Licentiate Column 30/06/11: Just what makes a person stylish?

One of my friends really wants a pair of Jeffrey Campbell ‘Lita’ shoes.  If you haven’t seen them before, imagine a Dutch clog mixed in with a 70’s porn aesthetic, worn by a horse with a gangrenous hoof.  They are not very nice.  But they are definitely in fashion. 
Along with leggings, empire-line sundresses, purple lips and light bondage gear, these shoes fit the mould of ugly fashion.  It ain’t pretty, it’s definitely not flattering, but it’s in – so we wear it.
An item can be fashionable, but it can never be stylish.  Style is in how a person wears that item; the intent behind the purchase and what that item tells the outside world about you…

To read the rest of this column, go to the Cork Independent website…

EDIT: It seems the link is broken.  To read the whole column, click here.

My profile page, with rainbow pins

Pinterest Loving

I love Pinterest.  It’s a new-ish website that allows you to save pictures on the internet to an account and store them in folders and link back to the original post all at the touch of a button.  It’s incredibly easy to use and set up.  When you’re stuck for time or want a bit more interaction in your photo collecting, Pinterest is head and shoulders above sites like Tumblr and We Heart It.*

My profile page, with rainbow pins

A pin page

My only problem with Pinterest is that it’s invite only and none of my friends are on it.  So, if you’d like to join the website, drop me a line and I’ll send you an invitiation.  Spreading the love and all that.
If you like a picture, you can ‘pin’ it and save it onto a board, which are of infinite variety.  I’ve got boards for art, things I want to buy, books I like to read and (my favourite) outlandish nail art, which is wish fulfilment.  Stupid, flaky nails…

Nails by Hey, Nice Nails


Nails by The Illustrated Nail


Dr Who nails by Very Emily


Nails by Xanadu Julie

Want to say hi (or just poke around)? Press the Pinterest button on my sidebar.
*I don’t work for Pinterest by the way.  I have no professional affiliation with Pinterest.  I just really, really like the website.
My new baby - a neon green monogrammed satchel.

Phone photos March – June ’11

If last week was all about fashion and art, then this week is all about random lists. That’s not weird at all, is it? I keep taking pictures on my phone and always intend to post them online – but rarely do. Here’s a small selection.

Detail from a Versus-esque mini at the Warehouse S/S Press Day

The set up for eBay's online fashion week.

James from Thinkhouse PR's supa fresh (and slightly blurry) Louboutin hi-tops

The parent's new puppy, Holly. This does not remind me of a certain friend of mine in a different continent, oh no.

Beautiful packaging for vintage jewellery at Elsa and Gogo, one of my favourite Irish vintage sellers

Possibly the most unflattering birthday card ever.

My new baby - a neon green monogrammed satchel.

Any band with the words 'Rusty Roosters' MUST be good.

A page from Frida Kahlo's diary at the IMMA

Leonora Carrington painting - from a book on Surrealism


Related #7: Holiday Dressing

Yesterday’s post was all about dressing for a sun holiday – which for a lot of us means leaving the normal clothes at home and running into the nearest high street chain for disposable slouchy basics. Free People has taken it up a notch this season with their lookbook, which was photographed on, yes, a beach.

I’m so suggestible, me.

Does anyone else notice that most people get their holiday basics in the ONE shop?  You’re just so desperate to get it done in one go that you have to get everything in H&M, even though there’s a Penney’s next door.

I quite like the easy breezy flow of these pieces, especially the first dress. Now I just need to get someone to bring me on a sun holiday…






All photos via Fashion Gone Rogue

The Jersey Shore Hits the Miami Beach

Licentiate Column 23/06/11: Holiday Dressing

If January is the time to self-combust with jealousy over the amazing scores your friends make in the sales and May is the month to burst into flames with envy at friend’s amazing summer weddings then June is the month to be immolated over where they go on holidays (if you aren’t already figuratively burnt to a crisp).

