Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 26/04/12: Dressing for homeless people.

I’m an itinerant. In the inevitable picking-over that happens when a relationship dies, someone has to lose out. I lost my flat. My lovely (mouldy), well-situated (tiny), rooftop (freezing) flat. I’m without boyfriend, without home. Cue violins.

My mother says that I’ll always have a home with her, but her home is unfortunately not in Cork or anywhere near it – let’s just say that I can’t take the 232 in every day. In between jaunts to Cork, where I sleep on the sofa in what used to be my home and stays in my hometown, where my brother sleeps in what used to be my room, I have to regularly travel to Dublin for work.

This has its advantages, like getting to say, breezily, ‘Oh, I split my time between Cork and Dublin’ to easily impressed men in the pub. It also has its disadvantages. I may develop a stress and sofa-induced hiatal hernia. I also live out of a bag.

For the past three, no, four weeks I have been wearing and occasionally laundering the same clothes. Four sleeveless tops from Zara; two white, two grey. One black Agnes b cardigan. One black Topshop tux jacket. One grey Topman sweatshirt. One pair of indigo jeans from Penneys. One white lace dress with black leather collar and cuffs. One pair of black cut-out ankle boots, one pair of black and white Adidas low-tops and one pair of (in a shock twist) black leather heels.

You’d excuse me for making a bad pun about all the colour being leached out of my life, you really would. But it hasn’t. The colour has just vanished from my wardrobe. It’s not a grand symbolic statement. For one thing, the bag I use is a vibrant, crimson, overripe tomato red, so I’m at a loss as to what that might signify.

Black, white, grey. It’s all I wear. In the past month, these few things have taken me to Dublin, Barcelona, Dublin, Hometown, Cork, Hometown, Cork, Dublin, Cork and right back to Hometown. The versatility of these colours and shapes hypnotise me, keep me tranquilised. I forget that I have a wardrobe at all, let alone items of clothing that contain two or more different colours.

Black, white, grey. They’re like Valium. You get so used to it that you don’t care about anything else. The clothes are doing all the hard work for you, so you can concentrate on getting from one place to the other. Do work, pay bills, meet friends. Sleep. Repeat. Descend into monosyllables. Refuse to let any external embellishment meander through life, which can so easily devolve into a series of functions without the joy of colour.

Black, white, grey. They’re just functional colours. That’s all I need my clothes to do at the moment. Look nice. Be comfortable. Don’t embarrass me. Life is complicated enough already.

Art, Fashion, The Reading List

The Reading List: What I Wore Today…

… Doodle yourself into a style icon by Gemma Correll.

Whenever I think of Gemma Correll, I don’t think of her massive What I Wore Today Flickr pool or the cult following she inspires – I think of this interview she did with the Save Our Shoes girls over two years ago and how my friend Jo owns one of her ‘Pugs not Drugs’ sweaters (an admirable motto).  Funny, how certain things get stuck in your head.

Tenuous associations aside, this is one of those drawing-books-for-children-and-adults-but-really-it’s-more-for-inner-children types – which I love (although the reference to looking like a ‘knob’ on the back cover is a siren song to unconventional parents) .  Half doodle pad, half encouraging, positive style guide with a dash of Wreck This Journal, What I Wore Today is meant to be a record of you and how you dress.  Mercifully, it’s NOT an exercise in being a pseudo-aspirational clothes horse, which is what might make this book good for teenage girls – I know that I would have loved this book when I was in my teens.

The book is presented in a diary format with spaces and prompts to fill in your own outfits, as well as design your own bags, umbrellas, hairstyles, Christmas jumpers and many more, as well as space for wish lists and fancy dress ideas.  It’s a basic celebration of getting dressed.  No pressures, no body consciousness, no overt trend pushing – just good clean fun. A great book for fervent scribblers, journallers and self-style fiends.

What I Wore Today: Doodle yourself into a style icon by Gemma Correll is published by Spruce and is out now.

Fashion, Film, Inspiration, Subculture

Ghost World Screencapped

Having a post adolescent existential crisis? I know I am. Watching Ghost World always makes me feel a bit better, even though ultimately, it’s quite a depressing film.

I don’t know what it is that makes women identify with Enid. For me though, it’s the thick glasses, cumbersome boobs, lack of direction and the inability to have a pleasant conversation with strange men because they’re all idiots.  Every single one.  I suppose a lot of people wish that they could do an Enid when life has gone all wobbly – if you’ve seen the film you know what I mean.  If not, watch it – if only for Enid’s mad style.

And buy the book.  Definitely buy the book.

Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 19/04/12: Girls dress for other girls

“Girls don’t dress for guys, they dress for other girls,” said the girl checking her eye make-up in the smeared, scarred mirror in the toilet of what may possibly be the grottiest bar in Cork City. Her friends squealed in assent, obviously delighted by the rare pearl of profundity uttered by who must be Montaigne reincarnated – just with tomato red hair and a stretchy Topshop minidress.

