Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Book Review: Luella's Guide to English Style


Despite the huge amount of time I spend looking at clothes - on blogs, in the shops, in magazines and as part of my job - I seem to find myself more confused than ever about what I actually want to wear. Thankfully, help arrived in the form of a little hardback book, Luella's Guide to English Style, the perfect tome to lead me out of my stylistic jumble.

Luella's much-missed, much-loved fashion label was known for its joyous and witty take on clothing, with collections being called things like 'Daddy, I want a Pony'. It's hardly surprising that this book reflects that sparkle and dash. You can tell instantly that it's going to be a fun read - there's an embossed fox on the cover, a quote from a Bowie lyric on the back and it's all topped off with a fluro pink marker. However, I hadn't realised that prior to her career as a designer, Luella Bartley had been a journalist. So she can write too ... hurrah ... and you get the sense she's really impassioned about this subject matter.

Though the book traverses you through some of the key elements of English style and its tricksy relationship to issues such as the class system, sex and the bosom, essentially it's a call to arms. Luella holds up the muddy boot and the scruffy hair that's been tied back with an elastic band as the rallying symbols for a generation, eager for us to cast off the shackles of airbrushed beauty and fashion that's consumed unquestionably. The book outlines some of her favourite female style icons (clue: the likes of Cheryl Cole don't get a look in) and they're a mixed bag: Marianne Faithfull, Vita Sackville-West, Vivienne Westwood, Lily Allen and Princess Anne are all featured. A diverse bunch but all united by what Luella sees as the true English fashion spirit, one of rebellion and not giving too hoots about what people think of you. Each style heroine is shown alongside a great illustration by Zoe Taylor. The book then goes on to dissect some of Britain's great style tribes and identify classic bits of clothing. They're illustrated by photos that look like they've been torn from an inspiration scrapbook, inspiring in itself.

The book is like a cooler sister, leading you by the hand, showing you the ways of the world. There's non-fashion world experiences in here too that everyone will relate to - the rites of passages that are marked by visits to Boots for example, or some healthy reminders of teenage insecurities. Then, every so often, you get a reminder of how cool Luella really is, anyone else here a former flatmate of Justine Frischmann and M.I.A.?

The English boys get a look in too, as the book features some of the nation's most loved oddballs - from Bowie to Jarvis via David Hockney. While the book is utter heaven for fashion/music/art loving girls, Luella drops in enough pop references to make it just-about-boy friendly and it's great inspiration for them too - I caught my boyfriend having a good old read (but, then again, that could have been the section on bosoms that caught his eye).

This book has really stirred up my joy in clothes again and stopped me worrying too much about if they're fashionable or if they make me look slimmer. Long-lost favourite items are being pulled from the back of my wardrobe and being worn again and I'm trying to be a little less impressed by the label in something. As a result I'm looking a bit bonkers. But I am loving it. I'm hoping to be fully clad, ready to be part of the Luella style army when it finally arrives. I've a feeling this book is just the first step. Buy a copy of the book, and join in the fun.

Luella's Guide to English Style by Luella Bartley is £10.99 from Amazon

2 comments:

  1. I had no idea that she'd brought out a book - promptly added to Amazon wishlist! Long live Luella and her quirky, irreverent take on fashion :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great review! Think I'm going to have to buy this book. Looks too good not to!

    ReplyDelete

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