'A ball gown is your dream, and it must make you a dream... I think it is just as necessary in a woman's wardrobe as a suit. And it is wonderful for morale...' Christian Dior

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

And this one's for me...

I was kidding myself going 'Christmas shopping' at Paper Dress Vintage's late night opening tonight. Buying presents for other people was as likely as me going home to read David Dimbleby's latest book (which I'm technically supposed to as I'm interviewing him on Friday)

But I could hardly go to one of my favourite shops in London and not buy a dress. Especially when we were plied with mulled cider. As the title suggests, the quaint and colourful shop on Curtain Road in East London, stocks a lot of 1960s dresses. Which makes me... a helpless little insect caught in a seductive spiders web?

This thick winter floral sixties dress would look perfect with a (faux) fur coat, woollen tights and flat Mary Janes in the day time, and gold heeled t-bars for evening. I love that the flower pattern borders on tribal and how the skirt puffs out, making it more shapely. A definite departure from the usual shifts of that era.

Love the ruffled neck, too. Here it is close up.

Considering the dresses are just a fraction of the shop, amid the furs, jackets, skirts, bags and I spied an Ossie Clark brown velvet jacket in my size, I think I was very restrained. Dresses for me, are escapism after all. But enough justifying another pre-Christmas 'present to myself'. Time to get back to David Dimbleby...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Life's a bitch

Found this pretty shop on Tib Street in Manchester's Northern Quarter yesterday.

The collection of winter warming faux furs, velvet and silk evening gowns, 1940s hats and perfectly fitted jackets provided a welcome contrast to the incessant downpour outside. Typical Manchester, but places like Rags to Bitches make venturing outside with no umbrella on a December afternoon worthwhile.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Saviour Sonia

Designer/High Street collaborations don't exactly rock my world. At the risk of generalising, the clothes can feel a bit cheap. I think making designers more accessible to the masses and steering flocks of sheep away from Primark ought to be a good thing, but at the same time, rails of the same black 'such and such designer for H&M' blouse, for me, take away all the covetousness and the magic. I may not be able to afford the genuine designer article, but that doesn't mean I'm going to lap up the watered down version.

And I'm certainly not going to camp outside the store in this weather - the other reason they're not for me. But maybe I'm just bitter. Maybe if I pretended not to notice tripping up over all the pieces nobody wants on the floor and made it to the cash register without hyperventilating in the queue, things could be different...

I'm tempted to give it a go this weekend when the Sonia Rykiel Pour H&M line hits stores 5 December. It's old news of course, having been advertised everywhere from Vogue to the bus shelter at the end of my road, but I'm head over heels for the fifties boudoir style nude satin basque, amongst others, in the 70-piece lingerie, nightwear and accessories collection.

It's the first time H&M has collaborated on designer underwear and the ads speak for themselves. Newly brunette model-of-the-moment Lara Stone joins forces with Anne Vytalitsyna and one of my favourite models, Caroline Trentini and bam, if we didn't know it already, underwear is officially the new outerwear. Ok, I'm not exactly going to walk down Kings Cross Road in it, but I've definitely thought about it.

It's a gorgeous line, but I wouldn't have expected anything less from 'Queen of Knits' Sonia Rykiel. For those who aren't familiar with the chic Parisian designer, she was the first person to make wooly jumpers look sexy. Back in the 1960s, she was pregnant and started designing knitwear because she couldn't find anything that was flexible or flattering enough to wear.

H&M clearly haven't forgotten this, either. Her knitwear line is the next to be unveiled in the store in February. Plenty of time to eat some humble pie. And dig out that tent.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Secret society

I'm rubbish at fancy dress which is ironic for somebody who loves dressing up in pieces from different eras, but there, I said it. I put it down to two reasons: 1) Every day is a dress up day so when it comes to 'fancy dress' I lazily raid my dressing up box (my bedroom) and choose somebody I can easily transform into – Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, Ceila Birtwell... 2) When it comes to a big event where last minute fancy dress planning/shopping is required, I'm nearly always too hungover from the night before. (I'm the kind of person who gets really drunk the night before NYE so on the 'big' night, I'm moody and out of sync. I never learn)

So I was hungover yesterday, the day of the Secret Cinema my friend Sarah and I had tickets for. The secret cinema does exactly what it says on the tin, you turn up at a secret location and watch a secret film. Last night, we were told to dress in 1920s and the event is completely styled to the theme of the film. Everyone made a real effort and looked amazing in black flapper or sequinned dresses, headbands and feathers, pearls and red lipstick. I wore a black lace dress, respectable 1920s-length heels and the gold bolero I got from Portabello Market for 6 quid. I probably could have passed for 1920s had I not been wearing my 1950s glasses (an unavoidable faux pas after my contact lenses didn't arrive on time). Thankfully Sarah looked much more the part...  

