28 January 2011

Valentino: The Prettiest Couture Collection of Them All

The work that Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri are creating at the helm of Valentino just keeps getting better. When a famous designer leaves a fashion house, especially when that designer is the label's creator, there is so much pressure on the label's successor (i.e. Yves Saint Laurent taking over at Dior, Tom Ford replacing Yves Saint Laurent, Sarah Burton carrying on Alexander McQueen's legacy). Yet, Piccioli and Chiuri have not only retained the style elements that Valentino himself established so firmly, but they have also brought their own unique vision to the brand, as Tim Blanks pointed out in his review for style.com. Their couture collection for Spring 2011 was another outstanding example of this.

What I love most about this collection is its overall feminine and delicate mood. I love pieces that are overtly feminine- bows, ruffles, satin, etc. I adore it all. The color palette of soft ivory, pale pinks, and nude tones was also pitch perfect. Of course, there were a few dresses in Valentino Red, but overall the shades were ethereal and light. The impeccable craftsmanship, however, is what separates the couturiers from the amateurs, and Piccioli and Chiuri are above all else couturiers.

Look 24, modeled by Kamila Filipcikova, is my absolute favorite dress from the entire collection. I love the one-shoulder silhouette, the ruffled collar made of butterfly cut-outs (genius!), the bow at the waist, and most of all, those dazzling shoes. All of the shoes in this collection were flawless, but this is my favorite pair.

Is this not the prettiest dress you have ever seen? Again, I am in love with that butterfly neck piece!

This dress has a vintage, antique feel to it that I am always happy to see on the runway. Wasn't it Valerie Steele who said that designers need to have knowledge of fashion history in order to create the clothing of tomorrow? It was something to that effect, and I completely agree.

I am reminded of the Valentino dress that Michelle Williams wore to the Golden Globes when viewing this delicate black and ivory number. While sartorially stunning, the dress did not receive many accolades outside of Vogue. I, of course, loved it almost as much as this soft dress.

I find myself taking a trip down memory lane with this ensemble, too. My friend Emily wore a pleated skirt just like this one when we were in college. Hers was not sheer, but it did have the same diaphanous feel to it as this Valentino creation. Everyday is a runway, after all!

Again, we have all of the new Valentino signatures encompassed in one breathtaking dress.

This collection was just so beautiful! I would dress like this everyday if I could. Encore!

(**photos from style.com**)

25 January 2011

Time for Spring Couture Already?

It's a little difficult to become excited about spring when there are mounds and mounds of snow outside. Yet, fashion constantly pushes us forward, ushering in season after season of new looks. I only just finished digesting the RTW shows, but it's already time for another round of collections. Ready or not, here's a brief glimpse of Dior Spring 2011 Couture.

My countrywoman, Magdalena Frackowiak (yes, she's Polish!), looks fantastic in this dark navy and pale blue dress. The styling, while reminiscent of Fall 2010 Couture, is still impeccable in my eyes.

Could anyone else picture the former Betty Draper in this ensemble? I love the structured jacket and pleats, but most of all, I am crazy about a cinched waist. Perfect!

This has a conservative playfulness about it that I can really appreciate. It's also incredibly feminine and delicate. Galliano's range never fails to astound.

This soft confection looks like it was made for the red carpet. Tailored to the knee, it's the perfect multi-purpose dress for the office, social engagements, travel, shopping, etc., etc. It can be next to impossible to find the utility in couture sometimes, but it is meant to be worn, yes?

I kept coming back to this metallic knee-length number. I particularly like the effect of the bubble on the skirt. I have a piece like that and it's one of my most-worn items.

And, the man behind the magic. Is John Galliano not the coolest person on the planet, or what? I don't know when or how, but I'm going to meet him someday.

To view Galliano's full collection for Dior Spring 2011 Couture, head on over to style.com, the site from whence these beautiful photos came.

24 January 2011

Flawless Rodarte

Kirsten Dunst wore one of my favorite dresses of the year to the recent Art of Elysium Heaven Gala. The dress by Rodarte is an ethereal blend of colors, patterns, and textures: mint green mixed with jade and turquoise, heavy fabrics encased by soft satin, and bold prints balanced out by faded details. The Mulleavy Sisters are always quick to say that the idea for a dress came to them in a dream, but this beautiful frock looked like it truly was inspired by a heavenly deep slumber. Absolute perfection!

