Are you drawn to things that verge on the twee or the tacky? I sometimes ponder this question when I am drawn to something that is perhaps of questionable taste.

An example of this is much of what Kate Spade offers. Some of it is kind of fun, some of it is kind of... kitsch. For a long time I was coveting one of the Kate Spade book clutches, specifically the "I Married Adventure" one. This is a cult Interior Design accessory book (who knows if the actual book is any good - Interior Designers were buying original copies for the dust jacket, with its on trend zebra print to put into pretty vignettes).


via 


I'm also a fan of blue with black, so when Kate Spade put out a version of the book, but as an evening clutch, I really, really wanted it. But something held me back. I worried that an ironic expression of me, being both a bookworm, plus lover of Interior Design, would not translate, and instead the clutch was in the twee category.  It would end up being something that people would look at me carrying into a restaurant and wonder why I'd brought a book to read. I just couldn't make up my mind whether it was in actual fact verging on the tacky. That, plus the $328 US price point just made me hold off enough that I've never bought it.



Now, the book- as -clutch has gone another step further - Olympia Le-Tan has a range of embroidered book clutches. They don't really actually look anything like real books, so I'm not sure what to make of them. But they've got that certain homespun/ crafty aesthetic that is all the rage at the moment, and makes me feel a little bit like it's verging on fashion victim territory.

This one has my name all over it via

I can see a lot of people in the future wondering what on earth possessed them to purchase a fake book that was hand embroidered, and pay $1,836 AUS for the privilege. No, that is not a typo. The one below costs more, it's $2,108 AUS



It was probably the wild success that Lulu Guiness had with her inventive bags that prompted the whole book-as-clutch movement.Way back in the 90's Lulu put out a bucket of flowers that was actually a bag, and it's enormous cult success led her to branch out into other forms.


So that now with Lulu, you can carry a shop around.


Or a tea table.



And no, these are not cheap either. Which begs the question - If something costs a lot, does that somehow imbue it with a level of taste that it doesn't have?

I like a bit of an in joke as much as anyone else, but there are numerous things you come across in fashion that make you hesitate. Some of that includes some shoes and bags from Charlotte Olympia. On the whole I love her ranges, but sometimes I wonder if they're verging on the twee.


I'm all for making an effort at Christmas, but carrying around a pudding may be an ironic bridge too far.


Love your poodles? Never be a step away from them.

But maybe it just depends on who's wearing this stuff, and how they're worn. I'm not really a "fun" dresser, so probably none of this stuff would work with me.

But getting back to old Kate Spade. Since the change of ownership there have been a few changes in general. They've always been fond of the in joke at Kate Spade, but sometimes I think that perhaps they're verging into the territory of the bridal tracksuit with "Mrs" embroidered on the back of the jacket (for those not initiated, it is quite the thing in the US to have a special tracksuit made for when you're having your hair and makeup done on the day of the wedding before donning your gown).



So some of Kate Spades questionable items are things like these earrings that are bride and groom.


The things you can sell in the name of a Wedding. But to give them credit, their current range is fun and tasteful, and much of the frankly odd and quirky pieces they've had in previous seasons were relegated to their recent online sale, and are no doubt coming soon to an outlet store near you at 90% off.

So back to the question of whether if it costs a lot, it imbues it with good taste. Even the King of tastemakers can put a few feet over the questionable line. Old King Karl himself has done all sorts of "quirky" things in the name of Chanel.

There was the Russian inspired range of 2009, which garnered rave reviews


Karl got all the fashionistas carrying around a Matryoshka doll that you could remove the head of to put your lipstick, keys and credit card inside. Plus you could match it with the bulbous heel shape reminiscent of the traditional onion domes of an Orthodox cathedral.

via The Coveture

To ensure his wealthy Japanese and Indian customers didn't feel left out, he followed up with a Kokeshi doll and Indian inspired doll


Or this, from the China collection a few years back. No, it is not a fake.



So Ironic, Twee or just plain Tacky?

