Friday, December 9, 2016

Love Letter to the Little Black Dress

A quick history of the glorious, ever-versatile LBD

Oh Little Black Dress, where would I be without you?  You always know exactly who I need to be.  I've worn you to professional meetings, cocktail parties, corporate functions, and family dinners.  You always make me look like I belong.  You don't even clash with the many accessories I've made you coordinate with over the years -- the leather jacket for all those concerts, pearls for that banquet with my ex-boyfriend's snobby country club parents, faux fur for Vegas, a chenille blazer for a dinner meeting with ad execs -- you, Little Black Dress, are the ultimate team player.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ethical Fashion Part 4: Knit Your Own Style Statement with Girly Knits!

Check out the adorable socks you can make with patterns by the fabulous Lauren Riker of Girly Knits!

It's finally getting cold enough for winter clothes here in Los Angeles, and I can think of nothing better to wear than things that are soft and cozy.  One of the cooler trends of Winter 2016 -- or, maybe I should say one of the warmer trends -- is knitted clothing.  These fashion pieces take knitwear out of Grandma's sewing basket and put it right on the runway.  (Slay, Grandma!)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Metallic Shoes and Other Sparkly Fashions: More than Trendy

The Fall 2016/Winter 2016 metallic trend is awesome...

I love shiny things.  Getting to actually WEAR shiny things?  I don't call it a trend, I call it a wardrobe necessity.  Lucky for people like me, Fall/Winter 2016 has been all about the metallics -- and that means that there are lots of cool, sparkly goodies the choose from.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ethical Fashion Part 3: Fall in Love with Preloved

Julia Grieve, founder of Preloved, discusses her upcycled designs.

One of my favorite sustainable fashion brands is the fabulous Toronto-based Preloved.  Specializing in new designs made entirely from vintage sweaters, second-hand clothing, deadstock fabric and other reclaimed materials, Preloved creates sophisticated, unique clothing while embodying the sustainable slow fashion ethos.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Marilyn Monroe's Iconic JFK Birthday Dress is on the Auction Block

Watch a promo of the largest Marilyn Monroe auction ever to take place. 

When I think of famous dresses, I immediately see the sparkly, backless, flesh-colored, figure-hugging Jean Louis gown Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to JFK.  Decades before Kim Kardashian's bare-all style, Britney Spears' nude bodysuits or the recent red carpet see-through dress trend, Marilyn's practically-nude-but-dipped-in-rhinestones dress made the crowd at Madison Square Garden swoon.   When she stepped out under the lights, she shimmered like a goddess who had descended from the stars.  It's such an iconic fashion moment:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Remembering Sonia Rykiel

The extraordinary life of Sonia Rykiel

When the legendary designer Sonia Rykiel passed away this past August, I was surprised.  Although she was 86, and had suffered from complications of Parkinsons and osteoporosis, she was so full of exuberance, rebellion and whimsey it seemed impossible for her to leave this earth.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ethical Fashion Part 2: Learning More with The True Cost Documentary

Who pays the price for our cheap clothing?
Watch the trailer for The True Cost, an eye-opening documentary on Fast Fashion
Watch the entire film in the post below:

Somewhere in the early 1990s, I noticed that clothes were getting cheaper.  It wasn't just the usual items found in affordable, somewhat utilitarian lines at JC Penney, Sears, and Payless Shoes ... it was everywhere.  You could still shop the expensive designers, but right alongside them were inexpensive versions of high fashion styles.  And they were cute!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Continuing Influence of 1960s Fashion

From mini skirts to maxi dresses: the 1960s changed fashion

What comes to mind when you think of 1960s fashion?  Mini skirts?  Flower child paisley prints?  Jackie Kennedy's pink suit and pill box hat?  While every decade of the 20th century has left a mark on design, the 1960s continue to influence our style choices...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Toxic-Free Natural Skin Care Review: Dr. Bronner's is my Favorite Soap!

More than soap... Check out the fascinating Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap story.

