Sunday, 31 July 2011

Charity shop purchase of the month: Age UK does the pleated maxi

This is my new skirt in all its glory. I have been hunting high and low for a new maxi, without spending too much due to financial constraints, for quite some time. My inspiration was my sister's translucent American Apparel number and the bohemian edge of Rodarte's most recent collction (think wooden knarls and the great outdoors). Luckily the local branch of Age UK, the merged charities of Age Concern and Help the Aged, came up trumps, with this peach number at just £3.99.

Here's the kind of colour clash I'm aiming for, using my beloved Barry M nail polish. The skirt is almost verging on salmon in its tone, so I'm aiming to put it with plenty of aqua and turquoise accessories and a fitted grey t-shirt. I've had a lot of problems finding a maxi that doesn't make my hips look matronly, but this one is a lot more relaxed than the straight sheath cuts at Primark and the fussiness of the pink pleated version that caught my eye in Zara (it was a horrific fabric overload that made me look about 12 stone).

Three tips for moving the maxi skirt into Autumn/Winter:

1. You can wear as many pairs of tights and socks as you need, because nobody will see them. Add a long-sleeved plain t-shirt from H&M or American Apparel and go heavy on the jewellery for interest, mixing gold and silver.
2. Slip a lace bodysuit underneath if you're feeling too sensible, then add a deconstructed jumper (you can pick up a cheap one and add a few rips, studs or holes to cotton or knitted versions).
3. Add a Fair Isle knit, as seen at Junya Watanabe. Basic high street knits like this can often be found in vintage or charity shops in the menswear sections. Don't be afraid of a naff pattern - just chuck on some wedges or biker boots and you're ready to go.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Eyes to Emerald: Autumn/Winter 2011

[Please click to enlarge. Images taken from Vogue,, PopSugar, Dorothy Perkinsand collaged by me].

Green embellished dress: Emilio Pucci.
Mulberry advert, featuring jade green against foxes and broken bird's eggs.
Nude dress with green detail: Rachel Comey.
Blue and green multi-tone outfit on blue-haired model: Manish Arora, RTW collection.
Jade green fan ring: Dorothy Perkins.

Deep green is definitely the colour of next season. Whether it's a backlash from the pastels and neon of Spring/Summer or just a reaction to the need for something other than black, it's definitely something to be embraced. There's a shade of green for every hair colour, and it really breaks up the overwhelming temptation to go for neutral accessories in tan and beige by being introduced as a Mulberry handbag or a Dorothy Perkins cocktail ring.

Other colours that'll be everywhere when we embrace Autumn/Winter in the shops?

  • Peacock blue. Think Holbein paintings (he used the colour heavily as a backdrop in his portraiture) and antique vases.
  • Burgundy with orange and vermillion. You don't have to stamp through leaves to get this look. It bypasses the Christmassy nature of pillarbox red, keeping Winter feeling warm but modern.
  • Mustard - continuing from Spring/Summer, often teamed with dark purple or black. Replace the lemon yellow with some of this on your nails, and go for mustard leather gloves.
I know it's still summer and it's boiling outside, but I can't wait to get back into knitwear and high leg boots with a few of these colours in the back of my mind.

Friday, 29 July 2011

My Favourite Designers, #1: Vivienne Westwood

I recently made a pilgrimage to the Vivienne Westwood shop on Conduit Street, in central London. It was a gorgeous set-up, with a glittering window display and very attentive staff. I chose this Prince Charming handkerchief (£15) to tie around my handbag, because I loved the fairytale feel to its text and the elegant rose print. It was really hard to walk away without buying up rails of clothes, but I'm aiming to save up for one of her dresses.

This Dryad dress (taken from Cocosa) really shows you why Westwood is hailed as celebrating the female form. Although the model here is slender, the shape of the garment is very flattering on curvaceous women - the nipped-in waist adds shape, whilst the scoop neckline is structured and given a formal edge with the collar detail.

