Beyond the Pale


Love Is Boutique: Bloggers & Press Day

A veritable Tardis of designer goodies, Love Is Boutique has always been a must-visit destination for the bargain-hunting fashionista, but there have been subtle changes afoot since I last visited and now I had heard it’s EVEN BETTER. Along with a few other invited bloggers and press peeps, I sashayed along to see just how this could be so.
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If you are on heart medication of any kind, you may want to dose yourself up before walking through the doors of Love Is Boutique, as every rail, each shelf and cabinet the eye rests on is bulging with temptation in the form of DESIGNER BARGAINS.

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Be still my rapidly beating heart. Hopefully not literally.

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“Umm… Is that a Phillip Lim evening dress sparkling on the wall? Can that be a Chloe Paddington bag hanging up there?” your brain asks your eyes. “Just next to the several immaculate Louis Vuitton bags and adjacent to the cabinet of handmade couture Manolo Blahnik shoes…” your eyes nonchalantly reply.

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At this point, your palpitations are going to kick in, so it’s really handy if you have remembered that medication or have your inhaler to hand. Or a hip flask of gin, whatever gets you through. Yup, it’s all true, this place is piled up with the kind of high-end designer merchandise normally only sighed over in the glossy pages of Vogue, Harpers and their ilk. Only at VASTLY reduced prices.

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Paula Fry, the owner of this treasure trove, invited me, along with several other bloggers and members of the press, to come and see the changes Love Is has undergone. It’s always been good – the kind of Best Kept Secret you only tell your best girlfriend. And maybe not even then – so how could things get even better?

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“We’ve got a lot more picky about what we accept to sell for customers, now.” Paula explained. Love Is works as a dress agency, with clients gaining a percentage of whatever the boutique sells the items for. “We can afford to be really choosy because our reputation has spread, and the stuff people bring in for us to look at is unbelievable! One lady came in with her collection of Louis Vuitton bags. ELEVEN of them, all real!”

Paula has become something if an expert at sniffing out fakes “Most of them you can spot a mile off, because the shape or size is wrong, the stitching isn’t right. Some are a bit more difficult, but there are experts you can refer to, and the big brands are all very happy to verify their own merchandise if you’re really not sure.”

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Having built up their name, hosted hugely successful events and fashion shows, and been featured in Vogue magazine as a “must visit” destination, Love Is now boasts a celebrity clientele – “Top Secret, I absolutely cannot name names!” – who buy and sell their designer swag here. “Often the chauffeur comes and drops stuff off,” Paula whispers, “and oh my GOD it’s such amazing stuff…”

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Perhaps the most noticeable change is the fact there’s far less vintage stock in the boutique these days. It’s getting harder and harder to get top quality vintage to sell, and people put a ‘vintage’ tag on any old thing and expect it to be desirable, so I think this is a clever move on their part. Plus, in a wealthy area and with celebrities emptying their wardrobes, you may as well focus on the goodies surrounding you!

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The vintage pieces are still to be found: really cute little fifties fur collars, dinky enamelled bug brooches and incredible unique handbags from all eras, along with select clothes, but here the designer investment pieces now jostle with the very best high-end High-street items, so there really is something for every budget.

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It’s really interesting to note that real classics like the Mulberry Bayswater bags are flying out the door – “We just can’t get enough of them, as soon as we have them through the door, they leave again on someone else’s arm!” Iconic designer pieces such as Alexander McQueen scarves and tailcoats are also in high demand, as customers invest in designer stand-out pieces which won’t date, mixing these with far cheaper high street trend items.

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On this visit, I was quite selfless and restrained, buying an unusual necklace for a friend’s Christmas present, though I took rather a shine to the Bally, sheepskin lined ankle boots on the back shelf here, and may have to pop back in to, um, visit them. Yes. That’s it. *cough*

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I also have a massive regret that I didn’t get the beautiful enamelled ladybird brooch purchased by fellow bargain-snaffler, Bettina, AKA Mrs Anke (of Ladybits blog fame: she has a gin cocktail named after her, and that’s a REAL measure of fame, my friends). Que Sera, as Doris Day was wont to warble!

