Sunday, 29 December 2013

Fashion Resolutions for 2014

Can you believe another year is over? It seems like only yesterday that I was getting excited about wearing Spring/Summer 2013 pieces, yet already it's time to start thinking ahead to next summer, and February will see the Autumn/Winter 2014 season trends being revealed. 

In early 2013 I resolved to spend less in order to save for travelling, and I'm pleased to say that I (mostly) managed to achieve this. I've now come up with three resolutions for the next 12 months of style...

Shift dress in bright yellow on sale at Czech boutique
A buttercup yellow dress on sale at Czech Labels & Friends, Prague

1. Continue to explore fashion around the world

This year I brought you shop windows from Rome, a fleamarket photo essay from Reykjavik and notes on what to wear in Thailand and how to dress in Cuba. 2014 will begin in Peru, where I'll be on a guided tour until mid-January, then I'll be back to tell you all about Peruvian style in two very different climates, from the warm coastal weather in Lima to the chillier mountain conditions.

Also on the cards are trips to some of Brussels' best boutiques, and I'm hoping to visit India as well, which has been on my wish list for some time. Wherever I go, I always carry that fashion mindset with me (checking out what people are wearing, eyeing up window displays, etc.), and I'm drawn to markets and shops just as much as the official attractions of a destination. 

Marilyn Monroe in bathing suit on beach with curves
 [Image via] Marilyn Monroe, curve ambassador

2. Embrace the curves with more confidence

I've always been a staunch defender of the curvy girl but when I started blogging I was admittedly at least one size smaller (ok, two at a push, depending on where I shop) than I am today. I've come to terms with the fact that I don't have the flat stomach that I did back in 2009, and consequently I can't wear the same clothes, but what has been difficult is finding really flattering pieces on the high street. Many of the items in my favourite shops are designed for women with a small chest, washboard abs and skinny thighs, whereas I'm the one trying to work around boobs that generate turbulence when I dance, not to mention a muffin top and the rest. 

When I'm confronted with endless body-con dresses, high neck crop tops and unforgiving high-waisted pencil skirts in stretch fabrics, it can feel a bit demoralising; suddenly buying a last-minute outfit for a party becomes near impossible because the selection just isn't there. In 2014 I am going to try and look past this shortfall and really nail down the retailers that play to my strengths - the ones that don't mind a bit of cleavage or a skirt that's built to skim cleverly and not to cling. I'm looking for empowering pieces to add to my collection. 

Models wearing minimalist monochrome dresses
 Keep it simple at Fashion Week and beyond

3. Be more minimalist - in outfits and in wardrobe volume

Every time I see Fashion Week street style photos, I always gravitate towards the minimalist dressers. They look so chilled out and mature compared to the fraught tension behind the eyes of the brand-clad hipster teens with their eyes rolled, and the girls with bunches and Harajuku dresses trying to look coy. Okay, so the minimal look might have taken just as long to put together in reality, but what makes it extra special is its effortless facade - simple shapes, one or two colours, happy to blend into the background at Somerset House and watch the performances of others. Next year I want to channel this look in my outfit choices, but also in the sense of culling the amount of clothes I currently own.

A spring clean of my wardrobe is very much overdue, taking the opportunity to get rid of all those pieces that no longer fit my shape or my lifestyle. I'm notoriously sentimental about the things I own, being something of a self-confessed hoarder who can always think of a not-so-plausible scenario when I might need to wear or use an item, and this means that it's hard to pass anything onto the charity shops. But 2014 feels like a turning point in many ways, as I'll be travelling and freelancing before seeking a permanent editorial role later in the year, by which point I will have also turned 25. Maybe all that change is the perfect opportunity to be a bit more ruthless and hold onto less of the past.

What are your fashion resolutions for the year ahead, and will you keep them? Let me know on Twitter (@misspallen). 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Photo Essay: Liberty's Christmas Windows for 2013

With Selfridges out the way, it's time to focus on Liberty, another London department store with a rich history. Right now, Liberty is also the centre of attention thanks to a behind-the-scenes Channel 4 documentary, the final part of which will be broadcast tonight, so there's no better time to look at the windows of the famous mock Tudor building with its signature purple bags, that same purple of the lining of a bar of Cadbury's chocolate. Tuck into the company's minimalist visual merchandising vision for Christmas 2013...

Christmas star shaped arrangements at Liberty department store
 In previous years, these windows have featured a psychedelic frog and glamorous tableaux of mannequins, but 2013 called for simplicity, a smattering of sequins and starbursts.

Wooden mask, maps and bag on display in Liberty window
 Each star contained products based on a particular theme or customer - this one definitely covered travel, with a distinctive wooden sculpture and some beautifully covered maps.

