Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Photographs: 19th - 26th September 2011

In reality, sheep are brave, enlightened
and sassy. They are walking clouds
and like clouds have forgotten
how to jump. As lambs they knew.
Lambs jump because in their innocence
they still find grass exciting.
Some turf is better for tiptoeing
say the lambs. Springy meadows
have curves which invite fits
of bouncing and heel-kicking
to turn flocks of lambs
into demented white spuds boiling in the pot...

I prefer the grown sheep: even when damp
she is brave, enlightened and sassy,
her eye a kaleidoscope of hail and farewell,
her tail her most eloquent organ of gesture.
When she speaks, it is time to tell me
that she is under a spell, polluted.
Her footwear has been stolen
and the earth rots her feet.
In reality she walks across the sky
upside-down in special pumps.

- Lies, Jo Shapcott

I've been taking my camera around with me on my travels again lately and here are some photos I've taken over the last week. It's easy to forget how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place. You do end up taking it for granted. By having a camera though, you do look at things differently. You are actively looking for beauty and interest, and when you're open to it, not distracted by everyday worries, it's really not at all difficult to find.

Some of my favourites are the sheep at Towednack and the prayer tree at Gunwalloe church.I'd love to take photographs of all the prayers on the tree and compile them. There's something very humbling about it. All those wishes.

Your visions made of flesh and light.

And you’re trying to smile. And they’re trying to smile.

the horses running until they forget that they are horses.

How it was late, and no one could sleep

Things happen all the time, things happen every minute that have nothing to do with us.

You deserve it, you do, and you know this

An act of faith against the night.

Here I am leaving you clues

I’ll give you my heart to make a place

That means it's noon, that means we're inconsolable.

A whisper system.

We know how the light works.

The windows are painted shut.

The Idiot's Guide to Pastel Hair

I have to start this with a disclaimer of sorts - I am not a hairdresser. I have, however, been dyeing my hair all the colours of the rainbow for at least ten years and, more often than not, successfully. Last time I went to a hairdressers, they buggered my hair up completely and all for the paltry sum of £150. Therefore I feel well within my rights to write this tutorial as hair colouring at home is really not that hard to do.

To start with, unless you have very, very light blonde hair to start with, you will need:

Bleach kit
Conditioner (or "clear" which you can buy online. Conditioner works just as well. It's really used to dilute the hair colour.)
Hair Dye (I'm using Directions La Riche dyes - LINK)
Ceramic or plastic Bowls
A plastic mixing brush (I've used a household paintbrush before now as long as there's no metal parts to it.)
This is the kit I use.

 Step 1: Bleach

My hair is pretty fried by colouring as well as being naturally wavy, annoying thick (I use 2 or 3 bleach kits to cover my whole head) and has a fluffy texture. When it dries it poofs out like Marie Antoinette's dress. I am so blessed. : / Sometimes I think that the hair is still on my head out of sheer stubbornness alone because it puts up with a lot of abuse.

Everyones hair acts differently to being so abused. I'd recommend doing a tester streak first to see how your hair acts and what condition it's left in after being bleached. Bear in mind that hair normally has to be done twice to get an even base colour. First bleaching, more often than not, results in ginger hair. You will have to live with it for a few days before bleaching again. If you do it again straight away it might really fry your hair. I don't want to frighten you, but there have been cases of bleach actually cutting through hair, so treat it nicely. Stick some conditioner on for a few hours in the evening for a couple of days and give it a break.

I never do this process on really clean hair. Don't wash it for a day or so before bleaching. The natural oils in the hair protect it a little from the destructive qualities of the bleach.

Another reason why tester strips are a good idea - some people experience burning scalp from the bleach. Put a dab of bleach behind your ear to make sure your scalp isn't going to burn like a fucker or have an allergic reaction. If your test strip ends up very dry with split ends, lighten your hair gradually over a few months with ashy (cool toned) colours. What I want to emphasise is that you can't go from, say, black to blonde hair in one day. Some people say they have, but they haven't. Not without completely destroying their hair in the process. I say they be liars!
So, The best home kit I've found is Jerome Russell's B Blonde. In this and similar kits, you get the following:

You have your powder bleach sachet and cream peroxide in a little bottle. Put on some plastic gloves and mix these together following the instructions. Once on the hair, most bleach takes about 25-forty minutes to develop. Don't be tempted to leave it on for longer than the maximum time stated. The shampoo included in the kit above is for rinsing the bleach out.

