May 14, 2020

Fall Fashion Black is the New Black, Mermaid Movie Memories, Anna May Wong

For Fall 2020, Black is Once Again "The New Black"

The recent Fall 2020 Designer Collection runway shows have repeated the news that same-ol’ same-ol’ black is again the last word, a predestined top trend. More than just an expected, safe color story, black is a powerful dark force that expresses a sad state of affairs inspiring designers to create fashions that bring to mind monastic mourning. Everybody’s doing it. Many designers often choose to open and close their shows with dramatic black.

 The ever-popular Black Statement that never ends: Akris, Balenciaga, Givenchy.
 LBD The Little Black Dresses: Celine, Valentino, Chanel.
 The Black Great Coats: Chanel, Valentino, Valentino.

 The Practical Black Pantsuits: Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior.
 The Comfy Black Knitwear: Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Dolce & Gabbana.
 The Genderless Black Tuxedoes: Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Celine.
 The Black Evening Dramatics: Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Burberry.
 The Black Sexy Styles: Burberry, Christian Dior, Alberta Ferretti.

Vintage Coloring Book Black-Out

Every issue of my monthly blog includes a few pages from one of the coloring books in my vintage collection. Having noted that black is once again a strong story fashion story for Fall 2020, I am braced for a tsunami of the darkest of dark. Anticipating the coming over-abundance of black, I decided to jump on the black bandwagon as I colored four pages of coloring book fashions worn by Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Russell, Greer Garson, Jeanette MacDonald and Betty Grable. 

 Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor make a splash posing in black swimsuits.
 Jane Russell and Greer Garson in old-fashioned new-again black.
 Jeanette MacDonald and Betty Grable in swirling pink and white stripes on a black ground.

Aquatic Fantasies Perpetuate Mermaid Legends

I confess I must have been a somewhat strange little boy. The kids in my semi-rural Ohio neighborhood spent summer week-ends playing baseball or riding their Schwinn bicycles on the dusty roads. Not me. I spent Saturday afternoons at the Vine Theatre in Willoughby, a nearby one-horse town. 

 In my pocket was a quarter carefully wrapped in a clean handkerchief. In those days, so long ago, 25 cents went a long way. Ten cents took care of admission, an especially good bargain since I always watched the movie three times until my father came to pick me up in the evening. Fifteen cents went for popcorn and candy (long-lasting Necco wafers. I honestly didn’t really care what was showing. I happily watched every movie, again and again. 

Hollywood’s output made an indelible impression on my young mind. I usually liked best a Technicolor musical but I vividly recall one black-and-white (1948) comedy that held me spellbound. Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid. It starred aging leading man, William Powell as a comic fisherman who hooked a comely mermaid played by delectable Ann Blyth. Mr. Peabody took home his catch and put her in a bubbling bathtub. But he couldn’t convince anyone that his mermaid was real. The film was a popular hit, cracking witty jokes about Mr. Peabody’s probable mid-life crisis hallucination. As a seven-year-old, I doubt that I picked-up the movie’s sophisticated humor, but I was absolutely enchanted by Ann Blyth’s adorable, often underwater, mimed performance. 

I returned from the movie in a trance and immediately got out my sketchpad and crayons, proceeding to draw endless variations on mermaids with varied fishtails styles. Ever since I shared Mr. Peabody’s obsession with his aquatic crush I have continued to hope that someday, some lucky fisherman will land a real mermaid at last. Meanwhile I’ll keep hoping and enjoy the rare mermaid sightings in a few films and as a few paper dolls over the years. 

A very popular 1984 mermaid movie was Splash, starring Daryl Hannah. Doris Day donned an exotic mermaid get-up in The Glass-Bottom Boat (1966). Miranda (1948) was a light comedy British film with Glynis Johns in a wheelchair to hide her water wearable scales and tail. It’s the same ruse employed by Bette Midler as Delores DeLago in her concert appearances as well as the film of her season in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace (2009). The biggest mermaid movie ever was Disney’s animated classic, The Little Mermaid (1989). 

These mermaid movie memories inspired the costume I created for Bruce Patrick Jones' dress-a-doll that will appear in the upcoming"By the Sea" issue of OPDAG's Paper Doll Studio magazine.

Dress-a-Doll Costume for OPDAG's Paper Doll Studio Issue 127, Adverts for Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid.
Doris Day and Ann Blyth as cinematic mermaids.
Daryl Hannah was a glamorous amphibian in Splash. Bette Midler as a wild 'n crazy wheelchair-bound mermaid named Delores DeLago.

