5 July 2011, 09:26
One of my personal philosophies is that life is an occasion worth dressing up for! After all, everything is so much more fun when you make an effort to surround yourself with beauty.
The transformational properties of clothing are real, & not to be sniffed at! It doesn’t take a genius to realise that you feel extremely different in your lounging-around-the-house clothes & your party dresses, or to notice the change in attitude when you switch your slip-ons to something with a little more kick. So it makes sense to commit ourselves to bringing a little more beauty & a little more wonder into our daily lives! It is simply good for us!
Here are some of my ideas to make your day-to-day wardrobe a little more exciting!
Brunch with your best friends is the perfect excuse to make the most of those wonderfully whimsical accessories lurking in the back of your jewellery box. After all, who will appreciate an ice-cream truck charm or a ring in the shape of a camera like the friend who knows all your secrets?!
Dressing for a man is simple, but dressing for other women is where you really get to have fun. They are the ones who really appreciate the effort!
I’m gagging for a Juicy Couture starter charm bracelet with ice-cream truck & lipstick charms! They’re about the cutest things I’ve ever seen! Too fun! The Rebecca Minkoff boyfriend bag is a sassy show-stealer in any colour, & who would say no to a spiked ring by Tarina Tarantino? This leopard-print tote by Betsey Johnson is perfect for toting treasures, while Tarina Tarantino’s spiked bangle could definitely put someone’s eye out in a most glamourous way! (Be careful!)
It’s always a good time to take yourself out & treat yourself right. What could you do on a radical self love date? You could go to an art museum, watch a movie no one else wants to see, spend hours in a magazine shop or feed ducks at the park. Buy a bubble gun & shoot it off randomly, to punctuate your happiness! Practice your strut. Sashay, sister!
I reckon these Grey Ant status sunglasses are a bad girl essential: perfect for hiding devious eyes at unholy hours! Stash your little black book in a Proenza Schouler PS1 satchel, & team it all with a pink cashmere cardigan & flared skirt for effortless cool. Insane pink velvet platform heels optional (but encouraged)!
Now you’ll know exactly what to wear next time sometimes calls & says, “Picnic, darling?” Tell them to bring the picnic basket, & you’ll bring the party!
Start with a fabulous pair of wedge sandals — they strike the perfect balance between being practical & frivolous (& we all know how much high heels suck on grass!). I love the design of this pair by Alexandre Birman. A big pair of sunglasses are, of course, an essential. Juicy Couture’s Honey Bunny sunglasses seem to match the setting perfectly! Pair them with an easy floral print dress & an oversized hat for a sweet & snappy look.
Stop off on your way to stock up on fun fruits — passionfruit, pomegranate & young coconut are some of my favourites — & a big bottle of ginger beer!
It’s true that a night with the girls can easily get a little rowdy… So wear something cute that you can still run in, if it all gets too out of control!
Everyone loves a striped dress by Vivienne Westwood — it really does all the talking for you! This one will pull you in where you need it & give you an amazing shape. Of course, I’m crazy about this flamingo tote bag by Kate Spade, especially since it’s the perfect size to hide contraband… ! Did you know that this ring by 6%dokidoki glows in the dark & says, “Heart attack”?! Ahhh! Team the whole lot with a pair of Lanvin wedges, or any wedge really, as long as it has an ankle-strap… It’s important to be able to make a hasty escape, sometimes!
Hey birthday babe! I believe in celebrating one’s birthday with gusto… & plenty of champagne! A pair of ears resting atop your noggin never hurts, either. You could easily recreate this Giles Deacon Mickey Mouse ear hat by self-studding a plain hat from Disneyland. (Not going to Anaheim anytime soon? You can buy one on eBay!)
The Betsey Johnson Tallulah dress is a birthday girl’s dream come true, worn with hi-top Juicy Couture sneakers for ultra-mobility. You can run all over the city in those suckers! A Betsey Johnson cardigan emblazoned with Marilyn Monroe’s face will keep you cozy if there’s a chill in the air, & if not, you can just throw it in your (amazing!) spiked backpack!
Oh, & don’t forget the cupcakes… !
21 May 2011, 21:01
My first experience in a nail salon was when I came to New York City in September of 2006. I was staying in the Chelsea Hotel at the time. Every day we would would go out & discover the city, & return to the room in the evening bearing flowers or Chinese food. One night, my boyfriend was sleeping, & I ventured out into the street to get my nails done.
