Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shangri Las

I've recently discovered 1960s 'tough' girl group the Shangri Las, best known probably for the single 'Leader of the Pack'. Not only did lead singer Mary Weiss (she's the blonde one) have a lovely voice (the band were actually a quartet rather than a trio, but Mary's sister Betty rarely toured with the rest of the group and so doesn't appear in many photos) but their songs express so brilliantly adolescent longing and angst, all from a decidedly female perspective. Oh, and the girls had great style too. Youthful, cutesy but a big rough around the edges too.

Here's them performing one of my favourites: 'Out in the Streets.'

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Book Love

Over the last couple of days, while I've been assessing my year, I've also been assessing my reading year. Books are such an important part of my life - not only do I work in them but I also consume them rabidly - that it would be a sad twelve months indeed if I didn't come across a number of works that had touched me, and at least a couple of books to add to my all time favourites list.
I remember saying to someone at the beginning of this year that I'm not a big memoir person. Too self-indulgent perhaps, or too limited. But as I reflect on my reading year I realise that I've actually read some bloody brilliant memoirs this year. In fact over the years I've read some seriously great memoirs which I would unreservedly recommend to any other readers: The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion), Truth & Beauty (Ann Patchett), Lucky (Alice Sebold), The View from Castle Rock (Alice Munro - part memoir, part history, part fiction) and Borrowed Finery (Paula Fox).
I guess that, because I find novels so expansive and so representative (and because of that so TRUE), they are the books that overwhelmingly make up my top 10, 20 or 50 books of all time. Having said that though, when I look back at 2011 I would be hard pressed not to include these three beautiful memoirs in my ten favourites of this year.

Emma Forrest's memoir Your Voice in My Head focuses, essentially, on the author's relationship with her therapist. Suffering from depressive episodes throughout her young life (and she is still young) this therapist had seemed to be the only person who had really made a dent in Forrest's sadness. But then he died.
Your Voice in My Head is really Forrest's way of writing out her grief and her feelings are so raw and honest and beautifully drawn you can't fail but be moved. There is also a lot in this book about family and familial legacy as well as romantic love (and lust). Oh, and an awful lot about self esteem. There is much in here that any woman who has had her heartbroken could relate to. And haven't we all at one time or another?
Jeanette Winterson is a tremendously talented writer. Her way with prose is sigh inducing, in a majorly good way. There are passages in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? that had me wishing I had a pencil with me so I could do some serious underlining. If you've read Winterson's debut novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit then her memoir will definitely intrigue. The first half is basically the true story from which that novel was drawn; the story of a working-class childhood of a bookish little girl adopted by a fiercely religious (and completely mad) woman. If it's possible, the real version of Winterson's mother is even madder than the fictional one. The second half of the novel is Winterson's very affecting story of her search for her birth mother. And finally Joshua Cody, a young 'un on the literary scene - he claims this will be his one and only book - has written a story about mortality and a brush with death. An intellect and musician living the life in New York, in his 30s Cody was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

This book is such a pastiche; it includes musings on poetry and art interspersed with diary entries from himself and his mother during his stay in hospital, as well as deeply personal remembrances of his father, existential crises, sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and lots, lots more. The prose style is actually quite pretentious but I kind of loved it. I found it deeply original and honest in its affectation, if that makes sense. I felt, when I read it, that this was REALLY HOW THIS GUY WAS. He was someone I would want to sit down and have a meal with. I actually really hope he writes some more.

And what of fiction, you may say? Well my runner up for my Book of the Year (only including novels I've actually read, mind you) is Malcolm Knox's The Life, an unfortunately little read story about an Australian surf champion from the 60s and 70s battling mental illness. Simply brilliant. And my number one is most definitely Jennifer Egan's Pulitzer Prize winning A Visit From the Goon Squad. What I wouldn't give to write like her.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Some new pretty for the weekend ...

