Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Dark, dark, we all go into the dark

Martin Margiela

I've got nothing to wear corner

The Guardian's women's page editor, Kira Cochrane, has been monitoring the process of her slow weightloss. She has not weighed herself but used her own clothes to work out if she's heading in the right direction. Now she's down to UK size 16, US 12, she has discovered that she can't find anything to buy in the shops:

The reality is that as you get bigger, your clothing options get much, much smaller. Once you reach a size 16 or more, buying brilliant - or even just marginally attractive - clothes on the high street is markedly more difficult. This is ridiculous. Just because you've gained a few pounds, it doesn't mean that you're any less likely to want clothes that are colourful, exciting, flattering - in fact, buying fantastic clothes that boost your confidence becomes even more of a necessity in the face of rampant anti-fat sentiment. What you're too often faced with is a mountain of frump and I'm convinced that someone could make an absolute killing by setting up a boutique selling clothes in size 16 and above by cutting-edge young designers. There are those who argue that fat people should be stigmatised, that by offering them nothing but ugly tents to wear, they're more likely to lose weight. Actually, the opposite is true. Deprived of easy access to threads that make you feel presentable, finding solace in the fridge is the obvious next step.

The heelless boot

As worn, inevitably, by Mrs Beckham

Monday, 29 September 2008

My Booker dress

not me, not the dress, but yes - Av

I took in my MaxMara dress and my L.K. Bennett shoes to Avsh Alom Gur at Ossie Clark this afternoon. I felt as if I had asked Saul Bellow if he'd like to join my book group to discuss Bridget Jones' Diary. The seams! The stitching! The horror!

No, he said. This is not good enough. No. No.

He has given me an Oscar length blue and back sheer silk georgette dress with sleeves and is designing and making me a full length slip to go under it. He is also lending me a Donna Karan wrap (he used to work for her) to arrive and leave in. He is giving me a pair of vertiginous heels. When I said, 'I can hardly walk in these,' he said: 'They cost £600. I'm giving them to you. Are you sure you can't walk in them?'

I had an email late last night from Av, which contained a detailed list of everything I needed to wear and know for the big night. All I can say is, I know now how the stars squeeze themselves into their Oscar dresses and how they come not to pay for them. I know which hair products to use, what bra to wear etc etc etc. I had two grown men giving me and hour and a half of extremely intense attention. I learned that my taste, which I thought was good, isn't all that when it comes to evening wear. The shoes I had bought on the basis that I could stand in them are going back. There are ongoing discussions involving the phrase 'Manolo Blahnik PR . . . product code.'

I now concede that black tie wear is out of my realm of experience. It's much much harder than it looks and Av has saved me. Thank god for him. Oh, And did I forget to mention that he has also given me this?

Dead past thirty

Quite coincidentally, a person called L. Grant of London asks Hadley why she can't find an evening dress with sleeves. It can't be me because I would never use the word 'lady' and Hadley would never edit down and rewrite a flawlessly worded query by a Booker shortlistee:

To paraphrase Kanye West's "George Bush doesn't care about black people" remark - albeit with more of an emphasis on frocks than housing - designers don't care about grown women.

Which is kinda odd, seeing as they tend to make up the majority of their customer base, given that it is a rare twentysomething who can afford to spend £800 on a dress for a night out with the girls. But, you see, older people don't model in the shows, and older people don't model in magazines and, perhaps most importantly, the only examples of older women many designers seem to be aware of are, in this order of importance, brittle fashion magazine editors, suspiciously well-preserved fortysomething actors and skeletal society mavens. These women tend to have twiggish upper arms which they are rather fond of showing off, if only to demonstrate to the masses that a life of sensory deprivation really does get you somewhere: to a place where smiling is no longer possible but short sleeves are. Now, there's a life well lived, I'd say.

The fashion industry, like many creative industries, has become so besotted by celebrity and magazine coverage that it occasionally forgets about those pesky little flies, "the customers". Yah, yah, let them eat cake, right? (And they probably actually do eat cake, those repulsive carb-gobbling fatties.)

Part of the problem comes from the dresses. A long-sleeved dress can make a lady look like the spells mistress at Hogwarts or, on a bad day, the Wicked Witch of the West. But this is why we have people called "designers", who are there to make clothes look nicer than we could ourselves. Which then brings us back to the original problem.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Sorry, you didn't get the part

A beautiful man

Last night I was wondering whether my headline about Paul Newman was correct, that he really was the last of the great Hollywood stars of his generation. Liz Taylor is still alive, and as the radio news pointed out a few moments ago, so is Clint Eastwood, arguably a greater actor and certainly a great director. But I can't imagine the same intense feelings of sadness and nostalgia when Eastwood dies, perhaps because he has always been a man's man, while Newman appealed across the board.

Paul Newman was a wonderful actor, a mensch and an all-round beautiful person. We rightly distrust the elevation of physical beauty, and we rightly argue that good looks don't equal moral character. But sometimes you just have to give in and say you're glad that the world is full of what is wonderful to look at. When Paul Newman smiled he lit up everything.

But even Paul Newman wasn't quite born beautiful, as his very first screen test with a guy called Jimmy reveals


I wan to draw your attention to a new book by a dear friend of mine, Susie Boyt's My Judy Garland Life which is currently running through a series of rave reviews this weekend.

Susie is the daughter of Lucien Freud and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. She is always fabulous company, but in this work which is not quite memoir and not quite biography she traces the life of a lonely child who first heard Judy Garland sing Over the Rainbow and found a friend. It's a book about being a fan, and it's a book about feelings. Here's the first review:

This book is a bit insane. It is too much. It is well over the rainbow. It is embarrassing. At the same time it is a brilliant analysis of embarrassment; it suggests that such strength of feeling is maybe something “to be prized”. What a self-deprecating, funny, moving, entertaining read it is, a mad love letter (“I inhale her and exhale her”) from Susie Boyt to Judy Garland, who “created a whole new theatrical idiom in which glamour and frankness nudge and jostle unabashedly”. Its unabashedness is its delight, and a large part of its moral courage.

It conjures up a hopeless openness of empathy, presents its readers with a sensitivity which, by its nature, can't not be damaged, then radiates cowardly-lion bravery. It makes for a new kind of memoir, one that finds a way to insert, philosophically and emotionally, between the plain words “my” and “life”, the everyday pathos, bathos and surreality of being alive in the modern, celebrity-glutted, couldn't-care-less Western world. . . .

