Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Elephant in the Room

This has been a tough November. I'm not referring to the Thanksgiving turkey; Butterball never disappoints. I'm talking about the election... I could make other references to turkeys and goose eggs, but it's time to face reality.

The First Lady has always been an object of fashion fascination. Some First Ladies have been dismissed (certainly Bess Truman) if only for their fashion sense (Eleanor Roosevelt). Others have been pegged (Nancy Reagan for her James-Galanos-correctness); others have been swooned over (Jackie Kennedy you think???). Michelle Obama turned out a delightful surprise. Much has been written about her. I can only add she will be sorely missed.

Which brings us to... Melania Trump. The Melania backlash has already begun. Through no fault of her own (she didn't really help), her husband was elected. Melania was a beauty queen/model before being elevated to the third Mrs. Trump. Obviously she dresses for The Donald as her choices are form fitting on spike heels. In my opinion her makeup is too hard and masque-like. She never looks relaxed and comfortable.

The jury is still out whether she will be an active First Lady. It doesn't look like they will be leaving NYC anytime soon. Whether she spends most of her time in the ivory (and gold) Trump Tower or not, Melania will also have the responsibility to represent the United States on the world's stage.

Seventh Avenue and the fashion press are rumbling about who will "dress" her. The New York Times reported on this in Thursday's Style section. French designer-turned-New-Yorker Sophie Theallet got the ball rolling with a Facebook/Instagram/Twitter post calling for a boycott of dressing Melania Trump. She is a CFDA member (Council of Fashion Designers of America). A few other designers have publicly followed suit. Tommy Hilfiger said he would have no problem.  The Times made mention that his offices are in the Trump Tower.

Diane von Furstenburg, CFDA chairwoman and a Hillary supporter, had already urged members to try and help "on the eve of this new era" and to "embrace diversity, be open minded, be generous and have compassion" and to "be an example of good". Geez, I love Diane von Furstenburg.

The website Fashionista, in a piece titled "How we Plan on Covering (or Not Covering) Melania Trump's Fashion Choices" attempted to take the high road by staying neutral, adding, "We plan on having no part in normalizing the Trump family... we don't want to contribute to humanizing or making light of an administration that poses such serious threats to women, minorities, immigrants and more...".

The elephant is there, alright, and not just the symbol of the Republican party. As a blogger I don't feel I am a reporter. I have definite opinions, though I'm personally not the least bit influential. Though I may wish I could write about Hillary's pantsuits for the next four years, I have to say I am sympathetic towards Melania. This is another brouhaha I'm sure she didn't sign on for. I definitely believe that Donald Trump wanted to win but never expected to actually be President.

If any designers would step forward to dress him, I think they would do this country a great service. Right now Trump looks like an Ivy Leaguer gone to seed or a used car salesman trying to look successful. Voices from Shakespeare to Mark Twain have stated "Clothes make the man." I fear this would be a Herculean task. It doesn't appear anyone could make Trump do anything he didn't want.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

My Prince Has Come...

Prince Charming and you-know-who

For years I've wanted one of Ralph Lauren's military-inspired jackets but have never been able to find the right one. If I could swan into his Madison Avenue atelier I might, but I'm not that kind of gal. Something about champagne taste and a (domestic) beer pocketbook.

This is a look a stylish friend also loves. She has four of them, purchased through various combinations of ebay and the Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply shop. Our styles don't really mesh, but in this case we agree. I've tried on a few that may have made it to the sale racks, but nothing really said "go for it" until yesterday.

Prince TJ of Maxx

I found my "prince" hanging on the end of a random rack at TJ Maxx, that mecca for the beer-budget fashion-possessed. There wasn't another in sight. My size. Regular price: $245. Their price: $69.99. Aside: Marshall's and TJ Maxx are owned by the same company. Is it deliberate that TJ's fashion is more forward than Marshall's?

