Friday, 19 February 2016

Links a la Mode

To polish off a lovely week, I've been selected for Links a la Mode again! If you missed it, my post was about 5 floral shirts for Valentine's day (link below). Of course, beautiful shirts are for life, not just for Valentine's Day - I'm wearing one right now!

As ever, do have a look through the other blogs. My personal favourites are Mox and Socks's introduction to her dog, with some beautiful photos, and Everyday Starlet's wedding dress shopping tips - whether you're a bride-to-be or, like me, just obsessed with watching Don't Tell the Bride, it's a great and useful post.

Links à la Mode, February 18
SPONSOR: Shopbop Twelfth St. by Cynthia Vincent, BCBG Dresses, Private Party Tops, MISA, Moon River, Ace of Something, Fringe Jackets, Wildfox Tees, Micro Satchels, Men's Ted Baker

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Four things to do when you have nothing to wear

Many people are dismissive when they hear the phrase "nothing to wear". Of course, it can be a little melodramatic: all of us must have some clothes. But the people who point this out have clearly never experienced the embarrassment of feeling uncomfortable, overdressed, underdressed, or boring at an event where you'd been hoping to have a lovely time. Maybe your body's changed shape, or an old faithful is starting to look a bit dowdy, or you simply wanted something new.

This past week, I've been looking for a new outfit for various formal occasions, and having a horrible time. I'm not very tall, yet most petite lines are sparse and tend to assume that being short is the same thing as being uber-thin. I'm also finding that I want to move away from the shape I used to favour (cap sleeves, skater skirt) in favour of some sleeker cuts.

In the end, I ordered the above dress from ASOS, and paid for next-day delivery. Desperate times call for desperate postage. This was one of the few times in my life I've been really stumped, and I wanted to share some of the options I considered or took in order to get through it.

Set a budget

If you shop while stressed - which I don't advise, but which may be necessary - you'll start to think about just blowing loads of money in order to get it over with. Work out how much you'd normally spend on a new dress, and maybe add £5-10 to reflect that this is an emergency. I very nearly bought a dress which I knew wasn't quite what I wanted and which was at least £15 more than I wanted to spend, but budget considerations stopped me.

Get some cheap accessories

We all have our treasured favourites, but sometimes they just aren't working with the outfit we want to wear. Stock up on some cheap, fun stuff which can add a bit of sparkle to your outfit. Once I had ordered my one-shoulder dress, I went to Claire's Accessories, that tween haven of bargains, and got a £5 pair of clip-on earrings (I haven't got pierced ears). They were the easiest thing to match with a difficult neckline, and really give the outfit a pop that it wouldn't have otherwise. If you have time to order online, you can get some super cheap things from Amazon like this box of 20 stud earrings or a cute hair piece. No, none of it will be great quality, but it will be on-hand when you need to breathe life into an old or plain outfit.

Make basic alterations

If you have time, it can be very cheap to get a hem taken up by a professional. But failing that, you might have to get stuck in yourself. The dress I ordered is slightly too long on one of the straps, so I've brandished my incredibly basic sewing kit (I think it came out of a Christmas cracker) and made a decent job for now. I'll get it professionally done when I next have the chance, but it goes to show that even someone as inept at sewing as me can do a quick fix!

Keep it simple

If you're feeling stressed about what to wear to a party, now is not the time to try and create a show-stopping outfit. When you have more time, you can plan how you're going to style that embellished pair of shorts or the gold-fringed kimono; this time around, stick to a little black dress. Try to think of some outfits which have made you feel great in the past, and restrict your search to the sweetheart neckline or Oxford shirts that you know you can wear. I was basing my search on a dress I already have, with a tight main body and lace sleeves - I just wanted something similar, but with bare arms. The ASOS one does the trick!

