Monday, 20 June 2011

Last-Year Buy: Tops ... and about feeling top


Yes, more stuff has magically found its way into my wardrobe. It's down partly to the brilliant sales at the moment (and for the other part keep reading). While my fancy is normally captured by dresses, skirts and shorts, for once I've been 'relatively sensible' - note the desperate air of self-justification about that phrase - and bought some new tops.


I don't know about your colleagues and friends, but Whistles is definitely my office's high street crush of the moment. This pretty blouse with embroidered collar and cuffs came as part of a frenzied office outing on Friday afternoon (the spoils of which are fairly evident this Monday).


It's not so exciting on the hanger but I'm hoping this denim blouse will be extraordinarily versatile - I love its 50s, rockabilly look. It's from Ravishing Mad via The Moon and Mars.


And finally, this Minimarket blouse purchased via Skirt Boutique. I'd been lusting after it full price and whipped out my wallet the second it went on sale. It looks like a fantastically colourful stained glass window - it reminds me of the beauties of Chichester Cathedral. I look forward to it bringing some more colour to my wardrobe.

As evident on this blog, I've been on a bit of a shopping spree recently. And lots of new stuff, rather than vintage, which is unusual for me. I'm blaming a self-confidence wobble. If I was forced to name some of the things I was most proud of about myself, right up there would be - I can dress well. Not the world's greatest achievement I know, but a source of pride nonetheless. I'm not sure why but recently I've been doubting this ability and have been determined to shake my wardrobe up a bit. My style evolution started, as does most peoples, as a teenager. I began second-hand shopping (as it was known back then) and, with some awful mistakes along the way, ended up with something of a 50s style that really suited me: the perfect shape for my bosom and relatively small waist. I went on with slight variations of that look and a large proportion of my wardrobe is now vintage pieces that I've been wearing for years.

However, I feel my love for this look has deserted me a bit. On one hand, I think it can look a bit too cutesey - dangerous turf when you're now at the stage when you need to be taken seriously about stuff. I'm not rock and roll enough to pull off the proper rockabilly look either and instead think I end up looking like a bit of a fifties high school square. On the other, it's such a good cover-up, respectable style, I think I'm almost too young for it - let me wear longer skirts when my legs are in much worse nick that they are now and let me look prim and proper when I stop staying out past midnight.

Then, of course, it's hard to stick to your style when you are surrounded by the thousand of stylish dressers on the streets in London - and that you see in cities around the world courtesy of blogs. Not to mention, when you work in a place with hundreds of objects designed by the finest couturiers in the history of the world and with a workforce of hundreds of wonderfully dressed women, wearing outfits normally put together on a shoestring budget.

I look at the fashionably dressed teenagers of London and know I don't want to dress like them (a return to grunge - how awful!). Aged 30, I want to show my age a bit and the fact I care just a little less what people think of me, without looking past it. As part of my experimentation I've been wearing clothes I know just don't suit me as much as a neat 50s silhouette does, like long skirts that make me look dumpy or baggy tops that give me no shape, trying to push my own self-inflicted fashion rules. In a good mood, I enjoy this. It's sticking two fingers up at the judgement that fashion should make you look as skinny and sexy as possible. On my off days, however, I only feel dumpy and unfashionable. The other result of this experimentation is that I've been buying a lot of stuff just to try and see how it could work. Will this new stuff be with me as long as the Red or Dead pinafore dress I've had in my wardrobe since I was 15? Will they get worn as much as my Emma Cook top that has a Lucienne Day style print? Or will they attract as many unsolicited compliments as my colourful Lisbon sixties dress? I'm really not sure. I'm just hoping that they are small, and pretty, steps back to me being able to state 'I can dress well' with some confidence again.
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Friday, 17 June 2011

Last-Year Music: Cults

Warning, I have a new band crush. If I termed Summer Camp my band of 2010, Cults are turning out to be 2011's choice (sorry Lykke, otherwise a strong contender). I'm not going wildly off type here: boy/girl duo who have clearly listened to far too much 60s girl groups - you get the picture. Mr S got the CD and before it reached track two I was already desperately typing Madeline Follin into Google.

Here's an beautiful/haunting/damn catchy number from the band. I haven't the foggiest what it's all about, I just know that I want to listen to again ... and again ... and again.




I knew right then that they would be taking my heart.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A Spanish feast

Mr S was away in Finland playing football this past weekend and I thought I'd use the opportunity to entertain chez Last-Year. I'm not the most skilled cook but writing for Domestic Sluttery has given me the confidence to at least have a bash. There was a (very) loose Spanish theme to the evening with lots of Rioja wine to wash over my mistakes!


