Team LBD meets... Gizzi Erskine
Team LBD meets... Gizzi Erskine
“I wear a little black dress during the day as much as I’d wear it at night.” Team LBD meets TV chef (and former body piercer) Gizzi Erskine to talk her passion for vintage, her PVC knicker faux pas and why she’s hopeless on the red carpet. How has your sense of style developed over the years? I describe it as being a mash up of sixties with a bit of my punk roots. When I was fifteen I got really into punk. My big sister, who is four years older than me and is my hero, was completely into music and I idolised her so I've had a music obsession since then, which went from heavy metal then gradually into punk. When I was on the punk scene I was wearing the most ghastly clothes you've ever seen in your life; I was pretty much going out in my mum’s underwear. Lots of fishnets, band T-shirts with PVC pants, not that hot! I then got really into psychobilly, which is where the hair started to come in. That’s when I first started to put my beehive up. And then gradually it evolved into rockabilly and my current look started to develop. It’s quite Americana 60s rather than British so it’s not mod at all. It’s more tailored. I guess it has more of an elegant Parisian feel to it. I take elements of 60s Americana but also with a bit of Parisian elegance. Have you always been very conscious of your 'look'? What/who is your style inspired by? I dyed my hair for the very first time when I was thirteen. That was pink. Then I had it blonde for ages. I had the sides of my head shaved and then these little wispy locks on the side, then I used to put it up in a quiff. I eventually got Betty Paige hair with a really short fringe and dyed it very black, then I had red streaks all the way through it and then I had a half up half down beehive for ages. I had this thing where I didn't really think I was that attractive and then one day I remember looking at myself and thinking, ‘actually you’re alright and maybe you need to start looking a little bit more like a proper girl,’ so I started to grow my hair out and get it back to brown then the beehive started to come up. A lot of people said I looked like an actress called Anna Karina when I was wearing it up so I started to fixate on her look and that’s really where the look has come from. Before you retrained as a chef you were a body piercer for years. How many piercings have you got? I was covered! I always had a philosophy that if I hadn't experienced it myself I couldn't be empathetic towards my clients so I have had pretty much everything pierced but I only have one left in now. And I’ll let you work out where that one is... So is the classic little black dress an important part of your wardrobe? Absolutely. I've only got into colour in the last year really. Up until then I probably had about 30 different vintage black dresses and they all look pretty much identical. They’re all the same; long sleeved shift dresses. I love a velvety dress. And all of my dresses will have sixties details like lace cuffs or a big Peter Pan collar or something like that which will stand out. Do you have a favourite LBD of those 30? It’s the one I wore on the book cover for my book Kitchen Magic. I've changed the collar on that dress two or three times but the shape of it is amazing. It’s so flattering. It’s an original 1960s velvet shift dress with an amazing belt and I love making changes to it. I've bought loads of different collars so I can keep changing it so it becomes a very different dress. That's the joy of a little black dress isn't it, so versatile! Do you know who designed it? No it was a cheap twenty pound number from a local vintage shop. Is that where you pick most of your dresses up? Yep. From all over the place. One of my most special dresses is a 1968 Balenciaga dress, which is one of the most expensive things I've ever bought. It’s so beautiful. It’s so ornate. I'm terrified to wear it because it’s so delicate. Then I've also got the one I wear the most, which is the one I wore on the cover of my new book and that’s an off-the-shoulder one. It’s actually an eighties dress by Betsy Johnson but because of the length and how I wear it with a belt, it looks really sixties. Who is your LBD icon? I think that Kate Bosworth always looks amazing. She’s so beautiful and she’s got a really great figure and is very, very, very stylish. You couldn't argue with Audrey Hepburn’s style wearing a little black dress either. She always pulled that off and always looked really elegant. Describe your perfect LBD ‘moment’. Where I’m happiest is away form the glitz and the glamour. I’m happiest going to a really nice pub for a Bloody Mary and then going for Sunday lunch and then maybe having a bottle of wine and then going to a gig on a Sunday afternoon, somewhere like Camden, a rockabilly gig. That’s where I get my thrills. Would you still dress up for that? The thing with the look I have is that everyone presumes that you are dressing up but actually I wear a little black dress during the day as much as I’d wear it at night. Part of my look is always being dressed up I guess. Describe a day in the life of Gizzi Erskine… At the moment I'm doing loads of pop-up events. Part of what I do, which I think is really different from what anyone else is doing, is take over of an events space. It’s not really a