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  • Kate the Great

    Posted by Glynnis Permalink

    I sometimes wonder how much of the Internet’s traffic is driven by Kate Moss slideshows. She is one of those creatures, and the digital age seems to support less and less of them (unless you count cats), that can sustain abiding obsession.

    Some people attribute this to her Garboesque relationship with the press; she is reported to have taken former boyfriend Johnny Depp’s advice, ‘never complain, never explain,’ to heart and rarely gives interviews (or explanations, for that matter). But I don’t think that’s it. I suspect she could talk all day every day and remain endlessly mesmerizing. The truth is Kate has been speaking non-stop since she appeared in her first Corinne Day photo way back in 1990; it’s just that she’s been speaking in the complicated, often loaded, language of clothes. Few and far between are the people who can speak this language fluently, and in all this time Moss has never uttered one mundane word. Not one.

    I love her.

    Of course, it’s easy to love Kate Moss now. Hindsight favors originality. I happen to be the same age as Moss, however, and I have a crystal clear recollection of the first time I encountered her, in real time, at a magazine shop in my local suburban mall. She was on the cover of the May 1995 issue of W magazine wearing a Vivienne Westwood corset; inside she was featured in a spread titled ‘Midnight Cowgirl’ shot by Craig McDean (one of the shots above) and she looked unlike anything I’d ever seen. I tracked down a copy of this issue on eBay a few years ago and even now when I open it to certain pictures I can still smell the greasy, claustrophobic, aroma of the food court that was located around the corner from that newsstand, and also feel the same sense of exhilaration brought on by the promise of escape she immediately represented.

    This was still the heyday of the glamazon super model. Jeanne Beker’s FashionTV, which eventually went international, was throughout my high school years still only a local Toronto show that aired Sundays. The half-hour show mostly featured endless reels of those rarified creatures sashaying nearly naked down far-off runways: utterly, beautifully, unattainable (as nearly everything from the vantage-point of suburban high school life always is). In contrast, there was something about Moss that struck me as just so perfectly strange. It’s funny now to think of Kate Moss as being relatable but right then, in that fluorescent lit mall, that’s exactly what she felt like. Weird and accessible. With cheekbones.

    Nearly two decades later, Moss has proved worthy of that early devotion. At least she’s held up under it. (Obviously. I mean, we could run this post in the Scientific American and likely even readers there wouldn’t have to Google who we were talking about.)

    But perhaps she’s made no greater impact than the one she’s left on the world of vintage. Purely based on anecdotal evidence (which I am about to provide in picture form) I think there is an argument to be made that she is responsible for the mainstreaming of vintage; not least because she herself has repeatedly plundered her own vintage wardrobe to create her blockbuster lines for TopShop.

    Her latest line launches this month (those of you equally obsessed with Kate will likely recognize a few golden oldies in this collection, also) and so what better time to revisit some vintage (literally) Kate favorites. Herewith, I present my purely subjective Top 10 Kate Moss vintage looks:

     

    10. The yellow Fifties prom dress. On most lists I’ve come across this usually ranks at or near top spot. It’s never been my favorite, but I get it! Of all the outfits she’s worn this is easily the most accessible and she’s finally replicated it for this current collection.

     

     

    9. Studio Kate. The only reason I know this jumpsuit, by seventies designer Stephen Burrows, is vintage is because ‘Kate Moss: Style’ says so. Moss just knocked it off for her recent collection. More on jumpsuits in next month’s column.

     

     

    8. The flowerpot chandelier earrings. According to a 2001 Vogue interview with Moss done by Plum Sykes, these are Victorian diamond flowerpot earrings. Really, there is an entire book to be written about the Moss jewelry collection.

     

     

    7. Flapper. Flapper dresses seem very de rigueur now thanks to Gatsby etc. But I remember seeing a picture of this dress in a magazine at the time and being blown away (also, note the original Manolo Mary Janes, coveted by SJP here). The dress allegedly belonged to Errol Flynn’s wife Lili Damita.  Moss has knocked variations of it off for different TopShop collection.

     

     

    6. LBD. What I love about this sleek fifties bombshell dress is how Kate transformed it into straight-up nineties minimalism. A version of it also made it to one of Moss’s TopShop lines.

     

     

    5. Shampoo. Technically this is not a vintage dress. (Though maybe it is now? This picture is from 1995). It’s a knock-off of the dress Julie Christie wore in ‘Shampoo’, which Depp had made for Moss. I’ve never been a nostalgic for the Moss-Depp relationship (he reached his peak of fascination for me here) but the sheer awesomeness of that gift, paired with the fact at age 20 Moss was even familiar with the film, is not to be denied. However, at the risk of being blasphemous, I will say this: I think Christie wore it better. That in and of itself makes the dress unique in the history of everything Kate Moss has ever worn.

