Friday, 28 June 2013

Last-Week Links: 28 June 2013

They always have seven days in them but some weeks are bigger than others. This week was an extra big one for me, as I decided to leave my job after 10.5 years to concentrate on my freelance projects. I'm excited and terrified - but mostly excited. For this reason, I think stories about inspiring creative and brave women have been even more appealing this week.

I loved the Business of Fashion's profile of writer Lynn Yaeger, who - despite her repuation - still considers herself an outsider in fashion, about to be turned away from the Met Ball, and I thought her philosophy about keeping sight of reality and not becoming "seduced by this dream world of money and fashion" was very sound indeed.

The colourful ensembles pictured at the top of the post are costume designs by Olivia Rose Hulme.  They're her vision for the characters of Dora and Nora Chance from Angela Carter's wonderful Wise Children, filtered through the style of Marlene Dietrich and Isabella Blow (found via Pigeons and Peacocks)

I also really enjoyed reading about the exhibition of clothes of Ann Bonfoey Taylor at the Georgia Museum of Art: a woman wealthy enough to have an exquisite wardrobe tailored to her own needs and tastes - and did so in high style.

I haven't looked at the resort collections in too much details (I think that would mean me spending 25 hours a day on the internet) but, as instant refreshment for my eyes, the Orla Kiely collection is adorable. Polka dots + hearts + vintage-style pinks and blues = a very happy Frances (found via Calivintage).

And, alongside Orla, there's Karen. Karen Walker, of course, whose Resort Collection is her usual perfect balance of girlie and grown-up, cutie and classic. All that's missing from the picture is the accompanying holiday.

I Love Your Style used the Chloe resort collection to explore a classic holiday look - sailor style. Her selection includes everyone from Jean Harlow to Jerry Hall. And Alexa Chung. Though, I'm not sure if it's her dress or the bathroom I'm coveting more here.

Whether it's hitting the boat, the beach or the open road, it's all seems to be about summer time adventures at the moment. Doug Aitken's Station to Station ten day cross America train trip sounds brilliant - especially as he's taking musicians, artists, writers and chefs along for the ride. Handily, I've got a permanent reminder of my own adventures in the sunshine of Cuba earlier this year thanks to my local coffee shop, Casa Cuba. A nice little glimpse inside this sweet cafe went up on the blog, The Triangle SE19, earlier this week.

Summertime wear, at home or abroad, can always benefit from some flowers. The styles shown in this 1941 Life article and reproduced on the Lilies and Remains blog are so pretty. As I sit here, typing along to the sounds of the Glastonbury festival on the radio, I can't help but think I'd rather be in a field in Somerset with some fresh red bouvardia in my hair.

Lots of treats coming up for me however. Though not quite Glastonbury, and the Rolling Stones almost certainly won't be making a guest appearance, it's the Crystal Palace Overground Festival this weekend, and I'm looking forward to some fun times in my neighbourhood (perhaps I'll put some flowers in my hair anyway). Tonight, I get to catch up with a treasured friend who is over from New York, and reminisce about our student days. I'll also be attending my first Pamflet salon on Tuesday, when Anna Mackenzie Stuart, author of Diana Vreeland: Empress of Fashion will be speaking. So it's all quite wonderful really.

Have a marvellous weekend and see you next week.

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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Last-Year Reads: Hot Tips by Frances Patiky Stein

I don't think Frances Patiky Stein would approve of what I'm wearing today. To set the scene, I'm wearing one of my  favourite summer outfits: flat sandals, a mid calf sky blue cotton skirt, and my Orla Kiely orange striped T-shirt. And then, let me introduce you to Frances Patiky Stein, if you haven't been acquainted yet. She's a former fashion director at Glamour and Vogue (under Diana Vreeland) and has Calvin Klein and Chanel on her C.V.

I heard about her book Hot Tips through the blog Allways in Fashion, and - always eager to expand my vintage tips library - got myself a copy. Published in 1981, this book is aimed at "the busy professional woman" and, I have to say, lots of her advice left this busy professional woman stone cold. The aim of her style of dressing is to look as long and lean as possible. That means dark colours, absolutely no horizontal stripes on a larger bust, a slight heel, and never anything that hits the calf. Oh groan, I thought, skimming over her advice, how boring.

Frances Patiky Stein writes in safe and easy formulae and deals in simple relaxed uncomplicated neutral clothes guaranteed to end up with a sleek and uncontroversial look. To me, the book read like a series of SEO-friendly Refinery 29 articles: twenty-four ways to wear a sweater, twenty-four ways to wear a blouse and so on...

And then you get to her diet advice. Anyone who advises you to weigh yourself every day and to keep a calorie counter in your handbag, in your kitchen and next to your bed is going to win little enthusiasm from me.

The strength and the weakness in Stein's advice is that it's so precise. Here's her formula for one of my favourite subjects - successful summer dressing:

"Navy T, navy cotton pants (or skirt), pale peanut butter belt, pale peanut sandals, wood bracelets, small gold stud earrings, plus careful hair and make-up. Tan canvas-and-leather shoulder bag."