(** photo from vogue.com**)

The Wisdom of Samantha Brown

She can usually be found jet-setting around the world, staying in fabulous luxury hotels, and visiting the best of what the planet has to offer. This past weekend, however, Samantha Brown came to Columbus, Ohio. She spoke at the AAA Travel Expo, which was located downtown. My friend Leah, who is both a travel agent and avid traveler, invited me to attend the Expo with her.

I was really looking forward to hearing Samantha Brown speak. I've been watching her shows since "Great Vacation Homes," but it was her "Passport to Europe" series that really won me over as a fan. I love how her travel experiences, while rarefied and highly unique, are described in her personable way, making her show strangely relate-able. She makes it seem like anyone can travel and have these life-changing experiences. She conveyed exactly this message when she spoke at the Expo.

I found two topics during her presentation to be deeply profound. First, she spoke about how her travel experiences have given her more confidence in every aspect of her life. I've found the same to be true from my own experiences. Traveling to another country definitely requires a certain level of confidence, especially when you are traveling by yourself or without the comfort and ease of an organized tour. My sister and I have both traveled around Europe by ourselves, sometimes arriving in a city without any reservations or concrete plans at all. Traveling like a vagabond forces you out of your comfort zone, allowing you to meet people that you otherwise never would have spoken to. You also have to figure out every single detail of your travels completely on your own, building problem-solving and communication skills. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with this kind of travel that I'm not sure can be achieved any other way.

Secondly, Samantha (we're on a first-name basis now) spoke about how important and vital traveling really is. She stressed that it is not some frivolous act merely for the privileged few, but an opportunity to greatly improve one's life. I couldn't agree more! I find it so upsetting when traveling is downcast as a "vacation" or considered prodigal and wasteful. Any opportunity to explore the world and see how other people live is a worthwhile one.

While I loved Samantha Brown's presentation (even the somewhat awkward Q&A from strange members of the audience...), there was one huge downside to it that Leah and I discovered. Our minds were spinning with all of the places we want to visit!

Thank you, Samantha Brown!

(P.S. How fabulous is her dress?! I love it!)

20 January 2011

Mrs. O Radiates in McQueen

Please allow me to be the ten thousandth person to comment on how beautiful First Lady Michelle Obama looked in her red Alexander McQueen dress at the state dinner for China's President Hu Jintao. She looked absolutely regal in this dress! Who knew there was a political figure in the U.S. fashion-forward enough to pull off a gown by McQueen?!

Mrs. O always looks wonderful at official dinners and functions, but she really needed to step it up a notch for this particular event, given who would be in attendance. The guest list for the dinner included a diverse array of leaders from all facets of industry: politicians (Hillary and Bill), celebrities (Barbara Streisand, Michelle Kwan), and fashion professionals like Anna Wintour and Vera Wang. Celebrated musician Yo-Yo Ma was there, too. As far as I could tell, no one in the room looked as radiant as Mrs. Obama. Ms. Wintour looked chic, but not statuesque like our First Lady.

I love that we have a First Lady who both has fun with fashion and is a friend to the fashion industry. Not since Jackie Kennedy have we seen a First Lady make this much of a statement with fashion. We'll be talking about Mrs. Obama's influence on fashion for decades to come, no doubt.

So, what is it with the D's and fashion? They just always get it right!

(** photo from nyt.com**)

19 January 2011

Into the Gloss: High Fashion Meets the World of Beauty

Visitors to the new beauty website, "Into the Gloss," can be forgiven for thinking that the page resembles the clean, organized layout of that other fashion powerhouse website, Vogue.com, for the site was created by Vogue alumna, Emily Weiss. What makes Into the Gloss such a unique site is that it combines elements of beauty, style, and personal adornment with a high-fashion, yet relaxed feel. There aren't many websites run by individuals that can attract the likes of Sally Singer, Anna Della Russo, Karlie Kloss, Genevieve Jones, and Arizona Muse, just to name a few. Yet, Into the Gloss provides interviews, photos, and commentary from some of the fashion industry's leading professionals. I've also noticed that Derek Lam has commented on the site. Not too shabby, eh?

Into the Gloss creator Emily Weiss interned with Teen Vogue before leaving for the greener pastures of Teen Vogue's older sister, Vogue, where she worked as a fashion assistant. I haven't noticed her name on the recent masthead, but I believe she may still be contributing or freelancing for the publication. Either way, she received great support from Vogue when she launched the site late in 2010. Since then, the blog has featured new makeup from Chanel, Lancome, and Revlon; makeup and beauty advice from insiders like Vogue's Kelly Connor and Marie-Amélie Suavé; and new products from Korres and Breydo Parfums.