Minimalist window display in London
 More travel, anyone? The phrenology head sat alongside a globe and a Moroccan lantern.

Festive window displays Xmas 2013 in Liberty
 A little Statue of Liberty snowglobe or paperweight added a pun on the shop's name.

Globe, ship in a bottle and toiletries in Christmas 2013 display
 Fancy setting sail with these gifts?

Flamingo in London department store
 A flamingo ticked the kitsch box.

Luxury designer brands in festive store window
 A solitary mannequin in this window showed just how uncluttered the displays were in comparison with previous years, when it was hard to see everything crammed in.

Black Rockstud pump by Valentino with red trousers
 Rockstud pumps by Valentino got my attention.

A taste of the seasonal windows at Liberty 2013
Fur trimmed boots were placed with stylish homeware pieces.

Purple Liberty boxes on mannequins as hats
 I couldn't resist a peek inside, either. These mannequins and their present hats stopped me in my tracks.

Matilda-inspired display overlooking scarf hall
One of the building's rare open spaces, overlooking the scarf hall, was dedicated to the West End musical, Matilda, complete with letter panels and a paint-splattered satchel.

Considering Liberty's Christmas shop alone attracts 250,000 visitors every year, it's fair to say that the visual merchandising on the outside plays an important part in drawing potential customers through the doors. 

Obviously going minimalist can be a risk for a place so readily associated with opulence and floors piled with goods, but I think it will help Liberty to stand out from the crowd. I would have liked to see a bit more colour in the windows, but otherwise the content is still going to grab people as they walk past. 

Do you think going minimalist at Christmas is a good idea for the store, or would you have preferred something crazier? Tweet me - @misspallen - or leave a comment below.

Friday, 6 December 2013

From Viktor & Rolf to Van Gogh: The Ultimate Amsterdam Fashion Week Outfit

Amsterdam Fashion Week is known for being a hotbed of talent, showcasing the best in Dutch design to a clamouring fashion pack from around the world. So, when Fashion Chick invited bloggers to dream up their ultimate outfit to wear in Amsterdam for the occasion, I couldn't resist taking up the challenge. Here's what I came up with and why I chose each piece...

Amsterdam-inspired fashion outfit in Van Gogh yellow
[Clothing images via Fashion Chick. Background image, Van Gogh's Sunflowers, via Wikimedia Commons].

I wanted to capture the bold silhouettes of Dutch designers such as Viktor & Rolf, but also get a flavour of the Netherlands' great art scene, which is a constant source of inspiration for creative types. From vintage art legends such as Van Gogh in the newly re-opened Rijksmuseum to up-and-coming talented students, it's an inspiring place to be.
  • I started with a Vivienne Westwood Anglomania Halton dress, covered with text and being a real statement piece. If you want to see more oversized text, the iAmsterdam sign is a cool place to hang out in the city - I'd have to make a pilgrimage in my fashion ensemble.
  • I added a black cape by Lovarni to give a nod to the Viktor & Rolf retrospective at the Barbican several years ago, where dolls were clad in their designs, including voluminous cape-like coats.
  • Accessories were Miu Miu cat's eye sunglasses, which add to the doll aesthetic, and a sunflower yellow spider clasp bag by Charlotte Olympia worthy of any Van Gogh fan with a designer budget. Of course, there had to be some real Viktor & Rolf in the mix, so I chose a waist cinching leather mirrored sphere black belt to work well with the Anglomania dress.At only €49 from Hervia (sourced using Fashion Chick), this is a real bargain.
  • To continue the sunflower yellow injection of colour, I went for Topshop's Logan flared heel platforms, which add to the vintage feel of the whole outfit, perfect for taking out on the town at all those Fashion Week after-parties.
Aside from the items I've chosen, I'd also be keen to browse the city's best shops. I've done my research thoroughly and I know there are some great retro boutiques to visit, like Wini Vintage, as well as the Nine Streets, a key shopping area. To top it all off, the World Fashion Centre mall offers a huge range of stores and would keep me busy for hours.

So, that's my dream outfit to bring to the streets of Amsterdam, and an idea of what I'd get up to if I was jetting off to experience the best of Dutch design. Would you channel sunflower yellow or would you go for something totally different? Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Photo Essay: Selfridges' Christmas Windows for 2013

It's that time of year again - and I swear I only just stopped playing Christmas music from 2012. Of course, Harrods has been greeting festive shoppers since August, when its seasonal department typically opens, but most of us have held out slightly longer to get our fix of tinsel and snow spray.

Whilst the Christmas window displays have been up for a little while now in London, it was only yesterday that I caught a glimpse of them. As usual, I've focused on Selfridges and Liberty, two of the biggest power players, but first it's the turn of Selfridges with a really magical example of visual merchandising.

