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#overdressed4life

IMG_20180829_152527This was the midsixties, no T-shirts for these middle-class moms, no sweatpants, canvas shorts, or jeans. To school, their daughters wore dresses, or skirts and blouses (always tucked in, thank you very much), skipping in white socks and two-tones shoes or penny loafers or Keds. So their mothers were not sloppy in their gardens, even as they planted. 

Marcia Gay Harden – American actress. This quote is from Ms. Harden’s memoir, The Seasons of my Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers (Atria Books).

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Custom made hanbok at Korean Costume, Gwangjang Market.

The day after Donald Trump was elected in 2016, I pulled a hanbok out of my closet. I felt compelled to wear this traditional Korean garment, with its stiff collar, short top, and floor-length, empire-waist skirt, as my small statement of resistance. To some, such a gesture might read conservative, feminine, or modest but to me it was defiantly different. After all, with every sexist or xenophobic barb Trump lobbed, I became more determined to flaunt my womanhood and Korean identity. 

Crystal Hana Kim – Korean-American author.

I am currently in Seoul, South Korean on a textiles tour. Last week we went to  Gwangjang Market, which is a large building of vendors many of whom sell fine quality fabric and construct hanbok.

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Ramie fabric.

We were lucky enough to meet with one of the hanbok vendors, Jung Jae Won from Korean Costume, who kindly spoke to us about the process of having a hanbok made.

Hanbok was worn daily in Korea up until around 1900. Today it is worn usually for weddings, holidays, and other special formal occasions, although, some Korean designers are updating the silhouette to better suit the taste of modern fashionistas.

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Traditional hanbok for women includes a distinctive full skirt called chima, short jacket called jeogori and layers of undergarments. The fabric used is silk or ramie, a stiff fiber known to hold its shape and resist wrinkling. Petticoats are worn for fullness.

IMG_20181010_190715209There are many selections to make from the color of the fabric, to any applied decoration to hair accessories. Color is used to communicate social and economic status. For example bright colors are for unmarried woman and blue trim on the cuffs of a woman’s jacket indicates she has a son. (No special color for a daughter.) A widow might have an extra decoration on her jacket, like embroidered flowers.

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Renting hanbok for a day and roaming around the city is a current trend among the young set. There are rental stores at the various palaces and other tourist areas. These hanbok are more ostentatious with embellishments such as stamped gold edges or embroidery. Instead of the traditional petticoat a hoop skirt is worn for a more exaggerated fullness.

Stay tuned for more Korean fashion stores.

 

IMG_20180903_175500There are many, many regulations in North Korea on how a woman should look. You’re not meant to put your hair down, skinny pants are frowned upon, jeans aren’t allowed, and there are definitely no short pants. If you’re ever caught breaking these rules you’re forced to write a self-criticism report; or if you have long hair, risk having it cut short. Nevertheless, some girls turn a blind eye to these penalties, all in the name of beauty. 

This quote is by a North Korean defector and contributor to the book Ask a North Korean: Defectors Talk About Their Lives Inside the World’s Most Secretive Nation (Tuttle Publishing).

Why would I be reading this book? Well, I saw it in on the shelf at my local library and I took an interest because as you read this I’m in Seoul, South Korea on a ten day textiles tour.

I’ve been reading about both North and South Korea. I had no idea that Seoul has the fastest Internet in the world. Or that North Korea had a famine in the 1990s that pretty much stopped all governmental aid to the people. Seoul is a serious fashion city, with world renowned designers creating avant-garde looks. I was first introduced to fashion in South Korea last year at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s Couture Korea exhibit. At the time I was also taking a textiles class at SFCC.  Both opened up new worlds to me and when this opportunity to travel to South Korea fell in my lap, I decided to take it.

This is my first trip to Asia. What an adventure it will be and you bet I’ll be writing about it. Stayed tuned.

 

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Pandora’s Box, 1951. By Rene Magritte.

The presence of the rose next to the stroller signifies that wherever man’s destiny leads him, he is always protected by an element of beauty. 

Rene Magritte (1898-1967), Belgium artist.

I’m drawn to this painting for so many reasons: the hat, the cobblestone road, the hazy feel to the environment, the European scene. But most of all the rose as companion and I like Magritte’s thought that beauty is omnipresent. Something to remember in our current mixed-up, dark world.

 

One summer day several years ago I spotted on the Mills College campus (where I worked at the time) a Muslim woman dressed in a long narrow skirt and tunic top both in a lightweight fabric and in a lovely shade of mauve. Her hijab was pale purple, which blended so nicely with the mauve. She was wearing a pair of high heel sandals in tan and carried a tan satchel handbag. She looked chic and I wanted to talk to her and take her photo for the blog but she was a visiting professor and I didn’t want to intrude.

That woman is still vivid in my mind because it was then that I realized that 1. I hadn’t given Muslim dress much thought and 2. Muslim dress can be chic.

Of course it can!

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Design by Nzinga Knight, the first contestant on Project Runway to wear a hijab.

I have been thinking about this form of dress ever since and so I was excited to attend the press preview for Contemporary Muslim Fashions, the current fashion exhibit on now at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

“… modest fashion, or clothes that allow the wearer to remain relatively concealed but also appear stylish, has become one of the most pervasive international fashion stories in the past five years,” say exhibit curators, Jill D’Alessandro and Laura Camerlengo. When young Muslim women took to the Internet and blogging after not seeing themselves reflected in mass media, mass media took notice. As modest dress designers began to reach for a broader global appeal, the fashion industry took notice.

Reina Lewis, Professor of Cultural Studies at London College of Fashion and consultant to this exhibit says that the Muslim market for modest fashions is estimated at 44 billion US dollars this year and is expected to grow. “The style parade of cool Muslim women, often recognizable by their wearing a head-cover of some sort, is becoming a significant style story,” she explains. “If you are a trend forecaster, it is not hard to spot this vibrant cohort.”

