Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Follow the road through the yellow

Intense colours - they remind me of a Laurie Lee book. For some reason, whenever I think of 'When I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning' or 'Cider With Rosie' the descriptions seem to pulse in my imagination with yellows, reds and greens. These photos were taken after a family visit to the most incredible bookshop (a converted barn full of old stock and dusty tomes - with a whole floor for fiction, and shelf upon shelf of photography). On return, my mum commented that the 'light outside was perfect'. Usually when this sort of statement is made, I madly hurry upstairs so something can quickly be chosen to wear before the sun deserts us again. Maybe my subconcious was still on some literary-related level when I put together this ensemble (silk? layers? pleats? My future self spends her life in clothes like these while drinking countless cups of coffee and having interesting conversations in bookshops). But perhaps I am just overanalysing things!
The surprising continuity of warm weather over the last week has been quite shocking. I keep expecting it to disappear suddenly, leaving me stranded without the usual requisite cardigan somewhere in the middle of nowhere. However, the sun lived has lived up to its golden expectations, and I even managed to go swimming in a river last thursday.
One thing I like about sunny days is the shedding of the layers that usually go under any outfit - abandoning tights and long sleeved tops is most satisfying. Instead I have been enjoying floating around in various silk items whilst alternating between sunbathing and revision. This particular vintage seventies dress was bought by my mum from ebay. She had it for all of three seconds before I managed to sneakily smuggle it into my already bulging wardrobe. If my clothes were people, they would have probably died of asphyxiation by now.
Here I layered the silk shirt dress over a vintage pleated skirt from a market in Bristol, and a silk Monsoon vest. The belt is vintage, as is the bag in the first shot, and my grandma gave me the wooden bangles. These silver wedges were one of my first pairs of high heels, and I thought I had donated them to a charity shop ages ago. Nevertheless, my very clever mum thought they might be worth hanging on to - and she was right! I am smitten all over again.
My dad took the photos in a field near our house. It is one of the default locations we plump for if we can't be bothered to make a special visit somewhere, and yet it constantly amazes me how many times one expanse of land can change in a year. The yellow of this particular crop is remarkably on trend (daahling!), and also makes me think of vivid technicolour films such as 'The Wizard of Oz'.

I had an article published by IFB today, on the subject of Blogging Against Adversity - with special emphasis on blogging through my scoliosis surgery and beyond. I was ecstatic to see the finished piece up on the website, and if you have the time I would really appreciate some feedback.


Friday, 22 April 2011

Silver sighs

Dylana of Nana in Wonderland called her own scoliosis surgery scar on her back an "emblem of strength". This statement has stayed with me strongly and I think it's a very hopeful way to describe something that is now so integral to my body. Although my own scar hasn't faded as much as I would have liked by now, that purplish, slightly uneven line running down from neck to waist is a constant reminder of all the experiences I've had. I feel as though it is a seam, or zip that - now it has been 'sewn up' - holds everything in place. Although I still want to design and make a dress specifically inspired by the scar, I thought that this incredible dress with the cutaway section made more than enough of a statement. I love the way it works as a 'frame'. In my original 'scoliodress' post I wrote about concealing and revealing. I often used my hair to camouflage my back, as it was so long it completely covered my protruding shoulder and twisted ribcage. However, here I chose to brush away my hair and 'reveal' the scar...

There are great advantages to letting everyone know how much you love vintage clothes - especially if your cousin several times removed tells her neighbour, who just happens to have some vintage pieces she doesn't wear, and would like to give away. Thus, when my mum returned from a family visit a few days ago, she was carrying an intriguing looking plastic bag. She handed it to me, and I opened it to see a jumble of different coloured crepes, silks and wools folded on top of each other. Pulling out each vintage item in turn was a little like discovering the contents of a goody bag of exotic sweets - every piece of clothing was examined and savoured individually, before my eyes greedily turned back to find the next. The first thing I grabbed was this incredibly beautiful (I assume thirties or sixties?) bias cut evening gown. It was followed by another thirties style dress, two artfully structured jackets and a Vivienne Westwood-esque tartan skirt. Taking a well needed break from Trigonometry, I rushed upstairs to try them on.
My brother and I have been 'renovating' the tree house in our garden (by that I mean we have attached a tarpaulin roof and a pulley system), and I half-sashayed outside in the silver dress to show my parents what it looked like, as they sawed away at planks of wood. I know it's cliched, but dresses like this do make me feel like a movie star - or at least that I've become an extra in 'Gosford Park'. Also, not only does it fit like a particularly memorable dream; it's also long enough to cover my feet in flats.

