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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Today is the day that an American divorcee marries Prince Harry and becomes a member of the British royal family. As for her title, we don’t know yet. That is up to the queen.

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Wallis and Edward on their wedding day. Her dress by Mainboucher.

The last American divorcee to marry into the British Royal Family was Wallis Simpson. She married Edward VIII in 1937 after he abdicated the thrown for her. Under such circumstances, their wedding was hardly a royal affair. Instead it was low key including her dress, which was designed by Chicago-born couturier Mainboucher. It was a simple silhouette in silk crepe dyed “Wallis Blue” to match her eyes.

The couple were given the titles Duke and Duchess of Windsor and lived primarily in France. OK, so she didn’t make it to queen as she might have hoped, but for an American commoner duchess of anything is quite something.

She will never be queen either, but generally speaking Meghan Markle is in a much better position. She’s in good favor with the family (perhaps better mannered than Ms. Simpson was). It helps that Harry is way down in line to the throne. I’m pretty sure if William came home with an American divorcee, ah … the queen would not have been too happy. (Don’t forget that she prevented her sister, Princess Margaret, from marrying the divorced Peter Townsend.)

It seems Ms. Markle is a lovely woman – warm and friendly – like many Americans. A reporter recently pointed out that her experience as an actress will be helpful in dealing with all the media attention. I think she will be a positive representative of the United States and given our current oh-so-embarrassing president, we need all the help we can get.

Congratulations to Harry and Meghan. Happy Wedding Day!

 

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Speaking of the royal wedding (because EVERYONE is) Zandra Rhodes actually has nothing to do with it.  But the British designer did have an opinion when she was recently asked on Woman’s Hour her prediction for Meghan’s dress:  “I don’t think it will be too daring … not too low or too high or too short … they’ll make sure that she just looks gorgeous and the whole world thinks she’s gorgeous.”

She went on to say that she’s never met Meghan and although she would have liked to have designed the wedding dress, she wasn’t asked.

Princess-Anne1Ms. Rhodes did design various dresses for Princess Diana and in the early 1970s she designed the dress Princess Anne wore in the official engagement photos after the announcement that she was to marry Captain Mark Phillips. (They divorced in 1992, just FYI.) As you can see pictured on the left, it was very much a fairy-tale dress and of its era.

 

 

 

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Princess Margaret makes Zandra Rhodes a Dame. 

In 2015 Ms. Rhodes was made a Dame, presented with the honor by Princess Margaret at Buckingham Palace. How nice is that?

Now, while the royal wedding is happening, so is (B)old Festival (damn, it’s going to be a madhouse in London). (B)old Festival is a weekend celebration along the south side of the Thames, celebrating all artists 65 and older. Dame Rhodes has designed a series of flags that will hang all along the festival hall.

Back to Meghan, her dress and the designer are top secret but we can be sure that 1. It will be stunning and 2. It will be in good taste. I’m hoping that, like Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, she’ll embrace sleeves. Because strapless wedding gowns are becoming old hat!

So, Royal Wedding Day 2018 is almost here. Let the countdown begin.

 

 

 

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My mother circa 1950s (before my time) ready for a night on the town.

My mother was a well-dressed woman. She liked to go out, and when she went dancing we children would follow her, marveling at her beauty as she awaited our goodnight kisses. A white tulle dress with big sleeves and large white polka-dots comes to mind, and it does so poetically – the tulle so light, so spider-like. 

Yves Saint-Laurent (1936-2008), French fashion designer.

I think we all have memories of our mothers dressed for an evening out: the rustling of a ball gown; the sparkle of an earring; the whiff of a special perfume.

My parents went out a lot while I was growing up – the era of cocktail parties. My most vivid memory of those evenings watching Mom get ready is of her scent. The woodsy smell of Cabochard was her choice for nighttime.  Dressed usually in black, Mom would say goodbye with a kiss on the forehead for each one of us. The youngest of the three, I was last and when it was my turn I’d take a deep breath of her scent to carry me through the long night without Mom. (It wasn’t a bad temporary replacement.)

Cabochard means headstrong in French and the perfume by Madame Gres was created in 1959. I always remembered the special nighttime perfume and when visiting Paris one time with my dad we bought some for Mom. The small round bottle with a grey velvet bow tied around the top still sits on her dresser. It’s empty now but of course there’s a lingering bit of the familiar scent that can flip me back to my childhood in an instant.

Today is Mother’s Day. Wishing all mothers out there a very happy day. And to all daughters and sons, a day of happy memories.

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I spotted these unique women on a recent breezy Sunday afternoon, strolling down Sutter Street in downtown San Francisco.

What stands out most about these creative outfits is who is wearing them. Women of a certain age and I suspect, women who have been dressing this way since the 1980s.

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All white on a bright spring day is perfection. I like that there’s subtle interest in the billowy shirt, with extra long sleeves and cuffs. The black work boots add an edge and remind me of the pseudo-punk look of the 80s.

And then we have black on the right. A high-low skirt in lace is flirty and fun but kept ladylike with a knee length black skirt underneath. The platform sneakers are in patent leather and embellished with baubles on the toe – girly meets edgy! Our street style maven is sporting very long dangle earrings and she’s added a pop of color with a pink tote, not to mention her classic bob in a sort of plum color. What I’m not crazy about is the pedestrian blazer. It just does not go with the rest of the ensemble and it’s throwing off the proportions. She needs something shorter with a tighter fit. A motorcycle jacket comes to mind to lean into the edge and away from the girly she’s got going. If leather is too much, she could get a similar vibe with a short black hoodie.

Oh what a treat to find anything stylish on the streets of San Francisco.

Thanks, ladies. I hope you enjoyed your day out.

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Felicity Jones in a vintage 1950s dress at the BAFTA in 2011. 

I’ve always loved wearing black on the red carpet. It’s the color I wore to my first-ever awards show, and it’s the one I always come back to. Black is like Audrey Hepburn: absolutely classic. 

Felicity Jones – British actress.

You might recognize Ms. Jones from the 2014 movie The Theory of Everything, co-starring Eddie Redmayne, and for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. But I know her from earlier years as the voice of character Emma Grundy on the BBC Radio 4 drama series, The Archers.

It’s slightly unusual in the UK for an actor from a radio series to go on to Hollywood. The London stage, yes. British television, yes. But Ms. Jones has gone way beyond that and hit the big time with films such as True Story and Like Crazy. Now she gets to walk many a red carpet donning classic black.

I agree with Emma, ah … I mean Ms. Jones, about the versatility of black. It’s always an elegant choice.

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Iris Apfel. Photo: Roger Davies. Published in Harper Design.

Most people today don’t look very put-together or very pretty. They look like they fell out of bed or jumped out of a rag pile. I think athleisure is just ridiculous. It has its place if you’re at leisure or at a gym, but I think you owe it to your fellow man to look as pleasant as possible. It’s nice to feast your eyes upon something beautiful, not something that’s a mess. Recently I was at Le Cirque, and in walked this beautiful young lady, obviously from out of town. It was a Saturday evening, and she was all gussied up in a long dress. Her escort was nicely dressed too. But they were seated just across from two slobs, which spoiled the whole effect. If you want to lounge around, then don’t go out. 

Iris Apfel – fashion icon (at age 96).

I once met a woman who said to me that she just can’t be anywhere that isn’t pretty. That’s kind of a tall order in this world, but I understand what she means. Nothing feels as good, tastes as good, or lifts the spirit when in an unattractive environment.

Ms. Apfel says it like it is when it comes to how people dress these days. Look over any crowd on the street, in a museum, park, airport and notice that everyone looks like “… they fell out of bed or jumped out of a rag pile.” (LOL) Grown men in little boy shorts and baggy t-shirts, topped with a baseball cap. Women in tight-fitting yoga or workout clothes and flip-flops, often dingy bra straps exposed as if they were an added accessory. It’s not a pretty picture and frankly, it gets depressing.

I’ve come to just blocking it all out. The one upside is that those rare individuals who do make an effort stand out like a colorful wildflower in a patch of dried weeds. What a treat it is when I spot someone who looks nice.

This is not to say that we all should be “dressed-up.” Casual is good. A simple skirt and blouse; a pair of slacks and an Oxford shirt. It’s oversized, baggy, or too tight clothing that’s unattractive and particularly worn at the wrong time/place (anywhere outside of a gym). Even leggings aren’t necessarily a bad thing if made from a ponte knit and paired with a tunic.

But apparently Ms. Apfel and I are in the minority and I don’t think the fashion pendulum is ever going to swing back to everyone making an effort to dress well, or appropriately. Sloppy is the accepted norm and therefore there’s no incentive to reach toward a higher standard.

OK, I’m stepping off my (fashionable) soapbox now.

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1920s dress on the mannequin.

I was a little late to the party, as they say, but still just in time to catch Pina: The Philippine Cloth of Pride, Endurance, and Passion at Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles in Berkeley. Now in the final days of its run this exhibit closes May 4th, 2018 and features the wondrous pina cloth, which is made from the pineapple plant.

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Christening gown.

Pineapples were brought to the Philippines by the Spanish during the 1500s conquest. Actually it’s the leaf of the pineapple plant that provides the fiber, originally hand extracted and then knotted to form filament threads. The process continued as weavers, on hand looms, created a lightweight sheer cloth that became the “must have” fabric for all fashionable ladies of the late 19th century/early 20th century with the means to purchase the expensive clothing and home decor items such as tablecloths, napkins, and runners.

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Detail of pina cloth with embroidery,

The exquisite pina cloth, its loose weave perfect for warm humid climates, was further enhanced by hand embroidery usually in white but sometimes in color.

Pina cloth was popular among the wealthy in the Philippines (with both men and women) up until the 1980s when tastes changed and shifted over to less expensive cotton. But current designers and stylists are showing pina cloth again, attracted to the history and beauty of the fabric. The prices, however, are still high since there are very few pina producers around. To keep costs down, often pina is blended with cotton or silk.

This exhibit itself is located inside Lacis expanded space off the main store and requires one of the staff members to escort visitors. Many pieces are mounted on a black background while a few dresses and blouses are displayed on mannequins allowing for an up-close look. It’s a no-frills presentation in a simple, small space giving the attention to the fabric. There are examples of pina cloth from the late 1800s up to the 1920s. Most from a private collection.

For anyone interested in textiles and/or fashion history this is a rare opportunity to see antique and vintage pina and well worth taking a peek, but hurry … it closes May 4th. There are guided tours for two or more visitors but at specific times and a reservation is required. (Check the website.)  While you’re there, also take time for the just opened exhibit of shawls – The Fringed Shawl: Transcending Generations and Cultures.

Pina: The Philippine Cloth of Pride, Endurance, and Passion at Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, 2982 Adeline St., Berkeley.