Thursday, 30 July 2009

Model Style: The Shrimp

Jean Shrimpton, arguably the first supermodel and the face of Swinging London in the 60s is my all-time favourite. Her wide eyes, retroussé nose and adorable mouth gave her an ingenue quality that chimed perfectly with the new youth-centred decade.

Her predecessors like Fiona Campbell-Walter and Barbara Goalen had an hauteur that suited the haute couture of the 1950s. The contrast could not have been more marked.

In 1965 when she was 22, Shrimpton gained worldwide publicity for a reason that seems extraordinary today. At the races in Australia for the Melbourne Cup,
the social and fashion event of the year, she was roundly condemned for wearing a dress 4 inches above her knee. The conservative racegoers of Melbourne were outraged but probably minded most that she had bare legs, no hat, no gloves.

However, the immediate legacy of "The Miniskirt Affair" was to make skirt lengths a media barometer of The Permissive Society and they came to be a key imageof the decade, alongside the Pill and long hair for men. Jean also reckons that her Melbourne misadventure directly inspired leading British designer Mary Quant, who began creating even shorter miniskirts. In Australia too it became a cause celebre and inspired young women here to take up the new fashion, accompanied by predictable media consternation.

This quote from

She dutifully complied with the dress code the next day at the races

(Not sure where the mark on her skirt came from.. it surely wasn't there at the time)

Jean Shrimpton's career was virtually launched by high-octane cockney snapper David Bailey to whom she became engaged. Through his lens she developed an aura that was partly her own beauty and charm, partly the spirit of the times.

She just looked great in Breton hats.. it must be the full mouth and the good jawline that balanced the picture. This style conjured an air of innocence

whilst she is far more knowing here

and terrifically demure there

It's hard to believe that this is the same model

as this

Post Bailey there was something going on with cockney filmstar heartthrob Terence Stamp.
Anyone who had lusted after him as Sgt Troy in Far From The Madding Crowd would have been unbearably jealous.

I would hazard a guess that her school chums were fairly envious of her career too.

Oi Punk! Toothpaste Girls In Town

I wrote here about my niece Julia (in the white shades) who is a member of the sensational girl band Las Kellies from Argentina. The world tour included Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and most recently here in London at The Urban Bar in Whitechapel and Trinity Church in Bristol. Their indie punk sound and cheerleading style guarantees a reaction which manifests itself in dancing .. even in Paris which is some kind of a record. I saw them dressed as cave girls with papier maché bones in their hair, but I *love* the toothpaste look.

*Interior Design* note : The Kellies' number OLD MAN features a very moving tablescape in this Video

This is a drawing I did of Julia when we were on holiday in June in France

Here is one of her drawings from her UGLY BUNNY oeuvre

Credit: Toothpaste girls from

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Tower Bridge Nightmare Jump

I am one of those people who can't go near a platform's edge or a precipice without toying with the idea of being pushed or tripping or jumping into the abyss. Similarly, when driving over Tower Bridge, I just can't help wondering whether it might just open and if I've just got enough speed j u s t to make it over..

Well here is someone who must have contemplated it with a certain degree of precision. After months of secret planning, Australian motorcross star Robbie Maddison bridged the gap at three in the morning of 13th July. He was allowed very little time to perform the stunt -well it was over in the death-defying blink of an eye - and there was no prior publicity. Consequently very few spectators saw this extraordinary moment (of madness) but it was expertly documented as you will see.

I forgot to tell you he'd include a backflip

Look No Hands! omigod

Interesting architecture (I can't look)


See the heart-stopping footage here.

All images and video courtesy Sky News

Friday, 24 July 2009

Dancing In The Aisles

Two million people have watched this You tube video so that may include you. But if you haven't seen this unorthodox opening to a Minnesota wedding join in the fun now. Shocking, irreverent, touching, life-affirming.. ? Whaddya think?

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Cloud Collector's Handbook

From puffs of cotton wool to noctilucent strands of reflected colour in the dusky heavens, this beautiful little film will transport you skywards. Just look up here.

Sounds like I'm turning into the National Geographic magazine but now I am on the subject find the most sublime, dreadful, surreal and surprising clouds you'll ever encounter here from which my rare cloud image comes. It is called cirrus Kelvin-Helmholtz.

You can get this on Amazon or via The Guardian.

