Monday, 11 March 2013

Neither 100 Years of Solitude nor a Beehive;using our initiative

Two books marked my adolescence; "100 years of solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and "The Beehive" by Camilo Jose Cela. Both Nobel prize winners, had an idiosyncratic vision of contemporary life in the 50s and 60s.
 In "The Beehive", action is not required of the characters as they hum round in an apartment complex which seems like a beehive in post civil war Spain. Dreary with no seemingly hopeful future, burdened down by ordinary life and a struggle for survival for the lower middle classes of Franco's  Spain. It decided me against conforming and narrow mindedness,  principles I still adhere to. As you read the novel, which is beautifully written in crystal clear and concise objectivity (at first glance!), a huge irritation creeps on you with the characters as they do not seem to get out of their situations, with a deep ingrained fatalism.That, I said, is not going to happen to me!
The second novel, "100 Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is written in the magic realism style so well done by the author. it describes 100 years of the history of a fictitious small town called Macondo in the heartland of Columbia. Characters of the Buendia family retain a sense of genealogical linkage and the weight of forefathers with their namesakes. The absurdity of political smokescreens give a different reality, add pathos to the characters as they wander through their lives not fully knowing what is really happening. The reader does neither, which adds to the mysticism.This too impacted me by the vivid language  written in beautiful Spanish prose. The style takes you along into the story as it unfolds  but in the end you remain mystified. I certainly did not want to walk my path in life in this smoggy mystic environment
Both books showed me the other side of reality and imaginative reality, so the real thing to do was to use one's initiative in trying to move the way you want, in spite of the bigger picture of society, political and economical environments which can constrain you. Initiative is positive:  if the outcome is negative, you fall and sit up again,; if the experience is positive  the wind of fortune leads you! So in this time of crisis in Europe, initiative is even more important for all of us. Don't be afraid to use it, don't be calcified into a set way of life, we only have one and must live it to the full!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Fake or Real? Do it Chanel's way!

Do you like me face an eternal conundrum when choosing accessories;  discreet or flashy?! I was carefully brought up, to appreciate real stones and how elegance was linked to being discreet, ladylike and definitely not over the top. My own style has evolved from my Paris years into jewelry which can make a statement and reflect my eclectic, vintage taste.

I think Coco Chanel had the right approach when she stated:" jewelry is not meant to make you look rich, it is meant to adorn you". Especially if you are not rich, it is better to choose a vintage cocktail ring of semiprecious stones, and failing that a gorgeous plastic design, than a small 'real'stone which fades into significance and adds nothing to your outfit. Coco also advised, to mix freely between costume and real jewelry as the look was all that mattered.

However there is one caveat on costume jewelry, it should be as well made as  real jewelry. So go for the best in each category.Taking a flower adornment, if you wear a real flower, it will fade after several hours, so wearing a beautiful 'real' silk one can enhance a spring outfit. Especially if  you take care, to coordinate your perfume with your look (another time I will explore that topic!)

Monday, 17 December 2012

Vintage Christmas

Christmas has arrived! Each year I vow not to be caught up in the maelstrom of parties, gifts, indulging in lovely festive foods etc. However, I am a child at heart, and looking at vintage children's illustrations, I feel the joy of uncomplicated fun, sharing and giving. The 1920's especially was a time of gifted illustrators who caught the innocence of children so well. One of my favorite is  Anton Pieck  which I reproduce here. Of Dutch origin, born at the end of the 1890's he illustrated many children's stories and fairy tales. Each time I see one of illustrations, I am transported back into my childhood. 
Another wonderful illustrator is Fredddie Langeleer, who was self taught and illustrated many children's books in the 1920's. She wrote a marvelous story which my daughter loves on the star children who live in the clouds and fish in moonlit lakes on the clouds and drive their carriages on plump clouds!Vintage Christmas cards, symbolize my lost childhood and I cannot resist the charming naivety of the images, here are some for your enjoyment!
 Happy Christmas and all the best for 2013!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Feel Good factor

How wonderful to have your breakfast mug inscribed on the bottom with; "Happy products for happy people!"! One of my favorite porcelain and interior wares, is  designer Pip Studio from Holland. This label happily mixes   retro and modern styles, some in pastel tints others in strong reds and pinks and blues, using images from the circus and flower designs with an oriental feel to them.  In case you wonder why I keep coming back in this blog to bright colors, retro style and warmth and happiness; my zodiac sign is cancer, which should explain all! My house is full of vibrant colors and I love nothing more than to change porcelain  for each dinner party or by season.This coming festive season, Pip Studio's bright red band on white porcelain's dinner service, called Love birds, is what will appear on the Christmas dinner table.

