Yesterday I was at a press screening of the most gorgeous-looking film I’ve seen this year. Carol is its title, and it was directed by Todd Haynes – who also directed the similarly ravishing-looking Far From Heaven back in 2002. To be honest, I wasn’t really convinced by the characters or gripped by the plot but I was utterly seduced by the autumnal palette, slightly grainy film and – most of all – the way the two central characters, socialite Carol (Cate Blanchett) and young department store clerk Therese (Rooney Mara), looked. (Scroll to the end of this post for more images plus trailer.) Anyone who loves and appreciates 1950s style and beauty, as I do, will not be able to take their eyes off the screen!
The plot centred on the love affair between these two women – and it was a bit like watching Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn (in Sabrina – pre-Paris transformation) getting together. They both look amazing in clothes designed by costume designing legend Sandy Powell: Blanchett sports chic suits or fitted dresses with silk scarves and elegant jewellery, tidy little hats and a ubiquitous mink, while Mara wears simpler, gamine gear. (Indeed, the pinafore-turtle neck combo she sports for Christmas in the country is a direct lift from Sabrina.)
In an interview earlier this year, Blanchett said: “The mink was old and it kept falling apart. Between takes, Sandy Powell the costume designer, would sew it back together by hand. I considered changing coats, but when you find the right thing, you know immediately. That coat was the one to tell Carol’s story. It was perfect.”
Just as perfect and every bit as striking was the make-up look created for Blanchett by her regular movie make-up artist Morag Ross, who told the MakeUp411 website: “The character of Carol Aird was a sophisticated, wealthy woman, so the make-up and hair had to reflect that. As was the norm of the period, she was always made-up and lipsticked, always put-together and elegant when in public. When the two women go on their road trip the look became more relaxed and free.
“Cate’s look really came together with the immaculate and stunning hairdressing by Kay Georgiou. We took our inspiration from period photos of Grace Kelly who, of course, always seemed effortlessly elegant and beautiful, and we made our aim to channel that kind of look and feeling.” Carol’s coral-red lips, says Ross, were painted with Chanel’s Rouge Allure Lipsticks in Coromandel and Incandescente (used on the middle of the lower lip), while her nails, throughout the film, sport the Lilis shade of Chanel Le Vernis.
And Blanchett’s verdict on her make-up also referred back to Chanel. She said: “I had to pluck my eyebrows nearly every day to achieve that very stern look. I just hated it. I much prefer a natural approach to beauty. You know, Coco Chanel always said to take one thing off before you leave the house, and I think that also applies to makeup.”
If ever there was a poster girl for stylish sunglasses it was Grace Kelly, whose fondness for slightly masculine tortoiseshell shades – which complemented her blonde hair and fair skin, and looked as if they had been borrowed from co-star Cary Grant – became a hallmark of her classic style in the 1950s. She wore variations on those throughout that decade, when she wasn’t sporting her normal prescription glasses, which she was often photographed wearing at events.What’s interesting about trawling the net for photos of Grace in her sunglasses is that she invariably teamed them with hats or turbans – not an easy thing to pull off with any degree of comfort as anyone who has tried to keep a straight sun hat while putting on sunglasses knows.
We may all love that classic Kelly sunglasses look, but she moved with the times and reflected changes in frame fashions, going on to experiment with variations on the cat’s eyes style which had been popular when she was honing her signature look.
I’m not sure if the next pair are sunglasses or not (or if they are the same ones as shown above!) but they are certainly worth including as they show yet again how beautifully Grace carried off her shades and hat combo. During the 1970s, she was occasionally photographed wearing fashionably oversized frames but these weren’t always successful; in fact, some of them are, surprisingly, real howlers. Still, if you’re the queen of sunglasses, there’s only one way to go – down! Here she is, pre-princess, in her still-inspiring signature style.
Speaking of Marilyn Monroe (currently the subject of a major retrospective at the BFI in London) … this less well-known photo of the great lady has a lot to answer for … It was a huge inspiration to me style-wise when, as a film and fashion-mad teenager, I first clapped eyes on it – and it triggered a Holy Grail-like quest for a bucket bag which went on for nearly three decades!
My desire for a Marilynesque classic leather bucket was almost satisfied when I was 15 years old, and on holiday in Brittany with my family. I pounced on a cream canvas version, with tan leather trim and strap, that I spotted at the local market.
Having decided that Marilyn’s bag (only ever glimpsed in this photo) was undoubtedly tan-coloured leather, the French bag, with its tan trim, seemed to be the closest I could find to my heroine’s. Apart, I quickly realised from one thing: the tan bits weren’t real leather. And even as a 15 year-old, I couldn’t bear fake leather. The bag was never used. Indeed, it only, finally, saw the light of day when I chucked it out to the charity shop about 20 years later.
