Formal millinery storms the US, Daily Mail NYC // 30 May 2011

My piece for Daily Mail NYC… (or read the piece with lots of pretty pictures at MailOnline)

The days of doffed caps and feather bonnets are long gone, but now a new breed of formal headwear is paving the way for a glamorously decorative barnet.

From the svelte form of a ribboned band or a more ebullient frothy plumage of colourful feathers, a fanciful dash of head bling is the ultimate cherry on top.

Blurring the boundaries of jewellery, hairdos and millinery, the playful eccentricity of statement millinery seems to have well and truly caught on in the U.S. too.

In the UK, hats and fascinators are most associated with the races – Ladies’ Day at Ascot, for example – and weddings, where headwear is often an unwritten part of the dress code.

Who could forget Princess Beatrice’s much-maligned ‘pretzel’ hat at the Royal Wedding, by top milliner Philip Treacy – or the criticism of British First Lady Samantha Cameron’s decision to attend in a jewelled Erdem hairpiece rather than a traditional hat.

But head ‘confectionery’ – as New York radio show host Bill Cunningham put it – is adorning all the most fashionable tresses in a revival he says New York hasn’t seen for 50 years.

Indeed, at this month’s Met Ball, a tribute to late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, A-list heads were encrusted, bejewelled and feathered.

And to SamCam’s credit, many a fashionista sported an upmarket hairclip.

Stella McCartney shone in a sophisticated waved headdress, Naomi Campbell wore a sparkling clip and Kate Hudson sported an Indian-inspired jewel on her crown.

Australian actress, Isabel Lucas, wore pearl and gold head jewellery by Lorraine Schwartz whilst a tiara-esque band sat atop the Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie’s mane.

Tennis player Serena Williams went for a Fifties-style white fascinator, while Yoko Ono wore a playful white veiled mini top hat by veteran milliner, Stephen Jones.

Laurie Kennard of Chicago-based milliners, Chapeau, told MailOnline: ‘There is an increase in “taking a hat chance”, you might say. Much younger women are attracted to hats… It’s not just the influence of the Royal Wedding.’

Chapeau has seen an increase in sales of late, which Ms Kennard says is part of a bigger change in tastes.

‘Perhaps after the supra-casualness that began in the late Sixties, women are craving elegance,’ she continued. ‘Or it could be that when you are in your twenties and your mother’s era looks stodgy, your grandmother’s era looks elegant.

‘Today’s young women would then be looking to the 1950s and early sixties for inspiration, definitely a time of more elegance.’

Of course headdresses are nothing new. The trend harks to the eccentricity of the heady (sorry) pre-WWII days of Paris-based designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Hailed as being ahead of their time, her hats included an upturned high-heeled shoe and many a feather-adorned turban.

Turbans had their heyday in the 1920s, resurfaced in the 70s and are once again back in vogue – Salma Hayek and Nicole Scherzinger have both managed to pull off the look to great effect.

But where once some get-ups were made to stay private, there are some adventurous public airings of previously stay-at-home looks.

Swimming caps – objects of dread from embarrassing school swimming lessons – are coming out of the closet once again, with new designs good enough to be seen in on the beach, particularly matched with on-trend retro swimwear.

And who would have thought the Queen would boldly step out in a (rather fancy) hairnet?

At last week’s Chelsea Flower Show, Her Royal Highness sported a black hairnet adorned with small black bows. There’s no question that we’re all more used to something a little more regal – a crown, say – nestling amongst her grey curls, and the hairnet-with-a-twist was a rare moment of fashion daring.

One onlooker joked that she should ‘sell the offending article on eBay and have the milliner sent to the Tower.’

The Tower is unlikely, given that the ensemble was apparently designed by the Queen’s in-house fashion team at Buckingham Palace. The ‘pragmatic choice’ was in preparation for any unwelcome gusts of wind – perhaps a precautionary reaction to Michella Obama’s flyaway hair which fell victim to Dublin’s inclement windy weather on her recent state visit.

Whether it will catch on, a la the fashionable hairnets of the Forties, is anyone’s guess – suffice to say, a sparkly hairclip or fanciful hat is a more on-trend option for now.

Marissa Vitano of Bloomingdales told MailOnline that ‘hats are the must have accessories this season.’

We have no word, so far, on the sales of designer hairnets.


2011: The year of the bridesmaid? Mail Online // 23 May 2011

My piece for Daily Mail Online, NYC:

It’s never good to be on the receiving end of the euphemism ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’. But 2011, it seems, is shaping up to be the year of the second lady. It’s time, finally, for the bridesmaid to shine.

It all started with the unexpected eclipse of the Duchess of Cambridge by her younger sister, the holder of that ass, Pippa Middleton.

Not only did this maid of honour steal the show with her composed poise, stunning dress, svelte figure and apparent perfection in bridesmaid duties, but her pert rear has garnered a global online fanbase with its own Facebook page, website and Twitter account. Not bad for a supporting role.

Pippa Middleton
Pippa Middleton

Outshining the bride: All eyes were on Pippa Middleton when her sister Catherine married Prince William at Westminster Abbey last month

The 27-year-old is now not only the apple of the paparazzi’s eyes, having recently been snapped in Madrid in the company of ex-boyfriend George Percy, but her status as England’s most famous bridesmaid is helping to boost the sales of everything from fake tans to bottom-lifts – and she is a hotly-tipped contender for the FHM’s Sexiest Woman 2012 award.

Mr Percy, 26, one of Miss Middleton’s old flames, is one of Britain’s richest men – they frolicked together in Madrid’s Retiro Park just days ago, giving the now-world-famous Berkshire girl a well-earned break from pomp and ceremony.

But he’s not alone in his apparent admiration of Miss Middleton. Prince Harry looked more than happy standing next to the brunette beauty on the day of the wedding. Could it be that being a bridesmaid is once again the way to ensnare an eligible bachelor?

‘Finally, a bridesmaid who looked brilliant in her own right. Pippa proved that you can have a good time and be the centre of attention’

Emma Lemont, 29, a fashion assistant from London has been a bridesmaid five times – in churches as spread apart as London, New York and Sydney. She told MailOnline that seeing Pippa Middleton steal the show has given the job a boost.

She said: ‘Finally, a bridesmaid who looked brilliant in her own right. Pippa reminded me that you can have a good time and be the centre of attention as a bridesmaid.

‘All the hard work pays off and it’s always fun in the end – especially if you win some admirers.’

With all the Middleton furore, it’s perhaps not surprising that attention has now turned to the wedding of the other Kate M – supermodel Kate Moss, whose nuptials are set for July 2.

Kate Moss
Naomi Campbell

Supporting role: Kate Moss (left) is said to have asked fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell (right) to be her maid of honour when she marries Jamie Hince in July

Miss Moss will marry rocker beau Jamie Hince and, with their glittering cast of celebrity friends, musicians, models and designers, the celebration is set to again capture the imaginations of more than just their private congregation.

Speculation over who the 37-year-old will choose as her bridesmaid has turned to  fellow supermodel and friend since their teens, Naomi Campbell, who will not confirm whether she will be part of the bridal party.

Stealing the limelight: Keira Knightley was bridesmaid at her brother' wedding last monthStealing the limelight: Keira Knightley said she was ‘the worst bridesmaid ever’ at her brother’ wedding last month

‘Now that would be telling,’ she said coyly.

Stamina will certainly help Miss Moss’ right-hand-woman, as the celebrations will reportedly take the shape of a mini-festival, lasting for three days at the couple’s Oxfordshire home.

Either way, whoever the lucky lady turns out to be, her duties are many – and as any bridesmaid can tell you, it involves more than looking pretty and holding the train on the special day.

As the new Hollywood blockbuster, Bridesmaids, shows, a maid of honour’s role can be daunting and, at times, thankless.

This chick flick with a difference is produced by maestro Judd Apatow, responsible for the likes of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Superbad all reaching cult status in the ‘dude comedy’ genre.

Grossing $25 million in its first weekend, the movie is hailed as a female version of The Hangover – a laugh-a-minute look at the not-so-glamorous sides of maid of honour traditions.

Down-on-her-luck Annie, a thirty-something singleton, is having a bad year. Thanks to the GFC, she lost her bakery and her boyfriend and things aren’t improved when lifelong best friend, Lillian, announces her engagement.

Determined to make her best friend’s hen do, wedding dress shopping and big day a success, Annie embarks on her bridesmaid duties – and a series of hilarious mishaps and misfortunes.

It’s been called ‘one of the greatest comedies of all time’, with the mostly female cast propelling the figure of bridesmaid out of the shadows and into the limelight – and dispelling any romantic visions of the dubious honour of Chief Bridesmaid along the way.

And it was only a matter of time for fashion to catch on to the bridesmaid trend. Brides, it seems, can no longer get away with dressing their maids in frocks from hell.

There was always going to be a race to sell replicas of the Duchess of Cambridge’s gown, but the sartorial fever over her sister’s dress has seen online dress shops go into overdrive.

BridesmaidsChick flick with a difference: Bridesmaids stars Kristen Wiig (third left) as Annie, who is named maid-of-honour for her best friend’s wedding

Imitation Pippa gowns are retailing for as little as $295, after the silk and lace design by Alexander McQueen creative, Sarah Burton, became an instant hit at the Royal Wedding on April 29.

And while we’re sure that Miss Middleton will want to hang on to what must be one of the only flattering bridesmaid’s dresses in existence, other, less lucky girls may want to turn to new fashion initiative, NewlyMaid, which turns bridesmaids dresses into hot fashion property after their big day.

NewlyMaid works with clothing charity Clothes4Souls and eco-label Repreve to transform even the most embarrassing bridesmaid frock into an altogether more wearable Little Black Dress.

It offers customers who donate their unwanted bridesmaid dresses a 30 to 50 per cent discount on useful LBDs. 27 Dresses’ Katherine Heigl would surely be a fan.

So, from gorgeous maid of honour role models to Hollywood blockbusters, it seems the hard task of being a bridesmaid is, at last, as fashionable as ever.

Now just make sure to catch the bouquet.