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.

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.

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.

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.

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.







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.

Licentiate Column 12/04/12: Titanic Centenary Style

Everyone has their nerdy pop-culture peccadillos. Alan Moore graphic novels. Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The Titanic.

As a dedicated Titanorak (pre-dating James Cameron’s epic film, I’ll have you know), it’s interesting, and often slightly frightening, to see how a human tragedy which reshaped the Edwardian consciousness and had several major repercussions on how people lived a century ago has been reduced to a pop culture soundbite, a platform for turgid television dramas and an opportunity for Strictly Come Dancing judges to bore us all to tears with talk of brittle rivets.

Rifling through my local bookstore’s Titanic table, I picked up a book called ‘Titanic Style: Dress and Fashion of The Voyage’. Normally, this kind of utter bad-taste cheese is my catnip. Case in point: I have a copy of a book called ‘Titanic Love Stories’ with a picture of a coy looking Gibson Girl on the front cover on hold at my local library.

On the Titanic were several heiresses, members of the nobility, self-made millionaires, a model, a film actress, a fashion designer and a noted fashion journalist. All of whom had wardrobes bursting full of haute couture, the likes of which a thoroughly modern millionairess can only dream of.

Many would have been returning from Paris, the epicentre of fashion at that time. Selling in Paris were three of the early twentieth century’s foremost designers; Paul Poiret, Marios Fortuny and Coco Chanel, who was at time a much feted milliner.
Together, the tree designers collectively freed women from corsets, cumbersome fripperies and sombre colours. Poiret’s designers were vibrant and Eastern-inspired, Fortuny designed Grecian goddess dresses that were pleated sinuously over a woman’s curves (a technique that has never been successfully duplicated) and Chanel was single-handedly creating the garconne look with simply trimmed straw boaters.

When we look at the Titanic films, documentaries and television series, do we see any of that? Do we see the dresses brushed with glaring brightness? Do we see the members of the first class who were unregimented and bored with endless sessions of afternoon tea? Do we see anything that hasn’t been reigned in with either a corset or a historically set-in-their-ways costume designer?

In 1912, the world was on the cusp of the new modern era. The need for speed was a new obsession. Technology was the new religion and the people’s faith in the cogs of machinery, whether it be political or literal, had not yet been fully tested to its limits.
The sinking of the Titanic is the start of the modern world as we know it. It was a microcosm of the shock and horror that would greet the whole globe with the start of The Great War. The class warfare, the regimented oppression, the ritual lifestyle, the blind faith in technology and the futile nobility of dying with a stiff upper lip.

We see it in black and white now. The band played on and we repeat it over and over with a press of the play button. But, in reality, it was in color. The people were not blank ciphers, they had lives and worries and nerdy pop-culture peccadillos, like music hall comedy or Caruso recordings or cigarette trading cards. And it doesn’t really matter what they were wearing. Fortuny or sackcloth, they were all created equal in the end – that’s the one thing that we should remember.

Getting Glam in Cork (with super Benefit Giveaway)!

I would LOVE to know what I'm saying here

It’s that time people – time to reveal my debut turn as the face of Diet Coke TV for Cork.  I had a really great time covering the Get Glam event with Benefit Cosmetics at Mahon Point SC.  I got my make-up did, watched a masterclass with Benefit supremo Mark (Jedward’s stylist, fact fans – as a closet Jedhead, I may have had a bit of a moment), drank a helluva lot of pop and texted in a lot of codes.  Alas, I did not win anything (that might have been unethical) but my day was definitely prize enough.

This is the finished video – I love how slick it is.  While the last three videos concentrated on the Get Glam make-up looks, in this video we learn about how to get the perfect base.  Remember, without proper foundations the walls may slide, and so will your eyeshadow.

And also, because I love my readers like I love those Ferrero Rocher Easter Eggs, I have some Benefit goodies to bestow upon you.  Yes, I said ‘bestow’.  The prize is THAT grand.

Drumroll please…

I have

  • A bottle of Posietint
  • They’re Real Mascara
  • A sample of the new Oxegen Wow! Foundation
  • Something About Sophia Fragrance
  • A Creaseless Cream eyeshadow/liner in Samba-dy Loves Me (a nice golden fawn/toasty bronze colour)

You want to win?  You have to be a reader of the blog and have an address in the Republic of Ireland.  There are two ways to enter.

1.  For facebook fans.  Go to my facebook fan page and I shall explain all…

2. For twitter followers.  You have to be a follower of @the_licentiate and tweet the following – I want to win Benefit goodies with @the_licentiate!

3.  Leave a comment below – You can enter on both facebook or twitter if you like.

I will be picking a winner by random number generator in a week.  Good luck!


The Reading List – Lillian Bassman: Lingerie


Lillian Bassman summed up herself and her work as “completely tied-up with softness, fragility and the personal problems of a feminine world”. In this retrospective work of her seminal lingerie work, her ethos is summed up just as succinctly in the body of the book.


Lillian Bassman’s work was by women, for women. The subjects live in their own feminine spheres. No male gaze here; the woman is confident and self assured and the only person permitted to scrutinise her is herself. They are erotic but not overtly sexual creatures – their unconscious sensuality is the erotic X factor.

As a fashion photographer, Bassman is mistress of the black and white image. Bodies take almost abstract shapes and are often overexposed in a style very reminiscent of Man Ray, who worked as a photographer for Harper’s Bazaar at the same time as Bassman, who was then a graphic designer.

This slim volume is low on words but high on impact and thoughtfully laid out in an entirely monochromatic scheme that best showcases the at times dreamy and ethereal, practical and homespun or beguiling and artistic work of Lillian Bassman. It’s hard to imagine that she destroyed the bulk of her commercial work during the rise of the supermodel. Fortunately, some of her work was discovered in a rubbish bag in her Manhattan home. I’m glad that it was, for without it we might not have had this wonderful book – a brief insight into a woman’s world without the sexism of Mad Men, but all of the style.