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Posts Tagged ‘style’

Annabelle Wallis. Photo: Tom Munro

When I’m in a business meeting, there’s a strength that has to come in with me. I’m wearing a tailored jacket; I’m wearing jewelry … My mum has always said that the way you dress is also out of respect for the person who’s receiving you. So, if someone invites me to something or I go to an event, I make sure I’m arriving in respect of their gesture.

Annabelle Wallis, British actress and Cartier ambassador.

This quote is from an insert in Elle magazine, August 2021. A collaboration between Elle and Cartier, the insert is all about the iconic jewelry pieces, such as the Trinity ring and Panthere watch, designed by Cartier.

I always think about how I’m dressed when I attend a conference, attend a press preview, or when I interview someone in person. These are professional situations and I want to dress appropriately. I find that anything tailored makes me feel polished and presentable. Often I’ll wear one of my vintage tailored jackets with an added brooch on the lapel; the vintage aspect takes it out of the ordinary and the brooch gives the look a personal touch.

Ms. Wallis’ comment about dress and respect reminds me of a wedding that I went to years ago. It was a traditional wedding – the bride in a white wedding gown, the groom in a black tuxedo. The guests were dressed in their celebratory finest, except one guy. This guy, who showed up late, was not wearing his finest (I assume), but instead a short sleeve t-shirt, a pair of shorts, and … hiking boots! Talk about blatant lack of respect.

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Photo: Harper’s Bazaar

I’d like to eradicate the categories of menswear and womenswear. Fluidity offers an alternate way of being, crossing and merging masculine and feminine.

Harris Reed, British/American gender-fluid fashion designer.

This quote is from a brief article in Harper’s Bazaar, November 2020.

Mr. Reed is a graduate of Central Saint Martins in London. In addition to designing for his own clothing line, he has worked for Gucci, and he created the unique looks for British pop star Harry Styles’ photos in Vogue magazine.

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It’s not about rejecting fashion, but rather about valuing the fashion you have.

Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic at the New York Times.

Official White House portrait of First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Photo: Cheriss May.

This quote is from an article Ms. Friedman wrote for the NYT about the fashions our First Lady Dr. Jill Biden chose to wear during President Biden’s recent visit to the UK for the G7 summit.

Dr. Biden shopped her closet and sported several outfits she’d worn before, perhaps sending a message of fashion sustainability, “reduce, recycle, reuse.” And love, which was actually spelled out on the back of her jacket. Ms. Friedman goes on to comment that Dr. Biden’s style is informal and “friendly.”

I think Dr. Biden’s style is in keeping with other First Ladies such as Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton: nondescript and appropriate. It’s not showy nor is it dowdy. There’s is some thought and care put into it but it doesn’t overshadow anything. I don’t think Dr. Biden is all that interested in fashion, but she always looks presentable.

Back to the sustainability message – since the fashion industry is among the biggest polluters, sustainability is going to be key as we move deeper into climate change hell. What’s stylish is what we already own and isn’t further hurting the planet.

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Keeping up with my interest in historic clothing and layering, I decided to make a tabard.

Tabards date back to the Middle Ages and are like long vests, but with no sleeves and no side seams. Sometimes a tab of fabric might have been attached at the waist to connect the back and front panels. Monks wore tabards (pictured right) as did the military and later, servants. In the early 18th century, fashionable women sported tabards made of embellished luxurious fabrics such as velvet (see image at the bottom).

I like the look of tabards and fashioned my own out of a loose weave cotton. The simple silhouette isn’t hard to construct; I simply cut the fabric, sewed the two panels together at the shoulders, and finished the edges. The trickiest part was cutting the neckline and that’s not perfect, but luckily it doesn’t ruin the piece. What worked out really well are the tabs, bojagi tabs.

Bojagi is traditional Korean wrapping cloth made out of scraps of fabric. What was an every day necessity is now an art form and the bojagi technique of exposed hand stitching is used for much more than wrapping cloth. I thought the patchwork of color in a medium weight silk would make an interesting addition.

I’m not sure how I will sport my tabard, but I know I’ll have fun creating outfits.

NOTE: Please excuse any blips or inconsistences in the images or the font. WordPress has recently changed their editor platform, which is causing problems.

