I had an urge to watch Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows a little while ago. If truth be known I wasn’t really blown away the first time I saw it, but a second viewing really made me fall in love with it, particularly the costumes which had slightly passed me by before. They. Are. Amazing. I’ve been through numerous clothing phases in my life, influenced by different eras and references, and now feel that I’m just some mix of all of them. But one constant throughout most looks has always been what I like to refer to (in the eloquent words of Nancy Spungen) as ‘fuckin’ Stevie Knicks in hippie clothes’. This was confirmed to me by my dear friend when we were deconstructing our personal styles to each other the other day (because that’s what real friends do people), and she said that to her I’d always been some Wednesday Addamsy-witchy-20s-bohmeianny-60s-hippy-Kate-Bushy-kind of thing. Or something to that effect, which I placed firmly in my ego engine and skipped along on my way with.
It’s quite true. I have always been influenced by 60s and 70s psychedelia fashions in some way, even if I didn’t know that’s what it was. As an 11 year old this was manifest in my impressive collection of long tie-dye crinkle skirts that my mother had to lovingly twist out over the bath in order for them for retain their alluring rumpled ridges. At about twenty-odd, I fell in love with the Pre-Raphaelites and tried in vain to grow my hair as long as a Waterhouse sea nymph. Then it was all about the 1910s-20s bohemia, with lots of velvet, lace and beading, which to my mind is a predecessor of the embellished swathes of fabric and tassels synonymous with the late 60s and early 70s. One of my greatest purchases at this time was a purple sequin kaftan that I acquired from the CND shop on the Holloway Road for five of the Queen’s pounds and subsequently wore to most social events I was invited to between 2005-2008. This also, perhaps not inconsequently ties in with the time in my life when people kept telling me I looked like Kate Bush. Anyway, I’m not sure where all of this is going really but suffice it to say that that whole velvet drenched, kaftan bedecked, occult obsessed style has in some form or another influenced me, either in its own right or via its precursors and I’m quite happy that I’m identified with it by those closest to me.
Soooooooooooo, who wants to look at some wonderful gothically psychedelic clothes? Yes me too. Let us have some music whilst we browse…
Burton’s film is obviously an adaptation the cult TV series which aired in the late 60s -early 70s. So it is only right that we take a look at some moments from that production too….
Darks Shaddows.20 looks a touch more HD.
I also kinda fell in love with Dr. Hoffman in all of her drunken glory – and that hair! Fabulous!
Angelique, played by Eva Green, boasts some enviable retro tailoring which I heartily approve of, I do so love an executive witch.
And look at little Vicky Winters, super cute in her preppy 70s threads.
However I think the belle of the Halloween ball has to be Elizabeth Collins, I want everything she wears, inlcuding the hair pieces. So, so good…
If you are as seduced by this look as I am, here are a few good online resouces for repro or inspired pieces…
Free People – good for flares and kaftans.
Sugar High Love Stoned – Reproduction Woodstock finest
Girl on a Vine – Unreal kaftans in a range of beautiful fabrics
So, let’s finish off with a few more shots from this period that I just love…
I wanted to let you know about a few great programmes currently available on the BBC IPlayer because, well what else are we supposed to do now that the clocks are going back and it’s as black as pitch by four o’clock? I try my hardest not to leave the house unless a roast dinner or Trick or Treating is involved during this time of year. Instead, I like hunkering down, tea-ing up and getting friendly with all of the great TV on offer. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. There’s a reason TV scheduler-types put all of their best stuff on in the Autumn you know folks. I should know, I used to be one.
So, in this run up to Halloween the good old Beeb have come up trumps again with a whole raft of programming focussing on the gothic and the macabre. However, because it’s Auntie, it is all nicely wrapped up with an informative docu-dramatization bow. Huzzah!
So first off, we have Dan Cruickshank taking us through the story of the Scott family who, over three generations, were fundamental in the rise of the British Gothic style of the 19th century, all with a tasty dollop of personal tragedy naturally. Click!
Next is a very theatrical yet informative programme tracking the Gothic Revival in Britain within art, literature and wider Culture. Click!
