Monday, November 9, 2009


Laura and I took a trip to the NYPL this weekend. She worked on being a lawyer and I worked on my often neglected master's thesis. It wasn't as easy to focus as it used to be when Saturday trips to the library were a weekly occurrence, and it didn't hep that it was like NO degrees in the Rose Reading Room.

It organized a lot of my research from the spring, it helped me realize both how much I do have, and how much I don't have. I think after work today I am going to go to the FIT Library and check out a few books, I really need to get this thing done!

Monday, October 12, 2009

near modern disaster illustrations

my dear friend Samantha Kramer did this custom illustration for me to give Peter for his birthday this year. I love her work and was super pleased with the final result. She was great about working with me until we had an image we both loved (and Peter loved it too!)

check out her site and her etsy shop!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Model as Muse

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn photographed by her husband, Irving Penn in 1950.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

it's never too early for foot and back problems!

Is it just me or is Suri Cruise wearing high heels?

stone age fashion

Last year I wrote about Christopher Kane's Space Age meets Stone Age Collection . Seems that Jeremy Scott's Spring 2010 Collection is channeling some of the same influences... if a little more directly.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

cyclical fashion

Walking into an Urban Outfitters has lately been like stepping into a time warp. The over-abundance of plaid, the old Laura Ashley prairie dresses, the canvas sneakers: My fourth-grade self would have been pretty stylin' in 2009.

This is distressing--perhaps irrationally so. After all, I know fashion is cyclical, and I guess I am finally old enough to witness my childhood and adolescent wardrobes being revived from the dead and worn by those who have no recollection of their first appearance and don't understand their cultural, ideological importance. (Now I know how my mom felt when I dug out her old clothes.)

It's like walking into the closet of my late childhood, or at least what I wanted my closet to be. These are my old clothes: I still go back to the old '90s uniform of worn-in jeans, old henley, flannel and work boots to slack around. It's an ensemble that is comforting. It reminds me of when I idolized my older sister during her teenage grunge phase, and it conjures photos of my parents in the early '70s and my grandparents, who grew up working farms in the rural south. Wearing a knit cap with a floral dress and thermal leggings in the winter or fall isn't just mimicking Kurt Cobain, to me it's also borrowing from my foremothers who threw on their daddy's old shirts over their dresses when it started to get chilly.

Of course, it's not like this is the first time history, counter-culture, subculture and anti-fashion have been mined and commodified for mass-market consumption. As funny as I find it to walk into Urban Outfitters and see a workshirt I know came from a thrift store in upstate New York priced at $50, that is nothing compared to the $1,200 cashmere long johns designed by Marc Jacobs in the early '90s. Even Coco Chanel was criticized for dressing like a "poor person." In Sex and Suits, Art historian Anne Hollandar has stated that antifashion is just the next fashion a little too soon. For the last few years high-end designers have been going grunge again as well, from Hedi Slimane's 2005 Kurt Cobain tribute collection to whenever anyone uses plaid. The recession has had everyone screaming "grunge revival!" any time one of the tabloid "it" girls leaves her house in torn tights.

Personal relationships to clothing can be tricky. Our clothing is our first level of communication with and protection from the rest of the world. What my clothes mean to me and what I want them to communicate can be completely different than what they say to the people who have to look at me in them. It all depends on context, my context of growing up in a southern, left, middle class, suburban household (something that held enough contradiction and conflict) usually means I interpret things differently than a lot of my peers. My mother encouraged, and often even required that I understand the history and heritage of anything I was interested in, from my seven year old obsession with Jesus Christ Superstar (she handed me a bible) to piercing (I got to learn about both tribal customs and infection!) to all types of fashion and fashion history (Poiret paper dolls at six years old and so much more). At this point I don't know if I became interested in fashion because my mother introduced me to it, or if it was an interest that I had and she just encouraged me to completely engage in it. I know I was special case, a clotheshorse at five years old, but in most of my childhood memories-even some of the earliest-- I remember what I and everyone else was wearing.

