Written By , on June 18, 2007

In the 1920s, Paul Poiret, the colorful King of Fashion, had a chance meeting with Ms. Coco Chanel. Dressed in her iconic black, Poiret attacked saying, “For whom, Madame, do you mourn?” She replied coolly, “For you, Monsieur.”

Since the MET featured the Chanel exhibit two years prior to Poiret’s, I’d say Chanel was right. Poiret’s work is exhibition-worthy, though not on its own.

Poiret asserted his work and his vision throughout his life, sidestepping the vital collaborations with both artists (like Paul Iribe) and lastly, his wife and muse, Denise. The MET places her back in the flattering light she deserves by noting every piece that she famously wore. Poiret’s ideas on Denise’s frame changed the landscape of 1920’s Paris, and thus, the world.

As a rule, fashion exhibits don’t thrill me. Clothes on faceless manikins seem dead to me, and despite curatorial attempts, there never seems to be a believable context. The audience is left questioning, “Yes, but who would wear this? And when?” The MET strongly asserts “Poiret’s wife, Denise,” and “All the bloody time,” respectively.

Paul Poiret was born in Paris on April 20, 1879. After working for Charles Worth, the doyen of couture, for two years, Poiret opened his own couture house in 1903. He married Denise Boulet two years later in 1905.

Chances are if you have body image problems, you can blame them on Denise. Her stick thin figure required no corseting, and can likely be attributed for Poiret’s abandonment of the corset in 1906.

Denise was the face and figure of Poiret’s work. In 1913, when Poiret made his America debut, Denise herself modeled the clothing for the private Plaza showings. She wore his “lampshade” tunic and his “harem” trouser. She wore his Oriental designs with assurance and his Classic Athenian nightgowns with suave. She was “flamboyant,” “captivating,” and “self confiden[t].” She was his ideal of beauty and became the ideal for the rest of us.

And now a word from


Written By , on May 20, 2007

T-shirts are our adult blankies. They define us. We can’t get enough of them. As ephemeral as life is, t-shirts are one thing we can count on.

Chapter 1: The Birth of Form

T-shirts have gone through as many reincarnations as Madonna since their birth in World War I. American soldiers smitten with the cotton unmentionable worn by the European armies Bogarted them while overseas. During WWII, T-shirts became standard operating procedure for both the Army and Navy, as the undergarment of choice.

Chapter 2: James Dean Clean

During the ‘50s, T-shirts became synonymous with rebellion. Wearing a T-shirt was the equivalent of going outside in your skivvies. But, when it was hot sweaty Marlon Brando “Stella-ing” in just a t-shirt, audiences
didn’t mind the faux pas. Then James Dean came along being rebellious and clueless in his tee, and once again hearts melted. Form embraced its counterpart, fashion, and it was the beginning of a movement.

Chapter 3: Hippy Dippy

During the 60’s, this piece of unrefined clothing became a do-it-yourself billboard for tie-dying and screen printing. Taking the blank white canvas into their own hands, t-shirts that once were crisp and clean
became colored and twisted. Rejecting even the formality of a T-Shirt, radicals used the clothing as a mouthpiece toward unique identity, creative aspirations,
and political messages.

Chapter 4: Punk in a Funk

Vivienne Westwood began the punk movement by ripping the T-shirt to shreds. Focusing on the dark elements rather than the cheer of the hippies, black T-shirts became the new uniform. Today, the style she
capitalized on is still going strong and everyone has a bit of Anglomania.

Chapter 5: POLO a-go-go

Come on, you were there: Sporting those huge logos stamped across your chest listening to Boys 2 Men. Coming off the consumerism of the 80’s, having a personal identity was less important than being associated with
your favorite designer. But, who can blame them? I’ll walk the line with Calvin Klein any day.

Chapter 6: The Poetry and Song of Soft and Long

Wrap me in Generra and tempt me with James Perse. Today, Courtney Cox boxy midrift barring tees of the 90’s are long gone. Skin went out with the Clinton administration. The Bush administration told us to put our
clothes back on, and, love or hate it, we obeyed. Matching the agenda with more conservative clothing, t-shirts gained buckets of fabric along the bottom hem
morphing into a dress-like garment.

