Watch: The look of HBO's Grey Gardens

If you're like me and don't have premium cable, you may have missed out on the Grey Gardens movie the first time it showed on HBO last year.  I've had it on my Netflix queue for a while, and the dvd finally came, and I finally watched it (after it sat on my coffee table for about a month).  And I was immediately transported into the strange, isolated and decrepit world of Big and Little Edie Beale.  

But beyond the fascinating push-and-pull of the codependent mother-daughter relationship, I was totally taken by the lovely Depression-era fashions sported by Little Edie Beale (Drew Barrymore's character).  Pillbox caps, spunky shorts, curvy sun hats, luxurious little gloves, smart geometric tops and quietly glamorous pencil skirts.  I fell in love with the way costume designer Cat Thomas dressed Drew, paying such close attention to detail, finding ways to layer little things over each other, creating a look that was at once cutting edge and appropriately pressed and tailored.

It doesn't hurt that the period styles fit Drew Barrymore so perfectly.  Learn more about Drew's transformation into Little Edie Beale on her surprisingly eloquent Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross on NPR!  Drew's red-carpet outfit to the Grey Gardens premiere was also stunning:

For Men: Joseph Gordon-Levitt's messenger bag from 500 Days of Summer

Last year I posted about the excellent vintage-style fashion in one of the best romantic comedies of the past year, 500 Days of Summer.  We were especially taken by the "old man chic" worn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's lovesick character, Tom.  Since we've gotten so much interest from that post, including a ton of questions about JGL's messenger bag in the movie, I thought I'd post a follow-up to let people know where they can buy the bag, or something very similar to it:

I'm close to certain that costume designer Hope Hanafin got Tom's canvas messenger bag from a vintage store, but that doesn't mean stylish men everywhere can't get the same look for a lot less than you'd expect.  Contrary to what people were saying on Yahoo Answers, Tom's bag was NOT from Ben Sherman.  More likely it was one of these vintage styles (I especially love the simple army medic shoulder bag from the Army Navy store - so classic, so practical, and so affordable!):

Katy Perry: Her music's only okay, but I HEART her style.

I know, I know.  Where on earth have I been for the past two years, living under a rock?  Because I can't believe it took me so stupidly long to get around to watching a Katy Perry video. The first few times I heard her songs on the radio, I kind of disliked her voice, her themes, her music in general and was just not interested in finding more about her.

It was seeing glimpses of her video for "Hot n Cold" on DJ Earworm's 2009 United State of Pop that got me intrigued by, of all things, her STYLE.  My friends, I've decided Katy Perry has loads of it (style, that is), and I find her totally adorable.
I've rarely seen anyone pull off such a throwback vintage-y look with a straight face and, as they say, "totally rock it."  In the "Hot n Cold" video, I loved everything from the artful white veil pinned in place by an heirloom rhinestone brooch, to the fantastic convertible wedding gown/romper with the giant bow, to her fabulous strappy belt, to her selection of odd-colored eyeshadows.  I started watching her other videos, and it was interesting to see the evolution (and elaboration) of her style.  Whereas she has just one or two outfits in her first hit single, "I Kissed a Girl," by the time she hits "Waking Up in Vegas" she is rocking something like seven outfits in a single 4-minute song, each one more fabulous and fanciful than the other.  I've taken the liberty of painstakingly screen-capping the heck out of these outfits so you can see what I'm talking about.
Checking out her red carpet looks is pretty entertaining too.  I love how the girl goes from dishwater-blonde contemporary Christian teenager to outrageous brunette super-vamp within the span of a few short years. It's enough to give anyone hope for reinvention.  When I saw her in action, the first thing I thought was, "She's like an EVEN MORE fearless, irresistable and effervescent version of Zooey Deschanel!"  
For public events, she seems to favor a) fruits and other food items, b) animal prints, c) ruffles galore, d) heart-shaped sunglasses, and d) a crapton of cleavage.  I love that she so fearlessly right to the edge of what is acceptable or not, from the outrageous carousel and ice cream cone dresses to the dramatic Viktor & Rolf peachy ball-gown concoction with the giant holes cut into it.

Hot or Not? LACMA textiles reinvented.

I heard about this on NPR a while back and am finally posting about it.  The story piqued my interest because 1) it's about vintage/historical textiles and fabrics and 2) it's about LACMA, seriously one of the best contemporary art museums in America, and certainly one of my favoritest.

So the idea is this: earlier this year, LACMA auctioned off a large portion of its rare and historical textile collection.  It just so happened that most of the pieces were in relatively poor condition and otherwise unwanted.

Along comes this artist, Robert Fontenot, who buys up 50 of the pieces, ranging from Uzbekystani and Honduran woven fabrics to Korean wedding dresses.  He proceeds to find new uses for the unwanted items by deconstructing and then re-imagining them into different incarnations, and documenting the process on his blog, RecyleLACMA.

This is just the sort of thing that would normally delight me, tickle my fancy, capture my imagination, what have you.  I think the idea has a lot of potential.  But I looked through some of the stuff he's made and can't help but feel a sense of... I don't know, disappointment bordering on discomfort.  I mean, I love modern art as much as the next guy and can appreciate any statements Fontenot is trying to make.
Many of these pieces, though, just feel like they're missing the mark.  Maybe it's because I think of sewing as a craft that must serve a higher purpose, and I have the heart and soul of a true fabric junkie.  I believe in fabric, in its substance and spirit and dignity and practicality.  Most of all, what draws me emotionally to fabrics is their possibility.  

This might explain how I cannot resist buying a beautiful fabric when I see it, only to have it lie quietly folded in a box under my bed, to be taken out on occasion to be fondled and cooed over. Cutting into a lovely fabric is one of the hardest things for me to do, even if it's destined for a great purpose.

So what upsets me about some of these pieces by Fontenot, I think, is how unromantic and mundane they are.  It feels insulting to the spirit of the fabric, which may have been lovingly worked over by some ancient grandmother or artisan, to turn it into a dog bed, or a hackey-sack.  I suppose that's one of the points the artist is making, but it still upsets me.

Some of the pieces are more delightful, like the whimsical lion costume pictured up top or the sailboat below, which makes it easier to swallow (I included some of the ones I like below).  But overall I wonder if overall it isn't a bit of a waste.

UPDATE: I was asked by the artist to take the photo gallery down.  If you're so inclined, feel free to check out the rest of the projects here.

Watch: The look of (500) Days of Summer

We just got back from watching Marc Webb's (500) Days of Summer, a movie I've been waiting to see for a good five months.  Funny how one can look forward to a movie so much.  It has some of my favorite things all in one--Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, and the City of Los Angeles.  Webb, a first-time director, makes downtown LA look downright magical.  He brings out the LA I love even though I haven't actually visited a lot of the locations he used.  But that's a story for another blog post.

What I really want to talk about is the film's style and the yumdellishous clothes Zooey gets to wear throughout..  It reminded me how much I enjoyed costuming for theatrical productions.  Garry commented that this looked like a movie "made by hipsters, for hipsters."  It's kind of true, but it's still noteworthy.  Costume designer Hope Hanafin dresses Joe's character Tom in mostly Old Man Chic--sweater vests and puce-colored cardigans over a tie and button down shirt, funky corduroys, messenger bags.  Zooey's character Summer gets to wear a parade of 50s-inspired secretary blouses, ruffle-paneled dresses and flouncy high-waisted skirts.

I really like the individual pieces of clothing, especially the cool navy dress she wears in picture 6 above, but I think Hanafin may have overdid it with the period style--it veers into "old fashioned" more often than I'd like... I think part of what makes vintage clothing wearable is mixing it up with more modern elements. Accessories, something unexpected, like pairing it with modern jewelry, adds some freshness to vintage pieces and keeps a look grounded in the here-and-now.  Still, it was a very well done movie and lots of fun to watch all the outfits.

Update: Check out this exclusive MTV interview with Hope Hanafin on her vision for costuming (500) Days of Summer.

Another update: Found some bags that look a lot like the one Joseph Gordon-Levitt carries throughout the film.  Check them out here.

More age-old perfection from Vintage Textiles

I posted about this almost a year ago. Again I was wandering around the interwebs, and again found myself captured by this site that sells historical vintage clothing from the early 1800s onward. And I still bemoan the fact that they just don't make clothes this fine anymore, or if they do, it comes at an abominable cost.

Looking at the attention to detail and painstaking execution of the most extraordinary embellishments, it becomes clear that this exquisite sort of dressmaking is a lost art...I am reminded of pyramids, of hanging gardens, of great walls and stories my mother told me about old kungfu masters who would withhold one or two secrets from their proteges, as a kind of insurance, should that protege ever decide to try to kill his master.  Eventually, so many secrets were buried that the whole body of knowledge was diluted forever.

At least I can marvel at these relics of the past and just imagine the hands that made them and the impossibly elegant women who wore them.  

All images taken from the Vintage Textile website, where you can purchase pieces for a pretty penny ($1200 and up).  Well worth it if you have that kind of money.

Seraphim is Truly Heavenly

Don't you just love the fine, lucky accidents which result from random link-clicking? Such an accident led me to Seraphim.

If you're like me and you like aspects of lolita fashion, but find them, well, too juvenile to carry off, then Seraphim could be considered the next step up. The items are almost edgy in their elegant femininity, and carry the same romantic ethos as classic and gothic lolita styles. My favorite item is the gauze and lace jumperskirt; the designer uses antique lace in the items.

This online store took my breath away.

I know I kind of bounce around about 5 topics on this blog: food, fashion, music, art, movies.  And a recent sixth: the Olympics.

I'd like to turn my attention right now to fashion.  Vintage and historical fashion.  I'm not exactly sure how I got on this search, but I was looking for Brussels lace and flipped over to the image search.  Through that, I came across Vintage Textile, a store that specializes in high couture, vintage and antique clothing and accessories from about 1820 - 1970.  I'm amazed that textiles can last almost 200 years without falling to bits and pieces.  Their collection is of truly extraordinary quality and craftsmanship and handiwork, and I found myself weak in the knees at the utter beauty of it.  People just don't make clothing like this anymore.  Well, maybe they do, but labor is so costly these days that similarly detailed work would fetch closer to $10,000. 

I was especially swept away by their treasure trove of 1920s flapper dresses, tea dresses, capes, shawls, and such.  If I ever have $1500 to throw away on an article of clothing, I'm definitely investing in one of their offerings.  I'm attaching some of my favorites.