December 2, 2009

Lady GaGa is on the January cover of Elle and I’m only half-surprised. She’s toned down her trademark bizarre appearance in her latest TV appearances on Jay Leno and the AMAs and starting to work the sexpot vibe, albeit the 2009 version of sexpot – big blonde bouncy curls, no pants just panties, tattered Balmain-style leather.

I saw the GaGa shots on Jezebel, which continues to fascinate me. They do have a lot of fashion content amid the post-feminist postings, like the thoughtful stories – yesterday’s about Lacroix – from Jenna, formerly Tatiana, the Anonymous Model (long story but basically she quit the runway and dropped her decoy byline). Also frequent red-carpet roundups. And, of course, their famed preoccupation with the airbrushing sins, inflated egos and mundane content (their view, not necessarily mine) of the “ladymags”, the fashion MSM – Bazaar, Elle, and especially Vogue.

So wading into the comments section of their post about the GaGa both bemused me with its youthful (at least I hope it was youthful) enthusiasms and frightened me a little about the future of women as fashion consumers. First there is dismissal of GaGa’s sexy turn, “…she looks like every other sexy-faced-fake-eyelashed-skinny-corset-wearing pop star out there.” Some back and forth follows – is she bi, what does it mean, does it matter?

Then, like the shark approaching in Jaws, comes the comment about the cover image itself: “I hate to be the one to point out an airbrush FAIL…but doesn’t her right arm look freakishly small at the armpit/ shoulder joint area?” Twelve posts follow about whether it really is the dastardly retouching or just foreshortening because of the photographer’s angle. Nothing’s really settled, but moving on, one commenter exclaims, “I hate ladymags, but I am buying the fuck out of this!

The convo then skips through a few posters comparing notes because their dads like GaGa, her makeup, her poses, and then a discussion of what to wear to a GaGa concert: “The lack of pants is key. We are all wearing redonkulous dresses from Forever 21 with crazy colored leggings.

Lastly comes the question of her artistic cred, including the touchingly honest, “You win, Lady Gaga. My head hurts whenever you do anything, but I’m okay with that.” Then the possibly naive, “Yes, she puts a lot of it out there for the world to see, but it’s obviously done by her because that is a part of who she is, not because she thinks it will sell records.”

And then, finally, a larger cultural context, “She also does a great job of referencing the fetish community and probably challenging vanilla and middle america more than they quite realize. Rock on Gaga…” What could I possibly I add? Rock on, indeed.


Standard Gold
November 30, 2009

I was a little surprised to see that Vogue chose to dress the always-stunning Cate Blanchett in a gold column gown for their December cover – the dress is almost a dead ringer for the gown she wore on the cover of Vanity Fair earlier this year. Don’t get me wrong, the lady would look glamorous in a gunny sack but, for red-carpet outings, she often picks choices from the further realms of fashion: McQueen, Gaultier and showstoppers from the Armani Privé runway. So Vogue had the perfect opportunity to put a fashion iconoclast in something a bit more memorable. But instead it was same gold, same old.

Fashion Flock
October 2, 2009


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.


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.



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.

The September Issue: Vogue
September 11, 2009


When I started this little romp around the fall fashion issues of the big magazines, I thought The September Issue, the Vogue documentary that was my inspiration, would have opened nationwide but in fact only New York got it early and finally today it opens here in L.A.  So much has changed since that epochal flying-high September portrayed in the film – this year’s fashion issue clocks in at 200 or so pages less for starters.subscribe We will probably never see the likes of that 4-pound  2007 doorstop again. This year’s model boasts cover girl Charlize Theron, pretty, pared down with no accessories, certainly a big “get” but otherwise standard fare – nothing seems to link her image with fashion at this moment.  Inside she’s given a vaguely Georgia O’Keefe treatment, photographed in the high desert, styled with white T-shirts and men’s button-downs under long dark gowns, a conceit I feel like I’ve already seen too many times before.  Also old and quaintly amusing in that unintended Vogue way is the Last Look coda from the back page – a Manolo (of course) Blahnik lizard “take” on a Timberland boot, modified with sky-high heel and open toe – “fully equipped for any urban stomping ground” (at $1,595). Don’t get me wrong: when paging through the magazine I really don’t care what the items cost and I find some critics’ harping on Vogue‘s pricey merch to be oh so dull and dreary – it’s all a fantasy so just go with it. But the Manolo bootie is kind of like your grandma uttering the word “bootie” in reference to a hoochie  rap song. I cringe.

All is forgiven though by the opening fashion spread: who else but Vogue would lead off with most-likely-the-supermodel-of-today Natalia Vodianova as Little Red Riding Hood in a crimson collection of capes and other assorted get-ups?  Subtly recalling editor-god emeritus Diana Vreeland and her red reveries while also conjuring up the all-too-real recessionary wolf currently prowling around fashion’s fantastic forest, it’s also a proverbial Eve’s apple temptingly thrust at the consumer/reader to rush right out and buy something – and make it red! That’s Wintour’s commercial genius still firing on all cylinders.