'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, 31 August 2010

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

So they're not exactly Swarovski but they'll do for now. I've spent the last few Saturdays wandering around Bang Bang with gift vouchers that have been burning a hole in my purse for months. I'm skint at the moment and wanted to reward myself for getting through a challenging first week in my new job (with no boss!). As much as I love Bang Bang for its Aladdin's cave of vintage designer/high street pieces, the trouble with it, I've discovered (and this applies to both the Goodge Street and Berwick Street branches) is it's very hit or miss. If you set out looking for something, it's almost guaranteed you'll never find it. Yes, I'm still talking about clothes. I've tried on a pink 1950s gingham skirt (too twee), a beige cotton full-length jumpsuit (too 1980s), a (on the slightly brassy side) gold bolero (I don't need another), I even considered a fitted red mini Peaches for PPQ dress (yeugh)... So jewellery it was.

Not finding a single compatible item of clothing in the dressing rooms of the Berwick store gave me plenty to time to stare into space. But I might never have noticed what a pretty space that was.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Shoes. Shoes. Oh my god. Shoes!

I was considering entitling this post, 'Shoes for everyone!' but a) why quote from a film I hated (Sex & The City 2) and b) why give Carrie Bradshaw any more credit for getting us excited about Jimmy Choos? No, when I think of shoes, I think of Liam Kyle Sullivan's stroppy teenage alter-ego Kelly and her 'these shoes rule, these shoes suck... those shoes are mine, beeetch'. If you've never seen that video, I insist you click here.

Ahead of the launch of Shoe Galleries in Selfridges next month, they're running a competition to win a year's supply of shoes. All you have to do is tell your 'shoe story' on the website, by clicking here. Just write a few sentences and submit a picture if possible, but if not, they have illustrated placeholders.

The shoe galleries have been long in the making, after being envisaged by architect Jamie Fobert to house 4,000 different pairs of shoes and over 150 different brands. It's going to be the biggest shoe department in the world and everyone from Christian Dior to that wretched little Mr Ugg has been invited.

'Imagine you are in a gallery. From the entrance you see a succession of doorways and at the end a huge window flooding the space with daylight,' says Selfridges' Director of Accessories Sebastian Manes. 'Your journey begins at the front, with shoes from the best of the high street. Slowly you begin to travel through different galleries until you reach the end – the couture designer gallery, flanked by Chanel and Louboutin, and a vision of Eden – the new suspended garden at Selfridges. Shoe heaven.'

Speaking of which, my first pair of shoes (ie, ones I had a say in) felt a lot like heaven. Magic Steps by Clarks, with the little silver key... and the advert where the girl puts them on and is then transported into a forest and has to climb a wall and defeat the big bad witch... relying on the power of her magic shoes. I always was a sucker for fashion advertising...

I'm still undecided on my shoe story but my first pair did feel very special. And then there's the vintage leather cream (almost) knee high boots which sound pretty horrendous written down, but I loved them, especially with a sixties mini and thick black tights. Unfortunately they died on the way to an unmentionable night club in Clapham. I was stepping out of a taxi when the heel completely snapped in half, never to be reincarnated again. In hindsight, I think they were desperately telling me that they wouldn't be seen dead in there (which they weren't, as I went home to change). They deserved more respect. And I definitely learnt my lesson.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Biba my baby

Repetitive, generic so-called maxi dresses today don't know the meaning of the word, maxi. Take this picture of Twiggy in 1960s Biba. A free flowing, print-tastic, don't give a f*ck maxi. Anticipating House of Fraser's September relaunch of the brand, I'm not sure they'll do justice to the long towering gowns (not to mention micro minis) that made Biba the most iconic store of the decade, but I'm hopeful that they will.

I've loved Biba since long before making my first purchase (a black and white crocheted cardigan from Dapper Boutique in Camden) and think its founder Barbara Hulanicki, sounds like an amazing woman. I'm currently reading her autobiography, From A To Biba (almost as snappy as the title of this post) which chronicles her journey from growing up in Jerusalem to founding her first boutique in Kensington, London then watching the brand being taken over in the 1970s. She writes beautifully with passion in abundance and emotion where appropriate (her opening paragraph reads: 'My childhood was so secure that I remember wishing one of my parents would die so I could feel some emotion, even misery. I was twelve years old when my wish came true.')

I remember interviewing Twiggy a couple of years ago for something TV related and (naturally) we got onto the Biba subject and she painted the most enviable picture of running down Abingdon Road in her lunch hour (when she used to wash people's hair on a Saturday morning) to buy a dress.

She told me: 'I think Barbara changed high street shopping forever. There were no boutiques before Barbara did Biba. There was no teenage clothing at a cost that kids could afford. She started that. And we wouldn’t have Topshop now probably if she hadn’t done that.'

Twiggy didn't keep many of the clothes that are so synonymous with her image, (and I suppose brand) in the 1960s, but she kept her Biba. Course she did. It feels like such a shame that someone of Barbara's skill lost the rights to what started out as her own baby. Of course her talent lives on (I loved her Biba-esque line for Topshop last year). But it will be interesting to see what House of Fraser and 'muse' Daisy Lowe do with the ethos Barbara put her heart and soul into. And if it worked for Halston...