The colour you should aim for is a pale yellow like the inside of a banana. As I said, this can take one or two more bleachings to achieve, so patience is a virtue here. Also, often the roots of your hair can go pale blonde because of the heat from your head accelerating the chemical reaction, while the mid-lengths can be darker. In short, it's a pain in the arse.

This is the pale blonde colour you're after. Please note, it's not white. You can't get white hair through bleaching, only through a combination or bleaching and toning. A toner is lilac toned rinse. The purple in the toner counteracts the yellow in your hair, making it platinum. You can make your own by mixing a tiny dot of purple hair dye to some conditioner, or your can buy them, such as Manic Panic's Virgin Snow or Directions White Toner. Redken also make some.

Step 2. Dyeing

 To make your own pastel dyes, you'll need bowls, conditioner and some dye. Ta da!

Put some conditioner in a bowl and then add tiny amounts of dye in, bit by bit, mixing until it's your preferred colour. You probably won't need very much dye at all because it's pretty potent stuff. You can put the mix on dry or even slightly damp hair. The drier the hair, the more colour it will absorb.

I'm going for a sort of My Little Pony effect so I made a few different pastel colours from Carnation Pink, Turquoise, Lagoon Blue and Lavender. I dyed from the nape to ear line in pastel turquoise (which goes a bit minty coloured) and the rest of it pastel carnation pink with some lavender and pastel blue sections. I left it on for a good couple of hours before washing it off.

Here's the result without any products or styling to show you the hair as is. Can I just say that Frizz-ease is a saviour?

Looking After Your Hair

Wash with conditioner - You might find that your hair acts differently than it used to. You might not need to wash it as much for example. When you do wash it, you can use conditioner instead of shampoo. Conditioner does actually have cleansing properties and it's much more gentle on your hair than shampoo.

The joys of cold water - Wash your hair with cold water if you can bear it. It helps stop the colour fading and makes your hair more shiny.

Deep heat treatments - If you have a lazy Sunday, slap some conditioner, hot oil or coconut butter on your hair, plait it or pile it up on your head and put some heat on it. You can do this by sitting in the sun for a few hours or putting a slightly damp towel in the tumble dryer or in the microwave for a minute (yes, really) and then wrapping the hot towel around your head. The heat makes the hair shaft absorb more of the conditioner.

Avoid heated stylers - I don't use curlers or straighteners very often because my hair, while being quite strong, doesn't really appreciate being further damaged by heat. If you do use heated stylers, make sure you use a protective shield spray on your hair first and keep the stylers on as low a heat as possible. Most of the time I do pin curls or plait my hair to make it more wavy since it's kinder on the hair. I really recommend VintageVixen's tutorial on pin curls - HERE

Combatting the fade

Any coloured hair fades from the sun and washing. What I do is put a teeny spot of dye in with my conditioner once a week and leaviing it on for a couple of minutes. This seems to keep the colour up.


Bleach kits give instructions on how to retouch your roots. It involves separating your hair into sections and very carefully applying bleach to the roots only, leaving it to develop and then colouring as above, trying to match the colours as best you can. What I tend to do is put conditioner on the lengths of my hair when bleaching my roots do to avoid bleaching out the colour on the rest of my hair when washing the bleach out.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Catt's Party

A couple of photos from my good friends, Maria & Ben's joint birthday party yesterday. I'm a terrible photographer but it was a great night full of wonderful people, music and cake.I don't usually post about my goings on but this was worth documenting. They're both fantastic artists - look at the best invite ever!

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Costume Designs of "Now, Voyager", 1942

The Untold Want
By Life and Land Ne’er Granted
Now, Voyager
Sail Thou Forth to Seek and Find
- Walt Whitman, The Untold Want

"Now, Voyager", 1942 Screencaptures

Now, Voyager…ahhhhh…. It’s one of the ultimate melodramas of the 1940s, a source of inspiration to put-upon women everywhere, and smoking was never sexier. It is also, in my opinion, one of the best dressed films of the early 40s. Le sigh.

