Monday, 30 January 2012

The Descendants

The costume design in The Descendants may not be the thing that has most people talking about it, but its clever, subtle but very powerful use of Hawaiian print had me transfixed. In a film where the concept of ancestory is central, the Hawaiian print acts alongside the family pictures on the walls of Clooney's home.

At the beginning of the film Clooney makes a jibe at those who believe people who live in Hawaii to be living in Paradise. 'How can they think our lives are any less fucked up than their's', he says. The Hawaiian print bears this imprint- of a colonised past, a sad history behind a utopian aesthetic.

In the film, it is worn on bikinis, shirts and on the duvet of a woman as she dies in her hospital bed, later used by her family to comfort themselves. The more I looked at it, the more I saw the design as a kind of shadow-catcher print;  an image of a wilting flower, of a lost paradise; a descendant.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Zoot suits

'Zoot suits' by Edward Burra, (1943)

I went to Pallant House today in Chichester to see the Edward Burra exhibition, which is on until the 19 February. I loved this picture called "Zoot Suits". The accompanying text at the exhibition stated:

"Zoot Suits refer to the Harlem style suits with padded shoulders, 43 inch trousers at the knee and small cuffs and high waistline, worn by West Indian immigrants in London, following the British Nationality Act."

Some further research on Zoot Suits made me stumble across this excellent blog, where I learnt that the zoot suit became a symbol of youthful rebellion in wartime, both in america and europe. According to this other blog, there were even Zoot Suit riots during the second world war.

Monday, 9 January 2012

maggie's handbag

Fascinating bit of info here on Maggie Thatcher's handbag- the feminine prop that became a threatening symbol of conservative control. As faux-feminine as her principles, this mock-croc came to define not just Thatcher's image, but her actions. In so doing, the object became a verb, from 'handbagging her cabinet' to her 'handbag diplomacy'. Has a handbag ever been an accessory to so many crimes?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Behind Annie Hall

They say you should never try to get to know your idols. Against this advice, I began to read Diane Keaton's autobiography, Then Again, and have felt very let down by the following casual remark about her image in Annie Hall:

So I did what Woody said: I wore what I wanted to wear, or, rather, I stole what I wanted to wear from cool-looking women on the streets of New York. Annie's Khaki pants, vest, and tie came from them. I stole the hat from Aurore Clement, Dean Tavoularis's future wife, who showed up on the set of The Godfather: Part II one day wearing a man's slouchy bolero pulled down low over her forehead. Aurore had style, but so did all the street-chic women livening up SoHo in the mid-seventies. They were the real costume designers of Annie-Hall. 
I initially found this flippant deconstruction of the Annie Hall look rather disappointing. But on second thoughts it is really interesting to find that the figure of Annie Hall was a composite figure that stood for a real social trend happening on the streets of New York. Perhaps it is this authenticity that I have always been attracted to, even if I was unaware of its origins. It's also rather exciting to think that behind Annie Hall, the icon, there were loads of real Annie Halls living out this image in SoHo in the mid-Seventies.

Friday, 18 November 2011


I think there is very little more comforting than this sound...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Hating Hipsters

Mark Greif, a New York English professor and one of the book's chief editors traces this hipster's recent history back to the post-punk DIY movement of the 80s.
"Back then there was this insistence on something like an alternative to capitalism," says Greif, "an opposition to major labels and pop; you could make your album on a small unknown label and it would only be sold for cheap. Youth culture had this quite hopeful notion that it was possible to make your own art and distribute it, in order to evade this wider commercial sphere." By the early 90s, these ideals had foundered; grunge bands signed to major labels and Kurt Cobain had killed himself.
"What is meaningful about the hipster moment, 1999 and after," says Greif from his office in New York, "is that it seems to be an effort to live a life that retains the coolness in believing that you belong to a counter-culture, where the substance of the rebellion has become pro-commerce."
Instead of "doing art" the cool kids were now, in Greif's words "doing products".
"In the 50s and 60s, there are five people at the centre working very hard, miserably trying to write a book and around them there are 95 people more or less having fun," Greif explains. "In the hipster culture the people at that centre aren't necessarily producing art, they're actually working in advertising, marketing and product placement. These were once embarrassing jobs. Now it's meaningful in this world to say that you sell sneakers, at a high level."
This article in today's guardian offers many different theories as to why the 'hipster' is such a hated figure on blogs and media today, but for me, the above really pins down why I find today's 'hipster culture' so depressing: its uncreative. One of my boyfriend's favourite pass-times is reading this blog, Louderthansilence, and chuckling at these desperate characters. Its probably a bit mean (and self-righteous), but they encapsulate how bloody boring supposed 'trendy' culture is and how willing it is to dumbly support whatever product or 'red berry tea' is currently being marketed at them.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


This still is from Lewis Klahr's 'The Pettitfogger, Collaging the Crime', which you can read more about here.  The image of the blueshirt floating over the bridge is to represent the travel of a rootless man.
I find it to be a rather haunting and depressing image: the deep blue of the shirt suggests manual labour and a sense of a enforced uniformity; the man unseen.