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Friday, 28 June 2013

Blazer softwear

Natural hemp blazer, Toast
Looking Our Best has to admit she is a bit old-fashioned when it comes to jargon.  Politicos and economists using terms like ‘copper-fastening’, ‘kicking the can down the road’, ‘double-dipping’ and so on, set the LOB gnashers on edge. Fashion speak has the same effect, with phrases such as ‘killer heels’, ‘directional’, or ‘recessionista’. 

But hands up here - your blogger has no doubt been guilty in the past of using such jargon during her illustrious career as a hack. (I was young; I needed the money).

So here goes with another old chestnut, the ‘must-have’- seemingly updated to ‘lust-have’’. (Please keep up). If there really is something every woman, every age, must/lust have this summer (apart from wonderful Wendy’s now iconic pink trainers, of course), it’s a lightweight blazer.  Now I know that very word ‘blazer’ conjures up an image of old geezers at the golf club, but a smart, slightly tailored jacket not only dresses up summer shifts, jeans or chinos, it’s also a necessary cover-up in our temperamental climate.
Striped cotton blazer, Banana Republic

If the weather forecast is not dependable, at least you know that come summer, there will always be a choice of jackets in classic tailored style to throw on over any outfit. Also, if the summer sales tend to lead you into the temptation of another ‘of-the-moment’ maxi/dipped hem dress,  opt instead for a classic jacket marked down in price as it will prove, as they say, a real ‘investment buy’. 
Navy and white striped blazer, Zara
Zara is the LOB go-to store for nicely tailored, lined jackets in traditional, but not fuddy-duddy, cut. Their styles usually have buttoned cuffs, allowing for that casual, rolled back sleeve look that can be a bit 'Miami Vice' but nonetheless softens any severe line. Although the Zara sale has been in full swing for a week now, there are still good looking summer designs marked down in price (check online for availability). 

LOB really does love a nice blazer. Even the ones currently dubbed in fashion lingo as ‘boyfriend’. Which means’ borrowed from your boyfriend’, apparently. Sigh …
Ivory 'Boyfriend' jacket, Jigsaw

Image details:
Keaton blazer in natural hemp (similar to antique linen), reduced to £95,Toast.
100% cotton blue striped blazer, reduced to €94.99, Banana Republic.
 Ivory tailored crepe 'Boyfriend' jacket, £198, Jigsaw.
Navy and white longline striped blazer, reduced to €49.99, Zara.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Live like Common people

Wimbledon - not so Common

One of Looking Our Best’s favourite summer delights is now being served.  Wimbledon, with its lobbing of balls, thwacking of racquets, grand slams and temper tantrums, has all the fun and drama of a toddler’s birthday party but with added screaming and grunting.
It's a wrap -linen with pulled thread embroidery
LOB (even this blogger’s acronym is a tennis shot) has loved this game from way back in the 1970s’ when the sitting room curtains would be pulled to shield the sunlight from the telly screen as players with wonderful names such as Yvonne Goolagong and Billie Jean King slogged it out in SW19. 
Those were the days pre-trainer craze when we wore humble canvas plimsolls. Whitening these was something of a ritual, squeezing the last drop of chalky liquid out of the bottle with the sponge on top before leaving them out to dry on the window sill. 
What's not to love? Ivory dress with lemon slip
Tennis has an interesting fashion trajectory with regard to obligatory women’s attire, from the full dresses with bustles of the late 19th century, to Venus Williams risqué ooh-la-la nude knickers of 2010.
While that screeching has become one of more unfortunate modern developments (Maria Sharapova’s grunts have been measured at 101 decibels – equivalent to a chainsaw or a motorcycle), many other traditions endure.
The day shift - in pure linen
White remains the dress rule at Wimbledon, and in terms of style, tennis whites are surely the most stylish sporty gear (with cricket a close second). 
Set and Match -  ivory trousers and silk top
There are variations on this theme every summer for us mere spectators partial to some snow- white linen and cotton, and this year is no exception. Our top seeds featured here are all from Hobbs (and with many of these items now reduced in their sale).  

Even if the closest you will get to centre court this summer is slumped on the sofa in front of a match, do it in style like your fave Ladies. Rope in a ball boy to keep you well supplied with strawberries and cream. Maybe some towels. And don’t forget the Robinson’s Barley Water.
Classic linen blazer with pulled thread embroidery

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Debbie's back to her Blondie roots

Debbie in those days
Sad news of the passing of the world’s most famous waste disposal boss has Looking Our Best in reflective mood this week. Actor James Gandolfini (aka Tony Soprano) was just 51, and his untimely death is a lesson to us all to live in the moment, and live it to the full.  Another fellow New Jersey native of Gandolfini’s is the perfect example of this philosophy.  Debbie Harry has just embarked on tour with Blondie and although 67, age is certainly the last thing to stop one of pop’s most iconic performers.