For the styling, I wanted to create a juxtaposition between the elegance of the dress and the slightly messy hair combined with the location. There's something rather entertaining about making yourself up and wandering languidly up the road, just so that you can pose in a sheep-filled field - in heels! To the dress I also added a bright pink vintage envelope clutch (I want to put a letter inside and post it!) that my grandma has just given me, and a silver necklace of my mum's. The brooch is also vintage.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Like something almost being said

"The trees are coming into leaf/ Like something almost being said/ The recent buds relax and spread/ their greenness is a kind of grief." 
Philip Larkin put into words the feelings evoked by spring so simply, and yet in such an evocatively recognisable way. My last post was centred around daffodils - and this one takes blossom as its centrepiece. These blooms are like trailblazers, announcing that the leaves are on their way.
Although Larkin's poem seems to talk of aging (and nature's illusion of youth), the ending could refer to the ability to start "afresh". Spring, and its symbolism of new beginnings, has been very poignant for me this year - as I have had a new start after surgery myself, and am about two thirds of the way through recovery now, as the flowers grace the trees. I will be six months post-operation on the 20th of April.

I was in London for a very quick visit at the beginning of the week, and greatly enjoyed taking a family walk through Regents Park - possibly one of the most colourful places in the city; from the silk-slip-pink blossom trees to the beds that sprout masses of tulips, hyacinths and other flowers that I don't even know the names of.
I dressed accordingly, jumping at the chance to get some sun on my winter-blasted limbs. I was still feeling the last tendrils of inspiration from Brideshead Revisited when I put together this ensemble, and could imagine lying on a boat in this outfit and reading in the dappled light.
The white linen shorts were bought recently in a charity shop and the little tailored jacket is vintage. I know I posted it here with another pair of shorts last summer, but it's made of that really cool linen that acts like a cold flannel to a fevered brow - keeping you feeling fresh even in the blazing sun. Oh, what a relief to use the term "blazing sun"! The shirt was also from a charity shop, the pink brogues are from Next and the silk belt came with a vintage dress. The little box bag is my grandma's, and usually houses kodak films of my dad when he was little. I think the whole colour scheme reminds me of sugared almonds - which always seem to look better than they taste.

Getting the photos for the post was a bit of a palaver - with both mum and dad trying to make something of the quite harshly bright light. In the end, my dad grumbled that he 'just wanted a family walk for once', with no photos involved. I spent the next fifteen minutes merrily joking about discontinuing my blog, because it obviously encroached on the whole family, and took up too much time!! However, once we'd finished our light-hearted huffs, mum and I managed to sneak off and take some photos by a low lying blossom tree before we left. I think it was worth it...

Do you have a favourite line of poetry referring to the seasons? I would love to hear some memorable snippets.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Flight of the bumblebee (part 1)

Spring has most definitely sprung (Indeed, in the first photo it seems that my friend Shona is conducting the change of seasons - while levitating). For me, there are several definitive things that mark the end of winter. However, the two that are appropriate here are the hoards of daffodils as fresh and new as the day they inspired Wordsworth, and the re-emergence of the humble bumble bee.
That striped little insect was the inspiration for my latest behind-the-camera shoot, with a beautifully elegant friend. My idea was that Shona would flit around this local arboretum in several gold, yellow and black combinations while looking like a rather glamorous bumble bee in search of sunshine. However, I'm afraid that golden light was off the menu. It had been amazing the previous day, but stayed resolutely chilly and misty for the duration of our photo session. So, to use a little creative licence - just imagine that this particular bumble bee has got up very early in the morning...

The styling started with a skirt. The garment in question was found at a jumble sale last autumn; the colourful stripes like a beacon among fleeces and rugby shirts. I whipped it out, and immediately christened it the "bumble bee" skirt. 25p later, and it had joined the many other spoils in a bulging binbag. I have to admit at the time I did think "It's incredible, but when on earth will I wear it?" Then, lo and behold, Ms Prada works her magic and everyone is suddenly diving for bright stripes.

