Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Selvedge Article: Miss C on the "New Demure"

I was delighted to write a piece called "Thoroughly Modern Modesty: The Allure of the New Demure," for Selvedge, the lovely London magazine.

And in a complete contradiction, I am immodest enough to post a peek of the issue here.

The paper magazines have not yet reached my book shop, so I've decided to subscribe online, and the images come from that edition (Jan/Feb, issue 44).

Many thanks to my two wonderful sources for this article, American scholar and poet Dr. Ann Hostetler, as well as London stylist and delightful blogger Kate Battrick, who responded so quickly and who offered such useful information!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gentlemen Collars: Detachable Chic

At boarding school I wore a collared white shirt and tie every single day, except on Saturdays. Perhaps that's why I have avoided collared shirts for a couple of decades.

I'm wearing collars again, but I flatten and spread them when I wear them on a shirt.

However, I'm feeling the pull of collars with crewneck sweaters, a look that's both governness chic and crisply current (see shoe designer Tabitha Simmons, right).

The trick is, I think, to wear a crewneck with a bold or somewhat askew design on it (see Simmons again).

For instance, two collars I really like are this grey sequined one, by Karl Lagerfeld for Net-a Porter:

and this hammered-brass collar choker by the very talented Young Frankk on Etsy*:

I'd wear them with, say, this heart crewneck by J Crew:

and in another colourway:

or, for spring, this commes des garcons collaboration with J Crew:

I prefer a crewneck, because I think that part of the collars' buttoned-up charm lies in their prim placement--no skin, please (sorry Net-a-Porter stylists, below):

But a simple black crewneck is always right, too, especially when Louis Vuitton pairs it with a blood-red sequined skirt:

*Young Frankk was first brought to my attention by the lovely gemmifer.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Tail of a Dress: Nadia Wilcock's Glamourous Union Jack Gown

Over our December Break, Mr. C and I spent an afternoon on the edge of the East Village, thisclose to the Williamsburg Bridge. 

There I found some delightful English shops (who knew?), including one that imported tins of English food (lots of Cadbury in the window) and a terrific boutique that offered only English designers.

Called Any Old Iron, a riff on both King Arthur's sword (see the Anthony Burgess novel of the same title) as well as Harry Champion's version of the British music hall song, this shop deals with the kind of iron that accompanies a board and wrinkly garment.

But I wasn't on a browsing lark; what brought me into the shop (a few times, in fact) was Nadia Wilcock's Union Jack dress for Reign that was displayed in the window.

Irresistible.  From Any Old Iron's Flickr via Twitter

There were two in the shop, one on the rail with smaller flags and one with larger Union Jacks, above, which I spied from outside.  The fabric had a thin but somewhat canvas-sy feel; the mood, historic, as the traditionally stark whites of the flag were more of a tea-dyed colour.

The fabric of this dress was buried in dirt to give it its earthy, medieval feel.

It looked like something Queen Guinevere could have worn if she wanted to grab that sword herself from the stone, or better yet, if she wanted to start a rock band.

The piece de resistance for me was the train.  The train!! It added romance and swish to a gown already pulsing with character.

I see that both dresses were featured in Any Old Iron's 10-minute style challenge, with videos posted on Facebook.

Here are two stills from one:

Stills from Any Old Iron's Facebook page

And a still from the other:

Still from Any Old Iron's Facebook Page

My own style is more classic, more Hitchcock heroine than that of these two 10-minute-style challengers, but I think that the dress and I would make a good pair because of that juxtaposition.

I hadn't heard of Nadia Wilcock before visiting the shop, but have learned that she is a 2008 graduate of Northampton University and she showed her designs at London's Graduate Fashion Week.  Her show was inspired by tartans with a punk feel, kind of an updated Westwood aesthetic (video and images below):

Watch for the fit-like-a-glove high-waisted tartan pants.  The Union Jack gown is the finale in this small, smart collection.

Did I try on the dress?  I was certainly in the shop enough times.

Well, no. 

I think it's my own Perfectionist quirk here--did you read the recent NYT article on Perfectionist home decorators/architects/creative directors (all men, by the way)?  They were so committed to Perfection that they could not bear to outfit their homes with anything but the most Perfect, uncluttered furniture: no couch for one man, only chairs; no light fixture for another, only a bulb.

My Perfectionist version is: if there are only two dresses, what if they don't fit?  So I tried on the Perfect Union Jack dress in my mind and loved it even more. There it fit Perfectly.

Model Lily Cole doesn't have this quirk, as she tried on one during January and brought it home to London.  Would that I could fit in her suitcase.

Lily Cole, from Any Old Iron's Facebook page

I concede: if my tale were Perfect; it would end with me wearing the dress in triumph.  But at least I have a couch.  And light fixtures. They're just waiting for me to flag down that dress.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Miss Cavendish, Fashion Activist for J Crew

I'm starting my own movement--Occupy Fifty-seventh Street.
 If anyone happened upon my Twitter feed this morning, they'd see that I had entered fashion activism full-tilt.  Here's the proper narrative:

I received an email from J Crew inviting me to gain 24-hour "private access" to its spring/summer collection in order to, well, pre-order. I thought I'd accept the invitation to see what would be in store for the warmer weather:

click images to enlarge

I filled in the box provided with my email address, and, on the following screen, my name.