To get us in the mood for Bonfire’s night which is only a few short days away (mittens at the ready folks), here is a nice dramatic reconstruction of the Gunpowder Plot. It is a bit patchy in parts and seems to skip over some events pretty swiftly, however, it’s a broad-brush recap of the political motivations and alliances that bore the plot in to fruition, if not execution. Click!
Although it was first aired a few years ago, Mark Gaitiss’ (he of Sherlock genius) walk through European Horror Cinema got a repeat outing a few days ago, so that too is currently up on the IPlayer. Catch it if you haven’t already! Click!
Finally, Dracula is available in all of its Hammer Horror glory. Peter Cushings cushing about and Christopher Lee being all imposing in glorious Technicolor – stick a toffee apple on a stick and call it a night folks. Boo!
Sweet nightmares kittens
On Monday I got lost. I was somewhat ok with this because I knew it was going to happen. Despite living in London for more years than I care to mention there are still some parts of it that remain pretty alien to me. In such a huge city I think we generally tend to stick to well-worn routes, or turfs that we recognises and feel at home in. These are usually the areas we work in, the places we have rented flats or just those locales we visit often for shopping or nights out. We get so familiar in these patterns that it sometimes comes as a bit of a shock when someone suggests to meet in Putney and you realise that you’ve never actually been there before, as happened to me last week (to the TFL journey planner!)
As much as I can tell you the quickest route from Forbidden Planet to the Big Topshop, there are definitely parts of the old girl that I just can’t fathom. One of these black holes is the City. Now this may come as something of a shock to you dear reader but I have never worked in the City. I’ve never inhabited an office called Jenkins and Stead, required the services of a ‘sandwich man’ or worked anywhere with a dress code any more taxing than ‘no ripped jeans’. I’ve worked in offices, but they have always been relaxed televisiony offices somewhere in West London where people wear whatever is newest on the ASOS website and eat cereal at their desks for lunch. Frankly, the City proper I find a bit otherworldly and weird. It seems to be endless wide and empty streets lined with glass and chrome with the occasional mock folksy 1800s pub front rammed into the bottom of a shiny building that was built circa 2001. Invariably these places are called some pseudo Medieval tosh like the Chime and Barrel or Golden Horn and serve what are essentially Weatherspoon’s meals but at three times the price so that the people in suits can gather together and discuss businessy business things with each other without feeling cheap. I know this to be true because I had to pop in to one on Monday when I couldn’t find a McDonalds to use for its primary function (public toilet) and instead darted through a space bedecked like Bilbo’s house full of red-faced men downing pints at 12.15pm. The only time I ever really seem to frequent the City is when I get on the wrong night bus and end up at three in the morning on some street that sounds like it was named by sodding Merlin, like Hob Knuckle Lane or Kings Guild Walk, and I’m the only thing with a pulse within a quarter of a mile radius and there’s nowhere to get any chips.
So as you can see, I was planning on getting lost at some point on Monday when I had a spare hour and decided to go and see the poppies at the Tower of London. Like some areas of London that have completely slipped me by over the years, so have many large tourist attractions. I hang my head in shame as a history graduate and also human being with a head that I have never been to the Tower of London. It’s ridiculous. I’ve been to the British Museum so many times I’m thinking of asking for a spare key but I’ve never been to the Tower of London once in all my years on this earth. Well I suppose it is a bit pricey and is all the way across town in the City….
Anyway, I have still never been inside but I thought I would go and see the poppies because they look beautiful and they are finishing soon. I am also still trying to get used to the idea of having free time for the first time in about six years after uni has finished. I’m trying to embrace this by doing the things I always mean to do but never have time for.
The poppies were beautiful. I was surprised by how close you could get without tickets, queues, or any of the things that can make living in Britain particularly frustrating at times. There was lots of room to navigate the Tower and everyone was nice, calm and not at all elbowy, which given the reason we were all there was heartening. It is of course a simple idea, and like many simple ideas, beautiful in that simplicity. Officially, this installation is called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by the artist Paul Cummins, but everyone has just started calling it ‘the poppies’, which I find terribly sweet. Although not numerically accurate, each poppy represents a life lost in the First World War and I think even the least empathetic person on earth could hardly fail to realise the poignancy of the work when confronted with it. Silent and all the same, cloaked in red and standing tall in a space designed for defence. As I said beautiful in its simplicity.