One friend is in perpetually tropical Brisbane, one is in Crete, another is inter-railing around Germany. Me? I’m sitting here, writing this in a granddad-style navy knitted cardigan with dried ketchup on the sleeve. It’s a glamorous life. The green-eyed monster and I are very happy to live it. All this burning envy is doing wonders for my tan.

I would never begrudge friends or family a break from their hard work. But if there’s an equivalent opposite to begrudging a holiday (and if there isn’t there should be), I do that to myself.

Staying stylish on a sun holiday is an obvious oxymoron. As a rule, holiday clothes are very small (to stay cool and maximise tanning) or loose (for expanding bellies after too many Sex on the Beach and pizza dinners). Combine the two and you’ll look like you’ve gone to a costume party dressed up as a sexy circus tent.

There are some girls who just do summer well. They have long legs, bronzed skin, natural highlights and can rock denim hotpants like no other. These girls live in faraway places like Sydney or LA. They don’t live in Trabolgan or Bettystown.

Irish women have an advantage when it comes to mysterious, windswept, modern Wuthering Heights style. We can dress for changeable weather among the best of them. All-day sun? We’re just not prepared for that.

The average Irish women will not bring her own clothes on holiday. She will buy a brand new holiday wardrobe, which includes several pairs of Jesus sandals, shorts and cotton vests for daytime and thin cocktail dresses with wedges for night (because heels don’t hold up well when trudging through sand).

It’s a standard uniform. An excellently distilled uniform at that. The genius of the Irish (or British, our Ibiza/Crete/Majorca partners in crime) women’s holiday wardrobe is that it represents a complete break from reality. It is true to the spirit of a summer vacation.

It’s a break from work, from your everyday life, from obligations. Why not leave your own style sensibilities in the wardrobe, at home, where they belong?

Planning a wardrobe is stressful. Holidays are supposed to be stress free. It makes perfect sense to cull the stressful elements and take your existing outfits out of the equation.

Ridiculously floppy hat? Throw it in the shopping basket! Red, heart-shaped Lolita frames? No holiday would be complete without them.

Take a break from your style and invent a whole new way of dressing. And if you want to borrow a ketchup-spattered cardi, I just might know where you can get one.


The Mondrian Dress

It’s all about fashion in relation to art this week.  We’ve done Bernini and Rodarte, Madame Gres and sculpture.  I might as well round out the week with a little bit of YSL and Piet Mondrian.  No more art for a while then, I promise.*

A page from a Met catalogue (I think, correct me if I'm wrong)

Sylvie Fleury - Untitled (Mondrian Dress), 1993

The Mondrian dress, one on Yves Saint Laurent’s earlier triumphs (in 1965) has been imitated and disseminated since it’s inception.  Art has been turned into a dress, which is turned back into art (see Sylvie Fleury’s picture above).  Even Lady Gaga is in on the act, constructing an overwrought metaphor for fashion as one big Mondrian dress in her first column for V Magazine.  Read it here.**

Since buying a sewing machine, I’ve been looking and looking for a vintage YSL pattern by Simplicity, but it’s incredibly hard to find.  This woman made a dress out of a pillowcase and placemats, something I have to try very soon.

Failing that, a DIY project is definitely in the works.  Maybe I could paint a car…

From Nathan Manire on flickr

*probably not.  Well, maybe.

** Lady Gaga’s column needs a whole post of it’s own, though I’m torn between being really critical or really laudatory, which ultimately ends up being really, really confusing.  At the very least it’s the best celeb fashion column I’ve ever read, which is, unfortunately, not saying much.


Guest Post: In New York Paris Tomorrow

Last week, something very nice happened.  Irish fashion designer Eilis Boyle said that she liked my blog.  This made me very happy indeed, because Eilis is one of my favourite Irish designers.  She’s very aware and devoted to fashion and craftsmanship (and she happens to have a wonderful blog of her own).  So, I MUST be doing something right….

Through her, Madeleine of In New York Paris Tomorrow contacted me and asked me if I’d like to do a guest post. This was somewhat of a double whaamy, because I also love Madeleine’s blog.  It’s an insiders view on fashion that is open, non-pretentious, thoughful and full of personal fashion memories as well as the best style-related news.  I feel ashamed for using the word chuffed because it reminds me of Thomas the Tank Engine (don’t ask) but I was incredibly chuffed that she had asked me.

