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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Spring is the new Winter

There’s a big reason why Greenland hasn’t produced a Karl Lagerfeld.  
 It’s also the reason your style blogger has been trudging to work in the same dark, winters’ garb for what feels like a millenia. Freezing cold weather and getting dolled up to the nines don’t mix, especially when you are of the, ahem, more mature end of the age spectrum and wearing so many layers you can no longer bend your arms and legs. Despite the danger of wandering into the seniors' fashion wasteland of ‘cosy knits’, Looking Our Best finally threw her woolly hat at the whole style thing last week and wore her Christmas jumper to the office. But with Easter just days away, the prospect of guzzling chocolate eggs whilst wearing a reindeer patterned gansay feels just plain wrong.
The Audrey coat, new from Jigsaw

As the snow falls outside, LOB is wont to drift into a reverie….  While still a nipper growing up in the 60s, this would traditionally be the time of year to cast off the winter coat for something lighter in weight and colour. Church on Easter Sunday was very much a dressy-up affair back then. Although family style didn't quite go to the extreme of an Easter bonnet, a pastel coloured mac, or as LOB’s late mama often referred to it - a duster coat - was the stylish mid-decade cover-up over that first lightweight dress. Duster coats were very loose fitting, A-line or swing shaped, with pockets,  three-quarter length sleeves, and either edge to edge, or simple button fastening.  Big sister would be a la mode in a creaky plastic mac, with op art accessories. There was also a trend for two tone macs (most likely in Terylene) with an iridescence that shaded to different colours in the light. The opposite spring alternative to these was the more defined shape of the double breasted trench coat with belt, referred to in LOB’s distant school days by the generic term ‘gabardine’ (in reference to the fabric).

Old style habits die hard, so despite the prospect of a white Easter, this week’s post contemplates a revival of the lighter weight spring coat.

Top of the bunch is Jigsaw’s white 'Audrey' design, very much in keeping with the aforementioned duster coat of the 50s and 60s, with round collar, glossy buttons and simple shape.   Also from this label is the London Trench,
The London Trench look from Jigsaw
a much simpler version of the classic mac in bonded cotton.  Mail order company Boden  have several variations on the Spring coat, such as Florentine, a cotton/linen mix style with lace bodice detail and slightly gathered waist, available in white and navy.  Toast has also channeled the classic duster coat style in their over-sized shower resistant Lana raincoat with chambray lining and bracelet length sleeves. Reiss describe their Spring coat
Blush pink mac from Reiss
as ‘Tudor fit’ which thankfully doesn’t mean Henry V111 style shoulders but is actually a blush pink affair in cotton with nipped waist and asymmetric fastening. 

Still on a regal theme, the ‘Imperial’ trench coat from Hobbs  
 is more figure flattering than the bulkier traditional trench, plus it comes in a feelgood sorbet red. These styles all look great, but  
even though the clocks are going forward this weekend, LOB is wondering if us grown-ups really have to switch to a mac?  
Especially now Spring is the new Winter ….

Thursday, 21 March 2013

In Spring, the grown woman's thoughts turn to (Mad) Men

Brrrrr. Looking Our Best (LOB) is way too cold to rustle up much enthusiasm over new season collections. Gazing at rails of sleeveless blouses and bum-freezing dresses feels ridiculous while shuffling around the stores clad in full Inuit rigout topped with a domestic water tank lagging jacket. The calendar says Spring, but it’s still November on LOB’s radar.

But hello! Here are words to bring warmth to LOB’s chilly heart:  Mad Men Season 6 returns to our telly screens on 10th April. To paraphrase Shelley, if Mad Men comes,  can Spring be far behind? (This blog is so classy, you even get poetic references thrown in). 

Series creator Matthew Weiner promises this new season will be “very much a reflection of the period that we chose”.  1968 is the year in question,  so will we see Don sporting a kaftan, Pete with with an Afro? LOB has also been musing on which looks the award-winning show’s costume designer, Janie Bryant, will adopt for the lead female characters. What Joan, Betty and Peggy (and laterally, the new Mrs Don Draper, Megan)
 wear plays a significant part in communicating each character’s role and personality. Bryant could well direct her sharp style gaze towards Ossie Clark. His signature look of the period was bias cut dresses in gossamer chiffon topped with huge floppy hats. When Clark married textile designer Celia Birtwell in 1968, they virtually became fashion royalty. The couple are immortalised in David Hockney’s painting, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 
and it remains one of the most visited works in Tate Britain. Clark was killed by his gay ex-lover in 1996, but now the Designers at Debenhams range includes a new collection this season bearing the iconic Ossie Clark London label, designed by Nic Georgiou. The perfect excuse, then,  to indulge in nostalgia for sixties style and pick looks from the current label for those Mad Men women.

