Sunday, December 13, 2009

Portrait of a lady....

With this Ralph Lauren evening gown I would pair this large stone Harry Winston collar, Grace Vanderbilt's luncheon earrings, and a 1960's Harry Winston bracelet.

For the day...

For a luncheon I would choose this Ralph Lauren ensemble and pair it with a sapphire brooch, bracelet, and a simple strand of Pearls a la Barbara Hutton.

The Debut

For a girls debut I would choose this pale pink Dior evening dress and pair it with the Von Auresperg tiara and this pearl bracelet from Garrard.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dieu fumeur de Havanes

Funny video!!!! I love that Gainsbourg is feeling up Deneuve. Totally hysterical, she grabs his hand and won't let go to stop him from feeling her breasts.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

HRH The Princess Margaret

Princess Margaret in a Jacques Fath creation for her 21st birthday.
Margaret in Norman Hartnell with Aquamarine and Diamond jewelry.

Margaret making an entrance in the "scroll tiara" while looking perfect in Dior.

Princess Margaret in her 60's looking healthy wearing her signature tiara worn here with her 1900's Cartier necklace and earrings.

Princess Margaret wearing the Empress Marie Federovna's sapphire bandeau with a simple diamond collar and earrings.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Goddess!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am BIG! It's the pictures that got small!

Gloria Swanson, the highest paid actress of the silent era in the ruins of the Roxy Theatre in New York. It was the end of an era and Ms. Swanson was once the brightest star to grace its silver screen. Here she is once more acknowledging an audience long since gone home; as well as giving a final salute to a motion picture landmark in the manner of a true star!!!

There's A Tear For Every Smile In Hollywood...

Fantastic clip from "Showgirl in Hollywood" (1930) it always amazes me that they were already talking about has beens in 1930!!!! Only 20 years after pictures became big business!!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009


I must sing a song of ecstasy,
They expect it of me;
And I must laugh
To fill the world with glee,
They expect it of me.

A thousand joyous things
I must do,
They expect me to.

Well, the devil take them
And their expectations,
All they will get from me
Is lamentations.

-Barbara Woolworth Hutton

Interesting sentiment from the "Poor Little Rich Girl." Notice the rubies and diamonds (above). The natural pearls in the bottom photo were said to be some of the most valuable in the world and the tiara while not her most famous was still an amazing piece of Cartier craftsmanship.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

People and Places- To be continued

To me, the most inspiring thing is almost always a person:

Barbara Woolworth Hutton:

By the 1930’s, the days of New York society seemed to be coming to a close. But in the form of Barbara Woolworth Hutton it seemed to be revived. She was the original poor little rich girl as she had witnessed her mother’s suicide when she was only 5 and was then abandoned by her father. Through her mother and her mother’s family she inherited a $500 million dollar fortune in the late 1920’s. She was known for her emeralds that had once belonged to the Grand Duchess Valdimir and were said to be the finest in the world. Through her marriages she was twice a princess once a countess as well as a baroness and Mrs. Cary Grant. She burned through her money living a life of high style and died alone with only $5,000 to her name.

This photo taken in the mid 60's showcases Miss Huttons most magnificent jewels (The Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara and earings as well as the Polar Star diamond, worn here as a ring.)

Yves saint Laurent:

