Friday, June 30, 2017

Summmmmmmertime Style

Despite the heat here in Houston, I love Summertime. To me it's delicious, the more "ummmms" the better. Summer will also bring out the gypsy in you. And don't forget, this year recognizes the "Summer of Love", 50 years since the Montery Pop Festival and its quintessential Boho style.

Jackie with Lee on Capri

Icons have a way of making even popular styles their own, as did Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the summer of 1971. Her style, worn while visiting Capri, is classic Boho and would look perfect today— black scoop neck t, mid-length peasant skirt (with slit and ruffle), wide belt, strappy sandals, oversized shades. In fact Jackie looks more "today" than Lee does in her buttoned-up mod-Couregges outfit. I remember thinking how happy Jackie looked in these pictures, the first I did not think of her as "the grieving widow". At the same time, photos with new husband Aristotle Onassis somehow did not seem right.

But the style is still there, this time with chandelier earrings and fringe. The more things change, the more they stay the same. So true, so true.

Even Jackie's decidedly non-Boho outfit is not just timeless but 100% fresh and modern. I've been trying to pull this one off for years, but she's still the master.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Coming soon... the Audrey Hepburn Auction

Just wanted to get this out as I know there will be great interest— and coverage— in the coming months. Christie's London has announced that Audrey Hepburn's sons, Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti, are making available for auction many items from their mother's personal collection.

The September 27 event will be preceded by a viewing at Christie's beginning September 23 with an online auction from September 19 - October 3. That sounds like two separate auctions, so I will need to clarify. Although the wish is to make personal items available to all her fans, it sounds like such treasures as hand-annotated scripts and THE "Breakfast at Tiffany's" dress will be very pricey.

A lavish catalogue with an August release is available for purchase now at $60 on Christie's website.

I wouldn't mind a pair of her colorful ballet slippers, would you?

Estimated price: $1900 per pair

Saturday, June 10, 2017

When Good Fortune Feels Bad

Yesterday I bought a dress at a well known retail chain that shall remain nameless because I feel that bad about my good fortune. I bought a dress originally marked $139 for the rock bottom price of $9.67. I mean, that's scraping the bottom. I can sew; I know how much fabric costs. It was a tailored shirt dress with self-piping and buttoned cuffs. A lot of detail. I didn't realize how inexpensive the dress would be as the last markdown wasn't on the ticket, and there was an additional 40% off sale. Instead of rejoicing at such luck, I felt terrible.

In my closet it's not been about need for a very long time. There are reasons there is no room at the "in". The price of clothes has gone down. There are off-price retailers a-plenty, fast fashion to suit every taste, so many sales and %-off-sales we get annoyed if we don't find one. Then there's the internet and that whole kettle of fish— copious options and the eternal promise of fabulous. I also work in retail and am aware of goings on in the marketplace from both perspectives.

I once bought a designer dress for $8, but it was at a deep-discount off-price retailer where such finds are celebrated. While yesterday's cashier did not make me feel any less valued as a customer, I did joke at that price I should buy two.

There is a blog I read called "Effortlessly with Roxy". Just this week the author posted this, and I couldn't agree more:

Time was that people bought new clothes once or maybe twice a year and then held onto that clothing for years. Over time, we’ve been sold the idea of new clothes for more occasions to the point where buying clothes is now a constant, year-round thing. As the USA has opened up to ever more trade and imports, the products we buy have gotten ever cheaper (in price, and yes in quality too one could argue.) Our money could go further and over time we spent ever more. At some point, this cycle had to become too much. Consumers are revolting against the over-consumption ideals being sold to us. It’s too much! No one needs new clothing every week and even those of us who want that (*raises hand*) are realizing that I may as well just light $20s and $50s and $100s on fire because it’s effectively burning money, pouring it down the drain.

Instead of reeling with happiness at my $9.67 dress, I feel  I am both the cause and effect of a retail climate change. It may not be a tsunami, but the tides are shifting. How and what we buy what we do and do not "need" has already changed.  Sooner or later we will wise up, retailers will give up or we will see just how long this little stand-off can last.

In the meantime I should look for a new raincoat to weather the storm.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Can Paris Wait?

