Friday, December 11, 2009

Clothes on Film: An Education

Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard

I've written plenty of posts about Great Clothes in Lousy Movies, and its subset, Great Clothes on Lousy Actresses. This is not one of those posts. An Education is a damn good movie -- even if the incredible self-possession of the 16-year-old heroine is slightly hard to believe -- made better by its incredible attention to period detail, in particular, the fabulous clothes.

The movies is about Jenny, a school girl whose goal (and her parent's dearest wish) is to get into Oxford. Other than some problems with, horribile dictu!, Latin, Jenny is right on track until she's picked up by a mysterious, totally amoral older man who introduces her to the things she really wants to learn about -- good food, jazz bars, anything French, especially Paris, and sex. He also introduces her to his equally amoral friends, and of course, being amoral (as well as immoral) they have the best taste in clothes, art and interior decoration. They get Jenny out of her school uniform and into brocade sheaths, and they take her to Paris . . . but not before Emma Thompson steals the show with her cameo as the very moral principal of Jenny's school. Complications ensue, lessons are learned, and as a result An Education received an astonishing 94% approval rate at

The movie takes place in 1961. I adore the clothes of that period because they combine the extremely elegant with the slightly tarty. The image was every woman as mistress, instead of every woman as booty call. I prefer mistress; at least one could expect a detour to Paris on the road to perdition.
Odile Dicks-Mireaux did the wardrobe for the film. Carey Mulligan is the much-praised (and very busy) actress who plays the teenaged Jenny and wears all those clothes so well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Here's another one!!!

This floral-print, bias-cut chiffon dress is for sale at Dandelion Vintage. It's also in a wearable size, bust 34, waist 28, hips 40. Nice.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Look at this beauty!!!

1930s silk chiffon dress

This quintessentially 1930s ruffled silk chiffon dress is for sale at Mystique Vintage Clothing. It's in an unusually wearable size for a depression-era dress -- bust 36, waist 32, hips 40. Most women's clothes of that era are so narrow they look like they were made for skinny 10-year-old girls. That narrow profile probably explains the popularity of the bias-cut, hip- and-belly-clinging fashions of the time. No woman who actually has hips and a belly wants them emphasized.

The narrow Norma Shearer in cling.

For your further 1930s viewing pleasure, check out the pattern illustrations at Christine's 1930 page. For example:

Floral print, check. Flounces, check. Narrow, check. 1930s fashion, YEAA!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clothes on Film: Hilda Crane

Jean Simmons & Evelyn Varden in "Hilda Crane"

While I was eating breakfast this morning I turned on the TV and caught the last 45 minutes of Hilda Crane also known as The Many Loves of Hilda Crane. I missed the many loves, instead coming in on Hilda's wedding day, when she was refusing the her future mother-in-law's bribe of $50,000 to leave her momma's-boy fiancé at the altar. Any modern viewer will conclude that Hilda should have taken the money and run away with the sexy Frenchman, especially after mean Momma calls her a tramp, but while Hilda's life-choices may have been less than perfect, her wardrobe choices were not. In 1956, the twice-divorced Hilda couldn't wear white at wedding number three, so instead she was wearing the most divine pale yellow full-skirted dress with a surplice bodice and dolman sleeves. To die!

As with many mid-Fifties Hollywood morality-tales, Hilda Crane's wardrobe is much better than its soapy plot. Hilda's full dresses (which she apparently donned after returning to her hometown to recapture her respectability) looked not only glamorous but, with the exception of the wasp-waist, comfortable. A loose dolman-sleeved bodice creates no titscrepancy, and there's absolutely no danger that the world will become the gynecologist of a woman wearing a calf-length four-gore skirt. Waists can always be let out if there's a big enough seam allowance. And there's nothing like a group of angry women in full dresses having a flounce-and-swish-off.

1950s diagonal closing dress from So Vintage Patterns

1950s Coachman's Robe pattern at Heavens to Betsey Vintage

195os dolman-sleeve shirtdress sold by Sew Cool Rock n Roll

The dresses reminded me of bathrobes, and in fact one of the vintage patterns I found that most resembled what Hilda et al. were wearing, the one from Heavens to Betsey Vintage, is in fact a pattern for a robe. A lot of damn robe.

