Category Archives: Fashion Wonders

Fashion ponderings, concerning fashion and its societal impact

Be On Trend, Dress for the Season and Keep Warm…

…in this cold British Spring 2013…

Louis Vuitton Spring Summer 2013

Louis Vuitton Spring Summer 2013

The weather is said to be the most disengaging topic of conversations ever. It’s definitely the most thoughtless and uninspiring of conversations, ideal for filling silences and the perfect small talk with people you don’t really care about, but where fashion is concerned the weather is a big deal. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; if there’s one thing that fashion is dependent upon for its success it’s these four elements.The seasons are indeed what keep the fashion wheel spinning and in turn keep us fashionistas from going crazy, because let’s face it, we fashionistas depend upon change. In the winter we sit at our desks at work fantasising about balmy summer evenings after a day in the office spent on roof top bars overlooking the capital adorned in the latest spring summer trends, with Tom Ford sunglasses perched on our noses and polished toenails peeping out of strappy sandals. Once summer eventually turns to autumn we romantacise about being tucked away in cosy pubs protected by overwhelming woolly jumpers, jeans tucked into long boots with our winter armour of scarves, hats, gloves and the latest statement coat piled up beside us. Of course, us Londoners are unfortunately more familiar with the latter.

The impact the weather has on our state of mind, our being and of course our wardrobes, especially our wardrobes is spectacular. For those that live in countries where the seasons are clearly defined comes a sense of clarity, winter; comforting and protected, autumn; melancholy, settled and reminiscent of the summer, spring; new, refreshed and enthused and summer; alive, liberated, contented and of course, happy. In London right now we’re not quite sure what to feel, we’re not quite sure of the season and we’re not quite sure what to wear, let alone what clothes to buy. It’s mid-may and it’s fair to say the UK is still very much fantasising about Summer…still waiting tentatively for a long enough stretch of good weather so we can put away our winter clothes, prepare our summer wardrobes and finally start investing in all the summer trends we’ve been reading about since September 2012. However, it would appear that the sun isn’t ready to put his hat on just yet, which means us Londoners aren’t taking ours off.

At the end of March I spent four days in Barcelona, the weather was glorious and although it wasn’t the height of summer or even officially spring, it was warm enough not to wear a jacket. So bright and sunny was it that it frequently tempted me into spending a ton of Euros on summer clothes in all one hundred Zaras located on La Diagonal. But I refrained, because I knew it was some 16 degrees colder back in London and that it was far better to have the money in my bank account as opposed to hanging in my wardrobe. After a fabulous four days with my partner, eating Tapas and drinking sangria with the sun beating down on our faces, sipping cocktails on the beach and strolling along the boardwalk as skaters swooped by us, the thought of returning to London filled me with dread. After my partner and I split up a year ago we got rid of our flat and were living separately, which meant returning to separate homes. It meant returning back to reality, the nine to five job that took away my liberty to sit and eat Tapas for hours should I want and stroll along the streets taking in my surrounding as opposed to marching from point to point, always with something to do, somewhere to be, some appointment to make. And of course, it meant returning to the cold, back to boots and coats with scarves and hats. As we sat on the plane mid-flight I willed the temperature in London to have at least reached double figures, but the captain confirmed that the temperature in London was four degrees!

I went to work the following week with that sense of ‘Is this as good as it gets?’. At the time I hadn’t realised I was probably suffering a mixture of holiday blues with a bit of Seasonal Associative Disorder. I was feeling so great in Barcelona and it was though I was crashing. I remember saying to one of my colleagues, who’s young, bright eyed, bushy tailed and not even been working a year yet, ‘I deserve more than this.’ She said to me, as though I were crazy, ‘Like what?’ Through fear of sounding old and depressing I said nothing, but secretly I knew I needed a change. I was beginning to feel like I was in a rut, which isn’t particularly like me. Did I need a change of job? Surely not, I love my job.  Did I need a new project? I knew that couldn’t be it…I have my blog, which I also love and I am still writing my novel…albeit slowly. I was enjoying working out, which I felt good about, momentarily – so what was it? Then one morning, after checking the weather on my phone, hoping it might have changed from the night before when I first checked it and disappointed that it hadn’t, I dressed myself in the weather appropriate ensemble I had prepared the night before; a black long sleeved midi dress, with tights and black suede wedged boots. As I maneuvered myself into the black tights that have been protecting my legs from the cold  I realised I had grown to resent them and once I had hooked and zipped and tied my feet into the black boots I enjoyed clomping about in all winter, I realised I have grown sick to the back tooth with wearing boots. It’s Spring Summer 2013 and I should have been prancing around in  a monochrome skirt, something yellow and an ensemble worn with a pair of metallic stilettos. Of course a major part of being well dressed is being dressed appropriately and knowing how to dress for the weather is paramount, so resentfully and fearful of the weather, I headed to the office that day in my tights and boots feeling warm, but still far from fabulous. That evening I went for after work drinks, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror of the establishment I was drinking in and remember thinking that I looked far too covered up, which is all well and good for winter, but surely not for spring, even if it was only four degrees and raining outside! I ended up removing the tights and suffering the cold and I am not generally one to endure the cold for aesthetic purposes.

It very quickly dawned on me, I wasn’t in a rut, I didn’t need a change of job or a new project, I needed a change of season.  When I am feeling low or less than confident, it’s fashion that I turn to make me feel fabulous. Of course reading a book, writing and such all make me feel great internally, but I am sure most fashion lovers will agree, when going out to face the big bad world, an ensemble that makes you feel fabulous can make this very normal part of living a whole fabulous event. And I will put my hands up and say, that one of the things that makes commuting everyday that little bit sweeter, that bit more fabulous, is wearing an ensemble that I have taken a bit of time to put together and that I love wearing. It makes the train journey, the visit to Starbucks, working in the office, going for lunch, taking meetings and socialising after work that special. And even more so, when I’m wearing something new! But I wasn’t shopping, because it was too cold to buy spring/summer clothes and I didn’t want to waste anymore money on winter clothes, just in case spring did decide to settle in, so therefore I had nothing new. On the other hand I had grown bored and almost angry at the winter clothes the weather still required me to wear. I had developed, what I have coined, Fashion Associative Disorder – caused by the lack of change in season and therefore the lack of change in wardrobe

Instead of getting angry, I accepted this as a fashion challenge and I embraced it. The challenge being, how to look current and on trend, whilst in season, without the weather necessarily correlating with the weather? So, like I would with the turn of any season, I began to select the trends that most suit my style; for the season I have opted for Marc Jacobs Monochrome, so accessible and depending on what garment you buy, doesn’t need to be particularly seasonal and won’t necessarily date too quickly. Yellow, think Louis Vuitton, often associated with spring and summer, but again, purchasing yellow tops as opposed to trousers or skirts, makes this an easier trend to implement into an ensemble and make it look current, without looking too summery or feeling too cold. The perfect trend for UK weather right now has got to be what I am calling ‘the new denim’ – I might have read this term somewhere, just think Philip Lim’s New York runway s/s 2013. This trend is perfect for me, because I love denim, but always fear it can be too casual – this new reworked denim has changed wearing denim on the upper body entirely, denim shirts have become smart and sexy in soft kimono sleeved tops or cropped and boxy soft denim t-shirts. Another key trend I have adopted this very cold spring is the graphic digital print partnered up with a complimentary, but again slightly different print, again inspired by Marc Jacobs.

