Maximal challenge: London Romantic

I couldn't resist. I've been shooting for something more minimal lately, but this is too good to pass up. Angie, you got me. Sorry for what I said.

I've been clearing the decks for the new season. There are always a few things hiding in the closet, things I love, things that speak to me even when I find them hard to wear. These are two of them. I've never thought of putting them together before but today they make perfect sense. They come from the same place, after all.

The blazer is classic Westwood, the one she called Bettina. I'm slightly obsessed with this design and I bought it on deep discount when I was teaching myself tailoring. It's a size too small but I wanted to learn from the best. I ran up a few Westwood copies at the time and I made a creditable imitation of this one. It fits me far better than this, but it lacks that vital sensuality, something about the sharp shoulders and the wasp waist that I couldn't quite pull off.

I think I bought scarf around the same time. It isn't my colour and I never know how to tie it, but the print takes my breath away and moves me to tears. Still, it's not my ultimate act of emotional shopping - that would be the skull scarf I bought a few years later when he died. You can't see the thorns in the picture, or the falcons lying in wait for the songbirds. It's so beautiful and so tragic and so very McQueen.

I put it all together with gold pants, made by my friend and fellow London girl in Amsterdam, and George Cox creepers, another English classic. It all seems to work but I couldn't tell you why. I probably shouldn't wear salmon pink but it picks out the orange stripe in the plaid. The mauve taupe shirt echoes my new hair, which I'm already struggling to tame, but the cognac shoes don't bookend any more. And gold? No idea how that fits in. Should have gone for more pink in the lip.


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New season, new score, new do.

I had to part company with my prospective business partner. All perfectly amicable, but it wasn’t working out. Some good work came out of the process, and a few new ideas presented themselves, but once again I’m left wondering what to do with my life. A trip to the salon and a little retail therapy didn’t fix anything, but it definitely made me feel better.

The change in the season comes as a respite, a welcome relief from the late summer heat. Suddenly the weather is so much cooler and I can break out the winter wardrobe. I’ve sometimes found the transitional season hard to manage but this year I arrived with a plan. I’ve been steadily building a capsule of black and white as core neutrals and I’d been on the hunt for an oversized white sweatshirt for a little while, a team player to style with jeans or a skirt, and of course the fur wrap, which I’ve been reaching for repeatedly lately.

This little number appeared at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute shop and I fell for it instantly. Their Individuals collection is a series of small runs designed by the students and it changes very rapidly. I rarely buy anything there but I always make a point of checking them out so I can see what the newest talents are doing. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing who designed what. This is a pity, because whoever came up with this masterpiece of ingenious draping surely has a bright future ahead of them. I think it will be a key player this season, if I can resist the temptation to unfasten the knots to see what shape it is underneath.

As for the haircut, Angie tactfully asks the other day if I was growing it out, and I was inspired to reevaluate. I’d enjoyed the contrast between the dyed crown and the natural undercut, and I wanted to try something with a bit more body that played better with my specs, which have become a permanent feature in my style. I brought the challenge to my regular hairdresser.

I’ve been visiting the same stylist for many years and we have a good relationship. We met for the first time around 2000, when I needed a trim and randomly walked into a salon where he was renting a chair. I walked out with the best cut and colour I’d ever had and he’s been cutting my hair ever since. In the meantime, he’s opened two salons and built a successful practice at the local television studios. He’s an excellent hairdresser, a talented businessman and a great friend.

Few of his clients are willing to experiment, so he likes to push the boundaries when I’m in his chair. And I trust him. This week he worked together with one of his juniors, another colour enthusiast, to craft a winter look which evoked the ombre effect of the grown-out roots, tinted to harmonise with the natural ash brown. They agreed on purple and went to work. I’m as delighted as ever with the result, although I may ask for a shorter fringe next time.

Oh, and would you believe my sister found me the perfect lipstick? It’s Velvet Rope Brat Pack, a luscious true red by Lipstick Queen. It feels delicious and stays on for hours, but I’m still amazed that she picked out just the right colour. She always gives the best gifts. I have to find something really special for her at Christmas.


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Pointless Editorial

Designer Norah Turncote is the anti-Angie for the YLF generation, with three decades as a dilettante technologist behind her. Now she’s turned her attention to clothing. Tousled and Windswept Magazine caught up with her in her factory space behind the KwikFit garage, where she is reimagining fashion as post-industrial folk-art.

T&W: Describe your look.

NT: I call this one “Hyperactive Preteen with Issues”.

T&W: How do you get dressed in the morning?

NT: I run through my wardrobe backwards grabbing as many things as I can and put them on upside down.

T&W: Like that jacket?

NT: Yes. I made this out of some scrap fabric a friend was using as an occasional tablecloth. I could wear it the right way up but you wouldn’t see the zipper on this strangely bifurcated shirtdress, and that’s no fun at all.

T&W: Is this what it means to be the anti-Angie?

NT: Exactly. She’s very polished, you see. Always fabulously turned out and appropriate for the occasion. And I’m not just rough around the edges, I’m rough from the inside out. A total hot mess, me. She’s a dog person, I’m a cat person, that sort of thing. But we both wear specs and talk like the Queen, so there’s that.

T&W: How do you even leave the house?

NT: I accessorise with a large dose of confidence and take the side-eye of twenty-somethings as a compliment. None of them will be dressed like this when they get to my age.

T&W: Which is?

NT: I’m not telling. But let’s just say I run a little hot these days and my bladder’s not what it used to be.

T&W: Mid-life crisis?

NT: It’s a transformative experience.

T&W: What’s next?

NT: I’ll take some pictures in awkward lighting conditions with this rubbish camera and crop them to make my photographic incompetence look like artistic intent. Then I’ll write some pithy text mocking the fashion press to cheer up the ladies on their Monday morning.

T&W: Pointless editorial. What’s not to love?

NT: Quite right. I’m very pleased with my photobombing mannequin. I’m thinking of giving her a pay raise. How do you think this random footprint on the wall got there?

T&W: We really can’t imagine.

NT: Neither can I. But it’s fun to speculate, no?

T&W: You know we’re suckers for an abandoned industrial space filled with the ephemeral traces of a mundane past. And we’re every bit as pretentious as you are.

NT: Pretentious? Moi? Why thank you!

T&W: You’re very welcome.


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WIW: an accidental icon

Sorry ladies, it's not a glamorous old lady strolling around New York in sunglasses (I wish) but I couldn't resist the byline. 

I've been busy with the New Venture. I have no end of pictures of half-baked calicos and other works in progress but I've been very slack about photographing outfits. This is disappointing, because while I've missed some of my favourite summer outfits, somehow I managed to shoot this one look of me in the New Boring. 

Let me explain. I grew up in the neighbourhood around the UK's biggest sporting arena and every weekend during the football season it would be overrun with young men looking for a fight. They dressed very sharp and had a distinctive style, which was two parts preppy to one part Mod. Pants were creased and trainers were expensive. The look was typically finished with a designer windbreaker or an Argyle sweater. 

Needless to say, in my youth I wouldn't have been seen dead dressed like that, but I scored these sneaks from the New Balance Made in England collection earlier in the summer and I'd been fighting the urge to dress like an 80's football Casual ever since. When I finally gave in I found I quite enjoyed it. 

But. As a middle aged lady, this does not translate. Because what do you get when you cross two parts preppy with one part Mod? It's not a young delinquent with a flick knife in his pocket and that's for sure.

It's Ines de la Fressange.

And that, lovely ladies of YLF, is my submission to the Icon Challenge. 


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WIW: spring florals à la Warhol

I must apologise for being scarce here lately. Writing, designing and teaching are taking up a lot of my time and I'm trying to stay away from too many distractions. Plus I've been slack about taking photos of what I'm wearing, so there's that.

But generally, I've not found much to inspire me in the new season's offerings and anyway, I've been enjoying shopping my closet. Focus on quality essentials, I told myself. Work on some new designs. Develop a more streamlined persona. That sort of thing. And no more vintage. My wardrobe can do without any more objets trouvés.

Then I happen past my favourite vintage store and catch a glimpse of something hanging on the wall. I'm not usually one for florals, but there's this one iconic print and if I ever find it I'll happily make an exception for it. OK, OK, I'm going in. Just for a look, mind.


Nadine takes it down for the wall. Some Italian designer, she says, early 90's she thinks. Tag says Ferretti Studio. Would that be Alberta Ferretti, do you think? She's not sure. 

It fits, it looks good. But really, do I need another colourful jumpsuit?

Yes, yes you do, says Nadine. Not many people can wear this. It needs to go to someone who can rock it. If you don't buy it, I'm going to cry.

For all my efforts to be streamlined, sensible and minimal, I just can't seem to contain my colourful impulses, my magpie sensibility, my nostalgia for the rave years, a time when fashion was exciting, original, adventurous. I hand over the cash and my resolution goes up in smoke. 