I walked into this crazy, frantic place full of women who didn’t speak very good English, & a bunch of bored-looking American ladies. I had never had my nails done before, so had no idea what the procedure was. I was laughing & smiling at the ridiculousness of the whole affair, but the woman who was working on me was not amused. She performed her rote tasks & sent me on my way. It was an uninspiring beginning, to say the least!
Despite my dour debut, I was committed to the search for a better manicure experience. I have encountered many, many other nail salons since. Thankfully, none were as disappointing as my first! In fact, you could say that they keep getting better & better.
I discovered Galleria when I moved to the East Village two years ago, & I adore them. They take their time, which I appreciate. I go to Galleria to relax. I don’t want to rush my mani/pedi experience! Yeah, take your time, girl! Scrub my calluses! Massage my legs! Make it count! Ooh, yeah! I adore Galleria & recommend them to everyone. They are fantastic. HEAPS of my readers go there now too, which makes me feel really good!
But… well… you know, I have this obsession with bigger & bolder. I always want more. It has gotten me into trouble more than once, but now I manage to restrict my bigger-better complex to certain facets of my life. Nails, for example. It is okay to trade up when it comes to nails!
I had had enough of OPI nailpolishes with a bit of sparkle thrown in. I wanted BLING on my nails. I wanted something truly ridiculous & over-the-top. It’s pretty safe to say that Japanese women have the lockdown on c-r-a-z-y nails, & I wanted to experience it for myself!
That’s how, on Friday evening, I experienced my first ever Calgel manicure. Calgel is a nail treatment which is painted on & then essentially baked to harden. It doesn’t damage your natural nails & allows them to grow long & strong — always an issue for me, my nails break if I look at them funny! Calgel also creates a fantastic base for all kinds of nail art. It is pretty much the manicure holy grail.
I had known about Calgel for AGES, & as such, I had done my research. By all accounts, Sakura in the East Village was the place to go — & even better, on the same street as my favourite juice bar!
I had such a great time, but it didn’t come off entirely without a hitch. Firstly, the appointment I had made a week in advance had mysteriously disappeared from their calendar. They had no record of me! At all! After searching for my name & phone number in their system, & apologising profusely, I said I’d go home, check my calendar & book for another time. Administrative issues be damned; I wanted those Calgels!
Luckily for me, as I was halfway up the stairs, they called out & asked if I could come back in twenty minutes. Of course I could! I ordered a juice & when I came back to Sakura, I sat in their waiting area & flicked through back issues of Nail Up! magazine. Have you ever seen that magazine? My god. It is unbelievable.
Overwhelmed by choice & slightly boggled by the fact that I really could get ANYTHING on my nails, I wasn’t totally sure what to do. I took a few snaps of some designs I liked, including this one, which was my front-runner. But when I was called up to the nail technician’s chair, my mind went blank.
“Um… I’ve never done this before,” I started. She smiled at me, surely thinking it was about to be a looooong appointment! Suddenly, I had a flash of inspiration. I turned & grabbed my hoodie off the back of the chair. It’s a simple black hooded sweatshirt from Victoria’s Secret, but on the back of it is embroidered LOVE PINK. The “LOVE” is in light pink sequins, while the “PINK” is magenta sequins, with an amazing leopard-print all over it.
I held it up.
“Do you think you could replicate THIS?”, I asked.
She looked it over, then nodded, seriously. “Yes.”
Hoodie from Victoria’s Secret — it’s my go-to sweater!
What followed was three hours — no foolin’ — of nail mania. After a very basic manicure (filing my nails & pushing back the cuticles), we began. My nail technician would put on a coat of Calgel, mix it with some hot pink glitter, then painstakingly apply it so it didn’t look blotchy or uneven. When she was done with two fingers, she would instruct me to stick them into the little UV light machine.
After we had done two coats of hot pink glitter, it was time to add the leopard print. She grabbed some tubes of acrylic paint & a bundle of insanely skinny brushes, then got to work mixing up a light pink colour. She would paint dots of it on my nail, then trace half the shape in black to create the leopard print. We finished up with a layer of fine, pale pink irridescent glitter over the top, & a clear top coat.
Of course, I was delighted. Who wouldn’t be?!
nOir x Barbie rings.
Calgel manicures last 3 weeks, & all that UV light means that when you walk out of the salon, your nails are completely dry! There’s no fear of messing them up, which is fantastic for those of us who are hard on our hands. This stuff is solid.
It doesn’t come cheap, though. When I got my total — $100 — my eyes almost bugged out of my head. The breakdown? $70 for glitter, $30 for the design. Oh, & of course there is gratuity!
But when you consider that a good quality manicure in New York City is about $40 — & it only lasts about a week — Calgel starts to sound like a better & better option. ...If you have three hours to spare, that is!
3 May 2011, 09:46
Let’s rewind to February… On our first full day in Paris, Nubby, Juliane & I just happened to be wandering along rue Vielle du Temple in Le Marais when a bright window display caught my eye. Nubby & Juliane kept walking, but I yelled, “WAIT!”
As they turned around, I looked up at the awning & saw it: M A N O U S H. A passage from an email written by my friend Amanda flashed in my head…
“There is a shop you will love (I dropped a small fortune in) called Manoush. Its Betsey-esq but more edgy with ethnic flairs. Just fabulous. Native to only Paris…”
We gawked in the windows before I squeaked, “Can we go in, please?!” Nubby & Juliane could see that resistance was futile, so they nodded & I practically bounced across the threshold.
“Bonjour madame!!!!!!!!”, I yelped, & ran to the closest rack. What ensued was several minutes of oohing, aahing, cooing & cawing. Manoush is like nothing I have EVER seen before.
It’s what Michael Jackson would be wearing if Neverland had a cavalry. Military jackets with multi-coloured pom-poms?! Oversized ruffles & mammoth petticoats?! Gold suitcases & neon pink everything?! It’s the home of all things frothy, frilly & frivolous.
The next day, on our hunt for Colette & Fauchon, we stumbled across another Manoush store! Clearly, my rainbow-sparkle-antennae are engaged at all times, even on the other side of the planet! It was so funny to Nubs & I that in Paris — where everyone wears black — I somehow managed to magically sniff out the perfect store for me.
After two nights of Manoush-infused dreams, on Wednesday I dragged Nubby back up rue Vielle du Temple for another go round. This time I was prepared.
Manoush: une petite fashion show
With photos taken on the sly by Miss Nubby Twiglet!
This dress is my absolute favourite! It’s a soft, comfortable cotton tank dress with a pleated skirt. Underneath, you wear a massive (detachable & optional) petticoat. The hamsa belt is the icing on the cake!
Detail of the skirt… !
A scarlet & fuchsia velvet baroque hooded sweatshirt with super-long gold & red striped cuffs (with thumbholes!), worn with yet another huge poofy skirt. LOVE!
Kickin’ it on psychedelic carpet!
Manoush: a history
Manoush was started in 2003 by Frédérique Trou-Roy when an inspirational trip to Marrakesh sent her brain into hyper-overdrive. Frédérique was so overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, colours, textures & patterns that she started designing bags immediately. From sequin-encrusted wicker baskets to leather shopping bags with metal detailing & everything in between, she would sit at her table & draw up sketches. Then she’d take the designs to local souks where craftsmen would put them together. She took these bags back to Paris with her, where she eventually found a buyer.
The name, Manoush, comes from the French word for gypsy. Of Manoush, Frédérique says, “When I was little, it was already my nickname. I must say I was just like a wild version of Esmeralda in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, with petticoats to my ankles, a sugar pink scarf tied in my hair, my arms covered with bracelets & other multi-coloured charms: the shinier it was, the happier I felt.” This is clearly something she has held onto! Manoush is the kind of store you dreamed of as a child.
“I also like the look of the doll, but doll on vacation, not too chic. In fact, I like looks that are inspired by childhood but also all that glitters.” — Frédérique Trou-Roy
Manoush Spring/Summer 2011.
Her designs are always bright & bold, clearly influenced by her international playgirl lifestyle! She says that every trip inspires something new for her collection, like for example, her lingerie mini-dresses which were dreamed up in Brazil.
But even though her clothes are covered in sequins & celebrate a flirtier, more feminine way of life, they also come with a social conscience.
The majority of Manoush’s clothing & accessories are sewn by women from the Moroccan Jalil workshops. It’s a fair trade arrangement — her employment of these women allows them to work from home, so that they are able to earn a living while looking after their families at the same time. Additionally, every season some of the profits go towards the Helga Heidrich charity, committed to helping abandoned animals in Marrakesh.
