Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter Treats

Happy Easter! Here's hoping you've had a great few days! I've taken a bit of a breather from blogging to spend time enjoying the rest that precious public holidays bring, and have had a lovely time spending time with my boyfriend, friends and family.

It's been a time for walking; enjoying the sun on my face and the warmth on my back...for admiring the spring bloom, the dappled sunlight and the lengthening days. 

It's also been a time for eating huge home-made Lemon Meringue Pies in tea-room gardens...

...and for sitting in the garden, feet out-stretched, talking about everything and nothing. Roll on the next public holiday. Oh, wait...that's only four days away!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Sense & Sensibility's 200th Anniversary

2011 marks the milestone 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility, and to help celebrate, I'll be making sure that it's on my reading list for this year. I can honestly never decide which of Jane Austen's novels is my favourite. Like many readers, I find Mansfield Park difficult to get on with (or rather, Fanny Price, the story's heroine), but between the others, I'm always torn. Sense & Sensibility is as beautifully written and observed as any other Austen work, but I confess to holding a really soft spot for Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. I've also long promoted the cause of Colonel Brandon - often sniffed at as Marianne's eventual husband - but really, Willoughby (though dashing) is not to my taste at all...too preening and arrogant by far.

"They sang together."

As well as celebrating Miss Austen with an inaugural reading, I also wanted to celebrate on this blog by sharing a discovery: Irish illustrator Hugh Thomson. During the late nineteenth century, he created a series of beautifully thought out drawings to accompany Jane Austen's works, and an edition of Sense & Sensibility, which feature them can be found, in entirety on Project Gutenberg.

"Listening at the door."

The costumes are late eighteenth century in style, with a heavy dose of Victorian styling, but it's the expressions of the characters that Thomson manages to truly capture, and a wonderful way to mark 200 years of the timeless story of Sense & Sensibility.

All Hugh Thomson images courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Heritage Silhouettes

It was Paris Fashion Week a few weeks ago, and keeping an eye on the press-coverage I came across images from the Alexander McQueen show. Continuing the label following McQueen's death last year, creative direction is now in the hands of Sarah Burton. By utilising quintessential "McQueen shapes" which she called "heritage silhouettes," Burton gave a nod of tribute to the man she had worked beside for over ten years.

Held at La Conciergerie - former prison to many of the French Revolution's eventual victims (including Marie Antoinette), the show was called The Ice Queen and Her Court. It was a visual feast of both pale and dark organzas and bondage-like harnesses and straps. Yet even while Sarah Burton made reference to the shapes that define the McQueen label, she was also dipping into the pool of historical references so often used by herself and McQueen in their design work together. 

Unknown Woman, c.1560, National Portrait Gallery
The stiffly starched ruffs and elaborately detailed necklines of the Elizabethan era have been reimagined in gauzy monochrome...

Queen Elizabeth I, attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, c.1575, National Portrait Gallery.
Ruffs worn above a more open neckline were also popular during the latter part of the sixteenth century, as evidenced by the above portrait of Elizabeth I. It allowed a triangle of smooth, white skin to be shown while still wearing the fashionable ruff and elaborate sleeves. The contrast also served as a perfectly contrasting foil for displaying beautiful jewellery.

For Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter 2011, there are no heavily embroidered fabrics or expensive jewels, but a modern, cleaner version of an age-old fashion trend, complete with slashed, billowing sleeves.

Clean, straight lines and metal studs replace ruffles and pearls to bring Mary Queen of Scots' choker into the twenty-first century.

Francois Clouet, Mary Queen of Scots, c.1565, National Portrait Gallery
I've blogged about this kind of fashion evolution time and again, but it's something that never fails to fascinate. It's always interesting to see a new twist on an age-old style; to see how prevailing ideas about beauty impact on essentially the same idea. In this way, fashion is forever shifting and changing - reinventing itself upon the foundations of old.
Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter 2011 Collection images, courtesy of