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#overdressed4life

Please help save this stunning Art Deco lobby.

The Art Deco lobby in the McGraw-Hill building is under threat of being completely destroyed. While the façade of the building has landmark status, the inside does not and The Art Deco Society of New York is working to secure landmark status for the lobby with the Landmark Preservation Commission. They need our help. Please sign the petition.

Located on West 42nd Street in NYC the 1930 Art Deco building stands 35 stories and was designed by Raymond Hood for the McGraw-Hill publishing house, who occupied the lower floors and rented out the upper floors. The publishing house moved out and sold the building in 1972. Since then there have been many owners of the landmark building, including the current Deco Towers Associates (a foreign investment group) who recently abandoned their plans to convert the building into apartments and now want to “refurbish” the building.

There is nothing like Art Deco architecture. It is at once distinctive and timeless. We cannot afford to lose irreplaceable style and quality of work. Please readers, sign the petition and help save the McGraw-Hill lobby for the education and inspiration of future generations.

Thank you!

Time wears down the pencil.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021), American Beat Poet, publisher, owner of City Lights Bookstore, SF icon.

Mr. Ferlinghetti liked to don a hat. From his Navy cover to a fedora, beret to beanie, bowler to Greek fisherman’s cap, over the years he wore them all with unbeatable flair.

RIP.

Several weeks ago a fashion colleague (and friend) of mine, Tyese Cooper contacted me and asked if she could interview me for her new blog post series. Of course I was happy to agree.

Based in Paris, Tyese is a sustainable fashion designer, business woman, and creative mentor/teacher. In her blog series, How to See, she talks to various artists and designers about creativity (I am honored to be included in this accomplished group).

On a certain day, Tyese and I successfully erased the time and miles between us by meeting on Zoom. Approaching the conversation in her own unique way, we began with the word start and what that word brings to mind. From there it was a wonderfully unexpected ride.

Click here to read my conversation with Tyese Cooper.

Barbara Jefford as Lady Lydia Eliott. Note Lydia’s collar, reminiscent of the 17th century Ruff.

She spends all that money on clothes and she still manages to look cheap. No doubt her latest young man tells her bad taste is all the rage.

Lady Lydia Eliott, fictional character played by Barbara Jefford in the British television series The House of Eliott.

A little “mean girl” humor.

The House of Eliott is one of my all time favorite British series. Created by Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs), it features two sisters who face hardships as independent women fashion designers in 1920s London. I own the entire series on DVD and I watch it when I’m feeling low or just need an escape. Of course I pulled it out in Pandemic Year 2020 and that’s when I happened to catch this funny line.

I’m quite fond of Lady Lydia. She’s so biting, she’s hilarious, and Ms. Jefford is wonderful at balancing the cattiness of Lydia with her vulnerability. I think a good snooty character is great fun.

Click here for another post I wrote on The House of Eliott.

Last week Nick Verreos, FIDM, Design co-chair, and Kevin Jones, FIDM Museum Curator, hosted a Zoom talk with Ellen Mirojnick, costume designer of the period drama television show, Bridgerton.

This Netflix production is based on the Regency romance novels by Julia Quinn. I haven’t read the books or seen the series, although I did watch enough on YouTube to get the idea. It was my general interest in the costuming that prompted me to tune into the discussion.

Ms. Mirojnick was quick to say that they never intended the costumes to be period accurate, but that Bridgerton “needed to be a bonnet-less world.” The ethos of the production was a “heightened reality.” I gather that there has been a lot of criticism, including quite a bit popping up on Zoom Chat during the talk.

In the first season there were 6000 costumes, all custom-made by the staff of 230. Every character, even background characters, wore bespoke costumes created in the UK. Ms. Mirojnick commented that Americans sadly just don’t have the hand crafting/sewing skills needed for a project like this.

