Sunday, October 15, 2017

Copy Cattiness on Project Runway

Claire and Shawn
Those of you who still enjoy watching "Project Runway" know that the drama surrounding twins Claire and Shawn Buitendorf has been a pivotal story arc in Season 16. Claire and Shawn are indistinguishable but for Shawn's shaved head and Claire's Barbie dos. They both wear shades of too-bright lipstick and matching nose rings. Their annoying speech patterns are interchangeable.

It's okay to help each other... to a point

One didn't seem to be able to work without the other's help, and they faced suspicions of copying long before Claire admitted she had a tape measure in her hotel room and was measuring clothes she owned. Claire forfeited her challenge win (plus a $25,000 prize) and was banished from the competition. Shawn had left the previous week before completing a sister-to-sister sew-off. Although it was the tape measure that did Claire in, the other contestants were disdainful of their copying. The judges were more dismissive. "You all are influenced by each other", said Heidi Klum.

We know there is nothing original under the sun, or the moon for that matter. It's how those influences go through your brain patterns and come out in the creation that counts. Their "references" were just a little too twin-like.

Lanvin 1939 and 2017

The New York Times Style Magazine ran a piece in its September 24 issue that fits nicely into this.  "The New Old Look" is about the "heritage brands" of French couture (Balenciaga, Dior, Paco Rabanne, Chanel, Lanvin, etc.), how they preserve their histories and how the designers working under those labels interpret and/or reinvent them. It's a very interesting read with evocative photographs by Annabel Elston that I have mashed together for space in this blog (forgive me, Annabel).

Balenciaga 1964 and 2017

There are many fine stitches between honoring, copying and throwing the baby out with the bath water. Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel has perhaps achieved the most success. We still love Chanel bags and tweedy "Chanel" jackets, but he's been at it the longest (since 1982). It's a challenge the new designers for heritage brands acknowledge and seem to treat respectfully.

Paco Rabanne 1967 and 2017
Dior 1947 and 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017

My (Not a) Dinner With Andre

Cherie Flores & Lynn Wyatt with ALT
There was no dinner with Andre Leon Talley Sunday afternoon, though I imagine that would have been fun. In his opening remarks at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Andre graciously thanked the assistant who fetched his espressos from Hotel Zaza ("very important to the work") and pimento cheese or egg salad sandwiches from Picnic ("I like to eat, you may have noticed"). For Andre Leon Talley, Fashion is the staff of life. This is what he lives on. He may have talked for an hour, but he could have gone on into the night.

Clifford Pugh with ALT at the MFAH

ALT (as he shall be known hereafter) was a protege of Diana Vreeeland. He's best known as former editor-at-large of Vogue and Friend of Anna, but he seems to know everyone who is anybody in the worlds of fashion and celebrity. He may have begun his career as a journalist but has far-reaching opinions and a true gift of gab.


Houston is hosting a retrospective, "The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta", through January 28, 2018. ALT curated the show, which is a version of one that previously appeared in San Francisco at the De Young Museum. Houston socialite, fashionista and friend of the arts, Lynn Wyatt, got the ball rolling.


There are dresses from the de la Renta archives, MFAH collection and loaned from Houston socialities and other celebrities. Amal Clooney allowed her wedding dress to be shown exclusively for this exhibit (ALT can be very persuasive). There have been festivities for weeks (a ball, a runway show, a luncheon), but Sunday afternoon belonged to Andre.

He is 6'6" and sat on a sofa plumped with additional cushions. All in black and wrapped in black velvet, he did indeed look like the "fashion god" he has been called. Although he came out with notes, he never referred to them. He didn't need to.

The host, Clifford Pugh, writes about Houston cultural goings-on and has known ALT for years, so it was an easy conversation. ALT told how he met Oscar through Diana Vreeland. He was volunteering as an assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. Here he explained that even as he became friendly with myriads of accomplished and well-connected people, he was "never arrogant". To this day he refers to her as "Mrs. Vreeland". Oscar, it seems, was different. He was always "Oscar", loved to have fun and make you feel at home.