I was secretly hoping for The Great Gatsby, but instead got Bugsy Malone. I wasn't sure at first but after a chilli dog (as well as hair of the dog) from the prohibition bar, I was converted. And the hair and dresses on Jodie Foster's Tallulah have given me such a greater appreciation of the period, you never know, I might start varying my fancy dress repertoire...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Christmas Roks

I look a bit worried in this picture. Probably because I'm about to buy two dresses I can't afford, the week before pay day, but ignore the face and just look at this dress! The picture doesn't quite do it justice, but the collar is covered in little diamante stones and I just love the little details like the buttons on the sleeves, and the way it's built for curves. Oh yeah, and those pads...

I didn't think I was mad about the pad, but turns out I am. It's a perfect Christmas day dress and I can't wait to see my mum's face when I, erm, shoulder my way into the kitchen. I know it's still only November but the Rocking Christmas Do at Rokit in Covent Garden tonight really put me in the Christmas mood. I don't know why I don't go there more often as they've got some really nice pieces and a lot of it's customised. Of course the Rockabilly Rock 'n' Roll helped. And the free beer. Hence, two dresses, week before pay day. Sigh.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The LGD (Little Green Dress)

It's that time of year again... When people are forced to go to pre-Christmas parties and 'mingle' with people they spend the rest of the year trying to avoid. When people drink too much and say far too much. When people feel guilty for spending extortionate amounts on dresses they wouldn't normally wear. This season, there are so many styles out there, we should be spared of the last one, at least.

Whether you go for draped or body con, maxi or mini, metallic or sequinned, ruffled or lace, there's enough there to blacklist the LBD, for gawd's sake. I'm adding a splash a colour with this little green dress I found in my favourite vintage shop, Little Red (based in Liverpool and owned by my friend Kate - I'll be dedicating many more entries to my purchases!). It's a little bit Ossie Clark, a little bit folky, a little bit lacy, and a little bit cute (Kate adjusts many items and made this one into a mini). And I won't be needing the dreaded Christmas party to show it off...

Monday, 9 November 2009

The power of Fraubraun

Tucked away in a tiny street off Brick Lane an unpretentious paper sign led the way to an unpretentious vintage clothing sale. And despite being held in The Rag Factory there was not a rag in sight at Fraubraun's first selling event - just a selection of beautifully restored, one-of-a-kind pieces from the unbeatably elegant 1930s right up to the offbeat 1980s.

Stefanie Braun who launched her online store in July (and hopes to hold more events here in London and in Germany) knows a whole lot more than just her fabrics and eras. As a photographer, it was a no brainer to have a photo shoot at the sale. You try on the pieces you like, then step into a photo shoot where you take your own picture. She emails a copy to you,www.fraubraun.com and keeps a copy for her website. Happy customer – who doesn't love dressing up and fooling around in front of the camera like a big kid? Sound business acumen – naturally the majority of people would want to buy the clothes after seeing how fabulous they look, and well, it worked on me. 

I came away with a 1930s pale green silk and lace blouse, so voluminous, it borders on theatrical. So I might not have bought it had I seen it in any other vintage shop, but there was something magical about an afternoon spent in an adult-size dressing up box, that I wanted to cut and out keep the whole experience. Perusing the rails of 1960s wool and felt coats and 1950s cocktail dresses, I was reminded of the power of clothes for escapism. It was only when Stefanie came over to introduce herself and tell me that she had the perfect purple wool flared culottes to go with the blouse for the photo that my daydream was interrupted.

Of course I didn't mind. The culottes had my friend Liz and I in stitches (purely because I'm such a dress girl and they weren't really me) but Stefanie was so lovely and enthusiastic, we just ran with it. In fact, I'm surprised I didn't end up buying the culottes. I very nearly did. Can't wait to see her photos...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

It's Dynasty darling

I normally shy away from buying into trends, but the resurgence of the eighties this A/W09 has grabbed me by the neck, held me down and draped me from head to toe. I'm all about embellished sweaters, bubble skirts, earrings to make Pat Butcher jealous and eye shadow I should have thrown out years ago. Not to mention the full length royal blue jump suit I acquired from a friend after she decided she'd probably never wear it (that's mate-speak for wouldn't be seen dead in it).

The news today that shoulder pads actually sold out at John Lewis because the inanely fashion conscious were raiding the haberdashery department to sew the pads into their existing clothes just goes to show that eighties power dressing ain't going anywhere. Providing JL stock up. Well I'm not going to afford Balenciaga any time soon...

I first realised the force of the-decade-that-fashion-forgot a few weeks back when I went to interview Joan Collins for work. It's not often I find myself in a style crisis when on TV assignments but suddenly I was pulling out stilettos and my new favourite, let's call it 'bling blouse' (pictured). But I didn't wear it. How could I compete with those shoulders?

Joan, as you'd imagine, looked like she'd just stepped off the Dynasty set. And she's 76! She was wearing a black and white leopard print silk blouse with homage-to-eighties shoulders with every other aspect of her outfit from over-sized choker to Panama hat, blending effortlessly into a monochrome theme. But the best part? I spotted her at London Fashion Week a few days later wearing the same blouse. That's my girl...