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Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Roundup - favourites, highlights and everything in between

It's that time again.  Sluggish bloggers, slowed down into a cosy Christmas chrysalis are sloughing off the excess of too many mince pies and slices of blue cheese and evaluating the year in order to burst into 2011 a beautiful blog butterfly.  Like the alliteration?  I wrote it just for you.  Here's my 2010 'best of' blog mixtape.

Blog Highlights:  I started this blog in March with the aim of sharing what I liked and meeting a few like-minded people.  In the space of a few short months, I've racked up readers from around the world, landed a fashion column, learned a hell of a lot about the fashion industry, joined the Vice Blogging Network, went to London Fashion Week, networked like a mad thing, was mentioned as one of Ireland's most influential bloggers and made some truly exceptional, hilarous and supportive friends.  All of this due to blogging aspersions.  So, to my readers, I'd like to say a massive THANK YOU!  You guys are the best.  Seeing all your comments really brightens up my day.


Click 'Read More' to, ehm, read more, look at nice pictures and watch some fashion films...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Get yo' swag on

Was Santa good to you this year?  I must have been a good girl, because I got a mighty sack of Christmas swag, mostly in the form of some excellent fashion books.  To be honest, I could have done with a sack of coal too because It. Is. Freezing.

Here's what I got book-wise, in no particular order.

Blow by Blow: The Story of Isabella Blow by Detmar Blow.  This biography of the famed and much mourned super-stylist purports to be her definitive biography.  But really, it's not.  It's not particularly well-written and her husband goes into too much detail in some places (he paints Alexander McQueen as an egocentric, cruel megalomaniac) and not enough in others (Blow's heroin use and both his and her extramarital affairs are casually touched on or barely acknowledged).  It's distinctly unbalanced, but I feel as if I know Blow a bit better after reading it.

The Look: Adventures in Rock and Pop Fashion by Paul Gorman.  From Elvis to Gwen Stefani, this book charts the intermingling of fashion and music.  Where the musos bought their clothes, what the trends meant and what people thought of them at the time - it's a supremely interesting read.  And there's introductions and forewards by Paul Smith AND Malcolm MacLaren.  AND a free CD.

Style Wars by Peter York.  Published in 1980, this book is now sadly out of print.  If you're a fan of subculture, then buy it second hand on Amazon.  I got a nice clean ex-library copy.  Reading about the different style tribes in the 80's and thinking about how radically different the world is now after only thirty years is a bit of a mind-melt.  A good mind-melt.  Chapter on Sloane Rangers = Hilarious.

A photo from Take Ivy.  Gotta love those preppy boys.

Take Ivy by Teruyoshi Hayashida.  Loads and loads and LOADS of iconic pictures of preppy men (and a few women) at Ivy League universities.  All of the photos were taken in the early sixties, so it's collegiate cool at it's most distilled, before Woodstock and Women's Lib changed the face of the common college uniform.

Face Hunter by Yvan Rodic.  Enough said.

The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970's Paris by Alicia Drake.  I cannot wait to get my teeth into this book, which tells the story of the friendship and rivalry between Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld before they achieved their godlike statuses.  It's reassuringly thick, which is always a good thing when it comes to non fiction.  More pages equal more juicy details.

Knitting Masterpieces via etsy - buy it!

Knitting Masterpieces by Ruth Herring.  This (also out of print) knitting book shows you have to make jumpers with some of art's greatest works emblazoned across the front.  I will not rest until I figure out how to knit a Mona Lisa sweater.  It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine.

Style and the Man: How and Where to Buy the Best Men's Clothing by Alan Flusser.  Everything a person could possibly want to know about how to buy a suit, how to wear a suit, the best proportions to suit a man's figure, how to tie a cravat - basically every GQ fashion article ever written that never actually appeared in GQ.  I'll be passing it on to the boyfriend according.

Great Fashion Designs of the Sixties: Paper Dolls in Full Colour: 32 Haute Couture Costumes by Courreges, Balmain, Saint-Laurent, and Others by Tom Tierney.  Sixties.  Paper.  Dolls.  Marrying my love of sixties fashion and cutting shapes out of paper.  The words 'childish glee' were made for this book

A plate from Portrait in a Velvet Dress - a beautifully composed and considered shot

Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress: Frida's Wardrobe by Carlos Phillips Olmed and Magdalena Rozenzweig.  Many people love the art of Frida Kahlo, but equally fascinating was her attitude to clothing.  This book is full of pictures of her flamboyant outfits (found in a trunk in a disused bathroom in her house, still smelling of her cigarettes) and essays about the artist's relationship and attitudes towards her wardrobe.

Coco Chanel:  The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie.  Coco Chanel was so protective of her own life story that it seems that there will never be a totally truthful and authoritative biography written on her.  Justine Picardie grapples admirably with what she has to work with and the book is printed on gorgeous glossy paper with some seriously great, insightful images.

It's going to take me a while to get though these.  Wish me luck.  Did you get anything nice for Christmas?  Got any fashion-type reads that you fancy sharing?

Monday, December 27, 2010

And the winner is...


Hello all. I hope that you had an excellent Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/ Festivus/Whatever and that all your wild gift dreams came true. I got a mighty haul of fashion-type books. More on that later.

Here is what happened at the Licentiate household this festive season.

1. The water was cut off.
2. Then the pipes in the bathroom burst. So, on the upside, we had water. It was just leaking through the light fixtures and onto the kitchen floor.
3. Then I got food poisoning. On Christmas Eve.
4.  So Christmas was spent in bed and in dire need of a shower.

Anyway, enough about me.  How was your Christmas?  Not too stressful, I hope.

It's a less then smooth segue from food poisoning to the giveaway I held last month, which ended on Christmas Eve.  The winner, chosen my my sister from a lot of tiny pieces of paper in a bowl is Zoe of Vagabond Language.  Check out her blog - it's very interesting indeed!

Major congrats to Zoe and all who entered!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Licentiate Column 23/12/10

OK, deep breaths. We’ve nearly got through it.  The festive season is upon us.  It’s almost over.  All the legwork has been done, the presents have been bought and distributed, champagne has been put in the icebox (and in my house, for some reason, the vegetable crisper) in anticipation of the stroke of twelve on New Years Eve.  You can do it.  We’re on the home stretch now.
The last column covered the problem of clothing as Christmas presents, the one before that, the problem of dressing for the wintry weather, the one before that, the problem of dressing for Christmas parties.  Sometimes I wish that Christmas was three months long just so I could write about how problematic a combination Christmas and my clothing is, not least how hard it is to fit into my impulse-buy leather pants after yet another mince pie too many.