I recommended Dr. Bronner's soaps as my top Summer, 2016 Skin Care pick, but I wanted to do a full review here and make sure I reiterate that these soaps are perfect year round.  I also wanted to talk a little bit about the trouble with so many cosmetic and skin care products...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Peter Lindbergh Retrospective at Kunsthal Rotterdam

Watch Peter Lindbergh's short film The Reunion, bringing 90s supermodels back together.
See more about this film here.

Last week, all Instagrammers who follow 90s-era models like Cindy Crawford and Tatjana Patitz saw photos from the opening of a stunning exhibition of photographer Peter Lindbergh's work.  Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography at Kunsthal Rotterdam features a retrospective of over 220 black and white photographs that have defined the course of fashion photography since the early '80s...

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Shoe Style: Anything Goes

Take a look at 100 Years of Shoe Fashion (I'd wear every pair.)

I'm old enough to remember when pointed toe stiletto heels came back "in."  It was somewhere around when Sex and the City was the talk of TV, when Sarah Jessica Parker's eclectic wardrobe was hailed as groundbreaking -- thanks, in large part, to stylist/designer Patricia Field happily mixing styles from many different eras, and incorporating street style with couture to create the show's signature look...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Salvatore Ferragamo Artistry (and Fairy Tale Magic)

Take a tour of the Salvatore Ferragamo Shoe Museum

Salvatore Ferragamo was one of Marilyn Monroe's favorite shoe designers, and it's easy to see why.  His creations were sexy, feminine, unusual, artistic, multicolored, glamorous and -- thanks to his 400+ design patents -- engineered for optimum comfort and support.  He dedicated his career to the search for a shoe that fit perfectly.  He even studied anatomy, leading him to create the revolutionary Ferragamo shoe lasts which redistributed body weight over the joints of the foot.  A girl needed to feel good as well as look good, Ferragamo thought.  His shoes allowed countless women to do just that...

Friday, August 26, 2016

Fashion History... For Free!

Episode 1 of John Knight's wonderful series on fashion history

Fashion History is one of my favorite topics because it covers two things I dearly love: fashion and history!  When I was in college, I took several costume history classes which ignited a passion for learning about fashion through the ages...

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Future of Fashion: Clothing or Digital Skins?

Imagine a fabric that can make you invisible!

If you play video games, you know how much fun it is to change your avatar's skin.  Poof!  You're in a different color, a different style or possibly even a different dimension.  But will it be possible to do similar things with our clothing in real life?  The scientists focused on wearable technology think these ideas are closer than we can imagine...

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Enduring Legacy of Coco Chanel: Revolutionizing How Women Dress

How Coco Chanel changed fashion

I recently read Coco Chanel, the Legend and the Life, by Justine Picardie.  It's a detailed, lavishly illustrated biography, revealing the true history of one of the 20th Century's most interesting and influential people.  I absolutely loved this book.  I came away from it feeling like I had gone way beyond the icon, and gotten to know the heart of a guarded, complicated, sometimes dark but always fascinating woman.  While many books have been written on Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, this one is much more personal...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

More Than Fashion: The Photography of Nina Leen

1940s and 1950s fashion captured by Nina Leen

There are fashion photographers, and then there are photographers who photograph fashion, but also capture far more than just pretty clothes.  Nina Leen was one of the latter.

Leen was born in Russia, but nobody seems to know when because she refused to tell her age.  She lived in Europe and moved to the US in 1939. When she died in 1995, her obituary revealed little about her life.  She was the first female photographer to shoot for Life, where she produced over forty covers as well as many other spreads. She is remembered for a 1950 photograph she took of the abstract artists known as the Irascibles -- including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack and Barnett Newman.   She published 15 books on photography, including several about animals -- the animal kingdom was a passion of Leen's.  One of her first jobs was photographing animals in a zoo.  She was married for many years to fashion photographer Serge Balkin.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ethical Fashion Part 1: My Mad Love for Karina Dresses

My latest Karina dress... as fabulous as my others!

 I have always loved fashion.  It is a bright, shiny industry filled with beautiful things that make us feel fantastic!  Unfortunately, it also has a dark side.  I'm not just talking about youth obsession and anorexia -- though I have a lot of opinions about those things, as well.  The insistence upon adherence to style trends and the ever-changing must-haves of season to season all add up to a culture of overconsumption, waste and (often) exploitation of underpaid garment workers in factories across the world.  Fast fashion has given all of us the ability to change our look as much as we change our mood (and that's great!) but we can't overlook the actual cost of all those affordable, often disposable styles.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Personal Style: Borrowing From Every Fashion Era

Fashion history: looking chic from feather-adorned hats and lace gloves to leather jackets and torn jeans.