47 comments:

  1. so many complex concepts in 1 blog post.

    all I can say is that I once had a Lulu G bag that I luffed and my YSL Y mail bag is a treasure… x

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    1. I had a Lulu G bag once too, but it was a plain one, so a bit dull compared to her castles etc. I love your YSL Y mail bag too. I can't see that being hefted off to the salvos any time soon in a declutter frenzy! xx

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  2. Not even nearly tempted by any of the bags, particularly the Karl Chinese takeaway one. Eeek! Some, not that one, may be fun for teenagers - except price is out of range for most. Have to admit to liking the matryoskas - wouldn't wear them but do love - and could see a teenager looking really cute. Most of the bags above though are pretty much just gimmicks that could be worn as a one off to a special party but can't see them making many appearances.
    Have you been watching the Betsey Johnson fashion series (Thursday night Foxtel)? A guilty pleasure. In the latest she and her daughter took off to Japan for inspiration, her daughter hoping to find good pieces at vintage shops. Instead they found lots of amazing clothes Betsey herself had designed way back. Turns out she's an icon in Japan. Probably because Japanese girls love "cute". I'm sure her designs wouldn't be you Heidi but have to admit to kind of enjoying the show (except when it gets a bit whingey) and actually kind of liking some of the clothes - I certainly would have worn occasional pieces for fun when younger if they'd been around in Australia then. Definitely not chic but lively and colourful.
    FF and H, I'm sure your Lulu G bags (and the YSL mail bag) would have been divine as you both have such style. Adore YSL too - loved the retrospective in Paris a few years ago. But can't see either of you with any of the bags above. The ones you already have are too fabulous to be tempted by these. Pammie xxx

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    1. I actually like the matryoshka doll ones as well, but probably more as an objet to look at, rather than something to carry. I haven't been watching Betsy Johnson, but remember her from the 80's when I first started reading Vogue and the US magazine Seventeen. She had a very quirky aesthetic, and I can see the Japanese would absolutely go crazy for her look. Very frilly and a bit over the top as I remember? xx

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    2. Yes, agree the matryoshka is a great object for the shelf - have a few from our trip to Russia back in 2000, but Karl's is of course quite chic.
      Also Yes, Betsey is definitely quirky and not your style I think. Some frilly (not too much so far), lots of colour (she loves pink!) in often quite clever combinations and definitely very OTT. She was a real original, and still is judging by the program. Have been rather enjoying her unsinkability, despite her financial failures and age and needy daughter. Probably being a bit hard on the daughter, she must have great problems trying to break into the same industry in her own right and style when her mother is still something of an off-the -wall fashion icon. Pammie xx

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  3. Funny because I was thinking about this very concept this week because of this...

    http://hellokitty.mikimoto.com/collection/

    http://www.thejewelleryeditor.com/2013/12/hello-kitty-meets-mikimoto-in-a-new-jewellery-collection-that-fuses-elegance-with-playfulness/

    mikimoto pearls meets hello kitty! If I was a little girl I would have been all over it. Very conflicted but I did think it was a waste of pearls...For that price point I would get something else but that's not the point I suppose.

    I love irony and a sense of humour but dont want to spend all that money for it. Although if i were you I would have bought that Heidi bag! Charlotte Olympia is great but for some reason I am kind of getting a bit tired of her constantly trying to be groundbreaking and having themes for every darn occasion. I feel like she is one of those super duper Stepford wife shoe designers. I agree that Kate Spade has changed so much from the her designs back in the 90's early noughties. Also I think trends but also taste is cyclical. But ironically at those prices not many people can afford to have a sense of sartorial humor! xx

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    1. Love the Heidi bag - it would have been so adorable to wear when you were little, about your daughter's age or a bit older. I guess it appeals to the little girl in all of us who loved the story of Heidi - and it would be a conversation piece, the first couple of times you wore it. Likewise other book title clutches. But after that?
      Agree with commenters, whimsical has its appeal and may suit the mood on some days, but think most of the time these bags would sit quite cutely on a shelf. And who can afford that? Unless you buy it for the shelf as people often buy Hermes scarves to frame?
      Am conflicted about the Chanel lego bag though, think I kind of love it - and it's not so cutesy as the ones above, slightly more hard edge which I'd prefer. But way outside the budget.
      Have fun with the handbags! Pammie xx