This book, though, is stark naked. It wears its vulnerability like a birthday suit, and does so for all of us, in a spirit of born celebration. Can cynicism really be so simply out-argued? Can a book really be so analytical and high-kicking, so fragile and defiant at the same time? An insecure, anguished, megalomaniac, voracious, truly altruistic piece of modern thought, this wonderfully clever book gives its whole self, flings its arms out in a rainy street like a wonderful diva. Brava.

And did I mention she writes a weekly column about clothes among other things in the Financial Times?

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Last of the Greats


He had it all

Friday, 26 September 2008

Something for the weekend

Shoe developments

Gianfranco Ferre

Wheels and stilts next

Prada heels

My fashion hell

An update on the what shall I wear to the ball dilemma. In the last episode (see passim) I had bought an Issey Myake Pleats Please jacket but after several tryings on realised it just wasn't going to do. It's now gone back to Liberty. At Hadley Freeman's suggestion, I went to Donna Karan's flagship store in Mayfair which had a grand total of one dress with sleeves in my size and it wasn't suitable for a black tie event.

When Cinderella was invited to the ball by her fairy godmother, if I remember rightly it was mice who stayed up all night to fashion her gown.

Last week, during London Fashion Week, I emailed my friend Avsh Alom Gur, creative director at Ossie Clark but of course he was too busy to reply. I now have word that he can make me a couture garment. My appointment is Monday afternoon. I must bring the shoes I plan to wear and my 'underpinnings' - do you think he means Spanx?

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Einstein on clothes

Dressed by mother

The world, or rather a highly exclusive part of it, had to come to Einstein if it wanted an audience. And come it did. The most famous names of the era, like Max Planck, Rabindranath Tagore, Heinrich Mann, Chaim Weizmann and Käthe Kollwitz, made the pilgrimage to Caputh to see Einstein, and some were shocked to find him warmly greeting them barefoot and in his sailing shirt. (When Elsa Einstein complained about his informality, Einstein said, "If they want to see me, here I am. If they want to see my clothes, they can look in my closet.")

From here via here

The Clothes On Their Backs: US publication

The Clothes On Their Backs will be published in the US by Scribner in February. I will be joining on that list Annie Proulx, Don DeLillo, John Le Carre, Hanif Kureishi and up and coming writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Details of further international editions (Dutch and Czech rights have also been sold) are available here


And many more, here

I love Simon Doonan

I don't see how anybody could disagree with that statement. Here he is on his brilliant career:

But then Doonan, who is in his mid-50s, has long led a fabulous life. As a Reading boy turned window-dresser turned creative director of Barneys and celebrated newspaper columnist, he has documented many of his adventures in two memoirs, the second of which, Beautiful People, is the inspiration for a new television series. The book recounts Doonan's escape from Reading, accompanied by his best friend Biddie, in pursuit of the elusive beautiful people of London - and beyond. He says that the series has done "a magnificent job. They preserved a lot of essential elements, and the message of looking for the beautiful people, but here they are all along."

Doonan got his first sniff of the high life in John Lewis in Reading. This was a summer job taken after leaving the local cork factory, which, he says, "was hideous, because these insects used to crawl out of the cork, and I thought working in a shop would be better - you could get all dressed up and not get covered in insects". After university he returned to the store and contemplated his next move. "Biddie was in soft furnishings and I was in clocks and watches and we thought, we have to get the fuck out of Dodge."

Still, John Lewis had taught him a great deal and introduced him to the world of window-dressing. "I especially loved the dress fabric windows," he recalls with glee. "That's something you don't see much any more because people don't make their own clothes now, but back then they would have a birch log and a piece of fabric over it like that," he wafts his hands in the air, "and they would pull up each fabric like that, and nylon it so it was invisibly suspended. And then you'd throw a pair of pinking shears on the floor, and a little fan of patterns just to remind people what the hell it is they're supposed to be looking at. I wish we sold dress fabrics at Barneys so I could do that!"

To the floor, again

Looking at the SS09 shows, it's clear that the maxi dress continues for a third year. The maxi dresses which appeared on the runways the summer before last were too much like the maxi dresses of the 70s for me to feel comfortable wearing them a second time round, but this seasons they're evolving away from the frills and tiers. Here's Cavalli's take.

Interesting that as long makes a return in daywear it dies away in eveningwear

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Wrapping up warm

Reguluar readers will recollect that in August I bought an Armani coat. My thinking at the time was that either a) I would get shortlisted for the Booker which comes with a guaranteed £2,500 or b) I would not get shortlisted for the Booker and the coat would be my consoloation. Either way, the universe would provide. And it did. US rights have just been sold and I'll have more information about that in the next day or two.

The day of Princess Diana's funeral I bought a MaxMara coat which I wore to death. Unless you live in LA, a really good winter coat is probably the best wardrobe investment because you'll wear it every day. I see now that this has become a trend in credit crunch chic:

And what better investment to make than a winter coat? If you like to justify your purchases on a pounds-to-number-of-times-worn ratio, a quality coat is as good as gold, especially as it's the item most people will see you in from October to March. As my otherwise fearsomely frugal grandmother - a Great Depression survivor - used to say: "Always spend money on a good mattress, shoes and coat."

According to Bridget Cosgrave, buying director of the Matches boutiques, we're paying heed to such advice. Coats from timeless brands such as Maxmara, and classics with a statement-making twist, like Burberry Prorsum's Prussian-blue cashmere trench (£1,750;, are already the season's big sellers. "People are investing in pieces that are luxurious, but that you can get lots of wear from - old classics that have been updated with fresh detailing and on-trend fits," she says. "You can't go wrong with a belted trench or a pea coat with military detailing."

Ah yes, the classic pea coat is emerging as the style of the season at every end of the price spectrum - from Alexander McQueen to Topshop. But with the trend for "slower" fashion and the (re)emergence of those high-end chains that were unmoved by the recent cheap-chic trend - including Jigsaw, Jaeger and Reiss - it's no surprise that the fashion editors' favourite pea coat is from Whistles. "Our cropped pea coat is our fastest-selling coat ever," says Whistles spokeswoman Fleur Askey.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Fashion does the job

The excellent charity Dressed for Success is a dead simple idea. Women have good clothes which for one reason or another they don't wear any more. Other women are trying to get a job but have nothing they can wear for the interview. Put the two together:

The women who walk through the doors of Dressed for Success find themselves there for all sorts of reasons. “I’ve dressed 17-year-old girls straight out of foster-care programmes, as well as a woman who was 65 and had been out of work for 15 years,” says Joanna, a volunteer. Juliet, who has been volunteering since closing her children’s clothing shop on Walton Street, agrees. “Women who have been out of the working loop for a while think everything will have moved on, that it’s going to be terrifying. And don’t I know the feeling?” she says. “They feel like a mummy who has been through the mill, and it’s just too frightening to go back.”