Once I decided the trends I would be wearing, I decided how best to implement them in this barely even tepid UK weather. I avoided purchasing garments directly associated with spring, so instead of buying little skirts and dresses, trousers to light to keep me warm and floaty tops too summery to be appropriate just yet, I purchased tops and blouses and trousers of a substantial material. I bought myself that soft denim Philip Lim inspired kimono sleeved top from Zara and I wear it with leather trousers and metallic Terry De Havilland wedges – an outfit that nods quite nicely to this seasons’s key trends. I have also found playing with colour is a great technique to make an ensemble appear spring-ier and current, without necessarily having to compromise on warmth from the garment, so I bought jeans from Zara in beige and khaki green and pastel pink and bright yellow blouses, which I have worn with some new black stilettos from Zara, a black blazer and my staple black Chloe handbag. I have also entered into a little monochrome madness, but I justify this with the thinking that monochrome printed shirts and blouses will never date. In fact, I entered this monochrome trend toward the end of last year with a few shirts from Zara and then continued with a birthday ensemble that consisted of a black and white printed vest top tucked into black and white Marc Jacobs inspired trousers, all from Topshop, worn with a black Marc Jacobs handbag and red Miu Miu wedges. And last, but by no means least, my absolute favourite spring summer purchase, that makes me feel fabulous no matter how warm or cold it might be, is without fail my Tom Ford sunglasses. I am now coveting more spring-ier shades for wardrobe pieces that allow a high cost per wear; a handbag, ideally the grey Prada Saffiano bag or the 31 Hour Phillip Lim handbag, of which colour I am not quite sure. And I am still struggling to find a spring jacket that blows me away, it needs to be lighter in weight and in a neutral or pastel colour, but what I have found once again, is that fabulous feeling and that is what’s most important!

The weather is not only affecting wardrobes and our state of minds, but its affecting retail sales and clothing companies are just as desperate to see the spring officially kick in as much as we are. But in the meantime, if you’re feeling this seasonal slump or think you might have a case of my Fashion Associative Disorder, I say embrace the fashion challenge and shop your way out of it! Nobody quite knows how theraputic retail therapy is quite like a fashionista and if it gives you that fabulous feeling, surely that’s all that counts!

Monochrome and digital print pairing, inspired by Marc Jacobs…

Monochrome Madness
The new denim, playing with fabric and totally on trend t
his season, inspired by Phillip Lim…
New Denim
Incorporating lighter  colours into an ensemble,
inspired by the Fendi 2013 colour palette
Springing into Colour
The game changers,  the absolute staples that will define your
summer wardrobe from winter everyday
with great cost per wear value…
On Trend, In Season and Warm - British S/S2013
Be charmed, stay warm, stay fashionable and stay inspired!

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Inspired By: Stylish Thoughts…

I’ve been thinking about style a lot of lately, possibly because I have been shopping excessively and going out at just as much – requiring the styling of many new ensembles for many different events, locations and situations. When I studied fashion two years ago I was lucky enough to truly discover exactly what it is exactly that beguiles me about fashion. Beyond the delight I find in dressing and dressing up, what I am so curious about and so deeply intrigued by is simple…it’s style. STYLE! That simple one syllable word that has such a weighty significance in terms of self expression. We all know the famous fashion quote ‘Fashion fades, style is eternal…’ But do we truly know how to define it? We know it when we see it -‘That’s stylish, she’s stylish, he’s got style etc.’

We all generally tend to have a universal understanding of who and what is stylish, hence why the world covets and henceforth creates style icons. And style icons vary from classic and sharp Victoria Beckham, to masters of the glam rock chic Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, preened to perfection and always neat Olivia Palermo  or forever casual and cool in a leather jacket, skinny jeans and boots combo Kate Moss.

But asides from using the word to identify a form of dressing, Classic, Casual, Trendy, Sporty etc, what constitutes as style and how can we identify what it looks like?

I like to define style as fashion’s cousin, her much cooler cousin and a trend is fashion’s sister, possibly even twin sister. Without going too deeply into semiology and linguistics, fashion is the object – the signified and the trend is formed by the signifiers, in this case the consumers (us), who with our consumption of said object  eventually make the object fashionable or/ and trendy.

Style, I refer to as fashion’s cooler cousin because it’s more expressive and offers more of a personal communication. If we could all afford to wear runway looks straight off the catwalk of the season’s most coveted look, regardless of how fashionable and on trend it might be, we’d all look like clones, or the alternative terminology, fashion victims. Style is not the possession of, or the monetary strength to, own and dress in fashionable items.  Style is the dance between conforming and rejecting, between being predictable, ironic and unexpected.

We can all wear a runway look and be fashionable, but  we’d have no credit to take for our ability to dress, because the look has already been packaged and parceled by another stylist. In fact, the only thing we might express dressed head to toe in a runway look is our undying love for fashion and our ability to keep up with its capricious nature. Ask Anna Dello Russo, Fashion Editor and Creative Director at Vogue Japan, who’ll tell you ‘I don’t want to be cool, I want to be fashion’. I have never seen a woman wear so many runway looks, in fact so fashionable is the passionate fashionista that she has been described by Helmut Newton as a ‘Fashion maniac’.  Anna might be considered ironically cool, like wearing nineties patterned  Moschino in the twenty first century or a black woman wearing a t-shirt that reads ‘Blondes have more fun,’ but too much irony or too much of one thing is never good.

So, back to this dance of conforming and rejecting. Style is a personal interpretation of the signified object – the fashion item, it’s the way in which we  choose to hangout with fashion’s sister, the signifiers, the masses that form the trends and its how we choose to reject it, by refusing to wear it, altering it or manipulate it. A white shirt might be fashionable, neatly buttoned down and tucked into a pair of jeans, we conform to the trend by wearing the white shirt, but we reject it by tucking only the front of the shirt into our jeans and leaving the back out, wearing the first three buttons undone or placing a statement necklace around the collar and so on and so forth.

In my humble opinion, ‘styling’ is the way in which we manipulate fashion. The most stylish of people in my belief are those that always have their eye on fashion but have the ability to manipulate, to innovate, to be unexpected but respectable, ironic and predictable and know exactly when to conform and when to reject.  Style is formed once we develop a particular method towards the way in which we approach dress, over a period of time this will form a motif which eventually becomes our own unique style.

Here’s to some of my personal style icons at the moment…

Carrie Bradshaw Sex and the City

Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City movie wearing pink cut out dress and black studded belt.