Truth be told, they're not quite Warhol's flowers, more of an homage reimagined as camo print, which is quite alright for this military inspired garment. On brighter days it'll look good with the sparkly bomber and pirate boots, but today the weather calls for raingear, combat boots and the default hat.


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Sleazy Country Uncle's Reprisal

Meet Simon.

Simon made a fortune promoting illegal raves in the 1990’s and used the proceeds to buy an organic dairy farm in Herefordshire from which he produces a range of dependable but entirely forgettable vegetarian cheeses. He has given up cocaine after an extended spell in the Priory but still enjoys his weed, which he scores from the Gangsta Librarians, a mobile book repository/craft brewery/dubstep sound system, a member of whom is dating his teenage niece. Twice a month he takes his 1992 Saab 900 Turbo to Bristol where he drives slowly around Montpellier, leering at schoolgirls and enjoying random Grindr hookups. Later he hangs out with Banksy and Daddy G from Massive Attack, who secretly despise him for being a hippie.

I don’t think the belt is working. Simon would wear it because he’s clueless. But not me. I know better.


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WIW: winter, bright and otherwise

Since self-diagnosing as a Bright Winter, I’m honing my approach to colour and becoming more comfortable with black as a core neutral in high-contrast outfits. This is proving harder than I thought as colours I’ve enjoyed in the past now seem somewhat drab and I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t purge some of the softer tones.

I do feel like I’m making good use of my seasonal wardrobe though and not retreating into woolly jumpers the way I often do at this time of year. We’re having a very mild winter so it’s been easier than usual to mix things up without having to pile on the layers.

#1-2 An outfit I know I shouldn’t love but still do, the kind of thing that happens when I look at too many Japanese street style blogs. Fun fashion fact: the mohair jumpers John Lydon wore in his days fronting the Sex Pistols were knitted by his mum, which makes this hand knit from my DM the most punk thing I could possibly own.

#3 This was thrown together and I’ve honestly no idea what’s going on here. Glam university lecturer? Sleazy country uncle? The blazer and the pants have a sheen which works well in combination but the colours are on the soft side and it might work better with black accents. I’m thinking the cognac creepers and the woolly scarf throw it.

#4 This is better. I like the high contrast and proportions on this look and I’ve worn it a few times. I couldn’t find a jumbo scarf I liked in the shops so I took matters into my own hands. Inspired by the lovely Diana to pick up the needles, I knitted this one over Christmas.

#5 This is a winner, day to evening. Two skirts layered, black pleather over vintage white plisse. I love the contrasting textures and the fact that it makes me feel ladylike and a little bit sexy.

#6 Another favourite look that’s had a lot of wear this winter. Alleged CdG culottes with anonymous grey fine knit. The Boppu sneakers have turned out to be the surprise workhorse of the season.

#7 I’m sure I’ve done this look better with all black, but it’s nice for a change with stripy sleeves and bookending shoes.

#8-9 Bonus outerwear shots with fur wrap, leather gloves and hat and my default winter coat, a waterproof macintosh from Ralph Lauren menswear.

Your thoughts please. Feel free to critique, your honest feedback is always appreciated.


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WIW: Denim, deconstruction, DIY

This may be controversial and I had to screw up my courage to post it, but it’s been a good talking point among friends who like this sort of thing so I thought you guys might enjoy it too.

As a dressmaker and inveterate hacker of clothing, I have a deep appreciation for the art of deconstruction. I always love looking at fashion, but very little delights me as much as something that makes me think differently about form and function in garment design, and once in a while I like to experiment in my own closet.

This, though, may be the sartorial equivalent of raiding the refrigerator for leftovers which are past their sell-by date. An old merino wool sweater dress from Weekday came out of summer storage with some damage to the front. I have no idea how it happened since there were no other casualties, but I have to accept it as the price I pay for living in an old building. I love the colour and I’m not ready to send it off to landfill so I gave it a retread.

I was inspired by the upside down sweatshirts at Slow and Steady Wins the Race. After some experimental draping on a dress form, I cut a circular opening around the damaged area and hemmed it with shirring elastic and tricot binding. This is now an armhole or a neckline, depending on how I feel like wearing it.

(The skinnies were a HEWI for the longest time. I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to denim. I prefer it unwashed with a selvedge, which can be hard to find in womenswear, so I was thrilled to find these at G-Star this year. Denimheads may sneer at this brand but I’ve had a few pairs and they make great jeans for women.)