Chapter 7/ Epilogue: The Future is Raf.

As for the T-Shirt of tomorrow, I stick with Raf. Disillusioned, geometric, and glaring, Raf Simons’ work is serves both as at art thesis and wearable design. Sensitive to the tremors of social conscious,
Simons’ work tells us who we are and who we will be. Not something you can buy for 5 dollars, but worth every penny.

Links

Threadless.com – Design T- Shirt Winners, Submit your own.

Kadorable.com—T-Shirt Subscription

And now a word from


Written By , on April 20, 2007


Among their collections, both created chic, simple little black dresses. Both used jersey at a time when it was not the staple fabric it is today, both appropriated clothes for sport as everyday wear, and both knew the value of a good pocket. What’s more, both freed women from restrictive undergarments. One was luxe, one was mass. One flourished in the years before WWII in Paris, the other got her break as the United States was isolated from European fashion houses during the WWII and blossomed in the prosperous Post-War years in America.


If Coco Chanel is widely recognized for having revolutionized womenswear, American Claire McCardell is that revolution’s second act, essentially inventing the category of sportswear for women.

When the American woman was cut off from her usual fashion source in Europe during WWII, MaCardell and others had a chance to shine, defining an American Look. Claire McCardell created clothes for women that were easy and stylish in their clean lines and simplicity. She designed unfussy clothes made for an active life, many of which were firsts. She’s known for loose dresses shaped to fit the wearer’s body with drawstrings or wrap-sashed waists, wrap dresses, playsuits. She was the first to do mix-and-match separates, pedal-pushers, tent dresses, and looks in denim. Her baby doll empire gathered black jersey dress would look fresh today, as would her goddess-y evening dresses.

It’s safe to say that you would not be dressing as you will this spring were it not for McCardell’s vision of fashion for an American woman who was strong, independent, playful and practical. You who will be wearing flats this spring can also thank McCardell for the first wave of popularity of ballet slippers during the ’40s and ’50s.

And now a word from


Written By , on February 21, 2007

Fashion is cyclical. Evolutionary, never revolutionary. In time, all trends once popular will reinvent and modernize themselves for another period, typically in fifteen to twenty year cycles. The trends of the early 1900’s are being reinvented for the beginning years of the millennium. Vintage has come to represent clothing from a past period that is being revived to suit today’s fashion standards. The fashion cycle, however, cannot go faster than the speed dictated by the designers and trend forecasters. Perhaps that is the reason we have yet to cherish the pieces we wore in the late nineties.

The overall feel of fashion in the nineties was a reaction to the embellished, hyperbolic styles of the eighties. The color was drained with the invention of “the new black” (any color other than black which was popular for a particular season). The rule of thumb for the wardrobe was less is more. These trends resonated strongly in the beginning of the decade coming to a close in 1997.

Looking upon the world 10 years ago, a period of quiet reflection inundated my mind when remembering the deaths of two of the fashion industries most influential innovators, Princess Diana and Gianni Versace. The latter of which sparked a revival of seventies prints perhaps contributing to the sudden jolt of color and the success of the first of three adventures with Austin Powers. Heroin chic models were seen from runways to print donned in the blackish- green color that was all the rage in 1997. Gwen Stefani and Hanson were gracing the airwaves while the Full Monty, Titanic, and Good Will Hunting were shining on the silver screen. All the while, Tamagotchi toys were attached to the key chains of everyone from middle schoolers to bored collegestudents.

Foreshadowing of the years most important trends begins with the annual awards show season. With the popularity of such films as Titanic, menswear trends reached a level of formality reminiscent of the early 1900s. A decade ago, gentlemen flawlessly presented themselves in bow-tie tuxedo perfection, a la Jack Dawson. The formality in menswear that launched during red carpet season carried on throughout the year. For the men of the late 90’s, the larger than life all- American brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brought forth a preppy style. The Grunge look described by Cher in Clueless was passing; guys were pulling up their pants and showing off a more refined, east-coast cool persona. From polo shirts to t-shirts to designer denim, all styles were blatantly emblazoned with the logos of American designers.

