Monday, 30 September 2013

And all that Jazz

If you missed its glory on the big screen, Baz Lurhmann's sparkling adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' is soon to be released on dvd; and amongst the hype and excitement leading up to this date, I happened upon a fantastic article debating the accuracy of the films sumptuous costumes.  The article can be found here, on one of my favourite websites Collectors Weekly- if you treasure times gone by and all things antique, vintage or just down right old, this website is for you!

The main argument throughout this piece questions the costume's period accuracy; regarding cut, silhouette and probability during the early 20's- verses creative flexibility on screen. Talking specifically... Cleavage.

If you've yet to catch the film or read the book, I won't give too much away, but the basic jist of the plot goes a bit like this: Looking back on his life, the story is narrated by Nick Carraway, leading us to one very significant summer in 1922, where Nick meets and befriends his mysterious neighbour Gatsby. The name on everyones lips. The ever elusive, legend or myth, party magnate Jay Gatsby. Magnificent parties, glamour and glitz, Nicks life becomes entangled in the awe surrounding Gatsby, and the sticky web of a long lost love affair becomes apparent as the story unfolds. The complex relationship between the characters, the thick plot with a depth of twists and instability develops as the cracks in the perfect elusion appear. I really really enjoyed this film, as a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I felt the complicated struggle and hardship of the roaring 20's, despite the appearance of carefree abandon. And if anyone can grab you from reality and throw you into another world, its Lurhmann. This film is a visual treat. As for the costumes...

As much as I agree with the opinion of historians in the article, with points such as;

 In the 1920s, there was definitely a flat-chested ideal, and it was fashionable to have your clothes fit very loosely and slither around you, which was its own kind of sexiness without showing off the exact lines... Not everybody’s figure would lend itself to the androgynous look,” she continues. “It was an ideal, though, for very young, trendy, fashion-conscious women even to the extent of wearing ties and other masculine details and, of course, the little boy haircuts. It was thought of partly as boyish and androgynous but also as youthful.” Alice Jurow, board secretary and office administrator of the Art Deco Society of California.

"These new styles were an explicit rebellion against the constraining Victorian and Edwardian fashions of previous decades, when women used corsets to push their breasts upward and outward and pinch their waists down into hourglass shapes. The Roaring Twenties party scene viewed the release of women’s bodies from constraining undergarments as wildly sexy.
Dresses featured legs, arms, hips and faces, not cleavage,It meant a woman was no longer bound by convention—she was liberated from the confines of traditional femininity because she could think for herself, dance and drink and smoke and swear, and that is sex appeal.” Jonathan Walford, co-founder of the Fashion History Museum.

You can't question Martin's design process, for The Great Gatsby;

“If you look at the fashion illustrations, as opposed to what actually ended up being made, you will see that the ’20s were all about sex. It was the first time that women basically wore no undergarments and not even a [garter] belt. There were a lot of backless dresses, a lot of deep Vs. And you’re very conscious of the nakedness of people under the clothes... I think what we chose to do was to take that spirit and make sure that the drama was still in the clothes.” 

Of course, historians and fans of that decade will notice the more modern aspects of the designer, Catherine Martin's, costumes, but surely, if you can't embrace the nature and individuality of the characters, the all encompassing environment and decadence of that time and tailor your story to an audience via familiarity and relativity, in the form of film... Then how can one create a complete tale of escapism at its best? I truly believe, from seeing almost all the work from powerhouse couple Lurhmann and Martin, that they do not set out to achieve a historically accurate, stitch for stitch lesson in time- but to tip their hats to the era, to allow the audience recognition of where and when, but to also add their own personal elements, building a place you want to escape to over and over. As seen in other productions from this team, such as Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet. Oh man, I am a sucker for these movies! Just beautiful costumes, each time. Thought out, character based, making exceptional use of fabrics, materials and colours... Catherine Martin delivers every time.

Taking an idea, a time or place or theme, and using this as a creative starting point, to map out your design- but then using this and other inspiring elements, is a highly used method. Not just for costume designs, but this technique of dramatic misdirection, inaccurate but hugely creative image, transcends beyond the format of film, and can be seen in fashion, art and music. As shown below by the insanely over the top but master of haute couture beauty Christian Dior. These are just two shows picked from a lifetime of talent, the first showing a geisha inspired collection from SS 2007 and then a pierrot like collection in AW 2011. This fashion house is still going strong today, thanks to forward thinking and risk taking, allowing the designers to dream big, reaching obscure new horizons. Of course this is not the most realistic of trends, but like it or not, the river runs deep and you and I are no exception to the trickle of couture led fashions. 