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When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco on the occasional Sunday afternoon my father and I would drive to Chinatown, park (because you still could), and walk around looking in all the shops. The stuff in the stores was fun to peruse but I was more captivated by the older Chinese people I saw strolling along Grant Street and the unique way they dressed. Their style was was bold and bright – mixing patterns with checks, layering unexpected color combinations such as red with yellow, and sporting something like my Mary Janes but made from black fabric (they looked so cute and comfortable).

Fast-forward quite a few years and not only is Chinatown style still thriving (with a new generation of older people), but we have a recently published book on the subject by photographer Andria Lo and journalist Valerie Luu, Chinatown Pretty: Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors (Chronicle Books, 2020).

As second generation Asian Americans, Lo and Luu have a shared fascination with the clothing of poh pohs (grandmas) and gung gungs (grandfathers) in San Francisco Chinatown. Curious about the people behind the clothes, they began to approach individuals on the street and ask how they put their outfits together. “The Chinatown seniors’ dress and demeanor,” the authors explain, “also reminded us of our own grandparents – their permed hair, their sock-and-sandal combinations, and the way their expressions could switch between extremely tough (and intimidating) and overwhelmingly affectionate.”

Their interest turned into a book, which covers six city Chinatowns – SF, Oakland, LA, Chicago, Manhattan, Vancouver, BC. – and dozens of stylin’ seniors. The people are as varied as the clothing with ages ranging from 60 to one woman over 100. Most immigrated decades ago from China or Vietnam, and they have worked as seamstresses, gardeners, store clerks, vendors, accounts, and social workers. Each person featured shares a lot or very little of their story and the authors say that 90 percent of the people they approached declined to be photographed or interviewed.

A theme among those featured was that their style is unintentional. They just wear what they have, some of it vintage, some hand-me-downs or purchased on sale. “At my age we don’t care about fashion,” says Show Chun Change from Vancouver Chinatown. “We just wear what’s comfortable.” How it’s all put together is more of a practical consideration, such as layering to keep out the cold. One gentleman had hand stitched several hats together for warmth and another used safety pins to close a buttonless vest, which made for a very cool look. I love that their style came from their ingenuity. (See slideshow.)

Several among the group do dress with intention. Anna Lee is in her 90s and immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in 1989. She worked as an accountant and a social worker and although now retired she still enjoys dressing well in her custom-made dresses, high-waisted pants, and silk blouses, all accessorized with beaded necklaces she makes herself. (See first picture in slideshow.)

Another woman’s more artistic flair reminded me of the Advanced Style set, a group of older women in NYC who have become style superstars thanks to photographer Ari Seth Cohen. Dorothy G.C. Quock (called Polka Dot), 75, was born and still lives in SF Chinatown and works as a tour guide there. (See picture nine in the slideshow.) Growing up, Polka Dot spent a lot of time where her mother worked as a seamstress at the sweatshop that manufactured Levi’s:

As a preschooler, she got her first experience trimming thread ends. In second grade, she learned how to use an embosser to stamp the Levi’s logo onto the leather tag. At age ten, she mastered the buttonhole, which appeared on Levi’s before zippers became the norm.

I enjoyed the glimpses into these people’s lives and I also appreciated that the authors included a brief history of each of the six Chinatowns.

Chinatown Pretty is a fun read, a visual treat, and important documentation of an overlooked segment of fashion history.

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No one can face a crisis unless they are suitably clad.

Louise Cray, fictional character from the mystery novel Madam, Will You Talk? By Mary Stewart.

I enjoy a good mystery and I recently discovered a new-to-me mystery author, Mary Stewart (1916-2014). Apparently her books were categorized Mystery/Romance back in the day, but don’t let the romance part put you off. There is just a touch of romance; the focus is the independent female protagonist and the mystery she is there to solve, not to mention all the adventures she has along the way.

Madam, Will You Talk? was published in 1955 and I recently happened upon a BBC radio dramatized version. Click here to listen.

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IMG_20190102_172442218_HDRFashion is what hangs on a rack. But what’s in your closet, that’s your style. 

Manuel Cuevas – American fashion designer.

Mr. Cuevas immigrated to Los Angles from Mexico in the early 1950s when he got a job making slacks. One day he was lucky enough to meet costumer Edith Head and began costuming Hollywood films and television shows, including Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and The Big Valley. He has also worked with celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Prince, David Bowie. and Lady Gaga.

What’s hanging in your closet? Do you feel your clothes reflect who you are? The start of a new year is a good time to consider a new look.

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On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me … a reindeer?

 

This charming card was sent to me one year from my friend Lica. I like the little girl’s outfit. Red and gray are a nice alternative to red and green and what a treat to see her in a skirt (rather than jeans or leggings or sweat pants) paired with cute boots and striped tights. I’m pretty sure this little girl hails from somewhere in Europe. The outfit feels very European.

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Iris Apfel. Photo: Roger Davies. Published in Harper Design.

Most people today don’t look very put-together or very pretty. They look like they fell out of bed or jumped out of a rag pile. I think athleisure is just ridiculous. It has its place if you’re at leisure or at a gym, but I think you owe it to your fellow man to look as pleasant as possible. It’s nice to feast your eyes upon something beautiful, not something that’s a mess. Recently I was at Le Cirque, and in walked this beautiful young lady, obviously from out of town. It was a Saturday evening, and she was all gussied up in a long dress. Her escort was nicely dressed too. But they were seated just across from two slobs, which spoiled the whole effect. If you want to lounge around, then don’t go out. 

Iris Apfel – fashion icon (at age 96).

I once met a woman who said to me that she just can’t be anywhere that isn’t pretty. That’s kind of a tall order in this world, but I understand what she means. Nothing feels as good, tastes as good, or lifts the spirit when in an unattractive environment.

Ms. Apfel says it like it is when it comes to how people dress these days. Look over any crowd on the street, in a museum, park, airport and notice that everyone looks like “… they fell out of bed or jumped out of a rag pile.” (LOL) Grown men in little boy shorts and baggy t-shirts, topped with a baseball cap. Women in tight-fitting yoga or workout clothes and flip-flops, often dingy bra straps exposed as if they were an added accessory. It’s not a pretty picture and frankly, it gets depressing.

I’ve come to just blocking it all out. The one upside is that those rare individuals who do make an effort stand out like a colorful wildflower in a patch of dried weeds. What a treat it is when I spot someone who looks nice.

This is not to say that we all should be “dressed-up.” Casual is good. A simple skirt and blouse; a pair of slacks and an Oxford shirt. It’s oversized, baggy, or too tight clothing that’s unattractive and particularly worn at the wrong time/place (anywhere outside of a gym). Even leggings aren’t necessarily a bad thing if made from a ponte knit and paired with a tunic.

But apparently Ms. Apfel and I are in the minority and I don’t think the fashion pendulum is ever going to swing back to everyone making an effort to dress well, or appropriately. Sloppy is the accepted norm and therefore there’s no incentive to reach toward a higher standard.

OK, I’m stepping off my (fashionable) soapbox now.

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Danielle-Steel-QuotesStyle simply IS. You can’t buy it. You can’t pay people to give it to you, and you cannot fake it. You have it or you don’t. Truly stylish, drop dead chic women have style at 15 or 97. It really is ageless … The trend today of being dressed “by someone” makes most women appear to be wearing someone else’s looks, or as if they’ve borrowed their clothes … Women need to be braver about wearing their own style and looks, even if they make some mistakes. The mistakes can be cool too!

Danielle Steel, romance novelist and San Francisco socialite. This quote was taken from an essay Ms. Steel wrote for Harper’s Bazaar (November 2017).

I spotted Ms. Steel one time when I was on assignment covering the reopening of the Chanel store on Maiden Lane in San Francisco. She was sporting a fur coat and seemingly having fun trying on shoes.

As for having style, well, sure some women (and men) just have a sense for what is stylish but I don’t know that one who perhaps doesn’t have a natural affinity can’t figure it out. If someone really wants to pay attention and work on it, they too can have style. Why not? And that’s where “being dressed by someone” can help. A stylist acts as a guide and gets their client on the right track. It’s true you can’t buy style and no one can give it to you. It has to come from within, so to speak. But it is something that can develop. I think it’s the process of developing and growing that makes fashion fun.

Speaking of style of a different sort, Ms. Steel evidently still types her manuscripts on a typewriter. HB published her original typed version complete with cross outs and handwritten edits. Now that’s true (not fake) STYLE.

 

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