Friday, 23 September 2011

Vintage inspired suits for autumn

Recently I saw a photograph of a few ladies at a ‘vintage’ event.  Everyone looked lovely. Quite a few were rocking what is the easiest vintage look in town, a ponytail, a circle skirted dress and big red lipsticked grins. To my mind that is without doubt the best and cheapest vintage accessory in town; a big red smile.  Anyone reading this who wants that look only needs a Vivien of Holloway Frock, some Ellnette and whatever makes them happy. In my case some R & B, good company and a vat of tequila does the job. 

Fabulously suited.
However what I really enjoyed seeing were the ladies in suits. I love a suit and now that summer has gone look forward to wearing them again. You can always locate a decent quality suit in the High Street because professional wear has to conform to certain levels of smartness.  The 70’s schtick is still running on the high street but early this year there was a nod to ladylike fashion in some of the catwalk shows although the fashion world has labelled this ‘heritage’. This means there is currently in the shops a nod to tweeds and skirt suits. You can change the feel of mass produced suits very quickly using cheap alterations such as changing buttons, shortening sleeve lengths, adding trims such as fake fur or velvet and altering collars. 

Margaret Rutherford, vintage icon!
 If you are allergic to the High Street repro vintage sellers have some interesting options and I thought I would mention them.  Remember this is not a sponsored blog so these are independent recommendations (although if anyone wants to send me a freebie I’ll not complain!).

Heyday 1940's wartime suit
Heyday have produced a suit which has a very authentic wartime feel about it. The 1940's Wartime suite has a nice military feel and it will match those victory rolls perfectly.  I’m waiting for a friend to turn up in one so I can try the jacket on. I think that the suit would be fine for everyday wear and will look good accessorised with a richly textured autumn scarf and some leather gloves.  Heyday clothing always looks sturdily made and well cut when I see it worn so this is another ‘I want’ on my list of outfits.

Putting on the ritz spying for the allies suit.
Also along the same lines is Putting on the Ritz’s Spying for the Allies suit, i.e. it could be worn to Homefront events and you might just get it past the Re-enactment fanatics.  This suit has a slightly unusual cut and an edge of couture about it, probably because this small company appears to be a labour of love. An investment piece I think that could be dressed up for special events, I definitely feel it demands to be topped with an elegant hat!
Tara Starlet suit

I have seen Tara Starlet’s 'Love Army' suit worn by a friend in the green colour way.  A more jaunty cut, it still has that retro feel but it is more the kind of thing a glamorous young woman would wear whilst driving her sports car through the countryside to meet Leslie Howard for tea. It has glitzy buttons and a curvy cut.  I'm not sure if they are still selling the green one but I’d like to see Tara Starlet produce more colour ways as this is a very useful suit.

Toprunway suit (copyright Toprunway).
 I’ll probably get another suit produced by Toprunway as I like the adaptability and personal choice involved. I bought a small reproduction tilt hat in blue and black earlier in the year and am planning to have a fifties Dior style suit made in navy blue; mixing my eras again but who cares? I’ll probably get two skirts made as I always think this is a good idea: the skirts get worn more than the jackets and the colours can fade.

copyright Victiorian Gothic Clothing co

Finally I really hanker after Edwardian and Victorian clothing. One of the best is Victorian Gothic Clothing, I know several happy clients and have seen the resulting suits up close.  The client base is Gothically and steampunkishly inclined but this company will make the skirts and jackets in a gorgeous range of hues. Not cheap but just clock all that pleating.  I want the Effra suit/gown in a nice black and I can also see myself in a pale lilac version of the Kensal Green suit/gown (I am saving up now!).

copyright Victiorian Gothic Clothing co

If anyone has any comments about suiting or any recommendations do share them with us! xxx

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Perfume advertising stinks...