Yep, I’m a Scrooge.  At the very least, I am an amped-up modern Scrooge, like Bill Murray in 80’s tacktastic remake, ‘Scrooged’, where he plays a bepermed television executive who eventually learns the error of his ways... or at least I think he does.  I was definitely not paying attention.

I don’t hate Christmas - I love it.  I love seeing my family and reuniting with homeward bound friends, I love giving (and receiving) presents, I love that it’s an excuse to eat as much breaded, deep fried brie as you can physically handle while glued to a Judy Garland marathon.  All of these activities are best undertaken wearing a ratty, too-big t-shirt of your dads and a pair or droopy treggings (bonus points for fashioning a little red Snuggie into a cape, extra bonus points for going to the pub in such an ensemble).

Christmas and New Years are times to be comfortable.  That’s my problem.  I know that, once the 6th of January has come and gone and a million Christmas trees are slowly turning brown after being shunted in a million back yards, I will have to put on the skinny jeans again.  And when I realise that the skinny jeans won’t go past my kneecaps, the party really will be over.  It’s not for nothing that the average weight gain over the Christmas period is seven pounds.

And then, the New Years resolutions.  The juice fasts.  The pilates.  The expensive gym memberships.  The rice cakes, an endless stream of them, all masticated methodically in order to fit back into those impossible jeans again.  First the binge, then the purge.  It’s a cliche to call it a vicious cycle, but it really is vicious; it’s a snarling beast that wakes you up every day at 6am to go for a jog before work and forces you at gunpoint to put down that Galaxy Caramel - now.

All the same, humans have a short memory and are remarkably resilient creatures (or incredible masochists).  We put ourselves through this torture because we know we’ll get to do it all again in a matter of months; and we love it.   If that seven pounds doesn’t slide off so easily and the jeans remain a bit tight, so what?  That’s what the January sales are for.

LICENTIATE FESTIVE NOTICE!   There will be no column next week.  The next Licentiate column goes up on the 7th of January, so stay tuned.  From the second of January, there will be some very special posts from very special Irish bloggers - more on that in the New Years.  
As you may know, this humble blog has been listed as one of Ireland's most influential fashion blogs!  You can vote for me by clicking on the link, finding my blog (I'm number 42) and clicking the vote button.  Thanks so much to everyone who has supported my blog so far, all you comments and emails are much appreciated.  HUG!
P.S And if you're not going to vote for me, please vote for one of the other superb Irish blogs out there, who are all super nice, very talented and equally deserving of your vote.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bonnie and Clyde '10

Thankfully, I'm not referring to Jay-Z rehashing 'Bonnie and Clyde '05'.  Oh no.

If 2010 was a series of 'moments', the story of Bonnie and Clyde (or more specifically the 1967 film; the real Bonnie had a limp and severe scars from burns towards the end of her crime career) has definitely had it's moment within the past twelve months.

The real Bonnie and Clyde - Phographer unknown

This year has sprouted not one but two editorials that pay obvious homage to the public's favourite outlaw couple (Mickey and Mallory Knox from Natural Born Killers coming a close second).  The first to appear was shot by Peter Lindbergh for the March issue of Harpers Bazaar, the second shot by Aram Bedrossian (no idea which magazine though, let me know if you know please) this month.  Inevitably, people are writing that Bedrossian's shoot is 'following in the footsteps of Lindbergh', which is fashion code for 'might be blatantly copying Lindbergh'. Though, with such iconic source material, how could they not be equally derivative?

Spot the difference 1 - Lindbergh

Spot the difference 1 - Bedrossian

Spot the difference 2 - a still from Bonnie & Clyde (1967)

Spot the difference 2 - Bedrossian

Spot the difference 2 - Lindbergh

I'm not trying to be a party pooper or the girl who cried plaigarism.  As I said before, it's hard not to come to the same aesthetic conclusions when you're drawing inspiration from a film with such a strong image.  Both editorials have some amazing, totally original images.  They also have different moods.  The Lindbergh shoot is full of movement, while Bedrossian's work is more contemplative and static.

A super cool action shot from Lindbergh

A beautifully composed shot by Bedrossian

It's a very close call, but I prefer Lindbergh's shoot. Which one do you like best?

All photos via Fashion Gone Rogue

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Style Icon - Wallis Simpson

Today started well.  I found out that I was a nominee for Ireland's Top Fashion Blogger.  This is a total surprise, because I didn't solicit a nomination, but now that I've got one, I'm going to cling onto it until my fingernails fall off and pimp myself out for votes like an underage Jodie Foster.  Can you tell that I was the kid who never won any prizes on sports day?

I don't for a second think that I'll come out on top with so many excellent blogs nominated, but if you like this blog and don't want me to be Sad Sack Sarah at the bottom of the pile (fingers crossed!) please do vote for me by clicking here.  Go to my pic (I'm number 41), then press vote.  Easy as pie!

Then I popped down to The Fair Alternative to find a super-cute prize for my QUESTION! post and bumped in the lovely Lorna of Loladee (check out her etsy here) who gifted me an amazingly cute zipper brooch that I want to keep ALL TO MYSELF.


The winner, with an exhaustive list of blogs is Anne-Marie.  Congrats!  I'll tweet you with details. 

Now onto the blog post at hand...
My mother very thoughtfully bought me a copy of Any Human Heart by William Boyd a few days ago. I'm a bit of a pedanto at times, so I decided to watch the entire Channel 4 series in one go before reading the book. Sometimes I read the book before watching the TV series/film, but my reasoning was that it wasn't so much the story that I was looking forward to as much as Boyd's writing itself.  I'm so glad that I watched it now, because the series is so immaculate and well made and the characters so finely tuned and nuanced that I can't wait to read the book just so I can replay every episode in my head, complete with the fleshed-out details that the book provides. 

Gillian Anderson and Tom Hollander as Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward
One character who definitely didn't get enough screentime was Wallis Simpson, played by Gillian Anderson.  She plays Wallis as an abrasive, self entitled social climber with a dress sense as sharp as her cheekbones and one liners.  Paris Hilton - start taking notes.

Historical accounts of the real Simpson's personality run the gamut of bad to just plain evil.  She was characterised as a control freak with OCD (definitely) gold-digger (possible), a Nazi sympathiser (probable) and a pseudo-prostitute trained in the sexual arts in a brothel in China (eh, I'll get back to you on that one).  I remember reading that people thought that she was a hermaphrodite (or intersex, if I'm being very PC) in a bid to explain her childlessness.  Not very likely.

Whatever you want to say about her, the woman had charisma.  People are still boggled by her life, her personality and her political motivations.  I'm boggled by her wardrobe.  Wallis was exceptionally long and lean.  Her wedding dress was copied into the hundreds of thousands and she was (and still is) lauded for her personal style and attention to detail.

