Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Let's talk about men!

James Dean in a fringed jacket

I do keep my promises. They just come late. So, here is the article about handsome boys and heartbreak.

Regarding this subject, I have a confession to make that would enrage Gloria Steinem; each day, I spend half of my time thinking of men. Regardless of whether I am in love or not, being pretty busy with thousands of new projects or just listening to sad songs in my bed, I always have a male muse to think about, write about, and sometimes moan about.

Men are very inspiring, but the ones who really mattered are the ones who let me down. My first love when I was 6 years old (anyone who believes that you need to reach  a certain age to be heartbroken needs to start taking Alzheimer pills) was into sports, he was also my second-degree cousin, so I spent 5 or 6 years of my life thinking sports was the thing. He didn't even look at me and I suffered, but thankfully I got over him naturally by falling for James Dean when I first saw East of Eden at the age of 13. I thought of James Dean 24 hours a day. It was one of my best relationships until now, he loved me dearly until I found another.

In 30 years, discounting my second-degree cousin, I was rejected twice. And those two guys, not coincidentally, are the ones who had a major impact in my life and somehow inspired my love for vintage and style.

So let me tell you about the first one.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Wuthering Heights

Phaedra's red silk dress soon available to purchase at

While I gather inspiration to write about 'handsome boys and heartbreak' as promised in my previous post on Beauty, I would like to write about a fictional love story from a book that I just read and loved. 

When it comes to books, I usually have an obsession a year, and then spend the rest of the time reading similar ones, from the same author or in the same genre, seeking to repeat the original overwhelming sensation of truth. Last year it was Anna Karenina, a book for which I will have to write a blog post one day!

This year, the story of my obsession is Wuthering Heights. I had been reading these English women authors such as Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte (marmite and baked beans are so detestable that a girl has to find other ways to show affection for her adoptive country), and although I realise their merits - Jane Austen is funny, and Charlotte Bronte's writing is sexy and strong - I find their books dated. Owing to the strict morality of their heroines - who are never evil, never jealous, never tempted - it is difficult to identify with them. Finally, in Emily Bronte, another of the Bronte sisters, I found my favourite English female writer. Her Wuthering Heighs is unrealistic and insane, with a plot worthy of a Latin American soap opera, and yet much truer to human emotions and nature than any of the others.

It recounts the sufferings caused by the immutable love between Cathy and Heathcliff in two generations of a family. Cathy starts as a spoiled beautiful child when a mysterious young boy, Heathcliff, is one day rescued from the streets of Liverpool and adopted by her father. They become inseparable and wild, energised by the nature around them. From favourite son, Heathcliff is suddenly turned into a servant by the older brother who inherits the estate when the family's father dies. This leads, eventually, to Cathy marrying someone else, and to Heathcliff becoming a diabolic and misanthrope man caring only for revenge. Despite the resentment and the separation their love resists and is perpetuated, even, after death.

Once I finished this supernatural Gothic novel of the 19th century, I turned to Netflix and found two films, Wuthering Heights (2011) and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (1992), both weak cinematographic attempts to recreate the book's darkness. A better homage is payed by Kate Bush in her Wuthering Heights music video, which I found on Youtube.

I wasn't aware that this familiar sounding song was called Wuthering Heights, most likely because I don't know anything at all about Kate Bush and her music. I appreciate the ghostly and cold look of the video, and love her late 1970's dress.


A new red silk dress, which reminds me of this one, arrived  recently at Phaedra, and it will be soon available to purchase on the shop. It is more 1980's in style but it still has the floaty and passionate nature of Cathy. A dress ideal for a Valentine's day date, if you are ready to haunt or be haunted by your beloved after one of you dies.

Saturday, 1 February 2014


Brigitte Bardot - a 1950's sex symbol.

I have an email account on Yahoo! and when I log in every morning to check my email,  I can't help but feeling curious about the insane headlines on the website. I end up reading their terrible articles, in particular those concerning new outrageous scientific studies on dieting, love and beauty.

