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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Licentiate Column 28/10/10

I have a problem with Hallowe'en dressing.  Actually no, I don't have a problem with the dressing up itself.  Thinking up a character is fun.  Sewing, constructing and arranging a costume is also fun.  Even just wandering into a costume shop and having a pervy window shop is fun.  Getting out into the crisp, chilly Hallowe'en night to discover that you are the only female Einstein in a horde of Playboy bunnies - that is not fun.  That I have a problem with.


If you've seen Tina Fey-scripted comedy Mean Girls (and if you're under thirty-five and dress up every Hallowe'en than you almost definitely have) you'll feel a twang of recognition when Lindsay Lohan says, blissfully oblivious to the fact that her life would turn into some sort of eternal Ghost Train, that "Hallowe'en is the one night a year when girls can dress like total sluts and no other girls can say anything about it".

There's no point in deriding girls who want to dress up in their underwear because that's their prerogative.  It's Hallowe'en, so it's a-ok. Some sexy costumes (like 60's era Catwoman, for example) look, well, they look hot.  Very hot.  And very cool - it's near impossible to pull off hot and cool at the same time. Some women feel liberated by slipping on something alluring that they would never normally dream of wearing, even inside the bedroom.  Deliverance from the shackles of sexual oppression and added shock factor?  Why, that may just be the perfect costume, in my humble opinion.

The problem is the sheer lack of imagination that is displayed by wandering into a costume shop and buying a costume in a squeaky plastic bag.  Surely that sucks all the fun out of the one day a year where adults are fully justified in acting like children, albeit children who get to drink alcohol, stay out all night and then shriek loudly outside my apartment window on their way home (come to think of it, that's probably an accurate description of the children who haunt my neighbourhood).  Why buy a mass-produced costume when Hallowe'en is such a personal event?  You could dress like anyone in the world, alive or dead, real or imaginary.  Why waste that on being one of fifty sexy policewoman, like a page in a Where's Wally book gone dreadfully, dreadfully wrong?

The options for women who want to buy and not make costumes are thin on the ground for those who have the singular criteria of not baring their arse.  These costumes often bear the moniker 'sexy' but in truth it's not - you'll never see a sexy leprechaun in FHM or Playboy.  Polyester cut-out jumpsuits aren't really that sexy for anyone but hormonal pubescents.  Costume distributors seem to think that anything can be sexy across the spectrum from animal to vegetable - literally. 

While online I found a sexy straightjacket (sans trousers), a sexy Smurfette (with a jaunty-looking silly hat), a sexy Martini (with olives as bra cups, but of course), a sexy coral fish (ok...), sexy Ms Potato Head (slightly disturbing) and a sexy Elmo, which, if anything looked like a tiny fur jacket made from a freshly-skinned Muppet.

Maybe we're all missing the point here.  The spirit of Christmas isn't in the presents, just as the spirit of Hallowe'en isn't in the costumes.  The true essence of Hallowe'en is the food, the tremendous glops of candied popcorn, jellies, chocolate coins and hallmarks of general overindulgence - yet another good reason to forgo the sexiness and just be another version of yourself at Hallowe'en.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A handful of perfect Halloween costumes*

*that can be sexy, not slutty.
*that can be made with items right out of your own wardrobe
*that no-one else at the party will be wearing (though I make NO guarantees)
*that are of super-cool women
*that will make for better small talk than, "So you're a sexy policeman/traffic cop/firewoman/Elmo, when's my stripsearch?  Bwahahahaha!" and other terrible come-on lines.

That being said, there's nothing bad about sexy Halloween costumes bought from the shop - they're just so damn boring. Life is too short to be a member of the armed forces for Halloween when you could be almost anything else.

Here's my list, in no particular order, of costumes that are easy, quick and won't result in pictures of your bum being circulated on Facebook (hopefully). This post is damn long and took ages to put together (hence there only being two posts this week) so there's much, much more after the jump.

1. Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist of Hungarian extraction who lived a very modern life when it was unacceptable to do so. She was married to muralist Diego Rivera, but had many affairs, including with Leon Trotsky, Josephine Baker and Nickolas Muray, who would spend years taking iconic photographs of her. She posed for American Vogue and other magazines in her uniform of traditional Mexican clothing; full skirts, embroidered blouses and ostentatious colours, almost always with fresh flowers in her hair.


