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Posts Tagged ‘fashion history’

Hair von Katja Spitzer

Did you know that out of 100 people, only two or three are natural redheads? In Scotland and Ireland one out of ten people is a redhead. Go redheads!

There are more hair facts to read in Katja Spizter’s new illustrated book, Hair: From Moptops to Mohicans, Afros to Cornrows (Prestel Press). Hair is complicated, but Ms. Spitzer has approached the subject head on (pun intended), briefly covering the history of hair and hairstyles from various cultures. The text is straight forward, aimed at young readers 5-7. The fun and color-saturated illustrations are appealing to all ages.

Ms. Spitzer is a Berlin based freelance illustrator. She’s won many awards and has exhibited her artwork in Germany and the UK.

I truly enjoyed this book for the information, the illustrations, and the celebration of all hairstyles from braids to beards. I think kids will love Ms. Spitzer’s Hair and perhaps find a style in her illustrations that they want to sport themselves.

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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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Designing is like a living organism in that it pursues what matters for its well-being and continuity.

Issey Miyake (1938-2022), Renowned Japanese fashion designer.

Miyake was part of the avant-garde fashion movement of the 1980s and 90s, along with Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. Although based in Japan and rooted in Japanese aesthetics, the designs and designers of the movement became global hits. GQ said in 1984, “These are clothes that conform to no fashion standards. They seek to abolish form. They hang loosely on the body in oversized unusual silhouettes.” Additionally the fabric was often in black and had raw unfinished edges.

In 1970 Miyake established the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo where he experimented with textiles and design, following his own philosophy of creating clothing reflective of its time while always staying socially conscious.

RIP Issey Miyake.

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Born in Italy to a wealthy family in 1940, Elsa Peretti became a model while living in Spain in the 1960s where she also started playing with jewelry design inspired by objects she found at flea markets. When she later moved to New York City she met the fashion designer Halston and he included her works in his fashion shows. It was then that she created some of her signature designs such as the bone cuff bracelet and the open heart pendant. Liza Minnelli was among the first celebrities to sport her jewelry and I noticed in a recent interview that she’s still wearing her bone cuff bracelets – one on each wrist!

(Later Ms. Peretti designed the teardrop shape bottle for Halston’s perfume.)

Her unusual sculptural pieces caught the eye of many, including Bloomingdales, who bought her line and in 1972 designated a small corner of the store to her wares and called it “Peretti Boutique.” After winning several awards, Peretti contracted with Tiffany & Co. in 1974 to design exclusively for them. She later told a reporter that it was Halston himself who took her to Tiffany to discuss the contract.

While at Tiffany her designs became iconic – the open heart, the bone cuff, mesh necklace – and these modern, simple designs in silver attracted younger clients.

The Bone Cuff designed by Elsa Peretti.

When Ms. Peretti died in 2021 the jewelry magazine, The Aventurine, said that the designer put Tiffany in touch with what was happening on the street by offering more affordable jewelry. I’m not so sure they are affordable now, but they are still selling. All of the Elsa Peretti designs have become classics, worn today by the likes of Meghan Markle, Sarah Jessica Parker (as Carrie Bradshaw), and Margot Robbie. It’s been reported that Ms. Peretti’s jewelry represented 10 percent of Tiffany sales between 2009 and 2011, and when her contract was renegotiated in 2012 she was given a one-time payment of close to 50 million dollars.

Image from the Tiffany website. This is the smallest of the open heart earrings and the price tag? $1050.

I remember the open heart design, which I wanted so badly when I was in high school. At the time I did a lot of babysitting and one of my regular jobs was for the family of the owner of a car dealership in San Francisco. The couple had a baby daughter and the mother hired me to sit one afternoon a week. I really liked the mom, who was super chic with short blonde hair. I looked forward to seeing each week what she might be wearing to wherever she was going – a meeting, a luncheon, a photoshoot at her husband’s dealership. She wore silk blouses with midi-length skirts and boots and she always sported a gold pair of Elsa Peretti open heart earrings from Tiffany.

Oh, how I wanted those earrings too. But I wasn’t making so much money babysitting to buy them for myself. (I’m a little surprised that I didn’t say something to my mother or my father, as I think a pair would have appeared under the Christmas tree one year.) The earrings were too much for my bank account, but back then they weren’t as expensive as they are now. I suppose it was a passing whim on my part, but one that I remember to this day.

Ms. Peretti appeared in the 2019 documentary film Halston (if you haven’t see that, you should!). I would say that her designs have certainly stood the test of time.