Friday, 12 February 2016

5 Floral Shirts for Valentine's Day

Florals, as Miranda Priestley has taught us all, may be highly unoriginal for Spring, but they're delightful to wear nonetheless. With Valentine's weekend now upon us, what better excuse do you need to freshen up your wardrobe with some daffodils or carnations?

This is my first Valentine's day in a relationship, but I've always felt the need for something floaty, romantic, and classic around this time of year. A perfect floral shirt fits all of these criteria. They're versatile enough to be worn on a date, to work, out for drinks with friends, or even just to spend a peaceful Sunday afternoon reading a good book.

A lot of High Street and online stores have caught onto this lately: I've been noticing a chic floral shirt in pretty much every shop I walk into. Inspired by this resurgence in popularity and my own partiality to a good shirt, I now offer you my pick of the best on offer right now.

H&M Floral Chiffon Blouse

As you may have guessed from the fact that it's pictured above, I recently purchased this gorgeous piece. It's polyester, but has the feel of a slightly heavier chiffon. What drew me to it was the way the little bouquets look like they've been freshly inked on by hand. I've been wearing it with jeans so far, but am on the lookout for a smart pair of blue or pink trousers to create a smarter look.

Popbop Elegant V-neck Shirt

This casual v-neck shirt is a more relaxed choice: no collar, no buttons, just slip on and wear for an appropriate activity. Possible ventures which spring to mind include a trip to the cinema, trying a new coffee shop, or tending to the dahlias while solving a murder à la Rosemary and Thyme.

Vintage Art Deco Floral Shirt

If you're looking for something a little more unique, vintage is of course the obvious route. While it can be fun to root through bargain boxes in second-hand stores, shirts are some of the most difficult items to find in good condition. Etsy sellers are a good way to find good quality vintage pieces, and if you read one of my recent posts, you'll know I have a special reader discount for one seller in particular. This very cute shirt and several others are from Cold Hard Stitches, where you can get 20% off by entering the code MORIARTY20

Black Scatter Floral Shirt

Warehouse has some lovely stuff in right now. If florals aren't your thing (and congrats for making it this far through this post if that's the case) there are some other gorgeous prints, my favourite being this crane shirt. There's also a white version of the shirt pictured above, but I thought that was a bit similar to my H&M one. The black one is a bit more dramatic: like a picture taken with flash at night. Great for a day out at a museum, rivaling the paintings in any art gallery.

Ivory and Blue Sleeveless Blouse

It may still be a little cold for this one, but that fine china print is hard to resist, and very on-trend. The one above is from a plus-size brand, and will look good with a pair of good jeans or a bold skirt. If you want something with a similar feel, but in a more traditional shape, there's this more abstract one.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Film Review: Spotlight

As a good budding journalist, Spotlight was of course top of my to-watch list from the current crop of Oscar favourites. The film is beginning to look like it could do pretty well this awards season, despite not taking home any Golden Globes; its popularity has risen from a dark horse position, and it now seems tipped to get the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award. In case you haven't heard of it, IMDB describes the movie as "The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core."

For me, the immediate point of reference is Argo. Both films have a strange knack of making bureaucratic montages of lists and documents incredibly gripping. They also both tend to choose the heroes and villains of the piece early on, and present us with a core (all-white, as many have noted regarding the Oscar nominations as a whole) cast of characters who are just trying to do the right thing.

There is something about Spotlight which captured me. Yes, some scenes depend a little too heavily on the Good-Guy-Journalist trope, but much of it is incredibly naturalistic. Two parallel scenes in which Joe (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha (Rachel McAdams) each interview an abuse survivor stand out for me. They aren't overdone, the interviewees aren't positioned as plot devices alone, they are simply conversations which convey the huge impact the abuse has had on the lives of the victims. It is respectful, yet unflinching: both journalists emphasise the importance of opening up what really happened, rather than resorting to the euphemisms which the Church uses to obfuscate events.