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Adored this darling little bobble-trimmed dress, too. Oh, and the cosy hooded cloak and the bauble charm bracelet and about five coats upstairs and… Uh, no, I mean it’s all awful and you wouldn’t like it at all so don’t go before I’ve got my mitts on all the goodies I saw, there’s nothing there. Yup. Convincing, eh?

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As the Champagne was quaffed and more people arrived to gawp and gossip (three of my favourite things to do, right there: quaffing, gawping & gossiping) I had to grab my purchase and get a wriggle on, sadly. Having ogled their latest wares, I shall be back again very soon. They have all manner of gorgeousness arriving every single day, so there’s always a good reason to pop in again.

Just to look. Obviously…

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UPDATE: I have now been back and purchased the Bally boots. Quite by accident.

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Spoiled Rotten at Liberty

Everyone should get spoiled on their birthday, and while perhaps a bacon sandwich and a mug of tea in bed would have done at a pinch; this year I was absolutely spoiled rotten by the lovely people at Liberty London

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Imagine if you will the very moment I received the email telling me that I was the lucky winner of Liberty’s Facebook competition. I read it on my phone during a typically lacklustre lunch break at work. “You recently entered a competition on Liberty’s Facebook page..” it began. “Oh here we go, I bet it’s spam!” I thought cynically, until I read a bit further on and it finally dawned on me this was real. I had WON! I may have squealed quite a lot at this point.

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It was arranged that I could do the spa treatments, voucher, Champagne tea & hotel bit of the prize on the tenth of November – my birthday! – and the behind the scenes tour the following week, as the Liberty archivist wasn’t available on that day. Oh no, I’ll have to go back again. How AWFUL. ;p

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On a chilly, slightly drizzly grey Saturday, your humble author made her way to London, attempting to travel light and failing as usual, with her beloved fiancé carrying several items she couldn’t fit in her bag. As usual. On arriving at the wonderous W Hotel Leicester Square, the very kind chap at the check-in desk, on learning it was my birthday, gave us an upgrade to a seventh-floor luxury room with spectacular views.

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As birthday beginnings go, they don’t get much better than that.

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Obligatory explorations of hotel room over, we moved on to obligatory taking of pictures of hotel room, to show expectant friends and family members, before high-tailing it to Liberty and collecting my gift card.

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I remember my mother taking me to Liberty when I was a little girl, gazing wide-eyed at the gorgeous things all around me, strangely quiet for a precocious brat, subdued by magnificence. I really think Liberty retains this power to make you feel that excitement of a child in a veritable Wonderland. It’s quite amusing to stand back and watch the facial expressions of grown adults walking in, gasping and giggling as they pick up something, turn to their companions and say “LOOK!” as they exclaim their pleasure, practically bouncing up and down with glee.

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Or, of course, actually bouncing up and down with glee, as with this (mostly) grown adult. 😉 I honestly kept thinking someone would wake me up any minute , but they didn’t and the lovely dream continued as I made my way to the Decleor spa rooms with Vicky, their expert therapist.

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How to describe the next two hours? I can only say it was pure bliss and leave you to imagine, as words will not do. Suffice to say, In have never felt so entirely relaxed in my life, as every ache and pain was massaged away. Although Liberty was absolutely rammed with people that day, you’d never know it in the peace and seclusion of those rooms.

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Thanks to Vicky’s Decleor Facial expertise, I walked out in PUBLIC with no other makeup than a hasty reapplication of lipstick, for the first time since I was about 14 (I jest you not), so healthy, plumped and glowing did I look. I simply cannot recommend her – or Decleor – highly enough. Go and see Vicky at Liberty!

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My fiancé had thoughtfully bagged us a table at Cafe Liberty, so I was able to swan past the queue and go straight in to join him for the next treat of a Perrier-Jouët Champagne Tea for Two. Teeny tiny little perfect sandwiches and mini pastries and fruit scones still warm from the oven and slathered with clotted cream and jam. Divine!

