Archive for the ‘RUNWAY’ Category

The Magic Christian
December 3, 2009

So I’m sitting here this morning with a bit of delicious melancholy from Glee last night, which closed with a heartrending version of Smile (“though your heart is breaking…”) that seems to go hand in hand with the news that, for all intents and purposes, the House Of Christian Lacroix is over. Promised salvation to the bankrupt designer in the form of Ajman sheikh failed to materialize and so French Courts approved a plan to allow the owners, the Florida-based Falic Group of duty-free renown, to covert Lacroix to a licensing operation with only a skeletal 11 employees.

Lacroix made a heroic last stand at his ultimately final couture show in July with a somber but elegantly minimal (for him) collection pieced together with donated (mostly black) fabrics and the labor of volunteer workers – and provoked a lot of “why didn’t he do this before?” comments afterwards from fashion critics but I don’t think his heart was really in it. Lacroix was always a provocateur as well as a technician, starting with his audaciously outsize “pouf” dresses of the ’80s that made his name, and through the intervening years with an improbable arsenal of his own – a jumble of lush roses, polka-dots, improbable colors and mad prints. Somehow the forced juxtaposition of black and midnight blue couldn’t hold a candle to that.

No, it’s the previous couture for Spring 2009 (seen in the larger pictures), that confirms that Lacroix’s design derring-do was just as astonishing, even after roughly 25 years. It’s not that he couldn’t do minimal, in his way – I treasure a letter I received from Mr. Lacroix complimenting me after I styled an actress in one of his gowns, a black strapless, gilded with a jeweled brooch and oversize acid-green velvet bow. That was his idea of minimalism. Now, the postmortems have already started, suggesting an unwillingness to change with the times, an unhealthy reliance on couture profits, the lack of a blockbuster fragrance. All valid points, I’m sure, but I think Lacroix also suffered from  lack of a “story” in this hyper-media age – he didn’t run around with movie stars like Armani, he didn’t maintain a string of fancy homes like Valentino and he didn’t make himself over each season to play a runway role like Galliano. Without an illuminating narrative, it’s pretty hard to see those magical Lacroix colors in the dark.

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Leather and Repeat
October 19, 2009

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“Six thousand dollars? And it’s not even leath-uh,” exclaims Joan Cusack’s bridge-and-tunnel Cyn to Melanie Griffith’s Tess in the ’80s classic Working Girl. Well, working girls as well as ladies who play all day will have a generous bonus of leather options come spring, since plush plongé and couture calfskin were all over the recent runway shows.

I’ve talked about the Celine collection from Phoebe Philo before but her luxe minimalism was a game-changer in fashion – in nearly every exit she worked leather into a series of stark shapes – effortless T-shirts, cropped pullover “shrugs” and gently shaped dresses like the one above. On this side of the Atlantic, Michael Kors’ tastes were decidedly more vanilla as he put a ’80s spin on a white leather shift.

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Donatella Versace reaches back one decade more for her ’70s-centric yet thoroughly modern spring coat, intricately worked with pretty pastel trim, in a standout collection that also included candy-colored leather minis, sweet even with their studded spirals.

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If you just want a little something-something to ward off an early spring chill, Londoner Giles Deacon offered a zipper vest in (with apologies to Tom Wolfe) kandy-kolored tangerine flake. Baby!

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You’d expect the house of Hermès to have the last word, and its “Tennis, Anyone?” collection did not disappoint. Leather master Jean Paul Gaultier’s ingenious pleated skirts of strips of leather and chiffon made for adorable little tennis dresses that will probably see plenty of action – just not on any court. Game, Set, Match!

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Weight for It
October 15, 2009

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Boy, fashion is barely standing on its spindly little legs this week, sorta collapsing under its own weight – or lack of it. By now you all know about Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton – first she was deflated by a round of extreme retouching by her employer and lizzie-miller-2then we found out she had already been taken out of the lineup and fired altogether six months ago when her size-4 figure reportedly became too big for the clothes. From the news today comes a report that overweight women’s self-esteem plunges when they look at any model, whether she’s toothpick thin or flaunts a few extra pounds (like Lizzie Miller, left) Skinny girls had the opposite reaction: they always felt better when they looked at a model, whatever her size. In France and England, meanwhile, there’s a move to label Photoshop-crazy retouched images on a sliding scale with a health warning like they do for smoking. And in Germany, leading mag Brigitte will no longer use models in its pages, only “real women” that readers could identify with. Of course, Bavaria’s favorite-son fashionista Karl Lagerfeld dismissed that with a wave of his gloved hand: “No one wants to see curvy women,” Lagerfeld was quoted.”You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.” Nice.

