Sunday, December 26, 2010

Stylish book report The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia

Nina Garcia what is it that makes you tick?  I see you sitting by the runway quiet; seemingly emotionless as you size up the competing would be designers.  Your thoughts are organized and analytical.  Some times your comments are harsh but most often they are constructive.  You look together, well accessorized but unassuming.  Your accent is not familiar, a combination of many places perhaps.  Your smirk is jovial, your eyes genuine and warm.  If I met you in person I would look you straight in the eye because, at the risk of sounding much like a crushing teenager, I want to get to know you.  So I am reading our book-or one of them.

Stylish book report: The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia.

As previously mentioned, I do not like people telling me how to dress.  However, I do love being inspired.  In The Little Black Book of Style Nina Garcia states early on that her goal is not to provide a list of rules for readers to follow.  Instead she begins the book by sharing her personal inspirations then urges readers to look to themselves for the ultimate inspiration.  She offers observations on ten basics principles she feels style icons often share and then offers insights and pop culture references as evidence.  If you love the study of modern style you will love this book.

I was originally intrigued to hear Nina’s voice.  This book did not disappoint.  As she regales scenes from her childhood growing up Columbian and learning to incorporate many styles from around the world I was charmed.  When she, like me in the initial paragraph written before reading the book, talked about the type of woman whose style pulls her in I felt a kinship.  Her references of so many recording artists, movie recommendations and time frames made me want to invite her over for a style film viewing party and girl gabfest.  And when Nina interviewed some of today’s most admired designers for their take on everything from shoes to “not giving a damn” I was in awe.  This is a woman who has lived an incredibly stylish life and continues to traverse each day with an openness to continue to identify the amazing to come.   Intrigue deserved.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Terrible trouble; Pop of color.

When I dress in the morning my thoughts rarely fall to the question, “How does this outfit pledge my allegiance to my local sports team?”  Sure I root for the home team.  Yes, I get excited to attend the occasional game, bathe in the sense of community, and be a member of a jovial crowd routing for a common goal.  Unfortunately the game schedule and opponent team color wheel are not committed to my memory.  
Monday night I watched my Cincinnati Bengals narrowly miss a win against rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the final minutes of the fourth quarter (ok, ok, I may have spent a good portion of the other three quarters channel surfing but I paused thoughtfully when it counted).  I too was disappointed by this loss.  However, when I woke up Tuesday morning and faced my closet I thought, “Inspire my day!  Take an average office outfit and make it wow.  Keep me comfortable, interested, and awake sitting at a desk for 10 hours.”  Mondays loss had been put behind me.
My thought process for getting dressed Tuesday started with the outfit details as it often does.  For the week I concocted a new manicure.  It is French style with purply red tips instead of white.  Just so happens this maroon/red matches the shade of my red patten leather Michael Kors platforms perfectly.  Realizing this it seemed like a logical place to start the creative dressing process.  I wanted to wear something comfortable so I went to the most comfortable and time tested black slacks in my wardrobe.  Then realizing the day was perhaps one of the last unusually warm days of the season and seeing the section of my closet housing professional button down collared shirts was not getting much love, I chose a short sleeve white with black pinstriped top with white collar.  Comfort was achieved but it was kind of boring so I threw on a pop of color in my new favorite way.  I grabbed a long fabric strip of soft jersey and gave it a knot around the neck.  In my mind this concoction was a quickly assembled win for a boring Tuesday.  
Then I got to work and realized how men’s outfits are often assembled.  “Is that a terrible towel?”  asked one of my coworkers referring to the yellow terrycloth towel that Pittsburgh Steelers fans swing above their heads at sporting events.  “What?”  I looked at my outfit and it took me a minute to realize what he was talking about. Clearly this florescent yellow is different than that mustard yellow the steelers claim? We debated the shading.  He was jovial enough through this; as were the next three coworkers that inquired about the yellow swathe.  Yellow black and red, yup, in hindsight those are steelers colors.  
My mind jumped back to a similar oversight last summer.  I was excited to be invited to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game with my cousins, aunts, and uncles; and was excited to find we also had an opportunity to arrive early and watch batting practice.  In that situation I thought about what to wear in sports reference but to be coy about my color introduction I wore mostly black with red nails and accents instead of an all out red ensemble.  This would have worked but then in a rush out the door it was cold so I threw on the functional pop of color, a yellow trench that has brought me so many good memories over the years... Fond memories were not created by the jacket that day.  I arrived to a chorus of “What? Are you rooting for the other team?”  Apparently the opponent was a black and yellow team.  I was forced to remove the jacket and shiver for a few hours.  Even having the coat on my arm, like a flag for the opponent, evoked an uncomfortable feeling of alienation. 
I don’t mind people bringing up this oversight.  In fact I like it.  The criticism and teasing gives me the opportunity to explain my error and grow through the oversight.  Truly this was not a bold statement in opposition of my cities sports leagues,  “Fellow Cincinnatian my intention was not to slap you in the face!”  
What concerns me the most are the people I don’t know that don’t ask.  I am sure my cute pop of color was lost Tuesday on that guy in the bengals jersey staring me down at the gas pump with a look of salty loss on his brow.  “Hey guy pumping gas!  I am a home town supporter!  We are rooting for the same team!  Feel the community?!?  Give me a smile!?!”  I wanted to yell.  “Hey cute new Reds player that just got brought up from the minors!  I really do want you to win!  Come hither so my cousin can get an autograph and I can admire that baby face up close!”  Last Tuesday and last summer mighty Emily’s ensemble had struck out.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

