Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Looking for the birthplace of haute couture in Lincolnshire

In terms of my ancestry, I'm about as Lincolnshire yellowbelly as you could get. Both my Dad's parents were born and lived in Lincolnshire; as did my Mum's father. Only her Welsh/Irish mother introduces some exoticism into the family tree. My brother, sister and I all lived in Lincolnshire until we left home for University.

Lincolnshire is a county which seems to be missing from a lot of people's map of the British Isles. Despite its size, no-one seems to purposefully head there (though southern Lincolnshire is increasingly becoming London commuter country). The county is known for its sausage, its Lincolnshire Poacher cheese and, very occasionally, a mention will arouse a misty-eyed recollection of a childhood holiday at Skegness or maybe even Cleethorpes.

I was back in Lincolnshire for my sister's wedding and, over the bank holiday, headed even deeper into the landscape of my ancestors. I visited the birthplace of one of Lincolnshire's most famous sons and the man known as the father of haute couture. The Paris Haute Couture exhibition opened with the statement that "Haute Couture started with an Englishman". That Englishman - Charles Frederick Worth - started in Bourne, Lincolnshire, also the birthplace of my maternal grandfather.

Worth was born in Bourne in 1825 and the imposing family home, Wake House, bears the blue plaque pictured at the top of the post. He was born into a middle class family with his father, William Worth, a local attorney. However, his father's speculation brought the family to ruin, and they had to leave Wake House, with Charles Frederick first learning printing, then moving down to London to work in drapers shops, before eventually moving to Paris in 1846.

Carelessness with money is not something easily forgotten or forgiven in the Lincolnshire psyche, perhaps indicating the prominence his father's financial "disaster" is given in the notice of C.F. Worth's death in the Lincoln Weekly Herald, a copy of which is reproduced and framed in the Bourne Heritage Centre (and just about readable here, despite my reflection in the glass).

In Bourne, I was looking out for clues this was the kind of place which would produce the Father of Haute Couture. A pleasant town, the first suggestion might be the impressive looking inns in the market place - just along from Wake House. These survive from the days Bourne was a key stopping place on the road from York to London. So back in the early nineteenth century, there would have been some very smart people stopping in this small town.

The family must have also been quite smart. Wake House was only built in 1800 - the Worths were living in this grand building fifteen years later. And, before financial ruin hit the family, they would been expected to form part of the town's upstanding middle class, with all the duties associated with that role. I was amazed at the strength of civic pride evident in the town even today - volunteers set up and ran the heritage centre, an open air swimming pool, not to mention several community centres. Could the structures of life in such a society provide the social experience which he could transfer when he moved eventually to Paris?

Finally, it was a prosperous town, profiting not only from those passing through but also the rich agriculture benefiting from the then recently-drained surrounding fenland. Bourne Heritage Centre - which now has a permanent display honouring Worth - was originally a mill. Do these examples of nineteenth century industry help young Worth start thinking about dressmaking on more businessman terms, the decisions which form the basis of the haute couture system? At the very least these advances must have planted in his head something of the idea of modernity, even if his ideas were only fully developed subsequently in London and Paris.

Bourne's Worth display features some reproductions of his clothes, alongside photographs of garments and documents from the town dating to his time there. Just as it's hard to pinpoint any influence his Lincolnshire upbringing had on Worth as a child and his future, I was speculating what looking at the clothes in this display would mean to the children of Bourne today.

In the most optimistic interpretation, it's the idea of possibility - being born in a small town doesn't mean you can't change the world, or - at the very least - create very beautiful things adored the world over. That's always inspiring. But, on the flip side, however innovative Worth's fashions were at the time, our modern eyes marvel at the waist or the bustles and the torture of having to wear something like that as part of daily life, rather than enviously look upon their beauty. They seem, literally, old fashioned. And, while haute couture has never been part of everybody's experience, today the couture system seems even further removed from the reality of everyday life and fashion. Why would being the father of haute couture continue to be seen as such an important thing?

