Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Runway Rewind

Project Runway Season Eleven ready for their recap

There will be a little tete a tete on Thursday when contestants on the latest season of Project Runway go head to head with each other in a reunion show. What will they say, now that the winner is a done deal and everyone has had a chance to view everyone else milking their own fifteen minutes of fame?

Project Runway used to be about fashion and the laborious, strenuous, uncertain path to becoming a fashion designer— speeded up x 40 for TV, with a winner yet success in the industry not guaranteed.
Lately— perhaps the past four or six outings— the talent pool has gotten shallower, the tiffs pettier, the "characters" less memorable and/or likeable. The whole thing probably deserves a spot on the New York Times "Meh" List— not terrible but not great either. Just "meh".

If you are watching you are probably not new to the series. Most of us diehards have been there from the start. We bought into the conceit that winning a television show with its prizes and publicity would annoint America's next top fashion designer. That was a little like thinking "The Bachelor" will find true love with the final rose. Time has turned that show into a bit of a joke. But we Project Runway-niacs still like believing in fairy dust.

From "Make it Work" to "Auf Weidersen", Project Runway has given us personalities to remember and minutiae to cherish. Who knew super model Heidi Klum had brains, business acumen and opinions? Who suspected we would grow fond of the acerbic Nina Garcia (whose attitude has softened as well)? Who, including the man himself, ever thought Tim Gunn would go from design instructor to television personality, author, chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne and the voice of a Disney character and still remain a really nice guy? Guest judges come and go, but Michael Kors has yet to change his t-shirt.

And the contestants! Season One winner Jay McCarroll was such a goof-off during challenges but took his finalist status seriously. His runway collection took my breath away, but he's is still traveling a bumpy road on his path to becoming a viable designer.

The goofster got serious

Over time there have been deserving winners, some just best-of-the-rest and others who were truly "meh". Chloe Dao is a hometown favorite who is by all accounts pretty successful. Selling on QVC may be a little like selling out in my mind, but her business here is thriving; she gives back to the community and certainly has handled success— and fame— well.

Hometown honey

Christian Siriano knew he was good, and he also knew he was young and might be considered an upstart. He deserved to win and knew it, but managed to be genuinely humble. He's the real deal: I wish him great success.

Not the first Christian to make
 a name in fashion

Two of my favorite personalities were not winners but have managed to forge celebrity-status careers out of PR exposure. Teammates August Scarlett and Santino couldn't be more different but even hit the road together for a short-lived but charming fashion series on Bravo.

"On the Road" with Santino (left) and Austin (right)

Which brings us to this season's winner, Michelle Lesniak Franklin. She's actually pretty good. Her clothes have heart— and art. A prime example was the "bleeding heart" sweater she showed in her runway (against Tim Gunn's advice). She believed in it, and the judged applauded. The artfulness may have gone too cerebral in the story behind her clothes (lone female wolf needing to hunt down a final kill before starvation) or a little gimmick-y (that compass worn as a brooch), but at least she had a direction.

Her heart is bleeding

If I have issues with Michelle it was her attitudes of both entitlement and fearing failure. Michelle was a scrappy little contestant from Day One. But what a whiner! She always felt she was on the wrong team, worried her team would pull her down. When winning became a possibility she was not shy to let us know she "deserved to win and needed it". Why? Because she was struggling for years without recognition and/or success? No, because until recently she had been in the wine business and had "given everything up" to pursue her love of designing. There were times she put down the other designers (not to their faces) and other times she declared she did not want to be hugged or touched as it wasn't "the right time". She deserved to win— over the others, who were half-baked at best. Will she be a winner? Only time (and that compass) will tell.

Has Project Runway seen its best days behind itself? Maybe. Will I keep watching? When does Season Twelve begin?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Madame Surveys the Trends for You

Spring has taken her good old time settling in this year. Even here in Houston, where April is usually the loveliest of months, we are going from a high of 83 to a high of 65 in a day. Dressing is a physical and mental challenge to be sure.

Nevertheless I see Trends unfolding around me— in the stores, leaping out from the pages of magazines and illuminating laptops and iPads. The tricky part about predicting trends is one sets oneself on a mountaintop to survey the season. There's no guarantee the trends I see from my lofty perch will make it to the top. And sometimes a trend lands squarely on the summit from outer space (or most likely the streets). That being said:

NEON   There are summer brights, and then there's neon. Never found in nature (neon tetras aside), neon is not just for traffic cones anymore. From nail polish to the whole nine yards, neon is everywhere. A skinny neon belt or neon clutch is not embracing this trend. If you're doing neon, go big. As sure as I'm sitting on my mountain top this too shall passe. Have fun while it glows.

