Friday, February 28, 2014

Madame Predicts the Next Big Trend

Franz Kline not all black and white

I'm going out on a limb here— or make that going out on a paintbrush— but I predict the next big trend in print and pattern will be: Abstract art. Okay, it's been done before— Yves St. Laurent with his 1965 Mondrian dress and the wonderful Sonia Delauney in the 1920s, who mixed art with fashion and has never been fully recognized for the fashion part of her art.

Yes St. Laurent's Mondrian
Sonia Delauney in the studio...
...and on canvas

I love the digital prints of recent seasons. Mary Katrantzou pioneered them and has taken hers to more and more abstract levels. Such prints are now everywhere—in many price points and infinite variety. As often happens in art (as in life) advanced technology begets the past. Cameras with real film! Calligraphy pens! The advanced printing techniques used to create photo prints are now capturing the beauty in abstract art to full effect. The Italians have a way with them:

Jill Sander 
Gabriele Colangelo 

What this leads to, of course, is my own recent purchase from Zara at the very reasonable $59.90:

And when I'm not wearing it
 I can hang it on the wall

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I Knew I was Getting Old When...

Harper's Bazaar March 2014

I first knew I was getting old when I didn't "get" Lady Gaga. Yes, it was some time ago. That only proves how long I've been getting old. Well, here she is on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, the March 2014 issue, which adds up to 530 pages and weighs in at 2 pounds, 11.4 ounces. You know Vogue will top/tip that!

Back to Gaga, the Cindy Sherman of entertainers. What initially irked me was she imitated Madonna, back in the day. I wish Madonna would return to Madonna back in the day. Since then Lady Gaga has worn and shed a million skins. I have no idea who she really is (am sure I've never seen her perform). Versatility is fine for Meryl Streep or Judi Dench— crackerjack actresses yet real women with their own personalities— but what is a Lady Gaga?

I looked this up. Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and is an "American recording artist, activist, record producer, businesswoman, fashion designer, philanthropist and actress". In other words she is playing the Fame Game for all it's worth.

Lady Gaga playing Miss Haversham..
...and playing herself?

I love originals. There are not many of them. I do give credit to those who've been influenced by originals before them (the Bee Gees by the Beatles). You can still create an identity. Influence is not the same as a Beatles tribute show. I know nothing is new under the sun, and we're all influenced by something. I just can't figure out who she is. And worse, I don't really care. Gaga never holds onto a creation long enough to make it register. Perhaps that's a statement about today's (disposable) culture.  I can avoid her most times. I just wish she weren't taking up so much valuable real estate in the magazines I love.

One characteristic of Older is we tend to rant a lot. We're less impressed by superficial achievements and tend to think we've seen it before/and or did it better ourselves. I try not to be that person. But I've yet to figure out what makes Lady Gaga such a draw.

Oh and here's a Gaga I don't want to see on the cover of anything:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

When a Picture Was Worth 1000 Photos

Once upon a time illustration ruled the fashion world. Though far from reality, fashion illustration conjures Possibilities. And isn't that part of fashion's allure?

Once upon a time I wanted to be a fashion illustrator. That was after I wanted to be a professional gift wrapper. Some little girls wanted to be nurses or airline stewardesses. What can I tell you?

Illustrating fashion relied on the capabilities of printing. Well into the 1900s, by necessity fashion news was driven by drawings. Even as photography and film were forging ahead as the records of choice, illustration continued to be the messenger of fashion news into the thirties and remained viable as late as the 1980s. Who can forget Antonio and his glamazons?

Antonio Lopez 1984

Nowhere is fantasy-meets-reality better illustrated than the fashions of the twenties. Long, lean and impossibly flat, the whippet-thin figures gave us a woman on-the-go not seen in  most contemporary photographs. It would never be possible to fully emulate those illustrations, but they inspire us still.

Illustration style changed too. As early as 1903 Paul Poiret showed his avant garde styles with illustrations influenced by Art Deco. The real thing could be a little jarring in real life. At the least, it took nerve.

The illustration...
The mannequin...
Mrs. Paul Poiret pulling it off

As they move into the mid-twenties, the ladies of Downtown Abbey have adopted the familiar no-waisted silhouettes of the day. Not to say they all look fabulous. The regal Lady Mary seems to be swimming in her chemises, while the silhouette is quite flattering to her mother Clara. Middle daughter Edith is revealing her personality in jewel tones and interesting fabrics. The least riveting character heretofore, her clothes (and story line) are driving this season. Rose, the youngest titled lady, is dressing typically for her age— trendy and a little gaudy.

Downton Abbey dressing the part

This thoughtful approach to dressing the cast is thanks to the enormous work of Caroline McCall, Downton Abbey's costume designer, who has used actual vintage clothing as well as recreated pieces. For some reason, twenties "frocks" have not survived in abundance in vintage stores. Bead-incrusted evening looks— you can find some— but everyday clothing? The best way to own something would seem to be sew it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Life with the Beatles

I was not nor have I ever been the Fifth Beatle. Never was Paul's secret girlfriend in Cleveland. Never even met a Beatle first hand. Although I dated and then married one. Or two, depending on how he wore his facial hair. You see my husband was often mistaken for a Beatle, and I was pleased as punch. Not Ringo either. He could be Paul or John, depending:

Let's backtrack. My husband was born the same year as John Lennon. That made him almost 24 the year the Beatles landed in New York for that Ed Sullivan broadcast. Fifty years ago! Imagine being 24 and— thanks to the Beatles' success— feeling certain your generation was the one that was kicking up all the fuss and would be the one that heretofore mattered.

My husband swears Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" was the style he emulated in high school. I can't imagine him suited up in a black motorcycle jacket sitting on his Brooklyn stoop (motorcycle itself strictly forbidden). Even the Beatles had a leather jacket/scruffy skiffle look back before their Hamburg friends or manager Brian Epstein gave them their mod-overs.

Much after
Even more after

It was fine to have "Beatle style" (even my brother-in-law managed to do that), but once my doppelganger husband found himself seriously taken for Paul McCartney. Beatlemania was still very much at its height in 1967. We were having breakfast in a fancy hotel dining room on the New Jersey shore when a young man came up to Alan, hand outstretched. His first words were "Paul McCartney, it's a pleasure to meet you." Alan demurred and said he was sorry but he wasn't Paul McCartney (I'll bet he was sorry). There was something about the way the young man grudgingly acknowledged it and backed away that had me thinking he was not convinced. I'm sure he told a few people he met Paul McCartney in Cape May, but keep it quiet.

Why, you may ask, is this Fashion? How is it not? Aside from the effect of their clothing and hairstyles on fans and the rest of the world (often analyzed), the Beatles proved over and over how we change ourselves by how we look. Can't tell a book by its cover? Maybe. Want to sell a lot of books? Give it a cover that attracts attention.

Beatles forever after

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I Failed at Nails

Phooey to fake nails

I had beautiful nails for five years. Not mine exactly, but I denied they were fake. They were enhanced. The manicurist applied a kind of putty that hardened quickly and made my nails strong enough to open pop tops. They were, of course, artificial nails. I took them off cold turkey a few weeks ago, not because I feared artificial nails might ruin my real nails. They had ruined my real nails.

Every two weeks I cringed in fear when the manicurist pulled out that electric file to maintain them. My nail beds had become so thin, just the sight of that thing had me gritting my teeth. She tried to be gentle and apologized profusely whenever she hit a sensitive spot. I think I understand what the torture of pulling-your-nails-out-one-by-one must feel like.

Despite their appearance in the photo below my artificial nails were not ripped off. That's just the way nails look after five years of abuse. Note the craters, white spots and peeling bits. Hope you weren't eating lunch.

My life in nails is a relatively short one.  I worked as a graphic designer, so getting a manicure would have been an exercise in futility. I might paint my nails for a special occasion but could never master using my left hand. Chipping nail polish drove me crazy, and I didn't have the patience to let them dry. The only artificial nails I knew about were glued on to make yours look like Fu Manchu's.

Come retirement or career change or whatever, having nice nails seemed attainable and a long delayed treat. In the meantime someone, possibly the devil, invented "solar nails", polymethyl methacrylate, a liquid and a powder that is mixed together and hardens on the nail. Your own nail keeps growing, so the "nail" needs to be "filled" every two weeks. That requires sanding, puttying and sanding again, two hours' time and $25.

My new nails looked natural, not too long. I had the most fun choosing nail polish (which doesn't chip on solar nails). Manufacturers give them wonderful names. My favorite was called "Bling Dynasty" and was a nice soft gold. Fu Manchu would have loved it. I forged a nice friendship with my manicurist and learned a lot about Vietnam.

Not my hand
but could have been

All that is over now. This is going to be a long haul. Your nails grow about 1/10 of an inch a month— slower in cold weather, quicker in warm. At this rate it will be a year before my nails are even the ordinary specimens they were before. Maybe. It's possible they will always be weak. I'm thinking gloves should make a comeback.