Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fashion, Imagination, Possibility

Fashion is a means of self-expression as well as well as reinvention. I can imagine a look; present an image; project a mood; or through the combination of tangibles - color, shape, texture, and intangibles - occasion, setting, memory, bring myself from one emotional state to another.

I love this photo, of model Lisa Fonssagrives wearing Lucien Lelong on the Eiffel Tower, photographed by Erwin Blumenfeld for French Vogue in 1939, because it captures the essence of fashion - imagination, possibility, and sheer delight.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dress of the Day is Back!

It's been a long time since I've done Dress of the Day, mostly because I've been posting my performances of Debussy's Syrinx every day on my Syrinx Journey blog. I have missed Dress of the Day, and did integrate some fashion from Debussy's time into that project, but now I'm back with purely fashion.

Here are a few dazzling selections from Vintage Textile, a company which sells vintage clothing from various periods.

Worth dress (c. 1890)
From the lifetime of Charles Frederick Worth

Tulle, gold metallic, and silver bead fishtail hem dress (c. 1925)

Mario Fortuny velvet stencilled jacket (1930s) over Peplos dress (c. 1920)
One of the most sought after designers of the period, known for his evocations of ancient Greece and the Renaissance

Chanel (c. 1937)
Numbered Chanel couture in cascades of fine lace = incroyable!

Howard Greer (c. 1950)
Open backs are dramatic.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Paint the Town Purple!

Dear friends,
I haven't had much time for "Dress of the Day" lately, but I appreciate those of you who have told me you miss it. I have devoted my blogging activities to Syrinx Journey, my project performing Claude Debussy's solo flute piece Syrinx every day throughout his 150th anniversary year and posting the videos on my blog. Please visit www.mimistillman.org to see it.

This fashion post is in honor of my dear friend Jane Tamaccio, a woman of style and elegance who dazzles in any color, but especially favors purple. For years she told me I should get a purple concert gown, and when I finally did it became one of my favorites. Today's "Dress of the Day" is a festival of purple items from a range of periods and aesthetics.

These gowns and gloves demonstrate the many moods of this captivating color. The richness of Worth's royal velvet tea gown; the romance of the Jane Austen-style neoclassical ballgown (ca. 1820) in a fresh shade of wisteria; the regal stature conveyed by Charles James's draped, aubergine gown. Lilac gauntlets over 300 years old personify the statement accessory. The iridiscent, amethyst silk of Dior's gown imbues it with a futuristic edge. The two gowns from House of Schiaparelli, attributed to Hubert de Givenchy's period designing there, are fantastic creations in shades from plum through pink.

Dress (Ball Gown)
Ball Gown, American, silk, ca. 1820
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress (Tea Gown)
Tea Gown, House of Worth, Jean-Philippe Worth, silk and metal, ca. 1905
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress (Ball Gown)
Ball Gown, Charles James, silk, 1949
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gauntlets, British, leather, silk, and metal, 1680-1710
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress (Ball Gown)
Ball Gown, House of Dior, Christian Dior, silk, 1951
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress (Ball Gown)
Ball Gowns, House of Schiaparelli, attributed to Hubert de Givenchy, 1953
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Heat Wave!

With temperatures over 90 degrees for the past 11 days, many of us are hot and some have been bothered. I relish the opportunity to wear light summer frocks.

This cocktail dress by Yves Saint Laurent, ca. 1967, keeps the air circulating while you circulate at the party. The high bateau neckline and silk grosgrain trim and bows are a ladylike contrast to the substantial cutout areas. The black wool bouclé and sheath silhouette are characteristic of the 1960s - think Audrey Hepburn in a little black dress - and also subtly reminiscent of 1920s flapper styles.

The question is, would you wear it?

For more information about this piece, visit its page at the Metropolitan Museum site: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1977.115.17a,b

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dress of the Day - May 8, 2012

Madame Grès, cocktail dress, ca. 1960

Madame Grès is one of my most featured designers on Dress of the Day. Famous for intricate draping and absolute integrity of craftsmanship, Grès identified with the sari during her visit to India in the 1950s. She recognized in the sari an emphasis on the quality, texture, and color of the fabric, and the use of draping as the key styling tool as well as the source of meaning in the garment.

In this dress, the gold-bordered and fringed fabric is draped on the bias and wrapped over the shoulder in keeping with most traditional Indian styles of sari. But the dress fits in with 1960s cocktail length, and the overall sense of naturalness and freedom are also characteristic of the decade.

From the Metropolitan Museum collection

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dress of the Day, May 3, 2012: Cecil Beaton / My Fair Lady

Yesterday, quite by chance, I caught the beginning of My Fair Lady on television. As happens whenever I glimpse one of my favorite films, I was hooked. Three hours later, I had cried and laughed and marvelled again at the perfection of this great production - music and lyrics and acting and costumes. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical rendition of George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady (1964) stars Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison in a brilliant cast including Wilfrid Hyde White, Stanley Holloway, and one of my favorites, Gladys Cooper.

Cecil Beaton's costumes are breathtaking, not only for Audrey Hepburn's Eliza Doolittle but for a large cast in ensemble scenes such as Ascot and the embassy ball. The fashion design is a sumptuous evocation of late Victorian and Edwardian fashion with a whimsical twist.

Here is the famous Ascot gown in the dazzling scene in which Beaton dresses the women in all black and white and the men in dove gray (except Professor Henry Higgins).

At the embassy ball, Audrey Hepburn is stunning in a neo-classical gown, simple in form with beaded embellishments. Gladys Cooper, playing Henry Higgins's mother, is also in a Grecian gown and hairstyle.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Excitement at Whole Foods

Something very unusual happened today. While shopping at Whole Foods, the power went out in the store. The staff swung into action to protect the items that need to be kept cold, wrapping plastic around the raw meat cases. The cash registers operate on battery so we were able to check out and leave. In all the commotion we forgot rosemary for roasted chicken and potatoes but when we went back, the store had closed. I can't think of anything sadder than a power outage at Whole Foods.

The fellow doing check out was wearing this pin. Naturally when I saw it I thought it said "composing" not "composting." I commented on this and he gave his pin to me.