Nanette (Lepore) loves neon

DENIM   Summer's trendy denim is the skinny leg (cropped or rolled at the skinny cuff) or modified boyfriend (be sure the waist and hip fit to flatter). Gone are the wide legs and boot cuts of winter. Washes may still be dark (flattering and versatile), but look for softer, lightweight fabrications. Colored denim is huge and fits in with the neon/color blocking trends as well. White jeans always say Summer. You may need to go up a size as nothing is worse than a too-tight pair. Oh and buy white now before they are MIA.

Add a top, please
Let's call them Andre and George,
as in Androgynously Gorgeous

BOHO    Summer is always going to evoke the flower child in all of us. Make sure your Boho is age appropriate. If you were there, or could have been, forego the Woodstock-era. Go bohemian instead with timeless  folkloric or ethnic looks. In other words, channel Frida Kahlo classic not Stevie Nicks hippy.

Frida si...
Stevie not so much

CHAMBRAY   Chambray the way to go home? The blue chambray shirt is such a staple now it can be called the summer denim jacket. I have to admit, it's instant cool and the easiest friend to a pair of colored or patterned skinny pants. It's a bathing suit cover up. Tie it at the waist with a long skirt. I buy mine in the boys' department at Target.

Thirteen bucks and right on Target

GROWN-UP RUFFLES These are not your grandma's ruffles or even Holly Hobbie's. We are talking lusciously sophisticated, sculptural ruffles that are best left to the masters such as Gucci, Chloe and Balenciaga. Be wary of cheap, mass-market knockoffs else your ruffles might have ridges.

Gucci's got it
Dotty at Rucci... but the dark
underwear has me seeing red
MORE HANGERS-ON: This trend-spotter spots spots. (I just like writing that). Polka dots are not overdone yet, from itty-bitty dottted swiss dots to dinner-plate sized circles.  Print mixing may remain an art form better left to the pros or those who throw caution to the winds. When it's done right, respecting colors and tonality, it can be fresh and modern. LaceNautical stripes. Just be wary of lace AND nautical stripes (see below). Also still on stage are the modern textile miracle, photo prints (also see below). For the feet, espadrilles, wedges and ballet flats will still take you where you need to go, comfortably and in style.  

Picture this...

NEVER-SAY-NEVER DEPARTMENT: Synthetic jersey turns respectable. Arnel and Banlon are blasts from the past, but that type of material is turning up again in dresses and tops, especially those sporting those interesting photo prints. It's a great fabric to travel with as it truly never wrinkles. Synthetics are not recommended for travel to Dubai, however, as they do not breathe.

BLACK AND WHITE Always chic, this summer's black and white has Marc Jacobs to thank. His very graphic looks for Louis Vuitton stand out. 2013 black and white is a cerebral no-brainer.

Black and whites makes its Marc

DROPPING OFF THE CLIFF: peplums and the high-low hemline. They always were a little silly— the peplum in a surprisingly flattering way. The high-low hemline is just odd. "Ladies, let's show off your knees, the most universally unflattering area on a woman's body!" We can at least be grateful the style was always short in front, longer in back and not the other way around.

Pretty peplum people

BEWARE THE MIX-MASHER: Step carefully when it comes to mixing trends (neon with sheer, stripes with lace). Like a good affair, you're better embracing one love at a time.

 As always, anything unflattering is never for you.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rach and Maj

We may not agree on a lot of stylish things (i.e. those shoes you wore running after Skyler in last night's episode), but Rachel Zoe and I both j'adore Giambattista Valli.

I didn't recognize the name when she mentioned the Paris show she wouldn't miss because he's "maj". Giambattista Valli is not a household name or even one you say aloud often. First I thought she meant the evil guy who ran Cuba before the present evil guy. Halfway into the runway presentation I realized who this was. I was lucky enough to snap up a leopard coat he designed as part of a collection for Macy's last year.

In a nutshell GM is a native Roman who designed his way around some Italian houses (Capucci, Fendi, Krizia). His success with a young and hip Roman clientele forged a move to Paris and work for Emanuel Ungaro.  GM began his own ready-to-wear-line line in 2005 with couture launching in 2011. The looks are very modern yet innately feminine. It's easy to see influences from Fellini and Antonioni films, Halston and what used to be called "cafe society". As Audrey Hepburn is never far from my fashion-think, I see her wearing Giambattista Valli if she were living her life in Rome as she once did. As for now, GM has a roster of celebrities who wear his clothes (Natalie Portman, Halle Berry, Diane Kruger, SJP, Julianne Moore, Penelope Cruz, etc.) and me of course.

If you love fashion it's a thrill to discover something major while it's still a bit minor.

Here's looking at you...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Rant Without Rhyme or Reason

Exhibit A
Exhibit B

Do you ever go into a store hoping you won't find anything you like? You are there to survey the scene while consulting the mental checklist of holes in your wardrobe. You really do hope you don't find anything because your holes are mere cracks that will turn into chasms if you find something you love.

