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The Gamine Style: A New Cult?

6 Feb

A dear friend of mine sent me this link recently, knowing how much I love fashion and history and Audrey Hepburn. The post is titled How to Dress in a Gamine Style, with this picture of the lovely Hepburn first thing on the screen.  I’d never heard this term before, so I was interested to learn what it was all about.

The intention of the post, I believe, is benign.  I do think they are trying to be educational, helpful, and detailed.  But it’s the details that started to horrify me the further I got into the article.  For those of you who don’t want to read the full post, “gamine style is sweet, childlike, gentle, innocent and adorably charming.”  They reference Hepburn as the first gamine, and offer twelve steps to help you not only dress like a gamine, but act and become one as well.  These steps give you tips on icons, hair, makeup, clothing, accessories, etc.  But there are also steps about the length of your fingernails, maintaining bushy eyebrows, the number of piercings you are allowed to have, and, my favorite, how to live like a gamine:

Live like a gamine. Gamines not only dress the part, but they live it too. Here are some of the key elements:

  • Learn manners and the rules of etiquette. Begin with Emily Post’s book on etiquette (Manners) and find suitable etiquette blogs to keep abreast of the changing manners in society.
  • Always try to be charming and pleasant to be with.
  • If you’re dressing up as a sweet and innocent girl, don’t act like a bombshell. Be as naive as you can be.
  • Gamines always have poise. If you have poor posture, fix it.
  • Gamines are always smiling a genuine smile.
  • Gamines are respectful and never break the rules.
  • Gamines are classy and ladylike, yet they still have a playful and light side.
  • Gamines have a wide vocabulary and they never swear (in public). Improve your vocabulary and use it to say what you really mean.
  • Gamines always think of others first.
  • Gamines always try to be as happy as they can and look at the bright side.
  • Gamines are the happily charming girls all girls secretly want to be like, but not in a way that they are hated––more like admired and loved.

So basically, in case you haven’t done this already, become a decent human being with manners.  Got it!  Now what should I do with my time?

Do gamine activities such as going to the theatre (to watch a play, not a movie, but a chick flick or cartoons are acceptable too), shopping at small grocery stores or street markets with a basket, going to a ballet, etc. Read classic books (especially children’s classics like The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain); many of these classics are available free online, but a gamine always prefers real books (the old fashioned way). Listen to classical music (or at least 50’s and 60’s music like Brigitte Bardot’s Moi Je Joue, a gamine anthem). And read magazines, write letters rather than e-mails, attend dinner parties, throw tea parties (hand deliver all written invitations) and overall, live in an old-fashioned yet whimsical way.

No more emails!  Piece of cake.  Should I exercise?

Stay slim and healthy. Most gamines are slim with a boyish body. That means that they have as little fat as they can, but always in a healthy way. The gamine sport is riding a bicycle around town and walking (or skipping) while walking the dog. Gamines are supposed to adore sweet things. That means candy, chocolate, cookies and more sugary desserts. So the gamine diet is probably to eat all you desire in very small portions and to burn off the calories cycling or walking.

Looks like I should trade in my cat to get a dog.  Could I wear contacts?

If you want, you can get brown contact lenses too.

Oh good, I’ve been meaning to mask my green eyes.  Any final words of advice?

Don’t listen to others that tell you that being sweet, childish and innocent is silly and immature, they’re just jealous that you are being happy while they bore themselves trying to be “mature.”

Well said!  So who else wants to change their entire personality to be like this?


The Philadelphia Story

22 Apr

I’d forgotten how great The Philadelphia Story is.  I remember liking it the first time I saw it, getting a big crush on Jimmy Stewart, and genuinely having no idea how the movie would end.  But watching it again last night reminded me that it’s simply brilliant.  The actors are well cast, the script is crisp and funny, and Katharine Hepburn straight up OWNS her character (Literally, too.  She owned the screen rights after she played the part on stage).

There are many fashion gems throughout the movie as well.  Released in 1940, it shows the start of the transition between the flowing, slinky gowns of the ’30s and the boxier shape of the ’40s.

Also notice the same shape to all of Hepburn’s clothes.  All of her dresses have a belt at the natural waist, with little feminine details to add some class.

Hats make an impressive appearance in the film as well.

My favorite:

As you have already seen, the men in the film look quite dapper and polished.   One just can’t go wrong in a well tailored suit.  (Did I mention Cary Grant’s character name is C.K. Dexter Haven?  Best name ever.)

And just for fun, since I love this shot and young Jimmy Stewart:

My Best Friend is a Pencil

18 Mar

I’m starting to believe that spring is coming.  I am pushing aside all my boring black pants and looking for the skirts shoved to the back of the closet.  After hibernating all winter, I am ready to show my pale white legs to the sun.  I am ready to swish when I move.  I am ready to strut down the runway.  I mean sidewalk.


Through this search, I am starting to find my favorite skirts, almost all of which are pencil skirts.   Turns out I really like that slim, tailored look – so flattering!

The pencil skirt actually started life as the hobble skirt, a longer skirt from the start of the 20th century that literally hobbled the wearer.  Oddly enough, the fashion did not last long.

Next came Dior, who shortened the hem in the late 1940s.  This time the look worked, and released women from the boxy ’40s wartime silhouette.

The pencil has remained in fashion ever since.  It lost popularity in the ’70s but came back with a vengeance in the ’80s power suit.

Now it is a mainstay in both fashion and business attire.   Dress it up, dress it down, have fun with it or wear it to a conservative job interview.  You can’t really mess it up.

And thank you, Wikipedia, for providing an entertaining explanation of how to wear the skirt:

Walking needs to be done in short strides; entering and leaving a car gracefully takes practice; and when sitting the legs are held close together which some can find restrictive (though others like the feeling of their legs being “hugged” by the skirt). Activities such as climbing ladders and riding bicycles can be very difficult in a pencil skirt. In spite of these apparent disadvantages, the pencil skirt does have practical benefits: it is warmer due to the reduced ventilation, and is less likely to be blown up by gusts of wind.

Note to self: do not ride a bike in a pencil skirt.

Hats Revisited

16 Mar

I had the opportunity to host an engagement celebration a few weekends ago.  Not mine, mind you, but a celebration of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  I asked the invitees to wear hats to honor the occasion, and I was thrilled by the array of head gear!  The hats were mostly mine, to be honest, but nonetheless there was many a chapeau to be seen.













And one of my favorites:

Ethan, Renee and Lydia

Happy tea time!

Some Vivier Love

2 Mar

While wearing my pointy pumps at work today, I was inspired to do some research on one of my favorite shoe designers, Roger Vivier.  Because really, it doesn’t get much more gorgeous than this:

With a background in sculpture, Vivier started working for Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s.  His innovative but elegant ideas led to a masterful partnership with Christian Dior and the creation of the New Look in the 1950s.

Using his knowledge of sculpture and the body, Vivier created new heel shapes for Dior, such as the comma heel, and revived and enhanced the stiletto.

Vivier went on to work with Yves Saint Laurent after Dior’s death, where he invented the pilgrim buckle pump. The style is still ridiculously popular and widely imitated today.

Now for some real eye candy, cause flats are boring.

And finally, my favorite:

My shoe isn’t nearly as gorgeous as these, but Nine West has a decent interpretation.  The heel is my favorite part!

Edith Head

11 Feb

Edith Head, in case you didn’t know, is one of the most influential costume designers the world has ever known.

Edith Head stepped into her first job at Paramount in 1924 with almost no experience.  She had taken a few drawing classes, but borrowed a friend’s sketches to get the position.  Before she was done with Hollywood, she became the first female design head, garnered 35 Academy Award nominations and 8 wins (the most of any woman), and fashioned wardrobes for over 1,000 movies.

She was known for consulting with her actresses when designing their garments, which made her a great favorite to those lucky enough to work with her- Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers, etc.  Her work also had a restrained, timeless quality that appealed to many studio executives and directors, such as Hal Wallis and Alfred Hitchcock.

Films you might know her from, just to name a few:

  • Holiday Inn
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Double Indemnity
  • Roman Holiday
  • Sabrina
  • White Christmas
  • To Catch a Thief
  • The Trouble with Harry
  • The Court Jester
  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
  • Funny Face
  • Vertigo
  • Sweet Charity

Head herself was quite an icon.  With her dark, severe haircut and sunglasses, she was an instantly recognizable figure.  The consistency also had the added bonus of making her look ageless.

And don’t forget The Incredibles

Some tips:

• “The cardinal sin is not being badly dressed, but wearing the right thing in the wrong place.”

• “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.”

• “Clothes not only can make the woman; they can make her several different women.”

Check out this blog for more sketches:  Cinema Style

For the full list of films: Edith Head

A Bias for Vionnet

17 Jan

While hanging out with my roommate this weekend, we got into a conversation about dresses from the thirties.  I brought out one of my monster fashion books to look at pictures, as you do.  I quickly found images of dresses by Madeleine Vionnet.  Renee quickly found her true love.  And while she was cooing over the different dresses, I started remembering why Vionnet is so cool.

Madeleine Vionnet opened her own fashion house in Paris, 1912.  A few years later she completely revolutionized fashion by introducing a new technique, the bias cut.  Instead of cutting along the grain of the fabric, she cut on the diagonal, which created that slinky, form fitting look.  With some help from Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo, her fashions practically defined the ’30s.

Vionnet was forced to close her maison in 1939 at the start of WWII.  She continued to advise other designers, but stayed out of the public eye.

In 1996, decades after her death, the Lummen family reopened the label in Paris.  At last, in 2006 the house debuted a clothing collection, 67 years since Vionnet’s final collection.

Vionnet is not solely about re-launching a brand. Vionnet is about building a growing, disciplined, managerialized and highly profitable company around a splendid iconic brand with a fantastic heritage and a modern look.