There’s no denying that Ralph’s retouching was absurd, however limited they say the use of the image was intended to be. According to insiders speaking out in blog comments,amd_lauren there was even a reaction inside the company before the picture was released. On the matter of Hamilton’s dismissal, their statement that she did not live up to the terms of her contract probably means that yes, her now size-4 body didn’t fit into their samples. No doubt that’s true – she’s 23 now and has been working for the company since she was 15, so she’s not a gangly teen-age girl anymore. And unfortunately that’s the problem and it’s a lot bigger than Lauren – the runways of the world are now populated by the beautiful beanpoles and the entire fashion system of runway and sample garments has been “downsized” to their 0 to 2 frames. The reign of the shapely supermodel, being long over, has been replaced by underdevloped hordes of mostly Slavic teens, like the Prada model at the top of the page.  And it’s Prada, headed by a woman I must point out, that usually gets the credit for turning the industry to the look-alike and lanky Lolita’s. They wanted the clothes to stand out and the girls to disappear on the runway; well it seems they got their wish and then some.

As for magazines, Diana Vreeland famously said they were “the places that people dream,” and now some people see only a nightmare. Overheated blog Jezebel doesn’t even believe the skinny on skinnies – that they like looking at models.  No, no, no – models are part of the “beauty-industrial complex (that) is basically designed to enscript” women everywhere. (Are they armed? Is Agent Orange the new trendy color?) I know the topic is serious, but the true wisdom comes from a reader who notes that models are, like always, just models – beautifully shaped and cellulite-free – whatever their size. Women need to look elsewhere for their self-esteem.”The “plus” and “real” women never look like us,” she adds. “It’s easier to ignore the message sent by the skinny model.”

3 (Designing) Women
October 12, 2009

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Little-known today, Robert Altman’s 1977 meandering masterpiece 3 Women came up the other day at a shoot when I remarked that our model reminded me of the young Shelley Duvall (“That’s a name you don’t hear everyday,” the photographer said drily.) Based on an actual dream of Altman’s, the story traces the lives of the trio (played by Duvall, Janice Rule and Sissy Spacek) as their identities begin to shift and then merge with each other until the boundaries disappear and, as movie critic Roger Ebert says, “the dream is perhaps shared by all three women, each one imagining the other two, each one lacking what the others possess.”

Oddly, he could have been describing the Spring 2010 collections of three other women in Paris last week, who I’ll call “The Chloé Sisters” – because they all came to prominence at the fabled French house.  Stella McCartney, her former assistant Phoebe Philo and her former assistant Hannah MacGibbon were all on the Paris schedule, the first time all three have had individual shows in the same season.  And all three are British imports, educated at  Central St. Martin’s, and all in their late ’30s.

McCartney, whose namesake line is part of Gucci Group, famously took the design reigns at Chloé in the mid-nineties, replacing none other than Karl Lagerfeld, survived the subsequent tempest in a toile, and revived the house with her blend of tailored jackets (owing partly to her time working on Saville Row) and floaty feminine pieces.

In 2001 she began her namesake collection and Philo was named head designer and took the line in a trendier direction with high-waisted trousers and baby-doll dresses 91ad4194b6d1eeb2and a series of iconic handbags, notably the padlocked Paddington, the pandemonium-causing “it ” bag of the decade. When she left in 2006, saying she wanted more time for her family in London, MacGibbon was next in line but surprisingly she opted out, also citing family as the reason. Chloé then bounced through two other designers, and it’s crazy-cool and counterfeiter-clamoring formula took a big hit.  Last year, MacGibbon was talked into coming back full-time to Chloé where she had been consulting, while Philo was named head designer at the also-shaky Celine across town.

Well, as they say, with no further ado – to the runways. Looks like it’s going to be a sexy and self-assured spring for Stella (friend Gwynie Paltrow must be drooling), her signature jackets sporting a rollicking ruffle, her man-trousers topped off with light and lacy no-frills halters and her party flounces slip-sliding away. All the way to the bank.

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Over at Celine, Philo “wears the pants” with a starkly luxurious leather T-shirt, befitting the investment pricetags and her own intention to clear the decks design-wise this season. So it’s all neutral nuances, the only softness coming from soft white cotton pieces paired with severe dark leather. And her night-time is the right time for a tall-drink-of -water slinky cooler.

