Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2020

When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco on the occasional Sunday afternoon my father and I would drive to Chinatown, park (because you still could), and walk around looking in all the shops. The stuff in the stores was fun to peruse but I was more captivated by the older Chinese people I saw strolling along Grant Street and the unique way they dressed. Their style was was bold and bright – mixing patterns with checks, layering unexpected color combinations such as red with yellow, and sporting something like my Mary Janes but made from black fabric (they looked so cute and comfortable).

Fast-forward quite a few years and not only is Chinatown style still thriving (with a new generation of older people), but we have a recently published book on the subject by photographer Andria Lo and journalist Valerie Luu, Chinatown Pretty: Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors (Chronicle Books, 2020).

As second generation Asian Americans, Lo and Luu have a shared fascination with the clothing of poh pohs (grandmas) and gung gungs (grandfathers) in San Francisco Chinatown. Curious about the people behind the clothes, they began to approach individuals on the street and ask how they put their outfits together. “The Chinatown seniors’ dress and demeanor,” the authors explain, “also remined us of our own grandparents – their permed hair, their sock-and-sandal combinations, and the way their expressions could switch between extremely tough (and intimidating) and overwhelmingly affectionate.”

Their interest turned into a book, which covers six city Chinatowns – SF, Oakland, LA, Chicago, Manhattan, Vancouver, BC. – and dozens of stylin’ seniors. The people are as varied as the clothing with ages ranging from 60 to one woman over 100. Most immigrated decades ago from China or Vietnam, and they have worked as seamstresses, gardeners, store clerks, vendors, accounts, and social workers. Each person featured shares a lot or very little of their story and the authors say that 90 percent of the people they approached declined to be photographed or interviewed.

A theme among those featured was that their style is unintentional. They just wear what they have, some of it vintage, some hand-me-downs or purchased on sale. “At my age we don’t care about fashion,” says Show Chun Change from Vancouver Chinatown. “We just wear what’s comfortable.” How it’s all put together is more of a practical consideration, such as layering to keep out the cold. One gentleman had hand stitched several hats together for warmth and another used safety pins to close a buttonless vest, which made for a very cool look. I love that their style came from their ingenuity. (See slideshow.)

Several among the group do dress with intention. Anna Lee is in her 90s and immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in 1989. She worked as an accountant and a social worker and although now retired she still enjoys dressing well in her custom-made dresses, high-waisted pants, and silk blouses, all accessorized with beaded necklaces she makes herself. (See first picture in slideshow.)

Another woman’s more artistic flair reminded me of the Advanced Style set, a group of older women in NYC who have become style superstars thanks to photographer Ari Seth. Dorothy G.C. Quock (called Polka Dot), 75, was born and still lives in SF Chinatown and works as a tour guide there. (See picture nine in the slideshow.) Growing up, Polka Dot spent a lot of time where her mother worked as a seamstress at the sweatshop that manufactured Levi’s:

As a preschooler, she got her first experience trimming thread ends. In second grade, she learned how to use an embosser to stamp the Levi’s logo onto the leather tag. At age ten, she mastered the buttonhole five, of which appeared on Levi’s before zippers became the norm.

I enjoyed the glimpses into these people’s lives and I also appreciated that the authors included a brief history of each of the six Chinatowns.

Chinatown Pretty is a fun read, a visual treat, and important documentation of an overlooked segment of fashion history.

Read Full Post »

These outfits weave together the seniors’ diaspora : where they came from, what they did for a living, how they made the best of their circumstances. Like handmade items using fabric from the sewing factory where they worked, or hand-knit or hand-me-down clothing from friends and family. Their style speaks to their values: Why buy new clothes when you can wear gifted ones? Or custom clothes from Hong Kong, thirty years old but perfectly preserved? Combined with tender personalized touches, Chinatown seniors’ style contains so much ingenuity, flair, and beauty.

Andria Lo and Valerie Luu, authors of Chinatown Pretty: Fashion and Wisdom from Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors (Chronicle Books, 2020).

Check back on Wednesday for my review of this book.

Read Full Post »

outfitaday.2

I’m a big fan of skirts. Worn with a t-shirt or light cotton blouse, a skirt is easy and comfortable yet still a nice look.

Skirts are a go-to option for my At Home Attire ensembles. I made the one in this photo from a novelty print (ferns) cotton fabric. I’ve paired it with a cotton t-shirt in gray and added a cropped cardigan in light green, which picks up the lighter green shade in the skirt. The shoes are patent leather ballet flats, which are as comfortable as slippers!

Notice I’m wearing jewelry. Just because I’m hanging at home, doesn’t mean I’m not putting on some bling. Rings are my favorite and I enjoy looking at them while pausing at my writing desk, searching for just the right word or taking a break to stretch.

Tune in again for another installment of At Home Attire.

Read Full Post »

The ever stylish and gracious, RBG.

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020), associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, heroine, national treasure.

Thank you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg for your your calm and thoughtful efforts to better our world. You are an inspiration that continues on.

RIP

Read Full Post »

Not that long ago we were suffering a nasty heatwave with temperatures hitting above 110 degrees. Dressing for heat when staying put at home is its own challenge.

I’ve recently been inspired by the simple dress of ancient cultures – Egyptian draped gowns and Roman tunics. In hot climates such as theirs, layers of light cotton was the trend.

