Essays and Musings

Heroine Chic: Some Thoughts on The Blouse, Part II

Gillian Anderson, "The Fall"

Gillian Anderson, “The Fall”

"The Fall" BBC/Artists Studio/Steffan Hill

“The Fall” BBC/Artists Studio/Steffan Hill

In October last year I published a post about Lauren Bacall and my fascination with the blouse as the ultimate wardrobe staple of the heroine. After recently watching both season one and two of “The Fall” with Gillian Anderson, I am reminded again of the power of this feminine garment. In nearly every episode Anderson, as Superintendent Stella Gibson, wears a silk blouse to work at the police precinct in Belfast, Ireland. Rather than apologizing for her femininity, Stella, much like the heroines Bacall portrayed in the 1940s, dresses attractively. She is not interested in hiding in men’s style suits and sensible shoes in order to prove she is the detective in charge of the investigation of a serial killer. Rather her self-possessed authority becomes vested in soft blouses and heels: in her very womanliness.

What struck me most in watching the series, is Gillian Anderson’s inspiring portrayal of a capable and sensitive woman in command. She is the kind of seductively outspoken character that was once common in film noir, but that is unfortunately rarely seen on contemporary TV. Through the role of Stella, Anderson projects a powerful femininity that is as convincing today as it was in the 1940s.

At this writing, I’m optimistic enough to assert the return of the blouse as the quintessential symbol of heroine cool.

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

Rita Hayworth; image George Hurrell, 1942

Rita Hayworth, 1942; image George Hurrell

Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca

Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, 1942

Jackie Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy

Aurora Sansone; image Sartorialist

Aurora Sansone; image Sartorialist

Viviana Volpicella

Viviana Volpicella

 

 

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The Four Seasons of Vintage

Dr. Scholl’s

While the trend for birkenstocks is still pulling strong into the Spring season, I’m happy to see on the horizon the comeback of the Dr. Scholl’s. I wore them in the late 1990s with skirts and pants, and so was pleased by the Marc Jacobs Spring runway show featuring velvet and satin versions of the comfortable classic.

Marc Jacob's Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear

Marc Jacobs Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear

Detail image of Marc Jacob's Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear

Detail image from Marc Jacobs Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear

Jean Shrimpton

Jean Shrimpton

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

1973

Life Magazine, 1973

1970

1970

1971

Advertisement, 1971

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Sissy Spacek

Sissy Spacek

 

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Weekend Style Inspiration

Sneakers Complete the Look

Sneakers paired with elegant clothes have been a trend for some time now. I appreciate the realism of this look for daytime. It’s one that plays off of the contrast between dressy and sporty while emphasizing textures: the juxtaposition between soft fabrics- silk, knits and durable athletic textiles.

image via underaveil

image via underaveil

image via Sartorialist

image via Sartorialist

image via laurenmessiah

image via laurenmessiah

image via underaveil

image via underaveil

image via Sartorialist

image via Sartorialist

image via underaveil

image via underaveil

Lauren Hutton

Lauren Hutton

image via laurenmessiah

image via laurenmessiah

image via styledevil

image via styledevil

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Essays and Musings, Personal Style

What Does the Heart Admire?

Isabel Marant; image via The Telegraph.uk

Isabel Marant; image via The Telegraph.uk

At a social gathering in November last year someone asked me what I wear when I’m not dressed up. I am usually dressed for work or for a special dinner or for a party, and so the question got me thinking about how you present yourself to the world in a casual way. In my case, because I like a uniform, I stick to a general formula: top plus pants plus nice shoes or sneakers plus jewelry plus bag. I find many women, who pull off casual day dresses with great conviction and style, prefer them to pants when they’re not dressed up. While dresses do away with the stress of puzzling over what separates go with what, I favor  pants for the everyday. The few dresses I own are vintage and belong to the category of special occasion.

Although I resist each year making any New Year’s resolutions, the weekend after the holiday, I spent time pondering the question of casual clothes. What constitutes a put together, or in today’s fashion parlance, effortless look? In evaluating the situation I had no choice but to confront my doggedness. You see, dear reader, when I find a contemporary designer who suits my silhouette and my sensibility I stick with them. You might suppose the realization of this fact in the new year of 2015 to mean I have come to reassess my intractability regarding designers. Not at all. From the holiday sale period to the current arrival in stores of the new spring collections, I have continued to be squarely focused on one designer: Isabel Marant.

