Words on Fashion

I think as you get more well-known, more designers lend you dresses.  But you always give them back like Cinderella because you shouldn’t be buying them; $20,000 for one night?!  As far as expensive stuff goes, I’m not good at shopping – I’m better at the cheap stuff!” – Keira Knightley

Look-of-the-Day

Today is one of our favorite style mavens’ 27th birthday – Miss Keira Knightley!  Late last night, this editor caught Atonement on the USA network (which I found kind of odd), but was completely enthralled by Keira and James McAvoy’s performances.  I was completely shocked and impressed that Miss Knightley was only 22-years-old in that film!  Pretty spectacular.  Here, is the mature-looking actress at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival at only 20 years of age!  (We swear, this stunner perpetually looks like a worldly woman in her late 20s – we couldn’t believe this photo is from 7 years ago!  Keira never ages!)  The pretty girl is sporting a Roland Mouret Fall 2005 Galaxy dress, a Yves St. Laurent velvet belt and a pair of Jimmy Choo slingbacks.  This look is so timeless, it could be worn in the 1940s, 60s or today, without anyone batting an eye.  Happy Birthday Keira!

Uniting a Kingdom of Isles

The Irish and the English have been fighting for centuries, which has led to violence, oppression, terrorism and death.  In the short year that Kate Middleton and Prince William have been married, it seems the royal couple have been attempting to take small steps to uniting the two countries through… fashion?  It might sound shallow at first, but it seems the prince and princess have been honoring the Emerald Isle all year!  Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and in honor of March 17th, Kate Middleton handed out bouquets of shamrocks (the national flower of Ireland) to the Irish Guard (pictured, above).  The princess sported a gorgeous belted green Emilia Wickstead coat with chocolate suede pumps and a matching “Betty Boop” hat by Lock and Co.  She topped off her look with a gold shamrock brooch, previously used by the Queen Mother and Princess Anne, a bouquet of shamrocks in her lapel, and amethyst and diamond earrings by Kiki McDonough (hmm, a jeweler with an Irish surname).  For their enormous wedding last April, Prince William donned the traditional red dress uniform of the Irish Guard.  Considering one out of every three people on Earth watched the royal wedding, we have a feeling the prince was trying to make a statement about his respect for Ireland.  Last year, William was appointed to the honorary rank of of Colonel of the Irish Guard, and last June the couple handed out operational service medals to the Guards who fought in Afghanistan (pictured, below).  Princess Kate has also been sporting Irish designer Orla Kiely quite a bit, lately.  Earlier this week, she wore a lovely gray accordion dress while visiting the Dulwich Picture Gallery (pictured, above left).  In February, while visiting schools in Oxford, she wore a 1970s walnut-brown bird patterned dress coat by Kiely that sold out within minutes (pictured, above right).  While the British-Irish conflict isn’t exactly a problem that will be fixed with clothing, it’s nice to see the young royals making an effort to unite the two cultures with shared traditions and Irish fashion.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Look-of-the-Day

Maureen O’Hara is probably the most notable actress from the Emerald Isle, but she happens to be one of our favorite girls, too!  (Probably because of that fiery Irish independence and temper that seems to come through in all of her characters!)  Here she is in her most famous role as Mary Kate Danaher in the 1952 film The Quiet Man.  O’Hara plays an Irish girl who gets married off to an American boxer (played by John Wayne), much to her dismay.  Here, Mary Kate is sporting a cream-colored tweed jacket, a navy blue dress, and a greenish-grey tam o’shanter that perfectly complements her enigmatic eyes and gorgeous red locks.  Obviously, the two still aren’t seeing eye-to-eye in this particular scene (pictured, below), but they eventually realize they’re made for each other!  Fun Fact: Our parents used to leave out our VHS version of The Quiet Man when we were little girls, to make it look as though leprechauns had watched it while we were sleeping the night before March 17th!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and Erin Go Bragh!

Go Fish! (For an Irish Sweater)