After the poppies, I got lost. I was trying to find Bank Station but I must have wandered too far and instead ended up by Mansion House. When I saw the (in more ways than one) motherly form of St Paul’s I made a beeline for that instead as I knew I could pick up, what I like to think of as the arterial vein of London, the Central Line from there. On the way, I spotted some very sweet graffiti by the Thames and took some shots of the moody looking river. It was wonderful to be a tourist in my own town for a while. I took some time to think about my life over the last year. Although in some ways taking the plunge to leave work and study was scary, particularly now that it is over and I’m trying to forge a life from my studies, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve never really cared about where I apparently should be in life compared to my contemporaries. All I’ve ever wanted was a life I could be happy in. A life that when I’m a little elderly Miss Marple I can say I owned rather than rented. That ideology can sometimes be lost, especially in this town. It can be swept up with visiting the newest pop-up something, going Glamping, and managing to maintain a monthly cut and colour schedule. Apparently, these are the things people my age do, but I never have. I think these activities sound lovely, and I would probably enjoy them if I had the opportunity to. However, I have so much freedom just at the moment. I can take an hour in the middle of a Monday to wander the streets of London, lost and daydreaming, people watching and happy. As much as my future right now is in flux and unknown, standing beside the windy choppy brown river, looking at the clouds and the elderly couples holding hands I knew more than ever that I was in the right place and I wouldn’t change it, not for all the lunches at the Bell and Hog on earth.
Don’t ‘cha just love it when you have the perfect thing to wear to an event? I went to my sister’s birthday dinner at Brasserie Zedel last night, and what is one to wear to an art deco restaurant in the iddle of Autumn? A 1920s dress in butter-like brown velvet of course.
I have had this beauty for a few years, and like much of my genuine 20s stuff I try to only wear it for extra special outings. 20s pieces are just so delicate and fragile and much more prone to damage than my 40s and 50s garments. However this wee beauty is holding up quite nicely and I couldn’t resist a chance to wear her in such a perfect environment.
Camouflage can be a funny old thing, generally it will allow you to blend seamlessly in to your surroundings, i.e. for a woman in 2014 London, jeans, knee boots, dark coat. But sometimes on those very special occasions there is that rare and shocking phenomenon – dazzling camouflage. Dazzle camouflage is exemplified by Eddie Izzard’s ‘first battalion transvestite division’, blinding the opposition with their sheer glamour and well-put-togethery-ness. Well a common world view was clearly shared dear Eddie and Norman Wilkinson. ‘Who he?’ you say. He was a Lieutenant with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and in 1917 had the cunning planning to paint British merchant ships with contrasting abstract patterns in order to confuse the enemy. It was thought that it would be difficult to determine the direction, turning and speed of the vessels because the common lines of the boat would be broken up and concealed by the pattern.
In homage to his frankly genius idea, which by the way seems to have been very effective, the Imperial War Museum has teamed up with Patternity to create a range of products inspired by the bold designs of Mr. Wilkinson, known as the Fleet of Dazzle.
I really like a black and white design scheme a the beI think. I particularly like the mug and tote bag, and a think a nice bold tea-towel can really brighten up a kitchen. Like a good rug in a living room, it really ties the room together man.
I’m already well under way with planning Christmas shopping ideas (I bought my first present the other day), and I can think of several people who may appreciate this range. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, you can’t beat a good museum gift shop for original present ideas.
Right, I’m off to find my own dazzle camouflage now because I’m going out for dinner tonight at my favourite London restaurant, the Wolseley, and frankly blending in is boring.
I’m a bit rubbish with sunglasses. I tend to either forget to being them out of the house with me, or completely underestimate a prolonged spell of sunshine and instead just keep telling myself ‘it will go cloudy any second’ rather than actually putting the glasses on my face. I don’t really spend much on them either. The only pair of expensive sunglasses I have ever purchased where some DKNY lovelies that I picked up in duty free on my way to New Zealand some years go and then promptly watched bob down a mountainside about two weeks later when I fell in a glacial stream. Never again, I muttered to myself as a wrung out my sodden jeans. Those soggy sentiments have remained pretty true for much of the last decade. I am currently sporting a very nice pair of 70s tortoiseshell frames that I found at my Grandma’s house after she passed away. I’m not sure if they were hers, my grandfathers or even my mother’s from her youth, but they are terribly flattering and go with everything.
