Archive for August, 2019

El Museo Del Barrio 2016 Pre-Gala Bash

The lovely Isabel Toledo (1961-2019). Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images.

This week fashion designer Isabel Toledo died of breast cancer. What a loss!

I was a fan of Ms. Toledo, who as a teenager immigrated with her family from Cuba to the US. She and her husband, artist Ruben Toledo, moved to New York City in the 1980s hitting the pavement and knocking on department store doors looking for a place to sell their avant-garde fashions.




Michelle Obama wears Isabel Toledo for the 2009 presidential inauguration. 

Ms. Toledo made fashion fame in 2009 when she designed Michelle Obama’s inaugural outfit – a shift dress and coat in what she called lemon grass. I recall reading in her memoir (Roots of Style: Weaving Together Life, Love, & Fashion) that they knew it was going to be freezing cold in Washington that day so they sewed layers of padding in the wool coat.

Prior to that in the 1990s, she shunned corporate driven fashion shows working instead with museums. Although she remained an independent designer, for a short time she was creative director for Anne Klein and designed a line of shoes for Payless and fashions for Lane Bryant.

What I like about Isabel Toledo’s designs is her use of textured fabrics and off colors. She was a unique creative spirit and how sad for us that she is gone.

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I wore miniskirts when I was younger. We used to hide them in our bags before going out. And we wore bloomers underneath because we danced rock ‘n’ roll. Then we went from very short to very long, and one day when I was wearing one of those long skirts, my grandmother said to me: “Good lord, you look like a musty old granny!” That was the end of that. 

France’s First Lady, Brigitte Macron. Quote from Elle magazine, originally published in French Elle and translated from French.

That was the end of that all right. Almost every photo I found of Ms. Macron she was in a short dress. In the other photos she sported straight-leg jeans.

The hemline might be a bit short but otherwise, I think the look suits her and is appropriate for her position as First Lady.

At age 66 she is anything but a musty old granny!

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My grandmother and my mother, c.1933.

I remembered her pretty black coat of shinning silk brocade. The smooth black hair meticulously combed and dressed with sweet oil. The little white flower she wore at the nape of her neck. And there was that dainty high-collared blouse of cream-colored silk … with the black satin pants of three quarter length that stopped inches short of her trim little feet. 

Gene Sayre, pseudonym of Louise Brown Marshall, my grandmother.

This description is of Yatside, a youthful Chinese woman in 1930s China. It’s taken from a short story called You Goody For Me, which was written in 1939 and somewhat based on my grandmother’s experience living in China as a Navy captain’s wife.

Yes, my grandmother was a writer too. She penned several stories of her travel adventures and this one fictionalizes the day she met Yatside. Mrs. Albright (my grandmother) is holding an infant in her arms and just about to board a boat headed up the north coast and away from “war-stirred” Shanghai. Out of nowhere Yatside grabs her arm, points to the baby and says, “can do.” She is offering to work as a nanny and as it happens, that’s just what our protagonist needs. There begins a story of culture clashes, bonding, and finally, respect.

I can easily picture stylish Yatside – pretty and demure – and I’m willing to bet that the way she was dressed, as well as her manner, helped my grandmother make that split-second decision to take her on as a nanny.

IMG_20190816_172450668 (1)I feel very fortunate to have my grandmother’s stories, many are the original typed manuscripts. I’m learning a lot about not just her life, but also her conflicts, world view, how she treated people, and I’m getting a glimpse at some of her inner thoughts.

What a gift!



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Toni Morrison chose to wear Kiss of the Wolf to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2012. 

You are your own stories … The theme you choose may change or simply elude you but being your own story means you can always choose the tone. It also means that you can invent the language to say who you are and what you mean.

Toni Morrison (1931-2019), American writer, Nobel prize winner for literature, Pulitzer prize winner for fiction.

This quote is from Ms. Morrison’s 2004 commencement speech at Wellesley College and can be applied to so many aspects of life, including personal style.

Toni Morrison, who died last week, carried herself with graceful intent. Her talent and wisdom will continue to uplift us for generations to come.



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Manolo Blahnik, 1974

… everything that he did was to do with expressing himself. It was really only from his interest and passion that he dressed like that. He didn’t look like anyone else at that time because it was the time of hippies … and there he was like a creature from a completely different century. 

Penelope Tree, British former fashion model and friend of Manolo Blahnik.

This quote is from an interview with Ms. Tree in the documentary film, Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards.  She worked with Blahnik in London back in his early career. He initially wanted to be a fashion designer, but when he showed his illustrations to then US Vogue editor, Diana Vreeland, she encouraged him to design shoes.

Evidently. Blahnik liked his clothes and he was very particular. A man of taste, he insisted on well-tailored suits made of quality fabric in unique patterns. As Ms. Tree points out, he was wearing suits and more tailored clothing in an era when trends called for t-shirts and jeans. Today he’s still a dapper fella, sporting suits and bow ties.

I love a fashionable rebel!


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