Tuesday 31 January 2012

Colour, clothes and culture

It's not just our personal identities that are reflected in our clothes - our clothes can also give an insight into our background or culture. Wolfendale and Kennett* state that “Fashion is not just how we self-identify, but also how we identify ourselves in our community…”  

Last week reminded me just how closely we associate a country or culture with our clothes and in some cases a colour, in much the same way we do it with food.  After all if I said ‘sari’ you’d almost immediately and quite righty associate it with India, and with colour we often associate the colour Green with Ireland (in the UK at least).

There are alot of writers who’ve done a better job of writing about this in details, so in this blog I’m just going to comment on the two specific events of last week that made me think about this - Chinese New Year and Burns Night. These two events provide perfect evidence about the link between culture and colour (Chinese New Year) and associating countries with clothes (Burns Night).

Chinese New Year:   
Colour associations with China include the colours red, white and gold. At Chinese New Year, it is tradition that new clothes are worn, often in red. As well as clothes, money envelopes, decorations such as lanterns, and food is served on red platters.  You may know (HSBC ad’s anyone?!) that for the Chinese the colour red signifies happiness and good fortune, but did you know that it is also believed that on Chinese New Year a demon comes to earth to eat people. It was then discovered that the demon did not like red, so they hung up red things and wore red on Chinese new year!

Burns night is...         

...Celebrated in Scotland, a country that is associated with the kilt/tartan. Given that kilts are also worn in Ireland and evidence suggests tartan may have originated in China or Austria isn’t it interesting that these items are now so wholly associated with Scotland? In the 1970’s tartan also became associated with another group – punks, who used tartan as a symbol of anti-establishment. And did you know, Canada, America and Australasia have celebrated ‘Tartan Day’?

Lorraine Kelly at the NTA's

Unfortunately it's not usually appropriate or practical to dress in the clothes most associated with my background... Skimpy Carnival wear in the (often) chilly UK - no thanks *wink*!!!

So… what’s your countries associated colour and fashion heritage?

*Quoted in Psychologies magazine, February 2012.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Sell, Sew or Swish?

At this time of the year, many of us go about weeding out the old from our wardrobe(s!) and getting ready for the new season as it’s a great physical manifestation of our need for a fresh start. The trend for a while has been to sell unwanted items on sites like Ebay but along with the charity shop drop there are alternatives.  If like me, some items survive the cull because you simply need to see a well stocked wardrobe – then swishing might be for you.

What's it all about Deni?!

I’d heard the term ‘swishing’ before but had never taken much notice as any items I’d convinced myself to discard always went to charity. Also, the swishing I’d heard about just involved friends swapping clothes and I felt there were too many opportunities for drama in that scenario. However, at a Ladies Who Latte meeting a few weeks ago I met the lovely Lauren who explained how a proper swishing event worked. I wanted to actually see how it worked in practice so last Sunday I travelled to Crystal Palace to experience my first swish... and it was an experience – a very pleasant one!

First I was struck by how organised everything was, then as I wandered around I became impressed by the quality of things people had brought, and also it was nice to talk and hear stories about why people were there and their experiences of swishing. Finally I was struck but how much fun everyone seemed to be having – probably because everyone knew they weren’t having to part with cash to get something, when all they’d done was hand in things they no longer wanted/needed/fit into anyway. When the time came for everyone to ‘swish’ the atmosphere was buzzing and it was funny to see people hover and then almost dive towards items they wanted - yet at the same time people were more polite than the supermarket fights over turkeys at Christmas (I’m serious I used to work for a food retailer and it was madness)!

At the end of it all, people were proudly walking out with their ‘purchases’ (I’m sure there’s a proper term!), goody-bags (not a usual occurrence but “Swish in the City” were celebrating their first birthday) and eating cupcakes.

So, why swish rather than sell etc? My view on why swishing will work for me:

·         Swishing is better than the charity-shop run because according to Lauren “Whilst giving to charity is great, not all items can be displayed – as such, items out of season are often sent abroad (some to be cut-up) which has environmental implications”
·         Swishing is better than ‘Save it now and sew/sort it later’ because I never do the ‘sew/sort it’ bit! (Well, who does really?!)
·         Swishing is better than selling (eg on Ebay) because it’s so much more personal and social, and I love a natter!
·         Swishing is better than shopping because you don’t get cupcakes when shopping and have to part with cash!
Personally, I had a great time and I plan on doing it again. Now I’ve just got to work out what I’m going hand over!

Thanks to Lauren for organising Swish in the City: http://www.backtothefuschia.org and http://www.the-chic-cupcake-company.co.uk who provided the yummy cupcakes. 