Isn’t that wonderful?
Although she concedes that price is important to customers, Trou-Roy often finds the most special pieces, like a birthday cake dress this season, are the best sellers. (Source)
P.S. I love this interview.
31 March 2011, 11:37
Get the “movie star” attention you’ve always dreamed of in a pair of crimson velveteen shorts & stitched-on mouse tail.
Oh, I am absolutely dying over these pictures… ! They were originally posted on Kevin Kidney’s blog (which is ace). He used to be a designer at Disney, & a friend of his scrounged up these gems!
The editorial was originally published on April 9th 1961, in Midwest Magazine, a supplement of the Chicago Sun-Times. I think the title was STORYBOOK FASHIONS but I decided HALLUCINATING HOUSEWIVES DO DISNEYLAND was better!
Enjoy… & the captions, in italic, are from the original story!
Passengers on board Disneyland’s new Columbia sailing ship will never get scurvy… especially if handsomely suited in gay tangerine.
Five o’clock, add a turban, meet your date and go!
Greet them like a modern southern belle, whether along the shores of the Mississippi, or outside Disneyland’s Oak Tree Tavern.
There’s just no telling what might happen when you choose high-waisted banana capris & a clown blouse.
Even the river pirate Mike Fink “hisself” would adore a pair of these shipshape slacks in cream cotton faille.
Big game falls readily to a safari swim suit with matching jacket.
Tailored & trim as a tulip, in gloves & mad hat… like the blossoms at Disneyland’s Flower Market, you’ll never wilt!
Off the port bow… a cool cotton caftan, side slashed!
Dinner, cinema, dancing — wonder fabric stays wide-awake all evening. Still looks terrific when he says goodnight!
In your pretty play suit of spring flowers, you’re certain to get picked!
Why is a raven like a writing desk? Who cares when you look like this!
DAMN! Who’s up for a trip to Anaheim?!
2 March 2011, 12:31
Biba was a London icon.
Biba epitomised the swinging 60s & 70s in London. Before then, as founder Barbara Hulanicki said, “In England, we were thought to be the worst-dressed people in Europe”. Biba was a fashion label, a shop, a feeling & a mood. It perfectly encapsulated the mood of the time.
It started humbly in the early 60s as a mail-order catalogue, offering inexpensive clothes to young women. Their first success was a pink gingham dress, which was advertised in the Daily Mirror. A similar dress had recently been worn by sex-bomb Brigitte Bardot, & the day after the ad ran in the paper, Biba received over 4000 orders. (They ultimately sold 17,000 of the style.)
From there, Biba opened their first boutique. Situated on Abingdon Street in Kensington, the doors swung open at 10am in the morning. The entire store had only ONE dress in it—a brown, pinstripe dress—in one size, & yet the shop was immediately packed with girls trying them on. No one asked if there was another colour or style. Biba had sold every dress in the shop by 11am!
Biba was really the start of high street fashion in the United Kingdom. They turned designs around quickly—you could see a dress on television on Friday, & buy it at Biba on Saturday. They also strived to be affordable. The idea was that the average girl could spend less than 10% of her weekly earnings & get a cute outfit.
You’ve got the look!
The Biba—or “Dudu”— look was very well-defined. The dresses came in “Auntie colours”—mostly dark autumnal shades, like burgundy, deep blue, rusty orange & plum. The dresses were also apparently extremely itchy & designed in such a way that you could barely bend your arms, but this did absolutely nothing to stop people from buying them!
There were lots of stripes, jumpsuits, flared pants, big hats & platform shoes. There were tie-dyed t-shirts & feather boas. It was glamorous & excessive, opulent & decadent. It was mysterious, sexy & fun.
Biba was also the first label to bring miniskirts to the high street, even though Mary Quant had been the first British designer to show them. They caused a stir in London. Barbara Hulanicki was quoted as saying, “I thought surely we couldn’t shorten them any more, but magically there were a few old inches to go!”
Who was the Biba girl?
“Postwar babies who had been deprived of nourishing protein in childhood and grew up into beautiful skinny people: a designer’s dream. It didn’t take much for them to look outstanding… Fresh little foals with long legs, bright faces and round dolly eyes.” — Barbara Hulanicki
The demographic was very young, too, mostly teenagers & girls in their early twenties. Even Anna Wintour—later to become the editor of American Vogue—snagged a job at Biba when she was 15 years old, just one year after first getting her iconic bob haircut! Apparently, being 30 years old in a Biba store would have you feeling like a fossil in no time… !
