This is a discussion landscape regarding the au courant in fashion, including all accessories (jewellery, hats, shoes, handbags, et al.) paired with its art and historical origins, placing an academic slant on the usual "hollywoodesque" fashion blog. I am obliged to answer any questions, comments or suggestions one may have regarding today's fashion, its history, museum or runway news, or perhaps questions on what and what not to wear. In posting a subject everyday, I will comment on contemporary fashion news and critique a particular ensemble, pairing it with a historical element. Everyone who wants to learn about fashion is welcome. From questions and comments regarding bridalwear to fashion icons, such as the Graces (Kelly & Mirabella), as well as general questions regarding taste and trends, let's discuss! Remember, we are all students of fashion.

About Me

New York, NY, United States

Anglica Theatrum, W. Hollar (c. 1640)

Anglica Theatrum, W. Hollar (c. 1640)
Hollar was the 1st Fashion Journalist

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Der Rosenkavalier at the Met

Renee Fleming at the Met in Der Rosenkavalier This has been a perfect ending to a weekend and an even better Sunday afternoon.  My eyes and ears just feasted on Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier live at the Met this afternoon with Renee Fleming.

Renee Fleming certainly needs no introduction as one of opera’s greatest sopranos and this performance of her as  Marschallin, once again, does not disappoint.   This staging of Der Rosenkavalier was complete in its grandeur and rococo splendor of 18th century Vienna.  The Shakespearean-style comic masterpiece was adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai and Moleire’s comedy, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac and is 3 1/2 hours of glorious costumes and sets amid a story full of romance and intrigue.  First performed under the direction of Max Reinhardt at the Dresden Operanhaus in 1911 during a time of rococo revival, it is easy to understand why its premiere was sold out.   The story surrounds four main characters.  Beside Fleming as the aristocratic female, this performance also features Susan Graham as Octavian, her young lover (played by a woman); Kristinn Sigmundsson as her cousin and womanizing oaf, Baron Oochs; and Christine Shafer as Sophie, daughter of a wealthy Viennese merchant and Oochs’s young prospective fiancĂ©e and eventual lover of Octavian.  Edo De Waart conducts this internationally acclaimed cast, which also includes Eric Cutler as the Italian singer and Thomas Allen as Herr Von Faninal, Sophie’s father. 

An opera in three acts, Great Performances at the Met are never to be missed.  This happens to be one of my favorite operas, perhaps because I am an ardent lover of the rococo period and a great fan of Strauss’s waltzes.  Renee Fleming and the entirety of the cast set amidst 18th century rooms, ripe with appropriate to the period decor and costumes of 1740s Vienna, is a feast for all eyes and ears and lovers of art and culture. Der Rosenkavalier made me so happy to wake to a rainy Sunday afternoon, which provided a perfect opportunity to stay indoors.  Do not miss this on your local PBS station this week as Great Performances at the Met.  Also, this week is RSC’s production of a contemporary Hamlet with Patrick Stewart and David Tennant (Dr. Who).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Enormous Loss to Costume and Textile Historians- Natalie Rothstein passes today.

natalie-rothstein-001 This is truly a day of mourning to those of us in this field.  This great woman’s research was a cornerstone of my own 18th century research.  Unknowingly, she was a mentor to me through her authorship in articles, books and lectures.  She brought true scholarship to a field, which in most of the twentieth century was written about by historians who looked at the 18th century through a looking glass of nostalgia and revival.  I am truly a more knowledgeable and learned historian because of her work.  She is a historian who I have quoted as THE 18th century textile expert countess times in my papers and lectures.  This is a sad loss to all of us who adore and respect 18th century costume and textiles and their cultural research.  The following is her obituary which was released only about an hour ago in The Guardian at

Natalie Rothstein obituary: Much-admired curator of silks at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Natalie Rothstein, who has died aged 79, was an outstanding curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum whose chosen field was woven silks. She focused in particular on the development of the English silk industry from 1600 to 1850. The core of her work was published in the magisterial and very beautiful book Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century in the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, published in 1990 and accompanied by an exhibition entitled Flowered Silks. In the book, Natalie traced the emergence of the English silk designer Anna Maria Garthwaite, making clear her particular importance within the industry. Garthwaite's designs were bought by the major mercers, woven by master weavers and worn by men and women of the highest rank.

Natalie Rothstein Anna Maria Garthwaite bookplate

Natalie was a one-off: once encountered, never forgotten. She had a fighting spirit and a wicked sense of humour. As a curator, she was a brilliant all-rounder: practical as well as erudite; equally concerned with storage and access to the objects, caring for junior members of staff and suggesting projects that might encourage articles or provoke continuing research.

She was born in East Finchley, north London, to Andrew, a leftwing historian and writer, and Edith, whom he met at a meeting of the Fabian Society. Natalie was educated at Camden school for girls and St Hilda's College, Oxford, where she read modern history. In her second year, she decided to become a museum curator and set her sights on the V&A, a goal she achieved by winning an open competition to become a museum assistant in 1952.

