Thursday, July 29, 2010

Three Is The Magic Number.

Happy 3rd Birthday To Us! Three years of fashion posts and I still love every single, solitary second I get to spend typing, imaging, and linking. Even though posts are less frequent (a girl's gotta work!) they are every bit as heart spun as they were on day one. Doing this project has changed the direction of my life and I'm so glad you've been here to read and enjoy it as much as I have. Thank you all for your fabulousness, I never take it for granted.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Love, Tilda.

In the heat of the summer, it's easy to convince people to part with at least $12 of their hard earned dollars to sit in the icy cool of a sun-less movie theater. But, in the case of I Am Love, I'm not persuading you to watch it on the big screen, I'm demanding it. The film demands it. The smooth alabaster of Tilda's skin abutted against her paled strawberry chignon simply won't look the same on your personal-sized laptop screen. Neither will the swooping tracking shots or the perfectly plated meals. The brightness of the big screen was invented for films like this. The rich colors, the lush and surprisingly intense score--it all needs a theater.

The film is a study in freedom and family. It executes its narrative through thoughtful details on every level--the costuming most impressively. Tilda's assimilated Russian character plays house in the estate of an historic (and rich) Milanese family. Their rituals and customs, those that only old money can pass on, are tightly arranged and sophisticated. In the beginning of the film, when Tilda's Emma is ensconced in that culture, she too is tightly arranged and sophisticated. Her hair is smoothed, her clothes are pressed, her jewels are in place, and her tailor is obviously preternaturally talented. As passion seeps in the cracks of the heavy doorways, Emma unravels, blushes, brightens. Raf Simons designed Swinton's wardrobe to speak a chromatic language. The premise may sound cloying (red=passion), but the result is more subtle than all of that. Besides, it's not until Emma's clothes start to get stripped away that they really start to speak for her. They are peeled from her, like so many layers of hiding. Underneath it all, her bare skin is almost translucent as it gleams in the San Remo sunshine, appearing especially pale in contrast to her darker lover, the one who has undressed her.

Her clothes wind up back on, sometimes forcefully and you see what a burden they are. In the context of the film, yes they are a burden. But my, oh my, in the eyes of a fashion fan, they are pure bliss. Do yourself a favor, put down the internet and see this film on the big screen if you get a chance. It's simply gorgeous.

Stills and film clip from

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Towering Heels in Toppling Times

Skyscraping styles from bottom-barrel times: (clockwise from top left) Ferragamo's iconic 1938 platform, WWII-era cork wedge from 1943, a sparkling disco stage for one from 1974, and Emilio Pucci's 2010 red stilletto design. Illustrated by Christine Berrie for The New York Times.

We fashion fiends are familiar with the varying trends that somehow seem to follow (or predict?) the swings of the economic pendulum. Mostly the history books have shown a correlation between good times and short skirts. Beyond hemlines, a slideshow in today's Times makes the case for a footwear barometer. Apparently the worse the dollar does, the higher womens' shoes get. That would explain the rash of ankle-breakers that seem to have taken a toehold in fashion's top tier for at least three seasons now (read: an eternity). If the enduring popularity of platforms, stilettos, and spikes are any indication, we may be in for some long-lasting hard times, but at least we'll look fierce while we starve.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gaga Frees The Masses.

The Monster Ball at Madison Square Garden was worth every penny I paid for my spontaneous (impulsive?) floor ticket purchased on Stub Hub the night before the show. In a sweaty, mostly young sea of sequined Gaga mega-fans, I unexpectedly felt my heart swell. The woman that is the phenomenon that is Lady Gaga proved to be a talented performer with audible and visual roots in burlesque. Her dance moves, outfits, and lipsmacking guy-on-guy/girl-on-girl-teeth-baring dancers are straight out of New York's gay club scene--a school system of sorts for many of cultures smartest artistic (and vainly glorious) movements. From piano ballads vibratoed with the full-bodied voice of a true singer, to techno-filtered, audio-manipulated, pure pop thumpers, the numbers were expectedly fantastic and theatric a'la her many televised performances. The energy in the packed arena was palpable, and I was genuinely entertained as I thought I would be. But, the thing that got me most about the show and about her, the thing that filled my heart was her sheer insistence on pushing the traditionally grotesque, outcast, abject into the glimmering spotlight of beauty.

From a fashion standpoint, Gaga's embrace of the marginal lay mostly in her get-ups that take odd shape. She's a dancer, so some of her show gear was based around the tight silhouette of the leotard, legging, or catsuit. But, more often than not there were outfits that were latex, rubber, and injection molded plastic (dusted with glitter or studded or sequined, as the number demanded). Many of her costumes appear shocking in ways because their shapes are so exaggerated or unexpected. A purple leather motorcycle jacket had towering, box-like shoulderpads that could have put her next in line for tackle practice on the 10-yard line. A transparent, milky rubber dress was wide at the shoulders and tulipped out at the thighs. Worn with a huge skeletal hand brace, the outfit had a nurse-gone-mad sensibility.

Shoulderpads and plastic wear.

With latex comes subtext. There is an obvious undertone of fetishism in Gaga's usual wardrobe, but that undertone went into overdrive in one of the show's highly engaging video interludes. In the black and white short, she elocuted a manifesto of sorts on behalf of her adoring legion--her Little Monsters. While a voice over played, she was shown in BDSM masks, her face obscured by slick black hoods, or misshapen by the push of rubber or metal. One of the things that keeps Gaga interesting, and that forms a strong backbone of her driving aesthetic, is her repeated insistence on bucking beauty shots. She's not steady-camming with hairblowers and bobmshell makeup (well, unless she is of course), rather she can look downright scary and unrecognizable. As the video in the piece lurched and shook, the movements onscreen looked more and more sexual. In the steadier shots Gaga pushed fingers in and out of her mouth which was covered in fabric that gave way. She opened and closed an eye that wasn't immediately recognizable as an eye. It all was unnerving, unsettling, displaced, but yet tempered with shots of the blonde's genuine grin and calm eyes.  When the masks were off and you could see her face, Gaga looked blissed and free. She looked satisfied and spent.

In my favorite digital piece from the show, Gaga's glam was defiled by a black-clad dancer inducing a waterfall of shimmering/pastel blue vomit. The video was shot in the hyper color of Nick Knight's directorial palette and evoked a memory of the dearly departed (and close Gaga collaborator) Alexander McQueen's catwalk show where two robots shot streams of paint at a helplessly rotating Shalom Harlow. In her version of it, Gaga stands in a glam pose with those aforementioned blowing fans billowing her prudent white dress and her Veronica Lake waves. She seems not to mind, and even welcomes the purged stream of blue. It happens over and over again via Knight's loop and elicited a few audible "ewws" from the audience. But, I was struck by how pretty the visual was--how tough Gaga looked and how, like everything else she does, it pointed a finger back at her favored medium of expression: dress.

To a fashion savvy viewer, the action in the video is a jab at the industry of pretty people. It raised flags of bulimia and pain-before-pretty ethos that saturate the sartorial world. The video goes on to show Gaga regurgitating blood while eating her own shiny, gnashed heart in close up before we see her standing on a platform being infringed upon by a stand-in for a photoshoot employee. She's taped-up, sprayed, slashed, and powdered. It seems violent and she takes it, because ultimately, Gaga goes from recognizable glam to her brand of pretty--which is roughed-up, dirtied, and toughened.

Fetish gear gone Gaga.

This translates into her power. She's not pretty. At one point in the show Gaga asked the crowd, "Do you think I'm sexy?" The thunderous yes wasn't enough for her. She asked again, sternly, "I said, do you think I'm sexy?" A louder yes came back with screams and "I love you!!'s" thrown in to satisfy the star. Just then her steely pose melted and she laughingly admitted that she "sometimes abuses that part of the show because [she] wasn't very popular in high school." Later in the show ( and during at least three more key moments) she vehemently addressed her fans and let them know for certain that they are all famous (read: popular, read:pretty) and that they should be themselves no matter how gay, weird, fat, geeky, gawky, misshapen, or outcast they may be or feel. She swore with emotion in her voice that being yourself would lead to The Fame, her code words for freedom. Love, acceptance, and success are yours once you realize you have them. The empirical evidence is in the phenomenon of her mainstream acceptance, not inspite of, but because of her weirdness.

All in all, I'm thrilled to live in a time where the biggest pop star in all the land champions ugly, embraces fetishes, regurgitates blood on screen, and is flanked by genuine black tranny superstars. It's refreshing. It's freeing.

All costumes styled by Nicola Formichetti and the Haus of Gaga. Images via Nicola's Blog and vidoes via Youtube.

Today: Brought To You By Uniqulo.

If the calendar is going to say Monday, it might as well be fun to look at.

Day-brightening calendar via Uniqlo. Get your own here.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Just a Girl from Manhattan.

Watch the first year of Gaga. Each thumbnail above is linked for your pleasure to a two minute chapter in the opening tale of pop's freakiest princess--from playing for 30 people in a gay bar that smells like piss, to packing sold-out club dates with her discostick. We all know where she ended up (superstardom) but it's fascinating to see where she began. 

See you at The Garden Gaga!