Monday, 28 December 2015

5 actually affordable NYE dresses

I'm getting fed up of the kind of articles fashion magazines are posting around this time of year, excitedly extolling the virtues of a £500 dress and often implying that it's a bargain. Even publications aimed at younger audiences, who ought to know that the majority of their readers only have a bit of babysitting money to spend, are hyping clothes "under $200!" (I'm looking at you, Teen Vogue).

The thing to bear in mind with festive celebrations, especially New Year's Eve, is that you don't need to think that much about whether your outfit looks expensive. Anything goes, from sequinned jackets to faux-silk trousers. Nobody actually cares if you're not wearing Gucci.

This overpriced partywear thing has got me sufficiently annoyed to put this post together - it's only taken me about 20 minutes, which is a testament to how easy it is to avoid overspending and find a very cute alternative. Happy shopping!

1. Monki Melena Dress - £50

Galaxy print! It's always a hit, and the real beauty of it is that we all know it's digitally printed, whether produced for high end or high street, so nobody need worry that they're not sporting a hand-embellished gown. This dress from Monki is the perfect choice for the modern woman, its demure cut juxtaposing with the eye-catching print. It also has the added benefit that some black is worked into the pattern, which solves the problem with some cosmic prints that it's difficult to wear black tights and other accessories with them.

2. ASOS CURVE Midi Skater Dress - £28

Bardot necklines are the answer. I don't care what the question is, Bardot necklines will always be there to provide a solution. This very classic dress is an easy way to negotiate any black tie dress codes, but can equally be put on for a small gathering at home. It also provides a good plain base for showing off any jewellery you were gifted for Christmas.

3. Miss Selfridge Petites Jacquard Scallop Dress - £39

This dress is very cute, individual, and a little bit 60s. It seems like the kind of outfit you should douse yourself in Marc Jacobs Daisy before wearing. It's also the ideal match for a little clutch purse, an item which I find totally inconvenient and unnecessary any day other than New Year's Eve, when it suddenly becomes the orb to the sceptre of a champagne glass.

4. La Redoute cotton modal long-sleeved dress - £11.40

Plain and simple, this piece from La Redoute is, like all their products, very French. It comes in four colours, and looks comfortable as well as stylish. This is your go-to if you're off to a casual wine bar, or could even be useful if you still want to dress up for standing outside waiting for the fireworks. Pair with trench coat for Parisian chic.

5. Boohoo Alison Tartan Bodycon Dress - £8

What better print for a Hogmanny? The punky undertones mean this can be worn out to a club, but add a classy blazer and suddenly it's work party appropriate. Whatsmore, it's the cheapest of the lot. Champagne all round!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

5 Noughties film characters with very AW15 wardrobes

Fashion goes around in cycles. We know this, but sometimes it's very hard to spot, especially when every new line of clothing is surrounded by a hype which suggests it is distinctly modern. The truth is, even though trends can be ever so of the moment, they are often picking up elements of fashion which were popular anywhere from 2 years ago to 300 years ago.

One of the few times we really notice this is when watching films made in the past twenty years or so. In amongst the inevitable cringes (ponchos? what were we thinking?) we come across someone whose sartorial choices are surprisingly on-point. It changes season by season, so here is my selection of the characters who were ahead of their time.

Mia, Love Actually
Love Actually (2003)

The roll-necks, the A-line skirts, the slinky party dress, Mia might be everyone's least favourite character but she has a seriously enviable wardrobe. She pretty much encapsulates that early noughties (by way of the seventies) look which is resurging all over the place right now.

Ashley, Just My Luck
Just My Luck (2006)
The film's premise of a reversal of fortune means that several of Ashley's clothes go through various accidents, but she's a trendy young thing in New York, so the clothes themselves are quite beautiful. It's the coats that catch my attention here. An unstructured metallic one near the end has that relaxed glam which everyone is seeking out right now for the ideal NYE outfit.

Vivian, Legally Blonde
Legally Blonde (2001) - collage by Sanchita Nahar
Remarkably consistent, Vivian's brand of prep-school chic will be an object of lust to those who are currently bulk-buying cute knitwear and collared blouses. Although this contemporary incarnation of her style tend to be a more ironic, Heathers-esque take, Vivian is still an icon of clean, buttoned-up Winter looks.

Amanda, The Holiday
The Holiday (2006)

The film-makers keep Diaz's wardrobe monochrome throughout this movie, mainly in Winter whites, which makes her stand out as an LA girl in the English countryside. Because of this, the clothes have to vary more in texture than colour. Faux-fur, teddy bear fluff, shearling, and thick knits have all been gracing the pages of glossy magazines lately, so it seems Amanda was onto something with her textured layering.

Andy, The Devil Wears Prada (towards the end)
The Devil Wears Prada, 2003

Because the different outfits Anna Hathaway wears during her transformation to ace fashion assistant are high fashion, they're a bit hit-and-miss when we look back on them. By the end, she's managed to combine what she learned from Nigel with the more serious, practical approach to journalism she's going for. My personal favourite is the black dress, jacket, and boots combo which she wears to the party where she first meets Christian Thompson. You can see how the costume department takes elements from this kind of outfit - the long necklace, the dark palette, the long boots - and pare them down for the final scene.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

What's in my bag? Guardian Forward Women Day

I love a goody bag. It's actually been a while since I had my hands on a really good one too - putting a free newspaper and an information leaflet about IT services in bags for my Student Union's freshers' fair even threatened to put me off them for life. Fortunately, yesterday brought me a bountiful goody bag as just one small part of an inspiring free event.

