A Rose by any other frock

Wed, Aug 15, 2012, 01:00

It’s Rose of Tralee time again and young women from around the world will be in town, but must they go all shiny prom chic with a hint of early ‘Dynasty’?

FOR THOSE OF YOU suffering from post-Olympics comedown, wondering what you’ll do with yourselves, your weekday evenings and your TV remotes, you can rejoice at the news that, in five short days, your screens will once again come alive for the 53rd annual Rose of Tralee competition, hosted by the inimitable Daithí Ó Sé.

The festival claims to “bring young women of Irish descent around the world to Co Kerry, Ireland, for a global celebration of Irish culture”, but that hasn’t prevented dissenters from accusing it of sexism, objectifying women and good old-fashioned misogyny. Really, the Rose of Tralee is a good old-fashioned beauty pageant, featuring lovely girls in lovely frocks being lovely to each other, to their escorts and, crucially, to their mammies. What it is not, more to the point, is an exhibition of style.

And why not? Surely young women eager to impress Daithí (and, of course, a rapt audience sitting at home, a viewership that peaked in 2010 at almost a million) would be keen to gussy up and, as their mammies might say, “look your best”.

Au contraire: it would seem contestants are stuck in a 1990s time where satin is more plentiful than running water and “shiny prom chic with a hint of early Dynasty” is the dress code. The true irony, of course, is that the millennium-era Roses had more style about them – pastel suits an’ all – than the current batch could muster up if their lives depended on it.

This year, we can expect to see at least two Gone With the Wind-inspired looks – full skirt and sweetheart neckline, as demonstrated by last year’s Down Rose, Gemma Murphy. At least one – if not five – Roses will turn up in embellished dresses and think themselves very edgy for straying off the path of block-coloured satin. Bonus points for Irish dancing in said dress, à la 2011’s Leitrim Rose, Martha Gilheaney. At least one – thank you, Roisin Mulligan, 2008’s Texas Rose – will turn up in novelty headgear, and another will opt for something slightly Oriental to show her worldly spirit, in the style of 2008 winner, Aoife Kelly, from Tipperary.

The crucial point is, of course, that the Rose of Tralee is not a beauty pageant, and therefore, looks don’t matter. You could turn up in a black sack, as long as you have a decent talent. Hang on, you don’t need a talent? Well, then . . . better look pretty.

READER QUERIES

Don’t get bogged down in the fashion-blogger mist

This isn’t really a query about clothes, but I’m going into fifth year in school and I really want to get into fashion. I read loads of fashion blogs such as Style Bubble, Fashiontoast, Bryanboy and Whisty, but I don’t read a lot of magazines because I don’t have very much pocket money. On a very small budget, what would you say are must-buys? I like ‘Glamour’ because they have good freebies but I find ‘Vogue’ a bit boring.

Lisa, by email

Lisa, while your list of blogs you read is impressive (although, I’m sure, not exhaustive), you are missing one crucial blog; The Irish Times itself, clever newspaper that it is, has a fabulous blog at irishtimes.com/blogs/fash-mob/ that covers fashion editorials, lookbooks, news and so much more. Not to be missed.

Joking (I swear) aside, fashion blogs are a great place to start, but you risk being bogged down in the “fashion blogger” mist, where you can’t see the wood for the free Isabel Marant jackets, and hours can be spent appreciating and absorbing people’s style, without gaining much of any worth in terms of fashion knowledge itself.

To that end, I’d suggest having a broader look at the internet – New York magazine’s Cut blog at nymag.comis excellent, as is WhoWhatWear.com. If you have $129 (€105), subscribing to Womens Wear Daily at wwd.comis money well spent (and, when you think about it, only around €10 a month) and will provide all you’ll ever need in fashion news. Refinery29.comis another goody, with regular (at times too regular – you’d need almost a whole day to get through it) posts on fashion and beauty trends.

In terms of good old-fashioned magazines, it’s really a matter of personal taste. I love Elle magazine, but if you’re on a restricted budget, give the monthly magazine a miss and save up for the twice-yearly Elle Collections, which is a stunning feat of design, layout and carefully edited catwalk reports. Glamour has really impressive fashion shoots, but its reality-TV leanings can be a little much, while Vogue is aesthetically beautiful, but a lot of its articles improve when taken with a generous pinch of salt.

Irish magazines are often better value for money, and you’ll get an important look at what’s going on on home turf – try Stellar for some very pretty, fresh shoots. And don’t forget to look at the weekend newspapers; they often showcase great Irish talent at a fraction of the price of a hefty glossy, and I hear from a reliable source that The Irish Times’s weekend Magazine is really quite good.

Dark wash, €35 at Marks Spencer ( marksandspencer.ie)

Aioki jeans, €328.42 by J Brand at My-Wardrobe.com

Thinking vintage for a unique take on debs dressing

I’ve been invited to a friend’s debs in October and I’m finding it really hard to get a nice dress. I don’t want anything prommy or wedding-y . . . I’d love something vintage or vintage-style, but I don’t want to spend more than €150 as I’ll have to buy shoes as well. I’m a size 10-12 and only 5ft 2in, so I don’t want anything too long, either, as it will swamp me.

Róis, by email

Before I get into the sartorial nitty-gritty, a word of warning; if you have been invited to the debs of a “friend” (and yes, I know it’s 2012), be sure that you have the lines of your relationship well defined. It won’t matter how nice your dress is if he’s confessing his undying – and unrequited – love to you before you’ve even got to dessert.

1 Matters of the heart aside, this taffeta number by RED Valentino (£140 at harveynichols.com) is about as prommy as things get, with a distinctly 1984 twist. The length will be great on you and, though you’ll fall into the block colour category, you won’t slot into the shiny satin brigade. Coral is a great shade, too, and will look really punchy; team it with some gaudy costume jewellery and a pair of chunky wedges so you don’t come over too prissy.

2 This banana-print dress – $99.99 (€81) plus shipping from $8 (€6.48) – or $21 (€17) for overnight delivery) by US online store Modcloth.comis a great bit for something that’s vintage-inspired and oh-so different. It’s bright, bold and brash – in all the right ways. Team yours with a messy beehive and a red (or pink) lip and a pair of black espadrille wedges for a modern take on 1950s glamour.

3 Another option is Retro in the George’s Street Arcade, which stocks a range of vintage-inspired dresses that are made to vintage patterns in a huge variety of colours and prints. They have cute, sweetheart necklines and full skirts (great for dancing) and look especially brilliant paired with a bright, tulle underskirt. This one is €150.

If you fancy going properly vintage, you have a long trawl ahead of you – vintage dresses are notoriously difficult to get exactly right, so you’ll need to do a lot of trying. Harlequin in Dublin’s Castle Market has a huge selection, but it is pricey, for vintage. Shutterbug in Kilkenny ( shutterbug.ie) has a range of vintage slips that look great worn as dresses with as many long (faux) pearl strands as you can pile around your neck. Just make sure your undies are nude or you wear your slip with, er, another slip beneath it, lest all eyes are on you in a very wrong way.

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