Friday, 12 August 2011

Bias-Cut Reflections







My good friend Flo has stopped by. We both have hectic schedules – she is working full time, and I am running around completing projects. We have already had a ramshackle picnic, put together from fridge pickings, and eaten in the shade of the hollow tree up the road. We have sunbathed and chatted, stretching out our legs in the light.
When we return home we abandon the basket and head upstairs so that she can raid my wardrobe – trying on a green fringed two-piece and then a raspberry, raw-silk pencil skirt. She settles on the latter and asks me to find something dramatic to wear, so she can take photos. I sort through the coat-hangers, suspended on a groaning rail that buckles like an inverted bridge, until I find a thirties evening gown. I pull it out, slipping its cool form over a dusky pink silk slip. I swing around to pick up a cream turban before snatching a thin silk sash.
All the while, certain words and phrases tumble: “Moonyeen” and “Ballet Russes” and “Thirties eccentricity”.

Moonyeen was the original owner of the dress; partner to the silver beauty featured here. I didn’t discover her story until that first acquisition was posted on my blog, and I had written a thank you letter to the kind woman who had provided the exciting bag of vintage offerings.
Soon after, I received an email that detailed who Moonyeen was. Alongside her incredible name, she was “a kind and lovely person” who “in her youth... looked a lot like Grace Kelly so was very elegant and beautiful”. My interest was more than piqued. I imagined a classic, movie-star-esque woman who had worn and loved those clothes before me. What parties and wardrobes had this dress, with chevrons of blue and pink, graced?
More anecdotes emerged. I was told: “She went to an exclusive dance school in London when she was young but went on to marry my father in law who was in the navy. He became a Rear Admiral and served on the Royal Yacht Britannia which is no more. He remembers Prince Charles as a small boy playing hide and seek on deck with Princess Ann. The nanny was nowhere to be seen and he noticed that Prince Charles was hiding in a dangerous place where he could fall overboard, so he gently went up to him and told him to find somewhere else to hide.”
As I have said many times, I love the fact that stories often accompany the garments I am lucky enough to be given. The idea of Moonyeen, with her exotic name and story, completely inspired my styling choices.

Alongside wanting to do its original owner justice, I was also struck by how much this dress reminded me of the Ballet Russes. The photo-session with my very talented friend Flo (who incidentally will be studying photography at University in September), happened several days after I bought a lavish book called “Ballet Russes: The Art of the Costume”.
It was a bit of an impulse buy, and a greedy one at that. I already own the volume that was published alongside the V&A exhibition, but couldn’t resist the vivid pictures and details of designs by everyone from Leon Bakst to Sonia Delauney in this edition (produced by the National Gallery of Australia). As you may have guessed, books are my second biggest weakness after clothes.
The style and cut of the dress reminded me of the bold slashes of colour and intricate patterns that make the Ballet Russes costumes so recognisable and memorable. The dress doesn’t quite have stylised clouds or grand tassels adorning its edges, but it seems to display the same influences, down to the pattern of gold curlicues covering the fabric like veins.
It also epitomises the use of prints and patterns during the 1930s, as machinery advances led to commercial production of garments that included:

“Designs printed on silk, rayon and crinkle crepe”
• “Bold lines and patterns of the prevailing Art Deco style”
• “Contrasting colours and bright shades to emphasize print”
• “Influences from Cubism and artists such as Picasso and Man Ray”

(Quotes from ‘Vintage Fashion: collecting and wearing designer classics’ by Carlton books.)

Although the Ballet Russes’ grand reign is thought of as ending in 1929 – the year of Diaghilev’s death – it still had various renaissances during the thirties, when this dress would have been created.
One of the problems that plagued Diaghilev’s grand company was finances. Many of his costumes (alongside “stage sets... designs and musical scores” according to the book) were sold off in 1930 to cover debts. Although they were bought by a composer, with the intention of reviving the Ballet Russes, the effects of the Wall Street Crash put a stop to these fanciful thoughts (and led to a large re-sale in 1934).
I was fortunate to cover the American Economic Crash for my history GCSE (the hardest of all my exams, but also one of the most rewarding), which seems extraordinarily prescient in light of the current recession – which I understand is not going to improve any time soon. The effects of these difficult times were immediately apparent yesterday, when we went to our nearest large town (by nearest, I mean 40 minutes) and were confronted with one empty shop after another. Many windows were almost naked, their dressings having been removed and sold off at 70% discount.