While there is no space for error in her advice, there seems little space for experimentation either. As I was reading the book, I had the words of Kennedy Fraser (from roughly the same period) rattling around my head: "there is a cult of luxurious simplicity which is often mistaken for style, but this is only a sophisticated level of good taste. The woman who extols perfectly plain white silk shirts and perfectly plain black cashmere pants and who expresses utter loathing for frills and ruffles almost never has real style. Her kind of simplicity is costly, and it is usually timid."

Though, at this point, I probably could have left Ms Stein well alone, I did some more research. In 1980, the year before this book was published, she joined Chanel as new director of accessories. In 1987, she founded her own accessories brand which granted her the dubious honour of being one of the brands name-checked in American Psycho. Patrick describes his fiancee Evelyn wearing: "a cotton blouse by Dolce & Gabbana, suede shoes by Yves Saint Laurent, a stencilled calf skirt by Jill Stuart, Calvin Klein tights" with "Venetian glass earrings by Frances Patiky Stein".

But I found her work before this 80s excess more interesting - and redeeming. Stein left Vogue in 1975 and went to work for Calvin Klein as his artistic director. Both this NY Times article and this Vanity Fair piece define her three years as working for Calvin Klein as crucial to defining Klein's signature style. Though there was lots I disliked in Hot Tips, I could see her dressing formula translating across easily to the designer's work and the benefits of her exacting eye on getting something to fit just so. If I was to buy an expensive suit jacket, I think I probably would want to look at her advice on its fit: from the length to the collar, the sleeves, the buttons and definitely the bust darts: apparently on no occasion should you buy a jacket (or any top) with bust darts.

Halston, with Frances Patiky Stein and Joel Schumacher and Joanne Creveling. Photo: Sal Traina. Via

Perhaps the most out-there section in Hot Tips is her "scarf wardrobe" which goes far beyond the usual fancy knots and headscarves. Stein has the reader fashioning bags and bras out of their scarves too. In a 1989 article from the LA Times, she's still espousing the same kind of scarf philosophy:

"'I collect them. It's like buying dishes in an antique store,' said Stein by phone from her Madison Avenue office. 'On my travels, I always include a knitted cashmere that I can use as a bathrobe.'"

So I was interested to come across this quote from her in Radical Rags, describing the late 1960s:

"I remember so well a dinner at my house, at which Loulou de la Falaise, Marisa and Berry Berenson each wore a remarkable turban tied together with Byzantine intricacy out of at least four pieces of thinnest Indian bias-cut fabric. Each one was different and each tied a turban better than the other. I remember standing over them, trying to understand how each of them did it."

These experiments with scarves don't seem too far away from the most bohemian styling promoted in 1975's Cheap Chic. While, through the glasses of retrospect, I find their kind of dressing much more inspiring than the idea of a capsule wardrobe, through Stein's advice you can see the shifting of style in this period, from the fantasy created by Diana Vreeland at Vogue (who Stein worked for), to the kind of dressing for real women and real life that her successor Grace Mirabella promoted. It was a flick through Grace Mirabella's In and Out of Vogue which gave me much more sympathy for Stein's advice, or at least an understanding of the feeling that created it. "Remember: EASE + MOBILITY = MODERN" writes Stein. Mirabella notes of the same period that "new designers stripped the idea of casual dressing down to its barest ingredients and came up with a new style of separates dressing that was so pure, so light and so pure to the move and contour of a woman's body that they redefined the entire notion of clothes ... the result was pure gutsiness, sheer ease, and thoroughly modern beauty."

By the end of my research, I'd definitely mellowed to Steins and, to her credit, I think you could still follow 99.9% of the advice given in Hot Tips and look extremely well-dressed (leave the scarf bra at home). It's just, for me at least, standing out is more of a mark of stylishness than seamlessly blending in - and it's definitely more of a challenge.

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Monday, 24 June 2013

Paris Haute Couture exhibition at Hotel de Ville, Paris

As I mentioned, the Paris Haute Couture exhibition was the highlight of my recent cross-channel jaunt. It had been recommended to me by all sorts of people, my boss and my sewing class buddy for starters, so I knew it was a must-see. So much so we went straight there from the Eurostar, skipping a lunch time stop-off - now that's devotion to fashion!

It's a free exhibition using the collection from Musee Galliera, which is currently closed for renovation but due to reopen later this year. Talk about "Magic Names of Fashion", this exhibition had them all: Dior, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, Vionnet, Lanvin, Poiret, Balmain and so on.

The exhibition begins with a little background to the mysterious world of haute couture, including the strict definition of what it means to be "couture". It also makes a striking point about the shrinking of this industry: there were 106 houses in Paris in 1946 (you have to have your fashion house in Paris as one of the criteria of being "couture"), compared to less than ten today. It ran through some of the process of design and making (subsequently repeated in the Kenzo visit), and showcased the incredible skills of some of the specialists whose work was or is used as part of couture, producing deluxe embroidery, lavish feathers and astonishing pleating,

You descend down into the main hall to see the clothes, starting with an ensemble by Charles Frederick Worth. "Haute Couture started with an Englishman" reads the inscription on the first case (in French, of course). From there on in, the presentation is no longer chronological with ensembles grouped together to make links between decades or designs.

