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Friday, April 29, 2011

A little something for the weekend...

If you've ever wondered what I wear on a day to day basis (unlike a lot of bloggers I'm not a big outfit poster) then click here to watch me ramble on about socks with sandals, fake J Brands and stealing clothes from your boyfriend.  The video is courtesy of RTE's Red Radar blog, which houses some more posts by yours truly, so get sifting through the archives.

Yes, I do a Vulcan salute at the end.  I'm considering using it as a sign-off in all conversations from now on.

Have an excellent Bank Holiday weekend!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Licentiate Column 28/04/11: Shopping Irish Vintage

I have two fashion bugbears. One is the bizarre weekly columns of a certain fashion writer for a certain Irish National newspaper, which I pore over weekly like a small child examining the progress of a greenish, particularly notched scab on his knee. Each week I’m increasingly boggled by the factual inaccuracies, patronising attitudes and overdone, lazy ‘shoes-equal-life’ metaphors and Coco Chanel quotes casually executed (in the ‘death by firing squad’ sense) by this writer.

But that’s a column for a country without libel laws. That column will never exist, which is a good thing, because writing it would probably result in such a cathartic burst that I’d expire of sheer happiness on pressing the ‘send’ button.

The other bugbear is much more manageable. That bugbear is the Irish vintage market. As complicated and full of cozeners as the average Dickens scenario, as full of scammers, well-meaning innocents and true-blue fanatics as an X Factor audition and more complicated than a marathon run of Twin Peaks, your average vintage market is not to be ventured into unless you’re very well-educated or have a weight to offload in the wallet area.

In Ireland, people aren’t out to make a profit; they’re out to make a killing. The vintage sector is no different. The problem of overpricing, in my estimation, is obvious in at least half of the Irish vintage vendors.

This is due to many different factors. Vendors buy from abroad and the price of shipping has to be factored in. Vendors buy a dress that they love, but is that little bit too expensive, so the price is doubled for resale. Sometimes vendors are just total chancers and slap a fifty euro price tag on a dress bought from Oxfam or worse, a dress that is obviously from the high street and only a few seasons old, but with the tags not-so-suspiciously missing.

A good rule of thumb is, if you like it and you think it’s worth it, then buy it. If you have any doubts, walk away. In a world where ‘vintage’ has somehow become a by-word for individuality, you’d be surprised how often similar items to the one you just passed up will come along. What’s for you won’t pass by you.
But, if you’re a tight-fisted miser like me, here’s some good resources.

1) Etsy. Etsy is a worldwide vintage and handmade market. The majority of the sellers are from The US, so the dollar to euro conversion will almost definitely work in your favour. Shipping is almost never as expensive as you’d expect and a bargain is never far away if you’re willing to cyber-rummage.

2) Elsa & Gogo. This Irish vintage accessory store has a carefully chosen edit of pretty, ladylike bracelets that look like they came right from Peggy Draper’s dressing table, at very reasonable prices. Elsa & Gogo have one up on the average vintage seller; their packaging is very beautiful and ripe for the gift-giving.

3) Tabitha Vintage. This online shop can be found on Facebook and is the brainchild of bloggers Una O’Boyle and Louise Ryan of Glamrocks Luna, an Irish fashion blog that compiles the very best of style inspiration. Their clothing is superlative grunge-chic, with prices so low I almost want to rub my eyes with surprise like a cartoon character. So, there you have it. Go forth, and shop wisely.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Very Last Ten Things

So, I've been tagged by The Hostess Handbook and given a Kreativ Blogger award.  Ta very much for thinking of me!  Here's my ten facts.

1)  Although it's very nice to be thought of and tagged, and I really enjoy reading other people's posts, I hate these things.  Once you get them, you feel obliged to tag another ten people.  It's the blog equivalent of a chain mail and I find that I'm getting so many of them I'm eventually going to run out of facts about myself.  Although, I've been in an inspiration rut recently, I don't think that these make for the best posts. So, this is the last.  This must be the last.  Absolutely the last.  Final.  Full stop. Never again.  Cross my heart and hope to die be spanked until my bottom goes purple.

2)  At present there are three large men ripping up the tiles in my flat and installing a new boiler.  All I can say about that is - thank God for watertight tenancy agreements, if not boilers.


