Hungover, I cursed the courier who rang my doorbell early this morning, waking me up. I cursed my husband who’s order of printer paper was no doubt the cause of this disturbance to my (much, much, much needed) beauty sleep. Oh how wrong I was! Instead of dull stationary I was the joyful recipient of a copy of the gorgeous Italian edtion of Confessions of a Fashionista titled, I Love Fashion. Like the sexiest Italian sports cars I went from grumpy to gleeful in 0.2 seconds. I could have kissed the courier. Luckily for him I resisted, nobody wants to be embraced by an old t-shirt wearing walking hair ball with morning breath. Now the super stylish Italians are on the case I’ll have to buck up my ideas. Shopping trip to Milan, anyone?
I’m molto excited to reveal the favoloso cover of the Italian version of Confessions of a Fashionista a.k.a. I Love Fashion. Though, of course, I’m perplexed that that damn diva dog has once again landed a cover… Ciao for now, darlings xx
Looking for a holiday read? Fancy a bit of glamour, fast paced funny fashion, real life romance, and juicy gossip? Take a gander at this *FREE* sample chapter of Amazon’s number one fashion bestseller, my humourous memoir Confessions of a Fashionista (click on link below):
“Sharply observed and extremely funny.”
“I read this in one sitting. It made me laugh out loud. I highly recommend Confessions of a Fashionista.”
“An excellent read … it’s a very enjoyable, eye-opening foray into the (mad) world of fashion.”
Published by Virgin and available from all good bookstores, or to order from here:
Today is not a good day. My legs don’t work properly and my knees are like two overripe oranges, fit to burst, spongy, about to turn bad. And my shoulder has gone. A net of taut knots has replaced it, pulling me in the wrong direction. And my neck has a shard of painful rock driven into the side of it. And I look fine.
I look 32, something close to slender, healthy, fit and I can’t move for the pain. I’m tired. The heavy soreness sucking me down. My bed is my uncomfortable partner. Invisible condition. Chronic pain. Ehlers Danlos III. Empty meaningless words, I wish I could flesh them out with the weight of my limbs, with the ache, so you could see it. Just once. Today is not a good day.
I’m not in the habit of hanging around graveyards, but on my recent trip to Paris I made an exception. I stopped by Père Lachaise, the city’s biggest, and most famous, cemetery. It’s nearly 109 acres, receives over 1.5 million visitors each year and houses, in the final sense, Chopin, Marcel Proust, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein, and Jim Morrison of The Doors, among others.
It’s an odd thing we humans do, to continually celebrate certain people, to keep their fame alive, even when they have passed. The famous graves drip with flowers, graffiti, and the tokens of love people leave for those who have inspired them. You can’t escape the uneasy feeling of one-upmanship. It’s a shrine-off. A sensitive ghost might worry about their stature in the hierarchy of visitor numbers. For among the startling architecture, the family tombs, the memorials to those who lost their lives in World War Two, there’s popularity contest going on. X Factor for the dead. Three yeses. Congratulations, you’re immortal! Or at least your memory is.
Not that I can talk, I came to make my own pilgrimage. I came to visit my favourite writer.
I remember when I discovered his work. I was trying to pick a text for GCSE English Literature, scratching around in the library. My brother, three years younger – he was always smarter – said he’d watched a black and white film that morning. He thought I’d like it, knew it was based on a play, suggested I check it out. That was The Importance of Being Earnest, by the inimitable Oscar Wilde.
I love Oscar’s wit. But then, everyone does. It’s reproduced on tea towels, mugs, posters, spread wide, but still thick with style and substance. I love Oscar’s use of language. His ideas. His theories. His observations of human behaviour, his satirical takedowns of society’s pomp and prejudice. I love the way he lived his life: generous, fearless, foolish. When I graduated from sixth form, my English teacher gave me an inscribed collection of Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime. I was not quiet about my passion. Oscar and I hung out again at university; he cropped up in my dissertation. Oscar and his exploration of decadence, his dedication to aestheticism influenced my career decisions, helped me find my way into the fashion industry. L’art pour l’art. The cult of beauty.
