29 December 2009

Tavi Takes Bazaar

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how Tavi Gevinson would be contributing a piece to Harper's Bazaar and how I worried that the integrity of the magazine might be compromised by this unusual addition. I did, however, insist that I would read her piece with an open and curious mind when the January issue finally arrived in my mailbox. Well, the issue has arrived (with a dazzling cover featuring Kate Hudson, I might add) and I have kept my promise.

I just wish Bazaar would have given us more to absorb. The piece, titled "Tavi's Take," is so short that I could neither get a sense of her writing style (edited, of course), nor fully access her ability to review the fashion collections. So, I was disappointed that Bazaar did not give its readers more exposure to the young blogger, actually. I'm surprised that I just typed that last sentence, but it's true.

In the brief intro to the very brief article, Tavi introduced herself and explained that she had only been blogging since March of 2008. Therefore, she has only really been following fashion since March of 2008. What could someone who hasn't even been following fashion for two years (??!!!??!!) possibly have to say about the collections that would be of interest to the highly fashion-literate readers of Harper's Bazaar? Well, not terribly much in this case. Tavi wrote that the Spring 2010 collections were all about being an individual. OK. "Don't get caught up in what other people think," she suggested. OK. Not exactly ground-breaking reflections, but we'll take it. That advice is certainly true when it comes to her own personal style, which, as I have said before, is honestly refreshing and original. The late Isabella Blow or fashion eccentric Lynn Yaeger would both be proud.

Anyhow, back to the collections. Not surprisingly, her favorite collection for next spring was presented by Rodarte, the label which "discovered" the young blogger and custom-made tights and other delights for her. She also briefly touched upon collections from Viktor & Rolf, Jil Sander, Francisco Costa, and Miu Miu. Nothing ground-breaking, though.

All in all, I was left disappointed with the piece, but only because it was so short. Couldn't Bazaar have given her a little more space? I want to know if she really is potential Carmel Snow material, or just a passing trend, as I suspect is more accurate. Alas, we couldn't determine this from the short article alone. Now if Anna Wintour calls Tavi and asks her to contribute a piece to appear in Vogue (not Teen Vogue; Vogue), I'll have to eat my words.

28 December 2009

New Year's (Fashion) Resolutions

"Doing more with less." This was the motto of my former boss in the U.S. Senate. It was a terrific slogan for his organization and, it turns out, it is an even better philosophy when applied to fashion. Since we could all benefit from learning how to do more with less, I thought that would be the best New Year's resolution I could make (fashion-wise, at least) for 2010. So, here below are my suggestions for doing more with less in your own wardrobe.

** Purchase clothes the way the French do. Buy fewer, but better pieces of higher quality. You should only need a few new pieces each year. That's it.

** Become a mix-master with prints. Etro and Pucci are the inspirations here. The more pieces you are able to mix and wear together, the better (and more interesting!) your outfits will be.

** If you must have a staple, make it your most interesting piece. The piece in my wardrobe that I wear the most is not a black skirt or a navy blazer, but a crazy, green cap sleeve turtleneck with rouching and white polka dots that I bought in Warsaw for 77 zloty. It doesn't sound like it would be versatile, but it's hands-down the piece I wear the most. Learn how to incorporate a psychedelic piece like that into your wardrobe and the outfit combinations will be infinite. It's also a heck of a lot more exciting than building a wardrobe around a black skirt!

** Learn how to dress without black. This may sound earth-shattering to some, but I've found that the people whose personal style I admire the most are those who are able to turn heads and create memorable outfits without sticking to basic black. You'll be able to do a lot more with less once you leave behind the comfort zone of wearing black head to toe. Lighten up. Add color.

** Build outfits around creative accessories. Printed scarves, costume jewelery, textured tights. These are all fantastic ways to add depth and interest to even the most basic of outfits. Accessories truly do transform outfits, and they can be purchased at any price.

** Step out of your comfort zone just this once. Switch up your style. Remember when Tinsley Mortimer and Vogue fashion-writer Florence Kane traded styles? If you're always decked out in dresses and feminine pieces (like Tinsley), try adding some preppy pieces to your wardrobe the way Florence would. You can always switch back!

** Save the money that you would have spent on an expensive pair of shoes or yet another handbag and add it to your travel fund. Trust me, it's a lot more fun to shop in London or Antwerp than it is in Anytown, USA. Since I have a lot of travel plans on my radar for 2010, I really need to take my own advice on this one! Plus, it's thrilling to come across eclectic pieces that you never would have considered buying elsewhere.

I hope these tips will inspire you to create beautiful and exciting ensembles in 2010. Thank you for your readership, and I hope to see you in 2010! Happy New Year!

24 December 2009

Merry Christmas in the Spirit of DV!

The weather outside may be frightful, but one of my dearest friends has some oh-so delightful tips for ringing in the holidays...in the spirit of Diana Vreeland, of course. Whether you are throwing a holiday party, preparing for New Year's Eve, or just having a quiet evening celebrating with friends and family, her over-the-top, glamorous tips are sure to get your holiday season off to a smashing start! Diana Vreeland would be proud.

Why don’t you ...rent the International Space Station for your New Year’s Eve bash this year?

Why don’t you... cover your entire bathroom in mirrored panels, to ensure that you’ve seen every angle before you walk into the parlor?

Why don’t you... perfect your ability to say “Happy Holidays” in every language imaginable so that you can send seasonal greetings to every head of state in the world?

Why don’t you... use the leftover Prosecco to wash your delicates? Flat is best.

Why don’t you... commission a broom made of horsehair from Derby winners? Cleaning up can be glamorous, too.

Why don’t you... crochet a fabulous new hair accessory for each of your holiday guests? They should be useful as napkin rings as well as lovely parting gifts.

Why don’t you... build a guest dormitory on the back of your house, so that there will be room for all of your guests after a night of too many G&Ts?

Why don’t you... hand dip currants halfway in white chocolate, and then dip the other half in dark chocolate? Leaving a beautiful ruby strip in between would tasteful as well.

Why don’t you... decorate your roofline with Gothic creature waterspouts instead of downspouts? A few flying buttressed wouldn’t hurt, either.

Why don’t you... hire a string quartet to play on your front lawn in time with your Christmas light show?

Why don’t you... carve utensils out of your turkey carcass to use for brunch the next day?

Why don’t you... install TV monitors into the children’s table, playing nothing but Reading Rainbow and Wishbone?

Why don’t you... garnish every dish with gold dusted parsley? Curly if you are serving ham - flat with turkey or beef.Why don’t you cut your rolls of wrapping paper into 2” squares, creating patchwork paper quilts around all of your presents?

Why don’t you... insist on a royal purple silk carpet leading up to your home when your guests arrive?

Why don’t you... switch the hymnals for Where’s Waldo books during an Advent service?

Why don’t you... place original Louise Nevelson collage pieces at every Salvation Army red bucket that you see?

Why don’t you... juxtapose lush organza and brushed flannel linens with miniature Christmas trees and yellow lilies for your tablescape? A few rocks, polished with sea water, can provide a geological edge.

Why don’t you... turn last year’s holiday cards into bows to place atop the original senders’ gifts?

Why don’t you... weave a new area rug out of holly & poinsettia leaves?

Why don’t you... hire a hot air balloon to throw candy and H1N1 vaccines down to the neighborhood children?

18 December 2009

The Decade's Best Dressed

I can only imagine how difficult it must be to select the year's best dressed, so imagine how daunting it must have been for the staff of Vogue to select the decade's best dressed ladies. Fortunately, they are asking for a little assistance from their readers in selecting the ten best dressed from 2000-2009.

For each year, ten memorable dresses have been selected, with the reader being given the option of selecting one. The categories in terms of who made the list can be broken down into five categories which I have dubbed "Vogue Regulars," "Models," Fashion Originals," "Hollywood A-Listers," and "Fashion Newcomers."

Among the "Vogue Regulars" we have Aerin Lauder, Marina Rust, Lauren Santo Domingo (where would any best dressed list be without Vogue's current reigning socialite?), Sally Albermale, Margherita Missoni (wearing, naturally, Missoni), Jemima Khan, and Dr. Lisa Airan (a Vogue regular ever since she was profiled in the magazine by Amy Astley). I'm partial to Lisa Airan in this category. She has impeccable taste.

For the "Models" we have Liya Kebede, Natalia Vodianova, Alek Wek, Kate Moss, Carolyn Murphy, and Gisele. It wouldn't be a best dressed list of any credence without Kate Moss included. Sadly, Vogue did not pick her best and most memorable looks, in my opinion.

The "Fashion Originals" included Sofia Coppola, Stella Tennant (also a model), Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jennifer Connelly (featured in her scene-stealing Balenciaga number), Hope Atherton, and Daphne Guinness. My vote in this group goes to Charlotte Gainsbourg. She always looks entirely original.

