Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Confessions on a Dancefloor

I don't usually recommend music because the people I know generally listen to much cooler and more credible stuff than I've even heard of. This is for several reasons....

When I rarely turn on the radio (usually when taking a shower) I head straight for the cheesy pastures of Magic or Heart FM. Sometimes Smooth FM if I'm craving a bit of a sax solo.

When I go to club, a major prerequisite is that it plays some form of soul, pop, 80s rock or disco. Extra points for 90s girl and boybands. We've all got our junk, and Oceana's cheese room is mine.

I do actively try to add new albums and downloads to my ipod in the hope of magically transforming into a devastatingly cool indie chick in the style of Zooey Deschanel or similar - but at the end of the day, I'll always flick past them onto a bit of Queen or Bon Jovi.

The only way I can honestly describe my musical taste is proud-gay-man-meets-karaoke-loving-housewife. I just don't do edgy and complicated. However shamelessly media-hungry, shallow or just downright whorish a pop act becomes (Sugababes' new single, anyone?) their catchy melodies and whiplash beats will always, always get me on the dancefloor. Especially if they reference any or all of my above retro tastes.

Which is why I find myself once again saying 'It's not cool - but I love it' to the new Pussycat Dolls single - It's loud, it's repetitive, it has an overly dramatic slow beginning (I regularly lie in the bath singing sensually to myself) and a funky homage to disco classic I Will Survive - what's not to love? And while La Scherzinger may looking a little drag queen-esque in the vid, I still love her. Her big hair and powerhouse vocals bring out the diva in all of us, and she does it with such flair.

Friday, 21 August 2009

H&M spells Heaven

Since working at ELLE, I have come to some conclusions about me and fashion: we have an odd relationship. I like reading about it, seeing the amazing styling and art ELLE puts together in their fashion pages, but I am much more comfortable in features and their cosy territory of books, films and art, with the odd interview research or social trend thrown in.

I am the antithesis of a fashionista. If you want ahead-of-the-pack tips and lingering odes to silhouettes and fabrics, visit the brilliant Notes on the High Street or Sartoriology; you won't find any style predictions here (although still hoping for big comfy hoodies to become a must-have for this winter). While I can love clothes and fashion fondly from afar, I could never live and breathe it - a tiny voice in my head will always mock me: 'They're just clothes.'

I am a totally erratic shopper - when I first started earning a small part time wage from equally stylish institution Woolworths at 16, I used to love spending it on a cute outfit for that weekend, or saving up for a pair of jeans or shoes which I would proudly don as a trophy of my dreary polo-shirted shelf-stacking.

At university, as with many a female fresher, I was both confused and enamoured by my loan - ever the excellent financial planner, I remember hitting Cardiff's H&M hard that first week - unwise, yes, but I found a pair of uber-flattering charcoal skinny jeans which I have worn ever since (for four cheapskate years) and are only just starting to fray at the edges. But by the end of each academic year poverty forced me to become very creative in order to look fresh in my same old dresses. I have never been a fashion obsessive, but I would definitely have downsized my food shopping to economy pasta and veg for a couple of weeks if it meant I would be resplendent in a jewel coloured dress for the summer ball.

Now is an odd time for shopping - on an intern's wage and working just off Oxford street, I have been very careful not to shop too much these last few months. I wander by Selfridges each morning just to check out the window dressings (an increasingly bizarre sort of reverse museum of fashion), and I often peruse the trends that pop up in every high street window - right now the blazer, the body con dress, the high shoulders, the ankle boots - but I don't feel much moved to cram each trend into my daily life.

Having had a bit of a flat week (cancelled plans, huge to-do list, empty house in the evenings), a combination of self-dissatisfaction and boredom prompted me to have a little wander up Oxford street last night, with a definite urge to buy - and for the first time in ages, not necessities. I felt really tired of my Ugly Betty twinges, my tiny budget, even just caring about it, and I really felt like getting something absolutely attention-grabbing and frivolous. This I found (thankfully for my bank balance) at good old H&M, crime scene of my student spending. For the first time EVER, I think, I saw an entire outfit in the window and thought 'I want that'.

