Archive for March, 2014

untitledOh lord, I was afraid Jeeves would take against that hat. Now we’re in for a clash of wills … he’s such an old sticker for the rules of current dress in public for me. If I ever want to cut a dash and sport a little something in keeping with advanced modern thought, Jeeves turns cold and disapproving and I eventually wilt and let him have his way. But dammit, the Alpine hat will stay!

– Bertie Wooster, 1930s man-about-London Town and fictional character of P.G. Wodehouse. (Quote from the novel Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves.)

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Last week fashion designer L’Wren Scott took her own life. The imposing former model (she was 6’3″) hung herself in her NYC apartment, with a black silk scarf attached to a doorknob. According to one police officer at the scene, hanging by doorknob is not uncommon and proves to be an effective method. Reportedly, the scarf was one from her own line.


L’Wren Scott design from Spring 2014.

Ms. Scott started a women’s clothing line in 2006 and became an instant success with celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker. But it seems, sadly, her designs were less appealing to the average woman as the business was failing and, according to Cathy Horyn, fashion journalist and friend of Ms. Scott, she was soon to announce its closure.

Of course there has been a lot of talk about why the designer, known for her effervescence, ended her life. Was it the failing business? Her long-time relationship with Mick Jagger? Depression? The media hasn’t mentioned it, but some followers of the story have suggested that perhaps it wasn’t suicide but instead something sexual gone amiss. No one really wants to venture there, including me.

It’s not why in general that has me pondering, it’s why the scarf? 

The use of a scarf is just so darn, well – chic, apt, even poetic. It calls to mind the dancer Isadora Duncan in 1927, who while traveling in an open convertible was strangled to death by her own long trailing scarf, which got caught in the spokes of one of the wheels. How dramatic. How memorable.

It just strikes me as poignant that a piece of fabric designed to adorn is used instead to destroy. So I wonder, was the scarf not specifically chosen but simply what was at hand? That would be fitting for a jet-setting woman who used a $5000 Louis Vuitton handbag as a footrest. Fashionables surrounded by luxuries needn’t reach too far for a lovely silk scarf.

Suppose there was more intent to the scarf. Selected out of practicality, because it felt softer around the neck. For style, because she liked scarves. Perhaps she meant it as a final (ironic) nod to the fashion world. If indeed the scarf was one from her own line, then what better a metaphor. Her business literally choked her to death.

Intended or not, the scarf is a memorable detail to Ms. Scott’s suicide story, as it is with Ms. Duncan’s untimely death. How many of us will pause just a moment the next time we tie a band of fabric around our necks?

My condolences to the family and friends of Ms. Scott. May she rest in peace.



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intro_andrew_boltonThe psychology of clothes is so fascinating. There’s nothing so immediate as fashion, in terms of an expression of one’s values and one’s state of mind. Even the negation of fashion is a statement.

– Andrew Bolton, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

Mr. Bolton curated the astonishingly popular show Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2011 and Punk: Chaos to Couture in 2013.

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laura 3-15-14 option 1

Laura Eakins looking tres chic sporting a scarf.

Speaking of uniforms, what wait staff have to sport is often a little dull. All black pants and shirt, perhaps an apron and of course comfortable shoes are fine, but not fun.

Fun is color, fun is style, fun is creativity! Laura Eakins from Fiore Restaurant in Concord knows what I’m talking about. When she was told that part of the restaurant uniform included a tie, she offered a better idea – a scarf! She says she thought scarves were less masculine, more colorful, and of course easier to tie. Although Ms. Eakins knows how to tie a tie (how impressive is that?), she admits the Windsor Knot is not her best.

So in came the scarves for the ladies and oh what a difference they make, transforming bland into chic.

Ms. Eakins tells me she has about a dozen scarves of various colors and now she wouldn’t think of showing up to work without one.

BTW, if you’re in the Concord area pop into Fiore Restaurant on Clayton Road. It’s the best restaurant in town!

(A big thank you the nice folks at Fiore and Ms. Eakins, who despite her reservations allowed us to take her photo.)

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untitledFor me vintage means using older pieces to help create a fresh, one-of-a-kind style, with almost no rules as to how that’s achieved.

– Alison Houtte, former model and currently the proprietor of Hooti Couture, a vintage clothing store in Brooklyn, NY.

Alison also co-wrote with her sister, Melissa Houtte, Alligators, Old, Mink and New Money: One Woman’s Adventures in Vintage Clothing. Click here to read my review.

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untitledFur is so cheap these days that furriers have resorted to paying designers and celebrities to use it, but its cheapness is reflected in the world of Kardashian freebies and the shallowness of the wearer.

– Ingrid E Newkirk, founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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Caroline Gick Profile HeadshotWhen I met Caroline Gick several years ago she was a Library Manager for the Contra Costa County Library and I immediately thought, This is one fashionable librarian. Dressed in a tailored suit and a classic pair of pumps, she stood out a mile and I knew there must more to this woman than books. Turns out I was right. Caroline is a bodybuilder, a fashion stylist, and now a fashion designer. She’s recently left the field of librarianship to start her own clothing line.

Why did you leave books for clothes?

Leaving the library was a difficult decision and I played with the idea for a long time.  The clothing line I am creating solves a problem for so many women and I realized that this is my shot. I have an idea, I had taken enough steps to be invested, and I’m 43 and not getting younger. It’s now or never.