Initially assigned to the art library, she transferred at the first opportunity to the curatorial department of textiles, where she was to work from 1955 until her retirement in 1990 – a sharp contrast to present-day concepts of career development. Natalie knew what she was about: the V&A was then part of the department of education, with responsibility as a national museum to serve the entire nation and be free of entry for all. These basic duties, which she later battled to preserve, suited the egalitarian principles that had been passed on by her socialist parents. The museum had been founded with the specific aim of teaching the importance of skilled craftsmanship combined with good design.

The growing collections were divided, largely according to the materials of which they were made, into curatorial departments. When Natalie joined the textile department, the postwar task of reinstalling the museum's collections was slowing and research into aspects of the collections increased. Peter Thornton, then assistant keeper in the textile department, was collecting material for his book Baroque and Rococo Silks (1965) and needed someone to identify and trace the people behind the names inscribed on the museum's collection of silk designs. The job was given to Natalie, enabling her to research lives and inter-relationships within the silk industry.

Despite the difficulty of finding a suitably qualified tutor, Natalie spent her spare time working for a research MA at the University of London, resulting in an impressive 1961 thesis, The Silk Industry in London 1702-1766. She seized every chance to continue her studies of silk production in England, and travelled to France to attend the technical courses held in Lyon that enabled her to master the terminology and to understand the working of the looms on which silks of varying complexity were woven.

Finding time for such excursions became more difficult as she rose through the ranks of the departmental staff. Serving the public, dealing with much more than woven silks, answering queries from around the world and training new staff leaves little time for detailed research. But, in 1987, Natalie edited, and wrote several introductory essays for, a facsimile of a fascinating manuscript in which a well-to-do 18th-century woman (Barbara Johnson) recorded in great detail the clothes she bought, with samples of the fabrics and trimmings.

After her retirement, Natalie was in great demand as a lecturer, writer and consultant. She travelled widely, often in search of wild flowers with friends, while she enjoyed time in her cottage in the Chilterns, with her cats, and her beautiful garden, in which she continued to host memorable parties.

Her brother Andrew predeceased her. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Maureen, and her nephews Henry and Tom.

Natalie Katherine Anne Rothstein, curator, born 21 June 1930; died 18 February 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jane Austen Lives in NYC

This weekend was the last chance one had to visit the remaining letters and associated ephemera relating to Jane Austen at the Morgan Library here in NYC, titled “A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy”.  I did get a chance to view the exhibit.  It was spectacular, giving “Janeites” the opportunity to read the only surviving manuscripts, Lady Susan and The Watsons, and personal letters to her sister, Cassandra.  These are items the Morgan has not exhibited in over twenty-five years.  The exhibition was construed into three themes: her personal life and letters, her works including their monetary and inspirational details, and her legacy with a film video made expressly for the exhibition.  The exhibition also draws from the Morgan’s collection of James Gillray prints and other contemporary sources regarding fashion and manners in both country and city life during the neoclassical period in England.  First and early editions of her novels were also displayed along with original illustrations by American artist, Isabel Bishop. 

Writers who influenced Austen were discussed,  including Frances Burney, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Maria Edgeworth and Sir Walter Scott. 

This exhibition gave the visitor a rare opportunity to have tangible insight into the personal world of a truly great author who, two centuries ago, depicted female life in the neoclassical period on a parallel plane with women today and tomorrow.  I hope you didn’t miss it, but if you did, be sure to check it out on line at, listen to the curator and watch the accompanying film.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chanel Auction today in Paris


February 24th and 25 auctions at Paris’s Druout Richelieu ended today, but because of France’s fascist auction laws, we do not yet know the results of the 800 plus garments, shoes, handbags, costume jewelry and other accessories.  In fact, don’t bother visiting Druout’s website.  I already did.  You cannot access the sale items before or after a sale unless you spend 100 euros to sign-up for their magazine/newsletter.  I don’t think so.

Druout auctioneer, Pierre Cornette de Saint Cyr stated their low/high sale total estimate is $270,000-540,000.  The AP reported some highlights.  One of the pieces, I believe, is an iconic staple to the Chanel archive (don’t be surprised if they are not the purchasers, either), which is a black lace sheath gown with a black bow at the neckline from 1935 that includes its sewn-in couture number.  The report also states there is a green leaf printed day dress with matching jacket, dated 1929.

I will let you know the results of this illustrious sale after they are published- not quite sure why the law prohibits news from being immediately disseminated in France.  I love being an American and thank my ancestors for moving here from France.  (Associated Press Photo by Jacques Brinon 2/25/10)


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pamella Roland Fall 2010- Smart Opulence

Pamella Roland Runway Fall 2010As my decorative arts blog is titled, Smart Opulence, it just so happens that one of my favorite contemporary designers for today’s jet-setting woman is Pamella Roland who just so happens to embrace this sense, rather a sixth sense, that only some of us are lucky enough to be born with.  She is a genius in understanding what her clientele desires in dressing for their careers and lifestyles.  Always elegant, always relevant,  Pamella Roland’s Fall 2010 collection showed today at Bryant Park’s Salon for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.  Mrs. Roland continued to impress her viewers with glorious eye candy as they came away with long shopping lists.  This collection takes a woman from day to evening without a hitch by using sumptuous fabrics in silk and wool, furs and leathers for daywear and ski wear, or rather for looking stunning, sipping toddies at the bottom of the hill.  She showed shearling and leather coats, fur hats, slim fitting pants, sweaters and wraps in cashmere, ending with tailored dresses and pantsuits in luxe wool suiting.  Pamella Roland Runway Fall 2010 MBFW daywearHer graceful asymmetrically-draped knifed-pleated strapless dresses in wool suiting, belted at the waist were a fresh take on after-work cocktail attire that can be worn with a gorgeous leather jacket and tall boots during work hours, taken off at a cocktail party to unveil a sophisticated look that is both upscale enough for drinks at the Old King Cole bar, yet laid back enough for late night downtown dining.Pamella Roland Runway Fall 2010 MBFW asymmetrical strapless   Her evening attire tipped the scales of glamour for every woman with cocktail suits, dresses and gowns gilt to the hilt or drenched in gem-colors that were were just as stunning from the back as they are the front and succeeded in giving every woman their ultimate… leave them wanting more as you walk out the door. Pamella Roland Runway Fall 2010 MBFW Glamour gowns 2Pamella Roland Runway Fall 2010 MBFW Glamorous GownThere is also no dearth in this collection for basic black, though there is nothing basic about these pieces.  Pamella Roland Runway Fall 2010 MBFW Chapeau & frock coatHer jazz-age inspired headwear paired with patterned tights and sleek silhouettes, such as a black wool cloche that topped off a slim-fitted black tuxedo inspired frock coat, channeled twenties femme fatales.  Luxurious accessories, including the patterned tights (probably Wolford), glamorous sunglasses, three-quarter length kid gloves and over-the-knee, high-heeled boots, fur felt cloches, and fur hats and wraps add to the opulence of this collection.

 Pamella Roland Runway Fall 2010 MBFW Daywear 3 Pamella Roland Runway Fall 2010 MBFW daywear with clochePamella Roland Runway Fall 2010 Aspen AttirePamella Roland Runway Fall 2010 daywear

Take a look at her collection at 

Also, don’t miss her Spring 2010 collection inspired by Georgia O’Keefe that can be seen in stores this winter/spring.  ( February 15, 2010 –All Photos by Jemal Countess/Getty Images North America)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thanks to McQueen

Blog_McQueen2008 If any of you looked at my blog site when I began in 2008, I chose an image of a Hollar print from the 1640s and an image of an Alexander McQueen suit from the Couture Paris runway show, 2008, thanking him for such impeccable tailoring with an understanding of a woman’s body and taste.  Again, I believe this image, above all of his over-the-top designs for celebrities, including most recently, Lady Gaga and Sandra Bullocks black gown trimmed cobalt blue she wore to the Golden Globes, defines what he truly contributed to fashion and why he will be remembered by most critics, collectors and historians.  Thank you, Alexander.  RIP. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My New Screen Saver

In lieu of being overwhelmed with contemporary fashion this week during New York’s fashion week, I needed to feed my eyes with an amazing artifact from my favorite period, the 18th century.  Chinese Silk Robe ala anglais, upper bodice lined in calico - Kerry Taylor 12-8-09 close-up backThis is an image that I have saved for for my 18th century dress and textiles research, which was sold at Kerry Taylor Auctions in London in 08 Dec 2010 Passion for Fashion sale as lot 65.  The cataloguing is a follows:

Robe a la Anglais, c. 1770s, made from white embroidered Chinese silk for the western market, c. 1755-60.  Embroidered in imitation of a brocade with bouquets of flowers tied with blue ribbons; wing cuffs trimmed in brown fur, front-closure to bodice edged in dark green silk, gown unlined except the upper bodice lined in calico.

Enjoy the eye candy. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentino Couture 2010

It seems as though we have another design house that has fallen down the tubes of individualism with a team of a new, young designer who obviously is not staying true to the original reputation of the house with such obvious feminine ideals detailed with impeccable tailoring and glorious draping, only to worship a woman's body. Alessandra Fachinetti just couldn't make the cut and now, Chiuri and Picciolo seem to have ridden down the same path...Valentino was a master because he made luxurious clothes for women who love glamour. This display was just misguided, in the sense that the team was trying to be cutting edge in the new design format of, dare we say..."futuristic." From Lady Gaga resorting to Armani Prive to design her stage and red carpet costumes for the Grammy's to this disheveled mess of a couture collection, I think it is rather more of a retro look that we need to point towards rather than "futuristic." Rather than terming Lady Gaga being "futuristic," isn't she just updating the latter? Does no one remember Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons leading the pack of new wave bands into futuristic fashion for the eighties. Amy Odell of the New York Magazine commented that the Valentino team was tryin too hard; or was it that they weren't trying hard enough(