Newsflash: 10 Outfits that Changed the World

Ever wondered about the most significant styles of the last few centuries? If the answer is ‘yes,’ I have a date for your diary: join me on Monday September 8th to hear about 10 Outfits that Changed the World at BrainCandy social club in Notting Hill, upstairs at The Oak on Westbourne Park Road. From Chanel to Marie Antoinette, and from Spitalfields silks to Versace, I’ll be taking you on a guided tour of some of the most influential outfits in the history of fashion. And it’s FREE! Tickets available here.

83_531_vaSpitalfields silk dress, 1752, found at Spitalfields Life

 In other news…

I wrote about the history of STRIPES & THE SEA for the lovely Tilly of Tilly & the Buttons,  so if Breton tops are your thing or you have a fascination with Nelson (spoiler alert: his stockings appear), then you can check it out HERE.

I was also interviewed about style and historical fashion for Beyond Retro, My Roots My Style, and Inside the Archive, and My Daily took a peek inside my wardrobe.

AJWearing Wooden Hills Bedding kimono and Akhu Designs turban for My Daily; wearing Beyond Retro 1970s jumpsuit, Terry de Havilland shoes and Akhu Designs Showstopper turban at My Roots, My Style and Inside the Archive – picture by Lorna Milburn

I’ve been spending the summer talking about a number of areas, from Fashion and the First World War (for LIFT Festival at Battersea Arts Centre) to midcentury Soviet fashion during the Cold War for the Gallery of Russian Art and Design (watch again HERE). I was also on the SHOWstudio live panel discussing the Schiaparelli collection during Couture Week which you can see HERE. The Team Scotland parade uniforms for the Commonwealth Games caused quite a stir, and I was duly asked to speak about the history and enduring appeal of tartan for BBC Breakfast and Woman’s Hour (listen here).

I also filmed a short piece for the next series of BBC 2’s Great British Sewing Bee (which you’ll have to wait until 2015 to see), and I was a guest on Radio 4’s Saturday Review along with Kate Williams and Paul Morley, discussing Malevich at the Tate Modern, Oscar Wilde in the theatre and a Filipino retelling of Crime & Punishment. You can listen again HERE.

grad liftMy homage to Russian Constructivist textiles to discuss Soviet fashion at the Gallery for Russian Art and Design, and to the Land Girls to discuss fashion & war at LIFT Festival
sewing bee Filming in a zip factory for series 3 of Great British Sewing Bee; wearing The Rodnik Band‘s fried eggs on BBC Breakfast
photoDiscussing the Schiaparelli couture collection for SHOWstudio with Judith Watt, James Sherwood and Lou Stoppard

And finally my Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition Edits Tour is online! I was asked to select 5 pieces in the Summer Exhibition to discuss, and the artworks I featured tended to focus (unsurprisingly) on textiles and history. It was great fun to do, and you can read about the pieces I chose, and listen to the tour right HERE.

royal academyA print featuring hieroglyphics seemed the obvious choice to discuss textiles and history in art

Until next time!

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Newsflash: Royal Academy tour, Soviet Fashion, Book Signing & More!

Picture 40

Join me on Wednesday 26th June at 3pm for my Summer Edits tour of the Royal Academy Summer Show. The Summer Exhibition Edits are a series of afternoon tours in which practitioners from diverse fields share their personal highlights of the show. I’ve selected five works from the exhibition to chat about – come along to hear which they are! Others on the bill include the BBC’s Arts Editor Will Gompertz.

And it’s FREE! More info HERE.


If you can’t make that, on Wednesday 23rd July I’ll be talking about midcentury Soviet fashion at the Gallery for Russian Arts and Design. The talk is part of their programme to accompany the Work and Play Behind the Iron Curtain exhibition which examines the changing face of Soviet design from the 1917 Revolution to Perestroika. This is an area I’m really interested in so I can’t wait to start my research.

More info if you scroll down HERE and get your tickets HERE.