Yves Saint Laurent was born on August 1st 1936 in Oran Algeria. At the time Oran was one of the largest cities in France, as it had been a colony since 1830. Oran was the only city in North Africa where the European population outnumbered that of the Arabs. The city had a Spanish feel due to their 200 year occupation starting in the sixteenth century. Yves ancestors had moved to Oran in the 1870’s after the Prussian occupation of the Alsace. Yves was born to Charles and Lucienne Saint Laurent, a very prominent couple in Oran Society. He was the oldest child in the family and had two younger sisters Michele and Brigitte born in 1942 and 1945.
Yves grew up charming his family with his precocious talent. He would make dresses out of old fabric and would make entire theatres with paper dolls. He grew up surrounded by the adoration of his mother and sisters. He was the family’s little prince. Growing up he was very shy outside his family and retreated into his room, drawing costumes for imaginary theatrical productions. To his family he was a star and it would not be until much later that the world saw him as one.
In 1953 Yves won third prize in the International Wool Secretariat competition. He flew to Paris with his mother for the first time to collect his prize. They were not only going for the award but for a meeting made through a family connection with Michel de Brunhoff, the extremely influential editor-in-chief of French Vogue. Brunhoff thought Yves should study at the Ecole de la Chambre de la Couture Parisienne, and in 1954 he came back to Paris as a student. At the time anyone aspiring to a career in couture went there. Among his fellow students were Karl Lagerfeld and Fernando Sanchez. After only a few months Yves began to dread the school and in the spring of 1955 he went to see de Brunhoff again. At the meeting Yves gave Brunhoff a handful of illustrations he had been working on. Everyone there was amazed because the sketches were almost identical to Dior’s new collection that would not be shown for another two weeks. Seeing his genius de Brunhoff showed the designs to Monsieur Dior and Yves was hired as an assistant at Christian Dior in June of 1955. In 1956 Yves was asked to design head-dresses for a masque that Baron Alexis de Rede was giving. Through this his star began to rise at the house of Dior. Later in 1957 he was promoted to assistant to Dior himself. But on the 24 of October, the savior of Paris fashion after WWII and its brightest star Christian Dior died of a heart attack. At the age of 21 Yves Saint Laurent was chosen to head the House of Dior. Since the 50’s fashion has become a youth centered industry. But back then couture was made by people 50 and over for a clientele of a similar age. It was a great shock to many that such a young shy boy would be chosen to fill the biggest shadow ever left in the industry.
After his appointment as the head of Dior, Yves went home on a small break and returned with 178 designs and one silhouette that would be fashion for that season. In early 1958 Yves Saint Laurent showed his first collection and named his new silhouette the “Trapeze”. The Trapeze was fitted at the bust and then flared out completely ignoring the waist. It was completely radical to ignore the waist at a house that had built its image on the “new look” waist. Clients and the press were intoxicated with interest for what they dubbed “the little girl dresses”. His first collection was a huge success and there was nowhere to go but up for this new star.
Saint Laurent designed six collections for Dior but his time there was never easy. Dior’s heirs who owned the house tried to bully Yves and exert their own influence on the business. His rebellion against the owners was never more evident than during his final collection in July of 1960. This final collection for Dior known as the “Beat” collection was inspired by the beatnik scene of Saint Germain and his designs were younger than they had ever been. His rebellion did not go over well and in October of 1960 Marc Bohan was brought in as head designer. Yves was offered the extremely inferior post of designing Dior’s ready-to-wear collection. It was an unsefferable punishment and he refused the offer. Suffering a breakdown Yves moved in with his good friend Pierre Berge. For a year Yves was out of work and desperate, all he did was design a costumes for his friend and dance star Zizi Jeanmaire.
While Yves was recovering Pierre was out looking for a backer to help Yves. He found it in Jesse Mack Robinson a millionaire from the US and on the 4th of December 1961 they opened the house of Yves Saint Laurent. It had been a year since Yves had shown a collection and there were great expectations for this one. From this collection one particular ensemble became an iconic ideal of Saint Laurent, a navy blue pea coat with wide white pants and white flats. This simple ensemble showed the great modern force that Yves would bring to fashion. He saw beyond the lady in a chauffeured car who needed clothing that suited her position in society, he saw a younger client. His last collection at Dior showed a move towards this younger look but again those garments were worn by socialites and heiresses not starlets. The press was amazed to find a rival to the youth centered world of swinging London.
