Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What's In My bag? NYE


This New Year's Eve, I'll be with a small group of friends, all of whom I've missed immensely while at university. I imagine it will be a night of champagne, dancing, and people hijacking the playlist for their own purposes. It will also be a great opportunity to dress up. Even though we won't be going out anywhere, there's no reason not to pile on the glitter! After all, much like that rule about Halloween from Mean Girls, New Year's Eve is the one night of the year where a girl (or boy) can wear as much sparkly stuff as they want and nobody can say anything about it.



So I'll be dressing to the nines and fortunately I've already taken a photo of my outfit for the OxStu's NYE Lookbook. If you're interested in what the rest of the editorial team is wearing, do check it out! I picked up this long black dress from a nearby vintage shop, along with my old faithful gold faux-snake heels which are second-hand Miss Selfridge. But the pride and joy of this outfit has to be the gorgeous bag, and of course its contents.

Accessorize Clutch Bag - So I've been eyeing this up for a good month or so now, and I've fallen in love with similar bags in Accessorize before and always regretted not buying them. This one was extra special because, well, just look at it, it's so Dolce and Gabbana don't you think? So as soon as Boxing Day hit, I went into town armed with a giftcard I've been harbouring since last year and bought it for just £17 of my own money (it was originally £37, went down to £27 in the sale, and I had £10 on my giftcard). I think it's beautiful, and might even try to do my hair in a suitably D&G style to match.

from Style.com

Moleskine notebook - I haven't decided on my new year's resolutions yet, but I think I ought to have somewhere to write them down if I think of any. That makes them feel more real.

Phone - Not sure if I'll even be coming home or just crashing on the floor after staying up into the early hours of the morning, but it's always good to be able to call home if need be. Plus, more importantly, I can use this phone to tweet throughout the evening! Ah, the twenty-first century.

Hair clip - I'll have an array of hair accessories, some of which may start the evening in my hair, but I'm fairly certain that they won't remain there because I don't have much patience with them. At some point though I'll definitely want to tie my hair back up if I feel like it's getting in the way, so best to be prepared with a range of bands and clips.

Necklace - It was my birthday the other day, and at my party I was given various lovely things by all my friends, including several gorgeous pieces of jewellery. This is the one I've chosen for tonight, because its length should match the neckline of the dress. It's from my friend Cachelle, and when I opened it I seem to remember exclaiming that it looked like the kind of family heirloom which has magic powers in fantasy novels. I had had a bit to drink by that point.

Make-up - I was really in the mood for some dark lipstick the other week, so i spent a good half an hour in Boots and Superdrug selecting the perfect shade. I ended up with this one by Kate Moss for Rimmel London which is called 'Wine', a perfect description, because it leaves your lips looking like they've been very elegantly stained a drink of merlot. It was also very reasonably priced, which is always a bonus. The gold eyeliner is from Miss Sporty, and always a good bet when wearing gold accessories. basically I'm just obsessed with gold.

Scarf - A birthday present from last year, this ought to keep me warm on the relatively short walk there. It's quite thin, but also very long so you can wrap it around yourself several times or use it as a shawl

Camera - I'll attempt to capture a few moments of the evening. I doubt any of them will make it to this blog, but you never know when a great fashion moment will occur.

Happy New Year to all my readers! I hope you have a great evening, whatever you're doing. And all the best for 2014.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Recurring Images: Snow

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It's fast-approaching that time of year when we start to look hopefully out of the window each morning, searching eagerly for a white-topped rooftop. If you're in the Northern hemisphere, then snow has an undeniable association with Christmas and the holiday season, along with memories from childhood: building snowmen, stories of magic and mysterious lands (The Snow Queen and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe spring to mind), staying home from school and having breathless, over-competitive snowball fights with friends.

(Just before we get going, a quick warning that this post will contain spoilers for Dead Poets Society and The Secret History!)