I wondered if Worth thought about Bourne after he left it. He built his home in France, in Suresnes, and was eventually buried there. Some of his Lincolnshire family came to visit in 1871 but I've found no record of him making a return visit. Did he feel any pull back to the place of his birth once he had left it? Did he tell his sons about his childhood there, as my parents have told me about theirs, and their parents before that?

My family history is physically written upon gravestones in the churches in this part of Lincolnshire. Yet the names upon those stones are increasingly meaningless and I feel them, along with the places, slipping from sight without the peg of a direct memory to hang them on. Could the same be argued of Worth's contribution to fashion? Without a context that appeals to us directly, it's easy to let these clothes and their creator slide from our view. How quickly decades of history can be forgotten.

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Friday, 23 August 2013

Last-Week Links: 23 August 2013

I've spending less time on the internet and more time in real life week for a very important reason: my sister got married yesterday. The wedding was simple and very happy - in short, the loveliest kind of wedding. My dad and I perhaps got a bit carried away with celebrating, and there's a few sore heads today. Hopefully a walk along the seafront later will help sort that out!

I'm back in my teenage bedroom, the same room that inspired this post. So, it seems fitting that several of the posts I've found this week are 90s nostalgia tinged too. I've spent too long scrolling through Old Loves, found via It's Nice That, featuring pairings of old flames from the 1990s (and 80s, 70s, 60s and 50s too). From the early nineties I read about Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin's Brick Lane shop and Jay McInerney's gushing portrait of Chloë Sevigny.

Chloë also popped up in Style Bubble's post about 90s style bible Cheap Date. While I do own the glossy Cheap Date Guide to Style, I don't have the earlier compilation volume Susie talks about - of course, I had to order it, along with Vogue's More Dash Than Cash, also mentioned in the post.

After I get through that little lot, I'd like to read The Fashion Conspiracy, as featured on Fashion Editor At Large, although I've got rather distracted by all the new and interesting fashion blogs as mentioned on the Style Bubble links post. And Charlie Porter's post on The Mechanical Smile reminded me that I should probably take that off my shelf and do something other than flick through the marvellous pictures - even this tiny glimpse has made me think again about what I know about modelling.

Skipping ahead the 1950s modelling world now so idolised, the Guardian featured this profile of Barbara Mullen, now long faded from public view though whose face features on hundreds of images that now have become public currency on the internet, the images that feed an audience "strangely nostalgic about the kind of beauty it values" as the article puts it. From the same era, I liked this profile of fashion illustrator Hilda Glasgow on Sammy Davis Vintage, whose illustrations are now available to buy - for those people nostalgic for this type of style on The White Cabinet.

In terms of modern fashion photography, I've been a long time admirer of the work of Shona Heath (somewhere in my piles of press cuttings I know I have a torn-out photograph of her home featuring an amazing dolls house), so no surprise I enjoyed this brief profile of her work.

Wedding happiness aside, I feel this year has been extra tough on lots of people I know and love. The wonderful Sara of Domestic Sluttery posted a link to this wonderful letter "concerning low spirits" from 1820, advice which seems every bit as soon today. I favour number 3, amusing books.

And Elvis.

I featured the Opening Ceremony Elvis collection last week, and this week I'm all all shook up by Ashley Williams' Autumn/Winter 13 collection. I want a "My Heart Belong to Elvis Presley" T-Shirt so badly. I'd be happy with this whole ensemble actually.

Have a lovely weekend, doing whatever make you feel the most joyful with life. And British readers can take cheer in the fact it's an extra long one too. Enjoy.

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Friday, 16 August 2013

Last-Week Links: 16 August 2013

We're in that weird period in the middle of August where I always seem to be frantically busy and everyone else seems to be on holiday. This collection of links are roughly grouped around stories from Vogue, stories from the Telegraph and the TV show Girls (and sometimes all of them at the same time).

Of course, in glossy magazine world, it's a big month with the launch of the famed September issues. Vogue.com has put together a gallery of selected September issues from throughout its history. The September 1943 is one of my favourites for its strange mixture of wartime duty mixed with new seasons fashions - of course by this stage the States is completely cut off from Paris fashions. It's also interesting to compare the Vogue covers this September: American Vogue has gone for the adorable (but safe?) choice of Jennifer Lawrence, while British Vogue shows a dishevelled and cool Daria Werbowy.

The Telegraph also shared the trailer for the new Carine Roitfeld film, Madamoiselle C, which reminds me that my colleague told me she saw a great documentary about Vogue editors, The Eyes Have It, on her flight back from the States - does anyone know how I can watch it in the UK?

American Vogue's September issue also features Adam from Girls shown here looking manly with Daria and a sheep. I've just got received my DVD of Girls series two and am hoping to binge watch it with my girls very soon. Meanwhile, a couple of the Girls girls made it onto a list of 2013's "rising fashion stars" - whatever that might mean.

Going back to the fashion stars of 1968, Sweet Jane shared a great shoot from RAVE magazine, featuring The Beatles's short-lived Apple Boutique.

Liz at Advantage in Vintage meanwhile highlighted the brilliance of the Marks & Spencer online archive. The shirt above is what they were selling to the great British public in that same year.

Men spend more on shoes than women, according to the Guardian. Any child who is lucky enough to have a pair of shoes from the new Charlotte Olympia kids 'Incy' collection is also guaranteed to also be wearing a more expensive pair than me.

Love most tenderly Opening Cermony's Elvis collection and the look book, shot by Jamie Hawkesworth in Memphis is pretty interesting too (via Fur Coat).

My seemingly inevitable link to a Life photo story this week came via Bank Holiday who featured colour photographs taken during the Second World War. While some of the other photos feature bomb-flattened buildings, or bustling activity - such as the vegetable garden outside the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park - like picture looks like a vision of tranquillity.

XO Jane's review of Singled Out - about the aftermath of the First World War on the lives of the 'surplus women' - made me remember what a good book that is, and how it subtly challenged how I felt about myself and my relationships with men - and how I would feel if relationships with men simply weren't an option. It also reminded me to pick up my copy of Bachelor Girl, currently stashed away on a bookshelf somewhere.

I'm not in London on 7 September but, if I was, I'd really want to take part in the Pre-Raphaelite pilgrimage. Last time I went to Red House, they let me take my tea from the cafe out into the garden where I sat and read my book. That was giddy pleasure enough, let alone an actual party.

And so onto the giddy pleasures of the weekend. I really feel like I need it this week - hope you enjoy it too!

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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Last-Year Reads: Talking Through My Hats by Lilly Daché


I'm quite enchanted by the world of Lilly Daché. The milliner's 1956 Glamour Book is one of the most fun style guides I've read, full of tips on how to inject some fun and sparkle into your life. I would have loved to pay a visit to her nine-storey leopard print and pink silk bedecked Manhattan headquarters. Feeling in need of a bit of her magic and lacking a time machine, I decided to revisit her autobiography, Talking Through My Hats, dating to 1946.

There are some overlaps with the Glamour book, but Talking Through My Hats fills you in with much more details on her life story - her decision to leave her native France, and try and make it in New York and through the growth of her empire and her wooing by her beloved husband, Jean. Daché also explains how she gained her sense of style, using fashion to establish her sense of self, "more than anything else, I wanted to be beautiful", she writes. "I was always decorating myself to improve on nature."

Lilly Daché, via

The book succeeds in capturing her energy and enthusiasm for life (for this I guess we have to thank Dorothy Roe Lewis, credited as editor on this and the Glamour book). There are some brilliant descriptions of the allure of America in the 1920s and 30s:

"Marion Davies in a 1925 cloche, pulled down over the ears. That was New York in the days of lovely nonsense, ticker tape, parades, speak-easies, Mayor Walker, Lindbergh, Gertrude Ederle. Carole Lombard in a dashing big beret, pulled down over one eye. That was Hollywood in the thirties. Clark Gable, neon lights, full-dress openings, autographs, diaries."

Lilly Daché created for both New York and Hollywood. This book lists some of her starry clientele, ranging from writers such as Dorothy Parker, to political figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Clare Luce to film stars such as Olivia de Havilland, Ginger Rogers and Dorothy Lamour. She worked with Carmen Miranda on creating ever more lavish turban creations, claiming, "with her, nothing was barred. If I had put a live parrot on one of her hats, I am sure she would have loved it."

Marlene Dietrich in Desire, via

Through her work on films, she established many trends. For Marlene Dietrich in 1936's Desire, she created "those hats with wrapped scarf effects, the wimples and such, which became the rage of the next season, and are still going strong."

Carole Lombard in her snood, via

Or the snood, created to keep Carole Lombard's hair neat in a dancing scene, which "became a craze that swept the country."

Daché merrily enters into a feud with newspaper man Mr Westbrook Pegler about the ridiculous and extravagance of women's hats. "I truly believe that much of the joy would go out of men’s lives if it were not for their wives’ hats", she writes. "They would have nothing to talk about … They love to laugh at women’s hats, they lie awake at night thinking up new quips about them, but I know of a certainty that when it comes to women’s hats, men like them crazy." It's amusing stuff, but now - when a hat-wearing woman is the exception rather than rule - it's hard to believe hats ever made such headlines (sorry, an unintended pun).

Indeed, as implied by the gorgeous illustration on the jacket of the book, quite a lot of the book focuses on the differing role men and women, and the battleground of the hat. Despite her huge success, Daché maintains that "marriage is more important to a woman than success or fame or many love affairs." She compares her job as a milliner to being a doctor, though possibly more like a psychologist, deciding what hats to make to mend broken hearts, win back the affections of a loved one, or secure a marriage.

It's possible to tell a lot about a man through his preferred choice of hat on his lady, she argues. A sailor-type hat indicates a conservative kind of guy, while a sports hat is a "good pal" of a man. The "man-about-town" meanwhile, who "who wants his girl to look like a subtle siren, will like her best in a turban."

This book reinforced what I like about Lilly Daché: she appears completely content with her life, and seems to get a lot of satisfaction out of making other people happy. The books conclusion is one of the nicest I've read: "I know that I have followed my own recipe for happiness – to do what you love, with the people you love, in the place that you love. That’s all." Wouldn't we all love to be able to sum up our lives in that simple satisfied way?

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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Modelling Advice from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 2013

Jean Shrimpton, photographed for French Vogue, May 1970. Via

I've written a fair bit about modelling on this blog over the years, whether it's the Ford Agency, opening its doors in the 1940s, or three of my Last-Year Girls - Dorian Leigh in the 1950s, Jean Shrimpton in the 60s and Marisa Berenson in the 70s. But my knowledge of the contemporary modelling industry is probably gleaned from a slightly toxic combination of Vogue, Top Model and Daily Mail-style shock headlines.

I was intrigued by the promise of a new book The Model's Guide. Promising "Everything you need to know about the world of professional modelling", the book was put together by working model Rachel Woods. I also thought it would be interesting to compare her advice to that offered by Cherry Marshall in The Cat-Walk, published in 1978 but reflecting on her period as a model and an agent in the 1950s and 60s, and Charles Castle's Model Girl which includes advice for people wanting to enter the industry in 1977.

As ever, as much as things change, things stay the same. While standards of what consists acceptable presentation may have shifted, all three books put the same emphasis on having a good attitude and a sparkling personality to go alongside the good looks. It's also interesting to note what the potential pitfalls for aspiring models are in each book. Cherry Marshall gives none, unless you count unscrupulous men, Charles Castle counsels against drink and smoking, Rachel Woods against drink and smoking and drugs. It's also only in Rachel's book do you get enter mention of eating disorders, and unnecessary pressure to lose weight.

For all the supposed glamour, I don't think any of the accounts convince me this is a career I would like to have (well, I'm at least 3 to 5 inches too short - depending on which book you follow - to start with, and that's the very least of it). I would be interested to know if you find any of their advice surprising - or useful!

No ordinary girl ever thought she could look like a model – it was for the exquisitely out-of-the-ordinary creature who looked too good for the clothes she was showing.
Cherry Marshall, The Cat-Walk, on modelling in the mid-1950s

They need to have strong looks to go with the clothes and the multi-million empires they advertise; to go with the tough times the seventies have brought us.
Charles Castle, Model Girl

Being a model is not about having stunning good looks, most models can actually look very plain in person, but what is essential is looking good on camera and being photogenic. The ideal model look simply depends upon current trends and the look the designer, client or casting director is going for; if a model does not get a job, it is simply because their look did not fit the brief.
Rachel Woods, The Model's Guide

The ideal model’s measurements are 116lb in weight, 34in bust, 22in waist, 34 inch hips and a preferred height of between 5ft 7in and 5ft 9in.
Charles Castle, Model Girl

High Fashion, Ideal Details: Editorial look; Age: 16–24 years old; Height: 5’9– 6’; Chest: 32–4 inches, Waist: 23–5 inches; Hips: 33–6 inches; Dress 6–8 UK, 0–4 US
Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

Pattie Boyd, via

We knew that superficially Patti had certain drawbacks. She was un-modelly in the accepted sense, her face was too round and she had a gap in her front teeth. But she had a quality that we were always being asked for – a young exuberance and lack of self-consciousness that illuminated all her pictures.
Cherry Marshall, The Cat-Walk

There are so many models with the right look to work in this business, so having a great attitude and personality is everything.
Cynthia Saldana, founder of Ikon New York Model Management, quoted in Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

A model not only learned how to walk but how to site, stand, enter and leave a room, carry an umbrella and put on and take off gloves correctly … She was expected to be elegant on and off duty.
Cherry Marshall, The Cat-Walk

With pictures of Shrimp appearing all round the world, hatless, hair untidy, minus gloves and with little make-up, she set a standard we fought to resist. Every day complaints poured into the agency about the model girls: untidy, unpunctual, ungroomed – even girls thrown out of fashion shows for looking grotty. Jean Shrimpton was an original, and so was Bailey, but their imitators fell far short of their standards.
Cherry Marshall, The Cat-Walk

As a rule of thumb always get prepared before walking into the building. Do not get caught by surprise. Do not walk in with your hair a mess, change your footwear if need be before walking in, take your coat off, get your portfolio out your bag and do anything else you need to. It could be the case that you will go straight into the casting, or you could have a long wait. Either way, you don’t know who will be there at the other side of the door when you walk in, so make sure you have a good entrance.
Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

Models at a Manchester modelling school, before a show, 1954. Via 

They’d turn up for interviews in their jeans, chewing gum, hair uncombed, quite unimpressed by the glossy pictures on the walls of our successful girls. Cherry Marshall, The Cat-Walk

Clients usually prefer to see your shape as best as possible, so either wear skinny jeans and tight tops or ideally (weather depending) show your legs by wearing a skirt, shorts or dress.
Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

For good health, you need enough sleep. Six to eight hours seems adequate for many, but you yourself may need more in order to feel fresh and energetic. Lack of sleep reveals itself in the loss of skin tone and colour, loss of hair luster, and eyes without that bright, lively glint.
Charles Castle, Model Girl

Finally, MUAs [Makeup Artists] appreciate having to do less work, because time is always of the essence. So the model can cut down a lot of time by showing up with good skin. This can be achieved by having proper rest and hydration (drinking lots of water), avoiding diuretics like alcohol and caffeine and getting regular facials if you're prone to breakouts. The more work you do to keep yourself looking fresh and rested, the less work the makeup artist will have to do, the day will go faster and everyone will thank you!
Anni Bruno, Makeup Artist (MUA), quoted in Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

Too much smoking and drinking leaves its marks on your looks. Cut it out, or reduce your intake.
Charles Castle, Model Girl

It is also advisable to keep alcohol intake to a minimum or ideally none at all (especially before a shoot), not to smoke or take drugs, all of which will age your skin prematurely and be potentially damaging to your career not to mention your overall health. There can be a lot of peer pressure in the industry to smoke or drink, but you just need to remember that it is your career and yours alone that you need to think of. Your look and body is your career, so you should look after it and treat it with respect.
Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

There are many pre-conceived notions that you must be extremely skinny in order to be a good model, this notion encourages many models, new and experienced to want to lose weight. This desire to lose the pounds quickly can lead to eating disorders such as Anorexia or Bulimia. This is not a good lifestyle to have. Any job that compromises your health is not the right job for you. Do not let anyone entice you to lose weight; not your agent, photographers, or other models.
Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