I'm a firm believer in the "it was meant to be" aspect of shopping. I've been able to accept defeat uttering that mantra. Yesterday was " It was meant to be!"

This type of jacket has been part of the Ralph Lauren canon for many years. It adapts it to his "moment du jour", be it English, Russian, Native American, etc. Lately it lands most frequently under his "Denim & Supply" label, which leans towards the fanciful/Boho/Americana look.

Marching on...

To show you how long I've been coveting my own, I bought an old marching band jacket at a thrift store in the '90s and wore it for a bit. It was quite stiff and unwieldy. Hard to imagine anyone playing a piccolo let along a tuba while wearing it.

Not only did my fabulous find scratch a long-time itch and arrive in time for Nutcracker season, I came home to this in the November issue of Harper's Bazaar:

Rare selfie moment


Friday, November 11, 2016

Women We Love: Leslie Caron

Is it? Could it be? I bet it is... Yes... It is Leslie Caron!
— my thoughts as I watched episode three of "The Durrells on Corfu", a  British import on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre based on Gerald Durrell's quasi-autobiography of his family on Corfu in the late 1930s.

The family is high-spirited and a bit madcap, maybe downright mean to each other at times. This may take some liberties with the truth, but the Durrells were in fact an unusual brood.

In character on Corfu

How did Leslie Caron, now 85, land on Corfu? She plays Countess Mavrodaki, a reclusive member of Corfu's aristocracy. The Countess gives the sweetly miserable adolescent Margo Durrell a job as her "companion". Primary function: reading sappy romances aloud as the Countess paints some pretty awful still lifes. Aside: The Countess' butler is played by Jeremy Swift, also Maggie Smith's butler on "Downton Abbey". Leslie Caron has a small role, but she is lovely. Her appearance reminds me how little we have seen her and how much we have missed.

Leslie as Gigi

Leslie was one of the "gamines" popular in the 1950s. She achieved movie fame in 1951's "An American in Paris" and went on to star in the musicals "Gigi", "Lili" and "Daddy Long Legs" as well as "The L-Shaped Room" and "Father Goose". She continues to appear sporadically in films, on stage and television.

Lovely Leslie was born in France to a Franco-American ballet dancer and a French chemist-perfumer. She trained to be a dancer from childhood and was discovered by Gene Kelly while appearing in Roland Petit's renowned ballet company. She's been married three times and has two children. A scandalous affair with Warren Beatty in the early '60s caused the break-up of her second marriage (to playwright Peter Hall). Her 2010 autobiography, "Thank Heaven", tells all.

Leslie with Warren

There is an interesting gamine connection. After Audrey Hepburn's death Leslie had a relationship with Gamine #1's long-time companion, Robert Wolders. And Zizi Jeanmarie, another '50s gamine still kicking at 92, was married to Roland Petit of Leslie's ballet company.

Audrey with Robert
Zizi Jeanmarie

If being a dancer contributed to these ladies' grace and poise, sign me up for lessons.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How to Mix-Match not Mismatch

Not this...

Working at The Lovely Boutique allows me to eavesdrop on women's minds. In the brief course of a transaction I can often get a handle on what makes us tick. And believe me, we all have different tick-tocks.

The other day a customer asked if she could wear brown boots with the print dress she had just bought. I answered of course she could. The boots didn't have to match; they would blend. "Matching is easy for me", she said. "I have trouble with blending."

There is a difference. Matching means those two navies match. That red handbag matches those red shoes. It's really difficult to match navy— or black or any color. And matching accessories has been a no-no for so long, it might actually become Fashion again. For now, matchy-match is OUT.

So how does one blend??? In an era of very few fashion rules, there are some guidelines— helpful I hope.

Big + small(er) sideways

> Pattern
Pair big with small. Big with big equals sofa upholstery. Small with small is too ditsy to make the point. Certain rules still apply: Big on top if you are smaller there. Small on top if you are bigger there.


