Fashion, Inspiration, Photography

Things to Read #6



Avocado toast seven ways. Avocado toast is SO GOOD. Seriously.

Literary Mothers is a new Tumblr favourite, but instead of cat GIFs, it’s essays about female literary influence (though if anyone makes a Flannery O’Connor GIF, I might cry with joy).

This woman is the reason we’re all checking our privilege these days.

10+ new essays re-examining seminal feminist texts, and why women need to look backward to go forward.

Street style at Frieze.

Looking for cracks in the fashion publishing machine.

And finally, Sarah Mower remembers Louise Wilson, the late head of the MA Fashion course at Central Saint Martins. One of the most remarkable and terrifying women I’ve ever met.


Fashion, Photography, Subculture, The Reading List

The Reading List: Seven Sisters Style

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Well, I read Rebecca Tuite’s new book on the female variant of prep, Seven Sisters Style, and it is just delightful. Really and truly delightful.

I’ve written more on the subject for today’s Irish Times. If you can’t pick up a copy, you can read it right here.

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Art, Fashion, The Reading List

Things to read #5

This week was Met Ball week. Hooray? I wrote a dress down for the Irish Times here.

Brandon Stanton’s pictures and profiles of the attendees (Bryan Cranston and his wife Robin Dearden, that’s forever love).

Martin Filler and Colin McDowell ruminate on the life and work of Charles James, the man this year’s Met Ball was all about.

A. Boogert and the underrated art of mixing watercolours. So many pretty colours

A. Boogert and the underrated art of mixing watercolours. So many pretty colours


I was never a huge fan of Elizabeth Bennet anyway. Lucy Snowe, on the other hand…

“But fuck Photoshop. Photos are already lies.” Molly Crabapple’s searing piece on Photoshop and feminism.

How the celebrity profile got to be great, and how it got to be so boring.

Art, Fashion, The Reading List

Things to read #4

It’s my birthday today, hooray! My family are over in London and we are eating our way through the city. And the sun is shining and I’m going to go for brunch soon, so I’m throwing up a few things worth reading before I take one more fatal bite and turn into a quesadilla or fancy chocolate mousse eclair.


Suspended fields of flowers by Rebecca Louise Law.

Caroline Evans on how clothing reminds us of all the people we’ve lost.

“If they hadn’t told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable.So when you ask me how I’m so confident, I know what you’re really asking me: how could someone like me be confident? Go ask Rihanna, asshole!

In short, her pain became her beauty — and by extension, her livelihood. It was a battle between the reality and the ideal, which would repeat for Hepburn as feminist elements warred with old-world patriarchy, in ways no more obvious than her long series of on-screen suitors. The hidden feminism of Audrey Hepburn.


The art of business cards.

Charles James, who has a retrospective opening at The Met very soon, was quite possibly one of the most underrated couturiers. Either that, or this is incredibly well written hype.

The secret history of Britney Spears’ lost album.

Twelve books about women on the road.

Why does Anne Boleyn obsess us? Anne of Cleves never had such a following. And Jane Seymour? Fuhgeddaboutit.

One of the best fashion instas this year.



Fashion, Subculture

Against Normcore

This is Vogue's idea of normcore, which I think is pretty nice. Photo by Jason Lloyd Evans

This is Vogue’s idea of normcore, which I think is pretty nice. Photo by Jason Lloyd Evans

It’s very nearly May, and summer is creeping up on us in a clumpy, unstealthy way. The days are getting longer and my memory is getting shorter. Hopefully, someday soon, I’ll blink and it’ll be July. I’ll have somehow fixed the wonky nose bit on my Ray Bans and all my friends will be in the park, drinking cans of cider and laughing merrily because everyone will have forgotten that normcore ever existed.

If one so-called trend could be a conformation of the grey, sludgy in-between times of not-quite-winter, not-quite-spring, it’s normcore. Nondescript, boring, the sandbank on which the ship of creativity has run adrift.

If you don’t know what normcore is, then bless you. You most likely have a real life, probably full of incidental things like responsibilities and dependents.

