Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pack It and GO!

Have stylist, will travel...

I love this time of year. Even if I don't plan to pack any suitcases myself, I relish helping customers at The Lovely Boutique Where I Work fill theirs. I'm in awe of their exotic destinations (Singapore! Figi! Iceland!) and can't resist throwing in recommendations for places I know (any restaurant owned by John Besh in New Orleans and be sure to walk the High Line in New York City).

I love to read packing tips, and every once in a while I'll even find some new ones. "Virtuoso Life" is a lush magazine sent to us by a travel agency who once arranged a trip to Italy. It might as well be called "Virtual Life". I will never get to all those wonderful places let alone need tips on buying art abroad and truffle hunting in Switzerland, but it makes for great armchair traveling.

These tips from stylist Christina Burns (above) appeared in a recent issue. One of Christina's clients is Travel Channel host Samantha Brown, who has always been my wish-I-could-look-like-her-when-I-travel inspiration.

Samantha and Christina

> Remember you'll be in your pictures. You can buy a postcard of the Eiffel Tower for a few francs, but the photo of you and the Eiffel Tower is priceless. It's worth thinking about what you're wearing.

> Research your destination and/or itinerary. Check weather forecasts and even websites of restaurants and hotels you'll be visiting. What's the vibe? Will you feel out of place in a t-shirt and jeans in a 4-star lobby?  If you're looking forward to zip-lining or spelunking, pack the necessary gear.

> Pack a Little Black Dress. Look for one that can be worn day or night. Probably indispensable.

> Bring a BIG scarf, one that can work as a sarong, to curl up in on long flights or spread on the grass at a park.

> Take a trench coat. I'm not a trench coat kind of gal myself, but I do have a lightweight variation for travel. And who doesn't want to look like Holly Golightly for a few days?

> Some quick tips: Inexpensive sunglasses, not your treasured$$ beauties. Comfortable ballet flats. Travel size of your favorite fragrance. Simple or delicate necklace to wear with everything.

> Treat yourself at the airport. Pick up a stack of gossip magazines or the latest best-seller. Vacation is treat time!

May I add...
> Never wear anything for the first time on a trip (especially shoes). Wear it to see if it wrinkles badly, is too sheer, rides up or isn't fabulous. Also try-on combos of pieces that may look great in your head. They don't always work in reality.

> Don't bring Really Good Jewelry. Keep what you do take in your carry-on or travel bag, not checked in a suitcase. I even have some "junk jewelry" I would hate to lose!

> Don't invest in a classy-looking suitcase. Expert travelers suggest using the most nondescript bag so as not to draw attention to what might be inside.

> Pack like a science experiment. You know those compression bags that squeeze the air out of your clothes with the promise to save space and avoid wrinkles? They really work. Packing may take a little longer, but you will end up with items organized and with more room. Need space for the souvenirs, right?

> Don't fear the carry-on. Compression bags (see above) will give you more room, but really you can take less. I've packed for several ten-day trips going carry-on only. It's worth the discovery that your bag didn't land with you. The trick is making the "personal item" as big as regulations allow. I use a soft-sided tote and carry my actual handbag inside it.

> Forget a handbag altogether when you can.  It's safer and will give you a hands-free day. Look for a flat cross-body bag in lightweight nylon with compartments. And don't load it up! 

Something like this...

> Look your best when you travel. Yes, air travel is time to be comfortable, but there's a big difference between easy and sloppy. If you're heading to a city, think about a casual shirt dress with a long cardigan or a safari jacket with unstructured pants and a button down. If you are heading to a resort, lighten your color palette but don't go full-out Boho Traveler till you get there. It may not be true, but if there's a chance I'll be upgraded to First because I look good, I'll take it!

> A very wise friend (EG you know who you are) says, "Bring half as many clothes and twice as much money".


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Stylish Read: "Lee Miller in Fashion"

That neck, that hair, that face...

by Becky E. Conekin
Lee Miller, where have you been all my life? It seems you've been hiding in plain sight. For all my studies of fashion, women in fashion, fashion photography, fashion magazines, etc. Lee Miller registered only as an unusual fashion model (not your typical '20s type) and the war correspondent photographed sitting in Hitler's bathtub. Already that tells you something about the woman, but it's taken till now for me to perform some due diligence.

Lee takes a bath, 1945

Elizabeth (Lee) Miller was born into an upper-middle class family in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1907. She was an inquisitive, headstrong child fairly indulged by her parents. Her spirit of adventure took her to misadventures in Europe (under the guise of schooling) when she was 19, followed by a move to New York City to study art and become a dancer in George White's Follies.  After a chance encounter on the street with Conde Nast (as in the publisher of Vogue) she became one of The Bright Young Things about town. He saved her from being run over by a car— surely the NYC equivalent of being discovered at Schwab's drugstore. She was a favorite model for Edward Steichen, then head photographer for Vogue.
By Steichen, second from right
By Steichen for Vogue

In New York Lee designed theater sets, modeled and honed an interest in photography nurtured by her father, a talented amateur.  In 1929 she set off again to Europe determined to study with the Surrealist Man Ray, who didn't accept students. She no doubt charmed him as much as she was charmed by him. They worked together (and were lovers) for three years until his jealousy wore the charm thin. While they were together she was the one to discover solarization in a darkroom accident. That process became one of Man Ray's trademarks. Lee was also photographed by George Hoyningen-Huene and Horst P. Horst for French Vogue (affectionately called "Frogue" by the staff [love that]).