Here, I put it with one of Shona's leotards (it's obvious from her poise as well as those pointe shoes that this girl knows her arabesques) and a vintage necklace that used to be my mum's. The sash tied around her waist is vintage, as are the sunglasses.

When the second part of this themed set of photos emerges in a couple of posts time, you will notice that the yellow tights are something of a re-occurence in my styling. Here they are layered under the same leotard as above, with a vintage sheer dress over the top. The wedge heels are from ebay.

I had so much fun scooting around the wood (no better way to get exercise than to realise you have left something vital that is needed urgently about a quarter of a mile back), and lying among the daffodils to get the perfect angle. However, hot soup was a necessity as soon as we'd finished shooting, and it took a while for my hands to get back to a functional temperature.

Giveaway announcement time for the classic cameo, courtesy of LUXXOR. From suggestions for notable figures in literature, or stars of screen and song to a thoughtful suggestion to reverse the classical colours of a cameo by placing Emanuela de Paula on a white background, with a wonderful sprinkling of the wacky and whimsical in between, I was utterly spoiled for choice! In fact, it got to the point where I couldn't make a rational decision - therefore, I put my favourite entries into my grey felt Jaeger brimmed hat. I can now announce that the winner is Olivia. Congratulations! If only I had multiple cameos to give away... Mind you, given all the amazing suggestions everyone put forward, I'm tempted to start up a business specialising in alternative cameos! Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Black and white and 'red' all over

The recent deaths of both Jane Russell and Elizabeth Taylor (plus the subsequent online and in-print articles on their films and respective merits) provoked me into thinking once again about the 'Golden Age of Hollywood'. These monochrome and otherworldly icons may have passed on, but they are very much alive in the films and photos they left behind; whether it is Audrey Hepburn's charming smile framed with bunches of technicolour flowers in 'Funny Face' or Jane Russell doing an impression of her co-star Marilyn Monroe in 'Gentlemen prefer Blondes' (which incidentally is my favourite MM film after 'Some Like it Hot'). These women represented the epitome of glamour as idols (even if their lives didn't always reflect this) - and some of them could even act!
How often do we use the word legend about the stars of today? Maybe, like the Norse or Greek stories and legends, it is some kind of mythical status that can only be achieved post-death, once one becomes a part of the past as opposed to the present. Which begs the question, who are the twenty-first century Elizabeth Taylors?

I must guiltily admit at this point that I have not seen any Elizabeth Taylor films, although I have added 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' and 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' to my to-watch list. Although, for sartorial inspiration one can just stare admiringly at pictures of her.

Talking of inspiration, I don't think I could adore vintage clothing as much without immersing myself in the culture that the clothes reflect - which perhaps explains my penchant for 'The Kinks', 'The Beatles' and Kate Bush (but maybe not my additional love of eighties pop), alongside my general obsession with old films and magazines from previous eras. The Red Shoes, Top Hat, Singin' in the Rain - the visuals alone of these films are incredibly awe-inspiring. However, maybe the film that I can credit most for the pictured outfit is 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. After all, I'm wearing a little black dress - it couldn't exactly have been inspired by Shaun of the Dead!

I picked this black dress up in a charity shop just before London Fashion Week. Then lo and behold, at LFW, Jill was wearing an item so similar that I wonder if it is the same! If so, I think this dress is Benetton. Feeling uncharacteristically minimal for me, all I added for photos was a short sleeved top underneath, my mum's vintage belt and some vintage red shoes. Okay, and a vintage St Michaels hat... And a sixties necklace... Plus my grandad's sunglasses and a vintage bag... Maybe I should delete the minimal bit. The feel was Audrey Hepburn meets up-and-coming classic french actress. I'm not sure if that's even accurate, but I may have been using artistic license.

I have been really enjoying reading all the entries for the giveaway (see the next post down for details), please keep the wonderful suggestions coming...

Regarding the title of the post - one of the first jokes I remember really getting in terms of wordplay was that great old chestnut - What is black and white and red (read) all over? Answer - a newspaper. My favourite thing to read on a Saturday morning!
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