Friday 24 December 2010


It's a long time since I was this obsessed by a dress. You know how it is - you see something in a shop, and you can't stop thinking about it. Every time you open your wardrobe, there's a great glaring hole where the coveted item should be, but isn't, because it's still in the shop. Every time you get dressed, even your most favourite outfit is diminished by not being the dress. And so it is with this scarlet frock from Bastyan. Red isn't a colour I usually wear, having very much a Ford Model T approach to fashion - any colour you like as long as it's black - but there's something immensely Christmassy about this particular shade of vermilion. Quite marvellous for Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve, and my sister's birthday, and, and see what I'm doing here? Fashion maths. Fashion maths means you divide the price of some gorgeous object of desire by the number of occasions you think you might wear it. It always comes out as £1.22 per wear, and so it is that your brain says '£1.22? You can't even get a cappuccino for that' and it instantly becomes a complete steal.

It's not even especially expensive - it's currently reduced from £225 to £125, both on the Bastyan website and in House of Fraser, and it's silk too. What's more, Bastyan makes the most fabulously flattering frocks on the planet - Tonia Bastyan, the label's owner and designer, understands perfectly that when one is over 35 one doesn't want to be tugging things down to cover a less than perfect knee, or pinning a neckline to conceal the fact one can't get away with bra-less anymore. She uses luxurious fabrics and clever draping to drift gently over the difficult bits and enhance the parts that aren't quite yet completely disastrous. She's that all too rare thing, a designer that designs for, rather than against, all the idiosyncrasies of a woman's body, without sacrificing a strong design edge, and the net result is a collection which flatters, and is yet still completely on trend. The scarlet silk georgette goddess dress is a really good example of this, but there are many more. I could start to develop a small addiction.

Oh, see how I'm longing for it? Should I wait to find out if I get any money for Christmas? Should I brave the ghastliness of Christmas Eve at Westfield to see if they have one left in my size in case the yearning gets too great and I have to have it?

Addendum; Writing this post made the craving worse: I couldn't live without the dress. And not only did they still have my size at Westfield, my mother said that she'd get it for me for Christmas: evidently it was meant to be mine. I can't wait to unwrap it and put it on. Happy Christmas everyone.

UPDATE: October 2011 - I've just heard a whisper that the next Harper's Bazaar party is to have a black and red theme - guess what I'll be wearing? That's another nice thing about Bastyan - it's fashionable, but not so achingly on trend that you can't wear it for more than a season

Thursday 16 December 2010


Two terrific books to enjoy over Christmas


Clara Dunphy, Comfort and Joy's laugh-out-loud-funny fortysomething heroine,is  determined to have the perfect Christmas - 'It's not that I want it to be perfect in the Martha Stewart sense,' she says, '- I don't even own any matching crockery. I just want it to be...nice. Warm. Loving. Joyous. All those things. Christmassy.' 

As the novel opens, Clara is battling with the last minute Oxford Street crowds, on the impossible search for the most perfect of perfect presents for two of the most wonderfully drawn characters in her book, her mother, Kate, and her fabulous mother-in-law, not to mention the topping up of presents for the children, in case there's not quite enough - and immediately one is drawn in. One of India Knight's great talents lies in the way she very quickly establishes vast swathes of common ground with her reader, and Comfort and Joy is empathy central.

Comfort & Joy is set on a series of Christmasses, past and present, and is about, amongst other things, that very modern phenomenon, the blended family. It's India Knight's first novel, 'My Life on a Plate', ten years on, and I liked it so much I immediately had to re-read 'My Life on Plate' to remind myself of her characters backstories, and to get more of the witty, self-deprecating heroine and her extraordinary family. I read 'My Life on a Plate' aloud to my sister on a long car journey, like a kind of bonkers low-rent talking book, and we were screaming with laughter so much that once we'd arrived at our destination, my sister wouldn't let me out of the car until I'd finished reading. I think she's hoping for a repeat performance with Comfort & Joy.

Comfort & Joy is available from Amazon - although it's still in hardback, it's an extremely bargainacious £7.75


Another delicious book is Daisy Goodwin's 'My Last Duchess'. Set against the backdrop of country house life at the end of the nineteenth century, it's a wonderful tale of the tensions between love and money, and between class and wealth. Cora is the beautiful daughter of an extremely socially ambitious and super-rich American mama, keen to get her daughter married off in Vanderbilt style to a title and Ivo Maltravers, the dashing yet broke Duke of Wareham, fits the bill perfectly.
If one were trying to sell-in the mini-series, one might say it's Wharton's The Buccaneers meets Downton Abbey - hugely enjoyable, glamorous, and a terrific comfort read to curl up with on Boxing Day.

Again it's on special offer at Amazon for £7.17 (what is this £7.17? I keep trying to work out the percentage discount off the list price but my tiny, sleep-deprived brain can't cope with it)

Wednesday 15 December 2010


'He wasn't born bad,' said Trefusis Minor of the arch-villain and unlikely hero of Megamind, 'He just ended up in the wrong place.' It felt like a curiously philosophical observation for a six year old, but in Megamind's case, it's literally true.

Megamind is, apparently, Trefusis Minor's 'best film ever ever', and I thoroughly enjoyed it too - Dreamworks see it as a technological breakthrough because it's the first time anyone's ever managed to make a cloak look convincing in a cartoon, but I think Trefusis Minor and I liked it for its super-hero vs super-villain derring-do, and the way that the good end happily, and the bad end - well - having learned in the nicest possible way that crime doesn't pay.

Megamind is on nationwide release.