I really enjoyed the presentation of the exhibits. The majority of the clothes were in glass cases, see-through on all four sides and virtually flat on the floor, enabling you to properly look over every inch of the garment. Text was on the floor of each case so - for once - I didn't feel I was spending more time reading the labels than looking at the objects.

Although it was possible to look at each object in the round, as the objects were placed in long rows, it was often a while before you could work your way back round to the other side of the case, and this made for many surprises - a front or back that wasn't finished the way I'd expected, which then shifted my thoughts on the whole ensemble. Some objects were deliberately placed together in a case to draw links between the two, but the whole arrangement of the glass cases, as these wonderful photos from Dazed Digital illustrate, allowed for constant comparison, and the delight of spotting something enticing from across the room.

Carven, Esperanto jacket, 1951. Musée Galliera, photographed by Katerina Jebb. Reproduced in Paris Haute Couture.

As I worked my way through the exhibition, I gained lots of pleasure from this sense of anticipation. I also enjoyed the light touch with which several items were referenced throughout the exhibition. You first see the Esperanto jacket by Carven as a sketch, and then in reference to the horsehair embellishment. It was then one of the final pieces I saw on display.

It became obvious when designers were referencing each other, or the history of fashion, such as a dramatic Galliano for Dior evening ensemble, clearly harking back to Poiret's opulence. And it really helped crystallise the idea of each designers unique DNA, helping identify their style and what make them masters of their art.

Vionnet, evening gown, c.1931. Musée Galliera, photographed by Katerina Jebb. Reproduced in Paris Haute Couture.

The exhibition was packed full of pieces that still appear show-stopping (literally) today and it was fun to speculate on the original impact of, for example, Schiaparelli's black gloves with huge false gold nails attached, or her lantern bag. Or the stunning Madeline Vionnet dress pictured. After seeing all the 1920s dresses which were weighed down with beading and embroidery, this beautifully constructed slip of a thing was a breath of fresh air. Imagine the woman who walked into a party wearing this dress and who would put all the other elaborately dressed women in the shade. No wonder the 41 Vionnet dresses exhibited by Diana Vreeland in her Inventive Paris Clothes show made such an impression.

This dress was also in dramatic contrast to the contemporary couture pieces, that appeared to dripping with jewels or overly lavish embroidery and were far more fantastical than many of the earlier pieces displayed. I wondered if this was because they have to make the craftsmanship so much more evident now, both to justify their price tag and their existence. It's something curator Anne Zazzo picks up in the accompanying book to the exhibition: brands have focused "the spotlight on these highly skilled artistic metiers, and they have subsequently become an essential element in the marketing strategy for couture ... Preserving an artisanal heritage that is unique in the world is also an economic strategy for expanding the French luxury sector aboard, especially in Asia."

It was also interesting to see the very familiar names like Dior, and styles, like the "New Look", alongside names who were less familiar but whose creations were no less fabulous, like Jacques Heim, or Agnès, both of which have stunning little black dresses in the book. Perhaps this is the by-product of the agenda inherent in past exhibitions, like Inventive Clothes, though this selection of non-household names was no less deliberate according to this interview with curator Olivier Saillard.

Jeanne Lanvin, Concerto evening gown, winter 1934-5. Musée Galliera, photographed by Katerina Jebb. Reproduced in Paris Haute Couture.

I also wondered if the curators deliberately selected clothes that chimed with the fashions of today. There were a lot of dresses with ombre colouring, an Yves Saint Laurent skirt covered with roses which looked as if it could have come straight out of Raf Simons for Dior, if it only had been made in a more subdued colour scheme. And there's this astonishing dress from Lanvin in the 1930s, with a futuristic, armour-like neckline I can easily picture on the red carpet.

I'm not lucky enough to own the book - I was loaned it by my kind boss - but it's an impressive tome in its own right, featuring many more photographs by Katerina Jebb of pieces that didn't make it into the show. Unlike the show, it's organised chronologically but with charming small essays on all the details that contribute to couture, such as labels, perfumes, flowers and mannequins.

Interestingly, given the reason for my visit to Paris, it also references the last Les Journées Particulières: its celebration of the world of the artisan, and its contribution to the idea of luxury.
But what I found particularly thought provoking was Olivier Saillard's explanation as to why he felt couture remained so appealing. He made a link between these objects, which demonstrate such extreme skill and luxury, with something we might make ourselves. Due to society's massive production, a "makeshift garment, even if ineptly cut out on the kitchen table, suddenly acquires an appeal that cannot be round in a store window ... Whether lavishly embroidered in famous ateliers or pieced together with stitches at home, these garments – exemplars of perfection or exercises in humility – are not readily forgotten."