Mary Jane Russell. Via

Every face had to be made up to perfection … no model girl would dream of being seen without her ‘face’ on no matter how young or beautiful she was.
Cherry Marshall, The Cat-Walk

Models in Paris, however, are spoiled because highly-paid make-up artists and hairdressers visit Vogue and Elle and many of the top photographic studios to apply the models’ make-up and style their hair. In New York and London, however, the models are more self-sufficient and this helps them immensely with assignments on location throughout the world.
Charles Castle, Model Girl

The number one piece of advice I can give to a model hoping to gain favour with their makeup artist is to show up with a clean face. If the model shows up to the photo shoot with her makeup already done, that's a BIG no-no and a sure-fire way to tell the makeup artist that you don't trust them to do great work!
Anni Bruno, Makeup Artist (MUA), quoted in Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

A model today has to be tough about everything – fees, work and opportunities – and she can afford to be very demanding when she’s on top. But if she’s not doing much she’ll get short shrift from her agent who is mainly interested in success.
Cherry Marshall, The Cat-Walk

An agent can only do so much for a girl. IF the ambition is lacking, either through laziness or lack of confidence, you’re on a losing wicket.
Cherry Marshall, The Cat-Walk

There is one aspect that agents don’t always make known (or it may simply be an unconscious thing) is the fact that they often have ‘favourite’ models. The handful of ‘elite’ models are deemed by the agency as being particularly special and more unique than the hundreds of other models on their books and are consequently nurtured more, pushed forward more, supported more and are therefore more likely to reach the ‘supermodel’ status. It is often a catch 22 situation, in the sense that if a model is ‘in demand’ (meaning highly sought after for work) they will become a ‘favourite’ model amongst the agency and be pushed forward more. However, it is only after being pushed forward by the agency in the first place, because they felt there was potential with the model, that they became ‘in demand’.
Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

Girls are expected to put in an appearance at the right kind of party and meet at the smartest places. It’s all very friendly to start with – until bookings start to drop off and then invitations do as well.
Cherry Marshall, The Cat-Walk

In order to network, you should also aim to attend as many events as possible that you are invited to. If you receive any invite where there will be other industry professionals attending, you should always try and go, as events are a great way of building up more contacts in a relaxed, sociable setting. Just remember, don’t over-do the partying too much, models still need to have a decent amount of sleep, as they need to stay looking refreshed for work the next day!
Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

Ford Models, 1966. Via

They didn’t care that only a few girls reached the top and only a few girls reached the top and that most models ended up at a fashion house, rarely seeing the outside world at all and usually earning far less than before. It was the most glamorous career open to a girl, and they wanted to be part of it.
Cherry Marshall, The Cat-Walk

Memories and scrap-books of fashion covers and breathtaking photographs when their youth, health, beauty and earning powers were at their peak are satisfying reminders of their abilities and a determination to succeed in their chosen field; the most highly paid and glamorous a young girl can enter.
Charles Castle, Model Girl

The one thing however that I have never forgotten from my lesson, was when I was told that ‘less than 1% of all models make it to supermodel status’. This book therefore focuses on the hard working, average models that form the backbone and other 99% of the industry … the key to succeeding and ultimately staying in the industry is stay positive and develop a very thick-skin! Rachel Woods, The Model’s Guide

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Friday, 9 August 2013

Last-Week Links: 9 August 2013

Happy Friday! Somehow another week has whizzed by. I spent last Friday evening at the cinema watching Frances Ha. With a film dealing with female friendships, based in New York and a main character named after me, there was always going to be a high chance I enjoyed this film. For the first ten minutes or so I thought I'd hate it. Luckily it won me over, phew!, to the extent that when I came out the cinema and wanted to embrace all my friends and kiss the London pavement (instead I went and ate dumplings). Jane Brocket's piece on the film eloquently captures what I liked so much about it - the scene when Frances is running and dancing down the street to Bowie's 'Modern Love' is perfect. For once, I didn't spend the film thinking about the clothes, though I liked the piece on Fashion Editor as Large about them. Rookie's interview with Greta Gerwig is fab and refreshingly honest too.

So, that was my Friday night. On Saturday, I headed over to Peckham to meet up with some friends who live there. It was the day after this piece appeared in the Evening Standard, and the day before one called "South East London's cooler than Shoreditch - Just Don't Tell Anyone" on Never Undressed. Sorry, the secret is definitely out - though I'm not sure how cool it is anymore. We ended up sheltering in a (very lovely) pub, as all of Peckham's most name-checked bars were completely over-run with people. The scene on the high street as I waited for my bus home was crazy - a massive queue to get into the Bussey Building, drunk people staggering all over the road. It didn't feel cool in the slightest. Also this week, Below The River discussed gentrification in Brixton, with the opening of a champagne and cheese bar, and I've recently heard quite a few stories about local residents being priced out of my area of south east London. It's hard to know what I want - I'm guilty of clapping my hands with excitement at the opening of any cool new bars or eateries. And, of course, I'm happy if the value of my flat increases. However, this frenzied level of change seems unsustainable for everyone.

Shall I move onto some pretty things instead? Celia Birtwell is doing another collection for Uniqlo (no doubt coming to a south east London high street near you soon). I love the scarves and this top, and can imagine the bunfight there will be for this dress when the collection is released on 22 August.

This lookbook for The Shiny Squirrel shop, using illustrations by Samantha Hahn is stunning (via Honey Kennedy), and my heart was warmed by the story of Moziah Bridges and his Mo's Bows.

There has been plenty of interiors inspiration too. Orla Kiely's home is every bit as lust-worthy as you expect it to be - and refreshingly 'normal' looking too (via Where is Harriet?). Meanwhile beautiful Hannah and her beautiful home received a visit from The Selby this week.

For vintage treats, I'm so pleased Adore Vintage featured these Life photographs of 1950s hot rod girls.

Let's wind up a busy week, with this typically retro video from Summer Camp, as featured on Mademoiselle Robot.

Enjoy the weekend!

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Thursday, 8 August 2013

Last-Year Buys: 1940s Fashion, Cobra Cork Swedish Hasbeens wedges and Louisetta Bertie flats

New shoes! New shoes! Red and Pink and Blue shoes. Perhaps learning that poem as a child had more influence on me than I thought - my shoe choices definitely tend to be on the colourful side.

But I do also enjoy a certain stomp-along-like-that shoe, especially in the pleasing shapes of a Swedish Hasbeens sandal. These Cobra cork wedges are my fourth pair to date. The design is apparently 1930s-inspired but I'm walking around in them, pretending I'm one of the characters in A Time To Be Born.

My other current obsession is Mexicana glamour: bright colourful prints and pretty embroidery. I'm looking at this 40s-style Mexican dress quite a lot. I decided to take the party to my feet with these Louisetta loafers from Bertie.

My handy shoe perching place is a new book purchase: 1940s Fashion (of course!). Subtitled 'The Definitive Sourcebook', it's a great visual compendium of fashions of the period. I've only flicked through so far and ummed and ahhed over the picture but, to my disappointment, I noticed quite a few mistakes when I glanced through their bibliography, eagerly searching for more reading matter. I suspect it's because it was put right in at the end, when time was very tight, but it does make me trust the information in the rest of the text a little less - a shame. Lots of lovely things to look at nonetheless.

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Monday, 5 August 2013

Last-Year Shops: ChiChiRaRa, East Dulwich London

I like to think I know the vintage shops of London well, and the vintage shops of south east London really well. So I was little disconcerted to see a name I didn't recognise on Refinery29's list of best London vintage stores, and - worst still - it was just down the road from me in East Dulwich. Shamefaced, I made sure I skipped off to ChiChiRaRa on my first free weekend.

