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Computer engineering, take a backseat – millinery is the occupation of the future.  Hats of all shapes and sizes capped the Spring 2009 runways and designers are not about to remove them.  wfirstc2Hatmakers, known as milleners in Britain or chapeliers in France, debuted their wear in the early 1700s, pinning themselves on the ornately decorated heads of the rich and famous.  Hailed as a symbol of status in the olden times, hats began to slowly lose headway during World War I.  Wartime needs called for a more utilitarian role as women filled governmental, engineering, and agricultural positions. akiko-ogawa1joanna-mastroianniTough occupations and the emergence of female participation in sports led headgear to become a necessity instead of an accessory. Fortunately for fashion, hats are making a comeback in a big way. Gone is the notion that the type of hat you wear is indicative of your profession. Brighter is better, flouncier is fancier, eccentric is exhilarating, and the Victorian Era should take note. Akiko Ogawa and Joanna Mastroianni’s collections each displayed an abundance of miniature cocktail hats cocked to one side.dior-paris philliplimWhile Ogawa’s tipped to the darker portion of the spectrum, Mastroianni’s lit up the runway with beautifully bold colors. galliano-paris dvfGalliano and Diane Von Furstenberg also adhered to the theory that brighter is better and crowned their models with yellows and pinks of the candy-coated persuasion. Topping off their garments with brims and black, Philip Lim and Dior lent a more western and equestrian feel to the looks.

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Absolutely breathtakingly stunning, however, were the wonderfully avant-garde tulle embellished hats debuted by Chanel in Paris and Y-3.  Ready-to-wear? Probably not. Ready-to-swoon-over? Most definitely. gabydeslysab For centuries, hats have gone in and out of style, ranging from no-frills military caps to deliciously plumed Edwardian masterpieces.  I, for one, am ecstatic that we’re in a pro hat state of fashion right now and that a cloche is no longer a cliché.

 

Jackie O., make way for Michelle Obama.  Not only is she breaking ground as our inaugural African-American First Lady, but she’s revolutionizing the political fashion arena one Maria Pinto dress at a time.  michelle-obama-vogue4[Trust me when I say I’d love to gush about my intense admiration of MO’s poise, intelligence, family values, and sense of responsibility to our country – however, since this is a fashion blog, I suppppose I’ll focus on the couture of this fabulous woman].  Laura Bush’s sweater sets and Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits will no longer be the go-to getup of the President’s right-hand woman.  And thank Putin that Sarah Palin’s perfectly tailored attire will be exiting my air space.  With local Chicago designer Maria Pinto in tow, Michelle maria-pinto-and-azzedine-alaia-belt2Obama is paving a very chic way for powerful women everywhere.  Effortless, breezy, and classically trendy, her wardrobe is reminiscent of the perfectly adorned Jackie Onassis and the graceful former French First Lady, Cécilia Sarkozy.   While Michelle certainly dons other designers’ wear, Pinto appears to have a stronghold on her wardrobe.  Adorned with an Azzedine Alaia belt, Pinto’s gorgeous purple sheath created a silhouettemario-pinto-blouse4 for us to swoon over as Barack officially became the democratic presidential nominee.  My absolute favorite Pinto ensemble, however, was the ruffled blouse paired with an ornate belt and sleek gray pencil skirt.  So, so classy. And so daring!  On the greener side of fashion, Mrs. Obama is not-so-secretly in love with floral print.  Donna Ricco, Moschino, and Thakoon Panichgul have all had the pleasure of contributing to her blossoming style during the election.  The votes are in – whether she’s wearing Maria Pinto, Jcrew, or footless tights, Michelle Obama is slated to revolutionize the way we look at the First Lady.  Let’s Barack ‘n Roll into the politically correct fashionable future!

