Breton Stripes: A Forever Classic

If you describe your style as classic or preppy, you should have at least one Breton style top in your wardrobe! The Breton top is a classic and has been popular with the fashion set for nearly a century, after Coco Chanel introduced the top to her fashion collection in 1917.

The original, classic Breton top was worn by sailors in the French navy, was introduced in 1858, and was supposed to feature 21 stripes for Napoleon’s 21 victories. The lore surrounding the Breton top also states that the stripes were selected so that a sailor would stand out in the sea if he fell overboard! Breton tops are most classically defined as navy and white, although red and white is fairly usual alternative. These tops have been worn by Audrey Hepburn, Kate Middleton, Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, and Alexa Chung, to name but a few. Taking stock of my wardrobe recently, I realised that Breton stripes had become something of an obsession, so I decided to do a post featuring a few of my current favourites!

Breton Style

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Vintage Bookclub – Audrey: The 60s

If Marilyn Monroe was an icon of the ’50s, then the ’60s belonged to Audrey Hepburn. In all honesty, it’s only recently that I’ve truly come to appreciate Marilyn in all her busty bombshell glory – when I was a kid, for me, it was all about Audrey. Her doe-eyes, inscrutable expression, and that scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s… I was in love with Audrey long before I’d ever seen her act in a movie – and I’m sure I’m not the only one who knows her primarily from her photographs rather than from her performances. My earliest memory was being enchanted by her character in My Fair Lady – probably the greatest ‘make over’ movie of all time, and certainly one that could be appreciated by a little, tubby, bespectacled kid from a council estate.

Audrey The 60s coverAudrey: The 60s is an ode to Ms Hepburn as a model, muse, actress, mother, friend and co-worker – a treasure trove of unique images and quotes, many of which are seen here for the first time since their original publication. From stunning close-up shots, to candid snaps on set, every image captures a different side of Audrey’s quirky spirit, ethereal beauty, sweet nature – and yes, her insecurities, too.
Audrey The 60s spread 2The quotes come from an impressive array of sources: movies, press reviews, friends, directors, photographers, fashion designers and more, including Sophia Loren, Walter Matthau, Cecil Beaton, Elizabeth Taylor, Hubert De Givenchy and her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer. They paint a picture of a woman who was humble, modest, stylish, dutiful, sweet and down to earth – a perfectionist who believed her great fame came from unbelievable luck rather than anything else, and a woman who loved to laugh and enjoyed the company of others. Throughout the volume, her colleagues speak highly of her hard work and talent, while photographers and fashion designers gush about her style, grace and beauty. Audrey’s own quotes range from fluffy motivational snippets, to some dark, revealing confessions, which speak of a lack of self confidence, occasional insecurities, and an art for self-depreciation. It’s clear to see why she was so easy to love – and it’s hard to get through the book without feeling your heart swell, just a little, for this highly complex and fascinating individual.
Audrey The 60s spread 4All of this, and I haven’t even touched on those gorgeous pictorial spreads – photo after photo, they prove, one after the other, that Audrey’s appeal is timeless – her style still relevant today, and her grace apparent even in the most casual of settings. Contained within these pages are photos from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Children’s Hour, Charade, Paris When It Sizzles, My Fair Lady, How To Steal A Million, Two For The Road, and Wait Until Dark – plus, there’s another section simply titled ‘fashion’, which is fairly self-explanatory! These movies are diverse enough to show a wide range of costumes and settings, from dramatic thrillers in which Audrey’s simple clothes still mark her as a fashion icon, to the extravagant stylings of My Fair Lady, and the Mod style from Two for the Road. In fact, it was the shots from this movie in particular that fascinated me the most, as this characteristically ’60s’ style seemed somehow like a very drastic departure from her usual dress.
Audrey The 60s spread 5Of course, as I love to write about food as much as fashion, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to mention the two rather contradictory comments in the book about Audrey’s eating habits. Photographer Steven Meisel remembers her tucking into a peanut butter and jam sandwich during a break from a photoshoot, while Rex Harrison states that she was “in the habit of eating only raw vegetables” on the set of My Fair Lady. Make of that what you will…

Audrey The 60s spread 3

Surprisingly insightful, continuously charming, and of course, utterly beautiful, Audrey: The 60s is one of my favourite coffee table books, and a goldmine for anyone interested in ’60s fashion and the eternal, effortless style of Audrey Hepburn. Even if you’re not a ’60s girl, I have no doubt you’ll feel like one after a flick through this!

