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Archive for October, 2016

5405aa762ece9_cintra_wilsonI believe that way too many of our fashion statements pigeonhole us in ways that we may not realize. They make us look like we are in a certain tax bracket, at a certain level of intelligence. You’re labeling yourself every time you get dressed, literally. I think that you should make choices that derive from your own actual taste. Don’t run with the pack. Dressing in a manner that’s more extreme than your personality – forcing yourself to evolve into those boots or whatever – is a very effective way to do that. You have to get out of your comfort zone as much as you can stand it. Be that person you wish you were.

– Cintra Wilson, American cultural critic and writer.

This quote is from an interview with Gary Kamiya for San Francisco Magazine, March 2016.

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I still have the album and still love it. Rock Lobster anyone?

Getting out of one’s sartorial comfort zone. What is more fun than that? I started experimenting with style when I was in high school. I was inspired by the band the B52s: baggy pants, bright colors, mixed with a bit of vintage such as a pair of 1960s snakeskin pumps. (Was 60s vintage in the early 80s?) Oh and the makeup – blue mascara was my fave.

That was just the beginning, although, I have lost touch with dressing more extreme than my personality … hmm …

Hey, Happy Spooks Day!

 

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… I’m increasingly convinced that fashion must maintain an aspirational aspect of an emotional desire. It’s like with a Ferrari – I order it and I get it 12 or 24 months later because it is unique and special.

– Raffaello Napoleone, Chief executive officer, Pitti Immagine Uomo

Who remembers layaway? Ah yes, there is something wonderful and expensive that you must have but cannot afford all at once. You put some money down on it and the shop puts it aside. Pay a little at a time as you can and then a few months later it’s yours. While waiting you think about it and ponder how to wear it or use it.

img_20160928_195235Years ago I put an expensive pair of earrings on layaway at Tail of the Yak in Berkeley. Sure, I could have just charged them on a credit card but I wanted to wait and pay with cash. I planned it so my third and last payment landed on my birthday. It was a present from me to me. Well, kind of.

All part of my birthday celebration, Mom and I had lunch and then headed over to Tail of Yak to pick up my earrings. After waiting months, it felt like a big-deal moment and look –  I still remember it! Add to that, Mom made the final payment.

I love those earrings because not only are they unique and special but they come with a fond memory.

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64810e98b8be2019bfa976d81a524d36Vulgarity is on the red carpet, on the runway, in the restaurants, and at all the parties. It rules television; it animates the Web. When the age of vulgarity pervades every facet of our lives, it’s a sure thing that it has almost run its course.

– Joan Juliet Buck, American writer and actress and former editor of French Vogue.

Vulgarity run its course? Let’s hope so!!

 

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Simplicity, good taste, and grooming are the three fundamentals of good dressing.

– Christian Dior (1905-1957), French fashion designer.

87d393f069ffa98f860103fd38d2017dMr. Dior was the designer credited with the New Look in 1947. During WWII there was pretty much a fashion void. The years following the war, designers and fashionables alike were starving for something new, different, and indulgent.

The New Look offered longer full skirts, a nipped waist, and soft shoulders. It was a welcome return to femininity after years of more practical, military styling.

By the way, although Dior was the first to put the new silhouette out there he was not the only designer to come up with it. His fellow French designers Jacques Fath and Pierre Balmain were showing similar looks.

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I love fashion but I love fashion history even more. That’s all I read about lately and I’m even taking a class, which I’ve mentioned before.

In this class (Fashion Icons of the 20th Century) every three weeks we have to write a short paper and make a presentation on an icon or trend during the time period we have just studied. The latest was 1930s-1950s and I chose Hollywood costume designer, Edith Head.

Here’s my paper. Enjoy!

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Edith Head (1897-1981) worked in Hollywood for over 40 years costuming hundreds of films. She received 34 Academy Award nominations for Best Costumes and won a record 8 times. She dressed such stars Mae West, Lupe Levez, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, and Audrey Hepburn, to name only a few. An icon of her era and beyond, she was the inspiration behind the Edna Mode character in the 2004 animated film, The Incredibles.

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A former French language teacher, Edith got her start in Hollywood in 1924 after applying for a job as an illustrator in the costume department of Paramount Picture Studios. She didn’t know a thing about drawing but got the job using students’ work as her own. (A story she told on herself years later.)

Edith stayed with Paramount for the next two decades working her way up from assistant to taking over as Head Costumer in 1938. It was during that time that she developed her own personal style. Self-conscious about her appearance she kept her look simple, dressing in tailored suits and sporting a chignon with slick bangs inspired by actress Anna Mae Wong. Her signature accessory was round rimmed glasses with dark lenses, which she wore indoors and out to hide her one crossed eye.

Just as she masked her own flaws, Edith was a master at masking the flaws of the stars she dressed. A thick neck, plump figure, short legs – she knew all the tricks to hide, disguise, and distract. For example, Bette Davis refused to wear a bra and suffered from a sagging bust-line. In the film, All About Eve Edith designed an off-the-shoulder cocktail dress for Davis with built-in support and mid-length sleeves edged with fur, which distracted the eye from the offending area. She won an Oscar for that film in 1950 and the dress is almost as memorable as the film itself.

Although Edith was sometimes criticized for her lack of innovative design, she wasn’t an Oscar winner for nothing. Among her more memorable designs were:

• The sarong she put Dorothy Lamour in for The Jungle Princess (1936) inspired the fashion trend for tropical fabrics and sarong draping in dresses – a popular choice for evening wear throughout the 1940s.
• The strapless evening gown she designed for Elizabeth Taylor in the 1951 film, A Place in the Sun was a smash hit with fashion critics and women across the country, who anxiously bought copies at local department stores. The gown featured a fitted bodice covered in small velvet violets and layers of ivory tulle over a yellow underskirt. Strapless gowns became a popular option for proms and dances and are still a go-to choice. (Edith won an Oscar for this film, too.)

Not only did Edith create iconic looks for stars but she was an icon herself thanks to her specific personal style and her savvy self-promotion. Unlike her peers she was happy to interact with the public. All through the 1950s she appeared on radio shows and eventually television offering advice to women about style and how to dress. She wrote a book called The Dress Doctor and a syndicated newspaper column. Edith became as well known as the stars she dressed.

Edith left Paramount in 1967 to work at Universal Studios where she remained until her death in 1981.

References:

Chierichetti, David. The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer Edith Head. New York: Harper Collins. 2003.

Head, Edith. The Dress Doctor: Prescriptions for Style, From A to Z. New York: Harper Collins, reprint 2008. (Original copyright 1959.)

http://www.julienslive.com/view-auctions/catalog/id/79/lot/31995/ELIZABETH-TAYLOR-GOWN-FROM-A-PLACE-IN-THE-SUN

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Lately my head has been full of Edith Head (1897-1981). I went a little overboard with research on the Hollywood costumer for my class –  Fashion Icons of the Twentieth Century. I took three weeks slowly reading her biography and writing a short paper while also putting together a presentation. I find her career very interesting and enjoyed every moment.

As part of the class presentations we are supposed to design something inspired by our subject. Well heck, I’m not a designer and I can’t draw worth a damn. But I often put together collages. So, I decided to give Edith a makeover via collage.

She had a very specific look which she sported for years – a suit, slick bangs with a chignon, and tinted round-rimmed glasses that she wore indoors and out. Since pantsuits are big news this season I gave Edith one in tweed and added a pair of chic Gucci boots. I thought it was time to liberate her hair into a bob. Glasses were her signature accessory so I kept those but with clear lenses. Of course she must have a large portfolio for all her sketches.

There we have it – the modern Edith Head (pictured above). What do you think?

Interested in learning more about this iconic costume designer? Stay tuned. I’ll be posting my paper soon.

 

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