Friday File

This was a long week, and I’m feeling under the weather now. I need to rest to recover from this bug. I wouldn’t mind it if there was time to go pumpkin hunting either but first I need to get over this sore throat.

Here are the cool things I found around the web:

Dennison's Bogie Book, 1920, from The Library of Congress on Internet Archive

Have you started thinking about your Halloween costume? I love this Halloween party guide book from 1920.

There may be more old luxury fashion houses reopened in the future, despite my annoyance with this trend.

Lisa, on the blog Privilege, breaks down what she sees as emerging trends in 2013.

Research suggests that people perform their most creative work in the morning, so this trick may help you get the most out of your creativity.

A zoo in the UK has banned animal-print clothing so that it does not confuse the animals.

This perspective on time blew my mind.

Have a great weekend!

A Spring Shoe Trend

I’m hunting for a new pair of pumps to replace my favorite everyday pair that are running out of life. As I was trolling the online shopping sites last week, I started noticing a reoccurring detail — cutout sections filled in with thin plastic or mesh.

I vividly remember the overuse of clear plastic and cutouts in the late 90s/early 00s. In fact, my prom shoes heavily featured plastic. They were chunky and, in retrospect, not the most classy choice.

But there’s something different with these shoes. They are more feminine with a slimmer silhouette. The plastic or mesh is used subtly. These shoes are ladylike in appropriate spring colors.

Now, if only we could get some spring weather to go with these spring shoes. What do you think?

An Old Dress Made New

I stumbled upon this film on the BFI National Archive YouTube channel and found it really amusing. This silent short from 1926 teaches a woman how to create an evening dress out of a morning frock with a few homemade modifications.

This kind of economization was quite common until ready-to-wear clothing became so cheap and ubiquitous in the second half of the 20th century. Women frequently updated last season’s garments with new trims and simple alterations of the neckline, sleeves, or hem.

Do you restyle your garments like this? If not, maybe this video will inspire you to make a few adaptations yourself instead of buying something new. Think about it — do you have any pieces from last spring you can modify to fit this spring’s trends?

Emerald for 2013

The big news in the design and fashion world yesterday was that Pantone announced its color of the year. According to Pantone’s forecasting department, emerald will be the color of 2013.

Clockwise from top left:
dress by Ellie Saab, Spring 2012, photo by Juju Ivanyuk, from Style.com
dress by Charles James, 1954, from Metropolitan Museum of Art
Juliet, Daughter of Richard H. Fox of Surrey, by Alfred Lambart, 1931, from BBC Your Paintings
sketch, by Dior, from FIT Library Department of Special Collections Flickr photostream
detail of man’s ensemble, 1810-20, from Kerry Taylor Auctions

Pantone is best known for its Pantone Matching System, a standardized color reproduction system. This is the 14th year it has declared a “Color of the Year” for the upcoming year.

Is it possible Pantone is secretly tracking my movements? I just bought a vintage, ultra-suede dress in emerald two evenings ago! Just kidding, but it’s cool to be a fraction ahead of the trend.

Style File – Oxblood Pants

If you pay any attention to fashion media — blogs or magazines — you will know that oxblood is this season’s “color.” In less macabre terms, you could also call it burgundy or wine.

When I was moving from North Dakota to Chicago, I stopped at Mall of America for a few hours. Every store that caters to my demographic was carrying pants in varying hues of oxblood. Dark red is one of my favorite colors to wear, so I decided to add a pair to my wardrobe. I didn’t own any professional pants that fit, and this trend is something that I won’t mind wearing next year (unlike the patterned-pants fad that I’m sure will look dated next fall).

I bought the deep cabernet Maris Boot Cut Pants in Bi-Stretch from LOFT on the left. They fit well, except for the hem and the waistband. It’s nearly impossible for me to find a pair of pants that fit straight off the rack. I’m short and have ample hips, butt, and thighs with a smaller waist.

For years I bought pants that were almost right, but gaping at the small of my back. I tried fixing them with belts, but that didn’t quite correct it. So I would end up buying another pair of pants, again not quite right, which were rarely worn. It was a negative cycle, but I finally broke it when I embraced the idea of taking all my pants to be tailored.

photos by Cindy Savage

So off to the tailor I went with my new oxblood pants. I took them to my friends Cindy and Julia who own Crafty Broads. You can see above how much they gap at the small of my back.