There are those simply looking for their first break, such as Colette, an asylum seeker and single mother in her late twenties from Burundi surviving on £100 a week in benefits, who went to Dress for Success before an interview for a job at the NHS. “I looked a mess. I couldn’t afford to buy clothes. But they gave me a suit and taught me how to wear high heels, and when I went back to the interview, one of the managers didn’t recognise me.” She also got the job.

School leavers and young single mothers need a special kind of encouragement. “Many of them have never worn a suit before,” says Eleanor, another volunteer. “When they see themselves in one, they suddenly go from a schoolgirl to a worker.”

And there's a very nice incentive to donate:

From October 8 to October 22, Harvey Nichols is working with Dress for Success and Style to collect as many clothes for the charity as possible. Bring in your old designer dresses, coats and suits to the Harvey Nichols stores in Dublin, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Leeds or Knightsbridge, or the new store in Bristol, and you’ll receive a voucher for 15% off your next purchase*. There are new collections arriving daily and, with your good deed done, you’ll have earned that gorgeous new Lanvin silk trench coat, the Jil Sander coat dress you’ve had your eye on, or those Jonathan Kelsey over-the-knee leather boots you simply must have.

I will definitely be taking them up on this and going through my wardrobe for all those, I'm sure I'll wear this again at some point, items.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Canonical Jewish books

The ultimate guide to the books that every Jew needs to own. My choice

Quidditch at Vassar

In my day we did drugs

London Fashion Week and to Milan

A slide show of highlights from all the collections, here

That's Richard Nichol, above. What did I tell you about sleeveless jackets?

Meanwhile Milan Fashion Week opened with, sit down hold on to a stable surface, ask for brandy if necessary, the Elena Miro show. Elena Miro designs for plus size.

I personally don't like her collection, but see what you think.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Sleeves: Decoding what the designers are saying

'Yes, of course we know that middle aged women want to cover up their arms, but that is not our problem. For the past few years we have been designing sleeveless dresses because that is what is we want to design. The fact that many women can't wear these dresses is of no consequence. We do not wish to sell to these women because we do not want them to wear our clothes. We realise that we are losing a huge revenue from this clientele, but although we are financially on the brink of ruin, we are artists not business people. We prefer not to make a profit and go under rather than compromise our artistic vision and make dresses with sleeves. No sleeves. Sorry. We are not really sorry. We just don't care what you want. We are directional people, you should want what we tell you to want and if you can't wear it, well, you are not our market.

'For Spring/Summer 09 we are introducing jackets without sleeves. Autumn/Winter 09, shoes without soles. '

Harry Remembers Slogans

A couple of weeks ago I had dinner with some new acquaintances. It was a very pleasant evening and in the course of the conversation (which did not include the subject of long sleeved evening dresses) , it transpired that they were old friends of Katherine Hamnett. A name , I suggested , that doesn’t come up that often nowadays.
I was curious to know if she was still in business. Indeed she is. I gather most of her business is web –based ( this is the link)
I recalled her campaigning for organic cotton, and her anti nuclear stance in the eighties. Her web-site shows that her campaigning continues with vigour. Including Concentrated Solar Power, which I confess is news to me.

Of course I remember most vividly her encounter with Margaret Thatcher in the 80’s when she was famously photographed with the T –shirt that boldly proclaimed ‘No to Pershing’. A coup of a very high order. And an understanding of the dynamics of slogan T –shirts that nobody has bettered.

Ms Hamnett is still marketing similar shirts. But it occurred to me that I don’t see any slogans on the streets any more.
Shirts often seem to be ‘decorated ‘ with type, but it’s usually decoration with no content.
I asked my daughter and a friend ( 20) whether I was missing something. Apparently I’m not. The slogans they are aware of came from the likes of Topshop and are merely modish cultural references. Even if they appeared to have some content they were explicitly superficial and, as is often the case nowadays, ironic.

I don’t believe I am lamenting the demise of the slogan so much as I am bothered by the absence of seriousness and originality. Which has been elbowed out of the way by the trivial and a form of consumer idolatry ( half the population are apparently fulfilled by turning themselves into walking billboards for Diesel and Abercrombie and Fitch and their ilk).

But then…. who am I to talk?
Way back , in early teenager-hood , I was a big fan of satire, exemplified by the esteemed magazine Private Eye. They produced their own merchandise and I coveted it. I saved my pennies and bought a t shirt by mail order. They were amongst the first ( as far as I am aware ) to create such cultural artefacts.
When it arrived my joy was unconfined. In big black type it proudly proclaimed: 'Death to Sir Albert Strume'. I thought it was hilarious . (Sir Albert was , of course, entirely fictitious.)

At the earliest opportunity I wore it when I next played tennis.
After half an hour the club secretary ( a diminutive woman with massive thighs and a powerful forehand) appeared on the court in a state of high officiousness and promptly ordered me off. It wasn’t just that I was in contravention of club rules , but she was visibly agitated and outraged.
I had no idea it would be so provocative.
And of course I was delighted that it was.

Upcoming appearances

I'll be doing several events between now and the end of the year, including appearances at the Vancouver and Toronto literary festivals in late October. My main website has all the details.

A resolution and a wrecked back

Thank you for your very many suggestions. I hope anyone in my predicament has been following and taking notes.

Yesterday morning I received a useful email from a fashion editor I'd been talking to at the Anya Hindmarch press day who said that she thought the point was not buying a fabulous new dress for the occasion but putting together an outfit that worked for the occasion, parts of which will be televised. She gave some some tips about black, why not to wear it but how to offset it if you do (with gold). On that basis I went to my final stop, Liberty ,yesterday. There were only a handful of long dresses and while a couple had sleeves they were heavily beaded, cost thousands and not my kind of thing.

What they also had were several of the kinds of jackets I'd been thinking of, so I determined that I will wear my sea green MaxMara dress. There were a couple of lovely Dries van Noten jackets, though very expensive, and I was prepared to consider them. But when I got to the Issey Miyake Pleats Please section, I found a very simple but beautifully cut and structured black jacket at only £200. And which I could wear with anything. I bought that jacket, but decided I would go and take a look at the Issey Miyake Pleats Please shop off Bond Street to see if they have it in any other colours. Found it was closed for renovation until Monday, so I will go back then.

At home, I put together the dress with the jacket and a gold, jade and labradorite statement necklace. It looked sensational. As my friend R. in Istanbul, said, during an hour long phone conversation last night, the jacket would be even better in dark green. Anya Hindmarch is very kindly lending me the sample of next season's gold python clutch for the evening. So at present we have a theme of sea green black and gold which I think is simple but sophisticated (and all good colours for me.)

