Unordered List

Thursday 29 November 2012

Yoko Ono's provocative new menswear collection.

"I always wanted to put this line of clothing out in the world. But the humor of it was not understood, maybe, until now." -- Yoko Ono.

I've reviewed my fair share of supposedly-ridiculous menswear since starting this blog, and it always inspires a very different reaction to the more outlandish fashions for women. It's not exactly news that women get a lot more leeway than men when it comes to personal style, but I feel like Yoko Ono's designs are not even all that bizarre when compared to something like the puffball outfits and rubber fetish masks of Walter Van Bierendonck.
The clothes in Ono's line for Opening Ceremony (originally drawn in 1969, and inspired by John Lennon's "sexy bod") are relatively simple, mostly consisting of conservatively-cut trousers plus a range of t-shirts, jackets and hoodies. They're even in a restrained palette of black and white with a few pink accents -- and in 2012, pink is no longer a big deal for mainstream menswear. The "weirdness" is honestly very low-key, but is still getting huge amounts of publicity because a) Yoko Ono, and b) isn't it super hilarious when men's fashion makes overt references to sex?

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World. (Part 2)

Previously: Master & Commander, Part 1.

The characters in Master & Commander have a lot to say about the division between Navy and non-Navy sailors, whether it's out loud in dialogue or implicitly through their costuming. The final battle of the movie hinges upon the HMS Surprise being mistaken for a whaling ship, a ruse which is helped along by the recent addition of some former whalers to the crew. The idea of a Navy ship being neat and organised is so ingrained that their "disguise" is merely to seem messier and less competent than usual, and for the officers to wear brown oilcoats over their uniforms. For the everyday crewmembers, the task of upholding the image of the British Empire is to keep the ship running as cleanly and smoothly as possible; for the officers, it's to maintain an appearance of upstanding British aristocracy even in the middle of a storm.
The finest example of the British Seafaring Gentleman archetype in Master & Commander is, surprisingly, not Captain Aubrey. In fact it's one of the midshipman, Peter Calamy. Calamy is the most well-respected of the midshipmen -- experienced enough to be a good leader, but still young enough to be idealistic. With his short hair, sideburns and long trousers he definitely falls into the category of the proto-Victorian gentlemen, and unlike the younger midshipmen he's relatively clean and kempt. By contrast, Aubrey looks a lot more 18th century and careworn, and has clearly relaxed with age. Most of his clothes are old and worn, and in private he regularly strips down to stained shirtsleeves and knee-breeches. 

Saturday 24 November 2012

Now I, too, can look just like Joseph Gordon Levitt and Sherlock Holmes...?

It's a while since I wrote a genuinely stupid post (see also: my immortal treatise on the topic of wallpaper in BBC Sherlock), but I got some new shoes today and they're OMG totes amazing, you guys. OK, "new" may not be the most accurate word, but believe me when I say that when it comes to spending £20 on men's shoes, going vintage is infinitely better value than buying something new from, say, Primark. These particular shoes are in a style I've been vaguely admiring for a while, now: a kind of cross between desert boots and wingtips.
I've never written a post about Inception (one of my very favourite movies for contemporary costume design) because the topic has already been covered very skillfully by someone else. But I will say that one of my favourite details in the movie is the pair of boots worn by Joseph Gordon Levitt's character, Arthur. All of the main characters in Inception are snappy dressers in their own way, but Arthur is definitely the most dapper and fashionable of the lot. And in almost every scene in the movie he's wearing this particular pair of John Varvatos spectator boots:

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World. (Part 1)

