Friday, April 14, 2017

Summer of Love, where everyone was part of the show

A few of the fashions from the Summer of Love Experience at the de Young Museum, San Francisco, April 8-August 20, 2017.

It was during the Summer of Love that I decided to move to San Francisco. I was 9 that summer, so my move had to wait until I was old enough to be on my own. But in June of 1967, my grandmother, Bootsie, and I took a jet plane from home in New Orleans to California. It was my first time to fly, the first of many firsts that summer. My mother had died eight months previous and I wanted to be with her sister and her husband, my cool California Aunt Caryl and my hip Uncle Don, more than anything. Anticipating the trip was my constant daydream.

The reality was far more exciting, entrancing and life-changing than I ever imagined. We took an eye-opening stroll down Haight street. The girls wore a mix of printed cotton prairie dresses, embroidered jeans and Mexican peasant blouses with desert boots or were barefoot. Even as a child,  I could see how cool and casual it all was. I loved it. Back home, I was still wearing ruffly dresses with matching shoes and purse to church on Sunday, which suddenly seemed very boring and not cool.

One night, my aunt and uncle had a party and the living room was lit only by a black light and the just released Sgt. Pepper's album was played over and over. I drew hearts and crazy daisy flowers on my arms and legs with glowing fluorescent chalk and danced to every song. The summer ended, I was bereft, but I knew I would be back. In my flowered canvas suitcase, I had psychedelic posters to redecorate my pastel yellow girly bedroom, a chambray shirt I'd embroidered with peace symbols and a tie-dyed T-shirt appliquéd with old lace. I was going back to the South, but I would never be the same.

Now, the de Young Museum, situated just a few blocks from Haight Ashbury, is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love with an exhibit of the fashion, posters, music, photos, film and ephemera of the time. As Dede Wilsey said on opening night, "It was a cultural revolt with major reverberations and a lasting affect on many aspects of modern life."

Leslie Rowan, Top, ca. 1970. Cotton velvet with sequin flower appliqués and ribbon trim. Collection of Peter Kaukonen. Jackie Sarti, Customized landlubber jeans, ca. 1970. Denim with cotton patches, ribbons, appliqué and reverse-appliqué San Blas Island (Panama) cotton "mola," and applied rhinestone studs. Collection of Peter Kaukonen. Jacki Sarti, Choker, ca. 1970. Leather with beads. Collection of Peter Kaukonen Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

I love the hippie-dandy quality of the embroidered velvet, flowing sleeves and choker.

Betsey Johnson, Dress, 1970–1972. Knitted wool. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of James Elliot, 1983.95 Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

It's surprising how wearable many of the outfits would be today. I would love to have this Betsey Johnson dress to wear now.

Birgitta Bjerke (100% Birgitta), “Hands” dress, ca. 1967-1968. Crocheted wool. Collection of the artist Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
The colors and the graphic quality of this dress are striking and originally an expression of sexual freedom. But today, the hands are ironic and bring to mind Trump's pussy grabbing brag.

I love this look, it reminds me of something my Aunt Caryl wore in the late '60's.

At the exhibit opening last week, some of the originals were there. The ones who made the Summer of Love with their art, passion and political activism. Above is Judy Goldhaft of the Diggers. When I asked Judy to pose for the photo, she happily responded with '60's sass and style: a huge smile and flash of her great lace tights.

Judy explains the Diggers: "The Diggers were performers. The Diggers had a sense of humor. The Diggers were open to flashes of fun, improvisation. What's the most outrageous thing you can think of to do? Let's do it! ...
And if you said you were a Digger then you were a Digger. Well, what could you do to be a Digger? You put 'free' in front of something, and then you do it. Free food. Free store."

I did make it back to California the following summer. These shorts are not from the exhibit. They're mine and I appliquéd the summer of 1968. I still have them and love them.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

You may ask, "What does this have to do with me?"

Comme des Garçons, A/W 2012-13, Photo: Mark Segal, Model: Monika Sawicka

ModeMuseum, the fashion museum in Antwerp, had an exhibition last year “Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th Century Silhouette.” It's a fascinating study of fashion design that was new and different from anything before. In the 1950's and 1960's, Cristóbal Balenciaga took the emphasis away from the waist, creating architectural shapes that were flattering and elegant. In the 1980's, young Japanese designers, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake, were a shocking sensation in Paris with their loose fitting, oversized layers. They in turn influenced the young Belgium designers, Antwerp Six +1. The concepts of these designers are influencing designers today.

With our eyes accustomed to a daily onslaught of the same jeans and t-shirts on every woman, man and child on the street, even the mildest style difference can be shocking. The images below are from the "Game Changers" exhibit and they are extreme. But it's fun to suspend judgement for the moment and enjoy the colors and the shapes.

