Born on this day – Edith Head

Edith Head – Costumer Designer Extraordinaire

The blogosphere will be popping with plenty of tributes to the Divine Miss H. She worked on almost 500 films and dressed the biggest stars in Hollywood.  For me it would be impossible to pick a favorite dress or movie.   Here is my small tribute with a few favorite sketches, quotes and a bibliography where you can slowly drink up all the talent, controversy and inspiration that is Edith Head.

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The good news from Overdressed: The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion

Couldn’t just leave everyone with doom and gloom, there is a little good news about the fashion industry and efforts from businesses and individuals  to make it more sustainable.   

  1. Modal and Tencel are considered environmentally friendly fabrics, a good option over polyester and non-sustainable cotton.  According to Cline’s research over 40% of all fibers made in the world are polyester. (84)
  2. Bright Young Things is a line of clothing created by Eliza Starbuck that is recognized as sustainable and fashionable.  Cline lists Urban Outfitters as a retailer that carries it.  However, when I went to their website I didn’t see her brand listed.   Even with a big name like Urban Outfitters Starbuck  noted that it is still a struggle to make quality clothing under the rules of  fast fashion.   (60)
  3. There is a movement called Slow Fashion aka Slow Fashioned.  Cline doesn’t go into any detail about the movement but for a brief mention.  You can find more information here.  
  4. Cline does mention the Six Items or Less movement.  This is where a person picks 6 items and wears them for a month.  It is a challenge apparently to create awareness of what we wear, the garment industry and how we can get by on less.  Here is a blog that is starting a challenge in September.
  5. Resurgence in the art of sewing.  I have noticed an increase in sewing although most of it is the craft, quilt sewing.  Yet making little felt flowers  is a gateway for some.  A gateway into the heady, beautiful, dreamy world of garment sewing.  Go ahead, take a sip of the electrified Kool-Aid.

Personally, I don’t see this book having a great impact on the industry.  Just like any “movement” it will move on. There will be little pockets of resistance here and there, little sparkling gems of a company or individuals to show the world what can be done.  But, unless  governments/countries stop being ruled by money and multi-national corporations  I really don’t see much change happening.

When was the last time American’s were told to economize? Jimmy Carter – “Turn down your thermostats…” perhaps?  American’s are notorious for over consumption whether it’s food, booze or clothing.  And, if it isn’t a law, I just don’t think people will willingly comply on their own.  What do you think?

The high cost of cheap fashion

Coincidentally, I spent my Labor Day weekend reading Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline.  

If you love fashion, have an interest in sustainability and/or want to know more about how the fashion and garment industry operate  today take a look at Overdressed.   One reviewer likened this book for the fashion industry what Fast Food Nation was for the fast food industry.   Here are some of Cline’s findings from her three-year look into the fashion industry. (Page numbers noted. ) Continue reading

50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death – August 5th

Seems like only 25 years ago doesn’t it?  If you notice more Marilyn Monroe related posts, photos and retrospective’s popping up, well the big 5-0 is the reason.   There are new “never before seen” photos of Monroe being brought to daylight everywhere.   Salvatore Ferragamo is having an exhibit in Florence, Italy of the clothes and shoes she wore. This exhibit is one where it presents Marilyn as fine art which in itself is a refreshing take.  There are countless Marilyn Monroe film festivals going on all over the world and look-alike contests with both men and women. Always interesting.  Publishing houses know this is a golden opportunity to sell actual REAL books.  (Can’t image a book on Marilyn on a Kindle.)  My favorite pictorial peek at the divine Miss M is this beauty –  Marilyn in Fashion: The Enduring Influence of Marilyn Monroe.

I think this is such a brilliant way to showcase Marilyn.  From the beautiful cover photo to the last page it shows Marilyn as a style trendsetter rather than  tragic movie star.  It celebrates her style, the designers who clothed her and the wonderful era of the 40’s and 50’s.  50’s fashion is well-known for the Dior “New Look”, full skirts, nipped in waists and so on.  Marilyn’s look was far more sexy and bold and you see it  in what she wore on camera as well as off.

It’s easy to overlook Marilyn as a style icon but wholly as a sex symbol, larger than life ‘Movie Star’.   Written by well-known fashion historian and expert Christopher Nickens along with George Zeno they lovingly showcase her lasting influence on fashion.  They give us a look into the early years through the end when her style had established itself as more sophisticated and sexy look.  All the big numbers are here; the dress from 7 Year Itch, the gowns from How to Marry a Millionaire to the Zowie! dress she wore for President Kennedy and so much more.  My favorite if I had to pick are the costumes from Niagara.  I love watching this movie just to see her wear those clothes.   What I like is the use of color and the noir camera work (Joseph MacDonald) especially in the bell tower scene.  The Lucite box handbag, the Chartreuse hanky, the white blouse.  It’s all perfect.  And, so was Marilyn in all her imperfect, glorious, Technicolor mess.  

Have you experienced any Marilyn Monroe retrospective’s or viewed any of her films?  What do you think of her as a fashion icon?  A term that is bandied about with much liberality in my opinion.  Please let me know your thoughts.

100 Unforgettable Dresses

Must have

Not sure how this gem escaped my radar but I saw it at the local library recently and quickly took it home.  And, it is a wonderful read.  Hal Rubenstein the fashion director of InStyle and created the classic Egg magazine (of which I have two copies hanging around, still).

Rubenstein writes with charm and lightness and of course with a deep sense of fashion history to back up his choices for the title of Unforgettable. Although I do have one misgiving of that Julia Roberts red dress from Pretty Woman but that probably has more to do with my not caring for Miss J as an actress than the dress itself.  Well, no I don’t care for the dress either. I also enjoyed that some of the dresses in the book I have on my tumblr blog.

Edith Head illustration

One in particular is the dress designed by Edith Head for Bette Davis in All About Eve (Awesome movie, rent it.) That beautiful chocolate-brown, so daring to make brown sexy and bold. And, then of course Bette herself in it. Wow. Hal offers a little backstage gossip/history on the dresses which is icing on the cake. Just looking at the dresses would be good enough. I think I would be hard pressed to pick one of the hundred as my all time favorite.

Chinoiserie Gown Galliano for Dior

I love the dress Nicole Kidman wore to the Oscars in 1997.  Designed by Galliano for Dior it really does have a place in history as the dress that turned the Oscar’s red carpet into a haute couture runway.  The color, the embroidery, Nicole, just beautiful.  But, then I love vintage and have a hard time picking modern over just about anything designed by Edith Head.

The book is a lovely read and a visual feast for anyone who loves fashion, sewing, art and design.  All the greats are here, Dior, Chanel, Ford, Prada and Yves Saint Laurent.  Plus, there are lesser known designers like Norman Norell, Sorelle Fontana, Roland Mouret and Omar of Omaha (Phyllis Diller’s designer no less) all represented. One that I was sweetly surprised to see in this book was Claire McCardell.  McCardell is probably best know for creating wearable dresses for the American woman, the homemaker and the working woman.    As Rubenstein notes in his section to her, McCardell’s  influence in fashion was in creating clothes that were tasteful, wearable and comfortable for the women of the time.  McCardell actually created a wrap dress as early as the 1940’s, well before the great DVF.  She liked using men’s fabrics for the durability and easy care fabrics because being a mother or housewife is messy.  She loved the use of  belts in her dresses and promoted the growing popularity of pants for women.  Below is a photo of the lovely Dovima wearing a McCardell dress.

I hope that Mr. Rubenstein gives us the pleasure of an additional 100 unforgettable dresses soon.

Ad for McCardell dress