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Entries in fairy-tale (32)


Alice Blue

I’ve had a very strange and surreal May, so to celebrate it I’m sharing Annie Leibovitz’s beautiful photoshoot inspired by Alice in Wonderland, for US Vogue’s December 2003 issue.

Natalia Vodianova models unique gowns by eleven designers, each of whom appear on the pages with her as different characters from Lewis Carroll’s famous story, which I have loved since I was a child. The gowns are wonderfully imaginative, not surprisingly all rendered in the blue made famous by Disney’s animated film. It is one of my favourite shades of blue.

The book was written in 1865, and it has stood the test of time, inspiring so many – from children whose imaginations are sparked by this magical tale, to Hollywood master storytellers.

Scroll down and be transported along with Alice. (Don’t forget you can click on the images for larger versions.)


The Other Green Fairy

Shamrock green (not to be confused with shagreen, which is rough, untanned sharkskin) – otherwise also known as forest green. Or even emerald. But what’s in a name? It is a lovely shade of viridian (that is blue-green to you layfolk who never opened a tube of viridian oil paint).

Once upon a time leprechauns were depicted wearing red, not green, but now of course they are associated with St Patrick’s Day and Ireland’s national colour, green. According to folklore, a leprechaun is the son of an evil spirit and a degenerate fairy, and is not wholly good or evil (does this mean there are no leprechaunettes?). What an origin though! How would you live that down?

The leprechaun spends his time making shoes (my kind of good fairy), and his favourite pastime is counting his gold coins that are usually stored in a pot at the end of the rainbow. One account of the etymology of his name originates in depictions of the leprechaun working on one shoe – a brogue. I like to tie mine with peach silk ribbon, and if the eyelets weren’t so narrow I would have switched to green just for today.

Happy St Patrick’s Day, Irish!


Read more about Irish ó ceallaigh green here


Bird of Prey

Out of the murky dark
flies the bird of prey
black wings swooping—hark!
Do you hear its fearsome cry?

It turns on feathered pinion
soaring high, gliding low
surveying its dominion
and giving voice to woe.

While you are sleeping
its claws are ever reaching
so pray for angels’ keeping
lest death you will be reaping.


Watch out for those ghosts and ghoulies on this night of frights! And birds of prey of course. Or, perhaps more aptly, watch out for stomachaches from too much candy.

I had such fun creating this picture. It was not originally intended for a Halloween story at all however. While looking through my suitcase of props, on a whim I pulled a golden mask out to play with. Highly reflective and with such flat planes, it was quite menacing on, I realised – especially with such narrow slits for eyes that accentuate the whites. And so the idea of the Bird of Prey was hatched.

A pair of black wings and my amazingly versatile (who’d have thought?) vintage 80s gold foil rah-rah skirt complete the costume. The tiers flap up and down in the most fearsome way too, though the most important aspect of my bird of prey is physicality. Leaning into the camera, hunching the shoulders and crooking fingers to resemble grasping talons help create a sinister mood.

In the end it was quite difficult to choose my favourite scary picture, so check out the Out-takes & Extras gallery for more.

Have fun on your Hallowed Eve!


Big Hats for Little People

I never imagined this red velvet 1920s hat would be so versatile when I bought it. It’s a cloche. It’s a Phrygian cap. It’s a gnome’s sugarloaf. And I don’t mean a miniature sweetbread baked by apple-cheeked little girl gnomes – the sugarloaf is anything but petite.

A sugarloaf is simply a pointed hat, and such headwear has been worn by a wide variety of cultures – including the gnomic of course – throughout history. It has landed atop the heads of whirling dervishes, been a travelling cap in Ancient Greece, a 15th century Burgundian noblewoman’s headdress of choice, a samurai’s ceremonial hat, the chapeaux of aristocratic kazaori eboshi, a dunce cap (because it stimulated learning in the 14th century), and the anointed, pointed sugarloaf of many a religious figure, from popes to Ottoman Janissaries.

And today it’s a gnome’s hat. How appropriate that it came from a milliner in Convent Garden.

In my research on girl gnomes I came across innumerable grotesqueries and countless kitsch tchotchkes, so here I am redressing the balance and shooting for cute. The silk embroidered blouse is vintage 1940s; the hat and apron are both relics of the 1920s; the 90s taffeta skirt comes out of my costume box (finally it has a use!); and the tooled red leather slippers are souvenirs I bought in Morocco. Cute, and just a little bit sweet.


A Found Fairytale

There is something magical about beaded slippers. They are the shoes that princesses of faraway lands in fairy-tales wear. And this is a tale of Lost & Found long ago.

It was 1999 when these particular magical beaded slippers came into being in the house of Gucci, as though a fairy cobbler named Tom Ford simply waved his magic wand and – poof! – there they were. An Australian girl, not so much a princess, saw them in a magazine and swooned. Of course they were far beyond the reach of her humble purse, so she merely sighed and flipped the page.

That is, until she saw black and white copies – just as though they had leapt joyfully from the page and into her life – in the shoe store Mollini. They weren’t quite the same: the little heels were black satin rather than a contrasting blue, and there was no delicate sling back strap. There was a red and white pair too, but she decided she much prefered the classic black and white: they looked more Art Deco. So she reached deep into her credit card and carefully counted out the coins. She paid for the magical beaded slippers and took them home with her, where they lived happily ever after.

The End.

Click on image for larger version