Progress Report: Anna May Wong

I am just beginning to research the life and look of 1920s cinematic trailblazer, exotic, expressive Anna May Wong. A native Angeleno, born to second generation Chinese-American parents, she had to battle being frequently cast as a villainous dragon lady or the rejected other woman. Frustrated by miscegenation laws of the time that prevented interracial couples onscreen, beauteous Miss Wong moved to Europe in 1928. She learned French and German, starred in hit films, plays and operettas. She also became a fashion icon of the Jazz Age, later returning to the U.S. continuing to fight discrimination. I am fascinated and inspired, delighted to be working on this new paper doll book to be published by Paper Studio Press early next year.

 Worksheet studies for Anna May Wong paper doll book.

Apr 16, 2020

Wearable Fashions for Fall 2020, Liz Taylor Taming of the Shrew Paper Doll, Coloring Shakespeare, Anna May Wong

Relevant Ready-to-Wear for Fall 2020

Hundreds and hundreds of fashion shows previewed the 2020 international designer collections in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Something for every woman, certainly. As always, an overwhelming variety of looks encompass the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly and the outrageous. 

Most interesting was the surprising, long-overdue number of wearable clothes for real women. What a relief to see fashion that is relevant to reality! Ready-to-Wear that really IS ready to be worn by real women. Instead of too many silly masquerade costumes as is so often the case nowadays, there were plenty of styles ready to step off the runways into the real life wardrobes of discerning women everywhere. 

There were wearable, comfortable, flattering fashions including easy jackets, warm coats and knitwear, suit separates, low-key eveningwear and new white shirts. 

In a season dominated by masses of black everything, it was delightful to see some daring designers challenge the global fashion black-out by offering occasional pops of color diversity. All in all, the forthcoming fashion season is looking promising, indeed. But then came the virus and the world changed, making fashion irrelevant. 

 Really Ready-to-Wear for real women: Akris, Chanel, Prada.
 Really Comfortable Jackets for real women: Balmain, Chanel, Prada.
 Real Winter Coats for real women: Stella McCartney, Alberta Ferretti, Balenciaga.
 Real Knitwear for real women: Balmain, Lacoste, Christian Dior.
 New White Shirts for real women: Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana.
 Real Suit Separates for real women: Miu Miu, Akris, Miu Miu.
 Real Pantsuits for real women: Akris, Balmain, Altuzarra.
 Real Eveningwear for real women: Valentino, Miu Miu, Celine.
 Real Color Choices for real women: Akris, Alberta Ferretti, Lacoste.

Dressing Liz Taylor as Shakespeare's Shrew

To everyone’s surprise, in 1967 Elizabeth Taylor (her beauty at its prime) turned in a first rate performance in a movie version of William Shakespeare’s classic comedy, Taming of the Shrew. Her leading man was Richard Burton, to be expected. The costumes by Danilo Donati won an Oscar, but brilliant designer Irene Sharaff also won a special, singular Academy Award for exclusively dressing Elizabeth in breathtaking jewel-tone costumes that define the Renaissance, a rich expression of color and lavish texture. 

Shakespeare is usually a hard sell to the general public, but the star power of the scandalous couple was a smash hit, eliciting this comment from Rotten Tomatoes, "It may not be reverent enough for purists, but this Taming of the Shrew is too funny – and fun – for the rest of us to resist.” I myself created a paper doll of Liz with two costumes for the Renaissance issue of Paper Doll Studio magazine.

 Two of Elizabeth Taylor’s Renaissance costumes by Irene Sharaff for “Taming of the Shrew.”

Yesterday's Coloring Book . . . Today

Every month I enjoy coloring a page or two from one of my vintage coloring book collection, but this time there's a twist. This month's page is from a coloring book souvenir I created in 1981 as a fund-raiser for a children’s theatre located in Florida. It is a 26-page history of the theatre from a Greek amphitheatre to Broadway’s My Fair Lady. Jenny thought one of the pages was perfect to illustrate the article on Shakespeare in Paper Doll Studio's Renaissance issue. Rather than get out my crayons, we asked Julie Allen Matthews to color the image digitally. I was bowled over by the results as well as Julie's digital process:

She used a program, Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, that mimics traditional art tools. First, the lines are placed on one layer with lowered opacity. Then, the colors are placed underneath, one color at a time, from background to foreground. Using the dry marker and rough pencil tool, she applies color in its own layer as well as the shadows and highlights. This is the same technique used in the Stripes! book. The result is a lavish, full color illustration demonstrating how the coloring books of tomorrow are here today. 

Shakespeare coloring page
 My Shakespeare drawing colored by Julie.
Digital coloring detail
 Julie's digital coloring process using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

News! My Next Paper Doll Book Stars Anna May Wong

I am very excited about my next paper doll project. I am starting to research the life and impressive career of Anna May Wong, the exotic Chinese beauty of vintage Hollywood films. This means months and months of work –in-progress reports in future Blogs.