ALT told a story how Oscar came unannounced to his house in White Plains, New York. Though only 25 miles from Manhattan, White Plains, an unassuming residential enclave, is not a celebrity haven. Oscar told him he must start taking care of his trees. ALT, who was raised by his grandmother in North Carolina, thought trees just grew in the yard. They didn't need to "have the canopies pruned back", which Oscar insisted he do at $2,000 a clip. But he now has beautiful trees that he cherishes.

He also graciously called Laura Bush "one of the two best dressed women in the world, along with the Queen". That was a nice thing to say and proved he knew he was in Texas.

Laura and Oscar

When it came time for questions, ALT didn't miss a beat, from explaining the mannequins' footwear in the show— artfully tied ribbons or lace or suede leg coverings— to the choice of white or black evening gloves for the ball gowns ("always white— only showgirls wear black"). He really stepped up when a young woman commented on fashion being one of the great polluters of the ecosystem and what did he think of that? "Honey", he said to a round of applause, "that's not why I'm here."

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Holiday on a Hanger

If you invite me to your holiday party this year, I am going to be wearing this soft, fuzzy sweater from Zara. Not only does it feel squooshy-wonderful next to the skin, at $19.99 it gives me a guilt-free solution to special-occasion dressing. I've always felt it makes little sense to spend the big bucks on something you will wear for a few times at best and never again for sure (ie wedding gown).

You will see me and my new best friend paired with black lace track pants, wide-leg black satin pants, straight-leg black jaquard pants, wide- and straight-leg black velvet pants, a black lace skirt, long black taffeta skirt, black knife-pleated skirt in chiffon and the long version in velvet PLUS all the assorted pants and skirts in prints, tweeds and solids because— we all know— black goes with everything.

Are you tired of looking at me yet?

Hope I get a lot of invitations!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

What's Old is New Again: Part 2

Fair Isles in the field

After finishing the September issues and making a few laps around the mall, it's clear many of our old friends are returning for another stylish go-round.

This isn't as simple as "Oh it's the nineties". Yes, some of it was worn in the '90s, but every era is represented. In the light of the mish-mash that passes for trends today, these old friends are looking better and better. At least they are definable.

Channeling my inner Diana Vreeland, why don't you try...

> Pointed-toe kitten-heel booties   I've already welcomed them back in an earlier post (and celebrated with buying a pair). 

> Berets   Berets flatter many face shapes. Play around with how to wear one— slouchy or not, to one side or another, slightly back, slightly forward. Remember that with a beret, as any hat, it's either a Hat or a Hairdo. You can't take it off and expect your hair to be happy.

> Trench coats   You probably have one shoved to the back of the closet, but now they're b-a-c-k and not just in tan.

Fair Isle sweaters   These are sleepers, but I feel them coming back. And what's not to love? In a plethora of colors and patterns they're the ultimate throw-away casual chic.

> Leather Leggings   If you loved them once, you'll love them now. Leather has generally been replaced by lightweight synthetics that may even be comfortable. But this is not a look to sport if you haven't the courage of your convictions.

Suits   How long has it been since you wore one? And do you even need one? Try a suit that's cut softer and in an interesting pattern. Not a leisure suit but as far from Brooks Brothers as you can get.

> Leopard  Always and furever. I just love it when someone declaress leopard is "in" again. Ready for that one.

The double whammy

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Falling for a Coat

DG facing Winter (credit: John Musnciki)
It's still 90 degrees; I haven't even picked a pumpkin, but I bought a coat. This is how I know it's Fall. For many years the only way I could deal with the frigid months was to buy a new coat. I hate the cold so much, I needed to find one I loved enough and that would (hopefully) keep me warm.

Calling Julie not Omar

The search has come up with a few duds. There was the Russian-style suede with a shearling lining. It was "Dr. Zhivago" snazzy but weighed a ton. There was the full-on full-length fur from a thrift shop (in London no less). It was wonderful, although I did feel like I was wearing one of my cats. It was also very old and in the process of molting. Then came the mohair cape, in theory a giant blanket, but the arm slits let in cold air.

And you can sleep in it

Once Norma Kamali made the down-filled coat chic, life changed for the better. I never owned one of her "sleeping bag" coats, but my versions were toasty if not exactly flattering. Like Pedro, the cold-blooded penguin of "Three Caballeros", at least I was warm.

Now I live where 60 degrees on a winter's day is cold. And it is, if you're not used to it. This still requires a coat, even if the down coats are stored under the bed. Zara is my go-to for coats that are stylish and not too expensive. Sure enough, one recent sweltering day (when the air conditioned mall promised relief), I found this one, and it came home with me:

Brushed wool, Zara, $169
Also comes in navy

Here's why you should find yourself a coat to love. If you live in a cold place, a great many people will see you only in your coat. That all important first impression will be made wearing a coat. You will make an entrance— and exit— wearing a coat. There will be the act of putting it on and taking it off. It almost doesn't matter what you wear underneath. If you know you will leave your coat on in the museum/gallery/store you don't want a lot of frippery getting in the way of an unbuttoned coat, so the simple top and bottom or dress will do.

Anna knows how

If it's not that cold a lightweight version or sweater coat or long jacket works the same way. It can be the third piece that makes an outfit. It can make a statement of its own. Did anyone say "kimono"? Let's face it— a coat can cut the mustard.

A coat and a dress and mustard!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Stylish Cinema Coming Attractions

Once fashion documentaries were few and far between. There were Hollywood confections like "Designing Woman" and "Funny Face" (What? Do you mean "Funny Face" wasn't a documentary?) If you ever get the chance, catch at least the last twenty minutes of "The Women" for a 1930s fashion show in color, gowns by Adrian.

"Unzipped" from 1995 documented the charming Isaac Mizrahi's highs and self-doubts, but it wasn't until 2009's 'The September Issue" that fashion documentaries got into gear. Two of my favorites are  "Bill Cunningham New York" (2010) and "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" (2011). There have been films on Bergdorf Goodman ("Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's") and eccentric fashionistas ("Iris" and "Advanced Style") and documentaries on Valentino and Raf Simmons at Dior.

Here are three new ones to look forward to, coming soon:

Andre Leon Talley's "The Gospel According to Andre Leon Talley". This just opened at the Toronto Film Festival. ALT is larger than life, a force of fashion. If you know who he is, you will be as excited as am I. If you don't, get excited anyways. He's amazing.

Manolo Blahnik's "The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards". This is the man behind "the Manolos" of "Sex in the City" fame. MB creates those exquisite, desirable shoes women dream about (and some can even buy). To think he started by fashioning tin foil slippers for creatures in the garden.

Lady Gaga's "Gaga: Five Foot Two". Is she really only 5' 2"? Another force of fashion and a few other things. I feel there's a lovely person beneath the crazy get-ups. Listening to her album "Joanne" was a revelation.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

What's Old is New Again, Again

Stuart Weitzman @ $575-$598
H&M @ $39.99
Flying off the shelves from your local Stuart Weitzman to your neighborhood H&M is the pointy-toe-skinny-heel ankle boot of many, many seasons ago. If you're lucky (like me) and have a big closet* to house your shoes, you may even have a pair or two stashed away.

*About that closet— I think it was meant to be a linen closet, but I don't have that many sheets.

Pointy toes have been rather looked down upon in recent years. Now they're back. There is no rhyme or reason for this shift in favor. I've seen it happen over and over, and I'm always taken by surprise. This year especially is seeing a record number of Greatest Hits from Times Gone By.

I'm happy to trot out the pointy toes for my trotters to enjoy. My opinion is they make my feet look more like a ballerina's. You may think yours look more like those of the Wicked Witch of the East. This is fashion, where beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and the beholden.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Weighing in on the September Issues

The blessed event that is the September fashion magazines weighs in at 10.6 pounds this year. That's a hefty baby but 1.4 pounds less than last year's delivery. The fashionable five are Vogue at 774 pages, Harper's Bazaar at 474, Elle at 496, Marie Claire at 294 and Glamour, the runt of the litter, at 216 pages. Everyone lost a little compared to last year. I fear only the trees will be happy with this news. 

The health of a magazine is determined by its number of pages, signifying many or fewer ads.  Love them or hate them, ads are what breathes life into a magazine. Your subscription at a bargain price is a "loss leader", as they say,  but pumps up the circulation figures. That number determines the price of an ad.

It's a fascinating exercise in economics, but one that pales when I get my hands on the little beauties themselves. New clothes— or the wishes thereof— mean a new season, new activities, new adventures.

This year as well as last I did not include InStyle in the mix. At 440 pages it's pretty healthy, but I've always considered InStyle more celebrity watching/lifestyle wishing. The September issue is called 'The Fashion Issue" and true to itself is chock full of fashion trends and some nice first-person pieces (as well as plenty of celebrity sightings). It might even be the one to have if you're just having one. 

A peek inside September InStyle

I hate to see summer end, but those September issues are a magic bridge to what life may be on the other side. I plan to enjoy them wearing shorts and flip flops while drinking lemonade on my backyard chaise under the shade of an umbrella. Perfect.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Cherchez la Femme

It's rare when corporate America gets the WOACA (Woman of a Certain Age) right. We are many women, and we're not all Fabulous, but for those of us who want to be, role models have been pretty slim pickin's.

That's why this woman stopped me in my tracks. I wanted what's she's having. At first I did think the ad was for a new style magazine to retire to bed with. The brain has many neurons. Then I got it. She is retired; she has great style, and she wants to know how to make the most of her money.

It's a far cry from the way advertisers present this age group. Often we are dressed in perfectly utiliarian clothes but look slightly frazzled.

Or we pull at the heartstrings by appearing truly out of it. One of these two is supposed to have Alzheimer's; I'm not sure which.

Then there is the unfortunate series of ads for Miracle Whip. May the person who dreamed up this bit of elderly abuse and child abuse wake tomorrow covered in liver spots.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Greetings from Houston

"Houston, we have a problem."

No one dared use that old line last week. Houston and Corpus Christi and Rockport and Victoria and Kingwood and Beaumont and Port Arthur all had big problems thanks to Mother Nature's bad seed cousin, Harvey.

We are fine. My family and, for the most part, friends and family of friends are okay. It rained for a solid four days, often with unrelenting intensity. We watched as water pounded us and ran down the street, but thank goodness it kept running. We didn't lose power, water or gas. We were (and are) incredibly lucky. We didn't dodge a bullet, we dodged a cannonball.

Houston is HUGE. There are no suburbs. It's all "Houston" and goes on for miles. Some of the flooded areas are far from us. Houston has many "bayous", slow moving rivers or inlets that snake all through the city. We have one about 1/2 a mile from the house, and it did overflow its banks to a frightening degree, but it is set lower than the roadway so did not impact the neighborhood. This is probably more than you wanted to know but good to know not all of Houston is under water.

What Harvey left behind is at least 100,000 homes in need of major repair or replacement. Schools and businesses and all city services are affected. We want to help, and we will. Houston is an amazingly diverse city, where people work together and live together. Just yesterday I spotted this in a front yard:

My eyes have been glued to the tv. I've been busy letting everyone know we are okay, sometimes more than once. It didn't seem possible to the outside world that anyone could be okay.

I just can't write about fashion yet. Maybe tomorrow, if I can figure out what day it is.