ferocious kitty back on the prowl

I read in a magazine kitten heels are back with a vengeance.  True, their presence was all over the runways this fall.   There was a time when the low heel and pointed toe seemed all I needed for an outfit.  But that was almost two years ago.  That was before I discovered the power of the platform.   I was uncertain I was ready to rediscover such a contradictory trend.

There is a certain sex appeal to a platform pump.  My legs seem to go on forever and my butt is given a little perk.  If arched just right a sky high heel can be as comfortable as a tennis shoe, allowing me to walk gracefully and with confidence.  The right platform takes an outfit to another level.  Sure I may be 6 feet tall in a 4-inch heel with a 1inch platform but the confidence that comes with this new latitude is addictive.  Feeling like a model with legs lengthened to unrealistic proportions while still stepping with comfort is a win, win. 

As most trends often end in extreme, the heights of some of the platforms had become dangerous.  Balance off put, and twisted ankles are the downside of such magical heights. And with an average male height of 5’9” and intimidation easy to find it seemed the power of the pump also had a negative impact on the dating life of the fashonista.  It wasn’t hard to see a change soon in the wind.

I was just not sure I was ready for such a drastic shrinking of the shoe this fall.   It just seemed so drastic; it just seemed so soon.  After a day of attempting to walk quickly to work on stone finished sidewalk in sky high heels not quite arched to perfection, however, I was ready to give a modest heel another try.  Reluctantly I excavated the depths of my closet for the kitten heels left there years ago. 

Oh kitten heels!  I had forgotten how comfortable you are to wear.   How easy it is to keep a long stride with you as my footwear.  The balls of my feet are not burning, even without Dr Scholl’s massaging gel insoles!  I welcome you back with open arms and relaxed toes. 

Still, the demure decoration of a few years ago seems a bit out of place with my new love of ferociousness in fashion.  After Gaga I feel there still needs to be a level of sass in my newly rediscovered little kitties.  I went first for the metallic purple snakeskin print  kitten heel and things just seemed to right.  I paired it with an industrial chic plexiglass necklace for edge and a bold teal/turquoise top.  The mix felt right. 

Comfy Kitten heel
I am not ready to abandon my favorite platforms quite yet but my current rotation must now be expanded to include another type of shoe.   The subtle style and comfort of the kitten heel is worthy of revisit.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taste: Acquiring What Money Can't Buy; A book report.

