Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Close Shave

Let's take a brief intermission while I continue to edit my photos from New York and take a look at a couple of my recent outfits, shall we?

Oh, and by the way, I cut off all my hair......

Not that there was much left to lose, just the coloured chunk at the front, which took all of 5 seconds to shave off.  Why, you may ask?  It was costing me a lot of money to maintain the colour in a little chunk of hair, and I had exhausted my colour options.  Watching Judith transition to her natural colour was rather inspiring, and it seemed like a good time for a change.  I like it, and the reactions so far have been positive.  Which I appreciate, but has also provided some food for thought; the last time I had my hair this short was in my late 20's and the amount of verbal abuse I received was astonishing.  I'm not sure if it's the case that people are now used to seeing more women with shaved hairstyles, or now that I'm in my 50's, most people aren't paying attention to what I look like.  Either way, it's a relief.

As far as the outfit goes, it's all secondhand.  The dress and boots are from Beacon's Closet in New York and I purchased the vest at the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show last spring.   It's wool, and was made in Finland so it's a great layering piece now that the weather is colder.

The dress is cotton and rayon, made in Morocco, and has two layers for extra fullness.  I had to hike it up so you could see my socks - they have roller skates with wings on them.  I found the necklace at a Housing Works Thrift Store during one of my visits to New York.

This photo was taken after I returned from New York in October, and the weather was cool enough that I could start layering pieces.  The thrifted wool pants I'm wearing went to New York with me, and wore them 3 days out of 5.  They're cozy and I like the shape, but I find I need to wear something fitted on top so they don't look sloppy.  This was the first wearing for the Psylo vest I got at From Mars in the late spring.  It's held together at the front by giant safety pins, which is one of the reasons I bought it.

The other reason was the wired collar and hem that lets you bend and twist it into different shapes.  I like clothing pieces that you can play with.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Feast for the Eyes - The Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, Part One

The last several days have been deeply unsettling, to say the least, and as many people have pointed out, Paris, and the rest of us, must try to move forward and carry on, despite the grief and anger in our hearts.  We need to remember there will always be light, and love, and moments of joy, despite efforts of some people to extinguish them.  And there will always be beauty in the world, and I will continue to celebrate things I find beautiful as long as they exist.  And with that in mind, I'm continuing with my New York stories, because they make me happy, and hopefully you find them entertaining.

I time my visits to New York to coincide with the fall Manhattan Vintage Show. This was my fifth year attending the show, and each year I find new things and people to admire.

Each show (it is held three times a year) features a display dedicated to a particular designer or theme in the lobby of the venue.  This time the display featured the designs of Gianni Versace, and vendors contributed colourful vintage Versace items from their stock.  I've never been a big fan of Versace's designs, but I can appreciate the bold colour mixing.

The photos above shows the range of styles you can find at the show.  The rare sequinned Geoffrey Beene Football jersey dress from 1967 was on display at the Augusta Auctions booth, and the animal print suit was at Amarcord Vintage.  

One of the good things about the fall show is that you get to see a lot of amazing coats (and if you've followed me for a while, you know I have a thing for coats).  The gorgeous Bill Blass fur-trimmed coat on the left is from Olive's Very Vintage.   Jen, the lovely owner of Olive's (who is kindly holding the coat up for a photo), is one of the nicest vendors at the show and I enjoy stopping by her booth for a chat.  The houndstooth print on the right is from Metropolis Vintage.

I was crushing on this duck-embroidered coat at Vintage Martini, even though no one else seemed to share my enthusiasm (come on, yellow and white ducks, on a coat!).  We did reach consensus that the mohair coat on the right, modeled by Mary Ann, owner of Maison Jadis was a fabulous statement piece.

You are guaranteed to see items at the show that will cause you to wonder who wore them, and wherever did they get them.  In the "this is so weird it's kind of cool" category was this dyed persian lamb cape, complete with leather fringe at Lofty Vintage.

Green seemed to be a big colour this year, with a number of vendors featuring items in various shades on display.  The young woman on the left was working at the Maison Jadis booth and was rocking the vibrant maxi she wore on Friday.  The velvet and quilted jacket on the top right is from Vintage Martini (I loved the necklace) and the acid green fur was part of a display at Lofty Vintage.

This little jacket caught my eye at Leon's Vintage.  The pattern, three-quarter sleeves, and the leather peplum made it something I could have happily incorporated into my wardrobe.  However, as my closet seems to be bursting with jackets at the moment, I didn't even ask to try it on.  I was surprised, and rather proud, of my restraint.

One of the things I love about shows like these is that you get an opportunity to see the creme de la creme of vintage, including some spectacular novelty pieces like this sweater at Olive's Very Vintage.   This is the back view of the sweater - the grey-jacketed arms wrap around from the front.  This would be the ideal thing to wear on those days when you really need a hug.

Many of the pieces in the show feature ornate hand-done embellishment, such as on this embroidered blouse from the early 1900's, shown off by Heather Ramey, owner of Noble Savage Vintage, which carries a good selection of clothing and accessories from the first half of the 20th century.

I didn't plan for these photos to fit together like this, it was a lucky accident.  The embroidered navy robe on the left is from SwaneeGRACE and I believe was from the 30's or 40's.  The Norma Kamali coat on the right also features nature-themed all-over embroidery.  The coat, from Lofty Vintage, would keep the wearer extremely warm, and also make them look like a very fancy Michelin Man.

This Prada suede jacket with appliqued leaves was at Daybreak Vintage

The prints on these three skirts were some of my favourites from the weekend.  The "birds and trees" print maxi was at Maison Jadis, the "Cat and fish skeleton" was from The House of Findings, and the candy-coloured jungle-print cotton mini was from E-Collectique.

Lisa D'Angelo always has spectacularly embellished pieces from the 20's and 30's on display in front of her booth, Lisa Victoria Vintage.  This year,  I sighed over the beautiful Art Deco velvet cape/coat on the left and the made-in-Belgium beaded dress from the 20's on the right.  I would love to be able to wear something so dazzling just for one night (and not worry about damaging it).

There were some vendors at this year's show that I did not remember seeing before, including Vintage! which featured some amazing eye-candy from the late 20th century.  The Vivienne Westwood "Prince Charming" outfit on the left was featured in one of her runway shows, and had the accompanying photo to prove it.  There were some fun pieces of 80's jewellery, glittery 70's platform boots and some drool-worthy pieces of rock and roll history.

Gypsy Nation Vintage always has one of the most interesting displays in the show, incorporating colourful ethnic clothing and accessories.

Fool's Gold had a stellar selection of bakelite jewellery.  My friend Jean, half of the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, has an enviable collection of bakelite and is never without an armload of bracelets.  If I could choose one piece from the tray above, it would be the pin with the red hand wearing the polka dot bracelet.

If metal was more your style, Lofty Vintage had some stunning pieces, including the giant tribal-style necklace in the middle of the above display.

Lulu's Vintage Lovelies had some funky neckpieces like the silver collar above.

If you subscribe to the "Go Big or Go Home" philosphy of accessorizing, then the Vintage Show is
the place for you.  Four of my favourite pieces, clockwise from top left:  giant amber chunk necklace from Metropolis Vintage; spectacular silver and crystal choker from Lulu's Vintage Lovelies; an unusual, and rather dangerous-looking bracelet from Vintage Le Monde, and a fabulous pair of "lipstick tube" earrings from Tu Vintage.

These cute and colourful school satchels were available at Yulia's Bags

One of most entertaining pieces I found this year was this metal "breast plate" at Vintage Le Monde.  I can easily see Vix wearing this with great aplomb!

And of course, it wouldn't be a vintage show without hats.  I didn't see as many extravagant ones as I have in previous years, but there were definitely some statement-making pieces of headwear available.  Clockwise from top left:  a gorgeous three piece set in pink reptile-print leather from the 1940's at Vintage Martini; a dramatic Jack McConnell design at Lulu's Vintage Lovelies; wool felt spiral hat from Vintage with a Twist, and a silk pleated topper at the Town Peddler.

And the Piece de Resistance

The woman on the left is Carmen Bury, and she made the spectacular coat I'm wearing.  I spotted the coat on display and was admiring it, when Carmen introduced herself and explained she had made it, and her friend let her put it on display in his booth, Atellier Montclair, along with some accessories she had made.   I couldn't resist asking if I could try it on, and while she said it had never been worn,  I was welcome to try it.  It weighs about 40 lbs and it took her approximately 6 months to make.
Even the inside of the coat was beautiful
We proceeded to take a stroll around the venue so that the coat would get some exposure, and I will readily admit that I felt like a star swanning about in that coat of many colours.  Lots of people took photos and it definitely got a lot of attention.  Carmen was touched by the compliments people gave her on the coat and thanked me for being her model with a gift of a piece of jewellery she had made.  I assured her that the pleasure was all mine.   Only in New York!

