Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Down and Out in Dolce and Gabbana

I've just spotted a contradiction at the heart of the jazz girl's lifestyle.

It's the yen for the dressing-up-box that draws ladies such as Miss Mink and myself onto the jazz stage, where we can shamelessly drape ourselves in the sort of luridly coloured full-length gowns we used to daydream about when we were 8-year-old girls (and in my case, attempt to recreate with Berol felt tip pens - i've still got the drawings somewhere, maybe I should show them to my mate Hollywood and see if he can run one of them up...).

Yet, out of all the jobs least likely to rake in piles of moolah with which to purchase said fabulous gowns, jazz singing is right down there with babysitting and collecting the balls off golf courses. Here we are with more opportunity than most to wear the Frocks of Dreams, but less means than anyone to make it happen.

This is why jazz singers, just like every other jazz musician, run their careers in a constant state of negative equity. Because the minute you get a new gig booking you start work on a new outfit for it, and before you know it you've blown all the gig money before you've even set foot on stage. It's the same for the whole band of course: new strings/flightcase/bottle of cleaning fluid/virtually-weightless music stand/elecronic tuner/jack-to-jack-lead/14-track mixer/vintage Les Paul... there's always some little thing needs buying to make the sound really perfect.

My list runs more like: new false eyelashes/fishnet stockings/liquid eyeliner/feather-boa/elbow-length gloves/marabou-feather jacket/seventeen-carat diamond earrings

but it's the same principle

Last night I went out on a fact-finding mission with Miss Honey Mink and Miss Connie Vanderlay to watch one of our Sisters In Jazz in action. Miss Corliss Randall was whipping up her weekly storm at Kinky Mambo, as she does every Tuesday night - dry-humping the audience's legs, expounding on her sax player's lewd activities with a salt and vinegar crisp packet... And singing fit to make the walls shake with her big fruity jazz vocals.

I felt the least I could do in honour of the Jazz Diva was dress up a bit - but unlike every other female in the nation, I haven't allowed myself anywhere near the sales this january, so I had to go for something from my 'existing collection' (back of the wardrobe). I found a purple lurex polo neck that I bought at a vintage clothes fair in Hammersmith town hall about two years ago. The woman I bought it from told me that her husband was a stylist and the top had once belonged to Lulu. But she'd only worn it once. Although she had cut the label out at the time, so I'd have to take the woman's word for it that it was Dolce and Gabbana. I can't remember how much I paid for it - back in those days I was on a TV Producer's wages so I was a tad more flush than I am now. Probably about £30 I reckon. Was I taken for a ride? Perhaps - but the main reason I bought it wasn't because it was supposed to be Dolce and Gabbana, or because it had been worn by Lulu, but because it was purple and sparkly.

Which led me to thinking last night, did Lulu ever have a hiatus of financial embarrassment between bouts of sparkling success akin to the one I am currently experiencing? And if so, did she dress up or down for the occasion?

Personally I don't think there's any occasion that merits dressing down, except for the occasion 'd'amour', and even then you can still slip on the odd accessory.

What's a girl to do when there's a stage to fill with glitter and no beans in the pot? Thank god for Primark, that's all I can say. I'm serious. I was in there yesterday afternoon hyperventilating with excitement at their retro print tops and black patent round-toed heels. I managed to walk away with a bag full of nothing but underwear, though, thank god. Although I can feel it pulling me back. Whispering 'handbags.... shoes.... pretty pretty scarves...' Oh god.

Honey's just come back from LA with about six pairs of stupidly glamorous shoes she bought for about £7.50. She wore the Kermit-green ones last night for Corliss. The only thing that stopped me imploding with envy was the thought that I might get to borrow them sometime if I play my cards right, us being the same shoe size and all.

I've got a handbag in exactly the same colour.



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