Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And on the other hand, there's orange.

More advice from Emily Post


No advice is intended for those who have a skin that either does not burn at all, or turns a beautiful smooth Hawaiian brown; but a woman whose creamy complexion bursts into freckles, as violent as they are hideous, at the first touch of the sun need no longer stay perpetually indoors in daytime, or venture out only when swathed like a Turk, if she knows the virtue in orange as a color that defies the sun’s rays. A thin veil of red-orange is more effective than a thick one of blue or black.

Orange shirt-waists do not sound very conservative, but they are mercifully conserving to arms sensitive to sunburn. Young Mrs. Gilding, whose skin is as perishable as it is lovely, always wears orange on the golf course. A skirt of burnt-orange serge of homespun or linen, and shirtwaists of orange linen or crepe de chine. A hat with a brim and a harem-veil (pinned across her nose under her eyes) of orange marquisette,—which is easier to breathe through than chiffon—allows her to play golf or tennis or to motor or even go out in a sailboat and keep her skin without a blemish.

Emily Post, 1922

I wouldn't try to substitute orange for several layers of SPF 30 myself, but I do find myself oddly attracted to orange garments lately. I say oddly because it's always been my feeling that pasty-faced white chicks like myself should avoid orange for fear of looking jaundiced. But as with poison green, I'm orange fabric is calling me -- and even worse, orange brocade fabric is calling me, because it's briiiiiiiight and shiiiiiiiiny. Thus, if I succumb to my current obsession I not only risk looking like an overstuffed and jaundiced walking piece of fruit, but an overstuffed and jaundiced walking couch.

Of course, not all brocade dresses are couch-like. Consider this beauty from woodlandfarmsantiques.com. I think the orange brocade fabric at left (from Thai Silks) would look gorgeous made into a mod shift like this one. But I guess the $64,000 question is -- would it look gorgeous on me? *lesigh*

Ed. -- and speaking of bright and shiny, the ruffled dress is being offered at Black Light Vintage Clothing. No one's going to get lost in a crowd wearing that! (and yes, I, I, I . . . kinda like it).

Saturday, October 28, 2006

'Tis the season

But nothing really can compare with the utility and smartness of black. Take a black tulle dress, made in the simplest possible way; worn plain, it is a simple dinner dress. It can have a lace slip to go over it, and make another dress. With a jet harness—meaning merely trimming that can be added at will—it is still another dress. Or it can have a tunic of silver or of gold trimming; and fans, flowers and slippers in various colors, such as watermelon or emerald, change it again. In fact, a black tulle can be changed almost as easily as though done with a magician’s wand.

Emily Post, 1922

Yes folks, as whoever does the damn store displays reminds us, the holidays are upon us. So go out and buy your turkey, your cranberries, your X-mas tree, your fairy lights and gifts for all and sundry, especially and including yourself. I suggest treating yourself to a little black dress if you'll be making the rounds of holiday parties, because every woman (and a the occasional man) needs a dress she can step into, zip up, and go out in with the confidence that she's wearing something totally appropriate yet absolutely fabulous.

Right now, Kitty Girl Vintage has so many fabulous black dresses on sale I had trouble deciding which ones to feature. The perfect black lace Dior that originally caught my eye is already sold, and mazel tov to the purchaser. I chose these three dresses to feature because they're so different, but each is perfect in its way.

The top one is a 1950s New Look organza dinner dress (scroll down) designed by Maxwell Shieff Beverly Hills. Check out the bodice, it's completely pin-tucked. This dress the perfect thing for a girly-girl to wear to a holiday party in a temperate zone, the perfect foil for grandma's pearls, so terribly Grace Kelly (who, if you didn't know, was quite the party girl in spite of her ice princess appearance).

The A-line little black cocktail dress is by Jerry Silverman, and, alas, already sold too. That's no surprise, considering that this LBD was a wearable size (B36, W36, H 38) and it looks like it was made yesterday. This dress is so chic that it's almost painful to look at (check out the band and bow above the hem.) It would be perfect to wear to a corporate party, although its appearance might make every female within 100 feet, including a boss or two, sick with clothing lust.

The bottom gown is by Galanos. It's so gorgeous it almost makes me forgive Galanos for being Nancy Reagan's favorite designer. The gown is, unfortunately, also tiny, B32-34, no surprise considering that Galanos dressed Social X-rays. But the price is great, $210, making this dress the perfect purchase for the slender lady of a certain age. All she'd have to do is put on a pair of dangly diamond earrings and a pair of fabulous shoes, and she'd be the belle of the ball.

