neighbourhood watch: whitecross street, ec1

my favourite places in london tend to fall into one of two categories - either they are so quintessentially english that they make you feel as though you're part of a working title film, or they make you feel as though you're in a totally different city altogether.

whitecross street, just off of old street in ec1, is a part of the latter group. essentially a part of the barbican district, the street is surrounded by soviet-inspired tower blocks and construction cranes, which gives the street a sort of eastern-bloc vibe, and actually does make it seem as though you're on holiday in a foreign country.

the shops, too, are quite atypical of london - most notable is bread and honey, whose utilitarian streetwear is reminiscent of that found in london or tokyo (but doesnt totally leave out the hipsters and girly-girls - is still a great place to stock up on skinny black lees or not-so-innocent chiffon dresses like this sweet leopard print one from laura lee)

a small, continental market is open on the weekends, which usually isn't too inspiring, selling not much more than 3-for-a-fiver 'pashminas' and cheap leather satchels - but it sometimes is transformed into an upscale food market along the lines of exmouth for special occasions like christmas - check the website for details

finally, there have been some fantastic small gallery openings on the street over the past few years - madder rose gallery always has consistently exceptional shows from emerging artists, while newcomer ancient and modern is definitely one to watch - their inaugural exhibition included works from the likes of jeremy deller and ricky swallow.


wtf: topshop 'corset' jeans

ok, so i am actually a massive fan of high-waisted bottoms - i own a pair of rib-skimming black shorts and think they are hugely flattering, get loads of compliments on them, etc.

however, think topshop has gone a bit too far with their 'corset' style jeans, in the picture above. first of all, what's with the two contrasting shades of denim? guess it's meant to look as though you're wearing a denim corset WITH denim jeans and not a pseudo-onesie - but when has dark denim on light denim ever been a good look?

then, there's the fit issue. i can't see how, unless you are 6'5 and built like a nine year old boy, these could possibly be flattering on anyone. all they would serve to do is showcase bumps and bulges and make legs resemble turkey drumsticks.

so yes - way to go, topshop, for trying to be directional, but i have a feeling you've not struck gold with these.


loving: macabre jewellery

whilst my dress sense is normally quite minimalist, i have never been one to play it safe with jewellery. my latest obsession is with somewhat dark and talismanic statement pieces, reminiscent of a 19th century memento mori - some favourites as follows

antler charm and 'cavity' pendant, alex and chloe

wishbone pendant, dinny hall

hamsa hand, shari wacks


dress code: winter weddings

winter occasion dressing is supposed to be easy, right? during the holiday party season, the clear message seems to be that all that's needed for festive fun is a sparkly little frock, vertiginous heels, and a tube of red lipstick - and what's so hard about that?
nothing, really - but after the fairy lights have been boxed up and the party hats turned to firewood, things become a bit trickier. enter the season of the winter wedding, in which the rules are a bit more difficult to navigate.

for one thing, weddings tend to be more conservative occasions than holiday parties - after all, there are normally more over 50's present than potential dates - and the former won't appreciate a wonderbra and set of sparkly tights as much as the latter. plus, there's the whole 'upstaging the bride' thing. the end result, as i witnessed at my first winter wedding of the year last weekend, is normally a sea of little black dresses and pearls - but aren't weddings supposed to be celebritory occasions - and, in effect, a chance for guests to have fun with what they wear?

contrary to what most people seem to think, i have set out to prove there IS a middle ground between the sequins and lace of holiday dressing and the funereal black shift that tends to dominate winter weddings, and have found a few looks that are fun without being frivolous, and attention-grabbing without being attention-seeking:
option 1: country club classic
this '60's inspired tunic dress is conservative enough for a country club wedding, yet the flared sleeves and magenta silk fabric ensure it stays interesting. i like it with jaunty heels in a contrasting shade, but the less daring could pair it with a pair of opaque tights and black patent courts.

*outfit by topshop and available at topshop.com*

option 2: city hall chic
the head-turning graphic on the front of this dress by balenciaga is the perfect marriage of art and fashion - perfect for an urban wedding. i would pair it with simple flats and handbag and no jewellery, letting the dress speak for itself

*dress by balenciaga, shoes by coccinelle, clutch by karma, all available at yoox.com*

option 3: ravishing at the ritz
a black-tie invitation doesn't necessarily mean you need to wear black - rather, it's a perfect opportunity to sparkle in a subdued version of this season's metallics

*dress by julie haus, shoes by cynthia vincent, bracelets by bing bang, all available at shopbop.com*

red carpet report: golden globes top 5

the one good thing about having my flight back to london cancelled (don't ask...) is that i got to play fashion police during the golden globes red carpet pre-show.

no major surprises in terms of what people were wearing...lots of white, lots of marchesa, lots of gratuitous draping. however, there were a couple of looks that really stood out for me, with my top five below:

