ready for NYE: isa and kyra

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a couple months ago, i dressed up two of my favorite girls as if they were about to hit the town. these particular frocks don’t get enough action, because my actual life is so much more sedate than the fantasy.

Isa looks badass in the low-backed blue velvet dress with python boots — basically ready for New Year’s Eve 2014. this Elizabeth & James dress was featured in a post two summers ago, co-starring with a cello.

kyra looks equally party-proper in a draped LBD from Wayne. the platform heels actually belong to Isa, but these girls have equally tiny feet!

the only sad part of these outfits is that chicago is way too cold to be wandering around bare-legged. i won’t dare expose any skin ’til april.

looking really cute you guys — can’t wait to ring in the new year!

mr. little jeans

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i can’t help it that this dude wears skinnier pants than anyone else. he can dress more creatively, but this was just a drawing exercise. also, sometimes style is about function over glamour.

his sweater is H&M, the denim is THVM, and the boots are Timberlands. the vest might be vintage and the hat is…..five paneled? the silver amulet is antique, and mine.

watercolor by Shua, blind countour-face by me.

 

Nick!

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Nick

 

in my spare time, i get to contribute to the fantastic street style blog Chicago Looks. this is Nick, who works at the Museum of Contemporary Art. every time i see him, he looks smashing. it’s just comes naturally to him. the following photo was first published on Isa Giallorenzo’s site — go there to read Nick’s great little interview and see details of his outfit.

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thanks Shua and Isa! i love collaborating with you guys!

the polka dot chop

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sometimes you find a dress with great potential, but something fudd-duddy about it is holding you back. maybe it’s been hanging forlornly in your closet for a couple years, or maybe it’s on the rejects rack at the thriftstore. either way, it’s great material, a good fit, a neat pattern, or has some detail that’s kept you from tossing it out.

in my case, this Albert Nippon vintage silk dress fit perfectly in the waist and bust. it had cute tiers at the hips and ruffles at the hem…. but it also had dorky puffed sleeves. even though i don’t go in for polka dots, i couldn’t let it languish. there was something classic about the cut, and i knew a little sexiness would make it modern.

it was a very easy step. i just cut of the sleeves and made the neckline a little lower. i made the armholes a little longer too, so it would fit more like a breezy tank. i did not even bother to finish the edges, but that wouldn’t be hard to do.

Shua has given us three illustrations. in the first panel, you see the dress styled for winter, with opaque tights and a white belt. after the more casual, summery chop, i just went with bare legs and madewell booties. the third illustration is a side-view… of me reading twitter on my phone.

the last pic is a bonus, wearing the dress last february. good for you if you recognize my friend there, who came with me to the circle opening of Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, at the MCA.

(who knew the exhibit would inspire my own creative effort, Destroy the Garment: Altering the Dress.)

muses and friends : gábor

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gábor’s look is inspired by kanye. i’m not even going to joke about it. he is wearing my leather mini-kilt. also a sheer pleated blouse, to maximize the layer count. there is a lot of leather going on, actually: the levi’s jacket, the balmain skinnies, the patent doc martens, and the aforementioned kilt. (i swear it’s not a fetish!) he’s also got on a antique silver vial necklace.

anyway, you get two illustrations — lucky you! note the different approaches Shua and i take to rendering leather. watercolor vs. pentel marker. sorry i didn’t allot proper space to fit the boots.

phillip lim’s phoenix v.3

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last in this series for a minute, but i’m sure i’ll come up with a bunch more ways to incorporate this sweatshirt as the temperatures drop. in this look, i’m making the most of a bodycon topshop dress. stayed mostly tone-on-tone, but the pattern on the dress is pyramid studs, pearls and square-cut diamonds. the shoes stick with the theme by having a metal-edged ankle strap and ball-stud closures. obviously, d’orsay is mt favorite shape.

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this is the first time that i saw an item on a runway and determined to buy it. there were a lot of great pieces in the show, but i knew this top would blend seamlessly into my functional wardrobe, be quietly noticeable, and perhaps even affordable, in a manner relative to garments shown on a new york runway. i stalked the phillip lim website for months, until the lookbook was posted, and then used the corresponding code number to pre-order the sweatshirt through nordstrom.

that process was somewhat breathless to a girl much more accustomed to choosing whatever looks promising from a cluster of hangers in a thrift store. the sales associate on the phone told me that the michigan avenue nordstrom would only receive three of the sweaters, one in each size, and that she would put the small aside for me when it came in.

of the 3.1 phillip lim pre-fall collection, this piece leapt out at me as something i’d want to frequently wear. because the design is quilted, tone-on-tone, i wouldn’t tire of garish embellishments or feel allergic to colors. there aren’t even metallic threads! also, the gray sweatshirt is so ubiquitous and classic in american style that i have no fear of it losing versatility or relevance. (not that i really worry about those concepts.)

