Profound trivialities

>“In one sense what may pass between the pope and myself may be trivialities. In another sense, the fact of talking trivialities is itself a portent of great significance. But the pleasantries which we exchange may, as one church leader said, be pleasantries about profundities.” If you’re confused as to whether or not I stopped off in the Vatican this week for a nice cup of tea and a natter with His Holiness, don’t be. For one, the above quote is by Geoffrey Fischer, a former archbishop of Canterbury.

Secondly, if you’re gullible enough to think I could or would discuss any matters with the Pope, trivial or no, you should seriously consider a common sense transplant. However, the above quote was brought to my mind when my grandmother died and I ended up back in the hometown, spending (too many) hours in a chapel and talking over the most profound trivialities with family members I hadn’t seen in (far, far too many) years.
I used to be the tallest of all my cousins. Now they’re all six feet or more, gangly in suits and surreptitiously swigging bottles of Bud at the wake. Together we talk about school, college, girlfriends, smoking, drinking, where we go, what we do, who we do… the most trivial of trivialities.
And we exchange stories. As the eldest, I remember more than they do about our grandmother before she got ill, so I tell them about what a good cook she was and how mad she would get when we didn’t eat our porridge. Our parents would tell us about how she owned her own business in a time when that was unique, or when she gave our aunt’s Christmas outfits to a girl begging without a coat, or the time she nearly got shot by Soviet border guards in Russia for trying to sell contraband nylons and had to run away into a forest.
These stories may seen like throwaway vignettes, but together these trivialities sum up a more profound whole. I knew Nan the doting grandmother, Nan the grump, Nan the feminist, Nan the business woman. The woman I’m incredibly sorry I didn’t know until now was Nan the uncompromising trailblazer.
This column was originally going to be about summons from the dole office – a demand for a form I’d already sent in. But then, something profound happened. Everything else seems, well, trivial.

>It’s my hypothesis that one of the few things that keeps a human being sane in a topsy turvy world gone mad is the unerring self belief in our own intrinsic goodness. Deep down, none of us really thinks that we are bad people. It’s this quality that makes ladies who lunch a little smug. It is the origin of all arrogance and self-entitlement in many politicos.

Worst of all, it is the belief in how damn great you are that makes serial killers do the things they do.
Thankfully, we are not living in a society of Ted Bundys in training (although you might change your mind observing the chaos at 2am on Patrick Street). Most people are quietly assured that they are good people just trying to live their lives in relative peace and make something productive out of their lot.
There is one small group of people that see through our vital fallacy – the charity mugger. These people turn an average walk into the city centre into an obstacle course that would intimidate an SAS officer on amphetamines. We weave around them avoiding eye contact, hoping they remain static and don’t follow you down the street like a donkey following a fat-wallet shaped carrot.
I tell myself that I want to avoid these people because they are invasive, pushy and, should I hit my head and suddenly decide that it’s a fantastic idea to give my bank details to a stranger on the street, a proportion of the money I give will go to the smiling person in the day-glo vest and not to the kids in Africa.
The charity muggers know all this. They also know that we are sometimes just plain unwilling to give; a trait that is probably unrepresentative of the inherent goodness that we all feel lives inside ourselves.
Last Friday I found myself attending not one but two charity events organised by people who were remarkable in their capacity for giving.
I was feeling less generous. On being informed that there was a donation suggested for a glass of champagne, I pouted. Where was my free booze? This champagne isn’t free!
A bad moment, in my opinion. I like to think I don’t look like a child throwing a tantrum – most of the time anyway. I corrected myself, donated, then spent the last of my money on raffle tickets.
I won a bottle of whiskey. Ah. There was the free booze.

This is me. Jumping.

>Two days ago, a funny thing happened.  This blog started getting three times the normal amount of hits and I had no idea why.  That is, until I went on Style Bubble and saw that one of my comments had been re-upped on a post about blogger poses .  This is what I said.


“The old ‘mid-air jump’ pose is another pose not for the light hearted blogger. Tried it once. Never again. Think I’ll just stick to the ‘Are those MY shoes?’ pose in the future.”


So, if anyone out there should click on the link and wonder what the one time I tried the mid-air jump and failed miserably looks like, here it is in all it’s anticlimactic glory.  It was taken in a dingy smoking room in an even dingier nightclub and this, believe it or not, is the best of what seemed like twelve million attempts but in reality was probably only five or six.  In my mind, I look like an electrocuted sausage roll.  Hence, sticking to the ‘staring at the shoes’ pose in the future.

jumping
Jacket – Lipsy, Cardigan – Agnes b, Top – Ann-Sofie Back for Topshop,
 Borrowed scarf, Brooch – Sonia Rykiel for H&M, Tights, Primark, Vintage roper boots

PS – As you can see, I’ve a negligible amount of links at the side of my page.  I’m going to get on that very very soon.  I’d love to trade links, if anyone wants to, do let me know!