Oh, poor Hilda, all she wanted was to be loved in a pure and honorable way, with no mother-in-laws to call her a tramp, and no French professors to call her a courtesan. Because, "[i]n case you don't know what 'courtesan' means, it's just a fancy word for 'tramp'!" (So said Hilda.)

*ETA: The costume designer on this movie was Charles Le Maire, who has a long, long, list of credits, including "All About Eve," and "The Diary of Ann Frank," and who was nominated for an Oscar 16 times and who won three, and about whom I know nothing except what IMDB provides. How did I miss this guy?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Anatomy of a Fashion Fantasy


This picture of Lady Gaga, wearing designer granny panties and a lace bag over her head, was all over the fashion blogs last week, only to be superseded by photos of fellow performance-dresser Lily Allen at the something-or-other awards. Some people loved the Gaga look, some people hated it, and I wondered, again, why people go all fashion police over clothing worn by pop/rock/country stars. Music types aren't supposed to dress like civilians, and when they feel pressured to attempt fashion, they turn into ridiculous frumps. Witness the red carpet at the recent CMA awards.

Anyhoo . . . Lady Gaga is Dada, she's supposed to look absurd. What's more, even a five-year-old knows that her look is all self-promotion. So, as far as I'm concerned, screw her, her critics, her Marc Jacob's undies and her towering Alexander McQueen clodhoppers, but please, save those fantastic tights . . .

I love hose, I wear hose, I think hose flatters all legs, but particularly those of a woman-of-a-certain age who can't spend days out of every week being waxed, tanned and buffed in order to go bare-legged even in the middle of winter, in other words, me. And seeing these tights, I had an immediate vision of the outfit they should be worn with and the woman who would wear it:

The look starts with a late 40's/early 50's style nip-waist suit in a pale gray, cream or mauve:

Vintage Vogue Pattern

Alberta Ferretti Pre-Fall 2009

Christian Dior Pre-Fall 2009

Yves Saint Laurent Pre-Fall 2009

. . . worn over nothing more than a whisper of silk . . .

La Perla chemise

. . . and a spritz or two of Diorissimo.

Add a pair of pale peep-toe platform shoes (blending the color of tights and shoes lengthens the leg, doncha know):

Alexander McQueen

Heel-height doesn't matter here because the woman wearing this outfit (we'll call her Lady GeeBee) won't be walking. She'll be driven everywhere, in her BMW 760li (eco-pass attached). If the pavement is wet, or there's even a hint of snow on the ground, her chauffeur/bodyguard, who bears a remarkable resemblance to a Daniel Craig that had his ears pinned back at the appropriate age, will carry her to the entrance. And yes, it's okay to wear hose under peep-toe shoes.

A fabulous bag is also required:

Gucci Croissette Bag

Dior Demi Lune Bag

Not that this woman will ever need to do anything as vulgar as carry money. Her extremely competent personal assistant, who accompanies her almost everywhere, and who bears a remarkable resemblance to James McAvoy, attends to all that, like one of the Queen of England's minions. (Although you can be sure that Lady GeeBee checks her bank statements religiously.)

Of course, Lady GeeBee never leaves the house without some elegant, understated, jewelry,

Tiffany Keys

(Damn, those Tiffany keys are sexy. I think I must have one. Time to unload an heirloom or two and trade up.)

Add a silver fox stole (vintage, of course, so Mr. Fluffy isn't sacrificed to vanity, but so Grandpa Fluffy's sacrifice doesn't go to waste), lest an unruly breeze disturb Her Serenity.

One last accessory -- a first-class ticket to New York, London, Paris, or Rome, somewhere said outfit can be appreciated.

The chauffeur and P.A. travel coach.

Back to reality: I was unsuccessful in finding Lady Gaga's tights for sale online, although a Google search for fishnet hose certainly brought me to the most interesting sites. The result of the search for "nip waist suit" was more interesting (translation: smuttier) still. Hello, Gods of the Intardwebs, this is a (mostly) FASHION fantasy I'm having! I'll let y'all know when I'm having the other kind.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Big Bad Bag

Jean Paul Gaultier hobo bag

I don't have the status bag fetish that obsesses so many fashionistas, but if I did, I'd spend my rent money on this bag, which combines the best of both "bag" and "fetish." I mean, really, how many accessories can go from lunch with the ladies to a steamy rendezvous at your local dungeon?

This handbag is a new item at Zappos, and, at $1321.90, is almost sold out.

Happy handbagging!

UPDATE: The same day I posted the bag disappeared from Zappos, sold out. I guess the economy's not as bad as we thought, eh?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Less is More

Celine Spring 2010

Via, Vogue Magazine published its list of the 10 best collections of Spring 2010. The usual suspects -- Chanel, Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, Lavin -- were all on the list, along with Rodarte whose post-apocalyptic deconstructed collection looks rather dated to me in this year of teh Pretty. There was also a name I'd never seen on a top-ten list before, Celine, which has in the past been criticized as too safe and commercial. However Celine is now being designed by Phoebe Philo, a great favorite of both Vogue and mine (we're Philophiles!) who produced a minimalist/military collection that I think is a real stand out among all the ruffles, bunches, gathers and general hoo-ha featured in Vogue's other favorite collections.

Celine Spring 2010

Celine Spring 2010

Celine Spring 2010

Celine, Spring 2010

Philo's looks manage to be simple and fashion forward at the same time. I can totally see La Swinton wearing that blue tunic dress over a pair of pants on the red carpet at Cannes.

I also love, love, love the futuristic-by-way-of-ancient-Greece minimalist collection of Osman Yousefzada.

Osman Spring 2010

Osman Spring 2010

Osman Spring 2010

Osman Spring 2010

Osman has lots of the stuff I love -- references to 1960s futurism, goddess dresses, baggy pants and a good dose of WWTSW. However it looks like both he and Phoebe went shopping at the same shoe store where they found new and clunkier versions of those cork-soled platform sandals I wore in the 1970s (which, heaven help us, are still being made!) As much as I want to revisit the simple little shift trend of the 60s, I want to avoid the ankle-threatening platform sandal trend of the 70s. There are some things a person just has to grow out of.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The World's Sexiest Raincoat

From the Spring 2010 Collection of Martin Grant. Yowza. This coat should never be worn with more than sandals and a spray of Chanel No. 5, and never, ever, be worn in the rain.

All looks, Martin Grant Spring 2010

I loved the rest of Grant's minimalist collection, too, even the asymmetrical looks and the jumpsuit-with-the-funny pants. I think his looks are what fashion editors mean by the phrase "clean and modern." Clearly, he can deliver a lot of look without a lot of fuss.

This is what said about one of Grant's earlier collections: "Grant's clothes were impeccable. Yes, they're Park Avenue grand—perfect for those polite ladies who never have a hair or hemline out of place. That's not to say they won't appeal to younger high-maintenance types too. It might be old-school technique, but the effect was dynamic and contemporary, without any need for gimmicks or fuss."

"Impeccable." That's a good thing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Teh Last of the Pretty

For the time being. Anyhoo, I give you -- Pretty on the Red Carpet! Some of these looks are probably too low-key and pretty to be worn by actual celebrities, but what the heck, I can dream that some starlet out there will decide that she doesn't want to look like either ho or a float in the parade. However, if one of them should have Rose Parade fantasies, I hope she goes as a Marchesa float . . .

Douglas Hannant Spring 2010

Adam Spring 2010

Carlos Miele Spring 2010

Carolina Herrera Spring 2010

Isaac Mizrahi Spring 2010

Naeem Khan Spring 2010

Stephen Burrows Spring 2010

Zac Posen Spring 2010

Marchesa Spring 2010

Marchesa Spring 2010

I wish that bustle-like swag in the back of that blue and white dress by Douglas Hannant was a real bustle, because that poof doesn't entirely make sense floating between the model's butt and knees. Otherwise I love that entire look, messy hair and all. I can imagine the model as some turn-of-the-century party girl, wandering the garden of a debauched robber baron in the moonlight, stoned on laudanum and champagne, right before meeting a fate worse than death. Now, that's a dress!

The gold gown by Naeem Khan shouldn't be worn for real without a full-length lining, but I'm pretty sure that someone will wear it completely unlined. The Stephen Burrows dress is fresh and happy, but I'm equally sure the very convetional fashion police would hate it. The super-sculptural violet Marchesa probably isn't meant to be worn at all, or at least not worn by a mortal woman who sits down, eats, drinks, or wishes to go to the lady's room without the assistance of two maids. It's a fabulous piece of work, though, isn't it?