There are just some things I just don’t understand. My abhorrence of blue cheese, broccoli and grime  music is down to personal taste. I can even see the point of sportswear (comfy I suppose) and keeping cats (some people find scratchy sour-faced things cute, I find squishy wiggly pugs cute: each to their own) but some things I find incomprehensible.
Is she about to throw up? might explain her wan frame...
One is perfume advertising. Now I am surely within the marketeers demographic. I am female, older and single. This means that I have disposable income and am perhaps more likely to be interested in scent than younger sisters who are battling with families and children.  Perhaps not for the younger ‘fashion’ scents but possibly for the more established perfume and fashion houses. So why is their advertising so completely unappealing? Or is it really just me being weird: after all they must work or these major corporations wouldn’t bother parting with huge amounts of cash to fund them?

The ad campaigns seem to fall into two distinctive camps. The first is the monochrome or near monochrome film. It features women who look like junkies, half-dead but not in a good vampire way, nothing predatory or passionate here. It all started off with that dumb Obsession advertisement. The models have sharp cheekbones and blackened eyes. The look is more sex-worker smuggled to work in Dalston massage parlour than glamorous young thing.  What would that smell like? formica, KY jelly and burnt tin foil? It is supposed to be sexy because the model will be frolicking with some skinny young man with a square jaw and bum fluff who looks like he has bunked off public school for the weekend and smoked too much skunk. What would a romance with him smell like? damp polo shirt, sweat and cheap woodpecker cider? Nice.
She looks sweaty, grubby and I suspect she's been throwing up in a basin too...

There is nothing forbidden about this genre of advertising, it is about alluring as a changing room at Primark.  The foreign sounding voice with the accent from nowhere, usually muttering the name of the perfume with pronounced disinterest is almost as funny as Kate Moss sounding like a female navvy muttering 'gertcha lunnun luk'.  Have Kraftwerk developed a mental disorder? is Karl Lagerfeld moonlighting on mogodons? is that female so stupid she can only mutter single words?  I can spot the European art films that they are trying to pastiche but it isn’t working and in any case I don’t think I want a bottle of Eau de Nightporter, a spritz of Ingmar Bergman or a Lars von Trier facial wash. Actually strike that, I will try the Lars von Trier facial wash...
Personally I have always wondered how on earth this style has survived the Fry and Laurie piss-take of the genre: 'Pretention'.

The other type of advertisement is the ‘she is woman’ variety. A model or more usually an actress strides or lounges around looking fantastic and different from everyone else. She is supposedly memorable because she is wearing a fragrance that several million other women are buying. Sometimes they take their clothing off, hinting at Marilyn Monroe’s idea that this is all you need wear. Monroe could get away with this, but I find all this semi-nakedness off-putting and in the case of some of the actresses involved just tarty and exploitative. If she is so different why get her kit off? Might work if I was a Sapphic type I suppose but I suspect this is not the advertisers intended audience. Maybe they are targeting the men who buy their wives and girlfriends perfume? but women tell men what scent to buy. You have to because of the huge variation in the way perfumes smell on different skins. Even when the men are buying the women are choosing, and lots of us buy our own thank you very much. It is noticeable when looking at vintage advertisements of fashion house scents the elegant clothes and environs are part of the deal, not a view of some actresses arse.

Charlize getting her kit off.

I suspect a bit of old fashioned sexist lewdness (nowt wrong with that) but frankly speaking an elegantly dressed well groomed woman who has achieved more than just looking good naked would sell to me, give me Audrey Hepburn in a dress not Sophie Dahl in the buff. This celebrity endorsement at least makes more sense I suppose in a celeb- bsessed world. The problem is that it is just an upmarket version of Katie Price flogging ‘Chastity’ or whatever her new scent is. I don’t want to smell like Charlize Thingy any more than I want to smell like Victoria Beckham. Famous women encapsulating scents backfires on me as does the use of stupid epithets with dodgy grammar. 
This might sell me her bra....
For me the Chanel campaigns are most effective despite using actresses. I would never want to look like Keira Knightley or Nicole Kidman. Natalie Portman or Audrey Tatou: too fey and sparrow-like for my taste so I don’t have the urge to smell like them. But the Chanel agencies choose good music and try and create an atmospheric back-story and a fantastical environment for their scents. I might actually want to be involved in a dalliance on the Orient Express, associating the scent with luxury and romance has got to be good and the fact that Audrey Tatou has played Coco Chanel makes the campaign clever. I loved the one with Nina Simone singing ‘My Baby just cares for me’ with the aeroplane flying overhead, years ago but I still remember it. Sadly most Chanel perfumes do nothing for me, but I am inclined to try their rare new scents when they appear and happily buy it for friends and family.

