Monthly Archives: February 2017

How to get the formidable style of Loulou de la Falaise

Inspiration can strike me anytime, anywhere (the inside of a piece of fruit, a building, a feeling) but also there can be no doubt of the influence certain women have had on my style over the years – those I have been fortunate enough to meet and those I haven’t, like Louise Vava Lucia Henriette Le Bailly de la Falaise. (I know!).

Loulou photographed by Eric Malanga in 1971

A style icon

Loulou was probably best known as Yves Saint Laurent’s muse. Such was her influence that people would speak of ‘Yves Saint Loulou’, when discussing his latter collections for the fashion house. Loulou shone – with an interesting mix of French elegance, bohemian eccentricity and worldly exoticism. She was a true original, with a playfulness and humour that explains how she maintained a style that was whimsical and youthful, even in her later years. She died in 2011, aged 63, but her style still speaks to me and I’m seeing her in fashion everywhere right now.

Loulou and Yves Saint Laurent. Le Monde

8 top tips for getting the Loulou look

Loulou would have loved the folkloric essence of Dodo Bar Or and Vita Kin, the bold cottons at Fendi and interesting, crisp shirting at Palmer Harding. These are my picks though:

1. White and oversized.

For the elegant, easy Riviera vibe that Loulou did so well, you can’t beat a white dress. My favourite of the spring summer 2017 collections is this one by Rochas, coming soon to Matchesfashion.com.

Rochas backless dress. Image courtesy of matchesfashion.com

Your whites don’t have to be new. Vintage cotton has a wonderful, starchy feel that looks even better with a bit of a crumple. Grab a man’s vintage dress shirt (I’ve found good ones at The Old Electric Shop in Hay On Wye, the Es Canar market in Ibiza…you might even get lucky in Oxfam). Wear over a bikini for a cool alternative to a floaty cover-up.

Loulou at sea. Image courtesy of NY Times.

2. Scarves

An old french bed sheet, torn (not cut) into a large strip, looks great. Refer to Liberty’s handy box of scarf styling cards to help you perfect your headscarf tying (below, £15. A great gift). Of course, the look works all the better for being on a yacht in the Med.

3. Get your folk on

Loulou outside the original Rive Gauche boutique, Elle Magazine.

For one, fun, folky piece look to Vita Kin, who has made traditional Ukraine style a fashion statement. Her influence has filtered down onto the high street but the real deal is beautifully embroidered and worth every penny.

Pandora Sykes wearing Vita Kin. Image courtesy of pandorasykes.com

Vita Kin dress, around £1100 at Farfetch.com. Image courtesy of The Sunday Times

Dodo Bar Or‘s collection has the same bohemian feel, slightly cheaper and made from ultra soft cotton.

Nathaniel top by Dodo Bar Or. Around £250. Image courtesy of Nawo.com

4. Colour burst.

MSGM has made me happy this season with a brilliant, machine washable top in the perfect shade of red. For something more slinky, Stella McCartney has an orange silk shirt (£395, at net-a-porter). For both, just add jeans.

MSGM top, £240 at matchesfashion.com.

5. Vintage denim vibe.

Speaking of jeans, I can’t think of anyone who would have rocked these better than Loulou. A high waist, a 70’s leg and a vintage wash. How fitting that they are from the new Saint Laurent collection. £420 at Matchesfashion.com

Saint Laurent mid-rise flared jeans. Image courtesy of matchesfashion.com

6. Load up on gems.

Loulou de La Falaise was famed for her accessories. For Loulou-inspired bling, check out Vestiaire or Re-See, where you can find exceptional vintage pieces from prestigious brands. It’s also worth scouring antique markets (such as Alfie’s in London). Don’t save big, bold jewellery for special occasions.

Loulou at home in Paris. Image by Pascal Chevalier, courtesy of Vogue Espana.

Chanel purple resin bangle set, 250 euros at Re-See.com

Christian Lacroix vintage couture necklace, 590 euros at Re-See.com

7. Clutch

How about a bistrot-chair turned clutch bag to perk up your summer look? This one gets my vote, not just because you can practically wash sticky fingers and sand off it. Balenciaga woven bistrot clutch, £765 at Browns.

Balenciaga clutch, £765 at brownsfashion.com

8. Loulou on a budget

The headscarf again – this time look on Ebay for a lungi dhoti sarong. Mirrored shades can be found at Camden Market for around £5. Add Nars lipstick in Niagara for a perfect, peachy lip – it’s the coral that suits everyone.

Loulou photographed by Eric Bowman, 1972.

If I haven’t given you enough, you can read/see more in this book. I admit I bought it for the cover (I’m a sucker for anything by Rizzoli) but it’s as readable as it is beautiful.

My well-thumbed book, published by Rizzoli

In the meantime, I’m off to Lanzarote. To channel Loulou. See you next week.

 

The secret to finding a bra that fits: Hire an expert

I don’t cry often, but one thing that’s guaranteed to bring me to tears is bra shopping.

