Why We All Love Annie Hall

InStyle, featuring Alexa Chung; photographer, Matthew Sprout

When InStyle Magazine photographed Alexa Chung channelling Annie Hall’s iconic style, I smiled a huge smile. One of my all-time favorite movies, Annie Hall is a love affair waiting to happen; love of New York, love of romance, love of comedy, love of Diane Keaton as Annie Hall – and especially her style. She was so effortless in her attitude. “Feminine masculinity,” is how Alexa Chung describes Annie Hall’s style and I would have to agree: hats, high-wasted trousers with men’s style shirts and ties, vests, and blazers – costume designer Ruth Morley worked closely with Keaton to create the look and it was pure Annie Hall. It was also my mother’s style of the 1970’s – and this film brought my mom to the screen!

The best part about watching Annie Hall, though, is that I have shared it with my son, Eric. When we watched it together for the first time about a year ago (I hadn’t realized he had seen it before) it was so much fun to see it through his eyes! He of course did not realize that as I was laughing my head off (how about that car scene with a young Christopher Walken!?), I was also swooning over every outfit and every look of Annie Hall! La ti da! 

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Today I am a Costume Designer!

Some of the chosen 1960’s-style accessories – Photo: Susan Olson

Some of the chosen 1960’s-style accessories – Photo: Susan Olson

When I started the assignment I had no idea how satisfying it would be. I had volunteered to help my friend and costume designer Katherine during the preparation of the local high school production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I told her to put me to work in any capacity, that I simply wanted to be a part of the costume crew. When Katherine told me that she would like me to accessorize the female performers’ costumes I was thrilled. This musical is set in an office in the heart of the 1960’s and I would be accessorizing the students portraying young women who worked in the secretarial pool. Fashion in the 60’s was full of color and silhouette. Accessories were simple but bold. Outfits were color-coordinated and highly accessorized and a bit matchy-matchy; big button earrings, brooches, bright necklaces, and headbands rounded out the accessories.  Continue reading

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More Gilmore Girls’ Costumes!

A still from Netflix’s ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ (Saeed Adyani / Netflix)

A still from Netflix’s ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ (Saeed Adyani / Netflix)

Were you like me this weekend, losing yourself in the four-part return of the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life – on Netflix? Following the banter, the loves, and the lives of mother and daughter, Lorelei and Rory Gilmore? I did, of course, follow the clothes and the fashion! Gone were the uniforms and the classics for Rory, replaced by a more sophisticated style; Lorelei’s style continued to evolve with feminine twists (I noticed a lot of pencil skirts and wrap dresses! Yet the dressing was still full of whimsy, like the women themselves).

To my delight, the LA Times reported that WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) interviewed the show’s costume designer Brenda Maben, who reprised her role for the reboot. Continue reading

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Technology Advances Fashion

The Yves Saint Laurent "Sardine" dress from the 1983 couture show that took 1,500 hours to complete

The Yves Saint Laurent “Sardine” dress from the 1983 couture show that took 1,500 hours to complete

I use so many processes in my work – some that involve the hand and some that involve the machine. For me, mixing the hand and the machine give the best results. I don’t think the hand or the machine have any use or value on their own. What matters is the form in relationship with the idea.” ~ Miuccia Prada 

In a way, the hand is being lost today. It’s important to me that a piece of clothing always feels like it has been touched by the hand at some point, even if there’s a lot of machine work involved.” ~ Sarah Burton

With just a week before it closed, I explored the exhibit at the Met: “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.” I was extra lucky to experience it with costume designer and new friend, Katherine Winter, who has shared her story on TFIO. To see it through Katherine’s eyes, with her love of fabric and texture and construction, made this experience even more meaningful for me. Continue reading

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Where Clothes and Fabrics Only Sell for ‘Happy Money’

Purushottam Goyal and Saroj Goyal have been married for 46 years. Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

Purushottam Goyal and Saroj Goyal: Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

Saroj Goyal organized fabrics at Dress Shoppe II, an Indian textiles store in the East Village. Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

Saroj Goyal organizes fabrics at Dress Shoppe II: Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

Yesterday’s New York Times’ Metropolitan Section featured a story about an East Village shop, owned by couple, Purushottam Goyal and Saroj Goyal. The Goyals have owned Dress Shoppe II since 1878 when it was originally, Dress Shoppe. Mr. Goyal has garnered favorites of the shop, where the main offering is Indian clothing made of cotton, silk and linen – and where his business philosophy is full of kharmic charm: “Just relax, and if you feel something, buy it. We want only happy money.” Among the favorites is costume designer, Katie Novello, who shopped at Dress Shoppe II to buy outfits for the cast of Hulu show, “The Path.” “It is a treasure trove,” according to Novello, who, as a costume designer spends huge amounts of time shopping for the perfect pieces to tell a character’s story.

The Goyals were about to close shop at the end of the year but they received so many letters from customers that they decided to postpone their retirement until 2018, which will be the store’s 40 anniversary. I must make a trip to this shop – this magical place where fabrics only sell for ‘Happy Money’ – and meet the Goyals myself. I love their message!