> Geometric vs. floral
Geometrics pair well with other geometrics. Likewise florals with florals. Exception: when you mimic coloration you can mix florals and geometrics. Let's call that the graduate degree. Animal prints work with everything.

Always exceptions...

> Color versus shade
Colors don't always have to "go together" in the traditional sense. The same grey value or shades of colors can work together. Squint your eyes; if the edges of the colors seem to disappear they are probably similar shades.

> Color chameleons
Sometimes colors take on more of a hue when they are next to another color. Taupes and greys can appear more lavender or more yellow, depending... Likewise, the light (incandescent vs fluorescent vs daylight) can make a difference. Argghhh!

Neutral rest stop

> Pop with a neutral
Just as three pieces make an outfit, the third piece in mixing patterns can be a neutral— a rest for the eye. This is the best way to get into mixing patterns if you are taking baby steps.

> Trust your instincts
Theories aside, if it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work. Period.

Likewise, if it does it does.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"80 Years of Fashion": Part Four

A gaggle of flappers
What follows is the conclusion of the complete, unexpurgated essay I wrote for English class during the school year of 1954-55, age twelve. I assume the attempts at humor were intentional, but it was too long ago to know for sure. Still concerned with "popularity", I was obviously getting tired of my subject.

1910 -1920
Women wore "hobble skirts" with wide-brimmed hats. Colors were bright, but they turned darker towards 1920. Waistlines were lower by 1920, also.

Nothing much had changed with men's clothes. The Prince Albert or Frock coat was worn. High, tight white collars were popular.

Sailor suits were popular with children. Middy blouses were also popular towards the end of the period.

Theda Bara barely influencing '20s fashion

1920-1930 is commonly known as the "Flapper Age". The movie "vamp" had a strong influence on women's clothes and styles. "Flapper" was originally a name given to girls between the ages of 14 and 20, because they were at their "awkward" age. This name originated in England.

Still stunning after all these years

Women wore low-cut hats, ropes and ropes of pearls, low-cut necklines and short, short skirts. Shoes with accommodations for the big toes only were very popular. All in all, women had no shape at all.  Longer skirts came into being towards 1930.

Straw boaters were popular with men. Tweeds were a favorite material.

 *   *   *

Future clothes? How should I know about future clothes? Maybe someday we'll wear the caveman's clothes again.

Emily Post was once asked "What makes a brilliant party?", and she answered "Clothes".

The End

Reflections from the future: Not sure why I decided to ignore the '30s and '40s (aside from having met the assignment's required length). I probably thought they were like the '90s now— just not worth talking about (though I've been hearing '90s whispers lately). How could I ever have imagined the Youthquake '60s, the Hippie '70s and the Disco '80s, all just ahead but over many mountains?

In so many ways I am indeed still that twelve-year-old girl— vocal, opinionated, wanting to share my not-always-correct grip on the facts— all while dressing for that brilliant party. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

No Debate About It

Further proof of the Power of Fashion (if you needed any): Hillary's white suit at last night's final debate. Designed by Ralph Lauren, it echoed the white theme of the suit she wore to accept the Democratic presidential nomination and completed the patriotic trio of red, blue and white worn for the debates.

I thought then— and think now— that this was a winner's choice worn by a woman with supreme purpose and confidence. You know how hard it is to wear all white (unless you're the bride). Never do I feel more conspicuous than when I wear white pants, let alone white top and bottom.

Hillary has worn Ralph Lauren throughout (but not exclusively) this campaign. He's always a woman's friend. No one, especially Hillary, should choose an outfit other than to feel wonderful and flattered. Her choice last night spoke loud and clear:
I'm Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"80 Years of Fashion": Part Three

The Gibson Girl... and guy

What follows is part three of the complete, unexpurgated essay I wrote for English class during the school year of 1954-55, age twelve. I assume the attempts at humor were intentional, but it was too long ago to know for sure. I think I may have gotten tired of writing as everything became a popularity contest.