So I'm done. My back is totally wrecked from walking around for four hours in high-heeled boots on Wednesday, I don't want to see another shop for a long long time - at least, oh, four or five days? And that was starting with a dress I already have. The day of the prize 14 October, I'll post pictures of the whole outfit.

The only two pleasures of the past two days have been Anya's press day which was basically girls in a sweetshop (and I've ordered that python clutch for next summer) and, the sudden upsurge in interest by US publishers in The Clothes On Their Backs. For US readers, I will have more to report next week.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Dark at the end of the tunnel

At Browns: 'There is a huge demand by our customers for evening dresses with sleeves which we can't meet because we haven't got the stock. The designers aren't making them.'

At Donna Karan: 'Anything with sleeves sells out the day it comes in in the larger sizes.’

At Harvey Nichols/Harrods/Alberta Ferretti: 'No. Nothing. Only have left in in XS. Sold out. Don't stock. Have you tried . . .'

At the press day for Anya Hindmarch SS09 (three fashion editors): 'Black tie is a nightmare if you want sleeves.'

Jaeger: new readers start here

Jaeger is a brand which is 125 years old. It started out making woollen underwear (George Bernard Shaw said he looked like a radish in his) but by the 30s had branched out into fashion and established the Regent Street flagship store it still occupies. By the 60s Jaeger was a byword for very good quality beautiful clothes and its junior label, Young Jaeger had ad campaigns modelled by Jean Shrimpton and shot by David Bailey. Many fashion houses went under in the 70s, Jaeger survived, but its clothes were in a word, frumpy. They were clothes your mother wore, if your mother liked understated, boring beige elegance. By the turn of this decade Jaeger was essentially a brand for old ladies.

Just before it was sold to its present owner, Chairman of the British Fashion Council, Harold Tillman, it divested itself of its US standalone stores, and took on designer Bella Freud who injected some youth into the label. By the summer of 2006, with a new CEO, Belinda Earle at the helm, who had turned around the department store Debenhams by introducing line-ups with designers like Jasper Conran, Julien McDonald, and Ben de Lisi, it had take stock of what it was producing and discovered that it had lost its DNA. It was making beige and pastel polyester sacks.

It divided the company into three labels: Jaeger London, Jaeger Black (high-end conservative investment dressing) and Jaeger Collection, the continuation of what it had been doing for the last couple of decades so as not to lose its existing customer base. Jaeger London is what I will be talking about here.

It was the summer of 2006 that I started noticing a black tunic dress with little bobbles at the hem. Anya Hindmarch was wearing it and when I asked her where it was from, she said with a blush Jaeger though she had 'had to fall over several zimmer frames to reach it.' The dress was featured in the fashion victim's bible, Grazia. Alexandra Shulman, editor of Vogue, mentioned Jaeger to me, and finally I saw Hillary Alexander, the Telegraph's fashion editor, wearing a Jaeger dress with a MaxMara jacket at a party at the V&A. (She was wearing the same dress at Jaeger's show on Monday.)

This was when I bought my first Jaeger dress.

Last February Jaeger London held its first ever show at London Fashion Week and it was a sensation. The clothes started arriving in the shops in the middle of August and most are now in. I have been steadily buying several pieces and they form the mainstay of my wardrobe. On Monday Jaeger held its second show, and the reviews were all raves. This is down to the vision of Belinda Earle and the design talent of Karen Boyd who had a label with Helen Storey in the 80s.

What is it I like about Jaeger? Two things:

- I have been convinced for a year now that over a certain age, and in this economy, it's better to buy a smaller number of well made garments than loads of cheap of-the-moment items from Zara and H&M. Jaeger prices at the lower end of the designer price-range, so within reach and they have excellent sales

- Jaeger designs edgy clothes for older women, by older, I mean over 35-40, which they recognise to be their market. Belinda Earle told me that the mantra for their customer is fit and flatter, but we're the generations which were wearing mini skirts in the 60s or body con bandage dresses in the 80s. We don't want to look like our mothers. We want to go forward with style.

Sitting on the second row on Monday, directly behind Erin O'Connor, and two of the Jagger girls, you understood that Jaeger's mission to throw off its frumpy associations were complete. Kate Moss wears Jaeger and now Lizzie Jagger does too. The coat I nearly bought was worn by Shirley Bassey and Erin O'Connor, over fifty years apart in age.

I understand that in the next year Jaeger will be expanding internationally and into partnerships with US department stores. So if you're in the US and can't yet get your hands on this brand, I'm really sorry, because as the US economy staggers from disaster to disaster with worrying consequences for all of us, it's nice for us over here to be a bit proud to be British.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

London Fashion Week: Jaeger

London Fashion Week started on Sunday and I have been a bit out of the loop because of the previous week's excitement but I wouldn't miss Jaeger's second catwalk show in its 125 year history, particularly as my Autumn/Winter wardrobe is dominated by what I saw at the February show.

LFW shows take place in a marquee in front of the Natural History Museum in Kensington. There's a champagne bar while you're waiting to go in and what struck me was how many women in the crowd were wearing Jaeger. Now it's only polite to wear the designer to the show, but the crowd were fashion journalists who dash from one collection to the next and it's hard to see how they could change between shows. I was wearing this top, and I must have seen it on seven or eight other women.

Most gratifying of all was sighting Mary Portas, the woman who masterminded the transformation of Harvey Nicks, wearing a coat-dress I have waiting in the wardrobe to be worn. She wore hers as a mini dress, with bare legs. I'll be wearing mine over a skinny rib sweater and wide leg trousers, as soon as it gets cold enough.

One Jaeger wearer is Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister's wife, who wore Jaeger at a party she hosted last night at 10 Downing Street to celebrate the launch of fashion week.

I had ten minutes or so with Alexandra Shulman to discuss my Booker Prize dress, and we agreed that the sleeves issue is a total nightmare. You might think that being editor of Vogue you would no longer have such problems. You would be wrong. I was stunned by one of the disasters she recounted to me.

Took my seat on the second row and immediately about twenty snappers came and started shoving their lenses into my face, and how nice, I thought that the fashion world recognises literary excellence, until I realised I was sitting behind Erin O'Connor and two of the Jagger girls. O'Connor was wearing this coat, which I had nearly bought but finally went for the Armani instead, and seeing it on her, I am very glad I didn't. It would have destroyed it for me. I am not quite the same shape or size or height as Erin O'Connor.

The key to the show was colour - dragee shades, which I love, stronger than pastels- and sleeves - floaty, handkerchief sleeves on maxi dresses and tops, Incredibly clever of the Jaeger people to work out that we will wear maxi-dresses, but not if they're halter neck.

