An ode to Edie.

Youthquaker. Scenester. Warhol muse and superstar. Vogue model. Heiress. Edie Sedgwick was all this and more.

Edie was the ‘It girl’ in arguably the most exciting decade of the twentieth century. Had she been around today (this week marks her 72nd birthday), her every move would be tweeted and instagrammed.

Edie’s life was one of privilege and glamour, but also tremendous tragedy. Born into a hugely wealthy (and seriously dysfunctional) New England family, her life was blighted by anorexia, her brothers’ deaths and mental illness and ultimately serious drug addiction. She died in 1971 at the age of 28.

Despite all this, she remains an enduring style icon.  Dark eyes, short hair streaked with silver, chandelier earrings and black opaque tights – at the time, Edie was completely original and individual. In the 60s, you tended to fall into one of two tribes – flowery hippies (think Haight-Ashbury or the Isle of Wight festival) or cool modish types like Edie herself (think Twiggy, David Bailey and Carnaby Street).  I know which camp I’d rather fall into. I love the dark glamour of the whole East Coast/Factory look – lots of black eyeliner, leather and silver, accompanied by the sounds of the Velvet Underground….

Of course all of this had a very seedy underbelly, and I’m not in any way condoning that. Edie herself was certainly a victim of that scene. I’m simply talking about style. And hers was fabulous.

‘All I ever see her wearing is jeans…’

Denim in all its forms is a huge trend for spring/summer 2015. Along with our old favourites (jeans and jackets) denim also abounds in skirts, jumpsuits, shirts and dresses this season.


Let’s start with jeans. Two shapes dominate at the moment: flares and boyfriend. Yes, I’ve said it before – flares are back. Try them in dark or black denim with platform heels or wedges – they can actually look sharper than tailored trousers.   Higher waisted flared jeans are surprisingly flattering and a fantastic option for day to evening. The boyfriend cut (slim or a looser fit) is the other big shape this year, particularly with ripped and distressed detailing. They look equally great dressed down with a white shirt and platform trainers or glammed up with a blazer and heels.

Denim and chambray shirts are extremely versatile, and work well paired with leather skirts or leggings, or layered with fine knits in the spring chill. Come warmer weather they look crisp with white jeans.

We all know ‘double denim’ can be a tricky look to pull off. The key is to think contrast rather than trying to match tones and fabrics. A pale lightweight chambray shirt, for example, works well with a dark pair of jeans (or a deeper blue denim with white or very pale jeans). Head-to-toe denim is also prominent in the form of jump- and boiler-suits. These can be casual with a pair of leopard or white platform trainers, or dressed up with some killer heels and a contrasting clutch. There are so many options for jackets too: kimono, tailored, military, bomber….

Whatever your choice of denim, we all wear it, and we wear it a lot. So how do you keep it looking its best – particularly your darker wash jeans? Here are a few pointers:

  • don’t wash your jeans unless you absolutely have to. Most denim on the market today is pre-treated and so doesn’t need extra washing to break it in. Raw denim is an exception (see below)
  • when you do, wash your jeans inside out on a delicate setting, in cold water
  • to freshen them up between washes, hang your jeans in the bathroom while you shower
  • if you want your denim to fade, wash it once in hot water (beware of shrinkage….only do this once)
  • raw denim hasn’t gone throught the pre-wash treatment process, so is stiff and heavy. It takes a while to break raw denim jeans in and loosen them up. They then mould to the wearer’s body, which aficionados say ‘personalises’ their look

Whatever you choose this season, it’s clear our love affair with denim is far from over. We always seem to return to it in one way or another. As shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis once said of Jacqueline, ‘What does she do with all those clothes? All I ever see her wearing is blue jeans’.

Many thanks to Badger Clothing for the image.

Inspired by the anarchy

‘As a place for inspiration, Britain is the best… You’re inspired by the anarchy…’

Last week, fighting a hideous head cold, I made my way back to London to see ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’ at the V&A. The exhibition runs until 2nd August, and is the largest retrospective of McQueen’s work to be shown in Europe, from his 1992 graduate collection through to his last unfinished spring/summer collection of 2010. ‘Savage Beauty’ has been much anticipated, with tickets selling (and continuing to sell) fast. Lingering remnants of girl-flu were not going to stop me from missing my precious 2:30pm ticketed time-slot.

And what a visual feast it turned out to be…..

Influences and themes

McQueen had many influences and a number of recurring themes run through his collections. Nature, London, primitivism, transformation, Scotland, exoticism, Victorian gothic….   The sources of inspiration seemed limitless !

The first few rooms focused on his respect for (and mastery of) the tradition of tailoring. McQueen’s cutting and precision, as well as his incredible draping techniques, shine through in the simply displayed frock coats (inspired by Victorian London) and iconic ‘s-bend’ trousers.

The show follows several ‘deep and melancholic’ collections before we reach 2008’s The Girl Who Lived in the Tree – a much lighter collection, suggestive of ballet costumes and rich in colour with beading, feathers and tapestry. As McQueen himself said, ‘it was time to come out of the dark and into the light’. The themes of nature and primitivism continue through 2009’s Horn of Plenty and his final complete collection, Plato’s Atlantis, which explored humanity’s place in a post climatic future.

McQueen plato's atlantis

His use of materials was astonishing throughout: beads, leather, metal, horsehair, goose feathers, silk, flowers, latex… McQueen used them all in his expressive odyssey.

The Cabinet of Curiosities

The high point for me had to be the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ – a square room filled floor to (very high) ceiling with wild and fetishistic accessories and artefacts, including armadillo boots, tribal headresses, elaborate jewellery and hats created in collaboration with designers including Philip Treacy, Shaune Leane, Dai Rees and others. The focal point of the room is the tulle and leather dress that was spraypainted on the catwalk as it was being modelled by Shalom Harlow – the film of the action is displayed on one of the walls.

McQueen spray paint

For me, the whole room evoked an alternative Alice in Wonderland, one in which the Mad Hatter would be wearing hand-painted turkey feathers on his head and Alice would be decked out in a ponyskin corset. It was magical and slightly sinister, in equal measure.

The crowds…

The only negative point was the sheer volume of people. There is a strict timed entry system, and such is the crush that it’s hard to look at everything closely. I had to bypass a few displays completely as it was just too crowded. Even the astounding ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ was really difficult to take in fully as the room was so packed.

My favourite pieces? Two stand out. Other than the various edgy black, leather and latex items (which I adore), I loved the embroidered silk tulle and painted goose feather dress in the posthumous Angels and Demons collection. It’s regal, yet strangely subversive. The other was an amazing pale mustard leather cut dress with a metal crinoline – part of the Horn of Plenty collection.

McQueen goose feathers

You don’t have to be into fashion to appreciate this exhibition. The detailed craftsmanship, artistry, precision, and McQueen’s overall vision was all fascinating. Go now. Don’t miss it !

Please note, photography was not permitted at this exhibition. The images included above are scanned in from the show’s postcard collection.