Picture 38

Following that, on Thursday July 24th I’ll be giving a talk and book signing at the Fashion & Textile Museum. I’ll be sharing insight into some of the secrets of fashion’s past, from high heels to haute couture, as well as talking about the process for writing a book on fashion history. Come along! You can check out the brilliant Made in Mexico exhibition while you’re there.

More info and tickets HERE!


In other news… There’s an interview with me in the current issue of Betty magazine


…It was fantastic to be a part of the Selfridges Beauty Project events, here I am discussing beauty & feminism with Sali Hughes and novelist Emma Jane Unsworth

beauty project

…And I was photographed for My Daily in my favourite vintage outfits – seen here in a Victorian bodice (read more about it here), Akhu designs turban and Terry de Havilland shoes. Stay tuned as the full shoot will be online shortly.

I was also shot for photographer Jenny Lewis’s ‘Hackney Studio’ project (my living room has been getting a LOT of exposure lately).

Jenny Lewis

I’m in very good company, as the project also features Marawa, Fred Butler, Rob Flowers and Rosy Nicholas among many others.

Finally in SUPER EXCITING news, my Nautical Chic book will be published in America next year through Abrams Books. They have a REALLY INCREDIBLE fashion list and I’m overjoyed that my book will be joining their roster. So come next spring it will be available through Thames & Hudson here in the UK and through Abrams in the States. Current mood:



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Newsflash: Shakespeare at the V&A, Gaultier at the Barbican and MORE


Picture 41I’m excited to announce that my next ‘In Conversation’ at the V&A will be part of the Shakespeare Festival that celebrates the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth

I will be joined by Katrina Lindsay, an award winning theatre designer who has worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Globe Theatre (among many others), and her sister Fiona, a founder member of the RSC‘s education department. We’ll be covering many issues around Tudor and Stuart clothing for the stage, such as the role of character, the way the past can be used to inspire the present, and subversion of historical costume for contemporary relevance. There are loads of great events going on throughout the festival, including food in Shakespeare’s time and the roles of black actors in Shakespeare so get involved!

  • Shakespeare Festival: In Conversation with Katrina & Fiona Lindsay
  • Friday 2nd May, 20:00
  • Seminar Room One, Sackler Centre, V&A
  • Get your FREE tickets HERE!

In other news…

JPGI was asked to share my nautical pearls of wisdom with the Barbican for the app to accompany their recently opened Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition. There’s a load of information including insights from the curators, and it’s totally free. Get it right HERE!

Picture 38

And speaking of stripes and the sea, you can hear me talk about the history of the Breton stripe with Melanie Rickey and Jenni Murray on the Woman’s Hour fashion special. It also features Celia Birtwell and Grayson & Philippa Perry so it’s well worth a listen

Picture 39

I’m excited to be involved in some of the events for the upcoming Selfridges Beauty Project. The programme covers a whole host of areas from fashion, beauty and old age to the politics of black hair. We DJed at the launch events in London, Birmingham and Manchester and I will be heading back to Manchester on June 4th to speak on a panel with beauty editor Sali Hughes and novelist Emma Jane Unsworth about the pursuit of beauty. ‘The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful’ will examine the history, rituals and effects of beauty to ask whether it is a force for good, and what role appearances have to play in modern feminism. Get your tickets HERE!  

Picture 42

BH SelfridgesDJing at Selfridges in Manchester

I was very honored to be featured as the first Excellent Woman for Katie Antoniou‘s Domestic Sluttery column. Read it HERE.

And there’s also an interview with me in the forthcoming issue of Betty Magazine, out on 29th May, so do keep an eye out for it.


One of my top recommendations for the coming weeks… The UK premiere of the Advanced Style film is MAY 6THGET YOUR TICKETS HERE! I have been waiting to see this film for soooo long. Join me there!

Advanced Style

Chris and I had a fantastic time at our Puttin’ on the Glitz event at the British Library. You can read all about it at Clothes on Film.