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    2. I remember that Tamara Mellon, founder of Jimmy Choo, had heels on her bookshelf breaking up the books, sort of as a sculptural feature... maybe the Heidi bag could do the same thing. But for $1,800 I am not going to be buying it any time soon! I always remember reading the Estee Lauder biography, and when Estee made one of her groundbreaking anti ageing formulas she produced it for (trying to remember, but think it was) $5 a jar, and sold it for $120/ jar which made it the most expensive on the market. When her marketing people asked her why she was pricing it so high, she told them that women would buy it because it was expensive and they would believe that it was the best anti wrinkle cream on the market. If she priced it cheaper, it wouldn't sell as well. I think there's a bit of that in some of the fashion that Karl produces. I'm sure Coco Chanel would have never done some of the things he does - Chanel can put out some things that are quite un-chic at times. Like that takeaway box.
      That hello kitty mikimoto range is ridiculous!! xx

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    3. Yes, remember seeing Millionaire Decorators with Martyn creating perspex boxes for the Shoes for Tamara Mellon. Certainly suited her apartment and style. Was rather fascinated by Martyn and his interior and garden design and his shopping sprees for rich clients - and that mouth! Have been missing the program. The relations between the decorators and clients was so interesting. Tiptoeing - or sometimes - stomping - over broken glass. The rudeness was so interesting, from both sides. The English decorator, Katherine, who used to turn up really late for appointments with a client and expect her to just cop it sweet. Which of course she didn't.
      Estee was a clever old thing. She knew her market and her customers. So does Karl of course. Absolutely agree, Coco would have had hysterics (not in a good way) at many of the things Karl produces. I suspect, he must have fits sometimes at what he can induce people to buy, he's probably laughing up his sleeve at gullible consumers. Of course, on the other hand he can also produce immensely chic and beautiful creations. And he always seems to make lots of money for Chanel. Am strangely still drawn by the lego bag - and have looked up the prices - unbelievable, for a piece of plastic! Despite my cynicism though I still love my few Chanel purchases. There's nothing like sitting on a stool at rue Cambon and having a handsome sales assistant ply you with drinks and charm. Pammie xxx

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    4. I miss Millionaire Decorators too and one of the few places where one gets no attitude in Paris funny enough is at rue cambon!

      But those one offs always seem to do well long term financially because on 1st dibs recently there was a furry special edition JPGaultier Hermes Kelly bag that sold for the same price that it sold for years ago. That isn't a bad return for a fashion item and I can imagine someone searching for past collections Chanel take away boxes that they decided not to get at the time and have not buying it remorse. I have that with scarves! x

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    5. Perhaps the Lego bag will turn up at the op shop, Pammie?

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  4. In some ways this is reminiscent of the "ducks vs decorated sheds" argument/conundrum in architecture.
    Twee and tacky have a place, they can be fun but there is a line, I don't know where it is, but I know when its crossed!

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    1. Yes, maybe it's something that you instinctively know, and in some circumstances it works out, and in others it just really doesn't. There are a lot of interiors things that I'm sure people will look at in the same way the flying ducks are now viewed. xx

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  5. At one time I wanted one of those Kate Spade book clutches too, or thought I did, when the time came that I could have purchased one I didn't. I have a couple of pieces of KS costume jewelry that I don't wear, is it because I find them twee or tacky, maybe!
    I'd forgotten about the Chanel range, so funny! Love these images and I have wondered about the prices of some of these items and how they fit into a long-term wardrobe, and are they individual, whimsical or fashion mistakes?

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    1. I've been so close to buying that clutch! I know exactly what you mean with the KS costume jewels - If I were to buy the clutch, I think it would end up being one of the things in my wardrobe that I keep going to use, and then at the last minute putting it back and picking out something else.
      Probably the Chanel dolls are collectors pieces, and the takeaway bag.... I'm not sure will ever find a resale market?! xx

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  6. Pretty tacky but I too wanted that clutch, I think if I was still in my 20's I'd get it as it's fun. I do like a bit of kitsch here and there though, take pink flamingos, I love them and pineapples and palm trees. Yes I was a fan of Miami Vice.

