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Things to Read #36

Read all of Cathy Horyn’s Fashion Month reviews online. She gets it.

“From Barnum’s correspondence it becomes clear that accepted ideas about the Circassian ‘beautiful white slave girl’ were paramount in his decision to add them to his roster.” Circassian beauties and how the freak show was fashioned.

“That Anna was not invited to Bob Marley’s funeral and spent the day inventing that thing where models layer designer vests over T-shirts.”

The New Yorker style issue is out this week, and that means some great fashion longreads are in store. Online; a photographic portfolio of Callot Soeurs’ dresses and an essay about the fashion makeover of the humble Birkenstock.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is doing Vogue’s ‘Today I’m Wearing…’ this month.

Margaret Atwood loves Game of Thrones. Unsurprised.

MIA reflects on the tenth anniversary of Arular and unsurprisingly, Diplo turns out to be a Not Great Person. But Arular is still a great album, so I guess the lesson we can all learn is… Shit happens? Even talented people can be horrible? 10 Dollar is still a total choon?

“The funny thing about time in the OR, whether you frenetically race or steadily proceed, is that you have no sense of it passing. If boredom is, as Heidegger argued, the awareness of time passing, this is the opposite: The intense focus makes the arms of the clock seem arbitrarily placed. Two hours can feel like a minute.” But then Paul Kalanithi got cancer, and time started to warp.

Like most young women suffering from a Girls hangover, I have found a new love in Broad City. That being said, it’s almost heartening to know it’s not universally loved – and with good reason.

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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 #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.

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The Reading List: The Vogue Factor…

… by Kirstie Clements.

Clements, the Vogue Australia editor who was unceremoniously sacked in 2012, says something in her book that will really hit home with fashion journalists; a newspaper mentality is one that criticises negatively by printing negative reviews, but a magazine mentality is one that criticises negatively by omission. Kirstie Clements has a definite magazine mentality.

For from being the hatchet job that most people were expecting, The Vogue Factor is not a vicious exposé (though the less said about Australia’s Next Top Model, the better), but an informative read through the procedures and practises of a lesser-known Vogue. It’s also a timely reminder that, no matter how high you rise in the editorial ranks, there will always be some kind of invisible pecking order. The Australian fashion industry is beset with problems that are particular to a country that is relatively hard to get to, that relatively few people get to visit, with a relatively small fashion industry (According to Clements Australia has a fair amount of ‘surfies’ and ‘bogans’ – according to a judicious Wikipedia sweep, my new favourite word is ‘usually pejorative or self-deprecating, for a person with an unsophisticated background, or whose speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour exemplify a lack of manners and education). Unique problems means that there has to be a set of unique solutions, and Clements has obviously become, throughout her tenure at Vogue, an incredibly astute problem solver.

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So; not a tell-all. It’s a tell-a-little. There are no juicy anecdotes, no backwards swipes. no secrets spilled like so much Chanel nail varnish. The only sharks here are in the ocean.

Clements is at her writerly best when she’s talking about how hard it is to get tickets for Paris RTW shows, the worrying expectations put on models or the tricky art of negotiating honest content between the PR and the page. It’s very solid, and Clements comes across as a thoroughly likeable person who has no time for slug-a-beds and the unmannerly. A disproportionate amount of the book is dedicated to describing lavish press days and parties in France and New York, which can be a bit discomfiting. Is she promoting the PRs’ products all over again?

Those who want a job in the fashion industry should pick up a copy of this book. If you put down this book feeling disillusioned after finishing, that’s fine. The Vogue Factor, apart from the press day chapters, is free of the filtered, rearranged, idealised bullshit that most magazines are at pains to project to their audiences. It’s an honest look at an industry that deals quite often with fantasy and artifice. Just don’t bank on any tidbits about Anna Wintour.

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Punk, or a Facsimile of

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– From Vogue Russia, October 2013

Punk has become very glossy, hasn’t it?  It’s been appropriated and bastardised and distorted and machine-gunned and laquered beyond all comprehension.  And yet…

I rather like this editorial.  It pulls together as-yet unmined aspects of punk (like how feminine it could be – in an intrusive, slightly threatening way) and is still incredibly high-end and glossy, albeit with a slightly slimy edge.  It might be the massive Mint Aero that I’ve just eaten, but I feel a little queasy looking at it.