So grunge is back and it tugs at my heartstrings in a variety of ways. It's handy that a few years ago I never got around to taking up some of the old oversized t-shirts I had stolen from my big sister as a teenager, with the intention of cutting them into bits and "remaking" them and after years of skinny jeans its nice to be able to breath in a pair of "boyfriend" jeans (although, I do find that moniker troubling as well!). Again this just reflects the nature of fashion, although usually fashionable shapes and silhouettes change gradually, when a certain style becomes too extreme or just lasts too long the collective reaction is too tuck in what had been pulled out, raise what had been lowered, belt what had been loose, and cover what had been bare. And everything eventually comes back into style. I understand the appeal of thrifty dressing in times of economic woes, the original grunge movement was an antifashion reaction to the opulent ways of Reganomics and the reality of its failures, and our economy stinks right now.

The grunge look of the early 90s was an amalgam of former fashion, but it wasn't the same as the post modern hodge pogde of the 80s. Musically, grunge was the next logical step after punk. Grunge fashion however, differed from punk fashion. Punk fashion is agressive, not only a rejection of high fashion, but an attack against it. The basic stylistic elements of grunge, on the other hand, borrows from people who have never been able to participate in the fashion system. People who shop at thrift stores because they have experienced poverty, not because they are looking for a vintage treasure. Grunge is also distinctly American in a way that punk is not- but that is a subject for a different essay. Like all anti-style movements grunge had substyles--Courtney Love's kinderwhore look comes to mind--that were more aggressive and extreme, but they still worked off the same principles of re purposing old clothes, wearing something until it fell of your body, and rejecting the mainstream fashion system buy not participating in it. And it too becasme high fashion, most famously by Marc Jacobs, but also Anna Sui and Calvin Klein and others. And then of course it was mass produced and sold in the mall to suburban kids who don't know that they could get a better worn out flannel at the church bazaar!

This is, of course, capitalism. We are always taking art and turning it into commerce. I find it extra horrific when the inspiration for consumer objects comes from people whose style prevails when they are forced to do without (Erin Wasson's out of touch comments about homeless people come to mind), but i don't think its wrong that fashion designers are inspired by people from all walks of life. If designers like Chanel and Poiret hadn't found inspiration in Eastern dress, women might never have stopped wearing corsets. But I do think it is important that people understand that clothing isn't simply something that we wear, like everything we make it is embedded with meaning and memory, a projection of the collective consciousness. I think its important that people know that denim began as work clothing, that a top hat represented the aristocracy in the 19th century, and that their black and white checkered scarf might be interpreted by a lot of people as pro-Palestine. The more we treat our clothing as throw away and meaning less the more we fall victim to the cultur of conspicuous consumption and fast fashion. When fashion is about having the next new thing, real true style- something that has nothing to do with money- is lost.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The End of Summer

The Times has an article on the Marion Davis Estate, which has recently been revamped as the Annenberg Community Beach House . Currently the beach house is showing a small exhibit of vintage beachwear. I would just love to have the teal and white suit! I hope I get at least one more beach trip in before summer meets its end.

Image from

Friday, August 28, 2009

Someone else has already written about the importance of growing up with Reading Rainbow here,
but I just wanted to stop and say how sad I am that it will no longer be on the air.

and isn't Levar's turquoise blazer awesome?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mad Maternity

I have already mentioned how much I love the AMC series Mad Men, especially because of the detail paid to the costuming. In season three Don's wife, Betty Draper, is VERY pregnant. The first episode of the season kept her at home, sporting maternity nightgowns and day dresses. In episode two however, she and Don go out to dinner with another couple. Betty wears a lovely cocktail dress and coat in gold and salmon brocade.

Image from

Currently the internet is all a flutter over Betty's smoking and drinking while pregnant, but I think its important to mention how it wasn't untill the late 1950s and early 1960s that women of a certain social standing would even go out to social events when visibly pregnant. In the middle of the century maternity clothing became its own area of apparel, something that corresponded with the expansion of ready to wear. I can't wait to see what other ensembles Betty gets to wear as her pregnancy progresses!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in LA has recently started a blog. It is a great place to get a peak into their collection if you aren't on the West Coast very often. Today the writers featured a charming Norman Norell sailor dress, its a reminder to get in summer dressing while we still can!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I love that a lot of international libraries and archives have started putting their photo collections up on flikr.

