Thursday, 29 July 2010

A floral melodrama (with drapery)



I've been in London for the past few days, enjoying the general ambience and visiting favourite haunts. One advantage of coming to London is staying near a small park which is very useful for photography purposes!

This is a dress I customised during my first week of 'work experience' (mini internship) - I was allowed free reign with the sewing machine on the last day! I'd bought this mid calf length vintage monsoon piece in a charity shop a few months previously, and subsequently left it languishing in my 'alterations box.' So this was a perfect excuse to do something with it!
I started by taking in the dress, as it was slightly too large and then took up the hem to just below knee length, before proceeding to work on the drapery (I pinned up four sections of the hem to fall in folds). It took me about an hour to perfect it before I was happy with the symmetry. I particularly enjoyed the experience of working on a dressmaker's dummy, as it gave a more realistic portrayal of how the fabric would hang. (I now really want my own dressmakers mannequin to work with, so I've started saving!) Finally, after sewing the drapes in place, I secured some vintage buttons on top to hide the stitching!

Here I layered it over a little Next fine-knit top and added that old favourite belt of my grandma's (from when she was in 'girl guides'). The grey lace up boots are much-loved, much-featured, from Topshop, while the socks peeping out of the top are vintage. The shawl in some of the shots was given to me by my grandma - I seem to be wearing it all the time at the moment! It's a very useful item to throw on over other things.
The hat is vintage child's Laura Ashley, from a charity shop, with a cream vintage scarf tied around the brim. I also pinned a cameo onto the scarf, which I bought at a bric-a-brac stall. Ever since seeing a collection of Cameos at the British Museum I've begun to start coveting and collecting them! The bag is my paternal grandma's (on loan) which she used in the seventies. Like the buckle bag featured a few posts ago, it is the most wonderful vintage brown leather!

When putting this outfit together, I was slightly inspired by a Burberry style aesthetic and palette. Elements of classic British-ness (floral print, ankle socks, hat etc) with edgier elements, such as the boots. I have to say, if I had the money, Burberry would be one brand I might just splash out on! I especially loved Christopher Bailey's collection for which he cited a group of Bloomsbury intellectuals as inspiration!

This time Mum took the photos, and once again I had to play the game of try-to-pose-without-letting-your-heels-sink-into-the-ground. However, I've had quite a bit of practise so I'm getting quite good at it now!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Pillarbox Red

As I am sitting typing this, I'm also considering an imminent change of clothes from the below the knee floral Jaeger skirt I'm currently wearing (along with a ribbed black top plus a fifties black belt) into a baggy t-shirt, leggings and hair tied up with a scrap of fabric. What's happening here? Has the girl taken leave of her sartorial senses?
Nope, I am going to help my family repaint my brother's room. However this simple task threw up a slight conundrum - what do I wear? Not in the sense of caring about my appearance whilst painting, but because I don't really own any clothes I would want to go anywhere near wet paint in! In the end I've had to settle for some old pyjamas...

Here we have photos of the outfit I was wearing yesterday, made up of a few things purchased in Bristol, where I was doing my second week of 'work experience', but more on that later. (I think I stood out slightly walking down the high street of our local rural town in this get-up!)
I bought the red dress in a charity shop while I was away, and although it's not actually vintage,  it's still a pretty accurate imitation. I love that particularly iconic shade of 'pillarbox red', reminiscent of phone boxes and post boxes dotted around the British countryside. (As well as, of course, London double-decker buses!)
The grey floppy hat is from a vintage shop I was introduced to by the friends I was staying with in Bristol,  and I will definitely frequent it again. (I also managed to pick up a silk Jaeger scarf for a pound!)Then, working on a red and grey theme, I added a thrifted Topman long sleeved top underneath (rolled up so you can see the Victorian silver bangles properly!), grey tights, a thrifted necklace and that favourite old piece of mine - my paternal grandmother's 'guides' belt. I bought the little brown bag in a charity shop and have been pleasantly surprised by the usefull-ness ever since, despite the size.
The brown lace-ups are also what I call my 'photographer shoes' as they are very durable, sturdy and comfortable. I bought them for £2 in a charity shop a few months ago. I don't usually wear such short dresses, so I needed to add a healthy dose of 'granny chic' to the outfit to balance it out!