In an article for The Telegraph, the author Rose Tremain says:

"She, who is said to have coined the statement that "You can't be too rich or too thin", was stigmatised as being too ambitious, too ruthless, too greedy, too mannish, too sexual, too cruel, too divorced, too pro-German and too American. In the brilliant Irving Penn photo-portrait of her, which hangs in my study, she is backed into what appears to be a narrow cell, from which the only escape is towards the camera, into the glare of the flash and the click of the shutter."

Portrait by Irving Penn

Portrait by Cecil Beaton

Portrait by Cecil Beaton
What Tremain sees in the Penn portrait is a look of abject fear.  I, and many others, might disagree.  That's the allure of Wallis Simpson, who didn't just dress well, but was totally unknowable, and always will be.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Licentiate Column 16/12/10

Christmas shopping is hard. I don’t just mean the physical act of shopping, which is a test of endurance dreamed up by a wrathful god who makes a daily habit of getting up on the wrong side of the bed each morning. I’m talking about the preamble. The wracking of brains to come up with the perfect gift and the sifting through endless websites and gift guides. The pressure to be thought of as the most thoughtful (and cunningly frugal) gift-giver on the planet.

Sometimes the brain get so wracked it starts to resemble a plate of grated cheddar cheese. Combine that with the over-sifted gift ideas and your plan is now starting to resemble the ingredients for a nice savoury scone as opposed to the perfect shopping trip.

The worst Christmas gifts are invariably the clothes. The very nature of buying clothes for another person is illogical and deeply flawed,so it comes to pass that only the very smartest or foolhardy will buy such things.

This goes for all items of clothing, no matter how large or small. Want to buy your significant other a tie? Think you know him that well, do you? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. There is no accounting for taste, so you may find that your choice of an ironic burgundy kipper tie will find you out in the cold this festive season. Think that you’re dodging a bullet by buying a plain tie? Then think again; the plain tie marks you out as a thoughtless gift giver. The tao of ties dictates that the busier the pattern, the more thought you evidently put into buying it.

On the gender flip side, we have the glutinous minefield that is lingerie. Like Father Ted, many men will get lost somewhere in Debenhams on Christmas Eve and be spat back out into homewares sometime before Valentines Day. The lingerie section is the Bermuda triangle for confused and indecisive men everywhere.

Bra and knicker sets are a perfect example of the ‘smart or foolhardy’ customer dichotomy. A person will either know their significant others cup size and preference for lace over leather, resulting in a very merry (triple) Xmas or they don’t. They make an ill-advised stab in the dark, which is exactly what will happen once the significant other unwraps a red rubber and latex creation that Lady Gaga would find just a tad too risque.

Maybe the worst thing about Christmas shopping isn’t the preamble. Maybe, just maybe, the worst thing about Christmas shopping is the fact that we have to do it at all. We’re all adults here. We know that Christmas is ostensibly about Jesus and not about rampant, Godzilla-like consumerism. We buy presents to show the people in our lives that we care about them. Why do we insist on expressing that love with ill-fitting, badly chosen garments that are going to be on sale anyway in a matter if weeks? Is that truly the measure of care that we take for other people?

This year, my mother offered to knit me a jumper of my choosing. While this gesture doesn’t cost the earth, it’s still infinitely better than an expensive shop bought, machine-made offering in colours I don’t like with too-long sleeves. When it comes to Christmas and clothes, it’s the thought that counts. And if you get stuck, a book token will do nicely.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Catalogue Shopping

There's been a lot of controversy this week over the Elle.es blogging scandal (click to read about it here) which, if anything, has taught us bloggers to be more conscious and aware of the legal implications of reblogging pictures, especially the work of others  If you're like me and have a serious aversion to posting pictures of yourself in different outfits leaping all over the place, then your options are limited and images are sourced from elsewhere.

All images that I take from other blogs or websites are credited and linked appropriately and if not they're usually my own, stock photos or in the public domain (just an FYI).  Here's some images that I came across the other day that I'd like to share with you.


These images are from the back pages of the NME from about '81 to '85 respectively and I think they are pretty darn cool. If the NME still had these kinds of ads I would probably still be buying it and not reading Pitchfork and The Quietus (so good, Google it if you haven't heard of it) online instead. Winklepickers and mohair and bowling shoes, oh my!

This ties in with sourcing photos, I swear. Here's the long journey I took to source these pictures properly.

I saw one of these ads on Self Constructed Freak , one of my daily reads...
which linked back to the Tumblr, Now This Is Gothic, which is chock-a-block with great 80's goth photos...
which linked back to Tin Trunk, a blog with a concurrent vintage shop on Etsy...
who scanned them in from old copies of NME!


You don't have to go through this complicated rigamarole whenever you source a photo, I just thought it would be good to illustrate how many places a picture can come from.  If you're ever in doubt about how to source a picture, a good rule of thumb is to remember the photographer and/or where the image first appeared.

If you want to know more about crediting and finding public images, click here.
If you want to know more about photo crediting for bloggers, click here.

And is you want to show me some love on Facebook, click here (gratuitous plug alert).

And a big PS - I'm going on my holidays on the first of January.  While I'm hungover in a series of airports, I'll need a few guest bloggers.  My email address is in the sidebar if you're interested.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I'm trying to reorganise my blog reader and do an overhaul on my reading material.

Here's where you kind readers come in.

What blogs do you enjoy reading? What eye candy lights up your day? Which bloggers inspire you? Whose photo blogs make you think? Who's the funniest or smartest fashion blogger out there? Do you have any guilty pleasures tucked away in your reader?

Let me know in the comments box below. No blog is too obscure or too obvious. Give me one link or a directory, a broad street style blog or a Tumblr of Turgistani interiors; it's all good.  The submissions I like the best will get a wee prize of, well, I haven't thought of what I'm giving away yet. But in case you're worried, click here to see how good I usually am at giving away stuff.