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It is this through using this imagery of snow in the Chanel A/W 2010 ready-to-wear collection that Karl Lagerfeld evokes a playfulness in the clothes. The whole collection is festooned with faux fur, to the extent that some of the models appeared to emerge from the icy wonderland setting as yetis. He also plays with this association with childhood by creating outfits of an almost schoolgirl-esque nature, with pretty dresses and woollen tights. There is also, however, a certain sophistication to the collection, in keeping with the brand's aesthetic. The hair and make-up puts me more in mind of a scheming snow queen than an innocent schoolgirl.

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And that brings us onto the darker connotations of snow. When it blankets the entire landscape, snow can be extremely beautiful, but it also renders everything remarkably bleak. Track the use of snow in film and often you'll find it reflecting the inner despondency of the protagonist. Consider in Dead Poets Society when the boys find out about Neil's death; is there anything more heartbreaking than grief-stricken Todd stumbling off into the completely white landscape? It can also be associated with covering things up. In Donna Tartt's The Secret History, unseasonal snow hides the body of a murdered man: "The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation." The concealment of Bunny's body by the snow seems to reflect the way Richard and the others try to appear innocent despite their guilt, while the fact that the snow appears out of season, in April, showing their innocence to be false.



Because snow is, of course, also visual shorthand for innocence and purity. Alfred Hitchcock called the blonde leading ladies of his films to "virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints", which demonstrates one sadness of snow: it can't remain perfect forever. If nothing spills onto it and nobody walks on it, it will still eventually melt away. But perhaps this adds to its beauty; it can only be enjoyed for a limited amount of time.


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So snow can mean all sort of things in fashion, literature, and film. From innocence to unhappiness, childhood to magic, it is truly unique in the effect it has on us. On an aesthetic level, it makes the perfect backdrop for a fashion show or shoot, since it is both plain and pretty. On a practical level, it is cold and can be somewhat uninviting. In fact, it has a long-standing association with exile, spanning right from the Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer, in which the speaker has to make his way through a land where "Frost and snow fall/ Mixed with hail", all the way up to Monsters Inc, when Mike and Sully are banished to snowy Nepal.



Despite its negative connotations, I hope you all stay safe and warm this Winter, whilst enjoying any snowfall which comes your way. And with that I will sign off and wish you a merry Christmas!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Fashion Role Model: Hannah Hooper

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For too long, I believe, we have worshipped at the feet of 'the style icon'. The very word 'icon' tells us that they are not quite real, that they are images rather than people. Of course, sometimes this is because they represent a movement or aesthetic, but I still think that by having style 'icons' we're idolising an individual who makes mistakes just as much as the rest of us. In this new series, I'd like to put forward a series of 'fashion role models': people who aren't always perfect of consistent in their style, but who have taught me something about fashion. Maybe that's in the attitude they wear clothes with, or ideas they have. It will be more about the thought behind their outfits than flawless execution of styling.

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And so on to my first subject. Hannah Hooper is one of the two lead singers of the band Grouplove, and the only woman in the band. Their music first came to my attention when the song 'Tongue Tied' was used in an iPod commercial, so initially I had no idea what they looked like, but when I researched further, I was struck by the free mix of styles which they all adopted. There are elements of hippy, punk, surfer and vintage in how they all dress, but there's no set aesthetic. If anything, their style can be called eclectic. I'm focusing on Hannah because I just think she has some of the most incredible outfits, but the rest of the band are pretty cool too.


What I love about her is her versatility. She can go from West Village tomboy to Victorian ma'am to rock goddess and not once will it seem awkward. And that's what I've learned from Hannah: if you like what you're wearing, and you want to wear it, you can damn well pull it off. Want to wear a skintight leopard print bodysuit? Do it! Feel like slouching around in a men's shirt? Fine! If it feels like who you are today then who has the right to stop you?