Some reviewers have noted that the Church remains at arm's length throughout the film, with no real in-for-the-kill attack on it. This is certainly true to an extent, but what is really excellently portrayed is the omnipresence of the Church in Boston. We see how all of the central characters are at least tangentially affected by it. It's crucial that this is brought home for a global audience: viewers like me have no idea whether Boston is predominantly Catholic or Presbyterian, Jewish or Atheist. The sequence which I found most effective at emphasising that is a montage of the reporters interviewing more survivors, as well as police officers and other figures of the community. All the while, the little houses in the foreground are dwarfed by towering churches and cathedrals in the background, almost as though they are looming over the characters. It shows not just how crucial the Church is in people's lives, but also how many people knew about the repeated abuse but felt unable to speak out.

I usually talk about costumes in all the films I review on this blog, though this might seem like an odd one to look at: the costumes are all fairly standard early Noughties fare. It is rather gratifying to see the normal workaday clothing from that period - all rather similar to what we wear now - rather than the way ASOS presents the era: Bjork hair and ribbed crop-tops galore. What I'd mainly like to look at though is how the costume design works as part of a subtle map of visual references throughout.

You may have noticed in the posters that the film has a lot of pale shade in it: the light shirts of the journalists, their office walls and computers, the stacks of paper to sift through. This was one of the first things I noticed. The first few minutes are a nighttime scene, featuring a priest and cardinal in their usual black garb, so when it cuts to a white office full of journalists in pale shirts, the imagery is pretty clear. Angels and demons might be a bit of a stretch, but there's certainly an implication of that kind.

The journalists (left), and the Church figures (right)

A friend of mine also noted how there seemed to be a bit of a Godfather vibe every time figures from the Church were onscreen. From the dark clothes and hat in that first scene to the slimy appearances of Pete Conley (CSI's Paul Guilfoyle), there is certainly a Church mafia undertone here. The scene in which The Boston Globe's new editor visits the Cardinal, in a luxurious room of dark wood and books, is particularly reminiscent of The Don's office.

The Cardinal (left), and Marlon Brando in The Godfather (right)
The friendly way in which Conley and the Cardinal act seems contradictory to that, and so we as the audience are never sure who to trust: even some of the newspaper employees seem to have something to hide. Only Stanley Tucci's impeccable performance as Garabedian, a lawyer taking on a mountain of cases against Catholic priests, instills us with confidence. His corporate counterpart, Eric Macleish (played by Billy Crudup, who I'm glad to see hasn't disappeared since Stage Beauty), is far more ambiguous. In fact I got a strong Patrick Bateman vibe from him...

Christian Bale in American Psycho (left), and Billy Crudup as Macleish (right)
Whether intentional or not, this at least underscores the way corporate America, as ever, finds a way to captialise on everything: Macleish is accused of creating a "cottage industry" out of representing victims in their claims against the Church (which can only result in a capped settlement of $20,000) while doing nothing to address the ongoing problem.

There are undoubtedly more things to be noticed on a second viewing, and it's all of these small details which set the film apart for me. While the central journalistic plotline is riveting alone, the evocative depiction of Boston society is what really brings the whole thing alive.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

My Favourite Etsy shops (plus an EXCLUSIVE offer for Fashion Moriarty readers)

Etsy shops are a maze of hidden treasures. Sometimes it seems you can get anything in the world that you could possibly want, and at others it seems that one thing which you really want is eluding you. In general, the range of available sellers is a little overwhelming.

Etsy really ought to have an online editorial output like ASOS magazine: something to find the up-and-coming sellers and interview them for the benefit of regular users. Until then (Etsy, you're more than welcome to contact me if you'd like an editor for this hypothetical magazine) I thought it would be good to gather together a few of my favourite Etsy shops in one post. There's even an exclusive discount available for one of them. So read on if you want to discover something new, and I hope you'll comment your own favourites below. Happy shopping!