3)  New celeb crush - by that I mean 'guy on TV who is cute', not an actual crush (that would be weird):  Dave Franco.  Funny, great smile, seems smart and looks a little bit like an ex-boyfriend, but not so much that I'm totally repulsed.  Yes, he's James Franco's younger brother.

Melodramatic enough for ya? (source)

4)  Last book read - The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber.  I was really excited to get this as an early birthday present (thank you Alan!) and it was excellent - up until the last hundred pages or so.  The TV adaptation currently running on the BBC also looks amazing and has a great cast.  Although I don't know how I feel about the prospect of a full frontal Chris O'Dowd.  Oh, I know he went to LAMDA and everything but he'll always be Roy from the IT Crowd to me.

5)  Can't.  Stop.  Listening.  To.  This.  Song.  Against my better judgement.  Ev'ry day I'm shufflin'.


6)  My birthday is next week and a fluo Cambridge satchel is at the very top of the wishlist.  Add some Danielle Scutt for Topshop jewellery and I'm channeling my inner Man Repeller.  P.S.  I'd love one in leopard print.  Cambridge Satchel Company, if you're reading this...

7)  New film obsession - Paris is Burning, as seen at Style at Set last weekend.  I'd be foolish NOT to try vogueing on my next night out.

8) That Can Be My Next Tweet invents new tweets made from your old tweets.  Recycling is good for the environment.  But not for my imagination.  Ugh.  What a mental image.

9)  Speaking of which, I'm on facebook AND twitter AND Pinterest - so come say hello.  Validate me with your friendship!

10)  The last and most important point.  As I've said, there's been an inspiration drought sweeping the area lately, so I've set myself a challenge and I need YOUR help.  I've decided to write about any fashion/style-oriented topic that is put to me.  Every single one.  No matter how out there, or seemingly normal, I want to write about it.  Even if you don't think it's my cup of tea, I want to know.  You can give me a word, or a link, or a picture to bounce ideas off.  Leave any and all suggestions in the comments.  And thank you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Licentiate Column 21/04/11: The Man Repeller

Are you a Man Repeller?

I don’t mean in the literal sense, as if you had an internal chromosonal magnet tuned to the same polarity as all men.

Nor am I asking if you smell bad, or are ugly, or have a terrible personality - because I know you don’t (and even if you did, there’s still someone out there for you - more than likely a belching farting, incredibly hostile someone, but a special someone all the same).

The Man Repeller is a blog written by New Yorker Leandra Medine. In it, she talks about all the clothes that your friends go bananas over, but make men scratch their heads in puzzlement,which sometimes happens when women do things not exclusively for their masculine amusement.

Capes, detachable collars, fringing, feathers, sequins, print clashes, harem pants, clogs, shoulder pads and boyfriend jeans are all incorporated into outfits that are both cheerfully tongue-in-cheek and dead-serious stylish. Not since the suffragette movement has something that comes so naturally to women been so totally incomprehensible for men.

The Man Repeller is a person too. She’s me in glaring neon pink jeans. She’s my best friend with tattoos and leopard print. She’s that girl in the shop with a Dellal esque demi-shaved head.

She’s you in your absolute favourite pair of shoes. She’s all of us - the Carrie Bradshaw part that wears what she wants, not what is expected of her. She’s the kind of person who keeps up with the trends, but dresses only for herself. No kitten heels may pass the threshold of her wardrobe doors, for there are too many of clunky Acne/Topshop/Penneys wedges taking up space inside.

Why wrap up in a sensible coat on a cold winter’s day when you can dress like a yeti a la Chanel? Greasy locks? Leave the dry shampoo to one side and pop on a turban. The Man Repeller might look a bit bonkers to the general public, but her fellow Repellows knows that she’s channeling Old Hollywood meets Roaring Twenties meets Opium Den. She doesn’t really care what the general public thinks anyway. She loves the turban. Her taste is just so good it goes beyond the realms of normal human perception. That’s good enough for me.

For anyone who thinks that fashion can’t be feminist, think again. For those who maintain that shopping is a shallow pursuit, well, you might be right; but you have to admit that the Man Repeller adds credence. Freedom of expression and non-conformity will always be a good thing - even if it’s only in outfit form.

