Things to Read #37

We just sent off The Coven‘s first newsletter! This is very exciting.

“Shirts don’t go bad, they’re not peaches.”

“How do you erase a stereotype? You confront it, and force others to confront their own preconceptions about it, and then you own it. And in doing so you denude it of its power.” Vanessa Friedman on ‘girlie’ dressing.

The disconnect between art and life has never been more evident in the portrayal of Japanese Edo-period courtesans.

All my cool friends have been reading Renata Adler and I’m starting to feel like I’m missing out.

“We went there for the bass, and the trance state resulting from hours of dancing to riddim that stretched forever, the groove a fabric of stacked beats fractally splitting into halves of halves of halves of halves, a tree that spread its branches through the body, setting the governor beat in the torso and shaking its tributaries outward and down through shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, feet so that you couldn’t stop except when you collapsed.” Proustian ruminations on reggae by Luc Sante.

Nine episodes of the X-Files that you have to watch.

Horrible shit happens when you’re a full-time writer.

Good question: Why don’t more women run away to the woods?

All the different ways to be trolled by a misogynist. Great.


Things to Read #34

Happy International Women’s Day! It’s probably the right time to announce that I (and some standup gals) are launching a new website in April and it’s about women and there will be monthly themes and thinkpieces and personal essays and it will be very feminist but it will not be a Feminist Website. *phew* So, if you are interested in submitting, email me.

Very much looking forward to Robin Givhan’s book, The Battle of Versailles. Read a snippet here.

“When I’m at Fendi, I don’t even remember what I am doing somewhere else, and if I am somewhere else, I forgot what I did here. What I do for Chanel never looks like Fendi. I have no personality. Perhaps I have three.” Oh, Karl. You are so opaque.

Shooting, smoking, drinking: vintage photos of dangerous women.

The mechanics of feminine badassery.

“I worry about making pain a ticket to gain entry into the women’s club.” Abuse and violence and how that shapes a woman’s identity.

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.


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!

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.

Woman checking eyelid, in trick one-way mirror, wi

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.

LFW Craft 1/3 – Claire Barrow

London Fashion Week’s international reputation is that of risk-taking and unclipped creativity, but I think the real theme, especially with younger designers, is that of craft. Not crappy felt-and-PVA craft or horrible faux-naif stuff, but real craft. The kind of stuff that gets your hands dirty with paint, or slightly sticky, or smelling of interesting chemicals.

London has a slightly subversive edge due to the underground-ness of many of its presentations. For Claire Barrow, it was a soon-to-be demolished basement, once the home of the BBC Orchestra. A black void, painted empty space and loose wires. Also, free Jack Daniels.

Barrow’s hand painted visions of nightmarish, anthropomorphic characters are standing at the edge at the end of the world. Stupidly, I was reminded of kid’s TV show Adventure Time, where the world as we know it has blown up and the passing of a thousand years allows magic to grow back again. But much, much more nihilistic. No Bubblegum Princesses this time. Only darkness, with a sheer sliver of hope.





Photos by Kim Rehnstedt and edited by yours truly.

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Things to Read #16

Any excuse to lob up this Harper’s Bazaar editorial. ANY EXCUSE.

Yipes. I forgot to post last week, but the Rose of Tralee festival was on and I was there and so nothing was done. But I did write this thing on the festival for the Irish Times so, you know, silver linings and all that.

For those with nothing better to do on a Sunday, here’s Rolling Stone’s list of the 150 best Simpsons‘ episodes. A must for anyone who still knows all the lyrics to See My Vest.

“So, why write about Slimane now? Here’s why: If you accept that fashion reflects the times — and I do — then you have to concede that in this respect Slimane has been impressive, even prescient. His Saint Laurent collections perfectly capture the mood and values of the present. The need for simple messages. The triumph of branding. The shortening of horizons due to economic factors. The lack of prejudice toward old ideas, especially among young consumers.” Kathy Horyn resurfaces at the Times to tell us how, and why, high fashion is changing.

Dirty, dangerous ravers. The history of the DiY collective.

The man who found Lauren Bacall, mentored Calvin Klein and went sockless before everybody else, Baron Niki de Gunzburg is the subject of a lengthy piece for Vanity Fair.

“I think of the warmth and generosity of evenings in Azzedine Alaïa’s kitchen in Paris, which often ended after midnight with the first glimpse of a new design. How much I learned about Azzedine—and from him too. And I remember a drive I made in Belgium in 2005 with a nearly unknown Raf Simons, the door panels of his Volvo stuffed with empty cigarette boxes. So much for glitz, I thought.” Another piece by Kathy Horyn, this time about friendships in the fashion industry. On a personal note – though I’ve got many good and trusted friends in the industry, my GOD it’s still a murky body of water to swim in.


Things to Read #14

The 28th of July marked the centenary of the start of WWI. Much of the past few weeks has been eaten up with research into my great-great grandfather,  a career soldier who served at Gallipolli and died at the Battle of Verdun. A lot of Irish people don’t talk about family members who served in the British army during that time period. I suspect that, until now, it’s been a source of shame for a nation whose identity is so ingrained in rebelling against the British and the colonial system. Seeing the minutiae of a soldier’s life humanises the conflict. These men were not traitors. My great-great grandfather was my age when he died. He had four kids.

“His eyes, the one part of his original face still intact, dart like anyone’s eyes, and I find myself chasing them, the only reliable clue as to what might really be going on in there.” An excellent (and very long) look at Richard Norris and his exceptional face.

Fashion advertising – where has the controversy gone?

The curious, sexist world of the Irish model.

‘Beauty as Duty: Patriotism, Patriarchy and Personal Style during WWII’ – excerpted from the rather good Worn Archive book.

The Believer talks to Joan Didion.

Advertising without Photoshop. It’s art.


Things to Read #12

This week has been a bonanza of utterly terrible, heart-wrenching, soul-doubting stuff. A plane shot out of the sky, soldiers on several continents killing children and calling it justice, and all the rest of us screaming our outrage and helplessness into the ether.

An obsessive nature and insane fear of flying has led to days of pure MH17 research, tallying nationalities, cataloguing coincidences and fears. There are many links to share, but I think my heart would explode if I shared everything here. Sabrina Tavernese of the New York Times was one of the first journalists on the scene of the crash in the Ukraine. This is what she saw.

Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe, bottle blondes and why there’s no good writing on fashion. A collection of articles by the late, great fashion writer Anne Hollander.

The New Inquiry did a supplement on Lana del Rey and FINALLY I get it now.

“I have chosen to focus on girls, not (that) the boys (where present) were any less stylish, but because girls in “subcultures” have been largely ignored or when referred to, only as male appendages.” Anita Corbin’s Visible Girls: Pictures of Women from British Subcultures.

They blame the lack of political education in schools. Whether they like or dislike Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair, they distrust both the political industry and the related media. ‘Intellectual people chatting in bathrooms,’ comments Mel B.’We are society,’ exclaims Geri, ‘so really …’ ‘We should be running it,’ Mel B finishes the statement. From the Vogue Archives – Kathy Acker interviews the Spice Girls.

I would like everything from this Bonham’s jewellery auction please and thank you.

An encounter with the late Elaine Stritch in Central Park. Note – Jack Donaghy’s mother is the elderly lady I aspire to be.

The real Larry from Orange is the New Black tells his side of the story.

Alyssa Mastromonaco was deputy White House chief of staff for operations from 2011 to 2014. And then, she took a job at Marie ClaireHere, she argues that being stylish and being smart are not mutually exclusive things for women.

Documentary series This is Modern Art is up on Youtube in its entirety.