And because no post is complete without a picture, here's an unrelated fluffy bunny.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Licentiate Column 09/12/10

I’m no Martin King (a blessing in disguise) but I don’t need to switch on the weather forecast to know that it is pretty darn cold outside. Freezing, in fact. If everything isn’t covered in a few feet of virgin snow, then the roads and footpaths are covered in a gleaming membrane of ice, like a mirrored pool of glass.
We Irish are not well equipped for cold weather. We’re used to rain and clouds and mild temperatures. We are not used to spending half an hour gingerly clopping on frozen paths to the shop next door with the careful stride of a dressage pony, just to avoid slipping gracelessly on our behinds in hopelessly impractical shoes.
Worst of all is the total standstill of the country’s transport system, due to a complete lack of snow tyres and grit for the roads. We are just plain ill-prepared. But that’s a story for a different column.
I have no solution to the transport problem (except maybe to recommend investing in shares in salt) but I can help with the clothing issue. Here are a few tips for dressing appropriately for sub-zero weather.
1. Hat, scarves, gloves. All in a colour that suit your skin tone. You’re going to be wearing these all the time, so the general rule is that it’s better that they match your face rather than your outfit, even if your nose is now the colour of a bowl of cranberry sauce. Once you have your hat, scarf and gloves, buy some spares. Donate them to your local SVP, because there are a hell of a lot of freezing homeless people out there who desperately need them.
2. Thermal underwear is your friend. It is no flaky friend either. Thermal underwear is the kind of friend that you can ring up in the middle of the night right after a break-up and moan to ad nauseum without judgement or complaint. Thermal underwear is the kind of friend that will always be there for you. If you want a super-retro look, then go for lumberjack long johns. It’s best to wear these in bed, because going to the bathroom in long johns is the kind of gargantuan task that Bear Grylls would find difficult on a good day. Failing that, thermal tees and leggings can be found at reasonably cheap prices in many of the larger clothing chains. Some thermals also act like full body Spanx, which is no bad thing.
3. Always, always layer your clothing. Layering isn’t a fashion buzzword; in cold weather it’s a vital component of dressing. If you go out in a t-shirt and huge coat, get too hot, then take off your coat, your body will cool down much too fast, making you more susceptible to colds and flu. This would be why I am currently typing with one hand, the other now glued to a Kleenex which, in turn, is glued to my runny nose. Learn from my mistake. Dress in many thin layers, not one huge one.
4. Look to the Scandinavians for inspiration. We’ve already taken our economic cues from Iceland, now we should think about the way they dress. Tailored trousers, warm, thick tights, waterproof boots with sturdy soles, chunky knits and lashings of fur, faux or otherwise are all great options. Up the glamour ante with your hair, jewellery and accessories.
5. Tread very carefully. Full body casts are so last year.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Odds and Sods

I've spent this weekend travelling (one and a half hour wait on a freezing platform, thank you Irish Rail) and working while sick, so I'm a little bit burnt out and uninspired.  I'm going on an enforced blog hiatus (I'm away from my computer and photos and such) and I'll be back on Thursday, hopefully reinvigorated by some family get togethers, cups of tea and plates of shortbread.  Ok, ok, I'm going to stop moaning... now. Here's a few bits that are looking mighty good to feverish ol' me at the moment.

This is my favorite Christmas song. When the horns come in...


My new shoes. They are fakey fake fake Miu Mius but they rock my socks. Incidentally, I should probably think about wearing socks with them. My toes are still sore from the last time I wore them out.

It's the End of the World as We Know It

Conor Walton is my favorite Irish artist.  His still lives are amazing, done in the style of the Dutch Masters - exploring similar themes using modern, everyday objects.  Sinister, sexy, funny, amazing.  He'll be giving a lecture on the aforementioned Dutch Masters in the National Gallery on December 14th.  He has stopped painting and taking commissions for the time being due to a personal matter (my mom is on his mailing list, feverishly waiting to snatch up a still life) so this will be a rare opportunity to interact with a great artist.

Have a great week everyone.  Hope it's a festive one!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Licentiate Column 02/12/10

If there's one thing that a recession is good for, it's separating the wheat from the chaff. The positive from the negative. The naysayers and apocalypse invokers from the Plucky Pollyannas. The... well, you get my drift.

Since the introduction of the government's four year plan, I have heard nothing but pronouncements that the country is doomed and declarations of intent to move far, far away from this aforementioned doom-addled island and towards a land with slightly more milk and honey (or jobs in IT, accounting and the media).

This is an unremarkable, yet unwelcome side effect of the Irish recession. The Irish diaspora stretches back for almost two hundred years. It is not surprising. Both the positive and the negative people evaluate their lives and feel that they have to move on.

What is surprising is the ability of this negativity to consume a person, to the extent that it affects the lives of people around you.

As a fashion writer, it's not my place to comment on the four year plan with even one iota of authority (even though there are others who know much less than me who are willing to give their two cents). This column is supposed to be full of jokes, off-the-cuff comments and observations about the shopping habits of the average women. Yet, somehow, I managed to visibly offend several people when I revealed to them that I was NOT going to tackle the four year plan/the budget/social welfare cuts/Brian Cowen's jamjar specs.

On revealing publicly that I would not be writing about these issues, I was immediately asked why by a petite brunette with an appropriately pointy nose. "Because it's a fashion column," I said. "It has nothing to do with politics. Why should I devote the column to scaremongering about rent relief when I should be devoting it to scaremongering about huge credit card bills brought on by online shopping sprees? What do you want me to do - critique Brian Cowen's three-button suits (and a side note to an Taoiseach; I'd go double breasted if I were you - your chest is less Biffo, more barrel) and Brian Lenihans droopy, sad sack side parting?"

"Ugh. You are so shallow" this particular harridan rasped as she retreated back in the shadows, no doubt to suck the will to live out of another person who had the gall to be thinking about pretty flowers or teddybears.

To this women, I give you this message. I may well be shallower than a fresh puddle after fifteen minutes of drizzle, but fashion is not. While it may not be as profound as a Shakespearean couplet uttered from the mouth of Mother Teresa, it has it's place in the world, just like this column has a place in this paper.

Fashion is the most universal mode of self expression. Fashion tells people who you are. Fashion is an industry. Fashion utilises techniques that have been honed for hundred of years. Some fashion is equal to great art, except fashion is for everyone and not just those who understand it. Fashion is tied in to sex, power, jobs, money, cachet and life-changing events (think marriages and funerals). Fashion is even tied to politics in a Gordian knot that Alexander the Great would find hard to cut through. It runs parallel to all things, not in second place.

I may be shallow, but I am not shallow for refusing to express my opinion on the IMF situation in this paper. There are others who do so more eloquently and logically within these pages. They have a place and I do too; in the Health and Beauty section, talking about shoes. That's the way it's going to stay.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Who invented the Typical Girl? A celebration of Ari Up

The Slits in 1977. Ari up is third from left.  Photo - Ian Dickson

"The Slits were a feral girl gang. Aged just 15 in 1977, singer Ari Up recalls being 'wild and crazy, like an animal let loose - but an innocent little girl with it, too'. From her striking image (tangled dreadlocks, knickers worn on the outside of her clothes) to her seemingly pre-social antics, Ari inspired fear and fascination in equal measure".

- Simon Reynolds in Rip it up and Start Again

Note the knickers-over-trousers.  Photo - Caroline Coon.  

