Monday, 7 April 2014

It costs a lot to look this cheap

When I opened a few weeks ago to check out what had been going on at Milan fashion week, the last thing I expected to be presented with was a runway model decked out like a McDonalds server. Let's be fair for a moment, what else could we expect from Jeremy Scott, the man who brought us a coathanger dress and Adidas trainers which wouldn't look out of place on a Greek god? Yet it was still a bit of a shock to the fashion world, and instantly divided opinion. And when I say it "divided opinion", I mean that the Vogue review was tentatively appreciative of the collection's humour, whilst seemingly every commenter on their Facebook page thought it was "disgusting", "tacky" and "not something I'd buy at all".

Personally, I like Jeremy Scott's particular brand of humourous design. Not to buy (as if I could afford it) but more in the way I would enjoy looking at a Tracey Emin artwork, with a mix of amusement, bewilderment, and desire to unearth the political message hidden within. Combining the imagery of one of the most recognisable brands in the world with the silhouette of the typical Chanel-wearing high-class woman seemed, to me, a comment on capitalism and its ridiculousness. You may say that McDonalds is a dominating force which impresses its image onto the masses, but could the same not be said about iconic fashion houses?

One thing which does strike me, however, is that somebody must be buying this stuff - stuff which looks rather like it came free with happy meal. Now obviously people who keep up with their fashion will know that you've purchased a new Moschino piece and will be dutifully impressed, but what about everyone else? Surely one is just paying huge sums of money to look like you've paid nothing at all?

Like it or not, fashion is often used as a status symbol. A Chanel purse doesn't just say "I appreciate the history and quality of this brand" or "I like the size and shape of this item for practical purposes", it also says "I SPENT SEVERAL THOUSAND POUNDS ON A HANDBAG!" Perhaps it's a symbol of achievement in that one can afford to buy it, or perhaps it's just a symbol of consumerism. Either way, it's showing that you have money, so what is the point of paying the same amount for something which looks like it costs a fraction of the price?

Many designers have adopted this kitsch style in recent years. Though the items themselves can sell for the usual high prices, they can look like the kind of thing you would buy in Primark. RED Valentino springs to mind, with its Disney-inspired collection. It's not that I dislike the clothes, in fact I think they're pretty cute, but I just don't understand why you'd pay the brand's usual prices (typically in the hundreds) for something you could find a similar version of for a lower price elsewhere.

Etsy (£17.96) 
RED Valentino

Now you'll say it's about quality and longevity, but with items like these, I honestly can't see them being staples which can be worn year-in year-out like a good trenchcoat or well-fitting pair of jeans. In fact, fashion in general, even the expensive stuff, is becoming more and more disposable. I doubt many people will still be wearing their McDonalds-style shirtdresses in years to come.

So what I want to know is, why are rich people spending so much on looking like they haven't spent much at all? Is it for the same reason that middle-class people will fork out for a flat in the Barbican Estate, so as to live a fantasy of the idyllic council flat existence? It has a feel of Marie Antoinette constructing a village to pretend to be a poor woman in. But perhaps it's nothing to do with this, and is in fact more about the humour of kitsch items. I guess it all comes down to exactly how much you're willing to pay in the name of comedy.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

What's In My Bag? TEDxOxford

Even though I'm a student who has to attend lectures regularly, I actually gave up the whole of my Sunday a couple of months back to go to a TEDx conference and listen to a whole host of interesting and inspiring speakers. You've probably heard of TED, and a TEDx conference is essentially the same except it's been independently organised. As well as a day of listening to thought-provoking speakers such as Laura Bates, Anders Sandberg, Susan Greenfield, and Augusta Thomson of the Girl Rising project, we were also treated to goodie bags! This is what mine contained along with a few things I gathered during the day.

TEDx tickets, wristband, and program - It was a slightly miserable wait outside in the rain before we could go into New Theatre, but once inside we were extremely excited for the conference to begin. The program was packed with speakers, all of whom had a very short slot. That was the best thing I think, because even the most engaging speaker can lose the audience's interest when they have too much time to fill.