Here’s some very kind words that Madeleine said about my blog.

The Licentiate blog is stylish and intelligent; relishing views of fashion and its inhabitants with humor, kindness and honesty. I fell in love with her consideration of Anna Piaggi and Tavi Gevinson as kindred souls; of course she is correct and not bogged down by preconceptions.

Thank you so much for having me.

You can read my guest post here – don’t forget to tell me what you think!


rodarte couture 5

Fashion and Art: Rodarte Couture

Peach crinkle chiffon and taupe georgette pleated and tulle gown, and peach feathers with pleated gold belt and shoulder pieces.

Rodarte recently unveiled their first couture collection at Pitti Immagine in Florence.  The ten gowns were based on the frescoes painted by Fra Angelico in the monks cells in San Marco and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s sculpture of The Ecstacy of St Theresa.

Understandably, I’m having a huge art history fangirl moment.

Rodarte are sticklers when it comes to detail, so setting and placement are very important, but I also think that the setting and placement of their Renaissance influences are important when it comes to interpreting their pieces (and these dresses are as close to art as clothing can be, so they beg a bit of analysis).


Even though Fra Angelico’s murals were painted for monk’s cells, occupants of these cells included members of the Medici family, who were the most powerful family in Florence and noted patrons of the arts.  Cosimo de Medici would use the cells for some incredibly expensive alone time.


Bernini’s sculpture is one of the most controversial art pieces of the Renaissance, with what can be interpreted as extremely sexual overtones.  Take a look at Teresa’s face.  Is it intentional or just out modern smutty minds.  The sculpture is flanked by two balconies of realistically-rendered observers, who are very interested in the action going on down below.  In both artworks, there is an element of being watched and of patronage, the rich paying out for art.  That’s the connecting line between couture and art – both are intricately one-offs made to detailed specifications for rich clients

Here are some of the gowns.  I love the belts and breastplates – They’re SOOOOOO Bernini (said in the manner of Kim Kardashian).


Pale and bright pink silk georgette and chiffon pleated and draped gown with hand beaded Swarovski crystals and a gold pleated metal breast plate


Lime silk georgette and crinkle silk chiffon Pleated gown with hand molded Easter lilies, feathers, and Swarovski crystals, Aqua silk georgette and sequin release pleat ocean gown


Cantaloupe pleated Silk, draped silk georgette, and taffeta gown with gold ray belt


l-r, Lapis Silk Chiffon Release Pleat Gown with Electric Blue Sequins and Lavender Silk Gauze. Off White Silk Georgette Pleated Gown with Off White and Crimson Crinkle Silk Organza, Silk Chiffon, Lace, Satin and Crepe Waves, and Hand Molded Easter Lilies decorated with pearl and Swarovski Crystals. Dusty Blue Silk Georgette Release Pleat Column Gown with Pink Silk Satin, Dusty Blue Gauze, Pale Pink and Dusty Pink Feathers, and Swarovski Crystal Element


Gold lame, silk and hammered sequin gown with feathers, a gold headpiece and Swarovski crystals

Rodarte photos from Autumn de Wilde

Valentino-anjelica huston 011

Related #6: What makes a style icon?

If you read yesterdays’ post, you’ll know why ‘style icon’ should be split into subcategories. Apart from it appealing to my nerdy/slightly anal nature (I’d arrange my clothes by the Dewey Decimal system if I could) some so-called icons just don’t measure up to their counterparts.

Instead of style icons, we should have style gods, style heroes, style deities, style inamoratas, style simulacrums, style mediocrities and style ‘marks for effort’.

Here’s my (incomplete) list of women that I think deserve iconic status, in descending order.  Style is subjective, so no-one is going to agree 100% with me.  If you violently agree or disagree, then leave a comment and tell me who’d be on your icons list.  Play nice now.