But I hear you ask, “What does this have to do with me getting dressed for the day?” Think of this like a aperitif, but instead of waking up your tastebuds, it stimulates your eyes and you might see your old closet contents in a new way.

Webster’s defines silhouette as “the outline of a body viewed as circumscribing a mass.” It’s the shape and overall volume of clothing on the body. It’s the difference of having a defined waist or no waist. It’s wearing wide-legged pants or wearing skinny jeans. We all present a silhouette whether we choose to be aware of it or not. Studying this exhibit has heightened my awareness of the silhouette. I usually go no farther than asking myself (or hubby Matt) whether something makes me look heavier or thinner. But for conscious dressing, I'm discovering that there’s more to it than that. 

Comme des Garçons, A/W 2012-13, Photo: Mark Segal, Model: Monika Sawicka
Iris Van Herpen, ‘Micro’, haute couture S/S 2012, Photo: Ronald Stoops

Cristobal Balenciaga, A/W 1958, Photo: Tom Kublin, Courtsey: Balenciaga Archives

Cristobal Balenciaga, A/W 1967, Photo: Balenciaga Archives

Cristobal Balenciaga, A/W 1958, Photo: Tom Kublin, Courtesy: Balenciaga Archives

Maison Martin Margiela, A/W 2000-01, Photo: Marina Faust

Comme des Garçons, ‘Body meets Dress, Dress meets Body’, S/S 1997, Photo: Yannis Vlamos

Comme des Garçons, A/W 2012-13, Photo: Sophie Delaporte

Dries Van Noten, S/S 2012, Photo: Patrice Stable

Issey Miyake, 1990-2015, Photo: Francis Giacobetti

Issey Miyake, 1990-2015, Photo: Francis Giacobetti

Ann Demeulemeester, S/S 2009, Photo: Dan & Corinne Lecca

Maison Martin Margiela, S/S 1989, Photo: Tatsuya Kitayama

Georgina Godley, Sport Couture, A/W 1990, Photo: Georgina Godley

Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th Century Silhouette, MOMU Fashion Museum, Antwerp

Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th Century Silhouette, MOMU Fashion Museum, Antwerp

Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th Century Silhouette, MOMU Fashion Museum, Antwerp

Friday, February 10, 2017

A dose of sublime elegance

Exhibition poster. Marilyn Monroe wears a Dior design during The Last Sitting photographed by Bert Stern for Vogue at the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles, June 1962. © Bert Stern.

Some people go for the puppy or kitten videos, others post scenes of nature. While these certainly give me a needed distraction from the disturbing state of politics today, there's no escape like momentarily sinking into a world of beauty and elegance. To calm my nerves after obsessively reading and watching the news and as a reward for taking the latest action (writing letters and postcards to my senators and other elected officials), I decided to pay a visit to the childhood home of Christian Dior.

On February 12, it will be 70 years since Christian Dior presented his first collection, his post-war antidote to austerity and drabness. Using 10 to 25 yards of fabric and accentuating the waist, hips and bosom, his designs were not modern, but his "New Look" answered a deep need for beauty and reassurance.

Christian Dior was born here in 1905 and was nostalgic about it all his life, incorporating pink and grey colors in his designs and the scents of rose and lily of the valley in his perfumes.

Museum shows are such a great opportunity to study a theme in depth and a great resource of curated imagery, information and point of view. Even if I can't make it to a particular exhibit, at least I can do online research and request access to the images. I didn't make it to Granville in Normandy France for the Christian Dior Museum's show, "Women in Dior – Sublime Elegance of a Portrait," but they kindly shared their images.

Curated by Florence Müller, the show pays tribute to Dior dresses and the women who wore them. Here's a quote from the exhibit:

"The clothes a woman wears communicate a lot about her personality, unspoken clues to who she is for the world to decipher. The array of designs created by Christian Dior, and then by his successors, has consistently enchanted a vast number of women who find what they need to express their individuality in the beautifully crafted lines. Ever since 1947, this synergy has produced a long line of elegantly-clad women who have a close relationship with their Dior outfits, unfailing witnesses to every highlight of their lives."

The cover for the exhibition book. Angélique dress by Mats Gustafson, 2016. © Mats Gustafson.

The women featured in the book written by biographer and fashion journalist Laurence Benaïm are the many of the most glamorous women, past and present. To review the list is a study of fascinating lives. 