1. angelina jolie in st. john: even though i personally think dove grey is a fantastic colour to wear, and even though it is one of the ubiquitous colours of this season, it still seems to get a perpetually bad rep - and in most cases, it's perfectly justified, as the wrong shade of grey does tend to wash out even the most glowing of complexions. angelina gets it perfectly right here, and has given me faith that, despite all the bad press it's been getting, the right grey IS really flattering. the dress itself is nothing special, but its colour, paired really well with gold jewellery, was for me one of the highlights of the night

2. jada pinkett smith in...??: another fantastic example of how colour can totally make an outfit. the shade of salmon pink is so unexpected for this time of year, and just works so well with jada's complexion - her stylist clearly knows her stuff. again, in any other colour this dress would be mediocre, but the colour really makes it - and, yet again, am loving the gold vine necklace.

3. cameron diaz in what appears to be chanel?: on anyone else this dress would border on the ridiculous, but cameron has the confidence and joie de vivre to pull it off while still looking like class incarnate. it's quite unusual to see her in something long, so this is a nice departure for her - and a fantastic choice for the first big night out after a breakup when she knows she's going to see her ex. bet he's absolutely DYING right now. love, love, love it.

4. chloe sevigny in ysl: ok, ignore the fact that she looks like a caveman in this picture and hear me out...now, i may be a bit biased because chloe is my personal style icon and i would probably continue to rave about her even if she turned up wearing cowboy boots and a peasant skirt, but think about it: how often do you see prints on the red carpet? i probably would have picked different shoes, but that's besides the point - she's daring to be different in an age where stylists take all of the risks and fun out of red carpet dressing - and for that, i salute her.

5. cate blanchett in alexander mcqueen: a perfect example of how to stand out in a little black dress. this gothic lace gown looks stunning against cate's fair hair and skin, and i love the exaggerated hips - so directional, dahling!

honourable mention goes to america ferrera for wearing brian reyes when she must have been inundated with dresses from more 'established' designers - even though it is not my taste at all, is great that she's working with emerging talent.

try as i might, i couldn't find anyone who looked particularly shameful - with the exception of vanessa williams' faux-fro and jennifer love hewett's muddy poo coloured merangue, everyone else was quite non-offensive. which is cause for concern in itself, if you ask me...

**all pictures courtesy of people.com and e! online**


clothes rage: dresses over pants

was just flipping through the february issue of US Harper's Bazaar (fantastic cover, by the way - and yes, I do read more than just HB, but I happen to have a large stack of back issues I'm working through at the moment), when I came across the 'Buy, Keep, Store' feature outlining, cryptically enough, what to buy, what to keep in your wardrobe, and what items to pack away for the coming season.

to my dismay, in the 'buy' section was the advice to wear a dress over pants, as Derek Lam illustrates in the image above. now, those who know me know that there is nothing that winds me up more than when women wear dresses over jeans or pants, and i figure now is a good opportunity to explain to you why.

what is the point of a dress if not to give the wearer a sense of allure and femininity? no matter what a woman's body type, the right dress will show just enough leg and hug all the right curves, and will ultimately transform her into a beacon of style and sensuality who no man will be able to resist - and of whom no woman will be able to resist being jealous. WHY, i ask you, would any sane individual choose to hide that bit of leg under faded and fraying denim, or choose to compromise those sleek curves with trouser lumps and bumps?

for those who prefer a longer top with their jeans - for the love of god, wear a LONG TOP. there is no shortage of tunic, babydoll, or just plain extra-long tees in the shops at the moment, nor has there been since this hideous trend began. i am more of an advocate than most people of, shall we say, 'creative' styling, but to me this combination always seems to look messy. so save your dvf wrap for a special occasion and stop pairing it with your sevens, please. that is all.
*photo courtesy of style.com*


how to wear: the puff sleeve

So far, I've been really welcoming of the 80's revival - I mean, some of my best memories were carried out in spandex bike shorts and day-glo, so a return to these elements in everyday attire can only bring about a nostalgia for days more carefree. However, I was a little bit sceptical when I saw a shoot that included this Chloe dress in the January issue of US Harper's Bazaar.

Ah, the puff sleeve. Perhaps the most potent symbol of 80's excess, the puff sleeve had a way of turning up in every wedding and prom photo of that decade, and it seemed as though the bigger and more embellished, the better. I had thought that this was a trend that was destined never to return, one that was so clownish and impractical that it could never work in a contemporary aesthetic - but clearly, I was wrong.

