Fashion in Song – Vogue (1990)

The ‘Vogue’ that Madonna sings about is a stylized form of dancing that evolved in the 1980s in the gay Harlem ballroom scene. The moves were based on the poses struck by models and actresses for fashion magazines like Vogue magazine. A 1991 documentary about vogueing called Paris is Burning gave a full history to the dance style that was introduced to the mainstream in Madonna’s song and video “Vogue” where she exclaims “Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it – Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it”.

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Glossary – Spinster

When the word spinster entered the English language in the mid 14th century, it referred to a woman who spun flax into linen thread or wool into yarn for a living. The job was commonly taken up by unmarried women at home.

By the 18thcentury the word had come to mean an unmarried woman who had passed her ‘best before’ marriageable age – when she transformed from a maiden into an old maid. Jane Austen’s character Charlotte Lucas from Pride and Prejudice is identified as almost a spinster at the age of 27, “Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.”

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Release the White Shoes!

Girls wear white for a Whit Monday march in England, c. 1935

Today is Whit Monday, a Christian calendar holiday occurring the day after Whit Sunday, which is the seventh Sunday after Easter. The date marks the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. The date became a holiday in Europe and became associated with the unofficial start of summer. As the date moves around according to Easter, which also moves around, Whit Monday can occur anywhere from mid May to mid June. Christ appears in white robes according to New Testament writings, and so the donning of white clothing for the holiday that is also the ideal colour for beating the heat. This is the origin of wearing white for the summer season, which ends, unofficially on Labour Day — and don’t even think about wearing white after Labour Day!

No White Shoes after Labour Day Scene from Serial Mom, 1994
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Max Azria 1949-2019

The youngest of six children, Max Azria was born in Sfax, Tunisia on January 1, 1949. He was educated in France and in 1970 began his career in fashion. In 1981 he immigrated to the United States and launched Jess, a woman’s apparel boutique in Los Angeles. 

Max Azria with second wife Lubov, who is the creative director at BCBGMaxAzrial

In 1989, Azria launched his BCBG brand. The name was derived from the French phrase ‘Bon chic, Bon genre’ a Parisian saying meaning ‘Good style, Good attitude.’ The label strove to produce designer fashion styles at affordable prices. Later labels followed, including the BCBG Max Azria Runway collection in 1996, Max Azra Atelier in 2004, and Max Azria in 2006. 

1998 was Max Azria’s year. He acquired Hervé Léger’s fashion house, and was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America. His relationship with Léger didn’t last long and the two parted, with Azria retaining the right to use Léger’s name. In 2007, Azria relaunched the Hervé Léger label. 

In 2008, Max Azria launched another collection aimed at a younger audience called BCBGeneration, and in 2009 he created a line with Miley Cyrus for Walmart called Miley Cyrus & Max Azria. 

BCBG, spring 2012

Sales dropped off as the company went into decline and the label became associated with cheap adolescent fashion. Azria left his own company in 2016 and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2017. It was subsequently sold to Marquee Brands. Azria died May 7, 2019.

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Film and Fashion – Ladies in Black

I rarely write about film costuming anymore, and here is a second review in as many days! Ladies in Black is wonderful. Wendy Cook did a fantastic job at recreating the sort of fashions worn in December 1959 in Sydney, Australia, which is the middle of summer down under. Floral print cotton dresses and dewy faces, that no amount of powder will conceal, captures the look and feel of a mid-summer heat wave. The smooth and perfectly coifed hair and make-up are also flawless recreations of the period.

The Ladies about which the film revolves arrive at work in their floral frocks at Goodes department store but change into their vendeuse blacks before serving customers. The workplace is an exquisite recreation of a period department store with plenty of period appropriate mannequins and draped window displays. Alongside Wendy Cooks’ fashions, the production design by Felicity Abbot is worthy of praise. Not only does Abbot capture the glamour of department store shopping, but also the home interiors of the various women, in all the dreary fussiness of middle class 1959 Australia. 

