Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The best of Pinterest this week

I love this woman's work so much, she especially has a certain knack for commercials which make me want to buy whatever the hell they're selling. Have you seen the new one she's done for Marni at H&M? Just magical.

Backstage at Vivienne Westwood Red Label
The markings on this model's hands remind me of tarot cards. I'm not sure if that's the aim, but yet again the mother of punk makes something slightly unsettling into a work of art.

I think this struck me as an image because I was watching The truman Show the other day (remember the bit when he notices that Meryl is crossing her fingers in their wedding photo?). Why do people cross their fingers when they lie, but also do it for good luck? One seems quite a negative to use the sign, the other quite positive. Either way, I love this little sketch. I think I might print it out small to keep in a locket during exams.

This is a recipe from That's So Michelle, which I really want to try because, in my opinion, cauliflower is a much neglected vegetable. It has so much great flavour! I'm also vegetarian for Lent this year so am looking for alternatives to some of my favourite meat dishes (many of which are Asian cuisine).

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Film Review: The Artist

What's it about?
In case you didn't know - George Valentin has Hollywood in the palm of his hand, he's the guy people go to the pictures to see, but not hear. He meets aspiring actress Peppy Miller just before the arrival of the 'Talkies', which his employers Kinograph Studios decide to focus on exclusively. Suddenly their roles are reversed as Peppy becomes the new star of the movies and nobody wants to see a film starring George, the actor who won't talk. If you want to know what happens next, you'd better go and see it.

Was it any good?
I was expecting to like it and the film more than lived up to my expectations. It was a full cinema, which created a lovely atmosphere and you could really feel the audience's approval at all the little funny moments, even ones which we've already seen a million times in previews. I'm not sure if it can really give the same thrill when it goes to DVD, but in the cinema everything felt just right. The music is excellent (it really had to be in order to accompany a silent movie), the cinematography intelligent and the acting superb.

I'm sure you've all heard so much about this movie, and it is bound to sweep all the awards categories. Let me just tell you that the hype isn't for nothing. It is a whole new cinema experience for many people, which makes a statement about a time of change in the industry. At its heart though, is a very sweet and human story. You will not regret going to see it!

But what about the clothes?
Mark Bridges has already received 5 awards for his work designing costume for the film, including a BAFTA. It remains to be seen whether he'll be handed the Oscar too, but I think it fairly likely - which is quote sad for the two films which have only been nominated in the costume category (W.E. and Anonymous) but I think The Artist really does deserve it. Not only did it evoke the glory of the golden age of Hollywood, it even depicted the rise and fall of the two main characters through their dress, especially in the scene on the stairs, as Peppy ascends in a brilliantly fresh white dress and George descends in a rather stuffy and old-fashioned looking suit. The achievement of producing costumes which maintain their full effect even in black and white is certainly laudable. I hope Bridges gets the recognition he deserves.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Fashion Moriarty Guide to Oxford

I've often felt that Oxford is one of those places where I just know I belong. My other places are Winchester, where I live, and Sorrento in Italy, where I would love to live on day and maybe brush up on my Italian! I was born in Oxford so I guess that explains my partiality to it. To anyone who hasn't been there (and some who have) the city probably appears to be a big old University town with some pretty buildings which they filmed harry Potter in. The truth is that this is only the half of it. Yes, there are beautiful streets to get lost in and grand old buildings to look around, but there is so much more to Oxford. After all, anywhere with that many students has to have a little bit of an alternative flavour right?

The Shops

Pictured above is Oxford's best and most welcoming haberdashery shop, Darn It & Stitch. Last time I was in Oxford with my friend Holly, we went in to buy ribbon and it turned out they were having a charity fundraising knitting session upstairs. We left about 2 or 3 hours later having learned to knit, given away money to a very worthy cause, eaten two home-made cupcakes each and bought one pack of home-made fudge.It was a fantastically enjoyable afternoon and we were welcomed by everyone there. Even when there aren't special events, the shop is a great place to find deliciously cute buttons, ribbons, wool and anything else you may need for crafting or perhaps customising some old clothes.