“You were part of one of two camps: if you loved the Beatles you shopped at Mary Quant, & if you loved the Rolling Stones you’d shop at Biba.” (Source)
In 1974, Biba moved into a seven-storey department store. It was called Big Biba, & it attracted up to a million customers a week. For any girl visiting London, it was a must-see.
Big Biba wasn’t just a shop—it was an experience. Nor did they only sell clothes. Oh no! At Big Biba, you could buy Biba washing liquid, a Biba sofa & Biba eyelashes, as well as a pair of Biba platforms to walk home in. You could eat Biba camembert cheese in the food hall, browse Biba-esque art in their gallery & buy books in the Biba bookstore.
It was about total immersion. You could literally live Biba… & many did!
There was even the Rainbow Room on the fifth floor, a restaurant, destination & hang-out for rock stars like Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull & David Bowie. The best thing about it was that despite the store’s fame, it remained accessible. Anyone could go to the Rainbow Room & eat sandwiches among the pink flamingoes, & if you caught a glimpse of someone famous, so much the better!
The Rainbow Room.
Atmosphere & attitude
Biba was one of the first stores to really brand itself head-to-toe, blazing the trail for thousands of other companies. The Biba logo, in gold & black with art deco flourishes, was all over everything. They had a Logo Store within Big Biba, where you could buy small items & trinkets, like playing cards, emblazoned with the Biba emblem. There was even Biba logo wallpaper for the true fans!
The front windows of the store were blacked-out so that the shop stayed dimly lit inside, with the idea that a black window was so compelling that it would draw people inside. (This turned out to be true!)
There were no standard racks of clothing, either. Dresses, shirts & skirts were hung on old coat-stands, which were placed all around the shop. The sales assistants were forbidden to approach customers or to utter the words, “May I help you?”, & the music was always turned up full-blast!
Freddie Mercury hung out there, while Lou Reed wore Biba black nailpolish & the New York Dolls played two nights at the Rainbow Restaurant. Biba was definitely the place to go if you wanted a big spoonful of rock & roll attitude.
Even better, if you wanted an escape from the darkness of the store, you could visit the Kensington Roof Gardens on the top storey. The Gardens came complete with fountains, lavender, lilies, hanging wisteria, a pond, pink flamingoes & ducks! (Incredibly, the Kensington Roof Gardens are still there—now owned by Sir Richard Branson—& accessible to the public!)
This is the end, my friend…
Biba closed down in 1975, after having to sell itself to a big corporate conglomerate to stay afloat. It turns out that Big Biba was also a big responsibility, one that overwhelmed Barbara Hulanicki & her husband. Barbara Hulanicki said, “Every time I went into the shop, I was afraid it would be for the last time.” Eventually, she was right.
While news of the closure broke the hearts of stylish girls all over the world, in retrospect, it was almost a good thing. Better to go out in a blaze of glory, at the peak of your popularity, than to get old, tired & watered-down, don’t you think?
Since then, Biba has had several relaunches. All have flopped. The most recent has been the revamping of Biba by House of Fraser, who chose Daisy Lowe as its poster girl, & for whom Biba has been successful.
Barbara Hulanicki is unimpressed, & says that the idea of Biba was always to keep prices low (the new Biba is very expensive). She has designed capsule collections for Top Shop, & recently signed a deal with Asda to produce several collections of clothing which will retail for between £11-18.
“Biba fulfilled the rock & roll promise to live fast, die young, & leave a beautiful corpse, & is consequently remembered with a fondness almost unique in the world of retail.” — Alwyn Turner
More Biba treasures!
I love reading these old stories about people’s Biba experiences.
“I was a very hard up student nurse in London, myself and my friend Judy used up our hard earned pay(which should have been spent on food) on a shopping expedition to BIBA and purchased amazing suede platforms, mine were green and yellow, Judy’s were lilac and aubergine. We tottered next day at the School of Nursing to be greeted by an incredulous tutor, we had to hold each other up but felt fab.”
Barbara Hulanicki. LOVE the hair, necklace & belt!
Trying on clothes…
A cosmetics display within Biba.
Twiggy was an original Biba girl.
You can rent Beyond Biba: A Portrait of Barbara Hulanicki for $2.99 on Amazon!
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