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Posts Tagged ‘fashion’

The Fifth, the Swede, the Russian, and Me

May 15, 2013 | by

annakareninapaperback

“Would you wear this?” the Swede asked. His honey-colored hair flopped over one eye. He was in a much-loved ragged, red jacket that looked expensive on his lanky frame.

I wore my best-fitting jeans and my favorite shirt, a cowboy shirt with pearl-clasp buttons and that perfect stich in the chest pocket made for cigarettes or pens. My curly red hair was extra poofy, spiraling away from my head, thanks to some mousse applied by the Swede. The pièce de résistance of my outfit was this poncho-thing that could’ve been designed by Jennifer Beals in Flashdance for a Western-themed dance night, a beige sweatshirt stretched out into a boatneck collar, draping across my chest, festooned with fringe. I looked like a cowboy’s sidekick. I felt silly.

“I’ve never really worn fringe before,” I said. “I plead the fifth.”

It was my semester abroad. I was twenty years old and living in London. I had never been a particularly good liar, having been blessed with a round moon of a face that registered every thought. But as I assimilated among the English, a people with whom I assumed I’d get along very well, being of clearly similar native-of-Boston stock and having a love of nineties Britpop, it was becoming clear to me that I had a more pressing social problem: I did not know how to tell a white lie. I didn’t even have the grace to realize when you should tell a white lie. In my own well-meaning way, I was becoming a bit of an asshole. “I plead the fifth” was my catchphrase. In England. Read More »

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Punk Love

May 8, 2013 | by

Zandra Rhodes

Zandra Rhodes.

At the age of fourteen, one year removed from the forced tribalism brought on by being a bar mitzvah–age Jewish boy, I decided I wanted to define myself by something besides my recent readmission into the Chosen. Your typical suburban weirdo, I started to use the rudimentary sewing skills passed down by my grandparents to attach silkscreened patches to my L. L. Bean backpack and zip-up hooded sweatshirts. I bleached my hair, and quickly hid my CDs by contemporary “alternative” groups like Third Eye Blind and the Smashing Pumpkins, replacing them with albums by bands like Minor Threat, Bad Religion, and, my favorite, the Descendents.

29. Gallery View_DIY HARDWARE_Gianni VersaceI was punk; at least, I thought I was punk, until an even older punk asked me if I actually knew what punk was, thus sparking a volatile internal dialogue inside my head. This was my first experience with the Talmudic-like discussion that surrounds punk: What did punk actually sound like? Was punk a philosophy? When did punk start? Did it start in America or England? Was Emma Goldman punk? Were the Situationists punks? Was the Velvet Underground punk? Were the hippies in the 1960s actually punks before punk was a thing? Was garage rock the original punk? I meditated on these questions and made very little headway, until one evening when I saw a kid at a punk show wearing a shirt with “Jesus was the first punk” scrawled on it in Magic Marker, and I had to admit the very act of wearing that shirt seemed pretty punk, even though I wasn’t ready to confirm punk’s existence. I also had to admit to myself, as I looked around the Chicago bowling alley-turned-venue, that for the most part, for a bunch of nonconformists, us punks all looked pretty much the same.

Questions of what punk is aside, it’s difficult to deny that, other than the crude beauty of the Ramones, the noisy dirges of bands like Flipper, or the shouts that “Civilization’s Dying” by the Indianapolis band Zero Boys, punk is best explained by its style. It’s hard to say whether somebody thinks like a punk, but if you see somebody with a red Mohawk and a bullet belt, chances are you will make assumptions as to which subculture that person best relates. And while people who might identify as punk will probably tell you they aren’t into high fashion, it is hard to ignore the profoundly impactful relationship between punk and fashion, intertwined since Dame Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren turned their Kings Road boutique into the iconic SEX store in 1974. And now everything that Westwood, McLaren, Johnny Rotten (née Lydon), Richard Hell, Patti Smith, and a host of other punks wore, and everything that followed, is getting the high-art treatment with the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition PUNK: Chaos to Couture. Read More »

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La Couture Comique

May 7, 2013 | by

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Lucien Métivet’s name may not be familiar to many contemporary readers or art aficionada, and placed alongside that of his friend and fellow art student Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec it may seem, by comparison, thoroughly obscure. A century ago, however, Métivet was a hugely popular belle epoque artist, celebrated not so much for his paintings as for his posters, book and magazine illustrations, advertising art, and—especially—his humorous drawings. He embodied, in the 1890s and after, an idea that the world has only now begun to embrace: that a cartoonist and fine artist can be one and the same.

