Sunday, June 27, 2010


If anyone is heading to New York City this summer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute's historical exhibit, "American Woman:  Fashioning a National Identity" should be on the itinerary.  It is an interesting insight into the American Look as it has developed from the 1890s through the 1940s.

The journey begins with The Heiresses drawing wardrobes from Charles Frederick Worth in Paris ("House of Worth").  Worth essentially created what we now think of as "haute couture" and pioneered the fashion show.  With a steady supply of American heiresses needing a wardrobe, fashion spread from the European centers into the New World.

The Heiress: Charles Frederick Worth gowns, 1850s
The Gibson Girl, popularized by Charles Dana Gibson's sketches of women with hourglass shapes, showed a new ideal of feminine beauty: athletic and independent.  These were the first Surfer Chicks!  They rode bikes.  They swam.  They played tennis.  Fashion moved in a new direction to accommodate these activities.

Gibson Girl: Camille Clifford

Other Female Archetypes follow:
The Bohemian, The Suffragette, The Flapper, The Screen Siren.   With each type, we know historically that women were pushing for a new level of independence as well as sexual and political liberation.

The Flapper of the 1920s seems to bring in a truly Modern Age for women.  These ladies bared their arms and legs.  They drank.  They danced.  They could match anything a man did.  Their fashion even resonates to today: see the black-and-white photo of the lady in a dress with boots.  We can see that on the streets these days!
Flapper from the 1920s

The Flapper 1920s

The dawn of the Silver Screen era gave rise to another American female ideal:  The Screen Siren.  Here, we recall Hollywood goddesses like Rita Hayworth.  Sexy and slinky now defines the Siren.  We continue to see these today in Hollywood galas.

Screen Sirens in Madame Gres 1930s

It is obviously challenging to peg American Style with one definition.  Even now, what constitutes the American Woman?  Is it Lady Gaga?  Oprah?  Michelle Obama?  Sarah Jessica Parker?  Or in the age of blogging, people whose eclectic styles refuse to be pigeonholed into a designer category?

Food for thought.  The exhibit continues to run at the Met until August 15th, 2010.

* Photos courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and historical archives.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The verdict seems to be out from fashion editors: they also loved Stella McCartney's Resort Collection.  Editors from Vogue, NY Times, Women's Wear Daily, etc. all raved about it.  McCartney refused to use the word "Resort" though and preferred to refer to her collection as "Spring."

Here's a quick share on a video (from The Huffington Post) from her runway show delightfully held in a garden.  You can see the pretty floral dresses and whites which I would just love to wear all spring/summer!  The very clean, sleek ponytails were also a perfect complement to the collection.

If you have problems playing the video, click on the link:  Stella McCartney Resort 2011

Sunday, June 20, 2010


The fashion calendar never seems to give designers a break.  This month has seen a slew of Resort Collections which encompasses yachting clothes to ski fashion.  The clothes won't hit the sales floors until November, but the collections are typically multi-seasonal in their styles.

As we head on to summer in the Northern Hemisphere, my eye was drawn towards the easier pieces that people actually want to wear in warm weather.

Chanel Resort 2011
The "hostess" caftan epitomizes the breezy, summer look.  Chanel presented a flowing pastel-colored one which looks great on the fair-haired crowd.  It almost looks like it was meant for lounging in the boudoir.

Michael Kors Resort 2011

Another easy but sophisticated look was from Michael Kors.  Kors' designs tend to be for the conservative, but this combination of an asymmetrical t-shirt dress and snakeskin boots was just very cool!
Stella McCartney Resort 2011

For the pretty young things who can get away with miniskirts, Stella McCartney's dresses were feminine and fresh.  I liked so many of them, but will restrain myself and just show you this white tunic with lace peeping underneath.  Most of her dresses were shown with nude color shoes, making legs look endless.

Lastly, the Rag & Bone designer duo always put out edgy street styles for everyday wear.  The bustier over the t-shirt plus slim harem pants tucked into feminized army boots just speaks City Edge.
Rag & Bone Resort 2011

What did you find alluring in the Resort Collections?

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Cinema and theater have a long history of collaborating with designers.  Just think of the memorable clothes by Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's".

The latest successful collaboration is in the film "I Am Love" ("Io Sono L'Amore"), an international film by Luca Guadagnino which was a hit at Sundance and other film festivals this year.  In it, Tilda Swinton plays a Russian-born matriarch of an aristocratic Milanese family.  Raf Simons for Jil Sander created the iconic red sheath dress, as well as the rest of Swinton's wardrobe.

"I Am Love" ("Io Sono L'Amore") film
I haven't seen the film yet as it will be widely released in the US on June 18th.  However, the wardrobe from Jil Sander apparently embodies Swinton's haute bourgeoise character and follows her development from suppression in the upper classes to release in passion.  The Jil Sander store will carry a limited edition of the red shift dress.

Tilda Swinton as Emma Recchi in "I Am Love"

To achieve a similar Upper Class Look, focus on:

  • Simplicity in cut, detail and color
  • Clean, tidy, and very neat hair and make-up
  • Minimal jewelry - just (expensive) pearls, diamonds, gold or platinum
Because of its simplicity, the Classy Look relies on very high quality fabrics and fabulous fit to look Perfect.

Let me know if any of you get to see the movie!  I am intrigued by the sublime cinematography and haunting score from John Adams.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


The Ethnic and Tribal themes return each Spring/Summer.  One beautifully wrought ethnic textile is Ikat fabric.  You can see it in many places in Asia and Africa where they have been produced for hundreds of years.

Museums have beautiful collections. The Victoria & Albert Museum or Kent State University have lovely 19th Century ikat robes from Central Asia:

Victoria & Albert Museum, 19th C Uzbek robe

Christie's, 19th C Uzbek robe

  I think of Ethnic textiles not in terms of fashion trends, but as a distinct Style element in a woman's wardrobe.

If you want to add a dash of exotic to yours, you can do so in small ways.
  • Accessorize with an ikat purse
  • Wind an ikat scarf around you (very popular)
  • Use it in your home, like placemats or pillows
  • Charlotte Russe ikat maxi
  • Pick ikat items up on your travels!
The bohemian look using ikat dresses, like the maxi, has been in shops since last summer.  It can be hippie chic with tribal jewelry.
Slouchy modern look with ikat maxi
Left is a very modern, slouchy take on the look:
  • Top with an unlined blazer with sleeves rolled or pushed up
  • Wind a long scarf around for cool evenings
  • Grab an ikat clutch and go!
Don't be surprised if you resemble a Hollywood starlet in this outfit!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Metal Aviator sunglasses have made a comeback, thanks again to the Look-spawning effects of "Sex in the City," whether you like the franchise or not.  (See my blog post Cost of Dressing)

Mykita's Franz Aviator sunglasses
The classic frames are originally by Ray Ban and look terrific as a final touch to a Sporty Glamor look.  The reflective frames seen in the movie are Mykita and Bernhard Limited Edition frames called "Franz".  Named after a legendary downhill skier, Franz Klammer, they channel your inner athlete.  Of course, with a price tag that matches Manolo Blahniks, you might do better digging up your Original Ray Bans.  Fashionistas can also get a cheap fix at places like Topshop or H&M.

Here's a look I posted on Polyvore accessorizing with the original Ray Ban aviators.   They look just as good with leather bombers a la "Top Gun", or with an easy summer dress as below:

$850 -

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Convertible wedge boots
People often ask me about comfortable yet stylish shoes.  Yes, there are fashionable alternatives to Birkenstocks and Uggs!  Here are some trendy ideas:

A terrific everyday heel is the wedge.  They give just enough lift compared to flats, but don't kill your feet like slim stilettos would.   The higher heel gives your outfit a little more style than a clunky alternative.

For an everyday look, I love this convertible suede boot which looks great on bare legs for spring to early summer.  The shaft height converts from an ankle bootie to a calf-high boot, so you get 2 looks in one.

As the weather warms up, this shootie has a heavy tapered heel that is not too high.  Stacked heels achieve the same comfortable effect.  People with nice legs can carry off this look, and the neutral shade naturally lengthens your bare-legged silhouette.   It works with narrow, linen pants too.  See the Balenciaga photo I posted in the entry:  Technical Difficulties

Of course, the new shoe paddings in drug stores or department stores make most shoes more comfortable now.   Ball-of-foot gel inserts are a godsend for stilettos!  Heel inserts are great for flats.

The biggest advice for healthy feet from Podiatrists is - Change your heel height throughout the day.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I just got back to California from Asia and have to share a new travel trick.

Thai massage

Most airports now have massage areas - either chair or table massages - to while away the time at the airport.  But far from being a lazy luxury, massage actually helps a lot during a long flight.  Due to my improved circulation, this was the first time I had a 10+ hour flight where my legs did not get swollen nor my back uncomfortable.

My sister and I had one-hour full body massages on tables, fully-clothed.  The masseuses performed shiatsu treatment, particularly on the back and legs, as well as a variation of Thai massage stretching the arms, legs and back.  The deep stretches felt like a pre-flight yoga class.  They also did lightly-oiled massages on the neck, scalp and face which were so relaxing.

If you can't get a massage at the airport prior to a long flight, working out before you head to the airport achieves similar results.

Addendum:  Another benefit is that I did not experience jet lag for the first time after that trans-Pacific flight!  The healthful effects of the massage extended into a restful flight and a good night's sleep back in my own bed.

Happy Travels!
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