Style Inspiration: Tamara de Lempicka

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There are few instances where fashion and art merge as seamlessly as in the work of Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka. Known for her portraits of strikingly beautiful women (and men), de Lempicka mastered the concept of economy of line- neither the faces of her subjects nor their clothing was ever excessively rendered or overwrought. Her female subjects exuded a slight air of remote passivity, but maintained control of their situation and of the composition. What I have always loved most about these paintings is their specific brand of melancholy: a kind of luxe moodiness. The subjects are chic and their clothes are meant to be well-constructed without being ostentatious. They could have been fashion illustrations from the 30’s and they could be ad campaigns now. It goes without saying that de Lempicka herself was gorgeous and really did look like the woman driving the green Bugatti.  Above: Irene and Her Sister, 1925

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Portrait of Marquis Sommi, 1925

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Young Lady with Gloves, 1930

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Self-Portrait in the Green Bugatti, 1925

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Sharing Secrets, 1928

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Fetishism in Fashion

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The many fashion fetishes that I, and many people I know harbor are far too numerous to list here, but we will soon have a book that may explain why and how these obsessions developed. Fetishism in Fashion, written by Lidewij Edelkoort, is a photo and essay collection exploring why some women will risk life and limb to teeter on an impossibly high heel and why a certain style of handbag, belt or other fashion object can bring on a sudden case of the vapors. I am personally looking forward to reading the chapters explaining the power of the color black and how our tastes evolve from birth to childhood. We all do it- come September 10, we can finally hope to understand why.

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Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series

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One of the books that has been on my must-read list is Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. It tells the story of millions of African-Americans who left the South in order to make a better life for themselves in the north after World War I. Of course, many of them ran head first into the same racism from which they had fled, but major cities like Chicago and New York were forever changed by their influence; especially in the arts. 

Jacob Lawrence, the amazing figurative painter, captured the struggles of this exodus in his 60-panel collection of paintings called The Migration Series. His reductive style of painting still manages to honestly portray the full range of emotions that anyone would experience while uprooting your life to start anew. 

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Complex Geometries

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Most people stop off at places like American Apparel for staple pieces in their closets. But I find that when I want a tank dress to be something more than just a tank dress, Complex Geometries is the only option. Beyond the just-the-right-amount of draping and the stripped bare color stories, everything that CG makes are beautifully elevated versions of the clothes that my friends and I wore in high school. Here, a few pieces that really need to be in my life… See the entire collection here

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Style Inspiration: Pauline Black

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I have always been a fan of the two-tone/ska movement from the 80s. One of my favorite bands was The Selecter, fronted by the deeply chic Pauline Black. Her specific way of co-opting menswear was a powerful counterbalance to Madonna and was easily copied with a trip to Salvation Army. If I had one men’s thrift store blazer, I had 20…

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Manet’s Olympia

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While making plans to check out the Fashion and Impressionism exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago, I started thinking about Edouard Manet’s Olympia (1863). If are familiar with this painting, you know that it is somewhat notorious for what the subject isn’t wearing- but in my eyes, it is what she is wearing that makes this piece so provocative. The fact that she has left on her jewelry and her shoes means that she is more naked than nude. Nude means idealized female body, while naked most likely means that Manet’s model is a courtesan. She holds the viewer in a direct, non-flinching gaze, unashamed by what she has just done or about to do. There is something deeply modern about her and the way she is rendered by Manet.  I don’t think that this piece is in the Art Institute exhibit, but maybe it should be-fashion can be just as powerful by virtue of its absence as it is by what we can see. 

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Franz Kline

I am slowly starting to overload on the digital print explosion in fashion at the moment. The stark, lovely, black and white nothingness of the work of Franz Kline is a nice palette cleanser…

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Opustena, 1956

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Painting No. 7, 1952

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Untitled II, 1952

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Mahoning, 1956

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Down With The It Bag

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There is something dreadfully boring about the idea of an “It Bag”. If I can immediately register the label of your bag from across the street, I’ve already lost interest. The same follows for logos and front-and-center label plates on a handbag. But the craftsmanship and quality materials of a solid bag are always desirable, so I found a few that I love, but that will leave you guessing about the label on the inside. (Above photo: Vlieger & Vandam Handcuff Embossed Leather Clutch, $293, luisaviaroma.com.)

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Bao Bao Issey Miyake Bilbao Lucent Pouch, $149, matchesfashion.com

 

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Diego Rocha Amazon Hobo (Python), $2,640, diegorocha.comImage

MM6 Maison Martin Margiela Black Velvet Seal Shopper, $495, ssense.comImage

Ceannis Big Flap Bag (Leather/Canvas), $489, brownsfashion.com

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Ann Demeulemeester Sheer Cardigan

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The hideous heat wave that most of the country endured last week pretty much evaporated any lingering patience that I had left for summer and I am ready to move on to fall, the real fashion season. I just came across this cardigan by Ann Demeulemeester- it has set my new standard for a lightweight transitional sweater. Take a closer look at farfetch.com

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The Wes Anderson Collection

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Every film has a costume designer, but Wes Anderson manages to use fashion to set tone and advance the plot in a way that is all his own. I am not ashamed to admit that I have seen The Royal Tenenbaums about 20 times and am more than slightly obsessed with Margot and her ever-present air of melancholia that struck a little too close to home. This October, a new book called The Wes Anderson Collection will detail Anderson’s life and work and how one informs the other. Written by critic Mark Zoller Seitz, the book will feature previously unpublished photos and artwork and hopefully put a finer point on why many of Anderson’s films have a vaguely 70’s sepia-tone thing going on. Oh, the introduction is written by MIchael Chabon, so there’s that. The Wes Anderson Collection will be released October 1 and is available for pre-order here.

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