As part of the New Wave music explosion of the mid- 70s (Blondie’s first paying gig was in New York in 1976), Harry has always been seen as someone with a mature head on those tiny shoulders. She was already in her mid-30s when the band released their multi-million selling album Parallel Lines in 1978. She wasn’t, she says, some “poor female sapped of her strength by some heart-throb or un-requited love.”  
Debbie these days
Being endowed with such an incandescently pretty face and that trademark platinum mop top, she was destined to be labelled a ‘blonde bombshell’ from the start, but her detached stage performances have always been a far cry from the blatantly sexual overtures of modern day divas.  Coming from the 70s New York punk scene, and a subject of works by Andy Warhol, she was never going to be just a pretty popster.
With Chris Stein and Andy Warhol
Her style was something much more subversive and assured.  Nevertheless, being the focus of attention was ‘uncomfortable’ at times. What made it somewhat easier, she has said, was being in a relationship with the band’s lead guitarist, Chris Stein. Blondie disbanded in 1982 and when Stein was diagnosed with a serious skin disease, Harry famously nursed him for over four years back to health. They eventually broke up, but remain great friends (Harry is godmother to his children).

Asked recently on BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour if she had ever considered motherhood herself, she said that it’s something she now thinks she may have been good at, but had never realistically thought about it much.

“Regret it? I have trained myself not to constantly live in regret. Of course there are moments when I think, ‘why did I say that, or do this?’ But if you are walking around in a world of regret, what good are you going to do for today? “
Blondie now - never too old to rock n roll

Her own creative drive remains very much fuelled by those earlier experiences in New York, and she still believes that creativity – in whatever art form – is something that flourishes in an economic downturn.  With so many influences, how did she arrive at her own individual style?

“By making a lot of mistakes. We learn from our mistakes, right? I love clothes, I love style, and I love to experiment. It takes a while to discover what you are comfortable in, what looks good.”  

It’s hard to believe that Debbie Harry now more than qualifies for a bus pass, but loving what you do – and to keep on doing it – is the key to feeling good, she asserts.
Poster girl

“I thought I’d live to a ripe old age, because I always felt there was a lot to do. I had a driven feeling. I always thought in the present.  That’s why I will so enjoy this tour. I love the music. I love performing, seeing other bands. I love hanging around, and generally making a fool of myself. “

Carry on, Debs …

Monday, 17 June 2013

Scandi style - and you don't need sub-titles

61-year old Anna models the collection

Looking Our Best knows all about the big bad Vikings.  Circa 913 AD, you were well advised to stay home of an evening inside your Long Tower, rustling up some goat stew, darning your wimple, and safe from the horned- helmet hordes plundering all before outside.  

Blue cotton pleat top with curved hem
Any invasion by our Scandi neighbours these days is of a more benign nature, chiefly with imaginative tv drama: if you’re at home of an evening now,  chances are you playing catch-up with some quality Nordic noir detective yarn.

But Scandinavia is also famous for much more. Many of the great Modernist architects and furniture designers hail from the region. Increasingly adding to the honours are the clothing designers. 

On a trip to London last weekend, LOB nipped in to the Regent Street branch of Cos to check out their summer range first hand.  Cos – Collection of Style – is a classy brand launched in 2007 under the Swedish giant Hennes & Mauritz and is more high-end than it’s younger H & M sister. Their design concept extends to stand- alone stores which preserve original features while creating what they call a ‘gallery space’ for the collections. 
Poplin shirt dress
The Regent Street branch is typical of this, with the clothes themselves of a minimal, unfussy design that require no subtitles. Key to the appeal here is the choice of fabrics;  light-weight cotton poplins sit alongside fluid jerseys and smooth silks, in cool, neutral colours.

Most Cos dresses feature side pockets
Because the look is so pared-back and lives  beyond the short fashion season, it’s one that is also non-age specific.  In the current Cos Magazine, 61 year-old Berlin based teacher and model, Anna con Ruden, models this summer’s simplest cottons and silks with a style that is effortless and elegant.
Milano-knit top with belt
LOB fell for a palest, latte coloured shirt- dress in crisp, cool-to-the-touch lightweight cotton, with pleats and handy side pockets (most Cos dresses have side pockets.) 
Silk slip on top with stand up collar

Other temptations included plain sleeveless tops in whiter-than-white poplin or silk to smarten linen trousers or jeans.

So if you are after some cool, Scandi style this summer, check out a collection that’s as understated and un-ruffled as Detective Inspector Sarah Lund herself. 

(All clothes from Cos.  
Many items are now on sale with reductions up to 50% ( dresses now averaging €50).