As for their female counterparts adorning the red carpet, both young and mature actresses chicly accented the neckline, from strapless to v-neck. This focus seen on Academy Awards gowns set forth a precedent for the year. Women began to emphasize the bodice. The baby doll t-shirt was making headway when paired with loose fitting designer denim and a mini-rucksack. This trend, as well as the resurgence of color into the wardrobe, spawned additional hippie inspired accents originating during the 1970’s. Peace signs and smiley faces adorned everything from necklaces to t-shirts. Along with color in the wardrobe, colorful streaks in hairstyles were also popular. Women of the late nineties were bored with less is more and began dressing under the theory that more is more.

Perhaps you have not yet found yourself lusting after mini-rucksacks, mid-rifts, and colorful hair streaks, but be patient and let the fashion cycle turn at its designated speed. If you look carefully, you will notice wardrobe stylists wearing overalls and platform shoes walking down the Spring 2007 runways of Chanel and MarcJacobs. Like Darwin’s finches, all styles are evolutionary.

And now a word from


Written By , on December 1, 2006

I don’t know where I would be without the comfort of a magazine or two thrown somewhere within my proximity – my purse, my car, my bedroom floor. Who else would I turn to for anonymous advice? For every stage of my young life there was always a glossy-paged sister not too far behind.

Back in the fourth grade, my best friend and I fawned over her older sister’s Seventeen magazines as though they held the clandestine clues to womanhood. Seventeen made us feel sophisticated and provided me the comfort of an older sister; one I didn’t have. It seems so silly now, but Seventeen became required reading for my friends and I. We were a class of first generation American pre-teens growing up in suburbia without an understanding voice in our conservative homes and we found our escape while pretending to be 17.

In junior high, I worked at a local library because it was the only place I could find with an excuse to spend hours sifting through magazines. And there it was, amid the Science Todays and the Smithsonians – my first introduction to Sassy.

The magazine for iconoclasts had expired four years before it landed in my lap for the first time that afternoon back in 1998, but it proved to be as timeless as young girls coming to voice.

She rocked my world with her tongue-in-cheek humor, which was a far cry from Seventeen and what else was out there for pre-pubescent teens at the time. She introduced me to grrl rockers like Sleater-Kinney and got me hooked on babydoll dresses à la vintage. Although Sassy had the traditional features of any fashion magazine, her editors broke rules at every corner and were never afraid to humiliate an uninspired
Hollywood siren or two – imagine that today! She encouraged her girls to be as daring as the boys that loved them, and like a good older sister, she dared me to speak my mind. (I’ll never forget when I got too sassy with my mom and she decided to throw out my magazines with the evening trash!) But most importantly, Sassy didn’t tell me what was cool; she only reminded me that I already was.

I eventually ran through my library’s archive of Sassy, but it wasn’t long until a new breed of teen zines inspired by Sassy came along. Teen People applauded local heroes and promoted real teen models in its pages. Cosmogirl! launched their 2024 campaign to empower young women to take on leadership roles. And perhaps, no other magazine exuded more Sassy-ness than ELLEgirl, which dared girls to be different and ditch prom if they felt like it. (I know I did!) ELLEgirl continued Sassy’s indie music obsession and Dear Boy column among other things, but also launched her own campaigns like Fashion for a Cause, integrating fashion with social activism. (Both Teen People and ELLEgirl discontinued print versions of their magazines earlier this year.) With its witty articles and alt-style, Jane, Sassy’s founding editor’s eponymous title, is a staple among the alternative glossies I cherish now in my twenties. Though some of these magazines may have walked the line with some questionable cover girls that would have caused Sassy to raise an eyebrow, it’s always been clear that even though Sassy was gone, her followers weren’t.