I’m also guilty of associating sunglasses only with summer and forgetting those bright autumn and winter days when the sun glares from snow covered fields.
Well not this year. This year I’m embracing my sunnies year round and I see no reason not to do a post about fabulous sunglasses in the middle of October! Also, maybe it’s time I risked buying an investment pair of sunglasses, I mean it was a long time ago and there aren’t many mountain streams in London. Let it go Chloe, let it go.
Now, I know Dita’s exclusive eyewear line for Dita Eyewear launched a little while back but in amongst dissertation realness, I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved. Which has actually worked out rather nicely because I can’t think of a better collection of lenses for the coming vampy October days, walking your black cat through the crispy leaves, seeking out the dark forces and joining their hellish crusade (name that quote pop-pickers).
In the marketing blurb for this range Dita is quoted as saying that she avoids true vintage sunglasses as the proportions tend to be wrong for modern faces and can look ‘grandmotherly’. Well I’m sure we all have some opinions on that statement but you can’t deny that this range is a beautiful marrying of the glamourous and ghoulish B-movie aesthetic with luxe modern design. In Ms von Teese’s own words, “the way to capture the elegance and spirit of vintage style is to understand that it must be done with a contemporary twist to make it current and sexy. This is what this collection is about: sexy, wearable eyewear that conveys high-glamour and elegance.” I have to say that I agree. I’ve written in the past about what I’ve termed artistic vs authentic vintage and I will always be a fan of mixing and matching the pieces of the past that resonate with me to create my own identity. It may vary and fluctuate, but it will always be mine and not brass a rubbing of a woman who had her own beauty and voice.
There are 10 designs in the collection in varying colour ways. Below I’ve selected my favourite six, perhaps unsurprisingly all in their black incarnations. I do think classic black sunglasses can’t be beaten, also at this time of year the white or brighter designs would seem out of place. So, here are my top picks for this season.
I’ve always wanted to spend Halloween in America. Those guys know how to do Halloween. Here in the UK we start to get excited about Halloween at, oooh, around 2.30pm on the 31st, and we’re all done and dusted by midnight. But over in the U S of A, it’s the land of the scream and the home of the errm, jack o’ lanterns for weeks before the big night. I grew up enviously wishing I lived in the town I’d seen in hundreds of films. You know, the one with leafy suburban streets decorated with paper skeletons and cardboard tomb stones, children running around in costumes and some cute guy in a William Shatner mask lurking by neighbours hedge as I walk home from school, oh wait…
Well it seems those folks from A Curious Invitation and Antique Beat feel the same way I do because they have organised a month long celebration of all things death. It’s also in aid of helping to preserve Kensal Green and Brompton cemeteries, which is doubly pleasing.
There are some really fascinating events occurring from the 11th October up until All Souls Day. There is something to appeal to everyone, with taxidermy by Margot Magpie, séances and a series of very interesting lectures on varrying aspects of death and the afterlife. The walking tours by Robert Stephenson look particularly fascinating, as does the tour the Museum of London Osteology collection. The closing night of the event boasts a performance of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden in the Dissenters Chapel and a torchlight parade.
For more information visit the website here!
It’s October! It’s October! *Runs around waving hands in the air and smashes through the patio windows*. Yes dear reader, it’s here – the best month of the year, fat like a pumpkin with orange leaves, spiced lattes and spooky films. It’s better than Christmas, my birthday and Eurovision combined, and they are three events I definitely put my face on for.
So to kick off this month long spooktacular I’ve complied a few of my favourite October web picks to gets us all in the mood.
Kitti Quay Sunglasses $40
Tatty Devine Bat Necklace $44
Vintage Spider Jumper £9.49
Jeffrey Campbell Bat Back Heels – $180
1960s Orange and Black Miniskirt – £28.48
1960s Pumpkin Princess Coat - £93.67
Scream Tote - £10
Black Cat Blouse – £10.76
Pumpkin Spiced Latte (it’ the law)
Happy October everyone!