She used the empire silhouette common in the Regency era for women, but she designed fuller gowns allowing for fluidity and ease of movement. She favored layering with lace and embroidered light fabrics. The colors are vivid pinks and purples accented with sparkly jewels. It’s all intentionally over-the-top, like thick gobs of frosting on a sheet cake. The Regency era was more subtle with only touches of embroidery and lace and small pieces of jewelry, if any.

Ms. Mirojnick said that getting the jewels was the biggest challenge. Every piece was hand crafted for each character. “The jewelry was meant to be the period at the end of the sentence of who the character was.” The corsets were handmade by corset master Mr. Pearl and the actresses weren’t too keen on having to wear them.

Although not period accurate, the costumes are still interesting and I enjoyed hearing some of the inside scoop on how they’re created.

Thank you FIDM!

It was a mask. Aggressively dazzling in self-protection. The first day I came to see Allendy I wore a draped costume and a Byzantine hat, and I succeeded in intimidating him by my strangeness … A desire to be more interesting, more accentuated. A role. I played the role of a sophistication which was not truly my own. In all this he seemed so right. I began to see how much of an armor my costumes had been. I remembered that to please Henry I wear for him softer and more youthful things, and that I hated when he decided to take me to Montparnasse to meet people in these puerile clothes. I wanted so much my draperies and Russian hat. Like an armor.

Anais Nin (1903-1977), French author.

This quote is taken from the diary of Ms. Nin written in 1932. I found it in an article by Gwendolyn M. Michel titled “A Woman with a Hundred Faces: The Dress and Appearance of Anis Nin, 1931-1932, published in Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America.

Ms. Nin refers to her therapist Dr. Rene Allendy, with whom she discussed her body image issues. She felt she was too skinny, flat chested, and not curvaceous enough. (Ironic, as she had the 1920s ideal figure.) Ms. Nin at the time was having an affair with American author Henry Miller, while also she was quite intrigued by his wife June. For a short time she tried to emulate June’s less fashionable more bohemian style. It didn’t work for her.

I think many of us use clothing as armor one way or another. When we dress-up or at least dress differently from the norm, we perhaps intimidate; prompt glances from afar but no actual communication. When we dress as everyone else does we blend in, hiding among the crowds. Both are a sort of protection.

Recently I was going through papers looking for something that I didn’t find but I did unearth something else – a letter from me to my mother when I was in college.

Mom has kept pretty much every letter, card, and postcard I ever sent to her from college (I was in another state) and traveling. I wrote to her a lot and she to me. It was something we just did, regularly. We spoke on the phone as well but that was expensive so we kept calls to once a week or so.

Since my mother moved, all of this correspondence is now with me. Luckily, I am old enough to appreciate their value as a window through which to view the many stages of my own life. A few years earlier, into the recycle bin they would have gone.

This letter was written right before Thanksgiving back when a stamp cost 22 cents. In it I thanked her for a card she sent to me and ten dollars (it seemed I was always cash poor when I was in college, even though I had a part-time job). I told her about a paper I was working on for my British history class and the following:

I put together the most fabulous outfit. I wore the gold and black circle skirt I made (you remember) with the 40s satin jacket you gave me and sheer light green stockings and my brown 40s shoes I bought with you. My jewelry was perfect, a copper leaf pattern necklace that lays flat on my collar bone and these funky 40s (or 50s) drop earrings that are oranges. The whole outfit was just great. I got a lot of attention. You wouldn’t believe how perfectly that jacket goes with the skirt.

I mentioned that I put together this outfit for a reception at a furniture store that I attended with my then boyfriend. I don’t recall that night or the outfit and I don’t have a photo, but I do remember each element of the outfit.

I still have the satin jacket, which has a Don Loper label. I Love Lucy fans might recognize that name; Mr. Loper (1906-1972) was the Hollywood fashion and costume designer who played himself in a 1955 episode of Lucy titled The Fashion Show. I suspect my jacket originally had a matching skirt. (Wouldn’t that have been quite jazzy!)

