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Posts Tagged ‘fashion books’

Photo by Ulysses Ortega.

I didn’t just want to be someone who bought clothes. I wanted to learn about them. So, I collected them, wrote about them, and have had a life of helping to get exhibitions off the ground.

Christine Suppes – fashion collector and the author of the book Electric Fashion (Skira), which is a photo documentary of her couture collection. Photos by fashion photographer Frederic Aranda.

This quote is from the article, The Collector’s Eye, by Alison S. Cohn, in Harper’s Bazaar, Dec. 2022/Jan. 2023.

Suppes, a resident of Palo Alto, CA recently donated more than 500 pieces of her couture fashion collection to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Her donation includes pieces by Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga. (And you heard it here first, in January 2024 the de Young Museum, inspired by Suppes donation, will open a fashion exhibition featuring the legacy of some of the Bay Area’s most fashionable women both past and present.)

As a member of Costume Society of America, I have heard and read discussions about museums accepting fashion donations. Should they? What should they accept? How and where will they preserve the clothing? It goes hand in hand with the general discussion over whether or not fashion belongs in museums at all. The biggest and much debated question – is fashion art?

The truth is fashion exhibits bring in money – especially those that include popular designer names. I would venture so say that a collection of couture clothing would be welcomed at any museum.

When I was in Seattle a few years ago for a fashion history conference, I attended a fashion exhibit at The Museum of History and Industry. This regional-focused exhibit, called Seattle Style: Fashion/Function, highlighted vintage and modern clothing owned by local people mostly purchased from local department stores and boutiques. It was by no means a spectacle exhibit and that’s why I enjoyed it so much. The fashions on display gave us a peek into what the people of Seattle wore in sunny weather and in rain; to the theater; to the 1962 World’s Fair; or just to work and the grocery store. Regional style, dictated by weather, culture, and tradition, is a fascinating subject and as much as I enjoy “big fashion” and the impeccable crafting of couture, I’m also interested in everyday fashion, particularly from past eras.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming de Young fashion exhibit and learning how Bay Area style is perceived.

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There is undeniably an old-fashioned air around brooches, but there are ways of wearing them to look more up-to-date. Wearing with knitwear rather than formal day dress can jazz up a plain jumper, or go big and bold a la Lady Gaga in Schiaparelli at the US inauguration, for a modern take on this most regal of accessories.

Alicia Healey – Former employee of Queen Elizabeth, regular contributor to The Spectator and author of Wardrobe Wisdom From a Royal Lady’s Maid (National Trust).

This quote is from The Art of the Brooch published in The Spectator magazine, July 25, 2022.

A collection of vintage crown brooches from Collectible Costume Jewelry (Collector Books). Wear one of these on a headband or pin it to a fabric handbag.

It does seem that brooches have slipped into obscurity. But not with some of us. I’m a big fan and I like to place my brooches in unexpected places. For example I wear a bee brooch on the cuff of my denim jacket. I have a big black and white butterfly brooch that sits atop a black beret. Any brooch placed on the shoulder of a sweater adds more interest that if worn elsewhere. Also, a collection of small brooches worn together on a lapel will catch the eye. Brooches offer a lot of style and can perk up any outfit. I think the key for a more modern look is to not to take them too seriously and just have fun. Think outside the brooch box.

Collection of whimsical insect brooches pictured in Collectible Costume Jewelry (Collector Books).

Brooches make excellent holiday gifts and interesting vintage brooches can be found at thrift stores for a reasonable price. There’s still time to hit your local thrift store and find a unique gift for some lucky person in your life, or you!

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Catherine Blair. Photo: Judy Rogac for Harper’s Bazaar.

Maybe the (Catholic-school) uniform that I complained about was a good idea in that it showed that it’s not awful to wear the same thing. And I often think when I see somebody who’s not terribly well-dressed but has tons of clothes, if she had just restricted her shopping a bit.

Catherine “Deeda” Blair – NY society doyenne, medical philanthropist, and mental-health and brain research advocate.

This quote is from an interview with Ms. Blair in Harper’s Bazaar, September 2022. Her first book, Deeda Blair: Food, Flowers, and Fantasy (Rizzoli International Publications) is just out.

It’s funny to think that people who are “not terribly well-dressed” have a lot of clothes, but it’s true. Instead of piles of fast fashion, just a few quality classics would be so much better for the environment as well as one’s bank account.

Uniforms can help with that. What I mean is a personal uniform – a go-to look that is comfortable and makes the wearer feel confident. For example, I wear skirts and various tops. The tops depend on the weather and what I’m doing. I might wear a blouse if I’m working or a t-shirt if I’m running errands. It was my mom who inspired my look. When I was growing up, she wore skirts and button down shirts for her daily uniform. She had maybe four skirts (wool tweeds and cotton pleats) and half a dozen shirts in white. She layered with sweaters as do I. For me skirts are easy and always looks stylish, particularly with an added hat, scarf, and some eye-catching jewelry.

I must confess that I have quite a few skirts in cotton for spring/summer and in wool for autumn/winter. But I do wear them!

How about you? Do you have a personal uniform? Please share.

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Tie-dye dress from Tory Burch Spring/Summer 2013.

I have loved tie-dye since high school. It reminds me of my first concert and endless summers. Many cultures, like those in India, Japan, and Africa, have a tradition of dyeing that is unique to their region. The tie-dye pieces from our Spring 2013 runway were handmade by women artisans in the Republic of Guinea, through a partnership with the non-profit organization – There is No Limit Foundation. These artists are keeping traditions alive, while supporting their families and communities.

Tory Burch – American fashion designer.

This quote is from the book Tory Burch: In Color (Abrams).

I would wear this dress by Tory Burch. I like the simple shirtwaist silhouette, which allows the tie-dye fabric to be the focus. I also like the classic indigo blue and white combo. So crisp and chic! There’s something about dark blue with a touch of white that feels just right for September – back to school, back to work, in my case back to the writing desk – on late summer afternoons, just before we switch to autumnal colors.

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I Am Coco by Isabel Pin

Award winning illustrator Isabel Pin has just published her latest children’s book, I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel (Prestel Publishing).

Much has been written about the designer/fashion icon Coco Chanel (even for children), however, there’s something quite unique and compelling about Ms. Pin’s addition to the stack. As the author and illustrator, she gives readers an overview of Chanel’s life from young orphan at the turn of the last century to innovative designer to icon, highlighting the big events in her life – short-lived singing career, first shop, love affairs, world wars, daring designs, and her comeback in the late 1950s.

Illustrations From the book I am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel.

Each chapter of the story is concisely written and embellished with colorful illustrations. Although Pin’s depictions bear little resemblance to Chanel, her simple drawings with a swipe of added color grew on me. (Her style actually reminds me of mid-century fashion illustrations, in particular Andy Warhol, who was a fashion illustrator in his early career.) Pin’s images of Chanel, her life, and designs are as delightful to look at as a plate of pink and green French Macarons.

Chanel’s story takes place in the world of fashion, but the message within her story is perseverance. In addition to learning about Chanel’s life and achievements, young readers will find in I Am Coco fashion history, inspiration, and encouragement to follow their ambitions.

I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin is targeted for readers aged six to nine, but this its a fun read at any age.

(Thank you Prestel Publishing and Media Masters Publicity for providing a review copy to ODFL.)

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Illustration of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin from I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel (Prestel Publishing).

In order to be irreplaceable, one has to be different.

So true! This reminds me of something a local clothing manufacturer once told me. He said that people don’t want to stand out in their fashion. They want to blend in.

I can understand that. It’s easier to blend in. To not be different. Particularly in our modern world, where life is so hectic. BUT, it’s a lot less fun.

Come back to ODFL tomorrow for my review of I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by award winning children’s book illustrator, Isabel Pin.

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The pleasure that I felt as a young adult when I’d shop for clothes at the mall has been replaced by the pleasure of selecting a pattern, choosing my fabric, and sewing a garment that fits perfectly. And the best thing about this process is that the pleasure is prolonged. I’m not engaging in a quick transaction. Rather, I’m spending days creating my clothing, enjoying the process as much as I enjoy wearing the finished garment.

Jen Hewett, Fabric designer and author of the book, The Long Thread: Women of Color on Craft Community and Connection.

This quote is from the book, Make Mend Thrift by Katrina Rudabaugh.

I completely agree with Ms. Hewett. I take great satisfaction from creating my own clothing and accessories. Every step from choosing the fabric to sewing on the last button is a pleasure. I take my time with every project (sewing only on the weekends as a special treat) and I enjoy looking forward to when and how I’ll wear my new skirt, dress, or what I’m working on now – summer handbag.

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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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Peggy’s mother had insisted that she go to San Francisco’s best store, I. Magnin, for her travel suit. Upon entering, they made a beeline for the ‘moderate’ floor. It wasn’t ‘couture,’ one floor up, where they seldom ventured, but nor did it mean thumbing through the racks. The moderate floor came with a clothing advisor, who greeted Peggy’s mother by name, led them over to a damask-covered love-seat and asked Peggy to describe the purpose of her outfit. She was going to New York, she explained, for the month of June, staying at the Barbizon and working with Mademoiselle magazine offices on Madison Avenue. She would need to appear sophisticated while she mingled with editors, advertisers, and the New York literati. Peggy left I. Magnin with a navy two-piece dress in summer wool – a long tunic top that buttoned up the front and a pleated skirt underneath. There was even a detachable white collar.

From The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren (Simon & Schuster).

The Barbizon – the first women-only residential hotel – was built in 1927 on the Upper East side in Manhattan. Standing 23 stories tall, the Barbizon was meant to be a safe alternative for the new modern woman escaping her dull hometown to seek freedom and adventure in New York City.

In The Barbizon, Ms. Bren has detailed the rich and fascinating history of this landmark hotel. From the stories of some of the prominent residents, such as Molly Brown, Grace Kelly, and Sylvia Plath, to the link with Mademoiselle magazine and their Guest Editor program, Ms. Bren has done extensive research and crafted a compelling read. There’s a bit of everything: women’s history, fashion history, journalism history, mid-century glamour, the darkness of depression and loneliness, and more. The pages are packed and I had a hard time putting this book down. In fact, I think I’m going to read it again.

Oh, and Happy Hearts Day!

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I was sad to hear that fashion great, André Leon Talley, died of a heart attack on January 18th. He was 73.

Recently I read his latest memoir The Chiffon Trenches (Ballantine Books). What a life he had – he studied French literature and spoke the language fluently; he worked with Diana Vreeland, Andy Warhol, and later Anna Wintour; he lived in Paris and worked there as a correspondent reporting on fashion for WWD; he was creative director at Vogue magazine. His many friends included Karl Lagerfeld and Oscar de le Renta.

His life it seemed was charmed and yet, it wasn’t easy.

Both Wintour and Lagerfeld (people he considered good friends) dumped Talley, in 2013 he was let go from his position as the red carpet interviewer at the Met Gala, and he encountered racism and homophobia throughout his career.

He said in a radio interview that grace and style were his armor.

Grace and style (and a little sadness) were certainly what I saw from Talley at the Press Preview for the San Francisco de Young Museum’s Oscar de la Renta retrospective exhibit in 2016. He was the guest curator for the exhibit and in speaking to the press he expressed great admiration and affection for de la Renta, who was the first to take a young Talley under his wing. It was a lasting friendship, perhaps one of the few in the fashion trenches. (The celebrated designer died in 2014.)

Talley’s message of grace and style is something to remember. I don’t think anyone travels though life smoothly. The journey has obstacles and challenges of many kinds and putting on that suit, dress, hat, helps elevate the spirit on those particularly rough days. At least that’s what works for me.

Thank you, Mr. Talley. Your grand sense of style will be missed.

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