Master & Commander is #1 on my list of movies where I pine for a sequel. The thing is, even nine years on, they could still totally make one. The hope just makes it all the more painful, my friends. Master & Commander is so close to perfect that it even withstands the presence of Bach's Prelude for Cello in G, one of the most overused pieces of classical music in movie history. And as for the visuals, while M&C is mostly dominated by Naval uniforms, I find its costume design to be far more satisfying than a hell of a lot of other historical movies.
As a war story with an all-male cast, Master & Commander is immediately predisposed to look more realistic because in movieland, war + men = dirt = authenticity. While men's costumes in period dramas are typically less showy than women's, they tend to be a lot more accurate because female characters are almost always idealised. Pirates of the Caribbean came out at around the same time as M&C, and while it's a Disney comedy about zombie pirates and therefore can be taken with a pinch of salt, it's still weird to see so many scenes where Keira Knightley looks immaculate while the male leads look like they haven't washed for a week. The female lead in a historical drama is expected to be alluring regardless of the state of everyone else, but the cast of M&C is made up of rugged, grime-spattered sailors who occasionally happen to be played by handsome movie stars. They even made the actors get their teeth stained in the name of historical authenticity, which I can pretty much guarantee has never happened to Keira Knightley in anything. Although in Master & Commander's defence, a 19th century Naval ship is one of the very few instances where it's legitimate for there to be zero female characters, so it doesn't actually bother me in that regard.

Friday 16 November 2012

Rick Owens, Spring 2013.

Rick Owens is a maximum expert in the field of draping people in 37 yards of fabric that look like either dust sheets or blackout curtains. Conversely, he's also pretty damn good at tailoring, albeit the sort of tailoring required to make the shoulderpads fit really well on things that look like a High Priestess costume in an episode of Star Trek. Given this combination of gothy apocalypse drapery and Needs More Gold alien royalty-wear, it's probably not all that surprising that I kinda love him.
pics from
This season's show opened with the simplest outfits in the collection, a selection of shapeless shifts that will be surely an A+ choice next time you decide to dress up as a Sexy Coffee-Filter for Halloween. Not being massively psyched about beige shift-dresses at the best of times these outfits didn't really grab me, but thankfully things warmed up pretty quickly after that.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Skyfall: The Costumes

Previously: Part 1: Bond as a blunt instrument. and Part 2: The new Bond Girls.

You thought Bond Season was over? Well, it's never over. I gotta be suitblogging 24/7, or else I wither away and die. Bond costumes are always a big deal because the films rely so much upon 007 coming across as the coolest guy you could possibly imagine, which can sometimes be a little tricky when you're dealing with a man who wears a two-piece suit every day of his life and spends most of the time interacting with other men in two-piece suits. But hey! They managed it. And will almost certainly be ignored at the Oscars for their trouble, because when it comes to costumes nobody ever nominates movies set in the present day.
The lynchpin of Bond's style is his timelessness. His staple outfit in the novels is a navy blue suit with a black silk knit tie, a costume that can be handily reintroduced at any point during the five-decade history of the films. While Bond's style does evolve somewhat over the years, the only slip-ups have been when he tried to be too on-trend, such as that period in the '70s when Roger Moore thought it would be a good idea to start wearing flares. In many ways 007's character is rather conservative, meaning that while he does come across as stylish and timeless, he's also the type of guy who'd be tremendously out of place in mainstream modern culture. Even back in the '60s he was overtly and manfully ignorant of popular culture, claiming that the Beatles were unlistenable. The James Bond brand has survived this long in part because it's so damn hard to make him seem out of date.

Friday 9 November 2012

Skyfall: the new Bond Girls.

Previously: Skyfall: Bond as a blunt instrument. 

In the form of Judi Dench's M, Skyfall gave us two things I never thought I'd see in a Bond film: an awesome female character who is emphatically not a Bond Girl, and a secondary character who has real impact on the plot. The latter is almost more surprising than the former, because Bond movies are by nature such a one-man show. The formula is simple: someone melodramatic, weird, and probably foreign wants to torpedo the world economy and/or build a giant space-laser, and Bond has to stop them. Along the way, Bond is helped or hindered (in the case of most Bond Girls, usually both at once) by various other characters, but ultimately he's a lone wolf. Skyfall is the only movie I can think of where a secondary character receives so much screentime and is so clearly vital both to the story and to Bond as a character.
Judi Dench's M was partly inspired by real-life MI5 director general Stella Rimington, the first woman to hold the job and the first to have her identity revealed to the general public. While Rimington served from 1992-1996, Judi Dench's M was in the job from 1995 (GoldenEye) until the present day, making her 77 years old at the time of her decision to fight Javier Bardem's campy cyber-terrorist supervillain using home-made nail bombs and a sawn-off shotgun. If you don't think that this is the best thing ever, then you're clearly a slug, because, well... do you know how many old ladies you see in roles like this? The list pretty much begins and ends with Helen Mirren in RED. And before you all rush to the comments section with your various Favourite Old Ladies Who Get Shit Done (although obviously I would very much appreciate that list), remember that for every fifty Dumbledores in popular culture, we get maybe one or two Professor McGonagalls. M's role in the earlier movies was mostly that of a generic representation of The Man rather than a person with much background of his own, but Judi Dench's M grew into a fully-fledged character in her own right -- in many ways, an antihero as compelling as 007 himself.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

A "take your mind off the election" fashion special: Part 2.