My dad took the photos in a favourite field of our family's that is a three minute walk away. It is almost poetically overgrown at one end, while wheat stretches out in a long arc at the other. Numerous outfit posts for the blog have been set here in different seasons! I decided on a slightly sixties influenced feel for the poses and photography, which was a lot of fun to work with.

My second week of work experience (mini internship) was such fun. I was working with a family friend of ours who runs a card and giftwrap business. She got me working on my own design, inspired by a silk scarf.. I am now full of inspiration and ideas for textiles designs to complete this summer! She taught me the rudiments of photoshop, which is much appreciated, and I now really want to get Photoshop Elements - for design purposes only though! (I still have a rule of not editing photos.)
As well as this we had a day of photography at the Bristol Docks , I got to see 'The Red Shoes' on the big screen (yes, I am more than slightly obsessed with that film), we saw 'A Single Man' (extraordinary attention to detail, and I really agree with the message about noticing the little details in life) and enjoyed the beautiful Bristol scenery.

So today is the first 'official' day of the my school summer holiday, and I can start to do all the things I listed a few posts ago! Do you have any specific creative plans for this summer?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

A tale of two vintage pieces

Here I have, well, actually four new (to me!) vintage items, but then the title wouldn't really work.

I finished my first week of 'work experience' today, having spent five days working with a fantastic small company who recycle, customise and remake old clothes to create beautiful new pieces. It was both inspiring and informative to be working with the two lovely women who run the company, and I've learnt quite a few new creative skills! As it was my last day in this placement today, I got to customise one of my own pieces of clothing, which I'll hopefully feature when it's finished.. 
Anyway, one of the vital parts of the week's activities was, of course, a visit to a vintage shop! (For, erm, marketing purposes and to research stock.) And while there, how could I resist buying this gorgeous little quilted number - I'm assuming it's a fifties house coat? And even better, it was one of the cheapest items in there at only £18!
I nearly always say this about so many things I feature, but I love this print! The vertical stripes in soft shades of green and cream are just my cup of tea.

So that was the first of the two 'tales'. Part two is my dress, fom that old favourite Beyond Retro. As I walked in, I idly said "I really want a cream shift dress, but it has to be perfect. I'll know it when I see it." And lo and behold, I laid eyes on it literally 30 seconds later! It has this fantastic meandering overlay stitched on top of the lace, and a beautiful airy skirt. Unfortunately it is partially see-through, but I had a trusty underskirt to hand!

And then there's the brogues, ah the brogues! Admittedly they are a size and a half too small, but I couldn't just leave them languishing in a charity shop! (They were bought after a LAMDA drama exam last week.) Not only are they never-been-worn Doc Martens (!), they are also vintage as my mum recognized the store from the label, and it no longer exists. So, they will only be appearing for shoot purposes, but I think they were definitely worth £6!
The bag was acquired at a local vintage fair, and is everything I could want from a bag. A boxy shape, large enough to hold my camera, beautiful buckles and the nicest brown leather! (Which is the only colour to have leather bags daahling.) I was one happy lady after that purchase! Even the stallholder admitted she'd find it hard to let it go.
And the little gold necklace is from another charity shop while the hat is one of a rather large collection I inherited from my great-grandma. The belt was my paternal grandma's in the seventies, and my bracelet is a vintage necklace of my mum's that I wound around my wrist a few times.

So its an absolutely all vintage outfit! Many different eras, designs, colours, places of origin and locations where they were bought, but somehow they've all ended up together in this ensemble! That's the complete beauty of vintage, all these diverse pieces with backstories and previous lives inhabiting my wardrobe. Did a fifties housewife originally own my coat, or is there some story behind the immaculate brogues that no-one wore for years?

My dad took the photos at the top of a hill way up behind my house. (Same location as a two-part post last autumn - Greenery scenery, also involving similarly shaded clothes!) It was a surprisingly cold early evening, so I'm glad I had that coat.

In light of my previous musings about keeping the brogues even though they're too small for me, do you have any clothes or other items that you hang on to even though they don't fit/ have no purpose any more? I certainly know that my brown seventies boots that I styled Emma in are another classic example for me!