GlitzPictures by Luca Sage
photo (5)Thanks to Faye for the picture

Finally, if you’re Stateside my Fashion Miscellany is now available in America. In fact, here it is on sale in the MoMA bookshop no less.

That’s All Folks!


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Newsflash: Puttin’ on the Glitz at the British Library

BL Spring

I’m excited to announce that I will be teaming up with the brilliant Chris Laverty of Clothes on Film for a night of fashion and film as part of the Spring Festival at the British Library.

I shall be exploring fashion on the big screen during the 1920s and 30s, from Joan Crawford and Ginger Rogers to the costume designers who became celebrities in their own right. If you’re lucky I might even venture pre-1920s, as who doesn’t love a bit of Gloria Swanson and Cecil B. DeMille? It’s worth it for the headdresses alone.

Chris, who has just been labelled a ‘digital game changer’ by none other than Vogue India, will be discussing the history of the ‘dandy gangster,’ with exclusive access to the costumes in award-winning HBO series Boardwalk Empire and the influence these colourful men still have on fashion today. SOUNDS PRETTY GOOD, RIGHT?!

The whole shebang will be followed by a party hosted by The Vintage Mafia and you can even enjoy a complimentary cocktail courtesy of The Eccles Centre for American Studies.

The ultimate 3 F’s – Fashion, Film and Free booze. What’s not to love?

Puttin’ on the Glitz: Fashion & Film in the Jazz Age is at the British Library on Friday 28th March from 18.30. BOOK NOW! And read more about the British Library’s Spring Festival, including talks by Hanif Kureishi and history storytelling workshops right here.

Picture 29web

IN OTHER NEWS… You may have caught me recently chatting to Claudia Winkleman about 17th century silk weavers on BBC2’s Great British Sewing Bee. If you missed it, you can catch it until April on iPlayer (UK only) from 45 minutes in.


I also joined the lovely Gemma Cairney on her Radio 1 show to chat all things vintage style (such as TURBANS) and why I definitely wasn’t born in the wrong era.

Sticking with style analysis, I was on the live SHOWstudio panel for the Prada collection during Milan Fashion Week. Watch here to see us chat politics and ‘ugliness’ in fashion, as well as training as a mime (Miuccia not me, unfortch).


On top of all that, I was recently interviewed about fashion theory by Bel Jacobs, and about all things historical at History Vault. And I shared my thoughts on the enduring appeal of Nautical Style for the Metro. And speaking of Nautical Style, I am still currently engrossed in writing a book that tracks the origins of our favourite nautical trends. And speaking of BOOKS, in exciting news my Fashion Miscellany has nearly sold out and is going to reprint!

The TImes

I’m pleased to say it made The Times ‘five best style titles for spring’, as well as The Observer’s Top 5 picks. There have also been lovely words from Clothes on FilmTilly and the ButtonsNaomi ThompsonThe Twin Magazine blog by the girls at Pamflet and The Invisible Woman at the Guardian.

Fashion Miscellany is still available via the GuardianAmazon, and all good book shops. GET ONE WHILE STOCKS LAST!

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Newsflash: Book Out in February! And Upcoming Events

miscellany blogWhilst I’m still researching all things nautical for the current book I’m working on, I’m excited to say that a small book I put together earlier this year is being launched to coincide with London Fashion Week in February 2014. The Fashion Miscellany is a treasury of tips, trivia and stories about the world of style that casts a quizzical eye over fashion’s oddities, revealing the histories of various garments and techniques as well as lists of top fashion films and the digital fashion revolution. And best of all, it’s available for pre-order HERE!

va-logo1In events coming up, I’m speaking at Raising the Curtain: The History of British Music Hall Study Day at the V&A on Saturday 7th December. The day coincides with the V&A’s current exhibition, Music Halls: Sickert and the Three Graces and covers areas from working women in the Halls from Professor Jacky Bratton, and a look at Music Hall and dance from the V&A’s dance curator Jane Pritchard. I’ll be taking a look at the history of breeches roles, male impersonator Vesta Tilley and Victorian fashion transgression.

More info and tickets here.

blog bfiFollowing that, on January 18th I’ll be speaking at a Gothic Style study day at the British Film Institute to coincide with their epic Gothic season of films and events. The programme will cover Gothic costume in cinema and its impact on subcultural style. I’ll be looking at ‘Haute Horror: Death and the Macabre in High Fashion’ from Rodarte, Rick Owens and Alexander McQueen on the catwalk to the Victorian mourning vogue.

More info and tickets here.

blog hatI was asked to take part in the Tate: Fashion Meets Art Google hangout on air alongside Miranda Sawyer, the V&A’s Oriole Cullen, blogger Disneyrollergirl and milliner extraordinaire Stephen Jones who fashioned me a hat out of my own shoe in an homage to Surrealist-inspired designer Elsa Schiaparelli. We touched on areas from Pop Art to Impressionism, and creativity vs commerce; you can watch the whole thing HERE:

blog UALI hosted a panel with some of the amazing women from the Fabulous Fashionistas documentary that was aired on Channel 4. The panel concluded the Mirror Mirror conference at London College of Fashion that looked at representations of age and ageing in the media; more about the conference here:

I was subsequently asked to chair another panel with the Fab Fashionista women along with director Sue Bourne at Sue Kreitzman‘s Epiphanies Exhibition screening. If you missed it or are looking for ultra-awesome Christmas gifts, DVDs of the documentary are available to buy HERE.

blog P&PIn other news, there’s a feature on me in the current issue of Pigeons & Peacocks, with an interview by Anastasia Miari of Guise magazine and picture by Catalin Plesa.

news blogAnd in more literal news, I was on the news again, discussing Debenhams’ decision to use size 16 mannequins in store and the need for greater diversity in fashion imagery. You can watch it here.

Finally my top tip for autumn is a visit to Somerset House for the Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! exhibition. Featuring family artifacts alongside pieces from Blow favourites Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy, the exhibition has been garnering rave reviews and an entire SHOWstudio project gets behind the scenes insight from some of the people involved. With set design by Shona Heath, catalogue shot by Nick Knight and curation in part by Saint Martins’ Alistair O’Neill, it’s a spectacular gesamtkunstwerk of a show that celebrates the sartorial flair of one of the UK’s most loved – and most troubled – fashion icons.

bloe blogPhilip Treacy hat; Isabella and Detmar Blow’s engagement announcement, 1989; Viktor and Rolf autumn 1998 with hat by Philip Tracy, all at Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!

And for more of the above you can follow me on Instagram at @AmberButchart.

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Newsflash: Sailor Chic & October Events

sailorAll the nice girls love a sailor

I have been rather quiet here of late, but I can assure you it’s with good reason as I have some very exciting news. I’ve been swashbuckling my way through our seafaring past because over the summer I was commissioned to write a book on the History of Nautical Style. I’ve been spending many happy hours looking at pictures of fishermen and sailors and reading books about pirates and Lord Nelson to trace the story of maritime clothing in fashionable dress.

The sartorial influence of sailors and the seaside has been a research interest of mine since it was the subject of my MA dissertation, so I’m delighted to be turning it into a book.

It’s not due for publication until Spring 2015, but to whet your appetite here are some of the gems I’ve been unearthing:


However, I’m not a complete hermit as I’m involved in a couple of events this month. The first is this Saturday 12th October: the London Day of the Dead, part of the Hendrick’s Carnival of Knowledge.

I’m giving a talk called ‘Dresses to Die For’ on the Victorian cult of mourning – funereal fashion at its finest. I’ll be covering mourning warehouses (Maisons de Deuil), etiquette and jewellery with a brief history of black in fashion.

The day’s programme is jam-packed with activities ranging from the morbid to the macabre, from the Highgate Vampire to holographic graveyards. The Museum of London’s curator of osteology will be uncovering some of London’s skeletal remains, and you can meet an undertaker and take part in workshops on making Death Masks and creating your Last Will and Testament.

Hendrick’s Carnival of Knowledge runs from 11th-13th October. For the full programme see here, and for the London Day of the Dead listings at 33 Fitzroy Square check Antique Beat.

1878Picture c. 1878, The Burns Archive

UPDATE: On Friday 25th October I will be hosting an ‘In Conversation’ at the V&A with Professor Wendy Dagworthy, as part of their Back to the 80s: Club to Catwalk Friday Late. Join us from 7.15pm in the Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre to hear about Wendy’s career as a designer, one of the founders of London Fashion Week and subsequently as one of London’s most inspirational fashion professors. FREE but arrive early!


On 30th October I’m delighted to be involved with a University of the Arts conference entitled Mirror Mirror: Representations and Reflections on Age and Ageing.

I’m chairing a panel of inspirational older women comprised of Bridget, Daphne, Jean and Sue who recently featured in the acclaimed documentary Fabulous Fashionistas – if you haven’t seen it yet you’re missing out!

The conference will also feature Ari Seth Cohen of the excellent Advanced Style blog, and other speakers include Professor Julia Twigg discussing representations of age in the media, and Professor Roberta Mock who will be giving a paper on the ways in which comedians such as Joan Rivers and Roseanne Barr subvert our expectations of older women.

29th & 30th October. Get your tickets here.

FFBridget, Jean and Sue of Fabulous Fashionistas

Finally, last week I was on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour again, this time discussing shoe history and lamenting my stunted stature with Jane Garvey. You can listen again here from about 37 minutes in.

Italian chopine, late 16th century, found at the Met Museum

And just before that I was interviewed for a London Fashion Week special on Radio 4’s You and Yours. You can listen here from about 35 minutes. I also featured on the SHOWstudio panel for the super fun Moschino 30th anniversary show, along with some other colourful ladies such as Fred Butler, Kim Howells and Anna Trevelyan. You can watch it here – *SPOILER ALERT* Gloria Gaynor also features!

ss yy

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Track the Trend: Futurism in Fashion

This piece originally appeared as ‘Fashioning the Future’ in House magazine

future 1“The Man and Woman of Tomorrow” model futuristic fashions in 1951, found at VintageGal; House magazine; John Kloss designs found at Blue Velvet Vintage

Fashion is an industry built on obsolescence. As such an obsession with the future comes as no surprise; with a self-set mission to forge the styles of tomorrow, designers plunder the past in search of the Next Big Thing, scouring archives to create the fashions of the future. Somewhat ironically, fashion that claims to be futuristic in vision is often derivative – a profusion of styles from the last century have come to stand for the ‘future’ even while referencing the past. Concurrently, ideas of the future are often used to shape the present and can speak volumes about contemporary hopes, dreams and fears. So what does it mean that the spring 2013 catwalks were flooded with Sci-Fi looks and Space Age styling? It’s time to go back to the future.

Early last century the phenomenon was kick-started by fashion’s flirtation with the Futurism movement. With the desire to break from the past and embrace industrial, urban life it was no surprise that sartorial styles soon came under scrutiny. Manifestos on both men’s and women’s clothing followed, setting out to banish ‘funereal’ black from the style palette and to create clothing that was functional and colourful. Later tainted by its ties with Fascism, the Futurist movement has since fallen out of favour yet through its championing of utilitarian, polychrome principles it successfully foreshadowed the rise of sportswear throughout the remainder of the 20th century.

future 2Futurist jumpsuit found at Leila Hartley; Giacomo Balla’s suit found here; Balla suit design found here

