Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I'll Have What She's Wearing: Audrey

Philippe Halsman, 1955

Why did it take so long? For years and years I've loved these images of Audrey Hepburn by Philippe Halsman. Such a simple idea— a skinny black top and a full, longish skirt. I've tried it many times, but none of my black tops were ever skinny enough or stayed in place long enough.

I won't call it a lightbulb moment— more a "duh" moment. I finally realized ex-dancer Audrey must be wearing a dancer's leotard as her black top. Turns out such leotards still exist, available to all, even those whose turn-out may be less than balletic. I found these two by Avery Dance Apparel on the internet. Both zip up the back and are in a Lycra-Spandex blend (no doubt a stretchy improvement over Audrey's original) and retail for less than $20 each.

Crew neck 
Modified crew neck

Midi-length skirts are fashionable again as well. I love the long-skirt-long-sleeved-black-top idea with sandals for summer, but I'd better hurry. Things get hothothot here pretty fast.

 Michael Kors taking
a cooler approach

Way before Van Halen, Philippe Halsman loved to tell his celebrity subjects, "Jump" and got memorable shots from some unlikely jumpers (i.e. Salvador Dali and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor). These pix of Audrey are classic Philippe and classic Audrey:

Philippe Halsman, 1955

Friday, March 27, 2015

Saying Goodbye in a Stack of T-Shirts

Big sister and little sister,
circa 1947

My older sister Lonnie died this week. Ours was a small family. Perhaps the only positive in that is less funerals to attend, less goodbyes to make. Lonnie was my older sister by nine years. With that great an age difference, she was really another adult in my life, albeit the one I shared a room with. I looked up to her as only little sisters can and was as much a pest at times as only little sisters can be.

She was the true artist among us— a hunter-and-gatherer of the first degree. Everything was fodder for her incredible talents. She never threw anything away because you never know...

I wouldn't call Lonnie a pack rat. She was more of an un-pack rat as organization was not her greatest skill. Her son Rick had done an amazing job in recent months trying to get things in order. He was, however, flummoxed when it came to the clothes.

Lonnie was the Mrs. Spratt to my Jack. We were physically very different types. She was a plus-size Bohemian and not a slave to trends. In fact, on-trend plus size choices are very limited. She praised Ralph Lauren and Liz Claiborne for making basics like tees and pants. Her favorite brands were simple, loose-fitting styles by Eileen Fisher and FLAX. She had a weakness for screen-print-ornamented dresses by Blue Fish.

In general, simple clothes were a background for an incredible collection of ethnic jewelry, folkloric jackets, scarves, handbags and shoes. She never shied away from color or pattern. Dressing up was a personal form of creative self-expression, and she did it very well.

The result for Rick was two closets and a mountain of items to sort. In the short time I had before my plane back home, I lent my "brand expertise" to weed out what might be given another home or be eligible for resale on ebay (those sumptuous jackets for sure).

You might think it would be depressing, the nadar of chores, to go through a deceased family member's clothing the day after the funeral. That scene of the rag sorters in the 1950s version of "A Christmas Carol" as they haggle over Scrooge's belongings still upsets me to watch.

Yesterday, as I folded t-shirt after t-shirt, I felt very close to my big sister— a sister, a friend, a major influence in my life since— well— birth. It was as if, with each fold, I was hugging her...

...hugging her goodbye.

Lonnie would have loved this

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Coming soon...

I  R  I  S     I R I S     I R I S         
That should get your attention. Not the flower, not the part of the eye, this is Iris Apfel. The documentary, "Iris" (by the late great Albert Maysles), will be released April 29. He also gave us "Grey Gardens" about the two lovably eccentric Bouviers, but Iris is nothing like them. She is just a brilliant 93-year-old fashionista with an enviable style, sense of humor and razor sharp observations. Not to mention great clothes and accessories.

The trailer is out. You can find it here (copy and paste— sorry):


Be prepared to fall in love.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fancy, That

Chantilly lace and a pretty face...

There are three terms you need to know for Spring/Summer 2015— chantilly, broderie Anglaise and guipure. No wonder I learned French in high school; it's the language of fashion.

And why are those three so important? Because saying "lace" won't get the point across. This year's lace looks are not mere trimmings; they have heft. And the look of romantic white lace is everywhere. March Vogue has given it 12 pages, Alberta Ferretti a whole collection.

Lest you set out looking for the wrong lace, here's your whole-y primer:

> Chantilly lace is the most delicate. This finely detailed lace was first developed in Chantilly, France, in the 17th century. It features a distinct outline style and was often made into shawls. A certain bride's wedding gown featured Chantilly lace.

The lace looks familiar...

> Broderie Anglaise ("English embroidery") is similar to eyelet but more intricately detailed, using a combination of eyelet and buttonhole stitches. The technique originated in the 17th century but was most popular in the mid-Victorian era. Originally used on undergarments, it's decidedly less formal.