During her short-lived existence Sassy inspired a generation of other women, like myself, to join the ranks of the sisterhood. Sassy not only sent her own ladies out into the world when its doors shut in 1994, she raised a legion of women who went on to inspire others along the same veins. (All the magazines mentioned, except for Jane, are little sisters to larger magazines.) With thin bans being enacted on runways and shows like “Ugly Betty” placing a critical mirror in front of the fashion industry, it’s hard not to believe that maybe Sassy was just too far ahead of its time. How would things be different if Sassy
were still around or if there were more magazines like Sassy out there? How might I have been different if I hadn’t found her when I did?

And now a word from


Written By , on November 24, 2006

For every fashion era there is an “it girl” who reigns supreme. There is none more infamous than Marie Antoinette. Her spirit has been resurrected by Sofia Coppola’s new film Marie Antoinette which documents the Queen’s rise and tragic fall. Within the movie as within Antoinette’s life, the importance of her elaborate costume went beyond the fabric, color and look.

Born into privilege in 1755 to parents Marie TheresaQueen of Hungary and Archduchess to Austria and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, she was one of 16 children. Marie was a beautiful child and was favored and spoiled by her governess. She would rather play than study. And with a governess, in charge of her education, yielding to every whim she could barely read by the age of 14. Her mother recognized Antoinette’s short comings and refashioned her daughter from an unsophisticated country girl to appear more metropolitan before leaving her home in Austria.

Upon her arrival to Versailles she was again stripped and revamped to fit the appearance of a future queen. As she looked at her new self I am sure a fever ran through her soul that comes when you discover your true passion. Marie Antoinette’s penchant for fashion would take hold of French woman’s imaginations and dictate what to wear for the next twenty-four years.

In that time there were none more famous as stylist Rose Bertin and hairdresser Monsieur Leonard. They would form a friendship with the French Queen and would aid in establishing her bevy of distinct looks. Bertin and Leonard came to fame in 1774 with the creation of the hairstyle, the Pouf. Made from wire, cloth, horse and fake hair, the pouf intention was to express feelings or commemorate an event. Marie Antoinette’s poufs would express her love for a current opera, or defend her husband publicly with constructed scenes made from ribbon and props. Some of the poufs were more whimsical bearing fruits and vegetables growing larger and more excessive with time. Each new style caused frenzy amongst the women
of France and many went into debt trying to keep up with the trend setting Marie. Her dresses, made of the finest cloth, consisted of a low bodice and huge panniers. The bodice was often incrusted with jewels and sat atop a skirt accented with ribbons, flowers and ruffles. Marie Antoinette basked in all the finery and enjoyed hearing of all the trends she had set. She
encouraged Bertin and Leonard to illustrate her latest “looks” in a newspaper for the women of Paris and Europe. Sold by subscription only, it is considered
one of the first fashion magazines.

Her excessive frivolity soon got the best of her and instead of the admiration from the people of France she was scorned. Poor from war the French people began to starve and felt ignored by the royal family. With the Queen still spending lavishly on her wardrobe she was nicknamed Madame Deficit and blamed for the majority of French economic trouble. In the coming months the royal family was over thrown and put on trial for their crimes against France. Marie Antoinette was beheaded October 16, 1793 at the age of 37.

Marie Antoinette is as captivating today as she was in her time. The release of the movie has sparked new interest in her life and love of fashion. It is predicted spring looks will recreate the romantic nature of Marie’s personal style. Some have even suggested her hairstyle will be modernized and mimicked. Often described as air-headed, Marie Antoinette would have to had some presence of mind to be able to create a look then that is sought after now. She was a pioneer and one of the first fashionista’s. She died stripped of her title, renamed at trail citizen Widow Capet, but with her modern resurrection she has gained “it” back.

