Sunday 29 July 2012

Little shopping horrors

Have you ever tried out a new style a fashion magazine imperatively urges you to DO, only to emerge as a full-on, spectacular fashion DON'T? Join the club, I say...

I had a bit of a moment this morning. Leafing through a fashion magazine stumbling upon an image of how to sport larger than life film icon curls incited me to join the new wave(-iness) of hair styling myself. Might I start by saying that I have so much hair there probaby aren't enough rollers in the world to achieve curls the old-fashioned way, nor would there be enough space on my head. Curling tongs are awkward and take forever. My last option, having heard about it recently, was to use an anti-frizz curling aid product which I plumper for, as a result. And so I idled away, blow-drying and diligently following the given instructions, enveloped in fantasies of effortlessly cascading tresses a la Beyoncé when the shock finally kicked in - staring back in the mirror, I swear, was Pat Butcher's evil stuck in the 80s twin. I might have gone in thinking screen queen, but I came out with an amorphous amalgam of limpid frizz and deranged mess or, to put it bluntly, a veritable passé poodle-head!

Not that this was a one-off. Time and time again I have tried, oh boy have I tried, to emulate the effortless and seemingly straightforward gloss demonstrated in fashion magazines, preened feverishly to the bafflement - and annoyance - of those around me, all ultimately to no avail. As for the 80s treatment the last attempt left me with, my last resort would be to try and carry it off in Brick Lane, alongside all the vintage-addled hipsters, topped off with plastic beads and extra-large sunglasses, as a semi-ironic statement. Hey, if they can charge king's ransom for beaded evening dresses your granny would have thrown out once she hit "the change" in even cheaper-looking fabrics and more garish colours than the first time around, surely my new statement stands as good a chance of acceptance as any.

Still, keeping to the point, following my brief digression,  I am not knocking fashion magazines, as I know they have a job to do - and it isn't social realism. It is easy to see the stereotypical auduience such publications are aimed at - a well-to-do professional with a fashion sample size figure and refined bone structure based in hub of consumerist city life - which readers, in turn, either identify with or dedicatedly aspire to. This is the depressing nub of the problem, of how long we can keep up the charade of emulation, and be as inspired as we are to see ourselves in the desired light, before the practical realities hit. It's not about wadintg through the mires of what is logistically possible - it's about what you wish to be - selling us a dream, because it's the dream part that sells the clothes, or the makeup, or arguably the site traffic in an ever-competitive, up-and-coming blogosphere. And who is the fashion industry to refute that when it is so blatantly in their best interests?

It is with assured sincerity that the magazines tell us how - and how not - to look, made even more obvious by the images of the stylistically majestic versus the cringeworthy - "do" this, "don't" go for this look. And for those still too sartorially off-key to see the difference, it is further explained in disparagingly facetious tones as to exactly why you'd want your bikini to fit like X, to mix colour Y with Z - and, god, sooo not A - and what was miss Wardrobe Disaster of 2012 thinking stepping out with that on show!? Inevitably your defence is to smile and nod with the most bovine of subservience like a pupil to a headstrong schoolmistress - yes, Miss, no, Miss, three bags full, Miss, and no, we're not referring to what the contents of our cleavage should look like! The irony - and chutzpah - being the notion that one should have a choice without the time, money, skill, stylists and makeup artists, products, strategic lighting and re-touching available to those who model the looks in question. Of course any stylist who outwardly encourages hemlines so high can one's backside even keep up? - oh, yah, work those dimples, honey - warrants sectioning, but let's be honest, that doesn't happen, not consciously, anyway. You only have to look at the what to wear versus what not to wear sections of these magazines to see that the amount of photos of members of the public sporting the faux pas is disproportionately higher to those who appear to have got it right - and it wasn't by accident.

Ah, yes, there's another fashion minefield - the great cheese-string connundrum of bikinis. Your ensemble could fit perfectly, leaving all indecent areas to the imagination, it still doesn't guarantee that it will be forced to regress by the high tide, thereby exposing more than was part of the plan. It's not as if the sizing up issue stops there . We the public are forever instructed as to what size we are supposed to be and prompted on what size to kid ourselves into buying. Yes the promise that you'll look good in those size XXS hotpants if you lose 10lbs in inspiring and alluring - failing to do so and wearing them anyway isn't. Fickle as the industry is, if it's not weoght it's something else. Sans personal shopper, you may stumble across a fabulous top or dress, and then some different yet equally sumptuous shoes - put them together and what have you got? A catastrophe! Far too clashy, don't you know - or mightn't you have thought in the deceptive lure of the changing room mirror?

