Thursday, 25 March 2010

Amazing Grace

When Ava Gardner gets into a taxi, the driver knows at once that she's Ava Gardner," Grace Kelly once said. "It's the same for Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor, but not for me. I'm never Grace Kelly. I'm always someone who looks like Grace Kelly."

She has never gone far from the public conciousness even though she starred in only 11 films in a six year career that was given up when she married in 1956. She is about to catapault into the public eye again in a new exhibition that opens at the V & A next month. Why do I love her? Perhaps it is because of her inaccessible look, a blonde, icy allure that I will never possess (being olive skinned and brunette) but more than that the clothes she wore with such aplomb are quintessentially of an age and, yes, I'm stating the blindingly obvious, but how often does one wear a tailored pencil suit or accessorize with a wonderfully large brimmed hat? The streamlined silhouette of the 50s is the one the Grace will be remembered for, not the more voluminous, up-to-the minute outfits of the 60s that she wore later in her short life.

The exhibition promises to dissect the elusive Grace Kelly look that we are all familiar with, as encapsulated by the actress on and off screen, and, of course, also by a long line of pale imitators who include everyone from Kate Winslet to Diana, Princess of Wales and more recently (and forgivably as at least she's in period) Mad Men's Betty Draper. Kelly's signature white gloves, the neatly pressed masculine shirt teamed with narrow cropped trousers and polished loafers, the demure tailored day suits worn with a sensible mid-heel and, naturally, the Hermès Kelly bag, will all come under scrutiny once again.

Grace will also be the cover girl on the May edition of Vanity Fair (US), definately worth trying to get hold of, also check out the stunning slideshow on their website.

To prep up pre-exhibition I recommend Rear Window, To Catch A Thief and High Society, my top three favourite Grace films. I will also adopt the most ladylike apparell I can lay my hands on when I go and view it, in homage to Princess Grace. If anyone would like to buy/ lend/ thieve me a Kelly bag for the occasion, do get in touch.

Some rather fabulous gowns, ideal for everyday wear

I'm sure we all look this chic when walking the dog..

....or indeed when cycling, bare feet perhaps slightly ill advised there...

And finally with arguably the world's most eponymous bag...sigh...

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Just a rascal, a quizee rascal (sorry)

Yes, I hold my hand up, as well as shoes, bags, dresses and heavy, glossy monthly magazines..I also have a weakness for a bit of competitive good fun. My two local pub quizzes are a fantastic way to spend the evening and also win a free dinner or a bit of cash depending on the pub. Now the fashion set are jumping on the bandwagon too after Vogue staged it's first pub quiz last night at the Bag and Bottle, requisitioned by Anya Hindmarch for the week...Doubt anyone was eating pork scratchings at theirs though..

See the questions here. Good Luck!xx

P.S. Richard E. Grant was the quiz-meister, sigh..I probably wouldn't have been concentrating on the questions.

NEWS JUST IN! Apparently it's open to the public, click here for the link to the Vogue blog for details. Apparently they did have pork scratchings!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Liberty, Liberty, I love thee

Ahh, Liberty prints! Do they not conjure up an image of pretty chintz, swirling William Morris-esque patterns, roses, sprigs of country flowers on beautifully soft, floaty Summer dresses? I have long held the romoantic notion that on a sunny afternoon in Spring, I would venture to Liberty, spend a delightful hour or so idling through the haberdasher's section and emerge with bolts of beautiful, printed fabric from which to make whimisical Summer dresses. This has never happened and probably will never happen, unless I can afford a dress-maker. However it is still a lovely way to spend an afternoon..wandering around the luxurious and original department store, ogling the handbags, the art, even the kitchen accessories and wondering what one might buy if the price tag didn't bring you out in a rash when you caught a peek at it.

Now there is hope however, in the form of two Liberty collaberations; Liberty for Target (the fabulous pop-up shop to the left) and the Merci Liberty Limited Edition, neither of these break the bank but you're going to have to be quick off the mark to get your mitts on them. I'm especially after the beautiful retro suitcase..

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Get naked!

As a chronic nail biter I am always slightly saddened when a new trend of nail varnish emerges. How on earth can I partake with little bitten stumps? "On your toes" I hear you cry but truly people, look outside, it is not open toed sandal weather yet (hurry up sunshine). I have to say that I wasn't over enamoured with Chanel's coveted Jade Le Vernis polish from their Autumn/ Winter 09 collection. I'm going out on a limb but I thought the pastel green was reminiscent of hospital corridors and chalk dust left mouldering under a blackboard.

Now though there is a gorgeous wearable shade, Particuliere..a soft nude, almost faun in some lights. It's classy, grown up and not too garish. You can wear it with pretty much anything, smart, casual, no worries about it matching up with things like I've found with Nars Jungle Red or Chanel's Rouge Noir..even black which should go with everything can be a bit skater girl at times depending on the rest of the ensemble.

One problem. You can't get it, seriously, not for love, money or bribery and I've tried them all. I've tried Selfridges, Harrods, little unknown chemists, Heathrow Terminal 5, even Bendels and Barneys and Maceys and Bloomingdales. No go..until this evening when I spotted a lady in my Yoga class with beautiful taupe talons. Deciding to accost her post downward dog, I sidled over at the end of the class and said with hope, "Particuliere?". Apparently not..OPI's Over the Taupe..and it's a nearly identical colour match! At £9.95 it's cheaper too. A close second..and even cheaper is Boots No7's Beanie (£6.75) and finally..great name..Essie's Mink Muffs (£8.95). It's a little darker than the others but still looks immensely elegant if applied correctly...this is still my issue. Until I can manage to apply my nail varnish as if I was a blind child attempting finger painting...I'm still going to have to leave it to the professionals...see below..

"...brown paper packages tied up with string..these are a few of my favourite things.."

Ok so it wasn't Julie Andrews singing at Marc Jacobs unveiling (or rather unwrapping) of his new collection for Autumn/ Winter 2010/2011 but brown paper did feature and the cosumate collection certainly will..if I ever own them..become some of my favourite things. The vast room was dominated by a 12ft wooden box, wrapped up in brown paper. And as the lights dimmed, the designer himself emerged from backstage to tear the paper away. Then, as the poignant strains of Juliet Greco singing Over the Rainbow came over the sound system, the contents of the box were finally laid bare: A tableaux of 56 models that was literally as pretty – and as powerful - as a picture.

The message was pretty clear, brown wrapping paper, brown cardboard seats, wallpaper and flooring, stapled together, and not a celebrity in sight, the focus here was to be solely on the clothes.

The references, Jacobs said, touched on Edwardiana, the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s, but he had played with proportion and "tweaked" to create the contemporary mood he wanted.

“It’s about clothes which don’t look as if they’re trying to hard to be, you know, fashion-y,” Jacobs explained. One of the hardest things in fashion to pull off it must be said, but BY GEORGE! I think he's got it!

Pictures coming soon!x

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Singularly Beautiful

Have you ever wandered around an art gallery and had to sit down because you were overwhelmed by the beauty of a particular picture or piece of sculpture? That is the feeling I had through my viewing of A Single Man..though fortunately, I was sitting down already. A film that was rather scathingly called, "Bereavement by Dior" to me was an eloquent and yes, undeniably stylish debut from director Tom Ford about the trauma of losing someone you love.

Based on the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood, the single man of the title is George Falconer, an ex-patriate Englishman living in Los Angeles, a bespectacled college professor teaching English Literature. I must add that I don't remember a single one of my professors looking like the teaching staff at this place. Seriously, I know it's 1962 so I will allow for the wonderful clothes, hair and make-up but I doubt a genuinely haggard, sleep deprived, hungover or (let's be honest) ugly person would have made it past the velvet rope into Tom Ford's film. Did students at your university look like these two?

Shock and grief have made George depend on his routines so that he can conform to the image of what society thinks he should be. His repressed English mannerisms have become accentuated..perfectly pressed suits, buffing his brogues to a shine, drawers full of immaculate, identical shirts. One of my most favourite points in the film was when George lays out his clothes to be buried in and doesn't forget a detail right down to specifying the correct knot on his tie. (A Windsor knot if you must know).

Tom Ford speaking on The Film Programme said that in his mind, his back story for George was that he had family money and an income from that which would certainly make sense as the clothes alone (never mind the stunning modernist house, car etc) would have taken up a college professor's salary. His film never ceases to be swooningly lovely: especially the scene in which George shares a cigarette with a beautiful Spanish boy, swathed in the smoggy redness of an LA dusk. But that black-and-white flashback showing George and Jim sunbathing nude on some rugged and frankly uncomfy-looking rocks – that is just outrageously ad-like..though yes..still undeniably stunning.

Julianne Moore plays George's best friend and confidante Charley, a ­fellow English expat and semi-alcoholic ­divorcee. After her appearances in Todd ­Haynes's Far From Heaven and Tom ­Kalin's Savage Grace, this role ­underlines a slight gaycentric typecasting for Moore, but like Firth she inhabits it with absolute confidence, and their friendship is touching and warm, even when George is furious to realise that Charley, in spite of everything, believes in her heart that heterosexual ­marriage is more real than gay partnership. ­Again top marks for hair and make-up and a fabulous black and white maxi dress with a cape.

