Monthly Archives: November 2014

Cuddly aristos? I’m not buying it

The upper classes have been putting in a spirited media campaign recently to prove they are not obsolete relics of a bygone era but actually rather fun and more like us than you might think. I’m not buying it. Perhaps the threat of a Dickensian dressing down and possible deposition by Essex’s mincing answer to Che Guevara has put the willies up them. Or perhaps they are worried about the unrest all this cutting of children’s heart services and disability benefits might cause and are putting in pre-emptory defence of their status and usefulness. They have found a way to demonstrate what they have in common with the rest of Britain: their love of a party. It started with Prince Harry and his mischievous hell-raising which seemed to endear him to the public and now all the poshos have got in on it, seeing debauchery as the way into the everyman’s heart. If there’s one thing that unites Brits across class it’s drinking right?

We see this in BBC Three fly-on-the-cornice documentary Life is Toff where the Fulford family are constantly smoking, swearing, chucking things at eachother and generally being “fun”. The patriarch, Francis Fulford has plummy vowels but the petulant heart of a spoilt toddler. He invited the cameras into his home yet throws a wobbly if they film him doing something he doesn’t want them to. A man in his sixties throwing a tantrum is a strange thing indeed. It made me realise that there is something childlike (childish?) about the upper classes, maybe because – for the oldest son at least – their life is mapped out from the day they are born which absolves them of choice and therefore responsilibility. There is also the fact that historically they have depended on other people for their needs, although that has changed as the voiceover of Posh People: Inside Tatler lamented “they can barely afford their own staff anymore.” That brings me to the show that started on Monday on BBC Two, another glimpse behind the faded gilt curtain that is half deferential, half sniggering. Let’s face it, the upper classes are sitting ducks for derision – operating in a bizarre, arcane world that bears no resemblance to the one the rest of us live in.

The latest cliché reeled out is that aristos are not actually that rich anymore and their crumbling stately piles are more burdens than bonus. Hmmm. Maybe, but there’s still a big difference from being lumbered with a stately home and with a life on the breadline.

Tatler is very pleased with itself that it is becoming more inclusive and with the times. They kept referring to their world as a “theme park” and were at pains to show that they were the most fun, ker-azy people ever, yet I was left unconvinced. A world with such rigid protocol is surely oppressive, so many rules. And the inclusive thing, you need only look at ex-Tory politician David Mellor’s snobbish rant at a taxi driver this week to know what they really think of us plebs. One ageing aristo told a charming anecdote about his grandfather pushing a waiter through a plate glass window and saying that he would never get away with it now, ending with a hearty chuckle as though such behaviour was endearing and not despicable.

Tatler runs articles that are set up to seem tongue in cheek, about new money versus old money and the like, but it’s not ironic, underneath it’s totally serious social categorising. They are not publishing them to make their readers laugh but reinforce and reassure their perceived place in the world. Middle class newspapers do the same thing, “you know you’re middle class when…”. At first glance they seem to be a jolly, gentle mick take of themselves and their readers, but they are not. They are congratulating themselves and their readers on being above the quagmire of the working class. Like apes grooming each other, these pieces maintain and reinforce the hierarchy.

Posh people are not like the rest of us, they have an inherent sense of entitlement that it is simply impossible for any amount of money to buy. They may buy their own myth of being rather charming sorts but make no mistake, they despise us, they’ve just got better at hiding it.

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A lively few weeks for feminist discussion

It’s been a lively few weeks for feminism. Ched Evans, a convicted rapist who served less than half his time expected to waltz straight back into his lucrative career as a footballer at Sheffield United. He even started training with them before the club was roundly condemned and acquiesced to pressure not to re-sign his contract. I believe this was the right thing to happen in terms of decency. Footballers are role models who are encouraged to be part of the community, reinstating a sex offender into an environment where men, women and children are expected to cheer for him would have been outrageous. Likewise “pick up artist” Julian LeBlanc, who makes his money from inciting the charisma and sexiness devoid to harass and belittle women in order to get laid, being refused entry to our country to ply his twisted wares after a successful petition. Again a victory for women and decency. Then there was Dapper Laughs being removed from our screens – less a victory for feminism than for comedy. I didn’t see his show but just the advert was enough to make me cringe myself nearly inside out.

