Fashion, Inspiration, Photography

Londonstagram

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I’ve been in London for the past few days, catching up with friends, going to exhibitions (The verdict on the Hollywood Costume exhibition in the V&A? Just go now, I’ll wait here for you to come back), eating my weight in curries, tacos, dim sum and pancakes and drinking an equivalent amount of toasty mulled liquids. There’s nothing you can’t mull to make it that little bit tastier (bar Bovril, I suppose).

And sherry. I do not like sherry.

Here are some Instagrammed pictures – can we take pictures any other way now? Pathetically, I’m very proud that I only took one picture of my food and that was because I wanted to remember the day my skirt became so tight that I had to buy a new pair of trousers.

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1.  Skating at Somerset House –  2.  A fashion newsagent on Wardour Street  – 3. A very creepy print from a Brick Lane curry house – 4.  Carnaby Street gets festive with The Rolling Stones – 5 – 7.  Tim Walker on show at Somerset House – 8.  The sad occupants of plastic bags at a manga shop near Leicester Square – 9.  Eyes bigger than my belly at Wahaca (the waiter said that he was proud of me for trying anyway).

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Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 13/12/12: The Curse of the Christmas Jumper

This is me the last time I wore a Christmas jumper. Note 1) the lack of tinsel and 2) How drunk I am not.

Christmas is not a time for class and tact. Goodwill to all men perhaps, but a rough-hewn version of goodwill, all mince-pies and Twelve Pubs of Christmas, not cocktails and canapes and elongated vowels (“Merry Christmas, daaaahling!”).

Perhaps that’s why the Christmas Jumper has become so popular. It’s well on its way to becoming one of those festive staples that is done ironically at first, but after a few pints of mulled wine, becomes an excuse to act like a total and utter ass. How unrefined.

I may be biased. Last night I spent a much-anticipated few hours with a group of fellow female writers in Dublin. The company was great, the monster nachos I ate were also excellent and the two pubs were well-chosen hangouts. However, the last late bar we went into was typical of those often block-booked for office Christmas parties. You know the kind of party; peppered with Sexy Santas and men wearing well-pressed suit trousers and cheap Christmas jumpers from Penneys.

The Christmas jumper is a justification for acting like a complete and utter prat. A person looks ridiculous, so it is obviously becoming to act ridiculously as well. If it’s something as inoffensive as skanking like a loon, a person can be forgiven. If, however, you wish to project your Christmas cheer onto others in the form of vomit, word or otherwise, I’d advise you to get your act together. It’s a long way from here to New Year’s Eve and mass-produced holiday woollens, like a person’s liver, can burn out very quickly from overuse.

Clothing can be used to express many vital things – your job, your personality, your preferences in terms of almost everything. A Christmas Jumper in a pub, in my experience, expresses the following – “I will invade your personal space in the name of holiday fun, then I’ll get offended when you assert your boundaries by talking loudly to your friends about Mooncups and period pain. Finally, when I cop on that you don’t want to entertain me, I will tell you that you have undefined but incredibly serious ‘issues’, which will piss you off so much that you’ll just have to go away for a bit”.

Men of Ireland (just the obnoxious ones) – let not your Christmas Jumpers define you. You too can pop on a funny hat and a red pullover with a penguin on it without becoming a tiresome boor. I believe in you.

The Christmas Jumper needs to be rehabilitated. We need to go back to the days of unironic, begrudging jumper wearing. Think Colin Firth as Mark Darcy at the turkey curry buffet in Bridget Jones’ Diary, not Colin Firth in Fever Pitch.

Just in case you were wondering, I do own a Christmas Jumper. It has a picture of Garfield wearing a Santa hat, saying something very pessimistic. If the jumper fits, I say wear it.

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Fashion, Inspiration, Photography, The Reading List

The Reading List – Vogue: The Editor’s Eye

I went for breakfast with a good friend of mine last Sunday.  She’s a writer at a (really great) magazine and together we talked about the merits of freebies – non-editorial speak for ‘products for review’.