You can see the whole show here, but first on my list to buy next summer is this top

I'm incredibly pleased that in Britain we have a range which is priced at the low end of designer with such strong quirky style. I wonder if the fact that Jaeger is producing such beautiful wearable clothes is down to the fact that its designer, Karen Boyd, looks like this:

I have that scarf
and yes, that's my neck to the left of Erin's head.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Oh what am I going to wear Pt 2

This afternoon I went to the Jaeger SS09 show at London Fashion Week and managed to snatch ten minutes beforehand with Alexandra Shulman, editor of Vogue, in which I talked her through my what-am-I-going-to-wear issues. I shan't divulge the content of a private conversation, all I can say is, my view that it was pointless to go looking for an evening dress with sleeves was confirmed.

More on Jaeger tomorrow

Edward Stiechen for Vogue

Justine Picardie writes:

The pictures, taken during Steichen's 14-year reign at Vogue and Vanity Fair, when he was dubbed 'America's court portraitist', reveal themselves as the prototypes for the work of Mario Testino and Annie Leibovitz: for they are intended to flatter, rather than reveal imperfection; to encapsulate heroism and intensify iconic status; in other words, to make the rich and famous look like even more gilded versions of themselves.

The wrong stripes

Science has now vindicated what we always knew: vertical stripes make you look fatter. But note the final sentence.

. . . women’s bodies are, by their very nature, curvy things. Stripes are straight. If you put a straight vertical stripe on a curvy bottom, the line of the stripe will be distorted by the body beneath – which will serve only to accentuate the bulge.

The same is not nearly so true of horizontal stripes, which is why hooped tights occasionally make a comeback, whereas vertically striped ones, as favoured by Mary Quant in the Sixties, are consigned to the history books.

In truth, stripes in general are not particularly flattering to the fuller figure. Geometric patterns and organic shapes, on the other hand, work very well, breaking up the surface area covered and confusing the eye into believing it smaller. But the awful truth remains: being fat makes you look fat, and no amount of fabric, can ever truly conceal it.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Oh what shall I wear?

For the Booker Prize black tie dinner on October 14, I am toying with wearing a sea green MaxMara long dress which I've had for years but only found one occasion to wear. I have the bag, I have the shoes, but the dress is sleeveless and I must have something to cover my arms, and what shall it be?

Looking in Selfridge's all I can find are those beaded Caroline Charles jackets which I find a bit matronly. Someone suggests a shrug, which I always think look they've been designed for babies. I don't like the shrunken look. Someone else mentions a wrap, but how do you eat dinner with a shawl tied round your shoulders, and won't it just fall off? You can wind up looking like a crazy old lady with a shawl tied akimbo around your shoulders.

£695 just to cover your arms

Friday, 12 September 2008

At last, the New York shows

Michael Kors

In all the excitement I have completely missed the big stories of the week, that sciency thing that happened on Wednesday, and the New York collections.

Jess Cartner-Morley in the Guardian has the summing-up:
What this means in terms of steering the direction of fashion is that femininity - in its American form as wholesome, healthsome and sunshine-bright, rather than the European incarnation as complicated, mysterious, troublesome and flouncy - once again rules the catwalk. The seeds of androgyny and sci-fi futurism sown in so many of last season's influential shows have fallen on unfriendly ground here. There was a clear sartorial divide, this week, among the show audiences who parade around the venue between pre sentations: while the Europeans are embracing sharp black tailoring and challenging trouser shapes, the Americans are all about an uptown citrus shift (think Cindy) or a cute floral leavened with a black belt (pure Michelle).

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Books and frocks, my two favourite things.

I had been sitting on the knowledge of the Booker shortlisting since last Wednesday, unable to tell anyone but a few close friends. The Booker people let your publisher know in advance so they can organise reprints and have stock ready to go into the bookshops. To his credit, when I told Harry, his first question was: what are you going to wear. That boy gets more metrosexual by the minute. It will be manscara next.

One person I did let into my confidence was Anya Hindmarch who 'gifted' as the saying goes in fashion PR a gold clutch. Yay, Anya, thank you. Saturday was taken up with buying a dress for the grand party at the V&A on the night of the shortlist announcement. Eventually I got this from Jaeger which I had admired many times but always assumed it was the wrong shape for me. Two very bossy young German sales assistants insisted I tried it on, and - well, what do you know? So I succumbed to the matching necklace, too.

On Tuesday, at the hairdressers, I happened into L.K. Bennett, and found a pair of very high heels which were oddly quite comfortable. I'll not be previewing my October 14 wardrobe, but for the moment, I'm thinking of a MaxMara long dress I've only worn once, with something to cover the arms, as yet unbought.

More on all of this later.

Someone in the comments said that the Booker was only bettered by the Nobel, and I think that's probably true. It is the international literary prize that has the most attention from the media. It is not open to American writers, but then the Pulitzer is only open to US citizens and the National Book Award is only open to books published in the US, which rules out many writers, such as myself, who have had difficulty getting a US deal. Regular readers will recollect that I posted a rejection letter from one major house which raved about the book but said it was 'too British' for the American readers. There has, in the past few months, been a huge upswing in Anglophilia in the US. This I'm sure can be only reason why, in the twenty-four hours after the shortlist announcement, eleven major American publishers contacted my agent to ask if they could be sent copies to consider.

There is an import edition currently available on with a 2-4week delivery time , but anyone abroad who'd like to order would do better with the Book Depository, which offers books at prices but free delivery worldwide and has several fulfilment centres in the US.

This is a wonderful shortlist to be on (sorry, Sir Salman, I'm sure your time will come) and I'm particularly thrilled to share the list with the wonderful and funny Sebastian Barry and the great Indian writer Amitav Ghosh. Someone remarked on the fact that I am the only woman on the shortlist. It is ten years since this was last the case and sixteen since an all-male shortlist caused such outrage that it led to the creation of the Orange Prize. One lamentable exclusion was a short and extraordinary book by the Australian writer Helen Garner. It's called The Spare Room and was described by Peter Carey as the 'perfect book'.

So five weeks to go until the big night. Several people have raised questions about the press photos. here's the thing, any day now I must get round to contacting all those papers which took flattering pics of me over the years and ask them to delete the ones that are nearly a decade old and replace them with ones of me looking older and wiser.

I'd particularly like to commend that newspaper of record the International Herald Tribune for knocking five years of my age.