So what is it that makes a woman stand out in a crowded room or stay in the mind of those around her for an evening, a month, a decade?  Taste. Acquiring What Money Can’t Buy by Letitia Baldrige attempts to answer this question with a study of style and the influential people that wield it over time.  More than a commentary, Taste is an interesting look at art and culture, as well as  a peek at the life of the author herself, a woman that made a career on advising others on matters of taste.
Beginning with an attempt to define the title Letitia, also an authority on manners, artfully manages not to offend any specific tastes as she limits her commentary to kind words while evaluating them.  Process of elimination seems to be the starting point for the analysis.  Letitia gives many examples of what true taste is not, 
Assembling wonderful elements doesn't do it.  Size, fit, and
appropriateness are all essential to style.  We should dress to disguise
one’s imperfections not magnify them. 
She stresses the importance of attention to detail, “even the best clothes cannot compensate for negligent grooming.” (p54)  And presents many arguments for why injecting taste into your regimen is important:
The conspicuous minority that instinctively dress with taste always stand out in a crowd... an attractive part of the scenery.  They are also propelled forward in business and social life.  People want to have them around... They are considered sophisticated and knowledgeable. 
After much analysis and the process of elimination a conclusion is reached with a simple description of taste as an “understanding of what appropriate means.”
Next Letitia looks at taste through the ages and across cultures.  She presents the often omitted observation of the Native American’s sophisticated fashion trade as a precursor for our current love of fur and organic materials.  Then weaves the contribution of French fashion and the House of Worth’s practice of creating mannequins to size garments for their clients great distances abroad into the fit.  She demonstrates her understanding of fashion today and how it was formed.  Expanding the discussion to include social graces, entertaining, and interior design she demonstrates her versatility.
When we were organizing a dinner in honor of a UN official who was
planning a visit to Rome, I suggested that the ambassador...print the guest
of honor’s latest important speech on fine paper and bind it in a
decorative endpaper as a memento for each dinner guest. 
The analysis provides a good sense of the many influences that made fashion and taste today a possibility.  
Letitia concludes her analysis with ample examples of tastemakers throughout history.  These case studies are perhaps the most colorful and endearing portion of the book.  Letitia worked for embassies abroad, she spent time as a social representative for the Kennedy White house, and navigated fashion social circles for decades.  She provides very personal accounts of each of these.  Letitia talks in detail about responding to letters on behalf of Jackie Kennedy.  She talks of the first Ladies passion for creating an environment that represented the residence of the United States in a respectable way.  Letitia talks of the style support team that helped make Jackie and other admired women as memorable as they continue to be  and evidences the strength of the women themselves with examples such as Nan Kemper’s dinner spent pant less in defiance of a dress code keeping women in dresses.  This recounting is entertaining and inspiring.  Insights into each of these situations also provide a feeling of privilege at being held in confidence. Letitia inspires us with her recounting and many examples while providing insight into humanity of the icon.    
Taste: Acquiring What Money Can’t Buy by Letitia Baldrige is not a book to tell you how to dress but rather it is an investigation of the underlying elements that have worked for those deemed iconic in the past.  The author offers historical context to design elements and personal observations about common practices of some of the most famous over the ages in an attempt to find a common thread.  While some similarities are present, Letitia comes to the conclusion it is really each person’s environment, focus, and individual opinion that matter most.  
Baldrige, Letitia.  Taste. Acquiring What Money Can’t Buy.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dreams of chiffon dance in my head

Ralph Lauren
Spring RTW 2011

I have a dream... It is of white stone, hound’s-tooth, herringbone, horseback riding, roadsters, and a little manicured courtyard with peacocks meandering.  It is of chiffon floating across shiny marble and effortless comfort under the weight of glittering things.  I think it is a dream shared by Ralph Lauren and dreamed since I was a girl reading the Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, and the Secret Garden.  And so when "I grow up" fast seems looming and the roadster and marble just seem a bit out of reach what is a girl to do? 
Ralph Lauren
Black Label ad 2010
Ralph Lauren Black Label ad 2010

Rhinestones and plaid

a comforter tie
I will swath myself in sturdy fabrics, satin and rhinestones, or perhaps the curtains (or a piece of comforter) shiny and stiff.  I will wrap myself in mystery and look coy when asked where I am going.  Most importantly I will believe this is just the beginning of endless possibilities…

Satin and rock climbing

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day at the races

Yesterday I hopped on a bus of fun people and spent the day at Keeneland watching horse racing.  I love Keeneland as it is the epitome of Kentucky horse country.  Ladies dress like ladies, and men don suits, ties, and french cuffs.  Think Kentucky Derby only with the glitz and glam removed and in its place solid love of the races, ivy, and old world charm.  It is a day of drinking but the atmosphere makes it refined.

You know you are getting close when the grass stretches for miles soft, vivid green, portioned off with intersecting white slatted horse fences.  The stone walls rise and form the stately buildings at Keeneland.  My favorite part is the area when you first enter.  Horses get paraded before each race.  There isn't a bad looking animal there but I like to pretend I know what I am talking about as I comment on how good each animal looks.

Inside the betting and the racing is the main event but the people watching could be a close second.  The crowd is a mixture of everyone.  Heavy hitting gamblers intermingled with dressed up young professionals, and families with children in tow.  Bourbon is the liquor of choice and if you want a beer the Kentucky Ale also has the sweet oak flavor of bourbon as a favorite.

 I chose my outfit looking for something comfortable enough to sustain a day of drinking but ladylike enough to fit the scene.  Chilly morning but warming in the afternoon.  My current favorite jacket and pumps, and a go to dress, but I wanted a punch so i added the purple tights.  I loved it more by the minute.  The tights got a lot of attention, some good, and some from people that didn't get it.  Either way, I still loved it!   

