Love: A good fabric, a delightful print. I have found a name, a cartoon character – Miss Frizzle. Except I do not have a magic school bus, or a pet iguana on my shoulder. I am a high school English teacher with three cats, The Empurress Velvet, and the boys, the bards of meow who purr in iambic pentameter – William Shakespurr and Mister Edgar Allan Paw. One of my students asked me today if the print on my dress was sushi? The print is not sushi, it is Mary Blair’s kittens drinking from a bowl. Honestly, I wish I had gone down a size in this dress, but with a belt and a camisole it works. The belt it came with it didn’t have any grommets so I went instead with a wide buckled patton leather belt and an old Betsey Johsnon capped sleeve cropped sweater with little pom-pom ties at the top. Honestly, between the pom-poms and the kittens, good grief. However, on a Friday before a three day weekend I need pom poms and Mary Blair’s kittens. Shakespurr eyed the pom-poms when I got dressed. “Forget about it,” I told him. Though Velvet is the one who has been known to attack pom-poms: many years ago I had a poncho with the most adorable pom-poms, until…..
I always tell people that my basic style descends from a combination of Bettie Page (e.g. the bangs), film costume designer Edith Head (e.g. bangs, Mexican and gypsy skirts), and artist Mary Blair. It’s an odd mix, but it begins to make sense if you know me fairly well and think on it for a few moments. You may be aware that my signature hair accessory is a black grosgrain ribbon, something I picked up years ago from photos of Blair. I’m also a huge fan of the colors and shapes she incorporated into her artwork and designs for everything from Disney films and theme park attractions (It’s a Small World!) to advertisements to fashion.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when Pinup Girl Clothing announced that they would be adapting some of Blair’s (non-Disney, of course) art to fabrics for a special “Magic of Mary Blair” collection, but I ended up ordering and enjoying several of the pieces. Most items from the collection are existing Pinup Girl Clothing staple pieces, like the popular gathered Jenny skirt and Ella dress, that feature commercial illustrations by Blair. Some of the art comes from textile prints (like the parasols) and others from things like advertisements (e.g. the kittens). They are all constructed from PUG’s favorite cotton sateen fabrics, which look and wear well in casual settings. Continue reading “Fashion & Style Influences: Mary Blair at Pinup Girl Clothing”
Like most people, I get my style cues from so many different sources I can’t keep track of them all. More, I’m sure a huge proportion of my influences are so subliminal I couldn’t articulate them if I wanted to. That said, the spirit of self-exploration has taken hold and inspired me to try. So with that, I’m presenting my first style influences. Not the first in the chronological sense of my life, but the first I’m bringing to the blog: Piero Gherardi – art, set, and costume designer for many of Federico Fellini’s iconic films – and the luminous Anita Ekberg, one of the talented female stars of my favorite Fellini, La Dolce Vita (1960).
Since Ekberg just passed away, she’s a logical first choice. The designs that she – and everyone else in La Dolce Vita – wore also happen to be some of my favorite clothes ever. Her strapless velvet gown from the famous Baths of Caracalla and Trevi Fountain scenes is legendary, but I’d love it even if it were 1/1,000,000th as famous as it is. With its sweetheart neckline, carefully-engineered bodice, and sweeping, diaphanous silk underlayers, it’s truly a dream dress. The way Ekberg whirls through the Caracalla scene, it’s almost like the dress has taken on a life of its own.
My other favorite Ekberg ensemble from the film includes the off-shoulder, v-neck lace top her character, Sylvia, wears during the press suite scene soon after her arrival in Rome. It’s perfect – just the right balance of structure and femininity, balanced delicately on the pinnacle fulcrum of the best fashion era that ever was or will be – the late 1950s and early 1960s.
It helps that Ekberg didn’t have a standard body. While not exactly plus, she had bigger curves than the average actress and looked amazing. This inspired me, as a girl who is nothing if not curvy.
It’s finally autumn here, so I’ve been busting out the cold weather fashions. Last August, when it was still millions of degrees outside, I ordered two of Betty Le Bonbon’s fabulous winter-weight midi length skirts. I’ve been eagerly waiting for the day I could wear them, and that day is finally here!
A little while back I showed you two lovely Stop Staring! cocktail dresses suitable for holiday wear. I promised a third option from Collectif, and that’s what I’m reviewing for you here! Meet Penny, an attractive sweetheart front-cross halter strap wiggle dress made from stretchy black bengaline.
Bengaline is a comfortable, flattering fabric that works incredibly well in vintage wiggle dress styles. The Collectif Penny is no exception. The cut and construction are fabulous, and the fit is very good. This is the kind of dress that is snazzy enough on its own – look at that bodice! – but dresses up really nicely given its neutral color and sleek lines.
Several years ago for Halloween, I decided to bring to life my favorite Patrick Nagel painting. Usually described as “woman with flower in her hair,” the piece is also known as the alternate cover art for Duran Duran’s iconic Rio album.
The first incarnation of the outfit included a royal blue tube top and raspberry capris, both of which I made myself by altering commercially available patterns. Since I’ve gotten a lot smaller since then, I decided it was time to put together a new “Rio” look for this Halloween. This time, I’m using separates produced by popular pin up clothing manufacturers.
Recently, my friend Gailynne asked me to write an article for our costumers’ guild newsletter. She knows I love mid-century fashion, and she needed someone to write a piece on “beatnik” fashion for our “On the Road” event coming up in November. I thought it would be fun, so I jumped on it! I figured it would be a good way to learn more about the “Beat Generation” and the (old school) hipster culture that inspired – and was inspired by – it.
When most people hear the word “beatnik,” they probably imagine bored-looking bohemian gals in berets and guys in turtlenecks and weird little goatees. These stereotypes are rooted in truth, but like the term “beatnik” itself, they’re not really very representative of the movement defined by the “Beat Generation” nor the people inspired by its counterculture philosophy. The reality is that the intellectuals, artists, and anti-bourgeois iconoclasts of mid-twentieth century America dressed a lot like everyone else.
Legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen created the term “beatnik” in 1958, a portmanteau of “beat” and “Sputnik” (as in the Soviet satellite) that – in conjunction with a short report about freeloading hep cats helping themselves to booze at a magazine party – was meant to poke fun at common perceptions of the counterculture. Namely, that the group was full of lazy opportunists with far left political leanings. According to Caen, however, Beat Generation mainstay Jack Kerouac didn’t find it very amusing. “You’re putting us down and making us sound like jerks,” Kerouac apparently told him. “I hate it. Stop using it.”
I’ve linked the article below if you’d like to read the whole thing!
For those who crave something a little more sparkly and fancy than the Twilight dress I recently reviewed, I present the Stop Staring! Alexis dress in metallic champagne. This asymmetric, vintage-style cocktail dress is the perfect antique metal shade, somewhere between silver and gold. The tone is classy and festive, and the soft stretch polyester is textured to create a lovely, almost lurex-like period look. This is the perfect dress for a Christmas party or New Year’s Eve!
If you were a fan of Stop Staring!’s one-shouldered satin Lovespell dresses, Alexis delivers the same elegant late-1950s/early-1960s styling. This looks like something Elizabeth Taylor would have worn in Cleopatra – no joke! The textured fabric and ruched right side accent my waist and obscure my gut bulge rather nicely, while the sweetheart bodice provides just the right amount of structure for my bustline. I’m wearing Alexis with the Wacoal Red Carpet bustier in 36DD (size down a cup!) and Spanx.