I was talking about getting a PDF of a book for review.  This is new.  I’ve never been given a PDF to review before, so one has to refine what it is about a book that makes it special.  You’re more focused on the contents, not on the weight and heft or how tactile the experience can be.  She said, Oh yeah, sometimes I’ll go into the beauty desk, see the YSL and think, ‘Tch, where’s the Tom Ford?’

There was a slight pause, then she said to me, “We really are snobby a**holes, aren’t we?”.

And we really are.  It was a humbling moment.

While the feel factor of a coffee table book is the thing that keeps the publishing industry alive, it’s the contents that are really important.  It’s what’s inside the file (or the lipstick tube) that counts.  I can’t believe how lucky I have been this year in regard to getting books for review.  I’ve loved reading everything and am incredibly grateful to the PRs who deem my sphere of work important enough to read their books.

So, with that earnest anecdote aside, this is a review of Vogue: The Editor’s Eye, which, onscreen, looks like this:

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…but in bookshops, looks a little like this.

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Before reading the book, I took a trip to my local Eason’s to get a look at the book proper.  I found it (rather disingenuously in the ‘Health’ section), wrapped in cellophane, a tome not to be desecrated with my grubby hands.  It is huge.  Monumentally so.  It is the kind of huge that could easily cover an entire coffee table.  It has the kind of weight that potentially says ‘I Am a Very Important Book’.

The Editor’s Eye charts not only the careers of Vogue’s best fashion editors, but also plots an overarching route through the magazine’s general images, from the mid twentieth century to present day.  How did the world’s most popular fashion magazine go from this…

January 1, 1950.  Whiling away an afternoon, in dresses from the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.   © Irving Penn/Condé Nast Archive

January 1, 1950. Whiling away an afternoon, in dresses from the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. © Irving Penn/Condé Nast Archive

..to this?

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November 1988. The novel combination of a Christian Lacroix couture jacket with jeans, worn by Michaela Bercu on the cover of Anna Wintour’s first issue of Vogue. © Peter Lindbergh

How did it go through these changes so seamlessly? The truth is that these changes weren’t so seamless, but the fact that Vogue went through seismic shifts, multiple firings and the odd acrimonious dispute is one that the book cheerfully ignores. It’s not a tell-all; rather it is a show-all.  The focus is rightfully on the specific editors’ careers and not focused on what the editor-in-chief was (or wasn’t) doing at the time.

As an introduction to the various fashion editors who captured the zeitgeist and made American Vogue the magazine panopticon of style that it is today, it is seamless.  Each editor is introduced with an essay and a selection of photographs from Vogue’s archives.  I especially enjoyed the essay on Babs Simpson who, at 99 years old and still telling anecdotes about how she accidentally told Carmel Snow to ‘F**k off’, is the woman who transformed models from static pedestal-dwellers to real (albeit ridiculously good-looking) women engaging with the real world.

The selections of images for each editor is entirely appropriate, bringing together a vital thread or theme that runs through each editor’s work (Grace Coddington – romantic, Tonne Goodman – the healthy body, Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele – the beginnings of high-low and street style).  Layouts are sparse – one collage per editor, then pages of one-photo spreads.  It is high-impact and very effectively done. We also get to see pictures of the editor’s themselves, their homes, their childhoods and can learn about their personal lives and motivations through each essay.

The essays are not of the same exacting quality.  While most are excellent, Michael Roberts’ essay on Coddington is rather fawning (‘best stylist in the world’ gets bandied around more than once) and reveals little about the enigmatic Grace that we don’t already know. Hilton Als’ profile of Camilla Nickerson starts as charming but evolves into a slightly heavy-handed dissection of photography and the female gaze.  On the other hand, de Dudzeele leaps out of the page with sheer personality and brio, while Phyllis Posnick’s story gives hope to aspiring stylists without suitably colourful origin myths.

