'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

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

How do I love thee, Ossie?

Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell crepe de chine maxi dress (sigh)

One of the reasons for calling my blog Dreams In Dresses was because so often you daydream about a particular dress or a designer you can't afford but there's such an affinity there, you never give up hope that one day, the right funds and perfect fit will come together like the two most difficult remaining pieces in the world's longest and most boring jigsaw.

I came closer to that day last weekend when I stumbled across a beautiful vintage boutique, Hope & Harlequin, on Sydney Street in Brighton. Among the delicate rails of carefully selected designer pieces, there were not one but two 1960s/1970s Ossie Clarks. And they both fitted me perfectly. What are the chances?

I should repeat here that I came closer, (unfortunately I couldn't justifiably purchase either at that moment) I should also backtrack that to own an Ossie Clark is my ultimate dream, which is what made the Hope & Harlequin experience that little bit more special. 

How often do you feel comfortable enough to try on clothes you'd really-love-to-buy-but-realistically-can't and not lead the shop assistants up the garden path? It's all too easy to try something on, sheepishly mumble something about going to find a cash point and never return. But here, both ladies were friendly and helpful (adjusting straps and giving me shoes to try on with etc) but above all realistic. They take payment in installments and genuinely seem to care who goes away with which of their clothes. 

Ossie Clark biased cut crepe de chine trouser suit (sigh)

I'm seriously considering taking up the offer of installments if the maxi dress or the suit is still there next time I visit. But sadly, I know they probably won't be. That's Ossie Clark for you. I've been fascinated with his and one-time wife/one-time creative partner Celia Birtwell's designs ever since reading his journals when I was living back at my parents' house after graduating (I spent a lot of time at the library, along with lots of other frustrated people searching for meaning). Since then, I've written articles about him and searched high and low for his designs whenever at fairs/boutiques/markets. He's become a bit of a hobby...

I always imagined if I bought a piece of Ossie it would be one of his dresses, complete with Birtwell print, but after trying on this pale pink two-piece, I'm not so sure! It reminds me of something he would have dressed Patty Boyd (or even erm, Mick Jagger) in, in the 1970s. And while Celia's prints live on in her more recent lines for Topshop or John Lewis, there's something a lot more rare and covetable, even sacred, about his tailoring, through the bias-cut, use of collars and draping fabrics.

If you're not familiar with Ossie and would like to know more, read this. Hobby? That's just a polite word for obsession.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Horses for courses

When it comes to fashion, Coleen McLoughlin and Alex Curran give Liverpool a bad name. I can say that because I'm from (near) there originally. It's not actually all fake tans, manicures, body-con mini-skirts and bleached blonde hair extensions, but you do have to know where to go - and that's not Concert bloody Square or Aintree Racecourse...

Yep, I was at the races on Saturday. I went for my friend Kate's birthday and while our crowd were (naturally) an exception to the rule, it riled me that there's such an overstated correlation between bad fashion sense and the infamous race track. Heightened unimaginably (although all too easy to imagine) by the whirling mass of ridiculous when-will-you-honestly-wear-that-again head-pieces, tattoos and bad tan lines poking out from under ruffled fuchsia one-shoulder dresses and enough clones of the same head-to-toe corsage-to-gladiator-heels to make you pass out with nausea. And that's just the wags...

So, without further ado, here's the exceptions to the rule.

Kate looked amazing in her vintage ruffled navy and white gown teamed with a pretty pale pink corsage to blow all the others out the water and delicate pink satin heels to match.

Corsages without the cliche: you can't really see my dress here but I was wearing a hand-made multi-layered, almost patchwork creation by new Berlin designer Ursula Pelt. I recommend checking out her website. Lovely pieces and not too expensive. If you're in Liverpool, Little Red Vintage is stocking her line.

Desperately seeking originality... Shame I didn't get closer as love this girl's canary yellow blazer and wide stripy culottes, but I only had my iphone (my decent camera didn't fit into my 1950s handbag, duh) and I was feeling too shy to approach. For that, I blame Coleen, Alex and the (above mentioned) crowds of clones...