Sunday, February 26, 2012

Who Doesn't (Still) Love Audrey?

Audrey in 1962  from The Fashion Style of Audrey blog

She's always, there, in the background of my life. If I try hard I can hear her voice, that cultured inflection of many cultures. I can see her movies in my mind and remember those public events in her life, not the least of which was notice of her death in 1993.

Today's New York Times has an article about Connie Wald. At age 95, with a lifetime of amazing events under her very stylish belt, she has surely become a Woman We Love— more on her another time. What brought Audrey to mind today was that Connie Wald was her BFF, and Googling the two of them produced this amazing blog called The Fashion Style of Audrey:

I'm still not sure who did it. English may or may not be his or her first language. References to Audrey can be uber-respectful, referring to her as  "Mrs. Audrey Hepburn". Someone has taken the time to post many, many photographs of her looking fabulous both on the red carpet and on the grass at home. This is probably the 2012 techno equivalent of my sketching every costume change in "Sabrina" while watching a VHS tape. I thank the poster. A day with Audrey is a day with sunshine no matter the weather.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Evolving... yet again

Not going to see red

I have more fashion lives than a cat. Whether it's the influence of fellow bloggers or true Reflection on Self, I find I am tossing (or at least pausing to decide on) more quirky residents of my wardrobe. This time the semi annual purge is casting a wider net. Not only am I ditching the worn out and never worn (ie bad buys), I am remembering what I felt the best in this past season and aiming to repeat that feeling the next.

That means no ruffles, frou-frou, frills, fullness or funkadelic. I've suddenly discovered that less is more, but only if that less is really, really good stuff. What it meant last year was purchasing a long black cashmere cardigan, a beautiful black bag, some interesting pieces of statement jewelry (decidedly not from Claire's Accessories) and rich fabrics in offbeat colors. I still felt creative, not cookie cutter. I want to steer far far away from eccentric, artsy old lady. I used to fear that Red Hat Society look of pull-on 100% polyester. Now that I know it will never happen, I cringe at looking— on the other hand— like a style spectacle.

You've seen that woman. She thumbs her nose at what is thoughtfully tasteful because she knows she can get away with it. She travels in packs and may end up in Bill Cunnigham's photo essays in the New York Times. Her look is admirable but not admired.
One of these women is actually a man

So now that I've paired down and chyrsalised, what do I do with all those empty hangers?  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Men We Love: Ralph Lauren

Lord Lauren in my book

How could we not love Ralph Lauren? Not only did he show a fantastic collection for Fall 2012 last week, he introduced the runway with the theme from Downton Abbey. I understand the audience applauded. Remember, that was before the show. As long as he has been designing it seems Ralph Lauren has never made a misstep. He may have repeated some a few times, but when you are waltzing as beautifully as he, who cares?

First and foremost Ralph, if I may call him by the familiar, loves women. He is not trying to change us or hide us. He understands that we love a bit of dress-up, make-believe or let's-pretend. The New York Times review of the collection was the highest praise I've ever seen them give a designer. They practically annointed him as royalty. Which he is of course. Yes, I know he doesn't design everything, but he has to sign off on it. And if he has a dream, it gets made.
Ralph with the beautiful Mrs. Lauren

It's well-known that Ralph Lauren, far from to-the-manor-born, started life as Ralph Lifshitz in the Bronx. He began his haberdashery career as a salesman for a glove manufacturer, then designed ties for a necktie company. In 1967 he founded Polo, whose roots were in the Preppy-English-tweedy look. By the '80s his "empire" included womenswear, children's wear and home goods. If you've ever had the pleasure of visiting a Ralph Lauren emporium, you are taken on a journey of his creating that is a dreamscape of history, art and commerce. His genius has never been as an innovator, but in evocatively reinterpreting lifestyles that may or may not actually have existed. Ralph Lauren more or less perfects the eras he brings to life.

He has been married to the same woman, Ricky, for 47 years, has three beautiful children who have no apparent faults (though daughter Dylan has quite the sweet tooth). He has a daughter-in-law who was a model and niece of a president and is improbably now named Lauren Lauren. He has a gi-normous classic car collection, and I don't know how many homes. Perhaps Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey is filmed) belongs to him as well. I deny him nothing. He deserves it all. He makes me that happy.

Was this Ralph's best collection yet?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To the Third Power

As easy as 1, 2, 3...

Somewhere along the way I learned that three items will make an outfit. A blouse and skirt won't do it, but a blouse + skirt + JACKET or a blouse + skirt + VEST or a blouse + skirt + STATEMENT BELT... you get the idea. So if in life three is a crowd, then in fashion three is key.