Mainstream fashion will have us believe that we should strive to wear the latest trend, or else be seen as hopelessly out of style.  I've always thought this was nonsensical, since the reason a style usually becomes a trend is because it is based on a lovely design aesthetic that resonates with many people.  Of course, there are obvious exceptions.  (I'm looking at you, most of 1980s fashion.)  But when magazines and blogs begin to tell you to put away your chunky heels in favor of stilettos (or vice versa) there is no actual reason for it.  I've never understood bemoaning the fact that something you love has "gone out of style."  If it's something you love, it's your style...

For example:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

House of Hurel: The Artisans Behind the Couture

Watch the artisans create beautiful hand embroidery at House of Hurel.

The runways have been filled with beautiful stitchery and beadwork for the last few seasons, and it is a trend after my own heart.  I love the magic and mastery of all that gorgeous, old-world embellishment, and I often wonder who makes the fabrics? These kinds of pieces seem less like clothing and more like tapestries or flowing sculpture.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Make Up Tutorials from History ... Yikes!

Forget lip plumpers in 1936, girls.  Instead, here are tips to disguise lips that are "a teenie weenie bit heavy."
(Sorry, Angelina Jolie!)

We all know that makeup trends come and go, and we often don't even realize we are playing along until we look back at pictures from a decade ago and wonder what in the hell we were doing with all that brown lip liner. (Or maybe that's just me...)

I found these great old beauty films, each offering the latest, most stylish makeup trends of their day.  Consider these your grandmother's beauty YouTubers:

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Beauty Bar Resetting the Bar on Beauty


I remember marveling at my mother's complexion when I was growing up.  She was blessed with great skin genes that made her look kind of like she was carved out of marzipan, even as she got older.  I, on the other hand, have lots of freckles and moles that  my mother sweetly called "beauty marks." I remember a cute guy in college telling me that those moles were "a reverse constellation of stars" across my body ... which I've always cherished, but that's another story.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Souvenir Jacket -- Embroidery, War, Rebellion, History and Style in One Iconic Piece

Explore Sukajan street style & history in Harajuku, Tokyo

Spring and Fall/Winter 2016 offer a beautiful trend of rich embroidery embellishment.  Valentino, Schiaparelli and Gucci are just a few of the design houses that have included some form of gorgeous stitchery into both couture and resort lines.  Just look at the details on these pieces:

Valentino on the left.  Schiaparelli on the right.  Swooning all around.  

In an age of digital artifice and an increasingly homogenized landscape, clothes with this kind of old world craftsmanship feel special, unique and grounded.  They're linked to an artistic tradition that goes back as far as human beings have been around to put threads into needles.   

Embroidery was never just utility.  It was artistry. (And sometimes political activism.)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Coming Soon: The Chic Contraire Monthly Instagram Style Challenge

Be sure to follow Chic Contraire on Instagram!  (There might even be a giveaway... shhh.  Don't tell anyone...)

Have great ideas about style challenge themes?  Head over to the Chic Contraire Community Forum and tell me!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Aging with Style and Helping People Along the Way: Joy Venturini Bianchi

"Have you made a difference in your own life?  And have you made a difference in someone else's life?" 
The inspirational Joy Bianchi

Bloomingdales San Francisco recently launched a Helpers House of Couture Pop-Up shop, allowing customers an opportunity to shop a legendary array of vintage clothing and accessories.  The launch event included couture from the private collection of fashion legend Joy Venturini Bianchi as well as a Q&A style session with both Joy and Advanced Style photographer/blogger/author Ari Seth Cohen.  Cohen also signed copies of his latest book.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

All Hail the Stretch Lace Wiggle Dress!

Letting my bombshell flag fly at my 11th anniversary Vegas vow renewal ceremony

Of all the dresses I've ever had, this one just might be my favorite.  

