Monday, 31 December 2012

Christmas reading


Having my head in a book is one of my favourite ways to enjoy long periods out of an office and to make time speed while on long train journeys across the country. This little pile of reading has kept me happily occupied over this festive week.

It's hard to draw the distinction between fact and fiction in Diana Vreeland's DV but that makes it no less entertaining or fashion fabulous. It can't be unrelated that - roughly about the same time as finishing this book - I started wearing stacks of chunky bangles again, and bought myself a turban (yes, really). Like her famous column, this book really encourages the attitude of 'Why Don't You?'

I first heard about Joyce Maynard's Looking Back through a recommendation on the excellent Rookie. It's a collection of essays about what it was really like to be a teenager in the 60s and is the kind of book which you want to underline, memorise and, ultimately, wish you had written yourself. ("When I think of 1966. I see pink and orange stripes and wild purple Paisleys and black and white vibrating to make the head ache. We were too young for drugs (they hadn't reached the junior high yet) but we didn't need them. Our world was psychedelic, our clothes and our make-up and our jewellery and our hairstyles were trips in themselves.")

Paul Gallico's Flowers for Mrs Harris is the perfect kind of fashion fairytale. A London charlady saves up to buy her very own couture creation from Dior in Paris. Her innocent ways make a whole chain of delightful events come into being which are ultimately more fantastic than the most fabulous frock.

More escapism came care of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (not pictured because I've already lent it to someone). Four lonely women in the 1920s decide to spend the month of April in a medieval castle in Italy. The experience heals and soothes their weary souls and is every bit as enchanting as the name suggests.

I'm not sure why I haven't read Ronnie Spector's biography Be My Baby before. Perhaps I didn't want to break the magic of the vocal on that song. This book is evocative and honest (it takes you right back to the atmosphere of Spanish Harlem captured so well in Street Corner Soul). I don't think she portrays herself as an especially likeable person but, boy is she tough, and now I admire her for a whole lot more than purely her wonderful voice.

Finally, I'm currently about 100 pages into James Baldwin's Another Country which I bought after the William Klein exhibition. Like Klein's work, it captures and the pulsating energy and cruel hard edge of New York in the 1950s - the city in which, of course, a young Veronica Bennett was on her way to becoming Mrs Ronnie Spector.

And, yes, at the top of the pile is my brand new Persephone diary as 2013 is almost upon us. I'm slightly lacking the new year's optimism of previous years this time around. Don't worry: I have the usual lengthy list of goals and resolutions: I think my subdued approach this year is because I realise the implications, including the huge amount of hard work, needed to make them happen. But, however they work out, I'm encouraged by the fact it's always going to be an interesting adventure. Happy new year adventuring everyone!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Do You Remember the 90s?


I certainly do - and so does my bedroom.

I'm back in my parents house, in my old teenage bedroom for the Christmas holidays. It's like a shrine to the 1990s: pine furniture meets the set of a Channel 4 youff show meets general teenageness. Two tees pulled out from my chest-of-drawers (skinny rib naturally, the indie female's default choice): Babybird and a powder blue number decorated with some plastic toys encased in a plastic glitter heart. I have, of course, tried both of these on.


More terrifying is this folder, covered with Just 17 stickers, showing the heart-throbs of my teenage years: Jared, Ewan, Leo and, uh, Dean Cain. On the flip side is a list of both 'Cool Things' and 'Crap Things'. Put together by me and my mates, there are some things which I utterly stand by (Cool = Bill and Ted, The Divine Comedy; Crap = Marti Pellow's haircut, Jimmy Nail, 18 years of Tory government), and some of which really don't seem that thrilling (Purple lipsticks, being posh) or galling (fluffy rabbits(?), fish curry) some 15 years on.


I'd forgotten the trend for inflatables until I found this little mirror, and oddly shaped picture frames too. The photo in the frame is me and a couple of friends heading out post A Levels. I'm wearing a velvet vest top, a wrapover skirt. If I remember correctly, I was wearing velvet platform mules too. Clearly velvet was as much of a 'thing' in the 90s (well for me anyway) as inflatables. Note the requisite fairy lights in the background.