Friday, 21 June 2013

Last-Week Links: 21 June 2013

Got a penchant for vintage fashion and unlimited budgetary means? You're in luck as there are some pretty fabulous items coming up for sale over the next couple of weeks. London shop of legend, WilliamVintage have a month residency at Selfridges, Christie's will be auctioning Elizabeth Taylor's first Helen Rose-designed wedding dress, while Kerry Taylor is hosting one of her renowned sales this coming Tuesday.

The Kerry Taylor auction is being reported as a sale of Diana Vreeland's wardrobe but, in fact, the Vreeland clothes make for only a fraction of the total, including Yves Saint Laurent jackets and her ivory cigarette holder. The sale also includes gloves from the Duchess of Windsor and a McQueen cocktail gown created specially for Isabella Blow. There are many fabulous pieces coming from unknown patrons too, from a French eighteenth-century revolutionary skirt to the very feminine 1956 Chanel dress pictured. On a far less grand sale, I loved reading 'For Emma: A Tale About an Estate Sale' on the Adored Vintage blog, a gentle speculation about an apparently impeccably dressed woman's life.

Talking about impeccably dressed lives, I was interested to hear the Valentino Resort collection was inspired by Marisa Berenson. If the square shapes and decided lack of jewellery, turbans and gloves in this image of the collection are confusing you, it's apparently because it's inspired by Marisa Berenson in her boarding school years. Oh okay. (I definitely think school girl Marisa would worn an against-the-rules necklace, and perhaps a boater at a jaunty angle.)

For some proper 1970s style, let's go back to the world conjured up by The Beautiful Fall book, a wonderful evocation of that period in Paris. That's where I was introduced to Loulou de la Falaise, but also first learnt about the work of Antonio Lopez. There was a lovely piece on his photography work on Russh, from which the above picture of Jerry Hall was taken. Of course, the main protagonists of that book were Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. This week Karl Lagerfeld got his own computer game, while Mason Bentley Style shared the story that Yves's Parisian apartment is open for visits until 21 July (oh, why didn't I know this before last's weekend's trip?!). In the absence of being able to go there, you can play online dress up of some virtual paper dolls.

The New York Times wrote a rather more effusive post about Les Journées Particulières than my own, while I've been earmarking out two further fashion related excursions. First, to Edinburgh to see the hundred years of Conde Nast photography exhibition, and then to Antwerp to see the exhibition at MoMu devoted to the city's Royal Academy of Fine Arts - I loved reading this story about the "Antwerp Six" reunion. Plus, last time I went to Antwerp I drank lots of gin and ate loads of moules et frites and Belgian chocs, so there are plenty of good reasons to make a return visit.

And finally, something to drool over and something else to mull over: The new look cover of Oh Comely is gorgeous; while Vanessa Friedman's post on the power of dress, specifically in relation to "the woman in the red dress" photograph from the Turkish protests.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Last-Year Travels: Paris and Les Journées Particulières

Bonjour! Ça va? As I mentioned in Friday's post, I had all the fun of going to Paris this weekend to enjoy some of the events of Les Journées Particulières: a chance to go behind the scenes at luxury house LVMH. Or, as Chairman Bernard Arnault put it in the editorial to the fancy brochure we were all given, visits to "let you share the passion of artisans who are all inspired by the same quest for excellence." There certainly was a sense of occasion around the event. This picture was taken in Place de Vendome, bedecked in banners for the weekend, while people were queueing for hours to get into their favourite couture houses.

My first stop was at Make Up For Ever (look, that's me! In Paris! In the silk blouse and jacket I bought in Brighton!). It's a brand I knew very little about, other than being surprised that such expensive make-up would have such an awful name. I now know a lot more ... but still think it's an awful name. We were taken behind the scenes of their store, and introduced to the background of the brand, who make stage and performance make-up for everyone from Madonna to the French synchronised swimming team.

We were shown how a lipgloss might be formulated (in my schoolgirl French, I could only pick out the words 'glossy' and 'sparkling' - mainly because they were the only ones in English), and a couple of demonstrations of the make-up actually being put into use: in some fantastical ways as well as a very practical face contouring lesson. We left with a goodie bag with a mascara and a lipstick - mine was a solid red that's hardly left my lips since.

The second event was Kenzo. The event was obviously intended to reflect the fun and energy Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are bringing to the brand. We visitors were given free juices in the courtyard, with disco music belting out, walls were swathed with one of their eye-catching prints and we were shown a hologram of their latest collection, before being asked to pose for a photograph for their blog. Compared to the functional space of Make Up For Ever, Kenzo's building itself is unbelievably beautiful, dating to the seventeenth century, with plenty of gorgeous outside space.

We were guided through the design and production process that went into the jacket-style dress shown above, from inspiration and design, through to creating the demi-toile, pattern cutting and making up the actual garment from people who work on the collection. Thankfully, my knowledge of French dressmaking terminology is a lot better than my knowledge of cosmetics, so I could understand a bit more. I learnt that 34 of their designers were based in Paris and 35% of the women's collection was still made there.