But then, spurred by all these victories, some people purporting to be feminists turned from rapists and those who spew venomous views for money to… a man who wore a shirt. Dr Matt Taylor, a man responsible for landing a probe on an asteroid after a ten year mission gave a progress report wearing a shirt that some deemed to be sexist in that it depicted some women on it and was forced into a tearful apology. (I know I’m a bit tardy on writing about this, but an article on feminism might have been a bit out of place plonked into the middle of my style special). I just could not see the problem, I refused to be offended. I think the outrage came from a place on the internet that exists in perpetual pre-offence, quivering in readiness to find a new crusade. Like a horde of marauding righteous elephants they crash into things they disapprove of, trying to shut them down. There will be an assumption in the wider public that the people who took part in the Ched Evans campaign are the same people responsible for the shirt backlash when this is not necessarily true. They both fall under the umbrella term “feminism” but they are very different things. The purpose of Ched Evans not being reinstated is to show, in however small a way, young football fans that it is not ok to rape. The purpose of the shirt thing was, well, I don’t know.

The saddest thing is that this is what people will remember from the Rosetta mission when it is a wonderful human achievement. Scientists are not exactly known for their social sensitivity at the best of times. It’s not like he is a rapist, give him a break. I can’t help but wonder whether this is a diversionary tactic. It smacks of seeking to derail feminist discussions by latching onto the most extreme application of the beliefs to make it seem faintly ludicrous and therefore obfuscating the real issues. It seemed like after all these successful campaigns, some wanted to take it to a silly place meaning that is what will be remembered of these last few weeks, not the fact we’re slowly evolving in our treatment and discussion of violence against women.

What I find most perplexing was that there was a furore about some drawn women on a shirt, whilst pictures of Kim Kardashian’s bare arse circulated worldwide and received little questioning apart from bemusement at its mind boggling size. Incidentally, I’m not entirely convinced that at some point the Kard-Arse will not try to strike out on its own and build a solo career. It is after all, the seat of her power. Perhaps a ghost written memoir, maybe a perfume endorsement? I suspect that KK might be launching an arse-based bid for world domination. It’s telling that the most talked about woman right now is not famous for her talent or intellect but for sporting an exaggerated – some might say surreal – image of femininity. What does all this say about our society? That it is confused at the very least.

For the kooky and quirky…

The slightly eccentric, the gently kooky and the wilfully obscure: there’s something for them here.

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From left to right, top to bottom:

Mexico Cookbook by Margarita Carillo Arronte, £23.99, Waterstones. Authoritative take on the popular cuisine.

Arlesienne solid perfume, £8, L’Occitane. For those who eschew the more usual liquid form of perfume.

Metallic balloon dog poodle pendant, £18, galibardy.com. Cute conversation starter.

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle, £8.99, Waterstones. For fans of drink, literature and puns here are 65 delicious drink recipes with names like The Pitcher of Dorian Grey Goose, The Last of the Mojitos, A Rum of One’s Own, Vermouth the Bell Tolls and more

Festive penguin 3D Christmas decoration, £4.95, designmuseum.shop.com.

Great Balls of Fire, £4.99, Montezuma’s. Chocolate caramel balls with exciting flavours including white chocolate, mango, lime and chilli and milk chocolate with a strawberry and peppercorn caramel centre.

Cardinal Eau de Toilette, £45, Pecksniff’s. Oriental amber woody fragrance – sophisticated and provocative.

Marissa floral cushion, £20, Habitat.

Koziol Spicies salt and pepper shakers, £13.95, contemporaryheaven.co.uk. Fun design by German brand.

For sensation seekers…

They’re exhilarating company, a little bit edgy and always looking for the next new thrill or sensation. Here are some gift ideas for hedonists of either sex.

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From left to right, top to bottom:

Ryan Storer oxidised silver-plated Swarovski crystal earcuff, £220, net-a-porter.com. Any fierce female will relish rocking this.

Cannabis Candle, £37, Malin+Goetz. Far from smelling like a rasta’s dreads as you might expect, this cannabis candle is unexpectedly lovely, with rich, heady and woody aromas.

Tom Dixon copper-plated plum cocktail shaker, £95, Liberty. A stunning combination of style and substance. This not only looks beautiful but the design allows for a greater shaking area for drinks, meaning a better taste.

Capucana Cachaca, £35.45 for 70cl, thewhiskyexchange.com. Cachaca is a South American spirit similar to rum made from the distilled juice of the sugar cane used for mojitos and other classic cocktails.

Nutri-Define Superior Retexturising Serum, £86, Jurlique. Because any party girl worth her salt never lets excess show on her face.

The Do – Shake Shook Shaken. French/Finnish electro duo based in Paris. Triple score hipster points.

Marcasite grey crystal angel wing necklace, £21, galibardy.com. Art Deco inspired statement necklace from the boutique London jewellers.

Dark Rum Eau de Toilette, 150 euros, Malin+Goetz. This scent from the New York apothecary has top notes of bergamot, middle notes of rum and leather and a patchouli, amber and milk dry down. Distinctive and long lasting.