Cork Fashion Week Young Designer of the Year Award

>Saturday evening was the night of the Young Designer of the Year Award and was the first major event to kick off Cork Fashion Week.

I had the good luck to interview four of the six finalists for the Cork Independent last week.  They were all nice as pie and very excited to be participating and, as I listened to them describing their inspiration and what they’d be working with, I started to get very excited indeed.  As the day neared I started to wonder how their pieces would look on the catwalk as opposed to the images in my mind, and wondered if I’d be disappointed.

Nope.  Not disappointed at all.  In fact, I’m kicking myself for even harbouring such thoughts in the first place.  Although all of the finalist’s collections were excellent, for the sake of space (and my sanity because I’d probably end up writing a thesis) I’ll stick to writing about my three favourites.

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Laura Eliason – I could make a lorryload of puns about this American putting we Irish in the shade with her parasol heavy collection…  but I wont.  The parasol is a direct link to each of the outfits, as her main source of inspiration is a vintage umbrella that belonged to her grandmother.  Everything was suitably vintage-esque, with nude shades and crochet details.  The crochet!  How my heart breaks for a nice bit of crochet.  I really should have paid attention to my fifth class teacher when she was breaking out the crochet hooks instead of reading Sweet Valley High books.   As you can see, the shape of the dresses are relaxed and fluid.  I really wish I’d taken video footage because these photos really don’t convey just how flouncy and flippy and flattering these pieces really are.

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Marie Clair Foley
Foley’s collection of dresses really have to be handled up close and personal in order to be properly appreciated.  The hand dyed material in particular was a great design feature (the bodice on the pink dress above, second from right, was incredibly well constructed.  I was staring at it so hard from my seat trying to see exactly where material was overlapped and folded that I almost forgot to take a snap).  The hand dyed material really cut through the stripes and gingham, giving it an unusual edge.  Also notable were the cut outs under the bust and around the back

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And last but by no means least, my absolute favourite, the collection by Belinda Sullivan.  There’s no two ways about it – she should be working for Prada.  While I wasn’t too mad about the lime green accents (purely a personal thing), I was in love with everything else – the colours, the tailoring, the perfect balanced proportions, the textures; everything.

Her collection does seem very reminiscent of Prada.  Think ‘ladylike with a twist’.  There’s no way I could express how much I loved her looks in one paragraph, especially looks 1 and 4 above.  The burnt orange and tweedy brown colour combination of the dress with short sleeved coat with an amazing, puckered texture… To quote Rachel Zoe, I die.  And, of course, the the high-waisted sailor trousers had just the right amount of ‘flip’ at the cuffs – something that is sadly missing in many a pair of wide legged trousers.

Belinda won the competition – a well-deserved win.  I can only hope we’ll see more of her and the other contestants in the future.

Cork Fashion Week Supplement

>I’ve been blogging for only a month so I have no routine or posting pattern (on this blog at least, the sister blog has been steadily chugging along for six months or so). I’m sure if I had been blogging for an extended period of time I’d no doubt be apologising over extended absences or lack of content. Or something. However, I’ve been busy beavering away on The Cork Independent’s Cork Fashion Week supplement. Along with a host of talented, hard-working writers and bloggers I’m glad to have helped to put a very nice package together. Did anyone see it when it came out on Thursday?  Everyone worked very hard on it and all the staff at the Cork Indo deserve a huuuuge pat on the back for their efforts. Here’s my contributions.

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An interview with the organisers, Vivienne Kelly and Emer O’Sullivan
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A rundown of The Young Designer Awards and the contestants

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A lookbook for three of the main shows – and an ad for lovely white teeth

Unless you have microscopic vision you’ll notice that the pictures have been resized and the text is barely legible.  Worry not! You can read the digital edition here (just click on the digital edition icon on the right of the screen).

EDIT – Credit where it’s due…

The Young Designer of the Year outfit is by Belinda Sullivan

Lookbook

Young Designer of the Year
Gingham scuba dress by Norwegian Wood at Etsy
1940’s Vintage pumps by Dear Golden Vintage at Etsy
Sailor hat at River Island
Coloured hairspray and gels available at Boots

Toni and Guy Loves You
Dress at French Connection
Shoes by Louise Goldin for Topshop

Boutique@The Imperial
Floral dress at MyAmity
Bustier at River Island

Is the Blog the modern equivalent of the Zine?