The other day I went to see "Paris Can Wait", a frothy romantic comedy starring Diane Lane and many courses of beautiful French food. Diane Lane is beautiful too. This was not a movie on my radar, but a friend was curious about 81-year-old director Eleanor Coppola, long-time wife and creative partner of Francis Ford Coppola, mother of Sofia Coppola and aunt of Nicholas Cage. She's not exactly a novice filmmaker, but this is her first dramatic feature, supposedly based on an incident from her life.

Eleanor, right, on set

The set-up is a little trite. Loved but somewhat neglected wife of successful film producer (Alec Baldwin) is given a lift from Cannes to Paris by one of her husband's business partners, a suave Frenchman (Arnand Viard) with every intention of taking the long route. The plot doesn't exactly go where you think it will, but I did find myself waiting for it to get there.

On the way we are treated to many lovely meals (including snacks and picnics), orchestrated and explained by the food-absorbed Frenchman (who also smokes a lot). Between meals, the film becomes a travelogue of highlights along the way— a Roman viaduct, Cezanne's favorite mountain, the former home of  pioneering film makers the Lumiere brothers, and a textile museum (of particular interest to our heroine).

Alec Baldwin, Diane Lane

Diane Lane plays Anne. She appreciates her good life but knows her celebrity husband takes center stage. She has a college-age daughter and just closed her "dress shop", presumably in Hollywood. Diane Lane, age 52, looks the part of a beautiful woman aging naturally and gracefully. There is no way you wouldn't want to look like her. Her makeup whispers not shouts; her hair is wonderful California stuff that falls back into place when tousled. Her clothes, for the most part, are not meant to be noticed, but I found myself studying them.

For half the film Anne wears a white silk shirt, untucked over a pair of beige pants. She adds a beige jacket and a beige tote. It's neutral on purpose. She's not really put together as much as just dressed.

When she arrives at the hotel, the first thing Anne unpacks is a beautiful and colorful silk kimono, which she carefully arranges on the bed. We don't yet know she loves textiles, so this struck me as odd. Personally I don't lay out my dressing gown on the hotel bed. I don't even travel with a bathrobe. I just hope the hotel will provide a nice terry one.

Anne changes into a rather stiff red dress for dinner. She looks pretty but not particularly stylish. When asked if it had been from her shop, she says, "No; it's French", but that's all we learn.

I did like what she wore the next day— a blue A-line midi skirt, worn with a white t-shirt and silver slip-ons. That skirt is a flattering choice for anyone tired of pants but not thrilled with her legs. It's a decidedly retro look. See my closing thoughts. She adds a short navy jacket and a baseball cap and looks adorable. We discover she is wearing pantyhose. Another odd note. For good or bad, we just don't wear pantyhose like we used to.

The Frenchman turns up in loafers without socks, and Anne is aghast. She produces a pair of her husband's socks for him to wear. My 2017 husband always wears loafers without socks, so I didn't see why the fuss.  There's a little bit of business with a necklace, a bracelet, a paisley shawl and a pair of killer heels. In a very sleight movie it's interesting that wardrobe plays such a big part.

"Paris Can Wait" reminded me a bit of "Two for the Road" with Audrey Hepburn and a bit more of "The Trip to Italy" with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  It was better than I thought but not quite good enough. 

The movie feels like it should have been made 30 years ago. Those pantyhose for sure.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Women We Love: Dolores Hawkins

By Karen Radkai
I imagined her as the fantasy head cheerleader, prom queen, student council president and honor student who was also friends with everyone. Although she was tall, slim and beautiful, with a killer smile and hair to die for, you couldn't help but love Dolores Hawkins. I grew up with her. She was in ads and editorials in every magazine I read, and I read a lot of them— Seventeen, Mademoiselle, Glamour, McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, and later Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Dolores had something other models of the 1950s didn't— a personality. And she just seemed so incredibly nice.

It turns out the real Dolores Hawkins Phelps truly is nice. I've had the amazing good fortune to connect with her, and she agreed to tell me about her incredible life as one of the first Supermodels (before that was ever a word).

Dolores Hawkins, born in 1931, grew up north of New York City in rural Orange County. She says she was a real country girl— loved horses and the outdoors, rode her bike everywhere. After high school she worked in a local department store. The owner didn't like it when she grew her hair long and wore it in a pony tail. In 1951, fed up with his teasing, she quit and joined a friend living in Manhattan. She found a job at Lord & Taylor (and still remembers what she wore on the interview).