Which leads me onto my main criticism of the event. Even though we were within the sacred walls of Kenzo, it all felt too artificial. The main room was dressed to show the different stages in making of the garments, with a mood board, some fabric samples, one cutting board, one sewing machine ... and so on. Engaging as their speakers were, I would have rather stood in the real design room, or fitting room, no matter how lacking in glamour it was. The stagey set-up actually had the effect of making the process seem even more unreal - or (in my head at least) perhaps making the brand more untrustworthy?

There seems to be something of a tension at the moment in the luxury business, between the desire to be seen as craftsmen and "artisans" (as in Mr Arnault's quote above) and, in the case of LVMH, being huge multinational corporation with the working practices to match. Although I enjoyed the glamour of this glimpse into their world, I didn't see much of the reality of the business that made it run: it just seemed like an elaborate way of showing us the glossy surface of the brand, something you can get when you pick up a magazine.

That was Les Journées Particulières, and so onto the rest of the delights of a Parisian weekend. The picture above was taken from our hotel window, a proper artist's garret of a room in Montmartre, though the Comptoir des Cotonnier boutiques and the like now found in the surrounding neighbourhood were a long way from the world of Toulouse-Lautrec.

I made my first visit to the Puces de Saint Ouen flea market, and, my, what a wonderful place that is. Club chairs, chaise lounges, camisoles, candlesticks: there were hundreds of everything you could imagine, and then more. We spent hours exploring the various stalls and shops, flicking through vintage magazines and adverts. Unable to carry a chaise lounge back on the Eurostar, I came away with a simple cotton dress (in red, white and blue in a deliberate counter to the advice of Ann Freeman-Saunders) which you can see a glimpse of at the bottom of this post.

We also stumbled across Habitat 1964: Un Espace Vintage near the market, a warehouse full of vintage Habitat wares taken from throughout their history. It was a reminder of how much the brand has shaped the British interior over the last 50 years. There were lots of familiar objects, like the chicken brick or the button boxes, as well as some which were too familiar - the deckchairs, for example, took me straight back to my student years and the excitement of experiencing Habitat for the very first time. Since getting back I've found out a little bit more about the space - it's only been open for about a week!

We did lots of wandering through the blissfully sunny streets and gardens too and the compulsory eating of Croque Madames and the like. My undoubted highlight of the trip, however, was a visit to the free haute couture exhibition currently on at the Hotel de Ville. There's far too much I want to say about that to try and squeeze it into this post, so I'm going to attempt to write about it separately. But to sum up in a word - wonderful!

A few of my souvenirs from a whirlwind 48 hours of fashion in Paris. 

Friday, 14 June 2013

Last-Week Links 14 June 2013 and Links à la Mode

I don't know what took me so long, especially as I always learn so much from their posts, but I finally joined the Independent Fashion Bloggers network this week. And what a welcome: I was overjoyed to have my summer city style post picked as one of their Links à la Mode! Here are twenty more posts for you to enjoy this week, from a wide variety of fashion blogs. My normal Friday link posting will follow after you've given due reading and mulling over time to the huge array of topics raised below.




One of the things I love the most about blogging is that there are both actions and reactions in content. Action: making, creating, styling. Reaction: commentary, reviewing, dissecting. It satisfies both the heady space fashion can sometimes occupy, as well as occupying our two little hands. This week we have a great combination of things you can do and things to think about, and heck a couple of things you can put on your summer wishlist.

Links à la Mode: The IFB Weekly Roundup

SPONSOR: Shopbop Skirts: Minis, Pencil, Maxis, L'Huillier, Tibi, Milly, A+O Skirts, Anine Bing, Derek Lam, Donna Karan, Paul & Joe Sister, Herve skirts


Do you enjoy the posts? Which was your favourite? I especially liked Fashion Moriarty's post on elitism in fashion journalism and Incognito's post on putting the 'style' back into street style photography. And, Olive Brown is completely correct: the new Prada mens campaign TOTALLY kills it (hello Ben Wishaw!).

One of the people mentioned in the fashion journalism post is Alexa Chung. While I know I should probably dislike her, I can't help but be fascinated by what's she's wearing and what rock star she's dating. So I'll definitely be ordering a copy of her gorgeous pink book IT when it comes out in September - even if I then have to put it into storage for twenty years before I can bear to read about "everything from her thoughts on life, love and music to her favourite looks and how to decide what to wear in the morning."

Ms Chung still has a way to go in the style stakes though - she's noticeably missing from Vogue Australia's gallery of designer muses, which includes Catherine Deneuve, Jane Birkin, Kate Moss and my beloved Loulou de la Falaise. In terms of longevity too. A couple of weeks ago, I included an image of model Carmen dell'Orefice as a teenager; now look at her rocking 82 years in the latest issue of Vogue Italia.

Sadly Esther Williams died this week, but I've enjoyed find out more about "Hollywood's Mermaid" in all the tributes to her (not to mention all the beautiful images), especially this one on The Cut. A copy of her autobiography, Million Dollar Mermaid should be winging - or should that be swimming? - its way to me in the post as I type.

