Clear clothes sizing campaign

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Ages ago I wrote about the horrors of maternity clothes shopping if you have a, ahem, vintage figure (see What would Betty Draper wear?). And I admitted to being rather more of a Joan.

Since having a baby, I have discovered all kinds of strange things. Dresses fit much better, and for some reason I can fit in size 14s (a skirt from GAP and a dress from Laura Ashley). But then in other shops I take in lots of stuff. My favorite black – very Joan – dress is from Monsoon and is an 18. WTF? I’m fairly sure my dimensions aren’t shifting about on a daily basis.

Retrochick has noticed this too, and has started a campaign for clothes to be labeled clearly with measurements rather than the opaque mysteries of sizes. She brings together all the consumer survey stuff, and why making people who don’t have beanpole-like measurements feel bad is, you know, bad.

So I’m adding my voice. I’m 5’9″. In 2009 I was 36-30-42. I’m currently 38-34-44 (baby-weight, people, baby-weight). There is NO WAY I can be both a size 14 and size 18. Bring back labels in inches, not sizes. Make trying clothes on fun again, not a game of sizeist Russian roulette.

Retro baby photos

Friday, 3 September 2010

Here’s me on my tartan blanket, aged 1:
tartan me - 1 year
This provides context for the monthly updates on GJ.

I should warn my siblings I’ve also scanned one of them holding me on the blanket when I was newborn (and they were 13, 11 and 9).

I’ve also downloaded an app for the iPhone, Hipstermatic, that produces analogue-style photos. So cute!
GJ 5wks 1day

Hitched – fripperies and frou-frous

Saturday, 25 April 2009

being part 2 of 2 on the whole getting married business. Part 1 involves food, cake and design stuff. This involves clothes.

I’ll do the smaller bits first.

The flowers and buttonholes – the white roses of Yorkshire – were made by Chivers in Charlotte Street. The bouquet survived being gripped very hard by me during the ceremony, and also had a good balance to it so the throw went precisely towards a target. Heh heh heh.

The rings were from The Wedding Ring Shop in Hatton Gardens. We’d previously got the engagement ring from The Victorian Ring Company down in the Gardens, and the shop did a good job of matching it.

The chap’s suit was a classic dark Ben Sherman, worn with equally classic  Dr Martens shoes. Cufflinks from one of the various gentlemen’s outfitters on Fleet Street.

And then there was my outfit.

Quite simply, the day could not as gone as well as it did without the sterling and fabulous work of Kelly Hale.  She took an initial idea – that I wanted something like a Dior New Look suit – and made it totally real. She sourced a 1958 pattern (So Vintage Patterns) and some red wool fabric, customised the pattern to suit me, made a test version in cotton and then got the final version to me in time to be hemmed and pressed over here.  Because we did the entire work on it via t’internet. I truly wish she could have been over here with us to hear the many, many compliments and admiring looks the suit got.

Scrapbook of ideas, including the pattern:

fashion collage

Final outfits:

me & the chap | me and carrie (big magpie)

To support the outfit, I also used the following people…

  • The Cloth House for buttons and Borovicks for both hat netting and the silk used to repair some of the vintage items I found elsewhere.  Both shops are on Berwick Street in London and are places I could lose hours browsing.
  • The Real Macoy in Exeter for a original 1950s cocktail hat of black velvet and raffia.
  • Wow Retro on Drury Lane for an original 1950s petticoat. Twitter followers may have spotted I spent a lot of time repairing it but it was worth it for the way it held the skirt out. Modern petticoats just aren’t as layered or complex.
  • What Katie Did in Portobello Road, for various underpinning items which held things in and created a more classic 50s posture.  I’m not saying which items but this faux vintage is lovely.
  • Damian Carberry, the alteration tailor in Exeter who hemmed the skirt in less than 24 hours.
  • Valentino Dry Cleaners off Shaftesbury Avenue for within the hour pressing of the one-off suit (and the chap’s shirt). What’s good enough for Paul Smith is good enough for a Kelly Hale one-off!

Oh, and for those final details: the shoes are my favourite work shoes from Office 18 months ago, the top under the suit was from Monsoon and the bag is from Top Shop. The earings (never seen) were a present from Carrie who did sterling work as the maid of honour all the way through.And clearly enjoyed dressing like Tippi Hedren.

Again, there are no words to really express how grateful I am to Kelly for the suit. I had backup dresses, I had an anxious wait when it got stuck in customs over Easter, and I had doubts and fears over having picked red wool, but all of those things vanished when I put the suit on and danced through the day in it.  Ta, pet.

The Penguincubator

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to sell contemporary books at train stations?