Today I fell in like with a pair of pants at Ann Taylor. It wasn't a "must have" relationship, but the colors were light and springy. I knew they would coordinate with about fifteen things I already owned. They were on sale for $59.99. That's not a bargain, but a sale is a sale.

The issue was fit. As I'm short the petite size would have been ideal, but a 6 petite (Exhibit A) was waaaaay smaller than a straight size 6 (Exhibit B). I couldn't even zip them. The 6 fit but would have necessitated a trip to the tailors or eternal cuffing. There was no 8 petite to (gulp) even try. What to do? I decided to purchase the 6 anyways.

When I took it to check-out, the clerk rang them up and announced "$75.58 please". Sales tax here is high, but $15??????

"How much were they?" I asked.
"Did you think they were something else?"
"Well, I think the tag said $59.99. If you don't mind I'll go check".

Yes, the 6 petite was marked $59.99 and the 6 was $69.99. That made no sense, and I told her so.
"That's the way it is", she said. "Sometimes petites are more expensive." That made even less sense.
"Well, I'm not going to pay $10 more for the same pants", I said.

Having made my little protest speech, she then said "Have a nice day".


Friday, April 5, 2013

Flat Out Happy

Flats are In not Out. That makes me happy because these feet ain't too happy wearing heels. Oh, I can stand there okay. Maybe make it from the car to the restaurant and back again, but actual movement in anything higher than a kitten is beyond me. I do still love trolling down the Aisles of the Impossibles at DSW Shoe Warehouse gazing at Shoes as Art. As for the wearing...

All flats are not created equal nor does one style fit all wardrobes. Today's fashionable flats are:

> The ever-popular ballet flat or skimmer (ballet flat w/o the bow)
> Tuxedo flats (aka men's bedroom slippers)
> Oxfords (lace-ups as borrowed from the boys)

Lucky Magazine (April issue) has given us a cheat-sheet on how to wear them, and now I know where I've gone wrong.

BALLET FLATS are easy as they go with everything (I thought). But Fashion isn't always about Easy. The ballet flat keeps a short pencil skirt from looking trampy. Ballet flats can be paired with long skinny pants (to the ankle or artfully schmoosed). Think Audrey Hepburn/Laura Petrie.
We're Lucky to have a cheat-sheet
Natali-adorable Portman

OXFORDS are softer versions of school shoes like the white bucks popular back when. Enthusiasm when they first made the scene a few years ago quickly dimmed. Yes, they were quite comfortable but would I be perceived as wearing "old lady shoes" for comfort rather than chic? My French cousin Jill showed up in gold leather oxfords on a visit from Paris about thirty years ago. I thought they were wonderful and I would get myself a pair one day. Now that I am the age she was at the time, I'm not so sure.
Seems one reason I never got it right was this look must be treated as ironic. Girls can wear boys' shoes either with a girly-girly short full skirt (will not, cannot, must not happen if you are a "girl" over thirty) or with tailored crops a la menswear designer Tom Browne. The ankles need to show. We are not cross-dressing here. Lucky also suggests pairing oxfords with a long maxi skirt. Uh oh— if you are of a Certain Age you risk looking like Marian the Librarian.
Youngsters only to the left

Tuxedo flats are so Lord Grantham, says Lucky. There is indeed something delicious about wearing slippers as daywear. Pair them with an A-line or slightly flared skirt or with boyfriend roll-ups befitting a modern-day Tom Sawyer. Even Lucky says stay away from long skirts with tuxedo flats and calls that look "nerdy".
Really borrowing this look from the boys...

I'm beginning to think long skirts can be a drag...
Is barefoot best for a long skirt?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Les Girls

Let's hear it for three lovely ladies: Happy Birthday Jane, Debbie and Ali! Born on April 1, these gals are no joke. Jane Powell is 85, Debbie Reynolds 81 and Ali McGraw (AWIF hall of famer) is 75.

Everyone's favorite girl-next-door
With fifth husband (since 1988) former child star Dickie Moore
Ageless, timeless and fun; like the dress too
Jane Powell may not be a fashion icon (that's not what she's about) but in any photos I see of her (most notably on the town in New York) she looks delightful and the most adorable now-85-year-old ever.

Everyone's favorite girl-next-door on the other side

With two little friends
A lot of stories to tell...
Debbie Reynolds was for a while this teenager's wanna-be (talk about impossibilities). She's not a fashion icon by a long shot. She seems to dress for the role she plays: Debbie Reynolds. That's fine; the role suits her.

I'll have what she's having...
Then there's Ali McGraw. Her innate good taste has served her well. She pulled off trends so well back in her salad days that they became Style. She's still got that today without even trying.

For all the flak it may take, April 1 is indeed a Very Good Day.