Sunday, 6 April 2014

Blue China

Well here I am doing what I'd always said to myself I would avoid doing on this blog and posting pictures of an outfit shot taken in the mirror.  I did however want to share this little space in my flat because it is now where I am putting together outfits on a daily basis.  The dressing area so to speak.  If you take a look at my Pinterest "Dream Home" board you may notice a slight obsession with dressing rooms and walk in wardrobes. Who wouldn't, if they had the luxury of the space, kit themselves out with a dressing room?

Where do you get dressed every day?  And how does the space affect how you feel about getting dressed?  Is it a pleasant, organised or creative affair?  Or is it a cramped, chaotic and stressful experience?  Getting dressed in our last flat was always more of the latter.  My last wardrobe was a couple of hanging rails on a wall that kept falling down and needed constant reorganising.  Since moving I thankfully have more space, but still no dressing room.

I did however, move a full length mirror out onto the landing between the stairs and the main bedroom and voila, I now have a dressing landing.  I get changed in the bedroom and come out here to view my handiwork.  It's not a perfect solution, being small and not particular private, but it's working well enough for now.  There is a window opposite which lets in natural light during the day and though currently I only have a blue Hokusai print for company, I might do the area up further with a nice little console table, a luxurious rug and a girly chandelier above and just make believe it's a proper dressing room.

I'm happy to say though that I am now the proud owner of a small walk in wardrobe.  The whole reason I insisted we came to see this flat in the first place was that I spied it marked on the floor plan.  After first viewing the flat I was crestfallen as I thought it was too small and Mr V thought I was being ridiculous.  I was right though!  I know my inventory!

Although it is a massive improvement on our last wardrobe, it is just that little bit too narrow to get dressed inside it and as you can see it is already cramped and a total mess in there! (I'm not a blogger who's going to pretend they're perfect.) The Spring wardrobe reorganisation looms!

The wardrobe is still a work in progress so take this as the "before" photo.  The space needs a big rethink as there is a slanting roof on two sides to contend with, the current units aren't making full use of the height on the other side, I need an alternative solution for shoe storage to the current towers of shoe boxes and I detest the wooden flooring put down by the previous owners.  And I want matching hangers damn it!

So back to the dressing landing, which no doubt will probably be featuring again on this blog as it evolves.  I wore this dress out to afternoon tea with the girls in West London last weekend in celebration of a couple of friends birthdays.  It is the perfect afternoon tea dress with it's lace bodice and china blue tinted print.  The afternoon was a delightful Asian themed affair in a tea room that was actually in someone's house.  We were given sets of little cards which provided detailed descriptions of each of the multitude of brews on offer down to their ingredients, aroma, flavour and origin.  We were then treated to a proper Asian tea ceremony and given a lecture of the process of brewing and pouring tea for each of our chosen brews which had extremely exotic names such as Golden Monkey, Dragon Pearl Jasmine and Mi Lan Honey Orchid Pheonix.

Here are some of the delights we were treated to.  The open sandwiches were very tasty and much more complex in flavour than their appearance would suggest.  We had chocolate mousse balls, marzipan, mango flavoured cake and a scone served with rose petal jam.

Naturally my dress matched the blue china tea was served in, which was the whole reason I wore it!  The other touch of blue here in this post is of course the shoes, which the more shoe astute amongst you may have already recognised as Carrie's wedding shoes from the first SATC movie.  Yep, I finally got my first (and quite probably last) ever pair of Manolos, a treat to myself for slaving away at work this year and managing to get a pay rise.  I went into Liberty's with The Other V (always a dangerous move) and came out with a loaded loyalty card and these blue satin babies.   And boy do I love them - they are heaven to wear!

I'll be joining the wonderful Patti over at Not Yet Dead Style for Visible Monday and DC in Style for Monday Bloom.

What's your dressing area like?

Dress: Preen by Thorton Bregazzi; Shoes: Manolo Blahnik

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Pet Peeves with Vintage Shopping on Ebay

I used to be an avid vintage shopper, scouring markets and vintage or second hand shops for treasures.  I still love vintage but sadly, these days I'm usually never free to go shopping for it.  Most shops I'd like a good rummage around are closed by the time I finish up for the day and weekends are almost never free.  And let's face it - vintage shopping takes a lot of time.  In recent years all my clothes shopping migrated online, including for vintage.

Every so often I peruse that great, open-all-hours vintage market place on the internet for bargains - Ebay.  And I know I'm not alone judging from the bids I've lost to others and the number of watchers on items that catch my eye.  In the past I've had some great successes buying vintage on Ebay (as well as spectacular failures).  Focusing on the good I have some lovely Victorian and Edwardian pieces that were actually quite inexpensive.  This lace embellished Victorian jacket, the gold leather flapper shoes and this ivory cream opera cape made out of a piano shawl are some of my favourite Ebay buys.

I've been using Ebay lately to look for vintage furniture for the flat but the last couple of evenings attention deficit drove me to the vintage women's clothing section.  After a long spell perusing what was on offer, I have to say I felt it was harder to find quality and genuine items with reasonable start bids.  Vintage price inflation has seeped into the start prices and some irritating claims and tricks are being tried by sellers to sell their wares, not all of them qualifying as vintage.

Now I take vintage to mean clothing that was genuinely made in a particular era, and we are talking eras spanning from a time starting thirty or forty years back, clothes that have some genuine fashion history behind them.  But judging from what sometimes gets listed in the vintage clothing section I do wonder if the average Ebay vintage seller is familiar with this concept!

Some practises by sellers that kept cropping up repeatedly really did start to grate after a while and I thought they deserved calling out.  So here they are - my pet peeves when hunting for vintage items on Ebay.  Vintage sellers take note!
  • Sellers listing modern second hand clothing in the vintage section tagged as "vintage style" - please cease and desist.  You are taking up valuable screen space on my search list which could be filled with real vintage items.  I don't want something that is vintage style.  I want the real deal.  Ebay can't you set up a separate category for "vintage style" items on their own?  I swear it would be ten times the size of the real vintage section.  Anyone know how to set up an Ebay search to avoid this phrase??
  • Modern clothing posing as vintage - a secondhand item from Topshop, H&M, Karen Millen, New Look, Zara, and Miss Selfridge does not a vintage garment make. Please also read point one.
  • They may look vintage-y but unless it was manufactured in the 1970s (or 80s at a push) or earlier your "vintage" Monsoon or Laura Ashley is usually just last season's or several seasons old Monsoon or Laura Ashley.
  • Sellers using "Gatsby" or "Downtown Abbey" or whatever title of period dress movie or TV series which happens to be flavour of the month.  It does not make your garment more desirable by comparing it to the costumes in a movie or screen show with a million dollar costume budget.
  • Sellers asking four figure sums for vintage garments.  I have two not very polite words to say to you.  I can get me some runway pieces by top designers for that type of money that don't have moth holes, rips, tears, missing bits or a musty, moth balled smell and hundred year old perspiration marks.  That old adage of flaws and imperfections being part of the charm of vintage clothing begins to wear off at around the £100 mark.  Over £1000 I am more likely to think that you are a money launderer than entertain any notion of bidding on your overpriced item which you probably picked up for buttons.
  • Posting an average UK size instead of posting accurate measurements of the garment.  There is no average UK size people!  A UK 8 in one store can be a UK 6 in another and a UK 12 in yet another.  And it has probably changed since you last hit the change rooms on the high street.  I'm tired of typing in the same request for chest, waist and shoulder measurements for your garments.  Don't be so lazy and post some measurements!  Or I won't bid!
  • Getting your periods wrong.  I've seen some pretty outlandish claims as to what constitutes a 20s flapper dress, what is Victorian, what is Edwardian, the list goes on. And then there is some blatant cover your ass type banding like "50s - 70s dress" - that's a time span of three decades!  A very long time in fashion!  Please do some research and at least try to get it right or admit that you just don't know.
I'm sure there are others that will come to me as I continue my vintage search.  Do you use Ebay to shop for vintage items?  Any pet peeves you've found shopping on Ebay for vintage?

Vintage Victorian riding jacket: Ebay

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Peter Pilotto

I've not been on the fashion ball lately as work has been consuming all of my time.  I mean, I completely missed the Peter Pilotto for Target gig.  I'm usually all over my favourite designer's collaborations with the UK high street and have often been gnashing my teeth with envy over the awesome collaborations with top designers run by Target on an almost exclusive basis for our sisters on the other side of the pond.  Yes Pret-a-P in Missoni and Fort Smith Stylista in 3.1 Phillip Lim I'm talking to you.

In fact this time, by the time I got around to browsing the collection on Net-a-Porter most of it had sold out and was selling on Ebay at three times the retail price.  No matter!  To console myself I went out and bought the real thing on sale instead.

I jest.  Not about buying the dress on sale, but that it was to console myself.  I've been guilty of going overboard on these high street designer collaborations in the past to the extent that after totting up the spend I've realised that I could easily have put that money to get something from the designer's mainline collections if only I had waited patiently enough for a sale or an Outnet drop.  I've had some quiet shopping resolutions brewing in the background these last few months.  They include firstly to buy less and buy better, secondly to buy to fit my actual lifestyle and body shape now and not the one I used to have, or have in my head, and finally to avoid paying full retail unless it is a wardrobe basic.

As a result shopping on the high street has all but stopped.  That's quite a shift in gear because I was a real fan of high street fashion.  And I still am - however at s I get older it seems to be less and less of a fan of me - but more of that in another post.

When perusing the Peter Pilotto for Target collection I felt similarly alienated.  Not that it was a bad collection per se, some of it looked really very cute, it just felt very young in a way that made it hopelessly irrelevant for my lifestyle let alone body shape.  In fact this collection looked like the perfect wardrobe for a whippet thin university student who lives in warm climes near the beach and goes out partying every weekend.  It would have been my dream wardrobe when I was twenty.  Now (sadly) I have little use for crop tops, printed shorts, skirts with short hemlines, voluminous skater skirts, casual sweatshirts, beach wear or strapless cocktail dresses.

I do love print though and although it is what Peter Pilotto do best, an added plus is that the cuts of their dresses are also very flattering, something I wasn't sure would translate into a high street collection as easy as prints.  I picked this one out of the winter sale rack for its turtle neck, angel sleeves and knee length hemline which gives the dress a definite grown up feel while the print stops it feeling stuffy.

Their last winter collection was inspired by Spain which may be why it resonated with me so much.  The print on this dress reminded me of the heady visual and sensory overload of climbing Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  I remember walking in circles for hours up and down winding staircases, along the way catching glimpses of stained glass windows, towering stone spires, columns and sculptures all in lurid contrasting colours.  I remember it as a crazy, zany piece of architecture that somehow has a divine logic - and I think the print here captures that sense of madness with a method to it.

I wore the dress with this black frock coat and boots to afternoon tea a couple of weeks back with a very interesting and delightful lady who is an academic in fashion media and who I met through the blog.  She interviewed me for a book she is writing about blogging.  We talked about the contrast between work wear and what we wear on the blog and she asked me if would wear such a dress like this to work.  I told her I wouldn't as suits in corporate colours is the order of the day at my office and I would worry it would be too zany.  But since we had that chat I have been constantly thinking - well why the hell not?  And as I had to go straight to the theatre tonight from work I did just that - wore the dress to work - so thank you Agnes for the motivation!  Guess what?  Nobody seemed to bat an eyelid - but I do wonder what they were all secretly thinking...

