Friday, 19 February 2016

Links a la Mode

To polish off a lovely week, I've been selected for Links a la Mode again! If you missed it, my post was about 5 floral shirts for Valentine's day (link below). Of course, beautiful shirts are for life, not just for Valentine's Day - I'm wearing one right now!

As ever, do have a look through the other blogs. My personal favourites are Mox and Socks's introduction to her dog, with some beautiful photos, and Everyday Starlet's wedding dress shopping tips - whether you're a bride-to-be or, like me, just obsessed with watching Don't Tell the Bride, it's a great and useful post.

Links à la Mode, February 18
SPONSOR: Shopbop Twelfth St. by Cynthia Vincent, BCBG Dresses, Private Party Tops, MISA, Moon River, Ace of Something, Fringe Jackets, Wildfox Tees, Micro Satchels, Men's Ted Baker

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Four things to do when you have nothing to wear

Many people are dismissive when they hear the phrase "nothing to wear". Of course, it can be a little melodramatic: all of us must have some clothes. But the people who point this out have clearly never experienced the embarrassment of feeling uncomfortable, overdressed, underdressed, or boring at an event where you'd been hoping to have a lovely time. Maybe your body's changed shape, or an old faithful is starting to look a bit dowdy, or you simply wanted something new.

This past week, I've been looking for a new outfit for various formal occasions, and having a horrible time. I'm not very tall, yet most petite lines are sparse and tend to assume that being short is the same thing as being uber-thin. I'm also finding that I want to move away from the shape I used to favour (cap sleeves, skater skirt) in favour of some sleeker cuts.

In the end, I ordered the above dress from ASOS, and paid for next-day delivery. Desperate times call for desperate postage. This was one of the few times in my life I've been really stumped, and I wanted to share some of the options I considered or took in order to get through it.

Set a budget

If you shop while stressed - which I don't advise, but which may be necessary - you'll start to think about just blowing loads of money in order to get it over with. Work out how much you'd normally spend on a new dress, and maybe add £5-10 to reflect that this is an emergency. I very nearly bought a dress which I knew wasn't quite what I wanted and which was at least £15 more than I wanted to spend, but budget considerations stopped me.

Get some cheap accessories

We all have our treasured favourites, but sometimes they just aren't working with the outfit we want to wear. Stock up on some cheap, fun stuff which can add a bit of sparkle to your outfit. Once I had ordered my one-shoulder dress, I went to Claire's Accessories, that tween haven of bargains, and got a £5 pair of clip-on earrings (I haven't got pierced ears). They were the easiest thing to match with a difficult neckline, and really give the outfit a pop that it wouldn't have otherwise. If you have time to order online, you can get some super cheap things from Amazon like this box of 20 stud earrings or a cute hair piece. No, none of it will be great quality, but it will be on-hand when you need to breathe life into an old or plain outfit.

Make basic alterations

If you have time, it can be very cheap to get a hem taken up by a professional. But failing that, you might have to get stuck in yourself. The dress I ordered is slightly too long on one of the straps, so I've brandished my incredibly basic sewing kit (I think it came out of a Christmas cracker) and made a decent job for now. I'll get it professionally done when I next have the chance, but it goes to show that even someone as inept at sewing as me can do a quick fix!

Keep it simple

If you're feeling stressed about what to wear to a party, now is not the time to try and create a show-stopping outfit. When you have more time, you can plan how you're going to style that embellished pair of shorts or the gold-fringed kimono; this time around, stick to a little black dress. Try to think of some outfits which have made you feel great in the past, and restrict your search to the sweetheart neckline or Oxford shirts that you know you can wear. I was basing my search on a dress I already have, with a tight main body and lace sleeves - I just wanted something similar, but with bare arms. The ASOS one does the trick!

Friday, 12 February 2016

5 Floral Shirts for Valentine's Day

Florals, as Miranda Priestley has taught us all, may be highly unoriginal for Spring, but they're delightful to wear nonetheless. With Valentine's weekend now upon us, what better excuse do you need to freshen up your wardrobe with some daffodils or carnations?

This is my first Valentine's day in a relationship, but I've always felt the need for something floaty, romantic, and classic around this time of year. A perfect floral shirt fits all of these criteria. They're versatile enough to be worn on a date, to work, out for drinks with friends, or even just to spend a peaceful Sunday afternoon reading a good book.

A lot of High Street and online stores have caught onto this lately: I've been noticing a chic floral shirt in pretty much every shop I walk into. Inspired by this resurgence in popularity and my own partiality to a good shirt, I now offer you my pick of the best on offer right now.

H&M Floral Chiffon Blouse

As you may have guessed from the fact that it's pictured above, I recently purchased this gorgeous piece. It's polyester, but has the feel of a slightly heavier chiffon. What drew me to it was the way the little bouquets look like they've been freshly inked on by hand. I've been wearing it with jeans so far, but am on the lookout for a smart pair of blue or pink trousers to create a smarter look.

Popbop Elegant V-neck Shirt

This casual v-neck shirt is a more relaxed choice: no collar, no buttons, just slip on and wear for an appropriate activity. Possible ventures which spring to mind include a trip to the cinema, trying a new coffee shop, or tending to the dahlias while solving a murder à la Rosemary and Thyme.