My other favourite places to shop are pretty much all in the same place: Cowley Road. It's definitely the trendier, more multicultural end of Oxford. David Cameron's student house was here, and there are all sorts of independent shops selling everything from board games to Fairtrade coffee.In terms of fashion, my absolute favourite place is The Ballroom, a vintage shop which also hires out suits and gowns for special occasions. I love the endless stock of men's cricket jumpers and pre-loved handbags. Further up Cowley, you'll find another shop Reign Wear, and a good selection of charity shops where you're sure to find a stylish bargain.

Food & Drink
Just looking at that continental breakfast from Puccino's makes me want to eat it all over again! Puccino's is one of my favourite places to eat because the atmosphere is great, the prices are reasonable and they put funny little messages on all their crockery, all over the menus and across the walls. It has a great personality, but is by no means the only good place to eat in Oxford.

Back on Cowley Road, if desserts and sweet treats are your thing then you don't want to miss Rick's Cafe. It has a smart but cosy atmosphere and apparently free wifi. But the best part has to be the Italian/French style cakes, puddings and, best of all, macaroons at 90p each. There are so many flavours - I think the one pictured was rhubarb and strawberry. George and Delia's is also good, especially for milkshakes, but can get overrun with students on laptops at certain times. In the city centre, I also love the Nosebag, where you can get a healthy but filling lunch of mixed salads, and there is plenty for veggies.

Other things to do

It's a bit obvious, but there are always the standard Oxford activities - look around a college, go to the Ashmolean museum, take a punt down the river (it was too cold to do that last time we went). The reason so many people want to do them is because they are genuinely worth doing. But if you've been there, done that, iI have a few recommendations. See what's on at the Playhouse, spend some time in the covered market (make sure you buy a cookie while you're there), walk through the Botanic Gardens or just move from one cafe to another, trying the coffee and reading a book. That's pretty much what I did, and it is simply bliss.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

I Want It! Murder She Wrote - Gold Typewriter Necklace

Was just browsing Etsy when I came across this. How cute is that? I love how much detail is in it, right down to the words on paper. It might be a bit of a chunky weight to carry around your neck but definitely worth it as a conversatio-starting piece. It's also the perfect gift for anyone who likes whimsical jewellery and is perhaps a fan of murder mysteries. It personally reminds me of a play called Deathtrap which I saw on the West End. So basically, I love everything about this necklace.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

What the couturiers can teach you about Valentine's Day dressing

Giambattista Valli

Lace is most definitely in - blame the Duchess of Cambridge. Or Sarah Burton. Together, they helped to launch lace back from the realms of granny net curtains and fussy table cloths to the ultimate romantic material. Perhaps if you're in a relatively new relationship, it's best to steer clear of white, you don't want to look like you're preparing to walk down the aisle already! On the other hand, you could carry a bouquet and wear a veil and some men still won't take the hint...

Bouchra Jarrar
A dress is not compulsory - if you haven't seen the whole of Bouchra Jarrar's collection, I recommend you check it out. It embodies that mood we've been feeling of a feminine but strong 40s style from Winter and takes it forward to a very professional-looking summer.Trousers are notoriously difficult to find the perfect pair of, but if you know you look good in yours, it can be a fantastically relaxed way to make a statement. That statement of course being: I wear the trousers in this relationship.

Elie Saab
Sugary pastels aren't just for little girls - it can sometimes be hard not to get swept up in the sweetness and romanticism of Valentine's day when it's everywhere you look. While it is important to maintain a level head and remember that it's been exploited by commercialism, I say that there's nothing wrong with throwing yourself whole-heartedly in the spirit of things. In addition to that, the spring collections we've seen of late have achieved an easy, ladylike elegance in lemon, rose, mint and lavender while not allowing the impression to be that of a princess/cupcake look. I think the key is to keep hair and make-up minimal, as above.

You don't have to bare all to be beautiful - again with the 40s vibe. A high neckline, low hemline and exaggerated shoulders, all worn with flat shoes, may not be your idea of alluring. However, providing you wear a flirty print and a dress with some movement, the effect is both fun and flattering. The vital ingredient to any outfit though, has to be confidence, and providing you have that, you'll be fine.

