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#overdressed4life

One election year when I was in college, I got a bee in my bonnet about the importance of voting; I knew that college students tended not to vote. So, I wrote a letter to the editor of my university newspaper.

I kept it brief and said something like – We should all get out and vote. Particularly women, because we owe it to the many women before us who fought hard for the right.

When I arrived at work that election morning (I worked in a health food restaurant) one of my female co-workers approached me and said: “Moya, I wasn’t going to bother to vote but I read your letter to the editor and it inspired me.”

I was pleased to know that my small effort made even a slight difference.

California Suffragists.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women in the United States the right to vote. Even with that, not all women were welcomed at the polls; minority women suffered intimidation and voter suppression, something that continues today.

Since I was old enough to vote, I have never missed an election and this election in particular I am thinking of the thousands of women across America who, for decades, worked tirelessly for the right to vote. Not only did they work, they suffered and sacrificed as well. It would feel all wrong to take my right to vote for granted.

Ladies, don’t be left out! Have your say!

VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE.

quoteBecause for me – always, but now more than ever – the human has to be at the center of the process. In these past decades, we’ve talked a lot about numbers – the first, the best. And in a way, this has created a kind of competition that I don’t think you really need. You can forget about creativity and the humanity because it’s all about money and marketing. And that’s not what fashion is for. Fashion is about dreaming, inspiring.

Pierpaolo Piccioli, Creative Director at Valentino.

This quote is from a discussion in Harper’s Bazaar  with designers about what’s important to them right now during these challenging times. (Summer, 2020)

The reason fashion has become more about numbers than people is because many of the houses are now owned by big corporations. It’s not a designer running his own house anymore, it’s a celebrity designer paid a lot of money to produce and produced and produced … until he’s used up and another one is put in place and so on. (Think Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Alber Albaz).

Fashion cannot thrive without imagination and imagination needs time and space to develop.

 

The Tabard

Keeping up with my interest in historic clothing and layering, I decided to make a tabard.

Tabards date back to the Middle Ages and are like long vests, but with no sleeves and no side seams. Sometimes a tab of fabric might have been attached at the waist to connect the back and front panels. Monks wore tabards (pictured right) as did the military and later, servants. In the early 18th century, fashionable women sported tabards made of embellished luxurious fabrics such as velvet (see image at the bottom).

I like the look of tabards and fashioned my own out of a loose weave cotton. The simple silhouette isn’t hard to construct; I simply cut the fabric, sewed the two panels together at the shoulders, and finished the edges. The trickiest part was cutting the neckline and that’s not perfect, but luckily it doesn’t ruin the piece. What worked out really well are the tabs, bojagi tabs.

Bojagi is traditional Korean wrapping cloth made out of scraps of fabric. What was an every day necessity is now an art form and the bojagi technique of exposed hand stitching is used for much more than wrapping cloth. I thought the patchwork of color in a medium weight silk would make an interesting addition.

I’m not sure how I will sport my tabard, but I know I’ll have fun creating outfits.

NOTE: Please excuse any blips or inconsistences in the images or the font. WordPress has recently changed their editor platform, which is causing problems.

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Princess Anne, illustration by Zoe Taylor, Selvedge magazine. 

Anne is the very epitome of cool. An androgynous, horsey dude who looked killer in a pair of jodhpurs, and whose extraordinary up-do (I think the technical term is ‘the onion’) has become part of the Royal Family’s mythology. Princess Anne has followed her mother’s footsteps by hanging on to her innate sense of style – namely jodhpurs unless harangued into wearing something else by family commitments – e.g. royal weddings. But she always manages to keep to the English rule of looking slightly unkempt in everything. 

Luella Bartley – English fashion designer and fashion journalist.

This quote is from the May/June 2011 issue of Selvedge magazine. The theme of this issue is all things Britannia and Ms. Bartley was asked to choose six women who reflect the British unique and quirky sense of style.

Ms. Bartley is speaking of Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth’s only daughter. The princess certainly marches to the beat of her own fashion drum. Like her mother, she always looks appropriate and put together. Unlike her aunt, Princess Margaret, who was the fashion plate of her day, she stays with the traditional British country look. I understand Ms. Bartley’s point, that there is something cool about a woman who sports a sort of “unfashionable” style and looks good doing it.

Matching tie, pocket square, and mask by Theresa LaQuey. Image courtesy of Theresa LaQuey.

I called it an upcoming trend and Theresa LaQuey Couture is doing it! What might that be? Why, matching masks of course.

Theresa has just announced that she is creating matching tie and mask and pocket square sets for our dashing gentlemen friends. She is also designing a blouse and mask set for the ladies.

An experienced seamstress with an eye for vintage silhouettes, Theresa has created patterns for Simplicity Patterns and run her own business making vintage inspired custom clothing since 1989. A longtime Art Deco Society of California board member, she designs and makes all the fabulous fashions she wears for both day and evening ADSC events.

I am lucky to have quite a few Theresa LaQuey creations in my wardrobe, including a beautiful suit with a 20s style coat.

Theresa says she has been making tie and pocket square sets for her husband since before they were married. Adding a mask during the current pandemic seemed a natural next step. “I am mostly using vintage inspired quilting cotton as that is what is recommended for the masks,” she explains. “However, I have figured out how to use other fabrics with the same mask protection.” Each set is largely sewn by hand and will be made on a custom basis from a selection of fabrics from Theresa’s collection or the client can provide their own fabric.

It’s the same deal for the blouse/mask set.