1890 - 1900
Tubed pants for men were very popular. Women looked much older than they really were because they wore entirely too heavy and too bulky kinds of clothes. The colors and styles that were popular definitely didn't grace the woman of the 1890s. Sewing machines were cheaperizing clothes. The poor continued to copy the rich people's clothes. The famed Ballon and Leg-of-Mutton sleeves were very popular. The bell-shape look took the place of the hour-glass. As you've probably gathered, the late Victorians were so busy with their money that they didn't have time for anything else, let alone clothes.

Legs of mutton and bells on parade

The dinner jacket was introduced at Monte Carlo because the men gambling there complained of the discomfort in wearing a stuffy Frock coat all evening. There was a complete change in men's clothes because of the artist Charles Dana Gibson. Men's clothes were becoming masculine again. Maybe you've seen some of Gibson's drawings; his men were heavy and muscular, and they had extremely square jaws.

Color harmony was popular in women's dress. Trains were worn at night. Cheapness was desired everywhere. The result was poor dyes and cheap materials. Starch was used as a face-powder.

Victim of Little Lord Fauntleroy

This was another age for boys— the ridiculous "Little Lord Fauntleroy" look. Sailor suits, the exact replica of HRM Navy were also quite popular.

1900 - 1910
The hour-glass look was back and the Gibson Girl look was still popular.  Women wore odd goggles for automobiling. Kimono gowns and other Japanese modes were popular.

Fashionable mourning dresses were popular with women. Deaths were almost pleasant because then a woman could go buy a new dress for the funeral. The soft, flowing silhouette was popular. Skirts were tight around the hips. Bolero dresses were worn at the beginning of the period. High, wired necks are characteristic of the early 1900s. 1,106 yards less material than was needed fifty years before was used.  At the death of Edward VII in 1910, the reign of lingerie and corsets came to an abrupt halt.

Evelyn Nesbit, 1900s "it" girl

Mother Hubbard dresses were introduced. These were loose-fitting house dresses— not too beautiful but very comfortable. Cartwheel hats were popular.  There was a tremendous "Merry Widow" influence. Feather boas, properly saturated with lavender were worn over dresses like stoles are today.

Red flannel undies were very popular with men. Also popular was a big, loose coat with a heavy, padded shoulder. Dark colors— mostly blues, blacks, browns and dark green were worn.

Buster and his dog Tige

This was still another age for children's clothes, however this time it affected the girls, too. This was the age of the comics character Buster Brown. Boys wore suits with wide starched collars and topped off with a "dashing" gigantic bow-tie. The girls wore low-waisted dresses which vaguely resembled a Chinaman's coat. Girls wore big bows on their hair.
Sally, Ida and Jean—my aunts and my mother (in the middle)
to be continued...

Friday, October 7, 2016

My Velvet Crush

I've predicted a few successes in my life. I knew Elvis would not be passing fad and Simon and Garfunkel had what it takes. I also think I can sniff out fashion trends. Last winter I was positively possessed to own a pair of lace-up ghillies before they were Everywhere. Ghillies are still cute, but I'm not as driven. I may not start trends, but I like to be an early adapter. This fall I'm in the velvet zone, and today's shopping excursion proved I'm not alone. There was plenty of velvet to be found.

Fortuny velvet tunic

Today's velvet is not the smooth stuff of party dresses past or Santa's suit. It's a mottled, crushy fabric that looks a bit smashed and mashed, as if it had been crammed into a trunk for 40 years. This is velvet as meticulously crafted by the Spanish master Fortuny, who worked in Italy. Today's manufacturing processes make playing with velvet a snap. Colors are softer and richer than we've seen, in somber jewel tones of teal, ochre, gray, persimmon and more.

