Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Art of Autumnal Dressing

As autumn looms and the days grow colder, it is time to explore how you will update your wardrobe. Upon the arrival of a new season, I advocate not only making additions to your wardrobe, but also having a clear out. Like a gust of autumnal wind, a wardrobe detox blows away the dust and leaves you feeling refreshed and ready for action.

If you’re not careful, autumn can lead your wardrobe onto a path of drudgery and delusion. One misstep in this sartorial season and an awful autumn is followed by a woeful winter. If you begin autumn thinking that you can get away with a baggy brown jumper and a tatty scarf, by winter you'll look like the personification of frumpiness and complacency. 

The biggest autumnal mistake is the misuse of colour. Although you cannot get away with pastel coloured candy stripes, an autumn wardrobe should not be limited to grey, brown and navy. Instead, peruse the purples, yearn for yellows, and rise above the melee in metallics. Here's some inspiration to get you started!

Collared Dress - £15, Lace Dress - £347, Skirt - £36, Checked Shirt - £30, Cushion - £240

Sienna Coat - £189, Scarf - £23, Shoes - £30, Trousers - £30, Blouse - £33

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Are Designer Replicas Fair Game?

Whilst trawling through the pages of SheIn, a very familiar dress caught my eye. A full-skirted, brightly striped dress adorned with children's drawings jumped out at me. It was an exact replica of a dress featured in Dolce&Gabbana's recent advertisement in British Vogue's September issue with a comparatively minuscule price tag.

Confusion followed by "how?" followed by "should I?" ensued. I was incredibly tempted to purchase the reproduced dress for about 60 seconds and then I started to think about how this dress had originally come into being. Hours and hours of designing, sourcing, altering, checking, market research and advertising had culminated in D&G producing this dress. Then SheIn had swooped in and nicked it. 
Although legal as long as they don't claim that the dress is D&G, it still feels wrong. Dresses such as this are works of art, and deserve to be admired and respected, not replicated in cheap materials for mass consumerism. 

The average person can't afford a wardrobe bursting with authentic designer items, hence the black market for fake designer items is rife globally. A holiday in Europe isn't complete without a handsome local approaching you to offer 'Prada' handbags for €50. It has been estimated that losses to designers as a result of fake handbags total $70 million.
A street seller in Barcelona sells counterfeit designer handbags
If you can't afford to buy a designer item, the best option is to buy second hand. My treasured sites are BuyMyWardrobe, William Vintage, Hardly Ever Worn It, Naughtipidgins Nest, Style Sequel, and The Little Black Dress Agency. They require a bit of time to sift through the many pages, but you can find some real designer gems for more realistic prices! I've got my eye on this MSGM boucle jacket, and these Prada shoes, and this Prada shirt, ooh and those Mulberry bags on Naughtipidgins... I could be gone for a while! 

Monday, 17 August 2015

The One Thing No One Will Tell You To Take To University

A Level Results are in, and whether you got your first choice university or were temporarily in educational purgatory whilst going through clearing, you now know where you’re headed. You are inundated with a wealth of advice on what to take to uni, recommendations to ‘keep your bedroom door open’ during the first few days in halls, and panic searching TSR for the nitty gritty insider info about your impending halls of residence/classes/what the typical student wears at your respective university.

It stems from a desire to fit in. Every fresher wants to get off on the right foot so that they can have the best possible start to an unforgettable, mind-bogglingly incredible few years at university. The key is preparation. There is one, seemingly inconsequential item which no one will advise you to pack in your already overflowing suitcase but which is undeniably necessary: a ball gown.

There will be opening/freshers’ balls, sports’ balls, Christmas balls, summer balls, end of year balls, society balls, and ‘any other reason you can think of for having one’ balls. The dress requirements can range from cocktail dresses (sports’ balls) to formal ball gowns (Christmas ball). The frequency and formality of balls will vary depending on which university you’re off to, but taking at least one semi-formal and one formal dress with you will avoid any last minute sartorial scrambling. Of course if your old prom dress is still your style and fits you well, then take it. If you've changed a lot and feel like breathing new life into your formalwear, then here are my picks for a variety of budgets.