Gloves - It was a very cold day!

Thermos - This was part of the goodie bag. We were so excited about them that we ran over to the cafe where we'd had breakfast (Combibos Coffee, a place a heartily recommend if you're ever in Oxford) and asked for our drinks to be put in them.

National Geographic Traveller - Also part of the goodie bag; I do like a good copy of Nat Geo, if only for the photography.

Phone - In contrast to most events which take place inside a theatre, the organisers encouraged us all to leave our phones on and to Tweet and Facebook throughout the day. It was slightly odd having your Tweets favourited and retweeted by several people who you knew were in the same room but didn't know where they were!

The Oxford Student - We went to Blackwells for lunch and happened to find copies of the OxStu there, which had my article about university life in it.

This happened quite a while ago now! I've had this post in the works for a good two months. Anyway, we really enjoyed the day, and if there's a TEDx conference happening near you I definitely recommend getting tickets, or even volunteering to help out. You leave with all sorts of interesting ideas buzzing round your head and it's a great way to spend the day.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

#nomakeupselfie and me

When I first saw the #nomakeupselfie craze (a viral awareness-raising campaign where nominees take photos of themselves without makeup and donate to a cancer charity) circulating Facebook, I felt somewhat uncomfortable. It was difficult to pinpoint at first, and of course I recognised the benefits of a trend which combined the mood of the moment with giving to a worthy cause; using a nominations system in the same way as the infamous neknominations did, and using it for good, is a stroke of genius. However, as articles began to come out which criticised the movement, I was able to identify what it was that I found questionable.

Firstly, the whole thing seems to imply that for a woman to show her face without any makeup is a brave act, which is quite indicative of the way society tells women they ought to cover up their 'flaws'. Now of course even though it shouldn't be scary for women to show their bare faces in the same way men can, this doesn't change the fact that for many it is a daunting task, which raises another problem: once you've been nominated, everyone has seen you tagged as a nominee, and you feel obliged to go through with it even if it makes you uncomfortable. I remember a girl at my school once being forced to remove her foundation in front of a class, crying as she did so. Makeup isn't just a way of improving how we look, it acts as a kind of armour against the world, a comforting aspect of ourselves which we have total control over. While #nomakeupselfie has its heart in the right place, I can't help feelings that some girls are going to be pressured into taking part when they really don't want to.

Secondly, as great as it is that some people are being liberated by the challenge to show their un-made-up faces for the first time in several years and being supported by their friends, I've noticed a certain trend in the comments on photos. Many people exclaim "you don't need makeup!", "so that's what you actually look like!" or "you look so much nicer naturally!". All of these things are said with the best of intentions, but sometimes it can perpetuate the notion that women wear makeup because they have something to hide, and often the assumption following this is that they must hide it in order to attract a man. I've got to be honest, I'm pretty sick of being told that I wear makeup "to get boys to like me" or "because the media has made me insecure about myself". Has it occurred to anyone that I wear makeup for fun? Or because I feel good wearing it? There are countless reasons why we use foundation and blush and mascara, and yes, sometimes that is to feel sexy, but sometimes it's to experiment with our identities or simply to mix things up.

Which leads me onto my final point (sorry this is just a complaining post, I promise I have a point). It's very sad, considering how much fun I get to have with makeup, that men can't really wear it without being seen as doing something out of the ordinary, and possibly laughed at. There have, of course, been several men in popular culture who rocked makeup - Adam Ant, David Bowie, every punk-rock band member of the mid-noughties - but often this is part of a stage persona. I love that, as part of the #nomakeupselfie craze, men are daubing on the eyeliner; it's a great way for even more money to be raised. However, it again reflects the fact that it is 'normal' for women to wear makeup and for men not to, because the point of the fundraiser is to do something out of the ordinary. That's just the way things are at the moment, but I think it's a bit sad that they are.

And so, when I was nominated, with all of this going around in my head, weighed up against the benefits of the campaign, what was I going to do?

Well, by a rather strange leap of logic, I decided to try doing my makeup like a Georgian lady.

Why? Well for several reasons. Firstly, I tend only to wear a bit of eyeliner on a regular basis (I would wear mascara too but I always seem to forget) so my no makeup selfie (which you can see at the top of the post) isn't that different to how people usually see me. To get into the spirit of things, I thought it would be good to do something far more out of the ordinary.

The other thing is that I was thinking about how there's this assumption that women will go to all sorts of lengths to change their appearance these days; while true to some extent, I feel this ignores the fact that this is not a new phenomenon. People - that's right, not just women but men too - have been doing crazy things like painting their faces with lead and pasting mouse-fur to their brows for centuries. This whole "girls cake their face with makup these days" attitude is just completely fallacious.

Richard Griffiths in Stage Beauty
Anyway, the point is that I both had fun with makeup and also did something out of the ordinary, as well as making my donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care. Don't get me wrong, I do think that #nomakeupselfie is a fantastic initiative to raise money, but there are some problems with it which I had to get off my chest. Have you been nominated? Can you think of any other alternative ways one could respond to the trend? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @fashionmoriarty

Quick Update #2

Well hello there, it has been rather a long time hasn't it? I'm afraid I'm going to do another post like the one I did way back in November to let anyone who cares know what I'm up to. I do have some proper posts in the pipeline (most of them have been there for some time) but this is a useful way for me to, if not excuse, at least beg for your understanding in why I haven't been posting often.

Since my last post:

  • I've finished my second term at university, and in the process studied all sorts of things including Virginia Woolf, Anglo-Saxon poetry, the short story, and feminist literary theory. It's gone so quickly this time, and despite the looming specter of exams, I'm looking forward to going back.
  • I've become fashion editor of The Oxford Student! If you're wondering where all my fashion output is going these days, do like us on Facebook or follow our Twitter account for updates on what we're doing.
  •  My review of The Great Gatsby has become one of my most-viewed posts, presumably because everyone was Googling Catherine Martin after she won her Best Costume Oscar. Incidentally I'm by no means surprised that she won, as the costume design in the film was stunning and - I have to say - outstripped the others in the category.
  • I've bought several fab things from charity shops, including two £1 jumpers, a glittery top, and the dress I'm pictured in above. Here's a fuller image:

  • I've written fashion articles about age, religion, gender, and individuality, as well as overseeing and styling this lovely shoot with vintage clothes from The Ballroom Emporium.
  • On a non-fashion-related note I also wrote this about the pressure for university life to be the best time of your life, and it had a very positive response from readers.
  • Costumes so far this term have included dressing as The Magic Mirror, a Grecian Urn, and wrapping myself in a rainbow flag.
  • I made a floor-speech at the Oxford Union (oh look there's a photo of that too)
Credit: Roger Askew
  • I can't think of anything else. Rest assured I will post at least one more thing before I go back to university, but as I say, if  you don't hear from me for a while, keep up with OxStu Fashion since I'll mainly be doing that.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

I Want It! Jonathan Saunders Satin Bustier Dress

Valentine's Day is fast-approaching, and despite being single, I just can't quite bring myself to hate the holiday, even if it is 99% commercial trash. I just have a really deep appreciation of a really nice shade of pink or a flash of red lace, so in amongst the tackiness, I always tend to find something which catches my fancy at this time of year. And you really can't deny that this Jonathan Saunders creation is the perfect Valentine's day dress. Its bustier top and smooth satin finish make it super-sexy, but the length of the skirt adds a romantic touch. You also haven't seen the best part yet...