Each of the debutantes displays subtle variation on her white gown and gloves ensemble that reflect her individual taste and personality, I especially like the girl on the far left's caplet.

From the Collection of the State Library of New South Wales

Monday, August 17, 2009

How to pick a blackberry

I went with some girlfriends for a potluck cook out and tour of Garden of Eve Farm on Sunday. The farm supplies my friends Allison and Jessie's CSA and the tour was led by this little guy (and his mom!) Here he is showing me the proper way to select a ripe blackberry. He was also an expert on how to pick up a chicken!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

new york apartments!

I love living in New York, but the often bemoaned housing market is one of the most stressful parts of it for me. After two years of living on the brooklyn/queens boarder in a spacious and pretty, but poorly laid out railroad apartment I have decided that this fall when my lease expires I will not be renewing it.

I am not sure what is going to happen, I have a few friends looking for spots and I am also looking for one bedrooms or studios... it is both scary and exciting. But mainly I am looking forward to decorating a new place! I am hoping I will finally be in a place where I can go retrieve all my awesome vintage furniture from my Mom's house in Florida.

I have a lot of clothes, and a lot of shoes, a slightly absurd collection of vintage luggage (that I often use for storage), and a lot of big books with pretty pictures about fashion. So storage, and interesting storage solutions are always at the front of my mind when looking for places to live. I am hoping to weed out a lot of the unneeded and extra stuff in my life, but I still know I will be trying to fit a whole lot of stuff into a very small space. Even if I am lucky enough to find an apartment with decent sized closets I will probably have to come up extra storage space.

I have spent a lot of time on design and decorating blogs lately, I am super excited about a new space. I really like these wine crate shelves from design*sponge, they are definitely the more classy version of my milk crate shelving I have been using since college!

images from and

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

mad men yorself

When I first tuned in to the AMC show Mad Men, I had a hard time watching it because of the horrible way they treat women in the first few episodes. But the beautiful costumes and sets, as well as just the general retro sexiness of it quickly got me hooked. As the first season developed a lot of the female characters started standing out in interesting and different ways and became very dimensional and strong in the second season. I can't wait till the third season premiers next month. Until then, at least I have this fun little gadget to keep me entertained.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I try to keep this blog strictly academic, focusing on fashion theory and critique. Lately, however, I have been thinking it might be nice to have a creative outlet for my own personal sewing projects, styling and design adventures, etc. I could just start a second blog, but that might leave me with just another domain on the internet that I neglect. If I keep them together perhaps I will end up writing more, even if more of it is fun fluff.

Since I know this matters so much to the three people that read this I ask for your imput!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Lisa Fonssagrives on the Eiffel Tower, Paris 1939, Erwin Blumenfeld

Kate Winslet for Harpers Bazaar, 2009,
Peter Lindbergh

Thursday, July 9, 2009

late night text message

Last night my sister text messaged me at 12:34 am to ask if "flannel was back." I guess the grunge revival that started five years ago has finally gone completely mainstream. Not that my sister is at all mainstream. She just lives in a medium sized town with a lot of malls and has probably never logged onto, she has a punky aesthetic and buys almost all of her clothes at the salvation army, and always looks at me quizzically when I talk about the social implications of high fashion, anti fashion, and mass market consumption.

I guess I better get that thesis written.

Emile de Ravin and Robert Patterson, Image from
Preen Fall 2008 Ready to Wear, image from

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

bankrupt glamour

Lacroix Couture Fall 2009, Images from

In the last few years we have seen quite a few Edith Beale clones walk down the high fashion runways. Designers are frequently inspired by the reclusive and eccentric mother and daughter duo, first brought to the worlds attention in the 1970s documentary Grey Gardens and agin in the past few years with a Broadway musical and HBO movie based on their lives. Their aristocratic heritage and upbringing combined with mental illness and loss of wealth and a proud refusal to leave their Hamptons mansion resulted in an ecletic and iconic sort of decaying glamour. Yesterday, when Christian Lacroix presented what might be his last couture collection, his models walked down the runway with the same sort of pride that the Beales possessed. A 'we may be broke, but we have more class and refinement than the rest of you and we don't care what you think of us' strut that highlighted the beauty and craftmanship of the couture collection.