This occurred to me as I tried to work a beautiful silk embroidered Chinese jacket with a pair of coral skinny jeans. The pants picked up some of the embroidery on the jacket, so it worked without being too matchy-matchy. I had the au courant black velvet bedroom slippers lined up. It didn't look thoughtful enough until I threw on a double strand of plastic buttons that I bought for 25 cents at a garage sale eons ago. From a distance those buttons look like a rainbow of beautiful bakelite beads. Up close they are, of course, buttons, but the hues and shape transforms them into jewelry. That "third thing" made the outfit.

Try it sometime. When you've got two things you love, but they aren't singing well together, add a third something. Remember that if the third is an accessory it needs to carry the tune as well.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Madame Predicts the Future of Magazines

Gone but not forgotten and coming soon

Do we see a trend here? Just as Mark Twain remarked "The reports of my death are grossly exaggerated", I would like to predict that magazines are not dead yet. But they are evolving. And while it's unlikely we will see a full-blown rebirth of beloved lifestyle magazine Domino, last week Domino announced a "special newsstand edition" to be published this spring at the cover price of $10.00. And they are already planning issue number two. As is, whose second magazine about the fashion shows in New York, Paris, Milan and London will be out shortly. They are already offering one-year subscriptions @$11.99 for two issues.

The trend setter in this catagory might be Anthology, a "magabook" (souped-up oversized paperback) out of California that has just released its sixth quarterly issue, selling for $12.00. Each issue is lifestyle/personality driven with more text and expanded captions. I call it "aspirational journalism" because the stories profile real people and their actual, not-tricked-up homes as well as offbeat places to travel and the usual crafty projects and cookery. Everyone is young and attractive and seems to buy her clothes at Anthropologie. The magazine is printed on quality stock and is nicely designed. This one won't land in the trash all that soon.

Many moons ago when I was part of the then very healthy publishing world, we would receive complaints that the magazine had "too many ads". We all chortled as that meant not only that we all had jobs. It's long been cost-inefficient to send you a magazine as a subscriber. The price of postage and wood pulp was staggering even then. I can only wonder what it is today. It was the ads that paid the bills. And the more subscribers the more a periodical can charge for its ads. I cringed when I saw the blow-out postcard for Entertainment Weekly, 52 issues for $10.00!!! but signed on immediately.

Likewise one-shots of magazines are not new. Generally they repackage old material in a themed manner or use up extraneous stories that have already been photographed and/or written. But this limited release of special titles is a new wrinkle, and I'm loving it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weak for Fashion Week

Marching at Marc (Jabobs)

Bad pun aside, I love Fashion Week. Or more precisely I love Mercedes Benz Fashion Week New York. I couldn't care less about Milan. Paris and London are too remote, but New York— ah!

This is the city where I happily toiled within the sphere of the fashion industry (women's magazines) for nearly forty years and loved it to bits. Madison Avenue and Fifth may be chic; Soho may be trendy, but Seventh Avenue was the heart and soul of it all. I truly enjoyed dodging rolling racks of garments on the street at lunchtime while trying to score at one of many "sample sales" (read: let's unload the unsold goods) being held in creaky loft warehouses off Seventh. There would just be time to grab a hot dog off a street vendor while running back to work. I'm living proof that you can eat the occasional New York City hot dog and survive.

Back to Fashion Week. The hoopla is a fairly new phenomenon. "Press Week", as it was known then, began in 1943 as a showcase for American designers to present their wares to the media. "New York Fashion Week" really got going in 1994 when shows were held in tents in Bryant Park (otherwise known as "behind the library") which backs up on Seventh Avenue. Mercedes came on board in 2009. Bryant Park meanwhile turned trendy (and perhaps demanding), so the tents moved up to Lincoln Center in 2010. Yes, I did get to go to some shows in Bryant Park— not because it was my job but because the magazine got tickets and there were extra. Yes, it was exactly as you might imagine— an hour and a half of shuffling in, getting seated and w-a-i-t-i-n-g for 10 minutes of prancing models and blaring music. Yes, it was theatrical and magic. For those few moments I really felt a part of that most incredible city, where you can feel such a stranger and so welcome all at the same time.

When Fashion Week rolls around, I do sort of wish I were still there. Like eyeing a pastry shop's treats when the store is closed, I get my fix by of-the-minute commentating and streaming video. I can see—online— the shows of designers I've never heard of and those who would never actually invite me. I can pass judgement on their efforts just as I start planning next season's wardrobe.

It's always bizarre that as we're itching to shed our winter clothes for spring we're asked to think about next winter's clothes. Likewise in the heat of late summer, just as stores are displaying their new fall selections, we get to ponder what to wear in the heat of next summer. Maybe that does make sense after all.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Was I Wooed by Jason Wu?

Jason Wu for Target: cute but no bulls eye

Did Jason Wu win me over? The quick answer: Not really.

For those of you living under a rock (or maybe legitimately on another continent) the latest collaboration between Target and a Famous Designer is with Jason Wu. For the past five years mass market retailer extraordinaire Target has hosted guest designers as part of its GO International promotion. They have ranged from Anna Sui to Jean Paul Gaultier to Missoni. Now we have Jason Wu, the young designer who rose quickly to prominence after designing Michelle Obama's inauguration ball gown.

