A Tale of Two Wedding Dresses

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Something which I have always been interested in, and that now forms part of my new job (I know, I know will tell you all about that soon enough), are the different ways museums and galleries choose to display exhibits. These two dresses might be the last things you would expect to find in an art gallery, but here they are in Manchester Art Gallery, Mosely Street. The small exhibition illustrates how the designer Vivienne Westwood took inspiration from the 18th Century by showing one of her dresses in a room full of period paintings and of course a dress from 1765. Designers often state times and places of inspiration, yet it is difficult to get inside their mindset without having prior knowledge of what they are quoting. This exhibit lets the viewer envelope themselves in the art work of the time, whilst also having the rare opportunity to compare an 18th C dress with a Westwood design it inspired.
I am particularly interested in peoples history, so was delighted to read that the Westwood dress was in fact the wedding dress of the museum director. How wonderful to see your wedding dress everyday in your place of work, than have it hidden in the back of your closet!

 Raiding History: Vivienne Westwood and the 18th Century

‘..it’s so important to look at the past. Because people did have taste, and they did have ideas of excellence, and those things are not going to come unless people look at the past.’ Vivienne Westwood

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is famous for her re-interpretations of historic dress and textiles. Here we have displayed one of her couture gowns with a dress and portraits from the 1700s to show how the art inspires her.

Wedding dress 2010 designed by Vivienne Westwood (1941-)

Evening gown in printed blue and silver chine silk. The delicate fabric, pastel colours, full skirts and corseting of this gown recall the open and sack back  dresses of the 1700s. Typically of Westwood however, the dress is not a copy or pastiche. The past is combined with her own ideas to create new and original clothes for our time. This dress was worn as her wedding dress by Maria Balshaw, Director of the Manchester City Galleries. Dress on loan from Maria Balshaw to Manchester City Galleries.

Wedding dress (Open robe) 1765

(Sack back) gown or ‘robe a la francaise’ in pale blue and silver figured silk. The ‘Sack back’ gown was the most formal type of women’s dress in the late 1700s. It was reserved for official occasions such as receptions, weddings and appearances at court. Like many silk dresses from the period this example has been altered a great deal. The dress is said to have been worn as her wedding dress by Sarah Gamson from Gringly-super-Montem in Nottinghamshire. Sarah was born in 1750 and married age 15 in 1765. Manchester City Galleries 1947.137.

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Funnily enough, the day I saw this exhibition my friend Chris gave me these two books on historical fashion one including dresses from the 1700s!

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Not Quite Snow Boots

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Snow in March, snow in March and what looks to be snow continuing into April. For a change we have been quite lucky up North and have just had constant blusters with nothing settling. I have to confess I really love it, its like movie snow! All the pretty flakes and none of the trudging through sludge, ruining my shoes. Which means I can revel in my snow-movie outfits of flowing capes and towering high heeled boots just like Carrie Bradshaw! My favourite look at the moment is tall boots and knee length dresses. These Vivienne Westwood boots are surprisingly comfortable for such a high stiletto, I adore them.

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Trends: The Key to Country Style

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┬áGet Kate’s style: Southwold wool hacking jacket; Burberry Brit denim skinny jeans; Mark Todd country boots; Lola feather trim hat.

No sooner had the royal engagement been announced than people world over were taking inspiration from Kate Middleton’s style. Famed for her stunning McQueen wedding gown and array of elegant Issa and Reiss wrap dresses, she is very much the future princess. One thing that is often neglected to mention is quite how well Kate dresses on her off-duty days. In fact country dressing is something the royals have had down to a T for many generations, with Prince Charles and the Queen keeping warm and smart to walk the corgis’ around Balmoral. The key to Kate’s dressed down style is a trusty jacket, tweed or boiled wool is a practical option as it will keep heat in whilst repelling water. A classic khaki colour is most versatile but soft browns or greys are also easy to wear. If you are a little more daring than the Duchess why not try a vibrant red. I have a multi-coloured tweed jacket myself and can attest to how wearable it is. Kate’s absolute staple are her skinny jeans, they go perfectly with tall boots, wellies, trainers, ballet flats and heels. Kate prefers dark washes in a nice indigo blue or black. For roaming around the country or just your local park a boot-wellington hybrid is a great option;┬á pairing the practicality of waterproof wellies but with the style of a boot. This Mark Todd pair are great and similar to a pair Kate often wears. The finishing touch for Kate is often a beautiful hat. One of her most recognisable looks is this cowboy style which can be quite a laid back look. For something a little more versatile this Lola hat can be worn casually too, but the feather detail and structured shape of this Lola hat means it can be worn for more formal occasions.