The headscarves, the prevalence of black all over coverage, and the historical references of the collection do look like something little Edie Beale might have put together for her wanderings around the grounds of Grey Gardens. However, the similarities are not just the visual. The Beales had existed in quite seclusion while the rest of the world progressed without them, although they had always tryed to break free from the mores of their blue blood family they seemed like holdovers from the past when their story broke in the '70s. Simiarly, for the past 40 years the relevance of the couture industry has been debated. Many have hearlded its death, or argued that couture is necessary to uphold the artistry of fashion and the concept of brands, when most of their income comes from licensing. Perhaps Lacroix was one of the best examples of this, having never even turned a profit in the houses history. But Lacroix is alos one of the last designers and coutuires to have studied under the great couturiers of the 20th century, having worked for Jean Patou before starting his own house in 1987. With last years retirement of Valentino (he worked under Jaque Fath and Cristobal Balenciaga) if Lacroix retires that leave only one designer who learned from the pre-WWII and mid century couturiers Karl Lagerfeld (he worked under Pierre Balmain and Jean Patou, but really made his name in ready to wear not couture).

With the economic woes of the last few years, many have been saying that is is time for the fashion industry to restructure itself, to break away from the luxury and brand name consumption mania that over saturated the early 2000s and return to the artistry of fashion. Perhaps the fact that, despite the "luxury" craze we lived in for so long, true luxury, such as the beauty of a custom made one of a kind couture dress, a wearable work of art, had been forgotten. Lacroix's collection, made entirely by unpaid workers, reminded us of the beauty and the skill and complexity in a couture gown that it is truly a labor of love.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

this year i will be wintering in...

Dior Resort 2010. Images from

At this point in the spring we are knee deep in "resort collections." I always find the concept of resort a little funny. Often designers are showing warm weather clothes intended for the dead of winter. of course the assumption is that their clientele will not be spending the winter in grey and icy New York, but instead between tropical locales (resort can be interchangeable with "cruise".) The whole concept seems so mid twentieth century to me. This season at Dior, John Galliano presented a resort collection that looked almost as if it had walked out of Christian Dior's office over fifty years ago. Not only did he mimic the hourglass shapes and completely accessorized (hat, gloves, handbags) looks of the 1950s, he obviously has been perusing the Dior archive. Furthermore, the collection is incredibly cohesive--inspired by Christain Dior Muse Mitzah Bricard-- it is obviously a series of variations on a central idea of shapes, textures, and patterns.

I like the acknowledgment of the houses heritage and history embedded in the collection and I love the way the wild hair and leopard vamps up some other wise prim and proper looks.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nearly Naked

What better way to spend a rainy afternoon than at a museum? This weekend, as New Yorkers prepare for yet more days of gray skies and galoshes, they should consider seeking shelter from the storm at The Museum at FIT, where “Seduction” should promise to heat things up. The exhibit, which closes next week, comprises 65 looks tracing the history of alluring Western dress and highlights the holdings of the FIT permanent collection of fashion, accessories, and textiles, as well as the FIT Library’s Special Collection of fashion plates and other print materials.

The exhibition highlights the inherent sensuality in all clothing–even sometimes the most covered-up of garments, like a well-tailored suit–particularly that of the undermost layer, that last barrier to the naked body. It also traces the changing standards of gender, identity, beauty, morality, and social norms that redefine the relationship between sexuality and dress over time.

