Archive for August, 2015

maxresdefaultIt always takes customers two seasons to jump on and go with a trend. A retailer is always happy when a trend is continued and pushed further. Street stylers and fashionistas are going to jump on the trend yesterday, but actual customers don’t really get it for months in.

– Claire Distenfeld, owner of Fivestory.

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You took a risk Blake and I like it!

Heidi Klum

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I like Blake’s design this week. It’s unexpected, great pop of color, and he made that billow in the back work. I also like the touch of sporty with a racer back.

But …

I think Candice’s design was better.

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I prefer the sleek silhouette of the dress and the detailing is impressive. It fits like a glove (in faux leather), is sexy while still ladylike with a lower hemline. Too bad we can’t see the jacket, which has black piping that lines up exactly with the detailing on the dress. Beyond that, the quality of Candice’s construction was far above Blake’s. (Viewers get to see such things on camera closeups.)

The challenge this week was to use the NYC skyline and Mary Kay Cosmetics as inspiration.

Congratulations to Blake and all the designers this week on Project Runway, although we had to feel for Gabrielle, who had a really bad day and painful loss.

Click here and see for yourself how it all unfolded. 

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For this ensemble, Elsie chose to reflect the sparkles on her jeans with sparkles on t-shirt.

For this ensemble, Elsie chose to reflect the sparkles on her jeans with sparkles on a t-shirt.

When it comes to fashion, 12-year-old Elise has got her style down. She says she dresses as she feels when she wakes up in the morning. So one might be able to tell her mood by her chosen attire for the day. For example if she’s donning her green Old Navy sweats and purple jacket, well that might be a sluggish day. Catch her in a dress and lots of baubles, she’s feeling bright and sunny.

Elsie is entering seventh grade this fall and as a firmly planted middle school student she enjoys fashion on her own terms, refusing to let other kids dictate what she should or should not wear. Sometimes they’ll give her a hard time for sporting sweats, other times they question why she’s dressed up. “The kids aren’t so nice,” admits Elsie. “But I just say whatever you think is what you think. I don’t really care.”

Among Elsie’s favorite looks are skirts with leggings or tights. She likes color and she likes to layer. One of her go-to outfits is a pink dress paired with a purple t-shirt underneath. On special occasions, like her birthday, Elsie might don her puffy pink dress from Rue La La and to take it up a notch she’ll add a sash that says Birthday Girl.

Here Elsie has created her own look by hanging a long chain full of handpicked charms on her belt loop. Nicely done!

Here Elsie has created her own look by hanging a long chain full of handpicked charms on her belt loop. Nicely done!

This fashionable also knows her accessories, favoring necklaces and infinity scarves. Although she does put some thought into what she wears, Elsie says she doesn’t think that much about it, preferring to take it as it comes. She does however plan her first day back-to-school outfit. Knowing the accepted look by her schoolmates, her choice might be a t-shirt and jeans paired with her white Vans, but she’ll do it her way. (See photos.)

Elsie spends her time outside of school reading (fairy tales are a favorite) and she likes to write. She sews a bit and has designed and made her own Halloween costumes.

Hooray for this young independent fashion spirit!

Thanks, Elise. Best of luck in 7th grade!

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51ZtsEREqKL__SX354_BO1,204,203,200_Probably the most exasperating thing about the Fashion is its elusiveness. Even the word has a dozen definitions, and when it is pinned down and qualified as, ‘the Fashion in woman’s dress’ it becomes ridiculous and stilted and is gone again. 

– Margery Allingham (1904-1966), British author of detective fiction.

Today’s fashionable quote is the opening line from Ms. Allingham’s 1938 novel, The Fashion in Shrouds, which features that dapper detective fella Albert Campion.

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Image courtesy of ADSC.

Image by Robert Smith. Courtesy of ADSC.

Notice something different? Well, let me fill you in. For Gatsby Summer Afternoon this year, the Art Deco Society of California decided it was time for a new invitation and program image. Event Chair Heather Ripley contacted Robert Smith, who is a Gatsby Summer Afternoon enthusiast and the graphic artist for Griffith Observatory in Southern California.   