We had a feast that included Paprika potatoes (possibly my new favourite recipe).


Some homemade soda bread - that well-known product of Spain! - made using the recipe I learnt with bread baking in Bedruthan.


A lovely sticky ham. With a side order of chorizo.

And some juicy catalan spinach.

We finished the evening with some creamy, Spanish-style desserts courtesy of my pal Layla.

I was very full and merry by the end of the evening.

Thanks Vicki for the pictures and Vicki, Layla and Rachael for the excellent random chat - as always. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Last-Year Buy: Tweety Dress from Nadinoo


After some serious internet lusting, I finally took the plunge and purchased the Tweety dress from Nadinoo. It arrived this weekend and I've been staring at it ever since.


It's made from a gorgeous Liberty fabric, covered in hundreds of little birdies. Given my ongoing pattern obsession, this is right up my tweet ... sorry, street.



With a fitted top, neat belt and fitted skirt, wearing it makes me feel pulled together without making me look like I'm going to work in a scary office. I'm trying to hold off wearing this one until next month when I'm going to a wedding and the only person I'll know will be Mr S. I reckon this dress should go down a tweet ... sorry, treat ... with random fellow wedding guests. For once, I'll be hoping they decide to pull out the birdie song.

Crap bird jokes aside, this dress only seems to have fuelled my Nadinoo crush. Next on my wishlist is this Counting Planes shirt to replace my beloved Vintage Hart top which met a cruel death when faced with an overheated iron. I still weep.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Last-Year Travels: Chichester

As mentioned in my last post, on Tuesday I headed to Chichester to see the Robin and Lucienne Day exhibition at Pallant House.  The Days used to live in Chichester and had apparently been involved in planning this exhibition up until their deaths last year.


(Allegro, V&A)




(Sunrise,  V&A. Currently being revived as a bed-linen)

The exhibition was small but with plenty to inspire. Alongside the old favourites like Calyx, the display showed how Lucienne's designs developed as trends moved on, including some very Pop-like patterns in the 60s.



(High Noon, collection of Jill A. Wiltse and H. Kirk Brown III, lenders to the exhibition)


I knew less about Robin's designs - though I'd sat on his Polyprop chair on numerous occasions in various places.


(Mark II, V&A)

It was really interesting to see his work in electronics and graphic designs, as well as in furniture. 

(Model 1108 radio, V&A)

Even without the exhibition, Pallant House would still be well worth a visit. They've got a great British Pop collection. They've got a version of Richard Hamilton's Swingeing London, showing Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser hang-cuffed after their arrest for drugs possession - of course of local interest to Chichester, as the raid took place at Keith Richard's house in West Wittering. There's lots of Peter Blake and Patrick Caulfield too. There's a fascinating and growing prints collection too: apparently a local teacher gives a gift of £200 a month to fund new acquisitions - what an inspiring way to promote a collection!

Following on from the house, we took in Chichester cathedral. It's famous for its twentieth-century art, including stained glass by Marc Chagall and a tapestry by John Piper. It also seemed to have a pretty interesting set of gargoyles. This speccy chap especially caught my fancy: 


And what about these chancers?




A power couple to rival even the Days ... unfortunately ...

Monday, 6 June 2011

Last-Year buy: Eley Kishimoto top


Working in Knightsbridge/South Kensington is quite a funny experience. It's utterly hopeless if you find your self needing something simple (read cheap) like a safety pin or a light bulb? Elaborate dream teas, Scandinavian design classics, multi-hundred pound dresses are much more on the agenda - though sadly not in my budget. Another bonus for the less than minted is the presence of some very good charity shops. Some of my wardrobe favourites have been plucked from the hangers in Octavia and Cancer Research: a red Russell and Bromley bag, a heavy black cardigan from J Crew with gorgeous buttons, a navy winter dress of unknown make that fits me perfectly, an early edition of Osbert Lancaster's Homes Sweets Home. The thrill of discovering something while innocently out for your sandwich makes it even more worthwhile.


Which brings me to today's purchase, this rather sweet cotton summer top from Eley Kishimoto. A flattering square neck and some cute sleeves to cover my fledgling bingo wings. All for just £15 (okay, not bargain bucket but this is Knightsbridge charity shop shopping after all). I plan on wearing it with my high waisted trousers for all of the summer.


Starting tomorrow. I'm heading over to Chichester to see the Robin and Lucienne Day exhibition at Pallant House. I feel Lucienne would be pleased to see me wearing a fab, original fabric print.
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