They are:
HRH Princess Grace of Monaco
The Duchess of Windsor
Diana, Princess of Wales
Countess de Ribes
Leonor Fini, a very interesting Argentine surrealist painter
Olivia de Havilland
Jackie Kennedy
Patricia López-Willshaw (fascinating story)
Francine Weisweiller, muse to Jean Cocteau
Marilyn Monroe
Charlize Theron
Elizabeth Taylor
Edmonde Charles-Roux, French Vogue editor, novelist and biographer of Chanel
Zizi Jeanmaire, French dancer with great style and pizazz
Mitzah Bricard, muse to Christian Dior, he said "Ms. Bricard is one of those rare people whose only reason for living is elegance." She was the leopard print personified.
Suzanne Luling, childhood friend and original Dior public relations directrice
Carmen Colle
Marlene Dietrich
Jennifer Lawrence
Natalie Portman
Marion Cotillard
Emilia Clarke

Geneviève Page wears a Christian Dior dress during the French Film Festival in London in 1957.
© Keystone-France.

 Lady Diana arrives in Buenos Aires, November 23, 1995. She carries the Dior handbag that she will eventually popularize, which will become the famous Lady Dior. © Tim Graham/Getty Images.

 Portrait of Mitzah Bricard, circa 1950. All rights reserved.

Princess Margaret accompanied by Sir Oliver Harvey while arriving to the Bal du Cercle Interallié benefitting the British Hertford Hospital in Paris, November 21, 1951. © Rue des Archives/AGIP.

Rihanna chose a design from the Autumn-Winter 2015 haute couture collection to attend the Spring-Summer 2016 ready-to-wear collection’s runway show in Paris, October 2, 2015. © Getty Images for Dior.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Miss Pat Clark, Air Hostess

Pat Clark in 1948, one of the first airline hostesses for TWA. 
She's wearing the uniform designed by Howard Greer.

Air hostess, stewardess or flight attendant -- while the title has changed through the years, the job has always been connected to a sense of adventure, independence and glamour. In early December, I organized a tour of the "Fashion in Flight" show at the San Francisco International airport. I wrote about the show here. Among the twenty tour attendees was one of the first TWA (Transcontinental and Western Air) air hostesses, Pat Wunderling. She is the mother of a friend of mine and I was thrilled to have her there and hear firsthand about her experiences.

She was a WAVE in Naval Air Transport in WWII, flying between Oakland, California and Hawaii. She applied to TWA but was turned down because she didn't meet the minimum height requirement, but she persisted. Once they considered her military experience she was hired. Flying before the jet era, she was an air hostess on the prop planes DC-3's and Constellations ("Connies"), flying the West Coast region from 1947-1949. She married in 1949 and had to leave her job as it was against regulations to be a married air hostess.

Howard Hughes was her boss and TWA was known as the "Airline to the Stars" as a lot of Hollywood people liked to party in San Francisco. Pat remembers having Mickey Rooney on her flight a few times, along with other celebrities.

The erudite John H. Hill, Assistant Director for the SFO Museum, led us on a fascinating story and fact-filled two-hour tour of the "Fashion in Flight" exhibit.

Pat is standing on the far right in the tweed turtleneck. She is looking at a copy of the TWA uniform she wore while John explains the history of the uniform designed by Howard Greer. Pat remembers uniform regulations were strict and if they weren't followed it could mean losing your job. She told us the story of one colleague showing up to work in open-toe shoes, which was not regulation. Pat thought fast and advised her friend to stuff the toe with carbon paper, so the black paper blended in with the leather.

The darling and daring Pat Wunderling, with her custom-made uniform. She brought it to share with the group. She'll be 93 next month and is still looking fabulous.

Above is a detail of the famous flap on the TWA uniform. The flap unbuttons to cover the logo when the air hostess is having a cigarette or cocktail.

Pat generously gave me one of her original business cards. She also offered one to John Hill, but being the thorough and ethical conservator that he is, he refused it because he could not document receiving it at that moment. They made plans to talk later so Pat could officially share some of her stories and memorabilia with the museum.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Crossroads, crucifixes and crowns

Katherine Leutzinger in her beautiful shop, Casa Katalina
at Calle Correo 51, one block from the center of town.

Situated on a 6400 foot plateau in central Mexico, San Miguel de Allende does not have the beaches that most people imagine when thinking about Mexico. But it does have the constant hum, buzz and electric energy of creativity on just about every corner. It can be the creativity of a metal fabricator hammering out the next beautiful iron gate. Or it can be the lamp shade maker in the mercado piercing slotted patterns on shiny silver tin to create beautiful wall shadows.

Or it can a stylish ex-pat gringa who is inspired by the local creativity to bring her own design visions to life. That's what interior designer Katherine Leutzinger did in 2004 when she was at a crossroads in her life and daringly decided to close her interior design business in Reno and move to San Miguel for a new start.

