modecast – first edition

The first edition of Modecast was an unqualified success. For an exclusive audience of about 20 individuals, Barima and I proceeded to knock back a bottle of very fine whisky and talk style and culture, as we do. If you missed it, you can watch the recording…

Watch live streaming video from modecast at

Topics we covered…

  • This edition’s intro – “Everybody Dance” by Chic.
  • This edition’s official drink – Gordon & McPhail Single Malt Scotch Whisky, neat. Drunk from coffee mugs and chased with Tesco sparkling lemonade.
  • Straight Talk – we discuss a New York Times article about post-metrosexual straight male fashion bloggers.
  • Jake Davis Blog – we like what this dude is doing.
  • Christopher McDonnell – a 1970s London fashion designer that we know nothing about, other than we like his white suit.
  • Coco Chanel 1969 interview translation – sometimes when you can’t find something on Google, you can ask a friend to post about it for you. This is a revealing treat, thanks Lucie!
  • London in Ruins by Gustave Doré – discovered in this book.
  • Another Garçon – shout out to fashion blog friend and street style photographer Jonathan who was a very active contributor to the show.
  • The Style Blogger – referenced on the topic of standard street style poses for men.
  • Hedi Slimane at YSL – Slimane’s earlier work was gutsy and unusual and worth a long later look.
  • Joe Orton – a gay playwright famous for black comedy and taking on taboos, who died tragically.
  • Pan-Africanism – we briefly touch on greater ideas before reverting back to frivolity.
  • Toe to Type – we attempt to discuss inappropriate toe shapes for men before completely dissolving into our cups.
  • This edition’s outro – “Life’s What You Make It” by Talk Talk.

We had a lot of fun and having reviewed the footage, have some ideas of how we could improve for the second edition. We also thank you for your participation and welcome your comments and suggestions. We’d like to do this about once a month, so please stand by and join us next time.

introducing – modecast

Want to have a drink and hang out with me and Barima of Mode Parade? We will be talking culture and style, live, on our new modecast channel on Sunday, January 29 at 9pm GMT/4pm EST. Please feel free to ask questions for us to address on the broadcast. Just email your bit to Of course we also invite you to watch and join the discussion live by chat, twitter or facebook.

This edition’s topics include cocktails, theme songs, straight male fashion bloggerstoe shapes for men, and whether makeovers are somehow disingenuous, etc.

This is just something we’re doing for low-fidelity fun, and depending on how well we do it may become a recurring feature. As this is the first time we’ve ever attempted this, we expect to be a little bit lost and somewhat tipsy. Your attendance, patience, and contributions will be most welcome.


toe to type

What connects a head to a toe? The human being in between. They say that you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their shoes, and leading that line of thought is the shape of the toe.

Pointed toes still carry connotations of aristocracy. The French Revolution all but ended the era of men wearing pointed pumps. Men renounced fashion and leisure and adopted more practical clothing that emphasized the worthiness of work. As such, the pointed toe – like most features that are considered more fashionable than practical – is considered the most feminine toe shape.

The only time pointed toes are considered masculine in modernity is when they are equestrian – the classic cowboy boot’s point is meant to make sliding into stirrups simpler. It’s indicative that points are better for riding than walking.

Off the saddle, the pointed toe is the most impractical. It crushes the toes together and causes health problems. The extension to the length of the foot leaves the toe vulnerable to wear – pointed toes only really look good fresh out of the box. They’re not for working in, in either sense. Today they are considered the domain of high-maintenance women and dandified men. Points really offend some people.

Economically, pointed toes tend to come into fashion when times are good, perhaps too good. In 20th century, points were in vogue at the turn, and again in the 20s, the 50s and 60s, and the 80s.

Points are about extremes – a shoe celebrating individuality, materialism, hierachy and sexual distinctions – they symbolize conservative values without being conservative about it.

Round toe shoes, on the other foot, are proletariat. Round toes are for working in, in both senses. If you look on any menswear forum, the overwhelming consensus is that a round toe is the only sartorially acceptable, masculine choice. Any other toe is considered too try-hard for modern man.

The military boot, the trainer, the ballet flat – the round toes are task-driven by design, but well-rounded in terms of versatility. Being the most practical shoe, they’re common in all senses of the word and worn by ordinary people by default, whatever the trends of the time happen to be. They’re as ubiquitous as Ugg5 and Cr0cs. Still, they’re just as almost as abstract a shape as points or squares, not echoing anatomy. Anatomically-inspired footwear that echoes the bare foot – shoes with articulated toes or thong sandals – are considered either very casual or very weird.

Round toes tend to be popular in hard times – in the 20th century they were worn in the 30s, 40s, 70s, and late 90s. They remain the most current style at the present moment, despite occasional glossy proclamations that round is over, points have failed to gain much more than a niche toehold in this century.