Joanie may now be the all-woman partner in the all-male management world of SCDP, but something tells us she won’t be donning the pin striped suiting anytime soon. This black and orange print dress, being bias cut, easily accommodates womanly curves. As Celia Birtwell once said “Women felt pretty (in Ossie’s designs). His dresses were never vulgar or rude.” Perfect for our Joanie, then.

We really hope that desperate housewife Betty has stopped gorging on the leftovers, forsaken the nylon housecoat,  and headed to the nearest fashion boutique instead. This dreamy blue and grey printed chiffon maxi dress with bell sleeves could catch former hubby Don’s roving eye again.

Love her or loathe her, aspiring thespian Megan and chanteuse of the cringing Zou Bisou Bisou, has been the most fashion-forward of the Mad Men women so far. 
Channelling the military styles favoured by the King’s Road set in this royal blue Belsize jacket and print Oxford trousers could be right up the rebellious Mrs Draper’s street. 

Of course Peggy is the real creative force behind SCDP’s best campaigns, and that has finally been recognised by a rival agency. 
As trouser suits became a strong trend in the sixties, she could look the business in this black scalloped edge Kensington jacket and matching trousers -  and without a backward glance to Pete and his Sugarberry Hams and Secore Laxatives. 

All clothes from Ossie Clark London at Debenhams

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Fifty(something) Shades of Grey

Mr Looking Our Best has always had a thing for Emmylou Harris.  
He only has to hear the opening strains of Boulder to Birmingham to become all misty eyed then waxing lyrical on the meaning of the song (the demise of Gram Parsons at Joshua Tree National Monument in 1973, apparently). These sentimental reminiscences are the cue for the younger inmates at LOB Towers to don their headphones and edge towards the door. But there is no denying the talent of Emmylou (65) and a career spanning 40 years with 25 albums, 12 Grammys, and now a new record with Rodney Crowell, Old Yellow Moon, released this month. Our Em sure can belt out a tune, but it’s not for her way to rock a country ballad, but her way to rock a fab grey mane that puts her in the picture in this week’s post. 

Alas, LOB and her fifty-something pals don’t look (or sound) remotely like the wondrous Emmylou. We are instinctively wary of letting our barnets gradually evolve into something resembling a Brillo pad. It would be like we have given up, and now referring to clothes as ‘outfits’ and having coffee in supermarket restaurants.  
But, hello...?  
According to some of the glossy style magazines, the once dreaded grey is the new honey blonde/fiery red/sultry brunette. Young 'uns like Kelly Osbourne  
and Pixie Geldof, have already taken up the look,  bless 'em.  Technically, the actual trend is for white blonde hair, with toners shading it from platinum to silver. Kristen McMenamy is one of the best known older fashion models (47) whose ethereal look very much stems from her trademark silver hair. (Catch images of her here as the Chanel bride for 2011, as chosen by that even older silver fox Karl Lagerfeld)
Going grey is nature's way of complementing skin which lightens in tone as we age, and so a paler hair colour can complement that gradual progression to a paler complexion. Very dark hair can look really harsh against older skin, which is why a former brunette may make the transition to blonde later in life with a natural grace. The vanilla and beige blonde shades are flattering to paler skin, while any dreaded brassy tones can be toned down with one of the professional purple shampoo/conditioning combos, such as Clairol’s Shimmer Lights, or Joico Color Endure (available from selected salons or online). Also for fading blondes, but especially reccomended for white or grey hair, is Aveda’s Blue Malva shampoo and conditioner. Online endorsements say the bluish-purple formulation brightens grey hair to a silvery shine. 
There are positives to letting hair go grey or white naturally, as attested by  Anne Kreamer in her book Going Gray (published Little, Brown & Company). The author found that colouring her hair actually made her look older, so she decided to grow out her grey, and has no regrets.The book examines the cultural pressures and self-images that connect to dyeing hair, especially for mid-lifers (and that includes the menfolk and their Grecian 2000). Kreamer writes that fewer than 10 percent of American women coloured their hair in the 1950s, compared with up to 75 percent today. 
While worrying about hair colour sounds like vanity, in our youth orientated society growing out the grey affects anyone concerned about age discrimination and how that may impact in terms of workplace opportunity. There's also the little matter of trying to tell your hair colourist that you want to let nature take it's course.  Your salon may not be all that thrilled at your cancelling those expensive 6 weekly re-touches, so perhaps don't expect advice, much less, enthusiasm.
To combat the fear of going back to our roots, and negative connotations of signing up to  the ‘blue-rinse brigade’, LOB is here to bolster confidence with an image of blog subject favourite Helen Mirren

who fully embraces her starry silvery strands and even dyes them pink when the fancy takes her.  For the rest of us, the dilemma remains – should we just fade to grey? LOB could sure write a mournful ole country ballad just thinking about it ….

Credits:  Emmylou Harris photo by Mark Humphrey/Associated Press 
Kelly Osbourne phot by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images 2012
Helen Mirren photo by Steve Granitz/