 Feel good accessories that are wonderful as Christmas gifts for
 your beloved is Spanish   label  "Mifabula", designing good luck bracelets with silk or leather cords and adding gold or silver discs inscribed with meaningful messages. You can design your own and they'll also  inscribe your children or your beloved's names.

If you need another gorgeous exotic label that designs original colorful accessories, look for Mia Zia, an original French label that does a great line in silk and wool scarves with beautiful patterns as well as leather ware and other complements.

Enjoy the festive season and buy presents full of warmth and color to bring joy into your homes and the heart of those you love!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Dolls as role models

I used to love playing with my Barbie dolls as a little girl, and so when my daughter was reaching doll stage, I turned to Barbie! What a shock to see the new Barbie dolls,  with more make up and thinner curves then I seemed to remember! My Barbie was more sedate in recollection, or is my memory wrong?
 It set me to think about dolls as role models for our girls, and how some girls have taken this to the extreem. Read recently about the current craze in Ukraine for teenage girls to  undergo plastic surgery to ressemble as closely as possible a Barbie, with some odd results!
When I looked at other current dolls, I liked the look of them but they all seem to revert to the traditional wellbehaved little girl look, see Kathe Kruse ( german make); Corolle (french make) and Mariquita Perez (Spanish make). It seems difficult for doll makers to model real girls, but what messages are we giving to our daughters?Are we teaching them about fashion?  In which case my daughter will say to me, that I am definitely not following Barbie fashion!
Another odd thing with dolls, is that it is actually very difficult to get boy dolls, which was not the case some decennia before? Are we stimulating girl power, and a matriarcal culture? Perhaps with society so much in confusion nowadays, we ought to rethink what kind of dolls we present to our children.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The art of elegance

How true! I have always loved to visit secondhand bookshops in search of vintage 1950'S and 60's manuals on beauty and elegance. The advice given therein may seem outdated, but it is a testimony to the age when women, even working women devoted more time to grooming. When I read about the ideal wardrobe and then take stock of mine, I make a firm vow to reduce and order the multitude of closets (they have even invaded the garage!), where I stock bags, shoes, clothes, jewelry, make up, in, short everything, a girl needs. In the 50's, the ideal wardrobe consisted of; one black dress, one suit, with two tops,one good coat and one for going shopping, 3 handbags; a clutch for evening, a good bag and a holdall shopping expeditions! My own collection of handbags has grown with the years ; it has two parameters, great colour or great shape, and I certainly could not exist with only 3.

A great little manual from that bygone age was published by french publisher Marabout flash. Delightful reading, especially when you get to the part where advice is given for the" Celle qui ne parait pas son age" (for her who looks younger than her age!). the advice is to be sober in dress, not to wear short skirts, as one has to remember"La decence est toujours une qualite. Elle est indispensable chez les dames", in other words decency is essential if one wants to be a lady! When I read this, I look at myself and try to compare to how my mother dressed at the same age. It seems a world apart. I do not hesitate to get my daughter from school in leggings (the excuse: I cycle everwhere if possible and when not working!); my mother did look ladylike, always during the week, a suit or straight skirt with twinset and pearrls!!!Always coordinated her handbag to her shoes! AsI keep remembering, I start to feel more and more that I should turn over a good resolve and make an attempt at daily elegance, rather than the odd time when I go to a dinner party!

 For those of you interested to read in english one of those 50's manuals, I would advise to order Genevieve Antoine Dariaux's book "Elegance", it has been reedited and translated into English. You can follow up by reading Kathleen Tessaro's novel "Elegance,true love never goes out of fashion"; a story about a girl who picks up Genevieve's Dariaux's book in a secondhand bookstore and vows to follow the good advice, in the hope it will transform her life!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Stanley Donen or the art of 60's chic

The other night rewatched Stanley Donen's great 60's classic movie with Sofia Loren and Gregory Peck Arabesque. The title sequence is 60's design with Henry Mancini, he of the Pink Panther theme, composing the music:
 Besides the funky music, which makes you swing along and feel jazzy, the fashion worn by Miss Loren is sophisticated and utterly right for feminine curves! She has hips!!!!!!! And breasts!!!!!!

The other great fashion movie from the 60's is of course also by Stanley Donen, Charade! Audrey hepburn on the other scale of elegance from Sophia Loren, is a dream in this suave and sophisticated detective comedy!As my favourite actor all time is Cary Grant, yes no apologies here, he is comic suave and elegant!This movie, is funny and if you love Paris you cannot fail but be charmed by the 60'S views of that elegant city!
My last favourite 60's comedy by Stanley Donen is "The grass is greener", Old england ( of course Cary Grant and Lovely english rose Deborah Kerr) versus the new American (portrayed by Robert Mitchum).
 There is one cocktail dress worn by Jean Simmons who is a chic secondary character, which is shantung silk capri pants with a dress coat over it! I could wear that today and feel the belle of the ball!