Anna May Wong
 Exotic beauty: Anna May Wong.

Mar 18, 2020

Jean-Paul Gaultier Spring 2020, Paris Haute Couture, Tom Tierney's First Paper Doll Book

The Show of Shows for Spring 2020

Jean-Paul Gaultier, a towering talent and fearless fashion kingpin shocked the fashion world by announcing his retirement after 50 years of success. To celebrate his declaration of independence, the oft-outrageous designer staged the most exciting fashion show seen during the recent Paris Haute Couture preview week. No small event, 200 amazing looks sauntered down the runway, worn by a cast of Gaultier’s favorite interesting and eccentric models and characters. The gender fluid extravaganza revisited some Gaultier classics themes including his blue/white signature Breton stripe, denim drama, exposed corsetry and free-range androgyny. 

 Celebrating Jean-Paul Gaultier’s 50 years in fashion. A surprise appearance by Boy George.
 Gaultier’s signature blue/white Breton stripe.
 Gaultier joins the season’s great white rage.
 Corsetry, of course it’s Gaultier.
 Denim done the Gaultier way out way.
 Gaultier gets sizzling hot and sexy.
 Menswear freely liberated by Gaultier.
 One of a kind, Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Haute Couture, the Last Word

The Paris Haute Couture Continuum is an island unto itself. Because the timing of the fashion cycle is such a snarl, it’s interesting that the final act of every season is the now-archaic custom-creation collections shown only a few weeks before real-time. In other words, the spring 2020 collections previewed in January 2020 Parisian fashion shows are made-to-order and delivered to clients in time for immediate springtime wearing. Too late to set trends? Probably. But a great last-minute inspiration and confirmation as the commercial sector of the fashion industry begins advance planning ahead to 2021 color, silhouette, design detail and textile. 

 Among a wealth of ideas, the current 2020 couture collections took note of more interesting unexpected colors in addition to black and more black. Undisputed popularity turned the spotlight on popular white, white, white as well as Pantone’s “color of the year” classic blue. Couturiers, in search of a new silhouette, put forth some very interesting extremes including fish tail/trumpets and balloon/ball shapes. Beading, bows and ruffles stirred-up overt femininity echoed in fragile sheers, creamy silks and satin and textural novelties.

 Unexpected, interesting colors: Valentino, Givenchy, Alberta Ferretti.
 White, white and more white: Viktor & Rolf, Chanel, Ralph & Russo.
 Black everywhere, forevermore: Alberta Ferretti, Givenchy, Ralph & Russo.
 Pantone’s Classic Blue color of the year: Armani Prive, Martin Margiela, Armani Prive.
 Seeking new balloon/ball silhouettes: Giambattista Valli, Givenchy, Dior.
 Seeking new trumpet/fishtail silhouettes: Givenchy, Valentino, Valentino.
 Design details include the craze for big bows: Valentino, Alexis Mabille, Alberta Ferretti.
 Design details also include frills and ruffles: Giambettista Valli, Iris Van Herpen, Valentino.
 Pleats produce linear textile textures: Dior, Dior, Givenchy.
 Filmy sheer textiles speak a soft statement: Chanel, Dior, Armani Prive.
 Creamy silk and satin create a statuesque drama: Dior, Giambettista Valli, Valentino.

Tom Tierney, Keeper of the Paper Doll Flame

This month’s coloring book is an important historic cultural treasure in my collection of vintage paper dolls. In 1974, Tom Tierney was a very successful commercial artist who published Thirty from the '30s, a paper doll coloring book featuring movie stars of the 1930s with costumes from their hits. At the time, paper dolls, so popular during the ‘40s and ‘50s were past their prime time as a child’s play. Barbie dolls reigned supreme. Tom wisely picked-up on the nostalgia craze by declaring the book as "paper dolls for grown-ups." 

That book was the start of Tom’s terrific life-long success as he went on to create hundreds of paper doll books over the ensuing years. His prolific output included not just film stars but politicians and their families, major and minor royalty and book after book of fashion history. And it all began with Thirty from the '30s

Thirty from the Thirties
 Tom Tierney’s first paper doll coloring book, published in 1974.
Joan Crawford Coloring Pages
 Joan Crawford paper doll with costumes from Rain, Grand Hotel, Dancing Lady, The Gorgeous Hussy, The Women and Mannequin. Colored by David.
Fredric March Paper Doll
 Fredric March, star of Trade Winds, The Sign of the Cross, The Affairs of Cellini, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Anna Karenina and Mary of Scotland. Colored by David.

Jean Harlow Paper Doll
 Jean Harlow, star of Goldie, Dinner at Eight, China Seas, Suzy, Personal Property, Bombshell. Colored by David.