Both pictures by Nickolas Muray

Frida in your wardrobe - maxi skirts, florals, short sleeved blouses, shawls, hairbands DIYed with fake flowers.

Further reading - Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress: Frida's Wardrobe.

Alternates - Tamara De Lempicka, Artemisia Gentileschi, Yoko Ono, Hannah Hoch.

More after the jump!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Licentiate Column 21/10/10

A woman's experiences with camel in all it's permutations are usually interesting. It's close enough to beige to be neither exhilaratingly good or mood-shrivellingly bad, but it's far enough away from that perennially tedious shade to be just the right side of interesting. Yes, 'interesting' is definitely the word.

Like many girls of my generation, the first time that I saw a camel coat was a particularly sharp Jil Sander number on my mother as a toddler (I was the toddler, not my mother. Camel may be interesting but it isn't powerful enough to implicate time travel). I remember thinking even then just how impossibly grown-up the long, double-breasted overcoat was - how the shape precisely delineated just how much of an adult my mother was, and still is, in my eyes. It was a world away from the one that I inhabited. I wondered when I would be the grown-up lady with the grown-up coat. I'm still waiting.

The second experience with camels was riding one by the ancient pyramids in Giza last year. As the slurping behemoth bobbed and juddered around unfenced tombs of the pyramid's foremen and architects, little more than holes in the ground, I got the same feeling that I did when looking upon my mother's camel coat for the first time. I was just not ready for the experience.

Even though the style reports tell you otherwise, a camel coat is not just for this season; it's for life. The moment you become an adult is not when you turn 18 and legally ged drunk on lager shandies, it's when you buy on of these babies. Unlike an actual camel though, a camel coat will not cost you money in food and stable fees. A camel coat will not earn you extra pocket money charging passing tourists for joy rides and it will definitely not spit on you when the going gets tough (but I promise nothing).

In fact, most camel coats aren't actually made of camel hair but synthetic fibres that are dyed a uniformly dromedary hue. "Oh good", I hear you sigh, "No animal has been harmed in the making of my new car coat from Oasis". Bless you, for you are incredibly misinformed (but fair dues for worrying about whether your clothes are ethically sourced or not). Besides wool, camel hair has to be the kindest of all animal fibres, collected from the two humped Bactrian camel and not my stinky Egyptian friend. The best to be had is casually collected of the animals neck and flanks as it falls off during moulting, thus making camel hair harvesting the easiest job since the Arctic got it's first weatherman.

Many people accuse camel of being nothing but a another word for the dreaded beige. For future reference, real camel is actually a shade of brown. It's darker than beige, with a golden, honeyed tone. Camel hair also has thermobaric properties that NASA would be proud to develop, enabling the wearer to stay warm in Peruvian mountain snow and cool in desert climes (or just on a windy December day waliking down Patrick Street, if that's what you prefer). See what I mean about camel being interesting? You can accuse it of being scarily grown-up or a bastardised beige, but it'll never be boring.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Family Portrait

I'm totally contravening the laws of blog here but, inspired by this post from Diamond Canopy,  I'm reposting some photos that I already put up on the blog some months ago .  May I incur the wrath of Blog for my sins, but these pictures are way too nice to hide.

These are of my maternal grandmother's family.  A few months after she died, I found a plastic bag stuffed with her falling-apart address book and a ton of photos that she always had by her side.  My nan was a formative influence on my life.  I miss her a lot (even if she wouldn't let me close the door whenever I had boys in my bedroom).

I won't tell you which women is my nan, because my mother already thinks that having a blog means handing out my cup size and bank account details to strangers, let alone revealing who my family members are.  But I will tell you this - pick the most stylish woman below and you'll probably see her.



Monday, October 18, 2010

Russian Dolls and Harlequin Romance

I love this editorial, shot by Tim Walker for Vogue, which carries all the typical Walker trademarks of being utterly bonkers and utterly fantastic at the same time.

This editorial is inspired by the Ballet Russes and especially the Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes  Exhibition at the V&A in London, which has garnered a lot of attention from the fashion pack since Erdem Moragliou has cited his work on the exhibition as an inspiration for his Spring/Summer '11 line ( I talked about it here )

Here's a few of my favourite shots.






