maggiealderson

Archive for February, 2014|Monthly archive page

The ghastly decade

In Designers, Pop stars, Punk rock, Rock 'n' roll on February 27, 2014 at 4:03 pm

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In the 1990s Tom Ford performed at least two miracles. There was his public miracle of transforming the fortunes of an Italian luxury brand which had sunk into tacky naffness through a series of family feuds and bad licensing agreements and making Gucci once more a label associated with the highest jet set glamour and allure.

He also wrought a personal miracle on my head by making me think, with all his visual references to slinky Halston and necklines slashed open to the waist (the look we have recently been reminded of by American Hustle…), that the 1970s had been a decade of great fabulousness.

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It wasn’t. The 1970s was the ghastly decade. It was absolutely hideous.

This has been brought back to me recently by the spate of repellent sexual abuse cases from that era which are currently being aired in the UK.

The foul J. Savile is the most notorious (I shudder even to type the name), but in the wake of those revelations hordes more women have felt able to come forward and report crimes that were visited on them around the same time by other celebrities who felt entitled, at the very least, to cop a good feel.

It seems to some an odd coincidence that so many well-known men could suddenly be revealed to be ruthless sexual predators. Not to me. In the 1970s that kind of revolting male behaviour was considered not just normal – but admirable. It’s not just the individuals who are on trial, it’s the whole hideous decade.

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The most recent nauseating thing to emerge is that, in 1975, the National Council for Civil Liberties – a most excellent human rights advocacy organisation founded in the 1930s and operating now as Liberty – granted official affiliate status to a vile coterie of creeps called the Paedophile Information Exchange.

They claimed to be campaigning for the ‘rights’ of paedophiles and in the heat of the 1970s moment, when everybody’s rights to be recognised equal were up for grabs – women, homosexuals, people of colour (to use the US term) – they hopped aboard in the heady melee.

This revelation has been used this week by the British gutter press to smear by association the Labour MP and Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, Harriet Harman, who was working at the NCCL at the time.

Of course Ms Harman had nothing to do with giving that toxic group credence (much too busy working on equal pay for women), but the fact that such an organisation ever did, is another example of just how warped ideas about sexual ‘freedom’ had become in the 1970s.

The hangover of the sweetly naïve free love ideals of the 1960s, combined with the freedom from inconvenient unwanted pregnancy – without the need for any male responsibility for it – made possible by the contraceptive pill, created a ‘sexual revolution’ which at the time seemed like a marvellous step forward from the repression which had gripped since the Victorian era.

What it actually turned into was sexual open season for men. And all women under forty were prey.

I was a busty teenager in the 1970s and I remember it with horror. Just to walk along the street was to be ogled and catcalled. A visit to the local garage to collect the car with your mum, meant being confronted by walls of bare breasted women.

TV shows aired at peak family viewing times featured men aggressively pursuing women as a hilarious norm. Even the lauded Monty Python made me squirm with discomfort at the way women were depicted. The theme music from Benny Hill still makes me feel nauseous.

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The celebrated sexual antics of the great rock bands of the time were another symptom of this epidemic of sexual exploitation under a false banner of freedom and I now understand that this was one of the reasons I fell upon punk rock with such a sense of relief in 1976.

Punk rock was completely asexual. Male and female punks dressed the same – thank you Vivienne Westwood for making bondage trousers that fitted me as well as for my boy pals. Men punk rock stars weren’t sexual warriors – Johnny Rotten? Joe Strummer? no way – and the women weren’t sex objects.

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OK, the mesmerising, Debbie Harry was the object of many teenage boys’ fantasies, but I always felt she played up her looks on her own terms.

When I went backstage after gigs by the Boomtown Rats, the Jam, the Buzzocks etc, to get quotes for my fanzine, Punkture, none of the bands treated me as a groupie. We met on equal terms, eye to eye, united in our joy at the music which defined our generation – and separated us from the ghastly old pervy hippies.

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It was part of the beginning of the next stage in sexual politics. As feminists like Harriet Harman began to create legislation which formally protected women’s rights, the wild dog phase of 1970s sexuality died down and soon began to look as outdated and ugly as the flares, chocolate brown leather jackets and centre-parted long hair and face pubes often sported by its perpetrators.

So while Tom Ford made us all believe for a while there that the 1970s was all glamour and silk jersey – and Amercian Hustle is starting it up again – let’s not forget what it was really like in the dark ages.

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Styling stylee

In Accessories, Designers, Trends on February 17, 2014 at 10:21 am

 

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I’m so happy. I can’t quite believe it, but a miracle has happened in fashion – or Styling, as I prefer to think of it these days.

The F word has been rather diverted by overpriced luxury status dressing and look-at-me-please-no-I-mean-it-I-was-a-middle-child-LOOK-AT-ME-PLEASE lampshade hat ‘street style’ weirdos, who are just desperate to appear on a blog, any blog (repeat mantra above).

Styling is about how we dress day to day. Not what we wear to put out the bins or lie on the sofa watching the BAFTAs (oh, wasn’t Cate Blanchett just heaven?), but when we are going out and about doing our thing, presenting our best image to the world.

The trends for Styling work a little different to the shouty TREND REPORT fashion trends which come barking at us during each round of fashion shows – and we are already into the next lot of those (Northern Hemisphere winter 2014/15).

