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Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

Matching tie, pocket square, and mask by Theresa LaQuey. Image courtesy of Theresa LaQuey.

I called it an upcoming trend and Theresa LaQuey Couture is doing it! What might that be? Why, matching masks of course.

Theresa has just announced that she is creating matching tie and mask and pocket square sets for our dashing gentlemen friends. She is also designing a blouse and mask set for the ladies.

An experienced seamstress with an eye for vintage silhouettes, Theresa has created patterns for Simplicity Patterns and run her own business making vintage inspired custom clothing since 1989. A longtime Art Deco Society of California board member, she designs and makes all the fabulous fashions she wears for both day and evening ADSC events.

I am lucky to have quite a few Theresa LaQuey creations in my wardrobe, including a beautiful suit with a 20s style coat.

Theresa says she has been making tie and pocket square sets for her husband since before they were married. Adding a mask during the current pandemic seemed a natural next step. “I am mostly using vintage inspired quilting cotton as that is what is recommended for the masks,” she explains. “However, I have figured out how to use other fabrics with the same mask protection.” Each set is largely sewn by hand and will be made on a custom basis from a selection of fabrics from Theresa’s collection or the client can provide their own fabric.

It’s the same deal for the blouse/mask set.

Holiday gifts! Social distance gatherings! Just dressing up for a change! Matching masks for all occasions is The Thing.

Visit Theresa LaQuey Couture on Facebook for more information.

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She spent most of her time outside and had no care for fashion, always dressing in precisely the same way: dark leather button-up boots and a green walking suit, the long skirt of which was always caked with mud about the hem. She had a large woven basket … and she carried it wherever she went … used for carrying sticks and stones and birdseggs and feathers and all manner of other natural objects that had piqued her interest.

This quote from the novel The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton (Atria Books).

There isn’t a lot of fashion in this book but there is mystery, intrigue, history, art, and a ghost! Just my cup of tea.

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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 reminded 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 Cohen. 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, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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ACC

One of the many disappointments this year due to the pandemic was the cancellation of the American Craft Council show usually held at San Francisco’s Fort Mason in August. But as they say, The Show Must Go On and on it will …

The ACC show gathers top craftspeople from around the country (many are from the Bay Area) to exhibit and sell their wares, which includes one-of a kind jewelry, clothing, gifts, and home décor. Instead of showing in person, the ACC has worked hard to shift to a virtual show called San Francisco Bay Area Craft Week, running September 7-13, 2020; there will be an online marketplace where shoppers can see available crafts as well as “visit” artists’ studios, their hometowns, hear their stories, hear their playlists, see artists at work and more.

Participants include:

Kiss of the Wolf (women’s hand-painted clothing –   my sis-in-law!)

Modern Shibori (clothing, local)

Audrey Modern (handbags)

Scott Wynn (furniture)

Sam Woehrman (jewelry, local)

There will be 130 artists in all. I don’t know about you, but I’m already thinking about the holidays and wondering what the heck I’m going to do about gifts. ACC and these participating artists are here to help. And perhaps part of gift-giving this year will be supporting artists who really need our help as much as we need them!

“It’s an opportunity for everyone to ‘travel’ and discover in a time of physical distancing. We believe the creative diversity of object making, craft, and design in the San Francisco Bay Area is a wonderful way to launch this new program,” says Sarah Schultz, American Craft Council, executive director.
Mark your calendars, make your lists, and tune in September 7-13. Click here for more information. 

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Here’s a little story recounted by French fashion designer Paul Poiret (1879-1944) in his autobiography, King of Fashion.

paulpoiretI passed many times in front of the shop of this English master without daring to cross the threshold. One day, when I was feeling in cavalier mood, and since I needed a suit, I went in and ordered one, not, however, without asking the price, through fear of some unpleasant surprise. I was told one hundred and eighty francs – and I gave my order. 

“When shall I come try it on?” I added. 

“Our clothes are made in London,” I was told. “… and yours will not be ready for seventeen days.” 

… and in seventeen days I returned. Filled with emotion in the fitting room, I saw my coat arrive in the hands of the classic tailor, wearing a measure round his neck. I was astonished that they did not try on the trousers. He called the man who received me: “The trousers, Monsieur? What trousers? You did not order any trousers, nor a waistcoat either.” 

In the 1910s Paul Poiret was known for liberating women from the corset, only to confine their movement with the hobble skirt. Influenced by Asian aesthetics and theater, he was called “King of Fashion” and traveled extensively, including to America where he showed his designs and lectured.

I just finished Poiret’s autobiography, King of Fashion (V&A Publishing) first published in 1931. He led an interesting life and he was a good writer, but I was disappointed that he didn’t discuss his design process, his influences, and perhaps share some of his insights into the fashion industry of the era. I know that he fell out of favor after WWI and I was hoping that he might shed some light on that time of his life. I’m also aware that he met and encouraged designer Elsa Schiaparelli and I would have loved to know what he had to say about that, but no mention.

What he does discuss is his childhood and young adult life working for houses of Douchet and Worth. He goes into detail about opening his first fashion house and the many parties he hosted and attended. There’s lots of name dropping, which meant nothing to me as they were all French and a very long time ago.

Overall The King of Fashion is a good read, if you’re not expecting much about fashion.

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Lady Sybil Crawley (Jessica Brown Findlay) shockingly sports Harem Pants, in season one of  Downton Abbey, 1913.  I think of  Paul Poiret, who was cutting edge in fashion design at the time. Costumes by Susannah Buxton.

Many people won’t realise that it can take six or seven specialist skills to create a costume, often including millinery, corsetry and tailoring. We might have five or six fittings if it’s a complicated costume and each piece can take at least a week to complete, depending on the intricacy of the design.  

