blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Clothes… and Other Things That Matter – Alexandra Shulman*

In Clothes… and other things that matter, Alexandra Shulman delves into her own life to look at the emotions, ambitions, expectations and meanings behind the way we dress. From the bra to the bikini, the trench coat to trainers, the slip dress to the suit, she explores their meaning in women’s lives and how our wardrobes intersect with the larger world – the career ladder, motherhood, romance, sexual identity, ambition, failure, body image and celebrity. By turns funny, refreshingly self-deprecating and often very moving, this startlingly honest memoir from the exEditor of British Vogue will encourage women of all ages to consider what their own clothes mean to them, the life they live in them and the stories they tell. Shulman explores the person our clothes allow us to be – and sometimes the person they turn us into.

Alexandra Shulman is a journalist, consultant and commentator. She was Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue from 1992–2017, the magazine’s longest serving editor. She has been Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and is an honorary fellow of the University of the Arts. She won 2017 Periodical Publisher’s Association Editor’s Editor Award and The Drapers Award 2017 for Outstanding Contribution to Fashion. She is Vice President of The London Library and was awarded the CBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours List. She has a weekly column in the Mail on Sunday, is a contributor to other national newspapers and has written two novels: Can We Still Be Friends? (2012) and The Parrots (2015). Inside Vogue: The Diary of My 100th Year was published by Fig Tree in October 2016 and sold more than 30,000 copies in hardback and paperback (Nielsen TCM). Alexandra was featured in a three-part primetime BBC series on Vogue’s centenary year in 2016.

My thoughts: I find Alexandra Shulman quite interesting, years ago I used to read her newspaper column and I watched the Vogue documentary series on TV. She doesn’t fit the mould we imagine Vogue editors to fit – think more Anna Wintour (US Vogue’s legendary editor) or Meryl Streep’s version of her in The Devil Wears Prada. Shulman is not as slick and glamorous as them, although still hugely privileged and wearing designer clothes.

I don’t buy Vogue, I never have, I could get half a dozen secondhand paperbacks from the charity shop for one glossy catalogue of adverts, which is after all what a fashion magazine is. I don’t buy into the mythology around it but I remain intrigued by the allure of these things. I contemplated writing about magazines as part of Masters in literature and material culture – they might not seem like the former but they’re definitely the latter.

This collection of short essays on the different types of clothes Shulman catalogues in her wardrobe allow her to explore her personal history, from her grandmother’s millinery as a refugee in Canada, her parents’ careers in the British media (her father was at one point the Evening Standard’s theatre critic and her mother an editor), her relationships, her career in the press and her many famous friends and acquaintances.

It’s an interesting angle for a memoir – something many of us can relate to – we all have those items of clothing that hold meaning and memory within them. The shoes I wore to my wedding or the jumper that signifies comfort, knowing that putting it on is like a hug. While my wardrobe contains no high price labels, it does contain a multitude of moods to slip on, personas to project through my outfits. And it is this that Shulman shares within her book.

The suit she wore when starting out as a young journalist, the perfect dress that works whenever and wherever it’s worn. The reason we wear certain things and what it says about us. She’s very disinterested in worrying about the way she looks, mocking the media fuss over a photo she posted a few years ago on Instagram of herself in a bikini on holiday. She’s aware that the slim models she championed through her time at Vogue and the people behind the scenes, like herself, are very different. Fashion magazines promote a sort of fantasy world of beauty and glamour that the average person probably won’t ever attain.

There is a note of bitterness about the way women are objectified, pointing out that her successor at Vogue, Edward Enninful, won’t have his appearance, dress size and figure commented upon the way she did. That we always circle around a woman’s body looking for flaws, while men mostly sail blithely on.

I enjoyed the way writes about the history of clothing, not just the personal side, but how for example denim jeans, originally workwear, have become so much a part of fashion that pairs sell for upwards of a thousand pounds. Or how hats, once a staple of ladies wear are now worn by only the fortunate few who suit them.

This was a very interesting book, that I think appeals quite broadly to people interested in fashion, history, memoir and Shulman herself (I’m interested in all of those things btw). I just wish the photos had been printed in colour – in a book about clothes being able to actually see what’s described makes a difference.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

Christmas, fashion, jewellery, lifestyle, reviews

Christmas Stars with Jewellery Box* 

Christmas is coming and if like me you’re part magpie you’ll have your eye on some sparkly gifts, whether for yourself or as gifts for your loved ones. 

For some beautiful and fun jewellery look no further than Jewellery Box

This UK based small business is a favourite of bloggers, having sponsored the Bloggers Blog Awards, which I attended back in September. 

The team very kindly sent me some really lovely pieces to share with you all. 

I love this necklace, there’s something very soothing about tessalating shapes. The silver chain is delicate with a lobster clasp. Perfect for work to add a little quirk to a smart office look. 
For something more seasonal, how about this dainty snowflake? Adding this to my Christmas Day outfit I think. 

