Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Women. Fashion. Power. Not a multiple choice.

There is a black and gold striped Biba jumpsuit on display in the Women Fashion Power exhibition at the Design Museum.  It prompted a discussion between two women next to me on how they could potentially make it out of the museum without anyone noticing they’d nicked it.  Being the philanthropic eavesdropper I am, I offered to distract the staff while they made a run for it.

After we opted out of resorting to a smash and grab, they started telling me about the first time they’d visited the Biba store on Kensington High Street in the 70s. They pointed at a photo of Twiggy lounging on a leopard print bed and said: “We’d never seen anything like it; we couldn’t believe our eyes.  The colours, and the people.  It was something else.”  They lit up telling me about this experience, this moment when the transformative possibilities of fashion were revealed to them.

This exhibition is about the many hundreds of moments when women through history have seen those possibilities and exploited them, to project, protect, inspire, disguise, manipulate, trademark, eschew, adopt, interpret, prosper and transform.  

Naomi Campbell's first Vogue cover in December 1987

It’s pretty safe to say that at least half of our group were not feeling at our most fashionable, or indeed powerful after a housewarming the night before had rendered us slightly lacklustre.  But listening to those two women talk about their worlds being turned upside down in Biba, I shook off my wine fuzz and walked around the rest of the exhibition with a huge smile on my face.

Every time I get dressed I’m thinking about having one of those moments for myself that day.  Drawing breath and facing down the boys' clubs, the glass ceilings, the catcalls, the depressing statistics and all manner of other daily crap, women are still climbing the hill we've been climbing for centuries.  I don't know when we'll reach anything like the top, but until then I want to employ every tool in my eclectic arsenal to enhance whatever it is I want to say, think, make or do.  Fashion is one of the most powerful tools we have, unwieldy though it may be, and I intend to use it. 

Go along and get your empowerment on before Women Fashion Power ends on 26 April.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Vive la Megababe: Inspired by Ashley Williams AW15 Show

I was starting to get a bit worried I had fallen out of love with fashion.  By which I mainly mean I haven't bought anything since Christmas (only exception: black opaques, black opaques and more black opaques).  

January and February are a pretty lacklustre time in the shops.  Christmas sales are never-ending as more and more reduction stickers get plastered onto price tags for woolly accessories that didn't make it as stocking fillers.  Spring trends seem weirdly misplaced because non-fashion industry insiders prefer to shop for the weather they're experiencing rather than sunshine in four months time.  And against bitter winds and grey skies, colour blocked pastels are downright offensive.   

This week I went to my first catwalk show at London Fashion Week thanks to the lovely people at Fiji Water and I feel rejuvenated.  I can absolutely see how you could become jaded if you attended hundreds of them but as an imposter a newcomer, I enjoyed the spectacle. I especially enjoyed the man in snakeskin shorts and a crown taking photos of everyone.

It probably helped that the show was for bright young thing Ashley Williams and filled with so much spunky attitude it left you feeling like you'd been headbutted by your cool little sister.  
The show notes said "Vive la Megababe" and the sound system was pumping out The Primitives' "Crash".  I'm pretty sure I walked out having subconsciously taken up smoking.

Pictures via

There were goth vibes with black lipstick and PVC mixed with candy pink over-sized shearling and sheer mesh.  The open holes in the knees of black opaque tights made me think of Regina George shrugging off the holes in the front of her tank top in Mean Girls and sashaying out into the school hallways to set a trend because who gives a damn.

Pictures via

It reminded me that what I love about fashion is feeling transformed when I put on an outfit.  
That clothes can be a costume or a mask for when you most need them.  That you can dictate or subvert the judgements the world makes on you.  That sometimes it's fun to give a fuck, but you don't actually need to.  Vive la Megababe indeed.

Pictures via

Friday, 16 January 2015

Women and Opening Weekends: Why you should see Wild ASAP.

Today Wild is released in the UK.  It’s got a legitimate A-list star in Reese Witherspoon, who has a proven track record with the box office (Legally Blonde) and the critics (Walk the Line).  It’s got a Best Actress Oscar nomination, reviews are positive and it's adapted from a New York Times bestselling memoir.  Things are looking pretty good.