Stupidly, one of the posts that I've left on the back burner was a remembrance of Ari Up, a punk singer and forming member of The Slits. Their songs were a formative influence on me when I first went to college and was experiencing first-hand what it meant to grow up and be a woman and not someone who treated Sex and the City like a lifestyle Bible. Cut has to be one of my favourite albums. If you ever have a bad day wondering why that hot guy only likes the other hot girls, or if WAGS make you despair of your life, or bad that you don't have the same waistspan as Cheryl Cole, then listen to Typical Girls and feel much better for having the courage to just be yourself.


No prizes for guessing which one is Ari.  Photo - Ray Stevenson

Photo - Caroline Coon

From a style point of view though, Ari Up was an inspiration not in what she wore (there's NO way I could pull off the Superman look) but in her attitude towards clothing.  She wore what she wanted, when she wanted.  She had dreads piled up on top of her head like a modern day Rococo wig.  She wore facepaint twenty years before a legion of Oxegen and Glasto goers. She was variously Punk, proto-Goth and Rasta.  She applied the same freedom of thought to her wardrobe that she did to her lyrics.  She didn't really care about the judgement of others.  It suited her just fine.  And that is definitely something to admire.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Licentiate Loves: Sarah Doyle

It's been a busy ol' week for this blogger - I'm officially pooped!  It seems that the Christmas season has started early and a bit too much overexertion on Friday means that my toes are still a bit sore and swollen on Monday.

PhotobucketThis week, while being busy on the social front is very quiet in the blog front, which means that I can delve into the long list of 'stuff-I-meant-to-blog-about-but-never-quite-got-to'.  At the forefront is artist Sarah Doyle, whose art I saw (and instantly fell in love with) at the Mixtapes Exhibition in the Glucksman Gallery.  Click here to see what she had on view at the exhibition.

Sarah Doyle's work is mostly concerned with pop culture icons and how the world looks at them.  Her art and animations are reminiscent of fan art.  Pictures of Prince are drawn with felt tips over children's colouring books and all her work is full of whimsy with a sense of humour, a touch of longing and a general sprinkling of all-round loveliness

These animations are very short so if you get the time, do watch them - the first video is a series of sketches of the wives and girlfriends of The Beatles, the second is inspired by Aaliyah's last music video, iconic sequences both.

Beatgirls from Sarah Doyle on Vimeo.

Opheliyah from Sarah Doyle on Vimeo.

It's only a matter of time before her work pops up in Vogue.  Mark my words.  If you're like me and a shameful art history nerd, then pop along to her Art in Movies  blog and spend a happy hour or two going through the archives (my personal fave is Teddy Lloyd from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie).

P.S  Click here for my super-duper giveaway of Mulberry LFW tote and... eh, just click the link .  You can now 'like' The Licentiate on facebook , so if you do like this blog, don't be afraid to show your support and clickity click!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Question Time

I've been tagged by Think What You Like to complete an "I love your blog" interview, which means that I get to answer ten questions and pass the burden on to some more lucky bloggers.  So, if you're curious about who I really am and what burns deep within my tortured soul... don't look here.  They're not THAT kind of questions.

Why did you create your blog?

Handily, I already wrote a post on this very subject, so click to read!  The short answer, however, is a mix of April O'Neal from the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and a burning desire to NOT be an architect like my dad.

What kind of blogs do you follow?

I'm a blog dilettante.  I dabble in street style and beauty blogs and wordy, text heavy offerings.  Mostly, I suppose I like blogs where the writer has their own distinct voice, or shows me something new that I've never seen before.  Fashematics, Advanced Style and Threadbared would rank up there in my all-time faves.

Favourite make-up brand?


Mac for colourful eyeshadows, liners and lipsticks.  Bobbi Brown for everything else.  Bobbi Brown concealers and foundations are the best.  Even at the depths of my poorness I'll find a way to buy an under-eye concealer.  I'm also participating in a humanitarian act by doing do, for the world is infinitely better off without seeing my dark circles.

Favorite clothing brand?

This is a toughie, because so much of the stuff I buy is second-hand (err, I mean vintage).  I haven't bought a pair of high street jeans in at least two years.  Count 'em - two years.  I quite like Topshop, but River Island is also upping it's game (the sizes aren't so prohibitively small as Topshop's either).  For designer brands I love Alexander McQueen.  He was probably my favourite designer.  Vivienne Westwood is great for larger-chested women like me and I love Miu Miu for the cute factor.

Your indispensible make-up product?

The Bobbi Brown concealer, as noted above.  That and a good pair of tweezers.  While not technically make-up, they do make my face look a hell of a lot better.

Your favourite colour? 


Purple.  I remember telling some old biddy that when I was a child and left the room to the echo's of "Purple!  That's the devil's colour!" ringing in my ears.  The joys of growing up in rural Kerry.  As a teen I wanted purple converse so badly but the (one) shoe shop in town stocked red and blue only .  One of my friends revealed that she dyed her red pair blue, the end result being purple.  I though that she was the smartest girl ever.

Your perfume?

Victor and Rolf's Flowerbomb, which smells exactly how a bomb of flowers should smell.  For less aggressive floralia, I like Paul Smith Rose.  Men go absolutely bananas for it because it smells so innocent - hey, who am I to argue?

Your favourite film?

Nope.  Don't have one.  I am a film commitment phobe.  Off the top of my head, some films I really enjoy and would put in some sort of league table are Up!, Welcome to the Dollhouse, The Virgin Suicides, Malcolm X, The Last Picture Show, Sabrina, Some Like it Hot, All About Eve, the list goes on and on.

What country would you like to visit and why?


Japan, or specifically Tokyo.  Who wouldn't want to be subsumed into that landscape?

Write the last question and answer it yourself.

Erm, sorry.  I'm not good at these things.

When I ask myself questions, it's usually alone the lines of what I'm going to have for lunch.

Come to think of it, I'm going to have some smoked salmon with capers and cottage cheese on some home-made bran bread.  Mmm.  Sorted.

I'm going to pass the baton on to:

P.S  Scroll down for a great giveaway .  You can now 'like' The Licentiate on facebook , so if you do like this blog, don't be afraid to show your support and click here!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Licentiate Column 25/11/10

I have a terrible secret to reveal. So terrible, I'm not quite sure that I should tell you what it is. But then again, if I didn't, this column would end right here, at the end of this sentence. And we don't want that now, do we? Perhaps you shouldn't answer that question.

My disappointingly non-secret secret is this; I have never been a guest at a Christmas party.
This isn't due to unpopularity (or so everyone keeps telling me as they slink off into the distance with the whisper of mistletoe and transgression ever-hanging in the air). This is due to my choice of work. For years I was a bartender, which means that I doled out the drinks at corporate do's, mixed Long Island Iced Teas on St Stephens Night and popped champagne corks at ten to midnight on New Year's Eve. There's no time for Christmas parties for people working in the hospitality sector - we got our party in February. The Christmas crackers had gone remarkably stale by that point.

