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Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

I Want All Her Clothes

I can’t remember which red carpet she was walking down, but recently I saw a photo of Michelle Williams and thought (after the usual “man, I can’t believe the girl who played Jen Linley on Dawson’s Creek turned into such a good and credible actress), “Wow, she always seems to wear really great clothes”.

Oh Sofia, your films are vacant self-indulgent hipster bollocks, but your clothes are awfully pretty...

And I realised she had joined the select group of Famous Women Whose Wardrobes I Covet. Yes, there are many appallingly dressed celebs (thank goodness), but there are few who tend to step out in the sort of clothes I would instantly snap up myself if I were much, much richer (and a little bit taller).

This wardrobe-love has nothing to do with the women themselves – while the aforementioned Ms Williams seems like a talented, smart, likeable woman, and I love Charlotte Gainsbourg’s music as much as I adore her effortlessly cool style, I find almost all of Sofia Coppola’s films incredibly irritating, and she comes across like a boring whiny brat in interviews. Yet I think she’s beautiful and it is she whose wardobe I covet most of all. She always looks amazing. It’s not fair, really.

Sadly, in reality I am smaller, scruffier, and infinitely less stylish than all of these people. But I bet if someone gave me an unlimited supply of Marc Jacobs I could at least give it a try. So what famous wardrobes do you covet?

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The babyfication of bedtime

Thank you.  No really, you SHOULDN’T have.

Do you think I'm sexy?

Someone I know*, who on the basis of having been in my presence more than once, bought me a gift that makes me wonder if they know me at all. On Christmas Day, (already queasy from a bug) , I unwrapped something that I couldn’t actually believe I had unwrapped. This was Twilight Zone: Christmas Hell, or an evil sort of Kris Kindle. A box of the givers clipped toenails would have elicited only slightly less horror. There it was, in all its cheap brushed cotton glory: a onesie. At least that’s what the Americans call them. Some people also call them Romper suits. To me, they’re adult babygros. The kind I once saw worn in a Channel 4 documentary by over-stressed stockbrokers in New York who paid hard cash to hang out in an apartment wearing nappies and being burped by strict Mumsie types (who were raking it in, by the looks of it).

What fashion demigod has decided that the high street masses should be wearing babygros to bed? I looked at it again. An infantilising piece of androgynous get-up if ever I saw one. My husband’s reaction was almost as priceless. Imagine me suggestively leaning against our bedroom door, clad in this red number? He’d sooner throw himself down the stairs than go near me, I’d wager.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ungrateful. But this gift was also given in a non-ironic, un-Post-Modern way. It’s not like jokingly buying someone a sovereign ring, or a Sacred Heart picture (complete with red bulb for the heart crowned in thorns). Nor was there any chuckling as it was handed over. There was a distinct lack of “Ah, gotcha – here’s your real pressie!”. No, the kind-hearted giver felt there was a onesie-shaped hole in my life and that I would like nothing better than sitting around dressed like a sleepy toddler.

It’s creepy enough that most adult women’s pyjamas come patterned with teddy bears or Minnie Mouse. As someone whose body temperature is usually somewhere on the reptilian scale, I’m all for being toasty, but this babyfication is a step too far. I say we should fight this scourge before they start pedalling us couture lingerie made out of Pampers.

* definitely not my husband

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Hurrah! We’ve just had another annual tits ‘n ass fest previously known as Halloween, and it was like Kentucky Fried Chicken out there, with all those breasts and thighs.

French maids, slutty vampires, busty pirates, micro-minied milkmaids, pussy in boots, all available on a street near you, probably goosebumped but bobbing merrily, and not for apples I hasten to add.

Once upon a time – quite possibly in a book I read – a costume entailed a sheet with holes for eyes, or donning all the black layers in your wardrobe, lashing on black eyeliner, investing in a warty nose and working on your evil cackle.

But now the snout is out and the pout is in, ladies; yes, flesh is the new black, and the witches are bewitching.

Halloween pumpkins in Damariscotta, Maine: not the fashionable costume choice this year.

For next year, remember that small is the new big, and BIG is out, out, OUT, so don’t hit the town dressed as Princess Fiona, a pumpkin, or Ann Widdecombe.