The story of Vogue is reaching its zenith.  Through this book, casual fans of the magazine’s editorial team can now look at others who may have been overlooked due to time, trends or circumstance.  An excellent buy for Voguettes, wannabe stylists or those who just love beautiful fashion photography.

Vogue: The Editor’s Eye is published by Abrams and is out now.

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Fashion, Inspiration, The Reading List

Diet Coke Fashion Friday: Fashion Books Aren’t Just For Christmas (Part II)

Remember this?

“If you can’t think of the best gift that has yet to be given, let me suggest a book.  Books are great.  Unlike electronics, they don’t crash or freeze, they are incredibly tactile and the feeling of looking at a picture on a page is far superior to looking at one on a screen (it’s the glossiness, I think).

I’ve got some fashion book choices for the various people in your life.  Well, the people in your life who like fashion.  For everyone else, I’d suggest a book token.”

No? That’s grand – that was part one of my Christmas gift guide – now on with part two…

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1.  For the Voguette, the woman who wants to be Nuclear Wintour, or Alexandra Schulman, or Franca Sozzani, and has the Mt. Everest of Vogues to prove it, I’d suggest you get a copy of Vogue: The Editor’s Eye – a full review of which will be coming on Monday.  Focusing on the role of the fashion editor through the latter half of the twentieth century to the present day, there are some really nice spreads that throw light (rightfully) on women like Babs Simpson, Polly Mellen and Tonne Goodman.  You might not know who they are, but the Voguette definitely will.

Honourable mention - In Vogue: An Illustrated History of the World’s Most Famous Fashion Magazine

via Getting Beat Like You Stole Something

2.  For the (platonic) man friend who’s looking to up his game sartorially, there are two things.  First, give him a round of applause/packet of crisps for getting into personal style in a country where, except for a few inclusive pockets, it’s not incredibly popular to do so. Second, give him a copy of Style and The Man by Alan Flusser.  It’s all about suits and tailoring, so there’s nothing too avant-garde and there’s absolutely zilch that Flusser doesn’t know about knots, cuffs and how to get a good three piece made without compromise.

Honourable mention – Icons of Mens Style

3. For the street-style savvy friend who can’t get enough of The Sart (I was going to title this one the ‘street style slut’ before I realised how insulting that was), the newest book by the aforementioned Sartorialist is a great bet.  I wasn’t a big fan of the first book, but The Sartorialist: Closer really showcases just how damn GOOD Scott Schuman has got at capturing the personality quirks as well as the outfits of his subjects.

Honourable mention - The Sartorialist (eh, if it’s not broke don’t fix it).

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Fashion

Dublin’s Perfect Vintage…

… and luckily this vintage isn’t affected by the new wine tax.

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Irene and Ruth of The Vintage Sessions

This Saturday is shaping up to be quite the vintage-themed cornucopia of festivities in our fair capital. At 11am the fabled Shutterbug Kilo Sale will commence at The Chocolate Factory. No appearance by Willy Wonka, I’m afraid – just rails and rails of clothes handpicked by the uber stylish (and just lovely) Blanaid and her team. Click here for details. Oh, and a word of advice – get there EARLY!

Form about 11 or so to 7pm, The Vintage Sessions are taking place in a beautiful Georgian house (The South William Space) on South William Street.  This is a full-on vintage experience.  Fifteen euros gets you in, gets you a vintage hair and make-up makeover, a mini photoshoot on a paper moon, cocktails and a market with some of the best vintage sellers in the country (I’m especially looking forward to perusing Om Diva and the winter selection by the lovely Olivia at Elsa and Gogo).  Did I mention that there will be vintage talks and presentations too?

*NERDGASM*  Here is the running order of talks and presentations for the day.