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OK, now here's where it gets personal, prepare for the gushing. I've never felt very able to take risks with what I wear. IN part, this is because, when I go shopping, I tend to be very practical: how many wears will I get out of this? what else in my wardrobe will it go with? And even though I do own a few reckless impulse buys (a sequinned slouchy top, a tasseled cowboy jacket, a tie-dye cropped sweater) I'll put them on and look at them in the mirror for a long time before wimping out and reverting to a dress with a jumper. I blame being indoctrinated by Trinny & Susannah: I know exactly what looks 'flattering' on my body and therefore I am wary of stepping outside of that zone for fear of looking ridiculous.

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But when I went to see Grouplove live at the Boston Arms last week, I had a sort of revelation during the show. Hannah was wearing her famous skeleton bodysuit and currently has bright blonde hair. She was an inexorable force on stage (so much so that all my photos of her look like the one below). And it just made me think, what's stopping me from dressing like that?



OK, much of what she wears is part of a stage persona, but that doesn't mean it isn't part of her personality. Equally, her offstage outfits have that same carefree aura about them. That's why she's one of my role models: she takes risks, she's confident about them, and she looks amazing.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

What's In My Bag? Going to lectures


Pens & notebook - for obvious reasons. Sometimes I'll take the little notebook you see in the picture and at others I'll cart around my big A4 notepad, depending on how much I feel like carrying.

Tissues and throat soothers - fresher's flu has just about passed by now, but it seems only to have gone away just in time for a round of winter colds. I know how distracting it can be to have someone coughing throughout the entire lecture, so I take these everywhere just in case. And the Kleenexes are useful for all sorts of things as well as coming in a super-pretty little packet.

Victorian novel - the one you see here is Bleak House, but I've now moved on to reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. The reading is probably the most intense part of the course, and necessitates delving into Dickens whenever there's a spare moment, so I tend to take whatever I'm reading wherever I'm going.

Tinted lipbalm - despite finally becoming interested in make-up of late, there's now not much time for me to experiment with it! Or at least, I'm mostly too lazy to bother, so a dab of this on the way to and from places has to suffice on most days.

Newspapers - the bottom one is The Oxford Student, in which I've now had a fashion feature published! You can read it online if you so choose; it's an exploration of the morality of fashion houses in the wake of the D&G tax scandal. The paper on top is Cherwell, which is basically the intense rival of OxStu, but I read it anyway. In part this is to keep up with the competition, but it's also because they sometimes have cool features like interviews with Laura Bates and Tavi Gevinson.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Quick update


Hello, is anyone still out there? I wouldn't be surprised if you'd all given up on me, considering it's now been over a month since my last post. I'm afraid today's post won't be much like my normal ones, more of an update; but never fear - I have a few ideas lined up which should be up in the next few weeks.

Since my last post:

  • I've moved into my room at university, filling it with books, clothes and what is considered by most to be an inordinate amount of shoes.
  • I've started getting involved with some cool clubs and societies around the university, including the Women's Campaign and taking up beginner's fencing. Plus I will soon be a published fashion writer for The Oxford Student!
  • This post which I wrote as a follow-up to my comment on Galliano's temporary position at De La Renta has, inexplicably, become my second most-viewed post on this blog ever, and I can't work out for the life of me why. If you have any idea what could account for the influx of views please let me know.
  • I discovered that White Russians are my favourite cocktail
  • This happened while I was at the Oxford Union
  • I finally caught up with the 21st century and got a phone which can go online! So if you're getting fed up with my lack of blog updates, make sure to follow me on Twitter where I'm far more active
  • My wardrobe welcomed the addition of these wedge-boots (except mine are black) which I had previously been wary of, but have been a godsend on nights out when I want that extra bit of height without the pain of heels. Seriously, invest in some.

  • I marathoned the whole of Channel 4's London Irish to celebrate finishing an essay. If you're in the UK I highly recommend catching up on 4oD while you still can. Also in the comedy stakes, I loved The Wrong Mans which is worth catching too if you missed it. It seems like a good time for comedy all round.
  • I've dressed up as a schoolgirl, a suffragette, and an evil queen.
  • Oh and this morning I managed to fall over and graze my lip, so no lipstick for me for a few days!
That's about it for now. Watch this space for proper posts coming soon!