Solarized by Ray
Immortalized by Ray

Lee returned to New York City and, with the backing of a couple of wealthy admirers, rented two connecting apartments in midtown Manhattan— living in one and setting up a photography studio in the other. She took portraits of the well-heeled and celebrated as well as precise advertising photography for upscale clients like Elizabeth Arden and Saks Fifth Avenue. She began working for American Vogue, sometimes taking fashion self-portraits for the magazine. It was then she said, "I'd rather take a picture than be one." She was successful enough to weather the Depression and her work was shown in galleries devoted to photography.

Fashion self-portrait by Lee Miller

In 1934 a former beau from Paris, an Egyptian businessman, came calling. Lee married him and left for Cairo. She soon found Egyptian society suffocating, especially after meeting British surrealist artist and poet Roland Penrose. Not long after, she decamped to England— and Roland. With war looming the United States government ordered its citizens to return home, but Lee stayed behind. She found photography work at English Vogue.

Not a stage set but London during the blitz

It is  here that "Lee Miller in Fashion" takes a fascinating detour and looks at how and why Vogue was able to boost morale during the blitz and the long war years following. Women in all walks of life were urged to put up a good front (and back) and not forget the importance of grooming, hair and makeup. I learned some interesting tidbits, such as: Furs were not rationed in England during the war, though prices were set by the government. This was to prevent fur from going on the black market.

Though she recorded the devastation with her camera and worked hard putting out Vogue under difficult conditions, Lee became increasingly frustrated that she couldn't do more for the war effort. With the arrival of American service personnel, Lee seized the opportunity to become a bona fide war correspondent, uniform and all. Soon after France was liberated she joined American forces in Paris to report on life there for both American and British Vogue.


French Vogue  had suspended publication during the Occupation, but some couture houses remained open. The editor of French Vogue had managed to produce four "albums" of fashion during that time, had the plates made surreptitiously in the countryside, and the bound volumes sold in Monte Carlo for international distribution. The  now-forgotten couturier Lucien Lelong managed to thwart the Germans, who wanted to take the entire archive of French fashion stored at The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and restablish couture houses in Austria or Germany. That sounds good enough for a movie plot right there.

Lee was very much affected by what she saw in Paris and filed stories with photographs that were sensitive, first-hand observations. As the Americans moved east towards Germany, so did Lee, leaving Paris and fashion behind. She was with the troops in the Alsace Campaign, the liberation of Brussels and the "last leap across the Rhine". She was also present at the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp. She movingly wrote for Vogue about what she saw, and she never forgot it. This book has some lengthy excerpts of her writing; I'd really like to read more.

 Reportage from Luxembourg, 1944

And then the war was over. It was back to London, back to Roland and rebuilding her life in England. Not surprisingly peacetime brought about a disenchantment with fashion. For a few years she continued to photograph for Vogue. Writing became more and more difficult as it came from such a deep place. Eventually Roland asked Vogue to stop sending her writing assignments for everyone's good. She and Roland married, had a son in 1947 and eventually moved south of London to Farley Farm. She packed away her files of photos, negatives and contact sheets and devoted herself to gardening, gourmet cooking and entertaining the many artists and writers she and Roland had as friends. There were always offers to write, which she always declined. She died in 1977 at age 74.

Lee and Roland

Their son Antony discovered the hidden work after her death and wrote the aptly titled, "The Lives of Lee Miller". In recent years there have been museum exhibits and more recognition. Farley Farm is open to the public, and her archives are available to scholars.   

Picasso, Antony and Lee at Farley Farm

Lee Miller's life was more complex than I've summarized here. There were twists and turns and many unanswered "why"s. She didn't leave a memoir, but she did lead a life in fashion and in full.

A few years ago it was announced that Kate Winslett would star as Lee Miller in an upcoming film. That would be fascinating, and don't you think she would be a great choice?

Kate Winslett to be Lee Miller?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Eyes Have It

I had my "eyes" on this dress from Anthropologie for a very long time. When I finally tried it on, no amount of wishing or hoping would make it work for me.

Reluctantly I let it go. What a happy surprise to see this lovely totally rocking the same dress. Everything worked, from the blue tassel earrings and cut-out lace-up sandals to her casually pulled back hair. 

Another life lesson learned: Sometimes it doesn't have to be you looking fabulous to make you happy.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

In Pursuit of Audrey

Behind the scenes, Avedon on left
Audrey Hepburn was born on May 4, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium, the daughter of a Belgian baroness and an Austrian-English businessman. Audrey fans know her life story as well as the plot of their favorite Audrey movie. They also know she never took a bad picture.

Of the many photo shoots over too few years, "Paris Pursuit" is the penultimate. Appearing in Harper's Bazaar in September, 1959, the portfolio was put together by the legendary Diana Vreeland, then Bazaar's fashion editor, and shot by Richard Avedon, one of Diana's and Audrey's favorites. Avedon was responsible for the magic that is "Funny Face", the 1957 musical about fashion magazines, models, clothes, love and Paris. An Avedon-like character (played by Fred Asaire) is Audrey's love interest.

"Paris Pursuit" has a playbill, dialogue in typewritten script-form and guest stars. In addition to Mel Ferrer, Audrey's husband at the time, the "cast" includes Buster Keaton, Zsa Zsa Gabor, the model China Machado and raconteur Art Buchwald. It fills 18 pages in the all-important September issue. The designers represented are Dior, Cardin, Chanel, Gres, Laroche, Patou, Ricci, Balmain, Griffe, etc.— anyone who was anyone in 1950s Paris couture.

The plot concerns an actress named Jemima Jones (Audrey) pursuing and being pursued around Paris by an American millionaire named Dallas O'Hara (Mel). The story line and dialogue are droll in the extreme and wouldn't win an Oscar. In the days before Photoshop, maneuvering those multiple images would have been the test of a master retoucher's skill. There's never been another fashion editorial quite like it.

Please enjoy this Audrey treat on what would have been her 88th birthday.