Left: Alexander Newman, Right: Electric Fittings
February is roughly the time I feel like I can step out of my boots and into some nice shoes again. Not least because my favourite boots are completely falling to bits right now. *whimper*. I also enjoy taking to the lighter-weight coats and jackets. Spring can’t come quickly enough for me right now…
This advert from 1974 just makes me want the stripy boots, never mind painting my boots just one bright colour. It also always makes me think of the delicious Doug Reynholm’s homemade suit in the last episode of The IT Crowd; a very fine way to occupy the days before a trial.
It’s a funny old world. One of the main reasons the regular Biba relaunches have failed so dismally, each time since 1975, has been the price issue. Barbara Hulanicki, whether you agree with her or not, has always had a firm belief in affordable, fast fashion. £200 for a middling quality dress, as seen in the most recent attempts to reignite the brand, is simply not acceptable in an age of fast, cheap fashion and quirky high-end designers with real personality and bite. To whom are they appealing? I’m afraid I judge people who buy House of Fraser Biba. I just can’t help myself. So there can be little or no cachet to buying that gear, from either Biba geeks or fashion freaks. And the quality isn’t good enough to be seen alongside the likes of Jaegar and Hobbs for the ‘medium’ level appeal.
Biba was cheap, cheerful, young and undeniably cool. Nothing has come close. Primark has the prices, Topshop supposedly has the cool and youth, but none of them have the quality or uniqueness of their oft-copied ancestor. Yes, I said quality. Biba might have had a reputation for badly-made clothes but it simply wasn’t true. It was an assumption, based on the price. And fair enough, it wasn’t couture-quality, but it was no worse than anything being produced by Saint Laurent for his Rive Gauche, Ossie Clark and other British Boutique designers of the era. Certainly a cut above anything being made by many big name designers, these days.
My vintage Bibas are beautifully well-made. They couldn’t have survived forty-odd years otherwise. A seam might have deteriorated here, a small moth-hole appeared there, and perhaps a zip has busted after a particularly raucous night out. But I’ve seen Paris couture from a mere ten years earlier in a far sorrier state than that.
So if shop-floor Bibas are still doing the trick after four decades, can you imagine what a couture Biba must have been like? And if Barbara was baulking at a higher-than-usual price tag for a voluminous jersey dress (which I own) and feared it wouldn’t sell (it sold out), then what on earth was she thinking about offering a coat for 120 guineas?
I had heard vague things about Biba couture over the years, but I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever seen anything like this article before. I do so wish I could see some Biba couture pieces now. The original owners must have remembered they were such, so I would hope that the provenance would be forever attached to the piece as it passed from careful owner to careful owner.
Dreamy. And certainly not hindered by some incredible photos by the legendary Helmut Newton and footwear by The Chelsea Cobbler.
Observer Magazine, 19th January 1969.
Yeah. Because nothing says ‘sexy’ like stained teeth, hands, stinky breath and a distorted lip. Mmmmm.
I particularly love: “Handsome beast, she murmurs. And nuzzles the horse. She doesn’t fool me.”
The one saving grace is his rather natty tweed jacket. Other than that, I’d stick to the horse. It probably has better breath…
Telegraph Magazine, July 7th 1967
Oh dearest readers. I have been laid up in agony for most of the weekend courtesy of a pulled/trapped something-or-other in my shoulder/arm. It’s been a bit hellish at times, two nights in a row I was only able to get four hours sleep and I’m still waking up every two or so hours in almost unbearable pain. Hot water bottles and codeine are my friends right now.
It started out so beautifully though. For M’s birthday, we went to a beautiful hotel in the Sussex countryside. In fact, the same location as last year. I’m hoping it will become an annual tradition because the hotel, grounds and restaurant are completely and utterly divine. Even *I* managed breakfast on both days. And I never do breakfast in hotels.
M is now in possession of a menswear Biba nightshirt/kaftan (I keep saying it makes him look very John Paul Getty. I wish I looked like Talitha.) and a draught-excluder, made by mine own fair hands, *proud of self*, amongst other things. We celebrated by doing quite a lot of walking in the crisp, misty February air, drinking some champagne and, later, a scrum-diddly-umptious beanfeast. With no beans involved. And with a Michelin star.