All of Hollywood's A-List was included, too. Nicole Kidman, Reese, Cate, Renee, Angelina, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kirsten Dunst (in beautiful Christian Lacroix), Sienna, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lopez (in that Versace dress), Audrey Tatou (in Chanel), Penelope Cruz, and Sarah Jessica Parker. My pick is Gwyneth Paltrow. I (almost) always love what she wears.

As for the "Fashion Newcomers" we have Emma Watson (in Burberry), Rihanna, First Lady Michelle Obama, Kate Bosworth, and Anne Hathaway. Michelle Obama certainly captured our attention as of late, but I'm not sure who the best dressed newcomer would be.

My overall pick for the decade's best dressed would have to be Kate Moss. Who else defined the decade in terms of fashion better than Kate? No one else comes to mind for me. Head to http://www.vogue.com/ to place your own votes and be sure to let me know who your favorites from the decade were!

17 December 2009

Long May Lagerfeld Reign

Near the end of "Valentino: The Last Emperor," Karl Lagerfeld says to Valentino that if he ever retires, Karl will never, never, never forgive him. He must continue working at least another twenty-five years or more, so instructs Lagerfeld. Longtime admirers of Lagerfeld feel exactly the same way. We'll never forgive him if he ever leaves Chanel. We have no problem with him leaving Fendi or abandoning his namesake line, but Chanel is sacrosanct, and there is simply no one who can replace Lagerfeld.

Why the concern over the prospect that Lagerfeld could be departing from Chanel in the near future, you might ask? Well, Lagerfeld is 76 and no longer, as my father would say, a "spring chicken." The Cut reported on this earlier in the week and, naturally, any headline with "Karl Lagerfeld" in it is bound to catch my eye. Is life without Karl Lagerfeld at the helm of Chanel even conceivable? If not Karl, then who? Who could guard the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel as well as Lagerfeld has? I have heard the name of Alber Elbaz tossed around casually, but his replacing Karl would only create another dilemma: who could replace Elbaz as the head of Lanvin? Is it possible that we have a drought of truly talented designers, those who are trained in the art of couture?

Since Valentino departed, "yes" seems to be the obvious answer. Cathy Horyn of The New York Times spoke of this concern in "The Last Emperor." If you didn't learn the craft of couture from someone who was working in the 1920s and 1930s, you are learning it from Lagerfeld's generation. Lagerfeld's generation learned this trade, of course, from Patou, Jeanne Lanvin, Cristobal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Chanel, et al. Thus, it is up to them to pass on this craft. But, as this group of designers continue to age, the fear is that the craft itself will die.
Karl Lagerfeld is not the only remaining septuagenarian. Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren are both in their seventies as well. They might be leaving the hallowed fashion runways for greener pastures at some point, too. I would be deeply saddened with the retirement of either designer (especially for poor Ralph Lauren, since most of his clientele still continue to mispronounce his last name. It's Lau-ren, folks. Not Lo-ren, as in Sophia Loren. Geesh.), but the absence of Karl Largerfeld would truly signify the end of couture and, possibly, fashion as we know it. If you thought the death of Yves Saint Laurent or the recent abdication of Valentino was devastating, imagine what would happen if someone else was charged with preserving the legacy of fashion's greatest treasure. Unfathomable.

On the bright side, I'm fairly confident that, like my beloved chihuahua, Karl Lagerfeld is immortal, and will continue to reign at Chanel for many centuries to come. He really has no other choice.

15 December 2009

The Best of Beauty from the Beauty Expert Herself

My best friend is a bona fide expert when it comes to all things Beauty. She has used all of the best and most user-friendly lines. She experiments with the new, trendy shades. And, best of all, she has perfectly flawless porcelain skin, so everything works well with her complexion. Each time I'm at her apartment, I gaze into her makeup boxes like an explorer who has just discovered the missing link to humanity or something equally exciting. She has it all, believe me.

So, I thought it would be helpful if she narrowed done some of the best (and worst!) beauty products. It seems like the beauty section in stores ranging from Target to Saks grows infinitely larger year by year. Who even knows how to effectively narrow down the myriad of options?

Here is where Emily comes in, dear readers. Below are her picks for the best of the best, with even a demerit included for fun. Enjoy!

1. Origins Never A Dull Moment facial scrub (http://www.origins.com/, some Macy’s stores). I started using this in college, and have flitted to many other scrubs since, but this is always a winner. Gentle enough to use more than once a week, it’s not super grainy and sets your face up perfectly for a mask. I use this once a week, followed by an Origins face mask.

2. Bumble and Bumble hair products. Yes, this is more than one, but I really can’t choose between prep and thickening hairspray. Together, they are a fantastic duo. And I am not a Hair Girl—I would much rather play with make-up than do my hair. But these two products make my hair do amazing things, and make me look like a Hair Girl.

3. Bobbi Brown blush (http://www.bobbibrown.com/, Nordstrom, Macy’s). “I love blush!” declares the makeup artist in one of her books. So it’s no surprise that her line has a rainbow of natural colors, in a variety of finishes. For myself, I prefer pale pink, pink sugar, or washed rose, followed by a swipe of her pink shimmer brick compact (which can be blush in and of itself.).

4. Bath and Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar body scrub. Smells divine, low cost, easy to find. What more can you want?

5. Bobbi Brown concealer/foundation/powder: Again, more than one thing. But the entire face system is great. The concealer is the best I have found for covering dark circles; the foundation matches your skin, no matter how pale or dark you are, and yellow powder does amazing things for the complexion. Plus, a bottle of foundation will last a good long time. The foundation also comes in a cream to powder compact and in a stick (great for the office or travel).

** And one thing I don’t get….Maybelline Great Lash. I keep reading about how wonderful it is. And I’ve tried it. And I don’t get it. I think it makes your lashes look scary—way too thick and clumpy. Plus, you look like you have maybe four lashes, and it’s impossible to comb through. For my money, Clinique, Lancome, and Cover Girl make much better products.

*** I completely agree with Emily regarding Great Lash. I bought it once and my eyes were so irritated that they were red for a month and so sore from itching that I couldn't wear eyeliner.

11 December 2009

Oh, the books you'll read!

Since the end of the year is almost upon us, I thought it would be a good idea to take inventory of the year as it was in books, along with a look at what is on my book-radar for 2010.

So, here are my top ten books from 2009 in no particular order:

1. "A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Art, and Letters," Penelope Rowlands. This was hands-down the best biography I have ever read. It made me wish that I had been born in the 1930s so I could work with Carmel Snow and the other talented people who inhabited her life (Conde Nast, Jean Lanvin, Jean Patou, Poiret, Vionnet, Balenciaga....the list goes on!). If you love fashion as much as I do, I promise that you will love this book.

2. "The Sea, the Sea," Iris Murdoch. My obsession with Iris Murdoch began with this book. It was an amazingly gripping psychological thriller. Suspenseful, complicated, and philosophical. My love for this book led me to read five more books from Murdoch this year. If you haven't read any Murdoch, do start!

3. "Jude the Obscure," Thomas Hardy. Perhaps my favorite book of all-time. Set in a fictional city modeled after Oxford, young Jude dreamt only of attending Christminster. His ambition to overcome the many hurdles keeping him from his dream were touching and inspiring. Let's just say that I can easily relate to Jude. The setting of Christminster, with all of the Oxford references, made it that much more entertaining for me.

4. "Possession," A.S. Byatt. Another of my all-time favorite books. Probably the most romantic story imaginable.

5. "The Great Railway Bazaar," Paul Theroux. This was the book that defined the modern travel narrative. Now I understand why. Theroux makes you feel as if you are along for the ride- and you will want to be.

6. "The Alchemist," Paulo Coelho. Picked up from the library on a whim, I finished this short little book in one sitting. Inspiring and encouraging. This book, while maybe a little cheesy at times, will you push you to go for your dreams and to see "the world through your own eyes and not someone else's."

7. "The Waves," Virginia Woolf. One of those rare books that one could read a dozen times and take away something different from it each time. I viewed it as a metaphor for life, with life occurring in stages or seasons, like the tide, and not as a race to the finish line.

8. "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar," Paul Theroux. Theroux decided to retrace the tracks of his ground-breaking travel narrative. The reader discovers that while the journey has remained the same (with a few alterations due to strife in certain parts of the world), the traveler has changed. Just as fascinating as the first, which started it all.

9. "Bonjour, Tristesse," Francoise Sagan. I loved this book so much that I also wrote a blog entry on it. Fantastic coming-of-age story set in the south of France. Not to be missed, in my opinion.

10. "The Time Traveler's Wife," Audrey Niffenegger. I wasn't planning on reading this book, but everyone kept raving about it, so I decided to check it out. I'm truly glad that I did. This was one of the most romantic and touching books that I've read- the rare book in which the characters stay with you long after you have finished the actual book.

And, on my radar for 2010:

1. "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky," Chris Greenhalgh. I'm always excited to read more about the life of Chanel. I'd like to see this film, too.

2. "Alice I Have Been," Melanie Benjamin. 2010 is shaping up to be "The Year of Alice," with everyone's excitement for Tim Burton's recreation reaching extreme heights. I'm curious about it, too.

3. "The Elegance of the Hedgehog," Muriel Barbery. I've wanted to read this for awhile, so I finally added it to my library queue. It's set in Paris, so you really can't go wrong.

4. "Committed," Elizabeth Gilbert. This book, which doesn't come out until January 5, 2010, has already generated a lot of buzz, probably due to the success of "Eat, Pray, Love" and the forthcoming movie of the same name. I'm curious to hear what she has to say on marriage after vowing never to marry again. Plus, I loved her advice in Elle to those under 25 who plan on marrying: "Wake up, slow down." Amen, sister.

So, there we have it: the year (and upcoming months) in books. I'd love to know what you've been reading! Also, feel free to send any interesting recommendations my way.

10 December 2009

What's up with Harper's Bazaar lately?

First, it was the Twilight-themed cover for the December issue. I'll admit that I liked the subscriber cover and even thought it was interesting and artistic. And, OK, I read the interview with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, though I know absolutely nothing about the Twilight series, save for one very long e-mail summary my friend Emily sent me once. But now, The Cut has reported that Harper's Bazaar has commissioned thirteen-year old blogging sensation Tavi Gevinson to write a column about the spring collections. At first, I thought the announcement of Harper's Bazaar was clearly a typo. Surely, they meant Seventeen or Teen Vogue, not Harper's Bazaar, the magazine that gave us Edward Steichen, Carmel Snow, George Hoyningen-Huene, and Louise Dahl-Wolfe, some of the greatest fashion luminaries to ever grace the page. No, it just couldn't be.

Oh, but it is.

Why has Harper's Bazaar felt the need to hop on the gimmick bandwagon in recent months? Are sales down that much? Is Glenda Bailey just being ironic? I don't get it. This period of oddness goes back to the Angelina Jolie cover for which Bazaar used an old photo of Ms. Jolie and photo-shopped it into a cover, along with a corresponding article for which Ms. Jolie provided no quotes or comments. I do not believe that concept was well-received and I doubt Bazaar will do that again. True, the cover came during a "J-month" (i.e. an unexciting month in fashion), but I was still a little disappointed with the lack of imagination exhibited by that cover.

I am so distraught over the idea of a thirteen-year old writing a fashion column for Harper's Bazaar, of all magazines, that I don't know if I'll ever be able to take an active interest in Bazaar again. It's nothing personal against Tavi, of course. I've visited her blog many times (awesome use of photos and images, by the way!) and I wholeheartedly believe that her personal style is unique and sensational, incredibly impressive for someone so young. Aren't kids that age usually swathed in look-alike Abercrombie & Fitch? So, kudos to Tavi for expressing herself through fashion. Virginia Woolf would certainly be proud.

With that being said, I just don't know how credible the fashion advice or commentary of a thirteen-year old could be. She's been following fashion for, what, a year now? Some of the people reading Harper's Bazaar have been following the fashion industry for forty or fifty years, often longer. It just feels insulting to those loyal readers to have their fashion advice come from a child. What sense of the history of fashion could she have? Let us not forget that even Sally Singer (Sally Singer!) was once lambasted by Karl Lagerfeld for "having no sense of the history of fashion" for making a poor comparison between the work of Mr. Lagerfeld and that of Olivier Theyskeins for Rochas. Karl Lagerfeld was so offended by this that he felt the need to send off a heated letter to Vogue. Hence my ability to quote from that letter. So, if Sally Singer, Vogue's fashion news/features director, is lacking a sense of fashion history according to Karl Lagerfeld (someone who knows fashion!), I think we can deduce with absolute certainty that a thirteen-year old is as well.

Sure, novelties are fun, but they also grow old and tired.

I'd like to see Harper's Bazaar return to what it does best- cutting-edge fashion, spectacular artistic design (what Bazaar has always been known for), award-winning editorials, and influential journalism. Too much is at stake for Bazaar to follow the bandwagon off into obscurity.

I'll read Tavi's column with an open and curious mind when Bazaar arrives in my mailbox in a couple of weeks, but I still expect more from my favorite magazine. And, quite frankly, its readers deserve more.

08 December 2009

Rodarte Misses the Mark for Target

The Mulleavy sisters of Rodarte are the newest design collaborators to offer a lower priced line for Target. Though the collection will not be appearing in stores until December 20th, images from the line have been all over the Internet, ripe with anticipation for the collection's release.

The Cut finally provided a slide show of the collection, and I must say that I was pretty underwhelmed in viewing it. The clothes looked more like Halloween costumes than the artistic, creative frocks we have come to expect from Rodarte. Lace seemed to be a big part of the collection, with the black lacy tights paired with each outfit. I'd much rather have the ripped Rodarte tights from runways of past than that pair! Then there were the mustard cardigans, leopard dresses and belts, lacy cardigans, the blue Swiss dot dress (???), and more leopard and lace. The only pieces that I am remotely interested in trying on are the tulle and lace navy skirt, which could be flattering, and the sequined rib cage dress, just for fun. With the exception of those pieces, I was really disappointed with the collection.

Then again, I've been disappointed with nearly every design collaboration for Target, with the few exceptions being Luella Bartley (back in 2006) and Thakoon. It's fun to wear something affordable from your favorite designer, but if the clothing is cheaply made and undermines the design integrity of the collaborator, what's the point? More than anything, the Go Collections and design collaborations for Target, H&M, Kohl's, etc. further cement that it's not necessarily just the name, but the quality of the craftsmanship behind the apparel that matters. Sure, you can slap the Chanel logo on a cheap black and white tote, but there's nothing even remotely close to Chanel about that bag. It's the same with the knock-offs at Central Park and, sadly, it's been the same story with the recent bridge lines.

When Rodarte was nominated for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund back in 2006 (they were runners-up to Thakoon that year), Kate and Laura dazzled with a vibrant collection of, yes, lace, ruffles, and organza. "In some ways I do feel like we design these dresses for ourselves, because they come from our imagination. And we always kinda live in our imagination," Kate Mulleavy was quoted by Jane Herman in the November 2006 issue of Vogue. The dresses from that collection were certainly dream-weavers- nothing at all like the dresses in the Target collaboration. The more I review their collection from 2006, the less I see of Rodarte in the Target collection.

A slide show pictorial of nine outfits is available on The Cut, so check it out and see what you think about the collection. I'd love to know if you believe the design integrity of Rodarte was upheld in this collection. Hopefully someone other than blogger-of-the-moment Tavi Gevinson is excited about this look book.
I remain skeptical.

03 December 2009

The return of the Etiquette Grrls!

I like to think that good etiquette is an inherently vital part of life (and fashion), so I hope my dear readers will excuse me for wandering a bit off topic just this once. My best friend just informed me that two of our most beloved authors, Lesley Carlin and Honore McDonough Ervin, who comprise the Etiquette Grrls, have returned to blogging and keeping the world free from tacky and obscenely out-of-taste dilemmas. The EGs had left their blog quite a few years ago when one of the EGs had a baby. Now it seems that both EGs are finally back, and I couldn't be more excited.

If you're not familiar with the work of the Etiquette Grrls, fear not, as it will not take you much time at all to read their two excellent books on etiquette: "Things You Need to Be Told" and "More Things You Need to Be Told." I would certainly urge you to make a beeline to your nearest library or bookstore and begin reading at once! And, of course, their new blog is: http://etiquettegrrls.blogspot.com/. Check it out post haste!

What I love most about the Etiquette Grrls is that they deliver practical, useful information in a fun and witty way. I'll admit that some of their advice is often a bit out-dated or just too conservative (i.e. their advice on fashion, which I'll address in a moment), but for the most part they are spot-on with their recommendations for living a proper and inoffensive lifestyle. Some might say that they are too pretentious or that their advice is only a cover for sheer snobbery. To those folks I would suggest both lightening up and developing a sense of humor. Sure, the EGs use random capitalized words, sprinkle their prose with the occasional French word or two, or make recommendations about music/literature/art, but their advice, while acerbic and caustic at times, is meant either in jest or to be adopted as it fits into your own lifestyle.

Now, the one piece of advice that I overwhelmingly ignore is their etiquette as it pertains to fashion and dress. The EGs are a bit out-dated in this respect, suggesting that it is a faux pas to wear white after Labor Day among other archaisms. They also frown upon the fashion sense of the ladies of SATC. Yes, at times, Carrie et al may have been dressed in poor taste, but overall, no other television show has been as progressive when it comes to fashion, nor has any other show ever made fashion as mainstream as SATC did. Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin can surely attest to that fact. Thus, it is best, in my fashionable opinion, to dismiss the advice of the EGs when it comes to fashion. Read their advice for yourself, and perhaps you'll agree.

With that being said, I still highly recommend the wit and wisdom of the Etiquette Grrls. Their books and, no doubt, new website are thoroughly entertaining and educational. You will enjoy them. I promise.

02 December 2009

Whatever happened to the Vogue Supplement?

I've been doing some fall cleaning this past week and I came across my Vogue archives from roughly 2000-2003. I've taken great pleasure in re-reading all of my favorite articles and, of course, looking at how the masthead has changed over the years. I'm not sure if anyone pays quite as much attention to the masthead as I do, but I love seeing how the magazine and the writers themselves have blossomed.

Anyhow, in sorting through these old issues of Vogue, I also came across several supplemental issues to Vogue. Unfortunately, there is not a year or month on the supplements, so I can't pinpoint the exact date for you. (A couple of the supplements were available back before Stephanie Winston Wolkoff was the Director of Special Events, if that tells you anything.) Long-time subscribers to Vogue will probably recall the supplement with the Beckhams gracing the cover (one of my favorites since I love, love, love Victoria Bechkam!), the one with Karolina Kurkova titled "The Winning Hand," and some might even remember the nondescript cover titled "Entertaining from Maine to Moomba."

I really adore these supplements. When they were issued, they were only available to subscribers, which was a real treat. Other magazines not only provide similarly coveted supplements, but some magazines even provide different, artsier covers for their subscribers. Both Elle and Harper's Bazaar do this with the cover for the subscribers usually having a model, as opposed to the celebrity of the month. I consider this to be an enormous perk and something I wish Vogue would emulate. The supplement was really the only perk available to subscribers, aside from the low price of receiving the magazine in your mailbox, as opposed to the newsstand.

I came across a few sartorial delights in the supplements. Though there weren't any layouts in the short supplements, there were excellent highlights from the runways, behind-the-scenes photos, and designer spotlights. One of the supplements had a short article on the opening of the posh Ikram boutique in Chicago. Who could have predicted the overwhelming success of Ikram? Well, Vogue, of course. And who could forget the screw-heeled shoes that graced, er, troubled the Alexander McQueen runways in 2001? Well, there was a fun photo to remind readers of those terrifyingly dangerous shoes that only Kate Moss was brave enough to wear. Vogue wittingly declared that those shoes deserved the "Most Dangerous Footwear" award. Touche.

The ad campaigns were pretty thrilling, too. These supplements were obviously printed during the height of the careers of models Anouk Lepere (one of my favorites!), Caroline Ribeiro, Maggie Rizer, and right around the beginning of the careers of Karolina Kurkova, Carmen Kass (my all-time favorite model), and Gisele.

I wonder if it would be possible for Anna to resurrect the Vogue Supplement? We subscribers would love the perk of having a limited-edition keepsake again. European and Asian editions of the magazine still provide supplements, often big and glossy additional photospreads, too. It would be easy to say that the supplement was eliminated because of the recession, but that's hardly the case. I couldn't find a supplement past 2004, so the supplement's disappearance had nothing to do with the current recession. I am not sure why it vanished, but I would welcome its return.

So, Anna, if you're reading this, will you please bring back the Vogue Supplement?

** Note on the photo: I couldn't find an image of one of the Vogue Supplements, so I went with Karolina's first Vogue cover instead.**

30 November 2009

Music Made for the Runway

Admittedly, the first time I took interest in the musical duo La Roux was not because of their music. I just loved the cover of their CD, "La Roux," and couldn't stop admiring the copper mohawk of singer Elly Jackson. With a cover that cool, I figured the music had to be pretty cool, too.

It turns out that I was right.

"La Roux" is one of the best complete CDs I've listened to in a long time. Not since Duffy's "Rockferry" have I liked every single song on a CD. Singer Elly Jackson and songwriter Ben Langmaid scored with a debut album that has been creeping up the charts already in the UK. The music style of La Roux definitely suits my taste in music, so it's not surprising that I would love every track. The songs are a mix of pop, electro, techno, and dance beats- perfect for tearing up the dance floor, grooving in your car, or, if you're Magdalena Frackowiak or Arlenis Sosa, walking the runway.

If this CD would have been out back when Tom Ford was designing for Gucci and YSL Rive Gauche, this is definitely the kind of music that he would have played during his shows. "Colourless Colour" especially strikes me as a Ford song, with song lyrics even referencing fashion ("Once in fashion and soon to be seen....once in fashion and soon to be rediscovered"). That song was, seriously, made for the catwalk. The beats are just too perfect. Since Ford has left fashion to *gasp* direct movies, perhaps Donatella Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, or Karl Lagerfeld might be interested in playing "La Roux" during their fashion shows.

Though I enjoyed every song, my favorite tracks are "Colourless Colour," "Bulletproof," "In for the Kill," "Cover My Eyes," and "I'm not your Toy." "Cover My Eyes" is particularly haunting and somber at the same time. Thankfully, the entire CD is something that can be played from start to finish without a weak spot. I haven't purchased a CD since last year, but I recently added "La Roux" to my amazon wish list.

Fashionable, edgy, relaxing, energizing. The CD fits all of those descriptions...and more.

25 November 2009

Orlando: Fashion's Greatest Literary Hero

I have been on a huge Virginia Woolf kick for the last couple months. The craze was ignited by one of the many discussions on books my friend Emily and I used to have at our respective offices. She couldn't believe that I hadn't read any of Woolf's major novels, so I decided to remedy that, not knowing that Woolf would turn out to be one of my favorite writers. I began with "To the Lighthouse" and hated it. I persevered, though, and continued on to "The Waves," "A Room of One's Own," "Mrs. Dalloway," "Between the Acts," and most recently "Orlando," which just might be one of my favorites.

"Orlando," though it was probably not Woolf's intention, was truly a book for fashion lovers of all sorts. Even Karl Lagerfeld cited Orlando as his favorite hero of literature (in the VF Proust Questionnaire, naturally). If you have already read the book, then I am sure you completely understand why a venerated fashion designer might remark that. If not, I'll do my best to elucidate some of the more fashion-y passages in Woolf's most fanciful novel, "Orlando."

Along with being an ode to fashion, "Orlando" transcends time and gender, for young Orlando began his life as a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I and ended it as a young woman in 1920s England. The young woman he became had a striking resemblance to Oscar Wilde, strangely enough. Take a glimpse at the photos in the Harcourt edition and you may leave with the same response. Anyhow, back to the clothes. Orlando was quite the snazzy dresser as both a male and female. This notion of morphing genders was defined as gynomorphosis, for the individual retained masculine traits but transformed them into the feminine counterpart. So, Orlando fluctuated from petticoats and gossamer to stirrups and overcoats, or vice verse.

Clothes were always central to Orlando's being and even accounted for the changes in his/her mindset, attitude, and behavior:

"The change of clothes had, some philosophers will say, much to do with it. Vain trifles as they may seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world's view of us."

Isn't that the truth? Clothes are hardly frivolous and irrelevant, and I was thrilled that Woolf reminded us of that.

Clothes transform us:

"There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brain, our tongues to their liking."

Who has not felt differently inside when dressed one way as opposed to another? I know that I feel most confident when I am dressed up- in skirts, dresses, suits, or other stylishly sophisticated, yet conservative, creations. I can be in a foul mood when I am under dressed- denim and no blazer, flats when I should be in heels, etc. Clothes do more than cover our bodies: they provide confidence. Clothes can change your outlook, redefine you, and improve your morale. Clothing can also define the genders, as in the case of Orlando, or leave it for interpretation, like androgyny. Clothing is so much more than merely something worn out of utility and necessity.

"Orlando" was dedicated to Woolf's lover, Vita Sackville-West, and so it was thought that this book was something of a love letter to her. Perhaps it was also meant to encourage others to look beyond gender stereotypes and characteristics, to see each person as an individual, and to let that be the basis for judgement.

"Orlando" pushed these boundaries, even if the plot was pure time-traveling fantasy.

Virginia Woolf also reminded her readers of the never-ending significance and power of clothing.

Surely that was why Karl Lagerfeld considered Orlando to be the greatest hero of fiction.
** Quotations are from the Harcourt edition of "Orlando" by Virginia Woolf

24 November 2009

Bazaar's Best Dressed 2009

Though December is not an exciting time in fashion, the December issues of my most beloved magazines are among my favorites for the entire year. That is chiefly due to the fabulous best dressed lists which are compiled for December. Topping the list of, well, lists is definitely Harper's Bazaar. Each year their best dressed list is organized, original, and insightful, succinctly capturing the year's most prominent trends and inspiring looks.

Here are my highlights from Bazaar's wonderful best dressed list for 2009:

1) Michelle Obama in everything from Thakoon to J.Crew to Jason Wu. Our First Lady stole the show across the board this year.

2) Emma Watson in shiny gold Burberry Prorsum. Burberry's new campaign face sparkled from head to toe in 2009 with winning look after winning look.

3) Model/actress Amber Valletta in Proenza Schouler. I'm not sure where she wore this metallic number, but it caught my eye instantly.

4) Jennifer Connelly in Balmain and the most knocked-off shoes of the year. This also happened to be my favorite look for 2009. No wonder Connelly is the new face for Balmain's ads.

5) Blake Lively in bubblegum pink Michael Kors. Simple, yet sophisticated and sweet. Just like Lively herself.

6) Ashley Olsen in a white, long-sleeved, floor-length dress from her own line, the Row. I love just about everything Ashley Olsen wears and this was definitely one of my favorites.

7) Poppy Delevingne in a dress from Ralph Lauren Collection, leather jacket, and flat gladiator sandals. This outfit first appeared in one of Vogue's weekly best dressed lists, and it remained one of my favorite looks from 2009.

8) Leighton Meester in short, geometric Louis Vuitton and bright red platform heels. Love, love, love this dress!

9) Gwyneth Paltrow in Burberry Prorsum. I wasn't sure about this ruched skirt-graphic t-shirt look at first, but it eventually won me over. Not the most exciting look I've seen from Paltrow, but definitely interesting.

10) Agyness Deyn in Giles. The British style-maker turned heads all year in her unique and, at times, avant garde looks. This white blazer and short black dress was one of her many winning looks.

** To see the complete list of stand-out looks for 2009 from Harper's Bazaar, be sure to check out the December issue, or the feature online!

23 November 2009

Oscar for Valentino?

The Cut announced last week that the documentary on Valentino, "The Last Emperor," had made the short list for Oscar nods in the documentary category, but Anna's movie, "The September Issue," did not. Is anyone surprised by this? "The Last Emperor" was a thrilling, moving, utterly electrifying film, and "The September Issue" well, was none of those things to anyone who isn't a die hard fashion fanatic. If one takes a closer look at the two films, it's pretty obvious that "The Last Emperor" was clearly the better film.

I've only seen "The September Issue" once, but I've seen the Valentino documentary more times than I should probably reveal. I might be approaching twenty. I'll leave it at that. Right from the start, "The Last Emperor" has the audience hooked, with a little montage of hits from Valentino's long and illustrious career (great opening song too, by the way!). The movie then proceeds to unfold with both professional and personal drama in the House of Valentino. The viewer is introduced to Valentino's long-time partner and business associate, Giancarlo Giammeti, who is probably the sexiest septuagenarian on the planet, I must say. Throughout the film, viewers get a glimpse at their very special relationship, the kind of relationship that one can only hope to have after fifty years. I believe it has been said before, but someone really needs to give them a reality show, if it can be done in a classy way, that is.

The first highlight of the film was without a doubt the scene when Valentino received the French Legion of Honor, and proceeded to deliver an emotional acceptance speech, honoring Giancarlo, much to Giancarlo's surprise and chagrin. In the scene prior to the award ceremony, Giancarlo is being interviewed explaining that Valentino will never tell him how he feels or if he even appreciates him at all. Then, in the next scene, Valentino says, among flowing tears, that his eternal gratitude goes to Giancarlo and that he would like to thank him from the bottom of his heart. Cue tears in the audience at this point, too.

The film didn't just make one cry, though. It was an all-access, behind-the-scenes look at Valentino's dressmaking process (even his seamstresses were filmed!), his lavish lifestyle (chateau in Paris, ski lodge in Gstaad, private planes, etc.), and his relationship with Giancarlo (I loved the scene where they argue about which street in Rome it was where they first met). "The September Issue" did not feel quite so complete to me. Granted, that could have been because the subject matter was limited, but I still think they could have expounded on more of the hidden aspects of life at the world's most famous magazine. I'm not sure if the viewer left with a new understanding of what happens at Vogue, other than the fact that Anna and Grace are at constant odds with one another (but we fashion nuts already knew this). Perhaps there was one touching scene when Anna explained that her family members aren't exactly impressed with the work she does at that little, small-town publication, Vogue.

Again, with the Valentino documentary, a completely new side of the designer was portrayed. Valentino was funny, witty, and charming. Giancarlo was intelligent, business-savvy, and dedicated. In "The September Issue," Anna just seemed domineering, power-hungry, and, well, a bit of a bitch at times. (I can't believe I just typed that about Anna! Hopefully, the fashion gods will not strike me down now!) It was Grace Coddington who appeared as if she truly cared about what the magazine represented (emphasis on represented, for it no longer seems to be just about fashion, sadly).

The endings of the two respective films were completely different, too. One was moving and memorable (hint: it wasn't "The September Issue"). And I can't even recall how the other ended... "The Last Emperor" closed with the 45th anniversary celebration of Valentino's career. Mannequins wearing outfits from the last four decades were adorned on the walls, socialites and celebrities from all over the world were invited for the final runway show, and acrobats strung on high wires in front of the Colosseum amidst fireworks served as the finale. Who could forget when Valentino took Karl Lagerfeld's hand and personally walked him through the exhibit? Or, after the show, when Lagerfeld said to Valentino, "Compared with us, the rest are making rags?" And, of course, there could not have been a dry eye in the audience when Valentino took his final bow, with "O mio babbino caro" playing, friends standing and cheering, and a tall blonde woman off to the right pumping her fists dramatically as Valentino walked by (Who was that woman??). I've played this part so many times that I can still see it fresh in my mind. Most importantly, the viewer was left with a better understanding of Valentino's enormous contributions to the history of fashion and how he was truly irreplaceable ("After me, the flood," he coyly remarked at the very end.). With the close of "The September Issue," I was disenchanted and started to wonder if maybe fashion was a little too frivolous, after all. Wasn't R.J. Cutler supposed to convince the audience otherwise?

Is it any surprise that it is Valentino, and not Anna, who might be up for an Oscar next year? No. It shouldn't be.

19 November 2009

From the Proust Questionnaire: Part Deux

In his tribute to Yves Saint Laurent, after the great couturier passed, Andre Leon Talley revealed in Vogue that YSL had named every guest room in his house in Paris after a character in "Remembrance of Things Past." ALT very coyly admitted that his guest room was named after a character who enjoys peeping through door holes into male brothels, observing particularly scandalous things.

What is it about Proust that makes us reveal so much?

Decide for yourself because here is the final part of the Proust Questionnaire.

The Fashion Vagabond

16. What are your favorite names? Honor, Olivia, Marguerite, Joseph, George, Francis, Clarence, Charlotte

17. What is it that you most dislike? Being in one place

18. Which talent would you most like to have? being able to play the piano or dance ballet

19. How would you like to die? very old

20. What is your current state of mind? anxious, almost always

21. What is your motto? It's not mine, but, "if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you will very often get it."

22. What is your greatest fear? Not seeing all of the world

23. What is your greatest extravagance? International travel- it's my only extravagance

24. What is your favorite journey? It's a cliche, but how about the journey of life? My favorite completed journey would be the time my sister and I were stuck on the Circle Line for two or three hours.

25. What is your most treasured possession? photos and anything from my father


16. What are your favorite names? Elizabeth, Charlotte, Anne, Catherine, Henry, Peter, Edmund, Jamie, Lucy, Jane, Felicity, Michael, Matthew, Andrew

17. What is it that you most dislike? dishonesty and faithlessness

18. Which talent would you most like to have? being able to draw

19. How would you like to die? in bed

20. What is your current state of mind? anxious, I've got an audition in an hour.

21. What is your motto? No regrets.

22. What is your greatest fear? Snakes

23. What is your greatest extravagance? Makeup and books (tie)

24. What is your favorite journey? the spiritual one

25. What is your most treasured possession? my rosary from the Vatican

** Stay tuned, Proust lovers! We might have a small reading circle forming here. Emily and I have already begun discussing our strategy for conquering "Remembrance of Things Past," particularly which edition to use, since we're both very particular about our book editions. My boyfriend, another bibliophile and mental giant, will also be reading with us. Emily will most likely handle the organization of the reading, so watch for more information in the coming months! **

18 November 2009

The World in Vogue: Society, with a little fashion thrown in

I raced to the nearest bookstore yesterday so I could finally get a glimpse of the newest Vogue tome, "The World in Vogue." This book has been sitting in my Amazon.com queue for months, patiently waiting for me to purchase it. November 17th marked the first day the book was available to the masses, though a cocktail party had been held for the two main collaborators, Hamish Bowles, European Editor at Large, and Alexandra Kotur, Style Director, on October 21st.

The 300-page book was an impressive effort, with photos from the magazine throughout the past six decades divided into different subjects like parties, places, models and muses, et cetera. If you are familiar with the magazine at all, chances are very high that you have already seen most of these photographs and read most of the featured articles. I definitely felt a sense of deja vu while flipping vigorously through the book.

The tone of this book was one of immense privilege and wealth, even more so than the magazine itself. Hamish Bowles made this clear during the introduction, though, taking the reader through the cycle of socialites who have graced Vogue's pages over the past one hundred years. Society is vital, he seemed to announce. Vital to life, important to fashion, central to Vogue.

After gazing through the book twice, I realized just how far removed from normal life everything the magazine portrays is. Lauren Davis's wedding to Andres Santo Domingo in Cartagena, with every socialite in tow; Plum Sykes's wedding to Toby Rollins at a family estate in Hertfordshire; Marina Rust and Aerin Lauder at palatial family homes; Valentino's mammoth home outside of Paris (which the reader should have become intimately acquainted with during the recent Valentino documentary); Truman Capote's Black and White balls; Babe Paley; Talitha Getty. The list goes on and on. It's not that I didn't enjoy reading about these glamorously over-the-top occasions. I just wondered if the emphasis on money, society, and privilege was too great in this book. Perhaps I missed something, but fashion itself seemed to be occluded.

A few months ago, some of my friends and I casually debated this notion that fashion and society are inextricably linked. Of course, of course, my friends said. You can't have one without the other, for that would be like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. At the time, I thought it was possible for high fashion to exist away from the world of high society and privilege. Now, I'm not so sure, and "The World in Vogue" made me all the more skeptical.

(** photo is from Vogue's website, www.style.com)

16 November 2009

From the Proust Questionnaire: Part Un

Anyone who has ever read an issue of Vanity Fair is no doubt familiar with the Proust Questionnaire, a series of questions once asked by the famed writer Marcel Proust himself. Since the magazine has embarked on the trend of featuring the questionnaire, everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Lee Radziwell has completed the survey. I thought it would be interesting to pose the same questions to my best friend, and fellow blogger and bibliophile, Emily. Emily and I have also considered tackling Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past" next year, so it seemed especially fitting that she would participate. And be sure to check out her blog, http://bucketofparts.blogspot.com/, which is a revered blog on life after an organ transplant (with posts on books, the ballet, art, and more sprinkled in for good measure).

Proust believed that the questionnaire provided insight into the private thoughts and feelings of friends, associates, et al.
This is the first installment from the questionnaire, so we'll see if he was correct.

The Fashion Vagabond:

1. What is your most marked characteristic? My sense of style

2. What is the quality you most like in a man? Intelligence, especially being well-read

3. What is the quality you most like in a woman? Grace

4. What do you most value in your friends? Support

5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Being a consummate perfectionist

6. Favorite occupation? writer and editor

7. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Walking the Popple (my much beloved chihuahua)

8. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Not having the desire to travel and see the world

9. In which country would you like to live? England (again!)

10. Who are your favorite writers? Iris Murdoch, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Paul Theroux, Joseph Epstein, Robin Givhan, Dostoevsky, Sylvia Plath, Plum Sykes

11. Who are your favorite poets? Anne Bradstreet, Czeslaw Milosz, Ovid, Christina Rossetti

12. Who is your favorite hero of fiction? the White Rabbit

13. Who is your favorite heroine of fiction? Clarissa Dalloway

14. Favorite composers? Beethoven, Mozart, Hayden, Tschaikovsky, Schubert

15. Favorite painters? Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, El Greco


1. What is your most marked characteristic? My voice

2. What is the quality you most like in a man? Dependability

3. What is the quality you most like in a woman? Kindness

4. What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty

5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? my impatience

6. Favorite occupation? opera singer

7. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Being able to stay at home, write, and practice music all day. And perform at night.

8. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? nothing

9. In which country would you like to live? England

10. Who are your favorite writers? Austen, Dickens, Jodi Picout, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Alexander McCall Smith, Richard Paul Evans, Gregory Maguire, Virginia Woolf

11. Who are your favorite poets? Shakespeare,Oscar Wilde, Christina Rossetti, John Milton, Dante

12. Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Mr. Darcy

13. Who is your favorite heroine of fiction? Elizabeth Bennet

14. Favorite composers? Beethoven, Rachmanioff, Barber, Verdi, Phillip Glass, Frank Wildhorn

15. Favorite painters? Vermeer, Renoir

Monday Morning Rituals

We all have our Monday morning rituals, whether that be by beginning the day with a cup of coffee, skimming the NYT online, or listening to NPR en route to the office. My Monday morning routine encompasses all of these things, but my Monday morning ritual is a bit different.

I cannot begin the day until I have checked Vogue.com's weekly Ten Best Dressed list. The list, which is compiled by Style Director Alexandra Kotur, usually appears online early in the morning each Monday, unless there was a big event that week which could possibly keep Ms. Kotur otherwise engaged. Such was the case during the week of the Costume Institute Gala. I was without my best dressed list for well over a week. I don't know how I managed to function. Fear not, though. Ms. Kotur always atones by providing us with an extra-long list for said functions, like the Oscars and, of course, the Galas.

I love this weekly list because it provides a brief snapshot into the world of last week's glamorous parties, store openings, art gallery shows, premiers, and more. Models, actors, socialites, Vogue editors, and the occasional random person that even I haven't heard of grace the list. Sometimes I like to joke that the list should be renamed the Nine Best Dressed...and Lauren Santo Domingo because she appears more often on the list than anyone else. Even Vogue resident International Best Dressed List appointee (Vanity Fair's iconic best dressed list and the one that everyone wants to be on), Marina Rust Conor, does not appear on the list as often as LSD. In fact, I do not even recall seeing Anna herself on the list as frequently as LSD.

So, who made the list this week, you ask? Well, Lauren Santo Domingo (in Carolina Herrera) and nine other young ladies including Sienna Miller (in a rather pedestrian outfit of denim, a white t-shirt, and black blazer), model Natasha Poly (in Alexander Wang), rock daughter Zoe Kravitz, model Arlenis Sosa (in Herve Leger), British model Erin O'Connor, model Liya Kebede (in Stella McCartney), Kate Moss (on the list almost as often as LSD), and Giovanna Battaglia (the person I'm not familiar with this week). The theme was "keeping it casual," so perhaps that is why many of the outfits were a little understated. I didn't see any stand-out ensembles, though I was quite taken with what Ms. Battaglia was sporting.

Be sure to check out next week's list! The list, which can be found at http://www.vogue.com/, is updated every Monday and has its own heading (Best Dressed) on the web page. Now that I have checked the list, I can safely and calmly proceed with the rest of my day. Phew.

(** photo credit: Vogue's website at http://www.style.com)

11 November 2009

Fashion: reality or fantasy?

I just read the November 4th transcript to the NPR discussion with Cindi Lieve, the editor in chief of Glamour, and Robin Givhan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic for The Washington Post. The conversation was titled "Should fashion reflect fantasy or reality?" with the emphasis on the newly energized debate of thin versus curvy runway models. The implication by both commentators seemed to be that fashion is currently projecting fantasy with the influx of very thin models, as opposed to mimicking the reality that most women are heavier than runway models.

I am not at all bothered by the idea of plus-size models walking alongside Daria Werbowy and Chanel Iman, but what I find so deeply perplexing is this notion that the integrity of fashion as a mirror for reality is somehow being compromised by the onslaught of thin models, and, even more baffling, that realism could be restored to fashion by showcasing heavier models. Both fashion experts seem to suggest that fashion could somehow be "real" if it were Lizzie Miller, the model in Glamour's now infamous September issue, wearing a $60,000 Chanel gown instead of the very thin Magdalena Frackowiak. Somehow, if it is a plus-size model sporting a $20,000 bag, suddenly realism has been restored and all is right with the world again. To this, I have to wonder, what has ever been "real" about high fashion??

Sure, it is real in the sense that it exists. I'm not denying the existence of Karl Lagerfeld or Alexander Wang here. Yet, with the constant use of the word "real," indicating curvy models, in describing the antidote to fashion's problems, it seems that critics are suggesting that the problem with fashion is not that it is out of touch with reality because the clothing is too expensive or that the topics in high fashion magazines are too extreme. No; the problem is that the models are too thin, and that is why fashion has lost touch with reality, after, presumably, representing real life all this time before.

If we look at the three main fashion magazines, Vogue, W, and Harper's Bazaar, we see that there is not an ounce of reality portrayed, and that is certainly not because the models are too thin. We read about Plum Sykes purchasing a bespoke suit (translation: really, really expensive suit) in London, the wedding of Vogue socialite Lauren Davis to the uber wealthy Andres Santo Domingo, the new $500 miracle face creams, and the It-Girls fresh off the private jet from Moscow or Rio. So, what, I have to wonder, is real or average about that? And could heavier models in the pages of the photo editorials somehow trump this? Ah, no. Of course not. But, how closely should fashion, fashion magazines, and models mimic the quotidian normalcy of everyday life? Would people even read Vogue if it were merely a glorified Pottery Barn catalog? Cancel my subscription the moment that happens!

For me, the great joy in fashion has always been that it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with reality. There is an element of escapism one feels when reading Harper's Bazaar or W that cannot be easily achieved through other outlets. Maybe that is what I love most about fashion. It has the power to transform the dull and average into something wondrously beautiful. Like Valentino said, "I love beauty. It's not my fault."

In short, fashion has never ever reflected reality, but the reason for this has never been, nor ever will be, because the models are too thin. Fashion has always been about fantasy.

09 November 2009

Anna Wintour and Michelle Obama: Bringing Fashion Back to D.C.

When I read that Anna Wintour had been appointed to some kind of committee in the White House, my interest in politics legitimately piqued for the first time in, well, ever. Usually when a political topic comes up, I hit the metaphorical snooze button with lightning speed.

NY Magazine's fashion blog, The Cut, reported a few days ago that Anna would be serving on the Committee on the Arts and Humanities along with SJP and other leaders in the fashion and arts worlds. The committee will be representing the interests of fashion, arts, and other cultural fields.

Does this mean that D.C. might be turning into a fashion-focused city a la Paris or Milan? I don't know if we can go that far, but it is still good news for the fashion community. I'm not surprised that Anna has been asked to join the committee, which First Lady Michelle Obama will be chairing (even if only as an honorary chair). Michelle Obama has done much for American fashion already in her short time in the White House. Instead of de la Renta and Michael Kors, we have a first lady who is wearing Jason Wu, Isabel Toledo, and even J.Crew. Could it be that Michelle Obama might be the catalyst for interest in fashion in the same way that SATC led the average American viewer to have the previously esoteric name of Manolo Blahnik rolling off the tongue? I genuinely believe so, and not just because I adore Michelle Obama so much (I love, love, LOVE Michelle Obama!).

With Anna Wintour and Michelle Obama in the White House, fashion finally has an unbeatable duo representing its interests. I, for one, am thrilled.

04 November 2009

Lima or Louboutins? My age-old dilemma continues...

I am searching for fall and winter boots for the first time...ever. I've never been one for boots, always preferring flats or heels with textured tights to keep me warm through the cold months. It may seem silly to wear tights and flats through snow and sleet, but I'm constantly in a knee-length skirt or dress, so it just makes better sense for my formal style.

Yet, this season, with an influx of boots in all shapes and sizes (over-the-knee, ankle, "shooties"), I thought it would be both fashionable and, well, practical to branch out of my comfort zone and into fabulous boots. I'm keen on two different and distinct styles: slouchy suede or leather boots that I can wear over denim (I initially fought this trend once it popped up in the U.S., but why fight what actually works?) and dressy "shooties" or ankle boots for holiday parties and functions.

Thanks to the fine buyers at Bergdorf Goodman, I have already stumbled upon two fantastically chic ankle boots that would both jazz up my winter wardrobe... and stymie my travel plans for 2010. My winter line-up is in desperate need of some festive embellishments and additions, but my boyfriend and I had discussed taking a trip (anywhere in the world- my choice!) to celebrate our five-year anniversary in March. Sure, I would love to splurge on either of these shoe styles, but Hong Kong, Lima, or Istanbul potentially await. And, at close to $1600 for the above shoes, that's our airfare!

So, here, for all to covet, are the shoes that could possibly leave my passport a stamp or two short next year.

(Photo is off to the right, as I'm still dealing with technical difficulties with uploading images. I may have mentioned before that I'm more of a pen-and-Moleskine writer than blogger, so I'm still not proficient with the ins and outs of the blogger website.)

03 November 2009

At Last, At Last: "Coco Before Chanel"

After months of beginning each day in the office by watching the trailer to "Coco Before Chanel" (much like I did with "The September Issue" and the Valentino documentary), the wait is finally over. I saw Anne Fontaine's wonderful film last night, and was both surprised and delighted.

I was surprised by the film because I thought it would have focused more on Chanel's work and career, not to mention her rise to the pinnacle of the fashion world. I was expecting to see a scene on her rivalry with Christian Dior or Elsa Schiaparelli and more explanations regarding her transition from designing hats in Deauville to her feat in presenting her signature collection in Paris. It seemed that in one scene we are shown her early career in hat-making...and then ten minutes later Chanel is in her rue Cambon office presenting an entire collection of dresses, tweed jackets, and elegant ball gowns- all of the classics which have defined her aesthetic. I would have liked to have seen more development here. No attention was paid to her long absence from fashion during WWII or how she made her triumphant comeback after 30 years away from the industry.

Yet I was delighted with the focus on the more personal attributes and characteristics of this great couturier, the lesser-known Chanel, if you will. Audrey Tautou's performance was impeccable, and it is impossible to imagine how any other actress could have captured Chanel in such an alluringly accurate way. There was a fierce independence streak and fiery attitude in Chanel to which I could deeply relate. Not only was Audrey Tautou a perfect physical match to Chanel, but she portrayed all of these qualities authentically and convincingly.

Perhaps the most significant part of the film was Chanel's relationship with the Englishman Arthur "Boy" Capel, for this is what the viewer remembers most. The film didn't really gain momentum until Boy emerged and it quickly lost interest with his departure from the screen. Introduced to Capel while she was the live-in "geisha" to the wealthy Etienne Balsan, Coco and Boy soon fell in love. Their relationship was complicated by many factors- Coco's position in the Balsan household, Boy's friendship with Balsan, Boy's upcoming nuptials, etc., etc. It was never meant to be, and Chanel knew this, saying, "I always knew I'd never be anyone's wife." The young Coco was correct in her prediction, for Chanel never married.

The significance of Coco's relationship with Boy reminded me of other biopics of famous female artists that have emerged on screen recently. In "Becoming Jane," it is not Jane Austen's work that captivates the viewers most, but her heartbreaking realisation that she and the love of her life, Tom LeFroy, can never be together. In "La Vie en Rose," the biopic on Edith Piaf, I most recall the scene in which her great love dies tragically. The same is the case in both "Miss Potter" and even "Iris," the biopic on Iris Murdoch, in which a young Iris Murdoch declares, "You are my world," to her future husband, John Bayley. Their talent and artistic contributions were not overshadowed by their relationships, but the viewer fully grasps the monumental impact of the respective men in their lives and work.

Perhaps this is because it is the relationships one has with friends, family, and lovers that truly define a life, even an exemplary one like that of Gabrielle Chanel, arguably the greatest couturier to ever live. The greatest, in my opinion.
Though the film was full of surprises and even omissions, Chanel's impact on fashion was always made clear. Whether she was in a simple striped shirt cinched at the waist with a bow, a white blouse and pearls, or a long dress without *gasp* a corset, Chanel was indeed portrayed as a woman ahead of her time. And the film never missed the mark in conveying this.

01 November 2009

Preparing for "Coco Before Chanel"

"Coco Before Chanel," the biopic on the iconic designer starring Audrey Tautou, is now in theatres across the country. So, yes, the long wait is finally over! Before viewers waltz in to see the film, possibly knowing little about the real woman herself, I thought it would be wise to revisit some of the other biographical material already available on Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel as sort of a primer before the main event. The film is sub-titled so non-French speaking viewers may already feel a bit lost during the movie. Here is my attempt to provide the foundation for an outstanding viewing of "Coco Before Chanel."

Chanel in Film

The 2008 biopic, "Coco Chanel," starring Shirley MacLaine, is a wonderful place to begin. The movie originally debuted on Lifetime in 2008 and is now available on DVD. I know that Shirley MacLaine, who played the adult Chanel, was supposed to be the undisputed star of this production, but I actually thought that Brigitte Boucher, who played the younger Chanel, was far better at portraying the real-life Chanel. Ms. Boucher's Chanel was believable, heart-felt, and undeniably strong. As for the movie itself, it was both inspirational and emotional while being true to the designer's life. The ending is particularly bittersweet when the viewer fully grasps the indelible legacy of the great Gabrielle Chanel. Yes, I had glistening tears during the Chanel retrospective.

Clocking in at just over two hours, this is a wonderful place to begin one's education on Chanel.

Chanel in Print

If you have time to read about Chanel's life before seeing the film, I would highly recommend beginning with the definitive biography on her life by Axel Madsen, "Chanel: A Woman of Her Own." Now available in paperback, this biography traces Chanel's life from birth through the height of her career to her place at the pinnacle of the world of haute couture. The biography is also sprinkled with the names of high society doyennes, world leaders, iconic musicians, and other characters who floated in and out of Chanel's life. This book truly belongs in the collection of any true fashion lover's home library, but if you have not read it yet, now is your chance.

I would also recommend reading "Chanel and Her World" by Edmonde Charles-Roux, a former editor-in-chief of French Vogue. Not available in paperback, this book is a bit more expensive (Amazon.com has it listed for $37.80) but ultimately worth reading. Charles-Roux was fortunate enough to be an intimate friend of Chanel, so the tributes and reflections are unique to this biography. If the hardback price is a bit daunting, perhaps one's local library will carry this gem of a book.

Chanel in Retrospect

The Metropolitan Museum of Art curated a collection of the couturier's work in 2005 and, fortunately for those of us who did not make the voyage to Manhattan for the viewing, a book was created to commemorate the historic event. With curators like Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda (two of my absolute idols), you know the presentation will be of immeasurable quality. With photographs of the collection and contributors like Karl Lagerfeld (!!!), the corresponding book certainly does not disappoint. If this piece is not already in your personal collection, it is available through Amazon.com's marketplace sellers and, of course, is likely to be found in your local library.

Chanel Lives

The legacy of Gabrielle Chanel is not only found in film, books, and museum collections. In fact, the contributions of Chanel are felt all around us. As one of the most significant and influential artists of the twentieth century, her life lives on and, thanks to Karl Lagerfeld, an entirely new generation of fashion and art connoisseurs have been exposed to the wonder and allure of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel.

Chanel will always have a special place in my heart. After viewing "Coco Before Chanel," I hope this eminent designer, artist, forward-thinker, and woman will have a fond place in yours as well.

31 October 2009

Happy 50th Birthday, Vogue Australia!

This has undeniably been a year of milestones. London Fashion Week celebrated its 25th season. Cosmetics giant, L'Oreal, celebrated 100 years of beauty. My boyfriend's grandparents celebrated 50 years of marriage. And one other entity celebrated 50 glorious years: Vogue Australia.

To commemorate the occasion, Kirstie Clements, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Australia, put forth an impeccable tour de force of a magazine. The September issue is graced by drawings of one of Australia's greatest actors, Cate Blanchett, in four different illustrations each by the London-based artist David Downton.

What I loved most about this issue were the many tributes to Australian fashion, culture, film, literature, and art. Australia is not often a fixture on the international scene, so it was terrific to learn so much about the country in a single issue. In a sense, the September issue could be treated as a reference guide for one wanting to learn more about the country. Even though my dearest friend is a bona fide expert on all things Australian, graciously educating her friends on the customs and manners of her adopted country, I still learned a few new things about Australia from this issue.

The issue also had insider perspectives from top Australian fashion editors, including the editor in chief. Ms. Clements, along with the fashion director, and other top positions on the masthead, reflected on their time with Vogue Australia and how each sort of fell into the position. Ms. Clements spoke of her world travels and how, at age 19, she returned to Sydney looking for a job. It just so happened that Vogue Australia was looking for a receptionist. Ms. Clements won the position and, ten years later, she wields the greatest power atop the masthead. Her message was particularly inspiring, even though she acknowledged that the industry has changed radically over the years and that the competition is now fierce. Indeed it is!

To pay homage to the great "Aussie cossie," Ms. Clements commissioned international designers to come up with their own version of the iconic Australian fashion piece. Karl Lagerfeld, Francisco Costa, and John Galliano all created swimsuits best reflecting the special joie de vivre of the Australian woman. In another tribute, Ms. Clements chose fifty of the best covers of the magazine.

Issues of Vogue Australia are expensive outside of Australia: $11 for each issue. The September issue, however, coming in at 360 pages, is unquestionably worth the eleven dollars. If you've ever wanted to learn more about Australian fashion, the September issue is your chance to do so. I can't think of a better way to celebrate fifty years of Australian culture than the triumphant September issue.

28 October 2009

Through the Vogue Looking Glass...

Thanks to a new feature on Vogue.com, Inside Vogue, mere mortals are given a rare glimpse into the real-life closets of actual Vogue editors. If you've ever wondered what the fashion luminaries behind the scenes are wearing (when they're not at industry parties or gallery openings), Vogue has finally provided the antidote.

The feature is called "Five Days, Five Looks, One Girl" and it gives individual editors the opportunity to describe their unique fashion point-of-view through a week's worth of outfits worn to the office. This isn't just any office, mind you, so you can imagine how high my expectations were. The feature also sheds any illusions readers might have of the real world Vogue mimicking a set on "The Devil Wears Prada" or "SATC: The Movie." Um, not quite, but the fashion bar was still set very high.

Features Associate, Sophie Pera, contributed the inaugural five looks, and she certainly did not disappoint. I was immensely impressed with her creative approach and unique spin on basic pieces (bodysuits, sweatpants). This is exactly the kind of exemplary style one would expect from a junior Voguette. Oh, and those amazing bright orange plastic shoes?! I must find a pair!

Associate Fashion Editor, Veronica Gledhill, also displayed her high-fashion style, even if on a more subdued level than Ms. Pera. Ms. Gledhill, who explained that she only dresses in a spectrum of black, white, and cool gray, completely changed my mind on the virtues of dressing without colour (I previously thought that there were none). Ms. Gledhill challenged the notion that black can be too basic by wearing her garments in unconventional ways. A silk ivory slip was worn over a black dress, a scarf was looped around the waist and over the shoulders (completely transforming the ensemble), and metal hardware was burnished and textured to augment the effect. In short, Ms. Gledhill proved herself to be a beacon of style and certainly one to watch over the years.

The new Inside Vogue feature has reached even higher on the masthead with Sally Singer, Filipa Fino, and Sylvana Soto-Ward all contributing looks. Not surprisingly, some big fashion names were sported. Shoes by Manolo Blahnik and YSL. Miu Miu bags. Prada pants. Oscar de la Renta skirts. This is to be expected from the top of the masthead where the salaries are higher and the experience is greater, but I was a little disenchanted to find that even assistants had the funds for fashion's biggest names (granted, they were balanced out with pieces from American Apparel, Express, and Top Shop to name a few). I am certainly no math whiz, but a small salary plus NYC rent does not add up to YSL platforms in my mind...

Although the feature was dubbed "Five Days, Five Looks, One Girl," one editor in particular was given the opportunity to showcase not five but fourteen looks. Who could this editor be? Why Vogue's socialite-extraordinaire, Lauren Santo Domingo, of course. Not only did Vogue's shining social star (and contributing editor) offer a full week's worth of outfits worn during Fashion Week, she also offered corresponding day and night looks. Lauren Santo Domingo certainly proved why she is a fixture on Vogue's weekly best dressed list compiled by Style Director Alexandra Kotur.

If these looks weren't exciting enough for you, stay tuned. We just might see Anna herself profiled in "Five Days, Five Looks, One Editor-in-Chief."

(all images in this post are from Vogue's website, http://www.vogue.com/)

18 October 2009

31 rue Cambon: Everything is Best

When Banzan was walking through a market, he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.

"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.

"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find any piece of meat here that is not the best."

At these words Banzan became enlightened.

Though this passage is excerpted from "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones," one might say that the same can be said of Chanel's flagship store on 31 rue Cambon.

I can still remember my first visit to Paris in 2004, particularly my very own pilgrimage to Chanel's office, studio, and present-day shop on rue Cambon. If pilgrimages can be made to Canterbury, Santiago, and Rocamadour, why not a Chanel boutique? And not just any boutique, but the very building where Chanel herself worked, designed, and created nothing short of perfection.

As a young budget-traveler, I visited the store with my sister, Laura, in less than fashionable attire. I believe I was wearing my tan suede Banana Republic walking shoes, which I referred to as my "orthopedic shoes," jeans, a dark brown corduroy blazer, and a nondescript sweater. Basically, this was an outfit that I wouldn't dream of sporting today. Nevertheless, I weaved my way through the maize-like streets of Paris to find this Holy Grail of fashion. Nothing, not even a dowdy outfit, would deter me.

At last, Laura and I reached 31 rue Cambon. It was just as magical as I imagined. The gargantuan store was filled with sumptuous bags, pristine dresses, and glorious shoes. A Zen master, or fashionista, might have walked around the store thinking, "Everything is best here."

And it was.

16 October 2009

Have Prada Sandal, Will Travel : Prada Resort 2010

Passport? Check. Snazzy, hot pink passport cover? Check. Dream destination? Check. Prada sandals from the Resort 2010 collection? Er, no...

Let me back-track here.

I'm usually not an advocate of resort collections, whether that be for High Street or Main Street. Well, the Prada Resort 2010 collection completely changed my mind. I know that this collection was presented back in June, but the gorgeous looks from the runway are just now trickling into the November fashion magazines, so I've had a chance to see them in all of their sartorial splendor.

This was a collection that combined the best of both worlds for me: fashion and travel. I love the mixed prints, whimsical colors, muted and bold shades. I could just picture myself wearing any of these looks while jetting to Sydney, Seoul, Tokyo, Palermo, Istanbul, etc., etc.

It was the shoes that really stole my heart though. With brightly patterned sashes around the ankles, dynamic prints, and a multitude of styles, Miuccia truly ousted the competition here. There are even nude and black varieties for the less-daring fashionista.

If ever there were shoes worthy of an exotic destination (and a bit of a splurge), surely these would be the ones.