BHS A/W 2011/12 – Prepare to be amazed!

If, like me, the name BHS conjures up an image of cosy old British Home Stores, with its wardrobe especially designed with Nan in mind, large white labels in the back of the clothes and acres and acres of crimplene, then you are going to be seriously amazed by the contents of this post. BHS is back,and this time round it is a very modern emporium full of stylish togs that will have your friends gasping ‘That’s from BHS?’

I got my first look at the Autumn/Winter BHS collection at The Regents Lofts on Wednesday (along with Sir Philip Green, who was just inches from me…oh!the aura!).  The look has a distinctly retro feel, think the 1970s by way of Faye Dunaway and Ali McGraw rather than Slade and the Sweet. This is the 1970s giving a sartorial nod to the 1930s goddesses Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich. Wide leg trousers, fur accents on collars and cuffs, glamorous stoles and tippets thrown  over stylish day wear. Beautiful sheer and patterned blouses with pussycat bow necklines were another key feature of the look.

There are  looks towards other decades as well. 1960s style patterned tunics in a variety of fabrics looked great teamed with floppy fedora style hats and long goldtone necklaces. One particularly strong look teamed a 1960s style two-tone tunic/dress with black trousers for a neat sharp look. Although the tunic was very ‘Twiggy’, you felt that by teaming it with trousers it could be worn by a slightly older fashionista – hence retaining loyalty to its British Home Stores roots.

Where this collection was particularly strong was in  its accessories. A great range of boxy, ladylike handbags, floppy hats and lace up heeled shoes complimented the clothing perfectly. The jewellery also had some standout pieces too, in its  array of long necklaces that could be layered to great effect.

BhS are not forgetting their basics.They have a stunning range of knitwear in a whole spectrum of colours that will please all customers, and a range of winter coats that will appeal to all tastes. But with this new Sophie Grey range of stylish separates, they have a range that will rival any High Street store for fashion-forward clothing. And that is quite an achievement for a High Street sleeping giant.

Theoni V Aldredge – The Great Gatsby and Laura Mars

Costume designer Theoni V Aldredge died last week. The name may not be instantly recognisable to 21st century audiences, but this lady was responsible for the fabulous costumes in some of the most stylish and iconic films of the 1970s, Network, The Rose, The Eyes of Laura Mars, and, most famously, The Great Gatsby.

The 1974 version of the Great Gatsby was a beautiful failure. Many felt that the leads of Robert Redford and Mia Farrow were totally miscast, and the great things expected of the film failed to materialise. But the costumes designed for this film are another story completely. Theoni V Aldredge was the designer of the stunning and influential costumes for this film. She turned the roar of the 1920s into the romance of the era of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Jay Gatsby. Wide brimmed hats, lace edged dresses in acres of chiffon and voile, floaty scarves and soft focus colours made the film a visual feast for fashion fans everywhere. Mia Farrow in her Daisy Buchanan costumes, was totally unrecognisable from the gamine waif of Rosemary’s baby. The costumes were so beautiful that Aldredge was awarded both an Oscar and a British Academy award for her work, and Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan adapted the costumes into a successful clothing line sold exclusively in their stores.

But Aldredge’s talent wasn’t limited to whimsical romantic looks. Some of her best work was producing designs for the actress Faye Dunaway in two classic 1970s films. The first of these was Network. She created Faye a smart and stylish career women’s wardrobe. This was full of sophisticated blouses, skirts and trousers in muted shades of brown/beige and cream. This look has proven to be timeless, with similar style in High Street stores as I write.

The second Faye Dunaway film that Aldredge designed for was the amazing campy, high gloss classic, ‘The eyes of Laura Mars’. This is one of my most beloved style movies. Faye plays a fashion photographer in this film, and the costumes are simply fabulous. This is late 70s glamour at its finest, pussy cat bow blouses, capes, silks and prints and fedoras. Many fashion designers have cited this film as an influence for their designs, including, most recently, Marios Schwab for his Autumn/Winter 2010 collection for Halston. Linda Evangelista and Raquel Zimmerman recreated the style of this movie in V magazine in 2008. A film oddity, but a fashion triumph, ‘The Eyes of Laura Mars’ has a fabulous style all of its own.

V magazine

The Rose is the final iconic film of the 1970s that Aldredge was costume designer for. This is the story of a Janis Joplin type singer on the road to self-destruction. She was played by the glorious Bette Midler, in the role of her life, and the costumes have the feel of a boho with a smattering of glitz. Think Courtney Love on a really good day. I love the clothes in this movie, with Bette in fine form with her Carrie Bradshaw curls.

The work of Theoni V Aldredge deserves to be remembered as one of the costume design greats. Thirty plus years on, her work in these films is as fresh and vibrant and relevant as ever.

Get the Faye Dunaway 1970s look at Dorothy Perkins