Sep 30, 2017

#76 - Celebrity Coloring Books, Spring '18 Fashions, Hollywood UNdressed, TV Costume Exhibit, Denim, Emmys

Celebrity Coloring Book Collectibles

I am primarily a collector of paper dolls, but for the last couple of years, I have slowly but surely added vintage celebrity coloring books to my collection. I particularly enjoy the artistic illustrative covers of some of the books. I have rediscovered the joy of actually coloring pages (most books are partly colored by the original owners years and years ago.) Recently I received a marvelous gift of seven vintage coloring books from two very generous friends. The books are: Doris Day 1952, Ann Blyth 1952, Betty Grable 1951, Margaret O’Brien 1947, Esther Williams 1951, Jane Powell and Judy Garland 1941 (The year of my birth!). I can’t wait to start coloring! 

Ann Blyth, Esther Williams, Betty Grable Coloring Books

Margaret O’Brien, Judy Garland, Doris Day Coloring Books

A Cacophony of Color for Spring '18

The biggest news from the New York Designer Shows is an exuberant display of color, color, color! Happy days may not be here again, but spring ’18 promises an optimistic rainbow array of colors galore. In the coming spring ’18 multi-color extravaganza, the pink plethora continues, but sunshine yellow looks surprisingly hot. Red rages on and orange is fiery. Blues range from bright to soft. Although every color appeared monochromatically, more importantly, there is a veritable cacophony of upbeat color combinations. The psychological effect of so many happy hues suggests a feel-good fashion season ahead. 

Tom Ford, Prabal Gurung, Elizabeth & James

Marc Jacobs, Jeremy Scott, Fenty Puma

Derek Lam, Calvin Klein by Raf Simon, Marc Jacobs

Getting Ready to UNdress Hollywood

My new paper doll project is an unusual book, “Hollywood Gets Undressed.” Movies often have scenes featuring stars in a half-UNdressed state, often in a boudoir, on a beach or poolside and sometimes scantily clad in a sexy costume for a musical number. This new book, presently a work-in-progress is to be published by Paper Studio Press later in the year and will have three female model paper dolls and one male, all ready to dress in varying states of UNdress…negligees, nightgowns, pajamas, corsets, slips, swimsuits and sexy costumes. 

Work-in-Progress faces for the Undressed Paper Dolls

Work-in-Progress Version #2 Paper Dolls

Front Cover Art 

TV Costume Exhibit Launches Awards Cycle

The Emmys are TV’s annual self-congratulatory awards in so many categories that it seems as though everyone in Hollywood must receive one of the gold statuettes. I’ll leave the categorized confusion to others and I’ll offer my view of the Emmys presented to the costumes designers. I previewed the costumes by visiting FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in Los Angeles where the 11th Outstanding Art of TV Costume Design will be on exhibit until October 7th. 

100 costumes represent 25 shows from 2016 and include 9 Emmy nominees. Whereas television production values used to be a poor relation of the extravagant, big budgeted, big screen movies, but no longer is that the case. With so many means of accessing entertainment media, the myriad TV networks spend millions to make streaming series look as good as, as glamorous as, anything ever projected onto a movie theatre’s big screen. The scope of the stories calls for creative costuming. While there is yet to appear a fashion genius like Adrian or Edith Head, a new generation of designers is meeting the challenge. 2016 was a year of brilliantly diverse television. “Westworld” took place in a robotic theme park while “The Handmaid’s Tale” foretold a chilling rethink of gender roles in society. “Feud: Bette and Joan” turned back Hollywood’s clock and “The Crown” began the regal, epic life story of Elizabeth II. The hero-turned heroine in “Transparent” shared exposure with RuPaul’s Drag Race.” “And for sheer magic, the extravagance of “Dancing with the Stars” demonstrated that it is possible to lavishly costume a weekly television show with as much razzle dazzle as Hollywood’s heyday. 

Although it’s an honor just to be nominated for an Emmy, show biz, be it television or movie, is a competitive game. Somebody wins…and for 2016 shows, judged to be the best, the Emmy went to …..The Crown, Big Little Lies and RuPaul’s Drag Race.  

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Feud: Bette and Joan

The Crown 


The Handmaid’s Tale

My First Dreamgirl: Betty Grable

I fell in love with Betty Grable when I was barely able to talk. My parents told me that as a toddler I called her “Betty Dwable” and used to sit spellbound in the dark movie theatres watching the most famous pin-up girl in the world. Of course I had coloring books and paper dolls of my dreamgirl. (OK, so I probably should have been learning to pitch a baseball, but I didn’t.) At the recent Philadelphia Paper Doll Convention, for the second time in my life I bought my favorite movie star coloring book totally UN-colored. I remember buying it when it was first published by Merrill in 1953. The lush cover captures Betty’s peaches and cream, down-to-earth beauty that once brilliantly described her as "a celestial waitress."

The coloring book is a splendid example of how the old Hollywood Studio Star System perpetuated the myths it created. The book is divided into “concepts,” the first being "Beautiful Betty Grable" and includes her 112 pound weight and diminutive 5-feet, 4 inch height. Next, “Betty’s Exciting Career” declares that she is “famous for her gorgeous costumes." Also revealed is that “She likes to be on time…and likes others to be.” While coloring the well-drawn pages, the kid colorists learned that Betty like dogs, horses, bowling, football, gardening, visiting children’s hospitals and lots of other wholesome activities including breakfast in bed with her mother! 

Such a saccharine story was obviously calculated to turn impressionable kids into lifetime loyal fans, a marketing ploy that worked (…at least on me.) To this day, my must-see stars on Turner Classic Movies are Betty Grable, Doris Day, Esther Williams, Rita Hayworth and Greer Garson. Can it simply be a coincidence that I had coloring books and paper dolls of every one of those lovely ladies? Or was I brain-washed at a tender age by M-G-M? Perhaps other starstruck kids dreamed of becoming movie stars, but I fantasized about being the head of a studio…just call me “Louis B. Wolfe!” 

Betty Grable 1953 Coloring Book

Pages colored today by David

New York Fashion Week Revitalizes Fail-Safe Denim

Once, long ago, down-to-earth blue denim was not considered designer level material. That was then. This is now and the New York runways were populated with denim designs in collection after collection. Some designers remained loyal to faded denim destruction with overly familiar slashing, rips and fraying. Dark indigo denim looked fresh again, taking the fabric right back to its raw roots for innovative designs as well as almost-basics. Denim, a real people-pleaser, deserves its star place as an ever-popular designer show fabric. 

Tom Ford, Tom Ford, Elizabeth & James

Alexander Wang, Carolina Herrera, Colovos

Oscar de la Renta, Anna Sui, Coach

Mixed Bag of Fashion at the Emmys

Politics and diversity got more attention than red carpet fashion at the recent Emmy Awards, a three-evening affair. Two evenings of “Creative” awards including costume design were not televised. “The Crown” won for Period/Fantasy. The winner for Contemporary costumes was “Big Little Lies” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” won in the Variety/Non-Fiction/Reality category. (Reality? Yes.) 

CBS aired the big prime time awards but skipped the usual pre-show red carpet parade. Perhaps that’s just as well as the fashion quotient was hit and miss, depending on the star’s stylist. There was glamour galore thanks to plenty of sparkling sequins and beads plus a few feathers on Tracee Ellis Ross and Zoe Kravitz. Transparent fabrics, usually embellished, were favored by many including Ellie Kemper and Gina Rodriguez. Probably the most beautiful look of the evening was Jessica Biel’s artfully draped sparkling transparency. The old “New Look” above-ankle ballerina length made a comeback on Nicole Kidman and Elizabeth Moss. 

Sex appeal appeared as necklines plunged and backs were bared. Red on Issa Rae and many others replaced the usual black as the repeat favorite. Jane Fonda in hot pink looked astonishingly ageless and Viola Davis was a knock-out in sizzling orange. Tessa Thompson wore a whole rainbow. The Emmys kicked-off the Awards Season without making any surprising fashion news but with stylish diversity as the major message. 

Nicole Kidman, Gina Rodriguez, Issa Rae

Jane Fonda, Jessica Biel, Elizabeth Moss

Tracee Ellis Ross, Viola Davis, Ellie Kemper