ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Sheer cheek that cheers up the very worst of times… In recent months, the dramatic clothes at red-carpet events have only become more and more minimal
I’m attempting to unpick the current red-carpet fashion trend for totally transparent fabrics, or very little fabric of any kind at all. In recent months, the dramatic clothes at these events have only become more and more minimal.
Side boobs, waist-high slits, bare torsos… They’re all hanging out. From Olivia Wilde in backless sheer lace over a bodystocking last week to Rita Ora in less than a whisper of pink chiffon at the British Fashion Awards, less is definitely more on the celebrity dressing front.
What’s strange, though, is that, generally, the fashion of the day reflects what is happening in society at large. So it’s intriguing that at a time when the world is in a downbeat state confronting climate change, the war in Ukraine and rising inflation, celebrity appearances have embraced not just frivolity but an unprecedented level of bare flesh.
We’ve certainly come a long way from the 2018 awards season which was dominated by the #TimesUp movement, where the nominees were urged into wearing sober black dress.
I’m attempting to unpick the current red-carpet fashion trend for totally transparent fabrics, or very little fabric of any kind at all. In recent months, the dramatic clothes at these events have only become more and more minimal. Pictured: Alexandra Shulman
From Olivia Wilde (pictured) in backless sheer lace over a bodystocking last week to Rita Ora in less than a whisper of pink chiffon at the British Fashion Awards, less is definitely more on the celebrity dressing front
We’ve certainly come a long way from the 2018 awards season which was dominated by the #TimesUp movement, where the nominees were urged into wearing sober black dress. Pictured: Rita Ora in her outfit for the British Fashion Awards
You could argue that this new daring to bare is the aftermath of that moment. A demonstration of women feeling empowered to show off as much of their bodies as they wish, no longer subjugated by the male gaze. But it’s curious that, at a time when female actors are spouting all manner of politically correct messages at every opportunity, they use their clothes to draw attention to their sexuality.
I’m all for it. At least there’s something cheerful going on and most of them look wonderful. Frankly, if I were young now, I would be the first person to jump into a sliver of a bandeau top and a see-through lace skirt. I dimly remember doing just that 40 years back… but will certainly be giving the trend a miss at this year’s Christmas parties.
Inspiring story of a family’s doggedness
I’m always amazed at how ordinary people, with no particular links to power, manage to battle massive institutions through dogged determination. Finally, the family of Harry Dunn, who was killed on the road by the American driver Anne Sacoolas, have brought to a close their three-year campaign to have her sentenced by a British court. The verdict won’t bring their son back, but the way they have battled through the impenetrable mazes of bureaucracy and vested interests and fought the US government for justice for their son, is extraordinary and inspiring.
A sad farewell to a faithful friend
The news that Fenwick is closing its flagship Bond Street store made me feel surprisingly gloomy. Why, I wondered, did it matter to me? After all, there are many other places to shop in London and I hadn’t been in the place for close on a year.
But, for decades, the department store was a key part of my life. I was in there most weeks, replacing laddered tights, grabbing last-minute birthday presents, indulging in the impossible task of finding the perfect bra and, most frequently, eating lunch in the basement restaurant.
Sometimes I’d go for a gossip with a colleague but, more often, I would sit there alone reading articles that had come in for Vogue, or ponder a tricky conversation.
Over the years I gobbled up more tomato and mozzarella salads in their branch of Carluccio’s than any other meal in my whole life.
Which is probably why I mind about the place disappearing. Where we shop is such a big part of our identity. It’s as much a part of us as what we buy.
Naturally, with the rise of online shopping, the relationship with physical stores is changing. But as we’ve seen with the popularity of farmers’ markets, the activity of going somewhere and browsing along with others remains important to us, even in an age when a few carrots and sausages can be whizzed to your door after buying them online.
I think that it is perfectly likely that the more we shop online, the more precious and personal our relationships with the physical shops we visit regularly will become. It’s why the independent businesses on our local shopping streets are so important. Yes, it’s inconvenient when our high street Tesco or M&S moves to an out-of-town retail park, but if a local hardware store or chemist or bakery closes, a little part of ourselves disappears.
Strep deaths have caused real panic
It’s always hard to judge when feeling ill is actually something to take seriously, and even more so when a child is involved.
If anyone is keen to skip Harry and Meghan, I recommend ITV’s A Spy Among Friends, inspired by Kim Philby’s defection to Moscow. Pictured: Anna Maxwell Morris as Lily Thomas
My son used to have what his American dad called strep throat several times each winter and generally after a few days he wouldn’t improve and would end up on antibiotics. It wasn’t particularly worrying, just not terribly nice for him. But, if it were happening now that 16 children’s deaths have been reported from strep A, I’d be in a total panic, barging my way to the front of any queue possible on Day One.
What next… trigger warnings for panto?
Outside the National Theatre’s new production of Othello, there is a health warning. The sign amused me so I photographed it and put it on Instagram. It read: ‘The production contains racially offensive language and imagery and depictions of mental and domestic abuse and violence…’
As Instagram followers tend to share one’s opinions, most of mine seemed to find this as crazy as I did. A few questioned my mocking. But really, is it entirely necessary to warn audiences who have chosen to buy a ticket of anything anyone might conceivably find offensive? Heaven knows what theatres are doing about pantomime this year, where bawdy offence is very often the whole raison d’etre.
The Garibaldi comes in from the cold
If anyone is keen to skip Harry and Meghan, I recommend ITV’s A Spy Among Friends, inspired by Kim Philby’s defection to Moscow.
Yes, there are fabulous performances from Damian Lewis, Guy Pearce and the always brilliant Anna Maxwell Martin, but there’s also a starring role for a nostalgic favourite: squashed flies – those much-loved Garibaldi raisin biscuits, reliably produced at tense moments with a cup of tea.
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