It is true that boundaries have been pushed in terms of unattainable standards of beauty, and even parameters of good taste, thanks to so many sites to which their own audience contributes - Lookbook, WIWT and Asos Fashion finder to name but an obvious three. However, similar trends appear to manifest themselves in terms of members that reap the most exposure, through following and "hype" - namely those concerning the tall, the slender and the conventionally photogenic. There's no conspiracy theory to it either. We inherently look for variety, excitement and entertainment, to please our senses as much as we endeavour to stimulate them. To be aesthetically satisfied as much as we are challenged. To seek out visual and emotional pleasure as much as we do novelty. In order to attract our attention, something needs to surpass us in wit, beauty or talent, and yet, with the degree of intimacy with which we follow our heroes, it is so easy to confound the elite with the everyday in terms of attainability. What we see in the mirror is not airbrushed by artists or enveloped with an intimidating journalese-soaked back story, yet we almost see a conceivable part of us embodied in so many of those we look up to. It is a curious paradox of identification and aspiration that we experience, and we need to question, tease out the various fibres of both beings to appreciate what is really being comunicated and what, realistically to live up to.

Thank you for reading, this exercise in sartorial philosophy has left me with just one question - playsuits and denim jackets with knee-high socks? Come on, I know I can wing this one. Urban rebellion is who I am!

Thursday 26 July 2012

Ankle of arrival

You will need

Plain black ankle boots - hard to specify a price for this one but I'd recommend charity shops or Ebay and it would just depend on how lucky you were with finds. I chose a pair with a bit of a heel and paid £12.50 from a local charity shop

Gold beads - I plumped for a canny (I like to think) but selectively feasible option with this one, as you will need LOADS, as in 1500+ I picked up a tiny gold bead covered necklace in a sale from Miss Selfridge for £2, which I sadly can't find on the website. I'd advise some lateral thinking with this one -see if you can fine a cheap gold beaded collar you can take apart. Failing that, might I suggest three packs of 500x 2mm beads, priced at £5.55 each from Riverside Beads

Six buckled kilt straps (priced at 3.29 for a set of two from Amazon plus £2.69 postage and packing) I actually chose some shoes which already had a buckle and maybe you will to, so inevitably, prices will vary.

Gold Fimo clay, £1.99 at Cuddly Buddly

UHU All Purpose Adhesive £1.07 from here  - Perfect as it's quick-drying

Gold paint marker

Grid paper - downloadable and printable from here

Paper scissors

Long-nosed tweezers (optional)


About 7 hours per shoe.



The gluing’s a little bit fiddly in places but otherwise pretty straightforward.

Total cost

For me it would have been about £28, which is somewhat better than £815 like the originals!

To get your shoe-in…

Sketch out the three geometric-looking patterns from the original onto your graph paper, just to get an idea for the outlines. These will be your template. Once you’re done, cut them out.

Sketch the outlines in the appropriate places on your ankle boots with dots using your gold pen, so that they blend in.

Studying the originals closely for outlines and solid beaded shapes, stick your beads in place using your all purpose adhesive glue.

Glue your kilt straps along the centre of each shoe making sure they’re symmetrical.

Using your gold clay, make some tips for each of your straps and covers for each of your buckles (Note: I didn’t actually use gold clay, I used white Fimo clay, covered in gold leaf sheets and lived to regret it - I wouldn’t recommend it as it’s messy, fiddly and not worth the result) Bake in the oven as instructed (follow instructions carefully or chances are it won’t work – and I’ll be telling on you!)

Glue your buckles and point in place...

… and voilà!

Monday 16 July 2012

Crowd-pleaser jewels - Part 2, Queenly brightness

You will need

A silver necklace (I used an old one but you can pick up a cheap necklace in one of the summer sales)

Long-nosed pliers

A silver brooch, ideally oval in shape with lots of white diamantés and lots of branches or cut out details you can weave ribbon through. I paid about £5 for mine here

Fluorescent yellow ribbon, about 4mm wide. I got mine in a 3m bundle from here

A chunky silver chain, I got mine here 

Green string (I painted mine but wouldn't recommend it, given the time-consuming faff involved. I found some metallic green string online here)

Glue gun

Extra gems or silver skulls (optional)


Pretty easy

You have to be good - and patient - with winding lots of string and ribbon onto the brooch, and some care, as well as skill, with fixing chain links with pliers wouldn't go amiss, but overall, this would have to be one of my more straightforward outings.


Mine took 4-5 hours, but I was a bit distracted so yours shouldn't take as long.

Total cost

Mine cost £9.40, or £129.60 less than the original.

So, here's how it's done

That flash of ribbon weaving genius again, if I dare say so myself

Sunday 15 July 2012

Crowd-pleaser jewels

This week, we'll be hitting some neon heights with DIY demonstrations for the Knotty necklace (pictured to left) and the Skittles necklace (pictured top right) both by the jewellery brand, I Know The Queen.

I'll teach you in two stages, first starting with the Knotty necklace before skitting over to the Skittle one. The former, as I've noted in a previous entry, revolves around much the same principle as a scoubidou bracelet, only with shoe laces. Sounds random? Well, it kind of is, hence, why I'll do a full picture demonstration just to show you what I mean.

For one stylish scoubidou

You will need

A gold necklace chain (Which I picked up in a sale for £2 from New Look before cutting it in half and removing the charm)

Fluorescent green shoe laces - 3 pairs (Priced at 99p each from John Lewis)

Metallic wire (£1.55 at RU Craft)

Glue gun

Long-nosed pliers



...And hopefully my teaching skills will do the humble scoubidou justice in the accessibility sense.


