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Mary Alice Stephenson. Photo from Brooklyn Street Style.

Some people are just born with style and they know what to do and how to do it. I was born with a passion for all things stylish. I learned by being surrounded by stylish people. And I learned the ingredients and elements of style. Many of the most stylish people make it look easy, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it. 

Mary Alice Stephenson, fashion director and founder of Glam4Good an organization addressing social change through style.

Today’s quote is another one from Brooklyn Street Style (Abrams Image, 2015).

I agree with Stephenson that one can learn from being around stylish people. The best inspiration comes from other people – in our lives, work, community, and on the street.

Because I live in a place void of stylish people, I often wonder how I might be challenged and inspired if I were surrounded by other fashionables who stay on top of their game. What am I missing?

As it is, I dress for myself by myself with ideas that come from media like magazines, television, and old movies. Also, travel! I love to get AWAY and see how other people do it. I was greatly influenced by my trip to South Korea last year. The UK is also another place I like to visit and see what’s going on in fashion. After my trip in 2016 I came home and made a cape, which was inspired by Cordings in London.

(Interestingly, there are other cities that I noticed have no style – Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and Philadelphia).

This year I’m off to Brooklyn New York, where I’m sure to find lots of inspiration.

Let’s see what I come away with.

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Image: Legion of Honor.

On now at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco is James Tissot: Fashion & Faith, an exhibition of the French artist’s works from the mid-1800s.

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Detail of The Artists’ Wives, 1885.

James Tissot (1836-1902) is known for his depiction of modern society in France and England. He captured moments of time of everyday society life with such vivid detail that it’s as if the viewer might be able to walk right into the scene.

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Too Early, 1873. Image: Legion of Honor.

Featured in this exhibition are approximately 60 works including portraits and illustrations. From a fashion perspective Tissot is a visual treat of color, pattern, and style. The ladies and the gentlemen in his pieces are fully fashioned with each ruffle and drape, every layer and wrinkle documented so precisely one just wants to stand and stare.

 

Friends with the artist Edgar Degas, Tissot declined an invitation to exhibit with the Impressionists and instead moved to London where he began a relationship with his muse and model Kathleen Newton. Tissot returned to Paris 10 years later after Newton’s death of consumption.

At this point he was captivated by the popular spiritualism movement and his work took a turn toward his Catholic faith, as he focused on stories in the Old Testament. His approach to the stories were unique at the time –  for example in What Our Lord Saw from the Cross (1894) shows the crucifixion from the perspective of Jesus on the cross.

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James Tissot self portrait, 1865. Image: Legion of Honor.

 

A unique talent in his era but little known today, Tissot is a worthwhile discovery particularly for those of us who enjoy fashion history.

James Tissot: Fashion & Faith is on at the Legion of Honor through February 9, 2020.

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Halo headpiece by Jennifer Behr. Photo from the book, Brooklyn Street style: The No- Rules Guide to Fashion.

You have to be a bit brave to put something on your head. It’s something unexpected, a mark of individuality. It sets you apart from the average woman on the street. 

Jennifer Behr, Brooklyn-Based headpiece designer. 

A hat, a scarf, a flower, a bejeweled headpiece … anything atop the head is indeed something different. I agree that you have to be up for donning anything that is unusual. Hats, maybe not so much unless it’s a really dramatic hat. But a headpiece is unusual and will for sure provoke a few stares and comments.

To get ready for a visit to Brooklyn, NY I read Brooklyn Street Style by Anya Sacharow and Shawn Dahl. This is a fun book about the changing and diverse styles of  modern Brooklyn. Certainly nothing like corporate high fashion New York City, Brooklyn is a city of individuals.

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Spooky ladies who lunch. AKA Witchy Mom and Flapper Ghost. c. 2000

When I was nine or ten my mother really got into the spooky spirit and answered the door on Halloween ready to hand out candy dressed as a witch in a caftan and pointy black flats. At the time she was the only mom to dress in costume and all the kids loved it. (This was way back when Halloween still belonged to kids.)

Many years later we started a new tradition of a quiet mother/daughter celebration. We dressed in costume and went out to lunch or dinner. We were the only ones who did this and I added to the festivities by handing out candy to anyone who crossed our path.

My mother says Halloween is her favorite holiday so we continue the lunch tradition sans full costume but we might wear a spooky accessory, like skeleton earrings in silver or a black cat stole. I still hand out candy.

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from us to you!

 

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1016201722230562531Even witches have to have pockets. 

Margaret Hamilton (1902-1985), American actress best known for playing the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz.

All ladies (witches too) like pockets!

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Lee Miller, war correspondent for Vogue, WWII.

… Lee has put herself together. She wears her new panne velvet* dress, peacock blue, tight through the hips and flaring out in graduated pleats that twirl around her legs as she walks. She worried before she arrived that it was too dressy, but now that she is here she doesn’t mind standing out. If there is one way to make herself feel better, it is by getting dressed up.

Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light (Little, Brown and Company).

* Panne velvet is velvet fabric with a particular finish that creates luster.

The Age of Light is a fictional account of Lee Miller’s time in Paris in the 1920s when she, an American former model and aspiring photographer, meets and starts a professional and personal relationship with Surrealist Man Ray.

I have read a lot about Lee Miller (1907-1977), who was a unique woman in her time and who led an interesting life of fashion and art, travel and war. She was hired by US Vogue magazine to photograph and write about what she was witnessing in Europe during WWII.  I must say that I prefer the non-fiction books on Miller. Although The Age of Light is well written, I found that I didn’t enjoy reading what Scharer thinks were Miller’s thoughts and feelings. It kind of spoils my own view of her. But I do like this quote.

I would recommend the biographies –  Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke and Lee Miller in Fashion by Becky E. Conekin.

 

 

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Dress & skirt inspired by traditional Korean embroidered wedding robe with peony, phoenix, and butterfly motifs and combined with denim. Jin Teok, 1995. This piece was part of the Couture Korea exhibit.

My mother’s generation greatly valued tradition in fashion. Until the day she died, she kept her hair in a bun, as women did in the Joseon Period (1392-1910). She made her own clothes with different materials for each of the four seasons. She wore durumagi, a traditional Korean overcoat, made of silk fabrics called myeongju and jamisa in jade green. In winter she wore cotton-padded durumagi, a scarf made of silk, and rubber shoes, which I used to wipe clean whenever she was about to go out. I grew up in such a traditional family. 

Jin Teok, renowned South Korean fashion designer.

This quote is from the essay, Creating Contrasts in Korean Fashion by Jin Teok from the catalogue for Couture Korea, the exhibit at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum in 2017.

One of the things I noticed when I visited Seoul, South Korea was the contrast of traditional and modern – in the architecture, the food, the old and the young people – existing side by side. Seoul is very much a mixture and in that way it’s fascinating.

Jin Teok started her fashion career in 1965 and has been called a “pioneer of Korean fashion.” Known for blending the silhouettes and motifs of traditional Korean clothing with modern fashion, Teok designed the uniforms for the Korean 1988 Olympic teams and a few years later she designed the Asiana Airlines flight attendant uniforms. She has participated in many international fashion shows, putting Korean fashion in a global spotlight.

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