Monday, 26 November 2012

7 gifts which aren't objects

This week's IFB Project is to make a gift guide which stands out. I thought for a while about what I could do to make something different, and eventually came up with this: things which you can't exactly wrap up and hand over, but which make great gifts nonetheless. Some of these work as gifts on their own and others work in tandem with physical objects which you can make part of the experience. It's also a mix of ones which will cost you absolutely nothing or very little and ones which will probably be more expensive than a traditional gift.

1. Promise them a romantic home-cooked dinner
Obviously this can be one for your other half, but you don't have to be romantically involved with someone to enjoy a candle-lit dinner for two. They are a great way to catch up without any of the stress of finding a table at a restaurant and with the extra comfort of cooking your own food. Even if you're not an expert chef, there are so many simple recipes out there - I find Italian food to be particularly simple and delicious.

2. Write them a song, poem or short story
Unleash your creativity! Admittedly this is more of a one for the writers/musicians amongst us, and if you fit that description then go for it. But bear in mind: I didn't say it had to be a good song, poem or short story. It's the thought that counts right?

3. Take them on a tour of the area
Works especially well for friends visiting from somewhere else over the holidays, but I do think it's always possible to put a new twist on places you've both been countless times. Perhaps seek out the nicest architecture, or explore those side-streets you never really go down. If you live somewhere with an interesting literary history, you could take them on a tour of the literary sites then gift them a book at the end. In Winchester, where I live, there's even a website about the city's literary links, which is helpful!

4. Book tickets to their favourite play/a play with their favourite actor in
It doesn't have to take place around Christmas, in fact it could be months away, but they will be thankful for it and perhaps even enjoy the anticipation. The point is, an experience they won't forget is worth so much more than most physical gifts. Just make sure you reserve the date in their diary well ahead of schedule.

5. Buy them a web address
Know someone who has recently started a blog? Think that it has the potential to become somewhat of a success? Buying somone their own URL is simple to do but is a really thoughtful gesture.
P.S. Thanks Matt

6. Offer free use of your special skill
Web design, rigging electricals, styling, painting, fixing bikes, whatever you do, just offer to do it for free. It could be anything really, though preferably something that you wouldn't just do for them anyway because that's not much of a gift. This is a particularly good one for helping out people who have just moved into a new home, got a new job, had a baby etc. as it helps take some pressure off them.

7. Dedicate a blog post to them
This post is for Holly <3

Friday, 23 November 2012

Passion in Fashion

Alexi Lubomirski for Harper's Bazaar

Forgive the long preamble: I'm studying The House of Bernarda Alba (or La Casa de Bernarda Alba in its original form) by Frederico Garcia Lorca at the moment - it's a play centering around a mother and her five unmarried daughters in a claustrophobic Spanish town. It's known as 'a tragedy of the women of Spain', in which the women are oppressed by the patriarchal society. This is represented buy the fact that these women are kept contained inside their mother's house, all of them dressed in black against the white background, making everything strikingly monochromatic. As soon as any of them try to break out from this, for instance when the youngest sister wears a green dress, the others inform on her or enforce the tyranny of the household. While the play was written prior to the Spanish civil war, there are certainly strong indications that this was a statement about the oppression of the fascist movement. However, I think that by using the green dress as a symbol of rebellion and freedom, Lorca was referencing a universal idea. Controlling what people wear is often a symbol for the control of all their other rights to do, think, and say as they please.

Photo by me
What I'm trying to say here is that in both fiction and reality, being told what to wear is a form of control - after all, what are school uniforms for? So when we have the opportunity to break free of these constraints, should we not take full advantage of that chance? I for one think that since we live in a free society, it makes sense to dress as passionately and individually as we think.  I'm not saying we should do a Dello Russo and wear the craziest creations and colours we can find, I just think that if you follow all trends with no thought to how much you actually like the look, you won't be passionate about what you're wearing, and that's kind of sad.

Anna Dello Russo
A while back, I was in Australia feeling homesick and powerless as the London riots were happening back home. I did the only thing I could, and used this blog as a platform for my thoughts. I couldn't understand why people were tearing apart their own city in an act of rebellion without a cause, when there are so many more effective and less destructive ways of protesting. And one of these is through fashion. So that's one way to put passion into what you're wearing; support a cause you believe in. Personally, I'm after a No More Page 3 T-shirt right now, because that's something I feel strongly about.

Photo from the No More Page 3 Tumblr
But what I'm really saying here is that the ways you can express yourself through fashion are endless. You can use it to reference your favourite TV shows, books and films using anything from charms subtly inspired by the stories to all-out fan T-shirts. You can reflect your mood by wearing bright colours when you're feeling good, or even  use it to improve your mood by dressing fabulously when you're having a bad day. Practicality always comes into outfits, but if you know what kind of clothes you love, you can make choices of raincoats, sunhats, flat shoes etc. that don't compromise the excitement you feel about getting dressed.

Of course, for those of us with a limited income, it can often feel like it's easy to get excited about those gorgeous, unattainable items which we can never afford, while things within our price-range tend to be a bit boring. Well, if that's the way you feel, try going a while without buying anything new. I haven't been purchasing much lately, and I think it's actually helped me to feel excited about even the most basic new piece. I think there is a major problem with our consumerist society in that we are so used to having new things that the excitement wears off and it's difficult to stay passionate about any new clothes for a long time, leading us to just buy more and more. Going cold turkey for a month or so is a great way to rediscover the pure and simple joy of buying something special. Plus, you'll have saved a load of money so might be able to invest in something you've been lusting after for ages - much better than a quick fix of whatever's on sale!