Link to Part 1: Thierry Mugler and Viktor & Rolf.

Can I tag this with "apocalypse fashion"? Sure, why not; I do what I want. These clothes may not fulfill my strict requirements of looking like they were dragged from the dismal rubble of a dystopian cityscape and/or desert, but I think the spirit is definitely there.
This season's Yohji Yamamoto was rather grimmer than usual, full of frayed edges and the black, draped fabrics of mourning clothes. While Yamamoto has a history of dressing his models like bag-ladies (his term, not mine), this season had a more graceful look to it -- even though there were still a lot of rough fabrics and scruffy hemlines on show. The only acknowledgement of the Spring season was the amount of skin on show, but thanks to the models' aggressive demeanour and the chilly colour palette, it didn't seem like a very warm or cheerful Spring.

Spring fashion, 2013: A take-your-mind-off-the-election special edition.

Obviously the appreciation of beautiful things is a universal pleasure, but today's posts (yes, posts, plural!) are specifically a gift to everyone out there who is currently stressing out over the US election results. I'm not even American, and I still feel tense about it. So as a balm to everyone's nerves as we try to ignore the grim horrors of a 24-hour news cycle with nothing to report on until tomorrow, here are some pretty things to look at:
For a label that's managed to bridge the divide between Ready-To-Wear accessibility and fidelity to its own design history, look no further than Thierry Mugler. Four seasons on from Nicola Formichetti's introduction as the label's new creative direction, Mugler are still coming up with fresh designs that run the gamut from Lady Gaga-influenced PVC dresses to some comparatively sedate (but still fashion-forward) business attire.

Friday 2 November 2012

Elementary 1x05: "Lesser Evils".

Previously: Elementary 1x03, Child Predator. 

This show really needs to solve its "Oh, it's that guy!" problem. As in: Who was the murderer this week? Oh, it's that guy! That guy we saw on The Good Wife, or Castle, or Suits. This week's murderer was based on real-life Angel Of Death Kristen Gilbert, which makes me wonder... has there ever been a real serial killer who based all their murders off episodes of CSI? Has that happened yet? If not, it's only a matter of time. Then CSI will make a special episode about it, and the universe will implode in on itself in a metapocalyse of mediocre TV writing.
This episode saw Holmes and Watson deal with another criminal who exploits his perceived position of authority to prey on the weak. Also, this is the second time we've seen Holmes come up against someone who uses their medical expertise to hurt people who trust them, indicating that this may be a theme for the show in general. Does part of Holmes' backstory in London, and his subsequent addiction, relate to someone having exploited their power over him? It seems unlikely that it'd be a doctor because he clearly trusts and admires Watson with relative ease, but... maybe a psychiatrist? The writers' ongoing focus on power dynamics is surely there for a reason, and I suspect that Holmes' insight into dominant/submissive personalities might end up being this show's equivalent to House, MD's infamous "everybody lies" motif.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Banana Karenina.

Anna Karenina is a book about Keira Knightley falling in love with some guy from History, and then some problems happening as a result. Banana Republic is a shop that makes clothes for non-poor Americans. Finally, at long last, these two have come together to give birth to the selection of Russian literature-themed womenswear that we've all been waiting for.
The thing is, I do understand why movie tie-in fashion lines exist. They're a cynical moneyspinner, but the reason why they work as a cynical monespinner is because people like the clothes they see in movies. Unfortunately, this Banana Republic collection is so distant from its supposed inspiration that it could just as easily be a tie-in for Gossip Girl or Mad Men or... anything ever produced by Banana Republic. It looks quite nice, but what's the point?