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    1. I just think it's so funny you're in Edinburgh, and yet you're craving Florida style with your flamingos. I'm actually just not that fun with my wardrobe choices at the end of the day - any time I've tried something a bit quirky it just seems to fall flat. xx

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  7. Oh I have that I Married Adventure Clutch and the Dictionary one by Kate Spade and I love it! Sometimes it is nice to do something a little off and I smile whenever I carry it out, which isn't often, but still makes me smile!

    Poodle shoes - if the heel was shorter... ;-)

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    1. You're the perfect person to have that clutch Wendy! I think you dress in a fun way, and the clutch would go perfectly with your outfits. There's a blog on my sidebar, written by Z called Lovely Jublies, and she wears such fun outfits, and a lot of Charlotte Olympia, but it matches her personality perfectly, and she can totally pull it off. Me... not so much! xx

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  8. I am not sure if you are familiar with Anthropologie, but the cutesy and the folksy items are a mainstay of the Anthropologie look. I have never been a fan of anything cutesy or kitsch but I can appreciate the look on others!

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    1. I know Antrho reasonably well - have a few things from there, but know exactly what you mean about the stores. I always like walking through there when I'm overseas, but always walk out without anything (and it's expensive). I've purchased a couple of things online, and generally haven't loved the items much once I've got them...xx

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    2. Loved the Chelsea store. But my only purchase was a white scarf with ornate white lace panels - and I still love it. It's probably a lot more me than it would be you though I think! Wore it the day of the Paspaley pearls visit. They suited it so well! Pammie

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  9. V interesting post, Heidi. I'm not particularly drawn to 'fun' fashion, although sometimes seeing ironic items (like the ?Chanel Lego bag) makes me smile. Like Louise above, I'm not a fan of cutesy or kitsch, but love it on others.
    I'm very much a fan of more classic or quirky style. The Kate spade clutches are cute, but not for me. The price of those Olympia Tan ones are crazy - someone is having a very good laugh about this; talk about taking the piss!!
    I think these ar certainly a case of the Emporer's new clothes!
    Charlotte Olympia leaves me cold, I'm afraid. Tabitha's term for high shoes always springs to mind when I see them....!!

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    1. I quite like the Chanel Lego bag, but I don't actually think it looks a lot like lego (that would surely infringe copyright?).
      I've gone very off the really high shoes. I thought Emma Thomsons speech the other night was interesting (if a bit extreme) at the BAFTA thing, but I find the stripper shoes with the massive platforms to look quite ugly and clompy as Tabitha has noted. Agree with you about taking the piss - I really feel a lot of the extraneous Chanel stuff is in that category. They create a bag for the season that's a bit crazy, sell truckloads of it in Asia/ Europe (but mostly Asia and Russia) and then the classics like the 2.55 just go along as usual. xx

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  10. Im not necessarily against cute or kitsch but I firmly believe that cost has nothing to do with taste or style . I prefer things that other people don't own if you know what I mean ..perhaps as I get older I don't want to buy something just because someone tells me it is fashionable... though there are certain fashion icons I really covet.

    As for certain Japanese dolls I love them .particularly Ichimatsu dolls

    Cant believe that woman's track suit with The Future Mrs Strain all over it ..I can imagine the comments she would receive here in in Australia

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    1. I don't think the tracksuit thing has really hit the big time in Australia yet - there's so much hype around all the wedding industry now. We have the internet to thank for it. Someone started it off on a wedding forum and before you know it all the brides are doing the same.
      Agree with you re cost not having anything to do with taste. xx

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  11. My boyfriend bought me a spencer and Rutherford bag with big leather flowers on it.
    I love him, and he has such great taste, and I tried to love the bag, but I had to exchange it.
    So I low tolerance for any wearable kitsch.
    What I do admire is style, particularly when people have not spent a lot. Love that.

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    1. It's hard when you get given something that is just not you, but you appreciate the effort made. You don't want to discourage them... but I would have done the same I think. If it's just not going to be used, better to fess up and exchange. There are some great fashion instagrammers who do all thrift store shopping and look amazing. Occasionally an entire outfit will cost $8 (including shoes and accessories), so they def. prove that style doesn't have to cost a lot. xx

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  12. Dear Heidi,
    I too have the YSL mail clutch but that it the upper limit of whimsy for me.
    I think they are fun for others but I dont have that disposal income that I could lash out on something so startling as pudding clutch.
    I kind of admire Charlotte Olympia but again too OTT for me. My daughter has the MJ kitten face shoes and they look simply darling on her but I am not a fan of poodles on any feet.
    By the way Heidi was one of my beloved books of childhood and I felt quite nostalgic seeing that clutch!
    PS I think the future Mrs Strain's tracksuit is feeling the strain!