For 2011’s festivities, you could be a dirty devil, a Playboy bunny, Wonderwoman (leaving people to wonder how you manage to pee wearing that Lycra one-piece) or cavewoman, you lucky little hussies, or a belly dancer (always practical in the far northern hemisphere) or perhaps a kitty cat, with a long tail, a body stocking and a happy helping of camel toe.

I believe Red Riding Hood was hot this year, but then she would be, wouldn’t she, in corset and fishnets? Whips were big too, but hemlines are very, very small.

According to The Times (Saturday, 30 October 2010), spending on Halloween has risen from £12 million a decade ago to £300 million this year. Asda alone has flogged 60 000 pairs of fangs, 42,000 vampire suits and 30,000 tubes of fake blood.

Supermarkets – those recognised purveyors of couture and good taste – sold more than two million costumes. PVC and polyester outfits lined the rails, each one an itsy-bitsy, flimsy fire hazard for a floozy.

In fact, Halloween sales have actually outstripped Valentine’s Day’s merry shopathon, and this time the men didn’t even need to try…
It’s a trick women somehow played on themselves, and a treat for all the well-covered fellas.
So now who’s the pumpkin?

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In a recent episode of the greatest show on TV (Mad Men of course), Don Draper’s daughter Sally cut her long blonde hair one night when Don had left her with a babysitter. A furious Don sacked the hapless babysitter as soon as he clapped eyes on the resulting hair atrocity. His reaction was mild compared to that of his ex-wife Betty. She slapped little Sally hard across the face when she saw the damage done to her lovely golden tresses. And the poor child had only cut it to bob-length.

When I was slightly younger than Sally (about 7 I think), I nagged my mother for months to have my long fair hair cut short. She was extremely reluctant but eventually gave in to the pestering. The poor hairdresser was similarly reluctant and kept saying what a shame it was and asking if I was really sure about taking such a drastic step. I was, and with a single snip of the scissors the ponytail finally came off. My mother has kept it to this day.

Kate rocking the short hair look

I never regretted it. Over the years I made various half-hearted attempts to grow my hair but it never got much beyond shoulder length. It was always a relief to go back to the salon and emerge with a crop of some kind. Looks I have tried include slicked back like the women in the ‘Addicted to Love’ video in the eighties, a rockabilly style quiff and a full on Sinead O’Connor-esque scalping in the early nineties. I grew it before my wedding in 1996, only to scrape it all back off my face, Eva Peron style, for the day itself. In childhood I was sometimes mistaken for a boy, and had the so-called insult of ‘lesbian’ shouted at me occasionally when I was older. I was never remotely bothered; I never felt unfeminine just because I had short hair.

On Twitter a while ago, someone was bemoaning the fact that some women give up on longer hair as soon as they have children, and that it’s all part of ‘letting themselves go’. But in my view many women cling on to their long hair when they would look infinitely better with a chic crop. I can think of many celebrity women whose finest hour came when they had a radical haircut – Victoria Beckham, Emma Watson and Carey Mulligan spring to mind. And as for style icon Kate Moss; to me she never looked better than when she had her dirty blonde locks cut into a short (and brunette!) elfin style.

It is said that most men prefer long hair, but I doubt that’s the reason women grow it long. I don’t envy the work involved in maintaining long silky tresses – the endless blowdrying, conditioning, GHD-ing – so you must be doing it because you love it. Right?

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The sea, Mam, the sea


My mother recently had a significant birthday. To mark this fact, my sister and I took her on her first foreign holiday.

I would tell you which significant birthday it was were it not for the fact that Mam’s next ‘first’ is to conquer The Internet. No doubt her first mission will be to google her youngest daughter and find out what secrets and lies she has been disseminating about the family on the worldwideweb all these years. If I say what age she is, she will find out, she will brain me and she will eat it with one of the small, scallop-patterned soup spoons she keeps for “company”.

Let me instead present something only slightly less revealing: my mother in her swimsuit. She is very, very cute in it. It is purple with a neon-pink trim and it only took us three shopping trips and a very heated half-hour in the dressing room of Marks and Spencers to find it.