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Summer at Tiffany (Harper Collins Publishers, 2007) is a memoir by Marjorie Hart, music professor, celloist, and former chairman of the Fine Arts Department at the University of San Diego. Memoirs are often about an interesting slice of a person’s life and this one tells the story of Ms. Hart’s (née Jacobson) summer in 1945 when she and her best friend, Marty, both students at University of Iowa, traveled to New York City to work for the summer.

Initially the two pals thought they would have it made working in the Big Apple. Through sorority sister connections they had a place to stay for the summer and they had heard that getting “shopgirl” jobs was a cinch. After much convincing of their families to let them go, Marjorie and Marty dressed in their best and boarded the train headed for adventure. But upon arrival, they discovered getting a job wasn’t a cinch after all. They were turned away from all the best stores – Lord & Taylor, Bonwit Teller, Sacks Fifth Avenue and others. Marjorie asks herself “What was this wild rumor that finding a job in Manhattan was easy?”

Indeed it was no easy task, but once again connections played a role in helping our two heroines land positions as pages at the one and only Tiffany jewelry store on 5th Avenue and E. 57the Street. Wait, it gets better – they are the first women to ever work on the sales floor (WWII is raging and all the men are abroad fighting) AND they are outfitted in custom Tiffany blue shirtwaist dresses topped with leather messenger bags to carry the treasures upstairs to either the credit department or the repair department. And so the summer of adventure beings – dinner dates with servicemen, a trip to the ocean, a brush with Elizabeth Taylor, VJ Day in Times Square.

I have to say, crazy at it sounds, it took me some time to warm up to Summer at Tiffany. I started reading it back when it was first published, but I soon put it down. Although well written and lively, I just couldn’t get into it. Fast forward to earlier this year when I was looking for a lighthearted book to read to my mother. I had been reading to Mom for a few years since she could no longer see due to the eye disease Macular Degeneration. I thought this book might appeal to Mom for the era and the jewelry, however, to be honest, I suspect that by then she wasn’t really connecting to much of anything; she just liked the sound of my voice.

This time around I really enjoyed Marjorie and Marty and all the details of Tiffany and how it operated back in the day. I followed with interest Marjorie’s youthful romance with a young gentleman in the Navy and I enjoyed the humorous misadventures that she got into – like the time a strand of pearls broke and ended up on the elevator floor. What I particularly appreciated about the book was its unaffected tone and the transportation back to a more charming time when women dressed up for dates and wrote letters to their families “back home.”

I enjoyed the book so much I kind of savored it, reading it slowly to linger just a bit longer in Marjorie’s world. I read the next to the last chapter the last afternoon I spent with my mother. She was awake, talking and aware, and I was completely unaware that that would be the last time I read to her.

After she died, I brought the book home and it sat on my desk for weeks. I just couldn’t bring myself to read that last chapter. Somehow, for me, coming to the end of the book was to step further away from those days that I sat with my mother reading to her. The End meant the end for us too.

Once I was ready, I did read that last chapter and I read it aloud. Instead of making me feel more apart from my mother, the act of reading aloud helped me to feel connected. I like to think that Mom was listening from wherever she might be now.

Summer at Tiffany is a delightful visit back in time and just the right read for a sunny afternoon under an umbrella in the garden, perhaps sipping a lemonade or a cocktail. (Maybe you’d like to share it with your mom.)

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Marjorie Hart (née Jacobson) in 1945 and Ms. Hart in 2007.

I wore my best outfit on the train: a black three-piece linen-like suit, sling-back pumps, and my all time favorite, a broad-brimmed cartwheel hat. Everything was black (what was I thinking?), and I carried my white gloves and a herring-bone coat, which doubled as a raincoat, with a blue scarf stashed in the pocket. I must say I felt very Harper’s Bazaar-ish when that train came down the tracks.

Marjorie Hart – music professor and author of Summer at Tiffany (Harper Collins Publishers, 2007).

Ms. Hart is speaking about her outfit for the train ride from Iowa City, where she was a student at the University of Iowa, to New York City where she and her friend, Marty planned to work for the summer in 1945.

I keep thinking about those sling-back shoes. My experience with sling-backs is not positive – because I have a narrow heel, the strap tended to slip off. The only sling-backs I have in my closet now are a pair of kitten heels that belonged to my mother. She bought them in Paris back in 1964. They are lovely but they won’t stay on my foot and I think my mother had the same issue. I imagine Ms. Hart running around on and off trains, walking the streets of NYC with her sling-back straps slipping. In fact she does tell a story about aching feet after a very hot day walking in and out of NYC department stores looking for work. But no slipping straps.

Come back tomorrow for my review of Summer at Tiffany.

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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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