Brass monkeys this morning, but the cold held no fears for me in my fab new fleece lined boots. Lots of sellers, lots of Christmas goodies but I failed to buy any Christmas presents. Here’s some of what I did get.


Plenty of reading matter. As if my TBR pile weren’t already spreading to fill the sitting room.
stuff and tales of a car booter )
Steve McQueen and The Beatles made an unlikely connection between two BBC4 programmes I’ve watched this week: Knitting’s Golden Age and Neil Brand’s series Sound of Cinema.

I was disappointed by the knitting programme. The films were good, especially the old black and white shots of women knitting Fair Isle patterns at astonishing speed while herding sheep at the same time. It was the voice over which was the problem; I felt it had a slightly mocking tone throughout which was at odds with the seriousness of the knitters. As for the old patterns, I seem to have most of them! The Beatles appeared because they popularized black polo neck (roll neck, according to the prog.) sweaters which everyone then wanted.


Polo necks were cool, as shown by the fact that cool people wore them, like Steve McQueen in Bullit.


I confess I still think black polo necks are pretty cool, also Cuban heels. Blue, not so much. I couldn’t agree with the programme makers that knitwear went out completely in the 1980s and 90s.


This oversized sweater by Nicole Farhi is from that era, as is this BikBok cardigan.


The Beatles turned up again in Sound of Cinema, illustrating the innovative use of pop music in films; in their case, using their own songs in A Hard Day’s Night (still one of my favourite films) instead of employing a composer. We also had a brief glimpse of Adam Faith in Beat Girl, Yay! I’ve yet to see that film. Then there was Steve McQueen, in his blue polo neck, epitomizing cool to the soundtrack of Bullit. I’m enjoying this film series very much but there should have been a health warning before yesterday’s episode. Viewers of New Tricks this week were warned that it contained ‘upsetting’ scenes. What? It was nothing at all, you see worse things on the news every day of the week. No warning, though, that Sound of Cinema would include scenes from films by Quentin Tarentino. I had to look away; I could never watch anything of his.
Yesterday, Cornflower posted about a visit she made to Liberty in Regent Street. She commented that there was surprisingly little fabric for sale. What a shame! In my youth I made so many dresses from Liberty fabric. Amazingly, I still have two of them (I think the rest must have gone for patchwork). This is Liberty Tana Lawn from the late 1960s:


Here is a later fabric, early 1970s, in a crisp cotton.


Perhaps I hung on to these because of the amount of work in them. Just look at those self-covered buttons and the bias-cut bound button loops! I can hardly believe that when I was working full time and had a very busy social life, I would still spend a weekend making a dress like that one.

I’m sure that in the sixties there was a small outpost of Liberty in Croydon but I’ve scoured the net and can’t find any mention of it. I think it was in Katharine Street. If anyone else remembers it, do tell!
I could hardly believe my eyes when the latest La Redoute catalogue was retrieved from the letter box. (Hint: if you ever buy one thing from La Redoute you’ll be inundated by mail for ever more.)


‘La Redoute are proud to invite iconic French fashion house Courrèges to lead in our new Autumn-Winter collection. Considered ‘futuristic’ in the 60s, Courrèges’s instantly recognizable style – clean, structured lines, strong geometric shapes and splashes of vibrant colour – has timeless appeal …’

I remember all this from first time around, when I was at school! The white boots, mid-calf length in those days, and the little bonnets. I still love the neat little coats but wonder if anyone will adopt the whole look. Only a teenager with legs like sticks could get away with those thick, white tights. Yesterday the latest Boden catalogue arrived. On offer: ‘sixties-inspired’ (dress); ‘a Sixties sensibility’ (skirt); ‘chic, retro’ (collarless short coat); ‘Sixties Funnel Neck’ (jumper); ‘Carnaby dress’; ‘Sixties Heel’ (shoes). I could go on but you can see it all for yourself on the website.


So, who’s up for yet another sixties revival?

Wot, no book reports? I am way behind on these. They’re in my head but it’s so hot where the computer lives and I don’t like writing on the laptop, so they’ll have to wait. I really admire Cornflower and other writers who are maintaining their usual high standards.