It reminds me a little of this don’t-care photo of two punks on the Kings Road, as shot by Steve Johnston.

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Johnston also talks to Nick Knight of Showstudio about shooting these particular punks (with a camera, I assume).


If that floats your boat, Showstudio have much more up online as part of their Punk: Photography Exhibition.

A Pop, Op and a Jump – Lacey for Vogue Nippon

British Photographer Lacey was an assistant to Tim Walker – and it really shows. Her inventive use of props (by design pair Craig and Karl) and collaboration with make-up artist Andrew Gallimore have made the pages of Vogue Nippon even more mind-bending this month. Styled by Beth Fenton, it’s part Pop, a little Op and a big, glam wheelbarrow of weird brilliance.

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The Reading List – Vogue: The Editor’s Eye

I went for breakfast with a good friend of mine last Sunday.  She’s a writer at a (really great) magazine and together we talked about the merits of freebies – non-editorial speak for ‘products for review’.

I was talking about getting a PDF of a book for review.  This is new.  I’ve never been given a PDF to review before, so one has to refine what it is about a book that makes it special.  You’re more focused on the contents, not on the weight and heft or how tactile the experience can be.  She said, Oh yeah, sometimes I’ll go into the beauty desk, see the YSL and think, ‘Tch, where’s the Tom Ford?’

There was a slight pause, then she said to me, “We really are snobby a**holes, aren’t we?”.

And we really are.  It was a humbling moment.

While the feel factor of a coffee table book is the thing that keeps the publishing industry alive, it’s the contents that are really important.  It’s what’s inside the file (or the lipstick tube) that counts.  I can’t believe how lucky I have been this year in regard to getting books for review.  I’ve loved reading everything and am incredibly grateful to the PRs who deem my sphere of work important enough to read their books.

So, with that earnest anecdote aside, this is a review of Vogue: The Editor’s Eye, which, onscreen, looks like this:

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…but in bookshops, looks a little like this.

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Before reading the book, I took a trip to my local Eason’s to get a look at the book proper.  I found it (rather disingenuously in the ‘Health’ section), wrapped in cellophane, a tome not to be desecrated with my grubby hands.  It is huge.  Monumentally so.  It is the kind of huge that could easily cover an entire coffee table.  It has the kind of weight that potentially says ‘I Am a Very Important Book’.

The Editor’s Eye charts not only the careers of Vogue’s best fashion editors, but also plots an overarching route through the magazine’s general images, from the mid twentieth century to present day.  How did the world’s most popular fashion magazine go from this…

January 1, 1950.  Whiling away an afternoon, in dresses from the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.   © Irving Penn/Condé Nast Archive

January 1, 1950. Whiling away an afternoon, in dresses from the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. © Irving Penn/Condé Nast Archive

..to this?

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November 1988. The novel combination of a Christian Lacroix couture jacket with jeans, worn by Michaela Bercu on the cover of Anna Wintour’s first issue of Vogue. © Peter Lindbergh

How did it go through these changes so seamlessly? The truth is that these changes weren’t so seamless, but the fact that Vogue went through seismic shifts, multiple firings and the odd acrimonious dispute is one that the book cheerfully ignores. It’s not a tell-all; rather it is a show-all.  The focus is rightfully on the specific editors’ careers and not focused on what the editor-in-chief was (or wasn’t) doing at the time.

As an introduction to the various fashion editors who captured the zeitgeist and made American Vogue the magazine panopticon of style that it is today, it is seamless.  Each editor is introduced with an essay and a selection of photographs from Vogue’s archives.  I especially enjoyed the essay on Babs Simpson who, at 99 years old and still telling anecdotes about how she accidentally told Carmel Snow to ‘F**k off’, is the woman who transformed models from static pedestal-dwellers to real (albeit ridiculously good-looking) women engaging with the real world.

The selections of images for each editor is entirely appropriate, bringing together a vital thread or theme that runs through each editor’s work (Grace Coddington – romantic, Tonne Goodman – the healthy body, Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele – the beginnings of high-low and street style).  Layouts are sparse – one collage per editor, then pages of one-photo spreads.  It is high-impact and very effectively done. We also get to see pictures of the editor’s themselves, their homes, their childhoods and can learn about their personal lives and motivations through each essay.

