Hallowe’en Appropriate: Salvador Dali for Vogue Paris

Happy Hallowe’en everyone! I hope you’ll be having a spectacularly spooky evening, or at the very least having one that involves eating all the trick or treaters sweeties (I’m on my third funsize box of Smarties).

While not strictly frightening, this 1971 edition of Vogue Paris, edited by Surrealist supremo Salvador Dali, is just jarring enough to give you proper chills…

Vintage Vogue scans via Youthquakers, which is so fantastic I can hardly bear it.

The Seeberger Brothers and Real Street Style

Elegance: The Seeberger Brothers and the Birth of Fashion Photography is one of those books that I’ve wanted forever but couldn’t really afford.  It is out of print and second hand copies cost fifty euros and upwards.  The steep sort of upwards.

With photographs as good as these, the prohibitive price tag may be justified.  Caution – this is a very image-heavy post.  To find out more about the Seeberger brothers, click here.

Images via here, here, here and here

Licentiate Column 25/10/12: Better Remarkable Than Attractive

My new do – it’s the latest thing in Man Repelling, don’tcha know?

Working in the fashion industry has a few advantages, the most underrated of which is the ability (or expectation) to dress like a loon at the office without the negative judgement of others. It’s ok to be a bit weird. It may even be par for the course.

In fashion the opposite to good taste in clothes is not bad taste; it is MOR, sheeplike indifference. Dress like everyone else and your ability to work may be called into question – ironic, when you consider that the opposite is true in many other industries.

In school, I was that person who had different coloured hair every month. I’ve been blue, purple, pink – one golden autumn I was (due to a bleaching mishap) blonde, brown, pink and ginger all at the same time. The only colours I haven’t yet gone are green and grey, and since grey is inevitable at some stage, I’ve decided to give green a proper go after years of natural, if slightly mousy, brown.

By the time this column goes to print, I will have petrol green streaks in my hair. It sounds horrific. Just typing that I shudder a tiny bit, half out of anticipation and half out of fear. On telling my mother about my incipient She-Hulk hair plans, her response was, “But aren’t you concerned about being attractive?”

That question stuck with me. I wrote it on a Post It and stuck it to my computer. Am I worried about being conventionally attractive? No, I really am not. I am more concerned about being remarkable, about being smart, about bringing in a balanced budget.

I’m not looking for a boyfriend. I have no obligations to be anyone but myself. Having green streaks will not deplete my already very low charisma and mystery levels. If anything, I am concerned about being ugly. Ugly is remarkable. I would rather be remarkable over attractive any day.

I have a noticeably large nose. It has been broken several times and is home to more than a few lumps. I like it. It gives my side profile a bit of a witchy appearance, but it is what it is – I might as well embrace the oddness. Serge Gainsbourg, owner of a sizable conk himself, once said that ‘ugliness is in a way superior to beauty because it lasts’. Looks fade, what is considered beautiful often changes and looking weird is, at the very least, consistent.

We should all embrace who we are. Facially speaking, flaws should be accentuated just as much as the better attributes. What working in fashion has taught me is that, if you carry anything with confidence (yep, even warts) and make it look deliberate, you will be all the better for it. This advice may be coming from a woman with a big hooter and green hair, but her common-sense is as finely-tuned as the next person’s.

Licentiate column 18/10/12: The Merits of the Mom Jumper

There is no kind of comfort quite like the kind you find when, on a cold day, you slip on a jumper that has spent a few minutes warming up on the radiator. It is a kind of comfort only surpassed when it’s rainy outside and said radiator is now hosting a clean pair of flannel pajamas.

It is also a kind of comfort that we’ll have to get used to this winter because it’ll be a cold one, by golly. The average temperature is shaping up to be five or six degrees every day. Come December, that will be even lower. It is definitely time to unpack the winter woolens and banish any tights below forty dernier from whence they came.

Knitwear buying can be a tricky process. There is only one type of body shape that looks good in any kind of sweater, no matter what shape or how scratchy or fluffy the wool. That is the straight up-and-down, modelly type. These women can rejoice in being able to put on an Aran jumper three sizes too big and still look great. We will not begrudge them, because skinny people need extra warmth what with having less insulating body fat than the rest of us, and all.

