Monday, 21 February 2011

Avarice In Westwoodland

Dame Vivienne has graced London Fashion Week with another catwalk full of new creations for her Red Label collection, and therefore I must make my new list of items to covet.

In the past I've been so breathtaken by a suit on display in Westwood that my friends had to take me outside for air before I passed out. Seriously. The mixture of art, fashion, decadence, craftsmanship and beauty overwhelmed me. ...they took me into Harvey Nics to laugh at the Juicy Couture section which quickly brought me back down to earth with a bump. Despite my love of pink, sparkly things and embelishments, JC's pepto bismol velour tracksuits embelished to high heaven make me nauseous. Or overcome with laughter. Luckily the staff in Harvey Nics found our about-turn disgust at one item on display hilarious too.

Anyway, back to Vivienne. If there is one outfit designed to cause similar knee weakening, breath stealing effects it's this black velvet suit:
At the sight of it among the catwalk pictures I felt a brief stab of pain combined with deep earth shattering adoration. Such a similar feeling to that of unrequited love that I'm now seriously wondering if I'm designed more for fashion than relationships. Anyway, I want it. I would wear it until large patches of velvet had worn away on it. And then I'd wear it some more. Vivienne would be cool with that, she's always going on about clothes being better when they're truly worn in and worn out. I love the thick lushness of the velvet, the way it flicks out where the side vent meets the cuff, and the perfection of the ankles. I want it badly. I would read poetry in it whilst lent against trees.

Next on the lust list is a frendsy of excitement over several details. First being the fabulousness of the fabric in this skirt. Then the quirkiness of the double buckle belt which is then connected to braces which fasten top and bottom at the back so that they grace merely your shoulders at the front. And the placing of the ruffle on that blouse is utter perfection. But mainly I crave one of those belts. I pray that the goddess Vivienne will supply them in a vegetarian friendly substance.
Now one of the many "that woman is a genius!" moments. I love pendants, I love charm bracelets. I tend to wear too many pendants on a necklace so that they all cluster together and keep toying with ideas to convert them into some kind of neck version of a charm bracelet. Well, she's done it. Hurrah! I've been admiring a few of these stamp pendants in her shops for a while now and find this way of displaying them perfect. I don't know if this comes as a whole piece or not, but I love the idea of constructing my own. Bravo Vivienne!
More little details. I have found the unusual construction on these trousers deeply wonderful and am hoping they will work with my body shape. Detailing around this area doesn't usually work due to the difference between my wide hips and much smaller waistline, but Dame Viv hasn't let me down yet so we shall see. Also loving the frayed style edging on these belts.Cinched in high wasited trousers are deffinately something my figure was created for. Therefore I love these gorgeous pin striped trousers. And what is there not to desire about the blouse fabric?! More high waist cinching with the first skirt on this list. No-one could realise just how much I longed to wear pencil skirts before I discovered the wonder of Vivienne's cut. I now have a few of them which make me feel elegant and curvy all at the same time. Wide hips and a bottom that resembles a bustle made everything pre-Westwood turn me into the animated character Jessica Rabbit. Which may seem wonderful, but it made me overly self conscious and had me living permanently in a-line skirts and mini kilts for years. ...which means that not only do I crave the perfection of the first skirt, but I also want the a-line velvet and giant ribbon confection. And it's about time I had a proper flirty Westwood kilt seeing as I've been wearing inferior versions since my early teens. Unfortunately I always end up spending my money on something else when I venture into her shops.
I'm also fasninated by the open fastening detail of the skirt in the bottom corner, and utterly delighted by the bold stripes and fancy back of the second skirt. But if I could only have one out of all of them, it'd still be that first high waisted pencil skirt.