 

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Mentoring is the Best Part for This Costume Designer

Katherine with her costume team leaders,

Katherine with her costume team leaders, Kate Klaschka and Kira Ross

There is no question that mentoring the kids is what brings me back year after year. I don’t need to make another dress.” ~ Katherine Winter, Costume Designer

As the costume designer for the award-winning Summit High School Theater Arts Program (Summit, New Jersey), Katherine Winter’s job is to design and create costumes for the full casts of the Fall and Spring productions. For over 13 years at the high school, with every production, every cast, every performance, Ms. Winter leaves her mark, her knowledge, and her passion with the students and the adult volunteers who work tirelessly with her on the costume crew. Because more than anything else, Ms. Winter believes that her true purpose is to teach, mentor, and elevate the young people with whom she works. It is a passion that started when she was a young girl using her mother’s Singer sewing machine and a desire to tell stories that is an integral part of Ms. Winter’s Irish heritage. Brooklyn, New York, was the original stage for Ms. Winter’s love of costume design; it all started with that Singer sewing machine and the strong need to create, always create, something entirely from scratch …

I grew up in Brooklyn, the first generation of Irish immigrants. It was common for many mothers of the time to purchase sewing machines and learn to make their own clothes. As my mother, who was very fashionable, was learning to sew, she encouraged me and my brothers to learn with her. My brothers lost interest quickly but I became hooked. I couldn’t sew enough! I loved making things: buying the patterns and the fabrics, and creating most of my clothes! Every weekend I attended a Parish dance, and it became a ritual for me to make a new dress for each dance. As time went on, I made my own Prom dresses (I still have two of those dresses!) and most of the clothing I owned. Continue reading

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Farewell to Downton Abbey Fashion

DowntonAbbeyHatsThe-final-ever-episode-saw-her-marry-Bertie-Pelham-422594Oh, Downton Abbey! So sad to see you go. The characters, the drama, the fashion! Yes, I will miss the fashion. Especially when things were getting so interesting. The fashion of the 1920’s is so much fun: the cloche hats, the long pearls, the dresses – simple, color-blocked, … all so very Coco Chanel. And the women were getting so interesting, too: strong and independent – the clothes reflecting this change.

Farewell, Downton. My fashion fave!

 

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A Fashion Trio for the Ages: Hepburn, Givenchy, and Sabrina

Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, wearing Hubert de Givenchy creation: photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina, wearing Hubert de Givenchy creation: photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Last night TCM aired one of my all-time favorite Audrey Hepburn movies, 1954’s Sabrina. Sabrina tells the tale of a chauffeur’s daughter who pines over the handsome playboy son of the wealthy, Long Island family for whom her father works. After her father ships her off to Paris to attend cooking school and kick her crush, Sabrina returns two years later sporting a complete makeover, including a new haircut and Parisian style. When Sabrina accepts an invitation to a fancy dance from her former crush, she promises to wear “a lovely evening dress with yards of skirt and way off the shoulders.” And so enters Sabrina, as the belle of the ball, in the strapless, iconic Hubert de Givenchy dress that would launch the french designer and one of the greatest collaborations in film and fashion history: Hepburn and Givenchy. And here, the story behind the story gets more interesting … Continue reading

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Oh, to be Well-Dressed on Downton Abbey!

Lady Mary in Season 6

Lady Mary in Season 6 – Photo Getty Images, courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

I’ve really gone to town and found some incredible original pieces that I’m very excited about. Knowing that it’s the final season, I wanted to go out on a high and epitomize that mid-decade point that we’ve reached. The ’20s glamour and decadence, knowing that that way of life is waning.” Anna Mary Scott Robbins, costume designer Downton Abbey

I am in love with costume design and telling stories through clothes. Downton Abbey’s final season has just launched in the U.S., with the 1920s in full swing. The look of the show is extremely important, down to the smallest detail and the clothing is at the heart of the storytelling. In a recent Glamour Magazine interview with costume designer, Anna Mary Scott Robbins, Robbins describes the process of finding vintage pieces and the combination of making things from scratch and adopting originals for the characters, whom she knows so well: “You could troll vintage markets for months and months and months and it might not be exactly like it was in your imagination. That’s another reason you make something: It gives you control over the exact coloring of the silk, the cut, the detailing. I tend to have an open mind when vintage shopping and am constantly looking for things that could be for any of our characters. When I find them, I’ll buy them and stockpile them. I know the characters so well that I can buy things knowing they’ll be good for certain scene moments. Having a rough idea where the characters’ stories are taking them, I try to be prepared.”

Robbins, who joined the show last year for Season 5 has really hit her stride, just in time to see the characters embrace the movement of the 1920s. We all benefit from the perfect character studies and storytelling through fabric.

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If Looks Could Kill

Photo: @emmaroberts

Photo: @emmaroberts

I Scream. You Scream. We all Scream for Scream Queens! I am super-obsessed with last night’s new show, Scream Queens (Tuesdays on FOX). Part horror, part comedy, the show takes place on a college campus and focuses on a series of serial murders at a popular and snooty sorority house where the leaders call themselves, appropriately enough – The Chanels. The president of the sorority is played by Emma Roberts, the queen bee herself. Fashion takes the lead as the main characters are dressed in vintage Chanel and Moschino. As they deal with blood and gore and murder, these Chanel girls are killing it.

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