Licentiate Column 21/11/13: Lived-in.


Isabella in the mirror. Photo by Rebecca Lewis.

The Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore exhibition opened this week at Somerset House in London and a few days ago I had the opportunity to go down, check it out and make a total tit of myself in front of a room full of journalists.

For those not in the know, Isabella Blow was the stylist who effectively discovered Alexander McQueen and Ireland’s own Philip Treacy, amongst others. She nurtured these designers, becoming a patron, a friend and a source of moral support. She was known as an eccentric, a visionary and a hat lover in possession of one of the world’s finest wardrobes. I say was because, in 2007, Isabella Blow killed herself by drinking Paraquat weedkiller – a terrible, painful death that is terrible and painful to think about.

I cried. Exiting the exhibition, I cried. Isabella Blow’s legacy was her wardrobe. It made me think of all the little bits and pieces I own that once belonged to people I loved, people I can’t talk to ever again.

A lot of my jewellery once belonged to my grandmothers. I have a 1950s US military ID bracelet that a visiting soldier gave to my maternal grandmother as a token of his affection. A Christian Dior necklace that a Texan gave to my paternal grandmother late in her life when she decided, almost on a whim, to spend some time in America after the death of my grandfather. Rings and bracelets. Rosary beads. For some reason, both had slightly different insect-shaped brooches in amber and crystals.

It’s a terribly morbid question to ask, but what will you leave behind? Isabella Blow left her clothes. She also left an immense amount of love and several books worth of memories, most of which are happy, all of which are remarkable at least in some small way.

My grandmother’s (and now my) ID bracelet is covered in dings and scratches. It was well-worn before it was put in a drawer for the best part of fifty years. Isabella Blow’s clothes are well-worn too. Hems are slightly muddy, heels are broken, delicate satin shoes are stained with water and puddly remnants. Clothes are a sign that a person has lived. Wearing out clothes is a sign that you are living properly. You are living a life filled with activity instead of passivity, not sitting around waiting to be noticed or admired.

There may be a mathematical equation here – the speed at which you wear out your clothes may be directly proportionate to the speed at which you accumulate experience and memories. Whether this holds water or not, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is living well, giving life everything you have and not being afraid to wear a massive hat when the occasion calls for it.

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…


I draw a lot on my family for inspiration, my grandmother in particular.  I don’t really know why.  I suppose she was just an inspiring kind of person.  She was really nice and generous and funny and stylish.  She taught me the fine art of thrifting.  She was also totally bonkers (something which has definitely been passed down through the generations).  I loved her a lot and I still think about her very often.  I’m not going to stop writing about her anytime soon.  Maybe never.

Recently, Rhona Nolan of Rose Tinted Uncertainty asked me to contribute an article towards her final year project at college called ‘Imitation of Man’.  Naturally, I thought of my slacks-wearing Nan.  I think it may be one of the best things I’ve ever written.  I am immensely proud of it and I love the layout, which is inspired by the text.  You can read the rest of Felt Magazine here.  Go on, click it.  I’ll wait here.

Not quite a secret

‘I think I’ll write a post about my new bracelet’, I said to my mother.

‘You can’t’.

My grandmother owned the bracelet.  It’s large, silver, chunky.  The links look industrial-sized on my wrist.  Not her style at all.  Both she and my grandfather have been dead for years.

‘Why not?’ I asked. ‘I’ve put pictures of her in her bloody bikini up on the blog before’.

‘Your Auntie Maureen reads the blog.  You can’t tell the story.  She wouldn’t like it’.

I think that she’s wrong.  Nan would get a secret kick out of being the subject of an intrigue.  She’d like being a muse.  But I won’t tell the story.

Instead, I’ll just tell you that this bracelet is my favourite birthday present.  It belonged to a US Soldier stationed in Germany in the early ’50s.  He gave it to my grandmother and my grandmother kept it until she died, fifty-five years later.  And I will always keep it with me.

A sure sign I need to streamline my wardrobe

It was my and my sister’s birthday on Friday, so we all came together for a weekend of food (lots of it. Lots and lots) and the odd burst of hysterical laughter. I came into my room one evening to find my sisters wearing the most ridiculous stuff that they could find in my closet. Not pictured are the cowboy boots and leopard print stilettos.

I still love my pleather trousers, though. And I will never stop buying outlandish things, never wearing them and stuffing them into my wardrobe until my sisters decide to play dress-up. Never.  And as long as they decide to play dress-up with my stuff, I’ll be around to put pictures of them on the internet. Oh yes.

Little/Woman’s Christmas

Today is the sixth of January, Little Christmas or Woman’s Christmas in many parts of the world.  In Cork, it has mutated into Little Woman’s Christmas, which is totally wrong, but when you imagine the womenfolk in your neighbourhood selling their hair for wigs or exchanging pickled limes it can make a fun mental image (a prize for the first person to get those references).

Women traditionally get together to have dinner, share their Christmas experiences and talk about how successful a haul they had, gift-wise.  You know, the TRUE spirit of Christmas stuff.  None of that religion guff.

Here are some of my presents.


A bottle of Chanel No.5

Gareth Pugh x Mac Nail Polish

A beautiful Vogue print

Some inspiring books and magazines (Dad, I really hope that ‘Classy’ was a joke.  I’m the perfect little lady *belches*).

A pair of out-of-this-world moon boots

A vintage brooch

An incredibly warm fuzzy festive feeling.

And a partridge in a pear tree. No, sorry, that’s an Illamasqua lipgloss

So, to my very generous family and friends, I say thank you.  You guys are the best.

Photos from my father

This past weekend I’ve been hanging out with my little brother while my parents have been in London. You know, the usual; I fed him beer, he didn’t do his homework and then I took an overdose and had to be revived with a huge adrenaline needle like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. As I woke up in the basement of that crack den, covered in blood and snot, I remember thinking, ‘Thank God for little brothers’.

I kid.  Mom, I know you’re reading this.  If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

While my parents were in London, my Dad decided to send me a few pictures.

These pictures are from the window of Soboye Soong.  Nice, eh?  My guess is that the shoes are from Finsk.  Anyone care to confirm/correct this?


Deirdre Waldron 5x7 Sepia

Related #5: Clothing as Memory

If you read yesterday’s post, then you’ll know what this photo is about.

This photo was restored by one of my aunt’s friends after she posted the picture on facebook – a really nice gesture.  My grandfather would have been 85 last week.  He was born on the same day as Marilyn Monroe.  Truefax.

I’m usually fine with people reblogging my pictures, but this is a family photo, so please don’t copy and paste this. If you like it, then share the link. Thank you.