The Forward Women day was for young women, featuring talks and panel discussions, to give us a kick-start in our careers. It was at Kings Place in London, where The Guardian and The Observer have some of their offices. I mainly signed up for the day because I loved Secrets of China, a programme presented by guest keynote speaker Billie JD Porter. But the whole day was packed with inspiring women, both on the stage and amongst the attendees. The novelist Samantha Shannon, Vlogger Lily Prebbles, and DJ Gemma Cairn were just a few of the speakers. It's not often that you get to be surrounded by just women, thinking about the best ways to achieve what you want from life.

It was such a great event, and was completely free! If it runs again next year, I'd definitely recommend going.

But on to the bag. And I must warn you, some of these freebies really are peak Guardian.

Tote bag - bearing Beyonce's feminist war-cry, this bag is both functional and political. I heard a lot of the young women I was talking to praise the bags, which I'm sure will all be thoroughly reused.

The Guardian - perfect for reading on the train home.

Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith - this I brought myself, as I'm currently working on some coursework, as you might know if you're following me on Instagram. Smith's essays are so varied, it's difficult to pick out one to recommend, but I do particularly love 'Find Your Beach' (which isn't included in a printed edition, but which you can read on The New York Review of Books here) and would recommend that as an introduction if you're interested.

Proper Corn - another goodie. I feel like I'm rediscovering popcorn at the moment, fortunately so is the food industry. I'm eating this bag of Smooth peanut and almond corn right now. It basically tastes like popcorn and peanut butter, so seek it out if that sounds good to you.

Power Bank - this was a present a few years ago but I've literally just worked out how to use it. Aptly timed, as a day in London, especially when I'm live-tweeting an event (shoutout again to the Forward Women day for providing us with free WiFi!) is a sure way to run down my battery.

Guardian reusable coffee cup - because using a reusable coffee cup wasn't smug enough before.

Montezuma's chilli chocolate - apparently this is quite a middle class thing, though we have a Montezuma's at home so I'm not sure. Though I suppose Wholefoods do stock it...

Sibberi birch water - this honestly made me laugh. Peak Guardian indeed. What on earth is it? I have yet to try it, and quite want to hold off until I can share it with someone else. It may well be lovely.

Faith in Nature coconut shower gel - I love the smell of coconut. Apparently this can also be used as a foam bath, which I may try at some point. It's very rare that I get the time for a relaxing bath.

Free pens - One is from RBS, who sponsored the day, and whose prominent female staff featured in the talks and panels. The other two are from City University London, which I rushed off to after Forward Women to attend an open evening. All in all, a very busy and exciting day!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

5 Coats for sunny days

Perhaps it's down to the topsy-turvy nature of fashion - that means designers show their spring looks just as Autumn is fully setting in - but I've been noticing a lot of crossover pieces recently. There are now, of course, even transitional collections like pre-fall and resort. Then again, perhaps this is finally a move towards practicality in high fashion; the weather does not always oblige us when we're trying to dress well.

In the latest collections from Milan, a particular item has stood out for me: a summery coat. They're at Gucci, flirtily half-covering silk slip dresses; they're at Versace, layering up a military-inspired look, and they're at Dolce and Gabbana (above) in delicious patterns with matching dresses underneath.

The real beauty of this trend is that these coats don't need to be worn in summer at all. The point is that they're enough of a statement on their own, whether you're putting them over thick layers to stay warm in December or adding them to a barely-there evening outfit in June. They're coats for sunny days like today: a bright, cool, autumnal day which feels very fresh. One wants to feel wrapped up and ready for the cold outside, but it's too early to adopt the heavy materials and colours of Winter. So I've been on a hunt and found a few of the best coats you can buy right now to stay chic on these cold sunny days.

Topshop Slim Pocket Coat - £59

I actually recently bought this myself. There are other colours, including camel, but I loved the grey because it's so versatile. It's also reminiscent of men's tailoring, which makes it a good option if you need something smart but simple. The details are what really got me though; the underside of the collar is two-tone dark grey and camel, the kind of thoughtful addition that really makes this coat look more expensive than it is.

Hobbs Tapestry Coat - £299

Tapestry coats are love-or-hate items. you either feel like an opulently adorned medieval noblewoman, or like you've stolen a carpet from a pub. It's worth looking out for these in charity shops and vintage stores, but if you want something new this Hobbs piece is a good way to go. Pair with smoking-slipper style shoes for that Oscar Wilde aesthetic.

Alexander Lewis Pink Jacquard Jasmine Coat - £241

Perfect for enacting all your Clueless/Legally Blonde fantasies, a pink coat is a sure way to stand out. I like this one because the texture does all the work for you, and you can keep the outfit relatively simple, either sticking with the pink theme or matching with other pastels.

See U Soon Oversized Blazer in Tweed Mix - £65

Like the idea of a bit of colour but wary of going OTT? This coat cleverly weaves a bit of yellow into a classic grey tweed. From a distance, it just gives the whole colour a a nice lift, but when you get close you can see colour in the material. Again, it's those details that make a good coat worth it.

