Last week I was invited to the launch of a book about Ascot style. As a sucker for anything to do with high society and/or fashion I obviously jumped at the chance and the tome in question, Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style combines all the best bits of both.
Although the book appealed as soon as I read what it was about, it was the prospect of the launch itself that really excited me. As those who suffer my inanities on Twitter may have spotted, it was held at Heywood Hill – the bookshop synonymous with Nancy Mitford.
While anyone is obviously welcome to shop at Heywood Hill, the concept of snaffling free booze and mingling with Mitfords in such historical surroundings was an opportunity too good to miss. Even more exciting, a friend of my friends works there and showed us piles of secret Nancy leftovers hidden away in the basement while revealing all sorts of scandalous stories. Too much!
Above we see a shelf of Mitford literature including a few first editions that I inhaled greedily, Nancy’s favourite chair which some chump had just broken and which is now destined to a life in the cellar, and the pigeonholes where orders live now, but where secret letters and special packages once got smuggled.
Adding to the excitement was the presence of a genuine living breathing Mitfordonian granddaughter – alas and alack, I missed which one – and, even better, a speech from Stoker Devonshire – or the Duke, as he is also known. My Mitford dreams came true on Tuesday, I can tell you.
The book itself is a treat for anyone interested in fashion in history and is packed full of beautiful images as well as a good deal of commentary from the author, fashion critic James Sherwood. Released to coincide with the 300th year of Royal Ascot it celebrates three centuries of the event, from hats and handbags to royalty and rioting.
A coffee table-sized thing of beauty packed with pictures from Hollywood interpretations of the races to the likes of Luella and Todd Lynn’s involvement with the event. Obviously my favourite parts cover the 1920s and 30s, as seen above in what has to be the most stylish era of racing.
Now I just need to find a book about Henley style and all my upper class fascinations will be covered…
Unfortunately this overpriced treats inevitably end up being extremely covetable, with chumps like me getting excited about the prospect of spending a month’s rent on a pastiche of a plastic bag. The latest novelty bags to be mentally added to my shopping list are the black embossed leather shoppers from Cast of Vices, available to pre-order at Final Episode.
Inspired, obviously, by the carrier bags that you get in American grocery stores, the designs include the classic Thank You and Have a Nice Day options above, as well as the regional favourite, I ❤ NY option.
Really enjoying Picnik’s galactic overlays – let’s hope they keep them even when NASA-mania has calmed down.
Excitingly, I am writing this in the Forum in Sheffield – one of my favourite hangouts for the past… 16 years? Back in the old days it was full of vintage, record stores and head shops – it’s a little more gentrified these days but I was really happy to see that they have got a bustling array of boutiques open again now, after a few years in the wilderness. The shops may come and go, but the bar has always been great and holds universal appeal – everyone I know likes it here because it manages to cater to everyone without compromising on its own ~vibe~. Presently enjoying a pea and chorizo risotto and glass of wine while listening to the Drifters, while students sit outside in the sun and drink pints and groups from work have lunch… etc. etc… it’s an appealing spot for anyone.
Anyway – two new shops have sprung up since I last ventured in to the Forum and I’m pleased to report that I shopped at them both. I will add them to my Sheffield vintage guide soon but here’s a quick update.
An unabashedly feminine boutique selling vintage, nice bits of jewellery and the usual cool postcards and knick-knacks you tend to find. I bought my mysterious orange item here, as well as much more tasteful brown leather belt with snazzy horse buckle. As is seemingly always the way in Sheffield, the vintage is cheap and quality and the staff are brilliant. Swoon. The lovely owner Lottie convinced me to buy said orange item but not in a salesy way – more the kind of enthusiasm you get when you’re shopping with a friend and you get psyched because you find something awesome that you can’t quite believe is so cheap. Lottie also found me and my mum standing outside another shop the next day and advised me on their opening hours to save me hanging around like a goon, which is customer service of the highest order in my eyes.
Find Lottiebel’s Boutique in the Forum, 127-129 Devonshire Street, Sheffield S3 7SB or follow on Twitter here!