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dali Lama Visit

The Dali Lama

So this is not fashion centric but I went to see the Dali Lama speak today and I wanted to share.  His message was important and true but nothing complicated or drastically different.  The impactful thing about hearing him is he speaks a message and then he lives it consistently, persistently, and without ulterior motives.  That is powerful. 

He started by thanking the man that introduced him with a beautiful long white scarf of some kind.  He also finished by wrapping one of these same scarves on all of the people that thanked him on stage.  I do not know the symbolism of this scarf although I am sure there is some, but it had a beautiful sheen and was long enough and light enough to wrap a large man up in it.  I want one. 

Then he introduced himself as he sat on a couch and took off his shoes and crossed his legs on the couch.  He put on a Miami University visor and indicated he needed to keep the light out of his eyes so he could look into the crowd and have a conversation with the crowd.  He explained at the end we had the freedom to ask any question we would like but he indicated he had the freedom to choose whether to answer or not.  He was a bit difficult to understand in the beginning and had a man sitting next to him helping find the perfect adjective if he seemed to pause too long.  As he continued the Dali Lama became clearer.

The topic was Ethics in the modern world.  The Dali Lama pointed out we are all the same in heart, mind, and spirit.  Everyone has the right to survive and to pursue a happy life.  He indicated there are two types of ethics.  There are ethics with religion and ethics separate from religion.  He indicated it is important to remember that ethics are important in a secular way.  He also pointed out “secular” is often misinterpreted as being against religion but it is not it is inclusive of both religious and those that are not.  Ghandi and the first president in India were religious in their personal lives but wrote the first Constitution of India was secular.  

From birth we are all appreciative of affection.  From birth we receive mothers care, milk, and touch.  It is in our blood this experience of affection.  When in the presence of true affection there is no stress, no anxiety.   Around those that do not show affection there is distrust, suspicion, and it is bad for your health.  There is a biological need for affection.  He gave the example of a parrot that he had as a pet when he was young.  One of his teachers regularly came to visit and each time would feed the parrot nuts.  One time he held out an empty finger and the parrot attempted to regurgitate to give him something to eat from its own stomach.  The Dali Lama was so impressed by this response he wanted it for himself so he started giving the bird nuts also but the motivation was different and he always got a different response.  Even animals can sense the motives behind affection. 

He also spoke of community.  Even bees need to work together, altruism.  Happy life is dependant on the community.  That sense of community brings inner peace, compassion.  Genuine friendship is based on trust.  It is essential to come into the community with an open heart; to open heartedly give trust.  The other side of this scenario is to keep a distance from those around you; it creates distrust and fear and cannot foster community.  He indicated this affection comes from early experiences.  As a child to receive affection creates a mentally and physically stronger person.  The child deprived of this affection as a young person is has a scar with them that leads them to suspicion through their entire life.  Constant fear and hatred eats the immune system. 

He also talked of anger.  He quoted the book Prisoner of Anger, that 90% of anger is mental projection not reality.  Too many emotions come from not seeing reality.  He indicated all methods should be realistic.  Don’t use a hammer to kill a fly.   Must know the 6 dimensions of reality and if cant research and learn them then you must be objective.  If you cant be objective then you must investigate so everything is rooted in reality.  You cannot do this if you are distant, irritated, or angered, as the mind cannot think right.  Calmness in every situation is very important to be able to bring compassion and inner strength.

He talked of training ones mind to achieve long-term benefits.  He indicated we are all interdependent.  Countries around the world must develop a sense of “we” that is global.  There is no more “we” and “they.”  Problems today around the world are negligence and wrong policy: violence.  He indicated Iraq and Afghanistan situations were good policy, to bring democracy to these countries, but the method of violence was not good. 

The 21st century should be of dialogue.  We are bound to face conflict of opinion but must talk through it and think, “this person is a part of me.” We must promote this spirit of dialogue.  He has a vision of a generation of dialogue in the 21st century.  He indicated people in their 20s and 30s are responsible for peace in the 21st century.  This 21stcentury we must train in conflict to find peaceful means.  We must make “war” obsolete or out of date, viewing it as a century old idea.  Selling weapons to others thinking this may keep peace is horrible and doesn’t solve anything. 

The Dali Lama casually asked us to look at ourselves, look at those around us, and look to the future with an attitude of peace.  The whole speech was effortless.  He naturally flowed from one topic to another.  While there was no stated outline and he indicated he does not plan out his topics in advance, his message was clear, and cohesive.   