Carrie Bradshaw

Carrie Bradshaw – Sex and the City

Victoria Beckham wearing DVB Jeans

Victoria Beckham wearing DVB Jeans

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham dressed in grey

Rihanna dressed in pink and orange

Rihanna dressed in pink and orange

Olivia Palermo in pink

Olivia Palermo wearing pink lace at the Valentino Couture at Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild

Olivia Palermo in black and navy blue

Olivia Palermo in black leather peplum top and navy blue shorts with pointed wedges

Kourtney Kardashian casual in flats

Kourtney Kardashian casual in flats

Kourtney Kardashian

Kourtney Kardashian dressed in blue patterned dress

Kim Kardashian wearing black and grey

Kim Kardashian wearing staple skinny jeans, heels and waterfall jacket. Dressed in black and grey.

Kim Kardashian dressed in leggings and longline blazer

Kim Kardashian dressed in leggings and longline blazer with statement necklace

Kourtney Kardashian dressed casually in flats

Kourtney Kardashian dressed casually in flats and brown hat

Be charmed, stay inspired! x


Filed under Fashion, Fashion Wonders, Journalism, Style, Uncategorized

Inspired by: Being Over Shopped or Under Paid!


Sometimes you really do just have to see the silver lining…or gold in my case! So here’s my story…

This month I have been fluttering within the realm of social media more so than usual. This of course is fun! It’s great to see what’s out there, I love to be inspired and it’s important to invest into the blogosphere, as I treasure it so dearly.

Au contraire to what internet phobes and pre-historic anti social media characters might say…there really is some good stuff out there and so inspired have I been that much of this months fashion purchases have been enthused  by fellow bloggers.

Most of my social media travels are concerned with fashion and style and I flit between blogs, Polyvore and Pinterest. On my journeys I discover new styling ideas and new looks that I want to try out…I pin them to my  Pinterest board, I blog about them on Charms of a Dandizette and then I look through my wardrobe to see how I can imitate, recreate or incorporate said style into my own life.

The problem, however, begins when in my wardrobe I can’t find the right print trouser, a top that sits the way I want it to or a shoe that says this about me rather than that. I begin to make mental notes, ‘I need to buy this, I have to   remember to buy that.’  Then I come back to Pinterest, to any particular blog post I have bookmarked, Shared or Liked and then I begin to write my shopping list.

The mid-season sales began this month so I made it my point of duty to purchase as much as I could on my shopping list, with a few little extras that weren’t, but were such a good deal that I couldn’t pass them up! As the weather in London has been generally atrocious I have yet been able to wear half the clothes I have bought, so they sit in my wardrobe, tags still hanging off, awaiting their debut!

On Wednesday, whilst listening to a Cafe Del Mar chill out set on YouTube and envisioning myself sipping cocktails on a beach on the continent or at a roof top bar (if I have to be in London) with the sun beaming its rays on me, a promotional email from Kensington Roof Gardens came through, boasting about the great weather this weekend and Roof Gardens being the place to be. Instantly I got excited, if its true, if the weather really is going to be nice…I want to spend the day in some swanky roof top bar, sipping cocktails that are super overpriced, just so I can finally get dressed up in something new!

This morning I woke up, the sun was shining a little, excitement grew a little more, I apprehensively checked the weather forecast, excitement surged through the roof  – lots of sun promised for the capital this weekend! Then I began to mentally plan what I might wear whilst logging onto my online bank account… ‘snake print trousers with purple top, no, black and white skirt with red top Olivia Palermo style, or…’

Low and behold, my bank balance appears on screen and excitement suddenly disappears so quickly it crashes through the floor. All possibilities of debuting ensembles, spending double figures on cocktails and maybe even squeezing in a purchase of a pair of Alexander McQueen wedges I spotted in the sale are out of the window!

As well as laughing at myself right now for spending so frivolously this month and really expecting to afford some glammed up weekend, I am also laughing at the irony o f  it all! Loads of fabulous clothes, nowhere fabulous to  go. Only a few months ago I wrote a piece about my new found love for the court shoe due to its versatility and suitability to my more ‘mature’ lifestyle. It was inspired by my partner who had said to me, ‘What is the point of your money hanging in your wardrobe when you can have it sitting in your bank?’ A comment he had made off the back of me purchasing party dresses and glamazon shoes, which are still boxed away or hanging in my wardrobe unworn because, truth be told, I rarely party!

Admittedly, I didn’t need to shop so excessively…instead of buying everything on my list and then some, I could have crossed a few things off! I put it down to the occupational hazard of fashion blogging and also to my predisposition of seeing the world through fashion tinted glasses.

My weekend is more than likely going to be less fabulous than I imagined…but, the gold lining is, I can stay at home, save on spending, be productive and write! The ultimate question is…can you consider yourself a fashion blogger without partaking in the accumulation of fashion goods?

Here’s what’s been inspiring me…Be charmed, stay inspired! x


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Fashion Illustration: A Brush With Fantasy

A Brush with Fantasy

It would seem that the fantastical world of fashion illustration is a world that has sadly been forgotten. In the Golden Age of fashion illustration, illustrated magazine covers charmed the readers into their sensational visions, but today these symbols of fashion and fantasy barely make the pages of the magazines. Platform celebrates the wonderful and sadly forgotten world of fashion illustration.   

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There is a delightful and indescribable emotion evoked by the spectacle of beautifully dreamy and fabulously glamorous fashion illustrations. A glance at the visions of David Downton, Jean Phillipe Delhomme or Gladys Perint Palmer is instantly breathtaking. The contrast of whimsical brushstrokes juxtaposed against the accuracy of the garment’s design makes the impact of this art form almost haunting. Many find themselves lost in the illustrator’s world of colour, technique, style and imagination. The illustrated Vogue covers of the golden age have a collector’s value and are beginning to find their homes in frames displayed on the walls of fashion and art aficionados. It’s a wonder why these tokens of art, fashion and fantasy no longer grace the pages of the magazine covers and pages the way they once used to.

There was a time when the world of fashion moved a little slower and the rapid turnaround of fashion design, production and the associated media happened over a lengthier period. Today collections are created to deadlines, fashion bloggers and journalists go toe to toe to relay the latest stories and have a number of media platforms to choose from to access the public in the quickest form. Fashion resides in a breakneck world and those not on its heels risk losing their relevance. It was only inevitable that the presence of fashion illustrations in our glossies would grow scarce after the development of the click and snap nature of photography.

‘Illustration is still extremely popular with designers and the public alike,’ says David Downton, ‘but remains generally under the wire.’ What a treat it would be today to purchase a magazine that only featured fashion illustration. No doubt this would be a magazine that would sit proudly on the coffee tables of fashion lovers amongst the Valentino and Vogue collectors books, but it seems almost impossible to imagine that magazines with purely illustrated images ever existed.

