Ossie Clark wannabe

Ossie Clark (maybe)
photos by me

In The X Factor Magazine, Gok Wan states: ‘commit to your look. Whatever you’re doing do it properly, the shoes, the bag, the hair, the make-up.‘ Unfortunately, I’m no Gokette here because if I really was going to commit to this fabulous 1970s maxi dress, I’d also be wearing a floppy wide-brimmed hat and cork wedges. My wardrobe doesn’t contain either, so instead the dress is the main event.And what a beautiful dress it is. My grainy photos don’t do it justice, but if you want to admire the pleating that falls from the shoulders you’ll either have to buy me a new camera, or take me out for a pint of cider. This dress of fabulousness belongs to my mother, and the only label in it says ‘dry clean only‘. So I like to think it was designed by Ossie Clark – it’s got the slim waist, bold Celia Birtwell-style print and delicate tailoring. Can we just say it’s Ossie Clark? Yeah, let’s do that. Also, my mother has a good sense of style, wouldn’t you agree? I’ve previously worn some of her clothes here. And here. Lucky me.

Most of the snow has gone, and frozen into lethally slippy ice. It’s too cold for me to cycle, but that makes a nice change because I can wear longer skirts.

Snowy car park

Ossie Clark again

Icy pavement

Ossie Clark detail

The Clothes Show Live

Oxfam DIY stall
Over the weekend, I worked at The Clothes Show Live for Oxfam DIY. Oxfam are a charity I’ve volunteered with on and off for over five years now, but this was my first venture to The Clothes Show. My role was to teach people simple DIY projects to upcycle garments, like making a mobile phone holder from an old tie or a headband from a cashmere jumper.
The Clothes Show itself is mind-boggling huge, with hundreds and hundreds of stalls, fashion shows and make up filling exhibition halls in the NEC, Birmingham. Being a fan of vintage clothing, it’s not really my thing. But I’m not a teenage girl with a wallet-full of tenners to drop on sparkly eyeliner and a fast fashion frock for a Christmas party. I did see a celebrity, though. Austin Drage. You know? Austin Drage. He was on The X Factor a few years ago. Brown hair? No? Oh well.

A dress I customised for a customer. She asked me to make it look like the dress Emma Watson wore to the Harry Potter premiere recently, so I added chiffon at the bottom. Do you like it?

Here’s Michaela, a fellow volunteer. She has a wicked sense of style, and here she’s wearing a vintage romper she bought from Oxfam.

Customised dress
This is Cy, who works for Oxfam in Huddersfield. His sense of style is equally wicked. Those trousers? I love ’em.

Victorian portrait

northwest is best anatomy projects
If you say to me ‘exhibition’, I will reply ‘when and where?’ Being an autodidactic type, I love poking around museums and galleries, absorbing information on anything and everything.
Last week, after some Twitter chatter from my friend Paul, I went to see the Anatomy Projects exhibition at the Holden Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University. Since 2005, photographers Gavin Parry and David Penny have been documenting the staff of the university by taking portraits with a restored 19th century camera. The resulting pictures have a really beautiful and poignant quality to them which, as a photographer novice, I struggle to explain.
I took the opportunity to sit for a portrait and see a 120-year studio camera with my own eyes. The Victorian technology requires a lot of cranking, slotting and coaxing, and I could imagine what an exotic and slightly intimidating experience it would have been over a century ago.
Thanks to Gavin and Dave for letting me participate in the project, even though I’m not connected to Manchester Metropolitan University (well, some of my best friends studied there…)
If you’re a camera fan, Paul put some pictures up on his blog.

Snow day

Snow day

The snow came. First in delicate, sparkling drifts. Then in heavy clumps, filling the air. My driving test was cancelled, but I still have my bike. With some air let out of my tyres, cycling was lovely. Peaceful, even, with not much traffic and just passers-by grinning to themselves at this new, magical world.
I layered up with a thermal top, dress, two jumpers, two pairs of tights, thick socks, cosy boots, two scarves, fleece-lined bobble hat and two pairs of gloves. Might have over dressed. Continue reading “Snow day”

Detachable Peter Pan collar

Cute collarMy friend Lauren taught me how to make this detachable Peter Pan collar. It’s not for personal consumption though. We’re working with Oxfam at The Clothes Show Live in Birmingham, where we’ll be running workshops on customising and upcycling clothing. Apart from collars, there will also be embellishing t-shirts, jeans tote bags and cashmere hairbands. All very exciting, I’m sure you’ll agree. Continue reading “Detachable Peter Pan collar”

Compare and contrast

northwest is best compare and contrast

Feeling nostalgic and stuck inside with a cold (plus a stack of library books for entertainment), I was browsing my Flickr archive and realised it’s been just over a year since I started taking outfit photos. Back in the olden days of November 2009 I had to balance my boyfriend’s camera on a wonky kitchen stool and didn’t even do any image editing. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about HTML, Photoshop, pixels and posing. But there’s still more I want to learn, and I couldn’t call myself a ‘photographer’ without inwardly chortling. Continue reading “Compare and contrast”

Seven inches of delight

sparks beat the clock seven inch

I love music. More than clothes. Some nights I don’t want to sleep because there are so many songs to devour.