Pics from Fashion Gone Rogue - click for the full editorial

Friday, October 15, 2010

Jones Moans


Despite the title, I don't think you'd be hearing moans but rather yelps of delight if I got my hands on one on Dominic Jones' super-spiky, super-shiny rings. Inspired by Art Deco shapes, yet still retaining the 'incredibly rich punk' image (Alice Dellal is his business partner, after all) the collection is so covetable it should be made illegal.




I actually did have one moan - I tried on the ring above at the NEWGEN area at LFW and said, "Ooh, it's very heavy" only to be told, "Well, that ring is mostly for editorial purposes".  Does that mean that it's not going into production?  Say it ain't so Mr Jones.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Licentiate Column 14/10/10

Getting my makeup done by the L'Oreal make up lady, who managed to apply liquid eyeliner ON A SWAYING BUS.  This is a life skill which I have yet to learn.

As the weather goes from summery drizzle to an intensely dirgelike autumn downpour, I, like many people, get the itch.  This is not the kind of itch than can be remedied by furtive trips to the GP and extortionately priced creams.  This is the kind of urge that compells you to make a drastic change.  Open your mind!  Save the world!  Become a better person!

The itch for change, for transfomation is so overwhelming that it’s all you can do not to spontaneously combust and emerge from a blackened chrysalis with the overall demeanour (and unnervingly smooth appearance) of Angelina Jolie.  You want to become a better person.  Not necessarily a better version of yourself, mind.  My dreams of improvement never actually involve improving on the admittedly shaky framework that is me.  It somehow involves Normal Sarah becoming a totally different, new and improved person, much like the endless parade of actors portraying Nick Tilsley on Coronation Street.

It’s at times of identity crises such as this that I do what any sane woman would do.  I don’t actually do any of the things that I plan on doing, like going to Pilates, reading Bertrand Russell, alphabetising my closet or putting the fine tuning on a skincare regime.  I reach for the hairdye.

Last week I went from a mousy brown to a pleasantly artifical looking carroty red that would make Peg Bundy nod with approval.  Do you ever feel (somewhat inexplicably) as if you would somehow become much thinner, taller and sassier once that towel wrapped around your ‘do is whipped off?  I was suitably shocked and perturbed to find out that, after slopping a squeezy bottle of gunk on my head, I was still me. With red hair.

As disappointment rang in my ears (that could have been a side-effect from the dye) I popped down to the Oasis Fashion Bus which had trundled in to town to celebrate, appropriately, the total makeover of the Patrick Street store.  Inside, I was greeted by Style Wars winner David Greene, who took me through all the fashion-forward choices for this season.

I asked him what would suit me, a very short, hourglass-ish, non-model.  David showed me a nice, lace panelled midi skirt and a flapper dress that should skim over the hips.  I’m not sure of the significance of the hip skimming, but he certainly seemed to know what he was talking about.  There was a pause and he said, ‘You know, you’re not that short.  You’re probably not as short as you think you are’, a fact that, now realised, still shocks me.  I always thought that I was a titch.  Apparently not.

"Listen Sarah, I know you think you're tiny, but it's just the camera angle"

I get home and measure myself, and he’s right.  I’m just half an inch off the average height for women.  As it turns out I barely know what I actually look like, let alone have the capacity to accurately imagine myself after a makeover.  To others, my flaws are probably not as exaggerated as they are to me.  People don’t see me through a warped lens as I (and many women) do.  They just see me.  With red hair.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So what is a fashion film anyway?

Not content with releasing photographs of impossibly young, slim and beautiful people, Hedi Slimane, former Dior Homme designer has breanched out with a small film about two, eh, impossibly young, slim and beautiful people.

Titled, 'I Love USA', it's somewhere between fashion and art, in that the emphasis is on beauty and movement, but it's also abstract. In short - I have no idea what's going on. I mean, I've read the press release, so I know what it's about, but I think that it hardly amtters because it's a simple joy just to watch the product of Slimane's discerning eye (on a par with Tom Ford, I think).  To quote:

"This exclusive video is an improvisation exercise (like ‘Improvisation 1’, with the royal Ballet of Copenhagen)that highlights the naŃ—vety, the innocence of Sidney and Wolf, and features themes that have made the designer famous throughout the world: the representation of a generation, the diaphanous beauty of Sidney, and the very slim silhouette of Wolf project the intimate emotional atmosphere of a couple of teenagers in California.