Scent is a fugitive thing, it does not smell the same to any two of us yet it has the power to evoke strong images, memories and ideas. I always feel that the designers of perfume bottles do a wonderful job and the perfume creators work hard just to be finally advertised and encapsulated by a sticky looking pre-pubescent with lank hair sulking as if someone has confiscated her blackberry. Certainly my preoccupations with scent are smell, dressing table appeal and imagery. I love old style glamour and want this reflected in what is a luxury product. I’d buy and try more if the advertising didn’t seriously compromise my interest in buying the stuff. But these campaigns must work, so it must just be me. I am steadily coming to believe  however that it is not just Marks and Spencer which  has deserved a slap on the wrists for ignoring the market of adult women who have most spending power in the economy. Scent is sold to us in a childish, infantile manner just like everything else, yet it is a grown-up product.

Just for the record however, Redlegs favours Guerlaine and Marc Jacobs scents should anyone care to buy me some! xxx

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Lets go conkers! London in the Autumn.

Unusual I know but I have never been a great fan of summer.  Chap Olympics and wedding season aside it seems to involve life stopping.  All my favourite clubs close down, if there is a festival I fancy the weather and the holiday season means a lack of chalets in favour of (shudders) tents.  It doesn’t stop raining and summer dresses look stupid on me.  Even the good things don’t bear scrutiny. For example the school break makes my commute so much more pleasant but at the same time the transport companies take the opportunity to ‘upgrade’ and close entire routes down. That and the fact that everything you want to visit is full of screaming brats and foreign language students chewing gum, looking bored and wondering when they get to go to the Hard Rock Café.

It is with some relief and anticipation that I greet September and early Autumn in London. Once the Thames Festival passes it is, for me, truly the season of mellow fruitcakiness and leaves on the track. The whole city cranks into life, a friend once suggests to me the frenetic activity is a way to forget about the impending wintry months but I always feel as if it is an affirmation. September in London is full of walks, talks, events, festivals, fashion weeks and whilst it is hard work; back to work, back to school and back to study it is also to quote the great Soul to Soul ‘back to life’. This is what I hope to be or have already arranged  to be doing over the next few weeks. For those of you who don’t live here I always suggest mid-late September as one of the best times to visit. If there is anything you would like to add to this list I would be really interested to hear it.

Cavendish Hotel afternoon tea which I am enjoying this Saturday.
Food: Afternoon tea. I don’t think a formal afternoon tea suits the summer and only comes into its own during the spring or preferably the Autumn. Tea is hot on a slightly chilled day and jams and preserves are still recently made at this time of year. Personally I do not like eating sweet sugary cakes in the heat (wasps, sticky icing, ugh!) and find that heavier essential treats like scones and teacakes make you soporific in the sun. However there is nothing better mid-afternoon on a dry or damp Autumn day.

Dehesa food                                    pic@time out magazine
I’ll be going to Dehesa for lunch. Spanish hams carved from the joint, salami with pistachios, cheese and quince and a range of food inspired by an inland woodland Spanish cuisine. Like Autumn itself a hint of summer remains, especially if you wash your cured pork down with a good tannic Spanish red.

Crow on the Hill bookshop
Food for the mind: Book shops. It is the season for literary prizes, sweepstakes and pundits. People are inclined towards reading relaxing crap during the summer, now the urge for something meatier grabs you. I’ll swing by the excellent Crow on the Hill booksellers in Crystal Palace or pop into Treadwells for a bit of occult nosing. I may also pop into the new Society Club run by those wonderful people who run the Society Film Club in Soho for a game of Scrabble.