Especially meritorious for the woman with the in-and-out body shape is the Mom jumper. It’s not necessarily a jumper that mothers wear (mine favours a potato sack-textured Fairisle that she knitted herself) but rather a jumper that gives you the warming, maternal caress that you need on a cold winter’s day. Your jumper loves you. Your jumper will take care of you. It will not judge you if you accidentally slop tomato sauce on it. It does not care about your sexual orientation and will not spoil Downton Abbey for you if you haven’t got around to watching that episode yet.

If you’re looking for a maternal Mom Jumper, then Boden is a great place to start. The British label started business with a mail order catalogue (how mammy-ish can you get?) and specialises in very simply structured, reassuringly classic, untrendy knitwear. It’s the kind of knitwear that, if you take care of it, could last you for several years in both style and practicality stakes. Most jumpers are updated vintage shapes – the Fifties jumper is especially flattering for hourglass figures.

For a non-mumsy Mom jumper, head to Cos. The knitwear at the H&M-owned high-street chain is considered good enough quality to be sold at Brown Thomas. While Cos stands for Collection of Style, just ‘Cos’ is also appropriate – the patterns are finished with mathematical precision that requires a set of tables.

The knits are good quality too. I have my eye on a sheer black alpaca knit that will go with everything and am already living in a grey marl sweatshirt that has been updated with interwoven metallic thread. Note to self – under no circumstances should I put that one under the radiator. It’s comforting enough already without having to endure second degree burns.

Diet Coke Fashion Friday: Cork Fashion Week Style

Cork Fashion Week finished for another year last week and I was lucky enough to go along to their High Tea at Hayfield Manor Hotel, which kicked off the event schedule.  Hosted by the loverly Angela Scanlon, we saw the very best that Cork’s shops have to offer, and I got to hang around backstage, interview all the main players and try not to accidentally ogle models as they changed (I’m not so used to being backstage that I can be properly nonplussed yet).  Did I mention that there’s going to be a video?  Oh yes, there is a video – not of models changing by the way; that would be weird and incredibly invasive.

Here’s a few snaps of some very stylish people.

Licentiate Column 11/10/12: Do as the Natives Do

Last week, I went to Malta. It was hot. Ridiculously hot. I got on the plane in Dublin in six degree weather wearing a metallic biker jacket and grey marl sweatshirt flecked with silver thread. I got off to twenty eight degree heat and enough accumulated sweat to power a desalination plant.

My make-up immediately slid off my face on to a puddle on the floor and started mocking me for not knowing that metal is a conductor of heat and polyvinyl fabric is not breathable. I was either extremely dehydrated or in possession of a subconscious that is so self-loathing that even my slap talks back to me. It could be both, but if that’s true, it turns out that my subconscious is easily soothed with a glass of water and a change into a fresh cotton t-shirt.

The native Maltese women are different creatures altogether. The next day, while taking a coffee break in the island’s capital of Valetta, I noticed that it was very easy to distinguish the natives from their tourist counterparts just by clothing alone – although it would have been just as easy to identify the tourists by their (and my) wheezy, sweaty honey-glazed ham exteriors.

The Maltese women I saw out and about had impossibly shiny hair and were wearing some great tailoring – breezy white shirts, and pencil skirts the ended a few inches above the knee. Colours were light, silhouettes were flattering and any perspiration, presumably, was absorbed into nothingness like total magic.

Dressing for a holiday is difficult, especially if you come from a temperate (read: my toes have frostbite) country into a slightly sweltering one. Tourists dress like, well, tourists. To call the way we tourists dress ‘predictable’ would be far too predictable, but why call a spade a gardening implement when ‘spade’ will do just as well? We ARE predictable.

I blame the media. I blame fashion journalists and, to a lesser extent, I blame myself. We think we’re so smart, writing and reading articles on how to dress for certain occasions without ever thinking if the context is really correct. The pictures in the magazines tell us to buy floaty maxi dresses, thong sandals and khaki shorts – which is only really just as well if these are the kind of things that you’d wear anyway.