Fashion-squeeing and many screencaps below the cut...

Louise Brooks Doesn't Give a Shit

Louise Brooks in "Pandora's Box", 1929, Screencaptures.

Louise Brooks is my heroine. Not sure why because it could be said that she completely messed up her life good style. Nevertheless, I admire her hedonistic, "don't give a shit" attitude. She was instinctive, intelligent, free and impossibly beautiful and cool. The ultimate flapper...maybe.

Why I went to Berlin, I was hoping to channel some of her "Lulu in Berlin"-ishness. Unfortunately, flu put paid to that.

I've collected Louise Brooks memorabilia for several years now and after dabbling with having a fansite (too much work) and all that, I finally decided to just upload the whole sorry mess onto my flickr.

Shipwreck Shirtdress: Design

Our first project of Year 1 of the Fashion Design BA was to design something based on a shirt or shirtdress and picking a theme from a list. I chose Future Heirloom, as did many of my friends, as it seems very open to interpretation and also suggests a reference to history. Other rules of the design included incorporating a monotone colour palette, plackets and contrast stiching.

I based my design on a family heirloon - a maritime tapestry from the early 1800s. The ship in the tapestry sank a few years after the date on the sampler, so that led me to researching photographs of tall ship shipwrecks, the sails especially. I didn't want anything that was too obviously derived from shipwrecks, so I kept working through it until I was happy with the above design. I'm working on making it at the moment for the second time, using a different fabric. Last week I finished drafting the pattern from draping on a mannequin. Hopefully I'll get it a toile done within the next week and then onto the final make. I would love to see this professionally photographed on a beach with a romantic looking model. I'm quite excited about this design really, even a year on after I originally designed it.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

A (very) brief intro into the influence of film upon fashion

In an effort to merge my interests onto the one blog, I'm reposting some older pieces I've written for my blog Fashion in Film. Apologies if you're read this before.

My favourite era is what film historians call "The Golden Age", which is, roughly, the period between 1920s and 1960s. No one can put an exact date on the moment on when it started and stopped being "golden" but it's thought that it started from the first feature-length talkie, The Jazz Singer (1927), and ended when independent films more or less killed off the studios in the 1960s.

What I'd like to do is to research the costume design of a particular film and post my observations and any sketches and film stills/screenshots I can find. Although I'll mostly post about films between the 20s and 60s, I may deviate at points to do a write up on the design of a contemporary film I find particularly interesting (read: pretty) such as Atonement and the like. I also plan to do some special articles about the style of a particular actress, such as Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, etc, or on a particular item of clothing, e.g. Grace Kelly's wedding dress. Where possible, I'd like to try and find links with the contemporary fashion industry and show how Hollywood styles remain current.

Sometimes I think it's easy to forget the influence that fashion in film has upon the fashion industry. Just two examples which spring to mind are Adrian's dress for Joan Crawford in Betty Lynton which led to a mass of knock-offs to feed the cinema-going lovelies demand for poofy shouldered dresses.

Joan Crawford in the famous Adrian gown, followed by a 2009 Givenchy gown. 

In the 60s, Bonnie & Clyde led to a whole generation looking like beret wearing outlaws.... or Warren Beatty in cheap suits.

Clockwise: Emporio Armani 2009/ Elle magazine feature/ A Harpers Bazaar March 2010 editorial, all inspired by the 1967 film Bonnie & Clyde.

Today, Fashion Designers are still influenced by film history. There's a certain glamour and timeless style which you can't achieve without referencing Classic Hollywood. Good and fairly recent examples are Dior SS 2010 collection which was influenced by Lauren Bacall and the French classic, Hôtel du Nord (1938) and had a definite Film Noir feel to it:

Dior SS 2010 and its inspiration: Lauren Bacall and Arletty

Dior designer, John Galliano, when describing the themes of the collection said:

[Lauren Bacall]...was a great Dior client; there are amazing photos of her in the salon with Bogart. It was that and Arletty in Hôtel du Nord," he said. That central character—a provocative, smoldering femme fatale with a side-parted, over-one-eye hairdo and red lips—gave him free reign to script a wardrobe narrative. It started with abbreviated wartime trenchcoats, flipped through silver lamé dresses, arrived at a sequence in which the heroine is seen in her scanties, and then followed her out to make a drop-dead entrance in some nightclub or other.