Joining Patti and the ladies over at Not Yet Dead Style for Visible Monday.

Dress: Peter Pilotto; Wrapover cardigan: All Saints; Coat: Sportmax; Mongolian scarf: Topshop; Boots: Moschino;  Earrings: Christmas gift

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Homenaje: Two Videos and a Funeral

Paco de Lucia: Source: Euronews

The legendary flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia died this week.   I am still trying to digest this.  Still in a quiet state of disbelief and shock as are many flamenco friends.  To anyone who loves flamenco, Paco de Lucia, despite his age, seemed immortal.

To put his death in context, think of the rippling effect globally of the death of a figure held up and admired as being truly great in their field elsewhere.  Think of what the death of John Lennon meant to popular music, or that of Alexander McQueen to fashion, and of how they were publicly mourned afterwards.  As one friend said: flamenco was changed for ever while Paco was alive - it has changed for ever now he is gone.

His funeral was today. I expect every flamenco artist worth his or her salt in Spain would have been there to pay their respects.  Some incredible photos of the funeral coming out on the web, this one of Vicente Amigo, another of my favourite guitarists, as one of the coffin bearers.

Source: DeFlamenco via facebook
Paco de Lucia was considered one of flamenco's greatest ambassadors, the one who took it out of Andalusia and to the world, and also out of it's own comfort zone.  He pioneered the fusion of flamenco with other musical forms like jazz and classical, opening flamenco to a much wider audience as a result.

Recently I got to try my own fusion of flamenco with another art form, that's if you choose to see fashion as part of the creative arts, which I certainly do.  The passing away of Paco de Lucia made me reflect back on that with a fresh perspective.  I often baulk at mixing flamenco with other things but I think Paco would have probably approved of such fusion.  A young fashion designer took Andalucia and the story of Bizet's Carmen as the inspiration for a fashion collection and had a vision of having a flamenco dancer perform during his fashion show.  As a result I was able to play a small part in bringing flamenco to a new audience, or at least provided some cultural context to the inspiration behind a designer's vision to people whose primary interest is fashion.  And it certainly took me out of my comfort zone as a dancer.

I am very often surrounded by people who think artistic and creative endeavors are a complete waste of time and see no value in them.  Yet creatives, in any field, are so important.  Creatives have the vision and openness of mind to cross boundaries and draw inspiration from new sources, crystallising their ideas through their skills into new and beautiful works of art for the enjoyment of all, works of art that transport us elsewhere, open our minds and make us see the world just that little bit differently afterwards.  In this way art can unite people.  When a great creative leaves us, all of us are a little poorer for it.

Many of the comments from my last post asked to see a video of my flamenco performance at London Fashion Week.  I did actually put one on the last post but probably people didn't realise it was there.  At any rate there is a new one posted below that was taken at the actual show with some snippets of me in full flight between clips of backstage antics and the catwalk show.  If you are interested in seeing the full dance during our rehearsal I've also reposted the livestreaming video here - you'll have to forward 16 minutes in to see it.  I'm dancing a dance called Siguiriyas.  I found a good description of Siguiriyas here:
"Slow, majestic and tragic, Siguiriyas is the most jondo of cante jondo forms. Its lyrics focus on tragedy, inconsolable sorrow, and pain."
We didn't have a singer (for the record, performing without a singer is bloody difficult), but I think the sentiment is still there.  Fitting I think for my personal homenaje for Paco de Lucia.

Éthologie - London Fashion Show 2014 from The Editor on Vimeo.

Video streaming by Ustream

Friday, 14 February 2014

Dancing at London Fashion Week

News Flash! I'll be dancing flamenco at London Fashion Week tomorrow afternoon! I'll be doing a short performance before the Ethologie AW 2014 catwalk collection. Manically rehearsing right now (and getting very nervous!) but here is some information - there'll be a live streaming for a sneak preview backstage of the very beautiful collection by Jasper Garvida which is influenced by Spain. No time to post more but I'll let you all know how it went!

Postscript: I've added the live streaming link to this post below - no idea how it works! I'm assuming a video will pop up at the time of broadcast. Update: You can now see the rehearsal here (from about 14 minutes in):

Video streaming by Ustream

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Peony Pink

It's How I Wear My Pink week over at Everything Just So and The Rich Life on a Budget.  So I thought I'd share my favourite pink dress of the last few months - this peony print dress by Preen.  With its summery white stripes and splashes of neon yellow it was a bit more of an adventurous take on a summer floral than your run of the mill ditsy print.  I got it on sale in the summer last year just when the UK summer finally arrived and the weather began to heat up. It became my go to solution when I wanted to look smart, fresh and feminine but get dressed in a flash.  An added bonus of travelling to an Australian summer in November meant I got even more wear out of it.

Last summer I discovered the joy of peonies.  They were on sale in florists all over London and after seeing them artfully arranged in an old French mustard pot to adorn a friends afternoon tea party, I began buying them to put in vases at home.  They really are gorgeous flowers and I loved watching all that unfurling of layers and layers of soft pink petals as the tightly folded buds opened up into voluptuous frilly edged blooms.

Coincidentally one of my favourite collections of the year was the peony and python themed collection by the London design duo Preen, whose highly original work I've been a fan of for years and who always incorporate wonderful prints into their designs.  I particularly love what they do with florals and these were my favourite runway looks from SS 2013.

Preen SS 2013. Source: Preen
Preen SS 2013. Source: Preen
Preen SS 2013. Source: Preen

Often designers will send down their most avant garde creations down the runway and then rework themes from the collection into more wearable (read saleable) garments at a more wallet friendly price point than the show pieces.  As designers go Preen are actually very good at this, often taking their prints into jersey and cotton mix pieces with simpler shapes.

Here I am wearing a toned down version of the runway peony print, reborn as a simpler cotton shift dress whose versatility made it the perfect day dress.  I found I could wear it very easily at work smartened up with a pale cream jacket and neutral court shoes. It worked equally well worn for pleasure with a little lemon yellow bolero knit thrown over, with either gold sparkly flats as in the photo or my neon yellow heels to pick out the neon in the print.  When it came to packing for a vacation it was the first thing that went in the suitcase as it was so versatile.  So versatile in fact, it even made it to the beach!

Check out the other ladies in pink!  Also linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style and The Spy Girl: 52 Pick-me-up.

Peony print cotton mix dress: Preen by Thornton Bregazzi; Diamante flip flops: Betts & Betts

Monday, 3 February 2014

Glammed Up Gothic

The lovely Candela of Mis Papelicos reminded me that she is hosting a Gothic party over at her blog. With my penchant for dressing in all black how could I resist?  Not long ago we went to the theatre and this is what I wore.  We went to see Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake which was a bit of a Gothic horror in itself.  I mean that in a good way as I found it a brilliant and dark interpretation of the original ballet.

Apologies to any ex-Goth blogger friends out there (Cloud of Secrets!) but I have to admit that in my youth I was actually pretty ignorant about what the Goth subculture was about and felt I couldn't really relate to it.  I was a fan of The Cure but I always thought Robert Smith looked a million times better without his makeup than on.  Where I grew up, the Goths were a strange bunch who had painted their faces white, wore too much black eyeliner, dyed their hair black, wore black clothing from head to toe even in the forty degree heat of summer, listened to strange music and walked around looking permanently miserable.

While I did wear a lot of black, I didn't consider that I was that extreme, I was permanently happy, wasn't really into vampire stories or Gothic horror and I did wonder what all that desire to look so vampiric white was about when there was so much glorious sunshine to be enjoyed.  I didn't understand them at all.  Goths were just well... a little bit scary to the rest of us (perhaps that was the point?) and I didn't find them very glamorous.

Funnily enough, between my late teens and early twenties I would regularly dress in a what I considered a New Romantic, throw back to the eighties, theatrical kind of style with lots of period references thrown together - a poet shirt or peasant blouse with billowy sleeves, a waist cinching corset or waistcoat, a voluminous skirt, frock coats and knee high lace up boots, a feathered hat, or even a top hat with a veil, and healthy lashings of deepest darkest black - black lace, black silk, black velvet. I wanted to be Cathy in Wuthering Heights. I even quite liked some of the music considered to be Goth rock - The Cure, Joy Division and The Cult, but pretty much the obvious ones that everyone else liked.  But I never actually considered myself particularly Gothic or a Goth.  I think I was just convinced that I was a romantic at heart and was wearing that heart literally on my lace flounced sleeve.

I was well known by my mostly male university friends for having an off the wall sense of dress,   (most male engineering students don't usually make more effort than they need to), and often ribbed about it when I turned up to social events dressed up to the nines.  I was however particularly incensed when one of my male buddies, whom I was accompanying to a live music gig at the time, looked at the outfit I was wearing and declared laughing that I would make such a great Goth!  I was pretty irate as I didn't consider I had anything in common with a Goth!

When I went to the ladies room later that night I noticed a girl sitting on the floor humming happily to herself which I found odd to start off with.  She looked to me like she was on the way to being a Goth but had not quite undergone the full transformation.  She was dressed exactly like a Goth, in flowing layers of black, with dark kohl lined eyes and dark painted lips, but she hadn't gone for the all white face and she still had long dirty blonde tresses rather than dyed raven locks.  Maybe she hadn't quite committed?  Still in the trial period?

Her eyes lit up when she saw me and she came over and began chatting to me.  I thought she was being surprising friendly and a bit smiley for a Goth and I was a little nervous.  There I was in a billowy sleeved poet shirt, a long skirt of crushed black velvet, knee high Victorian black lace up boots and a floor length Edwardian style frock coat with tiny cloth covered buttons all the way from the collar to the waistline and long, long black hair.  All I was missing was the make-up.  Of course she thought I was a sister in kind and wanted to talk shop!  Or maybe she wanted to find someone for solidarity over the question whether she should, you know, go the whole way and do the white powdered face too or just fly in the face of Goth convention, like I also appeared to be doing, and leave it au natural (which in Australia means permanently sun kissed).  When she implored to know if I would be going to the up coming concert of some strange sounding Goth rock group I had never even heard of I finally politely made my excuses and ran away.

Oh my God! I screeched to my friend when I found him in the crowd, they think I'm one of them!  He of course, on hearing the story, fell about laughing telling me he'd told me so and never let me live it down afterwards.

Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially when the silly tribal divisions of youth disappear with maturity.  With a mutual appreciation for the dramatic and theatrical and a shared love of period fashion, there was of course plenty more I had in common with Goths than my twenty-nothing self had realised.  And with all its celebration and romanticism of the dark and melancholic, the Goth subculture continues to be a rich seam to be mined by fashion.  I had no clue then as to how much influence the music and dress of the Gothic scene would have had in fashion globally and in shaping major trends that no doubt, had led to me coveting and owning a great deal of not just what I was wearing at the time but continued to throughout the years.  Although never fully in music, hair and make-up, maybe I always was just a little bit of a Goth at heart.

Seeing as Chinese New Year has just dawned on us, I thought it appropriate also to share a tribute to the Cheongsam.  Not just this one I'm wearing here in embroidered leather by Christopher Kane for his winter 2010 collection, but this wonderful post by Olga Rani at Local Fashion which is a fascinating read on the history of the garment and a visual feast of images of the cheongsam through the ages.  Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Also linking up to Monday Bloom at DC in Style and Visible Monday at Not Yet Dead Style.

Embroidered Leather Dress and Shoes: Christopher Kane; Black Lace Coat with Fur collar: Oasis Earrings: a gift


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