In 1967 Clara Saint suggested Yves and Pierre take a holiday in Marrakech. It was here Yves meet Talitha Getty, the 26 year old wife of J. P. Getty and the reigning queen of the jet-set. She introduced Yves and Pierre to Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg and every night was spent coked up and dancing. Yves was entranced by this glamorous new youth culture that was hinged on rock’n roll. It was also during this era that Yves was spending time with such luminary’s as Nureyev, Maia Plistetskaia,, Andy Warhol and Margot Fonteyn. He found a muse in new french star Catherine Deneuve who he dressed for several films and would become a permanent client. He was also introduced to Betty Catroux born Saint a debutante turned model who would become one of his greatest friends. She became part of what was called the Saint Laurent Clique. It was the most chic and and exclusive set in Paris and it was governed by one rule, complete devotion to Yves Saint Laurent.
In 1968 Yves saw a young waif at a party and he was immediately entranced by her style and look. That girl was Loulou de la Falaise, who would become one of his greatest muses and the perfect example of the converging generations of the late 60’s and early 70’s. From this odd mix Paris culture seemed to change, with the turn of the decade it seemed art was no longer what people saw in Paris but fashion. It was with this fashion that the younger generation chose to express itself, and a new type of art was born. Throughout the 70’s Yves triumphed, collection after collection was received with more and more applause. Yves dressed Bianca Jagger and almost everyone who was anyone. Clubs reigned supreme and the drug addled glitterati were idolized by wannabes the world over.
The endless parties were coming to a close. Everyone was older and they knew it. After more than a decade of drugs, parties and the jet-set, what was next? Everyone had always been well off but now fashion was big business. Based on 1982 figures Yves was taking home a reported personal income of more than $4 million year. There were CEOs, share holders, and it was no longer just about the clothing. In 1983 with help from Diana Vreeland the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York held a major retrospective of Yves’s work. It was the first time the museum had honored a living designer with a retrospective. Yves Saint Laurent said “what will I do afterwards?” in reference to the retrospective. Where could he go, he couldn’t go up and he sure couldn’t go down. He prevailed and was continually successful with a devoted clientele and achieved an almost mythical status in the fashion world.
In the late 80’s and into the 90’s the House of Yves Saint Laurent went through many business changes. Pierre Berge took the company public in 89 and then sold it for $650 million to Sanofi in 93. A fall in profits was hard for the company and Berge spoke openly of finding a new designer for the ready to wear collection. There were a slew of YSL licenses with items designed by others and bearing no relation to the genius that was Saint Laurent. It seemed an artist’s genius was no longer what counted. As Yves entered the last decade of his career he had no ideas for a successor. There would be no one to inherit his place in fashion. He was adamant that couture died with him and with the greatest expression of his ego he said, “I am the last couturier”. In 1998 Yves Saint Laurent gave up designing his ready to wear line and choose only to continue with couture. In 1999 Sanofi Corp. who owned YSL sold it to Francois Pinault for $1 billion. Pinaults buy out left Yves and Pierre in charge of the couture house and they were given a settlement of $70 million and an annual salary of $6.6 million. But the further sale of YSL to the Gucci group brought about the greatest change, the introduction of Tom Ford as the ready to wear designer of YSL. For a few years Yves continued to work but his couture creations were often over shadowed buy the money made from Ford’s ready-to-wear. In 2002, forty years after his first YSL couture show Yves Saint Laurent announced his retirement. It was fashions greatest loss since that of Christian Dior in 1957. After retirement Yves lived in relative obscurity, he was no longer a creator. On June 1st 2008 Yves Saint Laurent died of brain cancer at the age of 71. One of the greatest stars of the 20th century had ceased to shine. Now we can only look to books and old publications for what was Saint Laurent, for his creative genius is no more. He will remain what the Metropolitan retrospective in 1983 made him, a legend.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What I Saw For SS 10

