Monday, 7 May 2012

I am a Bird Now

“I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom
of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in
his riding
of the rolling level underneath him steady air”.

It’s hard to post only a snippet of this celebratory poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It’s like trying to stop music in mid-flow. Hopkins’ affinity with the shape and sound of words is apparent in every line that rings with internal rhythm. (The rest of the poem may be read here). 
The poem also perfectly encapsulates the feeling of watching a bird hovering and diving. It's an almost vicarious pleasure – as though by observing the darts of movement we may glean a sense of what it means to fly. It’s a dizzying prospect.

I've noticed that there often seems to be a favourable connection between birds and fashion. Bird prints grace fabrics, and (sustainably sourced/ vintage) feathers prove a fine trim or texture for all manner of garments. The image of Ginger Rogers swirling across the set clad in ostrich feathers in ‘Top Hat’ demonstrates just how seductive a material they are. The bird is also an appropriate metaphor for the process of dressing – especially when concentrating on colourful and exuberant wardrobes. Many of us are creatures who, myself included, enjoy choosing and showing off our plumage. Tassels, trims, sequins, buttons and ribbons are all forms of adornment. Aside from the practicality of dressing for warmth, the human body presents a myriad of ways to be clothed and decorated. Unlike birds, we change these feathers on a day-to-day basis – transitioning from sparrows to parakeets according to mood or whim.

Whenever I use the words ‘birds’ and ‘fashion’ in the same sentence, my head immediately flutters to Alexander McQueen’s SS01 show (although birds were a repeated motif throughout his career).  The images of a model, head bandaged, stuffed birds attached to her shoulders, are striking. Her attackers are suspended mid-action – a stunning taxidermy nightmare. Their talons are bound by teal fabric; the skirt suggesting movement in a heavy lightness of layers. Like many of McQueen’s best pieces, it evokes a very sinister beauty. Birds are both a source of fascination, and, occasionally of fear (one needs only to think of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’).

McQueen once stated that: “Birds in flight fascinate me… I try and transpose the beauty of a bird to women”. He understood the importance of plumage – or perhaps even of dressage. He also recognized the capacity clothes hold to both inspire and disturb. There is a sense behind every crafted corset, behind every padded hip, behind every bead and stitch of embroidery, that there was an intelligent, highly imaginative thought process. McQueen’s collections were not merely a grouping of dresses, but a narrative. His designs told stories. They weren't always pleasant or pretty ones, but the depth and unpredictability was what distinguished him from many of his peers. Tales can be gruesome or scary, but it's the manner of telling that distinguishes the good from the memorably great. McQueen ‘told’ his collections with such talent and craft – a master tailor and storyteller.

This scarf similarly tells a narrative. The print even has a name - it’s ‘Meet in the Park at Night’ (although I must say that, due to my location, I thought it more evocative of nocturnal flights through woods). It is part of the ‘Front Row Society’ initiative – a website dedicated to “fashion democracy” that encourages designers to showcase their prints, with the public voting on which patterns are then produced as either handbags or scarfs. It aims to be 100% sustainable in the near future, and a small proportion of each purchase is currently donated to the Ethical Fashion Forum. My scarf was designed by Jennifer Dayrit. It arrived along with a small card detailing both the stimulus behind the birds' motif, and a short description of Jennifer, who trained in fine art before specializing in accessories. These personal touches make it an enticing package, at the other end of the wingspan from the plastic bags and mass marketing of the high street. Many thanks to the PR Jenna for sending it to me, and for alerting me to the website. I wanted to style it in a variety of different ways, and so the rest of the outfit was very simple. The black velvet shorts were cut down and customised from trousers, the top is from a charity shop and the towering wedges (so precarious that every other shot was of me staggering around and falling over) are from eBay. 

