Summer reading: A change is gonna come…three post-modern musicians

Summer holidays gives me precious time to read and learn more about the women who continue to inspire.  This season so far three books have entertained, posed questions and provided joyful new perspectives.  

To start at the beginning, I must recall Patti Smith’s book ‘Just Kids’  I was struck immediately by how much attention to detail Patti gives when writing about her belongings.  Identifying a kindred spirit from a normal working-class background, it is testimony to how she lovingly describes every new addition to her sparse wardrobe.

Patti and Robert (Mapplethorpe) began their relationship with a poetic purchase of a Persian necklace which became the physical symbol of their love for one another.  Patti records her encounters with others so perceptively, understanding their mood or belonging to a particular ‘tribe’ in New York by their garments or the conspicuous absence of them.

Patti’s style of dressing is forensic and fascinatingly linked to her music. Patti’s strong androgynous appearance on her album cover ‘Horses’ is a real see-change in Smith’s self-belief, as being a woman beyond the patriarchal gaze of the music press.

Patti’s writing is a little too indulgent at times but is swiftly tempered by her talent for understanding people in an instant but never judging them on how they look. Patti’s kindness to dysfunctional characters, in contrast to her strong personality makes her writing all the sweeter.  “You’re a pearl…a pearl of a girl” she purrs comfortingly to a distressed Janis Joplin.

Summer reading: Patti Smith, Kim Gordon and Tracey Thorn.

Summer reading: Patti Smith, Kim Gordon and Tracey Thorn.

A very good friend of mine, always in the loop about good music and who is also a great lover of fashion told me about Kim Gordon’s “Girl In A Band”.

The book begins on the last leg of a Sonic Youth tour in South America and introduces the actions that have resulted in the band parting company. Due to a series of complications and interests outside of the band, the unhappiest being Thurston’s secret affair with a fan, Gordon is left to deal with the emotional impact of working together alone.

Gordon courageously finished the tour without making a ‘car-crash’ of herself. She then picks up the story by slowly unraveling the very intelligent, witty and sensitive woman she is.

Much like Patti, Kim takes us on a journey through her childhood and on to the music and artist scenes in New York.  Spoken with a no bullshit West Coast deadpan, Gordon reminds everyone of her credentials as a creative individual and scene-starter beyond her years with Moore and co.

Kim first arrived in NYC in the late 1970s, describing her look as ‘A hodgepodge of thrift-shop styles, boho symbols mixed with conventional ones’. She goes on the confess that in the early days she wore glasses and professes to being ‘uncool’ with ugly face furniture.  A nasty, bullying encounter with tired junkie, Johnny Thunders (The New York Dolls) shouting insults like ‘Four Eyes’ at Kim in a coffee shop, makes Gordon re-evaluate her appearance.

Kim grows in confidence making fewer mistakes in love and work. Meeting many great minds who collaborate on ground-breaking projects, whilst Thurston Moore is still recovering from a hurtful comment made about his trench coat by an art show goer.

Kim eventually meets this man (five years her junior), her soulmate and creative partner until sadly, years later, Thurston becomes a matrimonial cliché.

What strikes me is Kim Gordon’s understanding of the visual and the musical combining to create an experience.  Gordon’s ability to negotiate the choppy waters of the music industry with three male members of a band is no mean feat.

It is arguable that she is the most important member of Sonic Youth, as a square is only a four-sided shape having all its sides. However, It is undeniable that Kim Gordon brought a uniqueness to sound-making and played bass guitar her own way.

Next: A bedsit disco queen gets naked at the Albert Hall!

Next: A bedsit disco queen gets naked at the Albert Hall!

The last memoir and my favorite read of the year so far. Tracey Thorn’s ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’ is a gem of a book and Thorn has all the hallmarks of a truly honest and insightful writer.

Tracey’s story chronicles the life of a suburbanite schoolgirl with prevailing stage fright who somehow managed to, with a lot of lyrical talent, become a singer of songs. Tracey’s disbelief in her raw talent is what makes her so great – not a hint of a show-off.

Getting into bands with haphazard guitar playing, being collared to sing when no-one wanted to do it and bravely doing so from the safety of a wardrobe! Tracey fondly remembers not quite being a punk, her tentative years in two-tone outfits, new wave hairdos and notes her frustrations at what she describes as ‘the limitation of femininity’.  Being an introvert in a extrovert’s wet dream, Tracey recalls tedious treatment and sexist behavior she endured from music journalists who didn’t know how to talk to women.