During the Golden Age of fashion illustration, Vogue publisher Condé Montrose Nast was the custodian for illustration, he invested in a team of Vogue illustrators that would illustrate every Vogue cover from 1910 till the beginning of world war two. Condé Nast’s admiration of fashion illustration was enthused by La Gazette du Bon Ton, the French fashion, lifestyle and beauty magazine published from 1912 – 1925. The French publication centred itself around the creation of fashion illustration and employed some of the best illustrators of the art deco era, Paul Iribe, Gearges Lepape and Pierre Brissaud to name a few. Each edition would feature ten illustrated couture designs, seven of which were the illustrations of couture designs and the remaining three, which allowed the illustrators to envisage and illustrate their own designs merely to excercise and display their own illustrative minds.

Many of La Gazette du Bon Ton’s illustrators worked on the covers at Vogue including Helen Dryden and George Wolf Plank, but the end of La Gazete soon rendered these artists without a place to execute their fashion fantasies on the page. Nast required illustrators to portray the garments in their most realist form in order to provide the reader with the most accurate vision of the design, while the illustrators naturally longed to implement their artistic freedom. Sadly, fashion illustration began to contradict its very existence, a world that seemed to survive off the imagination, fantasy and art desired the utmost realism and truth.

Carl Erickson and Rene Bouet were illustrative pioneers for creating illustrations for which realism was the essence, it was not long before the two set the bar for this fashion illustration form. Inevitably Edward Steichen’s colour photograph in 1932 would provide the industry with exactly what it wanted. By 1936 Vogue sales proved that the photographic images that replaced the illustrations on the covers sold more copies. 

Since the golden age of fashion illustration its presence in the fashion publication has fluctuated. The works of the Puerto Rican major fashion illustrator, Antonio Lopez became a fixture in Vogue and other high fashion magazines throughout the sixties and seventies, even though both decades were particularly dominated by photography.  During this period magazines such as Honey (the first British magazine to feature black models), Jackie and Petticoat all featured fashion illustration, nevertheless, on the whole the art form struggled in and didn’t see its next surge till the eighties. An advert illustrated by Jean-Philippe Delhomme for Barneys New York inspired an enthusiasm around the medium once again, La Mode en Peinture 1982, Condé Nast’s Vanity 1981 and Visionaire 1991 created opportunities for a new generation of fashion illustrators.

Today the presence of the fashion illustration is out of the ordinary and merely peppers the pages of the fashion magazines – what was once the super glue of the magazine is now barely a garnish, decorating the white spaces of magazine editorial. On the upside of this, the fashion illustrator of today is no longer constricted to the magazine and works in a number of different mediums. Gladys Perint Palmer, a Central Saint Martins graduate and one of the last students of Muriel Pemberton, the inventor of fashion education, says, ‘depending on the illustrators style depends where they will find their work.’ Gladys is the proof in the pudding that fashion illustration, even though it isn’t celebrated in the fashion publication, is indeed still sought after. ‘I am on a heavily impending deadline,’ she says, ‘I am currently working on a book titled From Eve to Yves. There is plenty of work. I am swamped.’

Albeit, it is a shame these little slices of art are absent from the fashion magazines, but at least the occasional glimpse, in an ad campaign or on the cover of a book, is a moment that remains just as special and fantastical as the last.

My favourite blogging illustrators: Jean Philippe Delhomme, The Uknown Hipster, Kelly Smith, Birdy and Me  and Garance Dore


Filed under Fashion, Fashion Wonders, Journalism

The Black Book

It is undeniable that the female fashion and lifestyle magazine reader of today is spoilt for choice. The abundance of women’s magazines gracing the shelves is phenomenal, sometimes even overwhelming. A visit to the local WH Smiths can last absolute hours and for the enthusiastic reader, can cost a small fortune, or at least a nice lunch. As readers we select our magazines in accordance to the publications that speaks to who we are, or more aptly, who we aspire to be.  A wealth of publishers, photographers, editors, writers, stylists and designers want to give readers the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. They are the vocal-chord of fashion, communicating the core ideals of the industry through their voices. With great creative manipulation they use the shiny pages of their glossy magazines to show us how beautiful, respectable, fabulous and glamorous the world of fashion is. These creatives, however, that assure us fashion is global, multicultural, powerful and important, whilst being at the same time and most significantly – fabulous, seem to be less eager to style, write, advertise or photograph ethnic women.

London is home to approximately seven million people, known for its great melting pot society. It is the creative hub, rich in cultures, races and lifestyles. There are two and a half million of London’s population living in the capital’s largest borough of Lewisham, half of the population are black. Amongst the assortment of mainstream fashion magazines on display at a Lewisham newsagents it may be possible to spot three or four black women’s lifestyle magazines on the shelf at any one time. This however, does not happen often and when it does, no doubt these newsagents are keen ethnic magazine stockists. There are only but two longstanding UK based women’s lifestyle magazines, Pride, ‘for the woman of colour’ which has been in print for nineteen years and Black Beauty and Hair, ‘for the beauty conscious black woman’, for twenty four years. Acutely looking for these two black ‘lifestyle’ magazines in the Lewisham borough the investigation found it was not always possible to find them on the ethnic magazine stockist’s shelves, however, Jet, Essence, Ebony and Oprah, all of which are black American women’s glossies appeared to be the staple of the such vendors, (of course, whether Oprah is actually a black magazine remains slightly ambiguous).

Whether its music tastes, fashion, Hip Hop and basketball subcultures or hair and beauty matters, it is no revelation that black UK culture follows on the heels of America’s dominant black culture, henceforth, 56% of black women claim they are more likely to read a black American magazine than they are a black UK magazine, opposed to 22% who said they would prefer to read a black UK magazine. 22% of black women claimed they wouldn’t read either. The general consensus feels that black American magazines have a more authentic position on black issues and a greater affluent black population than the UK, with ideologies that UK blacks obviously feel they can identify with. Of course the black population is significantly larger in number in America, hence America’s ability to represent blacks better and produce higher quality black magazines that obtain a larger readership in countries outside of its own. ‘I hardly ever see a Pride magazine in my newsagents and Black Hair and Beauty, never,’ says London College of Fashion trained Afro and European hairdresser, Natasha Bonet. For the woman who never buys a magazine, or doesn’t care too much for them, if there is one place that she is certain to at the least flick through one, it’s at the hairdressers. Most hairdressers spend ample amounts of money on magazines and most black women spend ample amounts of time at the hairdressers. Natasha runs a private boutique hairdressing service in Forest Hill, Lewisham. Her clientele are by referral only. Ninety nine percent of them are black women, who she describes as mature professionals or young upwardly mobile. In the magazine rack in her salon she has Vogue, Glamour, Look, Elle, Marie Claire and OK – all the mainstream glossies you can think of, but not a black magazine in sight, not even a black hair magazine. In this boutique salon, that is, without claiming to be, a posh black hairdressers, even the hair magazines are white hair magazines. If there is a formula for the survival of the black publication it most certainly involves saturating it with black hair editorial, advertorial and adverts.  In fact there are more black hair magazines than there are lifestyle magazines and even those lifestyle magazines are filled with hair products and adverts. Hawker publications, publisher of Black Beauty and Hair magazine also publishes Braids and Naturals, Black Hairstyles and Black Beauty and Hair professional, their media pack says, ‘Black Beauty and Hair has a high pass-on readership because it is the top choice magazine for salons,’ evidently not for this boutique salon.

