Posts Tagged ‘London fashion’

Man’s suit circa 1950. Image from Survey of Historic Costume, 5th edition.

He knew that appearances made a difference in life – how one dressed, how one looked, how one displayed success. So he wore his perfectly tailored crisp white shirts and jacket from Grieves & Hawkes at No. 1 Savile Row and his perfectly polished and shined brogues from Barker Shoes in Jermyn Street, shops long frequented by his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him.

Alec McDonough – fictional character in the novel Bloomsbury Girls, by Natalie Jenner (St. Martin’s Press).

This quote reminds me of something a friend of mine told me. He said that when traveling he wears trousers with a blazer because he noticed that he receives better service and treatment in general when he’s dressed better. From the airport restaurant to the plane to the hotel – if he’s sporting a blazer rather than a sweatshirt, life is a little easier.

Tune in tomorrow for my review of Bloomsbury Girls.

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The pandemic has hit hard in all areas of life, but particularly restaurants, shops, theaters, and museums.

One of my favorite visits when I’m in London is the Fashion and Textile Museum located south of the Thames River in Bermondsey. Founded by fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes in 2003, FTM is now run by Newham College and offers unique fashion and textile exhibits, as well as workshops and classes. (I was privileged to view 1920s Jazz Age and write about it for Vintage Life Magazine.)

They even offer Events on Demand – for a small fee (5 pounds or approximately $7) you can watch recorded interviews and tours of exhibits.

As the only museum in the UK dedicated to featuring contemporary textile and fashion design, FTM is a rare and necessary resource for education and inspiration.

Unfortunately since March of 2020, they have lost more than 80 percent of their income and the future of the museum is “uncertain.” Yikes! FTM needs our help and to that end they have set up a crowdfunding campaign. Please consider making a donation to FTM. Any donation will help. And then put this fabulous museum on your Must Visit List when next in London.

Not familiar with FTM? You’re in for a treat. Click here.

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Barbara Jefford as Lady Lydia Eliott. Note Lydia’s collar, reminiscent of the 17th century Ruff.

She spends all that money on clothes and she still manages to look cheap. No doubt her latest young man tells her bad taste is all the rage.

Lady Lydia Eliott, fictional character played by Barbara Jefford in the British television series The House of Eliott.

A little “mean girl” humor.

The House of Eliott is one of my all time favorite British series. Created by Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs), it features two sisters who face hardships as independent women fashion designers in 1920s London. I own the entire series on DVD and I watch it when I’m feeling low or just need an escape. Of course I pulled it out in Pandemic Year 2020 and that’s when I happened to catch this funny line.

I’m quite fond of Lady Lydia. She’s so biting, she’s hilarious, and Ms. Jefford is wonderful at balancing the cattiness of Lydia with her vulnerability. I think a good snooty character is great fun.

Click here for another post I wrote on The House of Eliott.

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On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me … a jaunt in the snow.

This is another of my London finds from the V&A Museum. It’s from an original greeting card, circa 1941.

So festive!

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IMG_0292One more London story! On my visit last October, I set out to find the Beau Brummell statue. Erected in 2002 the statue stands just outside Piccadilly Arcade on Jermyn Street.

It’s not easy to find. But we did and much to my surprise we also found a couple of bums hanging at the feet of Mr. Brummell. I suspect they were not not there to pay homage. Ha! I doubt they had any idea who this man was or his importance in fashion history.

George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778-1840) was London born and a general man-about-town with royal connections. He was known for gambling and unusual sartorial choices. In the British Regency period (1811-1820) the trends for aristocratic gentlemen were embroidered coats and waistcoats (Brit speak for vests), knee breeches, white stockings and shoes with gem encrusted buckles. They sported tall wigs, white powder makeup with red stain in their lips and fragrance.

It was too much for Mr. Brummell who pushed back with a simply tailored “suit” the first of its kind – a white linen shirt underneath a tan waistcoat, black coat with tails, fitted pantaloons paired with tall boots, a cravat (predecessor to the tie), and top hat. No wigs, no makeup and most of all no scent! He believed in bathing everyday, which was not the done thing at the time.

The story goes that it took him several hours to dress each morning and men would line up outside his flat in Mayfair hoping to secure a place inside to watch how he did it. Among the admirers was the Prince Regent, later to become King George IV.

He had quite a lasting influence on men’s attire.

I’m a fan of Mr. Brummell’s for his contribution to fashion but also, he was an interesting character with high style standards and a quick wit. I was more than a little annoyed by these two men just sitting with no intent to leave, even after noticing my photo taking. But after awhile I began to enjoy the irony and humor of the dapper dandy standing confident and tall over a couple of shoddy fellas. I imagined him poking his walking stick at one guy and offering a nice swift kick to the other. Indeed, at the feet of Mr. Brummell is exactly where these two belong.

Have I piqued your interest in Brummell? I recommend the biopic called Beau Brummell: The Charming Man (2006).