His 1893 poster portraying chanteuse Eugénie Buffet as a woman of the cold streets not only advertised her performances at the club Ambassadeurs; it immortalized her stage persona and made Métivet’s name at the age of thirty. It remains as much a part of the visual legacy of the era as Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters of Buffet’s mentor Aristide Bruant. But Métivet’s stock in trade for the decades that followed was drawing, swiftly and prolifically, for publication—whether supplying covers and cartoons for Le Rire (Laughter), the most popular humor journal in Paris, or dozens of illustrations for an edition of Maupassant or Balzac, or for a lesbian-themed erotic novel (or two) by Pierre Louÿs, or for the first two adventure-filled volumes of Paul d’Ivoi’s Voyages Excentriques, a hugely successful (and conspicuously deliberate) competitor to Jules Verne’s Les Voyages Extraordinaires.

Quantity and artistic quality, however, rarely go hand in hand, especially under deadline, and an undiscriminating catch-all collection of L. M.’s work is liable to make a poor impression, cluttered as it is with examples of the slapdash and the merely adequate. That the appreciation of a prolific artist requires selectivity is no surprise; the surprise, instead, is the insouciance of the exceptions, the fact that among drawings printed as amusing diversions a century ago there are those that still charm, still resurface with a wink and a smile to inspire a reciprocal smile across a divide of so many generations. The survival of the sunny and comic, as if blithely stepping over world wars, cultural upheavals, and time itself, is always a kind of miracle.

And now it is spring again, a time when ladies, and at least a few gentlemen, think of fashion. Métivet’s Modes Potagères (Vegetable Fashion), a full-page color illustration from the April 6, 1901, issue of Le Rire included a brief text as caption, which encourages us to note, and savor, such features as the lettuce bodice, pickle sleeves, and artichoke ruffle on the outfit of the dark-haired beauty in the pumpkin toque; and the beetroot princess dress with its green-pea flowerbed and cardoon collar with curly-endive neck ruff on the elegant lady of the cauliflower hat and carrot umbrella. With its precisely enumerated whimsicality, cheerful colors, and the evident and so-human pride and pleasure in the faces and postures of the models, this is an image perpetually floriferous. Read More »

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Dead Authors at Fashion Week: Part 4

September 25, 2012 | by

Italo Calvino Attends the Prada Spring/Summer 2013 Show.

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s review of Miuccia Prada’s new collection for Spring/Summer 2013. Relax. Concentrate. Close out all other Internet windows. Set your Gchat status to Busy. Tell your friends right away, “No I don’t want to chat with you about the UN General Assembly right now, I am reading about fashion!” Type it in all caps—they won’t know that you’re yelling otherwise—“I AM READING ABOUT PRADA’S SUBVERSIVE FLOWERS ON COATS!” Or if you prefer, send them a GIF; just be like: here.

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Immoderation: On Sharing an Idol

September 17, 2012 | by

Last year, I was given the birthday gift of a lifetime: I got to spend the occasion with Diana Vreeland. A friend, who has long been close with the Vreeland family, took me on a weeklong pilgrimage to the Marrakech home of one of Vreeland’s sons. Our hosts, aware of my longstanding obsession with Diana, settled me into what is alternately known as the “D.V. Room” and the “T.V. Room,” for it boasted a rather ancient television set that looked like it might electrocute anyone who dared near it. Above it hung the splendid William Acton portrait of Vreeland that graced the first edition of her memoir, D.V. (edited, incidentally, with gusto by Paris Review cofounder George Plimpton). The painting lovingly depicted her trademark red talons, lacquer-black hair, and the leather thong sandals she claimed to have had recreated from those donned by a slave perfectly preserved (in coitus, no less) by the ashes of Vesuvius. For Vreeland, inspiration came from the most unlikely of sources.

The local souk held countless wonders for the other houseguests, but the sprawling, glamorously disheveled Vreeland house engrossed me far more. The D.V. imprint was everywhere. First of all, nothing quite made sense—at least to the orderly, pedestrian mind. You had to resign yourself to wandering the labyrinth and surrendering to the various unexpected delights along the way, such as a turret room festooned entirely with leopard print, or a dark hidden library, filled with hundreds of Vreeland’s books, many (if not most) of which had been inscribed to her by their authors. In yet another room stood one of her famed Louis Vuitton traveling trunks, her initials D.D.V. emblazoned in imperial red ink on one side. One evening, after too many bottles of Moroccan wine, our party took a vote and elected to open it up. The candles in the room blew out as we lifted the lid. Vreeland was clearly present—and making it known that she could only tolerate so much reverential curiosity.

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Wharton, Borges, and Grey: Fan-Fic Galore!

August 1, 2012 | by

  • The latest Dead Authors Podcast features Jorge Luis Borges.
  • In all honesty, who isn’t interested in lists of famous literary feuds?
  • A new generation takes over Doonesbury.
  • A new generation discovers The Babysitters Club.
  • Leigh Stein explains how to read in public.
  • Marc New York’s Fifty Shades–inspired ad campaign.
  • An excerpt from The Age of Desire, Jennie Fields’s Edith Wharton–themed romance.
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