Archive for December, 2012


Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.

– Chinese Fortune Cookie

Start the new year sporting a smile!

In saying goodbye to 2012, I want to thank all my readers for taking time with Over Dressed for Life. Stay tuned in 2013 for more fun and news in the world of fashion.

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OverDressed for Life

Christmas caps in Mom’s Closet.  Click here for the story.

Wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas.


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Image courtesy of Ava Austin.

Image courtesy of Ava Austin.

I met Ava Austin at the American Craft Council Show last August. While strolling down the aisle, at a distance I spotted a booth full of intriguing somethings … things bright and colorful. So, like a kid to candy I hopped on over. Turns out they were bracelets made of a special acrylic paint Ms. Austin developed herself. Using rich color combinations she layers the paint into strips and creates the design. Each strip can be stretched and made to fit any size wrist and each design is one-of-a-kind. The line is called FaCuff.

Ms. Austin also makes the Metal FaCuff (pictured right) – the same acrylic strips fitted into copper and molded into cuffs bracelets.

A native of Los Angeles, Ms. Austin moved to Sonoma County in 1992 to attend Sonoma State University where she studied Kinesiology, the mechanics of body movement.

How did you come up with the idea for FaCuff?  

While in college studying Kinesiology, I was painting life-size images of the human form. I then went though a an abstract phase, painting on large rectangular canvases. It was kind of an evolution.

It’s funny how many people think out-of-the-box ideas begin as ‘accidents’.  I worked very hard to develop the FaCuff concept, and there was nothing accidental about it.  I enjoy my paintings, and I think others do too – it became clear that only so many people could buy and display my large canvases. I want a large number of people to have access to my work, so I decided to create paintings people could actually wear.  My canvass became small sheets of copper, displayed on the human body; this was the Metal FaCuff.  And while I’ve had great results with this ‘wearable art’, I still wanted something that would appeal to everyone – this being light, easy to wear, and low maintenance.  So I brought the ‘wearable art’ idea to its most fundamental level.  Using my skills in chemistry I refined my own formula of paint, which is worn directly on the skin, and literally made the human body my canvass.  So when you wear the FaCuff you are truly wearing a painting, you are the painting.

When it comes to color combinations and designs where do you get your inspiration?

With the FaCuffs my mantra has always been – It’s all an experiment. I try not to think too hard about what I’m doing and go with what feels right. I love to pair and combine color. Each color can elicit different moods and feelings merely depending on what it sits next to. 

Describe your typical working day.

There’s nothing typical about it. I love working in the middle of the night. For now I’m working on getting to bed by midnight and waking up by 9AM.  

Who’s you favorite artist and why?

As a child I remember falling in love Fabergé Egg and Tiffany lamps for their spectacular color and intricate details.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Spending time in nature, I do lots of trail running and hiking in Sonoma County where I live.

Of all your FaCuff designs which one is you favorite and why?

I really don’t have a favorite. They’re all my children and I have a meaningful relationship with each piece I create… Because I have no children, someone once pulled me aside and corrected this sentiment: “Oh honey, don’t kid yourself we all have our favorites.” Maybe this is true with things that can talk back and have opinions?

As far as the FaCuffs go, some are meaningful because I’ve spent a lot of time creating them, some I love because they’re so elegant in their simplicity while others bring me joy because their intricate designs and color combinations.

Thank you, Ava Austin. I have one of your FaCuffs and oh do I enjoy wearing it. The color combination (gold, green, and cream) and the floral motif really speak to me. Love it!

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You can’t survive in fashion without an original point of view.

–  André Leon Talley, Contributing Editor at Vogue magazine

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stella-bella-1_2390010aThe Victoria & Albert Museum in London often has Friday evening lectures and events. I was lucky enough to be in town on  Friday, November 2nd when British designer Bella Freud discussed her career with Hadley Freeman, American expat and fashion journalist  for The Guardian.

Yes, Bella Freud is related to the artist Lucian Freud (her father) and Sigmund Freud (her great-grandfather) but she’s a force of her own with a long and successful career in fashion. In the 1980s while still a teenager, she left school and worked for Vivienne Westwood. Later she studied fashion design and tailoring in Rome. She has designed for Jaeger as well as her own knit wear line and she was recently involved in the relaunch of Biba.

The Bella brand logo  is a drawing by Lucian Freud of  Bella's dog.

The Bella brand logo is a drawing by Lucian Freud of Bella’s dog.

That evening about 75 of us, mostly women, gathered in one of the upstairs lecture halls in the lovely V&A building. Dressed in smart winter coats and boots, most of the crowd appeared to be fashion students. Ms. Freud sported a chic unfussed look in flowing grey tuxedo trousers and one of her own knit sweaters with 1970 across the chest. Sexing it up a bit she had on a pair of platform shoes. She wears her hair casual-long reminiscent of the 1970s. Indeed, she’s a cross between Karen Carpenter and Patti Smith.

Ms. Fraud commented that she has always prefered boys clothes because she’s attracted to the uniform look that boys wear has. “I like the limitations of boy’s clothes and the potential for the unkempt look of a tie or shirt,” she told Ms. Freeman.

Soft-spoken and not at all a corporate fashionista, Ms. Freud said she enjoys the freedom working on her own allows, although, she appreciates what a large fashion company can offer such as resources and staff.

When it comes to inspiration, Ms. Freud said she relies on what’s going on inside. “The most important part is getting out my drawing book and drawing. Because that’s where it all comes from.”

Film is also an interest and Ms. Freud has made several shorts, three in collaboration with John Malkovich and all including her own costume designs. We were treated to a viewing of Ms. Freud’s latest film, Submission.

The discussion closed with a question about the significance of 1970. Evidently there’s nothing personal about that year for her just that it was, in general, an interesting artistic turning point. Aesthetically speaking, I’d say it’s also a good-looking combination of numbers.

(With an artist father and a bohemian mother, Ms. Freud had an interesting childhood which was fictionalized in her sister’s novel Hideous Kinky. The novel was made into a movie in 1998 starring Kate Winslet.)

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imagesCA4MX0JAA pattern designer should know all about the craft for which he has to draw.

– William Morris, English textile designer, artist, writer and socialist (1834-1896)

I was quite taken with William Morris after my recent visit to the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, a district of east London. Recently renovated, the 1840s mansion where Morris lived tells the story of the Victorian renaissance man.

williammorris460Mr. Morris is mostly known for his textile designs. With several partners he opened a decorative arts firm in 1861 and soon became popular with London’s bohemian crowd including Oscar Wilde. In 1861 Mr. Morris was commissioned to decorate the Green Dining Room of the South Kensington Museum, now known as the Morris Room in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Click here to learn more about William Morris.

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She's got it! Photo: Richard Aiello.

She’s got it! Photo: Richard Aiello.

For months I’ve been Facebook friends with a British magazine called Vintage Life, which is not available in the US. How fun it’s been to read  teasers about what the publication covers such as vintage fashions, designers, collecting, anything to do with how to live a vintage life.

Wouldn’t I love to subscribe but it’s pricey thanks to the oh-so-expensive Royal Mail and a lousy currency exchange rate. There is an online version, but I’m an old-fashioned girl; I prefer a paper copy I can roll up, stick in my bag, dog-ear pages, cut out pages, you know.

So I was quite excited by the thought of getting my hands on a copy of Vintage Life once I touched down in London.

Ha! I first asked my local newsagent, no luck. Then I checked the chain grocery stores Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, no and no.

Cutting to the chase, after one week of popping into every London newsagent, grocery store, drugstore and book store I passed I couldn’t find it anywhere. I looked and looked, including at numerous WHSmiths, the local chain book store that supposedly stocks Vintage Life.

My last bit of hope was St. Pancras Railway Station, where my partner and I were to board a train to Sheffield. We had been told that perhaps the two WHSmiths located in the station might have what had become my personal Holy Grail. Guess what … they did not.

Ah well, this would not be the first time I’ve had to chant to myself “let it go.” But it’s difficult to let go of one’s Holy Grail. My partner and I arrived in Sheffield, our friend Sarah was there to greet us.

At Sarah’s home, she pointed out this and that while we lugged our bags downstairs into the guest room. Looking around, something caught my eye on the floor and I shrieked. Resting on top of a large, colorful pillow was a British Harper’s Bazaar and a copy of Vintage Life. 

Sarah, a bit surprised by my excitement, explained she saw the publication at her local newsagent (in Sheffield, I remind my readers) and thought: “Oh, that’s for Moya.”

Oh, yes, that’s for me. I’m now enjoying every page of vintage fashions, a cake recipe, hairstyles, and my favorite is an article about traveling retro on the Orient Express.

Let it go, indeed. Thanks, Sarah.

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Deborah Nadoolman Landis posing at the Victoria & Albert Museum Hollywood Costume Exhibit.

The secret behind costume design is it’s not about the clothes. We are all about substance over style.

Dr. Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Hollywood costume designer.

Dr. Landis is a professor of costume design as well as a celebrated Hollywood costume designer. Recently she was Senior Guest Curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London for the Hollywood Costume exhibit running now through January 27, 2013.

It took five years to track down 100 costumes from studios, actors, and private collectors. There are pieces from such iconic films as Hello Dolly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Blues Brothers, Indiana Jones, Saturday Night Fever, and Titanic. Dr. Landis says, “What’s represented in the galleries is really costume archeology.”

The oldest costume displayed is the rather tattered tuxedo Charlie Chaplin sported in 1915 film, The Tramp.

There’s a lot of buzz in London about this exhibit with patient attendees waiting 45 minutes in long queues just to get tickets. But there’s plenty to see online as well. Check it out.

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