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#overdressed4life

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Inauguration Day, 2009. Michelle Obama looking lovely in a dress suit by American  designer Isabel Toledo. 

Sometime during Barack’s campaign, people began paying attention to my clothes. Or at least the media paid attention, which provoked all manner of commentary across the internet. My pearls, my belts, my cardigans, my off-the-rack dresses from J.Crew, my apparently brave choice of white for an inaugurate gown – all seemed to trigger a slew of opinions and instant feedback … It seemed that my clothes mattered more to people than anything I had to say. 

Michelle Obama, attorney, mother, and former First Lady of the United States.

This quote is from Ms. Obama’s just released memoir, Becoming (Crown Publishing Group).

Michelle Obama was and still is the epitome of grace and style. But it’s not just the clothes she chooses to wear that make her such, it is her generous spirit, her confidence, and intelligence. What an excellent role model she was as First Lady and continues to be as an American working woman.

Fifteen days after publication, Becoming has sold more than two million copies proving that, indeed, what Michelle Obama has to say matters.

I also love the Korean alphabet. It’s like … cubism. Very graphic!

Karl Lagerfeld – German fashion designer for Chanel.

This quote is from Korean Inspired, an essay Lagerfeld wrote for Couture Korea – the catalog accompanying the fashion exhibit of the same name at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, November 3, 2017-February 4, 2018.

Lagerfeld is among a few western designers inspired by the traditions of Korea. His 2016 Chanel Cruise collection showed in Seoul, South Korea and included many Korean motifs, such as embroidery and bojagi (traditional wrapping cloth).

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The Korean alphabet is called hangul and I agree with Lagerfeld – each letter is very graphic. Isn’t it interesting that when you don’t know the language, the letters are just shapes and therefore take on a different quality.

While looking at fabric in Seoul, I was drawn to a cotton printed with hangul. Although at the time I had no idea what I’d do with it, I bought two yards and had fun pondering how to use it.

Now I know! A jacket with top stitching in brick red. When I travel I often buy fabric and make or have something made as a memento from my travels.

Stay tuned for the finished hangul jacket.

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Entrance to the East Meets West exhibit at Legion of Honor Museum.

For a festive treat with plenty of sparkle I recommend the current exhibition at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, East Meets West: Jewels of the Maharajas from the Al Thani Collection. On now through February 24, 2019, this exhibit includes 150 pieces of stunning jewelry and other accessories from 17th century India to modern interpretations by western designers.

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Turban ornament, India c. 1900, Silver, diamonds, emerald, pearl.

Much of what’s on view is from the private collection of His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, including elaborate necklaces, strands of pearls, aigrettes, brooches, and turban ornaments – the most iconic of East Indian jewelry pieces.

In the west, royal women bore the task of donning the family jewels but in the east it was the men who had the pleasure. Interspersed among the display cases are photos of various decked out Maharajas. These images give an idea of how they wore their finest jewels – chokers at the neck, layers of necklaces covering the chest with dangling stones as big as chandelier drops, brooches adorning their jackets, and to top it all off  turban ornaments often featuring a large emerald, the favored gemstone for its green color. It seems the gentlemen wore their jewelry well and with surprising ease.

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Nizam of Hyderabad necklace. India, 1850-1875. Gold, diamonds, emerald, enamel.

In the early 20th century, with their mutual love of jewelry and gemstones, both the west and east cultures borrowed from each other. European designers began to use cabochon and carved gemstones in their designs, which we see in Art Deco jewelry, and  Maharajas brought their collections to houses such as Cartier to have them remade into modern designs.

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Pen Case and Inkwell. North India, 1575-1600. Gold, diamonds, emeralds, hubbies, sapphires, lacquer.

With six galleries there is much to learn and perhaps get inspired … to add to our gift wish list!

 

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Elephant Brooch, JAR, Paris. 2016. Titanium, diamonds, white cacholong (common opal), sapphires, gold, platinum.

 

East Meets West: Jewels of the Maharajas from the Al Thani Collection is a nice alternative to the holiday madness. Check it out.

https://legionofhonor.famsf.org/exhibitions/east-meets-west

 

 

 

 

 

 

41UA57KzwQLConfidence. independence, and intelligence are the new and permanent must-haves to be a sexy woman. Carrie Bradshaw displayed these characteristics,  behind Carrie was Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP) – a natural example of the woman we are talking about. Behind Carrie and SJP was yours truly, making our combination organic and believable. 