Starting a successful band ‘The Marine Girls’ with her school friends, Thorn went on to influence countless other fledgling musicians (Kurt Cobain to name but one).  Having her own recording contract at 19, getting a First in English Literature from Hull University and forming Everything But The Girl with Ben Watt were game changers. Throughout the book, Tracey is coherently herself and steers her own course.

Tracey’s look had been important to her personally but she explained that in the 1980s and 1990s ‘Popstars’ on the mildly famous level were never given much flack about the way they dressed.  Tracey acknowledges that one of the reasons she has stage fright (sadly to this day) is wanting to be heard but not seen.  I for one understand where she is coming from.

Tracey Thorn’s ‘Naked at the Albert Hall’ is all about singing and is my current read.

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The power of a makeover…top five vintage transformations!

 

Gone With The Wind – The Green Dress (1939)

A once wealthy, Irish-American, Scarlett 0’Hara takes control of her destiny in the civil war-torn South. Desperate to keep her home and family alive, she tears down inherited lush green velvet curtains and demands that her Mammy make her a new dress.

Scarlett’s plan is to trade on her display of wealth to borrow big money come hell or high water. After getting caught out and receiving a hellish refusal from smooth-talker Rhett Butler, Scarlett opts for high water by marrying her Sister’s beau.

Scarlet plays the part of a cotton plantation princess for the last time...

Vivienne Leigh: nailed the part of the cotton plantation princess…

Cinderella – The Ball Gown (1950)

Orphaned and trapped in a blended family chateau, Cinderella is a downtrodden domestic goddess with only a fleet of animals for comfort.

When a gang of haute couture mice pull together a hot pink number at the last minute all Cinderella’s hopes and dreams are exceeded. Sadly once the jealous freeloading, step-in-hells get an eyeful of the competition, torment and humiliation begins at three to one.

Luckily a magic lady, who likes her provincial food, arrives to fix Cinders up in a way that in real life, only Oprah could budget for.

Not a fan of shabby chic - Fairy Godmother does her magic...

Not a fan of shabby chic – Fairy Godmother does her magic…

Thoroughly Modern Millie – Monochrome Flapper (1967)

In a bustling 1920s New York, new-girl Millie scores a top job as a secretary and becomes determined to get on/find a husband/fall in love.

Wanting to throw off the shackles of her small town beginnings she dives into the parties, dress boutiques and beauty parlours. Adopting a new walk, new bust-line (flat natch) and with much comedy, Millie swans about town in the latest trends.

The character’s monochrome outfit is stunning on Julie Andrews who is a total fox but still skillfully conveys her character’s endearing cluelessness beneath her ‘New Look’.

Making the scene - Millie joins the ranks of 'bright young things' in 20s NYC

Making the scene – Millie steps into the big apple and big trouble…

Grease – Skin-tight trousers (1978)

As an Antipodean newbie, Sandy arrives in the land of freedom and soon has it callously stolen when she enters Rydell High School.

Big-hearted romantic, Sandy falls for an emotionally immature Danny. Her first love hope is dashed when his lily-livered antics lead her to heartbreak. Being the plucky sort Sandra Dee won’t allow sabotage from jealous girls to get in her way. With NBF Frenchie donating her rock chick wardrobe, Sandy snags the one that she wants in time for graduation.

The stand out performance is from Stockard Channing aka Rizzo. Journeying from nasty girl to a bit nicer via her pregnancy scare trauma.

Too cool for school - just as well they're graduating then...

Too cool for school – just as well they’re graduating then…

Pretty In Pink – School Dance Dress (1986)

Smart, chic and perpetually frustrated Andie is a redhead with her own mind. Sadly her family is from the wrong side of the tracks and she is weighed down by brutish ‘Daddy’s money’ brats at her Chicago High School. Friends to artists, freaks and impossible-to-handle crushes, Andie finds herself drawn to a boy who’s family are rich. They struggle to keep the flames of love alive with so much peer pressure. With a bit of kindness and a bespoke disco dress Andie manages to enjoy her youth at last.

Hand-made punk fashion, an independent-spirited soundtrack and near perfect character development, ensure this John Hughes movie is a timeless classic.

 

New wave woman. Molly Ringwald subverts traditionally 'girly' pink to make the boys think...

New wave woman. Molly Ringwald subverts traditionally ‘girly’ pink to make the boys think…

 

Style Me Retro : Lucy Ewing x Kourtney Roy

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Ieva wears Jonathan Saunders and Miu Miu

Ieva wears Jonathan Saunders and Miu Miu

Ieva wears Miu Miu

Ieva wears Miu Miu

Ieva wears Ryan Lo

Ieva wears Ryan Lo

Ieva wears Jenny Packman and Miu Miu

Ieva wears Jenny Packman and Miu Miu

End of a Century…It’s something special

A trip down memory lane, twenty years on here are a few of my favourites…

BlurApril1994

Modern life is goodish – Blur in their formative years

Scottish-Canadian living in Trinidad, Painter Peter Doig nominated for Turner Prize in 1994 ('Ski Jacket' Oil on Canvas @Tate)

Scottish-Canadian living in Trinidad.  The Painter, Peter Doig nominated for The Turner Prize in 1994 (‘Ski Jacket’ Oil on Canvas @Tate)

11 year old Anna Paquin wins Best Supporting Actress at the 1994 Academy Awards.

11 year old Anna Paquin wins Best Supporting Actress at the 1994 Academy Awards.

The 'Waif' who never waivers - Kate in Liza Bruce Silver Slip Dress

The ‘Waif’ who never waivers – Kate in Liza Bruce Silver Slip Dress

Winnie Holzman's character 'Angela' was  sensitively, intelligently played by Claire Danes

Winnie Holzman’s character ‘Angela’, beautifully and sensitively portrayed by Claire Danes

Rare Inspiration…take five British butterflies

Devonshire delight the Heath Fritillary

Devonshire delight, the Heath Fritillary

Scottish style, the Marsh Fritillary

Scottish style, the Marsh Fritillary

Morecambe Bay baby, the High Brown Fritillary

Morecambe Bay baby, the High Brown Fritillary

Gloucestershire glamour, the Large Blue

Gloucestershire glamour, the Large Blue

Cambridgeshire cutie, the Large Copper

Cambridgeshire cutie, the Large Copper

All day, everyday vintage…see my favourites!

Vanessa Dalby is a Vintage Collector/Buyer and one half of Green Brick Vintage

Above and beside the seaside!

Above and beside the seaside!

60s Vintage Thermos Tin Lunchbox

Throughout my childhood I remember seeing this box in a kitchen cupboard.  It would come out if I had a bump or graze because my Mum used it as our home First Aid Box! I was quite a clumsy kid, so the dreamy retro drawings certainly transformed my memories of accidents into a routine opportunity to ponder my future career…Actress? Model? Air Hostess? Nurse?  Perhaps it’s not the most progressive collection of jobs for the girls but I think it’s pretty special. Keeping up with family tradition it’s the First Aid Box in my home!

1960s Thermos tin lunch box

1960s Thermos tin lunch box

Concorde Air Hostess?

Concorde Air Hostess?

Actress, Model, both...

Actress, Model, both…

A dutiful Nurse!

A dutiful Nurse!

70s Interior Finds

There’s something so exciting about finding what you really need for your home at a good price, occasionally a thrill when it’s free.  My iron was given to me and it’s perfect as I steam Green Brick stock but occasionally only a flat iron will do! The lamp is from Lewes Flea Market cost £8 and the small draw table from Snoopers Paradise was £70.

Vintage flat iron, Lewes Flea Market lamp and Snoopers Paradise table

Vintage flat iron, Lewes Flea Market lamp and Snoopers Paradise table

Vintage Designer Jackets from Paris

One of the challenges of buying and selling vintage clothing and accessories is overwhelming temptation to keep what you find.  Whilst I magpie for our stock I do see amazing pieces, unsurprisingly, not all gems make it onto the shop floor! That said I’m very strict about what I keep.  Jackets are a safe bet for my ‘cost per wear rule’ three of my faves are Chloé (80s Karl Lagerfeld) Waterfall Cape Wool, Sonia Rykiel (80s) Black Collarless Cinch Waist Asymmetric Button and Paul & Joe (90s) Monochrome Houndstooth Check Wool.

Chloe, Rykiel and Paul & Joe...