Sidney improvises a chaotic cheerleader, far from the sweet imagery of cheerleading in American culture, and Wolf is a teen indie transposed in an ‘indie’ representation of ‘Peter and the Wolf’. He accompanies Sidney on his out of tunecello, in a wolf mask. Behind, a fleet-worn American flag belonging to Slimane is visible, a recurring image seen inseveral of his artistic works."

The great thing about fashion film is that it's so young that is has yet to develop distinct characteristics like the need for a storyline or even clothes to promote.  The brief is totally open. What do you think - is this a fashion film?  What makes a film 'fashion'?

Friday, October 8, 2010

I wish I was in London: Part eleventy million


Photo by Gavin Watson

If you happen to be in London on the 29th of October, you could do much worse than to pop along to a party held by Vice in a super-secret venue to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martens.  Cheapy-cheap booze and free tickets, which sounds a damn sight better than my dad's fiftieth. Click here to register for tickets.

On a side note, does anyone know why we call them Doc Martens and not 'Doctor' Martens?  This is the kind of unnecessary stuff that floats around my head on a Friday afternoon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Licentiate Column 07/10/10

Last week I was privileged enough to be asked to contribute a blog post for an international charity, which I’ll admit is somewhere outside of my remit. If my comfort zone was Planet Earth, this piece that I was writing was newly-discovered, Earth-like Planet G; 20 light years apart, but not so different when you think about it.

The post concerned girls and women in developing countries and the plights that they face in all aspects of life, from education to pay equality to personal safety and security for the future. My first thought was that of how lucky I was to be living in a country where I could sue the pants (or skirt - when it comes to litigation I’m all for equality) off anyone who discriminated against me because of gender. The second was a slow, dawning realisation of the type only seen in bad soap operas, when the protagonist finally emerges from the dim veil of improbable amnesia. I write every week about the only industry in which men get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

Like most businesses, the fashion industry is male-dominated, from CEOs to designers, but it is decidedly female oriented. In every fashion week, only one day is devoted to the stronger, less fair of the sexes. Yep, I’m referring to the dudes.

I’d be committing a generalisation of a broader stroke than Michael Phelps could ever achieve if I said that fashion was just not made for guys. So, I’ll tentatively declare that fashion only appeals to a certain type of man (and I can pretty much guarantee that, if you’re thinking of Mark from Ugly Betty, then you’re way off the, uh, mark).

Your typical ‘fashion guy’ is more Dapper Dan than Screaming Stereotype. He is driven by the kind of compulsive thirst for knowledge that drives other men to dismantle the engine of a car or categorise thirty years of League Cup stats by year and commit them to memory. He needs to know how the proportions of a shirt work, he knows what colours go together, he appreciates great craftsmanship and draws inspiration from fashion movements past and present. He isn’t a particular size or shape. He could be any race, have any sexual preference.

He could be any man who is concerned with how they look has a vested interest in fashion, whether you’re label junkie on a first-name status with the staff of BT’s or a careful shopper like my father, who is meticulous about his impeccably proportioned, made-to-measure suits.
Yet men don’t have the breadth of choice that women do. Go sit in a busy part of town on a Saturday night and count the amount of men with identikit short-sleeved, checked shirts tucked into unflattering high-rise faded jeans. Then weep for humanity.

The boyfriend however, thinks I’ve got it all wrong. He thinks that all these beshirted studs actually are concerned with fashion. They just have no style. “Style is like a signature”, he preached to me in between bouts of Grand Theft Auto. “Fashion is just what’s available in shops”. Apparently, these guys are making the best of what’s available and doing a terrible job.

“Fashion is for the herd”, he says. “Style is for the black sheep, who hangs outside of the group.” “And what about stylish men who are into fashion?” I enquire. “Does that make them grey sheep?”

“No”, he concludes, chewing a potential pearl of wisdom. “A sheep that is both fashionable and stylish is just a sheep that’s caught on the fence”.

If you want to read the post that I wrote for Plan Ireland on gender inequality, you can read it on the Because I Am A Girl blog here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

One for the lust list

Do two wrongs make a right? If the new J brand collab has anything to do with it, the answer is yes.

Maybe calling them 'wrongs' is a bad idea - it's just that high end designer jeans and Erdem have never been my cup of tea. Until now, that is. You still won't catch me dropping three hundred euro on a pair of Houlihans, but I'm very tempted by Erdem Moralioglu's gorgeous floral print zipper capris, which from far away looks like a complicated, beautiful burnout.

if you're like me and you thought that Erdem was a little staid, then look to his Ballet Russes inspired S/S collection, with perfectly bizarre, gorgeous florals and think again.  How wrong was I?  It's been one of my favourite shows all this season.


Above are the five offerings of the J Brand 5x5 initiative, which teams five designers with five London stores (Peter Pilotto at Selfridges, Richard Nicoll at Liberty, Christopher Kane at Harvey Nichols, Meadham Kirchhoff at Browns and Erdem at Harrods).  I am sorely tempted.

Erdem jeans from far away...
... and up close.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

LFW: I heart Jordan Askill


Have you ever been blog-scooped?  You know, you sit down to write something, only to discover that one of your favourite blogs has written about it already (and, in fairness, much better)?  That happened to me last week, when I sat down to scrape some London Fashion Week photos out of my camera, only to discover that Style Bubble had done a frankly, epic post on Jordan Askill.

Askill is a Sydney native, exhibited as part of Newgen and specialises in intricately wrought jewellery that is hand-carved but drawn with the aid of computer programmes.  It's this synthesis between past and present, traditional and technology, that has become the main point of focus in his work and, it has to be said, is nothing short of a breath of fresh air in a stuffy room of bling and intimidating knuckledusters.



The above is from Askill's current collection.  This cherub head pendant is roughly the size of your thumbnail, at most about the length of this line _______ (probably a little bit more if you have a high-res monitor.


I was lucky enough to meet Askill in the Newgen tent and get some very nice compliments on the rings I was wearing.  Mercifully, I was too nervous to gush all over him (metaphorically, that is), but unfortunately not too nervous to mentally high five myself and impart on him a very long, boring story about the history of the rings and where I got each one and, and, and... I'm boring even myself now.  If you see this Jordan (and your lovely friend too), I am truly sorry.

Here are some slightly blurry close-ups of his S/S '11 collection.  They do no justice to the craftsmanship and time taken to conceive such pieces.  It's rare to see jewellery that displays and obvious concern with both concept and execution.  The term 'high-concept' really gets bandied about too often but in this case it's true - the amount of care that goes into this is beyond the norm.  Once you hold of one these pieces in your hand you know you're holding something precious and rare.  You'll know that no-one is doing anything quite like Askill.

While this season is angelic, Askill has turned back to more primal influences for Spring/Summer with studies of tigers, bears and horses.  These are all derivations and meditations on a sculpture Askill did of 65 horses galloping in unison, which you can see in full on his website.  The sculpture is also fully incorporated into a series of harnesses (click on the Style Bubble post to see; I haven't seen then anywhere else online).  The details is Amazing with a capital A, I can't express it enough, and I come away from this post a tad uneasy as I feel like a haven't done his work justice.  For once I can't find the words.  Usually it's too many words, which is also a problem.

You should probably go to his website and step into a new world (and do a bit of healthy coveting).

You could look at his JORDY diffusion line, which is a line of more accessible, but equally adorable rings and bangles.  Dibs on the hidden sapphire heart ring.

Mostly though, he just seems like a lovely person with an intelligent, artistic mind and a passion for innovation and craftsmanship.  If that doesn't deserve to be supported, I don't know what does.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Get the Lichtenstein Look

It's another Hallowe'en inspiration post this time.  Oh, the joys of having nothing to write about, then having a lightbulb moment that says '!!!HALLOWEEN!!!  In short, if there's any reason to write about a night in which you can look totally ridiculous without major repercussions, then I'll grab it with both hands.

You may think that I'm being horribly pre-emptive because I'm a whole month early for Hallowe'en, but if you think about it another way, I'm really eleven months late as this make-up look from MAC is actually from 2009.  Whoops.

I've had make-up on the brain since I found out that I won an amazing prize courtesy of Think What You Like and Sarah Hope Make Up *.  This post is for you.  Big up my sistaz (sorry, in real life I never say anything that obnoxious... I hope).

For once, I'll let the pictures do the talking...

Roy Lichtenstein, In The Car, 1963

Roy Lichtenstein, Girl, 1961(ish)






Nifty, eh?

*Speaking of which, I have a wee giveaway of my own that I can't wait to unveil once I get fifty google followers.  A secret door doesn't unlock when I get 50 followers by the way - it's just a personal target.