Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ah, Yes, I Remember it Well...


FIORUCCI. The name still thrills with anticipation. The store was on 59th Street and Lexington, half a block from Bloomingdale's. It might be more scenic to shop on Fifth Avenue. Goods on Madison may be more swoon-worthy, but that little pocket of Manhattan was Trend Central. In the late '70s Bloomingdale's was still the It Gal of department stores. She was surrounded by little chain boutiques, cheap shoe stores and Alexander's, a giant discount retailer. North of Bloomingdale's Lexington turned more residential. The famed Barbizon Hotel for Women was at the corner of 64th. But I digress...

Fiorucci landed in New York in 1976. Studio 54. Disco Fever. NYC. While outlandish garb could be found in the Village or lower east side, Fiorucci was different. It was Uptown Gal meets Euro Trash—affordable, bountiful, fun, and it felt like a trip to Europe.

A young Elio Fiorucci

The Fiorucci in Fiorucci was Elio Fiorucci, who founded the chain in 1967 to bring swinging London and American classics to Milan. By the time Fiorucci opened in Manhattan (1976) it was carrying coals to Newcastle— offering disco style to the likes of Andy Warhol and Cher.


Fiorucci can be credited with the globalization of affordable fashion. Elio gathered Afghan coats, Brazilian thongs and Chinese velvet slippers in one place. In addition he pioneered skin tights jeans by putting the stretch in denim. Camouflage prints and leopard anything were always part of the mix. I would not be surprised to learn if the young Madonna were a salesclerk there. Fiorucci surely influenced her style.


The stores were brightly lit and basically all white walls and fixtures. There was so much color, pattern, music and human traffic it was like being inside a kaleidoscope. The graphics— posters, ads, shopping bags— were outstanding and constantly changing.  


As is the case with most of my shopping excursions, I looked often but bought rarely, only after much contemplation. One of my favorite pieces was an ivory crinkle tunic blouse— slightly A-line with a pilgrim collar and wide, long trumpet sleeves. It was extremely impractical for anything like working or eating, but looked great standing there. I wore it to death and only gave it away years later because I figured it was "time". Never a good reason to get rid of anything you love. I miss it still.

Mine was even more impractical

Fiorucci imploded in 1989 due to mismanagement and over-expansion and has been fighting legal battles since while trying many times to re-launch. Janie and Stephen Schaffer, industry pros, bought the brand shortly before Elio's death in 2015.

Today's Fiorucci jeans

The first to be revived again are the infamous stretch jeans ($250), selling at Barney's. A full-range Fiorucci is due to open in London this year, followed by stores in Milan and Los Angeles. Will it fly? By the looks of the fantasy coming down the runways these current Fashion Weeks, I would say we're all ready for a little make believe.

Long may they watch over



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Calling Dr. Frankenstein

 

This is what you call a mash-up. My first thought was, "Wow! I like that!" My second: "Why didn't I think of it first?"

I have a camo jacket and a multi-hued (rabbit) fur scarf. Why didn't I put them together? They really don't "go", but together they could go a lot of places. At $1295, as priced by Harvey Faircloth for this, one a lot of your money would go too.

I like to have fun with fashion. I'll sometimes be asked where I get my ideas. Most of the time I'm able to say I just make them up. I may have been influenced by something but never outright copy.  There are women you might think I mimic. Iris Apfel is one. We both have short hair, are petite and like big necklaces (though she has a few more years and necklaces). I'm not unhappy if you think that, but it's just a happy coincidence. Wish Iris and I had met when I lived in New York.

Mr. Faircloth has some other neat ideas for your surplus workwear and spare fur:


Got any?



Thursday, February 9, 2017

Madame Predicts the New Spring Trends


It's that time again. From my perch on high I spy the new Spring (make that Summer also) trends. I have no credentials to predict them other than many years of espionage and a few hints in the marketplace and fashion press.

In a mountain greenery...

I've yet to see much evidence of Pantone's prediction for Color of the Year, "Greenery". That was called "apple green" back in the day. We'll see; it's a hard color to wear.