Julia pinned them to fit my waist and at my preferred length. A few days later, Cindy made the alterations.

photo by Cindy Savage

photo by Cindy Savage

When I got them back, they fit perfectly. Below is the result.

photo by Travis Haughton

For work I paired the pants with a grey silk blouse from Banana Republic and Nine West black pumps. My apologies for the wrinkles — these photos were taken after work.

photo by Travis Haughton

photo by Travis Haughton

I also made sure that the length would work with both heels and flats for versatility.

photo by Travis Haughton

These pants are great quality, and they fit perfectly now. I’m considering buying another pair in a different color so that I’ll have more than one pair of dress pants.

specified photos by Travis Haughton – Wasabi Photography

Dressed for the Summer Sunset

When I saw this dress from Mikkat Market, I was drawn to its sunset colors set on a black background. With those colors in mind, I created this ensemble appropriate for a summer evening.

1) Silk Multi Color Print Dress | from Mikkat Market $56
2) Seam Front Waterfall Jacket | from Topshop $120
3) Alyson Fox’s Midsummer Collection Necklace in Salmon | from Of a Kind $55
4) Nail Polish in Tart Deco | from Essie $8
5) DV by Dolce Vita Archer in Gold | from Zappos $69
6) Weave Metal Bar Clutch in Purple | from ASOS $24.86 (sale)

Style File – New Rachel Rose Tee

I love my Rachel Rose silk tee. So when I saw she had posted a new one for sale in her Etsy shop, I perked up.

I have put myself on a clothes shopping freeze for the time being, so the most I can do is fantasize about how I’d style it. I figured a pair of cropped jeans, triangle necklace, envelope clutch, and flat sandals would make a lovely outfit for a summer weekend.

Ensemble pictured:
Rachel Rose citrus silk tee | from Etsy $146
True Religion cropped jeans | from Amazon $198
House of Harlow triangle necklace | from Revolve Clothing $75
salmon envelope clutch | from Asos $29.83
strappy sandals | from Zara $49.90

Does ASOS Cross the “Tribal” Trend Line?

If you follow me on twitter, you may know that I get aggravated by the use of the word “tribal” in the fashion industry today. It’s a generic term mostly used to denote a style reminiscent of a nonWestern, nonwhite culture. It’s as if the fashion industry only knows that something is either Western or nonWestern, and anything nonWestern gets lumped together without distinction. It doesn’t seem to matter if a pattern is actually based on a specific ethnicity’s dress or textile traditions or something completely made up — the term “tribal” can be applied to almost anything it seems.

Unfortunately as “tribal” is a big trend right now, I’m seeing it everywhere, and getting worked up again and again.

Yesterday I was reminded by a friend that the online retailer ASOS has a line called “ASOS AFRICA.” On a first glance this made my blood pressure rise a little. Great, I thought, this retailer is perpetuating the notion that Africa is a homogenous continent with no diversity in culture. (No wonder I’ve come across people who think Africa is a single country.)

The description of the collection on ASOS’ website reads, “Go wild in ASOS Africa’s new collection of sporty dresses, pants, tops and jackets in acid-bright zebra, giraffe and rhino prints, mixed with traditional Kenyan patterns. The best bit? It’s produced in collaboration with SOKO Kenya, allowing underprivileged communities to establish sustainable business through local craftsmanship.”

This intrigued and confused me. If they are using traditional Kenyan patterns, why not call it “ASOS Kenya?” Africa is a multicultural continent. Marketing a collection as African obscures the true origin of some of the patterns and keeps alive homogenous stereotypes of Africa.

Then I dug a little into SOKO Kenya. It is a “clothing production workshop” in Kenya that creates garments for the international fashion industry and aims to improve the quality of life for its workers through training, employment, and social services. It appears to have exemplary goals to create sustainable economic solutions while producing fashion products in ethical and environmentally-aware methods.

I am very interested in SOKO’s work and plan to do more research into its practices and products, but on a first overview it seems like an organization I would support. I would really like it if ASOS would expand the information on its website about its work with SOKO. I almost always support more transparency so I know exactly what the product is I’m buying and what kind of company I’m supporting. And also so the consumers might actually learn a little about cultures other than their own.