Writing from home poses it's own party problem. There is no office, so there's no people. There's no people, so there is no party to go to. There's no party to go to, so I sit at home in my pajamas happily guzzling that bottle of Advocaat I found under the sink and watching the wizard of Oz.

This year marks the difference. This year will be my first as a CPG (Christmas Party Goer). The CPG is a different creature from your average party goer. Casual is out, the trousers are off and anything vaguely resembling tinsel is more in than Hugh Grant at a sorority gathering.

Here are a few pointers for the average CPG searching for the outfit of her dreams.

1) Go sparkly - but not too sparkly. Sequins are great. High shine, foil-backed fabric dresses are also great. Rhinestones are totally fabulous and criminally underused. Just don't wear them all at the same time, lest you become known as your local magpie fancier.

2) Your hemline is directly proportionate to how bright your frock is. Wearing an LBD? Then feel free to have your bum cleft exposed. Tis the season for more than just eggnog, you know. If your chosen party dress is a cerise-pink abomination with a smattering of precious gems and a not-so-subtle hint of 18th century parquetry, then by all means cover up the shoulders and thighs. The same goes for hair. The more ostentatious the dress, the more subdued the hairstyle. You want to look like you're having a Merry Christmas, not like you're auditioning for the inaugural cover of 'Playboy: The Toyland Edition'.

3) Always carry a tube of bright or dark lipstick for awkward mistletoe situations. Slick about half an inch on, then give that horrible, twig-dangling sleaze from HR the snog of his life. That'll teach 'im.

4) If you just KNOW that you're going to get mercilessly drunk, then wear an atrocious outfit to soften the blow with office gossips the next day.

Example: "Did you hear about Sinead eating twelve mince pies and vomiting on the karaeoke machine?"

"Who cares about that?  Did. You. See. What. She. Was. Wearing?"

P.S  Scroll down to the next post for a great giveaway.  You can now 'like' The Licentiate on facebook , so if you do like this blog, don't be afraid to show your support and click here!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Licentiate's Big Fat Goodies GIVEAWAY!!!

Wilkommen.  Bienvenue.  Welcome.

I've been blogging for a while now and have been lucky enough to get some fantastic readers whose comments make me think, laugh or just generally feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Dear readers, I would like to thank all of you by holding a brand spanking new giveaway filled (mostly) with things that you just can't get in the shops.  Astound your friends and make your enemies seethe with envy at... The Licentiate goody bag! 


Nice, isn't it?  Unfortunately, I have yet to learn how to edit photos.  Drumroll please...


Item One:  A London Fashion Week tote bag, made by Mulberry.  This was given out to all the press/buyers/etc who attended Fashion Week this past September.  It's 100% exclusive and not sold in the shops, which didn't stop some people from selling theirs at exorbitant prices on eBay.  It has a picture of a cute bunny peeping out of an Alexa bag.  It is also a little bit wrinkly, but I'll get rid of the wrinkles, I promise.


Item Two:  A bottle of Barry M Instant Nail Effects, the cult crackle nail varnish that is sold out EVERYWHERE and flies out of Boots pretty much the minute it's put on the shelves.  Paint it on over your varnish and watch it crack before your very eyes.


Item Three:  A pristine, never read copy of Face Forward by Kevyn Aucoin.  Possibly the best make-up book ever written.  This book is for every skin colour, doesn't tell you to buy expensive brand products and shows you haw to create exceptional looks and (my favourite part) transforms celebrities into other famous women with only the power of makeup.  See pic above - that's Liza Minnelli as Marylin Monroe.  You can also see Christina Ricci as Edith Piaf, Gena Rowlands as Ava Gardner, Karen Elson as Elizabeth I... the list goes on and on and on.  It's such a great book to have and to share.


Item Four:  Some postcards and a guide for The Enchanted Palace Exhibition in Kensington Palace.  If you live in London and haven't gone, please go now.  Walk, don't run.  I'll wait here.  You can't buy the guide in the shops as it's only given to those who attend the exhibition, but here's one that is unblemished by my fair hand and ready for you to scribble all over (or stick to your fridge, whatever works).

Now don't say I'm not good to you.


Here comes the tricky part.

There's one day left, so I'm going to make it so much easier to enter.  Become a follower on Google Friend connect in the bar on the left, then leave a comment in the comment box.  You can follow on twitter or facebook for extra entries, just let me know in the comments! - easy peasy!  Merry Christmas all!

1.  You must be a follower to enter (that's how I know you read this blog).  Become a follower by clicking the Google Friends Connect bar on the right hand of this page.  You can become a follower if you have a gmail address, a twitter account, a yahoo account or an AIM so there's no excuse not to really!

2.  Mention this giveaway in your next blog post (just tack it on to a post if you'd like - but if you want to devote a whole post to it, that's no harm)!  Then leave a link in the comments section of this post.

3.  For an extra entry, follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway, then leave a separate comment on this post!

4.  If you don't have a blog or a twitter, then become a follower (see step 1) just click 'like' on the brand spanking new Licentiate page on Facebook, recommend it to your friends and post a link to the giveaway (this will also work as a third entry if you so wish).  Then leave a comment at the end of this post.

There.  Easy peasy.

NOTE:  This competition is open worldwide (even if postage will cripple me financially).  You must be a follower to enter.  The closing date for entry is midnight on Christmas Eve GMT (ooh, festive).  I will never, ever share contact information or email my followers with spam or third party junk or annoying offers (but feel free to email me with any questions you might have). The winner will be determined by a random draw, to be chosen by an independent adjudicator.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Licentiate Column 18/11/10

Fur is a tricky subject. It’s hard to be objective about animal fur, because so many emotions are involved. One one end of the spectrum there are vegans who would let only the best Stella MacCartney faux-leather boots touch their feet and shudder with extravagant horror at the though of Mittens the mink becoming Mittens the, er, mittens.

Then on the other end, there are animal fanciers, who love nothing more than buttery soft steaks and even buttery-er Loewe leathers. Fox-fur collars? Yes, please! Ermine-trimmed mukluks? Don’t mind if I do!

One of the more oddly beautiful things about free speech and conscious thought is that it gives us the right to wear the skins of dead animals that you wouldn’t pet at the zoo around our necks and somehow transform the act into a status symbol. Somewhere out there, a higher power is looking down at us and laughing his head off.

If you want my opinion (and you’re reading this, so you’re going to get it anyway), I don’t think that either of these people are inherently right or wrong. It’s a stony theoretical terrain, strewn with more emotional landmines than the average Celine Dion song. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and not one is better than the other.