     

     

    4. Cannes 1998. Moss established herself as a fashion influencer to be reckoned with when she appeared on the Cannes red carpet in 1997 in a grey Narciso Rodriguez sheath dress (note the afore-mentioned flowerpot earrings). But this was always my favorite. I love how she owned the too tight bodice. And the simplicity of ensemble. And the diamonds. And the hair. Claudia Schiffer looks downright garish next to her. For years I wondered about the origins of this dress. Then I bought ‘Kate Moss: Style’ and discovered it’s a Madame Gres.

     

     

    3. Her 30th Birthday. I mean. C’MON. The hair alone is worthy of devotion (and is reminiscent of this 1994 Vogue spread, also a favorite). The dress is from the Twenties and according to Britt Eckland, who recognized it from a photo that ran the day after Kate’s party, is the same one Eckland wore to the ‘Man With the Golden Gun’ premiere in 1973. There are not enough pictures of this dress on the Internet, and none that I can find of what it looks like without the shawl, or from the back (though the knock-off version Kate did for her ‘final’ TopShop line provides some clues). I consider both these things to be a crime against fashion.

     

     

    2. That Dior. Is this the greatest red carpet dress in history? I think it might be. And that was before it got ripped (because Courtney Love stepped on it? Because Kate was drunk? Does it matter?) and was promptly tied up around Kate’s waist in what is easiest the chicest recovery from a debaucherous mishap in history. *It’s not actually a Dior. Christian Dior did not open his house until the mid-forties and this dress is clearly from the Thirties. Not that it matters. As Diana Vreeland says it’s not really about the dress, “it’s the life you’re living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later." Though, obviously it’s also about the dress. (I wonder what Vreeland would have done with Moss; lots, I imagine.)

    (PS Just a bit of gossip from behind the scenes - Courtney Love was actually one of the first people that tipped off Cherie during a phone convo that this is not a Dior as widely reported at the time. She was already highly suspicious but since Courtney was with Kate that night we definitively call that one confirmed)

     

     

    1. Halston split-leg gown. For argument’s sake, let’s just say that if Kate Moss ever came to me and said “Glynnis, I want you to choose one item from my closet for your very own” this would be it.

  • Fashion in Film

    Posted by Glynnis Permalink

    Myrna Loy and William Powell in 'The Thin Man', 1934.

    Clothes do not make the movie any more than they make the woman, but they certainly help.

    If you are on this site it’s likely you have two kinds of favorite films: the ones you watch because they deliver the emotional satisfaction of great storytelling (“we tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion famously declared). 

    Or the ones you watch because they satisfy the eye (“fashion must be the most intoxicating release from the banality of the world” said Diana Vreeland, who likely never knew a banal day in her life). And really is there anything more intoxicating than, say, watching Myrna Loy spring out of bed in fur-trimmed peignoir. I think not.

     

    Myrna Loy in 'A Thin Man', 1934.

     

    These films are the sort you are likely to turn on simply to have the exquisite pleasure of watching the way the silk hangs, the gloves fit, the fur envelopes, the jeans rise, the hat tilts, the jacket cuts, the dress drapes. So what if the storyline doesn’t quite hold (though when it does, BOOM, as they say). So what if the character isn’t quite someone whose shoes you want to step into…it’s the shoes themselves you are lusting after, after all.

    Think here of Atonement, which while not a bad film is not necessarily one that would bear endless repeat viewing were it not for the pure satisfaction of gazing upon Keira Knightley’s superb Thirties ensembles: the bathing suit, the blouse, that DRESS. Every year in the early spring, when summer seems as though it will never arrive I pull out that film and luxuriate in its humid glamour, cutting away somewhere in the second half once things get grisly (though, naturally, not before the appearance of this wedding dress, or this bathrobe).

     

    Kiera Knightley in 'Atonement', 2007.

     

    'Atonement', 2007.

     

    Zadie Smith once wrote that in terms of influence “it's whoever got to you first.” She was speaking about books but I think the theory applies to clothes as well. In my case there was Princess Leia and then there was everyone else. Suffice to say, there was no end of resentment on my part that no Star Wars figure existed for the ‘award ceremony’ costume Carrie Fisher appears in at the very end of the original the film. You know the one I’m talking about; the glorious scooped neck number that “skims the curves” in Shrimpton parlance, complete with a sheer capelet and a low-slung silver belt. Lifelong fascination with all things Halston explained.

     

    Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer and Harrison Ford in 'Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope', 1977.