Styling trends move more slowly. They’re not about the now now now, they’re more the now – which will also work then. Looks, details and garments which will look right for at least a year, longer if you style them forward with subtle new tweaks. It can be something as small as tying your scarf differently.

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Anyhoo, the miracle I mentioned at the top there is this: the most on-trend (Fashion and Styling wise) shoes you could be wearing right now are a pair of trainers. Yes!

Not those Sarkozy lift shoes ones with the high heel hidden inside (which I have really come to loathe, much as I worship Isabel Marant who invented them), but proper spongy, walk forever old-school trainers. The most comfortable shoes ever designed, which don’t give you Birkenstock moisture-hoovering cork-sole parmesan-rind fissured heels.

The only proviso about your trainers is that whether you choose New Balance (my personal favourite for decades) suede and nylon, Nike power mesh or Adidas’s re-released old school Stan Smith tennis shoes, they must have a certain élan. An interesting combination of wow colours. Or one popping bright.

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Adidas Stan Smiths

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They categorically should not match your outfit, but stand out as a style statement which declares: these trainers are a Look. Not a last minute desperation choice running for the bus shoe. To emphasise this point they do need to be box fresh, in fact you will need to go out and buy a new pair. Or two.

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This is not a weekend downtime look. Feature trainers are great with tailored pants, a cashmere sweater and a tailored man-style coat. The marvellous Celine-designer Phoebe Philo (see main pic, in Nikes, she also wears Stans and is famous for her New Balance fetish) is the patron saint of this look. It’s a very modern, practical way to dress and perfect for work in all but the most formal offices.

It’s Styling at its very best.

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Can you imagine the joy of wearing trainers to work all day – not just for the commute? It makes me want to take an office job again so I can revel in it.

(Actually I would love an office job again anyway. After ten years of going solo, I’m really missing collaboration stimulation, so if anyone wants to offer me one, consider my hand raised. Just putting the word out, like.)

The trainer joy doesn’t stop at tailored pants either. They also look great with the other key piece of the new season, the midi skirt – but more of that and the other key Styling trends for the new season next time.

The light fantastic

In Actors, FIlms, Men, Uncategorized, Writing on February 2, 2014 at 7:07 pm

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I heart Matthew McConaughey. Not for his abs and his chest, but for his acting.

In fact I didn’t get the point of him when he was in all those dopey rom coms and had felt sorry for him right at the start when he was posted on the cover of Vanity Fair as the second coming, as it seemed an impossible introduction to live up to.

And after a few years of meh movies it seemed like the inevitable had come to pass and that he was fading away into another sad Hollywood used-to-be as he got too old to pull off the romantic lead.

Then I saw Magic Mike and fell in love with him as an actor.

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I absolutely adored that film – for many reasons, many of them unprintable – but it was McConaughey’s clear pleasure at not being the prime beefsteak in that film which was such a joy to watch. He got to play the old guy, the not entirely likeable one and he did it brillllllllliantly.

I deeply lust after Tatum Channing, but it’s McConaughey’s character I quote from that film.

‘That’s what I’m talking about…’ has gone into my lexicon.

So it was thrilling to see him then segue into a run of really interesting roles where he can flex his thespian muscles rather than his biceps. GQ mag has labelled his come back into proper parts the ‘McConissance’. I can’t wait to see Dallas Buyers Club.

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And nowI have another reason to love him. There’s a really good profile of him in the colour mag of the London Telegraph. I normally find interviews with actors total snore-a-thons but this one is full of fascinating stuff – and there was one bit in particular which made me drum my feet on the floor with delight.

They were discussing the first part of his career, when he was really only hired as the eye candy. The male va va va voom. Does he have a problem that he wasn’t taken ‘seriously’ as an actor? No, sir.

This is what he said:

“I said, ‘Hey, do my good looks help me along? Absolutely. Does the fact that my body is considered good and we’re gonna have me up there in a shirtless scene help it along? Sure.’ I didn’t ever go, ‘No, no, no.’ I was like, ‘Yeah! I get that. That’s fun. What’s the big deal?'”

Then we get to the bit I really love…

“If you go deep with the romcom you sink the ship. There’s a buoyancy to the frequency of romcoms. To be light [my italics] is critically always looked down upon – it’s willowy, it’s wispy, it’s nothing. You know what? It’s f***ing not easy to do and a lot of people don’t do it well. A lot of the work in those things is to stay buoyant. To say, ‘Hey, get offa my cloud, man! I’m dancing between the raindrops!”

This speaks exactly to how I feel when people tell me that the books write are ‘chick lit’ ‘fluff’, or ‘dressed up Mills and Boon’, all of which has been said to me by total strangers (usually at drinks parties, when they’ve asked me what I do…) .

I try not to let it bother me, but it does. I have no aspirations to write ‘important’, ‘serious’, or ‘literary’ works. I want to entertain, to distract – to make other people feel the way my favourite books make me feel.

So thank you Matthew McConaughey. I’m not writing ‘fluff’, I’m dancing between the raindrops.

perfect-rainbow

Fragrant Cloud

I think in perfume

Style Notes

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Maggie Alderson

author, journalist, fashionist, motherist

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