Green, Pink, Cream
Black/Gold Maxi, Gold Short, Drop hem

Colour Block Maxi, Turquoise Short, T-shirt Maxi
Good luck at university, you'll have a ball! 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Fashion Inspired Decor

Yesterday afternoon during my leisurely Sunday wanderings, I popped into a local interior design shop. Unable to resist and with a new home on the horizon, I treated myself (code for 'splashed out when probably shouldn't have done') to this unusual but strikingly stylish wall clock in the shape of a fob watch. 

As a result, I have now become fanatical about having fashion inspired accents dotted around my impending abode. Adding a mixture of quirkiness and personality, they are an essential addition for any style lover's home. Here are my favourite fashion furnishings: 

1. Fob Wall Clock £35 - M&S (highstreet version of the one I bought but practically the same!)

2. Crown 40 Years of Fashion Wallpaper £10/roll - I Love Wallpaper

3. Lampe Berger 'Athena' Perfume Shaped Lamp £53.50 - David Shuttle

Lampe Berger - The Twilights - 'ATHENA' Flame Glass Lamp, Black
4. Framed Vogue 1950 Blumenfeld Cover £77 - Redbubble


5. Rent or Chanel? Cushion Cover £16 - Etsy

Rent or Chanel? Pillow Cover. Fashionista, present, housewarming gift, cushion cover, , Free US Shipping

6. Coffee Table Fashion Books - Waterstones (click on images for link)

Vogue: The Covers (Hardback)Twenty-Five Dresses: William Vintage (Hardback)

"Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life"
 Bill Cunningham

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Louboutin: The World's Most Luxurious Shoes

Monday night saw Channel 4 exploring the raunchy but artistic world of Christian Louboutin. The documentary, entitled 'Louboutin: The World's Most Luxurious Shoes', was a charming portrayal of Louboutin as a character and gave a fascinating insight into the sources of his inspiration. 

Admittedly, I thought Louboutin was going to be off his rocker. I was pleasantly surprised by his endearing demeanour and evident self-awareness. It became clear as the programme ensued that the Louboutin brand was an absolute reflection of Louboutin's stylistic vision for women. 

I have always dismissed Louboutin shoes as the hallmark of a WAG, as being cheap looking (despite their average price tage of £600) and (dare I say it?) trashy. This documentary, however, offered a depth and credibility to the brand which I had previously found to be lacking. Louboutin detailed his fascination with film clips in which empowered women stalked sexily in high-heels. Forming the beginnings of his vision, Vivement Dimanche (1983) and the sexiness of Marilyn Monroe's walk in Some Like it Hot (1959) provided seductive inspiration.

Through a cinematic Caesarean, his brand was born.    

Since its conception in Paris in 1991, the Christian Louboutin brand has seen a meteoric rise in popularity. When questioned on his famous clients, the same discretion which has earnt him the trust of the A-listers which bolster his image, was evident in his answering. He presented Angelina Jolie's Maleficent shoe which she had worn to every première, he spoke of the image of a forelorn Princess Diana looking down at her feet as the inspiration for his pair of trademark red 'LOVE' emblazoned navy shoes. Yet, in a display of cautionary intelligence, he never once told a piece of headline-grabbing gossip. Referencing this, he said he thought of his role as that of a doctor with a confidentiality clause: "a doctor has secrets and a doctor never speaks of his patients.". 

