Wednesday, 22 December 2010

So Last-Year: 1970s Christmas cards

Are you ready? Presents all bought, greeting cards all sent? I went for Stefi Orazi's Modernist London cards this year but for a different look, how about these seventies designs? They were designed by Juliet Glynn Smith for Hunkydory designs in 1970. I like their chunky shapes and pattern and their reminder to incorporate a bit more purple, brown and gold into our lives this Christmas - why should red and green and white get all the festive fun?

So, it's almost the end of another year - this year's been pretty full on and I hope 2011 brings a little bit more calmness. I'm off for a snooze,  a read and no doubt a browse on the prettier corners of the internet. Wishing you a joyful Christmas. I'll see you Next-Year...

Image from Design Council Slide collection, via VADS archive

Friday, 17 December 2010

Last-Year Reads: Zandra Rhodes textile revolution

Last Thursday, I attended the launch of a new book on Zandra Rhodes. Subtitled 'Textile Revolution: Medals Wiggles and Pop', it looks at the designer's early work and the influence of Pop Art on her work. The author, Samantha Erin Safer, is perfectly placed to write the book having started her own career interning at Rhodes' Fashion and Textile Museum and also for sharing her love of colour and pattern with the design. I also have to admit a bias as Sam is now my colleague at the V&A and I looked at an early draft of her text.

While Zandra Rhodes work is so closely associated with the '70s, it was fascinating to see how her style developed and her early influences. She was at the RCA in the 1960s and, if you cast your mind back you'll remember we've been here before - it's the turf of George Melly's 'incubators of total Pop', the students that were featured in the 1962 film Pop Goes the Easel, featuring my very first Last-Year Girl: Pauline Boty.

Sam explains how, understandably, this Pop sensibility filtered into her work - David Hockney, for example, influenced some of her work for her degree show which featured medal motifs. The book also shows some variants on designs from her sketchbooks, inspired by a Dior advert showing lipstick being applied. They're not too dissimilar to the pattern being used on a new book in the V&A Pattern series: Pop Patterns, which is coming out next year:

After the RCA, the book goes on to look at some of her early collaborations, such as her textile designs for Foale and Tuffin like this domino dress (shown at the Foale and Tuffin Fashion and Textile Museum exhibition), as well as commissions for Jacqmar, &Vice Versa and Sekers Pty Australia.

In 1966, Rhodes teamed by with Sylvia Ayton to open the Fulham Road Clothes shop and, amongst its fascinating contextual images, the book features some great pictures from their collections. This was also the time she created her textiles inspired by Paco Rabanne's plastic discs - as seen in a 'bikini' dress in the book, or in this dress photographed by Ronald Traeger and then used to promote the V&A's '60s fashion exhibition decade's later.

One of the inspiring things about the book is the huge range of sources Rhodes uses for her own inspiration: a TV documentary on Las Vegas, knitted textiles or the Museum of the American Indian which informed some of her early own clothing collections. The book is a riot of colour and pattern - from the acid green of the cover to the bright pink pull-out quotes and that's even before you get to the plates section in the second half of the book!

If you are a textile student, there's plenty that will send you running to your sketchbook and, for everyone else, it's a fascinating and colourful glimpse into a rich and fertile period of British design.

Zandra Rhodes Textiles Revolution: Medals, Wiggles and Pop is available from Amazon for £21.25

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

So Last-Year: Jack Fletcher's 1940s nordic knitwear

One of the best bits about my job is the great things you can stumble across while just, you know, working. Take today. I was searching through Corbis for potential covers for a book that I'm working on about knitting when the above image leapt out at me. It was taken by Jack Fletcher in Canada in 1949 for National Geographic. I love the fact that while the girl looks quite contemporary in her outfit and with her fashionable fringe, she's also got that beautiful vintage, healthy glow. And the colour of that sky is just heavenly...

I actually took this copy of the image off the intriguingly entitled Inspirational and Motivational Posters website where you can buy a print of it for $39. It seems a slightly random selection for them but I guess it is making me want to grow my hair a little, sort out my skin and go out and buy a great new belt and knitwear, so perhaps that's the idea. But not to attempt to ski, oh no.

And, hurrah, time to celebrate as tis finally the season of festive knitwear. Oh hello again, ...

Monday, 13 December 2010

Last-Year Party: the 70s

To finish off my little series of party looks, I present to you the 70s. I've always found seventies-style a bit tricky to include into my wardrobe - it doesn't fit my figure as well as 50s stuff or as easy to pop on as a 60s mini skirt, for example. Recently though, it's been becoming more of a favourite, partly thanks to the inventiveness of designers like Celia Birtwell and Zandra Rhodes (more of that later this week), and partly because I really enjoyed spending my summer clomping around in a pair of Swedish 70s-esque clogs. This seventies look isn't for the faint hearted but certainly will make an impact...

