Saturday, 25 April 2015

What's In My Bag? Springtime exploring

How's the weather where you are? In Oxford, it's periodically sunny, consistently warm, and there is a gentle breeze in the air. It's the perfect time to roam the city, seeking out new interesting things to do and see. Here are the essentials I like to carry with me.

Sunglasses - I picked these up at an Oxford vintage fair. They were only £5, but the gold arms and ruby frames add what I like to think is a classy touch.

Wallet - this is a new acquisition which was kindly given to me. I love the mock-croc pattern, but most of all I love all the different pockets inside which allow for easy organisation of my many loyalty cards, receipts, and other random items.

Selected poems of Lord Byron - this term is probably my favourite term; on one side of the course we have Shakespeare, and on the other we have the Romantic poets. I'm looking forward to a summer term reclinging on the quad reading Jane Austen.

Phoenix Picturehouse brochure - there are some great deals for students at my local cinema. I'm planning on making use of them soon, as I really want to see Far From the Madding Crowd and The Falling. Which films are you looking forward to in the next few weeks? Share your recommendations with me in the comments!

Lush Popcorn Lip Scrub & Vaseline Queen Bee balm - I've become absolutely addicted to this lip scrub. Not only does it smooth my lips (particularly helpful in the fluctuating humidity we have right now), it also tastes amazing. Of course Lush recommend that you follow it up with one of their lip balms, but I find this Vaseline one - a luscious honey-flavoured edition - to work just as well.

Moroccan Mint Tea Body Mist - I went to visit a friend in London over the holidays, and while I was there we visited one of my favourite shops: And Other Stories. I already have a cherry blossom body mist from them, but fancied something new to mix things up. This mint tea fragrance is so fresh, and I bought the smaller size which means it fits snugly into any bag.

Cath Kidston Bag - this was a gift, and is a really good size for not getting in the way but still having enough room. I think it' more of a makup bag really, but functions really well as a day bag as well.

Yesterday our amblings took us to the top of a mound which is owned by Oxford castle. It costs £1 to go up, but that's definitely worth it, as you get a surprisingly wide-reaching view. It's not the traditional Oxford panorama, but you can see down onto the Malmaison hotel's rooftop area, and on the other side the hills and fields outside of the city are visible.

A photo posted by Alys Key (@fashionmoriarty) on
Tell me about your own adventures in your own city in the comments, or on Twitter.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Dressing for Springtime when it still feels like Winter

It's officially Spring! This is great news for anyone who is starting to find their big Winter coat a little dreary. Unfortunately, if your particular segment of the Northern hemisphere is anywhere near as unpredictable as mine, it could remain stubbonly wintry for some time yet, along with some randomly hot interludes and a fair bit of air pollution!

That's why now is the time to begin gently moving away from your Winter wardrobe, but without necessarily making any sacrifices in terms of warmth. Here are my top three suggestions for transitioning more gracefully between seasons than the weather ever seems to manage.

Swap your boots for brogues

I love my big boots. These ones in particular are surprisingly versatile; small enough to walk on short walks, and easy to get on and off thanks to the zip down the side. However, they just don't go with the lighter colour palette I want to be wearing during Spring. They're also a hassle if the weather is fluctuating, because you have to wear fairly thick socks with them. 

Instead, opt for some classic brogue-style shoes. They have the same hard-wearing appeal of the boot, and are practical for all sorts of things. But they're also not too obtrusive on your outfit. The ones pictured above have extra padding for added comfort, and the material helps to keep your feet ventilated - a saving grace if the weather takes a turn for the best!

Swap your woollens for a big shirt

If, like me, you have spent the darker months swaddled in oversized knits and layers of sweatshirts, it can be tricky to remember quite what you did before. The trick is to take it slowly. Going straight from your Argyll to a tank-top is not the answer. 

A big shirt, preferably made of some thick material like canvas, is a life-saver here. It can layer easily, acting as a jacket or shirt according to what's needed. It's also more adaptable because of the buttons. I also like this option because you can accessorise it pretty easily. Here I've added a pin to the collar, which adds a little bit of interest.

Swap your dark jeans for light rinse

They can be the same material, same cut, same thickness, same brand, same everything but the colour. Just because jeans are still the most viable option, you don't necessarily have to wear the same ones. By simply switching to a lighter shade of denim, you can start to move towards that Springtime feel, even if it is too cold to wear cut-offs yet.

So those are my top three, but I'm sure there are countless other ways! Let me know what you do at this time of year (or indeed at another time of year if you're in another hemisphere) in the comments or on Twitter.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Links a la Mode

It's been a while since I submitted a link to IFB's weekly Links a la Mode, so it was nice to be included in the final roundup. I was also really pleased to see in the comments that some people had taken the time to read my interview with Anna Wintour.

Do take a look at the rest of the posts from this week if you have a spare minute. I've bolded some of my favourites!

Links à la Mode: March 26

SPONSOR: Shopbop: Spring dresses, Nude, and Black Wedges, Black Booties,Peep Toe Booties, Ankle boots, Knee High boots, Leopard Flats, Red Pumps & Wedge Sandals

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Nothing New Challenge: Meeting Anna Wintour

What do you wear to meet the most powerful woman in fashion? It's a conundrum which I imagine is enough to get any fashion writer's heart racing. But wait, I don't think you fully understand my predicament yet. What do you wear to meet the most powerful woman in fashion when you're halfway through a challenge where you can only buy second-hand clothes, and you have very little money and even less time to go shopping?

The only real approach is to find something you already own and hope for the best. In this case, I was preparing my interview questions and fretting over whether my dictaphone might run out of battery, so I had to go for a relatively simple option. This silk dress is originally from Guess, but I bought it for £7.99 in a charity shop in Devon several years ago. Since then it's been a favourite of mine, as it can be quite casual but is easily dressed-up. The shoes are a £1 buy from a car boot sale.

As it turned out, this hurried choice turned out to be a good one, as when we met Anna complimented me on my "pretty dress". As you can imagine, I was pretty giddy after this.

Credit: Roger Askew

I've been wanting to write this post for a while, as a kind of companion piece to my interview with Anna which was published in The Oxford Student. I tried to convey in my write-up how pleasant and charming I found the woman herself; so many people have asked me what she's really like, obviously suspecting that the Ice Queen persona is the true Anna Wintour.

I find it very strange that people are so quick to judge someone when they've based their impression of them on a few rumours and a fictional portrayal. Once you look at the role Anna plays in the industry, it's pretty obvious that she cares deeply for young designers and for the fashion business itself. Aside from that, I found her to be the kind of person you always want at a party: personable, talkative, and ready to strike up a conversation with someone new.

If you're interested, please do have a read of my interview. You can find it here.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

I Want It! Fifth & Mae Little States necklaces

I've been reminiscing lately about when I was younger, and had this fixated obsession with the State of California.

Now, I've never been to California. I imagine that a younger me would have liked to say that I know a lot about California, mainly from wandering around Los Angeles on Google Street View and leafing through a Rough Guide from the library. But I'm now pretty willing to admit that I know very little.

My interest was therefore based more on a vague emotional draw towards the state, a gold-rush mentality which told me that if only I lived in California, my life would be perfect. I feel this was primarily based on American movies and songs like 'Meet Me In California' by the Plain White T's; 'cos you know in California/ there's something better for us all.

I don't really think like that any more; I'd like to visit California, but it's not quite the nirvana it used to be for me. However, there's still a little part of me which sees it as emblematic of happiness, success, and fulfillment. As someone rephrased it for me recently: California isn't a place, it's an idea.

So that's what drew me to these necklaces. I guess the idea might be that you buy one for the state you were born in, or where you've made your home, but for me it would be more a symbol of aspiration. It's like when you wear a sweater with a made-up but prestigious-sounding university on it.

Anyway, these are very cute. And despite having only been to Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington, I would be so tempted to collect all of them. The price is pretty sweet as well, at just under $15 each.

Small pieces of jewellery like this are my favoured accessory at the moment, so it's certainly tempting to indulge in my teenage self's Californian fantasy for a little while longer.

Which one would you go for? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Who will win the Best Costume Oscar?

Hello, Fashion Moriarty readers! It really has been a long time. Probably my biggest gap in blogging ever. I really am sorry about that. Hopefully I'll be getting my act together soon and there will be more posts on the way imminently. For now I will just field the excuse that I'm now editor of The Oxford Student, which takes up a lot of time, and any time I write something, it's for that. However, I'm sure you don't care about that. Let's get down to business. And when I say business, I mean the wonderful collision of the fashion and the film businesses.

Each year I do a post about the nominations for Best Costume awards either at the BAFTAs or the Academy Awards, and go through what I like about each designer. With the Oscars next week, this year looks set to be an interesting one, with everything from period dramas to fantasy adventures to retro mysteries in the running. Let's take a look at the costumes which have been this year's most admired.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
(Milena Canonero)

Every aspect of a Wes Anderson movie should be aesthetically sublime. The Grand Budapest Hotel blew me away with its cinematography, its locations, and, most importantly, its costumes. Now it goes without saying that the designs will be good, because Milena Canonero is an absolute legend. She did Chariots of Fire, A Clockwork Orange, and Marie Antoinette. She's won three Academy Awards. She's worked with Wes Anderson before. And now she's provided the perfect apparel for this masterpiece.

The glory of Old Europe provides the keynote here. From the uniforms of the soldiers to Adrien Brody's almost vampiric all-black ensemble, she has really outdone herself. Most importantly, she brings the hotel itself alive with the bright purple uniforms. I also love Agatha's simple pastel outfits, which layer different items - a thoughtful touch, considering the practical implications of living in the mountains.
It's already won the BAFTA, and to be honest this would be my personal choice for the Oscar as well. But there is certainly some stiff competition, which we will have a look at now.