Kling Mantova Trench - €60

I came across this Spanish brand while in Madrid this summer, but they deliver to several other countries. They have the cutest prints and bright colours, which makes the shop a joy to browse. This trench is a good bet for days when the temperature might vary, and its bold cold choices are very fresh. Check out the rest of Kling's stuff if you like that Saoirse Ronan in The Grand Budapest Hotel kinda style.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Links a la Mode

It's that time again. My latest post, a review of McQueen on the West End has been selected for this week's Links a la Mode. As ever, IFB's roundup features some pretty awesome blogs, including a lot of NYFW reports. Have a look through, and have a great week!

Links à la Mode, September 24
SPONSOR: Amazon's Shopbop BLK DNM, Line & Dot, Ulla Johnson, Chan Luu, Three Dots, A Line Skirts, Black Flare Jeans, Fringe Booties, Mini Bags, Men's Theory

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Review: McQueen The Play

It's London Fashion Week. Everywhere you go in the central London area, one can spot models waiting between shows, shiny Mercedes Benz official cars, and show attendees dressed in their best Autumn/Winter looks, hoping to attract a street-style photographer.

In amongst this, a play is running in the West End, not far from the shows in Soho. It focuses on Alexander McQueen, one of Britain's most legendary fashion designers. McQueen was first performed at St James Theatre, and though it has now transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket, it seems the fashion world has moved on; it is almost fitting, for a play which contains many meditations on the double-edged sword of fame and the ruthless ephemerality of the fashion world.

The story is simple. On a night a few years ago, Lee, better known as Alexander McQueen, encounters a woman attempting to steal one of his designs. Together they embark on an improbable journey through London, encountering demons and ghosts from McQueen's past. It's a fictional narrative, based on the life and work of its protagonist.

Let me say, first of all, that this is not the play to see if you want to know about Lee Alexander McQueen. One day I'm sure there will be a Coco Avant Chanel-esque biopic to tell the story of his life, but this play instead uses the fascinating life of the designer to explore dark topics, particularly fame.

In one scene, Lee berates Dahlia (the dress thief) for thinking she can speak about Isabella Blow's life and death after five minutes of Googling. The same thought comes to mind about this play itself. It makes a bold effort to understand McQueen, a mission which is lent strength by Stephen Wight's excellent performance. But the biographical details are, for those with at least a passing interest in McQueen, things we've heard before: his relationship with Blow, the Savile Row training, his closeness with his mother. That doesn't mean any of these things are unimportant or untrue, but given the whimsical concept upon which the play is based, it is strange that writer James Phillips did not choose to be more creative with the details of McQueen's life. That's the problem with turning a living or recently living person into a character: it seems disrespectful to smudge the truth about them, and yet what we understand as the 'truth' about them is based on a handful of details which make up their Wikipedia article. To get at a deeper level, and to turn that person into a character, it might be necessary to employ a bit of poetic license.

Where the script shines most is when little details are used to give us a better understanding of Lee. In a scene set on the roof of a London building, he tells Dahlia about his days birdwatching and looking out over London as a young man. It's a small detail - and a true detail - but for me it was one of the most telling moments of the play. As well as creating a vivid image of the boy birdwatcher, it also ties together the other references to birds both in the play and in McQueen's body of design work. Another highlight for me is Lee's conversation with the already-deceased Isabella Blow (who is portrayed wonderfully by Tracy Ann Oberman). She describes another a small moment which provides us with a vivid image: the two of them practicing falconry at her country home. It seems to say so much in just a few lines, and I wish there had been a few more moments like this in the whole play.

Sadly, I did not find Dahlia very easy to sympathise with at all. Perhaps it's because she's not a real person, or perhaps it's because her lines seem a bit contrived (every time she swears it feels bizarrely unnatural). I heard one audience member describe her as the "idiotic American girl" during the interval. It's a shame, since she provides the concept for the play, and is certainly necessary to prevent the whole thing from becoming one long monologue. If you've ever heard of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, that is what Dahlia is. Phillips tries to give her depth, but she ultimately falls flat in comparison to the real-life figures of Blow and McQueen.

But before you despair of this play entirely, let me speak about the production design. As is suitable for a designer whose shows were renowned for their theatricality, this production looks incredible. Lighting, projection, and TV screens are all used to great effect. Add in a few choice props and the stage is transformed into a Saville Row tailor's, a London Underground train, even the mind of McQueen himself. The Haymarket is an ideal location for all of this - as Phillips says, "It really is one of the most beautiful theatres I’ve ever been in."

Best of all is Christopher Marney's choreography. I have never seen such beautiful use of human bodies in theatre. It blends the movement of fashion models with balletic influences, and in the process the dancers seamlessly change the surroundings to move us from one scene to the next.

Of course, I cannot finish without talking about the costumes. The use of McQueen designs is sparing, and rightly so. To fill the stage with beautiful clothes would detract from Lee who is, in his own words, "wearing the worst clothes in the room". The key pieces are a gold coat, which many people will recognise as being from his final collection, and the red dress with a feather skirt which was worn by Erin O'Connor in Spring/Summer 2001. Yet the most stunning sartorial moment occurs when Lee builds a black dress around Dahlia which she wears for the rest of the play. It must have taken some serious technical work and a lot of practice on Wight's part to make it look like he is cutting fabric by eye and turning it into a piece of couture in under five minutes.