It has red lining! I think that's just the cherry on the cake. I do love a good surprise lining, because it's like a little treat for the wearer and the wearer alone; you should always dress first and foremost for yourself. However, despite being half price, this dress is still £447, a little beyond most of our budgets. I've been hunting for alternatives at the other end of the price scale, and it seems that only Jonathan Saunder has precisely this balance of sexy and romantic, but these two dresses from ASOS separately embody one each (and are much cheaper).
Satin Bodycon Dress by Ryan Odell £27.50
Little Mistress Floral Organza Dress £24

However you're spending Valentine's Day (personally I will be going with a group of friends to a Bridget Jones screening where we'll have wine, Chinese food, and chocolate), I hope it's a good one, and that you perhaps find your perfect romantic/sexy pink dress, even if it's just for your own satisfaction.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Doctor's New Look


So my regular readers may well remember that a few months back when Peter Capaldi was announced as the 12th incarnation of the Doctor in the BBC's Doctor Who, I wrote a post theorizing on what he might wear. Well, his costume has now been released to the world, and I can safely say that I was pretty much completely wrong in every one of my predictions. His costume does not feature a jacket, but a coat; he doesn't have a scarf, nor a pair of glasses (as far as we currently know - he might have some for certain occasions). The only vaguely correct thing I put forward is period detail, because although this is a very minimalist costume, it certainly has an air of the past. This is, I think, perfect for everything I'm hoping Capaldi's Doctor will be.

The coat is already a hit with fans, and rightly so. It will look pretty cool in the inevitably high number of running scenes. I'm also glad for the cardigan. It seems like a slight joke about this Doctor being older, but also lends a touch of class. A silk waistcoat might be a bit too much like Matt Smith's Doctor, and a flannel waistcoat would be, as we all know from Sense and Sensibility, "invariably connected with aches, cramps, rheumatisms, and every species of ailment that can afflict the old and the feeble." Another detail which many have picked up on is that he appears to be wearing a wedding ring this series. Either this is an indication that River Song will feature more in this series (which I suspect she will) or that Capaldi forgot to take his off before they started filming.

Overall I think it's an excellent costume though I do think that the promo shot makes it look a little dull, so I'm looking forward to seeing it in action, just as much as I'm looking forward to seeing the man himself at the helm of the TARDIS. What about you? Are you excited for the new series, and what do you think of the costume? Let me know in the comments or on my twitter!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Fashion 'Rules' You Should Break This Year

original collage artwork by me

Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in a rut, and not necessarily a bad one either. Tried-and-tested styles become our day-to-day wear, usually because we feel comfortable in them. And yet, no matter how well they suit us, these clothes can begin to be humdrum. So what better month than January to break those "rules" that we can all too often accept without question.

"Less is more"
Coco disapproving of your lifechoices (x)
Do you really think that this is what Coco Chanel, the queen of chic, had in mind when she piled all those pearl necklaces around her neck? Yes, minimalism is all well and good, but too many times I've regretted playing it safe with an outfit which I know could have been far more eye-catching. So, try adding an extra piece of jewellery, mixing prints, or introducing another colour into the mix. If you need further convincing, check out this piece by Imogen Fox.

"Don't impulse-buy"
Just some light shopping (x)

What goes through your mind in the few minutes after discovering a garment? After the initial "this is gorgeous!" I bet you find yourself questioning "will I ever wear this?" "what will its cost-per-wear be?" "will I regret buying this?" and, more often than not, you end up sadly replacing it onto the rack. Now I'm not advocating reckless spending - nobody wants to be in a Confessions of a Shopaholic situation - but just once in a while I think it's good for us to buy something we really really love. Even if it is a floor-length sequin gown which you never get an opportunity to wear, just the pure pleasure of owning it is surely worth something. Plus you never know when that embellished matador-style jacket will be exactly what you need.

"Black is always best"
Charlotte Free is tired of the same old colours (x)
Now I've nothing to say against everyone's favourite go-to colour, in fact I'm not going to talk about it much at all, leaving that to my editor on the OxStu, Ellie Grange, who has written this piece about the shade. What I will say though is that there are so many other colours which deserve a look-in, and they don't even have to be particularly outlandish. I feel, for instance, that a red or white dress can be just as much of a wardrobe staple as the classic LBD. Then again, perhaps you're after excitement, in which case I have one word or you: gold. I love gold. Just go crazy with it next time you're invited to a party, or maybe work out a way to incorporate it into your daywear.