One of Westwood's limited edition pieces in the Valentines range 2011 (from Hervia), this pendant is to die for - a phrase I don't utter lightly. Using a sample of traditional portraiture with the eye image, she has transformed the emblematic heart and arrow icon into something new and original, with the trademark orb design added on top.

A newer example of her jewellery prowess (taken from Hervia), this stamp piece harks back to previous collections but is modern and tongue-in-cheek. The sturdy chain also means it's built to last and will serve as the antithesis of the delicate women's bracelet. It's bold, eye-catching and fun.

Intended to be mismatched, these brogues are such a brilliant statement piece. Although they are unusual, they'd be great for wearing in a more liberally-minded workplace, as the formality of the brogue and its high-quality design means that you could easily wear these all day.

Three reasons why Dame Vivienne has topped my list:

1. She's ethically-minded and keen on free speech. Every ad campaign she runs in the media features the words 'Leonard Peltier is innocent', raising awareness of a Native American Indian man who has been convicted of a crime that many believe he did not commit.
2. She knows that not all women fit the size zero mould, and she caters for all of us with her body-enhancing clothes. You can rest assured that her clothes will not alienate you, and it will always be you wearing them (rather than the other way around).
3. She's a successful woman who doesn't give in to old age or the pressures of modern society. If she wants to wear a slogan t-shirt or a cocktail dress, she'll bloody well wear it, and she'll star in her own clothing promotions instead of hiring an identikit model.

I wish her many more years at the top of her game. If you're ever near Conduit Street, do go and check out her stores - there's one for men and another for women - because I can assure you that you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Forever 21 Opens on Oxford Street - A Photographic Visit

An example of budget brands translating high fashion effectively - the cut-out faux leather tunic t-shirt. So, what is Forever 21? Imagine that Topshop and H&M merged and decided to inject a bit of glitter. That's basically it - the target age is from teens to late twenties, and prices tend to reflect this. Shorts might be £12 or £15, and a pair of shoes is around £15 to £20.

Typical Forever 21 customers: young fashion lovers. They don't all own Louis Vuittons, though. Many of them emerged later with the shop's bright pink carriers - normally they are yellow in America (where the brand originates), but perhaps this would have clashed with the sunny bags of Selfridges. The American versions also carry a small Bible reference on the bottom, which the British versions luckily seem to have dropped. If I want Evangelism with my hotpants, I'll ask for it.

The window displays are bright and shouty, mirrored by the decor inside - this new store includes a mini-van with fake graffiti. It's the kind of visual merchandising that will get the teenage shopper buzzing, but it might give her mother a headache.

Colour is particularly strong in Forever 21 designs, no less so than in this feather maxi dress on the right (a snip at £22.75). It would work for a summer wedding or a relaxed city break.

This top caught my eye as the slogan is also the name of an Iron Maiden song (one of my favourite bands). I'm not sure many of the other customers would get that reference, though - the typical piped music during my visit was pop or indie.

Here's an example of the sneakier overpriced product, which Forever 21 also holds - it goes against the prices of other items, such as a panelled cotton skirt for just £4.75, to demand £19.75 for an un-lined canvas bag with faux leather handles and a simple camera print. Although this is a quirky and fun item, it seems extortionate at just under twenty quid. Ditto the single layer maxi skirt with the density of tissue paper and no zip, also at £19.75.

This is more like it. Bohemian, homely displays on the basement floor, using glass cloches and tiny dressmaker's dolls. The jewellery underneath is made to look classy and tempting.

I am quite in love with this bag, though it is ridiculously heavy due to the amount of metalwork in the chains. At £19.75 (the weird prices are due to the conversion from dollars) it is worth it for such a cool design and the bag's ability to transform a basic outfit.

There was a constant stream of traffic on the stairs, in the hour I spent here. It's a huge space, very well planned, but it could do with more escalators or lifts, and definitely more cash desks. I would rather lose out on a couple of rails of clothes if it meant there were two or three more tills to cut down on the queues. Even in the American branches I've visited, they seem to have difficulty processing the amount of shoppers efficiently.