This is a play which I found worth seeing, despite its flaws. And at a time when Savage Beauty has made history as a blockbuster exhibition, this production contributes to the inevitable rise of the cult of McQueen. There will certainly be more tributes to the late great designer, and if they carry his influence in the same way McQueen does, I can see him becoming the most legendary icon of fashion since Chanel.

All images kindly provided by Amanda Malpass PR on behalf of McQueen

Monday, 14 September 2015

What's In My Bag? Exploring Madrid

My summer is almost over, but there was just about time for a short city break with my friend Holly. If you're looking for a place you can do in a few days in Europe, I cannot recommend Madrid enough. I bought a new backpack just before we left, as I wanted something a big enough for all my bits and bobs, and overstuffed shoulder bags are the worst. Aside from the essentials (passport, money, phone), this is what I was carrying around.

NW by Zadie Smith - It seems counterintuitive that I should have been reading this novel, which is mainly set in a little corner of North London, over the few days I wasn't even in England. But I think holidays are really about getting to do those things which everyday life doesn't afford you the time for, and this is a book I've wanted to read for a long time. It's nice to take a break from reading for my course - though this book might actually make a brief appearance in my dissertation...

Sunglasses - Another new purchase. I used to have some a bit like this, but lost them at some point last year, so I decided to go for even bigger frames. It's the Anna Wintour look, darling.

Maybelline Baby Skin - As the tube makes clear, this is a product for adults only, despite its name. It's a "pore eraser", kind of a light tinted primer - it's even lighter than BB cream. I really like it, as I hate wearing makeup which seems to sweat off whenever I feel a bit hot. It was especially good to have this in Spain, where it was about 10 degrees hotter than at home!

Leaflets - We did all sorts of things: drinks at a rooftop bar overlooking the Palacio Real, wandering the Reina Sofia art gallery, a  trip on a cable-car over the edges of the city. In this picture, you can see a map of the Botanical Gardens, where we spent a very peaceful afternoon, and a leaflet about the Moche Art exhibition at Caixa Forum - a museum which is worth visiting just to look at the inside of the building!

If you head over to my Instagram, you can see a few of my favourite spots in Madrid!
A photo posted by Alys Key (@fashionmoriarty) on

Monday, 7 September 2015

Social media isn't ruining my life

We live in an age which moves so fast that by the time we have managed to process the new, it isn't new any more. Understandably, this dismays a lot of people. Even the most tech-savvy and up-to-date of us can have their moments of doubt, and it can be beneficial to stop and think about what the implications of each new change.

But I have to say, I am getting pretty bored with seeing the same concerns over social media. Especially when they're about the pressure to have a perfect life which Instagram and Pinterest supposedly exert onto us.

The latest of these is a piece in the New York Times, which suggested that pictures of happy groups of female friends - emblematised, of course, by Taylor Swift's 'girl squad' - are replacing those of happy couples. The writer, Emily Witt, suggests that these images are increasing our insecurity about our lives: "The portraits seem to be asking a lot of impolite questions: Do you have as many friends as we do? How did you celebrate your birthday?"

Firstly, I simply do not agree that a proliferation of images of female friendship is a bad thing, even if they are all clothed in Chanel or hanging out at a champagne bar. Promoting friendship is surely a good thing, because having a supportive network of friends is such an important part of life. I do not agree that posting pictures with your friends on social media is "friendship as performed" - it can be an expression of happiness in the moment. Or, as I've experienced a lot in this transitional phase of my life from school to university to life, it can be a way of preserving a memory. Perhaps most importantly, when women are so often portrayed in the media as competing with each other for the attention of men, is it not a positive step to see more women celebrating their friendships?

Secondly, have we not yet learnt that nobody's life is perfect? We need to accept that when people post something on social media, they are editing their lives for public consumption. We all have a right to do that: choosing what to keep private and what to show. Social media posts do not have this malicious intent that many cultural commentators seem to be reading into them. Just because you see a picture of two friends having a night out, there's no need for you to feel bad about spending an evening alone. 

For some reason we have arrived at this assumption that social media is inherently bad for us. We are, apparently, addicted to gazing at beautiful images and judging ourselves harshly in comparison. I don't doubt that this happens to everyone at some point; we've all had our low moments of feeling left out or unfulfilled. But this attitude totally neglects the positive ways in which social media keeps us connected: staying in touch with friends all over the world, following the life of someone whom we admire, and even meeting new people.

As for beautiful images, our interaction with them need not be destructive, but rather aspirational. Recently I read a money-saving tip on The Financial Diet which advised supplanting your impulsive shopping habits with Pinterest. Perhaps that sounds silly to some, but I find it really works. Whatsmore, when I find I really want to purchase something, gathering inspiration from the blogosphere is incredibly helpful, allowing me to get a sense of the features I need in a piece of clothing, and what I want it to look like. Never mind if I'm Pinning a piece of Elie Saab couture that I'll never be able to afford, the fact I'm attracted to it helps me sift through my options with a keener sense of what I'm looking for.

In fact, the majority of young women also see the benefit in using social media for this sort of purpose. Teen Vogue's social media survey showed that girls use various outlets to research their purchases by watching tutorials and reviews on Youtube, finding more images on Pinterest, and looking for discounts on Facebook. To me this seems to counteract the stereotype of the young woman obsessed with Instagram, desperately trying to get hold of the latest 'it' buy. We might see things on Instagram at first, but social media allows us to research our purchases and make an informed decision.