The future was decidedly dystopian in Fritz Lang’s Expressionist classic Metropolis (1927), yet it has had a resounding influence on the world of design, from Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci to Donatella Versace and the architectural prints of Holly Fulton. Hints of this angular, Gothic Modernist vision have also been found in the work of Tom Ford and Max Mara. Just as Orwell’s 1984 threw a spotlight on concerns about the rise of extreme politics and Totalitarianism in the 1930s, Metropolis acted as a mirror to worries about the industrialisation of society. Echoes of Marxism are heard in the plight of the workers while the robotic enemy embodies fears of the machine age. The film appears to uphold many of the Grand Narratives of Modernism while simultaneously drawing on dark tales of playing God, evoking Frankenstein in the frenetic, wild-eyed scientist Rotwang. But for all its radical posturing and fetishising of Modernist architecture, Lang’s tale is ultimately ambiguous in its message of restoring the status quo and assuaging the workers’ revolt. This leaves a clean slate for current couturiers to project their own meanings onto a world that in the post-Industrial 21st century has become an iconic referent of the power and beauty of Modernist design.

metropolisMetropolis shots, from a piece I wrote for Silent London
future 4Givenchy couture, Spring 2012; Versace couture Spring 2012; Holly Fulton S/S 2010

A world war passed, Fascism was defeated and Communism was Public Enemy Number One when Soviet Russia launched Sputnik in 1957. Throughout the ensuing decade Parisian couturiers such as André Courrèges, Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin used innovative fabrics such as plastic, metal and PVC to play out Cold War concerns and intergalactic dreams on the bodies of their customers. This forged a vision of the future that has become an enduring image of the past; these Space Age fashions quickly became emblematic of their time and will forever be associated with the Space Race of the Atomic Age. The style reached a pinnacle with Jane Fonda’s space babe Barbarella, featuring costumes designed in part by Paco Rabanne.

future 5boots-jane-fonda-barbarella-2Courrèges found at Pinterest; Pierre Cardin found here; Jane Fonda as Barbarella found here

A decidedly 60s version of Space Age chic was evident at David Koma’s summer collection, whose drop-waists and patent leather appliqué had the effect of creating a futuristic take on the traditional tennis dress. Junya Watanabe (almost literally) carried the crown of André Courrèges, the grandfather of Sci-Fi fashions whose Space Age collection heralded the obsession with the cosmic that would dominate much of the 60s. Watanabe’s hats were reminiscent of Courrèges’ helmets but updated with spikes – where Courrèges’ were smooth and cream, like the surface of a perfect moon, Watanabe’s were spiked and molded into mohawk-like shapes, perfectly signifying our post-punk, recessionary angst. At Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs claimed his beehive-haired, monochromatic collection was not intended to reference the 60s. But combined with graphic prints reminiscent of Op Art it was difficult not to see the connection. A visual synchronicity exists between works by Bridget Riley and Sci-Fi styles; it comes as no surprise that the term Op Art appeared in print for the first time in 1964 – the same year as Courrèges’ Space Age collection.

future 3All Spring/Summer 2013: David Koma; Watanabe; Louis Vuitton

In the landscape of 21st century fashion when discussions of plagiarism dominate much design, true futuristic fashion as ever lies with technology. With the rise of digital currently taking the fashion world by storm (from blogging to live streaming of shows and creating brand dialogues through social media), it’s no surprise that catwalks are currently tech-obsessed, from fabric innovations to Space Age styling. And this in itself is nothing new; technology has always been a driving force behind the fashion cycle, from advances in print techniques to imitate Spitalfields silks in the 18th century to the use of aniline dyes in the 19th century, and the success of synthetic fabrics such as nylon and rayon in the 20th. Topshop Unique joined the likes of Burberry to live-stream their catwalk show this season, upping the stakes with items available to pre-order to arrive 3 months before they hit the stores. With requisite trend boxes ticked – from  asymmetry to Rudi Gernreich-esque sheer cut-outs and panels – they also succeeded in opening up the debate by asking for real-time feedback on Twitter. With the revered arena of the catwalk show suddenly open to all, questions arise about the air of exclusivity endemic in the fashion system and the hallowed place of the runway reviewer; these are questions that will reverberate around the very future of fashion itself.

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