Audrey: The 60s, by David Wills and Stephen Schmidt, is available now for $40 from It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. Visit http://www.audreythe60s.com for more information.

All images in this post are taken from Audrey: The 60s. A complimentary copy was provided to me for the purposes of this review.

Audrey The 60s spread 1

The 1953 Vintage Diet: Days Five and Six

I had to skip a day of the diet on Sunday, as it was my nan’s birthday and we had a lovely roast to celebrate! However, I did follow the diet on Saturday, and I have again today – but I’ll be stopping tomorrow as I have a Hello Fresh delivery coming, and I don’t think they got the memo on what was hip to slim with in 1953!1953diet2

So, on Saturday, I was following Wednesday’s plan, but with my own, cunning changes. As this was the day after deadline, I had an amazing lie-in – I don’t do anything by halves, and I woke up at about 11am. This meant I wasn’t really hungry until lunch, so I had cheese, biscuits and an apple, and saved the mushroom omelette for dinner – where it transformed into a fried egg and some mushrooms on the side, to go with my gammon, pineapple and tomatoes. Very satisfying and delicious – although I must say, I really miss my carbs. This is purely psychological, as it seems weird to me to have gammon without chips. Sigh…

Today, I did Sunday’s plan. THAT’S RIGHT! It was a liquid fast! I have never done one of these before in my life, and I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy I’ve been finding it. Yes, I could eat something right now – but I’m not actually hungry, even at half ten. I never thought I’d be able to make it a day without food, because there are times when I get weak and faint if I skip breakfast. Somehow, a combination of the fruit and veggie juices and my usual teas and coffees have seen me through.

At lunch time, I had a bottle of amber juice from Sainsbury’s, which contains white grape, orange, carrot, lemon and lime. Dinner consisted of a glass of tomato juice, and a bottle of purple juice, which contains apple, red grape, beetroot and cherry juice. With my teas and coffees, it’s been a scarily low calorie day for me today – but, I certainly haven’t done anything strenuous, and more importantly, I’ll not be continuing this tomorrow, or making a regular thing of it.

(I really feel like adding this in here – if you find yourself skipping meals, bingeing, fasting, detoxing etc, regularly, you may have an eating disorder. Please seek help if you feel like you even begin to go down this road – do not think for one minute I am advocating regular fasts or liquid diets as a way to boost your health or lose weight. Always talk to your doctor before you follow any dieting plan.)

Thus ends my 1953 vintage diet. Despite what many people think, I don’t believe for one minute that ‘the olden times’ were a golden era for a positive body images, nor a haven from the diet-obsessed culture we live in today. Hollywood stars were famously thin (even Marilyn Monroe, heralded as a ‘size 16’ would be a size 6 or 8 in modern times – you’d have to be blind, or conveniently overlooking her incredibly tiny waist to consider her a patron for fuller figured women, quite honestly). Take a look at movie costumes of the period, and you’ll see that women were under just as much pressure then as now to be skinny – and even Photoshopping had its origins in this era, as airbrushing was just as ruthlessly efficient at removing excess fat and smoothing over blemished skin. Yes, the body shape may have changed, and curvier women certainly had their heyday in these golden decades, before the androgynous looks of the ’90s kicked in, but these shapes were often created with a combination of hefty support garments and strict dieting regimes (read about Marilyn Monroe’s really rather odd diet here, for example).

Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the ...

Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the trailer for the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 1953 diet dispenses with carbs in the evening, just like many modern diets suggest, and have you load up on protein where possible, to keep you feeling full. The concentration on milk, fruit juices and processed bread are probably the area where the diet looks the most dated – fruit juices really are empty calories, and most nutritionists would rather you ate the fruit than drank the juice. Also, having a pat of butter on your toast every morning is hilariously quaint – but again, considering how unhealthy many tout margarine as being, I can almost see this coming full circle in time.

One thing conspicuous by its absence here is advice about exercising. There is one small note prompting readers to write to Diana Day for some exercises to accompany the diet, but there’s really no other advice on the subject. Was this written for housewives doing physical labour all day long, and therefore diet wasn’t needed? You could certainly argue the case. I’ve heard many a fitness guru state that diet is far more important than exercise, though – as Jillian Michaels often says, you can wipe out an hour in the gym with just one slice of pizza.

In short, there’s nothing new under the sun, and there’s certainly nothing new when it comes to dieting. While I think I’m probably far more educated about nutrition than the average 1953 housewife following this diet, we can still learn a lot by looking backwards – as long as we’re not wearing rose tinted spectacles when we do it! Now, you’ll have to excuse me, because all this talk of food is starting to make me hungry…