For our 11th anniversary, my husband and I renewed our vows in Las Vegas.  We had originally eloped -- yes, I'm contrary even in marriage ceremonies -- so our vow renewal was a big party, attended by all the family and friends who obviously didn't see our actual madcap wedding. (We ran off to St. Lucia to get hitched, shlepping a full-length satin wedding gown and tuxedo to the tropics.  It was grand and romantic and I highly recommend it.)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Fashion History: The Queen of Mod, Mary Quant

Shiny boots and bubble skirts... yes yes YES!

The next time you put on a mini skirt, give a little thank you to its inventor Mary Quant.  (She named it after her favorite car, the Mini.)  One of the most influential English designers of the 1960s, Mary gave midcentury women many of the elements of Mod style.  And that style still works today.

She once said, "It was the girls on King's Road who invented the mini.  I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted.  I wore them very short and the customers would say, 'Shorter, shorter!'"

Saturday, June 25, 2016

RIP Bill Cunningham: A Brilliant Fashion Street Photographer and a True Original

"I don't work.  I only know how to have fun every day."
--Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham died today at age 87.  He was one of the most influential fashion photographers of the 20th century, turning the streets of Manhattan into his own personal studio as he observed and captured the changing costumes of several generations.  

Until the mid 2000s, he lived in a tiny apartment over Carnegie Hall -- sleeping on a cot, sharing a bathroom, grabbing a daily $3 egg breakfast at the Stage Deli and basically living like a quirky character out of a midcentury short story.  Although he photographed some of fashion's most rich and powerful, he was always an outsider.  He never limited his lens to the movers and shakers, instead, he turned it toward the pedestrians of his city with an artist's eye, and a populist's soul.  He was particularly fond of eccentrics -- all the people who broke fashion rules.

 Bill Cunningham chronicled decades upon decades of street style trends as they shifted away from uniform suits and hats and into a more carefree expression of individuality.  The NYTimes said "he turned fashion photography into his own brand of cultural anthropology."

He will be missed.

If you haven't already seen it, make sure to watch the highly reviewed 2010 documentary Bill Cunningham, New York.

Video by BellisVintage.  

Want to leave a comment? Head over to the Chic Contraire Community to start a conversation.  

Rave Review: Timeless Skin Care Vitamin C Serum

The entire beauty world has been abuzz for the last few years about the benefits of topical vitamin C. Not only is it essential in collagen synthesis as a nutrient, but when it is applied to the surface of the skin it neutralizes the free radicals that cause aging.  (Quick study: when a free radical takes an electron from one of the proteins in a strand of collagen -- and those brazen free radicals love to do just that -- it creates a little break in the strand.  What does that mean to you?  Wrinkling, sagging and all the other signs of aging.)  So, it turns out vitamin C isn't just good internally, it's great for external skin care, too.  Vitamin C acts as a kind of electron donor so that when a free radical steals your collagen's electrons, good guy vitamin C is there to literally give some back.

Friday, June 24, 2016

We've Come a Long Way, Baby...

I recently stumbled across this wonderful old footage of 1920s fashion.  There's something surprisingly familiar about the way those flappers rocked their knee socks and stack bracelets, but the models' performance starting around 1:48 is truly original. (And they did it all in heels!)

I'm not even going to try to figure out what they were doing with those matching little black dogs in the woods. Hey, they drank absinthe in the 1920s, right?

Want to leave a comment?  Head over to the Chic Contraire Community Forum to start a conversation!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

In Praise of Braids

So, I live in Los Angeles.  That means, at any time during the year, the weather can shoot into the upper 90s (and beyond) and turn my otherwise normal long hair into a torturous, Medusa-worthy mess.

This is why I seriously love a good braid.

While nobody seems to know for certain where the tradition of braiding hair originated, there is evidence of its popularity in almost all regions of the world including Africa, Egypt, Asia, the Americas and Europe.  Historians say that African braiding can be traced all the way back to around 3500 B.C.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hello, Instagram!

I'm a longtime IG user, but now I get to toggle between two versions of myself.  In other words, Chic Contraire has an official Instagram account!  Follow for upcoming monthly style challenges and other IGStyle goodies.