Whether it's a group of celebrity friends or a must-have handbag, our lives are filled with perfect images. That shouldn't make our lives any less wonderful. These apps and websites were made to be enjoyed, not to hold us back.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The back to school wishlist

It's September, and despite this being the third (and final!) year that I won't go back to studying until October, it's difficult to shake off that distinctive back-to-school vibe. Few times of year flood my mind with so many readily-associated images: brand new exercise books to be personalised; the walk through my local park to school as the leaves begin to grow golden and the promise of conkers looms; desperately wanting to buy everything in Paperchase, and queuing around the block for access to the one tiny branch of the school uniform retailer.

I see no reason that adults shouldn't carry this sense of excitement and anticipation into their everyday lives. It may not be long until my world doesn't revolve around academic years, but perhaps if I just allow myself a little treat around this time of year, I'll regain that feeling of new-ness.

Here I've gathered some of the most desirable back-to-school items I could find. If you like them, have a look at my Study Inspiration and Autumn/Winter boards on Pinterest where you'll find lots of similar things!

The jacket

Blame the Sports Luxe trend, or maybe it was the Americana trend. Whichever it was, despite living in England all my life, I'm a tiny bit obsessed with American-style sporty clothes. Whatsmore, jackets like this are such a good cover-up because they aren't as slouchy as a hoody but are still easy-going. I like this one from Nordstrom in particular because it mixes British and American influences by combining the Tweed contrast knit with the sleek shape.

The backpack

I used to hate wearing a backpack. I felt like a tortoise lumbered with a shell several sizes too big, and often worried that if I fell over I would never get back up. When I made the long-desired switch to shoulder-bags, I felt a little better, except that now everything was much heavier as it had to be carried on one shoulder. Really what I needed was the perfect backpack, and this shop on Etsy has some beautiful ones in different colours. I chose this burnt orange one as it reminded me of autumn leaves, but was seriously tempted by all the others. I'd love something like this for putting books in when I need to cycle across Oxford.

The notebook

Most people I know now use pads of A4 lined paper or just type everything straight onto their laptop. I do that too, but last year found a stationery shop where I could get traditional exercise books, which really help me get my thoughts in order. I especially like the ones with plain pages as I love doing little mind maps before starting an essay. If you're interested in those you can get them cheaply here, but for the purposes of this post I wanted to choose something a little more indulgent. I've had my eye on these Decomposition Books for a while; the way they play on the classic composition notebook is very appealing, and I especially like this one with echoes of Greek art on it. I miss studying Classics sometimes, so it's nice to have a reminder of it.

The socks
Anyone who's ever encoutered Out of Print Clothing will know that it's practically impossible to pick just one thing from the site; do have a look if you fancy decorating your dorm with a Pemberley pennant or wearing a Great Gatsby sweater to class. I chose socks because they are an often undervalued element of a good wardrobe, but are essential for a new academic year, whether you're wearing them underneath Winter boots for walking to the library or just keeping your feet warm during evening study sessions. These aren't just cute, the library checkout card can even keep your mind on that book you need to return!

The dress

One thing I don't miss about school is the uniform. Although in a way, we all create our own uniform based on the key pieces we wear every day. My personal uniform, as most people who know me will attest to, is a skater dress, often with tights. I love them because I just need to put them on to feel ready for the day. I'll add a cardigan if I'm just going to a lecture, or a nice jacket and heels if I'm going to an event. This dress is my sort of thing, in that it's quite plain and easy to match with things, but the embroidered detail at the neckline adds enough that you don't even need to accessorise if you don't want to. It's from a brand I hadn't heard of called Fallen Star on ASOS. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

5 best-dressed TV career women

I love workwear. And when I say workwear, I mean I want a job where I can wear perfectly-cut Westwood dresses, casually powerful jumpsuits, and those ever-recurring camel-coloured winter coats. I've begun to notice that, much as I will swoon over a beautiful gown or admire a street style look, the real looks which draw me in are the professional ones. This is especially true of the way I watch TV characters. For someone to become my TV style icon du jour, I quite often need to see them in their work outfits, thus cementing them as the new ideal of elegance and power in my sartorial aspirations. Here are my top 5 favourites.

5. Nessa Stein, The Honourable Woman

Baroness Stein is the head of the inherited family business, a role which requires a selection of outfits for events, meetings, and business trips to Israel. Her style is chic, but seems effortless. It's a combination of floaty fabrics, expert tailoring, and off-piste colour choices. Maggie Gyllenhaal says of her character that "she's so much more alive than I am." There's a sense of that in her clothing: in a room of people, she stands out physically, as well as through her personality. I also love the clothes which her assistant Frances (played by Genevieve O'Reilly) wears. They often feel like they have been chosen to compliment Nessa's, turning Frances into a suitable lady-in-waiting for this honourable woman.

4. Bel Rowley, The Hour

Regular readers of my blog who thought I might have moved on from talking about The Hour by now are sadly out of luck. Much as I could gush about Lix's elegant trousers & nonchalant cigarette combinations, or Marnie's perfect princess housewife dresses, it is the wardrobe of Bel Rowley which I must constantly return to. As a female producer of  a brand new current affairs programme, she has a lot to prove in the still very sexist world of the 1950s. Rather than trying to blend in with the men, she wears gorgeous skirt suits in bright primary colours. Romola Garai, who has an incredible figure, looks great in Bel's pencil skirts and padded shoulders with nipped-in waists. She basically looks beautiful and in-control all the time, even when she is having a crisis of confidence.