Holiday gifts! Social distance gatherings! Just dressing up for a change! Matching masks for all occasions is The Thing.

Visit Theresa LaQuey Couture on Facebook for more information.

She spent most of her time outside and had no care for fashion, always dressing in precisely the same way: dark leather button-up boots and a green walking suit, the long skirt of which was always caked with mud about the hem. She had a large woven basket … and she carried it wherever she went … used for carrying sticks and stones and birdseggs and feathers and all manner of other natural objects that had piqued her interest.

This quote from the novel The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton (Atria Books).

There isn’t a lot of fashion in this book but there is mystery, intrigue, history, art, and a ghost! Just my cup of tea.

When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco on the occasional Sunday afternoon my father and I would drive to Chinatown, park (because you still could), and walk around looking in all the shops. The stuff in the stores was fun to peruse but I was more captivated by the older Chinese people I saw strolling along Grant Street and the unique way they dressed. Their style was was bold and bright – mixing patterns with checks, layering unexpected color combinations such as red with yellow, and sporting something like my Mary Janes but made from black fabric (they looked so cute and comfortable).

Fast-forward quite a few years and not only is Chinatown style still thriving (with a new generation of older people), but we have a recently published book on the subject by photographer Andria Lo and journalist Valerie Luu, Chinatown Pretty: Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors (Chronicle Books, 2020).

As second generation Asian Americans, Lo and Luu have a shared fascination with the clothing of poh pohs (grandmas) and gung gungs (grandfathers) in San Francisco Chinatown. Curious about the people behind the clothes, they began to approach individuals on the street and ask how they put their outfits together. “The Chinatown seniors’ dress and demeanor,” the authors explain, “also reminded us of our own grandparents – their permed hair, their sock-and-sandal combinations, and the way their expressions could switch between extremely tough (and intimidating) and overwhelmingly affectionate.”

Their interest turned into a book, which covers six city Chinatowns – SF, Oakland, LA, Chicago, Manhattan, Vancouver, BC. – and dozens of stylin’ seniors. The people are as varied as the clothing with ages ranging from 60 to one woman over 100. Most immigrated decades ago from China or Vietnam, and they have worked as seamstresses, gardeners, store clerks, vendors, accounts, and social workers. Each person featured shares a lot or very little of their story and the authors say that 90 percent of the people they approached declined to be photographed or interviewed.

A theme among those featured was that their style is unintentional. They just wear what they have, some of it vintage, some hand-me-downs or purchased on sale. “At my age we don’t care about fashion,” says Show Chun Change from Vancouver Chinatown. “We just wear what’s comfortable.” How it’s all put together is more of a practical consideration, such as layering to keep out the cold. One gentleman had hand stitched several hats together for warmth and another used safety pins to close a buttonless vest, which made for a very cool look. I love that their style came from their ingenuity. (See slideshow.)

Several among the group do dress with intention. Anna Lee is in her 90s and immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in 1989. She worked as an accountant and a social worker and although now retired she still enjoys dressing well in her custom-made dresses, high-waisted pants, and silk blouses, all accessorized with beaded necklaces she makes herself. (See first picture in slideshow.)

Another woman’s more artistic flair reminded me of the Advanced Style set, a group of older women in NYC who have become style superstars thanks to photographer Ari Seth Cohen. Dorothy G.C. Quock (called Polka Dot), 75, was born and still lives in SF Chinatown and works as a tour guide there. (See picture nine in the slideshow.) Growing up, Polka Dot spent a lot of time where her mother worked as a seamstress at the sweatshop that manufactured Levi’s:

As a preschooler, she got her first experience trimming thread ends. In second grade, she learned how to use an embosser to stamp the Levi’s logo onto the leather tag. At age ten, she mastered the buttonhole, which appeared on Levi’s before zippers became the norm.

I enjoyed the glimpses into these people’s lives and I also appreciated that the authors included a brief history of each of the six Chinatowns.

Chinatown Pretty is a fun read, a visual treat, and important documentation of an overlooked segment of fashion history.

These outfits weave together the seniors’ diaspora : where they came from, what they did for a living, how they made the best of their circumstances. Like handmade items using fabric from the sewing factory where they worked, or hand-knit or hand-me-down clothing from friends and family. Their style speaks to their values: Why buy new clothes when you can wear gifted ones? Or custom clothes from Hong Kong, thirty years old but perfectly preserved? Combined with tender personalized touches, Chinatown seniors’ style contains so much ingenuity, flair, and beauty.

Andria Lo and Valerie Luu, authors of Chinatown Pretty: Fashion and Wisdom from Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors (Chronicle Books, 2020).

Check back on Wednesday for my review of this book.

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I’m a big fan of skirts. Worn with a t-shirt or light cotton blouse, a skirt is easy and comfortable yet still a nice look.

Skirts are a go-to option for my At Home Attire ensembles. I made the one in this photo from a novelty print (ferns) cotton fabric. I’ve paired it with a cotton t-shirt in gray and added a cropped cardigan in light green, which picks up the lighter green shade in the skirt. The shoes are patent leather ballet flats, which are as comfortable as slippers!

Notice I’m wearing jewelry. Just because I’m hanging at home, doesn’t mean I’m not putting on some bling. Rings are my favorite and I enjoy looking at them while pausing at my writing desk, searching for just the right word or taking a break to stretch.

Tune in again for another installment of At Home Attire.

The ever stylish and gracious, RBG.

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020), associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, heroine, national treasure.

Thank you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg for your your calm and thoughtful efforts to better our world. You are an inspiration that continues on.

RIP