And now a word from


Written By , on October 2, 2006

Though she stood at just four feet and eleven inches, Evelyn Dubrow’s beliefs towered over a nation. A relentless and powerful activist she began her career in the 1930’s during the Spanish Civil War handing out flyers in downtown Manhattan. A Paterson New Jersey native, Dubrow joined her first trade union while working for a local paper. After joining the Newspaper Guild, union issues were soon to become her full time focus. She became the assistant to the president of the New Jersey Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). She worked as an organizer and political education director for the Textile Workers of New Jersey. In 1956 she was hired by David Dubinsky to be the International Ladies Garment Workers Union representative in Washington- A position which required her to push for higher minimum wage, fair trade laws, pay equity for women, universal health care, and civil rights. Formed in 1900, most of the ILGWU members were Jewish immigrants working in sweatshops, yet under Dubinsky‘s leadership the union grew from 45,000 members to almost half a million. A young congressman from Massachusetts was extremely supportive of Dubrow’s work; soon to be President John Kennedy, who sponsored her amendment to outlaw secondary boycotts. That being her first campaign on Capital Hill, she quickly received a reputation for the vigorous and determined way in which she protected the rights of low waged workers.

Born in poverty to immigrant parents from Belarus her father worked as a carpenter and also belonged to a trade union. She rose above her conditions to become the voice of the union worker. The New York Times reported in 1987 that, “Everyone knows Evy; Senators, Representatives, Aides, Receptionists, The Capitol Police.” President Clinton even described her as a “tenacious and effective union activist,” who was able to bring people of opposing
View points together. Known for her 15-hour workdays, Evy visited up to 30 senators in a day. Chris Chafe, a friend and chief of staff for the labor union UNITE HERE, the successor to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union has said; “Virtually every piece of legislation that impacted working people that was voted on between 1950 and 2002, Evy Dubrow had a hand in crafting it and lobbying for it,”

“The bottom line was that Evy’s great strength was her ability to relate as a friend to a garment worker on the shop floor as well as walk into any senator’s office and at 4 foot 11, take them on and stand like a giant on behalf of those same garment workers.”

In 1999, President Clinton presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in honor of her lifetime of service. “For more than five decades, Evy Dubrow has fought to improve the lives of America’s working women and men . . . Renowned for her grace, candor, and integrity, she has earned the respect of opponents and allies alike.” In addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she has been awarded the Women’s Research and Education Institute’s Dubrow Fellowship in her name, Citizens Action’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Washington Magazine’s 100 Top Women.

Evelyn K Dubrow died on June 20, 2005 yet her legacy will live on forever. Alice Walker once said; “ Activism is my rent for living on the planet.” The truth is that all of us should have the same mentality. Standing up for what you believe in and for the rights of others isn’t just a choice it is an obligation.

And now a word from


Written By , on September 6, 2006

What would a down home son of Louisiana know about fashion? Apparently, Geoffrey Beene knew a lot that the world didn’t when it came to fashion. Originally intending to go into the field of medicine, Beene dropped out of Tulane university simply saying “Cadavers were the moment of truth.” He attended USC in California and finally left in 1947 to study fashion at the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York City. He spent a year there before moving to Paris. He returned to New York in 1951. Eight years later he would open Geoffrey Beene, Inc. on Seventh Avenue.

This worldwind story has been recounted hundreds if not thousands of times to fashion students and designers alike. The true twist comes with the success of the Geoffrey Beene line and what happened after the awards and the worldwide recognition.

In 1988, Beene celebrated his 25 years in the business by holding a fashion show that benefitted AIDS project Los Angeles. This work was just the beginning of Beene’s goal in sewing social works into the fabric of fashion. In 1991, Beene designed a room for Metropolitan Home’s show house that benefitted the Design Industries’ foundation for AIDS. Beene’s philanthropic work continued even after his death in 2004. The Geoffrey Beene Scholarship endowment contributed $1 million to the Young Menswear Association. This gift was the largest ever in the history of the YMA. As a result of the gift, more than 200 students received $5,000 scholarships with the goal of pursuing careers in the fashion industry.

Geoffrey Beene is remembered to this day as a pioneer in fashion and design. His philanthropic work will ensure that his legacy lives on in budding fashion design students.