My favourite format for music is the humble seven inch. Slipping the vinyl disc out of the sleeve, carefully slotting it onto the turntable and then gently placing the needle in place is a little ritual that makes me appreciate the music more than clicking play on an iPod. Not that I want to own every song on seven inch. Where would I put them all? There’s already a lot of them in my living room. Once, my boyfriend bought a job lot of sevens off eBay, boxesnboxes of them. The previous owner had been a DJ, and after hauling them around village hall discos, wedding receptions and suburban birthday parties, some were too warped and scratched to play. He (presumably a he) had fastidiously pressed small neon stickers against the tracks guaranteed to get people dancing (easier to find in the dark), and scribbled notes on some of the sleeves (‘mid-tempo power ballad’ or ‘excellent reggae beat’). Continue reading “Seven inches of delight”


northwest is best red handmade burda top again

For too long I’ve been opening my mouth and blah blah blah-ing about how I’m ‘learning to sew’. It was time to shut my trap and get on with it, so I had a lesson with Sara of Needlebugs in Nexus, a not-for-profit cafe and community art space in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Sara patiently explained away all the little mysteries of dressmaking, like bias-binding and darts. Plus she didn’t make me feel like a total noob for asking questions. So thank you, Sara!
Continue reading “Seamstress”

Office inappropriate

northwest is best office inappropriate

photos by richey. thanks!

It’s been a busy weekend. Bike riding, food eating, film watching and cider drinking busy. It’s all rather tired me out, and I should get some sleep in preparation for another week. But I will divulge one anecdote. Late on Friday night I rolled up to a friend-of-a-friend’s party. The theme was the 1980s, and some of the costumes were amazing. Mario, Luigi, Adam Ant, cassette tapes… A girl dressed as Princess Diana in a frou frou wedding dress and draped in Union Jacks said to me “I love your costume.” I was too polite to tell her I didn’t know it was fancy dress, and these are just my clothes. Actually, I treat everyday like it’s fancy dress, so it was a compliment.

Hope your weekend was also good. I don’t tell you often enough, but I do appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and to comment on my posts. If I could, I’d give you a high five and maybe even an awkward hug. Because I’m all reserved and British like that. But seriously. Thank you.


cardigan – beyond retro // blouse – secondhand // scarf – oxfam originals // trousers – topman // socks – marks & spencer // shoes – office
northwest is best office inappropriate details
northwest is best bidston station
northwest is best bidston trees
northwest is best office inappropriate 2

What’s in your bag?

northwest is best hilmar handbag

My new handbag has received a lot of compliments, on the internet and in the real world. Do you want to know some more about it? Well, I’m going to tell you. It came from my local charity shop, and is vintage (1950s? 1960s? I’m not sure). The label is Hilmar of Manchester, and it pleases me that this delightful bag will be staying in the city where it was made. The straps are a little bit worn, but can be replaced. Or upgraded.

While we’re here, I might as well fulfil a blogger cliche and tell you what I carry in my bag. It varies everyday, and I usually end up toting around a rucksack too. But here are the regular bits and bobs:

northwest is best whats in your bag

1 // plasters and safety pin. You know, just in case.
2 // aspirin (from my holiday to Belarus)
3 // comb
4 // library card. An amazing bit of plastic which allows me to access thousands of books, journals, DVDs, CDs and archived newspapers.
5 // £1.50 in change. Recently, I’ve been leaving my wallet at home. This prevents ‘accidents’ like walking out of a charity shop having purchased a polyester Fergie-style 80s prom dress because it ‘might be fun to wear in the pub’.
6 // Burt’s Bees hand repair creme and cuticle cream. Although I’m wearing gloves whenever I venture outside now that the temperature’s dropped, my hands still get dry.
7 // red lipstick.
8// Vaseline. This tin’s a bit battered because it’s been to so many places with me. Oh, the stories it could tell etc…
9 // LED bike light. Because the light is so murky these days, I have this little light blinking away on the back of my bike when I’m riding in the daytime as well as night.
10 // Reflective stripes. Used instead of trousers clips. Be safe, be seen. They’re also good if you’re jogging or walking a dog after dark.
11 // Bike lock. This isn’t a super fancy bike lock, but I don’t have a super fancy bike. If I did, I would get a D-lock.
12 // Water bottle.

Not pictured… my phone (a clunky old Nokia), tissues, front bike light and my notebook. They’re around somewhere. But you know what tissues look like.

northwest is best library card