I've already snapped up these three pieces that I look forward to mixing and switching with what's already in my closet:

Zara $49.90
Zara 22.90
Anthropologie $148

I'm hoping I can stop, but this is a serious crush.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sewing Up "The Dressmaker"

Kate and her trusty Singer
I went to see "The Dressmaker" yesterday, despite mediocre reviews and the beautiful weather. As a fashion-possessed WOACA who sewed her way through the 1950s, why wouldn't I want to see even a bodice-ripper starring Kate Winslet and a bunch of '50s frocks?

You need to know this is above all a black comedy. The characters are drawn with very bold strokes. At times the audience knows more than they do, which is less unfortunate than you may think. It allows the viewer to feel smart and in cahoots with the filmmakers. It does nothing to prepare for the twist of an ending. There's romance, pathos and Kate Winslet having a grand time filling out couture-style clothing.

We know little about her character, Tillie, between a hardscrabble childhood in the down-trodden Australian outback and her return as an adult. We know she worked for Vionnet and Balenciaga. For those of us in the know, they are credentials enough. There is a silly scene of the entranced townswomen swanning about in Tillie's creations. That's where I expected a break out in song like "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert". Coincidentally Hugo Weaving, a principal from "Priscilla", also has a major role here. Oh and some of the eye candy is Liam Hemsworth not wearing much.

Though truly not the point of "The Dressmaker"— it's more about retribution, truth and love— there is no doubt about the transformative power of clothes. That surprise ending I mentioned? Skillfully fashioned. "Nuff said.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What's a Picture Worth?

Mary Russell by Lobravico

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I've always thought fashion illustration tells the story as well or better than a photograph. It ups the fantasy level (when fashion was a little more fantastical) and really fires your imagination. That may not hold true today, when we supposedly want to "shop the runway" before Anna Wintour's chair is even cold.

Once upon a time... and I've written about this before... using illustration was not the rare choice it is today. Proof would be a legal size (better to hold those oversize pages) folder I unearthed in an effort to finally clean out the boxes I packed 13 years ago when we moved to Texas.

Once upon a time I wanted to be a fashion illustrator. Most of my illustrations were just doodles for my own pleasure. Although I did turn out some illustrations for Glamour Magazine once I started working there, I was never comfortable in my line and was always looking over my shoulder or under the ink bottle for inspiration. Drawing, much as I loved it, didn't come naturally.

Really just a doodle
Published work!

 Talk to anyone in the arts, and I'll bet they will say what they do comes from a gut place that totally absorbs them. It's the passion that tells them "practice, practice, practice" and the thing that tells Sleep "just one more paragraph/stanza/pirouette...". Though we may dabble (or more) in what we love (Florence Foster Jenkins anyone?) we admire the ones who've got it (DG you know who you are). To that end I've long collected clips of fashion illustration.

Alas, paper doesn't last. My clippings (magazine or newsprint) are brittle if not actually fraying. Just looking at them left a trail of paper chips all over the room. It's time to say goodbye but not before a last hurrah.

A gaggle by the great Antonio

The biggest stash are drawings by Antonio Lopez, mostly from 1966 and 1967. He was an amazingly prolific illustrator. This was before he was elevated to royalty in the Studio 54 era. His girls were more young and innocent-looking in my clips than those in his later work. He worked a lot for Glamour back then too. I've written before how, being in charge of art department clean-out, I threw away reams of his alternate submissions and never saved a one. But I saved the printed pages! Go figure.

Betsy could draw too

Did you know that Betsy Johnson drew fashion illustration for Mademoiselle Magazine before she left to become a designer? She also worked in their art department, which was on the floor below Glamour's. She had a bigger passion.

I wanted to be an Arkin girl

My favorite illustrator of all-time was Erica Perl. She drew for Glamour in the '50s (before my time) and for a manufacturer named Arkin. She seemed to stop in the '60s as I never saw her work after that. Her illustrations are the most realistic of the bunch. I poured over all the details. If I could have morphed into one of them I would gladly have done so. Ironically I found out many years later she had lived just a few miles from our house in the New York City suburbs.

So maybe not goodbye to all of them, just au revoir. I'm sure I have room for one more box...