There are a few other safe bets for trends, though. That means they've been bubbling through high fashion or street style long enough for mass market retailers to get a hold of them.

One-shoulder

Last year's off-the-shoulder has evolved to just
ONE SHOULDER.

Stripes

If not exactly vertical, at least these STRIPES are not horizontal.

Deconstructed shirts

Take a classic SHIRT, tear it all apart and start again. Expect this trend to be greatly modified from the runway above.

Sleeve detail

So what if you don't like to go sleeveless? There are so many SLEEVE DETAILS, including the gathers and ruching seen above. Besides, it's air conditioned everywhere.

Oversized

OVERSIZED and boxy... we'll see how this one flies.

The Grand Slam of trends

There will be RUFFLES and CHECKS and MENSWEAR.

Fleurs

What would Spring/Summer be without FLORALS? 

Trends don't mean you must ditch your present wardrobe, which I assume you have worked long and hard culling to your particular needs. Maybe this is still a work in progress. Trends are for you who like a dash of newness— a bit of hot sauce, a touch of umami— or whatever is newest to perk up your style.

A gal can dream...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

John Malkovich: Fashion Designer

 
I'm not the least bit surprised that John Malkovich is a fashion designer. Although his commercial on Super Bowl LI tonight may look like a spoof, Malkovich actually does have a menswear line sold on johnmalkovich.com, and it's not his first one.

You can dress like John Malkovich too

John Malkovich is an actor who is much a character himself. I don't mean that in a negative way. He's made over 70 films, including one called "Being John Malkovich". His quirky personality comes through in his best roles. I really enjoyed a recent turn in the tv series about Blackbeard the pirate, "Crossbones". He barely had a beard; it certainly wasn't black, but he fully embodied the malevolent, tyrannical Blackbeard. Shiver me timbers still when I think of it.

Blackbeard even without the black beard

We had the great pleasure to have John Malkovich as our dinner "companion" one Saturday evening in New Orleans. We had snagged a reservation at one of the most popular new restaurants. Although he was seated next to us, the tables were so close we might have been in his party. Also, John Malkovich was not whispering, nor did he ever stop talking. It was quite a performance, and we loved every eavesdropping minute of it.

I noticed not only did he look exactly like John Malkovich, he was dressed with great style in a pale blue collar-less shirt and pleated ivory linen trousers that seemed vintage 1930s. They were the kind of pants with buttons at the waist for the suspenders (not worn). His was the picture of casual chic marching entirely to the beat of his own drum.

Fashion design would not seem a profession entered into blindly. From the website's "about " page:
Since childhood, John has had an interest in clothes and fashion photography. He even studied costuming at university and, to this day, does costume design for theater. He walked the Comme des Garçons runway when no actor would and was featured in campaigns for Prada, Antonio Miro, and Armani, among others.
    John wrote and directed fashion films for English designer Bella Freud and wrote the “Christian Louboutin” book foreword. He created fabric for Liberty of London, did a design collaboration with Bailey Hats, designed clothes for Pirelli, and partnered with French watchmaker Richard Mille.
   Now, with his own label, John takes inspiration from his travels and experiences, fine art, and storytelling elements, such as setting and characterization. He sketches designs and patterns, refining every detail, while traveling and during downtime on set. For over 30 years, John has been a passionate fabric collector. With a meditative approach, he often spends several days focusing purely on fabric selection.
   John believes that fashion should be sincere because it’s rooted in self-expression. Fashion is about putting something together, and defining and transporting yourself. It’s about being bold and discreet at the same time. Above all, it’s about focusing on what you want and not worrying about what others expect you to be.
From the Spring-Summer 2017 lookbook
  
At present his clothes are carried at The Webster in Miami Beach and a boutique in Amsterdam. The showroom is in Paris; the full line can be purchased on www.johnmalkovich.com. I'm no menswear expert, but they appear standard-issue for a particular fashion aesthetic. The novelty would be in owning something designed by this charismatic actor and most interesting man.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hats Off to Pussy Hats


What's square and pink and marched its way into the lexicon of style? Did you say... a pussy hat? Right you are. The pussy hat began as a grass roots movement to make a point (or two) at the Women's March in Washington on January 20.


