'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

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Valley of Dreams

It may have been around for about five years now but Beyond The Valley on Newburgh Street (near Carnaby Street) never ceases to inspire, impress, or just coerce you into handing over hard earned cash without a second thought. Whichever way you want to look at it. The London boutique acts as a stepping stone for hundreds of new designers. Yuko Yoshitake, Alejandra Quesada and Makin Jan Ma have all graced the rails and original, beautiful pieces and accessories combined with the quirky decor make Beyond The Valley quite a unique shopping experience.

Today, I came across an amazing range of handbags by London designer Samantha Mark . She's reworked the laundry bag, hanging the clutch from recycled materials on a gold chain and lining the inside with silk. This one I took home also has a gold clasp. I love that a really simple, even raw material can look elegant. The bags accompany Samantha's latest collection, aptly entitled 'Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, beautiful old people are works of art.' I might have to stick that on my fridge.

Friday, 29 January 2010

What the Angels have in store this year...

...has got to be better than last.

Leather handbag in black. Belonged to... who?

Only one week to go before Angels The Costumiers opens its doors to fashion experts, fashion wannabes and even the local milkman if he wants to come. But I'm not going to start a countdown from now until 8.30am on February 6th when doors open to their annual vintage clothes sale. It's not that I'm not excited, I'm just realistic, and after last year, a little jaded.

I was one of the 5000 frill-seekers who queued for two hours to pile into a Wembley warehouse to rummage through rooms of smelly cardboard boxes for the first sale in the film and theatrical suppliers 160 year history. I'm glad I did, but it wasn't quite the historical moment I had hoped for. There was no sign of Ossie Clark or Bill Gibb, not even a whiff of Aquascutum. There was next to nothing but a couple of nondescript handbags and scraps of material left.

Having invested in a plastic bag worth 50 quid (you buy a bag for either 10, 20 or 50 and run around filling it. A bit like Supermarket Sweep, luckily without Dale and his tan, sadly without any bonus prizes), I ended up bargaining with the staff in desperation. I couldn't find anything I wanted to buy but they wouldn't do refunds. In the end, they gave me a 20 back and let me fill a 20 quid book bag instead.

I left disappointed and weighed down with books I still haven't even read a whole year on. My friend Sarah found a couple of bits, taking home this black leather handbag, by (we're not really sure) but positively reeks of vintage drama, having belonged to Greta Saachi in Beyond The Sea in erm, 2004. How I came to own it, I can't really remember, I can only imagine she was shutting me up with a consolation prize after having to listen to me on a train out of Wembley...

Susie Bubble's had a sneak preview and I'm VERY jealous. Because I just know there are gems to find. I just don't know if, like last year, I'll be lucky enough to find them.

Monday, 25 January 2010

One for all

My love affair with jumpsuits started in Pepita Is Dead in Madrid last Spring and looks certain to come full circle in SS10 (what I haven't got yet is an eye-popping printed all-in-one. Hm, I need to go shopping...) For now, (it's only January after all) I think you can still get away with sequins and I love this black strapless jumpsuit with loose fitting, shiny harem-style pants from Little Red Vintage which I gave a test run on Saturday night.

The pants make me laugh because aside from skinny jeans, I don't ever wear trousers so it must have been an incredulous look that I shot my friend Toby when he said he thought I was wearing a top and trousers. Incredulous. A face I pull a lot (see above) and a face Michi Girl was probably pulling when she wrote about jumpsuits in her book, Like I Give A Frock.

'One girl's comfort zone is another's camel toe.' True, Michi, true. But sequins up top + harem pants down below = problem solved.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


Flashing lights, click click clicking, stalkers amidst the crowds, after show parties, champagne on tap. Being famous has its pros and cons. While the very notion of 'celebrity' post-2000 baffles and often infuriates me, I do like a glass of fizz. But would you let the lady (who am I kidding) above, get her greasy hands on the canapes? I assume not, and at the National TV Awards, they didn't. Sadly all after show parties were reserved for 'winners and nominees'.

Not that I wasn't dressed the part. Was a bit self-conscious at first exposing so much leg, but I love this dress! The top part, covered in sequins is actually a leotard with shoulder-pads and the skirt is attached to the back and ties at the front, leaving a massive slit where, unless you're a member of the Hollyoaks cast or have ever stepped through the doors of Big Brother, you'll be needing some seriously thick tights. Mine let me down a bit as stretched to look more transparent than I was going for, but I won't hold it against M&S. Kate (at Little Red where I bought the dress) suggested teaming it with a bright colour of tights which I might do next time. From the back, it has the appearance of a long, sleek maxi dress.

Despite being told it was 'very Cheryl Cole' (not really what constitutes a compliment for me), she's better than most of the Z-list 'nominees', taking my place at the after show party, drinking my champagne...

Monday, 18 January 2010

Not-so-Little Red

If there was only one shop in the world to buy clothes from, for me it would be Little Red in Liverpool. That may sound like a bold statement, but even with all the vintage shops, fairs and websites at arms length, I still end up buying most of my clothes there! Ok, so it's owned by a very good friend of mine, Kate Harris and I'm probably slightly biased, but it's just a lovely shopping experience, and that is by no means just because she's my friend.

Everyone should sample the Little Red experience. The clothes are affordable, unique and beautifully preserved or where appropriate, re-styled so the wearer gets the maximum out of them for an individual or quirkier look. The shop is, at the risk of sounding like an estate agent, bright and airy, so the dresses on rails have space to breathe and at no point do they look cluttered. The owner isn't merely a shopkeeper, she's a stylist dedicating much of her day to helping shoppers customise a look of their own.

Naturally, she's had a big hand in styling me over the years. This weekend, I went in to find a dress to wear to the National TV Awards on Wednesday. I left with a shoulder-padded black sequinned leotard attached to a skirt that you knot to form a revealing maxi dress for the awards, (pictures to follow when I'm brave enough) a strapless sequinned jumpsuit, a puffed out, high-waisted gold skirt and a 1960s felt hat in bright blue.

A year ago, Little Red was just a little shop in the Grand Central shopping centre in Liverpool, and now she's also got her own premises on Bold Street. Try it out and you just see if you can go in and make a single purchase... it's impossible.

Monday, 4 January 2010

New year, no clothes...

Yes, I know it's not the done thing, but I'm still new to this whole blogging malarkey, so surely that excuses the TWO whole WEEKS I've had away from my computer. Not that (if I'm being honest) it's done me much good... 

Aside from the extra weight I'm carrying (thanks to the indoor 'picnics' on the days there wasn't anything to celebrate but it was too cold to go outside) my booze-oozing skin and the hangover from NYE, AKA The Fear, I'm convinced will be sticking around until next year, I've got writers' block, the start of a cold and no money to buy the dresses that would perk me up. 

But, getting a grip and before this turns into a dissertation-length rant (my new year's resolution is to write snappier, more frequent posts like normal people) if there's one rescue remedy (no, not the stuff in a bottle, though that does help with The Fear) it's that dress already in your wardrobe. You know the one. The if-in-doubt dress! The only one you've had for over three years that never seems to look old and worn or go out of fashion. The outfit you wear when you're feeling unsure of yourself, or in a situation you'd rather not be in.

This red sixties mini has helped me through first dates, perked me up when I've been poorly, held my hand when I went ice skating with Gareth Gates for a TV assignment for work (less said about that, the better) and most recently, got me through a rather tricky one-on-one with David Dimbleby about the History of Art (not my forte, luckily the dress distracted him for at least ten seconds). Needless to say, when my rail of dresses collapsed twice this morning before my first day back in the office, it was the first thing I grabbed from the pile...