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And the Oscar Goes to . . .

"I would love to dress everyone...but what all these actresses this year have in common is great style, lots of personality and that star quality that makes the red carpet come alive."
                                                               -Donatella Versace

With the People's Choice Awards and the Golden Globes just behind us, Oscar nominations announced on Tuesday, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards tonight, the awards season is upon us. The red-carpet, star-studded nights are almost as important to fashion designers as the actors being acknowledged. Every top designer has one goal at this time of year: to dress an A-list celebrity for one of these glitzy affairs.

The Academy Awards began in 1929 and, despite all the glamour now, there was a time when some of the leading actors in Hollywood shunned the ceremony. According to Bronwyn Cosgrave, fashion historian and author of the book Made for Each Other: Fashion and the Academy Awards, "It wasn't cool--it was an obligation. Louis B. Mayer and Adolph Zukor had to twist arms. The chic women didn't go. Hollywood bred rebels in the 20s and 30s who didn't want to hang out with V.I.P.s in penguin suits." Over time, the Oscars did gain popularity among celebrities and the public with a big emphasis placed on fashion.

In 1954, Audrey Hepburn, who had impeccable personal style, was outfitted by Givenchy for the Academy Awards. She glowed in a pretty white floral dress as she accepted her award for Best Actress in Roman Holiday. Four years later in 1958, an article was published in the New York Times titled, "Film Queens Win 'Oscars' for Fashions." The piece included tidbits about the last-minute fashion decisions of Mae West and Zsa Zsa Gabor and how that impacted a radio report of the ceremony. It also stated that, "The Academy hinted to all who participated that extremely low dresses were not welcome." It went on to say that there was a few feet of tulle available that night just in case any of the necklines "had to be built up at the last minute." I highly doubt Hollywood starlets would go for that today, but it's funny to think about. 

I didn't watch the Golden Globes this year, but I saw pictures and became obsessed with the Atelier Versace gown worn by Angelina Jolie. It was stunning. I decided to make an every day top similar to the Versace dress, so I rummaged through my scraps and found the perfect red and ivory fabrics. I also made a skirt using a homespun cotton and sewed piping along the bottom to tie in the red accent on the top. I'm not a big fan of the "looks for less" often seen in magazines because they never look as good as the original design, but this would definitely be classified as my "look for less."



Back to the Jazz Age

"Let us keep up the rules that flapperism is composed of--bobbed hair, short skirts and low-heeled shoes, giving the body plenty of room to expand itself and that free and easy swing that only a short skirt can afford. What do you say flappers?"
       -Excerpt from a letter published in The Flapper magazine (1922) written by a Chicago flapper

Photograph of
my grandma in 1926
Jazz music, dancing, speakeasies, gansters, and, of course, flappers were all part of the twenties underground scene. The flapper emerged as the new, fancy-free woman of the decade with a carefree attitude and flare for style. She didn't care about the societal rules imposed on women and still kept her femininity while keeping up with the men. Flappers became such a sensation that there was even a magazine devoted to them called The Flapper, which embraced the same free spirit outlook as its readers and included the byline, "Not for Old Fogies." When Paris fashion tried to "impose" the long skirt on America in 1922, The Flapper was outraged and included the following at the end of an article titled, "Flappers Protest Dictation From Paris."

     Any flapper reader of The Flapper magazine may fill out the following blank and mail it in as a token of her stand on Parisian dictation of styles. No names will be used; our only concern is to arrive at an accurate gauge of flapper opinion. Results of this referendum will be published in the November issue.
The Flapper, 604 Ogden Bldg., Chicago, Ill.
     Gentlemen: This is how I stand on continuation of present-day
styles. I am marking my preference with an X.
                                                    For      Against
          Bobbed Hair              ____      ____
          Rolled Sox                 ____      ____
          Short Skirts               ____      ____
          Knickers                    ____      ____
          Low-heeled Shoes    ____      ____
          Corsets                     ____      ____
Name............................................. Age.............
Street Address............................ City.............

Photograph of
my grandma in the 1920s
By the twenties, women were tired of wearing uncomfortable, stuffy clothing and were ready for a change. The loose fitting, drop-waist dresses became a staple in every flapper's wardrobe. Jeanne Lanvin and Coco Chanel were two influential fashion designers at the time that kept the "new breed" of women happy.

With the Great Gatsby remake to be released in December and Gucci, Marchesa, Ralph Lauren, and Alberta Ferretti, just to name a few, all sending twenties-inspired looks down the runway, this will be the year to celebrate flapper fashion. High-end designer dresses this spring will feature drop-waists, feathers, fringe, pleats, soft silks, and beading. One of the only fashion houses to not partake in this resurgence is Alexander McQueen. When recently asked about the up and coming trend, creative director Sarah Burton commented, "We’re not a house to do a dropped waist."

Fashion designers may be bringing the twenties back to the runway, but the Dave Stephens Band is bringing it to the stage. Kansas City became a famous jazz hub during the Jazz Age and the Dave Stephens Band is keeping it alive today by performing vintage delights such as Alexander's Ragtime Band, Puttin' on the Ritz, and Runnin' Wild. Their energetic, live shows take you back in time to a night in a past decade. The intimate experience feels so authentic that you half expect the police to burst through the doors like a speakeasy raid on the grounds that the crowd is having a little too much fun. The New York Times described Dave Stephens as "a jazz singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles whose perpetual smile, expansive gestures and habit of breaking into song unprovoked make him seem like a Broadway musical character." Cue the curtain!

 I made a twenties-inspired dress this week and used a beautiful Marc Jacobs crepe de chine I purchased from Mood. It was my first time to work with a silk/lycra blend and it wasn't easy! It's similar to the dress I made last week . . . just a bit dressier.



Only Some Liked It Hot

"Running wild, lost control. Running wild, mighty bold. Feeling gay, reckless too, carefree mind all the time, never blue. Always going, don't know where, always showing...I don't care! Don't love nobody, it's not worthwhile. All alone, running wild!"
                    -Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane singing Runnin' Wild in Some Like It Hot

Chicago gangsters and two struggling musicians in the wrong place at the wrong time in 1929 set the scene for the movie Some Like It Hot starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. The film was released in 1959 and got some heat for its scandalous content and risque dresses worn by Marilyn. They were slinky, twenties-style designs, yet quite provocative for the time. Ironically, Some Like It Hot's Orry-Kelly won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Black-and-White). Upon initial release, the movie was actually banned in Kansas due to a steamy scene between Curtis and Monroe that took place on a yacht. It was also stated that cross-dressing was "too disturbing for Kansans." It was the only state to ban the film. Being one of my favorite classics, I saw the play, Some Like It Hot, in Kansas City starring Tony Curtis in 2002. That time around, however, he played the older character, Osgood Fielding III. Those who originally banned the movie in 1959 would not have approved. 

Among Marilyn's many shortfalls while starring in this particular film was that it took her 47 takes just to get the line "It's me, Sugar," right. She also insisted the movie be produced in color, but the make-up Curtis and Lemmon wore cast an odd green tint on their faces. In the end, director Billy Wilder was able to convince Marilyn it had to be shot in black and white. When asked what it was like working with Marilyn, Wilder replied, "We were in mid-flight, and there was a nut on the plane." But, as the final line of Some Like It Hot says, "Well, nobody's perfect."

The majority of Some Like It Hot was filmed at the famous Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, CA. Color photographs taken on set can be seen in the corridors of the hotel that lead to the beach. A box office hit in 1959, Some Like It Hot is still popular today and was listed by the American Film Institute as the funniest movie in American cinema.

I chose to create my own version of one of the more modest dresses (I am in Kansas, after all!) Marilyn wore as Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot. It was set in the twenties when drop-waists were the rage, so I included that feature in my design. The dress is simple, yet chic.



The Year for Princess Chic

"Fashion is made to become unfashionable."
                               -Coco Chanel

The defining look for 2012 can be described in one word: femininity. A departure from some of the edgier designs seen in past seasons, the months ahead will bring a wide range of pastel colors, pretty silhouettes, and a myriad of romantic floral prints. Prada's spring designs feature lace, pleated skirts, and soft hues. "Sweetness," was Miuccia Prada's summation of her new collection. Stylist Nikki Pennie referred to the new trend as "princess chic." It will certainly be THE year to get dolled up.

1920s fashions are also making a comeback this spring. Gucci's collection includes several variations of flapper-style, drop-waist dresses complete with fringe. One trend from 2011 that will carry on into the new year is color-blocking. It remains a favorite among designers such as Max Azria for BCBG. A feminine vibe will even make its way to footwear with ladylike, ultra-skinny stilettos soon to fill up shoe departments. Stephanie Solomon, head buyer for Bloomingdale's, said, "We will also see pretty pumps. It is no longer aggressive combat boots or thick-soled wedges. Everything will be much more delicate -- ladylike structures and in color." Solomon then encapsulated the trend for 2012 by saying, "It is a totally feminine look that we haven't seen in years."

The lace dress I made in 2011 was one of my favorites. I decided to design another one, but this time I chose a colorful, floral lace. It is very fitting after writing about the shift toward feminine silhouettes in 2012. I would normally take a photo of the dress on my form to post, but it did not do it justice.

Happy New Year!