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MacGibbon’s collection (her second) for Chloé puts her tomboy spin on these same design codes. Personally, if I never hear the term “boyfriend jacket” again, it will be too soon. But that’s her opening gambit, followed by L.L. Beanery: couture workshirts, hunting-worthy stirrup pants, foul-weather Macs and, in an Nottingwood Forest detour, wool capes.  For spring. It all seemed pretty dark and stormy until, at last, the sun broke blazingly through, in delicate white flounced dresses (that could easily go toe-to-toe with anything Karl ever did for Chloé). With kitten heels no less.

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Close Encounter with McQueen
October 9, 2009

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Ever since I watched the watershed Alexander McQueen show from this week on SHOWstudio.com (an experience I highly recommend!), I can’t get it out of my head.  There was spectacle – an pristine platform runway, robo-cameras moving on tracks, enormous enveloping projections – but it was in the details that I found myself entranced by McQueen’ strange and wonderful vocabulary of…pretty.

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LA: Week No More
October 8, 2009

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Well they’ve rolled up the runways at Fashion Week in New York, London and Paris. So it must be time for the latest dysfunctional slot on the global fashion calendar – Fashion Week(s) Los Angeles, which this year is ridiculously almost a whole month long. That’s our Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, above at right, with LA garment titan Max Azria at the Spring 2010 kick-off press conference earlier this week.

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The appearance of Mr. Azria by the mayor’s well-dressed side (dig the pink tie!) only underscores the Emperor’s-New-Clothes conundrum of attempting a Fashion Week in LA. You see, for each of his three LA-based lines – BCBG, Hérve Léger by Max Azria and Max Azria (seen above), Maven Max produces a separate fashion show – in New York.  And any other Los Angeles designer, from the young social to the avant garde, from Monique Lhiullier to Jenni Kayne, from Juan Carlos Obando to Elise Øverland, who wants their clothes to be seen by the outside world likewise follows suit (and dress) forthwith to Manhattan to show their collection.

But nature, and fashion – however dubious – abhor a vacuum and that’s where Los Angeles comes in. Up until a year ago, New York Fashion Week powerhouse IMG produced LA Fashion Week as well, in tandem with the local Smashbox-Studio-owning brothers Factor, Dean and Davis. It was a tortured alliance – originally IMG rolled into town and centered its effort downtown, with a tent and showings at the Standard Hotel.  The Factor boys, however, bristled against the slick NYC “carpetbaggers” and set up a competing venue … way out yonder at their inconveniently located Culver City HQ. After an especially rancorous season, (it was impossible to get back and forth between the two show sites) both sides called a truce and entered into a marriage of supposed fashion convenience by walking down the aisle back to Smashbox.

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It wasn’t pretty. The shows went off OK for several seasons, such as they were, but often attracted more partiers for the free booze than professionals parsing the hemlines. The show spaces were roomy but the common area in between was a crowded free-for-all, especially when they crammed in the bars, the D-list celebs and the de rigueur Mercedes from the show’s sponsor. And Smashbox, in a desolate industrial area, had no surrounding amenities like downtown had; instead there was a parking nightmare of pricey valet fees and interminable waits.  IMG, which produces Fashion Week in NYC, Miami, Moscow and even Mumbai, finally admitted defeat after five years in LA and pulled the hell out. Somewhat surprisingly, so did the once-scrappy Factors, who said they’d be back when the economy brightens up.

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Into the abyss this season comes first, from October 13-15, Downtown LA Fashion Week, headquartered at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, which debuted last year with a single show – of vintage fashions from Decades (above). Running three nights this season, it will include an emerging designers show (the winners of something called the Angel awards from the city, who were already announced at the press conference…we love our awards in LA!). Also on tap, a group show of designers from Israel, a return to the runway from hometown hero Louis Verdad and yet another vintage benefit show, this time from Paper Bag Princess, honoring Valentino, The Last Emperor, which since it came out six months ago seems a bit of a vintage idea as well.

Following that, and new this season are two other venues -from October 17-18, LA Fashion Weekend in Hollywood at Sunset Gower studios from local producer Mikey Kaufmann; and from October 29-31, Rock Fashion Week from NYC-based Rock Media, which recently absorbed Gen-Art, and taking place at Paramount Studios. In between there are single shows, pop-up openings, store launches and, yes, Halloween! It’s a dizzying mash-up and really what’s the purpose?  Aside from the loyal local press, there’s no real coverage or attendance by anyone outside the LA fashion bubble. The city touts a $50 million benefit to LA, but that comes from buyers in town for market week and trade shows, not the endless succession of these runway shows, many of which are for “designers” we may never hear of again. But then again, why confine LA Fashion Week to a mere month?  We could be patting ourselves on our bronzed backs all year long.

Paree Prairie
October 6, 2009

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Seeing pics of the Chanel spring show Tuesday in Paris, I guess now they can change the lyric to, “How you gonna keep em off of the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” Even after penning my ode to the cool chic(k) the other day, little did I guess that Kountry Karl would take it to the hay-strewn limit, as the song says, one more time.

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But there is was – the cute floral frocks, delicate prairie palette and country-couture covetables like calico-flower bags and burlap wood-heeled clogs sporting the trademark Double C “brand”. Chanel tweeds even got the hayseed treatment and, at the end, Karl’s new favorite runway “rooster” Baptiste Giabiconi romped barefoot in the barnyard with the babes.

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Chanel’s take was masterful by all accounts but acres of ecru and bales of beige across all the runways might get a little played out in stores this spring, as Style.com noted in its review of Chloe’s more conventional collection, filled with workaday button-downs, roomy trousers and, yes, boyfriend jackets. Retailers are going to work hard “if their selling floors aren’t going to stretch like an executive dust bowl as far as the eye can see.” Sounds like some good ole’ country horse sense to us.

01050mSHORT TAKE: During New York Fashion Week, I first ran this photo and wrote about how panties were the top choice for the bottom of this season, running rampant on every runway. A week later, I was reading the New York Times, where Eric Wilson labeled the inner-wear initiative, “the Spanx trend”, accompanied by the same shot. The stylist in me wants to point out that the retro shapes being revived this season – granny panties and tighty whiteys – were around long before the advent of what is euphemistically termed “shapewear.” (And no disrespect intended, as come award season, loves me some Spanx!) But hey, or hay as you might rightly say, Couturealist was more than happy to get there first.

Cut and Pastie
October 5, 2009

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No it’s not the Paris Las Vegas casino you’re looking at but actual Paris, France, where newly-named “artistic director” Lindsay Lohan, along with heretofore-unknown-and-maybe-she-should-have-kept-it-that-way designer Estrella Archs, debuted their first collection Sunday for the formerly fabled but slowly expiring house of Emmanuel Ungaro. Leggings Linds, hired for her purported cool-girl factor (and, let’s face it, her ability to bring exploding cameras in her wake) made her big design statement by reviving the pastie, in heart-shaped glitter no less. Maybe she heard the show was at the Carrousel de Lido rather than its actual setting at the Carrousel de Louvre (which WWD dubbed “the geezer venue.”)

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In addition to the pasties, which, call me crazy, do sort of seem relevant 00020mgiven this underwear-as-daywear runway season, the designing duo also offered skirts so short that one apparently exposed the rump of one of the models, crayola-bright silk harem pants and Lego-heeled footwear, topped off here and there with white fur stoles slung over the shoulder. Classy. Fuchsia minis at the top of the show were about the only vague reference to Ungaro of old, although who could remember what that even looked like, given the revolving runway of four previous designers who have tried and failed to revive the house in recent years.

Mean-girl editors silently fled after the show but the press pile-on was brutal, with the New York Times noting that Lohan’s task was “something akin to a McDonald’s fry cook taking the reins of a three-star Michelin restaurant.” But Ungaro’s head, Mounir Moufarrage (once notorious in fashion but ultimately vindicated when he abruptly replaced Karl Lagerfeld at Chloe with then-untested Stella McCartney in 1997), stubbornly insisted that controversy, not couture, was the name of the glam game in the face of a recession.

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Depressingly, that’s only the half of it. Ungaro has lost so much ground at this point – when was the last time you saw a piece in the stores? – that it’s hard to remember, as former WWD publisher John Fairchild wrote in his cranky but tenderhearted ’80s memoir Chic Savages, “whatever purity there is, in look and concept, it is the creation of Yves St. Laurent, Giorgio Armani and Emanuel Ungaro.” From that dizzying height, the designer, who first apprenticed with Balenciaga and Courreges and went on to dress all the society boldface names through the ’90s, faded out, quietly giving up his couture collection in 2002 after he had designated Giambattista Valli as his successor. Valli was later ousted, as the company was sold and then resold and haplessly cycled through several designers.

The fashion landscape is littered with doomed attempts to replace a house’s original designer (Blass closed; Ferre and Valentino are teetering); somehow it’s especially challenging if the designer is of recent vintage – it seems to work better when the work is only a dim memory – so, say, the luxurious simplicity of a Lanvin can be embraced and updated or else the sumptuous dressmaking of a Balmain can be junked completely for an avant-garde new image as in the case of Paris’s towering men of the hour, Alber Ebaz and Christophe Decarnin, respectively.

harpers-bazaar-2008-dec-lindsay-lohanUpdating the clothes of yesterday’s maestros to appeal to today’s customers is a thankless task, unless you’re Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, effortlessly creating clothes both mothers and daughters would kill for. But the money men like Moufarrage keep thinking they can strike gold too, betting the bank on a celebrity and her pasties.  They’re not the only ones to hitch their star to the famous; magazines led the way. In the Times piece Harper’s Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey won’t comment on the collection, she’s “running for the door.” But she didn’t run so fast when it came to putting Linds on her cover.