The Man Repeller doesn’t hate men, she likes them - most of the time. She also likes being her own person. That is where the disparity lies. It’s a toss on a doubled-sided coin. Heads to please yourself. Tails to attract the opposite sex. For the Man Repeller, heads wins every time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fashion Film @ Style at Set

This Easter Weekend brings us chocolate binges and religious flagellation - but it also brings us the second ABSOLUT Style at Set, a weekend of fashion, fun, frolics and most importantly (for me anyway), FILM!

As a precursor to the stalls, workshops and talks, Friday is all about the fashion films. If you're in the area on Good Friday, I highly recommend you pop in and engage the stylish part of your brain. Plus, the pubs will be all be closed on Good Friday. And it's free. Now you have no excuse. Did I mention that it was free?

Mercifully, there's no Devil Wears Prada or Sex and the City in the line-up. Instead, the one film and three documentaries shown seem to follow a fairly loose theme: that of the thoughts and processes behind the finished products of fashion fantasy: magazines, photography, designer clothing and subculture. Altogether, it's a carefully chosen edit with something for everyone. Here's the running order.

4PM: Funny Face

It wouldn't be a fashion film fest without a bit of Audrey, and this is the perfect Hepburn movie to kick it off. Hepburn films are always stylish, but this has the added advantage of being set in the fashion industry, albeit one that involves a lot more singing and dancing when discussing spring trends than usual. It's an unconvincing love match between Hepburn and the by-then very creaky Fred Astaire (he also starred in the original musical version... in 1927) but that doesn't really matter when it's set in New York and Paris, has an amazing opening sequence with photos by Richard Avedon and the combined costuming efforts of Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy.

6pm: Annie Liebovitz: Life Through a Lens

If you don't know much about Annie Liebovitz, then this is a good place to start. This documentary was filmed by Liebovitz' younger sister, so there won't be any unpleasant revalations or smudges on her character or breaking down in floods of cathartic tears. This isn't about personality, it's about photography - so if you're a fan of Liebovitz' notoriously meticulous work and want to know more, or just want some inspiration of your own, watch this.

7.30 PM: Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton

This is the one film in the schedule that I don't know much about, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to give you a blurb instead. This documentary follows Marc Jacobs as he finishes a RTW collection for Louis Vuitton. In it, we see the mundanities of his everyday life, which contrast with the creative highs. There's also a wee bit of conflict - where does the line between creativity and being beholden to the chairman of the board lie?

9PM: Paris is Burning

Seminal drag documentary, Paris is Burning, was filmed in the recesses of Harlem dance halls before the area was gentrified. This isn't so much a fashion film as it is an ode to the transformative power of clothing (along with make up, some slick dance moves and the right 'tude). Equal parts funny, sad and fascinating, this is the one to watch.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Licentiate Column 14/04/11: Royal Wedding Mania

A few weeks ago I was chatting to my mother on the phone. This is not an unusual occurrence, but I always look forward to our chats because my mother is, often unwittingly, the source of both the divine and the absurd inspiration when it comes to the writing of this column.

She’s convinced that I take artistic license, that she can’t possibly be the person that’s described in (very) brief terms every few weeks. She just hasn’t come to deal with that fact that, like every parent I have ever met, under the fragile veneer of normality, she is totally bonkers. Deal with it Mom. You’re an inspiration to us all.

This chat was a doozy. ‘Who do you think will be designing Kate’s wedding dress?’ she said. ‘I hear Alexander McQueen will be doing it’.

‘No... I don’t think so. You do know that Alexander McQueen is dead, don’t you?’

‘Of course I do’, she trilled, (this is the point where my mother puts down the paper and thinks ‘I never trill! What are these filthy lies!’. This is all true, by the way. Scouts Honour) ‘I mean the person that’s taken over at McQueen’.

‘I don’t know Mom. It’s possible. She’ll probably pick a British designer’.

‘And what do you think the dress will look like? Won’t it be lovely! I’m going to have a garden party to celebrate the day.’

I feel at this point that I should reassure you that my mother has more than two brain cells to rub together. She is just suffering from an unfortunate affliction that reaches epidemic proportions whenever a famous person gets married. Double symptoms if said famous person is a member of a royal family.