I am traveling to my friend's tomorrow for the next week of work experience, so I might end up being even more unresponsive with my blog! Apologies in advance if this is the case, but I'll look forward to catching up when I get back!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Photographic whimsy

My Work Experience/mini internship has consumed my week so  far, but it has been completely wonderful. I'm working with an independent clothing company which has given me valuable insight into running one's own business and I've already learnt quite a few new sewing techniques.

Today I'm posting what I fondly call my 'photographer outfit.' I remember reading a quote by Grace Coddington explaining how she dresses simply so the focus of her attention can be completely on the other people she styles. Well, this is as simple as I can go! Whenever I'm taking photos or styling I like to have a basic uniform comprising of a silk shirt, skinny jeans/ shorts (depending on the temperature), brown lace ups (not pictured here, but I'll feature them some other time) and a cardigan or jacket. So maybe you could call this outfit a variation on a theme?

I wore this ensemble when taking photos of my parents for a project, and I used the 'set' afterwards for my dad to snap a few quick images of me.
I wore a charity shopped silk jersey shirt (so comfy!), some charity shopped brown shorts - I like the cut and the slightly longer length, and a Tommy Hilfiger thrifted belt. The vintage jacket is from a local vintage market stall. Again, the tailoring is exquisite. Items like this never age, and the quality is always top-notch. I also added some pink pumps from Topshop... I have a real weakness for Topshop shoes, which I'm sure I've mentioned before! They've created the most sumptious brogue/ loafer fringed hybrids which I am still lusting after.
My hair was tied with a vintage silk scarf from a great-grandmother and the vintage camera was originally my grandma's. Although  this 'look' was simple, it still had an inspiration behind it - the ever chic Audrey Hepburn! Not in any of her films as such, but a take on the classic shots of her in tailored Ralph Lauren shirts and simple trousers.

I've also included some black and whites of my mum, taken for the aforementioned project. Here they are:



I've been working hard on monochrome photos recently (especially portraits) after seeing the stunning Irving Penn exhibition at the national portrait gallery. I also very luckily now own a book of his work, given to me by a lovely photographer friend for my birthday! Looking at Penn's images is like a masterclass in portrait photography as he completely capturesd the character of each individual, wrinkles and all! If I could ever get close to his level of skill then I'd be a very happy girl!

Edit: In the second photo of me, half my head has been chopped off. Stupid blogger template! Anyone have any idea how to change it?

Friday, 9 July 2010

Silence invades the breathing wood

Okay, so the title (taken from WH Auden's 'Warm are the Still and Lucky miles') only technically refers to two of the three locations here, but it was impossible to find a line combining both meadow and wood! Really the first set of photos ought to have been titled something like  "Bells that toll across the meadows" - another Auden line (from 'Underneath an Abject Willow') But hey, you can;t have everything!

As you may have guessed, this is part two of my latest behind-the-camera venture taking photos of the beautiful Emma. What you can't see in these shots is that in the latter two locations, it was raining. This meant some very inventive umbrella propping/ holding and imaginative camera angles had to be used! However Emma was a real star, patiently posing on a slippery fallen tree or in a very wet wood while I attempted not to get water on the lens.

However, the sun did make a cursory appearance in the morning just in time for meadow leaping through buttercups in the long floral dress - Emma had to jump a fair few times to get that first photo! Fortunately for photographic purposes, she's a ballet dancer, which I think is apparent in the way she holds herself.
This dress has already been featured on my blog. I lovingly nickname it my 'Erdem style dress' as the crazy pattern looks like a child's collage of cut out flowers. The little fifties satin shrug over the top used to be my mum's and the faux pearl necklace was a family member's.

I really enjoyed putting together the second outfit featured. I used this (charity shopped) long tartan skirt as a dress once before, way back in Autumn, but felt it needed another 'outing'! Here I layered it over a silk Savile Row blouse (the wonders of ebay!) and added a scarf my grandma gave me. The colours on it graduate very subtly from milky coffee on one side, to cappucino on the other. (It was definitely time for some more coffee references!) The boots (yes, again, I know!) are those old seventies favourites of both mine and Emma's, and the belt has a full length description below.
I wish I could have included a picture to show you the grand scale of this fallen tree, but alas they were all landscape style, which don't work as well with my blog format!