The only way to shop at the moment is online or very early in the morning, and I’ve done both. I’ve been looking for ages for a summery bag and then the other day found just the thing in my favourite local independent shop. It’s this one, but blue. ‘Fun, funky and fair trade’ is the company slogan. What I like about this bag is its Tardis-like property; it’s much roomier than it looks. I’ve also been buying at Anthropologie again. When I had an email saying there was a further 20% off sale items, I had another look. I bought a jumper plus a top which I’m wearing right now, and I saved an incredible £115.00 on the original prices, which I would never have paid. Win!

At the market I was pleased to get a nice copy of Clare Balding’s My Animals and other Family for a pound. I’ve been wanting to read it and it has the prettiest endpapers! For a mere 50p I bought The Landscape of Love by Sally Beauman. Pristine copy and when I got it home I found it’s signed. A new author to me; anyone read any of her books?

The plant growers have started selling off stock cheaply. Cosmos are doing brilliantly in the garden this year and I bought a pot of five strong plants. They’re intended to fill an unsightly gap and I’ll probably be planting them at about seven tomorrow morning. As all pots were a pound, I also bought an angel geranium in a large pot, because. Plus the usuals. The fridge now reeks of strawberries and melon, which I’ll probably be living off this weekend.

Why Thailand?

BECAUSE powdery jasmine wreaths, strung in offering, prove that a simple gesture is often the most meaningful. BECAUSE witnessing a procession of marigold-wrapped monks (barefoot, silent, endless) is transcendent. BECAUSE the quietly building fire of soupy curries, tempered by the juicy relief of never-riper, never-sweeter mango, ignites your entirety. BECAUSE the fulsome floral garlands and sun-faded buntings that honour gods and kings remind you that to adorn is human instinct. BECAUSE even the humble alphabet’s curly-curvy characters seem outlandishly glamorous. BECAUSE crumbled ruins and gleaming temples stand side-by-side, neither claiming more gravity, trading moments ethereal and down-to-earth. BECAUSE breezes are weighed down by coriander, galangal and kaffir lime. BECAUSE green-crowned palms and spindly bamboo tiptoe to brush the sky. BECAUSE the earth yields greener and lusher and newer here than any place other. BECAUSE the warmth is cultural as well as climatalogical. BECAUSE at dawn, the sun doesn’t rise so much as slowly sets the day aglow.

This is from an Anthropologie catalogue I received yesterday. ‘ignites your entirety’? ‘tiptoe to reach the sky’? So much of this cries out for the blue pencil. Do you think other people just don’t notice or, heaven help us, think this is good writing? It didn’t stop me being tempted by something I saw on their online site yesterday (until I clocked ‘hand wash’) but perlease, don’t send me this rubbish.


Jan. 5th, 2012 10:30 am
I don’t do much clothes shopping but I have spoiled myself a little in the current sales. These are definitely my star buy.

I want to wear them all the time!

My resolution for the rest of January should be: don’t spend any more money. Unfortunately, Kindle’s daily 99p deals will be the ruin of me. Books I actually want to read, for less than you’d pay for a second hand paperback in a charity shop these days.
another photo )
Yesterday evening I watched Turn Back Time, the first time I’d watched any episode all the way through. (I can’t stand Greg Wallace and all that phoney ‘this is very serious and important’ stuff he does with dramatic pauses for no drama at all.) I’m surprised to see that the series is being plugged as genuine history rather than reality TV. Try BBC 4, Dahlings.
Anyway, last night's The High Street reached the seventies and for me the most interesting thing about it was to see Lee Bender appear. Lee Bender of Bus Stop! Absolutely iconic. I still have a Bus Stop dress, which has somehow escaped all my clothing purges and here it is.

detail )
News today that St Aidan's Church of England High School in Harrogate has banned skirts because girls are ‘putting themselves at risk’ by wearing them too short.

On the one hand, my hackles rise at the suggestion that by dressing in a particular way women and girls are 'asking to be raped'. On the other I remember an occasion when I was walking along with my then very young daughter, who was wearing short shorts. I had that sudden creepy feeling of being watched; looking around I saw a lorry driver sitting in his cab, staring. To my horror, it was my little girl he was looking at. I walked on with a calm demeanour and a racing heart.

Mini skirts came in when I was a gel at school. One day, our Head Girl came into the prefects' common room and collapsed in a fit of giggles. She had been summoned to the Headmistress's study and then immediately instructed to kneel down. This surprised her somewhat. Our revered (not) head then produced a tape measure and measured what she considered a decent distance from knee to skirt hem and the edict went forth. We, of course, found this killingly funny. For us, short skirts were nothing to do with sexiness or empowerment (whatever rubbish people may say now about the sixties) and everything to do with fashion. No matter what your legs were like, a long skirt marked you out as a frump.

So is this school right or wrong in imposing its skirt ban? I can't decide so here's the song.

A lot of my favourite clothes have come from charity shops, courtesy of people who are better off and better shoppers than I am. Recently though, going round the shops, I’ve found the clothes on offer look as if they should be in a jumble sale and have walked out with my nose in the air. Perhaps this is because in the UK last year charitable giving was down 10% and donations to Oxfam were down 15%.

Buying really cheap clothes in this way (thrifting, as Americans call it) can help you dress more creatively. I’ve been checking out some of the many style blogs. They’re rather fun and are produced by women (and some men) of all shapes and sizes who say, ‘Hello world! This is what I’m wearing today and I look gorgeous!’ I prefer the ones which show a daily outfit; it’s just like dressing paper dolls. Already Pretty is a little too instructional for me but obviously produced by a Nice Person. You won’t see me in bondage belts and swear rings but I love Fashion for Nerds. Isn’t she cute?

So, as part of a new leaf for a new year, why not give some decent clothes away? Then we can all start clothes swapping again.

Last post it was The Good Life, now it’s back to the seventies again with Golden Hands. Turning out my cupboards and throwing away the contents, I’ve hung on to my copies of Golden Hands magazine as they are so evocative of their period. The nice lady who runs our new wool shop has named it ‘Golden Hands’ in homage. [ profile] huskyteer wanted a tank top and where better to turn?

You should see the crocheted bikinis.

The weight of yarn recommended for this pattern is no longer available so with advice from the shop I used Stylecraft Life DK.

The wearer specified ‘not tight’ so the finished article looks less like a tank top than a sleeveless pullover. Whatever, it should be nice and cosy.

You know you want one!

I’ve been making more use of my local library lately. It’s very small and Dorset’s library resources are so limited that books are passed around between branches. I will quite often ask for a book and be told, ‘We did have it, but it’s gone somewhere else now’. You people living in London, Oxford or Cambridge don’t know how lucky you are. I only mention this because the copy of The Clothes on Their Backs which I’ve just read came from Weymouth. It has a special sticker inside saying, ‘Man Booker 2008’; obviously purchased so that we culture starved provincials can keep up. Even so, I was only the second person to borrow this (not so cultured in Dorset, then?) so it was like reading a lovely new book.

I loved this book from page one. Vivien is the child of immigrant parents, people so timidly fearful of authority that they have stayed in the flat found for them on their arrival by the WRVS in ‘a twenty five year hibernation’. They tell Vivien nothing about their background; it’s a while before she realises she is Jewish. Vivien only learns the truth from her ‘evil’ uncle Sándor, a character based on the notorious slum landlord, Rachman. ‘I felt that everything had happened already, that we living ones were just shadows of the real events, weak outlines cast down the decades.’

Clothes are central to the book, the power of clothes to define and transform a person. The second-hand beiges of Vivien’s parents; her own progression from vintage chic through punk until she ‘started to dress like a woman approaching thirty’; Uncle Sándor’s love of the flash suit and the expensive jewellery; his elegant girlfriend. Set mostly in 1970s London, this is a rite of passage book with a difference.
How much do I like Bob Dylan?
Read more... )



January 2017



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