That took me to this screen, below, which asked me to provide names and email addresses of up to three friends so they could be invited too.  I wouldn't want my friends providing my contact information to businesses, so I left those boxes blank and pressed "Submit."

But as you can see below, J Crew would not let me proceed until I ponied up at least one friend's name and contact details.  In other words, the invitation really wanted me to Submit, in more ways than one.

So I signed up my alter ego, Kate Cavendish, the journalist.  This is the email that she received:

And to proceed, she was expected to sign up a friend as well, and could not proceed without, ahem, Submitting. (She signed up her new pal Privacy Please to see whether the process was identical.  It was. Privacy Please's email address is in the red box below. Privacy also seems to have a Policy, just below the Submit button):

I also wrote an email to J Crew in which I communicated my disappointment that loyal customers were asked to, no, required to provide what could be construed as private information about at least one friend in order to look at clothing. 

I am confident that J Crew can sell enough skirts without my selling out a friend. 

Indeed, the thought Occupying my mind (see above cartoon) at the moment is that it is inappropriate for J Crew to hope or assume that, in the excited heat of receiving a J Crew invitation, its recipient will feverishly type in whatever information is requested, just so she can see and order clothes before anyone else. 

Of course, maybe some friends would love to receive the invitation. But I'd rather play it safe and let them be in control of revealing their own information.

Would I be as annoyed if J Crew had stated up front, in the opening email, that the invitation was contingent on my inviting a friend?  No, because that would not have been duplicitious.  Insisting on that information halfway through the invitation acceptance is.

What do gentle readers think?

The fashion police: "I protest!"

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Lovely Maiyet Capelet

When I was in boarding school, we dressed for dinner every night. 

My favorite shoes were tall slingbacks, in the palest sky-blue leather possible.  I felt like I was floating in a Watteau painting when I wore them.

This dress by Maiyet, in a dreamy, floaty, silky blue recalls those shoes. But whereas I conjured a Watteau for lift-off, this dress seems to have its own glorious feathers attached via capelet for flying ease.

Maiyet . . . Capelet . . . Eaglet . . . umm . . . Robin?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Half-Remembered Beach Photo: A Request

Gentle readers, I would like to ask your assistance.  I am trying to locate a photo that's etched in my mind (perhaps accurately, perhaps fuzzily, after all these years).

It is of a European female athlete, I believe, from the early 1980s, running on the beach.

The woman has long, flowing blonde hair, is wearing a bathing suit (I think), and has extraordinarily powerful legs. 

The picture was iconic for its day (I'm pretty sure I saw it in Vogue or some similar magazine), but my searches are coming up empty.

Does anyone remember her name or the image? (It is not a Rachel Williams photo.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Prada and Nike: Fleet-Footed Goddesses

I've been contemplating fleet feet for the last few days, as I had an unanticipated adventure in shoe deconstruction with my new Nike Air Max runners. 

To make a long story short, the left footbed (beneath the inner sole) contains an embedded plastic ring, into which one can insert a microchip for iPodding while running. 

This princess quickly felt the pea (had no idea that my two-day-old shoe came with such a feature) and, after my initial crankiness, removed the offending ring with a butter knife, whittled down some irritating arch support, took some anti-inflammatories, and, happily, find myself mobile again.

I would call these "dove" grey.

Always looking for some irony, or, at least, a little coincidence, I remembered that I had seen a new Prada shoe ad for Spring 2012 that showed some hot feet:

These might need an anti-inflammatory too.

I realize that the above shoes are about hotrods and engine-revving, but they reminded me of Mercury, the winged messenger:

And his wings, in turn recalled Henry James' devastating novel The Wings of the Dove:

In the 1997 film version, Charlotte Rampling wears some of the most gorgeous Poirot-inspired clothes:

Tomorrow I shall decide whether my running shoes are propelled by flames or feathers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rochas' Creme de Menthe Heroine Dress

This lovely dress by Rochas is inspired by, among other things, Hitchcock films.

I can see Tippi Hedren's sage-green suit in The Birds,

and Grace Kelly's suit in Rear Window,

but most of all, I can see the creme de menthe parfait that I would have as a child for Christmas dinner,

in the ballroom of the grand old Charlottetown Hotel.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Gothic Plumes

I am rereading the first Gothic novel ever published, Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto, which opens with an enormous black, plumed helmet (from a statue) being, shall we say, re-purposed.

The plumed helmet is never too far away from the novel's action, and the plumes often ruffle when they are annoyed with the characters' behaviour.

I thought of those plumes when I saw these curious loafers from Christian Louboutin, adorned with feathers. 

Just as Walpole attempted to marry nature (realism) with imagination (the supernatural)--these shoes merge a conservative shoe (the loafer) with a bohemian accent (the feather). 

If I were to wear these, I'd want the shoe to be either a little tougher or more elegant (a buttery-leather higher heel, perhaps), but the literary critic in me appreciates the overlap of genres.