And/or the biography by Ian Kelly, Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Dandy (Hodder & Stoughton).



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I have recently returned from three weeks traveling in the UK. We started in London for nine days, then hopped on a train north to Sheffield to visit friends. After that we took a bus to Bakewell (lovely countryside). Chesterfield next, back to London for last minute theater-going and home.

Along the way, I kept an eye out for fashion and style. The next few weeks I’ll be posting some of what I discovered. First up: my new friend Yvonne van der Heul.


Yvonne told me a friend made her skirt 25 years ago. Still looks smashing. I love her color combinations and her hat! And how fabulous is it that she’s getting around London on a bike.

My partner and I were lunching near Sloan Square just before attending a play. It was a cool but sunny day so we sat outside. Along came a very interesting looking woman on a bike. She pulled up next to us and asked if she could park her bike next to our table while she ran into the cafe/shop for a few things. Of course!

I pulled out my camera and a card as this woman was destined for ODFL.

The delightful Yvonne is originally from South Africa, she’s an artist and quite the fashion maven from way back. Turns out she was a Carnaby Street girl who won several awards for her window displays. She also owned her own shop and designed clothing. For the past 30 years she has taken up the paint brush, illustrating ballet and symphony performances. Her work is exhibited in galleries around London.

London fashion is a mixed bag but all within a certain conservative realm – tweed, trench coats, skirts/blouses, boots. Very British Boden and that’s fine. But what Yvonne has is individual style.

Thank you, Yvonne! What a pleasure to meet you.



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stella-bella-1_2390010aThe Victoria & Albert Museum in London often has Friday evening lectures and events. I was lucky enough to be in town on  Friday, November 2nd when British designer Bella Freud discussed her career with Hadley Freeman, American expat and fashion journalist  for The Guardian.

Yes, Bella Freud is related to the artist Lucian Freud (her father) and Sigmund Freud (her great-grandfather) but she’s a force of her own with a long and successful career in fashion. In the 1980s while still a teenager, she left school and worked for Vivienne Westwood. Later she studied fashion design and tailoring in Rome. She has designed for Jaeger as well as her own knit wear line and she was recently involved in the relaunch of Biba.

The Bella brand logo  is a drawing by Lucian Freud of  Bella's dog.

The Bella brand logo is a drawing by Lucian Freud of Bella’s dog.

That evening about 75 of us, mostly women, gathered in one of the upstairs lecture halls in the lovely V&A building. Dressed in smart winter coats and boots, most of the crowd appeared to be fashion students. Ms. Freud sported a chic unfussed look in flowing grey tuxedo trousers and one of her own knit sweaters with 1970 across the chest. Sexing it up a bit she had on a pair of platform shoes. She wears her hair casual-long reminiscent of the 1970s. Indeed, she’s a cross between Karen Carpenter and Patti Smith.

Ms. Fraud commented that she has always prefered boys clothes because she’s attracted to the uniform look that boys wear has. “I like the limitations of boy’s clothes and the potential for the unkempt look of a tie or shirt,” she told Ms. Freeman.

Soft-spoken and not at all a corporate fashionista, Ms. Freud said she enjoys the freedom working on her own allows, although, she appreciates what a large fashion company can offer such as resources and staff.

When it comes to inspiration, Ms. Freud said she relies on what’s going on inside. “The most important part is getting out my drawing book and drawing. Because that’s where it all comes from.”

Film is also an interest and Ms. Freud has made several shorts, three in collaboration with John Malkovich and all including her own costume designs. We were treated to a viewing of Ms. Freud’s latest film, Submission.

The discussion closed with a question about the significance of 1970. Evidently there’s nothing personal about that year for her just that it was, in general, an interesting artistic turning point. Aesthetically speaking, I’d say it’s also a good-looking combination of numbers.

(With an artist father and a bohemian mother, Ms. Freud had an interesting childhood which was fictionalized in her sister’s novel Hideous Kinky. The novel was made into a movie in 1998 starring Kate Winslet.)

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My partner and I have recently returned from two glorious, if a bit tiring, weeks in the UK. Most of our time was spent in London but we also took the train up north to Sheffield.

Of course, I kept my eye out for fashion stories and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing.

Don’t you just love a man in a Chesterfield?

One find was a dapper fella, Ken Goodwin. We crossed paths with Mr. Goodwin attending an afternoon concert at the Royal College of Music. I immediately noticed his Chesterfield coat as he sauntered into the small concert hall and took a seat. Chesterfields are among my faves and I rarely see them, even in London.

Mr. Goodwin is a former airline employee and now retired he attends the RCM afternoon concerts every week, traveling by two buses from his home in St. Albans. In addition to music, Mr. Goodwin enjoys dancing and visiting his daughter in America. In fact, when we met him he was quite excited about an upcoming visit for Thanksgiving.

Thank you Mr. Goodwin for stopping to chat with us. We wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving and keep up that fabulous dapper look you’ve got going.

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