Someone who didn't like swimming, I found out this week as a bit of a surprise, was Coco Chanel. She didn't bother to get a swimming pool built in her French Riviera villa La Pausa, despite its otherwise opulent style (this photograph shows her receiving guests in her bedroom). La Pausa is now for sale and this T Magazine article illustrates how this house has been shaped by its two very different female owners: first Chanel and then the American model Wendy Reve.

T Magazine also featured a behind the scenes glimpse at the Louis Vuitton ateliers which makes me very excited indeed. The ateliers are being opened to the public as part of Les Journées Particulières this coming weekend, a kind of open house for LVMH. I've been lucky enough to get tickets to Make Up For Ever and Kenzo and so am picking out my chicest outfit and heading off to Paris on Saturday. Oh la la, the excitement! I hope to also visit the haute couture show at the Hotel de Ville while I'm there, and a few vintage shops, and otherwise just have a lovely time. If you have any Paris "must do" tips, please let me know in the comments.

Finally, writing this post has been soundtracked by the new collaboration between two of my favourite souls: David Lynch and Lykke Li. Take a listen to I'm Waiting Here here (via NME).

And à bientot! Have marvellous weekends.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

New in at Last-Year Girl Books: Fashion in the 60s, Dorian Leigh Autobiography, The Opulent Era and more

I've been making it my mission to update my Etsy shop, Last-Year Girl Books, each weekend with some new titles. Here are some of my favourite recent additions, all available to buy now:

Fashion in the 60s by Barbara Bernard is a great pocket sized introduction to the fashions of this decade. It was published in 1978 so its take on the fashions of the era is an interesting alternative to our own interpretations of the 60s. That said, Mary Quant, Biba, Ossie Clark are all well-accounted for, and there's plenty of images of Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, Peggy Moffitt and the like...

You may remember I wrote about another amazing model last year, Dorian Leigh, who was at the height of her fame in the 1950s. The Girl Who Had Everything is her fascinating autobiography: four/five husbands, working with photographers like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon and inspiring the character Holly Golightly: she's got more than enough juicy subject matter to write about!

Practical Home Dressmaking is a wonderfully useful 1940s book explaining the arts of dressmaking, from getting a perfect fit to making all the trimmings and embellishments you could possibly want. I especially like the section on how to set up your own sewing room - I can only dream.

More home comforts - or should that be truths? - in Osbert Lancaster's 1939 Homes Sweet Homes. It's a survey of domestic decoration in Britain from Norman times up to the Second World War. Each style is given its own illustration (complete with comedic inhabitants) and witty commentary. I'm quite a fan of the practical bookcase and decorative cactus in the 'Functional' room shown above. I'll pass on the pipe and slippers though.

Finally, for sheer clothes lust, I'd like to recommend The Opulent Era: Fashions of Worth, Doucet and Pingat, a glimpse into the lavish couture created at the end of the nineteenth-century and originally published to accompany an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. With its excellent scholarly text, and perfectly posed museum mannequins and studio photography, it's about as far away as you can get from my first book, Fashion in the 60s, in book form. But every good book collection is built on variety, right?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Vintage Tips for Summer City Style

1950s summer ensembles, via

"Clothes crises, like dog days, have a curious affinity for the summer months."
American Vogue, 1 June 1961

Clothes crisis? Not me, I thought as - at the first sign of summer - I went skipping off into the London sunshine wearing blue, red and white striped top accessorised with my matching headband with white open-toed sandals.

I had to think again when I read Ann Freeman-Saunders critique of British summertime dressing in The Intelligent Women's Guide to Good Taste, published in 1958:

"I can only suppose that the Englishwoman is basically downright miserly about clothes. Only meanness could account for the kind of clothes she bursts out with exuberantly the moment the sun shines – balloon-skirted monsters in Union Jack colours topped by winter jackets or mackintoshes. Please."

Red, white and blue 1946 summer fashions from the Kay's Catalogue, via

And I had to reassess entirely when I read former Vogue editor Edna Woolman Chase's address to the Shoe Fashion Guild in 1939:

"Open-toed shoes may be worn for dress occasions, afternoon, dinner and evening. Also for resort and country wear. Not for walking in the city if you have understanding of the true essence of smartness of which the first essential is suitability. They are inappropriate, unsightly and dirty."

So, if I wasn't dressed in true summer style, what should I be wearing? I now really was having a clothes crisis. I turned to my vintage fashion books and magazines to try and glean some direction on what a stylish woman should be wearing in the city. I looked at over 80 years of advice. And what did I learn? That I should wear sandals. That I shouldn't wear sandals. That I should wear shorts. That I shouldn't. That I would look best in black. Or white. Or pineapple.

Want to decide for yourself? Here are some of my favourite (and often contradictory) pieces of advice. Let's start with the shoes:

1940s shoe fashions, via

"From the beginning of this fashion in 1937, when women first began to appear on the city streets with their toes sticking out of their shoes, I have felt it was distinctly bad style."
Edna Woolman Chase's address to the Shoe Fashion Guild, 1939, quoted in Always in Vogue

"I couldn’t believe what I saw. In the summer, every woman wore diamond clips on crepe de chine dresses. And they all wore silk stockings – this was before nylons – under these hideous strappy high heels ... It was unbelievable. For years in Europe I’d been bare-legged and thong-sandaled once the heat came on."
Diana Vreeland, talking about the 1940s, in D.V., 1984

"My personal bias in shoes is for courts with lowish heels- those high-heeled strappy things are exhausting to walk in, not cool at all, and rub blisters on the toes."
Ann Freeman-Saunders, The Intelligent Women's Guide to Good Taste, 1958

"Go barefoot when you can, or barely sandalled."
'Real Life Dressing ... The Real Cool', American Vogue, 1 June 1971

"Summer is full of wonderful distractions, but co-workers' toes shouldn't be one of them."
Emily Post 'What Not to Wear to Work in the Summer', accessed 2013.

Two Women in White Shorts, New York City, 1973.  Photo by Paul McDonough, via

"As for flagrant bad taste, there aren't too many examples. Shorts on a city street … shows a lack of self-respect and a contempt for the people who are properly dressed."
Anne Fogarty, The Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife, 1959

"You can go to town in bare legs and a short short skirt ... Here you are with those all-American legs of yours getting nice and brown ... and you haven't worn shorts in town yet? Don't let another minute go by! There's never been a season when shorts - and short, short skirts - looked so absolutely correct and adorable."
'Real Life Dressing ... The Real Cool', American Vogue, 1 June 1971

"She typified the girls who are wearing shorts in town this summer. She was asserting to wear them with such militancy that it was clear she had not thought to pause and wonder whether her legs should merit such display."
Kennedy Fraser, 'On the Avenue', 1971, reproduced in The Fashionable Mind

"Many workplaces adopt a casual dress code for summer months but, even so, there is a list of hot-weather wardrobe wipeouts that lead to certain self-sabotage: shorts, runnings shoes, sweats, logo t-shirts, cut off jeans, overall, mini skirts, low-cut or see-through tops and high, strappy sandals."
Robin Keeler, 'Wardrobe Consultant: Summer Dressing in the City, National Post, 2011

Horrockses Fashions advert 1951, via

"In spite of the great competition of cotton, I think linen is the top material of summer. It is cool and fresh and at the same time just as rich as silk or wool."
Christian Dior, Little Dictionary of Fashion, 1954

"White organdie; this 1955 summer evening essential is not 'just for debutantes' any more - it has a worldly new look, a wonderful new authority since the Paris spring collections."
'Vogue's 1955 Summer Textbook', American Vogue, 1 May 1955

"If you must have the kind of summer outfit which will pass muster on the Costa Brava and Bond Street both (a feat which is almost impossible) choose a straight sheath in heavy, crease-resisting cotton or linen, in a dark/clear colour, and wear it with a matching jacket, caraco, or some such, to cover up the bareness."
Ann Freeman-Saunders, The Intelligent Women's Guide to Good Taste, 1958

"Velvet with cotton is my favourite combination for midsummer city chic."
Anne Fogarty, The Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife, 1959

"Wearing a pure-cotton skirt in summer, with bare legs and sandals, is one of the coolest ways to make it through a hot city day. The cotton dirndl skirts designed in the fifties for dancing at the hop, walking along the boardwalk, or meeting a date for a soda can be updated and worn now. The fitted waists, bright colours, and lengths – from just below the knee to above the ankle – make for breezy dressing."
Harriet Love's Guide to Vintage Chic, 1982

Betty Barclay dresses, 1951, via

"In hot weather for town wear nothing is nicer than a linen suit in a dark colour."
Christian Dior, Little Dictionary of Fashion, 1954

"A new pastel way of dressing (for town, particularly) that started this spring with pale-tinted tweeds and pearly chiffons; that, in pineapple tints, will be a basic fashion fact by the end of the summer."
'Pineapple, Slicing Through Summer Fashion', American Vogue, 15 April 1955

"In the evening, for dining in a good London restaurant or hotel, you will need New York clothes too, with perhaps fewer black dresses, more coloured ones, bright or pale. An Englishwoman we know explains it thus: 'we have such a short summer in England that when it is summertime, we like to wear colours. There's plenty of time to wear black the rest of the year'."
American Vogue, 1 June 1960

Ingeborg Day extols the virtues of white for summer in Cheap Chic, 1975, via

"White shoes are out of place in most big cities unless they match a white dress."
Anne Fogarty, The Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife, 1959

"In the summer I don’t buy things that have to be dry-cleaned. If you wear white and have three of each thing you can manage, even writing the subway and bus every day. I bought a white hat and a white skirt, and I wear white espadrilles. White is more practical than yellow, brown or even black, because you can use nurse’s white shoe polish on the canvas – with any other color, there’s nothing you can do if you spill something on them or someone steps on your feet."
Ingeborg Day, office worker quoted in Cheap Chic, 1975

