Designer Spotlight: Norman Norell

One thing that I absolutely love about this job is that I get to learn things, along with you. In this month’s research for designer spotlight I stumbled across this article on Norman Norell and his impact on American fashion. I was fascinated. And when I’m fascinated, I can’t help but share. So, here (originally posted on WWD) is all about Norman Norell. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Norman Norell’s Lasting Influence on American Fashion
The Illinois-born Norell began designing costumes at Paramount Pictures in Astoria, N.Y., before staking his claim in the American fashion landscape on Seventh Avenue.
By Rosemary Feitelberg and Andrew Nodell on February 1, 2018

Investment Piece: Norman Norell

NEW YORK — Like Norman Norell’s more dedicated clients, author Jeffrey Banks and WWD executive editor Bridget Foley had a lot to unpack in discussing how the son of a hatmaker became America’s first great designer.
Even the Q&A’s location — Parsons School of Design, The New School — called for footnotes. Executive Dean of Fashion Joel Towers informed the industry-heavy crowd that Norell studied there and later taught from 1948 to 1972. In advance of next week’s opening of a Norell exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Banks talked about his new Rizzoli-published book “Norell: Master of American Fashion” and the designer’s lasting influence.

The audience — which included Anna Sui, Stan Herman, Rebecca Moses and Bibhu Mohapatra — listened intently about Norell’s forays into buy-now-wear-now, cruisewear, pants and other men’s wear-inspired looks for women and black-tie runway shows with Champagne and strawberry intermissions. Unlike designers of today, Norell didn’t socialize with his customers and was more inclined to spend nonworking weekends antiquing or going to the theater. The “very shy” designer lunched at Schraft’s or Hamburger Heaven with a small coterie of other Seventh Avenue designers, and he sketched away endlessly. And retailers were always part of the equation with private clients like Lauren Bacall, whose purchases were routed through the stores that supported him throughout his 51-year career.

Banks said, “Norell was such an important person in the history of American fashion. I think he really changed the way ready-to-wear is viewed and certainly on the world stage the way American designers are viewed.”

Banks also wound up as a Parsons student, due to Norell. While working for Ralph Lauren, he was enrolled at Pratt. “One day my teacher at Pratt said, ‘I don’t know if you saw in the paper today that Norman Norell died.’ This girl raised her hand and said, ‘Who’s Norman Norell?’ I said, ‘I’m outta here.’ I literally picked up my books, went to the dean’s office and transferred to Parsons. I’d been thinking about it, but that was it,” Banks said.

Following Norell’s sudden death in 1972, the designer’s legacy largely faded. Banks’ motivation in publishing the Rizzoli title, which is the first book of its kind dedicated to Norell’s work, was to inform younger generations — “especially people in the fashion business” — of his artistry. “I don’t think you can go forward as a designer without knowing where you came from,” Banks explained. “It’s only by knowing the rules that you can then break the rules.”

In an interview with WWD, Ralph Rucci, who wrote the forward for “Master of American Fashion,” described Norell as “the American Balenciaga” in his “masterful simplicity, make, cut and fit of clothes.” Rucci went on to compare the way in which the American and Spanish designers would construct an armhole, adding, “The armhole being a symbol of such precision.”

“Norell would give a 14-inch hem on dresses for balance and weight when, say, a chiffon hem would normally just be an edge stitch.”

But it wasn’t all for looks, explained Banks, who said the generous hem was also intended for lengthening and shortening a garment by the client, who paid generously for the detailed craftsmanship. “Women bought his clothes and treated them the same way they would treat artwork they would buy,” he added.

Kenneth Pool, another designer in the audience, loaned the six Norell ensembles from his 100-piece collection that bookended the stage on mannequins. Pool’s focus is from 1960 on, after Norell “finally owned his own business and was able to buy out his investors,” Banks said. “Even though he was 60 years of age, I believe he got this incredible burst of creativity for the next 12 years of his life.”

After Foley noted how the quality designs had stood the test of time, Banks pointed out how Norell was averse to American fabrics, buying only the finest ones — including Linton (which Banks said makes Chanel tweeds to this day), Gandini and Taroni for his designs and linings. As a young man Banks was so mesmerized by one Norell dress with a fireworks-like lining in a store window that he examined it daily during its two-week display.