Fiona Duncan, the New York-based journalist who brought normcore to the masses (her article is a great introduction to the trend), categorises it thusly:

…not to describe a particular look but a general attitude: embracing sameness deliberately as a new way of being cool, rather than striving for “difference” or “authenticity.” In fashion, though, this manifests itself in ardently ordinary clothes. Mall clothes. Blank clothes. The kind of dad-brand non-style you might have once associated with Jerry Seinfeld, but transposed on a Cooper Union student with William Gibson glasses.*

The idea of normcore ballooned from there. It crossed continents. Suddenly, entirely black, grey and soft faded denim outfits with classic kicks underwent some sort of profound cultural transformation. Wearing American Apparel mom jeans and New Balance trainers were no longer the epitome of the easy, clean-lined uniform that many young women aspired to own. These outfits were now some sort of postmodern statement about the mutability of identity and the chameleonic nature of the social media age woman. What was once a logical addition to a wardrobe (those Nike Free Runs feel like I’m wearing socks!) is now proof that hipsters have overstretched themselves. They’re trying to be so hip, they’re square. Huey Lewis would be spinning in his grave if we wasn’t still alive and, presumably, too busy counting his royalty money from Sesame Street.**


Anyway, it’s bullshit. Normcore is nothing but fertiliser. It somehow got so big that even I couldn’t escape it. I pitched and wrote an article all about it for the Irish Times (that I 100% stand behind, by the way), because much as I hate the theory behind it, I love the clothes.

What we think of as ‘normcore’ isn’t actually normcore.

According to the trend forecasting agency that coined the term, K-Hole, what has just been described is not actually normcore.  Rather, it is ‘Acting Basic’, another term ingeniously devised by the company to describe dressing in as nondescript a way as humanly possible without just staying at home forever and ever, where no-one will ever look at what you’re wearing. Apparently, normcore is really about a person’s ability to adapt to any situation, much in the way a KISS devotee will slap on a few layers of face paint before heading to see Gene Simmons lick his bass.

It’s an unfortunate irony that the terms were coined by a company possibly named after the dissociative, out-of-body effects of large amounts of the anaesthetic (and recreational drug) ketamine. Normcore (or, indeed, Acting Basic) is fashion on too much K; emotionally narcotised, involuntarily motionless and, ultimately, not really worth it. It’s fashion that’s too sluggish to get a hard-on. That being said, too much normcore won’t result in having a tube put through your bladder.

What we understand as normcore is redefining something that never needed a definition in the first place

While there is a generally accepted theory that clothing is a language of its own, with many, many, many interesting books on the subject, trying to tack a whole underlying theory on what is essentially dressing in the most boring way possible seems a little bit revisionist. It’s like being in a poetry class where the lecturer is convinced that an image in a poem (a deer, for example) is some deeply convoluted metaphor for the fluidity of female sexuality in a post-post-postmodern, patriarchal society. However, the poem was written in 1693 and the poet himself would only have understood about two in five words coming out of the lecturers mouth.

It’s just a deer. That’s the beauty of poetry – and dressing up. It is however you read it. This goes for jumpers as well as metaphors. It’s just a black jumper. Many people wear simple clothing for all sorts of reasons. They did it before the theory of normcore ever existed. They don’t need to be defined as normcore now, or for the brief few minutes we have left on this hemisphere where the term has any sort of real relevance.

Normcore is generally bullshit whatever way you look at it

Constantly dressing to fit in, whether its a catch-all look that fits all situations or dressing specifically for every specific occasion, is the surrender of personal identity to banal, boring groupspeak. Uniformity is not always a good thing.

A confession. I dress in an accidentally normcore way about 90% of the time.

I do it because it’s easy. I don’t feel as if I have to make some kind of ironic statement on the pressure to be a sartorial stand out. I’m ok being me. Most of the time, Me is me in a big black jumper and a white shirt. It’s not about adaptability, it’s not about being ‘on-trend’ (that phrase should be burned at the stake, by the way) and although it implies uniformity, it’s definitely, DEFINITELY not about dressing just to fit in with all your normcore pals. Dressing the way I do and squeezing it into this little box called ‘normcore’ is a betrayal to the other 10% of me who enjoys wearing green and blue sequinned skirts during the day and being sniffed at by a totally uncool little old lady in the chemist.***

Be you. But be sure of this; whatever you are, it’s definitely not normcore.


Meet Norma Normcore (Vogue). Even Kate Phelan isn’t really a fan.