My hair wasn’t really behaving, as per, and I’m in a bit of a shy mood photographically right now. But here are my YSL shoes (having long-overdue outing), seamed stockings and the hem of my Bus Stop dress.
And here is a [deliberately] blurry photo of the top of the dress. It’s black satin, ridiculously puffed sleeves and an integral choker, which is perfect for a jewellery dunce like me. I always forget to either bring anything or to put it on before leaving, so I’m rather fond of things which prevent me from even needing it.
On the way back, we found a splendiferously old-school charity shop where I picked up some decorated coupes for myself (£1 each). It’s rare enough to find coupes which aren’t Babycham-branded, but decorated non-Babycham coupes have got to be worth picking up!
It has caused me to ponder if judging a book by its cover is really such a bad thing? After all, the point of a cover is to give an impression of the insides, otherwise it’s not doing its job, surely? Musings about appearance and clothes ensue, and I find myself going round in circles. Far more interesting, for me, than London Fashion Week anyway…
Shame on me, I clean forgot about Mensday. But I’m going to make amends (ahaha) for this today. Yes, yes, I know it’s Friday. But it’s also my boyfriend’s birthday and so Mensday is rescheduled in his honour.
I’m also geeking out because look up there ^ – it’s the Annacat blouse I’ve just listed for sale over at Vintage-a-Peel. I only just noticed!
I don’t often do art-related posts, but I realised I had never shared my passion for the work of Gustav Adolf Mossa with you all. A few years ago I was on holiday in Nice and took a trip to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which I would highly recommend if you are ever visiting.
I was enjoying myself, I usually do, but had just been sweetened to death by a roomful of sickly, twee watercolours by someone I can’t remember (why on earth would I?). I swiftly turned a corner, and entered a new room. Everything stopped still. My thought process was something like “these are very beautiful … these are very intricate … I’m going to look closer … oh my word, these are a bit dark … oh wow, these are utterly terrifyingly twisted and even more beautiful for it”. I had entered the world of Gustav Adolf Mossa.
Born in 1883 in Nice, Mossa was the son of Alexis Mossa – an accomplished artist in his own right, and trained at l’École des Arts Décoratifs de Nice. Mossa was inspired by the Symbolist movement, and clearly by the ongoing Art Nouveau style of the time. Until he abandoned his distinctive symbolist style in 1911, in favour of more primitive Flemish-style works, he created some of the most disturbing and intricate paintings I have ever seen.
There’s something rather deliciously twisted about them, possibly the reason he hid them from public view until his death in 1971. They invite study and, as a woman, questions about their subject matter. Are the women in his works femme fatales? Are they figures of evil or is Mossa trying to show their potential strength in his imposing, vampish and often gory depictions. I see them as the work of someone who is captivated, and possibly a little terrified, of them, rather than that of a misogynist (which is something of which he has often been accused).
I’m also not averse to contemplating the fact that many women actually are as dark and demonic as some men portray them. I think we all have it within us, but our fear of our dark side makes us instinctively defensive against male depictions of women in this way. If Mossa had been a woman, would we look upon his work more favourably?
Away from that, they are simply inspirational in their colour, detail and shapes. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before, almost cartoon-like in comparison to many artists of the Belle Epoque but greater in detail than any I’ve seen before or since. I’m not sure I actually want to inhabit the paintings in terms of the situations, but if life could be as beautiful, rich and soulful as a Mossa painting, then I’d be very happy.
…to post about new listings over here. How daft is that? I suppose it’s not bad daft, it just means I have way too much fun posting pretty or weird (or both) pictures and raving about strange things. But this blog’s existence is due, in no small part, to its progenitor Vintage-a-Peel.co.uk. Anyway, there have been a few new listings, the first of 2011 (because I’m slow and have had a lot of dressing work going on too), and there are definitely more to come. I’m slowly prising an Ossie from my grasp, so I’ll let you know when that happens….
Above is a superb playing card printed Miss Mouse satin coat. One of the best things I’ve ever seen!
A wonderful Valentine’s Day trip to the NFT to see François Truffaut’s La Peau Douce has really done nothing constructive to abate my current hair dissatisfaction. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it many times more, I want Françoise Dorléac’s hair. I know she must have had assistance from clever stylists and plenty of extra hair added, it’s a continuity nightmare, but still. I want.