They’re on it – H&M, Uniqlo, and Nike among others have recently produced items for modest dress.

 

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Designs by  Itang Yunasz using Indonesian ikat fabric. These remind me very much of Yves Saint Laurent.

 

With 80 ensembles representing 53 designers from the Middle East, Indonesia, Malaysia, Europe, Canada, and the United States, Contemporary Muslim Fashions is the first extensive museum exploration of Muslim modest dress and the influence it’s having on fashion around the world. Featured are day wear, sportswear, formal, and Haute Couture. Additionally there are photographs and videos to help contextualize the fashions on display.

Several of the included designers traveled to San Francisco to join the opening celebrations. I spoke with Indonesian designer Itang Yunasz, who was pleased to be part of this notable exhibit. Yunasz began his fashion career 37 years ago designing exclusive luxury clothing for women.  In 2000 he chose to include modest dress in his collections to offer luxury and style for Muslim women who wish to dress modestly. He soon became known as the “Modest Wear Trendsetter.” Yunasz’s signature look is combining luxury with references to his native country.  “I’m always designing with a touch of Indonesia,” he explained. Included in the exhibit are pieces made of handwoven ikat fabric, an Indonesian technique in which the fabric pattern is formed by weaving individual dyed yarns. For drape and flow in his silhouettes he also used silk, printed or digitized from ikat fabric. (Pictured above.)

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Another designer from Indonesia, Khanaan Luqman Shamlan uses batik fabric, which is a wax-resist dye technique.  Shamlan’s family owned a batik fabric factory and with that background she is determined to “see batik go global.”

Each region represented has varying styles and bring their own cultural differences to their designs. The Middle East might be more austere, Malaysia more colorful. There are examples of simple and ornate pieces, even tailored and whimsical. Not all ensembles include a headscarf as not all Muslim women wear one. Something I learned is that couture houses have for many years custom altered their designs for Muslim clients. On display are several couture gowns altered to fit the needs of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Missned, of Qatar.

 

Looking at the array of designs, it occurred to me that without the hijab some of these ensembles don’t read specifically Muslim and might appeal to any fashionable woman. For example Khanaan Luqman Shamlan’s designs pictured above are just beautiful gowns. Indeed, Professor Lewis commented that many of the designers included in this exhibit reported to her that 40 to 50 percent of their customers are not Muslims, but women of other faiths or women of no particular faith.

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Another example of a design that fits modest needs but is also avant garde and might appeal to a variety of  women. By Mashael Al Rajhi from Saudi Arabia. Merino wool, velvet.

There is much to learn from Contemporary Muslim Fashions about different cultures, different women, and how we can all meet at the intersection of fashion and style.

Contemporary Muslim Fashions is on now through January 6th, 2019. Click here for more information. 

 

 

 

 

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Desert Dream designed by Rasit Bagzibagli for Madanisa. Photo courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Muslim fashion and Muslim clothing is not a uniform … it’s more than that. What we see here are great women, open-minded, willful, strong women showing the world that they care about fashion and they have a great sense of style. 

Kerim Ture, CEO Modanisa.

Ture started Modanisa, a retail website dedicated to offering fashionable modest clothing, in 2011 after realizing that Muslim women wanted more choices in their clothing. By 2014 the website shipped to 50 countries, offered 300 brands, and represented 28 designers.  They processed approximately one million orders that year.

I think he was on to something.

Check back this week for my coverage of Contemporary Muslim Fashions, the current fashion exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

 

 

 

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Gatsby Summer Afternoon 2018. Photo: Richard Aiello.

It was a record breaking year for the Art Deco Society of California Gatsby Summer Afternoon. Just over 1000 people gathered on Sunday, September 9th for an opportunity to live for a day the elegance of the 1920s/1930s.

Attendance to Gatsby Summer Afternoon has been on the increase for the past several years. I met many first timers.  One young woman heard about the event from Face Book and was happy to pull out her extensive collection of all things vintage. Quite a few attendees were from LA and a woman from the Sacramento Art Deco Society was very impressed with her first visit, commenting on how well organized the event was.

The costumes of course were fabulous. Everyone dressed to the nines in period appropriate clothing (1920s-30s). Here’s a look-see:

 

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I like how this couple, Kim and Kenneth, coordinated their colors and gave a nod to the upcoming fall season with touches of orange.

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Katie and Gregg toast the day. Katie made her dress and it turned out great!

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This was Ann’s first Gatsby Summer Afternoon. Doesn’t she look lovely? Ann found her dress at Relic Vintage in SF.

 

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Jill (pictured right) was attending Gatsby Summer Afternoon for the first time with her old college chum, Amy. Jill told us that she remembers the very first invitation from 34 years ago. She wasn’t able to attend and for one reason or another hasn’t all these years since. But she wanted to and has been planning. Finally this was the year! She was so thrilled to win Best Petite Picnic Site her excitement and big smile made my day. Oh, and she made her dress!

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And here’s yours truly. This is the third time I’ve worn this dress to Gatsby Summer Afternoon. I found it at Vintage Fashion Expo. The lace gloves came from Lacis in Berkeley. The purse was my grandmother’s and the pendant was my great grandmother’s. People often comment on my sunglasses, which are not period. They’re Liz Claiborne, circa 1990s.

It takes a lot of volunteers to put this day together. A round of applause for the committee and Event Co-Chairs Heather Ripley and Marie Riccobene. Gatsby Summer Afternoon was founded by Laurie Gordon.

We look forward to next year when the Art Deco Society of California will celebrate 35 years of Gatsby Summer Afternoon. See what all the buzz is about and join us, Sunday, September 8, 2019.