Another obvious example is Alexander McQueen's 2005 The Man Who Knew Too Much collection which was inspired by Hitchcock heroines.

Alexander McQueen's AW '05 Hitchcockian collection

A selection of lovely Hitchcock heroines (mostly Kim Novak because I'm biased).

I'm currently working on my first proper article and although there might be some time between posts, because the research will probably take me some time, I hope that, when I do post, you'll find it interesting. Please feel free to contact me (my info in in the sidebar or leave a comment) if you have any suggestions, information, particularly photography, sketches, etc, of a film you'd like to see covered. I'll do my best.

Fashion in Film: Galliano's Silent Comedy

John Galliano SS 2011 Menswear
John Galliano's Spring/Summer 2011 Menswear Collection

Again, another post from last year. Apologies if you've read it when it was originally posted.

I suppose it's only typical that my first proper post for Film in Fashion features no gowns whatsoever. Having not really considered doing menswear related articles and in the middle of researching something completely different, I was reminded of John Galliano's Spring/Summer 2011 Menswear Collection. My introduction post had me harping on ad nauseum about the continuing influence of cinema upon the contemporary fashion industry, while failing to mention this most recent, unique show to help prove my point.

Galliano only presents a menswear collection biennially, so it's always exciting to see what he'll come up with. For Spring, he brought us Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Max Linder taking on streetwear. In regards to Chaplin's famous "Tramp" costume, the more I started comparing it with Galliano's designs and researching its history, I found some fascinating articles and photographs of extant props and costume memorabilia from the Silent Comedy era.

Galliano's Spring 2011 was a tribute to Silent era comic greats. Inspired by proportions in mens fashion, Galliano started by looking to Chaplin's badly fitting "Tramp" costume. The show as a whole was such an overt reference, even down to the monochrome runway, overshadowed by a clock and cogs backdrop bringing Chaplin's many interactions with machinery in a factory in Modern Times or Harold Lloyd's Safety Last where he dangles from a clock face; The mirrored strip of the runway which reminded me of both a slick, rain wet sidewalk (or possibly the "Mirror" sequence by Max Linder, see below) with creased newspaper sheets floating across the stage.

John Galliano SS 2011 Menswear

Charlie Chaplin, "Modern Times"
Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times", 1936

Harold Lloyd - "Safety Last" 1923
Harold Lloyd in Safety Last, 1923

The show opened with model, Scott Barnhill as Charlie Chaplin. Notice how Galliano has retained the tight torso and the wide trousers.

A feature of Charlie Chaplin's onscreen clothes is that they were always badly fitting (in real life, he was quite a snappy dresser!). His famous Tramp costume has a jacket which is far too tight across the chest, almost as if it's a child's jacket. The sleeves, however, are more or less the correct length and a decent fit (presumedly to allow for ease of movement for Chaplin's physical stunts). His trousers are far too big, made for taller, stouter man,. His bowler hat is too small, his shoes comically large and make him appear pigeon toed - reminicent of the shoes of a clown. The overall appearance has the look of a poor man who is desperately trying to appear smart. There's an element of the pathetic about his struggles in the films which is reflected in his costume - Despite everything, he always tries to retain some gentlemanly dignity. He's the ultimate underdog. No wonder this loveable character competing against the odds was embraced by the cinemagoers of the time.

The Tramp costume was first seen in his film Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), Chaplin's second film. There's very little difference between the costume in this film and in his later ones. The clothes and his appearance were fundamental to the character, you could say that it was all the more important because the films were silent. It's a very strong image which is why it's so memorable and recognisable, even by those who have never seen a Charlie Chaplin film.