The next three are very easy to explain. I love pink and black as a combination and I spent my 1980s childhood in an array of trouser suits imagining being the next female prime minister or some other such power dressing female... but obviously one who's a bit mental and flamboyant. ;) I love the shape of the gold dress but know the colour would do me few favours and I'm not sure what the cut would do either. But it's lovely to look at. The third one seems to be an all in one cross between a catsuit and a beautiful pin stiped mens suit. It's fabulous, it's beautifully made, it's entirely crazy while not overly eye catching to walk past on the street - I want it!
More little details before I finish. I don't usually crave Vivienne's adventures in socks. They're a little too crazy even for me. But these are too much like historical ladies stockings for me not to be fascinated. Goodness knows what you could wear them with that didn't make you look like a frump or a lunatic though. Maybe I'll work it out while I'm still vaguely yung enough to wear them.
The fabric in the centre of the picture is wonderful, the way it combines an old style fabric print with maunscript style wording through the background. Can't wait to see what items it appears on. Thirdly, the coat. I think it's a coat, or maybe a long jacket. I can't see it very well, but the fabric and the cut already look marvelous as it flows behind the model. It's going to be so cravable and the sort of thing that you wear to death, I just know it.

And finally, I noticed some Westwood style customisation of the Red Nose Day t-shirts under one suit on the catwalk. I've ordered mine and am therefore awaiting the arrival of a naughty Marie Antoinette styled lady, an Elizabethan Queenie and Edmund Blackadder in a ruff. As soon as I saw the shirts they cried out for customisation. I think she's designed them like that on purpose. Or am I just too addicted to attacking t-shirts with a pair of scissors? Can't decide what exactly I'll do to them until they arrive, but maybe I'll post the results on here.
I recommend grabbing one of your own and finding ways to make it more decadent and self expressive. Something like this perhaps:

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Foale & Tuffin Exhibition Launch

Anyone wanting a quick and informative review, head over to Liz's blog entry at vintage-a-peel because I'm going to ramble and muse a lot here.

I promised to post properly about this forever ago and am only getting around to it now because of the lovely new Youthquake tour pictures Lynn has posted over at Pattie Boyd's Sixties Style.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the much anticipated launch for both the book and exhibition because the lovely M had put me on the guest list after I'd almost jumped up and down at the mention of a Foale and Tuffin book (embarrassingly during the launch party for the John Bates book and therefore in the presance of John Bates when I'd previously been doing very well at appearing half normal... well, apart from my bright pink Westwood cardigan and my hair-do which encouraged someone to take pictures of it from all angles) and then supplied an excited ramble about them being the Peter Blake of the fashion world when asked what questions I'd like to see answered in the book.

Anyway, off I went in the company of M and the elegant vintage goddess that is Liz. I tried to behave myself appropriately, but within minutes of the exhibition being officially opened I was discussing make-up with a nice lad who knew Sally Tuffin and had the most amazing pair of false eyelashes on. You'd think with the amount of art exhibition launches I've hosted that I'd be able to deport myself with more style and calm, but seeing as I only ever attend things I'm enthused about this never happens. Incidentally, the lad with the phenomenal professionally applied make-up spoke to me first. Possibly because I'd gone to the party made up like some junior version of the Fashion And Textile Museum's founder Zandra Rhodes, half due to the fact that that's where the exhibition was staged and half because I'd got some new cobalt blue make-up in Harrods the day before and couldn't stp myself from throwing several tonnes of it all over myself. Oh, and also because Liz's mirrors all have gorgeous images of fashionable ladies painted all over them so I can't actually see when to *stop*. That's always my excuse when I stay at Liz's anyway. ;) ;)

The downstairs area of the exhibition was mainly arranged to emulate the original F&T shop with items not only on mannequins but also hung in enticing rows near a faux changing room and surrounded by the accessories sold alongside them at the time. So many items of clothing I'd only seen in books before.