So I came to say thank you. The guidebooks told me Oscar’s grave would be festooned with lipstick kisses, smothered with flowers. I rounded one of the stone corners of Père Lachaise. The sun came out. Bright blue sky provided the backdrop… for the horror. Oscar’s tomb was scrubbed clean. The flying nude angel Jacob Epstein sculpture, which denotes his resting place, gleamed. Around it was a tall glass barrier. No kissing. No touching. Around that was a crash barrier; between it and the tomb were two metres of churned mud. Dead flowers trodden into it. Someone had traversed the lot and managed to get a small candle inside the glass barrier, at the foot of the tomb. I cried.
I’m not in the habit of visiting graveyards. I’m also not in the habit of Googling or reading about them. A quick Internet search revealed a smattering of newspaper articles about how in 2011 the descendants of Wilde, the French authorities and the Irish government jet washed away the lipstick kisses people gave their idol. They decided to “protect” the grave by encasing it. Badly, I would say. The top of the glass bisects the statue. It jars. I didn’t know. I came too late.
Others have obviously written about this, but it is fresh to me. I have felt the cold glass against my cheek. I have kissed my fingers and passed my hand up and underneath to touch Oscar. I have shed a tear for a man who was contained in his life, most cruelly at the end in Reading Gaol for the crime of homosexuality, and who is contained once more. Like a museum curiosity. Like an animal in a zoo cage. Far from preserving something, they’ve put Oscar Wilde in a box.
The Tesco Books Blog very kindly invited me to blog for them about working in the fashion industry, writing a book about fashion and what’s on trend this season and next. In case you missed them, here’s the links to all my posts:
If you enjoyed any of the above, why not check out Confessions of a Fashionista? *Coughs* Every little helps…
I wrote this a while ago. For a multitude of reasons it wasn’t published. I thought, in honour of International Women’s Day, I’d pop it up here….
Friends, family, boys and girls, I think we need to have a chat. There has been a breakdown in communication. Our wires have got crossed. Things have got a bit lost in translation. I said, “I’m a feminist”, and you heard, “I’m an insane, militant aggressive man hater”. They sound so similar – it’s an easy mistake to make. But before you all run screaming from the room and strike me off your Christmas card list, I’d like to reassure you there’s no need to panic. I am still the same person you know and mildly tolerate. My bad for thinking we were all up to speed (it is 2013!), but okay, let’s tackle some of the myths and legends surrounding “feminists” together.
Being a feminist does not mean…
1. …I hate men.
I love men. Some of my best friends are men. I’m related to some men. I even married one. The idea that because I’m a feminist I secretly harbour the desire to destroy all men seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? I don’t drop rat poison in my Dad’s tea or plot to knock a radio into my husband’s bath. I am not covertly trying to sabotage all the men one by one. I mean, some men are jerks, but then so are some women. Being a jerk is not gender specific. So jerks aside, I like both men and women.
Feminism is about wanting equality, not female supremacy. It’s about wanting to be all in this together. But in a genuine down the pub sharing a packet of roasted nuts way, not in a Cameron, we’re all in this together, but I’ll just stand over here with my alma mater in the air conditioned VIP area way. Have we got that? Good. We’re cool. Without the air con.
2. …I am whining on about stuff that isn’t important.
Women have the vote. Women can legally have an abortion. We have the equal pay act. We’ve won. Feminism is no longer required. Everything’s rosy and marvellous and we all skip along holding hands in jolly mixed-gender groups. Right? Well…err… something’s niggling at me…
Is it that women are expected to remove acres of pubic hair from their bodies, else be deemed sexually repulsive? Or maybe it’s the lack of women role models in our society that don’t have breast implants, hair extensions and an engagement ring from a footballer? Or maybe it’s that female newsreaders over the age of fifty keep disappearing from our screens in a Logan’s Run-esque manner? Or perhaps it’s because despite statistically out-performing boys at school, girls go on to earn on average 15% less than their male counterparts?
Maybe things aren’t so equal after all. Oh yes, and what about all the other women around the world and their rights?
Lots of people will start shouting at this point. About personal choice. And the equally unfair expectations placed on men. And looking a certain way being part of a media job. And blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to tackle all those individually, I’m just going to ask a question. If you had a daughter would you be happy for her to base her worth on her looks, her career on who she married and disappear from view when she’s fifty? This is serious. Would you want your daughter to be Jordan? No offence to the mighty Katie Price, she has successfully played the system to earn a lot of money. Sure, she’s had to butcher her body, starve herself and strip to do it but that’s just the cost of success, right? I mean men do that ALL the time. Wait, hang on a minute…oh shoot looks like we do still need feminism after all.