Susannah Buxton – British costume designer. This quote is from an interview with Selvegde magazine. (The Brits spell realize with an s.)

Ms. Buxton has been working in costume design for 30 years having won many awards including a BAFTA and an Emmy. She’s known for her work in television PBS shows such as Downton Abbey and Poldark.

She is also one of the co-founders of Costume Symposium –  three days of lecturers and workshops for costumers and students. Masters in their craft teach workshops on making corsets, embroidery, millinery, gloves and more.  Ms. Buxton says as her generation retires these necessary tools of the trade are dying out and resources for teaching such are limited. She wants to help pass along these skills and techniques to the next generation.

The annual event is new since 2018 and has so far been held during the fall in different locations around the UK. Because of the pandemic, this year has been cancelled but there are plans for spring 2021. Click here for more information. 

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As the pandemic rages on, it’s time for another of my favorite go-to movies: Pretty in Pink.

Pretty in Pink is the third in what became a trilogy of teenage films written by John Hughes. First came The Breakfast Club then Sixteen Candles. Molly Ringwald was in both and the story goes that Hughes wrote Pretty in Pink for her.

Ringwald’s character, Andie, is a high school senior –  creative, smart, and poor. Her best friend Duckie, played by Jon Cryer, is hopelessly in love with Andie, but his humor and charm go unnoticed. However, cute and sensitive Blane, played by Andrew McCarthy, is very much in focus for our heroine as he crosses the tracks from his slick wealthy existence into her world, which is more interesting if rather dingy. Of course there is a villain (James Spader) and an older hip mentor (Annie Potts) and lots of teenage strife, broken hearts, and a couple of really satisfying dramatic scenes.

When this film came out my first thought was: “Ahem, pink is not pretty on redheads.” As a redhead myself, I know the two colors we cannot wear are pink and red. Perhaps deeper shades of these colors, but not the classic pink and red … no way!

This is because, in my opinion, red hair is very striking and therefore other vibrant colors clash. We need deep shades that don’t compete, such as burgundy, mauve, navy, and we all know a redhead’s best color is green. Apparently, Ringwald had a “predisposition” for pink, hence the movie’s title.

That aside, Pretty in Pink is a fun film for its 80s nostalgia, the teenage romance, and of course, the costumes! Watching Andie today it seems that her quirky sense of style is rather timeless. She would stand out in this era just as much as she did in the 80s. Costumer Marilyn Vance worked closely with Ringwald, who had much to say about her character’s clothing.

They shopped thrift stores and flea markets to create a look of vintage crossed with homemade crossed with (almost) granny. Andie sports cardigan sweaters often embellished with pins or lace. (Ringwald said in a 2006 interview that she still owns several of those sweaters.) Hats tied with a scarf. She likes layers and even did what I used to do – layer short socks over stockings. (Stockings not nylons, not tights.) Her jackets are vintage, her jewelry is antique style and at home she dons lovely Japanese kimono.

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Duckie also has a very unique style. I love his collection of bolo ties. He wears vintage jackets, vests, baggy pants and a pork pie hat. Oh, and a lot of very large rings. He gets bullied, but he’s true to his look.

Our third stylin’ character is Annie Potts as Iona. In every one of her scenes, she dons a different and extreme ensemble from a punk rubber dress and spiky hair to a preppy red blazer complete with super size shoulder pads.

As for the ordinary kids, Vance said that she shopped Kmart for their “ice cream” colored skirts, t-shirts, and sweaters. There are lot of light colored jeans and our wealthy fellas sport linen suits! One of my favorite parts of this film is Spader slithering around the high school hallways in his Italian loafers (no socks), hands stuffed in his linen trousers. We’re not supposed to like him, but I find his snotty attitude hilarious.

Beyond the costumes, I really enjoyed the very strong performances by the entire cast. No one other than Ringwald could have played this role, and surprisingly, Paramount looked at other actresses, including  Jennifer Beal. Finally the powers-that-be wised up and went with the actress for whom the part was written.

Ringwald is solid as Andie, able to be confident as the underdog, yet vulnerable when she’s let down. Anger is not a problem and even a little bitchy comes out from time to time. But the real star here, if you ask me, is Jon Cryer, who clearly put all he had into Duckie. Passion, vulnerability, humor, even some dance moves. His character is over-the-top and Cryer is able to successfully deliver that without putting off the audience. Plus, who could resist that winning smile?

Well, apparently Ringwald could. She had a lot of input on casting the film and although she admitted that Cryer was a strong contender, she also liked Robert Downey Jr. for the role. She thought he was cute and could see herself (Andie) falling for him. She did not feel the same for Cryer. How it was that he was cast and not Downey is a part of the story not shared. But there is something else.

The ending we see in the film is not the original ending. SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the movie (or don’t recall) and don’t want to know the ending, stop reading and go watch. Originally, after Blane disappoints Andie, she realizes the true love of Duckie is what she wants and they end up together at the prom. The whole script was written to follow this direction. They filmed the ending as written, despite Ringwald’s insistence that it was all wrong. Then they showed a test audience and … the audience booed. The young women wanted Andie to have “the cute boy.” So, Hughes quickly rewrote the ending (the quickly part shows) and six months after the first wrap they re-shoot the ending and Andie goes off with Blane, who has awkwardly redeemed himself.

The decision to change the ending remains controversial and even some very young audiences watching the film today think Duckie was the right guy for Andie. Still, the movie was a hit at the time and has since become a cult favorite.

I could write so much more, but I’ve gone on long enough. Pretty in Pink is a great escape from today’s social media, cell phones, bad news, pandemic. Turn it all off and go back to a time when we still bought records. Speaking of that, the soundtrack was a big hit too.

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