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No one loves you like your mom. Pictured: My mother with me and my brothers – Jimmy in the front and Marshall in the back.

Cindy Marshall died on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

My mother lived, as she would say, a multifaceted life. She was a woman of style, good manners, and a quirky sense of humor. An only child, she was born in a small town in Pennsylvania, but grew up in many places, including China, where her father was an officer in the Navy. After her parents divorced when Mom was ten years old, she and her mother moved to San Francisco. I think she was lonely in those early days; she told me she spent that first cold and foggy summer in SF by herself inside their apartment listening to Flash Gordon on the radio and making paper dolls from images in fashion magazines.

Classical music and opera were important to my mother. She learned about both from her father and when she was in high school she studied voice hoping one day to sing opera. She had a lovely voice, good for operettas, but she thought not strong enough for opera so she gave it up (it was the big stuff or nothing). Still, she’d sing to herself up until the very end of her life. (In fact she was singing along with a Michael Feinstein CD while I sat with her just days before she passed.)

A bit of a loner, Mom followed her own sense of style. In the 1950s, Marin County housewives were wearing shirtwaist dresses with full skirts and shoes with heels, but not my mother. She sported slacks and desert boots, and for a diaper bag she used a bowling ball bag. “It was more interesting,” she told me. That was the era of luncheons, cocktail parties, and evenings out for dinner and dancing. Mom loved all that and had the appropriate attire for every occasion, usually purchased from her favorite department store, I. Magnin. Sometimes she made her clothing, although, she said she didn’t like working with sewing machines and preferred to sew by hand. She was also an avid knitter and once knitted an entire dress.

Mom had three children – Marshall, Jimmy, and me. One of the tragedies in Mom’s life was the loss of her two boys, both of whom left us way too young. It weighed her down with sadness, but she had an admirable inner strength and I know that she also took comfort in our small surviving family.

When I started school, Mom went to work, out of necessity as a divorced single mother but I think also to get back into the wider world. She managed a dentist’s office for many years and then switched to jewelry sales, which was her forte. She worked at Shreve & Co. and then Zales, and eventually she started her own antique jewelry business. Around that time she also reclaimed her maiden name, grew her hair long, went blonde, and shifted from structured handbags to the more fashionable shoulder bags.

There is much to say about my mother. (And I say it in a mother/daughter memoir that I am working on – and one day may even finish.) She was an elegant, complex woman who spent much of her life searching for answers to the big questions. Sometimes when she pondered life, she’d say “What’s this all about?” We weren’t always on the same page, but we were close and we spent a lot of time together. I miss that already. She has always been there, always on my side, always backing me up. Life is a little lonelier now.

My father died just before Father’s Day in 1984 and I still have the card I had planned to give to him. Now, my mother has left just before Mother’s Day 2022. Life is strange.

While I sort through this loss, it’s hard for me to focus. Even fashion, my usual place of joy, feels empty to me. For that reason, I am going to take a break from ODFL. I hope that readers will bear with me and still be there when I return. In the meantime there’s ten plus years of archives to revisit. Also, take a peek at Mom’s Closet (tab at the top), which has posts all about my mother, who inspired this blog.

Rest in peace, Mom. We love you!

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Installation of Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy at the Legion of Honor Museum. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

A fashion exhibit has recently opened at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy features the designs of Chinese couturier Guo Pei.

1002 Nights, 2010. Left Dress: hand-painted silk, embroidered with silk threads, embellished with Swarovski crystals, Headpiece: resin, silk tassels and Swarovski crystals. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Known for unique sculptural silhouettes and elaborate embroidery, Ms. Pei has been designing couture for four decades. She finds inspiration everywhere – from nature, history, and various cultures around the world – to create unexpected looks.

Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

From curator Jill D’Alessandro: This global worldview manifests itself in her designs, which draw equally from Asian and European aesthetics to occupy a space between fashion, theater, performance, and sculpture.

In 2016 Ms. Pei was the second designer born and educated in China to be inducted as a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the Paris based organization that determines what design houses should be considered true couture.

Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy features 80 designs from Ms. Pei’s 2007 through 2020 collections shown on Beijing and Paris runways. The exhibit is cleverly presented with pieces displayed around some of the museum’s permanent decorative arts collections as well as in independent galleries.

This is Ms. Pei’s first major museum exhibit and it runs now through September 5, 2022 at the Legion of Honor.

NOTE: Please be aware that the Legion of Honor (and the de Young Museum) no longer require masks for entry.

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Guo Pei with the famous Yellow Gown.

Fantasy is the height of your spirit. It is the most important part of life because it fuels its meaning. It makes your existence on this planet more than just thinking about what you eat and what you wear.

Guo Pei – Chinese fashion couturier.

Ms. Pei designed the fabulous over-the-top yellow gown that Rihanna wore to the Met Gala in 2015.

Well, now, for me fantasy crosses with thoughts of what I wear. I put much time and energy into creating various outfits – from every day looks to vintage ensembles. This is my creativity and where I like to let my mind wander. Sometimes my creativity in fashion crosses into my writing.

Ms. Pei is the subject of a new exhibit at the Legion of Honor Art Museum in San Francisco. Check back tomorrow for more on that.

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I wore huge, baggy, really oversize Levi’s with tiny, tiny, skinny black T-shirts. I had really short, short hair, and I used to wear these white clogs.

Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski- artistic director of Hermès womenswear.

Ms. Vanhee-Cybulski sported her described outfit when she was studying fashion design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium. And those white clogs? She remembered them and used a low-heel version with every one of her designs in the Hermès 2021 ready-to-wear collection. They became the “status clog” and sold out (price tag = $900 to over $1000).

I was a fan of clogs in college, too. I had a brown leather pair and a patent leather pair in navy blue. The patent leather pair were an unexpected look and I wore them with white bobbysocks. In those days my only mode of transportation was a blue single-speed Schwinn bike, which worked fine in my smallish university town. But it sometimes didn’t work out so well with certain clothing – like those clogs.

One sunny afternoon I was pedaling kind of fast crossing a busy street when my foot slipped off the pedal and with it went my clog. It rose high up and thump – landed in the middle of the street. But I didn’t dare stop, I had to keep going and get to the other side. Once safe I pulled over and looked back to see the navy blue patent leather reflecting the bright sunlight, unhurt, but not for long as cars sped by nearly missing it. I waited for a green light and quickly ran into the street to retrieve my clog. Whew! That was a lucky break because a few months later those clogs played a role in my getting a job in a downtown boutique. (That’s another story for another post.)

A typical lesson one learns in youth – don’t wear clogs while biking!

Looking at this picture I can see her $1000 Hermès Café Clog flying right off that pedal.

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Vepublic in Walnut Creek Broadway Plaza

It’s Fashion Revolution Week! A good opportunity to rethink how we do fashion.

Earlier this year I stumbled upon Vepublic, a boutique in Walnut Creek. Stocking only sustainable clothing, Vepublic works with companies that make their fashions with methods as gentle on our planet as possible. This includes upcycled denim, jackets made from recycled bottles, shoes made from plant leathers, tops and bottoms made from organic materials. They keep in mind minimum water use, energy use, safe dyeing methods, zero waste.

Vepublic offers well-made basic pieces mostly in cotton and silk.

I bought a pair of cute socks from a company in Sweden called Swedish Stockings. Made with recycled yarn, the pink and yellow plaid design will be my go to for spring. Now, I know, there is the issue of shipping items across the globe and all the harm that causes, but we’re not going to find perfection. We can, however, at least stay conscious and try our best.

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Our ethos has always been about creating clothes that real women truly want to wear – revitalizing American classics to offer collectable pieces.

Catherine Holstein – American fashion designer and creative director of Khaite

Ms. Holstein was recently featured, among other up and coming American fashion designers, in Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

I like her idea of “collectable pieces.” I’m a collector and instead of buying more, I prefer to create new looks with what I already own. Since I create my own style, trends are not an issue. I’m more likely to weave in a trending color or accessory – for example hobo handbags are back and I just happen to already have one from years ago.

I’m concerned about the impact the fashion industry is having on our planet so I try to be careful about how much I buy.

Speaking of sustainable fashion, today kicks of Fashion Revolution Week, April 18-24, an annual event that recognizes the anniversary of the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, where 1,100, mostly women seamstresses, died and 2,500 people were injured. FRW is a movement that seeks to raise our awareness of what’s really going on in clothing/fashion industry.

From the Fashion Revolution website: Currently, there is a lack of understanding and appreciation of the true cost of clothing. Price tags fail to reflect the social and environmental cost of production, while as consumers, we don’t always care for our clothes in the way we should. We need to scrutinize what it is we’re really paying for. Throughout Fashion Revolution Week, we’ll educate and inspire our global community on the real value of what we buy and wear. 

Click here for more information.

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Holyday. 1876 James Tissot. The gentleman in this painting is wearing the cap of an amateur cricket club at the time.