The essays are not of the same exacting quality.  While most are excellent, Michael Roberts’ essay on Coddington is rather fawning (‘best stylist in the world’ gets bandied around more than once) and reveals little about the enigmatic Grace that we don’t already know. Hilton Als’ profile of Camilla Nickerson starts as charming but evolves into a slightly heavy-handed dissection of photography and the female gaze.  On the other hand, de Dudzeele leaps out of the page with sheer personality and brio, while Phyllis Posnick’s story gives hope to aspiring stylists without suitably colourful origin myths.

The story of Vogue is reaching its zenith.  Through this book, casual fans of the magazine’s editorial team can now look at others who may have been overlooked due to time, trends or circumstance.  An excellent buy for Voguettes, wannabe stylists or those who just love beautiful fashion photography.

Vogue: The Editor’s Eye is published by Abrams and is out now.

Diet Coke Fashion Friday: Fashion Books Aren’t Just For Christmas (Part II)

Remember this?

“If you can’t think of the best gift that has yet to be given, let me suggest a book.  Books are great.  Unlike electronics, they don’t crash or freeze, they are incredibly tactile and the feeling of looking at a picture on a page is far superior to looking at one on a screen (it’s the glossiness, I think).

I’ve got some fashion book choices for the various people in your life.  Well, the people in your life who like fashion.  For everyone else, I’d suggest a book token.”

No? That’s grand – that was part one of my Christmas gift guide – now on with part two…

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1.  For the Voguette, the woman who wants to be Nuclear Wintour, or Alexandra Schulman, or Franca Sozzani, and has the Mt. Everest of Vogues to prove it, I’d suggest you get a copy of Vogue: The Editor’s Eye – a full review of which will be coming on Monday.  Focusing on the role of the fashion editor through the latter half of the twentieth century to the present day, there are some really nice spreads that throw light (rightfully) on women like Babs Simpson, Polly Mellen and Tonne Goodman.  You might not know who they are, but the Voguette definitely will.

Honourable mention - In Vogue: An Illustrated History of the World’s Most Famous Fashion Magazine

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2.  For the (platonic) man friend who’s looking to up his game sartorially, there are two things.  First, give him a round of applause/packet of crisps for getting into personal style in a country where, except for a few inclusive pockets, it’s not incredibly popular to do so. Second, give him a copy of Style and The Man by Alan Flusser.  It’s all about suits and tailoring, so there’s nothing too avant-garde and there’s absolutely zilch that Flusser doesn’t know about knots, cuffs and how to get a good three piece made without compromise.

Honourable mention – Icons of Mens Style

3. For the street-style savvy friend who can’t get enough of The Sart (I was going to title this one the ‘street style slut’ before I realised how insulting that was), the newest book by the aforementioned Sartorialist is a great bet.  I wasn’t a big fan of the first book, but The Sartorialist: Closer really showcases just how damn GOOD Scott Schuman has got at capturing the personality quirks as well as the outfits of his subjects.

Honourable mention - The Sartorialist (eh, if it’s not broke don’t fix it).

Edith Wharton in Vogue

These pictures are a few months old (and therefore ancient in fashion/internet terms) but I still want to share this Annie Leibovitz spread for American Vogue.  Styled by Grace Coddington, Natalia Vodianova is novelist Edith Wharton on her Massachusetts estate, The Mount.  Flanking her is novelist Jeffrey Eugenides as Henry James, Boardwalk Empire actor Jack Huston as her mercurial lover William Morton Fullerton and an interesting cast of supporting characters including Elijah Wood as her chauffeur (!) and James Corden as Teddy Roosevelt (!?!).

The editorial is rather static and dreamy and Old World-ish, and there are cameos from American men of letters like Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz (no women, unfortunately).  It’s also accompanied by a rather lovely piece by Colm Toibin, which you can read here.  I suppose the only bone to pick is that Wharton was supposed to be about 45 at this time, while Vodianova is… not.  Kristen McMenamy might have made a better Wharton or, as one of the original commenters suggested, perhaps a female novelist would have been best.

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