I am loving these photos of actress Carey Mulligan in the latest issue of W Magazine, all in service of promoting her new movie Shame. Carey has such an expressive face and I love the clothing selection and the retro styling, which seems to suit Carey's off-duty style too. I'm still crushing hard on those hot rod print dresses from Prada.
Carey's been in Sydney for the last few months shooting The Great Gatsby. You can throw rocks at me if you like but I'm not a big Baz Luhrmann fan. It's safe to say that I'm nervous. Having said that his wife Catherine Martin gives great costume; check out the blog A Wild Tea Party for a sneak peek at some of the duds on the forthcoming flick.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mini Break

I want to apologise for my lax blogging of late. Work has been almost non-stop and when it finally did stop I left rainy Sydney again for a weekend away with my oldest friend Rebecca. Our destination: the occasionally rainy but sometimes sunny too Gold Coast. This is me on the balcony of our hotel wearing a bustier top from Sportsgirl and vintage shorts from Grandma Takes a Trip. Now that I've had my fill of travel for 2011, regular blogging duties will resume shortly.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wishing Away the Rain

I've been neglecting the blog while I've been travelling the countryside for work and now my thoughts - especially in the face of unseasonal cold weather and bucketing rain - are turning to holidays. Next weekend is a girls only mini break on the Gold Coast and next month is a week in my favourite spot in Far North QLD. I'll be taking my own gingham bikini with the tie-front top, but I won't be looking anything like Kate Moss.
These pics are from a cover shoot from a couple of years ago for Paris Vogue. The photographer was Mario Sorrenti.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The 60s Face

Some further scans from the March 1965 edition of US Vogue; these images (from photographer Bert Stern) illustrate a beauty story contrasting 'European' make-up (think Italian mid century films) and the 'new American-English' make-up (soft, illuminated transparency). There is no doubt though that, being the sixties, the eyes had it for both of these looks and that colour was the real trend on display here. Silver lashes! Luscious falsies! And blue eyeshadow (that freaks some people out, but which I've loved for years and years. My eyes are about the same colour as the model on the left of the top picture, and there is something about the contrast between baby blue and deep brown that appeals).

Anyway, these photos got me thinking about my favourite beauty trends across the decades. I've always been partial to the slick of black eyeliner so popular in the 1950s; the shiny, voluminous and effortless hair of the early supers; the vibrant, matte pink and red lips of the 40s and 50s; the strong full eyebrows of the late 70s and early 80s; the over sized lashes of the 1960s (but only on top please ... I have a paranoid fear of gluey mascara on the lower lashes) and, finally, the tanned skin from the real life sun of the 1970s (my bad, I know, but fake tan just doesn't cut it for me. I love alabaster skin too but I'm not someone who can wear it well).

What is your favourite beauty decade?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jo Copeland Frocks

I posted a beautiful 1949 advertisement for Pattullo - Jo Copeland the other week and I thought I would follow that up with this selection of gorgeous vintage frocks from the label which you can buy right now.
The black 1940's dress above is from Shrimpton Couture and is for sale for AUD$271.72.

This unique 1950s satin cocktail dress with velvet bows is from Mercyvintagenow and is available for AUD$230.18.

This dress from Fab Gabs is Indian inspired and features a beautiful brocade. It is AUD$407.16.

And this day dress with the unusual neckline is currently up for auction at Basic Threads. With only two days to go, if you love it, you better jump on ebay now!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Frock of the Week: Vegetable Prints

I loved Kirsten Dunst in Dolce & Gabbana so much this week that I've had to resurrect Frock of the Week. From Dolce & Gabbana's latest ready-to-wear collection, the theme is Italian in the extreme, with vegetable prints (in Kirsten's case it is tomatoes) appearing on fit and flare and wiggle dresses as well as skirts and crop tops. I had to go back to the collection ... see below. Love the eggplant print!
Kirsten has really been back on form lately. A new stylist maybe, or perhaps she's just got her fashion mojo back.

Photos courtesy of Style.Com.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tzaim Luksus - Art Nouveau

In the March 1966 issue of US Vogue I came across this wonderfully colourful editorial entitled Art Nouveau - flowering again in America.

The story claims that in 1996 Art Nouveau was undergoing a spirited renaissance in contemporary design: furniture, decor and fashion. And one of the most exciting torchbearers for this renaissance was American painter turned fabric designer Tzaim Luksus. Luksus had received a COTY fashion award in 1965 for his startling prints and in the same year that this editorial would appear, he would show his own dress collection. He would keep showing into the mid 1970s, as a fan of the tent and kite silhouettes.