Lauren Wisdon of 'Back to the Fuschia'

Yum yum!

Tuesday 17 January 2012

What we can learn from the GG’s!

Six steps to dressing like a star

There’s been alot of comment about who wore what to Sunday night’s Golden Globes and as a stylist I’ve been fascinated by the range of opinion.  Whilst there have been some consistent ‘hits’ and some obvious ‘misses’ I couldn’t pick a favourite, so I’m taking a different approach! Also...

More important than what everyone wore is what we can learn from those who can afford to wear the best. We've got some high profile visuals about what works and the interest clothes can generate, and we also saw how even the rich and famous can get it wrong.

So, what are the key lessons and who wore it well:

  • -          Colour is critical:

Two great examples of this were Tilda Swinton and Viola Davis – their colours complimented their overall colouring brilliantly.  Colour should always flatter, but get it wrong and a colour can drain or overwhelm us as we can see from Kelly Osbourne’s colour-choice (which is too strong for her).


  • -          Shape and size must be in flattering proportion:

The shape of our clothes should accentuate the positive, and can be used to ‘hide’ less flattering area’s. Mary J Blige’s dress shows of her figure perfectly, Laura Wilson’s could be helping her cover up but it's still flattering. On the other hand, Piper Perabo's dress completely swamps her and Frida Pinto’s dress hides the great figure we know she has.

  • -          Embracing your Style personality can give you an edge:

Zooey Deschanel is known to have a unique style and she managed to make that work for her on the red carpet – she stood out in a good way (including cute tuxedo nails!), from the sea of material, fishtails and glitz and yet still managed to look fabulous. A special mention too to Lavia Firth who takes this a step further and makes sure she dresses to her ethical principles.

  • -          Know the current trends or be prepared to set new ones:

We can see trends being set or trends being followed – knowing what works for you in the season injects a bit of ‘now fashion’ into your own style. An example of this would be Jessica Biel’s on-trend white, lace dress; and Michelle Williams may have gone one further by setting a new (headband) trend.

  • -          Don’t forget the impact of your extra’s:

Make-up, accessories and hairstyle really do matter and can make or break your look. A fantastic example of this was Angelina Jolie’s ensemble... her hair and make-up complimented her and her outfit, and as for accessories – Brad Pitt counts as one of the best!

And finally...
  • -          Having considered all that, ask yourself “Is my look appropriate?”:

As well as being appropriate for the occasion, another example of this is dressing ‘age appropriately’ which comes into play after colour, style, personality etc. Well done to the cast of Modern Family who show us how it’s done.

Not everyone gets to attend awards ceremonies, has the budget or access to designers but we can still look like the stars if we... have the know-how, work within some style rules, have confidence, pose AND  SMILE!

Need help working out what colours and styles will make sure you look ‘wow’?  
Call Damson Belle on 07887 643807

Monday 9 January 2012

That's so last year!

It may already seems ages ago, but we’re only just into 2012! Before we’d even finished the last year there were lots of reviews about what was hot in 2011 but I wanted to wait and see the year out. After all, Lady Gaga’s get-up on New Year’s Eve was sure to be something to see... and it was but not for the reason I was expecting. I had thought she’d look her usual creative (sometimes crazy) self, and she did but what surprised me was that I actually one of her outfits. So there you have it – my first ‘best’ is....

Best New Years Eve outfit – Just pipping Jessie J, it’s Lady Gaga’s silver dress: It was a winner for me, not sure about the headdress though!

My style Celeb of the Year - Emma Watson: she’s been a style revelation this year. Despite being known for HP, she’s shaken her old image and transformed into a real style star… I’d wear her stuff (if only!)

Designer of the Year – We can no longer ignore (if you ever could) Victoria Beckham, now a respected designer (with no formal training) on both sides of the Atlantic and an award-winner now to boot.

Brides of the year - The two Kates (Middleton and Moss): there was little/nothing to split them... both introduced a sibling, looked lovely in styles that suited their looks and personalities, and made sure their grooms scrubbed up!

Entrance of the year – And talking of that wedding, enter: Pippa Middleton: she not only hit the headlines herself, she’s been part of one of the press’ favourite fashion stories of the year… sisterly rivalry.

Trend of the year - Colour blocking: it was a new term as well as the stand out fashion trend, not great for me as I’m on the short-side but that’s what heels are for!

Store of the Year – The high end, high street store Reiss: regularly worn by Kate Middleton so often sold out of key items, and celebrated it’s 40th anniversary.

Top gent! – I’m giving this one to Dermot O’Leary: GQ set him up against Gary Barlow every week of X-Factor and he never got it wrong.  Must have been tough given he’d only had Louis and Simon to compete against before!