3. …I’m just angry.
Okay you got me there, I am angry. I’m angry because of all the injustices mentioned above. And I’m angry because when I write a humorous piece highlighting some of misogynist bullshit, I get belittling jokes, patronising comments and generally more bullshit back.
We are all subject to the same socialisation pressures and have all experienced life under the patriarchy for some time. How about you read a humorous piece about the reactions I get as a woman driving a sports car and go: “Shit! I do make jokes about women drivers! I hadn’t thought about it that way!”
I’m not going to shout at you. I’m going to smile and probably get excited you’ve got what I’m talking about. What is going to piss me off is if you respond with “I’m not sexist BUT [select from one of the following: women aren’t very good at parking/there’s nothing wrong with telling jokes/you’re being too sensitive/all of the above]”. And generally getting all up in my face trying to distract from the fact that maybe, just maybe you think I have a point. At best you’re making yourself look stupid. At worst you’re making yourself look guilty.
4. …I’m making excuses for my own failures.
Seriously, a woman actually said this to me. She believes feminism is just an excuse for not working hard or not being successful. Like a sick note for getting out of life. “I’m sorry I can’t come into work today because I’m feeling a bit feminist.” In her eyes feminists are scroungers. Cheats. Con artists. I think she pictured people signing on for the dole, saying woefully, “I tried to get a job but I couldn’t because I’m a woman.” This notion is very easily dispersed: it’s bollocks.
Caitlin Moran, Grace Dent, India Knight are but the first examples that come to mind of successful, hard-working women who I believe would call themselves feminists. And what about those Vagenda girls, eh? A blog that’s received 5 million hits, columns and articles published across the world, a tasty book deal and they’re only in their early twenties. The lazy, whinging feminists.
5. …I can’t take a joke.
No, you’re right. Feminists have no sense of humour. Just look at this blogpost, look at Caitlin Moran, look at http://vagendamag.blogspot.co.uk/. What bitter, sad humourless excuses for human beings feminists are. God, I wouldn’t want to hang out with one of those feminists down the pub. It’s your round by the way. Pass me the nuts.
In the brazen pursuit of trying to launch my book-writing career, here is my argument for why Confessions of a Fashionista makes the perfect Mothers’ Day gift. Confessions of a Fashionista is a mum-loving book. It features a real life mum (mine), who is always ignored and always proved right. It is even dedicated to my mum, ‘who didn’t want me to write about [her] but let me do it anyway.’ How mumtastic is that? It is also, allegedly, funny. Here are three mum bits in my book for you to enjoy.
Mum picks clothes off the floor and drops them neatly folded onto my legs. They say genius skips a generation, but in this family it’s tidiness. Mum cleans instinctively, obsessively, like a Stepford Wife on speed. She has declared jihad on dust. Our house is free from books, ornaments, excessive soft furnishings and, often, people. She’s a pioneer of OCD. The say minimalism began in 1960s America, but I have a strong suspicion it was born in 1950s north Hertfordshire.
‘That’s a nice top, where’s it from?’ Mum appears with more newspapers.
‘Specialist shop. Only a hundred and fifty pounds in the sale.’
Mum grips the sideboard to steady herself. ‘You spent a hundred and fifty pounds on a cardigan?’
I forgot I’m not talking to fashionistas. ‘It’s cashmere.’
[On discovering my mum trying to throw away the one of a kind Elizabethan costume I bought from the English National Opera].
Mum is shoving the ENO dress into her rubbish bag.
‘Mum! That’s Tosca’s costume.’
‘Well, she can either have it back or we chuck it. It’s covered in white powder.’ She rubs her fingers together and wrinkles her nose.
‘It’s plaster of Paris. It glows under UV light.’ I make a snatch for the bottom of the dress but she’s too quick.
‘Why on earth would you want a dress that glowed in the dark?’
‘I use it for fancy dress.’
‘What’s this?’ She holds up a hot-pink leather skirt. ‘Fancy dress too?’
‘No, that’s Harrods’ own brand.’
Don’t forget to write your own mum loving dedication in the front of the book – your mum will be thrilled. Tell her I said hi. Happy Mother’s Day.
You can see the full page, should you be so inclined, here:
Want top tips and advice on how to break into the fashion industry and get ahead in your fabulous career? Then check out this blog post, by err, me: http://fashconfessions.tumblr.com/post/40535447081/fashion-forward
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