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Summer Ads Embrace Retro Charm

"I wear my sort of clothes to save me the trouble of deciding which clothes to wear."
                                -Katharine Hepburn

The heat of summer arrived several weeks ago (at least in Kansas), but today it's official. Summer begins at exactly 7:09 p.m. (EDT). Although the season has just arrived, fashion houses began working on their summer ad campaigns months ago. It's appropriate that designers have chosen to market their colorful clothing in retro-themed ads, given that so many beloved styles from the past have returned to the runway this year. From Prada's gas station ads featuring 50s-style automobiles to Louis Vuitton's ice cream parlor campaign complete with treats, these charming ads seen on billboards and the glossy pages of magazines are sure to gain attention and boost sales.

French brand, Paule Ka, has also embraced the retro-inspired marketing this summer by creating  ads with a 60s vibe. Photographer Venetia Scott came up with the vintage campaign telling the story of a woman vacationing in Acapulco (supposedly THE place to be for a 1960s jetsetter). Fittingly, the hotel pictured in these ads was also the backdrop for the 1963 film "Fun in Acapulco" starring Elvis Presley.
When it comes to summer attire, it's always best to stay cool and comfortable. I recently made a sleeveless top out of an extravagant Marc Jacobs embroidered silk satin twill with a floral pattern. I cut a soft and feminine neckline and lined it with white poplin. I paired the top with high-waisted black shorts I made out of a cotton twill by Theory. The high waist gives them a 40s feel. Perfect for a retro summer!



From Wine Country to the Runway

"I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has ever taken from me."
                                      -Winston Churchill

The term "wino" may take on a whole new meaning (in the fashion world, that is) if a group of scientists from The University of Western Australia has anything to do with it. The researchers in white lab coats have been working on creating eco-friendly, stitch-less garments made solely out of wine through a biological fermentation process. 

The futuristic fashion fabric has been dubbed "Micro'be'" because it is made with living microbes (tiny organisms). The microbes form a skin on top of the wine (think wine scum), which is then layered onto a dress mold to dry. Creators Gary Cass and Donna Franklin acknowledge their wine garments haven't reached the height of perfection yet due to the lack of flexibility, pungent alcohol smell, and brittle consistency when dry. Regardless of its shortfalls, Cass and Franklin are optimistic this innovative, seamless fabric will succeed and one day become a staple in every fashionista's wardrobe (possibly the future LWD - Little Wine Dress?). I'm curious though . . . would you store a LWD in your closet or the wine cellar?

I may not have a lab to concoct a fabric out of a merlot or a chianti, but I did purchase the finest silk from Mood to make a gathered skirt. Silk is a tricky textile to work with (although I imagine easier than wine) because it it so fragile. I've worked with it a few times now and am finally getting the hang of it. I paired the skirt with a black top I made out of a high-quality matte jersey. This look may not be bio-degradable, but at least I won't smell like a bar while wearing it.



Hats Off to Mr. Depp

"I don't pretend to be captain weird. I just do what I do."
                                               -Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp was honored with the Fashion Icon Award tonight at the CFDA Fashion Awards. Previously awarded to women with a distinct personal style such as Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kate Moss, Depp was the first male to be recognized. The awards were held at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center and marked the 50th anniversary of the CFDA. This is the first year that the ceremony will be digitally broadcast to the public on (tomorrow at 12 PM EST).

Depp’s unique style is an effortless juxtaposition of the disheveled, like a well-worn waistcoat, with the impeccably designed. An example of the latter is the headwear he sports on screen and in real life, created by master hatter Graham Thompson of Chicago’s Optimo Hats. Thompson has provided custom-made, hand-crafted hats for many movies, including Cinderella Man and J. Edgar, and outfitted Depp for this iconic Public Enemies film poster. Such hats are a staple of Depp’s everyday wardrobe too, and his stylishly raked brims prove that while fedoras are no longer commonplace accessories, they can still be difference makers when worn with confidence and flair. When asked by James Lipton on Inside the Actor's Studio about his attraction to funny hats, Depp responded, "I don't know, maybe I just read too much Dr. Seuss as a kid."

