I think Bravo won when it Lost Project Runway

Season 6 of “Project Runway” was a waste of 14 Thursday nights.

The season finale Bryant Park show was a lackluster display of recycled looks, average street wear, and overworked gowns. Fashion forward? Not so much.

Did anyone notice the striking resemblance between Irina’s collection and that of season 4 winner, Christian Siriano? The all-black garments, the felt hats, the dramatic shoulders, the stilettos. We’d seen it all 2 seasons ago… but Christian was a showman. I still remember those stunning bolero jackets and high-neck blouses. His collection was like a series of Rembrandt portraits — dark and powerful, modern and immortal. Irina’s collection, while cohesive and certainly well-constructed, was not particularly memorable. It was perhaps the most tired of the three lines.

Althea just looked at what’s already going on in fashion — layers, boyfriend blazers, harem pants, 80s-shoulders, and cinch-waist belts — and made her own. It reeked of a high schooler on a limited budget who embarked on a DYI fashion project. Indeed, there were several individual pieces that would become staples in any woman’s wardrobe — a cardigan or pair of pants. But did it shake up your fashion world? Did it inspire you to redo your wardrobe? No. It was a snooozefest… albeit, one that would sell well in Macy’s.

Carol-Hannah had the most compelling, though most disjointed, collection of the three. Her first dress, a short, flowing champagne-colored cocktail number, was structured and draped in a way that echoed the lancet arches of Gothic cathedrals. It was a show-stopper. As was her “13th look” — a teal, floor-length gown that simultaneously screamed Grecian goddess and silver screen siren. But there were several metallic looks in the middle that looked like bad maternity wear, even with all the stunning embellishments. Also, her signature look (a gold, fish-tale gown) was remarkably similar to Rami’s (of season 4) signature look.

Throughout the season, Irina was the judge’s favorite. She won more challenges than the other designers and rarely received negative feedback. But she has a thing for fake fur, which to me means she has a taste problem. Fake fur always looks cheap. She also likes her dresses hip-hugging and skin-tight… which to me also indicates a taste problem.

Challenge after challenge, I questioned the judges’ decisions. Michael Kors was MIA for most of the season, and I feel as a result, some looks won and some looks were overlooked that shouldn’t have. Frankly, there was nothing particularly memorable about most of the winning looks… except maybe Chris’ first winning dress that was a cascade of ruffles that stopped just above the knee. I wish they had kept him for Bryant Park… at least he would have put on a show with 12 voluminous, over inflated gowns. Anything would have been better than all that black and beige.

And can I just say, what happened to all the sleeves on all the knitwear in that final runway show? Did they stretch out on the hangers and the models, or did Althea and Irina mean for the cuffs to hit the knees? I’m all for an oversize sweater, but at some point oversize looks ridiculous.

Considering Season 5’s dullsville finale (does anyone remember who won?), I was expecting Season 6 to be a knockout on par with seasons 1-4 (I wanted every one of those winners in my wardrobe). But after two lame seasons in a row, I have to say… I’m sorry, Project Runway, you’re out. Auf wiedersehen.


Victorians are Always En Vogue

Portrait of William Walton, 1886

James Carroll Beckwith, "Portrait of William Walton," 1886.

If you happened upon today’s NY Times Thursday Style section, you may have noticed a front page spread on a Victorian revival in menswear. Partially spurred by Guy Ritchie’s re-envisioning of Sherlock Holmes, the 1800s inspired bowler hats, military coats, three-piece suits, and suspenders now en vogue seem an appropriate return to masculinity in a fashion world otherwise dominated by slightly effeminate hipsters. When we think of Victorians and fashion, corsets, bustles, and hatpins are what typically come to mind. What we forget is that the American male identity — the cowboy and the power-broker, the rugged frontiersman and the rough-edged urbanite — was effectively created in the years following the Civil War, in the Gilded Age. (Hello, J.P Morgan!)

I find an interesting irony in this revival in style. With last fall’s economic collapse, we witnessed the death of another Gilded Age. Wednesday’s Times featured articles on the post-meltdown retraction of philanthropic giving. Yet interior decorators and menswear designers have turned to the 1890s, an age marked by opulence, extravagance, and the birth of American philanthropy as we know it. What are designers trying to tell us? That things are looking up? Or have they found a sense of humour?

Whatever the case maybe, I’m quite happy to have this revival of old-school haberdashery. I don’t know about you other women out there, but these skinny jeans on anorexic men is just not my idea of sexy.

Now, what about the new Sherlock Holmes?

I once told three sharp women to “Leave Auntie Jane [Austen] Alone.”

