Monthly Archives: November 2010

Pied Beauty

One of my favourite poems of all time, Pied Beauty, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, is a languid, lustful ode to all things freckled. I am also a lover of freckles, although I have little choice in the matter, with a fine collection of lifelong cheek dapples, myself. There is little point in fighting the facts, or the freckles, as it were, especially when they are on your face. Even more pertinent, though, is the fact that, as Hopkins so eloquently puts it, freckles are in a league of

‘All things counter, original, spare, strange’.

They are a delightful imperfection – a network of dapples that set you and others that are freckled apart from the rest. The poem makes me think of that time of the day, just before dusk, when you are driving and suddenly the light in the car changes and everything becomes saturated; all colours intensify and the landscape slides into a glow of green and yellow, the sky grey grey grey. And just as suddenly it is gone.

Freckles are similar; a childhood remnant on the bridge of a nose, or a concentrated firebreak of freckles on a redhead’s cheek. Fleeting, all-over-the-show, difficult to pin down.

Love your freckles, lest they fade. Wear them for the mark of difference that they are.

The poem:

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

We fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;

Praise him.



‘You are only as pretty as you pretend to be.’

Brigitte Bardot knows her stuff.

Hey, little one.

The original Fiat 500!

Old pictures show it used for everything from ferrying brides to weddings, kids to school, friends to picnics and couples to makeout spots. At this point in time, my little car is so battered from spending three years on the streets of Cape Town that a sleek new 500 would be the best accessory I could ask for.

Off-white please, with a maroon soft top. Merci.

Fashion 101, Part 3

The third and final installment of my condensed fashion glossary for kids who can’t talk fashion good.


British term for given to the classic hairstyle where a forelock of hair is styled upwards from the forehead in the style of Elvis. The quiff is timeless and is currently making a big comeback in street style all over the world, often accompanied by a more 80’s / 90’s undercut. Sean Penn has a killer quiff in Dead Man Walking – if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour.


It’s really beyond me that there are people out there that don’t understand what I mean when I refer to a quilted jacket, but, quite obviously, quilting is the fabric construction in which a layer of fill, usually down, cotton or batting, is sandwiched between two other fabrics, usually by crisscross stitching. Like a quilt. Geddit?

Rah-Rah Skirt

I love me a rah-rah. Short, tiered, and often colorful skirts which were popular in the 80’s, a rah-rah provides the ultimate flounce and thus the ultimate strut.


A rectangular carry-on bag, generally larger in size, with a wide, flat bottom, zippered or clasped top, with two handles or straps to be held on the arm rather than over the shoulder. Usually made of leather or cloth.

Sheath Dress

The sheath dress has a figure-hugging silhouette with a defined waist, usually without a belt or waistband. Often mid-calf or even shorter (but not mini) this dress is a favourite of First Lady types, and is thus always a classic shape. Not for you if you could be described as ‘rubenesque’. Give it a wide berth (ahem).

Shirtwaist Dress

The shirtwaist should not be confused with the popular shirt dress, which buttons from hem to neckline. The shirtwaist, rather, is a tailored dress, buttoned down from neck to waist, with either a straight or full skirt, a collar, defined waistline, and usually worn with a belt. Popular in the 1940’s -1960’s, the shirtwaist is a feminine classic. Love it!


Skorts, skorts, skorts. Why? In South Africa skorts translate well on the netball court – the chosen attire of sprightly, muscly-calved Afrikaans girls with quick feet and a quicker backhand. The idea was clearly borne out of some ancient sexist sentiment to do with making the gals look feminine and fetching on-court, because why else would you wear a pair of pants that is pretending to be a skirt? I have seen some attempts at ‘fashion’ skorts, but if you ask me, that’s just ironic. And they don’t warrant an image.


Smocking refers to a tightly gathered section of material, usually elasticated for comfort and decoratively stitched. Often used in the bust area of a dress, but also a popular detail to the waist and cuffs.


The Snuggie is the king, queen and crackpot of the cheesy infomercial. Basically a blanket with sleeves and a gag-reflex-inducing-name, the Snuggie is big in America (really?) and made of luxurious fleece, so that lazy Americans can sloth about their homes in one, multi-functional outfit. Adverts show whole families of grinning people, installed like a cult of trippy wizards on their polyester couches, TV dinners in pride of place on their compartmentalized trays. Run. For. The. Hills.


