First-job salaries can present problems when you’re not used to juggling the rent around a new skirt or sweater. But there are ways—as you’ll see on these pages—of looking not just good, but positively great on a tight budget. Learn the rules of the “looking-good-on-a-little” game . . . remember that one pair of pants at £10+ will outlive two pairs that split whenever you sit down; that washable fabrics mean you’ll have no cleaning bills. Learn how to bleach and dye, starch and press properly—so you’ll be able to match vest tops and T-shirts to your new longer flowery skirts and keep them looking fresh. Invest in beautiful leather shoes: they last and look good if polished every day. Spend more on accessories —sometimes—than a new dress. Build your wardrobe around two or three colours—as crazy as you like—and find jolly extras to pull it all together. . . . This may be the summer you always wear a hat. Here is my choice of nine outfits . . . chic, very wearable and all cheap at the price. That’s fashion knowhow.
Thought I’d treat you all to my new favourite in the legendary series of Smirnoff adverts. As today is my birthday, and we’re still in lockdown, a recreation of this will have to take place at home tonight rather than on holiday as I’d hoped. Cheers!
Contessa Luciana Martinez dela Rosa and Kevin Whitney, Esquire don’t sound like your average suburban couple. So it’s not sur-prising that they don’t live like one. And unless you share their passion for flea market decor, feathers around as well as under the bed, lace curtains that make for romantic gloom, and a bed that is bigger and obviously better used than the kitchen, you might not fancy their life-style either. You cannot but admire it, though. This talented couple clearly thrive in the hot-house atmosphere; they are not married, though Kevin couldn’t be more domestic : “He’s the cleaning lady,” says Luciana firmly. Better still, he also does the cooking.
Kevin, a painter, has exhibited in Turin and New York, as well as in London; his pictures are in a vivid, realistic style which fetch approximately £1,500 each. The subject is, as often as not, Luciana; her portrait, ranging from life- to poster-size, is the focal point of every room.
Luciana designs in beads which she makes into shimmering mermaid hats, wigs and exquisite pictures. She also draws in a strong style of her own. “Kevin works in oils, I work in pastels,” she explains. Two people with such a definite life-style clearly have a great deal in common. Kevin says: “We’re each other’s best inspiration.”
Luciana, as the model-in-residence, can pose at a moment’s notice; her walk-in wardrobe of flea market and second-hand clothes is hung in racks with gloves, scarves and hats carefully arranged on top. Black stockings tangle with lace shawls on the testers of the brass bed. “I wear black or red, turquoise in the summer, and when I’m tanned I’ll wear my purple silk Scarlett O’Hara crinoline gown. I like feathers and poppies in my hair, adore hats, and ‘Thirties satin nightgowns, but I don’t bother with underwear.”
Each room is carefully arranged around its use. Luciana’s museum of clothes forms a shifting collage in the blood-red bed-room (Kevin says: “She woke up one morning and said I’m going red—I got up a ladder . . . and we did”). They have a studio each and the materials of their work are laid out in patterns. On one wall is pinned the front page of the Daily Express showing them making a stylish entrance to an Andy Warhol party.
Everywhere there are notes, scraps and photographs of their almost equally decorative friends; David Bowie, for instance, who is a chum as well as patron. A shell on a shelf, the placing of a peacock feather, the way a length of silk is thrown over a lamp makes a statement. Even when claustrophobia sets in, the eye is caught by new ways of presenting objects. The flat has been put together on a modest budget; Woolworth’s kitsch co-exists with arts deco and nouveau. Nothing costs more than a few pounds, except for the bed which cost £50.
Although Luciana explains the enclosed atmosphere (the lace that keeps out the views of West London) with the remark that she doesn’t much like the world outside, there are times when they long to escape the trendy gloom and clutter. Then they go. He to New York or Italy, she to the Seychelles. Says Luciana: “I need some tropicality in my life. When I’m away I love the out-doors, riding a motor-bike, lying in the sun. But I always come home . . .” Home is where the dust is, even for this exotic pair.
Oh to be out of England now that April’s here, and whether you are planning on Majorca, the far-flung Bahamas or the Isle of Wight this year, now is the best time to shop for holiday clothes. And having just stepped out of a QANTAS jet that took Cosmo island-hopping via Bermuda to the Bahamas, I have a slight tan and a strong feeling that summer’s fashions will be as refreshing, bittersweet and highly coloured as that tropical drink, Planter’s Punch.
Oh to be anywhere but home, quite frankly. I shall have to recreate these styles on the balcony and dream of even going as far as the Isle of Wight…
All jewellery by Adrien Mann. Fashion by Deirdre McSharry.