What is it about fashion that you are drawn to?

How I dress has been important to me since I was a little girl. For me, fashion has always been a way to show the world who I think I am on any given day. This is the beauty and the draw of clothes and fashion. It isn’t static, it’s individual, and while there may be trends, there really are no rules. I can be super sleek, minimalist woman on Monday and vintage girl on Tuesday. I use clothes as an outward expression of my inner landscape, how I feel on any given day.

In what way does being a bodybuilder influence your style?

Since I changed the shape of my body through bodybuilding, I find I have far fewer options when it comes to my wardrobe. I can’t afford to get everything I buy tailored so I tend to dress more casually on a daily basis. And I love to dress up, so this makes me very sad. I also had to consign most of the vintage dresses I loved because I can no longer wear them. While the small waists and full skirts of many of them work, the bodices are too small and I couldn’t get most of them over my shoulders and my wide back. It’s super frustrating. I may look good in my leggings and pullover top or sweater but it’s not what I really want to be wearing and there is a disconnect that I can feel, which then translates to how I carry myself, my confidence, and my attitude, which in turn affects how I relate to the world.

As a stylist, what is the first step you take with a new client?

I run the website, www.afitsenseofstyle.com, which I call a “lighthearted, practical guide to being fit and stylish at the same time.” On A Fit Sense of Style, I guide my readers toward styles and trends that work best on athletic physiques and give tips and tricks for manipulating the styles that are available in stores to better fit their figure. For example, a recent post gave an overview of some of the trends I saw on the runways at New York Fashion Week (no, not in person, unfortunately – maybe next year) that would work well – wide leg trousers and culottes, belted sweaters and jackets, layered knits.

How do you think fashion is different for athletic women?

The biggest challenge for athletic women is that there are no clothing lines that cater directly to those of us with a more athletic physique – broad shoulders, muscular arms, small waist, thick legs, big booty. So we have to make do with what is out there and, trust me, that doesn’t always work. We want to be able to wear the same fashions, but because things aren’t cut to our proportions, finding even a classic button down blouse to wear is nearly impossible. I have to buy a large or extra-large blouse to fit my shoulders and then have the waist and arms tailored. Anything that fits my torso makes me look and feel like a linebacker when I try to force my arms into it. As a default, many athletic women opt for more casual pullovers, nice t-shirts, leggings, and workout wear to dress at all times of the day. It may be more comfortable, but it’s not always appropriate and doesn’t fit the occasion, or your mood.

Please tell us about your upcoming line of clothing.

QuarterTurn Clothingwill offer business professional and business casual wear for the athletic woman – “real” clothes for fit women. The plan is to start with foundation pieces – a classic blouse, pencil skirt, tailored trousers, jacket  – and expand from there to include dresses, casual wear, and perhaps even denim. I’m starting with a flagship product, a blouse, and growing from there based on customer needs and feedback and resources. I don’t want to wait until I have the resources to develop an entire line and then push it out. I want to create a community-oriented online experience for my customers where they can share their experiences and stories, give feedback about products and what they would like to see. QuarterTurn Clothingis about celebrating health and fitness, encouraging women to celebrate their strength, and promoting the idea that being strong is beautiful and feminine.

What are some of the challenges of designing for active women?

The biggest challenge is getting the proportions right. As we were going through the first pattern creation for the blouse, my designer was surprised at just how much we had to keep taking in the waist and she had to find creative ways to do so without disrupting the other lines of the blouse or the overall styling of the garment. She enjoyed the challenge, and I hope she continues to, as we move into creating patterns for trousers and skirts and other items!

How would you describe your own style?

I always struggle with this question because it really depends on the day. I love to blend the masculine and feminine and you’ll often find me in dress paired with men’s oxfords. I used to wear a lot of vintage 40s and 50s, but I now go more for a swing dress or wrap dress (wrap dresses are the best dress option for athletic women!). I like classic, clean lines when it comes to trousers, also leaning toward a menswear look, and do the minimalist, black trousers, black fitted top look often or, when I’m being more casual, trousers and a fun baseball t-shirt and Converse sneakers. I also have a terrible weakness for animal prints. See – a little all over the place!

What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading I Always Loved You: A Novel by Robin Oliveira, a fictionalized account of the relationship between the artists Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. (Once upon a time, before all that I’m doing now, I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Art History.)

Thank you, Caroline. I give you the award for Best Dressed Former Librarian.

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imagesWhile researching The Great Gatsby, I enjoyed the detective work and the discovery of all kinds of ephemera in archives, catalogs, and magazines … But, I too found my inspiration in the text. What’s particularly interesting about Fitzgerald is that, unlike many authors who never mention clothes, he was obsessed with how clothing tells you who people were. He describes in great detail every outfit Gatsby wears because Gatsby’s creation of himself as a gentleman relied on his ability to gather attention to his social station.

(As told to The Costume Designer: The Official Magazine of the Costume Designers Guild.)

– Catherine Martin, costume designer. Ms. Martin won her third and fourth Oscars for best costume design and best production design – The Great Gatsby. She also won best costume and production in 2002 for Moulin Rouge.

Congratulations Ms. Martin!

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