This girl, like many others, was weary after traipsing around the Oxford Street store. It was an intense experience as I arrived on the opening day (27th), but I would recommend seeing it for yourself if you're able to, even if the crowds feel overwhelming. This is going to be a popular destination for London shoppers.

Four Forever 21 points to make:

1. The brand's spokesmodel in the UK is Bip Ling, the famous blogger and It-girl.
2. Other existing UK branches are Birmingham and Dublin. There are plans for a further London-based store in Covent Garden.
3. F21 has encountered many lawsuits and angry designers over repeated claims that it copies catwalk clothing too faithfully, with little or no changes to the original product. Although it's great that the F21 team are so beady-eyed, I'd feel more comfortable wearing something that wasn't entirely ripped off from someone else's work.
4. The sizes often come up on the tiny side - think Zara, in terms of Small/Medium/Large (I'm definitely a Large there). Shoes also seem to be more available in little sizes, and you need to remember that US footwear is two digits above ours, so a US 9 is a UK 7. I couldn't find any US 9s in the several styles that I liked, though there were more than enough US 7s and 6s to go round. I considered cutting off a few toes, but decided this might be regretted later.

Three Celebrity 'Creatives' = Three Braincells

[Image via] Geri Halliwell has blessed the British high street (well, Next) with her talent for stitching pieces of satin together and adding some very 90s spaghetti straps in strategic places. Okay, I do like the shade of the navy one, but otherwise this is essentially a lesson in how celebrity 'designers' can rip people off. There is nothing memorable or unique about these dresses and, as you can see from the lanky models, only short people such as Geri will be able to get a gown that skims the floor.

[Image via BruceJuice]. Every time I read a gossip magazine article about young popstars such as the highly banal Pixie Lott being hailed as 'style icons', a little part of me dies inside. The girl has a stylist who chooses her clothes and guides her towards each trend, making it somewhat laughable that Lott now professes to be a fashion designer with her regular capsule collections for Lipsy. Her style drops include numerous 'reinventing the wheel' moments, such as the shift dress available in both black and white (oh Pixie, you spoil us with your innovation), floral dresses, playsuits and more floppy hats than you can shake a stick at. Similar pieces can be found at every single fashion outlet on the planet, for considerably less cash.

[Image from Fashion Fame, depicting Katy Perry's Purr promo]. The prerequisite for becoming a 21st century female celeb is to release your own perfume. It doesn't matter if you have any olfactory interests, or if you even know what olfactory means, because you will suddenly wake up one day dreaming of fragrance topnotes and a burning desire to make everyone smell your talent. In recent months we've been encouraged to buy into Jennifer Aniston (l'eau du permanently single female), Rihanna (l'eau du skimpy outfits and S&M videos) and Katy Perry (l'eau du awkward high-profile marriage). Perry perhaps tops the list for me, as she promoted her scent whilst dressed in a catsuit with a giant ball of twine. Catnip not included.

My plea to celebrities who want to cash in on their fifteen minutes of fame with a clothing or perfume range? GET BACK TO YOUR DAY JOB. Ditto Justin Bieber and his nail varnish for tweens, which is undeniably odd and desperate. Other viable alternatives for less random self-promotion are the ghost-written autobiography and the calendar; both of these are accepted as the norm and are much easier to stomach as a moneyspinner, because they make sense and they involve little effort. I require a celebrity to dress me about as much as I need a banker doing my hair, or a laywer cooking my dinner. Let's hope that we're not soon to be graced with L'eau du Ryan Giggs or the clothing range from Chipmunk. Fingers most definitely crossed.

N.B. Thanks to Holly Lowe for alerting me to the Geri Halliwell collection.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Balenciaga's tasters for Autumn/Winter - get your inspiration here

Here's one of the stunning images from the Autumn/Winter 11-12 campaign of Balenciaga (taken from their website), a brand often preoccupied with structural beauty and adorning the female form with powerful fashion. There's something of the warrior in this collection, with the tough black coat exterior boosting the intense floral print. I love that they chose to set this shot in a medieval landscape, which really shows off the architectural leanings of the clothing.