Black magazines may not be as readily available as mainstream glossies, however this may not be the absolute reason that black women prefer to purchase mainstream magazines as opposed to black magazines. You can guarantee that if there is a black hair shop in the vicinity there is definitely an ethnic magazine stockist nearby. Catford, in Lewisham  has a diminutive town centre, asides from the local butchers, bakers and other high street staples, there isn’t much else there, that is of course, not including two impressively sized, well stocked black hair shops and two newsagents whose black magazine collections are rife. Catford is also home to a WH Smiths, where a black aspiring writer, who refuses to be named, buys her magazines on a weekly basis, ‘I have been collecting Vogue since I was sixteen,’ she says. She also admits that she never used to read them, just admire the fashion and possibly read the cover feature if she liked the celebrity. She only has two black magazines in her collection, ‘One, a friend gave me last year and the other I bought the following month with a conscious effort to support black magazines – what a joke that was.’ She hasn’t bought one since and has vowed never to do so again. There is most certainly a pattern here which is creating a significant problem for black publications. While the majority of black women are quite happy to overlook black UK magazines and receive their lifestyle, beauty and fashion advice from mainstream magazines, the black UK magazine struggles to maintain readership. ‘One hurdle editors and publishers of black newspapers feel that they have to overcome is the lingering belief on the part of many people that any black-run institution is inherently inferior to any comparable white one,’ writes David Hatchett, in his article, The Black Newspaper: Still Serving the Community. He goes on to quote publishing figure, White, ‘Black newspapers have to struggle to get rid of the stereotyping of inferiority that black people place on everything black.’

Many believe that the difficulties that black magazines face are self inflicted, the publications feature poorly edited articles that are neither topical or engaging, the photography at best appears somewhat defective and substandard and the styling and make up, just the same. Of course the quality is a knock on effect of the circulation and advertising rates. Black magazines are a specialist, niche magazine, an alternative to the mainstream magazine, yet they need mainstream readership figures to create the revenue they need to level with the quality of any mainstream glossy, however the black magazine must remain niche, to remain a black magazine. Ed Davies, managing editor of American newspaper, the New Pittsburgh Courier says, ‘Black newspapers are caught in a quality –revenue “Catch 22.” Black newspapers need to hire additional reporters and editors and purchase computer systems and other equipment to improve the quality of their products and attract more readers. More readers will bring in more advertising, which brings in more revenue to further operations.’ Advertising has an insurmountable impact on the survival and production of the magazine, as this is where the publication will generate a significant amount of its revenue. However advertisers markedly are more attracted to advertising their products in magazines with more impressive readership figures, as this creates greater exposure for their product. Mainstream magazines unmistakably provide a more lucrative platform than any niche magazine because the readership figures are greater. ‘Many ethnic magazines are niche products and their publishers should perhaps spend more time promoting the quality of their target readership rather than worrying about the quantity when trying to woo advertisers,’ says Media Week.  Some advertisers claim they are reluctant to advertise in ethnic magazines, some publications aren’t ABC certified (Audit Bureau of Circulations) and publishers swell their readership and circulation figures. Pride has a regular monthly print of 200,000 with a readership of 40,000. Black Beauty and Hair has a regular print of 30,000, how many people actually read Black Beauty and Hair is ambiguous, however Black Beauty and Hair claims to be the biggest selling black UK magazine in WH Smiths and generates the most advertising revenue.

On the complete other end of the scale, Vogue has a total paid circulation of 1,240,800. Magazines such as Vogue can sell advertising space to Versace, Chanel, Christian Dior and Prada and each fashion house has a number of adverts in one edition, advertising various products, from sunglasses, watches, and perfume, to make up, handbags, shoes and clothes. The quantity of adverts in such magazines can be grating for some, in Vogue March 2010, there are fourteen double spread adverts, which totals twenty eight pages, not including the Louis Vuitton double sided fold out, before even getting to the contents page. How does Vogue get away with it? The adverts are beautiful, as are the models, but most importantly they can afford to balance their high fashion adverts with high quality stylists, editors, photographers, features and journalists and for such a reason, their readers are prepared to pay a little extra for the cover price.  Black Hair and Beauty and Pride magazine, the closest equivalent to a glossy magazine, on the other hand fight to secure advertising that can generate sufficient funds to improve the magazine’s quality.

Black magazines cannot attract mainstream advertisers, Versace has never advertised in Pride magazine and neither has H and M.  Media Week claims that, ‘the difficulty for advertisers is that ethnic communities can be as internally diverse in terms of age, language and location as they are distinct from mainstream culture. Add this to a client team’s possible lack of understanding of ethnic cultures and a fear its brand image will be damaged if a company gets its advertising message wrong, and it is perhaps understandable that many advertisers and their creative agencies prefer to stick with the mainstream media they know so well.’ Surely then United Colours of Benetton must have mastered this art, then? The brand prides itself on its diversity and features models of nationalities from all over the world, Alek Wek being a household Benetton model. However, according to the United Colours of Benetton press area the brand hasn’t advertised in either of the major black magazines in the past year and undoubtedly, ever. The truth is, regardless of what Media Week claims about ABC certificates and a team’s lack of ethnic understanding, advertisers don’t consider black consumers to be significant enough to target them solely. David Hatchett quotes a black American media figure, Warren, ‘Many businesses do not advertise in black newspapers because they are not overly important to their marketing strategies in the black community.’ Advertisers are also aware that they can reach the black market through mainstream magazines, as black frequent magazine consumers read mainstream magazines more frequently than black magazines. 86% of black upwardly mobile women under forty read mainstream magazines as opposed to black magazines, 10% of these women said they might buy a Black Beauty and Hair magazine to refer to when getting their hair done.

So what kinds of adverts end up gracing the pages of black magazines? In Pride’s May 2010 edition, seventeen pages of seventeen different brands are dedicated to hair adverts, two double spread adverts, (two brands, four pages) appear before the contents page, in comparison to Vogue’s fourteen adverts, twenty eight pages. Pride evidently has fewer brands to advertise in its publication; out of forty pages dedicated to advertising and seventeen hair adverts, the remaining twenty three pages are dedicated to churches, foster care, community events, black Businesses and organisations and black album releases. The lack of advertisers willing to advertise their brands in black magazines leads to black publications being forced to depend on black businesses, government projects and inevitably, black hairdressers. You wouldn’t be wrong to assume when reading Black Beauty and Hair or Pride, that black women have but one issue in their lives – beauty. ‘It’s embarrassing, surely we have progressed a little more than this, or are we still seeing our beauty through the eyes of European standards?  It’s a shame black history can’t generate more advertising revenue,’ Gemma Ellen says, disappointedly.