All images from

Saturday, 11 February 2012

BAFTA Costume Design nominees

Last year's winner, Colleen Atwood, who won for Alice in Wonderland

Costume can be an under-appreciated art in the film industry, but it has seen an improvement in recent years. This year's nominees for the Orange British Academy Film Awards all reflect a nostalgic mood which has run through cinema recently, as all are period dramas, spanning from the 1830s to the early 1970s. There seems to be a particular fascination with the period from pre-WW1 to post-WW2. I think they're all worthy nominees in terms of costume, as each has had to achieve the look of an era while maintaining a character's individuality. Let's take a closer look.

The Artist - Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges has a pretty respectable back catalog including The Fighter and There Will Be Blood, but nothing has garnered quite such acclaim as this year's sensational silent movie The Artist. I think that the key to this year's success lies in the fact that his previous work has been more functional to the filming than central to the plot. The challenge with a black and white film is of course to capture the character's personality without the use of colour. It is not a challenge which arises for many costume designers these days, and I think Bridges has caught the golden age superbly considering this.

Hugo - Sandy Powell

Sandy Powell is an absolute goddess of the industry and has already won 3 Oscars for her work on Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator and Young Victoria. While Hugo is set in 1930s Paris, there is also an element of fairytale nostalgia (you know, the kind you see in Harry Potter et al) which makes it an interesting film visually. From the picture above, you can tell that the palette is quite dusty, full of golds and browns, but Powell has once again created a simple but beautiful wardrobe by mixing patterns and textures for an eclectic feel.

Jane Eyre - Michael O'Connor

Michael O'Connor was probably an obvious choice for this Bronte adaptation, as he is best know for his Oscar-winning costume design in the Kiera Knightley period drama The Duchess. While Jane Eyre requires nothing quite so extravagant, there is a sort of natural progression from one period to the other, and he is clearly a master of the full skirt. I have chosen an image which does not feature the title character, which is because I just adore this dress. Look at the way it matches the scene through the colours of the stripes which are identical to the shades of the framing flowers. It is a typical style of early Victorian fashion, but also avoids a common misconception we may have of this era being drab and dull. A very fitting (in more ways than one) wardrobe.

My Week With Marilyn - Jill Taylor

My personal favourite, I have already waxed lyrical on the excellent visuals in this film about the filming of The Prince and The Showgirl, not least of which were the costumes. I think the main achievement has to be the exquisite balance between orignal creations in the style of the time and painstaking recreations of outfits Marilyn was photographed wearing. Jill taylor has a huge collection of British films to be proud of under her belt already, such as Johnny English and The Full Monty, and I'm hoping that this year sees her receive the recognition she deserves.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Jacqueline Durran

Even rather serious, grey films set in the Cold War need an outstanding costume department. Jacqueline Durran is another designer with more than one aesthetically pleasing British film on her CV, and here she has again worked her magic to make a set of costumes which fit the mood, setting and time of the film (unfortunately whoever did the shot above wasn't quite so historically accurate as I can see a plastic reflective bollard in the far left which I don't think they had in the early 1970s). However, I think if it does win, it will be less a reflection of this film alone, which, let's face it, is mainly about Gary Oldman's glasses, it will be more becasue another BAFTA is owed to Durran. She has won before, for Vera Drake, but only nominated for Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. While it is a great achievement in accurate menswear, I just don't see this film winning based on trench coats and suits alone.

And a quick note on the Oscars:
The first 3 on this list remain the same, but instead of Tinker and Marilyn, they have Anonymous and W.E. These are both worthy nominations and I'm not sure why BAFTA passed over them, especially Anonymous, which is filled with sumptious Elizabethan costume. Again, they fit in with the trend for period dramas, and I rather think they have a good chance (or let's hope so, because they haven't been nominated for anything else).

All images from IMDB

Friday, 10 February 2012

Snow Style

Last night, we had the most pathetic smattering of snow. Nothing was cancelled (except for a few wimpy buses) but it was deep enough to start a few snowball fights. Now on a normal snow day most people wouldn't bother that much with what they wear - functionality in order to win snowball fights is the order of the day. But it wasn't really deep enough for that. So it interested me what everyone decided to wear today with a mix of style and snow-friendliness. Here are some of my favourites.

