All coincidences are intriguing, even if they are not all serendipitous. A few weeks back, Mr Brownwindsor and I went to the NFT to see Annie Hall. I was curious to see it anyway, as a relative newcomer to the world of Woody Allen, but I was also intrigued by the iconic status of Diane Keaton’s androgynous style statements (which, according to the accompanying literature, were entirely her own and perfectly preserved by Allen, against the costume designer’s better judgement.).
I emerged in my seemingly perpetual state of “mixed feelings”. I enjoyed the film, no doubt about it, and I was as entranced by the character and appearance of Annie as much as any others who have seen that film, before and since. But I am a contrary so-and-so (indeed, my middle name is Mary!) and I could not shake the sensation of ennui. I am bored of conventional style icons. I wholeheartedly resent the fact that so many are appropriated by the media, the fashion press and, these days, by the blogging community.
Beautiful as Audrey may have been, as sensuous as Brigitte patently was, as unnervingly cool as Françoise Hardy always will be, I am tipping over into boredom when I look at them now. Even the obscure ones aren’t so obscure any more.
The same goes for Keaton’s Annie Hall style. Barely an Autumn season goes by without several half-witted fashion editors conceiving an ‘Annie Hall’ editorial. Two weeks ago, You Magazine gave the world the least convincing Emma Peel-influenced spread I have ever seen in my life. And I have seen a fair few. I actually laughed, out loud.
Afterwards, we wandered into the South Bank branch of Foyles. As if to prove my point, there I found a book which, frankly, made me want to hate it just from the cover. I cannot even remember the title it was so dull (and I didn’t recognise the author) – something about fashion icons and getting their style. It did not disappoint me. Page upon page giving flimsy advice on how to pull off various looks, each section led by an ‘icon’.
For a Deborah Harry rock chick-look, you will need to wear smudgy eyeliner and tousle your hair. For a Brigitte Bardot bombshell-look, you will need to wear eyeliner and tousle your hair. For a Françoise Hardy yéyé-look you will need to….. Need I continue?
The laugh-out-loud moment came for me when I saw the section containing Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush. How to be a ‘free spirit’. Seriously? If you need to read a book which tells you how to dress, make-up or style your hair like a free spirit, then you really are not one. Defeating. Entire. Object.
Everyone should feel free, especially in personal expression through appearance. People should never feel like they are compelled to stick with one style forever. If you want to change your look every day, good for you. But if you need to read a book which shows pictures of Kate Moss in the ‘free spirit’ section, alongside the genuine article, then there is something seriously wrong with how you are approaching your personal style, and vintage clothing.
For surely the joy of personal style, and the development thereof, is just that. Personal. Learning what works for you, not what works for the women you admire. Those women were not trying to look like someone, they worked hard to find their own image.
I find I pick obscure ‘icons’ for my own purposes. Both deliberately and subconsciously. A smattering of Chrissie from Man About The House here, a dash of Noosha Fox there, a hybrid of Pan’s People and a snifter of Jo Grant. But I don’t look like any of them, and really I just want to look like me. Liz. I would feel repelled if I saw a Youtube tutorial on how to achieve Noosha’s make-up, or Cherry’s enormous hair. I look and learn, or don’t.
I wish all authors the best of luck, but I also wish that they would take the remarkable opportunity they have and do something different with it. Something unique. Something thought-provoking. The kind of waffle I was reading in that book was worthy of a second-rate fashion blogger, not a published author.
I rarely write long posts these days. Partly time, partly energy and partly because I am not always convinced that the world needs yet another person giving their opinion about style. These days, I try to share the quirky, unseen images which so excite me. The thrill of a new-old copy of an obscure magazine; the bizarre, experimental photography, the unusual looking models, the daft adverts for naff clothes which I openly covet, the beauty of illustrations…
So here is my first proper ‘post’ for a while. I hope people can feel proud of their true selves, comfortable in their skin and not behind the mask of someone else.
Incidentally, for an authentic Pan’s People look, you will need to wear smudgy eyeliner and tousle your hair. Oh…
My most recent Lovefilm rental was a film I’ve been dying to see for years: Two for the Road starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. I can safely say that it did not disappoint and I remain baffled as to why it wasn’t more successful at the time, or why it hasn’t been re-evaluated as a classic in the years since. I suppose it is mainly a lack of familiarity; when was the last time it was shown on’t'telly?
One reviewer explained the possible contemporary drawback that Audrey Hepburn was a much more established Hollywood star in 1967, and someone like Albert Finney would have seemed a terrible upstart to have equal billing opposite her. It doesn’t help that his character is a dominant, aggressive, opinionated Alpha male, and she is as delicately beautiful and softly spoken as always. That isn’t to say that her character is a washout, far from it, but in analysing a marriage across its entire lifespan, you will certainly see the worst sides of both parties. And the phrase ‘a bit of an arse’ was created precisely for a man like Mark Wallace.
The rhythm of the film is deliciously undulating and swervy, which is dictated by the fact that it is a road movie and that it switches between several different time periods through its entirety. You see how the couple first meet, how they fall in love, how they survive youthful poverty, pregnancy, the changing fortunes of their lives (and how these, perversely, make them unhappier), their dalliances, how they seem to be falling out of love. In fact, it shows every nuance of a complex relationship in snippy vignettes from several holidays, each involving a long journey across France. You never see their home, but you really don’t notice and certainly don’t need to.
It is also notable for Hepburn’s wardrobe, which is provided by a host of swinging young designers (Foale and Tuffin, Mary Quant, Paco Rabanne, Ken Scott etc…) and perfectly places each time period. You know where you are when her hair is long, and her beatnik jumper is red, or when her hair is perfectly coiffed into a Vidal Sassoon cut and her clothes are mod perfection.
You’ll laugh, if you’re anything like me you’ll cry, and you’ll fall ever more in love with Audrey and Albert. There’s even an early Jacqueline Bisset appearance. Definitely a ‘must see’, in my opinion.