Tuesday, May 27, 2014

FASHION a la PARISIAN (c) By Polly Guerin

This week I am off  to Paris!!! and pourquoi pas?  The City of Lights  role as the capital of fashion's luxury goods invites me to jet over the pond and land in the heart of French couture to indulge in the pleasure of viewing several exhibitions that put fashion on a pedestal of admiration.  Here's the scoop!!!
PARIS 1900 No other period in fashion has had its glory days then in the Belle Epoque an era that lasted from about 1900 to World War I. The 985' Eiffel Tower was one of the highlights of the Paris Exhibition,  1900, but so were the fashionable women who personified "Parisian Chic." The upper class were 'au currant,' up-to-the-trend of the times and the less affluent ladies followed style the best they could on limited funds. At that time Charles Frederick worth was the dictator of fashion and to make it clear that he was an artist at heart he wore a beret and an artist's smock and fancied dressing women in elegant fabrics and dictating their silhouette choices as well. On view here are several examples of Worth's creations that were worn by high society and the demi monde of the era.  At the Petit Palais, through August 17th.
FROM WATTEAU TO FRAGONARD This most romantic exhibition focuses on lovely clothes as typically depicted in the paintings of these French artists. Jean-Honore Fragonard painting, The Swing, 1767 personifies the era with sexual symbolism.  In this painting a provocatively clad, fickle and playful woman in flimsy pastels perches on a swing while an admirer below appears aimed to get a glimpse of her underpinnings. Clothes worn by women conveyed a definite message and Antoine Watteau, who coined the genre "fetes galantes," defined manners, conversation and even music. Even the Watteau  Dress, a lavishly draped gown became de rigeuer. Frou Frou lingerie has its incarnation here as the boudoir dress. At the Musee-Jacquemart-Andree through July 21.
JOSEPHINE Luxury by any other name could be called the Josephine Boneparte era when Napoleon's bride was the personification of luxury. Why not? Napoleon had assigned her the role of "an ambassador" in charge of promoting luxury "Made in France."  Such largess gave the Empress free reign on fashion, choosing as she did a cache of dresses embellished with the finest embroideries, lace, and jewels which are all on display at this museum. Josephine may have been born on the island of Martinique but in Paris she was the epitome of expensive taste. She even commissioned an extra-large cabinet to house her jewelry collection which featured mechanisms for secret compartments built, no doubt to secure her most prized possessions..  At the Musee du Luxembourg through June 29.
For further details consults Paulina Szmydke's feature at wwd.com/eye.
Ta Ta darlings:  Just a little note of interest.  The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology is staging an exhibition on lingerie opening in June, but more on that later.  Fan mail welcome pollytalk@verizon.net. For a view of Polly's Blogs go to pollytalk.com and in the left hand column click on the direct link to her Blogs on fashion , visionary men, hidden treasures in New York, art deco women and poetry.

Monday, May 19, 2014


As summertime leisure and vacations loom before us what a better time to think of fine literature than now when book reading is on a high, at least that is the opinion of Common Sense Media. To wit, The Morgan Library and  Museum celebrates modern American literature with an exhibition of masterworks from the world's greatest private collection. Only in New York my friends, the Best of New York. Here's the scoop!!!