Marion Foale (left) and Sally Tuffin (right) outside their original shop

When you're someone who wears vintage fashion and collects vintage magazines, one of the most frustrating things (yet not as frustrating as the existance of Kate Moss) is sighing over pictures of outfits that you may never see in person, let alone own or find in your size. In my early twenties when I lived in Liverpool and immerced myself entirely in 60s culture (a home full of 60s furniture, listening to vinyl, wearing 60s clothes every day and reading only magazines from that period because I found the modern clothes and modern discussions in up to date magazines somewhat distasteful) stepping out of my front door into the modern world was always a culture shock. I'd often be reading through new magazine finds, spot a fabulous outfit, read it's price and who it was by and think "ooh, that's not too expensive and there's one of those shops down the road" and then reality would hit and I'd realise the shop would have been out of stock of this item over thirty years ago. At the F&T exhibition two such dresses that I'd had this experiance with were within excruciating touching distance and yet I couldn't go and try them on.

It was truly fabulous to see them in real life though. Actually, there were three such outfits, but the pain was lessened with the third due to it having been leant to the exhibition by one of my closest friends, Liz. I remember the strange but wonderful moment when we realised that she owned the dress and I owned a period image of it. ...if you're a vintage fashion junkie having the piece and the period image is an exciting moment. Trust me. You either get it or you don't. ;)

I didn't dare wear either of my F&T pieces because Liz had previously terrified me over the lovely designers reactions to the condition of some of their old pieces and one was a little worse for wear while the other was too casual for a party. I instead opted for something that could never be considered too casual for a party. One of the most fun to wear things in my wardrobe which is saying something when over half of my wardrobe is basically fantasy flamboyant fashion.
Despite my tastes in fashion, make-up and hairstyling I'm not a very outgoing person. Unless you put me in the right outfit around the right crowd. The crowd at the launch all seemed to be wonderful, free minded, creative types wearing fabulous clothes and make-up so I ended up doing what you just have to do in this outfit and flounced about like a dancing butterfly talking to loads of people who just walked up to me to admire my rainbow sequin ensemble and take pictures of it. I wished I'd had a stack of Liz's business cards to hand out, but instead explained where I'd got my sequin trouser suit and pointed Liz out in the crowd.

Then I was taken again by the sight of more fabulous F&T pieces or magazine pictures of the clothes from the period and flounced off again. You can't walk around normally in this kind of outfit. You have to dance around in it. I excuse this behaviour with the fact that it had the same effect on Twiggy when she wore the dress:

On the way around the exhibition you could help but be in awe of the video installations playing. I spent a lot of time watching them, loving the 60s footage set in among the footage of the pieces being modelled in the modern day. I especially loved the way that the new model they'd chosen was being instructed in sixties modelling poses by the original F&T model Jenny Boyd. Other people around me kept asking each other "is that Marianne Faithfull" and I corrected them all that it was in fact Jenny.

To my great excitement Jenny herself was present, and after I'd gone to get my book signed by the lovely Marion and Sally I plucked up the courage to pounce demurely upon Jenny. She seemed a little surprised to be asked for her autograph but was absoloutely lovely about it and I came away finding her easier to chat to than her sister Pattie who had - if I'm honest - terrfied me when I met her. I don't think it really helped back then that I'd long admired her modelling career and was therefore a tad nervous to be in her presance, or that I'd arrived almost like a mini not-as-cute 60s version of her with my long blonde hair sixtied to the max and resplendant in a Dollyrockers mini dress and Biba velvet jacket.

Anyway, back to Jenny who was a pleasure to meet. I remembered to say how much I loved her book Musicians In Tune for being fascinating, enjoyable to read and absoloutely spot on as a psychological study if the mind of the musician. I think I rather shocked her by knowing about her book, but she was gracious and seemed pleased to hear my thoughts on it.

The original Foale&Tuffin crowd with Jenny fourth from left.

Sally Tuffin (left) and Marion Foale (right) either
side of the trouser suit Jenny wore for the event.