Walks: I may join one of the walks organised by London Walks or the new ones organised by  Lost London Tours of London clubland. Alternatively this is a particularly good time of year to wander along the river at Richmond or along bankside, finishing at Borough market for a pint and a pie.

Richmond                                                             @fresh radio
Nights out:  during the summer London night owls are deprived of all their favourite evenings as the best performers and organisers disappear off to Edinburgh, fields in Somerset and deserts all over the place to entertain the world’s monied classes and make some lucre. Thankfully they come back. I’m keenly anticipating the return of the Double R club doing what the (reputedly crass and crap) Box wishes it could, providing twisted fun to the masses. There are a whole phalanx of great dance clubs: Diamond Jive and the Cat’s Miaow, nights and the various things put on by the Last Tuesday Society (I recommend the smaller events).

London things: Well I have to mention the superficially glitzy, daft, silliness of London Fashion Week, I am slightly shocked to have received a few interesting invitations myself and for fashionistas I know it is the event of the season. However behind all the daft bints scowling in high heels and the ridiculous statements in the fashion press are a lot of very talented people propelling an industry that makes a small fortune for this country, and particularly London.  So next week if some gobby giraffe with stringy hair and a look of panic on her face pushes in front of you at pret to grab some zero calorie wheatjuice cut them some slack: LFW is a good thing.
I quite like the tourist trail at this time of year, those topless buses are pricey but more fun than you would imagine, I’m thinking about a trip to various museums. You don’t end up with that ‘what a shame to be indoors on a nice day’ guilty feeling (or more what a shame to be indoors with a hangover in my case).I  suddenly tend to also  be more interested in science at this time of the year so a trip to the Wellcome Trust or the National History Museum is also tempting. The National Gallery has a lot of music coming up as it is celebrating Myra Hess’s famous wartime concerts.

National Gallery.
Shopping: Hooray! Time to start wearing layers, gloves, hats and things in appealing colours. Out with the linen and cotton in childish pastel shades and out with the sight of burnt flesh, shiny sweaty faces and toes. As a redhead all those greys, and blacks and autumnal rich shades suit me. I can get away with wearing a good slapping of make up.  I love accessories. But the summery ones such as ankley things, glitzy sandles, things woven out of hemp, ethnic beads and (gulp) head bands do nothing for me. I’m really looking forward to berets (even if my significant other will insist on exclaiming “oh Betty!” everytime he sees me), a new long swishy wool coat and leather knee length boots. No matter how you look at things, for men and women things become a lot more stylish.  Shopping itself becomes less onerous, fit it in now before the hell of Christmas retail sets in (in about two weeks probably).

Perfect season for hats (these are from Borsalino).

The seaside: I’m not joking. It may be wet. It may be cold. It may be half-closed but September and early October are still good times to go. Certain resorts such as Lyme Regis have a sharp, romantic feel to them. You’ll have the place more to yourself, people will be friendlier and there is great satisfaction in looking out from the window of a café, cradling your cup of tea, looking at grey waves and blustery skies.

These are my suggestions, is there anything where you are that you particularly enjoy at this time of year?

Minn x

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Vista Cocktail Bar

The Vista Bar sits atop the Trafalgar Hotel and lives up to it's name. It without doubt has the best rooftop views in this part of London that are available to the public. Moreover it is a cocktail bar, with comfy seating, sharp service and let me repeat: cocktails. It was the cocktails I was there to sample. The Bar is reflecting the approaching silliness which descends on London during London Fashion Week with some specially designed drinks. Some out there might be unaware of LFW, it takes the city over but in a transcendental sci fi way with most normal residents pretty unaware of it whilst part of the city goes nuts in their midst. Drinks are an integral part of the whole thing, along with freebies and mwah mwahs. Fortunately on this foray I was accompanied by the highly fashionable and extremely well connected Katie Chutzpah who runs the very best blog commentary on the whole thing which kicks off in mid September.