The pussy hat was inspired by some thoroughly disgusting banter spoken by Mr. Trump and unknowingly recorded. A few days after that video aired for all to see, his wife Melania wore a fuchsia pink blouse with a big bow to a campaign event. That particular style has long been called a "pussy bow". It's unknown whether Mrs. Trump chose it to comment on her husband's behavior.

Meow

Not sure where my head was at the time— reeling from the election, Thanksgiving, Christmas, new grandbaby— but preparations for the Women's March were beyond my radar. I knew I wouldn't be going to Washington or New York, and I truly had no idea the number of marches being organized, even the one in my city. Nor did I hear the click and clack of knitting needles or the silent running of crochet hooks as women across the country depleted our supply of pink yarn.


As video and photos streamed in on January 21, so did the sea of pink pussy hats. They had become a symbol of the March, which itself symbolized more than just women's rights. In the weeks following it's fair to say wearing a pussy hat makes a statement for those women (and men) with some deep-seated opinions about the state of our nation.

 
The stripped down pussy hat is basically a long rectangle stitched into a square. The "ears" appear  when slipped on the wearer's head. Myriad how-to instructions have appeared online. The Pussyhat Project  (https://www.pussyhatproject.com/) encouraged knitters to make multiples and send them to be distributed at the Washington march. The simplest could be knitted by a rank beginner on giant needles in a few hours. Others were more finely ribbed but none would be a knitting or crocheting challenge. You could even, pressed for time, make one from a length of pink felt.


Knitting and crocheting are traditionally women's crafts, often associated with something frivolous like gossip circles. In truth these have long been safe places for women to gather, share their thoughts and concerns, receive support and encouragement from other women. The thought is that anything handmade exhibits a level of care, and women care about their rights and all the rights that would seem to be of concern at the present time.

"So it is appropriate to symbolize this march with a handmade item, one made with a skill that has been passed down from woman to woman for generations."— The Pussyhat Project

Michigan State University has begun collecting pussy hats worn at the march for its museum as part of interest in what they call “craftivism,”, merging women's traditional domestic arts with activism.

To top it all a Maine-based artist, Abigail Gray Swartz, sent her idea for a cover to the New Yorker magazine. To her complete surprise the art editor responded, and her submission, a 2017 riff on WWII's iconic Rosie the Riveter, graces the February 6 issue.


What am I doing now? Furiously knitting a few pussy hats for friends and one for myself, of course. It's rarely ever cold enough to wear one in this part of Texas, but this ain't just about the hat.




Thursday, January 26, 2017

Women We Love: Marlo Thomas

"That Girl" becomes "That Woman"
 
Marlo Thomas starred as Ann Marie, an aspiring actress in New York City, in the tv sitcom "That Girl" from 1966-1971. Her character was single, slightly goofy, spunky (a characteristic later attributed to Mary Tyler Moore's Mary) and quite well-dressed for a sporadically employed young woman. I never watched the show because— well— at the time I was a gainfully employed single young woman in New York (with considerably less wardrobe).

Don't forget the fishnets!

With the exception of a sailor hat that must have been left over from "Gigi", we really did dress like Marlo. Or tried to. Short-short body-skimming shifts, bright colors, geometric patterns. Flats or kitten heels. I even had a "fall", fake hair to achieve that flippy hair do (cemented in place with Elnett hairspray).

I mention all this because Marlo Thomas, at 79 and with many wonderful achievements to her credit, has just launched a 15-piece fashion line for HSN (Home Shopping Network) called "That Woman".  This is the first time Marlo Thomas, known for her initiative and support of feminist, educational and charitable causes, has put her name on a commercial venture.