It can't be a coincidence that hats are incorporated into so many of Depp's movie roles: Willy Wonka's garish purple stovepipe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the straw fedora that perfectly fit Hunter S. Thompson's Cuba in The Rum Diary, and most memorably, Captain Jack Sparrow's battered black tricorne. While the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has lost its steam, let's hope that Depp continues his unique and whimsical fashion choices long into the future. As Optimo Hat’s tagline states, “Life’s better in a great hat.”

Not remotely related to Johnny Depp's hat collection, the warm Kansas weather has motivated me to make shorts. Having never made a pair before, I first had to figure out how to cut each fabric piece. I used ordinary tissue paper (still haven't managed to buy proper pattern paper) to make my own pattern and kept tweaking it until it yielded the perfect fit. Using my pattern, I made these plaid shorts in just under an hour. They are high-waisted and zip up the side. I'd like to imagine Johnny would be proud. 



Wartime Swimsuits Storm the Beaches

"During World War II, the pinup girl became popular. And wearing a skimpy swimsuit was patriotic -- it was considered doing your part for the war effort."
                                                    -Anna Cole, swimwear designer

Ava Gardner, Actress/Pin-up Girl
As enthusiastic crowds flock to sandy beaches this summer, swimsuits will be disappearing from store racks at a rapid rate. Once very modest and made of impractical fabrics such as wool, women's beachwear has drastically evolved since the early 1900s.

In the 1920s, Coco Chanel popularized the "sun tan" when she spent a bit too much time in the French Riviera and returned with a sun-kissed glow. Chanel's accidental tan was reason enough for women everywhere to adopt lying in the sun for leisure as a new form of relaxation. This hot new trend did wonders for the fashion world of swimwear.

Esther Williams Poolside in 1944
It was in the early 1940s, when war rationing extended to fabric, that the two-piece swimsuit baring some midriff really took off. Designers shortened tops and removed the extra skirt panel covering the thighs to save on fabric consumption, but still kept the navel strategically covered with a high-waisted bottom. Wartime pin-up girls like Ava Gardner, Esther Williams, and Rita Hayworth gained attention and heightened the popularity of these swimsuits among young females. 

Cole of California
Wartime Swimsuit Ad 
Fred Cole, a silent film actor and founder of Cole of California, transformed his family's knit underwear business into a swimwear success by bringing Hollywood glamour to the beach. During the war, Cole of California also made parachutes for the Air Force and marketed this tidbit in their swimsuit ads to boost sales among patriotic Americans.

When asked about upcoming swim fashions for an issue of The Evening Independent published on November 15, 1945, Cole said, "We want to keep 'em bare, but flattering. We want 'em functional, but beautiful. And the average figure is bad." Not sure if he'd get away with the latter part of that statement in today's society, but honest, nonetheless. The article went on to say, "With the average figure in mind, Mr. Cole does swim shorts in elasticized shirred treatments which have the effect of a girdle."
After the war was over, French designer Louis Reard debuted the bikini, which exposed much more skin than its predecessor. He named it the "bikini" after the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, the site of U.S. nuclear tests. Simultaneously in 1946, Jacques Heim, another French designer, came out with his version of the bikini and called it the "atome" (French for atom) and donned it "the world's smallest bathing suit." Reard then advertised his suit as "smaller than the world's smallest bathing suit." It was still considered improper to reveal one's navel in the 40s, so although it was available, the bikini was not worn by the masses until much later. 
My Version of
Norma Kamali's Design
Norma Kamali's Fringed 40s Pin-up
Swimsuit on
Retro 40s pin-up style swimsuits are making a comeback this season. Designers such as Yves Saint LaurentChloĆ©, and Dolce & Gabbana have all perfected the high-waisted two-piece delights. One of my favorite websites to virtually "window" shop is I was recently looking for a retro swimsuit and stumbled across the most exquisite one I had ever laid eyes on, by Norma Kamali. After seeing its shocking price of  $1,500 (and no, your eyes are not deceiving you), I knew I'd have to attempt sewing it myself. I purchased black swimsuit fabric and 17 yards of fringe. I had no idea how tedious sewing all the layers and layers of fringe would be or the challenge of perfecting the fit until I started cutting and sewing. After many hours spent constructing this suit, I now understand why it is listed for $1,500. Actually, quite a bargain after all! The most ironic thing about this little treasure is that it states on, "To get the best from this Norma Kamali piece we advise you do not wear it to swim." Happy lounging (I wouldn't dare set foot in the water wearing mine)!