Jason Wu's look is pretty tame compared to— say— Jean Paul Gautier. He designs riffs on the Pretty American Girl (think less vintage Zooey Deschanel). I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit waiting for the February 5 launch date. Sunday morning came. We really needed milk for breakfast. Target opens at 8 AM. They sell milk as well as designer fashion. Why not check it out?

When I arrived shortly before 9, the line (there had been one) was gone. What was left were a few garments in odd sizes swinging on practically empty racks and some women milling around to catch any returns from the fitting room or castoffs from others' shopping carts. It was civilized behavior if a little sad.

Why were we all hanging around these bits of polyester? Did they really look different from anything currently available at Forever Twenty One? Does wearing Jason Wu for Target automatically make you a cognescenti of fashion? Because Target annointed Jason Wu, does that make him a player?

My problem with Target's concept is that quality of fabric and construction is noticeably absent. A shoddy garment is not any better with a designer label. A prime example of major disappointment in this area is the ongoing collaboration between Target and John Derian, an artist whose skill lies in charming decoupage under glass. The Target version had his decoupage printed on plastic. I have nothing against plastic or printed designs, but why should John Derian be involved in this?

For the same reason I question why Jason Wu— or any designer— wants to be associated with Target or H&M or Walmart. Do they need egos stroked (or coffers filled) that much? As for us, why do we still gravitate en masse to the label— even if it's hidden inside.   

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Elementary, My Dear Elle

A plethora of peplums

Far from withering after the defection of their top fashion editor, Nina Garcia, Elle magazine has emerged intact and on point in their coverage of fash with dash. They actually gave us several pages in the February issue of really useful information— how to wear four key silhouettes of Spring 2012.

They are:
the peplum top
the knife-pleat skirt
the boxy jacket 
the maxi skirt 

This is news you can take to the store or your closet. I will share what I've learned without subjecting you to photos of tempting $2,095 Marc Jacobs handbags or those items labeled "price upon request"
Add some pep
The peplum hasn't made a real appearance since the '50s. As a stand alone blouse or jacket the peplum makes a flip fashion statement that is more flattering than one might expect.

Key to the look:
DO wear with an elongated pencil skirt or slim pants
DON'T wear with a maxi skirt or shorts
DO carry a classic lady-like bag (in a bright color)
DON'T wear with a backpack
DO wear with a wedge, platform or ankle strap shoe
DON'T wear with a kitten heel
(lady-like bag but tough shoe— who knew?)
ALWAYS pair with a rhinestone collar
(uh-oh— shopping trip)

Sharp as a knife
The knife-pleat skirt is another lady-like look from the archives. Keep it simple, for the most part. You can kill two fashion birds by making it a knife-pleat maxi skirt, but different keys will apply.

Key to the look:
DO wear a simple, long sleeve blouse or classic cardigan
DON'T wear a ruffled blouse or tiered tank
DO carry a lady-like Kelly, bowler or doctor bag
(that lady-like bag is already getting some use)
DON'T lug a messenger bag
DO wear a simple pump, ballet flat or Oxford shoe
DON'T sport a platform heel
ALWAYS pair with statement earrings

Think inside the box
The boxy jacket is probably in your wardrobe already in the form of your well-loved jean jacket or motorcycle jacket. The newest ones are— yet again— reminiscent of the '50s.

Key to the look:
DO wear with short, high-waisted shorts (uh...maybe not) or skinny ankle jeans
DON'T wear with a knee-length circle skirt or flared pants
DO tote a tote or hobo bag
DON'T wear a long shoulder-strap or Kelly bag
DO wear a bootie, chunky heel or sneaker
DON'T wear those ballet flats
ALWAYS pair with a soft blouse underneath
To the max
The maxi skirt swept in a season or two ago and appears to have staying power. Pick your own era or foreign nation to emulate.

Key to the look:
DO wear a Western button-down, t-shirt or motorcycle jacket
DON'T wear a bow blouse
(Little House on the Prairie is not the idea)
DO carry a clutch, cross-body or hobo bag
(Hobos and motorcycles are both showing up often this spring)
DON'T carry your Kelly bag
DO wear a cowboy-shaped shoe or gladiator sandal
DON'T wear a Mary Jane or ballet flat
ALWAYS wear with a statement belt*

*ALLWAYS IN FASHION urges you never throw away a belt unless it's just plain worn out as belt styles come and go in and out of fashion. They really take up little space and truly are an item for which you can "shop your closet".

There you have it. It would seem that Opposites Attract and one should Do the Unexpected. I'm going to feel quite frumpy at times as I wear ballet flats with almost everything. Perhaps I will be energized to switch handbags more often.

Thanks to Elle for sharing. I should have these keys memorized by the time the doors open to Spring 2012.