This affliction revolves around one thing and one thing only; the dress. Not the ceremony, not the honeymoon, not the guestlist. It’s all about the dress. The dress, the dress, the dress.

This year we have two Kates getting married. Kate Middleton. Kate Moss. One wants her dress to be a surprise for her husband to be. The other asked John Galliano to design hers, but now she’s having second thoughts. Send answers in on a postcard, but don’t expect a prize. Either way, both are leading the media and the terminally curious on a merry dance around the bridal shop.

We want to be a part of these weddings. We want to be in on the bride’s secrets. I think the reason that the dress is the nexus of all our obsessions is that it’s a common denominator. Every woman who wants to get married has, in theory, the option to wear a white dress. It’s simple, it’s reliable and it’s a shared experience between you and every beautiful woman who ever said I do.

You may not marry a prince, or be a famous model. The guest list may not include Elton John and the honeymoon may not be in St. Barts - but the dress will always be there. That’s something that you and my mother and Kate Middleton will always have in common. ‘Til dress do you part.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kiki de Montparnasse

The past week I've been sick in bed, which is not fun.  The upside was that I finally had the time to read the books that I had stockpiled for such an occasion (and watch the boyfriend scurry about getting me hot lemony drinks).

A new addition to the pile, which arrived on my doorstep this week, was the graphic biography of Kiki de Montparnasse, the model, muse, artist, actress, drug addict, cabaret singer, prototypical scenester and general inspiration to large-nosed women everywhere.  I'm starting to love the graphic biography genre, because it appeals to both the comic book nerd and the history nerd that hold an uneasy truce inside my brain.

This book, by Catel and Bousquet, is a joy to read.  For the first time in years, the minute I finished the book, I went back to the first page and started to read it again.  Here she is as she appeared in the book.
Illustration by Catel for Self-Made Hero
 And here's some real-life Kiki.

Kiki in Man Ray's 'Emak Bakia' (source)
 Kiki was Man Ray's long-standing muse until the arrival of Lee Miller.

Violon d'Ingres by Man Ray
Nu Couche a la Toile de Jouy by Tsuguharu Foujita
Kiki de Montparnasse by Pablo Gargulo

Kiki with Accordionist by Brassai

“All I need is an onion, a bit of bread, and a bottle of red; and I will always find somebody to offer me that.” - Alice Prin (Kiki de Montparnasse)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Licentiate Column 07/04/11

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a talk given by one of Ireland’s foremost fashion editors. She spoke about her teenage years and the birth of a clothes obsession, raiding her granny’s wardrobe for vintage threads, taking the bus to London and razoring the Topshop tags off her purchases (a pre-EU measure to throw the customs man off the scent).

It sounds a lot like the gestation period of any fashion-fixated teen, except now we’re detagging tops from Woodbury Common, not Oxford Street. It seems as if nothing has changed. Is this a template that we all follow? Discover the joys of clothing at an early age, then let it develop naturally through occasional, light cross-border smuggling?

But, while the measures in which the individual grows to love clothes never changes, society goes through convulsive totterings, from one cultural extreme to another, and often because of the most unexpected catalysts.

In 1995, there was a heatwave. Not the Irish heatwaves that we’re used to, in which there’s three days of fine weather and everyone migrates to the beach purely out of fear that the nice weather will end before the planning permission for the first sandcastle comes through. A proper heatwave - with water rationing and yellow grass and a million lobster-skinned Hibernians hovering around the place with barely any clothes on, displaying tatty bra straps and previously unseen cleavage.

It was this heatwave, the fashion editor proposed, that was the driving force that knocked Ireland headfirst into modernity. Before then, we were prudish about showing our breasts, unaware of the technology of ceramic plates for hair-straighteners and unwilling to let our unique Irishness be subsumed into a European mould.

Before 1995, the bodycon dresses that we see in every town in Ireland on every Saturday night would have been the Church-intervening kind of scandalous. Afterwards, the typical pale-faced colleen was about as visible as a unicorn. That summer was the starting point for a baby boom and, some might argue, the real start of the Celtic Tiger phenomenon. We had our first taste of the good life; the heat, the cleavage, the acts that inevitably precede a baby boom. We didn’t want it to end.

Could a heatwave really be the starting point for Modern Ireland? Were these the bra-straps seen around the world? Well, yes.

It’s a perfect storm. A heatwave did change the way that we wear clothes, but it’s was a rare combination of cultural,economic and social factors that accelerated this change, going from zero to couture in less than a decade.

It was the start of a decade of excessive prosperity. It was the decade when the Catholic Church loosened it’s moralising grip on the country. Travel became cheaper. Women began to see what life was like on the other side. We wanted change. We wanted progress. We wanted freedom.

It was then that Dunnes started selling lacy bras. See what I mean? The perfect storm.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Exclusive interview with Glamrocks Luna and What She Wears

Lou and Una of Glamrocks
The great and the good of the Irish fashion industry packed into The Mansion House last Thursday to pay tribute to the people who make the most fashion impact.

Very lucky me, I was there to interview Ireland’s most influential bloggers, public choice winners Louise and Una of Glamrocks Luna and industry awards winner Anne Marie Boyhan of What She Wears.

Here, the ladies talk speeches, support and how to start a blog as influential as theirs…

First up, how did you feel when you found out that you’d won an award?

WSW: I was quite shocked, there were so many great nominees, then very flattered. Then I realised I had to make a speech. Someone said they heard my glass crash to the floor when my name was called!
GL: We were overwhelmed by the support we got. We were so nervous accepting the awards but delighted we went and met our fellow bloggers and other talented people from the fashion industry.

Click here to read the rest of the interview on RTE's Red Radar website...

Additional Links

Glamrocks talk about their win.
What She Wears talks about winning the industry awards.
Irish Fashion Awards website

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award/ Seven Things... eh... thing.

So, this week  I've been given a Stylish Blogger Award by the lovely Jessica of Enchanted Vintage Clothing, whose blog I genuinely love, and not just because she tagged me in a post.  I really enjoy reading her educational, funny and promdress-filled posts, so check out her blog quick-smart. 

For no reason other than I like this, here's my and the boyfriend's feet

The point of these posts are to give a bit of blog love and get some in return, but I won't be tagging anyone in these.  If you like this post and want to do one like it, leave me a link in the comments.  I don't want to exclude anyone or make them feel like they have to do it.  I have to share seven things that you might not know about me.  I'm not much of a sharer, so these seven factoids were hard to come up with.  I hope you like them.

At a family party, note my super-smooth face.  Computers can do great things these days.

1)  My mother has had a formative influence on my life.  She works part-time in a library, where she heads up the county book club.  She's half the reason why I grew up in a house full of books.  She taught me the value of a Burberry trench coat.  I tell people who have never met her that she's a cross between Delia Smith and Audrey Hepburn, but I don't think that I've ever told her that.  She makes excellent scones and pate and bread and butter pudding (but not together).  She wants to go to India.  She has a rail full of Diane Von Furstenburg dresses in her room.  Anything she has, she'll give to one of her children without them having to ask.  She is one of the most tolerant, gentle and considerate people I have ever felt the good fortune to meet and I love her to bits.  Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

2)  My mother is from England and I have a lot of relatives there, but she was born to Irish parents.  Technically, I've got dual nationality and I do feel a bit British.  It's a really hard identity to reconcile when you consider the fraught relationship that England and Ireland have had.  Existential crises aside, I do enjoy a nice cream tea and an elaborate Royal Wedding.

3)  My dream is to edit and publish my own magazine.  I also want to write a novel, if only to prove to myself that I can do it.  And I will do it.  I will.

Looking pensive and hoping for a tomorrow without nocturnal corner-shop visits

4)  My boyfriend is freakishly supportive.  He goes to the shop in the middle of the night to get biscuits for my tea and sleeps on the couch when I'm sick (got strep throat at the moment). He's a very nice guy.

Bumper prize to the person who can name the most books on this shelf...

5) Of all the things I am proud of, I'm probably proudest of my bookshelf...


6) ...but in every other aspect, I'm a massive slob.  In reality, my bedside drawer has this on it - plus five or six mugs, a pair of glasses, bottles of nail varnish and an even bigger pile of unfinished books.

7)  There's no food I won't try.  Bushtucker trials have got nothing on me.