You may know that I happily go for any excuse to create a costume (have a look at some of my previous costumes here), so Halloween this weekend provided a good one. I got really into the TV series Penny Dreadful and decided that the main character Miss Vanessa Ives as portrayed by Eva Green was perfect for my Halloween persona.
The TV show, named after the Penny Dreadfuls – cheap sensationalist stories from the 19th Century – is set in Victorian London, exposing a dark ‘demimonde’ full of monsters and demons. The main characters form a group who combat all things evil in this dangerous world. Here’s the trailer from the first season – not for the faint hearted, this opening series was quite terrifying at times!
Some of literature’s most terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, Dorian Gray, and iconic figures from the novel Dracula are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London. They are joined by a core of original characters in a complex, frightening new narrative. Penny Dreadful is a psychological thriller filled with dark mystery and suspense, where personal demons from the past can be stronger than vampires, evil spirits and immortal beasts.
I love the dark and gothic, Victoriana styling to the series. Beautiful costumes, interiors, hair, make up and props are used to convey the period feel. Its also clear from this series that Eva Green is a very talented actress. The part of Miss Ives that she plays shows how versatile her acting can be and she can do a lot with this part that I think she couldn’t do in a film, but surely her performance would be award winning either way! Here are some pictures of the actual Miss Ives:
and my interpretation, having used images such as those above for inspiration. I was able to use my parents’ home as the perfect period style setting for the pictures – quite creepy I think you’ll agree! It was also fun because I had all the clothes already in my wardrobe so I didn’t need to buy anything extra, always the ideal costume when it works out that way. Photos thanks to Anna Shlonsky.
Lastly, I have a reproduction print in my living room of Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Klimt. One evening, I was struck by a slight similarity between the ‘Woman In Gold’ and Eva Green as Miss Ives!
People often exclaim to me ‘oh you’re so dressed up!’ … which leads me to think, um am I – you ain’t seen nothing yet! Or rather, well, its all relative! I much prefer the attitude of one of the New Yorker ladies featured in Advanced Style the film (Lynn Dell) who says ‘I’m dressed for the theatre of my life‘! …
Advanced Style examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging. Based on Ari Seth Cohen’s famed blog of the same name, this film paints intimate and colourful portraits of independent, stylish women aged 62 to 95 who are challenging conventional ideas about beauty, ageing, and Western’s culture’s increasing obsession with youth.
And here is the trailer, because you need to see these ladies, not just read about them!
I had actually been following Ari Seth Cohen’s blog – Advanced Style for a couple of years and so I was really delighted when I found out that the film was being released. You’ll see that I also love to style myself creatively using clothes and accessories which I have recorded on this blog here so I knew I was going to love this film. I also realised straight away that the film was sure to be a big hit at JW3 Cinema (in fact 4 of the ladies featured in the film – those who were at the Q&A event – are all Jewish) and so I decided to programme a run of screenings which then lead to the Q&A evening.
I was lucky enough to meet four of the ladies featured in the film as well as Ari Seth Cohen and the film’s director Lina Plioplyte who were all at the Q&A. Of course, as soon as I had decided that I would host the Q&A, my main concern was … what will I wear?! I decided to go for a 1970s Jaeger dress and jacket suit that I got from a vintage shop in Aldeburgh, Suffolk in the UK. The outfit felt suitably smart but special and I’m really glad I wore it. I think I fitted in well with the Advanced Style team.
The Invisible Woman (whose work I love reading and have followed for some time) who writes about fashion for older women, wrote a wonderful piece about the film and I absolutely agree with her words that
I’ve seen the film six times now and could happily watch it six more because it truly is that much-abused term life-affirming.
The film really IS absolutely life affirming, uplifting and inspirational and the ladies themselves are all of these things. The film is just as much about a love of style as it is about a love of life. The characters of these strong women is something I admire as much as their unique styles.
What a wonderful and fascinating woman Joyce is, who trained as an opera singer in Milan and told us last night about how she was one of the first women to work in advertising with magazines. A real life Peggy of Mad Men! I so admire Joyce’s elegant style which she makes look so easy and I must say I envy her Chanel bag collection! I love how Joyce practically danced down the steps of the cinema last night when she arrived, singing out ’82, I’m 82!’ – Indeed, go Joyce! She was so friendly to chat to and has a really genuine manner in the way she was telling the audience her beauty and style tips.
Another of my favourite ladies from the film is Ilona Royce Smithkin who is 94 years old. She sings in nightclubs, teaches painting classes, is high spirited and makes her own false eyelashes out of her own fiery orange hair – just, wow!!
In the end, all I can say is that I very much hope that by time I’m their age, I’ll still be singing, dressing up as much as I like and having a wonderful time immersing myself in the cultural life of the best cities in the world just like the Advanced Style ladies do!
As it is the 1st February, 2013 I have decided at the end of a busy month to look back at how I spent the arrival of the 1st January 2013. On New Year’s Eve I went to the Hogmanay Ball at the Chelsea Arts Club where I am lucky enough to be a member this year, thanks to the fact that I’m the Chelsea Arts Club Trust/ CHELSEA space Research Fellow, which you can read more about here.
The Chelsea Arts Club was founded in 1891 and is a private club for artists for all genre. The balls are famous for their lavishly and eccentrically costumed dressed guests according to the particular theme of the ball. The Hogmanay was of no exception with guests adorned in tartan which had been manipulated in the most creative ways. There was a live band playing Scottish folk music and we all took part in the traditional Scottish Ceilidh dancing. We even had a bagpipe player on stage to bring in the midnight hour.