The curator, Colleen Hill, has made sure to incorporate men’s fashion in the exhibition. The inclusion of it in the latter part of the exhibition does, however, draw attention to the lack of it in the garments and objects from the 19th and first half of the 20th century. The accompanying essay to the exhibition, found in the brochure and throughout the exhibit’s walls, does touch on the seductive roles of men. Even without exhibiting the clothing of the Rebel and the Macho, the exhibition does show how designers have borrowed from menswear to accentuate the seductive qualities of women, from a playboy bunny’s bow tie to a re-purposed leather jacket.

Contradictions and dichotomies inherent in the seductive dress seem to lurk throughout the exhibition; sometimes these are pointed out, but other times they remain unsaid. The inclusion of a patch box from the 17th century was particularly interesting. Patches made of various materials in decorative shapes were often worn to conceal small pox scars; they also brought attention to the heavily powdered and exaggerated fashionable face of the era. Yet the connection of these patches to the deadly small pox virus is left out of the exhibition.

Another facet of seduction is that it is often in eras when women’s fashion is considered boyish or youthful that some of the most revealing and progressive leaps occur, such as the uncorseted figure in the sheer white cotton column dresses of the early 19th century; the bobbed hair of the 1920s, which resulted in close-fitting hats and revealed necks; or the A-line dresses of the ’60s, from which designers such as Rudi Gernrich and Pierre Cardin cut out fabric in playful and provocative ways.

It is often the places between being fully dressed and fully nude that are the most enticing. What is seductive to Western culture has ebbed and flowed over time–and is often different for subcultures within the larger group. But with 400 years of seduction under our belt, women and men are now free to use fashion to express sensuality, desire, and identity even more than ever before.

Halston Evening dress Light blue silk jersey 1972-73, USA. The Museum at FIT. Gift of Lauren Bacall.
Image from the Online Exhibition of Seduction

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

One day I will write more often, but for now just read this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


When Raquel and I went to see The Last Emperor at Film Forum a few weeks ago, Matt Tyrnauer said that there hadn't been too many designer documentaries besides the critically acclaimed Unzipped in 1994. Well, we had to find out if that was true and we dug up a few more, including Wim Wenders late 80's Yohji Yamamoto piece, Notebooks on Cities and Clothes and two David Teboul YSL docs from 2002. There are also the recent Karl Lagerfeld Confidential and the made for TV Marc Jacobs/Louis Vuitton.

We gathered them up with the intent of having a marathon viewing party, but only managed to get through Unzipped and Notebooks before bedtime. I watched the YSL docs while waiting to board my flight to Toronto last weekend. I haven't gotten to Karl and Marc yet but plan to soon, so expect a piece on all seven films soon (possibly in conjunction with Raquel, if we can ever find the time!)

Friday, April 3, 2009

A quick note to say that I hope the pink dress Michelle Obama is wearing under her Thakoon coat this morning is the same one she wore on the cover of Vogue last month. Not because I thought there was anything particularly special about the dress, but because I think it would be nice to see her demonstrate the realities of a wardrobe. Everyone always gushes about how she shops at the "affordable" J.Crew, but isn't it more thrifty to just wear a garment more than once?

Monday, March 23, 2009

more haute than not.

Friday night Raquel and I had a fashionista date to see Valentino: The Last Emperor at the film forum. The film was quite pretty, although not so lavishly over the top that it felt vulgar and out of touch (line that Valentino himself has walked carefully in his career).

Matt Tyrnauer, a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, started the film after writing a profile of Valentino and his business partner Giancarlo Giammetti and their relationship. Serendipitously, as Tyrnauer was working on the project, the Valentino Company was sold and Valentino decided to celebrate his 45th anniversary with a retrospective and weekend long party in Rome. Shortly after Valentino announced his retirement, something many heralded as the end of the couture tradition.

I hadn't read much about the film before we went, and was surprised that it focused less on the history of Valentino (who he had dressed, who he learned from, and so forth) and more on the the showing of final collection, the retrospective, and surrounding events. It didn't, however, focus as much on the actual making of the garments as I would have liked--although there was one dress they followed from conception ("I was thinking about this dress this morning") to its eventual walk down the runway-- and I wondered if someone who wasn't familiar with the history and ins and outs of the couture process would have understood how this was different than a high end ready to wear line. Related to this, but slightly tangential, it bothered me that during the course of the film a young woman who was obviously the houses fit model was never introduced the way other personalities were (muse, majordomo, CEO of the company). It struck me as odd since many people might not know what a fit model is, and disrespectful since she spent most of her time on screen in a state of undress or half dress.