Chloe, Rykiel and Paul & Joe…

Back detail!

Back detail!

Chloe label close up...

Chloe label close up…

Green Brick Vintage is available at FAIR, 21 Queens Road Brighton BN1 3XA,  begining Saturday 22st February

Can-do Attitude – Silver Sisters have it!

A book and now a documentary about fashion coming of age!

London Fashion week is in full swing, reminding me once again that my love of fashion does not always extend to those who consider themselves ‘Fashionable’.

Daphne travels the globe to meet Fashion Designers and the camera loves her!

Daphne travels the globe to meet Fashion Designers and the camera loves her!

In my experience it is those who feel they have the edge (Victoria, Sienna, Harry… I could go on) who are so very far from the mark of what is truly stylish.

Self expression is key. A disposable income plus sycophantic personal stylist is a dangerous combination leading to popularist over-indulgence in ‘the latest trend’ worn with such crippling unconsciousness.

Jean prefers to style herself 'street' instead of 'smart'

Jean prefers to style herself ‘street’ instead of ‘smart’

As expected I received rave reviews from my sister, having sent her a hard-back of copy of ‘Advance Styling’ by Ari Seth Cohen.  This sensational publication is devoted to alternative fashion photography. Ari enthusiastically captures fashion lovers on the street in New York and his working subjects had an average age of 80.

Bridget loves to buy preloved clothes and has a keen eye for colour

Bridget loves to buy preloved clothes and has a keen eye for colour

In the same spirit I enjoyed Ari’s portraits I was thrilled to watch Sue Bourne’s captivating Channel 4 documentary ‘Fabulous Fashionistas’ to see how six octogenarians based in the UK get their fashion fixes. The film shows the women’s positive love of fashion and unapologetic lust for life. This program put a spring in my step this September!

Portrait of a portrait

The first British 'super model' made David Bailey and micro minis acceptable in public

Jean was the first British ‘super model’ made David Bailey and micro minis acceptable in public

'New Girl' Zooey is the collaborates on various writing projects She & Him and Hello Giggles

‘New Girl’ Zooey is an actress, singer and indie LA woman is currently one half of ‘She & Him’

Sindy Goes POP!.. Take three firecrackers

As our favorite girl-next-door celebrates her 50th Birthday in September let’s take a gander at a few of her most fabulous fashion statements…Barbie and Skipper take note!

Early 60s Sindy sports a very fetching matching crop jacket and belted mini

Early 60s Sindy sports a very fetching matching crop jacket and belted micro mini skirt

Late 60s Sindy gets into her teenage swing with psyche acid lemons and flower power outerwear
Late 60s Sindy gets into her teenage swing with psyche acid lemons and flower power outerwear

Late 70s Sindy looks chic and relaxed in a pink flare set and contracting sky blue accessories

Late 70s Sindy looks chic and relaxed in a pink flare set and contracting sky blue accessories

 

Portrait of a portrait

Style is not an invention of the last fifty or so years.  It’s as long as time and as personal as the times would allow.

Less we forget how radical women must have felt not having a corset? We can only imagine how powerful and joyous to granted a choice of one’s own silhouette.

Today’s fashion experts believe that famous ladies look good, many look marvelous, still it’s maybe easier to do with a bottomless pit of free dresses and idiot-proof  mineral make-up? This is industry driven design not stitches of suburban dreams.

Our sisters from the last century had a little more to contend with. Financial subordination, wars, poverty, social unrest, recessions, child-rearing and much less freedom to define their own sense of self.

In the days of the new look, ‘Model girls’ did their own hair and make-up. In order to make money from their blessed DNA they also had to have a stylist’s grasp of grooming.

Moving onto DIY actions of garment gathering, a one time teenage suburbanite, Patricia Smith crossed the East River to find work in the Big Apple.

With a few treasured thrift store pieces in a plaid suitcase, dreaming of Vali Myers she set off into the city. Maintaining various book shop jobs and teaching herself art, Patricia made firm friends with many like-minded men and women.

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Vali Myers – Artist and Revolutionary

Her story continues through all the see-change in 1960s USA and leads into Rock and Roll stardom and international inspiration.  The origins of style are still strong with Patti.

Take a look at ‘Just Kids’ to find out more. Published by Bloomsbury.

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Patti Smith – Artist and Rock N’ Roll Star