A brief history of normcore and other things that weren’t things before they became things (Quartz). Normcore is a blip and I probably shouldn’t have written so much about it.

Courtney Love Interview (The Quietus). Courtney Love learns about normcore and is totally into it.

*For ‘Cooper Union’, replace with ‘Central Saint Martins’ (London) or NCAD (Dublin)

**Though, as Sesame Street is a PBS show, we’d hope there wouldn’t be too much in royalties to count. Also, I threw the Sesame Street thing in there because I like the video.

***This happened last week and I did not particularly enjoy that bit, to be perfectly honest.

Fashion, The Reading List

Things To Read #3

“Then he told me, very tenderly, that it can be dangerous to believe things just because you want them to be true. You can get tricked if you don’t question yourself and others, especially people in a position of authority. He told me that anything that’s truly real can stand up to scrutiny.” – Sasha Sagan on words of wisdom from her father, the co-creator of legendary TV documentary series Cosmos

Editor of The Gentlewoman (and a personal publishing hero) Penny Martin talks to BoF about creating a niche, pander-free publication“I’m interested in what [The Gentlewoman] tells you about how modern women live… We make sure that the magazine is not just a pornography of product that is supposedly interesting to women.”

Jem and the Holograms fansite Rock Jem has catalogued 900 (!) outfits from the cult cartoon (now, depressingly, to be made into a movie by Justin Bieber’s manager, amongst others). In true nerd fashion, the outfits are arranged by character, colour, episode, everything. Just, everything. Jem forever.

Central Saint Martins MA Fashion students talk their final collections with i-D. I was extremely lucky in that I got to shadow the insanely talented, creative and hardworking Jessica Mort and watch everyone else toil away in the studios in the run-up to the MA show. Waves of the future, the lot of them.

I’m going to make the case that Broad City is better than Girls purely because I don’t hate myself whenever I watch Broad City. Not that the two shows should be in competition, but there’s enough twenty-something existential loathing going on without having to compare myself to Hannah Horvath every ten seconds. Also, Ilana Glazer. What a woman.

Supersisters! Feminist trading cards! I wanna Laura Lee Ching card.

Katie and Luella talking shop. I’ll forever mourn Luella and her bonkers, ponies-on-acid aesthetic, but her work with Katie Hiller for Marc by Marc Jacobs is an excellent indication of good things yet to come.

Legendary fashion academic Valerie Steele talks about fashion scholarship and I never said I wasn’t a nerd, ok?

“There was an aquatic show with dolphins; the dolphins tossed plastic oranges into the audience. My father caught one, which entitled our family to a gift beach bag filled with Coppertone products.” An oral map of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, by the people who visited it. Oral histories are a new obsession. Don’t ask me why because I blame reading World War Z.  Bonus stuff – oral histories of Wild Style, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Playboy Clubs, Gay Punk, Chuck Taylors, Disco, Charles Manson, Ghostbusters and the American Soap Opera




Fashion, Film, Photography, The Reading List, Things to Read

Things to Read #2

Winona Ryder as Heathers' Veronica Sawyer by Mike Mitchell

Winona Ryder as Heathers’ Veronica Sawyer by Mike Mitchell

Teaching The Camera To See My Skin – Some aspects of photography are racist. I did not know that.

AnOther Loves Tattoos.

Kurt Cobain died twenty years ago yesterday. His vigil was a covert suicide prevention rally as well as a memorial.

Karl Lagerfeld has the be the most quotable fashion designer alive.

A 6,000 word dissection of 10 Things I Hate About You. You’re welcome.

My Dad sent me this review of the new Lydia Davis book, unaware that I already had a copy. Paternal synchronicity (seriously though, it’s a good book). Super short stories that cut to the bone and experiences that are so specific but so common that you think Davis could be writing just for you and your weird little brain.

An Oral History of Heathers, one of the best teen movies ever made. Bonus points for Winona Ryder trying to sell Heathers 2 to Meryl Streep (co-starring Meryl as the First Lady) while filming in an rural Portugal, where Ryder knew Streep would have no escape.

Lest we forget though, Heathers was a biting satire with a serious amount of disgust for its characters.

Sex Ed for Boys. Communication, communication and more communication.