Referring to Norell’s 9 p.m. fashion shows in his 550 Seventh Avenue showroom, Foley said, “I must say that when I was reading this, there were two words that stuck out in my mind, ‘Black-tie — photographers included,’ and the other one — think of this in the era of the 12-minute show — ‘intermission.’”

The shows themselves were also on Norell’s own timetable. In those days, like today, collections would be shown in New York before the industry’s attention moved to Europe. But rather than show with other designers, Norell — along with James Galanos — would require buyers and editors to return to New York for their shows. “They wanted to separate themselves from the rest of American fashion,” continued Rucci. “The two of them were the closest we had to haute couture in this country. They were really mavericks.”

Banks mentioned how the routine was also to have another show “for lesser buyers” the following day. An ardent Norell client, Lauren Bacall, could be seen front-row in a lengthy video clip of a 1968 Norell show. Daytime clothes were showcased in the first half, followed by an intermission for Champagne and strawberries, before the eveningwear-centered second half.

Sixty-five to 100 looks would be modeled by his four-woman cabine of “Norell girls” who worked for him almost exclusively for runway and showroom appointments. “They literally floated down the runway, walking on tippy toe. How they changed so quickly [shoes, gloves and hats as well as clothes] is just mind-blowing to me,” said Banks.

Norell was forward-thinking when it came to selecting these recurring models, who would often have similar hairstyles to each other but would be of various body types. “He was very smart in understanding that women who wore his clothes were of different sizes, heights and ages,” added Banks.

Asked what Norell would think of the fashion shows today, Banks said, “He would be very, very disappointed. I’ve posted some pictures of the black-tie openings on Facebook and Instagram and people have said, ‘Look at how beautifully that front row is dressed. There are no sneakers, no telephones, no movie stars — they’re actually looking at the clothes.’ Look at the intimacy of the show. You could literally reach out and touch the fabric. The whole point of this was the clothes — not the girls, not the spectators, not the celebrities.”

Reminded how Norell was known to deconstruct Balenciaga designs, Banks said, “All of the designers on Seventh Avenue at that time would go to Europe. Many of them to buy things, most of them to copy things. Norell would go, and every once in a while he would buy a number from Givenchy or Balenciaga, but it wasn’t to copy them. It was to actually see the construction. He would take them apart, look inside and really see the technique. He brought couture techniques to ready-to-wear.…The prices were exorbitant for the time. A jersey dress, which was really the backbone of his collection, was $500 or $600. But women loved those clothes and knew they were an investment.”

Banks added, “Norell said, ‘Bust darts are the sign of a home sewer,’” adding that the designer avoided them by taking a vertical fold of fabric, have it go inside the armhole with handstitched facing to give the wearer enough ease for the bust without “that pointy, bullet-bra look that was very popular in the Fifties and Sixties.”

As a child, Norell was a fan of vaudeville’s razzle-dazzle and his first job was with Paramount Pictures in Astoria, before it moved to California. In 1921, at the age of 21, Norell designed for Rudolph Valentino and in 1923 for Gloria Swanson in “Zaza.”

Born Norman David Levinson in Noblesville, Ind., (a state that also produced Bill Blass, Halston and Stephen Sprouse), Norell decided he needed a name with more flair after moving to New York at the age of 19. “He took the ’Nor’ from Norman, the ‘el’ from Levinson and he added an extra ‘l,’ as he said, for luck,” Banks said. Norell’s former boss Hattie Carnegie took a different tack after arriving to Ellis Island from Poland, having asked officials, ‘Who is the richest man in America?’ When told that was Andrew Carnegie, she said, ‘That’s my last name.’

An entrepreneur with a great eye,” Carnegie had 12 designers working for her initially in her East 49th Street multifloor salon. She employed 1,000 people even during the Depression. Norell learned his skills there, accommodating Park Avenue ladies who would make such requests as, “‘My husband bought me an emerald necklace and I need a dress to go with it,’” Banks said. Norell started visiting Europe with Carnegie, who was known to buy 200 items during such an excursion.

On his own, Norell was inspired by men’s wear, and introduced pants before Yves Saint Laurent, and later added “what we know as culottes,” Banks said. When Foley mentioned how Norell became “the person to knock off in New York,” he knew if he was going to be knocked off, he wanted to be knocked off properly. So the designer ran an ad in WWD advising any manufacturer that wanted to knock his culottes off that he would give them the pattern, Banks said.