Taffeta is a crisp, lustruous silk-type fabric used to make women’s clothing. Often used in party dresses and other formal wear, taffeta provides lots of body and a satisfying little rustle that makes you feel dolled up and femme.

Tea length

A hemline that falls to several inches above the ankles or the mid-calf.

Trumpet skirt

A type of skirt that is fitted at the hips and thighs and flares out from the knees. Also known as a mermaid skirt.

Tulip skirt

The tulip skirt has become more and more popular over the last few years for both party and office wear. Named for its resemblance to an inverted tulip, it has more fabric around the waistline, a close-fitting hemline and is usually to the knee or shorter.


Velveteen is velvet’s little cousin – a modern adaptation of velvet that is made of cotton and has little give. Also known as imitation velvet. Anything that resembles velvet is on my list of things to a) wear and b) roll around in and on, but as with many things, nothing beats the real deal. Go vintage if you’re looking for velvet so lush you want to rest your cheek on it.

Wiggle dress

The wiggle refers to a style of dress with a tight, tapered skirt that restricts the wearer’s steps, resulting in a wiggle. I have a wiggle and I will tell you that the name is most apt – stay away from places with lots of steps and seek the elbow of a dapper gentleman when entering and exiting vehicles.

Wing tip

Ah, the wing tip. All the cool kids are wearing them (and have been for some time), whether they be the traditional monochrome version or with a revised twist. Traditionally a men’s formal or dress shoe with an overlay of decorative punched perforations on the toe. Dashing on men and women alike.

Do the Tavi

With fashion bloggers like Julia Frakes of Bunny Bisous tilting a golden-haired head for the latest GAP campaign and Susie Bubble of Style Bubble lending her quirk to the styling of the window displays at COS, the rise of the fashion star blogger is an indisputable force. You only need to look to 13 year old wunderkind Tavi Gevinson, who gets sent designer, puppy-shaped bags to carry her books in to school, to see that this new guard of fashion in/outsiders is perfectly situated between the periphery and the front row.

Refinery 29 created this hilarious and incisive flow diagram, charting the rise of the star blogger, lookbook, obligatory photie-snapping friend/boyfriend/brother and awkward blogger pose included. Love it!

* Via Style Guide CT

Guy Friday (ahem)

So usually I do Girl Friday on Fridays… but today I feel like shakin’ it up a little. Maybe it’s got to do with the fact that the weather in Cape Town is shimmying up and beyond the 30 degree mark, and the sky is bluest blue, and all over the city girls are wearing sneaky little shorts and boys are a’lookin’. And girls are lookin’ right on back…

On that sly-eyed note, today is Guy Friday! Dedicated to three men in music whose style I’ve always found inspiring, Sir David Bowie, Mr Benjamin Andre and Mos Def. I’m a big fan of all of their music, but a lot of it has to do with their respectively individualistic style. Bowie is just a law unto himself, and Andre 3000 and Mos Def are both hat men – men that pull off a range of hats with suaveness and style. I like. And I also like their eclectic assemblages. Love them, in fact.

Sir David, if you please…

Mr Benjamin ‘Ice Cold’ Andre…

And last but not least, Mos Def, duke of cool, cooler and collected…

Q&A with Crystal Birch

My second attempt at interviewing stylist and milliner Crystal Birch almost resulted in yet another night out on the town, when she called me as I was about to bundle into my car with my laptop and camera. “We’re just quickly going to this launch thingy in Green Point and then I promise we’ll go back to my place and do the interview oh and I’ll cook you dinner and please bring all the gold necklaces you own for a shoot that I have tomorrow. Okay? Okay. See you in fifteen minutes.”

This exchange pretty much sums Crystal up – a flighty, fabulous, million-miles-a-minute, whirr of a girl. If she hadn’t such a talent for creating the extraordinary out of nothing with her hands alone, she’d make an excellent actress or story-teller. She literally fizzes over with anecdotes, snippets of history, people, bright twists of fabric and irrepressible feistiness.