What I cannot stand is the proselytising of some animal rights activists. If you pair the stance of ‘fur is wrong’ with an act of peaceful protest, then you have a coupling as perfect as strawberries and ice cream (perhaps not as harmonious and definitely not as tasty, but ultimately effective). Throwing paint on people - that’s just not on. Technically, it’s an assault and anyone who hurts a human being to defend a dead animal needs a fine tuning of the button in their brain marked ‘priorities’.

This week, I watched a slightly disturbing cartoon on Channel Four. Entitled The Tannery, it showed the death of two woodland creatures, a rabbit and a fox. The fox is killed by a hunter for it’s fur and so the spirit of the doomed fox is condemned to hang around with it’s own pelt for eternity, while the rabbit gets eaten by a wolf and ascends to Fuzzy Bunny Heaven.

This makes about as much sense as the worldwide success and dubious acclaim of Jersey Shore. The circumstances of death, which are completely arbitrary, somehow determine what happens to an animal’s spirit after it dies. This might be an obvious question, but who exactly is the maker of this film to make such an odd assertion? Did he have a one-on-one chat with the Maker Of The Animals? Did Doctor Doolittle stand in as a UN approved interpreter? Because this makes zero sense whatsoever.

Whatever your stance on animals and fur, it’s important not to get swayed too much by the opinions of other people. It’s a standpoint as individual to you as your fingerprint and it’s important not to feel guilty or inadequate over such a loaded topic. And always remember; if in doubt, go faux.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Royal Wedding Bonanza!

I have a secret shame.  I love royal weddings.

My gran used to collect magazines devoted to Royal couples and when I was a young 'un and staying over at her house I would pore over them and look at all the pretty dresses.  It's an incredibly girly impulse that has never gone away, even though I am now the kind of person who asks for boob t-shirts for Christmas.

My mother was born in England, so even though I'm Irish I was brough up with the idea of celebrating royal weddings (or at least watching them on the TV).  So, in honour of Kate Middleton and Prince William's nuptials, here are a few of my favourite royal weddings dresses.

Queen Victoria


Fact fans: Wedding dresses were traditionally pale blue in England up to that point. Victoria was evidently not amused at this because she wore a white wedding dress, which ruined any chance of future brides being able to eat chocolate cake or drink red wine at their weddings without having a nervous breakdown.  Queen Victoria's gown was of satin and lace trimmed with orange blossoms and the lace manufacturer was so keen to make sure that it wasn't copied that she ended up destroying the designs.  EDIT:  This is actually a court dress. Many thanks go to the anonymous commenter who pointed my mistake out.

Mystery Royals


I know nothing about this photo, other than the year (1927) and that the bride and groom were both royals (French and Italian). The train is amazing.  It must have been very heavy.  Presumably, it doubled as a marquee if the weather suddenly got very bad.

Princess Margaret


I was lucky enough to see her wedding dress at the Enchanted Palace Exhibition at Kensington Palace .  It was a beautiful and sad experience, especially when you consider how unlucky she was in love (she was not allowed to marry the man she was in love with, married Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960 and got divorced in 1978).  Her dress was designed by Norman Hartnell and is simple but seriously high-impact.

Princess Grace of Monaco

Photo by Howard Conant
Grace Kelly's dress was designed by Helen Rose, the head of wardrobe at MGM.  In order to release her from her contract, the wedding was filmed and distributed by MGM.  Another fun fact - it's illegal to show Grace Kelly films in Monaco.  Don't they know what they're missing out on?

Priscilla Presley


Well, she DID marry The King.  And is that a snakeskin tux on Mr Presley?  A huh-huh.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Christmas Wishlist

I'm so sorry,  I couldn't help it.  The spirit moved me and I said the C word on the blog.  That C word is Christmas, mind you, not what Charlotte for Sex and the City would primly call 'see-you-next-Tuesday'. Now that I've drawn attention to that, I have to warn you that there is ONE pic that might possibly be NSFW, but it's of an item of clothing, so it would depend on how easily offended you are.  Here's the list.  Check it twice if you must.

Clothes and Stuff

Siouxsie Sioux lookin' fierce
This epic t-shirt (to wear to job interviews and family christenings, obviously). Click here to read a totally interesting and absorbing series of posts about the evolution of the Tits t-shirt, brought to the masses by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm MacLaren.

 - Black yarn

 - White yarn

 - Big ol' knitting needles

 - Loose rhinestones

 - Lengths of chain

Ingredients for a top secret craft project - and by 'top secret' I mean glaringly obvious (it's a jumper).  The closest approximation I can find is on this stylish lady on Chictopia .  And it's handmade too.  It must be fate.  I'd like to make something a little bit like this, but sparkly.

On a side note for fellow Irish bloggers; were you forced to learn knitting in primary school?  I learned (and I say that in the loosest sense possible) knitting, sewing and crochet at the Presentation Primary and conveniently forgot my knitting needles and crochet hooks for about three years running.

It might just be me, but making things is so much better than just buying the finished article.  A mountain of studs to gussy up my biker jacket a la Burberry would be mighty useful too.

Books, books and more books...

Allure by Diana Vreeland - The out-of-print masterpiece has been reissued with an introduction by Marc Jacobs.  Possibly the funniest, wittiest writer of fashion ever.  Vreeland, that is, not Marc Jacobs.
The Mode in Furs by R. Turner Wilcox - So I can understand a bit more about fur and where the hell the idea of wearing an animal comes from.
Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress by Denise Rosenzweig - A peek into the wardrobe of amazing, flamboyant artist Frida Kahlo, who took up a big part of my Halloween post with her scarves, braids and traditional Mexican clothing.

Film Flickers

Totally unattainable

I've got a Mac G4, I've had it for five years and it still works great.  But it's a little bit knackered now and I need something that has more memory and runs a little bit quicker.  It also weighs a ton.  A new Mac Air would do the trick nicely.  So light, you can barely see it.  Just like Kate Moss.  Anonymous donors, start queueing here.


World peace.  Not too much to ask, is it?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Licentiate Column 11/11/10

If you’re up to date on what’s happening on the high street, you will know all about the new collaboration between high street behemoths H&M and the impossibly chic Lanvin, a designer label whose elaborate hand-painted t-shirts often run in excess of five hundred euros. To many people, this sounds like a dream come true, so the story of this collaboration will be written in a fairytale fashion that Charles Perrault (much more stylish and parfait than those uncouth Grimm Brothers) should be proud of.

Once upon a time there was a very lonely shop. This shop should not have been lonely, for it had all the customers that it could dream of, clogging up it’s dressing rooms and buying inexpensive snoods en masse. This shop was also magical, for it somehow managed to manufacture massive amounts of on-trend stock and sell at bottom dollar prices without any major human rights violations on the part of it’s factory workers in third-world countries.