 (You can follow my regular account for lots of photography and, well, countless cute pictures of my pets.)

Want to leave a comment? Head on over to the Chic Contraire Community Forum to start a conversation!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Style Inspiration: Lauren Bacall

Being this cool is always in style.

Lauren Bacall's designer in To Have and Have Not was Milo Anderson
(But she'd have looked just as good in a potato sack.)

I've always been a huge movie buff.  Consequently, as I grew up I tended to take fashion cues from films rather than magazine covers.  This made me a bit of an oddball because many of the movies I loved were made in the 1940s, and the kids in my junior high probably didn't really understand my imitation of Lauren Bacall's look in To Have and Have Not.  (In my defense, I really rocked a side part and WW2 era shoulder pads...)

What I love about Lauren Bacall is the fact that she looked great in everything she wore, but she never looked like she was following anyone's fashion rules other than her own.  She started out as a department store model and ended up a screen goddess known for her original style.  Early on, she was inspired by the uncomplicated lines of Diana Vreeland's designs ... but she wore them in a way that was anything but simple.  In fact, Vreeland once said of her, "She's perfect all over, and yet she looks like nobody else."

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Covered Up for the Pool ... but Still Looking Cool? Yes, Please!

Swimwear picks for Summer, 2016!

Tired of being practically naked in order to go for a swim?  I feel you,  sisters.  Every summer I am less and less excited about exposing almost every square inch of my body to whoever happens to be sharing sun, deck and sand with me.  Why is it that men can swim in cute swim shorts but women are expected to wear, well, almost nothing?!

I have no answer.  But I do have options.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Are You a Style and Beauty Contrairista?

You can wear that mini even when they say a midi is must-have!

You are remembered for the rules you break
     --Douglas MacArthur

If I'd observed all the rules, I'd never have gotten anywhere.
     --Marilyn Monroe

Every season, the fashion experts tell us exactly why everything we've been wearing for the last few months is now hopelessly wrong, outdated and unwearable.  Nobody cares to admit that a few months earlier, the very same items were deemed must-haves.  Forget them now, they say, it's time to move on to the next trend.  It's not surprising that designers and manufacturers are inclined to suggest we purchase new things.  What shocks me, however, is how many reasonable, independent women actually play along.  I went shopping with a very stylish friend recently who said she was disappointed that skinny jeans were going out of style.

"But you love skinnies."  I said.

"Well they're out now," she said.

"But they look good on you,"  I said.

"I just don't want to be out of style," she said.

These are the conversations that spark up my radical heart.  Rise up, women!  Free yourself from the constraints of unnecessary fashion rules!  Don't go buy a new pair of trendy boyfriend straight leg jeans unless you really, really love them!  And while we're at it, wear white after Labor Day -- and all day every day if that's what looks great on you.  Oh, and don't let anyone tell you the beach waves look for hair is now out, and the latest look requires a half hour of daily flat ironing.  Wear those beach waves, girl.  Especially if you live near a beach.

Now, before you accuse me of being a fashion buzzkill, hear me out.  Clothes are fun, and wearing them sure beats having to walk around naked.  I love great design and style of all kinds.  But I think it's idiotic to go along with trends just because someone tells me to do it.  With the exception of a little naughty roll playing, I hate to be told what to do!  I'm contrary.  Thus, I created this blog Chic Contraire.  It's a place to talk about style and beauty for those of us who refuse to be hemmed in by fashion rules.  (See what I did there? ;-) )

As the mom of an 11 year old daughter,  I want all of our girls to grow up to a world where women embrace their own style (and weight, and hair color...)  instead of worrying about somehow fitting into an artificial beauty standard and/or a seasonally-changing set of rules that are created for the sole purpose of making someone else rich.  At this age, my daughter wears what she loves, whether it matches or not, and thinks clothes are fun.  I'd like to see a world where we all embrace that sort of joyful fashion independence.

Pointed toe or round? Mini or Midi? Low-rise or High-waisted? In my opinion it's not either/or but all of the above.  Fashion anarchy, I say.  Who's with me?

Want to leave a comment? Head on over to the Chic Contraire Community Forum and start a conversation!