Monday, January 31, 2011

Lip trauma

Paz de la Huerta in Twenty Cluny and scary makeup
 Having the attention span of a gnat, I'm already bored with the whole SAG fashion thing and wasn't going to write any more about it.  Then I saw this picture of Paz de la Huerta and I had a flashback to days gone by when I spent hours doing my makeup just. so.  The whole routine included cover-up, foundation (always something expensive, it does work better), three shades of eye-shadow (medium shade on the lid, dark in the hollow, highlight on the brow), two shades of blush (dark in the hollow, bright on the apple of the cheek).  Gawd, I'm exhausted just thinking about it.  Then the look was finished off with lip liner and lipstick in various shades of maroon, oxblood, and brown.  Especially brown.  I thought I was the bomb.  Bomb victim, more like.

I do, however, really Paz' dress, but the matching lipstick should be saved for Halloween.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

SAG Awards 2011 -- down-hearted, depressed and in a spin

Helena Bonham Carter in Marc Jacobs
Helena Bonham Carter looks bored and depressed in this picture.  I feel her pain.  The SAG Award red carpets are usually interesting, but usual is not always, and this was a complete snooze-fest.  Even the ugly was boring.  But hell, I'm going to post some pictures anyway.

Christina Hendricks in L'Wren Scott.  I give her props for wearing a bathrobe; comfort is a wonderful thing.

Diana Agron in Chanel.  She looks like she was playing dress-up in her grandmother's closet.  She and January Jones would probably get it right if after they picked dresses for an event, they swapped.  Except for this event, where they both got it wrong.
Jenna Fischer in Fendi.  She looks as depressed as HBC.

Natalie Portman in Azzaro.  The commentators were happy she was showing her bump.  I think she could have bumped better. 

Jane Lynch in Ali Rahmi.  Enough with the ball gowns.  The divine Ms. Lynch needs to be Swinton-ized.

Kara Mara in Herve Leger.  Oy.  And vey.
Melissa Leo in Randi Rham.  Tight, long and shiny looks cheap too.

January Jones in Chanel.  From burlesque queen to dowager duchess in a week.  I think I liked the fringed look better, at least she looked like she could sit down in it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Clothes in Books: a thousand days of magic

This is a glossy coffee table book full of great photos of early-60s minimalist fashion designed (or some say, copied) by Oleg Cassini.  But as far as I'm concerned, the photos aren't the best part, the letters from Mrs. K (later Mrs. O) are.  From the letters, it's easy to see why Jacqueline Kennedy is considered one of the best dressed First Ladies ever; she sure knew her mind when it came to clothes.

Take this letter from February 1961:

Now for Spring, let's get 1 beautiful wool suit -- bright color,  1 with reversible jacket, a daytime tailored coat, wool, but not too heavy -- to wear over anything -- maybe pale yellow fleece or gray?  Three daytime linen or shantung [dresses] one with a jacket, one with nothing, one with a coat?  Or maybe two with jackets?  O three dressier afternoon dresses 2 pc shantung with straw hat, white with black polka dots, another not too decollete, 1 flowered chiffon for garden party or short evening, 1 lace dress with matching coat, another fabulous long evening dress.  What will I wear over the straw one and ribbed organdie when I go out -- stole? nothing?  Send me sketches then I'll be set till fall, except for a couple of Summer things to wear at the cape . . .

I don't think military campaigns are planned in such detail.  Other correspondence makes it obvious why these letters weren't published until after the former First Lady's death.  Like this one, dated December 31, 1960, giving Cassini his initial instructions via a numbered list of orders:

6)  I seem to be all set for evening.  Now would you put your brillian mind to work for day -- coats -- dresses for public appearances -- lunch & afternoon that I would wear if Jack were President of FRANCE --très Princesse de Rethy mais jeune . . . 

. . .

7)  PUBLICITY -- One reason I am so happy to be working with you is that I have some control overy my fashion publicity which has gotten so vulgarly out of hand . . .