The third and final outfit was also the simplest. A very long vintage silk nightshirt (second hand - ebay again, I love that place!) cinched with a vintage seventies belt my paternal grandma gave me, to create a shirt dress. I wanted to contrast the white of the shirt/ dress with very gloomy lighting, so I suppose the rain helped there!

The five outfits featured over two posts has been my favourite shoot with Emma so far, and I hope this reflects in the images.

It was my last day of school today for this school year. (finally!) However, I don't officially go on holiday for another two weeks, as I now have 'work experience' (like two mini internships of a week each), which I am really looking forward to. However, it means I might be posting less frequently as I'll be very busy and/ or tired. I'll try my best though!

After those two weeks are finished then I can start on all the creative projects I have planned for the summer- a healthy dose of photography, lots of day trips, sewing, drawing, reading, daily coffee doses, indolent lounging around making moodboards, seeing friends, a music festival, sharing a marathon of classic movies, blog posting - well that goes without saying,  and (weather permitting) at least one midnight picnic. I can't wait!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Thinking thirties thoughts


This little crepe number is my latest vintage acquisition, purchased from a wonderful local vintage fair.. Even better, I have found out that this fair happens once a month! Hmm.. Significant sums of money might just make a magic disappearing act (once I've worked out how to earn it!) I nearly didn't buy the dress as I wasn't sure I could justify spending £30. However, the two deciding points were, one, that it fitted like it was made for me, and, two, the stall owner then offered it to me for £20 as it has some minimal damage. Well I couldn't just leave it hanging forlornly, could I? It might have got lonely..
Where to start with its virtues? Let's begin with the bias cut. I have a particular love for bias cut thirties drapery: so reminiscent of the days of Greta Garbo and Ginger Rogers. And as a passing woman remarked while I was discussing the dress, "Bias cut was made for film stars to look good in while lounging on sofas." I love the simpicity of the design, along the comfortable crepe.
Then there is the colour, one part green and one part grey. I like to think of it as a very 'sea froth' shade. And to finish my little soliloquy about this garment I shall mention that it is handmade and has the most fantastically erratic set of fastenings - a mixture of hooks and eyes and poppers in a weird z shape.

Here I added a pair of silver Betty Jackson shoes found in a charity shop. She is another British designer who I admire, and her clothes are incredibly covetable. I like the slight art deco influence on these shoes. I also put on a crystal necklace (present from my parents) and a small satin purse I found inside a vintage handbag of my great-grandma's.

My dad took the photos this morning - the weather was very wet, but the slightly dull light seemed to compliment the scene. I love this chair, complete with removable footstool section! And a little leather bound Shakespeare never goes amiss, especially when it matches the shade of the dress! My favourite of his plays is A midsummer Nights Dream.
The rest of the morning was spent drinking coffee and reading newspapers before persuading my little brother to pose for some black and white photos. 

On another fashion related note, I watched updates from Graduate Fashion week with a mix of interest and jealousy - being interested in all the amazing graduates, and jealous about the fact that I wasn't there to see it all in person!
There were quite a few designers who caught my eye, and I want to share one of them with you...


Nathalie Tunna is one of my favourite new graduates. Now you often hear the term 'modern classics' being bandied about in fashion magazines, but I really feel that Nathalie fits that label. Her clothes are classic with good quality tailoring, but there are innovative details such as the 'eyelash peplum' too. The colours are neutral in the best possible sense - very pale blues, creams, navies etc. I would very happily wear her pieces, and I never thought the adjective delicious could be used to describe clothes, but they certainly can in conjunction with her bags!
For a more cohesive and eloquent review of her collection, then take a look at the article by Style Bubble.

I have also just flicked through my new Vogue and the collections report, and after seeing everything ptu together, Oh My Goodness! is a good way to describe my response. So much to covet.. How can I possibly get my hand on one of those Prada dresses? Or an Erdem floor length dress? Or anything from the Chloe collection? To cut a long list short, this is one of the most desirable seasons for me yet.

I was overwhelmed by your very lovely comments in response to my latest photography post! I can't wait to share part two with you..