"A dressier lace camisole with a white petticoat can be the answer to an afternoon wedding or a garden party."
Harriet Love's Guide to Vintage Chic, 1982

1950s summer dresses, via

"Ideas change about city summer clothes ... Very often, the only difference between a town dress and an out-and-out country one lies in its accessories. By your hat (which is a classic shape), by your gloves and jewels, you identify the locality as - town."
'In Town This Summer' American Vogue, 1 June 1947

"A resort dress is a resort dress. It cannot be worn in the city with that bane of the British, a cardigan, added for the sake of modesty."
Ann Freeman-Saunders, The Intelligent Women's Guide to Good Taste, 1958

"If a dress is strapless, it's either a cocktail dress that should be worn after five or else it's a sun-dress and should stay in the sun."
Anne Fogarty, The Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife, 1959

"London in August is quite a different city from London at any other time of year … More particularly there is a slackening in dress. …. In Brook Street, Grosvenor Street, and Berkeley Square, the usually silken-sheathed, stiletto-heeled executives walk to their office in cotton dresses and resort shoes, giving the impression they have just been called back from Spain to an urgent conference … In the privileged residential districts expensive looking wives step out to the florist’s or delicatessen wearing the slacks and sandals they wore in Palermo earlier in the year, with beach bags for their shopping."
Alison Adburgham, 'London in August', the Guardian, 4 August 1961

"The appearance of bare backs and midriffs this summer marks the death of the principle that clothes appropriate to city life are quite distinct from those for the beach."
Kennedy Fraser, 'On the Avenue', 1971, reproduced in The Fashionable Mind

"This is the season of the dress – but most are not office appropriate. Generally, dresses that breeze in at the beach should never appear in the boardroom."
Robin Keeler, 'Wardrobe Consultant: Summer Dressing in the CityNational Post, 2011


Really, after all this reading, what I learnt was that anything goes in summertime dressing, and I shouldn't really listen too much to other people's opinions - in the heat of the summer, it's only likely to make you even more hot and bothered. But I'm still open to suggestions: what are your personal rules on summer dressing?


Friday, 7 June 2013

Last-Week Links: 7 June 2013

I started the week with a squeal of delight when I learnt that Luella Bartley was coming back to designing and, what's more, moving with Katie Hillier to Marc by Marc Jacobs. I can imagine my pinterest board won't know what's hit it once we finally get to see the results. To be honest, it's still reeling after only just discovering Olympia Le-Tan's Spring 2013 collection. I'm not quite sure I missed this given my devotion to Ronnie Spector. The collection was inspired by her love of girl bands, and this was celebrated in its presentation, where girls shimmed around in cute early 60s dresses (like the one above), buttoned skirts and shorts to a soundtrack of the likes of Little Eva and the Marvelettes. Ronnie even made a special at the end of the show: you can see footage of the event on Lucky.

And another squeal of delight when I heard The Clothes Show - responsible for my first awareness of the world of 'fashion' - is coming back as a programme. I'm delighted that Caryn Franklin will be involved in some way too - I saw her recently talk at a V&A event which only confirmed what a cool woman she is, someone prepared to put her head above the parapet to challenge the fashion status quo.

Challenging fashion, and politics were the topics of Vanessa Friedman's interview with Franca Sozzani for the FT - though, as one of the comments says, I don't think this interview offered that much insight into what Sozzani wanted to achieve through her position and Italian Vogue: for more I should probably start reading her blog regularly. I've also been enjoying Mira Duma's style on Vogue's Today I'm Wearing, especially the colourful skirt above. While the content of her Buro 24/7 remains beyond my language skills, I hope that it has something fresh and brave to say for itself: perhaps the future of fashion is Russian? Someone who has more than enough to say for themselves (and most of it not too pleasant) is Karl Lagerfeld. Now some of his most (in)famous quotes have been collected together for a new book The World According to Karl

As an antidote to Karl's bitchiness, let's look at some awesome women. Got A Girl Crush has been great recently - I loved learning about Mexican wrestler and singer Irma Gonzalez (don't we all know a mandilon?), as well as 60s skateboarder Patti McGee. I was also delighted to see Gillian Wearing's commission for Transport for London, in the news this week. Supposedly featuring a 'Total Stranger', only the 'stranger' she picked out at random was none other than the lovely Olivia who works on Oh Comely. There's something very nice about thinking that the stranger on the tube is actually someone you've met. And, finally, I'm looking forward to hearing from some fabulous ladies when I go to my first Pamflet, where the speaker is Amanda Mackenzie Stuart, author of the Diana Vreeland book, Empress of Fashion.

If you want some other things to distract you over the weekend, I can recommend Joni Sternbach's  gorgeous images of surfers, made using the early wet plate collodion process, as featured on Miss Moss; a fascinating insight into the life of music tour bus drivers on Spin; and an engrossing dissection of the fashion of every single episode of Mad Men on Tom & Lorenzo (again a Miss Moss suggestion - she's just so good!). Read them, then get out and make the most of this beautiful weather. Oh, hello sunshine - it's really been far too long.

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