Plain Jane? Non...

I've never been big on the idea of style icons as people anyone would want to look exactly like. 'Channelling' someone seems a vaguely weird idea, not to mention necrophiliac the way the magazines use it, because the idea of wearing a few items of expensive clothing or handbaggery according to the instructions in some magazine, the operative word here being instructions, just so I can look like another girl (or a dead woman, no matter how beautiful) from top to toe, is something I find irritating to the core of my soul. 'Wear X with Y to copy Starlet A's look!' 'Wear bangles to channel B's look at the premiere of X movie!' 'Wear this knock-off to score C's look at a tenth the price!' .........zzzzzzzzzzzzz....... ad infinitum. Or maybe it's not the idea that annoys me so much as the tone of the suggestions. There have been times, often enough, when I've finished watching a movie or found the hair ornaments of a person in a painting particularly worth looking at and hunted out some wearable or other that reminded me of it - and proceeded (with more freedom since moving away from home for college, thank god) to make it past the door of my room and out into the wide world with it on. I like to find my own inspirations, thank you very much, even if the fact of it isn't apparent to anyone but me- and the tone of the magazine recommendations, especially celebrity-based ones, is more often than not a bit insulting, or maybe it's just oversensitive me who thinks so. It's just that I have strong views on the subject, and copycatting someone else's look is hardly ever conducive to people developing style philosophies, if I may call them that, of their own. It just leads to the mentality that says "partywear= a little black dress, appropriate jewellery and strappy shoes, and how on earth can you ditch the jewellery and wear sneakers? My dear, you're so different"- which I'm not really, it's just that sometimes early ignorance of fashion and rebellion against a mother who believes neatly brushed hair is the most important thing about a girl's appearance, combined with a tendency to hang on to inexplicably beloved wearables like a terrier to a dead rat (apparently this manifested itself early on. My mum has stories of my toddler self wearing certain frocks till they fell to rags, and once she went to the drastic level of hiding one of my dresses that she'd gotten sick of seeing in the neighbour's house- only to be greeted with the sight of me, one week later, returning from aforesaid neighbour's house with the dress in hand, strongly convinced that Padma aunty had stolen it) make a combination that it probably takes a little looking at to get used to. And I do have moments of hey that looks cool let's try it, but the triggers for that are hardly ever the perfect pretty prettiness that Mum (and possibly a hypothetical magazine editor) think I should be by polishing up a bit. But the trouble with polishing is, it always rubs me the wrong way and is bound to hurt (a particularly painful episode last year involving high heels and hairpins comes to mind, and is unlikely to fade from memory- mine- anytime soon). So maybe the things I like about the looks of the people who inspire me, don't have as much to do with actual looks or bits of clothing, as they have to do with the way those things get carried off. A quality, if you will, that I wouldn't mind having. Till then, I'll just keep my beloved written-on jeans and weird hair, and find a way of being ok with looking like myself. Which, sometimes, I think I am.

PS: The lady in the picture is Jane Birkin, 60s actress and my original poster girl for How To Carry Off A Fringe Without Having It Eat Your Face (extreme beauty and simultaneous insouciance are a huge help), and mostly it's up there because posts without pictures feel funny.



I know everyone loves to slag off Kate Moss (too skinny, too ubiquitous, entirely unwholesome, blah blah) but these photographs are well worth having a look at in the first place, mainly because it's almost entirely thanks to images like these that fashion found its way out of the 80s look in the first place (unlike most young people these days, I think the decade in which I was born was fairly hideous, fashion-wise, and neon reminds me of the highlighters and Post-Its we use at examtime- the connotations are still more Nerd than New Rave for me). Fashion in the Noughties hasn't really been a massive shift away from the 90s, or even if it is it's so gradual that I don't know it's happening, so maybe it's difficult to get just how huge the impact of these pictures (taken from The Face, 1990) was in their time. What I know they did do for us was shake up the very notions of just what 'beautiful' meant, and Kate Moss, then fifteen years old, was only half of what triggered that change. The other half was a woman named Corinne Day, who was the photographer for the shoot, 25 years old at the time and quite given to wearing what were, at the time, odd combinations (a sweater under a slipdress, with canvas sneakers, everything slouchy and louche and a bit well, not 80s at all), and preferred things to look un-posed, natural, and a bit like what they actually were- dirty walls, dark circles, cigarette butts and all. Even without Photoshop, the images of the late 80s and early 90s were all high glam, high gloss and a little disconcerting that way, or maybe I'm just saying that because I see them as anachronisms today. To people who saw them as the standard, Corinne Day's work was much more disconcerting because it was made up of all that a normal brain of the time thought of as not presentable. And somehow I can't help appreciating it, it sounds terribly pseudo but it has to be said- for all the flak that fashion gets (and that Corinne and Kate both got later in the decade) for pushing women to think badly of their bodies, it can be amazing to know someone sees the ugly things as beautiful. I have a feeling Toulouse-Lautrec and Co. would have liked her.

