Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Practical, Shmactical

John Galliano is the Mad Genius of fashion and believe me, I mean that as a compliment. You have to be possessed by a bit of divine madness to put something like this on the runway:

But before you dismiss him as completely impractical and ridiculous, look at what that beautiful madness above from Haute Couture Fall 2006 had morphed into by the time Ready to Wear S/S 2007 came around:

That is a beautiful and wearable suit. Not madness at all.

Galliano's Haute Couture collections for Christian Dior are always some of my favorite fashion events of the year. They sum up everything I want couture to be - delirious visions of the far reaches of fashion possibility. Galliano does not flinch in the face of the impractical. He certainly doesn't compromise his vision, and for that I adore him.

Some people look at photos of clothes like these and say, "But where would I ever
wear something like that? You know what the answer is? The answer is: "That's not really the point."

I marveled & swooned & ooh'd & ah'd over this collection, with its Cio-Cio-San meets the New Look riot of color and shape.

I can't stop imagining the sound these clothes must make -- that wonderful rustling noise that for most women from childhood onward has meant "special occasion." With every step, that tulle skirt would whisper, "Beautful! Beautiful!"

Is it shredded tulle? Angels' wings? Who can tell?

Probably some of these are going to show up on the red carpet at the Oscars, but they'll be dumbed-down for Hollywood and robbed of much of their magic, in my opinion.

But, you say. Beautiful those things may be, but I live in the real world. I have to go to work/the grocery store/teachers' meetings at my kids' schools. I understand. So I prowled around a little this weekend to find some things that just might bring a little bit of Galliano's madness within reach. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

I'm showing you these close-ups so you can marvel at the amazing detail and construction of this dress, but note that the overall effect of it is very kimono-like, with a wrapped top and defined waist, which is an extremely flattering shape to most of us.

Try it in something like this easy little silk dress I found at Envie here in Austin. It's by Single Dress, and goes for $238. There's a tie in the back so you can cinch up the waist or not as you need to. A really great spring into summer dress -- you could put a t-shirt or even a collared white blouse underneath it.

I'm transfixed by this dress, I'm dying to see it in real life.

How did they do that? Is it really origami? How many layers is that?

Here we have the idea of a great, simple shape in a supremely useful neutral. (I, of course, would wear red shoes with this dress. I hope you will, too.) Great A-line skirt (as you come to know me better, you will learn that I am a rabid fan of the A-line, because it looks good on absolutely everyone).

Here's a close-up of the ribbon work detailing at the bottom -- so pretty. I love tone-on-tone texture details. This little beauty was at Fetish. It's Byron Lars for Beauty Mark, is all cotton with a hint of spandex, and retails for $374.

I'm a sucker for embroidery. So I really fell for this:

Modeled by the lovely and sweet Lorna at Adelante, this is a really terrific spring weight cotton coat. Great seaming for a great shape, and the detailing is to die for.

It's Chan Luu, and sells for $304.

So, take heart. You may not yet have the sort of life wherein you can swan about in ball gowns on a daily basis (note that I said "yet"), but there are still lots of easy ways to be beautiful, and maybe even a tiny bit divinely mad.

Photos: and Style Spy

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

We Have Our Own Table in the Cafeteria

I'm an utter dork. I admit it. That loud noise you may have heard earlier today was me completely geeking out as I opened my mail. Why the Fashion Geek squee? Because I received my ticket to Balenciaga and the Transformation of 20th Century Fashion, a symposium being held at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in conjunction with Balenciaga and His Legacy, a collection of the coutourier's work that will be shown at the Meadows Museum.

(I would wear this dress, and I would rock this dress.)

Yes. A whole day of sitting in a lecture hall listening to folks give talks about a clothing designer. Lordy, I am squirming in anticipation. I described the event for a male friend, who listened with a polite smile and slightly glassy eyes and then said, "That sounds like fun. For you."

I know I'm a geek. I know that driving 200 miles to listen to a day of fashion lectures is roughly the Fashionista equivalent of building your own Stormtrooper costume so you can march in a platoon at the Rose Parade. I'm no better than any Gandalf-worshipping 15 year-old playing weekend-long games of Dungeons & Dragons.

Just better dressed.

But for pete's sake -- Harold Koda!! And Pamela Golbin, the woman who edited this gorgeous book, which accompanied the exhibit at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris:

(My wonderful friend and fellow Fashion Geek Barbara gave me this book for Christmas. It's my Happy Place. When I'm stressed out, I can retire to its pages and imagine myself a Balenciaga client circa 1968, being led into the Blue Salon for my fitting.)

At any rate, all the lecturing and Q&A-ing culminates in a reception and tour of the exhibit itself. (Again, squee-ing and squirming.) I doubt they'll let me take pictures, but don't worry. I'll tell you aaaaaall about it.

dress photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Monsieur Lacroix et Moi

These, as you may recall, are the shoes I've been obsessing over:

(Christian Lacroix Couture, S/S 2007)

And these are the shoes I've created to soothe my obsession:

(Sorry about the crummy photos, but it is remarkably difficult to get shots of your own feet!)

I'm actually rather pleased with them. I wore them out tonight for a birthday dinner with My Girls (Happy Birthweek, Anita!) with a black skirt and my favorite white blouse. I'm going to stay on the lookout for a pale pink or nude shoe that will work in the same way, but I've had these little red satin numbers in my closet for a few years now, and those strappy bits across the toes made them perfect for attaching flowers to. I got the sweet little fabric flowers from Connie Day, my favorite vintage dealer. (If you're in Austin & hankering after vintage, go see her at the Austin Antique Mall. You wouldn't BELIEVE some of the stuff she's got. Plus, she's a love.)

Now, perhaps they aren't quite as fabulous as M. Lacroix's shoes. However, those are probably going to run you a cool 500 - 600 bucks, minimum. The red ones above came from Foley's (before it became Macy's). Pretty sure they were on sale and set me back well under $50.00. The sweet little flowers came to $7.50, and I've got scads left over. I pulled apart the little bunches and wrapped the wired stems around the straps on the shoes. Took me all of about 15 minutes. Strappy sandals are not that hard to come by, and if you don't have access to a fabulous vintage dealer, silk flowers are available at pretty much any fabric or craft store. Buy yourself a neutral-colored pair of sandals (red is a neutral for me) and with the right blooms you can customize them to go with any outfit you own. Why stop with flowers -- how about a few beautiful feathers, or a little silken butterfly?

So, yeah. For $7.50 I got myself a new, personalized, one of a kind pair of shoes. Couture shoes, if you will. It was a good day!

Photos: & Style Spy

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It Might Be Love

Yesterday I tried on this dress:

It's by Christiane Celle, and I tried it on at By George here in Austin, aided by the lovely Laura Lee. The dress is made of a thin, crisp dupioni silk that has a lovely, gentle rustling sound and would be absolutely perfect in the brutal Austin summer heat. The one I tried on is a beautiful pale green, somewhere between spring & celery, which I thought was going to be too light a color for me but actually worked pretty well. Those sash bits that are wrapped around the middle & tied are actually about five feet long, and there are a couple of cleverly installed loops and slits that provide for several different tying variations. Laura Lee wrapped me up like a pretty little present a couple of different ways. I think I could even put a lightweight, long-sleeved tee underneath it & wear it with my chocolate brown boots before it gets terribly warm. I'm really smitten with this garment -- I imagine wearing it weekly during the warm months, and look at it -- it's never going to go out of style. At $235, it's not horrendously expensive, but I don't have any wiggle room in the budget right now and here's the Want Monster chewing on me.

Sigh. Guess I have some re-budgeting to do.

(By the way, for a wonderfully pleasant shopping experience, I heartily recommend By George. The space is beautiful, the clothes are fantastic, and the staff is fabulous -- inspirationally well-dressed, helpful, and terribly sweet. They really know their stuff.)

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Poetry for Pucci

A haiku, inspired by Maestro Pucci...

Delicious beauties

surely belong on my feet.
The Want Monster roars.

Patent leather Puccis. Oh! I might faint...

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Friday, January 26, 2007


Karl Lagerfeld is a little scary. And I don't just mean the omnipresent leather pants, fingerless biker gloves, and surfeit of Chrome Hearts jewelry. Rimbaud Goes to Sturgis is his look, he's been working it for a long time now, and more power to him.

(As we say in the South: Bless his heart!)

No, his Effete Goth thing doesn't scare me. (Amuses & puzzles, but doesn't scare.) What honestly sends chills down my spine occasionally is how consistently uncanny he is at making truly fresh and wonderful clothes that are instantly identifiable as Chanel. He's been designing Chanel for over 20 years now and he still somehow manages to pull this off at the rate of something like four collections a year. And on top of Chanel, he also designs for Fendi and his own Lagerfeld line. (Am I forgetting any? There's probably more.) It's pretty remarkable.

Now, I'm not so naive as to believe that Mr. Lagerfeld is responsible for every sketch of every garment for all three houses. I'm sure he has platoons of minions backing him up (many of whom he very generously and charmingly shared the limelight with by bringing them out to take a bow with him during the finale of his latest Chanel Couture show. Well done, Mr. Lagerfeld, and astonished bravos to les petits mains of the House of Chanel, so brilliantly upholding the traditions of haute couture.) But from what I can gather about Mr. Lagerfeld, safe money says nothing actually gets a label on it until he's given it the (leather-mitted) thumbs up.

This latest Couture collection once again brilliantly illustrates his ability to channel Coco. Fall 2006 Couture was also gorgeous, leaning more toward the gamine Parisienne side of the Chanel spectrum. This week's clothes, however, hang smack down the traditional center of the house like a strand of Coco's trademark pearls, and they took my breath away. Here's a few of my favorites:

I was especially thrilled to see the tulle evening skirts, since not long ago I got my hands on this little baby:

She was just hanging there in the vintage store, waiting patiently for me. I'd seriously been searching for a tulle skirt like this for a few years now. Whaddya know, me & Karl are on the same page!

At any rate, be sure to check out the whole show, it's beyond gorgeous. And don't forget to look at the detail shots, because that's where Couture really makes its bones. In the meantime I'll be sashaying around my place in my tulle skirt. I'm going to pretend that Mr. Lagerfeld made it for me, then told me I looked fabulous, and then we went out for drinks at this cute little wine bar on the Place du Marché St. Honoré. À bientôt!


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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

What time of year is that? you might ask.

Not the Christmas season, obviously. Not Valentine's Day (pah!). Not even summer vacation.

It's time for the Spring Couture Shows!!

(Style Spy hops around her home doing Happy Little Fashionista Dance)

On the gray and chilly cobblestones of Paris, fashionable types from all over the world have gathered to view the most fanciful, beautiful, creative, outlandish, opulent, breathtaking, and fiendishly expensive clothes to be found anywhere on Planet Earth.

(And yes, it does kill me that I'm not there.)

Ready to Wear is just that -- clothing that is pretty much geared toward being sold as shown, the season after it's presented. Of course there are some changes that get made between the runway and the sales floor of Saks (a lot of lowering of hemlines this last time around), but for the most part the clothes you see or clothes very much like them will be available for purchasing. But Couture? Ahhhh, Couture is something else. Couture clothes are made to order for a very, very select group of clients and give designers an opportunity to let loose with their wildest fancies. Don't think it will sell? Oh, well. You're probably only going to make one of them anyway. It's the most fun in all of fashion, and often a source for dramatic shifts and influences that eventually trickle down to the racks at Nordstrom's.

Willy Wonka's Fashion Factory. The Oracle. The Garden of Apparel Eden. Fashionista Pig Heaven.

For a rundown on the specifics of Couture, give this a read, or check out this site for a more in-depth discussion.

Here's one of my favorite things so far, just a little morsel from Christian Lacroix's show.

He seems to have put the same shoe on every model in the show, and just changed out the flowers he tucked into them. The shoe itself is absolutely, gloriously swoony, but those flowers just send me over the edge.

This weekend I'll be dashing in to see my favorite vintage dealer. She happens to have a large collection of old silk flowers from the 40's and 50's, and I'm going to pick up a few sprigs to attach to my shoes.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go rummage through my closet to see which shoes will look best with adorable vintage flowers tucked into them.


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A reader writes:

"I have a cute black dress that I bought for NY Eve that will suit pretty much any dressy occasion I'll need it for. It's sleeveless, so I'll be wearing it in the summer. It hits me around the shins and has a sort of handkerchief hemline. The fabric is kind of a double-layer with the outer layer being sort-of jersey/gauzey. The lining is a very pretty royal purple satin. I wore it with my stripper platform wedges (patent) and black hose, and it looked cute. But I want to get some black flats so I can actually walk around in it if I need to. Also, would black hose be ok with something like that? Or is that a no-no? And if so, what *should* I wear, if I wear hose?"

(Style Spy breathes deeply and takes a moment to recover from "stripper platform wedges (patent)." The mind reels. But that's a whole other post.)

She very thoughtfully included some photos:

(She's pretty attractive for someone with no head, huh?)

Here's a detail shot of the dress, which gives a better idea of the fabric. You can just see a bit of the purple lining peeking out at the vee. I love the idea of the colored lining, flashing when you walk or dance. Lovely.

So. I have good news & other news. The good news: fab dress!! It's sexy but not trashy, that gathered bit under the bust is so flattering, the bodice is bare but still allows for a Support Mechanism. (I am very big on the Support Mechanisms, you may have noticed.) It's a classic style, it's accessorizable (Yes, it's a word. Well, it is now.) in lots of different ways, you'll be able to wear it for many years, provided you don't get drunk at the festive event you're attending and knock over a candle and spill wax on it. (Oh, wait, sorry, that was someone else...)

The other news: with that hemline, you really must have a bit of a heel. Because of the length and the handkerchiefiness (Another coinage! I'm on a roll!) flats are going to make it look dumpy. No one likes dumpy -- it is my mission in life to prevent dumpiness. But fear not, I can offer some reasonable alternatives. (Click on photos for links.)

What you need is a nice little wedge, like this

or this

Low wedges are nice & stable. Note that they are wedges but not platforms. Platforms, I don't care what anyone tells you, are not as stable as stiletto-phobes trumpet them to be. I have never twisted my ankle in a pair or 4-inch stilettos, but I have gone off the side of my 1-inch platforms just walking down the sidewalk to my car more times than I can count. I'm going to break an ankle one of these days. I think it's something about the sole of the shoe not flexing. I'm not saying platforms are bad (heaven forfend!),I'm just saying if you think you really need stability (say, for dancing, or chasing the cute waiters) at least the front half of your foot needs to be in touch with the ground and the shoe has got to flex when your foot does or you'll roll right off 'em.

There are also nice low heels available:

These have excellent strappage -- if you're one of those people who tends to step out of her shoes, these go around the ankle and across the instep, keeping you nice & secure.

Here's another option: If you'd like to make the dress wearable with flats, alter the hem so that it's all one length, and just at the knee. If you don't sew yourself, any good dry cleaner ought to be able to do this for not a lot of money, or you can look up a tailor in the Yellow Pages. This would increase your shoe options, actually, because at that length you could wear the dress with heels or dressy flats.

The flats the reader wondered about were these:

Your instinct to go sparkly is the right one. The dress is a bit... dressy (for lack of a better word), so if you do go with a flat shoe, it has to be correspondingly festive. Here are some other options, but again, I really think you could only do flats with this dress if you alter the hemline.

I love the idea of something patterned or printed with a black dress.

I love patent leather. Patent leather is good. These are sassy and adorable.

Mmmmmmm, sparkly. Sparkly is also good.

Hot-cha. I firmly believe every woman needs a little animal print in her life.

Finally, the pantyhose question. It being a cocktail-type dress, if you wear black hose they need to be very, very sheer. Another option I love -- fishnets! I love colored fishnets -- they give the illusion of a very sheer wash of color, they're fun, and they don't get runs! Needless to say, if the shoe is very open or strappy, hose are a no-no. Although a lot of designers are showing fishnets with open shoes this season,

(Yves Saint Laurent, S/S 2007)

and I happen to love this look,

it's not for everyone. I wore the above to a party last weekend and while I was perfectly happy, I think I may have raised a few eyebrows. But hey, if it's good enough for Stefano Pilati, it's good enough for me.

But I digress. You may have noticed, she said airily, that none of the shoes I recommended above are actually black. This is because I am endlessly advocating for something other than black shoes. Yes, black shoes are necessary, and sometimes even wonderful. But I so love a colored shoe with black clothing. I think it just kicks everything up a notch or two, makes it more special and more fun. I cannot urge you all enough to Give Not Black a Chance. Metallics and patent are HUGE right now, there are squillions of wonderful pairs of shiny shoes out there. Give it a try. I guarantee it will give your spirits a lift.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Plus $600 or So for the Plane Ticket

If you were looking for a reason to visit London, I may have found it for you.

This is the Marks & Spencer Magicwear Slimming Dress. Yes, you read that right. This little critter has a special lining made out of support fabric that claims to tuck and hold and support and just generally make you look fabulous without the aid of additional Support Mechanisms. The company offers lots of marketing mumbo-jumbo about how it works, but the basic idea is that of a fashionable scuba suit that smooths all the bumpy bits.

We've seen this idea before in swimsuits, some rather scary-to-behold undergarments, even jeans. M&S seems to be taking it one step further and embarking on a whole line of these goodies, most of which seem to be sold-out on their website. This is frustrating but speaks well to the product. (Or just to the gullibility of women, hard to say.) If you're interested, check back periodically, if the stuff is selling this well you can be sure there will be re-stocks. I'm quite keen (in full-on Anglophile Mode now, somebody stop me!) to get a look at the pencil skirt, a successful version of which this pear-shaped gal has yet to find. The reviews are generally positive and the price is actually pretty reasonable. (Although bear in mind that thanks to the absolutely miserable current exchange rate, £69 is close to $140. I'm dying to get back to London, but I think there's slim hope of that until... well, let's not talk politics, shall we?)

M&S doesn't ship to the States, but if you've got a buddy in the UK who'd accept delivery & then forward it to you, you're golden. The return policy gives you a generous 90 days, which is plenty of time to make it back & forth across the pond.

Oy. I just said "across the pond." I do apologize.

(By the way, do remember that the UK uses a different sizing system than the US. It goes in the same increments, but UK sizes are generally one larger. That means if you wear a US size 10, you're probably a UK size 12.)

If anyone from the UK has tried one of these, I sure would love to get a first-hand report!

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