Here’s wishing those who celebrate Easter a Happy Day. Enjoy the treats and don’t forget to don your Easter bonnet!

It is Passover and Ramadan as well. A time of reflection for all of us.

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Here’s a little story about how I found My Mrs. Brown: A month or so ago I was at my public library looking in the Fiction section for George Orwell’s novel, 1984. Affected by the current state of the world, I had an unexplainable desire to reread this dystopian classic. To my surprise there were no copies on the shelf. (Were other readers of the same mind?) So, I perused the other titles nearby and I swear this smaller-than-average blue book popped off the shelf and into my hands. My heart beat a little faster as I looked at an illustration of a dress form on the cover. Could it be? Might I have stumbled upon fashion in fiction? Indeed I had!

It’s rare to find fashion in fiction and My Mrs. Brown, written by former Vogue editor William Norwich, is a treat for its fashion detail among other things.

Middle-aged Mrs. Brown lives a modest life in a small town in Rhode Island. When she volunteers to help inventory the belongings of the town’s recently deceased Grand Dame, she comes upon a black dress suit (a dress with a matching jacket) that will change her life. The simple but exquisite suit was designed by Oscar de la Renta and once she set her eyes it she was captivated. After reading the novel Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, the story of a woman quite like our heroine who travels to Paris to buy herself a Dior gown, Mrs. Brown is inspired to travel to NYC and buy her own dress suit by Oscar de la Renta. Never mind that it cost thousands of dollars that she doesn’t have. Where there’s a will (and many good Samaritans) there’s a way.

My Mrs. Brown is described as a fairy tale. I call it a quiet story. There are no superheroes fighting off violent villains, no crass language, no drug-addiction. There is no darkness, although, there is timeless reality such as sadness, jealousy, and death. We also have (oh my gosh!) pleasant characters, a charming story of persistence and courage, and a nod to the everyday woman with a reasonable desire to own something lovely and stylish. Mr. Norwich creates a nostalgic small town with a main street and residents who actually know each other and spend time together. It has such an old-school vibe that I had to remind myself more than once that this was a story set in present day and I wondered if the author was hinting of a certain provincial quality to New England. But this sleepy Rhode Island town is also a handy contrast to hectic New York City, which is featured in the later part of the book.

As for fashion detail, Mr. Norwich seamlessly weaves in details of clothing, style, and the lifestyle of those in the biz. He knows the world of fashion and pulls it in as part of the story, but at just the right balance. For someone like me, that’s candy! Dark chocolate See’s candy.

I truly enjoyed My Mrs. Brown and the opportunity it allowed me to escape our increasingly uncivilized world and step into an uplifting story where a quiet, unassuming character is the winner.

We need more books like this.

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Fashion is having a moment. After years of binging on fast fashion the party is over and it’s time to find balance for the sake of our planet. For the sake of our future.

Katrina Rodabaugh’s book, Make Thrift Mend: Stitch, Patch, Darn, Plant-Dye, & Love Your Wardrobe (Abrams) speaks to this moment, offering guidance on how to make, mend, and care for the clothing we already own. She takes the reader step by step from pausing and really considering our clothing to sorting our closets and making choices on what to keep and what to pass along (and how).

Then the fun really begins with different chapters on: Sewing and altering clothes to reshape them into something new; Finding “new” clothing in thrift stores and personalizing them with a bit of natural dye; Mending! Ms. Rodabaugh (a Mills College alum) shows how to mend and this is not Grandma’s way. We learn how to turn a hole in a pair of jeans into an attractive embellishment. A rip in a woven shirt becomes an interesting patch. A beloved knit sweater will live again with colorful repairs.

Each chapter includes photos and an introduction to the concepts as well as commentary from various artists, designers, and authors who are part of the mending movement.

Making, thrifting, mending are the new trends in fashion. Pass it on.

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

If we are going to create a Slow Fashion future, it’s not going to look like any fashion trend of the past. It will embrace circularity and invention. Yet it will heed the limits of nonrenewable resources and recognize when we’ve used enough. Or too much. It will look to upcycle, recycle, reuse whenever possible. It will be low-waste and zero-waste. It will prioritize carbon-neutral to carbon-beneficial. Circularity will become the new norm – designers and makers will conceive of garments with the intention of using materials again.

Katrina Rodabaugh – artist and author.

This quote is from the introduction of Ms. Rodabaugh’s recent book, Make Thrift Mend: Stitch, Patch, Darn, Plant-Dye & Love Your Wardrobe (Abrams).

Book review tomorrow – come back to ODFL and read all about Make Thrift Mend.

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