Mary Quant is 82!

Designer Mary Quant turns 82 today.  Quant was incredibly influential in the 1960s, creating fashion aimed at young people, encouraging them to dress for themselves.

She opened her first shop, ‘Bazaar’ on the King’s Road in 1955.  This led to a second shop (designed by Terence Conran), and to start creating her own designs such as white plastic collars to liven up jumpers, bright stockings and funky lounging pyjamas.  She then started to design and make more of the clothes she stocked, and by 1966 she was working with a range of manufacturers.

Mary Quant is, of course, most closely associated with the miniskirt (although others credit John Bates or Andre Courreges* with its invention).

Quant herself said later:  ‘It was the girls on the King’s Road who invented the mini. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted.  I wore them very short and the customers would say, ‘Shorter, shorter’.’

Influential journalist Ernestine Carter wrote in the Sunday Times, ‘It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion there are three: Chanel, Dior, and Mary Quant.’

Mary Quant was appointed OBE in 1966 and DBE in 2015 for her contribution to British fashion.

 *Andre Courreges died on 7th January 2016, but his death was somewhat overshadowed by that of David Bowie.

 

Happy birthday Diane !

It’s the very last day of 2015. And it’s also Diane von Furstenberg’s 69th birthday.

Diane has had a huge influence on womenswear, particularly due to her iconic wrap dress, first introduced in 1974.  Elegant yet comfortable, the wrap dress comes in myriad colours and prints.  Made from beautiful silk jersey, the dress was a staple of many women’s wardrobes throughout the 1970s and ’80s, including my mother (she had the green and white Twig print).

Belgian-born Diane married into the German House of Furstenberg and continues to use the family name, despite divorcing Prince Egon in 1972.  Diane began designing clothes in 1970, explaining: ‘The minute I knew I was about to be Egon’s wife, I decided to have a career. I wanted to be someone of my own, and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts.’  Vogue editor Diana Vreeland declared her designs ‘absolutely smashing’.

Diane reintroduced the wrap dress in 1997, gaining loyal followers from a new generation of women (including me).  I love the wrap, but its proportions don’t work well on me as I’m short-waisted.  However, I have a number of her other dresses, including a fabulous shirt dress in monochrome Chain Link, and a green and white silk tunic in vintage print Gingko Dance.

Timeless and classic, Diane’s dresses can be worn for any occasion, which makes them a great investment.

Thanks Diane.  Happy birthday.  And happy new year everyone !

Celebrating Diana.

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The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb – Diana Vreeland, 1946

This week marks the late, great Diana Vreeland’s birthday.  Diana was a fashion columnist, editor-in-chief and all-round powerhouse.  Born in Paris to an American socialite mother and British father, Diana and her family moved to the US at the beginning of the First World War.

Her varied career spanned six decades and many social changes – World War II, the advent of the sixties, the space age and feminism.  After marrying banker Thomas Vreeland in 1924, the couple lived in London, where she ran a lingerie business in Mayfair, where her clients included Wallis Simpson.  The Vreelands returned to New York in the mid-30s, where Diana joined Harpers Bazaar, writing the ‘Why Don’t You…?’ column, offering extravagant fashion and lifestyle tips.  She later became fashion editor of the magazine, remaining there for 26 years.

Knowing she wasn’t a classic beauty, Diana emphasised her flaws instead of concealing them.  She cropped her black hair and wore it sharply pulled back to show her severe profile, and emphasised her pale complexion with rouge and scarlet red nails (her favourite shade).

Diana advised Jacqueline Kennedy on dress during the 1960 presidential campaign, and introduced her to Oleg Cassini, who became Jackie’s chief designer.

She became editor-in-chief at Vogue in 1963, and celebrated the decade’s uniqueness, saying ‘If you had a bump on your nose, it made no difference, as long as you had a marvellous body and good carriage.’  While at Vogue, she discovered and photographed ‘youthquaker’ Edie Sedgwick.  After leaving Vogue, she became special consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Diana was added to the International Best Dressed List (now run by Vanity Fair) in 1964.  She died in 1989 at the age of 85.

 

 

An ode to Edie.

Youthquaker. Scenester. Warhol muse and superstar. Vogue model. Heiress. Edie Sedgwick was all this and more.

Edie was the ‘It girl’ in arguably the most exciting decade of the twentieth century. Had she been around today (this week marks her 72nd birthday), her every move would be tweeted and instagrammed.

Edie’s life was one of privilege and glamour, but also tremendous tragedy. Born into a hugely wealthy (and seriously dysfunctional) New England family, her life was blighted by anorexia, her brothers’ deaths and mental illness and ultimately serious drug addiction. She died in 1971 at the age of 28.