It’s apt that the scarf design takes birds as an inspiration – as they are, of course, part of the natural world, and thus lend themselves to ethical endeavors. Maybe it’s a case of great minds thinking alike, but Olwen Bourke’s latest collection – entitled ‘Paradise Lost’ – also takes birds as one of its recurring themes. Each hand-made item uses re-claimed fabrics in part of the design. The use of a birdcage in the video is interesting. Birds are the ultimate symbol of freedom, but become poignant metaphors when in captivity - one of the messages also found in Alexander McQueen's SS01 collection. Some concepts are never old. 


100%soie said...

oooh my god, you look so perfect!!!! this outfit is beautiful, your legs are so long !! it's such a pleasure to see your new posts !!! beautiful look, you are stunning !

AVY said...

So graceful, really pretty.


madhatter said...

Wow, you are an amazing writer and the pictures look amazing!

Take a peak at my blog<3

Project Rattlebag


Anonymous said...

These images are beautiful Roz - creative and a breath of fresh air from so many staged adverts which are plastered across billboards and in magazines. I relished this post, especially the vivid descriptions and references to Alexander McQueen's designs; I gave a GCSE presentation on 'Fashion: An Art Form' focusing in particular on McQueen as one of the finest examples on this and I'm sure I must have spent more time trawling images of his many, many awe-inspiring collections than I did on planning my speech! Still, it has left me with a fascination for work such as his the goes the extra mile to radiate a message this isn't necessarily rosy but always has a very significant meaning.

I don't know how you're finding the time to post so much near exams, but then again I'm not sure when yours start. My first two are this Friday meaning languishing in front of my laptop with a hot chocolate and enjoying my favourite blogs has become something of a treat in between revision and yet more revision. Nevertheless I'm aware that once I get out of the habit of posting it's considerably difficult for me to get back into it!

Best of luck with your ASs whenever thy start + have an enjoyable week at college. Alexandra xx

P.S I found you comment on my post about flaws in our education system really interesting, did you see Caitlin Moran's column in The Times on Saturday? Very interesting as it had her perspective on the restrictions of schooling and the curriculum (albeit at primary level as she was talking about her kids) as someone who was home-schooled, which she was. I particularly enjoyed her comments about why homework was necessary. She is brilliant.

Angie said...

stunning look! :)
you're really beautiful!
kiss from meeresgrund

Aniqah said...

so pretty XD. and beautiful photography! do you take your own photographs? they're stunning =]

FionaAlanna said...

It's absolutely ridiculous how amazing your picture are. Stunning as always!

lola said...

Those pictures surprised me... In fact you wore a simple outfit...but with the scarf it bacame special...I admire the good work,great photos, x

Vix said...

Your words and beauty never fail to blow me away, Roz. I love the red outfit in your last post, too. x


Peaceful photos, like how you've demonstrated different ways of using the scarf.

Christobel Amelia said...

This is such a coincidence; I was actually just revising The Windhover whilst revising psalms for my classical and biblical exam on Friday (not ready!)His attention to detail in his language is incredible. Humans always aspire to flight; elevation to a divine realm...but as I remember McQueen saying in a documentary aired after his death "We'll not all gonna be size 6".
I find it interesting how humans look to birds and wish that we possess the same freedom; freedom from problems we've inflicted on ourselves and cannot face up to.
Wish I could muse all day but...
Love your photos, too. I love black a bit too much, so this outfit is perfect for me with a little injection of colour
Christobel x

Lydia said...

Birds are such ethereal, fantasy-inducing animals, it doesn't surprise me they are used in fashion so much. Plus feathers are like no other material on earth. Birds have long been one of my favorite animals-- they're so pretty and free-- and I love any garment bird-themed. This scarf is beautiful-- I love all of your different stylings with it.

Jean at said...

Gerard Manley Hopkins!!!! You.. Know.. About.. Him...and why not? I'm still trying to track down a phrase that I believe he wrote but haven't been able to verify, "What is all this juice and joy?" It was in a book I had many years ago, I don't remember what it was, but I remember him being credited. I've googled, to no avail.

