31 December 2010

The Year in Review

The end of the year is always a wonderful time for personal reflection. Were the past twelve months eventful or influential? Did I accomplish what I set out to achieve? And, most important, what is on the horizon for the new year? Here's a small look back at my past twelve months ...and what I'm looking forward to in 2011.

LONDON: Any opportunity to visit my favorite place in the world is a precious gift that I do not take for granted for even a moment. No matter how many times I visit this city, I always leave looking forward to the next return. I earned my eleventh and twelfth LHR stamps this year, and I can't wait to receive more!

TRAVEL: Though my travel plans didn't exactly go as I had hoped, it would be rather trite to be remiss about visiting nine countries in a single calendar year. My sister and I visited some of the world's greatest cities and had unforgettable adventures along the way. I know this trip is something that we'll both still be talking about when we're in our nineties.

UNUSUAL CHARACTERS: I met some rather strange folks on the travelin' road this year. There was "Nico Patterson's Mom" in Venice, a gregarious woman Laura and I kept bumping into all over the city. She told us stories about her unusual world travels (this woman had been everywhere) and how her son had Barack Obama as a professor at the University of Chicago. There was also "Jesus" in Bologna, a vagabond/ street beggar that Laura and I also kept bumping into all over town. He asked us for a euro at a festival in the piazza, and later that evening we saw him stumbling through the porticoes with a half-empty bottle of Sambucca. We both want to return to Bologna and look for him again. Oh, and there was the woman in Pula, Croatia whom we affectionately referred to as the "Accommodation Troll" because she solicited a room in her house to us as soon as we arrived at the bus station, not speaking a word of the local language and having absolutely no idea where we'd be staying. We declined her offer, though.

THAT VOLCANO: We began our travels in Iceland, but the volcano didn't really bother us until we were in Italy, trying to make our way north to Austria. Every train was booked solid for the next three weeks or more, due to the closure of nearly every major airport on the continent. Instead, we took a train to Udine, Italy where we waited all day to catch the only train to Salzburg. Around midnight that evening, one of the Tren Italia workers agreed to let us on the train without a ticket, provided we crouched in the hallway. We spent one of the longest nights of our lives in the cramped, smelly hallway. When two young Austrians boarded the train around 2 or 3 a.m., they remarked that the it smelled like a fish market. That was being kind.

REMEMBRANCE: We must always look forward, while never forgetting those who made the future possible. My father took my sister and I to visit the Ohio Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Canton. The memorial is a smaller version of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., but it is the largest free-standing wall in the country. I've been to the Wall in D.C., but I was even more moved upon seeing the memorial dedicated to the brave men and women from Ohio who gave all they had. My sister and I hope to have a brick dedicated to our father here.

NEW LIFE: My best friend and her husband welcomed Baby Jackson in February. He's one of the most precious babies I've ever met, and something tells me that he's going to have an insatiable desire to see the world, much like his parents. And, in November, my boyfriend's sister and new husband welcomed their first child, Baby Zachary. Brian became an uncle and his parents became joyful grandparents. I can't wait to watch as their lives unfold.

FUTURE PROMISES: I think 2011 is going to be a fantastic year. I'm optimistic that it will finally be the year I realize my goals and do what is most important to me.
"...I see your true colors shining through...I see your true colors, and that's why I love you...so, don't be afraid to let them show...your true colors...true colors...are beautiful like the rainbow..."
Stay tuned for more!

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

28 December 2010

Lady Gaga: 2010's Best Dressed?

Vogue readers recently elected Lady Gaga as 2010's Best Dressed Person. The competition was stiff, with Gaga beating out such fashionable contenders as Anna Wintour-favorite Blake Lively, First Lady Michelle Obama, Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede, and Brit It-Girl Carey Mulligan, among others. In choosing Lady Gaga, an artist who dresses primarily in costume, has the line between theatrical costume and fashion become even more blurred?

Don't get me wrong- I like fashion risk-takers. I love them, actually. I'd rather see a row of Anna Piaggi-wannabes than Jennifer Aniston-emulators any day. The fanciful and the outrageous are what make fashion exciting, in my opinion. Sure, there are hits and misses along the way, but you can't hit a home run if you're not willing to swing the bat. Lady Gaga is certainly a risk-taker who brings excitement and attention to the fashion industry. However, do her costumes represent her personal style? The purpose of theatrical costume, according to art historian Anne Hollander, "is to catch the eye with something unusual" (Seeing Through Clothes). Gaga accomplishes this summa cum laude, but she does so in a different manner from other fashion risk-takers like Daphne Guinness, Tilda Swinton, and the late Isabella Blow- all of whom dress(ed) in a manner which reflects their personal style.

Lady Gaga's personal style, as captured by the paparazzi, seems to be as bold as her costume choices, but perhaps not as fashionable. She has been photographed shopping (in the winter, no less!) without pants many times, wearing fishnets or sheer tights instead. She also wears heels that are typically favored by the women-of-the-night set and not the A-list fashion crowd. Fashion choices like these represent a lack of taste to me, even if they are bold and daring. One can take risks in fashion while still being appropriate, I believe.

So, if Lady Gaga won Best Dressed for her costumes and not her personal style, is she truly the year's best dressed woman? And what is the difference between costume and clothing- or is there one? Just a little fashion brain food for you!

(** photo from fashionfame.com**)

LSD's Trunk Show

Lauren Santo Domingo is a woman who wears many hats. She is a Vogue contributing editor, stylist, socialite, modern fashion icon, and wife to Andrés Santo Domingo, a member of one of South America's wealthiest families. Now she has added entrepreneur to her long resume. Santo Domingo has developed, what I believe, is a brilliant business concept: an online trunk show that will have clothing straight from the runway available to those who can, well, afford it. The new enterprise is called Moda Operandi and it will launch on February 15th (Robert Sullivan, vogue.com).

What I love about this concept is that it makes runway fashions available. So many times, pieces from the runway are presented and photographed, and then tucked away into fashion obscurity for all eternity. Or, the piece is altered so severely after it is produced that it no longer resembles the original runway creation. If you are someone who saw the original on the runway and want that dress, Moda Operandi will now make it available to you, albeit you are willing to wait at least six weeks or more for the ensemble to arrive (which LSD believes women will not mind).

Upon first inspection, this concept might seem elitist or completely antediluvian, which in some respects it is. However, if you truly love fashion for fashion's sake, then this modern trunk show might just be what the doctor ordered in terms of preserving couture and ready-to-wear. Fashion critics have been warning about the end of couture for decades, much like bibliophiles have worried about the end of print media. I believe that Moda Operandi will extend longevity to fashion and bring more utility to runway shows (not that you should have to justify art for art's sake, but now there is even greater purpose for runway shows).

It will be interesting to see how the designers respond to this concept, though. According to Sullivan's article for Vogue, Calvin Klein, Thakoon, Derek Lam, Altuzarra, and Prabal Gurung have already agreed to make their fashions available for the trunk show. That's fantastic, but many of those designers are personal friends of LSD, so it makes sense that they would take part in her new venture. Let's see if she can attract the high-end designers (Galliano, Lagerfeld, Ghesquiere, Elbaz, et al).

I'm optimistic about this project and highly curious about it. Let's hope Moda Operandi's clients are as well.

(** information in this post is from "Lauren Santo Domingo: Lady and the Trunk," Robert Sullivan, vogue.com**)

19 December 2010

French Vogue v. American Vogue, Or Know Thy Audience

Carine Roitfeld's sudden departure from French Vogue has raised many questions over the past few days. Who will replace her at the magazine? Will she be collaborating with Tom Ford (Ford says no)? And- in not so many words- why can't American Vogue have editorials, articles, and content that are as provocative as those of French Vogue? Aren't Anna, Grace, Virginia, and the stylists and editors at American Vogue as talented and creative as their French counterparts? Yes, they are would be my answer. So why are American Vogue readers stuck with Jennifer Aniston and Anne Hathaway while French Vogue readers have access to Lara Stone and Freja? It's the audience, as one reader of The Cut pointed out. (S/he's right.) And here's why:

1) American Vogue, under the editorial leadership of Anna Wintour (so in the past 25 years), has developed too broad of content that most often has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with fashion (which is why you were drawn to Vogue in the first place, right?). There are interviews with politicians (*yawn*) like Condi Rice, Timothy Geithner, and Hilary Clinton; stories about trite celebrities (*double yawn*); and quips about everything happening in the life of LSD and other Vogue socialites, many of whom flee the magazine after only a few months (Claiborne Swanson, Sara Moonves, Devon Radziwill, Ricki de Sole- just give her a few more months). Anna has explained that she wants the magazine to be like a fabulous cocktail party, where there are conversations on everything from literature to the culinary arts. This is a great concept, but a magazine is not like a party, and the content must be specific to its audience. Unfocused, broad content equals too broad of an audience.

2) American Vogue readers are more interested in celebrities than models (or at least Anna thinks we are). Instead of covers like this:

and this:

we have covers like this:

and this:

Even when there is a model on the cover, the styling is dull and unimaginative. I know that Vogue has to sell copies to stay afloat, but if they started putting forth interesting covers, the folks with only a fleeting interest in fashion would move on to more appropriate choices like In Style and Glamour, leaving more avant-garde choices for the hardcore fashion addicts among us. And we would show our support and appreciation by subscribing again.

3) Lastly- and this is a big one- American Vogue readers are too conservative to allow the kind of editorials that French Vogue produces. And this is a crying shame. The broad readership that American Vogue attracts is easily offended and unusually conservative- something that has lately bewildered me. There isn't a single member of Anna's staff who conceals his or her liberal leanings, yet month after month, a conservative reader writes in complaining about an article on women's rights, an interview with a Democratic leader, or a progressive editorial. Again, know thy audience. There's a reason I do not read National Review. The magazine does not represent my values or beliefs. If you don't like the liberal content of American Vogue, look elsewhere. Maybe Rupert Murdoch will launch a conservative fashion magazine (which would be a misnomer because fashion is by definition forward-thinking and progressive- it has to be). When the magazine puts forth only culturally provocative content, things will get better. And fast. Fashion, like all art forms, has to be constantly changing and cutting-edge to stay relevant.

I think American Vogue has the opportunity to be as forward-thinking, progressive, visually stimulating, and culturally aware as it wants to be. Attracting readers who want the same is the only thing standing in its way.

Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes at the V&A

I really should have been born in the 1920s. I could have been friends with Carmel Snow, had my photograph taken by Brassaï, hung out in Paris with Picasso and Henry Miller, worn clothing designed by Chanel and Lanvin themselves, raised havoc as a flapper in New York, and witnessed a production of the legendary Ballet Russes. Since the ability to time-travel has not been invented yet, I'll have to content myself with the Victoria and Albert Museum's exhibit Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909- 1929 to fulfill the last request. The exhibit, which opened on September 25th and will be running until January 9th, is a monumental undertaking co-curated by renowned curators Jane Pritchard and Geoffrey Marsh. I won't be able to make it back to London before the 9th of January, but, fortunately, the V&A's website has provided a wealth of information, photos, videos, and interviews on all things related to this exhibit.

For instance, the exhibit houses one of the largest Picasso paintings in the world. Picasso painted the backdrop for the 1924 Ballet Russes production of Le Train Bleu. The painting, which was signed by the great artist, is the centerpiece for this exhibit. To view the positioning of the photo, check out the V&A's video here.

Diaghilev was an incredibly collaborative and forward-thinking man. The exhibit also features the talents of Stravinsky, Chanel, Matisse, Picasso, and Nijinsky, his legendary partner and star dancer. This includes props, costumes, set designs, and posters designed by Léon Bakst, Georges Braque, and Natalia Goncharova. Nearly every aspect of the exhibit's creation, from its earliest genesis to the present, has been documented by Jane Pritchard at her blog. The V&A has also put together a walking tour around London which highlights important places in theatre and the history of the Ballet Russes. I can't wait to take advantage of that! The next time you're in London, check out the map here.

My curiosity in Diaghilev and the Ballet Ruses has been increased tenfold by merely viewing the V&A's website devoted to the magnificent exhibit. I can only imagine how much it would be heightened by actually seeing the collections. As usual, the V&A seems to have created nothing short of a masterpiece.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must request every book the library has on Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes, including the accompanying exhibit book by Jane Pritchard and Geoffrey Marsh.

(** photo and links from the V&A's website at www.vam.ac.uk**)

16 December 2010

Holiday Party Razzle Dazzle

It's hard to believe that Pre-Fall collections are already out. I'm still digesting the many looks and trends from last season. I'm liking what I see for Pre-Fall so far, though. I also think that next season's looks can lend inspiration for the holiday party circuit this year. Here are a few perfect dresses and sensational party looks to wear to everything from the office party to simple cocktails out on the town.

This dress by Thakoon takes my breath away. Wearing this dress would make one an instant contender for the title of Best Dressed at the Holiday Party. I also love those incredible shoes. Yes, this is what I would wear to my holiday party.

Vera Wang's bright red party frock is also perfectly festive. I think pairing it with black tights and a sculptural blazer (to be removed upon arrival) would be perfect for crisp December weather.

I love this embellished dress from First Lady-favorite Naeem Khan. The shoes, however, are rather lackluster, so be sure to wear a more exciting pair. It is Christmas, after all!

And finally we have here two different, but equally holiday party-appropriate looks from Fendi. The suit on the right would be ideal for the office party and the sexy dress on the left would be perfect for a dressed-up dinner out on the town with your beau. The shoes are pure perfection, too.

Have a fashionable holiday!

(** photos from style.com**)

14 December 2010

Lauren Bush and David Lauren Make It Official

What a busy season for engagements! Prince William and his long-time love, Kate, finally made it official, and now David Lauren has popped the question to his girlfriend of six years, Lauren Bush. According to New York Magazine's Daily Intel, David Lauren proposed to Ms. Bush at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last Friday. I just love when couples with a long history together make engagement announcements. There's something bittersweet about it that yields additional happiness to me.

I suppose we can officially begin speculating as to whether or not Lauren will take David's surname. I suspect she'll remain Lauren Bush in public. We need not bother in speculating who will design the bride and bridegroom's wedding ensembles, though. Something tells me that Ralph Lauren will have that honor. Oh, and I predict that Dylan Lauren will have something to do with the wedding cake or dessert treats.

Congratulations to the happy couple!

13 December 2010

The Official Royal Engagement Photo

It should come as no surprise that Mario Testino was chosen to take the official engagement photo for Prince William and Kate Middleton. Testino was Princess Diana's most trusted photographer, capturing her for countless British Vogue shoots and official engagements. He also photographed Prince Charles for the September 2010 issue of Vogue. It would seem that Mario Testino has well established himself as a friend to both the Royals and the fashion industry.

His official engagement photo of the young couple is simple and elegant. If they weren't one of the most famous couples in the world, they could very well be any other stylish and sophisticated couple. Both appear relaxed and genuinely happy- everything one would want in an engagement photo.

The photo only leaves me wondering who designed Kate's beautiful dress. Issa, perhaps?

(** photo by Mario Testino, vogue.com**)

Presidential Holiday Style

Our First Lady and President look so festive at the Kennedy Center Honorees' Reception in Washington, D.C. Who knew style this fantastic was even possible in D.C.? Michelle Obama, in particular, looks absolutely stunning in her Naeem Khan burgundy bedazzled and embroidered dress. I also love the drop earrings and slicked-back hair. There's no mistaking it- our First Lady is a Style Star!

(** image from vogue.com**)

12 December 2010

2010's Top Books

It's really difficult for me to narrow down my favorite books from the year to just ten selections. These are books that I really enjoyed, not books that were necessarily released in 2010. In fact, I do not believe a single one of my favorite books from the year was new in 2010. The ones that most stood out in my mind are a combination of travel narratives (one of my favorite genres), fashion/ clothing books, literature, and uplifting tales.

"Moon Tiger" by Penelope Lively. I'm making my way through the entire list of Man Booker recipients. I am so glad that I read this one! It is an incredibly moving and poignant tale about life, loss, and love. It's one of my all-time favorite books.

"The Language of Clothes" by Alison Lurie. While a little dated now, this book still offers wonderful insight into why people wear what they wear and what that ultimately means. It also affirms the importance of dress as a means of the signification of identity, something that I find very compelling.

"Conversations with Picasso" by Brassaï. The photographer Brassaï has been one of my greatest academic interests lately. I love the way he captured the demimonde of Paris, while still attracting the attention of high fashion magnates like Carmel Snow. In reading "Conversations with Picasso," the idea for a PhD dissertation was born.

"The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton. Australian writer Morton perfectly weaved together an unforgettable tale about a person's mysterious past. All of the details unraveled throughout the book in incredible ways. I can't wait to read it again.

"Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China," Paul Theroux. Theroux is by far my favorite travel writer. Yes, he is a bit of a curmudgeon with some rather acerbic comments regarding life in America (among other things), but his thoughtful travel accounts never cease to astound me- or make me wish that I had been along for the ride.

"The Years" by Virginia Woolf. Virginia is one of my top two favorite writers (along with Iris Murdoch), so I've been making my way through her complete works. "The Years" is definitely one of my favorites. I love how she told not only the history of the Pargiters, but the history of London, too. This annotated edition is also absolutely beautiful.

"All Passion Spent" by Vita Sackville-West. After reading so many books by Virginia, I thought it was time to explore something by her lover, Vita. I was not disappointed with this book. I found it extremely uplifting and inspiring. I even wrote a blog post on it!

"The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England" by Ian Mortimer. This book was so entertaining and fun to read that I almost forgot it was non-fiction. If you love learning about the history of England, or if you just love history, you'll adore this book.

"Istanbul: Memories and the City" by Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk's memoir was part travel narrative and part autobiography. He blended the two elements together seamlessly and, in doing so, educated the reader on his own path to becoming a writer and Istanbul's path in becoming a world-class destination. This book also made me very eager to visit Istanbul- something my sister and I plan to do in the near future.

"Seeing Through Clothes" by Anne Hollander. I love art and fashion, and this book was a perfect combination of the two subjects. Hollander's fascinating book gave me some wonderful ideas and encouraged me to add art history to my academic repertoire.

Happy reading!

(**all images from amazon.com**)

07 December 2010

Lanvin for H&M on the Red Carpet

Natalie Portman recently stepped out in Lanvin for H&M, putting to rest the pretentious argument that bridge lines aren't well-made or on-par with their more expensive relatives. I think she looks fantastic in this dress. Had Vogue not specified that this was Alber Elbaz's collection for H&M, I doubt anyone would have known the difference in terms of the craftsmanship of the dress.
Well done, Monsieur Elbaz!

(** photo courtesy of vogue.com**)

03 December 2010

Katy Perry's Bejeweled Red Lips

Why subscribe to Harper's Bazaar? Aside from the steep discount off the newsstand price, subscribers also receive creative, fashion-forward covers that no one else is privy to. Case in point- the December issue of Harper's Bazaar. Three covers were released, as opposed to the usual two. There is one newsstand cover (*yawn*), one subscriber cover, and one special edition subscriber cover. I received the "special edition" cover, and it was indeed a treat from the norm.

This cover has the faint outline of Katy Perry's facial features, which are styled up with lots of mascara and Swarovski crystals. It's such a head-turner that I barely recognized the musician when I first retrieved the magazine from my mailbox. It's also unlike any other fashion magazine cover in my collection.

Bravo, Bazaar!

01 December 2010

Holiday Wish List

It's a bit early to begin composing holiday wish lists (especially considering my sister's and my most time-honored holiday tradition is to begin our Christmas shopping the day before Christmas Eve), but I've been inspired to compile a list of gifts for those of you who are out and about holiday shopping. Perhaps one of these gifts will suit someone on your holiday shopping list, or strike your own fancy.

I have a soft spot for quality stationery, and Crane is by far my favorite choice. I especially love the Giraffe Print Letterpress Notes in ecru/ white. A box of ten cards and envelopes can be yours (or your recipient's) for $19 at crane.com.

I've been collecting DK Eyewitness Travel Guides since middle school. My first DK guide was purchased back when I was in the sixth grade and was for- you guessed it- the UK. I now have close to thirty DK guides and would love to add this one to my collection.

What better way to celebrate the holidays than with the Choir of New College! A world-renowned choir, the Choir of New College releases musical recordings that are available in the UK (naturally) and at amazon.com. Check out the choir's website, too, at http://www.newcollegechoir.com/. I have heard them in person, and they are magical.

Balenciaga Paris Eau de Parfum. Bergdorf Goodman describes it as "a demure violet with airy blossom and delicate peppery notes. A fragrance that is mysterious and fragile, yet leaves a lasting trail." Last year my boyfriend gave me perfume from Lanvin; perhaps Balenciaga will be next?

Prim Premium Chain Point Court Shoes (quite the title, eh?) from Top Shop are fashionable enough to wear when one is out on the town, yet conservative enough to wear to the office. I love the ankle chains, which would be perfect with tights.

These Radcliffe Camera Bookends are available at the Bodleian Library's online site, or at the shop in Oxford. If I had my way, an entire room in my apartment would be furnished in Oxford memorabilia. These bookends, at 250 GBP, would be a great way to start.

A classic decanter for the wino or liquor connoisseur on everyone's holiday list. This particular square variety is available from Pottery Barn for only $25.

I have a weakness for lip balm and have always wanted to try Clinique's Repairwear Intensive Lip Treatment balm. I've been deterred from trying it by the high price tag ($25), but still think it is the ultimate gift for fellow lip balm addicts this Christmas.

And, finally, this pink diamond engagement ring from Asprey- a ring so stunning that it might even make Kate Middleton jealous. Price upon request, of course.

Happy holidays, dear friends!