Square toes occupy a bizarre middle ground. Perhaps the least anatomical of all shoe points, they seem to exist in the neither-world between the binary of round and pointed.

Henry VIII is the most famous square-toed king, and favoured a look considered sporty at the time. The blunt foot was a reaction to the Medieval popularity of super-extreme pointed shoes after they were banned by Henry IV. By the time of Good King Hal the square toe was almost as ridiculous as the preceding “Poulaine” points – “bear paws” or “bags” described shoes that could be as wide as 6″ at the toe.

The other famous square toe – the pilgrim’s buckled shoe – is a modern myth. When the Mayflower made its trans-Atlantic voyage in 1620, buckles on shoes were unknown (in London, Pepys’ diary records his own adoption of buckles in 1660) and what evidence exists of what the pilgrims wore indicates that the men wore round shoes and the women wore points.

More recently, square toes were briefly trendy in the late 1980s and early 1990s – which is where they acquired that lingering taint of distaste reserved for too-recent fads. Today, wearing square toes reveals that you are either unaware, or don’t care about fashion. They seem to be considered acceptable to wear in middle-class offices. Perhaps more so so in places like the civil service where employees are reluctant to wear their personal politics on their sleeves – or their feet.

The square toe represents equivocation or hegemony. It is a style non-statement.

Personally, I have always worn round toes my entire life, and own just one pair of almond-shaped toes which have as much of a point as I can handle. What do you wear?

click click – 25-01-12

Welcome to click click, the sporadic review of what I find worth clicking on the internet.

Aren’t these costume caricatures wonderful? Check out these waltzers. There’s loads of them, and more – on this page full of treasures.

All the latest karma can be seen on the promenade…

Moda Uomo fall 2012 sketchbook

Moda Uomo was my first fashion week this year. It was also my first time in Milan, and I thought that perhaps the menswear week would be a little bit calmer and easier to penetrate than Moda Donna. Milan intimidates me, to be honest. It seems very corporate and not as indie-blogger-friendly as other cities, and my Italian is non-existent. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these fears were, if not unfounded, unnecessary, as I picked up five invitations in Milan just for the trouble of asking.

My first show was Corneliani – the morning was chilly and we got off at the wrong bus stop so we hustled through frosty streets to get to the venue – a design museum. The runway was one of the longest I’ve ever seen and curved, with watery blue projections along the curved wall. The clothing was very clean and careful, grey clusters of grown-up wool suits and handsome, substantial bags.

I have to admit that during Frankie Morello, I was so distracted by the show I forgot to draw it. I love seeing showmanship (literally) on the runway – it’s too rare. Morello sent out punky clubbers bristling with nails and fur and cool downtown boys in beanies, which gradually relaxed into hippie-dudes with bindis and sarongs. For the finale the model’s sarong hung dangerously low until it was dropped with a flourish. Morello literally had the entire crowd leaning forward in their seats and practically salivating. Now that’s runway.

The John Varvatos show was another highlight. Inside a shabby church with chipped plaster and a faded painted angels on the walls and ceiling, they reproduced a bit of Central Park and sent down a series of exquisite New-York-style imaginary boyfriends. I loved drawing this show. The other fun part of this show was getting to sit with the team from Holt Renfrew and for the first time having the opportunity to introduce myself to a Canadian fashion inspiration, Barb Atkin. I was not expecting to see a familiar face in Milan, so this made me smile.

Iceberg had a modern-times backdrop and a bit of Charlie Chaplin rumpled flair. Bowler hats tipped-back, big cardigans and hands in pleated pants-pockets. As a proposal for menswear it was charming – but somehow it didn’t inspire my best work. Perhaps because I switched to markers from watercolours at this point, I was still getting a handle on a new medium.

The final show, Gazzarrini, was the show that was perhaps the most peculiar. It doesn’t take much in menswear to cross over from interesting to implausible. If I met someone wearing these clothes in real life, I would find this person a somewhat strange character. Pin curl pompadours, funnel necks, very high-waisted trousers, and a pop-o-flouro palette.

As usual, you can see the development of sketching over the course of the week – stiffer at Corneliani and very loose and abstract by Gazzarrini.

I did find my first menswear week to be much more chilled out than any womenswear week I’ve attended – perhaps giving a taste of what fashion weeks were like in the pre-blogger days. I saw only a small handful of street style photographers and met only a couple other bloggers – though of course the shows I attended were not the hottest tickets. It did feel like there was space for everyone that wanted to be there. And of course, the people-watching was wonderful – folks were well-dressed and well-groomed, and there were very few show-ponies.

live runway sketch – John Varvatos Fall 2012


My whirlwind tour of Italy  is concluded, and I’m sifting through a pile of sketches at my desk now. To place-hold while I catch up, here is the most successful live sketch, completed while the show was in session. John Varvatos presented a lineup of New York rock-star crush objects which seemed to inspire some of my better work.

what’s in my bag – sketching in Milan

Guess what? I am going to Moda Uomo in Milan. I feel like I’ve finally perfected my fashion week packing, so I thought I’d add another entry to the old “what’s in your bag” meme. Because it’s a sketching trip, studio supplies take precedence over clothes. I try to fit everything in a small suitcase, so as a small person I can get around on my own.

Studio Supplies

  • watercolour paper
  • watercolour field box
  • squeezy brushes
  • pencils, sharpener, eraser
  • markers
  • marker paper
  • notebook
  • small tablet
  • scanner
  • various chargers & USB cords

Clothes & Such

  • makeup & toiletries
  • red & blue plaid skirt
  • blazer
  • 5 tank tops (blue & white striped, black, white, red, blue)
  • white henley shirt
  • 2 buttoned shirts (blue and white)
  • 2 cardigans (red and blue)
  • navy blue brogues
  • packable windbreaker
  • sequinned scarf
  • small red handbag
  • black leggings

In My Satchel

  • Macbook Pro
  • Moleskine diary
  • Italian/English dictionary
  • “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen (Christmas gift)
  • iPod & headphones
  • camera

What I’m Wearing Today

  • jeans
  • leather belt
  • black Dr. Martens boots
  • black tank top
  • black buttoned shirt
  • black hoodie
  • red printed scarf
  • blue coat
  • white toque


red dress blue dress

Every woman should have a red dress and a blue dress. When you put on a dress in one of these colours, you’re not just putting on a dress. You’re putting on centuries of cultural coding. You’re activating feminine archetypes. You’re signalling.

Red and blue have stories that should be told together – I highly recommend this book if you can find it in the library.

The Virgin Mary – as pictured by Da Vinci above, has been dressed consistently in blue for most of modernity. Her image is so ubiquitous, she is the reason why blue invokes virginity, purity, loyalty and nurturing. The Virgin Mary represents a real female who was chosen to play a supernatural role – and she’s not the only heroine who takes that path.

Mary Magdalene, on the right in a painting by Caravaggio, is traditionally depicted in red. Her story is complicated and confusing, and not much is known about her. Her account of the resurrection was mistrusted because she was a woman. A mysterious and mystical figure who was close to the saviour at the end of his life, she also carries associations with prostitution and carnality. In Christianity, blue is heavenly, and red is earthy.

Lewis Carroll’s character Alice is always pictured in blue – here in the Tim Burton incarnation. The colour is appropriate for a virginal character who is on a curious journey.

Another Tim Burton character from the movie Beetlejuice, Lydia, always dresses in black – except for the wedding scene. It’s an unholy, unwanted marriage. This scene in particular enthralled and terrified me as a child, and the dress is a vivid memory.

Another classic children’s story with a blue-clad heroine is Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. In a land of vivid colours (the original Baum books were full of tripped-out colour symbolism), Dorothy is a real girl lost in a fantasy world just like Alice. The similarity of their iconic dresses is pretty striking.

Nothing says “showgirl” like a red dress – and this slit-up-to-there example worn by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell to sing “Two Little Girls from Little Rock” in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is another indelible cinema memory of mine. This is a movie about best female friends, seeking money, love and adventure.

Thanks to Rachel, I got to see The Iron Lady yesterday (excellent film) and was fascinated with the very deliberate costuming. Streep’s Thatcher dresses in blue for the entire film – even glimpses into her closet show a rail full of various shades of blue. The only exception is when she loses the support of her party, she is dressed in red.

The screening we saw was put on by a group that promotes Conservative women running for office, and there was a very interesting, very capital-C panel afterwards with Thatcher’s biographer, a couple of male colleagues, and a female contemporary. The red/blue dichotomy was even visible on the panel, with the more moderate panelists wearing red dresses or ties and the more conservative panelists dressed in straight up blue.

… it reminded me of another conservative politician who very visibly adopted a red leather motorcycle jacket – Sarah Palin. Palin often wears red jackets – they suit her role as a ‘maverick’ rebel. (But with a charm bracelet, for real?) Ultimately, she has ended up being a polarizing figure who hasn’t been able to inspire – or demonstrate – loyalty.

The political connotations of these two colours are so prevalent, whether a politician wears one or the other is a significant signal.

True blue, on the other hand, is fecund with fidelity. Kate Middleton’s selection of a blue dress to announce her engagement probably wasn’t chosen simply because it compliments her natural colouring. Of all the blue dresses in the world, this was the one that dominated 2011.

