Friday, 31 August 2012

Unlikely conversations, # 276 in a series

Anita Loos and Cecil Beaton

Dame Edith Sitwell and Marilyn Monroe

Carol Channing, Poly Styrene, Jackie Collins

Wouldn't you just love to have been a fly on the wall?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Deluge of Dreck

He always said his list was not meant to hurt, saying: "The list has whimsy. It's camp.

"Let it be said, however, that my criticisms are based purely on their fashion flaws.

"I'm sure they're all wonderful people beneath the deluge of dreck they drape themselves in."

And in his 1995 biography, From Rags to Bitches, he admitted his main goal was: "To become my most unforgettable creation: king of the caustic quote, arbiter of good taste and bad, the ultimate mix of madness, marketing and media attention."
Some famous examples from that notoriously bitchy fashion commentator Mr Blackwell's annual Worst Dressed Women list:
  • Barbra Streisand: "She looks like a masculine Bride of Frankenstein."
  • Meryl Streep: "A gypsy abandoned by a caravan."
  • Sophia Loren: “Dresses like the Italian shop girls she portrays in movies.”
  • Camilla Parker Bowles: "The Duchess of Dowdy."
  • Ivana Trump: "A psychedelic scarecrow! Looks like a cross between Brigitte Bardot and Lassie!"
  • Brigitte Bardot: "A buxom milkmaid reminiscent of a cow wearing a girdle, and both have the same amount of acting talent."
  • Madonna: "The bare-bottomed Bore of Babylon."
  • Sarah, Duchess of York: "Looks like an unemployed barmaid”
  • Sharon Stone: "An over-the-hill Cruella DeVille."
  • Elizabeth Taylor: "Looks like two small boys fighting under a mink blanket."
  • Victoria Beckham: “A skinny-mini monstrosity.”
  • Jennifer Aniston: "Brad Pitt looks better in a dress than she does!"
How shocking.

Mr Blackwell (Richard Sylvan Selzer), 29th August 1922 - 19th October 2008.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Designed to brighten our Brave New World

A fashion show that is definitely not for the ladies!

Thanks again to Madam Arcati for stumbling across this fabulously "daring" video (certainly unconventional for the 1950s...).

To complement this flamboyance, I found a fascinating article on the history of gay fashion and the birth of the "Carnaby Street look", and just had to share:
"...hip-hugging slacks, loafers, below-the-navel swim trunks, the bikini-type underwear, the form fitting T-shirt along with the grey-flannel, the Italian leg, and the cowboy pocket..."
Read the article by Shaun Cole, a lecturer at the Royal College of Fashion in London

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Krazy Kats

Smoking at The Krazy Kat Klub, a bohemian hangout in a treehouse, in Washington DC, 1921. In 1919 the Washington Post described it as, “something like a Greenwich Village coffee house, in an alley near Thomas Circle”.

Monday, 20 August 2012

A poet with clothes

From Vogue on 7th August:
Some fashion enthusiasts pride themselves on sporting the next new thing, others are content to salt a basic wardrobe with seasonal flourishes. And then there are those proud few who treat their very physiques as full-fledged works of art, covering themselves in colour and pattern, joyously brandishing the unlikeliest combinations, proclaiming confidently with every outfit that more is indeed more.

Anna Piaggi, who passed away this morning in Milan at the age of 81, was one of these startling presences. Birdlike and delicate, surprisingly small in person, she could be spotted taking tiny steps to her front-row fashion-show seat, her ivory complexion almost kabuki-esque, her maquillage multihued, her cerulean coiffure topped by an extreme hat, often created by her friend Stephen Jones. Her tastes were wildly catholic - she was an inspiration for Karl Lagerfeld since the 1960s but also confessed an enthusiasm for the aprons worn by McDonald’s employees.

So renowned was her eccentric style that Piaggi, an editor and contributor to numerous fashion publications including Italian Vogue, was the subject of a 2006 exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, “Anna Piaggi: Fashion-ology,” which showcased a selection from her vast private archives - everything from vintage Poiret to modern Fendi.

Bill Cunningham said of Piaggi, “I think she’s a poet with clothes, but a very fine poet,” but her artistry was hardly reserved for special occasions. Asked in 1998 if she dressed for work the same way she dressed for fashion shows, Piaggi replied, “Also for the supermarket. My life is quite normal. But I enjoy dressing all the time.”

"Hats are like a halo of happiness."

"It is a moment, an expression. My philosophy of fashion is humour, jokes and games. I make my own rules. I never pick up something and just throw it on my back like that. There's a little bit of study, and it's always better if I think about what I'm going to wear the night before the next day. And what is to be avoided at all costs is the twinset look, the total look."