For the record, this remains my favourite picture of myself. It's six years old but it looks like me, and it is me. It was taken by one of my closest friends, more used to photographing warlords with the latest must-have AK47. I asked him if he would do mendacious flattery but he said not for love nor money, no.
Of course that was before Roger sorted out my fringe.

NOTE: The Jaeger dress isn't the one I'll be wearing at the black tie dinner on the 14th October, it's the one I wore at the shortlist party at the V&A on Tuesday night.

Harry Contemplates Modernity

For some men, skin care and grooming goes beyond a quick shave. In fact, some men – both "metrosexuals" and the simply fastidious – have long followed a strict cleanse, tone and moisturise routine. And now, a new beauty must-have tailored specifically for 'im Indoors has arrived.

The article in Tuesday’s Independent is referring to the launch of YSL’s Touche Eclat for Men.
( read it here)

I don’t know about ‘must have’. For me it’s more a case of must try to understand exactly what it is they are talking about.
I thought I would refer to this feature before the Thoughtful Dresser brought it to my attention. She regards my ignorance of male cosmetics ( that’s probably the wrong term) as quite neanderthal.
I am not quite sure why I remain in a state of ignorance. Way back in the late 60’s I was an early adopter. Well, at least as far as hair was concerned. Tame, a hair conditioner, was for me an utterly radical discovery. ( This was in the days when it was assumed we all had dandruff because the only shampoos in our house were ‘medicated’) And then came Cossack hair spray for men. A black and red canister with the silhouette of a charging Cossack. It didn’t exactly transform my life but it did help keep the mod hair cut in place. I thought it was rather sophisticated. My father, however, found my use of it just a little bit questionable.
Anyhow YSL’s new product launch reminds me that I really should investigate the two Clinique products that TTD has brought to my attention. Apparently I should be using them regularly.
I guess it may be time to get modern all over again.
And I know modern will mean no more pictures of Cossacks.

Note: My searches have not found a picture of the male version of the product. So I have put the wrong picture in rather than a photo of an investment banker (which is what the Independent used.)

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Get a load of


Normal service will be resumed as soon as all the fuss dies down

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Harry Mentions Handbags

I notice that the Thoughtful Dresser hasn’t mentioned handbags recently.
I am stepping outside my comfort zone by venturing into this territory. I know little about the current mania for these rather expensive accessories.
However, on my recent trip to Paris I stayed with my old friend James. He has been resident there for ten years and offers consultancy to a number of businesses who require intelligent marketing input from an urbane Brit with several languages and a wealth of experience.
In comparing notes on each other’s current pre-occupations he informed me that he had recently been retained by an LA based brand, Romanek, purveyors of high fashion handbags.
I have to confess that this is a name that I wasn’t familiar with.
Anyhow, he e- mailed me recently and amongst other things told me that the new Romanek web site is up and running. And in the spirit of returning a favour I am drawing it to your attention.
I believe that the Thoughtful Dresser favours Anya Hindmarch.
But I gather that the Romanek ‘Rockstar’ ( above) is often to be seen at glitzy functions. And the Thoughtful Dresser will be attending a very prestigious one in a few weeks time. Congratulations from Harry.

The Booker Prize shortlist

. . . . is announced.

The Secret Scripture - Sebastian Barry
The Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghosh Murray
The Clothes on Their Backs - Linda Grant
The Northern Clemency - Philip Hensher
A Fraction of The Whole - Steve Toltz
The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga

The shortlisted authors were informed last Wednesday as keen-eyed readers of this site might have worked out.

All shortlisted authors will be doing a reading at the South Bank Centre in London 13 October. Details here

Something wrong with the universe

New collection from Marks and Spencer*

New collection from Victoria Beckham

Available up to size 20

Playing your greens

Monday, 8 September 2008


A man in heels

AA Gill gets in touch with his feminine side. I've always had a soft spot for him, having shared a make-up chair with him a few years back:

The first thing that struck me as I opened the box was how excited — despite myself — I was to have got them, my first pair of patent red stilettos. I say excited not in the tumescent, opening-dark-closets way, but in the birthday-present, new-kit sense. The second thing I thought was, Christ, these are difficult to get on. You can’t just plunge your feet into them. You have to be sitting down. And then you have to be sort of erected, like . . . like . . . an erectable erection thingy. And third and finally, I thought, aaaaaaahhhh f***! The agony. The AGONY! According to internet facts, the pressure on the heel of a stiletto is greater than that of an elephant standing on one foot. How this was verified is unknown — who lay under the elephant, and then their mother’s heels, and screamed: “This one’s much worse”?
. . .
And not for the first time I marvelled at how much work and technique goes into being a woman. As opposed to just being a man, which means getting up and getting your zip on the right way round. There is so much more to master in being a mistress — all adolescent boys should be made to wear stilettos for a day, to teach them respect.

Anti-greige: a manifesto, of sorts

A few months ago, it was announced that Patricia Field would be designing a collection for Marks and Spencer. That collection opened, slightly oddly, in New York yesterday. It will include:

flirty, 1950’s-style, puffball dresses in scarlet polka-dot jacquard and rose-print taffeta, which will cost £75 and £99, and a turquoise, angel-sleeved, silk shift, based on the dress the actress wore in the “Baby Shower Scene” in the SATC film, which will also cost £75.

A black, sequined catsuit, at £99, and a skin-tight, black and white striped military jacket, £75, worn with gold leggings, were in the style of the sex-mad character of Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall.

Ms Kate Bostock, the executive director of all clothing at Marks & Spencer, watched the show from a ringside seat. She described the Patricia Field collection, developed with co-designer, David Dalrymple, as one of the most adventurous projects in the British high street chain’s history.

Field was at the show

. . . wearing a short blue Lurex mini-dress from her M&S collection, £60, and black, platform Dior stilettos which cost about ten times as much.

“If I can wear the clothes, anybody can,” she said. “Fashion is about enjoying clothes and having fun; it’s not about age.”

I slightly fear that the mad old bag look is upon us. It's such a tricky call, to go with the beige classics and die slowly inside, or follow the mutton route and be laughed at behind your back. I am starting to think that a touch of vulgarity, or blatant sex appeal, might be the hot chilli needed to spice up an outfit when you hit 50 (and Field is in her 60s, I believe)

On the other hand, some of the pieces look like 1980s market stall revival.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

I'd rather go barefoot

Yesterday morning I spent an hour in Selfridge's shoe department having decided to let slip the dogs of finance and splash out on a pair of stupendous evening shoes - Jimmy Choo, Gina, Louboutin, bring it on. Brief, these shoes will go with a long dress, be worn climbing in and out of taxis, bearable to take an hour standing up for cocktails, followed by dinner and then quick to slip on under the table cloth if called upon to make a sudden move. Budget, £300+

There were exactly three pairs of shoes in Selfridge's which did not have towering, needle-thin spikey heels, I mean really, really high. The first pair (Chanel) were too narrow, the second (also Chanel) they didn't have in my size, and the third (Jimmy Choo) were £540. What?!