Overall, however, the film was a sweet love story and an interesting comment on the state of the fashion industry. Hopefully it will inspire more people to appreciate the difference between haute couture and juicy couture...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the last emporer?

Tomorrow night Raquel and I are going to see the Valentino movie, and a Q and A with Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley!

I am pretty excited about the movie... but even more excited to see ALT in the flesh!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Reasons I Still Don’t Like Nylon (Not Even When It’s Free)

Sometime last year Nylon started showing up in my mailbox. It has been over a year now and it still appears. I never subscribed. I certainly didn’t pay for it, but month after month it shows up. I mentioned it to a friend and she said she had experienced the same thing, and she thought it had something to do with Urban Outfitters. It is quite possible I signed up for a free subscription when I bought something, but why it started showing up isn’t the point here… let me get back on topic.

I remember loving Nylon in high school. I think I discovered it maybe my junior or senior year. But about halfway through my first year of college I remember picking up a copy and just not being satisfied. I don’t think my semester at college had made me so much more worldly and sophisticated, that I was turning my nose up for no good reason. Specifically, I remember the magazine had been redesigned and the new design didn’t look as fresh to me. Perhaps, it became too cutting edge for my southern sensibilities?

In college and graduate school I continued to look at it occasionally, thinking maybe it would revive some of its original flavor. Occasionally I would go diving in to it for research purposes, looking for historically inspired fashion and the like. And what I found was derivative and shallow. I know, it’s a fashion magazine, you say. But what I had liked about Nylon when I was younger was that they seemed more often to comment on the larger picture of fashion, had just the right mix of fashion and anti-fashion and seemed more aware of way the medium of fashion communicates (and why and how… and what it means). And of course, there was the age-old problem with fashion magazines, everything costs like a gazillion dollars, which I feel like wasn’t always the case.

Regardless, every so often I pick it up again. Hoping to find in it that spark of inspiration I did as a teenager, I continue to be disappointed. I guess its possible that I outgrew it, but I don’t feel like it’s aimed at someone younger than me… just someone dumber than me.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

just when I start to feel like I can write again

The wireless internet I have used for over a year, courtesy of someone in my building or nearby, has failed me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

time lapse

I haven't written anything in here for ages. I could extrapolate on the multitude of reasons (running after babies, writing, getting a new roommate, simple laziness, my new job) or I could just talk about all the quality time I have been spending with teen magazines lately. This January, after taking more time off from it than I would like to admit, I started researching my thesis more proactively (as I type I am scanning images from a 1991 issue of Sassy). My research plan is complicated, I will probably not be able to plow through enough sources in time for my May due date--there might be some groveling to my advisor in my future, but its nice to feel like I am getting someplace with it. Or at least getting back on track, and trying to write more, even if I don't put it anywhere for public consumption.

I attempted to keep a critical eye on the New York collections a few weeks ago. I wrote some quick thoughts about it here, but all I seem to see in contemporary fashion is the past. Not that there weren't quite a few beautiful and individual pieces presented (and plenty of things I would love to have in my own wardrobe!), but it seemed like everything still fell into a "hard times" formula of escapism, practicality, or despair. I feel like there is an opportunity for the art of fashion to take itself back from the crazy corporate machine it has become in the past thirty years. Not that I have any idea how that could be done, or even what that looks like.

In other news electric warrior and I went on an adventure to the Barney's Warehouse Sale a few weeks ago. It was a little strange to see clothing I had only seen on hanging sadly from plastic hangers, grimy from falling on the floor and the oils on peoples hands, yet--at 75% off--still priced upwards of my rent. I don't have any grand philosophical conclusions about this quite yet, but I will say this-- it gave me the idea to give up shopping for Lent.