Style Icon: Mary Lennox

Mary Lennox, played by Kate Maberly in the 1993 film version of The Secret Garden, is one feisty girl. She is determined, strong, and fearless, and refuses to let anyone boss her around. She breaks all the rules and doesn’t think twice about it. She is curious and intelligent, though intolerably ignorant. Mary is all of those things, and if that’s not enough, she is also extremely well-dressed, thanks to her (stereotypical) country bumpkin of a servant, Martha.

The first time I saw The Secret Garden, I fell madly in love with Mary’s wardrobe. Everything she wears, from the beginning to the end of the film, is classically beautiful. What I want to know is, why am I not Mary? I did go through a childhood dress phase

The opening scene shows Mary being dressed by servants who wait on her hand and foot, until the earthquake that hits her home in India and leaves her orphaned.

When Mary first arrives in England after the death of her parents and a boat ride from her home in India, her outfits are entirely black, and would be rather suited to, say, Wednesday Addams. Mary can pull off the “girl in mourning” look just as nicely as Wednesday, though without the pasty skin.

“What would you like to wear?” asks Martha, “black, black, or black?”
“Are you blind?” snaps Mary, pointing at three identical dresses. “They’re all black.”

Mary’s style seems to grow and change as time passes. After some time spent settling into her uncle’s castle-like home, Mary’s consistent choice of a black, lacy dress and a permanent scowl wanes. As excitement in Mary’s life rises, so does the excitement that her wardrobe brings me. New textures (ruffles, knits, and pleats) and patterns (plaids and florals) are added, as is some beautiful winter clothing — which is one of my favourite parts of Mary’s wardrobe.
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Book Review: Edie: An American Girl

You’ve probably already heard some version of events of the life of this stylish socialite. In late 2006, a film about Edie Sedgwick was released. Entitled Factory Girl, it had Sienna Miller playing a wide-eyed Mary Sue of sorts, who could tame horses and make even the surliest of weak Bob Dylan impersonators fall in love with her. Her downfall and drug addiction was sparked by the treatment of the Big Bad Andy Warhol, leading to her eventual death.

The almost cartoonish biopic of the famed sixties socialite, while rooted in the truth, favours the more salacious aspects of Sedgwick’s legendarily sensational life. Her biography, Edie: an American Girl, does not take such a dramatized view of Sedgwick’s life, but it doesn’t marginalize this perspective either. Jean Stein compiles her story entirely from other people’s memories of the icon: her family members, peers, doctors, and pretty much everyone else who had any sort of contact with her during her brief lifespan (including Mr. Warhol himself). The editor retains many of Sedgwick’s more human traits – the good and the bad – rather than elevating her to the goddess-like status she had in the movie. Every memory of her is meticulously recorded, often producing contradicting points of view from different people. For instance, we quickly see the difference in how Sedgwick is perceived by her siblings. Her eldest sister, Saucie, sees her as a narcissistic bully, whereas Suky, her youngest sister, completely idolizes Sedgwick, looking up to her as the single most creative being on the planet.

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book review: Vivienne Westwood – An Unfashionable Life

Vivienne in her famous rocking horse shoes.

This biography chronicles Vivienne’s life from childhood to her sixties, documenting the inward and outward influences that helped shape her into the King’s Road punk, outrageous innovator, and renegade style icon she is known as today. As emphasized in the book, Vivienne always sought attention (declaring at the birth of sister, Olga that she would “‘dead her and put her in the dustbin’”) and adding provocative details to her school gymslips. This originality married with a nostalgic affection for traditional English textiles would become one of Vivienne’s trademarks, as seen in her Harris Tweed and Anglomania collections.

Vivienne was famously uninterested in trends, seeking to create what appealed to her own artistic sensibilities, causing immeasurable stress for those working with her. Her use of impractical fabrics and cuts made her designs “extremely complicated to manufacture, as she [rejected] any recognizable template or pattern”. In the business world, Vivienne’s companies dealt with constant financial mismanagement, largely stemming from employees taking advantage of her trust (or oversight, as the case may be) and swindling money. Vivienne fought for recognition among her contemporaries, such as John Galliano (with whom she unsuccessfully competed to become Design Director of Dior in the mid-90s), Alexander McQueen and Jean-Paul Gaultier, many of whom restructured Vivienne’s original concepts, such as the corset and bustle, to be more commercially successful.
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