As Jess Cartner-Morley said in the Guardian yesterday:

After all, the whole women-and-shoes thing spun off the crazy chart ages ago. A pair of Jimmy Choos has become a ritual way to celebrate: a special occasion, a pay rise or even (for Rebecca Adlington) an Olympic gold. With this much symbolism invested in shoes, it is inevitable that they are beginning to look less and less like functional footwear.

If you look at the websites of these designers, they do in fact make shoes with lower heels, but Selfridge's buyers didn't order them, they told me, and where they did, they sold out at once. They always look baffled when they tell you something like this has sold out. Why would women want fabulous shoes they can actually walk in? Such a mystery.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Friday, 5 September 2008

The 30 most stylish british women

Reignite your patriotism here

We weren't interested in women who 'buy in' their style in the form of an expensive stylist. We were looking for women who dress themselves, and who dress for themselves - women who don't give a damn (or not much of one, anyway) about what anyone else thinks. They might be a Classicist (Jane Birkin in black), they might be a Maverick (Vivienne Westwood in red - dress and hair), but whatever their chosen style each of our 30 British-born women is true to who she is.

To my surprise, we judges found it remarkably easy to draw up our list. Many of them are names you will know, some of them you may not… yet. Do you agree with our choice?

A Republican handbag

The Peg

Don't my legs look long in these!

You know you are entering a dark tunnel when the general public is being sent to fashion Re-education Camp. You remember the great film The Manchurian Candidate when the US soldier was captured by South Koreans and brainwashed into believing he should kill the president (approximate plotline)?

This is what's happening to trousers this season. You know, I know, the whole world knows that trousers that balloon around your hips and thighs, cropped above the ankle to make your legs looks shorter are NOT Flattering.

This is why we have to be told repeatedly, that we are totally wrong and they are.

The Guardian today devotes a whole piece to them:

Bona fide peg-leg trousers aren't hard to spot. They usually have two front pleats at the waistband that are designed to add volume in the hip area, then balloon out in the thigh before tapering in again at the ankle. They can also be cropped on the ankle and high-waisted. Admittedly, they sound alarm bells for most of us - extra volume around the thighs is always a hard sell. What's more they look rubbish on the hanger. But, if you want to look on-trend for less than £50 this autumn, this is the only retail leap of faith you need make.

At the collections six months ago, the new trouser shape instantly stood out. At YSL, models wearing black bowl-cut wigs, polo necks and fierce ankle boots marched peg-leg trousers down the catwalk. At Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs paired them with rounded shoulders and spiralling headpieces, which sounds fearsome enough without the knowledge that some of these trousers were actually in leather. Challenging is perhaps the best euphemism for those particular peg-legs. Even Phillip Lim, the American designer who has won the hearts of women in search of wearable, fashion-forward clothes, showed a peg-heavy collection. The gauntlet had been well and truly laid down.

Here's my prediction. Women are now far more savvy about trends than they were even a decade ago, and we have the make-over shows to thank for that. Most women over the age of 20 are just not going to wear unflattering clothes. Most women didn't wear skinny jeans for obvious reasons (the clue being in the name). And after languishing a couple of years, of guess what, the boot cut is back. Why? Because they're the only shape that's flattering for pears. And there are more pears than beanpoles. Women are just not that stupid.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Yves St Laurent - his legacy

Vicki Woods, who I occasionally run into at parties, has a lovely piece on Yves St Laurent in the Telegraph with an accompanying illustration of sketches for his 1967 show:

It falls to very few dressmakers to effect radical, universal change on women's dress. Saint Laurent was one. Pierre Bergé has said over and over: 'Chanel liberated women; Saint Laurent gave them power.' Translation: Chanel chucked out 1,000 years of corseting; Saint Laurent stopped women in trousers looking like subversive cross-dressers.

In June the telly coverage of his almost-state funeral gave a walking proof of that. As the coffin, draped in the tricolour, arrived at the Eglise Saint-Roch, it was met by the French head of state and his wife. Being on presidential duty, Nicolas Sarkozy naturally wore the formally tailored masculine uniform of every male politician, diplomat and white-collar worker across the West, ie a two-piece business suit in sober-coloured cloth.

But so did his wife. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was a) uncorseted and b) in a black jumper (both thanks to Chanel) and wearing a sober, unadorned, tailored trouser-suit in charcoal grey - thanks to Saint Laurent. Half the women mourners (many former YSL models, as Bruni was) were in 'I'm serious' trouser-suits: the direct result of the masculin/féminin silhouette he exploded on to the world in the late 1960s.

Who's ever seen Condoleezza Rice in anything but a pantsuit? She, you, me and every 20-year-old who (even reluctantly) only has one trouser-suit in her wardrobe for days when nothing else will do the business - we are Yves Saint Laurent's legacy.

That thing that's happening in America.

Yesterday I was asked at very short notice to fill in for another columnist at the Guardian and turn round a piece in an hour. I wrote about Sarah Palin and small town American values. If you'd like to read the piece it's here. If you'd like to comment I request you do it on the Guardian's site, not this one. I can't turn off comments for one post only, and I don't want to pre-screen comments unless it's really necessary. So head off there and join the fire storm.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Small post of little interest

I don't imagine there'll be a lot of interest in this, but the Telegraph on Sunday had a special issue on 25 ways to look younger which don't involve surgery. I've already made a booking for one treatment, but that's just me, I can't imagine anyone else would be remotely bothered to check out any of this stuff.

The piece we've been wanting to read about politics and fashion

Since we've decided that we are not going to discuss the issues in the US elections, I have been looking for a way of talking about fashion and politics which doesn't demean the candidates and their wives/husbands with spiteful tabloid finger-pointing.

But Sarah Mower in the Telegraph today has a superb piece which gets to the root of why women women politicians look fantastic and others do don't and I really do recommend reading the whole thing:

Looking at the women at political party conventions in America is riveting. Michelle Obama looks brilliant in her fitted dresses by the American designer Maria Pinto, with expertly placed Erickson Beamon flower brooches. Cindy McCain and Jill Biden win admiration for their non-prissy blonde grooming and efficient separates. Even the creationist Sarah Palin can't be accused of turning up from Alaska and looking like a moose - whatever we think of her views.