    Kate Bx

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    1. Hello Kate, I do like that YSL Y mail clutch - I think it's fairly subtle though, if it were white with a colourful stamp on it and black writing, that would be a little different...I love those kitten shoes too! But I don't think of them as so overt as, say, the poodle heels. Maybe because they're flat shoes?
      I think Heidi was one of my mother's favourite books... hence my name! I've put up with a lifetime of people asking me where my goats are (seriously....).
      That tracksuit is just not a good look. At all. It's definitely straining at the seams! xx

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  13. Heidi
    You really are a fabulous writer and, IMHO, you should pursue this option for yourself as a sideline career perhaps??. Maybe the Adelaide Review has an opening??
    Cheers
    Melody

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    1. Thank you Melody - you're very kind! Not sure if anyone would want my random ramblings on a paid basis, but thank you for the compliment! xx

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  14. If my bank balance had no limit then I might engage in a bit of whimsy but all in all, no. Just no. Love your eloquent descriptions. You summed up what I feel in this post, without me having to even think / articulate it. Perfect. X kl

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  15. Just a thought... Who's the proposed consumer? Japanese I think. They love this childish fashion and many have the budget for the purchase. Just a thought. A marketing ploy.

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    1. Definitely a marketing ploy KL! Agree with you about the hesitation of whimsy when it comes to the price points in question above too. I'd have to really, really, really love something to shell out that much for it! xx

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  16. Tacky! All of it!

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    1. You're lucky you have no problem in drawing the line anon! xx

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  17. I came right over because I figured you were calling me with twee and tacky, that's me! I have a few KS clutches and I do use them, they make me wink at myself. My favorite being the dictionary clutch because I love words and read the dictionary for fun. That one is well done, very realistic and fairly functional. But I could never spend thousands for fun fashion, and some of the heels are downright dangerous!

    Believe the book clutches may be a remake/variation of the magazine clutches from the 1970s ...

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    1. You're so funny tiffany rose! I don't think any of your outfits are twee or tacky - you manage to have fun with your clothes while staying on the right side of taste.
      Interesting thought with the book clutches... xx

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  18. Like many of my Kiwi wahine friends I love kitsch and just can't resist, has translated over the years though into my worst outfits: pink, glossy and sequiny. Not a love shared by the hubstar who has much much better taste than me, so restraint was used when we did our remodel. Still I have wood pictures of lamingtons by my desk and I have never met a garden gnome I didn't adore.

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    1. Well Jody, at least you showed taste in choosing the man you married, if he's the one that saves you from the garden gnomes! xx

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  19. Like classic, but appreciate a little twee and tacky too. Life would be boring otherwise.

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    1. I think each to their own, and yes indeed it would be a boring world if everyone displayed perfect taste at all times xx

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  20. The Mrs Strain photo with your caption is hillarious. Great writing.
    I remember these were all the rage in the late 90s. My parents lived in Hanoi and I got a beaded coca cola bag (cylindrical) and one that looked like a bar of cadbury's chocolate from the market, so much cheaper than the ones you feature. I think they were all over Stanley Market in Hong Kong too.
    I had such fun using them, but I was a teenager - as many of the reader suggest is the best age to enjoy these sorts of things. x

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    1. Absolutely the teen years are the years to try out a few fashionable it items that are in hindsight of questionable taste! Although I can't imagine you ever putting a foot wrong Charlotte xx

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  21. Not sure how much stuff I could fit into one of those KS book clutches! Not normally a fan of cute and kitschy, but don't mind the Chanel Lego bag. The heels on those shoes look downright dangerous!! Please, oh please, do not let those tracksuits become a "big" thing here in Australia. Hope you are surviving the heat. I was over it by 10am Monday!! Enjoy the rest of your week. Jo xx

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