A Broderie bolero

> Guipure (pronounced "ghee-pure") first appeared in France in the 1840s and is taken from the word for "tape". The patterns are elegant and densely woven. Guipere lace is used more for an entire garment than as mere trim.

Hanging by a thread

Vogue's lace portfolio was photographed by Peter Lindbergh and styled by the indomitable Grace Coddington. They took a "Picnic at Hanging Rock" theme. What I recall from that 1975 movie was a creepy story, magnificent Australian landscapes and gorgeous Victorian summer dresses. Released during the very hippiest part of the '70s, the movie no doubt influenced a lot of summer dresses that year as well.

"Picnic at Hanging Rock" 1975
Peter Lindbergh for Vogue 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The New Crop of Crop Tops

Carolina Herrera's top of the crop

There's no way on heaven or earth I would ever think of wearing the midriff-baring crop tops that have been a fashion trend the past few seasons. But even if you are older than springtime, you can wear one now.

The latest crop of crop tops are using more material and a bit more geometry. You still have to think about putting an outfit together with one, and they will still flatter the flat-chested rather than the amply endowed, but at least they have become a reasonable possibility.

Think trapeze. The latest crop tops are not midriff-hugging; they have a little swing in them. Of course they are longer too, covering the rib cage and stopping just above the waist. The waist is the secret in putting an outfit together. You need to wear high-waisted pants or a skirt to show off your waist. This is not a look for everyone, true, but age alone is not the barrier.

Lela Rose does it
Christian Siriano does it
Anonymous Google pic does it

This is a look I've been trying to emulate for almost 60 years, since Audrey Hepburn wore hers in "Funny Face" in 1956. Amazing.

Audrey did it... best

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Bill

Happy Birthday to Bill Cunningham, 
86 years old on March 13.

Bill Cunningham is not only the star of his own movie, he's the star of his own life.

No one captures the feel of fashion in New York like Bill. Gentle and self-deprecating, yet with a delicious sense of humor, Bill's shots bring fashion to life.

If they gave out numbers, Bill would be Street Photographer #1. He just about invented the genre and has been doing it longer— and better— than anyone. Believe me, shooting on the street is not easy. I've failed miserably dozens of times.

He doesn't try to hide, but he is fast. He can be spotted wearing his trademark blue French workman's coat zipping by on his bike. I know he exists, though I've never seen him. My friend Justin Holt, on the other hand, has.

Photos by Justin Holt

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Call Wardrobe!

Costume stylists have an easy time when it comes to most Diane Keaton movies. Didja ever notice in nearly every one she dresses like a version of herself? It's as if wardrobe visited her home and went through her closets. Maybe not a bad idea. Larry David told an interviewer he wears his own (worn-in) clothes for his role in the new Broadway play "Fish in the Dark" because they felt more like him. And it would be hard to recreate the "lived in look" of Larry's clothes.

No light in his closet...

Although there's no doubt Diane is acting in her movies, she has come to play in the Cary Grant style of "this is what we want Diane Keaton to act like/be wearing". Her crisp, tailored blouses, slouchy pants and classic jewelry are safe and easy to emulate. You can't go wrong in these looks. Classic is classic for a reason. Those Greek goddesses may look the same after a while, but they're all gorgeous.

So here comes a new Diane Keaton flick, "Love the Coopers". This time she's paired with John Goodman. It's a Christmas-themed family dramedy (something for everyone), and it looks like she's playing our vision of Diane again.

"Love the Coopers"

There are over twenty years of Diane Keaton post "Godfather" films to prove the point. Keep in mind how styles have changed, but she's had pretty much the same style throughout.

"Father of the Bride I"
"Father of the Bride II"
"First Wives Club"
"Somethings Gotta Give"
"The Family Stone"
"Because I Said So"
"Mad Money"
"Morning Glory"
"Darling Companion"
"Hanging Up"
"The Big Wedding"
"And So It Goes"
"Five Flights Up" 

We may think we've been watching Diane Keaton dressed to play Diane Keaton, but we've been fooling ourselves. In real life she likes to wear a costume.

Biker mama chic
Dandy dudette with
Sarah Paulson as movie Diane
Channeling Pinky Lee

Friday, March 6, 2015

Who's That Girl?

Hardly Francoise

I was asked by someone with a superior eye for detail if I had a picture (or pictures) that I carried from one mood board to the next*.

I've had this particular photo inside my closet doors since we moved in 12 years ago, and I started fresh. Thanks to Houston humidity, I'm sure the door would pull off its hinges if I tried to remove it. Can't remember where it came from, don't know who she is, don't know where she is or "who she's wearing".

By now I've given her an identity as real as any. She's an artist, probably a graphic designer, taking the summer off and visiting India, Indonesia, Thailand and China. She's traveling alone, though she makes friends easily. We don't see her backpack, but she travels light. She is so chic that she is carrying a fringed suede bag light years before anyone else. She's a red-headed Francoise Hardy, so if she has a name, it must be Francoise. She's not American; she Australian. I think Australians have a great spirit of adventure and won't let being isolated stand in their way.

