Archive for October, 2014

IMG_0667I liked Patricia Field’s outfit on the day she visited Britex Fabrics. It was simple – gray slacks and light knit sweater, velvet jacket that she told me she’s had for years and wears a lot, and a single long silver pendant. She popped her outfit with the red shoes and of course her hair color is her signature piece.

Her hair got me thinking. When you have one distinguishing element in an outfit such as ruby-red hair or a grand hat, an opulent coat or exotic jewelry, that’s all you need. The rest should not compete but instead stay quiet. (Since Ms. Field’s signature piece is always her hair then her outfits probably tend toward sleek and simple.)

But if  there is no one outstanding piece then the whole well-coordinated ensemble can deliver a punch using color, vintage silhouettes, structure, or texture.

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edithhead3What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage. 

Edith Head (1897-1981), Hollywood costume designer.

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imagesI believe in scarves – I must have about two hundred of them. They are my pet accessory because they can be worn with such singularity. I rarely go out – or stay home for that matter – without one of some size, shape, or fabric around my neck or tucked into my jacket.  

– Anne Fogarty (1919-1980), American fashion designer and author of the book, Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife (reprinted by Glitterari, 2008)

I’m with you, Ms. Fogarty. I always have a scarf with me along with at least one hat.

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Darcy knew what he was doing.

If you’re a relatively style-challenged male, put your wardrobe in someone else’s hands as soon a possible.

– Colin Firth, British actor.

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What an event it was on a very hot October morning with costume designer Patricia Field and ah … sixty plus mostly young fashion students packed into the narrow ground floor of Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. To be honest I had no idea she’d be such a draw, particularly among the under 40s.

Ms. Field is known for costuming the long running HBO series Sex and The City and the film, The Devil Wears Prada starring Meryl Streep. Both the series and the film are very much last decade (and prior) and I would have thought perhaps a bit passé for the 20-something crowd. But I was wrong. The students knew her work, so well in fact that there were several nods to Ms. Field in the form of Carrie Bradshaw copycats – lots of stiletto heels, one woman in pink sported a name plate pendant, another went for the strands of chunky pearls paired with a t-shirt look, and another donned a slip dress, which wasn’t a bad choice given the record heat. These outfits were noticeable for their Ms. Field touch but actually, I was surprised how dated they appeared and I had to wonder if a better nod to the costumer known for mixing it up would have been to simply dress in one’s own unique style.


Patricia Field takes a cigarette break just outside the back door of Britex Fabrics.

But all that aside, Ms. Field was delightful – humorous and down-to-earth. She roamed among the tables and shelves of beautiful fabrics chatting with people, finally stopping in the middle of the floor and settling in for a discussion about her career, which she said began with her shop in New York City and then the pivotal moment being when she got the SATC gig.

People asked for “juicy” stories of working with the cast of The Devil Wears Prada and Ms. Field obliged with a nice tidbit about Meryl Streep, who played nasty magazine editor Miranda Priestly. The two were discussing the character and the potential costumes and Ms. Streep asked about hose. “I told her I didn’t have a problem with her not wearing hose,” Ms. Field said and then she recounted Ms. Streep’s reaction: “Pat! My legs are going to be coming out of a limousine on huge screens.” Lesson learned. Bare legs on screen look big, wear hose!

When the inevitable question was asked – What advice would you give a want-to-be designer/stylist? (read celebrity) – Ms. Field said, “Love what you do, if you don’t love it you shouldn’t do it.” Good advice but not satisfying, I suppose, as the same question was asked repeatedly in several different ways.

A more interesting question was – What is fashion? Ms. Field commented that fashion is just suggestion and it’s up to us to play with it and make it our own. “You don’t need to be head to toe designer … at the end of the day you’re expressing yourself.”

Eager for different challenges, Ms. Field said she no longer takes on head costumer projects but she will hire herself out as a consultant. Currently she’s working on a new Darren Star (creator of SATC) television production set to premiere in January. But her real passion is directing films and she’s anxious to explore that world.