I do know London and I do know my drinks. I can happily declare that the bar has only one bad point, predictably it's price point (highish) however this is offset by the views, the fact that you can reserve a table and the quality of the service. Decor wise it seemed to nod towards the eighties and early 90's Ibiza lounge gecko styling. But who needs 'retro' interiors when you have such a retro view all around. Perfect place to start a special night out on the town or treat country visitors. And just in case you were worrying there are heaters to employ on a chilly evening.

On to the drinks which are pictured in various states of being drunk. The easy drinking option was surprisingly the blue option. Blue curacao gets a bad rap, it is what gets added to it that makes you feel dodgy the next morning, not the 'blue stuff'. Here it gave a zingy colour to what was basically a champagne cocktail.  The final cocktail, pictured below was my favourite, an unusual combination that included mozart dark choc liqueur and absinthe. I can't remember the name of the cocktails, my long tipsy night resulted in my losing the paperwork (my excuse for everything) but I rated the staff for niceness and professionalism, and need I, once again mention the view? Honestly the place is perfect for those fashionistas about to descend on the city but the place welcomes we mere boozy mortals too.

Some more cocktail reviews coming up soon. xxx

Reproduction retro hats, Orizu now selling on Etsy.

Orizu who makes delectable hats has now opened an Etsy store. For handmade and bespoke titfers the prices are reasonable and the hats, previously mainly available in London can now be obtained everywhere. The shop can be found at
Here are a few of her wares (I particularly like the one embellished with rope): 

Seriously coveting these hats..... xx

Friday, 2 September 2011

The view from my forties.

There has been a spate of birthdays amongst my friends recently most of whom are much younger than me.  Reading many comments along the lines of “OMG I’m nearly 30!” or “old!old!old!” has prompted me to ruminate, now I am well into my forties, on the difference between being in my teens/twenties and being where I am now.

Not the way to manage your pension....

1: Pensions and dull financial stuff.

The first thing that occurs to me is how radically different your worries are. I have suddenly become concerned about pensions and what the hell I am going to do about retirement. There has been a shocking shift, from now I grow closer to being 65 than 25. In a way this is prompted by positives; I have observed my parents and their friends. Some are having a great time: travelling, relaxing or starting second lives with new interests, hobbies and even businesses. But it does require both money and a roof over your head. I am perhaps just in time to do something about this but have become horrified by the situation of those in their 20’s who will not pay into a pension because they expect to buy property or have their own business. The simple fact is that most people do not end up being the person they expect to become during their 20’s.  The chances are that you won’t end up being where you anticipate being, perhaps better off or far worse. The ideal is to have property, savings and a pension. It is known in gambling as 'spreading your bets' but at least do something no matter how little, even £10.00 month is better than nothing. The fact is no one else is going to pay for you and if you are a woman and currently busy procreating you are worse off than most, at least a quarter of the women I know who took this route have been left with the children and little support. It is not 'rock and roll' and grim I know but it has to be said.

Ohhhh, bellinis !

2: Not stressing about the wrinkles.

Another peculiar thing is that you really do become less concerned with your looks, or rather let me rephrase that. You understand your looks. You also tend to realise after bitter experience that there is not a lot you can do to change them, that miracle products do not exist and that yellow glittery eye shadow will never suit you. Of course wrinkles appear and chins sag but it is a very slow and painless process and is happening to everyone else your age.  In my case I have quite average looks; age is hopefully giving my appearance a bit of character. Also a look at your younger self somewhat surprisingly shows that you didn’t look much better. Perhaps you might have looked a bit slimmer or a bit fresher but often, when compared to your modern self, also a bit ‘wrong’.  I think that this actually makes older women a hard sell for beauty manufacturers and it is why they try and demonise the ageing process and really have a right go at our self-confidence at the same time. Not that I believe in ageing gracefully particularly, just ageing the way you want.  However I can confirm that looking at women the same age as me and that I have grown up with those that tan and smoke do look distinctly worse for wear. Also you have to watch your teeth, I’ve managed to lose one already! So that’s it really on the beauty front, don’t smoke and don’t burn your skin. No shit Sherlock! On a positive note, so far, the boozy ladies look just as good as the tee-totallers and the slightly chubby seem to be ageing more slowly than their thin cousins. Mind you I still fume at how unphotogenic I am...