Handily located directly opposite Lottiebel’s, Syd and Mallory also offers a wide array of vintage, modern accessories and reconstructed bits – see, chunky knits with studded shoulder pads and cut and paste dresses combining two frocks in one. Syd and Mallory also stocks furniture which ended up being the reason I visited three times in the course of my weekend visit… We ended up, eventually, buying an utterly fabulous gold and mirrored 1930s drinks cabinet for £30 with free delivery!!!!!!!111 I love Sheffield. Syd and Mallory actually occupies (one of) the old site(s) of Freshman’s, so I’m glad to see it being put to good use. Sheffield has always been green for vintage furniture and house accessories, but there’s not been much so central for a long time so I can see myself spending rather a lot of time and money there over the next few months…
Find Syd and Mallory also in the Forum, address as above, or find them on Facebook here!
Having a bit of an orange moment… again. Finally bought a WAH/Models Own nail pen and did a quick desk job – truth be told, my nails were a mess and I had to go out in the evening. I figured a bash at leopard print might save the day and, well, I don’t think it’s too shabby.
Still obsessing over the Whistles Kiki print, which is cheery and sophisticated at the same time – and orange, obv.
Also, a sneak look at something a bit ludicrous that I got in Sheffield. I couldn’t work out if this tiger print denim jacket was hideous and Hot Topic or awesome – but that’s a good combination of doubts to have so I went with it. I need to do a bit of work on it but I feel overall good about it – and the woman in the shop did a sterling job selling it to me.
And, classic, enduring, always-enjoyable orange from René Gruau for Dior.
The latest video from the Swatch and MTV Playground project sees Alex Noble discussing the influence of fashion and music. While the two have obviously always gone hand-in-hand, Alex argues that it’s never been more evident. Interestingly, Alex also mentions that popstars are the new supermodels. It’s a salient point – how many supermodels do we really have these days? Who influences fashion more than the pop stars that dominate Daily Mail TV&Showbiz/ONTD/Heat? While these days it seems that everyone is more aware of fashion than ever, there really aren’t too many models that can rival Cindy Crawford or the goddess Linda Evangelista.
I’m the first to admit that I prefer to see models on the covers of fashion magazines, but that’s not to say there haven’t been some incredible front covers featuring fashionable musical types. Putting pop stars on the cover of your magazine inevitably shifts copies and I guess it also introduces people to publications they may previously not have considered. The influence fashion has on music is enormous, but it’s definitely a two-way relationship.
Anyway, here’s what Alex has to say on the matter and some of my favourite musical magazine covers. Snuck in a Shampoo one, you’ll see.
Last week Twin and I attended the London Retro eyewear launch as a prelude to her birthday bonanza. Neither of us wear specs but both of us like dressing up and acting like goons, especially when there’s a vaguely vintage aspect to it, so going for a play and a swift drink seemed like a good way to get the birthday fun going.
London Retro is a new range of glasses, inspired by a selection of London districts from Soho to Shoreditch. With options for men and women, as well as unisex models, the range pretty much has something for everyone from Buddy Holly-esque geek goggles to John Lennon-ish round frames – and they all come with the option of tinted lenses too, so if you’re not a glasses-wearer and have moved on from the early 00 obsession with clear lenses, you’re still sorted.
My head is enormous so it’s a struggle to find shapes that suit, but the delightful Shoreditch pair (directly above) work wonders on my balloon head.
Just a quick note for those of you that are as in to the 1920s and 30s as myself… BBC 4 is repeating a few programmes from last year’s Glamour’s Golden Age series at the moment and they are really worth watching if you have any interest in history, design, style… life in general?
Here are my picks:
- The Story of Ballets Russes (on the iPlayer and tonight at 23:30
- High Flyers: How Britain Took to the Air (on Thursday at 21:00)
- Art Deco Icons (This is a four-part series which is fucking brill. The Orient Express episode is on iPlayer and the next one – about the amazing Casa Del Rio – is on Tuesday at 19:30)
- The Luxe Experience (on the iPlayer)
- Beautiful and Damned (this is the absolute NUTS and is on Tuesday at 22:00)