Since 1998 when the first Isabel Marant store opened in Paris in the 11th Arrondissement, I have been obsessed with the label. Why does the Parisian designer attract me in this unfaltering way? Why when I’m not dressed up, am I wearing the designer responsible for spawning such trends as studded boots, the high top sneaker with the concealed wedge heel, lace dresses and Navaho print jeans? I had moved to the 11th with my husband in the fall of 1997 and so my first encounter with the designer’s clothes was at the original shop on Rue de Charonne, a few streets away from our apartment. (Humble beginnings for a brand that currently has stores in many cities throughout the world and is frequently photographed on celebrities.) That academic year in Paris, as a relatively poor twenty-seven year-old graduate student, I never dared purchase anything from the designer’s compact shop with the wooden interior. When I regularly passed by the window, occasionally stopping in, it was only to wistfully admire the glamorous bohemian appeal of the collection.

But for some twelve years now, with few exceptions, I have been wearing Isabel Marant. Her clothes strike the right note of casual chic: singular garments that do not call out for attention. All the same, can one have too much of a good thing? In considering the issue, I have come to realize that what I admire about Isabel Marant is her ability to evoke a particular mood. The pieces I am drawn to are never the wildly successful editorial ones. Instead, I am enticed by the quieter garments that emerge each season – the uncomplicated shirts and pants that mix easily with my wardrobe. In referencing disparate eras like the 1950s or the 1980s, and by reworking certain iconic American pieces like the t-shirt, denim, the military shirt, and the cavalry coat, Marant has a knack for elevating workaday clothing through cut, fabric, and print. These clothes rouse in me a nostalgia for clothing I owned at various stages in my life, or for clothing that is reminiscent of the understated wardrobe worn by French actresses in certain films I admire. I appreciate too the transparency of her aesthetic: her collections are clearly indebted to such venerable designers as Yves Saint Laurent and Issey Miyake. And like these heroic designers of the past, Marant consistently works with natural fibers. With so many contemporary brands in the same price point making clothes from synthetic fabric, her garments are produced in cotton, rayon, linen, wool and silk. Fashion today prizes disposable clothing but Isabel Marant’s pieces wash and wear beautifully over the years and can be easily found for resale on Ebay.

There is a nagging thought in my mind that someone who champions vintage clothing as much as I do should not be seduced by a contemporary brand reinterpreting American sportswear. But this is the rational mind at work – the old desire from that year in Paris is still in me, my regard for the label arising from the past, from youth. I cannot not shop for Isabel Marant. In this new year of 2015 I have learned that no amount of self-awareness or reflection can change what our hearts admire.

Playing in the dressing room at Isabel Marant LA

Playing in the dressing room at Isabel Marant, Los Angeles

Fall 2008 Ready-to-wear

Fall 2008 Ready-to-Wear

Fall 2010 Ready-to-wear

Fall 2010 Ready-to-Wear

Fall 2011 Ready-to-wear

Fall 2011 Ready-to-Wear

Spring 2012 Read-to-wear

Spring 2012 Ready-to-Wear

Emmanuelle Alt wearing Isabel Marant denim shirt; image via la modella mafia

Emmanuelle Alt wearing Isabel Marant denim shirt; image via la modella mafia

Emmanuelle Alt wearing cavlary coat from Fall 2012 Ready-to-wear

Emmanuelle Alt wearing cavalry coat from Fall 2012 Ready-to-Wear

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Weekend Style Inspiration

The Peacoat

The peacoat, introduced on the runway by Yves Saint Laurent in 1962, remains a timeless classic. The Fall 2014 shows were heavily inspired by this wardrobe staple. Worn not just with pants but over dresses and shorts, the peacoat is the perfect chic layer.

Yves Saint Laurent peacoat, 1962

Yves Saint Laurent peacoat, 1962

Catherine Deneuve with Yves Saint Laurent, 1966

Catherine Deneuve with Yves Saint Laurent, 1966

Marianne Faithfull, 1967

Marianne Faithfull, 1967

Jackie Onassis

Jackie Onassis

Ali MacGraw, 1970 "Love Story"

Ali MacGraw, 1970 “Love Story”

Jane Birkin, 1971; image via marieclaireuk

Jane Birkin, 1971; image via marieclaireuk

Alexa Chung

Alexa Chung

Emmanuelle Alt

Emmanuelle Alt

Rihanna

Rihanna

Hermès Fall 2014 Ready-to-Wear

Hermès Fall 2014 Ready-to-Wear

Christophe Lemaire Fall 2014 Ready-to-Wear

Christophe Lemaire Fall 2014 Ready-to-Wear

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