phoebe

About: Co-founder and co-editor of Pamflet. Bookworm, bluestocking, Brown Owl. Loves Garconnes style, reading, writing, ranting and raving. Gin snob.

A midsummer night’s dream: style crushing on Puck

Have you seen BBC4’s newest Skandi crime drama Crimes of Passion? As is my way I’d decided I didn’t like the look of it based on the trailer, then caught the second episode and sheepishly had to admit that it is Really Rather Good. And the best thing about it is Puck Ekstedt and her amazing wardrobe. Yes the detective hero Christer Wijk looks like a smiley Don Draper and granted his best pal Eje is also a swoonesome Swede, but its Eje’s fiancee Puck who had me at hallå.

I’ve been a bit fed up with my style recently and Puck has saved me from the fashion doldrums. I didn’t want a total makeover you understand – that’s never advisable, both in terms of budget and just because the results are never entirely convincing (think of Tai in Clueless). No, I mean more of a refresh – using stuff I already own, just styled in a slightly different way, with a fresh silhouette. When you encounter a woman – whether real or fictional – whose look you really admire, it can help you rediscover the essence of what makes a good outfit – whether it’s the length of a trouser leg or the way a shirt sleeve is rolled just to the elbow – and even if you have a totally different style or body shape, you can incorporate that tiny detail into your own look and reboot it.

crimes of passion puck

Puck is an English lit student (like me!) Independent, brave, intuitive and emancipated (um, like me!), with piercing blue eyes (ok, not like me) that seem to burn into the soul of every suspect, ferreting out secrets large and small by intuition alone. And she wears the coolest clothes, in the most amazing way. High-waisted cigarette pants, crisp blouses with wide, flat collars and nippy little cardigans are perfectly suited to the fresh Swedish summer.

Her trademark outfit is clean, simple, elegant, chic – Katherine Hepburn with an indie twist. While the other women in the show are wafting around in full-skirted summer frocks or slinking about in pencil skirts, Puck can run, jump and bop aggressive men on the head in her boyish threads. She is the ultimate gamine crime fighter.

puck

Puck reminds me of Agatha Christie’s intrepid heroines – Tuppence Beresford (married to Tommy and foiler of Nazi plots and poisoners) and the stars of her spy novels like They Came to Baghdad and The Man in the Brown Suit. People sometimes think Agatha’s work begins with Poirot and ends with Miss Marple, but she wrote all these other amazing crime novels with some properly kickass young women running rings around international criminal masterminds, serial killers and the like. And chic, tomboyish Puck is just as fabulous.Christer-Dina-Puck-Einar

I’m definitely going to be watching the rest of this seriously good-looking series (if you have a thing for mid-century-modern Skandinavian furniture and quite frankly WHO DOESN’T? you will love it.) Crimes of Passion is on BBC4 on Saturday nights at 9pm.

Win a copy of The Well of Loneliness

CD1603 The Well of Loneliness COVER AW.inddThe reissue of Radclyffe Hall’s seminal lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness (£9.99, Hesperus Classics) is one of our March picks on our book blog over at Twin magazine. We have three copies of this new edition to give away so for your chance to win one, just email your name and address to [email protected] and we will pick three winners at random!


Kathryn Ferguson Pushes Back At Sexist Pop Promos With Rear Guard

I was really excited to be asked to work with Kathryn Ferguson on her new film, Rear Guard, which just went live on ShowStudio last week. It is a response to the most recent crop of depressingly predictable ‘sexy’ (hollow laugh) music videos which have come out this year. In her film, which sits within ShowStudio’s ‘Punk’ section, Kathryn takes the tired old tropes that we’ve become so used to seeing – scantily clad women dancing in slow motion – and subverts the scene to make her point.

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I love working with Kathryn because she has opinions and isn’t afraid to voice them in an industry where often it’s just so much easier to keep quiet – for fear of losing out on work, or being ridiculed and bullied on social media – you can be attacked for being ‘a prude’ or for ‘getting feminism wrong’. The people I really respect are the ones who have the courage to speak up and actually create work that tries to change the status quo, rather than just whining about it on Twitter.

I also worked with Kathryn on her last film, Four-tell, which was made to celebrate International Women’s Day and featured Zaha Hadid, Bella Freud, Sharmadean Reid and Caryn Franklin and you can read all about that here.

Tell us what you think of Rear Guard and my accompanying essay on Twitter @Kath_Ferguson and @PhoebeFrangoul


Mademoiselle C

Carine-Roitfeld-Mademoiselle-C-PosterAhhh I love me a good fashion film. From Lagerfeld Confidential to The September Issue, they bring to life a world that you only usually encounter on a glossy, two-dimensional surface, or for a few fleeting, ephemeral moments during a catwalk show.

The latest is Mademoiselle C, a documentary that follows Carine Roitfeld after she leaves her position as Editor in Chief of French Vogue and starts on her first project, which comes to be called CR Fashion Book.

She leads in this impossibly glamorous, luxurious life, yet you still get to see that this is a real woman with feelings – when she tears up talking about her daughter Julia having a baby and how she hopes she’ll be as good a grandmother to Romy Nicole as her own mother was to Julia, it’s moving  and the anxiety she expresses on leaving French Vogue to strike out on her own is completely authentic.

Leaving the comforting familiarity of any job you’ve done for a long time and having to establish yourself as an individual is daunting, and even though she’s living in a different universe to most of us, where money and connections are really no obstacles, such is her honesty and warmth, I found I could identify with her situation.

Carine has a finely tuned sense of the ridiculous, making me feel that if she wasn’t a superglam fashion editrix, she’d just be a fun, jazzy French lady who shamelessly enjoys the finer things in life – food, wine, clothes – who could be your mate’s (sexy-as-F) mum. There are delightful moments of humour in the film – Karl Lagerfeld pushing a pram, Donatella Versace’s totally deadpan expression (or is that the surgery?) on being told by Carine that she has become a grandma.

Mademoiselle C Karl Lagerfeld Pushing a stroller Orange Juice and Biscuits Carine Roitfeld
She has a sweet, genuinely loving relationship with Tom Ford – they’re like an old married couple who understand each other’s thoughts and intentions before they’ve voiced them. She even manages to make monogamy look chic and sexy, having been with the same man for 30 years (without marrying him.)

Some people get angry with fashion documentaries that seem to be all about the surface gloss of the business, but I think they’re missing the point – fashion’s substance IS the superficial. Honestly, I love the artifice and luxurious fantasy of it all. This is a world where, quite literally, your feet don’t touch the grubby ground, instead moving seamlessly from car to carpet, spike heels sinking into the deep, plush pile.

In the show notes to his final collection for Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs wrote “I take pleasure from things for exactly what they are, revelling in the pure adornment of beauty for beauty’s sake. Connecting with something on a superficial level is as honest as connecting with it on an intellectual level.” That’s what makes a fashion film like Mademoiselle C – or Funny Face, or Valentino: The Last Emperor for that matter – such an unashamed pleasure.


Generation F: What Went Down at Our Flappers Salon

1Last Wednesday saw us hosting the third and final of our sold-out summer season of Pamflet salons at Drink, Shop & Do in Kings Cross. Our special guest speaker, Judith Mackrell, talked about her brilliant book Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation and answered our questions afterwards. Judith is the Guardian’s dance critic and has written several books including The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Her biography of Lydia Lopokova, Bloomsbury Ballerina was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Prize.

Judith spoke with incredible eloquence about why she’d written the book, what the six women whose lives she told meant to her and why they were so significant in defining the age in which they lived. Then she answered questions from us and from the audience and revealed that her favourite flapper was ridiculously chic heiress, poet, political activist and muse to many (including Ezra Pound, Aldous Huxley and T. S. Eliot), Nancy Cunard.