"It is more economical to dress from the antique auction houses than Paris couturiers. I have dresses that should be in museums that only cost me $50."

"I never think of money, just style and power."

Anna Piaggi (22nd March 1931 – 7th August 2012)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Only the marvellous is beautiful

"I’m now past sex, but they say they’ve invented a pill which is half Viagra and half Prozac. So if you don’t get a fuck you don’t give a fuck."

"The marvellous is beautiful. Anything marvellous is beautiful. In fact, only the marvellous is beautiful."

"Although jazz may arouse certain sexual feelings, that's not its intention. I did know someone, however, who was unable to go to bed with a woman without playing music by Sydney Bechet. In the days of 78rpm records, this must have presented quite a problem."

[Upon hearing Mick Jagger claim his own wrinkles were 'laughter lines':] "Nothing's that funny."

“I remain completely faithful to humanism and will tell God so when I leave the building.”

George Melly (17 August 1926 – 5 July 2007)

Read my tribute to "Goodtime George" on the occasion of his death.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A little posterity must always be nice

"Luckily, West End audiences seem to rather like very old people."

"When you're young, you're stupid."

"I think a little posterity must always be nice. After I'm dead I'll probably be a cult and they'll have entire seasons of me at the National Film Theatre. Thank God I won't have to watch them all."

Shockingly, I have seen no sign of anything to mark the centenary of such a British acting legend...

Dame Wendy Hiller (15 August 1912 – 14 May 2003)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Diamonds at breakfast?

On the subject of Arlene Dahl (whose fabulous picture as Belle Poitrine I featured on Friday)... This being the lady's birthday weekend (yes, indeed, another one still with us!), here is a reprise of a discovery I posted many moons ago...

Chic is:

Chic is not:

An evening dress with long sleeves.

A gay dinner hat.

A man’s black umbrella when it rains.

An accessory that matches your hair.

A trademark too ingenious to be corny.

Flexibility in appearance and attitude.

English, beautifully spoken.

Beautifully matched lingerie.

Perfumed fans.

The absence of a summer tan.

The arts, appreciated.

A bad habit, a stale passion, discarded.


Acting your age.

Diamonds at breakfast.

More than three colours in an ensemble.

White shoes, daytime.

Plastic shoes, anytime.

Being seen in curlers in public.

The contrived.


Sloppy grooming.

Sleeveless dresses on overweight women.

Tight pants on anyone.

A strident voice.

A fad that everyone’s adopted.

Playing it safe.

An aggressive manner.

From "Always ask a man: The key to femininity" by Arlene Dahl

Archly camp!

Arlene Carol Dahl (born 11th August 1925)

Friday, 10 August 2012

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Style tips du jour

Today I am mostly reading Femme Mimics: A Pictorial Record of Female Impersonation for inspiration...

Read more at the ever-wonderful Queer Music Heritage

Monday, 6 August 2012

Gerr aht my pub!

Brian May, Anita Dobson, Barbara Windsor, Edward Duke, Jill St John, Robert Wagner, Joan Collins, Elaine Paige, Diana Rigg and Stephanie Powers

The "other Windsor" (apart from Her Maj), our national treasure Barbara Windsor celebrates her 75th birthday today.

Hers has been a long career - she made her stage debut at the age of 12 - yet it is for two major achievements she will always be embedded in our hearts: her roles in nine Carry On films, and latterly as the domineering Peggy Mitchell (currently on an extended break) in Eastenders.

Facts about Babs Windsor:
  • Barbara was nominated for a "Featured Actress in a Musical" Tony Award in 1965 for her performance in Oh, What A Lovely War! directed by her mentor, Joan Littlewood.
  • She has always had an association with the real East End underworld. Babs was supposedly a one-time girlfriend of Reggie Kray, and her first husband Ronnie Knight ran away to Spain after he was accused of carrying out a bank robbery.
  • Barbara's first film role was in 1954 in The Belles of St. Trinian's when she was 16.
  • She has been married to Scott Mitchell [no relation to Peggy!], 26 years her junior, since 2000.
Barbara Windsor MBE (born Barbara Ann Deeks on 6th August 1937)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Diamonds are forever, hold one up and then caress it

The Diamond Diadem Tiara

The Coronation Necklace and Earrings

Queen Mary's Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara

The Delhi Durbar Tiara

Queen Victoria's Fringe Brooch

Queen Alexandra's Coronation Fan

Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik Tiara

Queen Victoria's Small Diamond Crown

The Williamson Diamond Brooch

All this (and more) - and all the Cullinan Diamonds (bar those in the Crown Jewels) together for the very first time! [Read more about them in my erstwhile other half's Random Jottings of Madam Arcati blog]

This was an utterly stunning exhibition...

Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration