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Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

Here’s the whole outfit: a pair of thick, black tights, with the feet cut off and rolled up to the middle of my calf. The footie part of the sock was hidden inside my shoes – a pair of black dress shoes Mom had bought from a bargain bin for two dollars, not realizing they were boys’. My father’s cadet blue cashmere sweater, too small for his latest girth, but long enough to hit me just above the knees, then hiked up a little thanks to a wide, black belt that gave the illusion that my waist was at least two inches smaller.

Elyse Nebbitt, fictional character in the YA novel, Pudge & Prejudice by A. K. Pittman (Wander Publishers).

As a budding children’s literature writer myself, I read picture books, middle grade novels (that’s what I write), and occasionally young adult novels. This one intrigued me because it’s another spin on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, reset in 1984. Interesting, because I have heard that currently publishers are turning down anything set in that decade. I suppose what saved this manuscript from the “no thanks” pile is the Jane Austen element. Plus the author has written a couple of other novels, so she already has a platform.

This passage reminded me that in the 1980s I also sported my father’s cashmere navy blue sweater. But I didn’t use it as a dress. I paired it with a longish skirt, wide belt, and boots. Oversized was a definite look in those days. I still wear that sweater!

The 1980s was when everyone really experimented with their style – mixing vintage with new, clashing colors and prints, using accessories in unusual ways. Such fun!

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Spandau Ballet, circa 1980s.

I’m disappointed at the homogenization of looks. You don’t see young kids coming up with many ideas of their own. They can create their identity on their Facebook page or their Instagram site. They don’t need to create it on the street. They don’t need to find their tribe by going out in a uniform and going to a club. They can do that on the Internet.

Gary Kemp – founding member of the 1980s British pop music band Spandau Ballet.

This quote is from an article in WWD, May 2015 – the same year a documentary on Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, was released.

Turns out that the fellas of Spandau Ballet were quite the fashion trendsetters. Gary Kemp in particular enjoyed exploring sartorial expression. Inspired by his father who was a teddy boy, Mr. Kemp followed underground fashions of the day, his favorite being Glam Rock a la David Bowie. Later, on the 1983 True Tour, he and the band revived the teddy boy look with long jackets and western ties.

Along with Mr. Kemp, I am disappointed that modern teenagers are complete blank pages when it comes to style. Just like their parents, it’s sweats, t-shirts, shorts, t-shirts and oh yeah, sweats. Since the pandemic, not even jeans make the cut. When I was in high school I was experimenting with all kinds of silhouettes, colors, layering. I was adding vintage to new and sporting jewelry galore. It’s the time for exploration. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that.

A few years ago I interviewed a teen girl on her style and what she was describing was pretty dull. She explained that she didn’t want to stand out. I’ve heard adults say that too. Just by wearing a dress, or a blazer, or a hat (anything other than sweats and a t-shirt) I stand out every time I leave my house. To be honest sometimes I wish I didn’t, but what I wear is what I wear and if it stands out in the mass of athleisure, then so be it.

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The pandemic has hit hard in all areas of life, but particularly restaurants, shops, theaters, and museums.

One of my favorite visits when I’m in London is the Fashion and Textile Museum located south of the Thames River in Bermondsey. Founded by fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes in 2003, FTM is now run by Newham College and offers unique fashion and textile exhibits, as well as workshops and classes. (I was privileged to view 1920s Jazz Age and write about it for Vintage Life Magazine.)

They even offer Events on Demand – for a small fee (5 pounds or approximately $7) you can watch recorded interviews and tours of exhibits.

As the only museum in the UK dedicated to featuring contemporary textile and fashion design, FTM is a rare and necessary resource for education and inspiration.

Unfortunately since March of 2020, they have lost more than 80 percent of their income and the future of the museum is “uncertain.” Yikes! FTM needs our help and to that end they have set up a crowdfunding campaign. Please consider making a donation to FTM. Any donation will help. And then put this fabulous museum on your Must Visit List when next in London.

Not familiar with FTM? You’re in for a treat. Click here.