In this case the fabrics are Luksus' but the designs are courtesy of Geoffrey Beene and Pauline Trigere. I love the originality and modernity on display here, the models back lit beautifully by stained glass. The last dress is a particular fave.

The photographer was Gordon Parks and if you can steal a glance away from the dresses to the hairstyles, you'll discover they are completely wild? God knows how the models posed with such heavy hair pieces. So 1960s.

And doesn't Verushka look stunning in the last two pics?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Early Jean P

From the same 1948 issue of US Vogue as those photos of a 16-year-old Elizabeth I posted comes these two images of the glorious 50s top model Jean Patchett. Jean would have been only 21 or 22 when these photos were taken, and in the first year of her modelling career, which lasted until 1963. She signed with an agency in early 1948 and by the end of the year she was already a cover-girl, gracing the pages of Vogue.

The editorial that the photographs come from is called 'Fashions For A Man's Eye' and has models posing in some of Vogue's favourite recent frocks for the benefit of a panel of men who give their thoughts. It's all quite amusing really and is a concept still used in magazines today.

As the point of this issue is 'Will a man like them?' we went to four acidulous young columnists, who were part of the male rebellion against the new-born new look a year and a half ago; showed them the dresses, invited them to say exactly what they wanted to about them, pro or con.

You might like to know that the judge for Jean's first dress said men embarrass easily. This dress isn't embarrassing.
And for the second dress the male critic said I like halter-tops. They show off a good back.

When it comes to men, it seems not too much has changed. All the men declared that they detested ballet flats! (Lucky we don't care what they think).

The advertisements in this issue are just as exciting to pore over as the fashion editorials. I think my favourite frock is the gorgeous Patullo - Jo Copeland for the opening of the Opera ... for a brilliant ball. Patullo - Copeland was a shared ready-to-wear label designed by Jospehine Copeland, based in New York, that existed from the 20s through to the 60s. You can read more about her over at the Vintage Fashion Guild.

Interestingly her daughter, the novelist Lois Gould, wrote a memoir in the 1990s about her mother, from a child's perspective. Called Mommy Dressing I'm sure it would provide a fascinating insight into the world of early American high fashion.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I've been meaning to do a post on my favourite models throughout the decades and once I get around to it the lovely Arizona Muse would be my pick of the current crop of working models. Her beauty reminds me of the great supermodel era of the late 80s and early 90s, like a cross between Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington. I love her thick brows and wide smile and small oval shaped face which photographs with such versatility. And that bob gives me hair envy.
The photo above, from the November issue of US Vogue, was taken by David Sims and styled by Grace Coddington. You can see more of the editorial here, but this is by far my favourite shot (the clothes in the rest of the editorial are a bit drab). The rain clouds, the position of both Arizona and the young man with the horse and the drama of that Alexander McQueen gown combine to create a truly arresting image.
Arizona appeared on three different covers for Aussie Vogue back in October & she had a whole Dazed and Confused issue dedicated to her in March. This month she is the cover girl for French Vogue, looking every inch the supermodel and rising star.

More vintage models to come soon, but do you have a favourite from the current runways?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The promotion begins ...

Michelle Williams has just hit the promotional trail for My Week With Marilyn and the buzz is already building around her performance. She wore a gorgeous Nina Ricci black gown to the Hollywood Film Awards the other night (she won Best Actress) and at the New York premiere of the film she looked ravishing in baby blue Dior.
I believe the film opens in Australia over the Christmas period and I'll definitely be checking it out. I've always had a soft spot for Michelle because Jen Lindley was my favourite character on Dawson's Creek plus she has always reminded me of my dear friend Megan. They both have the same reserved beauty.
Oh, and as demonstrated here, Michelle has great style too.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sweet Sixteen

From the November 1948 issue of US Vogue comes this lovely photo shoot with a sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. Here she demonstrates the current skirt and shirt fashion that the young love for its different-every-time-look. Elizabeth was just about to appear on screen as Amy in Little Women when these photos appeared but she was already famous around the world as Velvet Brown. I do love that plaid skirt and the framing in that first photograph. Lovely.