And now a word from


Written By , on July 11, 2006

Ah, the little black dress, it has a whole list of books named after it, a yearly charity gala, a CD, and an entry in wikipedia . Type “Little Black Dress” into Google, and you’ll get more than 30,000,000 results. Its ubiquity is such that many refer to it by acronym, LBD. The little black dress is so pervasive that it has become a metaphor for chicness and appropriateness; an iPod is the little black dress of technology; Odds are you have one hanging somewhere in your closet. It’s the dress you pull out and pair with pearls or a scarf when you want to feel chic. It’s the dress you pair with a jacket and sensible pumps to go to the office. It’s the dress you wear with nothing but some killer stilettos when you want to feel irresistible. Coco Chanel Behind the famed Mr. Monkey, you can see both the sketch and a picture of Chanel’s Ford dress, the original Little Black Dress. Photos taken in Manchester, England at the Urbis.

This year marks its 80th birthday, since its creation by Coco Chanel in 1926. The “Ford” dress, as American Vogue later called it, gained its name because, like the Henry Ford’s cars, it was an instant craze, widely available and, like the Model T, it came in only one color, black. Previously, black had been a color worn only to signify mourning, but with the new Jazz age, Chanel’s black dress with its form-fitting sleekness became a symbol of liberation. The fabric of the Ford dress was a fashion revolution as well; previously jersey had only been used for lingerie. A famed designer, Paul Poiret, of the previous era, unable to come to terms with the simplicity and new use of the color black, is said to have asked Chanel, “For whom are you in mourning, Mademoiselle?” Chanel’s reply? “For you, Monsieur!” Women adored this dress, which was designed to flatter many different body types and not show stains. Some suggest that it also became popular amongst the new Hollywood crowd because, unlike the flapper dresses, which were similar in length, Chanel’s beadless, fringeless Ford dress didn’t clack on the microphones in the growing field of “talkie films.” Others claim Nettie Rosenstein, a New York based Jewish designer was the true inventor of the little black dress. Rosenstein would later design the famed “Mamie Pink” inaugural dress for Mrs. Eisenhower. However, as Rosenstein did not design under her own name until 1931, it seems unlikely that her claim predates Chanel’s. One thing that is certain is that Ms. Rosenstein certainly popularized the little black dress in the United States.

In the 1930s, Chanel’s great rival was Elsa Schiaparelli. Schiaparelli was known mainly for her fantastic, surrealist designs, and for the color “shocking pink,” which we know today as hot pink. But Schiaparelli, despite her flamboyant design style, was not immune to the lure of the LBD. One of Schiaparelli’s most famous clients, Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, remarked that, “When the little black dress is right, there is nothing else to wear in its place.” However, Schiaparelli put her own creative stamp on the little black dress, in one case, designing a wrap version some forty years before Diane von Furstenberg. Even cartoons were in on the act; in the early Thirties, Betty Boop made a big splash in a little black dress so short you could see her garter. A handful of years later, her outfit would be so shocking that she would fall victim to the Production code censorship laws.

By the 1940s, the little black dress became popular due to the restrictions of the war. A sleeveless or short sleeved black sheath was both versatile and frugal in a time when the majority of fabric was directed toward the war effort. Many fashion magazines of the time recommended the little black dress as an excellent way to conserve fabric while remaining stylish. The narrow, shorter-length skirt of the classic little black dress tied in with the new minimalist aesthetic. This example of a 1940s little black dress comes from the Urbis. Note the pairing with a bolero jacket.

The little black dress really came into its own in the 1950s. In the postwar era, fabric restrictions had been lifted and as a result skirts became fuller. Many Hollywood designers featured the little black dress in their films, and during the fifties, where Hollywood went, fashion followed. No one can forget the little black dress from Sabrina, which, although credited on the film to Edith Head, was in fact designed by Hubert de Givenchy, thus starting one of the most enduring and famous designer/actress relationships of all times. In fact it was on the basis of that little black dress (well . . . ok, the little black dress and that amazing ball gown) that Audrey Hepburn requested him on virtually every film in which she starred. Hepburn wasn’t the only starlet to sport the LBD; Marilyn Monroe gave the Little Black Dress more curves than a Formula One racecourse in such films as Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Meanwhile, the emergence of “Cocktail Hour” and its subsequent attire practically begged for the not-too-formal, not-too-casual air of the LBD.