Of course I'm glad I visited (when am I not?). ChiChiRaRa is like a crammed cubbyhole of treasures - the kind of shop which enjoys clothes for their own worth, rather than because they fit into a current fashion trend. Perhaps I've been spending too much time in 'fashionable' vintage shops recently, because it seemed like a long time since I'd looked through so many lovely 1940s and 50s clothes, priced at what seemed to be - for this increasingly chichi area of London - reasonable sums. There was a beautiful dusty pink 50s duster coat, a gorgeous 40s lavender day dress and gorgeous mid-century cocktail dresses. Basically, the kind of thing I always sigh over and wish I either had the lifestyle or the wardrobe space to justify. Given the small size of the space, there seemed to be a high quality range of menswear available too, as well as a rail of good quality secondhand high street clothes.

Did I buy anything? Ask a silly question. Given my recent early 1940s obsession, and my ongoing love of most things floral, the odds were pretty stacked in favour of this 1930s/40s taffeta skirt coming home with me.

This little shop is definitely going to be a stop-off on future vintage trails through the area, along with ED warehouse, and the charity shops of Lordship Lane. I always seem to find good things in the East Dulwich charity shops, books especially, as I think it's an area with a wealthy enough population to donate interesting things, but the prices aren't so crazy to stop you buying (as seems to have happened with all the charity shops near my work in South Kensington).

This visit was no exception, as I found a copy of this coffee table book (photographed on a coffee table, naturally) devoted to Nova magazine in the 1960s and 70s. It's full of inspiration, both in terms of design and style and also the intelligent and provocative content of the magazine itself [insert moan about today's women's magazines here].

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Friday, 2 August 2013

July on Last-Year Girl and Last-Week Links: 2 August 2013

Oh, hello August. We're well into the swing of summer now and I've done a little summary of my July content at the end of this post in case you missed anything because of something like, well, getting away from your computer to enjoy the sunshine! There's also links to some of my newly listed books in my Etsy store, possibly useful if you're after some holiday reading.

Perhaps the most widely circulated vintage story on the internet this week (and you can see why) is the Tales of Endearment photo shoot, featuring the immense Diane von Furstenberg archive. Just one of the stunning images is shown above. "I don't need to wear vintage", DvF proclaims in the feature, "I am vintage!". Well, quite. 

A contemporary of Diane, Antonio Lopez, seems to be having a little moment in the spotlight too. A survey of his broad range of work has opened in New York, while his illustrations have been used for the latest MAC collection. I love how the campaign for the collection reunites "Antonio's girls": Jerry Hall, Pat Cleveland and Marisa Berenson

I thought this Business of Fashion feature on some of the florists who behind some of fashion's most fabulous displays was fascinating. AnOther's series of profiles of modern cultural curators also includes a florist, Kally Ellis of McQueen, but it was the profile with set designer, and founder of the Museum of British Folklore, Simon Costin that really appealed (found via Worn Through) - I look forward to seeing the rest of the profiles in this series!

I poured over the fashions in A Time To Be Born earlier this week, so perhaps no surprise I loved the hairpin's breakdown of Scarlett O'Hara's decision making over what dress to wear to the Twelve Oaks Barbecue. And, if you are a fan of interwar British books, you're bound to have virtually visited a few Lyons Corner Houses over the course of your reading. Fur Coat has pulled together some of their literary appearances.

Britain at leisure in the 1960s and 70s is well documented thanks to the postcards of John Hinde. There's an exhibition at the Photographers Gallery too. The postcard shows a now unrecognisable Battersea Park in the 1960s.

I guess Britain at leisure could also be classed as the inspiration behind my lust items of the week. As I've well documented on this blog, I'm partial to a bit of Northern Soul so I feel compelled to get something from the new Fred Perry x Twisted Wheel collection. But do I go for the more obvious bowling bag, or the slightly more clandestine rose print shirt? Decisions, decisions. 

And I enjoyed learning the sweet story of Honey Ltd. on Rookie. What a lovely story of female friendship. The song sounds pretty perfect in the sunshine too. Have a groovy friendship-filled weekend.



* I read all about Vogue in the 1970s and 80s in Grace Mirabella's In and Out of Vogue, and 1940s fashions in Dawn Powell's A Time To Be Born


* And a fabulous photography book: Photographers and their Images by Fi McGhee
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