     

    That said, my vote for greatest style ever to be recorded on film goes to The Thin Man. Some films have great sartorial moments - think Meryl Streep emerging from the hotel for her wedding ceremony in Out of Africa, or the red beaded number the Baroness Schraeder (a woman decades ahead of her time) appears in when she coolly breaks things off with the Captain in the ‘Sound of Music - Loy in The Thin Man, however, is simply style perfection from the moment she trips into the bar (literally) to final scene on the train car. Legendary Hollywood costume designer Dolly Tree was responsible for Loy’s cavalcade of magnificent outfits, and every one was truly a gem, but if I had to choose, I’d say the candy-caned striped number she wears at the Christmas party might barely eek out the fur-trimmed peignoir -- barely – of course, there’s the aforementioned fur.

     

    (L) Meryl Streep in 'Out of Africa', 1985. (R) Eleanor Parker (as Baroness Schraeder) in 'The Sound of Music', 1965.

     

    Myrna Loy in the final scene of 'The Thin Man', 1934.

     

    Myrna Loy in 'The Thin Man', 1934.

     

    I could go on about Myrna Loy – the second and third installments of The Thin Man series are equally as satisfying as the first on every level – but instead I asked some of the most fashionable people I know what their favorite fashion in films is. Celebrity Stylist  * TV host Stacy London; Ruthie Friedlander, the Deputy Editor of Elle.com; Journalist and Author Lesley M. M. Blume; Verena von Pfetten, the Executive Digital Editor at Lucky Magazine; Fathom Travel blog and Guides Founder Pavia Rosati; and Lea Goldman, the Features & Special Projects Director at Marie Claire, all weigh in below.

    Ruthie Friedlander - Deputy Editor, Elle.com:

    "Evita"

    'Evita', 1996.

     

    Stacy London - Stylist:


    "Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface,
 Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair, 
Diana Rigg's swimsuit in Evil Under The Sun
, Stockard Channing in Grease (and Olivia's last outfit, obviously.), 
Kristy McNichol in Little Darlings, Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give (wish she always dressed like that.), and all the school girls in Picnic At Hanging Rock."

    Michelle Pheiffer in 'Scarface', 1983.

     

    Rene Russo in 'The Thomas Crown Affair', 1999.

     

    Diana Rigg in 'Evil Under the Sun', 1982.

     

    (L) The Closing Scene of 'Grease', 1978. (R) Stockard Channing in 'Grease', 1978.

     

    Kristy McNichol in 'Little Darlings', 1980.

     

    Diane Keaton in 'Something's Gotta Give', 2003.

     

    The School Girls in 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', 1975.

     

    Lea Goldman - Features & Special Projects Director, Marie Claire:

    "Faye Dunaway's silk bow tie blouses in Network! The wardrobe still holds up today. The tweedish long skirts, silk blouses. All feminine, sophisticated. And even though her wardrobe consists of one outfit in the film, Molly Ringwald's outfit in Breakfast Club is killer. I remember even then thinking, wow, that is just COOL."

    Faye Dunaway in 'Network', 1976.

     

    'The Breakfast Club', 1985.

     

    Verena von Pfetten - Executive Digital Editor, Lucky Magazine:

    "A Perfect Murder! I would kill (pun most definitely intended) for Gwyneth Paltrow's wardrobe in this movie. It's classic '90s—if you're Carolyn Bessette or, at the very least, blessed with her bank account—which is to say: super luxe, and full of cashmere turtlenecks, dark, monochromatic coats and minimalist dresses. That said, my favorite look might be Gwyneth in a crisp white button down paired with nothing but a set of black thigh-high stockings."

    Gwyneth Paltrow in 'A Perfect Murder', 1998.

     

    Pavia Rosati - Founder, Fathom:

    "Charade. It's almost ridiculous to talk about Audrey Hepburn looking great in clothes, but this is a madcap comedy in which she tries to figure out why her double-identity husband was murdered. Her outfits -- from the fuzzy hat and tight ski pants in the Alps, the outfit she's wearing when she meets Cary Grant with the world's best pickup line (at 2:15), to the prim dresses she wears in Paris. Ironically and purposefully, she is shown eating CONSTANTLY in this movie."

    Audrey Hepburn in 'Charade', 1963.

     

    Lesley M. M. Blume - Author:

    "Hands down: I AM LOVE. I practically fall on the floor every time I see Tilda Swinton's glorious wardrobe in that film. I mean: gaspingly sick stuff. Marlene Dietrich's SHANGHAI EXPRESS and THE SCARLET EMPRESS. God in heaven: those furs."

    Tilda Swinton in 'I am Love', 2009.

     

    Marlene Dietrich in (L) 'Shanghai Express', 1932 & (R) 'The Scarlet Empress', 1934.

  • The Nostalgia factor

    Posted by Glynnis Permalink

    I have a theory you are either born loving fur or you’re not. Like red meat. Or smoking. Or chocolate. The first time you encounter it you just know.

    I have a distinct childhood memory of standing in my grandmother’s front closet amidst her many fur coats and being supremely happy. The furs smelled faintly like mothballs, and to this day anytime I come across the scent I associate it with luxuriousness and sanctuary.