The dawn of the Sixties brought bar none, the most iconic little black dress of all time. No one will ever forget Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly in her sleeveless black sheath, chunky pearl necklace and oversized sunglasses, standing in front of Tiffany’s. Breakfast at Tiffany’s guaranteed both Audrey Hepburn’s and the LBD’s place in the unofficial Style Hall of Fame. Truman Capote, the author of the novel upon which the movie was based, also did his part for advancing the cause of the little black dress. In 1966, Capote threw his famous Black and White Ball, which many have called the Party of the Century. As the guests could only come attired in Black and White, the little black dress was the choice of attire for many of the women who attended. During this decade, Edie Sedgewick, star of Andy Warhol’s underground films, came to the public eye as the “it” girl of the mid-sixties. Frequently pictured in a simple little black dress, her style continues to influence trend-setters such as Sienna Miller today.

The Seventies were not kind to the little black dress. Day-glo colors, disco, and let’s face it, the fact that cocaine on black looked a little like dandruff forced the little black dress into the background of society. Odd were, however, that on any given night at Studio 54 you could find some woman in a form of the LBD, possibly with long, sweeping sleeves as a nod to disco style.

But by the 1980s, the LBD would come roaring back on the wings of power outfits and punk rock. The little black dress would straddle a huge cultural divide during this decade. On one hand, socialites were wearing Oscar de la Renta’s, Yves St. Laurents, and countless other designers high end interpretations of the LBD and discussing junk bonds; on the other, punk rockers sported ripped and torn versions of the LBD, adorned with handcuffs and safety pins, often fa
shioned from leather, lycra, PVC, or sometimes even garbage bags. Early in the Eighties, artists like Blondie wore versions of the LBD with asymmetrical necklines or interesting cutouts. For a prime example of the late eighties version of the punk/metal LBD, one has only to look at Kelly Bundy, wearing a black spandex dress with chunky silver jewelry and a black leather jacket on the show Married with Children. In the Mid-Eighties, a new voice for the little black dress would rise. Donna Karan would start her signature line. Seemingly a New York reincarnation of Chanel, Karan’s simplicity, elegance, and attention to the female figure would help make the little black dress the uniform of urban single women (and not-single women, too.) Her influence continued on into the 1990s, where the disparate trends of the Eighties began to merge in the world of fashion.

Notice the influence of the Punk movement in theuse of safety pins. During the 1990s, the edgy look of the punk/goth/metal subcultures had completely percolated into the world of high fashion. Skin was in, and “little” part of the LBD became as important as the “black dress.” Hemlines rose, necklines plunged, and ice-pick heels were worn, the better to show off those toned legs. Mariah Carey’s first CD featured the chanteuse in a form-fitting LBD (arguably the most tasteful outfit she ever wore.) A promotional poster for Friends featured the cast Perhaps the single most important series (fashion-wise) of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Sex and the City did not discount the allure of the simple LBD with the men in black, and the women in little black dresses. Perhaps most telling is the cover of the first season of Sex and the City. The series, known for its ability to both track and set fashion chose to put its four actresses into little black dresses for the cover of the DVD. The little black dress ruled the Nineties, no doubt about it.

The little black dress stepped a little out of the spotlight during the first half of the new millennium. Designers were tired of black, black and more black, and the LBD was seen as a bit boring. Stars didn’t stop wearing it (I know I didn’t stop wearing it,) but the choice was frequently seen as “safe” as opposed to fashionable. Even though the LBD had drawn back from the cutting edge of fashion, it had entrenched itself even further in popular culture. In 2005, Jay Barrigar opened the Little Black Dress Shop [tag: http://www.littleblackdressshop.com/infoPage.php] in Toronto, Canada. That same year, Rosario Dawson starred in a short film, fittingly titled, “The Little Black Dress.” The LBD had moved into the background, but it was a comforting background for many women.