What this store needed was a partner. Oh, it had had flings before, with all the right people. Stella MacCartney, Karl Lagerfeld, Victor and Rolf, Sonia Rykiel... the list went on. This store blazed a trail in sartorial lovers, all different, all special, all extremely productive. The fruits of these labours were gobbled up greedily by the customers, but such delights were not enough. Now, with such affairs concluded, the shop was not only forlorn, but faced with greedy, happy faces all in anticipation of the next scandalous partnership, like a woman who has just picked up a copy of Hello with Cheryl Cole on the cover.

What this shop needed was a fairy godmother. And, thus, Alber Elbaz, head of H&M, appeared in a flash of tulle and couture. “Worry not!” Alber exclaimed. Together we shall make a partnership the like of which no customer has ever seen. We shall have exaggerated florals, acid brights, designer tailoring, distinctive silhouettes and more cocktail dresses than you could shake a Christmas party at!” And together, the lonely shop and Lanvin joined hands and lived happily ever after. All the customers got their designer dresses at high street prices and they lived happily ever after too...

And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

What’s interesting about fairy tales isn’t what you are told, but what the storytellers choose to omit. The lonely shop (that’s H&M for those who haven’t quite cottoned on) wants to push up profits while Lanvin probably wants to introduce young customers to the heady thrill of designer buying, making them more likely to pick Lanvin in the future. Not all the customers will get their cheap designer dresses and many will go home unhappy.
There are three reasons for this (three being the best number for any fairytale gone wrong).

1) The collaboration is only coming to 200 selected stores, one of which is in Ireland.
2) If you manage to get past the queue and elaborate wristband system H&M have devised, you will only be allowed to buy one piece of clothing.
3) Having found the dress of your dreams, you peer at the pricetag. It will probably cost two hundred euros, one hundred and fifty if you’re lucky.
Designer at high street prices? I think not. The fairytale has well and truly ended.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Disney Roller Girl revealed! Well, sort of...

If you're in a public place and have inadvertantly blasted everyone's ears out with Richard Nicoll's ruminations on blogging for Vogue, then I'm sorry. Good ol' autoplay. EDIT - the autoplay was starting to deeply annoy people (including me) so I've linked to it instead.

The above video is a collaboration between Vice Style and Blackberry that brings bloggers together in a cornucopia of social media. Most interesting (I think) is the video of Disney Roller Girl, which offers an insight into what must be the most elusive and mysterious figure in the blogging world. Stiff competition, I know.

On another note, I once saw Disney Roller Girl in real life. One of the eleventy million bloggers I met that week (I shall never reveal who) pointed her out to me and I was greeted by a vision of... the back of her head as she headed into the press tent. Oh well. Maybe next time.



Pics: Vice Style

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wild For Kicks; The Beat Girl

I want to be this girl - The Beat Girl.

Beat Girl (released as Wild For Kicks) is a 1960 film about a disaffected teenager who hates her stepmother and gets involved with morally suspect beats and a shady striptease bar owner (played by horror maaestro Christopher Lee of all people).  Half cautionary tale and half voyeuristic fable, the striptease scenes meant that this film was given an X rating.  Things start to go downhill when Beat Girl find out about her stepmother's sordid past...

I'd like to be like this - effortless hepcat cool, dishevelled beehive, spasmodic dancing.  Oh well, one out of three ain't bad.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Licentiate Column 04/11/09

You'll be hard pressed to find a word-heavy article about minimalism.  There isn't any clear cut reason for such a linguistic drought, but it might have something to do with the fact that the trend is just so, er, minimal that there's really not much to say about it.  It could have something to do with the fact that it's just so devoid of detail and, ironically, fuzzy around the edges that no-one really seems to know what it is.

Minimalism has it's roots in art and architecture, which is appropriate for such a simple, but complicated, idea.  Predictably, it means stripping down something (in this case, clothing) to it's most fundamental elements.  Minimalist clothing isn't fussy.  Imagine minimalist clothing and you'll think of Audrey Hepburn's iconic LBD and cocoon coat in Breakfast at Tiffany's or Ali McGraw clomping morosely through a snow-filled quad of some non-distinct Ivy League university.

A minimalist coat, a coat devoid of fripperies, is not a coat with vital bits missing - the sleeve ripped out or a collar carelessly forgotten.  Instead, the minimalist is obsessed with clean lines.  That means no ruffles, no pleats and no exposed zips or buttons.  Everything should be as straight and up-and-down as possible.  This is unfortunate for women, because as we well know, women are not 'straight, up-and-down' kinds of creatures.  We have curves and folds.  We loop, we undulate. We are inconveniently complicated.  We are squiggly shapes mercilessly hammered into a square, sharp cornered hole.
> Fashion designers seem to have forgotten, while drawing inspiration from art and architecture, that people are not inert objects.  A blank canvas doesn't have breasts or hips to ruin the perfect, minimalist straight line.  A building doesn't have to run for the bus only to discover that, after two minutes of movement, the hem of the chic Hepburn-ish cocoon coat is now around it's armpits.
> Minimalism, in it's original incarnations, called for the lithe-rail thin physique of a fourteen year-old boy who has recently completed a growth spurt.  Simple sixties boxy suit jackets teamed with matching minis hung best on narrow, less well endowed physiques.  Thin, vertically ribbed knit jumpers grew unnecessary and ungainly ripples when pulled across any chest larger than an A cup.  If anything, minimalism was the trend that taught women to be ashamed of their cleavage.
> The nineties revival was no different.  Only this time around, 'minimalism' also meant 'wear even less clothes'.  Most people will remember the stir that Kate Moss caused modelling sheer, wire-thin strapped, mons veneris short sheath dresses for Calvin Klein.  This started an offshoot trend for barely-there frocks, which in turn resulted in the simultaneous cricking of necks in males every time there was a stiff breeze.

This years Autumn/Winter trend is slightly different.  Designers have realised the economic power of creating a look that actually suits real women.  Minimalism still retains it's pared-down aesthetic, but is slightly softer around the edges and nipped in at the waist, made lovingly with luxe fabrics and in rich neutral tones, like the clothing equivalent of a Marks and Spencers dessert ad.

Ironically though, in order to properly subscribe to minimalism, you'll have to buy a whole new wardrobe.  Unfortunately, there's a catch.  When it was affordable, minimalism didn't suit us.  Now that it miraculously suits the average woman, its almost totally inaccessible.  

We have two options. 1) Marry a Russian ogliarch.  2) Recognise that you're stressing unnecessarily about yet another inaccessible trend for no good reason and carry on living your life as normal, no damage done.  Until minimalism become fashionable again in 2030, that is.