How to dress happy – with Zoë Coleman

Hey, look! It’s a blog post that isn’t a listicle. Yesterday, I had an article published in the Irish Times about the link between well being and being well dressed and by far, my favourite part of working on the article was reading back over vintage enthusiast and all around stylish lady Zoë Coleman’s interview. When it comes to healthy body image, style and happiness, Zoë’s your gal. She has great dress sense too.

You can read the original article – and see Zoë’s outfit – on the Irish Times website.

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1. What are you wearing in this photo?

I’m wearing a 1950s cotton dress with an Alfred Shaheen print in gold and royal blue. The tights are by Tabio, purchased in their Soho store and the red Mary Janes are by Melissa. The cardigan I picked up in a charity shop.

2. What makes it a happy outfit?
The strong shades of blue and red are uplifting, I love the contrast between the tights and shoes, they’re inspired by an outfit I once saw in a documentary about the British boutique movement of the 1960s and 1970s. I don’t usually wear full skirts but I love the fit and print of this dress – its very well made, and as a result I feel ‘put together’ and inevitably, very happy when I wear it! Wearing vividly coloured tights and socks never fails to lift my mood, living in the city can be so grey, its reassuring when I catch those flashes of colour as I’m walking and find that I don’t fade away into the grimy pavements of this city, I feel vibrant and alive.
3. What do your clothes say about your personality?
I’m rather introverted, and can be shy on first acquaintance. Instead, my clothes make a strong personal statement. I studied Art History to a Masters level and am enthusiastic about good design, the integrity of materials and the social history of fashion, especially twentieth century youth culture – which informs my own personal style. As a young queer woman, my lifestyle choices aren’t conservative and by extension, my clothes aren’t either. I don’t fit in with any crowd, I never have, and my happiness isn’t dependent on conforming. My clothes celebrate my difference. Film has always exerted a strong influence on my personal style, especially films like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and camp 1950s Technicolour musicals. Marc Bolan is my ultimate style icon, who had a very eclectic fashion journey, from a teenage Mod to a modern Dandy.
4. Do you think, objectively, that clothing can influence people’s mood?
Absolutely, we all have days when we want to pull on inconspicuous understated clothing, go about our business and not see anyone we know. People watching is a hobby of mine and I love seeing people’s personal style, especially in the city where it tends to be more daring – the brighter the better! People seem to dress a little formulaic these days, more than ever before – partly owing to the rise (and peak) of fashion blogs. I wish that people didn’t conform so much to trends as they change so quickly. But the internet has also allowed us to be more playful with what we wear, by giving us instant access to online and independent boutiques, which is especially great if you grew up in a small town like I did.
5. Do you ever use what you wear as a mood elevator?
I dress for myself and no one else, so its OK to not to be in the mood for dressing up when you’re not feeling 100%, like most people I would dress in a way befitting my mood that day. However dressing up when you’ve had your loyalties betrayed is a great way of lifting your spirits, as well as looking and feeling amazing when you bump into someone you don’t want to. On my days off, I take my sweet time over choosing what I want to wear for an event, or for meeting a friend, it makes me feel confident, ready for the world outside my front door. I usually plan my outfit by delving into my treasure chest of hosiery (ok so not an actual treasure chest, but a chest of drawers) and literally starting from the legs up and inside out – wearing colourful hosiery is a definitive mood enhancer! I made one New Year’s resolution this year, and that was to not save things ‘for best’, to wear my clothes and appreciate them, and to feel great in them even if I’m just going to the cinema by myself. You’re worth it, so believe it!
6. Do you have an item of clothing/accessory/etc that you turn to to help you feel happy or positive?
I’m not attached to any one item of clothing in particular (I love all my vintage pieces), but I have a collection of nail polishes that cover every possible colour on the spectrum. If I’m feeling low, I tend to pamper myself, and painting my nails is part of that self love process. Metallics and garish shades of oranges, greens and pinks are my favourites to make me feel happy and dolled up, even if I’m just staying indoors in my PJS. I have a grá for 1960s Welsh wool coats which come in some of the most fabulous contrasting colours, I have two that I wear regularly, and I always feel great when I slip them on. They’re so unusual and I’m always complimented on them, which is gratifying to hear sometimes.
7. Can you think of any instance in which clothing has made a person’s life better? Someone you know personally – it can also be yourself.
Yes! I began collecting vintage clothing when I started uni, eight years ago. It evolved into quite a passion, and through the internet I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate this interest, by joining online communities of people who share my interests, Twitter and Instagram are great for interesting people to follow! I’ve attended events in Dublin where I’ve met people with shared interests in the clothing of the 1940s – 1970s and whom have become great friends. I occasionally sell some of my clothes that have outgrown my wardrobe at markets around Dublin (Dublin Flea & Smithfield Market), and I established the Sligo Flea Market in my hometown. I have a friend in New Zealand that I’ve known for eight years and when we catch up across the timezones, amongst the usual twenty something chatter, we talk about frivolous things like vintage novelty print dresses – she’s got a very enviable collection of 1950s dresses, and lives in a beautiful pastel coloured house in Wellington.
8. Do you have any tips for building a happy wardrobe?
Be brave! Stop admiring and start wearing! Start small, wearing colourful accessories can brighten up more neutral, muted items of clothing, especially if you’re a little shy of colour. Don’t be afraid to contrast colours, dressing yourself should be fun, not daunting! Don’t play by the fashion rules, or wear what is ‘flattering’ for your shape, wear what makes you feel good, you’ll be happier if you do what you like, instead of trying to squeeze into that seasons latest trend that in reality only suits about 5% of the population. Hosiery, brooches and scarves are excellent, inexpensive ways to brighten up your wardrobe – take it from there! Advanced Style is a fabulous life affirming documentary that will almost certainly inspire you.
9. Anything to add to the subject or that you want mentioned?
My instagram is http://instagram.com/illbeyourmirror and twitter is http://twitter.com/acertainsmile – I love having new people to follow!
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Things to Read #29