The company posted Behind the Scenes trailers on its Facebook page, which gave fans a hint of what was to come. Each snippet lasted just 11 or 12 seconds. Hair and make-up were minimal and un-fussy, to really concentrate on the shapes and patterns used. The midi-skirt is clearly still going to be strong for next season, as seen on two of the models on the right.

Colour-wise, aside from trusty black and white, we were introduced to royal blue and burned orange. I love the cape on the right, in particular - there's an echo of vintage nursing uniform, but it's given a modernised look here and all detail has been stripped away.

Accessories are sharp and clean, in contrast to the braiding and bulkiness of the black statement jackets. The large metallic clutch will surely filter down to the high street, and these fierce stilettos would sit well with lovers of Topshop and Zara footwear - I can envisage either brand translating this look for Autumn/Winter.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Bristol City colours for a trip to Bristol (duh)

Here's the accessorising of my red and white outfit (the colours of the Bristol City Football Club, which my family supports) - I wanted to give it a twist and not make it too literal. Red with leopard print is one of my favourite combinations, so I couldn't resist putting them together yet again. The skull ring is from Gogo Philip (£4) and the nail varnish is Barry M - I am totally addicted to their products.

I wanted to go for something sophisticated but not too dressy for my auntie's 60th birthday celebrations. Luckily the Zara sale came up trumps with this A-line skirt with belt for £6.99 and I built my outfit around it. The jacket is in slouchy black cotton (£24.99, New Look) and the t-shirt is from Vans (£10 from the Gunwharf Quays outlet shop in Portsmouth). I teamed it all with my favourite boots (£35 from Barratts, quite old) and some black leggings from the M&S sale (£5).

Red lips were the finishing touch. I went for a lipstick from MUA at Superdrug - it was £1 so I wasn't expecting miracles, but I only needed to re-apply once. My necklaces are from Ebay and Marc by Marc Jacobs.

Mulberry founder goes eco with new outlet

This weekend saw the launch of a brand new designer shopping outlet in the South West of England, masterminded by Roger Saul (a.k.a the founder of Mulberry). Kilver Court, his new brainchild, will face fierce competition from similar projects in the area, including Clarks Village at Street, just ten minutes away, and an outlet in Swindon.

So why do we need another emporium of this kind? Saul urges that Kilver Court will be 'more exclusive' and 'more designer-focused', with brands including Toast, Emma Bridgewater, Myla and Duchamp, as well as Mulberry. Additionally, the outlet's eco-friendly design is a major draw for environmentally conscious shoppers, and the website has an eco tip of the month, boosting its ethical credentials. The land formerly hosted a Babycham factory which has now been transformed into this new venture, promising organic food and a farm shop. It's evident that Saul wants this to be a destination for the day, rather than your typical shopping mall, though it remains to be seen whether it will become a success all year round during these difficult economic times.

For more information, visit

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Gareth Pugh for MAC - literally salivating at the prospect

[Gareth Pugh images taken from and collaged by me.]

[MAC promotional images taken from MAC and collaged by me.]

This is what it feels like when one of your favourite fashion designers collaborates with one of your favourite make-up brands: Gareth Pugh for MAC. I'm expecting black, black and more black and I can't wait til November for the release of this collection.

Well, technically it's the second time I've felt like this about a make-up project, but the first occasion was a disaster - when the supremely talented Mulleavy sisters of Rodarte were due to unleash a MAC line, I was also incredibly excited, but things went utterly tits-up. Whether deliberately or naively, Kate and Laura Mulleavy decided to name products in their range after a town in Mexico, Juarez, which had lost many women in tragic and violent circumstances. The resulting uproar caused MAC to release a statement and donate money to the cause of helping Juarez residents in need. I don't know how anyone ever thought that a nail varnish could possibly be named after a town synonymous with rape and murder, but obviously several execs didn't have a problem with it.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. Gareth Pugh is famous for his amazingly architectural clothing and his use of materials such as rubber and perspex. He worked for the English National Youth Theatre, and there is an obvious thespian twist to many of his pieces, which exude confidence. The colour palette, as you know, is essentially black and white, which means that you can really focus on the design of an item. I find Pugh's work to be exemplary of the 'fashion is art' mindset, as he seems to care more about the clothing and shows than actual commercial success. Obviously the MAC collaboration will alter this as he is exposed to the world of mass market cosmetics, but it will be brilliant to see his aesthetic attitude being given this platform. I will definitely be saving my pennies for it - just don't let the head honchos at MAC approve any more insensitive names. We don't want another Juarez incident.