Chaplin developed the costume and make-up himself although it seemed to come together on the spur of the moment. In a 1933 interview, Chaplin discussed the creation of the costume:

A hotel set was built for (fellow Keystone comic) Mabel Normand's picture Mabel's Strange Predicament and I was hurriedly told to put on a funny make-up. This time I went to the wardrobe and got a pair of baggy pants, a tight coat, a small derby hat and a large pair of shoes. I wanted the clothes to be a mass of contradictions, knowing pictorially the figure would be vividly outlined on the screen. To add a comic touch, I wore a small mustache which would not hide my expression. My appearance got an enthusiastic response from everyone, including Mr. Sennett. The clothes seemed to imbue me with the spirit of the character. He actually became a man with a soul - a point of view. I defined to Mr. Sennett* the type of person he was. He wears an air of romantic hunger, forever seeking death,  but his feet won't let him.

Also in his autobiography he talks about The Tramp's look: 

I had no idea what makeup to put on....However on the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. I was undecided whether to look old or young, but remembering Sennett* had expected me to be a much older man, I added a small moustache, which I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression. I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked on stage he was fully born. [1]

[*Mack Sennett: Actor, director, producer, screenwriter, presenter, composer, cinematographer, innovator of slapstick comedy in film and founder of Keystone Studios where Chaplin made his first films] 

Interestingly, the costume was made up of donations from Chaplin's contemporaries - "Fatty" Arbuckle contributed his father-in-law's derby and his own pants (of generous proportions). Chester Conklin provided the little cutaway tailcoat, and Ford Sterling the size-14 shoes, which were so big, Chaplin had to wear each on the wrong foot to keep them on. He devised the moustache from a bit of crepe hair belonging to Mack Swain. The only thing Chaplin himself owned was the whangee cane. [2]

According to Chaplin’s Hollywood producer and costumier at the time, Ted Tetrick, the hat and cane were originally at the studio costume department and were selected by Chaplin personally.

Slight variations on the Tramp

There were a few auctions in recent years which has made it fairly easy to track the fate of the costumes and it's revealed some really interesting facts. The original Tramp costume, comprising of a black suit, hat, cane and boots from Kid Auto Races at Venice, was sold in 2005. The suit sold for just under £4,000 (which seems awfully cheap!?) and the cane, which was signed by Chaplin in the 50s, sold for £1,900, at auction in Plymouth (BBC News article )  According to the provenance, the suit was loaned to Chaplin, who had to return it as soon as filming of the short was complete. 

The Tramp's original costume in Kid Auto Races at Venice

Interestingly, the boots from the auction showed that there were holes in the heels which were used to insert screws so that Chaplin could balance more easily on high objects.

Chaplin's Boots.

Galliano's detailing on the shoes in his collection is amazing. I particularly like the flapping sole on the centre pair.

Chaplin in the famous shoe eating scene in "The Gold Rush".

 I found an interesting reference to the shoes in this scene in an interview with Chaplin on Edna Purviance.org website:

MERYMAN Did you do the eating of the shoe gag [in The Gold Rush ] many times? 

CHAPLIN We had about two days of retakes on it. And the poor old actor [Mack Swain] was sick for the last two. The shoes were made of liquorice, and he'd eaten so much of it. He said, 'I cannot eat any more of those damn shoes!' I got the idea for this gag from the Donner party [a wagon train of 81 pioneers who, heading to California in 1846, became trapped by snow in the Sierra Nevada]. They resorted to cannibalism and to eating a moccasin. And I thought, stewed boots? There's something funny there.

In regards to the cane and hat, there appears to have been at least two or three. It's such a flimsy looking thing that it's quite likely that a few would have been on hand in case it was damaged during filming. The following images I found on originalprop.com's blog. I hope that they don't mind me reblogging them here for the interest in the article. Please visit their blog, it's fascinating.

Chaplin memorabilia courtesy of originalprop.com

Hats and Canes

The hat and cane in the bottom image sold for £77,000 pounds in 2006 - BBC News

Chaplin on the Runway: John Galliano Menswear SS 2011
More Galliano Chaplins

Galliano's Menswear SS 2011 vs. Charlie Chaplin in "The Adventurer"
A Galliano look alongside Chaplin in 1917 short, "The Adventurer"

Buster Keaton vs. Galliano Menswear SS 2011
Chaplin was followed by Buster Keaton. Preferred by many over Chaplin, Keaton was famous for his boater hat and morose expression.

Another reference point for the collection, I think, is Max Linder. Linder was a French comedian in the early Silents who Chaplin admired greatly. After Linder's death in 1925, Chaplin dedicated one of his films - "For the unique Max, the great master - his student Charles Chaplin." Sadly Linder seems to have faded somewhat into the background of Silent Cinema. I first started reading about him and watching his films on youtube after he was mentioned twice in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. I'm so glad to have been introduced to his films. You can definietly see how he inspired Chaplin, Keaton etc. Here is a scene from one of his films, which you might recognise if you've seen the Marx Brother's Duck Soup:

Charlie Chaplin and Max Linder
Charlie Chaplin with Max Linder

Galliano, if he was inspired by Linder, used his distinguishing features: his dapper, rakish appearance and moustasche as a reference point. Two of the looks in the collection especially seem to suggest Linder.

Galliano SS 2011 vs Max Linder

And finally, perhaps an element of Harold Lloyd who was often show wearing a cap similar to those used in Galliano's show:

Harold Lloyd Vs John Galliano's SS 2011 Meswear

The styling was, as always with John Galliano in his own line and with Dior, absolutely stunning as these backstage photographs by Jak and Jil show:

John Galliano SS 2011 Menswear Backstage

The collection had a timeline feel, starting with Charlie Chaplin, moving through more conventionally tailored looks of Keaton, to Linder, and then Galliano explored mixing up the proportions, lengths, simplifying, removing layers, borrowing certain elements to end with more contemporary designs. You can see the rest of the collection on style.com - HERE and here, with the benefit of zooming in on higher resolution images, on GQ.


Galliano photographs courtesy of style.com/condenast.com - LINK

Backstage photographs courtesy of Jak and Jil - 

Guardian article on the auction of Chaplin's hat and cane LINK 

Bohams Sale of Chaplins Hat and Cane - LINK

The Tramp Wiki article - LINK


[1] My Autobiography, Charlie Chaplin.

[2] Sutton, Caroline (1985). How Did They Do That? Wonders of the Far and Recent Past Explained. New York: Hilltown, Quill. p. 174, via the Charlie Chaplin wiki article - LINK

Watch the show on youtube:




Early dawning, Sunday morning It's all the streets you crossed, not so long ago.

Virgin and Child relief by Andrea Della Robbia, c1470-75

Victory by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1892-1903

Vase, John Bennett, 1882

Tournament helm, German, c.1500

Summer Kimono with carp, waterlilies and morning glories, Meiji period, 1876

Side chair, Hugh Finlay, 1815-20

Self-portrait Bound to Tree Branch, Charles Ray, 1973

Saber of Sultan Murad V, Turkish, 19thC

Rabbit netsuke by Mitsuhiro Ohara, 19thC

Portrait of a Young Man, Bronzino, 1530s

Plate by Fukami Sueharu

Lutus Jacket, Early 19thC, Japan

L'Elephant Blanc, Yves Saint Laurent for The House of Dior, SS 1958

Inro with design of squid shells and seaweed by Hara Yoyusai, Edo period

Illustrated manuscript Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp, Iran, c1525

Harpsichord, late 17thC, Italy

Harleuina by Franz Anton Bustelli, 1760

Egyptian Fragment Face of a Queen, Dynasty 18

Fontainebleau Forest, 1860s by Eugene Cuvelier

Edo period box with bellflower and bush clover design by Ogata Korin

Crucified Christ, French, Ivory, 1260-80

Colt Third Model Dragoon Percussion Revolver, Samuel Colt, c.1853

Clemens Roseler, 1928 by T. Lux Feininger

Burgonet and Falling Buffe, French, 1550

Bronze Greek Body Cuirass (armour) 4thC BCE

Afghan Chadri, 20thC

Fashions, 1912-15

1939 cover

Splitting by Gordon Matta-Clark, 1974

Yohji Yamamoto, SS 1993

Suit, British, c.1760