More period lighting. A glitter lava lamp and a revolving disco light - all you need when dancing around your room to SL2 and similar.


Though the most worrying thing I've found is this cushion. Seemingly innocent till you realise this pattern is being re-pedalled to the kids of today by the likes of ASOS and River Island. Aztec? Nah, classic 90s Grimsby vintage. They'll be taking inspiration from my celestially-patterned curtains next.

Oh, wait.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Musically-themed wish list: Deck The Halls With Boughs of Holly

It's finally here. The day when I'm leaving the big smoke to head up to the bosom of my family. It's also - happily for everyone's sanity levels - the last of my musically-themed wish lists. It's suitably festive and ridiculous. With no further ado, today I'm encouraging you to ...

Deck The Halls With Boughs of Holly

Deck The Halls With Boughs of Holly

Deck The Halls With Boughs of Holly by lastyeargirl 

This selection is based on the finest Christmas wares. Indeed the whole set was inspired by Charlotte Olympia's magnificent collection of Christmas shoes including this splendid holly-bedecked pair. On the subject of designer silliness I'm rather fond of the quality street quality of this Anya Hindmarch key ring. Carry the sweetie wrapping look through to your eveningwear with the help of Topshop's sequin dress or their metallic cocktail dress

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without some excellent kind of knitwear: Gingerbread man jumper, jingle bell mittens or robin socks anyone? Meanwhile, this skirt looks like it was tailor made for a Christmas elf. She'd probably appreciate these slippers after a long day of elfing too. 

Tra-la-la-la-la, that's the end of the silliness (well, almost, you haven't seen the video yet). Hope you get whatever you wish for, and your season is suitably jolly. 

xxx

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Musically-themed wish list: Merry Christmas Everybody

It's Christmas! Well, not quite but my levels of mental are definitely rising as we hurtle towards the big day. So, today, my wish list is based around another Christmas classic that you've been probably been forced to listen to since November:

Merry Christmas Everybody

Merry Christmas Everyone



I'm working on a book on Glam Rock at the moment so I could blame it on that, though truthfully I've always been a huge fan of the glitter, the shimmer and the shine. I'm captivated by this entire twinkly selection. I already own a pair of sequin shorts but not in silver, so this River Island pair will be hunted out in the January sales. I can't decide which I like more: the modernist look of this colour block dress or the Judy Jetson-appeal of the cocktail dress. It's similarly hard to pick just one of these pairs of glitter shoes - they all rock big style. The 3.1 Phillip Lim collar necklace is seriously cool but I'll be happily fobbed off with glittery nail varnishmake-up or even a Bambi Christmas decoration. See how they sparkle!

So, here it is ....

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Musically-themed wish list: Christmas Wrapping

Okay, confession time. This is less a collection of things I want and more about being able to link to one of my favourite Christmas songs (and one I was no doubt yelling into the microphone at karaoke box last night). Without further ado, I think it's time to beckon in some:

Christmas Wrapping

Christmas wrapping


Essentially this is a collection of lots of bows - the prettiest finishing touch on any present, and most dresses too. Emma Cook's print wrap dress is probably closest you can get to actually gift-wrapping yourself - I'd love to wear it with these black tie shoes. A less OTT use of a bow is on this very chic lace dress. Wear with a glittery bow coin purse to avoid taking yourself as seriously as the model seems to do. Then add the bling, whether in the form of this 80s original or this chunky chain necklace.

Take a bow, the Waitresses!
(to awesome home-grown light effects)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Musically-themed wish list: I Want Candy

And onto the second of my musically-themed wish lists:

I Want Candy


I want candy


Candy and pastel coloured items seem to have also been creeping into my flat: I'm finding them very cheering. And where interiors lead, my fashion taste seems to follow.

For my flat, I'd very much like to receive this beads cup and saucer from the wonderful Minä Perhonen, this vintage-style vase or this hilarious Christmas plate from the Emma Cook collection at Topshop, as well as this tasty looking dipped wood box. This wall clock and wrist watch are surely the sweetest way to tell the time.