In 1943, Carnegie was commissioned to do the clothes for Gertrude Lawrence in the Broadway musical “Lady in the Dark,” about a fashion editor undergoing psycho analysis. “Apparently, in the Forties, if you had money that was a big deal. That was trendy thing to do and get shrunk,” Banks quipped.

Norell was tasked with sketching costumes, but Carnegie disapproved, suggesting he tone them down. Norell sidestepped his boss and showed Lawrence the originals, which she loved. That resulted in a parting of ways with Carnegie, and Norell teaming up with a financial partner, Antony Traina, in 1941 and stayed with him until 1959. During the war years, American designers had to restart their industry since they were no longer able to rely on European fabrics, Banks said. Wartime fabric restrictions prompted slimmer skirts just above-the-knee and while metals were rationed, sequins were not. “He was very smart because he could make these clothes look very dramatic, elegant and beautiful without a lot of money,” Banks said.

One turning point in his career came when Norell started buying fabric upfront for his signature dresses, which enabled seamstresses to start making them the day after his runway shows so they could be delivered months before the rest of the collection. “That was the engine that kept the business going,” Banks said. Foley noted how it was a precursor to the buy-now-wear-now shows.

She also pointed out how Norell was inspired by the Marchesa Casati in 1960, whereas only years later did designers like John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Sui and Dries van Noten look to her.

In 1972, the-then 72-year-old Norell was given his due with a one-night-only retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I was working for Ralph Lauren while I was going to school and I begged him to get tickets for this. He said, ‘Who is this Norell?’ I said, ‘He is just the greatest designer in America,’ which is not what your boss wants to hear. But he got the tickets anyway,” Banks said. “At the end of the show, the lights went out — this was a live show of his clothes from the Twenties through the Seventies — and you saw something twinkling in the dark like fireflies. When the lights came up, there were 60 girls in mermaid dresses in every color of the rainbow from every decade.”

The audience was “literally like they were at a basketball game, stamping their feet, yelling, screaming” when a man came out in a tuxedo whom guests thought was about to introduce Norell. Instead, he said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that Norman Norell had a stroke yesterday,’” Banks said. Ten days later, the designer died.

As for what Norell would have considered to be his greatest contribution to fashion, Banks said, “Making women look attractive — that is all he ever cared about — making beautifully well-made clothes.”

The orginal article has the best picture gallery. I hope you enjoyed this reposted article, and I hope that you visit the site and see the most amazing fashion!
XO RA

Fashion Stories: Doris Day

Investment Piece: Fashion Stories Doris Day

I grew up in a house with a mom who LOVED Doris Day. We just to sing “Que Sera” and put on her movies whenever on of us had a bad day. From Pillow Talk to Caprice, and everything in between, my family loved her acting, feel good movies, and “good girl” image.

Investment Piece: Fashion Stories Doris Day

Weirdly enough, I didn’t think about Doris Day’s fashion until her passing. Did I know she always looked amazing? Yes. In my opinion, Doris mastered the casual before it was chic, but could also rock a fur coat (both are goals). And then, when she passed, so many pictures of Doris Day were posted and I couldn’t help but think: I”d love to get in her closet.

Sadly, we can’t.

Luckily, I have a solution. My mom sent me the below video of Doris Day and her style. It fascinates me. And only makes me want to copy every single outfit.

We all have a fashion story! I hope you enjoy Doris Day’s as much as I did!
Xo RA

Fashion Stories: PhoebePhiloFan

Investment Piece: Fashion Stories PhoebePhiloFan

I’m a true believer that fashion is a medium with which to tell stories; and, that we tell stories every time we get dressed, or buy clothes. So, it’s no surprise that I’m simply fascinated by what we buy, collect, and hang onto in our closets. These are the stories I love telling!

This month I had the privilege of speaking to Tess of PhoebePhiloFan (she is a must follow on Instagram, @pheobephilofan). Tess is a dear friend, and over the years has evolved not only her personal style, but her collection of one of her favorite designers, Phoebe Philo (when she was at Celine). Tess and I sat down to chat all things Celine, Phoebe, personal style, and more!

Investment Piece: Fashion Stories PhoebePhiloFan
Investment Piece: Fashion Stories PhoebePhiloFan

IP: What started you on your journey to collect Phoebe Celine? Or, why collect Phoebe Celine?
Tess: Well, I got a few of her pieces throughout the years, but recently felt like I have honed in on my own personal style, and this specific era from Celine really represents that.

