Saturday, June 18, 2011

Culture Vulture

By now you’ve heard all the hype surrounding the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty costume exhibit presented by the Metropolitan Museum. Apparently this has become the most popular fashion exhibit in the Met’s history. It kind of makes me wonder if McQueen’s suicide and all the surrounding hoopla is a major factor in the show’s popularity. For my money the Iris Apfel exhibit was far more interesting but that’s just my opinion. So why did I attend? As a member of the press I always get a first hand preview of any costume exhibit (without the crowds plus free coffee and Danish) put on by the museum.

Since every news outlet has covered this exhibit a million ways I won’t bore you with the details of the actual clothes except to state that I’m not a fan of apparel and accessories that creep me out like some of the S&M flavored designs (yes I know that McQueen was a troubled soul but I really don’t want to wear or see anything that is designed merely for shock value). On a more positive note, it’s a given that McQueen was a brilliant technician with an extraordinary imagination and flair for the dramatic. Some of his designs make Vivienne Westwood’s creations look totally tame by comparison. However I would definitely love to own any of the red and black tartan numbers that artfully updated the traditional Scotch plaid, not to mention some exquisite evening wear that utilized gorgeous Japanese kimono fabrics, and a breathtaking ball gown fashioned almost entirely of real and faux flowers. Now that’s what I call an entrance maker. Question? If one wanted to wear this more than once would she have to water it? Just asking.

Scotch.  A Quadruple Plaid, Please! 
(photo by M. McKenzie)

Miracle-Gro is a Fashion Necessity!

(photo by M. McKenzie)
While the Met Costume Institute gets all the attention I personally find that the FIT Fashion and Textile History Gallery does an equally if not oftentimes better job of showcasing fashion (and does it without the annoying crowds that makes it almost impossible to focus on the clothes). I recently attended their latest exhibit, Sporting Life that examines the history of sports clothing from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. The exhibit is divided into sections devoted to particular sports and uses clothing and accessories from the museums permanent collection. We’ve come a long way baby from the heavy woolen swimsuits and athletic wear of the past century to the sleek and functional garments of the 21st century. This exhibit blew my mind and I highly recommend that you check it out before it ends its run November 5th.

On a more high brow note, if you love fashion and plan to be in Paris this summer why not check out the Les Enluminures “Dressing Up and Dressing Down in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Costume in Art” until August 25th. As part of its series of 20th year anniversary celebrations, the gallery Les Enluminures is holding its exhibit at the Louvre des Antiquaires featuring about 35 works of art organized around three themes. The first showcases the diverse ways in which people in the middle ages dressed according to their station in life. The second theme focus is on the significance of color among the various classes, while the third theme throws a spotlight on rings and pendants, illustrating just how popular these pieces of jewelry were. If you go, the address is 2 place du Palais-Royal, 75001 Paris, Tel +33 1 42 60 15 58.

The above exhibit is coordinated with two others in the U.S taking place at the same time. One is at New York’s Morgan Library and Museum that will continue through September 4th and the other at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. This run ends on August 21st.

Until next time, C&C.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Born in the USA

While I love Swiss fondue, Chinese food and Belgian chocolates, sometimes I just want a good old American hot dog. The same holds true for fashion. Well crafted brands that were born in the U.S.A hold a special appeal for me. The ones I’ve chosen to feature have a distinctly All American appeal and their longevity is proof enough that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. So check out the following collections. The swim/active wear line is available now while the others will hit the stores in late summer/early fall.

Let’s start with TYR. Established in 1985 in Huntington Beach CA, from the beginning the focus has been on producing high quality performance swimwear and workout apparel for competitive athletes. But you and I don’t care about that aspect. Heck the only competitive sport I indulge in is racing to the nearest sample sale. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to look good on the beach or on a casual weekend. The first item I’d buy is one of TYR’s double binding reversible swimsuits. They come in terrific prints and solids and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to get two for the price of one? I also love the short sleeved fashion tee (also available with long sleeves) in fuschia, white or black with contrast piping and adjustable side ties in a spandex / microfiber blend from the TYR Kinetic active-wear range.

One of my all-time favorite brands is LANDS’ END. This Wisconsin-based apparel company has been going strong for almost 50 years and every time I see their collections I flip out. Let’s face it even a so-called "sophisticated New Yorker" like me can’t resist the fabulous water resistant navy wool duffle coat or the classic winter coat in a gorgeous hot pink or orange wool, not to mention the cute suede loafers in a trendy shade of raspberry. I also crave the crepe soled wedge desert boots in camel or coral suede and a stripey wool cardigan that buttons down the back while my boyfriend is lusting after all the crewneck sweaters and casual slacks from the Canvas collection. I could go on and on but you get the picture. These are clothes that will never look terminally trendy, go out of style and yet will look terrific year after year since their stuff never wears out!

Lands' End - Fashion Made Immortal


(Lands' End photos by M. McKenzie)

Another all-American brand is DOONEY AND BOURKE. I wear and love their handbags for the craftsmanship, fashionably sporty styling and affordable prices. I got an early peek at fall and fell in love with the sporty chic nubuck and vachetta leather bags and totes. The detailing and workmanship that goes into their bags is nothing short of astonishing when you consider the crap that some of the other overpriced so-called designer lines try to hand us. Also on my wish list is a lt weight two-tone zip top large east/west tote in white/red. I can’t wait to check out the complete collection when Dooney hosts its next press event.

KORET is another fine handbag company that was established in 1929 and is still going strong today. Up until 1985 it was the premier handbag brand in the U.S. and was carried in the top department stores. If you love the ladylike stylig and slightly retro look check no further than fall’s “Proper Paisley” collection in British tan or black. My favorite bag is the dressy “kisslock” top handled bag but I also like Koret’s more classic top handle satchel and half flap leather handbags with turn lock closures in brown, black or cobalt from the “Turned Out” range. You can’t go wrong either way.

Conceived in SoHo NY, MIZ MOOZ is an eclectic, edgy comfortable footwear brand that is constantly challenging itself to create the most unique and innovative styles – all handcrafted using the highest quality hand worked leathers. This finishing can result in subtle variations in color, design and texture. In a word different than other brands – just like New Yorkers. See what I’m talking about at 

American Hand-Crafted Crap & Couture
(Yes, that is a compliment!)

(photo by M. McKenzie)

If there’s one department store that every American is familiar with it’s MACYS. While it seems like they’ve been around forever and could coast on the name alone, the fashion gurus haven’t slacked off at all when it comes to offering the most bang for the apparel buck. At their recent press preview took note of TOMMY HILFIGER’s stylishly preppy fall collection. Loved the shrunken blazer best but the whole line is adorable and affordably priced for the 20/30 something customer on a budget. 

Macys is Keeping it American!
(photos by M. McKenzie)
That’s all for now. Next time I’ll fill you in on my impressions of the fashions at the Costume Institute collection at the Met. Until then C&C.

Crap and Couture, Notes From the Back Row