About two and a half hours tops.

You need to... 

...First of all make a starter knot. To to this place your two shoe laces at right angles to each other. Make sure they're concentric so that there's the same amount of length on each of the four strands.

That really is all you have to do - oh, and to tune in tomorrow when I'll be teaching you the Skittles necklace. Stay tuned!

Friday 13 July 2012

Chic Cheat's Buzzin'!

Dear readers, I have some news! As much as I know this is a bit late on in the day (time's been typically tight in the evenings, over this past week) I should let you know that I was featured in the Daily Buzz Style round up on Thursday. So, just to relive that glorious moment:

...and if you're more partial to perusing the page, itself, clicky here.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Pyjama party hard - part 1

"Oi! I said oi! What you looking at, you little rich boy?"

... well, that would be at the latest statement in smooth evening chic if word on the celebrity style street is to be believed...

..for, stepping out in something resembling satin pyjamas and slippers of sorts was Rihanna, at  the premiere of her iconic film, Battleship (I say iconic - I'm talking, of course, about the long-wait-passing travel game on which it was based). The outfit in question was Emilio Pucci's satin printed suit from the autumn/ winter 2012 collection. Not that we would want to give undue credit to Rihanna, for sparking a ground breaking fashion trend. How could a knowledgeable fashionista like myself overlook that time when Jessica Alba wore a very luxurious satin set at the premiere of My Bloody Valentine, back at the beginning of 2009?

While we're on the subject of recognition, I personally have to commend the stylist's attention to detail in the couture context of this one, as it appears he or she has even left the curlers in. B1 and B2 would surely approve. The boudoir's back in business as the shape of fashion to come, but don't just take my word for it. Shortly afterwards, in 2010, it became a talking point of underground culture when the two main protagonists of Irish film, Pyjama Girls, worked the pret-a-pyjama look religiously, indoors and outdoors (and in my lady's chamber - or whatever is the equivalent of a Dublin inner-city high-rise block. Here to observe not to judge, dear readers!) A staple of teen rebellion and an uncharacteristic nod of approval from the designers, in fact,even the stars  - there's even an already burgeoning mainstream chav avenue to whom the trend can so easily sell. It almost seems too easy - and too obvious, as fashion, by its very nature rebels against the static, and all old-hat notions of typically "good taste."

Also, while we're on the subject of stepping out in something resembling men's silk pyjamas from 1930-something, let me tease your grey matter with the following Jean-Paul Gaultier quote:
"Gender-bending, huh! It's a game. Young people understand that to dress like a tart doesn't reflect one's moral stance - perhaps those jolies madames in little Chanel suits are the real tarts? I'm offering equality of sex appeal"
With that in mind, could the paradigm of taste be shifted from tacky to tasteful with the mere change from sweaty polycottons to silk satin? Is there a bigger picture - a paradox even - that betrays an awkward cluster of inner conflicts at the core of fashion? Fashion as an artistic avenue has always been hard-pushed to justify its conceptual and intellectual worth, and, as a result, has always had to be in constant flux, ever changing, ever evolving. Yet, by the same token, those who design it must create a unique, timeless legacy, that endures to be taken seriously and not be caught on the ice floe of transient fads and superficial - even joke - trends. You have to run the risk of the latter to hope to achieve the former. Perhaps it's less about breaking down the boundaries of taste and identity than it is a need to keep asking new questions about them, to gain an ever better understanding of them before you can successfully transgress them. We, in turn, gain a better understanding of society and ourselves as attitudes progress, as well as a better grasp of what the wearer underneath is genuinely intending to say, from within the confines of their clothing. It is only through understanding the complexities of your inspirations and muses that you can truly do their statement justice, and where you take it from there is where your creativity comes into its own. Time will tell where the pyjama trend goes but if you look at other designers' challenges of taste that have gone on to revolutionise fashion, such as Gaultier's pert, feisty conical bras and body-exploring bondage, you'll see that it can be done.  At least that's my take on it. My justification, even. To be honest, anything that could take away the sense of shame that comes with plodding around to the corner shop in pyjamas of a Saturday morning, when I've finally caught up on a week's worth of lost sleep, to buy some emergency milk, because I'm starving and my last drop has congealed, would get my vote. Applying the deodorant can stay, though.

For further reading on the subject, check out this other blog review I found about Pyjama girls:

Projects in the pipeline: A summer summary

Just to give all you wonderful, loyal readers a breather, I thought I'd give you a chic peek at what I'll be working on over the next 8 or so weeks and whether it be out of logistics or laziness on my part that you have not witnessed these projects come alive as of yet. Also, I'd welcome any other suggestions if you think there's a key piece from this season that I've missed. So, in no particular order, here's the list:

A closer look: Check out the Magnificent Seven must-haves to whet your wardrobe-filling appetite...

Sunday 1 July 2012

DIY Fest: Sweet sugar Kane



Fiddly in places but generally straightforward.


Mine took 15 and a half hours - thank God the design's only on one side!

And just to show you how it's done...