Monday, 28 February 2011

Nothing more, nothing less

Mid 18th century Norwegian Rococo partly gilt beech wood armchair.

The devil is compromise. - Henrik Ibsen

Now playing: Tom McRae - You Only Disappear

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Of most excellent fancy

Danish modern.

Classically  inspired and timeless.

The lampshade being the only thing that one would change.

Now playing: Beck - It's All In Your Mind

Iron butterfly

Portrait by Richard Avedon

Kimono style evening dress

Hanae Mori, doyenne of Japanese fashion.

And master of the print.

But to be a woman? It seemed to mean being a woman at the beginning and being a woman forever.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Boys and ballerinas

Wonderful Life 

Better Than Love


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

And I am all forgotten.

Mrs. Arthur Henry Paget (1853-1919), 1891
Watercolour on ivory 

The subject is dressed as Cleopatra, the costume she wore to the 1875 Delmonico Ball in New York City. In mock ancient Egyptian costume, including a headdress in imitation of Egyptian pharaohs, she is posed against a background of palm trees, a river, and distant pyramids.
New York Historical Society - ALLURE OF THE EAST: ORIENTALISM IN NEW YORK, 1850–1930

Mrs. Paget would attend The Duchess of Devonshire's Ball in 1897 also dressed as Cleopatra. 

Of all the private entertainments for which the Jubilee has provided the occasion, none is comparable with the magnificent fancy dress ball given last night at Devonshire House by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Amid all the public excitements of the last few weeks, when the world, one might have thought, has been sufficiently occupied with the procession, the two reviews, and the garden party, the inner circle of what is still called society has preserved in the background of its mind an anxious preoccupation - namely, how it was to appear at Devonshire-house, supposing it was fortunate enough to be asked. Never in our times has so much attention been paid to old family pictures, never have the masterpieces of portraiture in the National Gallery been so carefully studied, while for weeks past the Print-room at the British Museum, commonly given up to quiet students, has been invaded by smart ladies and gentlemen anxious to search the prints and drawings of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries for something in which they could obey the Duchess's summons to appear "in an allegorical or historical costume dated earlier than 1820". Never in our time have the costumiers been so busy, and the houses so well-known to everybody who has ever organized private theatricals, such as Messrs. John Simmons, of the Haymarket, Messrs Nathan, and Messrs Alias, have been driven districted with orders and counter-orders. As usual on such occasions, the gentlemen, it is said, have proved far more exacting than the ladies; for the stronger sex, when once it makes up its mind to desert the sobriety of plain broadcloth, knows no limit to its requirements or to its suddenly developed fastidiousness. But, whatever may have been the anxieties and the difficulties of the preparation, there can be no doubt as to the splendour and beauty of the result. It is 23 years since a ball of similar design and magnificence was given. We are referring to the famous ball at Marlborough House on July 22, 1874. Many of those who were present last night were present also at the earlier festivity, and those who were, or those who have read the full account that was published in "The Times" on the following day, will find it difficult to award the palm for Royal magnificence and good taste. 
Saturday July 3, 1897
The Times

Now playing: The Magnetic Fields - With Whom To Dance?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A good musical is hard to find

And  DuBarry Was a Lady (1943) isn't one of them. 

The dialogue and plot are almost as  diabolical as the musical numbers.  The only points in its favour are its stellar cast (Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Red Skelton and Zero Mostell as Rami the Swami), its glorious technicolor, and its inspired costume and set design. This is most certainly one that should be watched sans sound.

Virginia O'Brien as Ginny in her Salome number. The only number with any oomph.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

There ain't nothin' an ol' man can do but bring me a message from a young one.

So said Loretta Mary Aiken (1894-1975), better known as Jackie Moms Mabley.
Quite possibly one of the funniest comedians of all time. And most certainly a pioneer. 

The social issues that boiled over in the late sixties were something Mabley had been addressing for decades. When the struggle against war, racism and varied discrimination became the focus of a new generation, Mabley suddenly found herself a bigger star than before, her message embraced by those involved in the fight.   From,  Moms Mabley - Agitation in Moderation

Mabley's last role

Now playing: Heatwave - Super Soul Sister

Friday, 18 February 2011

À la recherche du temps perdu

Christian Dior
Haute Couture, Spring Summer 2011

A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.
- Marcel Proust

Now playing: Richard Wagner - Tristan und Isolde, Prelude

Who knows?

The ombré knows.

Now playing: Cher - You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me   
Throwing Shade by Abe Vigoda could have been the perfect song. If only those children had the pipes.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

About so much more than a dress

Balenciaga Sari dress
Haute couture, Spring 1964

Lamé brocade with beaded embroidery by Lesage of Paris

The sari distilled by the traditions of couture to its very essence.

Now playing: Innocence - Higher Ground

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Grace under fire

The sari, an embellished strip of cloth that is quite possibly the most elegant form of evening dress. On the right woman. On the wrong woman it can be costumey. And as yet I have to see a blond that can pull one off without looking as if she were: a Hare Krishna convert,  a patronising bored housewife doing good works in a Calcutta slum (there was a perfect example in Elle Decor not that long ago, though I think she was actually on her veranda in the Hamptons), or a vapid tramp .

With the right proportions, hair, accessories, and most importantly, intent - one could not possibly go wrong.

Now playing: David Bowie with Gail Ann Dorsey - Under Pressure

Monday, 14 February 2011

She was loved...

A little something created (with a lot of help from a jeweler friend) for a client. 

Redolent with meaning. As it should be.

Now playing: Linda Clifford - Don't Give It Up


The Divine One  performing My Funny Valentine

Sunday, 13 February 2011

St. Sebastian

Saint Sebastian
Guido Reni, 17th Century

Saint Sebastian
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 17th Century

Saint Sebastian 
El Greco, 16th Century
Cathedral of San Antolin, Palencia

St. Sebastian

Sebastiane (1976)

...uses his body to lend eternity to whatever is fleeting, giving visible form to an abstract aesthetic idea... 

Federico Garcia Lorca, from a letter to Salvador Dali

Now playing: Claude Debussy  - Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien, Fragments Symphoniques:  
I. La Cour Des Lys. Prelude
II. Danse Extatique Et Final Du 1er Acte 
III. La Passion 
IV. Le Bon Pasteur

Basking in the sun

View of San Sebastián, Circa 1930

King Alfonso XIII of Spain Visiting Bilbao, 1920

Portable Beach House of King Alphonse XIII Being Moved in San Sebastián, 1910

The historic Basque coastal town of San Sebastián. Ever since Doña Isabel II, Queen of the Spains first took the waters in 1845 San Sebastián played host to the Spanish court and Spain's summering aristocracy. It was here that Cristobal Balenciaga opened his first maison de couture in 1915.

Very apt, given Balenciaga's well known fascination with the aristocracy. Which has oft  been surmised to be nothing more than an indelible snobbery.  A fairer interpretation would be that Balenciaga was in fact fascinated with nobility and all that it entailed.

Now playing: The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The importance of being earnest

Late 19th century painted faux bamboo side cabinet with black marbled top.
Pair of Gothic revival painted side chairs.

An early Victorian white painted mahogany x-framed stool.
Pair of painted arm chairs with rush seats.

When one is in town one amuses oneself. 
When one is in the country one amuses other people. 

Oscar Wilde

Now playing:  Big Country - In A Big Country

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Caught in time

20th February,  2011

Useful in conveying links to the past. 
There is comfort to be found in continuity.

Now playing: Adele - Don't You Remember

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Ultimate vixen

Tura Satana (1938-2011)

The antithesis of victim, on and off screen. a velvet glove cast in iron.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Year of the Hare

Now playing: Al Stewart - Year of the Cat

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Spirit of the water

For the Lunar New Year, the Chinese have long believed it auspicious to have flowering  narcissus  in the house. The narcissus, or sui sin fah (which means water fairy), represents purity of heart and spirit and the hope of prosperity.

The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum. "This bird", boasted the market vendor, "was once a duck that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose. And now look, it is too beautiful to eat!" Then the woman and the swan sailed across an ocean many thousands of lei wide, stretching their necks toward America. On her journey, she cooed to the swan, "In America, I will have a daughter just like me. But over there, nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husbands belch. Over there, nobody will look down on her because I will make her speak only perfect American English. And over there, she will always be too full to swallow any sorrow. She will know my meaning because I will give her this swan, a creature that became more than what was hoped for." But when she arrived in the new country the immigration officials pulled the swan away from her, leaving the woman fluttering her arms and with only one swan feather for a memory. For a long time now, the women had wanted to give her daughter the single swan feather and tell her; "This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions. - opening narration, The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Now playing: Toni Childs - House of Hope

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Two words:

It's a way of being.

Only great minds can afford a simple style. - Stendhal

  Now playing:
Inner City - Good Life