Outfit: Tartan Alien – Another Case of Fashion Karma

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Wearing: All Vivienne Westwood – Worlds End tartan Alien Jacket, Gold Label jumper, Anglomania Centurella skirt, Pink suede Cossack boots, Pelle belt, Duffle bag.

It was only the other day I was whining to my friend Jason, how utterly gutted I get each time I see him wearing his blue tartan Alien jacket. I get the pangs of regret for not getting it myself a couple of years back. There aren’t many things which I have fashion regret over but this was certainly one high up on my list. It didn’t help that Bryan from Rather Dapper and Joey Ma have the jacket too, all three guys looking incredible in their jackets, making me kick myself again and again! Anyway the day after I had been going on about this jacket, what should appear like a juicy carrot dangled in front of my little donkey nose! Yup the very jacket! Of course I wasted no time in snapping up this beauty! In my excitement I forgot to ask what the size was and ended up with a jacket I could have made a tent out of but the tailors soon had it sorted – although blooming heck for anyone that uses Stitches in Manchester they have gone so expensive, any tips for a good tailor with reasonable prices please send them over. I love this tartan so much and of course my beloved Carrie Bradshaw boots! I don’t tend to play favourites with my shoes but, these would be up there if I did have to choose.

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Going AWOL

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1. Tartan kilt, Vivienne Westwood Red Label; 2. Scarf sharing in the snow; 3. Vivienne Westwood party shoes; 4. Shoe Exhibition; 5. Red Label suit; 6. Salon print; 7. Alexander Wang boots; 8. Rianna Phillips clutch; 9. Wendy Brandes Little Wolf; 10. Worlds End Alien coat; 11. Window shopping diamonds at www.diamondsandrings.co.uk ; 12. Trying out new beauty products.

Don’t worry I haven’t dropped dead, but I have been really ill and just started a new job the two combined took all my energy! So here is a bit of a cop-out post to prove I am still live and kicking, well just about. With some of the things I have been up too lately.

Psyche – Perfect Pitstop for Summer

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It’s nearly summer, well alright how about I rephrase that, its time for the new season! The weather might not be reliable but that doesn’t mean we can’t invest in some cheerful and bright clothes to put a spring in our step. I do love a good shop, both online and in person depending on what mood I am in, but it can be time consuming trailing around different shops and many department stores are a mish-mash of things which aren’t any one style. This is where specialist fashion store Psyche comes in, online or in real life (should you be near Cleveland) it is a designer life style store with the scale of a department store. With 30 years in the business Psyche stands out from the crowd as it retains a boutique atmosphere of carefully selected brands and merchandise, making shopping a thing of ease. I really like the way they cater for every budget without scrimping on quality, prices range from an average of┬á ┬ú50-┬ú200. This is really clever because it appeals to the way most of us shop these days, saving up for one statement, key item and hunting out lower priced pieces to top-up our look.

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I thought I would pick out some pieces which I would like to be wearing this season. The first piece is this stunning jacket by Maison Scotch as ┬ú248.99 it is what I call affordably expensive – something you would save up for, an investment item. I’ve paired it here with an on trend summer look, but it would work just as well with a skirt and blouse for work or over a summer maxi-dress. Prints were all over the runways again, mix them or match them, so long as you cover yourself in them! These Paul by Paul Smith trousers and shirt are perfect for wearing together or alone. You know I am a shoe girl and I am in love with these glittery Ted Baker heels, too stunning to save just for parties, rock them with your summer dresses and even jeans. You can’t go wrong with a clutch bag, this Ted Baker in Peptobismol pink is the colour of the season, such a great pop of colour. Don’t forget your summertime chic with a pair of designer shades like these from Marc Jacobs. The easiest way to update your look is some new sparkly jewellery. I really like to layer up necklaces so these White Leaf designs are perfect for that, with their purse friendly prices you can afford to buy more than one (┬ú19.99-┬ú29.99).