-Practical dresses. Cute things that work for every day.

-Blazers. Working women are stronger than ever!!!

-Softer 80’s. We're back in the 80's but the shoulder pads and over sized jackets seem more palatable this time around.

-Stylized shorts. Forget those ugly old hiking shorts you wear in the jungle, try a sheer Valentino pair.

-Basics, lots of nice workable pieces. It has to work with with what you already have.

-Sheers. If you've got it, flaunt it!!!!!!!

-Ruffles. No 80's prom dresses for us, our ruffles are refined and chic.

-Neutral colors. Put away the PUCCI

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Marketing works!!!! I'm living proof!!!!! If one of my favorite models or movie stars are in the add, I'll buy it. If they say it'll make me thin, tan, or happy;I'll take it. I buy parfum because my favorite stars endorse it. I'll get the latest anything because someone has it or has been seen with it and usually because I thought the add made it look good. But after I've spent all this money it doesn't change anything, I'm still the same person. All the Hermes bags, Cartier jewelry, Saint Laurent parfum, Dolce coats, Pucci ties, and Armani underwear don't count for anything. All this stuff I've bought because of the pretty adds in Vogue or GQ don't make me a better person. I'm the perfect advertising target, I know it and I'll never change. But there are millions of people out there just like me who see these adds and want these things, but can't afford them. I wish the magazines would tell people that the things they show are not for everyone and really are not very important at all.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fashion and Politics

So often fashion is declared a frivolous decadent enterprise only followed by the rich, but those who make such statements often forget how important a role fashion has played in world history. The first name that comes to my mind when you say,"fashion has nothing to do with politics," is Marie Antoinette. We all know the story of the infamous Queen of France, but do we really know how important a role fashion played in the dangerous political climate of her time? She turned fashion into a high stakes political game that was deadly serious. Her endless parade of decadent fashions was not simply a choice of dress but a statement, a statement showing her own battle for freedom that at a time of extreme social unrest completely influenced the highest parts of government. The politics behind her clothing signed her death warrant and had political ramifications so far and wide we're still talking about them.

As you delve into history you find dress a key component to understanding the times. Louis the XIV once said fashion was "the mirror of history", and he was so correct. Although most people would still argue that fashion was unimportant and not relevant, when you look at history the key players in politics were often known for their clothing. Louis the XIV, Queen Victoria, Empress Eugenie, Jackie Kennedy, and Princess Di were all major power players in their time but are usually remembered for their clothing. Louis the XIV founded the look of the "Ancien Regime"that peaked with Marie Antoinette. Queen Victoria will always be remembered for her mourning attire that she wore from the time of Prince Albert's death to her own. Empress Eugenie will always be the best dressed woman of the 19th century. Jackie will always conjure up the image of the "American aristocrat" in her pill box hat and sunglasses. Princess Di will always be remembered for living the fairy tail and being the first British royal with style. All these people did amazing things yet are most remembered for their clothing. Caroline Astor for instance was merely a socialite, but when questioned on why she was not a supporter of the suffrage movement she said,"I do not require a vote; our leaders are chosen based on who I invite to dinner." She was just a socialite known for her extravagant lifestyle but she actually could influence who was elected President of the United States based on who she invited to dine. In conclusion fashion can be very important, but in the words of another power player, that of the Empress Josephine,"Do I not possess the pendants of Marie Antoinette? And yet am I quite sure of retaining them? Look at these sparkling gems ladies, and do not envy a splendor that does not constitute happiness."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fashion Licensing

Fashion Licensing is when a designer allows a manufacturer to make a product using their name for a percentage of the profits, usually 3 to 8 percent. Licensing allows a designer to get their name out there, on everything from handbags, jewelry, perfume, sheets, appliances, and sometimes even other clothing. Licensing enables a designer to reach out to a broader category of clients through affordability. Without it most people would never be able to own a product bearing a name like Yves Saint Laurent or Christian Dior, but through licensing everyone can have YSL perfume and a Dior umbrella.