This was the impetus behind the founding of Penguin books (the moment of genesis happening on Exeter station, after Allan Lane had been to visit Agatha Christie). Reading the company history a few years back, I found the fascinating little snippet:

1937 also saw the launch of the Penguin Shakespeare series and the Pelican imprint – original non-fiction books on contemporary issues – and the appearance of a book-dispensing machine at Charing Cross called the Penguincubator.

The Penguincubator. What a fabulous name. I searched in vain for a photo, trying to imagine what such a thing would look like. Giving up, I consigned the Penguincubator to my stash of mildly interesting historical facts. Until this morning.

penguincubator Flicking through the Grauniad magazine (turning quickly to Jess Cartner-Morley and Alexis Petredis, then What Women Don’t Understand About Men), I saw they had a photo article with images from their archives. They’ll be running an exhibition until March, in fact. I find photo journalism from the 50s fascinating: the way the crop marks and comments are scattered around the focal point, the glamour of the papparazzi before they started door-stepping and taking up-skirt shots. The Soho Archives exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery was equally as fascinating. So, I turned to the article and found this photo from 1957. There, cut in half by the photographer’s focus on the ‘Bikini Automat’ (and who wouldn’t be fascinated – bikinis were still shockingly risqué then), is a vending machine saying that you can ‘Buy Your Penguin’ here. It’s the Penguincubator!!!

I am so in awe. Look at it! I’m not sure it that would have been the original 1937 design, with the jaunty script and ragged edges, but that is definitely a vending machine filled with classic era Penguins. So they surivived for at least twenty years, including through WW2. Next time I write something set between those two dates which contains scenes in a railway station, the Penguincubator is getting a cameo.

I think one should be installed at Exeter station, to acknowledge its role in the founding of one of the best loved and most recognised publishing houses in the world.

Happiness – We’re All In It Together!

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

There’s a great moment in Brazil where the camera pulls back to reveal the origin of the “We’re all in it together” slogan Tuttle has previously quoted to Sam. Sam is visiting Buttle’s widow in her dystopian tower block, a relentlessly grim monochrome world of poverty and deprivation. At the base of the tower is a giant poster: above the smiling parents and their two children, joyously driving through a multicoloured world is the slogan: Happiness – We’re All In It Together.

So the first time I saw the poster below on the Tube, I rather unsurprisingly started to laugh:
It's up to all of us

In fact, unfortunate dystopian echoes aside, Transport for London have done a very smart thing with their poster design. Using the Tube is like facing a battery of information, all desperate for that brief moment of attention. A teacher I had at college told me that returning to London from the then Soviet Union was a sensory overload. There’s the service board, the special announcements, the ‘do not obstruct the doors’ on the lifts (or, if you have the misfortune to use Covent Garden, Lloyd Grossman telling you about his favourite museum[1]), the ‘we are sorry to announce…’, the maps, the dot matrix display of trains due. And then there are the adverts: posters outside the station, posters in the lifts, posters on the escalator (including the new moving posters), posters in the corridors, posters along the platform, posters along the wall opposite the platform, posters in the trains…

When the train bursts into a station, there’s not only the shock of the light after staring at the grimy walls beyond the window [2]] but the shock of colour and image and text. All of it trying to get you to notice it for a moment.

Transport for London have gone retro, borrowing a leaf out of both WW2 iconography and Soviet propaganda of the 1930s.

Festive Season Please move along the Platform
D*n't t@ke !t out It's up to all of us
[all images taken at Tufnell Park]
Each poster uses block colour and simple text in a clear contrast. Several of them highlight the key phrase (move along, mind the gap, take care) and all use either a typographical quirk or a simple graphic, but never both at the same time. There may be smaller print, but the key aim – of arresting the eye – is done with minimum fuss. You can see the reflections of typical adverts in these photos, showing how fussy they seem in comparison.

It’s not only a clever visual design in terms of conveying information through the noise of the Tube, it also ties in with the perceived design style of the Tube itself. The Tube is Modernist: the branding in the 1930s overrides the Victorian reality of much of the infrastructure[3]. Beck is rightly praised for redefining how to map the space, and the various typographical and poster designers of the past are praised[4] for creating iconographic images. This is canny not only for extending the branding of the Tube and officialising the posters but because, despite the actual reality of the system and its service, there is a vague sense of affection towards the iconography. So despite the alarming phrase and ghosts of WW2 propaganda, the ‘It’s up to all of us’ poster is familiar and curiously comforting.

I actively want them to produce a ‘Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases‘ one.

[1] Possibly this has stopped, given the museum is closed.
[2] Or trying to follow the mysterious orange cable as it snakes in and out of view
[3] Although the Victorian designers were working pretty radically: see this detail from Tufnell Park.
[4] see Art of the Underground (via Going Underground). A sibling showed me a great one of South Woodford, depicting a hunting lodge in Epping Forest, over Christmas but I can’t find it online

Switch to our mobile site