8) COPIES -- Just make sure no one has exactly the same dress I do -- the same color or material -- Imagine you will want to put some of my dresses in your collection -- but I want all mine to be original and no fat little women hopping around in the same dress.  You know better than I how to protect ourself against other manufacturers running up cheap copies-- I really don't care what happens later as long as when I wear it first it is new & the only one in the room . . .

. . .

9)  Plan to stay for dinner every time you come to D.C. with sketches -- & amuse the poor President & his wife in that dreary Maison Blanche . . .

Not too much of a snob, was she?

Pity later First Ladies, who had to buy their clothes off the runway, if not off the rack.  And can you imagine if any political wife in the past 20 years wrote a letter with the phrase "fat little women hopping around in the same dress . . .?"  Or saying she wanted to dress like the First Lady of *gasp!* France????   The letter (more likely e-mail) would probably be leaked to TMZ, or show up on Wikileaks, and political disaster would follow.  How times have changed.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Clothes on Film: The Damned

It came to pass, one rainy Sunday in 1969, that my parents took me to see an X-rated film, Luchino Visconti's The Damned. I don't know how we wound up going to that particular film, because at the time the females in the family were still going to church and we'd been taking the Legion of Decency pledge. That's the promise Catholics used to make, out loud and during mass, to avoid naughty movies. We sure fell off the wagon by seeing The Damned.

The film has been variously described as an engrossing work of art, a kinky soap opera, a dazzling, bold movie, and an "extravaganza of incest and corruption." Lord knows, the film earned its 1969 X-rating – I don't think I've seen another film in last 41 years hence (damn, I'm old) that contains all off the following: nudity (male and female), cross-dressing, pedophilia (incestuous and anti-Semitic), homosexual orgies, murder (individual and mass), drug-addiction, suicide (child and adult), mother-raping and father-stabbing, (Arlo Guthrie reference, for you young 'uns), artistically blood-laced bodies of naked men, and lots and lots of preternaturally blond and handsome Nazis doing very nasty things.
Charlotte Rampling as Elizabeth Thallman
But never mind the Nazis and the perversions, what I remember most from my first viewing of The Damned was the appearance, not more than 10 minutes into the film, of the divine Charlotte Rampling in full, authentic, 30s hair and makeup, and my mother grabbing my hand in excitement and saying "A finger wave!  I used to do finger waves when I was a hairdresser!"  What followed was two hours of whispered comments about hair, clothes and decor.  In fact, so taken was I by the wardrobe that many years later when I got my hands on a DVD of the film and watched it, I found I had forgotten about the mother-raping.  However I had not forgotten that the very bad Mommy made her first appearance in the film wearing a bias-cut black satin gown with a diamonte-trimmed cage back.

Ingrid Thulin as Sophie von Essenbeck, the very well-dressed very bad mommy
Let me put this in context so you can understand why my mother and I were so impressed by The Damned's costuming.  The wardrobes in American period films made in the 50s and 60s were never authentic; actresses playing flappers appeared in bullet bras and lacquered bubble dos (see Doris Day in Love Me or Leave Me) and depression-era women appeared in full-skirted shirt-dresses and pale pink lipstick (see Dorothy Malone in The Tarnished Angels, one of the most ridiculous films ever made)Authenticity was ignored even in WWII period movies, although all the Moms and Dads had lived through the War and all the kids could turn on the TV and watch Casablanca.  (See Ingrid Thulin and, heaven help us, Yvette Mimieux, in The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Ingrid Thulin went on to play the very bad Mommy in The Damned, where the hats alone made up for previous sins against fashion.)   As a Clothesaholic and a fan of 30s and 40s movies from kindergarten, I saw those crimes of anachronistic fashion and hated them.