12.00 Panel Discussion - The Evolution of the Creative Quarter and the Rise of Vintage in the Area

13.00 Presentation – The Lost Fashion History of South William St by fashion historian Ruth Griffin

2.30 Presentation – 1940s Irish Fashion, by photo historian Orla Fitzpatrick

4.00 Presentation - Forgotten Irish Style Icons by fashion historian Ruth Griffin

5.15 Panel Discussion - Vintage in Ireland Today and why so many are choosing to turn their passion in to a career

Irene (in the photo above) will be MC-ing

Panelists include Ruth Ni Loinsigh (Om Diva and Creative Quarter board), Kathy Sherry (Dirty Fabulous), Garry O’Neill (author of the rather amazing Where Were You Dublin street style book) and yours truly.  I’ll be taking part in the final panel talk so if you’re coming, please do say hi!

There may also be Ukelele playing…

To get your tickets for the event, email thevintagesessions@gmail.com

Entrance to the Shutterbug Kilo Sale is free, gloriously FREE.

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Fashion

Licentiate Column 06/12/12: Buy Irish (and Make a Better Christmas)

Even though I’m writing this column a week in advance, I think that I can predict with eerie, Nostradamus-like skills that it is cold, it is wet and it is utterly miserable outside. As temperatures drop and shoes made of natural fibres begin to degrade due to extreme schlepping through slush, it becomes more and more convenient to shop online.

I don’t need to extoll the many advantages of shopping online; if you have an internet connection and a credit card, then you’ll know what they are. However, buying presents from the safety of a small screen poses one quite distinct problem.

Buying online usually means not buying Irish. Not pumping money into the local economy means less money for everyone. I’ve skipped a few logical steps there, but this is not an economics column and I am not John Maynard Keynes.

Buy Irish, if you can. This is easy when it comes to fresh produce; we’re very lucky in Ireland in that respect. When it comes to fashion though, we literally are floating out on an island on our own.

But, and this labours the metaphor further, there are a limited number of life preservers to grab on to.

Craft fairs. One of the unexpectedly great things about a recession is seeing the reserve of strength and creativity being mined by an ever-increasing amount of people in Ireland. Stalls at craft fairs are no longer loaded with tat and fake-turquoise necklaces; now we can buy jewellery that isn’t self-consciously ‘crafty’ or homespun-looking but slickly executed. The democratisation of fashion makes professional techniques and materials more accessible, so your crafts are going to be of a better quality. Many designers and vintage sellers can be found at craft fairs. I quite like the The Fair Alternative, which is held in the old Unitarian Church near the English Market (next date – 8th of December).

Shop locally – online. I know, I know I said earlier that shopping online was the devil, but there’s always a loophole when Beelzebub is involved. Etsy (etsy.com) is a global marketplace but you can search for shops based in Ireland.  The new kid on the block, Prowlster (theprowlster.com) is an online magazine-cum-boutique that sell the best of Irish designers, including jeweller Merle O’Grady and designer Emma Manley. If you can’t choose just one thing, Prowlster also offer gift vouchers.

Local boutiques. If you have to buy that British-label dress, think about buying it in a local shop instead of online. While it’s important to shop for the best price, don’t immediately expect things to be cheaper online – you may be pleasantly surprised. You’d also be surprised at how many boutique owners are willing to haggle, which is more than can be said for online high-street retailers (trust me, I’ve tried).

Buying Irish this year isn’t just an easy way to give something unique to the person you love. It’s also a way for use to sew a tiny thread of confidence back into a country that has been torn, socially and economically, into shreds. If everyone does this, we make the first step towards mending ourselves.

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Fashion

Mama Said Knock You Out…

… with her sartorial nous.  My mother couldn’t punch her way out of a recycled paper bag.

I keep yammering on about my mother in columns and post, so it’s high time you saw a picture and put a face to the name (well, the name being ‘Mom’).

Paisley shirt from Zara, fairisle jumper from my mother’s own fair hands, lack of wrinkles a result of decades of Ponds Cold Cream use and no vices whatsoever – because I know you were wondering…

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