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The comeback of color

I think it’s safe to say that black and white is no longer an option for a wardrobe stunner. I’m not sure if it’s a result of the recent throwback to the oh-so-colorful 80s or retribution for the years we’ve spent in the drab days of neutrals, but color is definitely dotting the fashion landscape. Balenciaga splashed the Paris runway with a chaotic combo of bright hydrangeas, peonies, daffodils, and pansies, cementing Nicolas Ghesquière as head of the house. Jennifer Connelly has recently been chosen as the new face for the vibrant collection – a perfect mixing of the simplicity and freshness of the star and the wildly untamed flowers of Balenciaga’s arrangments. And as discussed in a previous posting, who could ignore the delicious brashness of Prada’s new collection in Milan. Floral seems to be the modus operandi of designers this year, but Prada does it so bold and artsy your grandma would never consider it. The leaves really take the main stage in this look and the tunic itself could double as a watercolor painting in a museum exhibit. Louis Vuitton, despite designing exceedingly tiresome handbags and car interiors, has been producing some pretty wonderful ads that emanate the perfect mismatch of colors seen in the 30s and 40s. The show in Paris gave off the exact same vibe with lots of yellows, oranges, and pinks. I especially fell in love when the first girl (after the bizarre nurses’ uniforms in the beginning), draped in boring gray fabric, turned around and bright blue bottoms lit up the runway. Reem Acra gave New York some color this winter with this sunny yellow dress dotted and belted with purple. Alexandre Herchcovitch also showed in New York with what I think might have been recycled from my old dance uniforms. All in all, it’s going to be one vivid summer…I just hope it’s not back to boring old grays and blacks when winter comes bearing bad hues.

It’s hard to believe that despite being born in 1883, the heart of the Victorian Era and just a few years before Jack the Ripper terrorized London, Coco Chanel’s name is still synonymous with haute couture. She revolutionized the constrictive women’s wear of the time, easing women out of corsets and into chic, tailored suits that have since become her signature style. She was quoted as saying that she wanted women to have “the possibility to laugh and eat, without necessarily having to faint.” In 1909, Chanel opened a millinery shop in Paris, creating elegant hats for French actresses. This progressed into the development of a movable, yet sophisticated line made of jersey fabric and then finally in her first couture house in 1915. From here, came the introduction of the infamous Chanel No.5 parfume, the little black dress, and the classic tweed suit. The LBD was coined by Vogue as the uniform of fashionable women and was later popularized by icon Audry Hepburn. It has since been adapted by designers worldwide. In 1939, Chanel suddenly retired from fashion design, closed her couture house, and only maintained her jewelry and perfume lines. Then in 1954, she re-opened the Chanel couture house and re-introduced the jersey suit now bearing the signature Coco Chanel logotype. She also debuted the quilted purse. Chanel’s death in 1971 bought the close of an era and the start of Karl Lagerfeld’s reign. Bringing in his flair for bold and brash, Lagerfeld transformed the House of Chanel. His showing at fashion week sp/su 2008 in Paris gave critics a fresh look at the typical Chanel apparel. He reformed the LBD with layers and a gothic intonation (which for some reason felt really Gucci) and took the classic suit to new levels with atypical silhouettes and looser shapes. Despite giving the label a trendier look, he has maintained the graceful refinement of Chanel’s original vision. Although Chanel was born into poverty, I have a feeling her haute couture fashion house will forever be equated with elegance and class.

I’m sorry, Tim Gunn

I’m sorry for anything bad I’ve ever said about Project Runway. I’m sorry for doubting Bravo and this season’s designers. But most of all, I’m sorry that so many horrific menswear outfits were created on tonight’s episode. Carmen, you and your unfinished pile of fabric, peace out! The third challenge was by far the most difficult, intriguing, panicky…my heart was racing the entire time. Overall, I agreed with the judges…though I really thought Kit should’ve won – I mean a fleece blazer, who would’ve thought? Brilliant. Christian’s was pretty “fierce” as well. I thought Jack’s was rather bland even though he won the challenge. Still, PR, you have my heart always and forever.

Oh, here’s my sketch for Tiki – a heather grey sweater vest, dusky blue collared shirt, navy seersuckers and a navy tie with maybe lime green stripes. The color palette too. I think it would look spectacular…I’m surprised no one else made a sweater vest..it would’ve been a load easier than the attempt at three piece suits everyone tried to sew.

How could someone with a page on revolutionary fashion not write about Sofia Coppola‘s vibrant and grandiose vision of Marie Antoinette? It’s no wonder that an ex-intern at Chanel would imbibe the film with such exquisite taste. Coppola worked with costume designer Milena Canonero to recreate the modern version of the teen queen’s extravagant wardrobe – Milena then went on to win the Academy Award in 2006. Despite the centuries of controversy surrounding the French Revolution and the events leading up to it, Sofia envisioned Marie Antoinette and her compatriots simply as normal teenagers (this sentiment is evident by the placement of powder blue converse in a pile of period shoes). Unaware of the goings-on around them and selfishly foolish, but not purposely so…just typical of kids their age. Completely understandable since Antonia was only 14 when she married into French royalty. Perhaps because of my unwavering passion for shoes and accessories, I really focused on them as the center of the film’s whirlwind of stylized fashions. Beautiful, candy-colored, and delicately adorned, the shoes of Coppola’s Marie Antoinette forever dance in my head. Manolo Blahnik could not have designed a more striking collection…if only he would make ready-to-wear versions. And oh the jewelry! Most of the pieces are authentic 18th century and (naturally) glittering with age-old diamonds and stones. Since the real focus of the film (besides the actual plot) is the seemingly endless variation of opulent gowns, I suppose I should really move on. Although Canonero adorned most of the royals in silks, taffeta, and satin, she reserved gorgeously preserved 18th century lace for Marie Antoinette’s gowns. The gowns, although not precisely held to the fashion guidelines of the 1700s, were designed after the original shapes and mostly sewn in ateliers in Rome’s Cincecitta studios. Despite the fact that all of the costumes could hang in museums, there were a few that struck me breathless. The black masquerade costume made of what looks like French silk tulle, the famously innocent rosebud dress, and this yellow and pink gown are my favorites if I had to choose. The palette is creamy…butter yellow, cloudy blue, pistachio green, and rose pink. Sugary sweet. Although the Queen is depicted as wearing decadently decorated gowns for most of the film, she really preferred much simpler dresses. This taste for bland fashion revolutionized the trends of the time and brought about a different style of dress during the Revolution. This film’s breathtaking, indie beauty and the intricacy of the edible costumes make me pistachio with envy. I would die a thousand deaths at the guillotine for a chance to own Mme. Antoinette’s fur Blahniks.

Opera mismatch

So, despite (temporarily) living in the fashion wasteland that is Orlando, Fl for the past year, I have managed to scrounge a few culture high-points. FYI – The Museum of Art is not one of them…unless you enjoy a brisk 15 minute walk with not much to look at. However, I recently had the distinct pleasure of attending Orlando Opera Co.‘s performance of Don Giovanni by Mozart. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as far as fashion is concerned as Orlando is more know for it’s booty shorts and bra tops. And to be honest, I myself wasn’t quite sure what to wear. Some opera houses are know for their glamorous patrons, but I thought this certainly wouldn’t be one of them. I opted for gray, flat-front trousers and a flared navy trench. Bland and boring, but safe. When we arrived, I realized I could have worn anything in my closet; it was the widest variety of styles I have ever seen under one roof. At the top were women wearing Chanel with mink stoles; diamonds dripping and perfectly coiffed. Anna Wintour would have approved. At the very bottom, which unfortunately comprised roughly seventy-five percent of the patrons, were twenty and thirty somethings in bad recycled prom dresses. I mean bad. Like the ones from Deb we wore in the early 90s. I guess they are the grown up version of short shorts and bra tops usually seen downtown, but I was still aghast at the sheer number of them. The men were more routine. Some donned full tuxedos (oh yes, there was a white one) and many just wore run-of-the-mill suits. The ones that caught my eye, however, were outfitted in what looked like a Ralph Lauren ad campaign. In the midst of a sea of brown and navy monochrome suits, they actually stood out as tasteful and elegant. Above all, I thought, were the very few young men wearing slim trousers, cashmere sweaters, and ties. Very British, very polished. Overall, I think Don Giovanni was a learning experience for everyone. For Strauss, I’m going 20s…similar to this Rodarte or Christopher Josse. Naturally, I’ll add an antique hat and maybe some wrist length gloves. It’s chic vintage with a touch of flash, and most importantly, it’s cocktail without the waitress.