GATSBY TO GARP: Modern Masterpieces from the Carter Burden Collection opens tomorrow through September 7, 2014. Who was Burden? Right you are to ask. Carter Burden, was a former trustee of the Morgan Library and Museum and onetime New York City Councilman, but he was also a singular collector, a man destined to assemble the greatest collection of modern American literature. He paid record prices for copies in the best possible condition and with notable attributes such as authors' annotations and presentation inscriptions.Famed writers included in the show range from Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Hemingway to Jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison, and John Irving, John Steinbeck to name a few.
  Beginning in 1997, after Burden's death the previous year, his family made a gift to the Morgan of twelve thousand volumes from his collection which includes first editions, manuscripts, and revised galley proofs. Authors featured in this unparalleled exhibition are some of the country's most celebrated authors who wrote about America with uncanny realism that records even moments of historical significance.
   Gatsby to Garp examines the vibrant American literary landscape of the twentieth century, a period that encompassed a remarkable explosion of creativity, and  explores such topics as language and style, geography and setting, literary identity and relationships among writers. The exhibition offers particular emphasis on the concept of 'firsts'---as it pertains to book production and format and to literary movements and experimentation. It also includes a number of authors' photographs.
   THE ROARING TWENTIES: "You are all a lost generation." - Gertrude Stein. the Roaring Twenties also saw the birth of modern book design. It was not until the second decade of the twentieth century that their design became bold and colorful. Francis Cugat's bold Art Deco jacket design for the Great Gatsby is one of the most iconic in twentieth century American Literature. The jacket's most prominent feature, the staring melancholic eyes of a woman influenced Fitzgerald's narrative. After reviewing an early draft of the design, while still in the midst of composition, Fitzgerald told his publisher that he had "written it into" the novel Dust jackets which are by their nature most often discarded, or easily torn or lost, were originally intended to protect a book's binding, and those that survive are highly valued by collectors.
   My Ansonia, while John Steinbeck and James Agee documented the realities of the Depression-era rural South and West. This group of writers who carved out varied landscapes and the social realities of the United States also included Daschell Hammett and Raymond Chandler who evoked the gritty underworld of urban California.
WILLIAM FAULKNER: "I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it...it opened up a gold mine of other people, so I created a cosmos of my own.": - William Faulkner delved into the very core of The space in which an author composes, the setting in character reveal themselves, the places that writing explores are all bound up in literary expression. Faulkner was one of those visionaries as were others. Willa Cather left Nebraska decades before penning her lyrical descriptions of the prairie in My Ansonia while other authors penned locality as their own.
   LANGSTON HUGHES: "I, too, sing America." Langston Hughes was among the Renaissance writers who consistently viewed race, identity, and the African American experience in ways that broke from earlier forms and gave expression to a new sense of cultural identity. Renaissance writers were also concerned with representations of authentic experience and voice. They were also writing concurrently with the Lost Generation. The movement was identified as such in Alain Locke's 1925, anthology The New Negro and was one of the first books of the Harlem Renaissance and a cornerstone of the movement. It was a magical era Harlem was in vogue, the jazz clubs on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue hummed in the sound of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, and a younger generation of writers was coalescing as the first black literary movement in America's History.
   This rich and remarkable exhibition is at the Morgan, 225 Madison Ave. (36th Street) www.themorgan.org.
   Ta Ta Darlings!!! As an author and columnist PollyTalk advises that you visit the Morgan more than once to get an eagle view of this literary exhibition. It's a rare opportunity to see original work by America's famed authors.  Fan mail welcome at pollytalk@verizon. Visit Polly's website: www.pollytalk and in the left hand column click on Polly's other Blogs on fashion , visionary men, hidden treasures in New York and poetry..


Monday, May 12, 2014


“Cut in dressmaking is like grammar in a language. A good design should be like a well made sentence, and it should only express one idea at a time.” – Charles James. (Mirrored walls tagged with James’s quotes create an infinity repeat surrounding the sea of silk and velvet)
CHARLES JAMES BEYOND FASHION and the New ANNA WINTOUR COSTUME CENTER: “Charles James considered himself an artist, and approached fashion with a sculptor’s eye and a scientist’s logic,” said Thomas Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He described the Costume Institute as “a forum to explore not just what we wear but what this medium can evoke.”
   The exhibition is presented in two locations--the new Anna Wintour Costume Center as well as special exhibition galleries on the Museum’s first floor. The retrospective of the Anglo-American couturier Charles James focuses specifically on his use of sculptural, scientific and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns. It is interesting to note that James’s innovative tailoring continues to influence designers even today.
   The exhibition features 65 of the most notable designs James produced over the course of his career from the 1920s to his death in 1978. The expansive main gallery features 15 dramatically lit James gowns including the “Clover Leaf,” “Butterfly,” “Tree,” and “Swan.” The dresses float on circular platforms with dramatic front views, while from behind they are analyzed on platform-mounted projection screens with rolling content designed by DS+R. Programmed light projectors with pan/tilt heads and robotic boom arms
direct the visitor to the area of the gown the digital content explores. "To dissect a James gown is to reveal more fully the complete originality and virtuosity of its maker." (Mirrored wall text)
   Descending the steps to the new Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery, visitors view a portrait of the designer and hear his voice. A pathway leads around a cruciform platform where the evolution and metamorphosis of James’s day and evening wear are explored. The socialites of the era such as Babe Paley were his clients as were Millicent Rogers and New York celebrities.
   The designer’s incredible creativity was matched only by his tempestuous personality, which is not evident in the gorgeous clothes and gowns he designed, but legend has it that James tried the patience of even his closest friends, not to mention his clients. Fashionistas are flocking to the galleries which opened May 8, but there is plenty of time to view the exhibition which runs through August 10, 2014. Students of architectural design would also do well to study and investigate James’ structural, sculpted process.
   In the Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery, step into a more intimate setting wherein pieces of James’s person archive are on display--- dress forms, jewelry maquettes, scrapbooks and accessories, including hats representing James’s early work as a milliner. A white satin eiderdown evening jacket, widely regarded
as the first puffer coats, sit in the center
   The brilliance of his creations that defined nighttime elegance in the twentieth century has never been more illustrated than in Cecil Beaton’s famous 1948 group portrait of eight models in James’s grand, sculptural dresses (pictured above) One may wonder why James’s acquired the reputation as a visionary only to realize that he was the first to use spiral draping, with and without zippers; to make coats entirely out of the grosgrain ribbons; to use dozens of fresh flowers as adornment, a to dream up the quilted jacket in white satin filled with eiderdown, in 1937.
   Halston was his protégé and admirer as were other designers in the trade who imaged to emulate his style. It is sad to know that his impoverished death took place in New York’s Chelsea Hotel in 1978.
   The James legend goes on: Bergdorf Goodman has commissioned seven designers to create James-inspired pieces that are now on view in its windows. Giambattista Valli, Libertine, Mary Katrantzou, Ralph Rucci, Rodarte, Rosie Assoulin and Naeem Kahn have each provided one-of-a-kind looks which are being sold for $3,500 to $14,000.
Ta Ta Darlings!!! Pollytalk went to the Charles James press opening on May 4 and was taken by the fascinating mirrored walls with James’ quotes…do make note of these gems of wisdom by the great designer himself. Fan mail welcome at pollytalk@verizon. Visit Polly’s website pollytalk and in the left hand column click on my other Blogs on fashion, visionary men and hidden treasures in New York.