“I explained that we wanted a fresh image,” says Heather, “gave him some parameters and on the first try he came up with this beautiful collage that is so perfect.” Indeed it is. It includes all the Gatsby elements from the drink to the gentleman’s hat to the classic car. Nice job placing the Daisy-like character in the foreground. Gotta love her oh so impish mug.

Robert Smith at Gatsby Summer Afternoon a few years back donning a 1920s Princeton football sweater. Nice!

Robert Smith at Gatsby Summer Afternoon a few years back donning a 1920s Princeton football sweater. Nice!

Robert has been a follower of the Art Deco period for twenty years and has attended Gatsby Summer Afternoon several times. “The thing that comes to mind when I think of that event is women in hats with drinks, great music, cars and well-dressed men in linen suits,” says Robert. For the new image he used advertising art of the era. The woman in the blue dress is from a cover of the August 1933 issue of Ladies Home Journal. “To push period authenticity why not utilize original art?”

When not creating great images, Robert lives vintage full-time. He shares a 1940s apartment near Pasadena with his wife Ashley, and they both dress exclusively 30s to 50s. Transport for the couple is a 1940s Dodge Luxury Deluxe Sedan, which has yet to make an appearance at Gatsby Summer Afternoon but Robert hopes some day.

In the meantime the countdown is on … the big day is coming up on Sunday, September 13th and word is that tickets are selling fast. Get yours online now and don’t miss out on a day of Deco dancing, dressing, cars, picnics, and an all around fabulous time. Like Robert says, “It’s a nonstop pleasure trip into another era!”

 (Don’t know anything about Gatsby Summer Afternoon? Click here to read my coverage for the San Francisco Chronicle.)


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Frugal-is-the-New-BlackConsumers have changed their habits. They’re used to saving cash, and (that’s seen) as not a bad thing. We can only deal with so many possessions and the culture now is that it’s fashionable to be thrifty.

– Julie Palmer, business consultant at Begbies Traynor.

Interesting trend going into the important fall and back-to-school season. All year I’ve been reading article after article in Women’s Wear Daily about the Millennial (18-34) consumer spending habits veering toward food and electronics and leaving clothing on the shelf. Many have student loan debts and well as high housing costs plus since the
“Great Recession” consumers want a deal and are less likely to pay full price for anything, clothing in particular. Consider also the Millennial role models, high-tech types like Mark Zuckerberg. Need I say more?

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That's me! At The Gaskell Ball, c.1995.

That’s me! At The Gaskell Ball.

Speaking of the Scottish Rite Center, once upon a time I used to be a regular at the Gaskell Ball held there in first floor Grand Ballroom. The Gaskells were formal Victorian balls and I learned about them back in the mid-90s at the Starry Plough Pub where I showed up every Monday night for Irish dancing. Yes, I was quite the dance-enthusiast.

Gaskells were great fun for the quick-paced waltzes, mazurkas, and my favorite, polkas, but I was also enchanted by the gowns. Many of the women dancers were members of various local costume guilds so they donned their own creations, often putting on the finishing touches in the Ladies Lounge mere seconds before the Royal Britannia Grand March, which was the start of the evening. And I have to share that the ball really wasn’t a success until one of us (never me) lost her hoop skirt on the dance floor. I was always impressed with how unimpressed the gentlemen were whenever this happened – Oh, another lady lost her hoop – one might casually say maneuvering around the embarrassed dancer.

Looking at the full-length gowns in satin or velvet swishing around the dance floor teased my desire for the elegance of times past. I also reveled in the decorum and near perfect manners on behalf of the men, dressed in tails, top hats, and white gloves, which were worn to protect the ladies’ gowns from soiling. Some gentlemen wore military uniforms others kilts! They’d bow and ask for a dance, escort a lady on and off the dance floor, treating us with distant respect as if we were made of fine porcelain. At that time, it all made my heart race. Independent spirit be damned, at least for a few hours every other month.