3. Teresa Lisbon, The Mentalist

It is, of course, difficult to compete with the expert three-piece-suit wearer Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), but Agent Lisbon (Robin Tunney) doesn't need to try. Her style is a wholly different affair. She looks smart enough for the office in relaxed shirts and classic black suits, but she's also pretty ready to draw her gun and pursue criminal's at a moment's notice, often in the same suit, or sometimes wearing a leather jacket and matching boots. Her outfits are almost like a more casual, Californian version of those worn by her counterpart Detective Kate Beckett in the New York-based show Castle. What I love about Teresa is that she isn't a showman like Patrick - there's no need for fancy suits or for rifling through other people's cupboards looking for tea - she just gets on with her job and does it well. It's why they make a great team.

2. Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife

Forgive me, Good Wife aficionadoes, for I've only just caught up with the hype and started watching this series, but I'm already hooked on Alicia's story, as well as her outfits. Costume designer Dan Lawson says he likes to dress people in a "column of colour" for a strong, powerful look. And it really works, whether in a suit or a dress, because it makes you seem taller. It also creates a sleek professional look which works well with Julianna Margulies' glossy dark hair. It would be a travesty not to also mention Diane (Christine Baranski), whose cool glamour is just the right mix of Hollywood and the courtroom, and Kalinda (Archie Panjabi), who keeps things rather more casual but still interesting, similar to other TV investigators like the aformentioned Lisbon and Beckett.

1. Carol Rance, Episodes

Toiling away at a TV network where she is always number two to bosses of variably unhinged temperaments (whom she invariably ends up in bed with), Carol manages to always maintain her upbeat approach. That's what I love about her: she's an embodiment of all the optimism of LA. She manages to pull off a range of workwear, though mostly based around figure-hugging cuts. I also often notice when I'm watching what great arms Kathleen Rose Perkins has, and the costume department has obviously noticed too, often choosing sleeveless pieces with high necklines which draw attention to those arms and her signature haircut. Her minimal aesthetic makes Carol look like a woman who knows what she's doing, and since she's practically been running the network for so many years, she probably does.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Good, clean, honest fashion writing

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. My current favourite is a show called Longform. If you haven't heard it, each episode is an interview with a writer, journalist, editor or someone else involved with the media. What I love about it is that each person makes me think a little differently about their sector, whether that's podcasting, investigative journalism, or fashion writing. When I was listening to the Molly Young episode, she said something about fashion journalism which resonated with me a lot:

Molly: "It's an industry that is only interesting from an outside perspective, which is one reason why there's just no good fashion writing out there. Anyone who's involved in the fashion industry who writes for a fashion magazine, their paycheck is directly tied to their..."
Presenter: "Right, that story is sitting next to a giant ad."
Molly: "Exactly."

This was always something of which I had been peripherally aware, but not something with which I was willing to fully engage or accept. I have several memories of hearing people say "fashion magazines are all just advertising" when I would list examples of in-depth and interesting features from the latest Vogue to defend the form. But when I look back, I realise those features which I was namedropping were rarely directly to do with fashion, they were the profiles of high-flying career women, or investigations into new health treatments. And when they were about fashion, they were flattering interviews with designers or write-ups of shows which lacked any real criticism or, perhaps more importantly, honesty.

What's the point in this kind of journalism? I, along with many others, will champion the analysis of fashion as something which reflects on our economy, political and social changes, and the progression of modern art. Yet fashion is not being approached in the way any of these other fields are. Can you imagine if political journalism was written like this? We would have a 10-page edit of the best policies from George Osborne's latest budget, followed by an overly-flaterring interview with Donald Trump, then an exclusive tour around the headquarters of the Assad regime.

I recognise I'm being somewhat unfair in this analogy, but the point is that good journalism requires more than just an expertise in the subject. It needs strong voices to criticise when things are flawed, and it needs fresh perspectives from people who don't feel obliged to flatter every big brand. It is remarkable that for an industry with such a bitchy reputation, very little actual criticism is ever published.

There are a lot of attempts to achieve this kind of writing out there, especially in blogging. Yet even bloggers often feel that if they want to monetise their blog or work their way into a job in the industry then they can't fully say what they think. Perhaps an even bigger problem is that, when you've been reading the same sycophantic media all your life, it's difficult to strike out from that. I know that for a long time all of my fashion writing was an echo of what I read in Vogue, InStyle, Miss Vogue, and the weekend supplements of newspapers. That's fine, all writers tend to go through a period of imitation. But fashion journalism could be so much more.

The only way to break this habit is to make a conscious effort to look at your'e writing and say "what do I really think"? If you think that Raf Simmons is actually the wrong choice for Dior, say so. If you think this year's September issue doesn't live up to expectations, talk about what's wrong with it and how it could be improved. I guess what I'm saying is that we have critics for restaurants, theatre and film who aren't afraid to speak their minds; the same should be true of fashion.

Of course there's always room for the articles and posts which are purely about how much you love a new collection, or which brands you find the best deals from. Fashion is, and always will be, a different beast altogether. Whatsmore, it's fun, so there should certainly be fun ways of talking about it. But it's time those of us who have written about it for a while took a step back to re-evaluate. On top of that, I'd love to see more writers from other sectors trying their hand at fashion reporting.