Save up for an investment piece instead of just buying anything - form The Coveteur

That's all for now. Just remember: fashion is about enjoying yourself and being enthusiastic about what you're wearing. If you're just following the lead of a fashion trend you're not really that into, then surely the way you wear your clothes will be different, because people will be able to tell that you aren't confident in your style. Have fun and stay passionate about fashion!
David Dunan for Blanco

Friday, 16 November 2012

Links a la Mode

Color Stories

  Edited By: Taylor Davies Aubergine. Oceanic blue. Wedding White. For this week’s Links a la Mode round up, I focused on posts that drew inspiration or centered around color. Whether it was styling up a range of colorful pants or looking at the rise of black and white dressing, there were so many creative and cool blog posts centering on color. Take a look, get inspired and taste the rainbow!


  SPONSOR: Shopbop 40% Sale: FreePeople, Tsovet, DKNY, Watches, T-bags, Hatch, Yogawear, Sneakers, Bras & Stockings If you would like to submit your link for next week’s Links à la Mode, please register first, then post your links HERE where you see “Links a la mode next week’s date (official). The HTML code for this week will be found in the Links a la Mode widget on the right side of the blog, and will be published later today. ~ Jennine

Fashion Moriarty: Woop! I think this is my 4th time in LALM but the excitement is just the same every time. As you may have noticed I've been having trouble blogging regularly recently so hopefully this will motivate me to get my act together and start posting properly again. Congrats to everyone else who made it! I'm looking forward to checking out all of your posts.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Recurring Images: The Sea

Chris Nicholls Photography

What is it about the ocean that enthralls us? Is it the fact that we know less about it than we do about the dark side of our moon? Is it the way it is associated with a passage to a new life? Is it simply the appearance of this sparkling blue expanse which so captivates the imaginations of writers, artists, designers and musicians alike?

As with my first post about recurring image of birds, this piece will attempt to track the motifs and symbols which are associated with the sea through selected books, songs and fashion designs. I thought I might start with a few lines from one of my favourite songs:

When these sails go up
Mountains fade away
Stars come out
I'm finally free
It's only the ocean and me
In these lyrics, Jack mentions two major themes which are often associated with the sea: liberty and solitude. Perhaps the connection with freedom stems from a history of people leaving their current lives by boat and making new ones for themselves across the water. Or maybe it's because that view of the distant horizon when you're looking at miles of sea just speaks of hope and possibility.

But when you compare that to the idea solitude, they couldn't be more different. By seeing the sea as a chance to gain freedom, it becomes something which is completely uninhibited, whereas images of the sea creating solitude revolve around the water being a constricting force. In Mrs Dalloway, mentally unstable Septimus feels cut off from the world around him "like a drowned sailor on a rock". He has experienced shell shock in the First World War, and he sees this experience as a kind of death. "I went under the sea. I have been dead, and yet am now alive". It is interesting that he imagines the experience which has isolated him from other people as going "under the sea." In this case, the sea is not the salvation of someone longing for freedom, it is instead associated with the confines of death. Virginia Woolf seemed to be fascinated by the image of the ocean and it recurs in many of her other works, in paritcular To The Lighthouse and The Waves. It comes to mean many things in her fiction, but my favourite is in To The Lightouse, when the tidal movement of the water is associated with the awakening of new ideas: "It was as if the water floated off and set sailing thoughts which had grown stagnant on dry land, and gave to their bodies even some physical relief."

Folio Society edition of To The Lighthouse

Going back to Ancient times, the sea was often associated with Aphrodite or Venus because she was born from the sea foam, so perhaps we could also see the ocean as a symbol of love or desire. Several writers have made this connection. The Spanish poet and playwright Frederico Garcia Lorca litters his play The House of Bernarda Alba with images of water which represent desire.

But what has all this to do with fashion? Well, as with all art, fashion has striven to recreate the image of the natural world in countless forms. The references can range from a subtle pearl accessory to a flowing blue and silver gown. It is the ocean's mystical quality which makes it a perfect inspiration for a show-stopping evening dress, but its familiarity which lends it an air of the everyday.

Mary Katrantzou S/S 2012
Spring/Summer 2012 was a particularly good season for sea-inspired pieces. The catwalks overflowed with blues, silvers and seashell motifs. Mary Katrantzou's collection was an explosive tribute to nature, including dresses printed with colourful seabed scenes (see above). But her work went beyond a simple imitation of nature; she explored the way that patterns recur in nature and how this also happens in the mass production of clothing. I like how she has crossed the ideas of something so eternal as the sea with some very modern issues in the fashion industry.

The oceanographic triumph of the season though had to be Karl Lagerfeld's underwater world for Chanel. The show itself took place on a sea-shell landscape and the collection was littered with pearl accessories, foamy white creations, silky blue waves and shell motifs. The show also featured Florence Welch appearing from a shell in a kind of Venus de Milo way, bringing in those Ancient mythological themes in again, but the minimalist white of the rest of the show kept things from getting overly-archetypal. But I thought that the greatest achievement of the collection was to make it recognisably Chanel (with boxy jackets, drop-waist silhouettes and lashings of pearls) without sacrificing any of the creative vision in the process.

Chanel S/S 2012
So what have we learned? The sea is one of the oldest things imaginable, but it is also a conveyor of new ideas. It represents solitude, freedom, journeys and love. It can be a dramatic or a subtle image. Perhaps we'll never know everything about the sea, but that doesn't stop us from seeking to recreate it with words, with songs, with fabric.