Being associated with Vogue certainly means that Ms. Weiss is privy to many products and people that someone with a different kind of professional background truly wouldn't be. She hears and sees what is new first. So, if you're interested in the inside scoop in the high-fashion world of beauty, Into the Gloss is the site for you. Since one never knows who or what will appear on the site next, it definitely makes Into the Gloss one to watch.

(** photo from intothegloss.com**)

18 January 2011

20 More Places to Visit in 2011

If you're still making travel plans for 2011, National Geographic Traveler also has some suggestions for you. The magazine's twenty recommendations are off the beaten path, adventurous, and, like a few of the NYT's recommendations, a tad suspect. (Apparently every publication thinks Americans should be heading to Kurdistan and Tunisia this year...?) Overall, I really enjoyed these travel suggestions and would love to add them to my very long list of places to visit in my lifetime.

1) Mongolia
Why? To visit the Gandan Monastery, view Stone and Bronze Age artifacts, and attend the Naadam Festival.

2) Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
When my sister and I were in this area of Croatia, we were propositioned about a million times to take a boat ride out to see the national park and lakes region. The price they offered was outrageous, so we unfortunately had to decline the usurious offer. Maybe we should have made the splurge? Nat Geo seems to think it's a place worth visiting.

3) Sardinia, Italy
I'm already sold on this gorgeous island. I bought a used copy of the DK Sardinia guide a few years ago and have been wanting to visit ever since. I'd like to get beyond the Costa Smeralda, though.

4) Tasmania
I don't think many American tourists venture to Australia's smallest state, which is, geographically, south from Melbourne. Nat Geo says it is a year-round destination due to its maritime climate.

5) Namibia
Etosha National Park and Mundulea Nature Reserve are two highly recommended sanctuaries for viewing the nation's diverse ecosystems. I'd love, love, love to go to Africa.

6) Laos
It seems like Southeast Asia is perennially popular. Just a few years ago, the New York Times chose Luang Prabang as the top must-see destination.

7) Tunisia
Hmmm...I'm not sure that 2011 is the best time to visit this North African nation after all. When a country makes it on to the State Department's list (i.e. a list of places not to go), it should probably be removed- at least temporarily- from your list. Sorry, Tunisia. We'll have to catch you in 2012.

8) Papua New Guinea
There's no doubt that this remote nation enchants and fascinates travelers. It's way off the beaten path and hard to reach in a myriad of ways. Nat Geo does not recommend going solo, however.

9) Kurdistan, Iraq
I wonder if the NYT and Nat Geo were in cahoots on this one. I am sure that this is a culturally rich nation worthy of study and appreciation, but now might not be the best time to go. Whenever I mention going to a place like this (i.e. Siberia, Burma, Columbia) to my father, he always reminds me that there are millions of places to consider going right now before putting yourself in potential danger. In other words, wait until the turmoil has dissipated; then visit.

10) Black Sea Coast, Crimea
This one-time "Russian Riveria" is "still a mystery" to most North American travelers, according to National Geographic Traveler. I'm intrigued by the "cultural crossroads blending ancient Greek and Roman, Byzantine, Russian, Tatar, and modern Crimean history and architecture."

To view the other selections, check out the full feature here.

(** The above photo is of the harbor in Pula, Croatia.**)

17 January 2011

Golden Globes: Tilda Swinton in Jil Sander

As soon as I saw Tilda Swinton's austere white and yellow dress at the Golden Globes, I immediately knew it was Jil Sander. The look- which may have actually been a long blouse tucked into a floor-length skirt- was so simple and understated that it couldn't have been designed by anyone but Raf Simons for Jil Sander.

Was this ensemble a hit or a miss, though? Ms. Swinton is certainly known for wearing unusual, unique pieces on and off the red carpet. There is no doubt that she can carry off this look, which few people could, so it definitely suits her. I just wonder if it was possibly too spartan for an awards show like the Golden Globes. Perhaps a short-sleeved Jil Sander ensemble, like the one Kate Bosworth recently wore, would have been a bit more fetching? I'm not sure. Maybe it's the balloon-shaped sleeves that made the dress feel awkward to me? At any rate, the fashion powers that be over at Vogue were smitten with the look, listing Tilda Swinton among the night's best dressed.

What is your impression of this look from Jil Sander?

(** photo from vogue.com**)

The Best of the Pre-Fall Collections

Besides the fabulous Nina Ricci collection for Pre-Fall 2011, there hasn't been a singular, complete collection that I have loved quite as much. In viewing the looks for pre-fall, I've come across bits and pieces that I have found interesting. Here are a few of my stand-out favorites:

I am so fond of this sophisticated look from Valentino! My adoration stems mostly from that glorious leather jacket, but I also really love the trousers, too.

This short, sequined dress by Matthew Williamson is just so much fun. I love it with those tan ankle booties, but I'd love to see it with textured tights and flats.

When Plum Sykes was on the prowl for what she deemed a "Forever Wardrobe," she turned to bespoke Stella McCartney for the suit and Giambattista Valli for the dress. Is there any wonder why? Valli's artfully-crafted pre-fall collection was filled with sexy dresses, tailored coats, and couture-like craftsmanship that you just can't find anywhere else. The above dress was one of my favorite looks.

I'm not sure about my overall impression of the Louis Vuitton collection, but I really loved the above looks. The collection clearly took inspiration from the 1920s (my favorite period!), with flapper-esque dresses and sequins. I'm still digesting everything, though.

Phoebe Philo did a terrific job over at Celine. This outfit has the classic conservatism of an English equestrian ensemble, with the subtle sophistication of a cool Parisian bon vivant.

I was really bamboozled by the Bermuda shorts and eclectic prints over at Proenza Schouler but I couldn't deny the beauty of many of the dresses (like this one) that they presented. Let's see what they turn out for the fall collections...

There honestly wasn't much that caught my eye from The Row, but this impeccable leather suit strikes me as the sort of investment piece that one could have in a closet for a lifetime.

(** photos from style.com**)

14 January 2011

The Opinion of Fashion

After reading several very catty comments on personal style blogs like "What I Wore" (a terrific blog, by the way!), I started thinking about the role of criticism in fashion and the value of those opinions. Does every opinion matter? Can opinions carry factual statements with them? Can we qualify certain opinions above others? And does criticism add value to the canon of fashion, meaning does certain criticism cause us to look at fashion or art in a new way?

When I worked in the Senate, one of my colleagues (and friends) caused me to think about the word "opinion" more in-depth. If a person made a comment to describe the sky as "cloudy" or "light blue," this colleague would counter that that was merely an opinion, not to be considered as empirical or factual. Pronounce a word a certain (correct) way? Just an opinion. Use an adjective to describe a person or action? Again, just an opinion. One of our senior staffers even joked that if Jesus Christ Himself were to appear before this person, he would argue with Him. At first I was frustrated by this annoying behavior. How can we rely on the dictionary and apply those words to real-world concepts and ideas if every use of that word is not factual? How can we understand the word "beautiful" if we cannot apply it to its dictionary counterpart? The frustration slowly evaporated into utter curiosity and fascination. This was a dilemma for Noam Chomsky! Maybe the famed linguist could explain to us Senate folks how to properly use words without having them downcast as mere opinions.

Then I started to wonder if certain opinions meant more than others. Say, for instance, that a fourteen-year old declares that Shakespeare was a hack. Will this opinion cause us to reevaluate the literary canon and Shakespeare's role in it? Well, no, of course not. How about if respected book critic Michael Dirda reviews a book and declares that it is mediocre? Is this an opinion that matters? It certainly carries more weight than most opinions, that's for sure. But, are his statements factual?

So, how does all of this relate to fashion? Well, since everyone is a fashion critic these days, are there certain criticisms that should be valued above others and can we take those opinions as facts? Should Jessica Quirk (the blogger behind the popular site "What I Wore") be offended when a commenter dismisses her outfit? Should the fashion commentary of bloggers like Tavi or BryanBoy carry any weight or hold relevance with the more seasoned criticism of Cathy Horyn or Lisa Armstrong? Does it matter if someone who knows very little about fashion describes the recent Prada collection as "hideous?" What if that person is Cathy Horyn? Does that opinion matter then? When are opinions more than just opinions- when are they facts? And, when do these opinions or criticisms cause us to look at fashion, art, dance, theater, performance, or anything that can be evaluated in a new light?

And, finally, who will be the next visionary to challenge the way we understand and interpret modern fashion?

What are your thoughts on the roles and relevance of opinions and criticism in fashion and the arts? Which ones do you value and which ones do you hold as factual?

11 January 2011

Vogue Interiors

One of my favorite new features on vogue.com is "Apt with LSD," where Lauren Santo Domingo takes readers inside the homes of such people as Amanda Brooks, Samantha Boardman, Coca Rocha, and now herself. This week's installment of the popular series included a look at the glamorous Flatiron loft of LSD and her husband, with photos by Vogue alumna Claiborne Swanson Frank.

I love the use of unusual and unsuspecting pieces as art or furniture, like the tall glass beaker in the first photo, for instance. The placement of the giant giraffe skull also adds another dynamic to the eclectic room. I also enjoyed the various artistic incarnations of her dog- both the bronze statue and the Lego likeness. My favorite piece would definitely be the Lalanne hippo that opens into a full bar. What a great idea! Oh, that same room photo also contains artwork by Salvador Dali and Max Ernst.

Is it any wonder that this apartment is as chic as the owner herself?

To view the full photo slideshow, click here.

(** photo by Clairborne Swanson Frank, vogue.com**)

In Love With Nina Ricci Pre-Fall 2011

If the purpose of the pre-fall collections is to excite the buyers and pique their curiosity for the fall collections, then Peter Copping more than succeeded at Nina Ricci. He presented 19 chic, sophisticated, and wearable looks in a stunning palette ranging from bright tomato red to subdued navy. He also presented an outfit for every occasion in his client's life: the tailored skirt suit for the office, the whimsical and flirty cocktail dress for social engagements, the Red Carpet dress, and the edgy feathered look for the Carine Roitfelds among us. I can't come up with a single thing about this small collection that I dislike. Here are a few of my favorites:

This is how I picture my most fabulous self sauntering down rue Cambon in Paris. Trés, trés chic! And I love that red!

This ethereal look has remnants of Chanel in it. It strikes me as the perfect outfit for the ballet. I also adore the black shoes, which make it a bit edgier and pulled-together.

What a show-stopper! The lacy back of this dress is just exquisite- pure perfection.

This looks like the sort of eclectic frock Natalie Portman would wear to a premier or awards show. I'd love to wear it out on the town!

This might be my favorite look from the collection. I love the layered chiffon tiers, and there's something about that hat that just pulls the entire look together.

No, this is my favorite look from the collection. Undeniably chic and oh-so Parisian.

Peter Copping had pretty big shoes to fill in replacing Olivier Theyskens, but he has lived up to the challenge yet again. I can't wait to see what he has in store for us with the fall collections!

(** photos from style.com**)

10 January 2011

"The Warhol Treatment"

By now, I'm sure just about everyone has seen Tatler's February cover of Kate Middleton receiving, artistically, what has been dubbed "the Andy Warhol treatment." (I think the Daily Mail first came up with that one?) I googled the phrase "Kate Middleton Tatler cover" in images and was overwhelmed with a screen of Kate's lovely faces in pink, yellow, and green. This image is everywhere.

Iconography aside, I love this cover. It's one of the best Tatler covers I've seen in awhile and it's one of the most memorable magazine covers in the past few years, too. It's eye-catching and Kate looks fantastic. Tatler definitely struck gold with this one. I doubt many people in the U.S. read this British gossip + fashion + society magazine, but plenty will start. I haven't bought an issue of Tatler in a few years (no particular reason), but I'll certainly be racing to the newsstand to buy the February issue!

08 January 2011

The NYT's 41 Places to Visit in 2011

The article that I look forward to every year in the Times is finally out: their round-up of the best places to visit for the year. For 2011, they have selected a combination of 41 up-and-coming destinations, familiar cities that are suddenly "hot" again, and some rather unexpected and exotic places. The cities they choose never fail to surprise me. Here are a few of the destinations that the NYT recommends travelers visit in 2011:

- Santiago, Chile (a place that certainly made headlines in 2010)
- Port Ghalib, Egypt
- Dresden, Germany
- Tozeur, Tunisia
- Hangzhou, China
- Iraqi Kuridstan (There are always a few questionable choices and this might be the most suspect recommendation for 2011. It's pretty difficult for an American to get a visa to that part of the world!)
- Kosovo
- Okinawa, Japan
- Koh Samui, Thailand (Two of my friends were actually married here in 2009!)
- Republic of Georgia
- Cali, Columbia

Of the 41 places, I've been to five:

- Iceland (where the above photo was taken)
- Milan (Of all the wonderful cities in Italy that there are to explore, I'm not sure I'd recommend Milan. It's a great city, but Italy has, in my opinion, many more exciting and beautiful places to visit.)
- London (Is there ever a bad time to visit the world's greatest city?)
- Antwerp, Belgium (Great fashion city!)
- Durham, NC

Places I'd really like to visit:

- Melbourne, Australia (I've heard nothing but superlatives in reference to this Australian gem.)
- Budapest (a perennial favorite, no doubt)
- Sopot and Gdansk, Poland (My family is from Gdansk, so I'd love to go back to Poland and head north this time.)
- Erzurum, Turkey (Turkey has been so hot lately. Everyone I know is going there.)
- Tallinn, Estonia
- Singapore
- Oualidia, Morocco
- Zanzibar

And there were quite a few North American destinations:

- Olympic Park, Washington
- Miami
- Oahu
- Whistler, British Columbia
- San Juan Islands, Washington
- Loreto, Mexico
- Park City, Utah

Those are a few of the places that the NYT has suggested travelers visit in 2011. To read the full selections and the rationale behind each choice, visit the full article here.
Where are you off to in 2011? Have you been to any of the places the NYT recommends that you visit? Would you counter their recommendation or concur with it?

As always, happy travels!

06 January 2011

Fashion Projects: Collecting Fashion

In the future, I want to avoid re-posting articles that have already been published on the web, but this article on collecting fashion in Fashion Projects is just too important to miss. It also features commentary from some fashion heavy-hitters I truly admire (Valerie Steele, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, and Amy de la Haye). Read and enjoy!

Collecting Fashion
By Marco Pecorari

Fashion as ephemeral artwork is daily narrated in temporary exhibitions. As hosting institutions, museums have started questioning the way they react to this new dimension within the museum. Collecting dress is already a duty of ethnographic and decorative arts museums. But at the same time, these institutions are conceiving dress as social testimony, or serial object. In these museological contexts, the dress is hardly ever contextualized in its visual process of creation that coincides with a representation of contemporary fashion. In order to explore this topic more in depth, we talked to the curator Amy de la Haye, the Director of the Museum at FIT Valerie Steele, the director of the Galleria del Costume, Caterina Chiarelli and with fashion designers, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Antonio Marras.

Marco Pecorari: First of all, thanks for participating. Let’s start with an ‘easy’ issue: what’s the difference between fashion and costume? fashion museum and costume museum?

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada: We had to face this issue with Madrid’s costume museum when we propose to call it ‘Costume Museum’ but I guess, a fashion museum should cover more than mechanics and elements of fashion, such as representing fashion’s relation to society.
Antonio Marras: In my opinion, the gap is huge. Costume is identified as obsolete, retro and not contemporary. Fashion is escaping from this. Wrongly. Personally I love visiting costume museums.
Caterina Chiarelli: I love costume museums, too. But I think we should delimit costume museum to an ethnographic field, based more on the study of dress as a tradition than on its changing nature.
Amy de la Haye: Traditionally collections of dress and fashion were generically described as ‘costume’, a term that could embrace different kind of dress. It was inclusive. Fashion and the museum were not paired explicitly until the early 1970s when the V&A (London) and the Costume Institute at the Met (New York) started to actively embrace contemporary fashion. However, the terminology of museum collections and institutions has only started to change very recently to more accurately reflect the type of garments housed/exhibited and, where appropriate, to reflect growing interests in fashion and attract wider audiences.

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Amy de la Hay

MP: so that’s also a commercial side…
Valerie Steele: Yes. But I use the word “fashion” rather than “costume” because I want to emphasize that even in the past, people wore fashion – not fancy-dress costumes. The word “costume” should be restricted to theatrical/film costume or folk costume. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a fashion museum – meaning that we look at fashion, not as “art” (like in an art museum, where they tend to focus just on haute couture) or “history” (like a history museum, where clothing is used to document or illustrate other aspects of the past) but as a legitimate type of design that has both artistic and historical elements – and that has its own history.
CC: Very true. In my opinion, a fashion museum should exhibit the changing of this type of design, with more freedom.

MP: What kind of restrictions could a fashion museum have?
VS: There are restrictions on conservation and exposition of dress, and also from fashion designers and the fashion system in general….

MP: What kind of links should we have between fashion museums and the fashion system?
ARP: A museum is a place for exhibiting art, creativity, whereas the fashion commercial machine has to deal with money and productions…
VS: I don’t agree… I think that a fashion museum is a part of the fashion system. Fashion designers know that the museum is a medium (like runway, the fashion magazine and the department store) that presents fashion to the public. Therefore, designers seek to control exhibitions of their work: here’s one restriction which doesn’t have to be accepted by curators.

MP: An example is the one with Lagerfeld and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in which case Lagerfeld’s interference caused the exhibition to be cancelled

AM: I’m a fashion designer and I would never dare to interfere in the interpretation of my work. I would put my self in the curator’s hands. I would consider it an honour.
dlH: It’s understandable. Designers in turn recognize that having their work represented in a museum collection provides cultural cachet today and will ensure their place in history in the future. But it’s not only that. Sometimes there are amazing connections made. When he had just launched his own label in London, John Galliano studied an 18th century man’s coat in the collection and presented his interpretation to the Collection as a gift. When fashion looks to history, the Museum can become especially relevant.
AM: Definitely. “fashion people” have very little memory and they don’t look at the past as much as they should, and museums could help close this gap, if they could provide an easy access…

MP: Many museums are starting to catalogue on line their collections, which would make for a lot easier access and would also be helpful in terms of conservation.
AM: Great. I think it would also be important to create a close relation between fashion designers factories and museums, in order to catalogue the most significant clothes, which are being produced. Just think about what we could have done in Italy: from Albino or Capucci to the first Max Mara and Romeo Gigli…
CC: Sure, we should promote this collaboration but we need also to be careful to not get too involved. The museum could end up becoming a company’s archive.

MP: Could fashion museums represent the new step in museology or influence it? A new form of museum?
dlH: We have to say two things about this. First, as we have trends in fashion there are also trends in fashion curation and in curation in general. Fashion curation has to be analyzed because it can be seen as an important step for the role of curators in museum. Second, we have to underline that fashion is one of the most immediately accessible of all museum collections. When I worked at the V&A I used to say that you could find your way to the Dress Gallery (which at the time showed a chronology of western fashion) blindfolded as it was the noisiest – everyone, all ages and both genders, had something to say and felt confident to express an opinion.
Clothing of all types is inextricably entwined with our biographies and we leave imprints on the clothes we wear.
VS: It’s true, but I also think that it’s too soon to know what fashion museums will ultimately contribute to museology as a whole. But we must strive to move beyond designer hagiography and crowd-pleasing displays of “pretty” dresses worn by celebrities.
CC: I do believe that a fashion museum is inherently different and has great potentials for the future of museums. It is a dynamic museum.

Amy de la Haye is reader in Fashion Curation and Material Culture London College of Fashion.Joint Course Director (with Judith Clark) M.A. Fashion Curation, London College of Fashion. Formerly Curator of 20th Century Dress at the Victoria & Albert Museum (1991-1999). She will publish a book (co-curated with Judith Clark) on Curating Fashion for Yale University Press.

Valerie Steele Ph.D., (Yale University) is Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)

Caterina Chiarelli is Director of the Galleria del Costume – Palazzo Pitti di Firenze.

Antonio Marras is the designer of his own brand Antonio Marras and Artistic Director of Maison Kenzo

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada is a Madrid-base fashion designer

Marco Pecorari is completing his Phd in Contemporary Fashion Theory at the Centre for Fashion Studies – Stockholm University – with a thesis entitled “The Show is not Enough: new trajectories for reading contemporary fashion”. He writes for several fashion, arts and cultural independent magazines.

(**content and photo from fashionprojects.org**)

Ballet Beautiful

Much like the rest of the world, I have resolved to exercise and/ or eat well in the new year. Making the resolution to hit the gym was easy, but actually going is quite another thing. I, like 99% of the population, rather abhor working out and exercising. In order to keep my resolution (for whatever it's worth), I am going to turn to that most sophisticated and chic sport that was recently made popular again by Natalie Portman's stand-out performance in "Black Swan." Yes, I am referring to ballet.

I took ballet lessons briefly during middle school and again in high school when I was taking gymnastics classes at a private academy. I was always terrible- the worst person in the entire class. I am not flexible and I lack rhythm. Yet, I'm willing to give it another try.

The inspiration for my second turn at ballet will be the Ballet Beautiful method by Mary Helen Bowers. After dancing with the New York City Ballet, Bowers studied English literature at Columbia and later went on to develop her own fitness regime which focuses on "the exquisite grace, beauty and strength that are the essence of a ballerina's form." Oh, and she also helped Natalie Portman train for her role in "Black Swan." Vogue's Molly Creeden was recently sent to Bowers's studio to try out her method and to learn how Portman prepared for her role. I think the visit was a success.

Although I won't be able to register for a class with Bowers, I am going to try to incorporate elements of ballet into my soon-to-be fitness plan. Bowers explained that ballet can help one look like a ballerina: "long, lean, sculpted, and strong, but still very elegant" (vogue.com). That's exactly how I would like to look! In order to achieve this, I want to try the "New York City Ballet Work Out" DVD, something that I have checked out from the library multiple times and returned unopened many times. I'll keep you posted as to how this project develops!

(** photo of Mary Helen Bowers is from her website, www.balletbeautiful.com**)

05 January 2011

"Twilight Visions:" Brassaï's Contemporaries

While catching up on art news in Artforum and Art in America, I came across an article that included a few of my favorite photographers: Brassaï (naturally!), Man Ray, and André Kertész. Well, the article was actually in The Daily Beast's Art Beast, but I came across the link via Art in America. Anyhow, Philip Gefter wrote about an exhibition, "Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris," at New York's International Center of Photography that featured surrealist photos of Paris from the 1920s and 1930s. Jackpot! Sadly, the exhibit ended on May 9, 2010, but on the bright side, a few of the photos by Brassï's peers are still linked. Here are a few of my favorites:

This photo by Ilse Bing has all of the qualities that I love about a Brassaï photo: soft, blurred lighting and a completely candid ballerina in mid-twirl. This photo was taken at the Moulin Rouge in 1931.

To me, the most interesting aspect of this Man Ray photo is the placement of the mirror. I've become very interested in the many properties of mirrors throughout different periods of art history. Maybe Anne Hollander's entire chapter on the use of mirrors in art in Seeing Through Clothes had something to do with that...

I love black and white photos of the Eiffel Tower. This one, taken by Man Ray, is titled "For Electricity."

I'm not familiar with the work of Dora Maar (yet), but I really appreciate the themes and techniques of this portrait photo of Léonor Fini, taken in 1936. It really reminds me of some of Brassaï's photos in the Paris brothels (not to imply that Ms. Fini resembles a woman-of-the-night!). There's just something about her bravado that makes me think of those photos...

If you'd like to see more photos from the exhibit, I refer you to "Dreaming of Paris." All photos in this post are also courtesy of the Art Beast.

04 January 2011

Goodreads 2011 Book Challenge

If you're not a member of the website Goodreads, I highly recommend that you join. This is currently the only social networking site that I use and it is a fantastic site with multiple social and intellectual benefits. Goodreads allows you to share the books that you have read, are currently reading, and want to read. There are also literary quizzes, polls, lists, reviews, ratings, and other networking possibilities. In my opinion, it's a much better way to spend one's time than trolling on those other social networking sites.

For 2011, Goodreads advertised a book challenge (naturally)encouraging users to push themselves to read a certain number of books. Since I graduated from college, I've had a goal of reading four books per month (except in a month when I am reading something like Anna Karenina), but this year I'm going to aim to read something in the neighborhood of 30-35 books. I have a big project to begin in February (details to come) and I hope to be returning to the hallowed halls of academia later this fall. Thus, I better make the most of my leisurely reading time while I can!

So, here's what's on my immediate book radar:

1) "The Consolation of Philosophy" by Boethius. I've wanted to read this for awhile and I finally found a good edition of it at my library.

2) "Seven Days in the Art World" by Sarah Thornton. My applications to PhD programs in art history piqued an interest in the fast-paced world of modern art. I'm even contemplating an internship with Sotheby's or Christie's. Ergo, I thought it would be a good idea to check out various aspects of the art world in this book.

3) "The Distant Hours" by Kate Morton. This brilliant Australian author is one of my absolute favorite contemporary writers. Her book "The Forgotten Garden" is one of my top ten favorite works of fiction.

4) "The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." I've read the first 200 or 300 pages of this book somewhat sporadically, but I want to commit to actually finishing it this year. I find her personal writing even more compelling than her fiction and poetry.

5) February's Book Project. Technically, this will be February and March's Book Project, but details will come at a later date. This book will be my reward for completing all of my grad school apps. I'm really looking forward to it!

6) "Cousin Bette" by Balzac. I've really enjoyed the two books by Balzac that I've read previously (Pere Goriot and Eugenie Grandet), so I'm looking forward to this one. Also, one of the grad schools that I applied to sites the works of Balzac in a few of the course listings. Better to get started on that now!

7) "Troilus and Criseyde" by Chaucer. I think we're all familiar with The Canterbury Tales, but I want to delve a little bit deeper by reading this work by the father of English literature.

8) "The Gay Science" by Nietzsche. My uncle loaned this book to me when I had a course in philosophy my senior year. Regrettably, I still haven't read it. That must be remedied.

9) "The Old Patagonian Express" by Paul Theroux. My favorite travel writer has an anthology coming out this year, but I'd like to read this classic on travel through the Americas first.

10) "Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes," by Jane Pritchard. This is the print companion to the exhibit at the V&A that I previously wrote about. I've been in my library's queue for it for weeks, so hopefully a copy arrives soon.

That's just a small sample of what's on my literary plate this year. What will you be reading? Send interesting recommendations my way!

(** This photo was taken by me in one of the Great Halls of the British Museum.**)