And so has been the moto of my life for just about as long as I can remember. September is the time for fresh starts and new beginnings. For many years September has signalled the advent of a new school year. Psychologically and physically it’s a time for me to plan, organise and discard the things I don’t need. It’s also an excuse to buy new stationary and woolly hats, two things I love shopping for more than is probably necessary.
This September however is a weird one for me. I don’t have a new term to start. I finished my dissertation last week and with it my masters (where did that year go?) and now I’m facing a future without classes, text books or late night walks home from the library. In a way it’s liberating. I get to spend Saturdays mooching about the shops or at football matches and Sunday evenings watching BBC dramas and eating stew like normal people. I have time, so much time on my hands, to the point that I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. It’s strange and a tiny bit scary. So much of my life, and ergo identity, has been bound up in being a student. I’ve spent nine years in higher education which is longer than any job and some friendships I’ve have. I love being a student. I love library cards and timetables and picking which classes to take. I love trudging home from lectures on a cold December night with my arms full of books and smelling people’s dinners cooing as I walk up my street. I love getting home and finding T has made us soup and warmed my comfy clothes on the radiator. In short I’ve loved the last few years of my life.
However, I’ve never been one to look too far back. I’m good at leaving things behind and I’m pretty stoical generally about where life takes me. As this September rolls around the turning leaves signal more than just the end of summer. Their crispy golden shells under my feet are calling in my new life. A life away from the world of television where I worked for so long, away from weekends of essay writing and away from saying ‘I’m studying archaeology’, when someone at a party asks me what I do. I’m no longer studying anything, now I’m doing. I have to do to make it so.
So, as I breathe in a big gulp of brisk September air, what is my life to be?
Well, I have a job starting this week at the Imperial War Museum which I’m really excited about (rest assured there will be many more trawls around the gift shop and exhibitions on this blog in the coming months). The rest of my time will be spent doing the things I haven’t really been able to do much of over the last few years; random coffee dates with friends, seeing more of my family, going on trips and reading books for fun. Essentially nourishing myself with all the wonderful things that make me autumn happy. This wee blog will also be receiving much more attention. I think it’s been ticking over pretty nicely but feel it deserves some extra love, so that’s a project for the coming months.
To mark the start of this new, and very best of seasons I also bought myself a little present in the form of this dress. In true-to-me mode, I’ve been stalking this baby online for the best part of a year and finally gave in and bought. It’s not going too far to state that it may be the dress of my dreams. It’s as if someone extracted everything I love about autumn from my dusky, wood smoke scented imagination and moulded it in to a garment. It reminds me of midnight walks and clear starlit skies above bare-treed woods. It’s that time on a Sunday evening at about five o’clock when it’s getting dark and chilly and everything is very quiet because all the humans are indoors, cuddled on the sofa and eating biscuits. It’s bonfire’s night cold hands, ghost stories and frosted metal fences. I never want to take it off.
Oh and I am applying to do a PhD next year. I can’t never be a student again.
My life looks a lot like this at the moment, except without the gang of sassy study buddies and with much messier hair. In fact that’s what my life has looked like for pretty much the last decade because I’m slightly obsessed with studying and loved university so much the first time I decided to do it all over again.
But my life is looking a lot more like this than usual because I’m now under two weeks away from my dissertation deadline. I’m not stressed really, it’s got to be done, I’m lucky to have the chance to do it, so get your head down and werk, is my basic position on the subject. However it does mean my blogging schedule is being severely curtailed. I love blogging and would hate to shove up rushed and frankly half-arsed posts just to keep up appearances so, I’m going to take a wee time out for two weeks and let normal service resume as soon as those 15,000 words are in someone else’s care.
Hopefully by that time it will also be PROPER AUTMN and not this terrible warm imposter that we’ve been saddled with so far. It’s the third day of September and I left the house without a damn coat today, what’s the world coming to? I feel cheated *shuffles off to kick non-existent piles of leaves*.
‘See you’ all in about a week and half, wish me luck!