And the funny thing is, the more I've looked at this picture, the more the puff sleeve seems to work. First of all, it's a unique way of incorporating the current volume trend into an outfit for the smaller-framed who might otherwise be swallowed by it, or those who are tired of the bubble / tulip / egg-shaped skirts that have been knocking round for the last few seasons. Also, the mood of the new season clearly seems to be 'anything goes' - so why not? Inflated sleeves are fun, tongue-in-cheek conversation pieces, and as long as the rest of the outfit is kept simple, there's no reason not to experiment with them. Plus, the bigger the sleeve, the smaller the arm appears - which, after a month of holiday gluttony, can only be a good thing.
*photo courtesy of style.com*

new launch: LOOK magazine

ok, a little bit slow with this one, but i have the excuse of being on a different continent...

so IPC has revealed plans for their new women's weekly, which is set to be called LOOK. As predicted, its USP is almost identical to that of Grazia, but for a slightly younger audience - according to the press release issued by IPC, "LOOK will deliver an unparalleled mix of up-to-the-minute affordable fashion, high street shopping advice, celebrity style and gossip. It will be the glossy, fast fashion fix for today's discerning young woman."

Maybe it's because I had really high expectations for this launch, but I can't help but feel a little disappointed. I'm perhaps Grazia's biggest cheerleader (bordering on deranged fan), and I guess I was hoping for something a little bit closer to Grazia's proposition - a bit more aspirational, a bit more glossy, a bit more design-led - but also relevant to someone my age. I mean, I'm sure there is a massive audience for a weekly 'high-street shopping guide,' but to me, the best thing about Grazia is the escape it provides - the fact that for an hour each week, I can immerse myself in a luxurious, beautiful world of shoes I will never be able to afford and the glamourous lives of the rich and famous that I will never lead. I don't really want to hear about the latest high-street finds - I shop on the high street several times a week as it is, and that's enough for me.

The point is, I still feel that there's a gap in the weekly magazine market for an upmarket glossy targeted at a 20-something audience. I think my ideal weekly would combine the aspirational fashion coverage of Grazia (although perhaps with a focus on up-and-coming, lesser-known designers) combined with features more relevant to my generation (e.g. less IVF and plastic surgery) and daring layout / design / shoots (not just a direct copy of Grazia - I mean, come ON, they've even used Jennifer Aniston on the dummy cover - who else put her on the cover of their launch issue? hmm..). I can't really blame IPC because they're continuing to speak to their core mid / lower-market weekly audience with this title, which makes perfect sense - after all, they are the home of most of the 'I had a tumour the size of a football' real-life weeklies on the shelves today. Perhaps I should just start one myself - anyone with me?


one to watch: alice ritter

already the darling of new york's fashion elite, alice ritter has recently been caught on my radar - and i'm loving what i've seen. the french-born designer has been showing her sweetly romantic collections in new york for the past three seasons - all of which have evoked a nostalgic sense of casual, off-duty glamour that is ever so old hollywood.

my favourite pieces are ritter's signature bubble shorts - even though they tick multiple trend boxes for next season (high waist; micro length; volume), they are still faintly reminiscent of a simpler, bygone era, like something one would wear to pick blueberries along with a headscarf of some persuasion.

according to the designer's official website, her collections aren't yet available in the UK - so big smokers will need to hop across to collette if they want to score something from ritter's new season collection.

*image thanks to New York Magazine*

mark your diaries: paul poiret at the costume institute

while browsing the website of the costume institute of the met to find a bit more information about the current nan kempner exhibition, i learned that the institute is going to be hosting a paul poiret exhibition from 9th May. i don't know much about poiret except that he is known for his loose-fitting, draped garments that helped to liberate women from their corsets in the early 20th century, but my interest was really piqued when i learned that the CI is going to "explore Poiret’s modernity in relation to and as an expression of the dominant discourses of the early 20th century, including Cubism, Classicism, Orientalism, Symbolism, and Primitivism."

i can't stand it when purists argue that fashion is a less valid art form than any of the other visual arts - and it's always really refreshing to me to see it treated as such. if anything, i believe that fashion is THE most vital form of craftsmanship, as it touches each and every one of our everyday lives. it's nice to see the costume institute treating such an important designer as the artist that he is by including him as a part of some of the last century's biggest visual art movements, and i only wish that more galleries and museums would follow suit...

*thanks to wikipedia for the above image*

how to wear: stylish winter footwear

don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like snow - I mean, it's nice to look at from the comfort of a warm living room with a fire burning, as long as I don't have to venture out into it. the thing is, I'm a shoe person, and the precarious heels, glitzy embellishments and smooth soles that feed my footwear addiction don't really perform well on slush and black ice.

good thing, then, that i invested in a pair of fantastic aldo motorcycle boots before i came back to upstate new york for a month in the dead of winter. not only are they flattering, making my size 8.5 feet look positively dainty despite their chunkiness, but they add a bit of edge to any outfit, from skinny jeans & a boyfriend sweater to a minidress & thick tights. i can even see them crossing over into spring / summer - after all, what works in two feet of snow will surely work in springtime London rain or at a muddy summer festival with a little american apparrel t-shirt dress.

(this was the closest picture i could find - however, mine do not sport the massive flaming skull, but instead a simple silver ring.)