Secret Style Icon No.13: Lorna Sage

Lorna Sage's daughter, in this wonderful article, describes an early memory of 'clomping alongside' her mother on a walk across a park, in ugly Clark's shoes, while Lorna was 'barefoot and wearing a slinky catsuit zipped down to her naval'. Lorna Sage wrote about Plato, John Milton, Doris Lessing and Angela Carter as Professor of English... Continue Reading →

Secret Style Icon No.12: Margot Fonteyn

I've always had a soft spot for ballerinas, probably because they seem to take suffering for their art to such deadly-serious extremes. The broken feet, the strict figure control, the scraped-back hair, the vicious competitiveness - it's all bonkers, but there's something weirdly fascinating about it too. Perhaps it's the dedication to something so unequivocally frivolous. Utterly beautiful, fleeting, minor and frivolous. Sitting at... Continue Reading →

Secret Style Icon No.11: Kate Bush

If you think of Kate Bush and immediately picture some mad harpy with a wild mane of hair...  Then you're almost getting there. Here are some reasons why she might just be the most amazing woman: 1. She began her musical career at the age of sixteen with the help of some guy who happened to... Continue Reading →

Secret Style Icon(s) No.10: Vamps

"So you're a private detective. I didn't know they existed, except in books, or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotel corridors. My, you're a mess, aren't you?" As if it wasn't enough that everybody knows Bogart and Baccall were falling in love in real life while filming The Big Sleep, they get... Continue Reading →

Secret Style Icon No.9: Yasmin Paige in Submarine

Submarine is a beautiful little film and Oliver Tate (played by Craig Roberts) is the teenage narrator. Selfish, deceitful, self-aggrandizing in the extreme, he somehow manages to win you round by the end. Maybe it's his tenderly pained expression when the people around him fail to realise his 'genius'. He enjoys re-casting memories as Super-8... Continue Reading →

Secret Style Icon No.10: Parker Posy

She played the original mean girl (1976 edition) in Dazed and Confused, as the unhinged, cold-hearted Simone, whose sweet 70s hair-do and cute little uniform ('Seniors' jumper, shorts, knee socks) belied the fact that she was leading the freshman students through various masochistic torture rituals for the hell of it ("Now fry like bacon, you little freshman piggies. Fry!") Parker Posy deserves kudos for pulling this off with so much zeal and then also nailing her part as the ultimate geek in Best in Show. Behold, the adult-brace wearing 'Meg Swan', who has taken her dog to couples therapy. She met her husband in Starbucks ("Not the same Starbucks, but we saw each other at different Starbucks across the street from each other"). They enjoy reading catalogues together. There is an untamed hysteria simmering not far beneath her cool surface, which comes out to spectacular effect when her dog's favourite toy goes missing. Parker Posy yelling is cinematic gold. Special mention should go to Mathew McConaughey for his role in Dazed and Confused, without a doubt the pinnacle of his career. That outfit, that hair, the unashamed celebration of arrested development - it shouldn't work, yet in the world of the film, he is getting all the girls.

Secret Style Icon(s) No.10: Redheads

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a redhead... When I was 11, there were only a few things I wanted in life: some green frog hairclips from Bow Bangles (now Claire's Accessories!) the Friends apartment as my own living space (this was 1997) and red hair. Tight corkscrew curls of a deep red colour, to be precise. It didn't really matter that I was enjoying the last days of my long blonde hair (I got it all chopped off at 15 and, sadly, it never grew back. Bye bye blonde). All I wanted was that fiery red - because everybody knows, redheads have the best fun of all. Here is my personal hall-of-fame of beautiful, beautiful hair. Some of it looks like it fell straight out of a pre-Raphaelite painting. Lily Cole makes me feel a little queasy with jealousy for having such heavenly curls (and the winning combination of a slightly deranged Playboy shoot and a double first from Oxford).

Secret Style Icon no.8: Kiera Knightley in Atonement

A 'colossal' heat on a summers day in 1935, a green dress, a private library - this film ticks all the boxes of movie catnip, as far as I'm concerned. I put it in the same category as The English Patient. That would be the Beautiful-People-and-their-Stoical-Posh-Misery category. Oh, it is a dream. As befitting the fact that we are not really seeing this particular day, but Briony's memory of this day (rarified and strange) everything is stunningly, unnaturally beautiful. The costume design is out of this world, the Kiera Knightley gets to wear everything amazing. How could James Macavoy resist her? In her white swimsuit and cap she looks like the sort of painting that accompanied 1930s ads that said things like 'Torquay: The English Riviera'. She also manages to depict how very oppressive the heat is in this one oufit, which just wilts around her body. Its a dress for lounging around in with nothing to do, ever, and a cocktail in your hand. Somehow, a faded flower-print tea-dress looks utterly sexy on her. Pfft, go away Kiera. Lastly, as befitting a tryst in a library, she wears a green dress in the evening (for dinner - imagine, putting a dress like this on just for dinner). When I first saw Atonement I thought, oh, that's nice, I'd like that for my wedding dress one day, in imaginary-land. Rippling green silk = awesome. Then I read this interview with the genius costume designer Jacqueline Durran, who was responsible for this creation: "We found all the green silk and organza fabrics in London and ended up with three green choices: a lime- green silk, a black and green organza and another green chiffon. Then we took the swatches to a master dyer in London and had him special dye 100 yards of plain white fabric into that rich green. The dress was the composite of those three hues.". They also laser-cut the bodice. All the silk in London? A completely new hue of green invented just for this dress? A laser cut bodice? Yep, that's do for the big day. Ta.

Secret Style Icon No.7: Christina Ricci in The Ice Storm

Everyone in this film gets at least one amazing look (Tobey Maguire's orange boiler suit in the snow is shivery good) but Christina Ricci tops them all with her sparky, laconic teenage style, chubby little face and the defiant red cape that she wears when she's freewheeling in the 'burbs on her little bike. She's precocious, sarcastic and politically engaged ("Nixon, it's incredible, he should be shot") in a world of sad, grey, icy-cold adults. Her parents (Kevin Kline and Joan Allen wearing mostly trenchcoats) hate each other, don't care about Nixon and are baffled by their own kids. They dabble with drinking, therapy and key-swapping parties, while living in a very 1970s full of floor-to-ceiling windows. Meanwhile, Christina Ricci dots around being strange, unnerving the adults and having adventures all her own. She also wears a lot of superb woolly red jumpers. Clearly the girl knows her look.

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