Project Runway contestants Richard Hallmarq and Emily Payne joined Ms. Field later in the discussion. Both commented that PR changed their lives, opened doors and created opportunities that just wouldn’t have happened otherwise, but the fashion biz is still a lot of hard work. Photo ops and more questions and then Ms. Field needed a cigarette break and it was time for this reporter to move along.

Thank you to Patricia Field and Britex Fabrics!

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Some of the most inspiring efforts to stand up against bullying are sartorial.

A nationwide movement to wear pink shirts in protest of bullying everywhere started when high schoolers in one Canada town passed out pink shirts from the Goodwill and discount stores for seniors to wear in support of a ninth grader who had been bullied for wearing pink.

ea2459b61afb11e2914322000a1f984e_61Students in three high schools in San Francisco’s East Bay towns wore skirts on buses and to schools to show solidarity for an agender senior whose skirt had been lit on fire on the bus.

Gang Up for Good’s Mean Stinks campaign has two million girls painting their pinky fingernails blue to show they won’t stand for bullying.

And here’s a great story about boys! Young football players, rather than “beating up on the bullies” as tough guys tend to want to do when they’re feeling hurt and upset, dressed up instead to show they were with the target. Way to disengage from the bullying dynamic!


Kids at school often bullied Danny — they didn’t understand why he wore a dress shirt or fedora each day, and they didn’t understand why he couldn’t talk. Danny has apraxia of speech, a motor disorder that makes it difficult for him to communicate. Kids would go up to him and ask, “Why can’t you talk? Just talk.” He’d come home from school distraught.

But a group of the boys on the Bridgewater Badgers’ football team, where Danny is the official water manager, wouldn’t stand for this. Their solution? A “Danny Appreciation Day,” where they would all imitate Danny’s suave style and proudly go to school. In the Life Is Good video, you can watch scenes from that day — more than 40 boys wore suits. Danny led the march.


Kristen Caven is a cartoonist, illustrator (she designed the fabulous OverDressed for Life logo), and author. She recently co-authored the book, The Bullying Antidote: Superpower Your Kids for Life with her mother, Dr. Louise Hart.

October is Anti-Bullying Month.

Thanks for the great post, Kristen.



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drawing-tooThe most beautiful clothes that can dress a woman are the arms of a man she loves. But for those who haven’t had the good fortune of finding happiness, I am there.

– Yves St. Laurent

(Thanks to my Chicago pen pal, Cynthia, for sharing this quote with me.)

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10413420_785675868162678_3574336313385235352_nHooray! The Bay Area screenings of Advanced Style start on October 10th, 2014 in Berkeley at the Rialto Elmwood on College Avenue and in San Francisco at the Presidio on Chestnut Street.

Haven’t heard about Advanced Style? Well, the oh-so-popular Advanced Style was first a street style blog by photographer Ari Cohen featuring chic ladies of NYC who also happen to be mature (60s to 90s). Then it was a book and now it’s a documentary.

The Advanced Style women are creative individuals who are less about current fashions and more about their own signature looks. They use color with abandon and don lots of chunky jewelry. They’re not afraid of hats, they adore scarves, and appreciate a good vintage find. To them, dressing every day is an art form.

Working with filmmaker Lina Plioplyte, Mr. Cohen interviews seven of his cadre of fashionables about who they are and what they do, how they put themselves together and what inspires them. One lady weaves men’s blazers into her ensembles always sporting a lovely vintage brooch on the lapels. Another takes years to assemble a complete outfit head to toe often incorporating ethnic pieces, such as a Japanese kimono. Yet another designs her own clothing using unique and colorful fabric she buys in Africa.

Ms. Plioplyte says of the experience, “I love the inspiration and fearlessness that these women exude – just hanging out with them has changed my personal perception on aging.”

Advanced Style won Best Documentary at the Miami Film Festival and has premiered in London and New York City. Now it’s our turn starting on October 10th, Rialto Elmwood in Berkeley and Presidio in San Francisco. Check the theaters’ website for times.

There’s much to be learned from these fabulous women, not just about fashion but about aging and spirit and … life.

This just in: The filmmakers will appear for a Q&A with the audience at the Rialto in Berkeley after the October 11th 3:30 showing. Don’t miss out.

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