The Sphinx of Fashion

The thirties in Paris seems to have been a good time for female designers as Lanvin, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Vionnet and Madame Gr√®s all were in their glory years, doing different things and cornering different markets.  Of this five, Chanel has flourished, Lanvin has been successfully revitalised, Vionnet has been through a rough topsy turvy revitalisation process and Schiaparelli is rumoured to be relaunched.  What of Madame Gr√®s though which is still limping on as a Swiss-owned perfume brand?  Gr√®s was known as the ‚ÄòSphinx‚Äô of fashion because of the secrecy shrouding her life and her work, and it is this secrecy, coupled with the numerous poor business decisions that rendered Alix Gr√®s penniless by the time of her death, which has resulted in a lot of people now who might be unfamiliar with the name Madame Gr√®s (a good summary article can be found on the Telegraph).   

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Whilst in New York, I was advised to forgo the blog.mode exhibition at the Met and go to the Madame Gr√®s exhibition at the FIT instead.  Amidst silly worries over not being able to function without a laptop, I went to see neither so shame on me because judging from a selection of the images of the exhibition online, I have missed a real eye-opening treat of fabric technical feat.

The expert treatment of volume and sculpting of fabrics and a desire for fluidity, even during a time when crinolines and corsets were back in Vogue as exemplified by Dior‚Äôs New Look, means that today, these pieces by Gr√®s all stand the test of time and rather than us looking bemused at the ‚Äòtorture garments‚Äô of yesteryear, we‚Äôre wondering why the house of Gr√®s doesn‚Äôt exist anymore. 

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Along with Vionnet, Alix Gr√®s was famous for the ‚ÄòGrecian-inspired gown‚Äô but it seems she took it to another level and developed a ‚Äòfluting‚Äô technique that makes the pleats highly intricate as seen in the following examples.  The pleat obsessed of today like Sophia Kokosalaki or Mattijs Van Bergen surely took a trick or two out of Madame Gr√®s‚Äô dresses.  It is these gowns  that again have me wondering whether Madame Gr√®s should be residing in fashion history book obscurity…

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Tone down the Tights

What to do with many a pair of tights from Tightsplease…..?  The quite scary Automatic Layering Reponse aka ALR, kicks in and with some sheer/white tights over the bright/neon ones, varying effects can be produced.  They seem to add this 3-D dimension to normal opaque tights which make your legs look like there are fractal patterns going on (not sure if that is desirable or not!). 

White opaque over neon orange // Black sheer over bright yellow

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Natural sheer over jade // Silver sheer over hot fuschia

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Excuse this bout of ALR, it’s a problem I’m trying to overcome.  Wish me well in the ALR clinic and if there are any other ALR-ers out there, let’s hook up and start a support group…




You might have heard about or seen photographer Ari Versluis and stylist Ellie Uyttenbroek’s ongoing project ‘Exactitudes’, whereby they have been snapping photos of people since 1994 in locations all over the world, focusing on people in particular ‘style tribes’.  You end up asking whether individuality actually exists because by their definition, by portraying these people in similar poses in a repetitive 3 x 4 format, they end up blurring into one monotonous image.  So called ‘sub-culture’ groups like goths, punks and emos who define themselves as ‘individual’ and ‘different’ end up allying themselves into something that makes them NOT different. 

Of course, not all their subjects are actively seeking style individuality so it therefore makes it an even more interesting take on things as Uyttenbrokek and Versluis have taken to the streets of London to identify the different ‘style tribes’.  It might seem offensive to the some that their style might be pigeonholed this way but it does end up revealing a funny truth. 

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The existing Exactitudes photographs are now on display at Selfridges but the new works on London style will be on display to the public from the 4th April, I believe, with a new book coming out at the end of the exhibition that includes the London pieces.  Here are a few sneak pics featured in yesterday’s Guardian magazine.  I’ll be interested in seeing the full set of images to see whether they have captured London style correctly as an overview, and also to affirm my belief that style individuality can still escape this mode of categorisation.

Oriental (US say ‘Asian’) girls with their designer bags


Cardi-clad, geek-chic boys


Scarf-loving, short-haired emo chicks


Where is that beach?

Yesterday at the bStore sample sale (doh, I went a day too late as the talk amongst the fash shops in Soho was that the REAL gems were in on Friday morning…. drat…), I must have been really thinking ahead to sunnier times because I basically picked up an outfit that is crying out for the beach; this Michelle Lowe Holder SS07 black playsuit that has a lovely structured neckline and some metallic bStore sandals that give a brighter, preceeding nod to the current SS08 Opening Ceremony shoe range.   

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I’m not even a fan of beach holidays as the idea of lying around getting tanned and doing zilch for two weeks makes me feel queasy but this does solve the ‘not wanting to show too much flesh on the beach’ problem very nicely and reminds me distinctly of early 20th century bathing suits like the many examples seen on Shorpy.  Perhaps in the back of my mind, whilst in a shop basement in grey/windy London, the sunnier climate of the upcoming Hyeres festival was present…. therefore, I say bring on that LDN-TLN flight and let the wobbly flesh concealment challenge begin…