Investment Piece: Fashion Stories PhoebePhiloFan

IP: What would you say your personal style is?
Tess: I feel like it’s become more sophisticated and self confident, not as much flashy or showy. I feel like it really reflects my inner self confidence so it’s more about me and less about the clothes–though it is about the clothes!
IP: Everytime I see you I feel like you look very chic, but also very Tess. Nothing ever looks like a costume or like you’re letting the clothes wear you.
Tess: I feel that for a while I was experimenting, but I’ve always been searching for clothes that really reflect the true me, and through Phoebe Philo I’ve found that.

Investment Piece: Fashion Stories PhoebePhiloFan

IP: So where do you find all of these great Phoebe Philo pieces?
Tess: I look all over the place. The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective, eBay, local second hand shops like UAL, etc. I find most of it second hand, which helps with cost, but I really look all over.
IP: So, how much of your closet is Phobe Philo?
Tess: I would say about 20%. I feel like I buy clothes frequently, but I’m now at the point where I would rather buy fewer clothes of higher quality and things that I really love than just whatever is trendy. So, I don’t feel badly about spending a little bit more and investing in her pieces rather than going for the easy, fast fashion pieces that quickly go out of style, or the quality isn’t there!
IP: Investment Pieces are something I understand and love!

Investment Piece: Fashion Stories: PhoebePhiloFan
IP: so, where are you going from here? Is Phoebe something you intend to keep collecting on purpose, or do you see this as an evolution of your own style/wardrobe?
Tess: I’ve been through Phoebe and OldCeline, and they really fit my sense of self. So, I would say I’m just incorporating this into my wardrobe, I still buy other designers and pieces, but since I love Phoebe so much will always make space for her in my closet!
IP: How has this changed your interaction with fashion and the fashion community? Your account is so beautiful, and you’ve had great engagement. How has this changed your outlook on fashion?
Tess: I think it makes me more mindful about the way I shop. Before I feel like I could get distracted by trends, and now I’m following the trends a little less and staying true to my own sense of style more. I’m investing in classic staples, and being ok with that, and then having one or two stand out items. But I now really think more long term when I shop.

Investment Piece: Fashion Stories, PhoebePhiloFan
Investment Piece: Fashion Stories, PhoebePhiloFan

IP:So you take all your pictures yourself?
Tess: Yes, I do! I love photography too, though I know very little about it, so I’m loving the pictures side of this too, as well as the fashion of course. Actually, one time I was at the graffiti wall in Austin and someone saw me shooting and asked if I needed them to take my picture; and I explained that I love taking the pictures myself. It’s part of the journey for me.
IP: You’re so good at it! Taking the pictures yourself is still something I’m working on!
Tess: and there are times when I feel bad. Like my husband would take my photos for me, but I really don’t think he gets what I do-I mean he knows it’s important to me, but I don’t know that he would capture the pictures that I’m going for.

SideNote: Mr. PhoebePhiloFan is amazing as well, but yes, I get that!

Investment Piece: fashion stories: PhoebePhiloFan
My husband laughs every time I wear these shoes. Phoebe can be so specific and that’s part of what I love about it!

I just adore Tess of PhoebePhiloFan, her fashion choices, and her fashion philosophy! I hope that you enjoyed this fashion story as well–make sure to follow Tess (@phoebephilofan) on Instagram and I’ve picked out some of my fave Celine pieces for your shopping pleasure below!

Investment piece: fashion stories PhoebePhiloFan
Investment Piece: Fashionstories PhoebePhiloFan

What stories are you telling in your closet?
XO RA

Note: this post does contain affiliate links. While that does not affect the price for you, I may earn commission from them. Thank you for your support! Xo RA

Shop Celine picks here and
Here:

Fashion Stories: Raiding Mom’s Closet

Today is my mom’s birthday. And tomorrow is mine! There have been a few posts over the years that have felt like “tradition” to post on our days and this is one of them. Today my mom (and sis and dad) will be headed to lunch- and I won’t be wearing this, though Mom did approve the dress! It feels great to be able to celebrate and mark our birthdays with fashion-because, like playing dress up with this number growing up, fashion (no matter how much mom and I differ) fashion is what can bring us together. Hoping you have a great Monday and that this post gives you some inspiration – even to raid your mom’s closet and restyle her pieces! xo RA

This post was originially just an outfit post. But even then, I knew that this vintage piece, from my mom’s closet was a story. And what’s that I’m always saying? Fashion is just a way to tell our stories. My mom wore this in her 20s. It was in my sister’s and my “dress up box” growing up. My sister and I have both worn it-to parties, as business wear, even as a costume. To me it tells the story of my mom’s hope and dreams, and how my sister and I carry that on. I am so fascinated by what we keep in our closets. And in this case, what we keep, use, and keep going back to. What’s in your closet?

Investment Piece: Raiding Momo's Closet
Investment Piece: Raiding Mom's Closet
Investment Piece: Raiding Mom's Closet
Investment Piece: Raiding Mom's Closet
Investment Piece: Raiding Mom's Closet
Investment Piece: Raiding Mom's Closet

As someone who loves vintage clothes, there’s a special place I love to go for vintage: Mom’s Closet. I don’t always get the chance to raid mom’s closet, but when I do, I think it’s magical. This dress/jacket set is from my mom’s wedding, it was her going away outfit. I love that she saved it, that she lets my sister and I wear it, and that it’s a vintage piece that lends itself to modern style. Everything about this vintage dress is great–the button detail, the drop waist (though I couldn’t resist belting it with this stunner), and the flair.

Here’s part of what I think is magical about fashion: it can transform itself and you. While this dress holds special meaning for my family, it’s easy to make this a “new” look”. The belt is a way to dress it up, and socks with shoes are one of my fave things ever. ( See here, here, and here for some examples). The look feels fresh, yet it’s an homage to my past. Raiding my Mom’s closet is one of my favorite things. I’d love to know: who’s closet do you love to raid? And how do you do your vintage?

The dress/jacket are from my mom’s closet
The socks are Gucci, the shoes Brian Atwood
The belt is vintage from RecessLa. Pics are by the amazing Megan Weaver!
I’ve picked some similar picks for you below!
XO RA

Fashion Stories: Minimalist Closet

Investment Piece, Fashionblogger, miniamalist, closet, high fashion, shopping, CA, TX

Loves, I am a shopper. I love fashion: that it lets you be someone new every day, that it’s a visual playground, that it can speak for you. And I have quite the collection of fashion. This entire blog is based on the premise that fashion is an investment, and that your closet can be an asset. But an idea I’m simply fascinated by? Minimalist Closet. Let’s be clear, I don’t know that it’s completely for me. I love options too much. Although, I have traveled with a minimalist waredrobe and loved it (read about it here and here). Do I think I could give up all my clothes and par down to basics? No. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

But, I do think that what we have in our closets, what we chose to buy, the waredrobe we build should be intentional. What I love about the minimalist closet or shopping approach is the thought: to the pieces, how they fit, what you really need. And while I am in no hurry to turn my closet clean out into a massive purge, I think we can all benefit from really thinking about our clothes. What do we need? What do we wear? How can we mix and match? How can we build a waredrobe that compliments itself? How can I buy the best pieces for me?

I’m clearly not an expert on the subject, but with closet clean out season upon us, I am reflecting on those questions. As much as I love my options, I want pieces that fit together well. I want to curate a closet that is worth something, and easy to live with. Some reading I’ve been doing on the subject:
Waredrobe Rebuild
How to Become a Fashion Minimalist
A Shopper’s Manifesto

Am I taking a firm stance? No. I’m still reading, thinking, in the midst of a closet clean out. And while I know I’m not the type to par down to 10 pieces, I’m thinking about this. I want to try parts of this on and see if I can be a closet minimalist my way. What about you?

XO RA

Fashion Stories: Thanksgiving

This year the holidays may be a mixed bag! And that’s not a bad thing!Staying home to stay safe is not bad! First off, it means that you can be in your pjs (luxe or not!) if that’s what makes you happy. Or, if you love it, you can dress to the nines. My go to? Combine the two! Wear a luxe nightgown with a fancy jacket (yes, even alone) or cardigan.

Or maybe you’re heading back out into the wild! Does this change much? I’ve been to Friendsgivings that were explicit that we were to wear sweats, family gatherings there were a bit fancy, and the dinners (or lunches) that are in between.

This year? I’m undecided what to wear, I’ll be with the family, but as of publication our plans are TBD. As it is a holiday, and an excuse to go all out, I’m leaning towards dressing up (just because!).