This is Amelia. While she is normally very well-dressed anyway, I was particularly impressed that she could pull off a pair of earmuffs! I also think it's very easy to fall into an odd mixture of different coloured clothes on a cold morning, so I think she's done well to gather an outfit which is so well-coordinated and also bucks the trend of dark colours for Winter.

Issy's floral Laura Ashley Wellies and my green ones
Wellies became acceptable footwear, especially for those of us who walk to college on an entirely uphill route (i.e. me) because it's better to pull a Kate Moss and rock your boots like you're at Glastonbury than to persevere with flimsy shoes and end up slipping and going round for the rest of the day with water on your bum...

Hats and scarves don't have to be boring. Issy had a lovely white woollen hat to match the snow and a cute patterned scarf to add interest to her look. We had a lot of fun frolicking in what was left of the snow during a free period, and while my ears got very cold, I trust that Issy's didn't.

Alex's boot is falling to pieces. I imagine this is due to thorough use, mainly in having a few epic snowball fights on the hill outside. I really like these, they look like the kind of boots you could go on an adventure in or just into town, and they'll probably last for ages - though evidently not for ever.

Oscar, Issy and I took advantage of the lack of people around and went for a photo session outside. The main aim of taking my camera with me today was to record Oscar's new coat (which he must have had for a couple of weeks now. So, I probably ought to talk a little about it...

Oscar's coat was elegant the cut was fine.
The tasteful style was the ultimate in good design
And this is why
It caught the eye
A king would stop and stare!

But seriously, while it's fun to randomly quote Joseph and His Technicolour Dreamcoat, I do really like it. There are two different coloured threads in light grey and dark grey running thorough it, so the overall impression is of a mix between the two colours. It is a good shade to wear with anything really, but it's far from boring, because interest is added in the smart collar and buttonhole. Plus, it has pockets - an advantage which much menswear has over any womenswear equivalent. It puts me in mind of two things: Sherlock's coat and the Fall 2012 collection from Berluti menswear.


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Read Dickens today

From moodboard
Today, the UK is going mad for Charles Dickens. It is his 200th birthday, and we've already been treated to new adaptations of Great Expectations and the Mystery of Edwin Drood. More is to come, including another Great Expectation and a series of programmes on TV and radio. You might think Dickens has little to do with fashion, but I argue that EVERYTHING is to do with fashion.

Even today, Dickens characters inspire stylists, designers and general stylish people to dress unexpectedly. In particular, 'Miss Havisham glam' saw a surge in popularity in ast year's couture and bridalwear collections. His work has also been the source of many great films, TV shows and plays. All of these require costumes, and it must be a costume-designer's dream to land such a project. There is already a basic description and a style of the time to work from, but the characters allow much room for interpretation as far as wardrobe is concerned. Since many of them are larger than life, it makes sense for their clothes to reflect that part of their personality, and so be a little over the top.

So today, pay tribute to the man who is in part responsible for many of the best screen costumes of our time. Pick up a copy of something he has written and get stuck in to the effortlessly detailed character description. Who knows? Maybe it will inspire what you wear tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Who DESERVES to be a cover girl?

I tend to regularly check out who the new Teen Vogue cover girl is this month, even if I won't be able to get the magazine for another few weeks. The best way to do this is to look at their Facebook fan-page's profile picture, and by doing this, I tend to see all the comments on the design, clothes and -crucially- star of the cover. The March issue featured Kendall and Kylie Jenner. Cue an almost totally even divide of people who love the girls and are pleased to see them on the cover and those who see no reason for them to be there at all, disappointed in the choice. It got me thinking - how on earth do you decide who "deserves" to be on the cover of a magazine?

Liya Kebede on the May 2008 Harper's Bazaar (image from here)

The thing is, back in the old days all you had to do was be of model looks and build and be known to the editors, but not necessarily to the general public. Of course, a handful of girls went on to be supermodels, known by name across the world, but more often than not, it was less about the model herself and more about the photograph, the mood, the colour, the clothes. For me, this might mean that someone with no real ability except to pose nicely has made it onto the news-stands, but at least they're doing their job and doing it well. It seems somehow more innocent, in the sense that they are there to show the trends of the season, fashion at its purest, rather than to plug their new album/film/show like most celebrities tend to do these days.