Vintage Art Deco Floral Shirt

If you're looking for something a little more unique, vintage is of course the obvious route. While it can be fun to root through bargain boxes in second-hand stores, shirts are some of the most difficult items to find in good condition. Etsy sellers are a good way to find good quality vintage pieces, and if you read one of my recent posts, you'll know I have a special reader discount for one seller in particular. This very cute shirt and several others are from Cold Hard Stitches, where you can get 20% off by entering the code MORIARTY20

Black Scatter Floral Shirt

Warehouse has some lovely stuff in right now. If florals aren't your thing (and congrats for making it this far through this post if that's the case) there are some other gorgeous prints, my favourite being this crane shirt. There's also a white version of the shirt pictured above, but I thought that was a bit similar to my H&M one. The black one is a bit more dramatic: like a picture taken with flash at night. Great for a day out at a museum, rivaling the paintings in any art gallery.

Ivory and Blue Sleeveless Blouse

It may still be a little cold for this one, but that fine china print is hard to resist, and very on-trend. The one above is from a plus-size brand, and will look good with a pair of good jeans or a bold skirt. If you want something with a similar feel, but in a more traditional shape, there's this more abstract one.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Film Review: Spotlight

As a good budding journalist, Spotlight was of course top of my to-watch list from the current crop of Oscar favourites. The film is beginning to look like it could do pretty well this awards season, despite not taking home any Golden Globes; its popularity has risen from a dark horse position, and it now seems tipped to get the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award. In case you haven't heard of it, IMDB describes the movie as "The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core."

For me, the immediate point of reference is Argo. Both films have a strange knack of making bureaucratic montages of lists and documents incredibly gripping. They also both tend to choose the heroes and villains of the piece early on, and present us with a core (all-white, as many have noted regarding the Oscar nominations as a whole) cast of characters who are just trying to do the right thing.

There is something about Spotlight which captured me. Yes, some scenes depend a little too heavily on the Good-Guy-Journalist trope, but much of it is incredibly naturalistic. Two parallel scenes in which Joe (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha (Rachel McAdams) each interview an abuse survivor stand out for me. They aren't overdone, the interviewees aren't positioned as plot devices alone, they are simply conversations which convey the huge impact the abuse has had on the lives of the victims. It is respectful, yet unflinching: both journalists emphasise the importance of opening up what really happened, rather than resorting to the euphemisms which the Church uses to obfuscate events.

Some reviewers have noted that the Church remains at arm's length throughout the film, with no real in-for-the-kill attack on it. This is certainly true to an extent, but what is really excellently portrayed is the omnipresence of the Church in Boston. We see how all of the central characters are at least tangentially affected by it. It's crucial that this is brought home for a global audience: viewers like me have no idea whether Boston is predominantly Catholic or Presbyterian, Jewish or Atheist. The sequence which I found most effective at emphasising that is a montage of the reporters interviewing more survivors, as well as police officers and other figures of the community. All the while, the little houses in the foreground are dwarfed by towering churches and cathedrals in the background, almost as though they are looming over the characters. It shows not just how crucial the Church is in people's lives, but also how many people knew about the repeated abuse but felt unable to speak out.

I usually talk about costumes in all the films I review on this blog, though this might seem like an odd one to look at: the costumes are all fairly standard early Noughties fare. It is rather gratifying to see the normal workaday clothing from that period - all rather similar to what we wear now - rather than the way ASOS presents the era: Bjork hair and ribbed crop-tops galore. What I'd mainly like to look at though is how the costume design works as part of a subtle map of visual references throughout.

You may have noticed in the posters that the film has a lot of pale shade in it: the light shirts of the journalists, their office walls and computers, the stacks of paper to sift through. This was one of the first things I noticed. The first few minutes are a nighttime scene, featuring a priest and cardinal in their usual black garb, so when it cuts to a white office full of journalists in pale shirts, the imagery is pretty clear. Angels and demons might be a bit of a stretch, but there's certainly an implication of that kind.

The journalists (left), and the Church figures (right)

A friend of mine also noted how there seemed to be a bit of a Godfather vibe every time figures from the Church were onscreen. From the dark clothes and hat in that first scene to the slimy appearances of Pete Conley (CSI's Paul Guilfoyle), there is certainly a Church mafia undertone here. The scene in which The Boston Globe's new editor visits the Cardinal, in a luxurious room of dark wood and books, is particularly reminiscent of The Don's office.

The Cardinal (left), and Marlon Brando in The Godfather (right)
The friendly way in which Conley and the Cardinal act seems contradictory to that, and so we as the audience are never sure who to trust: even some of the newspaper employees seem to have something to hide. Only Stanley Tucci's impeccable performance as Garabedian, a lawyer taking on a mountain of cases against Catholic priests, instills us with confidence. His corporate counterpart, Eric Macleish (played by Billy Crudup, who I'm glad to see hasn't disappeared since Stage Beauty), is far more ambiguous. In fact I got a strong Patrick Bateman vibe from him...

Christian Bale in American Psycho (left), and Billy Crudup as Macleish (right)
Whether intentional or not, this at least underscores the way corporate America, as ever, finds a way to captialise on everything: Macleish is accused of creating a "cottage industry" out of representing victims in their claims against the Church (which can only result in a capped settlement of $20,000) while doing nothing to address the ongoing problem.

There are undoubtedly more things to be noticed on a second viewing, and it's all of these small details which set the film apart for me. While the central journalistic plotline is riveting alone, the evocative depiction of Boston society is what really brings the whole thing alive.