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Archive for January, 2018

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Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water. 

Tadashi is smart in that he makes clothes that we all feel comfortable wearing. A lot of designers don’t cater to women over size 8. They’re missing out on a large amount of money. 

Octavia Spencer – American actress.

Tadashi Shoji is an American based Japanese designer known for his red carpet gowns.

Congratulations to Ms. Spencer for her 2018 Oscar nomination – Best Supporting Actress, The Shape of Water.

Speaking of Oscars here are the nominations for costumes:

Consolata Boyle – Victoria & Abdul

Mark Bridges – Phantom Thread

Jacqueline Durran – Beauty and the Beast

Jacqueline Durran – Darkest Hour

Luis Sequeira – The Shape of Water

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IMG_20180117_151930Marchesa Casati was quite the It Girl in early 20th Century Europe. With a family fortune backing her, she lived a large life in several Italian palaces and another one in Paris, bespoke and designer duds, jewels not just for her neck but also adorning the collection of the live exotic animals she kept close at hand – black panthers, snakes, and monkeys.

Infinite Variety The Life & Legend of the Marchesa Casati (University of Minnesota Press, 3rd ed.) by Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino fills us in on all the details of the Marchesa and her surrounding admirers.

Her grandfather and father made their money in cotton milling during a time when Italy was a great exporter of the fabric. Luisa Adele Rosa Maria Amman was born in January 1881. Although pampered, Luisa was not the favorite of the family and not the beauty her older sister was, which made her a somewhat shy child.

As teenagers the girls lost both parents and inherited a great fortune. It was after marrying Camillo Casati at age 19 that Luisa began to reinvent herself, her style, and she discovered ways to spend her money. She was an unusual looking woman for the times standing tall and thin with a long neck, large dark eyes, and a mop of curly hair. Luisa decided to “exploit her type to the full” by chopping off her long tresses and dying it red and outlining her eyes with black coal.

Here she is described in 1920 by a Russian royal exile:

In the room where I was introduced, a woman of singular beauty was (reclining) on a tiger pelt with translucent veils outlining her slender body. Two greyhounds, one black and one white, were sleeping at her feet … I hardly noticed the presence of  an Italian officer … Our hostess raised her splendid eyes. They were so large in her pale face, you could not see anything but them. With a slow and undulant movement, like that of a royal cobra, she offered me a hand decorated with rings of giant pearls. The hand itself was ravishing. 

IMG_20180117_133130Sporting a new look and money no object Luisa was soon holding grand parties for which she created outlandish costumes. She caught the eye of artists Augusts John, Man Ray and a host of others who painted, sculpted, and photographed her. Isadora Duncan was a friend, Worth and Leon Bakst, costume designer for the Ballet Russes, are credited with dressing her.

Luisa overcame her timidity and successfully created a persona that men and women alike could not resist. She had that certain elusive something, which made her an early 20th century icon such as a modern day Lady Gaga. Indeed at first she reminded me of British fashion follower and muse Isabella Blow (1958-2007) but the Marchesa went way beyond the antics of Ms. Blow.

It was the aim it seems of the Marchesa to be seen, clothed or not, (she would have fit quite nicely into our modern world of selfies and social media). But why is the question I kept asking and this book did not answer. Although a great documentation of just about every outlandish party she ever held, what I found missing is any discussion as to what made this woman tick.

Infinite Variety is an interesting peek at an interesting woman but description after description of party after party and quotes about how extraordinary she was got repetitious. After awhile I got fed up with the Marchesa whose superficial ways cost her her only daughter and the family fortune. (Although I do applaud Luisa for stepping outside the conventions of the day. Something only a woman with money could do.)

For anyone interested in fashion, the Marchesa is worth knowing about since she was such an icon and muse even in recent fashion history to the likes of Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford, and John Galliano, but it’s hard for me to recommend a cover to cover read of this 259 page book. A brief skim and for sure spend some time with the images.

 

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Portrait of The Marchesa Casati by Augustus John, 1919. 

Fashion dummies had more in common with ordinary human beings than had this new arrival. Everything about her seemed to be the product of art rather than nature, from the eyes, preternaturally enormous, extended beyond credibility by mascara, and by rows of eyelashes like two delicate grilles, to the hair that resembled an exquisite regency head of curls seen in some museum. And the hat, elegant, black, immense, was as menacing as some nocturnal bird of prey. 

Sir John Rothenstein (1901-1992), director of the Tate Gallery in London.

I found this quote in Infinite Variety: The Life and Legend of the Marchesa Casati (University of Minnesota Press).