Christian Louboutin: The World's Most Luxurious Shoes.
Louboutin with his Diana 'LOVE' inspired shoes

This interesting and humane nature of Louboutin as a person was furthered by the revelation of his recent venture in Bhutan (where he is of course personal friends with the Bhutanese royalty). Through the artistic enterprise of a group of Bhutanese students, Louboutin encouraged the creativity of a traditions-based culture. The students painted wooden blocks in the shape of shoes with varying designs of their own imagination, ranging from cigarettes to vividly coloured patterns. Louboutin then transported the hand-painted wooden blocks to Paris (so that he could make his selections in neutral surroundings without the emotional influence of Bhutan) where he chose the best pieces which would feature in his collection.

It may seem the polar opposite from the fetish-orientated foundations of his brand, but this venture only serves to demonstrate the pure artistry and expressiveness of Louboutin shoes. Louboutin as a brand serves not only to make women walk taller and more seductively (Christian notes that the high heel forces women to push out their breasts and pull back their shoulders in order to stay balanced), but also acts as the footwear representative of haute couture. It isn't practical, it isn't useful, but it is someone's vision. 

Bhutanese Student's Designs 

Louboutin testing a prototype of the Bhutanese Designs 
“You are going to see a documentary about someone who’s been loving what he’s doing, but he’s doing something totally useless,” said Christian Louboutin. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Balenciaga: Master of Lace, Master of Us All

Three Weeks. That's the exact amount of time you have left to visit the Balenciaga exhibition at the Museum of Lace and Fashion in Calais. With the current Eurotunnel situation, if you set off now, you might just make it!

Fashion is often derided by academics, but just like empires, colonies, and kingdoms, fashion has its own swirling history. Fashion is affected by wars, influenced by revolution, and an accomplice of social change. Where textbook history has figures such as Napoleon, Hitler, and King Henry VIII, fashion history has Chanel, Dior, and Balenciaga. They are not equatable in their actions, but in the size of their impact.

The now classic trench coat originates from the horrors of WW1, the mini skirt invigorated the equality and female liberalism campaign of the 1960s, and fair trade clothing companies such as People Tree highlight a growing social awareness of the need to end human exploitation. Fashion acts as an indicator of widespread societal movements and discontent. 

Cristóbal Balenciaga as a couture figure is one of the greats. As a trained tailor, he re-defined the silhouette of women's clothing, and then did it again, and again. He is quoted as saying, 

"A couturier must be an architect for design, a sculptor for shape, a painter for colour, a musician for harmony, and a philosopher for temperance."

The result? Freedom for women. Tunic dresses, sack dresses, baby doll dresses which effectively eliminated the waist,  peacock tail dresses (now known as dropped hem), the empire line: he created them all. He gave women choice. 

The current exhibition in Calais provides an insight into the relationship between Balenciaga and lace. It traces how Balenciaga explored the charm and potential of lace, incorporating it as both decoration and as the main fabric. The curator of the exhibition, Catherine Join-Diéterle, notes the designer's enduring love of lace; '“It was consistently present in all his collections, even during his first in 1937 and his last in 1968.” 

Evening dress
Baby Doll Dress, 1958, courtesy of  the V&A

Balenciaga  by Boris Lipnitzki, 1927

Balenciaga did not court the hype that Christian Dior did, or make proclamations as Coco Chanel was wanton to do. He was a quiet revolutionary, who quite literally re-shaped fashion forever and will always be revered in haute couture history. 

Balenciaga Sack Dress
Balenciaga Peacock Tail Dress  

"Almost since the first day he launched his salon in 1937 he has been acclaimed as the great leader in fashion; what Balenciaga does today, other designers will do tomorrow, or next year, by which time he will have moved on again." 
Vogue, 1962

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Pictorial Picnic Perfection

As a girl who loves the outdoors, good food, and good fashion, picnics are my pictorial perfection. They're more relaxed than afternoon tea, more civilised than camping, and more fun than a cafe. The only result of a picnic is undiluted joy (and not just because the champagne goes to your head!). 

Loose clothing and shoes that slip off easily so you can wiggle your toes in the grass are essential. Add a medium size bag that is just roomy enough to hold your essentials (suncream, sunglasses, wet wipes) and your picnic dressing is complete! 