The skirt I paired with the jacket was a cotton circle skirt that I made. It had a large abstract black stick figure pattern and patch pockets. It was somewhat ethnic looking and an odd match with the dressy jacket but that’s what made the outfit so interesting. I also still have the shoes – brown suede with a slight platform and a three inch heel. I often wear these shoes to period costume events.

The copper necklace (purchased at Emporium, the only vintage store in my college town) I have since passed along as well as the earrings, which were little oranges made of plastic. I like how I played with color and wasn’t afraid to do a mix up. I wish I had mentioned what handbag I chose.

Even though I don’t have a photo, I can still picture that outfit as if I had worn it yesterday and I’m so pleased to have stumbled upon the forgotten evening thanks to a simple letter to my mom.

Jerry Lorenzo. Photo: Texas Isaiah for Harper’s Bazaar.

So many times, though, when someone dresses up for an occasion, they step into a silhouette that’s a lot different from how they look the rest of the week. They don’t feel comfortable, and it shows. So with Fear of God, we’re trying to blend all these life moments together in one wardrobe that offers comfort and functionality at the same time as elegance and sophistication.

Jerry Lorenzo, head designer at Fear of God.

This quote is from an interview in Harper’s Bazaar, Dec. 2020/Jan.2021.

Mr. Lorenzo started his menswear label, Fear of God, in 2012. Based in LA, his athletic inspired street-style brand had a cult following at first but with his recent winter 2020 line, something shifted.

For one thing, women are paying attention and for another he’s now crossing tailoring with soft more athletic fabrics and in our new pandemic world, that has struck a cord. Not that the idea is new but the timing is spot on. One year into Covid Hell and people are craving an alternative to sweats and joggers but they’re too stressed for challenging structured clothing. Enter tailored duds in forgiving fabrics.

The new line looks to be comfortable but still presentable. A step in the right direction.

It’s not leggings and an oversized t-shirt, so it’s fashion.

Anonymous

While flipping through the September 2020 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, I came upon a photo spread that included the image to the right. Thinking out loud I said, “This is fine, but there’s nothing fashionable about it.”

I actually like this outfit. From the crewneck sweater layered over a button-down shirt to the brown leather clogs, it’s very much a retro 1970s look. It’s snappy and sporty, however, it’s not cutting edge or unique in any way and I don’t understand why the heck it was in the big September fashion issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Perhaps my friend is right, that anything other than leggings and t-shirts is what passes for fashion these days.

I’m probably in the minority on this one, but I didn’t care much for Lady Gaga’s Inauguration … hmm, what should I call it? Outfit? Costume? Skirt and top? Ball gown?

Whatever we call the Schiaparelli brand ensemble, it was inappropriate for the occasion. Or at least half of it was.

Hear me out.

I know that Lady Gaga likes a grand entrance. She likes outrageous costumes and I think that’s fine for one of her concerts but for the Inauguration of the United States President, tailored pieces are more appropriate than oversized skirts.

I thought the navy jacket and large gilded dove brooch were spot on; her lovely voice and updated, heartfelt rendition of The Star Spangle Banner were stunning, and she looked beautiful. However, the skirt, made of layers of red silk faille, was too voluminous, it took up too much room and looked awkward on that crowded platform.

A skirt like that would be just the thing for the opening night of the opera, the Costume Institute Gala, the Inaugural Ball had there been one. Any formal nighttime event with ample space where its fullness can spread and fill and be completely seen and enjoyed.

Ballgowns (that’s what this was) are not for daytime events. I would have preferred a pencil skirt, perhaps in the same navy fabric as the jacket or in red for a more splashy Lady Gaga look. To keep with her quirkiness, some fabulous vintage shoes – 40s slingbacks or Oxfords with a heel – and a pair of gloves with red embroidered tips as a nod to the original Schiaparelli.

Still, as I said Lady Gaga looked lovely (waist up) and I really appreciated hearing her sing our national anthem with such heart.

Agree? Disagree? I welcome any polite comments from ODFL readers.