Stella Bugbee, editorial director of The Cut, gets the Coveteur treatment at work.

Danielle Steel, romance novelist and couture enthusiast.

Are fashion ads just made for the web now? Zeitgeist-tapping has gone all meta on us.

“The milliners of Paris, attuned to current events that could be translated into quick profits, commemorated the momentous event with an allegorical headdress dubbed the pouf à l’inoculation. Perched atop a woman’s powdered and pomaded coiffure, it depicted the serpent of Asclepius, representing medicine; a club, representing conquest; a rising sun, representing the king; and a flowering olive branch, symbolizing the peace and joy resulting from the royal inoculation. In commemorating the royal inoculation, the milliners and their female clients helped to publicize it, and the practice—like the pouf—instantly became all the rage.” How inoculation became a fashion trend, and how fashion quelled anti-vaxxers.

How Playgirl went from ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ to dicks and Dog the Bounty Hunter. *shudder*

The amount of shit that Björk has had to put up with is rather worrying.

This isn’t new, but the ultimate guide to DGAF is always worth GAF about.

“I mean, obviously, he said, they had to have come from somewhere, but there wasn’t the same feeling of your hometown waiting to claim you, that sense of preordination that he had miraculously felt himself climbing clear of as he first rose above the clouds.” The most accurate description of leaving Tralee (or any small Irish hometown) as yet committed to paper, by Rachel Cusk.

A case for the Leslie Knopes of those world – though as a happy Liz Lemon, I still endorse this.

Susan Meiselas’ compelling photobook, Carnival Strippers, is forty years old

Mimi Brune’s Instagram feed is a still-life delight.

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Things to Read #28

Hey Girl! It’s been forever. Let’s get drinks! Oh my goodness. Almost a full month has gone by since I’ve posted one of these things. A full month to let the festive dust rise and settle back down again. I’ve just got back to London after an extended stay at home in Ireland, in which I did things that are better not to mention, or not really worth mentioning at all.

But I did do some writing; here are pieces from the Irish Times on 2015 trends and how to craft a wiser wardrobe with a little help from Socrates. And I got street styled for the Irish Examiner! This almost never happens.

On Tuesday, I went to the Egon Schiele exhibition in the Courtauld, which ends today. The Radical Nude is equal parts disturbing and erotic, and the space was full of septuagenarian couples nodding thoughtfully at drawings of women with hoiked skirts and red, pulsing vulvas. It was weird. But the exhibition was amazing.

