Wearing Vintage in Soho

There’s something about wearing vintage clothes in the middle of Soho, NY. Maybe it’s the cobblestone streets or imagining the lives of the individuals within those streets, but vintage suits just fine. That’s the thing about vintage: it’s not like anything else you will see at a mall and you probably won’t see another person wearing the same thing. It’s unique for you. This soft, leopard jacket that I purchased at my friend Gabrielle’s store, The Collective, is one-of-a-kind. I almost didn’t get it because of the extreme 1980’s style shoulder pads (which I thought were too much for me), but Gabrielle encouraged me and I am thrilled that I did. So when I found myself in Soho on a beautiful and amazingly warm day for October, I smiled in my shorts, knowing that I was the only one in that moment who looked like me!

Jacket, vintage; shorts Kohl’s; t-shirt, Rag & Bone; boots, Coach; socks, Wolford

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Shopping Day

Alexandra at 10:00 am - Her shopping day begins ...

Alexandra at 10:00 am – Her shopping day begins …

Costume designer, Alexandra, went shopping today. Her goal? Find accessories and costumes for the short film for which she is designing: Karaoke King. As a costume designer Alexandra is a storyteller and interestingly, she likes shopping for the characters but not necessarily for herself. She tells stories through costumes and accessories, never overlooking any detail. Sometimes the story is pretty, sometimes gritty and dark … and today? This story is about a former successful rocker who finds himself in a slump and singing karaoke. The clothing and the mood must be glam rock.

Because Alexandra lives and works in New York, the entire city becomes her shopping closet and she must be able to seek out the gems within the neighborhoods and the vintage shops of note; places like Goodwill in Harlem, where she can find a suit for $15, or the treasures in downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn. The turnaround time for this shopping excursion is quick; shopping today, filming over the weekend. Here is how it works: Continue reading

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xox Betsey

Betsey and Lulu Johnson

Betsey and Lulu Johnson

You may want to spend part of your Mother’s Day with designer Betsey Johnson and her daughter, Lulu. Tonight the Style Network will launch the season premier of: xox Betsey. A little over a year ago Betsey Johnson filed for bankruptcy but as she herself says, “The stores are gone, but I’m not!” Which is a very good thing, and I can’t wait to see more of Betsey Johnson! She is a fashion favorite, ever since my mother introduced me to her in the mid 1970s when she took over the fashion label Alley Cat. I will never forget (and I wish I could find) the red plaid corduroy Alley Cat blazer designed by Betsey Johnson. It was divine. I borrowed it from my mother and she never saw it again.

I imagine xox Betsey will be a loving tribute to mothers and daughters everywhere and a lot like Betsey Johnson-the-designer herself: bold, bright, edgy, cooky, a lot of fun and original! I’ll be watching!

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Prom: Now/Samantha …

Samantha's original dress choices

Samantha’s original dress choices  – black and silver vintage and mint green contemporary

Samantha's second choice/second dress - strapless, deep purple with silver embellishment

Samantha’s second choice/second dress – strapless, deep purple with silver embellishment

Samantha is a junior in high school and she is my friend Karen’s daughter. I have known her for her entire life. In fact, I have known her since she was in her mother’s womb. After speaking with Samantha today I find it hard to believe that she is the same age that her mom and I were when we met. Here is Samantha on prepping for the prom …

I will be going to two proms this year: my boyfriend’s school prom is this Thursday and my school prom is May 17th. Almost from the minute I was invited, I started to feel pressure to find a dress, about two months ago. I began my search at the malls but found nothing and then searched on-line and didn’t find anything there either. Fortunately, I finally discovered two dresses at a local consignment shop, each for under $50! I know some girls who are spending up to $600 for just one dress, so two for $100 is quite a find for me. One is a mint green, contemporary style; the other is a black and silver vintage dress. They both fit well which is important to me. I needed to make a few slight adjustments to the mint green and I took it to a tailor. I have a pair of silver shoes that are a fine back up but I am hoping to find another pair before the proms. Recently, I wasn’t as sure about the black dress (I think because I’m not as comfortable wearing black in the spring). My boyfriend took me to the mall where I found a deep purple strapless dress with silver embellishment. I love it! I used gift cards to purchase the dress, so again, I was lucky …

I did feel pressure to purchase two dresses, partly because of the pictures that we will be taking, but mostly because my friends will be wearing two dresses. If they were wearing one dress for both of their proms I would probably do the same …

I decided to post my dresses to a Facebook page made for my school that exhibits every girls’ dresses. But I didn’t do the same for my boyfriend’s school. I found out that someone else will be wearing my dress at his prom but I’m okay with that because there will be many people. I will be getting a mani-pedi this week as well as having a spray-tan. I had an appointment to do my hair professionally at a salon but I think I will do it myself and save the money …

I think the biggest differences between going to the prom then, when you and my mom went, and today, are: the dresses are more outrageously priced, the preparation for the prom is more intense, and there is much more pressure from your friends to prepare in a certain way …

I am excited to go to the prom. Right now, though, I am thinking more about the preparation than the actual prom. I think that many girls feel the way I do and enjoy the preparation more than anything else.” ~ Samantha

I think that Samantha shows us that pressure from friends continues to be a big deal in high school. And no one should underestimate the power of the image in today’s world.

What do you think?

to be continued …

 

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Alexandra: Storyteller

Alexandra on-set

Alexandra on-set of the movie The Left Bank Bookseller, a film by Lisa Reznik

Being a costume designer is like going on a treasure hunt!” ~ Alexandra

Alexandra has my favorite job in the whole world and if I were starting out on my career path, I would want to do what she is doing: be a costume designer. She tells stories with clothes; sometimes the stories are pretty, sometimes gritty, but they are always about life and the way we live. We sat down today and talked about her adventurous life and her beautiful sense of curiosity ...

Tell me … what is it really like to be a costume designer?

Being a costume designer is different from being in fashion. It is telling stories about people, but it’s not all pretty and beautiful and high fashion stories. Sometimes you have to dress a homeless person or look at the darker side of life. Costume design can be overlooked but it is an essential part of the overall storytelling process and it is the little details that make the process successful. Continue reading

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Phoebe

Phoebe

It warms the heart to enjoy a conversation with a young woman with whom you have history and have known all of her life. I sat down with Phoebe, who turned sixteen last month, and at first, all I could see was the adorable cherub of a baby I once knew. But as Phoebe spoke, I left the baby behind and saw only the young woman sitting next to me. And isn’t she effortlessly chic and stylish? Here is Phoebe, in her own words: on fashion, where she shops, and the need to express oneself …

“My feeling about fashion is that you should dress the way you want to dress. I never understood trends. I just pick the things I like and I wear them …

My high school is big (Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, or simply, La Guardia High School), and like any other large school there is a wide range of fashion looks. But we definitely feel free to express who we really are without judgment. Sometimes students’ choices are wonderful and sometimes terrible, but at least they are their own and I think that is what’s important …

I shop at J. Crew, Forever 21 and The Gap. If I had to pick my favorite place to shop, I would say J. Crew, because their clothes are always current and classy. My friends and I also like to shop at Buffalo Exchange, a consignment shop filled with current looks and is geared toward a young, hip crowd. There really isn’t one store where I shop most, because I look everywhere for pieces that fit my style. As long as it’s not too expensive and I think I can make it work in my wardrobe, I’ll buy it …

I wonder about the connection between fashion and self-esteem and people who don’t care about how they dress or what others think. I have a certain level of self-respect and it affects how I choose to dress. From what I observe at school people care about how they present themselves, too; from their outfits, to their makeup, to their shoes and their accessories. I think it’s connected to having a more positive self-esteem …

I used to wear only jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. Now, I like to add different pieces to enhance my outfits and go a step further. I may choose a collared shirt under a sweater, with leggings and boots, for example. I’m also warming up to accessories like headbands and bracelets and I have a pair of pearl earrings that I wear with everything. I’m definitely more open to different styles.” ~ Phoebe

Phoebe, you are doing so well! I think you have a smart fashion sense and a solid perspective on the benefits of expressing yourself through your clothing choices. I love to see it and to see you too!  xx, Melissa

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News on the little black dress

Ralph Lauren Collection, Fall 2011
Black silk embroidered art deco evening dress
(Chrysler Building) – “Little Black Dress” Exhibition, SCAD

I turned on the television last night just in time to see Entertainment Tonight feature a story on Andre Leon Talley, Contributing Editor at Vogue, and his exhibition of the timeless Little Black Dress” opening to the public on September 28 at The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art. This exhibition spotlights the evolution of the classic and beloved little black dress and remains on display through January 27, 2013.

The exhibition includes about 80 dresses and features many of today’s well-known designers, including Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, Carolina Herrera, Tom Ford and Norma Kamali. The dresses vary, reminding us that it doesn’t have to be a little black dress to be a little black dress! Dr. Talley was curator for the project and lovingly put together the collection for more than a year. In his own words: “The black dress can liberate one. It can set a new style standard or adhere to old standards. It can be rebellious, reckless, elegant or establishment.”

In addition, Dr. Talley, himself a SCAD trustee, is interested in helping young SCAD designers and has featured dresses from two recent SCAD graduates, because as he says, “The point of view is to show that there are young designers who are doing black dresses in a new way.”

It’s all very exciting for a little black dress lover like myself!

What do you think?

“Little Black Dress” Exhibition, SCAD Museum of Art – Photo courtesy of SCAD

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Jean’s tuxedo

Jean’s tuxedo
Brooks Brothers circa 1991

I found a kindred spirit in my next-door neighbor, Jean, when I moved to my house 13 years ago. We became fast friends and even though Jean is now in her mid 80s we have much in common and speak often – about life in general and fashion in particular. Today the subject was Jean’s tuxedo. It is an interesting story and one to which I definitely relate. Jean bought her tuxedo (a classic Brooks Brothers with satin trim, sans cumberbun) in 1991 for a New Year’s Eve party. Classic man-style tuxedos for women were just starting to trend and Jean was always up on what was en-vogue. She intended to wear it to the party but her husband had just passed and she decided against it. She kept it anyway, tucked in her closet, and year after year would check on its condition, always imagining herself wearing it to a special event. To date, Jean has not worn her tuxedo. But she would never think of selling it or giving it away because as Jean says, “it has found its home with me.” Jean also says that there is a personal exchange with your clothing – a realization that when you find the right pieces you know “you are going to be good friends.” In addition, there is the magic and the imagination to consider, picturing yourself transported and having a great time in an outfit, and many of us cannot let that image go. I, too, have favorite pieces that speak to me of festive parties to come. They have found a home with me just as Jean’s tuxedo has with her. I hope she has the occasion to wear it soon. It still fits.

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Getting in at the beginning

 

Getting in at the beginning …
My vintage Kate Spade floral handbag

In the mid 1990’s I bought two handbags from new designer, Kate Spade.The first was a brown nylon diaper bag for my baby, and the other was a whimsical, floral straw handbag, perfect for spring and summer. I had seen the original square handbags with her classic, American name sewn on the outside; they were fresh, simple, chic, and ultra-sophisticated. And when I discovered she had designed matching diaper bag totes, I was hooked!

After both my babies outgrew the need for diaper bags, I passed on the tote to another new mother, but my floral handbag is here to stay! I absolutely love it. It is unlike any other handbag and is completely fun. I feel like my best self whenever I wear it.

Thank you, Kate Spade. I am happy to have one of your first and I look forward to more …

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Vidal Sassoon

Vidal Sassoon creating his famous geometric-shaped bob
guardian.co.uk

I just heard that hairstylist and visionary Vidal Sassoon passed away Wednesday, May 9th, at the age of 84. Last November I saw a documentary about his extraordinary life and contribution to the world of fashion. I was inspired to write about it in my column (Styling with Mel, Vidal Sassoon, November 10, 2011). It feels appropriate to share his story with you now.

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