>Many apologies.  If your computer is anything like mine, it may be crashing right now under the weight of such an image heavy-post.

Below, in all it’s monochromatic, gritty glory is 1977 punk Zine How To Look Punk, which I found via a very interesting post on subculture and commodity at Threadbared (well worth a short click). 

I couldn’t possibly add to their intelligent post in terms of the regimenting of punk style in a recognisable, homogenous format.  The zine itself is a fascinating peep into a whole world I was way too young for (and who knew you needed to wear two shades of blusher to be truly punk?).  It makes me want to create a whole new category on the blog called ‘shit you can do with safety pins’.

But I’m steaming steadily off topic.  The boom of zines in the fifties to the nineties covers a realm of subcultures from sci-fi to punk to crafting to the riot girrl movement.  This begs the question – is fashion blogging the new subcultural topic – is blogging the 21st century equivalent of the zine?

So…here’s a few correlations that you may or may not agree with

1)  Ease of publishing and distribution.  My granny can see about eighteen inches in front of her face and calls me by my younger sister’s name but if I popped a computer in front of her she’d probably be able to figure out how to start a blog.  Likewise, zines have a DIY ethic that, while more traditionally hands on, still requires no financial backers, little or no start-up costs and a distribution network that relies more on word of mouth (for example, sending an SAE to an address with a nominal amount in it and receiving your zine in the post a few days later, an approach also used with cassette clubs in the late 70s and early 80s) than advertising proper.
2) A saturated market.  You could see Style Bubble as the fash blog equivalent of Sniffin’ Glue.  Cultish and standalone at first, the existence of one good blog (or zine) will spawn a proliferation of similarly themed blogs.  Like zines, some blogs are excellent but not as widely-read as they deserve to be.  Similarly, some blogs are total dross and attract huge readerships due in part to the profile of the blogger him/herself and not strictly the body of work.
3)  Existence in an archival hinterland.  It’s nigh on impossible to catalogue the number of fashion blogs and properly archive them for future viewing, just as there is no definite index of zines.  One gets the feeling that a large part of a subcultures history has been pre-emptively burnt away due to the difficulty of properly indexing blogs or zines (although there is a good archive of punk music zines here).
4) A singular fascination with one topic.  It’s been observed by more than a few fashion bloggers that fashion has become less related just to the clothes that a person wears than a full time hobby.  Fashion and perhaps more importantly, personal style as a form of creative expression has become more of a subject of obsession (this may be due in part to the internet and the ready availability of information that would more commonly be found in libraries of scholarly texts).  A zine will generally focus on a very specific issue.

And a note for the future – will blogs be compiled into books – books that may go out of print and end up commanding astronomical prices, an ironic counterpoint to it’s initial accessibility and low/no price point?  New copies of the book compilation of Sniffin Glue now cost around 100 euro…

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Penguin Decades – The 70’s

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Another day, another set of artisan book covers.  Yes, I know this isn’t a book or an art blog, but it’s so obvious to state that art and fashion intermingle from time to time that I feel visibly embarrassed to type it, like when I found out that Michael Jackson had died way after everyone else had, so whenever I said, “Did you know that Michael Jackson died?” I would get a patronising, ingratiating look, like I hadn’t quite processed it, or was deeply grieving or was, in fact, just one of those people who didn’t own a television.

Aaaanyway, Penguin Books has decided in it’s infinite wisdom to reissue some of its more controversial books from the fifties to the eighties to coincide with the book company’s 75th birthday this year.  “What relevance is this to a blog devoted to fashion?” I hear you cry (or not).

The covers of the seventies books (a decade not known for it’s feelgood factor if the Penguin choices are anything to go by) are designed by none other than textile mistress Zandra Rhodes, who came to a greater prominence in that decade.

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So, back to the question of how relevant this is…

For one, Rhodes is a fashion designer.  That’s the first link right there.  What I find slightly odd is the choice of Rhodes for the seventies and not the sixties.   While it’s true that she was most prominent in the seventies, her work was noted then for the use of bejewelled safety pins that could be considered a casual subversion of punk mores than her textile work, which first raised controversy when she graduated from The Royal College of Art.

She also co-designed paper dresses (that were sold in Miss Selfridge, of all places).  The plot thickens.  It could be considered coming full circle that her designs that were once printed on paper for dresses should now be printed on paper for books.  The keyword is ‘cyclical’, something that has been playing on my mind – the notion that history is doomed to repeat itself.