I mean, how hard can it be? I’m fairly in proportion and, after a multitude of disasters – not very fussy. But I don’t have much meat on my ribs and so under-wires dig in and non-wired bras ride up and practically fly off into the distance, without any weight of breast to keep them in place.

I tend to throw money at the equation (La Perla, Myla) but even then there’s no guarantee I’ll find anything that works. And the older I get, the harder it becomes.

Lingerie at Keturah Brown – image Penelope Meredith

The expert

Lingerie stylist and ‘fit expert’ Monica Harrington has been a life-changer for me. Her credentials are impressive – she’s been in the lingerie business for over 30 years, working for major brands in product development, fitting and training, styling lingerie on shoots for prestigious campaigns and helping breast cancer patients, post surgery. She has private clients too. I wanted to find out what she could do for me.

Let’s just say that this lady has not only transformed my underwear drawer but also my approach to dressing. So I am writing about her. She should not be a secret.

Monica Harrington. Image Alex Taibel

The underwear edit

Monica arrived at my home with a selection of underwear, Irish warmth…and a sense of humour, which helped, given the sad state of my boobs (Monica says it’s common for women to lose the fullness in the top half of the cup after breastfeeding). She guessed my size immediately then declared my bras too big across the back and too flimsy to give any real form.

The lingerie selection. Image Alex Taibel

Getting the perfect shape

I’ve always favoured quite racy bras (what I lack in boob I like to think I make up for in style) but Monica also showed me that t-shirt bras don’t have to be bulky and boring. I’m probably the only woman on the planet who doesn’t own a t-shirt bra. It’s a big moment for me.

Fitting the Triumph Amourette. Image Alex Taibel

The Triumph Amourette spotlight underwire bra she brought along was not only a perfect fit but a snip at £32 and so comfortable I now have to force myself to wear anything else. My boobs are so good in t-shirts that I keep asking my friends to have a feel. I bet everyone who’s been Monica’d does this.

The right underwear for the right outfit

Another predicament is matching the right underwear for each piece of clothing. I quickly realise that Monica has this down to a fine art. First up – my off the shoulder dress by Saloni that I wear without a bra. I didn’t think I minded going bra-less, until I was helped into a Simone Perele plunge bra and saw the dress take on a different shape altogether.

Monica explained that when the boobs are lifted properly it creates more length in the body and thus more definition to the waist. I saw the difference immediately. And I’m not sure how I lived without this bra, which is a secure, seamless fit, with ‘lotion touch’ microfibre and straps that can be worn 8 different ways (or not at all). It is absolutely perfect for the current one-shoulder/off-shoulder trend. Priced at £56.

Some Spanx high waisted shorts (shapewear, as Monica calls it) were 100% invisible under the bottom half of the dress and also rescued my Adam Lippes cream jumpsuit – a beautiful piece of clothing in a notoriously unforgiving colour and the only unworn item in my wardrobe (due to the underwear/knickerline dilemma).

I suspect he designed this jumpsuit for someone with a cleavage, but Monica quickly gave me one, thanks to a Triumph magic boost bra and a bit of hoisting and tweaking. My breasts looked majestic, but not over the top (I’m not sure they ever could). A Triumph indeed.

Shopping for lingerie

We ventured out – to Keturah Brown, a little independent boutique in Primrose Hill. It’s an aladdin’s cave, bursting at the seams with every conceivable lingerie item you could wish for. I wouldn’t have known where to start, but Monica got stuck in and by the time we’d finished I had bought four different sets of beautiful lingerie, with some altered to fit.

Monica in action at Keturah Brown. Image Penelope Meredith

Keturah Brown’s owner will literally cut a chunk out of the back of your bra (eek) and re-position the fastening, for a closer fit. It’s reassuring that she’s a lingerie maker by trade but still you’ll be glad it’s over before you can blink or indeed question whether you actually want someone to take scissors to your new expensive bra.

Bra alterations at Keturah Brown. Image Penelope Meredith

It’s an amazing alteration service. Hashtag shop local. You don’t get that in a department store.

Now it’s a perfect fit. Image Alex Taibel

Here’s what I learned

  1. How to put on a bra. No, you do not fasten it in front of you and then twist it around. (This was the only time I heard Monica get cross). Arms go in first, then bend over and shimmy yourself into the cups before you fasten behind you. It is not something I am going to show you a photo of.
  2. Every size has a sister size. So my 30B is also the equivalent to a 32C. Me! A C cup!
  3. The lifespan of a bra is 6 months, if you wear it often. Oops.
  4. My right boob is my fuller boob – apparently we all have one side bigger than the other. Compensate for this by adjusting one strap slightly looser (on the ‘full boob’ side) than the other.
  5. Lingerie shopping can be fun.
  6. Bras can be comfortable.
  7. Triumph is not an old lady brand.
  8. The right underwear can transform an outfit.
  9. I am not a freak.
  10. Hire an expert.

 

Visit Monica Harrington’s website for more information or to book a private visit.

All photography by Alex Taibel unless otherwise stated. With thanks.