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 #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.

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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 #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 #20

“Still, for the women of Playboy who decided to step back in front of a photographer’s lens for New York, that sense of control, however illusory, was a large part of the appeal of posing — both then and now.” A look at Playboy Playmates from the 50s, 60s and 70s and how they view themselves now.

Joan Didion wrote ‘On Self Respect’ to an exact character count, just as Vogue was going to press. Vogue has republished it here, with the original layout.

A letter to the late Oscar de la Renta.

Eight writers on classic images of fashion, power and women. Chanel, Dietrich and… Merkel?

To live in Alan Moore’s brain.

“I was passionate about school. I wanted to be at Yale forever, holding people, writing down literary revelations, reading from tales of men long dead, smiling from inside out. The idea of returning to a dressing from in a Winnebago, being called Miss Foster, seemed foreign, unnatural.” Jodie Foster’s 1982 Esquire essay on fame, college and John Hinckley Jr.

There are a few good aspects to the ever-worsening weather, and one of them is the opportunity to stay inside and eat more complex carbohydrates. A one-two punch of sweet and starch, the sweet potato, is a godsend. It’s cheap, it’s filling, and it’s the one vegetable you can acceptably eat with melted marshmallows.

 

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Things to read #18

There is much to say about last week’s Chanel show – a rather cruel joke played at women’s expense. A lot of people made a lot of unimpressed noises.

Vogue catalogues the best of the new(ish, mostly U.S.-based) indie magazines.

“My walk-in closet with a rug thick as a blanket. I lie on it and stare at my clothes like they are my psychoanalysts. They are.” Arabelle Sicardi muses on what the contents of her closet taught her.

Judith Thurman’s 2005 profile of Rei Kawakubo has been recently unlocked by The New Yorker.

“A little screen played the footage of Emily Davison going under the King’s horse on loop. Her glorious ‘mistake'; did she intend death, or just distraction? We’ll never know.” Suffragettes at the Museum of London.

Before I came back to London after a summer misspent at home in Ireland, I made a Mexican dinner for fifteen friends. This Buzzfeed piece on carnitas and homesickness strikes so many chords it could be packaged into a One Direction b-side.

The jarring GIFs of Kevin Weir.

The jarring GIFs of Kevin Weir

The women fighting ISIS, and the stopped heartbeat of the editor’s note.

Every book that Daria Morgendorffer read or mentioned – and where to get it for free.

I’ve been reading a lot of advice columns since starting my own humble fashion advice series for the Irish Times (for ‘humble’, read ‘piss-taking'; my mother calls me ‘Mrs Mills with clothes’ and I choose to take that as a compliment). Unf**k Yourself with Scaachi Koul is becoming a fast favourite.

While it’s essentially a plug for a sauce range, this piece on former Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba and his formidable wife Shauna gives me hope for the future of WAGs.

From nothing to something and nothing again. A graphic exploration of one person and his relationship to the universe.

Featured image via.

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.

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Photos by Kim Rehnstedt and edited by yours truly.

This Pink Flamingos inspired editorial is a bit of fun.

Things to Read #17

Hello hello hello.

Here is a (very) little something I wrote for the Irish Times on Summer trends that’ll carry through to Winter. Ugh, Winter. When did that happen?

This Pink Flamingos inspired editorial is a bit of fun.

Ann DeWitt on Annie Leibovitz on Susan Sontag.

I disagree with an awful lot of this, but it still raises a few pertinent questions, like, when exactly are we going to get rid of all the clichés in fashion writing?

And on the flip side, why isn’t there more fashion writing like this? Side note – the book mentioned in this article, Women in Clothes, is a real treat for anyone interested in personal style over fashion. There’ll be a piece in the Irish Times (and a review up on this here blog) closer to the European release date.

WWD gathers ten high school girls to talk about their back-to-school outfits. I’m aware this is probably filler for a lot of people, but coming from a country where uniforms are pretty much compulsory, this is weirdly compelling.

Rick Owens, his huge sculpture and his non-existent sample sales.

Part 1 of things that annoyed me this week – people who wear Native American headdresses to festival, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they’re being racist. Who cares though when you look this fab, amirite? Nice one, you guys. Get a clue. I’m begging you.

Part 2 – I really love Susie Bubble’s work, but this article for the Independent, exploring whether you can wear designer looks can be worn in deprived parts of London strikes a really odd note for me. I guess it helps that Susie lives in Haringey (as do I, shout out to all my pals on the 242 bus) but it has a bit of a whiff of poverty porn. It’s a little off – though, as ever, the looks are on point.

Part 3 – Some very unfortunate truths about fast fashion that will probably make you rethink ever buying something with sequins on it again. There’s a reason that Ashish stuff is so expensive – because it’s not made with slave labour. (yay?)