Despite the fact that Witherspoon is, in fact, a woman.  

Which according to Hollywood heavyweights like Russell Crowe and Aaron Sorkin, is extremely detrimental to both the quality and success of a film.  According to them, the real problem with women in Hollywood is…well…the women, obviously.

why we should see films with female leads on their opening weekend
"Wild" starring a "woman"

Personally, I haven’t seen hoards of potential cinema-goers scratching their heads in front of the poster for Wild as they desperately search for the name of the male co-star (although Reese isn’t a gender-specific name, so perhaps they’re easily fooled, the poor blind sheep).  And I also don’t believe people have flocked to see Taken 3 because they were just relieved that Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t in it.  But overall, the industry has basically no faith in its women to helm potential blockbusters.

In 2014, only 23% of films had female leads, less than a third of speaking roles went to women and only 17% of actors making up general crowd scenes were women.*  The Hollywood Foreign Press might fall over themselves to take credit for the casting of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as presenters for the Golden Globes but none of the best picture nominees featured a female lead performance.  I'm not getting started on the Oscars because my PMS might cause me to get hysterical, make false rape allegations and trick men into thinking I'm pregnant.

But the truth is that audiences actually quite like films that are not solely testosterone-charged.  Last year they quite liked Lucy.  And they were pretty into Maleficent.   And they thought The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 was ok too.  The women can bring in the big bucks; they just aren’t given enough of a chance.

When it opened in the US in December, Wild was shown in just 21 cinemas but has taken over $30m since then.  Audiences like the film, they’re telling their friends, and their friends like it too.  But where money has always talked in the movie business, nowadays it needs to talk faster and faster.  Box office clout is the bargaining chip the studio execs are looking for before they abandon projects to languish in the Hollywood hinterland, and the opening weekend has never been more important.  In a climate of piracy, streaming and web leaks, the first indication of a film’s figures have become the measuring stick that hits the headlines.  It's scarily easy for a project to be deemed a failure.

So while a savvy (and thrifty) cinema-goer might wait for reviews, recommendations from friends and generally rely on word-of-mouth to dictate which films they choose to see, the slow-burning success isn’t convincing the bigwigs.

Witherspoon had to set up her own production company in order to make projects like Gone Girl and Wild reach us, and if we want to see more of the same, we need to make our time and money count by seeing them on that all-important opening weekend.  

It's not about snubbing films that don't have female leads - it's about prioritising.  The men will still be there next week but the women might not be.  We need to queue up and book out the screens that have been risked on a paltry lady-film for Friday and Saturday nights.  We need to be the audience the studios don't think exists.  Lady-money can talk too. 

*Figures from the Geena Davis Institute report "Gender Bias Without Borders"

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas 2014 Gift Guide: Jewellery Brands

Jewellery is a great gift.  I'm not talking expensive, pregnant-with-meaning, fine gems, nor am I talking a quick pair of generic glitzy earrings grabbed in Accessorize on the way to meet your bezzie.  

I mean thoughtful, good quality jewellery that fits in with someone's personal style and is carefully chosen.  It's difficult to justify spending money on frivolous accessories for yourself, but realistically, you could wear a bracelet you really love, every day, with every outfit.

I've been a little bit bored with high street offerings of late but I realise that everyone does not have time to trawl markets, vintage stalls and online to find something different or unusual or special.  

So my generous offering to the deluge of gift guides is this: my top picks from some of my favourite jewellery brands you might not know about.  If you're really struggling I recommend sticking to necklaces or earrings - I know that my pathetic excuses for adult-sized hands make bracelets and rings difficult to get right.

Seeing as we're cutting it a bit fine for web orders and delivery, I've kept this to brands either based in the UK, or with excellent shipping.

NB:  Don't go to H Samuels.  What are you, some kind of moron?


If she likes:  The V&A Shop and boudoir interior design

Beloved of FKA Twigs when she's not inducing global hilarity via the medium of Robert Pattinson's hair, Finchittida Finch make some glorious baroque-style adornments in shiny perspex.  Subversive innit?  