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Love or hate? Desert boots

I went on a shopping trip the other day with a friend as his official style adviser (telling someone what clothes to buy - I could get used to this). We spent quite a while in Office and Schuh looking at men's shoes, and I noticed that a significant proportion of them resembled the ones above. Desert shoes, I'm led to believe by street style blogs and shoe shops, are now a dominant part of men's everyday fashion. Whatsmore, they're starting to creep into womenswear.

via Style Spot Run

There are many advantages to this style that I can see: they're practical without the encumbrance of a heavier boot; the one colour means they'll be easy to match with things, and, if you get it right, they can look pretty stylish (see the example below for reference).

via Street Etiquette
But, on the other hand, our first reaction on encountering these shoes was essentially: "they're a bit basic - they look like you've made them yourself." Fashion has a love/hate relationship with that old adage that "less is more", so I can imagine some people revelling in the minimalism of the boots, whilst others are after something with more obvious signs of craftmanship. My personal opinion is that it depends how you wear them, but what do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

4 Books To Read During Paris Fashion Week


Whether you're in amongst the madness of Paris Fashion Week or just wishing you were, now is surely the perfect time to pick up a book set in fashion's favourite city and get reading. Whether you have hours of leisure whilst waiting for the next show to appear on Style.com or just 15-minute snippets in the back of a taxi between fashion week parties, I hope these recommendations will provide you with something to satisfy your Francophilia.


1. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


"To walk the best streets in Paris just then was like having the curtained doors of a surreal circus standing open so you could watch the oddity and the splendour at any hour."

A fictionalised account of 1920s Paris through the eyes of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife. This follows everything from their meeting in Chicago right up to Hemingway's death in the epilogue, but it's mainly worth reading for the insight into the early years of the Jazz Age in Paris. If you're looking for a different - and notably more female - perspective on what Hemingway covers in A Moveable Feast, this is for you.

2. You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik

"It wasn't until Paris that something shifted. Paris was the beginning. Paris was everything."

Anyone who knows me in everyday life will be rolling their eyes as they read this because I go on about Alexander Maksik's work all the time. But I promise that it is with good reason. You Deserve Nothing is, at its most basic, the story of a teacher who has an affair with a student at an international school in Paris. Yet it's also about the lines between morality and immorality, free will and conformity; it's all very Camus (but I only know that because reading this led me to reading Camus). The Paris setting is transcribed to the page beautifully by Maksik's prose, and made somewhat more poignant by the fact that it takes place just before the Iraq war. Basically I love it, and if I could recommend just one book to anyone for the rest of my life it would be this.

3. The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake


"Paris society, like the rest of the world, was turning inexorably in favour of celebrity and youth. And in this new social order there was a new and thrusting arrival - fashion."

Perhaps the most appropriate as a fashion week read, this book charts the rise of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld as designers but also gives an account of the fashion world in Paris in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Alicia Drake, a fashion journalist, combines in-depth research with readability and an evocation of the city, the industry, and the era. Though not at all times positive about the fashion world, it is still a fascinating read for anyone involved with or aspiring to work in the industry.

4. Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"I spoiled this city for myself. I didn't realize it, but the days came along one after another, and then two years were gone, and everything was gone, and I was gone."

This is the best choice if you're pushed for time. Babylon Revisited itself is a short story, set in Paris some time after the 1929 financial crash. Its recovering alcoholic protagonist Charlie seems to see the city for the as it really is for the first time on a visit to see his daughter. Like much of Fitzgerald's work, the portrayal of the Jazz Age as destructive is very much present, but unlike The Great Gatsby and similar stories, this feels more like an examination of the aftermath than a revel in the hedonistic pleasures of the time followed by a come-down. Depending on which edition you get, there are often other Fitzgerald stories included, many of them a suitable length for a Eurostar journey.