We shouldn’t be reading articles about what tourists are wearing on holidays, we should be reading articles about what the women who live in our holiday destinations are wearing (especially if what you pack will be weather-dependent). Going to Paris? Make it black and expensive. New York? Have impeccable hair and nails and the rest will follow.
Next time I go to Malta, I will be thinking about dressing like a Maltese woman. Not in a weird, cultural-appropriation, ‘I’m going to wear your traditional embroidered costumes’ way, just in a normal, everyday way.

How many times have you seen a tourist in Ireland struggling to deal with the constant oscillation between rain and sun? Irish people know to always have an umbrella and sunglasses on their person if they’re going to be on the street for more than a few minutes. It a reflex that is the product of years of conditioning. For once, we’re out on top.

Teenager on the Telephone

Remember being on the landline at home, having a chat, and being constantly interrupted by your mother going “Are you on a mobile? PSST! Are you on a mobile?”

That still happens to me.

The jeans/white socks/easy-off loafers may just be the perfect combination for a lazy afternoon reliving teenage angstiness.

Photos by Nina Leen for LIFE Magazine, 1944 – click the link if you’re a vintage lover and have a few minutes to spare

The Reading List: Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland

If you’re a big Diana Vreeland fan, you’ll notice that books by and on the famous Vogue editor are often… interesting. Not bad interesting, but unconventional. They’re often a bit disjointed, they run in a non-linear style and are often punctuated with incredibly arresting visuals. Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland is one such animal. The book is actually an exhibition catalogue from The Museo Fortuny’s Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland, which closed in June.

The text is split into several parts: they examine Vreeland’s influences and influence in publishing, her career at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the structure and layout of the exhibition as it appeared in the Museo Fortuny in Venice.  Unlike the majority of exhibition catalogues, it isn’t stuffed with essays (although there are essays), rather it’s a compendium of visual and interesting juxtapositions – after all, Vreeland was master of the grand visual statement, the champion of the refined aesthetic statement over the blank, unedited truth.

Roughly, the first 180 pages of the book are pictures.  Glorious pictures, that spill over the pages in an obvious homage to Vreeland’s seminal book Allure, which is jam-packed with her inspirations and proclamations.  Sandwiched in are pictures of the woman herself, her work and her inspirations.  The photos in this post should give the reader a general idea of the bizarre and beautiful hodgepodge within its pages.

The next section deals with the exhibition itself which, sadly, depends on the reader actually having gone to the Museo Fortuny to properly appreciate it.  There are very photographs of the exhibition and costumes in the book; rather there are slight sketches which, while very pretty, don’t give the reader an excellent representative idea of what actually went on display.

What is great is the reappraisal given to Vreeland’s work at the Met’s Costume Institute, which doesn’t get enough attention when compared to her editorial output.  A brief  exploration of her exhibitions is accompanied by press snippets and tidbits.  Some of Vreeland’s legendary Why Don’t You columns for Harper’s Bazaar are reprinted, along with original articles dealing with her museum work.  A well-rounded book, done effectively about exhibitions – and an exhibitionist – this book is a great complement to The Eye Has To Travel book and film – buy them all and you’ve effectively completed the trilogy.

Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland, by Judith Clark and Maria Luisa Frisa, is published by Marsilio and is out now.

Licentiate Column 04/10/12: When Punk Becomes Fashion

Debbie Harry – from Punk: An Aesthetic

It’s so odd how youth culture can so easily become commodified, pressed from a cry into the dark of capitalism into the oil which lubricates its machinations. If I sound like a wild conspiracy theorist, it’s probably because I am.

But seriously, it is odd how the things that are invented on the street, without the help of trend forecasters and clothing oligarchs, can go from being under the radar to tired, overprocessed and underappreciated within a matter of decades.

We are nostalgia hawkers. Because the world is forever getting smaller, and because of our ability to communicate and receive information immediately, we are privy to more and more of the horrible things that happen on every continent. We look backwards. We look at the past, even the terrible periods, through a lens smeared thickly with Vaseline.

