Licentiate Column 30/09/10

>Did you ever hear the saying, ‘It never rains but it pours’ or ‘bad things come in threes’? This week, my triple downpour has been doctor, dentist and emergency room, which has literally left a bad taste in my mouth and been a real pain in the, er, chest, not not mention a yawning chasm in the wallet.

It’s easy for life to get on top of you and September is by far the worst month to feel that way. We feel the turning of the seasons and change our lives to follow suit, from going back to college in a new city, seeing children go back to school, or even something as simple as choosing a new winter coat.

The phenomenon of stressing over your wardrobe when you have far weightier things to think about can be neatly categorised under ‘displacement’ – the transferring of worry to less serious things.

But the opposite – when fashion and keeping up with the Joneses is too much to bear, when the sight of just one more shearling aviator jacket makes you want to assassinate Kate Moss from high atop a book depository, well, that has a name too. It’s called fashion fatigue.

As someone who thinks about fashion in the same way that my boyfriend talks about Tottenham Hotspur (in hushed, reverent tones with an emphasis on season-by-season plays – although I must admit that, mercifully, Peter Crouch plays a much bigger part in his talk than Abbey Clancy does in mine) fashion is more than a hobby; it’s an obsession.

Not even my greedy little mind is prepared for the deluge that is fashion month. Now anyone with even a passing interest is expected to know the contents of every catwalk show. Imagine watching your favourite football team play six matches a day for a month and having to watch every single one because there may be a test afterwards. You are now about halfway to understanding fashion fatigue.

When there’s so much to absorb, hobbies can become more like obligations. Add that to a life that is already fraught with social and familial commitments with a sprinkling of financial strain and an emergency room visit and you have a recipe for a straw that would break the back of the hardiest dromedary.

I’ve spent the past few days alternating between watching interminable fashion shows intently and praying that a model tips and falls out of her shoes just to break the monotony of watching skinny girls with nice clothes walk up and down. The action seems utterly pointless. I feel as if I am going mad when I should be outside frolicking in the park with river-blindness stricken orphans from Malawi. Something, anything, to distract me from what by now seems like a more hollow pursuit than preparing a truckload of Hallowe’en pumpkins.

I started with a few glib sayings and I’ll end with another – ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. Only the very brave or the very smart realise when an interest is no longer working for them and decide not to carry it any further. Fashion is no different.

As for me, I’m sticking around, but I enthusiastically salute the defectors. They have the brains to realise that, even though fashion is an ever-turning wheel, it’s still easy to hop back on when it’s more convenient.

Hells Angels – not your typical Old Ladies


One of those authors that I always felt that I should get into, and yet never did, was Hunter S. Thompson. I studied him as part of a New Journalism class in college and really enjoyed it, but I hit a massive stumbling block with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I read one chapter, then put it down. At this late stage it’s like telling a friend that you’ll call them for coffee, but you end up forgetting, then when you meet them in town there’s this frosty silence… It’s a bit like that.

I tried to read Hells Angels too, I really really did. But I just ended up forgetting about it as well. When I think about it I can see Thompson as one of those authors that you’re supposed to like, but not everyone does. Case in point – I was seeing a guy on and off for a few years and throughout several house moves he always had a copy of Fear and Loathing beside his bed. As far as I know, it’s still there. And I bet he still hasn’t finished it.

The photos below (excuse the arrows on either side, the images are screen grabs) have nothing to do with Thompson, but a lot to do with Hells Angels.  More specifically, the wives and girlfriends of the Hells Angels, charmingly titled the Old Ladies. The pictures above and below were taken by Life photographer Bill Ray in 1965, but have never been published or seen by the public until now.  I love looking at the Old ladies and their mix of mannish clothing with bouffants, eyeliner and a smidge of amphetamines.

Maybe this will help me to finish Hells Angels after all… but then again, maybe it won’t.







Holly Fulton S/S ’11 at London Fashion Week

>Something I forgot to add to the litany of woes detailed in the previous post – I somehow managed to lose ALL of my LFW notes in a pub in Dublin while meeting some fellow bloggers.  D’oh *smacks head*.

Luckily, the lovely Lorna had my notebook, so I received it today.  Here it is in my slightly greasy, oily palm (I accidentally put my hand in some wood varnish today… don’t ask), complete with my list of LFW notes and all my careless scribblings, ready to be shaped and moulded into something coherent, which might not happen, because I am still whacked out on painkillers.

But perhaps being slightly stoned is no bad thing, especially when considering Holly Fulton’s collection.  Don’t get me wrong.  Hallucinogens are used in some religious ceremonies to commune with a higher power and her collection is operating on a higher plane. Or, to quote my favourite stoner Jeff Spicoli (Lebowski doesn’t even get a look in), “Awesome, totally awesome! All right, Hamilton!”

I was lucky enough to have a good sift through Fulton’s current season in The Topshop NEWGEN area and her stuff is amazing, appealing on a sensory level of colour and tactility that made me want to rip everything off the rails and sleep in a big ol’ pile of Swarovski-studded fur clutches, acetate collars and snakeskin shift dresses.  Spring/Summer is no different.

Fulton has stayed true to her Art Deco leanings and has firmly established an identity that would make anyone worth their fashion chops know one of her pieces from a hundred paces.  Yet her clothing doesn’t just look good in teeny catwalk pictures, it looks even better close up.


Last season, she introduced fur trimmings and this season she has progressed yet again on the trimming front.  This looks like raffia or maybe hair (or more fur, even.  If you know what it is, please let me know) and it’s placed in a flirty way, horizontally across the hips, thighs and hem.  The lines of the clothing are very sixties resort, and remind me a bit of the film oldie Gidget, in which a oh-so-sassy teen goes to the beach with her family and learns to surf.


Oh, perforated leather.  Has it ever been done so well?  I ended up spending minutes poring over the patterns of perfectly popped out circles on several Fulton garments, so much so that I thought that I was going into a trance.  The best thing about looking at these dresses close up is realising that the patterns that Fulton uses aren’t abstract at all but are very concrete things.  Last season it was the telephone that kept popping up in garments (a serious instrument of the technology and status obsessed 30’s Deco elite).  This season it’s the martini glass, as seen in the pic of the dress above, on the right.


That’s not to say that there’s no progression in terms of design, because it’s evident that Fulton is thinking of what her next sartorial move might be – to stick or stray away from the Art Deco influence?  These dresses are beautiful, but remind me of the cartoonish motifs of JC de Castelbajac or the sparkly-sequinned goodness of Ashish, which is ironic when you consider that those two labels have pretty much stuck fast to the same design vision and ethos since Day 1.

What do you think of Ms Fulton?

Longest week ever (with added Peg Bundy)

>I’ve been staring at a blank screen for ages with no idea how to start this post.  Maybe a bullet point list would be best.

  • In London, I suffered a mysterious allergic reaction which left me with a severe rash all over my body.  If you think that’s gross, then you should stop reading, because this is just the first in a loooong list of ailments.
  • On getting back to Ireland, I started to get mysterious chest pains, which is how I ended up in an emergency room at 4am watching Euronews on a loop.  Interesting side note – I learned that I have relatively few opiate receptors, which means that hard drugs (and the painkillers they gave me in the waiting room) have no effect on me.  Go figure.
  • Then, the day after all that happened, a filling fell out while I was chewing a piece of gum, which was just heaping insult upon insult to injury.
What next, I ask?  Am I going to get ebola to round the week off?  Typhus maybe?  Necrotising fasciitis?  It is literally one thing after the other .  I would not be surprised if I was served with a subpoena impregnated with anthrax or something.
This has left me in bed on a truckload of painkillers and anti-inflammatories and all kinds of wonderful drugs that have no effect on my battered opiate receptors.  I don’t want to sound all ‘poor me’ but I have NO IDEA what to post on this week.  The ideas aren’t exactly flowing.  The crystal stream of inspiration has been stoppered up.

With one exception.  Hallowe’en costumes.  Yep, I know it’s a while off.  Hopefully you’ll forgive me for being so pre-emptory, but this is the one cogent idea I have managed to have in between gobbling Difene and jelly worms courtesy of Aisling (the jelly worms that is, not the Difene) and chats with herself and Dawn .

