The Reading List: City of Style…

… Exploring Los Angeles Fashion from Bohemian to Rock by Melissa Magsaysay.

LA is known for a lot of things; In-N-Out Burger, the star system, the smog and the abundance of posers, hustlers, artists and beautiful people who proliferate the streets with studied cool.

Those of us who haven’t been to LA will automatically assume that it’s not a particularly stylish city, especially in comparison with fashion capitals like London and Milan or districts with their own distinct fashion identity, like Stockholm or Brooklyn.  My sister is in LA at the moment.  She texted my mother to say that a millionaire pro poker player bought her lobster (alright for some, I say, tucking into a bowl of rice pudding with jam).  In terms of life as well as fashion, LA is not un-stylish; it just plays by its own rules.

City of Style is the attempt to unravel the various subcultures and style tribes of LA. Sociological study this isn’t; each chapter consists of a short history of the trend, along with who wears it, coupled with the various address of useful shops and style profiles of suitably sun-kissed Angelenos.  There are seven key trends explored; however, the only problem with the laidback, melting pot LA style is that trends eventually blend into and leech from each other – The Romantic Bohemians have elements of the Indie Eclectics, the Casual Chic look owes much to both the Rockers and the Skaters and Surfers.  Some of the people whose style is profiled could fit easily into two or even three different chapters quite easily – the lines are not clearly defined.

The book is well researched (the chapter on Chola style is particularly interesting and deftly handled from a cultural appropriation point of view – odd picture of Miley Cryus dressing up as a chola notwithstanding) with a varied assortment of people contributing interviews.  Where else but in LA could you have Tony Hawk, Slash and Monique Lhuillier contributing to the same book?

Like LA itself, City of Style is a mishmash of different types; picking and choosing the best bits to make one sprawling whole.  It’s one part cultural history, one part travelogue, part shopping guide, part endorsement, part style manual, part street style book.  The endpages hold a bibliography for further reading – a must if some of the chapters pique your interest and you’d like to learn more about Skaters, Cholas or Glamour Gals.  So far, it’s the most comprehensive survey of LA style that has yet to be undertaken – it’s a crime that something like this hasn’t been thought of before.

If you adore the So Cal street style or just want to learn more about LA fashion, this is a great place to start.  If however, you want to delve more into a particular subculture, you may be better off searching elsewhere – this book is an excellent foundation and cover-all, but not an encyclopedia.

City of Style: Exploring Los Angeles Fashion from Bohemian to Rock is published by Itbooks and is out now.

About Face: Supermodels, Then and Now

Really want to watch this.  Alas, it will be premiering on HBO which means it’s only a matter of months before More 4 picks it up for broadcasting (if at all).

Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

From the pervasive obsession with youth to issues of substance abuse, self-esteem, race and plastic surgery, beauty is a commodity in society today.

Directed by acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, ABOUT FACE: SUPERMODELS THEN AND NOW explores the lives and careers of legendary models, highlighting the complex relationship between physical appearance and the business of beauty…

An official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, ABOUT FACE: SUPERMODELS THEN AND NOW was filmed by Greenfield-Sanders in his trademark intimate portrait style, and features interviews with some of the most celebrated visages of the 20th century. Through conversations with supermodels, including Carol Alt, Marisa Berenson, Karen Bjornson, Christie Brinkley, Pat Cleveland, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Jerry Hall, Bethann Hardison, Beverly Johnson, China Machado, Paulina Porizkova, Isabella Rossellini, Lisa Taylor and Cheryl Tiegs, the documentary reveals the roles they played in defining — and redefining — beauty over time.

ABOUT FACE’s look at beauty as a commodity and the pressures of overnight stardom is interwoven with a celebration of the reinvention that can come with aging. Several models talk about the sense of freedom, satisfaction and longevity they derive from learning to age gracefully, whether by focusing on family or new interests and business opportunities.

– via press release

But I want to watch it NOOOOOW!  Excuse me while I have a Violet Beauregarde moment.

Here’s the trailer.  I absolutely love what Carmen Dell’Orefice has to say about plastic surgery.

Licentiate Column 26/07/12: Naked Makes More Sense

If supermodels can do it, so should we. Oh, wait a minute…

It is hard to dress for Irish weather at the best of times.  Every year I think that it’ll be the year I get to talk about swimwear and shorts, but it’s now reaching the end of July and the majority of the population still have yet to buy their first summer ‘99 (with extra Flake, please).

At time of writing, its is warm during the day, but cloudy and also rainy.  It it freezing at night.  Wear a jacket, you boil.  Take it off, you get soaked.  Jeans go clammy in a matter of minutes.  Opaque tights are uncomfortable.  Unclad, untanned legs look at bit like chicken fillets that have been left to defrost and unfortunately forgotten about in the kitchen sink.

How best to dress for comfort in this weather?  Go nude.  Carry a blanket and an umbrella around in a hold-all for cold/wet situations.  There is no other way to go in terms of comfort.  The only by-product of your comfort is the extreme discomfort of others when you decide that the blanket that covers your shame would also double as a nice picnic blanket for lunch in the Peace Park.

Or try a dehumidifier suit.  I’m pretty sure that they haven’t been invented yet, but surely someone will find a way (just to let you know, I demand 10% of the profits right off).  You will be cool and cozy – with the added bonus of scaring small children, scattering them like confused pigeons as you stroll down Patrick Street of a Saturday afternoon.

Go into a department store and try on everything over your suit.  Cause a fuss when nothing fits and rampage out like a 1950’s B-Movie monster, perhaps taking a few celebrity perfume ad cardboard cut-outs with you.  If your summer is as boring as this weather is, you’ll thank me later.  If you get sued, we never met and you definitely didn’t get that idea from me – by the way, I still want that 10% of the humidity suit profits.

If you’re of the school of Gaga and determined to make your personal sartorial expression independent to the whims of the weather system, you’ll have to make the ‘slightly sweaty ham’ look a Summer trend.  Whether it’s black jeans or a full-on fur coat, wear it with pride, bring oil-blotting pads for your face and under no circumstances should you attempt to wear a fringe, even if it does hide the glowing, struggling pink beacon that is the forehead.

It may be tempting, but please, please do not give in to the urge to wear leggings as trousers.  I know it’s easy breezy.  Its the clothing equivalent of eating McDonalds for every meal; it’s too convenient and you may eventually die inside. Case in point – today I saw a picture of a woman on a bus wearing incredibly tight, nude leggings.  To my myopic eyes, it looked like she had forgotten both trousers and underwear.  I can never unsee that. Never.  And neither will anyone else.

Jean Paul Gaultier x Diet Coke Tour Bus Comes to Cork!

So, last week, I wandered along to the launch of the Jean Paul Gaultier x Diet Coke tour, had my nails did, quaffed some no-sugar beverages, snapped a bit of street style (I loved Roisin’s camo/denim combo, which you can see below) and had excellent laughs with fellow bloggers and my Diet Coke co-presenters, Ciara, Katrina and Sue.  You can see all the fun times we had in the video above.

If you want to partake in the fun yourself, the JPG tour bus is stopping in Cork at Mahon Point Shopping Centre this Friday (that’s the 27th). Come along, get a manicure (I went for red nautical nail wraps), some temporary tats (mine were anchors) and, if you’re lucky, some limited edition Jean Paul Gaultier Diet Coke bottles.

Here are some photos of all the fun.

Professional photos by Thinkhouse, incredibly amateurish Instagram photos by me.

The Wizard of Oz is In Vogue

Following on from yesterday’s review of Everything Oz, I thought I’d post this photoshoot from the Christmas issue of American Vogue from 2005. The December issues of Vogue are always very special – there’s always a fairytale/pantomime/dreamscape shoot with a cast of unusual suspects. This time it’s Keira Knightley and a roster of American contemporary artists; the puckish Jeff Koons as a winged monkey, Tim Currin as the Tin Man, Chuck Close as Oz, the Great and Powerful, Jasper Johns as the Cowardly Lion and Kara Walker as Glinda, the Good Witch – amongst others.

Shot by Annie Liebovitz, styled by Grace Coddington.




The Reading List: Everything Oz…

…The Wizard Book of Makes & Bakes by Christine Leech and Hannah Read-Baldrey

This is a cute one.  Everything Oz comes to you from the authors of Everything Alice, a themed craft and cookery book all about Alice in Wonderland.  Full disclosure: I have not read Everything Alice… yet.  Everything Oz carries on much in the same vein, with several craft projects and ideas for visually arresting party food inspired by the classic book, films and stage adaptations.

Rainbow cake, anyone?

Some pistachio popcorn, perhaps?  This recipe is the first on my hit list.

Instructions are clear and concise, but you may need some special skills to complete some of the crafts (a knowledge of sewing machines, particular stitches and, oddly, experience with an electric drill will all stand you in good stead).  It’s not all hard stuff though; for every septuple layer rainbow cake there is Emerald City Jelly, for every pair of Ruby Slippers (yes, really) there’s an Emerald hair comb.  While there are some projects which require a lot of effort and time, they don’t seem as if they’d be particularly difficult to do.  If you’re the kind of person who gets an intense payoff from making an incredibly complicated cake, then this is for you.

The layout of this large, colourful, softback book is varied but not cluttered.  A mix of photography, illustrations and snippets of dialogue from the book (a very brief paragraph in Baum and The Wizard of Oz is in the introduction), it’s carefully considered.  The table of contents looks like a Depression-era circus hoarding and the section on Emerald City snacks is delightfully, gleefully green.  It’s immaculately, eye-catchingly laid out – which points to Read-Baldrey’s other career as a props and fashion stylist.

Cute but not cloying, you could complete several of the projects without people necessarily knowing that they were inspired by The Wizard of Oz.  Some of the projects are obviously connected to the books or film (again, the ruby slippers), some not so much (the section on the Oz Apothecary) but that doesn’t really matter – the projects that aren’t obviously Oz more than compensate for it in their cuteness.

The beauty of a good craft book isn’t necessarily its ability to teach a person a new skill – it’s in its ability to inspire people.  This bright and dreamy book makes a not-particularly-crafty person (me) want to have an Emerald City themed party, complete with Tin Man garlands and lanterns – and I think I might do just that.

Everything Oz: The Wizard Book of Makes & Bakes is published by Quadrille and is out now.

Licentiate Column 19/07/12: Marilyn Monroe and The Style Icon

Monroe caught off-guard by Richard Avedon

On the fifth of August it will have been fifty years since the death of Marilyn Monroe.  The actress was such an icon, had such a physical presence, could project a character so well that her costumes have become incredibly famous – more famous, perhaps than any other actresses.

Think about it; the white, billowing ‘Seven Year Itch’ dress, the strapless pink ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ dress, the shimmering, see-through ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress are all symbols of one woman’s incredible charisma.

However, one has to question whether or not Marilyn Monroe was a true style icon.  The characters she played were icons, but was she?

The film stars we admire for their style often translated their costumes into everyday life.  Audrey Hepburn was a true gamine, Grace Kelly was elegant and smooth like glass, Katharine Hepburn full of athletic vim and vigour.

Marilyn Monroe’s writings and personal observations are full of insecurity, focusing on the duality of her nature.  Was she the blonde bombshell or the bookish introvert?  There is a lot of conflict between her inner and outer lives.  As a consequence, she never seemed comfortable in her own skin, her clothes either bombastically tight in public or shapelessly, comfortably wrapped around her in private.

As Marilyn went from her twenties into her thirties she went through a change that almost every woman goes through; she somehow sloughed off the need to impress or express her innate self through her wardrobe and instead refined a style that suited only her.

Travelling or with friends, she abandoned circulation-cutting waistbands, exchanging them for camel Dior overcoats, men’s Brooks Brothers tailoring, Ferragamo pumps and silk Pucci dresses, which she favoured both for their comfort and ability to flatter.  She would be buried in her favourite green silk Pucci shift.

When people talk about Marilyn Monroe’s style, what they’re probably talking about are her film costumes – and why wouldn’t they?  She really did inhabit some of the most memorable outfits of all time.  Even Marilyn knew the allure of her costumes – she would often get a dressmaker to run up several copies of dresses that she wore in films (in a range of different colours, of course).

It’s not true that clothes maketh the woman.  In the case of Marilyn Monroe, the woman maketh the clothes.  Many of her film outfits were worn by other stars before her, especially in Monroe’s early career.  Monroe wore two dresses that had also been worn on screen by the vastly underrated but no less smouldering film noir-era actress Gene Tierney.  Compared to Marilyn, Tierney looked almost unremarkable.

It wasn’t what she wore – that was unimportant.  It was all in how she wore it.

This is the true essence of Marilyn Monroe’s style icon status.  This is what sets her apart from the Hepburns and the Kellys.  The wardrobe was unimportant. It was the woman who really mattered.  Marilyn Monroe’s most stylish asset was her ability to be luminous.  Her light is what makes her so memorable today.

Marilyn Monroe and the Duality of Being

I’ve been reading a lot of book on Marilyn Monroe recently.  I was given this book to review (which will be up next week) and have progressed onto Fragments, a selection of Monroe’s notes, letters and general jottings.  The more I read about her, the less I know.  Such an enigmatic, complicated woman.

Marilyn Monroe with Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen) and Carson McCullers

Pardon me – I’m, sorry to wake you
But I wonder if you could help

I’m being abducted

you know – kidnapped – by him

I thought maybe as soon as
we got some place I’d ask the
driver to stop and let me off
But we been driving for hours
and we still don’t seem to be
nowhere at all – not only that
but I’m freezing to death – I
ain’t got much on under
my coat

 – From ‘Fragments: Poems, Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe’.

It’s probably dialogue, but in Monroe’s notebook it looks like poetry.

Licentiate Column 28/06/12: Holiday Packing It Ain’t

Packing your life into a suitcase is hard.  Holiday packing it ain’t.  You don’t need a couple of bikinis and caftans for a fortnight of sun, sand and vat or two of sangria.  You need clothes for work, for after work, for weekends, for dates, for relaxing, for sleeping, for working out.  Basically, you need clothes for a life.

As my life is somewhat in stasis right now, so is my wardrobe.  Clothes hover about in different places: my old flat, at my parent’s house and in a tote bag that is straining like an overstuffed sausage in a corner in my sister’s room in Dublin, where I am now.

This may come as a source of shock and Benedict Arnold-style betrayal, but I am loving life in Dublin after just one week of eating, sleeping, window-licking and commuting within the capital.  It is a great city – not better than Cork, mind, just different.  There are only two glitches, and both of them are wardrobe related.

Wardrobe problem 1)  There is no wardrobe.  Well, there is a wardrobe; I just can’t use it.  After packing my duffel and schlepping up on the train, I arrived at my first port of call, which happens to be someone else’s room and found that there was no room for me.  But that wasn’t too much of a bother.  I had prepared with a mini-capsule wardrobe.  A life in a bag.

As usual, it’s a palette of black and grey that gets me through the working day, drinks with friends and dealing with the occasional idiot on the Luas.  When I think of life back in Cork, I think of colour.  Bright colours.  I think of my rainbow plaid shirt, leopard print coat, polka dot dress and studded accessories.  The is no room for pattern in my life, no room for superfluity.

I miss pattern and print.  I miss having frivolous things,  This has had some detrimental effects.  Today I went into Penneys looking for a particular pair of shoes and came out with said shoes, a top, socks, a biker jacket in a particularly offensive pewter leatherette and some kind of diamante nail sticker thingies.  Shopping in Penneys is the wardrobe equivalent of cabin fever.

Wardrobe problem 2)  When you move to a new city and every aspect of your life is in flux, it can take a while to regain some semblance of equilibrium.  This is no different with your outfit choices.  Every day you wake up, look in the mirror and think, ‘Who will I be today?’  The answer is obviously , ‘Someone who needs some new clothes – lots of them’.

It’s no wonder that trends change with the seasons and new clothes proclaim how easy it is to develop a ‘new you’.  It’s big business.  We as people seek to reinvent ourselves fundamentally at the drop of a hat; the turning of the weather and resituation in a new city are just two good excuses to try it out.

Movin’ With Nancy – Image Heavy

Last week, I went to the Garage Bar with my sister. The Garage is one of those slightly scuzzy places in Temple Bar in Dublin where they have drink deals, scary unisex toilets and sawdust on the floor.

Whenever I go in there there’s football on the TV, but this time there was Nancy Sinatra. And Dean Martin. And Sammy Davis Jr. And I couldn’t hear what they were singing because the bar soundsystem was blasting out garage rock. But I was still captivated by the bright sounds and whizzing camera shots and incredibly Sixties costumes. I am nothing if not easily amused.

It turns out that the psychedelic special on the screen was Movin’ With Nancy, a TV special shot for Nancy Sinatra featuring Lee Hazelwood and several members of the Rat Pack, as well as a few incredibly kitsch spots for Royal Crown Cola.  You can watch it on Youtube and if you have an hour to spare, I highly recommend it.

I love Nancy Sinatra.