Monthly Archives: January 2012

Fashion twins

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Street level stylists in New York were photographed for years by Bill Cunningham and collected into a fabulous movie recently to celebrate his art, his eye, his devotion to the goddess. The film also shows us that his photographs were his tribute paid to these mainly anonymous women making an appearance on the streets of New York. Dressing with flair, care, and sometimes courage, such a woman stands out against the incoming tide of grey neutrality. She earns attention by constructing a look, and at the same time she inspires a broader understanding of fashion, the fashion that she makes by wearing her take on what’s going on. This takes skill, commitment, and a kind of love – love of clothes and colour and display, and love of fashion as an active, daily exchange between players where the currency is aesthetics and finesse. This is fashion as participation, not imitation.
Her home is her dressing room and all the world’s a stage (thank you Oscar). And with any luck, someone has their eyes open and their faculties engaged, able to receive the gift of her appearance. Whatever else she does, she’s giving us that.
You don’t have to live in New York to be like this. Dunedin twins Nellie and Elza Jenkins do it all the time. Hang around George Street at the end of the day and keep an eye out. You might just see tall redhead twins parading along the main street, performing being stylish, famous, and twins. Even in this small city, the street is a stage. They own it. They dress up for their audience; they drink the ambrosia of attention. Friday nights are especially good as there are repeat performances, sometimes with entourage.
Identical twins grow up being noticed so its almost natural to take this a step further and milk it. Elza and Nellie have part time modelling careers and got public notice last year in a New Zealand’s Next Top Model, where they were close to the top then split up to great dramatic effect. Later there was talk of going to New York and signing up with modelling agencies, but whatever happened they are back again, walking up and down and being seen. They are not yet twenty so have plenty of time to develop real style – at the moment they are still doing fashion as imitation. But the great thing about these striking young women is that they keep doing it, they keep giving us this. They really are grand.

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White Shoes

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I fell in love with them on sight. A wonderful pair of white golf shoes, the same style as that fantastic pair of red ones I wore out twenty years, a style and quality which have long since disappeared from shoe shops. Relics of a bygone era yet in almost new condition, they sat there on the shelf in a Riverton Op Shop, waiting for me.
A perfect fit! Mr Ayers ground off the spikes and gave them a new rubber sole, and off I went out into the sunshine in my first ever pair of white shoes. I love them, but somehow feel slightly uncomfortable actually wearing them out of the house. What’s that about?
Come to think of it I used to loathe white shoes and have made many nasty comments about them over the years, provoked to scorn by those hideous white sports shoes worn by people either too lazy or lacking the skill to dress well, but who pretend they just want to be comfortable. Also there was a time when men wearing white shoes looked like middle-aged predators in the worst way. Is that what the problem is?
Then again, why do I suddenly like them so much? I admired Jolene’s fawny cream brogues last summer – perhaps I’ve been looking out for something similar. Jolene is always ahead of the game. It turns out these pale brogues are in the shops again, as fashion cycles toward and away from black: 2012 might even be the Year of the White Shoe.
But most of all I love shoes I can actually wear all day and walk for miles in. I love shoes that fit well and are made of leather and lined with kid. I love finding them like that, as if they have been waiting to reward my taste and discernment, not merely succumbing as those new, thin-soled fashion objects succumb to any purse. It’s the start of a new friendship, a smile from the patron saint of dress.
I wore them to party with black pants and an aqua vintage coat, felt like a queen. I wore them again, this time with bare legs and a skirt. Everything changed. Nobody said anything. They were the elephant in the room.
Its been a wet spring in Dunedin and my legs are as white as my ancestry – so not great with white shoes. There is no contrast, and suddenly they look a bit shabby. (What can I do about those scuff marks?) I still like them, but maybe just with trousers.