pop-up. You might call it a pop-up, but instead of just putting a restaurant somewhere, I’ll put on a whole event. One of my favourites was called K Town and we changed this big concrete space (in London's Shoreditch) into a space that was 1930s Korea town. So really dingy neon infested stripped back tables and I served five courses of amazing modern street food and then we had Korean Go-Go girls, Korean burlesque dancers, a Chinese Elvis, Korean rockabilly bands and it was just an amazing night. By nine o'clock everyone was still eating but they were also on the tables dancing. The next one will be a drive-in movie theatre in the summer with fifties styling and loads of different acts with gourmet diner food. Do you get to choose your own outfits on TV? Mostly I just feel comfortable in my own clothes. What I tend to do now is work with vintage buyers who know what I like, so I’ll say, ‘I've got this appearance coming up; I need ten outfits, can you pick some out for me.’ It’s more than using a stylist. You always look so well groomed whenever we see pictures of you or see you on the television. What are your top beauty secrets and tips? What I’ve discovered is a BB cream made by Doctor Jart. It's like the best make-up and I use it on its own if I'm not going out and it just makes my skin even and your make-up look amazing. And it holds all day and you don’t even have to powder your face! It’s brilliant. The things people ask me most about are my brows and my liner. I always do a really strong brow with just a dark eyebrow pencil and then I use art liner; the almost tattoo style liquid liner. I use Yves Saint Laurent mascara. And I'm pretty religious about removing it all at the end of the day. I think it’s more important to do it when you come in than in the morning. Do you have to watch what you eat to keep in shape? It must be difficult as you’re working with food day in day out? I do have to watch what I eat. I'm really tall. I'm five foot ten, so for a long time I thought it was completely okay just to guzzle loads of food and think I wouldn't put on any weight. And because I'm tall, even if I did, most people wouldn't notice. However, last year I put a stone on and I really noticed it. But I've been lucky as most people get that before they’re 30 and it’s only just started to happen to me (Gizzi is 33). It’s annoying as my habits are that I still eat like a pig. I just have to be more careful about what I eat but I'm never going to starve myself. I'm a greedy girl but I eat a lot more pure, fresh food when I can now. What is your favourite body part and do you have any body hang-ups? Since I put on the weight last year I've been exercising with Kettle Bells and I think my body probably looks better than it ever has. I still have my bits that I don’t love. My boobs are too big. I quite like that flat-chested sixties look and I have big boobs but I can’t do much about that. They’re pretty alright boobs but I would just rather have smaller boobs and it’s frustrating from a dressing sense. I have that hourglass figure. I've got boobs and I've got a bum. I love the bum but I'm not sure about the boobs. So many of my friends are like, 'you’re crazy,’ but I'm like, ‘I really, really want to have smaller boobs for the clothes I want to wear as I can’t fit my boobs in half if them'. It’s so annoying. Whereas if I was to wear fifties clothes I’d probably have the best figure for that. Any fashion faux pas to share? Pre doing telly probably my punk days of wearing shiny PVC zip-up pants with leopard print tights and a band T-shirt. Not the best look. This year I went to London Fashion Week for the first time and I borrowed clothes that I would never have worn but because the designer was offering them to me I was so excited I wore them. I realised that actually that’s not always the best idea. You should always stick to your guns and stay with what you should naturally wear. I saw the pictures and I looked fine but I just looked weird. It’s just not me. Have you ever been featured in any dreaded magazine ‘worst dressed’ photo spreads? I’m really lucky. Most people seem to be really positive about my style and I've had a really great response to it. Except for one time. I went to the British TV Awards about two years ago and I had the most beautiful Givenchy gown. It was a gorgeous 1960s number and I wore it with a floor length cape. I was nervous because it was my first massive red carpet event, and I looked really weird in all the pictures; awkward and not comfortable and I got totally slated. People said I looked like Morticia from the Addams Family. Ooops. Do you enjoy the red carpet events? I hate it. I'm not cut out for it, honestly. I'm the least famous, famous person. I'm so hopeless at red carpet events but I have to go to them and I get into trouble if I don’t go. Have you perfected your over-the-shoulder at the waiting paparazzi look? I only do that if I've got my tattoos out and otherwise it depends how I feel. Sometimes I feel really confident, so I probably look really confident on the red carpet. Sometimes I feel really unhappy with my appearance or a bit flat and it really shows in pictures. Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts (£19.99, Quadrille Publishing Ltd) by Gizzi Erskine is out now. Shop Gizzi-worthy vintage dresses at LittleBlackDress.co.uk here.