Top image is mine and all others are property of each book's respective publishers

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Links a la Mode

It's always an honour to be included in IFB's Links a la Mode, but this week's is a particularly stellar collection. Some of my favourites included Wild Beauty's post about whores as an archetype of beauty -a fascinating and insightful post which points out that "fashion is fetishistic" - and Foxie Oxie Supernova's letter to her 18-year-old self - pertinent to me, since I'm currently 18 myself!

Do check the posts out, as they all offer a brilliant range of ways to approach the transition of seasons. Happy reading!

lalam0912

Transitions

September is always weird. The leaves start changing colors, the sweaters and coats are in the stores, we're back to school, summer's over... but it's still stupidly hot! I've always been so excited about fall, I'd be sweating in my boots, and wearing sweaters anyway. What a girl does for fashion, right? Well, this week, we have all kinds of transitional posts. Transitioning from teenager to adult, summer to fall, day to night, and the call for fashion week to transition to the next level. We also have a hilarious post about 20th century fashion as predicted in the 19th century, it's so spot on--not. Either way, pull up a tall iced-tea (remember, it's hot out!) and take a look through these links.

Links à la Mode: September 12th

  1. Attire Club: Discussions On India’s Obsession With Fair Skin
  2. Beauty & Sass: take your summer dresses into fall with these essentials
  3. Chicisms: How to Dress Business Casual & Go from Work to a Night Out
  4. Corals and Cognacs: A Love Letter to New York City (in the wake of 9/11)
  5. Fashion Moriarty: Recurring Images: Combat
  6. Fleur d'Elise: 6 Un-Boring Coats forFall
  7. Foxie Oxie Supernova: Paris Photo Diary: An Open Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self
  8. Girl in Betsey: Diane Von Furstenburg NYFW Review
  9. Happy Pretty Sweet: A Brief History of the Dirndl
  10. Lara Lizard: 1893 and predictions of 20th century fashion
  11. Runway to Style Freaks: The Top Men's Fall 2013 Must Have Trends
  12. See Lark!: Easy DIY: Graffiti Dress
  13. Skye Charlie Show: Consignment Vs. Thrift Store
  14. Stilettos and Tequila: Behind The Scene: How To Be A Better Writer And More
  15. Style Bizarre: Say no to Style Labels
  16. The Girl With The Bun: 3 ways to dress for fall (when it still feels like summer)
  17. Tickle Me Chic: Does Fashion Week Need To Be Revamped?
  18. Undercover Dress-Up Lover: How to wear high-waisted shorts
  19. We Are Ready Made: A Pair of Shoes Everybody Should Own
  20. Wild Beauty: Beauty Archetypes: Whores

SPONSOR: Eastdane Stutterheim, CKU, M Nii, Generic Man, Tretorn, JW Hulme, McNairy, Diemme, Canada Goose,

Friday, 13 September 2013

I Want It! Hobbs Invitation Ashworth Dress

The time has come for me to start sorting out and packing my wardrobe for university! Though I already have a rather substantial supply of clothes, it's inescapable that I feel the need for at least a few new pieces. In particular, I know there are going to be a few formal occasions for which I would love to have a new dress.

This piece is perfect for re-using at various events I think, because its detailing adds interest while not tying it to a particular trend. It's also of course, in the classic black which will mean it can be dressed slightly differently - nude heels in the summer, black heels and tights in the winter, maybe even gold shoes and accessories for extra glam. It's also machine-washable.

At £179, it's just beyond my price range really. I would consider it more if I hadn't tried it on in store to find the hem and waist would need adjustments to fit me properly (though it still looked really good). I think I'm going to wait to see if it goes down in a sale and snap it up when there's a chance. Having said that, I think anyone buying something like this would be investing wisely as the cost-per-wear could quickly reduce after a couple of weddings, dinners and drinks.