Vogue December 1965 (image from the Vogue Archives)

Please don't think I'm naive or idealistic. I realise that this is just the way of the publishing world today, and the age of celebrity was bound to manifest itself somehow. I also have to confess to being a total sucker whenever I spot Emma Watson, Vanessa Hudgens or Karlie Kloss fronting the latest issue of some magazine I've never bought before - out comes the money and away I go with my shiny new magazine. But now we come back to the odd question of whether someone should be on a cover. Surely the main reason an editor would put them there is to sell copies? Is that all that should matter, or do they also need to be accomplished at what they do, have a great sense of style and be a role model to girls everywhere? There certainly seems to be this idea that cover stars, particularly for magazines aimed at younger audiences, should be a positive role model. I see the logic in this, but I think we're forgetting something about the roots of youth fashion.

Jean Shrimpton in the iconic 1962 New York shoot by David Bailey for Vogue

When teenagers started to make themselves known as a part of the fashion scene, a huge part of the aesthetic was the idea of rebellion. Against your parents, against society, against what was expected of you. We look back on images of young models and early celebrity cover girls who led far from wholesome lives (sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, you know, that sort of thing) and celebrate their ingenuity as an innovation in the way we saw fashion. So doesn't that leave the demand for a well-behaved, non-smoking, innocent cover girl looking a little, well, hypocritical? Besides all that, a lot of magazines are criticised when they feature someone who is deemed not to have achieved anything 'worthy'. Well how do you define that? Do they have to have been in an Oscar-winning film rather than a TV sitcom? Should they have produced a self-written and critically acclaimed album rather than appearing on the X Factor? What we end up doing is creating a divide between 'high' culture and 'low' culture to determine who gets that coveted spot. Some may say that none of those people have done enough to warrant this amount of attention and we should see politicians, doctors, lawyers, academics, philanthropists and entrepreneurs on magazine covers. The way I see it, we'll never be able to decide whose achievements mean they deserve this honour, perhaps it is best to admire instead the achievements of the magazine's team in terms of the design, styling, hair & makeup on the cover, and don't forget the quality of the written articles and interviews inside.

I suppose what I'm saying is, sometimes it's best not to judge a magazine by its cover girl (or boy).

Friday, 3 February 2012

I Want It! Barbour Caramel Canvas Beacon Backpack

For me, backpacks bring back memories of being 11, a small person in a big school and dragging around all my books in  a bag so large that if I lay down with it one, I'd just be stuck there. Like a tortoise. Despite this, I've seen the backpack gain some popularity in recent years. I think the key is not to go too oversized, but instead to carry your essentials in some cute but functional on your back. A subtle colour helps too, and the delicious caramel shade of this Barbour bag is right up my street. Not to mention that it is both en vogue and will pretty much go with everything.

In terms of the image it gives out, the unattractive clich├ęs of overloaded school pupils and determined tourists have been turned to the backpack's advantage. It is the favoured luggage of many a stylish foreign exchange student, young traveller and Preppy university-goer. This Barbour number may be expensive, but my goodness is it gorgeous.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Things I've liked in January

As the new month begins, I've just had time to collect my thoughts on the month passed. January has been pretty good for me, and I'm starting to feel that freshness which comes hand in hand with a new year, new season and a good dose of invigorating cold weather! These are my favourite things from the last 31 days.

Jane Keltner de Valle's foray into the realms of the hat world as she tries out Philip Treacy's new collection - in Teen Vogue

Shannon's 4 Ways to Guarantee a Great Monday over at The Simply Luxurious Life

Making it onto the pages of Teen Vogue and being included in Links a la Modetwice!

The natural look of flushed cheeks in the cold

Getting excited for Winchester Fashion Week in June!

Avoiding being outside for too long by reading a book in a cafe

Learning how to use nude tones in make-up from Sali Hughes

The return of colour. I mean, can there be a more joyful sight than this?