Represented by Cape Town agency One League, Crystal is currently working on an array of cool projects. Since she returned from London a few months ago she has styled shoots for clients like Errol Arendz, Mango Airlines and Ray Ban and is currently in the process of making a hat for the March issue of ELLE Deco. Next up is a trip to Mozambique fashion week, working as a wardrobe manager and stylist for designers from Venezuela, Egypt, Britain and the Pan-African showcase. Thereafter, she plans to focus on ideas for both Design Indaba and the J&B Met 2011, and after that? She wants to move to New York and intern under famous South African-born milliner, Albertus Swanepoel. Having been completely and naturally absorbed into the kaleidoscopic festival that is Crystal’s world myself, I have no doubt that she’ll do it, and teach Albertus a thing or two while she’s at it.

How did you get into millinery?

I’ve always loved hats – they are the exclamation mark of any outfit. If you want to get ahead, get a hat! It all started when I went to Ireland and bought cheap motel paisley lampshades that somehow turned into hats. People bought them right off our heads on the street.

Best fashion advice from your parents?

Use eye cream. My mother lives by it and she hasn’t got a single wrinkle around her eyes. And never wear white jeans with dark shoes. That’s her worst. Comfort over fashion, always. ‘Dit was net stupid, jy het seker kak gevoel did hele aand – mense sou sien!’ * Totally!

* Translation: Thats was just stupid, you surely felt shit the entire night – and people would’ve been able to see it!

Style icons?

Li Edelkoort – the fucking best. Susie Bubble – I met her at London Fashion Week and she was so Bri’ish I couldn’t believe it. And so articulate, with such a girl-next-door sense of humour. Cute, silly and approachable. She’s spot on with things, too. New York stylist, Patti Wilson. In the 90’s it was Gwen Stefani! Oh, and the Harajuku girls of Japan!

Describe your personal style.

A moerby resep*! My clothes are found at weird places, on strange occasions, given to me because people don’t know what to do with them. No particular influence or reference. Found, given, discovered, eclectic, loved forever, inherited through the generations, all mish-mashed together. It’s a surprise!

* Translation: A mish mash recipe, all different things thrown together.

Favorite designers locally and internationally?

Stiaan Louw. And Maya Prass. Her printmaking and work ethic are just so incredible. I really respect her. Vivienne Westwood, of course, it has to be. Stephen Jones and Albertus Swanepoel – milliners I love! I’m gonna work for him in New York. Morne will work for IMG, you will work for Vogue, and we will all do lunch together, all the time!

Most cherished item?

My ten-past-ten vintage belt from Spain, given to me by Morne for my birthday. It’s the time that I was born and it’s the first thing I pack whenever I go anywhere. If anybody borrows it I am so pedantic. And the first block hat I ever made, a black bowler that I still have.

I feel best wearing…

Lately, high-waisted skinnies for elongating my body. An amazing bra, and a good perfume!

I’d sell my soul for…

A studio space in Brooklyn to create things in over and over again.

Never caught wearing?

I don’t like slip-on mules – I’d never wear them. I think they’re kitsch. A very short cocktail dress in a bright colour, or anything to do with a diamante! An up-do with tendrils, or a mini princess tiara! Never, ever, ever.

Most stylish city?

To me, it’s London. I lived there for years, and the close-knit friends I had from all over the world, were just so stylish. The most stylish of them though, were the girls from Korea and Japan. Mad, mad , mad! And the Italians.

When I was high school I wore?

A bad school uniform and anything that would shock my square friends!

My favourite secret spot is…

A Thai restaurant in Shoreditch that we used to go to when we were so tired and we just missed each other – just to catch up. I also love The Kitchen in Woodstock. San Julio Tacos & Tequila in Lower Rose St, Cape Town for the best non-greasy, authentic Mexican and salsa verde, served by the entire family.

Most underrated trend or style?

Confidence. You can wear a black bag – if that girl is confident, she will look great. So many people lack the confidence to pull something off.

My favourite band / artist when it comes to all things fashion…

LCD Soundsystem for Yves Saint Laurent menswear collection – epic. And the Colette Compilation from Saint Honore Drive in Paris – best fashion music collection, the store is phenomenal. Shit hot. And the Bloody Beetroots.

Favourite cocktail?

Bloody Mary and the classics. Or a Jamaican Mule!

The next big thing is…


Some shoots that Crystal has styled: