Sunday, March 27, 2011

Off Duty Elizabeth

Everyone remembers Elizabeth in that tight white swimsuit in Suddenly Last Summer, the tulle prom dress in A Place in the Sun or the sexy slip in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but she was as equally as noteworthy in her off-duty style, which encompassed everything from the New Look of the fifties to the ethnic inspired looks of the seventies and onto the over-the-top ultra glitzy looks of the eighties (as befitted a star of her brightness). Elizabeth looked particularly ravishing in yellow (which she chose for her first wedding to Richard Burton and her 2 million wedding to Larry Fortensky) and she gave great resort wear as well as great glittery jewels. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Last Movie Star

My regular readers will know that I am a huge Elizabeth Taylor fan. I've consumed a tonne of her movies, have read everything I can get my hands on about her and her life, and I've admired her ability to overcome obstacles such as grief and ill health to carve out a phenomenal career on the screen and stage, and in her charity work too. When Rock Hudson's battle with AIDS first became public he was actually kicked out of a French hospital; tragically that was the kind of stigma the disease carried then. Elizabeth's work in this arena was fundamental to changing the public perception of the disease + she raised tremendous sums of money for research.

She was a true movie star in a way that will probably never be seen again. Celebrity just ain't what it used to be and I was shocked and saddened this morning to wake up and hear about her death.

In all the reporting of her dramatic life, we shouldn't forget her legacy in film. From here on in I'll let another recently passed Hollywood legend do the talking ...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Review: Movie Star Style

I mentioned that I was lucky enough at Christmas time to receive a copy of Edith Head: The Fifty Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer. I had read the book cover-to-cover by New Years Eve and now I dip in an out of it occasionally and most particularly when I'm watching an Edith Head credited film.
The book provides a fascinating insight into a truly accomplished woman and the photos and illustrations are to die for. I love old movies (well, the good ones), and as well as a snapshot of fashion history there is loads of Hollywood gossip and movie trivia contained within the glossy pages.
Edith started out at Paramount in the 20s when women rarely received a credit on any film unless they were starring in it. After assisting designers like Travis Banton and Howard Greer, it was Edith's costumes for Mae West in the early 30s really took her career to the next level, and she went on to mould the look of many famous stars including Dorothy Lamour, Barbara Stanwyck, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Natalie Wood. In those days, before personal stylists and fast fashion, Hollywood stars often turned to studio costumiers for their civilian wardrobes too.
Edith hit her peak in the 1950s when some of Paramount's most successful films were made and she soon become a household name. She gave regular fashion advice on TV and in print and even, for a while, had a touring show so that movie fans could see some of her most famous frocks up close and personal. The shot above is from one of those shows.
Edith become close with many of the actresses she dressed (she was quoted saying that Grace Kelly was her favourite ever and they were friends) but like most she had a dark side too. Although she was much lauded and won 8 Academy Awards during her career there were, according to author Jay Jorgensen, a number of instances where she took credit for other designers works. Clearly she was fiercely ambitious.

As Edith become more and more successful she did less sketching of her designs herself but these old fashion illustrations were just so divinely pretty, I couldn't not include them. Here are some of Edith's recognisable designs from All About Eve, Harlow, The Great Race, To Catch a Thief and Vertigo.

Edith Head: The Fifty Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer is published by Running Press.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inspiring Style

I just noticed this in the March issue of US Vogue: an exhibition has opened at the Phoenix Art Musuem in Arizona celebrating the life and style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor.
The remarkable Taylor, who lived and entertained in high style between Denver and Vail, was one of the first women to earn a pilot's license, played tennis at Wimbeldon, and was a champion shot, a dashing equestrienne, and a member of the US Women's Olympic Ski team.
Sounds like an amazing lady, hey? She was also a model and designer who launched her own range of ski wear in the 1940s. Even though I've never been skiing - I'm allergic to cold weather - I can imagine it isn't easy to look chic covered in snow. LOVE those crazy ski goggles and the pink lippie.
Taylor amassed an amazing collection of high fashion during her lifetime, which was bequeathed to the museum. Below is some Charles James, Balenciaga and Givenchy to drool over.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Here Comes Another Bride

I enjoyed another wedding this Saturday, this time for my friends Jessica and Pete. 'Tis the season to get married, or at very least the age group, and I thought this celebration felt similar in flavour to my own; they used the same celebrant and caterers that we did and their setting was equally as beautiful as ours, although the historical and architecturally magnificent grounds of an old mental hospital has a bit of a different flavour to a grungy old surf club. The result, however, was that it felt a little bit like experiencing my wedding from the other side, and I've got to say the ride was really fun. I relish any opportunity to dance and dance and dance, especially now that my nightclubbing days are behind me.

I've worn this 1960s shocking pink dress to a number of weddings before but up until Saturday I hadn't had it in rotation for a couple of years (I bought it around four years ago from Inta-Vintage in Narrabeen). I had a couple of other shortlisted dresses but for some reason, as I was getting my hair done earlier that day (thanks Desmond and Molly Jones) I thought about this frock, and when I mentioned it to the hubby he said YES YES YES.
So, it turns out he rather likes this dress.
The skirt is really stiff and I love the frill on the bottom, and I wore a corset with it to try and get the perfect fit. I don't know whether that was wholly successful, but it did prevent me from going overboard on the blue cheese (yes, they served blue cheese!). My shoes are new ones courtesy of Alex Alex and I found a cheap little belt to bring the whole look together.

It seems lots of hip brides are finding their dresses in far flung places now and Jess is no exception. Her wedding dress was from the 1970s via Ebay and she had it altered to modernise it a bit, and for fit. Hopefully, once she's back from her honeymoon, I'll be able to source some better pics. I was having so much fun most of the night, I kind of forgot to take them!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Runway Pretty for the Weekend

Sarah Burton brought romance and high drama to the catwalk with her latest collection for Alexander McQueen. Some of the gowns were truly breathtaking. The swathes of organza, the white feathers, the bodice that looks like broken vintage china; it is all so elegantly edgy.
Perhaps the rumour that Kate Middleton will be wearing McQueen for her wedding next month isn't so far fetched after all?
Meanwhile isn't all this conjecture about the royal wedding lots of fun?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Autumn Inspiration

Sometimes inspiration can be found in the most unlikely places. Dolly Parton's knit dresses, tight sweaters, circle skirts and waist cinching belts are pretty darn cute in Nine to Five. Secretary chic? Just maybe.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Something Old, Something New

The Oscars just ain't what they used to be. Sure, the ceremony has got shorter, the awards are more diverse and my TIVO means I can fast forward through the dull songs, but it seems that actresses these days are too wary of the more mainstream fashion pundits to make a real statement in their dress. Personality is definitely missing and after this year I'm more convinced than ever that the Costume Institute Ball and Cannes are where it is really at for red-carpet fashion.

Having said all that, Anne Hathaway was totally gorgeous in each of her eight costume changes. I think these were my faves: Armani Prive, Givenchy and Vivienne Westwood.

The only person who really blew me away was, unsurprisingly, my aspirational friend Cate B. I remember marvelling at this Givenchy gown when this couture collection was first showcased. Comprised of only ten gowns, each of them is a work-of-art from a truly gifted designer. Riccardo Tisci really is working at the height of his powers and funnily enough this dress was one of my favourites (who doesn't love lavender?). The hours that would have gone into all the intricate beading on this dress boggles the mind and Tisci could not have hoped for a better fashion plate than Cate. She has such a regal air and her hair and make-up were perfection too.

Another star who isn't afraid to take risks is Marisa Tomei. She regularly wears vintage to big events and as I was blown away to see her wearing Charles James, the father of American high fashion. I don't think I've ever seen a real-life human being in this century wearing a James couture gown; usually they are found on mannequins in museums. Marisa sourced her James from Lily et Cie in Los Angeles, which is the same store where Renee Zellweger found her Oscar Jean Desses a decade ago. I've got to admit though that while this dress is AMAZING, I don't think it fits Marisa that well, particularly around the bust. The catch-22 is that it would be sacrilegious to alter a piece of design history like this, so I've got to give Marisa credit for wearing it and thus raising the profile of this oft forgotten great designer in the process. You can read more about him at an old post of mine here.