89% of black women claim that they do not get sufficient information from UK black magazines, 78% claim they don’t feel they get sufficient information from mainstream magazines either. 75% think that mainstream magazines should diversify and would prefer to see a more diverse and integrated mainstream magazines as opposed to black UK magazines becoming fruitfully successful within their own specialist niche. Only 25% feel mainstream magazines are created to represent the majority and are fulfilling their remit perfectly, they believe it is the black UK magazines responsibility to satisfy black women. 100% of women feel that the black UK magazine is completely necessary for black women living in this country. Although the obvious differences between blacks and Caucasians are hair and beauty related, the disparity isn’t just skin deep, black women feel that the black UK magazines should feature editorial that mainstream publishers won’t publish, such as cultural and social issues, they also feel strongly about covering editorial focused on black history.

Instead what black women end up with is something that resembles the yellow pages of hair, an index of black hair salons, photography of black hair styles and hair stylists (which also advertise black hair salons) and page after page of black hair products. It is overwhelmingly tedious to sieve out any editorial that isn’t advertising or writing about black beauty issues or hairdressers. Black Beauty and Hair’s photography is cleverly disguised, at a first glance you may think the photography is the cultivated vision of the magazine, makeup artists, hairstylists, stylists, photographers and the creative director coming together to create something which captures the essence of the magazine, however you would be mistaken. A source reveals that Black Beauty and Hair magazine have nothing to do with the production of the pages of photography, ‘hairdressers arrange their own photography, send it over to the magazine, who advertise their salon on the page. The magazine doesn’t actually do any photo shoots.’ The magazine’s offices, or office, to be apt is just as non impressive; one office, three desks, no more than a handful of computers and on that particular visit, two members of staff. David Hatchett says, ‘Another yoke around the necks of the black newspapers is the continuous movement of the better black editors and reporters from black newspapers to better paying jobs at white-owned newspapers.’ So, which black journalist, with the possible power to begin the resolution of the black magazine predicament aspires to work for such publications? It is rumoured that the editor of Pride magazine has no journalistic qualifications and Black Beauty and Hair doesn’t appear to have the need to employ anyone that isn’t working on a sales and commission basis. Aspiring black journalists ultimately want exposure, they want their work to be read, accredited and critically acclaimed, understandably they want to receive the big bucks, the aspiring black journalist wants to write for a mainstream publication.

However it would appear that there is a change slowly developing and it has begun by marketers and advertisers recognising the black beauty market share. Cosmetic brands such as MAC, Bobbi Brown and Clinique cater for a greater range of skin colours and therefore nationalities than most mainstream brands and reflect this in their advertising campaigns. MAC has featured black celebrities such as Missy Elliott and Mary J. Blige in their campaigns. Clinique and Bobbi Brown both frequently cast models of various nationalities. All three brands are regularly in the editorial of Black Beauty and Hair and Pride. Both MAC and Clinique have adverts in the May 2010 edition of Pride; Clinique has a double page spread, the only double page spread advert throughout the entire magazine, barring two hair adverts.  MAC has a single page advert which features Lady Gaga. These are, however, the only mainstream adverts in the magazine, whose products cannot be bought at the local pharmacy, such as Vaseline or Cocoa Butter. On the other side of the coin, ‘Superdrug is the first high street retailer to throw its weight behind an ethnic cosmetics brand, by stocking Sleek Make UP in more than 100 stores nationwide. Like the rest of the retailers, Boots sells only a small number of ethnic brands in selected stores,’ says Mintel.Fashion retailer Next revamped its brand in 2007 and made mixed race, Brazilian born Emanuela de Paula its household model. In turn Marie Claire has notably begun to diversify their subject matter and identify with their readers beyond the black token celebrity on the cover; Emanuela de Paula features in the fashion spread of the June 2010 edition, which introduces The New Black, which describes itself, in the words of Marie Claire, as being ‘all about black beauty.’ In actual fact, it’s a page with four hair and makeup tips written by black fashion and beauty writer and editor of, Funmi Odulate, nevertheless this definitely shows the black Marie Claire reader that she is being acknowledged.

What brought on this change? In a word – money.  According to Carole White, co-founder of Premier Model Management, ‘Black models do not sell,’ (unfortunately she made this statement before the Vogue Black is Beautiful edition was released, which flew off the shelves and had to go into print twice). It may be the general media consensus that black models do not sell, but black women most certainly consume. Mintel reports inform marketers and advertisers that the black female consumer is a valuable and untapped market, with a thriving consumer base that can make a significant boost to product sales. ‘Ethnic make-up, skincare and hair care is a niche market worth £65 million in 2007, growing by 18% since 2002. However, the ethnic beauty products market has not kept pace with population growth, due to a lack of impactful new product activity and limited distribution opportunities. Market growth is hampered by limited availability of ethnic brands on the high street. Ethnic brands are losing sales to mainstream cosmetics and toiletries brands as ethnic women turn to a wider range of brands to meet their beauty and personal care needs,’ Mintel reports.

However, advertisers are already aware of the fact that they don’t need to advertise in black publications to contact the black market share as more black women read mainstream magazines as opposed to black magazines anyhow. Should diversification of mainstream magazines occur, it would be more likely to render the adverts that are currently limited to black magazines being advertised in mainstream glossies. This would inevitably lead to mainstream magazines hiring more black journalists. Black readers already lost for reasons to purchase the black UK magazine, in this instance will no longer have any need to do so, whatsoever. Whether Vogue will ever sell advertising space to Sensationnel is debatable, however, if black magazines are already struggling to stay above board and are doing so without being entirely respected by the black population, the diversification of mainstream magazines could lead to the complete demise of the black magazine, the magazine that black women feel is totally necessary to the UK.  If what black women want is the choice between a good UK black magazine and a mainstream magazine then ultimately they need to begin by purchasing the black UK magazine and remaining loyal consumers. Only then will the revenue be generated to improve the quality of production, the increased advertising rates and a better editorial content – but until the black woman’s market becomes a market that can solely be communicated to via its own channel, Versace will never cast a black model and will never advertise in Pride magazine.And how does this affect the black magazine? The impact can be vast. Primarily, the more this niche market  is recognised, the more marketers will want mainstream products to tap into it, this will initiate the diversification in the advertising of mainstream products, possibly employing more black creative advertisers to create more ethnically diverse advertisements, requiring the casting of more black models. Needless to say, such adverts would fit aptly in the black magazine and conclusively give the black magazine its lifeline; a continuous flow of mainstream advertisers. At long length this should precipitate greater readership figures, possible higher advertising rates and a requirement for better black journalists, photographers, editors and staff in general, creating a significantly more attractive magazine for readers, advertisers and prospective employees. It sounds all a bit pie in the sky, but may be less far off than some may realise. The past two years have seen two Vogue Italia editions celebrating blackness in one way or another, in 2008 Vogue Italia created the The Black Issue, in 2009 Vogue Italia celebrated Barbie’s fiftieth anniversary by creating an edition which consisted of back to back pages of  photography of black Barbies only, titled The Barbie Issue. Vogue Italia has even gone that one step further and has a residential section on their website entitled Vogue Black, which devotes itself to the black Vogue reader. Vogue Black is written in English and features black writers from Italy, New York, London and Paris. The site discusses black issues, photos black women and features black celebrities and models.