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During the day, Mom worked as a teller, and at night and on the weekends she attended classes in tailoring. When I started elementary school, people started noticing the clothes she made for me. Soon she was earning pin money and satisfying her creativity by sewing dresses and pantsuits for the working women in town and making alterations on band uniforms, prom dresses, and store-bought clothes … To her, sewing traditionally, the way she had learned it in tailoring school, was an art.

From the food memoir Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America (Seal Press, 2006), by Linda Furiya.

In this quote Ms. Furiya is speaking of her mother, who was born and grew up in Tokyo where she worked as a young woman in a bank and learned how to sew on the side.

In need of some reading escapism, I was shopping my bookshelf and came upon this book. I actually started Bento Box years ago when it first came out and enjoyed it but, I put it down and didn’t go back to it until now. That is strange as this time around I could have read it in one sitting.

In her memoir, Ms. Furiya shares with us the challenges of growing up in a small Indiana town in the 1970s. Her hardworking immigrant parents spoke English awkwardly, the Furiyas (she has two older brothers) were the only Asian family in town, and she felt somewhat lost – disconnected from her Japanese culture but also less than a part of the American culture into which she was born.

Traditional Japanese cuisine played an important role in the family and Ms. Furiya uses food as a entrée into her stories. A food writer and former food columnist for the SF Chronicle, she offers details of her father’s Japanese produce garden, long road trips to secure essential ingredients sold only in large cities, and her mother’s impressive cooking skills. Sprinkled into larger tales, are descriptions of family meals that included steamed buns, rice balls, and other mouthwatering delights. (There are recipes at the end of each chapter.)

My favorite stories are of the family travels to visit other extended family in Brooklyn, NYC, New Jersey, and Japan. In the early 1970s Ms. Furiya travels alone with her mother to Japan. Meeting her mother’s family for the first time and settling into this new yet familiar culture, she finally is able to connect to her heritage but not without some inner conflict. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Tokyo and the family from the unique perspective of a ten-year-old girl.

Of course I also love that she includes fashion and textile references throughout. Food, travel, fashion. What an excellent pandemic escape book.

On another note – today is International Women’s Day, a day when we honor all that women have achieved. How to celebrate? Add a touch of purple to your outfit. Purple is the official color of IWD and one of the three suffragists colors, it symbolizes loyalty. Another way to celebrate the day is to buy and read a book written by a woman. I recommend Bento Box.

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Please help save this stunning Art Deco lobby.

The Art Deco lobby in the McGraw-Hill building is under threat of being completely destroyed. While the façade of the building has landmark status, the inside does not and The Art Deco Society of New York is working to secure landmark status for the lobby with the Landmark Preservation Commission. They need our help. Please sign the petition.

Located on West 42nd Street in NYC the 1930 Art Deco building stands 35 stories and was designed by Raymond Hood for the McGraw-Hill publishing house, who occupied the lower floors and rented out the upper floors. The publishing house moved out and sold the building in 1972. Since then there have been many owners of the landmark building, including the current Deco Towers Associates (a foreign investment group) who recently abandoned their plans to convert the building into apartments and now want to “refurbish” the building.

There is nothing like Art Deco architecture. It is at once distinctive and timeless. We cannot afford to lose irreplaceable style and quality of work. Please readers, sign the petition and help save the McGraw-Hill lobby for the education and inspiration of future generations.

Thank you!

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Time wears down the pencil.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021), American Beat Poet, publisher, owner of City Lights Bookstore, SF icon.

Mr. Ferlinghetti liked to don a hat. From his Navy cover to a fedora, beret to beanie, bowler to Greek fisherman’s cap, over the years he wore them all with unbeatable flair.

RIP.

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Several weeks ago a fashion colleague (and friend) of mine, Tyese Cooper contacted me and asked if she could interview me for her new blog post series. Of course I was happy to agree.

Based in Paris, Tyese is a sustainable fashion designer, business woman, and creative mentor/teacher. In her blog series, How to See, she talks to various artists and designers about creativity (I am honored to be included in this accomplished group).

On a certain day, Tyese and I successfully erased the time and miles between us by meeting on Zoom. Approaching the conversation in her own unique way, we began with the word start and what that word brings to mind. From there it was a wonderfully unexpected ride.

Click here to read my conversation with Tyese Cooper.