I initially thought it was a dress - black, body con, oh-so-now puffed and raised shoulders (but with a flattering rounded neckline rather than cut straight across - a no-no for women of curvy proportions), short, subtly studded skirt, and rounded off with a pewter waist belt tied at the front. Worn with quite scary S&M-like shoe boots - I plan to pair it with slightly more demure strappy black sandals - it was quite an image. After a lot of searching a nice salesgirl pointed out that it was actually a top and skirt, join covered by the belt, and pointed me in the right direction.

I'm very pleased with my new buy; not only was it under £30 (Did I mention I love H&M and want to have its reasonably-priced babies?) but it's just that little bit harder, sexier and tougher than I actually feel right now. Putting it on makes me walk that little bit taller and feel like I mean business. I can't wait to pair it with hardcore smoky eyes and glossy tanned legs (2 weeks until my holiday!) My random, frivolous, just-for-me purchase ended up reminding me why fashion is such a big deal; it's costume, theatre, enhancing and transforming you - and as long as they keep transforming me for under £50, I will always be a big fan of the high street.

H&M's new season: I didn't go quite this far, but think of mine as a more muted, wearable version (and much, much more flattering on someone with a healthy BMI) of this design.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

A la Mode

I remember hearing about the premise of US comedy Ugly Betty and thinking it sounded awful. Even as someone wanting to get into the magazine industry it didn't grab my interest - small, frizzy, unglamorous, unstylish girl lands a job at the highest profile fashion magazine in the country. Cynical, city-slick Stylebots who work there are mean to her. She wins them round with her ungainly Latina charm. I remember reading all the media hype, the interesting background story of the original telenovela Betty La Fea being picked up by Mexican star Salma Hayek and made into a glossy US sitcom. But the idea of taking a bizarrely-set, unrealistic spanish-speaking comedy and making into TV gold just seemed surreal to me - I couldn't shake the image of the Spanish comedy guy in the bee costume who pops up in the Simpsons from time to time. Ay ay ay.

But in the last couple of weeks a combination of channel-changing laziness and the time I tend to hit the sofa now led me to watch several episodes from the new series (the third, I think), and it really surprised me. Not only do they have the magazine industry dead on - not the hyper-real, icy offices or diva editors, but the gossipy staff, the celeb & fashion chat, and there is definitely a Marc and Amanda combo in every glossy's editorial team - but there is also real humour and heart to each episode.

But you don't see a lot of Bettys in Magland, truthfully. I'm probably one of the more clueless interns, and when I say clueless, this usually means too much in love with my sleep to get up at 5 and start blowdrying and strapping on killer heels. Or too much in fear of debt to blow all my meagre earnings on the latest everything. But obviously, with Betty, it is not so much slacking as having an idea of what looks great that just happens to collide with the fashion industry's idea of what's vile. The layering, the ponchos, the printed shirts, the clashing colours... even I wince at Betty's attire - I must be one of them, after all. What her colleagues actually tend to point out are the frizzy mass of hair, the giant fringe, the red glasses and the braces. I actually think she's pretty cute, facially (google America Ferrera without the get-up and she's an absolute fox) and if she was just handed a beautifully cut black shift and some glossy heels she'd look great.

I like the fact that although some of fictional mag Mode's staff are verging on caricatures (Wilhemina Slater is a botoxed work of genius), their storylines are funny and sweet and genuine. I love Betty's gentle father, her brash homegirl sister, the straight-talking gay nephew, the whole lot. The brilliance of the show is contrasting the warmth and chaos of the Suarez home with the arctic flawlessness of Mode magazine.
But Betty's perseverance is pretty inspirational, and best of all is the show's theory that if you work hard and are nice to people, things will work out for you.

And while some days I do feel like this....

I know that I'm getting to do more and learn more than at a publication like Mode (Vogue. Why don't they just say it?)

Now all I need is a boss like this....