Ironically, we now remember the 1930s as the decade of Hollywood Glamour – a time of bias cut dresses, silk jersey and Vionnet drapery. While thousands camped out in ‘Hoovervilles’, accompanied by the rhythm of the weary footfall of desperate jobseekers, film stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford enjoyed unprecedented popularity. The two extremes are not without links. The chic elegance of the ‘Stars of the Silver Screen’ provided much needed escapism for those caught up in the depression – cinema numbers were at an all-time high.

The same could be said of 2011. As a nation, we still lose ourselves in movies, TV Programmes and magazines that promote aspirational lifestyles. A dwindling number immerse themselves in the worlds and characters described in books and poetry. Many like to turn on a CD or iPod and tune off from the world.
However, although I enjoy life’s pleasures as much as the next person, capitalism and the emphasis on ‘needing stuff’ is not the be all and end all. It has, in part, led to these economic problems, alongside bankers gambling so that they might get an even more gargantuan bonus. Nevertheless, as many people have observed: while those who joined the rioting and were caught will now rightly face the consequences of their actions, the bankers have continued to act with impunity and moral disregard.

Finally, you may have noticed that my blog has had a re-design, courtesy of the very wonderful Olivia from Robin Blogs. If you fancy a new look, then she is definitely the person to contact. She is such a pleasure to work with, and brings ideas to life like a magician! I'm so pleased with the result. Huge thanks Olivia.
The ‘backbone’ brooch in the new header was made by my close family friend and honorary cousin Esme, who I have known since she was born! She is now a very talented silversmith (and cook), and created this extraordinary piece for me to express my response to both scoliosis and strength. You can see more of her designs here, and I will be featuring the brooch in a post of its own.

54 comments:

Mikaela said...

Beautiful pictures, and Olivia did real good with your blog :)

Lots of love,
Mikaela

Framboise Fashion

Reyna @fashionmist♥ said...

These are lovely photos! xx

Lydia said...

Gorgeous! I love this dress and it looks amazing with that turban.

Fashion, Art and other fancies said...

So glad to hear that you had an enjoyable and memorable time with Flo. The new blog look is brilliant and I adore the new header and design.

That turban is so fanciable and dress is so exquisite; am drawn to the colours, form, length and the story behind it. Have a nice weekend.

alexandratherese said...

So many lovely elements of this post to comment on Rosalind! The idea of the thirties being a time of great depression but also a time we remember as being very glamorous is very true - as is the comparison you make of how even though we are in a recession we are all still going to the cinema, watching tv, searching for the feeling of escapism - even if it only last an hour or two.

The anecdote about Prince Charles made me laugh - what an amazing story about the life of the lady who owned your dress! I would love to know who the previous owners of some items of my clothing were!

Again, your new design is wonderful - perfect for your blog! The brooch is beautiful, Esme is so talented!

Have a lovely weekend

Alexandra xx

Closet Fashionista said...

I love that dress!! It is so fun when clothes have cool stories to accompany them, that is one reason I wish I could find vintage clothes I like, so I can make up a fun story for them haha.
Loving the new design too! :D
http://www.closet-fashionista.com

Shervin Nassi said...

dying for you and your blog!


follow us when you get a minute.


www.shervinsworld.com

Julie Khuu said...

Sooo pretty! Love the pale turban paired with pastel stripes...such a lovely, dreamy ensemble...you look like a field nymph!

Hope you celebrate a great weekend~

xo-Julie
Peace. Love. LOL!

Haute Khuuture Blog

Maycie After Five said...

Your picnic sounds amazing. It's always nice to catch up with friends.

That turban you have on is so pretty. I love that color.

Jessica said...

Your blog is great, I love the back ground!

Such a girly, elegant dress :)

http://chicgeekblogger.blogspot.com/

Please take a minute to look at my trunkshow;

http://iouproject.com/tsh/jessica-karen/

Polka Princess said...

One of my most favorite posts till date on CCC.......the pictures are just lovely! Loving all your poses......looking like an editorial, that's what it is!! :)

Fashionistable said...

Graceful and elegant like your inspirations for this look. Great new blog look. Very personal to you. Also Esme has created and amazing brooch for you. Xxxx

Carol said...

I adore this oufit! You look insanely good, the turban is perfect!

Caz x
www.mystylisms.blogspot.com

Saige said...

I adore the dress, and what a wonderful story to go along with it.

Love,
Deer. Lady

Liz B. said...

Beautiful dress! You really stayed with the thirties theme but it doesn't look overdone. The turban is great too.

~bumbling bee

styleeast said...

I don't where to start! The blog looks great, the brooch is absolutely amazing, what a great memento of your experiences, and the dress (and you) in these photos is just divine, like it was made for you! xxx

Natalie Suarez said...

absolutely beautiful! LOVE UR HAIR :)

xx

natalieoffduty.blogspot.com

LandGirl1980 said...

Beautiful pictures - as always!

Pearl Westwood said...

I noticed your backbone brooch right away how absolutely wonderful of her to make that for you. Your new blog design is lovely. Ive had mine redesigned and have just seen the final draft, so it should go live next week once they have moved it all over to WP and stuff.
This was, as always, such a beautifully written post x

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Wonderful inspirations. I sometimes wish I could have been a fly on the wall during Diaghilev's Ballet Russes, to be surrounded by Picasso and Stravinsky in their moments of creation, and of course, Nijinsky.

Gorgeous outfits. Your 5th photo (in B&W) reminds me of my thoughts watching Greta Garbo in one of her silent films just 2 nights ago. She always struck an elegant curved pose no matter what she was doing in the scene. Much like your lovely images. xxx

Page said...

amazing shoot!
i love the headpiece along with the dress!! you look very slender and tall in it! :) gorgeous!!!
page

Pull Your Socks Up! said...

Wearing such a glorious gown, it's no wonder you have someone's memories of Mooyeen running through your head. What a wonderful story behind this beautiful piece you're so lucky to own. You look exquisite!

Sigrid said...

the blog looks great! I love the background ! :) so you! <3

Love Sigrid

from

http://dancingsinginganddreaming.blogspot.com

Junaluska said...

Ooh I love the new background! And your cousin is extremely talented. Metalworking and jewelry-making amazes me.

As always, your dress is stunning. The 30s were so stylish, weren't they?

PinkBow said...

love the new blog design, it has really spruced up the overall look. where to start with this post. the dress is simply divine, accessorised perfectly with the turban (my favourite form of headpiece), the story behind it is just wonderful. and your words...i have many years on you but would be grateful to have just an ounce of your eloquence and maturity.

Kate said...

gorgeous outfit, I'm in love with that turban!
You've most probably seen it, and I hope I'm not wrong, but is that you in the September Vogue? I was just reading it and on page 204 there is a section about a new trend being long coats, and I think that is you in your leather coat! I just had to rush on here to let you know, if you haven't already seen it!

Flis said...

Love the new design and the outfit, but what stood out for me in this post was the photography - you and Flo work very well together :) X

http://felicityotoole.blogspot.com/

Henar said...

This is very nice, like it !

Henar ♥
... OH MY VOGUE!

CALAMITY JANE said...

as usual i love the pictures and the outfit. when i heard about what happened in london i seriously thought oh! will Rosalind say something about it? i'm more than with you in what you have said, capitalism is horrible, it has separated society and has only make us grow apart. it has turn us into individuals who doesn't care about others. i think 2012 will bring a new arose in political and economical ideas!

Vix said...