Myself and the boyfriend will be going as Peg and Al Bundy, which is appropriate, because his name is Al and he works in a shoe shop and I sit on my ass all day watching Oprah and scarfing bonbons while engaging in borderline sex-pestery.  It’s a hard knock life.
Scroll over to see full pics.  Ooh collage-tastic.

The formula:  A hell of a lot of animal print, shiny tight pants, carrot-red hair dye , Snooki-style Bumpits and a vat of Aquanett (sorry ozone layer, but something’s got to give).

Oh Peg.  You complete me.  Why can’t we be best friends?

Licentiate Column 23/09/10


It’s commonly thought that the world of fashion is a closed shop. Or at least it was up until 2007 or so, when blogging started to gain a foothold in the hearts and minds of fashion PRs. Fashion houses started to realise that they could get reams of free publicity and add to their cachet of cool by sending off new items to bloggers, who would style, shoot and publicise their wares, totally gratis and with a minimum of effort for said fashion house.
Blogging has been a phenomenon that has shaped and democratised the world of fashion beyond all expectations. Now, fashion shows can be streamed online, literally bringing New York to your home (and you don’t even have to change out of your PJs, let alone try to figure out the complicated subway system).
One of the happier effects of the trickle-down effect of blog influence is the willingness to offer bloggers a coveted media pass to various events, the Big Daddy being a Fashion Week. There are four main fashion weeks, which take place consecutively, twice a year, in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Yours truly was lucky enough to snag a pass to London Fashion Week.
Five years ago, you would have had to wait until next March to see pictures taken the year before. Now it’s instant. The media is saturated. And yet, fashion is still a closed shop. By that I don’t mean that it’s elitist, or populated by superficial and shallow people (even though it is, to an extent). I mean that Fashion Week is literally like wandering around a shop where the tills are closed. You can touch, but you can’t buy.
A bit more explaining is necessary. London Fashion Week is a double-edged blade. The first blow is dealt by an endless litany of fashion shows that drug the mind with images of so many beautiful girls wearing beautiful clothes, all strutting through the mind’s eye (or conversely, if they fall over in eleven-inch heels, on the cover of The Sun).
The second blade, the fatal blow is the Exhibition. Stalls, manned in some cases by the designers themselves, are weighed down with luxury goods, which you are encouraged to poke, prod and take pictures of. Everything is beautiful and there are no distasteful things such as price tags to distract you from your aesthetic overload.  And yet, I felt as if I was window shopping. Every time a PR came over and asked if they could help, I would nervously trill, “Just looking!”, as if they were trying to foist a massive, unwise, financially crippling sale upon me and then scuttle away like a crab with a bad credit rating.
This would inevitably result in odd looks. After hearing too many of my protestations, one woman said to me, “We know you’re just looking. We’re all looking”.
It was humiliating at the time, but on reflection it makes sense. The Exhibition is a great leveller. From Vogue editor to blogger alike; in the closed shop of fashion, at least all of us are window shopping.

Get The London Look

>Our third and final guest post comes from Fiona from Save Our Shoes, who’s been living in the capital for a year, so she knows her schtuff about London Looks…

Excuse my quoting of the Rimmel advertising campaign, but after a year of living between Shoreditch and Hackney, I can safely say there is DEFINITELY a “London Look”.  To fool people into thinking you are a real Londoner this S/S London Fashion Week do some of the following things…

Invest in shorts; leather hotpants or denim cutoffs (the more holes, the better).


Be permanently attached to your iphone/blackberry/smart phone. A true London member of the fash pack can twitpic a picture from the back of the Bora Aksu show while maintaining a nonchalant air and bbming their friend standing next to them.

Wear some sort of platform shoe at all times. Some sort of black leather wedge boots. A la Acne (but more than likely from Primark). Another option are clogs. Equally clunky and noisy.


Master the penguin shuffle, a common problem associated with wearing long clinging maxi skirts.

Have a constantly grumpy demeanour.

Develop some sort of slash talent. Actress/model, musician/dancer. I like to go by the slash talent of Beyonce Impersonator/Blagger.

When possible, grow a moustache.


There you have it, if you follow these easy steps, you too can act like a you are the bees knees and the cats pyjamas for a week. ‘Cause once fashion week is over, it’s back to working behind a cash point in Topshop.