To go with the necklace, these star earrings! So pretty and cute. 
Then to finish it off another star, this time in gold, around my wrist – although it might go better with Boxing Day’s ensemble. 
Everything is beautifully packaged, making these items perfect gifts for your friends and family (or yourself!) 

fashion, fun stuff

Fab frames with Warby Parker 

As a specs wearer I am always looking for cool new frames to buy in time for my biannual check up/prescription change. 

When the team at Warby Parker got in touch about their cool new range, I had to share. 

The concentric collection is pretty fun, a circle of colour in clear frames with contrasting arms. I think they look great but also don’t detract from the weather’s face. 

These might be my favourites, I love a touch of tortoiseshell. 

One of the things I have found with wearing glasses every day is that you need to make up your eyes (if you wear makeup) otherwise they can be a bit lost inside your frames. Although I reckon the clear elements of these frames might mean you can skip the eyeliner and go au natural or just a little shadow. 

This is a collaboration with Warby Parker but my opinions are all my own. 

fashion, fashion friday, reviews, wardrobe

Dorothy Perkins Curve collection – first impressions

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So with much fuss and fanfare Dorothy Perkins has launched its Curve collection for UK sizes 18 – 28.

Rather than expanding their main range to cater for more sizes they’ve released a capsule collection and it’s really underwhelming.

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The models in the promotional shots (see above) are slim and don’t exactly give you an idea what the clothes would really look like on the larger sizes.

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Then there are the clothes themselves, a mix of bodycon skirts and dresses and shapeless, bland tent tops. Nothing is in the season’s colours or trends. There’s only about 10 items to choose from and it’s online only, you can’t even return things in store.

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It’s a big disappointment – Dorothy Perkins can be a bit hit and miss in general but you would hope a targeted range would be designed with a little more effort and research, giving women on the above side of the UK average 16 more to choose from not merely reproducing the rather stale offerings already out there.

ramblingmads

fashion, fashion friday, jewellery, trend on trial

Trend on trial: midi rings

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A few months ago I lost some weight, and as always it went first in my hands. I already have weird fingers, long and bony with the protruding knuckles all women on my mum’s side have (and one day the joy of arthritis). So the lost weight created a conundrum in my jewellery armoury, my rings were too big.

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I have worn the same rings on my fingers on and off for years – including my great-great-aunt Bess’ ring, which only ever fitted on my thumb.

I like to dress up and the rings I wear are part of my defense against the world.

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So now I’m looking for rings that fit my new, scrawnier fingers. And a trend that caught my eye was the recent one for midi rings, that sit between your fingers joints. EBay and Etsy are excellent places to hunt for things like that. Ring size matters less as these rings are often adjustable or can be moved to a different finger if they aren’t quite right (that and they’re cheap and cheerful).  

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ramblingmads

beauty, body positive, fashion

My two cents: hijabi fashion

I was on Facebook and magazine Volup2 had posted an article about hijabi fashionistas. Of course some idiots in the comments had leapt straight into hate territory (referencing Sharia law, repression of women, being islamophobic etc)

That’s not been my experience, I have plenty of friends and colleagues who are Muslim and incredibly stylish, some of whom cover up more than others.

These women have made choices about their level of coverage, their interpretation of modest dress. Some have gone from merely wearing long sleeves and floor length skirts or trousers to the hijab and more. All by their own choice.

These ladies have scarf collections to die for, beautiful colours, patterns and designer. Just gorgeous. They coordinate their outfits so beautifully too. I wish I had that level of colour combination skill.

Even the ones who choose to wear a burqa over their clothes are often well dressed underneath. It seems like quite a practical garment too. And it’s a personal preference.

All three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) have instructions to dress modestly, but like most religious texts these rules are open to interpretation. If you go to Rome and want to go into a church, your shoulders and knees must be covered, it’s the same in most of Europe and Russia.

Women used to wear hats to church and some still have dress codes. My aunt’s church is quite strict, whereas my mum’s is a lot more relaxed in terms of what you wear on Sunday.

There are similar circumstances in most synagogues, heads must be covered, modest, smart dress is preferred. Some Jewish communities adhere to these rules all the time, others are more relaxed.

I’m sure other religions have dictates about dress, either specifically for worship or for everyday.

So why shouldn’t women who wear a hijab or who cover themselves dress well? Where does it say they can’t enjoy clothes and make up? Yes some countries have strict, enforceable dress codes, but they tend to be in the minority.

These hijabi fashionistas are inspiring younger women who might be worried that wearing the hijab is frumpy or means they have to give up their love of clothes in order to be closer to their faith. They also look amazing. All women should support each other regardless of faith, culture or ethnicity.

If you see someone looking amazing or wearing cute shoes or a fabulous top – tell her. Say ‘I love your shoes’ or ‘you look amazing’, smile, make someone’s day. The world is a cruel, cold place without us pulling each other down or making assumptions without knowing someone first.

ramblingmads