Lace - isn't there something about it that's simply delectable? It seems to chime perfectly with the feelings brought about by Spring. Maybe something to do with the frothy, romantic, fairy-like feel one achieves by wearing it in abundance? However today it is strictly woolly jumper weather, as we have had the first proper rain fall in weeks.
I bought this vintage pink dress a while ago, and it is one of those items that seems to languish rather forlornly on the edge of my wardrobe, waiting for the possibility of being taken out and worn - a little like a dancer who knows she is beautiful, but rarely gets chosen to accompany someone in a Waltz or Quickstep.
Finally, it was its turn for 'a trip out' last weekend, when I wrestled it out of the clutches of the other cramped coathangers to create a Ballet Russes inspired look. I'm using the term 'inspired' quite loosely here, as I'm not sure if there is any tangible reference to Diaghilev's company among the pink lace and green velvet, but I did feel very dancer-like. Visiting the Ballet Russes V&A exhibition (early last Autumn) on the day I was told I was going to be having surgery was a magical (and somewhat surreal) experience. I have since pored over the book that not only details the history of the memorable company, but also provides very good quality pictures of the spectacular costumes.
The vintage jacket in the first image was my mum's and the 'necklace' is a big curtain tassel I found hanging on the back of my door. The pink brogues are from Next (and still take the title of 'comfiest shoes I own'), and the vintage belt used to belong to my grandma. The bag is Russell & Bromley (found for £4!) and the necklace wound around my wrist is vintage. My hair was kept in place with a vintage silk scarf.
Now talking of lace, I don't want to go down the whole writing-about-the-royal-wedding route (I hadn't planned on watching the coverage - but I must admit I couldn't help being drawn in), but some reference must be made to that dress. I was so pleased to see that it was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, and that it took inspiration from the eternally glamorous and graceful Grace Kelly. One elaborate detail that really stood out to me was the incredible amount of time taken to craft the lace that adorned the bodice and train. The fact that 'The needleworkers had to wash their hands every fifteen minutes' has been bandied around the blogosphere so many times it probably seems that I am now stating old news. Nevertheless, the time and effort that went into creating that garment is astonishing.
This, along with the nominees for the Turner prize being announced today, sparked an idea for another debate. Aside from Royal Weddings and the hysteria-inducingly pricey couture and high fashion (which I do love), do we still value quality in the twenty first century? Arts such as lace-making and embroidery could be considered specialist skills, where once nearly every household in Britain had some basic knowledge. Obviously many of us have other things to do than sit around sewing, but is the craft of exquisite needlework even appreciated any more?
I mention the Turner prize because I am frankly a little sick of the Damien Hirsts of this world. It seems that now anyone can have a conceptual idea about sticking some oranges to a canvas and calling it art, or in the Turner Prize case being nominated because your painting material of choice is make-up (I liked drawing in lipstick and eyeshadow when I was five - does that make me deserving of £25,000?) I know that this is just my opinion, and art is the biggest example of 'Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder', but apart from the BP portrait prize, are there any major awards out there that recognize craftmanship and training over concept?
All of the arts, be it fashion design, music, photography, sculpture or writing, need honing and training to achieve real skill. I appreciate reading books where the writer is capable of tight plotting or breath-taking images, and seeing photography exhibitions where the photographer has captured the soul or character of the subject in front of them, without needing to resort to Photoshop. However sometimes I worry I am among a dwindling number... How many artists today would undertake three or more years of training in Florence to master their technique?
So now for the usual - what do you think? Are my views hopelessly out of date? Or does anyone out there feel the same?
Edit: I realised the above might make it sound like I am only for 'Classical' paintings. This is not the case at all (although I am partial to a pre-Raphaelite) - instead what I am lamenting is the lack of skill and craft in various instances. But I do love the work of artists such as Rachel Whiteread - the first female winner of the Turner - who, among others, proves that modern art is an incredibly valid and innovative way of expression. Another artist who is creating extraordinary pieces is Ai Weiwei. But again, just my personal opinion.