With her keen eye for drama and style, Katherine opened her elegant shop selling her jewelry, home decor and vintage Mexican items. Using rich Mexican imagery and icons such as crosses and crowns in her designs, each piece is handcrafted locally, making each piece not only a fabulous thing to wear, but also a meaningful travel memento. On every trip to San Miguel, I make it a point to visit Casa Katalina and spend time trying on Katherine's bracelets, earrings, rings, necklaces and I always find several items for myself and for gifts. And while I'm trying things on, I love chatting with Katherine to learn about the latest great restaurant or fun thing to do.

Made of the metal alloy, Tumbaga, each link on the chain is skillfully crafted by hand. The large charms have images such as the Aztec calendar and the Mexican coat of arms.

This necklace of old Mexican coins is one of my personal treasures. 

Katherine also carries vintage Mexican items, each rich with history.

I have several of these glasses for sipping tequila in style. 

In addition to her own designs, Katherine has some traditional Mexican crafts like these gorgeous candles from Oaxaca.

If you don't have a visit planned to San Miguel, many of the jewelry items are available at

Friday, October 21, 2016

Couture on the tarmac

One of many displays in the SFO International Terminal for "Fashion in Flight." 
Photo: Bien Vestido.

In the early 70's, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was either an astronaut or a stewardess. It was a toss up. Man had recently walked on the moon which was the most exciting thing ever. But airline stewardesses flew around the world and looked glamorous and sexy while doing it. My grandmother and I took our first plane trip in 1969 from New Orleans to Los Angeles, she holding a bottle of smelling salts in one hand and her rosary beads in the other for most of the flight. While I don't remember what the stewardesses wore, I do remember how sharp, chic and competent they looked.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of seeing the wide variety of uniforms and their place in history. The SFO Museum is currently exhibiting seventy airline uniforms from 1930 to present. Last Saturday my indefatigable fashion friend Karen and I made the trek to San Francisco International Airport to see the show. Yes, a museum show at the airport. With over twenty galleries in various terminals, it's the only accredited museum in an airport.  The exhibit is a fun visual lesson in fashion history, couture designers and the effect of culture on fashion. It's worth a visit to the airport, even if you don't have a plane to catch or someone to meet.

United Air Lines stewardesses, 1939. United Airlines Archive.

They do look sharp with a post-war military chicness.

Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer 1944. SFO Museum

This is a clever design for TWA by Hollywood fashion designer Howard Greer. The TWA logo appears as cut-out letters on the upper right chest with a flap that unbuttons to cover the logo when the hostess has an off-duty cigarette or cocktail. Greer (1896-1974) created glamorous garments for stars like Katherine Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich.

Braniff International Airways hostess uniform by Emilio Pucci, 1966. Collection of SFO Museum.

With "The End of the Plain Plane," an advertsing campaign created by Mary Wells Lawrence, airline uniforms did an about-face from the tailored military styles to this wild psychedelic outfit called the "Supersonic Derby" by Emilio Pucci. 

Braniff International Airways hostess in uniform by Emilio Pucci, 1965. Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas. 

My dream come true! Pucci makes it possible to be a stewardess and an astronaut! The space age bubble helmets were originally designed to protect the hair on blustery tarmacs but proved impractical and were used only in publicity.

Braniff International Airways hostesses in uniforms by Emilio Pucci, 1965. Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas.
 Pucci's Gemini IV Collection, with multi-layers for quick-change combos.

United Air Lines stewardess in uniform by Jean Louis, 1968. United Airlines Archive.

Spiffy with double-knit practicality.  Another Hollywood designer, Jean Louis (1907-1997) designed glamorous gowns for many leading ladies, most notably the strapless gown Rita Hayworth wore in "Gilda."

Air France stewardess uniform by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1969. Courtesy of Air France.

Immutable chic. Designing uniforms for Air France was Balenciaga's last project before he retired. His uniforms stayed in production for ten years.

Qantas Airways female flight attendant uniform by Yves Saint Laurent, 1986. Collection of SFO Museum.

Not my favorite, but definitely a product of the 80's, Yves Saint Laurent designed this Dynastyesque suit for Quantas, complete with a flying kangaroo print.

Virgin Atlantic Airways female flight attendant uniform by Vivienne Westwood, 2014. Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic Airways. SFO Museum.

With Vivienne Westwood's signature touches such as the nipped waist and high collar, this is a very couture look.

Many thanks to SFO Assistant Museum Director John H. Hill for permission to use the photos and his generous offer to schedule a group curator's tour. Let me know if you're interested!