Bad mommy in a fabulous hat.
Then came The Damned, which is flawed in many ways.  For example, Warner Brothers wanted an English language film.  The original script, written by Visconti and two others, was probably in Italian.  Charlotte Rampling said that each member of the multinational cast delivered the dialogue in his or her own language, and the whole film was later dubbed into English.  The final results sounds like a translation by Babelfish: "I have already pre-announced a similar occurrence to Frederick."  WHAT

But boy howdy, that damned movie is great to look at:

And you think your family dinners are tense?
 According to a critic

Visconti's insistence on authenticity of decor and costume has given rise to anecdotes of how he sent for white German sausages from Munich to be hung in the butcher's window in place of the pink Austrian variety, or how he insisted on replacing the carpeted floor of the dining-room set with the more authentic oak blocks which took five days to lay. Some of the clothes in the film are said to be originals of the period, others are seam for seam reproductions.

Visconti gets credit for the look of the film, the much honored Piero Tosi was the actual costume designer.

The director's attention to detail wasn't so great in other areas.  The movie opens on the birthday of Baron von Essenbeck, the patriarch of an industrial dynasty, but the celebrations are thrown into chaos and conflict by news of the Reichstag fire.  Only the film gives the wrong date for the fire, and even in the days before Google, that was probably an easy fact to check.  Militaria nerds report that although the film takes place 1934, some of the characters are wearing SS uniforms that weren't used until 1938.  That's probably because the only question that was asked about the uniforms was "does his ass look good in that?"  By the way, there's a reason those black uniforms are so sharp; the real ones were made by Hugo Boss.

Helmut Berger as very bad son Martin von Essenbeck.  He was also Visconti's lover, which probably explains the way his cheekbones were lit.

Helmut Griem as the very bad guy Aschenbach.
Very good looking black-clad bad guys in movies send a mixed message, one of those  being the directions to the nearest B&D fetish bar.  Been dere, done dat, and moving right along: The Damned is credited with creating "Nazi chic," inspiring movies like The Night Porter, staring Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling, both previously in The Damned, and Salon Kitty, staring Ingrid Thulin and Helmut Berger, both previously in The Damned.  I don't think that many people have actually seen The Night Porter, but practically everyone has seen this NSFW image 1970s Naziplotation movies followed the arthouse Nazi Chic movies, and all that fascist fashion fetish is still alive and kicking in things like Lady Gaga's Alejandro video. 

But forget all that morally ambiguous stuff: LOOK AT THAT FINGER WAVE.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Real Housewives of Simplicity Patterns

Pattern envelopes often feature a sketch of the design and a photo of a model wearing the completed garment.  Often the model's garment is fabulously sewn and styled, yielding a final photo so gorgeous that the shopping sewer just must have that pattern, even though she knows, in her heart of hearts, that she couldn't produce anything as fabulous.  But that's not the case with Simplicity patterns in the 1960s and 1970s, nooo.  The garments in their pattern photos look like they were made up by home sewers who shopped for fabric at the local W.T. Grant's, and they're worn by dead-faced models or girls dragged out of the typing pool and thrust into wigs and polyester.  Or zombies.  Whatever, some of these photos are So Bad They're Good, and every picture tells a story.  So here's the cast of Bravo's newest mysogynistic epic: the Real Housewives of Simplicity Patterns.

Bootsie:  I have everything, and I want more.  I always say what I think, no matter what, and that's because I'm totally honest, not because I'm going through menopause.  Really, look at me, I'm 50-something and I'm still hot because I work out seven days a week and wear clothes that make my daughter cover her eyes in shame.  Ah, my daughter! We're so close she doesn't mind if I micromanage every minute of her life, and she WILL be a great actress.  Or maybe a supermodel, as long as she never looks better than I do.  Be sure to catch me on QVC where I'll be selling the Bootsie collection of really big sunglasses.

Bunny: I want more, so I can have everything.  I'm a strong, independent woman with a great career, which is a damn good thing because my husband, who rejoices in my independence in the hope that some day I'll return his balls, has been unemployed for two years.  But we're working on our marriage, when I'm not out with the girls, that is.  There's nothing I love like a girl's night out, preferably in another state.  Hey, it's not my fault that all my friends are married to domineering jerks.

