Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Because a New Year's Post Feels Kind of Mandatory

Have we always had such an urge to review the year that's just been? To summarise everything, picking our highlights and low points? It seems like every newspaper and website is looking backwards - folding down 2014 into a few key grim world events - and they have been REALLY grim this year - or viral articles or outfits or celebrity weddings (or depending on what you're reading, sometimes a mish-mash of all of them, which feels unsettling). And if they’re not looking backwards, they’re reaching forwards, discussing what's on the horizon in 2015.

That's not to disparage these kinds of features - for they often give over space to stories that have spent more time in the shadows than deserved, or allow celebration of what’s yet to come.

Yet I’m particularly fascinated by the compulsion to chart and document and capture all that's happened in the preceding twelve months. It's partly an easy way to generate content - and makes commercial sense. Fashion websites can stuff their homepage with galleries; blogs can round up favourites; newspapers get the chance to return to pivotal events. It’s also a point to dwell on personal achievements and experiences, or to flag up the best writing/ photos/ other forms of creative output you sent into the world in 2014.

Perhaps we've always had this kind of obsession with time though, the desire to quantify and condense life events. It seems natural. A kind of drawing of breath, giving space to process what's been happening. We like to slice our experiences up into these increments, marking the passing of each year with simultaneous retrospection and promises to be better, do more, improve this, and cut back on that in the months ahead.

I don't make New Year's resolutions, as a general rule. I respect people who manage to stick to them, or use the transition from December to January to galvanise change, but it doesn't work for me. Instead, I make my resolutions throughout each year - as and when they feel appropriate. Whether it's making alterations to what I eat, committing to a particular project or altering my outlook on something - when it feels right I'll try to apply as much self-will as can be mustered. Doesn't always work, but part of the process is not deeming yourself a failure if the plan goes awry. It’s the trying that’s important.

Do I have goals for 2015 though? Yes, absolutely. Big ones. Really big ones. But they’re not all going to kick into action the minute the clock hits midnight later today. Instead they’ll be incremental, hopefully the culmination of some bloody hard work - and a sprinkling of opportunity.

It's really easy to trot out trite things about New Year, new opportunities, new challenges. I hope that for all us those things and more are waiting out there - but it’s bloody tough right now for so many people. So instead, let 2015 be what it is – and maybe we can hope for courage and serenity (and effective campaigning!), rather than happiness. 

And if not quite that, then at least let's take a note from Kate Tempest’s instruction to the crowd at her dizzyingly great performance in Oxford: to all “cultivate some radical fucking empathy.”

These photos are actually from one marvellous highlight of 2014 that I failed to post about at the time. I worked on an incredibly fun shoot for Emily and Fin’s AW14 lookbook, indulging my love of vintage-style dresses and pretty patterns to my heart's content. It was a bit of a dream team collaboration, with brilliant Laura Alice Hart taking photos, Ashlyn Gibson doing the styling and Nadine Wilkie on hair and make-up. What better than to lounge around with battered books, old cameras and bunches of flowers? I thought that the glittery details made it all the more perfect for an NYE-themed post. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

A Festive Note

Life has been tumbling over itself day after day recently. This year Christmas will be a nice little respite - a quick pause for breath in the midst of ongoing hard work. I've had to promise my family that I'm not going near my laptop all day tomorrow...

I guess I'm a festive person in that I love celebrations, good company, great wine, and the warmth of a day filled with eating, talking and laughing. I'm just less of a fan of 'Christmas' as some big consumerist edifice with a build-up of about a month and a half beforehand, complete with cheap reindeer antlers and lit-up snowmen. However, ignore my slightly Scrooge-ish inclinations (if Scrooge decided to wear red lipstick and glittery dresses) - I hope that if you're celebrating, (and if so - in whatever way you enjoy best), it's a good one. And if it's not going to be a good one, am sending my thoughts your way. It's an unfairly tough time for so many - often those who deserve the most love.

Right, I'm off to get ready for the Czech half of our celebrations - complete with the wearing of some huge costume jewellery and a dress that belonged to my grandma. The fish soup is on the hob, we've made the cookies, and there's a handful of presents under the tree. Merry Christmas.

Wearing all second hand, from the Betty Jackson shoes to the vintage skirt to the faux fur hat from a charity shop. Wore a variation of this on the train back home today - I like to think I provided a slightly shiny bauble quality to the journey. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Flat Footed

I love a good flat shoe. Not surprising, considering that I’m pushing 5’11”. Add on any extra inches and I unfurl upwards to well over six feet. Sometimes there’s a kind of satisfaction in heels lifting me to  tallest girl in the room – leaning my elbow on friends’ shoulders and generally being a little obnoxious about towering above half the boys. Plus, heels make legs look good (well, as we’re constantly told by various magazines trying to convince us of their use).

Yet here are some of the things one can’t do with quite the same ease in heels: run very quickly for something you’re late for, stay out all night without complaining constantly about your feet, go on long walks regardless of terrain or weather, march along the pavement with purpose (and without wobbling), cycle long distances, walk steadily when you’ve had a few glasses of wine and balance is becoming more difficult to navigate, climb over five bar gates or clamber up stairs two at a time, move around without the inner monologue of “ow, bloody ow, this hurts, ow, and I’m slower than I want to be. Ow.”

There are a few people out there who I marvel at for their ability to saunter around in stilettoes without any visible effort. Maybe their feet are made of stronger stuff? Either that, or they’re better at hiding the pain/ remembering to keep gel cushions in their clutches to soften the aches. And yes, heels can be glamorous or elegant or powerful or intimidating or gut-punchingly gorgeous.

However it seems that, to use some abysmal ‘fash-speak’, flats are having a moment. At the last LFW, many designers showcased outfits accompanied by sandals, trainers and lace-ups – the models not strutting, but strolling. To those of us who make our sartorial choices independent of what the industry deems on-trend (i.e., I suspect, most of us) this may be a case of “so what? I’ve been doing this for years.” But it’s interesting that functional footwear is being seen as important enough for plenty of brands to be promoting it.

It seems to be something of a growing movement too. Hannah Rochell’s recent book ‘En Brogue: Love Shoes. Love Fashion. Hate Heels’ (the title taken from her fabulous blog) is something of an ode to all things flat. A playful publication, it’s full of delicious information and illustrations.

I remember being in my last year at secondary school, sick of the ballet pumps worn by all my female peers. I decided that the way forward was brogues. However, although now ubiquitous in every shop you you pop into, at that point they were much harder to source. All I could find were flimsy, thin-soled shoes playing at being brogues. So I switched tack and began scouring the men’s section in charity shops. Eventually I found a pair of St Michael shiny size 6.5 black brogues – made of stiff, dependable leather. I wore them until they fell apart.

I’ve continued the tradition since by buying plenty more pairs of brogues and loafers for men (I swear they’re usually better constructed), although I do have a deficit of flat shoes that can be worn for evenings out. (Instead I usually end up pairing my lace dresses with Chelsea boots). But it means I can remain later and dance longer, unhampered by pinched toes or sore heels. To me, as much as the aesthetic of a heel appeals, flats are ultimately more liberating – and I want clothes that allow me to feel confident, to stride around and to embody the space that I’m in.

Here I'm wearing some rather glorious second hand velvet DMs my mum found on eBay for £15. She's an online shopping marvel (with great taste). I've worn them a lot this term at uni. To complete the look of all-things-tactile, I'm wearing a dress bought from the bargain section of one of my favourite Oxford vintage shops - Reign. It was £8, and has since seen many a trip out for cocktails, dancing, and, at the end of last term, punting along the river in the sunshine. Photos taken mid September.

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