What would you go for if you were buying just one formal piece for the new season?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Recurring Images: Combat

Mia Wasikowska & Michael Fassbender in W Magazine

Weapons and armour may not be the first thing which comes to mind when you think about fashion, but designers have been taking inspiration from them for years. It's an inescapable part of human nature that we fight with each other, and unpleasant as violence may be, it also gives rise to some of the most interesting aspects of our culture. Consider for example the military trend, which seems to recur at least every other Autumn/Winter. It wouldn't exist without armies and their uniforms.

Burberry AW12

The most common incarnation of this trend is an influence stepping across from old menswear to modern womenswear, bringing big shoulders, statement buttons and boxy masculine shapes with it. But this is by no means a modern fashion invention. At a recent talk by fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart, I learnt that women during the time of the Napoleonic wars were keen to incorporate military fashions into their own clothes. Ladies would wear 'Spencer' jackets, (cropped outer layers), often in a red shade reminiscent of the jackets worn by the militia and featuring braiding, buttons or other army-like details. This was a way of showing solidarity with husbands and male relations who were fighting in the wars, and also to an extent showed their patriotism.

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Similarly, masculine military styles filtered into mainstream womenswear during the Second World War. This time though, it was more about practicality and showing yourself able to keep calm and carry on. Even very feminine items like floral dresses took on a broad-shouldered shape, in what could be considered a statement of female power. After all, many women took on new roles like ambulance-driving while the men were off fighting.

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So there is a clear correlation between mainstream fashion and military styles, but what about weapons themselves? Many people today abhor violence, and rightly so. We've seen all too often the damage which can be done with a gun. And yet, I still think one can appreciate a well-made weapon as a thing of beauty in its right. Though I worry about seeming like a gun rights activist (which I'm not) by wearing one, I often find myself drooling over little gun charm necklaces on Etsy. I particularly like the one pictured below as it reminds me of Georgian highwaymen; another image of violence, yet also of romanticism.

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Perhaps this is a flaw in our collective consciousness, that we admire figures from factr and fiction alike for their skill with instruments of death. In Far From The Madding Crowd, it is Sergeant Troy's "dexterity" with a sword which allows him to win Bathsheba's heart, in what is arguably the most sexually-charged scene in the novel. Even though he actually endangers her life by using a sharpened blade, he also excites her; it's the classic 'bad boy' complex. Weapons can be associated with bloodshed and crime, but also with passion. They are also, for obvious reasons, often seen as an object of masculinity. Hence why the great heroes of legend - King Arthur, Beowulf, even Godric Gryffindor - require their own special sword. It is as much a statement of who they are as modern fashion is today.

Furthermore, weapons can influence the way people have dressed through the ages due to practicality as much as anything. In the court of Queen Elizabeth I, there was at one point a law forbidding men to wear cloaks, as this would prevent them from reaching their swords quickly if the need to defend the queen arose.


Another need created by weapons is that of defence. Thus, armour and shields could be equally important. In The Aeneid, Venus persuades her husband Vulcan, god of fire, to forge a shield for her son Aeneas so that he might win a war and gain a new land for his people. Not only does this shield save him from potentially-deadly blows in battle, it also depicts the future of his people, as Aeneas is destined to found the beginnings of the Roman Empire.

painting by Batoni
one can see why designers may seek to incorporate weapons, shields or armour into their clothes. They give one a feeling of power. By wearing Valentino camouflage trainers or Doc Marten combat boots, you can add a little bit of toughness to your outfit, which is often a nice boost for one's confidence in today's busy and at times scary world. But perhaps the real genius comes when the aesthetic of combat is combined with beauty to make something unique. Alexander McQueen did this, especially in his Fall 2009 collection.


Though the image of a woman's body almost totally covered by chainmail is somewhat disturbing, (and, some at the time argued, misogynistic), it can also be interpreted as giving the wearer a protective layer from the world. It is also beautiful in a very haunting way, and though not exactly wearable, very admirable as a piece of art.