The Mixer’s Manual: The Cocktail Manual for Serious Drinkers by Dan Jones, £8.39, Waterstones. Features 150 cocktails from the classic to the contemporary illustrated with stylish retro pictures.

The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnet, £15.19, Waterstones. The first ever “flavour thesaurus”, this book lists ingredient combinations from the classic to the bizarre, such as lemon and beef, blueberry and mushroom and watermelon and oyster. For flavour pioneers.

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For the discerning gentleman…

He’s high brow, he’s well dressed and he likes to smell delicious. He’s comfortable enough in his masculinity to use grooming products and possibly wear a shirt that is both partly purple and has birds on it. Because he knows real men embrace flamboyance when the occasion calls for it. If you know a gentlemen like that, take a look to see if any of the below might make his Christmas day.

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From left to right, top to bottom:

Yamazaki Single Malt 12 year old whisky, £45.50 for 70cl, ocado.com. This distillery was opened in Osaka in 1923 and has now been judged to be overtaking Scotch in terms of quality according to experts. A traditionalist may be dubious at first but he might be surprised how much he enjoys it.

Storm Dualon leather strap watch with rose gold detail, £159.99, asos.com. Striking dual time design from the British brand.

David Rodigan Masterpiece for Ministry of Sound. Three CD collection of the best dub, rnb and reggae.

Religion long sleeve top, £42, asos.com. Made from soft jersey fabric with an on-trend cosmic design.

Wild Man beard conditioner in Tundra, £7.84 for 30ml, etsy.com. This popular US product is hard to find and you can see why with its refreshing blend of lemon and peppermint oils to keep errant beards in check.

Houndstooth checked trapper hat, £25, Marks and Spencer. Keep him snuggly.

Black and purple swallow print cotton shirt,£255, McQ by Alexander McQueen. A statement in cool.

Oxidised silver 5.1 base ring, £145, All Blues. Made from recycled sterling silver this is a modern take on the signet ring. It has a brushed and oxidised finish to give it a masculine edge.

Aventus aftershave, £215, Creed. The logo of this long established brand has quality to spare in itself, let alone the contents of its products. This is a “bold, spirited and confident” scent with notes of apple, juniper berries and vanilla.

Red Cranston print silk pocket square, £45, Liberty. For the dapper gentleman.

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Daniel Wellington 0109 DW men’s classic Bristol Rose PVD brown leather strap watch, £189, John Lewis. A simple and understated everyday watch.

Thavar skinny jeans, £120, Diesel.

Zumreed orange foldable headphones, £45, Habitat. Practical and stylish, these are perfect for carrying around with him all day.

Simon Carter Bauhaus onyx and mother of pearl cufflinks, £50, John Lewis. Simply beautiful.

The Kooples black skull rivet tie, £80, Selfridges.

Facial Fuel no-shine moisturising lip balm, £9, Kiehl’s. Relieves dry or chapped lips without the risk of leaving a residual girly sheen.

Peter Werth men’s grey bomber jacket, £139, Topman.

Celebration Day by Led Zeppelin triple vinyl LP, £39.99, recordstore.co.uk. Vinyl is seeing a resurgence with music aficionados and is increasingly collectible. Rockers young and old will covet this.

For putting a smile on her face…

There is nothing better than seeing your gift put a smile on a loved one’s face, especially if they happen to be tricky to buy for. Here are some choice bits to please the fussiest of customers.

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From left to right, top to bottom:
Mini Macarons Classiques in coconut, lemon, chocolate, caramel, raspberry and pistachio flavours, £9.25, Paul’s Bakery.
Finds + Charlotte Simone Bon-Bon shearling shoulder bag, £150, net-a-porter.com.
Rouge Noir lipstick, £26, Chanel. Dramatic and classic shade.
Metal clutch bag, £14.99, H&M.

Necklace with geometric rhinestones, £29.99, Zara

Brittnie bra, £75, briefs, £55 and suspenders, £75, all Agent Provocateur. The acid yellow with lilac accents offers a different take on the traditional “sexy” underwear which is bold and flattering.

Night Scented Jasmine Eau de Toilette, £100, Floris. The heady, sultry aroma of jasmine is combined with top notes of neroli and blackcurrant buds.

Artemisia Eau de Parfum, £105, Penhaligon’s. This scent from the quintessentially English perfumiers is both floral and fruity with a sensual powdery dry down.

Mary J Blige – The London Sessions. New album sees the consummate diva soaking up the sound of young London. out 2nd December.


Wild Rose hand cream, £10, Neal’s Yard Remedies.Gold-plated chain metal watch, £215, Larsson and Jennings. Unisex watch from the Swedish and British brand.