Cold Hard Stitches

Cold Hard Stitches is run by my friend Trina and stocks an array of gorgeous hand-picked vintage shirts. I love this city skyline one in particular: anything with a vaguely Dolce and Gabbana feel is a winner with me. What I love about these shirts is that they cover a range of styles - grunge, art deco, formal blouse - but are all versatile enough that they can be worn to work or a party with equal flair. Trina has very kindly offered a discount code for readers of the blog, so enter the code MORIARTY20 for 20% off.

Little Darling

Over Christmas and my birthday (which is just after Christmas), it was quite funny how several people gave me small, delicate pendant necklaces: bees, stones, anchors, and rings abound. I love all of them, and was rather pleased that I clearly have a strong enough style that my friends can find something they know I'll like. It's no surprise then that the pieces from Little Darling, which are indeed both little and darling are particularly enticing to me. I like the Midas touch necklace pictured above because it's so dainty, but also because the design vaguely reminds me of Hula Hoops (the crisps, not the play equipment) so it has a lovely nostalgic element too.

Marco Black

One of my favourite things to browse on Etsy is the huge range of fan-art, geekery, and memorabilia for my favourite movies and TV shows. And honestly, who doesn't want a cushion with Miranda Priestley and one of her most cutting lines on it? This would look so good if I had a black leather sofa to put it on. Marco Black's illustrations combine iconic imagery with a minimalist style. I'm sure Miranda would agree it's all very chic.

Illustrated by Jonathan

I don't know the Jonathan of Illustrated by Jonathan personally, but he does hail from my home town of Winchester, and so I love his pictures of the city like the snowy statue of King Alfred above. His style is very bright and cheerful: the kind of thing I want on my wall, especially when it reminds me of home. He draws all kinds of places, from New York to the Matterhorn, so go see if anywhere you know is featured.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Best Costume Design Oscar Nominees: My Verdict

Well, it would seem it is that time of year again. Awards season, as you can't have failed to notice, is back. But for those of us with fashion in our hearts and minds, this can only mean one question: who will win the costume awards?

Every year I do a rundown of the films in contension and make my pick as to who should win. First though, I'd like to lament that my favourite costume designer, the esteemed Jacqueline Durran, appears to have been overlooked - even by the BAFTAs - for her work on Macbeth. It may not have been quite as stunning as her Oscar-winning Anna Karenina designs, but Marion Cotillard's gowns were exemplary.

In fact, before I turn to the Academy Awards nominations, it's always worth quickly looking at who has not been nominated by comparing with the BAFTAs. This year the two pretty much correspond, except that the BAFTAs have eschewed The Revenant in favour of Brooklyn. I have to admit I think that's a better choice: the ice-cream colours and 'New Look' shapes of Brooklyn are enough to recommend it alone, and there's a really good article about the costumes on Fashionista if you're interested.

But let's now turn to the Oscars and see what they have in store.


Industry legend Sandy Powell is on track for a fourth Oscar with either this or Cinderella (which we'll discuss in a minute). She's previously won for Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator, and The Young Victoria, so is clearly adept when it comes to period pieces. Inspired by old fashion magazines, these costumes are a delight to behold, and transform Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara into full colour versions of a vintage Vogue cover. The tailoring is what really accentuates the mood of the era; Cate Blanchett's costumes are so perfectly fitted that they show elegance and refinement but also suggest at the hidden desires beneath through their close cut.

For me though, it is the loungewear which demonstrates the range of this designer. Without relying on the standard shapes each character wears in their day-clothes, we can see here how loose-fitting dressing-gowns and sleeping sets ccan still be very different. Carol's delicate pink silk is incredibly sensuous, but the masculine cut of the dressing gown (who has a dressing gown with shoulder pads?) adds that sense of restraint again. Therese's ensemble is plain, and perhaps a little bit childish, representing the boring life she wishes to grow out of. That's some first-class costume subtext right there.

