Book: The Fashion Chronicles

A couple of weeks ago I decided to treat myself to Amber Butchart’s new book, The Fashion Chronicles. I really enjoyed her series recreating outfits from paintings and I would like to know more about the history of fashion (which will help with my Hundred Years Wardrobe project).

This is the perfect book for dipping in and out of, reading one or two sections at a time. The book takes you through ‘the style stories of history’s best dressed’, starting with Eve and going right through history to Beyonce.

I can remember doing a project on Egypt and specifically Tutankhamun at primary school, so it’s cool that he’s in the book.

And one of the outfits they recreated on the series – this was was particularly amazing I think.

And here’s another outfit from the series, with ALL THE BUTTONS.

I guess no book on the history of style and fashion would be complete without mentioning Marie Antoinette….

….or Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

I also remember a segment on one of the episodes of the Sewing Bee on Beau Brummell and how he essentially invented the style of jacket he’s wearing and the idea of the dandy. (This is to the best of my recollection from probably years ago so forgive me if I’m wrong, I haven’t read his chapter of this book yet)

I love, love, love William Morris’s designs.

I like how Butchart has included some people who are influential for a specific garment, like Jules Léotard.

I’ve always loved Oscar Wilde so I’m thrilled that he has made it into the book. Also I’ve just realised that so far most of the people I’ve picked out of the book are men – before I looked through the book I assumed it would be mostly women, but it is a good mixture.

I love that she has included women who transgressed gender norms, both on the stage as Vesta Tilley, above, did or in their every day lives like Radclyffe Hall. I might have to recreate a Radclyffe Hall-style outfit for my 1920s Hundred Years Wardrobe project.

And it would be great to recreate my namesake Amelia Earhart’s outfit for the 1930s. She looks so effortlessly cool – and was, obviously, a complete trailblazer.

I didn’t manage to make it to the V & A to go to the recent Frida Kahlo exhibition, but it’s undeniable that her clothes and the way she presented herself, both in her art and in person, are an integral part of her identity – and the reason people are drawn to her.

I have a deep love for Liberace’s flamboyant style – I had one of those pop out outfit books for some of Liberace’s iconic looks which you could dress him in – it was as amazing and weird as I think you must be imagining!

I still kind of want to recreate this outfit of Bowie’s.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who really fancies Prince, especially in the 80s. I’m sure I also wasn’t the only one who was gutted and shocked when he died 2 years ago.

Who doesn’t love Drag Race!? It’s interesting to look a RuPaul’s style evolution from the 80s to now.

I love that Butchart writes about men and women, through multiple centuries and from all around the world – I definitely think I’ll learn a lot about all different kinds of fashion and style once I’ve read the whole book.

Have you got this book? Are you tempted to get it if not?

Style Crush: Kerry Washington

Last month I decided to start watching Scandal, which is all on Amazon Prime, to see what all the fuss was about, and because I love Joshua Malina on The West Wing Weekly podcast. I can’t decide if Scandal is good or not – it feels like a soap with a bigger budget, which is fine but not what I thought it was. Anyway I’ve decided I’m a bit in love with Kerry Washington. She is so so beautiful! And I love her style, so I thought I would share some of my favourite looks with you, in no particular order.

I really love the simplicity of the silhouette of this dress, coupled with the graduating colour of the sequins. If I had an exciting party to go to, I might make a copy of this!


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This dress looks like a pretty good idea for this hot Summer weather we’re having. It’s a bit Halston to me, and coupled with her more natural hair, it looks really effortless.

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This is another of my absolute favourite looks – I know she was styled for Elle magazine here, so they’re not necessarily her clothes, but I really want to copy this outfit. I love the proportions and the colour, and the tunic/dress could be worn on its own, which would give you a 60s vibe. I also really want to get a pair of those shoes!


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I like the silhouette of this outfit and the use of the reverse of the fabric on the top compared to the dress underneath.


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You know how much I like yellow. Nuff said!


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She seems to be so good at choosing simple but chic outfits for the red carpet, and this Lanvin (I think) dress is no different. The fit is so impeccable and I love the bow detail on the shoulder.


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I really love the bedazzled lips, matchsticks and jewels on this blush pink colour.


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This pink is perfect on her and I really love the panelling on the skirt. More inspiration to copy for next year’s Dressmaker’s Ball?


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This might be my absolute favourite look I’ve found.  It definitely has a 70s vibe, especially with the clogs and I love her hair here. Definitely inspiration for a cute denim Summer dress, and I love how the topstitching adds an extra layer of detail.


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More sequined dress inspiration! I love the neckline and shoulders on this. I reckon I could recreate it using the Tilly and the Buttons Martha Dress, which I have but haven’t made yet.


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Not sure about the 60s beehive but I love the dress – the fabric having the squares pattern on makes it more interesting.

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I love how she wears maybe more grown up looks and then younger looks like this dress, which is definitely made cooler with the booties and the loose up-do.


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And I couldn’t resist sharing this look – I love the sculptural style of the dress and how the white patches look almost like a lapel. And I love the blunt hair with the straight lines of the dress.


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Have you watched Scandal? Do you love Kerry Washington as much as I do?

 

 

Fashioned From Nature Exhibition

A couple of weekends ago I went to the Fashioned From Nature exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s on until January next year and if you are able to, I would really recommend you try to make it to see it. It’s in the same place as the Balenciaga exhibition but for some reason I thought it would be smaller, but I was really amazed at the scaled of the exhibits and the accompanying information. I think we took longer to look around this one than the Balenciaga one!

Fair warning, this post is very photo-heavy!

The first half of the exhibition was a little depressing if I’m honest – it was about how we have exploited the world throughout history to make clothes. The first dress had a whole map and explanation about where all the different components came from.

There was a section and garments relating to each thing used to make clothes which came from/comes from animals, like silk.

This lace was truly a wonder to behold, given that it was all made by hand – some of it by bobbins and some of it with needles!

I’ve always kind of liked whales, I think since I did a project on them for a Brownie or Guide badge so it makes me sad that they were used in clothing and accessories, as much as I can admire the carving of this walking stick.

I love how the x-ray of this corset shows the whalebone inside.

Even hats had whalebone in, to keep their shape.

The things made of fur were also a bit sad. It’s a tricky thing because it makes sense that in the past people didn’t have synthetic alternatives (which come with other problems) to enable them to keep warm, but of course suddenly killing lots of the same animal means there will eventually be a lot fewer of them.

Wool seems like one of the less evil things we’ve made clothes from – at least the sheep is still alive once it’s been sheared.

It’s amazing that these colours have lasted as long as they have, given that the book is over 200 years old!

I couldn’t believe how tiny the coat on the left was! I can only assume it was for a teenage girl.

Cotton obviously has been responsible for a lot of evils in the past, but it must be one of the most used fibres ever for clothes.

Cotton opened up a whole load of possibilities of colours, and designs.

I love how even in the 1780s people refashioned clothes to make them last longer or make them more up to date with the changing fashions.

These hand made buttons were teeny tiny – I don’t even know how someone would make them!


I love the combination of patterns on this dress – there are 2 different designs of flowers on the different parts of the dress.

I think I found the feathers possibly the most upsetting because there were multiple things with whole dead birds on, which is just creepy – I don’t know how it was ever fashionable to wear a whole dead bird as earrings or on a hat.

I love this photo of a group of men protesting against the killing of so many egrets for fashion. Not to stereotype, but they don’t look like a group of radical protesters!

Also I found out that ‘mad as a hatter’ as a phrase came from the fact that milliners used mercury and actually went a bit mad.

With the advent of synthetic dyes, a whole new world of possibilities opened up in terms of colours, but then, as now, the impact on the people and the environment was less than perfect.

I loved this diagram of how the below dress was assembled.

A slightly nicer part of the exhibition was the part about how the Victorians got all into nature and so painted/embroidered images of the natural world on their clothes.

I’m sure it was on an episode of No Such Thing As A Fish (a brilliant podcast) where they talked about the Victorians’ obsession with ferns, and that was definitely in evidence in the clothing in the exhibition.

These are silk flowers!

 

I like how even in the past, people experimented with using unusual fibres to make clothes, like this dress made from pineapples.

This dress, rather creepily, is decorated with beetle shells.

One thing I didn’t really consider as coming from animals was mother of pearl, but of course it comes from the inside of shells.

All of the below things are made from spun glass, which somehow was woven into fabric. I don’t know how strong it is, but it’s pretty impressive!

The second part of the exhibition (upstairs) was much more hopeful that the first half – it was all about new developments in sustainability and designers looking for better ways of making still beautiful garments.

This dress was one of my favourites in the whole exhibition. It’s made from strips of cellulose acetate stitched into silk and decorated with artificial pearls. And it’s from 1936! It looks like it was made last year!


This dress from 1920s Paris is made from Bemberg silk, which is made from cellulose.

This 1980s dress is designed to stretch over people of any size, which means the manufacturer doesn’t have to make multiple sizes, which means less waste from the sizes which remain unsold.

I love this ‘suitcase’ made from a suit – I should have had this idea during The Refashioners! I like how they’ve retained the look of the original sleeve and pockets.

This dress was stunning – it looked like a leopard skin draped on the front of it, but it’s all made from beads!

I love that the depiction of nature is still a thing that is done now.

I love the underwater scene on this Zac Posen gown.

 

Since I found the real feather so creepy, I really liked the simplicity of the fake feathers on this dress.

I was very excited to see No Patterns Needed and a shout out to the growing group of people who make their own clothes.

I’m not totally sold on this look but I can see the merit of the idea of using parts of crochet that no-one wanted to create a new garment.

Apparently John Malkovich is a fashion designer, who uses flax as his preferred fibre, as it uses less water than other fabrics.

I was quite excited to see this outfit that Emma Watson wore to the Met Gala a couple of years ago as you will already know I love her style. And I remember her wearing this outfit, which is made from 3 different components so she could wear them again in different outfits. The fabric was also made from recycled materials – I like how she uses her very high profile to shout about sustainability and to support movements like the Green Carpet Challenge.

I found it really interesting to see that the stitching on the ties was white and not black. It was quite difficult to see how the outfit was assembled as it was a little dark.

I enjoyed the exhibition so much I treated myself to the book, which I will get around to reading (and maybe reviewing) at some point in the future, when I magically have loads of spare time!

This exhibition really inspired me, along with the Love To Sew Podcast episodes on sustainability to be more mindful about my consumption of fabric and the kinds of fibres I use. I always look in charity shops for fabric but they never seem to have anything good, but I’ll keep looking. I also want to try to buy fabrics that are a bit less evil for the environment and the people who live where they are produced.

Do you think you’ll make it to the exhibition?

 

 

Book: Balenciaga – Shaping Fashion

After I loved the Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A, I had to fight not to buy myself the book of the exhibition as I didn’t really NEED to carry it home from London! And then I was very fortunate to receive a copy for my birthday from The Boyfriend’s parents. And it’s definitely a good reminder of all the amazing clothes in the exhibition.

I would definitely recommend going to see the exhibition if you’re able to – it closes on February 18th. But if you can’t make it, then I would definitely recommend the book. I haven’t had a chance to read much of the words yet, but even having it for the pictures, it would still be worth it!

My mind is still blown by this beading!

I’m not entirely sure I knew what Balenciaga looked like until I looked through this book!

Kind of tempted to try to recreate this coat, for the lols!

In my whole life I don’t think I would ever get this good at embroidery!

I think I love this hat?!

This coat was in the exhibition – the engineering of it still amazes me. There are ribbons on the inside to hold everything together, but it looks so effortless it looks like it’s just draped on the model.

I LOVE this coat. Another recreation to add to the list….

This beading is mind-blowing.

This is a page of swatches of different fabrics and colours from 1967 – a sheet like this was made for each season to easily keep track of what was what and which model was wearing each outfit.

Although I love Balenciaga’s more out-there designs, I also love his more wearable pieces, like this tweed suit. I love the shape of the collar.

The House of Balenciaga had a ginormous building in Paris, which was featured in French Vogue when they included maps of all the big couture houses.

I really love this coat – it’s made of mohair and was described by British Vogue as ‘almost the equivalent of bubble bath in froth’. I would love to know what colour it is – unless it’s creamy white like the froth?

You can definitely see Balenciaga’s Spanish roots in this dress on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar.

This dress is really pretty and was a commission for a specific client.

And I find it even more amazing when you see what’s going on underneath the seemingly simple silhouette on the outside – there’s a whole corset and underwear inside the dress to give the wearer support.

