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

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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.

Friday, 26 September 2014

I Want It! The Grand Budapest Hotel - Mendl's Box Necklace

So I haven't quite refined the rules of my Nothing New Challenge yet, but I'm pretty sure they'll include not being able to buy new jewellery. However, it's not like I can exactly help it if people buy me new things as gifts right?! Well... anyway. Just on the offchance, I may have started building up a little fantasy Christmas list, and this little Etsy beauty is right at the top.

For those of you who haven't seen Wes Anderson's latest film, the little boxes on these necklaces are modelled after the containers for exquisite pastries from the fictional Mendl's, which appear throughout The Grand Budapest Hotel. Saoirse Ronan plays Agatha, who bakes these beautiful treats (called a 'courtesan au chocolat' - you can watch a video about how to make them here). At just £8, this necklace is not only an affordable and adorable addition to an outfit, but also an easy conversation-starter when you meet other people who have seen the film.

I think if I had one of these adorable necklaces, I would try to put together an outfit a bit like Agatha's; the sugary-sweet pastels are just perfect for this confectionery-themed accessory! Perhaps searching for an outfit like this will be another mission to incoroporate into my Nothing New Challenge.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Places for second-hand shopping: Dublin

In writing this series of places for second-hand shopping, there will inevitably be a mixture of towns and cities I know well (stay tuned for Winchester and Oxford), ones I've managed to thoroughly explore in a day (like Chichester) and others which really are too vast for me to accurately cover everything. That's the case with this post about Dublin, and I'll have a similar problem when I get round to talking about London.

However, even though I'm sure a local would be more aptly-equipped to tell you about Dublin's vintage/second-hand hotspots, I hope I'm in a good position to advise short-term visitors. Most of my shopping took place on one day, so if you're planning a whirlwind trip, maybe I can be of use with my recommendations, inexpert as they may be.

As a starting point, I searched the fashion blogosphere for information, and came across this post on Dandelion Dreamer. It's from awhile ago, but she recommended the shop Harlequin, and it sounded like there were others in the vicinity, so off we headed to Castle Market.

Before we even made it to our destination, we came across a fashion show - the second one we'd seen in our few days there. As it happens, Dublin Fashion Festival had coincided with our trip. The night before our shopping trip, we had stumbled across the final of Young Designer of the Year at the Bank of Ireland, and clung on to the railings at the edge of the private event in order to watch it! The second show was a public one, and as actually happened to feature an outfit comprised of clothes from Harlequin! Now doubly excited, we continued on.

Characteristically though, Dublin threw up plenty of distractions. For a start, there was a branch of Oxfam nearby, where I ended up buying a red dress (more on that and other charity shops later). Then there was a place called the Powerscourt Centre. Here you can find several (mostly quite expensive) shops in the gorgeous setting of a renovated Georgian (?) building. We didn't stay long enough to have a proper look around (mainly because I was distracted by the lovely stationery in Article, one of the first shops we came across) but if you're interested they have several antiques stores, as well as a rather lovely-looking range of places to eat.

Although by now we were on William Street South, and therefore just a few steps from Castle Market, where Harlequin is located, we still managed to find something to be diverted by. this time it was another vintage shop. From the outside, The Dublin Vintage Factory, a basement store which you have to go down an iron staircase to reach, looks like it could be a bit weird (and not in a good way). However, once inside, it's a haven. Neatly organised with a front and back section, it's a pleasant store to browse. I'd almost say that they've gone too far in terms of ease of access, and don't actually have enough stock on show; although I find some vintage stores too cramped, I also enjoy the rummage through racks of items to find that one hidden treasure. This shop is still certainly worth a visit though, as it's very cool and also quite affordable.

After this, we at last ventured into Harlequin. It did not disappoint. Not only is there plenty of stock, there's also a lot of space. Spanning two floors, they hold a huge range of dresses, tops, jackets and sunglasses. On that particular day, everything upstairs was half-price, so I bought this cute white top for €10. As you can probably see it has a slightly odd hem where I think someone has (badly) shortened it at some point, so I'm considering either unpicking and re-doing that or even cropping it a bit more.

Now onto Drury Street, we went to another shop recommended by Sorcha of Dandelion Dreamer: Jenny Vander. This has some lovely pieces, and a lot of gorgeous jewellery, but it isn't really the kind of place I would shop at. It's probably more of a destination for serious collectors and those with high budgets for special occasions. After a brief look around, we crossed the street and went to Om Diva. 

This was a lot more my kind of thing. Upstairs they have new clothes with a distinctly retro feel which, though they are off-limits to me because of my Nothing New Challenge, were nice to have a look at. Then downstairs is a girly paradise of a vintage shop. There are a lot of pretty lampshades and pastel tones around, to the extent that you might be worried it would look tacky. I can assure you though that, for me at least, the effect was just comforting and fun, like you're in the living room of a particularly artistic old lady.

The pieces ranged in price from everyday buys to very special occasions, and the changing-rooms were so pretty I just felt I had to try something on, so I went for a €220 beaded dress. Although it was a couple of sizes too big and way out of my price range, I think an important principle of vintage shopping is trying on things you think you'll never buy. It can just help you to get a feel for what styles do and don't suit you, and figure out whether you'd be comfortable wearing a heavy 1920s gown or leather 1960s miniskirt. Plus it's always fun to fantasise about the day you'll be able to afford that stunning piece.

Ambling along, we came upon George Street Arcade. This was nice for a wander through, and we had a look at some of the vintage-sellers set up on stalls here. We also went to a self-service fro-yo place, the likes of which I haven't been to since I was in Tacoma, Washington! This was a good place for us to stop, recharge, and use the arcade's free Wi-Fi to share the news of our fro-yo discovery with the world.

Once on the other side, we didn't have much idea of where to go next, so just continued up South Great George's Street, then went back along Exchequer Street to the top of Drury Street. On the corner we spotted another cute-looking shop called Carousel. At first it looked like it just sold pretty retro-style new clothes, which really tested my resolve since a lot of them were just my kind of thing. But then, as my travelling companion Holly was going downstairs to find the changing rooms, she popped back up and called me over: "There's lots of vintage down here!"

And so there was! In fact their range was mainly dresses of all different colours, but mostly of the same price (usually €49). Much like Om Diva, they had a lovely atmosphere for trying things on, with plenty of changing booths and a chaise longue on which to recline in the middle of the room. This is probably a really good place to go if you are a little daunted by the thought of vintage, because it's all very nicely laid-out, with nothing too outlandish, but still with that unique air you can only get from second-hand clothes.

Now that I've rounded up the choicest stores in that area (basically the streets which you can find leading off from Exchequer Street), I'll say a little bit about charity shops. We didn't come across a whole lot of variety, but there were several well-stocked branches of Oxfam. I bought my red dress from the one on King Street South, and we tried on various items in the one on South George's Street. We even visited a branch in Malahide, when we visited the castle. Although you may well find a lot of the stock is fairly similar to other charity shops, there's still a chance you'll find something interesting, which you can then confidently proclaim you "bought in Dublin".

My red dress, second-hand A-Wear
Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter. I'd love some suggestions for other towns and cities I can explore in search of excellent second-hand finds, so get in touch!