Devastated and haunted by guilt after the death of her best friend, Phoebe Swift breaks off her engagement, quits her job at Sotheby’s and starts over by opening a vintage clothing store in London in A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff.
Phoebe’s new shop soon takes off and she’s kept busy with customers and finding and purchasing new stock. This includes navigating auctions at Sotheby’s, assessing treasures her dealer in America finds, and meeting directly with owners of vintage clothes. Part of the fascination of this book is the peek behind the scenes – the work and skill and knowledge required to run such a shop from assessing the quality of fabric and workmanship, to understanding how an old dress can be fashionable again, with or without changes. Phoebe’s work brings her into contact with various people with a wide range of interests – vineyards to classic Hollywood cinema to Paris during World War II.
Light but not frothy, this charming book may be just the antidote for those “life changing” books on your list that we’re all supposed to be reading. Here, there’s a little romance, some mystery, interesting characters, history (nicely tied to the vintage clothing that Phoebe deals with) all in lovely settings in London and France. Just the ticket for something fun to read.
Need something to hold you over until Season 7 of Project Runway starts on Jan. 14, 2010? Check out Valentino: The Last Emperor, a documentary following around the iconic designer and his team as Valentino gives his final show and the label succumbs to takeover. At the heart of the story is the relationship between Valentino and his long-time business partner and companion, Giancarlo Giammetti. However, it is the fluttery Valentino seamstresses that really captivated me–how does one even learn to sew like that?! I wonder if they get a discount on the couture? The parade of glamorous gowns throughout the film kept me in constant awe (Oh! to wear a Valentino!) and seeing Valentino’s complete creative process was so inspiring, that by the end of the film I felt completely heartbroken about the separation of Valentino Garavani and Valentino, the artist and his creation, the emperor and his world.
Designer Knockoff by Ellen Byerrum is the latest Lacey Smithsonian mystery. As a fashion reporter for a second-rate Washington D.C. newspaper, she investigates the disappearances of two young women. Occurring decades apart, they begin to seem related as Lacey delves into the contemporary fortunes and World War II era history of the Bentley fashion empire.
Lacey’s Aunt Mimi left her a trunk of (now) vintage dresses, a “Bentley” suit, patterns, photos and letters from the 1940’s. These provide clues to the mysterious fate of a talented designer who worked for the Bentley plant during the war.
Lacey continues to develop as a character – and to wage her ongoing battle against the monochrome suits that are the norm in Washington. Her relationship with her co-workers and a bevy of eccentric friends are a plus, as is insight into the strict clothing regulations during the war.
Today is the birth anniversary of Coco Chanel, one of the most important and influential designers of the 20th century. The very epitome of effortless French style, Chanel revolutionized the fashion world when she introduced men’s clothing (slacks) for women’s wear. Her signature looks – comfortable and simple yet elegant – included the dramatic use of costume jewelry (notably ropes of pearls), sportswear, collarless jackets paired with simple skirts and the “little black dress”. She was the first designer to put her name on a signature perfume; Chanel No. 5 was created in 1921 and continues to be one of the most popular perfumes on the market.
Chanel’s life story is the stuff of Hollywood – born into poverty, orphaned at age 12, raised by nuns, she rose to wealth and status through talent and hard work. Find out more about this fascinating, controversial (both the Nazi’s and the Allies accused her of being a spy during World War II) woman through these great books:
Chanel: Her Style and Her Life by Janet Wallach
Chanel : the Couturiere at Work by Amy DeLaHaye
Chanel : a Woman of Her Own by Axel Madsen
Coco Chanel : her Life, her Secrets by Marcel Haedrich
Reminder to our Readers! Don’t forget to leave a comment on last Friday’s blog post about your favorite QC area Staycation destination! Someone’s going to win two tickets to the Putnum Museum and IMAX movie Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa – might as well be you!
1) Garbage Bags. Forget your rain poncho? Grab a garbage bag (bigger is better), tear 3 holes in it – a big one for your head and two smaller ones on the sides for your arms – and you’re good to go! No, they don’t work very well if it’s windy, but it does keep you a little bit dryer. Don’t laugh – I actually worn this item, and was grateful to the guy who was handing them out!
2) Little lycra shorts. Everyone wears them, so who cares what you look liek? They actually are more comforatable. Plus, they come with secret padding and they air dry very quickly.
3) Helmet mirrors. Some people just can’t get used to them, but these little magnetic attachments can be a real life saver. Inexperienced riders tend to turn their whole bike (and possibly into oncoming traffic) when they move their head to look back. There are just too many bicycles (10,000 plus) on the road, so the only safe direction is straight ahead. Mirrors really help, even when you have no makeup to check…
For other tips on bicycles and gear, check out these titles:
The Ultimate Ride: Get Fit, Get Fast and Start Winning by Chris Carmichael
Bicycling by Peter Oliver