Lady Baba:  I am everything, and I'll be more.  I'm not a housewife, I'm a divorced wife.  But you don't have to be married to a man to get his love and support, especially when you're in the adult entertainment industry.  When I'm not making sex tapes, I sing, give lectures on etiquette, demand apologies from everybody, and act as Bunny's protective best friend.  And if  Bootsie doesn't stop calling me a whore I'm going to snatch her bald headed.  From her knees up.

Bitsy: I got nothing, and I guess that's everything.  I'm the token broke,  overweight(comparatively), drug and/or alcohol-dependent doormat who always says the wrong thing and gets gang-bashed by the other hos, er, housewives.  Even though I'm dumb as a box o' rocks, I'm the only person with an ounce of human kindness on the show, and so I'm the least popular ho.  Housewife.

Balsey:  More is everything.  I'm different.  I'm the rich BRUNETTE bitch. 

Camille:  I'll cut a bitch.
And so life goes on, in the the Simplicity Pattern hills . . .

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The sexy 70s at Posh Vintage

Posh Vintage is the only online vintage retailer I know that specializes in 1970s clothing, in particular, the super-sexy Halston-inspired disco/rock star girlfriend jersey dresses that I, who last had a 32 inch bust at age 10, could only dream of wearing.  But I love to look, and I love to share, and I urge all my hardbodied readers (trans: no support or smoothing needed) to consider buying one.  But keep in mind that many of these dress are not only backless, almost frontless, and clingy, but also translucent.  Please avoid manties as a solution to the see-through problem.

ANYHOO, Posh Vintage offers for sale so many super sexy  etc. jersey dresses that I had a hard time chosing examples.  Here's a sampling:

Estevez, designer 70s jersey gown

Another Estevez jersey gown

70s Jean Varon goddess dress.  Jean Varon was the brand name of John Bates, who designed the costumes for the Avenger's Emma Peel. The man knew sexy.  Follow the link to see all the angles.

Radley of London moss crepe dress.  Ossie Clark designed for Radley, need I say more?

70s jersey dress by Bernshaw.  Fabulosity without the designer price tag.

70s Byron of Athens jersey dress.  This dress looks like it was made yesterday, and could be worn forever.

70s jersey goddess dress by Maria Maria.  Pretty color.
So while the current designers are doing goofy 70s, remember there's classic, hawt, 70s out there.  Just keep away from Qiana, double-knit, and avocado green, and you'll find it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What SHOULD Tilda Swinton wear.

La Swinton at the 2011 Golden Globes
 Oh my children, I finally know what I want to do when I grow up,  or maybe I should say I finally know the first item on my bucket list, because, damn, I'm old: I want to be Tilda Swinton's stylist.  I reached this conclusion after seeing what she wore to the Golden Globes, which, while Swinton, was rather blandly Swinton, and worse, was very similar to something Kate Bosworth wore in December.  That twain should never meet, even sartorially.

As her stylist, I could save Swinton from similar embarassments, and I'd scour the collections for spectacularly Swinton-esque looks, which shouldn't be too hard now that minimalism has made a comeback.  And I promise I'd resist any urge to dress her in chain mail and have her make her entrance on a white charger, except for the occassional photo call at the Cannes Film Festival.  Anyhoo, here are some looks I picked out from the recent collections that I think are totally Swinton i.e., guaranteed to make the fashion police stutter and bleed from their eyesockets.

Two pieces: I actually like the idea of formal separates, similar to those Swinton wore at the Golden Globes, but the following looks just offer MORE:

Alexis Mabile Spring 2011

Helmut Lang Pre-Fall 2011

Giambattista Valli Spring 2011

Theyskens Theory Spring 2011 (I'm very glad Olivier Theyskens is back!)
All of these looks emphasize Swinton's height and androgeny, and all of them are just different enough to puzzle, if not down-right dismay, red-carpet watchers.  Can you imagine what they'd say about the Alexis Mabile look, that combines a man's button-down shirt with a wreath of bows over the wearer's lady-parts?  ("She ought to make up her mind!  Is she going to the office or to a strip-club?")  Or that bright, bright yellow Giambattista Valli outfit?  ("Oh my gawd, I thought the fire-department had arrived!")  Hee hee hee!

Minimalism:  Swinton often wears very stark outfits that stand out in the usual sea of fussy dresses.  Lucky for her (and me, as her fantasy stylist), minimalism is a current trend, even though most celebrities haven't gotten the memo yet. Here are a few looks  just perfect for very tall, angular ladies:

Calvin Klein Pre-Fall 2011

Narcisco Rodriguez Pre-Fall 2011

Reed Krakoff Pre-Fall 2011

Zero + Maria Cornejo Pre-Fall 2011
There's no way someone like, say, Sophia Vergara or Eva Longoria or any of the ordinary run of T & A celebrities would appear in these rather monastic outfits. Thus, these looks are perfect for La Swinton.  No pandering to the baser instincts for her!  But for those lighter moments, some minimalist designs come in bright colors and blinding prints:

Proenza-Schouler Pre-Fall 2011

Vena Cava Spring 2011

Etro Spring 2011
Christopher Kane Resort 2011 (a tie-died jumpsuit, double whammy!)

Duro Olowu Spring 2011
I lurve that pink Proenza Schouler dress, although it might be more Mila Kunis (who has the potential to be fabulously unconventional) than Swinton, although a change in the shoe might push the outfit Swinton-ward.  The rust Vena Cava dress looks like something Isadora Duncan would wear for a performance, and I somehow feel that Duncan and Swinton are kindred spirits, although I'm sure Swinton would never wear an extra-long scarf while riding in an open car.  As for the rest -- well, we know how the Fashion Police hate prints on the red carpet, and the resulting moaning and gnashing of teeth would completely justify the wearing of one of these boldly, uh, bold garments. But for something completely different, there's . . .

Goth:   Swinton wears a lot of black, but I don't think she's ever gone completely Goth.  It's about time she tried it.

Nicole Miller Pre-Fall 2011 (actually La Swinton has worn something similar to this dress, but I like the Miller version, so it's here.)

Nina Ricci Pre-Fall 2011 (sometimes a girl just has to break out the ruffles.)

Yoji Yamamoto Spring 2011 (absolutely to be worn with the combat boots.)
HA!  Take THAT, short girls in red and emerald green!

The Maximal Dress:  There's a scene in the movie Orlando, where Swinton appears as the newly-female Orlando wearing a powdered wig and big-skirted 18th century dress. Then, dressed like Marie Antoinette, she runs through a maze to escape an importunate suitor.  It's one of my favorite scenes in a clothes-erific movie. (If I were a clothes designer, I'd do a collection based on Orlando, which starts in the Elizabethan era and ends in the 1920s.)  Swinton deserves a big dress moment on the red carpet to shame the usual crowd of train-dragging midget divas and drive them into the shadows where they belong.  Behold!!!

Alexis Mabile Fall 2010 Couture ("give me your leather, take from me, my lace . . ."  Please, any available diety, never let me see Don Henley in lace.)

Lavin Spring 2010
Victor & Rolf Spring 2010 (you want a white moment?  THIS is a white moment.)
Christian Dior Fall 2010 Couture
I would exercise my stylist's perogative to have the one shouldered gowns remade with two shoulders (that Lavin would look better with a regular T-shirt top anyhoo) and I'd see to it that Swinton was surrounded by minions to clear the way while she made her way down the red carpet like a three-masted ship in full sale.  Stand back and make way for the major MAJOR dress!

The Valkerie Moment:  Okay, I said I'd resist putting La Swinton in chain mail, but alas, I am but a weak woman, and sometimes mere clothing is Not Enough.  Luckily, there are designers willing to put a woman in the armour she deserves.  Cue the Wagner!

I really, really, really like this look.  Period.
All three looks, Gareth Pugh Spring 2011 (if I were directing a futuristic sci-fi movie, I'd so hire Gareth Pugh as the designer.  I can pay no higher compliment.)

Because if anyone could drag Ryan Seacrest into Valhalla, that person is Tilda Swinton.