1.  A woman introduced herself by saying al-salamo a'laikomwith and indicated she is a concerned Muslim woman.  She asked, “how would you define compassion and how can we combat misrepresentations of individual religions?”
            -Dali Lama indicated compassion is love and kindness, and it often comes from attachment to familiar things
            -Human intelligence and awareness allows us to extend this compassion to an infinite people without bias
            -“Unbiased” we can extend concern for the well being of an enemy or someone we do not know- this is compassion. 
After defining compassion he attempted to address some of the misconception this woman voiced concern about:
            - He indicated all religions carry the same message of compassion
            - He indicated he had a friend that is Muslim that explained to him practitioners of the Muslim faith must extend compassion to all things so if they do not practice this, if someone is violent or sheds the blood of another they are not truly practicing this faith
            -He indicated that his friend also told him the true meaning of  “jihad” is to combat ones own inner negativity and anything else is a misinterpretation

2. Everyday we hear about new oppressions.  What is the best way to combat these without ourselves falling to that level?
            -The Dali Lama started by indicating the media has a responsibility for this.  They have a responsibility to present the truth in an unbiased way. 
            -He also indicated that human nature is generally good.  Bad things are still “news” because they are not the norm, if they were and more people were being killed than nurtured the population would decline and it is not and this is a good sign.  He also indicated we must recognize works of love also.
            -We must promote values, promote religious harmony and the remedy of harmony must be presented clearly.

3. What are the similarities between Christianity and Buddhism?
            -Love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, self-discipline, and charity
            - He indicated the Buddhist and Christian monasteries are very similar
            -Dedicating oneself to service is a great work and many nuns and Christians do this just
            - The Dali Lama indicated he felt the Christian promotion of education and health resources are very good; promoting and providing education is the greatest contribution.
            - He also chuckled while talking of missionary work as he indicated this sometimes brings conflict and not good.  Often times missionaries work so hard for the conversion it loses it’s meaning.  He indicated keeping traditions is good.  Different religious methods don’t really matter as they all have the same mission to promote love.  
            -He indicated he respects and admires other religions

4. What is the importance/role of comparative religion education?
            -He indicted Education is the key factor in peace
            -Humans have great potential for peace but education is the key to achieving it.
            -Me must teach modern ethics and knowledge of other religions is important to have a sense of compassion for others
            -Too much attachment to the familiar is a challenge and this education creates a broadened and sophisticated view

5. Clash of civilizations, much of it is political but also religious in nature.  How can we not be divided?
            - Again the Dali Lama indicated education is key
            - Most causes of religious conflict are not about religion but about power, economic interest, and position.  Clever people use the name of religion for their own agenda and innocent people are manipulated by this.
            -Isolation to one religion does not foster community; we can keep tradition of individual religions and still have one community
            -He quoted Livingston, “6billion (at the time) human beings each have different chromosomes, and different views of reality.”
            -There are always contradictions in teachings but it is the willingness to follow along, and listen that brings us closer to God.
            -Remember “if I do a good thing I will get a good thing tomorrow.  If I do a bad thing I will get that back also.”
            -He closed by saying, “religions are medicine and food for the mind.  If you go to a restaurant and have the same food everyday it gets boring.  Variety is good.”
            -There are differences and there are also common practices.  Education is important to identify them.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lemon Chiffon

At first I didn’t think much of it but then it rattled around in my mind and popped back into my thoughts a week later.  Something about this color combination speaks to me.  It speaks to me the way a warm ray of sun speaks to my skin on a cool fall day, or a cool breeze whispers in my ear on a warm day.  It speaks to me the way a delicious light, from scratch, lemon chiffon pie speaks to my tongue; with a lightness, an unobtrusive gentleness, a fun youthfulness with some sophistication--- Wait, this is lemon chiffon pie and I will be wearing it.  Yummy. 

I saw a picture of Delfina wearing Valentino in Bazaar and it has haunted me.
Pictured here: Dree Hemmingway and Delfina Delettrez Fendi 
Valentino Spring 2010 Couture Collection

My first iteration of this color combination is pulled from the depths of my closet.  It consists of a Limited top from the 1990s’, winter white wide leg Massimo Dutti pants I bought in Hong Kong, and a thrifted yellow polyester vintage sleeveless button down.  I plan to continue to look for methods to bake this color combo in additional ways.  I am on the hunt for a bolt of neon yellow chiffon.  I plan to roll myself in it and call it a day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tight-rolled pants changed my life

Last night was a late night.  One of too many.  I worked until nine, had dinner at eleven, didn’t fall asleep  until four but was back up at seven.
This morning dazed and groggy but still moving.  I went to my closet looking for comfort but found a hot shoe and build an outfit around it.  In my head it was a neutral cigarette pant, a comfortable sweater, sleek hair, and a hint of playful color.  But flash to the cubical: I felt nothing special.  
Then a thought crossed my mind that changed my mood and my day.  I tight rolled my pants and have nothing to say but it changed my life.  Suddenly I remembered Ray-bans and pop songs, florescent swatches, and popped collars!  I felt young and free, like ten million dollars.
Tight rolled and fresh
It was a throw back but i was feeling fresh.  I like to think my coworkers were maybe even impressed.  I folded the side, rolled once and again.  The rainbow leopard pumps stood out like supportive friends.  
Maybe not a red carpet number but enough of an upper to keep me from slumber.  Listen to me, im losing my mind, this blog post is turning into a rhyme.  Clearly delirious. I need some sleep.  This is getting serious.

Boston for a wedding!

Sooo... I knew i was only going to be out of town for four days, and one of the days I already had an outfit chosen for me because I was going to be in a wedding, but I still ended up with 4 pairs of shoes in 2 suitcases.... plus the pair of black suede flats I threw in at the last minute because i realized i had only packed heels...ok, plus the pair of platform high heel boots i wore on the plane...
Clearly I did not have a vision or clear head when packing.  I did not have time to color coordinate multiple outfit options to go with one pair of shoes or one clutch.  Clearly, as I managed to fit 4 clutches in the travel bags as well.  I realized this might have been a bit when excessive when I managed to get all of my "essentials" in my rolling carryon and the rest of my "options" went in the giant bag that I paid an additional $25 to check and lug on the plane.  
When I arrived in Boson however I felt liberated!  Liberated because I had packed enough sweaters, jackets, and top options to suit the somewhat drastic temperature change from my starting point to this destination.  I had the perfect pumps, shooties, and heels to draw praise in each setting I adventured.  I had an outfit for dinners, casual lounging, and for dramatic mountain climbing.  

I was able to quickly pull out my hanging attache and hang it conveniently in the bathroom.  My exploded lotion bottle was no match for the large zip lock bag that encased it.  Most importantly, I managed to get a bridesmaid dress, a rehearsal dinner dress, and a few silk tops rolled, packed, and traveled from Cincinnati to Boston without a wrinkle!   
So what if i didn't wear everything i brought?  I had the perfect brassiere for each ensemble, a complementary bauble for each combination, and I felt appropriate at every turn.  I apologize if there is a porter somewhere nursing a hernia or pulled back muscle.  It was worth the extra effort as to me this was a packing success!

Congratulations to Alicia and Brian for a beautiful wedding!  The ceremony was beautiful.  The decor was a perfect fall bouquet of color set overlooking serene golf greens and changing fall foliage.  The dress and suit color scheme of midnight blue maids’ dresses,’ black tuxedos,  and shades of orange for ties and flowers was unexpected but worked as a sophisticated look with a unique punch of fun!  I laughed, I didn't cry but the whole thing was personal and touching and I thought about crying were it not for the dramatic lashes perched daintily on my face.  I also spent a day recovering from all the dancing and stylish partying that took place so you know I had fun.  The wedding was a successful celebration of nuptials!

I loved wearing this dress.  The bridesmaids’ cleavage was the talk of the reception, and, while it was a bit nerve racking that the designer did not think to increase the amount of material from waist to the top of the sweetheart neckline with each dress size, it was worth it to look back at pictures and think, “Shoot, I look good!” 

Alicia and Brian, may each year of your marriage be an equal mix of touching moments, stylish celebrations with family and good friends, and all around great times.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A day of art appreciation in Cincinnati

The vibrant blue sky lays backdrop to the vibrant, translucent yellow and red leaves of fall.  The sun shone warm on it all and a gentle breeze cooled.  It is a good day to be alive.  I took this beautiful fall day to appreciate art in Cincinnati. 

First stop was Holy Cross church in Mount Adams for THE GLOBAL TREE PROJECT HANGING GARDEN by Shinji Turner Yamamoto Not to be confused with Holy Cross church of the immaculata also in Mount Adams, Holy Cross Church that holds this exhibit is “the old monastery” at 1055 St Paul Place.  This exhibit is striking and beautiful; a marvel of construction with a living tree suspended high above the ground.  A second dead tree’s roots are used for support but striking is the visual representation of this tree as roots.  What depth and girth of the roots for a tree so demure above ground.   I could not help but think, “such is the key for survival in an equally unstable everyday.”

Global Tree Project: HANGING GARDEN 2010 dead and live white birches 12 m (40 feet) tall 19th century Holy Cross Church, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA (National Register of Historic Places)  photo credit: Shinji Turner-Yamamoto

This exhibit is further heightened by the contrast of the sustained life of the brilliant white birch tree against the muted remains of the dilapidated monastery.  The curator shared the effort and work that went into finding and securing this location.  Deconsecrated in the 1970s as a church the now privately owned space has sat as storage space for much of the last 3 decades slowly crumbling.  For me seeing this was also a marvel.  Despite its rust, grit, and crumble the decommissioned church maintains a rustic majesty.  It is interesting to see the bones of such a structure and to be allowed to view a space long closed to the public.  Arches and remnants of gilded paint remain while stark scars stand where catholic frescos were cut from the walls.  Still there remains most visible a chalice, repeated cross and crucifix pattern, golden rays depicting holiness, and the saying, “the passion of our lord Jesus Chris be always in our hearts” as a backdrop for this triumphant marvel of artistry and life.  

The Global Tree Project exhibit remains open until October 18th when there will be a ceremony to remove the tree from its current perch and return it to the soil it so desperately needs.  You still have time to check it out.  A beautiful companion exhibit DISSAPEARANCES by Shinji Turner Yamamoto is also on display at the Contemporary Art Center.  I visited this exhibit a few weeks ago on a cold day when indoor viewing was preferred.  The artist removed some of the pieces of aged plaster from crumbling Holy Cross church, manipulated them, infused them with gold and silver and made beauty out of the forgotten.  This exhibit runs until January 30, 2011 Being able to see both pieces of this instillation was a treat as the two exhibits, gilded crumblings', and the living tree suspended and floating, are made more impactful by the other.

Next stop on my day of art appreciation was the Cincinnati Art Museum , also in Mount Adams, for WEDDED PERFECTION a collection of wedding dresses from the past two hundred years, and MODERN WOMAN an exhibit focusing on the works of Thomas Gainsborough.  These two exhibits are currently referred to in the advertisements as, “the Vow and the Wow,” and are overlapping in showing until January 2, 2011. 

I love fashion, I feel it is art, and there is nothing I love more than a celebration of stylish women and fashion as art in an exhibit.  That is what drew me to the museum today.  I must admit I do not think I have been to the art museum since elementary, maybe high, school but the experience was quite good.   I had few expectations but the visit exceeded what few expectations I had.  First off, did you know admission is free all the time?  Parking is $4 but if you buy anything in the gift shop then your parking is free!  Like I need encouragement to shop…  I wandered through the halls for a few hours, checked out both of my destination exhibits, but still did not get to see and explore every area… I did get a chance to explore the gift shop.  Cincinnati Art Museum may be my new go-to-spot for the next few rainy days.

Back to the exhibits:

THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH AND THE MODERN WOMAN was a little bit of a surprise for me.  You enter with a neon sign, “Modern woman,” and then find yourself among portraiture from Georgian England.  I didn’t know anything about Thomas Gainsborough (totally outing myself as an art novice) and was expecting something more along the lines of the American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity that I visited at the Met in NYC this September.  The Met exhibit was a combination of fashion and multimedia presentation depicting women from the last century and today; it followed a format that would have mirrored the Wedded Perfection exhibit.  So I was surprised when I walked into MODERN WOMAN but I was not disappointed.  I found I would have wanted to hang out with Thomas Gainsborough had I been a woman in Georgian England. 

Reading every piece of explanation available for the portraits in this exhibit, and having a thoughtful explanation of historical context and art dissection available, was really what made Thomas Gainsborough cool to me.  There was ample example of his skill as an artist, and the explanation of his beliefs and state of mind made me a fan.

Gainsborough was a famous portraiture of his time but his style was known as the contemporary in this area.  The strong brush strokes I would have noticed without explanation but knowing that this made him the modern artist of his day spoke to me as a novice lover of modern art.  The strength of the brush strokes blending the subject into the background and creating a less detailed background had the effect of a photograph that leaves the background out of focus.  I love that he focused detail on the subject faces, and that he showed movement with a combination of detail and broad strokes so that trees appeared to dance in the breeze.  He also paid attention to dress.  Portrait information pointed out the message each style of dress sent, from traditional for the time, to barely detailed and so looking undressed, to the highest fashion of the time.  The painting of Mrs. Siddons, an actress of the day, depicted a blue on blue-stripped dress that in person appeared to have been a light blue burned out velvet or perhaps satin ribbon stripes on silk chiffon.  I love this.  I want to make a dress out of this fabric even though I only know it from the painting!  Another painting had what appeared to be gilded fabric pressed into pleats on the hem of a dress.  Upon close examination it was a smushing of gold paint that appeared to be scrapped off with a comb.   Without knowing the historical context I noticed the focus on texture. I love his beautiful attention to detail, and thoughtfully placed lack of detail.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788), England
Ann Ford (later Mrs. Philip Thicknesse)
oil on canvas
Bequest of Mary M. Emery, 1927.396