The Aran jumper, better known as an Irish fisherman sweater, is a bulky, cable-patterned sweater popular in Ireland.  Its name derives from the Aran Islands off the west coast of the Emerald Isle.  The jumpers were originally stitched with unscoured and undyed cream-colored báinín, yarn made from sheep’s wool that contained natural oils, which made the material water-resistant – a perfect fabric for men primarily working on the sea!  The wives of fishermen would knit these beautiful sweaters for their husbands.  Each stitch has a meaning.  The cable stitch depicts a fisherman’s ropes to wish for safety; the honeycomb pattern symbolizes hard-working bees; the basket stitch represents a fisherman’s basket with the hope of a plentiful catch; the zig-zag stitch depicts the twisting cliffs on the islands; the tree of life pattern shows the importance and unity of family; and the diamond shape reflects the small fields of the Aran islands, which are sometimes filled with Irish moss stitch, depicting the seaweed that was used to fertilize barren land and produce a good harvest – therefore, the diamond represents good fortune and success.  Origins of the sweater are often debated.  Some historians claim that Aran jumpers have been knitted for hundreds of years, sometimes credited to knitting historian Heinz Edgar Kiewe, who claims he discovered an image in the Book of Kells, in which Daniel was wearing Aran knitted clothing!  Supposedly, there aren’t any other records of the fisherman sweaters until the early 20th century.  The likely explanation is that the women of Aran adapted the traditional Gansey sweater by changing the thickness of the wool and streamlining the construction.  There is a common belief that each family had a different pattern, in case one of their sons, husbands, fathers or brothers went overboard, they’d be able to identify bodies washed ashore, based on the clan’s sweater pattern.  This stems from the 1904 play Riders to the Sea, by J.M. Synge, in which a dead fisherman is identified by his clothing’s stitching, although there is no reference to Aran knitting in the play.  Jumper patterns do have regional associations though, so fishermen and sailors lost at sea could have been identified by sweaters associated with their county, town or church’s pattern.  Men also had their initials sewed into their garments, which also helped determine who they were, if killed.  (Fun Fact: The Ó’Máille family of Galway created traditional costumes for the 1952 film The Quiet Man!  You can still purchase their knits today!)  Irish-American leading men look pretty good in these sweaters, too!  The “King of Cool” Steve McQueen (pictured, top left) looks rugged on the set of The Thomas Crown Affair, and Ryan ONeal (pictured, below) looks handsome filming one of the final scenes of Love Story.  We love ‘em, because they remind us of sweaters passed down and worn in our own Irish family!  It’s nice to keep cozy while paying tribute to the Gaels who lived and died before us!

Look-of-the-Day

In the 1970 drama Ryan’s Daughter, Sarah Miles plays a spoiled Irish girl named Rosy in a small village who falls for a British officer – a big no-no, especially considering her character is married!  Here, Rosy looks particularly lovely in an apricot gown with a satin ribbon around her waist, white gloves, and a pearl choker.  Her parasol and hat are various shades of lavender, soft pinks and blues, and adorned with large white roses to match her dress (and her name!)  The film was outfitted by Australian-born costume designer Jocelyn Richards, whose brilliant work also appears in Blow-Up and From Russia with Love.  The sexy Christopher Jones may look good in that uniform, but falling for him only causes tragedy for Ryan’s daughter…

Look-of-the-Day

Last year, we featured Hilary Swank in P.S. I Love You a couple of times, because other upbeat Irish movies, including The Magdalene Sisters, The Field, Angela’s Ashes, and Bloody Sunday don’t exactly showcase fashion-forward Gaels.  Probably because they all tend to be about injustice, Catholic oppression, cultural uprisings and starvation.  Anyhow, here’s Holly Kennedy again from the 2007 film.  Swanks stars as a widow in New York, who loses her husband to cancer (played by the extremely sexy Scots-Irishman Gerard Butler) and he leaves her twelve final notes to help rebuild her life after he’s gone.  (Geez, even Irish romantic comedies are depressing!)  This is the final scene of the movie, when Holly returns to Ireland with her mother, played by Kathy Bates.  Holly is sporting a classic trench coat, a slim-cut jeans, knee-high black leather boots and supposedly a Marc Jacobs bag.  It’s the perfect outfit to trek across the Irish countryside in!

Wednesday’s Shoe

This “Wednesday’s Shoe” is appropriately emerald green, in honor of the Emerald Isle!  This St. Patrick’s Day, you can look like one classy colleen in these babies!  Made by Christian Louboutin (if you hadn’t already figured that out by the red sole) these beautiful shoes are called “Volpi 150″ heels.  They are made of satin and have crisscrossed fabric that creates a peep-toe.  Originally $700, you can find them at several online outlets for around $150-$170.  If you don’t want to invest in these kind of shoes for St. Patty’s Day, you can order some adorable shamrock chocolate heels instead!

Look-of-the-Day

In the 1995 film Circle of Friends, three childhood friends attend University College in Dublin during the 1950s.  Along the lengthy and bumpy road, the three girls manage to get their hearts broken, not just by the men they fall in love with, but also by each other.  During their happier times together, they attend a dance in the beginning of their first semester, pictured here.  Saffron Burrows plays Nan Mahon, the leader of the group.  Although she’s not older, she certainly acts and dresses the part to impress… older men.  Seen here, Nan looks divine in a charm pink, halter dress, with ruby lips, and her bright, beautiful auburn locks up in a french twist.  (Fun fact: Charm Pink is a medium roseish tone that was first coined in 1948.)  This same night that Nan wows everyone in her beautiful frock, is also where she gains the attention of an older man by the name of Simon Westward, played by a young Colin Firth, and later gets herself into a heap of trouble.  This charming, funny, smart, heartbreaking film is worth watching any day of the year, but it makes for a perfect “Pink Wednesday” addition to our “Irish week.”  Circle of Friends has a star-studded cast including Minnie Driver, Chris O’Donnell, and Alan Cumming, so be sure to pick it up this season if you haven’t already seen it!

Words on Fashion

Hollywood invented our perception of glamour.  And now it’s just boring.  At one time Hollywood had style – now it’s just stylists.  It’s the most ridiculous thing.  Marlene Dietrich didn’t have a stylist.  Marilyn Monroe didn’t have a stylist. They had style.” – Renowned Irish milliner and designer Philip Treacy.