One of the first designers to license their name was the great couturier Christian Dior. In 1948 he signed an agreement with the American hosiery manufacturer, Prestige, to produce Christian Dior nylon stockings. These were then sold at affordable prices in American department stores. Originally Prestige offered Monsieur Dior a flat payment of $10,000.00 dollars which he immediately refused. He instead opted for a percentage of their profits which would become the standard for any designer who was going to license their name. After Christian Dior’s death the house continued to license their name and by the mid 1980’s there were over two hundred Dior licenses. Often the royalties from these made more money than the actual clothing produced by the house. With the Asian markets starting to open to western business it became even easier to license and then very cheaply manufacture goods. These goods manufactured in Asia were very cheap and could hurt a company’s image. Once in the mid 80’s, the House of Dior’s head designer for more that 30 years, Marc Bohan, was browsing Bloomingdales in New York and was disgusted to find the Dior name plastered on everything from polyester scarves to plastic luggage. While the house could take pride in its licensed perfumes like Diorissimo and Eau Sauvage, its licensed goods quality often suffered greatly, and the brand would not be the same until it weeded out bad licenses and became a true luxury house once again in the early 90’s.

The great question in high fashion licensing is, is it worth it to stake your name on a product you don’t make? You could make tons of money licensing, or you could make less and stick to quality. In the past, once entered into a licensing agreement, the designer sat back and watched the money pile up instead of checking quality. They wanted to increase sales so they had to increase production and cut corners to keep it inexpensive. For example, handbags would be trimmed in vinyl instead of leather so they could retail at a lower price and therefore sell more. Often licensees were told by the great houses never to sell their product to discounters like Loehmanns, but happy with their royalties they turned a blind eye and licensees would ship to any store they pleased. By the late 1980’s many of the old prestigious fashion houses had a bad image for lack of quality control on licensed goods.

The man responsible for “big business” in licensing is Pierre Cardin, the great couturier and business man. He holds the record for having the most licenses and is the wealthiest French fashion designer with an estimated fortune of over $2.5 billion dollars. After quickly establishing his own couture house in 1950 he would go almost unnoticed until the 60’s when he would become one of the biggest names in fashion. By the late 1980’s Cardin had accumulated more than 800 licenses on everything including apparel, cosmetics, fragrances, food, linens, furniture, and appliances. Almost every manufacturer was happy to put the Pierre Cardin logo on anything. He went so mad with licensing that he was even taken to court for giving the rights to Pierre Cardin lighters to two different companies. His name became so diluted that fragrances and clothing lines bearing his label were being sold at low end department stores like J.C. Penny’s and at high end stores like Saks Fifth Avenue. Who wants a Pierre Cardin coat for $500 dollars when you can get it for $100? It was simply outrageous but it made him very wealthy and successful. Cardin was still going strong in the late 1990’s. He had weathered the storm unlike any other house. In the mid 90’s when other houses were hurting he was quoted as saying, “I don’t understand what they are doing(the other fashion houses), they’re not selling caviar; they’re selling t-shirts, jeans, and underwear. It makes no sense!!! Anyway, I already did all that.” Somehow Cardin had found success through licensing, it hurt his image a little but it made him very rich.