Thanks to The Guardian Online and Cool Pictures/Cool Stuff

Saturday, 18 July 2009

R I P Henry Allingham

Henry Allingham, the World's oldest man at 113, died this morning. We were hoping to see him last week at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party to mark the Centenary of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm which Henry joined in 1915. He was not well enough to attend but I talked to Dennis and Brenda Goodwin his greatest friends and supporters who would have brought him to the event.

They have looked after all the veterans of World War I and helped to give them the recognition they deserve, a marvellous achievement that deserves our gratitude. They will be devastated by the loss of an inspiring and gracious old gentleman and I want to send them my condolences here. I have written about Henry Allingham here
and the BBC has marked his death here with a poignant video of his life and times. You can see Dennis and Brenda at his side, accompanying him, pushing his wheelchair, making his public appearances possible.

Farewell Henry - you embodied the stoicism and sacrifice of all our servicemen and the Nation mourns your passing.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Oh I Do Love To Be Beside The Seaside

Marauding gangs of Mods & Rockers at Brighton, in one of several seaside skirmishes in the summer of 1964

For most, the English seaside in the postwar years has a particular nostalgia.

Donkey rides, Punch & Judy, sandcastles, holiday camps, beauty competitions, pink peppermint rock, crazy golf and the fun fair featured in the gregarious public imagination.

At the margin between land and sea was the liminal sense that authority was diluted and permission given to go a little further in every direction than one did at home. For children it seemed an essential part of their growing up: the fresh salt air, the paddling, the civil engineering projects on the sands, the thrills of the fairground rides, the picnics and the relationship with wasps - and all in the company of jolly, indulgent adults. Your forgot the inclement British weather, the lousy catering and the tetchy landlady at your bed + breakfast.

Typical saucy 50s postcard

One of Beryl Cook's quintessential images of the public at play in the 1980s

'Last year it was seaweed flies' George Sprod 1954

from 'The Best of Punch Cartoons'

This beautiful film of Blackpool comes from the BFI

And finally, Cliff Richard & The Shadows and a red London bus star in Summer Holiday 1963

Friday, 10 July 2009

Dictator Style : A State of Hygiene

One of my favourite books is Dictator Style - Lifestyles of the World's most colourful despots by uber-witty style guru Peter York. His book proves that 'absolute power corrupts absolutely, right down to the drapes.'

Alarmingly, on of the most elegant rooms in the book was at The Berghof, Adolf Hitler's retreat in the Bavarian Alps with its 'anxiously tasteful' fumed oak reminiscent of suburban Surrey.

Amongst the belligerent luxe beloved of despots like Saddam Hussein, Joseph Désiré Mobutu and Slobodan Milosevic, the cut-price 'tyrant kitsch' and weird therapy rooms of Romania's Nicolae Ceaucescu stand out.

The Ceaucescus living off the fat of their communist domain

Ceaucescu, who went from First Secretary of the Communist Party to self-styled Major General President of Romania built himself the supersized People's Palace in Bucharest, the second biggest building in the world after the Pentagon. It was inspired by a visit to North Korea. (Oh surely not.) It involved the clearance of about 7,000 buildings including schools and a hospital and even with 600 architects and 20,000 builders it remained unfinished when Nicolae and his 'saintly' wife Elena faced the firing squad on Christmas Day 1989.

One of the features of Caucescu's spiralling monomania and paranoia was the need for a food taster (Queen Elizabeth was not impressed when the C's stayed at Buckingham Palace) and his pathological fear of contamination and illness. After consoling the victims of an earthquake and other official duties, an aide would wipe his hands with alcohol and a sterilised handkerchief. One can only speculate what strange hygienic purposes his therapy rooms were put to. That rubber hosing?? The stainless steel clover-shaped appliance - what does that do? Peter York wonders whether it's to boil people or school food?

Everything about their living quarters was over-scaled, mean and 'taste-blind'. This bathroom from the Snagov Palace is typical of the tragic recipe of the undistinguished and the rhetorical that dictators do so well.

Here is Elena's bedroom with a painting of her receiving her degree. She is thought to have left school at 14. Maybe it was a thoroughly deserved honorary one? Just a few of her fur coats and her clocks which the author notes look like fairground trophies. Ceaucescu is alleged to have had over 9,000 suits one for every day of his nearly 25 years in power.

From Dictator Style by Peter York pub. Chronicle Books, San Francisco 2005

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