Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Future of Fashion: Clothing or Digital Skins?

Imagine a fabric that can make you invisible!

If you play video games, you know how much fun it is to change your avatar's skin.  Poof!  You're in a different color, a different style or possibly even a different dimension.  But will it be possible to do similar things with our clothing in real life?  The scientists focused on wearable technology think these ideas are closer than we can imagine...

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Enduring Legacy of Coco Chanel: Revolutionizing How Women Dress

How Coco Chanel changed fashion

I recently read Coco Chanel, the Legend and the Life, by Justine Picardie.  It's a detailed, lavishly illustrated biography, revealing the true history of one of the 20th Century's most interesting and influential people.  I absolutely loved this book.  I came away from it feeling like I had gone way beyond the icon, and gotten to know the heart of a guarded, complicated, sometimes dark but always fascinating woman.  While many books have been written on Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, this one is much more personal...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

More Than Fashion: The Photography of Nina Leen

1940s and 1950s fashion captured by Nina Leen

There are fashion photographers, and then there are photographers who photograph fashion, but also capture far more than just pretty clothes.  Nina Leen was one of the latter.

Leen was born in Russia, but nobody seems to know when because she refused to tell her age.  She lived in Europe and moved to the US in 1939. When she died in 1995, her obituary revealed little about her life.  She was the first female photographer to shoot for Life, where she produced over forty covers as well as many other spreads. She is remembered for a 1950 photograph she took of the abstract artists known as the Irascibles -- including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack and Barnett Newman.   She published 15 books on photography, including several about animals -- the animal kingdom was a passion of Leen's.  One of her first jobs was photographing animals in a zoo.  She was married for many years to fashion photographer Serge Balkin.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ethical Fashion Part 1: My Mad Love for Karina Dresses

My latest Karina dress... as fabulous as my others!

 I have always loved fashion.  It is a bright, shiny industry filled with beautiful things that make us feel fantastic!  Unfortunately, it also has a dark side.  I'm not just talking about youth obsession and anorexia -- though I have a lot of opinions about those things, as well.  The insistence upon adherence to style trends and the ever-changing must-haves of season to season all add up to a culture of overconsumption, waste and (often) exploitation of underpaid garment workers in factories across the world.  Fast fashion has given all of us the ability to change our look as much as we change our mood (and that's great!) but we can't overlook the actual cost of all those affordable, often disposable styles.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Personal Style: Borrowing From Every Fashion Era

Fashion history: looking chic from feather-adorned hats and lace gloves to leather jackets and torn jeans.

Mainstream fashion will have us believe that we should strive to wear the latest trend, or else be seen as hopelessly out of style.  I've always thought this was nonsensical, since the reason a style usually becomes a trend is because it is based on a lovely design aesthetic that resonates with many people.  Of course, there are obvious exceptions.  (I'm looking at you, most of 1980s fashion.)  But when magazines and blogs begin to tell you to put away your chunky heels in favor of stilettos (or vice versa) there is no actual reason for it.  I've never understood bemoaning the fact that something you love has "gone out of style."  If it's something you love, it's your style...

For example:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

House of Hurel: The Artisans Behind the Couture

Watch the artisans create beautiful hand embroidery at House of Hurel.

The runways have been filled with beautiful stitchery and beadwork for the last few seasons, and it is a trend after my own heart.  I love the magic and mastery of all that gorgeous, old-world embellishment, and I often wonder who makes the fabrics? These kinds of pieces seem less like clothing and more like tapestries or flowing sculpture.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Make Up Tutorials from History ... Yikes!

Forget lip plumpers in 1936, girls.  Instead, here are tips to disguise lips that are "a teenie weenie bit heavy."
(Sorry, Angelina Jolie!)

We all know that makeup trends come and go, and we often don't even realize we are playing along until we look back at pictures from a decade ago and wonder what in the hell we were doing with all that brown lip liner. (Or maybe that's just me...)

I found these great old beauty films, each offering the latest, most stylish makeup trends of their day.  Consider these your grandmother's beauty YouTubers:

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Beauty Bar Resetting the Bar on Beauty


I remember marveling at my mother's complexion when I was growing up.  She was blessed with great skin genes that made her look kind of like she was carved out of marzipan, even as she got older.  I, on the other hand, have lots of freckles and moles that  my mother sweetly called "beauty marks." I remember a cute guy in college telling me that those moles were "a reverse constellation of stars" across my body ... which I've always cherished, but that's another story.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Souvenir Jacket -- Embroidery, War, Rebellion, History and Style in One Iconic Piece

Explore Sukajan street style & history in Harajuku, Tokyo

Spring and Fall/Winter 2016 offer a beautiful trend of rich embroidery embellishment.  Valentino, Schiaparelli and Gucci are just a few of the design houses that have included some form of gorgeous stitchery into both couture and resort lines.  Just look at the details on these pieces:

Valentino on the left.  Schiaparelli on the right.  Swooning all around.  

In an age of digital artifice and an increasingly homogenized landscape, clothes with this kind of old world craftsmanship feel special, unique and grounded.  They're linked to an artistic tradition that goes back as far as human beings have been around to put threads into needles.   

Embroidery was never just utility.  It was artistry. (And sometimes political activism.)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Coming Soon: The Chic Contraire Monthly Instagram Style Challenge

Be sure to follow Chic Contraire on Instagram!  (There might even be a giveaway... shhh.  Don't tell anyone...)

Have great ideas about style challenge themes?  Head over to the Chic Contraire Community Forum and tell me!