Although most attendees sported Victorian, anything formal was allowed and I went Art Deco the first few times but it wasn’t long before I wanted to fully partake in the era with my own Victorian gown. So, a project was launched. I started at Lacis in Berkeley, a shop known for lace and antiquity. I discovered the reproduction pattern company, Past Patterns and chose an 1831 gown, just before Victoria’s reign but close enough, and the name of a local seamstress that I was told was up to the challenge, Debra Starks.


Looks pink but it was a true peach.

Next I found fabric at a fabric store right down the street from where I was living (those were the days) – a cotton brocade in peach. Now, let me say I was not rolling in money and this was not an inexpensive endeavor but I did have a second job as an actress in mystery dinner theater. Every penny I made working on the weekends went for my Victorian Dress Project and that made it all even more special.

I had several fittings with Debra and she made the dress to perfection, as original to the 1830s as she could get with no zippers but only snaps and hooks. I opted for a crinoline, which came from a bridal shop and I recall the saleslady did not understand why I wanted a crinoline if I didn’t also want a wedding dress. Undergarments included bloomers and a chemise. Even though 1830s style footwear would have been more of a slipper I wanted (ah, needed) a bit of a heel. I went for Peter Fox shoes in cream with lace detailing. I had my hair curled and used ribbon to tie it up.

Those first few Gaskell Balls in my lovely dress were a dream as I too finally got to swish around the dance floor. Over the years I have also worn the dress to a masquerade ball, a costume Christmas party, and I really enjoyed showing it off in a Victorian literature class I was taking in graduate school.

My Victorian dancing days are a thing of the past and sadly, the Gaskell Ball is no more but I still have the dress and once in a while I consider passing it along. But really, how can I do that? It’s a part of my personal fashion history.

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Withers_1In England we were wearing big overcoats with hoods, and flat-heeled shoes: the feeling behind them being that we could walk, if there was no transport, and wrap up in our coat somewhere if we couldn’t get home. We wanted to be ready for anything asked of us. Paris was in a totally different situation. Occupation by the Germans, its people wanted to cock a snook at them, distancing themselves by being flagrantly unpractical and putting on the most outrageous fashion show they could. So with no transport but bicycles and a limited Metro service, they were wearing shoes with platform soles inches high, and towering hats.

– Audrey Withers (1905-2001), British Vogue Editor from 1940 to 1960.

Ms. Withers is speaking about Paris fashions during World War II. (From Fashion on the Ration: Style in the Second World War by Julie Summers. This book accompanies an exhibit of the same name at the Imperial War Museum in London.)

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Image courtesy of the ADSC.

Image courtesy of the ADSC.

The Art Deco Society of California is madly planning their annual Gatsby Summer Afternoon set for Sunday, September 13th at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate located in the Oakland Hills.

How are your plans coming along? Got questions?

Make a list of your questions and concerns and head on over to the How to Gatsby event Thursday, August 6th at Hotel Rex in downtown San Francisco.

The ADSC will offer tips on: how to create a period appropriate outfit, how to assemble a winning picnic site, and where to find just the right everything you need.

Plus, there’s a fashion show and shopping with vendors selling their vintage wares as well as offering even more tips and advice.

It’s a guaranteed evening of Gatsby fun.

How to Gatsby on Thursday, August 6th, 2015, Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter St., SF. Cocktails 6:30 (no host bar), lecture, fashion show followed by shopping! $10 for ASDC members, $15 for non-members.

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CambodiaWhen I’m sewing seams, I always think that these jeans must be very expensive, they cost at least $40 to $50 per pair, and I’m wondering how those people afford those expensive jeans while my salary is so small. I sometimes wonder how I could ever afford them. They look beautiful, and I think how beautiful I would be if I wore them.

– Garment Worker from Cambodia interviewed by Julia Wallace. (From the book, Women in Clothes.)

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