In the spirit of New Year’s self-improvement (my resolution is to finish what I start this year – also to floss more but that’s never going to happen), here is a link to a jazzy printable to-do list.

John Galliano’s first couture collection for Maison Martin Margiela happened this week, and the reviews are in.

Are fashion models too skinny? Caroline Evans, who quite literally wrote the book on the subject, weighs in (accidental pun and IT STAYS).

Gerry Adams. In Burberry.

Joan Didion’s recent campaign image for Celine has sprouted a lot of think pieces, including this short one by Lynne Segal on women of a certain age, a dissenting essay by Molly Fischer in New York Magazine, and a total humdinger from The Awl by Hayley Mlotlek.

Pearl’s photobook for her friend Sadie.

How the survival issue of Charlie Hebdo was made.

Miranda July’s first novel is out, and she has written an essay for Vogue about falling for a River Phoenix lookalike that evokes a lovely/horrible, nostalgic tummy squishy feeling in me.

Broad City, female friendship and sexing up a stately oak tree. Watch Broad City. Just watch it.

Otherwise, it’s a day for bimibap, this playlist and some sort of inspirational shit.

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Things to read #27

Andre 3000 discussing tour jumpsuits at an art exhibition in Miami.

“When it comes to love and friendship and the normal things in life, I think I am patient. Fashion, however, does not know patience. It’s an abnormal life.” A snippet from a very very very in-depth interview with Raf Simons for 032c.

People have always and will always love checking themselves out. Views from a two-way mirror in 1946.

I met a man whom I soon became interested in romantically. Nothing physical had happened between us yet, but things were going in that direction. When he visited my apartment for the first time and was gazing up at a beautiful fashion photo of my mother, taken by Irving Penn, he said, “It must be hard to have a mother who’s that beautiful.” ‘The Looks You’re Born With,’ by Amanda Filipacchi.

Champagne glasses unfortunately have very little to do with Marie Antoinette’s boobs (and a little to do with Kate Moss’).

The mind-poking work of graphic designer and artist Barbara Nessim, and how it relates to Nessim’s former flatmate, Gloria Steinem.

Oh, Stewart Lee. You get it.

Kurt Vonnegut is one of my all-time favourite writers, but even the best people in their fields can come up with absolute howlers. Rape howlers.

On women and cancer, and being a woman writer with a woman’s cancer.

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Things to Read #26

This is late because 1) I was hungover and 2) I was working but 3) not at the same time, thankfully.

Here’s stuff I wrote for the Irish Times last week on supa stylist Celestine Cooney, who allowed me into her house, fed me cakes and let me flip through her magazines.

Beauty, anti-beauty and Instagram filters.

This post is worth looking at if only for Mae West’s 8 1/2 inch platform shoes.

Margaret Moser, veteran music journalist, on her life in music.

A handy primer on modernism and how modern art has gone a bit zzz.

Reading this New Yorker piece on hoarding, and worrying that you’ll die under a pile of old copies of The Gentlewoman and Acne Paper (they’re very heavy).

Chris Rock is doing the promotion rounds for his new film and he has a lot to say about a lot of things.

In praise of inactivity.

Things to Read #25

Things I wrote for The Irish Times on London food culture, online shopping for the holidays and waterproof Converse.

From the IT archive – a 1976 interview between Maeve Binchy and legendary designer Eileen Gray.

The very sad story of the real Lolita.

‘Best of’ lists can be a pain in the patoot but this 2014 books list is rather good.

Mad monarchs. The only kind of monarch, surely?

The Daily Mash, more onion-y than The Onion.

“Some readers had similar problems accepting a woman. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve picked up the phone in the sports department, answered some trivia question, and, when the answer didn’t win the guy a bar bet, had the caller demand, “Put a man on this phone.” Some simply called me a “stupid bitch” and hung up.”

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Things to Read #24

Patti Smith and David Lynch talk Blue Velvet and Pussy Riot.

Here’s a little something I wrote about people who wear pizza onesies, amongst other things.

Street style is dead – kinda.