I also loved Gainsborough’s use of light and highlighting of strong women.  Each of his subjects detailed faces’ were illuminated in contrast to the blurred darker backgrounds, almost jumping off of the canvas.  You really only get the full effect of this skill by viewing the painting in person and I feel like the use of lighting is the mark of good art.  If you can make this jump off the canvas and smack me in the face, you must be good.  So he clearly had that going for him.  There was one painting of Ann Ford where the light focus was not so much on her face.  I wasn’t sure if maybe the painting was dirty or if it was intentional.  At first I thought the focus was more on her chest.  I looked closely and thought I might have seen what was supposed to be a hint of nipple! I was confused; Thomas was a supporter of strong and talented women in a time when this made them somewhat scandalous.  He educated his daughters and did not think of them as property to be married off as so many attitudes of the day.  Why would he focus attention on the chest?  But then I read the accompanying description of Ann Ford, a talented musician in her day when there were few women musicians.  Then my attention focused on the Edwardian guitar with its neck across her chest, the cello in the background was further confirmation.  I could almost hear her tell Thomas, “Make it not about me but about the music.” I was quickly restored to Gainsborough fan status.   The exhibit may not have depicted modern day women but it did a great job of conveying the artists support of the strength and so many of the characteristics present in women of today.  I loved THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH AND THE MODERN WOMAN.

WEDDED PERFECTION: TWO CENTURIES OF WEDDING GOWNS was pretty much just what its name states, a showcase of dresses through the ages.  It was beautiful to see the artistry of so many varieties of gowns, great to see changing trends and familiar traditions, and refreshing to hear the origins and statements behind many of the designs. 

Wedding Dress (detail) 1887,
silk, beads, faux pearls,
Gift of Mrs. Frances
Lamson Eaton, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred W. Lamson, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin
Whitney Lamson, Jr., 1971.320

Items that made me take note in the exhibit:
A.     The repeated reference to Vera Wang’s influence on the modern day bridal gown.  Known for her simplicity and modern form she is credited with being the influence of the day much like House of Worth influenced the gowns a few hundred years ago.  I had not thought much about it but looking back to the 80s with poof sleeves, ball skirts, beads, fake flowers, lace, and ample clouds of polyester all in one culmination of two hundred years of dress accoutrements placed together on a top heavy bride… THANK YOU Vera Wang for being the first to bring it back down a notch. 
B.     I must tell my friend Mega about one of the best done wedding dresses with feathers as embellishment I have seen on display in this exhibit…also Vera Wang
C.     Orange blossoms and branches were often attached to dresses as a symbol of fertility in the past as it is the only tree to flower and bear fruit at the same time.  And it would be a kick ass greenery option for wedding decor.  Why don’t people use that now to decorate for weddings?
D.    Wedding dress = statement of personal style for brides be it 1820 or 2010.  From honoring tradition and sharing gowns; to avant garde and re-wearing gowns to parties I loved that the exhibit acknowledged so many details and statements that have been lost over the years
E.     These dresses are sexy.  Exposed cleavage and shoulders today are the corseted waists, hourglass figures, and exposed ankles of yesterday.
F.     Lace yellows and changes color with age.  It is helpful to have accompanying pictures to get an idea of what the dress looked like in its prime.
G.     Corseting your waist to 12 inches is ridiculous.  While the exhibit didn’t speak of it the women walking through the exhibit did.  Did you know the corseting actually moved the placement of organs in our tethered ancestors?  One onlooker also credited such body morphology as a contributing factor to death in childbirth.  Very glad that the freakishly small waist is no longer a measure of coolness today.
H.    The details of embroidery, beading, lace work, etc is without contention art.

This exhibit found the perfect ending for me as I was leaving and seeing the setup for a wedding at the art museum.  The marble staircase, the cool quiet of emptying halls, and strategic lighting were oh so romantic as the bridal party bustled through for pre wedding pictures on the courtyard lawn.

A beautiful day spent admiring inspiration that has been right there but I never took the time to see.  I drove home with the windows opened and admired the art of the day.