You look ravishing, Ros. How marvellous to know the original owner of that divine gown, Moonyeen must be so happy it's being loved by such a beautiful woman.
Loving the new look blog. x

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

What a gorgeous dress! And the turban is amazing! You look like a movie star :)

isa telaraña said...

Wonderful!!!
You look like a Russian actress.

Spence. said...

Wow, the photos on your blog are absolutely stunning! Seriously, you have such an amazing sense of style.
x

Diamonddigger said...

very beautiful photos(you & outfit). who takes them? you should be a model :-)

Meena Dhuga said...

cool photos! who takes them?


http://pinklemonsorbet.blogspot.com/

Meena ♥

valncami said...

cute turban and love your dress. you look great!!

come visit us at our new site!
at: www.abutterflybyday.com

hope to hear from you soon!
xx, camilla and valerie

sacramento said...

My dear Roz, I found you in pg 204 of the September edition of Vogue England. I have shown it to everybody saying: She is my friend, she is my friend, hehehehhehe...
You are so fabulous inside and out, and I am so glad for you as if you were a member of my own family.
Mil besos.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Scarlett B said...

I love your turban!
xoxo


www.sugarandbrownie.blogspot.com

Fashion Tales.... said...

Lovely blog redesign dear. Nice work.!
I love your beautiful dress, with the turban,the colours are so romantic, chic. The second photo is simply stunning.xxoo

AvaPilar said...

I love biased cut gowns,they have such a simple elegance to them. I recently rescued a gorgeous 30's gown from my basement. Its reminds me of one of the dresses Kristen Scott Thomas wears in Gosford Park. The new page layout looks lovely.

Lexy @ QUIRKY EXPLOSION said...

Oooh, YOU LOOK AMAZING. I'm fully swooning over this dress. It's absolutely INCREDIBLE.

And I adore the new layout!

QUIRKYEXPLOSION.blogspot.com

Lx said...

I love the relaxed feeling of this post- just chilling out with friends in the summer... oh yeah and creating some gorgeous pictures, just casually :)
A wonderful post and fantastic clothes, thank you

lydiagracephotography.blogspot.com

Gypsy Gamine Vintage said...

I love your blog!!!! It is amazing!! I love vintage pieces, always have, and now I make it my living. Reading this was so refreshing. :)

http://gypsygaminevintage.blogspot.com

t said...

Nice dress!

http://initialed.blogspot.com

Raez said...

Absolutely stunning! I love the elegance and grace of your outfit and your poses. Breath taking, my dear! You are the embodiment of chic. Also, really dig your new layout. Very you, I love the little doodles of coffee and clothes!

xx Raez

wardrobeexperience said...

adorable dress and hat. those shots are great, too. totally in love. :)

http://wardrobexperience.blogspot.com

Bad Joan said...

You dress is gorgeous!

GTBB,
http://badjoan.blogspot.com
http://cookingjoan.blogspot.com

Sharon said...

Love love love your dress... and i swear you're like some model or something

http://primpedandprimed.blogspot.com/

PennyLane said...

wow i love the dress!
and ur beautiful :)

Allie said...

These are GORGEOUS photos! I love them so much!

xox,

Allie

www.sparklesandstilettos.blogspot.com

Sonya Lyn said...

Your turban is amazing!
Great looks! I'll definitely return!
x0x

www.lollipopsandlipgloss.com

Wendy said...

Wonderful post!
I have a piece of clothing that has a mystery to it, unfortunately though, I haven't solved that mystery yet, and don't know if I ever will!
I adore your dress!
Keep on being wonderful!

xo,
Wendy

Macarons&Coquelicots said...

Simply beautiful !

http://gourmandisesettalonshauts.blogspot.com/

Pearl Westwood said...

I cant escape from that word!!

ps.I think you need to update to my new url:http://fashionpearlsofwisdom.co.uk/ so you will still get updated when I post - I didnt forsee this problem as it is OK for some and not updating others - driving me mad as everyone thinks I am not posting!

pps. are you and your mum going to be at LFW again this year? x