To this end, I'm adding a quick link on this blog to any pieces tagged 'opinion', and I'm also putting out a call: come guest-post for me. I'll do a proper post about this soon, but if you're reading this and you think you have something to say about fashion - whether or not you've ever tried writing on fashion before - get in touch. Tell me your ideas. They don't have to be radically opinionated, they just need to be your honest take. Find me on Twitter to let me know you're interested.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Links a la Mode & developing the blog

It's always nice to have a post in Links a la Mode, and this week it's particularly gratifying, because I was trying something a little different with my piece about Clinique's new campaign. I'd like to have a lot more of this opinion-based writing on the blog, because although I love thinking about shopping and outfits (and will still be writing about those) I also like having the chance to create some in-depth analysis.

I used to do this a lot more like when I responded to John Galliano's new appointment or wrote about elitism in fashion journalism, but would really like to make this a staple of the blog. I hope my readers will enjoy this kind of piece, which I plan on doing regularly. In fact I've got a lot of ideas for developing the blog, including a redesign and guest posts, but that may be a little while off.

Anyway, make sure to check out the rest of the links. My personal recommendations would be the review of The Rise of Sneaker Culture on Style Curated, and the playlists on Fashion Tales.

Links à la Mode, July 9
SPONSOR: Shopbop sale, Yummie, Fuzzi, Private Party, Boho jeans, Sweater Dresses, Standard Issue, Men's Marni, Doucal's, Tarin Thomas, gold clutches, chiffon blouses

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Face Forward: A New Direction?

I stopped properly paying attention to the skincare market a while back. When you've got pretty unpredictable skin like mine, most beauty products start to seem like scams, too much effort, or the luxury of those with a lot of expendable income. It's frustrating, and I expect there are a lot of people like me who just switch off when they see advertisements for a moisturiser, toner, or cleanser.

That's why it's interesting that I actually noticed Clinique's Face Forward campaign. I guess that the recognisable face of Tavi Gevinson taking up a full page of Grazia Magazine did a lot of the ground work; Tavi is, to a lot of people my age, the pinnacle of a more intelligent and ambitious approach to life than we are often offered by mainstream media. I noted the bare-faced, fresh aesthetic of the subsequent two black and white headshots, and admired the approach.

I thought nothing more of it until I picked up the leaflet from the Clinique counter in Boots. Again, the same three simple headshots are the focus of the campaign, but what I found most interesting was the Q&A feature. As well as expected questions like "What is your typical beauty routine?" they ask the girls "What keeps you motivated in your career?" There is a huge focus on entrepreneurship, healthy living, confidence and the future. The other two subjects are Hannah Bronfman, who is described as a "DJ, model, fitness guru and serial entrepreneur" and Margaret Zhang, a "Creative Director, Blogger, Law Student, One-time ballerina".

Here at last is a campaign aimed at young ambitious women, whose main concerns are living fulfilling, healthy lives. The idea of marketing to the woman who doesn't want a lot of make-up hassle is not a new one. It's pretty much Simple's USP, and crops up in the advertisements for any brands with a teenage market like Freederm, Neutrogena, Witch, and Clean&Clear.

But to be seeing young women in particular as busy, outgoing, career-focused, is a fairly new thing. The anti-wrinkle product-makers have, for a long time, been aware that the women they want to start using preventative creams are the kind of women who are in their 30s, moving up in their career, and have limited time in their days. This Face Forward approach is about catching the ones in their early 20s, who are starting to envision their bright and shining futures, and are busy with internships, projects, studying and having new ideas.

I can't speak for the quality of any of the products - that would be a different blogpost. What I'm interested in is whether this will become the new way of marketing products to the young market. It's a tactic which places as much value on achievement and confidence as it does on clear skin. Of course, taking the skeptical line of thought, that means Clinique is associating their product with those desirable goals. But on the other hand, I'd rather be seeing these girls celebrated for their interests and goals alongside the fact that they have great skin rather than their appearances being presented as the only thing that matters. I'm excited to see whether a greater portion of the beauty industry takes note on this one and makes the effort to engage with this market in what I think is a new and unpatronising way.

If you'd like to read the Q&As or any more about the products themselves visit the Clinique website.

Disclaimer: I'm not being sponsored by Clinique, I'm just generally interested in their approach. Having said that if anyone from Clinique is reading this and would like to send me some samples I am totally up for that... tweet me.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

IdeasTap alternatives for young creatives

Friends, bloggers, fashion designers, lend me your readership.

On the 8th of July, a beloved website of young British creatives will close down. IdeasTap was such an invaluable resource for me in the past couple of years. I haven't mentioned it on this blog before, but I thought it might be relevant to some of my readers. Probably a lot of you are bloggers, writers, designers, artists, models, actors, etc.

I want to share here a few sites which might serve as good alternatives to anyone who, like me, will be feeling the absence of IdeasTap. Or indeed for anyone who's only just heard of it as it's closing down and feels like they missed out on all the fun. A word of warning: although there are many international websites on this list, it will for the most part be a UK-centric article.

Hiive is where Ideastap are directing their users, and where there will still be IdeasTap-funded competitions and projects. This is where the really popular regular opportunities like writing a regular paid column or applying for funding will live for the foreseeable future. I've just signed up myself, and it seems like a really useful resource. The layout is sleek and easy to use, and it still has a lot of the features which IdeasTap is known for. There are groups, jobs listings, and now competitions.

There's something missing though. I think that, unlike IdeasTap, it doesn't have young people specifically at its hear. Setting my profile up just now, I had to pick a level of career, even though there's an option to say you're a student. I think Hiive's users tend to be people who are maybe in their first job or looking for one, whereas IdeasTap - while it can cater for those people - was also good for those just wanting to create something in their spare time while at school. It's still worth signing up to though as pretty much the most similar thing to IdeasTap out there.

Journo Portfolio is another one which I've only just signed up to, though I've heard good things about it from people who I worked with on a student newspaper. This seems like a very neat alternative for anyone who, like me, used Ideastap as a kind of portfolio. It's very easy to use (I just signed up using my Twitter account) and would be good for bloggers who want to showcase some of their best posts alongside work they've published elsewhere.

Although there are no specific guides as to what you can put on your portfolio, the focus is very much journalism. This is fine, though I also used IdeasTap to showcase short stories, poetry, even a play which I co-wrote. Although it has the useful feature of arranging your work by type, I don't think Journo Portfolio is the place for all of that. It's still a very good way of showing your work though, by gathering different publications together in one place.

Behance is effectively the visual equivalent of Journo Portfolio. Again, this is a good place to go if you're now bereft of your favourite place to showcase your work. Both this site and JP obviously don't have everything which IdeasTap had, but they are useful for demonstrating what you can do. Behance has the added benefit of catering to several different creative modes, which you can filter from the main menu. If you're just looking for a photographer, or a fashion designer, it's incredibly simple to narrow down results.

I won't be signing up to this because, aside from my basic levels of design and photography knowledge, I don't have enough visual output to make it worth it. Having looked at it though, Behance seems like a sort of professional Pinterest, and it's easy to get lost browsing other people's artwork! A carefully-curated profile could certainly help you get noticed, and there are actually jobs listings on this one.

YCN (YouCanNow) is more something which you might want to investigate if you're building a brand or business. Membership costs from £120 a year for an individual, so it's certainly an investment. the opportunities and events available certainly seem worth it, though not for people who are just starting out. The website's design is pretty smart, and actually a lot more interesting than your typical sleek site. Perhaps this is one to aspire to join once things are going well!

Other resources

Follow a couple of the Media Jobs UK accounts, Fashion Internships, and any other jobs listings Twitter accounts you can find

Start reading The Financial Diet for career inspiration and tips in a way that doesn't make you stress out or fall asleep with boredom. Chelsea Fagan's personal experiences of becoming a professional writer are especially useful.

It feels a bit corporate, but if you haven't already, make a LinkedIn profile. If nothing else, the jobs listings can be really good, and will show you opportunities from around the world.

Farewell IdeasTap, you were too good for this world (and the current climate of arts-funding). If any of my readers have some more reccommendations, or a different opinion on one of the suggested websites, let me know on Twitter (please note my new handle!) or in the comments. I'll probably be doing another post on this topic or something similar soon.

And if you want to look at my nifty new profiles on Hiive or Journo Portfolio, be my guest!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

What's In My Bag? Springtime exploring

How's the weather where you are? In Oxford, it's periodically sunny, consistently warm, and there is a gentle breeze in the air. It's the perfect time to roam the city, seeking out new interesting things to do and see. Here are the essentials I like to carry with me.

Sunglasses - I picked these up at an Oxford vintage fair. They were only £5, but the gold arms and ruby frames add what I like to think is a classy touch.

Wallet - this is a new acquisition which was kindly given to me. I love the mock-croc pattern, but most of all I love all the different pockets inside which allow for easy organisation of my many loyalty cards, receipts, and other random items.

Selected poems of Lord Byron - this term is probably my favourite term; on one side of the course we have Shakespeare, and on the other we have the Romantic poets. I'm looking forward to a summer term reclinging on the quad reading Jane Austen.

Phoenix Picturehouse brochure - there are some great deals for students at my local cinema. I'm planning on making use of them soon, as I really want to see Far From the Madding Crowd and The Falling. Which films are you looking forward to in the next few weeks? Share your recommendations with me in the comments!

Lush Popcorn Lip Scrub & Vaseline Queen Bee balm - I've become absolutely addicted to this lip scrub. Not only does it smooth my lips (particularly helpful in the fluctuating humidity we have right now), it also tastes amazing. Of course Lush recommend that you follow it up with one of their lip balms, but I find this Vaseline one - a luscious honey-flavoured edition - to work just as well.

Moroccan Mint Tea Body Mist - I went to visit a friend in London over the holidays, and while I was there we visited one of my favourite shops: And Other Stories. I already have a cherry blossom body mist from them, but fancied something new to mix things up. This mint tea fragrance is so fresh, and I bought the smaller size which means it fits snugly into any bag.

Cath Kidston Bag - this was a gift, and is a really good size for not getting in the way but still having enough room. I think it' more of a makup bag really, but functions really well as a day bag as well.

Yesterday our amblings took us to the top of a mound which is owned by Oxford castle. It costs £1 to go up, but that's definitely worth it, as you get a surprisingly wide-reaching view. It's not the traditional Oxford panorama, but you can see down onto the Malmaison hotel's rooftop area, and on the other side the hills and fields outside of the city are visible.

A photo posted by Alys Key (@fashionmoriarty) on
Tell me about your own adventures in your own city in the comments, or on Twitter.