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This would be a perfect afternoon treat at any time, but it was definitely the sweet centre of this birthday gal’s day. I savoured every single crumb that passed my lips (and there were quite a few of those, it’s a generous tea!)

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Slightly bulgy, and very glad that I’d not opted to have the tea prior to my full-body massage (for the therapist’s sake, if not mine) it then fell to me to Make a Choice and use my gift card to buy myself a birthday present. The delicious agony of this was quite overwhelming, and imagine my fiancé’s pleasure as I wandered around and around and around again, clutching my gift card and sort of muttering like a mad woman: “What about this? OOOH but what about that?! Or that one? But maybe I should get this one instead?” I don’t think I would have bourne it with such beneficence, had I been in his shoes, dear readers. Bless him, he didn’t complain once. Outwardly.

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I decided that I should get something to do with Liberty’s heritage – a classic Liberty Type Thing – which I could treasure forever, rather than a bang-up- to-the-minute high fashion item. You are rather spoiled for both extremes at Liberty, though, as they really do have something for everyone, from the classic-lovers to the Ultra Trendy Fashionistas I tremble in the shadow of. I especially love the fact that Liberty really believe in supporting and encouraging new and emerging designers, as among these Bright Young Things will be the ‘classics’ of the future.

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Amidst the manifold temptations of the infamous Scarf Hall, my beady eye kept getting drawn back to the sumptuously rich Ianthe print wool and silk scarf, specifically in the purple colour way, as I felt this really highlighted the pattern and the lustre of the fabric.

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Spoilt for choice doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I’m thrilled with my pick, and delighted at the prospect of owning a Liberty print satchel when the Strawberry Thief print is back in store again.

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Oh, it’s just stunning, and something I know I’ll treasure forever. This is the sort of thing you can fling on with jeans and a jumper for a walk in the woods (or more likely, in my case, to the Gin Emporium); or worn draped around your shoulders at the most elegant of weddings or special occasions. What’s not to love?

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This is me in my Hera print Liberty shawl, which I wear a lot and had swaddled myself in against the biting chill of the day. I know I’ll love my Ianthe print one all the more for the special memories it holds. 🙂

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More scarves. WANT.

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Very tempted by the chandelier print scarf, too. Just everywhere you look, it’s gorgeousness abounding.

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I loved these quirky Victorian style illustrated letter tiles, and would like the entire alphabet but would settle for my initials. 😉

I did rather have my heart set on getting the Dr Marten’s limited edition Liberty Print large satchel in the Strawberry Thief pattern (indeed, I blogged about lusting after this very satchel not long after it came out, earlier this year), but sadly they are out of stock of it, as it’s so popular! Sad face.

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However, the lovely gentleman who served me at the till took my details and said he’d let me know if they got some in again, hopefully before Christmas.

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OH NO, another reason to HAVE to go back to Liberty. Again. What a personal disaster.

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Fab Christmas windows at Liberty. I was especially drawn to the crazy lobster window.

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Higgledy-piggledy decadence is their theme – opulent chaos. Adorable!

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Skipping out of Liberty, iconic purple bag in hand, I noticed that it had somehow suddenly got dark. Of course this hasn’t happened ‘suddenly’, but do you know, when you’re being pampered to within an inch of your life, the time veritably whizzes along.

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Thence it was back to the hotel to get ready for the W’s award winning Spice Market restaurant’s tasting menu, that my darling chap was so generously treating us to that evening. But first, there was one more surprise in store for me…

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On returning to our room, we discovered that the lovely check-in desk guy had arranged for a bottle of Champagne, selection of juicy raspberries and blackberries, massive slice of Red Velvet cake topped with strawberries with a candle and “Happy Birthday” written in glittery chocolate, and a card wishing me a very happy birthday and saying if I needed anything at all, to let him know.