I can’t help but compare the movie to another one of my favourites Enchanted April because they are both feel good movies about life’s little problems – the insecurities and prejudices that fill our days. Some probably think the movie is too fluffy because nothing big happens, although there is a bit of a mystery in one of the women’s stories when her husband inexplicably disappears and then re-appears without good cause. Frankly, it was nice to see a movie that made me smile from beginning to end, and look good in the process!

The film was directed by Bruce Beresford, who is known for Breaker Morant, Paradise Road, Black Robe, and Driving Miss Daisy – all of which are great costume films. I know this film had a good run in Australia, but it only appeared up here briefly in the art and revue cinemas. I caught it last night on Cineplex online rental, but will be buying the DVD to add to the costume films in the FHM library.

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Film & Fashion – Rocketman

Just saw Rocketman, and LOVED the costuming! Most of the stage costumes were unfamiliar to me but when I got home and read up, it turns out that all but a few of the stage costumes were original creations by costume designer Julian Day. Normally, I hate it when designers aren’t faithful to recreating original designs but in this case it works because all of Day’s creations use a period-correct style vocabulary. 

The first costume we see is when Elton brings his demons to rehab – appropriately dressed as a demon with giant red feather wings and massive horns, but with heart shaped glasses, indicating his search for love. As he reminisces about his youth, the film goes back to the mid 1950s where his mother (a far less caring one than depicted in the Christmas piano ad) and an emotionally detached father ruin his childhood. A dance montage of Teddy boys and Mods takes us quickly through the 60s until we arrive in 1969 when Elton meets Bernie Taupin. The movie then slows down and we get to savour lots of yummy, over-the-top 1970s nostalgic/ethnic/space age inspired boutique fashions in the vein of Tommy Roberts and Mr. Freedom. The ‘everyday’ 70s fashions are superb!

The story slides through the late 70s and into the 80s as the drugged out diva plays a piano that spins faster and faster, with each turn revealing another stage costume. The film culminates with John’s rehab and his hit ‘I’m Still Standing’. Although written years before Reggie Dwight had beaten his addictions, the clever splicing of the actor playing Elton John into the 1983 video neatly wraps up the storyline – even if you are left wanting more star-spangled jumpsuits and winged platform shoes.

Although the fur coats are faux, and Day uses rhinestones instead of sequins for better film effect, all of Day’s costumes are brilliant campy creations that never parody the originals, but instead build on Bob Mackie’s work, who designed and made most of the original stage costumes. Mackie is also credited at the end with creating some of the pieces for the movie. 

Designer Julian Day and some of the costumes he created for Rocketman

Costume designer Julian Day came to everyone’s attention in last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody for which he received a Bafta but no Oscar nomination. Surely Rocketman will bring him a well-deserved Oscar nomination this year. I noticed Day’s work a while back in films like: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Brighton Rock, and Nowhere Boy. He deserves recognition for his work and maybe this time it will come. 

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Thirty Years of Fashion Scrapbooking…

I found these images online of pages from a fashion scrapbook that date from 1912 to 1945 (1944 is missing…):

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‘Da Bomb’ hairdo

“Liliana Orsi, a 22-year-old beauty in Rome, Italy, displays her new atomic hairdo and the photo of the atomic blast which inspired it. It took a hair stylist 12 hours to arrange Liliana’s coiffure, so it’s not recommended for daily wear…”

I find it hard to believe it took 12 hours to set this hair – its just an upsweep, probably with a hairpiece slapped on top… 30 minutes tops.

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Canadian Fashion Connection – Daymac Robes Ltd.

Founded in Toronto as Dexter Robes Ltd. Nov. 24, 1941, the company’s name was changed to Daymac Robes Ltd. On December 14, 1944. The company closed in August 1985 but reopened in 1987, only to close again in 1997. The company was finally dissolved in 2001 by company director Esther Rose Eisen. Head office was listed at 7030 Woodbine Avenue in Markham at the time of its closing.

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When it was illegal to change in your car…

I found this snippet in the July 25, 1921 New York Times:

It was apparently illegal to change in or out of your bathing suit in your own vehicle in New York in 1921.
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