Sunday, May 24, 2015

Anatomy of an Outfit

I still have one more post to write about my visit to Portland, as I have a lot more photos I wanted to share, but in the meantime, here's a short post dissecting an outfit I wore to work on Friday.  It was very windy and rather chilly, which required some layering.  I came up with an outfit that felt like a funky version of an oversized sweatshirt and leggings

The photo has a weird colour cast to it which doesn't appear when viewed in my editing software, so I have no idea what that's about, but anyway, here's the outfit.  The greyish-green dress/tunic was a spontaneous purchase off the half price rack at my favourite retail store here in London - it's by a Danish company called Nu, and the fabric feels like heavy silk even though it's Tencel.  The only size left was large, and it was too big for me, but when I put it on, it just felt really good.  I layered it over my "burlesque" leggings and topped it off with a thrifted, 1980's, soft-as-butter, leather vest.  The outfit felt very good to wear but when I look at it objectively, I realize it pretty much obliterates any shape my body has, and yet, I still love it....hmmmmmm.  What's that about?

Here you can see the dress has panels of cotton knit fabric inset along the sides and back, and there is a  pattern printed on the leather vest.   I'm wearing the bone tribal earrings that Krista gifted me when I was visiting her in Portland - they've become one of my favourite accessories.  This is also a good view of my recently coloured, cut and shaved hair.  I was getting a bit tired of the orange and pink so we'll see how long I like having it one solid colour.   

This closeup shows the embroidery on the shoulders of the dress, and the detail of my zipper necklace, which I've had for years, and was perfect with the outfit - the cream of the necklace, earrings and stripes in the leggings all tied together.

I purchased these Fly suede wedges last summer, and they are very comfortable, even for my finicky feet.  I've always liked shoes with ankle straps (they're hidden under the leggings).  I liked the style so much that I purchased another pair in red later in the fall.

Nu tunic/dress - From Mars
Burlesque Leggings - Carousel Ink
Leather vest - Talize 
Fly wedges - From Mars

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Viva L'Italia!

I was very lucky in the timing of my recent trip to Portland, Oregon in that I was able to catch the wonderful exhibit Italian Style:  Fashion Since 1945 at the Portland Art Museum just before it closed.  The exhibit, curated by Sonnet Stanfill (what a glorious name) at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is the first collection of high fashion to be shown at the Portland Art Museum.   The exhibit, which tells the story of the creation, and evolution of Italy's fashion industry, is full of breath-takingly beautiful clothes that inspired multiple outbursts of "Oh My God - Look at this!!!"  

The exhibit contains over 150 pieces, and is organized by time period.  The main floor room (in the photo above) features a t-shaped runway populated with couture fashions from well-known Italian design houses like Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana, Marni, and Prada.   As with many museum exhibits I have posted about in the past, there were no photos allowed.  But did that stop this intrepid blogger?   However, if any staff at the Portland Art Museum read this, it may not only be the first, but also the last exhibit I get to see there.

If I could have one dress from the runway display, it would be this sculptural beauty from 1987, designed by Roberto Cappuci,    The colour combination is one of my favourites, and the giant ruffles suggest a ridiculously extravagant flamenco dress.  I wasn't familiar with this designer, but after seeing his pieces in this exhibit, I'm a big fan - just do a google search for images of his designs and you'll see what I mean.

Left:  A stunning silk tulle and net gown by Valentino from 2001 Right:  closeup of the criss-cross pattern of over-size beadwork on the dress.

The simple shape of the Marni jacket and skirt on the left from 2014 is counterbalanced by the explosion of beads and sequins that cover both pieces from collar to hem. The dress on the right, by Dolce and Gabbana, features images of mosaics from Sicily's Cathedral of Monreale.  

The exhibits on the second floor were organized by time period, from the 50's to the 80's, and featured displays devoted to accessories, tailoring, ready-to-wear and the impact of Hollywood films on Italian fashion. 

After World War II, the United States created the Marshall Plan, named after U.S. Secretary of State, George Marshall, which was designed to help re-build the economies of war-destroyed Europe.  The Fashion industry gained a sizeable benefit from the end of the war both in the U.S. and Europe -  prior to WWII, wealthy people who wanted designer clothing acquired it from Paris.  After the war, there was a new market in the United States for more casual, affordable, and easy-to-wear clothing.   While French fashion was focused on couture, Italian design was geared towards casual, elegant functionality, which was what American women were looking for.  Designers like Missoni and Emilio Pucci were especially adept at creating this type of clothing.

 This Emilio Pucci tribute window is in the stairwell between the first and second floor of the Museum, and features a detail from his 1965 "Dalia" print.   Pucci had a Portland connection -  the former Olympic skier came to ski on Mount Hood in Portland, and when the upheaval in Europe cut off access to his income, he persuaded the President of Reed College to provide him with tuition and accommodations, and in return Pucci formed Reed's first Ski Team.  When Pucci designed modern uniforms for the team, he invited a film crew to film them in action.  11 years later, photographs of skiers wearing his designs were published in Harper's Bazaar, and his design career was launched.

One of the exhibit rooms was designed to simulate the famous "Sala Bianca" catwalk shows that were held in Florence in the 1950's.  The first of these shows was held in 1951, and was organized by Giovan Battista Giorgini, an Italian importer for American goods, who saw that there was a market to be tapped, and began to organize, and encourage Italian designers to create their own affordable style.  The first show featured such designers as Emilio Pucci, Simonetta and Roberto Capucci.  Film footage of one of the Sala Bianca shows played on a television screen in the room and enlarged photographs from the shows were displayed on the wall.

Pucci launched his first beachwear line in 1949.  The cotton beach tunic and shorts outfit above, in a print called "Azteco", is a design from 1951.  The bold pattern and streamlined shape is completely wearable today - I would wear it with a pair of colourful Converse.    

Another sculptural piece from Roberto Capucci, from 1957.  He became known for the dramatic shapes of his designs, of which this dress and velvet stole is a perfect example.  Judging by the pieces displayed in this exhibit, I would say that he was not so much creating clothing that flattered the shape of a woman's body (although this one would certainly create a very exaggerated hour glass shape) so much as transform it into a walking work of art.

The exquisitely draped dress on the left was made by Germana Marucelli in 1950.  She was known as the "Cerebral Seamstress" because of her literary and cultural pursuits in addition to her sewing skills.  I neglected to note the year or designer of the one on the right, but the gathered back detail is gorgeous.

The Italians do know their accessories and the exhibit has several examples of exquisite footwear.  The silver glitter boots on the left are Miu Miu, the gem-encrusted ankle boots are Dolce and Gabbana from 2000, and Prada's 1950's car-inspired, flame-detailed sandals from 2012 are on the bottom right.

 One section of the exhibit was devoted to the relationship between Hollywood and Italian fashion.  By the late 1950's, American studios were producing big-budget movies in Rome, and Italy became the vacation spot for movie stars.  Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first actresses to wear Valentino's designs, which she discovered while in Rome shooting Cleopatra.   The 1960's film "La Dolce Vita" brought Italian style into the popular culture, and influenced the tailoring of men's wear in the United States.    The security guard in this section of the exhibit was pretty vigilant and unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any photos.

The leather evening dress on the left was from 1993, and designed by Nicole Trussardi.  The 30 year old me would have killed to have this in my closet.  The striped suit on the right was designed by Alberto Fabiani in 1967.  The couture quality of the design is evident in the care that was taken to match the stripes on the arms right across the jacket and the skirt so that your eye moved across the torso with no interruptions.

Italy's ready-to-wear market was booming in the 1980's but there were still luxury couture pieces being made.  This gorgeous Gianfranco Ferre embroidered evening coat from 1988 is a blend of wool, silk and lurex, trimmed with sable.

I'll leave you with this spectacular piece of eye candy - to look at this colourful Fendi coat you wouldn't know it was made of fur, but it is in fact, a jigsaw puzzle of sheared, cut and dyed segments of mink.  The paper pattern on the right shows the planning that designer Karl Lagerfeld put into the design.  Clothing, or Art?  You decide.

The Portland Art Museum was the only west coast venue for this exhibit.   I loved it, not only for the spectacular eye candy, but for the educational aspect - I knew nothing about the Italian fashion industry prior to seeing this exhibit, and it's a fascinating story.  If it comes to a venue near you, go see it!!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Portland - A Blogger's (food, thrifting and nature lover's ) Paradise

This bright and beautiful woman is Krista, and her handsome boy Peetee.  I "met" Krista through her blog Peetee's Palace (which she stopped updating in December) and after an exchange of comments on each other's blogs, emails, and Skype chats, she extended an invitation to visit her in Portland, Oregon.  I had heard great things about the west coast city so I jumped at the chance to see it for myself, and meet the colourful, creative, and all-round cool gal in person.

After a drive to Detroit and a 4 and a half hour flight, I arrived at Casa Krista and Chris (her husband).  Here we are the next day on her couch with Peetee snuggled between us, making plans for the day.  Krista is wearing a gorgeous Mexican wedding dress that she found at her (and now mine) favourite secondhand store. Isn't modern technology wonderful?

Krista's home reflects her love of cheerful colours and all things cute and creepy.  Skulls, fairies, and dolls share space with colourful textiles, Mexican handicrafts and lots of art.  Several of the fun dioramas Krista has made are displayed throughout the house, including the bathroom, and even the keyboard in her office is a perfect reflection of her.

On Day One of our adventure we were joined by Krista's bestie, Cristi (it was a challenge spending three days with a Krista, Chris, and Cristi and not get names mixed up).

It was a treat to spend the day with these two fun-loving dames, and I couldn't resist grabbing a quick shot as they skipped off down the sidwalk ahead of me.

After a scrumptious lunch of Vietnamese and Thai food at Jade Bistro  (I would soon learn that delicious food is abundant and inexpensive in Portland) we went to visit Portland's famous International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park , hoping for some good photo opportunities. 

The Frank Beach Memorial Fountain, designed and built by Oregon artist Lee Kelly, made a great backdrop for a faux fashion shoot.  Beach is credited for having christened Portland "The City of Roses".

Unfortunately, we were too early in the season, and the roses weren't blooming yet, but you can imagine how beautiful it looks when it's bursting with blossoms.

The Rhodedendrons were in bloom and we each posed for a photo with the vibrant flowers.  I've never seen Rhodedendrons here in Ontario, but they were all over Portland in a variety of colours.

From there we walked across the road to the Portland Japanese Garden.  I know absolutely nothing about Japanese Gardens, but had read that the one in Portland was considered to be one of the highest quality, and most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan.  The garden, designed by Professor Takuma Tono was opened in 1967, and consists of five smaller gardens, each reflecting a distinct garden style.   Being used to Canadian gardens, I was surprised there were very few flowers, or colours aside from green, in the garden.

Stone, water and plants are the three main elements of a traditional Japanese Garden.  Gardens of raked gravel and stone are called karesansui ("dry landscape gardens").  These gardens demonstrate the Japanese aesthetic principle of yohaku-no-bi, "the beauty of blank space".

My favourite part of the Japanese garden was the Koi pond.  The Koi were obviously very well-fed as they were the largest one's I've ever seen.  On the left, Cristi is documenting Krista's best fish face.

 As part of the regular "Art in the Garden" series, there was an exhibit of beautiful carved and lacquered wood in a small pagoda.  Sisters Keiko and Naoto Goto brought works created by four generations of their family to Portland for the exhibit.   As you can tell by the photos above, I was drawn to Keiko Goto's modern aesthetic more than the elaborate designs of her ancestors.
Clockwise from top left:  Keiko Goto - Arabesque Series Stationery Box, 1995; Keiko Goto - Black lacquered, three-layer food container,  2005 ; Keiko Goto - Drapery Series: Bowl, 2014 ; Itsuki Goto - Tray with lion and peony design, circa 1890

Our nature and culture-filled day finished with a trip to the Portland Art Museum to see the exhibit Italian Style - Fashion Since 1945 .  It was the last weekend of the exhibit, and I was so happy to be able to see it as it was chock full of gorgeous, glamorous clothing, and is the subject of my next blog post.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Comic Relief

I've just returned from a wonderful trip to Portland, Oregon, and while I get myself reacclimated, and edit a pile of photos, here's a look at two of the other art exhibits currently on display in downtown London, Ontario...

 Clockwise from top left:  Urban Renewal, 1970; Baseball Strike, 1985; "American Oil Tankers on Canadian West Coast, 1979; Dundas Street Development, 1964

The second annual Ting Comic and Graphic Arts Festival is a three week showcase of the work of comic and graphic artists from London and Southwestern Ontario, held at The ARTS Project.  The festival is named after Merle Tingley, who was the editorial cartoonist for the London Free Press from 1948 - 1986.  Tingley, or "Ting" as he signed his work, is celebrated in the exhibit with a number of his cartoons, and I was delighted to see how relevant his work remains - cartoons such as those above, from the 1960's - 1980's display his down-to-earth humour, and focus on issues that sadly, are still being faced by London, Ontario today.

Luke Worm was Ting's comic mascot, and comic book artist/writer J. Bone created a textile version for the exhibit.

Visitors to the exhibit are invited to colour a picture of Luke Worm and the results are displayed on the wall.  

Jamie Jardine, one of the artists whose work is on display, submitted this letter and drawing he received from Tingley in 1985, in reply to a note he had sent to the artist.  Tingley has had a significant influence on generations of comic artists who have come after him.

"Robot" by Jamie Jardine

Illustrator, curator, filmmaker, painter and dollmaker Sarah Legault was at the opening.  Her animated short "Dear Love", which will be screened as part of the Festival, recently won Best Animated Short Film at the Toronto Independent Film Festival (TIFF).  On the right is "Bug Test", one of Legault's pieces in the show.

Photographer Richard Gilmore, (right), who is also the Communications Coordinator at the ARTS Project, was on hand to document the opening.  My apologies to the woman on the left for not remembering her name.

Many Canadian comic book artists draw story inspiration from the lives of famous, (or not so famous) historical figures from Canadian history.  David Collier's submission to the exhibit includes a panel with a story about Canadian painter Alex Colville.

 left:  The Adventures of Astrodog by Alison Williams   right:  Daring the Sun: A Space Comic by Scott Woods
Other artists create their own worlds populated with crime-fighting dogs and nasty cavemen

A panel from J. R. Faulkner's online comic,"Promises, Promises", a humorous look at the struggles to stay fit.  Faulkner is working on a new comic titled Knight and Dave.

The work of Janice Chu has strong elements of graphic design, as illustrated in the four works above from her "Selfie" series.  Chu works as a concept and UI artist at Digital Extremes. 

The Ting Comic and Graphic Arts Festival runs until May 9th at the ARTS Project.  The festival also features workshops, including one on Cartooning on May 9th, and film screenings.  For a list of all the events, see the ARTS Project website here.

And over at DNA Artspace...

You will find a new exhibit by London artist Jamie Q, titled "Surfacing".  In previous exhibits, Jamie Q has shown drawings, paintings, sculptures, and zines, and in this one, past projects have been 
re-constructed into new shapes and mediums, primarily textiles.   The title of the exhibit refers to surface design, and includes new paintings and resurfaced objects.

Manifold/Medusa, 2015 - mixed media

Stitches Fabric, 2015 - mixed media

Clockwise from left:  the artist, Jamie Q; HB Pencils - mixed media; Shirt (Black and Yellow Flannel) - gel medium transfer on panel

Jamie Q - Surfacing is on view at DNA Artspace until June 3