Dec 20, 2015

#55 Dateline: Paperdollywood - Hollywood Fashions, Christmas Windows, Drama Queens

Hollywood Fashion Exhibition

The last place I expected to see a collection of Hollywood originals and reproductions was at a shopping mall in Meriden, Connecticut. I was there to produce and commentate a fashion show to publicize the opening of a new department store. Also there to entertain was singing star Shirley Jones of Oklahoma and The Partridge Family fame.  Still another attraction was Gene London, an expert on Hollywood fashion and costume collector. I first met him in the '80s when I interviewed him for a TV show. He was then the proprietor of “The Fan Club,” a huge retro clothes shop (some 60,000 gowns and accessories). Gene, now age 84, was the star of a kid's TV show in the ‘'50s and he still exudes show biz pizzazz.  He had a few models to bring to life his talk about vintage Hollywood star style. 100-plus impressive items were on display in the mall lobby. It was great fun to see such glamour close-up in such surprising surroundings. There was Marilyn’s notorious subway dress, Ginger Roger’s bugle-beaded gown, Esther William’s swimsuit, Jean Harlow’s slinky satin, Grace Kelly's Oscar gown and several Gone With the Wind costumes reproduced by Gene for Turner Classic Movies to celebrate the film's 50th Anniversary.

Gene London and me, Gene with model in Crawford's gown, Marilyn Monroe's subway dress.

Marilyn Monroe's Diamonds gown, Monroe's gold lame, Monroe's Bus Stop

Esther Williams' swimsuite, Fred and Ginger, My Fair Lady

Claudette Colbert Cleopatra, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Liz Taylor's Halston

Little Images of Big Male Stars

I'm usually so busy with paper doll projects that I seldom venture far afield, artistically. However, once a week, I go to a life drawing workshop sponsored by the Leslie-Lohman Gay and Lesbian Art Museum in Manhattan's trendy SoHo district.  I find drawing a live model sharpens my eye and thus, greatly benefits my paper doll projects. For a recent fund-raiser, the workshop's artists were asked to create little (5"x5") artwork for a special exhibition of "little pictures" all priced at $60.00 each.  I created little pictures of male movie stars.  Big subjects, though, for sure. The exhibition, hundreds of little pictures by several dozen artists, was a great big success. Of course, I was the only artist to portray movie stars!

Mini portraits of my favorite male movie stars

Prime Minister Paper Dolls

Justin Trudeau, the hunky new Prime Minister of Canada, recently popped up as a paper doll by Kyle Hilton in New York Magazine, Nov. 2, 2015 Issue. For a more cartoon-like PD of Canada’s new PM, visit

Destination Inspiration

Fashion is rediscovering fun with light-hearted prints and appliques. While some designers are delving into kitsch motifs, for spring ’16, Dolce & Gabbana are tripping with an Italian travelogue, featuring prints and appliques inspired by vacation destinations. Roma, Portofino, Pisa, Napoli, Sorrento and other fun spots are depicted with na├»ve appliques (often on sheer materials) or rendered as ornate scenic views inspired by antique postcards. Such a good idea is bound to be reinterpreted with other destination locations. Buon viaggio!

All by Dolce & Gabbana for Spring '16

Glamour or Oscar Gold?

When researching costumes for my Classic Drama Queens paper doll to be published in February, 2016 by Paper Studio Press, it struck me that almost all the stars in the book share a duality. Each one is inherently glamorous and usually appears dressed to the nines, gorgeously gowned and dripping in furs and jewels. Glamour may be big box office, but it usually won't get a gal that coveted gold statuette.  Playing a dowdy, down-and-out, desperate character is more likely to rate an Academy Award nomination and sometimes a win. Mildred Pierce, a poor housewife/waitress/restauranteur won Joan Crawford a surprise Oscar. Loretta Young got hers for playing a simple Swedish sweetheart in The Farmer’s Daughter. Irene Dunne's nomination came for playing a stout (padding!) stalwart immigrant in I Remember Mama. Garbo’s world-weary Anna Christie got her out of Adrian’s glamour gowns and garnered a nomination. Bette Davis often shed glamour for glory such as her unforgettable portrayal of a has-been child star in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  What happened to Baby Jane was another Oscar nomination.  My new paper doll book includes costumes from all these non-glamour roles as well as plenty of the razzle dazzle that becomes a legend most. 

Joan Crawford and Irene Dunn in glamourous and not-so-glamorous costumes.

Loretta Young and Bette Davis in glamourous and not-so-glamorous costumes.

Greer Garson and Greta Garbo in glamourous and not-so-glamorous costumes.

Christmas Window Shopping in London!

One of the holiday highlights for me is gazing at the displays in the windows of stores famous for eye-popping creative extravagance. In New York City, Lord & Taylor always gets my vote because it invariably inspires heart-warming nostalgia. This Christmas is no exception. In addition to creating a block long, twinkly evergreen grotto in front of the store, each window is devoted to a favorite thing and my favorite is the massive gingerbread house with a mob of gingerbread men.   For cool (quite literally), it’s Barney’s “Chilling Out” window theme.  A real, ice locker features a live sculptor hacking a block of ice with a chainsaw. Saks Fifth Avenue is the most glamorous with high style ice queens and winter palaces.  Macy’s gets the kid’s vote with a Charlie Brown 50th Anniversary wintry celebration. 

Macy's Herald Square

Lord & Taylor, Fifth Avenue

Saks Fifth Avenue, New York

Bergdorf Goodman, Fifth Avenue

Barney's, Madison Avenue

Bloomingdales, Lexington Avenue

Harrod's, London

Selfridges, London

Harvey Nichols, London

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