Rothenstein had met the Marchesa at the London studio of artist Augustus John circa 1942. John was just one of many artists who found Louisa Casati an irresistible muse, during her time as a European “It Girl” in the early part of the 20th century. He painted her countless times and they remained friends throughout her youth and into advanced age, when life got complicated.

Intrigued? Check back later this week for my review of her biography – Infinite Variety: The Life and Legend of the Marchesa Casati. 

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We are back! Sporting pussy hats, communicating our messages, and standing up against mean-spirited Trump and his ilk.

Here are some of my favorite signs this year:

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Uh-oh

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That’s right!

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A vest in Houndstooth is just the right touch on the little marching girl. 

 

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Neither can November 2020. 

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The cap, the sweater, the message. Nice! (This guy really is nice … he thanked every one of the volunteers along our route. 

 

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Enough!

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Love this!

 

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Every march needs a little sparkle. 

 

 

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Hey, Hey. Ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!

 

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Perhaps the most important message of all. 

 

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Opening reception for Britex Fabrics on 117 Post Street, SF.

Last week Britex Fabrics, the renowned San Francisco shop known for all things fabulous in fabrics, celebrated its big move – around the corner.

IMG_20180111_184158079_HDRFor sixty plus years, Britex had resided happily on Maiden Lane. It was a charming space with a narrow stairwell and a big red sign outside the windows. But in ever-changing Downtown San Francisco, the building recently sold and the new owners had plans that didn’t include our beloved fabric store.

So Britex, one of the last family-owned business in the area, packed up and moved around the corner to 117 Post Street, right next to Gumps. (What appropriate next door neighbors!) The new space is about half the size with just two floors but it’s brighter and just as charming thanks to all the meticulously hand-chosen fabrics lining the walls.

The opening reception on Thursday January 11th gathered many a fabric fan, including fashion designer Karen Caldwell and hat shop owner Peggy Purcell. Britex owner Sharman Spector making the rounds was very happy when she heard SF Chronicle fashion reporter, Tony Bravo was in the house snapping photos and soliciting quotes. The champagne flowed and the guests chatted away the evening while also admiring brocades, silks, and wool, perhaps pondering their next creative project.

IMG_20180111_185905685_HDRI was happy to see a bit of the old store with the ladders – yes they’ve survived the move. I also really like the Wall of Velvets. The second floor houses notions and it was closed to guests that night but I’m sure it’s every bit as wonderful as the third floor on Maiden Lane.

Congratulations to Ms. Spector and her staff. I’m sure I can speak for all lovers of quality textiles when I say thank you for not calling it quits.

Britex Fabrics’ new location is 117 Post Street between Grant and Kearny.

 

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The woman with limited resources has no more cause for being dowdily dressed than the rich woman has reason to believe she is beautifully clad. The contrary is very often true. Whereas the rich woman can satisfy her every whim in a most haphazard fashion, the woman of average means, simply because she is actually forced to THINK about her wardrobe, is more apt to realize what suits her and what doesn’t. She learns how to choose and what to select. She acquires the art of dressing well. 

Paul Poiret – French fashion designer (1879-1944)

This quote reminds me of something a milliner once told me – that she was glad she didn’t have the money to buy fancy tools for her trade because it forced her to be creative and use other things, such as old spoons, to create beautiful hats.

 

 

 

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Day-Lewis sports his own look for the W interview photo shoot. Navy blue suits him. 

In the case of Phantom Thread, when we started I had no curiosity about the fashion world. I didn’t want to be drawn into it. Even now, fashion itself doesn’t really interest me. In the beginning, we didn’t know what profession the protagonist would have. We chose fashion and then realized, What the hell have we let ourselves into? And then the fashion world got its hooks in me. 

Daniel Day-Lewis, British actor, starring in the film Phantom Thread.

This quote is from an interview with reporter Lynn Hirschberg for W.

To prepare for playing the part of couturier Reynolds Woodcock (a fictional character) Day-Lewis, like all good actors, did extensive research. He watched 1940s and 50s fashion show archival footage and spent many months apprenticing with Marc Happel, head of the NYC Ballet costume department. He learned to sew and even … get this –  made a Balenciaga dress.

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Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock and Vicky Krieps in Phantom Thread. 

He found a photo of what he thought was a simple Balenciaga dress and decided to make it. Turns out it was not so simple but undaunted he sketched the design and went about draping gray flannel fabric on his wife, Rebecca Miller, who stepped in as a fit model. He says the hardest part was figuring out “a very particular gusset in the armpit.” By trial and error (always the way in sewing) he figured it out and lined the dress in what became Woodcock’s signature color, a pinkish lilac.

Very impressive!

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