Monday, 18 July 2011

New Look's AW11 Preview: the vintage feeling abounds

Limited Edition pieces have a distinctly feminine side. From sheer printed blouses that would be perfect for work, to this gorgeous 1920s-esque LBD with slinky silvery detail, it's time to think like a lady.

I absolutely adore this look. It's a modern take on the 1980s sex appeal of leather, with the suit taken to the next level. It harks back to the drama of This Is England, which spawned many a fashion trend. Don't be afraid of the androgynous emphasis - the accessories can be made distinctly girly and the trousers show off your silhouette.

The preppy look smartened up: with the addition of leather and scallop-edged shorts, this is how to work the college look without seeming too young or casual. Burgundy is a great colour to choose here because it is wintery but not as harsh as black.

This panelled maxi dress is perhaps an unusual colour for Autumn/Winter, but it really stands out. The black panels give it a directional, minimalist edge, but the 1970s hat adds a relaxed touch. You could dress up this ensemble by choosing lace gloves and cocktail rings rather than headgear.

How to make the transition to the colder season: tea dresses can be worn with wooly hats and you won't have to look like you are indecisive. If it's time to hit the tights, don't stick to black opaques; there will be tons of jewel and leaf coloured options for you to choose from (think amythest, topaz and cobalt for the former, and tan, orange and burnt red for the latter). Footwear involves the dolly shoe and the heeled loafer, which can be worn with socks, tights or bare legs.

[Images originally from New Look, and taken from Look Magazine online].

This is such a strong portfolio of images from New Look, and I'm sure that many of the items seen here will make it onto the pages of my favourite fashion magazines. It's not that long ago since the business columns of our newspapers were raving about the declining success of this retailer, but I feel like AW/11's clothing could really be the saviour of the company. Everything looks delectable and probably a lot more expensive than it actually will be - trust me, if you've ever worn New Look shoes or blouses, you'll know what I mean. People are convinced you've shelled out £75 when you insist they were £25 at full price. The design team is clearly on the ball at the moment, and I hope that this is backed up by sales at the till and online.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

ASOS Menswear: Essentials with a fashion twist

Three to get you pulling shapes...
The Stripe T-shirt gets a Fred Perry logo and suddenly becomes smart/casual.
The ASOS Sweat Shirt with tan shoulder detail looks sharp.
This Contrast V Neck from Villain is quirky but wearable and would look great with jeans.

Three to get you into yellow...
This King of Spades T-Shirt is very cool, with the neon effect and bright sunshine hues.
For a more eye-catching stripe, look no further than this Boat Neck Top.
The mustard Shorts wouldn't suit everyone, but they'd work well with Dr. Martens or Vans and a tight t-shirt.

Three to get you accessorizing...
A Backpack for all seasons (except intense snow)? This is man heaven.
For an edgier approach to eyewear, go for these Angular Sunglasses. I have a huge head (basically man-size) and I'd definitely consider these blokey shades to make things a little more stylish.
I'm an anatomy addict since writing about it in an Art Theory essay. This Spine Pendant is a bargain at £8.00 and it's not offensively gory. Definitely makes a change from those naff St. Christopher rings from Argos that so many unimaginative men insist on wearing (urgh).

[Images taken from].

I'm really impressed with ASOS' Menswear department at the moment. It covers the trends without alienating its customers with unwearable fashion. The buyers know what the average bloke wants and needs in their wardrobe, and gives them a push in the right direction. There's also a very good range of designer pieces for the male shopper, so it's worth looking for special occasions as well as everyday browsing.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Shoe Edit - Topshop is on top form

Yes, I know, you all get that I love leopard print. But these 'Viper' brogues are something special - the detail is sharp, the shoes have a small but substantial block heel, and they look far more expensive than they actually are (£30.00). They would set off next season's jewel tones, especially emerald, very easily.