    My grandmother was a child of the Depression and it was only later in life I understood that her furs, along with her perfumes, and her coiffed hair, which she had done one a week at a salon, and the shiny green Cadillac in the garage that she never learned to drive, were all markers or safeguards of a sort that stood between her and the various hardships of her upbringings.

    She was not alone in associating fur with a life of privilege and respect. In an article published earlier this year at Collectors Weekly author Lisa Hix credits Hollywood’s influence during the impoverished Thirties with America’s love affair with fur as a token of glamour rather than necessity:

    “People would go into the cinema, and live in that scene. They’d get to feel like they were one of those wealthy people for a few hours, then go back home to their normal lives. The same can be said for fashion. You can see it as a voyeuristic experience.”

    There is some speculation that the resurgence of fur on the runways these last few seasons is connected to the current rough economic times. I would argue, however, that in many ways it is simply another manifestation of the current craze for nostalgia as a way of life.

    “I loathe nostalgia,” said Diana Vreeland in the opening sentence of perhaps the greatest word exercise on the subject.

    But fashion doesn’t. (And presumably if you are on this site, neither do you!) When Cherie listed two, new, glorious furs on the site last month (this striped one is especially covetous!) she noted that their cuts were strongly referencing the Forties, despite being made in the Seventies. (The same, of course, can be said of so much of seventies fashion, a trend Yves Saint Laurent kicked off with his wildly controversial 1971 collection.)

    Their appearance on the site coupled with the recent temperature drop in New York City have happily sent me into the far corner of my own (too-small) Brooklyn closet to retrieve my little collection furs, which I stored there last May (sadly my Grandmother’s passed out of my reach many years ago while I was away at University).

    All the furs I own are vintage. (Again, if you are here you presumably don’t need to be convinced of the supremacy of vintage fur over new, though this piece provides some good arguments on the subject.) Two I bought off eBay for less than twenty dollars and frequently wear when riding my bike around the city once the temperatures really drop and the cold winter wind becomes deadly. Nothing is warmer than fur, after all! The other two which were purchased here at Shrimpton. They are glorious. Naturally.

    Seeing them also sent me into my digital closet where I keep a collection of my favorite furs (and their wearers!) from decades past.

    Here is a tour through some of my favorites.

     

    Myrna Loy as Nora Charles in ‘The Thin Man’

    If I had to pick the greatest fashion film of the Golden Era of Hollywood ‘The Thin Man’ would get my vote (the legendary Dolly Tree was the costume designer). Can a person ever get enough of Myrna Loy? I can’t. Every scene she’s present in in this film is its own glorious moment of fashion. But this fur coat, a Christmas gift from her fictional husband Nick Charles, is a particular showstopper. LOOK at those sleeves!

     

    Katharine Hepburn

    This is might be my favorite photo of Hepburn, which is saying a lot. Hepburn was nothing if not thoroughly modern and if you take away the hairstyle you could easily conclude this photo, which dates to the Thirties, was taken last week on a side street in Williamsburg.

     

    Elizabeth Taylor as Gloria Wandrous in ‘BUtterfield 8’

    Taylor won her first Oscar for this movie, which was based on the Thirties novel by the same name by John O’Hara. In it she plays scandalous, girl-about-town Gloria Wandrous (O’Hara famously based his heroine of real life ‘society girl’ Starr Faithful). In the opening scene, pictured here, Wandrous wakes up (after a wild night that has resulted in some torn garments…among other things!) in her married lover’s Park Ave apartment only to find he has already departed to join his wife and children on holiday. To add insult to injury he leaves her a note with $250 inside. To exact her revenge, Wandrous plucks a full-length mink out of the closet and wears it home, with nothing underneath.

     

    Lena Horne

    I came across this marvelous photo of Horne in a post about famous furs in the Twenties through the Fifties. It’s undated, though I’m guessing it’s from the late Fifties/early Sixties. Regardless, I love how Horne is able match it with a turban and gloves and not only look so chic but also amazingly modern.

     

    Francoise Hardy

    Hardy was a French singer, actress, contemporary of Jane Birkin and a style icon in her own right. I am a longtime devotee of Kate Moss but it’s hard not to look at pictures like these and conclude that Moss was maybe not the original Moss. Related: The cut and length of this coat reminds me a bit of this striped sheared Beaver, which was purchased for me from Cherie last year.


    Speaking of Jane Birkin and Kate Moss ...

    I mean. Words are not necessary, I don’t think. They both transcend words.

    One more.

    I think it’s safe to say no one currently wears fur better than Kate Moss. I mean, that’s been fairly obvious for the more than a decade now. And while everything she shows up in is pretty spectacular, this particular fur capelet (?) jacket (?) is my especial favorite. (I can’t back this up with any official reference, but I’m fairly certain it’s not vintage.)

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