Now I’m going ask Guy Ritchie to leave Sir Arthur Conan Doyle alone. I’m going to hold my tongue and not call Guy Ritchie one of the most overrated upstart directors of the last decade. I’m not going to call him a one-hit wonder (really, all he had was Lock, Stock… Snatch wasn’t up to snuff). But I will ask, does he really think turning history’s most beloved uber-sleuth into stuntman is a good idea? Does he really think Robert Downy, Jr. is the best man to embody a character marked by his “extraordinary powers” of deduction? Maybe Ritchie was thinking about Holmes as a cocaine addict when he was casting. Holmes is a dandy, not an action hero. He’s an intellectual who’s just a wee-bit feminine, and most importantly, he’s a social outsider, who as Watson tells us “loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul.” Somehow, Downy, Jr.., with his 8-pack, is just a little too cool for the Sherlock Holmes school… and don’t get me started on Jude Law as Dr. Watson.

Rules for Dressing like a Fashionista

1. Always dress for an event like you’re coming from/going to something more important. The only exceptions to this rule: your wedding and the Oscars.

2. For dress and work wear, buy clothes you know you’ll want to put on 5 years from now. I believe in looking current, but I believe in looking classic more.  With this in mind, consider your good clothes investments and take care of them appropriately.

3. Don’t keep old t-shirts. There’s nothing like a pair of dark jeans and a t-shirt, but don’t wear something with holes in it or permanent stains. I’m all for clothes that tell a story, but if there’s nothing sentimental behind that dusty tee, trash it. The Gap has lots of sales.

4. Ladies, you can never go wrong with a pair of high-waisted, wide-leg, pleated pants. They scream Katherine Hepburn. Just make sure the tailoring and textiles are impeccable.

5. At work, dress for the job you want. So even if you’re an intern, don’t wear jeans unless it’s casual Friday

6. Make use of your tailor. If something’s in good shape, but is a little dated (or you’ve lost a few inches off the waistline) take it to someone who, with a needle and thread, can help you update it.

7. Forget reading Vogue or GQ. Scan catalogs for the latest trends. Fashion mags are more interested in artsy layouts, celebrity photographers and runway style. Catalogs are marketed to the consumer and aren’t over stuffed with advertisements (has anyone ever told Vogue that the 800 page fall issue has 700 pages of ads?).

Artwork of the week for Sept. 7, 2009


Paul Poiret
Costume (Fancy Dress), 1911

French couturier Paul Poiret couldn’t sew, yet he was probably one of the most influential and revolutionary fashion designers of the 20th century. Two years ago, the Met’s costume institute featured an exhibition on Poiret’s work. If you ever had any doubt about Fashion as Art, “Poiret: King of Fashion” would have wiped it away.

This exotic ensemble was probably Worn to “The Thousand and Second Night” Party, one of Poiret’s famous fancy costume balls. The party’s theme alluded the story of Scheherazade and 1001 Arabian Nights and was partially motivated by the success of the Ballet Russe’s performance of “Scheherazade” a year earlier.

For more discussion about Poiret and his clothing the best place to go is here: http://www.metmuseum.org/special/se_event.asp?OccurrenceId={0DC3D00F-4611-4F91-8DC2-CC3C1A5C48D5}

The Man of Summer 2009…

…Looks an awful lot like a lost Beach Boy. beach boys

Seriously. The skinny ankle-skimming jeans, the boat shoes, the stripped/plaid shirt tucked in behind a slim belt, the floppy hair — the whole look is there. The only things he’s missing is a surf board (not practical in NYC) and his little deuce coupe. I was crossing at the corner of 74th and Madison this morning, when two guys, in their mid-twenties, both dressed in the uniform described above approached from the opposite corner. They were moving like they had just run away from their barbershop quartet rehearsal. Yes, men in the city have a new uniform, and it’s no longer the powersuit.

Hipster men have killed the plaid. Have emasculated it and made it so ubiquitous that its lost its appealing campy quality. Plaid used to have a statement. It used to be associated with an outdoorsy lifestyle, and all-Americaness. Now… it’s urban and hipster.

(I’d just like to say, that I was on the plaid band-wagon before there ever was a plaid bandwagon. It’s because I’m part Canadian. Plaid is in my blood)

This is the problem with hipsters in general. They colonize trends and render subcultures that had meaning meaningless. There was a piece in the Times today about men and their hair. It said that once upon a time a man’s hairstyle was a mark of particular associations. In 1969, long wavy hair with a beard to match meant the fella probably listened to Hendrix and was antiwar. Today, a hairstyle says nothing about the man that wears it, perhaps only that he’s a freethinker? While I’m not crazy about the Adam Lambert/Flock of Seagulls coifs, I’m glad fuller hair is back in for men. It’s our turn for us ladies to have something we can run our fingers through.

The general theme of today’s Times Style section was New York men and their clothes. I think it’s time to accept that fashions for men are pretty standard, and in no season are the more standardized than in summer. Jeans, sandals and a white tee have been the go-to warm weather ware for men since Levi Strauss stepped on the scene. You know fashion writers have run out of trends to talk about then they start calling a pot-belly the latest trend in men’s wear. Seriously, couldn’t the explanation for the exceedingly number of bulging bellies in Brooklyn simply be that there are only 3 chain gyms in all of Brooklyn… and that none of them are in the hipster parts of town?

My Top Beauty Picks

Chantecaille Papillion Eye Duo Bleu Shine

Chantecaille Papillion Eye Duo Bleu Shine

Recently, I had to pack my bags for a two week stint in Texas that included 6 days on the road. Choosing clothes is one thing, especially when your destination boasts 100+ degree weather but 50 interior temps, but whittling down one’s makeup bag is most certainly another. The following are my favorite makeup products, my can’t live withouts, that go with me when ever I travel or some how make it onto my face anytime I leave the house. I don’t typically by drugstore brands. It’s not because I’m a snob. It’s because I have sensitive skin and eyes and after years of trying everything from Revlon to La Mer, I know what keeps the zits and bloodshot eyes away.

1. Laura Mercier foundation primer and tinted moisturizer in Nude — technically 2 products, but they must go together. The tinted moisturizer is lightweight, not greasy and has a SPF of 20 — so it’s great for daily use. The foundation primer means it stays on most of the day.

2. Chantecaille Lip Chic high-sheen, sheer lipsticks. These colors are great because they go on easy. They also have the right amount of gloss finish to them — not too shiny and not sticky. The sheer shades mean they have a natural look. They’re my favorite for a daytime face and are great thrown over a more intense darker lipstick for night wear. Zinnia (a soft orange-red with a touch of gold) and Camelia (a soft tea-rose pink) work best with my complexion (fair skin, light eyes)

3. Dior Diorshow mascara in 090-black. Easily the greatest mascara ever invented. Curls, extends and thickens — all without the clumps.

4. Laura Mercier Beauty Book Cheeks. Laura Mercier makes a great bronzer duo, and this beauty book pairs that bronzer set with two blushes. Perfect for all skin tones and all seasons, this neat set of 4 cheek accents goes with me everywhere. I use the light Golden Glow all over to set my tinted moisturizer. I’ve had my beauty book for 2 years, so i’ve gotten more than my money’s worth.

5. Laura Mercier Eye Liner. Meant to be applied with a flat brush, Laura Mercier’s eye liner is a dry-to-wet compact. It goes on easily and is perfect for creating a sharp eye line. Rather than the ebony black, I use the blue-marine — it’s an extremely dark navy that looks almost black if layered and has a slightly softer look.

In terms of a pencil liner, I really like Sisley and Sephora — the Sisley is an indulgence, but with my sensitive eyes, I feel it’s worth the money. Both are soft and easy to work with (i’m not very good with pencils or liquid liners) and both have lines with a bit of a shimmer. (My Sisley Phyto-kohl perfect eyeliner in brown and my sephora liner electro in khaki came with me to Texas in place of the Laura Mercier — they’re the base of my current summer eye)

6. Chatecaille eye shades. They’re long lasting and easy to blend or layer to get the exact eye you want. I like to use a Laura Mercier eye basics eye shadow base underneath to “prep the canvas.” I’ve had one set of 8 shadows for several years and I have a three-shade compact I can play around with and take with me when I travel. Reportedly, Kristen Dunst’s makeup artist swears by Patchouli for her blue-eyed client. I like the Papillon Violet Shine duo of violet and gold for a dramatic nighttime look.

I have a Kindle

I’m famously not a good reader. I’m slow and plodding. I never read without a pencil near and it can take me months to finish a book of only 300 pages. I’ve been reading Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures since January and I have about 100 pages still to go. The problem is I love to read, but I rarely have the chance to just lock down and consume words. And here’s the other truth, I love to read, but I love books more.

So when I was given amazon’s Kindle as a graduation present, I wasn’t sure how to feel. My pragmatic side said it was a good idea — I’m a gal on the go and the kindle is easily transportable, I’ve run out of shelf space, I’ve got a summer ahead of me to read books for fun. The booklover in me cringed at the thought. Imagine! Reading a digitized Austen! I was skeptical. Books without pages? No dog-eared corners. No pencil notes in the margins. No smell of glue and aging paper. This doesn’t make any sense. How can you fit a book on screen and still enjoy it the same way.

But today, as I sat on a small S-80 bound for Dallas, I was grateful for my kindle. Despite not being done with Old Masters, I have begun “Seven Days in the Art World” — which I am thoroughly enjoying and would never have gotten round to if it weren’t for the kindle. Add to that the fact I was toting 2 suitcases and a backpack through airports, the weight difference between a 400-page hardcover and a slim i-pod like kindle was much noticed. Now that i know how to work the highlight, bookmark and note features, I’m more fond of my kindle. In fact I kinda enjoy it pressing buttons on the device rather than stopping to frantically search for that pen I took out but can’t find.

For me, the kindle will never replace owning the paper-copy of most books — in particular, Victorian classics and art books — but it is a technological innovation I have embraced and a gadget I am rather happy to have been so generously given.

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