Carson McCullers once wrote, “We are homesick for the places we have never known”. When it comes to youth and subculture, we are homesick for a million different places at once. Who hasn’t wanted to dress like a teddy boy, a rocker, a mod, a skinhead, a goth, a New Romantic? Who, for that matter, hasn’t wanted to be a punk?

Punk was always a legitimate subculture (if you think that all subcultures are legit, then cast your mind back to Nu Rave. Will people still be wearing fluorescent leggings in twenty years? I thought not) but next year will see it cemented in its definitive place of the fashion pantheon: Punk will have its own exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum in New York.

‘Punk: From Chaos to Couture’ will be opened at the annual Met Ball on the 6th of May next year. It’s one of those events where we’re not entirely too sure what happens inside, so photos of the guests are invariably plastered all over the papers, Oscars-style the next day. The outfits are usually themed to the exhibition, so we can already tell that this is going to be one hell of a red carpet.

It’s interesting to see where punk ended up, especially when its fiercely DIY, anti-establishment origins are considered. In a new book, Punk: An Aesthetic, punk chroniclers Jon Savage and Johan Kugelberg chart the beginning, progression and legacy of the scene in an anthropologically comprehensive package.

The book is manna for punk lovers. Brought to the public by formidable art book publishers Rizzoli, it is everything that a one would come to expect from the publishing house and, of course, Savage (who is well known for his seminal book on punk, ‘England’s Dreaming’). It is one of my favourite books this year.

Between the fliers and albums covers are pictures of punk’s luminaries, all incredibly stylish; here Malcolm McLaren as a teddy boy, there Debbie Harry in a pair of pleather knickers with a studded belt. We see pages of Vivienne Westwood’s still shocking Seditionaries t-shirts and acres of Linder Sterling’s postmodern feminist collages – her talent most recently found her collaborating on prints with feted Brit fashion designer Jonathan Saunders.

We don’t need to bypass the irony that punk publishing started out on badly Xeroxed sheets of paper as an antithesis to the expensive, glossy volumes that they now reside in. It’s the natural way of all trends – for better or worse (in this case, I think better) they become absorbed into fashion.

The Reading List: Masters of Fashion Illustration

Antonio Lopez

For those who missed out on buying the hardback edition of David Downton’s Masters of Fashion Illustration, fear not – Laurence King have just released a paperback edition that is ever bit as well-appointed as its predecessor.

Masters of Fashion Illustration is not a comprehensive history or even a comprehensive list of famous fashion illustrators – Rene Gruau is conspicuous in his absence. However, it doesn’t pretend to be one. The selection of illustrators profiled is entirely up to Downton (one of the best contemporary illustrators living today), who selects his personal favourites as opposed to a line up of the usual suspects. The first illustrator profiled is well-known 19th century social portraitist Giovanni Boldini, which will give you an idea of Downton’s inclination to colour outside of the lines (sorry, bad pun) when it comes to selecting his Masters.

Monvel and Brissaud

Not that this is a bad thing, of course. Delve through the book and you’ll see that Downton has impeccable, elegant taste. His selection is a mix of the well-known and relatively obscure – many of the images have been reproduced here for the first time since their original publication. There are some lovely pictures of Andy Warhol’s whimsical, feminine illustrations of shoes and Schiaparelli perfume (why do we always forget that before Warhol was an artist he was an illustrator?) and Bob Peak’s work is the stuff that Mad Men art directors dream of.


The final part of the book is a 36 page portfolio of Downton’s work, accompanied by an interview conducted by Tony Glenville. The interview isn’t as much about Downton’s career (although he does talk about it) as much as it’s about the selection process for what goes in the book – which is extra interesting, if you’re a publishing nerd like me. Downton’s work is pretty mermerising and masterful – some lines are really Impressionistic but others are so sure and deft that they are almost photoreal – it’s astounding that he doesn’t do his work digitally.

David Downton

If you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of fashion illustration, you may be better off buying 100 Years of Fashion Illustration by Cally Blackman, which is more timeline based. However, if you want to be reintroduced to some old faces and become acquainted with the new master, then this beautifully laid out book is worth buying.


Masters of Fashion Illustration (paperback) by David Downton is published by Laurence King and is out now.