In short, images of combat represent violence, pain, and death. But equally they can show strength, courage, and victory.


Friday, 23 August 2013

10 Alternative Things To Do In Portland and Seattle



I was going to do a post of ten things for each city, but decided that I probably wouldn't have enough activities considered suitably 'alternative' since I was only in America for a total of ten days. However, if you're also considering a visit to the Northwest, then I hope there are enough ideas here for your trip to be extra special.


1. Attend the theatre
In Seattle, we went to Theatre Off Jackson to see a new play called The Clockwork Professor. It was a great choice because we wouldn't have seen it anywhere else, and it was very entertaining with a great atmosphere throughout the audience. Also in Seattle is the famous Market Theatre where you can see improv comedy. Seeing theatre in another country is always an interesting experience and usually well worth scouting around for some unique productions.



2. Have at least one healthy breakfast
The temptation is basically to have pancakes, waffles, or French toast every morning, but don't forget to try some of the healthier options because America does good breakfast no matter how many calories are in it. I liked the oatmeal at Cherry Street Coffee House in Seattle, since I was still suffering from aeroplane nausea and it completely revived me, plus the atmosphere there is quite hip without being overcrowded.



3. Go to an author event at Powell's
If you like books, you have to go to Powell's City of Books. It's an entire city block of bookstore, with a cafe too. They also have frequent author readings and signings, and it just so happened that one of my favourite writers, Alexander Maksik, was there at the right time! Even if you don't know of the writer, it can still be interesting to hear them speak and maybe pick up one of their books to have as a holiday read.



4. Release your inner nerd
The EMP Museum in Seattle is literally Nerdvana. Exhibits on music feature Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix, while a fantasy gallery houses props from The Princess Bride, Percy Jackson, and Harry Potter. Then there's a Sci-Fi icons exhibit, which includes a dalek and Captain Kirk's chair, and next-door, you can see the axe from The Shining in the horror gallery. I could have spent hours there; the galleries are so well thought-out and engaging.



5. Eat some fudge at the Space Needle
You basically have to do the Space Needle in Seattle. It's practically law. When it comes to the really tourist-y things, I find it's more fun to just throw yourself into it and indulge in all the silly things on offer. Downstairs they have the most amazing fudge counter, where you can buy some (fairly expensive) pieces in whatever size you choose. I have a bit of a tradition for eating junk food on tall landmarks (an eclair on the Sydney harbour bridge, a pretzel on the Eiffel tower) so I just had to get a picture of myself looking silly with the Seattle skyline and some peanut butter fudge.



6. Spot the 10 Things I Hate About You locations
If you haven't seen 10 Things then you need to go away and watch it now please. Of all the teen movies from the past 20 years or so, it is undoubtedly my favourite (I even prefer it to Mean Girls). When I realised that Stadium High School, where they filmed several scenes, including Heath Ledger's famous singing-on-the-bleachers moment, was in Tacoma (near Seattle), we had to take a trip there. We also saw the Fremont Bridge Troll, where Bianca and Cameron discuss what kind of guy Kat likes, and went to Gas Works Park, the setting for my favourite scene in the entire movie.


7. Find the streetmarkets and antiques stores
Both places are great for this. In Seattle, there's the Fremont street market, where we got some excellent tacos, and over in Tacoma we stumbled upon a vintage fair on Main street. Then of course there is the famous Pike Place Market, where you can go to the original Starbucks, along with hundreds of other interesting stalls and shops; I really liked Moon Valley Organics, who sold me some delicious skin products. In Portland, grab breakfast from a street cart at the Skidmore Market, or take a trip outside of the city to some of the little towns along the Historic Columbia River Highway. I got a lovely necklace for just $1 at Bev Frank Antiques in Troutdale.