Today one of the headline reads, Forget romance, 78 per cent of women want BOTOX for Valentine's Day. I may have become a hermit like Emily Dickinson, never leaving my house and disconnected with the outside world, but one thing I know for sure, this is the most ridiculous thing that I have ever read on Yahoo! A lie! The world hasn't gone that insane, and women are still not that ridiculous.

This made me think of beauty and how much I admire it, without considering mutilating my body in order to look like a glamorous star. When I was a child the most beautiful woman in my world, which was the entire world, was my mother. There is no doubt that my confidence as a young girl was a result of the belief that I was destined to become like her.  

This belief was many times reinforced by the people around me. I was born with a rare disease that made me slightly blue, extremely thin and frail. At 8 years old I had a heart surgery that left me with a scar on my chest. The doctor, probably staring at my mum's cleavage (she has enormous breasts), told me that as soon as I would hit puberty and grew breasts my scar would be hidden behind them. 

Yet despite my belief, and high genetic probabilities my scar remained visible in the middle of my small breasts, adorning my boyish frame until today.  If you think that this shattered my confidence then you dismiss the power of good family environment and high self esteem. I wasn't particularly praised for my beauty by my family or anyone else, nor popular with the boys, but I was also lucky enough not to be bullied for my looks (I was bullied for not being baptised, and having a father who married twice).

I am definitely not like the ladies in the cheesy and misleading DOVE advert *, who see themselves uglier then they actually are. I am happy with my features. But I am aware that I am not part of the very small minority of people who are born to amaze us with their extraordinary beauty, and whose erotic power has the world at their feet. This doesn't diminish the pleasure I have looking at beautiful women (and men!) in beautiful clothes. Reacting positively to beauty is part of being human. 

It is sad when fashion models and Hollywood stars are blamed for the problems women have with their bodies. Sugar cannot be blamed for tooth decay, it is bad oral  hygiene and, perhaps, eating an exaggerated amount of sugary foods that can lead to tooth decay. The same goes for eating disorders and the glamourisation of beautiful women in the media. Don't blame Photoshop for poor self esteem and psychological dysfunctions. 

Hedy Lamarr - Nature gave her an overwhelming beauty and an inventor's intelligence.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The 1970's and Julie Christie

Inspired by the new 1970's blouse that just arrived to the shop, I wish to dedicate this post to Julie Christie, who through her characters has been a source of vintage inspiration.

You are probably used to see her name associated with Doctor Zhivago (1965), when it comes to fashion in film, but having not yet watched this classic of film history I am going to focus on her 70's films.

Christie and Beatty 70s

The 1970's, which are rarely mentioned in this blog, is one of my favourite decades in film and fashion. I have still to watch The go between (1970), Shampoo (1975) and Heaven can wait (1978). I will update this post once I have the opportunity to watch them, but for now here goes a list of her 1970's films that I absolutely recommend:

Julie Christie and Warren Beatty in Mccabe and Mrs. Miller

Mccabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) by Robert Altman: I love this film! It is set in the Old West and famous for subverting the rules of Western genre. The main characters are a prostitute and a gambler, who become business partners by running a brothel, and fall in love in the process. Things go wrong when a big corporation arrives to town and wishes to overtake their business.
Set at the beginning of the 20th century, the clothes are Edwardian, but you can spot some early 70's inspiration. 

Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now

Don't Look Now (1973) by Nicolas Roeg - I am struggling to write a synopsis for this film. Not because it is one of those abstract films without a clear storyline, but because I watched it without knowing anything about the plot, and believe that's the way anyone should watch it. It is set in Venice and it is weird, creepy, full of religious symbolism, supernatural elements, family tragedy and a beautiful love relationship. Matching the colours of the film, Julie Christie wears mostly brown and beige clothes, with cool knee high boots in red (the only bright colour recurring several times throughout the film).

Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now

Nashville (1975) by Robert Altman  - You can observe all the possible styles of the decade in this film about Nashville's country music scene: conservative over the top evening dresses, embroidered and jeweled country suits, hippie, boho and disco style outfits. The best of all is the raw style of Julie Christie who appears for a split second playing herself, with her wild curly hair, wearing a white cropped top.

Julie Christie in Demon Seed

Demon Seed by Donald Cammell (1977): This film has one of those classic science fiction plots, where machines surpass men in intelligence and attempt to rule the world. Here, the computer that runs the appliances of a scientist and his wife's house develops a will of its own, and arrests and subdues the wife, Julie Christie, in a plot to gain power. In pure 1970s fashion, Julie Christie wears beautiful maxi dresses, midi skirts and a Japanese style house kimono. The film is totally worth it.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Phaedra New Year's Resolutions

This year is coming to an end, and with it plenty of good intentions and hopes for next year.

2013 was the year when PhaedraShop successfully came to life with an ethereal name, a striking logo and a modest in size but bold in style selection of vintage clothes. 2014 will be the year to grow stronger and bigger.

A compulsive writer of lists, I put together some new year's resolutions for Phaedra, which I would like to share with you:

1 - More, more, and more.
I hope to get more stock, more sections, and more sizes to provide a greater variety of vintage clothes for all body shapes.

2 - Phaedra Film
It is no secret that PahedraShop owes much to film. Old films have been great companions throughout this experience, whether by fueling the shop with inspiration for blog posts, or as a tool for learning about vintage clothes. The idea of making a small Phaedra film is highly stimulating, and the goal is to have it made by the end of 2014.

3 - Feedback
I wish to achieve more of an interactive experience with customers and followers in 2014. The goal is to create more opportunities for customers to comment and send pictures, messages or videos for the opportunity to win vintage items.

I kept it small because I believe in brevity and odd numbers. I wish you a great 2014 and leave you with the song that inspired the name of this shop:

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Fellini and the sack dress

Yesterday, I learnt a curious fact. Did you know that Fellini's La Dolce Vita was inspired by the sack dress? 

1950s sack dress

This was a 1950's style of dress that was meant to fit loosely around the body, and was introduced simultaneously in 1957 by designers, Hubert the Givenchy and Cristóbal Balenciaga.  In a decade of wiggles, and tight-waisted dresses, all glorifying the hourglass body shape (you can read more about the post war 1950's silhouette here), this sophisticated alternative met with controversy. The fashion editor of Herald Tribune, Mrs. Lucie Noel, believed that the sack dress was about to 'exterminate woman' and that it could lead 'to the end of Homo Sapiens as fast as nuclear weapons might do'.

So, how did this particular style of dress inspire Frederico Fellini?

Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita

From La Dolce Vita, the fashion moment no one can forget is Anita Ekberg bathing in a fountain with a sumptuous strapless evening dress that enhanced her magnificent curves. After rewatching the film, I noticed the figure hugging elegant evening dresses worn by slender Anouk Aimée, and only managed to spot (with some difficulty) one sack dress on the final scene.  The character with the sack doesn't have any major importance for the plot, and the dress doesn't achieve any particular visual effect. Although Fellini chose not to highlight the 'sack dress' in the film, he said about it: 'One day, I saw women walking along dressed in a fantastic and extraordinary way, so fascinating that it set light to my imagination.'

The concept of a dress that didn't transform or enhance women's curves didn't kill femininity and  man's desire, as feared by Noel, on the contrary, it stimulated Frederico Fellini in such a way that he created a cinematographic masterpiece dedicated to all types of women's beauty. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

There is no better way of predicting the future than by examining the past


I always knew I had an old fashioned taste. When I was in my 20s in Portugal there were only a few (extremely expensive) vintage shops, and I bought all my clothes from high street shops. In Lisbon, I worked for a while in a patisserie frequented by groups of eccentric old ladies, who among the gold jewellery and the designer clothes would wear Zara blouses and jackets. The same I had! Mainly sequinned T-shirts and leopard print tunics.

Sequins and animal prints are now neutrals appropriate for church and the office, but then they were the choices of deviants, rockabillies, punks, and old ladies. So, I always knew I had an old lady's taste, but I was never a professional at getting dressed or good at creating an entire matching outfit.

Tziporah Salamon
Tziporah Salamon, the lady in the video above who is featured often in the blog Advanced Style, is a true professional at dressing up. She has a particular taste for statement jewellery, Japanese kimonos and hats, but it is the preparation that she puts in every single outfit that makes her truly unique.