Photography is understandably not permitted inside the Club but I took some photographs of my outfit before leaving to the ball. I made my costume myself and I tried to be imaginative in my use of tartan for the Hogmanay theme and created a punked up tartan image inspired by a Vivienne Westwood meets Helena Bonham Carter look. I made a sash out of spare material and a hair fascinator as well. I also wore red eye shadow to make the whole look a bit more punk!
On the evening of 11th December 2012 I attended the University of the Arts, London Benefactors’ Reception which was held at the Platform Theatre Bar on the new purpose built campus site of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. The reception was hosted by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Nigel Carrington and the evening was an opportunity to thank, meet and chat with benefactors who fund scholarships, facilities and career opportunities for recipients across the University. I was there because I am the recipient of an award thanks to the generosity of the Chelsea Arts Club Trust and I am this year’s Chelsea Arts Club Trust Fellow. You can read more about my CHELSEA space award and what that involves me doing in a previous post I wrote here and my role was also written about by Donald Smith, Director of Exhibitions at CHELSEA space in the latest CHELSEA space blog post here.
Artist Grayson Perry was at the event in his capacity as a Governor of University of the Arts, London and he gave a speech during the evening which highlighted the importance of the opportunities that the benefactors present had provided in assisting artists to focus on their practice through University by giving awards and that this then contributes to the creative life of the UK. Grayson Perry particularly used his speech to draw attention to the fact that these awards are especially important in supporting artists and those in the creative arts at a time when there are less grants, fees for studying have been increased and arts subjects are being marginalised by the new Ebacc qualifications system.
I very much enjoyed meeting Grayson Perry who was friendly, down to earth and chatty. I spoke to him with MA Fine Art student award recipients from Chelsea College of Art & Design who I knew because of my work on Chelsea Salon Series as Curatorial Associate. We talked about the importance of art schools and Universities for supporting, encouraging and creating the future artists and makers of our cultural society as well as the pros and cons of the internet!
I also thought that Grayson Perry’s outfit, hair and make up were brilliant – he looked great! I saw first hand how as an artist, 2003 Turner Prize winner, Grayson Perry is commenting on contemporary society while using historical techniques and themes in his work through ceramics, most recently tapestry or through his clothes and looks he creates. I recommend watching the television series In the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry which you can see here as its a great insight into the artist’s way of thinking and understanding how he is inspired by what he sees around him to create artwork, in this case a tapestry.
On the subject of cross dressing which Grayson Perry is famous for, I wrote in my most recent blog post here about a contemporary of his – artist Brian Chalkley who has also been a part of the cross dressing scene of artists and knows Perry well. Here’s a great image of them together and you can read more about artist Brian Chalkley discussing art, cross dressing, Grayson Perry and more in my interview with him which is written up here.
A few months ago I visited New York for the first time. I knew that I was going to love it there, having been told so by friends I know who had already been. But also, since there is so much cultural influence I rate highly, that comes from there – art, architecture, design, fashion., food, film and so on which I admire. Some of my favourite discoveries were the thrift shops, better known as charity or vintage shops in the UK.
I was very lucky to come across this original 1970s Jonathan Logan dress at the wonderful Cure Thrift Shop. The dress was just right on and I counted my lucky stars that no-one else had snapped it up.
The dress is brown, of course, being from the 1970s and it’s made from velvet & lace. The Logan company was founded in 1944 by one David Schwartz. I found some interesting information about the Logan label here and was happy to be able to authenticate my New York fashion find.
I wore the dress recently in London, for the private view opening of the wonderful exhibition Lloyd Johnson: The Modern Outfitter at CHELSEA space gallery. The dress felt fitting for the occasion, as the exhibition addresses the career of the designer Johnson, a figure of great note on the London fashion scene including during the 1970s.
A homage to the fringe
the front part of someone’s hair, cut so as to hang over the forehead
In American English, the fringe is known as bangs, this term most likely hailing from bang-tail, meaning the practice of cutting horses’ tails straight across.
Linking ancient and contemporary style, featuring in two of my favourite fashion decades – the 1920s and 1960s… the fringe is all at once cute, serious, fun and smart.
Perhaps the most famous fringe is the Ancient Egyptian beaded fringe wig as illustrated by Elizabeth Taylor playing Cleopatra
Silent Screen icon Louise Brooks, was celebrated as The Girl In The Black Helmet by Kenneth Tynan in his New Yorker essay of the same name. Brooks became instantly recognisable by her bob and the fringe which was fashionable throughout the 1920s. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 set off a revival of all things Egyptian style, including that fringed hairstyle mentioned above.
Fringe fashion continued into the 1960s when The Beatles brought the fringe back, in Mop Top hair-style
I had to include Audrey Hepburn, whose fringe accentuated her winsome features
As a final fringe example, Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction. The character’s look connects retro and contemporary cool, what style!
It seems that happily for me at least, fringe fashion will not fade fast
some of my favourite costumes, characters and looks that I’ve created
I like to create amateur costumes or looks using items of clothing that I already own and adapting them. I use hair styles and make up with accesories to complete the look.
What I love the most about creating a costume or look is the chance to be a completely different character! It’s great to see myself looking different from how I do usually. I like learning as I go along and discovering what works and doesn’t… it’s all a lot of fun!
For example, here I am dressed up as a peacock in a costume I made for the 2011 Wilderness Festival which was a full on arts spectacular held in a beautiful woodland site