was created with very good quality velvet. I previously mentioned my newly discovered love of velvet, and it is not on the wane. While writing I am wearing a velvet jacket that my mum bought during her student days - thank goodness she has the family hoarding gene! The colour of this reminds me of cool forests in late summer. I wore it with a pair of my 'mummy's scissors' and a belt that used to belong to my grandma.

Thank you for the thoughtful and interesting additions to my debate in the last post. It seems that most people have reached the consensus that digital and tangible can live alongside each other, and someone made the good point that we still wear vintage clothes - if we didn't then my blog probably wouldn't exist!
I must admit, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the internet. I love all of the opportunities it brings - such as blogging - and being able to instantly research something or contact someone. However, when it comes to social networking sites, I find that nothing beats face to face conversation for me. And I am constantly paranoid about my laptop getting a virus and wiping all my work stored on here. Now all my photos (as well as writing) are stored on my laptop, rather than in a photo album or notebook, it seems that they exist all the more precariously - which is why I can't wait to have a few of my best photos printed out!

Stored on one of my shelves are various boxes of family photos from different generations of great-grandparents and grandparents. They are invaluable for scrap books, moodboards, inspiration and an insight into the fabric of family. However, am I just going to be the family archivist of the past now,with my old fashioned images in boxes? Now generations after me will only see photos taken in 2010 on a screen, and not by chance in among a hundred blurred images of flowers taken by grandpa.
Somehow this thought makes me want to learn the art of film photography all the more. That is definitely one challenge to set myself for this new year.

Finally, I was incredibly impressed by the PR push behind the launch of 'Boardwalk Empire' on the Sky Atlantic Channel. I was sent a gorgeous vintage Vogue (1960!) as part of the publicity, which I have been enjoying leafing through with a cup of coffee in hand. I love the flapper style (I have the perfect figure for the clothes!), and have recently been studying 1920s America - I find modern history fascinating. I hope those of you who are watching or are planning to watch Boardwalk Empire enjoy it - and the question is, is it the new Mad Men?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Dedicated follower of fashion

The musically interested out there can probably guess, from the title, what I'm listening to while writing this - The Kinks. After having got out our ancient record player I've been discovering some great sixties (as well as seventies and eighties) bands, with another favourite being The Doors. And to follow on with this theme of all things sixties, the TV show this outfit references is also set in that decade. Being a dedicated follower of Mad Men, I felt that this ensemble was slightly inspired by an equestrian Betty Draper - a classic cable jumper and jodhpurs.
I love the powdery blue shade of this Laura Ashley charity shopped jumper, as well as the intricate cable pattern on the front. It has been invaluable in the winter cold, as I can wear two or three layers under it easily. The jodhpurs are American Apparel, bought from an amazing charity shop for £1.50 (I also got a vintage vanity case for a pound there!) and I wore them over tights from Next. The heels are also from Next, and match the colour of the jodhpurs perfectly. The beautiful mohair hat is one of my many Kangol treaures, and along with the blue leather gloves, used to belong to my great-grandma. The gloves were a late addition (my lovely mum actually took them off and gave them to me) and their main purpose was to hide the fact that my hands had turned purple in the cold! Poor circulation does not a good photo make. The bag is from ebay and the necklace belonged to my maternal grandma.
Dad took these photos of me when we were away in the coastal welsh countryside. Somehow, I quite like the bleak colour of the landscapes in the background. It gives the images a certain folorn feel. After taking the photos, my dad subsequently jumped in the freezing waterfall pictured behind! He is a bit of a cold water junkie.. I like river swimming, but mainly during summer! However, nothing beats the adrenaline rush or buzz of natural, icy water.

I thought that because the outfit had such a retro inspiration, I would round off the post with a thoroughly modern debate! I had a delightful little tea party (involving the best coconut and lime cake I've ever tasted) with a good family friend after school today, and we had an indepth discussion about the internet, its effects and the way it might evolve. I have been musing on this since I got home, and I thought I'd throw open some questions.

Do you think that eventually the internet will replace all books and magazines, and we will all download our literary material onto kindles or e-readers? Luddite that I am, I think there will always be room for printed books. For me, nothing beats the feel of turning pages or the smell of old books. And how could one put a coffee table photography book on a screen? It just wouldn't have the same effect.

Are newspapers in a different category? Is there a strong case for preserving natural resources by using e-readers insteed of papers? These are things that will only be read once or twice before being thrown away or (hopefully) recycled - it would save trees and paper if they were all presented on the same screen. I already keep up to date by reading the Guardian website.

Will the internet also change the nature of publishing? Will all new books have to be interactive and have razz-matazz  features to keep the reader interested? As my friend remarked, one thing about having a book in front of you is that you have to commit your whole concentration to the page. It's not like the internet where everything is instant, and sometimes attention spans are shorter.

One point to make is that I mentioned listening to records at the beginning of this post. It seems that vinyl has had something of a rennaisance - obviously it will never be as popular again as music downloads, but there is still demand for record-shops and the like. Maybe two types of media, digital and the tangible can continue to co-exist? I certainly hope so.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Made to measure

Structure, and especially the different ways one experiences it is something I've been thinking about a lot recently. For me, the structure of both my life, and body changed in 2010. However, these have been structural changes for the better. One way to address this idea was to create a follow up to my original 'scoliodress' that can be seen here. I wanted to make another representation of my spine after surgery (with the curvature now at a mere 23 degrees), this time with all its added metal work and screws.
These images were taken by my good friend Flo - a very talented photographer who is currently applying to study it at University. We'd planned for a while to do a shoot this weekend, but my approach to time management is sometimes a little haphazard and thus, I didn't start making the dress until about nine pm last night, and subsequently had to get up at seven-thirty this morning to finish it off! However, the tedious hand sewing of the 'rods' paid off when I tried it on for the first time.
The construction of this dress was a little trickier than the last, as I had to devise a way to portray my x-ray without using actual strips  of metal. The answer was found in some silver electrical cable from something my little brother had taken apart. I then decided the easiest thing to show screws would be, well... screws. The dress was back to front as I didn't want a zip to mess up the line of the vertebrae,which were made of raw silk like before. I also pinned darts along the waist to shape it.
Visually, I styled it with several of the items used the first time round - to make the contrast between the spine shape of the 'before' dress and 'after' dress markedly different. So it was on with the same beloved vintage Jaeger jumper, and the same vintage silk scarf in my hair. However, this time I used cable knit tights (from Next), a pair of charity shopped Betty Jackson shoes - so the silver matched the 'metal work' - and net gloves that belonged to my great-grandma.
It felt odd going through the motions of creating another 'scoliodress' again -  almost akin to deja vu, but with some obvious changes. However, while sitting at the sewing machine, trying to get it to cooperate and to not ruckle up the silk, I had a sudden memory of what it felt like in early Autumn to be making the first dress, having no idea of what lay ahead. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't know how much pain I would be in or how hard it would be to be incapacitated for a while post-surgery.
The first dress was fired by fear of the unknown and a desire to turn my helpless situation into something creative. This second dress was driven by experience.

This post is a little briefer than usual, but Sunday evening-itis and a mound of homework are overwhelming me. However, I couldn't wait to share these images, and I'm very grateful to gorgeous Flo for taking them.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


Today has been my first proper, full day back at school (since before my surgery), and it felt slightly strange. Although I did return for lessons here and there last term, this was an altogether different kettle of fish - it takes a while to get used to a routine again. However, talking of all things academic, this sequence of photos has a very literary inspiration - Dickens' 'Great Expectations'.
I would love to say that I've already read the novel, but unfortunately I haven't as yet. However, I was captivated by a staged version I saw when I was little, and a DVD of the 1945 film is lying on my bedside table, ready to be watched. I think the most inspiring character style-wise has to be Miss Havisham, sitting in her ancient wedding dress. And although this dress isn't moth eaten and decrepit, the minute I saw it I was immediately reminded of Dickens' striking character!
I had been waiting for a perfectly misty day before planning to head up into the hills with the dress in a backpack, and luckily an opportunity arose last weekend. We spent the new year at the Welsh coast, and I already knew of some abandoned stone cottages nearby - perfect for eerie, atmospheric images.  Once my mum and I had finally found the tumbledown cottages and I had struggled into the dress and heels, I did feel a little like a spectre floating around the hilltop! Just after finishing the photos (back into the jeans and wellies - fetching) a lost walker wandered past. Mum and I were joking about how shocked this rambler might have been if I had still been in my apparition outfit - I could have created a whole myth about a haunted settlement!
The light and settings while we were up there were extraordinary. As we hiked up the steep hill, we could barely see 10 metres ahead - it's a strange experience being able to hear sounds of waves crashing on a beach below but with the sea view being replaced by white candyfloss. However, as the shoot progressed there were sudden bursts of golden light, and little openings in the mist. By the time mum and I finished, the hilltop was perfectly clear. Though as we made our way back down, the mist descended, seemingly with us, once more - I love the ever changing British countryside and weather.
My mum bought this amazing fifties lace dress from our favourite local market stall - I'm not sure if it was originally a wedding dress. Nothing like layers and layers of starched underskirts and lace to make a girl happy! It's not the most practical of pieces and once it had been given a good soaking in the bath, it took forever to dry, but it's fantastic for playing at dressing up. It's very dramatic on its own, so all I added was some grey tights and Mary Janes, along with a vintage bag from a charity shop. I'm wearing my new favourite navy blue nail varnish too.

One of the constant features of my blog is often the choice of background/location - now I am very lucky that because I live rurally, I pretty much have free run of the hills and fields around me (either we know the farmers or it's on a public footpath.) These images were taken on National Trust land, another place that is free for all to visit. However, if the UK Government's current plans go ahead for selling off nationally owned forests, then those who live near Forestry Commission woodland might soon find that they will no longer be able to visit and enjoy the beauty of these places (and I mean the proper, ancient forests - not the 'crop' ones made up of identical pines). I understand that cuts need to be made in Britain (although if companies such as Vodafone paid the proper level of tax then we might not need them), but to sell off huge parts of the countryside privately not only seems utterly shocking to me - but also immoral. Huh, what might be sold off next - the air we breathe?
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