Pink lace top - Sacai @ The Outnet, Culottes - Three Floor, White bell sleeve top - Glamorous @ USC,
Full skirt - Oasis, Necklace - Les Nereides, Espadrilles - Valentino @ Browns, Tote - Dolce and Gabbana @ mytheresa

I scrutinise the contents of my picnic basket with just as much diligence as I do my outfit. When catering solely for yourself and a friend, selfishness is more than acceptable and personal favourites can be thrown into the basket without hesitation. I always include bruschetta (Jamie Oliver's recipe reigns supreme), M&S olives and feta, Fentiman's Pink Lemonade and macarons. 

I recently learnt that macaroons and macarons are not alternative spellings, but are in fact different things. Macarons are your pastel coloured Ladurée-esque delights and macaroons are your coconut concoctions à la Mrs Crimble's. I discovered this when my knowing boyfriend sent me a box of these moreish bites from Macarons & More by Tom Kinnaird. They were the best I have ever had and arrived miraculously in one piece thanks to the bakery's careful packing. I would definitely recommend sending this as a gift (you can order online via the website) if you have a friend who lives far away, or even just ordering yourself some as a treat to take with you on a picnic this month! 

Have you got any picnic basket favourites? 

Friday, 7 August 2015

Leeds Festival: Avoiding the Fashion Fads

Leeds Festival is not for the faint-hearted. I've been several times and revelled in its anarchic and primal hedonism. I've had my tent set on fire, my belongings graffitied with indecipherable strings of letters which could only have been inspired by banned substances, and witnessed fights which are reminiscent of Gladiatorial contests. I even inadvertently contributed to the frenzy one year by mistakenly boiling half a litre of vodka for a friend's Pot Noodle (in my defence the vodka was in a plastic water bottle).

What all of this means is that when it comes to festival fashion, Leeds Fest is in a category of its own. Like the music, your wardrobe must be cool, eclectic and not an adulation of populist trends. If you genuinely like Hunter wellies then wear them, but they're not an unwritten entry requirement like at V Festival and T in the Park. Leeds is about looking good without losing yourself in the hysteria of festival fads.

Deichmann - £15

First and foremost are the basics: wellies and raincoats. It will rain, it will get muddy, and you will fall over. My tactic for wellies is buying cheap ones that I throw away on the Monday afternoon when I get home. 

ASOS - £18
ASOS - £18

Pretty wellies always get compliments (as oppose to the knowing nod that Hunters garner) so go as bright as you like! 

When thinking about raincoats, I'd rather stay dry and look good underneath for when the rain stops. So listen to your Mum and take that Regatta waterproof coat you've had since your were 15, you'll thank her once the rain begins! 

Regatta Waterproof - £20 

Now that the formalities are finished, let's focus on the main event: 
  • Avoid skirts that are susceptible to a gust of wind and embrace shorts (you want to be able to dance/maintain some dignity when you slip in the mud). 
  • Pack t-shirts and long-sleeved checked shirts (great for colder nights). 
  • Leave the nostalgic old gig/festival tops to people over 40. 
  • Forget anything crocheted/fringed/cropped: you're not a clone. 
  • Accessorise to the max: jewellery, hairbands, glow bands, face paint.
Festival fashion is about exaggerating the quirks of your normal individual style, don't feel pressured to morph into what fast fashion has dictated to be 21st century festival attire. Here are some pieces which I'll be heading into the chaos of Leeds Fest with:

Striped knit top - Dorothy Perkins, Floral shorts - Miss Selfridge, Checked shirt - H&M, Wellies - As above,
V-neck top - H&M, Striped shorts - Topshop, Bomber jacket - The Hut, Socks - ASOS
Xardi Green New Women Shoulder Bag Jelly Designer Prom Bride Ladies College Party Handbag UK 0
So Fresh Flower Shades -  | Eyewear