I would love to know: what are you wearing for Thanksgiving?
Xo RA

Fashion Stories: TV Fashion: The Americans

Most of this is a repost. When I first started this blog, I knew that I wanted to talk (and show!) stunning fashion, outfits- and tell stories. As we know, for me stories and fashion are a part of the same thing. It’s taken me a while to really refine my vision and how I talk about our fashion stories, but the ideas have always been there. At first, I wanted to talk about fashion on TV and Movies (because, as an actress it made sense to me). This was one of my first attempts. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot (again) about costumes and costume designers. I talk a lot about how what we wear tells our stories, and one of the most visible ways (and ironically, one place where we learn how to dress for what we’re trying to express) of fashion story telling are costumes. They let us know so much about a character- who they are, what they like, what they’re dealing with, who they want to be. Costumes are such an important part of any show or movie you’re watching. I promise. So, I’m looking again at what I was thinking about the Americans- and how the story of being a spy is one I’m drawn to. I’ve added a link to an interview with the Costume Design Team from this show- and I’m also currently shopping items like these!
Xo RA

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In case you haven’t been watching, “The Americans” is simply one of the best shows on TV right now (seriously, go binge). It follows two Russian spies, living in the US in the early 80s–and I love everything about it. So much goes into making a great, timeless, compelling show–the story, the actors, the production–but also, the fashion. When I completely fall for a show, like I have with “The Americans”, I find myself wanting to live in their world, and while that isn’t always possible, dressing like them can be.

THE AMERICANS -- (Premieres Early 2013) Pictured: Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings -- Photo CR: Jeff Neira/FX
THE AMERICANS — (Premieres Early 2013) Pictured: Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings — Photo CR: Jeff Neira/FX

Let’s be clear, I’m not calling for a return to all 80s fashion (let’s just say no to big shoulder pads), but when fashion is great, done well, and timeless, elements of any period can be added to your wardrobe. It’s a case of “classic fashion never goes out of style”. The fashion on “The Americans” is not only great and classic–a lot of it would look modern today!

A Great Coat and Boots
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It’s on every “must have” or “invest” list–a great coat and a great trench. When it’s paired with boots it’s a classic outfit–and all over Instagram as we speak. Spring is a great time to buy a coat on sale, and trenches are always a good investment. I’m a fan of high boots, they never go out of style.
Some of my picks:
Trenches: Ralph Lauren, Burberry, and Zara
Boots: Stuart Weitzman, Frye, and Steve Madden

Wrap Dresses

Subject: The Americans On 2013-04-08, at 3:50 PM, Yeo, Debra wrote: Kerri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings and Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings in The Americans on FX. CRAIG BLANKENHORN/FX  The Americans.jpg
Subject: The Americans On 2013-04-08, at 3:50 PM, Yeo, Debra wrote: Kerri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings and Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings in The Americans on FX. CRAIG BLANKENHORN/FX The Americans.jpg

DVF made it ionic, the shape makes it completely flattering. A wrap dress is great in every decade and in every way–short, long, dress up, casual, there’s just something about this silhouette that looks great on everyone. It’s a classic you need and here are some of my picks:
Wrap Dresses: DVF (on sale!), DVF, and Ann Klein

Great Jeans and a Top
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Ironically enough, high waisted jeans and tie blouses are back in style–but I think any jean rise that looks great on you and any simple blouse is a classic hit. There’s something both effortless and pulled together about the combo. Some of my faves:
Jeans:JCrew, , and MOTHER
Tops: Equipment, Anna Quan, and Zara

Read about the costume process here.

Would you wear any of these costumes? Be a spy?

I’m game!
Xo RA

Fashion Stories: Childhood Trends

This week I am so thrilled and grateful to be featured in Voyage Austin. Both the process of this interview and while giving it, I couldn’t help but think about our stories. And our fashion. And what shapes both. It’s always funny as I always think I’m SO DIFFERENT in various stages of my life, but when I look back- there’s always a through line.

This was one of my first fashion stories, chatting about childhood fashion and what I still wear. Believe it or not, I think about it all the time- or I should say I think about how my fashion has stayed constant. The fashion that really makes me who I am.

The Voyage article is so nice- and it’s even niecer to tie it back to what I’ve been wearing for life.
Xo RA

Loves, as you know, I’m a big believer that fashion helps us tell our stories. And our stories matter. This summer, I’ve spent a lot of time helping my mom clean out many things. In mom’s house? A lot of baby pictures, which got me to thinking:

Last month we talked wedding dresses (see here) and yes, those are an item most of us can’t get out of our closet. Another item we tend to hold onto? Baby clothes (though my mom has mine boxed in the attic, but still). It made me wonder: does how we dress as children influence how we dress as adults? Are the things that were in our closets as kids still in our closets?

