Friday, 28 July 2017

In Praise of the Seventies

What’s your decade? If you’ve got even a passing interest in vintage, you’ll probably be able to answer: reeling off the eras and cuts and types of look that you love best. For some it’s the fifties, all little sweaters, pencil skirts and big, poofy, pretty tea-dresses. For others it’s the eighties, with shoulder pads and sequins aplenty. My immediate answer used to be sixties. I adored everything about that decade: the tiny tunics, the very mini mini-skirts, the pictures of Twiggy jumping around looking lithe and leggy. I sought out anything that looked vaguely Biba-esque, dreaming about kohl-rimmed eyes and A-line dresses and swing coats.

Then, things changed. Well, my body changed. I got hips. And I skipped forward another ten years, suddenly realizing that the seventies held better-suited treasures. There I’d find the shapes that suddenly worked anew: those glorious high-necked, ankle-skimming maxi-dresses; the big sleeved gowns, the suede jackets (you can never have too many suede jackets), the platform heels. It was a gradual shift: one I only noticed as I perused the rails of vintage shops, gravitating towards colours and patterns I would have previously overlooked. Oh sure, it had been a decade I’d dabbled in before (these blog archives can attest to that), but it quickly became a more all-consuming interest. Now, at least a quarter of my wardrobe is made up of bright seventies maxis, their hems all crushed together. There they are, in zinging green and tangerine and cream cotton flecked with terracotta coloured flowers. Some plunge down to cleavage, while others are cut high on the neck: letting shoulders roam free. All hit that sweet spot between glam and ethereal, with the added bonus of allowing one to float around like a very practical goddess with things to do and places to be. (Side note: the lines between late sixties/ early seventies are not always easy to delineate. I guess I'm going more on popular preconceptions of each decade rather than the year-to-year changes in design). 

Of course, the other decades still have their place. Come winter, I’m hardly ever out of my sixties style polo-necks and miniskirts, complete with thick black tights and big Chelsea boots. The fifties still linger around the edges of my wardrobe in the odd cocktail dress and embroidered blouse. I find myself lusting after the forties whenever I see photos of jaunty looking women in sturdy trousers and good shirts. And the thirties is another fresh discovery: all those glorious bias cuts to indulge in (admittedly achieved via buying second hand Ghost and Whistles slip-style gowns, rather than the now very pricy originals). But it’s good to acknowledge – and not feel aggrieved - that there were various vintage items that looked brilliant on me when I was fourteen, and just wouldn’t now I’m twenty-two. Besides, the vice versa is true too. A dress like the one worn here, with its bright splashes of yellow and orange, might still have been ace during my adolescence. But I don't think I could have pulled it off in the same way. The physical differences, as well as that whole thing of growing up and accumulating confidence with each passing year, makes it a better fit now.

I’m fascinated by this process of evolution in personal style: the way taste can shift and revise itself over time. Marking it out in vintage shapes is an easy way to summarize a lot of much more subtle changes - ones which bear further examination another time... For now though, I’m just reveling in the potential of the seventies, especially when mixed up with other, newer things: a second hand blue velvet blazer and wellies, for example. Especially for a walk in the woods on a damp, grey, fresh-smelling afternoon. Especially when the dress clashes with the bushes of flowers on all sides. 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Next Few Chapters

Sometimes I think of this blog like a creature: one that hibernates on whim, or lies dormant for a while, only to spring back into life. In the past, it had to be fed regularly, and given a good runaround at least once a week. But this last year there’s been a kind of relief in giving up on the pretense of continual tending. I let things lapse, temporarily abandoned for months here and there. My last post was in March. And now it's July. How time flutters on!

I’m really rather glad for it though. This last year, I’ve had some breathing room. I finally acknowledged that after finishing university and launching a book, I was fired up for the future, but also really fucking tired. I needed to carve out a little more space to live: to know that work is important (and I am still very bad at fully switching off from the whirring pace of article pitches and book synopses and ambition and multiple projects), but so is walking and dancing and sleep and travel and picnics in the park and new people and kisses and long conversations over wine with brilliant friends and swimming and watching Sally Potter’s Orlando on repeat because it’s practically perfect in every way and the luxurious pleasure of lying by oneself in bed on a Saturday morning with a book and not moving other than to make more coffee before curling up under the duvet again.

Between these points of relish, and that strange business of suddenly being an adult with a multi-hyphenate freelance career, the blog was the thing that had to give – for a little while, anyway. I had to not run myself into the ground. And prioritise being paid for my writing. Writing that's included everything from discussing Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe choices for Dazed to talking about my adolescent experiences modeling for Buzzfeed to this piece for Broadly on the deadly history of clothes that could kill you (as a side note: editors! Commission me! I write good things about clothes and culture and bodies and travel and lots else. See this page for more info). And I’ve done other things too. Poetry readings aplenty – the latest alongside the magnificent Charly Cox. I’ve hosted panels about poetry at Waterstones, been an extra in a music video, travelled to some extraordinary places (keep an eye out on the next issue of SUITCASE magazine for details of my adventures in Japan and Prague), and put quite a bit of legwork into a website that will be launching later this year.

I’ve also done lots of my own writing offline. Some of that should be making its way into various, very exciting, imminent projects. Other endeavours didn't go where I wanted them to, but were still necessary paths along the way to better things. There’s been a pleasure I’ve really discovered in this slow-burn process: in not doing everything for instant gratification (I’ve got Instagram for that!), in letting things take the days, and weeks, and months they need.  

I missed this though: this little blog. Between the relief of letting myself off the hook for not doing 103 things at once all the time every day never stopping, there was the odd, sharp pang. This platform has been such a significant part of my life. One that has helped shape it in innumerable ways. It’s always been my corner of the internet, where I can do, think, dress, and write as I want. Besides, what else would give me the motivation to put on ridiculous outfits and dance around the countryside just because I could? Being able to dress up and pose for photos for the last eight years has been joyous. More than joyous. Exhilarating. Here I started learning how to fashion myself, to appreciate the transformative qualities of clothes and the stories we tell about ourselves in fabric - and to find a community who felt similarly.

Much of that community has migrated elsewhere now, but that’s ok. We all move on, as we should. Many of us were teenage girls doing this blogging thing in our spare time. Some have stuck with it. Some have gone on to make that a full-time career. Others let it fade, replaced by other types of creative endeavor. I’m stuck somewhere in the middle. This is probably always going to be a passion project. But it’s one I want to to continue doing. Maybe not regularly. Maybe not with big, sprawling articles any more (could be just a paragraph, could be a 1000 words. Who knows?!) But it’ll be here. I have an absolute stack of shoots lined up. There are bluebells and beautiful old caravans and bright pink sprays of flowers and sweeping, seventies dresses. I can’t wait to post them.

In the meantime, I’ve spruced things up around here, having said I needed to do so for MONTHS. The new header is by my incredibly talented pal - and imminent flatmate - Holly Gorne. She’s a gem of a friend, and a damn fine artist too. You can see her Etsy shop here. I love this image. It captures nearly everything I adore, including impractical silk slips (talking of which: head over to Vestoj’s Instagram for an in-depth look at that particular shiny number).

There’s a name change too. Welcome to I continue to love clothes, cameras, AND coffee, but, well, this is a portfolio for all my other work too – alongside the images of me tottering through fields in high heels. It was time for this corner of the internet to reflect that. Welcome to the next few chapters. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go.

These images were taken by Holly while we were running around a field (could have been wheat, we weren't quite sure..) the other week. They seemed like a good indicator of the fun I've been getting up to: plenty of loafing around in tartan trousers included.
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