Publicity still for Breakfast at Tiffany's

Style Goddess: Audrey Hepburn

Other Style Goddesses: Brigitte Bardot, Grace Kelly

Angelica Huston in Valentino for Italian Vogue, 1972

Style Deity: Angelica Huston

Other Style Deities: Kate Moss, Francoise Hardy

Piaggi captured by The Sartorialist

Style Hero: Anna Piaggi

Other Style Heroes: Tavi Gevinson, Grace Jones

Publicity image for Louis Vuitton

Style Inamorata: Sofia Coppola

Other Style Inamoratas: Alexa Chung, Anna Wintour

Lowe in Futureclaw

Style Simulacrums: Daisy Lowe

Other Style Simulacrums: Rumi Neely, Cheryl Cole

There’s no point in listing mediocrites, because by definition if something is mediocre then it can’t reach iconic status.  And no point in including ‘marks for trying’ people, because I’m typing this in a pair of old pajamas and that would just be too hypocritical.


Who’s on your style hit list?


Licentiate Column 16/06/11: What makes a style icon?

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There are certain phrases that get bandied about by fashion magazines, usually when a writer is bored or an editor is lacking in imagination.  These phrases include classic offenders like ‘the new black’ or ‘bang on trend’.  Here’s an example.  ‘Lazy journalism and sad, trotted-out cliches are the new black; in fact, one might say that this bloated, terminally sluggish way of writing is bang on trend.’
These are words that are overdone, outmoded and obsolete.  They’ve been published so many times they no longer make sense.  It’s not unlike repeating the word ‘spoon’ to yourself over and over until the word eventually loses all meaning.
Words like ‘fashionista’.  Words like ‘key pieces’ and ‘must haves’.  Words like ‘covetable’ or  (and I unashamedly shudder as this is typed) ‘funky’.  Words that jump completely from their actual dictionary meaning to garbled fashion Esperanto.
Let’s not forget the Big Momma of fashion cliches.  The perennial ‘style icon’.
I’ve been (rightfully) accused of using the word ‘icon’ far too often.  Every writer does.  It’s just far too easy to pick stylish people whose personal taste in clothing has outlasted the vicious six-monthly cycle of fashion and lump them in the category of immortal stylishness once they became difficult to categorise.
In the fashion publishing world ‘style icon’ means ‘I want her wardrobe.  She’s either old enough to have lots of vintage or thin enough to get lots of couture freebies’.
But that’s not what an icon is.  In it’s strictest definition, an icon is a religious work of art.  If an icon can mass millions of copycat followers who draw personal guidance from it’s every move, provoke international hysteria, veneration and an unhealthy public obsession with the sacred thing’s appearance, then Kate Moss is definitely a style icon.
An icon can also be used in the language of symbols.  An icon can be a person, place or thing that can represent something else of a greater significance.  Audrey Hepburn dressed in a Cecil Beaton monochrome costume for My Fair Lady = Style Icon.  Cate Blanchett in Givenchy Couture at the Oscars = Style Icon.  Kim Kardashian in a stretchy satin bandage dress at an  inredibly anonymous product launch with a gigantic American Football player on her arm = Style Icon (of a sort).
As an aside, I find it very interesting that a person is never a style icon, it’s the way that they’re represented.  It’s the clothing that makes the person an icon.  Maybe Polonius was right after all.
The problem is that, as the world gets smaller technologically, it gets more and more crowded.  Our ability (some might say suicidal need) to instantly share information means that more and more of these ‘icons’ are being shoved into a small space.  There just isn’t enough room to go around.
Not all style icons are created equal.  For every Marilyn Monroe there’s a thousand Paris Hiltons.  They really should be split into leagues in descending order of stylishness, like British football.    Do you think that Manchester United versus Yeovil Town would be a fair match?  No, me neither.
Instead of style icons, we should have style gods, style heroes, style deities, style inamoratas, style simulacrums, style mediocrities and style ‘marks for effort’.
The only trouble is who is going to go to all that effort and categorise all these clotheshorses.  Not me, that’s for sure.  Because I am a fashion journalist, and I am far too lazy.