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The Man in Black

"Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black."
                             -Johnny Cash, lyrics from Man in Black

"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash," were the famous, self-introductory words uttered by the "man in black" himself at the start of his shows. Johnny Cash, born on February 26, 1932 in Arkansas, would have turned 80 years old today. Famous for his prison-themed tunes that often had rhythms resembling a train puffing down the track, he was also known for his signature color: black.

Johnny Cash outside of Folsom Prison
Cash initially wore black out of convenience so he and his band members would match the first time they performed at a Memphis church. Years later, in a decade where flashy colors were popular in both street fashion and the country music world, Cash released the album Man in Black and clothed himself in the dark hue from head to toe. "Everybody was wearing rhinestones, all those sparkle clothes and cowboy boots," he said. "I decided to wear a black shirt and pants and see if I could get by with it. I did and I've worn black clothes ever since." According to the song's lyrics, his reasons for wearing black were many - "for the poor and beaten down," "for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime," and "for those who never read, or listened to the words that Jesus said." It was also released during the Vietnam War, giving Cash another reason to wear the color associated with mourning.

Manuel Cuevas, who has designed stage clothing for legendary country and rock 'n' roll performers such as Elvis and Bob Dylan, kept Cash looking cool by outfitting him in his go-to "uniform." "There's nothing flamboyant about Johnny Cash in his black suits," Cuevas said. "That's a man who had a charisma and who could fill up a room with his presence." Cash's stage attire may have been a fashion risk at the time, but it worked then and would even be considered fashionable today.

The "man in black" was also known for his prison fixation. He performed at Folsom and San Quentin State Prisons in the late 60s. Clad in a three-piece black suit with skinny pants (something a modern day hipster would pay good money for), Cash lit up the stage at Folsom while the prisoners enthusiastically clapped along and cheered, particularly when he sang about the misdeeds that landed some of them in the slammer. He even performed an original song written by one of the inmates, Glen Sherley. Cash wrote in his autobiography, "I've always thought it ironic that it was a prison concert, with me and the convicts getting along just as fellow rebels, outsiders, and miscreants should, that pumped up my marketability to the point where ABC thought I was respectable enough to have a weekly network TV show." Although Cash confidently sang "I got stripes, stripes around my shoulders" and about being "stuck in Folsom Prison," he never spent more than one night at a time in jail.

In honor of Johnny Cash, I made a black top and a "prison-striped" skirt. The black and white stripes are very subtle, so I embellished the fabric by sewing black ribbon on to create an interesting diamond pattern. I applaud Johnny Cash for his fashion sense and color choice. Black is timeless. He summed it up by singing, "Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black."



NY Fashion Week - Part 1

"Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new."
                                           -Henry David Thoreau

Fashion shows have been around for decades. The first one in the U.S. took place in 1903 at a store in New York called Ehrich Brothers. Since then, there have been a multitude of runway events all around the world and, most famously, in New York, London, Milan, and Paris.

The first New York Fashion Week, then referred to as "Press Week," was started by publicist Eleanor Lambert in 1943. Those in the fashion industry were unable to attend the Paris runway shows that year because of World War II, so Lambert established "Press Week" to showcase American designers. It was a huge success and magazines such as Vogue started giving more credit to American designs rather than strictly focusing on French fashions.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune published an article on July 23, 1943, written by Dorothy Roe, about the world's first fashion week that stated, "Dresses priced from $3.95 to $395 were included in the big parade of fall styles representing a complete cross-section of the vast New York dress industry, which turns out the clothes worn on America's main streets as well as Fifth avenue." $3.95 . . . can you imagine? Despite the economic hardships and war rationing, designers managed to make the best of their resources in 1943. Roe wrote, "Strict economy of cut is the theme of wartime fashion as interpreted in this week's showings. But ingenious details, startling design and clean, streamlined silhouettes establish the slim, fabric-saving styles as the authentic trend of the times rather than a wartime necessity."

New York Fashion Week has grown a lot since 1943. Over 100,000 guests are expected to attend this week. The runway shows began Thursday morning and will continue through next Thursday. Among the lineup of designers to debut their fall 2012 collections are Betsey Johnson, Michael Kors, Vera Wang, Diane Von Furstenberg, Anna Sui, and Calvin Klein.

With all this talk of fall collections, I made a top that will be perfect for autumn. It's identical to one I did several months ago. I even used the same fabric, but chose a different color scheme. Unfortunately, it will only be debuting at Kansas Fashion Week.



Star Designs

“I don't expect to fit in right away but I do sense that the fashion world is rooting for me, too. I'm not being treated like a celebrity wannabe fashion designer. But even if I was, it doesn't really matter because I'm doing this for me ... but it does feel really good when you have a hit.”
                                                               -Gwen Stefani

More than ever before, Hollywood is full of actors turned singers turned fashion designers who have a fragrance, clothing line, or both,  and it almost seems farcical. All laughing aside, there are a select few who are passionately involved in what they tag their name onto and take their businesses seriously. Among those few are Katie Holmes, Jeanne Yang, and Gwen Stefani.

Katie Holmes and stylist Jeanne Yang realized they both enjoyed sewing as a hobby and collaborated to form Holmes & Yang, a women's clothing collection. Yang said, "It’s so rare, unfortunately, that I actually know people who are into crafting and doing stuff like that." They design sophisticated clothes with a few simple priorities: use luxurious fabrics, design to fit perfectly, pay careful attention to detail, and have everything made close to home in the USA. One of my favorite items from Holmes & Yang is a beautifully-crafted, trimmed trench coat available at Barneys New York. It is structured, has just the right amount of detail, and would look flattering on any woman. Katie spoke of the versatility of the collection when saying, "We just wanted to do comfortable clothes that you can wear going from a meeting to being a mom to going on a date." What more could a girl ask for?

L.A.M.B. is Gwen Stefani's clothing line inspired by her own personal style- a mix of old Hollywood glamour and modern street wear. You might call it rocker chic. L.A.M.B. designs are sold in many stores around the world including a few in Kansas. Like Holmes and Yang, Stefani has a past history of sewing. She said, "I'd peg the pants and cut the shirts. My room was always a sewing disaster. I'm not a great technical sewer but I had the ideas. I'd use Velcro instead of zippers because they were easier to do."

It has been unseasonably warm in Kansas this winter and it almost feels like spring. The mild weather inspired me to make a reversible tank and pleated poplin skirt. I far prefer spring and summer clothing to cold-weather attire, so I'm excited to create more summer looks in the upcoming months.