I remodelled my oversized Levi’s after a design that appeared at Vetements a year or so ago. I’m much happier with the fit and I found it very satisfying to rip off the branding. They got the approval of the sales staff in Amsterdam’s trendiest jeans emporium, who had to ask where they came from, but I should probably fray the hems more artfully.

I quite like the two together, but I suspect both items work better in support of avant-garde designer pieces. The sweater plays nicely with the Comme culottes and the jeans are a winner with my Ann D blazer.

Props to deconstruction maestro Martin Margiela (who else?) - the boots are original, the oversized blazer from H&M’s Replicas collection, and the base layer is my own modification of his legendary sock sweater, made out of four pairs from Hema.

As ever, thoughts and comments are appreciated. I’m very curious to know how others feel about deconstructed clothing. Do you love it, or does it weird you out?


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Day 5 After Bowie: Moonage Daydream

To close my Week of Bowie, I’m paying tribute to the most influential fashion designer you’ve never heard of and the unsung hero of the entourage, Freddie Burretti (aka Frederick Burrett) the star’s personal tailor in the years ’70-’74.

I’ve seen the David Bowie Is… exhibition twice on its tour, in Berlin and Groningen. Each time, I’ve been struck by Burretti’s remarkable designs. It’s fair to say his work stands out as a highlight in the esteemed company Kansai, McQueen, Mugler and Slimane, all represented in the collection.

Burretti became friends with Bowie in 1970. He’s name checked in All the Young Dudes and it’s said Moonage Daydream is about him. For a few years he was Bowie’s principal stylist, creating the quilted jumpsuits of Ziggy Stardust, the tailored suits of Diamond Dogs and much of the colourful wardrobe that defined the star’s style of the time. The two parted company in 1974 and Burretti drifted into obscurity. He passed away in 2002, aged just 49.

Burretti’s designs were bold, visionary and pioneering. His innovative tailoring and vibrant colours are a clear precursor to the styles that appear in the following decade. The hip-skimming jackets, loose-fitting pants and pagoda shoulders all appear light years ahead of their time. I had to look twice at the double breasted blue suit from the Diamond Dogs tour to convince myself it had in fact been made in 1974, and not ten years later as I originally thought.

The cream of the crop, though, is the iconic suit worn by Bowie in the Life on Mars video. It’s an exquisite piece of tailoring, skilfully merging the conventions of menswear and womenswear in a way that reads neither masculine nor feminine, just flat-out fabulous (how great did it look on Kate Moss!) The turquoise taffeta still shimmers and every seam is flawlessly rendered. A striped shirt, metallic tie and two-tone shoes are high-contrast details that make the whole look sing.

No way can I ever come up with something this fabulous, but I can dream of a Life on Mars in a lilac mohair blazer, patterned button down shirt (both Paul Smith) blue tailored silk-mix pants and striped heels by Balenciaga. Since I don’t have a necktie I added a chandelier crystal pendant to finish it off.

Freak out in a Moonage Daydream, oh yeah!

Freddie Burretti Youtube playlist:

Erratum: Just realised I've been spelling his name wrong, duh. Corrected. 


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Day 4 After Bowie: not sure if you're a boy or a girl

Bowie was known for his androgynous style. His best looks transcend gender without compromising masculinity. For me, this is one of his most important contributions to fashion. It’s also damned sexy on a man with the charisma to pull it off.

This image from the back of Hunky Dory (his first real masterpiece) is one of his more restrained looks, but it’s also one of his most subversive. Young Dude in a Dress has given way to something altogether more ambiguous: a man dressed as a woman dressed as a man. It’s an out-and-out appropriation of the classic mid-century menswear glamour pioneered by Coco Chanel, Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich.

I don’t think he ever improved on this as a template for androgynous style that transcends the very notion of gender altogether. It’s both genders simultaneously and yet it is neither. It brings to mind Helmut Newton’s iconic shots of Le Smoking, which move beyond mere cross-dressing and suggest an erotic synthesis of both masculine and feminine archetypes.

But wait. This mysterious creature is next seen out and about pushing a pram in the company of another glamorous androgyne. The first Mrs Bowie is sporting high boots, proto-Ziggy hair and a teddy-fur jacket. Hard to tell at a glance which of this couple of kooks is the mother of the child and which the father.

Incidentally, the teddy-fur is the very same one worn by Bowie in the picture on the front of the album, leaving one wondering whether Ziggy Stardust wasn’t first conceived when Bowie randomly plundered his wife’s closet.


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