Blue is a queenly colour – Marie Antoinette famously favoured it. In Coppola’s film version, the character of Du Barry the King’s mistress wore red by contrast. Another would-be queen who literally lent her name to a shade of blue? Wallis Simpson.

There are no fashion designers who have claimed the blue dress as their own – but red dresses belong to Valentino. Did you know that studies show that red dresses actually do draw more male attention? It might not be a cultural thing as much as a biological one. Red also creates banging brands, whether you’re Coca Cola or Valentino.

Walt Disney loved heroines in blue and his version of Cinderella is no exception. The fairy-godmother makeover comes complete with a classic blue princess gown to win over Prince Charming. Minnie Mouse, on the other hand, wears red.

“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way,” says Jessica Rabbit. It’s true – that painted-on red dress she wears makes it hard to picture her as a good girl, even if she is. When wearing red or blue, it is good to be aware of the messages these colours send, because if you’re mixing messages it is better to do it with intention.

If you’ve ever doubted the capacity of clothing to transform, just try on a red or blue dress and see what kind of heroine you can be. The best part is, we can have both in our closets.

in a condescending fashion

Fashion is the Cinderella industry. A cultural step-child – part media, part manufacturing. Part art, all commerce. It’s true – fashion doesn’t save lives – but why shouldn’t it be afforded the same respect afforded to other creative industries like music, film, or literature? Unlike most creative industries, fashion also arguably qualifies as a universal necessity. Yet it is routinely dismissed, usually by people who wear clothing.

One of the most poignant takeaways from The September Issue documentary was the visible frustration that Anna Wintour revealed, when she spoke of how her family doesn’t take her work seriously. It’s ridiculous that the most powerful woman in fashion is placed in a defensive position so frequently.

As Wintour said last year

When women are in positions of power, and they’re featured in a women’s magazine like Vogue…they tend to be incredibly unfairly criticized. It’s an incredibly old-fashioned approach. Just because you’re in a position of power, and you look good and you enjoy fashion — does that mean you’re an idiot, or that it’s not seemly to be in a woman’s magazine? If a man is in GQ, they don’t get the same kind of criticism.

Deeply rooted cultural sexism is bad enough, but the greater irony is that fashion is frequently dismissed by feminists too. I recently found this fascinating video on sexism and friendship via Rachel. It did a great job of explaining to me how sexism is endemic within our language – how words with female associations are used as insults, for instance. These ideas go a long way to explaining to me why my “feminine” industry suffers from so much condescension. Then, at the end of the video during the question period, one of the professors, with apparent lack of self-awareness, advised her audience not to befriend women who were concerned with, to use her word, “frivolity”.

It occasionally happens to me too, and maybe you. You meet someone, explain what you do, and you instantly feel their respect for you evaporate. All of your accomplishments are reduced to mere “frivolity”. These snap judgements are often made by otherwise clever, educated, articulate people. For an intelligent person who works hard enough to enjoy some success in a competitive sector, it is maddening to be treated like you’re dumb by your contemporaries. It’s not like, when discovering someone is a journalist, you automatically assume they are an unscrupulous hack. But if you’re in fashion, the odd time you are put in the position of having to prove you aren’t a brainless bimbo… or a bitch.

Fashion is just as integral to human culture as any other creative industry. Sure, it’s just as corrupt as the rest of them. And yes, it has its fair share of mediocre players too. Still, music, art and narrative occasionally transcend, and so does fashion. Fashion people can be just as brilliant as they are beautiful – and their greatest creations play significant – and often unrecognized – roles in human history.

If you don’t understand or appreciate fashion, it would be nice if you could admit your ignorance instead of being condescending. Don’t bother trying to out-snob us. ;)

click click – 04-01-12

Welcome to click click, the sporadic review of what I find worth clicking on the internet.

Attitude icon and former Canadian prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. In three words, “just watch me.”

Happy new karma for keeps, peeps –

  • Spoonful of Justice – these kids mashed up my paper dolls to create cutlery themed superheroes. This made me smile! I love seeing people use paper dolls as they were meant to be used – for playing with.
  • Men’s Flair – Winston Chesterfield makes “A Case for Fashion Illustration”.
  • Travel Write Draw – I adore discovering that my blog archives are inspiring to other fashion illustrators, and that sharing my experiences is helping others overcome their own post-grad anxiety.
  • Wendy Ding – it’s amazing to me to see someone not only take inspiration from my blog, but take action. Well done on a banner year, Wendy!
  • Love At First Blush – Sabrina was top of the class at my fashion school, I love seeing what she’s working on now.
  • the stairs magazine – “a collage of words, looks, quirks and pics”
  • Styled Silhouettes – “Don’t say a word, let your clothes do the talking!”
  • Fits & Starts Vintage – “repeated bursts of activity”