Christmas 2014 gift guide


If she likes:  Urban Outfitters and gothic touches

Datter Industries is a bit of a stretch at this point for Christmas orders but I could't resist.  If you know a lady who would appreciate jewellery that looks delicate and elegant but on closer inspection, is a bit weird, this brand will tick those boxes.

best independent jewellery brands


If she likes: Zara and Game of Thrones

I don't think you can underestimate the ease of chucking on a statement necklace with whatever else you have going on to up the glam factor.  If she's not into faffing around, get her something that she won't see on everyone else from the lovely Stella & Dot.

Christmas gift guide


If she likes:  Muji and maths

There are so many great designers at FAO Shop but I think this Danielle Vroemen ring is very cool.  The site is full of geometric shapes and clean lines so this is a good starting point for a minimalist-lover.

Danielle Vroemen ring


If she likes:  Cos and rose-gold

This is not a cheap option but if you want to get something special, Jessie Harris could be a great call.  This is more about subtlety than wow factor, but a chic lady with great taste will appreciate the simplicity and quality.

Christmas gift ideas


If she likes:  Portabello Market and a touch of sparkle

Wolf & Moon is just plain cool.  It's a bit like a less kitsch Tatty Devine with lots of wood, pearl and tortoiseshell effects plus a healthy spattering of glitter.

Christmas presents 2014


If she likes: Etsy, ebay and having stuff no-one else does

Suite Hazen is a haven of delights all round but their jewellery section is like stumbling across a particularly well-curated Etsy list.  A range of prices and styles, you should be able to find something to suit most tastes, but crucially, that you could never get on the high street.

Alpha Beta jewellery


If she likes: & Other stories and personalised presents

I have so much time for Tarr and Fether at the moment.  It's a perfect contrast to when I wear masses of gaudy gems (also fine) as it's full of tiny smart pieces like this choker.  

great jewellery designers

Thursday, 16 October 2014

High necklines are MY necklines

The only NY resolution that I spoke out loud to anyone this year was telling someone: "I think this year I'm going to wear lower cut tops" and I have failed miserably thus far.

What can I say?  I love a good turtleneck.  I love polo necks.  And I love the cardinal cleavage sin of fully buttoned up shirts.  

I'm also very conscious of how fully I embraced the "party top" as a concept when I was 16.  Spaghetti straps, embellished triangles and an empire line, all battling with a misshapen strapless bra lumping around all over the place underneath; H&M kept me well stocked.

In more recent years, colleagues have mentioned that a saucy neckline for me is no lower than a crew-neck jumper.  Y'know, a glimpse of the old collarbone when I turn to one side. Pure filth.

Due to a number of good and exciting things, I have been pretty short on cash lately so shopping trips have been perilously few and far between.  I've allowed myself a replacement pair of black boots (that I actually featured here a few weeks back) and a new clothing gadget that is destined to keep me covered up on those days when even a crew-neck just seems too wayward.

Marvel at this:

It's called a "mock-shirt".  How exciting.  What's that, you're wearing a shirt under there?  No, no, this is just my mock-shirt.

I do enjoy clothing that is both functional AND sneaky.

Ironically, I have been roundly mocked for my mock-shirt, mainly because it is hilarious to look at whether I'm holding it or wearing it.  I agree that it looks like a weird adult bib, and that spending £29 on such a thing seems really bloody stupid.  I agree that it seems like something I bought on QVC or equivalent TV shopping channel.  I am also aware that it is not a sexy item to incorporate into bedroom undressing situations.

But, in my (petite) defence, shirts can often be way too bulky underneath jumpers because of the excess material.  Not with the mock shirt!  The mock shirt has adjustable straps and thus always lies flat!

I love a crisp white collar to round off an outfit but my office has a totally unpredictable climate and sometimes two layers are sweltering.  Mock shirt to the rescue again!  Only the illusion of two layers, keeping me from a perspiration-based incident!

If any of this sounds sensible, I cannot urge you enough to buy one.  And I was reliably informed by the sales assistant in Cos that they have new ones for winter.  Navy rollnecks!  Mercy mine!

NB: Most important lesson:  you cannot take your jumper/top layer off if you get too warm.  Repeat, you absolutely cannot.