London Dry Gin, £29.45 for 70cl, sipsmith.com. This small artisan gin brand has been making waves above its station with its craftsmanship and dry, smooth and aromatic taste. Will go down particularly well with ladies of a certain age.

V-shaped cuff, £12.50, Topshop.

Maria Black rose gold plated earrings, £290, net-a-porter.com. Statement futuristic design belies the mid-range price tag.

Blush in Orgasm, £22.50, Nars. Cult shade.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass Clothbound Classics, £11.29, Waterstones. Lewis Carroll’s surrealist masterpieces are part of Penguin’s charming and collectible “Clothbound Classics” series.

Dragon’s Blood hyaluronic moisturiser SPF 15, £49, Rodial. This multi-purpose day moisturiser protects and hydrates skin while plumping fine lines.

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GIFT GUIDE: For tots to teens

We’ve spent hours and hours scouring around to find the best gift ideas out there so you don’t have to. From tiny tot to hard-to-please teen there’s something for your kid, no matter their age or sex. There are no DVDs, video games or phones here –  only things carefully chosen to stimulate your child’s imagination and individuality, not tune in and zone out.

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From left to right, top to bottom:

Design’s dog du jour – the dachshund – appears here in a wooden incarnation. “Dachsie” wags his tail when ridden. Brio ride-on wooden dachshund, £60, Debenhams.

Everyone wants a big soft friend to cuddle. Hansa standing giraffe soft toy, £64.99, John Lewis.

George really wants to be a good dog, but he has seen a cake. Find out if he succumbs to temptation in Chris Haughton’s charming book Oh No, George! £6.99, designmuseumshop.com.

A Bit Lost Owl puppet, £10, designmuseumshop.com. Designer Chris Haughton’s toy (to accompany his book of the same name) has been developed with a fair trade group in Nepal which helps to give disabled women and those who have suffered domestic violence the chance to earn their own living.

Trajan board game, £37.39, amazon.co.uk. Strategic board game set in ancient Rome in which players try to gain power.

The Wolves of Willouhby Chase by Joan Aiken, £5.99, Waterstones. Suitably chilly children’s classic.

Earth and constellation light globe, £40, gltc.co.uk. Educational globe by day, magical map of the stars by night.

Sequin embellished collar ripple dress (5-14 years), £24-28, Marks and Spencer.

Epiphone Les Paul express electric guitar, £84, gear4music.com. Three quarter size guitar ideal for kids, with a “vintage sunburst” design. For the more laid back parent perhaps.

Teksta T-rex robotic dinosaur, £40, Hamleys. He stomps, he eats, he burps!

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From left to right, top to bottom:

Desktop mini football table, £10, John Lewis. Bargain price for hours of fun.

Predator Instinct FG football boots, £160, adidas. Lightweight technology for a better touch.

Alexa Chung Sequins nail varnish, £15, Nails Inc. Sparkles for stylish girlies.

Orelia premium draped crystal hair crown, £35, asos.com. Any budding fashionista will be tickled pink with this slightly outrageous, slightly princess-y crown. Ideal to be kept for festival season next year.

Gazelle OG W power teal, £64.99, adidas.

“Argh” necklace, £60, Tatty Devine. Let your teenage girl’s necklace testify to her angst with this playful piece.

Face Lace burlesque eye lace, £15.95, beautybay.com. Face Lace has been created by make up artist Phyllis Cohen, who has beautified esteemed faces like that of David Bowie.

Rolling Spider Drone, £90, Parrot. Tiny quadricopter whose detachable wheels mean it is as much fun on the ground as in the air.

Marksman jacket, £199.99, Superdry.

Charli XCX Sucker, Atlantic Records, out December 16th. The feisty popstrel storming the charts releases her second album in time for Christmas.

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High Street: Winter Partyland

MINX

Feather and bead shell top and skirt, £173, Topshop

Rizo feather strap sandals, £58, Topshop

Faux pearl earrings, £6.50, Topshop

Feathers in the outfit and the shoes?! You may think it’s a bit much but if you can’t go OTT at Christmas then when can you? Simple pearl earrings, mussed undone hair and a bright red lip will complete the look and keep it flirtatious and fun without being too fussy.

VIXEN

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Strapless long jumpsuit, £59.99, Zara

Glitter high heel court shoe with silver plated micro studs £49.99, Zara

Two tone clutch, £29.99, Zara

Diamanté ear cuffs, £12.99, Zara

A jumpsuit is a sharp alternative to a party dress without sacrificing any glamour. A box clutch, statement heels and designer-inspired earrings mean this is a serious party girl look.