Nothing bad ever happened to her. She never lost her passport or met the wrong guy or took the wrong bus. She never stubbed her toe or got a stomach ache or worse. All her hostels were hospitable. She never passed up a souvenir because it was too big or too heavy.

The only thing I own that looks like hers is a pair of flip-flops, but if I ever find those pants and that perfect t-shirt, they're mine.

*see allwaysinfashion.blogspot.com/2015/01/in-mood-for-fashion.html

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How to Dress Happy

Lucy and Molly, the happy girls

I met Molly when she came to work at the Lovely Boutique as a Personal Stylist. She was a pro, though I didn't know that at first. She was so gracious in accepting all my "tips" for the position. I was amazed she was such a quick learner. Turns out, as the youngest of four sisters all in fashion or art, with a mother who cared about such things, Molly was swimming in a fashionable gene pool practically from the cradle. She had retail experience up the wazoo, but that's only a fraction of her many charms.

Molly's customers— of all ages— loved her. She has an upbeat personality and infectious laugh. She knows her stuff, is a good listener and empathetic. Plus she herself always dressed "happy". So I had to know: How does one dress happy?

And Molly gave me a more interesting answer than I expected. There was a point in her life where she had to make a conscious effort. Dealing with a bout of post-partum depression following the birth of Lucy (now 8), the light bulb went on when she realized "how you look on the outside is a reflection of how you feel on the inside". By dressing happy she was able to convince herself she was happy. And after a while...

So bright colors are happy. Accessories are happy. Molly is content with a wardrobe of basics as long as she has plenty of those. Her accessories usually tell a story— a remembrance, a gift, a souvenir. Scarves are a favorite accessory as are necklaces. She loves to make new combinations of pieces and is a whiz at layering.

The biggest bear in all this is space. Molly has had to think smaller and let things go. She asked herself, "What all do I need?" and decided:

> Let it go if it never really worked.
> Don't fret about what you spent then if it doesn't have a place in your life now.
> Ask yourself why you are hanging onto this when someone else could be enjoying it.

She thus cleared out 2/3 of her closet over a period of six months and found out clear=clarity.

Trust yourself to make decisions and wear what you have! Instead of packing away the vintage lace top she wore for her wedding, Molly pairs it with denim or something else and wears it all the time.

If you live in Texas you can wear
boots on your wedding day

She also believes in "whimsy", a much under-used word these days. Whimsy in Molly's hands is colorful, humorous and clever. She feels a kinship to the hand-crafted. What whimsical is not is juvenile, silly or twee. Lewis Carroll not Hello Kitty.

I was curious about a creative and fashionable mom and the influence she might have on her daughter.
No surprise that Lucy is into dressing happy as well. So far no mother-daughter dressing tugs-of-war. Molly picks out the basics, and Lucy has a fun time with the accessories.

Lucy in accessory heaven

Today Molly is embracing her writing skills in her own blog and has started a business helping prospective online daters present themselves in their best and truest light. She knows of what she speaks, having had some success in that forum!

Check out Molly on Little Lucy and Scooter

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Timeless. As you are.

Timeless. As you are.

That tagline sits atop an ad in the March W magazine. The designer was unfamiliar. The dress was lovely, wearable by a woman of any age— something you don't often see in W.

FYI, W is the brainchild of the (very recently) late John Fairchild. In 1960 he took his family's stodgy industry newspaper, Women's Wear Daily, and turned it into a pithy and gossipy report on the fashionable as well as the business of fashion. In 1999 he founded W as a monthly magazine to rival Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. W has always been a little different than those two. One thing— its size. It's oversized, not easy to carry around or read on an exercise bike (where I was at the time). Its take on fashion is somewhat elitist, especially in the editorial well. Fun to look at though while working out.

That's why Amelia Toro's ad came as a surprise. Such a pretty dress and such a powerful thought. Who is this person?

Amelia Toro

Turns out Amelia Toro is a Colombian-born, New York-raised designer who has been in business since 1990. Her clothes do appear timeless— not over-the-top trendy or saccharine-sweet feminine. She has a boutique in NYC's Chelsea. Clothing is made in her hometown of Bogota in a unique manner. Rather than being pieced on an assembly line, each garment is handmade by a single seamstress and bears her name along with Amelia's on the label. This is an admirable and bold move "for social opportunity and empowerment for Latin American women".

We have been working with single parents for more than 20 years. We believe in the transformation of the industry through the manufacturing of the complete garment by a single seamstress or tailor. This way, each person feels the satisfaction, accomplishment and pride in being part of a creative force. We teach them to produce a single garment from start to finish so if they leave the company, they have a skill that will help them support themselves. Each garment is signed by the person who constructed it. In a country with hundreds of displaced families, we are their second family, providing them with a sense of belonging.— Amelia Toro

A pretty dress
More pretty dresses

All this does not come cheap to the consumer. Apparel ranges from $495 to $2,000. Sadly I won't be doing more than tipping my hat and sending her a "right on".