And then I really get into fantasy land. A fluro fairisle sweater? Yes please. A heart print Markus Lupfer leather handbag? Well, if you must. A candy stripe House of Holland dress? That's very kind of you. And I'm sure I'll be able to squeeze into sexiest kind of body con from Sonia Rykiel post-seasonal excesses. As for the print, well - to quote some great wordsmiths of our time - you're twisting my melon man.

Time for the music!


(I went for the Marie Antoinette version for some more pastel pleasures.)

Monday, 17 December 2012

Musically-themed wish list: I'm Dreaming of A (Black and) White Christmas

I tried to put together a little wish list of things I might quite like to find under the tree this Christmas. One problem: it wasn't such a little list. So I've put together not one, not two, but five different lists, each vaguely themed around a different song ... starting with ...

I'm dreaming of a (black and) white Christmas



I'm dreaming of a (black and) white Christmas


I've had my eye on black and white things for my hallway recently to add to my 'F' and beloved Shangri-Las print. This striped dress print would fit in perfectly, as would this gorgeous Katy Leigh portrait plate, and to really go for it, this oval bone mirror.

To carry the look over to my wardrobe, I like the demureness of this Topshop shift dress shift dress and the sexiness of this River Island white cocktail dress. If I could afford it, I'd buy just about everything from Sonia by Sonia Rykiel including this jersey top. Instead I'll go for the Louche dogstooth jumper, possibly with their librarian chic patterned skirt.

And cue the music ....

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Karl Ferris Psychedelic Experience


I'm ending 2012 looking back at an era I've often skimmed over: the psychedelic side of the 60s. While I happily plunder the 40s, 50s and the earlier part of the 60s for inspiration, I've always found this bit, well, a bit fuzzy for me to really get into. But it's still influential, and seems to be edging its way towards a more mainstream revival.

My first bit of evidence for this is the Karl Ferris Psychedelic Experience at the Proud Gallery in Camden which I went to the opening of last week. His saturated photography capture that whole era perfectly - especially his cover for the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced? The Proud display is crammed full of colourful rock stars and far-out girls. I especially like his Pre-Raphaelite inspired shoot with Donovan, shot at Bodium Castle.


And then there's the music that's hanging around the fringes at the moment, experimenting with the psychedelic sounds: Tame Impala, Temples and my current new favourites, Stealing Sheep.

But for some people, this isn't a revival - it's never been away. When I went down to the club night Fuzz 4 Freaks as part of my Rough Guide research, the place was full of young beautiful people, all dressed immaculately in their finest late 60s finery. The attention to detail - and enthusiastic dancing - made it obvious that this wasn't a fashionable dress-up opportunity, in the way perhaps a victory roll and smear of red lipstick might be at the moment. It's just what they all were into.

And my final thought on the psychedelia 'trend': I'm halfway through Mad Men season five at the moment: Roger has taken LSD, Don has issues with Tomorrow Never Knows. If the Mad Men portrayal this aspect of the 60s proves to be as influential as their take on the late 50s/early 60s look has been, who knows what we'll be wearing and listening to in a year's time?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

This Year's News: The Rough Guide To Vintage London


Well, it's up there to pre-order on Amazon, so I think I'm able to tell you about it. Back here, I hinted at an exciting new project, and ta da! Here it is. Well, not quite. There's still a lot of proofing and printing and binding to do, but I'm thrilled to say that I've contributed to a new Rough Guide to Vintage London which will be coming out in May next year.

It's been the dream job: we carved London up between several contributors and each got to write about our favourite vintage shops, bars and places. I've included some of my longtime loves but got to discover some great new places along the way. And I just about avoided my biggest challenge -  spending too much money while I was doing it.

I did always know about the bounty of second-hand and vintage that is available in London if you can be bothered to go and seek it out, but researching the book hammered the point home to me. There's so many pretty, quality and quirky things out there - if you put the time in. The book will also contain a fairly comprehensive listings section too, of things like fairs, charity shops, specialist dealers, so hopefully this book will make finding whatever you'd like a lot easier. I certainly expect my copy to be very well thumbed.

Anyway, it's not out till May but I wanted to share the exciting news before I burst. And hopefully I'll share a bit of my newly reinforced knowledge on this blog. In the meantime, you can read about a couple of my vintage shop experiences here and here.
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