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HOW darling is that? I actually cried I was so moved. It had been quite a horrible year thus far, in many ways and for various reasons, but this (forgive me) literally was the icing on the cake!

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We decided to save the cake for later on that evening, as we were still quite full from the afternoon tea (talk about First World problems, eh?) and lounged about drinking more Champagne and lazily getting ready for the meal.

When booking our table online, the chap and myself had ooh-ed and ah-ed over the menu for ages, practically drooling at the mere descriptions of the dishes on offer. As their website puts it:

“A timeless paean to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market will delight London with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s unique interpretations of the region’s cuisine served in an informal and sultry atmosphere.”

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And they ain’t wrong. Delightful it was, every single mouthful. We had plumped (quite literally) for the tasting menu, as we just couldn’t settle on what to try. Little bits of everything seemed the best way forward, and so it proved, with waves of delicacies placed before us, and everything absolutely perfectly cooked and immaculately presented.

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The Spice Market is laid back but upmarket, exactly the kind of atmosphere to suit the cuisine, we were in a cosy booth on the corner, all the better for people watching (one of my favourite activities) and soaking in the ambience. We couldn’t fault a single thing about the meal, only asking for a break the better to digest and ready ourselves for the next lot of courses (there are nine in total) to begin. Hardly a complaint – “this is all TOO delicious, please cease a while!” You can stow the violins away quite safely, I think.

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After the meal we waddled to our room and laid on the bed in the hotel’s dressing gowns, in a sort of gourmet stupor and sipping wine tentatively while watching nonsense films and marvelling at the sheer bliss of the weekend. Somehow, we found room for the birthday cake slice, eaten while tucked up in our little nest of covers, shared out in mouthfuls, buttercream smearing our probably quite horrifically smug faces.

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Us: slightly squiffy, woozily blissful.

The next day we sauntered home in golden Autumnal sunshine, smiles wider than the Thames, walking alongside a Salvation Army band as they marched their way down Regent Street on Remembrance Sunday; so grateful for what we’d experienced and most of all, for having each other to share it with.

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I have never felt so truly pampered – it’s been a difficult year what with one thing and another, but this was like a break in the clouds. Perfectly timed, so needed, and VERY much appreciated. Thank you to Liberty, Decleor, W London, Spice Market and my darling fiancé for making me feel so thoroughly, wonderfully spoiled!

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Le Muse

Supreme comfort is, I think you will agree, very rarely combined with sublime sexiness; and yet that is exactly where fashion label Le Muse completely excel. I have lusted after several of their pieces since discovering them on Etsy, and finally plumped for the Asymmetric top as my first purchase.

Black asymmetic top by Le Muse: $65 (approximately £40.61)

I never thought I will start creating clothes for others, even though I made clothes for myself for ages. I guess I was influenced by my grandmother, who was designing and making clothes all of her life. And now I have started too. It all started with the fabric… I bought a wonderful cloth. It was so cozy and beautiful, that I didn’t need to do much with it. I started to drape it in different ways and I’ve noticed that it falls in wonderful waves. Every time I moved, it changed and curved adapting to the lines of my steps and gestures. I kept on wondering how could I catch those curves and flux of the fabric… Well, I believe I did it. And that’s how LeMuse was born. ~ Lina, Le Muse.

You can see the shaping a little better in the violet version of the asymmetric top.

Oh, my top is just fantastic – a heavy, fluid jersey that just drapes beautifully and everything cut & stitched to perfection. With Le Muse, simplicity is the key feature, along with fabrics which drape without clinging. You can wear it ruched-up as a top (and off one-shoulder or draped at the front), or pulled down to its longest length, it could certainly be worn as a short dress or as a tunic with leggings.