And now we live in the latest decade of the LBD, as sure of its appeal now as Chanel was eighty years ago. The very simplicity that made it so shocking back then is exactly what has allowed it to survive all the varying changes in fashion and trends. For Fall 2006, Zak Posen sent down his reinventions of the LBD. Many designers are working with the LBD in richer, textural fabrics like velvet and lace. However, these are just minor changes to tweak a classic; at its heart, the little black dress is a backdrop, a blank canvas. Its mood depends on the accessories you choose to pair with it. But always remember with a well-fitted, well-cut little black dress, the most important accessory will always be you.

Should you wish to explore the Urbis exhibit of the Little Black Dress, visit Mr. Monkey pictoral tour at http://www.houseoftheorangemonkey.co.uk/monkey/trips/trip88.htm.

For more information on Audrey Hepburn and her influence on fashion and film, try www.audrey1.com, a website I found most informative.

For those interested in finding out more about Elsa Schiaparelli, I suggest both http://www.fashion-era.com/stylish_thirties.htm and http://www.lifeinitaly.com/fashion/elsa-schiaparelli.asp.

If Nettie Rosenstein catches your interest, you can look here http://www.longlostperfume.com/denero.html or here http://www.cjh.org/education/essays.php?action=show&id=43.

All photos from the Urbis Exhibit courtesy of Rik Shepherd and Mr. Monkey
The Breakfast at Tiffany’s still courtesy of www.audrey1.com

And now a word from


Written By , on June 1, 2006


You’ve seen his work: the collarless Beatles’ suits, bubble skirts, long gowns slit to the thigh, opaque hose and the space age catsuit dresses and body stockings can all be attributed to Pierre Cardin.
After learning from Paquin, Schiaparelli, and Dior, Cardin went on to craft the fashion world to his liking, combining fashion with accessibility as a key designer.

Responsible for the first prêt-à-porter collection, Cardin made couture available to the masses.

“In 1959 I asked myself why should only the rich be able to afford exclusive fashion, why not the man and woman on the street as well? I can change that! And I did,” boasted Cardin.

His innovation allowed Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney, and soon Viktor & Rolf, the freedom to do H&M lines without compromising their designer name or cutting into their high fashion sales.
Cardin’s work continues to influence the future, in part, because he designed for it. His futuristic fabrics, outlandish furs, patent leather boots and cone-head hats were wildly popular in the 60’s and 70’s.

Rather than follow the body’s natural contours, Cardin viewed the body geometrically, using circles, hexagons, and triangles in his designs.
In step with the budding space program, after designing space suits for NASA in 1970, Cardin was the only person on the planet given permission to try on Lance Armstrong’s.

Cardin’s touch has gone far, but his name has gone farther. Attaching his name to everything, birthing the concept of licensing and branding, Cardin has been sneered at for denigrating fashion’s elitism.

With his name emblazoned allegedly on over 800 products, Cardin has been quoted as saying, “I wash with my own soap, wear my own perfume, go to bed with my own sheets, have my own food products… I live on me.”

And the world lives on him. Highly appreciative of global fashion, Cardin took interest in China, Russian and Japan, flying aboard the inaugural flight from Paris to Tokyo. Breaking the Caucasian monotony on the runway, Cardin introduced the first Japanese model, Hiroko Matsumoto, ushering in an age of diversity.

After stepping away from fashion at age 82, Cardin’s work is now commemorated with the sporadic retrospective, which has occurred at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, been featured in the Victoria and Albert Museum and numerous galleries around Japan.

His legacy is ever-present. Examine Cardin’s work closely and today’s fashion seems to simply be his work remixed. Junya Wantanabe’s peaked shoulders on his trench mirror Cardin’s 1979 coat. Viktor & Rolf’s upside-down spring dress line was reminiscent of Cardin’s 1992 Haute Couture gown. Balenciaga’s fall riding gear and Proenza Schouler corseted dresses all conjure elements of Cardin.

Now retired, Cardin’s amassed wealth has offered him interesting opportunities. It is no secret that fashion constantly overlaps with the world of kink, embodying darker worlds of fantasy and sexuality. But it did come as a surprise when Pierre Cardin purchased the Marquis de Sade’s castle in 2001.

But, it seems only fair, after eight decades of business, now he can retire into pleasure.

And now a word from


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