Pictured is one of my go-to summer at home ensembles. The cotton print dress is by designer Lesley Evers. Known for her unique prints, she is a local favorite. This tunic dress is comfortable in hot weather but it feels a little short, so I layer underneath it a white cotton skirt by J. Jill. Although a simple summer staple, the subtle eyelet trim around the bottom of the skirt gives it a little extra interest.

I wear the shoes by Arcopedico only at home. They are made of a knit fabric with an arch support sole and are just right for comfort around the house.

Even in heatwaves. Even stuck at home. It’s uplifting to meet the day in style.

Read Full Post »

No one can face a crisis unless they are suitably clad.

Louise Cray, fictional character from the mystery novel Madam, Will You Talk? By Mary Stewart.

I enjoy a good mystery and I recently discovered a new-to-me mystery author, Mary Stewart (1916-2014). Apparently her books were categorized Mystery/Romance back in the day, but don’t let the romance part put you off. There is just a touch of romance; the focus is the independent female protagonist and the mystery she is there to solve, not to mention all the adventures she has along the way.

Madam, Will You Talk? was published in 1955 and I recently happened upon a BBC radio dramatized version. Click here to listen.

Read Full Post »

thumbnail (4)Since staying put at home, I started pulling out some of my vintage pieces that I would only wear to an event. Because they are delicate or not as easy to move around in on pubic transport or walking to and from destinations, much of my vintage wardrobe gets only the occasional outing. But earlier in the pandemic I was showing up once a week to my fashion history class in front of my laptop – no BART rides, no long walks – so why not sport some vintage?

This pictured outfit includes a linen skirt that is easy to wear staying in place at my desk, but not running around. The Oxford shoes are not vintage, but they look very 1930s and are fine for the few steps to my desk at home, however, they would be horribly uncomfortable walking eight city blocks from BART to class.

On the shoulder of the lightweight cotton sweater, I’m wearing a silk flower from Britex Fabrics. The silk turban style hat is a favorite from Kiss of the Wolf. 

Now the socks are their own story. I’ve always had a thing for interesting socks and I found these two-tone bobby socks at Molly B in Berkeley. Made in Japan, they were ridiculously expensive, but they are high quality and unique. I like the stripe and the odd color combination.

Check back for more At Home Attire.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Like many other happenings this pandemic year, Gatsby Summer Afternoon has been cancelled. This annual event, always held the second Sunday in September at the picturesque Dunsmuir Mansion in Oakland, is produced by the Art Deco Society of California and is one of the most popular period costume gatherings of the year. It attracts close to one thousand attendees all dressed in attire appropriate to the Art Deco era, 1920s-1940s.

To forgo this favorite event is disappointing, but safety is a priority! So, while we stay safe at home how about a visual revisit to Gatsby Summer Afternoons of the past?

We all look forward to gathering again in person hopefully next year. Save the date: Sunday, September 12, 2021.

This just in: The ADSC has announced a virtual version of Gatsby Summer Afternoon, complete with the usual contests and photo ops. Click here for the full scoop.

UPDATE: Due to unhealthy air quality, the virtual Gatsby Summer Afternoon has been rescheduled for next weekend, September 19-20, 2020.

Read Full Post »

court… Henrietta handed over the queen’s garments, one by one, to the more important Lady of the Bedchamber, who then gave them to the queen. Mary Cowper explained how the dance of dressing commenced: ‘the Duchess of St. Albans put on the Princess’s shift, according to court rules.’ Another ex- member of the bedchamber staff likewise recalled that ‘the Bedchamber Woman gave the fan to the Lady,’ who then handed it to the queen. These nuances of role between the ‘Lady’ and the ‘Woman’ were considered to be of cut-throat importance. 

Lucy Worsley, British historian and chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces.

This quote is from Ms. Worsley’s book, The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace (Walker & Co.). Henrietta was A Woman of the Bedchamber for Princess Caroline (later queen) in the court of George I, 1714-1727.

The Courtiers is a look at court life during the Georgian period (1714-1760), which was by no means easy or even glamorous. The center of court was at that time Kensington Palace (eventually the home of Diana, Princess of Wales) and there was much strife between King George I and his son, George II as well as among the dozens of courtiers, who lived at the beck and call of the royal family. If you’re an Anglophile like me and enjoy good stories, this book is a fun read. I also appreciate the closer look at the first two King Georges (from Germany). A great way to learn British history.

Read Full Post »

What I call At Home Attire is clothing that I wear at home that is comfortable, but not sloppy. Something that I wouldn’t mind an unexpected visitor seeing.

Long dresses are the perfect at-home attire because they’re easy, cool in the summer, and fall somewhere between the restrictions of street wear and the casualness of athleisure.

This long cotton dress by Isaac Mizrahi is comfortable, yet presentable. I wouldn’t wear it out, but add heels and an up-do with perhaps a flower and it’s just the thing for casual summer entertaining (in pre-pandemic days).

I like combining various shades of green, so on this day I paired the dress with a green cotton cardigan from Boden. The dress is sleeveless and sometimes I wear a white t-shirt underneath; the pop of white works well with the dark green.

Stay tuned for more At Home Attire.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »