Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fashion Icons and Role Models: The Town Whore

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that there used to be performers and musicians and singers who used to dress totally out of control and it wasn't "ironic" - from David Bowie to Prince to Grace Jones to Cher, to even Motley Crue/pretty much every hair band ever. (Even though like half these people just ripped off their look from somewhere else [There's one point in The Motley Crue biography Gaby lent me where Nikki Sixx is like, "I was on top of the world, making more money than Johnny Thunders ever was!" as if this wasn't directly proportional to him also being a million more times of a tool than Johnny Thunders ever was] they were definitely superior to the weak-ass version of rock bands today who always have one modelish member who stands in the front wearing v neck t-shirt while every other members hang behind their shaggy hair, mumbling about how they want to be like Mick Jagger or whatever likes there's not ten zillion other bands like them who pretend they're doing something really fresh.)

Anyway, my point is, I'm starting to feel we are reaching a highly styled, glossed over, and non-individual time where there may never be another Dolly Parton. Dolly has always said she's modeled her look after the town whore- the woman she thought was the most beautiful as the child, who had the biggest, blondest hair and tightest, shortest dresses. I love this, because, I too, as a kid, wanted to look like the women I thought were beautiful, even if they were Naomi from Mama's Family and Kelly from Married With Children. I mean, I thought Loni Anderson from WKRP in Cincinatti was really beautiful, and still sort of do!

Women like Dolly Parton practically invite drag queens to imitate them, and they certainly emphasize how much of femininity is simply a show- a big, sparkly, bewigged one. When people say they can see my hair from down the block, I feel, in some small way, that I am carrying on the tradition of a proud and glitzy trashiness, one that is miles away from the glitzy trashiness of, you know, Fergie. (Though there have to be some people who do Fergie drag, right? I mean, besides Fergie.)

Of course, Dolly is so much more than a fashion icon; she's an extremely talented musician and songwriter whose written numerous hits for both herself and others. In a time when few female artists wrote their own music, Dolly did. Unlike the cheesy country of today, she comes from the grand old Grand Ole Opry tradition, with artists like Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn and the Carter Family. According to wikipedia, Dolly grew up "dirt poor" in a one-room cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Her father was a "holy roller" type Pentecostal preacher, but Parton professes no denomination, claiming only to be "Spiritual" while adding that she believes that all the Earth's people are God's children. Plus she is rumored to be a lesbian, and that those long sleeves she always has on and her huge wigs are there to hide a bunch of butch tattoos and a shaved head. Whether this is true or not (it is), what's important is that someday Simone and I are going to go to Dollywood, her theme park, and it will be the greatest day of our lives.
PS: I highly suggest you to click on the photos to make them big, especially this last picture of Dolly Parton and Cher, which makes me really happy.
PPS: I thought the silver thing in the right hand bottom corner of that last photo was like a chair or something, and then I realized they were just Cher's knee high silver pirate boots. Oh man.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ugly Urban Outfitters Items of the Past Month: Slouch City

Don't these images just scream "Fun! Liveliness! Zest! Well-fitting clothing!"? Let me tell you, they both make me want to celebrate life in a major way. Anyway, I think the model on the left is high on something. The more I look at models, the more this seems apparent. Her horribly bony shoulders are modeling the Truly Madly Deeply Mixed Striped Dolman Top, which is just another one of those things that is a copy of something from the late 80's you could find at a thrift store. The horrible color combination, drop shoulders (shudder) and geometric stripe pattern are what really make it totally '89. There's also a teal/putty/fuchsia one if you're so inclined, or just want to see some really emaciated wrists.

On the right is the Shell Kimono Tee, with the hugest screen print known to man on the front. It looks really strange to have a huge, sloppy screen print on a huge, sloppy t-shirt- you just don't know what to focus on. That shell is so big that it's encroaching upon the voluminous folds of the neckline. What exactly would make someone want this? Whatever is supposed to be happening here, it's not working. The top doesn't need a screen print; it has enough going on.

As many of my friends and colleagues know, in 1986 or something an amazing book called Dressing Sexy (ohmygod, if you have not read it, you have to buy it right now. This will be the greatest $1.50 you will have ever spent.) was published. This helpful guide, complete with photos of heavily made-up models with huge hair, encourages women, in a very Backlash-y fashion, to cool it with all those respectable tweed suits that make men respect you and helped you ease into a male-dominated workplace in the 70's, and start up with the suede tank tops, unbuttoned jewel-tone silk blouses, bed-head hair (it makes men think of sex!), and harem pants, in order to land yourself a Burt Reynolds type and a nice big flashy rock on your finger. The cover shows a woman wearing heavily pleated mauve leather trousers.

As for oh-so flattering Lux Knit Ankle Harem Pants (which are polyester, ewwww), I know Barbara Bergdorf would have approved, especially if they meant to be paired with a shoulder-padded mauve blouse cut to the navel. Which they probably are.

And last but not least, the Lux Paperbag Pant! This kind of reminds me of how, in the 80's, Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto rejected the structured glitz and gaudy, Dynasty-esque glamour of the decade, instead designing the dark, avante-garde, slouchy and asymmetrical. And maybe I would have been attracted to this had I been trying to avoid wearing a teal blazer in 1986, but today we have learned that these kind of clothes make your ass look saggy and that the cast of Dynasty actually looked pretty fierce.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hair, Beautiful Hair

Back in the Victorian and Edwardian days, mourning was very fashionable. If you were a woman who were close to someone who died, you were required to wear black for a certain period of time- some widows wore black for the rest of their lives. (Men, I believe, were largely excluded from this practice- men have always been much more encouraged to wear clothing for practical, as opposed to symbolic or aesthetic reasons.) Mourning jewelery, made of dark stones like jet or onyx was very popular, and so was jewelery made of hair.

Hair jewelery was sometimes made from the hair of departed love ones, but sometimes it was meant to symbolize other things, like friendship- you might have a locket with your friend's hair braided inside and a poem about being BFFs engraved upon it, like one of the Best Friends broken locket necklaces I used to buy from the Oriental Trading catalogue.

There were hair chains, watch fobs, earrings and pins. Hair was even braided into elaborate framed pieces. I can only imagine how difficult it was to craft these items- and can't help thinking about how strange and almost talisman-like they seem today. My mother, who used to wear a Victorian hair ring all the time, said she'd buy me some hair jewelery for my graduation present. I would love to have something this amazing, but this one was a bit expensive- it was listed at about $250 on eBay. But then again, that's not that much more than some pair of designer jeans, or something made by Juicy Couture, so if anything, it's a steal.

Whoa Oh Oh, Good-bye Seventies!*

Sometimes I think people who don't like vintage don't like it because they go into vintage stores and just see a bunch of mustard polyester. The truth is, there's ugly vintage too- it's not as if everything made thirty years ago is automatically cute.

Most of Marc Jacobs' collection seemed based on this type of vintage, the kind that isn't really quite cute enough to be interesting. Whereas he used to be inspired by interesting vintage (40's puff sleeved blouses, 60's Peter Max-esque psychedelic prints, 70's granny dresses) today he just seems to imitate whatever dull, boxy 70's piece fell within his line of sight. That, or add some large buttons or oversized zippers to something.

The spring 08 collection is rife with such pieces. There were a few cute looks, also pretty much rip-offs of dresses from the early 70's (but at least less ugly ones) but the majority was like the stuff above- totally lacking in what I might call "pizazz". Ooooh, he stuck some different fabric on it! He added an extra row of buttons! The hemline is asymmetrical! Besides, Chloe already did an ugly patchworky early 70's rip off collection in the same muddy colors.

What I want to know is, why are designers copying looks that we can find at vintage stores- almost any vintage store? In fact, I found plenty of similar stuff on eBay in about five minutes- (go here, or here or here or here) most of which is much cuter than whatever foul mustard box with random faux 70's fabric attached to it Marc Jacobs is trying to put you in this spring.

*"Props" to those who get the reference made in this title!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Don't Underestimate the Value of Good Tailoring

As I've gotten older, I've started to recognize the importance of fit and tailoring. This is especially important with vintage clothes, as they all have very specific fits and are meant to work with your body in a very particular way, creating a very particular kind of silhouette. The way something fits can make a big difference - even if you're wearing something fabulous, if the fit is off, it's not going to work quite as well.

Anyway, the young woman on the left looks very cute, and I like her sunglasses/hair/lipstick combination, all of which are very bold and simple and work with the strong graphics of her 50's style dress, which is from Anthroplogie a little while back (they still can make a cute thing occasionally.) But I do think the whole look would be better if she went to a tailor and had the sides of her dress taken in under the arms, creating a tighter fitting bodice. (Enlarge the pic to see what I mean.)She still looks fab and all, but if you're going to spend the money on a dress at Anthropologie, it's definitely worth it to kick in another $8 or so to make the fit perfect. Sometimes the store will even do it for you.

Smiling Through Her Pain

"Does it get more perfect?" asks the Sartorialist of the look on the left. He may as well has asked "Could she be any more tall and thin?" Is there any way this woman would have been photographed if she was half a foot shorter and weighed twenty pounds more? I don't think so. I mean, I can't see it happening with this outfit, but even if she was dressed well, women not shaped like models rarely seem to make it onto his blog. (I mean there was this fatty, who managed to "control her curves" by wearing all black.)

The "dress" looks like the smock you put on at a fancy salon so hair won't get allover your clothes. It makes her whole body look impossibly boxy and wide, with her little legs poking out like toothpicks. Plus the bag is bulky and dull, and much more suited to a heavier, winter look than a shift dress. (Though this looks less like a shift than it does the dress shirt of a giant.)

I know I've discussed the Sartorialist before, and I do think his blog is elegantly laid out, with excellent photos and fabulous menswear, but the women he chooses to photograph bother me. They all seem to be the same "I shop at Barneys and don't eat or wear non-muted colors" types, which I personally don't find too inspirational. At least a lot of the comments on the blog indicated not everyone was too thrilled with this look.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An Intense Review of the L.A.M.B Show: I Sort of Discuss Fashion Week!

L.A.M.B.'s tulle dress from the fall shows (left) looks quite a bit like Alexander McQueen's on the right (from a few seasons ago.) However, while McQueen's version is beautiful and well-executed, and accompanied by interesting hair and white-faced that makeup that is ghostly and interesting and 17th century inspired , Gwen Stefani's looks like a sloppy homemade prom dress. I don't know if she was trying to cinch in the waist there, but if so, she definitely failed. Her makeup and hair choices are pretty boring, with a slight continuation of the hot-right-now cat eye and some sort of biggish messy hair.

While there are a few cute (if not particularly inspired) looks in her collection, the "ska" vibe mentioned in the style.com description overall kind of reminds me of a "retro" Airwalk ad from 1996 that I can't find. (Who remembers those? Simone?) and then some of the looks are just dismal. Plus, my god are these models skinny! I mean, I'm pretty used to horribly skinny models, but my god!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

He Was in "Transformers", Guys!

I'm getting a little tired of hearing about how attractive this Shia LaBoef character is. I mean, I liked him when he was on that Disney show "Even Stevens" but that was a long time ago, and I'm sure I liked it in a semi-Pez way as I was in high school when I used to watch it and that show was for kids.

The point is, whether he is dating Rhianna or not, I am sick of hearing about supposedly "edgy" young male actors of average looks and middling talent being swooned over, at a time when young female actresses don't even seem to make movies so much as have long blonde extensions and lose twenty pounds every few weeks.

Monday, September 10, 2007

When Swimming Was Glamourous

Look at this beautiful bathing cap! I'm not sure when it's from, because my vintage knowledge doesn't really extend to bathing caps, but I think it's from the 1960's in a 1920's cloche style. It's pretty enough to wear as a real hat, even though bathing caps are technically pretty wildly uncomfortable. In terms of style, it really beats the latex ones that we have to wear these days.

There are lots of amazing vintage bathing caps out there- ones decorated with floppy flowers or mod polka dots or all sorts of things. Simone and I have both sort of been planning to buy one for a long time but I guess we failed because they're not the most wearable of vintage items. Still, I would like to wear one with an Esther Williams style suit and parade around. (I already own four vintage bathing suits, so that area is covered.)

PS: Ohmygosh Esther Williams was so cute!
PPS: Look at this amazing photo of Dolly Parton that also showed up in the Esther Williams search! I totally have to write a post about Dolly Parton. Okay, this photo may be even more amazing. I love that it looks like a Dolly Parton impersonator but is actually her.

Some Hipster Girl and the Amazing Technicolor Sack

I was trying to think of something clever to write about for this first post in a while, but then I was just like, "Maybe I'll just check out Face Hunter instead- that usually comes through in the ugly department." And how!

Tie-dye is one of those things, in my opinion, that is simply flat out hideous. No matter what you do with it, or how Prada tried to rework it in some collection a few years ago, it's always going to look like something hippies with bad taste/kids at camp even though whenever we tie-dyed at camp it always just looked like the shirt had just grown mold on it/the sartorially clueless would wear. I mean, every time I see a hippie wearing tie-dye, I think, "Why don't you just tote along a giant bong and tattoo Bob Marley's name on your face and really take it all to the next level of walking cliche?"

(I did think tie-dye was pretty cool at around age nine, and when I went to New York City with my parents, I wore a tie-dyed onesie- perhaps exclusively, from the looks of the vacation snapshots. Even though I was just an innocent child, the idea of this still sort of repulses me.)

Anyway, the point is, I would like to think this is a joke. I mean, if this was a plain white oversized tee with an asymmetrical fringed bottom, it would be a gross outfit, but the fact that it has that psychedelic heart rainbow on it makes it all the worse. Perhaps worst of all, is that probably some tool in New York has that onesie now, and is wearing it out on the town, and being lauded for it, and such.