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 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!



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.


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.

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.

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.