Robin Givhan’s precise analysis of fashion is always great. Here’s her take on the new fashion exhibit at the Met, which focuses on mourning dress – “A widow was also a potentially dangerous woman, one with sexual experience who was untethered from marriage. Mourning attire marked her and served as a visual reminder of her formidable, discomforting knowledge.”

Bonus Givhan! A look at the journalist’s attitude to life and work.

A very thorough look at Vivienne Westwood’s new biography in the LRB.

Putin’s isolationist policies are changing everything in Russia – even the fashion industry. BoF’s two parter on the fashion media and retail sectors are essential reading.

Are you listening to Serial? (I’m not, but only because I want to wait ’til every espide is done so I can binge listen.) Here’s two articles on the more troubling aspects of broadcasting an already-troubling story. Spoiler alert, obviously.

“And I’ve never been able to believe that peace is a good present to give a young woman.” We need more advice columnists like Colette.

What it’s like to be an Instagram celebrity.

A look inside the gay wing (actual wing name – K6G) of LA Men’s Central Jail.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on the foolishness of ignoring the Bill Cosby rape allegations.

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Things to Read #23

A history of the New York Time Styles section, in which it is confirmed that every subject I write about is seen by the general public as totally inane and useless. Yay?

Before Kim K and her oily full-frontals by Jean Paul Goude, there was Saartje Baartman.

Hipster problems.

Taylor Swift must be exhausted after filming her new video. So many paradigms to shift, so little time.

One man and a forty year search to find his bully (spoiler alert; the bully turns out to be an utter shit).

Self-care: What it is, why it’s important and how one woman does it.

A recently unlocked profile on Madeline L’Engle, whose book, ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ bamboozled the hell out of me as a kid.

Are you stealing your partner’s personality? I’ll get worried when I start playing Grand Theft Auto.

Everybody sexts, apparently. NSFW, but it’s Sunday right now, so appreciate the saucy illustrations at your leisure.

Dubbing films in French is very complicated.

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Things to Read #22

Hello. Here is an article that I wrote on fashion and feminism. HOT TOPIC ALERT! Yes, it mentions Karl Lagerfeld. Ugh, what a total hack.

What’s to be done about the t-shirt problem?

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei makes his first foray into fashion photography and pisses off a lot of people by shucking paint over young designers’ creations (pics here). Robin Givhan has her take on it here.

After finishing off a thesis, working and then taking on even more work this week, I can confirm that work burnout does exist. One unfortunate symptom is that your brain starts to resemble badly-scrambled eggs. A less unfortunate symptom is the impulse to binge watch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries until the synapses knit themselves together again.

Mallory Ortberg’s ‘Texts From Jane Eyre’ may be the best Christmas stocking filler gift for the funny, socially-engaged woman in your life - note to my Dad, who once got me a copy of Derek Blasberg’s ‘Classy’ as a joke-but-also-not-a-joke.

My Little Bronie.

Was Vincent van Gogh murdered? Well, no, almost definitely not. But this is certainly a well-constructed flight of CSI fancy. Note to future biographers; Theo van Gogh would probably make an excellent 19th century Horatio Caine.

I don’t fucking care if you like it. Yes please.

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Things to read #21

Short and sour this week.

Did I spend most of my Friday, slightly hungover, reading these true-life scary stories and trying not to vomit with fear? Yes. No regrets.

The worst thing my nan ever made me eat was burned porridge, so this is pretty terrifying (but only marginally more than being forced to those horrible blackened oats that got stuck to the bottom of the pan).

What 100 looks like, as shot by David Bailey.

“And with that shift from scary to sexy, all that excitement, that innocent, spooky joy that Halloween had meant for us dissolved faster than the Junior Disprols our mothers had dispensed to us after too many trick-or-treat gummy bears.” One of the better calls to arms over Sexy Hallowe’en.

“I can’t decide which is more depressing: a culture in which a formerly apple-cheeked lovely like Zellweger should become so swollen and polished with “happiness” she becomes unrecognisable – and then vilified. Or one in which we are encouraged to nurture the delusional aspiration that if we “declutter” our lives, we might look like Julia Roberts. Both seem equally rotten.” Jo Ellison in praise of constructive vanity.

Terrifying featured pic via here.