This is also a first. When we were children, Mam found she couldn’t look at any large body of water without feeling dizzy. Not a swimming pool, not any river bigger than the stream up the road; certainly not the sea. My sister and I didn’t learn to swim and neither did she. I don’t know why deep water inspired such vertigo and nausea in her. It was just a fact and a given. By the time I wanted to ask, I was afraid to. My fear of asking was as irrational as her fear of the water itself.

I know her seasickness was fear-induced because somewhere between my sister and I leaving our landlocked county in our late teens and all three of us going on her first sea-and-sun holiday as adults, she was able to shed it. Last week, she waded straight into a warm Atlantic up to her waist, laughing as the waves knocked her off her feet.

“Isn’t it amazing to think I haven’t done this before?” she said, a huge smile on her face.

I was further out, floating, shielding my eyes to look back at her big achievement. She was proud of herself and I was proud of her. And from somewhere else I felt sadness, and entirely unrelated to the sea I was floating in, I tasted salt.

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When women, especially high profile women, get married everyone has an opinion. Chelsea Clinton, daughter of you-know-who wed Mark Mezvinsky over the weekend, which spawned this sniffy piece in the New York Times. The writer critiques everything from her dress (“not an especially high-styled choice”) to her updo (“betrayed the Clinton women’s complicated hair history”). Why should a smart, educated woman who has made her way in the world – a world where your parents have been two of the most powerful/famous people on the planet – have to endure a such a high-profile fashion post-mortem on her “big day”?

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Dressed for Success

Like many people, I have a work uniform. But in my case, it’s sort of accidental. You see, I work from home, and like a lot of people who technically don’t have to leave their house every day, I can wear whatever the hell I like.

Nancy Mitford and her desk, living the elegant working-from-home dream

And on summer days when I’m not going into town to meet anyone, that tends to be the following: a fitted t-shirt, usually from Threadless, American Apparel or Buyolympia, elderly jeans or needle cords, and an American Apparel hoodie. Oh, and Birkenstocks. Glamorous, no?

That’s the thing about working from home. You imagine you’re going to be some sort of elegant figure in a neat frock sitting at a lovely, perfectly neat desk adorned, perhaps, by an art nouveau vase with a single flower in it. You possibly look a bit like Nancy Mitford. Instead, you end up sitting a desk covered in iPhone cords, hand cream, digital voice recorders, notebooks and a wobbling pile of book proofs that match the several wobbling piles of book proofs on the floor next to the desk. And you’re probably wearing pyjama bottoms.

I should make it clear that I don’t wear actual rags when I’m working at home in the suburbs – I do actually leave the house to go for a walk and go to the shops every day. And I wear clothes I genuinely like. It’s just that they tend to be very, very casual and not especially flattering – the worn old Threadless t-shirt rather than the fancy top, the battered, sagging, ancient Wrangler or Topshop jeans as opposed to the nice new Acne ones.

This Sarah Utter shirt from Buyolympia.com is one of my working-at-home staples. It is not really very sexy.

So I’m well aware that there’s a definite difference between how much attention I pay to my clothes on an at-home day and on a day when I’m actually venturing into the outside world. Which is why I can really identify with this excellent post on Jezebel by Anna North, an even scruffier fellow at-home worker, who says

And since I’m a feminist who’s occasionally claimed that I get dressed up “for myself,” it’s a little troubling that I only try to put together a decent outfit when I’m going to see other people.

Yes, I’d like to convince myself that I only dress up for myself, but if this were really true I would wear my contact lenses every day, and not just when I meet up with people. I would never wear the ridiculously faded Topshop jeans I was sporting yesterday. And I wouldn’t be writing this at my kitchen table with my hair unbrushed and my feet sporting a pair of woolly hand-knitted socks under a pair of Birkenstocks.

So, what about you? If you work from home, could you leave the house right now and go and meet friends without changing your clothes, or would you have to change into something a bit less manky? Do you dress completely presentably every day, whether you’re stuck at your desk all day or not? And if you don’t work from home, do you let yourself go at the weekend?

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