In my case, yes!! I was never one to turn down a party dress (I refused to wear pants till I was 5); and I’m still very partial to a great party dress (and shoes). There are direct lines between what I wore (and many times a day I changed) as a kid, and what I wear (and how many times a day I change) a day now. Ironically enough, my mom used to take pictures of all of my baby outfits, now I take pictures of my outfits. Everything comes around?

I hope you enjoy this video I made about these thoughts. I’d love to know:
What was in your closet as a kid? What can’t you get rid of? Did what you wear then affect what you wear now?

XO RA

***Note: I think I ramble too much. At one point, what I was trying to explain was I danced as a kid (yes, I still wear leotards around), and it got me in the habit of wearing a bun ALL the time

Fashion Stories: FashionxSports

Investment Piece: Play Ball

I’m endlessly fascinated by all of our juxtapositions. The corners and opposites that make us who we are, and make an outfit interesting. One of mine? I love sports. LOVE them. I’m a huge football fan (here, here, and here) I can’t miss basketball playoffs. And while I’m not the biggest baseball fan, I do enjoy watching my college team (and pay attention. Also- going to games is fun! I can’t wait till we can do that again! I wrote about baseball and fashion here)

There are people who are endlessly surprised that I can like both fashion and sports. Which is always so interesting to me. Sports stars are often seen as fashionable (and some even have their own lines). And fashion in its purest form is about a show, and sports is a spectacle- to me they don’t seem that so far apart. And if fashion is a way for us to tell our stories, wouldn’t it be natural for our fandoms- no matter what they are- to be expressed through our clothes?

Investment Piece: Fashion X sports

And if I’m telling my stories, I want to be in charge of them. While there are hundreds and hundreds of women who love sports, often our fashion options for our sports teams is lacking. In my opinion.

I’m a fan- I love the game. And I want the fashion I wear to show that, not be a beacon that I’m a woman. Pink. Sparkles. Rhinestones. I hate it all. If my team’s colors are purple. Or blue. Or green. I want to wear those colors. I want the shirts. And shorts. And sweaters. And more. That I wear to look like something the players would wear. Not a beacon letting the world know that I’m a girl.

Investment Piece: Play Ball

And I think there is a way to make sports wear look fashionable. Some of my tips? Wear heels. Pair fan gear- from hats to tops to pants- with a neutral. Let the team item pop. Wear your fan shirt like any other shirt. Dress it up. Be unafraid to be casual with it. Treat it like it’s any other outfit. Only wear your team’s colors- not logos. Don’t be fair to dress up for a game. Don’t be afraid to be casual.

There is no right or wrong way to show your love of sports in fashion. And if you don’t love sports? Nothing wrong with that either. After all, if you love sports like me, this is just another way to tell some of your stories.

Investment Piece: Play Ball

I would love to know. Do you love sports? Do you dress for it? How?

Xo RA

Fashion Stories: Restoration

Investment Piece: Restoration

Have you been following the saga of the Givenchy dress found and restored by Henry Wilkinson? I’ve been paying attention on Instagram– and it’s amazing and I love it! Henry is a costume designer who happened to find part of a vintage Givenchy gown. It looked like this:

Investment Piece: Restoration

After research, care, and a lot of work, Henry got it to look like this (again):

Investment Piece: restoration

And! It turns out this gown was owned by Princess Lee Radziwill (Jackie O’s sister!)
Investment Piece: Restoration

Following the journey online was just thrilling. I learned about zippers! Henry showed us how to shape! And it fed my love of fashion as a means to tell our stories- the night the Princess wore it, what happened to it, and how it transformed all of us by being restored to its former glory. For the full story, I’ll let Henry tell you:

If you want to read all about it you can, at:
Vintage Fashion Guild
Town and Country
Yahoo

And I whole heartedly recommend following Henry on Instagram (@henryjjwilkinson) for his documentation of this project (and other fashion stories).

As someone who loves wearing vintage, I love to think about who has worn/owned my beloved vintage gowns before me. Now, I’m thinking about who will wear my clothes after me. What will happen to them? I can only hope that they recieve the care that Henry gave this gown. And we can all hope to wear something so beautiful!

To all the stories our fashion holds!
Xo RA