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Not forgetting the guys, here are some top spring buys which will see you into summer. My statement item of choice would be this Polo by Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply shirt ┬ú118.99, the patches make the print clashing trend easy. Baseball jackets have been high on the fashion radar for a while now and show no sign of going away so this Lacoste logo bomber is going to be a key piece well into next year. The simple shape means it will work with sweats as well as a shirt and pants. A nice pair of cargo trousers like these again from Polo by Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply are nice change to denim. Keeping with the smart-casual theme these Original Penguin boots have a Herringbone inlay which hones in on the Country Heritage trend. The Aviator is by far the most versatile style of shades, these Gucci ones don’t come cheap but are a great investment as they will never go out of fashion. I think accessories are made to have some fun with, this quirky Paul Smith tablet case is really sleek, whilst the Union Jack Barbour print holdall is practical and stylish. For a colour pop this Nixon watch is a subtle way of approaching colour and at ┬ú53.99 it is a great price.

What wardrobe update do you have your eye on for then new season?

The Kind of Winter I do Like – Vivienne Westwood Shakespeare Boots

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Vivienne Westwood ‘Shakespeare’ newspaper print ankle boots AW 2000 ‘Winter’ collection

Needless to say I’m pretty made up snagging these guys. The ‘Summertime’ and ‘Winter’ collections of 2000 are some of my favourites, especially since that was when the animal toe shoes were launched. They are even more beautiful in the flesh, made from the softest suede. I think the print will be rather delicate, so much as I want to, I don’t think I will be able to wear these every day. That is the only thing with being a collector, sometimes you have to put preservation before sartorial pleasure. I have always liked the stiletto heel and wish it was still an option as much as I like the chunky heel, it would be nice to have options.

Worlds End just put a new post up featuring John who makes all the Gold Label shoes. It is nice to read about the small, family run businesses still going in England and makes me feel proud to get my shoes from there. I know I say it often, but it is true, the Gold Label shoes are worth every single penny. They last for years and are so comfortable. A testament to real craftsmanship.

Wearing a Red Dress to a Wedding

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Red is one of my favourite colours, in fact my red dress is one of my absolute favourite pieces. However when I mentioned to a friend that I was going to wear it to a wedding I was met with a gasp of outrage! Besides wearing white – obviously a big no, no, it seems red and black are somewhat frowned upon for wedding guests. Red seen as too sexy, black too morbid. I can’t agree with this at all, I think red is such a cheerful colour and there isn’t a happier occasion than a wedding. The trick is to make the colour more friendly with the right accessories, I wouldn’t say wear a little red dress with back seem stockings and black stilettos for the occasion. Rather I would ‘pretty it up’ using so summery and laid back pieces. To illustrate I chose this stunning red dress from Zac Posen it has such a beautiful cut with a fitted bodice and full skirt. The Calvin Klein Collection shoes instantly give it a more day time and summery look, the colours breaking up the block of red. Adding a bold statement necklace takes eyes away from the cleavage and ads another colour contrast, this one is from Rosantica. I chose a simple and classic black and white clutch from Lena Erziak which ties in with the shoes. As I am not really one for a facinator and up-do, I thought this unique ear cuff from Husamel Odeh would look amazing, shown off with hair tucked behind the ear. The jacket was an easy choice for me, I don’t think you can beat a biker for throwing on with absolutely anything, yes even evening dresses. This luxe Wunderkind snake print makes the perfect update. Very wearable red indeed!

All images Avenue32.com *Commissioned post

Shoes With Laces

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All shoes Vivienne Westwood

If I had to choose a style of shoe which I always go for it would be court shoes. Yep courts would win hands down, most of my shoes are courts. Lately however, I have been favoring lace ups, perhaps it is because they are a little more wintery? A little more formal? That satisfying feeling of tying a perfect bow? I am still in the process of ‘wardrobe re-jig’ but can’t seem to focus. I’m not sure what mood I am in fashion wise right now. My brain is longing for spring, alas we had snow again today, even if it was a light dusting it was bitterly cold. Which also reminded me another winter has gone by without me getting out any of my tall boots. This is┬á a job I like to do each winter no fail along with my heavy coats but neglected to this year with all this unpredictable weather. One thing I do like are shoe laces and the fact you can change them around. I absolutely adore the yellow laces in my tan Tracey trainers (bottom right) so might try swapping some of my laces around.