Hurrah for Winter (Ssh…)

>Our second blog post comes from Jennie of What Will I wear Today.  Her post totally echoes how I feel about Winter, so much so that I read it and immediately kicked myself for not writing about it before.  It was sore, but without discipline, I’ll never learn.  ‘Hem. 
You can also contact WWIWT via their twitter or facebook page.


Wintry looks from D&G, Christian Dior and Anna Sui

Ok, controversial statement, I know. Hear me out though. Some people wait all year round for summer to arrive. I don’t. I find summer oppressive. It is a relentless tyranny of waxing, exfoliating and tanning. We are poked and prodded all summer long under an inscrutable mandate from the magazines to be ‘bikini ready in 2 weeks’. We pander to the media expectation of a fawn-like cherub emerging from the ashes of our wintry old self.

Well here’s a newsflash – I don’t possess a cherubic version of myself. I emerge from the bowels of winter pretty much the same as when I entered: pale, pasty and probably still suffering from a cold. I don’t ‘do’ summer – I get hayfever, I get sunburn, I get frizzy, wispy stress-curls. Winter is like a warm, loving embrace after the tyranny of summer preparation.

Hide those pasty shoulders in a delicious Alpine knit. Celebrate your anaemic legs in a selection of tights and ankle socks. Embrace your gnarled toes and hard-soled feet in any of the splendid boots that are going to be stomping around all Winter. The 2010 Autumn/ Winter wardrobe is a feast of knits, layers, textures and ladylike restraint. Who needs a tan when you’ve got a camel coat? Who needs a toned midriff when you can ooze sexiness in a corseted bustier and a preppy cardigan? Who needs surf-chick hair when your shearing collar will do all the talking? Fierce, heeled military boots absolve your from any pedicure duties and a pair of tailored, peg-leg trousers will keep the lumpy bumpy at bay.


Jennie’s A/W picks from Topshop

So yes, Goodbye Summer (it was alright while it lasted) and Hello Winter (my knight in Alpine armour).

Licentiate Column 19/09/10


If there ever was a decade for demoralising experiences, then your twenties would be it.  It’s not the worst decade of your life per se, but when you’re a teenager everything is so desperately unfair that you have no personal standards to be eroded.  By the time you get into your thirties disappointment is too deeply ingrained in the tapestry of your life for you to feel self-righteous or hard done by just because your jeans no longer fit (so my mother, disturbingly, assures me).

In your twenties banana skins are presented, much like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as beguiling opportunities that actually make you fall flat on your face.  The twenties is the time for auditioning for X-Factor and realising that you have the singing voice of John McCririck, getting your heart truly broken (don’t worry, that means you’re doing it right) and sobbing in various changing rooms because a pair of skinnies in your size refuses to be buttoned despite cajoling and midsection torture that goes against everything the various Geneva Conventions stand for.  

I had such an experience yesterday when my mother came to Cork for a visit and offered to buy me a pair of jeans.  I happily tootled into my favourite high street shop and tried on a pair of olive skinny jeans in a size ten.  I say ‘tried on’, but those two little words do zero justice to the gargantuan amount of effort exerted just to get the rigid denim past my knees.  It was the Kilimanjaro of jeans.

I was devastated only in the way that an shallow person like myself can be.  No-one likes to go up a dress size, so I refused to go up to a twelve and skulked out of that shop into another one across the road, where I tried on a pair of jeans in a ten.  I looked like a street urchin in a Charlie Chaplin film.  I was adrift in a baggy denim sea.   I took one step forward, and the jeans fell down, puddling around my ankles as if I’d had an indigo accident.  I sized down to an eight and miraculously, the waistband settled with nary a muffin top to be spied.

And so, an experiment was undertaken.  I measured my waist with tape to confirm that I was indeed a size ten, and went on a trek around fifteen high-street retailers to try on fifteen pairs of size ten jeans in a straight-leg cut.  Only a third of the shops had true-to-size labels.  Some chains were incredibly generous with the tailoring, particularly American brands, while other, slightly more ‘budget’ shops (no prizes for guessing which, Sherlock) were evidently skimping on material, so that any pair of jeans I tried on made my stomach look like a sausage roll making a break for the border.