I'm glad to see your weather is good, and the scarf is lovely. I will be visiting your link. I also smiled at your commentary about the wedges; they're great but oh so challenging! Better you than me.

Love, Jean

Willow said...

I'd usually turn my nose up at most wedges, but occasionally I'll see wedges that I really like. Despite the fact that those shoes look almost impossible to walk in, I really love the ones you're wearing.
Beautiful styling of the outfits in each photo - I find myself especially drawn to the third picture.

I love birds, to me they definitely are a symbol of freedom - or some of them, such as owls, are whimsy and intelligence. I'm not sure I'd truly understand if someone could tell me that they wouldn't love to have wings to spread and disappear into the air like a bird.

I love the poem, I don't often search for poems but I'm inspired now to pull out some books from our mini library and have a read.

Melanie said...

Nocturnal flights through the woods, is my preferred description of the scarf. You article beautifully marries bird with fashion. Interestingly, it may be possible that Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote that poem with the moulted feather of a bird. You have presented so many textures to explore here.

Simmran Sharma said...

Very cute outfit.
Good looking

Raez said...

Very interesting blog post. I agree that birds and fashion are very related and that birds can be found in many collections. I too, like to think of clothing as one's way to "show off our plummage". Although these days, it's not the men showing off their fancy coloured feathers to attract the ladies, but the ladies showing off their crazy plumes to instill jealousy in other women ;)

Also, very lovely scarf! The print is divine and I love the different ways you've styled it.

xx Raez

Katrina said...

That is such a great design idea! Really interesting concept. I`d feel bad for the designs that wouldn`t get picked though.
You`re a stunning model and a brilliant writer)


The Foolish Aesthete said...

Thank you for that waterfall of words in your opening. I was not familiar with Hopkins, but your likening his poetry to music seems apt.

And I love the image of the diaphanous scarf revealing wings against the white clouds. The bird print looks poised to fly off the sheer fabric! Much like McQueen's birds and feathers seem to defy gravity. For lack of a better word, he was a genius, combining beauty and the bizarre with such grace and elegance. -- J xxxx

Bella Q said...

I feel lame if I read your blog and don't comment but I don't have something wise or pithy to say. I love love your stylings, love the pictures and the text. Everytime.

devorelebeaumonstre. said...

nice! xx

Izzy/Bella said...

I thought this was a particularly stirring piece. I think you captured some of the richness of Manley Hopkins' poetry in your prose here.

I'm just in love with the concept of ethical fashion (as I keep commenting) after living in a place like Soho and seeing first-hand how destructive rapidly-changing fashions are and imagining its effect on the planet. I'm so glad your website is devoted to this topic and is as inspiring pictorially as it is verbally.

P.S. Speaking of Soho I went to Bloomingdales yesterday to shop for my wedding dress or a white dress that would serve that function-- I did think of buying it second-hand but since it's my one mini-luxury I'm allowing myself I wanted something that would fit perfectly. Anyway I saw a similar pair of wedges in the uber-hip shoe department. I myself am a failure at trying to pair anything but neutral shoes with outfits, but I love how you're wearing them here. And well spotted :)

daisymay aka Chantele said...

Great set of outfits, love the inventive use of the scarf, they can be so versatile. And the print of that one is beautiful!
Daisy Dayz
My Hub Pages

Lela said...


On a more coherent note...this was a beautiful post :)

Enter to WIN my hotel, afternoon tea and beauty Competition!

Hope Adela Pasztor said...

I'm totally in love with those teal wedges! You're absolutely beautiful as always! =)

Plami said...

Beautiful photos! I love your shoes!


Lindsey Louise said...

very cute scarf. i love how you threw it all together!

Bora Lee said...

Wow amazing : )

Anshika Roy said...

All i want to say..WOWWWWW. you looks awesome in Black. keep posting
thank you

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