Happy Holiday shopping, y'all!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Rule Britania!

In case you missed the post at A Dress A Day, the Royal Collection is staging " A special exhibition for the
Summer Opening of the State Rooms,
Buckingham Palace, 2006
," consisting of a display of 80 of Queen Elizabeth II's gowns and assorted jewels. The Collection was kind enough to offer a beautifully photographed and magnified online display of 18 of the gowns, some jewelry and portraits of the Queen wearing both, to those of us who can't fly in to see the exhibit itself.

As a slut for jewelry as well as over-the-top clothing, I spent a happy 45 minutes examining each garment and jewel in minute detail. Both are beyond extravagant, as suits items that are more symbolic than practical. I also noticed that the Queen didn't look all that happy stuffed into gowns and jewels for her formal portraits. Perhaps it's unseemly for The State to crack a smile while on the clock, but I think her gloomy look just proves my theory that anything that becomes work is ruined, including the simple pleasure in putting on a pretty dress.

At any rate, I'm now on the hunt for a black tiara to wear with my Queen of the Night Halloween costume, which is about as royal as I'll ever get.

The black and white and yellow dresses pictured here aren't from the Royal Collection. Both are home sewn dresses in the design archives of the University of Brighton (click on the link "Fabrics forming Society"). They have some of the elements of the royal gowns of the 50s -- wasp waists, big skirts, embroidery -- and they were no doubt a lot easier to wear. I bet their original owners were delighted to wear them. These dresses inspire me, too. I know I'm not going to have access to embroiderers in this lifetime, but I could find some flocked or embroidered material and pretend I do. I'll add "make 50s dress with lace overlay" to my list of things to do.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Project Runway Finale -- I'm free!

In case you've been out of the country, in a coma, or hiding under the proverbial rock, let me bring you up to date: Season 3 of Project Runway is over and Jeffrey Sebelia is the winner. Of course, anyone who was watching the show and who hadn't spent years of reality television out of the country, in a coma, under the proverbial rock or totally dazzled by the alleged glamour of contestant Bad Mommy Laura Bennet pretty much knew Jeffrey was going to win from all the screen time he was given. Subtle, the PR editors ain't.

Actually, by the time the finale aired, the online fights between Jeffrey fans and Laura fans had become more interesting than the show. Even if I had the energy for message-board partisanship (I'm saving mine for the mid-term elections), I had no dog in that hunt. By season's end I was hoping Uli Herzner, the quiet, unassuming-but-not-without-her-bitchy-moments underdog would win. That one of her designs at left, my favorite look from all four fashion shows. But y'know what? It really makes no difference who won: the designers with ambition will go on to bigger and better gigs, and soon their dramas will be replaced by next seasons drama. I just wish the show would concentrate more on the clothes, dammit!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Walk like a Pilgrim -- or Catherine Deneuve

Can prime and proper be sexy? Hell yeah. Kinky too, as in "Belle de Jour," where the upperclass housewife trips off to her day job in a brothel wearing prim little Yves Saint Laurent shifts and buckled-toed Pilgrim shoes.

The champagne Roger Vivier shoes, top left, currently for sale on ebay, are practically an exact reproduction of Belle's shoes. The same seller is offering them in black, too, at prices much lower than retail -- alas, she's only offering size six, and the auctions are almost over. Luckily, the Pilgrim shoe (search online for "ornamented" or "buckle detail" shoes) are fashionable again, so other versions can be found. The gold buckled Delman shoes are available at Zappos. Bluefly has versions by Dolce & Gabbana and Prada. Heck, even Nine West has a pair. Then there's BCBG Girl's hoochie mama version, which misses the point entirely.

Of course, one could always just buy a pair of shoe clips and convert a pair of plain pumps into Pilgrims but I think I'm going to wander down to a local shoe emporium and find a pair or two to try on.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Say what?

No one likes retro futuristic styles better than I do, but I have to draw the line at what I will call, for lack of a technical term, boob buns. Please, designers -- round three-dimensional ornamentation on top of a woman's natural round three-dimensional ornaments is unnecessary.

This boob bun-adorned garment is from Lavin's Spring 2007 collection, which happily contains some really cute little dresses, too.

Also, when the widest part of a model's leg is her knee, the model is too thin. Really, I don't expect high fashion designers to send size 10 models down the runway, but I don't enjoy looking at women who've starved away all their muscle tone, either. There's got to be some kind of happy medium.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Perfect Dress --- Madame X's grand black gown

Take a good close look at Madame X's dress here. Or better yet, go the the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and see the 7' x 3' version of the painting in all of its glory.

Madame X, aka Madame Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau, was a professional beauty of her day. Her reputation as such was built on her use of violet-colored powder and low-cut dresses, however when Sargent's famous portrait of her was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1884, it caused a scandal. Evidently at that time it was acceptable to wear make-up (apparently the contrast between Madame's white face and her pink ear is a give-away), henna one's hair and wear revealing gowns (one chain strap was originally painted slipped off her shoulder!) as long as those activities weren't advertised in public, and in 1884, nothing advertised like the Paris Salon.

The portrait ruined the reputations of both Gautreau and Sargent, so naturally dressmakers and designers have been making copies of the scandalous garment (henceforth, the "X-dress") ever since. Linda Evangalista got to wear a near-exact copy of the X-dress for her August 2006 Vogue cover shot, without the corset, I'm sure, given her delicate condition. I'd like a X-dress in every color, even though color would probably take the edge off its X-like decadence. I shouldn't mess with perfection, should I?

A book was written about Sargent, Virginie, and The Scandal entitled: Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X. Dang, it's worth buying just for the title, isn't it?

**This October, a show entitled "Americans inParis: 1860-1900" opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It will feature portraits by Sargent, including Virginie's, as well as paintings by Whistler and Mary Cassatt. Ooooooooh.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Clothes on Film -- Two for the Road

Joanna (Audrey Hepburn): [upset] You just want me to become a beautiful memory, the sooner the better!
Mark (Albert Finney): Who said anything about beautiful?

How nice of the programing folks at Turner Classic Movies to broadcast "Two for the Road" while I'm in the middle of mod madness. "Two for the Road" was one of the last movies Audrey Hepburn made before she left filmmaking for 9 years to raise her children. The movie wasn't a hit when it was first released: the story, of the romance and troubled marriage of a couple driving through France, is told in multiple flashbacks that audiences found confusing. It also portray's Americans unpleasantly, to say the least. I think the screenwriter, Frederic Raphael, an American living in England who also wrote the screenplay for "Darling," was getting revenge on an ex-girlfriend. The movie is worth watching for Audrey Hepburn's performance. She plays a bitch and does it wearing a haute 60s wardrobe by Paco Rabanne, Mary Quant, Hardy Amies, Foale and Tuffin, and others.

One commentator speculated that Audrey's wardrobe wasn't by her usual designer, Givenchy, because her character, Joanna Wallace, was a housewife. I can't remember too many 60's housewives wearing Paco Rabanne or vinyl pantsuits, either.

Unfortunately it's hard to find good still photos from the film, probably because it's not one of Audrey's most popular, so I can't show you my favorite looks from the film. But if you're interested in seeing a fashion show from the late 60's on one of the world's best models, check out "Two for the Road" the next time it's on TV.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Avenging Gucci

Holy Mod raincoat, Mrs. Peel! (Is mixing TV shows like mixing metaphors?) Look what Gucci has done for you for Spring 2007! It has made pantsuits for you to wear while while karate-chopping the evil henchmen! Little mod coats for you to wear while dashing around town with John Steed! Little dresses to wear while dazzling the sinister Mastermind! It's everything the modern spy-girl-on-the-go needs!

I lurve the Spring 2006 Gucci collection because it feeds my vintage/Mod/Avengers obsessions. I'd so wear that white pantsuit and the neat little coat. I'd enjoy seeing some of the young celebutants in Gucci's little dresses (provided they wear underpants, for the love of Pete). This collection, however, is not without it's missteps, because its other theme apparently is Psychedelic Oktoberfest. Or maybe it's Grandma's Drapes Go Wild. Whatever, the collection is seriously schizophrenic -- perhaps an evil mastermind put something in designer Frida Gianni's espresso?

Speaking of Frida Gianni -- isn't she just the cutest little thing? She's cute enought to design for herself and get away with it, although I don't think even she could get away with Grandma's drapes unless she was waitressing in Munich. She sure doesn't look strong enough to lug around armfuls of beer steins, though.