Let's start off bold with this Troubadour chiffon evening dress from Devoted2Vintage for £48. Okay, it's tiered skirt and ruffles to the sleeves and neck are possibly a bit Abigail's party but there's no denying it's sense of fun and that deep colour is beautiful. You'll just need to be a bit fearless... a leopard, maybe? I think you should pile on the gold with this look, such as with this Gold plated leopard brooch, from The Stellar Boutique (£15). Grrr!

Another nod to the seventies with the platform and the peep toe, these Shirley shoes are £139 from Reiss. More gold? Well this is the era of glam rock after all.

Finally, a bit of serious bling to finish it off, this Segrato ring by Vita Fede is available from Kabiri. At £226 it's a serious investment, though the green resin and the gold will really shine against the colour of your dress. Hopefully it will last you through many more decades of parties!

I can't face tackling the '80s (just take a look at instead for a good fix) so have a fun time twinkling at your Christmas parties, whatever you end up wearing. My work do is happening in January so PLENTY of time to plan a new outfit for the new year.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Last-Year Party: the 60s

So we've done a contemporary take on a '50s party look - what did you think? It's now time to shimmer and shake into a new decade. For sizzling sixties style, I'm thinking monochrome with a touch of festive sparkle...

This is a stunning vintage number from Nina and Lola. It's an easy to wear tunic shape with a lace shoulder detail. It's £90 but looks like a million dollars.

Check out the beautiful silver buckle on these white patent shoes. These are $39 from Lagelle on Etsy. Modest heel and silver buckle. Once the party season is over, they'll be perfect with a pencil skirt for a sexy secretary look.

Add more sparkle with this orb clutch bag which £110 from Mimco. You'll have to channel your inner 60s spirit and leave your mobile and i-pod at home!

Then pile on the bangles to punk it up a bit. Start with the perfectly named Pop Art spot bangle from Kate Spade ($42)...

... with a nice and plain and chunky inlay bangle for £8 from Accessorize.

Finish it all off with yet more sparkle. How about this Night Fever bangle, again £8 from Accessorize?

There you go, enjoy, and remember to shake a tail feather for me!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Last-Year Party: the 50s

Phew - after all that heavy-ish stuff, I'd like lighten the mood a little. In case it had escaped your notice, it's the season of parties and sequins and twinkling and all sorts of festive joy. I've put together a few possible party outfits for you - a mixture of the vintage and the contemporary - and roughly inspired by different eras. Let's start in one of my favourite periods for stylistic inspiration, the Fifties.

A lovely contemporary dress from Topshop that balances that ladylike look with a sense of fun very well. Though you can't tell from the image, the top is actually patterned with navy blue flowers, not black. And how much fun would it be to spin around in that tulle skirt? This costs £95.

Draw out the blue shades of the dress and give yourself a bit of an edge with this 1950s cocktail hat from Love Miss Daisy Vintage. It's £20.

Jewellery fans can add some festive sparkle with these $9 earrings, from 1stlovepurses  on Etsy.

Add these pumps, £80 from Kurt Geiger at ASOS. The low size heel is perfect for dancing the night away in comfort and the wood gives the classic style a nice contemporary twist.

Finally, pop your lipstick, powder and compact in this cute clutch bag from Seamsclassic, for $20 on Etsy. You're ready to rock around the clock, '50s style!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Last-Year Travels: Amsterdam

As an attempt to celebrate Mr S's birthday and to banish the winter blues, earlier in the week we hopped on the Eurostar to Amsterdam. The city was very much in winter's grip but looked absolutely stunning. This view across the museum area, taken from inside the Van Gogh museum, reminds me of a Bruegel painting - I half expect to see a deer bounding across the picture. Instead, cyclists on their determined paths.

As the cold wind whipped round us, the vistas down the canals were literally breathtaking. My favourite moment was after it had got dark, and we wandered past the huge lit up-windows of the apartments while clutching a paper cup of mulled wine for warmth. Inside were cosy and inviting scenes of city residents, reading, sitting back and cooking.

We walked through a perilously icy Vondelpark to the 1930s cafe in the centre. Black pendant lights hung from the ceiling, while a chunky transport-style clock was set off by the chic gray walls. The wooden tables were decorated with tea lights and meadow flowers. Simple but warm and welcoming, it seemed to sum up the Dutch style perfectly. We sat clutching our coffee glasses, looking out at the whitewashed park as the cool staff played the xx.

On Tuesday evening, we ventured to a tiny jazz club to see Gruff Rhys playing a gig. Sat on plastic stacking chairs and enjoying a Dutch lager, the audience was filled with thrilled ex-pats and fashionable Netherlanders in excellent knitwear. Gruff was as charming and whimsical as ever and, playing solo, he used a metronome to replace drums and records of bird songs to accompany his own guitar and vocals. The tiny space hung on his anecdotes and sublime vocals and it felt really rather special to be there.

All too soon we had to return to Britain and to big chunky layers of snow and public transport failure. Thoughts of Amsterdam are lingering on though, in more than my chapped lips. I look forward to wandering its streets again.

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