I looked down at my outfit and appraised. A high-collared white lace shift dress, tights, bovver boots, and a thick Mod overcoat. She might have a point. Every night when groups of girls go out on the town, greetings are often paired with ‘I LOVE your dress!’, “Oh my God, where did you get that?’ and other fawning sequiturs.

I don’t dress for men, mostly because I don’t have the patience or regard for that kind of grooming and personal hygiene. I also don’t know where to start. Men are weird creatures.

Last night I went to a party. One of the hosts was wearing an Adidas hoodie and a floral dress, which at best was a misguided nod to Marc Jacobs. He said that he couldn’t find his trousers and this was the obvious alternative. I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t dressing for the opposite sex, or even his own.

How would you dress to attract this man? Pop on a three piece tweed suit maybe?
When I look through my wardrobe it’s either through a nerdy or a practical eye. Dressmaker’s copies of YSL couture from the 1960s sit beside four identical grey sleeveless tees from Zara very comfortably.

Yet, when I buy an item of clothing that I love and imagine myself getting a compliment (everyone does that, don’t they?), I imagine my friends paying them. Not family members. Definitely not men.

If I had to choose between being stylish or beautiful, I’d pick stylish every time. I’ve broken my nose three times, so the conventional beauty boat has sailed. It’s like Sophie’s Choice for Generation Superficial. Beauty is overrated. To be approved of because of your looks, especially in some kind of sexual lens, is no approval at all.
To be approved of because of your style is a compliment to your personal vision, ingenuity and creativity and general canniness. And to be approved of my your friends is a cast iron endorsement by your peers. That’s all we want – to fit in as part of a group without compromising yourself and becoming a fraction of an amorphous friend blob.

But still, I don’t put on an outfit and think ‘now my friends will really LOVE this’ before skipping off to a cocktail bar to self-absorbedly bleat, Carrie-like (both Bradshaw and White) about my life problems. I and my friends want to look like the best version of ourselves; comfortable, flattered, fresh, bright, interesting. If we dressed for men we would probably just look the most naked, hairless version of ourselves (save for a smattering of fake tan).

Most women don’t want to do that. I hope.

Fashion, Outfit Posts

Cork, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.

Not strictly true, but ‘Oh Cork, I love you, but all this constant travelling and all these prohibitively expensive bus journeys are bringing me down’ didn’t have the same ring.

I’m no longer in Cork full time, so I divide my time between my parent’s place in Kerry, Cork and Dublin. The constant travelling pretty much means that I’m on a monochromatic palette 24/7. The new uniform.

When I’m in Cork I now tend to do touristy things, like hang around The English Market, or things I used to do in Cork years ago, like go to the Brog – that stuff never ends well. This outfit took me to both places. You just get to see the former, although I did end up walking home at 6am, sans glasses and dignity, which I probably left somewhere on Western Road – so you’re not missing much.







Art, Subculture, The Reading List

The Reading List: The WAH! Nails Book of Nail Art

The WAH! Nails Book of Nail Art is the latest installment in WAH! owner Sharmadean Reid’s latest world takeover plan – one expert manicure at a time. With their idiosyncratic take on nail art – a little bit ghetto, a little bit tongue-in-cheek and with a helluva lot of pop culture references – WAH! has captured the hipster fangirl zeitgeist that exists somewhere between Kim Deal and Kim Kardashian.

Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of WAH! but have yet to get a famous manicure. But I already love their creations, so it seemed to be that giving this book a rave review would be a total no brainer.

And it’s a lovely book – it’s not just filled with tutorials but pictures and excepts and even a page to colour in your own designs – AND a page filled with stickers. It’s the book with everything. In as far as it captures the spirit of WAH!, it’s done an excellent job. Once you finish reading the book, which contains twenty-five different tutorials, you feel a bit like you’re part of their gang, arseing around Dalston all creative with perfect shiny candy-coloured hair and never-chip nail polish.

So, how do the tutorials shape up? I called in my resident nail-art expert Collette to try the De Stijl manicure. Each tutorial is cleanly laid out, step by step, with both pictures and words. There’s something for everyone here – as a total novice I wasn’t up to painting Sailor Joe letters on my nails but I did manage a fairly nifty Smash Up manicure, which ended up looking a little bit like lava (but in a good way). You don’t need much in the way of tools to do your manicures. If you’re missing something it’s easy to improvise – we didn’t have a black nail art pen so we used liquid eyeliner instead. This is nails for everyone – now if only the book could teach me how to develop a steady hand…

Ta Da! Collette’s De Stijl nails – something Mondrian could be proud of.

If you want to try before you buy, you can find two tutorials from the book right here.

The WAH! Nails Book of Nail Art is by Sharmadean Read and published by Hardie Grant Books. Out now.