The designs also remind me more than a little of Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry’s previous collection of fabrics for Liberty, where an innocuous paisley pattern contains skulls and an innocent pastiche of teddies and dolls also contains AK47’s and fighter jets.  Or is the similarity just something I’m seeing?

Marie Antoinette Shoe Lust

>Ah Marie Antoinette. All style, little substance (from what we’re led to believe; personally I think the woman wasn’t exactly expected to be an intellectual giant – so she probably just made the best of a bad situation with the naiveté of a teenage girl). With terrible, incredibly badly timed consequences.

Above is a clip from the Sophia Coppola decadence porn/historical biopic snoozefest Marie Antoinette. But wait, what’s that? Could that possibly be… no, surely not… a lilac pair of Converse?

Yep, I know it’s deliberate. Excuse me for being obnoxious, but Marie Antoinette can keep her Cons. I want a pair of the ostentatiously frilled, pastel pretty shoes in that there film. Or in the spirit of Marie Antoinette herself, I’ll just take them all, thanks.

Even though the kitten heel is ostensibly ‘back’  (Where did it go?  Was it on holidays?) I somehow don’t think that Manolo Blahnik will be reissuing any of his designs for the film and that L.C.P de Pompei, the costume designers for the film, probably won’t entertain my order for one pair of shoes.  Ho hum.

However, a quick search on Etsy reveals not one but two stores that repurpose gently worn court shoes and make them acceptably eighteenth century.  It’s an odd cycle of history repeating itself – 80’s court shoes are named after shoes not unlike those worn by courtiers.  Through the addition of embellishments, the shoe eventually devolves back into it’s original self.

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Marie Antoinette shoes from 4 My Favourite Things 

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Marie Antoinette Shoes from Oxford Heaven

The shoes are at very reasonable price points – Oxford Heaven even does custom orders.  Unfortunately, not only do I not have a Manolo budget, I don’t even have an Etsy budget.  Sigh.

Links I Love 2

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Proenza Schouler learning how to faux tie-dye from Martha Stewart herself, courtesy of The Love Magazine Blog .

My birthday is coming up… I’d like a nice satchel please…

I’m really, really terrible at beauty routines and my nails look awful, but this ombre nail tutorial looks really do-able.  Mmm dip-dye nails…

And I’m not one of those weirdos who has a wardrobe for their dogs or gets the hots for anthropomorphism, but this is too cute.  Flying rats?  I think not!  What would Beatrix Potter think?

Dole Mountain

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Applying for the dole can be an arduous process akin to climbing a mountain, albeit one constructed mainly of red tape, paperwork and awkward conversations with social workers. No-one expects it to be an easy climb. When you finally reach the summit, there’s a distinct sense of anticlimax. What now? Now that you’ve scaled the heady heights of Mount Saint Going Nowhere (career-wise, that is), what is to be done?
Then you realise that your view was obscured and you are, in fact, looking at tackling another sheer cliff face, twice as intimidating as the previous climb.
Ok, so maybe I went a teeny, tiny bit overboard with the metaphor. Hopefully you get the picture. The dole is no free ride. If it was an easy process, everyone would be claiming. My claim involves sending in a docket every week, which results in a cheque being sent directly to my door every Tuesday. Very convenient, or so you might think. No stroll down to the post office for me. I can just sit on my bum and literally watch the money roll in.
Except the money has not rolled in. It has not sprinted, ran, jogged, tumbled, somersaulted, crawled or even lethargically dragged itself in. I haven’t received a payment in three weeks.
A quick trip to the dole office revealed that my dockets had magically dissolved en route to Hanover Street. Or, as one person baldly put it, “You must not have sent them in.” If only it were that simple. Fortunately, I have the wherewithal to remember popping a little yellow piece of paper in a postbox once a week. It seems that an impasse has been reached, yet another obstacle to scramble over in the race to reach the unreachable summit.
In life, as with my column, I tend to compartmentalise things by rote. It’s easier to believe that things will work out when a situation fits neatly into a preconceived slot. Problems need to be moulded into metaphors and fitted into boxes in order for a solution to be found, or at least that’s what we control freaks tell ourselves.
You’d think that with easy metaphors comes easy conclusions. Instead I find myself as the perennial climber stranded on a precipice, with supplies dwindling and the air becoming gradually thinner. I find myself repeating a phrase that has become a mantra for young people everywhere – just what the hell do I do now?