3: Not wanting to look 25 again even if you could. 

One thing I do regret about my fellow forty-somethings is that the media driven obsession with youth seems to have taken hold with a vengeance. I am very glad to see the back of the pale gabardine mac, grey- permed uniform that previously marked out the elderly but am taken aback to see flighty teenage fashion on 55 year olds.  I don’t want to look like my mum and she would rather have her teeth pulled than look like me. Then there are all these nips and tucks and breast enhancements and things. Each to their own, but think of all the holidays they could have bought and all the fun to be had with that money?  The fact is nobody cares what you look like as much as you and you probably care too much. Don’t get a boob job, go on holiday! The health information around now is so much better, the chances are todays 20 somethings will look better than today’s 40 somethings who were children in the skin burning e number scoffing 70’s anyway. That is if they don’t eat all the pies, I have just been to the seaside and I have never seen so many fat kids.

It is definitely worse than it was.

4: Sticking up for yourself and other women.

The thing that grates the most is that women despite decades of feminism are still the victims of ageism and sexism, particularly in the work place. Sad to say this can often be a case of ‘women doing it to themselves’ rather than ‘women doing it for themselves’.  There has been a huge concentration on maternity rights which although important does not necessarily help all of us. I hope women in their 20’s join a union, start being feminists again and stick up for themselves more otherwise to be frank I think they’ll be more stuffed when they reach their forties than my generation. It’s important they know that they want or don’t want babies as far as possible and plan for it. This ridiculous body clock crap was largely absent from my youth and the degree of social coercion applied by the media for us to become mothers has also increased shockingly in the last two decades. If you don’t want kids don’t have them. Sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many of my contemporaries have admitted they love their children but would not have children again if they could turn the clock back.  There is no mysterious body clock that can override women’s mental faculties, that is simple propaganda, we need to make decisions for ourselves. If a woman of my generation said in her twenties she was not a feminist she was either a religious nut, a twit or a bit thick and didn’t understand the word.  The reaction to hearing this would be similar to hearing a female friend say her hobby is ‘kitten stamping’: complete incomprehension.  But now I hear young women saying it all the time. Weird.

4:  Not infantilising men.

I have also learned, very painfully that men are just like women. Not a separate, dafter, species. Putting yourself mentally in a man’s shoes when dealing with them romantically or otherwise goes a very long way. This does also mean that you can also spot a dud more speedily.  I’m now too old to let men get away with anything and have grown out of this compartmentalisation of men. I blame Bridget Jones, Sex and the City and a whole slew of other stuff for establishing a ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation. Little gaggles of grown women behaving like sixth formers, just like the school disco all over again. This is also behind the selling of products using that genre of adverts where the poor man is incapable of understanding washing machines. Not only is this deeply sexist towards men but extremely patronising towards women.  Men don’t like being treated as a combination of potential sperm donor/mate for life and spare child which seems entirely reasonable to me. They aren’t very keen, on the whole on women with lots of cats, but I digress. And I have never been able to get to the bottom of that one….

Both sexes; equally weird.

I don’t really have many pearls of wisdom or any really, because to be frank I haven’t been at all wise. Nor do I think I provide any particularly sterling example to anyone. I’m too angry and too foolish. But I am older, and grateful for some things (especially that I didn’t have those tattoos when I was twenty, tattoos need to be treated with special care!) and am even looking forward to my fifties. I’m grateful to have made a few correct decisions; not to have children, not to do what was expected of me and to have bothered to study and travel later into my life than most. Domestic bliss and a mortgage was never going to be my route but is perfect for others. I just think we are all far too hard on ourselves and should develop the habit of stopping and having a long hard think (even if it is not cheering) every so often. Don't let the media and society at large brow beat you they have their own agendas. And then hit the cocktails, just being alive and well is a lucky state of existence don't you think?

Are you happier than you were in your twenties? Are you in your twenties and worried about getting older? Should I have had the bat tattoos? xxx


Related Posts with Thumbnails