Now that you’ve found out that the perfect ten doesn’t exist, what do you do?  Size up or down?  To tell the truth, it doesn’t really matter.  Eight, ten or twelve; you’ll still be the same size.  And If you feel demoralised, just do what I do and cut the tags off.  Problem solved.

London Fashion Week – what all the fuss is about

>Out first guest outing comes from Aisling of Think What You Like , a truly hilarious blogger whose blog post demystifies Fashion Week for all the rest of us…


Twice a year, once in February and once in September, London Fashion Week brings in some of the most talented designers the fashion world has to offer as well as models of the most unearthly slenderness. A direct attempt to show us mere mortals why we should rush out to buy their latest pieces, only to realise we’re 16 sizes too big to carry them off. But God, do we still love the fashion buzz.

This year, there are over 60 catwalk shows scheduled over six days of the event. Unmissables for me this year include Nicole Farhi, Burberry Prorsum and Sass & Bide. Obviously by unmissable I mean HIGHLY missable. My flashbulb firepower has yet to reach fashion photographer standard.

LFW is organised and run by the British Fashion Council and is held in Somerset House in London. The event was first held in 1984 and was held in Kensington’s Commonwealth Institute.

Topshop was the first ever high street store to show at LFW. Their first showing was in 2005.

LFW is strictly a trade event, with approximately 5,000 buyers, journalists and photographers making up most of the guests to the catwalk shows. There are exceptions for certain celebs, of course. But sure famous people are above the law anyway, it makes sense that they be above the laws of the BFC.

It was said that during the September 2009 LFW that in the region of £100 million worth of orders were placed.

Because LFW is closed to consumers (regular folk), London Fashion Weekend has been created to appease us. It’s basically a huge designer shopping event where over 100 designers, some of whom will have just finished showing at LFW proper, showcase their ready-to-wear pieces and *joy* the public are allowed to attend. It uses the same catwalk and venue as the Fashion Week, so you’ll feel like you joined the elite club that is the fashion world for real. For more information on either, go to and

London Calling; fashion-wise tourism

>As you may know, I’m heading to London for a few days and, through the miraculous majesty of scheduled posts, I’ll be putting up the column as usual on Thursday, as well as a couple of posts from some special guests.

Here’s a few things on the itinerary.

1) The Enchanted Palace exhibition in Kensington Palace.  This combines my love of dresses and snooping around stately homes (and by extension, other people’s lives) perfectly.  Several designers, including Boudicca, Vivienne Westwood and Stephen Jones have taken over a part of the palace and transformed it according to their vision and a tale of one of the seven princess who lived in Kensington Palace at one stage or another.

2)  The Fashion market on Portobello Road – If you’re shopping for clothing, then your best bet is to hit the Market on a Saturday morning and focus a heavy sartorial assault on the Westway, which is where all the young designers and vintage dealers hang out on their weekends.  You’ll know that you’re there if you see a massive concrete motorway flyover.  Mmm, scenic.  This would also be the best time to bellow the song ‘Portobello Road’ from Bedknobs and Broomsticks at the top of your lungs.  Which I plan on doing.

Ah, sweet memories.  Although Portobello Market has over 2,000 stalls, I’m fairly sure that they don’t have an occult bookseller (though that would be pretty great.  An impromptu multicultural dance-off would also be sweet).

3)  RD Franks


Five minutes walk from Oxford Circus lies possibly the best and most comprehensive fashion newsagent I’ve ever been in.  That doesn’t say much, but if you’re looking for anything hard to get, from Jalouse  (must get a subscription one of these days…) to obscure trend forecasting mags, then this is the place for you.

4)  London Fashion Week (cue a massive and incredibly uncool and unprofessional ‘SQUEEEE!’).  My press application came through today (massive thanks to Fiona for recommending that I apply), so I’ll be spending the best part of Friday wandering around the exhibitions at Somerset House and doing some Licentiate reportage for The Cork Independent and this blog.  Any London bloggers reading this who fancy meeting up for a coffee drop me a line.  I do love meeting new peoples, so’s I do.

I’ll be in London as you’re reading this, but if you have any secret hidey-holes or must-go places food (especially food), shopping or bar-wise, let me know!