Inherent Vice
(Mark Bridges)

I have to admit, I don't really know why this is nominated. Admittedly, the best costume award should not always necessarily go to the most exciting costumes. There is a lot of work which goes into sourcing clothing which is accurate for the period, and which truly reflects the character wearing it. A big strength of the costumes in this movie is that they evoke the period (1970, so the fashion is mainly hangovers from the 60s), but without giving into the temptation of using the most extreme fashions from the time. This I felt was the kind of thing American Hustle was guilty of, whereas here we see some of the most iconic fashions (shift dresses, beehive hair) without the sense that we're being told "hey it's 1970, remember that!"

Mark Bridges is a man of the moment. He won both the Oscar and the BAFTA for The Artist, and has credits such as Silver Linings Playbook and the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey to his name. I can't help but feel that this film isn't a particularly notable output from him, and he's simply been included because he's a current favourite.

Into the Woods
(Colleen Atwood)

Colleen Atwood is a dream. I remember being enchanted by her work on Snow White and the Huntsman, a film which was probably good training for this musical fantasy. She's won three Academy Awards already, and has had an extremely impressive career. Her work with Tim Burton is particularly notable here, as the dark surreality of films like Edward Scissorhands and Alice in Wonderland is similar to the gloomy forest setting of Into the Woods.

There's a classic fairytale element to these costumes, which allow for a range of different influences. The great thing about a story like this is that you can make it look historical without worrying about accuracy to the period. Hence there seems to be a little bit of an Elizabethan echo in Meryl Streep's and Emily Blunt's wardrobes. Anna Kendrick's working costume on the other hand has more of a Restoration feel, while her wedding dress is reminiscent of pre-revolutionary France.

Maleficent(Anna B. Sheppard)

Another fairytale film, this one faces us with the obvious problem that it is based on an earlier animated movie. How does a designer tackle that? They need to make the characters recognisable, but to make complete copies of the cartoon clothes would make it look like they had just been to the Disney store instead of hiring a designer. I think Anna B. Sheppard has done well in this respect. Aurora's gowns are a little more Medieval in their look, while Maleficent's imposing ensemble translates perfectly from the animated version. Enough has been changed to make it different (note the fur trim), but the shape and colours are obviously recognisable.

While Sheppard is the only one on this list to have not yet won an Academy Award, she is certainly not a newcomer to the scene. With films like Schindler's List and The Pianist under her belt, she has been working on Oscar-winning films for years, and has been nominated for three herself. Perhaps this will be her year, though I think she may be disadvantaged by the fact that when one thinks of the film, only one or two characters come to mind, so all the focus will be on a small range of costumes.

Mr Turner(Jacqueline Durran)

Jacqueline Durran is one of my absolute favourite costume designers, and long-time readers of my blog will remember how much I loved her work on Anna Karenina, for which she won the Oscar in 2013. She has worked with several British directors, such as Joe Wright, Thomas Alfredson, and in this film Mike Leigh. It therefore probably does not bode well for the Oscars that she didn't take home the BAFTA, being a darling of the British film industry. But let's take a look at the costumes anyway.

I love this period of the Victorian era for men's clothing, when top hats are at their tallest and canes are a standard accessory. Of course, all that dark material could end up looking a bit drab and dull, but this is easily avoided when you have the eye for detail which Durran has. The men may appear to all be wearing the same outfit, but when you inspect the colours of their waistcoats, the sizes of their lapels, and what other additions they may have such as gloves or pocket-watches, you see that each expresses a little something about the character. For Anna Karenina, Durran had the buttons on Vronsky's coat individually cast, as it was too difficult to find originals, which shows you she takes over the little things.

I'll be interested to see who takes home the statuette. My money is on The Grand Budapest Hotel to sweep a lot of the production design categories (as well as music, because I think Desplat's score is gorgeous and I listened to it while writing this post), but who knows? Let me know who you would like to win in the comments or tweet me @fashionmoriarty

All images are property of the film's distributor

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Nothing New Challenge: Formal Dinner

It's not often that I go to a vintage stall or shop and immediately find something I want to buy. I'm sure other second-hand enthusiasts will agree that the rummaging is all part of the fun. However, on Thursday I happened to have a fairytale moment at a weekly market. I went over to a stall which I've visited before, and which I have previously bought a lovely velvet jacket from for just £5. This time around, I immediately spotted the crazy pattern of the coat above.

I spent a few minutes looking around the rest of the stall, still clutching this beauty in my hand, but nothing could come close to grabbing my attention. I was a little unsure whether to buy it at first: would I look silly? what would I even wear it with? But, at just £12 (£10 after I bartered slightly), I decided it was worth the risk.

Already, I know I made the right decision. I've received several compliments on it, worn it both casually and to events, and am generally very pleased with it. On Friday night, I wore it as part of an ensemble for a formal dinner in my college. It turns out, I do have plenty of things which I can wear it with, mainly because I seem to own a lot of maroon things. The dress is something I bought curing my shopping trip to Chichester in a charity shop, and I think it makes for quite a nice contrast to have the different textures of the dress and the coat together. The shoes were a charity shop buy from many years ago.

Have you ever just seen something straight away which you were drawn to? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.