Archive for January, 2014

DVF-40th-CompositeI don’t pretend I do original things. Dresses aren’t creations. Since a dress was a dress, it had two sleeves and one skirt.

– Diane von Furstenberg in 1973.

She may not do original things, but she does original things to things – namely, the dress. This year Ms. von Furstenberg celebrates the 40th anniversary of her iconic wrap-dress. What was a wardrobe staple for every working woman in the 1970s has endured over the decades and become an American fashion classic.

Claire McCardell's Pop-over dress even came with an oven mitt.

Claire McCardell’s Pop-over dress even came with an oven mitt.

(Although, I’d like to point out that Claire McCardell designed the Pop-over dress in 1942, which was also a wrap. But that dress was intended more as a stylish pinafore that could be worn alone or over another ensemble for use at home doing the chores. It could be said that the Pop-over was the first wrap dress for working women and Ms. von Furstenberg designed a modern update.)

Usually made of  jersey, Ms. von Furstenberg’s wrap-dress creates a slinky, sexy look and was a favorite at Studio 54. Cybill Shepherd wore it in the 1976 film Taxi Driver and Amy Adams sports a vintage Wrap in American Hustle. Michelle Obama donned the dress for the family’s first Christmas card from the White House. Madonna says she puts on The Wrap whenever she wants to look respectable.

Ms. von Furstenberg admits that although she’s always been grateful to The Wrap for paying all her bills, for a long time she took it for granted. Until she realized, hey this really is something.

Part of the year-long celebrations includes an exhibit, Journey of a Dress, which runs through April 1, 2014 at the Wilshire May Company Building in Los Angeles.

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Ezra Miranda. (See below for Ezra's comments on what he's wearing.)

Ezra Miranda. (See below for Ezra’s comments on what he’s wearing.)

I met Ezra Miranda several years ago at the 944 magazine launch party. Covering the event for SFBaystyle, I was dashing about getting quotes and snapping photos when, in a paused moment, Ezra approached and very politely complimented me on my outfit (a brown 1950s full-skirt party dress with brown suede peep-toe shoes from the 1930s). He commented that my look was refreshing in a sea of sameness (I’m paraphrasing). That really meant a lot to me as sometimes not fitting in with the crowd can feel uncomfortable.

At the time Ezra was a busy guy working for Ralph Lauren, keeping up his street style blog, Golden Gauge, and hitting society parties and openings. He also had a mission – to help young men dress better. Today the 30-year-old is an operating room nurse at San Francisco General Hospital. On the side he still dresses to-the-nines and styles other men to do the same.
I recently asked my fashion buddy to have a chat with OverDressed for Life.
You’re such a dapper guy, when did you first become interested in dressing well?
Clothing has always been a huge part of my life. My parents raised me to go to church and, at the age of five, I had to put on a suit and tie every Saturday. It wasn’t something that I looked forward to, but I appreciated it.  I had to learn how to iron my own clothes, tie my own tie, and shine my shoes. Growing up with two sisters and a family filled with well-dressed aunts, who read Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue for breakfast, I was bound to fall in love with fashion and clothing. But I have to say it was during my time working for Ralph Lauren that I learned so much about the world of men’s and women’s clothing. Ralph Lauren was a more like a university for business and fashion. It really guided me in how clothing works and all the little details that go into a garment. I had to dress well. That was my job. I loved dressing people. If you looked at most of my clients outfits, you can tell it had my signature all over it.
 How would you describe your style?
I love this question! My style ranges from High End Fashion all the way to Street Wear. It really depends on the day and the event. The past couple of years I’ve really fallen in love with the way the Italians do it. The men have such an effortless look that they make the suit look comfortable. Sprezzatura (studied nonchalance) would be the word to describe it. I love wearing dress shoes, a suit and a tie, but you might also see me in a pair of Jordan 1’s with jeans and a blazer. I would say the best dressed people are the ones who don’t have just one look but multiple styles. I try to do that.
Who or what inspires you?
My parents have always been my inspiration. They’ve inspired my work ethic, my manners, and the way I dress. Watching them get dressed for a night out or a family party was the best. My mother always had the last word with what my dad would wear. But inspiration is in everything for me from music and artwork, to design and old films.
Where do you shop?
I shop almost everywhere. The clothing you wear doesn’t have to be a major designer from a department store, it can be something you found at a thrift store or even Target. Yes, Target! I shop there as well.  It always comes down to how the clothing fits you. The man next to me can be wearing the $5,000 Tom Ford Suit with incredible fabric and hand work, but the shoulders are off or the length of the jacket is too long, while I’m wearing my $100.00 suit that fits like a second skin, it moves with me, it doesn’t follow me. It all comes down to fit. Not to say that I don’t love Tom Ford.
Why is dressing well important to you?
Dressing well brings out the best in people. Everything from your body language to you posture to how you speak changes when you’re dressed well. I’ve always appreciated the effort people put into what they wear. It’s says a lot about that person. Theres also a bit of a thrill when someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, that’s a great look …”.
What advice would you give a young guy who wants to improve his look?
Learn what fits best for your body. Many times when someone puts something on that actually fits them correctly they feel uncomfortable. That’s the problem –  too many people “just want to be comfortable.” Stay away from that word and you’ll dress better every day. Start with basics. Buy yourself a navy blazer, a good pair of fitted jeans, a white pocket square, and dress shoes. Work your way up into purchasing a navy or grey suit. Learn how to tie a tie. You would be surprised at how many men still don’t have a clue on how to tie a tie. The biggest answers I hear from men or women who don’t dress up is because:  my work place is casual  – why should I wear heels? –  I just want to be comfortable. If you want to be successful you have to look successful. Make that first impression count.
Please tell us about your styling gigs.
I’ve stayed in touch with a few of my previous clients from Ralph Lauren and have worked with new faces since then. I also work with a couple of boutiques here in San Francisco to train new employees on selling mens clothing. Working in fashion retail you really have to identify with your clients.  I remember during my time selling clothing, I wanted to make it easy for my clients to shop. I was able to do that by learning as much about them as possible. Once I knew what fit them best and what style they wanted to bring out, I did the shopping and put the outfits together for them. They just came in for the fitting. Again, it always comes down to the fit of the garment.
As a well-dressed man, how do you like to see women dressed?
I could get in trouble with this question! Lets talk about shoes first. I lived in Puerto Rico for about a year, and the one thing I can say is that the women from Puerto Rico always wore their best. Heels were like sneakers to them. I loved it. I think women should pay attention to the shoes they wear. There are shoes that really compliment a lady’s figure. If it’s pumps, then do it. I’m honestly not a huge fan of flats. But that’s just me. Yes it would be nice to see more women wear a dress or a skirt, but that’s not really what we see in San Francisco. We see a lot of jeans on women, flats, and a “fun shirt.” I feel like Lululemon (yoga clothes) has become an outfit that women look forward to wearing on the weekend rather than a summer dress or winter coat. The one thing that women have over men is that they can wear everything made for women as well as mens clothing! How amazing is it to see a lady in an evening dress at one event and then wear a three-piece suit at the next. Why not be sexy, creative? Confidence starts with what we wear.
Who’s your favorite designer and why?
Yves Saint Laurent is my all time favorite designer. He was so ahead of his time giving fashion and women a taste of his mind. The man introduced the tuxedo suit for women! Even today many designers are influenced by the way he made his clothing. I have a few pieces from his men’s collection and the craftsmanship is unmatched. He was a pioneer in the fashion world and his work will always live on.
What’s your go-to item this season?
My Scarf and Gloves.
Please tell us about the photo you’ve provided.
I chose to mix in a bit of Casual Italian Country.
Denim- Double RL
Dress Shirt- Purple Label Ralph Lauren
Knit Tie- Paul Stuart
Linen Pocket Square- Ralph Lauren
Double Breasted Sport Coat- Vintage
Scarf- Ralph Lauren
Leather Gloves- Hickey Freeman
If you’re putting together a fall look, try fitted denim jeans with a sport coat. Consider shades such as brown, burgundy and olive-green. You can go with or without a tie, but I’ve always been a huge fan of the knit tie. There’s something special about the way the knot looks on a dress shirt. Fall/Winter is the season of skill. It’s the time people pull off different ways of layering an outfit. One accessory, such as a scarf or gloves, can really make the difference to your look.
Thank you, Ezra, and please keep spreading the word on the benefits of dressing well.

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Ms. McCardell in her “Futuristic Dress” cut only of triangles. Photo: Erwin Blumenfeld. 1945.

Sports clothes changed our lives because they changed our thinking about clothes. Perhaps they, more than anything else, made us independent women. In the days of dependent women – fainting women, delicate flowers, laced to breathless beauty – a girl couldn’t cross the street without help. Her mission in life was to look beautiful and seductive while the men took care of the world’s problems. Today women can share the problems (and possibly help with them) because of their new-found freedom.

–  Claire McCardell (1905-1958), award-winning American fashion designer.

This quote was taken from an essay Ms. McCardell wrote for Sports Illustrated in 1955. What revolutionary thoughts! And in 1955 – we had such a long way to go.

Ms. McCardell was known in the 1930s through the 1950s for her innovative use of sports wear elements in women’s fashions. Like Chanel before her, Ms. McCardell broke barriers and designed clothing for women in which we could move, breathe, and live while still looking attractive. She was the first designer of her era to stop considering Paris fashions and focus on a new American look. This new style was more casual favoring every day fabrics such as denim, calico, and stretch jerseys in drapped and wrap styling. McCardell’s fashions did away with girdles, shoulder pads, and heavy construction. Comfort was key and she designed always with the idea of – “clothes should be useful.”

I agree with Ms. McCardell, however, I wonder what she would think of the way women dress today. We seem to have taken her ideas too far, in Uggs, flip-flops and yoga gear, completely sacrificing style for comfort and ease. I believe Ms. McCardell was striving for both.

Cycling ensemble including McCardell's signature Superman Hood. Photo: Kay Bell. 1944.

Cycling ensemble including McCardell’s signature Superman Hood. Photo: Kay Bell. 1944.

I just finished reading Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism, by Kohle Yohannan and Nancy Nolf (Abrams, Inc., 1998). This was a really interesting read covering the designer’s early life and entire career from her schooling at Parsons to working for Hattie Carnegie to her early death in 1958. I particularly enjoyed all the fabulous photos included, which exemplifies how we can successfully combine comfort with style.

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untitledAll those people who complain about there’s no fashion – it is fashion but it’s functional fashion.

– Bill Cunningham, street fashion photographer for the New York Times.

Mr. Cunningham made this comment during the polar vortex, which swept through most of the US last week bringing sub-zero temperatures and plenty of snow. According to Cunningham, NYC residents maintained their sense of fashion while also staying warm.

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untitledI like being on the best-dressed list, but I would prefer to be the mayor.

– Fran Lebowitz, NYC based author and public speaker.

Ms. Lebowitz was recently voted to Vanity Fair’s Best-Dressed List. She has created her own unique look, uniform really, of jeans and cowboy boots paired with a men’s white button down shirt and blazer. I think it suits her as does her dry sense of humor.

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