Icon of the Year – The one and only Liz Taylor... a legend for who she was, what she achieved and the legacy she left us.

One to watch - She was late onto the fashion scene but what an entrance from Rooney Mara... especially considering how she looked in film to how she looked on the red carpet.

There’s loads more ‘nice-to-do’ catagories, but I’ll change approach as it seems wrong to have the biggest and best without mentioning the ‘flip side’- there were a few sad/shocking pieces of fashion news last year, notably:

  • ·         The shocking:
The John Galliano race scandal – the less said about that the better.
  • ·         The sad:
The loss of Evelyn Lauder, Amy Winehouse and (already mentioned) Liz Taylor.
  • ·         The mad:
Nikki Minaj –vs-  Gaga’s going for the crown for the wackiest celeb dresser!

For more on 2011, good and bad, check out the detailed Telegraph reviews at: http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/hot-topics/714/fashion-review-2011.html

Thursday 5 January 2012

What I wore for Christmas...

... That we’ll still be wearing this year!

Christmas is a time (not a day!) when we can roll out all the good stuff in our wardrobes, but with all the effort that goes into picking your Christmas wardrobe (or mine at least) it would be a shame if it all had to go away until December 2012!

Colour me Beautiful recommends, quite rightly, that we look at what we can revive and revitalise in our wardrobes (especially given the economic climate) so I’ve been thinking about what to put in a suitcase (glitter and sequins), and what I should be keeping in the wardrobe.

·       Here’s what I wore, that I’ll be keeping out...

     To the Snowball (a regular event in my Christmas calendar and a great opportunity to glam up) I wore a red, white, grey and black print dress; peep toes and velvet fitted jacket. In familiar company I could get away with my bold patterned dress... and it’s a keeper as bold prints will be in next year. However, unlike my co-ordinated approach the real trend will be about mixing prints... great if you’re a creative dresser!
Vivienne Tam's clashing prints
My drop-waist, Print dress
For Carols by candlelight –my ‘revitalise’ outfit was based on an old deep green skirt, it was teamed up with a new green glitter collar. Whilst accessories are always a hit, the focus shifts – this year one trend will be neck attire so my collar was a great investment. Alternatively there is always a great statement necklace or scarves to choose from. 

At a Christmas dinner with friends I wore black skinny jeans, a black lace top, white jacket, leopard print heels and mustard clutch. As I usually wear colour, this black ensemble got a big reaction... I couldn’t resist the pop of colour and animal though!  Obviously black will remain a popular choice, but replacing mustard will be tangerine and replacing the leopard print will be bird and feather motifs.  The real carry-forward item of this ensemble though is lace. Febraury’s “Cosmoplitan” – says “Lavish Lace” is “What’s sexy now”! (See page 21)

With lace and a collar - this should be a hit in 2012

For midnight mass on Christmas eve’ I wore a shimmery white, gold n black dress (each colour symbolic for the occassion), and according to MSN style another keeper (yeah!) as metalic and shimmery materials carry through to this year.

Shimmery winter white, gold and black
On Christmas day – I always wear something that’s been a gift, this year it was a Paul Smith print skirt from hubby.  For him, Paul Smith will always be in and that’s also the case for the High Street with the trend of collaborations with designers set to continue.  We had one H&M/Versace collection last year, and another due this year; and David Beckham has already modelled and launched his underwear collection with them.  I wonder who else will pair up this year?

Boxing day and Coffee with the girls later in the week was all about colour. I wore lime, purple, chocolate and pale yellow in various combinations. Colour is always a way (along with accessories) of making a change and keeping up with the trends, and 2012 will be no different. This year the ‘in’ colours will be tangerine (the colour of the year), pastel colours and red.

And on the ‘in-between’ days I often wore... a tracksuit - And into Olympic year, that’s going to be another trend as designers make sportswear a ‘style’. Go for it but only in your best colours of course!

Tango tangerine, and Sporty - Marc Jacobs

So, in summary what will I still be wearing next year?
  • Bold patterns and prints...mix it up if you’re brave enough (I won't be joining you!)
  • Accessories like my green collar will be kept, and anything in the right print or colour you don’t have is to be brought to refresh and revive what you've got
  • Texture – so my lace and velvet are keepers
  • Shimmery fabrics
  • A little bit of 'designer' - in an affordable way!
  • Colour – Just make sure it’s the shade that suit’s you... Personally, I’ll be rocking red and more (blue based!)-red! - one of the hot colours of the moment.
  • Sportswear – there’ll never be another 2012 Olympics!

To read more about these, and other trends, and for some pics, check out...