When mentioning boundary pushing, limitless artistic daring and the not so everyday fashion... It would be rude of me not to include this little lady... All hail the queen of taking an inspired idea and running with it!! Gaga, you rule!

I hope you read the article, it really is interesting to see the two sides to the argument, oh... And the pictures are lovely too! Please let me know if you have seen The Great Gatsby, or any other 1920's films or if you have a Baz Lurhmann favourite.

To play us out, Lana Del Rey's haunting track from The Great Gatsby 'Young and Beautiful' click me!

All images sourced through

Monday, 23 September 2013

Lavender Lovelies

Getting crafty with some cross stitch! 

A great little book, full of ideas and projects, perfect for the beginner, is Cath Kidston's Stitch! I bought this book when I was on tour with work and in need of some introductory projects to needle point work. Its a lovely book with some really sweet patterns, and I found a great way to develop my cross stitch skills and techniques. I have made several things from here, including the Lavender Hearts and the Stanley Pencil Case. All of the projects leave room for your own creative input but allow easily understandable step by step instructions. I found out recently that this is an updated edition of the book, more compact and travel size friendly, but apparently the free gift with the original publication was more substantial. Perhaps worth checking out before purchase? Either way I would recommend this, as it holds the signature Cath Kidson designs we know and love, with some extra sweet goodies.

//Charlie and I stitching away//

//Working on some pooches//

A really great gift from my schoonmoeder was a collection of Dutch cross stitch butterflies, furthering my addiction with embroidery AND allowing me to study a little of the language at the same time! After completing the stitch work on four butterfly pieces I backed each with a different patterned fabric, edged with lace and filled with lavender. These made the nicest gifts and smell heavenly to boot!

//Getting my 'Dutch on'//

//Really fine stitches//

These little wonders are really enjoyable to make and seem to go down well as gifts, the creative design element really is limitless- you can use any kind of design, colour range or fabrics and fill them with a number of smelly treats! I have a ton of lavender left over so family and friends... Expect the next 6 Christmases to smell like rolling purple fields!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Secret Garden

For some people, this time of year can bring on a case of the 'post holiday blues'. The warm summer sunshine fades from our window sill, days grow shorter and darker, not to mention the immediate drop in temperature. A last minute escape to a hotter climate is more than appealing, but before you max out your plastic seeking far flung destinations in search of a never ending summer, why not embrace the oncoming season and take a trip to one of many places near your own home. Every one must have one or two hidden treasures within easy reach of your own back yard.

One of my personal retreats, a stones throw from home (in England), is Dovedale, the gorgeous walking trail in Derbyshire, settled amongst valleys and landscape wrapped around a winding river. All year round this little beauty offers nature at its best, quiet and tranquil, Dovedale is known for its path to the cutest village Milldale, and of course, the stepping stones across the river Dove.

Walking amongst the skeletal trees, pre Spring in the air, like we did earlier this year, or as the wilted, crisp leaves begin to descend upon the beaten pathway, there really is nothing like it. This place is special to me, memories of weekends and day trips, letting the frosty winter air blow out the cobwebs or lying on the lush green grass in the middle of summer- this wondrous get away location, just an hour from my home. Why look further? 

This time of year holds such beauty all around you, where are your favourite places, have you jumped the stepping stones of Derbyshire or wandered the cobbled streets of the nearby villages? Layer up in your favourite jumper and throw on your trusty Autumnal boots and get out there exploring your local treasures!

Monday, 16 September 2013

A very happy unbirthday to you

Lets be honest for a minute here; one of the best things about birthdays are birthday cakes! Whether its receiving one, blowing out the candles and making a wish then eating the biggest piece without a flicker of guilt (what? Its your birthday!), or making a delicious treat for a loved one, nothing says celebration better than a giant sugar hit.

Being here in Holland means I miss a few birthdays back home in England, and although the birthday celebrations here are anything but small, the ritual of blowing out the candles and stuffing your face is less desired. So, in honour of my big little brother, nan and all the other September babies, this ones for you!

A wonderfully traditional tea time treat, multiple options of flavour combinations, and packs a punch if you stack it high- the elegant Victoria sponge! I made this a while back and boy did it go down well!! My favourite recipe to use for this typically English delight is from the gorgeous Lorraine Pascale, and her book Baking Made Easy. Whether you are a hopeless beginner or seasoned baker, this book delivers mouth watering recipes in a simple and understated way, covering baking bread, pies, tarts and of course, desserts!

Pinny's at the ready, lets bake!

You will need:

200g (7oz) softened butter, plus extra for greasing

200g (7oz) caster sugar

4 eggs

Seeds of half a vanilla pod or two drops of vanilla extract

200g (7oz) plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1-2 tbsp warm water (if required)

For the filling:

5-6 tbsp good strawberry jam

300ml (1/2 pint) double cream

30g (1oz) icing sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Seeds of half a vanilla pod or two drops of vanilla extract

Two 8 inch cake tins, I lined mine with baking parchment and greased with butter
An electric mixer or smokin guns (an hour or two down the gym should do it)

First things first, ovens at 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4

Beat caster sugar and butter together (this is where the 'softened' butter comes in handy), then add the two eggs, vanilla and half the flour and beat together. Add the other two eggs, rest of the flour and baking powder and beat together once more. It should look a little like this:

Divide the mix as equally as you can between the lined and greased tins, smoothing over the tops with the back of a spoon, then pop them in the oven (BOTH on the middle shelf) for 30 minutes. Once they are done, take them out of the oven, and allow to cool completely. Next comes the fun part!!

Its best to do this bit on the plate//serving surface of choice... Its time to get sticky! Place one cake on your plate and spread the jam across the top. It isn't a strict rule that jam comes first over cream... But it sure is easier to layer cream onto jam, than the other way around! Next whip together the icing sugar, cream and vanilla until thick, then cover the jam! Place the final cake on top and sprinkle with icing sugar. 

You can do this as neatly or as 'rustic' as you like, the proof is in the tasting, so pop on your candle and get down to business!

So whether its your birthday or not, its someones birthday somewhere, right?! Like we need any excuse for a giant piece of cake. If you've used this recipe before or know of any other delicious ones to try, drop us a line! 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Flourish of Fascination

Being a 'bits and bobs' hoarder (I don't throw anything away, that piece of string might just be the missing ingredient!), I am always looking for a project in which to use my ample supply of stuff. Upon scrambling around boxes and bags of materials galore, I discovered a little bag of pearly beads... And just like 'that!' an idea for a lovely little project rose to mind.

My scrumptious friends were due to get married but because of my travels and adventures in the flatlands I was going to miss out sharing their special day. So in a wild mixture of stroppy sulkiness that I couldn't go and a flourish of rummaging further, I concocted a beaut of a plan!

Hand crafted from pieces of fabric, netting, felt, and many many beads and sparkles and love; my gift to the bride. A one off, just like the lady herself, bespoke some may say, tailor made for the big day with tiny (something blue) beads dotted throughout.

Although I'm on an important voyage right now, testing the waters for future plans, I can't help but feel bummed that I missed the wedding. However, that is what makes this treasure so special, and has also set a wheel in motion for making more of these fascinators, again each individual and hand made.

So out come the tools and wonders, once buried away- and perhaps a trip or two to the Hellevoet market for some shiny new bits (any excuse)!!

Keep an eye out for more treats like this, and if anyone is interested in ordering a specific piece then please please feel free to get in touch.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Sewing: wish list

September means new beginnings, fresh season and what better way to celebrate the new school year than to kick start some brand new projects!

There is so much inspiration around at the moment, its hard not to get excited about what to make first!!

Allow me to share a few pieces I have my magpie gaze firmly attached on- and today I'm talking skirts:

This beauty of a skirt is from a super sweet haberdashery in Moseley, Birmingham Guthrie and Ghani, a husband and wife company with a love of all things creative. This image is from their 'makers gallery' and has been constructed using the most awesome polka dot cotton canvas, also sold in their store. I love the silhouette of this skirt and its play on the classic pencil skirt, such a cute design can be styled up for evenings or relaxed for a softer day time look.

This scalloped edge, high waisted circle skirt pattern is from unique self taught dress maker Chie Duncan. Her stunning collection of hand made garments include a bridal range, all designed with a feminine and girly edge, with a modern touch. This skirt pattern is available on her blog page, and has a step by step tutorial for construction. 

A hot spot for sewing inspiration is, of course, Pinterest! I have assembled a board dedicated to my findings, regarding items to create! Here are a few on top of the list:

And currently on the sewing table...

The Miette! From Tilly and the Buttons

This skirt is such a great piece to make, you can purchase the pattern in traditional paper form or as a PDF, straight to your screen (and printer!). The site offers A step by step guide, with detailed instructional photographs- so helpful! And Tilly herself is on stand by via email if you get a little muddled. That said, this pattern is great for beginners as it is a fairly straight forward shape requiring no additional fastenings. I have just cut out the fabric for my toile and the pattern and instructions are a dream to follow so far. 

Do you have any projects on the horizon, do you have that 'back to school' feeling? If only Woolies was still around, I could really do with a new pencil case... Note book... Bag... Pens..........