There was another matter which thwarted my quest for my dream bag: for much of my adult life, bucket bags just weren’t in fashion and so weren’t available. During my student time in Paris, in the early 1990s, I had no money but I did manage to regularly window shop in Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. I noticed that the French brand Lancel seemed to have a similar weakness for the style – and produced them in wonderful jewel colours (ruby red, emerald green etc). But (not that I could have afforded one) where they differed from Marilyn’s was that they were too stiff and formal; I wanted elegant but slouchy, something that could be used every day and which enhanced an outfit but didn’t steal its limelight.
I finally found it, two years ago. In TK Maxx. It’s a tan leather Fossil bag, with a round base, gold fittings and the obligatory drawstring. It doesn’t look as sleek and expensive as Marilyn’s; it now has a distinctly lived-in look to it. But I love it, and – to my surprise – it still gets regular compliments from bag admirers. Maybe they’re on a similar quest – but it should be a lot easier now, since the bucket has been declared the bag of the season and, in its designer form, notably Mansur Gavriel’s version, has been generating waiting lists. I’m definitely in the market for BB number two: a bigger, smoother-leather one perhaps in a zingy colour – like Lancel’s yellow Neo Elsa (pictured above). When you’re a bag lover, the bucket shopping list is never truly complete.
For the second autumn-winter in a row, I feel drawn to the look of the mighty and magnifique Catherine Deneuve – at least as far as my hair’s concerned. (Deneuve plus the big-hairedmodel in the Elnett ads!) This grande dame of French cinema has sported some fantastic hair-do’s over the decades but her distinctive style – voluminous blonde hair, worn off her face whether it’s pinned up or hanging loose – has remained constant and has just been subtly tweaked over the decades to reflect fashions, and to flatter her as she has grown older.
Creating volume can be a challenge – I’ve found it more difficult since I ditched the blonde highlights and opted for the gentler blonde tint. My hair is healthier and shinier – but, unfortunately, the flip side is that it’s also floppier. And that’s where my latest favourite hair styling product comes in. Ojon Volume Advance Volumizing Mousse (£23; www.ojon.co.uk) is – for me – the stand-out in the recently launched collection of volumising products from the American haircare company. And I have actually found that it’s more effective when I haven’t used the shampoo (£18.50) and conditioner (£20.50) from the same range; a range which its creators describe – rather appealingly, for those of us with naturally limp locks – as being “like a mega-phone for the hair”.
However, different hair might benefit from a different combination of products from Ojon’s Volume Advance range which also includes a Thickening Spray (£20.50). And in case you need any further French inspiration, here is a selection of shots of la belle Deneuve from different stages in her life.
There are lots of areas in which Grace of Monaco, the new biopic of Grace Kelly/Princess Grace, fails spectacularly and although it reeks of style – as befits a film about the rich and famous in the glamorous 1960s – it doesn’t really have much of Grace Kelly’s distinctive style about it. Nicole Kidman’s princely (don’t think there is a female equivalent) wardrobe is certainly a pleasure to look at, but it’s not a patch on the original, and – it seems – only one or two of the original ensembles are actually recreated.
What they did do rather a nice job on, however, was Princess Grace’s hair (see pic of Kidman as Kelly, above). In the 1960s, the style icon who had been known primarily for her pearls and accessories in during her movie star days, made her repertoire of formal – and increasingly outlandish – up-dos (created by the hair couturier Alexandre de Paris) her trademark. Here are three of the most memorable.
* Grace of Monaco is in cinemas now (if you’re not careful!)
This was the outfit Sharon Stone was wearing in the scene in John Turturro’s new movie Fading Gigolo that made me sit up and pay attention to the clothes.. It’s the ensemble she’s wearing for her first encounter with Fioravante (Turturro), the florist who diversifies into prostitution at the behest of his pal, played by Woody Allen. Dr Parker (Stone) is his first client. A very satisfied customer, she enthuses about him over lunch with her friend – all the while looking as if she got the memo of channelling (in a weirdly appropriate way) Belle de Jour-era Catherine Deneuve’s look, at least hair-wise. I don’t remember seeing the next outfit in the film but the pic was taken during filming of Fading Gigolo, and could well be Dr Parker in dressed-down mode. This chic cream coat is reminiscent of the iconic one worn by Kim Novak in Vertigo.