The Revenant

It says a lot that when I was looking for a suitable image for this, a picture of the Lion from The Wizard of Oz came up. On first impression, this film has only one costume in it: some brown winter clothes, worn by everyone Of course, the production wasn't quite that simple, as Jacqueline West, the costume designer, found out. In attempts to be as true as possible to what fur-traders would have worn, she acquired a real bear and created fake bear fat.

It goes to show that the production behind these costumes is what is really valued in a technical category. I can't say, however, that this is my favourite to win. West hasn't yet won an Oscar, though she was nominated for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and a BAFTA for Quills. I think she needs to combine the intensive processing behind The Revenant with the beauty of Quills, and she'll be a sure win.


Here's Sandy Powell again! I haven't seen this film yet but I have some friends who have told me just how enchanting the costumes are. I've discussed in one of these posts before how there are difficulties for designers tackling a live action film with its roots in an inconic animation. Powell's reinterpretation of the Cinderella dress is a good answer to that question. She ditches the gloves (in contrast with the stepsisters), but keeps the sparkle, and infuses all the costumes with a combination of Victorian grandeur and surreal chocolate-box caricature.

Cate Blanchett is here again, in carefully draped bodices that would happily sit in any Westwood range. It's a riot compared to the muted tones of Carol, and a lot of it puts me in mind of how a child would imagine a fairy-tale world: in bright colours, with details magpied from different periods, and a cartoonish elegance to it all. Put simply: it's magical.

Mad Max: Fury Road

I love a good sci-fi/apocalyptic costume. Ordinarily we see several period dramas in the running for costume design, but it can be even more interesting to see how artists imagine what clothing will look like in the future. Alas, the answer in Mad Max is: not that exciting. Still, there are echoes of what the American military currently wears here, which I think is quite interesting.

Costume designer Jenny Beavan has had an impressive career, including Anna and the King, Sherlock Holmes, and The King's Speech. She hasn't won an Oscar since 1987's A Room With A View, but I'm not sure if this film is the best example of what she can do. The problem is it's part of a franchise, and therefore just a slightly new incarnation of a previous vision.

The Danish Girl

Paco Delgado is the only male costume designer in this year's nominations, and he had an important job in dressing Eddie Redmayne to represent Lilli's transition without verging into caricatures of the feminine stereotype. There's an interview in Harper's Bazaar with him where he discusses some of the issues they faced, such as working around Redmayne's Adam's apple, which adds a whole new level of consideration. I think he's done extremely well, and I have to say that although the two Sandy Powell films in this list are hotly tipped to win, this would be my personal choice.

The use of 1920s fashion is superb, and the fact that both Eddie Redmayne's and Alicia Vikander's characters are artists opens up some interesting Bohemian avenues. It rather reminds me of the way the Bloomsbury group was represented in the BBC's recent series Life in Squares. The loose shapes and drop waists are an elegant contrast to the tailored suits Redmayne wears earlier in the film, a choice which Delgado consciously made to emphasise the idea that the masculine felt like a prison to Lilli. Vikander's ensembles also provide both a mirror and a contrast in their scenes together. The clothes aid the progression of the story, as well as being visually sumptuous.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year & Links a la Mode

I kicked off my year yesterday by making the collage you see above. It's become something of a tradition, creating a moodboard to start the year; this one is meant to show the ambitious mood I'm in for the year ahead, mainly by gathering nice workwear pictures. There's just something about a good coat or a smart pair of trousers that makes me feel like I can achieve anything. I'm also hoping to read more - I'll be focusing on course-related books for the first half of the year, and after I'm finished in summer I have a whole stack of things waiting to be read!

Another good way to start 2016 was by being selected for IFB's Links a la Mode. As ever, there are some lovely reads here, a lot of them inspiring posts about the new year. Do have a look through, and Happy New Year to all my readers!

Links à la Mode, December 31
SPONSOR: Shopbop Eugenia Kim Hats, Rebecca Taylor Dresses, Stella McCartney Lingerie, Pepin, Pared,