Despite all this, she remains an enduring style icon.  Dark eyes, short hair streaked with silver, chandelier earrings and black opaque tights – at the time, Edie was completely original and individual. In the 60s, you tended to fall into one of two tribes – flowery hippies (think Haight-Ashbury or the Isle of Wight festival) or cool modish types like Edie herself (think Twiggy, David Bailey and Carnaby Street).  I know which camp I’d rather fall into. I love the dark glamour of the whole East Coast/Factory look – lots of black eyeliner, leather and silver, accompanied by the sounds of the Velvet Underground….

Of course all of this had a very seedy underbelly, and I’m not in any way condoning that. Edie herself was certainly a victim of that scene. I’m simply talking about style. And hers was fabulous.

Bon anniversaire, M de Givenchy

Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy is 88 years old today.  Givenchy is from aristocratic stock (as you can tell).  Early in his career, Givenchy designed for both Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong, working alongside the then-unknown Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior.  He then worked for Elsa Schiaparelli from 1947-51, before founding his own House of Givenchy in 1952.

Givenchy is perhaps best known, however, for designing much of Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe both on and off screen.  He met Audrey in 1953, when she was about to start filming ‘Sabrina’. Legend has it that he was expecting Katharine Hepburn when they met, but of course Audrey arrived in  her signature look of t-shirt, capri trousers and ballet flats.  The resulting friendship and collaboration would last 40 years, designing clothes for Audrey in not only Sabrina, but also Funny Face, Love in the AfternoonBreakfast at Tiffany’s and How to Steal a Million.

Audrey said of Givenchy in 1956: “His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality.”

Givenchy sold his business stop LVMH in 1988 and retired in 1995.  He would be succeeded by Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Julien MacDonald and today, Riccardo Tisci.

Happy birthday Christian Dior !

Today would have been the Christian Dior’s 110th birthday. Given his tremendous impact on twentieth century fashion, I thought it only right to pay homage to him.

Christian Dior was born in Normandy in 1905, one of five children and the son of a wealthy fertiliser manufacturer. When he was five, the family moved to Paris. Although his parents wanted him to become a diplomat, Dior had artistic ambitions. After leaving school, he ran a small art gallery, which was forced to close with the onset of the Depression in 1929 and the collapse of his father’s business.

Dior began working for designer Robert Piguet in 1937.  He later said that Piguet taught him ‘the virtues of simplicity through which true elegance must come.’ (Piguet also trained Givenchy, but more about him in another post….)

Following military service, Dior joined the fashion house of Lucien Lelong (alongside Pierre Balmain) in 1942. In December 1946, Dior founded his eponymous fashion house, backed by a cotton magnate. His first collection, originally called ‘Corolle’ and ‘Huit’, was launched in February 1947 and caused a global sensation. Carmel Snow, editor in chief of Harpers Bazaar in the US, christened it ‘New Look’, and the name stuck.

The ‘New Look’ was revolutionary. The designs were more voluptuous than the boxy shapes of the war (which of course were influenced by rationing of material). The look comprised a calf-length full skirt, a cinched waist and fuller bust than had been seen since the turn of the century. He completed the look with playful accessories including gloves, small hats and parasols. But not everyone loved it. Some criticised the opulence of the designs, others objected to the amount of material used – both were quite shocking after the austerity of the war years.

Ironically, the New Look could be seen as a return to the ‘old’, with its small waists, roll-on girdle and the need to wear padded and strapless bras. It heralded women’s return to traditional roles after the war ended.

The New Look heralded the promise of luxury and appealed to fantasies, and re-established Paris as the fashion capital of the world. Dior was also the first couturier to arrange licensed production of his designs. Sadly he died only 10 years after its launch, but the house would continue under Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano and today, Raf Simons.

Rocky Horror is turning 40 !!!

I can’t believe cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show will turn 40 in 2015 ! Back in the 80s, I spent many teenage Friday nights at the iconic Key Theatre in Washington DC for midnight showings of the film, doing the Time Warp, ad-libbing along to the outrageous lines and longing to have the courage to dress like squeaky-voiced groupie Columbia.

To celebrate, cosmetics firm MAC has launched a fantastic (and not for the faint-hearted) range which is hitting the UK just in time for Halloween (very appropriate). The range includes dark lipsticks, outrageous lashes, inky eye liners and gothic nail varnish with character-evoking names such as Riff Raff Quad, Strange Journey, Oblivion and of course Frank-n-Furter.

MAC invites us to ‘transform yourself into a sex-swapping mad scientist, heroic newlywed, alien from Translyvania or even hunky Rocky Horror himself, with an orgy of colour worthy of any midnight mayhem at Frankenstein Palace’.

Now where did I put those fishnets ?  www.maccosmetics.co.uk