While Pierre Cardin was putting his name on everything, the reigning king of fashion, Yves Saint Laurent was a little more skeptical. For more that 20 years Yves Saint Laurent was the end all and be all of French and world fashion. He was the greatest couturier in the world and every woman wanted to wear Saint Laurent. But even Yves Saint Laurent couldn’t resist the money you could make licensing. YSL’s first license oddly enough was for cigarettes. But Yves stood for quality and nothing ever hurt his image as the world’s preeminent fashion designer. He was able to hold his place due to his success in the licensing and marketing of YSL perfume. In 1978, Yves launched Opium, one of the biggest selling fragrances of all time. Although the product was licensed, Saint Laurent was a huge part of its development and marketing. Opium was a spicy oriental fragrance perfectly suited to the Saint Laurent woman, mysterious and sexy. Opium’s launch party in the US was held on a Chinese junk in New York’s East River with fire works and a slew of international celebrities in attendance. It was the first time a star studded party was given to expose a product to the public, and it was a huge success. Opium’s sales alone reached more than $100 million dollars a year at the height of its popularity. Yves Saint Laurent proved you could keep your prestigious image and make a killing. In a way the success of Opium was the end of fashion as art. The houses didn’t have to worry about clothing sales, they always had licensed perfumes waiting in the wings to help them on.
Today fashion licensing is standard practice. In the beginning when the grand couture houses became greedy, licensing hurt fashion and many an important house was hit. But they quickly learned their lesson and they fought very hard to restore their image. Without licensing houses like Dior and Saint Laurent wouldn’t be household names and only the very wealthy would know the genius that were those names. In my opinion through licensing, the great houses only helped to insure their importance by letting the masses glimpse true glamour.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Who doesn't love an "icon"? Names like Rita Hayworth, Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, Liz Taylor, Catherine Deneuve, and Audrey Hepburn all conjure up the glory and glamour of the past. Everyone knows who they are and although most of us have never even met them we somehow feel a connection. Personally I go through stages with the people I consider icons. As a child I loved Audrey Hepburn. I saw all her films, literally, and obsessed over her image for quite a long time. Next came Liz Taylor in all her Egyptian glory and amazing jewelry. Then Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford, Great Garbo and Bette Davis and in than order. With Bette it lasted for quite a long time, her "forget the world" dramas and larger than life persona entranced me. After several years stuck on Bette Davis I moved on to Marlene Dietrich. Her deep voice and risque pictures kept me on the edge of my seat. After Dietrich came Bardot in all her sex goddess beauty. Finally my latest icon obsession, Catherine Deneuve. The thing about icons is that they're more than just actors or models, they are part of our culture. Icons are such a part of our culture that they become part of us, almost like they're family. It would be my ultimate fantasy to design for the likes of Grace Kelly or Greta Garbo but the sad thing is that most icons are only considered icons after their time is over. I like to think that I've been working with these women since I was a little boy, as they have been working their magic on me since those early days in front of the television.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fashion and Film in the 1930s

The 1930's were a tough time. The depression was on full force and the clouds of war were gathering, but in Hollywood the sun was shining and everyone was glamorous. Here we find Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Barbara Stanwyck, and Carole Lombard just to name a few. These magnificent women were the style leaders of the day and although most of the nation couldn't even afford food, everyone wanted to go see the latest picture. At the pictures you were taken out of ugly reality and into an enchanted world of high drama or slapstick comedy with the players all beautifully dressed.

It was the biggest picture of the 1930's, Gone With the Wind, that made me want to become a fashion designer. There is a certain red dress that Scarlet wears to Ashley's Birthday party that has entranced me since I was a tiny child. I remember watching the movie over and over just to see the red dress. Scarlet O'Hara's red dress is what made me want to design beautiful clothing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Downward Flow Theory

In my opinion "Downward Flow Theory" is still applicable in fashion. Those in the lower rungs of society have always wanted to look more affluent in an attempt to be more socially acceptable. I think "downward flow" is most greatly illustrated with Dior's 1947 "New Look". This dramatic change in style after WWII at first only touched those with access to Dior, but by the late 40's and early 50's the "New Look" shilouette was everywhere. Everyone from Lucille Ball on "I Love Lucy" to the Queen at Ascot and Mothers the world over, wore the "New Look".

Sunday, July 12, 2009

North African dress and the 1960's Jet set

The tribes of North Africa, specifically Morocco, have worn the same garb for almost a thousand years. In the 1960's with the rise of jet travel wealthy people began to visit Morocco and were intranced by its new and exotic feel. As Marrakech and Tangiers grew in popularity so did the traditional dress of the region. It was here the reigning queen of the Jet set, Talitha Getty, was famously photographed in modernized Moroccan dress. Here she entertained fashion designers, musicians, artists, socialites, movie stars, and everyone who was anyone. By the end of the decade this North African "look" was seen in the collections of almost every designer and it was due to her influence.