Patricia Field – American costume designer and head designer for the television series, Sex and the City.

We continue to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sex and the City, which premiered on HBO in June 1998.

If you’re a fan of S&TC I recommend a new book, Sex and the City and Us: How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love. by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (Simon & Schuster).

With twenty years hindsight, Ms. Armstrong presents backstories on what went into creating and maintaining the hit HBO show. Having interviewed key players like SJP, producer Darren Star, writers Cindy Chupack and Jenny Bicks, she digs deep into the inspirations and intentions of each of the six seasons with commentary along the way on the impact the show has had across the country then and now. Armstrong opens the book sharing how the first seasons of S&TC influenced her life, as a twenty-something young woman in Chicago with NYC aspirations.

Sex and the City and Us is well written and a fun read for true fans.

 

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Traditional hanbok was worn for both everyday and special occasions by men and women from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) through the 1950s when western clothing took hold. The basic silhouette for women was a full skirt, often made of silk or ramie, and a short jacket in solid colors. Any embellishment was applied, embroidery for example, along the edge of the skirt or the shoulder of the jacket.

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Traditional hanbok.

 

While in Seoul, South Korea I had many encounters with traditional hanbok on the streets, in museums, and the fabric market but I was interested in seeing modern interpretations by local designers. I had first learned of this trend last year at the Asian Art Museum’s exhibit, Couture Korea.

I heard about a shop that offers modern hanbok, so one day I set out walking through our neighborhood of Insadong and into Bukchon in search of Tchai Kim.

One hour and four tourist guides later (they had trouble too!), I found the elusive shop tucked inside one of the many little alleyways that are so much a part of Seoul. I was greeted by a friendly and helpful staff member, Kim Ujin.

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Kim Ujin standing with my favorite reinterpretation of traditional hanbok.  It’s the unexpected plaid that does it for me.

Ujin explained that the shop is owned by designer Kim Young-jin, who had learned how to make traditional hanbok from a Korean Master. For several years Young-jin custom-made traditional hanbok mostly for weddings but she began to realize that the label “traditional” was variable – hanbok in the 18th century was different from hanbok in the 19th century and so on. Traditional Korean dress was ever-changing until it more or less disappeared. Young-jin felt it was time to bring hanbok back with a modern update and in 2010 she launched her ready-to-wear brand, Tchai Kim (tchai means different).

I was given a tour of various silhouettes all inspired by traditional hanbok of past centuries.

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Deoksugung Palace Guards, or actors who play guards. There is no monarchy in South Korea but there are five palaces in Seoul that, since 1996, hold reenactments of the changing of the guards.

 

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Here’s the cheollik dress with over-skirt.

One such silhouette particular to Tchai Kim is a dress based on the traditional cheollik, a one-piece tunic worn by men over loose fitting pants that were tied at the ankles. You can still see that outfit today on the palace guards. Designed originally for ease of movement, the reinterpreted cheollik for women offers the same ease for a busy modern lifestyle. The dress can be worn alone or with a pair of wide-legged pants or with an over-skirt as we see in the photo to the left.

Part of the traditional hanbok ensemble is the short wrap jacket, called jeogori. in solid colors. Young-jin has taken that idea and updated it with a v-neckline in cotton fabric and patterns such as plaids and polka-dots, shifting the look from youthful to sophisticated.

 

 

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There are many redesigns of the jacket. I tried on one that if worn in the U.S. would be considered very fashion forward but the inspiration behind Young-jin’s design makes the piece even more special. The pop of red embroidery (another Korean tradition) spelling out the name of the shop punches up the avant-garde factor. If I were to wear this jacket I’d mix it with vintage – 40s slacks and my signature suede shoes (look at my logo) and a grey or black beret with a red floral brooch attached.

The blending of traditional with modern is a marvelous way to move forward while honoring heritage and keeping it present.

Gamsahapnida (thank you) to Kim Ugin for taking time with me on that wonderful October afternoon! It was among the highlights of my visit to Seoul.

 

 

 

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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.
John McCrae (1872-1918), Canadian medical doctor and poet.
Dr. McCrae served as a surgeon for the Canadian military during WWI. He wrote In Flanders Field in 1915 after the death of a good friend.
Armistice Day is November 11th. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Since 1921, on Armistice Day it is customary, mostly in the UK, to sport a paper poppy on a jacket lapel on honor of those who who died in the “war to end all wars.”

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Voting looks good on you. 

Elle magazine, October 2018

Election Day is tomorrow, Tuesday November 6, 2018.