Dolores had no intention of becoming a model, but she was spotted in a restaurant by the head of an advertising agency. At his suggestion she went to the agency, but they were reluctant to hire a total newbie. The agency arranged an appointment with the editor-in-chief of Mademoiselle magazine, who called photographer Herman Landshoff, who took Dolores' first photos and, well, she was a natural. Her first appearance was in Mademoiselle. By the second she had made the cover. Much editorial and advertising work followed. It became apparent she would need an agent.

The first cover, 1952
In the beginning... by Nina Leen for Life

Ford Models was new but already a top agency and run with an iron fist (in a velvet glove) by Eileen Ford. Dolores went to see her. Eileen declared she was "too fat" and should come back when she lost weight. At 5'7" and 108 pounds, Dolores was hardly too fat. She didn't even know what a diet was and went back a week later. Eileen took her on.  No contract, no signing— that was the way it was done then.

Hundreds of editorials, ads and covers...

Dolores worked full-tilt from 1951 on. She was on hundreds of magazine covers (in the US and Europe), in countless print advertisements and magazine editorials. It would have been impossible to keep track of all of them, and sadly a large quantity perished in a barn fire in the '60s.

By Herman Landshoff

If you look back at models of that time, most were little more than paper dolls displaying clothes. Their poses and expressions were studied and interchangeable. Dolores had a 100% natural look, one that said she was game for anything. She was the perfect model for the new more relaxed and realistic approach to fashion photography. Although I knew I could never aspire to look like her, I never "hated her because she was beautiful". She just looked like she'd be fun to be with and nice.

By Bert Stern

Dolores worked with top photographers of the era— among them the legendary Richard Avedon, Lionel Kazan, Francesco Scavullo, Allan Arbus, Jerry Schatzberg, Bert Stern and a personal favorite, William Bell. Yes, models did their own hair and makeup in the early days.

Lucky kitty

Avedon was the one who eased her into a more high fashion image in the early '60s. He would let her know the look he had in mind. She says, "He made you feel good. He made you think you looked wonderful".

By William Bell
By Jerry Schatzberg

She also traveled the world, with favorite jobs taking her to Japan, Europe and many tropical islands. While models were not the celebrities many are today, Dolores was always treated well and often recognized on the street. Once she was in the company of a well-known Hollywood heart-throb who was not recognized when she was and was a little miffed about it. Another time, when she landed in London for an assignment, she was totally surprised to be greeted at the airport by photographers and reporters.

The chop
I did ask how she was persuaded to cut off that beautiful mane of brown hair earlier in her career. It seems Eileen Ford had gotten a lot of complaints that Dolores' hair was touching the collar and "ruining the merchandise". Chop, chop, but fortunately it grew back fast.

Dolores moved to California briefly when Eileen opened a branch of Ford Models but returned to New York. In 1963 she bought a 167-acre farm 75 miles north of the city where she raised hunters and jumpers.

On location with Gary Cooper

Besides modeling she had a "very brief" career as co-host of a tv interview program and was the subject of a half-hour ABC special, "A Day in the Life of a Model". 

Although engaged twice, she hadn't married. Then she met transplanted Texan Stuart Phelps through a mutual friend. They shared a love for the country— and horses. Stuart and Dolores were married in 1966 and had three sons in 1967, '69 and '70. She still worked occasionally but the family left New York for Houston in 1977. Of course raising three boys and a husband is a full-time job, and Dolores retired from modeling.  She then decided either to learn piano or get a real estate license. She opted for the latter.

By Scavullo in Town & Country 1970
Family portrait by Skrebneski in Town & Country 1991

The Phelps family owned country property outside Houston, where they also raised horses. Dolores and Stuart moved there full-time about 20 years ago. They sold real estate out of a refurbished one-room schoolhouse and only recently closed the business. Today they have two grandchildren, two dogs, two cats and a 34-year-old retired race horse named Maxi. Dolores still keeps in touch with friends in the fashion world and enjoys visits to New York and Santa Fe. Amazingly most of her neighbors have no idea what a familiar and lovely presence she once was everywhere you looked.

Personally this has all been a kick...    

Still beautiful