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Barbara Jefford as Lady Lydia Eliott. Note Lydia’s collar, reminiscent of the 17th century Ruff.

She spends all that money on clothes and she still manages to look cheap. No doubt her latest young man tells her bad taste is all the rage.

Lady Lydia Eliott, fictional character played by Barbara Jefford in the British television series The House of Eliott.

A little “mean girl” humor.

The House of Eliott is one of my all time favorite British series. Created by Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs), it features two sisters who face hardships as independent women fashion designers in 1920s London. I own the entire series on DVD and I watch it when I’m feeling low or just need an escape. Of course I pulled it out in Pandemic Year 2020 and that’s when I happened to catch this funny line.

I’m quite fond of Lady Lydia. She’s so biting, she’s hilarious, and Ms. Jefford is wonderful at balancing the cattiness of Lydia with her vulnerability. I think a good snooty character is great fun.

Click here for another post I wrote on The House of Eliott.

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Last week Nick Verreos, FIDM, Design co-chair, and Kevin Jones, FIDM Museum Curator, hosted a Zoom talk with Ellen Mirojnick, costume designer of the period drama television show, Bridgerton.

This Netflix production is based on the Regency romance novels by Julia Quinn. I haven’t read the books or seen the series, although I did watch enough on YouTube to get the idea. It was my general interest in the costuming that prompted me to tune into the discussion.

Ms. Mirojnick was quick to say that they never intended the costumes to be period accurate, but that Bridgerton “needed to be a bonnet-less world.” The ethos of the production was a “heightened reality.” I gather that there has been a lot of criticism, including quite a bit popping up on Zoom Chat during the talk.

In the first season there were 6000 costumes, all custom-made by the staff of 230. Every character, even background characters, wore bespoke costumes created in the UK. Ms. Mirojnick commented that Americans sadly just don’t have the hand crafting/sewing skills needed for a project like this.

She used the empire silhouette common in the Regency era for women, but she designed fuller gowns allowing for fluidity and ease of movement. She favored layering with lace and embroidered light fabrics. The colors are vivid pinks and purples accented with sparkly jewels. It’s all intentionally over-the-top, like thick gobs of frosting on a sheet cake. The Regency era was more subtle with only touches of embroidery and lace and small pieces of jewelry, if any.

Ms. Mirojnick said that getting the jewels was the biggest challenge. Every piece was hand crafted for each character. “The jewelry was meant to be the period at the end of the sentence of who the character was.” The corsets were handmade by corset master Mr. Pearl and the actresses weren’t too keen on having to wear them.

Although not period accurate, the costumes are still interesting and I enjoyed hearing some of the inside scoop on how they’re created.

Thank you FIDM!

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It was a mask. Aggressively dazzling in self-protection. The first day I came to see Allendy I wore a draped costume and a Byzantine hat, and I succeeded in intimidating him by my strangeness … A desire to be more interesting, more accentuated. A role. I played the role of a sophistication which was not truly my own. In all this he seemed so right. I began to see how much of an armor my costumes had been. I remembered that to please Henry I wear for him softer and more youthful things, and that I hated when he decided to take me to Montparnasse to meet people in these puerile clothes. I wanted so much my draperies and Russian hat. Like an armor.

Anais Nin (1903-1977), French author.

This quote is taken from the diary of Ms. Nin written in 1932. I found it in an article by Gwendolyn M. Michel titled “A Woman with a Hundred Faces: The Dress and Appearance of Anis Nin, 1931-1932, published in Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America.

Ms. Nin refers to her therapist Dr. Rene Allendy, with whom she discussed her body image issues. She felt she was too skinny, flat chested, and not curvaceous enough. (Ironic, as she had the 1920s ideal figure.) Ms. Nin at the time was having an affair with American author Henry Miller, while also she was quite intrigued by his wife June. For a short time she tried to emulate June’s less fashionable more bohemian style. It didn’t work for her.

I think many of us use clothing as armor one way or another. When we dress-up or at least dress differently from the norm, we perhaps intimidate; prompt glances from afar but no actual communication. When we dress as everyone else does we blend in, hiding among the crowds. Both are a sort of protection.

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