Black asymmetric Le Muse top

Hailing from Vilnius – the capital of Lithuania – Sophia & Lina are the talented duo behind Le Muse, and in my package I received a rather unique postcard: a handwritten message on the back of a large, foil-wrapped packet of flavoured loose tea, urging me to “…always feel the most beautiful & unique muse in the world!” which I think is utterly charming. 🙂

Forest Muse dress: $75 (approximately £46.86)

I tried it on as soon as it arrived, and only wish I had ordered from them months ago! Now, of course, I am making up for lost time by compiling a list of Things I Want To Order Next. Top of that list is, currently, the Forest Muse dress. I should also take a moment to mention the wonderful photography of some of Le Muse’s clothes – they just look so incredibly appealing and effortlessly elegant.

The front of Le Muse's Forest Muse dress

Now, who could possibly not want to run through fields with armfuls of magazines or drape oneself in the grass with a foamy pitcher of fresh milk, having browsed through their styles? I would certainly be throwing myself about with abandon in a meadow, were it not raining and were I not full of a Sunday roast.

Orange Tulip muse dress by Le Muse: $89 (approximately £55.60)

Every time a woman would dress in LeMuse, I would notice how differently it looked. It adapts to individual body and moves with that person in its own unique and beautiful way. ~ Le Muse

Front view of Orange Tulip muse dress

The styles on offer at Le Muse aren’t afraid to show a little flesh – a bare shoulder here, a daringly low-cut back there – but are gently provocative without leaving the wearer feeling naked or uncomfortable in that awful constant re-arranging frenzy that comes upon one if you happen to feel your dress is too short or too tight and so remain clamped to a mirror, pulling at bits of your outfit and constantly re-checking it throughout the day. That way madness lies, as many women will surely agree! Even if you think a lady looks fabulous in a piece, if she isn’t comfortable in it, you can tell immediately, and nothing is more off-putting than someone who obviously feels out of place in whatever they are wearing.

Black Silk muse dress: $125 (approximately £78.09)

This black silk open-back dress is just stunning, I love the fluidity of the silk – it looks like it would be a dream to wear against the skin, too.

Night Blues silk muse dress

This is also available in a deep blue – the colour of the sky at dusk, which is quite lust-worthy in and of itself.

Back view of Black Silk Le Muse dress

I also really like the fact that – as with many Le Muse pieces – from one angle it may look quite ‘proper’ and slightly subdued, but from another it can be quite racy, that sensuous swathe of open space at the deeply cut back. Gorgeous!

Roman statue depicting the Four Seasons

Le Muse use the natural curves of the body to drape their pieces in a manner that puts me in mind of Roman togas or the artfully gathered fabrics used in ancient Greece that, in turn, have influenced designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Rick Owens.

Vivienne Westwood Anglomania 'Priestess' dress

Rick Owens draped dress

When you consider that each item of clothing is individually made for the wearer (there are standard sizes, but Le Muse can also tailor each piece exclusively to your requirements), I think the value for money is excellent. There is a little bit of patience involved, as your item is crafted for you, but they keep you up to date with the process and the waiting is definitely worthwhile!

I really think there’s something for most ages and sizes in Le Muse’s collections, they have a definite and recognisable style to them, but are quite diverse for all that. From tops to dresses, with some coats and jackets in the new range and all manner of coziness to snuggle into, or sensuality to swathe yourself in, you should definitely go and check out their full range.

Cozy Muse sweater: $99 (approximately £61.85)

Go to the Le Muse website to learn more about the label and to view the incredible collections in full, or to their Etsy shop – just click the picture below to be whisked there right now…



Michal Negrin: Baroque Genius of WHIMSY

From the get-go we know this website isn’t going to be a subtle affair: crimson velvet theatre curtains pull slowly apart to reveal the bizarre, charming and – if one is honest – slightly bewildering – world of designer Michal Negrin

An explosion of colours, overwhelming Baroque pastoral scenes involving plump cupids, frolicking 18th century lovers, random Kewpie dolls, 1920’s flapper girls dangling from hot air balloons and, ultimately, a mind-blowing peek into her world of full-on, turned-up-to-eleven romantic historical WHIMSY. A world, as you may imagine, I utterly adore.

I can’t quite recall when I first came across her designs, but I know exactly which item it was – a sumptuously gorgeous Victorian style skirt with overlapping romantic scrapbook-like pictures and tumbling roses. Love at first sight!

I think it would be fair to say that I rarely come across designers whose collections make me gasp and want one of practically everything, but Michal Negrin ticks all my boxes. 🙂

This is a relatively staid design from the current collection, totally wearable – I’d wear it as a day dress with a little cardi, plum colored tights, black biker boots & lashings of pearls. Just beacause.

I ALSO completely covet the other design in this style… Dreamy, misty, dusk-like colours and a cameo in the centre of the lacey trellis of a Victorian lady wearing a striped bathing suit. Seriously, what’s not to love?

Michal Negrin has been creating a unique lifestyle for over two decades with vintage-inspired designs that include jewelry, fashion, home décor, and accessories.

This full-length gown is just jaw-droppingly stunning – I think it looks like something from an Oscar Wilde play. It actually makes my heart beat faster.

Yes, yes, I know the price may also make the heart beat faster, but it’s a designer gown. We’re not doing a feature on supermarket fashion here, are we? (And I’m not being snobbish – I am currently putting together a feature about supermarket fashions I love, as it happens! – there are just different categories of clothing. I think this rivals some of Alexander McQueens last collection, but at a price that, whilst still expensive, is certainly more attainable than couture!)

This design is particularly reminiscent of that Baroque style couture – inspiration surely from cheerfully gaudily painted ceilings and the artwork one finds in those sumptuous palaces that have the power to take the breath away.

I love the colours in this skirt, they remind me of hand-tinted romantic Victorian photographs of famous actresses and noted beauties of the age.

As you can see, these softer colours are probably easier to wear for those of a nervous disposition who shy away from designs and patterns they consider ‘loud’ – this little vest top could be worn classically with a cashmere cardi & pearls, or thrown on with jeans & leather jacket. It’s all about the styling, dahling. 😉

Born in Kibbutz Naan in 1957, Michal always knew she was an individual with her own vision and this was despite being brought up in an environment that preached group uniformity.

She was driven to follow her inner passion for self-expression and spent her childhood designing. Her mother was an inspiration and supported her in fulfilling her dreams despite the Kibbutz’s conventions.

Well, there is absolutely nothing that says ‘group uniformity’ in Michal’s designs, that’s for sure. They manage to capture the spirit of those vintage collectible ‘saucy’ postcards – Victorian beauties showing a well-turned ankle or – shocking – gadding about in their under-crackers.

This skirt depicts ladies swimming through a palace as various Baroque items of furniture bob past. If you cannot love such a scene, then I seriously doubt we’d get on. I mean it. 🙂

A dramatic kimono top featuring Victorian ladies in handcarts above a vast city skyline climbing ladders into the sky… Again, I ask – what’s not to love?

It is obvious that Michal is passionate about vintage images, the bejewelled, beribboned world of Baroque, of gilded palaces, the court of Marie Antoinette, intricate Victorian scrapbook pictures, the excess of 1920’s hedonism and those gaily painted barges or gypsy caravans that gleam with brightly painted bouquets of flowers. All passions I share, so no wonder I am so giddy about her work!

Little details like the placing of the curtain-call ladies arm-in-arm, circling the cuffs of this beautiful bolero… literally make me squeal. It’s such fun, I love the sheer exuberance of these images and the way they are placed on the designs.

I have only shown you a tiny proportion of the items I love (I’d have to lead you through the entire website!) and even then have only touched on the clothes… Oh my dears, there are stunning boots & shoes, jewellery and even items for the home, too! But I shall leave you to explore those yourselves. 🙂

Negrin’s designs are more than I could normally spend, but then these are hardly your average clothes and accessories. I shall own some of her pieces one day soon, I SHALL! I long for them. 😦

Oh, I know, quelle melodramatic hand-to-the-forehead – forgive me if I sink, breathless, onto a velvet chaise lounge, but I rather think it suits these styles I so hanker after. 😉

Until next time,

Yours entirely made of whimsy,

Miss Nightingale

x



Couture, Dahling!
July 8, 2010, 12:29 am
Filed under: Catwalk, Couture, Decadence, Etsy, Fall, Fashion, Fashion Show, Runway, tulle | Tags: , ,

As we air-kiss and clink champagne glasses, let’s trip along merrily into the frivolously feminine, exquisitely detailed world of Alexis Mabille‘s Fall 2010 Couture Collection…

Ruffles and sparkles and lace, oh my!

I am an absolute sucker for a bit of tulle, my dear hearts, and this dress is pretty close to utter perfection!

The collection is very mix-and-match, as this stunning bustier top and tailored ‘cigarette’ trousers show. Stunning.

Also, I love those shoes!

I suppose there *is* such a thing as “too many ruffles” but this IS couture, dearie, so must be allowed some leeway. Be sure it will filter down into more every-day wearable styles on the high street, but oh how DREARY it would be if designers couldn’t run free with their ideas.

I never understand people who complain that catwalk shows (and Couture in particular) don’t offer anything for them to wear on a day-to-day basis. The entire point is to show the designer at work, the creative process from inspiration to actuality: a creative fantasy.

Mabille’s collection is actually highly wearable, I think. Yes, perhaps only if you are forever parading on red carpets or popping to parties thrown by Elton John; but, y’know, he didn’t design them to be worn at the supermarket I suppose. And thank GAWD for that. There is already an overdose of the dull & drear in fashion, so long live the libertines!

Inspired by this lust-worthy collection – a kind of Grace Kelly meets Scarlet O’Hara at the Oscars kind of a vibe – and especially by the mainly nude/black palette (with lashings of lace), I created a treasury of items at Etsy I felt fit a similar bill, though obviously far more affordable to the majority of us.

I have Couture tastes and a bargain budget, how awful for me. ;p

Do have fun exploring, dahlings! *air kisses wildly whilst spilling champagne down her dressing gown Couture dress*

"Ode 2 Steampunk" corset by La Belle Fairy: $299

La Belle Fairy’s overbust Victorian corset is just beautiful – such subtle colours and actually pretty, which isn’t something you always see in corsets. I think you could wear this for a wedding – especially when teamed with one of the spectacular skirts below…

Made to Order Bridal Skirt by Bonzie: $750

I have featured Bonzie‘s signature bridal skirt once before, I know, but just HAD to include it again: it so encapsulates this look and new readers may have missed it, previously. So there. ;p Thousands of layers of hand-sewn tulle and many hours of work go into this breathtaking piece (which also comes in other colours) – it makes me want to run through fields of poppies in it, screaming with laughter and tossing my hair about as though I were in a shampoo advert. Just because.

Peach chiffon blossom brooch/hair pin by Percy Handmade: $32

Of course we can’t go around trampling fields of poppies all the time, can we? No. For one thing, it’d be murder on the ankles. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that the airy, care-free look can be still be had in an accessory – and one as beautiful as this peach chiffon bloom, by the very talented Percy Handmade, can be either a brooch or hair pin/clip depending on your preference. I’d plump for a brooch, I think, as it could add some frivolity to a severe lapel, be pinned to an existing hair band or hat for a wedding-y look and then used to jazz up a tired looking old bag.

[Any jokes about it jazzing up the tired looking old bag writing this shall be removed at the discretion of the editor. ;p]

Custom Made Olga Coat by Red Doll: $395

Red Doll is also a designer I have featured before, but this coat is so exquisitely tailored, again, I just had to include it. I love the mixture of superb, masculine-inspired tailoring in Alexis Mabille’s collection, paired with the tulle, lace and ruffles – and this coat would definitely work with that look.

Tabitha Clutch by Emma Gordon, London: $65

Emma Gordon’s bags are to die for – perfect for bridesmaids and weddings, but this sleekly simple, effortlessly chic bag is one of favourites. Love the bangle/handle – I cannot do clutches unless they can somehow attach to me, which sort of does away with their point, I know, but I am forgetful, clumsy and somewhat scatterbrained at the best of times, let alone when attending a ‘do’ and with a few glasses of champagne in me. This one’s just perfect.

Peach silk chiffon shawl blouse by The Eliza Shop: $98

Ooh this is so pretty! I think it looks as though it stepped straight from the pages of Vogue. Fab with tailored evening trousers (or a pair of jeans & killer heels, if you go for that look for a night on the tiles) or a simple pencil skirt. The Eliza Shop also has some unusual headbands and other items. One to watch!

Boyfriend blazer/tuxedo by Daniellea Tello: $75

The trouble with ‘boyfriend blazers’ is that they are very rarely cut for a woman’s curves, even if actually made for them! Not so this excellent example by Daniella Tello – it looks like it would go with just everything, never date and be a truly great buy. Want!

4 Greetings Cards by Hey Old Friend: $10

Adorably simple black and white greetings cards by Hey Old Friend – just right for inviting friends to a glam tea party, I think.

Flowers and Lace Bib Necklace by Barretty: $45

Wonderful use of colors in this handmade flowers and lace bib necklace by Barretty – strikingly gorgeous and so in keeping with this theme!

Black organdy bow shoe clips by Floreti: $34

These organdy shoe clips by Floreti are such a great idea – take a boring old pair of shoes and snap these on: hey presto, a couture pair of shoes! Also a great idea to stash them in your bag if you’re going straight out after work.

Silk Bow Bolero by Holly Bloom Couture: $75

Holly Bloom Couture have a number of simply darling pieces, but this silk dupioni bow bolero is the one I chose for this look – it’s simple enough that it wouldn’t dominate whatever you wore it over, but has enough presence to be part of the outfit, rather than that “I am covering my shoulders and tops of arms a bit, please look away!” character that many boleros can have.

Vintage Merry Widow Lace & Satin Corset at Absolutely Riveting: $17

This vintage ‘Merry Widow’ corset at Absolutely Riveting is very similar to the Alexis Mabille Couture style, and a mere snip at $17 if it happens to be your size! Wear with tailored cigarette trousers, underneath a tux or over a pencil skirt for the same achingly chic but very sexy look.

Vintage Black Lace 'bodycon' dress at Holy Mess: $40

Sexy but still covered-up, this black lace dress at Holy Mess is very reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, or some other vintage starlet, all wiggle and lipgloss. I’m sure Dita Von Tease would look divine in such a dress.

Hand Dyed Tea Length Tulle Skirt by Ouma: $260

I have long been a fan of Ouma‘s breathtakingly romantic designs, and this hand dyed tea length tulle skirt is just dreamy. It truly gladdens the heart, just gazing at the picture. 🙂 Oh for a weekend in Paris, twirling through the streets in this, a cashmere cardi and some jaw-droppingly wonderous shoes. I know, I know, the shoes would pinch and it would probably rain, but we can dream! Lord, I want them ALL in every colour. Dear Santa…[it’s early, I know, but y’have to get your requests in, gals and boys, or he ignores you when it’s too busy].

Chantilly Lace Tape by Prank & Dorset: $15.50

How stunning, and what a great idea for Santa to use to pretty-up the many, many parcels he’ll likely be wrapping for me! This tape is available from Prank & Dorset in white, too, and can be used on cards or any other paper-crafty ideas you clever people may have.

Margeilas High Waisted Trousers by And What Else Is There: $45

These high-waisted trousers by And What Else Is There are exactly the kind I’ve been thinking of with many of the looks I have featured here – they would look fantastic with the Tuxedo ‘boyfriend’ blazer, either of the corsets or the peach chiffon shawl top… even a simple t-shirt or tank top. Completely versatile and another absolute steal: custom made trousers for $45!

Well, there we must leave it, I suppose. I do hope you have enjoyed this toe-dip into the world of (vastly more affordable) Couture alternatives, dear hearts?

Until next time (and not so long a wait, I promise),

Miss Nightingale

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