Part two will feature photos of the delightfully stylish people I met at the show

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Where Do We Go From Here?

This is the only thing that makes sense to me today

This is not the kind of post you would expect from me, and just because I don't write about things like this certainly doesn't mean that I am not outraged by them, but I prefer to leave the commentary to those more articulate and informed.  

I don't think I need to be informed or terribly articulate to acknowledge just how fucked up parts of the world are these days, and what happened in Paris last night is just one example.  I have visited Paris - it is a beautiful city - while I am horrified at the killings that took place last night, I would be equally horrified were it to happen in any other city in the world.  Millions of #prayforParis hashtags are showing up on Instagram and Twitter today, but prayer isn't going to fix what happened, and it's not going to stop it from happening again.

And this is where I am at a loss - what has to happen for ISIS (if they are in fact responsible), or other terrorist groups to stop killing people in the name of whatever God they worship?  An emotional gut reaction that I'm sure many people are feeling today is probably along the lines of "Wipe them out", "bomb the shit out of Syria and Iraq".   Why not?  Because thousands of innocent people would be killed in the process, more would rise up to take their place, and because their beliefs are so twisted they would feel they died as martyrs.   Where do we go from here?   What weapon do you have against people who put so little value on human life.  Does anyone have any answers? 

Where Do We Go From Here?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch - Part 2

Upon entering the exhibit Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch, in the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, you are greeted by a Susanne Bartsch mannequin, who appears to be checking to see if your name is on the RSVP list.  Next to her is a lineup of other "party guests" including the one next to her wearing a colourful outfit designed by Ben Copperwheat, whom I met at the Symposium.  Bartsch and her friends were part of a creative "Fashion Underground" who raised the act of getting dressed to go out to a club to the level of performance art.

The graffiti covered walls in the entrance to the exhibit recalls the alleys surrounding the urban underground clubs where Bartsch's parties were held.  It was a lucky coincidence that the young woman in the Minnie Mouse print leggings happened to be standing in the just the right place.

In general, the exhibits at the Museum focus on a particular theme, or designer, so it is unusual for them to host an exhibit that focuses on the wardrobe of one woman (although they did feature clothing owned by Daphne Guinness in 2011).  However, Bartsch has served as a muse to many designers (established and upcoming) and makeup artists, and her flair for the theatrical frees them to be as creative as possible.  The exhibit, which Bartsch estimates features about half of her wardrobe, is divided into three sections, representing various aspects of her life.  

The Boutique...

Susanne Bartsch moved from her native Switzerland to London, England in 1971 to escape a conservative, middle-class life, and became enamoured with the fashion there.  In 1981, Bartsch landed in New York, and opened her first boutique on Thompson Street in Soho.  She is credited for bringing the English fashion scene to New York and stocked her boutique with pieces by as then unfamiliar designers John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Rachel Auburn, Leigh Bowery, Stephen Jones and Body Map.

One of the most successful labels to emerge from the London club scene was Body Map, represented by the black and white cotton lycra and terrycloth dress on the left.  The ensemble on the right, from 1983, was designed by Annie La Paz.  In an interview, Body Map's designers, Stevie Stewart and David Holah, have credited Bartsch for their early success.  The publicity they received when their designs were featured in her "New London in New York" Fashion show, held to introduce British designers to American audiences, made them famous in both countries.

I loved the outfit on the left, designed by Rachel Auburn, who later went on to be the resident DJ at Leigh Bowery's club, Taboo.  The red dog-print jacket is also one of her designs, paired with a leather corset by Fiona Dealey.  The wood-patterned dress and coat in the upper right photo are by Vivienne Westwood.

The Boudoir....

The "Boudoir" section of the exhibit with its red walls, (echoing the walls in her Chelsea Hotel apartment), features some of Bartsch's more recent outfits.  From left to right:  "Victorian Punk" dress by Zaldy, one of Bartsch's favourite designers; an outfit made up of pieces by Reem Alasadi, Jean Paul Gaultier and Zaldy; corset dress designed by The Blonds.  Bartsch had elaborate wigs or headpieces for every outfit.

A detail of the striking outfit designed by The Blonds, who are known for their sparkly, jewel-embellished corsets, body suits and dresses,  is made of plastic palettes, wood, glass beads, net, canvas and buckram.

Clockwise from left:  the intricately cut leather dress by Alexander McQueen (the leather is cut into the shapes of leaves and foliage) was one of my favourite pieces in this section;  the "Golden Asp catsuit, and the Jaws corset, both designed by The Blonds, who are quoted as saying "only Susanne Bartsch could pull off a jaws corset".  I think they are probably right.

The Nightclub...

Stepping into the main room of the museum, I was overwhelmed by the spectacle of clothing crafted from leather, paper, feathers, plastic, fabric, etc. displayed on various levels intended to evoke a darkened nightclub. 

A crow would have been exhausted in this exhibit trying to grab all the shiny things.  This metallic leather ensemble by Pam Hogg was only one of the many outfits that incorporated reflective surfaces.

On the left is a dress by Norma Kamali, made of parachute nylon, worn underneath an organza jacket by Jean Paul Gaultier.  The center outfit, resembling a spider web, consists of a Gaultier bodysuit with an overdress by ThreeASFOUR.

Two leather outfits created by Abel Villareal, a self-taught leather artist who may many outfits for Bartsch.  Bartsch wore the Fetish Horse Costume on the right (which features a synthetic hair horse tail and mane) to an AIDS Benefit in Los Angeles.

This photo by Albert Sanchez from 1992 of Bartsch wearing the Fetish Horse Costume shows off the detail much better, including the "Hoof shoes".

 I failed to note who designed this mirror-embellished, winged costume, but it was so fantastic I had to include it here anyway. 

Wearing metal buttons featuring the names of bands, or witty sayings, was very popular in the 80's and this outfit from 1987 features them on suspenders and covering a piece of vintage lingerie.

Three of the outfits on the second tier "Catwalk"

Each outfit had marvelous accessories including wigs, headpieces and in one case, even a merkin (see top right photo).

For her runway wedding to David Barton, founder of David Barton Gym, in 1995, Bartsch wore a Thierry Mugler-designed leather bodysuit and giant egg-shaped veil which was large enough to shelter Bartsch, Barton, and their two year old son Bailey.

The headpieces created for the outfits are works of art in themselves and were made from every possible material including feathers, leather and even what looked like coloured bobby pins.

Bartsch is known for her love of extravagantly long false eyelashes, and some outfits had custom-made coordinating lashes.  Bartsch is currently working with MAC Cosmetics on a line of over-the-top eyelashes to be released later this year.

On the left is a crystal studded corset by Mr. Pearl paired with a refurbished Thai Headpiece.  On the right is what has come to be referred to as the "creepy doll head dress", complete with a mohawk-style headpiece made from barbie doll legs.

Bartsch is also credited for helping launch the career of corset maker Mr. Pearl, whom she referred to as the "Stitch Bitch", as he would spend his days sewing in his small East village apartment.  Bartsch was a brilliant people connector, and introduced Pearl to French fashion designer Thierry Mugler.  Mr. Pearl now lives in Paris where he makes corsets for many famous designers. 

One of the rotating displays in the exhibit features some of the corsets that Mr. Pearl has designed for Bartsch, including the one she wore to the first Love Ball (bottom left).  Pearl does not use any modern technology to create his pieces, and they can take several months to construct. 

This velveteen corset dress is probably one of the most subdued outfits in the exhibit, designed by John Galliano in 1997.  After ogling all the elaborate bling in the rest of the exhibit, this was a bit of a rest for the eyes, and probably one of the few outfits in the exhibit I think I could actually wear.  I think I could even pull off the bobby pin wig.

I'll end this post with a quote from Bartsch regarding social media, taken from an interview with Lilah Ramzi for

I am constantly changing myself, and I don’t like the idea of standing still or looking back. The change of social media is the greatest. It’s a good thing, but it also kind of cheapens things. You Instagram a picture with a celebrity and everyone thinks you’re amazing when you might be uncreative and uninteresting. I have to say if one thing is lost, it’s the moment. You go somewhere and there are photos. This square [points to her mobile] is running people’s lives and it’s scary. People aren’t in the moment anymore, they’re on their phones. Constantly. There is no surprise of what is underground. The underground needs time to fester, and so it’s a very strange time. Now you don’t even have to go out to date, you have Tinder and Grindr. There’s nothing you have to go out for anymore other than dancing. Thank God dancing is the one thing you can’t do on your phone!

The exhibit runs until December 5th, and admission is free.  If you can't see it in person, you can take a 360 degree virtual tour of the exhibit here.