As well as the fabulous clothes, the walls of the exhibiton were filled with well placed images from fashion magazines of the era featuring their clothes. Having spent a lot of my free time in the Liverpool days sat in the Picton Library looking through the bound 1960s volumes of Vogue, Tatler and Queen there wasn't anything to surprise me in the images, but it was fabulous to see them in this context.

The main section upstairs was styled to represent the work room and was scattered with unused buttons, labels and buckles and piled high with the original patterns for their work which in all honesty made me feel honoured to be there. People didn't even get to see that in the 60s.

Another fabulous part of the upstairs display was the section dedicated to the two designers' modern day work. Marion Foale moved into knitwear while Sally Tuffin went on to become one of the UK's leading pottery designers.

Later we moved on to the after party where I quickly found us a booth to sit down in and we spent the rest of the evening there eating cake and I tried to walk as nonchalantly about as you can in a full length rainbow sequin ensemble when Jenny Boyd is sat at the next table to you.

Circumstances resulted in neither Liz nor myself being able to photograph or film any of the event, but luckily someone who attended the exhibition when it was open to the public filmed some of the downstairs display:

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The "decadence" that makes my skin crawl

This is mainly a picture post for Lynn and Liz collating images of the Avengers Collection fur coats as worn by Pattie Boyd and Cynthia Lennon. Also included are a couple of pictures of Pattie in a wedding outfit by the same designer, John Bates.
This is one of the few times you'll have me posting on fur or feathers as I abhor the wearing of animal skins and am a card carrying vegetarian. Fur and feathers in fashion break my heart. I love decadence but the sight of those two remind me of when my cat died and dead birds that my cats bring in. Needless to say, they do little for me but churn my stomach and are as far from indulgent decadence as I can get.

But it's fabulous to share the work of John Bates, a little mentioned fashion genius. And besides, what is there not to love about my fave rave girl from The Avengers and the Beatle girls?

Pattie Boyd photographed for Vanity Fair in 1965 wearing a black and white rabbit fur coat. Shown with the original sketch for the coat by designer John Bates.

Avengers star Diana Rigg modelling the same coat worn by Pattie. The outfits were originally designed for Diana, as can be seen noted in the design sketches. Also pictured is the cover for the Avengers Collection brochure which features another image of Diana wearing the coat in the centre.

Cynthia Lennon photographed at the theatre in early 1966. Shown with the original sketch for the coat by designer John Bates.

Diana Rigg modelling the same coat as worn by Cynthia Lennon.

Back to the animal related fashion question. I have to admit to loving silk, but I have issues about the fact that getting silk kills the silk worms... so I make sure not to fund the practice and indulge my silk love via vintage and second hand pieces. I found the launch of the Yasmin Le Bon fashion range excruciating. Such beautifully made, gorgeous flattering items, and the majority in silk. Basically I stocked up on the non-silk pieces and have been grabbing what I can of the rest via the wonder of ebay. ...I still have mild guilt about the silk issue but it doesn't nauseate me like leather, feathers or fur.

There's quite a few more images of Pattie in Varon knocking about Liz, so if you remind me I might get round to digging the others out.

And to finish, one final Beatlegirl fashion comparison for Lynn. I'm certain that the dresses pictured below must be from the same collection. Both in the exact same lace and both with embroidered flowers in a contrasting shade:

For the rest of the readers, if you want to indulge in further images from Pattie Boyd's modelling career, step across to Lynn's group at Yahoo for the untimate collection because my website on Pattie's modelling career needs a major overhaul and I daren't even link to it at this stage.

For more vintage fashion by someone who deeply loves the work of John Bates head over to Liz's blog or even stock up on some fashion history of your own at her online boutique which comes highly recommended. I buy a lot of pieces there and have done for years. Every piece is sourced, researched, cleaned, repaired and then presented beautifully by Liz herself. And her prices are as gorgeous as the fashions she presents. She also does international postage so no-one is safe from her wonderful pieces. You have been warned.
Finally, I'd like to recommend drooling over the images in the John Bates Fashion Designer Book