Archive for June, 2014

The Golden Age of Travel

Posted by Winifred on June 27th, 2014  •  No Comments »

Though we plead guilty to the sin of on flight yoga attire, we are nostalgic for the Golden Age of air travel, particularly in the 1950s and 60s. We love the idea of an in flight show of gloves, hats, heels and dresses and the sky high club aspect of an open bar and cigarettes. And we had such plans for a tour on the Orient Express, which though still offering select legs of the 7 country Paris-Istanbul trip, is no longer in service. What we imagined was a cross-country treasure hunt ending on Safari in Tanzania, all, of course, with Globe Trotter luggage, Sylvain Le Guen hand fans and Perrin gloves.

The truth is, the Golden Age was not all glamorous. The chairs were not so plush, no on-flight entertainment, though we much prefer to read, and despite our semi-annual indulgence of an outfit paired Fantasia, we would never manage a 6 hour flight in a cloud of cigarettes and ash. We came close to experiencing Golden Age air travel glamour however, on an Emirates Airlines Airbus 380 from New York to Dubai. The flight attendants immaculate in their suits and full make-up, round the clock meals plated and served with silverware, seats upholstered to true transatlantic levels of comfort and service the likes of which we are too young to have ever previously seen.

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We did not know that the Emirates Business Class bar scene though rivaling that of 1950s as a gathering spot and unparalleled service, evidently outdoes the 50s in unbridled debauchery and scandal…But we digress,

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Luxury travel now is no longer confined to just the jets but extends to airport lounges as well – Dubai’s filled with Chanel, Escada, and Gucci retail experiences among others. We dare say that air travel of the past is now just that. The past. The future is substantially more glamorous; Our air travel wardrobe is too…

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Images Via NY Times, Ralph Lauren, Socorpos, Fast Company, Pinterest

Posted in : Head wear, In an Ideal World..., On Style, Travel, Vintage Fashion  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Adrian

Posted by Winifred on June 25th, 2014  •  No Comments »

We’re having such a time reading about the work of interior designer Tony Duquette, his tutelage under Elsie de Wolfe, his many clients in Old Hollywood and his work with the costume designer Adrian. When Adrian left MGM to open his own Beverly Hills salon, it was Tony Duquette he turned to to create the interiors, advertising and displays.

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Adrian Salon Beverly Hills

 

With “amaze me” as his only directive,  Tony created dipped plaster elephants, plaster lace pagodas, plaster monkeys, bas reliefs and a scene of found objects. Only the artistry of Adrian’s gowns could withstand the dramatics of a Duquette staging. It was Adrian who created the look that would launch Jean Harlow as the original blonde bombshell. Harlow once said that without her hair color Hollywood would never know her name. We suspect those fitted silk gowns cut to accentuate always braless breasts and flow along every curve of her figure, also made her a star in films like Dinner at Eight and Hold Your Man.

We always did find her to have a funny looking face, and don’t much care for the extreme pencil thin eyebrows, even if it was the 1930s. We can’t imagine what her lover, William Powell faced first thing in the morning before they were painted on. Harlow surely slept in make-up…Nevertheless, we came to like her style and her attitude in films like Red Dust. But mostly we love her dresses. It’s what we adore about the 1930s. The decadence, the ultra feminine, the soft yet bold sexy. Though Adrian became better known for his stronger silhouettes created for Joan Crawford, particularly the padded shoulders, he knew how to tailor a dress to glorify any woman’s body and build character through costume.

Born Adrian Adolph Greenberg, the designer became known as Adrian during his career creating costumes for MGM film studios in the 1930s and 1940s. Adrian created costumes for over 200 films, many that we have loved. Dinner at Eight, The Great Ziegfeld, Grand Hotel, Marie Antoinette, Mata Hari, The Philadelphia Story, The Women.  Too many to name, but classic film lovers will not have missed his work.

We thought we would take a detour from our readings on Duquette and celebrate the glamour and design in film costumed by Adrian

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Greta GarboMata Hari , 1931

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Jean HarlowDinner at Eight, 1933

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Joan Crawford Grand Hotel,  1932

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Katherine Hepburn The Philadelphia Story, 1940

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Jeanette MacDonaldThe Firefly, 1937

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Norma ShearerMarie Antoinette, 1938

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Hedy LamarrThe Great Ziegfeld, 1936

Posted in : Classic Films, Head wear, On Style, Vintage Fashion  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should TCM still show films with blackface?

Posted by Winifred on June 19th, 2014  •  No Comments »

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We love William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man series and are always pleased when we run across an episode on TCM. As Mr. K has recently started to enjoy the work of William Powell, we thought we would introduce him to the series as well, inviting him to join us for Shadow of the Thin Man. It was mere seconds in when we lost him. All it took to ruin Mr. K’s rare interest in a classic film was the appearance of Louise Beavers as the Charles’ maid, wide eyed with open mouth as she struggles to pronounce the word telepathy. This is a frequent routine for us in our efforts to bring Mr. K into our love for classic film. Mr. K starts off open, is soon offended with the appearance of a black actor in a subservient role, and closes the door on TCM until we slowly, weeks or months later can lure him back with the proper star, story or action, preferably along the lines of Bullitt.

A few days after Mr. K sulked through The Thin Man, we saw Barry Cunningham question with disgust why TCM (the Turner Classic Movie Channel) continues to broadcast films depicting blackface. Mr. K understood the question – he would just as soon scrub a number of titles from TCM’s lineup and not just those showing blackface. We no more enjoy Louise Beavers’ eyes popping out of her head than Mr. K does. We just finally experienced an exquisite moment of elegance with Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Belle, an image of a black woman still so rare in media, some 80 years after The Thin Man. We too would prefer to not, each time we turn to TCM, be confronted with only the most racist, unflattering imagery of black men and women, or feel the greatest regret that the 1930s and 40s had no black Gene Tierney, Carol Lombard, or Bette Davis.

Barry Cunningham offers that TCM at least start with a warning label to films depicting blackface, allowing parents, for instance, to determine if such imagery is something they would allow their children to see. We second that, but also wonder if this label would not be appropriate for just about every film with a black cast member say, pre-1970? Let’s look at In The Heat Of The Night. How hard is it to stomach the gallant, debonair, gem that is Sidney Poitier being called “boy” throughout the film? Would a warning label be placed on that? And if Mr. K had his way and we scrubbed TCM’s lineup clean of such offending films, would In The Heat Of The Night, an important film in the history of Black Hollywood, not be one to be edited out?

We have previously written about the difficulty of loving the early 20th century and the disappointments that come with that for a black woman. But we persist in these films because after we close our eyes for the humiliation of actresses like Louise Beavers, we are left with film that is beautiful, that is art, that shows Myrna Loy making 3 outfit changes within a day, that tells of the social norms of that time, the language, the mannerisms. We get a view of history. We saw Barry Cunningham scoff at this concept a bit, and we do not blame him. But as an immigrant we truly appreciate the opportunity to look back.

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We want to know even the unpleasant parts of America. Fortunately on TCM they are served with a side of refinement and style we wished had better endured. We want to know that in 1929 Nina Mae McKinney starred in Hallelujah, the first sound film with an all black cast. We can see for ourselves that despite all efforts to deglamourize her, Nina Mae would have outDietriched Dietrich, outlgamoured Lombard, outposed Garbo.

We would certainly have appreciated a warning for Showboat, letting us know Irene Dunne, who we had just enjoyed in several films including A Guy Named Joe, was going to appear in blackface. Shame on Irene Dunne, but thank you TCM for airing the film and her dirty laundry in effect. Had it not been for TCM, we might not have known and would foolishly have given her a place not deserved. The upside was not missing the opportunity to enjoy the voice of Paul Robeson.

Old Hollywood was for black actors an unbearable time and continuing to show these films is a reminder of a great shame that should not be forgotten. In a small way we feel that not suppressing these works also honors those who had this shame to bear. We quietly do so every time we tune in…

Posted in : Classic Films, In an Ideal World..., On Style, Vintage Fashion  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Death and meaning…

Posted by Winifred on June 12th, 2014  •  No Comments »

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Death has been much on our mind lately. Famirie Wikkeling has suffered much loss. There was Tante Olga, Neef Andro then Tante Joke, Nicht Cisca, Oom Charles and now Nicht Jennie. The deaths of our aunts and uncle made us reflect on the rich lives they had lived and loving children they have left behind. They all lived long lives surrounded by family and many friends who cared for them. What troubled us was the feeling that their stories, family history, was taken away with them too.

The passing of our cousins was more difficult to understand. We were lost somewhere between fog, confusion, numbness, waiting for a light to shine. It made us question our expectations for life and longevity. How were we supposed to accept death and what was the perspective that would allow us to do that?