Marlo today in one the looks

Marlo Thomas is the daughter of Danny Thomas, a 1950s comic, who was best known as the patriarch in the sitcom "Make Way for Daddy". Danny was the son of Lebanese immigrants. Interestingly, his ethnicity had no bearing on the show and just explained his (unusual for the time) leading man looks. Danny Thomas became even better known as the founder of St. Jude Hospital for Children in Memphis, lauded throughout the world for its study and treatment of childhood cancers. St. Jude is one of the charities Marlo continues to actively promote.

Marlo counts Gloria Steinem as a good friend and worked with her to help found the Ms. Foundation. She created the best-selling book, album and tv show "Free to be Me... You and Me" which champions gender equality and is the author of a biography and three self-help books.

Two looks from the line
 
So what of the clothes? Aimed towards a mature customer (older than Ann Marie), they will not, as the New York Times said, "make fashion history". Wearable if not exciting, Marlo credits quality fabrication and spandex as a plus. She also suggests a little skin as we age, to keep things feminine. I like the dress she is wearing above, certainly a riff on a classic "That Girl" look— further proof you can wear many things at any age... with a few adjustments.  Fancy THAT!

Still going strong



Friday, January 20, 2017

Behind the Veils


I've purposely chosen inauguration day to publish this post. Whatever the future holds for us as a democracy, we should not turn our backs on others out of ignorance. We should not be turning our backs on anyone anyways.

Houston, where I live, is quite an international city. Oilandgas you know. We were told when we moved here that Houston had more Thai restaurants than any city outside Bangkok. We haven't counted them in either place, but that gives you an idea of our diversity.

It's no surprise to encounter a good number of Islamic women, especially at the Lovely Boutique Where I work, which is a destination for visiting shoppers as well as local residents. While we're all seeing head coverings more frequently, I was woefully ignorant what they mean. They are not just a fashion statement, although a headscarf would be a good solution on a bad hair day. On the other hand a burqa would seem an extreme solution to "What to wear?".

Herewith a brief glossary of various Islamic head coverings and their significance in the culture:

THE HIJAB
Claire Danes as Carrie

> A hijab is a headscarf, not a veil. It can be very structured or loosely thrown on as per Carrie on "Homeland".

> It hides the hair, ears and neck leaving only the oval of the face visible.

> The hijab has widespread use throughout the Muslim world and is championed by the Muslim Brotherhood (which promotes strict adherence to Muslim principles).

THE CHADOR

> The chador is a full cloak that covers the body and the hair and opens at the front.

> It's traditionally worn by women in Iran and Afghanistan but is not obligatory in Islamic countries.

THE BURQA

> The burqa is a full veil traditionally worn by Pashtuns (an ancient and strict sect of Muslims) in Afghanistan.

> It covers the head and body and has a grill which hides the eyes.

> This covering has been enforced by the Taliban.

Burqa (left) and niqab (right)
 
THE NIQAB

> The niqab is a veil which entirely covers a person, including the mouth and nose, but has a small opening for the eyes.

> Its use is widespread due to the influence of Wahabi Islam (an ultraconservative branch of the Sunnis), especially in urban areas.

When do women remove their veils? I found this answer online:

"Muslim women take off their hijabs in the exclusive company of other women (beauty parlors, girls' nights at home watching Ally McBeal, etc), as well as among close family members at home.  And of course alone in the shower, while sleeping, and so forth. They're not "never nudes," they're just culturally modest in public places. Lots of Muslim women actually have very nice hairstyles under there, but they save them for appropriate company." 

Thus why the shopping...

This is but a brief guide. There are myriad ways to wrap or tie with various meanings as expressions of religious belief. And that's something a democracy respects.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

At a Store (Probably) Not Near You

From the Spring 2017 Lefties lookbook
 
Along with the news that Zara has outlet stores along with a lower-priced line (think Old Navy to the Gap)* is the fact that they are not anywhere remotely near me. That is, they are remote.  Currently all of them, called Lefties (as in "leftovers" natch), are located in Spain (aka Zara Central), Mexico, Portugal, Russia and Qatar. There is even a website. No mail order but pick up available at the brick-and-mortars.

A Lefties' interior

A look at the Lefties site (men, women, kids) shows possible former Zara items and a lot of althleisure. My guess is it's very much an Old Navy-type concept— many basics and some fun pieces in the style of the parent. I can't imagine there would be much actual outlet merchandise. My local Zara has Sale up for weeks and weeks. Surely it's all gone eventually!

The big tease...

Still, nice to know (and hope and dream). Whether I would be much of a customer, who's to say? But I just hate to be tortured with so-near-yet-so-far.

* Thanks to website http://www.whowhatwear.com/zara-outlet-store-lefties?utm_source=facebook-owned&utm_medium=social&ref=fb


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tiny Creatures


And in January we find the creatures have been working overtime... The web page Grammarly hosted this image, passed onto Facebook by a friend.

I used to think that mid-winter pudge happened because I was trapped into inactivity by the northeast winter. We now live in Texas, where winters are actually more conducive to being outside and active.

So is it really the egg nog/fruitcake/champagne/chocolate truffles/mincemeat pie of the last two months?

Well, I like the idea of little creatures in my closet. I imagine they all look like Rumplestiltskin, the nastiest of fairy tale villains. And I thought the cats were only stationed by the door on account of mice...

It's inevitable to hate ourselves when this happens— though my only New Year's resolution this year is not to be so hard on myself.

But really, I must get them out of the closet! 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Limited Loss

Announced today: The Limited is closing all its 250 stores, laying off 4,000 people and abruptly sealing the vault on my '80s-'90s fashion lusts.

Once upon a time...
 
When The Limited opened in my local mall I suddenly felt hip, chic, with-it or whatever we called "being in fashion" at the time. The clothes were aspirational but affordable, stylish but not silly. The last 15 years of The Limited were not pretty, but back in the day...

The Limited began in 1963 in Columbus, Ohio, as a single store in a shopping center. It was named The Limited because it specialized in a limited amount of merchandise that turned over quickly. Founded by Leslie Wexner, the stores grew rapidly. Wexner then purchased Victoria's Secret in 1982, followed by Lane Bryant, Lerner Stores, Abercrombie & Fitch, Henri Bendel, and Bath & Body Works. Wexner started Express, for younger women and men, and Limited Too as a much younger version. He turned Abercrombie & Fitch, once an upper-crust sporting goods and related haberdashery, into teeny bopper heaven and drained Henri Bendel of its sophisticated quirkiness. But he was a huge success, the stores becoming fixtures in the retail firmament.

Last week

Eventually Wexner sold off or consolidated many of the brands. The Limited itself was sold in 2007 and continued to limp along under new ownership. I only noticed my store was closed last week when I ran through the mall to check out the Zara sale. I just never thought they would all be gone.

It's not been given credit, but The Limited was an early example of fast fashion. The stores were fairly small with a finite selection of clothing, often within a theme of color or style. There would be a few accessories— belts, scarves, handbags, jewelry— to complement the clothing. You could never find an extensive range of anything (not a plethora of winter coats for example). The merchandise had a bit of a young French feel. Think Jean Seberg in Breathless.

For the working gal with style

I remember once buying a brown tweed suit with a faux fur collar. I thought it tres jeune fille. It was hot as hell to wear in the office, but I stubbornly did for a season or two. In recent years I would walk into the stores, go a few feet, sense too much polyester in the air, turn around and leave. They "lost it" so very long ago.

There are a few other stores on life support. I hear Chico's and Talbot's are limping along. I think they've said that about Talbot's for years. The Taylors are suffering, both Ann and her Loft. I always wonder how The Gap can still be in business, but I love Old Navy. Go figure. J Crew and Banana Republic may not hold the fascination they once did. Shopping in general has left me feeling a bit "meh" these days.

But you surely know this yourself. All it takes is one lovely thing to catch your eye, and the (shopping) world looks bright again, the future—well— unlimited.