GODDESS

Abbi cut out embellished nude maxi dress, £44.99, missguided.co.uk

Rolo skinny strappy sandals, £30, Topshop

Curved outline cuff, £12.50, Topshop

Look like a Grecian goddess in this dress.

VAMP

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Red scuba Bardot neck panelled bodycon dress, £24.00, New Look

Gallop patent court shoes, £58, Topshop

Silver tone diamante earrings, £12, River Island

Platinum plated chequerboard ring, £35, Marks and Spencer

Be a fiery vamp in scarlet with this figure-hugging bodycon. Showing off a fantastic body needs bling jewels to set it off so combine with extravagant adornment. Keep shoes nude and make up soft to avoid total over-kill.

SIREN

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Online exclusive velvet bodycon dress, £34, Topshop

T-bar court shoes, £12, Primark

This luxurious and striking piece really needs no embellishment. These understated and retro court shoes will mean the dress does all the (al)luring.

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Hope couture: winter partyland

Welcome to the world of haute couture. The land of feathers and satin and lace and jewels and love and prestige. If you have the money to shop for these picks I applaud your potential to look this damn good. For now, these exquisite items will have to remain my “hope couture”…

MINX

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Metallic fil coupe mini dress, £2,425, Lanvin

Wilson feather trimmed leather sandals, £675, Rupert Sanderson

Spike 18 karat rose gold studs, £850, Anita Ko

9-karat rose gold diamond ring, £4,000, Cristina Ortiz

Start a flirty fairytale in this dress Lanvin, made from fil coupe fabric threaded with tinsel that catches the light as you move. The dress provides interest enough but if you are feeling ostentatious team it with these feather shoes, simple earrings and a little subtle, modern bling on your finger, from Milan-based designer Cristina Ortiz’s angel-inspired design. A demure up do completes the playful yet sophisticated look.

VIXEN

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Nortoni stretch crepe jumpsuit, £1,450, Roland Mouret

Black leather pumps, £370, Saint Laurent

Year of the Ox Pandora Perspex clutch, £795, Charlotte Olympia

Iconic You gold-tone two-finger ring £445, Lanvin

Combine the elements of the asymmetric structure of the jumpsuit with black pumps, a box clutch and this feisty ring with slicked back hair and a berry lip for an instant glamour supernova.

GODDESS

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Colour block ribbed stretch jersey top £230 and matching skirt £310, Jonathon Simkai

Lola mirrored leather pumps, £220, Sophie Webster, net-a-porter.com

Bermuda 18 karat gold diamond earrings, £4,500 Ileana Makri

These colour block co-ords might not seem an obvious choice for a party but the figure flattering design and cut worn with metallic heels and earrings add a futuristic and understated party look that will set you apart.

VAMP

Anglomania Solstrice crepe de chine dress, £305, Vivienne Westwood

Patent leather nude pumps, £445, Gianvito Rossi

18kt white gold rose cut diamond waterfall earrings,  $121,500.00, Sidney Garber

Comete 18 karat white gold ring with diamonds and cultured pearls, price on request, Chanel

The voluptuous drama of this dress demands to be accompanied by nothing less than full-on, spectacular bling. Channel Elizabeth Taylor in all-out stun mode with these opulent jewels. Offset the dazzle with soft make up and the loose waves of a Hollywood golden age ingenue.

SIREN

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Zonda satin dress, £895, Roland Mouret

Patent leather nude pumps, £445, Gianvito Rossi

Luna comet gold-plated Swarovski crystal clip on earrings, £605, Shourouk

Call the men to you in this delectable jade satin dress. It is contoured for a flattering shape and the jewel tone will ensure impact in any occasion. The dress deserves to be the star of the show, so keep the rest simple: complementary earrings and no other jewellery, nude heels and a sleek ponytail. Keep make up simple too with a dusting of barely there gold luminescence and a feline flick of liquid eyeliner.

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Winter Warmers

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Light pink marabou feather beanie hat, £13, River Island

Geometric triangle print beanie, £15, John Lewis

Black fedora with grosgrain ribbon, £45, John Lewis

 

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Weston pink silk agate scarf, £175, Liberty

Barts Marshmellow ear muffs, £19.99, asos.com

Black leather knitted palm gloves, £16, J by Jasper Conran

Cashmere blend scarf, £24.99, H&M

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Basket weave slipper socks, £14, Topshop

Autograph by Rosie cashmere blend pyjama bottoms, £35, Marks and Spencer

Rocky Road flavour hot chocolate, £6, Whittard. Combines flavours of  marshmallow and milk chocolate with those of toffee, cherry, raisins and sultanas

 

 

 

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