8. Check for open-air events
Especially in the summer, everywhere seems to have some sort of outdoors entertainment. In Portland, we saw two open-air theatre productions: Cymbeline performed by the Portland players, and Trek in the Park - a re-enactment of the legendary Star Trek episode The Trouble With Tribbles. We also stumbled upon several things in Pioneer Square, including a free showing of The Princess Bride and a troupe of Chinese children doing better tricks with diablos than I've seen most adult street-performers do - and I live in Winchester, the home of the world's oldest street-arts fair!



9. Take a hike
We broke up out stay in Portland with a trip out to the Mount Hood area, staying in a ski lodge owned by the hotel from The Shining - how reassuring! Still, there is some beautiful scenery in the mid-west, much of it accessible through fairly easy walks. We didn't really go outside of Seattle, though if I went to Washington again I would probably explore the area more and perhaps even pay a visit to Forks to get my teenage vampire kicks...


10. Seek out independent shops and cafes
Seattle in particular has a very enterprising feel to it, being the home of Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft (seriously, try playing a game of 'spot the building paid for by someone called Gates or Allen'). So be sure to mix things up and try weird places to eat and shop, because you never know, they might end up being the next international super-brand.


Enjoyed this? Why not look at my list of 10 Alternative Things to Do in London?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Costume suggestions for the 12th Doctor


So, it's been a little under two weeks since Peter Capaldi was announced as the 12th Doctor in the BBC's long-running sci-fi favourite, Doctor Who. Already guesses are being made as to what kind of Doctor he'll be, how he'll work with Jenna Coleman, and what direction the show will take as a whole. But, for me, there is one important question, the answer to which I think will dictate how his portrayal develops and is received more than anything else: what is he going to wear?

Matt Smith and David Tennant, both in David Tennant's costume
I've only seen New Who episodes (2005 onwards) but I still know that when a changeover of actors occurs, then whoever is assuming the role looks quite weird in their predecessor's clothes. Usually their character doesn't fully take shape until the Doctor has chosen a new outfit from the tremendous wardrobe in the TARDIS.

So what might be appropriate for the new Doctor? Allow me to make a few suggestions...

An awesome jacket

Here's a very young Peter Capaldi in the film Local Hero, in which he sported this rather lovely Tweed (I think?) jacket. As a more mature Doctor, I don't think it would be appropriate for Capaldi to go too casual, so I'm hoping for quite a smart costume. A jacket like the one above would probably be too similar to what Matt Smith currently wears, but some form of well-cut blazer or coat would add that touch of class without being too restrictive.

Something incorporating period detail

Yes, Doctor Who is a science fiction show, but it's also about time travel, and I personally tend to most enjoy those episodes which take the characters into the past. Here's Capaldi in Dangerous Liaisons, the style of which suits him very well in my opinion. Obviously the powder wig is a bit much, but something like a cravat, dashing waistcoat, or brightly-buttoned coat would be an excellent addition. Personally I'd love to see some military detail in there somewhere, which would be a nice contrast to the Doctor's generally peaceful yet sometimes raging nature.

A long knitted scarf

This is a promo shot for The Ladykillers, which I was lucky enough to see onstage. In the play, the scarf proved to be hazardous for Capaldi's character (I won't give away the ending but trust me it's not that practical). But it also added a comic touch as he kept gathering it up or getting it caught in closed doors. The Doctor often has a playful side to him and a long scarf could be a part of that, plus it's a nod to Tom Baker's costume.

A classy pair of glasses

As with David Tennant's Doctor, these wouldn't necessarily be worn all the time (though that's also a possibility) but could be pulled out at opportune moments to inspect things like alien machinery and timey-wimey particles. Capaldi was recently in one of my favourite shows, The Hour, and I thought these classic 50s lenses suited him very well.

By my calculations, if the BBC costume department were to take all my advice, Capaldi might end up in a nice coat with a cravat, military waistcoat, long scarf and glasses! Hmm, sounds a bit much. But I am very much looking forward to seeing what he does wear. In the meantime, let me know in the comments what you would dress the Doctor in if it were up to you.