To me, to judge the film purely on style takes away from not only the extraordinary performance by Firth but also the sensitive direction and adaptation achieved by Ford. Can't deny I loved the clothes though...and I will be buying it on dvd if only to learn how to achieve Julianne Moore's superb beehive.

UPDATE! After last night's fabulous Mad Men where Don and Betty went on a mini-break Rome (as I will be doing shortly)..another fabulous beehive to emulate....

Friday, 5 March 2010

Drooling over Dries

As our Prime Minister lurches towards the Chilcot Inquiry, is it any suprise that war seems to have served as an inspiration for what some regard as frivolous? Today is the opening day of the Paris prêt-à-porter season for Autumn/ Winter 2010/11. The Belgian designer Dries Van Noten opened at the historic Hotel de Ville (town of the first words I learnt at GCSE) and a procession of some of the loveliest and most wearable clothes I have seen in quite some time, came striding down the catwalk. Van Noten’s collection balanced the mix of masculine and feminine perfectly, nothing too butch or too girly. These were grown up clothes for the modern woman. In 2005, the New York Times described him "one of fashion's most cerebral designers" and this collection proves it..

Marrying military inspiration with more than a nod to 1940s/ 50s haute couture, his models strode down the runway in an astonishing combination of army-green cotton, paired with hand-painted, floral silk, which lightly referenced the “New Look” of Christian Dior in 1947. The grand, 19th century, gilded and cherub-infested "Salle des Fetes” provided the perfect backdrop to a collection that was tailored, muted and super wearable...(if only I had the cash to back it up and therefore actually be able to wear it...sigh..)

In the words of the beautiful Jane Birkin, "Je t'aime, oh..oui je t'aime..." and my absolute standout favourite piece of the whole show....

Also just saw this ...on Susie Bubble's wonderful blog and I think we should take a moment to appreciate next to the serious, elegant style we have just been looking at..this fantastic irreverent piece from Giles' new AW 10/ 11 collection..

I bring you...The Gremlin bag!!x

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Springing after Alice!

So I'm going to jump onto the proverbial bandwagon (or seat myself at the tea party might be more appropriate) and get thoroughly over-excited about Alice in Wonderland. After watching the the luscious Mr Depp and intriguing Mr Burton on 'Friday Night with Jonathan Woss' and realising that Burton has in fact, totally re-written the story, I must admit to feeling slight trepidation about the plot but drinking in the design. Alice is now 19 and about to marry an aristocratic twit, she is also visiting Wonderland for the second time. How will it all turn out? Off to the Electric in the next couple of weeks to find out...

Meanwhile, it seems obvious to me that Burton and fashion go hand in hand..not so long ago we were all dressing slightly neo-goth with leather leggings, swathes of black lace and ever so slightly absurd shoes (note the heel on the YSL Tribute pumps). Hello Edward Scissorhands.

Having recently been in NYC and taken in the Tim Burton exhibition whilst there, I'm struck that upon my return to the UK, Spring has Sprung and the designers are embracing it, most notably Louise Goldin. Goldin showed ice-cream parlour shades of lilac, yellow and powder blue, but her complex body-con dresses and directional knitwear were pure sci-fi. Look out for her studded courts in Topshop. (in Lewis Carrol's book the label on them would be 'Buy Me') This is the thing about Burton you see, the potential saccharine sweetness is tapered by the Gothic, the dark, sometimes almost the punk. Think again of Edward Scissorhands wandering down those streets of pastel suburbia standing out a mile and not just because he had clippers for fingers or Catwoman's bondage-esque catsuit juxtaposed with her alter ego (shy secretary Selina Kyle) all fluffy jumpers in pale colours and pencil skirts.

Christopher Kane's Spring collection showed delicate pink and blue gingham-check dresses, made from chiffon and covered in intricate sequins and appliqué patterns. So far, so sweet, you might think, but bear in mind that the collection was inspired by a Texan cult...Mad as Hatter. ”

How can one work the Alice trend? Hats always make me feel like I'm making a statement. A mad hat is fun for about half-an-hour, for example, possibly for a chic run to to the shops. Headbands are very on-trend and arguably easier to pull off, and bunny ears never go out of fashion (Louis Vuitton did them, after all). Just remember not to wear them with hot-pants. I bought a wonderful nude headband from J.Crew in the States with a fanciful chiffon concoction attached to it but Topshop has a good selection or make your own by buying a plain one from Boots and trimming it from the fabulous selection of fabrics at V V Rouleaux. If you don't wish to channel Alice, take inspiration from Anne Hathaway as the White Queen...creamy skin, dark plum lipstick and pristine white and cream lace accesorised with pearls.

Finally I am going to try and banish black from my wardrobe whilst the sun is shining, throw a tea party and have a hunt round for the croquet set...