Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Orry Kelly: Gypsy Love

While I was coughing and generally feeling sorry for myself on the weekend, I watched Gypsy starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood. Ostensibly a bio-pic of famous burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, it is really more a character study of her unsympathetic showbiz mother, played to perfection by Rosalind Russell.
Rosalind's 30s era costumes, including amazing head wear and lush looking coats and blouses, were all designed by legendary Hollywood costume designer (and Aussie!) Orry Kelly. Once Natalie transforms into Gypsy Rose Lee, world famous stripper, she sports some simply stunning gowns that wouldn't look out of place at a red-carpet event today.
You can see some of them in the clip I've embedded.
Orry Kelly was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on this film and although he missed out, he had already won three: for Some Like It Hot, Les Girls and An American in Paris. Natalie actually sang in this film because, unlike in West Side Story where her voice was dubbed, she could get away with it in Gypsy as it fit the character. Gypsy Rose Lee was known for her glamour, her wit and her performance rather than her voice.

I'm about to head down to Melbourne for a few days and will be in sales conference lock-down. I'll be back blogging on Saturday.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Models of the Past: Part 1

The July issue of British Vogue has a story entitled "History of the Supermodel" which looks at the top models and beauty trends of the last twenty years.

I would argue that the supermodel moment was unique and of its time; limited to the late 80s and early 90s when a group of beauties became serious movers and shakers in the fashion industry, moving products and magazines, commanding fortunes, dating rock stars and becoming mainstream celebrities. I know I was pretty obsessed with the supers in my early teens, but many other people who didn't salivate over Vogue every month knew just who Linda, Christy, Naomi and Cindy were too. No surnames needed.

While I know who the top models of today are, my hubbie, for example, would probably only be able to recognise Giselle and maybe Miranda Kerr (she gets an awful lot of press in Australia).

Vogue's story was interesting - a collection of quotes from the top models, photographers and casting agents of the last two decades - but there have been key models shaping the look of an era going back for yonks. So in this post I thought I'd take a look back at some of the top names of the 1950s.

Bettina - given that name by designer Pierre Balmain - was a French model and early muse for Hubert de Givenchy. Interestingly she married playboy Prince Aly Khan who had previously been married to Rita Hayworth, and she - pregnant at the time with their child - survived the car accident that killed him in 1960.

Post modelling she worked as a designer, poet and composer.

Jean Patchett - whom I've posted about plenty of times before - was an all American head turner famous for her beauty spot, not unlike Cindy Crawford would thirty years later. Jean was the first superstar of the Ford Modelling Agency and she worked from the late 1940s into the early 60s before retiring to raise her family.
Her family have actually started a website about her which is a must visit for anyone who loves 50s high fashion.

Mary Jane Russell was another American and star of Ford who, at 5ft 6, was rather short for a model, even in those days (Suzy Parker was 5ft 10 and was, before she became famous, considered too tall for modelling).

Mary's long neck and classically elegant features suited the New Look styles of the period and she was a favourite of photographer Louise Dahl-Woolfe.

Dorian Leigh's Wikipedia entry says that she is considered the world's first supermodel. As the term hadn't been invented yet (Janice Dickinson lays claim to coming up with the title), I'm not so sure about that, but she was certainly one of Ford's first top models who gained a reputation in the US and in Europe. While Mary Jane Russell was only 5ft 6, Dorian was only 5ft 5 (my height!) and was already 27 and had two children when she started modelling (it may feel like models are getting younger and younger, but there is certainly a history of teens appearing on the cover of Vogue).
Dorian was a neighbour and close friend of Truman Capote and legend has it that Dorian was his inspiration for Holly Golightly.

Dorian's little sister Suzy - who went by her real surname of Parker - became an even bigger star than her sister. She was the first model to earn $100,000 in a year, appeared on the covers of every major magazine of the age and went on to star in Hollywood movies.

The story goes that Dorian made Eileen Ford sign her little sister sight un-seen, and Eileen, expecting a petite, very thin, dark haired and blue eyed beauty just like Dorian was rather upset to discover she had signed a tall, freckle-faced red-head with a hip measurement of 36 inches (the ideal for a model is 34 inches which to me seems very slim, but I guess that's because I'm a pear shaped girl who is blessed/cursed with 37 inch hips).

Eileen later went on to call Suzy "the most beautiful creature imaginable" and Richard Avedon said of her "there were great models before and after Suzy, but she was something else - a red-headed force of nature, a wolf in chic clothing, the one flesh-and blood woman in a world of exquisite creatures."

Certainly I think she was one of the great beauties of the last century.

Born in New York City, Dovima's unconventional beauty made her one of the most sought after models of the 50s. Who can forget her glorious turn as snooty model Marion in Funny Face?

Cool blonde Sunny Harnett was another New Yorker who became famous in the 50s. Sunny, once she retired from modelling (and she shot campaigns for many top brands and appeared in both Vogue and Harper's regularly), actually became assistant to Eileen Ford.
The girl gave great cheekbones and I love the last image of her wrapped in a Jean Desses coat.