Twirly Twirl

Pardon my swearing, but it's bloody hot. And maybe it's causing a neuron short circuit, since all I can think about is what a perfect little possession the object on the left would make. Perfect to do anything in, whether it's going flapping around the chimneypots (question: do we even have chimneys in India, in places that are not hill stations?) à la Mary Poppins, or perhaps even what my frazzled brain is urging me to- buy an utterly useless little bit of frivolity, open it out and go trotting down Brigade Road singing Yellow Submarine to myself. With a twirl to the handle, of course. Never mind that all the foot-stamping in the world isn't going to get me this piece of prettiness all for my very own, but I do hope the girl who's got it (because the world can't be so dumb as to leave whimsical beauty like this lying unclaimed on a shelf somewhere) appreciates it.


Spotty and Dotty

Poor Dad...twenty years of trying to educate me into developing an appreciation of art and culture and all that happens is that I develop an obsession with polka dots and pinch all his art books that have so much as a mention of Seurat, to serve as potential inspiration for something or other.

Lovely Lily

I love girls who look like they have fun with and in whatever they've got on. Oh, and like me, Miss Allen doesn't seem to be much of a jeans person either (jeans are the single most aesthetically punishing sartorial invention of the last two centuries. Especially if you have body fat). Now to find a pretty poofy-skirted dress and put my old college sweatshirt over that....
I might be biased because I like her music, but she still looks pretty bloody good.


Points To Ponder

It's tough to figure out just how to begin this, but despite the fact that I am a bit of a fashion junkie and happily finicky about the way some things look, the same finickiness doesn't seem to apply to my personal appearance. Skincare, haircare and occasionally even depilation are things that life as a law student just doesn't leave me any time to deal with. And reading a May 1998 issue of Vogue UK threw up a rather interesting article on Parisian girls and their dressup fundas (sample one: you wear grey underwear, your man goes and has an affair), which seem to consist largely of being as finished and polished and, well, sexy as possible. 1998 said tightsless miniskirts in winter were a good thing, quirkiness and cutting-edge were not. Fashion judgementalism seemed, according to the writer, to be the order of the day-girls who looked out of the mold got the dirty eye from women on the street, and if what Susie Bubble says is correct, it persists to this day despite ample evidence of a growing tribe of oddities as captured by the Facehunter and others.
It was a nice article, but it just left me feeling a bit funny. I like Parisian style, and the way everyone just seems so, well, cool, but I honestly don't know how comfortable I would be dressing like one. I like the odd and the weird and sometimes even the flat-out ugly as things to wear, and the idea of trussing myself up in a miniskirt (no way- the old legs are just not up to it) or wearing stilettoes all the time and generally being comme il faut is just not something I'm comfortable with, even though I wish I were- post-teenage body image issues maybe? And it isn't the sexiness of it all that bothers me, but the fact that everyone is supposed to look a certain way- I don't mean to knock Paris and this is a bit of a whine about clothes-fanaticism anywhere in the world, but half the fun of fashion lies in the idea that it's yours to do what you like with. Which I'm sure they do, but I know I'd find it tough stepping out in my scuffy old boots and written-on jeans if I knew everyone was making snide remarks about me for it. And I'm a scruffiness-oriented sort of child, not to mention really uncomfortable with 'dressing sexy', it just doesn't agree with me. I mean, dressing one way is all very well, and I'm a slave to aesthetics as much as the next girl, but the fact remains, if I am five different girls in a day (inside my head) then at least two of them are going to be people who don't like to look perfect. I'd feel a fraud if I dressed the way the article recommended, even if it did get me a lot more appreciative stares than I've ever had at any point in my life. The actual me might be uglier and a little the worse for wear, but that being ugly is still a part of me I wouldn't want to jettison entirely. And the only Parisienne, real or fictional, whose style I would willingly adopt would be Amélie Poulain (think about it: cardigans, odd dresses, clumpy shoes and Louise Brooks hair), hardly your average girl from anywhere herself.


Do These Look Cool, Or What?

When I logged in to Style.com to get a look at what'd been happening over at Paris Fashion Week, this was really not what I expected to see at, of all places, Balenciaga. Given that the house is famous for being slightly architectural and very technical at times with its inspirations (metal leggings, remember? Not metallic, metal), the last thing I expected to see coming down the runway was the kind of outfit some dream version of me would be able to wear in some dream version of a college where I possess poise and insouciance in equal and completely appropriate degrees. Quite a far cry from the anchors and riding hats of two seasons ago. But Nicolas Ghesquière, quite aside from being very spiffy (I'd steal his jacket if I could but chances are it'd look ridiculous on me) is also very talented. And as for the sculpture/architecture that I thought was missing, it turned up in full force by the middle of the show. I don't normally want to wear things straight off the runway, but I feel like I must go and hunt out a pair of slim-fitting pants and jacket, also a long-sleeved shirt that lets me show just the right degree of cuff, now....ok, next winter, but it's still cold here so I should be allowed...
I do want to do more than review stuff and whine here, but anyone who's had the patience to get so far down the post will just have to bear with me.

How Can Anyone Fail To Love This

Ladies and gentlemen, Carine Roitfeld. Now if only I could read her magazine instead of staring at most of its issues with my mouth open...
(Pictures from Purple Magazine)

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Fondest of upbeat music and brightly coloured sweets.