Monday, May 5, 2014


 Who was Patrick Kelly? That’s a good question answered recently in Philadelphia. For fashionistas unfamiliar with the designer the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Perelman Building houses the exhibition “Patrick Kelly” Runway of Love,” the first exhibition to showcase the full scope of Kelly’s oeuvre. Though he is still remembered to this day for his whimsical button dresses, the exhibition goes beyond his whimsicality with selections from the artist’s significant holdings of black memorabilia, videos of his playful fashions shows and Horst photos and Oilivero Toscani ads featuring his work for Benetton.
   It is ironic to note that Kelly was the first American and first African -American to be elected to the prestigious Chamber Syndicale du Pret a Porter des Couturiers et des Createurs de Mode. He swept into Paris and the French adored his playful clothes stood which out on urban streets, runways and nightclubs.
“His branding and marketing were unique, “notes Dilys Blum, the Museum’s Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland senior curator of costume and textiles and organizer of the exhibition.
   Kelly’s muses ranged from his Mississippi grandmother to the American expatriate entertainer Josephine Baker, to the couturiers Madame Gres and Elsa Schiaparelli. As a child growing up in Vicksburg, Mississippi Kelly would lose his buttons, which his grandmother replaced with those of different colors, a look that Kelly later adapted for his fashion designs. He was supported by strong women and attended the local black Baptist church with his grandmother, where he noticed how fierce the Ladies were in their head-to-toe Sunday best which inspired future designs. One thing clear, Kelly never forgot his roots and took pride in who he was and where he cane from.
  However, he left for Paris in 1979, which offered him a safe haven and creative freedom. At first he
designed costumes for performers at the Palace nightclub for two years At the same time he dressed his model friends in his signature tube-knit dresses. They wore the dresses to go-sees launching Kelly’s star on the ascendant rise in fashion. Zoom, like a comet, it catapulted Kelly from selling clothes on the streets to a six-page spread in French Elle.
   Kelly was launched on a non-stop move into stardom. Yves Saint Laurent chairman, Pierre Berge personally sponsored Kelly in the 1988 form the Paris-based women’s wear house Patrick Kelly Paris.
   Kelly’s career was cut short when he died from AIDS in January 1990 at the age of 35. Though everyone adored him and the fashion cognoscenti supported him there was no escape from the illness that swept through the fashion industry and took Kelly in its wake. As I covered the couture collections as a journalist at the time for one of the fashion magazines I remember Kelly’s exuberant personality and his signature look, denim overalls, sneakers and a cap. His persona exuded originality as did his collections which featured glamorize denim in baby-doll dresses, button and bow decorations, tiered bandanna print skirts and his playful looks inspired by his muse Josephine Baker, including her banana bikini.
Clearly the wool tweed and boucle suits and dresses’ took their cue from Chanel but always with a touch of frivolity a button here a button everywhere sent a message of originality. His power suits never disappointing or discipline and instead were sprinkled with pearls, buttons or balls in a witty display of panache. While he never showed in New York his fashion shows are recorded for posterity via film wherein the runways were like a party with models dancing, prancing down the runway in a joyful exhibition of Kelly’s latest oeuvre. This kind of showmanship coupled with the unique creations resonates with young people today. Just recently, Michael Bastion paid homage to Kelly and in a concurrent exhibition another designer, Gerlan Marcel, uses Kelly's influence throughout her 2009 through 2014 collections with hearts, buttons and bows, which clearly reference Kelly's oeuvre.
   “This lively exhibit captures Kelly’s enduring spirit,” notes Curator Dilys Blum. “His branding and self- marketing were unique at the time, but now, in an age of fast fashion and brand-driven sales, it is a perfect time to reexamine Kelly’s contribution to fashion history. Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love is featured in the Special Exhibition Gallery, Perelman Building, Philadelphia Museum of Art through November 30, 2014. For general information, call 215.763.8100 or visit philamuseum.org.