Oversized Flowerbomb bottle in Selfridges Xmas 2013
 Say it with Viktor & Rolf's Flowerbomb - my favourite perfume got the spotlight it deserved.
The Dutch design duo created a story to set off the playful children's winter wonderland theme of the decorations.

Tiny figures around a bottle in the Christmas windows of Selfridges
 There was an element of Gulliver's Travels here, as the tiny elf figures clustered around the perfume bottle.

Golden kitty slipper shoe by Charlotte Olympia
 A larger-than-life Charlotte Olympia cat loafer with moving ears was another centrepiece.

Kenzo jumpers parachuted into Oxford Street
 Primary colours were the focus here - royal blue Kenzo jumpers suspended from pillarbox red and signature Selfridges yellow parachutes and surrounded by yellow planes.

Giant camera in Selfridges visual merchandising for Christmas 20133
 A nice promo for Canon and a nod to the many other snappers (besides me) taking photos of the windows.

Miniature photography enthusiasts in snow scene
 Even these figurines couldn't wait to get in on the act.

Grey Goose vodka window display in London
 Something of a Grey Goose playground for these (responsible, 18+) models.

Giant snowshaker for Selfridges windows Christmas 2013
A giant snowglobe would complete the look, you say? Oh wait, they've got that one covered...

Huge tub of Play-Doh in wintery scene
The avalanche of Play-Doh was presented as fun rather than life-threatening for the figures in this miniature world.

Artfully arranged boxers in the Christmas windows at Selfridges
Who knew boxers could be so artfully arranged? Candy-stripe ladders were the final touch.

Saint Laurent gold bag in windows of London department store
This took the biscuit on the 'oversize clutch' front - no wonder a child was mesmerised by YSL's (or Saint Laurent's) piece de resistance, complete with Santa clinging onto the gold tassel beneath the logo

Red and black hi-top trainer invades Christmas display
Ding Dong Merrily on Hi-Tops.

Fornasetti candle in festive window of Selfridges
Fornasetti brought a touch of theatrical glamour with a model of its candle (normally more of a manageable size, but still £99). The train set running past was a nice touch.

Child's toy blocks spelling out Kids Company
Some of the side windows focus on the charity that Selfridges has teamed up with this year, the brilliant Kids Company. You can help them support disadvantaged children by texting KIDSHELP to 70700, which will cost just £5; the whole of that donation goes straight to Kids Company and funds their important work.

So, was this visual merchandising enough to draw the punters? I'd say so, judging by the crowds gathered to look at the windows but also to peek inside the store and get a taste of the magic for themselves, from the Christmas Shop and its helpful Elfridges concierges, to the beauty counters downstairs.

I think the concept of a playful winter wonderland is simple but effective, capturing the childhood nostalgia that Christmas inspires year after year. After all, it is the best time to be a big kid.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Style Bypass: The Baker Boy Hat is Back with a Vengeance

There are some trends that you hope and pray you've seen the back of. You see them reduced to clear in the January sales and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing there are at least a few seasons' respite to recover from the onslaught of such horror. Then, just when you get comfortable, they rear their ugly heads and you know you've lost the battle once again... Enter the inexplicably in-demand baker boy hat. 

 [Image via YouTube]. Love Actually does its bit to fuel this trend... *shudders*

It's had several incarnations over the years - a nod to 90s waif chic, an accessory for Keira Knightley's insipid character in Love Actually in the Noughties, a useful hippy cover-up and a reference to Fiddler on the Roof. But never in my book has it been something to actually wear, or admit to wearing. I just don't get it, and I'm not sure I ever will. Is there something alluring about putting on what looks like a small mushroom cloud that's mated with a baseball cap? What kind of gall does it take to buy one of the even more bizarre versions, such as patchwork, giving the wearer extra quirk points (and ensuring I stay an extra five feet away from them)? The mind boggles.

 [Image via Pinterest]. Look how unhappy Barbra Streisand is with her choice of hat.

It seems not all of the fashion world is confident on this one - whilst Glamour has championed the hat, placing it on Taylor Swift's head for the November 2013 cover shot, Grazia sat on the fence and debated whether baker boy style was 'eek or chic?'. But when there are so many other types of millinery that aim to flatter and have more of a function, such as the humble beanie, the bowler or the fedora, I don't really see where the baker boy hat fits in. It's cumbersome, likely to get in your eyes at the whisper of a breeze, and seemingly designed to make your head look bigger - something which doesn't strike me as being much of an advantage. In fact, it has all the charm of parachute trousers or hair scrunchies, as far as I'm concerned.

The question is, will fashion victims fall for the baker boy and start bellowing Fiddler on the Roof tunes, or will they see it for what it really is, and run a mile? I can only hope that good taste wins out this time, as these hatters seem to be mad.
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