when i picked up the sweatshirt, just a few weeks before my birthday, i did not even try it on in the store. it looked plenty roomy and fairly close to how it had appeared on the runway… although something seemed a little different. i plopped down my credit card, skipped lunch, and returned to work. upon further inspection, the sweatshirt was extra-extra-large on me, which was fine, and the cotton was appreciably thick and heavy. the only sad part was examining the interior handiwork, and realizing how easy (and industrially-replicable) the quilting process was. the phoenix design looks great, but with an embroidery program, producing the effect doesn’t require much more technology than screen-printing. (which helps explain the variety of knock-offs.)

the first idea i had about styling the sweatshirt was just to go as obvious as possible. little leather shorts with my petrol docs. tomboy, no-nonsense, understated. the illustration, in colored pencil, really brings a lot to the look that isn’t achieved with photography. by layering colors, Shua enhanced the colors around the legs, the competing iridescence of the boots, and the purple highlights in my hair, letting the outfit have an impactful neutrality. you have to forgive me for the mismatched laces though. that was a moment of crisis, and the broken shoestring has since been replaced by a proper pair.

guess? again

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okay, so i decided to push the envelope. the argument herein, dear reader, is that a washed-out, 90s, stretchy, denim pencil skirt from Guess? can be very elegant indeed if you lend it stiletto heels, (the stiletto part MUST be gold) a drapey silk blouse, and a smart, fitted jacket.

kept the kneehighs.

amirite or amirite?

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maaaaan, have i been hearing a lot of folks trash-talking the denim skirt lately. is this the one item of 90s fashion that is universally hated? really? the simple pencil skirt, in denim. perhaps it is too early-aughts to have its re-introduction to the style files. it will have its moment though.

minimal, flattering, an easy mixer, inexpensive. the denim pencil skirt is basically a classic, and every brand has done an iteration. this one is by Guess? from the goodwill. it is stretchy and slightly acid-washed. shacked up with a marni knit top and my dude’s patent Bally dress shoes. (the chain is his too.) H&M patent envelope clutch.

EVERY thing about this outfit is kinda outre, kinda trashy — but i think it’s super modern, too. THE element that ties it all together…without which it would all be just icky…are the sheer knee high stockings. seriously, when i wore these to work, my 70yo coworker sucked in her breath and semi-chided me for being racy. when is the last time you thought of knee stockings as titillating? huh? do ankles* GET YOU GOING??

somehow, the stockings make the outfit both more modest and more sharp. there is the visual hyphen from black top to black footwear, and the reinforcer of the concept that denim can be elegant.

eleganza… sprezzatura… did i manage it?

*ankles totally get me going. especially a well-turned male ankle. just being honest.

killer McQueen

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oh, Alexander McQueen. oh, Lee.

i don’t really have the words. everyone has said so much, over the years, but they’ve hardly touched the amazing talent and heart that was Alexander McQueen. it seems better that i say little, and let a hush of awe speak for itself.

but, allow me just a little breath, so that you know i’m serious.

McQueen was one of the first fashion designers that made me aware of the runway. his designs were dramatic, but in a much less theatrical way than either Galliano or Gaultier. i immediately was besotted with his earnest darkness and gothic passion, partly because i was a moody teenager and partly because there was an innate seriousness and necessity to his wild looks. his runways transported* you, made you dream* and made you want to dress like a fantasy monster/maiden/huntress/flame. there are many stylists that do a superb job of dressing women, and many designers that teeter almost into architecture, but McQueen birthed raw concepts and then constructed his ideas into a vision beyond gender and style and wardrobe; he encapsulated a history or yearnings, injustices, terrors, and desires into fabric, and then asked mortal women to walk in them.

i am grateful to have seen photographs in magazines and on the internet, and the occasional dress in Nordstrom’s window. if anyone reads this and wants to see THE BEST book on McQueen, the book that will make you feel his imagination in the most tactile way, i must recommend Love Looks Not with the Eyes: Thirteen Years with Lee Alexander McQueen.

anyway: this tiny cocktail frock, produced in his McQ collaboration with target, was inspired partly by The Duke Spirit’s Liela Moss…but that seems generous, since her style isn’t anything stand-out, as rocker chicks go. (i’m sure this dress would look great with blunt-cut blonde bangs, though.) it’s draped gray and black silk, cinched with a wasp waist. threw in some h&m booties and disc-shaped cellulose earrings from paris. i’m glad that he went ahead and allowed this affordable collection to happen, within his lifetime.

*overused, abused term. “transported” should translate to TOOK YOU BACK IN FUCKING TIME or DRAGGED YOU KICKING AND SCREAMING INTO THE FUTURE. “dream” roughly equates with GAVE YOU NIGHTMARES and MADE YOU WANT TO DO EVERYTHING WITH SINGULAR DETERMINATION AND BRILLIANCE

addendum: here is a watercolor of the dress that i made back when i first found it at Buffalo Exchange. (no, i never go to Target to duke it out with the crazy fashionistas.)

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