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It was interesting that for both of us, Tamara was one of the most impressive characters in the book – she achieved so much, ensuring the survival of her family through sheer bloody-mindedness, while it felt like Nancy was one of the least ‘successful’ in terms of her professional attainments – her life felt the most unfulfilled and painfully chaotic. She dabbled in so many different ‘careers’, from poetry to publishing, but never achieved the dizzy heights she aspired to. However as a stylish, beautiful woman who lived her life fearlessly, without caring about society’s rules or constraints, she was sublime – and why can’t that be enough?

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4I noted that while we’re astonished and impressed by the progressive attitudes and boundary-smashing stances that these six women adopted – to our eyes they seemed seriously ahead of their time – perhaps to the girls who were aware of them in the 20s, they were nothing more than glamorous celebrities of their time whose exploits fascinated people in the papers.

Judith agreed that this might have been the case with some of the women in her book, but for a figure like Josephine Baker, her influence on poor black Americans following her dramatic exploits back home, you couldn’t underestimate how much her achievements inspired them to think that anything was possible.

I think lots of us may have felt at some point “who am I going to BE, what am I going to DO?” and the women who came of age in the 20s faced these existential questions for the first time. Many of them didn’t have to do anything, but they felt – like, I suspect we do today, that choosing a career or profession (and making a success of it, obvs) is a statement to the world about your character. Today when we ask someone “what do you do?” we’re really asking “who are you?

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After Judith’s talk and Q&A, we had a cake break, then regrouped to discuss Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. It’s always a challenge when you’re writing about a real life character who had her own incredibly vivid, unique voice, to recreate that in fiction – and its even riskier when she’s got a protective and obsessive cult following all of her own too. I don’t know if the author necessarily pulled it off, plus you can find all of the same information in Zelda’s own writing and her biography. But the story gathered pace towards the end of the novel.

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We broadened out the discussion to include (forgive me for using this nauseating term) ‘literary wags’ of the period – Zelda, Hadley, June Mansfield (Henry Miller’s wife). While reading Z, Flappers and other books about the time, I’d been wondering, would it be better or worse to have literary ambitions of your own, like Zelda, or to stand deliberately outside that world and dominate the domestic sphere like Hadley?

We need to talk about Ernest…
We asked the audience if they’d read any Hemingway, because I haven’t and I’m fascinated by the way he’s (unfavourably) portrayed in both these books. It’s starting to feel like the women rewriting the history of this period are reassessing Ernest’s reputation, moving away from the hero-worship he’s perhaps been traditionally afforded and aligning their sympathies more with Zelda and co. They’re not falling for his macho man schtick  (I love the fact that Pablo Picasso didn’t buy it either) and are highlighting his misogyny.

I can see why Zelda found this incredibly frustrating – especially when Scott’s name was put on her stories. My sympathy for her increased towards the end of the novel – she seemed well aware that she was a ‘dabbler’ and there’s a sinister section (which may or may not be true) where she has to pretend to accept that she must subsume her ambitions to those of her husband in order to be released from a mental hospital – very disturbing.

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The salon will return in the spring – just keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook updates or email us at [email protected] to join the salon mailing list for news.

Recommended reading (and watching) around the Flappers theme – and beyond:

Singled Out, Virginia Nicholson. As one historian wrote, ‘in 1914 the door of the doll’s house opened’ for many young women in terms of opportunities to have a life outside the home, but while our Flappers had various husbands and lovers, they were almost the exception in the twenties – the lucky 10% if you will. Many women were not able to marry and this book tells their story…
How the Girl Guides Won The War, Janie Hampton
Girl Trouble, Carol Dyhouse
Bachelor Girl, Betsy Israel
Diana Cooper, Philip Ziegler
The Edwardians, Vita Sackville West
The Paris Wife, Paula McLain
The Well of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall
The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy
Midnight in Paris
The House of Eliott
and one I really want to read: Superzelda: The Graphic Life of Zelda Fitzgerald by Tiziana lo Porto


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