Sharon Stone’s bare legs are featured throughout Fading Gigolo – as if to highlight that they don’t appear to have aged since they first stole the show in Basic Instinct, back in 1992. * Fading Gigolo opens in UK cinemas on Friday, May 23
The generally (s’) wonderful 1957 musical Funny Face is doing the rounds of cinemas this week, to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Decent pictures of the many glorious Givenchy outfits are difficult to source on the internet (the still taken during the fashion sequence, above, is an exception) – but there are some delightful shots of the delectable Audrey Hepburn in costume, both on-set and off-duty, and in publicity pictures. Here’s a selection, kicking off with a beautiful portrait of her in the raincoat she wears for the jubilant Bonjour Paris number.
And, sans raincoat, here’s the rest of her boulevardier ensemble – turtle neck, cigarette pants and loafers – worn as she philosophises in Montmartre .. During the “ugly duckling” part of the film, Hepburn’s character, Jo, was dowdily dressed and bemused by the ridiculous poses and heavy make-up of the models who invaded her bookshop for a shoot. Between takes, however, Audrey Hepburn was quite comfortable in the company of top model Dovima.This monochrome evening dress is only glimpsed momentarily in the film (as are many of the evening gowns). It’s very reminiscent of the one worn by Hepburn in her second Cinderella-style film, Sabrina.And, to end with, here’s Audrey Hepburn’s beguilingly vulnerable version of the Gershwin love song How Long Has This Been Going On? Happy Valentine’s Day – here’s to feeling in a lovely state…
You can stick Sarah Lund’s knitwear up your jumper. There’s only one stylish Scandinavian TV detective worth emulating, and that’s Saga Noren, the magnificent, occasionally hilarious and utterly fascinating Swedish heroine of The Bridge (Saturdays, BBC4).
She may have even fewer variations on her sartorial repertoire than Lund, her much-missed Danish counterpart from The Killing (who alternated between two itchy-looking, yet surprisingly popular, woolly sweaters), but Saga’s one-hit wardrobe wonder – khaki military coat (always worn open; probably from H+M), over a grey quilted zipper, tan leather jacket, dark leather trousers of indeterminate colour and boffer boots – is easily the more appealing.
It’s only when you actually stop and think about it that Saga’s style credentials mount up. The khaki kit ties in with the cool green eyes, not to mention the vintage, bogey-green Porsche she drives. (All of it also, of course, blends in with the bleak, washed-out look of the series. The Bridge may come from the country that gave us Ikea, but bold primary colours don’t get a look-in in this TV show’s palette.)
In rain, hail or snow (the sun never shines on the Scandinavian TV we get to see), our heroine never wavers from her near-iconic look, which is always unencumbered by scarves, hats and other accessories – just as her messy blonde hair seems never to be troubled by brushing or styling of any sort.
I couldn’t say what age Saga is meant to be – early 30s, maybe – but Sofia Helin, the actress who plays her, is 41 and clearly a perfect example of the no-make-up look knocking years off one’s age. With make-up, she’s almost unrecognisable.
A friend was lucky enough to be given a classic large square Hermes scarf for her birthday recently. When she asked me for tips on how to wear it, I remembered a leaflet, published by Jacqmar of London, that I found amongst my grandmother’s stuff when she died. It’s full of great ideas so I thought I’d share it with other scarf-lovers.
The Women – the original, 1939, version of course (from which the Style Matters banner photo comes)– is one of my favourite films and it sort of came to life here, at my flat, last week when I hosted a ladies-only cocktail party.
I may have been the only person there who saw the connection with the glittering and stylish 1930s MGM comedy, but I was rather tickled by the similarities – all three of them. There was the pan-generational, all-female cast (excepting my two children and the barman), the classic cocktails being sipped, and the fact that we all had our nails painted by the lovely Margaret – though not the Jungle Red shade that links the ladies in the movie. (Thankfully, unlike the great movie – which I have often referred to as one of Hollywood’s best bitchfests – there was no catty behaviour..)
What made the night so memorable, however, was the presence (in my own hall!) of a well-stocked cocktail bar and a barman well-educated in the sophisticated science of mixology – both thanks to Social and Cocktail, the must-visit website for cocktail devotees, which recently branched out into events.
A satisfied customer
For a very reasonable £25 per head, each guest can enjoy five cocktails – chosen by the host. Social and Cocktail offers an impressive and wide-ranging menu which is divided into different sections – dessert cocktails, rum cocktails, vodka cocktails, classic cocktails and non-alcoholic cocktails.
For my Cocktails ‘n’ Cosmetics night, I opted for one non-alcoholic cocktail – the Summer Berry Sling (pronounced “delicious” by all who drank it) – plus three old favourites: French Martinis, Mojitos and Margaritas. And, since I’d never tried them but associated them with black & white movies, Old-Fashioneds, a whisky and orange bitters concoction which was the perfect final cocktail of our soiree.
* Social and Cocktail is currently offering its cocktail evening services in Glasgow and the surrounding areas, but it will soon be available in Edinburgh too. Contact them at email@example.com