*It is to be noted that since this investigative feature was written Marie Claire’s The New Black appears to have dropped off the pages since its November edition.

*Boots now stocks a number of black beauty products.

*Toni and Guy and Pantene have developed products for afro hair.


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Perfume Adverts 2010 – The Pungent Smell of too much Perfume

How do you sell a smell?

It is a shame for me to admit that in the times of financial hardship the first charm I will compromise is perfume. I came into the wonderful world of scent particularly late in life. When my friend used to display her empty perfume bottles on a glass shelf as though they were trophies and always ask for a new perfume for Christmas and birthdays I was far more concerned with shoes and jewellery.  This never meant however that I would go about town smelling of soap – in fact quite the contrary – I smelt like a woman of great taste and elegance. I  was lucky enough to have my mother who owns or has once owned all the perfumes a connoisseur of smell should own, Elizabeth Arden Red Door, Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Christian Dior Poison, Chanel No 5, Chanel Allure and her now signature smell Bulgari Amethyste – her perfume collection inevitably became my perfume collection.

I have never been lured by faddish or celebrity perfumes and strangely no advert can sell a smell to me regardless of how beautiful and intriguing I find the perfume commercial or how intricate the bottle has been designed. Perfume for me is simple, it’s all about the smell. I like perfumes that are dense in smell, with a rich multitextured scent that lingers and takes a moment to figure out exactly what the perfume is saying. It exhubes an air of sexy mystification and an aura that is effeminately powerful.

Perfume, like everything else I put on my body, is personal and demonstrates my imagined and ideal self.  But when it comes to deliberating the perfect shoe and the perfect perfume why is it that I will invest more time deciding which perfume is right for me than I would a pair of shoes, when the shoe is more financially taxing? Perfume is the least conspicuous adornement, but something about it makes it feel like it’s the most significant. It demands that the scent worn fits like a glove and remains reliable in its reflection.

Perfume adverts have mastered the art of selling an ideology and of course life is better when it smells so. But the scent I spray onto my skin- on the wrists of my arms, the nape of my neck and the collar bone and decolettage  is a highly intimate relationship between myself and my body.  The world can see my shoes, but only those close enough to me can smell my scent and this is why it demands so much attention.

My scents are Christian Dior Hynotic Poison and Kenzo Amour. I have had a relationship with these fragrances for the past four years, should my feelings ever change then as will my perfume, but till then I am happy. They have a similarity in fragrance, but I feel far more powerful being Hypnotic. I have never seen either of the commercials, my selection was based merely on emotion.  Regardless of the times we live in an advert cannot sell intimacy, a perfume commercial simply makes for beautiful viewing.

This is the Dandizette Perfume Commercial List from the most favourite, to the least.

1) Paco Rabbane Lady Million and One Million

Naturally this makes the top of the Dandizette list. A million pairs of shoes? Yes Please. A one million pound diamond ring? Yes, of course…Contemporary, opulent and indulgent. This is the kind of scent that you stop someone in the street for, just to ask, ‘What are you wearing?’ Everyone knows someone who has purchased this perfume this year.

2)J’adore Dior by Christian Dior

Simple, sensational and sensitively sexy, J’adore Dior’s commercial with Charlize Thieron is perfection. The combination of the soundtrack, the crushing of gold jewels beneath a strapy sandal, Thieron’s perfect decolettage and the dress that dreamily sheaths her body is all a genius perfume advert make.

3) Chanel No5

Audrey Tatou is the epitome of french elegance and sophistication. When this commercial feels so right it makes one wonder why Lagerfeld would ever cast the likes of Lilly Allen and Kiera Knightly. Evidently the genius Lagerfeld knows exactly what he’s doing.

4) Beyonce Heat

Has having a second self ever been so attractive? There need be no words for the fierceness of Beyonce’s Sasha, but a reference to the temperature comes to mind. This commercial most certainly is HOT, in fact so hot that viewers complained that the advert was too sexually provocative and petitioned to have it removed from daytime TV.

5) Dolce and Gabbana The ONE Gentlemen

This makes the Dandizette list for the sheer fact that Mathew McConaughey is definitely The One and ultimately, who really cares if he’s a gentlemen or not?

6) Dior Homme Un Rendezvous

Starring Jude Law and directed by Guy Ritchie, the commercial edited for TV by no way does this short film any justice. The famous words ‘ Don’t you worry about that, you’ll know when I’m there,’ said by Jude Law, have grated on me over the past prime time perfume advertising months. However, watching the full length version takes this commercial from one of the Dandizette’s least favourites to half way up the list.

7) Calvin Klein Euphoria

Natalia Vodianova has the sexual seduction of a feline and the innocently youthful glow of sincerity that combined makes the sophisticated woman that she is. Calvin Klein Euphoria makes the list because he chose the perfect model, if after three children we can look half as great as Natalia wouldn’t we too be euphoric?

8) Yves Saint Laurent Belle D’opium

YSL’s infamous perfume Opium was launched in 1978 – her big sister Belle D’opium was launched this year. The commercial is fronted by French model Melanie Thierry who dances to a track that seems to have a resembalnce to Michael Jackson’s Do You Remember the Time?

9) Gucci Guilty

Does this advert strangely look like one of the scenes from Sin City? Gucci Guilty’s commercial was directed by the Sin City Graphic Novelist Frank Miller. Starring Rachel Evan Wood and Fantastic Four’s Chris Evans.

10) Thierry Mugler Angel

Starring Naomi Watts Thierry Mugler’s Angel commercial is by far one of my least favourite. From the man that once designed the costumes of Beyonce, clothes the likes of Lady Gaga and designs perfume bottles beautiful enough to stand as ornaments on a mantle piece this commercial most certainly took the jam out of my doughnut.

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A Man’s Visual Instinct…?

Whether we are at work, on Oxford Street doing some much needed shopping with the girls, heading to Old Street for early evening drinks or Sunday lunching with family and friends, no matter where our presence may be, our appearance shall always be judged. Where does the fashion sensitive woman’s standards and visual instincts, that she uses to judge herself and other women, really come from? Ayesha Charles Reports.
Jennifer Lopez Versace Grammy Dress

Basic humaninstincts has us judge what is before us with our senses, those of us lucky enough to have all five senses seem to be led instinctively by what appears. What we wear can blur the lines of class, status, wealth, politics and taste, giving us the all the ability to materialise as who we want to be or who we wish to be perceived as. Fortunately or not, depending on your stance, what we wear and our general external appearance plays an immensely significant role in how we are treated in society. Traditionally, as women in the western world we have a far more intense relationship with our external bodies and appearance, this is very much reflected in women’s fashion and it’s enormity and variety in comparison to men’s fashion. We have an insurmountable choice when it comes to ornamenting our exterior. Before we even begin to consider colour, fabric, length or cut, we deliberate over dresses or skirts, trousers or leggings, costume jewellery or precious stones, practicality or glamour. Of the eighty two Oscar ceremonies we have only just had our first woman win Best Director, we are still struggling to diminish the twenty percent extra that men earn over women and the ratio of female to male designers is twenty five percent to seventy five, yet we have a world of fashion and beauty products available to us in abundance, how come?

According to Mr Sigmund Freud, ‘Most normal people desire to look at and derive pleasure from looking at things they find sexually attractive.’ Many theorists would have it that women inherently are to be looked at, to be pleasing to the eye and give the onlooker pleasure in looking. John Berger, art critic, author, painter and novelist made an eminent declaration, stating that, ‘Men act and women appear – If men decide how to behave towards a woman on the basis of her appearance, a woman has to survey everything she is and everything she does, because how she appears to others and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life.’ This statement no doubt applies a great deal of pressure to women, our appearance is judged doubly by society; firstly as women, the alternative sex, secondly, as objects of the male desire – but by no means does this make us victims. On paper, Berger’s theory reads far worse than it is in actual fact. The truth is, as women we battle with our desirability everyday – playing it up and toning it down in order to get what we want and to keep away what we don’t. It all sounds so femme fatale, Catherine Tremmel like, but really it’s just another intrinsic skill added to the woman’s list of survival tactics.

In the Black and Blue, a bar tucked away inside Borough Market, a group of us were meeting for after work drinks to celebrate a twenty sixth birthday. Cassandra Jones, a Diary Secretary for the department of health arrives in an oatmeal micro mini skirt, with a long sleeved black t-shirt, black tights and ballet pumps, very tastefully put together. However, the length or lack thereof, of her skirt stirred up some conversation; incredulously, we asked her if she had worn that skirt at work, ‘Yes,’ she said, almost defensively, ‘If I had long legs or was wearing heels it would be a problem, but I’m short – it’s ok.’ In society we discredit a woman for using her femininity or attractiveness as a tool to get ahead, but in this case we know Cassandra, she’s an intelligent woman who is far too feminist to ever endorse such behaviour. Yet instantly and instinctively she validated herself for wearing a mini skirt in the work place and we, as women and her friends instinctively judged her for it. Could these instincts be the lingering remains of the cave man mentality residing in us?
In the power dressing eighties it would have been considered the norm to be irked by a woman dressed in a mini skirt in the work place, regardless of whether she was doing it for personal advancement or sheer self expression, it was completely unheard of. Emma Soames, British editor of Saga magazine says, ‘Thirty years ago we were happy to be accepted professionally – we regarded it perfectly ok to dress mannishly to beat our way to the boardroom…we subconsciously accepted that we were operating in an utterly male world and playing by their rules.’ Even though Emma wasn’t playing up her desirability, with her career in mind she had to pay attention to the fact that she was an object of desire, of distraction, of the alternative sex and tone down her ‘otherness’, which ultimately equivocates dressing for the man’s approval.
I asked a number of women whose approval they seek when they get dressed on a daily basis; the answers were split fifty-fifty between dressing for themselves and for the approval of other fashion conscious women – of course, none claimed to dress for the man’s approval. Gemma Ellen, a twenty six year old prison officer spends ninety percent of her time dressed in a uniform she detests, ‘It’s manly, it doesn’t give me any shape and funnily enough it makes me feel naked,’ she says, ‘I relish the opportunity to get dressed up, put some heels on and feel like a woman.’ Gemma Ellen is lucky enough to have a bra size that could permit her to be a Glamour model, what she fills her bra with is all hers, however, unlike such models she never wears low cut tops or anything that accentuates this part of her body, ‘I don’t want that kind of attention.’ Although this is completely comprehendible and we know the exact kind of attention Gemma Ellen is referring to, it’s still almost contradictory; she hates her uniform because it stifles her femininity, yet when she has the opportunity to dress as she chooses, she plays down an inherently female asset, (An asset that woman all over the world are paying thousands of pounds to enhance in order to feel more feminine and possibly more attractive to the opposite sex) because she doesn’t want the – male attention?
Selina Sydonnie, a twenty five year old ex model, turned English and Drama student has too claimed that she dresses for herself and possibly the women in her life, ‘Men haven’t got a clue,’ she says. Once upon a time she was a Nike, Gap jeans and quirky t-shirt wearer, dressed appropriately for hanging out at her actor, boyfriend’s Caterham mansion. Now, she is a social butterfly and today she wears a black bandeau skirt, with a tunic top, Hogan pumps and an Yves Saint Laurent Downtown bag. ‘Well, I’m a single woman now, I want to get dressed up. I enjoy it. I would never dare to leave my house without eyeliner – even if I’m just going to Sainsbury’s.’ It is to be noted that Selina split up with her boyfriend of ten years, nine months ago and is now actively enjoying playing the field.
If one of the intrinsic roles of the woman is her to-be-looked-at-ness then the women I have encountered are not only enjoying, but fulfilling this prescribed area of their femininity. Of course the codes of good taste and modesty would have it that we keep our exhibitionistic elements to a minimum and dress accordingly.
It’s considered cheap and vulgar to dress too far left of the modesty mark – it resonates sex worker, who emphasise their sexual desirability for capital gains and trade solely on their objectivity to men. On the other end of the scale are women who rebel against their objectivity and their femininity,denying any adornment that plays up their sexuality as women. Fashion sensitive women seem to frown upon anything overtly sexual and contrived and anything that lacks femininity and attention – surprisingly enough, so do men.
It could be considered that dressing for the male approval is so deeply rooted in western society we are now none the wiser we even do it, or we are so accepting of our desirability and objectivity that we just get on with it, using it or not when we feel it to be appropriate. But it would appear that the women I encountered still judge themselves and other women by the very own standards they are confined to, using the man’s process to decide what’s attractive and appropriate. Kate Millet says that, ‘The woman’s image is fashioned by men,’ they may cringe at the thought of dressing for a man’s approval, but ultimately, if women are judging other women on their employability, their performance in the work place, their attractiveness, their ability to get a husband, their femininity and their sexuality, all by how they adorn their external bodies and the woman’s image was indeed tailored by and for men, then dressing for the approval of their friends and dressing for the approval of themselves is no different than dressing for a man’s approval.
‘Maybe I have contradicted myself, and maybe I do dress for a man’s approval,’ Selina Sydonnie admits, ‘but I’m not a try hard and I don’t dress provocatively – at least not when it isn’t suitable. I just love getting dressed up.’

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