We considered a viewpoint of life that is about fulfilling a purpose and not necessarily staying on beyond that. Perhaps the ones we lost had completed this part of their journey and it was okay for them to go on to the next one. They had all been parents who loved and cared for their children as best they could. They had all had an impact on their community of friends and their family and we would remember them for that.

We wanted to stop seeing death negatively, stop with the mourning and the sadness and move toward more of a celebration. Especially where there had been a release from illness which was the case for all three. Why do we feel we know the proper time line for life anyway?

These thoughts presented themselves again with Lady Sings the Blues. What a film; and such chemistry between Billy Dee Williams and Diana Ross, still magic. The way we were, and may never be again…Prior screenings of Lady Sings the Blues always left us sad, always the word “tragic,” stamped in our minds. This time we had an entirely different view.

First we were just amazed at the ability of a people to face each day filled with hardship, oppression, inequality, indecency, prey for all manner of injustice. How did we, under these circumstances and duress, maintain our faith, raise children lovingly, still have laughter and find joy in so little? How did Billy Holiday, portrayed by Diana Ross, fight to leave behind poverty and prostitution and use her gifts to create music?

What makes more sense to us now is that her pain was so deep she had to escape to be able to survive it. An escape into drugs and death at a young age seemed not so tragic this time. Rather it seems the only way. Why, when she was not able to gain licenses to perform where she wanted and when her talents were going to go to waste, why live a long life full of regret and resentment and ugly memories of rape, abuse, racism and a life incomplete?

Now we feel Billy Holiday did not die tragically, but that she was released when she could face no more pain. Her burdens taken away when she could no longer manage to carry them. And how magnificent that in her short life, she did leave us her gift that 50 years later still survives and inspires and is admired. We want to celebrate that. Maybe it’s not about the time spent on earth, but it’s what you leave behind…

Posted in : Dimensions, We digress  •  Tags: , , , , , , ,

In love with Epoxy Resin….

Posted by Winifred on June 9th, 2014  •  No Comments »

We probably have harbored some desire to work with our hands since Demi Moore sat at the pottery wheel in Ghost. We have never yet sat at a wheel, but managed an experience or two decorating something at a Color Me Mine. Kim Novak once discussed her lifelong love for painting, something she started when she became an actress, and would often do during breaks in filming. Juliette Binoche created all of the paintings shown in her new film Words and Pictures. Periodically we too feel nudged to create. Something lasting, something to leave behind.

Along came a workshop at the Met teaching sculpting and jewelry casting, the material used would be epoxy resin, which had first captivated us with Maarten Baas’ ‘Smoke Chair.’ The ‘Smoke’ series consists of furniture that Baas torched, then brought back to life by coating them in epoxy resin. Black epoxy resin, a look we find the most beautiful still. We always thought the entire process so sensual – burning, smoking then treating an object into a unique and exceptional kind of beauty. Of course we would come out for black epoxy resin…

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Our first project, creating molds from a soft gummy substance that then hardens into a kind of rubber. Once we had our mold, we mixed epoxy and blended in color. Layer by layer we folded it into the mold, and waited patiently for it to harden into something that still unexpectedly, vividly, perfectly takes the mold’s shape.

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The second, filling bezels with layers of resin, depositing colors next to or through each other, each layer contributing more depth and complexity than the previous one. This takes much patience, as it’s best to let layers dry before adding to them. Filling even a small edged bezel may take some hours. But every layer sparks new creativity and a new story to the final piece.

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The workshop lasted 5 hours and yet we felt quite rushed, especially through the second half. This means we could have done much more with our bezels, but we love having a laid a foundation. We have the first layer of two pieces that we can choose to add complexity to. Similarly we have the first layer of creating by hand. Now we can add depth and add new stories, like layers of rock, our history to hold…

Image Via Moooi

Posted in : Jewelry, Objects of Our Desire  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Opulent and Refined…

Posted by Winifred on June 6th, 2014  •  No Comments »

What else is the seductress to do

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But to bathe with Tuberose soaps

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By the flames of the red poison apple

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Then feast from gold lined plates

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Draping herself in diamonds, and

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Swaying in pom pom heels

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Images Via Lucky Scent, Enarche, BellaBoutique, Pinterest, DL & Co

Posted in : Beauty, Classic Films, Jewelry, Looks we Love, Objects of Our Desire  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dido Elizabeth Belle

Posted by Winifred on June 5th, 2014  •  No Comments »

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We had waited patiently, knowing that what was in our minds would one day come to fruition. We had waited patiently for nowhere had we ever been portrayed in the way we know us to be. Not any of our models, actresses, icons, or role-models anywhere, had ever been captured the way we knew they should have been. None had ever received the treatment, that of adoration, that which captivates, that which brings to life the delicate and rare flower that resides within. Of course there had been the ordinary. Patronizing and often condescending portrayals of sexiness, glamour, power, strength, some better than others. But we had never been able to find the words for what was missing, until they were said by Amma Asante, Director of the film Belle.

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Asante said, “I wanted to put a woman of colour on screen with visual value, with mental and psychological value, and not have anything that would take away from that…” Value, mental and psychological, is what Asante gave us in her film about Dido Elizabeth Belle. Greater still, in creating Belle, Asante also gave us, long suffering women of color who have been consistently disappointed in our portrayal, a portrait of ladylike elegance, refinement and grace heretofore unseen in cinema or mediums of any kind. She gave to us an era, a time and place – eighteenth century aristocracy – from which we had always presumed to have been excluded. This may be the next important event to have occurred for us since Michelle Obama became First Lady.

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Belle is a gorgeous film with all the storybook details of Jane Austen, except it tells the more important story of the British slave trade, by way of the Zong Massacre trial. The trial was presided over by Lord Mansfield, in which 142 diseased African slaves were thrown off a ship, the Zong, in 1781 – worth more dead, with an insurance payout, than alive. The insurers refused to pay. Lord Mansfield meanwhile, is also the guardian of his niece Dido, a mixed race child who’s mother was a slave. For the most part she is raised with the same education, introduction to society and status as her cousin who Lord Mansfield also cares for. We would have been more than pleased simply leaving this film with visuals of the beautiful Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido.

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But sometimes the camera and the story telling serve as vehicles to draw out the exquisite beauty, of its subject the way artists in other mediums do. The camera was there to draw out the character’s full value, as Asante said. And so she did. From Dido’s regal stride, the arch in her back, the length of her neck, the softness of her curls, the delicacy of her complexion, her cultured ways, her refinement, her essence as a lady, no detail was spared in conveying, lineage, status, breeding. But more remarkable, was Dido’s strong sense of pride in her African lineage and a desire for the life and privilege she was awarded to be shared by the African slaves from which she came. As she starts to question the laws that allow her privilege, yet limit her future, the Zong Massacre Trial, serves as an opportunity to change the world. Lord Mansfield was instrumental in bringing about the end of the British slave trade, an act one cannot help but attribute to his own black bloodline.

Once Asante offers us the rewards of Dido’s refinement and grace, she does not allow it to be snatched away with a romance not befitting Dido’s status. Her husband-to-be is an abolitionist lawyer and their romance also becomes her political awakening.

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Belle is a very satisfying film and for us vindication. We knew the need was urgent, for a black woman to show up in this way and it turns out that desire was not ours alone. In addition to our own gushing, proud and elevated response to the film, we witnessed that of other black movie goers as well. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has said to have experienced the same from fans who have thanked her for what she has given them.

Amma and Gugu, the breadth of our gratitude is infinite, your service indescribable. The best we may do for you is to share everywhere we can the gift of Belle….

Posted in : Beauty Refined, Classic Films, In an Ideal World..., Vintage Fashion  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Our Steampunk Fantasy…

Posted by Winifred on June 4th, 2014  •  No Comments »

Though you may have uncovered it on our Pinterest boards, we have mostly kept our love for steampunk a secret. A sci fi fantasy in Victorian settings with a steam power bent to it, steampunk matches the elegance we love in fashion and our enjoyment of hardware. There is a gorgeous femininity to it, with a powerful, almost villainous slant. The kind of duality we live for.

For us it starts with the hats. Feathers, lace…

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Flowers, not too sweet, more than a hint of darkness,

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Veils, even while fronting a bit of masculinity,

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Well crafted jackets, fitted equestrian or military in theme,

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And the very regal, sensational, unexpected, theatrical skirts,

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We rarely gravitate towards the standard brown of steampunk,
though we love it for the boys,

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We find steampunk almost a more true and effective statement in color,

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We like the fashion part of steampunk softer, more feminine, graceful, Edwardian,
but delight in surprising with a stronger shoe…

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Perhaps we’ll take our hat, fitted jacket, full skirt
(our steampunk fantasy includes a hand fan)
and tuck into an adventure.

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We see the makings of our next treasure hunt…

Images Via Pinterest, Data Mancer, Dezeen, DeviantArt, Propstore

Posted in : Travel, Vintage Fashion  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,