Monday, January 31, 2011

100 posts, 100 years

To celebrate reaching 100 posts on this blog, I have a little roundup of fashion images from the past 100 years. It certainly is not exhaustive, but gives a fun look at the way silhouettes have changed over the last 100 years, and what elements have been recycled over time.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading the blog!

McCall's, January 1911

Fashion Service Magazine, Spring/Summer 1921

Butterick, August 1931

Paris Winter Season, 1941

sewing pattern envelopes, 1951

McCall's pattern, 1961

Jaeger Fashion, London, 1971

René Gruau illustration for Vogue, 1981

Fashion Museum of Bath, 1991 costume chosen by Elizabeth Tilberis of Vogue

Trendsetting cast of Sex and the City at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards, 2001

And a look at some upcoming trends for 2011, via FashionStyleMe

And a question for my readers, which fashion decade of the last century do you most admire, identify with, or wish were still in style today?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

RWR: Full of Grace

Possibly one of the most iconic weddings of modern times, the marriage of Prince Ranier III of Monaco to American actress Grace Kelly was exceedingly glamorous, sparking the romantic imaginations of millions worldwide.

Ranier and Grace first met in May 1955 at the Cannes Film Festival. They were engaged by December. Grace Kelly actually received two engagement rings. The first was a Cartier infinity band of rubies and diamonds.

However, apparently upon a trip to Los Angeles, the Prince saw that the American actresses were all sporting large diamond engagement rings and thus he bought his betrothed a ring with 12 carat emerald cut diamond flanked by baguettes.

The actress-turned-Princess also had two weddings. The first was an intimate civil ceremony held in the throne room of the Monaco palace on April 18, 1956, followed by a grand gala where citizens of Monaco had the opportunity to personally shake hands with their new Princess. The Princess wore a modest and chic two-piece ensemble* of pink taffeta with an overlay of cream Alencon lace and a charming pink Juliette cap.

The religious ceremony was held then next morning at St. Nicholas' Cathedral, witnessed by 600 church guests and an estimated 30 million television viewers in Europe alone. (To give readers an idea of the immensity of the viewing audience, in 1960 there were an estimated 52 million television sets in the United States).

Princess Grace, widely known as a fashion icon, was downright luminescent in her Helen Rose gown of Brussels rose point lace and silk, thought by many to be the most beautiful wedding gown of all time. The gown was simple in design and impeccably constructed, giving center stage to Grace's natural beauty and elegance.

Given the scale of the affair, Kelly's entire appearance was understated yet undeniably sophisticated. The high neckline, long sleeves, chapel-length train and diminutive bouquet of lilies-of-the-valley lent a modest, pious and unassuming brilliance to the gorgeous actress.

Kelly's six bridesmaids (you can read about them in this book) wore unadorned yellow silk organza Priscilla of Boston gowns.

The wedding's uncomplicated, graceful style belied the glamor of the event. Included among the guests were various heads of state and diplomats, Cary Grant, Aristotle Onassis, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner and hotelier Conrad Hilton (acting as a representative of US President Eisenhower).

Grace Kelly's gown has a timeless quality that was widely emulated in the 1950s and 1960s, and continues to provide inspiration to this day.

A couple of late 50s/early 60s wedding gowns

*I was unable to discover the designer of the civil ceremony outfit. If any readers have this information I would love to know!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

RWR*: Charles and Di

*(to make my life a little easier, I am using RWR to stand-in for Royal Wedding Retrospective)

I decided to start with Charles and Di, because they are going to be the most obvious point of comparison when Kate and Wills tie the knot.

For all the highly publicized drama that their relationship came to be known for, it is impossible to imagine a marriage getting off to a more spectacular beginning. Diana, a mere 20 years old on her wedding day, was certainly a 1980s version of a fairy-tale princess. She possessed a grace, charm, charisma and beauty that was (in this fashionista's humble opinion) a bit lacking in the Royal family. Her shy eyes, friendly smile, and compassionate manner stole the hearts of millions worldwide.

The couple became engaged in February 1981. Diana's engagement ring was a Garrard Jewelers 18 carat oval sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds set in white gold. The ring gained additional significance and attention when Prince William offered it to Kate Middleton upon his proposal.

The wedding, touted by many as "the wedding of the century", took place on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul's Cathedral. Royal weddings traditionally take place at Westminster Abbey, the change in venue was decided upon because St. Paul's offers more seating and church guests numbered 3,500.

At least 600,000 people lined the streets of the processional route in hopes of gaining a glimpse of the Princess Bride while an astounding 750 million viewers watched the nuptials on television.

Diana's gown was so enormous that she and her father could not comfortably fit into the glass coach that carried her along the processional route and when she emerged from the conveyance, the skirt was noticeably crumpled.

The silk taffeta gown, designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel (who have since written a book on the subject), boasted a 25 foot train, 10,000 hand-stitched pearls and sequins as well as hand-worked embroidery. Despite its grand opulence, the gown possessed a modesty befitting the decorum of the Royal nuptials.

Diana had five bridesmaids, ages 5-17 in attendance with her. Their gowns are in many ways mini-replicas of her gown.

After their ceremony, and before their relatively intimate palace reception of 120 guests, Charles and Diana stepped onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace to acknowledge their admiring subjects. It was at that time that the Prince and his new Princess shared the first public Royal kiss.

Diana's gown and the grandeur of her wedding were hugely influential on 1980s weddings. Leg o' Mutton sleeves, lace appliques, and ballgown sillhouttes dominated bridal fashions of the decade.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Royal Weddings

I'm not ashamed to admit that I am very excited about the upcoming nuptials of Kate and Wills. I am a total Anglophile, and nobody handles pomp and ceremony better than British Royals. This wedding will certainly be one of those Time Life Books moments of this new decade.

I have a lot of faith in the future Princess to make this wedding one to remember from a style point of view. She is very beautiful. She has worked in the past as both a model and a photographer, so I am certain she has an impeccable aesthetic sensibility. As far as I have seen, her wardrobe is chic and flattering and not at all busy or ostentatious. April 29 couldn't come soon enough, and I wish I could be in London to enjoy the festivities!

In anticipation of the wedding, I thought it would be fun to do a series of retrospectives on royal wedding fashions. We all know that Queens and Princesses have, since time immemorial, been the benchmark for wedding fashion. I am sure this wedding will be no exception!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Like most American moms, I spend a fair amount of time reading Dr. Seuss books to my children. A particular quote from And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street comes to mind when I think of last night's Golden Globes fashions, "Did nothing excite you or make your heart beat?"

No. Nothing did. Most everyone looked fine, but the gowns were structurally boring in generally bland colors. So, I decided to play a little game I will call "Fantasy Hollywood Stylist". Here are some picks I would have loved to see at the Globes.

This bronze Armani Prive says "I'm confident enough to leave a little something to the imagination". In an evening over-full with body-skimming gowns, this would have been a refreshing variation and would have looked stunning on Jennifer Lopez.

In this Marchesa gown, Halle Berry would have looked less like she forgot to put on a dress and left the house in her lingerie.

This Marchesa gown would have been an exciting addition to the mermaid silhouette that was popular at this year's show.

January Jones would have been more glamorous but equally daring in this Dior gown.

This gorgeously constructed Steven Colucci sky-blue gown would have been a breath of fresh air in an evening of ho-hum fashion choices and a more fitting choice for Julia Stiles.

Both of these Krikor Jabotian gowns fit in with the night's theme of nudish-neutrals, but are far more exciting from a design and construction point of view than what the stars donned last night on the likes of Scarlett Johansen and Sandra Bullock.

I could definitely see the fashion-forward Tilda Swinton in this Dior gown.

Here's hoping that the Academy Awards have a little more eye candy to offer us fashionistas!