The images of Cindy, Christy, Noami et al posing together care of photographers like Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier have become iconic in themselves, so I was exited when I found this old Edith Small advertisement featuring the three top models of their age: Jean Patchett, Suzy Parker and Dovima.
Are there any 50s ladies that I've forgotten?
Meanwhile next stop is the swinging 60s!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ad Love

I never thought I'd find myself gushing over a Louis Vuitton collection; living in Japan at the height of the Vuitton/Murakami bag madness kind of turned me off the label. It seemed every second girl had exactly the same handbag, and more often that not it was used as a status marker more than a style maker.
But the Jacobs A/W collection for Louis Vuitton has had me all excited. The waist cinching corset style tops, dirndl skirts, inspired use of leather + the floral print evening wear (LOVE!) are so utterly feminine without being frou frou. I reckon they'll look good on the many rather than the few. I think wearability has been pretty poor in a lot of high fashion lately.
The advertising campaign for this collection - shot by Steven Meisel - has just been released, and it is beyond gorgeous. Jacobs has chosen three of my favourite models: Natalia Vodianova, Christy Turlington and Karen Elson. All are breathtaking beauties, highly recognisable, and with the lady-like qualities that suit the clothes.
I adore the retro styling - most particularly the flawless ponytails - and the dressing room setting is both simple and glamorous.

I'm also digging the Pre-Fall Bergdorf Goodman catalogue featuring high fashion darling Karlie Kloss, shot by Yelena Yemchuck. I only wish our DJs and Myer catalogues could be this lush and cutting edge.
Karlie's look here is proof positive to me that liberally applied pink blush works a treat.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Coat of the Week: Lady in Yellow

I'm currently fighting off a flu and while I spent the morning on the couch completely engrossed in the 24 hour media coverage of the labour leadership spill, our Governor Generals sartorial brilliance did not go unnoticed.
I've long admired Quentin Bryce's style (hooray she loves colour!) and she looked particularly gorgeous today in this long wool suit with a violet flower brooch.
Our first female Governor General swearing in our first female PM; all politics aside, today was a symbolically important one.

At RAFW my colleague Eliza and I spyed a woman wearing this Lisa Ho mustard coat and we've been in lust ever since. Alas Lisa Ho is a little out of my price range right now, so I just had a quick trawl of Etsy to check out some yellow-tastic vintage numbers which are a little more budget friendly.

From LizsVintageSoffita there is this delicious 40s coat; from TractorDog you can buy a very mod 60s number; and FabGabs camel mohair 60s suit is all kinds of woolly goodness.
I'm loving sunny yellow as the perfect antidote to winter blues.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jean Desses Illustrations

For a stroll through the history of dress you can't beat Kerry Taylor Auctions; most of the offerings are truly fashion as art. A couple of weeks ago Kerry held an auction which saw a number of pieces from Princess Diana's estate go under the hammer, not least the black Elizabeth Emanuel dress Diana wore to her first official function post engagement. It fetched a staggering 192,000GBP!

Personally I am completely taken with these Jean Desses sketches from the early 50s, which offer an insight into the creative process of one of the best of the best. Aren't they super pretty? I hope a few fans were lucky enough to add these to their home.

I'd really like to add a beautiful fashion illustration to one of my walls, but I might have to settle for a reproduction before I get anywhere near the real thing.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Beautiful Things

I spent the Queen's birthday long weekend up north at my parents place. Whenever I head up there I always make plans to catch-up on work, blogging, writing and such but once I arrive I'm struck down by a malaise that sees me barely leave the couch.

Luckily this time I did manage to leave the house for the annual Port Macquarie quilt show and I wore my recently purchased green cashmere sweater, which suits my most treasured brooch - a 1940s reverse carved Lucite creation and a gift from the hubby - to a tee.

Isn't my beautiful little birdy sweet?

My Mum had a quilt in the show for the first time; although it was hard to get a decent photo, it is the green, red and gold wall hanging with the geisha's.
The whole show was really impressive, so for the crafty types and lovers of beautiful things generally, here are a few more quilts that caught my fancy. The one at the bottom won the people's choice prize.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pictures to make you go WOW

I love it when Vogue pulls out all the stops and constructs a lavish narrative driven fashion editorial. A good one will have you longing to immerse yourself in it's visually rewarding world, even if - in this particular case - that world is a crumbling marriage and a wife's affair.

The Prada and Louis Vuitton A/W collections were among my favourites of the season; both luxe but wearable and heavily influenced by the classic silhouettes of yesteryear.

It is nice to see them get a run in these gorgeous shots and don't Ewan and Natalia make a gorgeous faux couple? Natalia looks so at home in these retro styles as her face recalls revered beauties from the 50s and 60s like Jean Patchett, Jean Shrimpton, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Natalie Wood.

I LOVE the blue Vera Wang cocktail dress in the third pic.

Peter Lindbergh's gorgeous shots can be found in the July issue of US Vogue, or you can also check them here.