But there is one more bone I have to pick. ASOS used two models to model the ASOS AFRICA collection and both of them are white with blonde hair. Why couldn’t ASOS make a little effort and hire at least one model of color to showcase a collection that purportedly derives its influence from Kenya?

Fashion Is Cyclical

Last week I gave two students a tour of the historic fashion collection I work with. We started talking about trends and how fashion is historically cyclical. By their expressions I could tell they didn’t follow what I was saying fully.

evening dress by Chanel, 1927 from The Met | paper dress by Hallmark Cards, Inc., 1967 from Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection

So I grabbed a 1920s shift and a 1960s paper dress. Right away they could identify that the A-line silhouettes were identical.

chiffon dress, 1930s from Augusta Auctions | chiffon dress, 1970s from Dress: The Art of Wearing Vintage

Next I found a bias-cut, chiffon dress from the 1930s and a chiffon dress from the 1970s. First, I explained what bias-cut meant — that most clothing is cut out of fabric in which the grains run vertically and horizontally (luckily I was wearing a dress cut on the straight-of grain whose vertical and horizontal grains were easy to see), but that bias-cut clothing meant the grains were running diagonally. I could tell they were catching on when they pointed out how the floral pattern of the 1930s dress was on an angle. I showed them that the 1970s dress had bias-cut sections as well, not to mention that both were made of flowy chiffon.

Then I choose a 1940s suit and an 1980s suit both with strong shoulders. Again they could see the similarities in silhouette and masculine influences.

However, this was where we hit a bit of a dead end. The 1950s and the 1990s don’t replicate this patten. But, I said, even though the 1950s followed Christian Dior’s “New Look,” it wasn’t actually a new silhouette. I explained that the New Look was an hourglass silhouette, which was last seen in the 1860s. Dior’s reintroduction of this look was popular because western culture was craving femininity after the clothing from the 1940s had become so masculine.

This was a perfect segue back to trends. They asked me why neon was so popular currently, so I asked them to think back to the last time it was used so abundantly. They admitted that it was awhile back. We talked about how it’s popular this season because it hasn’t been used in awhile, so it looks fresh to our eyes. Fashion is all about change, and we want something that seems “new.” But newness is a bit of an illusion, since you can find elements of most trends somewhere in a historic fashion collection.

That’s when I noticed we were standing next to neons and other loud colors from the late 1960s and early 1970s. The two students agreed with me that the colors weren’t agreeable to their eyes, but I showed them that in contrast to the colors worn in 1950s and early 1960s, these loud colors would have looked completely new and, thus, cool at the time.

It was the most fun I’ve had in awhile giving a tour. Once I started pulling garments, the young women opened up and showed curiosity and thoughtfulness. They could concretely see how fashion trends reoccured. Another strong case for historic fashion collections’ power as tools for teaching.

Style File – Wardrobe Improvement

I’ve been having trouble “being an adult” this week. My husband is out of town, I haven’t been feeling well, and the apartment is turning into a sty.

Nonetheless, I am determined to tackle one task that has been on the to do list for ages — go to the tailor. I used to sew. I don’t sew much anymore. Sure I can hem a pair of paints. But I have never really gotten the hang of figuring out how to do more complicated alterations than that on my own clothes, mostly because I need to wear them to figure out how much to take them in, where to put in the dart, and how much I need to hem the skirt up from the floor. When I’m twisting, bending over, etc. to put pins in, it always changes the fit.

So to the tailor I must go for another set of hands and eyes. And hey, they can make the alterations much quicker and better than I would, so I’m willing to spend the extra little big of money to make my clothes fit correctly.

Also, I am on the hunt for a pair of pointy, nude (to my skin tone) pumps with metal toe caps. I think toe caps are a pretty cool trend. I was hesitant at first, because I didn’t want a pair of shoes so trendy they’d lay unused in my closet after this season. But nude pumps have proven they have staying power, so I think finding a pair with a contrasting toe cap is a good way to wear the trend subtly.

Unfortunately, these shoes from Topshop are perfect, but are sold out in my size. I’ve been looking everywhere online for something similar in a 6.5. I feel like I saw shoes like this everywhere a few months ago, but now when I’m ready to pull the plug they are nowhere to be seen. Am I the only one that seems to always happen to?