 (Top, from left) Republicans Sarah Palin and Cindy McCain, Democrats Jill Biden and Michelle Obama. Labour ladies Tessa Jowell, Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears and Harriet Harman
Powerdressing (top, from left): Republicans Sarah Palin and Cindy McCain, Democrats Jill Biden and Michelle Obama. Power underdressing (above, from left): Labour ladies Tessa Jowell, Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears and Harriet Harman

This all amounts to a world first, I think. It is the first collective image of modern, middle-aged, powerful females whose attractiveness requires no clarification. They are not, for example, "fabulous… for their age" or "OK… for a politician". These women are fabulous fabulous. Full stop.

Why? It's no coincidence that they are the first cohort that does not regard fashion as a threat to their gravitas. Hillary Clinton and her "sisterhood of travelling pant suits" did, which led to her very publicly ducking out of an American Vogue feature during her campaign - a move that did nothing for her dignity. Their old school, atavistic feminist fear is that associating with fashion is a vote loser, but it is fast looking like the mark of the political yester-woman. In America, at any rate, the influence of fashion and the industry behind it are being taken seriously by the new generation of politicians.

Next Tuesday, during New York Fashion Week, Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, will co-host an Obama fundraiser - her second this year - with Sarah Jessica Parker. It's a fashion show at which guests paying $10,000 a ticket will get to preview the work of Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen and Proenza Schouler. The first event, which was attended by Mrs Obama in June, had a two-tier ticket structure: $1,000 to attend a reception, or $10,000 to chat to the senator's wife over an intimate lunch at Calvin Klein's place. Clearly the Obama campaign sees no danger in being associated with glamorous achievers in the fashion industry, even now that the last run to the White House is in sight.

But would it happen here? The nearest British politicians have come to tapping the influence - and cash - of fashion industry figures was the Conservatives' Black and White Ball in February, which was creatively directed by Anya Hindmarch, and attended by Tamara Mellon of Jimmy Choo, Nadja Swarovski, Amanda Wakeley, Joseph Ettedgui and Belle Robinson of Jigsaw. Still, the £300-a-head admission looks like a junior jape compared with the American money Ms Wintour pulls in.

But I'd like to add a note of caution to Mower's account. I think she may well be right about feminism worrying that dressing well might interfere with their gravitas, or not having the time to shop or money ofr a stylist. With the exception of Sarah Palin, these are all candidates wives. The top row, and the bottom row of British politicians, is notable for the fact that the Americans are reed slim while the Brits are, um a little dumpy. The question is, can these women dress very well given their body shape and on their MP's salaries? The British fashion industry could come to the rescue and dress them, but does Vivienne Westwood a) make anything suitable b) make anything in size 16 (that's a US 12.)

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The where were you meme

Handed over from Norm

Princess Diana's death - 31st August 1997

Woke up in the middle of the night, couldn't get back to sleep so I turned on the radio and listened to a Prom for about forty minutes, then during the interval they announced that Princess Diana had been injured in a car crash in Paris but had walked from the scene with only cuts to her legs [Conspiracy theory alert!]. About fifteen minutes later they interrupted to say she had died. Went downstairs and turned on the tv. Saw the first flowers being laid at the gates of Kensington Palace by two gay men. Looked along the darkened street and thought, am I the only person in the world who knows this?

Margaret Thatcher's Resignation - 22nd November 1990

In a queue at the greengrocer's where it was announced on the radio. People stayed silent, but broke into smiles.

Attack on the Twin Towers - 11 September 2001

At home. My sister rang me from Washington and told me a plane had hit the World Trade Centre and I should go and turn on the tv. Did, and saw the second plane go in. An American friend in London rang me hysterically crying after the Pentagon attack - her ex-boyfriend worked there and she had no way of finding out if he was ok. At the point at which the US closed its borders and declared itse;f in a state of war, I knew that the world had decisively changed. Looking at the sky, thinking, London is next.

England's World Cup Semi-Final against Germany - 4 July 1990


President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963

Watching children's television. They interrupted the programme to announce it, and sensing this might be something important, went and told my mother.

Autumn and cashmere

It's Autumn, it's time to get back into your cashmere. I just ordered this from Pure. They have 10 per cent off everything if you click on the banner at the top of the page. And I get 8 per cent of your purchase, and that means I can buy more clothes and write about them. They ship internationally.

We've had this discussion before, I think Pure makes very good (if not the absolute tops) cashmere in a huge range of styles at a good price. I no longer buy cashmere anywhere else. What I like best are the colours, because they dye the yarn, not the garment.

Harry, your daughter is going back to a student flat soon in a cold rainy, city. . .

Where did you get that hat, where did you get that hat?

Vivienne Westwood wants to design an ethical alternative:

Peta campaigners had spoken to people watching the guards at Buckingham Palace about the use of the skins of Canadian black bears to make their hats.

"Most people think it's fake fur and when they find out it's real and it takes one bear to make a hat, they are appalled."

A spokeswoman for the MoD said: "The MoD is not opposed to the use of synthetic materials as an alternative to bearskins, provided such materials meet the requirement for a high quality product that performs adequately in all weather conditions. Regrettably, a suitable alternative continues to prove elusive."

Monday, 1 September 2008

US elections update

As you all predicted, this got nasty at once. I have deleted the post How America Looks along with all the comments. Let's stick with fashion.

Harry Goes Shopping In Paris

The Thoughtful Dresser had suggested I check out Bon Marche ( her favourite store in Paris).
It turned out to be another case of women being far better served than men. Not that I necessarily begrudge this, because, after all, they account for far more significant business.
But the menswear section had all the charm of a 70’s department store, ie none.That time before the retail ‘revolution’, before space and light were introduced to the shop floor. It was dull. Some decent stuff , and some good names ( Etro, Cerrutti, Paul Smith) but a very edited selection. I wasn’t sure who they were supposed to be appealing to. It wasn’t me.

I also paid a visit to Printemps sale. I searched for a tab collar shirt, thinking I might have more luck than in London. But to no avail. So I bought a summer scarf by Agnes B. Not that we have had much of a summer in which to wear it.

I did make one discovery though. On my walk from St Germain ( where I visited the Diptyque store for a present for my cousin) to Bastille, ( no, I wasn't wearing hiking shoes) I had the good fortune to come across a shoe store previously unknown to me. Bexley is a French label producing shoes in what I would call classic English designs, and some with a modern/Italian inflection. Properly made….with Goodyear soles for instance. And they were very reasonably priced. I made off with a pair of suede loafers ( with a bit of a nod to Tod’s).
Now, I know that men’s footwear is , by and large, deeply boring . But the reason I mention this is because you really do have to hunt out decent designs and well made shoes.
They have a web site, so they may well be getting some more custom from me when the season turns.