My second choice is called 'Trellis' (£24.00), which evokes scenes of English summers and country gardens. These hi-tops could be used to keep a feminine outfit neat, or they could be battered and mud-streaked to add the perfect edge to coloured skinny jeans and a baggy t-shirt. They're also available in bright pink, turquoise and purple.

The 'Velcra' slipper shoe (a bargain at £18.00) has definitely caught my eye. Available in black, white or grey, it features a really simple graphic bone design that is playful and very different from standard footwear patterns. It plays into the Gothic trend which is always coming around for Autumn/Winter, and it would also be an interesting way to finish off an androgynous look.

Lastly, these 'Tinchy2' hi-tops (£25.00) stood out for me as being simple but surprisingly smart. The piping detail really sets them off and gives them an edge. If you wanted to make them unmistakeably your own, you could colour in parts of the panels with fabric paint or oil paint. The chunky sole also means that you'll find them comfortable enough to wear all day, and they'd be great for a holiday involving plenty of walking or sightseeing.

[All images taken from]

Monday, 11 July 2011

Wedding Style a la France, Part 2: Accessorising

This dj accidentally accessorized with a silver handbag (don't think it was his own). I was a bit shocked by his elaborate sideburns, but actually they really suited his look, which was very retro with an upturned collar and flared trousers.

A closer look at my friend Tania's shoe-boots. They are very glamorous and I don't know how she walks in them, but she does so very gracefully. As I mentioned in my previous post, they're from New Look.

The wedding decor really reflected the couple's relationship. They met whilst doing amateur dramatics, so each table was adorned with Venetian masks and was given the name of a French film to do with love or relationships, such as Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (I've loved you so long, which stars the brilliant Kristen Scott-Thomas as a woman reconnecting with her family after a spell in prison for a love-related crime). This really made the reception feel special and the theme worked very well.

Each guest's place was marked by a little paper waistcoat (for the men) or dress (for the women) on a gold hanger made from wire. It was a simple but effective way to show us all to our seats.

This was my place setting, and I took it home afterwards!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Wedding Style a la France, Part 1: Brits vs. French

I hopped across the Channel with my close friends, Owen and Tania, for the wedding of our mutual friend Tiphaine. Here we are outside the hall where the ceremony took place - Owen stepped out of his usual comfort zone of black by wearing this grey Jasper Conran suit, which I advised him to buy (being his personal shopper when he braves a department store). I went for a mustard River Island dress (£10 in the sale) and floral blazer (£35).

I accessorized with low white heels (New Look, £12.99), a black chain detail belt (gift) and some black eyeliner.

Tania chose a peach Lipsy dress with a sheer panel, and some gorgeous New Look shoe-boots.

Clearly the winner in the style stakes! The bride, Tiphaine, opted for a traditional dress with a medium train and very flattering pintuck detail, as well as a very feminine ribbon laced back. She looked truly beautiful.

The pageboy went for grey, like Owen, and had a great little trilby hat on. Children at the wedding tended to be dressed down, so this boy stood out for me as being very stylish. He spent most of the reception gathering as many balloons as possible, which I think adds to the look!

[Images my own. Please ask before reproducing].

Until this weekend, I'd never been to a wedding abroad, so this was a particularly exciting occasion. Tiphaine and Francois married in the village where he grew up, then headed to her home town for the reception. It really was an eye-opening experience for us Brits - we are accustomed to hushed silence throughout the service and a strict dress code for all guests such as ties and suits, whereas this was a much more relaxed affair. The French also tend to head home in between the festivities for a few hours of rest and glamming up, before really partying in the evening (a very good idea for ensuring you can power through til the small hours). Although we spoke very little of their language everyone made us feel incredibly welcome, and the atmosphere was great. This is just a brief photographic glimpse into the day's events, and I'll add more soon.
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