Fashion Flock
October 2, 2009

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You know, sometimes things are just in the air – like runway trends, even though insiders like to say it’s because designers go to the same European fabric shows or their assistants all talk to each other. I was reminded of that when I picked up last week’s New Yorker and saw Susan Orlean’s article, “The It Bird.” Though once scorned, a lowly farm animal is in vogue again – I’m talking about the chicken!

Of course it all started with Martha. Stewart, that is. Her first book, Entertaining, “featured her flock of rare-breed chickens and their pretty pastel-colored eggs,” Orlean writes. “The photographs of Stewart with her flock were a revelation.” And Martha stayed loyal to her girls when she started her magazine, “and often featured her chickens in Ford-model-style head shots that made them look ennobled; she also introduced her first paint collection, which was based on egg colors from her flock.”

buo_1_sI just about fell over when I saw the article, and here I’m getting to my point about things being out there in the either.  In July, I had spent my annual and awaited East Hampton weekend at the home of my dear friend George and his partner Norman. George is an avid rose gardener (his beds stunningly planted at the edge of a forest!) and one day we paid a call “in town” to an elderly gardening friend of his who had been a bit unwell.  There in the village of East Hampton, “Camellia Jim” welcomed us into his historic home and out to see his yard, shaded by tall hedges and ringing with show tunes emanating from the neighboring summer house of a Broadway star.  But what caught my eye and stayed long in my imagination was the flock of exquisite chickens running to and fro underfoot, which I later learned were Buff Offingtons, prized for their deep gold color, winter-proof thick feathers and stately disposition.

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Reminded of that sunny afternoon by Orlean’s article, I started seeing the spring collections in a whole new dappled light. New York’s young Turk Joseph Altuzarra had taken a detour from his sharp-shouldered draped minis to a collection of buff browns, surprisingly combined with delicate white dimity. Where some thought Woodstock, I saw an updated take on Green Acres, barnyard-born style for the city street.

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Over in Milan, Alberta Ferretti got buff too by working a similar color scheme and topping her little dresses with aprons, just the thing for gathering up some farm-fresh eggs early in the morning. And 00730mKarl Lagerfeld at Fendi also seemed to have been hanging around the coop with his delicate buff gown. He even complemented his country-girl collection with go-to-market burlap handbags with a button-off floral-embroidered cover, as the humble but I’m sure equally expensive successor to the Fendi Baguette. At this rate, how long can it be until we see delicately-hued Buff Offingtons and Buff Cochins clucking around the feet of models in Vogue? (As it is, the random photograph I found on online at the top of this column of an English lad, his pet chicken and a buddy, is barely a step away from a fashion shot.)  Right now, the fashion flock is in Paris, and I’m hoping feathers will fly on the runway. C’est chick.

Addie’s Ashes?
September 18, 2009

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Brother, can you spare some diamante?  That might have been the refrain as Ralph Lauren showed his version of dust-bowl chic yesterday, complete with faded blue satin workshirts and factory jackets, thin little dresses right out of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, and riffs on that legendary American piece of gothic iconography, the overall, in smooth renditions from satin to silver metallic.

225395And denim, a Ralph staple, was patched, torn, weathered and eventually shredded and distressed to a threadbare fare-thee-well and then completely overbeaded. My friend the New York Stylist wondered about the propriety of recycling one depression’s duds in the midst of another downturn.  I didn’t see that thought in any of the reviews I scanned – most gave Ralph the usual hurrah for his take on Americana (except in those seasons when he’s figuratively off to Ascot or Apthorp, of course). But I think it’s a valid point, especially when you compare it to the upoar that followed John Galliano in 2000 when he turned Les Clochards, the Parisian street-dwellers, into couture fodder. It might be just a talking point – I doubt we’ll see Lauren’s silvered overall gown or shredded beaded jeans outside the runway (and maybe it’s because I just read a profile of Christian Audijier, but I kind of have nightmares about how those jeans would be worn in real life in a “Real Housewives” world). In the end it brought me back to Addie Pray, the crafty con kid from Paper Moon, clad in her workaday overalls, ever trying to work the angles. But of course all she really wants is a little love.  Hey, maybe she could find a job on 7th Avenue.

Update: Somehow I missed Cathy Horyn’s salvo on her N.Y. Times blog.