Let’s not forget Balenciaga designed cabin crew uniforms, for Air France.

This is a semi-circular coat with rows and rows and rows of flounced lace attached to a net lining, over satin trousers. I don’t think it would seem weird for someone like Tilda Swinton to wear this on the red carpet now, and it was made in 1960!

This pink dress is possibly my favourite (or one of my 2 favourites) of Balenciaga’s designs. And, again, I love it more knowing what’s going on underneath the simple silhouette.

And finally I couldn’t not include this amazing feathered dress, which was designed by Givenchy, who was a pupil of Balenciaga and shared his high standards in textiles and construction. Again, this was made in 1968 but still looks so modern.

Did you manage to see the exhibition or are you going in the last couple of weeks? Do you have any favourite designers or books you love looking through for inspiration?

 

 

Book: Edith Head

I was very lucky to receive this book from The Boyfriend for my birthday this year. I didn’t even know I wanted it until I got it. He had to pop to work for a couple of hours in the morning on my birthday so I spent a happy hour or so looking through this delectable book!

Edith Head was an American costume designer who won 8 (8!) Academy Awards for her work. She designed for so many famous films, including Sweet Charity, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Vertigo, To Catch and Thief, White Christmas, Sunset Boulevard, and countless others – just look at her page on IMDB! One of the things I really love about this book is how we see the sketches for the clothes and the actual clothes. I wish I could sketch like that!

Edith Head’s iconic image includes these dark glasses – apparently they were so she could tell what the fabrics would look like in black and white.

I love this photo of Edith as a young girl – shes’s on the far right. It shows clearly the fact that she was born in 1897! Amazing considering how many iconic films she costumed throughout the 20th century.

She was clearly a fan of the bob throughout her life – and why not!? If you find a style you like, you may as well stick to it!


She designed quite a lot of costumes for Mae West, and I had to share this quote.

Here is Veronica Lake in a dress that was originally designed for Kay Linaker – Edith would recycle and reuse looks from other films for publicity stills. I can’t imagine this happening now! Apparently Veronica Lake said “excuse me while I put on my other head”. 😀

A very young Bette Davis here, in Beyond the Forest, after she parted ways with Orry-Kelly and Edith started designing for her.

One of my favourite facts from this book is that Head would mock up her costumes on dolls before she would make them full size.

Edith Head designed the iconic brown gown that Bette Davis wears in All About Eve. You can see from the sketch that it was meant to have a square neckline, but I read somewhere online that due to a measuring issue, it ended up being off the shoulder instead.

Although Head was so known so wearing plain clothes, at home she wore loads of bright colours, and she had this amazing house – Casa Ladera.

Edith sort of designed clothes for Audrey Hepburn, though of course a lot of her film (and I think real life) wardrobe was made by Givenchy. It seems like Head would design for the whole film, but then not make the clothes for Hepburn?

I love how this book puts colour sketched next to black and white stills, so you can see what colour the actual clothes are!

Ah Grace Kelly. So beautiful. There’s a great story where Kelly and Head conspired to trick Hitchcock into thinking Kelly was wearing padding in her bra because he didn’t think her boobs were big enough I guess (gross), but Head pretended she’d added padding, while Kelly just stood up as straight as she could and they successfully tricked him! Excellent!

Ah, these sketches are so amazing!

Slightly later in her career Edith designed the costumes for Butch Cassidy – I’ve mostly included this photos because Paul Newman.

One of her biggest hits of the late 60s was Sweet Charity, which is a great musical, featuring the song Hey Big Spender.

The Sting was one of the latest films she ‘designed’ the costumes for, though looking at the quote from Bob Mackie, it seems like it was controversial for her to take credit for it.

I definitely have a bit of a crush on young Robert Redford. And I like how Edith designed clothes for men as well as women.

Katharine Hepburn brought fabric swatches with her to the consultation with Head about her costumes for Rooster Cogburn.

Obviously there are loads and loads more photos in this book – it has 400 pages so I can’t share them all! But I hope I’ve whetted your appetite to want this book for yourself.

I find since I’ve been sewing more and looking at more things that inspire me, the more I look at costumes in films and TV and think how good they are generally. I would be interested in retraining to become a costume designer, but I can’t afford to do another degree – do you have any tips for how to get into it?